8 Fantastic Authors I Met At The 2018 ACFW Conference & What I Didn’t Know About Them

8 Fantastic Authors ACFW 2018

This was my first year attending the American Christian Fiction Writer’s Conference and I can’t tell you how excited I was in the weeks leading up to the event. Over the last few years I have been blessed to connect with a number of authors online, but for many of them, this would be my first chance to meet them in person.  I know that as readers, many of you can share in my excitement over meeting these wonderful women who have crafted some of our favorite stories. So I thought I’d share some of my favorite moments with you. (Presented in alphabetical order because I couldn’t possibly rank by favorite.)

Tamera Alexander

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I actually met Tamera in the one place they tell you not to bother the faculty: the bathroom. LOL To be fair, it’s not like I stalked her in there. I just happened to come out of the stall just as she was finishing washing her hands. While I was washing my hands, I said, “Well, this is an awkward place to meet, but I have to tell you that I think your books are awesome.” Or something very similar to that. She very graciously thanked me for my compliments and that was it. Not much of a conversation since we were both hurrying to the next class, but a little while later I was able to sit in on a class where she was part of the panel discussing “Writing in Community.” It was great to hear her thoughts on the subject along with those of the others on the panel (many of whom I was also silently fan-girling over: Deborah Rainey, Jody Hedlund, Lynette Eason, Lynn Blackburn, Karen Witemeyer).

What I didn’t know about Tamera was that Deborah Rainey is her critique partner. The banter between those two kept the panel discussion fun.

Books by Tamera: A Note Yet Unsung (2018 Carol Award winner & 2017 Christy Award Winner & part of the Belmont Mansion series),  The Inheritance (2010 RITA Award winner), From a Distance (One of my personal favorites & 2009 Christy Award Winner & part of the Timber Ridge Reflections series). Find more of her books here!

Pepper Basham

After reviewing a few of Pepper’s books for the blog, I’ve had the opportunity to begin a friendship with this wonderful woman via email. Getting to finally meet her in person was such a pleasure. She immediately recognized me when we spotted each other in the huge crowd and gave me a hug. She is just as friendly and genuine in person as you could hope for.

What I didn’t know about Pepper was how comfortable she could appear on stage in front of nearly 600 people as part of the conference worship team. Her beautiful voice blended well with worship leader Rachel Hauck’s(!). (Rachel isn’t on my list because I just didn’t get a chance to connect with her – so many people, so little time – but yes, I was totally fangirling over her, too.)

Books by Pepper: The Penned in Time series (the books that made me fall in love with her writing), the Mitchell’s Crossroads series (how can you not love a great reimagining of Pygmalion?), and Jane by the Book (featuring a hero like no other). Find more books by Pepper here!

Mary Connealy

MaryConnealy by Ginger Murray Photography

Mary Connealy is a Carol Award winner and a Rita and Christy and IRCC Award Finalist. I have been a fan of her writing for so long, I can’t remember when I started reading her books. I only know if there’s a book of hers that I haven’t read (and I’m not sure there is), it’s only because I haven’t been able to get my hands on it yet.

It was the first day of the conference when I was speaking to Carrie Schmidt (another online friend I was thrilled to meet in person) when Mary’s name came up and I mentioned what a huge fan I was and that I hadn’t yet had the pleasure of meeting her. Carrie, dear heart that she is, immediately got up and went to pull Mary from the crowd and bring her over to introduce us. I’m not sure I managed a very fascinating conversation considering my brain just kept repeating, “No way. No way. I can’t believe I’m actually meeting her!” LOL But I do recall that she asked what genre I wrote in and I managed to get some intelligible words out . . . I think.

What I didn’t know about Mary was her willingness to help other authors. Later that night there was an event at which nervous authors were invited to come practice their pitches before facing agents and editors in appointments on the days to follow. Carrie Schmidt was one of the hosts so I stopped by to see how it was going and Mary was there, along with other experienced authors who’d volunteered to listen to pitches.

