Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Love on a Dime by Cara Lynn James

It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old...or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!

You never know when I might play a wild card on you!

Today's Wild Card author is:

and the book:

Love on a Dime

Thomas Nelson (June 1, 2010)

***Special thanks to Katie Bond of Thomas Nelson for sending me a review copy.***


Cara Lynn James is a debut writer who has received numerous contest awards from Romance Writers of America chapters and the American Christian Fiction Writers. She resides in northwest Florida with her husband Jim. They have two grown children, Justin and Alicia; a grandson, Damian; and Papillion named Sparky.

Visit the author's website.



N e w Y o r k C i t y , M ay 1 8 9 3

Jack slowed his pace, his courage once more waning at

the sight of the Westbrook home across the way. Anxiety

twisted his stomach in a knot. But in the dusky light,

Lilly’s glow of confidence reignited his own flame. She

understood her parents far better than he did. Since she believed her father

would agree to the marriage, why should he hesitate?

Arm-in-arm they strolled across the road. Among the row of

fine brick townhouses facing them, the Westbrook house stood

three stories tall like all the rest, with long, paned windows overlooking

Washington Park.

Mr. Ames, the ancient butler, opened the front door. Jack and

Lilly entered the dimly lit foyer.

“Where is my father this evening?” Lilly asked the butler.

“In the back parlor, miss.”

“Shall I go with you, Jack?”

“No,” he whispered, squeezing her hand, “I’d rather do this

on my own. Say a prayer all will go well.”

Jack strode toward the parlor, determined to plead his case.

Every nerve ending in his body fired with life—and more than

a few with apprehension. He’d calm himself and then ask Mr.

Westbrook for Lilly’s hand in a respectful tone, solicitous, but

not fawning. He’d restrain his usual brash attitude and hope Mr.

Westbrook would consent to a marriage most would deem unsuitable.

If he weighed the odds of success, he wouldn’t even try.

Jack inhaled a steadying breath and increased his pace down

the narrow hallway leading to the back of the house. Gas sconces

threw a pale light along the Persian runner that muffled his footsteps

to a soft shuffle. The house lay silent except for the noise of

a sledge hammer beating against his chest.

Lord, I need a large dose of Your strength. Don’t allow me to cower.

I’ve never been a quitter and I don’t want to start now.

He hadn’t asked God for much in the past, but this was too

important to rely on his own untested powers.

Jack paused before he came to the door of the back parlor,

straightened his bow tie, and squared his shoulders. Voices stopped

him before he moved forward. He recognized Mrs. Westbrook’s

high, girlish tone. He’d wait for a lull in the conversation, excuse

his entry, and then ask to speak to Mr. Westbrook. Jack waited for

several minutes before he heard his name.

“Thomas, I noticed Jackson Grail seems especially fond of

Lilly. You don’t suppose he wants to marry her, do you?”

Jack winced at the worry in her voice. With his back to the

wall he stepped closer to the parlor.

Mr. Westbrook chuckled. “No, my dear, he’s George ’s friend,

not Lilly’s. She ’s hardly more than a child.”

“For goodness’ sake. Lilly’s nineteen, certainly old enough to

catch the eye of a young man.”

“All right, she ’s not my little girl anymore. But ready for marriage?

No, Nessie, I don’t believe so. She has lots of time to choose

a mate. There ’s no rush.”

“Hmm. I wouldn’t want her to delay too long. I’ve given considerable

thought to her future.”

“I’m sure you have,” Mr. Westbrook murmured. Jack pictured

his wry smile.

“Well, it’s my duty as her mother to guide her. Oliver Cross

or Pelham Mills come to mind as possible suitors. Maybe Harlan

Santerre. He’s such a polite young man and his mother and I have

been friends since childhood. Yes, he’s most definitely my first


Jack let out the breath he’d been holding, knowing he should

break away, cease his eavesdropping—

“They’re all acceptable to me. But what about young Grail?

You say he might be interested in her. He’s got a good head on his


“But no money in his pocket. Need I say more?”

Jack frowned and tried to swallow, but his mouth was dry.

Mr. Westbrook sighed. “No, my dear. You’re absolutely right.

