SPECIAL EXCERPT: In Sickness and In Health

Here at HBTB, we believe our physical, mental, emotional and spiritual health is so important. In his newest book, In Sickness and In Health: The Physical Consequences of Emotional Stress in Marriage (Harvest House, Feb. 19), Dr. David Hawkins, draws on more than 30 years as a counselor and explores with his two sons—an internist and a surgeon - the effects relational stress and trauma can have on our bodies. We’re pleased to bring you a special excerpt today, courtesy of the publisher.


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Are you sick and tired of being sick and tired? 

When you first met your spouse you probably had a physical response to the emotions you felt. You’d get butterflies in your stomach, your heart would race, and your palms would sweat. So why is it that after you’re married, it’s so hard to make the connection between your physical health and your emotional well-being when you’re facing relational stress?

If your emotional pain feels physical and your physical pain feels emotional, your marriage may be making you sick—literally. Join Dr. David Hawkins and his sons, an internist and a surgeon, as they explore the effects relational stress and trauma can have on our bodies. You will learn to . . .

  • recognize the link between emotional and physical pain

  • embrace the power of choice to become empowered by hope

  • find a path forward to ultimate restoration and regain your life

No matter what kind of pain you’re experiencing, or how long your health has been in decline, you don’t have to stay stuck. Discover hope and healing when you take control of your life.


With more than 30 years of counseling experience, David Hawkins, PhD, has a special interest in helping individuals and couples strengthen their relationships. Dr. Hawkins’ books, including When Pleasing Others Is Hurting You and Dealing with the CrazyMakers in Your Life, have more than 350,000 copies in print.


A number of years ago Christie and I built our dream home, only to discover it was not a dream and certainly didn’t feel like a home. Complications in building, the size of the home, and the location turned out to be disquieting for us. So we went on a search to find home once again.

What began as a challenging task soon turned into an adventure, something both Christie and I like to do. We enjoy house hunting, and this was no exception.

After finding several homes that suited our tastes but not our pocket-books, our Realtors, Mike and Robin, took us down a twisting and turning “Alice in Wonderland” lane to the water’s edge.

“It’s small,” Mike said, smiling. “But the view of Seattle is to die for, and David, you can practically launch your kayak from your front door. Can you handle that?”

Mike and Robin unlocked the door and stepped aside, allowing us to enter and take in our first glimpse of this 1920s cottage. While our former home was large and pretentious, this cottage screamed, “Come live in me!”

Simple and charming, the home seemed just the right size. This was the penultimate cottage on the lane, complete with sitting area facing the water, stone fireplace, and cozy bedroom upstairs.

“Yes, we know it’s small,” Robin said. “But it’s just the two of you now. This cottage wraps itself around you like a warm blanket. What do you think?”

We could not hide our enthusiasm. It was wonderful. This cottage said, “I will hold you. I will take care of you. You can feel safe here.”

Almost everything felt wonderful. Almost.

“Where can I do my writing?” I asked Christie anxiously when we were alone. “And what about my piano?”

“You can write there in front of the window overlooking the water,” she said, pointing to the sitting area. “Your piano will fit nicely against that wall.”

We bought that cottage, even though I wasn’t convinced. Then we went through growing pains—first adding a study onto the end of the house where I could do my work, and then changing the upstairs inglenook into a full master suite. We dreamed our cottage into a new, lovely home that fully met our needs. We needed a place that would fully hold ourselves—and it would.

Like Goldilocks, we had been in a house far too big and then moved into a cottage too small. Through awareness and compromise, we created something “just right.”

Christie and I are blessed to live where we live. We are delighted with our small home, nestled amid towering pine, fir, and cedar trees. With a small patch of beachfront, I’m able to kayak out to drop my crab pots or sail my small dinghy while Christie walks along the beach collecting beach glass. We can be ourselves, at peace and at home.

 A Home for a Self

My story is about finding our true selves, which is rarely an easy task. It is about finding a place for your Self to be well, sometimes an even more difficult journey. It’s about knowing what you feel, think, and want so you can go about getting it—aspects of our Self many lose when in a troubled relationship.