Books by Mary: The Cimarron Legacy series (don’t miss the novella prequel!), the Wild at Heart series, & The Kincaid Brides series, and Garrison’s Law is her fun new contemporary series that I’m loving.  Find more of her books here!

Emily Conrad

Emily Conrad

You know what’s really fun? Having a casual conversation with another author and suddenly realizing you just downloaded their debut novel the night before! That’s what happened when I met Emily Conrad at the conference. If you haven’t heard of her debut novel, Justice, I definitely recommend you take a minute to check it out.

What I didn’t know about Emily was … well I already covered that, didn’t I? 😉 I had no idea the author whose book I’d just purchased would be standing in front of me the very next day.

Find Emily’s debut novel here.

Sarah Sundin

Okay, technically this was my second time meeting Sarah, but she is just too wonderful a person not to mention here. I first met her at the 2018 Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference in the spring. This time we happened to catch the same shuttle from the airport to the resort and were able to reconnect as we rode. It was lovely to get to know her better over the next few days through several conversations and her moderation of the Historical Fiction panel at the conference. (The panel also included: Karen Witemeyer, Carrie Turansky, & Melanie Dobson)

What I didn’t know about Sarah was that she is a serious outliner when it comes to plotting. Some writers start with a basic idea, then just sit down and start writing. Others outline nearly everything that happens in their novels before writing a single word. Sarah falls into the latter category and it can take her about three months to complete an outline, but then her actual writing goes pretty fast.

Books by Sarah: The Sunrise at Normandy series, the Waves of Freedom series, the Wings of the Nightingale series. Find more books by Sarah here!

Carrie Turansky

Carrie Turansky

I just happened to cross paths with Carrie Turansky after checking in at registration for the conference. She was very sweet when I stopped her to tell her how much I loved her writing. We had a couple more opportunities to talk during the conference and I found her to be a very kind person.

What I didn’t know about Carrie was that she is not only a fabulous author but a mentor as well. She was a finalist for this year’s Mentor of the Year Award.

Books by Carrie: Shine Like the Dawn (My favorite!), Waiting for His Return, and Across the Blue. Find more of her books here!

Erica Vestch

Erica Vestch

I met Erica at the Pitch Practice session where she was helping listen to authors practicing their pitch. While I was there, Erica very kindly took the time to look over some of my writing and provide me with invaluable feedback. The fun part is that I knew her name was familiar but couldn’t bring to mind her titles (my brain was mush by then – almost 10pm). So when I returned to my hotel room, I searched her name and discovered that I had actually read many of her books. Better yet, I immediately downloaded her latest novella, A Perfect Christmas, which has only recently released as part of The Victorian Christmas Brides Collection and, despite the anchors weighing my lids, I had a very difficult time putting that book down!

What I didn’t know about Erica was what a kind and helpful spirit she has.

Books by Erica: A Perfect Christmas in The Victorian Christmas Brides Collection (Highly recommended!), Prescription for Love in The First Love Forever Romance Collection, My Heart Belongs in Fort Bliss, Texas: Priscilla’s Reveille Find more books by Erica, here!

Karen Witemeyer

I first spotted Karen seated at a table beside mine, but she was engaged in conversation the entire time and I didn’t get to say hello until later that day when I mentioned to Kristi Ann Hunter (another great author!) how much I loved Karen’s books. Kristi kindly introduced me to Karen the next time we were in the same hallway together. After telling Karen how much I enjoy her writing, the first thing I asked her was if she had an assistant that helped her maintain the seemingly impossible schedule she keeps with her incredibly active Facebook Group (The Posse) and her writing deadlines and her fulltime job and everything else she does. The answer? Her assistant’s name is Karen Witemeyer. 😉 Her words. 😀

What I didn’t know about Karen (besides her not having an assistant) is that her humor is just as witty in person and she is genuinely kind. She really cares about her readers. I also didn’t know that she has a lovely singing voice. Karen and Kristi were both members of the choir that sang for us at the ACFW Gala.

