Review: “Shoes to Fill” by Lynne Gentry

Review: “Shoes to Fill” by Lynne Gentry

A few months ago, I reviewed author Lynne Gentry’s independent publishing venture, Walking ShoesIt was the start of a new contemporary family series with southern charm, humor, and serious life obstacles, the “Mt. Hope Southern Adventures” series. Today I’m sharing my review of the second book in the series, Shoes to Fill. It continues the journey of this little pastor’s family living in west Texas as they learn to cope with the aftermath of personal loss and find joy and purpose once again.

About the Book

stf-jpeg-642x1024Shoes to Fill

The highly-educated millennial, David Harper, is adrift. He is also the pastor’s son. Or he was, until his father dropped dead in the pulpit. When David learns his widowed mother is in danger of losing the roof over her head, he surprises everyone, most of all himself, and steps in to fill his father’s shoes. David knows it won’t be easy to dynamite the small congregation into the twenty-first century, but it’s the tough little blonde who blows his world apart. Return once again to the humor and drama of the small Texas town of Mt. Hope. Tear-jerking candor. Face-paced humor. Heart-melting romance.

Goodreads | Amazon

Review

While this book could be read on its own, I think it would be better enjoyed in sequence as the second book in the series to fully understand the obstacles already undertaken by the characters.

This story is just the right combination of drama and humor, continuing themes of healing and hope that began in book 1. The quirky humor and pop culture references (like Hallmark movies and Quigley Down Under! 🙂 ) offsets the serious themes at the heart of the story. These characters’ lives show how God can take something awful and make something good come of it — all because it brings Him glory along the way.

David, in particular, grows tremendously during this story. With help from both his biological and church family, he starts to see past his own grief to realize other people are hurting –some still in their own grief, others dealing with many sources of pain. And, on the romance side of things, Amy (the “tough little blonde”) is so complementary to him; from sharing a caring heart to understanding grief and the crazy community they live in.

Speaking of the community, the secondary characters in this story are special. They establish a sense of “home” within the story and serve to show what a heart for people David has. Leona, David’s mom, shares a little perspective in this book, too, because her story is not over yet (bring on book 3!).

There was one comical device used near the end of the story that I thought was a little overdone to the point of being less realistic, but it served its purpose to upset a certain situation and bring about clarity to the characters. Other than that, I enjoyed this glimpse of small town Texas living and identified with the struggles of the characters. I particularly liked how David’s family is portrayed as giving him a legacy of faith but he still has to discern his own calling.

Thank you to the author and publisher, Travel Light Press, for the complimentary review copy in exchange for my honest review.

IMG_9446 Hi-Res_300dpi_Vert_CropLynne Gentry knew marrying a preacher might change her plans. She didn’t know how ministry would change her life. This author of numerous short stories and dramatic works travels the country as a professional acting coach and inspirational speaker. Lynne allows her imagination to run wild and also writes in the fantasy/science fiction genre of time travel. You can find our more about these adventures into historical worlds at www.lynnegentry.com. Lynne lives in Dallas with her husband and medical therapy dog. She counts spending time with her two grown children and their families her greatest joy.

Lynne’s Website | Facebook |Twitter | Pinterest

And, last but not least, check out my reviews of Lynne’s awesome time travel series here!

The Carthage Chronicles

Review & Author Interview: “Love, Lace, and Minor Alterations” by V. Joy Palmer

Review & Author Interview: “Love, Lace, and Minor Alterations” by V. Joy Palmer

This post is all about a recent release from author V. Joy Palmer and WhiteFire Publishing (yay for small-time publisher!): Love, Lace, and Minor Alterations. A contemporary rom-com with spunk and meaning, this story is one to be enjoyed for its sweetness and fun. I’m happy to have Joy joining us today to answer a few questions about her novel.

About the Book

Love, Lace, and Minor Alterations by V. Joy Palmer.jpgIsabel “Izze” Vez, bridal consultant extraordinaire, has been helping brides find The Dress for years. She loves nothing more than helping make wedding dreams come true…but sometimes the
happy endings grate on her. How many times can a girl discover someone else’s gown without dreaming of the day it’ll be her turn to wear one?

When James Miles Clayton walks into her life, he represents everything Izze can’t handle: change. He’s determined to bring the Ever After Bridal Boutique into the black…and to prove to Izze that she should give him a chance.

But if there’s anything Izze handles worse than change, it’s trust. She may have a few issues—fine, she knows she does. But will they keep getting in the way of any chance of her own Happily Ever After? She wants to trust God to give her those dreams of love and lace, but that’s going to require some…minor alterations.

Review

Izze’s snarky and sarcastic humor is hilarious. This book is laugh-out-loud funny — or at least it speaks to my sense of humor really well. While the humor is important and fun, sometimes I think it’s more of a shield for Izze’s character, brushing off a few issues she doesn’t want to deal with yet. Since we experience Izze’s (and occasionally Miles’s) first person perspective, sometimes there are little “asides” and explanations that add to the humor. For example, my favorite was when Izze tells on her grown cousin who chased her around with a snake just a few years ago. Or when she’s lamenting about the properness of her boss and her perfect bun.

Random comment: I liked the “behind the scenes” look at a  bridal shop through Izze’s career. If you like TV shows like Say Yes to the Dress or similar ones, you will enjoy this aspect!

