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September 14, 1862 Battle of South Mountain
Joe opened his eyes to darkness. A shadow moved against the semiblackness of a window and his senses screamed the warning. He jerked, gasped at the jolt of pain, and fell back. His heart pounded with fear at his weakness as his mind struggled to place where he was. Ben? Where was he? They had stayed close to each other. Too close. Ben had blamed himself when Joe had taken the minié ball in his shoulder. Joe heard his own voice as if from a great distance; his explanation to ease Ben's guilt: "We're in a war, what do you expect?"
He blinked as a vision of Ben flashed through his pounding head. He massaged his forehead, felt a hand on his shoulder, and swung to his left, rolling to avoid the contact. He fell into nothingness, slammed onto the floor. Pain took his breath.
Through the waves of nausea he realized one thing—the voice was soft. Feminine. When the hands touched his shoulder, his face, he felt the softness in the fingertips, reminding him of home and gentler times.
"You're in a springhouse on our farm," the voice rushed to explain. "You were injured."
He gritted his teeth against the effort of even sitting up. Her hands left his arm, though he could hear the swish of her skirts. A flicker of light, then a touch to raise the wick and brighter light.
"Can you stand?" She went to the bed and yanked the covers back up that had twisted with him to the floor. "I'll try to help you."
"No." He spat out the word, and rocked to his knees, fighting for consciousness through every move. Why was there such searing pain? The minié ball injury? "I'll get up."
She guided him down onto the thin mattress and covered him with a quilt. He felt like a child being put down for a nap. Her fingers swiped hair from his brow, and he swallowed against a new tightness in his throat. How long had it been since he'd felt a gentle touch?
"I'll get my grandmother. Perhaps she can—"
"Stay." He exhaled hard, wanting nothing more than to feel her touch against his face again. To hear the softness of her voice.
She'd made as if to rise but settled back in the chair and into the circle of light. "Do you know who you are and what happened?"
"My shoulder. I was shot by a Yank in a skirmish. Ben ... my brother was with me."
"He's not here. It's only you. You were brought here by ... a group of people."
Such a lot of words. Too many for him to make sense of them all. Golden light shimmered against her dark hair and revealed a flash of darkness along her cheek. A dimple? He blinked and felt the grit in his eyes.
"Go back to sleep. It truly is the best thing for you."
"Ben ..." He let the word linger, his mouth dry, lips stinging. He raised his hand to touch the burning spot along his mouth, but the effort was too much. The woman's voice was a whisper in his ear, his eyes too heavy to open, and he didn't want to. All he wanted was to know if his brother was safe. The woman had to know something, didn't she? Lost on a rise of pain emanating from his chest—or was it his shoulder?—the question spun away from him. Giving up the fight, he dragged air into his lungs and forced himself to relax against the waves of discomfort.
* * *
Gerta Bumgartner stood sentry over the inert form of the Confederate soldier, a position Elizabeth had seen her grandmother take many times in healing the sick and suffering. But this—this was different and they all knew it.
"His wound is bad, Grandmama," she worried aloud as she stepped into the coolness of the springhouse.
Gerta's sharp eyes, only now dimming with a fog that made it hard for her to focus, took in the dark interior of the room. Babbling along the floor, a spring ran up through the ground, paused to maintain a pool of water, then gurgled off beneath the wall and out into the bright September sunshine.
Another roar vibrated through the air. The two shared a look, each understanding and mirroring to the other the worry of cannons and charging brigades moving in their direction. The war was edging closer to them every minute.
"The fighting is fierce. The South will prevail."
Elizabeth should have been used to the shocking things Gerta said by now. It was part of the reason her grandmother stayed to herself and was no longer called on as much among the citizens of Sharpsburg. "How can you say that, Grandmama, knowing that your grandson fights for the Union?"
Gerta chuckled and wiped her hands on a linen cloth that lay across the wounded soldier's chest. "I say what I think." She shot her a mischievous grin. "Tomorrow, Bethie, I'll root for the Yanks."
Beth took in the soldier's gray complexion, his dry, bleeding lips. No shoes. His feet were cracked on top, the bottoms splotched with blisters and dirt.
"A right sad lot of men, if he's any example," Gerta said. "Did you burn the clothes and the bedding?"