Books by Karen: More than Meets the Eye (Laugh-out-loud-funny!), Heart on the Line (picked as one of my Top 5 Heroes of 2017), and A Tailor-Made Bride (the first book I read by Karen). Find more of Karen’s books, here!

Why only 8?

Well, because it’s 2018 and I had to cut it off somewhere. Honestly, though, I could fill 30 blog posts talking about all the wonderful people I met at the conference. I told my mom that it was like an actress who’s still waiting tables walking into a room filled with all the A-list celebrities you can think of and discovering their all happy to meet you and willing to help you, AND they all love Jesus!!!

Let’s Chat!

Have you had the pleasure of meeting one of your favorite authors?

Which Christian Fiction author would you most like to meet?

TWEETABLES

Ever wondered if Karen Witemeyer has an assistant? #ACFW2018

This author has a kind and helpful spirit AND her Christmas novella just released! #ACFW2018

Do you know which of your favorite Christian Romance authors was a finalist for Mentor of the Year? #ACFW2018

Can you guess which Christian Romance author has research down to a science and thoroughly outlines her novels? #ACFW2018

When your talking to someone and suddenly realize their book is on your kindle! #ACFW2018

Meeting this author caused total fan-girl brain melt. #ACFW2018

Not only does she write incredible Christian Romance, she can sing, too! #ACFW2018

Do you know who @TameraAlexander’s critique partner is? #ACFW2018

Spotlight – A Lasting Impression

Spotlight - A Lasting Impression

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Book 1 in the blockbuster historical series from USA Today bestselling author Tamera Alexander . . .  

To create something that will last is Claire Laurent’s most fervent desire as an artist. It’s also her greatest weakness. When her fraud of a father deals her an unexpected hand, Claire is forced to flee from New Orleans to Nashville, only a year after the War Between the States has ended. Claire’s path collides with that of Sutton Monroe, and she considers him a godsend for not turning her in to the authorities. But when they meet again and he refuses to come to her aid, she realizes she’s sorely misjudged the man. Trading an unwanted destiny for an unknown future, Claire finds herself in the middle of Nashville’s elite society and believes her dream of creating a lasting impression in the world of art may finally be within reach.

All that Sutton Monroe holds dear lies in ruin. He’s determined to reclaim his heritage and to make the men who murdered his father pay. But what he discovers on his quest for vengeance reveals a truth that may cost him more than he ever imagined.

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Set at Nashville’s historic 1850s Belmont Mansion, a stunning antebellum manor built by Mrs. Adelicia Acklen, the richest woman in America in the 1860s, A Lasting Impression showcases the deep, poignant, unforgettable characters that set Tamera’s stories apart and provides an inspiring love story that will capture readers’ hearts and leave them eager for more.

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Amazon | Goodreads | Audible

There is a Reader’s Discussion Guide available HERE.

Other books in the series:

A Beauty So Rare
Book 2, A Beauty So Rare (CBA Bestseller)
A Note Yet Unsung
Book 3, A Note Yet Unsung (#1 CBA Bestseller) 
The three Belmont Mansion novels are each complete stories within themselves. Hence, are “standalone” novels within the common setting of Nashville’s historic Belmont Mansion.

A Little About Tamera:

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Tamera Alexander is a USA Today bestselling novelist and one of today’s most beloved authors of Christian historical romance. Her works have been awarded and nominated for numerous industry-leading honors, among them the Christy Award, the RITA Award, the Carol Award, Library Journal’s top honors, and have earned the distinction of Publisher’s Weekly Starred Reviews. Her deeply drawn characters and thought-provoking plots have earned her devoted readers worldwide.
Tamera and her husband reside in Nashville, Tennessee, where they live a short distance from Nashville’s Belmont Mansion and Belle Meade Plantation , the setting of Tamera’s #1 CBA bestselling Southern series. Her upcoming series, the Carnton Novels , launches in fall 2017 with Christmas at Carnton  (October 3, 2017), a Christmas story, which is set at Franklin, Tennessee’s historic Carnton Plantation.

