Posted in About the Book

The Making of a Book Cover: Part 1: Location and Set-up

7Cover art is the most recognizable factor of any book . . . unless the author’s name is so famous that no one looks beyond the name at the picture. Between today and the next two weeks, I want to take you behind the scenes and show you how these covers are made. Now,  you should know up front that this process will differ in some ways from author to author, especially if we’re comparing a traditionally published author to a self-published author. But many of these factors will be the same clear across the board. I’m not going to show you how others do it. I’ll show you how I do it. The first step is the dream stage . . .

Dreaming: Before I can capture an image, I first need an idea of what I’m looking for. Since I’m a self-published author, I have free reign here. It’s not uncommon for me to see glimpses of possible cover art during the earliest development of the story. Not all my story ideas have mental covers yet. But I can pretty well tell which of my story ideas are the most serious about finding paper based on whether or not I’m starting to visualize the cover.

During this dream stage, I think about the overall image of the cover, from the character I’d most like to see in the picture, to the backdrop, as well as the pose. Once I have a good idea in mind, I start creating my “shopping list.”

Shopping List: I make a list of everything that particular cover needs to come to life. And I do mean EVERYTHING. Things like: models with a particular look, wardrobe, location, and props.
Once I have a list in hand, I begin praying about how to gather these needs. I begin “browsing” for people who I know will fit the image I’m looking for. I also brainstorm location options. And in the case of the historical novels, I’m asking around for people with the proper props and/or wardrobe that I can borrow or rent for the shoot. This stage could take months or even years, pending on how soon I need the cover and what all stands in my way. The majority of this time is spent praying and waiting. But once I feel that I have the green light from God to move forward, I start contacting people and pulling strings together.

The Big Day: Since I do my own photography, there is nothing more thrilling or more nervewracking than the day of the photoshoot. Most of these cases, I have already taken pictures of the locations before the photoshoot to give me ideas on the specific areas I could work in as well as any complications I might encounter during the shoot.
Most of the locations “came ready.” However, Where Can I Flee and Yesterday’s Christmas required additional set-up in order to bring the backdrop to life.
Where Can I Flee, In the Shadow of Thy Wings, and His Love Endures Forever required a handwritten letter to grace the cover. These were crafted beforehand. You can’t view them well enough in the pictures to read them, but they ARE actual letters found in the books. And now they’re keepsakes on my shelf at home.

Location: I like to work on location, so every detail is important. When selecting a place to take Where Can I Flee’s photos, I had to pay close attention to my backdrop. We were fortunate to find a seemingly untouched area to work along the Duck River.
In the Shadow of Thy Wings, The Birth of Grace, and Out of the Ashes were taken in public areas where people were walking about. I had to pay close attention to the angle of my camera every time I moved around to make sure I didn’t pick up cars, people, telephone poles, etc.

Travel Behind the Scenes: Just for fun, I’m going behind the scenes to show you where each of these photos was taken. It’s interesting to see the same shot from a different view point.

 

 

Where Can I Flee was taken on Arrow Head Ranch in Normandy, TN. The Duck River cuts through the property. When I was exploring the area, I found a little creek jutting off of the river. The picture on the left was something I took early that morning before we set up the tents. On the cover, Tyler is sitting along the bank of the creek while I took the picture on the little island visible on the right-hand side of the first picture.

 

 

In the Shadow of Thy Wings was taken at Cannonsburg in Murfreesboro, TN. This particular photo was taken behind the row of buildings you see on the right-hand side of the first picture.

 

 

Out of the Ashes was taken at Stone’s River Battlefield in Murfreesboro, TN. There is a Union cemetery on the property.

 

 

His Love Endures Forever was taken at Valley Home Farm in Wartrace, TN. It’s a family-owned farm where you can pick your own berries in the springtime. They have restored this old home, turning it into a live-in museum.

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Katherine’s Good News was taken inside the home of the cover model. I don’t have a location shot for this one. But I do have an interesting story that I’ll share with you next week. 😉

 

 

If Only It Were Yesterday was taken inside one of the rooms at Valley Home Farm. One of the most important factors on the cover was the dress which has also been restored and displayed at Valley Home Farm.

 

 

Yesterday’s Christmas was also taken at Valley Home Farm. I can’t begin to tell you how grateful I am to the Potts family for being so gracious to me and allowing me to take not one, but three, photoshoots in their home. And I have a feeling we’ll see other corners of their property on future book covers.

