Look Alive: An Excerpt from Reviving the Commander

Reviving the Commander Banner IT 5 Stars

From Reviving the Commander, Book One in the Crowns Legacy series

Crowns Legacy Medal Gold

Reviving the Commander 3D“You must be about ready for dinner. I did plan for us to go to the palace for that,” Staid told Opal after their talk about Beltmon was over, but even as the words came out of Staid’s mouth, Opal recognized them to be an excuse.

For here they were, back in the central building of the military training site, having paused in a hallway on the opposite side of the building than the one they’d come down earlier. This hallway opened up into a wide court where recruits were working on their swordsmanship: some contending with fellow recruits, others matched up with swordmasters for critiques, and all of them currently practicing with wooden sticks of corresponding size and weight to swords they’d use in battle.

Opal’s eyes moved back and forth between Staid and the sword fighting that had arrested his gaze, and she spoke up. “You’d like to have a go?”

Staid’s head shifted as if it were going to shake but didn’t do so, determined not to risk missing anything. “I’ve not come to interrupt anyone’s routine today.”

“Mm.” Opal restrained a chortle. “My viewpoint may be an inexperienced civilian one, but according to what I see, I’d say a definite part of the men’s routine here today is swordplay. So. You should go play.”

Staid looked at her without entirely turning his head. “You wouldn’t mind?”

“As long as it doesn’t mean that I myself have to go swing one of those sticks around, no. I don’t mind.”

In response, Staid had his topcoat off in no time, but he did display a few seconds of uncertainty with it until Opal held out her hands to take the coat from him. “I’m not fully prepared,” Staid mumbled another halfhearted excuse as he rolled his shoulders to loosen up, but it was now clear that he wasn’t wearing a full suit today, only a white shirt and dark vest with his trousers, a fact that piqued Opal’s interest.

She watched Staid approach one of the swordmasters, and the man stopped, saluted Staid, and didn’t need more than a wordless second to know to pass his sword off to his superior and to step aside.

Without delay, Staid whipped around to the recruit standing there with a curious look on his face, and Staid’s sword thumped the recruit’s weapon downward with a solid knock of wood. “Look alive, soldier,” Staid advised with a roguish half-smile and a snigger in his throat, and in a flash, Opal saw Joshua, in mischievous laughter as he “galloped” his horsey on its head, checking to see if his audience caught the significance of what was happening.

During the minutes that followed, Opal’s thoughts ran out of room for toddler impressions as Staid himself came alive, a fierceness coming forth from him that Opal had never seen before.

“As for the man himself—well. He’s not in his prime anymore.” No. If his prime had been back in his twenties, he wasn’t in it anymore. Still, the silvery-gray-haired man now in action before Opal was a far cry from decrepit. As Staid balanced between giving the recruit instruction and opposing the young man to test his skill, Opal’s senses responded, a tingling sensation working down the length of her spine, so intense and pleasant that it staggered her. Oh. Oh dear.

Staid went on long enough to strengthen his wind but refrained from doing more, yielding the floor and the sword back to the swordmaster, and Opal was tempted to offer a round of applause as Staid headed back in her direction. Because applause would be conspicuous, though, she simply handed Staid his coat and told him, “That was something.”

“You think so?” Staid’s heavy release of breath held a rumble of gratification as he tugged at the bottom of his vest with one hand, and another half-smile came over his face, though this one had more of a curve than an edge to it. “Are you sure you wouldn’t like to swing one of those sticks around, Miss Whilstead? It’s all quite invigorating, to say the least.”

While her spine was still recovering from its tingle, Opal replied to Staid’s teasing with, “Wisdom tells me that getting myself walloped in the head with a rod of wood in front of everyone here would result in far more humiliation than invigoration for me.”

Staid laughed at that. “If you say so, ma’am.” He passed his coat from one hand to the other and gave his vest another tug as he and Opal continued down the hallway. When they’d made it around a corner and beyond the view of the sword fighters, Staid asked her, “Am I together?”

Opal looked up at him, reluctant to point out that a lock of his hair toward the front had been jostled from its previous place, but Staid must have read her expression. “I’ve no mirror,” he said, leaning a degree toward her. “Feel free to correct it, please, whatever it is.”

You look fine, sir. That is, just…” Opal hesitated and then accommodated him by reaching up to shift and smooth his lock back into order. She could only despair at the color she was certain came to call on her cheeks when she lowered her hand and her gaze found Staid’s, the moment extending a couple of beats after she’d already forgotten about his hair.

Oh. Oh, dear Providence. Do help me

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Façade by Pepper D. Basham

Book reviews are subjective. I tend to rate books not according to how “perfect” they are, seem to be, or are said to be in general but rather to how perfect they are to me.

