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After two years, they'd finally cut him loose. Gave him a new suit of clothes and everything. Funny, though. The shame of the convict stripes still clung to him, as if tattooed horizontally across his skin. Levi Grant rolled his shoulders under the slightly-too-tight coat he'd been issued and wondered how long it would take to get reaccustomed to ordinary clothes.
Or to get the smell of turnips out of them.
A farmer had let him ride in his wagon bed for the last ten miles or so of his journey from Huntsville. Levi's feet had welcomed the respite, but now, standing outside the parson's small box-shaped house, second thoughts needled him.
His future hinged on making a good impression. The Bible and recommendation letter in his knapsack fueled his hope, but his past dragged behind him like the lead ball that used to be shackled to his leg. The Father might have forgiven his prodigal ways, but the world was full of parabolic older brothers who would either resent the second chance he'd been given or condemn him outright. Not that he would blame them. Christian charity could only be expected to stretch so far.
A gust of cool February wind jarred him from his thoughts and pushed him forward. The Lord had led him to the preacher's threshold—the least Levi could do was knock on the door.
He climbed the steps onto the porch, ducking under a barren rose trellis. Winter had temporarily robbed the latticework of its color, but the promise of spring lingered in the twining stems. Levi rapped a knuckle against the door and waited.
Seconds ticked by. He shifted from one foot to the other. An urge to run burgeoned inside his chest until his lungs found it difficult to expand. He blew out what little air was left in them and paced to the rail. Had he been wrong to come? Forcing himself to breathe evenly, he began to count the number of pickets in the fence across the yard. He'd barely made it to seven when the door clicked open behind him. Levi spun around. Seeing a woman, he yanked his hat from his head.
"Can I help you?" The tiny lady finished wiping her hands on her apron and looked up at him, her eyes widening only slightly as she took in his size.
"Levi Grant, ma'am. I'm here to"—See? No—"talk to David Cranford." The pause hadn't been long, but she'd blinked, a sure indication that she'd noticed. Years of avoiding S sounds in his speech had made him adept at finding substitutes, but it still took his brain time to recognize and reject the S words that came to mind automatically.
"Mr. Grant, of course. We've been expecting you. Please, come in." A warm smile blossomed across her face as she pulled the door wide.
Levi swiveled sideways to edge through the opening without grazing his hostess. His size came in handy when pounding iron, but it was a hindrance around delicate ladies in delicate houses.
She led him to a parlor full of treacherous knickknacks and spindly chairs and left him there with the impossible task of making himself comfortable while she fetched her husband.
Choosing the most substantial piece of furniture in the room, Levi cautiously lowered himself onto the green tapestry sofa, wincing with each creak of the thin oak legs. He slung his knapsack off his shoulder and into his lap, then reached inside for the letter from his chaplain and mentor, Jonathan Willis.
Soft footfalls sounded in the hall. Levi shoved the sack aside and lurched to his feet, still clutching the letter.
"Mr. Grant. Welcome to Spencer." A thin man with dark hair graying at the temples strode across the parlor carpet, his hand outstretched. "Jonathan wired that you were coming."
Levi handed over the letter and gripped the man's hand, careful not to squeeze too hard. The preacher was a good head shorter and probably a decade older than Levi's thirty years, but his eyes exuded kindness and a blunt honesty that communicated his knowledge of Levi's past without casting judgment.
Levi bent slowly to retake his seat on the sofa while David Cranford settled into an armchair. He opened the letter Levi had given him but barely scanned the contents before folding it back up and slipping it into his coat pocket.
"You'll be glad to know that everything is in place," Cranford said. "Mr. Spencer accepted my recommendation and forwarded the lease papers to our bank. You should be in business by the end of the week."
Levi swallowed what moisture he could summon from his arid mouth. "No interview?"