 

 

The Birth of Grace was taken at a new coffee shop in Shelbyville, TN called Koffee Beanz. The coffee is as good as the atmosphere is lively!

I hope you enjoyed this sneak peek behind the scenes. Next week, I’ll share more info about the models and some stories from the photoshoots.

 

 

 

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Posted in Book Reviews

Book Review: The Ladies of Ivy Cottage by Julie Klassen

194Return to Ivy Hill in The Ladies of Ivy Cottage as friendships deepen, romances blossom, and mysteries unfold.

Living with the two Miss Groves in Ivy Cottage, impoverished gentlewoman Rachel Ashford is determined to earn her own livelihood . . . somehow. When the village women encourage her to open a subscription library with the many books she has inherited or acquired through donations, Rachel discovers two mysteries hidden among them. A man who once broke her heart helps her search for clues, but will both find more than they bargained for? 

Rachel’s friend and hostess, Mercy Grove, has given up thoughts of suitors and fills her days managing her girls’ school. So when several men take an interest in Ivy Cottage, she assumes pretty Miss Ashford is the cause. Exactly what–or who–has captured each man’s attention? The truth may surprise them all.

Meanwhile, life has improved at the coaching inn and Jane Bell is ready to put grief behind her. Now if only the man she misses would return–but where is he?

As the women of Ivy Hill search for answers about the past and hope for the future, might they find love along the way?

My Thoughts: The first book of the series had me beside myself in anticipation of the next book in the series. Sadly, I felt like so much of that tension was missing in The Ladies of Ivy Cottage. I think having that high expectation going into this one had hindered me in enjoying it as much as I had hoped. Setting aside my expectations, there IS a great story here in the inviting Regency era. Klassen draws out Biblical messages on trusting God and forgiveness. There are still some things left undone so there’s plenty to look forward to in the third and final installment. That being said, there were still plenty of romance here and happy endings for some of the characters involved. I enjoyed watching two separate mysteries unfold and come to light. And as always, I enjoyed visiting this charming village and those who live there.

Rating and Recommendation: I’m giving The Ladies of Ivy Cottage 4 stars and recommending it those who enjoy Christian Regency Fiction.
*You’ll want to read this series in order.

~ I received a copy from Bethany House through Net Galley. All thoughts are my own. I was not compensated for this review.

Posted in Christian

The Truth Behind the SuperMom

SuperMom

The most common question I hear when people find out that I’m a writer and mother of 4 is, “How do you do it all?”

I’ll tell you how: I don’t!!!

I often catch women saying something like this:
“I never have enough time.” Neither do I.
“I feel like I’m spinning in circles.” Yep, me too!
“I clean all the time, but I feel like I never get past the day’s worth of laundry and dishes.” So do I!!

One of the biggest threats to women today is ourselves and how we view other women. Surely this has been a problem over the centuries, but I know it has to be an escalated problem today with our social media options. This is what we see on our newsfeed:
Our friend’s perfect family photo.
Our neighbor’s healthy made-from-scratch dinner.
Our cousin’s perfect marriage.
Our sister’s stunning vacation shots.
Our old classmate’s remodeled kitchen.
Our homeschooling friend’s latest crafts with the kids.

Meanwhile . . .
We’re struggling to get everyone together for a family photo, much less have them in perfectly matched clothing minus the last minute stains.
We’re picking up takeout and stocking up on frozen pizzas.
While we normally get along, we haven’t exactly gotten over that last tiff with the hubby.
We forgot to bring our camera on vacation but had a blast anyway.
Not only is our kitchen in need of new flooring but the dishes are piling up, not in the sink, but on the STOVE! Because those specialized dishes that never make it into the dishwasher, yeah, it turns out they don’t wash themselves.

I’m convinced that one of the biggest problems we have is the ability to take everything we see at face value while focusing on our own shortcomings. We see the perfection in everyone’s lives because it’s what they broadcast so we assume that they have it all together in every other area as well. While on the flipside of that, we can’t help but note every area in our lives that is falling apart or falling behind.

Still not convinced? Let’s try a little experiment . . .

I LOVE to garden! Flower gardens are my favorite. I enjoy vegetable gardening as well. Corn, okra, pumpkin, squash, tomatoes, and peppers . . . I’ve grown them all and I’ve even canned pumpkin and butternut squash from my garden.
Now, I want you to picture my garden. What do you see? Seriously, take a moment to examine what you see in my garden.

