Kraus, an interior designer who has coauthored multiple inspirational novels with her husband, Jim, offers a fairly standard but likable Christian romance in her first solo effort. Ethan Willis is a 40-ish widower in smalltown Franklin, Pa., who builds his life and his living around holding on to the past. As a restorer of Victorian homes, Ethan craves historical accuracy. In his personal life, he cherishes the memory of his beloved wife; he has neither recovered from her tragic death nor discussed it with his young teenage son. Cameron Dane is a pretty young newspaper reporter doing a story on Ethan's current restoration project, with a tragic past of her own. Of course, a newspaper interview leads to lunch, which leads to dinner, and readers will be able to do the math and find everything they expect and nothing they don't. (There's no sex, and there's a simple but sincere conversion story as the characters recover their faith.) Kraus focuses on the theme of forgiveness throughout, with quotes at the beginning of every chapter. Ethan's incessant insistence on historical detail may grate on readers' nerves the way it does his client's, and the comparison between holding on to the past in his work and his life is a bit overdone, but the story is enjoyable and will please Christian romance enthusiasts. (Mar.)Copyright 2007Reed Business Information
The Renovation: A Project Restoration Novelby Terri Kraus
Ethan Willis has made a career out of restoring old houses like the Carter Mansion so he’s an expert with doors and windows. He knows his way around a toolbox, a construction site, and anything else having to do with rebuilding. If only he could do the same with his own life. Tragically widowed and left with a young son, he’s done the best he could, but
Ethan Willis has made a career out of restoring old houses like the Carter Mansion so he’s an expert with doors and windows. He knows his way around a toolbox, a construction site, and anything else having to do with rebuilding. If only he could do the same with his own life. Tragically widowed and left with a young son, he’s done the best he could, but now that Chase has become a teenager that best somehow isn’t quite good enough.
For his part, Chase doesn’t know what he’d do without baseball, his best friend Elliott and the secret hideaway even his dad doesn’t know about. What he does know is that the reporter lady who suddenly started chatting with his dad can’t be a good thing.
In a small town where everyone knows everything, does an outsider—a young, cute, ambitious reporter-kind-of-outsider like Cameron Dane—even have a prayer of getting to know the handsome but moody builder? Does it matter that they both hold secrets from their pasts? And can Chase ever be freed from the hidden guilt of his mother’s death? Only time, and a special kind of patience, will tell.
Read an Excerpt
A PROJECT RESTORATION NOVEL
By Terri Kraus
David C. CookCopyright © 2008 Terri Kraus
All rights reserved.
ETHAN WILLIS PICKED UP a battered pry bar and wedged it under a loose attic floorboard. The nails gave way with a chorus of rusty squeals. He leaned back, and a shaft of light from the gable's eyebrow window lit the exposed rafters of the space.
Joel Brenner dug at the wood with the point of a long-bladed screwdriver. "Will we need extra bracing?"
"No," Ethan replied, "it's good wood. Look—these look like three-by-tens. Everything was built better back then. They'll hold."
"Everything was built better—except for all the stuff that already fell apart."
Ethan smiled. His assistant did not always share his passion for old buildings. "Well ... of course."
He slipped the hammer from his worn leather tool belt and, with a few practiced strokes, banged the floorboard back into place. The carpentry work dated back more than a hundred years. Ethan admired the old-fashioned, traditional craftsmanship. What was built right still stands, he thought.
Joel walked over to the small window and peered down. "Uh-oh. She's here."
"Who?" Ethan asked.
The muscles in Ethan's neck pulsed. "You have to cover for me," he said in a whisper. "Run down and intercept her. Keep her busy. I'll sneak out the back."
"Why me? She'll talk until dark."
Ethan was already unbuckling his tool belt. "Don't worry. You're still on the clock, remember?"
"So?" Joel answered, a nervousness in his eyes. "You're the boss. I'm just your lowly assistant."
"I know, I know. But Chase has a game today. So you get Mrs. Moretti. Besides, she owns the place and is going to be signing the checks for a long time."
Joel was anything but happy.
"Smile, Joel," Ethan said. "She's a nice lady. She just has too many words and too little opportunity to use them. And she knows what she wants. It won't be all that painful."
With a scowl, Joel responded, "That's easy for you to say."
