I could use a few interested reviewers for The Preacher's New Family!
If you'd be interested in doing an honest review...good or bad...it's important to do an honest review.
Please leave a comment with your email addy, and I'll contact you.
Please don't offer if you don't read inspirational. Expectations are totally different.
Why should you do a review of The Preacher's New Family?
Here's an excerpt to see if there might be some interest:
Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.Dakota Territory, 1881
The prairie was a cold mistress. But TJ loved her nonetheless, loved the freedom to come and go, no questions asked. It did his heart good, like a tonic. Never again would he be jammed twelve to a room as he had been in the slums of New York City.
Terrance Jonathan O'Brien, TJ to his friends-few as they were-poured the last drops of coffee into his tin cup. As he wrapped his hands around the warmth and sipped the strong, hot goodness, his gaze surveyed the open expanse of land. He took another sip, remembering the tough times after his folks had passed on.
Five years ago, when he had turned twenty-one and Uncle Michael had given him the $200 from his parents and a handful of keepsakes, TJ had left New York, and it had been the best day of his life-up to now. Sitting here, gazing over the prairie, he soaked in the kind of freedom only open space could provide.
TJ set down his cup and stretched the kinks out of his legs. It had been a long day's ride. He breathed deeply of the dusty prairie. Clear, uncluttered land. No people, no noises except that of the earth and its diminutive creatures. Crickets shouted a round of chirps, and he smiled at the interruption the noisy little critters caused in his thoughts. The sound of crickets he could tolerate; the noises of humanity, not quite as much. But in his calling as a preacher, he'd have to listen plenty.
Peaceful and free. How he loved the opportunity to pick up and go whenever he chose. He could stop for a day or two and appreciate a cold spring, a tree in the middle of nowhere, a rabbit that would soon roast crackling over an open fire then fill his belly. Never again would he listen to neighbors screaming at each other and pounding on common walls-unhappy families fighting over a scrap of space to sleep or a loaf of bread to eat.
For two years now, he'd been preaching God's Word to anyone who itched to pull up a chair and listen. An empty schoolhouse in one town, a saloon in another. Maybe a neighbor's front porch with blankets as pews. Didn't matter so long as TJ could breeze into town, preach and hightail it out of there before some well-meaning mother presented her unmarried daughter for the preacher's appreciation. Each town seemed to have an unlimited number of unmarried females looking for a sorry single fella without the sense to say no. But not this fella. The last thing he wanted was to be tied down to some anxious girl with family on her mind. No, sirree…not TJ.
Tomorrow he'd arrive in Gullywash, the town he'd recently been invited to make part of his circuit. He prayed for plenty of welcoming folks willing to listen, but not enough so that he'd feel penned in. This life presented a delicate balance between his desire for seclusion and the needs of the folks. After all, his entire reason for living was to bring the love of God to the lost, the same way it had been brought to him.
He lifted the coffeepot from the fire and sat up straight. Snaking his hand into his saddlebag, he drew out the Bible his uncle had given him when TJ had learned to read. His thumbs caressed the cover. Soft, worn leather slid beneath his touch. The words, etched on his heart, fulfilled every desire of his life. He was comfortable in the solitude of his simple life.
"Mama, Mama, Mama! A man's a-comin'. A big man. On a horse. Near our well. Mama, Mama. C'mere, quick! He looks awful mean."
Sarah Anne Rycroft jumped from her rocker, sending her son's half-patched pants-needle still stuck in the leg-sliding to the floor. She dashed for the fireplace mantel and, stretching on the toes of her boots, hefted her late husband's Winchester from the rack. Her fingers trembled as she readied herself to fire if necessary. "Get away from the window and get in your room, Zach." Breath caught in her throat. "Now!"
As her son scampered away, Sarah dashed to the front, opened the door a crack and peered around the edge of the thick maple wood. A tall man with a rough day-old beard, dressed in a long black duster, black hat, black gloves and black boots, rode high in the saddle on a bay horse that must have been eighteen hands, at least. She hadn't ever seen a bigger bay, and such an imposing, intimidating figure on its back. Zach was right- the man looked…well, menacing. "Who's there?" she called.
The man pulled a glove off and waved a hand. "May I have a dipper of water, miss?"