Have you mentally examined my garden? If not, I’ll keep waiting . . . If you’re ready, let’s move on.

Now it’s your turn. I want you to picture your own garden. What’s in it? What’s it look like? What do you see?

Waiting . . . waiting . . .

Ok, if you’re ready, let’s compare:
When you imagined my garden, did you see weeds in my garden? Did you see bugs? Did you see half-eaten plants? Did you see animals stealing my veggies?
When you pictured your garden, did you see weeds? Did you see bugs? Did you see half-eaten plants? Did you see the pesky animals attacking your plants?
I’m not a mind reader, but I have a feeling the majority of you saw perfection in my garden while you were immediately reminded of the trouble areas in your own garden. Why is that? You were willing to see perfection in me, assuming that since I’ve done such-and-such that I must have it together in this area as well. Meanwhile, you couldn’t overlook your trouble areas. Why were you being unfair to yourself? Did you think weeds couldn’t grow outside of your yard?
Are you ready for a secret? Everything I wrote about my garden was absolutely true! I DO love to garden. Flower gardens ARE my favorite. I really did grow all of those veggies in my backyard and I have canned the winter squashes. But do you want to know something else? I’ve been too busy the last 4 summers so I haven’t even attempted a garden of any sort. I canned pumpkin one year and loved it, except that I found a black widow spider on one of the pumpkins and haven’t been too keyed up on growing anymore since then. (Judge me if you want. 😉 ) As much as I ADORE flower gardens and it would be my dream to have a really large one that you can walk through and even sit in, I CANNOT grow flowers!!!!! They die. They die so often, that one day when my son was reading his Bible he turned to me and said that I must be related to Cain since my plants are cursed!! LOL I often joke and tell people that I can grow kids and veggies but I can’t grow flowers. As for the vegetable garden . . . no matter how many times I promise myself that I’ll stay on top of the weeds before I know it, the garden is overrun and I’ve given up trying. It’s one of the reasons I stopped gardening. I was tired of seeing the weeds.

Did that little experiment open your eyes to your faulty viewpoint? But now what do you do about it? How do you become the Supermom you were striving for?

You become the Supermom by realizing that there is no such thing.

How do I do it all? Simple: I don’t.
The moment you understand that what you experience on a day to day basis IS normal is the day you set yourself free from this damaging cycle. We put so much pressure on ourselves to measure up to a standard that doesn’t even exist.

Yes, I have four kids. Yes, I work from home. Yes, I have a hectic ball schedule to keep up with while raising 3 boys. But I also have kids that fight. Children that disobey or disrespect. I have a stash of paper plates that I never let run empty. I have frozen pizza on my weekly grocery list. I know which drive-thru window is the fastest in my town. I have a laundry pile that, at times, is taller than my 6-year-old. (And, no, I’m not joking.) Yes, I often have a precarious stack of dishes on the stove that has to be hand-washed. Yes, I feel like I’m falling behind on life. Yes, I lose my keys more times than I can count. Yes, I forget things. No, I don’t get to volunteer at the school like I imagined myself doing. Yes, there are days when I lose my temper. Yes, there are days when I feel like I’ve wasted entire hours of my day. Yes, there are days when I look around and wonder what I had cleaned because I remember doing it but can’t see the results. Yes, I cut corners where I can to save time or my sanity. And, no, I don’t feel bad about that.

I’m not a Supermom because I do everything. I’m a Supermom because I keep getting up in the morning and trying again.

I encourage you to stop judging yourself so harshly. Stop feeling guilty about not checking off every box that YOU set down on your to-do list. Instead, seek God each and every morning. Seek Him each hour. Ask Him to direct your steps that day and put you where HE wants you to serve. If that means, you sit on the couch all day long and watch reruns of Mickey Mouse with your sick child, then don’t let those dirty dishes make you feel guilty about that. Be where GOD wants you to be and stop stressing over what you think you needed to do. Doubt and guilt don’t come from God. God gives us peace, love, and joy. So seek Him and rest, knowing that you’re doing exactly what He wanted from you on that day.
If you trace this problem back far enough, you’ll find pride at the root of it. Is it not pride that urges you to meet the standards of those around you? So treat this as the sin that it is.
It’s time to repent, ladies. I promise you, the moment you do, you’ll find freedom.

