Novella Review, Author Interview & GIVEAWAY: “The Cupcake Dilemma” by Jennifer Rodewald

Put the words “cupcake” and “Jennifer Rodewald” together, associated with a novella, and you have my undying attention and interest. Throw in a sweet romance, some chocolate, and a quaint (favorite) small town setting, and you have a recipe for a novella that earns a place on my favorites list!!! I’m thrilled to be sharing my review of this Valentine’s Day release AND an interview with Jennifer, along with an ebook #GIVEAWAY!

About the Book

The Cupcake Dilemma

My name is Kirstin Hill. I’m a simple girl trying to figure out life in a small town. There are a few things you should know about me before we begin. I grew up in the city. I’m a teacher–a first year teacher, (some of you understand that significance). And, finally, when it comes to cooking, I’m a disaster. Maybe none of those things seem story-worthy, but trust me, I have a story. I call it The Cupcake Dilemma, and it literally changed my life. How? I’m glad you asked.

It all started with an extra assignment delegated to me at school right before Valentine’s Day… but before we get too far, let me begin by stating this clearly. I was voluntold.

Amazon | Goodreads

Review

The Cupcake Dilemma is an absolute treat from start to finish! Kirstin and Ian are positively likable and refreshingly awkward — especially when they are “together” on the page. I expected to like this story, but I didn’t expect it to be so hilarious (I mean laugh-out-loud hilarious) in so many ways! Jennifer keeps surprising me with her versatility and voice.

It’s not all hearts and chocolate, though, as the interaction between Kirstin and Ian reveals a deeper desire to find joy and friendship. That’s what I like most about the developing relationship between Kirstin and Ian — that it begins with a friendship and wonderfully, naturally grows into a sweet could-be-love rapport.

If you’re looking for a light-hearted story with epically funny kitchen fails, look no further than this “sweet” novella from Jennifer. And, if you’re a fan of her Rock Creek stories thus far, you will be delighted by the brief appearance of beloved characters.

Thank you to the author for providing the review copy. This is my honest review.

Interview with the Author

You’ve written stories across genres with different emotional depths, from lighthearted to innovative and thought-provoking. How do you prepare to write such varied stories?

You noticed that, huh? *wink and a smile* I’m not sure how to describe the prep work for my more emotionally charged books, other than to say I do quite a bit of research in the way of reading non-fiction books and blogs (blogs are a surprisingly rich wealth of information into the human heart—some people are shockingly honest on their blogs). And prayer. Lots and lots of prayer. Not just that I’d write what He would have me write, but that God would show me more of His heart for people in the stories I explore. Truly, that’s the driving force behind what I do—to discover through story more Truth, to understand the heart of God. So, even with my lighter stories, there is that. I was surprised to see God reveal to me how much I needed to let go of the guilty voices that plague me as a mother through the writing of Ordinary Snowflakes; and I was completely delighted to experience God’s pleasure in humor as I wrote The Cupcake Dilemma.

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That said, with both of my novellas, they came as a reprieve. When I wrote Ordinary
Snowflakes, I had just finished the rough draft of Red Rose Bouquet, which proved to be the most emotionally challenging—and heart-wrenching story God took me through. The Cupcake Dilemma was also written after the completion of another heart-challenging rough draft (Finding Evergreen—which releases March 22). Interestingly, both novellas started with the personal challenge to create a fun hook and write a story from there. So, for Ordinary Snowflakes, the hook I started with was the line “I almost stepped on it…” and, The Cupcake Dilemma was “Let me begin by stating this clearly. I was voluntold.” With both stories, I really didn’t have a shape in mind for what would happen as I began to write. They were both rather a reminder of the delightful surprises that come with simply creating.

I love hearing the heart behind the writing process — and your heart is clearly on display in every story you pen. ❤

What is your favorite cupcake? Did you bake cupcakes while you wrote?

