Review: “His Steadfast Love by Julie Lessman + Book Snippet & GIVEAWAY ~Blog Tour

1_160_origWelcome to my stop on this fun tour leading up to author Julie Lessman’s independent release AND the last book in her “Isle of Hope” series, His Steadfast Love! Julie might be more familiar to fans of the historical romance genre, with multiple series anchoring her as a talented author when it comes to family dramas and swoony romances. In the last couple years, though, Julie has proven her talent once again within a new realm: contemporary stories.

If family drama threaded with spiritual lessons rooted in Scripture and plenty of romance is your thing, read on for more about this series, my gushing review, a chance to win fun prizes, and a book snippet that *might* require a fan!

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his-steadfast-love_origSeries: Isle of Hope
Genre: Contemporary, Romance, Christian
Publisher: Indie
Publication date: August 1. 2017

She’s bent on fun.
He’s bent on faith.
Till true love bridges the gap.

Cat O’Bryen is the prodigal daughter unhappy with God. First, the father with whom she reconciled dies of cancer and now her twin sister and best friend marries, leaving Cat at home with a newlywed mother, her new husband, and a little brother. But when Cat moves in with a roommate of questionable morals, her family is worried, certain she’s on a path that could damage her faith forever.

Reluctant to get involved with a woman like the one who destroyed his life, ex-Navy SEAL Pastor Chase Griffin steers clear of the attraction he feels for Cat O’Bryen. Until her family begs him to take her under his wing, hoping he can draw her back into the fold. But when the draw she has on him proves too strong to resist, he must rely on the strength of God to offer a friendship as steady and strong as the God whose love is wooing her home. ​

GOODREADS | AMAZON

The Books in the Series

My reviews:  Isle of Hope |  Love Everlasting

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julie-turquoise-in-chair_origJulie 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, and Heart of San Francisco series, Julie was named American Christian Fiction Writers 2009 Debut Author of the Year and has garnered 18 Romance Writers of America and other awards. Voted #1 Romance Author of the year in Family Fiction magazine’s 2012 and 2011 Readers Choice Awards, Julie was also named on Booklist’s 2010 Top 10 Inspirational Fiction and Borders Best Fiction list.

Julie’s most recent novel, Isle of Hope was voted on Family Fiction magazine’s Best of 2015, and Surprised by Love appeared on Family Fiction magazine’s Best of 2014. Her independent novel A Light in the Window is 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. You can contact Julie through her website and read excerpts from each of her books at www.julielessman.com.

