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A hanging is no place for a woman.
Bert cast a wary glance at the man who lifted a rope from his saddle horn and stomped her way. With her hands tied behind her back and a second man holding her shoulders, she had no hope of freeing herself.
"Horse thieves are hanged." The man they called Leon gazed up into the branches of a cottonwood and pointed. "That limb looks sturdy enough to carry the likes of you. If it breaks, we'll find another one." He tied the noose around her neck.
"But he's just a boy," an old man said. "I'm not up to hangin' a kid."
"Billy the Kid started his murderin' ways at fourteen." Leon walked toward Bert. His breath reeked of liquid courage, and the swagger in his step meant she couldn't reason with him. "He won't even tell us his name. That means this ain't the first time he's broke the law." He sneered, revealing a mouthful of black and broken teeth. "But it'll be the last time."
"Maybe he's too scared to talk. You hit him hard," the old man said.
Bert touched her tongue to the stinging side of her mouth where blood dripped down her chin. That had been Leon's first punch. She glanced his way again through one eye. The other one had already swollen shut, and it throbbed in time to her pounding heart.
"In case you've forgotten, the boss's been lookin' for that horse nigh onto six months." Leon tossed the rope over a branch. "This here's his prize mare all right, and she's wearing the Wide O brand."
"All I'm sayin' is you've taught the boy a good lesson. One he ain't likely to forget. Let's send him on his way and take the boss his horse." The man held the bridle of the sleek mare she'd been riding.
Bert stared into the face of the haggard man who was attempting to reason with her executor. His lined face and bush-like silver beard showed his age. He couldn't help her with three men determined to hang her. But maybe the others would listen to his reasoning.
Leon strode to Bert and grabbed her by the neck and out of the clutches of the man who'd held her shoulders. "Why'd you steal this horse?"
"I didn't." Bert could barely speak for Leon's hand cutting off her air supply.
"Then where'd you get it?"
She couldn't answer that.
"What do you men think?" Leon released his hold and shoved her backward onto the hard ground.
Bert knew what a beatin' felt like, and she'd lived through enough to know she'd survive. But not a rope swung from a tree branch. A crow flew overhead. The bird opened its mouth and cawed as if it were voting on tying the rope around her neck. She pulled her attention from the crow to the other men for maybe a sign that one of them might agree with the older man.
The greasy-looking man who had held her for Leon glanced at a fourth man and nodded. "We agree with you. If'n this kid has already stole a horse, what else is he gonna do? Murder a man?"
"Let's get 'er done then." Leon grinned. "How about a little whiskey to sweeten up this party?"
"This is wrong," the older man said. "The boss won't like it one bit. And you already know how he feels about drinkin' when we're supposed to be workin'."
"Who's gonna tell him, Ted?" Leon jutted out his chin. A breeze swept through the cottonwood's treetops and picked up his tattered, flat-brimmed hat. Amidst the snickers, he chased after it, cussing like her brothers. He snatched up his hat and plopped it down over his head. "We're doin' him a favor and savin' the marshal some time."
"I'm not a part of this." The old man offered a hand up to Bert, and she stood. "Sorry, boy. I tried." He swung himself up onto his saddle. "You men ever been boys? Ever got yourself caught up in something you didn't have any business doin'? This is murder, and you know it." He headed south.
Her last hope rode away in the form of an old man named Ted. Leaving dirt clods behind him. She watched until the sound of his horse's gallop faded away along with any hope. Regret for trying to save Simon from a hanging tightened like the noose around her neck.
Leon cursed again, then made his way to his horse. He pulled a bottle from his saddlebag, untwisted the lid, and took a swallow. "We'll use the boss's horse to hang him."
Bert stole a look at the clear blue sky and the green-and-white-tipped Rockies in the distance. Her last look at anything on this earth. She inhaled the sweet scent of summer and cast her gaze toward the pink and yellow wildflowers scattered around them. As a child, she'd taken such wildflowers and woven them into crowns.
A hanging is no place for a woman.
Her brother's words raced across her mind. Would it make any difference to these ranch hands if they knew she was a female?
John Timmons didn't usually ride across his ranch without one of his brothers. But this morning was an exception. He'd saddled his chestnut stallion and left his ranch with too much on his mind to waste time talking. And with his horse's wild temperament, riding alone made sense.
He breathed in appreciation for the green, rolling land surrounding him. Cattle and horses grazed in abundance. To the west, the Rocky Mountains stood guard over the valley. Definitely a blessing in any man's vocabulary.