Pinnable, Sharable, Stealable Graphics:

SuperMom QuoteSuperMom Quote 2SuperMom Quote 3
SuperMom Quote 4

 

Posted in Book Reviews

Book Review: Holding the Fort by Regina Jennings

202Jennings Winningly Combines Humor, History, and Romance

Louisa Bell never wanted to be a dance-hall singer, but dire circumstances force her hand. With a little help from her brother in the cavalry, she’s able to make ends meet, but lately he’s run afoul of his commanding officer, so she undertakes a visit to straighten him out. 

Major Daniel Adams has his hands full at Fort Reno. He can barely control his rowdy troops, much less his two adolescent daughters. If Daniel doesn’t find someone respectable to guide his children, his mother-in-law insists she’ll take them.

When Louisa arrives with some reading materials, she’s mistaken for the governess who never appeared. Major Adams is skeptical. She bears little resemblance to his idea of a governess–they’re not supposed to be so blamed pretty–but he’s left without recourse. His mother-in-law must be satisfied, which leaves him turning a blind eye to his unconventional governess’s methods. Louisa’s never faced so important a performance. Can she keep her act together long enough?

What I Loved: I always enjoy a military setting, so I was smitten with Hold the Fort from the moment I had first heard about it. Jennings incorporates military life at a western fort along with historical details about the conflict with the relocated tribes in the area. I learned some things along the way which is always a treat. With this as a backdrop, she adds in a beautiful romance, two charming girls, and one sweet talking hero. And then there’s the well thought out gospel presentation weaved into the storyline.

Rating and Recommendation: I’m giving Hold the Fort 5 stars and recommending it to those who enjoy Christian Historical Fiction or a novel with a western military fort.

~I received a copy from Bethany House. I was not compensated for this review. All thoughts are my own.

Posted in Book Reviews

2017 Book Awards

Before I hand out awards, I want to list all the 5-star books I’ve read this year. Each link takes you to the book’s Goodreads page where you can add it to your own TBR list and check out my review alongside what others had to say about the book.

A Beauty So Rare by Tamera Alexander
Christmas at Carnton by Tamera Alexander
What Hope Remembers by Johnnie Alexander
Fly Away by Lynn Austin
Where We Belong by Lynn Austin
The Road to Paradise by Karen Barnett
Mistaken by Karen Barnett
Murder for the Time Being
by Joanie Bruce
The Illusionist’s Apprentice by Kristy Cambron
A Dangerous Legacy by Elizabeth Camden
Mail-order Revenge by Angela K. Couch
My Heart Belongs in Ruby City, Idaho by Susanne Dietze
The Price of Privilege by Jessica Dotta
Mark of Distinction by Jessica Dotta
Tin Can Serenade by Amanda Dykes
The One True Love of Alice-Ann by Eva Marie Everson
Life After by Katie Ganshert
North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell
The Mark of the King by Jocelyn Green
12 Days at Bleakly Manor by Michelle Griep
With You Always by Jody Hedlund
Love and a Side of Chips by Traci Valentyne Hilton
A December Bride by Denise Hunter
A Love So True by Melissa Jagears
Love by the Letter by Melissa Jagears
On Love’s Gentle Shore by Liz Johnson
The Innkeeper of Ivy Hill by Julie Klassen
Two Ways Home by Sondra Kraak
A Stranger at Fellsworth by Sarah Ladd
Jane of Austin by Hillary Manton Lodge
The Bracelet by Dorothy Love
Christy by Catherine Marshall
Hold the Light by April McGowen
18 Hours To Us by Krista Noorman
Lady Jayne Disappears by Joanna Davidson Politano
The Austen Escape by Katherine Reay
Through Waters Deep by Sarah Sundin
Anchor in the Storm by Sarah Sundin
When Tides Turn by Sarah Sundin
One Enchanted Noel by Melissa Tagg
The Secret Slipper by Amanda Tero
Mail-order Surprise by Lucy Thompson
Finding Margo by Jen Turano
The Secret Life of Sarah Hollenbeck by Bethany Turner
Within the Veil by Brandy Vallance
The Bounty Hunter’s Baby by Erica Vetsch
My Heart Belongs in Fort Bliss, Texas by Erica Vetsch
Bride of Pretense by Amanda Tru and Cami Wesley
Then Came You by Becky Wade
True to You by Becky Wade
Oh, the Weather Outside is Frightful by Susan May Warren
A Name Unknown by Roseanna White
The House on Foster Hill by Jaime Jo Wright
With This Ring
The Message in a Bottle Romance Collection

142

Favorite Cover AND Best Dressed: True to You   Am I the only one completely smitten by this dress and this cover? Oh, and those shoes!!