He’s not suitable, though I do like him.”

“I do as well. And now he’s as finely educated as our own

George. But he would have to strike it rich quickly in order to court

Lilly,” Mrs. Westbrook added. “And that’s highly unlikely.”

“Nearly impossible, I’m afraid. So I hope you’re wrong and

young Grail hasn’t set his heart on Lilly.” Her father sighed. “He’s

an intelligent boy. I’m sure he’d know better. Especially when she

has an ambitious mama anxious to make her the perfect match.”

Mrs. Westbrook laughed. “Thomas, do stop your teasing.”

Jack bumped his shoulder against the curlicues of a large gilt

picture frame. Turning to give it a hard shove, he stopped himself.

He wouldn’t let his temper get the better of him. Leaving the oil

painting crooked, he stumbled down the patterned runner, away

from the awful voices. When he came to the foyer he dropped into

a rosewood chair and ignored the curious stare from Mr. Ames.

Jack buried his head in his hands and tried to gather his wits

before he had to face Lilly. But the Westbrooks’ conversation

resounded through his mind. Poor. Unsuitable. Why had he ever

thought they’d accept him as a son-in-law? His love for Lilly had

banished all reason. He’d lived in a fog of hope these last several

months, but now it cleared.

At the sound of light footsteps he looked up. “What did Papa

say?” Lilly asked, grasping his hands.

He glanced at her without speaking and then saw his own

anguish reflected in her eyes. He so wished his answer could bring

her joy. She gently pulled him into the dimly lit sitting room. The

sheers and heavy velvet curtains blocked all but the final rays of

daylight from seeping through the windows overlooking the park.

They faced each other in front of the unlit marble fireplace, his arms

tight around her slim waist, her hands lightly touching his vest.

“Tell me,” she said in a rasping voice, barely audible.

“I never had the chance to ask, Lilly. When I got to the back

parlor your parents were already discussing appropriate husbands.

And my name wasn’t on the list.”

“That’s because they don’t know we love each other. Papa

has never refused me anything. It might take some persuasion, but

you can do it. We can approach him together.”

Lovely, pampered Lilly, who owned her father’s heart—

except when it came to marriage partners. And marriage among

the rich was certainly a business transaction. Their kind never

married Jack’s kind. He’d gone to St. Luke ’s and Yale with the

wealthy, but as a scholarship student, he didn’t belong to their set

no matter how hard he tried to fit in. Maybe he would’ve accepted

the impenetrable barrier if Lilly hadn’t swept into his life.

He gazed at her, drinking in her passion, memorizing her

large, expressive eyes and flawless skin, her tall, slender form and

thick brown hair framing her face.

Her eyes blazed like blue fire. “Come. We ’ll speak to Papa.

Right now.”

Jack caught her wrists. “No, I can’t. I’m so sorry. He won’t change

his mind. It’s pointless to even ask.” Save me the humiliation.

Her strangled cry pierced his heart. “You won’t even try? We

love each other. Isn’t that worth fighting for?” Lilly’s voice rose

with disbelief.

How could he explain he couldn’t abide her father’s rejection?

He refused to hear again that he wasn’t good enough to court

Lilly—once was enough. And he didn’t want her to elope with

him without her parents’ approval. Jack groaned. As much as he

adored Lilly, he wasn’t acceptable to the family. The daughter of

a prosperous banker, Lilly couldn’t marry a man without a family


“We can marry without their consent. You’ll find a good job.

I know you will. Don’t you see, Jack, we don’t need my parents’


“But I want their respect.” And he’d never gain their esteem

by stealing their daughter away. He turned from her, running a

hand through his hair. He ’d been fooling himself. How could

he provide for Lilly, care for her in a manner in which she was

accustomed? What could he promise her? A one room apartment

in a dingy part of town while he made his way in the world,

if he ever made it at all. How long before his beautiful, young

and idealistic bride would realize she ’d sacrificed too much for

an improbable dream? He ’d harm her if he stole her from her


He glanced at her and could see in her face the stubborn, naïve

hope that lingered there. But he understood reality as she never

would. He ’d let his love blossom before he should have.

