Welcome to First Line Fridays! The day we grab the book closest to us and share the first line. Join the fun and discover your next read!
Today I’m featuring, the book I’m currently reading, The Social Tutor by Sally Britton. I recently found this book through another book blog, though I’m sorry to say I can’t remember which. This is my first book by Sally Britton and I am currently on chapter ten. So far, it’s pretty entertaining. 🙂 Have you read The Social Tutor or anything else by this author?
Here’s the first line:
November 1st, 1811
“Waiting on a letter on knows to be full of exciting news is an exrutiating experience,” Christine Devon said, slumping in her chair in a most unladylike manner.
Her social graces are lacking, his finances are in ruin, but together they can solve both their problems. As long as they don’t fall in love.
After years of escaping etiquette lessons in favor of the stables, Christine Devon’s grand debut in London is only weeks away, though her deportment lacks the sophisticated polish she needs to achieve her goals of a lofty marriage. Desperate to take her place in society, she needs someone to instruct her in proper behavior.
Thomas Gilbert, newly returned from Italy, is ready to begin his dream of founding a horse farm. But during his time away, the estate’s finances have dwindled to almost nothing. Unless he can find a way to save his family from ruin, he will be forced to sell his horses and give up his dreams entirely.
A chance meeting between them may solve both their problems. Christine gains a tutor in the finer arts of polite behavior, while Thomas is given access to the finest bloodlines in England. But as time passes, the arrangement is less about business, and more about love. Will they see it in time, or will Christine leave Thomas behind for the splendor of London’s ballrooms?
The Social Tutor is the first novel in a sweet Regency romance series. Each novel is a stand-alone romance but, read in order, are immensely satisfying. The novels in the series are:
Welcome to First Line Fridays! The day we grab the book closest to us and share the first line. Join the fun and discover your next read!
Today I’m featuring, the book I’m currently reading, True to Youby Becky Wade. This book has been waiting on my TBR for far too long. Have you read it?
Here’s the first line:
Finding oneself at the mercy of a crazed gunman isn’t all fun and games.
Winner of the 2018 Christy Award Book of the Year
After a devastating heartbreak three years ago, genealogist and historical village owner Nora Bradford has decided that burying her nose in her work and her books is far safer than romance in the here and now.
Unlike Nora, former Navy SEAL and Medal of Honor recipient John Lawson is a modern-day man, usually 100 percent focused on the present. But when he’s diagnosed with an inherited condition, he’s forced to dig into the secrets of his past and his adoption as an infant, enlisting Nora to help him uncover the identity of his birth mother.
The more time they spend together, the more this pair of opposites suspects they just might be a perfect match. However, John’s already dating someone and Nora’s not sure she’s ready to trade her crushes on fictional heroes for the risks of a real relationship. Finding the answers they’re seeking will test the limits of their identity, their faith, and their devotion to one another.
Welcome to First Line Fridays! The day we grab the book closest to us and share the first line. Join the fun and discover your next read!
Today I’m featuring, the book I’m currently reading, The Trail Boss’s Bride by Erica Vestch. I am seriously enjoying this read and didn’t want to put it down to write this post. If you haven’t read it yet, now’s your chance to win a free copy!
To enter my giveaway: Share this post on social media and tag me @KathleenDenly. Then leave a comment below letting me know that you shared, along with a line from your favorite book or the book you’re reading right now.
**Giveaway closes @ 11:59pm 5/3/19**
Here’s the first line:
Steve Ketchum had heard it said that there were only two things on God’s green earth that cowboys were afraid of: being left afoot and a decent woman, and he believed it.
From New York Times bestselling author Erica Vetsch comes a stirring western romance (part of the Journeys of the Heart anthology):
Steve Ketchum loves being a trail boss, almost as much as he hates river crossings. But it’s part of the job. As is moving an abandoned wagon out of the ford. But when he goes to haul it away, he’s stunned to see what’s inside.
Kitty Fareholm’s good-for-nothing husband picked a lousy time to die. How could he leave her stranded, birthing a baby in the middle of nowhere? She’d prayed for help to come, but did God honestly think a trail-worn cowboy was what she needed? What’s more, Steve’s trail crew is dead-set against having a woman join their camp. He promises the men he’ll leave her at the nearest town…but Kitty just might have other plans.
Hi everyone! Let’s give a warm welcome to Tara Johnson who has kindly agreed to join us for an interview today! Her debut novel, Engraved on the Heart was released July 1, 2018 and I have to tell you, I have read it and absolutely loved it! In fact, that is exactly why I asked her to do this interview. I wanted to know more about the woman who could create such a beautiful story.
Reluctant debutante Keziah Montgomery lives beneath the weighty expectations of her staunch Confederate family, forced to keep her epilepsy secret for fear of a scandal. As the tensions of the Civil War arrive on their doorstep in Savannah, Keziah sees little cause for balls and courting. Despite her discomfort, she cannot imagine an escape from her familial confines―until her old schoolmate Micah shows her a life-changing truth that sets her feet on a new path . . . as a conductor in the Underground Railroad.
Dr. Micah Greyson never hesitates to answer the call of duty, no matter how dangerous, until the enchanting Keziah walks back into his life and turns his well-ordered plans upside down. Torn between the life he has always known in Savannah and the fight for abolition, Micah struggles to discern God’s plan amid such turbulent times.