Not only must you have a home for your Self, but you must rediscover a Self that feels like home. Not only must you find a place you can settle into and decorate as you wish, but you must also go about the work of being at home within yourself. You must go about the work of healing from the harm that has occurred from troubled or troubling relationships. Finding a place outside yourself and within your Self to be at peace is what this chapter is about.

Our cottage became that place for Christie and me—a place for us to regain our peace. The large, modern house we thought would be perfect was anything but. What we had designed and built turned out not to be a haven for us. Though not right for us, it was a perfect place for the next owners. As in the Goldilocks story, our cottage is now just right—not too big and not too small.

In a manner of speaking, a house is a perfect metaphor for your Self. With many rooms, your Self has many different parts with different needs at different times, and you must become familiar with them. To fully know your Self you must create an emotional space filled with peace and safety. This sacred space holds your Self.

So far this book has emphasized that relationship stress can make you sick. This same stress can damage not only your physical well-being, but your Self, your core personhood. It is important that you learn to know and discover your Self, to recognize how you have been harmed.

You cannot heal what you do not understand. You cannot heal what you cannot feel. You cannot know what you need unless you spend considerable time and energy exploring exactly who you are and cultivating an awareness of the stress you are experiencing.

Taken from In Sickness and In Health by Dr. David Hawkins. Copyright © 2019. Used by permission of Harvest House.

SPECIAL EXCERPT: Relational Reset

HAPPY VALENTINE’S DAY! Today, we’re excited to bring you an adapted excerpt from Relational Reset by Dr. Laurel Shaler, which released February 5, 2019 from Moody.


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Are your relationships all that you want them to be?

Do rough patches ever catch you by surprise, causing you to think Why is it so hard right now? Why is there tension? Was it something I did? Despite our best intentions, we all have blind spots—bad relational habits that are keeping us from enjoying our relationships fully. And since relationships stand at the center of all we do, if we can learn to do relationships even fractionally better, every aspect of our lives improves. Whether you struggle to overcome past wounds, insecurity, blame, or envy, it’s time to reflect on your relational habits and reset.

An experienced counselor, Dr. Laurel Shaler is passionate about helping women thrive in all of their relationships. Relational Reset will reveal unhealthy patterns that may be holding you back, give you practical steps for improving your relationships, and help you find your ultimate security and identity in Jesus Christ. When you reset your relationships, you honor God, yourself, and the ones you love.

What are you waiting for? Get started today.


DR. LAUREL SHALER is a national certified counselor and licensed social worker. She is an Associate Professor at Liberty University where she serves as the Director of the Master of Arts in Professional Counseling program. Dr. Shaler writes and speaks on the intersection of faith, culture, and emotional well-being, and is the author of Relational Reset: Unlearning the Habits that Hold You Back and Reclaiming Sanity: Hope and Healing for Trauma, Stress, and Overwhelming Life Events. She and her husband, an officer in the Navy Reserves, have one daughter and live in South Carolina. Learn more and contact Dr. Shaler at www.drlaurelshaler.com.


In 2004, my husband and I were spending our first Valentine’s Day together as a married couple. Not realizing that February 14 is one of the restaurant industry’s busiest nights of the year (we were young, after all), we neglected to make reservations for dinner. Unconcerned, we got dressed up and headed out for dinner. As we drove around the city we kept encountering packed parking lots and wait times that were far too long, and Nick became increasingly hungry and angry—yep, hangry. In a moment of exasperation, my usually calm, patient, and accommodating husband declared, “If we don’t find someplace to eat now, we are going to Wendy’s!” Well, of course, that was not going to do for this young bride of six months. A fast food restaurant on our first Valentine’s Day? I don’t think so. What followed was a very unpleasant conversation—okay, argument—about where we should eat. Thankfully, within a few minutes, we passed by a mom-and-pop Italian restaurant tucked away in a strip mall. My husband pulled in without a word. After parking the car, we walked in silence, and were both relieved to know there was no wait. We were seated immediately, and before the bread basket hit the table Nick broke the ice. His apology led to mine, and we were both quick to forgive each other for the spat that took place during our dinner search. We went on to enjoy a delicious Italian dinner that night and ate at this restaurant frequently until we relocated out of state. We never fail to chuckle over how we almost missed out on a lovely first Valentine’s Day because of a silly fuss.

