Out of the Embers: Lone Star Book Blog Tour – Excerpt

OUT OF THE EMBERS
MESQUITE SPRINGS, BOOK ONE
by
Amanda Cabot
Historical Fiction / Christian Romance
Publisher: Revell
Date of Publication: March 3, 2020
Number of Pages: 336

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Ten years after her parents were killed, Evelyn Radcliffe is once more homeless. The orphanage that was her refuge and later her workplace has burned to the ground, and only she and a young orphan girl have escaped. Convinced this must be related to her parents’ murders, Evelyn flees with the girl to Mesquite Springs in the Texas Hill Country and finds refuge in the home of Wyatt Clark, a talented horse rancher whose plans don’t include a family of his own.


At first, Evelyn is a distraction. But when it becomes clear that trouble has followed her to Mesquite Springs, she becomes a full-blown disruption. Can Wyatt keep her safe from the man who wants her dead? And will his own plans become collateral damage?

Suspenseful and sweetly romantic, Out of the Embers is the first in a new series that invites you to the Texas Hill Country in the 1850s, when the West was wild, the men were noble, and the women were strong.

PRAISE FOR OUT OF THE EMBERS:

Out of the Embers is part prairie romance, part romantic suspense. I can’t remember when I’ve enjoyed a book more. Amanda Cabot has written an intriguing, chilling mystery and she winds it through the pages of a sweet romance in a way that made me keep turning the pages fast to see what was going to happen next. An absolutely excellent read. And now I’m hungry for oatmeal pecan pie!” 

Mary Connealy, author of Aiming for Love, book #1 in the Brides of Hope Mountain series
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Excerpt

CHAPTER ONE, PART THREE FROM

OUT OF THE EMBERS

BY AMANDA CABOT

Click to read part one, previously featured on Lone Star Book Blog Tours

Click to read part two, previously featured on Lone Star Book Blog Tours

One Friday, December 21, 1855

As they rounded the final bend in the road, the cause of the smoke was all too clear. The light from the almost full moon revealed the ashes and rubble that were all that was left of the building that had been Evelyn’s home for the past ten years. She stared at the blackened foundation, trying to make sense of something that made no sense. Well aware of the danger fire posed to a frame structure, Mrs. Folger was vigilant about safety. Yet, despite her caution, something had happened. The orphanage was gone.

So were its inhabitants. There should be close to two dozen children swarming around, yet Evelyn saw nothing more than a few men. Though her heart was pounding so violently that she feared it would break through her chest at the realization that she’d lost her home, she clung to the hope that Mrs. Folger and the children had escaped and had been taken in by some of the town’s residents. If not . . .

The possibility was too horrible to consider. Her mother had told her not to borrow trouble, and Evelyn wouldn’t. Instead, she’d ask the men what had happened. Surely everyone had been saved. But though she tried to convince herself that she would be reunited with the matron and the other orphans, in her heart she knew that was one prayer that would not be answered.

Evelyn bit the inside of her cheek, determined not to let Polly see her fears. But she failed, for the child began to tremble.

“What happened to the ’nage?” Though Polly’s diction was far better than one would have expected from the shabby clothing she’d worn when she was abandoned, whoever had taught her hadn’t included “orphanage” in her vocabulary.

Evelyn wrapped her arms around Polly and willed her voice to remain steady as she said, “It’s gone.” And, if what she feared was true, so were Mrs. Folger and the children who had been her family.

As she descended the small hill and approached the front drive, Evelyn saw that the men were wandering around the yard, their casual attitude belying the gravity of the situation.

“Ain’t no one left,” one called to the others, his voice carrying clearly through the still night air. “Smoke musta got ’em.”

No. Oh, dear God, no. It couldn’t be true, and yet it was. Once again, she had lost everyone she loved, everyone except the girl who clung to her, her own fear palpable. Once again, it was night. Once again, she was powerless to change anything, but at least this time it had been an accident.

Evelyn shuddered and said a silent prayer that Polly wouldn’t realize the extent of the tragedy. Somehow, she would protect her. Somehow, she would help her recover from all that they had lost in this terrible accident.

“Can’t figger it out,” another man chimed in. “Who woulda wanted to do ’em in? No mistakin’ them kerosene cans, though. Somebody set the fire.”

Evelyn gasped, feeling as though she’d been bludgeoned, and for a second everything turned black. The fire wasn’t an accident. Someone had deliberately destroyed the orphanage, planning to kill everyone inside. Including her.

Where is she?” The memory of the voice that still haunted Evelyn’s dreams echoed through her brain, shattering the fragile peace Mrs. Folger’s assurances had created. Tonight proved that she wasn’t safe, not even here. Someone wanted to kill the last of the Radcliffes.