Battling an angry fiancé, a war-tattered brother, bounty hunters, and their own personal demons, Keziah and Micah must decide if true love is worth the price . . . and if they are strong enough to survive the unyielding pain of war.
Tara Johnson is an author, speaker and passionate lover of stories. She enjoys traveling to churches, ladies retreats and prisons to share how God led her into freedom after spending years living shackled as a people-pleasing preacher’s kid.
Tara’s debut novel Engraved on the Heart (Tyndale) earned a starred review from Publishers Weekly, as well as numerous other accolades. She has articles published in Plain Truth Magazine and Live It Loud Magazine and has been a featured guest on Voice of Truth radio, Enduring Word radio, television and podcasts. Tara is a member of ACFW and is represented by Janet Grant of Books & Such Literary Agency. She, her husband, and children live in Arkansas.
Welcome, Tara! I always like to start with something a little fun and what’s more fun than being a kid?
Can you share with us which is your favorite childhood book?
When I was nine, my parents bought me the entire Little House book set. I read it through a dozen times. After that, it was the entire eight-book set of Anne of Green Gables. I still have all of them. They have been read so often, the spines are held together with duct tape. Looking back, Little House and Anne Shirley taught me more about life than I realized. And of course, like a true eighties’ child, I also had a big collection of Sweet Valley Twins, Nancy Drew and Mandie books too.
As you can see in this photo, Tara, we have a lot in common. (I sold my SV collection a few years back.) You can also see that my children have had access to the Little House Collection which is the same set my dad read to my sister and me when we were in elementary school. Can I borrow your duct tape? 😉
Did you ever consider writing under a pseudonym?
I never have. I understand why many people do. Privacy is so incredibly important, especially in this day and age when personal information is at everyone’s fingertips. Still, I’ve always desired to just be myself.
That’s a really interesting way of looking at it. I know some authors also use it as a way to branch into different genres without confusing their readers.
How many unpublished and/or unfinished books do you have?
Other than the two books set to release with Tyndale in the next two years, I have seven more unpublished fiction stories, another one that I’ve just started and ideas for three more. I’ve written an unpublished Bible study for young teen girls entitled Beyond the Fairytale, and another incomplete nonfiction work about understanding pastors and their families.
Wow. You’ve been busy! I am so excited that you have two more books coming out in the next two years!!!
How do you select the names of your characters?
Picking names appropriate for the time period is important. I always do a census search of names for the time period. There were some pretty creative names in the 1800s! Sometimes when I’m stumped on a name, I turn to my social media friends for help. Their creativity is astounding!
You’re so right about the unusual names. I’ve come across some in those census records that made me think, “If I used this my readers would never believe it was a period accurate name.”
What is your research process like?
Once I have an idea for a story, I spend a month or two learning as much as I can about the subject. I’ll read a ridiculous number of books about the event, time period or person, watch Youtube or Netflix documentaries and search up as many podcasts as possible. When I feel fairly confident in the subject matter, and know the characters well, I begin writing, but continually have to look up more research as the story unfolds.
Our processes sound very similar.
What was the most challenging part of your research for Engraved on the Heart?
Researching the Civil War is tough. There is so much blood and gore. Having to immerse myself in that world for weeks on end is probably the most challenging part of the research process. When I start writing a new book, my dreams resemble horror movies. Some of the most bizarre research I encountered were oddities like Secesh goods—bowls and goblets made from Yankee skulls. Confederate tradesmen actually sold them on the streets of Southern towns.
Despite the harshness of this period in history, to forget it would be tragic. Who we are, what we’ve learned, the inventions, innovations, cultural changes and broken barriers are because of the Civil War. Though the research can be grueling, I won’t allow myself the luxury of looking away. To look away is willful ignorance, and ignorance always breeds fear.
Very wise words.
Why this setting?
The spark of the idea for Engraved on the Heart began when our family visited Savannah, Georgia several years ago. I was entranced with the history and charm of the town. Secrets seemed to ooze out of every corner.
My family opted to take a historic riding tour of the city. I was especially intrigued by a fact rattled off by our tour guide. “Many of the older homes and buildings in and around the outskirts of Savannah were built by slaves. In fact, if you look closely, you can find some of their fingerprints in the bricks.”
Later that day, we walked down the cobblestone streets, admiring the elaborate iron fences guarding beautiful homes trimmed with colorful flowers. As I passed a home, a darkened impression molded into the crumbling brick snagged my attention. I sucked in a surprised breath over the precious detail. There it was, staring back at me. The fingerprint of a slave.
I ran my finger over the scarred impression, marveling that such a small mark could tell such an exquisite story. Running my fingers over that precious print linked me inextricably to the past, binding an invisible cord between the nameless slave and me. God slowly unfurled a story in my heart. I’ve loved Savannah ever since.
I love that story!
Do you hide any secrets in your books that only a few people will find?
I don’t really hide any secrets, but I do have a secret way of building each story I create. I can’t give you the details though. It’s a secret! 😉
Oh, come on. Not even a hint? 😉
Are there any deleted scenes from this book that you can tell us about without giving any spoilers?
There was a major scene my editor and I struggled to delete. We went back and forth trying to decide if we should leave it in or cut it. In the end, we thought the story would be much more realistic, and a bit poignant, to leave it out. I won’t say where the scene was placed for those who haven’t read it, but I had originally intended for Hiriam to be reunited with his long-lost daughter. Cutting that scene was extremely difficult.