That silly fuss could have become something much worse. Without one of us being willing to apologize first and the other being willing to quickly forgive, it would have. People often mistakenly think that forgiveness is a feeling, but it is actually a choice. We make the decision whether to forgive. In Matthew 18, Peter asks Jesus how many times he should forgive his brother who sins again him. “Up to 7 times?” he asked. Jesus answers “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.” In other words, forgiveness should be endless. I get it – it’s much easier to forgive when someone has apologized. That made it easier for me on that Valentine’s night many years ago. Yet, we have to accept that we will not always receive an apology, and we have to decide whether or not that will be a condition for our forgiveness. John MacArthur said this: "To make conditionality the gist of Christlike forgiving seems to miss the whole point of what Scripture is saying. . . the emphasis is on forgiving freely, generously, willingly, eagerly, speedily -- and from the heart.  The attitude of the forgiver is where the focus of Scripture lies, not the terms of forgiveness." I say we err on the side of forgiveness (recognizing that this is not the same as reconciliation).

Since 2004, Nick and I have enjoyed many more Valentine’s Days together. A big part of our relationship has been learning to say “I’m sorry” a lot, and forgiving one another even more. The forgiveness and grace we are able to offer each other does not come from our own strength. If that’s what I relied on, I might still be upset that my husband wanted to take me to a fast food restaurant for our first Valentine’s Day! Our strength to forgive can only from the Lord. We should forgive others as He has forgiven us.

Adapted from Relational Reset by Dr. Laurel Shaler (©2019). Published by Moody Publishers. Used by permission.


Here at HBTB, we are all about making space for you to be YOU. After all, that’s why we created this magazine - to celebrate books & the reading life. It’s one reason we’re excited about Lisa Leonard’s new book Brave Love, releasing today (January 29) from Zondervan! We’re also excited that we have a special sneak peek excerpt to share with you today ;)


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When Lisa Leonard said her marriage vows, she was determined to be the best wife she could be. When her first son was born with a severe disability, Lisa promised herself she would always be the mother he needed. When she began her jewelry business, Lisa committed to giving it her all.

Over the years, the exhaustion of trying to be the perfect wife, mother, and businesswoman took its toll. Lisa knew it wasn’t working. She wanted to change things, but how? Everyone depended on her. So she kept going, kept pushing, kept trying to prove she could do it all.

Until one evening, in tears and desperation, Lisa realized that she could no longer be everything to everyone. Somewhere along the way, she had lost herself.

In Brave Love, Lisa shares her story of finding truth and wholeness in the midst of life’s competing demands. Brave Love is about what it means to be human, how it feels to be broken and afraid, and what happens when we dare to love deeply. Join Lisa on a journey where you will discover you are worthy and lovable just as you are. You don’t have to try harder or be better. You don’t have to prove yourself and you don’t have to make others okay. In this freedom you will find more peace and more joy. Most importantly, you will learn that as you stop trying to be everything to everyone, you will love others better.


Lisa is the founder of and designer for Lisa Leonard Designs. With Lisa’s creativity and her husband Steve’s vision, together they turned her hobby into a multi-million dollar company. Today they employ more than 150 people in three countries reaching around the world.  Lisa is a popular jewelry designer, blogger and speaker, sharing her story around the country. Lisa and Steve partner with non-profit organizations and ministries to protect the vulnerable and serve those in need. Lisa, Steve, and their sons David and Matthias live on the Central Coast of California. They love slow mornings, good coffee, chocolate chip pancakes, and adventure. Lisa’s favorite things are treasure hunting at local thrift stores, dabbling in photography, and having heart-to-heart conversations over coffee.


One sunny Saturday when David was less than a year old, Steve and I decided to splurge and go to Baja Fresh for lunch. We couldn't really afford to eat out, but we needed to get out of the house. I gathered diapers and food for David in a bag while Steve strapped our still tiny baby into his car seat, and we drove the short mile and a half to the strip mall for lunch. Steve parked and then pulled David's car seat out of the car, with David still buckled inside. He was cozy and happy in his little seat.

At the restaurant, we turned a high chair upside down to hold him and his car seat while we ate. If we were lucky, David would stay contentedly in his car seat while we ate. As I got David sit­ uated, Steve went up to order food-two steak burritos with rice and beans. I gave David a little kiss on the forehead and looked over toward Steve. Near him were two boys, about eight and ten, laughing and pointing at David. I couldn't hear what they were saying, but it seemed that they had noticed David's small hand with only two fingers, and they were nudging each other and gawking.