Why? That was the question no one had been able to answer ten years ago, the question that had kept Evelyn from leaving the sanctuary the orphanage had promised. Now that promise was shattered.

She closed her eyes as fear and sorrow threatened to overwhelm her. The life she had built was gone, destroyed along with the building that had been her refuge and the people who had become her family. Oh, God, what should I do?

The response was immediate. Leave.

It was the only answer. She could do nothing for Mrs. Folger and the others, but she could—and she would—do everything in her power to give Polly a safe future. The question was where they should go. Evelyn stared at the stars for a second, then nodded. Gilmorton, the one place she would not consider, was east. Resolutely, she headed west.

“What happened?” Polly asked again, her voice far calmer than Evelyn would have expected. Either the child was too young to understand the magnitude of what had happened, or she’d experienced so much tragedy in her life that she was numb.

“We need a new home.” For the first time, Evelyn gave thanks that Polly had formed no strong attachments to anyone other than her. That would make her transition to a new life easier. While grief had wrapped its tendrils around Evelyn’s heart, squeezing so tightly that she had trouble breathing, Polly seemed to be recovering from her initial shock.

“Okay.” Though the child tightened her grip on Evelyn’s arm, her trembling had stopped. “Where are we going?”

“It’ll be a surprise.” At this point, Evelyn had no idea where she and Polly would find their next home. All she knew was that it had to be far from here, far from whoever had set the fire, far from the Watcher.

Polly was silent for a moment before she said, “It’s okay, Evelyn. You’ll be my mama, and you’ll find me a new daddy.”

Amanda Cabot is the bestselling author of the Cimarron Creek trilogy, as well as the Texas Crossroads series, the Texas Dreams series, the Westward Winds series, and Christmas Roses. Her books have been finalists for the ACFW Carol Awards, the HOLT Medallion, and the Booksellers’ Best. She lives in Wyoming.
 

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Copy of Out of the Embers + Special Hill Country Sweets Cookbook
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March 10-March 20, 2020
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The Lords of the North: My Review

Lords of the North Book CoverThe Lords of the North is book three of Bernard Cornwell’s Saxon Tales, continuing the story of Uhtred Ragnarson and the founding of a United Britain under Alfred the Great. For the background on the first two entries in the series see my previous reviews for The Last Kingdom (Dec 7, 2018) and The Pale Horseman (Jul 5, 2019.)

The year is 878 A.D., and Alfred has just defeated the Viking Guthrum at the Battle of Ethandun with Uhtred’s assistance, thus allowing him to consolidate power in the Kingdom of Wessex. However, Alfred is a sickly king and has yet to strengthen sufficiently to take on the Danes in the northeastern half of England where three lords, all sworn enemies of Uhtred, rule:

In Northumbria there is Ivarr Ivarson, whose brother Ubba was slain at the hand of Uhtred. In the Valley of the River Wiire there is Kjartan the Cruel and his son Sven the One-Eyed. Kjartan is responsible for the murder of Uhtred’s adopted father Ragnar, and has imprisoned his stepsister Thyra in the formidable fortress at Dunholm and given her over to Sven to sexually abuse. And at Bebbanburg, Uhtred’s birthright, his uncle AElfric has usurped his heritage and seeks Uhtred’s death to ensure that he can hold onto his  lands and title.

Released from his pledge to Alfred, Uhtred sets out to confront his enemies and reclaim his heritage setting in motion a series of adventures that include betrayal, slavery, political intrigue, and monumental battles… all of which make for a thrilling and entertaining read. Bernard Cornwell is at his best in this third installment, writing vivid descriptions of life and death in ninth century England and the collision of two worlds and cultures – Saxon Christianity against Pagan beliefs and mythology.

This confrontation occurs not just on the battlefield. The internal struggle for men’s souls is a continuing theme in all the books, juxtaposing faith in God the Father and his only begotten Son Jesus and the concepts of sin and redemption, heaven and hell with the belief in multiple Norse gods, Valhalla, mythical beings and superstition. One the one hand there is Alfred the Great, a devout Christian and the pious ruler of what will become Great Britain, and on the other Uhtred, a Viking warrior who totally believes in fate and destiny.  Their ongoing relationship and need for one another will play out as Bernard Cornwell continues his history of England in his next entry in the series, Sword Song.

Lest anyone think otherwise, however, each of these books can be read by itself as a stand-alone fantasy adventure that mixes sword and sorcery with accurate depictions of this historical period. The continuity lies in Uhtred.  The point of view is his and the first person narrative is that of an old man looking back on his life, retelling his tale with both humor and heartbreaking honesty. The dialogue can be crude, the descriptions of battle graphic, but the story is one that draws you in… you actually care about the characters, particularly Uhtred, and you want to know what happens next.

