Review: “His Steadfast Love” by Julie Lessman + Book Snippet & GIVEAWAY ~Blog Tour

Review: “His Steadfast Love” by Julie Lessman + Book Snippet & GIVEAWAY ~Blog Tour

1_160_origWelcome to my stop on this fun tour leading up to author Julie Lessman’s independent release AND the last book in her “Isle of Hope” series, His Steadfast Love! Julie might be more familiar to fans of the historical romance genre, with multiple series anchoring her as a talented author when it comes to family dramas and swoony romances. In the last couple years, though, Julie has proven her talent once again within a new realm: contemporary stories.

If family drama threaded with spiritual lessons rooted in Scripture and plenty of romance is your thing, read on for more about this series, my gushing review, a chance to win fun prizes, and a book snippet that *might* require a fan!

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his-steadfast-love_origSeries: Isle of Hope
Genre: Contemporary, Romance, Christian
Publisher: Indie
Publication date: August 1. 2017

She’s bent on fun.
He’s bent on faith.
Till true love bridges the gap.

Cat O’Bryen is the prodigal daughter unhappy with God. First, the father with whom she reconciled dies of cancer and now her twin sister and best friend marries, leaving Cat at home with a newlywed mother, her new husband, and a little brother. But when Cat moves in with a roommate of questionable morals, her family is worried, certain she’s on a path that could damage her faith forever.

Reluctant to get involved with a woman like the one who destroyed his life, ex-Navy SEAL Pastor Chase Griffin steers clear of the attraction he feels for Cat O’Bryen. Until her family begs him to take her under his wing, hoping he can draw her back into the fold. But when the draw she has on him proves too strong to resist, he must rely on the strength of God to offer a friendship as steady and strong as the God whose love is wooing her home. ​

GOODREADS | AMAZON

The Books in the Series

My reviews:  Isle of Hope |  Love Everlasting

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julie-turquoise-in-chair_origJulie Lessman is an award-winning author whose tagline of “Passion With a Purpose” underscores her intense passion for both God and romance. A lover of all things Irish, she enjoys writing close-knit Irish family sagas that evolve into 3-D love stories: the hero, the heroine, and the God that brings them together.

Author of The Daughters of Boston, Winds of Change, and Heart of San Francisco series, Julie was named American Christian Fiction Writers 2009 Debut Author of the Year and has garnered 18 Romance Writers of America and other awards. Voted #1 Romance Author of the year in Family Fiction magazine’s 2012 and 2011 Readers Choice Awards, Julie was also named on Booklist’s 2010 Top 10 Inspirational Fiction and Borders Best Fiction list.

Julie’s most recent novel, Isle of Hope was voted on Family Fiction magazine’s Best of 2015, and Surprised by Love appeared on Family Fiction magazine’s Best of 2014. Her independent novel A Light in the Window is an International Digital Awards winner, a 2013 Readers’ Crown Award winner, and a 2013 Book Buyers Best Award winner. Julie has also written a self-help workbook for writers entitled Romance-ology 101: Writing Romantic Tension for the Sweet and Inspirational Markets. You can contact Julie through her website and read excerpts from each of her books at www.julielessman.com.

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​NEWSLETTER | THE SEEKERS | JOURNAL JOTS

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This time he was ready for her, and with an easy twist, he scooped her up and launched her high in the air, her squeals bouncing off the water before she did.
Ker-splash!
A gush of water plumed, and Chase grinned outright when she shot from the surface, mouth going strong as usual. “Chase Griffin, you are the lowest, sneakiest, most diabolical—”
His laughter rang over the water. “Sorry, Catfish, but ‘diabolical’ belongs to you, kiddo, so I wouldn’t be throwing pitchforks if I were you.”
“And a p-pastor too!” she sputtered, still spitting water out of her mouth.
He cocked a hip on the edge of the board, thumbs hooked into the back pockets of his wet jeans. “That’s right, Catherine,” he said, his grin definitely ‘diabolical,’ “anything you need to get off your chest?”
“Come into the water, Rev, and I’ll show you ‘diabolical.’” She delivered a sweet smile that was anything but, paddling in place with a glint of dare in her eyes.
“Oh, no doubt about that,” he said with a grin, loosely crossing his arms. “But I’ll pass, if you don’t mind, and work on my tan while I fish.”
“Chase Griffin, you are nothing but a wet blanket!” she snapped.
“Yep, thanks to you,” he said with a chuckle, fetching his rod and tackle box and settling into his chair.
Nose in the air, she spun around in a swoosh to head to the neighbor’s dock, her strokes deft and sure like his demise would be if he got into the water with Cat O’Bryen. He was tempted to take a quick dive just to cool off because that minx sure had a way of heating him up, and they were just friends, for pity’s sake. God help him, he couldn’t imagine dating the woman, subject to temptation day in and day out. Those teasing eyes, that sexy smile, her flirtatious ways.
Those come-on kisses …
Heat engulfed him that had nothing to do with the sun beating down and everything to do with the vamp in the water. Although his mind was made up, Cat O’Bryen was too much of what his body and soul craved, and he wasn’t going there again. Ever. Especially not with a woman whose faith was as weak as water.
“Oh!”
He glanced up from his tackle box, heart constricting when he saw Cat freeze in the water. “What’s wrong?” He shot to his feet.
“Cramps.” It was a strained response as she maneuvered to a dead-man float.
“Where?” His heart rate took off in a sprint, memories of a SEAL buddy dangerously compromised on a mission from severe abdominal cramps.
“Left leg.” Her voice matched the grimace on her face. “I’ll be fine … I’ll just wait it out.”
“Grab your toes on the cramped leg and pull toward you,” he ordered, gaze pinned to her body for any sign of distress, “then straighten your leg.”
Face pinched, she did as he instructed, her groans hitching his pulse. “Never this bad before …”
That’s all it took. The tackle box hit the weathered wood with a hard clunk as Chase dove from the dock, arriving by her side in mere seconds. “Any better?” He watched while she continued pulling and stretching, his breathing heavy as he hovered close, finally catching his breath.
“I’m not sure …” she said in a weak voice.
And then she lunged, stealing his air all over again when she brought him down, submerging him with a power that belied her small size. “No, wait …” She bolted away when he hit the surface, coughing up water. “Yes, definitely better now.” Her giggles bounced off the lake as she swam for the shore, arms slicing through the water with an efficiency that would outdistance most people.
But he wasn’t most people. He was a seasoned professional.
With a store of adrenalin usually reserved for workouts at the gym, work days at Lake Loon, or dangerous missions overseas, Chase easily overtook her mere feet from the sandy shore, clamping onto her foot to reel her in hard. One arm latched to her waist, he handily dunked her with the other, her shrieks and giggles lost in a tide pool of bubbles and foam. Quickly lurching her back up, he chuckled low in her ear as she kicked and squealed in his arms. “I thought I told you never to mess with an ex-Navy SEAL, Catfish,” he said with a husky chuckle, soundly dousing her all over again.
He released her, and she literally exploded from the water, twisting in the air like some headstrong sea nymph, taking him down with a grunt as she clung stubbornly to his head.
And didn’t let go.
They burst from the water as one, her body welded to his as she death-gripped his hair, obviously intent on one more plunge.
But the only thing that plunged was his gut when their eyes locked, the laughter in her face dissolving into something far softer and warm while her ragged breathing mated with his. Her gaze dropped to his mouth, and a tidal wave of want surged through his body, taking him down as easily as Cat had done with her well-placed dunking.
She absently licked her lips, and his stomach cramped with need as he fought the pull of her parted mouth, her shallow breathing in dangerous sync with his own. His eyelids felt as heavy as if he were drugged, arms slowly curling around her waist like they had a mind of their own. And God help him, they did, because he had little control as they drew her close, luring his mouth to hers with a low, aching moan.
She tasted like sheer heaven as he nuzzled the lips he’d dreamed about since the night she had kissed him in her room. Forcing himself to take it slow, he caressed her mouth with all the tenderness that swirled inside for a lost, little girl named Cat. But the moment a soft mew left her lips, he was a goner, his groan hoarse as he delved in to explore with a passion too long denied.
And that’s when he knew.
He was dead in the water.
Literally

