Review + Giveaway: “Christmas at the Red Door Inn” by Liz Johnson

Book Cover & Tree

This Christmas season, author Liz Johnson takes us back to Prince Edward Island and the famous Red Door Inn with a new sweet Christmas romance in a short novella. I love this story SO MUCH I’m giving away a Kindle copy! Be sure to enter the giveaway after you read about the book.

About the Book

One blizzard. Two friends. Three days to fall in love. 

Lifelong islander Brooke Kane doesn’t know what to do with her college degree, her dreams, or her future, but she knows better than to venture far from home when there’s a storm brewing. But a promise to check on Rose’s Red Door Inn prompts Brooke to venture out. By the time she arrives at the inn, the snow is knee-deep and visibility almost non-existent. She settles in to spend a few days alone at the inn until a familiar figure appears at the door. 

Father Chuck O’Flannigan has never felt like a bigger fool. So focused on his recent decision to leave Prince Edward Island, he’s caught unaware by the blizzard while on a walk. He can only see the inn’s red door, a promise of safety. But when he discovers that Brooke—the only woman who could tempt him to stay on the island—is also taking refuge there, he knows he’s in trouble. 

With Christmas only three days away, Brooke is determined that they’ll celebrate—even if it’s just the two of them. Happy to play Scrooge to her Tiny Tim, Chuck wiles away his hours dreaming of a return to Ireland—praying that God may have plans for him there. After all, God seems to have forgotten him in North Rustico. But as Brooke brings Christmas to life, her joy makes him wonder if God may not have forgotten him. In fact, God may have big plans for both of them—if they can only survive Christmas at the Red Door Inn.

Goodreads | Amazon

Review

In a mere span of chapters you will fall in love with this story and its enchanting characters: the woman back in her hometown, trying to find her place in the world and the man experiencing a season of change, questioning his role in life, too. And boy, does one blizzard throw them for a loop! Maybe there’s something about close quarters, no running water, borrowed Christmas things, and the emotional vulnerability that comes with the Christmas season…. whatever the case, this combination proves just what Brook and Chuck need to experience something brand new (yet years-in-the-longing). 

Liz Johnson’s way with romance just “clicks” and makes the reader instantly empathize with the characters. There’s something about the purity in her approach that’s a prime example of why I adore the Christian fiction genre (and what sets it apart along with its Biblical worldview). The beauty of romance (with all its attraction and spark) is still very present, but it is related in a way that keeps it realistic, swoony, and with a certain innocence. I could say the same for the previous books in the “Prince Edward Island Dreams” series or her newest novel, A Sparkle of Silverfrom earlier this year (hello, favorite first kiss of the year!!!! Ben ❤ Millie ).

I hope you have the chance to read a book by Liz sometime soon! I love this story so much I’m giving away a copy! Enter via the Rafflecopter form below.

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Open internationally. Must be 18 or older. Giveaway ends 12/19/2018, 12am CT time. Void where prohibited.

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Review, Book Blitz + Giveaway: “The Christmas Book Shoppe” by Miranda Atchley

Welcome to the Book Blitz! I’m happy to share my thoughts today about The Christmas Book Shoppe, a lovely little Christmas novella, as well as an excerpt and the info for Miranda Atchley’s #GIVEAWAY! 

Review

The Christmas Book Shoppe is a sweet story of a small town, little joys, trust, and all things BOOKISH! From the quaint small town setting to the quirky cast of characters, this little novella offers a glimpse into the life of Trudy as she faces the sale of her book shop (and livelihood).

How does one react to such a drastic change? With a chocolate shake and British dramas, of course! Oh, and there’s Reed, who offers Trudy quiet encouragement and hints at a happily-ever-after.

One of my favorite parts of this novella was the setting. It’s in ARKANSAS, ya’ll! Not many stories are set in my state. While the town of Christmas is fictional, it’s not too far from me considering the Ozarks hills and proximity to Fayetteville. It was super fun to see places referenced that I know like the back of my hand (ahem, the Barnes & Noble in Fayetteville).

If you love bookstores, Christmas, or light Christmas novellas, this is a quick read you are sure to enjoy!

Thanks to the author for a review copy. This is my honest review.

About the Book

Keeping her book store might take a Christmas miracle… Trudy Gallagher is quite content with her simple life. For the past five years, she has lived and worked at The Christmas Book Shoppe, a new and used book store formerly owned and operated by her great-aunt. She loves nothing more than spending her days in the Victorian house filled with books, surrounded by her cat and loved ones. As Christmas, her favorite day of the year approaches, she begins the season with her usual verve and excitement.

Yet when her landlord threatens to sell The Christmas Book Shoppe, she is devastated. She cannot imagine life without the book store she calls home. As she struggles to create a plan to keep the book store open, it seems as if her whole word is turned upside down and her every attempt to save the store fails.

Can she find a way to keep the store she loves?

Order in the Kindle store for 99 cents | Add to Goodreads

About the Author

MIRANDA ATCHLEY has written several novels, both historical and contemporary, one of which was a finalist for an indie writing award. When she isn’t writing, Miranda loves getting lost in a good book and watching period dramas. She lives in a small town in Arkansas. Visit her blog and subscribe to her mailing list at:

arealwriterslife.blogspot.com

Connect with Miranda
Goodreads | Amazon | Twitter | Facebook | Pinterest

Enjoy an excerpt from The Christmas Book Shoppe

As she placed the last ornament on the Christmas tree, Trudy Gallagher stood back and looked at her handiwork with a gratified smile. It was the Monday after Thanksgiving, and she had spent the majority of the day decorating The Christmas Book Shoppe for the holiday.Like every other year, she and her assistant Marge had placed the eight foot artificial Christmas tree before the front window in the foyer, and Trudy had happily wrapped it in lights and tinsel, placing book themed ornaments along the branches.

“A little early to be putting up a Christmas tree, don’t you think?” Mr. Scranton, a regular patron at the book store–and the town’s resident curmudgeon–asked when he came to donate yet another stack of used books.