Four years ago, his widowed mother deeded the ranch to him and insisted their brand be changed to reflect John as the owner. Until then, the ranch was simply the ranch. He chose the name of 5T to reflect all of the Timmons brothers. The brand looked good on the livestock, and John continued to add calluses to his work-worn hands, just as he'd done since he was a fourteen-year-old.
Weeks later, the responsibility placed on his shoulders to look after his younger brothers on into manhood hit him like a bolt of lightning—there were four other Timmons boys who'd one day need a way to make a living. John woke up to the reality of what ranch ownership and a family meant and vowed to grow the 5T not only in cattle and horses, but in acreage. Since then, his Uncle Parker had sold him a bordering ranch, adding a total of a thousand acres to the 5T.
Most folks called him successful. Some called him a working fool. His brothers called him a slave driver when they thought he was out of earshot. Truth known, he claimed the title of a working fool. Ranching was all he knew, and all that mattered to keep food on the table and the cold off their backs.
He shook off the thoughts vying for the topic worrying him like a boil on his rear. He needed to add more land to the ranch.
In two weeks, Evan would be eighteen.
Aaron just had his sixteenth birthday.
Mark fell in right behind him at fourteen.
Davis, Mama's baby, turned nine in April.
Of course, that didn't mean all the boys planned on taking up ranching themselves. All the harping and preaching and lecturing about his brothers claiming an education seemed to be working. Or it might be that studyin' sounded easier than mending fences or running down stray cows.
Except Mark. The boy loved the land like he did.
Evan liked doctoring animals—wanted to take care of them for the rest of his life. Aaron claimed he'd live in the city, and Davis never wanted to leave his mama. But John had promised himself that each of his brothers would be given one hundred sixty acres when they reached their eighteenth birthday, a homestead plot like his father had purchased years before. They could sell the land back to John or start their own spread. Their choice.
John laughed at his frettin'—worse than an old woman watching for winter weather. He turned his horse northwest toward the land belonging to Victor Oberlander, the Wide O Ranch. Six hundred forty acres of Oberlander's land bordered on John's ranch—four homestead plots for four brothers. Today he planned to offer a fair price for it. Cash. With those thoughts, a northern breeze cooled his face.
For right now, John would enjoy the warm weather, clear blue skies, and solitude of his thoughts. Although his thoughts would be more pleasing once he had a firm handshake on a deal with Oberlander.
He rounded a hill about three miles from the Wide O and saw Ted Hawkins riding his way. The old ranch hand waved and spurred his horse toward John.
"How are you?" John came to a stop and leaned on his saddle horn.
"I've been better." Ted's face was flushed, what a man could see of his whiskered skin and his hat pulled down low. "But I'm sure glad I run up on you."
John's insides soured. "What's wrong? Trouble?"
"Yep. The kind a deputy like you can handle just fine. A couple of Oberlander's ranch hands have a boy they're about to hang for stealin' a horse. I tried to stop them, but—"
"A boy? What's got into them?"
"Bored, I reckon. The boy was ridin' the boss's prize mare, the one he thought got stole. But hangin' a kid isn't my way of settlin' things. Tried to talk them out of it, but Leon's mind's set."
The good Lord must have had more on His mind this morning than striking a deal for land. "A hanging of any kind without a trial is against my style. Show me where they're at."
"Sure thing, John. They're about a mile and a half back. Leon's fit to be tied about everything this mornin'. Been drinkin', and he's meaner than a wounded she-bear."
The two men rode north. Horse thieves were the sludge of the earth, but a young boy often didn't have much sense. He'd been there, and what often sounded like fun could end up being deadly. In the distance, three men gathered around a horse. On that horse sat a boy with a noose around his neck.
John lifted his rifle and fired into the air. That ought to get their attention. Heads and bodies snapped his way.
"That ain't gonna stop Leon," Ted shouted above the rhythmic pounding of their horses' hooves against the ground.
Although John and Ted were gaining ground, it didn't seem to deter Leon's hanging. He walked behind the horse where the kid sat.
I won't get there soon enough.
John raised his rifle again and shot through the rope.
Leon smacked the horse's rump, and the animal took off. Instead of dangling in the air, the boy was doing his best to stay atop a horse with his hands tied. Ted took out after the mare and boy as John rode up in front of the others.
