The Forgotten Princess of Elmetia (Book Review)

Lost princessThe Forgotten Princess of Elmetia by Rachel James is a Medieval romance with plenty of action. The book takes place in the 600’s AD of Great Britain in the region of Elmetia where Princess Teagan as a girl finds escape from the carnage of her father’s kingdom in taking on the identity of a servant. She is transported to another land where she serves an evil king, all the while believing that not only had her father perished in the battle, but her older brother, Niall, as well.

Teagan comes across information that her brother is still alive and a warrior, Ryce is being commissioned to kill him. She escapes to try to seek out her brother and warn him. Unfortunately a series of misadventures occur when she is rescued by Ryce and his side-kick Sherwin, then captured and rescued and . . . well, I don’t want to give away spoilers!

Teagan is an intrepid young woman and devoted to her family but even finding her home as royalty again, she realizes that she didn’t gain the freedom she thought she had and struggles with her role as Princess in a new land. Learning to trust Ryce, the Saxon warrior who was initially her enemy adds an interesting wrinkle to the story as well as Ryce and Sherwin’s struggle to understand the God of the Bible as being superior to multiple gods.

I was amazed at the amount of research this author put into her story and I believe that women, young and old will enjoy the tale of this Princess and her struggle not only for freedom for her and her people, but also for her own identity and for love, will grip the heart of any princess-tale loving little girl who still lives in many women.

I look forward to reading the sequel when it comes out next year!

Breach of Trust (Book Review)

breach of trustDiAnn Mills is a fabulous romantic suspense author so when I came across her book Breach of Trust, I was thrilled. This book was the winner of the 2010 Christy Award as well as the 2010 Inspirational Readers Choice Award. And for good reason.

When Daniel Keary runs as a candidate for governor of her state, former CIA agent, Paige Rogers is on edge. Having worked with him seven years ago, his betrayal and lies cost her everything. Her identity, her family, her career . . . and her son. Now he wants her under his thumb but Paige isn’t quite so gullible. Her newfound faith since the tragedy of those events, propels her to work on the side of truth, before more people are killed to bankroll Keary’s dreams.

In hiding as a small town librarian, she runs into a snag with the attentions of the High School football coach. But if she admits who she really is, she will lose all she holds dear and risks lives of those she loves most, even those she had befriended in her new town.

But there’s at least one mole, in her town or in the CIA that is undermining her attempts to seek to protect the citizens of her state. But along with choices in who to trust becomes an issue of how she can live a lie while clinging to God. How far can she trust Him with the truth and the outcome if she steps out of the shadows to confront evil?

This was an anxiety producing read. It was hard to put down because the characters were so well-developed and the layers of mystery unfolded at such a pace to keep the reader wondering if Paige was really going to succeed, much less survive. Could all the dreams had sacrificed be restored to her if she stepped out in faith? You’ll have to read the book to find out! There’s a reason it won awards.

A Christ-like Hero

Tony New CreationI like strong male characters in my stories. Not so much the “alpha” male dominating type of man, but more a man who might struggle but ultimately seeks God and honors and respects the women around them.

When my editor, Joan Alley contracted my contemporary romance, Pesto and Potholes, due out spring of 2015 with Prism Book Group, she asked if my main man, Antonio DeLuca, was real. She wanted to give his number to a friend.

In reality I want my characters to be seeking to grow to become more like Christ. They are not God however, and make mistakes and mess up. But the love they show a woman and their overall respect for her, is what I would hope every man was like. In other,  older terminology–my heroes are gentleman.

I have prim and proper gentleman and I have cheeky gentleman in some of my stories. I have some that can whine and some that can be totally blind to the truth before their eyes. Some don’t like their life shaken up by love but eventually they understand the blessing of a relationship with a woman of godly character.

Tony - I want youWhile all this is well and good, this is why I write these characters: Because I want my daughter and others like her to aim high in their choice of a mate. To look beyond the charm to the actions of the man they might choose to spend their life with. I don’t write men that are “too good to be true” I write godly men because I know there are men out there like that. I want one of them for my daughter.

