Top Ten MUST READ Christian Romances for 2019

Top 10 Christian Romance Books Blog Post Image

While I am admittedly woefully behind on the books I wanted to read in 2018 (see my 2018 TBR here), the publishing world is not waiting for me to catch up. Instead, it marches heartlessly onward with plans to release still more books which I must somehow squeeze into my schedule or else die trying. (Sleep is optional, right?)

Thus, below you will find the top ten historical romances I am most anticipating in 2019 (in order of release date and then by author last name):

 

Ladies of Intrigue by Michelle Griep

Ladies of Intrigue
Releases January 15, 2019.

3 Page-Turners Under One Cover from Reader Favorite Michelle Griep!
Can truth and love prevail when no one is as they appear?

The Gentleman Smuggler’s Lady
Cornish Coast, 1815
When a prim and proper governess returns to England from abroad, she expects to comfort her dying father—not fall in love with a smuggler. Will Helen Fletcher keep Isaac Seaton’s unusual secret?

The Doctor’s Woman (A Carol Award Winner!)
Dakota Territory, 1862
Emmy Nelson, daughter of a missionary doctor, and Dr. James Clark, city doctor aspiring to teach, find themselves working side by side at Fort Snelling during the Dakota Uprising. That is when the real clash of ideals begins.

A House of Secrets
St. Paul, Minnesota, 1890
Ladies Aide Chairman, Amanda Carston resolves to clean up St. Paul’s ramshackle housing, starting with the worst of the worst: a “haunted” house that’s secretly owned by her beau—a home that’s his only means of helping brothel girls escape from the hands of the city’s most infamous madam.

Find Ladies of Intrigue on Amazon.

 

A Return of Devotion by Kristi Ann Hunter

A Return of Devotion
Releases February 5, 2019!

Daphne Blakemoor was perfectly happy living in her own secluded world for twelve years. She had everything she needed–loved ones, a true home, and time to indulge her imagination. But when ownership of the estate where she works as a housekeeper passes on, and the new marquis has an undeniable connection to her past, everything she’s come to rely upon is threatened.

William, Marquis of Chemsford’s main goal in life is to be the exact opposite of his father. Starting a new life in the peace and quiet of the country sounds perfect until his housekeeper turns his life upside down.

They’ve spent their lives hiding from the past. Can they find the courage to face their deepest wounds and, perhaps, find a new path for the future together?

Find A Return of Devotion on Amazon.

 

Between Stairs and Stardust by Pepper Basham

48249807_10217948542765877_8683367254722609152_o
Releases February 14, 2019!

Stella Faye Emory has known a life of loss. Orphaned at the age of eleven, she is sent from her home at the Biltmore Estate to become a companion for a wealthy family in Boston. As she grows into a kind and talented young lady, a benefactress recognizes Stella’s artistic skills and funds her education but Stella’s fame as an illustrator inspires jealousy and an unwanted rumor that sends Stella fleeing back to the Biltmore.

James Craven is the second-born son of an automobile tycoon. Following his family to their new estate in the Blue Ridge Mountains, James finds his place among the forests and mountains of the countryside. When his little sister is saved from drowning by the mysterious, “Faye”, James’ interests take a new turn in the direction of this fairy-like artist who seems to appear and disappear at the most unexpected times.

As James and Stella’s friendship deepens, Stella’s past finds her and threatens her newfound romance. Can a charm bracelet and an unanticipated visitor restore hopes for a happily-ever-after?

Find more about Between Stairs and Stardust on Pepper’s website.

 

The Unexpected Champion by Mary Connealy

The Unexpected Champion
Releases March 5, 2019

City dweller John McCall never expected to be out in the High Sierras of 1868 on a wild-goose chase to find the Chiltons’ supposedly lost grandson. But now that he’s out here, things have gotten even more complicated, mostly due to wildcat Penny Scott. She’s not like any woman he’s ever met–comfortable in the woods, with a horse, and with a gun.

When Penny and John are taken against their will by a shadowy figure looking for evidence they don’t have, both realize they’ve stumbled into something dangerous and complicated. With their friends and family desperately searching for them, Penny and John must make a daring escape.

