‘Inspired by Classics’ Guest Post by Pepper Basham + Review & Giveaway: “Charming the Troublemaker”

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Today I have a real TREAT for you guys! Author Pepper Basham has shared a guest post: “Inspired by Classics” all about how classic literature and story fit in with modern writing. I’m also sharing my review of her new release, Charming the Troublemaker, book 2 in her “Mitchell’s Crossroads” Appalachian rom-com series. And, there’s a #GIVEAWAY of an ebook copy of Charming the Troublemaker! So, read on for my little review and her AMAZING thoughts, then enter the giveaway at the end!

About the Book

Charming the TroublemakerWhen Dr. Alex Murdock is demoted to a university in rural Virginia, the last thing he expects to find is a future. But country charm never looked as good as it did on Rainey Mitchell. 

Rainey Mitchell does not need a high-class flirt in her wounded world, but trouble and temptation wafts off the new professor as strong as his sandalwood-scented cologne.

When circumstances thrust them together to save her tutoring clinic, can the troublemaker find the hero inside and encourage the reticent Rainey to open her heart again?

Goodreads | Amazon

Review

You all might recall my excitement for this book in the cover reveal and in a Behind the Scenes Interview with Pepper + Book Recommendations.

Since the very first book of this series, A Twist of Faith, I have been interested in Rainey’s story. Learning hers would be a “loose” retelling of North and South (Elizabeth Gaskell) AND that Rainey would be paired with Alex Murdock, an interesting if frustrating person in book 1, I was ecstatic!!! I mean, woohoo because I ❤ the book & miniseries, and anything Pepper writes is a #mustread, magical romance.

While the humor is laugh-out-loud and the family drama endearing, a most intriguing new-to-Pepper’s-books element is present in Charming the Troublemaker: SUSPENSE! A few surprises and moments of suspense add a good measure of intensity to this Appalachian rom-com full of love and heart.

The hero of this story has been dubbed #AdorkableAlex — and for good reason! His hilarity and flirty manner guards a humble heart that needs a little nudging to find an inner hero, and the people of Ransom, ESPECIALLY the Mitchells, are the ones to help him find that belonging. When he is determined to help or get involved in something, his whole heart jumps in, and it is just so endearing. And have I mentioned he likes Hallmark movies?! #swoon

Rainey Mitchell is the kind of friend you want to have… fiercely protective and discerning, yet adorably clueless about her own value. Her independence is a contrast with some of the baggage and insecurities she carries, and her journey toward a new confidence is wonderfully spurred on by her friendship with Alex. Her little girl, Sarah, is cute from start to finish! And when Sarah and Alex are together on the page, it’s just precious.

The swoony romance is “I NEED A FREEZER” level on multiple occasions! (Pepper has mad kissing book skills). Even through that, however, Alex is EVER the gentleman. And Rainey has a few surprises up her sleeve with her sassyness! Let’s just say it’s fun to see Rainey catch Alex off guard.

More than the romance and the dynamic of these two lead characters, a strong theme of security, honesty, and life direction found ONLY IN JESUS centers this story as it winds its way toward a happy-ending. The emotional moments connected to this faith thread were the most joyous parts of the story. Mama Mitchell was often a tool of wisdom and grace for this purpose, and I just wanted to hug her. And eat her cookin’.

There are so many little things to love about Charming the Troublemaker. Like the walkie talkies. And the kisses. And names of a sleek sports car and practical truck! (Marilyn and Indiana, respectively) 🙂 And all the little North and South parallels you “have to look hard” for that added to the story in just the right ways. And the Mitchell clan with all their hometown love. This is one family I will happily revisit in these pages and, hopefully, in stories to come for a long while.

Thank you to the author and publisher, Bling! Romance (LPC), for the complimentary review copy. This is my honest review.


From Pepper: Inspired by Classics

It is said that there are no NEW stories for authors to write, only the influence our imaginations lend to the stories that have already been created.

Pepper 3And for the most part, this is true. There are basic story tropes that get repeated over and over again, but each author adds their interpretation, their characters, their heart into explaining that trope through their own voices.