Hard worker. Responsible. Respectful of boundaries. Honors a woman because she is God’s creation. Serves God. Seeks God. Asks forgiveness and is willing to change when he recognizes his wrongs.

I’m not talking a feminized doormat. Who wants that? Ultimately our lives are characterized by our growth in Christ and that is manifested often in our relationships with others. I want my books, yes even romance novels, to reflect that reality

And then there’s attraction too . . .<wink>

Tried and True (Book Review)

Tried and TrueI had the opportunity to get a copy of Tried and True (Wild at Heart) by Mary Connealy in exchange for a review. Now this is not an onerous task by any means. Mary’s style of writing her westerns has always been flavored with a unique voice that adds a bit of humor to even the most challenging situations her characters encounter.

Tried and True was no exception to this as she starts a new series, Wild at Heart that I suspect will follow the adventures of the Wilde sisters who, in disguise, fought in the Civil war after their brother was killed. Their father is a bit wrapped up in his grief and they’ve traveled west to homestead using their time served to help pay for the time needed to claim a homestead.

That plan however is a bit unnerved by the fact that Kylie Wilde, the youngest sister, really likes being a woman. While wearing pants has its advantages at times, she likes her hair long and wearing skirts and dreams of a more civilized life in the East.

She encounters land agent Aaron Masterson who  quickly discovers the ruse the girls have plotted to gain their land. Can he let them keep their secret as he falls in love with Kylie? He just wants to finish his job and move far from civilization as possible.

As both struggle to reconcile their conflicting dreams with their growing attraction, outside forces threaten to tear them apart. Kylie has a choice to make to follow her heart and desire for this man over her desire for tea parties and pretty dresses. Can she give that up and live in the untamed West?

I love Mary’s writing and her characters are lively and I look forward to reading the rest of this series. This was a book that was hard to put down and I smile every time I think about it, because it was just that enjoyable. Kudos again to Bethany House for their amazing cover design.

Are My Words A Clanging Cowbell?

I’ve not had much to say lately so I’ve not been as faithful with my posts. And maybe that’s a good thing. As I helped my friend Beth Ziarnik get her own blog up and running, we talked about the fear of just adding to the noise of the world around us. We don’t want to toss words willy nilly to have them evaporate without perhaps refreshing someone’s faith. A noisy cymbal as Corinthians would say. Or maybe now-a-days a cowbell is more appropriate?

There is however, a timelessness to words. What I write in a blog two years ago could resonate with someone today. We write in faith that someone will enjoy our words and be blessed by them. But isn’t that the way we do anything in this world?

We work and hope that it makes a difference.

We raise children and hope they will grow to be men or women who love God and will do far greater things than we ever could do.

We study Scripture and even after decades ask God to challenge and change us more and more into the image of his Son.

We exercise and hope to become stronger physically.

We plants seeds in hopes of a garden to enjoy.

The point is, we rarely do anything for the sake of doing it. Vanity of vanities! All is vanity” is the lament of Solomon in the book of Ecclesiastes. He’s become cynical at the redundancy that can sometimes overtake our lives if we let it.

In our society we post everything on social media. Or at least many do. And rarely do we tell the truth about our deepest battles. Solomon ends Ecclesiastes though with these words:

The conclusion when all has been heard is: 

Fear God and keep his commandments, 

Because this applies to every person. 

For God will bring every act to judgement,

everything which is hidden, 

whether it is good or evil. (Ecc 12:13-14 NASB)

Well, now. Isn’t that sobering thought? Omniscience is not just this pie in the sky word that reminds us that God sees and knows everything. It’s a terrifying word that means God SEES and KNOWS everything. He knows our thoughts, our deepest desires, our hidden sins and the motives behind our actions.

Gulp. 

I gave a talk in Colorado at the Write His Answer conference at Estes Park. Beautiful area and delightful people. I spoke on the Heartbeat of Christian Romance. And as much as I talked about romance, kissing and gasp, lust–this was the quote that people wanted to make sure they wrote down:

As an author we are held accountable for what we write as much as any teacher or pastor is. We need to consider this a holy calling and a responsibility. What we write can and does impact lives whether we think it does or not.

