Review + Blog Tour: “The Work of Art” by Mimi Matthews

Review + Blog Tour: “The Work of Art” by Mimi Matthews

Welcome to the blog tour for The Work of Art by Mimi Matthews! You can read my review of this Regency romance below and enter the tour-wide giveaway!

The Work of Art
by Mimi Matthews

Publication Date: July 23, 2019
Perfectly Proper Press
Paperback & eBook

Genre: Historical Romance

READ AN EXCERPT

An Uncommon Beauty…

Hidden away in rural Devonshire, Phyllida Satterthwaite has always been considered more odd than beautiful. But in London, her oddity has made her a sensation. Far worse, it’s caught the eye of the sinister Duke of Moreland—a notorious art collector obsessed with acquiring one-of-a-kind treasures. To escape the Duke’s clutches, she’s going to need a little help.

An Unlikely Hero…

Captain Arthur Heywood’s days of heroism are long past. Grievously injured in the Peninsular War, he can no longer walk unaided, let alone shoot a pistol. What use can he possibly be to a damsel in distress? He has nothing left to offer except his good name.

Can a marriage of convenience save Philly from the vengeful duke? Or will life with Arthur put her—and her heart—in more danger than ever?

“In her sixth historical romance, Matthews (The Pug Who Bit Napoleon; A Victorian Lady’s Guide to Fashion and Beauty) weaves suspense and mystery within an absorbing love story. Readers will be hard put to set this one down before the end. Highly recommended to historical romance and/or mystery buffs and especially animal lovers.” – Library Journal, Starred Review

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Review

Each new foray into historical England (and beyond!) with author Mimi Matthews is an immersive cultural and literary experience, brimming with historical accuracy to make any history nerd happy and a swoony romance to satisfy the heart. The Work of Art, Matthews’ first Regency novel, does this wonderfully as the unlikely friendship between Captain Arthur Heywood and Miss Philly Satterthwaite shifts into something more by necessity.

I absolutely loved witnessing these two characters shape each other and deepen their friendship. In particular, the way Arthur’s support gives Philly the security and happiness she has always wanted and the way she draws him out from what he sees as his inadequacies. The swoony moments in this story are thanks to Arthur’s protectiveness and care of her. He is a man of few words but oh, when Philly gets him to share, it is apparent that he feels deeply. His declarations of devotion are even more wonderful because his actions prove him to the true and faithful. *cue the heart eyed emoji*

The Work of Art is a Regency masterpiece to be appreciated. It has “much to recommend”, like its vividly portrayed setting, horseback rides, a pack of canines that prove the best of companions, gossip and the vanities of the social class, one heart-melting carriage ride, and a romance born of friendship and trust. I can highly recommend it to fans of clean historical fiction, mystery, or stories in the vein of the classics (think Austen with a few more kissing scenes, of course).

Content note for my blog audience: this book is a clean romance with some instances of very mild profanities.

Thank you to Netgalley and HF Virtual Book Tours for the review copy. This is my honest review.

About the Author

USA Today bestselling author Mimi Matthews (A Victorian Lady’s Guide to Fashion and Beauty, The Matrimonial Advertisement) writes both historical non-fiction and traditional historical romances set in Victorian England. Her articles on nineteenth century history have been published on various academic and history sites, including the Victorian Web and the Journal of Victorian Culture, and are also syndicated weekly at BUST Magazine. In her other life, Mimi is an attorney. She resides in California with her family, which includes an Andalusian dressage horse, two Shelties, and two Siamese cats.

For more information, please visit Mimi Matthews’ website and blog. You can also connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, BookBub, Pinterest, Google+, and Goodreads.

Blog Tour Schedule

Tuesday, July 23
Review at Bookish Rantings
Review at View from the Birdhouse

Wednesday, July 24
Review at The Green Mockingbird Blog

Thursday, July 25
Review at Gwendalyn’s Books

Friday, July 26
Review at Passages to the Past

Monday, July 29
Review at Red Headed Book Lady

Tuesday, July 30
Excerpt at Faery Tales Are Real

Wednesday, July 31
Review at The Lit Bitch

Giveaway

During the Blog Tour, one winner will receive a signed copy of The Work of Art! To enter, please use the Gleam form below.

