Review & Author Interview: “All This Time” by Melissa Tagg

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Somehow, with every new story, Melissa Tagg manages to tap into her vein of talent to entertain, amuse, and encourage. Plus, she regularly works in pop culture references and words like wee, romantical, nom de plume. AND, she relates to my caffeine obsession. TODAY SHE IS JOINING ME FOR AN INTERVIEW! I’m terribly excited — read on for my thoughts on her 4th and final (indie-released) book in the “Walker Family” series, All This Time, plus her delightful answers to my bubbly questions!

About the Book

Bear McKinley’s past refuses to let go. 

Ten years ago, Bear gave up everything—his freedom and his reputation—for his mess of a family. All This TimeBut after years of distance and too many attempts at starting over, he finally has a new life doing noble work in Brazil . . . until his past catches up to him once again. Suddenly he finds himself back in Maple Valley, charged with the care of his missing brother’s children, convinced he’s out of second chances to make his life count. And yet, with every day that passes, these kids, this quirky town and the woman he never stopped missing help patch the holes in his heart. Maybe this is the fresh start he’s been longing for all along. But as his newfound hope grows, so does the mystery surrounding his brother’s activities—and when the threat reaches into the lives of those he loves, it’s clear he can’t run away this time.

Fear holds Raegan’s future captive. 

Raegan Walker is fine. She’s happy working a slew of part-time jobs, still living in her childhood bedroom and rarely venturing from her hometown. At least, that’s what she tells everyone . . . and herself. But she can’t help wondering what might’ve happened if she hadn’t abandoned her art so many years ago—and if Bear McKinley had never left. When Bear returns and she’s commissioned for a painting that just might revive her artistic ambition all in one week, it’s time to finally reach for more than fine. But doing so means facing the fears that have held her back all this time, including admitting the secret she’s kept from Bear and her family. With her dream and her heart on the line, how much will Raegan have to risk to finally chase her happy ending?

Amazon | Goodreads

Review

If I had to choose one word to describe All This Time, it would be: Perfect. It’s an absolutely perfect story of small town quirkiness, family dynamics, laugh out loud antics, a nail-biting tiny thread of suspense, and the sweetest friendship-turned-love relationship, with GRACE binding it all.

Raegan and Bear’s story has been a long time stewing… and delightfully so. With All This Time, we readers finally see the depths of their characters — both their histories, struggles, and respective adorable and swoony personalities. Their romance is framed with the quirkiness of a small town and Melissa’s signature humor and general wit — and even a bit of suspense that heightens the mysterious past of Bear. It’s not all fireflys and sunflowers, though. The gravity of some of its subject matter — anxiety, estranged relatives, forgiveness, and HOPE — is wonderfully woven with a lightheartedness that makes the characters accessible and the message an arrow to the heart of the reader.

More than a story of the relationship between Bear and Raegan, this story is a picture of FAMILY. Of the crazy dreams and distinct personalities, of the support system and encouragement, and, even of the dysfunction and pain caused by someone’s decisions. It shows the contrasts and possibilities and how choices rooted in Love will endure.

The Walker family is a favorite fictional family of mine….the type one can almost believe is real. Or wants and hopes is real, if only for a dynamic to exist in the world that mirrors the shared ups and downs of life with a group of people that LOVES and CARES and finds JOY amidst all the heartaches and challenges.

Reader friends, you will not want to miss out on the perfection that is All This Time. From the caffeine obsessed characters to the endearing kids that show up on the page to the resonating message of hope and family, this story is one that works its way into your heart and memory like an honest friend.

AND, because Melissa and I are obsessed with NEEDTOBREATHE (ok, Melissa probably more so), here’s a song that matches Bear’s character arc wonderfully. Melissa manages to work in a “tiny” reference to this song somewhere in All This Time. If you’ve read the book, did you spot it?

My reviews of the rest of the series:

#1 From the Start | #2 Like Never Before | #3 Keep Holding On

Interview with the Author

Melissa, thank you for graciously agreeing to this interview!

What was the inspiration behind the town of Maple Valley?

Great question! When I first started the Walker series, I knew I wanted to come up with a fictional town…because when you set a book in a real town, anyone who lives there loves to get picky about how accurately you portray it. LOL! And I knew I wanted it to be a quirky, small town.