The “denial factor” of the storyline is something Izze deals with on a deeper level, making the story have import and meaning behind the lighter moments. Her denial extends to her interest in Miles, her trust issues, and even her lack of confidence in her own abilities of “adulting”. Despite this flaw, she is instantly relatable and likable. Though frustrating at times, you want to cheer her on with pom-poms or claps or whatever form of celebration. Her arc teaches the bigger picture of this story: that God is the remedy for fear and doubt. Trusting Him is the way to real happiness. (And not the rainbows and perfect happily-ever-after kind, but reality with its joy and peace in the moment.)

Speaking of happily-ever-afters, Miles is ideally romantic and a fitting compliment to Izze. Steadfast where she is unsteady, sure when she is uncertain. Though not without his own flaws and pain, his character is an anchor to the story, even during the time he has his own lessons to contend with. His journey takes seeing beyond doubts to another level, learning selflessness and how to recognize other people’s pain instead of being blinded by his own hurt.

This story is stitched together with humor. The fabrics are deep hues of love and God’s provision, with scriptures and lessons weaved throughout. The finishing touch is a happily-ever-after that looks at lot like hope. I look forward to whatever story Joy crafts next!

Thank you to the author and WhiteFire publishing for providing the review copy. This is my honest review.

Interview with the Author

What inspired you to write Love, Lace, and Minor Alterations?

I’ve always been obsessed with weddings, and I was single and frustrated with the man who is now my husband when I first started writing and brainstorming. I started venting writing, and all of a sudden I just heard Izze in my head. The idea of a single woman in the wedding business who wanted to get married and was fed up with the leading man fascinated me. However, there were a lot of factors that lead to me writing this particular story, like amazing books by amazing authors and the fact that I had a hard time finding first person point of view books for twenty-somethings that sounded like real twenty- somethings.

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

I really, really just want God to touch your heart. That’s what makes me happiest. 🙂 But I really hope readers know all the way to the core of their souls that they can trust God. Life, fear, and drama can make it so hard for us to fully trust Him, but God has beautiful plans for us. We can trust Him with our dreams.

What was most challenging about writing this book?

It was probably when I introduced Miles’ perspective. I wanted to stay true to my own writer voice and the tone of the story, but I also wanted Miles to sound and respond like a real guy. I bugged my husband with a lot of guy questions. 😉

Which character was your favorite to write?

I really loved writing my main character, Izze! She is very similar to me, but Izze is a little more of a loose cannon. For instance, I don’t take off and refuse to talk when something makes me angry. I try to resolve the problem then and there – even if I don’t want to talk. But Izze doesn’t. She just reacts on impulse. While it was fun to write a character who reacts to everything (Especially in ways the very human side of me wants to react sometimes!), it was also really insightful.

Just for fun:

Do you have any hobbies?

Um, does reading count as a hobby? Or eating chocolate? I’m great at those things. 😉 When I’m not perfecting my résumé as a chocolate connoisseur, I’m trying to avoid cooking and thus burning our food, chasing after my one-year- old daughter, and arguing with two cats and a dog. I’m also a youth leader at my church, which I love! It means I get to drink lots of coffee and eat more chocolate. 😉

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

The Victorian Era! Some of my all-time favorite books are Lori Wick’s Kensington Chronicles, specifically, The Hawk and the Jewel and Wings of the Morning. I love that era. *happy sigh*

What are you currently reading?

I am tantalizingly close to finishing Ronie Kendig’s Conspiracy of Silence. Then I’ll be reading Unfolding by Jonathan Friesen, An Uncommon Courtship by Kristi Ann Hunter, Sandy Toes by Robin Jones Gunn, and I’m am super excited to read Happily Ever Ashton by Erynn Mangum!

About the Author

v-joy-palmer

Joy Palmer is an avid blogger and co-founder of Snack Time Devotions. She is a youth leader at her church, and loves acting crazy and drinking coffee with the teens. When Joy isn’t urging the elves that live in her computer to write, she’s hanging out with her husband, their adorable baby girl, and their two socially awkward cats.

 

WebsiteBlog | Facebook | Twitter  | Instagram | Goodreads

Snack Time Devotions Blog  | The Diamond Mine of Christian Fiction

Review & Author Feature: “Walking Shoes” by Lynne Gentry

Review & Author Feature: “Walking Shoes” by Lynne Gentry

When a beloved author reaches out to me to share my thoughts on her latest book, I count it a privilege and blessing to be counted as a friend and trusted reviewer. Recently, author Lynne Gentry contacted me inviting me to read her new-ish novel, Walking Shoes, a contemporary story of family, humor, loss, and the strength of the body of Christ. Originally released under a different title and publisher, Walking Shoes is a refreshed story from Lynne’s heart drawn from her own experiences as a pastor’s wife. Today I’m happily sharing my review and a Q&A feature with Lynne.

About the Book

Sooner or later everyone experiences a fork in the road. When tragedy changes the path of the overly-cautious, by-the-book, pastor’s wife, Leona Harper has no choice but to disrupt the lives of her estranged children. Parenting her adult children in a small Southern community populated with zany characters proves as difficult as reinventing herself. Determined to give her broken family a shot at a second chance, Leona puts one foot in front of the other and begins to walk through her grief. But reconciliation and healing won’t come easy.

This holiday story of tear-jerking candor and fast-paced humor offers hope in the darkness.

Goodreads | Amazon

Review

 

I really, really liked this story! It was a great combination of funny and serious. Before I talk about the lovable characters, I want to address the way grief is exposed in this story. walking-642x1024There were moments delicately handled with humor that otherwise could have been a little “dark” or sad due to the story circumstances. I personally identified with the situation and characters because I have had a similar unexpected loss in my family. I believe the way Lynne Gentry recognizes the grief process in a gentle and understanding way, shading it with humor, speaks of her personal experiences as well as her ability to relate to the reader through story. It exposes how everyone deals with grief or shock differently while emphasizing that it’s perfectly OK to be different. To say the least, it was a little therapeutic for my own heart to read Leona’s story.

