Peace In The Valley

 

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So not too long ago I reviewed the second book in the trilogy set at the Double S Ranch in my own home valley in central Washington. The third book is Peace In The Valley. Ruth Logan Herne is fast becoming one of my favorite authors. This world is so often dark and ugly, but the two books I’ve read of hers so far are a great escape.

Peace in the Valley was even better, in my  opinion, than Home on the Range and that was pretty darn good. Chivalrous men and romance, cattle ranching and children, family and faith. These novel are good, clean reads. I highly recommend them.

I love the country setting, especially as it’s my home! I admire the strong women and the community they bring to the family of cattle ranching guys.  I’m now a fan of these wholesome stories and the characters are people I feel like I know. I root for them, I’m looking for them in town now…ha ha! No, but really, Mrs. Herne has developed her characters well. The stories satisfy me in that the problems are overcome, the good guy’s dreams come true…and so many people don’t write like this anymore. I’m not part of the fiction reading public that needs graphic and terrible tragedy to feel something. I want a good place to “go” and then leave again with warm feelings, ready to enter my own world again. Ruth’s books do that for me.

In Peace in the Valley I fell in love with Trey. Who wouldn’t? He’s a dreamy dude and you’re missing out if you don’t meet him. Lucy is a woman of strength and conviction, not afraid to work hard and scrabble for a living. She’s doing her best to raise her own children alone, and her troubled teenaged sister-in-law. Her late husband was a no-good and it appears to have run in the family.

You can read the first chapter here

The Christian themes of forgiveness and grace, of making your wrongs right and doing the right thing even if it hurts are woven throughout a nicely paced story. The men in the book will make you wish you’d married a cowboy. The strong but tender and manly ideals to live by, to teach to children and to model to teens is what the Stafford men are about, even if that’s not what they were once. Redemption is a big deal in the two books I’ve read in this trilogy. I’m going to order the first one now, because how can I go on without reading the beginning of the tale? Each book will stand alone, but really the characters are so fabulous I’ve decided I need the first book.

My thanks to the publisher for sending me a copy of this book to review. It’s an unbiased review and the book was free. I have enjoyed reading Ruth Logan Herne and have happily found that she is prolific and there are lots more books to read.

 

About this book:

In spite of their differences, Trey Walker Stafford knows he owes his life to cowboy and legendary rancher Sam Stafford—the uncle who rescued him after his parents’ death. Trey had left the Double S Ranch to pursue music against Sam’s wishes, but returns to central Washington when he learns he’s the best match for a procedure that could save Sam’s life. Although Trey’s found country music fame and success, he’s also endured the tragic loss of his wife. He croons about love, but struggles with a yawning emptiness he can’t explain.

Overwhelmed by a growing list of challenges, but mistrustful of Stafford men, single mother Lucy Carlton reluctantly accepts Trey’s help to revive her crumbling farm when Sam instructs him to repay the overdue debt to her family.

As the two grow closer, Trey slowly begins to open his heart to this beautiful woman and strives to let go of the grief he’s held for years. Lucy has a complicated history of her own. Can Trey accept her as she is, learn to forgive the past, and find the elusive peace he’s sought for so long?

Waterbrook & Multnomah Fiction

See the author’s bio

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Reflections of the Evening

I noticed a spice to the night air as I left the barn. Almost like cinnamon but not quite. I silently thanked the Lord for the blessing of that scented air, practicing thankfulness despite of the grumbling voice inside the back of my head somewhere that complained about the biting chill.
It’s nearly the middle of May and it’s been unusually cool for us in central Washington. Inside the barn I had given the last bottle of milk to the two orphaned goat kids, and put up the milkers separate from their kids so I could have the morning milk for our family. The chores had all been done around five o’clock, three hours earlier, but these last few things I call putting the barn to bed. I tuck them all in so-to-speak. Give every animal the once over, checking for signs of illness or injury after being out on the ten acres of pasture all day. I always check to make sure the Icelandic sheep have come up into the corral for the night. Our Maremma livestock guardian dog will keep a close eye on everything, but it still makes me feel better to know the sheep are all locked up safely for the night. Last night there was a large owl flying over the chicken house for awhile. Regal, our LGD would make short work of the bird if she thought it had access and could do any damage, but the chickens, like the sheep and dairy goats, are all snug and safe, roosting for the night in their henhouse.
Before leaving the barn I took grain into the stall and turnout pen I keep my two East Friesian ewe lambs in. They aren’t tame yet, I’ve had them for a short time, and as I want to milk them next year, I’m doing my best to win their trust and affection. If a sheep doesn’t love you it hates you. If she loves you, you’ve never had a better cuddle buddy. My daily routine always includes bringing those two girls treats so I can scratch them a bit and get them to know me and my voice. In the book of John, Jesus says, “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me.”
I take the words to heart as I try to get to know my sheep and let them know me.