I was just talking to my agent, Julie Gwinn, last week about how my brain immediately goes to reinventing stories or creating sequels. I can’t help it. In college I wrote a sequel to Frankenstein! Not long after that, I was determined to write a sequel to the Toby McGuire Spiderman movie. I REALLY wanted to write a sequel to Jane Eyre at another point in time and have found various other books I wanted to reinvent in a different time period or put my spin on them.

As L.M. Montgomery uses (an old proverb) through her classic, Anne of Green Gables, “Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.” So, I think that’s why we see these wonderful (and sometimes not so wonderful) remakes of the classics we all love so much.

Pepper 1Their stories, characters, and/or dialogue is so timeless we, as storytellers, want to capture that spark in some way and make it our own. Of course, we’ll never write exactly like them, but the stories they tell have the unique ability to touch us in special ways – and who wouldn’t want to recreate that feeling?

In my Mitchell’s Crossroads series, I’ve taken some of the things I’ve loved from classics and tries to put a very ‘loose’ and modern spin on them. A Twist of Faith is a loose retelling of Pygmalion (My Fair Lady) and Charming the Troublemaker has aspects of Elizabeth Gaskell’s North and South in it. Can you find them? It’s clearer in A Twist of Faith than Charming the Troublemaker, but you can find them, and ‘you have to look hard’ (fangirl reference). Courtney: squeee! I ❤ N&S

For me, elements of classics I want to recreate stem in part from the way these stories make me feel when I read them, but also in the essentials that make them memorable.

I want to write engaging characters like Henry Higgins, Eliza Doolittle, John Thornton, and Margaret Hale.

I want to inspire smile from witty dialogue and maybe even sneak in a mystery here or there.

I want to portray a variety of romances – not just hate-to-love or opposites attract, but delve into the fun (almost magical) assortment of possibilities. They’ve ALL been written in some form before, and watching out the masters do it provides excellent inspiration.

From fairytales to adventures to romances to mysteries, the possibilities are limitless.

So, what classics would you enjoy seeing rewritten/modernized?

What do you think makes a classic…a classic???

Giveaway

Enter the rafflecopter giveaway.

Giveaway is for one (1) ebook copy of Charming the Troublemaker provided by Pepper Basham. Giveaway ends 11/18/2017 11:59pm CT. Void where prohibited.

 

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Review + Giveaway & Blog Tour: Returning Home by Toni Shiloh

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returning-home_1Series: Freedom Lake
Genre:  Adult, Christian, Contemporary, Romance
Publisher: Indie
Publication date: September 26, 2017

Jo Ellen Baker is shocked to find out that the boy who teased her mercilessly throughout high school, has returned to their hometown of Freedom Lake, and he’s missing a leg. When his mother asks her to renovate their carriage house to give him a place to gain his independence back, she wants to say no. But one look at him brings a rush of forgotten feelings.

Evan Carter can’t believe he has to return home and live with his parents. Every hope and dream he ever had dissipated in a car crash that cost him his leg. Stuck in a wheelchair, he’s forced to reexamine his relationship with God and the local carpenter, Jo Ellen Baker.

Will renovating his home open the door for a mended relationship, or are some wounds too deep to heal from?  ​

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Toni Shiloh is a wife, mom, and Christian fiction writer. Once she understood the powerful saving grace thanks to the love of Christ, she was moved to honor her Savior. She writes to bring Him glory and to learn more about His goodness.

She spends her days hanging out with her husband and their two boys. She is a member of the American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW) and president of the Virginia Chapter.

You can find her on her website at http://tonishiloh.wordpress.com.

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Returning Home is a poignant story of healing, faith, and friendship. More than just a sweet and naturally-progressing romance relationship, the intertwining relationships of the characters, including Jo, Evan, and their close friend group, are a testament to the ways you can choose to react to life changes and challenges.

