This is book two in B.J. Hoff’s, Emerald Ballad Series. The books are excellent reading. As I told you when I was in the middle of Song of the Silent Harp, it is a grand and epic story — one story. These books do not stand alone and there is yet another to the series, which I do not have (yet).
Generally a series like this cannot hold my attention, but I am quite caught up in this story and impatient to finish it. That said, I must confess that I would not have started the books had I known that each one could not stand on its own. I read so many books on such a tight schedule, that I tend to avoid stories I can’t devour in one take.
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!
and the book:
Harvest House Publishers (July 1, 2010)
***Special thanks to Karri James of Harvest House Publishers for sending me a review copy.***
BJ Hoffâ€™s bestselling historical novels continue to cross the boundaries of religion, language, and culture to capture a worldwide reading audience. Her books include Song of Erin and American Anthem and such popular series as The Riverhaven Years, The Mountain Song Legacy, and The Emerald Ballad. Hoffâ€™s stories, although set in the past, are always relevant to the present. Whether her characters move about in small country towns or metropolitan areas, reside in Amish settlements or in coal company houses, she creates communities where people can form relationships, raise families, pursue their faith, and experience the mountains and valleys of life. BJ and her husband make their home in Ohio.
Visit the author’s website.
List Price: $14.99
Paperback: 384 pages
Publisher: Harvest House Publishers (July 1, 2010)
AND NOW…THE FIRST CHAPTER:
Friends Old and New
Youth must with time decayâ€¦
Beauty must fade awayâ€¦
Castles are sacked in warâ€¦
Chieftains are scattered farâ€¦
Truth is a fixed starâ€¦.
From â€œAileen Aroonâ€ GERALD GRIFFIN (1803â€“1840)
New York City
It was a fine summer evening in the city, the kind of sweet, soft evening that made the young delight in their youth and the elderly content with their lot.
On this evening Daniel Kavanagh and Tierney Burke were indulging in one of their favorite pastimesâ€”stuffing themselves with pastries from Kruegerâ€™s bakery as they lounged against the glass front of the building. As usual, Tierney was buying. Daniel as yet had no job and no money. But Tierney, with a weekâ€™s pay in his pocket from his job at the hotel and a monthâ€™s wages due from his part-time job at Patrick Walshâ€™s estate, declared he felt rotten with money and eager to enjoy it.
It had been a good day, Daniel decided as he polished off his last sugar kucken. His mother was visiting, as she did every other Saturday, delivered as always by one of the Farmington carriages. Every Saturday without fail, a carriage either brought her to the Burkesâ€™, or came to collect Daniel for a visit at the Farmington mansion uptown, where his mother worked.
In truth, Daniel thought he preferred the Saturdays he spent at the Farmingtonsâ€™, for then he could visit with his friend, Evan Whittaker, and the Fitzgerald children, as well as his mother. He enjoyed his temporary living arrangement with Uncle Mike and Tierney, but often he found himself missing the daily contact with his mother and the Fitzgeraldsâ€”especially Katie.
The thought of Katie brought a smile to his face and a sting of worry to his mind. Katie was both his friend and his sweetheart; they would marry when they were of ageâ€”that had been decided long ago.
So committed to their future plans was he that Daniel paid little heed to Tierneyâ€™s relentless teasing about his â€œlassie.â€ The fact was that Katie Fitzgerald had been his girl from the time they were wee wanes back in the village, and he did not mind who knew it. But Katie had ever been frail, and the famine and the long, horrific ship crossing had taken a fierce toll on her.
Daniel could not help but fret about her health. He would have thought the good, plentiful food and proper medical attention she was receiving at the Farmingtonsâ€™ would be enough to have her feeling fit by now. Instead, she scarcely seemed improved at all.
Still, as his mother had reminded him just today, three months was not really so long a timeâ€”not with all the troubles Katie had been through. â€œYou must be patient, Daniel John,â€ she had cautioned him. â€œYou must be patient and faithful with your prayers.â€
He was trying to be both, but it was hard, all the same, not to worry.
Shifting his weight from one foot to the other, Daniel turned his attention to Pearl Street. Although darkness was gathering, most of the neighborhood seemed to be in no hurry to return to their cramped living quarters. The sultry August atmosphere carried the sounds of children playing, mothers scolding, dogs barking, and men arguing. Most of the voices were thick with Irish brogue, although German and an occasional stream of Italian could also be heard.