It is also a tale which  immerses readers in Norse mythology where the three spinners weave tapestries of everyone’s life before they are even born, predetermining their destiny and even the timing and place of their death. “It is the three spinners who make our lives. They sit at the foot of Yggdrasil [the tree of life] and there they have their jests… because fate cannot be cheated, it governs us, and we are all its slaves.”

Uhtred’s fate is tied to the conquest and unification of England, while mine is linked to finishing this engrossing, educational, and highly satisfying saga by Bernard Cornwell.

 

 

Rio Ruidoso: Lone Star Book Blog Tour – Excerpt

RIO RUIDOSO
Three Rivers Trilogy, 1
by
PRESTON LEWIS
Genre: Historical Western
Publisher: Five Star Publishing
Date of Publication: February 19, 2020
Number of Pages: 299

2017 Elmer Kelton Award from the West Texas Historical Association:
Best Creative Work on West Texas

 

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Rio Ruidoso offers a gripping blend of history and story as two-time Spur Award-winner Preston Lewis explores the violent years before the famed Lincoln County War in New Mexico Territory. Seamlessly weaving fact with fiction, the author details the county’s corruption, racism, and violence through the eyes of protagonist Wes Bracken, newly arrived in the region to start a horse ranch with his alcoholic brother.

 

Bracken’s dreams for the Mirror B Ranch are threatened by his brother’s drunkenness, the corruption of economic kingpin Lawrence G. Murphy, and the murderous rampages of the racist Horrell Brothers. To bring tranquility to Lincoln County, Bracken must defeat those threats and stand his ground against the ever-changing alliances that complicate life and prosperity in multi-racial Lincoln County.

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Excerpt

EXCERPT FROM CHAPTER ONE OF

RIO RUIDOSO

BY PRESTON LEWIS

As he neared the bend in the stream, a woman’s screams and sobs grew discernible and louder. Then Wes heard the mocking laugh of amused men. Rounding the bend, Wes saw a small adobe dwelling with a small cultivated field between it and the Ruidoso. And in front of the house, he spied a circle of four men around a Hispanic woman. A fifth man sat horseback, holding the others’ mounts. All five were hurrahing the woman and someone else within their circle.

Wes held the stallion back while he studied the five men, all so intent on their mischief that not one had noticed their visitor less than a hundred yards away. Wes knew neither the dispute nor its cause, but he could see the odds were less than fair. He levered a cartridge into the Winchester, then shook the reins. The sorrel stepped forward, the gap between Wes and the men narrowing to eighty yards, sixty yards, then forty yards. Still the men remained oblivious to all but the prey within their small circle.

Wes watched a frail man stand up among them, only to be shoved back to the ground by a bigger assailant. The woman screamed and tried to help the victim, but another attacker grabbed her arm and jerked her away. She fell to the ground, then clambered toward the frail man. Everyone laughed, except Wes! He had seen enough.

“Get up, greaser, so I can plant you in the ground again,” taunted one attacker.

At twenty yards, Wes eased back on the sorrel’s reins. Swinging the barrel of his carbine toward the assailants, he shouted, “Afternoon.”

Five men flinched at the greeting, then stiffened. They slowly turned around, facing Wes, their hands frozen near the revolvers at their sides.

“What seems to be the trouble?” Wes called out.

The woman burst through the circle of men and rushed toward Wes. “Gracias, señor, muy gracias!

Her cry and the flash of her skirt spooked Charlie. The sorrel nervously backtracked a half-dozen steps. One man reached toward his pistol, his hand wrapping around the gun butt.

The Hispanic woman stopped dead still.

Wes jerked the carbine to his shoulder and fired over the foolhardy man. The fellow’s fingers widened and his arm went limp, releasing the pistol that slid back into its holster. His companions raised their hands away from their own sidearms.

The young woman’s hand flew to her throat. “Please, señor, stop them from hurting us.”

Wes nodded. “What’s the trouble?”

One troublemaker stepped ahead of the others. He had a stiff neck, his whole body turning with his head. “No trouble. Until you showed up, fellow!”

“The young lady wouldn’t agree, now would she?”

“She’s Mexican. What’s she know?”

“Enough to expect decent treatment from folks.”

Stiff neck turned his whole body toward the others. “He damn sure ain’t from Texas, now is he?” As they laughed, stiff neck twisted back to face Wes. “Hell, fellow, you remember the Alamo? This greaser’s kin likely killed good white folks there. We’re just paying them back.”