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Yes, a large portion of this story develops the main romance in Julie’s signature “passion with a purpose” style, with a few scenes that might require a freezer (as evidenced in the snippet above), as Carrie likes to say. It’s always tastefully presented. Always pointing to a Christ-centered marriage or leading the characters to see what real Love should be like.

But it’s so much more than a story to quicken your pulse, it’s a story to quicken your spirit and encourage your heart. At least it did mine, in ways I didn’t know I needed. But that’s the awesome power of honest and Biblical-truth-filled story: sometimes it speaks to your heart in a personal way.

While I don’t have the history and same problems these characters face, I CAN relate to their very real, human struggles. I can relate to harboring unforgiveness and the bitterness it brings. I can relate to running from something or someone (God) I should run toward. I can relate to fearing rejection and hurt. In Chase’s (and even Tess’s) case, to the point it challenges trust and interferes with their walks with God. This story fleshes out these themes with a refreshing directness not often found in the Christian fiction genre, addressing topics such as sin, jealousy, and physical attraction through a lens of faith and hope.

Following the O’Bryens and Carmichaels through 3 books and 1 novella has earned them a big place in my reader heart. Seeing them overcome, accomplish, and embrace a restoration that could only be orchestraed by God has been a fun journey that came together even more with this final story. (insert sad whines because this is the last book) BUT, I was thrilled with the swoony happy moments included from the perspectives of Shannon and Tess that fit into the story and showed a little of what their happily-ever-afters look like.

Cat and Chase’s story has been a long time coming, but it was SO worth the wait! Chase has been a present and active character in the whole series. With this book, I was happy to finally learn his whole story and see him grow and be surprised by God’s plan. And when he and Cat are together on the page, talk about chemistry! I loved her spunky personality even when I wanted to talk some sense into her about her rebellion. But oh, her journey back to faith spurred on by Chase and his beautiful frienship was amazing to witness. It is an honest reminder of the strength of God’s love, how He reveals himself through his people (in this case, Chase and Cat’s whole family), and how He loves each of us through our running and floundering, just waiting for us to turn back and embrace Him.

 

Reminds me of lyric “Don’t hide your face from me, for My love won’t be undone.” God is waiting for her to turn back, loving her through her floundering and loving her through her people.

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Enter the rafflecopter giveaway HERE.

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July 23–Singing Librarian Books

July 24–Faithfully Bookish

July 25–Remembrancy | Reading Is My SuperPower

July 26–Paulette’s Papers | Encouraging Words from the Tea Queen

July 27–Flowers of Quiet Happiness | Faery Tales Are Real

July 28–The Green Mockingbird 

July 29–Radiant Light | Cafinated Reads

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Review + Blog Tour: Unraveling by Sara Ella

Welcome to the:

Thomas Nelson’s Young Adult Summer
of 2017 Feature

It’s a blog post today all about the stunning contemporary YA/Fantasy sophomore novel from Sara Ella: Unraveling. Read on for my review, a book excerpt, and GIVEAWAY info! Or, you could just take my word for it and preorder this book now. It’s not one to be missed!

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About the Book
Title:  Unraveling
Series: Unblemished, Book 2
Author:  Sarah Ella

Publisher: Thomas Nelson

Release Date:  July 11, 2017

Genre: Young Adult Fiction / Fantasy

In the second installment of the Unblemished Trilogy, YA author Sara Ella asks, “What happens when happily ever after starts to unravel?”