"Not a formal one, no. We've been without a blacksmith for nigh onto four months now. And with spring planting around the corner ... Well ... let's just say the townsfolk have not been shy in vocalizing their dissatisfaction. Mr. Spencer was anxious to find a blacksmith, and I was happy to recommend you to him. As long as his representative finds no glaring faults in you, things should go smoothly."
No glaring faults? Levi nearly laughed aloud. His faults glared brighter than streaks exposed by sunlight on a freshly cleaned window. His only hope was to hide them from this representative until he'd had a chance to prove himself.
"Did you tell him about ...?" Levi cleared his throat but couldn't quite spit out the rest of the question.
The preacher shook his head. "No. And I see no reason to enlighten anyone at this point. It has no direct bearing on your ability to perform your duties."
Levi relaxed into the cushioned sofa just a bit. He had a chance, then.
"The truth will come out eventually, though," the man cautioned, "and it would be better for it to come from you than somewhere else, but I believe a man has the right to demonstrate his character by his actions instead of being weighed solely by his past mistakes.
"I've known Jonathan Willis since our days at seminary," Cranford continued. "He speaks highly of you, Mr. Grant. And that's good enough for me. I'll gladly introduce you to Mr. Spencer's agent and reiterate my recommendation."
"Thank you." Levi had not expected such generosity. Didn't deserve it. Yet he'd not be so foolish as to reject it. He'd spent enough time in foolish pursuits.
"'There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus.'" The preacher patted the leather cover of the Bible sitting on the round parlor stand between the arm of his chair and the sofa, his gaze intent. Almost as if he were trying to bore a hole through Levi's hide to embed the truth of the words into his soul.
Levi turned his head away from the man's scrutiny to stare instead at a porcelain shepherdess guarding a shelf on the front wall. He knew the passage from Romans 8. He even believed it. Yet no matter how hard his brain tried to convince his heart, self-reproach still clung to him like a parasite.
"You're a new man making a new start."
Levi jerked his head around.
"Leave the guilt behind, son."
* * *
"Leave the other book on my desk. I'll shelve it for you later."
Eden Spencer tried to hurry her last patron out, an elderly woman who moved slower than a bug on flypaper. Normally she didn't mind chatting with Pearl after closing time, but today she did. Norman Draper had strolled past her window five minutes ago, portfolio in hand—no doubt on his way to get the new blacksmith's signature on the building lease. Before she'd even had a chance to talk to the man. Eden pressed her lips together to keep her irritation at bay as she helped Pearl with her scarf.
Why was it that no one on the town council took her role as her father's representative seriously? What if she found the new smith unsuitable? If the banker jumped the gun with the papers, it would make sending the man on his way vastly more difficult. Thank goodness Emma had stopped by earlier to let her know the smith had arrived. Now, if she could just hurry Pearl along a bit, maybe she could dash across the street to the parsonage in time to prevent any rash action on Mr. Draper's part.
"Here's your book, Pearl." Eden placed the small volume of poetry into the older woman's hands.
"Thank you, dear. My afternoons would be dreadfully dull without something new to read every now and again."
"I'm glad I could help." Eden swung her door open, ignoring the chilly breeze that ruffled her skirts. She took Pearl's elbow and guided her down to the street, taking extra care on the steps. Then she bid the woman a quick farewell and darted back into the house, where she snatched her black cashmere shawl from the hall tree and flung it around her shoulders. Plunking a bonnet on her head, she let the ribbons flap freely as she loped down the front walk. Loped, not ran. Running would be unseemly.
"Whoa there, little lady. What's the hurry?"
Eden groaned. Sheriff Pratt's office was around the corner on Main Street, and he had taken up the habit of watching for her from his rear window. The town matrons found it sweet the way he escorted her around town. Eden found it a nuisance.
"I'm afraid I can't talk, Sheriff. I'm late for a meeting." She offered an apologetic wave as she bustled past without slowing her pace. She had just about reached the churchyard when he lunged in front of her, forcing her to choose between halting and colliding with his person. She opted for the halt.