"Yes." She couldn't help grimacing. She'd been forced to burn the rag of a dress she'd worn while dragging the louse-infested mattress and clothes out to the fire. Her ankle and leg ached from the work.
"I stripped him down and scrubbed him hard." Gerta pointed to a long tube hung on a leather string around his neck. "A louse trap."
Beth raised a brow. "Another one of your remedies?"
Another cackle of glee burst from her grandmother. "Can't take the credit for this one. It works, and there was plenty of his blood to bait the trap."
Beth stared at the narrow tube and decided she didn't want to know any more.
Gerta stroked the man's forehead almost as if she feared his skin would tear with the least amount of pressure. Beth had felt that tender touch before. Felt her grandmother's gentle pressure against the hollows of the eyebrows that helped relieve pressure in the head, or the massage that eased pain and relaxed taut muscles in the neck. "Tell me about the package," Gerta said.
For a moment, she couldn't fathom to what her grandmother referred; then she recalled the brown-wrapped package beside the armchair in front of the fireplace. "I haven't opened it yet."
"I can see that, girl, but where did it come from?"
"I brought it with me."
She managed a stiff nod. "She wanted me to have something of home."
"Yet you haven't unwrapped it?"
Beth shrugged. "I haven't been homesick."
Gerta straightened and put a hand to her back, a grimace tightening her features. "I think I'll sit a spell. We'll need to bake more bread. As much as we can over the next few days."
"I've already started." She didn't bother to remind her grandmother that she'd said the same thing often over the last two days, ever since word of the Confederates moving into Frederick had been received.
Elizabeth followed her grandmother's brisk steps outside at a slower pace. Already the September air blew hot. A beautiful day, redolent with the rushes of gentle breezes and a mobcap of white clouds scudding along the blue sky. Yet, even the warm rays of the sun seemed restless as they stabbed through the clouds and then disappeared, only to reappear within seconds. She wondered, fancifully, if even God was nervous about the artificial white cloud capping South Mountain and the battle raging there.
She hadn't realized she'd stopped to stare until her grandmother's voice broke into her thoughts.
"There go the Roulettes."
Beth's gaze followed the bend in the road that ran in front of her grandmother's farm and led northeast to Hagerstown.
"Going to the church, no doubt."
"Aren't you worried, Grandmama?"
"You wanted to train as a nurse and the good Lord saw fit for those slaves to bring you your first patient." Gerta turned back toward the house. "We'll have more than we can handle if the fighting keeps up."
Not quite done with the conversation, she traced her grandmother's path into the generous kitchen. "You think they'll come this way?"
"They'll be all over the place. Harper's Ferry is a threat that they'll have to deal with."
"And you're not afraid?"
Gerta snorted. She dipped water from a bucket into a kettle and set it to heat. "I'm seventy-nine years old, sharp of tongue, and knowing more than all those Rebels and Yanks put together—"
"All of them?" Beth couldn't help the smile.
Her grandmother shot her a grin and flattened her lips like the bill of a duck. A comical, mischievous expression Beth had seen frequently on her father's mother's face, hard times or not. "Well, most of them. Goodness knows there's nothing much to fear at my age except dying and going to the wrong place, and I've had that one settled for years."
"But what if they steal or force you to leave or ...?" She shuddered, her mind going to the worst possible scenario.
Scooping tea leaves into her favorite cup, Gerta raised another, empty cup, eyebrows lifted in question. Beth nodded.
Gerta measured out tea leaves, her bright, dark gaze unflinching. "Nothing bad will happen, Bethie."
She pressed her lips together, the truth stinging afresh. "Already so many have died."
"And there will be many more who will need our help."
Nursing, she meant. It was the one dream that Beth had clung to in the days since leaving her parents' home to stay with her grandmother, intending to join with the Army of the Potomac and Clara Barton. A dream that had waned a bit as rumors circulated of the coming troops. But the blacks had come under cover of darkness the night before, bringing the soldier and igniting the need to be of more use than sitting and stitching or cooking.
Gerta had never been able to understand why the blacks had come to her instead of the town doc, other than her reputation for helping the ailing despite the color of their skin. The small town's doctor had southern sympathies.
Gerta slid the cup of tea toward her. Dutifully taking a sip, Beth couldn't help smiling. No one made a cup of tea like her grandmother, or maybe it was so good because it was made by someone who knew her as well as her grandmother did.