Have you read A Lasting Impression? Are you a Tamera Alexander fan?

Who’s that Hero? – A Matching Game

Who's That Hero - Sondra Kraak Guest Post Image

Happy Monday everyone! Today one of my favorite authors has come up with a super fun matching game to share with us as part of her blog tour celebrating the current sale on one of my favorite books, Two Ways Home. While it is the second book in her fantastic Love That Counts series, it can easily stand on its own…. although I loved the first book as well, and highly recommend it!

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On sale for just $0.99 NOW through May 25, 2017! Don’t miss out!

She’s about to lose her home. He never wanted to see his again. And a stalker is staking a claim . . .

Washington, 1892

Mary Smith was never one to back down from a challenge. Her father’s health may be failing, but their dairy farm was her mother’s dream, and Mary will do whatever it takes to keep her father from selling it—even if it means sneaking off to the next town to earn money by playing the piano in a questionable establishment. No one seems to understand why home is so important to her, least of all her childhood nemesis who’s just wandered back into town.

When injured Texas Ranger Luke Thomas is forced to return to Pine Creek, Washington, he’s hailed as a hero and thrust into the town’s first race for sheriff. But no one knows the secret he carried to Texas, nor the secret he’s brought home. Setting his perfect aim on returning south, he refuses to get tied down by the town’s admiration, his brother’s disapproval, or the spirited, hardworking dairy girl who’s less annoying than he remembers.

But strange things are happening at the Smith dairy and in Pine Creek, and Luke’s instincts tell him Mary is in far more trouble than she realizes. One thing is certain: “home” is about to get more complicated for them both.

Full of wit and romantic tension, this Christian historical love story sets forth the true meaning of coming home.

A little about Sondra

Please welcome the amazingly talented, Sondra Kraak! 🙂

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Who’s that Hero? A matching game for lovers of Christian fiction.

 

Challenge #1

Luke is my favorite boy’s name. Unfortunately, my husband isn’t as crazy about the name Luke, so my son is named Silas. Match these four Lukes with their historical romance stories:

 

Luke #1: is a Texas Ranger, goes undercover and wears overalls instead of his usual fancy duds, loves to bird hunt, but falls in love with a bird enthusiast, has named his guns.

Luke #2: is a twin, desires to be married and have a family, lives with his brother, Silas (another great name!), looks after his stubborn grandma, falls in love with a heroine who is hiding from danger.

Luke #3: has a “fiery” secret and an aversion to hand-holding, is a wounded Texas Ranger falsely accused, falls in love with a childhood nemesis, finds solace by his father’s grave.

Luke #4: falls in love with a woman he rescues, is falsely accused, seeks vengeance for his father’s death and to gain back his ranch.

Can you match them?

Luke Stone, Swept Away, Mary Connealy

Luke Cameron, A Place Called Home, Lori Wick

Luke Palmer, Love on the Line, Deeanne Gist

Luke Thomas, Two Ways Home, Sondra Kraak

 

Challenge #2

2) My favorite hero is the strong and steady quiet guy who carries deep wounds. Here are some examples. Can you match them with their wounds? (historical and contemporary)

 

Wound 1: His brother followed him into battle and died.

Wound 2: Grew up in a violent home, faced capture, was forced to watch a woman suffer.

Wound 3: He was abandoned and homeless as a boy.

Wound 4: His mother died after a preacher prophesied she’d be healed.

Wound 5: He disappointed his father, doubts a decision that resulted in the death of team members.

Wound 6: His wife died of cancer.

Can you match them?