Giveaway Rules

– Giveaway ends at 11:59 pm EST on July 31st. You must be 18 or older to enter.
– Giveaway is open to the US only.
– Only one entry per household.
– All giveaway entrants agree to be honest and not cheat the systems; any suspicion of fraud will be decided upon by blog/site owner and the sponsor, and entrants may be disqualified at our discretion.
– The winner has 48 hours to claim prize or a new winner is chosen.

The Work of Art
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Review, Interview, & Giveaway! “A Modest Independence” by Mimi Matthews + Blog Tour

When I realized the sequel to The Matrimonial Advertisement was being released early this year, I immediately searched out an early copy and devoured it. Taking secondary characters from book one on a world-traveling adventure, A Modest Independence by Mimi Matthews surpassed my expectations and earned a spot on my favorites list! Read on for my review, interview with Mimi, and an opportunity to win a copy of the novel courtesy of HFVBT tours.

A Modest Independence by Mimi Matthews

Publication Date: April 23, 2019

Perfectly Proper Press

Series: Parish Orphans of Devon (Book #2) Genre: Historical Romance    

 

 

He Needed Peace…

Attorney Tom Finchley has spent his life using his devious intellect to solve the problems of others. As for his own problems, they’re nothing that a bit of calculated vengeance can’t remedy. But that’s all over now. He’s finally ready to put the past behind him and settle down to a quiet, uncomplicated life. If only he could find an equally uncomplicated woman.

She Wanted Adventure…

Former lady’s companion Jenny Holloway has just been given a modest independence. Now, all she wants is a bit of adventure. A chance to see the world and experience life far outside the restrictive limits of Victorian England. If she can discover the fate of the missing Earl of Castleton while she’s at it, so much the better.

From the gaslit streets of London to the lush tea gardens of colonial India, Jenny and Tom embark on an epic quest—and an equally epic romance. But even at the farthest edges of the British Empire, the past has a way of catching up with you…

Amazon | Barnes and Noble | iTunes | Kobo

Review

Mimi Matthews balances charm, adventure, and romance amidst vividly painted exotic locales in this Victorian novel. It matches a spunky and daring heroine to her perfect complement of a hero whose thoughtful nature and intelligence make their story one of friendship and familiarity not often plumbed within such an era– and their romance all the more meaningful for its resilience and selfless nature.

There are so many things I love about this novel that make it one of my favorites in its Victorian niche: the layers of the story, the wonderful world travel, the smart friendship between Jenny and Tom, the important secondary characters, the romantic tension (that. is. always. there.), and the fact that their romance is apart from the course of their lives.

I love that Jenny’s sense of identity never changes. She is a strong character whose journey is not about “finding herself”, but about her dreams changing and how the surprise possibility of love makes her see herself and choices differently without diminishing the value of her initial stance. She and Tom face their romance head-on, which I also appreciated, fully sharing their feelings and doubts in a straightforward manner. Tom, in turn, grows and reconciles his childhood and some of his past choices because he bends to see life through Jenny’s eyes.A Modest Independence and tea

While I’m on the subject of Tom Finchley, let’s just talk about how his intelligence is SO attractive. I mean, his demeanor + the era make the simplicity of being on a first name basis just downright intimate.  In various situations, he goes above and beyond to see after Jenny, all while respecting her abilities and wishes. 

With A Modest Independence, Mimi Matthews has established herself as a must-read author when it comes to historical romance. Her practiced and timeless style is proves her to be a contemporary of a Victorian voice. I am eager for what’s next in this series!!!

Content note: overall a clean read, especially concerning the romance element, but there are some very mild expletives, mostly uttered by the characters in the company of gentlemen. 🙂

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

Interview

What inspired you to write A Modest Independence?

I knew early on that the second Parish Orphans of Devon book was going to be set, at least partially, in colonial India. I really wanted to do the country justice. I also wanted to write a heroine who struggles with some of the same issues women struggle with in relationships today; primarily, how much we’re willing to compromise of our own dreams—our own independence—in order to be with the ones we love.