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First off, I LOVE cupcakes. Secondly, I am a total #kitchenfail. Thus, the story. 😉 I am
completely jealous of people who can bake (ehem, Courtney.) *Courtney smiles bashfully* and wish that they could come live with me so that I would have an unending supply of bakery deliciousness. I am ever-hopeful that one of my daughters will take up that charge. My favorite cupcake is a peanut butter Reese’s-esc creation. I’m also a fan of lemon.

Sadly, there was no consumption of cupcakes during the writing of this story. That is just wrong. I do plan on celebrating the release with one—or more! on Valentine’s Day.

You MUST celebrate with cupcakes!!! And, if you’ve had a particularly challenging time lately, I (and Ian would) suggest a “dark and dangerous” chocolate one!

Tell us about the inspiration for and story setting of Rock Creek.

Rock Creek is a mashup of several different small towns I’ve either been a part of, or have visited. When I made up the town for Reclaimed, I wanted to blend the charm of small town with the reality of some of the more difficult politics that are inherently part of small town life, but I didn’t want in any way to paint a real place in a bad light. Thus the fictional town. As a girl who grew up citified (just outside of Denver, in a not-so- awesome neighborhood), and who moved to rural Nebraska as a young married adult, I feel like I have a balanced and realistic view of life in the city versus life in small town. Having said that, though, I’ve kind of fallen in love with fictional Rock Creek, so don’t be surprised if you find me visiting there again. 😉

I do hope Rock Creek will be revisited soon!

Is there a theme or message you want readers to take away from The Cupcake Dilemma?

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Well, my theme song while writing it was Francesca Battistelli’s “Free To Be Me” (https://youtu.be/EKSQjSdU8VA), so that’s pretty much it.“On Your (HIS) shoulders I can see, I’m free to be me.” It is the beautiful gift we are all given, the freedom to embrace who I am, quirks and all. Oh, and to embrace laughter. Life is so much better when we laugh. 😉

What are you currently reading?

I just finished an Advanced Copy of Sondra Kraak’s upcoming release Three Words and A Kiss. Next up is When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi, and in between, I’m working through Ted Dekker’s The Forgotten Way. The next novel for me will probably be Courtney Walsh’s Just Look Up.

Oooh, out of those, I’ve read Just Look Up, and it’s fabulous!

Thank you, Jen, for taking the time to answer my questions today! You have written a treat of a story!

About the Author

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Jennifer Rodewald is passionate about the Word of God and the powerful vehicle of story. Four kids and her own personal superman make her home in southwestern Nebraska delightfully chaotic.

Born in Colorado, she experienced both the seclusion of rugged mountain living and the busy streets of a Denver suburb during her growing up years. Somewhere in the middle of college, she married a Husker and found her way back to the quiet lifestyle of a rural area, which suits just fine.

Blessed with a robust curiosity, Jen loves to research. Whether she’s investigating the history of a given area, the biography of a Christian icon, or how nature declares the glory of God, her daily goal is to learn something new. Aiming to live with boundless enthusiasm, her creed is vision, pursuit, and excellence.

Jen lives and writes in a lovely speck of a town where she watches with amazement while her children grow up way too fast, gardens, and marvels at God’s mighty hand in everyday life.

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Giveaway

CLICK HERE to enter the Rafflecopter Giveaway!

Giveaway is for one (1) Kindle ebook copy of The Cupcake Dilemma provided by The Green Mockingbird. Giveaway ends 2/17/18 11:59pm CT. Void where prohibited.

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Review & GIVEAWAY: The Uncloaked Trilogy by J. Rodes ~ A YA/Dystopian Series

Uncloaked Trilogy Tour Banner SLB

Today’s featured book series is a TREAT to share because it’s not my normal cup-of-tea in the best way. I DO like to read outside my comfort zone sometimes and foray into YA/Dystopian or even stories with fantastical elements. Lucky for me, “The Uncloaked” series is just that —- a futuristic beginning of a dystopian society all from a 1st-person POV AND a subtle Christian worldview. Author J. Rodes is quickly becoming a favorite and must-read for me (some readers might know her better under the name Jennifer Rodewald *wink* who pens stories that are perfectly my cup of tea. Talk about versatility!).