Eliyana Ember doesn’t believe in true love. Not anymore. After capturing the Void and saving the Second Reflection, El only trusts what’s right in front of her. The tangible. The real. Not some unexplained Kiss of Infinity she once shared with the ghost of a boy she’s trying to forget. She has more important things to worry about—like becoming queen of the Second Reflection, a role she is so not prepared to fill.

With the Verity intertwined with her soul and Joshua finally by her side, El is ready to learn more about her mysterious birth land, the land she now rules. So why does she feel like something—or someone—is missing?

When the thresholds begin to drain and the Callings, those powerful magical gifts, begin to fail, El wonders if her connection with Ky Rhyen may have something to do with it. For light and darkness cannot coexist. She needs answers before the Callings disappear altogether. Can El find a way to sever her connection to Ky and save the Reflections—and keep herself from falling for him in the process?

Find it on: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | CBD | Goodreads

Review

Where do I even begin?! This book is such an adventure from page 1, with multiple twists I didn’t see coming (especially the one at about the 30% mark). Continuing with themes of sacrifice, self-confidence, and even the power of true love, Unraveling delves deeper into the story world and deeper into the characters as they face unforeseen challenges to their world. The world-building alone is fascinating as we learn even more about these parallel worlds with Eliyana.

Side note: I think this book could be read out of sequence, but it would be best to start with book 1, Unblemished.

The hold-on-to-your-seat adventure contained in this story is amped up by the constant, elusive battle between good and evil and the soul-deep ties Eliyana has to the people surrounding her. Contrasting the serious themes, though, are pop culture references aplenty. They are included in a manner which makes the contemporary setting of the story shine brightly against the castle and pirate ship locations(!!!). The Disney references make me happy inside — from straight-up mentions to clever plays on words, chapter titles, or similar themes. And, the MUSIC and movie references are a bonus. (The Count of Monte Cristo or Shania Twain, anyone?)

This book progresses the romantic storyline just enough, building on the (very-plausible-because-fantasy-reasons) love triangle established in book one. It still serves as a usable plot device because it contrasts the battle between good and evil in oneself, and the way opinion is influenced by individuals. I appreciate that Eliyana is not a back-and-forth, I-love-both person, yet a genuine individual who knows her choices have an impact on many people, including her choice of a confidant and romantic interest. By story’s end, I think the direction this situation will take is firmly in place, and I’m totally happy with it. But Sara IS known to throw surprises at us readers! The waiting will be agony (insert Into the Woods musical number here).

Like with the first book, I am intrigued by the symbolism showcasing the battle of good vs. evil, or the Verity and Void, as it’s termed in this series. When this story is examined closely, an observant reader will see detailed Biblical parallels with elements of faith, the power of light to overcome darkness, and even a mirror of the creation story and Eden. I think this book raises important questions about choices and human nature — how much of our life is defined by our own choices or free will? How much because of other people’s influence? Will you choose to embrace the Source of light and truth or “feed” an evil nature?

From dimension-travel to pirate ships and deserts, Unraveling covers the bases of adventure and the young adult genre while still maintaining an overarching plot with elements of faith. I haven’t even mentioned the fun and mysterious secondary characters OR the fairies! And the troll. This is one stunning, well-developed story that should appeal to fans of YA, fantasy, adventure, Disney fairytales, or even contemporary YA romance. I seriously can’t WAIT to find out what happens in the conclusion of the series come book 3!

Thank you to the publisher, Thomas Nelson, for the review copy of this book for the purpose of this tour. This is my honest review. 
Excerpt
Taken from “Unraveling” by Sara Ella Copyright © 2017 by Sara E. Larson. Used by permission of http://www.thomasnelson.com/.

Prelude

I’m not ready for this.My shoulder is going to rip from its socket. My bicep is a torch, igniting my forearm. His fingers are sliding from mine, and I can’t hold on any longer. All I see is the gorge below, the beads of sweat dewing his temples.

He shouts, “Hold on!”

But the cliff crumbles with each passing blink. If we remain this way, we’ll both be swallowed by the chasm below.

I loosen my grip, my clammy palm slipping.

His eyes plead. Beg. Implore. “Don’t!” His cry echoes.

The river crashes and curls. Waiting to swallow. Devour. Obliterate anything entering its territory. But it isn’t the river I’m afraid of. It’s the black hole beyond it. The beginning of the end.

I know if we disconnect he might be lost forever. “I love you” is what I want to say. Instead I ask him, “Find me?”

His expression corkscrews, a mask of raw emotion. “Always.” His voice is weak, his energy drained. He’s not strong enough. Because of me.

So my fingers splay.

I let go.

About the Author

Sara Ella is the author of Unblemished, book one of the Unblemished Trilogy. Once upon a time, Sara dreamed she would marry a prince and live in a castle, and she did work for Disney! Now she spends her days throwing living room dance parties for her two princesses and conquering realms of her own imaginings. She believes “Happily Ever After is Never Far Away.”

 
CONNECT WITH SARA:  website ⎸facebook ⎸twitter ⎸pinterest ⎸instagram ⎸youtube
 
 
Giveaway

(3) Winners will each win a finished hard copy of Unraveling by Sara Ella, courtesy of the publisher, Thomas Nelson Publishers. Giveaway ends June 2, 2017 at 11:59 PM EST.