Jack slowly moved away, steeling himself for the hurt yet

to come. “Your parents are right. I’m in no position to marry. I

should never have proposed, because I have nothing to offer.”

Lilly rushed to him and flung her arms around his neck, tears

spilling down her cheeks. “What about our love? Why do you

need more than that?”

“Lilly, we can’t exist on dreams. I have to earn a living. And I

can’t support you on a clerk’s salary. You’d miss your old life.”

Her lovely, soft features hardened. “You must think my love

is too weak to withstand hardship. It’s strong enough to survive

anything. Why do you doubt me so?”

Jack shook his head. “I doubt myself, not you.” What if her

confidence in his abilities weren’t warranted? What if he never

rose above petty clerk, despite his fancy education? A girl from a

society family, proud and successful for generations, could never

be content washing laundry, cooking meals, and scrubbing floors

on her hands and knees. She ’d grow bitter and resentful.

“I can adapt to less. I don’t care about a beautiful home. I only

want you,” she said, her voice rising with frustration.

He wouldn’t argue about the effects of poverty and how it

wore on a person. She wouldn’t understand. “If we came from

the same background, I wouldn’t hesitate to speak to your father.

But we didn’t.”

“But you will. I know it. I’ll wait until you feel ready to marry

me. There’s no hurry. I’m patient. I can wait forever.” She pleaded

with beautiful eyes glistening with tears.

“No, please don’t wait for me.” Jack’s voice cracked like ice.

He wanted her to wait, but he couldn’t ruin her chances of

making a suitable, maybe even a happy marriage. The odds of

succeeding in the business world without connections were small.

If and when he’d proven himself, he’d return and hope she ’d still

want him. And forgive him. But he couldn’t ask her to wait.

He blotted her tears with his handkerchief, but they kept

streaming down her face. Her slender shoulders heaved with soft

sobs. He kissed her again gently and then retreated to his bedroom

before he was tempted to crush her in his arms and beg her to

elope. He’d planned to stay for the week as George ’s guest, but

now he needed to leave quickly.

Within ten minutes he was gone.

Jack’s heart slammed against his ribs. The past two weeks had

been a misery. He couldn’t sleep. He couldn’t eat. Go back, go back!

his mind and heart screamed. You’ve made a terrible mistake!

His stomach roiling, Jack fought to keep a dignified pace and

not run all the way to Washington Square. At last, he stood before

the Westbrook home and tapped the front door knocker against

the heavy wood.

He’d explain he couldn’t manage without her and his infernal

pride had blocked his common sense and their tender love. Would

she accept his apology? They’d work something out. He didn’t

know how exactly, but they would. He knew their union was sanctioned,

indeed designed, by God.

Mr. Ames pulled the heavy door open. “May I help you, sir?”

“Yes. Is Miss Westbrook at home?”

The hunched-over butler shook his head. “They’ve all gone

abroad. They sailed yesterday.”

Jack’s cautious optimism collapsed in a heap of despair. “And

when will they return?”

“Next spring.”

Next spring. Jack groaned. “G-Good day,” he mumbled, turning

from the door.

I’m too late. I’ve lost her.

On e

N e w p o rt , R h o d e I s l a n d — J u ly 1 8 9 9

Six years later

With a deep sigh of satisfaction, Lilly Westbrook

whipped the last page of her manuscript out of

the Underwood typewriter. Carefully she shredded

the carbon and threw the messy strips into the wastebasket. No


maid could possibly reconstruct her work and tattle

to Mama.

For a moment, a wave of sadness overshadowed the pleasure

she felt at finishing another story. How she longed to share her

secret with her mother, but as much as Lilly hated deception, she

knew Mama would never understand. Mama was proud of her for

dabbling in poetry, but this?

No. It was best to stay behind closed doors to write her dime


Lilly shuddered to think of the disgrace she ’d bring upon herself

and, even worse, upon her family, if her secret was revealed.

The very notion of social ostracism weakened her knees and left

her legs wobbly. A twinge of guilt pinched her conscience as it

often did when she considered her concealment. Yet why look for

trouble when her work was progressing so well?