Cursing broke through the morning, and Leon threw a bottle aside then jerked out his revolver. He waved his gun toward the boy.
"Pull that trigger, and I'll shoot you dead." John aimed his rifle straight at Leon's chest.
"He's a horse thief." Leon's words thundered louder than his swearin' had moments before.
"Maybe so, but you aren't a judge. And your thief looks to be around eleven years old. That makes you a big man." John pointed at the broken whiskey bottle. "So does cheap whiskey make you brave enough to kill a kid?"
The other two ranch hands backed off. Their horses had been spooked and were headed in the direction of the Oberlander barns and house. Ted had caught up with the boy and the mare, but John's stallion had noticed her too. Wonderful. Now he had one more problem to contend with.
"What about you two?" John swung his rifle toward the others.
"Leon said—" one man began.
"If you're going to follow Leon around like a puppy, maybe you'd like to follow him to jail?"
"I'm gettin' back to work," the second man said. John recognized him, but he wasn't about to call the cow pie by name.
Leon picked up his broken bottle. Most likely looking to see if any of the amber liquid in the bottom was drinkable. "Mr. Oberlander will want to know where we found his horse."
"Tell him the truth." John shot him a look meant to challenge him.
Leon raised a scraggly brow. "Some money in my pocket would keep me quiet."
John refused to let Leon see his anger. "I'll take the horse and the boy to Mr. Oberlander, since it's his property." He studied the boy while Ted cut the rope binding his hands behind him. The kid shook so that he had difficulty jumping down from Oberlander's mare. "You all right?"
The boy nodded.
"What's your name?"
The boy stared at him.
"Where you from?"
Nothing. Not even a muscle moved. His right eye was turning blue. Swollen too. John turned his attention to Leon. "Did you beat up this kid?"
"He did," the boy said.
For sure the boy wasn't older than eleven or twelve. He'd tan Davis's hide if he ever pulled a stunt like this. "Well that proves you aren't deaf and mute. Come on over here and climb up behind me. You've got a horse to return. Then we're having a long talk about taking another man's property. I have a mind to let you spend a night in jail. Might knock some sense into you."
Excerpted from The Fire in Ember by DiAnn Mills Copyright © 2011 by DiAnn Mills. Excerpted by permission of ZONDERVAN. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
I read alot of Christian Fiction and was really looking forward to The Fire in Ember by DiAnn Mills. I enjoyed the plot and messages of forgiveness and trust in the novel; I enjoyed watching the relationships and friendships grow as the novel progressed. However,the novel just didn't didn't draw me in as much as I had been hoping. I finshed reading Franz's Courting Morrow Little (EXCELLENT book) several hours before I began reading the Fire in Ember, and I just didn't find the story to be as intersting. To me, there were sections of the novel that I found predictable and parts that I thought were too repetative (for example: I felt Bert's secret was brought up too many times before she finally shared it; it was over played and that annoyed me). The book wasn't bad, it just didn't meet my expectations.
For Christian Fiction, I Highyly Recommend Books by: Francine Rivers (she is AMAZING: Redeeming Love, Mark of the Lion Series, Atonment Child, and th Scarlet Thread are all mustreads), Tamera Alexander, Julie Lessman, Deeanne Gist, Denise Hunter, Robin Jones Gunn, and Laura Franz
1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted December 24, 2013
Posted September 15, 2013
However the fact that John and Ember never trusted each other until the last twenty pages or so became annoying. How much in love were they if they had no faith in each other. The other characters in the book developed nicely. Though I would have passed on this book if I had known incest was a plot point. Just not a personal favorite when I read .