"Maybe she brought some Italian food. It's all yours this time."
And with that, Ethan hurried down the attic stairs and ran down the back staircase. As he hushed the kitchen door closed, he could hear Mrs. Moretti's high-pitched laugh rattle from the entrance hall and echo through the empty house.
Mrs. Moretti was promising to be a wonderful client, providing Willis Construction the dream job of restoring the Old Carter Mansion. But it was not a relationship for anyone in a hurry.
Ethan waited a moment, then jogged quietly back to his maroon truck, parked halfway up the block. Relieved that Mrs. Moretti did not see him, he wondered if he would have stopped if she had.
* * *
Ethan hurried through the area that made up downtown Franklin, Pennsylvania—past the stately Franklin Club, across Chestnut Street, down Buffalo Street, and a right turn onto South Park Street. Then he turned onto Liberty, flanked on both sides by a long row of elegant old brick buildings—some a bit tired and worn, some newly restored and repainted.
The welcome signs at the edges of the town boasted FRANKLIN: THE VICTORIAN CITY. It was once a town of many who prospered in the area's oil boom of the mid-1800s and who built remarkable structures downtown and lived in stately homes in the bordering neighborhoods. Downtown Franklin had struggled for decades to stay alive and vital. The town's Venango Historical Society promoted the preservation of the over two hundred buildings of historical significance, many of which displayed plaques boasting their years of completion. These buildings, once home to scores of thriving businesses—from haberdasheries to drugstores with soda fountains to millinery shops—now housed a curious mix of antique shops, one- and two-member law firms, offices of start-up insurance agents, two secondhand clothing consignment operations, and, increasingly, more upscale specialty shops.
Ethan drove past the old theater on Liberty Street. After years of community fund-raising and bake sales, it had been restored almost to its previous vaudevillian grandeur. A colorful banner draped over the entrance announced next month's concert—a big-band orchestra from Erie. He glanced over at the park opposite the theater. The same cluster of old men rested on the same benches by the fountain, watching the traffic as always. Ethan waved. A few waved back.
He turned right at the Shell station, then again on Elk. It ran parallel to the river. Two blocks downriver from town was Sibley Park.
He pulled into the parking lot of the baseball field. The truck tires bit and crunched at the loose gravel. He found that compressed munching to be enormously comforting—as if the very ground welcomed a traveler home.
The baseball game had already begun. Three zeros hung on the scoreboard. Ethan had only missed the first inning and a half.
The Franklin Flyers took the field as Ethan found his usual seat on the next-to-the-top row of the section of bleachers on the first-base side. He smiled and waved. Chase looked toward him. His son gave little indication that he saw his father, save an almost imperceptible nod.
Ethan leaned back against the seat behind him, took a deep breath, and closed his eyes for a moment to the warm afternoon sun. He reached to the visor of his hat and pulled it off, wiping his forehead with his palm.
He heard the pop of the ball against the leather of the catcher's mitt. The umpire drawled out, "Ball!" To his right, he heard the shouts and conversations of other parents—mostly mothers—who sat, like he, in the same positions for every Flyers baseball game. Behind him a car horn sounded, then another—two friends marking their passing on the street.
His eyes stayed shut. The whisper of a breeze slipped off the river, carrying the scent of the deep, slow-moving water.
The town of Franklin—population seven thousand—lay at the confluence of the Allegheny River and the much smaller French Creek, and was key to several hundred years of American history. Sibley Park was the location of an old French fort, designed by the foreign settlers to stave off the bullying English and Americans. But the French left without ever firing a shot in anger. They simply burned their handiwork to the ground as they marched off toward Niagara and ceded this stretch of riverbank to the British.
On warm evenings, Ethan often came to this park to walk along the river, imagining he heard the faint whisperings of French accents, muted murmuring as the waters rippled past the shallows by the shore. To have spent a long year building, hewing huge logs with dull axes, only to watch all that work go up in flames—it must have been so agonizing, so incredibly frustrating....
His reverie was interrupted by a brief shout. "Heads up!"
Ethan snapped his eyes open to see a baseball spiraling down toward him. Instinctively, he leaned to the right, lifted his hand—more from fear than athletic ability—and with some surprise, snagged the errant foul ball in his open palm. It smacked hard, and he tried not to wince.
