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

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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: “The Red Door Inn” by Liz Johnson

An idyllic setting and story of a search for purpose come together in the launch of a new series by author Liz Johnson with the first book, The Red Door Inn, book 1 of the Prince Edward Island Dreams series. This new contemporary romance has a relaxed, old-fashioned feel with nods to L.M. Montgomery’s literary influence on the setting.

The Red Door InnMarie Carrington is running from something, though little detail is first revealed as to what compels her to escape a life of privilege. She finds refuge on Prince Edward Island in Canada with an aspiring inn owner, Charlie. He recognizes a longing in Marie that goes beyond her current penniless circumstances and seeks to honor the memory of his wife by engaging Marie’s talent in interior design to add finishing touches to his inn. And, perhaps, offer a refuge to her wounded soul.

Complications arise when Marie discovers Charlie’s nephew, Seth, is a part of the project, as well. With relational baggage of his own and suspicions of Marie’s motives, his prickly reception of her proves challenging to her future and her heart. With a tourist season deadline and waning budget, these struggling souls must attempt to set aside any differences and unite to renovate the Red Door Inn. Add to GoodreadsIn
doing so, secrets from Marie’s former life cause her to question the impact her presence could make on the lives of the people she is starting to care for.

Against the backdrop of the enchanting setting and quaint B&B in the making, stories of broken pasts intertwine while Marie, Seth, and Charlie each face their own struggles with trust and finding new dreams. Memorable secondary characters offer insight and humor while secrets and romantic tension unfold between Marie and Seth. And, the main character of the second book is delightfully introduced by way of cinnamon rolls and scones.

Woven through it all is a theme of joy — sometimes found in the most unexpected places — and often preceded by struggles and heartache. It begs this question: How can you recognize true joy without experiencing its opposites, pain and conflict? Each character must reconcile this concept in some way, realizing different blessings along the way.

Liz Johnson’s style is easy to read and instantly draws in the reader with her phrasing and moments of subtle humor. She paints a colorful, magnetic community that offers Marie a sense of belonging she’s never experienced. All of this adds up to a full story that leaves the heart eager for the characters to find their own happily-ever-afters.

A few of my favorite things about this book: the best pet name ever, Chapter the cat; a few plot elements that revolve around an antique typewriter; and, the mouth-watering baking of Marie’s friend, Caden. She’s the set main character of book 2, and I’m already excited to see more of her.

Thank you to Revell Publishers for a review ARC in exchange for my honest review. A version of this review also appears on FamilyFiction.com.

The Thorn Bearer by Pepper D. Basham Blog Tour

The Thorn Bearer by Pepper D. Basham Blog Tour

 

 

The Thorn Bearer Tour BannerWelcome to my stop on the blog tour for The Thorn Bearer by Pepper D. Basham! Read on for my review and tons more info.

About the Book

The Thorn BearerSeries: Penned in Time

Genre: Fiction, Historical, Romance, Christian

Publisher: Vinspire Publishing, LLC

Publication date: May 7, 2015

Number of pages: 362

Add to Goodreads

Other books in the series:

#2-The Thorn Keeper (coming February, 2016)

#3-The Thorn Healer (coming TBD)

When Ashleigh Dougall’s fiancé leaves her eight months before their wedding, the unexpected blow ignites a battalion of insecurities stemming from her father’s intimate betrayal. In an attempt to escape her shame, Ashleigh boards the ill-fated Lusitania to cross the war-torn waters of Europe. Much to her dismay, she isn’t traveling alone. 

Sam Miller is always making up for his best friend’s mistakes. Determined to help his childhood friend, Ashleigh, he offers his compassion and companionship as she ventures across a perilous sea. With the faint hope of renewing his lost love for Ashleigh’s sister, Sam never expects to find the woman of his dreams in the love of his childhood friend. 

Neither are prepared for the life-altering and heart-breaking journey of their friendship.

Purchase on Amazon

About the Author

Pepper D. Basham

Pepper 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.

Pepper Basham Author Promo Video from Dan Phillips on Vimeo.

 

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

Book Snippet

The last remnants of the thick morning fog clung to the horizon, but with a bright sun overhead it promised a full evaporation within the hour. A mixture of relief and fear washed over her. Land. With the warnings of torpedoes, nothing looked more reassuring, but with landfall came a closer step to Catherine- and Ashleigh’s next conflict. What price would she have to pay to convince Catherine to be with Sam? Were there other romantic options in Edensbury besides her faithless sister?

“Are you alright?”

Sam’s voice broke through her thoughts.