When they emerge back into the real world, they are confronted with a kidnapper who just won’t stop. They must bring a powerful, ruthless man to justice, even as this city man and country woman fight a very inconvenient attraction to each other.

Pre-order The Unexpected Champion on Amazon.

 

The Story Raider by Lindsay A Franklin

(Not technically in the romance genre, but it is written by a Christian, has a strong romance subplot, and I am practically turning blue waiting for this release, so I had to include it!)

The Story Raider
Releases April 30, 2019

Tanwen and the Corsyth weavers race to collect the strands of an ancient cure that might save Gryfelle. But Tanwen has a secret–Gryfelle isn’t the only one afflicted by the weaver’s curse. As Queen Braith struggles to assert her rule, a new arrival throws her tenuous claim to the Tirian throne into question. Braith’s heart is turned upside down, and she’s not sure she can trust anyone–least of all herself.

The puppet master behind Gareth’s rise to power has designs on Tanwen and the story weavers, and will stop at nothing to reclaim the throne. A plot to incite the angry peasants of Tir takes shape, and those dearest to Tanwen will be caught in the crossfire. As the fight for Tir consumes the realm, no one can remain innocent.

Pre-order The Story Raider on Amazon.

 

A Reluctant Bride by Jody Hedlund

A Reluctant Bride
Releases June 4, 2019

Living in London’s poorest slum, Mercy Wilkins has little hope of a better life. When she’s offered an opportunity to join a bride ship sailing to British Columbia, she agrees. After witnessing so much painful heartache and loss in the slums, the bride ship is her only prospect to escape a bleak future, not only for herself but, she hopes, someday for her sister.

Wealthy and titled Joseph Colville leaves home and takes to the sea in order to escape the pain of losing his family. As ship’s surgeon, he’s in charge of the passengers’ welfare aboard the Tynemouth, including sixty brides-to-be. He has no immediate intention of settling down, but when Mercy becomes his assistant, the two must fight against a forbidden love.

With hundreds of single men congregating on the shore eager to claim a bride from the Tynemouth, will Mercy and Joseph lose their chance at true love, or will they be able to overcome the obstacles that threaten to keep them apart?

Pre-order A Reluctant Bride on Amazon.

More Than Words Can Say by Karen Witemeyer

More Than Words Can Say
Releases June 4, 2019

After fulfilling a pledge to a dying friend, Zacharias Hamilton is finally free to live life on his own terms. No family entanglements. No opportunities to disappoint those he cares about. Just the quiet bachelor existence he’s always craved. Until fate snatches his freedom away once again when the baker of his favorite breakfast treat is railroaded by the city council. As hard as he tries to avoid getting involved, he can’t turn a blind eye to her predicament . . . or her adorable dimples.

Abigail Kemp needs a man’s name on her bakery’s deed. A marriage of convenience seems the best solution . . . if it involves a man she can control. Not the stoic lumberman who oozes confidence without saying a word whenever he enters her shop. Control Zacharias Hamilton? She can’t even control her pulse when around him.

When vows are spoken, Abigail’s troubles should be over. Yet threats to the bakery worsen, and darker dangers hound her sister. As trust grows between Zach and Abby, she finds she wants more than his rescue. She wants his heart.

Pre-order More Than Words Can Say on Amazon.

 

Ever Faithful by Karen Barnett

Ever Faithful
Releases June 18, 2019

Vibrant historic Yellowstone National Park comes to life in this romantic mystery about a man hiding the truth, braving the west to become something more–and the woman who must confront his deception.

A man who can’t read will never amount to anything–or so Nate Webber believes. But he takes a chance to help his family by signing up for the new Civilian Conservation Corps, skirting the truth about certain “requirements.” Nate exchanges the harsh Brooklyn streets for the wilds of Yellowstone National Park, curious if the Eden-like wonderland can transform him as well.
Elsie Brookes was proud to grow up as a ranger’s daughter, but she longs for a future of her own. After four years serving as a maid in the park’s hotels, she still hasn’t saved enough money for her college tuition. A second job, teaching a crowd of rowdy men in the CCC camp, might be the answer, but when Elsie discovers Nate’s secret, it puts his job as camp foreman in jeopardy. Tutoring leads to friendship and romance, until a string of suspicious fires casts a dark shadow over their relationship. Can they find answers before all of their dreams go up in smoke?