Having read the book and loved that character, I can imagine how painful that decision was. While I can understand and can’t really argue with the reasoning behind the decision, I have to admit I’m curious to know how it would have played out. Maybe you could share it someday. It would be like the deleted scenes they sometimes give as bonus material for movies. 🙂
What do you want readers to expect when they read Engraved on the Heart?
Great question! My main purpose in writing Engraved on the Heart was a spiritual one. I grew up with a seizure disorder, just like my heroine Keziah did. All of us face hardships of some kind or another, whether physical or emotional, but if we aren’t on guard, the enemy will tell us we have no worth.
A lie is only harmful if we believe it. The truth is Jesus thought we were so valuable, He died to keep us. I want my readers to know they are loved. They are wanted. They are cherished by the God of the universe. The scars in His hands prove it.
Amen. I love how you shared that message through the story without a hint of preaching.
Can you share with us a new or new-to-you author whose book you read this year and are excited about?
Two new-to-me authors are Carrie Turansky and Cynthia Roemer. I recently read Carrie’s novel Across the Blueand was struck with how tenderly she addressed tough issues. I’m currently reading Cynthia Roemer’s Under This Same Skyand am having a hard time putting it down. Such engaging characters!
Which writers’ conference would you most recommend to writers in your genre?
There are several excellent ones, but two of the best are Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference and American Christian Writers Conference. Both have deepened my understanding of the craft, connected me to amazing industry professionals and allowed me to forge lifelong friendships with other authors. Best of all, both conferences point my heart to Christ for creativity and direction.
I agree. Both great conferences!
What other authors are you friends with and how did they help you become a better writer?
Wow. There are so many. Too many to name, but I’ll mention a few.
Francine Rivers and Allen Arnold have taught me my relationship with God is more important than anything else. Without that life-giving connection, writing is an empty endeavor. Laura Frantz is kindness personified. She has loved me into the writing community with such grace. I think kindness is a hallmark of all her relationships. Jennifer Major has taught melaughter is not just a gift for the journey…it’s vital. Savanna Kaiser and Cara Grandle are my critique buddies, but more importantly, they are my spiritual warfare partners and prayer warriors. We lift each other up when the enemy throws his tough stuff our way. Though I haven’t known Tamera Alexander long, she taught me something invaluable. Her gentle reminder that “My books aren’t my babies,” was deeply profound in helping me understand these creative things we produce are just that…a product. They have no affect on our worth, our relationship with God, or anything else. And it greatly takes the sting out of any criticism that comes when I keep that simple fact forefront in my mind.
There are so many others. Sweet friends like Jocelyn Green, Karen Barnett, Kim Sawyer, Robin Lee Hatcher, Sarah Sundin and more who have shown me incredible kindness as a newbie. They were willing to offer reviews, critiques and encouragement when they had nothing to gain. I’m forever grateful to them.
Often the writer’s journey is depicted as a solitary one, and sometimes I suppose it is, but for most of us, we need the support of others to help us along the way. I’m so glad to know you’ve found those people.
Tara, thank you for taking the time to share so much about yourself and how Engraved on the Heart came to be! I’ve enjoyed getting to know you better. Please keep us updated on your writing journey – particularly when you know the release dates for your upcoming books! 🙂
I loved this book so much that I want to share its wonderful goodness with more readers! So I have decided that in celebration of getting to know Tara a little better today, I will giveaway an eBook copy of Engraved on the Heart to one of you! All you have to do to enter is:
Hey everybody! Guess what today is? My birthday! So I thought I’d celebrate by sharing the list of books I’ll be reading this summer and giving away a book to one of you awesome readers! (Read through to the bottom for giveaway details.)
Since I will be traveling to China for an adoption next month, I won’t have as much free time to read this summer as I normally would. Therefore, this year’s list is somewhat limited, but here are the books I am hoping to get to:
Why: I requested a free copy of this book from NetGalley to review because the premise intrigued me. Then I opened it to read the first line for an FLF post and couldn’t put it down! I made myself stop after 3 chapters because I have other books to finish first, but I can’t wait to get back to this one.
About the Book:
After the War Between the States, a Confederate officer longs to heal the heart of a beautiful woman—but first he’ll have to right the wrongs that were done to her.
Major Ethan Kelly has never been able to absolve himself of the guilt he feels for raiding a woman’s home shortly before he was taken prisoner during the Civil War. He is struggling to get through each day until he once again crosses paths with Lizbeth Barclay—the very woman he is trying to forget.
Life after the war is not much different for former Captain Devin Monroe until he meets Julianne VanFleet. He knows she is the woman he’s been waiting for, but he struggles to come to terms with the sacrifices she made to survive the war.
When Ethan and Devin discover that their former colonel, Adam Bushnell, is responsible for both Lizbeth’s and Julianne’s pain, they call on their former fellow soldiers to hunt him down. As the men band together to earn the trust of the women they love, Lizbeth and Julianne seek the justice they deserve in a country longing to heal.
Why: This one has made several rounds to rave reviews on the book blogger circuit, which got it on my TBR pile. Then I discovered the author is a fellow member of the San Diego Christian Writer’s Guild and met some of her friends at the SoCal Christian Writers’ Conference last month. That made me curious enough to open it and read the first few pages. What I read moved it toward the top of my TBR pile. 🙂 I’m really looking forward to this one!