What is the inspiration behind Jenny’s personality? Tom’s?

There was no one thing that went into either character. For Jenny, her adventurous spirit and determination to remain independent were as much inspired by adventurous women of the period as they were by my own experiences with travel and romance. As for Tom, he was partly inspired by Mr. Tulkinghorn in Charles Dickens’ Bleak House. He’s also a bit modern in the sense that he truly respects women and is—ultimately—capable of introspection and change.

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

Hmm. That’s a difficult one. Perhaps that dreams and goals can change in light of new experiences, and that a little compromise in life and love isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

What was most challenging about writing a story set in the Victorian era with such varied locations?

The research. Definitely, the research. It was grueling.

Did anything you learned surprise you while researching for this book?     

I wouldn’t say it surprised me, but I did love learning about the steamship and railway accommodations. Some of the ships were incredibly luxurious.

Which character was your favorite to write?

Tom Finchley.

Just for fun:

Do you have any hobbies? 

Binge reading. Binge watching a good series. Shopping for pretty things I don’t need.

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

I’d stay in this one, purely because at the moment women have the most rights they’ve ever had. We’re still nowhere near where we should be, but it’s a lot better than it was in the 19th century.

What are you currently reading?

Bear No Malice by Clarissa Harwood. It’s set in the Edwardian era. I highly recommend it (and the first book in the series, Impossible Saints).

Thank you SO MUCH for taking the time to answer my questions, Mimi!!!! I appreciate you! (And I heartily agree 🙂 Clarissa Harwood’s books are wonderful.)

About the Author

USA Today bestselling author Mimi Matthews (A Victorian Lady’s Guide to Fashion and Beauty, The Matrimonial Advertisement) writes both historical non-fiction and traditional historical romances set in Victorian England. Her articles on nineteenth century history have been published on various academic and history sites, including the Victorian Web and the Journal of Victorian Culture, and are also syndicated weekly at BUST Magazine. In her other life, Mimi is an attorney. She resides in California with her family, which includes an Andalusian dressage horse, two Shelties, and two Siamese cats.

For more information, please visit Mimi Matthews’ website and blog. You can also connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, BookBub, Pinterest, Google+, and Goodreads.

Blog Tour Schedule

Wednesday, May 1 Review & Interview at Passages to the Past

Thursday, May 2 Interview at Bookish Rantings

Friday, May 3 Review at Based on a True Story

Saturday, May 4 Feature at What Is That Book About | Review & Interview at The Green Mockingbird

Sunday, May 5 Feature at Comet Readings

Monday, May 6 Review at Pursuing Stacie

Tuesday, May 7 Feature at CelticLady’s Reviews

Wednesday, May 8 Excerpt at Myths, Legends, Books & Coffee Pots

Thursday, May 9 Review & Excerpt at The Book Junkie Reads

Friday, May 10 Review at Amy’s Booket List | Review at A Chick Who Reads | Feature at View from the Birdhouse

Giveaway

During the Blog Tour, we have two signed copies of A Modest Independence up for grabs! To enter, please see the Gleam form below.

Giveaway Rules – Giveaway ends at 11:59 pm EST on May 10th.

  • You must be 18 or older to enter.
  • Giveaway is open to US residents only.
  • Only one entry per household.
  • All giveaway entrants agree to be honest and not cheat the systems; any suspicion of fraud is decided upon by blog/site owner and the sponsor, and entrants may be disqualified at our discretion.
  • The winner has 48 hours to claim prize or new winner is chosen.

A Modest Independence Giveaway

Review + Blog Tour: “When You Look At Me” by Pepper Basham

When  you  look  at  me

Welcome to the Blog Tour & Giveaway for When You Look at Me by Pepper Basham, hosted by JustRead Publicity Tours. I’m delighted to be sharing my review of this sweet contemporary romance novel, along with the tour. Read on for the giveaway info and my thoughts!