Pre-order Ever Faithful on Amazon.

 

Where Dandelions Bloom by Tara Johnson

Where Dandelions Bloom
Releases July 1, 2019

Cassie Kendrick is on the run. Her abusive father arranged her marriage to a despicable man, but she’s discovered an escape. Disguised as a man, Cassie enlists in the Union army, taking the name Thomas Turner. On the battlefields of the Civil War, keeping her identity a secret is only the beginning of her problems, especially after she meets Gabriel Avery, a handsome young photographer.

Anxious to make his mark on the world and to erase the darkness and guilt lurking from his past, Gabriel works with renowned photographer Matthew Brady to capture images from the front lines of the war. As Gabriel forges friendships with many of the men he encounters, he wonders what the courageous, unpredictable Thomas Turner is hiding.

Battling betrayal, their own personal demons, and a country torn apart by war, can Cassie and Gabriel learn to forgive themselves and trust their futures to the God who births hope and healing in the darkest places?

Pre-order Where Dandelions Bloom on Amazon.

 

Yours Truly, Thomas by Rachel Fordham

Yours Truly Thomas
Releases July 2, 2019

For three years, Penny Ercanbeck has been opening other people’s mail. Dead ends are a reality for clerks at the Dead Letter Office. Still she dreams of something more–a bit of intrigue, a taste of romance, or at least a touch less loneliness. When a letter from a brokenhearted man to his one true love falls into her hands, Penny seizes this chance to do something heroic. It becomes her mission to place this lost letter into the hands of its intended recipient.

Thomas left his former life with no intention of ending up in Azure Springs, Iowa. He certainly didn’t expect a happy ending after what he had done. All he wanted to do was run and never look back. In a moment of desperation, he began to write, never really expecting a reply.

When Penny’s undertaking leads her to the intriguing man who touched her soul with his words, everything grows more complicated. She wants to find the rightful owner of the letter and yet she finds herself caring–perhaps too much–for the one who wrote it.

Pre-order Yours Truly, Thomas on Amazon.

 

Please Note:  There are several more authors whose books are releasing in the next year that I am most eagerly looking forward to, but at this time their release dates are still uncertain. So I’ve limited this list to those books whose release dates are known.

Let’s Chat! 

What do you think? Have I missed any of your favorite upcoming releases? See anything here you’ll be adding to your TBR? Let me know in the comments below!

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Check out this list of Top 10 MUST READ Christian Romance Books for 2019! 

Top 10 Best Christian Romance Books of 2018

Top 10 Christian Romance Books Blog Post Image - 2018

As the year comes to a close, I thought I’d share with you the ten best books I read this year. . . That was the plan. If you pay close attention, however, you’ll notice that I squeezed in a bonus book which I just couldn’t bring myself to cut out. So you’re getting eleven, okay? I know the graphic up there says, “Top 10” but I’m going to go out on a limb and trust that you won’t be mad at me for giving you one additional awesome book to add to your TBR. And let me tell you, just narrowing my favorites down to such a small number was no easy feat. The process got downright painful. Every book on this list fought for its position here. If there are any titles on this list that missed your To Be Read List this year, I earnestly suggest you remedy that oversight!

(In order by author’s last name)

 

Where the Fire Falls by Karen Barnett

Book Quote - Where the Fire Falls - Waterfall Surrender

Stunning Yosemite National Park sets the stage for this late 1920s historical romance with mystery, adventure, heart, and a sense of the place John Muir described as “pervaded with divine light.”

Watercolorist Olivia Rutherford has shed her humble beginnings to fashion her image as an avant-garde artist to appeal to the region’s wealthy art-collectors. When she lands a lucrative contract painting illustrations of Yosemite National Park for a travel magazine, including its nightly one-of-a-kind Firefall event, she hopes the money will lift Olivia and her sisters out of poverty.