“Why didn’t you bring your plate camera? Didn’t you say it made clearer photos?”

“It’s with my luggage.” He shook his head and placed his palm over his heart. “My pride and joy and much too nice a camera to toss around on the deck of a ship.”

His gaze held hers until she returned his smile. The power the man had over her was unnerving. Her stomach twisted at the thought. Another man with power over her? She stepped toward the railing and looked out toward the coastline. A gray-green mound broke the line of the horizon. Sunlight sparkled across the waves. She blinked her eyes open against the sun’s reflection on the horizon. It was easy to see God in the vastness of the sea and the strength of those waves. A frown pulled at her bottom lip. So where was all that power years ago? Did He even hear her cry for help? She closed her eyes to the sun’s warmth and breathed in the salty air as it sent her well-kept hair into chaos. Her thoughts almost formed into a prayer, years of habit and necessity. But He didn’t care.

“Ash, come take a look at this view.”

She pushed away her thoughts and walked to Sam’s side. Carefully she leaned close to the small leatherbound box on its precarious tripod perch. Sam hobby had grown into a little business back in Millington, even finding some of his photographs of Appalachia in a few magazines, but Ashleigh had never grown adept in working the tiny device. Her hand reached to steady the instrument and brushed against Sam’s fingers. She attempted to pull her hand back, but he captured her fingers and placed them on the side of the camera, firming his palm over them.

“Hold it like this.”

He stood behind her now, his arms hemmed her in on each side to steady the camera and his breath warmed her ear. She swallowed, or tried to, but her dry mouth wouldn’t cooperate. Stop these feelings, Ashleigh. Ignore them.

She forced the rising heat in her chest to chill and took a deep breath, attention fixed on the site through the lens. It was remarkable how one could frame a piece of the world. The monstrous ocean wasn’t as frightening in such small doses. In fact, the angle at which the sun glazed the water held a magical, almost hypnotic quality. So vast and mysterious, and yet as beautiful as starlight’s reflection in a pond.

“It’s beautiful. It truly frames the world.”

“One of the many reasons I’m obsessed with it, I think.” Sam’s voice smoothed past her ear. He guided the camera to a different scene, nearer the coast. She ignored the influence of his closeness to the chaos in the pit of her stomach. “Can you see the coast now?”

“Oh yes, it’s lovely.” She pulled back and smiled up at him, but hadn’t calculated his extreme closeness.

His face hovered just above hers, eyes so intense, she thought he might read her rebel thoughts. His brow tilted upward, slightly, as if he was searching for an answer to an unvoiced question.

She didn’t have an answer. She couldn’t have an answer.

As if drugged, she drew her attention from his and back to the camera lens. The sea rumbled out to meet the distant shore, waves as confused as the emotions crashing about in her heart. She couldn’t wait to get off of this boat. There would be plenty of opportunities to flee Sam’s closeness in Edensbury. She knew all the hiding places at her mother’s home.

As a child, hiding had been a survival skill honed to near-perfection.

She blinked the framed scene back into view. A strange stream of bubbles broke into her line of vision making a surprisingly straight path through the waves. A fish? Whale? Whatever it was, it moved fast.

“Sam, look here. There’s some strange fish coming up from the water toward the ship.”

His lips quirked into a doubtful smirk as he took the camera. “A fish coming toward the ship?” He peered through. “I don’t know of any fi—” His breath caught and his body stiffened. “No.”

His exclamation pierced through her and echoed from her own lips. “What, Sam? It can’t be—”

“Torpedo on the starboard side!”

The shout rang down from a place above her followed immediately by another from somewhere else on the boat. A chill trembled down her spine. Sam’s gaze locked with Ashleigh’s and everything slowed. Sounds muffled except for the thrumming of her heartbeat in her ears. Sam pushed his camera aside and took hold of her shoulders just as an explosion sent them staggering like ragdolls toward the railing. Ash and dust flew into the air and rained down upon them, a few pieces stinging against her back. No, dear Lord. We’ve been hit.

Review

My thoughts: This story has it all – it incorporates truth, complex yet imperfect characters, a historical setting that definitely captured my interest, drama, spunky secondary characters, banter between the hero and heroine, and a message of redemption.

Pepper’s style and turn of phrase is beautifully prose-like at times and concisely humorous at others. For example, look at these two quotes: “He laughed and the affection for her pinned into a deeper place in his chest.” or “Ash, your grandma is the picture of gentility and temperance, but we both know she has the persuasive abilities of a cattle prod.”

