Author Pepper Basham ~ Behind the Scenes Interview + Book Recommendations

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

Interview with the Author

Behind the Scenes Interview

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

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

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

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

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

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

What is your favorite part of the writing process?

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

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

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

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

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

Pepper’s personal “favorites” from her novels

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

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

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

Favorite setting?

The Edwardian era OR the Blue Ridge Mountains

Favorite child or secondary character?

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

10434342_10208660778057564_6749080948507090625_nFavorite KISS?

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

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

Favorite funny moment?

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

~Book recommendations from Pepper~

Which “Pepper” book should a reader start with?

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

A book for someone new to the Christian fiction genre?

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

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

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

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

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

And of course, a romance? ❤

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

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

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

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

About the Author

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

About the Book

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

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

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

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

Add to Goodreads | Preorder on Amazon

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

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

About the Book

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

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

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

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

Interview with the Author

What inspired you to write Just Look Up?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Which character was your favorite to write?

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

He sounds like my kinda hero 😉

Just for fun: Do you have any hobbies? 

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

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

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

What are you currently reading?

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

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

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

 

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

 

 

Giveaway

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

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

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

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

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

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

About the Book

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

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

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

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

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

At least that’s what she tells herself. 

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

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

Review

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

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

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

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

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

Interview with the Author

What inspired you to write The Whys Have It?

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

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

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

What was most challenging about writing this story?

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

Which character was your favorite to write?

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

Just for fun:

Do you have any hobbies?

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

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

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

What are you currently reading?

FanGirl by Rainbow Rowell

About the Author

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

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

Connect with Amy

Website | Twitter | Facebook

Giveaway

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

To enter, comment with a valid email address and answer this question: What is one of your favorite songs?

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

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

About the Book

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

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

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

Interview with the Author

What inspired you to write My Unexpected Hope?

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

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

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

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

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

Which character was your favorite to write?

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

Just for fun: Do you have any hobbies? 

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

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

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

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

What are you currently reading?

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

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

About the Author

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

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

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

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

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

Giveaway

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

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

Review & Interview with the Author: “The Bachelor Girl’s Guide to Murder” by Rachel McMillan

Review & Interview with the Author: “The Bachelor Girl’s Guide to Murder” by Rachel McMillan

I’m so excited today because I get to feature an early review and interview with an awesome debut author and blogger friend, Rachel McMillan! If you are fortunate enough to follow Rachel via social media, you know she has quite the unique sense of humor. Let me just tell you, she communicates that wit and flair with her writing style, too. It combines in the best possible way in her debut novel with Harvest House, The Bachelor Girl’s Guide to Murder.  This is book #1 in her “Herringford and Watts Mysteries” series. It releases in ebook format on March 1 and paperback April 1.

By the way, there is a current Goodreads giveaway open for this book through April 15th. Click here to enter it!

(If you will recall, I reviewed the prequel novella, A Singular and Whimsical Problem, here.)

About the BookThe Bachelor Girl's Guide to Murder by Rachel McMillan In 1910 Toronto, while other bachelor girls perfect their domestic skills and find husbands, two friends perfect their sleuthing skills and find a murderer.

Inspired by their fascination with all things Sherlock Holmes, best friends and flatmates Merinda and Jem launch a consulting detective business. The deaths of young Irish women lead Merinda and Jem deeper into the mire of the city’s underbelly, where the high hopes of those dreaming to make a new life in Canada are met with prejudice and squalor.

While searching for answers, donning disguises, and sneaking around where no proper ladies would ever go, they pair with Jasper Forth, a police constable, and Ray DeLuca, a reporter in whom Jem takes a more than professional interest. Merinda could well be Toronto’s premiere consulting detective, and Jem may just find a way to put her bachelor girlhood behind her forever–if they can stay alive long enough to do so.

ReviewThis story is fun and sweet, with just enough action and mystery to propel story while the characters worm their way into your heart in-between the exciting moments! The unique setting and era alone are vivid and memorable. Rachel has combined meticulous research and her imagination resulting in a setting with both historical significance and imagined whimsy (like fictitious public figures and morality squads).