After false accusations cost him everything, former minister Clark Johnson has found purpose as a backcountry guide in this natural cathedral of granite and trees. Now he’s faced with the opportunity to become a National Parks Ranger, but is it his true calling?

As Clark opens Olivia’s eyes to the wonders of Yosemite, she discovers the people are as vital to the park’s story as its vistas–a revelation that may bring her charade to an end.

My ReviewAmazon

 

When You Look at Me by Pepper Basham

 

Book Quote - When You Look at Me - Pregnant

An unexpected mother-to-be
A romance-leery composer
And a forgotten melody from the past that holds the keys to their futures

When Julia Jenkins’ great aunt dies and leaves her a Victorian mansion with decades of secrets, Julia never expects to unearth a World War 2 espionage mystery. Struggling with her own past since an assault left her pregnant, her future as a solo parent leaves her dreams uncertain. The inheritance from her great aunt gives Julia the ability to take a step back into her future, but also sends her into the discovery of a love story she’d never anticipated. As she goes through her aunt’s treasured possessions, Julia uncovers some oddly written piano music with a musical code she can’t decipher on her own. Not to worry, introverted Englishman and composer, Henry Wright, is thrust on the scene by a pair of homespun matchmakers who know the ‘right’ man for Julia’s wounded heart.

Henry arrives in Pleasant Gap with the task of composing the soundtrack for his best mate’s newest film. The Jenkins’ family’s southern welcome and gregarious personalities set his reticent nature on edge, but he’s inexplicably drawn to his gentle and music-loving hostess, Julia. Uncertain how to build a friendship with the wounded woman, and rather hopeless in communicating well through words, the bond of music becomes a bridge between her uncertainty and his awkwardness.

But her broken past and his families’ expectations build a wall much greater than the cultures that separate them. As they work together to solve a musical mystery from the grave, will an unlikely romance from the past inspire their hearts to trust in a God who’s written the perfect melody for their lives?

My Review | Amazon

 

The Tory’s Daughter by Angela K Couch

The Tory's Daughter

Burying his wife is the hardest thing Joseph Garnet has ever done—until he’s called to leave his young son and baby daughter to fight Iroquois raiders. When one of the marauders tries to steal his horse, the last thing he expects is to end up tussling with a female. The girl is wounded, leaving Joseph little choice but to haul her home to heal—an act that seems all too familiar.

Though Joseph doesn’t appear to remember her, Hannah Cunningham could never forget him. He rode with the mob that forced her two brothers into the Continental Army and drove her family from their home—all because of her father’s loyalties to The Crown. After five years with her mother’s tribe, the rebels and starvation have left her nothing but the driving need to find her brothers.

Compelled by a secret he’s held for far too long, Joseph agrees to help Hannah find what remains of her family. Though she begins to steal into his aching heart, he knows the truth will forever stand between them. Some things cannot be forgiven.

My Review | Amazon

 

The Hope of Azure Springs by Rachel Fordham

The Hope of Azure Springs

Seven years ago, orphaned and alone, Em finally arrived at a new home in Iowa after riding the orphan train. But secrets from her past haunt her, and her new life in the Western wilderness is a rough one. When her guardian is shot and killed, Em, now nineteen, finally has the chance to search for her long-lost sister, but she won’t be able to do it alone.

For Azure Springs Sheriff Caleb Reynolds, securing justice for the waifish and injured Em is just part of his job. He’s determined to solve every case put before him in order to impress his parents and make a name for himself. Caleb expects to succeed. What he doesn’t expect is the hold this strange young woman will have on his heart.

Debut author Rachel Fordham invites historical romance readers to the charming town of Azure Springs, Iowa, where the people care deeply for one another and, sometimes, even fall in love.

My Review Amazon

 

A Defense of Honor by Kristi Ann Hunter

A Defense of Honor

When Katherine “Kit” FitzGilbert turned her back on London society more than a decade ago, she determined never to set foot in a ballroom again. But when business takes her to London and she’s forced to run for her life, she stumbles upon not only a glamorous ballroom but also Graham, Lord Wharton. What should have been a chance encounter becomes much more as Graham embarks on a search for his friend’s missing sister and is convinced Kit knows more about the girl than she’s telling.