She covered the sigh by blowing the air onto the tea. Her leg. Her ankle. Always a problem. "I want to help anyway."
"Your mother gave you jobs to keep your hands busy so you could rest your leg."
Beth didn't meet her grandmother's gaze. Gerta, of all people, knew exactly how much she despised being relegated to tasks that made her sit and rest. "It's not going to be a problem." She lifted her chin, pleased to see not an ounce of pity in Gerta's eyes.
"Then we should get to work."
Beth took a long sip of tea, dreading another day of baking. Perhaps her pride should be swallowed instead of the tea.
A sagging flour sack beckoned, as did the twenty something loaves of bread already baked, awaiting the inevitable hungry mouths of the enemy, whose goal must be to reach Hagerstown and join the rest of the Confederate army. They could hide the loaves. Save them for the Union troops that were even now engaging the Rebs. She hoped the enemy wouldn't decide to loot the Union-held garrison at Harper's Ferry that would take the Confederates through her grandmother's small town. Sharpsburg would be ravaged by the thieving monsters. She feared her hopes were already dashed though, as reports of the Confederates in that part of Virginia had already filtered back, putting the townspeople in a vise of fright, hemmed in on three sides by the enemy.
Allowing herself to be carried off to a more peaceful time by the familiar work of adding water to flour to form dough and inhaling the yeasty sourdough scent, Beth did her best to blank her mind of the worries that nagged. When she finished kneading enough dough for four loaves, she began another batch, until perspiration dampened her neckline, flour dusted the front of her bodice, and her bad foot sent shards of pain shooting into her leg. She dragged up a stool and continued the work. Wiping the flour from her hands, she heaved a heavy sigh when the sticky flour mess mussed her skirts instead of the apron she should have been wearing to protect her clothes. She brushed at the mess and decided it best to let the moist flour dry before picking it off her skirt. She tied on her grandmother's worn calico apron with the pretty stripes. The striped material would have been a little wild for her mother's taste, but it fit Gerta's personality to a T. The thought tugged a smile from her as she plunged her hands into another batch of warm, sticky dough.
The yard door rattled open behind her. Gerta opened and shut the door quickly. "The flies are terrible." She set a cup of tea down on the work surface. "I wanted him to drink some, but he fell asleep again." She surveyed Beth's work with a sharp eye that belied her deteriorating eyesight. "You've quite enough there. Add more flour to the sourdough for tomorrow's baking. I'll start on some pies while you rest."
Beth finished the dough, placed it in a bowl, and covered it to rise. A long line of bowls lined the work surface in front of her.
"Biscuits would be good as well. Maybe a meat pie."
"Are you going to have Harold take the milk cow, chickens, and horse to safety?"
Gerta measured out lard and turned to the flour sack. "He's driving Mrs. Knicks's cow, too, and said adding more wouldn't be a problem."
Beth sighed. At least the animals would be safe should the soldiers come their way and pillage. She'd heard stories of the damage they'd done at Frederick. Finished with the bread, Beth wiped her hands on the apron and picked up the tea she'd left mostly untouched. She tasted it and frowned.
"A pinch of cinnamon and a bit of the hot water," Gerta nodded toward the kettle, "will warm it up just fine."
Ridiculous that tea still soothed on such a warm day, but it did. She inhaled, and the rich cinnamon took her back to another time, years before. Her throat swelled shut as the memories assaulted her afresh. She stared down into the cup. A shell whizzed and shattered. Beth started, the tea splashing onto her hand, the tin mug slipped to the floor and spilled its contents.
A shout rent the air then. Beth caught her grandmother's moment of confusion before she wiped her hands down her apron and bolted toward the door. One word spat into the air that explained the sudden outburst. "Joe."CHAPTER 2
Beth held the candle up to see that Joe sat up in bed, eyes wide open as his voice lifted on another wail. Gerta moved past, her voice soothing, her hands placing gentle pressure against the man's shoulders, encouraging him to recline. But he broke into a series of panicked screams, body rigid, muscles bunched.