Because Sam and Ashleigh have a history and established friendship already, it lays the foundation for their relationship to progress romantically. And their romance is so sweetly portrayed in the story! But they face plenty of physical and emotional obstacles as they are swept into the conflict of WWI and deal with their own baggage and old scars.

Ashleigh’s relationship with her sister, Catherine, reminds me just the slightest of a couple of the sisters in A Passion Most Pure by Julie Lessman. While connected by family and blood, they are worlds apart by choice and a difference of perspective. While reading, we see glimpses of Catherine’s viewpoint and can understand her misguided motivations. I think that really encouraged empathy for both her character and Ashleigh and set up what’s to come in book 2.

Best of all, I enjoyed this story because of its message. Each character, even the secondary ones we meet and gain perspective from, has to deal with various choices, consequences, and decisions of forgiveness. Most prominent is Ashleigh’s past abuse and her reconciliation of it as something that doesn’t have to control her future any longer. Also, I liked that some of the initially unlikable people were changed through the story and not written off (and I’m excited we get more of their story in the next book!). Everyone is in need of grace, none deserve it, yet that is the gift we have through salvation in Christ.

Thank you to Singing Librarian Book Tours, Vinspire Publishing, and Pepper D. Basham for the review copy.

Giveaway

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Tour Schedule

January 25–Reading Is My SuperPower
January 26–Toni Shiloh Prayerfully-Lifted Romance
January 27–Bookworm Lisa | Singing Librarian Books
January 28–Griperang’s Bookmarks | The Green Mockingbird
January 29–Just Commonly | The Artist Librarian
January 30–Fictionally

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Review: “The Brontë Plot” by Katherine Reay

It’s really, really hard for me to describe my love for anything Katherine Reay writes. She is just amazing. If I had to narrow it down to one sentence, I’d say her stories, 3 for 3, are fresh, unexpected, real, and relational. Beyond that, even.

The Bronte Plot, books by Katherine Reay

She really has her own genre or style. She pays homage to classic literature and draws inspiration from those characters but definitely doesn’t retell those stories. Perhaps it’s that she understands the impact of story and her characters become subject to the lingering influence of classic literature. It’s clear Reay shares her own deep love of stories by her inclusion of them within hers. What’s the old quote that comes to mind, something like “first a reader, then a writer”?

Now, on to what this post is about. The brilliant Katherine Reay has recently released a new novel title The Brontë Plot. Read on for my review.

About the book: Lucy Alling makes a living selling rare books, often taking suspicious measures to reach her goals. When her unorthodox methods are discovered, Lucy’s secret ruins her relationship with her boss and her boyfriend James—leaving Lucy in a heap of hurt, and trouble. Something has to change; she has to change.

In a sudden turn of events, James’s wealthy grandmother Helen hires Lucy as a consultant for a London literary and antiques excursion. Lucy reluctantly agrees and soon discovers Helen holds secrets of her own. In fact, Helen understands Lucy’s predicament better than anyone else.

As the two travel across England, Lucy benefits from Helen’s wisdom, as Helen confronts the ghosts of her own past. Everything comes to a head at Haworth, home of the Brontë sisters, where Lucy is reminded of the sisters’ beloved heroines, who, with tenacity and resolution, endured—even in the midst of change.

Now Lucy must go back into her past in order to move forward. And while it may hold mistakes and regrets, she will prevail—if only she can step into the life that’s been waiting for her all along

My thoughts: Through the ups and downs of Lucy’s story, she finds herself isolated then unexpectedly accepted for who she is. She starts to see herself in the character of Edward Rochester. Hence, the parallels with Jane Eyre in title and character. Both (Lucy & Rochester) were only able to move on by going back, laying down past mistakes, accepting whatever consequences would come. Then, he got a triumphant ending. He found forgiveness and peace. Similarly, Lucy comes into her own by story’s end.

On a completely unrelated note, Reay uses fabulous words like quintessence, and gets away with it! (I have to give a shout-out to “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty” here.)

The thread of faith in this novel is less prominent, but still a constant presence, with a thread of drawing closer to God, that it is a constant effort. It explores themes of acceptance and mercy with characters who feel real.

Bear with me, because I am going to combine a Marvel reference with classic literature. This whole book is like the Captain America meme “I understood that reference.” Not overwhelming, like “there are so many literary references I don’t get it” – but like “oh, another reference I understand and that works perfectly here in this story!”. And if I can recognize these references, you can too. If you’re a fan of classic literature or contemporary fiction, please check out Katherine Reay soon.