Maple Valley was most inspired by Boone, Iowa. It’s funny—I’ve only been to Boone a few times, but every time, I just think it’s a cute little town. There’s a heritage railroad just like the one in Maple Valley. But I also drew inspiration from my hometown of Webster City, Iowa‑—the library in Maple Valley, especially, was inspired by my hometown library—and Little Falls, Minnesota, which is steeped in Charles Lindbergh history!

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

I hope this story leaves readers thinking about what it means to truly be vulnerable…to be in real relationships. There’s a spot in All This Time where Raegan and her dad are finally getting honest with each other about some things and Raegan makes the remark, “Why do we keep anything from the people we love?” Raegan’s whole journey is about learning to live authentically with the people she loves, to stop letting fear hold her back from true relationships. Personally, that’s a hard thing for me. Even with the people I love most, I’m not always willing to bare my heart. I heard someone say once that most people are willing to go 90% of the way in relationships, but that even with the people we’re closest to, we leave 10% unsaid. That’s stuck with me ever since he said it. Raegan’s journey is about being brave enough to go that last 10%…and I hope that’s something that impacts readers as much as it impacted me.

I think that’s one of the deeper points of this story —- it definitely impacted me!

What was most challenging about writing the final Walker novel?

Probably the thing that was hardest was simply knowing it was the final book in the series! I know I joke a lot about how much I love my fake people, but I’m really not exaggerating when I say that writing these books changed me. Every one was a personal, vulnerable journey. I kept putting off writing “The End” on this last one simply because I wasn’t ready to be done.

The other challenging thing was simply finding space for each Walker to sort of have their moment in this last story! I really wanted it to be a satisfying ending for readers, but giving each character a proper send-off without the book turning out to be a thousand pages long was quite the challenge.

I believe you achieved that balance! Reading this last book was bittersweet but wonderful… it was so good to see everyone in a “happy” place of their lives.

Which character was your favorite to write?

Logan! Oh wait, we’re talking about All This Time. But still…Logan! I don’t know if it’s obvious, but I looked for every excuse to bring him back into this book even though it wasn’t his story.

*jumping in* ❤ ❤ Logan!!!! ❤ ❤

But when it comes to the main characters of All This Time, I’d probably have to say Bear for two reasons: 1) I loooooved writing scenes in which he’s basically the cutest and greatest uncle ever and 2) In all the previous Walker books, Bear was like this elusive little mystery. He’d randomly show up, but we never knew much about him. So I loved getting to finally dive into his backstory and discovery who he really is.

And what a history he had! 🙂

For fun: Do you have any hobbies (besides coffee and being a Needtobreathe roadie)?

Haha! You listed two of my very favorite hobbies!

Other hobbies include reading (of course—I’m a bookworm to the core), traveling, spoiling my nieces and nephew and, as of late, racquetball. Not that I’m any good at it. But man, I love it!

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

Either the Gilded Age because, honestly, it just looks fun…or right in the late 1930s…before we dove into WWII and right when some of my verrrry favorite Golden Era Hollywood movies were making their way into the world.

What interesting choices!! Yay for the Golden Era, too!

What are you currently reading (or reading next)?

I’m a huge Sarah M. Eden fan and she just released the latest book in her Jonquil series and it was fantastic. And it made me want to reread her other books, so I went back and reread The Sheriffs of Savage Wells and died laughing/swooning all over again. Up next is Lady Jayne Disappears, which I’ve heard is an a-ma-zing debut!

Finally, you have another Christmas novella set to release this year. Tell us about it!

I do indeed and oh my, I haven’t laughed this much while writing a story in a long time. One Enchanted Noel is the story of Leigh Renwycke and Seb Pierce…or Sebastian Parker Pierce III if you want the full spiel. Seb comes to Maple Valley to renovate an old theater and he is not excited to be there. Leigh is a restless single mom struggling to leave her past in the past. And I had a crazy amount of fun writing their meet-cute!

Oh, that sounds amazing! Yay for another Tagg story in 2017! 🙂 Thank you so much for taking the time to talk with me about your books. I know my readers will love getting this peek into your brain, too!

About the Author

Melissa Tagg

Melissa Tagg is a former reporter, current nonprofit grant writer, and total Iowa girl. She’s the author of the Walker Family series, the Where Love Begins series, and the Enchanted Christmas novella collection. Her books have made both the Publisher’s Weekly Top Ten and Amazon.com bestselling lists. When she’s not writing, she can be found hanging out with the coolest family ever, watching old movies, and daydreaming about her next book. Melissa loves connecting with readers on her website.