Eccentric is the perfect word for Merinda, while Jem is the romantic and grounded best friend who gets pulled along on their adventures. I like how Jem’s perspective is the one we get to experience the most. In many cases, “sidekicks” stay in the shadows of a feisty heroine, but let me tell you, Jem is no weak wallflower (though she might think of herself as one).

Jasper and Ray, our ladies’ romantic interests, are both thoughtful and protective when necessary. Ray, which we get to know best, is possibly my favorite character of the novel! He gets tangled in the mystery the girls are trying to solve and proves quite the distraction for Jem. Rachel McMillan’s talent and ability to write romantic tension between Ray and Jem is another favorite part of mine! I mean, the perfect recipe for a fictional heartthrob is Italian gibberish, flirting, bad poetry, and refreshing honesty, right? 🙂

I hope we see more of Ray and his sister Viola’s sibling relationship in later stories! (and with the setting of book 2, I have a feeling we will.) They have a sweet, caring relationship. Ray’s personal character is revealed in the way he treats his sister and the extent of his sacrifice for her.

To briefly address one aspect of the humor of this story, I want to say Rachel’s “footnotes” are awesome. Sometimes they offer short explanations or brief tongue-in-cheek asides as though from a narrator. This type of story device is unique and rarely (if ever?) used in this genre, so it’s all the more effective in adding a touch of style and comedy.

Underneath the layers of independent feminine spirit, witty dialogue, nods to Sherlock Holmes, criminal motives, and humorous prose is a story of finding purpose and belonging. It imparts that sometimes life doesn’t play out like the fairy tale you would imagine. Sometimes it’s messy, quite different, and ok that way. Sometimes it’s just achieving a simple dream. But sometimes, God’s plan for your life is even better than you could imagine. And He will use the most unlikely people and circumstances for His purposes.

To end my gushing review, I will say that this is a must-read! Personally, I’m very excited for the adventures of these characters later this year in the novella Of Dubious and Questionable Memory and book 2, A Lesson in Love and Murder.

Thank you to Rachel McMillan, Harvest House, and Netgalley for providing copies of this novel in exchange for my honest review.

Interview with the Author

Rachel was very gracious and happy to answer all of my questions! Read on for a little behind-the-scenes info on this book and some fun trivia about Rachel. 

What inspired you to write The Bachelor Girl’s Guide to Murder?

My agent was shopping a historical romance of mine and we were having no luck.  She came back from ICRS (a big Christian book conference ) and said that the buzz was around Romantic Suspense.  She knew (I am not very quiet about this fact!)  that I am a lifelong Sherlock Holmes nut. So, she suggested a female Sherlock Holmes.  I  spent an entire weekend at a favourite coffee shop here in Toronto and developed an entire world and met Jem and Merinda, Jasper and Ray along the way.   So, I kinda fell into being a mystery writer.  I read mystery all the time!  It is one of my favourite genres— but writing it? That was a new challenge.  Thus, you’ll notice that Jem and Merinda stumble into a few answers along the way and trip up—they’re learning how to be detectives just as I am learning how to WRITE about detectives.

What message or spiritual theme do you want to communicate to readers with The Bachelor Girl’s Guide to Murder?

The spiritual theme to this series is more subtle than you might find in other Christian Fiction but that was purposeful: in order to reach as wide a readership as possible in an accessible way.  That being said, as a Christian, I see the world from a Christian worldview and each of the relationships I pursue in the book reflect some kind of question I have had in my own faith walk.     Indeed, I like to look at Christianity as being a lot like the Watson and Sherlock relationship: Watson acts on faith that Sherlock is omniscient and he believes wholly in Sherlock’s deductive powers.  Much as we believe in our Higher Power—even though, like Watson, we may have to wait for the big reveal and the answers hidden until the end.

The scripture I followed for Bachelor Girl’s Guide to Murder was Prov 31:8  Speak for those who cannot speak for themselves. I pursue this with a hero for whom English is a second language and  often a barrier  as well as women and immigrants who lived in a time period where they were not given the right for their voices to be heard. The book I am working on now –A Lesson in Love and Murder– is very much a look at anarchy and submission.  The spiritual themes are deft but definitely there 🙂

Overall, I want women to feel empowered even if they don’t fit into what they think is expected of them. The Bible features Marys and Marthas but Deborahs and Esthers, too!