"Mrs. Mrs. Rycroft. My husband's gone to town, but he should be back any second. If you're wanting a drink, go ahead, and then move on along." She made sure to let the barrel of the rifle stick out the door far enough so there would be no funny business or further questions.
"Yes, ma'am. If I'm not putting you out too much, I'd like to fill my canteen and water my horse, and I'd thank you kindly for the hospitality. It's a scorcher today and I'm afraid my horse is mighty thirsty."
Sarah stepped onto the porch, the gray weathered boards creaking slightly, the rifle heavy in her grip as she watched the man lead the bay closer to the well. Then she felt a spark of guilt over her lack of compassion for the stranger passing through her property. Nathaniel would be upset at her behavior. If he could see her standing there, ready to shoot the man through the heart, he'd have words with her.
"You new to these parts?" she asked.
"Yes'm. Riding in to see the sheriff. He's a friend of mine."
Sheriff Redford. He and his wife, Molly, were friends of hers, too. "You had breakfast today?"
"A couple of corn dodgers and leftover roasted rabbit when I rose."
The sun burned straight overhead, shooting blinding rays, reminders that the man had likely gotten up six hours ago. Nathaniel had always been able to eat as much as she could cook, and this fellow probably had a powerful hunger by now. "What's your name? What are you doing in these parts?"
"TJ, ma'am. I'm the new circuit rider. I'll be in town over Sunday to preach. Didn't mean to frighten your boy."
Since when did Gullywash have a preacher?
"This'll be my first time here. Sheriff Redford invited me when he picked up a prisoner last month and heard me in the pulpit. I guess I do all right according to some folks."
Nice-looking man for a preacher, but too young to be able to understand what was in his Bible…which was nothing. Nothing that made any sense to her. Not anymore. And besides, looks had little to do with it. So what?
However, the hat, gloves, black jacket-why, the sun must be baking him alive. She should at least be polite. After settling the rifle against the side of the door, she put a hand to her forehead and shaded her eyes. She attempted a smile but realized it must look painted on her face; she hadn't smiled much lately. "You look mighty green to be a preacher. Can't be much older than I am. How do you expect to teach folks?"
"I can assure you, I'm old enough to preach and then some." He slipped out of the saddle and Sarah reached for the rifle again.
She bit the side of her lip, trying to decide whether or not to give the man some bread and honey, when she heard a scream. "Mah-ma!"
Sarah spun around and she dropped the rifle to the porch with a loud crash. The scream had come from the back of the house. She dashed down the porch two steps at a time and ran around the side of the house, where she froze. Her spindly four-year-old clung to the edge of the roof, fingers clawing to keep from falling. He screamed her name. "Mama, catch me. I can't hold on no more!"
"Zach!" Her feet froze to the ground. Not again. God, please, not again. I can't lose my baby, too.
With the charge of a bull, the preacher pushed past her. He stopped below Zach and held up both arms. "Drop down, boy. C'mon. I'll catch you."
"Mama? Mama! I'm falling!"
"Let go. I've got you." The preacher reached both arms up, his fingers nearly touching Zach's feet. The span of his limbs was near as wide as a sturdy tree's.
Sarah's heart thundered in her ears as her precious boy dropped into the man's grasp. She rushed to their side, her arms half around Zach and half around the stranger. She buried her face in Zach's teary face. "Oh, Zach, whatever were you doing up on the roof? You know better. Shame on you for scaring me. Are you sure you're all right?"
His tears dampened his shirt and he licked the moisture from his upper lip. "I climbeded up the tree and out on the roof. I was tryin' to p'tect you, Mama. Like Daddy. I had a rock I coulda throwed at that man if he hurt you." He dropped a threatening frown at the preacher and hugged Sarah tighter. "Sor-ry. I dinnunt mean to scare you." He looked at the big man with as much courage as fear-her four-year-old boy doing his best to take his father's place.
At first the preacher shot the boy a look mean as a bear's, but all the time, he held tight. "Boy, you should obey your mama. You've scared her half to death." Then he smiled, a gentle smile that said all was forgiven and gave his forceful face a kind expression. "You all right, young fella?"
"Uh-huh. I'm sorry, Mama."
Sarah, lip quivering as much as Zach's, turned to the stranger. "Thank you, Mr.?"
The man pressed Zach into her arms and held out a hand. "O'Brien, ma'am. TJ O'Brien at your service. I have to say, you must be proud. One mighty brave fellow you have here."