Website | Facebook | Instagram  | Twitter

Author Pepper Basham ~ Behind the Scenes Interview + Book Recommendations

Join me today for a real TREAT! Author Pepper Basham has stopped by to answer a few interview questions in a “Behind the Scenes” look at a her writing and favorite elements of her own books. AFTER THAT, she’s shared some book recommendations in different genres!

Interview with the Author

Behind the Scenes Interview

Pepper, thank you SO MUCH for taking the time to share a little of your process and chat about all things bookish 😉

YAY, Courtney!! Thanks so much for letting me join you today. I’m so thankful for your excitement about my books and your amazing support of this crazy writing journey of mine 🙂

*blushes* All of the excitement is well-deserved!

Pepper BashamYou write both contemporary and historical romance. Do you have a preference for one or the other (is one easier to write?)?

Hmm, that’s a tough question because difficulty usually depends more on the story, for me, than the genre – though I have to say that the historical research takes longer (and can sometimes be much more distracting 😉 )

I can understand the distraction part! Just googling a fun historical fact can lead me on rabbit trails….

What is your favorite part of the writing process?

I LOVE the brainstorming part. Sorting out what’s going to happen to who and how – the creative process! That’s my favorite. I also LOVE interacting with readers. Without them, I’d be fangirling over my imaginary friends all by myself. That’s no fun 🙂

And you are so gracious in your interactions! Believe me, fangirling over imaginary friends is no hardship.

Have your characters ever surprised YOU with their choices, personality, etc.?

Oh yes!! Almost every book. In my upcoming November release, Charming the Troublemaker, the hero, Alex Murdock, completely surprised me with the depth of his character and…swooniness. I wasn’t expecting him to be so swoony. He’s still a little dorky, but…hmmmm…he’s swoony too.

Oh, I cannot wait to get to know him! We’ve already coined the hashtag #AdorkableAlex. I have no doubt he will live up to it!

Pepper’s personal “favorites” from her novels

Okay, when you ask for favorites you need to know that I have a REALLY hard time choosing just one! So I’ll answer with ONE of my favorites 😉

just-the-way-you-are-by-pepper-bashamWho is your favorite hero/heroine from your books?

Right now my favorite heroine is Eisley Barrett!! She has been the most entertaining character I’ve ever written. She’s funny, loyal, kind, creative, and she loves her family. Her insecurities keep her from believing the fairy-tale that’s happening to her – so that’s fun to watch too.

Favorite setting?

The Edwardian era OR the Blue Ridge Mountains

Favorite child or secondary character?

My favorite kid I’ve written so far is Pete from Just The Way You Are (JTWYA). He makes me smile so much. As far as secondary characters, that’s a toss-up between Mama Mitchell and Madame Rouselle.

10434342_10208660778057564_6749080948507090625_nFavorite KISS?

Nope, there is NO WAY I can choose one favorite. ONE of my favorites, however, is the first kiss between Catherine and David in The Thorn Keeper – the “you taste like Christmas” kiss. I also LOVE the closet kiss between Eisley and Wes (in JTWYA) because it’s SOOOOO funny!!!

*excuse me while I swoon and dream of all things Christmas*

Favorite funny moment?

One of my favorite funny scenes is the “creek scene” in JTWYA – oh my goodness, that one gets me tickled every time I read it. There’s a scene in my upcoming novel, Charming the Troublemaker, which has to do with underoos and mud…it’s hysterical!!

~Book recommendations from Pepper~

Which “Pepper” book should a reader start with?

The Thorn BearerThat all depends on what you like to read. For historical, I’d probably start with The Thorn Bearer, for contemporary???? If you like sweet romance, A Twist of Faith. If you like spicy romcom, definitely Just the Way You Are.

A book for someone new to the Christian fiction genre?

It depends on genre. Some great ‘crossover’-ish books would be those by Sara Ella, Mary Weber, Rachel McMillan. If they want some well written books that are thoughtful but overtly Christian, I’m a BIG fan of Siri Mitchell, Laura Frantz, and Denise Hunter.

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

Can it be nonfiction? (Yes!) Right now I’m reading Know Why You Believe and it’s amazing – really stretches you.

the-lady-and-the-lionheartAn independent/small time publishing book?

The Lady and the Lionheart by Joanne Bischof – I just started it and I know it’s going to be amazing.