What was most challenging about writing a story set in early 1900s Toronto?

Writing the voice is a huge part of it!  Honestly, we have this lax way of speaking that just doesn’t sound authentic when transposed into the early 20th Century.  I mention in my author’s note I do take a lot of liberties in creating Jem and Merinda’s world. But, like the historical fiction I love best, I wanted to capture and create the essence of a world – in hopes of inspiring readers to read more about the time period.  The challenges come in little things that we think of all the time….    For one example, allergies!   In my novella A Singular and Whimsical Problem I have a heroine who is allergic to cats.  But did Edwardian people even know about allergies? I had to go look it up.   I have also looked up doorbells and, most recently, whether men wore wedding rings.

To add, Toronto looks very different now: sure there are buildings and neighbourhoods that were around in Jem and Merinda’s time, but the look different and are surrounded by skyscrapers!  I really have to make sure I am pulling back that modern curtain to see the city as they would rather than how Rachel does .

I spent a ton of time at the archives here in Toronto and looking through photographs: which gave me a sense of the fashion, the streetcars, the police and, of course, the day to day life of a cosmopolitan city of yesteryear.

Which character was your favorite to write? (ahem, I think I can guess the answer to this one….) 

They’re all my friends.  When I submitted the first book to my agent to be sent out into the world of editors I cried. I knew I would miss them so much.   I am one half Jem, one half Merinda –so they’re very close to me. And, because this is a six part  series, I am at the point where they talk for themselves and I just take dictation.  In book 2 you get to meet Benny Citrone, a Mountie! And he is a lot of fun to write, too.
But I do have a soft spot for Ray: partly because he just showed up!  He factored in my outline as a secondary character but once he started talking he wouldn’t stop. I really have very little control over him. He goes and does what he likes, and says what he likes and I am just as surprised as the reader.  While each character is a delight, the unexpected things that Ray gets up to keep me on my toes and that is part of the fun of the process. Often when Jem is gushing about Ray, she is using my voice. I truly love him.

Just for fun: Do you have any hobbies?

I really love to read!  ( shocking! )  and I reallllly love to go to the theatre! I am a huge Broadway buff and we get a lot of theatre here in Toronto so I am often checking it out. I am a huge baseball fan. I watch the Toronto Blue Jays all the time ( especially with my laptop in my lap writing away) and I go to as many games as possible during the season.

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

I am a die hard nut for the  Victorian era. I think it would be very difficult to live there because I am so accustomed to our modern privileges but I would love to live in Victorian England for a day.  My degree at University was in Victorian Literature so that period is one of my true loves.

What are you currently reading?

Time of Fog and Fire by Rhys Bowen who is a favourite mystery writer of mine.

A Darker Shade of Magic by V. E Schwab.

About the Author
Rachel McMillanRachel McMillan is a keen history enthusiast and a lifelong bibliophile. When not writing or reading, she can most often be found drinking tea and watching British miniseries. Rachel lives in bustling Toronto, where she works in educational publishing and pursues her passion for art, literature, music, and theater.

Rachel’s Bookish ramblings are housed at A Fair Substitute For Heaven 

Twitter: @rachkmc

Instagram: @rachkmc

Facebook: rachkmc1

Pinterest: @rachkmc

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“How a Star Falls” REVIEW + INTERVIEW with author Amber Stokes

Today I’m absolutely delighted to be hosting Amber Stokes as a part of her blog tour for her latest contemporary “new adult” novella, How a Star Falls. (You may remember my cover reveal post) Amber has been a long time blogging and Twitter friend, and I’m happy to share my love of her writing skills with you all. Read on for my review, interview with Amber, ways to connect with her, and GIVEAWAY info. FOR THE BLOG TOUR SCHEDULE, CLICK HERE.

How a Star Falls by Amber StokesAbout the Book

Sweet NA Contemporary Romance Novella

How does a star fall?
Quickly. Completely. Unexpectedly.
Derrick Knolane escapes to Trinidad Head most evenings, avoiding his apartment and planning for the day he’ll break free of Humboldt County. Working in a music store might be fine for a while, but it’s far from the goal he had in mind when he got his college degree. Not to mention the fact that his roommate is a jerk and his family won’t stop trying to run his life.