My cheeks flushed bright  red and my heart shattered  into a thousand  pieces.  I wanted to climb under the table and hide. I wanted to grab David and run far away where no one would ever be mean to him. I wanted to protect him from a life in which the kids at school called him names and excluded him from their activities. Instead, I sat motionless as shame threatened to swal­low me whole. But then a spark of bravery ignited somewhere inside me.

No, no, no! I am not ashamed of my son. Yes, he has only two fingers on his left hand. Yes, he is different. But he is amazing, and he is mine.

My first instinct was to grab those kids by their collars and scream, "How dare you laugh at my son! You are awful, terrible kids!" But in my heart, I knew. They didn't understand David. They had probably never seen a baby with seven fingers instead of ten. They were probably scared, so they were making fun of what they didn't understand.

Slowly, I unstrapped David from his car seat and carried him over to where the boys were now sitting with their parents. As I approached, I could see the look of terror on their faces. They probably thought they were about to be in big trouble. But instead, I calmly looked at the boys and said; "Hi, I'm Lisa, and this is my son David. I saw that you noticed him, and I wondered if I could answer any questions for you." They looked back at me with blank expressions.

"Hello," the parents said warmly. "Thanks for coming over. He's adorable. How old is he?" They were incredibly kind.

We chatted for a minute or two while the boys stared blankly at David and me. Then I walked back to our table with my head held high and my chin quivering. It was terrifying, but I had been brave. I thought my heart would break when I saw those boys pointing and laughing at David, but I took a deep breath in and realized that my heart wasn't broken. I had been afraid that shame would swallow me up, but where was shame now? I didn't feel any shame at all. I felt pride.

I learned something about myself that I hadn't known when we left the house just a few minutes earlier. I wasn't powerless. I didn't have to sit by and let shame swallow me up. I didn't have to fear other people's opinions or  judgment.  I could stand  up; I could be brave; I could speak my mind.

My chin was still quivering when Steve came back to  the table with our burritos. With tears in my eyes, I told  him  what had happened. I looked at David, who was snuggled back into his car seat, and I felt overwhelmed with love for him. Maybe, just maybe, with a little bit of bravery, we could change the world, one conversation at a time.

Taken from Brave Love: Making Space for You to be You  by Lisa Leonard. Copyright © 2019 by Lisa Leonard. Used by permission of Zondervan. www.zondervan.com.


Here at HBTB, we love amazing stories so of course we love Rewired by Dr. Ajay K. Seth - which just released January 8, 2019 from Thomas Nelson. It’s a true story about “an unlikely doctor, a brave amputee, and the medical miracle that made history.” And we love that we have a special sneak peek excerpt to share with you today since reading is kinda what we do around here ;)



A raccoon bite on the arm doesn’t seem that serious, but it soon becomes a life-or-death medical crisis for Melissa Loomis. After days of treatment for recurring infection, it becomes obvious that her arm must be amputated. Dr. Ajay Seth, the son of immigrant parents from India and a local orthopaedic surgeon in private practice, performs his first-ever amputation procedure. In the months that follow, divine intervention, combined with Melissa’s determination and Dr. Seth’s disciplined commitment and dedication to his patients, brings about the opportunity for a medical breakthrough that will potentially transform the lives of amputees around the world.

Rewired is the inspirational, miraculous story of Dr. Seth’s revolutionary surgery that allows Melissa to not just move a prosthetic arm simply by thinking, but to actually feel with the prosthetic hand, just as she would with her natural arm. This resulted in what others have recognized as the world’s most advanced amputee, all done from Dr. Seth’s private practice in a community hospital, using a local staff, and with no special training or extensive research funding.


Dr. Ajay Seth is an orthopaedic surgeon in North Canton, Ohio, whose education includes the University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee, Medical College of Wisconsin, the Ohio State University, and Allegany General Hospital. Dr. Seth is working on advancements in prosthetics with Johns Hopkins University, in relationship with Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, and through his company, Bionic Miracle, LLC. He and his high school sweetheart, also a physician, are raising two children. (Besides being a surgeon, he serves as the physician on call for the Canton Regional SWAT team, training the thirty-six members, and providing medical care during raids and calls around the city.)