Tristan Porter, Such a Hope, Sondra Kraak

Malachi Shaw, No Other Will Do, Karen Witemeyer

Daniel Ranslett, From A Distance, Tamera Alexander

Reuben Marshall, Burnin’ for You, Susan May Warren

Matt Jarreau, My Stubborn Heart, Becky Wade

Dean Watters, Raptor 6, Ronie Kendig

 

Challenge #3

And how about those outgoing guys with an edge of flirt in them (or more than an edge of flirt as is the case with some)? They’re fun, too. Match these quotes to their books.

 

Quote 1.

She tapped the green accept button. “Hello?”

“Hey, beautiful you want to grab some coffee?”

Furrows formed between her eyes. Who in the world? “I’m sorry. You must have the wrong number.”

She pulled the phone away from her ear but stopped short of disconnecting when she heard the voice on the other end say her name. Her lips turned down. “Who is this?”

“Who do you think it is, babe? I told you I’d call.”

 

Quote 2.

He smiled. She was scared all right. But so much the better. That would make her wish he were with her. “If we were married, I’d stay and protect you.”

She stiffened. “I’ll have you know I was on my own long before I came here. I didn’t need a man then, and I certainly don’t need one now.”

 

Quote 3.

I smiled and nudged my shoulder playfully against his. “Are you ever serious?”

His fingers tightened against mine. In the darkness of the underground cave, the flickering flames of the fire cast a glow over his face and lit up his eyes. “I’m serious when I say I’d allow myself to be thrashed any day in order to see you.”

. . .

“You’re crazy,” I whispered.

“Not half as crazy as you,” he whispered back.

 

Quote 4. 

“How’ve you been, sweet one?”

“I’ve been fine, showboat.”

He grinned crookedly. “Showboat?”

“Yep.” The sizzle of meat on the stove reminded her or her spaghetti sauce. She returned to the kitchen . . . “Since you insist on calling me a nickname, I figured it was only fair to respond in kind.” She positioned herself at the stove and went back to work on the ground turkey.

[He] crossed his muscled arms and leaned a hip against the edge of the countertop. “Was showboat the best you could do? I don’t like it.”

“Good.”

“What about Maverick? Adonis?”

She rolled her eyes.

“This might be too obvious, but how about Stud?”

“Believe me. It’s not in the least obvious.”

“Well, showboat’s no good.”

She made a scoffing sound. “Tough luck. You don’t get to pick.”

 

Quote 5.

[He] pulled out and she took off her hat, tossed it on the dash, then tugged out the tie from her hair, running her fingers through the strands to work out the snarls.

Only then did she see [him] glancing t her, more than once.

“What?”

“Nothing, I’m just wondering what’s on your agenda. ’Cause we have work to do.”

She stared at him, and then he smiled. “I’m just kidding, Speedy. I wouldn’t think of hittin’ on you.”

She laughed too, because this was their game.

He flirted, she pushed him away, and round and round they went.

“I wouldn’t date you anyway.”

“Aw, c’mon. I’m fun.” He pulled into the Griz, an all-night convenience store.

“Believe me, I know. Word gets around . . . all fun, all the time.”

 

Quote 6.

He’d test how much she really wanted his help. He moved his horse beside her and offered a hand. “Climb on.”

Without looking at him, she shook her head. “Walking is good exercise. It allows space to think.”

That’s what he thought. Stubborn. Self-sufficient. “How about space to breathe, or is that unnecessary?”

She grunted, a sound so unladylike his grin shot up the sides of his face. Space between them was a good idea. He’d lost his mind offering to let her nestle in the saddle in front of him. They had enough issues with closeness. No need to encourage more.

She’d be too proper to accept, anyway. Not that sharing a ride was improper. Not out here where priorities shifted from maintaining decorum to being neighborly.

She slipped, reached for a branch, and cried out as her hand slid along a spindly limb.

“You all right?”

She paused, drew in a deep breath, and wiped her brow.

Yeah, she was fine, besides the scowl the size of Washington that settled on her face.

“I’ll take that ride.”

His heart stumbled. He’d have to dig deep for the ability to remain unscathed by her leaning against him.