Beth set the candle on the low table and lunged forward to grasp his good arm. She wrenched it down to keep him from flailing and tearing open the wound her grandmother had just mended. She braced her body against his. His struggles forced her to grasp tighter, to join her grandmother's soft-spoken attempts to relieve him of his terror. Each shout ripped from him. Her ears rang with each scream and still she kept up the quiet reassurance until the muscles in his arms went flaccid and he sank back, his brow beaded with sweat, hair damp. Beth straightened, drawing air into her starved lungs. She glanced at her grandmother, and her mouth went dry when she saw Gerta's blood-saturated apron.
"He tore open the wound," Gerta confirmed, her fatigue showing in the whiteness of her lips. She stroked her sleeve across her brow, sweeping loosened tendrils of gray hair behind her ear.
Beth assessed what needed to be done and hurried outside as fast as her leg would allow. She yanked fresh linens from the drying line. Arms full, she entered the springhouse as Gerta lit the wick of the lantern and raised it to the hook she'd pounded into the wall the evening the slaves had delivered the wounded man. She blew out the candle.
At the foot of the cot, Beth dumped the fresh towels beside his feet. Where he'd been wide awake in the grip of his private terror, he now slept. She moved to the table where her grandmother's scissors lay and placed them in her grandmother's soft hand. Gerta cut the edge of the material of Joe's once-clean shirt and ripped upward, laying bare his chest and the long, deep wound, slick with blood.
"I should have left him bare-chested. Waste of a good shirt." Gerta rolled a towel and pressed it against the wound.
Excerpted from A Heartbeat Away by S. Dionne Moore. Copyright © 2013 S. Dionne Moore. Excerpted by permission of Abingdon Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Posted December 30, 2013
It would seem that the Civil War is one of those moments in our history that has engendered a number of films, documentaries, and books--maybe more than any other event in our history. And Ms. Moore has now added a very touching look at this moment in our history, and it is certainly well worth the read. Her powers of description and viewing the Civil War in a little different light bring the sights and sounds of this horrendous battle right into our present-day consciousness.
I had never considered the fact that normal, everyday people were caught in the cross-fire of the Civil War. It was chilling to consider that one may look out of their window and see an actual battle being played out. People never knew if a Reb or a Yankee would drop by their house and demand money, food, or just take over their home. Makeshift hospitals were set up for the wounded and the dying in the basements and cellars of people's homes. I had no idea how dangerous it was.
The story was good, for sure, and the idea of the heroine being disabled made things quite intriguing. I did find myself somewhat bored by the romance, and I would have preferred more historical details. The sovereignty of God does come through, and the Christian message is there, but it is not overbearing. I did find myself sometimes bored, but at least I did not have to endure profanity nor sex scenes. If you are looking for a quick read with a simple love story and some historical elements, this just may be what you are looking for.
I was sent a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review. I was not financially compensated, and all opinions are 100 percent mine.
Posted August 24, 2013
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A Heartbeat Away by S. Dionne Moore
This book is set in the 1860 and the war. Joe is brought by slaves to Elizabeth and Gretas' house and the grandmother sews him up but he needs rest and they fear the troops will find him.
Loved learning about healing and the use of honey and cornstarch.
Found a bond right off the first few pages while she's drinking tea a splash of hot water and cinnamon heated up the tea-I drink tea all year round also.
Joe starts to recover and others are brought in for her to heal. She's always prayed God would cure her crushed ankle so she'd not limp. She loves nursing even if it's for the enemy.
The quilt her mother had sent means something to Joe, the wounded that she's caring for-it will show what's beyond that hard times.
So many more wounded, from both sides are brought to her grandmother's house and they must leave as it's being taken over. Jim secures a cabin for them to help heal a bit more before they move on...The women continue to go into the fields to help the men.
When she finally makes it back to her mothers home she learns many things and what will her future hold?
An excerpt from Pieces of the Heart, the next in the series, is included.
I received this book from Abingdon Press in exchange for my honest review.
Posted June 23, 2013
A Heartbeat Away is a fresh new look at the Civil War. Heart touching and beautiful. I loved the role the quilt played in the story, and how it had more than one message. The colors came alive and the messages unfolded.
S. Dionne Moore is a new author to me, and one that quickly found her way into my list of loved authors. She uses the Deep Point of View to bring the reader into the story and with vivid imagery you see not only the awful ravages of war on the country, but also on the people. Although, coming from my background, and from Canada, the war about slavery has always caused questions, and even today I find the animosity that some people carry about them unfathomable, I enjoy learning about history through fiction.