There is a prominent thread of faith I loved in this story. It’s fleshed out in both Evan and Jo as they deal with forgiveness and relying on God’s never-changing strength in completely different ways. And, this faith shines from Evan and Jo as they each grow and have opportunity to come alongside each other in support and understanding (this also wonderfully spills over in their friend group in an encouraging way). My favorite was Nana’s knowing advice and kind prodding — I would just love to have a real-life conversation with her!

With both complexity and camaraderie, this story of Jo and Evan is deeper than a romance or a story of second chances. It’s all about how prayer can change your heart, how love can mean hard lessons of forgiveness, and how faith can be the means of strength and peace no matter your circumstances.

Thank you to SLB Tours and the author for the complimentary ebook copy. This review is my honest opinion.

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Music Review + GIVEAWAY: “Glory Song” Album by Matt Redman

While I mostly talk books around here, music is one of my very favorite things. I’ve long been a fan of Matt Redman’s music and songwriting, so sharing a review of his latest album today is a treat! *And*, before you go, be sure to enter the CD GIVEAWAY via the Rafflecopter form at the end of this post.

MUSIC REVIEW

Glory Song captures the familiar praise and worship style Matt has authored for years now, with a fresh sound and approach due to the vocal guests and arrangements. A few of the songs feature a backing choir that lends a gospel feel. Most of all, I appreciate the Scripture-based truths incorporated into the songs, clearly pointing to God with declarations of praise.

My favorites include the mid-tempo song “It Is Finished” and the slower, worshipful “One Day (When We All Get To Heaven)” (yay for refreshed classic hymns!) and “Simple Pursuit/Glory Song”, a new take on a song familiar to me because of the Passion version.

ABOUT THE ALBUM

Glory Song

Matt Redman teamed up with several of his worship-artist friends for this album, first releasing the track “Gracefully Broken (feat. Tasha Cobbs Leonard).” Tasha Cobbs Leonard also released her own version of this song on the same day! The album also features Kierra Sheard, Guvna B, Madison Cunningham, and Kim Walker-Smith.

 

 

SOCIAL CORNER

Gracefully Broken Top Of The Tower Live Video

Gracefully Broken (Lyric Video)

Gracefully Broken (Song Story):

 

Buy the Album (iTunes)

ENTER THE GIVEAWAY

Giveaway is for (1) copy of Glory Song, US mailing addresses only. Giveaway ends 10/5/2017 12am.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

 

Winner guidelines:  Disclosure (in accordance with the FTC’s 16 CFR, Part 255:  “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising”):  Many thanks to Propeller Consulting, LLC for providing this prize for the giveaway.  Choice of winners and opinions are 100% my own and NOT influenced by monetary compensation.  I did receive a sample of the product in exchange for this review and post. Only one entrant per mailing address, per giveaway.  If you have won a prize from our sponsor Propeller /FlyBy Promotions in the last 30 days on the same blog, you are not eligible to win.  Or if you have won the same prize on another blog, you are not eligible to win it again.  Winner is subject to eligibility verification.

Review + Blog Tour & Giveaway: The Long Shadows of Summer by Robin E. Mason

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Welcome to my stop on the SLB tour for The Long Shadows of Summer by Robin E. Mason!

About the Book

the-long-shadows-of-summer_1_origSeries: Seasons
Genre:  
Historical
Publisher: Bird’s Nest Books
Publication date: August 31, 2017

​The southern town of Saisons lies at the crossroads between North and South, progressive and genteel antebellum life. Between East and West, between history and heritage, and new frontiers. Downton Abbey meets Gone With the Wind.

It’s 1912, in a world where slavery is dying and women’s rights are rising, and four young women who once shared a bond—and experienced a tragedy—question their own truths.

Mercedes has always been an avid reader and devours each new Sherlock Holmes mystery as soon as she gets her hands on them. When one of her friends comes to her, Mercedes vows to keep Simone’s secrets and uncover the truth.

But as Mercedes plays detective to her friends’ questions, she discovers something far more shocking—she herself is not who she thought she was.