Tour Schedule

5/22 – Melony Teague (Author Interview)

5/23 – Thorn & Vine (review) & Between the Pages of This Bookish Life (Spotlight)

5/24 – A Baker’s Perspective (review), Singing Librarian Books (Spotlight) & YA Book Divas (Spotlight & Excerpt)

5/25 – My So Called Chaos (review) & Thinking Thoughts (Spotlight)

5/26 – Reading is My SuperPower (review)

5/27 – The Green Mockingbird (review)

5/28 – Bookworm Mama (Spotlight)

5/29 – Just Commonly (review)

Review+Book Snippet: “Reclaimed” by Jennifer Rodewald ~ Blog Tour

Review+Book Snippet: “Reclaimed” by Jennifer Rodewald ~ Blog Tour

Reclaimed Tour Header

Today I’m happy to be a part of the Singing Librarian Books tour for Reclaimed by Jennifer Rodewald, a contemporary Christian release from Rooted Publishing. Read on for my review, a snippet from the book, and GIVEAWAY + blog tour details.

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reclaimed-kindle-coverGenre:
 Christian, Contemporary
Publisher: Rooted Publishing
Publication date: February 28, 2017
Number of pages: 346

Left wounded by a marriage cut short, Suzanna Wilton leaves city life to take up residency in a tiny Nebraska town. Her introduction to her neighbor Paul Rustin is a disaster. Assuming he’s as underhanded as the other local cowboys she’s already met, Suzanna greets him with sharp hostility.

Though Paul is offended by Suzanna’s unfriendliness, he can’t stop thinking about her, which unsettles his peaceful life. A hard-fought friendship slowly kindles something more, but just as Paul’s kindness begins to melt Suzanna’s frozen heart, a conflict regarding her land escalates in town. Even in the warmth of Paul’s love, resentment keeps a cold grip on her fragile heart.
Will Suzanna ever find peace?
***2014 Olympia Winner***

GOODREADS | AMAZON

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Reclaimed  is the kind of story that settles into your heart after the final page. Engaging from the start, it is an amazing story of finding unfailing love, peace, and belonging that seriously had me laughing and crying multiple times.

Jennifer Rodewald has a beautiful writing style that is prose-like at times and to-the-point just when it needs to be. One paragraph could make me smile from the humor or an endearing nickname and the next paragraph could tear my heart out and bring deeper emotions to the forefront.

The hard-working yet relaxed pace of country life is painted as a perfect backdrop for the characters’ journeys, because this book is all about the characters. It centers on a painstakingly subtle transformation; a “reclaiming”, if you will, of heritage, faith, and dreams (with the addition of a sweet love story).

The main characters’ personalities are vibrant and endearing!

Suzanna is someone I just want to hug! She needs it. She starts off as a prickly, though always likable, person who is deeply hurting over some things from her past. She often reacts in anger toward others to stave off the pain or prevent further rejection. As her story slowly comes to light, she begins to change because of the encouragement and no-strings-attached friendships that grow from her new neighbors, Paul and his sister, Andrea.

Paul! He’s the quintessential country gentleman: a humble person who finds joy in his work and a man with integrity who loves his mama (and dad). Not to mention the humor and flirting he’s capable of ❤ …. But, he is not without his own flaws or difficulties. His current attitude is one resulting from growth, though, having dealt with his own struggles with pride to find peace and be settled with his home. I enjoyed the genuineness of his perspective.

These two emotional perspectives – Suzanna’s and Paul’s – are contrasted in a way that makes them even more understandable — one outlook of questioning, searching, and subsequent pain/anger and the other of a seasoned wisdom and hope. Paul really believes in Suzanna, something that no one has done for her in far too long. He exudes a kind and grace-filled spirit, understanding the need to slowly break through her walls.

The faith thread is never overstated, though central to the story. At the root of Suzanna’s problem is her disconnected idea of and relationship with God. When these encouraging personalities discover that this is the heart of Suzanna’s struggles, they understand it has to be addressed before healing can take place. And the way Paul — and his sister and a few other precious secondary characters — prove to be the hands and feet of Jesus in guiding Suz to Him plays out beautifully.

I really appreciated the way this entire story thoroughly points to the fact that only God can make one whole. That knowing Jesus is not the same as having religion. That the truth is as simple as a freely offered relationship with the Savior of the world. All of this is combined with the sweetest story of romance born of friendship to make this one of my favorite books I’ve read so far this year. It’s my first novel by Jennifer, but it won’t be my last!

Thank you to Singing Librarian Books and the publisher for providing a complimentary review copy for the purpose of this tour. This is my honest review.