Lilly scrubbed her hands until all evidence of the carbon paper

and inky ribbon disappeared into the washbasin near her bed, then

covered the typewriter Mama had given her as a birthday gift a

few years before. Mama thought a typing machine unnecessary

for a poet, but she wasn’t one to begrudge her children anything

within reason.

Lilly withdrew a letter from her skirt pocket and smiled as she

re-read the last lines.

My dear Lilly,

I want to again express my thanks for all you’ve contributed to

the Christian Settlement House of New York. We so value the time

and effort you have devoted to assisting our young ladies with their

sundry life skills and English fluency. Your exceptional generosity

and financial support have enabled us to continue our work in accordance

with the Lord’s purposes.


Phoebe Diller, Director

Miss Diller’s kind words sent a rush of warmth to Lilly’s heart

and strengthened her resolve to continue writing. For without the

profits from her novels, she couldn’t afford to donate more than

a few dollars to her favorite charity. How could she possibly quit

writing when her romance novels provided so many blessings to


Lilly locked the final chapter in the rolltop desk by the bay

window and hid the key beneath the lining of her keepsake box.

Time for a well-deserved walk by the sea. She removed her reading

spectacles and placed her straw hat decorated with bright

poppies squarely on top of her upswept hair. After a last furtive

glance toward the desk, she left her bedroom to the morning sunshine

that splashed across the shiny oak floor and floral carpet.

All the way down the staircase she congratulated herself for

typing “The End” of her story, though it was only a few days

before deadline. That was much too close for comfort. She sighed.

Too many social events had disrupted her normal writing routine

this summer. But she had no choice but to force a smile and

attend the functions, even though most of them bored her to


She wouldn’t think of that now. At least she’d finished the manuscript

before the deadline and for that she’d treat herself to a few

minutes out of her room. With a light heart, she strolled through

the deserted foyer, past Mr. Ames, the butler, and out the front

door. A beautiful day greeted her with its sun-blessed smile.

As she crossed the veranda, her sister-in-law Irene Westbrook,

seated at the end of the porch, peered over a small, familiar book.

The lurid cover of Lilly’s latest novel, Dorothea’s Dilemma,

popped out in garish color. Lilly stopped short and pressed her

palm over her gyrating heart.

“Oh my,” she murmured. She’d never expected to see one of

her novels in her own home, let alone in the hands of her brother’s


Irene smoothed her halo of silky blonde curls caught up in a

loose pompadour. She laid the slim paperback on her lap, her eyes

gleaming with curiosity. “Why hello, Lilly. Where have you been

on this beautiful afternoon? Cooped up in your bedroom again?

My goodness, what do you do in there all day?”

“Sometimes I enjoy a few hours of solitude.” Lilly’s nerves

seized control of her voice and it rose like the screech of a seagull.

“I’m sorry I interrupted your reading.” Heat crept into her skin as

Irene watched her, face aglow with interest.

“Do sit down, Lilly.”

She slipped into a wicker chair opposite Irene. A gust of

salty air, typical of Newport’s summer weather, blew in from the

Atlantic and brushed its cool breath across her cheeks. She prayed

it would fade the red splotches that came so easily when embarrassment


Irene cocked her head. “Is something wrong? You look positively


“No, I’m fine.” Though every fiber of her body continued to

quiver, Lilly steadied her breathing. She folded her hands in the

lap of her charcoal-gray skirt and willed them not to shake.

“You aren’t shocked by my novel, are you?” Irene smirked.

“Of course not.” Lilly squirmed around on the soft chintz

cushion and avoided Irene ’s skeptical stare. “Why should I be


Irene leaned forward. “Some people claim dime novels are

trash, and from your reaction I thought you might be one of those

faultfinders. Of course they’re wrong. These books are filled with

adventure and I love adventure.” She rolled the last word around

her tongue like a stream of honey.

Irene, the niece of Quentin Kirby, one of San Francisco’s

silver kings, fancied herself an adventuress, but Lilly inwardly

disagreed. Irene merely appreciated fun and frivolity more than

most. That hardly made her a woman like the heroines of Lilly’s

books. “I’m so sorry, Irene. I didn’t mean to criticize your choice

of books. I just wondered where you obtained your copy.”

