Review, Snippet, & Giveaway: “After the Rain” by Brandy Bruce ~ Blog Tour

Review, Snippet, & Giveaway: “After the Rain” by Brandy Bruce ~ Blog Tour

After the Rain Blog Tour

About the BookT

Series: Sequel to The Last Summer

Genre: Adult, Christian, Contemporary, Fiction, Inspirational, Romance

Publisher: Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas

Publication date: February 4, 2019

Debra Hart is moving on. Maybe. Hopefully. One day.

As a radio show host, Debra spends her mornings as Miss Lonely Heart on air, empathizing with all the broken hearts in the Denver metro area. She spends her evenings watching old musicals and trying not to think about the guy who broke up with her and subsequently fell in love with one of her best friends. Alone in a new city, Debra questions where she belongs and who she is now. When she stumbles into the indie music scene, Debra meets singer Ben Price. Rock star appeal, with a day job as a worship pastor, Ben is everything Debra wants to avoid. But he’s determined to be her friend, and it so happens she could really use one. Because try as she might, nothing seems to erase the anger and betrayal she feels. It’s time for a new dream. But how does she start over when she doesn’t even know what she wants anymore?

GOODREADS | AMAZON

About the Author

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Brandy Bruce is a mom to three kids, a wife, a writer, a book editor, and someone who really loves dessert. She and her family make their home in the beautiful state of Virginia.

FACEBOOK | TWITTER | PINTEREST | INSTAGRAM | WEBSITE

Review

After the Rain is an emotional story that will grab your heart, all about GROWING. Much more than a romance, it is especially relevant for all 20-somethings searching for home and friendship. It’s one book I will reread with a happy smile (and I know I’ll see more layers of the characters upon a reread!).

I wasn’t sure I would 100% like Debra because of things that happened in The Last Summer, but wow how people (or characters) can be surprising! Seeing her life through her perspective not only made me think differently about events that happened in the previous book, but made me have more empathy and understanding of her behavior. This story, for her, meant change and pain and things that weren’t comfortable or what she expected, but by the story’s end, her identity is stronger and her life is a different kind of happy.

I especially enjoyed all the music aspects of this story, from a rockstar hero (who is the. kindest. ever.) to the music/theatreish quotes at the beginning of each chapter.

Let’s talk about the ROMANCE! It’s wonderful. Ben, the hero, is dimensional and complex, even though we never read things from his POV. (A feat worth noting because I think it requires major writing skills to write a main character this way!) The way Ben loves Debra just as she is mirrors God’s love for us, something not shied away from in the story. And Debra sure doesn’t make it easy for him. 😉 Faith and all its challenges, struggles, and even doubts are candidly expressed and remain an important part in Ben and Debra’s lives.

Amidst all the poignant complexity and slow growth of Debra’s relationships with her newfound friends, the adventurous side of Colorado living is included (rafting, hiking, zip lining, ohmy!)! I enjoyed this aspect, especially, because my family vacationed in CO many times when I was growing up.

I also really loved the friendships and “normal” things of the story, like falling asleep in the car on a long drive, toddler shenanigans, neighbors. Community. How change sometimes means discomfort and a new kind of normal. And how, through all of this, God remains constant, even when it’s hard to hear Him.

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

Snippet

Deb, I miss you. I think about you. Just wanted to say it again. I read the text from Lillian—Lily—Spencer as the elevator doors opened. Then I tucked the phone into my small purse. I walked toward the exit of the condominium building I called home now, catching a glimpse of myself in one of the mirrors on the wall.This woman—with short hair, ringlets barely brushing my shoulders. Dark colors, chocolate-colored eyeliner—nervous about a simple thing like going to a coffee bar. I didn’t recognize her. I stopped mid-hallway and leaned against the wall, my heart hurting.

I’m starting all over.

No.

