A Match of Wits (Book Review)

a match of witsA Match of Wits by Jen Turano is the fourth book in her historical romance series. I was given this book to review at my request. I have enjoyed Jen’s writings ever since reading her first book A Change of Fortune. I equally enjoyed A Talent for Trouble and A Most Peculiar Circumstance. A Match of Wits did not disappoint in displaying Jen’s unique voice filled with wit and whimsy.

Agatha is a reporter from New York who someone wants dead. To preserve her life she heads West to seek stories and write, encountering a series of adventures along the way, keeping her bodyguard and companion busy. Her deepest secret is the love she had for a certain man, Zayne, who reappears when she least expects it in a Colorado mining town.

Zayne is at his low point in life and looks now more like a scraggly mountain man than the dashing man about town Agatha used to know. Having struck gold in a mine and been left with a permanent and painful leg, Zayne Beckett has chosen a life of isolation to nurse his wounds and avoid any real relationships, including that of his friends and family back in New York. Agatha however finds Zayne at this low point and through a further series of misadventures, and coerces him into going home to recover from his latest disaster.

Little did Zayne realize that the exquisite and irritating Agatha was the woman he loved all along. With her life in danger and his leg in a cast, how is he to protect her? And why, with all the schemes of the matchmakers around him, can he not woo this woman to be his wife?

If this book were a movie I think it would rival an old slapstick with the antics the characters engage in.  I could imagine a young Dick Van Dyke as Zayne! Jen writes her humorous romances with a light touch and while she places them in ridiculous situations at times, she writes a believable and enjoyable story filled with love and faith that will leave you smiling. Well done, Jen and again, a beautiful cover by Bethany House.

 

Point of View Snob

When I wrote my first book, I committed a cardinal sin I didn’t even realize. I head-hopped. I was in everybody’s head. It took awhile for me to understand this whole concept of point of view and even now sometimes I have to stop and think as I write: Whose head am I in right now? So I only describe the experiences of that particular person.

 

Image courtesy of digitalart / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of digitalart / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Point of View Police. As I’ve read stories I’ve become very tuned into point of view issues. Sometimes they come in sneakily. Sally’s face turned red. Well, that’s fine if you’re in Kenny’s head but not if you are in Renee’s. Her face can grow warm. She can realize a tendency to blush but she can’t actually see it unless she’s looking in the mirror. As an editor now it is my job to catch these sneaky little devils and work with the author to give them a quick and functional death. Muwhahaha!

But now I’ve crossed a line. Yup. I have. I’ve written several manuscripts and have read hundreds of stories and now have even edited a nice little number.

I am now a Point of view snob. It’s true. I prefer third person point of view. It’s nice. You can have more than one person in a story and I find it easier to write as well as connect with the characters.

First person point of view drives me nuts. Oh, there are some great stories (and I’ve contracted some) that have this perspective and those writers almost trick me. Not sure how they do it, but they do. One was cool in that it went from first person for the lead character and then flipped to third person for the secondary one. Kind of a cool thing but not a device I would recommend to become standard.

First person is hard because it generally limits the author to one point of view, for the entire book. *yawn*.  In a first person point of view manuscript the most commonly used word is I.

Funny that I’m writing this blog post in first person. But this is a little different. It’s not fiction. These are my thoughts. And the word I is used in third person too during dialogue when they switch to first person as they talk. I also enjoy personal letters in a story that is third person. It adds variety!

Generally first person POV rubs the wrong way because as a kid (and adult) I’m reminded that the world isn’t about me. That I shouldn’t always be so self focused and never write everything with lots of “I”.

One author told me first person was a deeper point of view. Maybe, but in some ways it can make a character whiny and narcissistic if the author is not careful. Or redundant. How many of my thoughts and concerns are replays or rehashing of things that have happened? Well, that’s fine for our daily life, but boring for the reader.

In most cases, I connect better with the heart of third person POV characters. And I like the diversity of other perspectives too. It adds more drama in my opinion.