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jennifer-rodewald_4_origJennifer Rodewald is passionate about the Word of God and the powerful vehicle of story. The draw to fiction has tugged hard on her heart since childhood, and when she began pursuing writing she set on stories that reveal the grace of God.
Jen lives and writes in a lovely speck of a town where she watches with amazement while her children grow up way too fast, gardens, and marvels at God’s mighty hand in everyday life. Four kids and her own personal superman make her home in southwestern Nebraska delightfully chaotic.
She would love to hear from you! Please visit her at https://www.authorjenrodewald.com or on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/authorjenrodewald or email her at write2edify@gmail.com.
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Suzanna felt shock contort her face. Paul Rustin? The neighbor who had been kind to her even when she’d been horrible to him? She studied him, unable to picture him as anything other than the gentleman he’d shown himself to be.
Warmth shaded his complexion crimson. “See, not a very good story, right?”
“Why?”
“Why did I do those things?”
She pressed her lips together, wondering why she pushed him but nodded anyway.
“I don’t really know, Suz. I was just angry, and I’m not even sure why. I didn’t want to live here, I didn’t want to be nothin’, and I couldn’t see anything beyond myself. I didn’t have a real reason.”
“What happened?”
Paul’s eyes softened, and a smile crept over his features again. “I didn’t graduate from Rock Creek—I went to Boys Town in March of my senior year. My grandpa came to Omaha to visit me in April with a proposal. If I studied and got my GED, I could come out and live with them. I would have to work like a ranch hand, but they’d keep me on until I figured out what I wanted to do with my life.
“It wasn’t the out I was looking for. I didn’t want to come back to Rock Creek. I thought, man, give me some money and let me go find a life. But Boys Town wasn’t exactly Park Place, and it didn’t look like I’d be passing GO anytime soon, so I agreed.
“I must have thought it would be like visiting my grandparents when I was a kid. You know, farm breakfast at nine every morning, Grandma always ready with a cookie, and I’d collect eggs or do some trivial chore as a token of work.”
Paul chuckled and rubbed his neck. “Nope. My grandpa meant some w-o-r-k. I stayed in the bunkhouse, which was nothing more than a tin can trailer. If I wanted breakfast, I had to get up at six to eat with them because Grandma had things to do. They paid me what they would have paid a hand, and out of my earnings came the cost of rent, electricity, and food. When I slacked off that winter, my bunkhouse got awful cold because Grandpa didn’t pay me enough to cover both heat and food.”
Suzanna’s eyebrows rose. “Seriously? Your grandpa put you out in the cold?”
He laughed. “Tough love, Suz. I found out later they’d set a threshold on the thermostat of around fifty degrees so the pipes wouldn’t freeze, so it wasn’t as bad as I thought. But it felt awful cold. I hated it. And then… I didn’t.”
He stopped, and Suzanna puckered her eyebrows. His attention wandered toward his place south of hers, and she wondered if the scenes unfolded in his mind as he recounted them.
“It came time for calving, and Grandpa said it was my responsibility.” He rubbed a hand against his jeans, and the apples of his cheeks lifted. That look said it all—he loved his work. “I was so tired, but I knew he’d hold me responsible if something went sour. I wound up with a couple of bucket calves, and somewhere in between the late nights and early mornings while checking heifers and feeding orphans, I found myself. I found who God had made me to be, where I needed and wanted to be. It was right here the whole time.”
Bronco shifted under her, and Suzanna slipped a hand around the saddle horn. Fierce rebellion melted away while Paul fed a few cows?
“As simple as that?”
Paul’s gaze fell on her, his relaxed countenance contradicting his story. He looked toward the spring, then the trees, and finally to the hill rising before them.
“Not simple.” He returned his attention to her. “That’s the short version, but it wasn’t simple. I wrestled everyone, including God, for things I thought I wanted. There was a whole lot of humbling that had to happen before I made peace with life. Pride made me useless; selfishness made me difficult.”
His explanation created more questions than it offered answers. Suzanna longed for answers. His story, his life, looked nothing like hers, sounded nothing like hers, but he had peace.
Peace eluded her. She hadn’t found it in church, not the lasting kind. She hadn’t secured it in sacrifice. It wasn’t in love. Love had made her ache all over again.
Where had Paul found this peace?
“Shall we take the hill, Pickle?” Paul gathered his reins and nodded toward the rise.
The mare perked her head, and Bronco followed. Opportunity slipped away, like the waters that rose from the depths of the earth and tumbled down the creek. Suzanna swallowed, pushing a smile across her lips. At her nod, Paul took the lead.
Peace remained hidden with the secret of Rock Creek.
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April 17–Faithfully Bookish Fiction Aficionado
April 18–Book by Book | Paulette’s Papers
April 19–The Green Mockingbird Singing Librarian Books
April 20–Cafinated Read | Encouraging Words from the Tea Queen
April 21–Zerina Blossom’s Books | Remembrancy  | A Baker’s Perspective
April 22–Soulfully Romantic Reading Is My SuperPower

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“The Thorn Healer” by Pepper D. Basham ~ Tour, Review & Author’s Top 10 Favorites

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tth_1Series: Penned in Time book 3
Genre: Fiction, Historical, Romance, Christian
Publisher: Vinspire Publishing
Publication date: December 6, 2016
Number of pages: 327

Fiction, Historical, Romance, Christian

Jessica Ross’ scars run much deeper than the wounds of war. Determined to escape the ghosts of her past and the German influence on her nightmares, she returns home to the sleepy Appalachian town of Hot Springs, NC, only to find the renowned Mountain Park Hotel has been converted into a ‘prison’ for displaced Germans. To Jessica’s dismay, her grandparents have befriended one of the treacherous internees.

August Reinhold has not only found kinship with Jessica’s grandparents, but as they share their granddaughter’s letters from the Front, he discovers a surprising bond drawing him toward the independent and beautiful woman. Displaced by a war and a painful history, he finds Hot Springs and the intriguing Jessica Ross a tempting place to start over. Determined to scale the heights of her bitterness and show her the power of love, August faces more than just Jessica’s resistance but a more devious design to harm the civilian sailors housed in Hot Springs.

Will August’s tender pursuit bring Jessica the healing and hope she needs, or will bitterness force her into the hands of a “true” enemy waiting to destroy much more than her heart?

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Pepper D. BashamPepper Basham is an award-winning author who writes romance peppered with grace and humor. She currently resides in the lovely mountains of Asheville, NC where she is the mom of 5 great kids, speech-pathologist to about fifty more, lover of chocolate, jazz, and Jesus. Her debut historical novel, The Thorn Bearer, released in May 2015 and has garnered awards such as Reader’s Favorites Award, finalist in the Grace Awards, shortlisted for the Inspy Awards, and a finalist in ACFW’s Carol Awards. Her second historical novel, The Thorn Keeper, released in Feb 2016 and her first contemporary romance, A Twist of Faith, released in April 2016 with a 4 star review from Romantic Times. You can get to know Pepper on her website, Facebook, Instagram, or over at her group blog, The Writer’s Alley.