This novel explores the emotions, thoughts and motives of the people involved, and the characters are lovable, with just enough flaws to make them human, and redeemable.
Although Quilts of Love is a series of books, this is the first one I have read, and so I can not say just how they are all connected. I will be looking for the rest of the books, as this one is uplifting and gentle.
I received this free book from Litfuse Publications in exchange for an honest review. A positive critique was not required. The opinions stated are my own.
Posted June 13, 2013
A journey into the reality that came with the Civil War. We experience it with our own eyes and ears with the help of this Ms Moore.
Death and tragic loss of human life is everywhere. We see all of this though the eyes of Beth Bumgartner and her Grandmother Gerta. They have been called upon to nurse the wounded Confederate soldiers. We feel the shells shaking the house and breaking the windows. We smell the blood and unwashed bodies, and we see the pile of legs and arms the surgeon has cut off, along with the flies. Not a glamorous site here.
We also see the compassion of people who sympathies are not with the South, including some emancipated slaves. Where hate could have lived, there is a kindness to man and the love of the Lord.
We see God work in these poor people. There is a bit of romance in this story, and we loose people we have come to love.
This is a very different War story, and includes the working of a beautiful quilt throughout the shattering affects of battle. The book is a very fast past read, and will leave you wanting more, and there is a preview of the next book in this series included.
I received this book through Litfuse Publicity Book Tours, and was not required to give a positive review.
Posted June 11, 2013
Beth has always wanted to be a nurse. Unfortunately, the US Civil War has provided the perfect opportunity to hone her skills. A group of runaway slaves brings a man who is in desperate need of her care, but Beth is hesitant as she is a loyal Unionist. However, Beth works on Joe at her grandmother's urging, and she finds herself growing closer to Joe as she tends him. Beth and Joe are both hiding things though, and this could break the bond that they are forming. Surrounding all this is a quilt that Beth's mom left to Beth to finish. It becomes a symbol of hope in a dreary world for more than one person.
I was very interested in this story. The historical aspects are always fascinating to me, and this book did a great job with showing the conflict between the two sides. It was never as easy as just tending to one side and ignoring the other for Beth. Families were torn apart by this conflict, and the result was just a horrible war. I felt for Beth though, knowing how hard it must have been to help people who seemed so against everything she stood for. Just recognizing them as fellow humans was difficult at best for her. The back stories of both Joe and Beth develop slowly, but it's not so slow that you lose interest. I think the pacing of this book was really great.
I especially loved the running ideas surrounding the quilt. Sewing was something the Beth didn't particularly want to do, but this quilt was a gift from her mother. Through this quilt though, Beth and Joe were able to find some insight and peace in terrible times. The quilt became more than just a quilt. It became a symbol of things as they could be. It was inspiring to think of all the ways that we can find strength throughout our days. This book was very beautiful, and it was a wonderful read.
Book provided for review.
Posted June 8, 2013
A Heartbeat away...
The terror of war....
The carnage left on the battlefield...
The loss that tore hearts...
The pain that those who lived endured...
The fact that those who lived were changed...
The fear that "changed" meant unlovely and broken....
The truth that Love sees through all loss...
These themes are vividly depicted
in S. Dionne Moore's book.
A love story set in the Civil War, between two vulnerable people, A Heartbeat Away tells the story of Joseph Madison and Beth Bumgartner.
He is a Rebel soldier, she is a nurse from a Union loyal family. They are left in the wake of the war that has etched its bloody horror on their minds and wounded their bodies with its weapons.
They are wounded souls, flesh and blood people in need of God's strength, peace and grace.
As Beth pieces together the quilt blocks her mother gave her, and Joe heals from his wound, will they find that God's hope is a heartbeat away?
Filled with memorable writing and characters you want to see healed and following the Lord together, S. Dinonne Moore's A Heartbeat Away tells a very good story.
Thank you S. Dionne Moore and Litfuse for my copy of this book!
