From bestselling authors David & Beverly Lewis
Melissa James has a picture-perfect existence--or so it seems. In reality, she has been looking over her shoulder her entire life. Just as her secrets are about to catch up with her, she seeks a haven in Pennsylvania Amish Country. Will her stay bring her peace, or will it bring danger to the Plain community?
Popular Christian author Lewis and her husband collaborate here for the first time, refreshing Lewis's trademark style with a welcome edge of suspense. Protagonist Melissa James has a secret that has become the underlying dread that defines her life. An unexpected glimpse into her past causes her to flee her expensive home and pen a farewell note to her husband, Ryan: "Please trust me... don't look for me.... " What Melissa doesn't know is that Ryan, an investment manager, has made disastrous choices that could cost them their marriage. One of the keys to unlocking their elaborate facades lies in Melissa remembering the "language" of flowers she learned from her father. Although the Lewises craft some beautiful settings and show more restraint in the use of dialect here than in former titles, the pace is often slowed by overly descriptive passages and italicized text (a single page has 22 italicized words). Some scenes don't ring true, including one of spiritual warfare and another of a high school romance turned sour. It is also contrived that Lela, a Pennsylvania Dutch "Plain" woman, feels led to pray about opening her home to someone in need just as Melissa stumbles down a Lancaster road looking for a place to stay. However, the Lewises throw in some artful plot twists and adeptly avoid the trap of a fairy tale ending. The final choices made by Ryan and Melissa will satisfy Beverly Lewis's devoted readership, as will the salvation message that holds the story together. (June)Forecast: Lewis's novels have sold more than 1.5 million copies combined, and her faithful readers will be more than content with this latest offering.
Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.
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Baker Publishing Group
May 31, 2007
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Excerpt from Sanctuary by David Lewis
She had hoped this day would never come.
Trembling, Melissa James returned the phone to its cradle and hurried to the stairs. She grasped the railing, nearly stumbling as she made her way to the second-floor bedroom. Her heart caught in her throat as she considered the next move. Her only option.
You can do this, she told herself, stifling a sob. You must....
Quickly, she located an overnight case. The piece of luggage had been packed years before?"in the event of such an emergency?"wedged between other travel paraphernalia, high on the top shelf of their closet.
Melissa?(tm)s mind reeled with the memory?"the flat, yet familiar voice on the phone just now. The restrained urgency in his words. Her breath quickened, heart faltering.
Tossing a few items of makeup and hair accessories into the overnight case, she grabbed her stationery and pen. Frantic as she was, she would never be able to forgive herself if she did not take time to write a quick note. That much, at least, she owed her husband.
Weeping softly, Melissa penned the saddest words she?(tm)d ever written. How does a young bride bid farewell to the man she has loved for three perfect years? The man who had altered the course of her life for better. He?(tm)d softened the blow of her past, brought purpose to her future. Ryan James, whom she loved above all others.
She stared at the note, caught between life and love, wishing ... longing for a resolve far different from the one she must choose. Signing the note, she placed it on his oak dresser, propped up against the brass lamp. Ryan was sure to find it there.
Snatching up her overnight case and purse, she rushed into the hallway. Her head whirled with unanswered questions: What to do? Where to go?
On the stairway landing, tall windows overlooked the backyard and the cove beyond. Melissa caught sight of the rose garden?"their glorious garden, now in full bloom?"bordered by the stone walkway and blue hydrangea bushes. Each delicate rose petal and leaf was bathed in sunbeams, their beauty mocking her, adding to her sorrow.
Downstairs, she peered tentatively through a tiny window in the entryway. Hand on the doorknob, her breath caught in her throat. Don?(tm)t panic! she told herself.
No time to waste ... still, she couldn?(tm)t leave. Heart pounding, Melissa turned, facing the living room one last time. Was it essential to keep Ryan in the dark about her desperate need to flee? Shouldn?(tm)t she run to his office, tell him the truth, and urge him to go with her?