Twelve hours earlier, I’d been so sure of myself. After doing something hundreds of times, we start to think we’ve seen all there is to see, and that we know all there is to know. But I’d been taken by surprise, and I couldn’t take back my bold promises. You can’t unring a bell once it’s been rung

I could have doubled down on my promise: She’s still not going to lose that arm! I’ll come back and wash it again in a few days, and there will be no bacteria by that time. Everything will heal, folks.

But I knew that wasn’t the truth. The truth was this was the most challenging case I’d ever been presented with since I’d started in orthopaedics—not in relation to technical skill, but because of the still-unknown but powerful, ravaging bacteria confronting us.

I looked at David and gave him a sad-but-honest answer to his question about saving his sister-in-law’s arm. I said, “I don’t know.”

I paused, letting them take in those words, then continued, “I don’t know if she’s going to lose her arm now. But I can tell you one thing: I will work day and night and do everything I possibly can do to see that she keeps it.”

I think they all had some idea of the seriousness of the situation. What we didn’t discuss was the possibility that the infection might continue its journey from Melissa’s wrist to her shoulder and points beyond. I’d made it clear that now the bacteria had an outlet, a place to disembark.

They asked more questions, and I fielded them. We all shook hands, and I hugged Michelle—a worried sister—and told her everything was going to be okay.

Doctors work to heal the body, but a surprising share of our work involves nurturing the spirit. We do all we can to reassure people everything will come out all right, but we always walk that tight line between offering comfort and avoiding harsh reality. The best practitioners find ways to provide an honest prognosis with genuine hope and encouragement. And we hope people understand we’re not God; there are situations we simply cannot master, battles against infections and diseases we cannot win.

I hoped and prayed this occasion was not one of those.

I walked out of the room and down the hallway, into the post-anesthesia care unit. I looked at the clock. By now my family was out of church. They’d surely watched the door, expecting me to walk in at any moment, so they could gesture and show me where they were sitting. I hadn’t made it, but they’d understand. They knew that in the world of surgery, all other bets are off.

To my surprise, Melissa was already awake and resting comfortably. I walked up to her bed and said, as gently as possible, “Melissa, we operated on you for about ninety minutes. Longer than we initially expected because there was more infection there than we thought. It’s a challenging situation, but you’re going to be all right.”

I didn’t yet realize what kind of patient Melissa was. You don’t have to break things to her gently; she has an inner constitution of iron. As I finished saying my piece, Melissa replied, “I hope you got all that raccoon bacteria out of my arm.”

“I looked and I looked, Melissa, and I can tell you I couldn’t find any raccoon left in that arm. I beat every single one of those bacteria out of there.

She smiled, and I was pleased with the conversation. This wasn’t the best time to give her a foreboding preview of what was next. She had twenty-four hours to prepare for the current condition of her arm. Her family would be the ones to talk with her first because they knew her best. I could fill in the details afterward.

Soon I’d changed back into my street clothes and was heading to my car. It was 11:30 a.m. I dialed my wife. “What happened?” she asked.

“Long story,” I said. “Short version: I have an arm to save. It’s in terrible condition, but I’ve got to save it.”

Taken from Rewired by Dr. Ajay K. Seth Copyright © 2019. Used by permission of Thomas Nelson. www.thomasnelson.com.

SPECIAL EXCERPT - We Hope For Better Things

Here at HBTB, we are super excited about another debut novel - We Hope For Better Things by Erin Bartels - which just released January 1, 2019 from Revell. We’re also super excited because we have a special sneak peek excerpt to share with you today!


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When Detroit Free Press reporter Elizabeth Balsam meets James Rich, his strange request--that she look up a relative she didn't know she had in order to deliver an old camera and a box of photos--seems like it isn't worth her time. But when she loses her job after a botched investigation, she suddenly finds herself with nothing but time.

At her great-aunt's 150-year-old farmhouse, Elizabeth uncovers a series of mysterious items, locked doors, and hidden graves. As she searches for answers to the riddles around her, the remarkable stories of two women who lived in this very house emerge as testaments to love, resilience, and courage in the face of war, racism, and misunderstanding. And as Elizabeth soon discovers, the past is never as past as we might like to think.