Favorite Proposal: Oh, the Weather Outside is Frightful    As a fiction reader, I’ve read more than my share of proposals. I remember gushing over this one which is pretty rare for me.

Favorite Courtship: A Beauty so Rare   There was so something so sweet about their budding relationship that really stood out to me.

Best Love Triangle: The Innkeeper of Ivy Hill   I LOVE a good love triangle, but Klassen took it to a whole new level when every woman had more than one fella asking for her hand. If you enjoy being surprised, you’ll appreciate the way Klassen keeps you guessing.

Best Suspense: The House on Foster Hill   From the cover to the story, this one was fantastic. If you enjoy suspense and haven’t read this one yet then shame on you!! 😉 Pick up your copy asap.

Best Mail-order Bride: Mail-Order Surprise, Bride of Pretense   If mail-order novellas are your thing, these two stood out to me this year. They were humorous and enjoyable all the way around.

Best Date Request: Love and a Side of Chips    Again, I’ve read MANY date requests so it’s something ultra special when they tug at my heartstrings. It was just perfectly sweet and well done.

Favorite Pet: Rip from The Bounty Hunter’s Baby and Dash from Jane of Austin   I’m not a dog person by Rip and Dash stole my heart and almost changed my mind about wanting a dog. Almost. 😉

Best Comedy: My Heart Belongs in Ruby City, Idaho   I laughed the whole way through this one. Loved it, loved it, loved it.

Great Friction: Two Ways Home and 18 Hours to Us   There is something so engaging about a pair who rub each other the wrong way. If you like that sort of thing in your novels, give these two a try!

WWII Fiction: Waves of Freedom series and One True Love of Alice-Ann   I love war fiction, especially from the home front. It wasn’t possible to pick only one in this category. I consider myself the winner for getting my hands on more than one fantastic WWII read for the year.

Favorite Retelling: Jane of Austin and Secret Slipper   Jane of Austin retold Sense and Sensibility while Secret Slipper retold Cinderella. I was in awe at the authors’ creative take on beloved classics.

Best Novella Set: With this Ring and Message in a Bottle   If you’re looking for a great novella set to sink your teeth in, you won’t be disappointed with either of these. 5 stars all the way!

Gospel Message: Fly Away   Austin not only weaved the gospel into her story but also tackled the various conflicts someone might face when attempting to share the gospel. I was very impressed with her treatment of the gospel in Fly Away. Truly a beautiful story!

Heart Breakingly Great: Life After and Hold the Light   The award says it all. You might cry when reading these novels, but I promise you’ll feel blessed by the time you’re finished.

Oldest Novel: North and South 1854

Best Supporting Cast: Christy   This novel is chocked full of memorable characters.

Best Historical All Around: Road to Paradise   This was just plain good in all ways.

Best Hero: A Name Unknown   There’s something special about a flawed hero and White made his stutter appealing.

Best Contemporary All Around: On Love’s Gentle Shores 

Original Plot: The Austen Escape   Reay was thinking outside of the box on this one and it paid off really well.

Oddest Collection of Characters:  12 Days at Bleakly Manor  Lol There’s not much I can say but if you’ve read it, I’m sure you’d agree with me.

Best Food: My Heart Belongs in Castle Gate, Utah by Angie Dicken   I tried Greek food for the first time after reading this book and I’ve enjoyed it several times since then.

The Shortest and the Sweetest: Serenade by Amanda Dykes   This was such a special story in the tiniest of packages. Give it a try if you haven’t already.

Most Exotic Setting: Where We Belong    Austin takes you from Chicago to the far ends of the earth in her latest novel.

Best Mystery: Lady Jayne Disappears and The Bracelet    Neither of these mysteries were overly suspenseful, but the mystery was intricately crafted. I highly recommend both to the mystery fan.

Best Use of Duck: Finding Margo   LOL Nothing more needs to be said here. Finding Margo was a great mystery, but I’ll never forget that duck.

Breathtaking Message: The Mark of the King    I’ll be honest with you. Parts of this novel were just plain hard to read, but in the end, you’re left with one of the most remarkable messages of grace that I’ve read.

Kept the Pages Turning: Within the Veil    Wow!! The story kept evolving until the very end.