And of course, a romance? ❤

Kissing Adrien by Siri Mitchell (or Chateau of Echoes or The Cubicle Next Door) – thoughtful but unique books. If you want more romance in the romance book, I’d choose Courting Morrow Little by Laura Frantz, A Noble Groom by Jody Hedlund, or A Convenient Groom by Denise Hunter.

What about you, Courtney? What would be one of your top romance recommendations?

Oh my goodness, no one has ever asked ME a question in an author interview! Hmm. You’ve mentioned (and written) some of my absolute favorites (The Thorn Keeper, Courting Morrow Little, The Lady and the Lionheart)!!!

How about 2 recent favorites? A contemporary– Jane of Austin by Hillary Manton Lodge, and a historical — A Name Unknown by Roseanna M. White.

About the Author

As a native of the Blue Ridge Mountains, Pepper Basham enjoys sprinkling her Appalachian into her fiction writing. She is an award-winning author of contemporary and historical romance, mom of five, speech-language pathologist, and a lover of Jesus and chocolate. She resides in Asheville, North Carolina with her family. You can learn more about her on her website, www.PepperDBasham.com or connect on Facebook or Twitter.

About the Book

Charming the TroublemakerPepper’s new contemporary romance, Charming the Troublemaker, releases November 1, 2017

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

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

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

Add to Goodreads | Preorder on Amazon

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

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

About the Book

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

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

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

Amazon | Goodreads

Interview with the Author

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

What inspired you to write A New Shade of Summer?

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

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

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

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

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

Which character was your favorite to write?

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

Just for fun:

Do you have any hobbies?

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

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

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

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

What are you currently reading?

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

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

About the AuthorNicole Deese

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

Website | Facebook | Twitter

Giveaway

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

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

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

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

About the Book

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

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

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

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

Interview with the Author

What inspired you to write Just Look Up?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Which character was your favorite to write?

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

He sounds like my kinda hero 😉

Just for fun: Do you have any hobbies? 

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

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

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

What are you currently reading?

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

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

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

 

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

 

 

Giveaway

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

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

Review, Author Interview, & GIVEAWAY: The Whys Have It by Amy Matayo

Today is a happy day because I get to share my thoughts on author Amy Matayo’s new indie release, The Whys Have It, along with a fabulous interview she took the time to do, AND a GIVEAWAY of a signed copy of this book (US only).

What makes this even more fun, for me, is knowing Amy Matayo is a local author, of sorts. I didn’t know this for a while, but thanks to social media (high-five!), I discovered Amy lives in a city not too far from me in the northwest corner of Arkansas. (Someday I plan to stalk her and meet her in person). Anyway, the setting of this book is also a city I go to at least a few times a year: Springfield, Missouri. I can attest that the feel of the setting Amy portrays is accurate…. from the June heat to the crazy storms, I loved the familiar feel of it.

Now, on to more about The Whys Have It…..

About the Book

“His music holds the heart of America…but his soul holds a terrible secret.” 

The Whys Have ItChart topping pop musician Cory Minor has it all—fame, money, more women at his disposal than time to spend on them. He’s living the life most American men only dream of. Until an ordinary concert in Springfield threatens to destroy everything he’s worked for. 

As he and his band leave the arena for his next show, Cory’s tour bus crashes into two teenage girls, killing one girl instantly and leaving the other barely clinging to life. Lawsuits are threatened, tabloids are talking, and Cory’s idyllic world falls apart. But what no one knows is that this scene is all too familiar. Because this isn’t the first accident Cory has caused. This isn’t the first time he’s destroyed someone else’s life to save his own. 

It’s just the first time he’s had to face it head on. 

Small town girl Samantha Dalton has no one—no mother, no father, and now no sister. She’s lost everything in a world that celebrates excess. So when Cory Minor shows up at her doorstep offering money and apologies, she turns him away too. You can’t lose what you don’t have, and she can’t take another letdown, especially not from someone who has managed to rip away all she had left. Samantha has been fine on her own for years, she’ll be fine now too. 

At least that’s what she tells herself. 

But Cory won’t leave. He’s persistent in the worst possible way. 

Will Cory’s determination to make things right pay off in the end, or will Sam keep pushing him away until there’s nothing left to fight for? How can two people learn to rely on each other when life keeps hurting them both? 