So what is your favorite point of view? I mentioned past tense . . . let’s not even get into present tense points of view for fiction . . . shoot me now.

Are you a point of view snob? What kind of perspective do you like reading from?

Falling Like a Rock (Book Review)

ebook cover copy (1)Falling Like a Rock is the latest release by author Bonnie McCune. This contemporary romance is set in the mountains of Colorado.

Elaine’s life is falling apart. Losing her job, and her boyfriend she stumbles into a refuge in the mountains of Colorado at the home of a college friend. In an effort to pick up the crushed pieces of her life and sagging self-esteem, Elaine finds that life is filled with more challenges when she meets the rugged, hunky Joe, the mayor of Falling Rock.

Could Joe help her find a job in the crashing economy of this mountain oasis? Facing her own insecurities as she tries to prove herself in a new town forces Elaine to confront her past as well as her present and future as she learns to take responsibility for her emotions and her life as she repeatedly runs into conflict with Joe, a man she finds attractive and likes but can’t seem to get along with.

Falling and breaking her ankle, fighting an eating disturbance and struggling against his stubbornness are nothing compared to battling with the forest fire that burns the chaff away to reveal to both her and Joe their true feelings for each other.

Sometimes, surrender is the best choice, when one falls like a rock into love. 

This is an enjoyable story that takes the reader on a journey into the heart of personal struggles with doubt, self-esteem and body perception issues and the desire to please that can be at the root of sometimes misguided choices. Elaine learns the hard way that the only person she needs to care for and impress–is herself. And out of the ashes of that can come a wealth of blessings. With the character of the mountains of Colorado playing a major role in this story, the reader is transported into the lives and characters of a small town in America where real life, and love, bloom.

Previous books authored by Bonnie McCune include: Heart Strong, Irish Episode, and A Saint Comes Stumbling In.

Skipping Stones

At some level we all want to know we are important. The truth is that actions and words can have a ripple effect we don’t know about and that can impact the world for centuries to come. It’s hard to live in that reality that one person is important. That no person is ever unimportant.

Some people are a force to be reckoned with. When you think of people in the public eye, their good (or bad) deeds are seen by many and have a ripple effect. When we hear of their deaths, (rest in peace Andy Griffith), we mourn as if we knew them.

But we didn’t.

me with burlap to cashmere
I got all fangirlish seeing a band I loved from way back. They were gracious enough to let me get my photo taken with them. (Thanks Burlap to Cashmere! You guys RAWK!). The fact is though, they gave me an hour of pleasure in watching them exercise their God-given gifts. Then I go back to my life and they go home. They don’t know me and won’t remember me and while I will always appreciate their music, I don’t really know them beyond what I can read on-line. I don’t know their favorite color or what makes them laugh or what their biggest fears are.

As I reflected on this it hit me that we do this to people whose gifts we appreciate. And while they share the gospel in song, they aren’t saving lives or fighting for our freedoms.

But no one is more important than anyone else. 

I’m nothing special. I suspect I would be missed more for what I do than for who I am when the time comes. Because much like the guys in a band, most of you really don’t know me. And maybe that’s good. I’m pretty open and honest about what I like and don’t so if you follow me here or my fan page on Facebook, you’ll get a pretty good clue. But even then you won’t know the deep hurts that resonate within me day after day. And in reality, you probably don’t care. You have your own hurts to hold. And social media is not the place to always share those darker corners of our souls.

Image courtesy of njaj / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of njaj / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

In some ways I resemble a skipping stone. Smooth on the outside. Maybe even flat (they skip better I hear). God tosses me out on the lake of humanity and I touch and leave ripples, skip and repeat and eventually, plop. Down I go to sink beneath the surface as if I never appeared. Maybe that skip was a blog post, or a one-on-one for counseling, a class I taught or sending a contract for a book. But then you move on with your life and I move on with mine, sinking under the water.