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I’m sitting at the dining room table now, with my MacBook and decaf tea to warm up from my last trip to the barn. I’ve sweetened the tea with coconut sugar and added some fresh raw goat milk. Our youngest son is dozing off in our bed, on my husband’s side. My husband is a paramedic and like every firefighter/medic wife, I’m used to his side of the bed being empty often. I’m smarter than some, I fill that side with a child to snuggle with and don’t feel so lonely. My days are filled with chores and my interests and my children. It’s busy and sweet. Living in the country was a childhood wish, and God answered my prayers, because here I am, on a ranch. With horses. Horses that any princess would dream of riding. Flashy, pretty horses.

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I love to sit in my living room in the mornings with a sheep or goat milk cappuccino, my Bible and a view of green hills, Cowiche mountain, and pastures all around dotted with horses. I’m deeply content on those sunny, warm mornings, thinking of the pleasures of the day. Maybe I’ll be making cheese? Or perhaps it’s a batch of soap, or cleaning fleeces from the shearing a few weeks ago…or learning to spin fleeces into yarn.

 

My children have grown up with this rich life. The freedom to learn at their own pace, doing schoolwork outside or cozy in the window seat with a cat or dog, or even a sugar glider these days. They were able to pursue their own interests and explore the world at leisure through good literature and nourished on the Words of Life. Homeschooling in the country has been supremely rewarding.

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My life is full and busy. It always has been. I have a great love of learning, and so I juggle a plethora of hobbies and projects that mostly include farm animals. Reading and research are fun, but being the midwife for my Miniature Nubians every year during kidding time is like Christmas morning over and over. You never know what colors and sexes are inside the “packages” until they come out. The thrill doesn’t wane. You can’t experience that in a book. Not the emotions of it, the smells and sounds. I was likewise blessed this year with a short and sweet lambing. I had only two ewes this winter, but both lambed unassisted with no problems, and both gave birth to the most beautiful little girls.

I have been researching sheep breeds again and may add a Gotland to the herd. A swedish breed and none 100% pure in America, they are still fairly rare. They have lustrous, long locks that look perfect for spinning to me. I have the picture in my mind of spinning raw locks into textured yarn (like this) and making a gift of it to my grandmother who knits and crochets. She has done needlework for as long as I can remember and even taught me a few kinds when was a child, but I can’t remember how to do any of it. I’m not very interested in learning again really either, but I do want to learn to spin! There are spinning ‘sit ins” all over our glorious Washington state and I’m looking forward to learning and having a portable spinning wheel in time this year for at least one or two of those. I find the whole thing fascinating, and the spinning itself therapeutic. In this crazy world, fast paced and frantic, I look forward to sitting on my lovely (thanks to my husband) lawn in the sunshine and spinning afternoons away. Doesn’t that sound nice? Peaceful and quiet. It’s a good thing to teach my youngest son and grand daughter too. Maybe one of them will learn to make something practical with the finished yarn. Or not. No matter, it’s really the spinning itself I’m after.
It’s past my bedtime now. Morning seems to come early when animals know how to tell time and sound an alarm if you’re late- which they do. Somehow, they know when milking and feeding time is. I’m going to finish my tea, turn on the dishwasher so the jars are sterilized for the morning’s milk, and go snuggle in my bed with my last baby.
God is good.
John 10:27 NKJV

HOME

I live in a place that most people aspire to retreat to. I’m blessed and I know it.

I’m surrounded by things I love, scents that soothe and sights that dazzle. Me at least. I love agriculture. If something’s farm-themed I’m intrigued. I have little interest in city life unless it’s a short visit including great coffee and a fine meal. Seattle is great for that.