Review

AM - TWHI (8)Life is full of challenges. For Cory and Sam in The Whys Have It, life dealt them unfortunate tragedies and pain. Ironically, each of them chose to react in opposite ways: Sam, to forge ahead, sometimes in bitterness, even at the cost of her own happiness. Cory, to run away, try to dull the pain with vices, and give in to self-loathing. The contrast between these responses is brought to life in the dynamic of their unlikely friendship. They gradually learn from each other, realizing hope is really worth the risk and second chances are possible through forgiveness.

Amy Matayo’s style is brilliantly complex. She portrays the emotional turmoil of grief, the lingering shadows of regret, and the ache of loss in the most relatable of ways. A light of joy shines through it all for Cory and Sam, though, sometimes in a small moment of camaraderie or friendship, eventually growing into a romance. I liked how their relationship showed what it means to accept another person for who they are, disregarding expectations or what they might deserve because of mistakes.

AM - TWHI (5)I’m beginning to recognize Amy’s signature snarky sense of humor she pours into her novels. At times it’s laugh-out-loud sarcastic, at others it had Sam (and maybe me) blushing from the double entendré of Cory’s unfiltered flirting. 🙂

The Whys Have It cleverly sits on a blurred line between secular and Christian fiction. Just enough portrayal of faith and a belief in a higher purpose combined with just enough grittiness and candor to push me out of my reading “comfort zone”, so to speak. I believe this novel will have a broader appeal because of its relatable style and the way it handles subjects like grief, forgiveness and even romance with a raw honesty. If you’re a fan of contemporary drama/romance, indie Christian ficiton, or even new adult romance, this is one story not to be missed!

Thank you to Relz Author Support Services and the author for a complimentary review copy of this novel. This is my honest review.

Interview with the Author

What inspired you to write The Whys Have It?

Seven years ago something happened in my hometown. A local high school girl went to a concert and was killed in a car accident on the way home. The accident didn’t involve the musician, but he did make a statement the next day. His statement stuck with me; the sadness in his tone, the underlying sense of guilt in his words. He wasn’t at fault, but I began to wonder what might have happened if he had been more involved. It’s the way my brain works. I read something–even something small–and my mind begins to spin. Originally I planned to make it more like the actual events. Later I decided to separate the two out of respect. Hopefully I have done that.

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

That forgiving yourself is as important as forgiving others. That you can’t outrun your past, but you can stand in place and face your future. That mistakes don’t have to define you; it is possible to start over and make a new ending. And that you are worthy of love, always.

What was most challenging about writing this story?

That I don’t plot. It’s always my biggest obstacle, because almost everything is off the cuff. I wish I were more organized, but I’ve come to terms with it.

Which character was your favorite to write?

Cory, because he’s the guy. The men are always my favorite, because I relate to them the most and they are sooooo much easier.

Just for fun:

Do you have any hobbies?

Well, writing and reading are my number one and two. After that–and to relieve stress–I paint (walls and furniture because I have no artistic talent), and I have a zigsaw for woodworking. And I walk all over my neighborhood every night, which is totally not a hobby but it’s somehow one of mine.

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

I would live next door to Anne of Green Gables and we would be bosom friends. I’m going to Prince Edward Island with my daughter in a couple weeks for this reason. Maybe if I wish hard enough?

What are you currently reading?

FanGirl by Rainbow Rowell

About the Author

AmyMatayoAmy Matayo is an award winning author of The Wedding Game, Love Gone Wild, Sway, In Tune with Love, A Painted Summer, The End of the World, and The Thirteenth Chance. She graduated with barely passing grades from John Brown University with a degree in Journalism. But don’t feel sorry for her – she’s super proud of that degree and all the ways she hasn’t put it to good use.

She laughs often, cries easily, feels deeply, and loves hard. She lives in Arkansas with her husband and four kids and is working on her next novel.

Connect with Amy

Website | Twitter | Facebook

Giveaway

Now, on to the giveaway fine print! Giveaway is for one (1) signed paperback, U.S addresses only, please. Giveaway is open 1 week until 7/13/17, 11:59 pm. CT.

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Book Spotlight, Author Interview & GIVEAWAY: My Unexpected Hope by Tammy L. Gray

Welcome! I want to wish the happiest of book birthdays today to author Tammy L. Gray for her new release, My Unexpected Hope, an inspirational contemporary romance. She has dropped by the blog today for an interview AND is graciously giving away a signed paperback copy of this new release here ony my blog! First, here’s a little more about the book…..