A weak cheer arose from the other parents. "Way to go, Willis!"
He stood, offered a very theatrical bow, and tossed the ball back toward the pitcher. As he did, he saw his son roll his eyes and turn away.
Ethan was well aware of what that gesture meant.
* * *
Charles Willis turned away from his father and focused on the pitcher and batter once again. The young teen had been called Chase since he began to crawl.
His grandfather had been watching the child one afternoon and had spent a breathless few hours, always a few steps behind the crawling infant. When his mother had asked how the afternoon went, his grandpa, exhausted and exasperated, had replied, "I spent the whole afternoon giving chase."
His mother had laughed, and from that moment on the speedy infant was named Chase.
Chase always dreaded the start of school when his teachers would inevitably call out "Charles Willis." He would redden as his classmates giggled. "It's Chase, not Charles," he would correct ever so politely. "My mom gave that name to me."
Chase squinted at the stands and dug his toe in the edge of the infield, a few steps off first base. Couldn't he have just tossed the ball back? Did he have to bow?
Chase tried to forget his father's presence. He smacked his hand into his glove, adjusted the bill of his cap, and waited for the next pitch.
The Franklin Flyers were the heavy favorites to win the Little League Junior Baseball Tournament at the end of summer. Due to a string of late birthdays of their fourteen-year-olds, virtually their entire team remained intact from the previous year. If the Flyers won this year, their triumph would be the first time in years that any team had won the summer series back-to- back in any age division.
The Flyers' pitcher wound up and threw. The batter, a tall boy from Oil City with bleached hair, swung fast and solid. The ball skittered off his bat—a line drive hard into the dirt on the first-base side.
Chase hated those hard hits into the dirt, when the ball took mean and unpredictable bounces. He had a scar just below his bottom lip—so faint now that even he struggled to find it—that was a reminder of a fast line drive last summer. He tried not to shut his eyes as he bent down. He took two steps toward the pitcher's mound, smothered the ball with a graceful, athletic swoop, pivoted backward to the base, and beat the runner by two full steps. The runner threw his helmet in the dust, glaring over at Chase.
He had been robbed of a base hit.
Chase heard the chorus of cheers from the Flyers' bleachers. He let himself smile—but only a bit. He heard a loud voice, the loud voice of a woman shouting excitedly. It was Mrs. Bonnie Hewitt, his best friend Elliot's mom.
"Way to go, Chase! Good job!"
He shut his eyes for a second, wiping at his cheek with the strap of his glove.
And he wished, as he had done a thousand times before, that his mother had been there to see it.
* * *
"Are these stairs canting down on one side, or is it just me?" Cecily Carter Moretti called out to no one in particular as she swept up the winding staircase.
Joel waited in the shadow of a doorframe as the Carter Mansion's owner, a dainty, dark- haired woman whom he guessed to be in her late forties, reached the top floor. She was wearing a sophisticated blue suit that he was sure cost more than his entire wardrobe. Joel knew he wasn't an expert at detecting sophisticated, expensive fashion, but he was pretty certain that what Mrs. Moretti had on was it. Though quick to speak her mind, the crew knew her to be warm, energetic, and generous. She would come armed with some sort of delicious Italian food, as though always needing to be a hospitable hostess in her home even though the place wasn't anywhere near ready to welcome guests. Now a tantalizing smell emanated from the large brown grease-stained bag she held.
"They are," Joel answered. "It's only a degree or two—but you do notice it. That's not unusual. The foundation has settled an inch or so over the years. But don't worry, Mrs. Moretti, we'll get to them. When we're done, they'll be perfect."
"I sure hope so. I'd hate to feel like I had vertigo every time I went up these stairs. And these old doorframes—they're all crooked. I'm not going to have to live with that, am I?"
Joel let out a short laugh. "I'm sure they'll all be straight as an arrow when we're done, but I'll mention that to Ethan when he gets back."
"Oh—he's not here? Then who's going to eat all this food? I stopped at a new place called Crescendo's on the way. Their Italian beef is better than my mother-in-law's. But I would never tell her that! And you can't tell her either. Do you like sweet peppers or hot peppers on your sandwich? I bought both, although in my opinion an Italian beef isn't authentic without the sweet peppers. The hot peppers just drown out all the flavor of the meat. And there's extra juice if you want some. I always like having extra juice on the bread, but I order it on the side. Crusty on the outside, soft on the inside is the best."