About the Book

When You Look At Me

When You Look at Me

Series: Pleasant Gap Romance #2

Author: Pepper Basham

Publisher: Woven Words Publications

Release Date: October 25, 2018

Genre: Inspirational Contemporary Romance

An unexpected mother-to-be

A romance-leery composer

And a forgotten melody from the past that holds the keys to their futures

When Julia Jenkins’ great aunt dies and leaves her a Victorian mansion with decades of secrets, Julia never expects to unearth a World War 2 espionage mystery. Struggling with her own past since an assault left her pregnant, her future as a solo parent leaves her dreams uncertain. The inheritance from her great aunt gives Julia the ability to take a step back into her future, but also sends her into the discovery of a love story she’d never anticipated. As she goes through her aunt’s treasured possessions, Julia uncovers some oddly written piano music with a musical code she can’t decipher on her own. Not to worry, introverted Englishman and composer, Henry Wright, is thrust on the scene by a pair of homespun matchmakers who know the ‘right’ man for Julia’s wounded heart.

Henry arrives in Pleasant Gap with the task of composing the soundtrack for his best mate’s newest film. The Jenkins’ family’s southern welcome and gregarious personalities set his reticent nature on edge, but he’s inexplicably drawn to his gentle and music-loving hostess, Julia. Uncertain how to build a friendship with the wounded woman, and rather hopeless in communicating well through words, the bond of music becomes a

bridge between her uncertainty and his awkwardness.

But her broken past and his families’ expectations build a wall much greater than the culture that separate them. As they work together to solve a musical mystery from the grave, will an unlikely romance from the past inspire their hearts to trust in a God who’s written the perfect melody for their lives?

Goodreads | Amazon

Review

When You Look at Me is one of the sweetest romances I’ve ever read! Balancing humor and a boisterous family with two lead-character introverts, this story shows the heart of people who trust God to give them strength and lead them to good things, even in the midst of a painful and imperfect world. The friendship-growing-into-romance deserves all the hearts, cupcakes, and happy sighs!

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I loved watching Julia and Henry grow, learn from each other, and just be together in so many moments of everyday life. The story felt like a glimpse of their lives with its special moments AND hard things, and through it all their relationship progressed naturally. Little moments I loved: midnight teas, piano duets, family dinners, stress-baking, musical puns, messy hair, old letters, and “The Princess Bride” references.

It was fun to “catch up” with Wes and Eisley (from book 1!!!!!) and see where their journey is headed. Eisley gives good advice, too. 😉

Seeing Henry’s personality and purpose come to life and Julia’s journey to bravery and the discovery of love’s worth was a delight. With a thread of a family mystery, humorous moments that made me giggle, and a prominent theme of music weaving it all together, this is one Britallachian contemporary romance not to miss!

My review of book 1: Just the Way You Are

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

About the Author

pepper  basham

Pepper Basham is an award-winning author who writes historical and contemporary romance novels with grace, humor, and culture clashes. She͛s a Blue Ridge Mountain native and an anglophile who enjoys combining her two loves to create memorable stories of hope. Pepper is also a mom of five, a speech-language pathologist, and a lover of Jesus and chocolate. She resides in Asheville, North Carolina with her family.

CONNECT: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Pinterest | Instagram


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TOUR GIVEAWAY

(1) winner will receive:

  • print copy of Just The Way You Are (Pleasant Gap Romance #1)
  • print copy of When You Look at Me (Pleasant Gap Romance #2)
  • a plaque which says: Once in a while, right in the middle of an ordinary life…. love comes along and brings you a fairy tale

Enter via the Rafflecopter giveaway below. Giveaway will begin at midnight October 22, 2018 and lasts through 11:59pm October 29, 2018. Void where prohibited by law. US addresses only. Winners will be notified within a week of close of the giveaway and given 48 hours to respond or a new winner will be chosen. Giveaway is subject to the policies found here.

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Follow along at JustRead Tours for a full list of stops!

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Review + Blog Tour: “The Last Summer” by Brandy Bruce

the-last-summer-tour

You know those stories that *happen* to come at the right time in your life for a little encouragement? The Last Summer by Brandy Bruce was just that. It surprised me with its depth and the intricacies of connection it displays. More than just Sara was relatable — her dreams, her struggles, and her fierce loyalty and ties to her friends and family made her have a sense of kinship with the human heart. This is a book sure to be on my end-of-year favorites list!