The “friends” and supporting characters of this story are endearing, to say the least. Some fiercely in Leona’s corner, some more antagonistic, all of them work to steer the story and reveal how God takes care of people in unexpected ways. Sometimes through an angry grandmother. Sometimes through a janitor. And sometimes through a gruff neighbor. All of them combine to display the blessing and care of a church family. A “home”, of sorts, with mismatched loved ones.

Within the story, sometimes the point of view changes from Leona to that of her son or daughter, David and Maddie. Their experience and secondary storylines all mesh to paint a bigger picture of what’s going on and how each person deals with the complexity of the situation, giving the reader a new perspective of empathy and understanding. For all POVs, the third person narrative sometimes switches to first within the same paragraph in an internal dialogue sort of way. This technique expertly works for the story’s humor and timing as well as revealing the heart of Leona, David, and Maddie at key points.

Ok, now it’s time to talk about the humor! Lynne’s “southern humor” hit the mark with me! Especially with a few little sayings and witty pop culture references I’ve come to appreciate from Lynne. (If you’re an old soul, you’ll really love them, too! Especially ones referring to Robert Redford or something that’s “slicker than snot”! Ha!) The quirky supporting characters fittingly remind me of some people in my own church and circle of friends. If any of ya’ll read this and are curious, just ask. I’d be happy to point out which of you is a Bertie or Roxie!

To me, this story is a reminder that God’s all-knowing plan is always there, intended for your good and His glory, even through seasons of pain and uncertainty. Leona’s journey comes full circle to a place of hope and second chances. Leona Harper and her family experience many emotions and twists, from shock to pain to a determination to live to the fullest. Ultimately, they learn to embrace any second chances they have to mend relationships and make new memories. The Harpers are not quite done with finding their purpose, though, just like us. (Yay for more books to come!). Personally, I’m glad He’s not quite finished with my story, either.

Thank you to the author and publisher, Travel Light Press, for the complimentary review copy in exchange for my honest review.

Interview with the Author

This is a rewrite of your novel Reinventing Leona. Can you tell us more about the reasons behind your decision to refresh the story? 

Yes, WALKING SHOES is a rewrite/RETITLING of Reinventing Leona. I sold this original story to Tyndale in 2011.  When I got the rights back last year, I re-read the story I’d written in 2006. Hoping that I’m a much better writer now, I tore into it. Took out 10,000 cliches and softened Leona and some of the church people. I also changed up Justin’s character considerably. In the end, the story has  far deeper implications and I’m glad.

How does your personal experience as a pastor’s wife shine through the character of Leona?

Obviously, many of Leona’s experiences were drawn from the deep well of serving as a pastor’s wife for 30 years. I have so many wonderful, sad, endearing, life-changing stories from those very precious years. Some made the story. Many did not. But one thing is certain, so many people have crossed my path and I have been forever changed by all of them. Telling this story of God’s ability to transform us through tragedy has been one of the greatest honors of my life.

The Story sisters are my favorite supporting characters of this story. They are a hoot! Can you tell us if they were inspired by anyone in particular? 

Our ministry was spent very far from home. Therefore, I didn’t have the daily support of my physical family, especially my mother. As for the Story sisters, they are a combination of the many fabulous older women who mothered me and loved me (a very young and naïve girl) with their unique gifts, but mostly their treasured gift of time.

Thank you, Lynne, for taking the time to discuss this story and answer my questions!

stf-jpeg-642x1024You readers should be excited to know Lynne’s plans for the rest of the series are in the works!  The next book, Shoes to Fill, featuring Leona’s son, David, is planned for release in February. The next two books, Dancing Shoes and Baby Shoes, will finish out the series with the continued story of Leona and Maddie’s story.

 

 

IMG_9446 Hi-Res_300dpi_Vert_CropLynne Gentry knew marrying a preacher might change her plans. She didn’t know how ministry would change her life. This author of numerous short stories and dramatic works travels the country as a professional acting coach and inspirational speaker. Lynne allows her imagination to run wild and also writes in the fantasy/science fiction genre of time travel. You can find our more about these adventures into historical worlds at www.lynnegentry.com. Lynne lives in Dallas with her husband and medical therapy dog. She counts spending time with her two grown children and their families her greatest joy.

Lynne’s Website | Facebook |Twitter | Pinterest

And, last but not least, check out my reviews of Lynne’s awesome time travel series here!

The Carthage Chronicles

Review & Author Interview: “The Sound of Diamonds” by Rachelle Rea

Review & Author Interview: “The Sound of Diamonds” by Rachelle Rea

One of my favorite things about book blogging is virtually “meeting” bloggers and authors who share a similar passion for story. Another one of my favorite things is seeing the success of bloggers-turned-authors –whether through a major or small publisher, or those who brave self-publishing. Rachelle Rea is one such author braving the market through a smaller publishing house. Her debut novel, The Sound of Diamonds, deserves a shout from the rooftops to spread the beauty of her story (and humble talent) to the world! 🙂 I’m thrilled to be sharing my review and an interview with Rachelle today!

About the Book

Her only chance of getting home is trusting the man she hates.