"Thanks, Mrs. Moretti. Sweet peppers and extra juice it is," Joel said as he opened the bag. "It smells wonderful. Ethan doesn't know what he's missing."
"And you should taste their lasagna! They whip the ricotta cheese filling and it gets real smooth and creamy—to die for, really. Next time I'll bring some for you to try. With extra gravy. Not sauce—we Italians call it 'gravy,' and Crescendo's is the best—except for my mother-in-law's, of course." She winked and added, "And please, call me CeCe."
* * *
On the first step of the bleachers, directly behind the dugout, Cameron Dane scribbled on her notepad as Mrs. Cathy Hollister, a petite blonde with a multitude of animated expressions, rattled on. Cameron had been distracted when an attractive man stood and bowed. She only had come back to her task at hand as Mrs. Hollister had tapped her on the shoulder and began talking again.
Cameron nodded and hoped she looked as if she had been paying attention.
"It's not that I mind the time all this takes," Cathy Hollister said with a sweep of her hand, encompassing the entire field and all the players. "I really don't. We moms know that being on the ball field is better for our sons than just hanging around the house playing video games."
Cameron smiled as she wrote, hoping to encourage Mrs. Hollister into producing a more colorful quote on the subject.
"The thing that gets my goat," she said, in a conspiratorial whisper, "is the mothers who crow about being a 'soccer mom'—and then never go to a single soccer game. They expect someone else to cart their precious kids around. They're as much a soccer mom as I am Miss America. Don't get me started. That's another story. My gut's already in a knot over this baseball game."
Cameron bit her lip. I have the quote, she thought, secretly celebrating.
Cameron laughed and flipped another page, filled with her sprawling but legible writing. She looked up and waved to Bart Renshaw, the staff photographer for The Franklin Derrick. Cameron guessed he was on his fourth roll of film. She could tell by the bulge in his shirt pocket—the place he always stored all his exposed rolls as he worked. He was the only photographer Cameron knew who still worked with real film, despite everyone's efforts to get him to switch to digital.
Cameron watched the Flyers' first baseman dive for a whizzing foul ball, skimming along at shin level.
Mrs. Hollister shouted out, "Way to go, Chase! Good hustle!"
Cathy Hollister attempted to act natural as Bart snapped picture after picture while considering the afternoon sunlight, adjusting his vantage point to include the small crowd behind her.
"I hope you use one that doesn't have my mouth wide open—like it usually is." She grinned.
"No, we want you to look as good as possible," Cameron assured her. "We're not The Enquirer."
Cameron tapped Bart on the shoulder, catching his attention. "I know you like action pictures, but take one posed shot, would you?"
Scowling, Bart went to his knee, mumbling "Smile," and when Mrs. Hollister offered a weak, posed expression, he snapped two quick shots, then returned his focus to the game.
The two teams changed sides, and in the short lull in the action, Cameron turned and looked over the crowd.
"Anyone else I could talk to on this story?" she asked Mrs. Hollister.
Mrs. Hollister turned around and scanned the crowd. "Did you talk to Meg Walters—the big redhead over by the water jug?"
"I did. She was the first on my list."
"Then that's all of us, I guess."
The right fielder for the Flyers swung and the ball ricocheted off the backstop, making a metallic, wrinkled sound.
"Hey, wait a second," Mrs. Hollister said with a nudge. "You should talk to Chase's dad."
"The tall fellow who caught the foul ball. Ethan Willis. The Flyers' first baseman—Chase Willis—Charles—that's his son."
"Willis? Willis? Don't I know that name from somewhere?" Cameron said as she scribbled it in her notebook.
Excerpted from THE RENOVATION by Terri Kraus. Copyright © 2008 Terri Kraus. Excerpted by permission of David C. Cook.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Meet the Author
After nine co-authored books with her husband Jim, Terri Kraus has added her award-winning interior designer's eye to the world of fiction. She comes to the Restoration series naturally, having survived the remodel, renovation and restoration of three separate residences. She makes her home in Wheaton, IL, with her husband, son Elliot, schnauzer Rufus and Siberian cat Petey.
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