Wes shrugged. “That was near forty years ago, and this isn’t Texas. You best forget the Alamo, ride on and leave these folks alone.”

Raising his fist, stiff neck advanced a step. “Fellow, I don’t know who you are, but you got no business interfering in what my bunch does. The name’s Horrell, I’m Mart, and these are my brothers Tom, Merritt, Ben, and Sam. We’ll ride out, but you remember the Horrell name if you’re planning on staying in Lincoln County because we’ll meet again when we ain’t in such a good mood.” 

Preston Lewis is the Spur Award-winning author of thirty novels. In addition to his two Western Writers of America Spurs, he received the 2018 Will Rogers Gold Medallion for Western Humor for Bluster’s Last Stand, the fourth volume in his comic western series The Memoirs of H. H. Lomax. Two other books in that series were Spur finalists. His comic western The Fleecing of Fort Griffin received the Elmer Kelton Award from the West Texas Historical Association for best creative work on the region.

 


———————-

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Gone to Soldiers: My Review

Gone to Soldiers Book CoverI have read many novels of World War II, but none like Gone to Soldiers by Marge Piercy. Ambitious in scope, this sweeping epic not only immerses the reader into the events that took place during these tumultuous years, but connects them emotionally with the pain, suffering, tragedies and triumphs of ordinary people. Her lens into the horrors of this monumental conflict is unique. Told from a woman’s perspective, it emphasizes the struggles of the Jewish people and their resilience. In passages that are heartbreaking, compelling, and unsparing in their detail, she describes the horrors of the concentration camps… Hitler’s Final Solution. With the rise of antisemitism some seventy-five years after Germany’s surrender to Allied forces, it is both a somber reflection on the Holocaust and the survival of the human spirit in spite of man’s inhumanity to his fellow man, as well as a sobering reminder that such discrimination and persecution continue today.

But Piercy goes way beyond the stories of those who perished or inexplicably survived the death camps, to give voice to those who waited for word of their loved ones. It took resilience to continue living without any information about fathers and mothers, brothers and sisters, friends and lovers who were either fighting the Nazis across Europe or the Japanese in the South Pacific, or who found themselves caught in the middle between opposing armies. Piercy gives us flesh and blood characters whose strengths and flaws are given equal shrift, and whose hopes and dreams and daily realities mirror our own.

Just as life is not straight forward, Piercy’s story involves multiple characters whose different stories and experiences all converge or overlap in a sprawling 769 page narrative. It definitely took me awhile to wade through this voluminous novel, but I was engaged throughout and totally engrossed in the fate of each and every person regardless of how vile or good, their occupation or social status, wealth or impoverishment, ambitions or insecurities, race, religion, gender or sexual orientation.  I was emotionally involved and genuinely cared about them.

Such a response to the written word is a testament to Marge Piercy’s ability as an author. Her strong female characters challenge traditional gender roles yet Gone to Soldiers is not just geared towards a female audience. The women give voice and unique perspective to World War II that isn’t found in other literary works.

These were extraordinary times experienced by extraordinary people, many of them women. Their stories are just as relevant as the men’s, and Piercy captures both.

 

 

 

Femme Fatale

The origins of the sexually attractive woman who sets out to seduce men for her own purposes can be found in ancient biblical and historical texts as well as in classical literature. The temptress Delilah is cited in the 16th chapter of the Book of Judges in the Old Testament as the means by which the Philistines discovered the source of the Israelite Sampson’s strength. The first century historian Josephus writes of Salome, the stepdaughter of Herod Antipas, who demanded the head of John the Baptist on a silver platter in exchange for an erotic dance on Herod’s birthday. Even Greek mythology speaks of half-birds, half-maidens whose “siren song” lured sailors to a rocky shore and certain death. In Homer’s “The Odyssey,” Odysseus has his men tie him to the mast of his ship so that he can experience the allure of the Sirens without succumbing to their temptations.

However, that sultry allure, sex or the promise of sex, characteristically results in either a lifetime of regret or self-destruction. Deliberate seduction is a weapon that draws some men into compromising and even dangerous situations leading to their downfall or death. There’s a price to pay for the pleasures of the flesh – loss of one’s manhood,  manipulation and commission of acts on the woman’s behalf that can result in blackmail or even murder, and choices that compromise or even endanger the lives of others.

The seductress has existed throughout history and has often been used as a plot device in literature. In my latest book, a novella of the Salvadoran civil war, the fictional character Diana Montego (an urban guerrilla) serves that purpose.