Posted January 15, 2013
This book Fire in Ember is a keeper. I could not put my nook down. I recomend the book to all teens and higher. The little kids would be too young. Amazing book worth the cost.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted January 23, 2012
It was one of my favorite books thay i have read in a long time,i wished it would never end! I couldnt put my nook down,i would put my nook under my seat when we went out to eat and read pretending to listen to the conversationWas this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted December 6, 2011
Award-winning author DiAnn Mills takes readers back to northern Colorado for her latest release, "The Fire in Ember." A Western romantic adventure, the book combines faith, hope and love within an intense story of rustlers, relatives and secrets.John Timmons breaks up a lynching in his role as deputy. He and his family give shelter to the ragtag boy he rescued from the noose. They try to learn why this likeable fellow won't give them any information other than the name "Bert." One secret is quickly revealed: the young boy turns out to be a teen-aged girl. Cleaned up and appropriately dressed, Bert turns out to be pretty and a hard worker. Trust seems to build between Bert and the Timmons family members, but her secrets keep getting in the way. Will John discover that Bert is a criminal and arrest her? Will Bert's secrets drive her to run away and leave the only place she has ever known acceptance? Can John and his fellow law officers solve the rash of robberies and murders spreading over the area before more violence takes place?Set in 1888, the story takes place in Rock Falls, a town in the foothills of the Rockies. Readers first met John Timmons in "A Woman Called Sage," as a rash 18-year-old set on rescuing his youngest brother from kidnappers and avenging his father's murder. Now 23, John has functioned as the man of the family. Readers who have enjoyed "Sage" will recognize several characters, although readers who missed "Sage" will not be hindered in their enjoyment of "Ember."Mills prides herself on delivering an adventure in her books and she accomplishes that goal with "The Fire in Ember." She has crafted a book suitable for anyone who enjoys Westerns, mysteries, romances or inspirational fiction. While there is some violence, most of it takes place off-scene. The characters are multi-faceted and we watch them grow through the book.Don't miss "The Fire in Ember." Refresh yourself in the beauty of Colorado and the delightful fiction of an accomplished author.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted May 7, 2011
With The Fire in Ember, DiAnn Mills has crafted a fast-paced historical romance her readers are sure to enjoy. John Timmons isn't perfect, but he's the perfect romantic hero-noble, manly, responsible, and endearingly flustered by his gentler emotions. And Bert Farrar is a true survivor who doesn't realize what a strong and admirable woman she's become as a result of her family struggles. When these two people cross paths on the ranch lands of 1880's northern Colorado and face increasingly dangerous circumstances together, the reader will be hard pressed to find a place to stop reading and put the book down.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted April 4, 2011
Returning a stolen heart was the right thing to do, or so Bert thought. Being mistaken for a horse thief and being sentenced to hang was not part of the plan.
Deputy John Timmons is the picture of responsibility. He takes care of the family ranch, his brothers and his mom. When he happens upon a hanging he thinks he's saving a young boy from a horrible fate. It's not until he takes the boy home that he learns Bert is a girl.
Cattle rustlers have moved into the area in northern Colorado where Bert becomes a prime suspect when she refuses to give her real name or what she's running from. In Bert John sees a sweet spirit, or so he hopes. Because how can he arrest the woman who has stolen his heart?
The twists and turns in the book, while sometimes predictable, was still a lovely story of trust. Trusting in God, in love, in relationships and in yourself. The story was an uplifting reminder of the power of love.
The characters were interesting though some could have been fleshed out a little bit more. The plot was interesting, though again a little predictable, it was still a classic story that is always good.
Overall I would recommend the book to someone looking for a good Christian romance novel. It was a great nightstand read. The book is accompanied by a group discussion guide.
Zondervan Publishing was gracious enough to provide me with a complimentary copy of this novel for review purposes.
Posted March 29, 2011
The Fire In Ember is a historical romance that transports the reader to the old west where life was filled with hard work, hot days and if one was lucky, the loving care of family to come home to at the end of the day. Bert wasn't one of those lucky ones and when John Timmons found her, she was dressed as a boy and about to be hung for horse stealing! He saves her and takes her home but he has no ideal what he's let himself in for! This novel is the second book in Ms. Mills Western Series and I enjoyed it as much as I did her first one, A Woman Called Sage. The Fire in Ember is rich with faith, romance and suspense! The plot kept me guessing and on my toes till the end of the book. I came away with a smile on my face from reading this wonderful romance. Many thanks to Kim at Nancy Berland Public Relations for the opportunity to read this book in exchange for a review on this blog. My review is based on my honest impressions of this book.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted March 3, 2011
