Tag Archive | fiction

My Stubborn Heart (Book Review)

This review was initially posted on Sept. 11, 2012 but I have reposted it here because it was one of the top five books in the Romance category of the INSPY awards of which I was a judge.

On a whim I had clicked to download a free ebook on amazon as I so often do – and yesterday My Stubborn Heart by Becky Wade just happened to be the book I decided to open and read.  It seems that lately every book I pick up by Bethany House, whether historical or contemporary romance – have been beautifully written and have touched my heart. This book is no exception.

Kate is on a break from her job as a social worker and on a three month stint to help her Grandmother restore an old family estate.  She has reached the advanced age of 31 with no husband and is constantly reminded of her lack by those around her – as well as the loneliness she feels deep inside. Yet she has determined and prayed that she would never settle for any man – but only the one God would have for her.

Matt has had a career as a hockey player, fame and beautiful wife. After his lovely bride died of cancer he walked away from everything he knew, even shutting out family and friends, to live a hermit’s life and live with his grief and subsequent anger at God for not answering his prayers. Accepting the job to work at renovating an old home, he shows up to work to find that there is an annoying woman who keeps coming by to talk. He doesn’t want to talk, he wants to be left alone.

Over time though Matt has a change of heart as Kate worms her way in with her light banter and teasing. She is not afraid to challenge him as she is determined to help him escape his self made prison. Definitely attracted to this “hottie” she feels that he is above her reach and tells herself they could only be friends. The heart doesn’t always listen to logic.

I don’t want to give any spoilers away, but I loved the challenge of this book as it looked spiritually at two key issues: 1) Can you trust a sovereign God with your prayers and that He, knowing what’s best will answer them in His perfect timing?  2) How far are you willing to go to obey Him?

This book is not preachy at all – but it deals with the honest gut-wrenching decisions we all at times have to face at the foot of the cross and as we deal with the painful realities of life. Becky Wade does a beautiful job weaving that all together in a compelling story.

Advertisements

The Next Big Thing Blog Hop – following Lisa Lickel

I’m following in the blogsteps of the fabulous Lisa Lickel, http://livingourfaithoutloud.blogspot.com/2012/12/the-next-big-thing-blog-hop-following.html   who posted about Meow Mayhem last week.

Today, I’d like to share a bit about my latest work in progress:

What is the working title of your book?

Lord Harrow’s Heart

 Where did the idea come from for the book?
This book is the fourth in my Rose Hill Series. The first is “The Virtuous Viscount” followed by “Lord Phillip’s Folly” and “Lord Michael’s Mischief.” I was trying to keep with the double sounding consonants in the title while trying to convey a bit of what the book is about. Theo (Lord Harrow) is really looking for love, hence the heart.

What genre does your book fall under?

Historical/Regency Romance

Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?

Can you picture him in a cravat?

Can you picture him in a cravat?

I try to look for pictures on-line of people (actors/models etc) that are kind of the image I have of my character. This one was hard because Theodore was kind of the anti-hero. He’s more of a cuddly teddy-bear type. Not the haughty London aristocrat, but a gentle man, strong but soft. He’s not as athletic as the other protagonists from my previous novels. Marcus (Virtuous Viscount) was very controlled and fit. Phillip was a bit anal-retentive but trim. Michael was scrappy, kind of like a street fighter, lean and muscular but on the shorter end of things. Theo is gentle which seems so much more passive in his personality. I finally hit on Emilio Estevez. Not sure if he could handle the British accent though.

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
Lord Theodore Harrow wants to find love, without the drama, but in Valeria he gets more than he bargained for: adventure.

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

My series is as of yet unpublished. My first novel is at a publishing house to be considered and my prayer is that a publishing house who believes in the Regency genre would contract for the whole series.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?

I wrote the initial draft (85,000 words) in thirty days during November’s NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month).  I’ll be doing some light edits and handing it off to my beta readers while ignoring if for a month or more before tearing it apart and polishing it. I can write a full-length novel without NaNo – but it’s fun to do it this way. I have written the previous three in this series that way. I have also written two contemporary romances without NaNo. (check out www.nanowrimo.org for more information on that kind of writing adventure).

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
I wish I could say that I write as well as Georgette Heyer, Julia Klassen or Lawanna Blackwell – but to be honest, my Regencies are filled with a bit more mystery and adventure than most would be. They tend to have a faster pace. This is no Jane Austen. My men struggle more with temptation too. Theo really likes kissing. I keep things clean but there is a bit of “heat” there.

Who or What inspired you to write this book?
I started writing four years ago and the series kind of spun out of that first book. I started writing because of a dream and a story I had in my head for 15 years. I kept writing because I found I loved it! So I guess you could say it’s all God’s fault.