"Is that any way to talk to your betrothed?" His syrupy voice set her skin to itching.
Eden gathered her shawl a bit more tightly about her. "I'm not your betrothed, Sheriff. I refused your proposal three weeks ago."
"And nearly busted my heart in the process, but I forgive you."
She didn't want to be forgiven. She wanted to be left alone.
Sheriff Pratt clasped the crown of his felt hat and dragged it from his head down to the general vicinity of his heart, or more precisely, the area above his belly paunch.
"I'm just letting you know the offer's still on the table. In case you decide to reconsider." He smiled at her and winked, but the gesture seemed void of true affection. The man might want to marry her, but Eden doubted his reasons had anything to do with tender feelings. He probably figured tying himself to a Spencer would be good for his career. He was up for reelection, after all.
"Thank you, Sheriff, but—"
"Conrad, darlin'. Call me Conrad."
Eden stiffened. "Sheriff Pratt ..." She emphasized the formal address. "I appreciate your kind consideration, but my answer remains unchanged. Now, if you'll excuse me?"
His smile tightened, but apparently the gentleman in him won out. He extended his hat in a sweeping motion as he stepped aside. "I'll wish you a good evening, then, Miss Spencer."
"Thank you. And a good evening to you." Eden nodded and moved past. Her conscience pricked a little over having been short with him, but after the indignity she'd suffered five years ago, she was in no hurry to commit herself to another man. Especially not to one who wore a gun. Violence only begot more violence, and she couldn't imagine aligning herself with a man who had blood on his hands— even if he stood on the right side of the law.
Having reached the parsonage, Eden thrust aside all thoughts of the sheriff and raised her hand to knock. Emma Cranford answered swiftly.
"They haven't signed anything yet, have they?" Eden asked as she breezed past the preacher's wife, focused solely on making her way to the front room, where the men were congregating.
Soft laughter echoed behind her. "Are you planning to storm the castle, Eden?" There was more teasing than chiding in the question. Nevertheless, it succeeded in slowing Eden's step and getting her to turn around and face her neglected hostess.
"I'm sorry, Emma. I didn't even greet you, did I?"
"Never mind," she said as she shooed Eden toward the parlor. "We've been friends too long for me to be offended by such silly details. I know not to get in your way when you're on a mission." She smiled in the forgiving way of hers that relieved Eden's conscience even while it made her silently promise never to repeat the infraction.
"Go on. Get in there before Mr. Draper bullies them into signing without you."
Eden nodded her thanks and spun back toward the parlor.
Male voices grew louder as she approached, Mr. Draper's being the most adamant. "... no telling when Miss Spencer will get around to making an appearance. You know how women are. If Calvin Spencer gave his approval, that's all I require."
"I'm sure she'll be along short—"
"Well, I'm here now. But I won't be for long. I have a town council meeting to attend. And if Mr. Grant wants to lease the smithy, he'll sign the papers now."
Storm the castle, indeed. Bristling, Eden set her shoulders for battle and swept into the room. "If Mr. Grant wants to lease the smithy, he'll have to gain my approval or the papers will be meaningless."
The banker turned hostile eyes on her and opened his mouth, most likely to inform her that his papers were legal with or without her approval, but David Cranford managed to forestall the argument by jumping to his feet and rushing to her side.
"Miss Spencer! So good to see you." He wisely positioned himself between her and the banker. "May I introduce you to the man who recently applied to be our new blacksmith?"
As David stretched his arm out toward the sofa, a man rose to his feet. Slowly. Well, it wasn't so much that his movement was slow, but that there was a great deal of him to unfold from where he sat.
At some level, her mind registered the preacher's voice as he made the formal introduction, but the rest of her attention remained riveted on the giant in Emma's parlor. If the mythical Hercules had been inspired by an actual person, this man would surely be a descendant. She'd never seen such broad shoulders.