Review

The picture of southern society and classes in 1912 is well presented and contrasted among the families and immersive setting of this story. Mercedes was a likable character, balancing the duties of her role as faithful housekeeper with that of her anchoring an unlikely class-transcending friend group. The mystery and interweaving childhoods of both society maidens and “downstairs” staff was an interesting plot, but I felt it could have been more suspensefully presented. Sometimes the plot would lose momentum because of the descriptive scenes and daily routine of Mercedes. There was a family mystery, though, that presented itself in the latter half of the story that had me rooting for Mercedes and happy to see her realize how she could use her life as an encouragement and catalyst for change in her own community.

Thank you to the author and SLB Tours for providing the review copy of this book. This is my honest review.

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​“I need your help, Mercedes.” Her long gloved fingers toyed with the watch.

“Does it still work?” She looked at me. “The watch. Does it work?”

“It does, yes.” A smile curved her lips as a memory crossed her face.

Monsieur Fontaine had visited Saisons House but rarely. He had business dealings with Monsieur Dubois, and they were never pleasant. The household staff, indeed the whole house seemed to hold a collective breath when the man was near.

All except us girls. We all found it quite intriguing. I was an avid reader, and most enamored of detective stories, and Scarlett and Simone liked me to tell what I had read. Our childish imaginations took fanciful flight, and we spun our own stories from the intrigues of the house. Pearl, of course, was bored with our game, preferring the more dainty activities, but she joined in as our damsel in distress.

We had a great many adventures, roaming the house and the property, and imagined secret passages and underground dungeons. That was quite impossible, living at the edge of the swamp as we did, but we neither knew nor cared.

Simone was at her leisure in the house, even in her papá’s study, unless he or her grand-père were in there. We thought ourselves great stealthy spies, hiding behind the dark blue velvet drapes. Many was the discussion we overhead, none of which we understood. But we took grown up words, and made up our own significance to them, weaving fantastic tales of murder and intrigue and high crimes.

On one such occasion, we were sprawled on the leather couches, mimicking what we had observed as the men smoked their cigars and pipes. We were tossing about the language they often spoke, mostly weather and crops and trading.

We heard angry voices in the hallway, and heavy footsteps coming toward the study.

One of the voices was Monsieur Fontaine.

Scarlett panicked, and I feared she would wet herself. Simone and Pearl both made themselves scarce, disappearing in the best spot behind the drapes in the corner. A large potted fern stood in front of them.

I drew Scarlett with me, hiding behind the drapes in the opposite corner behind the settee. Not as discreet, but we had no choice.

“I saw your girl in my house.” Monsieur Fontaine slammed his fist onto the desk. “And now my watch is missing. Mon père gave me that watch, and his pèrebefore him. And now it’s missing.”

“Adrién—” Simone’s père began.

“I demand you fetch your girl this minute.” Monsieur Fontaine cut him off. “I shall interrogate her and she will tell me where my watch is.”

“You will do no such thing.” Monsieur Dubois rarely lost his temper. But Monsieur Fontaine always brought out the worst in even the best man. “I shall ask my daughter if she knows of your watch. And if she does, then she will tell me where it is, and I, sir, shall discipline my daughter as I see fit. You will have nothing to do with her.”

Scarlett was shaking quite violently at this juncture, and I quietly drew my hand over her mouth. What had the man done to her, for her to be so frightened in his presence? I truly did not want to know; I feared what the answer might have been.

I held her close, stroking her hair with my hand. I could not whisper to ease her discomfort, as I feared even my whispers would carry, and our position would surely be discovered.

The men argued for some time, Monsieur Dubois standing his ground, and Monsieur Fontaine growing angrier by the second. I was sure, if I were to peek, his face would have been as red as a beet with steam spewing from his ears.

Presently, the horrid man left, and Monsieur Dubois sank into his chair with a loud sigh. He rummaged through his desk drawer and soon the smell of black cherry tobacco filled the room.

Simone was brilliant sometimes, and now was one of those moments. She took advantage of being in her father’s periphery, and crept her way along the wall behind the drapes. There were windows all along the northern wall, with a set of doors in the center.

She made her way to the doors and—she told us later—peered out to be sure her père was not looking, opened the doors and stood there as if she were just coming in from outside. We all took our cue from her, and chattered nervously, asking Monsieur Dubois of his day.