I enjoy a town without traffic jams, in fact if traffic is slowed down it’s likely due to a tractor on the road or else a semi-truck full of apple bins rounding a corner and taking up two lanes.

My neighbors all live like I do, our lives revolve around animals. Horse trainers, farriers, hay farmers and breeders of cattle. We live according to seasons and the lives and well being of animals or fruit trees. The orchard owners all have dogs so I have to include them. Who lives rurally without at least one dog? Nobody that’s who.

There’s not much to unsettle me here outside of managing family relationships of course. Families always bring out the best and the worst in us. (I’d like an amen for that one.)

I love to watch people, but not so much interact with them. I’d rather read or write about them. The trouble with that is you need community for so many reasons, including emotional health. People like me, who enjoy quiet and solitude though only get refreshed when they are alone. So living in the country suits me and others like me. For some reason this energy-sucking doesn’t include animals. I feel peaceful with the sheep especially. They don’t seem to be an emotional or mental drain. A physical one for sure though. Taking care of room and board, health and welfare for critters is demanding. But I remind myself it also keeps me fit.

My little oasis here is remarkable. Bu there are always things I wish I could include like gorgeous flower gardens, impressive vegetable plots, but you know that just really isn’t my gifting, so I stick with the goats, sheep, horses and poultry. I like ornamental things so my animals usually have lots of bling like spots and splashes, speckles and dots. A colorful rooster strutting around with his flock of various colored hens is a pleasure to my eye.

There are of course dogs and barn cats and what farm or ranch would be worth it’s salt without those? And because we homeschool and there are always children under our feet, we have the obligatory fish, hamsters, and even a tortoise and a pair of Sugar Gliders.

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This ranch is the perfect place for rest and healing. It’s offered new starts to a few young people, and it’s offered a vacation-like feel to others. But for those of us who live here, it’s quite a bit of work. Not that work is bad, it isn’t. But living here is definitely a trade-off for other things. Like yes, it’s feels like a vacation spot in the warmer months, but you can’t actually go on vacation. I’m tied down to the daily responsibilities of milking the dairy herds. When there are lambs and goat kids I’m busy with herd management like no other time of year. I don’t even know anyone else who could take over for me if I needed that. So, the payoff is that I get to do what I love, I just have to do it.

There are also plenty of peaceful spots to rest and read, do schoolwork or even write. I pray one day my children see the richness of getting to grow up here and not focus on the limitations. Gratitude is a great thing to cultivate.

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Antacids and Self-Discipline

I’m back to chewing chalky peppermint Tums throughout the day.

That’s the only kind that doesn’t make me gag. I kind of like that chalky-ness. Those fruity ones…agh! But anyway, I’m having issues with acid reflux and looking 7 months pregnant again. Every time I eat wheat or corn- bam! Instant bloat and suffering. You would think I’d learn but I’m stubborn. I refused to go to the specialist and instead just quit eating things that triggered these symptoms for several months. Man, I felt better. Looked better too.

But then cookies happened. A bowl of Frosted Mini Wheats here and there, Pirate Booty by the bowlful and suddenly I’m feeling sick again.

It’s too hard to admit I’m one of those people. What kind? Food issues people. I used to make fun of you. Sorry. Sometimes I’m a little mean. I don’t believe in karma but if I did…

My husband thinks I have no will power. Oh, how little he knows me. The truth is I weighed the consequences and decided I could live with them. But not for long. I’m ready to quit this nonsense now. A few other silly things too. Things maybe less consequential to some, but pretty heavy to me. Like straight ironing my hair. My curls want to stop suffering too.

I also decided to quit avoiding my MacBook and write again. I’m going to spend the summer with my faithful friends: books. Some to escape and some to educate. I have about 6 writing instruction-type books I’ve assigned myself. Summer school I guess. I’ve wanted to be a consistent, daily writer since I was a very, very small child. But now I’ve become a shriveled up adult, and somewhere along the way gotten fearful of what will come out of me. So should a few other people. (Snicker, ha ha. No, but seriously…they should be afraid too.)