Debut novelist Erin Bartels takes readers on an emotional journey through time--from the volatile streets of 1960s Detroit to the Underground Railroad during the Civil War--to uncover the past, confront the seeds of hatred, and discover where love goes to hide.


“Bartels is not afraid to tackle adversity, and does so gracefully and poetically. We Hope For Better Things will easily gain favor from readers, and leave them wanting more. “ —Hope By the Book

"We Hope for Better Things has it all: fabulous storytelling, an emotional impact that lingers long after you turn the last page, and a setting that immerses you. I haven't read such a powerful, moving story since I read To Kill a Mockingbird in high school. This book will change how you look at the world we live in. Highly recommended!"--Colleen Coble, USAToday bestselling author of the Rock Harbor series and The View from Rainshadow Bay

"A timely exploration of race in America, We Hope for Better Things is an exercise of empathy that will shape many a soul."--Julie Cantrell, New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of Perennials

"Storytelling at its finest. Erin Bartels delivers a riveting story of forbidden love, family bonds, racial injustice, and the power of forgiveness. We Hope for Better Things is a timely, sobering, moving account of how far we've come . . . and how much distance remains to be covered. A compulsively readable, incredibly powerful novel."--Lori Nelson Spielman, New York Times bestselling author of The Life List

"In this powerful first novel . . . Bartels successfully weaves American history into a deeply moving story of heartbreak, long-held secrets, and the bonds of family."--Publishers Weekly, Starred Review


“Just out of curiosity, why was this stuff at a police station? What are these pictures of?”

Linden looked at his father, who looked down at his plate as if the answer were written there in the smear of coney sauce.

“They’re from the ’67 riots.”

I felt my heart rate tick up, scooted back up to the table, and leaned in. “Did you bring them?”

“Denny didn’t think I should.”

“Why not?”

“Because of that,” Linden said. “Because you weren’t interested until you knew what they were, and I knew it would play out this way.” He turned to his father. “Didn’t I tell you? Didn’t I say she’d only be interested in getting her hands on the photos?”

I sat back, trying to play it cool, trying to put that approachable-yet-intelligent smile back on my face. “Why shouldn’t I be? I’ve built my entire reputation on exposing corruption and neglect in this city. Photos of historic significance left to rot in a police station are just one more symptom of the larger problem. And I’m working on a big piece right now on the riots. Those photos have never been published—I assume. I’m sure the Free Press would pay handsomely to have the privilege of sharing them with the world.”

Linden pointed a finger in my direction. “There! There it is! Just like I said.”

Mr. Rich placed a hand on his son’s forearm. “Okay, okay. Just calm down and let me talk a moment.”

Linden withdrew the accusative finger and leaned back on his half of the seat, his million-dollar foot stretching out past my chair, blocking me in even as I knew he must want me out.

His father looked at me with tired eyes. “Miss Balsam, I’m burdened. I been carrying something around for fifty years that I got to let go of. This camera and those photos have to get back to Nora. Not to the paper, not to a museum or a library. To Nora. Now, I can’t take them. But you could. Are you willing to just look into it? Do a little poking around to see if you’re related like we think you are? And if you are, would you be willing to make contact with her? Kind of ease her into the idea slowly? These photos will stir up a lot of hard memories for an old lady. But I know it in my heart—the Lord laid it on my soul—I need to get these to her.”

One of the most important lessons I learned in my first couple years as a professional journalist was not to get emotionally involved with a story. There was simply too much heartbreaking stuff you had to write about. To let yourself empathize with the boy who was being bullied or the man who had lost his business or the woman whose daughter had been abducted, when there was nothing you could do to help the situation beyond making a voice heard—it was just too heavy a burden to bring home with you every night. So I built up a wall around my heart and stayed within it at all times when it came to work.

But there was something about this man’s eyes, the crooked lines on either side of his mouth suggesting he had found as much to frown at in life as to smile about, that chipped away at that wall.

I tapped my finger on the table. “Why do you have them if she’s the one who took them?”

“She didn’t take them. My uncle did. But he’s gone. They belong to her now.”


“She’s his wife.”