“Oh, Père.” She rushed to him, and hugged him tight. “I can see you’ve had an awful day. Can I pour you a brandy?”

Monsieur Dubois laughed at this, knowing she was imitating her mother’s gestures. He declined the brandy, but stood and spun her around, Simone’s feet swinging out. She giggled, and we all breathed a collective sigh of relief.

The watch was never recovered.

About the Author

“I’ve always had voices—er, stories in my head. I once said I should write them all down so someone could write them someday. I had no idea at the time that someone was me!”
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Ms. Mason has been writing since 1995, and began working in earnest on her debut novel, Tessa, in 2013.  Meanwhile, she cranked out a few dozen poems, made countless notes for story ideas, and earned her BFA in Interior Design.  Ms. Mason lived with depression for many years, and the inherent feelings of worthlessness and invisibility; she didn’t want to be who she was and struggled with her own identity for many years.  Her characters face many of these same demons.Ms. Mason writes stories of identity conflict. Her characters encounter situations that force the question, “Who am I really?” For all who have ever wondered who you are or why you’re here, her stories will touch you in a very real—maybe too real—and a very deep way. “I know, I write from experience.”

Ms. Mason has three novels previously published in the unsavory heritage series. Tessa, Clara Bess, and Cissy are available on Amazon, both for Kindle and in print. She also has several poems included in an anthology, Where Dreams and Visions Live (Anthologies of the Heart Book 1) by Mary Blowers, as well as a short story, Sarafina’s Light, also in an anthology, Blood Moon, compiled by Mary Blowers. She is currently working on The Tilting Leaves of Autumn, Book Two in her new series, Seasons. It releases in November, following The Long Shadows of Summer which releases in August. Books 3 and 4 in the series will be out in 2018.

Giveaway
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Author Interview & GIVEAWAY: A New Shade of Summer by Nicole Deese

Happy Wednesday! Today I’m welcoming author Nicole Deese in celebration of her new release, A New Shade of Summer, complete with an interview and GIVEAWAY!!

About the Book

A New Shade of SummerAs an artist, Callie Quinn relies on inspiration to guide her wandering soul. This summer she accepts a short-term muralist job in her sister’s charming town to spend some much-needed time with her family. After meeting her nephew’s friend, Brandon, she’s eager to draw out his untapped artistic talents—however, it’s the boy’s straitlaced single father who could use a little color in his life.

Davis Carter may be the town’s favorite animal whisperer, but his experience is limited when it comes to understanding his preteen’s rebellious behavior. Desperate for a breakthrough, he follows the lead of a free spirit who claims to know the way into his son’s closed-off world. Soon, Davis isn’t the only one caught up in the hope of a new beginning.

Just as Callie considers trading her unattached existence for a life rich with promise and permanence, an unexpected visit from the past threatens to send her packing once again. Davis and Callie must learn to surrender their fears so they can find a love that will outlast the summer.

Amazon | Goodreads

Interview with the Author

First off, congratulations on your new release! A New Shade of Summer is moving its way up my own TBR with each new tidbit and happy review.

What inspired you to write A New Shade of Summer?

It was actually a who that inspired me–not a what this time around. I have a dear friend who has been in my life since my high school youth group days. She’s the most free-spirited, creative, artsy person I know and she is truly a joy to everyone around her. When I started to contemplate my hero, Davis Carter, (who is a secondary character in A Season To Love–book two) I knew he needed someone much like my friend to loosen him up a bit and to allow him to see the world, and relationships, in a different light. The connection of Callie Quinn to Davis Carter has been one of my favorites to write.

What message or theme do you want to communicate to readers with this story?

As I wrote this book, and particularly as I wrote in Callie’s point of view, I was struck time and time again by how the words spoken over us as children can have a significant impact on our identities. Even though Callie is a free-spirit who dances to her own drum beat, she’s lived under an umbrella of lies spoken over her by a trusted loved one. Part of her journey is to confront her current belief system and compare it to Truth. She craves freedom, yet her mind and spirit are bogged down by all the muck from her past. I can relate to this struggle because past lies are just so darn sneaky! It’s so important to examine our thoughts about ourselves and compare them to God’s thoughts about us. I promise you…. He will win that comparison game every time.