“Well, Thanksgiving was last Thursday,” Trudy replied in the kindest tone she could muster. It was tradition at The Christmas Book Shoppe to decorate for the holidays the Monday after Thanksgiving. After all,they were The Christmas Book Shoppe,a store that carried a mix of new and used books and was housed in the historic district of a small town called Christmas, Arkansas–which was named for the town’s settler as opposed to the holiday, as most out of towners understandably believed. They had to embrace the spirit of Christmas, just like most other businesses in town did. Yet there was always someone who accused them of decorating too early. Trudy couldn’t help but wonder; what would Mr. Scranton say if he knew that she had decorated her apartment on November first?

Scoffing at her, Mr. Scranton turned and went on his way,his pace slow as his cane assisted him. Trudy could have sworn she’d heard him mutter “bah humbug” under his breath as he exited through the front door, his harsh tone clashing with the twinkling bell above the door. Though that could have simply been her imagination, which, given all the novels she read, was usually quite overactive.

Trudy shrugged as she placed the two heavy plastic bags full of moldy paperbacks on the desk and began to sort through them.

Really, who could blame her for embracing the Christmas spirit as fully as she did? After enduring long humid Arkansas summers that often started as early as April and boasted weeks of temperatures in the high nineties and low hundreds, it was a relief to have cooler weather. When the heat of summer was too much to bear, she often daydreamed about the Christmas season just to distract herself from the reality of living in such a humid climate.

But it wasn’t just the cold weather she enjoyed. She loved everything about Christmas. Watching classic Christmas movies, drinking hot cocoa while reading a light and cheery Christmas novella, and listening to Christmas songs all December were some of her favorite things. And there was just something about all the pretty decorations and lights that made the whole town of Christmas, Arkansas look like the inside of a snow globe…minus all the snow. It was simply a magical time of year.

“I’m glad you enjoy decorating the tree so much,” said Marge when Trudy made her way back to the front desk. With a deep sigh, she added, “Putting that tree up just wears me out.”

Looking up from the copy of Thoreau’s Walden she’d been inspecting, Trudy offered a smile and said, “Well, I’m happy to do it.”

With raised eyebrows, Marge shook her head. “I can certainly tell.”

Marge was a middle aged woman who had been working at The Christmas Book Shoppe for the last few years. While she was a good employee,she didn’t share Trudy’s excitement about literature and holidays and found her boss’s enthusiasm rather tiring. It was amazing that the two got along as well as they did.

Trudy once again smiled and then took the newly arrived books and began to shelve them. It was a little curious that Mr. Scranton had donated so much as of late. Counting what he’d brought in today, he’d donated a total of ten bags full of books in two weeks. Trudy wondered how many books he had in that old, somewhat off-putting house he lived in on the edge of town.

After Mr. Scranton’s donations were situated on the shelves, Trudy took to straightening the book cases, and in the process she found herself somewhat distracted, reading the synopsis scrawled on the back covers of titles that caught her attention. She often found herself similarly distracted while working here at the shop and realized that this was one reason why her to-be-read pile was growing entirely out of control.

When she found a particularly interesting novel set in the Edwardian era, she flipped open the cover and read the first few pages. Soon her mind was thousands of miles and a hundred years away, caught up in a world of lords and ladies.

“That a good book?”

With a gasp, she slammed the book shut. Looking up, she saw her friend, Reed Thornton. A roughish smile twisted his mouth, making him look more like Downton Abbey’s Tom Branson than ever.

“You scared me to death,” she said, taking a deep breath in an attempt to steady her heart rate. “And yes, it is a good book. I think I’ll keep it for myself.”

In his hands, she saw a stack of books, all bearing familiar titles. The Great Gatsby, Wuthering Heights, Persuasion. In Trudy’s world, it was unusual for most guys to even like reading. But for a guy to pass up science fiction and thrillers for classic romance? That was just unheard of.

“Looking for a good romance, are we?” she asked as they made their way back to the front desk.

He gave her the same exasperated expression he offered each time she made a wise crack about his reading habits. “It’s required reading for my classic lit class.”

Trudy smiled skeptically. She knew Reed had in fact enrolled in a classic lit class at the university after recently going back to college in order to earn a master’s degree in literature. Yet she also knew that Reed had always been a sucker for classic literature, just like her. They’d taken literature classes in high school together and their mutual love of the classics was one reason why they’d been such good friends for most of their lives.

“You know there isn’t any shame in guys reading romance novels, right?” With a snort she added, “I mean, look at Nicholas Sparks. His novels have been giving women false hopes for years now. And Fitzgerald was a guy, and he wrote The Great Gatsby.Besides, haven’t you already read that?”

“When we were seniors in high school,” he said with a half frown. “But that was a long time ago. I’ve read too many books since then to remember all I need to know about it for this class.”

“Well, it is a pretty good one to revisit,” she said as she rounded the corner of the front desk.

As she scanned the barcode on Persuasion, she cocked an eyebrow at Reed.

He sighed as he dug his wallet out of his back pocket. “It’s the only Austen I haven’t read yet.”

She chuckled as she placed the stack of books in a bag bearing the store’s emblem.

“Do you give all your customers this hard of a time?” he asked as he accepted the bag.

She simply laughed in reply.

“You know, I could just buy my books on Amazon. I’d get a lot less cheek if I did.”

“Yeah, but you’d pay a lot more. Plus, you wouldn’t get this sparkling customer service that brings in customers from miles around.”

Chuckling, he rolled his eyes, took his bag and left.

Giveaway

One winner will receive a Kindle download of The Christmas Book Shoppe. The giveaway begins December 4 and ends December 7. Open internationally to anyone who can receive a Kindle download via email. Must be 18 or older to participate.

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Review + Blog Tour: “When You Look At Me” by Pepper Basham

When  you  look  at  me

Welcome to the Blog Tour & Giveaway for When You Look at Me by Pepper Basham, hosted by JustRead Publicity Tours. I’m delighted to be sharing my review of this sweet contemporary romance novel, along with the tour. Read on for the giveaway info and my thoughts!