About the Book

My Unexpected Hope by Tammy L. GrayAfter a year of grieving her divorce and living a life permanently stuck on pause, Laila Richardson is finally ready to have her own happy ending. Then a listing for a quaint cottage in another town answers her prayers for a fresh beginning—one that will bring her closer to her new boyfriend, Ben. Unfortunately, in her small town of Fairfield, Georgia, letting go of the past is virtually impossible. No one wants to see her move on, including the man who destroyed her heart to begin with.

Chad Richardson has spent years in misery but finally has his life on somewhat stable ground. When he learns his ex-wife is dating, he knows it’s time to go back and fight for the life he abandoned. Bolstered by his newfound sobriety, Chad has every intention of winning back the woman he loves, even if that means facing old demons that are waiting for him to fail.

Passions run deep as two souls searching for a second chance find the courage to let go of old patterns. Can they recognize that their dreams are still possible, even when forged from a broken past?

Interview with the Author

What inspired you to write My Unexpected Hope?

Laila and Chad were first introduced in My Hope Next Door. I fell in love with their story and wanted them to have a happy ending. I also felt that divorce really hadn’t been explored much in Christian fiction and felt it should be.

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

I wanted to write a believable reconciliation while showing that the baggage we bring into a marriage impacts both parties and must be dealt with. I also wanted to show hope for addiction through Christ.

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

Time period and place wasn’t as much of a challenge as was the subject matter. Writing a hero who struggled with addiction was very difficult. I needed to show the realism of his life-long battle while also shedding light on how victory can be found in Christ.

Which character was your favorite to write?

Katie. She’s still one of my favourite female characters I’ve ever written and getting to show her in a new role as a mentor and friend, while still keeping that spunk she has, was a lot of fun.

Just for fun: Do you have any hobbies? 

Yes, and it’s rather cliché for an author. I love to read. It’s what I do in my down time.

Reading isn’t too cliché, it’s the BEST hobby! 

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

Unfortunately history has not been so kind to women, so I’m not sure my strong personality would fit in any historical time. But it would be very cool to witness the New Testament first hand.

What are you currently reading?

That answer changes daily! J But the most recent one I’ve picked up is Always and Forever, Lara Jean by Jenny Han.

Thank you so much, Tammy, for taking the time to answer my questions! I (and my readers) love hearing about the themes and inspiration behind a story. I look forward to reading My Unexpected Hope soon!

About the Author

IMG_3789 small (1)Tammy L. Gray lives in the Dallas area with her family, and they love all things Texas, even the erratic weather patterns. She writes modern Christian romance with true-to-life characters and culturally-relevant plot lines. She believes hope and healing can be found through high quality fiction that inspires and provokes change.

Tammy is often lauded for her unique writing style within the inspirational genre, preferring to use analogies verses heavy-handed spiritual content. Her characters are real, relatable and deep, earning her a 2017 RITA award nomination in the Romance with Religious and Spiritual Elements category. Tammy currently has six published works available with the seventh, My Unexpected Hope releasing June 2017.

When not chasing after her three amazing kids, Tammy can be spotted with her head in a book. Writing has given her a platform to combine her passion with her ministry.

Tammy L. Gray has lots of projects going on. For all the latest info, visit her website at http://tammylgray.com and sign up for her periodic newsletter.

Tammy says: I’d love to hear from all of you! Come join me on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/tlgraybooks or Instagram and Twitter (@tlgraybooks)

Giveaway

Now, on to the giveaway fine print! Giveaway is for one (1) signed paperback, U.S addresses only, please. Giveaway is open 1 week until 7/4/17, 11:59 pm. CT.

To enter, comment with a valid email address and answer one of these questions: What is one of your favorite contemporary romances? OR What is one tough subject you would like to see addressed in a novel?

Review & Author Interview: With You Always by Jody Hedlund

I ALWAYS love it when a novel shines light on a lesser-known historical fact, era, or event. Often, there is nothing more fascinating that real life. In this case, the time period is 1850s New York to Illinois, during a challenging economic downturn. This was especially hard on immigrant families, and subsequently children AND women were sent west to find a better life, on what is now known as the Orphan Train. With You Always by Jody Hedlund tells a fictional story based on the journeys many women took to provide a better life for their families. Read on for more about the book, my review, and an interview with Jody Hedlund!