About the Book:
Raised amid the fame and mystique of the Big Top, Charlie Lionheart holds the audience in the palm of his hand. But while his act captivates thousands, it’s away from the spotlight where his true heart lies. Here he humbly cares for his pride of lions as if they were his brothers, a skill of bravery and strength that has prepared him for his most challenging feat yet—freeing an orphaned infant from the dark bondage of a sideshow. A trade so costly, it requires his life in exchange for hers, leaving him tarnished by the price of that choice.
As the circus tents are raised on the outskirts of Roanoke, nurse Ella Beckley arrives to tend to this Gypsy girl. All under the watchful eye of a guardian who not only bears a striking resemblance to the child, but who protects the baby with a love that wraps around Ella’s own tragic past, awakening a hope that goodness may yet reign. When their forbidden friendship deepens, Charlie dares to ask for her heart, bringing her behind the curtain of his secret world to reveal the sacrifice that gave hope to one little girl—boldly showing Ella that while her tattered faith is deeply scarred, the only marks that need be permanent are his own.
Why: I loved her debut novel, The Isaac Project, so when I was offered the opportunity to be part of an upcoming tour for All of You, I jumped on it! Of course, I much prefer reading series books in order (even if they can be read as stand alones), so I am going to try to read Finders Keepers first. The fact that Finders Keepers won the 2017 SELAH award for contemporary romance, is just added assurance that this will be time well spent.
Three lives. Three hundred years. One ship that ties them together.
Florida, Present Day
Summer Arnet will go anywhere to capture the perfect shot that will get her marine photography noticed by the prestigious nature magazine, Our World–even diving in waters haunted by great white sharks. When a treasure hunter with a ladies’-man reputation approaches her about a sunken ship at one of her dive locations, it may be the chance she’s been looking for to launch her career…if his charming smile doesn’t derail her first.
A past tragedy has left a hole in Trent Carrington’s life–a hole he’s tried to fill with women, money, and adventure. Could the feisty marine photographer be the missing piece, or will Trent finally accept that the treasure he seeks can’t be found where rust and moths destroy?
The same evil that stole her mother’s life stalks Isabella Castellano. Afraid for her safety, Isabella disguises herself as a cabin boy and hires on to one of His Majesty’s treasure fleet vessels. But has her flight from a known threat only led her to be ensnared in a sea of dangers?
Jacquelyn Rogers can rebuild anything…except the shambles of her past. A restorer of vintage planes, she’s worked hard to earn the reputation of being one of the guys. The last thing she needs is a former Navy pilot fighting his own inner demons stepping in to defend her from dangers she thought she’d outrun long ago. Some battles must be fought alone.
After a freak accident severs Lieutenant Michael “Finch” Carrington’s dreams, as well as two limbs, he’s left with nothing but a fragile faith and a duty-bound promise to watch out for his friend’s baby sister. A promise she insists is as unnecessary as it is unappreciated. But when she turns the tables and begins to weld together the broken parts of his life, it may be his heart that is in need of protection.
With the world at war yet again, Alice Galloway rejects her father’s traditional expectations and offers her piloting expertise to the Air Transport Auxiliary. She may be a woman in a man’s world, but when she overhears key intelligence, she must find the strength to transcend boundaries and her own fears. Or countless people may die.
Sometimes the past reaches forward to bring hope to the future.
Why: I recently won a free copy of this book from the God Is Love blog. It’s a debut novel (I love reading new authors), the premise sounds interesting, the reviews so far have been positive, and the first few pages read well.
About the Book:
Sarah Crawford wants more from life than to attend the wedding of her ex-fiancée. An unexpected inheritance in South Carolina comes at the perfect time, just as Sarah is willing to use any excuse to get out of town.
When she meets potential business partner Jared Benton and discovers that a house is part of the inheritance, she is sure that God has been preparing her for this time through a recurring dream. But will a dream about an antebellum mansion, many rooms to be explored, and a man with dark brown eyes give her the confidence to take a leap of faith, leaving friends, family, and her job behind?
The Captive Brides Collection by Jennifer AlLee, Angela Breidenbach, Susan Page Davis, Darlene Franklin, Patty Smith Hall, Cynthia Hicky, Carrie Fancett Pagels, Lucy Thompson, and Gina Welborn
Why: I was perusing NetGalley for books to request for review and found the premise for this novella collection to be intriguing. I am also fairly sure I haven’t read anything by any of these authors before, so it will be a good way to know whether I should be looking for more of their work in the future. Plus, a novella collection might be just the thing to fit between appointments near the end of summer.
About the Book:
Love Brings Freedom in 9 Historical Romances
Journey along as nine historical women are about to make their escape from some of life’s greatest challenges. Can their captive hearts be freed to dream, to dare, to love?
Love’s Labour’s Found by Jennifer AlLee – Montserrat, West Indies, 1655
Temperance Simms only wanted a better life. Instead, she finds herself labeled a criminal and sold as an indentured servant. After a kind man saves her life, can Temperance trust that God will turn her sorrow into something beautiful?
His Indentured Bride by Angela Breidenbach – Pennsylvania, 1770-1775
Leaving Scotland for a short indenture with her betrothed, Maire Gree’s contract is sold when disaster strikes her kindly owner, and then extended through cruel circumstances. Can Kirk Lachlan’s service in the American Revolution save her or will she lose love and freedom forever?