About the Book

When You Look At Me

When You Look at Me

Series: Pleasant Gap Romance #2

Author: Pepper Basham

Publisher: Woven Words Publications

Release Date: October 25, 2018

Genre: Inspirational Contemporary Romance

An unexpected mother-to-be

A romance-leery composer

And a forgotten melody from the past that holds the keys to their futures

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

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

bridge between her uncertainty and his awkwardness.

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

Goodreads | Amazon

Review

When You Look at Me is one of the sweetest romances I’ve ever read! Balancing humor and a boisterous family with two lead-character introverts, this story shows the heart of people who trust God to give them strength and lead them to good things, even in the midst of a painful and imperfect world. The friendship-growing-into-romance deserves all the hearts, cupcakes, and happy sighs!

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I loved watching Julia and Henry grow, learn from each other, and just be together in so many moments of everyday life. The story felt like a glimpse of their lives with its special moments AND hard things, and through it all their relationship progressed naturally. Little moments I loved: midnight teas, piano duets, family dinners, stress-baking, musical puns, messy hair, old letters, and “The Princess Bride” references.

It was fun to “catch up” with Wes and Eisley (from book 1!!!!!) and see where their journey is headed. Eisley gives good advice, too. 😉

Seeing Henry’s personality and purpose come to life and Julia’s journey to bravery and the discovery of love’s worth was a delight. With a thread of a family mystery, humorous moments that made me giggle, and a prominent theme of music weaving it all together, this is one Britallachian contemporary romance not to miss!

My review of book 1: Just the Way You Are

Thank you to the author for the review copy. This is my honest review.

About the Author

pepper  basham

Pepper Basham is an award-winning author who writes historical and contemporary romance novels with grace, humor, and culture clashes. She͛s a Blue Ridge Mountain native and an anglophile who enjoys combining her two loves to create memorable stories of hope. Pepper is also a mom of five, a speech-language pathologist, and a lover of Jesus and chocolate. She resides in Asheville, North Carolina with her family.

CONNECT: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Pinterest | Instagram


wylam  blog  giveaway

TOUR GIVEAWAY

(1) winner will receive:

  • print copy of Just The Way You Are (Pleasant Gap Romance #1)
  • print copy of When You Look at Me (Pleasant Gap Romance #2)
  • a plaque which says: Once in a while, right in the middle of an ordinary life…. love comes along and brings you a fairy tale

Enter via the Rafflecopter giveaway below. Giveaway will begin at midnight October 22, 2018 and lasts through 11:59pm October 29, 2018. Void where prohibited by law. US addresses only. Winners will be notified within a week of close of the giveaway and given 48 hours to respond or a new winner will be chosen. Giveaway is subject to the policies found here.

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Follow along at JustRead Tours for a full list of stops!

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Review, Character Interview + Giveaway: “Rose in Three Quarter Time” by Rachel McMillan

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I have the immense pleasure of sharing a review today of a novella written by an author who has also become a dear friend: Rachel McMillan. Her new contemporary novella, Rose in Three Quarter Time, releases today (happy book birthday!). It is one of THE MOST ROMANTIC books I’ve read this year (instant favorites shelf status). The second in her “Three Quarter Time” series, it takes readers back to Vienna for a marriage-of-convenience story that hits all the right notes with its story of friendship, music, and a rose-colored look at the picturesque city itself.

Lead character Oliver Thorne has also stopped by the blog for an interview! Also, Rachel has graciously offered a Kindle ebook giveaway to one of my blog readers, so be sure to stick around and enter it, too!

About the Book

Some people marry for love; others marry for music…

Rose in Three Quarter Time

Rose McNeil is rising the ranks at the Mozarteum in Salzburg as a violinist to watch. Her musical Nova Scotian heritage has loaned an unparalleled technique to her interpretation of some of the most beautiful compositions in the world. The opportunity of a first chair assignment to the Rainer Quartet under the tutelage and baton of Oliver Thorne is a dream come true— until her student visa expires and the threat of leaving Vienna looms. As much as she grieves the prospect of leaving Vienna and the quartet, it is Oliver—with his dry sense of humour and unexpected charm- she will miss most.

British ex-pat Oliver Thorne’s recent appointment as conductor to the Rainer Quartet make him the youngest in the role during its prestigious history. But it wasn’t the path he wanted. A tragic accident years ago forbade him from ever playing his beloved cello again. Now he spends his life conducting for premiere orchestras at the Musikverein. When he first hears Rose McNeil play, all the dreams he left by the wayside are reborn with her unexpected talent. When Rose learns she may have to leave Vienna, Oliver has to come up with a solution. Losing his first violinist is unfortunate, losing her is unimaginable.

So he comes up with a crazy idea: A marriage on paper only. She’ll take his name and his citizenship. They’ll split rent money and coin toss to decide who takes the bed or the futon every night. They’ll keep their secret from the orchestra. She’ll play and he’ll conduct and, most importantly…she’ll stay.

Unbeknownst to each other, Rose is in love with Oliver and Oliver is in love with Rose. They might even find a happy ending, if only their pesky marriage doesn’t get in the way.

Goodreads | Amazon

Review

Rose in Three Quarter Time is an exquisitely gorgeous love story. Set against the romantic backdrop of Vienna, Oliver and Rose traverse hot chocolate, friendship, and a witty and wonderful marriage of convenience for the sake of their passion: music. What neither expects, to the reader’s sheer delight, is to realize their mutual love is romantic in nature. Their journey is full of the details that make up everyday life, from loss to joy to selfless choices and 12 kinds of cereal. The references to music and composing alone are brilliant and work wonderfully in a world of timeless classical music. (You will want to read this with YouTube open to have a deeper “listening” experience for all of the works referenced. Rachel has even made playlist!)