With the protestant Elizabeth on the throne of England and her family in shambles, Catholic maiden Gwyneth seeks refuge in the Low Countries of Holland, hoping to soothe her aching soul. The Sound of Diamonds.jpgBut when the Iconoclastic Fury descends and bloodshed overtakes her haven, she has no choice but to trust the rogue who arrives, promising to see her safely home to her uncle’s castle. She doesn’t dare to trust him…and yet doesn’t dare to refuse her one chance to preserve her own life and those of the nuns she rescues from the burning convent.

Dirk Godfrey is determined to restore his honor at whatever cost. Running from a tortured past, Dirk knows he has only one chance at redemption, and it lies with the lovely Gwyneth, who hates him for the crimes she thinks he committed. He must see her to safety, prove to the world that he is innocent, prove that her poor eyesight is not the only thing that has blinded her but what is he to do when those goals clash?

The home Gwyneth knew is not what she once thought. When a dark secret and a twisted plot for power collide in a castle masquerading as a haven, the saint and the sinner must either dare to hold to hope…or be overcome.

Review

Rachelle writes first person point of view with major skills. It’s something that can be tricky for an author to pull off!!!!  Sometimes, a character can come off self-centered, but that is not the case with Gwyn and Dirk. I can see why Rachelle chose to tackle that format for this series. A shift in perspective between Dirk and Gwyn each chapter added additional interest and made the journey very personal and relatable. It also caused the action scenes to be more dramatic because you’re experiencing them through the eyes of one person at a time.

image

One of my FAVORITE quotes from this book!

The mystery surrounding the connection Dirk and Gwyn have –the source of her hostility and his determination to prove honorable — was expertly revealed. I was anxious to know just what drove Dirk to such lengths and what caused Gwyn’s initial bitterness. And when all is revealed, the deep emotion of each of them is poignantly communicated.

Though the era and religious turmoil of the Reformation age seems far removed from contemporary times, the questions and doubts these characters wrestle with are very relevant today. Does God’s holiness make Him distant because of our sin, or does He really want to extend forgiveness and offer a personal relationship to us? Let me assure you, He does offer forgiveness and grace with the desire that all would come to Him. These questions are addressed with themes of hope and forgiveness shining in a beautiful way through the journeys of Gwyn and Dirk.

This story had the perfect combination of action, suspenseful drama, mild humor, serious issues of faith, and a sweet and promising romance. I’m already on to book two where Gwyn and Dirk seem to be getting out of one scrape into another!

Thank you to Rachelle and WhiteFire Publishing for the complimentary review copy in exchange for my honest review.

Interview with the Author

What inspired you to write The Sound of Diamonds?

The title came first, as I was driving down the road one day. I decided I needed to know what the sound of diamonds even was, so I started writing a story about a girl who needs glasses and gets herself embroiled in the middle of the Dutch Revolution–and of course the handsome red-headed hero who saves her!

Rachelle ReaWhat spiritual message or theme do you want to communicate to readers with The Sound of Diamonds?

Hope. Specifically, how hope can be had even in the midst of life’s tragedies…like the death of loved ones, the death of dreams held dear.

What was most challenging about writing a story set in this time period?

Probably nit-picking the little details! I searched for what felt like the randomest facts: what sleeves looked like in the 16th century, what the most common beverage was since water sanitation was, well, not quite up to par. And how far a horse could travel in a day. Although it could be frustrating, it could be fun, too.

Do you have any hobbies?

I spent way too long staring at this question, LOL. Do writing-related hobbies count? Book signings make me nervous and happy at the same time! I enjoy blogging more as a hobby than a regularly-posting blogger. And I’m always, always tempted to put writing as a hobby at times like these, before I remember that I actually get to call that a job now. 🙂

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

The Elizabethan era! It fascinates me, which is one of the reasons I wrote about it…

What are you currently* reading?

Three Little Words by Melissa Tagg! I haven’t gotten very far yet but I already really like Ava and Seth. Also, I’m reading Harry Potter for the first time. Currently in number four!

*I’m sure Rachelle has finished these books by now…. I have been terribly slow at posting this interview! I ❤ Melissa Tagg, too!

Thank you SO MUCH for answering my interview questions! It’s fascinating to learn stories behind a book or author. I’m glad to hear you googled sleeves 🙂 Now I know I’m not the only person who googles odd things!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Rachelle Rea plots her novels while driving around the little town she’s lived in all her life in her dream car, a pick-up truck. An Oreo addict, she is also a homeschool graduate and retired gymnast. She wrote The Sound of Diamonds the summer after her sophomore year of college.

LINKS

Website: http://RachelleRea.com

Facebook: http://facebook.com/InspiringDaring/

Twitter: http://twitter.com/RachelleRea/

Pinterest: http://pinterest.com/RachelleRea

Instagram: @RachelleDianeRea

What is one of your favorite eras to READ about? Have you ever read a book set in the Elizabethan or Protestant Reformation era? 

Review & Interview: “The Thorn Keeper” by Pepper D. Basham ~ Blog Tour & Giveaway

Review & Interview: “The Thorn Keeper” by Pepper D. Basham ~ Blog Tour & Giveaway

The Thorn Keeper Tour BannerA few weeks ago, I was happily a part of the blog tour for Pepper Basham’s debut novel, The Thorn BearerIt was a fabulous book, and exhibits everything I love about the historical romance genre. I didn’t think the next novel in the series could compete with my attachment to it. I was wrong. The second book, The Thorn Keeper, is different and beautiful in so many ways. And it has overtaken book 1’s position on my favorites list. It just released on February 28th! Today, I’m thrilled to feature my review and an INTERVIEW with Pepper hosted through Singing Librarian Books.