The Suspect Bride by Susan Page Davis – Oregon, 1890s
Verity Ames cooks at the restaurant where shy lawyer Jack Whitwell eats lunch daily. As Jack works up courage to ask her for a date, the sheriff walks into the restaurant and arrests her for murder.
His Golden Treasure by Darlene Franklin – Barbary Coast, San Francisco, CA, 1873
Goldie Hatfield grows up on in the Barbary Coast until her guardian demands she pay the cost of her upbringing—or work at her brothel. How far will Pastor Joshua Kerr go to set Goldie free?
Through Stormy Waters by Patty Smith Hall – Atlantic Ocean, 1755
Deported to the British colonies for her father’s crimes, Charlotte Singleton helps Captain Andrew Randell when an epidemic breaks out on the ship. Can two battered hearts find love in the midst of a storm?
Moira’s Quest by Cynthia Hickey – New York, 1869
A quest for revenge ends in a marriage of convenience and a feisty Irish lass discovers that not everything is as it seems as family secrets are revealed. An Irish cop, bent on saving the fallen women of Five Points, New York, finds himself thrust into the role of husband with a woman determined to break down a notorious crime boss. Can these two pull together and find a love bigger than they are?
Love’s Escape by Carrie Fancett Pagels – Virginia, 1850
With her life in peril, Lettie seeks escape from slavery. When Nathan offers to “conduct” her North via an unusual segment on the Underground Railroad, will his efforts help or do them both harm?
Waltzing Matilda by Lucy Thompson – Sydney, Australia, 1821
Henry didn’t plan on a runaway convict masquerading as a shepherd. Or on the woman’s baby. Keeping them safe will cost him his freedom—or will it?
A Score to Settle by Gina Welborn – On the Missouri River, 1870
For JoJo the kiss was a means to an end—she wanted his wallet. For Cyrus her kiss changed everything. He vows to help her escape the snake oil salesman she works for, but exposing the man’s lies may mean settling a score at a cost neither JoJo nor Cyrus can pay.
Why: When I was researching the small publishing company, Mountain Brook Ink, in preparation for attending the SoCal Christian Writers’ Conference where the owner would be available for appointments, I discovered this collection with a novella by Christina Coryell. I recognized Coryell’s name as the author of one of my favorite stories (Mowed Over) from the Love at First Laugh novella collection. So I bought this one because I liked one of the authors (I don’t recognize the others).
About the Book:
When a wedding is cancelled, three bridesmaids and a runaway bride contemplate the true meaning of love in four related romance novellas.
By Heather Woodhaven–Finding Love in Lincoln City: Liz feels stuck at her little beach magazine until a handsome rival sparks more than just friendly competition.
By Lisa Phillips–Finding Love in Oceanside: Anabeth is looking to get out of her rut when a fender bender and a bizarre date with a former marine leads her to a life of love she could never have imagined.
By Christina Coryell–Finding Love in Cannon Beach: Kadence feels the pressure to write a perfect love song, but an unexpected meeting with a musician will have her living one instead.
By Angela Ruth Strong–Finding Love in Seaside: Christina plans to spend her honeymoon alone, but when the bed and breakfast owner offers her a position as cook, she starts to feel at home in his kitchen…and in his arms.
Why: I stumbled across this one purely by chance on Amazon and found the premise positively fascinating.
About the Book:
One Thousand White Women is the story of May Dodd and a colorful assembly of pioneer women who, under the auspices of the U.S. government, travel to the western prairies in 1875 to intermarry among the Cheyenne Indians. The covert and controversial “Brides for Indians” program, launched by the administration of Ulysses S. Grant, is intended to help assimilate the Indians into the white man’s world. Toward that end May and her friends embark upon the adventure of their lifetime. Jim Fergus has so vividly depicted the American West that it is as if these diaries are a capsule in time.
Important UPDATE Note: While I was aware that One Thousand White Women was written for the general market, as opposed to a Christian audience, at the time this post was originally written, I was unaware of its occasional use of profanity and reference to subjects which some Christians may find distasteful or offensive. Consider yourself warned. This book made my DNF (Did Not Finish) list.
Why: This one was highly recommended on a fellow FLF blog and sounds like a fun read with a sense of humor.
About the Book:
Sometimes a detour takes you exactly where you need to be.
Piper Cope was so sure the Lord called her to be a pastor’s wife. So when her pastor/fiancé breaks it off, she’s every kind of puzzled. Does God even have a purpose for her anymore? On the road halfway between the bridges she’s burned and some kind of new start, she encounters the most unexpected detour. She swerves on a rainy road to miss a turtle and ends up in a ditch with an airbag to the face. Now stuck in this little town, she wonders how in the world she could’ve gotten her God-signals so very crossed. And how in the world is she supposed to know what He wants her to do now? In the meantime, at least the community center guy, Jay Marler, has her working a temporary job there. Problem is, somehow she’s coaching a children’s basketball team. She does not…basketball. And she certainly does not children.
Why: The connection to an lesser known part of California’s nineteenth century history will get me every time.
About the Book:
As elegant as the Sacramento residence she operates, Isabelle Labrie keeps her past concealed, like the treasure she hides under the Golden Hotel. It’s 1853, the heyday of the California Gold Rush. Isabelle is full of hope, staking her claim on the city’s refined clientele and her future on a sweetheart’s promise to marry her when he returns from the gold fields. Then, unexpected guests—fugitive slaves seeking safe passage to the North—force her to confront her past and reconsider her path.