Oliver and Rose are endearing and charming with their flaws and virtues. Oliver’s story of personal loss and Rose’s pursuit of a dream intersect and act as a catalyst that deepens their relationship’s common ground. Add Godiva chocolate, plenty of whipped cream, knee-weakening kisses, and a Shirley Temple or two, and their time together unfurls like the sweetest symphony of romance borne of friendship.

This is a book I will reread again and again, savoring it with some whipped cream and Mozart of my own.

Readers and fans of the first novella of the “Three Quarter Time” series will be ecstatic to see Klaus and Evelyn on occasion! Oh, and this story features one of my favorite fictional cats ever: Parcheesi. ❤

Thank you to the author for an advance copy of this novella. This review is my honest opinion.

Character Interview with Oliver Thorne

Welcome to my blog, Oliver! After reading your story, I’d like to know more about you and Rose, so I have a few questions…

When did you know your feelings for Rose ran deeper than friendship?
I knew in the third bar of Bach’s Partita #2 that I was feeling differently than I ever had before. And I have seen a lot of performances. But, Rose was special. Not just the way she looks (which, truth be told, is gorgeous. She is a beautiful woman. Far more beautiful than should be attached to myself—though fortunately for me, she doesn’t seem to see that) but the way she connects with a piece as she is playing it. She loves it the way I loved to play. But, I truly believe it was when I saw her sipping a Shirley Temple. We work in a world of pandering to crowds and pandering to other musicians and patrons. Rose was so pure. Here was a girl…no…a woman… who had just played with several scouts in the audience: people who could change her life. She must have been terrified and then relieved and she orders a Shirley Temple of all things. When I saw her play, I knew she was special. But, when I saw her alone playing with a toy umbrella in her drink when she might have been working a crowd, I knew she was different. She played because she loved it. And she wasn’t trying to be anything but who she was. I had spent too much of my life with people who treated connections as a stepping stone toward personal gain. Rose wasn’t like that. I loved her immediately for that. Then we had hot chocolate at a nearby café and I spoke with her more easily than anyone I ever had in my life. People may think that my accident and its ramifications led to certain social limitations. That is an erroneous assumption. I have always been somewhat shy.

Shaun Evans from IMDB

Actor Shaun Evans resembles Oliver Thorne

What would Rose say is your best quality? Annoying habit? What about hers?
I like to think Rose thinks my best quality has to do with my work. At least I believe that this is so. She has also told me on occasion that I have a propensity to listen to people carefully and use the information they give me to make them comfortable. She was quite taken, she told me, by the fact that I made sure Parcheesi (our cat) had a space of his own when she moved in and that I had procured numerous options of breakfast cereal for her. I didn’t understand why this was so magnanimous. Listening to Rose is the easiest thing in the world. And after meeting her, you want to make her happy in whatever way you can… large or small.
Rose hates how I can immediately turn on what she calls my “conductor mode” and freeze out everything and act like (again, this is her perspective, I think I am doing just fine, thank you) “an automaton”. I just separate my personal life from music. I can flip it on and off like a switch. So, when we’re in rehearsal or in a performance, I don’t see Rose, per se, I just see a cog in the wheel that needs to turn in order to create a perfect experience for the audience and to honour the piece we are playing. Of course, there was one rehearsal when she was ill and it turned my world upside down. I don’t fancy that experience again. I need to have control of the world I am creating with each piece and so I can’t afford to focus on Rose no matter how distracting she is under the chandeliers of the Brahms Saal.
Rose’s most annoying habits? Her pop song alarms every morning. They’re so loud and she sings to them. Off-key, I might add. She also does a preposterous job of making the bed every morning she wins it from our nightly toonie-toss (it decides who gets the bed and who gets the futon in the studio). She often puts a milk or orange juice carton back in the refrigerator with just a smidgeon left. Who does that?
She also wears a lot of cat-themed clothing and she snores. But don’t think for an instant that any one of her habits would tear me away from her. I love her completely.

What is it like living with Rose (and a feline)?
I think that Parcheesi might just be the smartest of all of us. Rose has her habits but I love knowing she is there; especially because I came so close to losing her completely. Just to hear her humming while she’s washing dishes or see her on the sofa reading one of those romance novels she loves while eating cereal out of the box. Of course, I get to hear her play. A lot. And I love listening to her. It tends to get a little bit difficult (I supposed that’s an understatement) living with a woman I am madly attracted to and in love with knowing she solely married me for friendship and a piece of paper. That has its moments. She is very close. Always. And she smells like coconut (her shampoo and body wash, turns out).

Musikverein, Vienna

The Musikverein in Vienna

Do you have any “must listen” music recommendations? (Classical and contemporary?)
My favourite composer is Dmitri Shostakovich (though he is probably angry with me right now beyond the grave at an arrangement I did with one of his cello concertos). I like Shostakovich because he is a universe of music in so many different styles. And everyone is unexpected and tells a story. With the Rainer, my home orchestra, everything is pretty much Baroque and Baroque sounding. Safe. When I guest conduct Shostakovich I feel like there is something spiraling me away from myself. No two pieces are exactly the same and I love the energy. It is so different from my day to day world in the Rainer.
I love Coldplay. They have an intense musicality about them and really classical and baroque constructs. I think that is why when Viva La Vida came out, everyone called them “Chamber Pop”
Rose has me listening to music from her home in Cape Breton. The type played in ceilidhs and kitchen parties and there is a celtic flavour to it and it is really quite beautiful. It is this music that taught her her skill on the violin and I appreciate it for that. She listens to a lot the Rankin Family and a group from Newfoundland called Great Big Sea and everytime I hear this music’s flavour, I feel I am stepping into Rose’s past.
Living with Rose means living in close proximity to a million and one pop tunes on her iphone. I suppose I have learned that there is something in Celine Dion –an over the top pageantry and artistry —that is not unlike going to the Staatsoper to see Verdi.