Blub. Blub. Blub.

And the only way I can resurface is when God reaches down to pull me back out again and cast me where he wants me to go. There for a moment and then gone, hopefully touching lives for the better but always sinking in the end.

Some people are blessed. God has gifted them with another human being, a spouse or a closer-than-a-brother friend to celebrate or commiserate with the skips. Someone who validates that even after the ripples fade, that yes, they had been there and made a wave. I hope that a band like Burlap to Cashmere have close relationships within that group to get them through the lonely moments of life. I hope you do too. In the meantime I’ll just keep letting God drag me up from the bottom of whatever lake he’s skipped me across and let him toss me again and trust that somehow, in the sea of time, I make a difference. Even if no one else notices. And that that difference pleased my Creator.

In the meantime, maybe you’ll be blessed by this band and their classic hit from 1998 performed at a live concert earlier this summer.

 

Sparks Fly (Book Review)

test copySparks Fly is the latest romantic suspense novella by Daisy Jerico. This is an ebook released as part of the Diamond line with Prism Book Group. 

Good cooking can be the way to a man’s heart, but burning down your shed in an effort to make award winning barbeque ribs is probably not the most auspicious beginning when Carlisle first meets Chet, the firefighter who responds to her emergency call and initially suspects her of being an arsonist.

Chet’s not sure what to do about he petite chef and under the guise of investigating arson he attempts to get to know her better. Unfortunately for Carlisle, the real arsonist is jealous that anyone would think she was capable of copycatting his attempts to bring down the fire chief.

Chet quickly figures out that Carlisle is not the man he is after, but he is intrigued by this feisty woman. When it becomes clear that her life is in danger, Chet seeks to protect her from harm. Carlisle doesn’t want to be protected, but decides that she will try to help Chet solve the string of arsons that now seem to be targeted directly at both of them. Can they survive the sparks of love burning between them as they battle the fires that rage around them?

This is a fast paced and lively romantic suspense that will keep you turning the page (ebook only). Daisy Jerico’s other romantic suspense novella, Love Thief, takes the author on a fun journey as well and is available also as part of this collection. If you enjoy novellas with spunky characters, Daisy is an author to watch and read.

A Walk in the Woods (Serial Short Story Romance, Part 4 of 4)

Candy paced by the front window of her condo. Jax hadn’t lied. He had called every night since their woodland adventure. Sometimes for only a few moments as he often worked nights. Ironically, sometimes she did as well. Mick was out of the hospital and recovering at home with his family. In spite of the injury, he had managed to bring down a key player in the drug trafficking in the city. She found out Jax had come that evening because he feared something might happen even though Mick had assured him it was all covered. She was glad he had been there. Would she have had the courage to survive that alone?

The grey sedan pulled up and Jax jumped out and strode to the front door. The bell rang but she had opened it before the last tones were done.

“Hey, beautiful. Are you ready?”

“Sure am.” She grabbed her purse and her Bible and locked the door behind her as they left.

As they drove down the street, she giggled.

“What was that for?”

“I’ve never been asked to go as a date to church before. I kind of like it.”

“You needed to try something new. I thought maybe going with a friend would make it easier for you so you can get out of your rut and back to a new normal.”

“A new normal. I like the sound of that.”

They walked into church together and Candace noted the way other women watched Jax. A surge of confidence roared through her along with the awareness that she was not being welcomed as much as tolerated by any of the single women in the church. She couldn’t blame them. Jax was hot.

Jax, while polite to everyone, was not overly warm to any woman and for the most part maintained a hand at her lower back as he steered her through the crowd.

They left shortly after for lunch.

As they sat at a table at a small crowded diner, he leaned over to whisper, his breath tickling her ear. “So, did you enjoy this morning’s adventure?”

She grinned at the handsome man adjacent to her. “I’m enjoying it even more now.”

Image courtesy of photostock / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of photostock / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

One eyebrow quirked, “Really, why is that?”