The first line of this book is a dynamite opening "A hanging is no place for a lady", what an attention grabber. And there were other great lines waiting to be mined from "The Fire in Ember". There was one particular description that made me stop and read it twice, just for the sake of reading it again. About the rocks jutting out like "old man's knees". There were some attention grabbers, descriptions or bits of dialogue that were fun things to find in this book. The story itself is a good fit for those that read the western genre. The age old concept of bad guy verses good guy set in the old west. I like the characters that play out on the tapestry of the story. Ember "Bert" is extremely likeable and her story adds a deep layer to the overall plot. Waiting for bits of her story to be unearthed was worth waiting for. Overall I thought the book is a good addition to its genre. The characters have a good arc through the story, the romance is enjoyable and the story moves at a good pace. It's a story you can read slowly or quickly, either way I think readers of historical westerns will enjoy it. This review is my honest opinion. Thanks to the author for my copy to review.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted February 5, 2011
Trying to right a wrong by her ruthless brothers, Ember attempts to return their stolen horse. Her good deed repays her with accusation of horse thieving and she is about to be hanged. Deputy John Timmons disrupts the hanging, rescues who he's told is a young boy named Bert. John takes Bert home to his mother and four brothers, tells Bert he must work on their farm four months for her horse stealing. When the boys prepare for their weekly bath in the creek, Bert must confess that she's a seventeen-year-old girl, which causes John emotions he's never experienced. John's mother takes Bert under her protective wing, knowing there must be more to Bert than Bert is willing to share. When cattle rustlers invade the area, Bert is suspected to be involved because of the secrecy she holds within her. Bert, whose real name is Ember, and the Timmons family reel from twists and turns until the end of the book. Especially when two of the Timmons boys fall for her. Strong characters and plausible plot. Another winner from Mills.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted January 27, 2011
Award-winning author DiAnn Mills takes readers back to northern Colorado for her latest release, "The Fire in Ember." A Western romantic adventure, the book combines faith, hope and love within an intense story of rustlers, relatives and secrets.
John Timmons breaks up a lynching in his role as deputy. He and his family give shelter to the ragtag boy he rescued from the noose. They try to learn why this likeable fellow won't give them any information other than the name "Bert."
One secret is quickly revealed: the young boy turns out to be a teen-aged girl. Cleaned up and appropriately dressed, Bert turns out to be pretty and a hard worker. Trust seems to build between Bert and the Timmons family members, but her secrets keep getting in the way.
Will John discover that Bert is a criminal and arrest her? Will Bert's secrets drive her to run away and leave the only place she has ever known acceptance? Can John and his fellow law officers solve the rash of robberies and murders spreading over the area before more violence takes place?
Set in 1888, the story takes place in Rock Falls, a town in the foothills of the Rockies. Readers first met John Timmons in "A Woman Called Sage," as a rash 18-year-old set on rescuing his youngest brother from kidnappers and avenging his father's murder. Now 23, John has functioned as the man of the family. Readers who have enjoyed "Sage" will recognize several characters, although readers who missed "Sage" will not be hindered in their enjoyment of "Ember."
Mills prides herself on delivering an adventure in her books and she accomplishes that goal with "The Fire in Ember." She has crafted a book suitable for anyone who enjoys Westerns, mysteries, romances or inspirational fiction. While there is some violence, most of it takes place off-scene. The characters are multi-faceted and we watch them grow through the book.
Don't miss "The Fire in Ember." Refresh yourself in the beauty of Colorado and the delightful fiction of an accomplished author.
Posted December 13, 2010
In 1888 Colorado, Wide O ranch hands grab Bert. They argue with one of their party Ted Hawkins whether a boy, even a horse thief like him, should be hung. As blood flows in her mouth and one eye is shut from the beating, Bert thinks "A hanging is no place for a woman". She especially wonders about doing the right thing by returning a horse her brother Simon stole months ago from Victor Oberlander owner of Wide O. Upset Ted tells the others they are wrong before leaving
The oldest of five brothers, 5T rancher John Timmons likes working the land. Ted tells John about the hanging. A deputy marshal as well as a rancher, John, with Ted at his side, prevents the hanging. John and Victor negotiate a deal in which the 5T rancher gets the kid and the Wide O owner gets $100 and breeding rights. Frustrated with an unwanted mouth to feed, John reads the eleven years old boy the riot act and how he will behave while paying off his debt to John. A needed bath after mucking leads to the gender truth and Bert is seventeen years old Ember who works at the house with the Timmons' matriarch Leah. Ember prefers to leave, but the family will not allow her to go. Meanwhile the second oldest sibling Evan can't take his eyes off her while John and Ember fall in love. However, besides his sibling problems, her sibling problems will soon arrive.
This is a great western romance starring two wonderful protagonists and a strong supporting cast. Fast-paced from the opening hanging line and never slowing down as family troubles brew. Readers will appreciate the first Timmons tale and look forward for more action and romance starring John's younger brothers.
Posted November 16, 2011
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