He is Her Salvation
Abby Merkley has been a member of the Church of the Apocalyptic Faith since she was a child, and there's no way out―except death. She will fight the odds to survive, but there's no one in the world she can trust, nowhere she can run that the cult can't find her...until her handsome, brooding neighbor takes her into the safety of his arms.
Luc Stanek craves a quiet life. But he doesn't hesitate when a desperate woman lands, bloodied and branded on his doorstep. Soon he finds himself drawn into her chaotic world, caught in the center of an apocalyptic war...and determined to save the fierce beauty no matter the cost.
Source: advance e-galley provided by publisher in exchange for an honest review
:: :: Review :: ::
The third installment in the Blank Canvas series is perhaps its most disturbing. There's always a degree of apprehension when I read about something to do with a cult and this was no exception.
Abby has led a sheltered life with her mother at the church compound where she has been raised. She was married off at a young age but her husband has since passed away, and with his passing her place in her community is less secure. What she does know is that she doesn't want this life anymore where her fate is decided by the male church elders. Neither does she want to be married off again and expected to submit to another husband. She has hatched a plan involving the neighbour bordering the church's property. She's been watching him discreetly, noticing that he works alone picking the grapes from their vines. Perhaps she'll offer to help him and he'll pay her and she can save the money to run away. Luc is startled when she comes upon him out of nowhere. He prefers his solitude and doesn't need her help so he turns her away. Abby refuses to give up and returns again, this time he agrees to hire her only to make sure that he's done harvesting the grapes before the bad weather rolls in. Neither of them is expecting to grow fond of each other's company and actually look forward to it. Luc hesitantly asks her about her life at the compound and she feeds him bits and pieces which he puts together. He knows enough that she hasn't had an easy life, that she's afraid and needs to get out. All these years that his property has bordered the compound, he's never questioned or interfered with their comings and goings. Everything has changed now that Abby has infiltrated his life and become important to him. He doesn't realize that helping her puts him and his land firmly in the crosshairs of the church's strict leaders.
Anders knows how to write wounded souls and bring their emotions to the forefront. Out of all the characters in this series, I think Abby and Luc being loners are the most vulnerable. Abby has lived a wretched life so far, having been cut off from the outside that she's naive about so much yet there's this resilience in her that can't be underestimated. Luc left his heritage and family behind in France. Feeling dejected and unworthy, he came to Blackwood hoping to find peace and his own purpose in the grand scheme of things. He didn't imagine that this strange, beautiful girl would come into his life making him want more out of it. I liked that Anders broadened the series by introducing two new people that hadn't been mentioned previously. It added an new element to the town of Blackwood and its community. If you've read By Her Touch, you'll be happy to know that both George and Clay do make appearances though.
I have fallen in love with the entire Black Canvas series. Even though the stories have centered on people who have been dealt cruel blows, they're all fighters working hard to reclaim themselves. They're survivors and they're inspirational. I had already decided after her first book that Anders is a must-read author for me and In His Hands' theme of compassion and forgiveness makes this another heart-achingly beautiful story from her that shouldn't be missed.
:: :: Excerpt :: ::
“You don’t smile,” she said.
He stopped pruning so abruptly that Abby almost ran right into him.
Shaking her head, she looked at his face and mirrored his frown before saying a purse-lipped, “Non,” in imitation of his accent.
And there, miracle of miracles, the man did it. His lips curved up. Or almost. One side of his mouth lifted—the side with the scar—and, oh goodness, it was a dimple. What kind of trick was it that this big, burly man had to suffer through the indignity of a dimple?
And much, much worse was her having to suffer through that smile.
She wanted to touch it, the divot in his cheek. Or those lips, or that thick, rough-looking neck, which was more cleanly shaven than the first time she’d come here.
Did he do that for me? she wondered as she turned away, reaching for…anything to stop herself. Branches.
Those would do. Pull, throw, wait—red face averted—and move on.
They’d finished the row without speaking and moved on to the next by the time Abby could breathe normally again. Surprise, surprise, he was the one to finally break the silence.
“Besides no cap, what else do you wish for?”
She didn’t hesitate before saying, “A place of my own.”
“Nothing big, just a…a room. Where I could listen to music, maybe?”