Who was he kidding? She scathed him in every way. He’d have about as much hope to remain unaffected by her nearness as the sun would have of hanging in the sky longer.

Can you match them?

Joe Denton, A Bride in the Bargain, Deeanne Gist

Ty Porter, Meant to Be Mine, Becky Wade

Sir Collin, A Daring Sacrifice, Jody Hedlund

Barrett Clarke, One Plus One Equals Trouble, Sondra Kraak

Pete Brooks, Rescue Me, Susan May Warren

Trent Carrington, Finders Keepers, Sarah Monzon

 

Challenge #4

In my interview today with Trisha Robertson, I list several guilty pleasures (I could have listed ten). Name one of them and tell me one of yours!

 

 Challenge #5

In my interview last Saturday with Katie Donovan, I shared my favorite place to read. What is it? And what is your favorite place to read?

 

BONUS Challenge

Finally, a bonus question. Can you guess my two favorite heroes of this entire game—not counting my own. And who of this bunch is your favorite?

 

Thanks for playing! Feel free to invite a friend to join the fun.

Who’s that Hero? A matching game for lovers of Christian fiction. – Click to Tweet!

Try this Matching Game for Christian Bibliophiles! – Click to Tweet!

Now check your answers and post your score below!

Answers

 

Lukes:

Luke #1: Luke Palmer, Love on the Line, Deeanne Gist

Luke #2: Luke  A Place Called Home, Lori Wick

Luke #3: Luke Thomas, Two Ways Home, Sondra Kraak

Luke #4: Luke Stone, Swept Away, Mary Connealy)

 

Quiet, wounded heroes:

Wound 1: Daniel Ranslett, From A Distance, Tamera Alexander

Wound 2: Dean Watters, Raptor 6, Ronie Kendig

Wound 3: Malachi Shaw, No Other Will Do, Karen Witemeyer

Wound 4: Tristan Porter, Such a Hope, Sondra Kraak

Wound 5: Reuben Marshall, Burnin’ for You, Susan May Warren

Wound 6: Matt Jarreau, My Stubborn Heart, Becky Wade

 

Outgoing, flirtatious heroes:

Quote 1: Trent Carrington, Finders Keepers, Sarah Monzon

Quote 2: Joe Denton, A Bride in the Bargain, Deeanne Gist

Quote 3: Sir Collin, A Daring Sacrifice, Jody Hedlund

Quote 4: Ty Porter, Meant to Be Mine, Becky Wade

Quote 5: Pete Brooks, Rescue Me, Susan May Warren

Quote 6: Barrett Clarke, One Plus One Equals Trouble, Sondra Kraak

 

Guilty Pleasures:

baths, Calvin and Hobbes comics, parentheses

 

Favorite Reading Spot:

in a cabin on a rainy day by a fire

 

Bonus:

Dean Watters, Matt Jarreau

 

How did you do? Let me know in the comments! 🙂

Remember, Two Ways Home is only on sale for a limited time! Don’t miss out on this seriously fun read!

If you’re interested in following this blog tour for other interviews, character spotlights, and more, here’s the schedule:

Katie at Fiction Aficionado (interview, excerpt), Saturday, May 20
Kathleen Denly (game), Monday, May 22
Trisha at Joy of Reading (interview), Monday, May 22
Beth Erin at Faithfully Bookish (setting spotlight), Tuesday, May 23
Jessica at A Baker’s Perspective (spotlight on heroine), Wednesday, May 24
Sydney at Singing Librarian (interview, spotlight on hero), Thursday, May 25

Two Ways Home Blog Tour May 2017

First Line Friday – 4.28.17

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It’s Friday, which means I’m sharing with you the first line from a book near me and I’m hoping you’ll share the first line of the book nearest you!

Today’s book has been sitting impatiently on my TBR (to-be-read) list for months and I’m expecting to get to it in the next few weeks! It’s Under A Blackberry Moon by Serena B. Miller, author of one of the few books I have read more than once, The Measure of Katie Calloway.