An interracial couple in the 1960s? This was getting interesting. Maybe I could work this into my larger series of articles about the riots and the time surrounding them. It had a great human angle, a larger cultural-historical angle, a connection to a beloved NFL player. I could even frame it as a personal family story if I truly was related. The question was, would I have the time? I still hadn’t been able to crack the protective shield around Judge Sharpe, the white whale of my investigative series, and time was running out.

“Okay, let’s say I am related to her. I still don’t know her and she doesn’t know me, so why would she even listen to me?”

“Miss Balsam, do you believe in God?”

The question caught me off guard. “Yes.”

“Do you believe he works all things together for his glory?”

My parents believed that. My sister did. I had once. Before I’d seen just how chaotic and messed up and out of control the world was. If journalism had taught me anything, it was that we were all just out there flailing and stumbling through a minefield of dangers and predators and dumb blind chance. But it was obvious that Mr. Rich believed God had given him a task—return these items—and that he would get no rest until the task was completed.

Instead of answering his question, I asked one of my own. “Why don’t you just ship it to her?”

“No, that ain’t the way.”

I waited for a logical reason why not, but clearly none was forthcoming.

“Would you just look into it?” he said.

Those beseeching brown eyes tugged a few more bricks out of my wall.

“Sure. I’ll look into it,” I said.

Mr. Rich nodded and slid a business card across the table. I avoided Linden’s sharp gaze as I pocketed the card and squeezed out of my chair.

“It was so nice meeting you,” I said. “Thanks for lunch.”

I walked out into the windy, sun-drenched afternoon, handed a dollar to the homeless guy who paced and mumbled a few yards from the door, and headed down the street to the old Federal Reserve building, which had housed the shrinking Free Press staff since 2014, and where a pile of work awaited me.

I tried to concentrate on the unending march of emails marked urgent in my inbox, including one from my editor—My office, ASAP—but my mind was spinning out all the directions this new story idea could go. This was decidedly inconvenient because I needed to focus.

I’d been stalking Judge Sharpe through his affable and unsuspecting son Vic for months, and I finally felt like a break was imminent. Vic had texted me last night to set up a meeting after he, in his words, “discovered something big I think you’ll be interested to know.” I had to get these photos off my mind for the moment, and the best way to do that was to get the research ball rolling.

I slipped out to the stairwell and pulled up Ancestry.com on my phone. A few minutes and thirty dollars later, I was clicking on little green leaf icons that waved at me from the screen. I found my parents and then began tracing my father’s branch back to the family tree. Grandfather Richard, Great-Uncle Warner, and ping, just like that, a great-aunt born Eleanor Balsam.

Taken from “We Hope For Better Things” by Erin Bartels. Copyright © 2019 by Erin Bartels. Used by permission of http://bakerpublishinggroup.com/revell.


Erin Bartels has been a publishing professional for more than fifteen years. Her short story “This Elegant Ruin” was a finalist in the Saturday Evening Post 2014 Great American Fiction Contest. A freelance writer and editor, she is a member of Capital City Writers and the Women’s Fiction Writers Association and is former features editor of WFWA’s Write On! magazine. She lives in Lansing, Michigan, with her husband, Zachary, and their son, Calvin, and can be found online at www.erinbartels.com. We Hope for Better Things is her first novel.

EXCLUSIVE EXCERPT - In the Shadow of Croft Towers

Here at HBTB, we are super excited about an upcoming debut novel - In the Shadow of Croft Towers by Abigail Wilson - which releases January 15, 2019 from Thomas Nelson. We’re also super excited because we have an EXCLUSIVE early excerpt to share with you today!

About the book

cover - Shadow of Croft Towers.jpg

From debut author Abigail Wilson comes a shadowy Regency tale of secrets and spies, love and treachery. 

“Mysterious . . . Melodic . . . Thrilling and original . . . Abigail Wilson has crafted a debut that shines.”—Kristy Cambron, bestselling author of Castle on the Rise 

Croft Towers holds more than its share of secrets . . . and Sybil is determined to uncover them all.

When Sybil Delafield’s coach to Croft Towers was robbed by highwaymen, she should have realized that her new position as companion to old Mrs. Chalcroft would be no ordinary job. Upon Sybil’s arrival, Mrs. Chalcroft sneaks into her room in the dark of night, imploring her to relay messages to town that are to stay hidden from the rest of the family. Who exactly is she working for and what do the messages contain?