What was most challenging about writing a story set in Lenox? A New Shade of Summer is your third book in this setting.

I really enjoy writing in the small-town of Lenox, Oregon because it’s become such a familiar place to me, but I think that’s also the challenge. I never want the town to get soooo familiar to the reader that it becomes dull or boring. In A New Shade of Summer my characters discover a few new places to visit in order to keep Lenox feeling fresh and exciting (hopefully–Ha!).

Which character was your favorite to write?

Callie! Don’t get me wrong, I loved writing Davis, too, but Callie was such a fun new perspective for me to explore. I loved being on the page with her!

Just for fun:

Do you have any hobbies?

We recently adopted a six year-old girl from China (just two months ago!) so most of my free time is spent playing with dolls, having tea parties, and hanging up one pink outfit after another in a ridiculously full closet. After having two boys in our house for the last twelve years… this has been quite the change in our family! Haha. But I truly love having a daughter!

A new family member TOTALLY counts as a hobby 😉 ! Congratulations!

If you could live in any other time period in history, which would it be and why?

Um… I hope I don’t offend any historical buffs out there… but I was made for the here and now. I like my modern conveniences (i.e. toilet paper, hot tubs, take-n-bake pizza, Netflix…etc.) and I’m a big fan of yoga pants. I’m pretty sure I’d be thrown out on the streets if I were to show up during the Regency era sporting my yoga wear and messy bun.

What are you currently reading?

I’m just about to start Many Sparrows by Lori Benton. I’ve heard wonderful things about this book!

Thank you so much, Nicole, for spending some time here today!

About the AuthorNicole Deese

Nicole Deese is a full-time lover of humorous, heartfelt, and hope-filled fiction. She is the author of seven inspirational romances including the “Love in Lenox” novels, A Cliché Christmas and A Season to Love, and The Promise of Rayne. When she’s not writing, she can usually be found reading near a window while sipping a LaCroix. She lives in small-town Idaho with her handsome hubby, two sons, and one daughter.

Website | Facebook | Twitter

Giveaway

Now, on to the giveaway fine print! Giveaway is for one (1) copy of A New Shade of SummerU.S addresses only, please. Giveaway is open 1 week until 9/20/17, 11:59 pm. CT. Thank you to Nicole and Relz Author Support Services for the giveaway copy.

To enter, comment with a valid email address. Let’s talk books! Have you read any of Nicole’s novels? This series is set in a small town. Do you have a favorite small-town setting? What are you currently reading?

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. ​

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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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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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Book Spotlight, Author Interview & GIVEAWAY: Just Look Up by Courtney Walsh

Today’s post is all about a new release from an author with THE COOLEST NAME ever – COURTNEY Walsh! (See what I did there? We Courtneys can be rare, so we have to stick together.) Courtney Walsh has published a new contemporary romance novel, Just Look Up, with Tyndale House Publishers. She has taken the time to chat with me today about this new story, AND has offered to give away a signed paperback copy of Just Look Up here on the blog! Woohoo!

About the Book

Just Look UpAfter tirelessly climbing the ranks of her Chicago-based interior design firm, Lane Kelley is about to land her dream promotion when devastating news about her brother draws her back home–a quaint tourist town full of memories she’d just as soon forget. With her cell phone and laptop always within reach, Lane aims to check on her brother while staying focused on work–something her eclectic family doesn’t understand.

Ryan Brooks never expected to settle down in Harbor Pointe, Michigan, but after his final tour of duty, it was the only place that felt like home. Now knee-deep in a renovation project that could boost tourism for the struggling town, he is thrilled to see Lane, the girl he secretly once loved, even if the circumstances of her homecoming aren’t ideal.

