Favorite Friday Fiction: The Charmer by C.J. Archer

By Ellen Andersen

The first paragraph drew me in immediately.

“Orlando Holt had never killed a woman before. He’d assassinated a bear tamer, a viscount, three French noblemen and two Spanish ones, a knight, a painter, a physician, an acrobat in Cathay, and five apothecaries . . . but Lady Lynden would be his first woman.”

She’s supposed to be a vicious murderess, but when Orlando begins to have doubts, he sets out to discover the identity of the person who hired him to kill her. What he learns will turn his world upside down, and propel him headlong into love with a woman who’s immune to his charms.

17292619[1] Twice widowed by the age of twenty-four, Lady Susanna Lynden has had enough of charming men. Her last husband knew all the right things to say to get her to yes to him, then made her life miserable. Money may be scarce and her house falling down around her, but the exotic fruit from her orange trees will keep poverty away. Except someone is thwarting her at every turn. Someone who may even want her dead.

Relationships between the characters develop well as the story unfolds and there are twists and turns that make the reader keep guessing as to what comes next. I enjoyed ride.

A word of warning, though. Many scenes in the book are sexually graphic. If that bothers you, you may want to skip this one.


An Unexpected Opportunity to Give

By Ellen Andersen

The sun shone brightly, providing a nice warm day to walk the neighborhood, finally. The clouds had loomed large and we’d had rain for the past week. So I took advantage of the warm weather and took Tommy for a walk. We headed down the street and about 6 houses down, I saw my neighbor, Jo. She spotted me and called out my name.Jo on Tradd


I stopped and looked to my right. Jo was standing there leaning on her walker, trying to unload her car of some groceries she’d just brought home.

She’s a sweet lady in her late 80s, and on the frail side. She’d been ill for a bit and this was the first time she’d gotten out of the house. She said it felt good to get out finally. But it made her tired.

“Can I help you with that, Jo?” I asked, seeing she was struggling a bit.

“Oh, yes. Please.” I had Tommy stop and sit, then helped Jo take her bags in the house. “I don’t want it to be too heavy for you,” she said. I picked it up and assured her it was fine. It was just a container of laundry detergent. It would probably have been too much for her, though.

After we got all her things in the house, she asked me to sit with her for a bit. I think she’s lonely, so I stayed. Tommy came in and laid down near us. After about 20 minutes or so, we left and continued our walk.

As Tommy and I headed home, we passed her house again. Jo called out to me. I waved and she said, “Come here. I have something for you.” Tommy and I made our way over and Jo said, “Do you like chocolate?”

“Of course,” I said. She handed me a plastic bag full of chocolate candies. “Thanks for helping me” she said.

“Of course. You’re welcome” I said. “Thanks for the chocolate. I’m sure I’ll enjoy it.”

My afternoon walk with Tommy turned out to be more than just a nice way to get some exercise in the much-needed sun. It was an opportunity to help a neighbor who needed me.

You never know what may be in store in your day when you’re just going about your business. You may have the chance to care for someone who needs you if you keep your eyes and heart open.

Favorite Friday Fiction: Still Life in Shadows by Alice J. Wisler

Still Life in Shadows is another great book by Alice J. Wisler. Amish isn’t my favorite genre, normally, but I read anything Alice writes. I love how she combines both worlds with a wonderful plot and realistic characters. You’ll enjoy all her books…

Click to tweet: Amish fiction with a twist. Love it! #amreading #FridayReads

Still Life in Shadows

It’s been fifteen years since Gideon Miller ran away from his Amish community in Carlisle, Pennsylvania as a boy of fifteen. Gideon arrives in the Smoky Mountains town of Twin Branches and settles in at the local auto mechanic’s garage. He meets a host of interesting characters –the most recent acquaintances are Kiki, an autistic teen, and her sister Mari. Known as the “Getaway Savior” he helps other Amish boys and girls relocate to life in modern America.

One day the phone rings. On the other end is his brother Moriah calling from Florida. Of course Gideon welcomes his brother to stay with him and offers him a job. But Moriah is caught in a web which ends in his death and forces Gideon to return to the town of his youth, with his brother’s body in the back of a hearse and Mari and Kiki at his side. He must face not only the community he ran away from years ago but also his own web of bitterness. Will he be able to give his anger over to God and forgive his father? 

Small Acts of Kindness: The Right Encouragement to Soldier On

By Stephanie L. Robertson

The blue and navy bars mocked me from my computer screen.  Like a staggered row of dingy tenements, those statistics told me one thing:

Your posts are irrelevant.   Give up. 

I admit, I have shed tears of frustration over those metrics.  Since 2013, I’ve poured hours of work to create what industry professionals call a “writer’s platform.”  It’s supposed to assure folks in the publishing world that I’m marketable.  They can take a chance on my novel because people like to read my work.

The proof is in those little rectangles that indicate the number of visitors to my website.

Please forgive me if I sound cynical, but “build it and they will come” apparently doesn’t apply in the blogosphere.

Trust me, I have targeted, focused, spent hard-earned freelance writer funds, promoted, boosted, SEO-ed, and spent more money to promote my site.

And yet, sometimes it seems as though I’m wasting time and resources trying to build up enthusiasm for my site.

So I did what any self-respecting writer would do:  I begged and pleaded for site visitors in the post I wrote on March 1, 2018:  Pouring Out My Heart [http://www.sweetgumlife.com/2018/03/01/pouring-out-my-heart/]

In return, I received some small acts of kindness.

One of my brick-and-mortar friends (someone I know outside of the virtual world) offered up hope.  Essentially, she commented: Don’t give up!

An author friend sent me an entire paragraph.  Essentially, she commented: Don’t give up!

A close relative sent me a one-liner.  Essentially, she commented: Don’t give up!

And my dear father-in-law sent me a few short words.  Essentially, he commented: Don’t give up!

Sometimes, an act of kindness is simply a smile from a stranger.

At other times, it comes in a few comments, which reflect our Father’s love.

And gives us just the right encouragement to soldier on.

Click to tweet: Encouragement can help someone who’s about to give up. #kindnessmatters #smallactsofkindness

Stephanie L. Robertson is a writer and editor who maintains a southern lifestyle blog at www.SweetgumLife.com.

A busy Christian wife and mom, Stephanie and her husband of 19 years live in the Huntsville area with their teenage daughter.

Stephanie has a self-published short suspense story on Amazon and is working on adding a novel.  When not immersed in mom/wife life, she enjoys photography, Pinterest projects, coffee with family and friends, and immersing herself in a good suspense novel.

Favorite Friday Fiction: Frankenstein

Today’s classic, Frankenstein, by Mary Shelley is a really well-written book and an interesting read. I would recommend reading the book because shows like “The Munsters” and others have changed the essence of this true classic novel…

Click to tweet: Frankenstein by Mary Shelley is a true classic novel, the premier monster story of English literature. #amreading #FridayReads

Frankenstein: The premier monster story of English literature—a tale of science pursued to horrifying extremes

An origin story nearly as famous as the book itself: One dreary summer on the shores of Lake Geneva, amid discussions of galvanism and the occult and fireside readings from a collection of German ghost stories, Lord Byron proposed a game. Each of his guests—eighteen-year-old Mary Godwin and her future husband, the poet Percy Bysshe Shelley, among them—would try their hand at writing a tale of the supernatural.

Unable at first to think of a plot, Mary was visited one sleepless night by the terrible vision of a corpse, a “hideous phantasm of a man,” lurching to life with the application of some unknown, powerful force. The man responsible, a “pale student of unhallowed arts,” fled in horror from his creation, leaving it to return to the dead matter from which it had been born. But the monster did not die. It followed the man to his bedside, where it stood watching him with “yellow, watery, but speculative eyes”—eyes of one who thought, and felt.

The novel that Mary Shelley would go on to publish, the legend of Victor Frankenstein and his unholy creation, and their obsessive, murderous pursuit of each other from Switzerland to the North Pole, has been the stuff of nightmares for nearly two centuries. A masterpiece of Romantic literature, it is also one of the most enduring horror stories ever written.

Small Acts of Kindness: Lunch with a Friend

By Kathy Cheek

My friend and I hadn’t met for lunch in a long time since she had moved across town and was going to a new church. After we were seated and were sipping our iced tea, I asked “How are you doing?” and her “fine” didn’t sound fine at all.

When her voice started to tremble and tears welled up in her eyes I knew something was wrong and when she began to spell out a difficult situation in their family she also shared that she hadn’t told anyone because she was afraid of what others would think.

She admitted that holding it in and not talking to anyone seemed to just make the stress harder to bear. She finally realized she needed to be open and we talked about the fact that when we don’t share our burdens we end up adding burden to burden.

What do I mean by adding burden to burden?  The best way I know to describe it is when we have difficulty sharing our burden with others because we think it is too much for them to handle, we are adding a new burden to our already existing burden. This happens when we are reluctant to open up with people and talk about what we are going through, not wanting to impose our problems on others. When we keep it in and think it is too much to put on others, we are adding burden to burden.

God made His family to have that desire to come alongside hurting people and help them through the hard times. This is part of His plan to carry us through those difficult times and out of the valley. God goes with us and brings others along to walk the journey with us.  Pain is not a journey meant to be walked alone. We don’t have to walk alone when we let friends and family help us in our time of need.

2 Corinthians 1:3-4  Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.

Click to tweet: Small acts of kindness. Lunch with a friend. #smallactsofkindness #kindnessmatters

Kathy Cheek writes faith-filled devotions and is published in LifeWay’s Journey magazine and Mature Living, and also contributes to several devotional sites, including Thoughts About God, Christian Devotions, and CBN.com.

Her favorite subject to write about is the rich relationship God desires to have with us and the deep trust it takes to live it out. She and her husband of 33 years live in the suburbs of Dallas, Texas and they have two daughters and one son-in-law who also reside in the Dallas area. You can read more of her devotions at www.kathycheek.com.

Kathy is thrilled to announce her book First Breath of Morning – A 90 Day Devotional is contracted to be published and will be out this fall! You will find info and a description of the book on her Book News page at Devotions from the Heart


Favorite Friday Fiction: Misstep by Deborah Dee Harper

Misstep by Deborah Dee Harper is a book I really enjoyed, laughing out loud at different parts of the book. Zany, believable characters and never knowing what is coming next made it another great read. Don’t miss this series. Book 2, Faux Pas, is good and I’m ready for Book 3. 🙂

Click to tweet: Misstep by Deborah Dee Harper. A laugh out loud fun read. #humor #FridayReads

Misstep (The Road’s End series book 1)

Winnie and Sadie are still fighting, and I’m still living in the strangest town on earth.

It’s December in Road’s End, Virginia, a tiny town long forgotten by anyone but its residents, where Colonel Hugh Foster and his wife, Melanie, have chosen to live—for better or worse. The jury’s still out on that one!

Road’s End is comprised entirely of senior citizens whose kids have grown and left for greener pastures. Hugh, Melanie, and Bristol (one of the few sane people in town) are faced with a crumbling church in desperate need of repair and renovation, a dwindling congregation of opinionated, ornery senior citizens, and a camel—yes, a camel. And if that’s not enough, the trio and the rest of the Road’s End residents, are soon mired in danger and intrigue when a group of gun-toting drug dealers arrive in town, bent on killing the church handyman, and conspiring to ruin the doggonedest record-breaking blizzard the town has ever seen.

Poor drug dealers.

Small Acts of Kindness: Mr. Priest’s Surprises

By David Parks

Early in January 1954, Mr. Guy Priest came to our house with a box of surprises.

Usually, I saw Mr. Priest when I was skidding my bike around on Teft Road or Baker Street.

“Hello, Mr. Priest!”


Instead of waving, he smiled and nodded. That’s because his hands were busy with two 5-gallon pails stuffed with gladiolas in full bloom. Mr. Priest cut these beauties from the garden behind his house on Baker Street, and he was delivering them to customers.

No flowers, but a box

This January day, however, Mr. Priest carried no flowers. Instead he brought a box of surprises. I needed surprises, because the doctor had sent me to bed for many days to allow some bones to mend.

Mr. Priest’s box was cardboard, like the box my new shoes came in from the store in Jackson. But a wrap of heavy white paper hid the J.C. Penny logo, and it was larger than my shoe box. Maybe it once held a pair of boots.

Each day a new surprise

On all four sides, from under the lid, numbered tags dangled on strings. Mr. Priest told me to pull tag #1. I pulled, and out came a tiny plastic car. He said tomorrow I should pull tag #2 and the next day #3. The number of tags equaled the number of days I had to stay in bed.

So each day I tugged at a new tag, and out came a new surprise — a toy compass, a magnifying glass, a pen, a 3×5 notepad, a plastic comb, a pocket mirror, a little tractor, etc.

Just a regular guy

His name really is Guy, and he was just a regular kind of guy, so my real surprise was Mr. Priest, himself.

I never guessed he could pick me out from the batch of kids playing tag on bikes. Yet here he was, standing beside my bed.

I never dreamed Mr. Priest might have once been a child himself. Yet his tags spoke the language of a 12-year-old. They glittered more brightly than the golden bells and pomegranates at the hem of Aaron’s robe.

I would not have picked Mr. Priest as our “Most Creative Neighbor.” We lived among merchants, missionaries, and college professors. Some told my parents how concerned they were for their injured child. Yet it took the imagination of a glad gardener to point a 12-year-old’s thoughts away from another long day in bed ─ toward today’s surprise.

That’s how I remember Mr. Priest, a regular guy with a box of surprises. Read the original post here.

Click to tweet: Kindness matters. Mr. Priest and his box full of surprises. #smallactsofkindness #kindness

Dave Parks began writing in 1957 as editor of the ReDit, his high school paper.

He edited books.

He edited professional papers, with permission to reference two.

He’s a member of  Word Weavers and the American Christian Fiction Writers

Favorite Friday Fiction: Out of the Frying Pan by Michelle Griep and Kelly Klepfer

Today’s favorite is by a duo of writers: Michelle Griep and Kelly Klepfer. Out of the Frying Pan is a cozy mystery with a touch of romance. I like a bit of comedy in my mysteries, especially if it involves dry wit.  Out of the Frying Pan has all of the above. So if you like cozy mysteries, you’ll love this one…

Click to tweet: Favorite friday fiction. Out of the Frying Pan by Michelle Griep and Kelly Klepfer. #Fridayreads #FavoriteFridayFiction

Out of the Frying Pan

When the chef of Sunset Paradise Retirement Village ends up dead, life for sisters Fern and Zula Hopkins is whipped into a froth. Their zany attempts to track down the killer land them in hot water with Detective Jared Flynn. Should he be concerned about their safety or the criminal’s? 

But there are deadly ingredients none of them expect. Drugs. Extortion. International cartels. And worst of all…broken hearts—especially when the Hopkins sisters’ niece KC arrives on the scene. 

Before the snooping pair gain any headway with the case, it becomes crystal clear that the sisters share a mysterious secret that takes life from the frying pan and into the line of fire.

Roses For No Reason

Half a Dozen Red Roses

Photo courtesy of pixabay

By Ellen Andersen

It was an ordinary day at work. I’d been in and out of patients’ rooms, developing discharge plans for them when they left the hospital and returned home. In the middle of the day, someone came to the office and asked for me. When I answered, he came in with a bouquet of half a dozen red roses.


Shocked, I wondered what they were for. The card attached said they were from my boyfriend, Doug. It wasn’t Valentine’s Day. It wasn’t my birthday. It wasn’t an anniversary. Why in the world would he send me roses? I had no idea, and the card didn’t provide any clue either. It just said, Hi Ellen. Hope you’re having a good day. Love, Doug.

Doug was romantic, but he didn’t have a lot of money. I couldn’t figure out why he would just decide to send me roses. We’d been dating for about six months or so, but this was a lot.

“Wow! Is it your birthday?”

“No, I have no idea why he sent them.”

“Really? Is it your anniversary?”

“No. I really don’t know why he gave them to me.”

My husband’s never sent me roses”, my supervisor said. “You must be really special to him”

“I guess so…” I said, still puzzled.

The next time we saw each other, Doug asked me if I’d gotten them.

“Yes, I did. What made you do that?”

“I was just thinking about you and wanted to let you know”, he said.

“Wow. Thanks “I said. “That was really nice. It made me feel special. Everybody at work asked me why you’d sent them and I couldn’t tell them. It was funny because they didn’t believe me.” He just smiled.

It’s been nearly 20 years and I still have no idea why Doug sent flowers that day. But I think I’ll always remember it. It brightened my day and told me how much I meant to him.

Click to tweet: Small acts of kindess: Roses For No Reason by Ellen Andersen. #kindnessmatters #ValentinesDay