*See my reviews of her previous novels: Dear Mr. Knightley and Lizzy & Jane*

Connect with Katherine on her website, Twitter, or Facebook.

Thank you to BookLook Bloggers, NetGalley, and Thomas Nelson for the complimentary review copy in exchange for my honest review.

Mini Review: “A Singular & Whimsical Problem” by Rachel McMillan

Today’s mini review is of a recent novella, A Singular & Whimsical Problem, a prequel to the upcoming “Herringford & Watts Mysteries” series by Rachel McMillan.

A Singular & Whimsical Problem by Rachel McMillan

If I had to choose 1 word to describe this novella, it would be endearing. 

More words: witty, intriguing, humorous, sweet. Yet still serious and emotional with depth to the characters. This was a fun glimpse of the characters in the upcoming series by Rachel. Yet make no mistake, this was not just an introduction to this world, but a great little mystery all its own. I can’t wait for more from these Herringford and Watts girls!

 

More about the novella: Christmas, 1910. Merinda Herringford and Jem Watts would be enjoying the season a lot more if they weren’t forced to do their own laundry and cooking. Just as they are adapting to their trusty housekeeper’s ill-timed vacation, they are confronted by the strangest mystery they’ve encountered since they started their private investigation firm.

In this bonus e-only novella, what begins as the search for a missing cat leads to a rabble-rousing suffragette and the disappearance of several young women from St. Jerome’s Reformatory for Incorrigible Females. From the women’s courts of City Hall to Toronto’s seedy docks and into the cold heart of the underground shipping industry, this will be the most exciting Christmas the girls have had yet…if they can stay alive long enough to enjoy it

Check out Rachel’s website for more info, her blog, or connect on social media (Twitter or Facebook).

Review: “From the Start” by Melissa Tagg

Author Melissa Tagg is my new BFF, she just doesn’t know it yet. Humor, family, caffeine, and classic movies – that’s what we have in common :). Her stories combine characters whose personalities jump off the page and make you laugh out loud while at the same time traversing the ups and downs of their journeys.

Her latest book, the first in a new (woohoo!) series, is From the Start — a story of Kate Walker and Colton Greene as they unexpectedly find themselves in small-town Iowa after trying circumstances force them to take a step back from their normal lives."From the Start" by Melissa Tagg.

Here’s a plot summary: Kate Walker used to believe in true love and happily ever after. While her own love life may have left her brokenhearted, it hasn’t kept her from churning out made-for-TV romance movie screenplays…until a major career slump and a longing to do something meaningful send her running back to her hometown of Maple Valley.

Permanently sidelined by an injury, former NFL quarterback Colton Greene is temporarily hiding out in a friend’s hometown to avoid the media and the reminders of all he’s lost. Maple Valley seems like the perfect place to learn how to adjust to normal life. The only trouble is he’s never really done normal before.

While Kate plays things safe and Colton is all about big risks and grand gestures, they both get what it’s like to desperately need direction in life. An unexpected project gives them both a chance to jumpstart their new lives, but old wounds and new dreams are hard to ignore. Starting over wasn’t part of the plan, but could it be the best thing that’s ever happened to them?

 

Kate Walker is very easy to relate to. She is independent and cares enormously for her family, while still remaining afraid of failure in love and her career. When she meets Colton Greene, also needing a new direction in life, they discover together that moving forward in life might require letting go of their own plans and trusting God for their futures.

I absolutely LOVE the classic movie and old Hollywood references in this book! Also, the small-town setting is portrayed in a realistic yet picturesque way. Can we just take a road trip to Maple Valley already?!

Melissa knows how to pen comical situations! I did find myself laughing mildly at some of Kate and Colton’s antics. And what a first meeting scene for them! You’ll just have to read it to find out how hilarious it is! (Have I used too may exclamation points in this review already? I don’t think so!)

Really though, there is a serious thread and a real transformation these characters go through. God doesn’t plan the same way we plan our lives – or even our daily circumstances. I say “way to go” to Melissa for clearly listening to God’s direction as she penned this story. The lessons these characters learn were an encouraging reminder for me personally, that we don’t need to micromanage every aspect of our lives because God is in control.

It was really awesome to see Melissa’s personality – and even her personal writing journey (see her blog) – shine through in Kate’s character. I can’t wait to see what’s next for the Walker clan!

*There is a free ebook prequel to this series, Three Little Words, available now! Let me say, it is really cute and a sweet introduction to Maple Valley!*

Thanks a million to Bethany House for the complimentary review copy in exchange for my honest review.