About the Book

The Last SummerGenre:  Contemporary, Inspirational, Romance
Publisher: Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas
Publication date: June 2017

A group of seven friends navigate relationships and personal growth during a season of change.

For twenty-something Sara Witherspoon and her group of friends, a perfect Southern summer includes lake-house getaways, wedding planning, outdoor concerts, and a dash of romance. But for these seven friends who love each other like family, this year, summer rolls in with changes for everyone.

Sara’s longtime crush, Luke, has been her best friend for as long as she has been a part of the group. When Luke begins seriously dating another of their friends, Sara’s forced to deal with her hurt and jealousy, while outwardly try to support them both.

While Sara comes to terms with her own heart and her friends’ relationships, an unexpected handsome pilot from North Carolina and an old flame are thrown into the mix. Knowing her heart suddenly becomes much more complicated.

But as time unfolds and friendships begin to unravel, Sara and the others are presented with the reality of what a season of change does to old friendships and new love interests.

Does growing older mean growing apart?

GOODREADS | AMAZON

Review

The Last Summer is a heart-achingly beautiful story of friendship and grace. Through the intertwined connections of a friend-group and a unique 1st person perspective voice, this story follows character Sara Witherspoon through a season of change, challenge, and emotions — emphasizing the importance of praising God in everything.

IMG_20180710_203543_516.jpgThis story is wonderfully refreshing and unexpectedly deep. I could never predict what would happen next; certainly not the ending, either, which makes me like the story all the more. The LOVE between this special group of friends is exemplary in how real-life relationships are and how selfless they should be. In all of this, the shortcomings and brokenness of human nature are prominent and never shied away from as a part of life. And, the dreams and longings of the heart are explored through Sara’s experiences. Far more than a story of romantic love, The Last Summer is a story of love in all its changing forms — when it means holding someone tighter or knowing when to let them go with peace.

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

About the Author

Brandy BruceBrandy Bruce is a mom, a wife, a book editor, an author, and someone who really loves dessert. She’s the author of the award-winning novel The Last SummerLooks Like Love, and The Romano Family Collection. Brandy, her husband, and their children make their home in Colorado.

FACEBOOK | TWITTER | PINTEREST

INSTAGRAM | BLOG

Giveaway

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Enter the giveaway HERE.

Giveaway package includes the following: summer swag (beach towl, flip flops, sunglasses, bookmark, and candy) & winner’s choice of a print or e-copy of the book.

Giveaway open to US residents only and ends 11:59pm MT on July 21st.

Giveaway is subject to policies HERE.

Tour Schedule

July 16-Jorie Loves A Story | Joy of Reading  | amandainpa
July 17- Paulette’s Papers  | The Power of Words
July 18-Reading, Writing & Stitch-Metic | Pause for Tales | Among the Reads
July 19-Book by Book | Edits and Reviews by Leslie | The Green Mockingbird
July 20-Heidi Reads… | Reading Is My SuperPower | Why Not? Because I Said So!
July 21-Remembrancy | Katie’s Clean Book Collection

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Book Review + Giveaway: “Love’s Silver Lining” by Julie Lessman

loves-silver-lining-tour

Travel with me to the Old West — Virginia City, NV, to be exact — while we talk about a romantic adventure from author Julie Lessman, Love’s Silver Lining, the first book in her new “Silver Lining Ranch” series. (Once again, Julie tackles another genre…. and does is SO WELL!) Before you go, be sure to enter the GIVEAWAY by commenting on this post!

About the Book

Love's Silver Lining

Series: Silver Lining Ranch

Genre:  Christian, Historical, Romance

Publisher: Indie

Desperate to escape an arranged marriage to a womanizer, twenty-two-year-old Maggie Mullaney flees New York for Virginia City, Nevada with her Aunt Liberty, two spunky suffragists intent on bettering the lives of women. Fresh out of nursing school, Maggie hopes to devote herself to serving others rather than just one man, a goal quickly affirmed when she encounters Blaze Donovan, a womanizing cowboy who both riles and rouses her pulse. But when Aunt Liberty’s parents’ house burns down, she and Maggie are coerced into staying at the ranch of Liberty’s ex-husband, Finn McShane, who just happens to be the uncle of the cocky cowboy Maggie had hoped to avoid.