About the BookThe Thorn KeeperGenre:  Fiction, Historical, Romance, Christian

Publisher: Vinspire Publishing

Publication Date: February 28, 2015

Number of pages: 402

Add to Goodreads

With her past in shambles, how can she fashion a future of hope?
Catherine Dougall’s past of manipulation has left her future in threads. With a new faith, she longs to take the remnants of her life and make something beautiful, but shame, societies’ judgments, and the natural consequences of an unplanned pregnancy test her newfound hope. Dr. David Ross doesn’t help either. His kindness, sacrifice, and tenderness tempt her to impossible dreams. A fallen woman doesn’t merit a fairytale.

David Ross has made every effort to keep his life above reproach. His passion for the sick pump fresh purpose through his choices, but without financial support to maintain his war hospital, all is lost. When his notorious aunt offers an easy solution, David is tempted to give in to her demands, but his growing affection for the reformed flirt, Catherine Dougall, unwinds the careful wall around his heart and offers an unexpected choice.

When the worst of war tears them apart, can love renew the memory of what was lost or will tragedy steal away their hope forever.

From the beautiful Derbyshire countryside to the trenches of World War One, Catherine and David must learn to trust in a God who designs a masterpiece out of brokenness and fashions hope in the most unlikely places.

Purchase on Amazon

Review

Lately I’m prone to choose one adjective to describe a story. To borrow an adjective she used a couple times in this story, I must say Pepper’s writing is exquisite. She builds on a world of characters established in The Thorn Bearer and takes them forward in another story of forgiveness and growth. So many manifestations of redemption and grace intertwine in this story while never feeling overbearing. It’s a story of second chances while WWI rages on with tumultuous challenges and social conflicts.

This story goes beyond the power of grace (and God) to transform a person and continues to show the aftermath of forgiveness. I appreciated that Pepper doesn’t depict life through a rose-colored view — even after giving your life to God, surrendering your will to His is a daily commitment. Tough choices, hard trials, and struggles to understand God’s will are all depicted realistically and contrasted with the beauty and peace that can shine through it all.

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Pepper made this meme after I posted it as my Goodreads status while reading! 🙂

David and Catherine’s relationship becomes a beautiful example of what true love should be, in my opinion. Gentle, selfless, passionate, and protective. I could talk about how perfect they are for each other (and the sparks that fly between them! *swoon*) for another hour, but I don’t want to spoil the story! Just read it. Please.

Even secondary characters in this book, like Jessica and Fanny, have a voice or influence with the main characters and their own concepts to learn. I really love it when an author uses secondary characters like this. And I’m very excited that Jessica will be the main character of book 3!

I’ve compared Pepper to Julie Lessman before, and I want to reiterate that here with a different emphasis. With The Thorn Keeper, Pepper reminds me of her characters in the best way. Pepper writes spunky characters, deep emotion, and romantic scenes with amazing skill. So, if you’re a fan of Julie’s style, historical fiction, romances, emotional page-turners, or if you’re breathing and like to read, I would HIGHLY recommend Pepper’s books! They are, 2 for 2, #mustreads.

Thank you to Pepper and Vinspire Publishing for the review copy obtained through Singing Librarian Books for this tour.

Interview

What inspired you to write The Thorn Keeper?

Well, I suppose necessity brought about The Thorn Keeper because I’d signed on for a 3 book series with Vinspire -but the most interesting thing that happened from the process is that the ‘fallen’ character from The Thorn Bearer (book 1) who was NOT supposed to be ‘redeemed’ in the initial draft, became the redeemed heroine of book two. I was not expecting that, but I’m SOOOO glad I was initially wrong. This story is my favorite historical I’ve ever written.

What spiritual message or theme do you want to communicate to readers with The Thorn Keeper?

God can take the most broken person and fashion something beautiful from the pieces of their hearts. In essence, nothing is impossible for God 🙂

What was most challenging about writing a story set in this time period?

Meeting my deadline 😉

AND…. making sure my fashion research was right. There were so many wonderful tidbits I wanted to include but just didn’t have the time or space to do so.

Just for fun: Do you have any hobbies?

Well, since I work full-time outside the home as a speech-language pathologist, writing tends to be my hobby 🙂 But I also love spending time with my awesome kids, reading, playing music, and going on walks through the Blue Ridge Mountains near where I live.

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

The early 20th century. I’m fascinated by the world of that time (plus indoor plumbing was in use in many places ;-). I love the costuming, the vast changes, and the beauty of the era. Of course, I’m romanticizing it, but still…I’d choose it 🙂

What are you currently reading?

A Spy’s Devotion by Melanie Dickerson. Fantastic regency novel.

Pepper, thank you so much for taking the time to answer my questions! And I love that the story went somewhere unexpected — that’s just like God to show the power of his redemption, even through story.

About the Author

Pepper D. BashamPepper Basham is an award-winning author who writes romance peppered with grace and humor. She currently resides in the lovely mountains of Asheville, NC where she is the mom of 5 great kids, speech-pathologist to about fifty more, lover of chocolate, jazz, and Jesus, and proud AlleyCat over at a group writing blog, The Writer’s Alley. Her debut historical romance novel, The Thorn Bearer, released in May 2015, with the second arriving in February 2016. Her first contemporary romance debuts in spring 2016.