After meeting Graham, Kit finds herself wishing things could have been different for the first time in her life, but what she wants can’t matter. Long ago, she dedicated herself to helping women escape the same scorn that drove her from London and raising the innocent children caught in the crossfire. And as much as she desperately wishes to tell Graham everything, revealing the truth isn’t worth putting him and everyone she loves in danger.

My Review | Amazon

 

A Chance at Forever by Melissa Jagears

A Chance at Forever

In early 1900s Kansas, Mercy McClain, determined to protect Teaville’s children from the bullying she experienced as a child, finds fulfillment working at the local orphanage and serving on the school board. When Aaron Firebrook, the classmate who bothered her more than any other, petitions the board for a teaching position, she’s dead set against him getting the job.

Aaron knows he deserves every bit of Mercy’s mistrust, but he’s returned to his hometown a changed man and is seeking to earn forgiveness of those he wronged. He doesn’t expect Mercy to like him, but surely he can prove he now has the best interests of the children at heart.

Will resentment and old wounds hold them back, or can Mercy and Aaron put the past behind them in time to face the unexpected threats to everything they’re working for?

My Review | Amazon

 

Engraved on the Heart by Tara Johnson

engraved on the heart cover photo

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.

My Interview with Tara Johnson | Amazon

 

The Reluctant Groom by Kimberly Rose Johnson

The Reluctant Groom

When everything goes wrong, can two friends discover true love?

When Ray O’Brien’s world is turned upside down, Katie Fairchild wants to help, but the personal cost is high. Neither desires a marriage of convenience, but when Katie blurts the first thing that comes to her mind Ray can’t dismiss her offer of marriage. It would solve all his problems except for one thing—they aren’t in love.

Can these two friends team up for the greater good and perhaps find love along the way, or are their expectations impossible?

My Review | Amazon

 

The Ruby Knot by Jane Josephs

The Ruby Knot

Graphic Designer Katie Ryan is about to have a baby, the consequence of a romantic encounter with Navy Special Forces “boat guy” CJ Jansen in Las Vegas. Back home in San Diego, Katie is determined to get her life back on track, and finds herself drawn to pastoral intern Noah Davidson. But CJ isn’t about to ignore his son, and soon Katie finds herself torn between her feelings for two very different men. With her son’s future at stake, Katie is faced with a choice: should she stay with the plan she’s made, or follow her heart?

My Review | Amazon

 

Three Words and a Kiss by Sondra Kraak

Book Quote Image - Three Words and a Kiss - Unconventional Notion - 1

When a big-hearted debutante collides with a small-town blacksmith set in his ways, it can mean only one thing—a war of hearts has come to Pine Creek.

Washington, 1892

Cameron Wallace thrives as both the blacksmith and the minister in his community of Pine Creek. Out of the fires of a chaotic childhood, he’s forged a peaceful life filled with safe relationships and predictable routines. But when the smithy he’s been renting is sold out from under him, the impulsive woman who buys it stokes the embers of emotions he’d rather keep unlit—and even has the audacity to lend a helping hand to his smithy work.

Samantha Klein has never been afraid to push boundaries when it comes to helping those whom society—and God—have overlooked, be they orphans, immigrants, or injured animals. When her latest attempt to aid a group of Chinese women lands her in a newspaper scandal, her high-society family sends her packing from Seattle. Setting out on her own, she purchases the Pine Creek smithy and hatches another plan for helping her immigrant friends. But only weeks after arriving in Pine Creek, her plan turns to ashes, and she’s overwhelmed by needs she can never hope to meet, including her own need to be seen and cared for. And the one who seems to understand her is the man who won’t let her anywhere near his heart, no matter the attraction that burns between them.

As Cameron struggles to find a new normal, and Samantha yearns for someone to share her burdens, old hurts and dangerous secrets make them both terrified to admit that what they need—and what God has planned for them—just might be each other.