You left your country, England, and chose Austria as your home. Why is Vienna so special?
Vienna is the city of music. The mecca of composers and musicians and has been for centuries. I was drawn to the beautiful concert halls I had played as a cellist and am meeting again as a conductor. The Viennese also don’t mind if you are quiet or not effusive. The culture here is polite and reserved which works wonders for someone like myself who is not adept at meeting people — but has to in high social gatherings. Once I step out from a meeting or a party or a concert, I can lose myself in the city and shrug off all of the social expectations like a coat.
But I also wanted to choose a place so completely different from London –where it happened. Where my life changed. To start over, perhaps. Too many places in London reminded me of playing and thinking about playing. I needed a fresh start. Now, Vienna is special because it is a constant reminder of Rose: turning and seeing her wearing a baroque get up and peddling a concert, accidentally running into her at the U-Bahn station, taking her for a birthday dinner at the Sacher Hotel. Everything in Vienna is Rose now. Which is pretty perfect for me.

What should readers expect from your love story?
Take the one thing you have loved more than anything else in the world. It could be a talent. A hobby. A pursuit. A purpose. Then multiply it by 20 thousand. This love story is one shaped around my realizing that I love a person more than I could ever anticipate loving anything in the realm of my control: music.
For years of my life, music was my compass. My center. You never feel, as a musician, you could love anything more than music, the art, the craft. Turns out, I love Rose more.
I also think readers can expect a lot of awkwardness. When two close friends get married (for whatever reason), there is bound to be some challenges.
There are so many stories (in films, on television) where something tragic or dark or secretive gets in the way. I love Rose for many reasons, one of which being she is kind and good. There is nothing sordid in my past. Nor hers.

The Dowager Countess (Downton Abbey)

A Dowager meme for Oliver!

Do you have anything to say about Downton Abbey?
How do you know that? Rose swore to secrecy on that. Well, having watched it through twice now, I have two stand out thoughts: Why did Lady Sybil have to die? I would very much like to take Mr. Carson for a pint.

Your role as a musician has been a challenging one, changing from proficiency at the cello to that of conducting a world-famous orchestra. How has that shaped you?
I had to relearn how to live life after my accident. Not just learning how to live with the use of only one hand (it is just as difficult as it seems. For years later, I would go to do something and still forget that I had this limitation. It becomes so natural), but how to live in a spotlight. In order to stay in the world of music (and there was really no option for me but to stay in the world of music, truth be told), I had to take center stage. Sure, I could teach; but conducting still allows me to be a part of the magic of the whole thing. The performance. The adrenaline and the sound. And to have control over music in proxy with the players. This role clashes with my natural disposition, though. I am not altogether comfortable with people and in front of a crowd. Hiding behind a big cello was one thing, when I could look down and just concentrate on the instrument. Now I am the focal point of concert goers. So I was shaped by two things: relearning life when the thing I loved most about it and poured my heart and soul into was taken away and learning how to be in the spotlight.

Rachel McMillan

What is it like working with Rachel McMillan?
She giggles a lot. And she talks to me. She thinks I look like a fellow from the telly. One of those detective shows. I googled him once, I can’t be as dour as all that! Besides, his eyes are blue and mine are grey.

I have to agree with Rachel! I think you look like “that detective”, too. Thank you SO much, Oliver (and Rach!), for taking the time to answer my questions. It was delightful to hear your thoughts on music, Rose, and especially Downton Abbey 😉 !

Giveaway

Author Rachel McMillan has graciously offered a kindle ebook giveaway of Rose in Three Quarter Time! Click the link below to enter the giveaway!

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Open internationally. Giveaway ends 10/04/2018, 12am CT time.

Review + Blog Tour: “The Last Summer” by Brandy Bruce

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You know those stories that *happen* to come at the right time in your life for a little encouragement? The Last Summer by Brandy Bruce was just that. It surprised me with its depth and the intricacies of connection it displays. More than just Sara was relatable — her dreams, her struggles, and her fierce loyalty and ties to her friends and family made her have a sense of kinship with the human heart. This is a book sure to be on my end-of-year favorites list!

About the Book

The Last SummerGenre:  Contemporary, Inspirational, Romance
Publisher: Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas
Publication date: June 2017

A group of seven friends navigate relationships and personal growth during a season of change.

For twenty-something Sara Witherspoon and her group of friends, a perfect Southern summer includes lake-house getaways, wedding planning, outdoor concerts, and a dash of romance. But for these seven friends who love each other like family, this year, summer rolls in with changes for everyone.

Sara’s longtime crush, Luke, has been her best friend for as long as she has been a part of the group. When Luke begins seriously dating another of their friends, Sara’s forced to deal with her hurt and jealousy, while outwardly try to support them both.

While Sara comes to terms with her own heart and her friends’ relationships, an unexpected handsome pilot from North Carolina and an old flame are thrown into the mix. Knowing her heart suddenly becomes much more complicated.

But as time unfolds and friendships begin to unravel, Sara and the others are presented with the reality of what a season of change does to old friendships and new love interests.

Does growing older mean growing apart?

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Review

The Last Summer is a heart-achingly beautiful story of friendship and grace. Through the intertwined connections of a friend-group and a unique 1st person perspective voice, this story follows character Sara Witherspoon through a season of change, challenge, and emotions — emphasizing the importance of praising God in everything.

IMG_20180710_203543_516.jpgThis story is wonderfully refreshing and unexpectedly deep. I could never predict what would happen next; certainly not the ending, either, which makes me like the story all the more. The LOVE between this special group of friends is exemplary in how real-life relationships are and how selfless they should be. In all of this, the shortcomings and brokenness of human nature are prominent and never shied away from as a part of life. And, the dreams and longings of the heart are explored through Sara’s experiences. Far more than a story of romantic love, The Last Summer is a story of love in all its changing forms — when it means holding someone tighter or knowing when to let them go with peace.

Thank you to the author for the review copy. This is my honest review. 