I closed my eyes. I’d cried all the tears already. None were left. But the pain didn’t stop. A reminder of how much I’d loved Luke Andersen. How ready I’d been to link my story to his for forever. But he’d chosen my friend Sara. Quiet, lady-like, sophisticated, predictable Sara. “Debra?” My eyes opened. Cassidy and Jake, my neighbors, stood in the hallway, looking worried. I must have seemed ill. With one hand, Jake carried a baby car seat, inside it their five-month-old daughter, Gilly, slept soundly. I pushed myself off the wall. “I’m okay,” I said without eye contact. I walked straight out of the building, to my car, and drove downtown.

Giveaway

ATR Blog Tour Giveaway

Giveaway includes the following:

  • Print copy (or e-copy if they want)
  • Umbrella
  • After the Rain guitar-pick necklace
  • DVD of Grease
  • Beatles quote mug
  • Coffee warmer
  • Earbuds
  • After the Rain bookmark
  • Notepad
  • Candy

Enter the giveaway HERE. Giveaway is subject to policies HERE.

Tour Schedule

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Review: “Bear No Malice” by Clarissa Harwood

Review: “Bear No Malice” by Clarissa Harwood

Last year, a favorite author’s praise prompted me to branch out and read a general fiction title, Impossible Saints. It ended up being one of my favorite reads of the year, and one I revisited recently as its sequel, of sorts, just released!

Bear No Malice by Clarissa Harwood is more like a companion novel whose timeline matches events of Impossible Saints. It focuses on a minor character from book 1 whose role was nearly that of a villain. I really loved this shift in perspective and how it introduces the idea that we all have unique perceptions of our actions and of others. Enough about my thoughts for the moment, here’s more book info and my wordy review!

About the Book

Beaten and left for dead in the English countryside, clergyman and reformer Tom Cross is rescued and nursed back to health by Miranda and Simon Thorne, reclusive siblings who seem to have as many secrets as he does. Tom has spent years helping the downtrodden in London while lying to everyone he meets, but now he’s forced to slow down and confront his unexamined life.

Miranda, a skilled artist, is haunted by her painful past and unable to imagine a future. Tom is a welcome distraction from her troubles, but she’s determined to relegate him to her fantasy world, sensing that any real relationship with him would be more trouble than it’s worth. Besides, she has sworn to remain devoted to someone she’s left behind.

When Tom returns to London, his life begins to unravel as he faces the consequences of both his affair with a married woman and his abusive childhood. When his secrets catch up with him and his reputation is destroyed, he realizes that Miranda is the only person he trusts with the truth. What he doesn’t realize is that even if she believes him and returns his feelings, he can’t free her from the shackles of her past.

Goodreads | Amazon

Review

Bear No Malice is literary fiction at its best, with a vivid historical setting and a story that unfolds with a delicate complexity. Its Dickens-like intricacy takes the reader on a journey right alongside Tom and Miranda as they grow through friendship and exhibit unconditional love (not just in romance but with friends, with family) through mistakes, forgiveness, and reconciliation.

At times, Bear No Malice made me laugh with its tiny bits of humor (the fish fork!) then wrenched my heart out, all in one chapter. Mostly it wrenched my heart out and put it back together one tiny piece at a time. The telling of the story is a TREAT with its brilliant pacing (just slow enough to leave you wanting more of Tom’s, and especially Miranda’s, backstories) and sloooow building romance. But oh, how it pays off and is exquisite! Sometimes, though, I would forget I was reading historical fiction because the characters are so relatable and the emotions raw.

Tom and Miranda are good for each other because he’s magnetic and opinionated and she’s quiet and steady, yet just as stubborn and steadfast. Their personalities complement and spur each other to grow beyond themselves. Part of the brilliance of Tom and Miranda is that I saw myself in their humanity. I am like Miranda in several ways, not that I have experienced anything like her journey, but that her character was so real on the page I could identify with her longings. Her sometimes-reserved, sometimes opinionated ways. And even Tom and his ultimate need for reconciliation, his desire to serve others. They exemplify flawed and grace-covered people.