I’ve been mired in responsibility and I’ve hidden out with a veritable zoo on my ranch. I’ve become lonely and eccentric, which isn’t all bad. Aren’t writers supposed to be odd? I’ve made an assortment of excuses for not writing seriously and a valid one is simply not having the experience necessary to put anything well-crafted out for other people’s eyeballs. So I’m trying to remedy that with my usual, private style. No other people to help. I mean face to face people. I plan on getting very familiar with the writers who have written the how-to’s I’ve purchased from Amazon. I just can’t face a conference or classroom yet. I don’t know why. Maybe I’ll only write drivel- the kind I hate and that will be embarrassing. Maybe I’ll write some horrid things about my childhood or let loose secrets about my life that will cause sideways looks and gossip in my small town. Or maybe I’ll write stuff that will make people roll their eyes, nod off, or worse yet, some old boyfriend will read my stuff and I’ll seem like a dork. Because listen, I had a past. I separate my life into two time periods and divide them one big line: B.C.  (Before Christ) So part of me worries about what people will think.

Because I’d like to write things that express my faith. I want to build other people up with inspiring and edifying stories with Jesus at the center. But you know, it’s hard to shake off the past and old messages in a wounded heart. And boy, has this heart been through the wars. I’m physicing myself up to get over it and just start. So, here goes nothin’. (Or everything.sniff, sniff.)

I’ve piddled around. I’ve attempted to master Scrivener software before writing anything to put into it. I have planned and procrastinated. I’ve set up a writing desk that I never sit at. In short, I’ve been a coward. So this is my summer to work on “craft”- I shrink even writing that, but hey, I guess it’s time to jump in and learn the language of writers and the ins and outs of publishing instead of remaining ignorant and comforting myself with the perpetual tomorrow I’ll write. Much like tomorrow I’ll start my diet.

Also, yesterday I sliced open my hand with a butter knife. Do you think that might be symbolic?

Home on the Range

 

I hadn’t read a novel by Ruth Logan Herne before. What a treat, I’m so glad I did. Not only was the story well crafted, but low and behold it’s setting was in my neck of the woods! Home on the Range  is a christian western romance. It’s #2 in a trilogy and talk about characters well done…strong, handsome and rich-men to swoon over. Let’s face it, every now and again we need a good romance in our lives and sometimes, well, sometimes that comes inside the pages of a book. Not only are the men handsome cowboys, but the ladies in these novels are strong, full of conviction and courage and of course, beauties to behold. Thank goodness because who wants to read about insipid weak-willed women? Not me.

(I hope you enjoy some shots around my ranch this week sprinkled in this post.And yes, that’s a snake in my house. Happens.)

About the book:

Can the brother left behind and a woman without hope work together for the good of two precious children?

Nick Stafford stayed in central Washington, working his family’s large ranch after his brothers left to pursue other passions—but his toughest job is being a single dad. As a child he watched his father fail at marriage and parenting, so Nick was determined to show him up. He’d be a better husband, father, and ranch manager than Sam Stafford ever was. Despite that commitment, three years after Nick’s wife left him, he has a daughter in trouble at school and both of his girls are facing issues that force him to rethink his stubborn plans.

For Dr. Elsa Andreas, life fell apart when tragedy caused her to abandon her family therapy practice and retreat to the backwoods of Gray’s Glen. Her school principal sister believes Elsa can guide the Stafford girls and that working with kids will draw Elsa out of her protective bubble.

Summer on the Double S teems with life and adventure. Amid the bounty of God and land, will Nick and Elsa find the courage to build futures based on faith rather than fear?

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What’s not to like about this tender and inspiring tale? The setting is the Double S Ranch in central Washington. I had such fun reading about places I know personally, including the bakery in Cle Elum. My adult kids travel an hour just to enjoy those donuts. Nick and Elsa had the maple bars in the story 🙂

I loved the country setting and the descriptions of familiar places and activities on the ranch. I love our ranch and I identified with Elsa, the main character, and her love for the ranch.

The plot and characters have substance, it’s about powerful and tragic social ills and realistic events and people with  just enough drama to keep you turning pages when you really should be doing laundry. Or dishes. Or making your family dinner. Anyway…moving on; I loved this book.

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I really didn’t think I would. I don’t usually go for romance novels. This one was full of faith, it wasn’t trashy or a shallow. It surprised me and I’m happy to have found a new author to love. Ruth Logan Herne knows how to write. I could see and smell and feel right along with the characters and that’s just the kind of thing we readers like. The experience of being immersed in the story and feeling we know and understand the characters. That’s the mark of a good, solid and well-written novel. Which is the only ind I can enjoy. I recommend Home on the Range, and books #1 and #3 as well.