Website/blog: www.pepperdbasham.com

FB Author page – https://www.facebook.com/pages/Pepper-D-Basham
Twitter – https://twitter.com/pepperbasham
Pinterest – https://www.pinterest.com/pepperbasham/
Goodreads – https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/13561411.Pepper_D_Basham
AmazonAuthor Page – http://www.amazon.com/Pepper-Basham/e/B00W0IZ1F4/ref=dp_byline_cont_pop_ebooks_1

Giveaway

TWO ebook copies of The Thorn Keeper will be give away at the end of the tour! Click below to enter.

Enter the Rafflecopter giveaway here.

Tour Schedule

February 29–Singing Librarian Books
March 1–Toni Shiloh Prayerfully-Lifted Romance | Smiling Book Reviews
March 2–Just Commonly 
March 3–Griperang’s Bookmarks
March 4–Red Headed Book Lady | The Green Mockingbird
March 5–Reading Is My SuperPower

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Review & Interview with the Author: “The Bachelor Girl’s Guide to Murder” by Rachel McMillan

Review & Interview with the Author: “The Bachelor Girl’s Guide to Murder” by Rachel McMillan

I’m so excited today because I get to feature an early review and interview with an awesome debut author and blogger friend, Rachel McMillan! If you are fortunate enough to follow Rachel via social media, you know she has quite the unique sense of humor. Let me just tell you, she communicates that wit and flair with her writing style, too. It combines in the best possible way in her debut novel with Harvest House, The Bachelor Girl’s Guide to Murder.  This is book #1 in her “Herringford and Watts Mysteries” series. It releases in ebook format on March 1 and paperback April 1.

By the way, there is a current Goodreads giveaway open for this book through April 15th. Click here to enter it!

(If you will recall, I reviewed the prequel novella, A Singular and Whimsical Problem, here.)

About the BookThe Bachelor Girl's Guide to Murder by Rachel McMillan In 1910 Toronto, while other bachelor girls perfect their domestic skills and find husbands, two friends perfect their sleuthing skills and find a murderer.

Inspired by their fascination with all things Sherlock Holmes, best friends and flatmates Merinda and Jem launch a consulting detective business. The deaths of young Irish women lead Merinda and Jem deeper into the mire of the city’s underbelly, where the high hopes of those dreaming to make a new life in Canada are met with prejudice and squalor.

While searching for answers, donning disguises, and sneaking around where no proper ladies would ever go, they pair with Jasper Forth, a police constable, and Ray DeLuca, a reporter in whom Jem takes a more than professional interest. Merinda could well be Toronto’s premiere consulting detective, and Jem may just find a way to put her bachelor girlhood behind her forever–if they can stay alive long enough to do so.

ReviewThis story is fun and sweet, with just enough action and mystery to propel story while the characters worm their way into your heart in-between the exciting moments! The unique setting and era alone are vivid and memorable. Rachel has combined meticulous research and her imagination resulting in a setting with both historical significance and imagined whimsy (like fictitious public figures and morality squads).

Eccentric is the perfect word for Merinda, while Jem is the romantic and grounded best friend who gets pulled along on their adventures. I like how Jem’s perspective is the one we get to experience the most. In many cases, “sidekicks” stay in the shadows of a feisty heroine, but let me tell you, Jem is no weak wallflower (though she might think of herself as one).

Jasper and Ray, our ladies’ romantic interests, are both thoughtful and protective when necessary. Ray, which we get to know best, is possibly my favorite character of the novel! He gets tangled in the mystery the girls are trying to solve and proves quite the distraction for Jem. Rachel McMillan’s talent and ability to write romantic tension between Ray and Jem is another favorite part of mine! I mean, the perfect recipe for a fictional heartthrob is Italian gibberish, flirting, bad poetry, and refreshing honesty, right? 🙂

I hope we see more of Ray and his sister Viola’s sibling relationship in later stories! (and with the setting of book 2, I have a feeling we will.) They have a sweet, caring relationship. Ray’s personal character is revealed in the way he treats his sister and the extent of his sacrifice for her.

To briefly address one aspect of the humor of this story, I want to say Rachel’s “footnotes” are awesome. Sometimes they offer short explanations or brief tongue-in-cheek asides as though from a narrator. This type of story device is unique and rarely (if ever?) used in this genre, so it’s all the more effective in adding a touch of style and comedy.

Underneath the layers of independent feminine spirit, witty dialogue, nods to Sherlock Holmes, criminal motives, and humorous prose is a story of finding purpose and belonging. It imparts that sometimes life doesn’t play out like the fairy tale you would imagine. Sometimes it’s messy, quite different, and ok that way. Sometimes it’s just achieving a simple dream. But sometimes, God’s plan for your life is even better than you could imagine. And He will use the most unlikely people and circumstances for His purposes.

To end my gushing review, I will say that this is a must-read! Personally, I’m very excited for the adventures of these characters later this year in the novella Of Dubious and Questionable Memory and book 2, A Lesson in Love and Murder.

Thank you to Rachel McMillan, Harvest House, and Netgalley for providing copies of this novel in exchange for my honest review.

Interview with the Author

Rachel was very gracious and happy to answer all of my questions! Read on for a little behind-the-scenes info on this book and some fun trivia about Rachel. 

What inspired you to write The Bachelor Girl’s Guide to Murder?