Stickiest Problem: Mistaken   It seemed that either way the characters turned, they were up against impossible odds. Until reading Mistaken, I hadn’t realized how rare this has become. Plus the history and the setting where remarkable.

Favorite Couple: A Dangerous Legacy    Everyone will have their favorite couple, but I enjoyed their banter and sweetly unfolding romance. Their unique form of communicating made them memorable.

Most Read Author: Jessica Dotta: 1,335 pages   I could have also given Dotta a number of other awards for Most Surprising, New Favorite Author, Great Supporting Cast, Best Villian, Page Turner, Sticky Plot, etc. But I was trying to give the other greats room to shine. Needless to say, Dotta’s series has made it to my top ten for the year.

Most Listened to Author: Franklin W. Dixon: I listened to 10 Hardy Boy books for a total of 1,816 pages. I’m attempting to listen to some of the classics in audio and the Hardy Boys were the first I picked up. Sure they were slightly cheesy but they were also fun.

Now it’s your turn!! Were you able to narrow down your 2017 reads to a Top Ten list? Did you have a favorite cover? How about a favorite couple? Which author did you read the most in 2017? 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Book Reviews

Book Review: The Austen Escape by Katherine Reay

191Falling into the past will change their futures forever.

Mary Davies finds safety in her ordered and productive life. Working as an engineer, she genuinely enjoys her job and her colleagues—particularly a certain adorable and intelligent consultant. But something is missing. When Mary’s estranged childhood friend, Isabel Dwyer offers her a two-week stay in a gorgeous manor house in England, she reluctantly agrees in hopes that the holiday will shake up her quiet life in just the right ways.

But Mary gets more than she bargained for when Isabel loses her memory and fully believes she lives in Jane Austen’s Bath. While Isabel rests and delights in the leisure of a Regency lady, attended by other costume-clad guests, Mary uncovers startling truths about their shared past, who Isabel was, who she seems to be, and the man who now stands between them.

Outings are undertaken, misunderstandings arise, and dancing ensues as this company of clever, well-informed people, who have a great deal of conversation, work out their lives and hearts.

My Thoughts: Hands down, one of my favorite Austen inspired stories of the year!! I LOVED this fresh plot. Kudos to Reay for her creativity with this one. It wasn’t a retelling and yet all the Austenish things someone could hope for were present. The references were always explained so you don’t have to be a life-long Austen fan to understand the story at hand . . . and, yet, being an Austen fan makes it all the sweeter.
The setting was easy to visualize. The characters were richly layered. I enjoyed watching Mary and Isabel come to a deeper understanding of themselves and each other.
I’d like to point out that I really believe this novel falls into the Clean Fiction category instead of Christian Fiction. The difference is that in Christian Fiction, any lesson the characters learn is learned through or attributed to Christ. In The Austen Escape, the characters didn’t appear to have any religious affiliation whatsoever. The novel is, however, very clean. There was no language. Nothing overly passionate or graphically unnecessary or vulgar. As a dry Baptist, I didn’t appreciate the social drinking scenes. But even in this, the social drinking felt more like a backdrop and not a focal point. I’ll admit that I was a tad bit lost in the first chapter when the focus is on Mary’s work and the drama surrounding it. I don’t have a scientific brain so a lot of the info was over my head. However, Reay’s depth of research is awe-inspiring. If anyone else gets off to a rocky start like I did, just keep going. Things will smooth out in a couple of chapters and you’ll capture what was most important from those scenes.
At the end of the day, The Austen Escape was a delightful novel and has earned a place on my reread list.

Rating and Recommendation: I’m giving The Austen Escape 5 stars and recommending it to those who enjoy Clean Contemporary Fiction or for Austen fans of any age.

~ I received a copy from the publisher. All thoughts are my own. I was not compensated for this review.

Posted in Book Reviews

Book Review: Price of Privilege Series by Jessica Dotta

154The year is 1838, and seventeen-year-old Julia Elliston’s position has never been more fragile. Orphaned and unmarried in a time when women are legal property of their fathers, husbands, and guardians, she finds herself at the mercy of an anonymous guardian who plans to establish her as a servant in far-off Scotland.

With two months to devise a better plan, Julia’s first choice to marry her childhood sweetheart is denied. But when a titled dowager offers to introduce Julia into society, a realm of possibilities opens. However, treachery and deception are as much a part of Victorian society as titles and decorum, and Julia quickly discovers her present is deeply entangled with her mother’s mysterious past. Before she knows what’s happening, Julia finds herself a pawn in a deadly game between two of the country’s most powerful men. With no laws to protect her, she must unravel the secrets on her own. But sometimes truth is elusive and knowledge is deadly.