Her gaze moved from his shoulders to his face. Square jaw. Firm lips. Straight nose, barring the bump on the bridge, where it looked like it'd been broken. Everything about him was hard—except his eyes. Vulnerability shone in their gray depths. Or at least she thought it did. He shifted his regard to the floor so fast, she couldn't be sure.
David cleared his throat, and Eden blinked, realizing she was expected to speak. "Pleasure to meet you, Mr.... ah ... Mr. Grant."
"Ma'am." He nodded to her, his gaze barely brushing her chin before falling again to the floor.
Good heavens. How was she supposed to conduct an interview with a man whose size was so startling she could scarcely manage a coherent greeting?
Excerpted from To Win Her Heart by Karen Witemeyer Copyright © 2011 by Karen Witemeyer. Excerpted by permission of Bethany House Publishers. 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.
Posted August 17, 2011
I enjoyed To Win Her Heart very much. It was very easy to get caught up in the small town of Spencer, Texas. The characters were wonderful and somewhat unique in their background from anything I had read before. I loved the easy pace of the time period. And I enjoyed the library. If I had lived in that time period that would have been my dream, to own and run a library.
The lessons about forgiveness that you will find on these pages are ones we all need to remember when we live our daily lives. It's easy to judge someone for where they live, how they dress, who their parents are, and their past mistakes, etc. But God loves the person, faults and all. And His forgiveness covers the mutitude of sins in each of our lives if we ask. We need to learn to let them go and allow people to move forward in the new life they are given through Christ.
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Posted May 15, 2011
I Also Recommend:
Karen Witemeyer can write. And how! I thought her first two books were great and knew To Win Her Heart would be, too, but I was wrong. This story is awesome! I didn't think she could top A Tailor-made Bride or Head in the Clouds, but she did. Her two main characters in To Win Her Heart are so well crafted that I was in love with them by the end of the first chapter. Levi Grant is one of the most sympathetic heroes I've read in a long time: a man of faith, integrity, and honor who stole my heart. Not that he's perfect. Far from it. And yet he's a wonderful example of redemption personified. Eden Spencer is a godly woman with rigid standards, but she's loyal, loving, and willing to learn, which she does. The story pulled me in from the start and kept me flipping pages into the wee hours. I laughed, cried, and sighed as Levi and Eden worked through their rather substantial differences. The charming secondary characters are an added bonus, and the ending is a delight. If you're a fan of inspirational historical romance, I highly recommend To Win Her Heart-along with Witemeyer's other two books.
2 out of 2 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 February 17, 2013
This book was one of the best books I have ever read. I am going to buy a few of these as gifts for some people that I know. This book is that good! The characters were well-developed and the plot moved forward at a good pace. The author addressed so many issues and stereotypes in a realistic manner. I know my friends and relatives can relate to the pain of judgmental people.
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Posted February 13, 2013
I loved this book! I got it for free but i would of paid for it! I think the author is very gifted and it was a great story of forgiveness, love and Gods redemption. I highly recommend this book and i will be reading more of her books!
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Posted September 30, 2014
A fabulous book with a lot of wisdom in it! If people took the time to be true Christians, like the hero and heroine in this book, our world would be a much better place! This book has so many great parts that I was sad to see it end! Thank you to the author! Just please write faster because I've read all your books now :)Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted February 13, 2014
Posted January 1, 2014
Posted December 28, 2013
Posted August 6, 2013
Posted June 18, 2013
This is a wonderful romance about second chances. I fell in love with the lead hero Levi while reading. It also showes Gods ultimate love for us no matter our past. This was such an easy read. I've found that all of Karen Witemeyers' books I find a way to finish them within a day. Just can't be parted from them long. 10+ stars!!!Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted June 2, 2013
Having strength to keep your promise to God
Levi Grant has a past, he's killed a man and spent time in prison, now he's trying to start over. He found the Lord in prison, should I say he found him again since he was raised with the Lord in his life. The only one in Spencer, Texas that knows of his past is the preacher who is helping him get started as the new blacksmith for the town.