Almost as thick as the cacophony of immigrant voices were the odors that mingled on the night air. The ever-present stench of piled-up garbage in the streets had grown worse with the recent warm temperatures; the fumes from sewage and animal droppings were more noxious than ever.
Still, there was no spoiling the pleasure of such a fine evening. Besides, Daniel was growing accustomed to the aroma of New York. Indeed, the smell rarely bothered him at all these days; it was negligible compared to the stench of Irelandâ€™s rotten potato fields and the countless dead bodies lying alongside the countryâ€™s roads.
â€œSo, then,â€ Tierney said, downing a nut kipfel in one bite before wiping his mouth with the back of his hand, â€œwill they tie the knot soon, do you think? Your mum and my da?â€
It was a question Tierney seemed bent on asking at least once a week, a question that continued to make Daniel feel awkwardâ€”almost as if his mother were somehow under an obligation to marry Uncle Mike. More and more Tierneyâ€™s prodding put Daniel on guard, made him feel the need to defend his motherâ€”never mind that he secretly harbored the same question.
â€œI donâ€™t suppose itâ€™s for either of us to guess,â€ he muttered in reply. â€œSure, and Mother does care a great deal for Uncle Mike.â€
Tierney gave a curt, doubtful nod, turning the full intensity of his unnerving ice-blue stare on Daniel. â€œIf thatâ€™s so,â€ he said, â€œthen why is she still holding out?â€
Daniel bristled. â€œItâ€™s not that sheâ€™s holding out,â€ he protested. â€œShe just needs more time, donâ€™t you see? They havenâ€™t seen each other for more than seventeen years, after all! She can hardly be expected to jump into marriage right away!â€
Tierney regarded him with a speculative look, then shrugged. â€œYouâ€™re right, of course,â€ he said cheerfully, shoving his hands into his pockets. As if no friction whatever had occurred between them, he tilted a quick grin at Daniel. â€œI expect Iâ€™m just impatient because Iâ€™m wanting to see them wed.â€
Not for the first time, Daniel found himself disarmed by his quicksilver friend. The older boy had a way of making abrasive, outrageous remarks, then quickly backing off, as if sensing he had caused Daniel discomfort.
Tierney had an incredible energy about him, a tension that sometimes made it seem that any instant he might leap from the ground and take off flying. He was impatient and blunt, decisive and headstrong. Yet he had an obvious streak of kindness, even gentleness, that could appear at the most unexpected moments.
Living with him was akin to keeping company with a hurricane. Wild and impetuous one moment, eager and conciliatory the next, he was entirely unpredictableâ€”and a great deal more fun than any boy Daniel had ever known.
He liked Tierney immensely. In truth, he wished his mother would marry Uncle Mike so they could be a real family.
â€œIf they do get married,â€ Tierney was saying, watching Daniel with a teasing grin, â€œyou and I will be brothers. How do you feel about that, Danny-boy?â€
Daniel rolled his eyes, but couldnâ€™t stop a smile of pleasure. â€œSure, and wonâ€™t I be the lucky lad, then?â€
Tierney wiggled his dark brows. â€œSure, and wonâ€™t you at that?â€ he shot back, perfectly mimicking Danielâ€™s brogue.
Avoiding Michaelâ€™s eyes, Nora stared at the flickering candle in the middle of the kitchen table.
The silence in the room, while not entirely strained, was awkward, to say the least. Nora had sensed Michaelâ€™s impatience early in their visit. She thought she understood it; certainly, she could not fault the man for wanting more of a commitment than sheâ€™d been able to grant him thus far.
On the other hand, she didnâ€™t know how she could have handled things between them any differently. From the day of their reunionâ€”Noraâ€™s first day in New York Cityâ€”she had done her best to be entirely honest with Michael. She had told him thenâ€”and on other occasions sinceâ€”that she cared for him deeply but could not marry him for a time, if ever.
In the weeks and months that followed her arrival in New York, Noraâ€™s life had changed radically. All that she had once held dear, everything familiar, had been mercilessly torn away from her. She had lost her home and her entire family except for Daniel John. Yet much had been given to her as well.
God had been goodâ€”and faithful. Daniel John had a home with Michael and Tierney, and she and the orphaned Fitzgerald children were safe and snug in the Farmington mansion with Lewis Farmington and his daughter, Saraâ€”people who must be, Nora was certain, the kindest human beings God ever created.