Before you go on and enter the series giveaway, please do stop by some other tour stops (listed at the end of this post) because they feature wonderful behind-the-scenes glimpses and interviews with Jennifer AND HER FAMILY.

About the Books

From Sellout to hero, by way of the den. Braxton Luther finds himself in the crossfire of a new order, and discovers apathy is a dangerous option.

1-The UncloakedThe Uncloaked

Apathy is the illness of the overprivileged…” Words laced with fear—and maybe a hint of prophecy. His father’s words. Words Braxton would prefer to ignore. 

Braxton Luther is sixteen when the Progressive Reform Party takes over the government. It can’t be that bad. So they don’t want religion in government—that’s constitutional. He can’t understand his church’s hypersensitive reaction or his father’s cryptic warning to stand against the Party’s ultimatums. 

But after living under the new government for a year, Braxton faces a choice—conform to the demands of the ungodded in order to protect his best friend, Eliza, or defy the system and go into hiding, ensuring a life of misery. Still certain that life will settle back into normalcy in the near future, Braxton chooses compliance. 

Then the killings begin, and Eliza is captured and sent to Reformation Camp for her defiance. Reality finally sinks in. 

Apathy is no longer a choice.

2-Tearing the VeilTearing the Veil

“They trained us well. Power punctuated our every move, driving fear into the intended target. Who would stand against them? ”

Braxton Luther, the sellout. 

Now a part of the Den, he’s determined to make good on Eliza Knight’s faith in him—to be more than what he’d settled for when the Party had taken over. But his goal is dangerous, and not just for him. As he searches for a way to protect the silent, invisible victims of the new government, Braxton’s mission—which includes finding a way to rescue Eliza from the Reformation Camp—becomes even more complicated. Hannah Knight, Eliza’s sister, is simply too much like him. 

Tired of standing in her perfect sister’s shadow, Hannah determines to find her own place in the world. If that place is with the Pride—the girls’ home and training center provided by the Party—so be it. When she leaves the hopelessness of the cellar, that’s all she’s aiming for. But Quinn Sanger, the handsome son of a powerful political leader, finds her at the creek, and her life takes an unexpected and optimistic turn. 

Braxton’s convinced Hannah’s in trouble. Hannah’s convinced Braxton, and all the Uncloaked, are insane. But when they peek behind the real veil the Party maintains, the truth is beyond what either had feared or hoped. 

If everyone knew, it could change everything. They redefine their mission. It’s time to tear the veil. 

3-The Charging DarknessCharging the Darkness

“You were not saved for this… “

The veil has been torn, but Braxton Luther still has more to do. 

The captive Uncloaked have been freed, and the people know the dark truth. A rebellion against the Party has begun, but the question lingers among those who are safely hidden in the Refuge–what will happen to their broken nation? Secrets and shame, resentment and hatred continue to shake the nation, now divided. 

What will it take to break the grip of the Party? Beyond that, is there any hope of healing after the damage of the darkness? 

 

GOODREADS | AMAZON

Review

“The Uncloaked” trilogy is the thrilling dystopian/YA series from a Christian worldview you didn’t know you needed in your life. It’s a story of family, trust, friendship, loyalty, betrayal, and hardships. Overarching is an abundant theme of choice. Choice of forgiveness or bitterness, of following the Light or living in darkness, of believing in redemption for any soul or living with hate. The Christian worldview offers a realistic scenario and a reason for both the evil and hope portrayed in the story. This is something rare in the  dystopian genre, at least as far as I have experienced it. It makes the story an allegory of sorts that represents choices you and I have every day, to stand for the Light and choose hope.

The Uncloaked sets up the environment, characters, and dilemma. It explores the real dangers of apathy with a very close-to-life scenario in the near future. Braxton begins in this book with great potential, but by story’s end makes choices that set in motion spiraling events that impact the rest of his own story. His 1st person POV serves to make him relatable even while he makes exasperating choices.

The second book, Tearing the Veil, adds another character’s perspective (Hannah’s) and further complications because of her involvement. Where some second books in a trilogy would lose momentum, this one has plenty of action  and character development, particularly with Braxton and a finality of his choices that mature him greatly (yay I’m soooo proud!) by book’s end.