If there’s one thing twenty-nine-year-old Blaze Donovan can’t abide, it’s respectable women who spout piety and prayer, so when he butts heads with perky Maggie Mullaney at St. Mary Louise Hospital, he wants to stay as far away from her as he possibly can. Unfortunately, she now lives in the bedroom next to his in his uncle’s ranch house, a revolting development that sends Blaze to The Ponderosa Saloon more than usual. But when Maggie interferes in Blaze’s life by converting his favorite “disrespectable” girl, Blaze is determined to make her pay. Only problem is—the price HE has to pay may be a little too steep for his heart.

NOTE: This book is a sweet inspirational with a bit of a higher level of romantic passion. (*Courtney’s note: I would say this book isn’t any different than other Julie Lessman books — readers know how she writes “passion with a purpose”.*)

GOODREADS | AMAZON

About the Authorjulie-turquoise-in-chair_orig

Julie Lessman is an award-winning author whose tagline of “Passion With a Purpose” underscores her intense passion for both God and romance. A lover of all things Irish, she enjoys writing close-knit Irish family sagas that evolve into 3-D love stories: the hero, the heroine, and the God that brings them together.

Author of The Daughters of Boston, Winds of Change, Heart of San Francisco, and Isle of Hope series, Julie was American Christian Fiction Writers 2009 Debut Author of the Year and has garnered over 18 Romance Writers of America and other awards. Voted #1 Romance Author in Family Fiction magazine’s 2012 and 2011 Readers Choice Awards, Julie’s novels also made Family Fiction magazine’s Best of 2015, Best of 2014, and “Essential Christian Romance Authors” 2017, as well as Booklist’s 2010 Top 10 Inspirational Fiction and Borders Best Fiction. Her independent novel A Light in the Window was an International Digital Awards winner, a 2013 Readers’ Crown Award winner, and a 2013 Book Buyers Best Award winner. Julie has also written a self-help workbook for writers entitled Romance-ology 101: Writing Romantic Tension for the Sweet and Inspirational Markets. Contact Julie through her website and read excerpts from each of her books at http://www.julielessman.com.

GOODREADS | FACEBOOK | TWITTER | GOOGLE PLUS
PINTEREST INSTAGRAM | AMAZON | WEBSITE
NEWSLETTER | THE SEEKERS | JOURNAL JOTS

Review

Love’s Silver Lining is a fun western romance with entertaining matches of wits and a strong thread of faith. It’s Bonanza-meets-McLintock with its familial-cast and clashing romantic couples, complete with two that strongly remind me of John Wayne and Maureen O’Hara with his determination and her fiery temper!

In Julie’s signature romance style, this story follows two different couples as they navigate their shared histories, pride, stubbornness, and attraction. While Blaze and Maggie’s relationship has rivalry and plenty of spark, my most favorite parts of the story involve the other prominent couple, Finn and Liberty, whom you can meet in the prequel novella, For Love of Liberty. The importance of faith (especially a shared faith within a marriage), and many facets of trust are naturally incorporated into the story, along with encouraging scriptures.

From its wild west setting to its suffragists, train rides, and kisses, Love’s Silver Lining is just the right sort of western for romance lovers that offers a smile and an encouraging message. I’m excited to see where the next book in the series takes these characters! (And I hope there will be more of Finn and Liberty’s sparring!)

Thank you to the author and SLB tours for a review copy. This is my honest review.

Giveaway

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Comment on this blog post for a chance to win an e-copy of Love’s Silver Lining! Share a favorite book, western, what you’re reading now, ANYTHING!

Giveaway is open Internationally and will end at 11:59 on 7/7/18.