Aye, she had fine lodgingsâ€”even a jobâ€”and she had friends, good friends: Michael, Evan Whittaker, Sara and Lewis Farmington, and Ginger, the Farmingtonsâ€™ delightful housekeeper. There was more food on her plate than she could eat, and a fire to warm her bones for the coming winter. Had any other penniless widow-woman ever been so blessed?
Yet when it came to Michael, something deep within her warned her to wait, to go slowly. There were times when she wanted nothing more than to run to the shelter of the manâ€™s brawny arms and accept the security he seemed so set on offeringâ€”the security of a friendship that dated back to their childhood, the security of marriage and a home of her own. But in the next instant she would find herself drawing back, shying away from the idea of Michael as the solution to her problems.
She needed time, perhaps a great deal of time. Of that much, at least, she was certain. Time to heal, time to seek direction for her life. Godâ€™s direction.
And time to forget Morgan Fitzgeraldâ€¦
â€œThe Farmingtons seem more than pleased with your work for them,â€ Michael said, breaking the silence and jarring Nora back to her surroundings. â€œThey cannot say enough good things about you.â€
Struggling to put aside her nagging melancholy, Nora smiled and made a weak dismissing motion with her hand. â€œSure, they are only being kind,â€ she said. â€œâ€Šâ€™Tis little enough they allow me to do. I suppose they still think me ill, but in truth Iâ€™m feeling much stronger.â€
â€œI can believe that,â€ Michael said, studying her with open approval. â€œYouâ€™re looking more fit each day. I think you might have even gained a bit at last.â€
Surprised, Nora glanced down at her figure. She did feel stronger physically, stronger than she had for months. â€œIndeed. Perhaps with all this fine American food, Iâ€™ll grow as round as Pumpkin Emmie,â€ she said, trying to ease the tension between them with reference to daft Emmie Fahey, one of the terrors of their youth.
â€œYouâ€™ve a ways to go, there,â€ Michael said, meeting her smile. â€œBut you are looking more yourself, lass, and thatâ€™s the truth.â€
Unnerved by the way he was scrutinizing her, Nora glanced away. â€œOur sons are becoming good friends, it seems.â€
Michael, too, seemed relieved to move to safer ground. â€œAye, they are,â€ he answered eagerly. â€œAnd I couldnâ€™t be happier for it. Your Daniel is a fine boyâ€”a good influence on that rascal of mine.â€
â€œOh, Michael,â€ Nora protested, â€œI think youâ€™re far too hard on Tierney! He doesnâ€™t seem nearly the rogue you paint him to be.â€
With a sigh, Michael rose from the table to put the kettle on for more tea. â€œIâ€™m the first to admit Tierneyâ€™s not a bad boy. Nevertheless, he can be a handful. And unpredictableâ€”â€ He shook his head as he started for the stove. â€œWhy, I donâ€™t know what to expect from the lad one minute to the next, and thatâ€™s the truth.â€
â€œItâ€™s not an easy age for him, Michael. Donâ€™t you remember how it was, being more grown-up than child, yet not quite either?â€
Nora could have answered her own question. Michael had never seemed anything but a man grown, had never appeared to know the meaning of childishness or uncertainty, at least not in the time she had known him.
Returning with the kettle, he offered Nora more tea. When she declined, he proceeded to pour himself a fresh cup. â€œWhat I remember most about being a boy,â€ he said with just the ghost of a smile, â€œwas trying to keep you and our lad, Morgan, out of the soup.â€
Nora glanced quickly away. â€œAye, you were like a brother to the both of us,â€ she said quietly.