My Review | Amazon

 

More Than Meets the Eye by Karen Witemeyer

More Than Meets the Eye

Many consider Evangeline Hamilton cursed. Orphaned at a young age and possessing a pair of mismatched eyes–one bright blue, the other dark brown–Eva has fought to find her way in a world that constantly rejects her. Yet the support of even one person can help overcome the world’s judgments, and Eva has two–Seth and Zach, two former orphans she now counts as brothers.

Seeking justice against the man who stole his birthright and destroyed his family, Logan Fowler arrives in 1880s Pecan Gap, Texas, to confront Zach Hamilton, the hardened criminal responsible for his father’s death. Only instead of finding a solitary ruthless gambler, he discovers a man not much older than himself with an unusual family. When Zach’s sister, Evangeline, insists on dousing Logan with sunshine every time their paths cross, Logan finds his quest completely derailed. Who is truly responsible for his lost legacy, and will restoring the past satisfy if it means forfeiting a future with Evangeline?

My Review | Amazon

 

I hope you enjoyed this look back at the books I most enjoyed reading in 2018. Be sure to subscribe to my blog so you won’t miss my upcoming post, “Top Ten Christian Romance Books of 2019,” when I’ll be sharing with you the book releases I’m most eagerly anticipating in 2019.

Are you a Kathleen’s Readers’ Club member? It’s free (of course) and KRC members receive exclusive content, are eligible for exclusive seasonal book giveaways, and more! Join Today!

 

Let’s Chat!

Which of these books will you be adding to your TBR today? Which book did I leave out that you think should be added to this list? Tell me in the comments below!

 

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Author Interview – Tara Johnson

Author Interview Blog Header - Tara Johnson

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.

about-the-book-2

engraved on the heart cover photo

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.

AMAZON

A Little about Tara

tara 2017 (1)

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.

Website: www.TaraJohnsonStories.com
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/TaraLynnJohnsonAuthor/
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/tarajohnsonministry/

 

the-interview

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.

Little House & Anne Book Sets w Watermark
A very small part of Kathleen’s Classic Books Collection

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.

Harper's Weekly June 7 1862 - Full Page not full edition
A cartoon depicting secesh goods appears at the top of this Harper’s Weekly page taken from the June 7, 1862 edition.
Click this image to read more of the Harper’s Weekly editions printed during the Civil War. Harper’s Weekly is in the public domain in the United States. 

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 Blue and was struck with how tenderly she addressed tough issues. I’m currently reading Cynthia Roemer’s Under This Same Sky and am having a hard time putting it down. Such engaging characters!

Across the Blue Under this Same Sky

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 me laughter 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! 🙂

giveaway-5

engraved on the heart cover photo

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:

  1. Sign up to become a member of Kathleen’s Reader’s Club,
  2. Share this post on either Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook (share must be public & tagged @KathleenDenly), and
  3. Leave a comment on this post telling me which part of Tara’s interview you enjoyed the most!

 

DEADLINE TO ENTER: Midnight, November 16, 2018

 

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Author Interview - Engraved on the Heart Instagram
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“A lie is only harmful if we believe it. The truth is Jesus thought we were so valuable, He died to keep us.” Read the rest of this #AuthorInterview here: https://bit.ly/2Plew8d 

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“I ran my finger over the scarred impression, marveling that such a small mark could tell such an exquisite story.” Learn the rest of the story in this #AuthorInterview! https://bit.ly/2Plew8d 

First Line Friday – 10.26.18

first-line-friday-3

Hi Everyone! It’s First Line Friday, so grab a book near you and share your first line in the comments below!

Today I’m sharing the first line from Engraved on the Heart by Tara Johnson. A stunning debut novel which I absolutely loved reading! Plus, isn’t the cover just gorgeous?

Engraved on the Heart

Here is the first line:

April 12, 1861
Savannah, Georgia

Don’t fail. Tonight of all nights, don’t fail. 

about-the-book-2

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.

AMAZON

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Now it’s your turn to grab the book nearest you and leave a comment with the first (or your favorite) line!

Then head over to Hoarding Books to see who else is participating: