Review: “My Heart Belongs in the Blue Ridge: Laurel’s Dream” by Pepper Basham

The stories that are most impactful, to me, tend to have a setting that is as much a character and a dynamic part of the story. Author Pepper Basham is skilled in writing romances in many time periods, but most impressive is her ability to weave a culture through characterization and a vivid setting. As she claims, her Blue Ridge heritage of family and storytelling have clearly influenced her latest novel and its exposure of a culture at a time when the modern age was just having an impact on mountainous communities. All of this combines with a delicate love story to make My Heart Belongs in the Blue Ridge: Laurel’s Dream one of my favorites of the year!

About the Book

Journey into the Blue Ridge Mountains of 1918 where Laurel McAdams endures the challenges of a hard life while dreaming things can eventually improve. But trouble arrives in the form of an outsider. Having failed his British father again, Jonathan Taylor joins his uncle’s missionary endeavors as a teacher in a two-room schoolhouse. Laurel feels compelled to protect the tenderhearted teacher from the harsh realities of Appalachian life, even while his stories of life outside the mountains pull at Laurel’s imagination. Faced with angry parents over teaching methods, Laurel’s father’s drunken rages, and bad news from England, will Jonathan leave and never return, or will he stay and let love bloom?

Goodreads | Amazon

Review

Though mountain life might seem simple on the surface, it is anything but that for Laurel, her family, and her neighbors. While she dreams of an education and better opportunity for her own generation and beloved siblings, she grapples with a people and a culture dear to her yet challenging and wary of anything new.

Jonathan is the embodiment of such a challenge to her life. Through an unlikely friendship, he and Laurel learn just how similar their ambitions for betterment and common goals can help the community that ‘s increasingly dear to Jonathan. Through it all, a sweet romance becomes possible for them, if only her dreams and both of their family’s issues don’t stand in the way.

Pepper is known for writing a-ma-zing romances and relationships, and Laurel and Jonathan set the bar even higher. Theirs has the most tender and innocent friendship beginning ❤ of all of Pepper’s stories. (And I’ve read them all!!!) I think it’s the Britallachian combination of cultures paired with Pepper’s prose-like development of an enchanting setting that makes this story stand out.

Tender and sweet, Laurel’s Dream is an enlightening tale of family, hope, and ties of friendship that transcend culture. This story of camaraderie and romance is as breathtaking as an Appalachian autumn – and equally as colorful with its immersive setting and mountain folk. The sense of faith and understanding that God knows – and orchestrates – our dreams in ways we cannot imagine is a comfort as the last pages of this story are tied up with hope.

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

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Review: “Sons of Blackbird Mountain” by Joanne Bischof

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I’m not really sure how to introduce this book and story, other than to say it left me speechless and in awe of its beauty for several weeks. Getting to read an early copy of Sons of Blackbird Mountain was a privilege I apparently needed to form a coherent review! I highly recommend this story AND author — I hope you readers get to enjoy a Joanne Bischof story soon!

About the Book

Sons of Blackbird MountainWhen Aven Norgaard leaves Norway to serve as housekeeper to her late husband’s cousins in Appalachia, she expects lads in need of care, not three grown men—each in need of a wife and bound by a powerful brotherhood. As the men carve out a living by brewing artisan liquor, young Haakon’s pursuit tempts Aven’s lonely spirit . . . but it is his deaf brother, Thor, whose silent strength shows her the depths of real love.

Unable to speak to any woman, Thor Norgaard never anticipates Aven will befriend him, let alone treat him as her safe harbor. Though hard cider is their livelihood and his greatest talent, he fights his way to sobriety with Haakon’s help, defying the bottle for Aven’s hand—only to face a battle of the heart that tests even the strongest bonds of brotherhood.

Goodreads | Amazon

Review

Sons of Blackbird Mountain is an achingly beautiful story of brotherhood and romance. The quiet strength and vibrancy of the characters, especially the main viewpoints of Thor and Aven, combine with an atmospheric setting and compelling era to create a story that resonates deeply within the human heart. It is riveting, atmospheric, with a complexity of characters (especially the themes of brotherhood) — and that doesn’t begin to describe it!

Thor’s perspective is an experience in itself. With great care, Joanne has portrayed his world and experiences as a deaf individual in a nearly-tangible way. Even noting nuances and things he does differently (makes noises walking through woods, breathing patterns, realizes he doesn’t understand letter sounds, so many things). I loved that Thor’s character proves he is a man only limited in audible speech, not in emotion or presence or other capabilities. His heart, even in the middle of major personal obstacles, is on display.

I can’t help but mentally compare him to Joanne’s other A-MA-ZING and forever favorite hero Charlie Lionheart (from The Lady and the Lionheart) Thor starts out the antithesis of Charlie in so many ways, yet their similarities by story’s end are wonderful. Both are strong, selflessly sacrificing and desiring to be a help to those around them. Both love with abandon.

And oh, what a time Aven has finding her place and her belonging in this new world and with these colorful people! Her story, when fully revealed, is poignant and sorrowful in itself, making her newfound circumstances all the more important for her presence and healing.

Books and stories can lend voices to those we normally would not hear, whether muted by society, history, or otherwise silenced. Author Joanne Bischof accomplishes this feat with a lyrical, immersive, and prose-like style that is never afraid to delve deep into matters of the the heart in all their joy and despair. In this case, a fictional tale brings to life the perspective of a deaf brother and a rootless young woman whose presence forever changes the lives of three brothers.

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

‘Inspired by Classics’ Guest Post by Pepper Basham + Review & Giveaway: “Charming the Troublemaker”

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Today I have a real TREAT for you guys! Author Pepper Basham has shared a guest post: “Inspired by Classics” all about how classic literature and story fit in with modern writing. I’m also sharing my review of her new release, Charming the Troublemaker, book 2 in her “Mitchell’s Crossroads” Appalachian rom-com series. And, there’s a #GIVEAWAY of an ebook copy of Charming the Troublemaker! So, read on for my little review and her AMAZING thoughts, then enter the giveaway at the end!

About the Book

Charming the TroublemakerWhen 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?

Goodreads | Amazon

Review

You all might recall my excitement for this book in the cover reveal and in a Behind the Scenes Interview with Pepper + Book Recommendations.

Since the very first book of this series, A Twist of Faith, I have been interested in Rainey’s story. Learning hers would be a “loose” retelling of North and South (Elizabeth Gaskell) AND that Rainey would be paired with Alex Murdock, an interesting if frustrating person in book 1, I was ecstatic!!! I mean, woohoo because I ❤ the book & miniseries, and anything Pepper writes is a #mustread, magical romance.

While the humor is laugh-out-loud and the family drama endearing, a most intriguing new-to-Pepper’s-books element is present in Charming the Troublemaker: SUSPENSE! A few surprises and moments of suspense add a good measure of intensity to this Appalachian rom-com full of love and heart.

The hero of this story has been dubbed #AdorkableAlex — and for good reason! His hilarity and flirty manner guards a humble heart that needs a little nudging to find an inner hero, and the people of Ransom, ESPECIALLY the Mitchells, are the ones to help him find that belonging. When he is determined to help or get involved in something, his whole heart jumps in, and it is just so endearing. And have I mentioned he likes Hallmark movies?! #swoon

Rainey Mitchell is the kind of friend you want to have… fiercely protective and discerning, yet adorably clueless about her own value. Her independence is a contrast with some of the baggage and insecurities she carries, and her journey toward a new confidence is wonderfully spurred on by her friendship with Alex. Her little girl, Sarah, is cute from start to finish! And when Sarah and Alex are together on the page, it’s just precious.

The swoony romance is “I NEED A FREEZER” level on multiple occasions! (Pepper has mad kissing book skills). Even through that, however, Alex is EVER the gentleman. And Rainey has a few surprises up her sleeve with her sassyness! Let’s just say it’s fun to see Rainey catch Alex off guard.

More than the romance and the dynamic of these two lead characters, a strong theme of security, honesty, and life direction found ONLY IN JESUS centers this story as it winds its way toward a happy-ending. The emotional moments connected to this faith thread were the most joyous parts of the story. Mama Mitchell was often a tool of wisdom and grace for this purpose, and I just wanted to hug her. And eat her cookin’.

There are so many little things to love about Charming the Troublemaker. Like the walkie talkies. And the kisses. And names of a sleek sports car and practical truck! (Marilyn and Indiana, respectively) 🙂 And all the little North and South parallels you “have to look hard” for that added to the story in just the right ways. And the Mitchell clan with all their hometown love. This is one family I will happily revisit in these pages and, hopefully, in stories to come for a long while.

Thank you to the author and publisher, Bling! Romance (LPC), for the complimentary review copy. This is my honest review.


From Pepper: Inspired by Classics

It is said that there are no NEW stories for authors to write, only the influence our imaginations lend to the stories that have already been created.

Pepper 3And for the most part, this is true. There are basic story tropes that get repeated over and over again, but each author adds their interpretation, their characters, their heart into explaining that trope through their own voices.

I was just talking to my agent, Julie Gwinn, last week about how my brain immediately goes to reinventing stories or creating sequels. I can’t help it. In college I wrote a sequel to Frankenstein! Not long after that, I was determined to write a sequel to the Toby McGuire Spiderman movie. I REALLY wanted to write a sequel to Jane Eyre at another point in time and have found various other books I wanted to reinvent in a different time period or put my spin on them.

As L.M. Montgomery uses (an old proverb) through her classic, Anne of Green Gables, “Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.” So, I think that’s why we see these wonderful (and sometimes not so wonderful) remakes of the classics we all love so much.

Pepper 1Their stories, characters, and/or dialogue is so timeless we, as storytellers, want to capture that spark in some way and make it our own. Of course, we’ll never write exactly like them, but the stories they tell have the unique ability to touch us in special ways – and who wouldn’t want to recreate that feeling?

In my Mitchell’s Crossroads series, I’ve taken some of the things I’ve loved from classics and tries to put a very ‘loose’ and modern spin on them. A Twist of Faith is a loose retelling of Pygmalion (My Fair Lady) and Charming the Troublemaker has aspects of Elizabeth Gaskell’s North and South in it. Can you find them? It’s clearer in A Twist of Faith than Charming the Troublemaker, but you can find them, and ‘you have to look hard’ (fangirl reference). Courtney: squeee! I ❤ N&S

For me, elements of classics I want to recreate stem in part from the way these stories make me feel when I read them, but also in the essentials that make them memorable.

I want to write engaging characters like Henry Higgins, Eliza Doolittle, John Thornton, and Margaret Hale.

I want to inspire smile from witty dialogue and maybe even sneak in a mystery here or there.

I want to portray a variety of romances – not just hate-to-love or opposites attract, but delve into the fun (almost magical) assortment of possibilities. They’ve ALL been written in some form before, and watching out the masters do it provides excellent inspiration.

From fairytales to adventures to romances to mysteries, the possibilities are limitless.

So, what classics would you enjoy seeing rewritten/modernized?

What do you think makes a classic…a classic???

Giveaway

Enter the rafflecopter giveaway.

Giveaway is for one (1) ebook copy of Charming the Troublemaker provided by Pepper Basham. Giveaway ends 11/18/2017 11:59pm CT. Void where prohibited.

 

Review: “A Twist of Faith” by Pepper Basham ~ Blog Tour & Giveaway

Review: “A Twist of Faith” by Pepper Basham ~ Blog Tour & Giveaway

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Welcome to my stop in the Singing Librarian Tour for Pepper Basham’s contemporary release, A Twist of Faith. Read on for my review & to enter the GIVEAWAY!

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7311818_origSeries: Mitchell’s Crossroads Series
Genre: Fiction, Romance, Contemporary
Publisher: Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas
Publication Date: April 6, 2016
Number of pages: 308

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A witty, sweet romance with memorable, honest characters. Love does not have an accent … 

Dr. Adelina Roseland has worked ten years in research as an accent reduction specialist to attain her dream job. But a secret wager to transform Appalachian cattle farmer Reese Mitchell into corporate material challenges Adelina in ways she never expected, threatening her new position. 

For one, Adelina didn’t plan for the faith and friction of Reese, or the unexpected influence of his chaotic family. Now, drawn into a culture she’d tried to forget, Adelina finds the warmth of family, the hope of faith, and the joy of love melting away the deep wounds of her past.

But when Reese discovers that he’s a pawn in her climb up the academic ladder, will he forgive Adelina’s deceit or will their miscommunication end in two broken lives? 

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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 April 2016.

6769499 Pepper has already achieved favorite-author status around here with her first two novels, both historical romances, set during WWI. (The Thorn Bearer and The Thorn Keeper). Well, with her debut in the contemporary genre, she does it again! A Twist of Faith is a fantastic “twist” on a My Fair Lady retelling, full of humor and heart.

I ❤ the little elements Pepper includes to make a story so rich! In this instance, it’s to-do lists, a theme of grace, vibrant secondary characters (my personal favorite being Mama Mitchell), and plenty of romantic spark!

“Ain’t” is not a word 🙂

Adelina, or Dee as she’s known to her friends, was the perfect combination of flawed, broken, and likable. I found her easy to empathize with, even when her assumptions were wrong. Reese was a timely friend with past heartaches of his own which had rooted him deeply in his faith. (Pepper includes a tiny bit of mystery here which kept me guessing as to just what he’d went through.) There is nothing quite as attractive as a man grounded in his relationship with Jesus. Combine that with his country charm, fatherly tenderness, and rugged charisma and you have a pretty perfect hero. It all might sound cliché, but Pepper presents these two in such a compelling manner you can’t help but root for them to find forgiveness, grace, and happiness together along the way.

Both points of view are written well, allowing the reader a glimpse into the personality and motivations of both Reese and Dee. My favorite view, though, was Reese’s! He was the one with THE accent — I could almost hear the Appalachian drawl of his thoughts.

Pepper’s passion for her “day job”, in speech pathology, shines through in a unique way in this story. Her character Dee shares her vocation and clearly, an eagerness to help others. This understanding and compassion in embodied in the Mitchell family, as well, and serves as a beacon to Dee in her search for peace.

It was a great experience watching Dee slowly start to realize the dream of her heart is something completely unexpected. And, instead of running from it, she tentatively embraced it — until the whole “My Fair Lady” parallel caused a few problems. Mostly, I loved Pepper’s simplicity in her message of Jesus. He’s the most essential remedy, the savior and friend who wants to meet you right where you are.

Thank you to Singing Librarian Books and Pepper Basham for a copy of this ebook in exchange for my honest review.

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Click here to enter the Rafflecopter giveaway of a print or ecopy.

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Join us for the A Twist of Faith Facebook Party.

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April 4–Reading Is My SuperPower
April 5–Toni Shiloh Prayerfully-Lifted Romance
April 6–The Power of Words | Puddletown Reviews
April 7–The Green Mockingbird Smiling Book Reviews | By The Book
April 8–Wishful Endings | Katie’s Clean Book Collection Deal Sharing Aunt
April 9–Rachael’s Reads Singing Librarian Books

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Book Review: “A Stillness of Chimes” by Meg Moseley

My most recent read was A Stillness of Chimes by Meg Moseley. It’s an alluring contemporary drama with elements of mystery and romance. One my favorite things about it was its subtle “Southern charm”. Growing up in a small Ozarks town myself, I appreciate the familiarity, closeness, and quirkiness of the characters that grew up in the Appalachians.

A Stillness of ChimesLaura Gantt has returned to her hometown of Prospect, Georgia, in the heart of the Appalachians, to sort through her recently deceased mother’s belongings. Her father, Elliot Gantt, was believed to have drowned when Laura was still a teenager. Now facing her future with no parents, she feels starkly alone. Mysteriously, rumors of sightings of her father Elliot begin to circulate. Now revisiting childhood memories of both happiness and possible desertion, Laura must sort through her doubts while cultivating this new possibility of hope.

Sean Halloran, Laura’s best friend from childhood and her high-school sweetheart, reenters her life with perfect timing. Growing up in an abusive home, Sean looked up to Elliot Gantt as a father figure and mentor. With haunting memories of his own surrounding the disappearance and supposed drowning of Elliot Gantt, he has his own reasons for reconnecting with and protecting Laura. They work together to dispel rumors and discover long-buried secrets of the Gantt family. The new information they learn shatters their expectations and threatens to change all they believed to be true. In the midst of it all, Sean and Laura confront their feelings for one another and the reasons their romantic relationship ended years ago.

Meg skillfully maintains a thread of suspense and mystery throughout the story as the characters cope with secrets and uncover new dangers. Meg’s prose paints a beautiful backdrop for this story. A picturesque town, mountain living, bluegrass, blackberries, friendship, kudzu, and little old ladies all make A Stillness of Chimes a unique and charming story of love and sacrifice.

Meg deals with some tough issues within this story, including abuse, abandonment, and even the PTSD-like problems of a Vietnam veteran. She confronts these problems realistically and carefully, showing their effects and influence on the characters.

The characters face questions of faith and sacrifice during the course of the story. Love and honor motivate the characters as they learn valuable lessons in forgiveness and the importance of love. Overall, I really enjoyed this novel and would recommend it to anyone looking to read a family drama with unexpected twists and a little romance – just make sure you have plenty of time to read, because you might want to read it straight through!

 

Note: Thank you to the publisher for a complimentary copy in exchange for a review! I received this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for this review. I was not required to write a positive review.

You can connect with Meg Moseley at her websiteon her Facebook page, or on Twitter.

 
Empty Shelf Books 10 & 11
Oh, and here’s my latest two books for the Empty Shelf Challenge! A Heart’s Rebellion was book 10 and A Stillness of Chimes was book number 11.

 

What is your favorite thing about your hometown? Your comments are always welcome!