While Isabelle learns to trust God’s provisions, a law student in Virginia must confront his father’s cruelty and rescue a young slave from his family’s tobacco plantation. As the two escape to freedom, and Isabelle risks everything to harbor runaway slaves, the past and present are set on an inevitable collision course—one that reveals hidden treasures of the heart.
Why: I recently finished reading Against the Tide and want to read more of Elizabeth Camden’s work, plus I was able to snag this one on Audible which means I can listen to it while I do laundry or whatever brainless chore is taking me away from my precious books.
About the Book:
Romulus White has tried for years to hire illustrator Stella West for his renowned scientific magazine. She is the missing piece he needs to propel his magazine to the forefront of the industry.
But Stella abruptly quit the art world and moved to Boston with a single purpose: to solve the mysterious death of her beloved sister. Romulus, a man with connections to high society and every important power circle in the city, could be her most valuable ally.
Sparks fly the instant Stella and Romulus join forces, and Romulus soon realizes the strong-willed and charismatic Stella could disrupt his hard-won independence. Can they continue to help each other when their efforts draw the wrong kind of attention from the powers-that-be and put all they’ve worked for at risk?
Why: I loved the first two books in Sondra’s Love That Counts series!
About the Book: Although a little birdy told me to expect this release near the end of summer, it isn’t even out for pre-order yet so I don’t know much about this one. I only know what Sondra shared in her interview with me:
In Three Words and a Kiss (this year’s release), my hero Cam experiences an identity crisis. His safe, routine life is turned upside down when the owner of his blacksmith shop, Samantha Klein, comes to town. Samantha’s nickname is Sam. I wanted their names to rhyme so that Cam feels like even something as fundamental as his name is being stripped from him (she doesn’t like how their names sound alike and asks him to change his. What?! He’s not going for that).
Looking for more reading suggestions? Check out these post by fellow Christian Fiction lovers:
Which book would you like to win a copy of? (You may pick any book from this post OR any book which I have previously reviewed on this blog!)
(Your tweet/FB post could read: I’m hoping to win BOOK TITLE HERE from @KathleenDenly!)
STEP 2 – Leave a comment on this post with the answer to this question –
Which of the books in my Summer Reading Roundup 2017 post sound the most appealing to you? (I will add the most popular book to my list of books to review here on the blog!)
MUST complete both steps to enter.Shares and comments must be complete by midnight July 17th! Winner will be announced in a special post on this blog July 19th. Winner must contact me at writeKathleenDenly@gmail.com within 24 hours of the announcement and provide an email address for prize delivery.
WINNER WILL RECEIVE: 1 digital copy of their chosen book delivered to their email via Amazon.
If you have been following me on Twitter or Facebook, you know that I attended my 5th conference last week: the first annual SoCal Christian Writers’ Conference. Here’s a little taste of what it was like:
I arrived early on Wednesday to check in and get settled in my room.
After registration, I ate dinner in the cafeteria and then hung out with these two wonderful ladies:
The next morning we ate breakfast in the cafeteria before heading to the chapel for worship and morning announcements.
They also introduced about one-third of the faculty at this time. They continued these introductions each morning of the conference. I really liked this unique feature because it was helpful for matching names and faces to those whose appearance didn’t exactly match their bio photos, and it gave us a chance to get a peek into each faculty member’s personality.
Next up was a quick break followed by my first continuing session. I chose the Intermediate/Advanced Fiction session with Tosca Lee.
I admit to some hesitation in my choice since I had taken similarly titled classes at other conferences and walked away feeling like I’d gotten little more than a review. Tosca’s class was nothing like that. It was original, intense, and interactive. It felt as though I were in college again. She even gave us homework at the end of each class.
Next up was lunch at the cafeteria where I got to spend time chatting with my fellow conferees as well as faculty. Meal times quickly became one of my favorite parts of the conference because of the great conversations and connections I was able to make.
After lunch there were two workshop sessions with a break in between. I wound up entirely missing the first workshop I had wanted to attend because it happened that my first two appointments were both during that class.
I met with Erin Taylor Young and then Miralee Ferrell. Both conversations were very enlightening and the resulting conversations were just what I was hoping for from the appointments.
I did make it to my second workshop, given by Sandra Barela on Keys to A Successful Book Proposal where I realized I’d misunderstood what the agent was looking for in one section of the proposal the last (and first) time I had put one together.
After the afternoon workshops we had another break followed by a Publishing Panel where they passed microphones around the audience and we had a chance to ask questions of the publishing experts on stage.
After that was another break and dinner. Then we sang more worship and a Keynote was given by Karen Ball. I have to tell you, I felt as though this Keynote was the reason God had me at that conference. Not to discount the many other wonderful conversations and classes, but I truly felt as though God were speaking right through Karen to me. That doesn’t happen all that often for me, but for some reason lately, He seems to be getting my attention in exactly this way.
After Karen’s keynote, there was a break followed by a live blog radio broadcast by Parker J. Cole with interviews of faculty and conferees and a Story Tell-Off, where two authors went at it by trying to tell the best story.