About the Author

Brandy BruceBrandy Bruce is a mom, a wife, a book editor, an author, and someone who really loves dessert. She’s the author of the award-winning novel The Last SummerLooks Like Love, and The Romano Family Collection. Brandy, her husband, and their children make their home in Colorado.

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Giveaway

tls-summer-pack-giveaway

Enter the giveaway HERE.

Giveaway package includes the following: summer swag (beach towl, flip flops, sunglasses, bookmark, and candy) & winner’s choice of a print or e-copy of the book.

Giveaway open to US residents only and ends 11:59pm MT on July 21st.

Giveaway is subject to policies HERE.

Tour Schedule

July 16-Jorie Loves A Story | Joy of Reading  | amandainpa
July 17- Paulette’s Papers  | The Power of Words
July 18-Reading, Writing & Stitch-Metic | Pause for Tales | Among the Reads
July 19-Book by Book | Edits and Reviews by Leslie | The Green Mockingbird
July 20-Heidi Reads… | Reading Is My SuperPower | Why Not? Because I Said So!
July 21-Remembrancy | Katie’s Clean Book Collection

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Book Gush: “Murder at the Flamingo” by Rachel McMillan (+ Giveaway!)

Book Gush: “Murder at the Flamingo” by Rachel McMillan (+ Giveaway!)

This blog post title is in honor of a beloved author whose own book gushes have added new favorites to my own shelf. Today, I’m absolutely GUSHING over Rachel McMillan’s historical mystery and romance release, Murder at the Flamingo, with a review, interview with Rachel, BOOK RECOMMENDATIONS FROM HER, and a GIVEAWAY!

Read on for more awesome bookish stuff!

About the Book

“Maybe it was time to land straight in the middle of the adventure…”

Murder at the Flamingo by Rachel McMillanHamish DeLuca has spent most of his life trying to hide the anxiety that appears at the most inopportune times — including during his first real court case as a new lawyer. Determined to rise above his father’s expectations, Hamish runs away to Boston where his cousin, Luca Valari, is opening a fashionable nightclub in Scollay Square. When he meets his cousin’s “right hand man” Reggie, Hamish wonders if his dreams for a more normal life might be at hand. 

Regina “Reggie” Van Buren, heir to a New Haven fortune, has fled fine china, small talk, and the man her parents expect her to marry. Determined to make a life as the self-sufficient city girl she’s seen in her favorite Jean Arthur and Katharine Hepburn pictures, Reggie runs away to Boston, where she finds an easy secretarial job with the suave Luca Valari. But as she and Hamish work together in Luca’s glittering world, they discover a darker side to the smashing Flamingo night club.

When a corpse is discovered at the Flamingo, Reggie and Hamish quickly learn there is a vast chasm between the haves and the have-nots in 1937 Boston—and that there’s an underworld that feeds on them both. As Hamish is forced to choose between his conscience and loyalty to his beloved cousin, the unlikely sleuthing duo work to expose a murder before the darkness destroys everything they’ve worked to build.

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Review

With Rachel McMillan’s distinct historical voice and attention to detail, she paints a vivid historical mystery with a hint of romance against the backdrop of a brilliant 1930s Boston scene. In her distinct way, she makes the setting a secondary character of its own, vocal and important in its culture and story role. With a fabulous puzzle solved and room for more adventures to come, the city comes to life as the characters grapple with loyalty, independence, anxiety, and purpose.

IMG_20180708_200945.jpgHamish and Reggie are endearing, quirky, enigmatic, and just plain lovable. Even secondary characters like Luca (whom you will dislike/love/want to hug all at once!) and Nate (and his wonderful candidness!) are sure to be favorites and promise to be even more essential in stories to come. And I just want to hang out with Reggie and watch films of the time!

Fans of McMillan’s previous Herringford & Watts series will be ecstatic to learn of the “next” generation (Hamish is a DeLuca, after all) and see tiny nods to the previous series and a familiar name or two!

Let’s stop right here and talk about Hamish. He is SUCH a product of his parents! But, he is his own kind of special, quirky, and important. Through his unique viewpoint, Rachel McMillan illustrates the challenges of mental illness — namely anxiety and panic — in a normalizing and emphatic way. This makes him wonderfully relatable — even for a reader with no personal experience with such challenges (like myself). I applaud her for using characterization to subtly bring awareness and empathy to the forefront in a way that adds so much to the story.

IMG_20180708_200938.jpgI could talk all day about more wonderful elements of this story — lemon cannolis, bicycles, jazz, picture shows, DANCES, light bulbs, classic literature, and an implied message of grace. Instead, I hope you choose to discover for yourself all the intricacies and fun of this little mystery.

I cannot wait to see where these beloved characters will take me next!

MANY thanks to Thomas Nelson for the review copy.

Interview with the Author

Pick one: lemon sandwich or lemon cannoli?

AHHH this is so hard. I am going to say cannoli.

What’s next for this set of characters?

Murder in the City of LibertyMurder in the City of Liberty releases next May and it finds Hamish and Reggie two years after they open Van Buren and DeLuca investigations/legal consulting/Winchester Molloy listening, in 1940.  There are two major forces in this book: the first is a black baseball player and fastest base stealer in the Boston farm leagues who becomes the target of a series of horrible pranks that eventually lead to murder.  The second is a growing racism (specifically anti-Semitism) which aligns with the conflict in Europe (for which Hamish’s home country is already fighting).  Very much like The White Feather Murders, I wanted explore the lack of social justice and the rampant prejudice heightened during war time.  On a personal front, Reggie and Hamish are doing a very poor job of being “just friends.”  And Nate gets a little bit of romance of his own!

Murder at the Flamingo incorporates a character with panic and anxiety when mental illness was taboo for the era. And, you have started a related hashtag #FictionForEmpowerment. Tell us more about that!