*I received a copy of this book free from the pubisher in exchange for an unbiased review

Under The Cover of Light

Under the Cover of Light: The Extraordinary Story of USAF COL Thomas “Jerry” Curtis’s 7 1/2 -Year Captivity in North Vietnam

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In 1965, Col. Thomas “Jerry” Curtis’s helicopter was shot down over North Vietnam. He was immediately captured and spent 7½ years confined in a filthy 5′ x 7′ cell at the notorious Hanoi prison camp. Thousands of miles from home and unable to communicate with his wife and children, Jerry endured months of solitary confinement, suffocating heat, freezing cold, grueling physical and psychological torture, constant hunger, and unimaginable mental duress. And yet, time and again, the Light that darkness cannot overcome became his beacon of hope. Now, for the first time in print, Jerry shares the full story of his 2,703 days in captivity and what he learned about faith, hope, and the indomitable power of the human spirit.

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I learned so much in this book. Some astounding and profound things about life and the human spirit. I learned about the vital importance of community, unity, faith, and endurance. I also learned about evil and communism and the smallness of some mens souls.

 I learned a few things that angered me, like the fact that all the liberals and  hippies who demonstrated anti-war sentiments in the states while POWs languished, starving and suffering at the hands of American enemies, only fueled the intensity of torture and generally unspeakable treatment for the prisoners. The anti-war sentiments caused division in our country and also bolstered the confidence of godless, destructive people who were our enemies. The Vietnamese captors ramped up torture and withheld already starvation rations even more, and repeated to the POWs over loud speakers in the camps all the negative sentiments published and televised by the media to further frighten and beat down their prisoners. The men were mostly depressed while being so oppressed. They lived in filth and darkness of every sort. And yet, they maintained their ranks and faith and survived those harrowing years. Mostly. Some men of course, did not survive.

 We fought communism then, and now. The difference that frightens me is that men used to be men. Honor, bravery, courage and faith were more prevalent in our culture. Men and women used to endure and stay loyal to each other and their communities and their country, and most importantly their God. Nowadays I’m not so sure there are many of these types left. Character is forged and hardships may strengthen, but only with purpose and intent of the person.

The men in the camps suffered. We all know that. But did you know they used their minds to keep from going crazy in astounding ways? They had elaborate communication systems worked out in order to stay committed and sane. They knew the value of communication and unity as a means of surviving brutality in those camps, even if they were in solitary confinement. (and they often were). They had in one camp a university without pens and paper or even books. None of which they had access to. They lectured, memorized and taught each other languages, maths, mechanics, history and all sorts of different things. It was a real education even though it wasn’t recorded on paper. They also memorized as much of the Bible as possible. The “living Bible” they called it and so it was in truth. Each man memorized the portions he could and added to the whole. I found such beauty in the midst of such savagery. This book was phenomenal. On par with “Unbroken”.   COL Thomas “Jerry” Curtis‘s memoir is a story worth telling, and if so, certainly worth reading.

Jerry Curtis memorized hundreds of prisoner’s names, ranks, and shoot down dates in alphabetical order. He continued to be a soldier even though he was treated less than an animal. He wanted to be able to continue to help the fight in any way he could, as did most of the men. The POW leaders in the camps helped each other to sustain dignity and endure extreme conditions like men.

The men suffered broken bones and other injuries during their shoot downs that were never treated or treated correctly all those years. They all suffered permanent damage in one or many ways, and yet they were heroes until the end. They all agreed “every man has a breaking point” because each one reached his. There is no false bravado in this book. It’s genuine, and it’s very well-written. The authors did a fine job and I commend them for an extraordinary book that should be on every American’s night stand. God bless these men and the wives who waited for them.

How I pray the example in this book and other stories written like it will influence us. Wouldn’t it be beneficial if young people were offered wisdom and knowledge like this in school? Reading such true, real, and inspiring books could only help us. I know many homeschool families like mine, do use books like this in high school for their children. I’m grateful for that.

I received a free copy of this book from the Tyndale House publishers in exchange for an honest and unbiased written review. It was my privilege.