Another wonderful thread of this novel is its message of grace. It is subtle yet still a beacon for the perceptive reader. The message of the Gospel is portrayed as inherent to the characters, a refreshing and beautiful inclusion for the general fiction market. Tom and Miranda experience things and make choices rarely found in the inspirational genre. This freedom and space to candidly explore such situations makes the story all the more powerful because this novel has such a message of grace and forgiveness, of peace and homecoming, at its heart. **now is a good time for me to mention the content of this novel. It’s clean, with very few mild expletives (I could count them on one hand)**

Beyond the character journey, this novel also draws attention to social issues of the era, such as poverty, penitentiary conditions (kinda like halfway houses of the time), and the evolving roles of women. All of this functions to shine a light on our modern ideas, standards, and complacency, in a positive manner. I believe its intent is for the reader to look around and take note of his or her own community and opportunities. 🙂 For me, it was encouraging.

Thanks to the publisher and Netgalley for the review copy. This is my honest review.

Check out my review of Clarissa Harwood’s previous book Impossible Saints

Review: “In the Shadow of Croft Towers” by Abigail Wilson

I am always excited about finding new authors to love. Debut author Abigail Wilson is one I am extremely happy to have discovered — she is a gracious person and a wonderful storyteller! Her debut, In the Shadow of Croft Towers, recently released from Thomas Nelson. It is an exciting historical mystery and romance, complete with spies, a grand country estate, questions of inheritance, and a likable heroine.

About the Book

From debut author Abigail Wilson comes a mysterious Regency tale of secrets and spies, love and treachery.

Orphaned Sybil Delafield jumps at the opportunity for a position at the mysterious Croft Towers. She believes she was hired to act as companion to a dying woman, but a highway robbery and a hostile welcome from the Chalcroft family cause her to wonder if she was actually hired to help someone spy for France.

An unsolved murder adds intrigue to this already secretive family, and Sybil recognizes Mrs. Chalcroft’s handsome grandson as one of the infamous highwaymen who robbed her. Sybil must determine if this man’s charming smile and earnest eyes speak the truth or if he is simply using her like others in the house. Everyone seems to have something to hide, and Sybil must decide who to trust while also coming to terms with the truth about her own past.

Goodreads | Amazon

Review

In the Shadow of Croft Towers is an engrossing escape to the countryside of Regency England. With a web of mystery (and highwaymen!), Sybil Delafield navigates the secrets of the inhabitants of a grand estate, all the while searching for her own answers. The rare first person POV enhances the swirling secrets and makes Sybil’s character endearing. The mystery itself is a brilliant web with some elements that kept me guessing until the very end, and a couple I saw coming — but nonetheless, I enjoyed the reactions of the characters as they discovered the true answers and reasons for certain characters’ behavior. The hero of the story, Mr. Sinclair, is as dashing, chivalrous, and witty as one could hope for — and a smart match to Sybil, treating her as an equal yet being wonderfully protective when the situation required.

This is a debut novel worthy of your time, especially if you are a fan of historical romance and mystery. I look forward to the next book in the series, Midnight on the River Grey, and anything else Ms. Wilson plans to write!

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

Mini Review: “A Bound Heart” by Laura Frantz

Reading a Laura Frantz book is always an experience, one to be savored with her lyrical prose, genuine characters, and heart-journey of a story. Her latest release, A Bound Heart, is as wonderful and poetic as I expected!

About the book: Though Magnus MacLeish and Lark MacDougall grew up on the same castle grounds, Magnus is now laird of the great house and the Isle of Kerrera. Lark is but the keeper of his bees and the woman he is hoping will provide a tincture that might help his ailing wife conceive and bear him an heir. But when his wife dies suddenly, Magnus and Lark find themselves caught up in a whirlwind of accusations, expelled from their beloved island, and sold as indentured servants across the Atlantic. Yet even when all hope seems dashed against the rocky coastline of the Virginia colony, it may be that in this New World the two of them could make a new beginning—together. 

Goodreads | Amazon

My thoughts: A Bound Heart is an intricately beautiful story of strength, faith, and romance, this sweeping tale stretches from the shores of Scotland to the wild risk and unknowns of Virginia (& beyond) during the height of the tobacco trade. Through it all, Lark and Magnus become increasingly beloved characters as they endeavor cling to their faith, navigate the changing world around them, and puzzle the inexplicable tie that binds them to one another. It was a joy to read this story and feel like a firsthand witness to the quiet strength of Magnus and the intelligent fortitude of Lark, experiencing all the ups and downs of their journeys, from the amusing antics of a wee child to a seafaring voyage full of danger to the wonder of fireflies.

Series Review: “Blue Ridge Romance” by Denise Hunter

It’s always fun to binge-read a series, especially when it’s by an author I always enjoy. The “Blue Ridge Romance” series by Denise Hunter is one I worked through in the past couple weeks. It was a fictional getaway, of sorts, with its peach and honeysuckle moments in the middle of my winter season. I’m reviewing the series today! Each book can stand on its own, though it reads well as a series.

About the Books

Blue Ridge Sunrise

Former free spirit Zoe Collins swore she’d never again set foot in Copper Creek or speak to the man who broke her heart. But return she must when her beloved Granny dies, leaving the family legacy to Zoe—a peach orchard nestled at the base of the Blue Ridge Mountains.

When Zoe returns home with her daughter and boyfriend Kyle, she finds that she’s the only person in town who doesn’t expect her to give up the life she’s established far away from Copper Creek. Everyone believes she was born to run the orchard, but how can she make it her home after so many years?

Cruz Huntley never quite got over his first love, Zoe Collins, the little sister of his best friend Brady. Not when she cheated on him during their “break,” not when she took off to parts unknown with good-for-nothing Kyle Jenkins, and not even now—five years later.

As life-changing decisions and a history with Cruz hang over Zoe’s head, tensions rise between her and Kyle. Even as she comes to terms with the shifting relationships in her life, Zoe still isn’t sure if she can remain in Copper Creek with her new responsibilities . . . and her first love.

Honeysuckle Dreams

After Brady Collins’ ex-wife dies, he receives devastating news—his nine-month-old son Sam isn’t his son at all. And Sam’s wealthy maternal grandparents want custody of the child. Brady knows he’s in for the fight of his life. But regardless of what any blood test says, Sam is his son, and Brady will go to any lengths to keep him.

Brady’s attorney tips him off that one major life change would virtually assure him of winning guardianship of baby Sam at the final hearing: an impending marriage. And his friend Hope is willing to step in as the loving and devoted fiance.

Local radio celebrity Hope Daniels has been driven by a solitary goal her entire life, and after a happy accident she’s finally offered her dream job. But if the truth comes out about her arrangement with Brady, she may miss the chance of a lifetime and stand in the way of a dear friend’s dreams.

As Brady and Hope make sacrifices to help each other in their times of need, they risk uncovering a truth neither of them expects to find.

On Magnolia Lane

Falling in love with Daisy was easy for Jack. But finding the courage to tell her becomes problematic when his secret feelings lead to even bigger complications.

After two years of counseling sessions with Daisy Pendleton, Pastor Jack McReady has earned a permanent spot in her life as a spiritual leader—and nothing more. Jack would never risk losing her trust by exposing the depths of his heart, but he’s hopelessly in love with her.

Daisy loves her southern small-town life and her job at her family-run flower shop, but she doesn’t have the thing she longs for most: someone to share it with. Her recent foray into online dating has been a disaster—until she meets TJ.

Jack could kill his friend Noah for using his initials and some indistinct photos to set up a profile on the dating app Daisy is using. But when he’s finally afforded the opportunity to show her a different side of himself, he’s sucked into the plan before he has time for second thoughts.

Online, Daisy shares some of her greatest fears with TJ, but in person, Jack and Daisy are spending more time together. When a devastating family secret surfaces, Daisy knows that only her trusted friend and counselor can bring her comfort. Jack wants nothing more than to be both men for Daisy, but revealing his secret will prove to be the ultimate test of Daisy’s grace.