Eden Spencer has a past that the whole town knows about, a town named after her family, and has turned from looking for a husband to running a library. She has to approve the new blacksmith but isn't sure about him because of his hesitant way of talking. Finally after he offers a one month trial period, Eden agrees to let him take over.
The sheriff 'considers' himself engaged to Eden, Eden shuns him every time he tries to act possesive. Levi is beginning to be a thorn in the sheriff's side. Eden refuses to let Levi borrow books from the library because she doesn't want him coming in regularly to exchange books. He won't even say her name, calls her Ma'am even after she insists he call her Miss Spencer because Ma'am makes her feel decrepit. Her plan backfires though because he comes in daily so he can sit and read, I mean, if you can't take the book home and you want to read that is the only way, but she can't take back the two week residency requirement now.
When the sheriff begins to feel really threatened by Levi's presence and he has found out about his past, his plan to bring Levi down is soon set into motion, will it work to get him to leave town or be reincarcerated?
I really liked this book, and would recommend it to others. I have read other books by Karen and started a new one already, Short-Straw Bride and I have Stealing the Preacher in my stack of to read books.
Posted February 9, 2013
Eden Spencer, the independent daughter of the founder of the City of Spencer, spends her days running the town library. After enduring terrible heartbreak years ago, Eden has reconciled herself to becoming an old spinster. All that changes, however, when Levi Grant comes to town as the town’s new blacksmith. Levi’s love of books draws him to the library on his lunch breaks, greatly dismaying Eden as she thinks that he is coming just to see her. Eden slowly comes to change her mind though, as Levi’s sincerity and sophisticated vocabulary surprises her. They begin exchanging letters, and as the stack of letters grows so does their budding romance. That is, until Levi realizes that he has to tell Eden about his dark past. Eden’s initial distrust and Levi’s past combined with a rival suitor and avenger threaten to tear the two apart. Will Levi lose the fight and Eden’s heart as well?
Karen Witemeyer crafts a superb story of trust and second chances. Her characters quickly become the readers’ friends as their pasts and current circumstances are very relatable. Witemeyer’s honest portrayal of characters’ flaws and struggles only draws the readers closer to the characters. The very real presence of evil creates tension between the forces of good an evil, which only intensifies as the novel progresses. Eden and Levi’s solid faith in God creates the core of this story, which no human can rock. With the perfect combination of romance, history, suspense, and humor, To Win Her Heart should win your hearts as well.
Posted January 26, 2013
This was a great Christian romance without being too preachy. It definitely told of the faith of the characters while still providing a great romance. Most of the time you get one or the other. This book did a great job of giving you both. I've already started reading another book by this author.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted January 22, 2013
Posted January 10, 2013
Eden Spencer is the librarian in the small town of Spencer, Texas in 1887. She is a self-declared spinster who has decided not to marry, and she especially detests violence. Enter Levi Grant, the new blacksmith in town. Just released from jail, Levi has turned a new leaf in his life and has turned away from his ugly past. When Levi isn’t forthcoming with his past, will he push Eden away?
PROS: What I liked most about the book was how the main characters relied on God for strength and direction in their lives. When Eden is feeling conflicted, she turns to God with this prayer:
“Dear God, I don’t want my fear to be a barrier to the blessing you are trying to bestow. Cast out my fear, and help me to trust in your perfect love. But also grant me a full measure of wisdom. Do not let me be led astray by my own desires. If it is not your will that I pursue a relationship with Levi, I pray that you will stop me. Make your message so clear that I cannot argue it away. Protect me, Lord, and show me the way I should go” (116).
I thought this was a really honest prayer; similar even to a prayer I have prayed in my personal life. The author made faith a central part of her book, both by creating characters who loved God and by sprinkling Scripture throughout the novel.