She was exposed to training like any other recruit, learning weaponry, explosives, tactics, and strategic objectives under Nidia’s tutelage. These were all secondary, however, to her sexuality, and she was soon given her mission. Use her looks and wiles to find and seduce an American staying at the Hotel Presidente. The endgame, of course, would not be this one individual. Her task was to get inside, become totally familiar with the layout of the hotel, and specifically identify the rooms where the American advisers were lodged. To be successful, she would need to use all her womanly skills. That it proved so easy was a surprise both to Diana and the FMLN leadership. — Excerpt from Tarnished Brass.

Follow Diana’s story and learn more about American involvement in the war and the repercussions that continue to affect the United States and this small Central American country.

 

 

The Soccer War

SoccerSoccer arrived in Latin America in the 1800s. In the beginning it was primarily played by affluent Europeans, but was soon adopted by people from all socio-economic classes bridging the divide between the ruling elites and the indigenous population.

As a cultural institution, it quickly became synonymous with national identity and disputes on the field of play frequently resulted in violence between players, fans, and in extreme cases even countries.

The visible displays of nationalism include flag waving, national anthems, even colorful clothing. They are an expression of the emotional attachment that individuals feel for their teams. So when deliberate physical injury to a player or perceived bias by referees alter the outcome of games, fan violence is inevitable. Add to that political tensions between the governments of the competing teams, and international competitions have even led to war. Such was the case in 1969 between the neighboring Central American countries of El Salvador and Honduras.

The Soccer War (sometimes referred to as the 100 Hours War) was fueled by extreme national pride. Violence erupted between fans during the first two 1970 FIFA World Cup qualifying matches. The teams split the first two contests spawning yet greater tumult between the two fan bases as the third and deciding match approached.

Tensions had been building for months between the two governments over new immigration laws in Honduras that stripped land ownership from Salvadoran citizens settling in that country. The expulsion of over eleven thousand such immigrants and migrant workers just happened to coincide with the timing between the first and second games. Citing Honduran nationalism and fan violence as the reason for its action, El Salvador severed all diplomatic ties with its neighbor and deployed soldiers onto Honduran soil.

The war was brief, beginning on July 14, 1969, and ending on July 20, 1969, with a cease-fire negotiated by the Organization of American States (OAS). El Salvador initially demanded that Honduras agree to reparations for those Salvadorans who had been displaced and assurances of fair treatment for those settlers who chose to remain. It finally withdrew its forces on August 2, 1969, after promises of protection for its citizens on Honduran soil.

The dispute simmered long after the Salvadoran soccer team defeated Honduras 3-2 in the final qualifying match in Mexico City and long after cessation of hostilities between the two armies. A final peace treaty would not be signed until October 30, 1980. — Excerpt from Tarnished Brass.

 

 

 

The Doctrine of Liberation Theology

The arrival of European powers and the conquest of Latin America by Spain and Portugal that began in the 15th century aligned the ruling elite and the Roman Catholic Church. Indigenous peoples were not only subjugated, they were taught that their suffering was the will of God and that they should accept their earthly existence, which included forced labor, poverty, and oppression. Their liberation from these conditions would only come in the afterlife if they remained faithful and accepted their fate.

However, by the 20th century calls for both social and political change caused the Church to transition towards an acknowledgement that it had a role in helping the poor and underprivileged. Rather than just focusing on their souls, it began advocating “the power of man to determine his own destiny.” This radical shift in doctrine became known as Liberation Theology.

In the small Central American country of El Salvador clerics not only spoke out about the impoverished conditions under which most Salvadorans labored, but advocated rising up in confrontation to the authorities. One of the more outspoken voices was that of Archbishop Oscar Arnulfo Romero.

The Archbishop vocally preached against the repression of the underprivileged calling upon all Christians including the military dictatorship to heed Jesus’ teachings regarding social and economic justice. In his final sermon the Archbishop urgently petitioned those in power to alter course. In the name of God and this suffering population, whose cries reach to the heavens more tumultuous each day, I beg you, I beseech you, I order you, in the name of God, cease the repression.

His words were met by a sniper’s bullet to the heart. Archbishop Romero became the first Catholic bishop killed in a church since Thomas Becket was slain at Canterbury in 1170. He was canonized and declared a saint October 14, 2018.

Archbishop Romero’s assassination galvanized a fledgling FMLN guerrilla movement in El Salvador resulting in a brutal civil war that lasted from 1980-1992. My latest book Tarnished Brass looks at that war and all its causes and ramifications, spotlighting American involvement in the conflict and the ongoing struggle in El Salvador that to this day continues to impact the immigration crisis on our southern border and the spread of MS-13 gang violence throughout the United States.

Look for it on Amazon and at other major online retail book stores.