I took advantage of the break to run back to my dorm room to retrieve something, and on my way back to the broadcast, I spotted Sandra Barela setting up her laptop in the lobby of the dorm. Since I had wanted an appointment with her, but she booked up before I could sign up, I took advantage of the opportunity to speak with her. (She had mentioned in her class earlier that afternoon that she would be available to talk that night in the lobby.) What I thought would be a quick 15-minute conversation turned into 70 minutes which only ended because another conferee showed up wanting to speak with her and I quickly excused myself. After all, I’d already taken over an hour of her time! But she was so easy to talk to and her genuine heart for writers and for God practically glowed from her. Although I was disappointed to miss the broadcast event, my talk with Sandra was definitely one of the highlights of the conference for me. Part of the result of that conversation is that I am now a member of the Celebrate Litblogger team!
After my talk with Sandra, I headed to my room where I reviewed my notes on what was happening the next day and completed my homework for Tosca’s class before grabbing my Kindle and heading to bed.
The next two days went very much the same: breakfast, morning announcements & worship, continuing session, lunch, afternoon workshops, and dinner.
Friday afternoon I missed most of the second workshop due to appointments with Karen Ball and Stephanie Alton. Both appointments were encouraging and enlightening. I was very grateful for the opportunity to speak with both of these women.
On Friday evening there was an agent panel followed by a Keynote by Kim Bangs and a concert given by Sally Klein O’Connor.
On Saturday evening there was an Awards and Autograph Party followed by a Keynote by Allen Arnold and the ceremony for the Excellence in Editing Award winners.
By the end of the conference, although incredibly grateful for the many blessings it had brought, I was ready to go home.
I wistfully looked forward to sleeping in my own bed with a bathroom that was not down a very long, shared hallway and my brain was absolute mush. In fact, Saturday afternoon I had caught myself speaking to myself – a quirk I develop when I am very tired. So if you ever hear me saying things like, “Wait, where was I supposed to go next? Oh right. … No wait, it’s this way. Where did I put that? … Oh here it is.” Well, you’ll know my brain has reached capacity and has no more room for thoughts so the overflow is just spilling out my mouth. I’m not crazy. Just overflowing with knowledge. Yeah. That’s it.
Below are some of my favorite quotes from the speakers and workshops at the conference. Please feel free to share them and don’t forget to tag me @KathleenDenly!
Today’s review comes with a bonus GIVEAWAY! So be sure to read to the bottom and enter to win!
In this intriguing novel of romance, mystery, and clever disguise set in Victorian England, a young woman investigates the murder of her own father.
After the mysterious death of her father, Miss Gillian Young takes a new job as the principal costume designer at the renowned Theatre Royal, Drury Lane. But while she remembers her father as a kind, well-respected man of the Police Force, clues she uncovers indicate he’d been living a double life: a haunting photograph of a young woman; train stubs for secret trips just before his death; and a receipt for a large sum of money. Are these items evidence of her father’s guilty secrets? His longtime police partner thinks so.
Then Gillian meets the dashing Viscount Thomas Lockwood. Their attraction is instant and inescapable. As their romantic involvement grows, Gillian begins to suspect even Lockwood’s motives. Does Lord Lockwood truly love her? Or is his interest a front for the desire to own her newly inherited property? And what should she make of her friend’s suggestion that Lockwood or men like him were involved in the murder of her father?
Soon Gillian is convinced that her father has left evidence somewhere that can prove his innocence and reveal the guilty party. But someone wants to stop her from discovering it. The closer she comes to uncovering it, the more menacing her opposition grows. With her life on the line, Gillian takes on an ingenious disguise and takes on the role of a lifetime to reveal the true killer—before it’s too late both for her and for those that she loves.
Why This Book:
It is far too easy to allow oneself to become stuck in a reading rut, so I make it a point to read outside of my genre on occasion. Granted, A Lady In Disguise is not too far outside my genre – it is still historical fiction – but it is definitely beyond my usual choice in novels due to its heavy emphasis on the mystery portion of the plot, leaving the romance as a secondary part of the story.
Additionally, Sandra Byrd was not an author I had read in recent years and I had never read one of her historical novels, so when I saw the opportunity to be part of a group who would have the privilege of reading the book prior to its release, I applied and was accepted. I did receive a free copy of this book, but was under no obligation to review it favorably. As always, the review below is entirely my own and an honest opinion of the novel I read.
“I stood, that bleak day, in the graveyard in the village near Winton Park. The chapel’s stone gargoyles, pitted and blinded by the elements, nonetheless mocked our mortality with their jeering grins.”
I think I was tired when I started this book, because despite the well-done first line it failed to intrigue me. The other explanation might be that the romantic interest is only briefly (and unconvincingly) hinted at in the first chapter and then not seen or really even mentioned again until chapter seven. So perhaps the romantic in me was feeling a bit impatient. Either way, the first few chapters, though beautifully written and filled with a mystery which engaged my curiosity, failed to engage my emotions.
Additionally, the first few chapters left me a bit frustrated by the lack of clarity regarding Mrs. W’s role in Gillian’s life. However, this was clarified in later chapters.
Miss Gillian Young – The heroine. She is a self-confident, brave young woman determined to not only provide for herself, but also for those close to her as well as for those in need. Her sense of reason and caution are strong enough to make her a believable character in this story without making her bolder choices outside the realm of plausibility.
Inspector Young – Miss Gillian’s father is deceased prior to the start of the novel, yet he remains a character through Miss Gillian’s memories; and certainly, the mystery surrounding his actions prior to his death are what drive most of the plot forward.