Their reunion gets off to a rocky start, however, when Ryan can’t find a trace of the girl he once knew in the woman she is today. As he slowly chips away at the walls Lane has built, secrets from his past collide with a terrible truth even he is reluctant to believe. Facing a crossroads that could define his future with Lane and jeopardize his relationship with the surrogate family he’s found in the Kelleys, Ryan hopes Lane can see that maybe what really matters has been right in front of her all along–if only she’d just look up.

Also, you can watch this adorable book trailer for Just Look Up starring Courtney Walsh AND her husband!

Interview with the Author

What inspired you to write Just Look Up?

It was on a trip to New York City after several years away from it. I can’t explain how much NYC means to me—I just LOVE it so much—so on our first day there, we were walking down the street, and I was completely enthralled. I was so excited to be back there, and I couldn’t stop looking at the buildings, the people, the city…but I quickly noticed everyone headed toward me was looking down. Eyes on their phones.

Inside, I was silently screaming, “Just Look Up! Don’t you see what you’re missing?!” Because when you see something every day, it becomes mundane. But to me, it was thrilling…and I started thinking about those three words—just look up—and wondering, what about my mundane life am I missing because I’ve got my eyes glued to the phone?

And that’s when I get the idea for this book…

What message or theme do you want to communicate to readers with this story?

It deals with the whole idea that we need to disconnect to reconnect. That we’re a device-addicted society and if we’d put down our phones every once in a while, we’d discover SO many things that we’re missing…but, honestly, at its core, to me, this story is about something more. It’s about the way we (especially as women) are constantly striving, trying to prove ourselves. It’s about how we don’t rest or stop or pause or take time for ourselves because we’re always taking care of everything and everyone else. It’s about the love of a God who offers grace so freely, never making us earn it or win him over, because that is a lesson I need to learn over and over and over…

What was most challenging about writing a story in this setting?

Honestly, the setting didn’t give me many problems. I write present day and this town I’ve created, Harbor Pointe, Michigan, is based off of many I’ve visited. What was challenging was reliving some of my own childhood pain. My main character grew up overweight and is bullied/teased for it, and much of what she goes through is real—not imagined. But putting yourself back to a place you’d rather forget is never exactly fun. My poor husband!

Which character was your favorite to write?

Brooks! My hero, Ryan Brooks, was so fun to write, especially since he’s not like my other heroes. He’s funny—not brooding. He teases Lane. He unapologetically pursues her, which makes her uncomfortable, so that was really fun to write!

He sounds like my kinda hero 😉

Just for fun: Do you have any hobbies? 

My husband and I own a performing arts studio and youth theatre, so I’d say theatre is sort of a hobby (even though it’s also our job.) I love it so much—and love working with so many awesome kids!

If you could live in any other time period in history, which would it be and why?

Gosh, my first thought was…the 1950’s, but I’m 98% sure poodle skirts would NOT be flattering on my hips…I think I’m too prissy to live in any era where there is no electricity or indoor plumbing! Maybe I was born at exactly the right time?! 🙂

What are you currently reading?

I just finished an Elin Hilderbrand novel and I’m getting ready to start True to You by Becky Wade and Life After by Katie Ganshert, both of which I cannot WAIT to read! 🙂

This was such fun! Thank you, Courtney, for taking the time to answer my questions! I look forward to reading Just Look Up!

>>>>>>UPDATE: I read JUST LOOK UP!

 

About the Author
courtney8web-1Courtney Walsh is the author of Paper Hearts, Change of Heart, and the Sweethaven series. Her debut novel, A Sweethaven Summer, was a New York Times and USA Today e-book bestseller and a Carol Award finalist in the debut author category. In addition, she has written two craft books and several full-length musicals. Courtney lives with her husband and three children in Illinois, where she is also an artist, theater director, and playwright. Visit her online at www.courtneywalshwrites.com.

 

 

Giveaway

Now, on to the giveaway fine print! Giveaway is for one (1) signed paperback, U.S addresses only, please. Giveaway is open 1 week until 7/20/17, 11:59 pm. CT.

To enter, comment with a valid email address. Let’s talk books! Have you read any of Courtney’s novels? What are you currently reading? Do you have a favorite reading routine?