“You can’t do that there?”
“Oh, we sing all right. Best part of the Church is the singing.”
“What do you sing?”
“I don’t know any.”
Without thinking it through, she sang a verse from one of her favorites. “All things bright and beautiful, all creatures great and small, all things wise and wonderful: the Lord God made them all.”
When she met his eye, Luc was…not quite smiling, but close. His eyes were warm, his expression…admiring, maybe? Abby blushed with the realization of what she’d just done.
He said one word: “Pretty.” But something about the way he said it, his eyes eating up her face, made her cheeks burn hotter and breath come faster. To hide it, she turned quickly back to work.
Changing the topic, she cleared her throat and asked, “So, how much is a place to rent?”
“A room to live in. How much money do I need for that?”
He shrugged. “Depends. Big cities, it’s a lot, I think. Around here? I don’t know. Maybe a few hundred a month?”
“Good Lord, that is a lot.”
“Life is expensive.” He shrugged and cut, the movement lifting shoulders massive enough to carry the weight of the world.
“Right. So…you have to pay for food, right? And what else you gotta pay for?”
“Electricity. Um, water and gas, things like that.”
“Gas for the car?”
“For your car and for your stove or heat.”
“Oh. So…I’d need a lot. To start a life.”
“A good amount, yes. You need to pay a guarantee as well, I think, if it’s like France. And references for the landlord.” He glanced at her. “This makes you unhappy?”
“Guess I thought… I thought I could work for you for a couple weeks and have enough to start a life.”
“It’s hard, Abby.” His eyes on her were steady and full of a new softness that she wasn’t entirely comfortable with, like he’d taken off a layer of her skin to speak to her insides.
“Blue jeans, too,” she said, forcing a touch of flippancy to her tone.
“Jeans. I’d like to wear jeans with snaps and a zipper, like a normal person.”
“Like a slim?” The word came out with two Es in the middle: sleem. She shook her head, not understanding.
“Um, skinny jeans?” he clarified.
“Goodness, no!” She laughed. “I’d need time to adjust to just trousers first, but…” Letting her gaze rest on the valley before them, she thought of the hundreds—no, thousands—of women who walked around every day wearing practical clothing instead of these stiff cotton skirts and modest drawers she had to fight her way out of. “I’d like to look normal when I go into town, to feel free. Just a T-shirt and jeans. Those sneaker shoes to
walk in. Maybe some—”
She stopped, hating how her current thought embarrassed her. It wasn’t the wish so much as the fantasy surrounding it.
“Boots. Cowboy boots, you know? The kind you stomp around in.” Except stomping wasn’t what she envisioned when she said it. In her mind’s eye, she pictured herself in jeans by all rights tighter than she should want to wear them; a cute shirt—maybe something sparkly, but not too fancy, since part of her just wanted a plain T-shirt; and those boots with their small heel and slightly pointed toe. And all of this dancing on the arm of a man. This man, truth be told. It was this man in her fantasy, which sent a new wash of heat prickling against
the cold air, from her chest to her forehead and well into her hairline.
“I can’t imagine you stomping.”
“No? I’d be good at it.”
Their eyes met as he said, “I don’t doubt it.” The words, silly and inconsequential as they were, sent blood rushing right down her body to where it didn’t belong. Somehow that blood weighed her down, made her lids heavy, and sent her mouth to drooping in a way she was sure he could see.
And then she knew he could, because his eyes strayed there, lingering before one thick, rough-hewn hand followed.
A single knuckle swiped her bottom lip in a gesture not so much affectionate as…curious? Compulsive?
Like a baby who couldn’t help but touch a ball or stuff it in his mouth. To taste. To feel. To know.
It was over too soon, that swipe. And yet, somehow, it lasted forever. Suspended here on the mountain, in their thick cloud of burning vine and sparks, the cold melted away by more than just the fire.
After that long hitch in time, Abby inhaled and let the air out in hiccups—the shaky kind you couldn’t help making after a good, hard sob. But rather than the release of a big cry, his knuckle to her lip screwed everything up tight, made her insides overflow with whatever this was.
She was sure she’d pop. She had to.
Because Lord only knew what she’d do if this pressure didn’t release sometime soon.
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