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     Warning: only read this story if you are prepared to engage every emotion known to man because you become so invested in these characters’ hearts. Examples include tension, fear, joy, uncertainty, and brokenness that turns to healing, ALL of which are bound in exquisite hope. The hope found in acceptance, family, love, and most of all, the hope found in Christ.
     Jessica Ross has been an important, though secondary, part of 2 previous books in this series. With The Thorn Healer, her story is told fabulously. (note: this book can be read as a standalone!). She is instantly likable with her fun, feisty attitude and numerous scars just below the surface. She journeys through so much reminding her how much uncertainty one can face in life, AND how a sense of wholeness only comes through surrender to God. On top of that, she faces her own prejudices and understandable challenges when encountering August and his German countrymen in her hometown just after the catastrophes of WWI. And boy does she put up a fight facing down those issues! Talk about witty dialogue :).
     While we’re discussing August, let me just mention how he’s the perfect opposites-attract –and most unexpected — complimentary hero for Jessica. He catches her off guard with his honesty and strength of faith. As Jessica notes at one point, an apt description for him is a “quiet fighter” (ch 8). And the romance that eventually transpires between these two is “signature Pepper” with its spark, sweetness, and poignancy. As Pepper has said before, August’s character demonstrates wonderfully the unconditional love of Christ for His bride.
    14962639_10211125492113875_3513658439859111629_n This is a beautiful drama that explores much more than a romance or the aftermath of WWI. Instead, it delves deep into a story of faith, of the reminder that scars have little power over forgiveness, that God is the source of steadfast hope, and that fulfilling love is sometimes unexpected in its wholeness and form.
     There are so many facets I could further discuss about this story. Like the supporting characters and their humor, or the historically accurate (and fascinating!) setting and events that take place in small town Appalachia, or the glimpse of favorite characters from a previous story, or the beauty of the LETTERS exchanged between certain parties. Or even the hold-your-breath ending. But I will leave you with this plea: read this series from Pepper. You will be blessed by its stories of faith and love.
     My reviews of the previous books in this series: The Thorn Bearer and The Thorn Keeper.
Thank you to Vinspire Publishing and SLB for the complimentary review copy of this book. This is my honest review.

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1. Holiday – Christmas
2. Cookie – Preacher Cookies (aka chocolate/oatmeal no bakes) (Courtney’s note: I’ve not heard them called preacher cookies! I know them as wackies or sometimes boiled cookies)
3. Date option – Nice dinner and then the local bookstore…maybe ending with a stroll through the park or drive through the mountains
4. Tea – sweet, warm or cool
5. Vacation location – UK….EVERY time!
6. Animal – wolf, followed quickly by labs
7. Scripture – (One of my favorites) Ephesians 3:14-19
8. Chocolate – ALL, but I guess my favorite is dark
9. Restaurant – I really like Carrabas, but I’m open for a new favorite
10. Book genre – romance…all kinds

“The Sound of Silver” Birthday Blog Tour

Hello and welcome to The Sound of Silver birthday blog tour! Today’s celebration is all about Rachelle Rea Cobb’s second book in the Steadfast Love series, an inspirational historical romance set in 16th century Europe!The Sound of Silver

Rachelle is also the author of The Sound of Diamonds, the first book in the series, and a newlywed! This summer, she married a man with the same first name as the hero of the series! (And if you haven’t, take the time to read her real-life love story on her personal blog. It’s so sweet and encouraging!) I’m joining in this blog tour to tell you a little more about Silver and spread the news about Rachelle’s awesome giveaway—make sure you enter using the Rafflecopter form linked below to win the lovely necklace pictured and your choice of any of the Steadfast Love titles!

 

My reviews of the Steadfast Love series:

The Sound of Diamonds (with interview)

The Sound of Silver

The Sound of Emeralds

THE GIVEAWAY!

Enter using the Rafflecopter form below to win a beautiful necklace created by Baubles, Beads, and Stuff and your choice of any one of Rachelle’s three books (the series begins in Book One, of course, but in case you have one or two of her books already, Rachelle will gladly send you the next one to read!).

International friends, the paperback & necklace giveaway is open to continental U.S. addresses only (sorry!). But do still enter, because one international winner will also be chosen to receive an e-book.

Link: https://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/e8cfa9569/

ABOUT The Steadfast Love SERIES

In 16th-century Europe, the Reformation rages between Protestants and Catholics. Gwyneth, half-Dutch, flees from England to Holland to escape the man who murdered her parents. When he follows her there and insists he came to rescue her, will she trust this man called Dirk? When tragedy strikes, will their steadfast love erode?

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Rachelle ReaTimes gone by snatch Rachelle Rea Cobb close, so she reads and writes about years long ago–her passions include the Reformation, Revolutions, and romance. Rachelle wrote the Steadfast Love series during college. Five months after she graduated, she signed a three-book deal with her dream publisher, WhiteFire. She’s a homeschool grad, Oreo addict, and plots her novels while driving around her dream car, a pick-up truck. In June 2016, she married a man with the same name as her fictional hero, and they live happily ever after in Small Town, South.

AUTHOR LINKS

Websitehttp://RachelleReaCobb.com/

Facebookhttp://facebook.com/RachelleReaCobb

Twitter: https://twitter.com/RachelleReaCobb

Pinterest: http://www.pinterest.com/RachelleReaCobb/

Instagram: @RachelleReaCobb

Amazon Author Pagehttp://www.amazon.com/Rachelle-Rea/e/B00RZHIL1Q

Goodreadshttps://www.goodreads.com/author/show/8144149.Rachelle_Rea_Cobb

 

MORE ABOUT The Sound of Silver

The stalwart saint and the redeemed rebel. One fights for faith, the other for honor…

Fire and RainAfter Dirk rescues Gwyneth from the Iconoclastic Fury, she discovers that faith is sometimes fragile—and hope is not as easy as it may seem. Gwyneth continues her quest to learn more about the love of God preached by Protestants she once distrusted.

Meanwhile, Dirk’s quest is to prevent his sullied name from staining hers. Will his choice to protect her prove the undoing of her first faltering steps toward a Father God? Once separated, will Dirk and Gwyneth’s searching hearts ever sing the same song?

