BLOGWORDS – Tuesday 18 April 2017 – TUESDAY REVIEWS-DAY – BOOK REVIEW and RELEASE EVENT – ABOVE RUBIES BY KEELY BROOK KEITH
TUESDAY REVIEWS-DAY – BOOK REVIEW and RELEASE EVENT – ABOVE RUBIES BY KEELY BROOK KEITH
It’s 1863, and schoolteacher Olivia Owens believes education should be a top priority in the newly established settlement of Good Springs. Between planning lessons and helping out on her family’s homestead, Olivia doesn’t have time for Gabriel McIntosh’s charming advances. When the council denies her request to build a schoolhouse, Olivia must challenge their ruling and teach private lessons—all while hiding frequent bouts of word blindness (dyslexia). If the council knew the new teacher couldn’t always read, they wouldn’t allow Olivia to teach anymore.
As a carpenter, Gabe McIntosh is working hard to help build the settlement of Good Springs, and once his land is granted, he begins constructing his own house. When Olivia discovers he plans to share it with her, she guards her heart from him. But Gabe is determined to win her affection and figure out what she’s hiding.
Olivia Owens shook a patchwork quilt open with a snap, rustling a flurry of white skippers from their clover flower feasts. She knelt on the blanket’s soft center and spread its corners flat over the grass near the settlement’s new church building. Indigo embroidery spelled out the names of her parents and siblings on the quilt’s yellow trim. Often, she was able to read the cross-stitched letters, but not now. The letters spelled words and the words had meaning. She could stare as long as she liked when this happened, but words would not appear. The monster hid them from her, and she hid the monster from everyone else.
An hourglass shaped shadow moved over Olivia’s picnic blanket. Peggy Cotter hovered regally above, wearing perfectly polished boots, crinoline puffed skirts, and honey-hued ringlets shaded by a matching parasol. She smiled at Olivia, and dimples pitted her porcelain cheeks. “You won’t believe what I just heard from Frances!”
Olivia squinted from the sun glaring over Peggy’s parasol. “Do I want to?”
“Gabriel McIntosh kissed Cecelia Foster.”
No, she didn’t want to hear that. “Good for her,” Olivia mumbled.
“I should think not! Gabe is such a cad. Haven’t I told you?”
“Many times. Perhaps you should tell Cecelia.”
“No, she will discover it for herself soon enough.” Peggy flicked a lace-covered wrist and giggled. “And then there will be a scandal.”
Olivia glanced at the church families, who were preparing for the picnic. They were trying to build a Christ-honoring community here. She sent Peggy a pleading look. “Don’t spend the afternoon spreading gossip.”
“Fine. You might not care what happens in this settlement, but I do.” Peggy’s skirts swished and crinkled as she walked away with tiny, rapid steps. She slithered across the grass and wedged her fashion plate figure close to her mother. Peggy whispered to her mother and pointed at Cecelia.
No sooner had Olivia looked away and Gabriel McIntosh strutted past her quilt, holding a hammer. Perhaps it had permanently fused to his palm after two years of building in the settlement. His broad-shouldered frame blocked the autumn sunlight as he turned back to her. “That’s a big blanket for a girl with no food. Where is the famous Owens family feast this week?”
He almost got a smile out of her. She quelled it in time and resumed smoothing the blanket. “Walter and Alice went with my mother to get the food from our house after the service ended. They should be back soon.”
“You must have drawn the long straw today.” He grinned, deepening the smile lines on his clean-shaven face. Her mother was right: a handsome man shouldn’t be trusted.
“If getting up before dawn to start cooking is the more desirable task, then yes I suppose I did.”
Gabe stepped closer. His work-worn boots crunched fallen leaves. “You braided your hair differently.”
“No, I didn’t.” She reached for the braid that had fallen to the front of her pearl-buttoned jacket. He was right. “Oh, I had forgotten.”
“I like it.” He’d shed the waistcoat and cravat he had worn over his starched blue shirt to the morning service. Now he’d cuffed his sleeves, ready to fix something for someone. He pointed at the blanket with his hammer. “Do you need help with that?”
She raised an eyebrow at his tool and chuckled. “Are you offering to nail my quilt to the ground?”
“No.” He laughed with a robust happiness that drew the attention of the others at the after-church gathering. Women paused emptying picnic baskets, and men ceased their masculine conferring long enough to stare.
Olivia cringed. One little joke had escaped her lips, and now she would be the topic of hushed gossip all afternoon. That seemed to be all the parents in the settlement spoke of during social gatherings—which young person would marry whom and when. She hated hearing her name mentioned in those conversations, especially in connection with a cad like Gabriel McIntosh.
Gabe didn’t take his eyes off her. That must be the same look he had given Cecelia Foster before he kissed her. She tucked her chin, wishing he would move along. Wasn’t it enough that his jocularity had made a spectacle? Did he have to pretend to like looking at her too? If he caught a glimpse of Peggy Cotter, it would certainly divert his attention.
A dozen children, dressed in their Sunday best, were playing on the front steps of the newly dedicated chapel. The wooden heels of their leather lace-up boots clicked on the stone stairs. The girls twirled in their printed cotton dresses with their white stockings gleaming in the sunlight. Two of the boys started swinging from the wooden railing at the top of the steps, and soon all of the boys clamored for a chance to swing from it too.
Tomorrow morning they would be Olivia’s first class of students. She cupped her hands around her mouth so her voice would carry across the churchyard. “Please don’t play on the railing, boys.”
The children continued playing while singing improvised rhymes about pioneers clearing land and digging wells. The boys took turns hanging from the rails, dirtying their trousers more each time they dropped to the ground.
Gabe smirked at Olivia. “They aren’t going to obey you with that cheery tone. You will have to speak with authority if you want them to listen.”
She took his unsolicited advice and affected her voice with firmness but aimed it at him instead. “Don’t you have some hammering to do?” Without waiting for his response, she stood, looked at the children, and tried again. “No hanging from the railing!”
One of the boys lost his grip and tumbled to the ground. He sprang to his feet and popped his suspenders, laughing. Within seconds, the children resumed their rail swinging.
Gabe’s mocking gaze inflamed Olivia’s threadbare pride. She pretended to ignore him. Finally, he walked to the chapel. He spoke to the children as he passed them on the steps. His words were lost in the wind before they could reach Olivia’s ears, but the children immediately dispersed. He glanced back at Olivia and winked before he disappeared into the chapel.
She wished she could follow him inside. He was nice to talk to when he wasn’t trying to impress her or flirt. Both rankled, but flirtation only led to disappointment.
rem: Hullo Kelly, and congratulations on your new release! If you could live anywhere in any time period, where would you go?
KEELY: Eternity in Heaven.
rem: Great choice—perfect choice! Where did you find this story idea?
KEELY: Olivia’s story was complex and flowed from several directions at once for me–everything from my research of common problems in frontier settlements and common problems in churches to the world I’d already built in the Land during the Uncharted books to knowing she struggled with a learning disability before that was a labeled and understood issue.
rem: Nudges from all.over.the.place! Who was the easiest character to write and why? The most difficult?
KEELY: Gabe was so forthright I was able to write the whole story from Olivia’s perspective. He was definitely easier to write than Olivia because he’s extraverted and uncomplicated but rich in faith.
rem: And sometimes those pesky little characters just won’t open up to us! What do you munch on while you’re writing / researching / editing?
KEELY: I’m loving sweet potato PopChips at the moment. Oops… crumbs on the keyboard. J
rem: Sweet potato PopChips, now that sounds yummy! What do you do to recover once you’ve typed “THE END?”
KEELY: Good question! I’ve never typed “the end”. Maybe that’s why I keep going with this series J Truly though, since there are so many phases to book production, when I finish my polished 5th draft, it goes to my amazing beta readers. While it’s with them, I’m usually busy working with my cover designer or proof-listening to an audiobook version of another project. Then I’ll get the book back from my betas, make revisions, send it to my editors one at a time (content, copy, proofing), and while it’s with them, I’m usually exploring my next story idea. I took a month off writing and publishing last year and just wrote in my journals. I guess I write to recover from writing.
rem: I for one, am glad of it, too! I’m so involved with the people now—I wanna go visit The Land and spend some time with them…
Keely Brooke Keith writes inspirational frontier-style fiction with a slight Sci-Fi twist, including The Land Uncharted (Shelf Unbound Notable Romance 2015) and Aboard Providence (2017 INSPY Awards Longlist). Keely also creates resources for writers such as The Writer’s Book Launch Guide and The Writer’s Character Journal. Born in St. Joseph, Missouri, Keely grew up in a family that frequently relocated. By graduation, she lived in 8 states and attended 14 schools. When she isn’t writing, Keely enjoys playing bass guitar, preparing homeschool lessons, and collecting antique textbooks. Keely, her husband, and their daughter live on a hilltop south of Nashville, Tennessee.
- Regret lurked beneath the surface of her guarded heart like a corpse beneath the surface of an icy pond.
- Her feet walked toward him even as her mind cautioned each step.
- Recalling his touch was insidiously impractical, but undeniably delightful.
- Liv, your worth is far above rubies.
- He paused with his mouth a whisper from hers. He had mint on his breath and a tremble in his fingers. As she inhaled the air he was finished with, he kissed her again.
- Every drop of joy in her heart pumped through her veins.
When a girl has an affliction that she believes will hinder not only her chosen profession but any chance at love, she hides it.
Only Olivia Owens and the Doctor knew about her affliction, so well did she mask it.
But as the settlement in the new land grew and developed, the intrepid Olivia was not so skilled at being patient. Championing her cause for a schoolhouse to teach in overtook reason, and Olivia marched against protocol set ty the village elders.
Fraught with a dear friend’s betrayal and the betrayal of her own heart, Olivia fights all the harder to keep her secret hidden. Especially from Gabe McIntosh, the young man who has declared his love for her.
But is keeping her secret the best plan? Or will her heart learn to trust, and will she gain confidence, even as others know of her disorder?
Ms. Keith has woven not only a compelling story line, but she has created a story world for the story to reside. The original books in the series set the stage, and Above Rubies brings depth and history to the first books, a clever and cheeky way of giving backstory. And it works.
Ms. Keith has introduced new characters in each new story, bringing the reader deeper into The Land—uncharted. Her descriptions are telling and tangible, and the conflicts are genuine, both within and between characters.
I have become fond of The Land Uncharted, and look forward to more in this series.
I received a free copy of this book, but was under no obligation to read the book or to post a review. I offer my review of my own volition, The opinions expressed in my review are my own honest thoughts and reaction to this book.
#Blogwords, Tuesday Reviews-Day, #TRD, Book Review and Release Day Event, Above Rubies, Keely Brook Keith