Yes! It is something that I have lived with my entire life and I thought this was the perfect time to talk about it through a fictional lens: so all of the symptoms and challenges I ascribe to Hamish are things I have struggled with since childhood.  Mental illness is very much like any other illness —except it is invisible.  So while, not unlike someone with cancer or diabetes, I have to see a doctor regularly and use medicinal treatment to live a full life, it is not something that is completely easy for everyone to understand. In Hamish DeLuca’s time, there were still rather primitive ideas about it and studies that found patients being doled all manner of horrible mercury pills (that ravaged the system), being locked in sanitariums or exposed to shock treatment. Because of Hamish’s visible symptoms, these are things that are very real threat to him.  I wanted to show that a character who suffers from this illness still has adventures and tries to get the girl: even though he had a steeper hill to climb in terms of acceptance than we do nowadays, he still is just a human being.  At heart, this series works to normalize mental illness without hopefully ever being slated as “issue” fiction. (For Herringford and Watts readers of The White Feather Murders, you will recognize that Hamish comes by his right hand tremor genetically. Something his father had since the end of A Lesson in Love and Murder).

Who was your favorite character to write?

I loved writing all of them. Just like in Herringford and Watts: they all mean so much to me.  I gave Reggie all my quips and one-liners so I loved doing that! My breakaway character in this was Nate. I always wanted to feature someone who could map the intricacies of the North End neighbourhood for them but I loved writing him so much that he ended up getting a much larger role than in the first outline. To the extent that he is a huge part of the central mystery in book 2. But my favourite character to write was Hamish! I looove all of my characters but I don’t know if I will ever feel as close to any of them as I do Hamish. I suppose it is because I am using him (as mentioned above) to speak to something very personal and challenging to me.

Loyalty is a BIG subject in this book, much of it revolving around Hamish’s cousin, Luca. What is the message you want readers to take away from their dynamic?

I think that when you read the book you see most people’s loyalty to Luca differs from Hamish’s. While so many speak to loyalty to Luca it is with the expectation that he can do something for them in return. Their loyalty anticipates a symbiotic relationship.  The spiritual themes in the book are deftly hidden but I really used Hamish’s loyalty intentionally to show a measure of grace. A few times in the book when asked by Luca where he gets his unfailing loyalty (even as Luca uses him or lets him down), Hamish has no other answer than “Your Luca.” Hamish’s loyalty is a result of his blind love for his cousin with no expectation of return on that investment. In that sense, writing aspects of this book was really heartbreaking for me. Hamish is a good kid with a great heart who just wants to spend time with his cousin and realizes that he doesn’t truly know Luca at all.  So loyalty without expectation of anything in return is one of the ways in which I tried to explore the themes of grace in the novel.

Rachel’s book recommendation fun!

OK, any #FictionForEmpowerment recommendations?

I would say The Rosie Project by Graham Simsion would be one that immediately comes to mind.  I just finished a book called the The Lost for Words Bookshop by Stephanie Butland and while it is never overtly expressed, it is clear the heroine suffers from PTSD. Charles Todd’s Ian Rutledge mysteries feature a detective late of the war who definitely suffers from anxiety and panic.  Finally, and though this is not intentional,  I view The Blue Castle by LM Montgomery to be a study in anxiety and panic.  Valancy Stirling’s undiagnosed heart condition is very much a representation of typical symptoms of panic attacks: from the initial recognition and through the onslaught. Also, her waking up at 3 a.m. consistently is another symptom. Because LM Montgomery was a life long sufferer, I always find this a perfect unintentional example of anxiety and panic disorder.

Which “McMillan” book should a reader start with?

Love in Three Quarter TimeIf you really just want to get to know my heart and nature, Love in Three Quarter Time. Man! This is a hard question.  In the Herringford and Watts series my personal favourite is A Lesson in Love and Murder. I think it does the best job of giving a well-rounded view of the four central characters (plus Benny) and their relationships and interactions. But, I am hoping a lot of people start with Flamingo. You get better with each book, I had a wonderful editor with this, it is a story close to my heart and I am proud (as much as I can be proud knowing that there is always a million things I would have done better) of the final product.

A book for someone new to the Christian fiction genre?

Try Katherine Reay. Any of her books. They’re literary-infused and filled with romance and also exceptionally written. Any spiritual truths are expressed in a subtle way.  My friend Allison Pittman has a new one coming out next year called The Seamstress (Tyndale, 2019) and it is a fictional spinoff of A Tale of Two Cities set during the reign of Marie Antoinette and it pursues spiritual truths within a truly beautiful historical setting.

A book for people who love YOUR historical mystery/romance series?

Price of PrivilegeI loooove so many books. If you truly want to get to know me and what makes my heart tick and mind gallop, I highly recommend The Price of Privilege series by Jessica Dotta. I am not going to put myself on the Dotta level in terms of comparative storytelling because she is a master.  I also am strongly influenced by Anna Lee Huber (Lady Darby series), Deanna Raybourn, Rhys Bowen (Molly Murphy) and Elizabeth Peters (Amelia Peabody).  I would say reading them has infused my passion for writing mysteries with heavy romance.

A book out of your comfort zone that you really loved?

I try super hard to read as much as I can in as many genres as I can.  Still, science fiction seems to be the one genre that I have the hardest trouble sinking into. But I loooved The Martian by Andy Weir. It is so funny. It has such an arresting narrator. I think it goes to prove that I can love anything if the voice is great.

A small time/indie published book?

JL Spohr’s The Realm Series (it begins with Heirs and Spares). Please read it.  Also, Masque by W.R. Gingell (if you have a beauty and the beast thing going, I will totally read your book).

And last but not least, a romance? (with a Rachel Catnip hero?)