My agent was shopping a historical romance of mine and we were having no luck.  She came back from ICRS (a big Christian book conference ) and said that the buzz was around Romantic Suspense.  She knew (I am not very quiet about this fact!)  that I am a lifelong Sherlock Holmes nut. So, she suggested a female Sherlock Holmes.  I  spent an entire weekend at a favourite coffee shop here in Toronto and developed an entire world and met Jem and Merinda, Jasper and Ray along the way.   So, I kinda fell into being a mystery writer.  I read mystery all the time!  It is one of my favourite genres— but writing it? That was a new challenge.  Thus, you’ll notice that Jem and Merinda stumble into a few answers along the way and trip up—they’re learning how to be detectives just as I am learning how to WRITE about detectives.

What message or spiritual theme do you want to communicate to readers with The Bachelor Girl’s Guide to Murder?

The spiritual theme to this series is more subtle than you might find in other Christian Fiction but that was purposeful: in order to reach as wide a readership as possible in an accessible way.  That being said, as a Christian, I see the world from a Christian worldview and each of the relationships I pursue in the book reflect some kind of question I have had in my own faith walk.     Indeed, I like to look at Christianity as being a lot like the Watson and Sherlock relationship: Watson acts on faith that Sherlock is omniscient and he believes wholly in Sherlock’s deductive powers.  Much as we believe in our Higher Power—even though, like Watson, we may have to wait for the big reveal and the answers hidden until the end.

The scripture I followed for Bachelor Girl’s Guide to Murder was Prov 31:8  Speak for those who cannot speak for themselves. I pursue this with a hero for whom English is a second language and  often a barrier  as well as women and immigrants who lived in a time period where they were not given the right for their voices to be heard. The book I am working on now –A Lesson in Love and Murder– is very much a look at anarchy and submission.  The spiritual themes are deft but definitely there 🙂

Overall, I want women to feel empowered even if they don’t fit into what they think is expected of them. The Bible features Marys and Marthas but Deborahs and Esthers, too!

What was most challenging about writing a story set in early 1900s Toronto?

Writing the voice is a huge part of it!  Honestly, we have this lax way of speaking that just doesn’t sound authentic when transposed into the early 20th Century.  I mention in my author’s note I do take a lot of liberties in creating Jem and Merinda’s world. But, like the historical fiction I love best, I wanted to capture and create the essence of a world – in hopes of inspiring readers to read more about the time period.  The challenges come in little things that we think of all the time….    For one example, allergies!   In my novella A Singular and Whimsical Problem I have a heroine who is allergic to cats.  But did Edwardian people even know about allergies? I had to go look it up.   I have also looked up doorbells and, most recently, whether men wore wedding rings.

To add, Toronto looks very different now: sure there are buildings and neighbourhoods that were around in Jem and Merinda’s time, but the look different and are surrounded by skyscrapers!  I really have to make sure I am pulling back that modern curtain to see the city as they would rather than how Rachel does .

I spent a ton of time at the archives here in Toronto and looking through photographs: which gave me a sense of the fashion, the streetcars, the police and, of course, the day to day life of a cosmopolitan city of yesteryear.

Which character was your favorite to write? (ahem, I think I can guess the answer to this one….) 

They’re all my friends.  When I submitted the first book to my agent to be sent out into the world of editors I cried. I knew I would miss them so much.   I am one half Jem, one half Merinda –so they’re very close to me. And, because this is a six part  series, I am at the point where they talk for themselves and I just take dictation.  In book 2 you get to meet Benny Citrone, a Mountie! And he is a lot of fun to write, too.
But I do have a soft spot for Ray: partly because he just showed up!  He factored in my outline as a secondary character but once he started talking he wouldn’t stop. I really have very little control over him. He goes and does what he likes, and says what he likes and I am just as surprised as the reader.  While each character is a delight, the unexpected things that Ray gets up to keep me on my toes and that is part of the fun of the process. Often when Jem is gushing about Ray, she is using my voice. I truly love him.

Just for fun: Do you have any hobbies?

I really love to read!  ( shocking! )  and I reallllly love to go to the theatre! I am a huge Broadway buff and we get a lot of theatre here in Toronto so I am often checking it out. I am a huge baseball fan. I watch the Toronto Blue Jays all the time ( especially with my laptop in my lap writing away) and I go to as many games as possible during the season.

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

I am a die hard nut for the  Victorian era. I think it would be very difficult to live there because I am so accustomed to our modern privileges but I would love to live in Victorian England for a day.  My degree at University was in Victorian Literature so that period is one of my true loves.

What are you currently reading?

Time of Fog and Fire by Rhys Bowen who is a favourite mystery writer of mine.

A Darker Shade of Magic by V. E Schwab.

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.

Rachel’s Bookish ramblings are housed at A Fair Substitute For Heaven 

Twitter: @rachkmc

Instagram: @rachkmc

Facebook: rachkmc1

Pinterest: @rachkmc

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“The Captive Imposter” Review + Blog Tour + Q&A

Hey, hey, it’s release day for Dawn Crandall’s book, The Captive Imposter!!! I’m so excited to share my review of it today and participate in her blog tour. Dawn has also answered a few questions of mine for this post! Expect much gushing from me. Dawn is hosting daily and weekly giveaways on her Facebook page for the duration of the tour, from now until her Facebook Party on April 24. For her complete blog tour schedule and to connect with Dawn, visit her website here.

The Captive Imposter Kristy Cambron endorsed

Many of you already know how much I love Dawn’s previous books in “The Everstone Chronicles” series: The Hesitant Heiress and The Bound Heart (this one made it on my list of top books from 2014!). The Captive Imposter is just as awesome, I promise. It FINALLY gives Estella Everstone her own (well-deserved) story time.