Tour Stops

July 2-Locks, Hooks and Books
July 3-The Power of Words | The Green Mockingbird
July 4-Reading Is My SuperPower | Faithfully Bookish
July 5-Book by Book | Why Not? Because I Said So!
July 6-cherylbbookblog
July 7-Mindy,  reviewer​

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Review & Author Interview + GIVEAWAY: “The Esther Paradigm” by Sarah Monzon

The Esther Paradigm by Sarah Monzon is a unique and compelling story; an easy addition to my favorites list. It is a story of romance and encouragement, but threaded between its pages of an adventurous journey is a mostly-whispered-sometimes-shouted challenge to live out your faith and proclaim the life-changing message of Jesus outside of your comfort zone. I have the privilege of sharing my review as part of the SLB Blog Tour for this book, along with sharing my interview with Sarah and blog tour GIVEAWAY info! Read on for more fun stuff!

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The Esther ParadigmjpgGenre:  Christian, Contemporary, Romance
Publisher: Radiant Publications
Publication date: November 2, 2017

The daughter of missionaries, Hannah Pratt dreams of starting a school for the Bedouin clan with whom she spent her childhood. After completing her education in the United States, she returns to the desert to pursue that dream—only to learn her parents have been receiving threats from within the community they serve. As the danger escalates, Hannah must decide how far she’ll go to stay faithful to a calling that could cost her everything.

As sheikh, Karim Al-Amir feels the weight of responsibility as the leader of his people. When a mysterious illness ravages the clan’s flocks and threatens to destroy their centuries-old way of life, some of his people believe the American doctors and their daughter, his childhood friend, are to blame. Karim must do something to keep Hannah and her parents safe—even if the only solution is to be found within marriage vows.

In a society where the line is drawn between us and them, where Christianity is outlawed and foreigners suspect, will Karim and Hannah’s union heal wounds . . . or inflict a final, fatal blow?

Old Testament history meets Twenty-first Century tensions in this compassionate, tender inspirational romance.

GOODREADS | AMAZON

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A totally new retelling of the story of Esther, The Esther Paradigm outright acknowledges its similarities to the Biblical story and applies them in a unique way to a modern situation. I would say it is influenced more by Esther’s own task to obey a calling to eventually save her people than it is a straight adaptation of her story.

With the utmost respect and care, Sarah Monzon has presented the culture and vivid environment of a Bedouin tribe in the “middle east”, acknowledging the customs and beliefs of a Muslim people group and the danger and challenge of sharing the Gospel and truth of Jesus. With no specifics of people or place, this is a story that could describe any number of real missionaries or situations right now which makes this story all the more relevant. I admired Hannah’s character for her tenacity, commitment, and obedience to sharing her faith in an environment that proves a physical danger to her both from natural elements (hello sandstorms, camels, etc!) and from the very people of her community.

The storytelling style is immersive and vibrant, painting everything from the desert grittiness to the romantic heat with detail and prose. Most fascinating to me was the way dual 1st person POVs contrasted both Hannah and Karim’s perspectives alternately, showing their friendship, growth, and the subtle influence of faith in each of their lives. Most of all, I enjoyed how the story showed how the earnest seeking of God’s will in Hannah’s life shaped her decisions and how her life was a testimony in itself of the truth of Jesus to Karim and others.

Thank you to the author and SLB Tours for the review copy of this novel. This is my honest review.

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What inspired you to write The Esther Paradigm?

Is it okay to say I didn’t really have a direct inspiration? I’m not even sure where the idea came from except from God. One day the idea for a modern day story inspired by Esther entered my head and the need to write it was so strong, the character’s voices so loud, that I had to write it then even though I was in the middle of writing another series. This story…it was more like it wrote me than the other way around. Like I was but a tool to get it down, it flowed so freely. No other story has been like that before.

 That is awesome!

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

Love. I want readers to take away love. Love for those who are different, whether they believe differently, live differently, or look differently. I want 1 Corinthians 16:14 to take root in everyone’s hearts. “Let all that you do be done in love.”

And, I must say I believe you have accomplished this. Love is a strong and clear part of the story.

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

Well, I have never been anywhere in the Middle East before so I had to rely heavily on pictures and a series I watched on Netflix about the region. It would have been easier to have experienced the atmosphere and culture firsthand, but I’m thankful for the research that was right at my fingertips.

Which character was your favorite to write?