She leaned forward to whisper in his ear. “Because my ex just walked in a few minutes ago and has been glaring at us from across the room.”

Jax smiled and kissed her cheek. “Wanna point him out to me?”

She did just that but didn’t expect the smile to fade from his face. “That’s your ex?”

“Yeah, why?”

“Excuse me for a moment.” He pulled out his phone and texted rapidly. The waitress came to take their orders and she tried to wait. A glance at her ex showed him squirming in his seat as the voluptuous, scantily clad woman next to him drooled over the menu.

Jax grinned.

“What’s up?”

“I know something you don’t . . . yet. But justice is on its way.”

“I don’t have much animosity for him anymore. I’ve forgiven and even feel sorry for him.”

“And so you should. He’s a pathetic excuse for a man.”

As they ate their food and talked they were soon disturbed by a commotion on the other side of the room. A woman had approached the table of her ex and Candy watched as the color drained out of his skin. The woman next to him reached across the table and slapped him. Soon he was in handcuffs and being led out the door along with this girlfriend who kept up a stream of insults.

“Your sins will find you out,” Jax mumbled with his mouthful.

“Jax? What was that all about?”

“Your ex has been on a wanted list for some time. He’s been good at keeping himself hidden but he is in fact facing several charges. Be thankful you’ve divorced or you would find any of your own assets at risk with all he’s going to face.”

“So he wronged many more people than me?”

“Yup.” Jax paid the bill and left a tip on the table. They stood to leave.

“Looks like you keep helping me out. I could get used to this.” She enjoyed the touch of her hand in his as they walked out the door.

“Ah, but you helped me out too.” He opened the car door. She waited till he got in on his side

“How so?”

The car started and they drove to a park nearby. “Today was the first Sunday when I didn’t have women chasing me around church trying to finagle a date.”

“I did notice they had their eye on you and weren’t too pleased by me at your side.” She allowed him to help her out and took his hand as they walked down by a small pond.

“Just as your ex-husband now regrets that you were by mine this afternoon.”

“I guess that means we’re good for each other?” Candy tapped him on the nose with her finger.

He grinned. “So far it seems that way, but I look forward to time spent with you. I have a feeling though that ‘normal’ will not be a word that would in any way define our relationship.”

“Hmmm, what other words could there be? Providential?”

“Adventurous?” They sat side by side on a park bench. Ducks squawked nearby as a little boy was trying to feed them. Birds sang in the trees and a squirrel chirrupped as it scampered past.

“God-ordained?” Candace leaned over and kissed his cheek. “I look forward to discovering more words with you.”

Jax wrapped his arm around her and drew her close. He leaned down and she saw the intent in his eyes. “How about—wonderful.”

As his lips touched hers she found she couldn’t agree more. A little voice called out “Ewww, they’re kissing!” Candy started giggling as they pulled apart.

Jax rested his forehead against hers. “Give him about twelve years. He’ll change his mind.”

Candy looked up at Jackson and placed a palm on the side of his face, enjoying the texture of his beard beneath her fingers. “It took me a lot longer than that. I think the best kiss I ever had, was with a dangerous man in the woods just a few days ago.”

He frowned. “Competition, huh? I’ll have to do better.” He leaned down and claimed her lips again.

Candace smiled and kept her eyes closed as the kiss ended. “Hmmm, so glad you are striving for improvement, although how you could improve on that, I don’t know.”

He wrapped his arm around her and pulled her to his side as they looked out on the pond. “You give me something to strive towards. Every man needs a goal.”

“Really, and what’s your goal?”

“Making sure you know how loved, cherished and beautiful you are for the rest of your life.”

Candace let her head rest on his chest, grateful for a fresh start and a new love.