Façade by Pepper D. Basham

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

(Click the title to find the book description/blurb.)

Olivia thrives on academics and hides away with books. But when her brother goes missing in German-occupied France, Olivia agrees to become a search-and-rescue spy. For the mission, she’ll just happen to be partners with Christopher, a former friend who walked out of her life in Façade by author Pepper D. Basham.

No, I didn’t read the book blurb before trying this ChristFic wartime romance. The book cover was enough to get this historical fiction lover to try Basham’s work for the first time.

One of the major aspects this story has going for it is the backstory, including the hero and heroine’s history. No, the book doesn’t take forever going over every particular of the past (not a bad thing), but there’s enough to give the plot a good foundation.

Now, some of the reflections and character actions/reactions are repetitive, and overall, I preferred the espionage action over the romantic side. While I certainly don’t mind some steam in a sweet romance, some of the physical descriptions felt overdone, perhaps especially because strategic physical seduction also plays such a prominent role in the story, for non-romantic reasons. Even so, the novella length works in the main characters’ favor, as they don’t really have time to wallow in their misunderstanding phase.

A worthwhile way to spend a couple or few hours of reading time.

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When Twilight Breaks by Sarah Sundin

Book reviews are subjective. I tend to rate books not according to how “perfect” they are, seem to be, or are said to be in general but rather to how perfect they are to me. Revell provided me with a complimentary copy of this book for an honest review.

When Twilight Breaks by Sarah Sundin

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

(Click the title to find the book description/blurb.)

As an American reporter in 1938 Germany, Evelyn Brand is determined to alert the US about the brutality of the Nazi regime. American graduate student Peter Lang, working on his PhD in Germany, has an inside position where he can feed sensitive information to Evelyn—a scheme that could prove deadly in When Twilight Breaks by author Sarah Sundin.

My goodness. What an excellent piece of work.

It isn’t so common these days for anything over 200 pages to keep me completely interested the whole time. But I was engrossed in this ChristFic novel, never once feeling like I’d run into dragging, redundant, or throwaway scenes.

It’s also rare for me to enjoy the “romance” as much as the “historical” in historical romance, but both aspects are strong here. Sure, I could have done without some of Evelyn’s and Peter’s denial and hesitance after a while, but they’re both natural and engaging characters that come alive on the page, and their chemistry is evident from the start. (And no, I don’t mean “just so attracted to each other’s perfect physical looks” kind of chemistry.)

Yes, this novel’s gorgeous cover has a relative stillness to it, with a single airplane and a woman’s slow walk on an empty street, but the story is full of suspense that leads to gut-wrenching action and a series of frightening twists.

Now, I do feel that one character’s ideological change of heart is too quick and complete fairly early in the book. That kind of inner turnaround could have used another beat of wrestling or doubt. Also, at a few important points, I wish the author would have left certain details unsaid, rather than stating the obvious. On a more minor note, a novel’s action scenes run the risk of feeling comic-bookish when the narrator begins to shout (!) the action at the reader with exclamation points.

Nevertheless, there’s nuance at the heart of this story, and its messages are compelling and relevant. So worth the read.

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Pride and Pumpernickel by Aisha Ford

Book reviews are subjective. I tend to rate books not according to how “perfect” they are, seem to be, or are said to be in general but rather to how perfect they are to me.

Pride and Pumpernickel by Aisha Ford

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

(Click the title to find the book description/blurb.)

Dana is confident in her job as a bakery manager, even while the bakery’s popularity takes a hit with the arrival of new competition in town. Dana’s boss hires Ethan, a gourmet chef, to give the bakery’s menu an upgrade, but Ethan and Dana don’t see eye to eye on how to move forward in Pride and Pumpernickel by author Aisha Ford.

My goodness! Has it really been about twenty years since the first time I read this ChristFic romance? It’s fun returning to modern reads where answering machines and pagers (and no cellphones) are the normal thing.

I’ve always gotten a kick out of this novel’s title, and I appreciate the nuance in the business problem the characters have to tackle. I like that this isn’t the kind of enemies-to-lovers romance where the hero and heroine behave like jerks to each other. The friction between Dana and Ethan isn’t overdone…

…until maybe a turning point of conflict based on a matter so trivial, I couldn’t take it too seriously. I also can’t fully buy into a guys-only scene where the guys are discussing Anne of Green Gables, Pride and Prejudice, and Mr. Darcy. It’s like trying to picture a bunch of Black men at the barbershop on the corner…talking about Jane Austen. I just don’t see it.

Nevertheless, a lot of sweet ChristFic romance fans would find this to be a pretty quick and easy dessert of a read.

__________

Dana is a relative of one of the characters in Stacy’s Wedding.

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