Find The Sound of Silver on…

Amazon Paperback: http://is.gd/1HwJoi

Kindle: http://is.gd/EZ7DJ1

Barnes & Noble: http://is.gd/qhoCTc

Books a Million: http://is.gd/M2y5P2

Goodreads: http://is.gd/iBE2lJ

Review: “Love Everlasting” by Julie Lessman ~ Blog Tour & Giveaway

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Today I’m happy to be participating in the blog tour for Julie Lessman’s latest indie release, Love Everlasting, the second book in her contemporary “Isle of Hope” series. Read on for more about the book, Julie, my review, and an opportunity to enter the giveaway for an ecopy of book 1 or 2!

(Just a little note here: you can read this book as a standalone, for sure, but you would experience the story with more perspective and deeper emotional investment if you start with book 1, Isle of Hope: Unfailing Love.)
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PictureSeries: Isle of Hope
Genre: Christian, Romance
Publisher: Julie Lessman, LLC
Publication date: September 30, 2016
Number of pages: 307

He sets hearts on fire.
She’s been burned by love.
Can hope survive the flames of the past?

School teacher by day, ghostwriter by night, sweet and shy Shannon O’Bryen doesn’t mind writing romance on the sly, but to live it? No, thank you, not since the man she loved turned out to be a player who broke both her heart and her spirit. Now focused more on her faith and her fiction, she vows the next time she falls in love, it will be safely—through the pages of a book.

Dr. Sam Cunningham is a charismatic player who breaks hearts as regularly as he washes his pearl-white Corvette. Abandoned as a young child, Sam was an orphan shuffled through the foster-care system, bitterly driven to prove he is worthy of love—the kind that lasts forever. Once he learns Shannon is a romance writer, he enlists her help in winning back his ex-girlfriend. She teaches him about faith and the true definition of love, and he soon discovers he’s been seeking it in the wrong place all along—and with the wrong girl. But can he convince a woman who’s been burned by love to open her eyes—and her heart—to a love everlasting?

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PictureJulie Lessman is an award-winning author whose tagline of “Passion With a Purpose” underscores her intense passion for both God and romance. A lover of all things Irish, she enjoys writing close-knit Irish family sagas that evolve into 3-D love stories: the hero, the heroine, and the God that brings them together.
Author of The Daughters of Boston, Winds of Change, and Heart of San Francisco series, Julie Lessman was named American Christian Fiction Writers 2009 Debut Author of the Year and has garnered 17 Romance Writers of America and other awards. Voted #1 Romance Author of the year in Family Fiction magazine’s 2012 and 2011 Readers Choice Awards, Julie was also named on Booklist’s 2010 Top 10 Inspirational Fiction and Borders Best Fiction list.Julie’s most recent novel, Isle of Hope was voted on Family Fiction magazine’s Best of 2015, and Surprised by Love appeared on Family Fiction magazine’s list of Top Ten Novels of 2014. Her independent novel A Light in the Window is an International Digital Awards winner, a 2013 Readers’ Crown Award winner, and a 2013 Book Buyers Best Award winner. Julie has also written a self-help workbook for writers entitled Romance-ology 101: Writing Romantic Tension for the Sweet and Inspirational Markets.
You can contact Julie through her website and read excerpts from each of her books at www.julielessman.com.
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Whew! Julie Lessman calls herself a caffeinated drama queen, and this book certainly reaffirms that fact with the characters’ habits of caffeine and my need for some after losing a little sleep for “just one more chapter”.
What begins as an engaging, sweet story of friendship with moments of romance grows into a story full of Scriptural truths, honest failures and pain, and a message of the hope we can only find through the love of Christ.
Sam and Shannon’s dynamic is somewhat predictable at first, with the shy good-girl and rebellious player thrown together in a new friendship. While their eventual mutual love might have been predicted from page one, the arduous journey each one of them travels to get to their happy ending comes with an unexpected grittiness. Shannon’s past is hinted at as holding her back from trusting herself to love again, and Sam’s lack of faith in God combined with his carefree lifestyle prove to be obstacles for both of them. With a realness and loving approach, Julie takes these two on a journey of faith influenced by the wisdom of family and close friends, showing them both what unconditional love looks like.
Also, we get to see our favorite returning families and spunky supporting characters again! I was happy to read a secondary plot and romance carried over from book 1 between Tess O’Bryen and Ben Carmichael. Their relationship continues to grow while facing its own hurdles to overcome (like trust).
This is another fantastic contemporary romance with so much depth and several swoony moments from Julie. I personally am already anxious for book 3, releasing in 2016, because I suspect it’s centered on two of my favorite secondary characters from this series (Cat and Chase!! 🙂 ).
Thank you to the publisher and Singing Librarian Books for a complimentary copy of the book in exchange for my honest review.
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Click here to enter the rafflecopter giveaway!

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Review & Behind-the-Scenes: “More Than a Promise” by Ruth Logan Herne

1218071_origToday is my stop on the Singing Librarian Books Tour for a recent release from Ruth Logan Herne, a new-to-me-author. Her new novel, More Than a Promise, can be classed as a realistic contemporary drama/romance about finding happiness in chaos, the hope in family, and long-sought healing through faith. Read on for my review, 10 awesome behind-the-scenes facts, and a giveaway!

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7274318Genre: Christian, Contemporary, Romance
Publisher: Franciscan Media
Publication date: February 23, 2016
Number of pages: 292

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“My Three Sons”… Naughty sons, at that!… meets “Sarah, Plain and Tall” in this delightful marriage of convenience story that shows how amazingly inconvenient love… and life… can be!

Widower Matt Wilmot is in trouble. His boys are causing chaos and wreaking havoc, his former mother-in-law is threatening to sue for custody, his father just had heart surgery and their family company is liable for a huge balloon payment on a loan his father took out to expand the business the previous year. But rain and illness took their toll, and Matt is having a rough time spinning multiple plates in the air. 