About the Book

When a financial crisis in 1850s New York leaves three orphaned sisters nearly destitute, the oldest, Elise Neumann, knows she must take action. She’s had experience as a seamstress, and the New York Children’s Aid Society has established a special service: placing out seamstresses and trade girls. Even though Elise doesn’t want to leave her sisters for a job in Illinois, she realizes this may be their last chance.

The son of one of New York City’s wealthiest entrepreneurs, Thornton Quincy faces a dilemma. His father is dying, and in order to decide which of his sons will inherit everything, he is requiring them to do two things in six months: build a sustainable town along the Illinois Central Railroad, and get married. Thornton is tired of standing in his twin brother’s shadow and is determined to win his father’s challenge. He doesn’t plan on meeting a feisty young woman on his way west, though.

Find With You Always on Amazon | Goodreads

Review

With You Always by Jody Hedlund.jpgAuthor Jody Hedlund dependably pens characters with well-established personalities. I loved the nurturing tendencies of Elise and the gentlemanly determination of Thornton. It *did* take me a few chapters to really settle into the plot and the direction the story was taking, but I empathized with the characters immediately, especially concerning the plight of Elise and her family.

I liked that the challenges both Elise and Thornton face are not only tactile and physical but also challenges to their very hearts. Elise, for instance, faces finding a place for her family AND coming to terms with her faith that God is constant, and for her. Thornton deals with the manner of proving himself; whether choosing to set aside his pride is worth a greater, selfless task he can accomplish in the wake of his dreams.

Through the ups and downs of Elise and Thornton’s intersecting journeys, a sweetly natural romance emerges. Jody handles this with her signature style (read: era-appropriate swooniness) and realistic conflicts. The romance combines with the threads of faith, a story of finding a “true home”, and the belonging found with friends in a close community to make With You Always a rich story AND a lovely introduction to a new series.

Thank you to Bethany House Publishers for the complimentary review copy of this book. This review is my honest opinion.

 

Interview with the Author

What is the inspiration behind your new Orphan Train series?

I have long been fascinated by the era of the Orphan Trains and the heart-wrenching stories of the homeless and helpless young orphans that were taken from the streets of New York City and other eastern cities and shipped West by the dozens. I was familiar with stories of those scared orphans who were placed out in what was thought to be a more wholesome, healthy environment of the newly settled Mid-Western states. Some of the orphans found happy endings and were adopted into loving families. Others experienced great abuse and heartache in their new homes.

While stories of the orphans who rode the trains have been told—and rightly so—the stories of the women who were involved in the movement are not as well known. One of the things I particularly like to do when telling my stories, is focus on women who have been overlooked by the pages of history. I consider it a great privilege to be able to bring forgotten women to life for our modern generation. Thus, throughout this series, I’ll be focusing each book on a different aspect of the Orphan Train movement, particularly from the perspective of women who experienced riding the trains in one form or another.

What do you hope readers take away from With You Always?

One of my hopes in telling this story is to leave readers with the reminder that God is walking with us in whatever dark valley we’re going through. Often, like Elise, we tend to pull away from God and let the bitterness of our circumstances drive us into a cave of isolation and self-blame and heartache. But God wants us to realize that even if we pull away from Him, He’s still there walking by our side, waiting for us to reach out our hand and grab ahold of Him. He never leaves us or forsakes us. He’s there waiting.

An e-novella, An Awakened Heart, kicks off the series. What is the novella about, and is it a must-read in order to understand the series?

An Awakened Heart is not a must-read in order to understand the series. But I do highly recommend reading it. (Plus it’s FREE, so you have nothing to lose by giving it a try!) The e-novella introduces a couple, Guy and Christine, who are both passionate about helping the poor immigrants crowded into the overflowing and dirty tenements of New York City. The novella shows their efforts to bring about change in the city, but also brings them together in a satisfying love story.

The novella also introduces the three orphan sisters who will each become main characters for the three full-length novels in the series. It gives some of the background information on their situation, particularly how they become orphans, which I think readers will find helpful as well as informative.

What are you working on next?

The second book in the orphan train series releases next summer in 2018. The story continues with Marianne Neumann. She gets involved in the orphan train movement as one of the placing agents and accompanies the orphans as they ride the trains west. I hope readers will enjoy Marianne’s story and also appreciate learning more about the orphan train movement from the eyes of the compassionate workers who tried to place the orphans into new homes.

Connect with Jody

Facebook  | Twitter | Author Website | Instagram | Pinterest

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