CONS: I felt like there was a lot of foreshadowing in this book, and I could easily see where it was going. When I read a book, I prefer for the foreshadowing to be subtle so I don’t immediately figure it out. This felt a bit obvious. Also, I unfortunately did not feel invested in the story or the characters.
This book was a quick read, with a simple plot line. Although this was not one of my favorite books, I found that the book had a wholesome message about seeking God first.
Posted January 4, 2013
Posted December 16, 2012
Posted December 13, 2012
Posted November 11, 2012
The Love of a Gentle Giant. Levi Grant had a less than stellar past, but suddenly he had the chance at a better life. He interviewed for the position of blacksmith for the town of Spencer, Texas and unbelievably was hired, despite Eden Spencer’s reservations. However, pretty Miss Spencer put a caveat on his contract. Levi had just a month to prove himself. So, he immediately set his hands to the task.
Spinster Eden Spencer’s holier-than-thou attitude might serve her well at the Ladies Aid Society meetings, but few realized how hurt she’d been by her fiance’s defection. Only a year ago, her rich father had offered Stephen money or the opportunity of leaving Eden alone. Unbelievably, Stephen had chosen the money and left town without a backward glance! For months, Eden had endured the pitying eyes and furtive whispers of the townspeople and the depressing shame of being so horribly rejected. It had taken her a while, but she’d finally found the strength to hold her head up again. If she was wrong about agreeing to hire Levi Grant, too, Eden wouldn’t be able to endure it.
Nevertheless, every moment Eden spent around Levi unsettled her. The man was as big as a mountain, but incredibly gentle, too. He spoke with broken speech, apparently choosing his words carefully, but Eden discovered Levi was really very intelligent and well read. The face Levi presented to the town was so different from what she’d assumed that Eden was afraid to trust her instincts. Could she trust him with her heart, too?
All too soon, Levi’s past begins to catch up with him and he writes a letter to Eden explaining about his speech impediment, becoming a prize fighter, the man he inadvertently killed in the ring and the time in prison he endured for the crime. Their relationship was so fragile, but nothing could have prepared Levi for Eden’s shock and dismay. Levi is miserable. Eden doesn’t want to speak to him or even look at him ever again.
Meanwhile, Sheriff Pratt keeps up the pressure on Eden, hoping to force her into marrying him. After all, such an alliance with the daughter of one of the town’s founding fathers would certainly help his career. Rejected by Eden yet again, Sheriff Pratt vows to get even. There’s something about Levi Grant that looks strangely familiar. Levi reminds him of a prize fighter he saw once, an incredibly strong and powerful man called the Anvil, who killed another fighter in the ring.
As the crisis comes to a head, Levi has his chance to show the town who he really is. When there’s an accident at the local quarry, Levi hurries to the hated location to free some of the trapped men. While he was in prison, Levi used to be part of a prison gang detail at the local quarry, often taking a severe beating from the guards. Yet, to free his new friends, Levi is willing to face this horror once more.
Sheriff Pratt corners Levi later and stages a rematch of the old fight that cast him into prison. Although Levi’s opponent lands blow after blow, Levi refuses to fight back. Levi promised God that he would never fight for money again and he resolves to keep that vow - even if it kills him.
This is a good Christian romance and a nice historical piece, as well. Realistic descriptions of the smithy and saloon contrasted nicely with the pristine simplicity of Eden’s little library. I also adored the vision the author created of Eden’s Garden. The masses of wildflowers in bloom out West really do look like that and I can almost smell their sweet perfume from here. Nicely done.
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Posted October 22, 2012
This is just one more AWESOME book by one of my favorite authors! Loved it from begining to the end. This is a perfect christian romance, it has humor as well. Just as in real life we all make choices in life sometimes those choices change our lives, as you read about the lives of these characters you will find them very life like. This story is a romance based on a second chance at life after finding God's forgiveness. This is a keeper! Love love loved it!Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.