But when he discovers Elle Drake next door, a woman with a wonderful hand at managing errant boys, cranky relatives, and frustrated men… Matt’s world suddenly tips back into a more normal orbit. And when drastic measures are required, it’s the girl next door who’s there to save the day.

Elle Drake wanted nothing more than to create beautiful pottery and have a family, but when her millionaire husband publicly dumped the renowned artist for another woman, Elle moves back to Cedar Mills to start anew, the spinster artist with her big potting shed. But when her to-die-for good-looking neighbor thinks marriage is a good idea, Elle figures he’s either crazy, desperate or right.

But a marriage of convenience can become its own conundrum, and when life takes sudden turns, can this marriage become all that they bargained for? And maybe more than a promise?

Purchasing Links:
AMAZON | B&N | CHRISTIANBOOK.COM

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First, let me just address the Wilmot children! They are a hoot. Ruth fabulously captures their vibrant – and contrasting – personalities. My favorite parts of this dynamic were the moments of sheer honesty from the kids, especially Randy, the notorious middle child and instigator. In his case, bluntness resulted in some hilarious and insightful conversations!

Elle and Matt, and the problems they face, and very relatable. Learning to trust God with full control over your life, for instance, is a daily surrender of yourself to His will and purpose. I was rooting for Elle as she learned to open herself up to love and realize a long-lost dream. And, I was rooting for Matt as he dealt with lingering grief, learned to share his burdens, and found joy again. By the end, I was elated with their journey I felt like I witnessed as a part of their crazy famly.

From the very beginning, this story drew me in with a combination of humor and heart. The realness of the characters, their resounding struggles and possibility of finding happiness and healing, were beautifully blended. If such heartfelt stories are the norm from Ruth, as I’ve heard, I’m eager to read more by her pen!

While you’re here, be sure to enter tie GIVEAWAY for a chance to win 1 of 5 copies of More Than a Promise!

Special thanks to Singing Librarian Books for a review copy of this novel in exchange for my honest review.

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392151Multi-published, bestselling author Ruth Logan Herne loves God, her family, her country, dogs, chocolate and coffee! A country gal with a heart for the big city, Ruthy likes nothing more than to write the kind of books she loves to read, and she’s even more happy that now she gets paid to do it! She’s been married for a Very Long Time and she and her husband Dave live on a small farm in upstate New York where lake effect snow buries them on a regular basis in winter. But that’s all right… it gives her more time to write!

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10 Facts from Ruth!

1. I have friends in the excavating business, and a comment they made once a long time ago, about how some folks figure they’ve got plenty of money, and put off paying them… so that became the reasoning behind the financial difficulties that raised up to trip up the company

2. Somewhere there are three boys who were the original three little boys who came into church SO RELUCTANTLY about six years ago, and inspired this book… and I hope they’re all well and happy!

3. The Polish aspects of Elle’s family were inspired by a wonderful wedding reception I attended years ago, where the ladies of St. Stanislaus’s Church did a Thanksgiving dinner, pass the plate at each table kind of meal, and it was marvelous! Wonderful turkey and stuffing, puddles of gravy and delicious cranberry sauce and homemade pickles. I love church dinners!

4. And at that same wedding, I made the wedding cake, drove it hours to the reception and a layer CRACKED…. Luckily I had made an extra layer (just in case!) and I took the broken layer out, slipped the extra layer in, frosted, decorated and used real red roses to give a “cascade” effect, and NO ONE KNEW A THING!!!!! Yes!

5. The three boys were actually based on two brothers and a sister I’ve had in daycare/after school care for years… Amos is based on Casey, when she was little, and my readers see Casey on my facebook page, on my blog, and in Yankee Belle Café because she’s my “mother’s helper” now and helps on the farm in the summer. And she’s ALMOST DONE WITH HIGH SCHOOL so you can see that life has moved on since I wrote “More Than a Promise”, LOL!

6. Sarah, Plain and Tall is one of my favorite children’s stories, and I used that premise to write an adult version in “More Than a Promise”. If you’ve never read “Sarah, Plain and Tall”, you should… it’s just a wonderful marriage of convenience story set in the early 1900’s. I love it!

7. I love heroes that work with their hands… and guys with big equipment are as happy as little boys with Tonka Trucks until they break! And then they are GRUMPY. If you’re wondering about farmers, insert “tractor” for “backloader” or “grader” and you get the same result! And don’t talk to these men about weather!!!!! EEEK!

8. I love the church setting in Cedar Mills. The fun of older Catholic churches is how the church may reflect the ethnicity of the immigrants who came here with nothing, but pooled together to explore and expand their right to practice their faith freely. Neighborhoods were often defined by these beautiful churches and the congregations that flocked there weekly and daily.

9. I’m always amazed at how pockets of art can bring mass appeal. I wanted Elle’s work to be that way, based on a Thomas Kincade-type fame. Her longing and love came through her work and appealed to the masses, the “you and me” types. But there’s a downside to some of that because “true artistes” often find fault with commercial art, and abandon their friendships. Is it jealousy? Or disregard?

10. And finally… The spray-painted dog is a real thing. It happened a long time ago, and it wasn’t one of my kids (although it could have been!) and it took a long time for that dog’s fur to grow out. But… it did. Eventually!

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Click to enter the Rafflecopter giveaway!

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April 11–cherylbbookblog | A Holland Reads
April 12–Toni Shiloh Prayerfully-Lifted Romance | Reading Is My SuperPower
April 13–Buzzing About Books The Power of Words
April 14–Smiling Book Reviews | Singing Librarian Books
April 15–Katie’s Clean Book Collection | Colorimetry | The Green Mockingbird
April 16–Just Commonly Red Headed Book Lady

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