*Since this series is a continuation, I’ll only share the blurb for the first book.

My Thoughts: 

WOW-WEE!! Not only is this a fantastic series, but as I looked over my list of book awards for the year, I could easily hand SEVERAL awards to this series alone. Here’s a quick list: Best supporting character, Most gripping storyline, Best series, Most read author, Kept me guessing, Best villain, Best narrator. Lol Maybe I should add one for Most awards. 😉

But seriously, I cannot brag about this series enough. In fact, I personally emailed the author to find out when we could find more of her fantastic work.–Incase you’re wondering, she’s hard at work but our wait will be some longer yet.

One of the factors that stood out to me the most in this series was how Dotta worked completely out of the box. Anything goes with this one and I loved her unpredictability. I find it tedious when you always know how the story ends and it seems as if Dotta would agree. I can’t count the number of times she made me change my mind about what I wanted for the heroine or what I expect would happen next.

Needless to say, this is one series that I plan to keep on my shelf to re-read again later . . . or re-listen to as the case may be. I had the pleasure of listening to portions of this series in audio and found it even more enjoyable. There was something about the narrator’s voice that I liked. But when she spoke for the characters and infused their personality and emotions into the line, I felt like I was in the room with them. When I switched to ebook form, I could still hear her voice in my head.

I will say this for fellow sensitive readers, there are some rather passionate moments. The first novel more than any of them, I believe. I think I was more uncomfortable while reading the first novel because I didn’t know what to expect from the author. In hindsight, she stops when she should but I would rate it a PG-13 (a true PG-13, not those overly trashy PG-13s that everyone knows should have been rated R. 😉 ) But that’s on my sensitive scale. Others may not find it as strongly as I did.

This series is a continuation. You MUST read it in order. Thankfully for you, all books are available so you can keep right on trucking from one to the other. Again, I was in awe of Dotta’s ability to write three full-sized novels from one POV character and yet keep the ideas and pages turning. There wasn’t a dull moment.

In the early pages, I wasn’t quite sure what to make of the author’s theme or spiritual message. Having read them, I can honestly tell you that you’re in for more than just grit and intrigue. Dotta has woven in a strong and sturdy message on coming to faith in Christ, on trusting Christ with everything, and SOLELY leaning on Christ in the good times and the bad–and believe me, these characters know a thing or two about hard times.

Rating and Recommendation: Clearly, I loved it, and since I’m reviewing 3 books, I can give them 15 stars as they rightly deserve. Lol If you enjoy an unpredictable novel, something gritty yet still clean enough for a Christian reader, then this is a must-read for you!

Posted in Book Reviews

Book Review: Where We Belong by Lynn Austin

184The Adventure of a Lifetime for Two Indomitable Socialite Sisters

In the city of Chicago in 1892, the rules for Victorian women are strict, their roles limited. But sisters Rebecca and Flora Hawes are not typical Victorian ladies. Their love of adventure and their desire to use their God-given talents has brought them to the Sinai Desert–and into a sandstorm. 

Accompanied by Soren Petersen, their somber young butler, and Kate Rafferty, a street urchin who is learning to be their ladies’ maid, the two women are on a quest to find an important biblical manuscript. As the journey becomes more dangerous and uncertain, the four travelers sift through memories of their past, recalling the events that shaped them and the circumstances that brought them to this time and place.

My Thoughts: I’ve come to expect a well-researched, historically in-depth novel from Austin and she surely doesn’t disappoint here. The setting shifts from a 19th century Chicago to the exotic travels of two women. Her ability to transport the reader is remarkable.
Austin weaves in the gospel and a solid message about trusting God into a story with lots of heart and adventure. I enjoyed how the characters’ circumstances were constantly changing.
I really loved Becky and the way she struggled against what everyone around her wanted for life. I appreciated the way she stood her ground and kept her eyes on who God wanted her to be. Sadly, her sister Flora fell flat for me. But I thoroughly enjoyed Petersen and Kate’s stories. These two really came to life and pulled at my heartstrings and helped to give the story a very powerful ending that I couldn’t put down.