Then Brielle falls into his world.

She claims to be a star. Not from Hollywood, but from heaven. He thinks she’s crazy. Certainly delusional. Yet, he can’t just leave her alone on the cliffs. So he takes her home.

And his whole world falls apart.

A heartfelt and fanciful contemporary romance novella, How a Star Falls explores the uncertain season of new adulthood and shows that sometimes the worst inconveniences make for the best miracles of all.

Purchase on Amazon

My thoughts: 

I thought How a Star Falls was a sweet, intriguing story of finding your place — and learning that sometimes your biggest blessings are right in front of you. As Derrick and Brielle adventured through a few days, I was continually wondering if the story would move beyond the borders of reality into a fantasy. (I can’t tell you if it did or not, but I will say that I was happy with the ending) Amber’s writing style flows smoothly and with detail, causing me to wish  the story wasn’t over so soon. I could definitely read more about these characters! Perhaps she’ll write more about Derrick’s sisters at some point 🙂

Brielle seems to bring out the best in Derrick, making him leave his comfort zone and dare to hope his life could be better, even if it’s not quite what he first imagined. I loved the references to pop culture sprinkled through the story. They are an obvious reflection of Amber’s tastes and fun personality. Overall, this was a very enchanting story and one I would recommend to both mainstream and inspirational fiction fans!

Thank you to Amber for providing a copy in exchange for my honest review!

~Interview with Amber~

What inspired you to write this book?

I’m not entirely sure how the idea first popped into my head. Maybe it was when I was walking around my parents’ house and noticed the International Star Registry® certiface on the wall. I just recall a really vague idea about a story of stars personified and dancing coming to mind while I was doing a workout video in my parents’ living room. That was about a year ago.

Since that time, the cover my designer put together, her suggestion to change my initial title, my daydreams about the beginning of the book, and my life experiences all led to a very different sort of story. Truly, the novella wouldn’t be what it is without me going through the events of 2014—applying to different jobs, waiting (and waiting) for news, working at a grocery store for a brief time, and finally obtaining a position at a publisher and moving into my own apartment in a different state. Derrick and Brielle’s story ended up being shaped to a large extent by these changes and by my time living at home after college.quote

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

There is hope, even when it feels like the future we envisioned has become the present we never expected. And through God’s grace there can be meaning and joy and revival, even in the midst of seemingly undesirable circumstances.

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

I’ve come to understand and appreciate that there’s a place for me in this time, as much as I love stories about the past. 🙂 But if I had to choose another time to live in, I would probably say the 19th century in the U.S. I love reading and writing about that era, with all its wildness and changes. There’s something about the time period with its mixture of challenge and simplicity (or at least our romanticized perceptions of it!) that draws me. Plus, I love the West. It’s home to me, and I find its history fascinating.

Thank you, Amber, for graciously agreeing to the interview! I’m so glad your journey shaped this story.

About AmberAmber Stokes Author Pic

Amber Stokes works as a content writer (marketing services) for a Christian publisher. On the side, she self-publishes inspirational fiction depicting the seasons of life and love. Her passion for books compelled her to earn a bachelor’s degree in English and to run her own freelance editing and publicity business for over a year. Happily, this new chapter of her career takes place in the Pacific Northwest—a part of the world she’s always considered home. Learn more about Amber’s books at www.SeasonsofaStory.blogspot.com.

Social Media Links

Twitter: @SeasonsHumility

Blog: www.seasonsofhumility.blogspot.com

Website: www.seasonsofastory.blogspot.com

Pinterest: pinterest.com/seasonshumility

Goodreads: Amber Stokes

Google +:  +AmberStokes

Rafflecopter Giveaway

Share in the excitement of Amber’s new release with a special starry giveaway! You can enter to win one of three prize packs using the Rafflecopter form below. Open to U.S. residents only.

http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/share-code/MTVjZWUzOTdmNzNhZTBkM2QzNmI4OTkwN2ZjZDVhOjM1/