Blessings to you as you go out today and live your life for Him. May your words, and actions, bring Him glory.

The Right Ingredients (Book Review)

EbookTRI copy (1) (200x300)The Right Ingredients is a multi-flavored romance by Nancy Shew Bolton. Well, come on, the main character is a baker so this story is about faith, love and, my favorite–frosting!

This is such a sweet story and I loved the transformation that the main character Ann went through as she struggled throug her work-a-holic baker lifestyle and grappled with her need for God. As she emerges from her shell to embrace love and her new faith in God, challenges conspire to destroy both of these new and wonderful things in her life. Through it all Ann grows and matures. Of course this is a romance too but Ann doesn’t let her love for a man make her compromise what she has come to believe in. A happily-ever-after wedding too! And cake. Lots of cake!

Fishing for Love (Regency Short Story Romance)

Image courtesy of EA at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of EA at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Percy walked out into the dewy grass and paused to smell the fresh summer air. He thought he saw a shadow in the distance and since he was headed that way he stepped forward to follow.

As he grew closer he noted the cloaked figure of Lady Annette Wallington. Daughter of a neighboring earl who passed away six months ago, and his closest friend all these years as they were neighbors.

She sat beneath the sprawling oak tree, on a blanket she must have carried with her. Percy gave a soft whistle to let her know he was coming and not startle her. It was a jaunty little tune they had made up one summer and was unique to them.

He saw her hood fall away from her face as she turned to look at him. Her expression grave.

“Good morning, Annette. What brings you out this early in the day?” He settled down with his fishing pole and tackle to bait his hook.

“I needed to get away from the house.”

“At this time of the day?”

“Even now it is an untenable place to live.”

“Why?”

“My uncle is to be wed to Miss Sophorina Dimplewile in a fortnight and demands that mother and I vacate the premises prior to that date.”

“This is shocking news. You are all still in mourning.”

“He has gone to half-morning and declares it is a prudent move.”

“Sophie was one of your bosom friends from finishing school?”

Was being the operative word.”

“There’s a huge age gap there. He’s only two years younger than your father.”

“I know.”

“So where will you go?” He cast his hook into the stream before looking at her again. He was concerned by the dark circles under her eyes, and wrinkles on her forehead.

“I know not. We have been ill-provided for. There is no Dower House and even his smaller properties he has denied us residence at.”

“He will not find you a place?”

“He says he washes his hands of us.”

“You and your mother have run that house and you especially have overseen the estate on his behalf and made it profitable, yet he refuses you aid?”

A tear trickled down her cheek and he propped his rod up so he could scoot backward to sit next to her.

“And Sophie is in agreement with his treatment?”

“It seems that becoming a countess brings with it a distaste for the lower orders.”

“Meaning you?”

“Apparently. With a heritage and education of a lady, but no season, and having worked in trade as an estate manager, they deem me ‘unmarriageable.’”

“They see you as employable in that role?”

“Right. Who would employ a woman as estate manager?”

“I would.”

She stared at him and shook her head. “You are the dearest of friends but even you cannot take on a single female into your home without scandal falling on both of us.”

“Ah, but a Duchess has more influence than a Countess, doesn’t she?”

“There are not many Dukes on the marriage mart and those who are, are ancient.”

“But there are heirs to dukedoms available.”

“And the only one of them I could ever have any affection for was you, Percy.”

Lord Percival smiled. “I’m glad to hear it. It would be poor form for me to duel with another peer for your affections.”

“You are being silly now. Everyone knows you will never marry and have no need to do so. Your brothers have provided a bevy of heirs.”

“Where did you ever get the impression I was opposed to marriage?”

“You’ve never been serious with a woman before and have never talked about it.”

“Not every man boasts of his conquests with women, although to be honest, I have none. But my heart has been engaged for an age. It has never seemed a prudent time to broach the matter with the one who holds my heart.”

She smiled at him. “Oh, Percy, I’m so glad for you. I pray she will be worthy of you. Who is she?”

“You don’t know?”

Her brow furrowed. “No.”

“Let me see if you can guess.”