Random observation: I’m continually impressed with Jennifer’s skill as an author to compellingly write such diverse characters and genres.

Charging the Darkness is the conclusion I hoped it would be. Its edge-of-your seat movement and ALL THE EMOTIONS kept me turning pages late into the night. Seriously, to say very much about this conclusion would reveal its surprises. Just trust me when I say it has more amazing character development and emotional depth that is crazy good! In short, it brings together a group of characters drastically changed by events and choices and –finally– unites them in purpose in a beautiful way.

Two more tiny comments: I first expected the relationship between Braxton and Eliza to work out to be a friendship-turned romance, and it kind of was, but it caught me off guard at times by being so much more. Wonderfully so. And, as noted on retailer sites in book 1’s description, this series should be considered PG-13 due to its sometimes dark (though not graphic) scenes (I would recommend it for teens +). It is still, very much, a Christian Fiction series.

Thank you to the author and SLB tours for the review copies. This is my honest review.

About the Author

jennifer-rodewald_4_origJ. Rodes lives on the wide plains somewhere near the middle of Nowhere. A coffee addict, pickleball enthusiast, and storyteller, she also wears the hats of mom, teacher, and friend. Mostly, she loves Jesus and wants to see the kids she’s honored to teach fall in love with Him too.

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Giveaway

3 Prizes!

  • Print copies of the books (US only)
  • E-copies of the books (International)
  • Audio copies of the books (International)

Enter the giveaway HERE.

Tour Schedule

January 8-Soulfully Romantic
January 9-Smiling Book Reviews
January 10-Book by Book | Flowers of Quiet Happiness
January 11-Just Commonly 
January 12-Remembrancy
January 13-The Green Mockingbird
January 15-amandainpa
January 16-Fiction Aficionado | A Baker’s Perspective
Janaury 17-Singing Librarain Books
January 18-Henry Happens
January 19-Reader’s Cozy Corner
January 20-Pause for Tales

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Top Ten Tuesday: Top 13 New-to-Me Authors I Read in 2017

It’s another Top Ten Tuesday, hosted by  The Broke and the Bookish

Top Ten Tuesday at The Green Mockingbird

This week’s official Top Ten Tuesday topic is Top Ten New-To-Me Authors I Read In 2017I’m listing 13 instead, *just* because I can. And, because each of these authors deserve a spot on my list.

Some of these authors have been around a while and I just discovered/read them in 2017. And, some are delightfully new to the world of “official” inspirational fiction. After each author, you can visit my review for their book(s) and see what I have next to read from them on my actual shelves!

Top Ten Tuesday New to Me Authors

Top 13 New-to-Me Authors I Read in 2017

Mikal Dawn

Count Me In

Upcoming: Emerald City Romance book 2!

Bethany Turner

The Secret Life of Sarah Hollenbeck

V. Joy Palmer

Love, Lace, and Minor Alterations

Jocelyn Green

The Mark of the King, novella in The Message in a Bottle Romance Collection

Upcoming: A Refuge Assured

Kate Breslin

High as the Heavens

Backlist TBR titles: Not By Sight

Courtney Walsh

Paper Hearts, Just Look Up, Hometown Girl, novella in Right Where We Belong compilation

Upcoming: Just Let Go

Krista Phillips

The Engagement Plot

Jennifer Rodewald

Reclaimed, Ordinary Snowflakes, The Uncloaked (review coming soon)

Currently reading: Tearing the Veil, then Charging the Darkness

Upcoming: The Cupcake Dilemma novella

Katie Ganshert

Life After

Upcoming: No One Ever Asked

Backlist TBR titles: Wishing on Willows, A Broken Kind of Beautiful

Becky Wade

Then Came You novella, True to You

Upcoming: Falling for You

Sara Ella

Unblemished, Unraveling

Upcoming: Unbreakable

Sarah Monzon

The Esther Paradigm

Backlist TBR titles: Finders Keepers, The Isaac Project

Nicole Deese

A Cliché Christmas

Backlist TBR titles (soon!): A Season to Love, A New Shade of Summer

 

Update: honorable mentions go to those authors I somehow missed! Karen Barnett, Meghan M. Gorecki, and Roseanna M. White.