 

Rating and Recommendations: Where We Belong is a great read for those who enjoy Christian Historical Fiction or those looking for fiction based in another country. I’m giving it 4.5 stars.

~ I received a copy from Bethany House. I was not compensated for my review. All thoughts are my own. 

Posted in Book Reviews

Book Review: Mistaken by Karen Barnett

175Since booze and prohibition have made criminals out of every man in her world, Laurie Burke resolves to find at least one honorable man to fill her life. Convinced that handsome newcomer Daniel Shepherd is connected with her brother’s rum-running gang, Laurie quickly scratches his name off her list. Daniel has mixed feelings about returning to the dirty mill town of his youth, but grudgingly agrees to manage his grandfather’s drug store until a replacement can be found. The moment he meets Laurie on the windswept bluff overlooking the beach, he knows that if he can earn her love, he might have a reason to stay. But when Laurie pushes him away–for none other than Federal Agent Samuel Brown–Daniel wonders if Laurie really is the upstanding woman he thought her to be. The Strait of Juan de Fuca, just off the beaches of Port Angeles, Washington, was treacherous water for reckless rum-runners—and the agents who tried to catch them. So when she realizes her brother is in danger, romance is the last thing on Laurie’s mind. Yet the people she believes she can trust, may not be so honorable after all.

What I Loved: What a ride!!!! I absolutely LOVED this novel! Let me try to put into words why . . . I think one of the things that quickly jumped out at me was the setting. While the prohibition setting isn’t “new,” it’s not a common setting used in Christian Fiction. Not as common as the Wild West anyways. So finding a  well-written book in this setting is always a treat. It is the small details of the era and nature walks the characters went on that beautifully builds on the setting, making it come to life.
The characters were complex and realistic, but the plot is where this novel really shines!! It wasn’t until I had picked up Mistaken that I realized I hadn’t had my hands on a novel with a truly sticky plot in quite some time. It seemed like the characters were constantly being backed into this impossible corner where either direction spelled disaster.
The passion level on this one was a slightly more than expected. It stayed well within the bounds of Christian fiction, but for those who don’t appreciate romance or passion, they’d like to know that there was a character who had a habit of putting his hands on the lady. Again, it never went too far but the character was meant to make you uncomfortable, and he did just that.

Rating and Recommendation: Mistaken is an older novel by Karen Barnett, but I highly recommend Christian Historical fans to go back and pick this one up if they haven’t already. I’m giving it 5 stars.

Posted in Book Reviews

Book Review: One Enchanted Noel by Melissa Tagg

193Secrets, Sparks and Second Chances…a Heartwarming Holiday Romance

Seb Pierce isn’t exactly a cowboy, but after fifteen years on a ranch in Texas, he might as well be. And he’d do just about anything to keep the rancher who took him in so many years ago from losing his land…including returning to the wealthy roots he’s long since abandoned. Seb agrees to work for his stern grandfather for one year in return for an early draw on his inheritance. But he never expected the agreement to land him in a quirky small town in Iowa at Christmas-time, renovating a dilapidated theater…and running into a woman he never thought he’d see again. She might not remember him, but he remembers her.

After too many years away from her hometown—and too many failures to count—Leigh Renwycke is finally back in Maple Valley and living the stable life she used to wish for. If only she could shake the old restlessness that used to get her into trouble. When Seb Pierce waltzes into her world and begs for her help planning the theater’s holiday reopening, it could be the solution to her discontent. If she pulls it off, it might be enough to jumpstart a new career…and to prove once and for all that the new-and-improved Leigh is here to stay. 

But between old secrets and new sparks, restoring a town treasure in time for Christmas may not be as easy as it seems…especially once Leigh learns the truth about Seb. 

What I Loved: There’s nothing like coming to a satisfying ending to a beloved series. One Enchanted Noel was one of those moments.
Once again, we find ourselves watching a previous “bad girl” pull her act together. By the time we meet Leigh, she’s done with her drug abuse but her past sins still haunt her and steal away her joy. It was refreshing to walk alongside Leigh as she discovered just how forgiving our Lord and her friends and family can be.
One Enchanted Noel is a warm Christmas story just perfect for curling up with during your downtime. And if you haven’t read the first two books of the series, I recommend you start at the beginning. One Enchanted Noel can be understood as a standalone, but I have a feeling you won’t want to miss a moment with the Renwycke family.

Rating and Recommendation: I give it 5 stars and recommend it to those who enjoy Christmas novellas or Christian Contemporary.