High as the HeavensACK so hard! Just one! I can’t do just one. I really super duper fell in love with an Eva Ibbotson book I read for the first time this year called The Morning Gift.  I have a bit of a thing for Marriage of Convenience stories and this is one.  Quinn is totally a Rachel catnip hero.  Courtney, you know that I think Isaac Dalry in The Price of Privilege series is one of the all-time greatest heroes! Total catnip.  I have a huge thing some of Lynn Austin’s heroes. I think she writes the best kissing scenes of all time and I just love her books to death. So James McGrath in Fire by Night is an all time favourite. I like super intelligent heroes.   Who are just a little different. Or crafted by Katie Breslin. SIMON IN High as the HeavensI am looking at you!!!!!I am also looking at you, you adorable Pimpernel-Phantom of the Opera hybrid Jack Benningham in Not by Sight. Lately, a favourite was Jacobus in The Reckoning at Gossamer Pond by Jaime Jo Wright.  Also, if your hero is a scrappy reporter, I am definitely there for that. I read Anna Blankman’s duology Prisoner of Night and Fog and Conspiracy of Blood and Smoke recently and the hero, Daniel, is a Jewish reporter in Nazi-laden Germany pre-WWII. His ambition to bring truth and light to a world that is against him is marvelous.

Oh Rachel! Thank you for taking the time to answer my questions and give us all new books to add to the TBR!!!! I know I need to read a few more of these. YES to all things Price of Privilege!!!

About the Author

Rachel McMillanRachel McMillan is a keen history enthusiast and a lifelong bibliophile. When not writing or reading, she can most often be found drinking tea and watching British miniseries. Rachel lives in bustling Toronto, where she works in educational publishing and pursues her passion for art, literature, music, and theater.

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Giveaway

Love in Three Quarter TimeRachel has graciously offered a giveaway copy of a kindle ebook of Love in Three Quarter Time. Follow the instructions on the Rafflecopter form to enter! Giveaway ends 7/21/18 12:00am. Open internationally. Entrants will have 1 week to respond to email contact to claim prize. Void where prohibited.

Enter the Rafflecopter giveaway here!

 

Book Review + Giveaway: “Love’s Silver Lining” by Julie Lessman

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Travel with me to the Old West — Virginia City, NV, to be exact — while we talk about a romantic adventure from author Julie Lessman, Love’s Silver Lining, the first book in her new “Silver Lining Ranch” series. (Once again, Julie tackles another genre…. and does is SO WELL!) Before you go, be sure to enter the GIVEAWAY by commenting on this post!

About the Book

Love's Silver Lining

Series: Silver Lining Ranch

Genre:  Christian, Historical, Romance

Publisher: Indie

Desperate to escape an arranged marriage to a womanizer, twenty-two-year-old Maggie Mullaney flees New York for Virginia City, Nevada with her Aunt Liberty, two spunky suffragists intent on bettering the lives of women. Fresh out of nursing school, Maggie hopes to devote herself to serving others rather than just one man, a goal quickly affirmed when she encounters Blaze Donovan, a womanizing cowboy who both riles and rouses her pulse. But when Aunt Liberty’s parents’ house burns down, she and Maggie are coerced into staying at the ranch of Liberty’s ex-husband, Finn McShane, who just happens to be the uncle of the cocky cowboy Maggie had hoped to avoid.

If there’s one thing twenty-nine-year-old Blaze Donovan can’t abide, it’s respectable women who spout piety and prayer, so when he butts heads with perky Maggie Mullaney at St. Mary Louise Hospital, he wants to stay as far away from her as he possibly can. Unfortunately, she now lives in the bedroom next to his in his uncle’s ranch house, a revolting development that sends Blaze to The Ponderosa Saloon more than usual. But when Maggie interferes in Blaze’s life by converting his favorite “disrespectable” girl, Blaze is determined to make her pay. Only problem is—the price HE has to pay may be a little too steep for his heart.

NOTE: This book is a sweet inspirational with a bit of a higher level of romantic passion. (*Courtney’s note: I would say this book isn’t any different than other Julie Lessman books — readers know how she writes “passion with a purpose”.*)

GOODREADS | AMAZON

About the Authorjulie-turquoise-in-chair_orig

Julie 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, Heart of San Francisco, and Isle of Hope series, Julie was American Christian Fiction Writers 2009 Debut Author of the Year and has garnered over 18 Romance Writers of America and other awards. Voted #1 Romance Author in Family Fiction magazine’s 2012 and 2011 Readers Choice Awards, Julie’s novels also made Family Fiction magazine’s Best of 2015, Best of 2014, and “Essential Christian Romance Authors” 2017, as well as Booklist’s 2010 Top 10 Inspirational Fiction and Borders Best Fiction. Her independent novel A Light in the Window was 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. Contact Julie through her website and read excerpts from each of her books at http://www.julielessman.com.

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Review

Love’s Silver Lining is a fun western romance with entertaining matches of wits and a strong thread of faith. It’s Bonanza-meets-McLintock with its familial-cast and clashing romantic couples, complete with two that strongly remind me of John Wayne and Maureen O’Hara with his determination and her fiery temper!

In Julie’s signature romance style, this story follows two different couples as they navigate their shared histories, pride, stubbornness, and attraction. While Blaze and Maggie’s relationship has rivalry and plenty of spark, my most favorite parts of the story involve the other prominent couple, Finn and Liberty, whom you can meet in the prequel novella, For Love of Liberty. The importance of faith (especially a shared faith within a marriage), and many facets of trust are naturally incorporated into the story, along with encouraging scriptures.

From its wild west setting to its suffragists, train rides, and kisses, Love’s Silver Lining is just the right sort of western for romance lovers that offers a smile and an encouraging message. I’m excited to see where the next book in the series takes these characters! (And I hope there will be more of Finn and Liberty’s sparring!)

Thank you to the author and SLB tours for a review copy. This is my honest review.

Giveaway

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Comment on this blog post for a chance to win an e-copy of Love’s Silver Lining! Share a favorite book, western, what you’re reading now, ANYTHING!

Giveaway is open Internationally and will end at 11:59 on 7/7/18.

Tour Stops

July 2-Locks, Hooks and Books
July 3-The Power of Words | The Green Mockingbird
July 4-Reading Is My SuperPower | Faithfully Bookish
July 5-Book by Book | Why Not? Because I Said So!
July 6-cherylbbookblog
July 7-Mindy,  reviewer​

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