 

That’s it for today! Did you participate in this week’s TTT? Do you see any of your favorite authors on this list? 

Mini Review: Ordinary Snowflakes by Jennifer Rodewald

This mini review is of the best variety: the kind that, if I did a full-blown review, I would give away surprising plot points with my eager praise. So, you get fewer words and more time to wonder, yourself, about this little gem of a story. I’m talking about Jennifer Rodewald’s Christmas novella, Ordinary Snowflakes. Bonus: it’s set in “Rock Creek”, so fans of Reclaimed will see familiar faces!


About the book: Someone has noticed me. A secret admirer? A man with a good heart, who sees how much I actually need help, even though I never admit it? Maybe this is the beginning of a beautiful story—a romance full of hope and second chances and love.

Maybe…

A secret Santa gift left on Kale Brennan’s front porch opens up a fresh view of her ordinary life, and perhaps of God. Maybe she does matter. Maybe God sees her—as does a new-to-town music teacher who has her seven-year-old daughter gushing and her own knees buckling with his killer smile. But as Kale embraces new possibilities, a staple in her life—a man who is kind and steady, not to mention necessary for her injured daughter’s recovery—also snatches her attention in an unexpected way. Will the one pursuing her with his secret gift and kind gestures be the one her heart longs for in the end?

Goodreads | Amazon

My thoughts: In the space of a novella, Jennifer has managed to create engaging and relatable characters I wanted to root for and encourage. Solely told from the perspective of Kale, this story is both sweet and emotionally beautiful. It shows important growth and moments of Kale’s life as she realizes the purpose and beauty in ordinary things, like her life, daily choices, and the possible simplicity of true romance. To say very much about the delightfully surprising direction the romance takes would give away way too much, but I’ll just say I loved it!!! And, it uses one of my very favorite tropes. (hint: it’s NOT a love triangle, as you might think from the synopsis.) You’ll have to read it to find out what I mean!

And oh, I cannot forget to mention Sydney. That little girl steals EVERY scene she’s in with her spunk and determination. She’s wise beyond her years, in so many ways 😉 .

Thank you to the author for providing a review copy. This is my honest review.

First Line Fridays #7: Ordinary Snowflakes

It’s time for a new edition of First Line Fridays hosted by the Hoarding Books blog!

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Since my life is all things Christmas as much as possible right now, I thought I’d share the first line from one of my Christmas TBR titles: Ordinary Snowflakes by Jennifer Rodewald, a Rock Creek Christmas story (yay Rock Creek and familiar faces from Reclaimed!).

Ordinary Snowflakes

The first line(s):

I almost stepped on it.

A small brown box with a simple strip of burlap around it lay conspicuously on my tiny front porch.

 

What is on your Christmas TBR list?

Your turn! Find the book closest to you and share your first line in the comments! The, head over to Hoarding Books for the linky and visit other FLF posts!

Review+Book Snippet: “Reclaimed” by Jennifer Rodewald ~ Blog Tour

Review+Book Snippet: “Reclaimed” by Jennifer Rodewald ~ Blog Tour

Reclaimed Tour Header

Today I’m happy to be a part of the Singing Librarian Books tour for Reclaimed by Jennifer Rodewald, a contemporary Christian release from Rooted Publishing. Read on for my review, a snippet from the book, and GIVEAWAY + blog tour details.

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reclaimed-kindle-coverGenre:
 Christian, Contemporary
Publisher: Rooted Publishing
Publication date: February 28, 2017
Number of pages: 346

Left wounded by a marriage cut short, Suzanna Wilton leaves city life to take up residency in a tiny Nebraska town. Her introduction to her neighbor Paul Rustin is a disaster. Assuming he’s as underhanded as the other local cowboys she’s already met, Suzanna greets him with sharp hostility.