â€œIt wasnâ€™t a brother I wanted to be to you, Nora,â€ he said pointedly, pausing with the kettle suspended above his cup. â€œThat was your choice, not mine.â€
He looked at her, setting the kettle down between them. â€œIs it still Morgan, then?â€ A muscle at the side of his mouth tightened. â€œIs he the reason you cannot bring yourself to marry me?â€
â€œNo! No, Michael, it is not Morgan! Iâ€™ve tried to explain all this before. I thought you understoodâ€¦â€
His gaze on her didnâ€™t waver. â€œNora, I have tried. But Iâ€™m not blind, lass. I see the way things are.â€
Nora looked away, but she could still feel his eyes on her. â€œWhat do you mean?â€
â€œI mean that Morgan Fitzgerald still occupies a large space in your heartâ€”perhaps so great a space there will never be room for another.â€
He waved away her protest, saying nothing. Instead, he went to stand at the window, his back to her. He stood there for a long time in silence. At last, he drew in a deep sigh and said quietly, â€œWeâ€™d be good together, I think. We could build a fine life, a good homeâ€”watch our boys grow to manhood.â€ Stopping he turned to face her. â€œPerhaps we could even have more childrenâ€¦â€
He let his words drift away, unfinished. As he stood there, his gaze fixed on her face, the frustration that had hardened his expression earlier faded, giving way to a rare tenderness. The grim lines about his mouth seemed to disappear, and his eyes took on a gentle smile.
â€œWe go back a long way, you and I,â€ he said softly. â€œAnd our boysâ€”why, theyâ€™re well on their way to being brothers already. Ah, it could work for us, Nora! You must see that.â€ Shoving his hands down deep into his pockets, he stood watching her. â€œI know I cannot offer you much in the way of material things just yet, but weâ€™d have enough, enough for us all. And things will improve, I can promise you that. I have prospects on the forceâ€”â€
â€œOh, Michael, you know none of that matters to me!â€
With three broad strides he closed the distance between them. Bracing both hands palms down on the tabletop, he brought his face close to hers, his eyes burning. â€œWhat, then, Nora? What does matter? Tell me, lass, for Iâ€™ll do whatever I can to make this work for us. I swear I will! Tell me what I can do to convince you to marry me.â€
Nora remembered he had asked her that same question once before, when he was still a young man preparing to go to America. He had done his best then, too, to convince her to be his wife.
That had been seventeen years ago. Seventeen years, and her answer was still not what he wanted to hear.
â€œMichael, you know you have ever beenâ€¦specialâ€¦to me.â€
He said nothing, simply went on searching her eyes, his large, blunt hands now clenched to fists atop the table.
â€œI do care for youâ€¦â€ She did. She was not immune to Michaelâ€™s appeal, his almost arrogant handsomeness, the strength that seemed to pulse from him. But more than that, and far deeper, were the memories that bound them, the friendship that even today anchored their affection for each other. She could not bring herself to hurt him, but neither could she lie to him!
Suddenly, he stunned her by grasping both her hands in his and pulling her up from the chair to face him. Holding her hands firmly, he drew her to him. â€œAnd I care for you, Nora,â€ he said, his voice gruff. With one hand he lifted her chin, forcing her to meet his relentless gaze. â€œI have always cared for you, lass, and thatâ€™s the truth.â€
Trembling, Nora held her breath as he bent to press his lips to hers. Irrationally, she almost wished Michaelâ€™s kiss would blind her with love for him, send stars shooting through her. Instead, she felt only the gentle warmth, the same sweet, sad affection she had felt for him all those years so long ago when he had kissed her goodbye, regret brimming in his eyes, before sailing for America.
He knew. He said nothing, but she felt his knowing as she stood there, miserable beneath those dark, searching eyes that seemed to probe her very soul. Gradually he freed her from his embrace, setting her gently away from him with a sad smile.
â€œYou have been through a great sorrow,â€ he said huskily. â€œAnd I am asking too much of you, too soon. Iâ€™m sorry, lass. Perhaps itâ€™s just that Iâ€™m anxious for you to realize that when youâ€™re ready, I will be here. I will wait.â€
â€œOh, Michael, pleaseâ€”donâ€™tâ€¦â€
He put a finger to her lips to silence her. â€œEnough sober talk for tonight. Why donâ€™t we have us a stroll? Weâ€™ll go and find the lads and see what theyâ€™re up to.â€
Relieved, Nora nodded, managing a smile. â€œAye, Iâ€™d like that.â€
Michael smiled, too, watching her with infinite tenderness. Framing her face between his calloused hands, he brushed his lips over her forehead. â€œRemember that I am still your friend, Nora Ellen. No matter what happensâ€”or does not happenâ€”between us, I will always be your friend.â€
Nora could have wept for gratitude at his understanding, his gentleness. â€œThank you, Michael,â€ she whispered. â€œThank you for being the man you are. And thank you,â€ she added fervently, â€œfor being my friend.â€