“I discovered it in the kitchen while I was searching for a

blueberry tart.” Irene grinned as if Lilly ought to admire her


“One of the scullery maids must have left it there.”

“You took it without asking permission?” Lilly could scarcely

believe Irene had wandered downstairs to the basement kitchen,

the domain of servants who strongly disapproved of visitors,

even the family.

“Why yes. Well no, not exactly. I borrowed it. As soon as I finish

reading, I’ll give it back. Of course.”

Irene tapped the big, red letters spelling out the author’s name

across the cover. “Fannie Cole. She’s a splendid writer, the very

best. Have you ever read any of her books? I devour them like


Lilly’s heart lurched. “Naturally I’ve heard of her. I believe

her stories are rather popular.”

“They’re enthralling.”

At the sound of the front door squeaking open, Lilly looked

away with relief.

Mama bustled onto the veranda, a frown knitting her eyebrows.

“What’s that about Fannie Cole? She’s quite infamous, I

hear.” Glancing from Lilly to Irene, Mama’s eyelashes fluttered, a

sure sign of agitation. “Oh, I see you have one of her books . . .”

Lilly knew her mother couldn’t let this breach of propriety

pass without comment. On the other hand, the kind and ever

tactful Vanessa Westbrook would hate to offend her new daughter-in-


“Mama, Fannie Cole writes harmless fiction. You needn’t

worry.” Lilly smiled her assurance, hoping she’d veer off to

another topic.

Her mother sunk into a wicker chair beside Irene. “Perhaps,

my dear, but you must admit, there are so many more uplifting

novels.” She patted Irene ’s arm, which was robed in a cream silk

blouse that matched the lace of her skirt. “Lillian is a poet, you

know. Her work is delightful. You must read it. I’ll go fetch you

a copy.”

Lilly cringed. “No, Mama. I wrote those poems years ago. She

wouldn’t be interested in the meanderings of an eighteen-yearold

ninny. It’s sentimental tripe.”

“Nonsense, my dear. You’ve always been much too critical of


“Nevertheless, I’m sure Irene would prefer Fannie Cole.”

Who wouldn’t? Lilly thought. Still, she appreciated her mother’s

enthusiasm for her meager literary efforts.

Irene tossed her a wide, grateful smile. “There, that’s settled.”

Mama’s round, girlish face tightened with distaste. “I wish

you wouldn’t read dime novels because . . .” She looked toward

Lilly for support.

“Really, Mama.” Lilly softened her voice, not meaning to

scold. “While some of the dime novels are sensational, others are

written to help working girls avoid the pitfalls of city life. They’re

moralistic tales that encourage virtue. Nothing to be ashamed of

reading.” Or writing.

“Exactly.” Irene beamed. “I couldn’t have said it better myself.

Of course, I read for the story, not the moral lesson, but I’m sure

it’s beneficial for those who enjoy a good sermon.”

Lilly suppressed a sigh of resignation. “No doubt Miss Cole

hopes and prays her words touch the hearts of her readers and

bring them closer to the Lord.” Lilly looked at Mama and Irene,

hoping they’d somehow understand her purpose and approve.

But both looked puzzled over her words.

Irene ’s gaze narrowed. “An odd way to spread the gospel,

don’t you think?”

“Not at all. The Lord is more creative than we are.” Lilly

bristled and then glanced away when she found her mother and

sister-in-law still staring at her.

She’d spoken up much more forcefully than she intended.

With a sinking heart, Lilly realized Mama would never accept her

viewpoint; it flew in the face of beliefs and opinions ingrained

since childhood.

Irene picked up a sheet of paper resting on a small table between

two pots of ferns and waved it like a flag on the Fourth of July. Lilly

immediately recognized Talk of the Town, a gossip rag published

by that scandalmonger, Colonel MacIntyre, the bane of Newport

society. He shot fear into the hearts of all upstanding people and

others who weren’t quite so virtuous. Lilly swallowed hard.

Mama gasped. Her pale skin whitened. “Oh my dear, that’s

hardly appropriate for a respectable home.”