Though Paul is offended by Suzanna’s unfriendliness, he can’t stop thinking about her, which unsettles his peaceful life. A hard-fought friendship slowly kindles something more, but just as Paul’s kindness begins to melt Suzanna’s frozen heart, a conflict regarding her land escalates in town. Even in the warmth of Paul’s love, resentment keeps a cold grip on her fragile heart.
Will Suzanna ever find peace?
***2014 Olympia Winner***

GOODREADS | AMAZON

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Reclaimed  is the kind of story that settles into your heart after the final page. Engaging from the start, it is an amazing story of finding unfailing love, peace, and belonging that seriously had me laughing and crying multiple times.

Jennifer Rodewald has a beautiful writing style that is prose-like at times and to-the-point just when it needs to be. One paragraph could make me smile from the humor or an endearing nickname and the next paragraph could tear my heart out and bring deeper emotions to the forefront.

The hard-working yet relaxed pace of country life is painted as a perfect backdrop for the characters’ journeys, because this book is all about the characters. It centers on a painstakingly subtle transformation; a “reclaiming”, if you will, of heritage, faith, and dreams (with the addition of a sweet love story).

The main characters’ personalities are vibrant and endearing!

Suzanna is someone I just want to hug! She needs it. She starts off as a prickly, though always likable, person who is deeply hurting over some things from her past. She often reacts in anger toward others to stave off the pain or prevent further rejection. As her story slowly comes to light, she begins to change because of the encouragement and no-strings-attached friendships that grow from her new neighbors, Paul and his sister, Andrea.

Paul! He’s the quintessential country gentleman: a humble person who finds joy in his work and a man with integrity who loves his mama (and dad). Not to mention the humor and flirting he’s capable of ❤ …. But, he is not without his own flaws or difficulties. His current attitude is one resulting from growth, though, having dealt with his own struggles with pride to find peace and be settled with his home. I enjoyed the genuineness of his perspective.

These two emotional perspectives – Suzanna’s and Paul’s – are contrasted in a way that makes them even more understandable — one outlook of questioning, searching, and subsequent pain/anger and the other of a seasoned wisdom and hope. Paul really believes in Suzanna, something that no one has done for her in far too long. He exudes a kind and grace-filled spirit, understanding the need to slowly break through her walls.

The faith thread is never overstated, though central to the story. At the root of Suzanna’s problem is her disconnected idea of and relationship with God. When these encouraging personalities discover that this is the heart of Suzanna’s struggles, they understand it has to be addressed before healing can take place. And the way Paul — and his sister and a few other precious secondary characters — prove to be the hands and feet of Jesus in guiding Suz to Him plays out beautifully.

I really appreciated the way this entire story thoroughly points to the fact that only God can make one whole. That knowing Jesus is not the same as having religion. That the truth is as simple as a freely offered relationship with the Savior of the world. All of this is combined with the sweetest story of romance born of friendship to make this one of my favorite books I’ve read so far this year. It’s my first novel by Jennifer, but it won’t be my last!

Thank you to Singing Librarian Books and the publisher for providing a complimentary review copy for the purpose of this tour. This is my honest review.