Under the Blackberry Moon

Don’t you just love that cover? Here’s the first line:

Bay City, Michigan
May 15, 1868

“Whose squaw are you, girl?”

I am so excited to be reading this soon!

Now it’s your turn! Grab the book nearest to you and leave a comment with the first line!

Then head on over and share your first line with these friends:

Andi @ Radiant Light

Carrie @ Reading Is My Super Power

Rachel @ Bookworm Mama

Sydney @ Singing Librarian Books

Robin @ Robin’s Nest

Katie @ Fiction Aficionado

Bree @ Bibliophile Reviews

Beth @ Faithfully Bookish

Amanda @ With A Joyful Noise

Jessica @ A Baker’s Perspective

Heather @ Encouraging Words from the Tea Queen

Sarah @ All the Book Blog Names are Taken

Lauraine @ Lauraine’s Notes

First Line Friday – 4.21.17

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What are you reading this week? Open the book nearest you and share the first line with me!

Today I’m featuring a book patiently waiting on my To Be Read list:  A Lasting Impression by Tamera Alexander.

A Lasting Impression cover image

FRENCH QUARTER, NEW ORLEANS,
LOUISIANA
SEPTEMBER 1, 1866
Claire Laurent studied the finished canvas on the easel before her, and though masterpiece hardly described it, she knew the painting was her best yet.

This novel has an interesting preface written by the author explaining how there are bits of actual history woven throughout the mostly fictional novel. I am looking forward to reading it as it creeps closer to the top of my TBR list.

Now it’s your turn! Grab the book nearest to you and leave a comment with the first line!

Then head on over and share your first line with these friends:

Carrie @ Reading Is My Super Power

Rachel @ Bookworm Mama

Sydney @ Singing Librarian Books

Andi @ Radiant Light

Heather @ Encouraging Words from the Tea Queen

Sarah @ All the Book Blog Names are Taken

Robin @ Robin’s Nest

Katie @ Fiction Aficionado

Bree @ Bibliophile Reviews

Beth @ Faithfully Bookish

Amanda @ With A Joyful Noise

Lauraine @ Lauraine’s Notes

Jessica @ A Baker’s Perspective

My Review – From A Distance

My Review: From A Distance by Tamera Alexander at KathleenDenly.com

Having recently joined the Christian Fiction Devourers group on Goodreads, I was excited to discover that one of their choices for the Book of the Month Read Along was a Tamera Alexander novel. I’d had her on my list of new-to-me authors I want to try for a while, so I Googled the book title and discovered this book trailer:

After a trailer like that, how could I NOT read the book? So of course, I added it to my “Currently Reading” shelf, picked up a (FREE!) copy through Kindle Unlimited and started reading.

Opening Line:

“Elizabeth Garrett Westbrook stepped closer to the cliff’s edge, not the least intimidated by the chasm’s vast plunge.”

First Impressions:

The very first paragraph tells us so much about the main character:  her name, age, dreams, determination, courage… and that her time is limited.  In the first chapter, we learn that Elizabeth is a strong woman facing a life-threatening illness, yet she doesn’t let that stop her or even slow her down.  She dreams of becoming the first female staff photographer and journalist at the Washington Daily Chronicle, and she won’t let illness, the treacherous Rocky Mountains, or her father’s disapproval get in her way. However, we also see that her determination is balanced with heart in the way she treats the “Negro” man she has hired to assist her and in how she views the wildlife around her.

When we first meet Daniel Ranslett in Chapter Three, we learn that he is a patient tracker, a skilled hunter with a conscience, and a man of his word. We also learn that he is haunted by his past and still wrestles with the guilt of old choices. He prefers to keep to himself, but his reluctance is no match for Elizabeth’s determination once she learns he has the experience she needs to accomplish part of her goals.