This may sound weird since I am neither male, Muslim, or a leader, but Karim was pretty fun to write. =)

 I can totally see that! 🙂

Just for fun: Do you have any hobbies?

Hobbies? What are those? Lol! One must have time for hobbies, right? I have a six-year-old and a three year old and live on the other side of the country from any family (read no babysitters) so when I have free time after they’ve gone to bed I’m usually too exhausted to do much of anything.

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

Oh this question is so hard! Can I cheat and just have a time machine I can travel and visit all the time periods and then come back to the convenience of the 21st century?

That is a valid choice! 😉

What are you currently reading?

Dreamlander by K. M. Weiland. I’m a mood reader and was in the mood for something speculative after a long line of contemporary and historical romances.

Oooh, I will have to look that one up! Thank you, Sarah, for taking the time to share your answers!

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sarah-monzon-hr-4Sarah Monzon is a Navy chaplain’s wife and a stay at home mom to the two cutest littles in the world. Playing pretend all day with them isn’t enough, she spends the evenings after their heads hit the pillow to create her own imaginary characters. When she isn’t in the world of make believe, she can be found in the pine forests of western Washington taking care of her family, fostering friendships, and enjoying all the adventures each day brings. Her debut novel, The Isaac Project, skyrocketed to Amazon bestseller status while her Sophomore book, Finders Keepers, won the 2017 SELAH award for contemporary romance.

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December 11-The Green Mockingbird | Paulette’s Papers | Zerina Blossom’s Books
December 12-Faithfully Bookish | Karen Sue Hadley | Flowers of Quiet Happiness 
December 13-Singing Librarian Books | Heidi Reads… | A Baker’s Perspective
December 14-Book by Book | allofakindmom | Fiction Aficionado
December 15-Remembrancy | Bibliophile Reviews | Kat’s Corner Books
December 16-Red Headed Book Lady Bookworm Mama | Ponderings of a Poet & Procrastinator

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Review + Giveaway & Blog Tour: Returning Home by Toni Shiloh

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returning-home_1Series: Freedom Lake
Genre:  Adult, Christian, Contemporary, Romance
Publisher: Indie
Publication date: September 26, 2017

Jo Ellen Baker is shocked to find out that the boy who teased her mercilessly throughout high school, has returned to their hometown of Freedom Lake, and he’s missing a leg. When his mother asks her to renovate their carriage house to give him a place to gain his independence back, she wants to say no. But one look at him brings a rush of forgotten feelings.

Evan Carter can’t believe he has to return home and live with his parents. Every hope and dream he ever had dissipated in a car crash that cost him his leg. Stuck in a wheelchair, he’s forced to reexamine his relationship with God and the local carpenter, Jo Ellen Baker.

Will renovating his home open the door for a mended relationship, or are some wounds too deep to heal from?  ​

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Toni Shiloh is a wife, mom, and Christian fiction writer. Once she understood the powerful saving grace thanks to the love of Christ, she was moved to honor her Savior. She writes to bring Him glory and to learn more about His goodness.

She spends her days hanging out with her husband and their two boys. She is a member of the American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW) and president of the Virginia Chapter.

You can find her on her website at http://tonishiloh.wordpress.com.

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Returning Home is a poignant story of healing, faith, and friendship. More than just a sweet and naturally-progressing romance relationship, the intertwining relationships of the characters, including Jo, Evan, and their close friend group, are a testament to the ways you can choose to react to life changes and challenges.

There is a prominent thread of faith I loved in this story. It’s fleshed out in both Evan and Jo as they deal with forgiveness and relying on God’s never-changing strength in completely different ways. And, this faith shines from Evan and Jo as they each grow and have opportunity to come alongside each other in support and understanding (this also wonderfully spills over in their friend group in an encouraging way). My favorite was Nana’s knowing advice and kind prodding — I would just love to have a real-life conversation with her!

With both complexity and camaraderie, this story of Jo and Evan is deeper than a romance or a story of second chances. It’s all about how prayer can change your heart, how love can mean hard lessons of forgiveness, and how faith can be the means of strength and peace no matter your circumstances.

Thank you to SLB Tours and the author for the complimentary ebook copy. This review is my honest opinion.

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