Mrs. W. – Though no title is given, that I recall, Mrs. W. is clearly a long-time employee of the family. Not quite a servant, but paid nonetheless, Mrs. W. has difficulty accepting Gillian’s transition from child to adult.
Viscount Thomas Lockwood – Neighbor to Miss Young’s newly inherited country estate, he is apparently eager to be of assistance to Miss Young, though his motivations are unclear throughout most of the novel.
Sergeant Roberts – The young policeman who’d been training with Inspector Young prior to his mysterious death, now claims to be investigating his mentor’s actions.
Inspector Collingsworth – A long-time colleague of Inspector Young and friend of the family, he is seemingly the head of the Chelsea Police Division.
Francis Collingsworth – Inspector Collingsworth’s son, he is following in his father’s footsteps as a police officer. He is a childhood friend of Gillian with hopes of becoming more. (As they were most frequently – and appropriately – referred to by their last names, I had trouble keeping Francis separate from his father until I noted that he was a constable while his father was an inspector.)
Mr. Wilhelm – Miss Young’s employer at the Drury Lane Theater in London.
I did not wish to sound tediously repetitious. Otherwise, I could have added to literally every character listed (minus the heroine, of course): “his/her motivations are unclear throughout most of the novel.” For it seems that at one point or another each of the characters, outside of Miss Gillian Young herself, did or said something which might warrant suspicion.
There are additional important characters, but to mention them here would give away certain surprises, so I will end my list here.
Emotional Engagement & Pacing of the Story:
As I mentioned, the first few chapters did not engage my emotions, although they did engage my curiosity. However, the book felt a bit like a snowball rolling downhill. The momentum gradually, but continuously built until it was at such a pace I could not make myself put the book down.
Elements I especially liked/disliked:
I enjoyed reading about life from the perspective of a primarily middle-class woman who had connections to nearly every level of the various classes in London 1883. I particularly enjoyed the glimpses into the lives of the pantomimes of the time. As a special bonus, there is an author’s note at the back of the book which shares some of the relative bits of history upon which the book is based, which I found fascinating.
I also enjoyed this references to Little Women sprinkled throughout the book.
The primary themes are that no one is perfect, reputations are fragile, relationships are key to survival, and trust must be earned. Yet none of these themes are presented quite so clearly in the novel, which plays with these ideas in a way which causes you consider both sides of every story.
Perhaps others saw the answers before I, but I will admit that this mystery kept me guessing until the very end. While the essence of the ending did not surprise me, how the author got us to it, did. Yet when it all concluded, everything made sense and fit together perfectly, as any well-written mystery should. I will also add for my fellow romance lovers, that in the end, I was quite satisfied with the conclusion of the romance portion of this novel.
3.75 out of 5 stars
(Although bigger mystery fans may rate it higher, this is a reflection of my own enjoyment of the novel.)
One last note:
While this is Book 3 in the Daughters of Hampshire series, I have not read either of the prior two and did not feel this impacted my enjoyment or understanding of this novel in any way. Therefore, I will say this book is clearly able to be read as a stand alone. The other two books in the series are:
Have you read any of Sandra’s books? Are you a big mystery fan?
Psst! Feel free to borrow any of the photos in this post for sharing on social media and remember to tag me @KathleenDenly !
The short version
Share this post on FB/Twitter & tag me!
Comment with Twitter/FB account & favorite historical fiction novel.
Follow the rules.
Check back on Monday, March 27th to see who wins!
The long version
Okay, for those of you who enjoy a strong historical mystery with a little romance to sweeten the deal, here’s your chance to win a FREE copy of this book! I’m giving away my advance copy of A Lady In Disguise to one lucky reader! All you have to do to enter is:
Share this post on either Twitter or Facebook and tag me in it using @KathleenDenly!(I’ve made it SUPER easy with those Tweetables above & the FB share button below.)
THEN leave a comment on this post with the title of your favorite historical fiction novel and the Twitter/Facebook account you used to share this post. For example: If I entered using my Twitter account, I would comment with, “Hey Kathleen! You write the best book reviews on the planet! My favorite historical fiction novel is ___. I shared this post on Twitter via @KathleenDenly“… or you know, something like that 😉
You MUST complete BOTH steps to enter. Only one entry per person is allowed. If you forget to add your Twitter/FB info in your original comment, just reply to your own comment and both your reply and original comment will count as one combined entry. All entries must be complete by midnight on Sunday, March 26th. Winner will be announced on http://www.KathleenDenly.com and contacted directly within 24 hours via the social media account (Twitter/Facebook) they used to share this post. Winner must email their shipping address to writeKathleenDenly@gmail.com within 48 hours, otherwise an alternate winner will be chosen. Unfortunately, due to the cost of international shipping, I must limit this contest to U.S. Residents ONLY. Void where prohibited.
How it works:
I will assign a number to each person who enters. I will then enter those numbers into Random.org‘s Random Sequence Generator. Whichever number comes up at the top of the list will be the winner. I will then verify that that person has completed both steps and has not made multiple (rule-breaking) entries. If they have not completed both steps or have made multiple entries, they will be disqualified and the process will be repeated until a valid winner is found.
Remember: Check back March 27th to see who won! Or just subscribe to receive my blog updates by email and have the announcement delivered to your inbox!