Characters:

In addition to Elizabeth and Daniel, Tamera introduces us to a variety of well-developed characters including:

  • Josiah – a former slave, kind & competent employee, and loyal friend;
  • Sheriff James McPherson – whose current friendship with Daniel has been complicated and strained by past events;
  • Rachel Boyd – sister to the sheriff, mother, and recent widow;
  • The Tucker family – struggling to provide for their large brood, including  a young son with a severe illness;
  • Drayton Turner the local newspaper man;
  • Carnes the coroner;
  • Mr. Zachary manager of the local land and title office;
  • and too many more to list.

Despite the size of the cast in this story, Tamera has managed to give each character such a unique depth, and introduced them so skillfully, that there was never a moment where I lost track of who was who. Each character is as real and rich as the next.

Emotional Engagement & Pacing of the Story:

This is not an edge of your seat, flip the pages as fast as you can, style of story. However, Tamera has created just enough tension that you are always reluctant to set this book down. As I’ve already said, the characters are so real and their emotions so deeply felt by the reader that you cannot help but be pulled into their world and their struggles. You want to know what will happen next and whether or not each character will achieve their goals.

Elements I especially liked/disliked:

Something that sets this novel apart is its handling of the racial issues present in 1875 Colorado Territory. I appreciated how Tamera managed to portray this in a way that felt real, yet not garish. It was neither overdone for the sake of drama nor underplayed for the sake of current (2016) political views. I think it’s important to remember the shameful parts of our history as well as the moments of which we are proud. It’s how we learn and a reminder never to go back.

Themes:

The primary themes are accepting forgiveness and learning to adjust when your dreams don’t turn out to be what you imagined they were.

Ending:

I found the ending of this book mostly satisfying. I felt the romance was resolved a bit too subtly for my taste, but this is a nitpicky personal opinion. In regard to length, I would, perhaps, have liked just another page or two more to enjoy the afterglow of resolution, but this is more a sign of having enjoyed the book than a complaint against it. There is no hint of a cliffhanger. The romance plot and all the side plots are nicely concluded.

Overall Rating:

4.5 out of 5 stars

Top 10 Historical Romance Novels of 2016

Top 10 Historical Romance Novels KathleenDenly.com

Picking a Top Ten from a year’s worth of reading is almost like trying to choose a favorite among your children (the one not currently screaming or dropping food on the floor). The task is nearly impossible because they are each special in their own way, but if I had a friend who absolutely could not possibly find any way to read more than 10 books in the next year… well, first we’d have to sit down and have a serious conversation about priorities, but then I’d hand her the list of books below (in no particular order):

  1. The Thorn Bearer by Pepper D. Basham **See My Review HERE Cover Image of
  2. The Thorn Keeper by Pepper D. Basham  **See My Review HERECover image of
  3. A Most Inconvenient Marriage by Regina Jenningsa-most-inconvenient-marriage-cover
  4. The Trouble With Patience by Maggie Brendanthe-trouble-with-patience-cover
  5. From A Distance by Tamera Alexander **My Review Coming Soon!from-a-distance-cover
  6. No Other Will Do by Karen Witemeyerno-other-will-do-cover
  7. Tried and True by Mary Connealytried-true-cover
  8. For Love or Loyalty by Jennifer Hudson Taylorfor-love-or-loyalty-cover
  9. A Bride For Keeps by Melissa Jagearsa-bride-for-keeps-cover
  10. A Claim of Her Own by Stephanie Grace Whitsona-claim-of-her-own-cover

And no, none of the above are affiliate links. I just love sharing fantastic books! If there are any titles listed above that haven’t made it to your “Read” shelf yet, I hope you pick one up today. Each of these books is well worth your time and money.

To see how I ranked other books I read this year, you can visit my Goodreads profile.

Soon I’ll be picking my Top Ten MUST READ books for the coming year and I’d love some input!

What books are on your MUST READ list for the coming year? Which books should I add to my list? Let me know in the comments below!