A Walk in the Woods (Serial Short Story Romance, Part 3 of 4)

Image courtesy of papaija2008 / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of papaija2008 / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Candace gasped for breath, more from Jax’s kiss than from the running. Her heart beat fast more because someone desired her than fear of the danger ahead of them. He released her hand so they could run faster and she was surprised at her stamina given her lack of faithfulness to her morning runs in recent weeks.

Another gunshot rang out, much closer. Jax grabbed her hand and they ducked down. Now they could hear yelling. A man came running their way and Jax pushed her behind him as he waited for the man to pass. As the man came close, Jax jumped out on top of him. The gun the man was holding went off and the bullet whizzed past her right ear. She ducked as she watched them fight. Each punch Jax took, she winced.

It dawned on her that she had planned to walk these woods alone today. What if she had?

She was with a narcotics agent. Had he been here for work?

Nah. He would have been carrying a gun then, wouldn’t he?

Soon the man was unconscious. Jax untied his shoes and used the laces to bind the man’s hands. He stood and looked over to her. “Are you okay?”

She shrugged. “Just another walk in the woods for me. Well, except for the bullet that tried to take out my ear. Other than that I’m fine. You?”

He laughed. He walked over and pulled her into a hug. “I’m sorry. I’m glad you didn’t get hit. I should have told you to stay behind the tree.”

“I probably wouldn’t have listened. I wanted to make sure you were okay and didn’t need my help.”

“And what would you have done to save me?”

Candy looked down and then bent over and brought a sturdy rock up in her palm. “I used to be pretty good at pitching.”

He planted a kiss on her lips, took the rock and dropped it on the ground and pulled her down the path. “Someone else was here and might be injured. I don’t know if it is one of the good guys or bad guys.”

“Maybe you should have taken that man’s gun.”

“Nah, don’t want to mess with fingerprints and I have a suspicion we may not need it. By the way, I never did ask you what you did for a living.”

“You want to talk jobs now? I’m a nurse at Valley View Hospital. I work in the Emergency Room.”

“Perfect! Maybe God had you here today for just this reason. I don’t believe in circumstances at all. But divine appointments, definitely.”

“Why?”

They turned the corner and a man was in a crumpled heap on the ground. “It’s Micky. He’s one of the Narc officers. Crap. He’s been hit.”

“I guess this is my turn to save the world?” She knelt by the man and started to assess his injuries.

Jax stepped aside and motioned her forward. “He’s all yours. Tell me what to do.”

“Call for an ambulance. That would be a good place to start.”

* * *

A half an hour later as the sun was setting and mosquitoes were making a vicious appearance, Jax had waved to his friend Micky as he was driven off in the ambulance. The perp had been arrested and taken to jail and now a police car waited off to one side.

Candace’s kahki shorts were streaked with blood as were her arms and hands in spite of having wiped them off on towels.

“Come on, Sweetheart, let’s get you home and cleaned up.”

“My car?”

“I had them tow it to a repair shop. It’s the least I could do after you saved Mick’s life. Officer Joan Marshall will give you a ride home.”

He watched her frown. “What’s wrong?”

She shrugged. “I was enjoying getting to know you and well, it’s been such a long time since anyone has kissed me.” Her face turned a delightful shade of red. “I guess I’m just sad to see this thing between us be over so soon.”

“Who said anything about it being over?” He placed a kiss on her forehead. “I’ll be calling.”

She smiled. “You will?”

“If I don’t, you know how to find me.” Jax stepped back and headed towards the police car. He helped her in the front seat and closed the door. She rolled down the window as the officer started the squad.

“You’re not coming?”

“I live nearby. I got my laces back.” He pointed down to his shoes. “I’ll jog home. Don’t worry, Candy. You’ll be hearing from me.”

He watched as the car pulled away. If he hadn’t come today, she could have been caught in a drug deal gone south. Nope, it was no coincidence that the girl of his dreams had shown up today and had the spunk to run with him into danger. He grinned to himself as he headed down the road at a steady lope. She would be hearing from him, but their first date would be far from what she expected.

Stay tuned for the final installment tomorrow!