She warily nodded her head.

“She was a devoted daughter and works hard. Her beauty takes my breath away and even the thought of her brings a smile to my face. I’ve known her for many years and she dances divinely. She has never had a season due to unfortunate circumstances. She has unwittingly held my heart for years as I have waited for her to grow, I hope, to return my affections.”

She smiled and a tear trickled down her cheek. “I’m so happy you have found love, Percy. I cannot guess though who this deserving woman would be.”

“No? More clues then?”

“Yes, silly man.”

“She is a wonder with numbers and reads and is able to converse on a wide variety of subjects from gothic novels to crop rotation. She is light on her feet and has lips so kissable that I have yet to taste.” He watched her face turn a rosy hue.

“Please, tell me you have proposed so I may wish you happy.”

“But you have your own problems. My happiness should never supersede your distress.”He sighed.  She looked up through the trees as the early dawn glow filtered through the leaves and dappled her face with odd patches of light.

He frowned at her cloak and reached up to the catch at the top to peek at what she wore underneath. “You came here in your night rail?”

“I was suffocating in my room and left in a hurry so as not to wake my maid who would have tattled to my uncle.”

“Tsk, tsk, tsk. You do know you could cause a scandal being alone with me. It is beyond the pale to be alone with me dressed in such a way. Did you even wear slippers?” He moved aside part of the cloak to reveal naked toes. He raised his eyebrows. “Well, Anne, you do know there is only one thing to be done now and it will make everyone happy.”

“What would that be?”

“You can marry me.”

Her book dropped off her lap as her jaw fell open. She recovered with a shake of her head. “But what of the one you love? I would never deprive you of that because of my imprudence.”

“If you said yes, I would hope she would be delighted.”

“You speak in riddles.”

“And you have not had enough rest. You are not thinking clearly.”

“Your pole! You have a bite.”

Percy reached out to grab his rod and tried to bring the fish in. Just as he was to bring it out of the water, it escaped leaving a naked hook. He set the pole down and came to sit next to her again. “Anne. It’s always been you I have loved and longed for. Please say you return my affections?”

“Me?”

“You, my love.”

“You love me?”

He nodded.

“I. . . I . . .I don’t know what to say.”

“Perhaps that you love me and want to be my bride, my best friend and mother of our children? And that you will help me run my estate?”

She gave him a soft smile. “I do love you and always have. You are the reason I didn’t mind missing a season. I couldn’t have borne seeing you in the arms of other women. I never dreamed . . .”

“Maybe you should start dreaming then. I’ve had plenty of dreams about you and would love to make every one a reality.” He watched her face grow pink. Or was it a trick of the light? “Say you’ll be mine, Anne?”

“I have no fortune.”

“Having you will be all the fortune I need.”

“You are certain?”

“Never more sure of anything than this. I love you, Anne. Please say you’ll marry me?” He leaned forward and their lips met in a tender moment of bliss. He pulled back and watched her eyes flutter open.

“If I marry you, will I get more of those?”

Percy smiled. “As many as you want, every day of our lives together.”

She leaned toward him and kissed him. He savored the moment but pulled back. It would be no good to tarnish his bride’s name.

“Yes, Percy. I will wed you.”

He couldn’t hide his grin if he had tried. “Soon? Would you like to beat your Uncle to the altar?”

“But the banns . . .”

“I’ll get a special license. We could be wed within a few days. Could you manage to be ready by then, with whatever you need and moving to my home?”

“I could be ready tomorrow should you but ask.”

“Do you need me to speak to your uncle?”

“I am of age and do not need his permission. I will inform him on the day of our wedding lest he, or Sophie try to ruin my joy.”

“I’ll bow to your wisdom on that.”

“I’m glad you decided to come fishing today. I’m sorry I’ve kept you from catching anything.”

“I caught myself a beautiful bride. You smell better than the fish too.”

She giggled as she pulled him toward her for another kiss. “Guess I reeled in a good catch myself.”

“Glad to be caught, Anne. I’ll be the one who didn’t get away.” He leaned down for his kiss, grateful that somehow today, his fishing was better than ever.