I had decided all five of my male characters from Marcus Remington’s story (The Virtuous Viscount) needed their own tales. After all, these men need wives! They just have a bit more of a challenge finding their “happily ever after.” This year it was Theodore’s turn for love. Next year Captain Jared Allendale will have his opportunity but it will likely occur mostly in France, Spain and Portugal before they end up at Rose Hill.

What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?
There’s some evil afoot. My band of men seem to keep running into a dark, sinister character known as The Black Diamond. He surfaces in the Virtuous Viscount, is in the background of Lord Phillip’s Folly, becomes far more involved in Sir Michael’s Mischief and is quite personally involved in Lord Harrow’s Heart. He’s a threat to the crown as well as to these men – and the women they love. So there’s a thread of mystery and suspense that weaves through the books. It’s not all about stolen kisses!

Look for the animals too. Some play more significant roles than others. My favorite though had to be the ferret that was in Michael’s story. There’s a sweet kitten in Theo’s tale that gives an assist at an important time.

Check out my fellow writer and friend Shellie Neumeier today at:  http://shellieneumeier.com/2012/12/the-next-big-thing-blog-hop/

On December 19th – go visit my friend and fellow Regency Romance author Susan at: www.graciouswoman.wordpress.com.

The Fiddler (Book Review)

When I first met Beverly Lewis at a book signing, my first thought was “She is so sweet.” The Fiddler was my first read of anything by her and the book is definitely a reflection of the author’s personality (from my limited acquaintance).

The Fiddler is a story of an Englisher, Amelia, who is a classical violinist of world class caliber who is struggling against the demands and expectations of her father, agent and musician boyfriend. So she takes up “fiddling” on the side and in secret. Discovery forces her to look at what it is she really wants out of life and an unexpected rainstorm, wrong turn and flat tire, bring her the doorstep of Michael.

Michael has his own challenges to face as well. Raised Amish, he has lived in the world and yet struggles to defy his parents’ wishes for him to be baptized and committed to the Amish way of life.  Doing so would mean giving up his work as a drafter. His own foray into the world was followed by his neice’s as well, with her also wandering from God. Can one leave the Plain way and still love and serve the Lord?

Both Amelia and Michael struggle to come to grips with their dreams and how God could use that in the face of opposition from those closest to them. Or could God work that out in time? And what about the attraction each feels for the other? One Englisher and one Amish? Could there ever be a meeting point there?

As I stated earlier, this story is sweet, easy to read and thoroughly enjoyable. Beverly herself told me that if I was going to read any novel of hers as a first visit to her Amish fiction, this was the one to read. I think she was right. The only thing that could have made this better would have been an audio (CD) of some of the fiddling music, although I experienced in my heart regardless.

Fools Rush In (Weddings by Bella, Book 1) – Book Review

Janice Thompson is the author of Fools Rush In,  that has comedy down to a science.  Bella Rossi is an Italian living in Texas and planning a country-western wedding. The clash of cultures between her Italian family and the very country family of the man of her dreams, who she meets quite by accident, culminates in a series of slap-dash, laugh out loud and make you smile like-a –silly- goon- responses as one reads.

I have rarely read a book with this much comedy so seamlessly woven in and where you can still connect with empathy for the inner struggles of the heroine of the tale, Bella. While some if it seems unbelievable it is totally realistic because hey, life IS stranger than fiction and it makes me wonder how much of this came from Janice’s own crazy life. I don’t know Janice personally so I’m only guessing here!

I highly recommend this book. For a look at Texas and Italian culture (and what happens when they mix) and the difference we all bring to any situation we find ourselves in, this book is top of the list at making fun of crazy families, especially those who don’t hide themselves but approach life with gusto and authenticity.

This book is first in a series of books called Weddings by Bella, and I am looking forward to reading the rest in the series, if they are anywhere as good as this one, the mantra of “laughter is the best medicine” will surely be a cure for the winter blues.  Keep us laughing, Janice! You have a gift for it and I’m glad you’ve shared it!

 

The Preacher’s Bride – Book Review

The Preacher’s Bride is set in 1650’s England against the religious persecution that the Puritan’s of that time faced. This is the debut novel by Jody Hedlund and was written in such compelling way, I couldn’t put it down.  The characters are realistic and likeable and the emotion that flows through this story is palpable.