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jennifer-rodewald_4_origJennifer Rodewald is passionate about the Word of God and the powerful vehicle of story. The draw to fiction has tugged hard on her heart since childhood, and when she began pursuing writing she set on stories that reveal the grace of God.
Jen lives and writes in a lovely speck of a town where she watches with amazement while her children grow up way too fast, gardens, and marvels at God’s mighty hand in everyday life. Four kids and her own personal superman make her home in southwestern Nebraska delightfully chaotic.
She would love to hear from you! Please visit her at https://www.authorjenrodewald.com or on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/authorjenrodewald or email her at write2edify@gmail.com.
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Suzanna felt shock contort her face. Paul Rustin? The neighbor who had been kind to her even when she’d been horrible to him? She studied him, unable to picture him as anything other than the gentleman he’d shown himself to be.
Warmth shaded his complexion crimson. “See, not a very good story, right?”
“Why?”
“Why did I do those things?”
She pressed her lips together, wondering why she pushed him but nodded anyway.
“I don’t really know, Suz. I was just angry, and I’m not even sure why. I didn’t want to live here, I didn’t want to be nothin’, and I couldn’t see anything beyond myself. I didn’t have a real reason.”
“What happened?”
Paul’s eyes softened, and a smile crept over his features again. “I didn’t graduate from Rock Creek—I went to Boys Town in March of my senior year. My grandpa came to Omaha to visit me in April with a proposal. If I studied and got my GED, I could come out and live with them. I would have to work like a ranch hand, but they’d keep me on until I figured out what I wanted to do with my life.
“It wasn’t the out I was looking for. I didn’t want to come back to Rock Creek. I thought, man, give me some money and let me go find a life. But Boys Town wasn’t exactly Park Place, and it didn’t look like I’d be passing GO anytime soon, so I agreed.
“I must have thought it would be like visiting my grandparents when I was a kid. You know, farm breakfast at nine every morning, Grandma always ready with a cookie, and I’d collect eggs or do some trivial chore as a token of work.”
Paul chuckled and rubbed his neck. “Nope. My grandpa meant some w-o-r-k. I stayed in the bunkhouse, which was nothing more than a tin can trailer. If I wanted breakfast, I had to get up at six to eat with them because Grandma had things to do. They paid me what they would have paid a hand, and out of my earnings came the cost of rent, electricity, and food. When I slacked off that winter, my bunkhouse got awful cold because Grandpa didn’t pay me enough to cover both heat and food.”
Suzanna’s eyebrows rose. “Seriously? Your grandpa put you out in the cold?”
He laughed. “Tough love, Suz. I found out later they’d set a threshold on the thermostat of around fifty degrees so the pipes wouldn’t freeze, so it wasn’t as bad as I thought. But it felt awful cold. I hated it. And then… I didn’t.”
He stopped, and Suzanna puckered her eyebrows. His attention wandered toward his place south of hers, and she wondered if the scenes unfolded in his mind as he recounted them.
“It came time for calving, and Grandpa said it was my responsibility.” He rubbed a hand against his jeans, and the apples of his cheeks lifted. That look said it all—he loved his work. “I was so tired, but I knew he’d hold me responsible if something went sour. I wound up with a couple of bucket calves, and somewhere in between the late nights and early mornings while checking heifers and feeding orphans, I found myself. I found who God had made me to be, where I needed and wanted to be. It was right here the whole time.”
Bronco shifted under her, and Suzanna slipped a hand around the saddle horn. Fierce rebellion melted away while Paul fed a few cows?
“As simple as that?”
Paul’s gaze fell on her, his relaxed countenance contradicting his story. He looked toward the spring, then the trees, and finally to the hill rising before them.
“Not simple.” He returned his attention to her. “That’s the short version, but it wasn’t simple. I wrestled everyone, including God, for things I thought I wanted. There was a whole lot of humbling that had to happen before I made peace with life. Pride made me useless; selfishness made me difficult.”
His explanation created more questions than it offered answers. Suzanna longed for answers. His story, his life, looked nothing like hers, sounded nothing like hers, but he had peace.
Peace eluded her. She hadn’t found it in church, not the lasting kind. She hadn’t secured it in sacrifice. It wasn’t in love. Love had made her ache all over again.
Where had Paul found this peace?
“Shall we take the hill, Pickle?” Paul gathered his reins and nodded toward the rise.
The mare perked her head, and Bronco followed. Opportunity slipped away, like the waters that rose from the depths of the earth and tumbled down the creek. Suzanna swallowed, pushing a smile across her lips. At her nod, Paul took the lead.
Peace remained hidden with the secret of Rock Creek.
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Click here to enter the Rafflecopter giveaway

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April 17–Faithfully Bookish Fiction Aficionado
April 18–Book by Book | Paulette’s Papers
April 19–The Green Mockingbird Singing Librarian Books
April 20–Cafinated Read | Encouraging Words from the Tea Queen
April 21–Zerina Blossom’s Books | Remembrancy  | A Baker’s Perspective
April 22–Soulfully Romantic Reading Is My SuperPower

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