Squaring her shoulders, Melissa walked to the back of the house. She paused to take in the enclosed sun porch, deliberately memorizing each detail?"the fragrance of roses, the pillowed loveseat, the hanging ferns in two opposite corners, and the various knickknacks, souvenirs of their stateside travels. She recalled the intimate, loving words shared, the soothing backdrop of ocean waves lapping against the wide shoreline. This sun-drenched room where Ryan often held her in his strong arms, tenderly stroking her hair as they stared at the wide expanse of sea and sky. Where the dreamy music of Debussy lulled them into a world of serenity and joy?"that place where evil cannot harm those who love.
The lump in her throat threatened to choke her. What precious memories! Too many to rehearse, in light of her present peril. Yet she lingered, refusing the urgency that threatened to overwhelm her. She allowed her gaze to wander to the gray-weathered dock, where impatient sea gulls perched on posts, waiting for handouts. To the sailboat, Mellie, christened with her own nickname, wrestling with low waves. To the cove and out to Block Island Sound, Fishers Island, and the wide blue of the Atlantic Ocean beyond.
Stricken, she turned toward the living room, where rays of light shimmered on Daisy?(tm)s satiny coat, their sleeping golden retriever. ?Good-bye, sweet girl,? she whispered. ?I?(tm)m going to miss you.?
Opposite the sofa, a red-brick fireplace with rustic wooden mantel boasted numerous framed memories. Hand trembling, Melissa reached for a recent photo, recalling Ryan?(tm)s pose in front of the historic Stonington Lighthouse. He was a slender, yet muscular man, twenty-seven years old, with sun-bleached brown hair and cinnamon eyes. Distinguished cheekbones shaped his tanned face, forming his warm and compassionate expression. Anyone, upon first meeting him, was drawn to his disarming manner. Just as she had been.
Good-bye, my darling....
Shuddering anew, she pondered his response to her note. How grieved his dear, handsome face, his tender eyes. Undoubtedly, he would be shocked.
Resisting the impulse to take the photo with her, she returned it to the mantel, glimpsing the wall prints of Monet?(tm)s Water Lilies nearby. Then her eye caught yet another piece of art. Seemingly out of place in a room dominated by French design, the picture depicted Christ holding a lamb. Printed below the image, the tender phrase: ?Come to me all ye who labor, and I will give ye rest....?
Melissa had never attended church as a young girl, yet she had felt compelled to purchase the print in New London last year. The picture had offered a strange respite from the underlying dread that defined her life, even these recent wonderful years with Ryan.
If only someone were able to push her backward in time to that childhood place of innocence where good, kind people ruled. Folk like dear Mr. and Mrs. Browning?"her nurturing neighbors?"and Grandpa and Nana Clark, her beloved maternal grandparents. Snap a finger, and there?(tm)d she be.
Time to go! She caught herself, the urgency returning. Melissa made her way back to the kitchen and peered cautiously through the window. After a time, she determined that it was safe to emerge. She opened the back door and dashed across the breezeway to the garage.
Inside, she locked the outer door and quickly slipped into her white Toyota Camry. Her hand shook as she reached for the remote, attached to the sun visor. She pressed the button, and the garage door rumbled open. For a split second she wondered what she might do if she were suddenly approached, made a prisoner in her own car.
Dismissing the terrifying prospect, she started the engine and backed the car into the driveway, glancing over at the splendid home, second thoughts haunting her.
It was then that she noticed Daisy shuffling onto the breezeway, mournful eyes watching her?"almost pleading. Poor thing must?(tm)ve heard her leaving and followed her out through the doggie door. She resisted the urge to rush to Daisy?(tm)s side, reassuring her that everything was all right. ?I?(tm)m so ... sorry,? she murmured.
Melissa adjusted the mirror, then looked over her shoulder out of both habit and necessity. All clear ... so far. Without delay, she pulled into the narrow street, past the gray-weathered waterfront homes and spacious front yards of her neighbors. Dozens of familiar landmarks?"private piers and yachts, and Latimer Reef Light in the distance?"all linked to her brief fairy-tale life.
Too good to be true, she thought as she sped down the street.
All she had ever dreamed of?"the fulfillment of her lifelong hopes and wishes?"grew more distant with each passing mile, then vanished into the moist sea air.