My Reviews

The “Blue Ridge Romance” series is thoroughly entertaining. Through various tropes (reunion, marriage of convenience, and a You’ve Got Mail-esque setup), overarching themes of HOPE and grace tie together this group of characters and friends in a delightful southern setting. All 6 of the main characters play prominent roles in each story, so their dynamic is expected from the beginning.

What I enjoyed most about Blue Ridge Sunrise was its second-chance romance that had a foundation from the start of the story.

I really liked Cruz and found his character arc to be important and heartfelt, I liked the dynamic he had with Zoe, and all the emotions (and chemistry) that went with their reconnecting. In my opinion, Zoe wasn’t always likable, or at least she didn’t stir as much empathy as I hoped she would as the story progressed. I understand her viewpoint and the mistakes she made that cause her current circumstances, but I felt like some of her decisions, even toward the end of the story, were lacking the amount of wisdom her arc required (and therefore felt a little contrived). 

A section of chapters are devoted to a flashback that comes at a key moment in establishing the characters’ depth. This was a device that added layers to the story and explained the history in a way that memories or shorter explanations would not have described. It worked well!

Honeysuckle Dreams is a delightful romance that explores the ties of family, the necessity of hope, and the risk (and faith) it takes to love deeply. A marriage of convenience trope is one of my favorites — and hard to pull of in a contemporary setting. But Brady and Hope exceed any expectations I had, committing for selfless reasons and growing from friendship into a relationship that’s swoony and tenderly romantic.

A few threads of the story could have been predictable, but they worked out early or in a different way than I expected, which was a pleasant surprise. The themes of this novel encompassed love, faith, and even delved into the personal insecurities and anxiety of Brady and Hope that stemmed from their past. This made the story even more meaningful and impactful for its resonant message of truth and bravery, of speaking up and honestly sharing your heart. It’s my personal fav of the series!

On Magnolia Lane was probably the sweetest romance of the series because it involved unrequited love and a growth from friendship. When I heard this story would be a spin on a “You’ve Got Mail” situation, I was intrigued! Pastor Jack’s relationship with Daisy on a dating website is the setup for a deeper relationship and the story’s complications.

In this case, Jack is aware he’s deceiving Daisy. I normally wouldn’t buy in to this setup so readily, but the lovelorn Jack and his consideration in being as honest as possible, even while not revealing his identity yet, just works. When the truth comes to light, it is a very important moment of growth and lesson for both Jack and Daisy, bringing to light how the best intentions can still result in hurt if they are not grounded on complete truth. Another large part of this book involved some life-altering family secrets Daisy contends with. This discovery matched with Daisy and Jack’s evolving relationship to challenge Daisy to see beyond herself in new ways, requiring her grace and strength.

Thank you to BookLook Bloggers and the publisher for the review copy of book 3. This is my honest review.

(Another) Guest Post: Indie Books

Recently, I was privileged to guest blog at my local library’s blog about historical romances in the Christian fiction genre that I highly recommend. TODAY, I’m a guest again talking all about my take on independently published fiction (click to visit!)and a few authors to check out. Also, my library group hosts a small book festival – see more info on the Berryville Book Buzz!

First Line Fridays # 23: In The Shadow of Croft Towers

It’s time for a new edition of First Line Fridays hosted by the Hoarding Books blog!

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Happy weekend! Book mail is a fun thing. Especially when you are expecting a few different books and it’s a little bit of a surprise each time one arrives (because you don’t know which it is!). It’s the little things in life that make me happy.

I received this pretty novel in the mail this week! In the Shadow of Croft Towers (by Abigail Wilson) is a Regency story that sounds wholly intriguing! I’m excited to read it soon, especially after glimpsing the first few lines. It releases onto shelves on 1/15.

First Line:

1813

The English Countryside

I often wonder what my life would have been like if I had never learned the truth.

Your turn! Find the book closest to you and share your first line in the comments! Then, head over to Hoarding Books for the linky and visit other FLF posts!