Irene shrugged. “Perhaps not. But if you don’t mind my saying

so, it’s great fun to read. I’m learning the crème de la crème

of Newport are up to all kinds of mischief.” She laughed with


“Listen to this.” Irene leaned forward. “One hears that Miss

Fannie Cole, author of wildly popular dime novels, has taken up residence

at one of the ocean villas for the season. The talk about town

claims this writer of sensational—some might even say salacious—

stories, belongs to the New York and Newport aristocracy. Which of our

fine debutantes or matrons writes under the nom de plume, Fannie Cole?

Speculation runs rampant. Would the talented but mysterious author of

Dorothea’s Dilemma, Hearts in Tune, and several other delectable

novels please come forward and identify herself for her public?”

Lilly’s throat closed. She clamped her hands down on her lap,

but they shook like a hummingbird’s wings. Had a maid or a footman

stumbled across her secret and sold the information? Colonel

Rufus MacIntyre of Talk of the Town paid handsomely for gossip.

No one was safe from his long, grasping tentacles, including some

of the most prominent people in society.

“The colonel has mentioned Miss Cole in his column for the

last two weeks, so I expect we’ll hear more about her during the

summer.” Irene grinned as she studied the sheet. “I wonder who

she is. I’d love to meet her.”

Mama’s mouth puckered into a small circle. “Undoubtedly

someone from the wrong side of the tracks. No one we’d know.”

She punctuated her words with a firm nod.

Irene persisted. “You must have an idea, Lilly. You seem to

know everything that’s going on in society.”

Lilly turned away, sure that a red stain had again spilled across

her pale skin. Her sister-in-law was right. She did listen to all the

tittle-tattle, but she prided herself on her discretion. The foibles

of her set provided grist for her novels, not for spreading rumors

and innuendo.

“You give me far too much credit, Irene.” She hated to dodge

questions to keep from lying, but what was her option short of

confessing? She twisted the cameo at the neck of her tailored


Mama wagged her finger. “Mark my words. By the end of

the summer someone will discover Fannie Cole’s true name and

announce it to the entire town. Oh, my. What humiliation she ’ll

bring upon her family. They’ll be mortified.”

“How delicious,” Irene murmured.

Lilly groaned inwardly. Her subterfuge gnawed at her conscience,

worsening day by day, but she couldn’t turn back the

clock and reconsider her decision to write in secret.

She rose. “Will you excuse me? I need to take my walk now.”

With her head held high and as much poise as she could muster,

Lilly descended the veranda’s shallow steps. She strode across

the wide, sloping lawn that surrounded Summerhill, the old

twenty-two-room mansion the Westbrooks rented for the season.

Once she reached the giant rocks that separated the grounds

from the ocean, she picked her way over to a smooth boulder that

doubled for a bench. As she ’d done every day since her arrival

three weeks ago, Lilly settled onto its cold surface. Instead of

watching the breakers pound against the coast and absorb the majesty

of nature ’s rhythm, she rested her head in her hands and let

the breeze brush against her face.

What would happen if her beau, Harlan Santerre, discovered

that she and Fannie Cole were the same person? The wealthy railroad

heir, a guest of the family for the eight weeks of summer,

miraculously seemed ripe to propose. Her mother kept reminding

her how grateful she should be that such a solid, upstanding man

as Harlan Santerre had shown interest in a twenty-five-year-old

spinster with no grand fortune and no great beauty. Mama and the

entire family would be humiliated if her writing became public

knowledge and Harlan turned his attention elsewhere.

Yet the Holy Ghost had urged her to compose her simple stories,

and as she wrote, her melancholy gradually faded. Her enthusiasm

never waned thanks to the joy she received from doing the Lord’s


Why would He allow someone to ruin her and end the good

deeds she accomplished? He should smite her enemies instead. All

her life she ’d trusted the Lord to guide her and protect her, but

never had she needed His help more than now. But would He continue

to shield her?

Trembling, Lilly tossed a stone into the roiling surf and

watched it sink into the foamy white waves. What if the surge

of curiosity aroused by Colonel MacIntyre didn’t fade away and

everything she held dear was threatened?

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