When John’s wife dies, leaving behind an infant son and some other children, a teenage Puritan girl, dedicated to serving however God would lead, steps into the breach to provide for this infant. The child, not expected to live, begins to thrive under Elizabeth’s care as do the other remaining  children who are grieving their mother. John, however, blinded by grief and obsessed with preaching to the masses, regardless of the cost, initially opposes Elizabeth’s interference in his household but soon becomes to depend on her completely for the care of his children and home.

As religious persecution increases, Elizabeth becomes a target to try to undermine and stop John’s ministry. Elizabeth suffers severely but does not give up the task she feels God has clearly given her to care for this little family. Her sacrifice costs her the possibility of her own marriage that had been planned.  Eventually John wakes up to the woman who has sustained him and who has loved him for years while she served and supported his preaching.  Eventually marrying, the challenges the couple faces are not less severe and crippling.

John’s passion for the work of God and Elizabeth’s zeal for service against tremendous odds paints a compelling image of the sacrifices that many in that time period would have encountered.

This was a book I could not put down. I had to keep reading to see what would happen next. When I finished I had to go back and re-read parts because they were so compelling. I found myself swept up into the story and empathetic to the characters as they struggled with obedience and faith  in the midst of circumstances most of us will never be challenged with.

I strongly recommend this book. It is worth the time to read and let the  characters resonate within your soul and call you to a deeper walk and faith in Christ. The courage they exemplify is something we lack so much of in our own culture.  Thank you, Jody for pouring your heart and the talent God has obviously gifted you with, into this story. To Him be the glory!

A Summer in Oakville (book review)

I’m ashamed to admit that I was reluctant to read this book. The title didn’t really grab me. Maybe because I live in Wisconsin near Oakfield and didn’t think that a book about Oakville would be all that interesting.  So why did I read it? Well, to be honest – because two authors I admire wrote it: Shellie Neumeier and Lisa Lickel.

This book is an inspirational contemporary story about small town life and a family that hails from there. There is action, romance, a struggle against local politics and the desire to preserve heritage. What is unique about this story is that it is one series of events that is told in novellas based on the perspective of four members of one family.

The first to tell her story is Tessa. A mom of two grown daughters and a grandmother who is rooted to her hometown and willing to dig those roots in deeper even at the expense of her marriage. She is  plagued by a secret from her past that threatens to explode in the midst of her present challenges. Is her marriage doomed? And how will she deal with the man from her past that stirs up pain and longing at the same time?

Tess has a daughter, Lindsay. Her story is second in the book. Lindsay seems to be a little more mature than her mother, and wiser. She is struggling to find value and worth, while hanging out in the country at her Grandparent’s home and waiting for the career opportunity that will make the best use of her gifts and education. Can she ‘fix’ her grandparent’s problem? And what about her conflicting feelings for the young man who stirs her heart but might be her enemy?

The next story told is from the perspective of a hurting and rebellious young man, Andy (Tessa’s nephew/Lindsay’s cousin).  He struggles to understand why God would allow his mother to die and he acts out in ways that risk his own life. Sent to stay with his Grandparent’s in sticks of Oakville is not an ideal summer vacation when a kid has experienced life in Madison, Wisconsin.  Andy learns the hard way the  value of work, family and of forgiveness.  And he might be a bit in love too.

Andy’s father, Art (younger brother to Tessa), has run away from the farm in the country to escape his ghosts. Earning a PhD and having a successful career, he ironically studies gerontology (aging) while at the same time basically ignoring his aging parents. He feels like he is failing as a single father after losing his wife in a tragic accident. He struggles to believe in a God who would allow so much grief in his life. How can he reach his son when he is so wrapped up in his own pain? A lost romance lures him back to Oakville and his story actually has the sweetest ending of them all.

One series of events in a small town forces a family to reconnect. This story leaves some unanswered questions and I find myself wishing that the Grandmother’s story had also been told here. I would have been good to explore her  perspective as she juggles all the emotions  of her two children and grandchildren, the crisis that threatens her home, and her struggle to care for her disabled husband. What is impressive is that her character, as the glue to this family, is consistent through the four novellas. She’s one awesome lady in my opinion.

I recommend this book because it is written so differently from anything else I have picked up. Faith is important to this story. Two authors have written but there is one voice. I know both of these authors personally and could not figure out which one had written which chapter. The characters speak with authenticity. This family is not perfect, but their struggle is genuine. The book is a good reminder too that as we go through life – and face our difficult circumstances, there are people around us, experiencing those same situations through an entirely different lens of experience and emotion, and yet God is weaving all together beautifully.

Congratulations to Shellie Neumeier and Lisa Lickel for crafting a unique book. I will probably be reading it again which I don’t often do with novels. Maybe, as a writer,  I’ll challenge myself to write Grandma’s story just for fun.