When fellow passengers of the robbed coach are later murdered, Sybil’s hunt for the truth takes on a new urgency. The only person she can rely on is Mr. Sinclair, Mrs. Chalcroft’s godson, but under all his charms he too leads a double life. Sybil must decide if he is the one honest voice she can trust, or if he is simply using her for his own advances.

With murderers, smugglers, and spies on the loose, nothing—and no one—in Regency England is what they claim. Can Sybil even trust what she knows about herself? 

What others are saying

“Abigail Wilson's In the Shadow of Croft Tower is the kind of novel I love to recommend. Well written, thoroughly engrossing, and perfectly inspiring. I honestly couldn't flip the pages fast enough.”—New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Shelley Shepard Gray

"In the Shadow of Croft Tower is beautifully written, suspenseful, and satisfyingly romantic. Abigail Wilson paints a beautiful picture of pastoral Regency England. This book will keep you riveted to the end, and you'll be rooting for the feisty heroine to get her happily ever after."—Jennifer Beckstrand, author of Home on Huckleberry Hill

“Mysterious . . . Melodic . . . Thrilling and original . . . Abigail Wilson has crafted a debut that shines.”—Kristy Cambron, bestselling author of Castle on the Rise 

"Part mystery and part romance, Abigail Wilson's debut is an atmospheric period novel that will keep readers guessing to the very end."—Amanda Flower, USA Today bestselling author of Death and Daisies

watch for our review in the Launch Issue of HBTB, shipping out later this week!


The Chalcroft landau rattled to a halt. Beyond the rain-soaked window I saw little but an eerie sky. I told myself not to panic.

The carriage door screeched open to reveal a lanky footman, who stumbled backward at the sight of me. My shaky hand sought the remains of my drenched coiffure, and I forced a measured breath before grasping my reticule.

The wide-eyed young man seemed to recover and extended an umbrella over the carriage’s narrow opening. “Miss Delafield, is it?”

“Yes.” I forced a tepid smile before descending the steps, my wet frock clinging to my legs, the chill wind whipping at my skirt. I’d planned such a different arrival, one meant to impress. One I’d hoped would afford me the answers I’d come for.

The footman led me across a gravel drive and into the lurking shadow of my new home—Croft Towers. The aged structure rose up out of the misty twilight like an old king dressed in black, surveying his kingdom with a cautious eye. My chest tightened.

“This way, miss.” The footman shuffled forward then stopped. “We’d planned for you to come in the front, but considering your, uh, present state, perhaps it’s best—”

“Nonsense, James.” A tall man with a heavy build held the front door wide, his face weathered with age, his eyes shrewd. A smile appeared for a moment then vanished into a stern chin.

“You may address me as Hodge. I am butler here at the Towers.”

I nodded. “Pleased to meet you. Miss Delafield—Mrs. Chalcroft’s new companion.”

“I’m well aware why you are here. It was I who sent the carriage.”

He motioned me through the door. “Come inside, and I will figure out what is to be done with you.”

I crossed the threshold into a dim marble entryway. To the side, a small candelabrum winked in the wind. The wavering light did little to compete with the overwhelming gloom of thick crossbeams and paneled walls.

Hodge frowned. “Would you be so good as to wait here?”

I nodded, wrapping my arms around my middle, a terrible empty feeling settling into my stomach. Hodge ambled off at a brisk pace, and all too quickly I found myself alone. Alone with my thoughts and doubts.

Impostor. The voice whispered from the recesses of my mind, the same one I’d heard this many weeks or more. The voice was followed by the sound of a casement clock, which ticked to life from somewhere in the darkness. Wind gusts surged against the heavy door, clambering for a way in; but the air inside the house remained motionless, heavy with dust. Unable to move or sit, the nagging chill I’d endured throughout the journey returned in full force.

A door slammed in the distance. Uneven footsteps trailed down a far-off hall. I turned, but no one entered the front room, and the steps dissolved into the pervasive darkness around me. A shiver crept up my arms. Standing as still as possible, I inspected the shadows, fighting off the unnatural feeling of being watched.

Taken from “In the Shadow of Croft Towers” by Abigail Wilson. Copyright © 2018 by Abigail Wilson. Used by permission of http://www.thomasnelson.com/.