Without further ado, here’s a quick synopsis of the book plot from Goodreads: 

Sent away for protection, hotel heiress Estella Everstone finds herself living undercover as a lady’s companion named Elle Stoneburner at one of her father’s opulent hotels in the mountains of Maine—the one she’d always loved best and always hoped to own one day, Everston. The one thing she doesn’t like about the situation is that her ex-fiancé is in the area and is set on marrying someone else. Reeling from her feelings of being unwanted and unworthy, Estella reluctantly forms a friendship with the gruff manager of Everston, Dexter Blakeley, who seems to have something against wealthy young socialites with too much money, although they are just the kind of people Everston caters to.

When Estella finds herself in need of help, Dexter comes to the rescue with an offer she can’t refuse. She sees no other choice aside from going back home to her family and accepts the position as companion to his sister. Throughout her interactions with Dexter, she can’t deny the pull that’s evidenced between them every time he comes near. Estella realizes that while she’s been hiding behind a false name and identity, she’s never been freer to be herself than when she’s with Dexter Blakeley. But will he still love her when he finds out she’s Estella Everstone? She’s not entirely sure.

My thoughts on the story:

One of the things Dawn is so skilled in portraying within a story is many secrets. All of her stories thus far have 11062744_10205550334931088_2555500445048911149_oweaved a bit of suspense with the characters’ identities. The danger of some secrets, though, is that they have the potential to hurt loved ones and cause ripple effects if revealed. At the start of Estella’s journey, she is hiding her true identity behind the facade of a lady’s companion, Elle Stoneburner. With subtle hints, though, other secrets surrounding Estella’s circumstances are slowly made known. This includes her family’s past connection to the Blakeleys. I won’t say more than that, but when she is unexpectedly falling in love with Dexter Blakely, her many secrets complicate matters. A lot 🙂

The arc of these characters is broad and pleasant to observe as the reader. Estella changes because of her displaced circumstances — she finds a new freedom of being herself within the secret identity. She also finds a renewed faith in God because of Dexter and his encouraging nature. Dexter, a complex yet straightforward person, is proven humble by some of his experiences with Estella and his family. His character’s strength really anchors his whole family and helps Estella to see what a romantic relationship can be.

There is a bit of a twist to the story that really propels the characters into a pickle. I’ll just say that Dawn knows how to throw out a few surprises!

Dawn has delivered another entertaining, heartfelt, swoony, and faith-filled story. Her characters are likable and witty, and her plot is layered and full of secrets. The setting in the mountains of Maine is picturesque and unique at the same time. I want to visit the fictional Everston resort now!!! (Fun fact: the setting was inspired by a real resort in Maine, the Mount Kineo House. You can see pictures of it on Dawn’s Pinterest Board.)

If you enjoy historical romance, the Gilded Age, suspense, or being challenged in living out your faith in God, I would encourage you read The Captive Imposter!

A HUGE thank-you to Dawn and Whitaker House for the ARC review copy. 

Dawn has graciously answered a few interview questions for this post! Read on for more about The Captive Imposter.

Facebook Party ButtonThere are several mentions of classic literature and its characters in this novel (Austen, Gaskell, Bronte, etc.). Are these some of your favorites? Do you draw any inspiration from them?

Oh yes, classics were my first favorite books! It started with Little Women, Gone With The Wind and Rebecca (by Daphne du Maurier), but I then quickly delved into Les Miserables, Great Expectations, Jane Eyre and everything Jane Austen. These are still many of my most favorite books!

One thing I’ve loved about each book in this series is your inclusion of quotes or quips from well-known authors or figures at the beginning of each chapter. How do you discover or gather them? 

I just love tying quotes from the classics to my chapters! It was just one of those things that came to me while I was doing things around my kitchen one day–I came across my coffee mug that says “It would be so nice if something made sense for a change.” (Lewis Carroll, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland)–which I bought while writing The Hesitant Heiress (my debut, book one of The Everstone Chronicles series) because it embodied how Amaryllis Brigham so often felt. That day, I put it at the beginning of the chapter in the middle of the book in which her heart begins seeing things concerning Nathan Everstone in a new way. After that, I went about collecting meaningful quotes for all kinds of themes knowing I’d use them in all of the books I’d end up writing. I’ve always loved quotes that can say so much with so few words. 🙂

I absolutely love your Pinterest inspiration boards for all of your novels! Tell me more about the one for The Captive Imposter.IMG_3368 (683x1024)

I do have it–very randomly–started! I haven’t had much time in the last year (having a baby and three books come out!) to keep up on my Pinterest boards for The Bound Heart and The Captive Imposter, but I will definitely get to it once the craziness of The Captive Imposter blog tour is over. They will be just as extensive as The Hesitant Heiress board once I’m finished with them!

I’m thrilled to see that you have a Pinterest board for a future Everstone Chronicles book 4! Can you share any details of its plan?

Yes! I’m not sure of the name yet, but Book 4 is definitely in the works! I really look forward to writing Vance and Violet’s story! It’s not technically part of The Everstone Chronicles, but a new unnamed three-book series about minor characters readers will have met while reading the first series. I’ve never written an “anti-hero” before, but I’m super excited! I have it all planned out–the story will start out at Everston, but will then move back to Boston.
From talking with Dawn, it sounds like Vance might have a chance to play the part of a hero — if he’s up for it. I can’t wait to catch up with these characters in another series!
Thank you so much, Dawn, for taking the time to answer my questions! For more about Dawn and this series, see my initial interview post with her from The Hesitant Heiress blog tour!
What about you? Have you read any of Dawn’s previous books? Are you a fan of the Gilded Age?