Posted May 31, 2013
Beth Bumgartner desires to be a nurse, so she moves in with her grandmother and assists in caring for wounded soldiers in the height of battle almost at their front door. Nursing means caring for not only the Union soldiers but also the Confederates. This is difficult for Beth and can't help but feel bitterness toward her enemy of the south. But there is their first patient an injured soldier which happens to be a Confederate yet she feels some tenderness towards this man even though she despises what he stands for. Joe has been unconscious since he was brought to them. It was said he was injured while protecting a group of blacks. Why would a confederate do such a thing? Beth and her grandmother work themselves beyond physical and emotional needs to care for these injured and dying soldiers.
The author writes about this woman sitting and working on a quilt her mother has sent her, even though she hated to sew anything. The quilt becomes a source of healing for her soul and she is drawn to the quilt for Hope and comfort. This author must have a beautiful tender heart to write such an endearing story set in the middle of trials and tribulations of the Civil War. She paints a very realistic picture of the aftermath of the battles and the bloody fields. She writes that with God there is always Hope.
I highly recommend this book.
I rated this book a 5 out of 5.
Disclosure: I received a copy of this book from Litfuse Publicity Group/Abingdon Press for review. I was in no way compensated for this review. This review is my honest opinion.
Posted May 27, 2013
What I like about this book was that the heroine had an actual physical flaw. You don't see that much, usually they are perfect. I am guilty of writing perfect heroines in my stories, so it was nice to read about a heroine that has a physical flaw.
On the flip side, I really struggled to get into this book. I felt there were too many story questions and I couldn't keep track of what was going on and who Beth (the main character) was referring to when she was thinking about people in her past.
The writing itself was good, the author has a good handle on craft, I just couldn't connect with the characters very well. I think there were so many questions presented it kept me from really getting into the story because I kept wondering what was going on.
A copy of this book was given to me by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
Posted May 27, 2013
In the heat of the Civil War, Beth Bumgartner is called into action in a way she never dreamed. Her grandmother has asked her to join her as a nurse helping the wounded even though their very lives may be at risk as well as grandmother's home. Now that the Rebel soldiers have made their way into Harper's Ferry, many in the town have taken what little personal affects they possess and have attempted to make their way to safe places to hide until the war is over and they hope they still have a home standing. Only while her brother Jedediah has left to fight in the war against the North, she has been called to help care for the soldiers who have invaded their town.
It is through her grandmother's persistence that Beth finds the strength and will to at least offer what comfort she can provide, through reading Scriptures, writing last letters or simply praying for them before most slip into their everlasting sleep. She wonders just what effects her efforts will have on men that are doomed to die anyway, and despite defying her parents and at least trying to help, she knows she must stay. She can't leave her grandmother Greta alone.
When a Confederate soldier is brought to the home, she is asked to care for him despite that the odds are against this man. He has saved the lives of three slaves and it is through their pleads that Beth and her grandmother offer to help. Through faithful prayers and continued care, Joe fights his way back to the land of the living and offers a small peak into the war that many don't see. He fights night terrors where he faces losing his brother Ben to a mysterious man who seems bent on killing Ben and leaving Joe in the care of the slaves. He feels there is more to the puzzle that what bits and pieces his mind offers if he can only find those slaves that he helped. They might just provide him the answers he so desperately seeks.
Along the way Beth pieces together a quilt that her mother had sent along as a reminder and a message from home. What that message is will be revealed as Beth pieces it together and finds hope in not only coming to terms with her own disability but being able to see this war through the eyes of God and let the hate she holds inside finally heal. In the end that is the message that truly matters and will resound with readers of A Heartbeat Away by S. Dionne Moore, one of the many novels in the Quilts of Love Series.
I received A Heartbeat Away by S. Dionne Moore compliments of Abingdon Press and Christian Fiction Blog Alliance Book Tours for my honest review and received no monetary compensation for a favorable one. This novel is part of the Quilts of Love Series written by a variety of authors and this is the first for S. Dionne Moore. This gives the readers an inside look at what life in the South really looked like in the midst of the Battle of Antietam and just how brutal it was from both sides of the war. It is hard to imagine men in our own country turning against each other but that is just one of the effects of a Civil War. The message in this novel is one about hope and finding it in one of the darkest times in our life. It's always there one just has to keep pursuing it in order to find it. I rate this one a 4 out of 5 stars and you can find this at your local retailer. Even though they are part of a series, since each novel deals with something different you can pick up any of them as they are stand alones in a greater series.