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This time he was ready for her, and with an easy twist, he scooped her up and launched her high in the air, her squeals bouncing off the water before she did.
Ker-splash!
A gush of water plumed, and Chase grinned outright when she shot from the surface, mouth going strong as usual. “Chase Griffin, you are the lowest, sneakiest, most diabolical—”
His laughter rang over the water. “Sorry, Catfish, but ‘diabolical’ belongs to you, kiddo, so I wouldn’t be throwing pitchforks if I were you.”
“And a p-pastor too!” she sputtered, still spitting water out of her mouth.
He cocked a hip on the edge of the board, thumbs hooked into the back pockets of his wet jeans. “That’s right, Catherine,” he said, his grin definitely ‘diabolical,’ “anything you need to get off your chest?”
“Come into the water, Rev, and I’ll show you ‘diabolical.’” She delivered a sweet smile that was anything but, paddling in place with a glint of dare in her eyes.
“Oh, no doubt about that,” he said with a grin, loosely crossing his arms. “But I’ll pass, if you don’t mind, and work on my tan while I fish.”
“Chase Griffin, you are nothing but a wet blanket!” she snapped.
“Yep, thanks to you,” he said with a chuckle, fetching his rod and tackle box and settling into his chair.
Nose in the air, she spun around in a swoosh to head to the neighbor’s dock, her strokes deft and sure like his demise would be if he got into the water with Cat O’Bryen. He was tempted to take a quick dive just to cool off because that minx sure had a way of heating him up, and they were just friends, for pity’s sake. God help him, he couldn’t imagine dating the woman, subject to temptation day in and day out. Those teasing eyes, that sexy smile, her flirtatious ways.
Those come-on kisses …
Heat engulfed him that had nothing to do with the sun beating down and everything to do with the vamp in the water. Although his mind was made up, Cat O’Bryen was too much of what his body and soul craved, and he wasn’t going there again. Ever. Especially not with a woman whose faith was as weak as water.
“Oh!”
He glanced up from his tackle box, heart constricting when he saw Cat freeze in the water. “What’s wrong?” He shot to his feet.
“Cramps.” It was a strained response as she maneuvered to a dead-man float.
“Where?” His heart rate took off in a sprint, memories of a SEAL buddy dangerously compromised on a mission from severe abdominal cramps.
“Left leg.” Her voice matched the grimace on her face. “I’ll be fine … I’ll just wait it out.”
“Grab your toes on the cramped leg and pull toward you,” he ordered, gaze pinned to her body for any sign of distress, “then straighten your leg.”
Face pinched, she did as he instructed, her groans hitching his pulse. “Never this bad before …”
That’s all it took. The tackle box hit the weathered wood with a hard clunk as Chase dove from the dock, arriving by her side in mere seconds. “Any better?” He watched while she continued pulling and stretching, his breathing heavy as he hovered close, finally catching his breath.
“I’m not sure …” she said in a weak voice.
And then she lunged, stealing his air all over again when she brought him down, submerging him with a power that belied her small size. “No, wait …” She bolted away when he hit the surface, coughing up water. “Yes, definitely better now.” Her giggles bounced off the lake as she swam for the shore, arms slicing through the water with an efficiency that would outdistance most people.
But he wasn’t most people. He was a seasoned professional.
With a store of adrenalin usually reserved for workouts at the gym, work days at Lake Loon, or dangerous missions overseas, Chase easily overtook her mere feet from the sandy shore, clamping onto her foot to reel her in hard. One arm latched to her waist, he handily dunked her with the other, her shrieks and giggles lost in a tide pool of bubbles and foam. Quickly lurching her back up, he chuckled low in her ear as she kicked and squealed in his arms. “I thought I told you never to mess with an ex-Navy SEAL, Catfish,” he said with a husky chuckle, soundly dousing her all over again.
He released her, and she literally exploded from the water, twisting in the air like some headstrong sea nymph, taking him down with a grunt as she clung stubbornly to his head.
And didn’t let go.
They burst from the water as one, her body welded to his as she death-gripped his hair, obviously intent on one more plunge.
But the only thing that plunged was his gut when their eyes locked, the laughter in her face dissolving into something far softer and warm while her ragged breathing mated with his. Her gaze dropped to his mouth, and a tidal wave of want surged through his body, taking him down as easily as Cat had done with her well-placed dunking.
She absently licked her lips, and his stomach cramped with need as he fought the pull of her parted mouth, her shallow breathing in dangerous sync with his own. His eyelids felt as heavy as if he were drugged, arms slowly curling around her waist like they had a mind of their own. And God help him, they did, because he had little control as they drew her close, luring his mouth to hers with a low, aching moan.
She tasted like sheer heaven as he nuzzled the lips he’d dreamed about since the night she had kissed him in her room. Forcing himself to take it slow, he caressed her mouth with all the tenderness that swirled inside for a lost, little girl named Cat. But the moment a soft mew left her lips, he was a goner, his groan hoarse as he delved in to explore with a passion too long denied.
And that’s when he knew.
He was dead in the water.
Literally

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Yes, a large portion of this story develops the main romance in Julie’s signature “passion with a purpose” style, with a few scenes that might require a freezer (as evidenced in the snippet above), as Carrie likes to say. It’s always tastefully presented. Always pointing to a Christ-centered marriage or leading the characters to see what real Love should be like.

But it’s so much more than a story to quicken your pulse, it’s a story to quicken your spirit and encourage your heart. At least it did mine, in ways I didn’t know I needed. But that’s the awesome power of honest and Biblical-truth-filled story: sometimes it speaks to your heart in a personal way.

While I don’t have the history and same problems these characters face, I CAN relate to their very real, human struggles. I can relate to harboring unforgiveness and the bitterness it brings. I can relate to running from something or someone (God) I should run toward. I can relate to fearing rejection and hurt. In Chase’s (and even Tess’s) case, to the point it challenges trust and interferes with their walks with God. This story fleshes out these themes with a refreshing directness not often found in the Christian fiction genre, addressing topics such as sin, jealousy, and physical attraction through a lens of faith and hope.

Following the O’Bryens and Carmichaels through 3 books and 1 novella has earned them a big place in my reader heart. Seeing them overcome, accomplish, and embrace a restoration that could only be orchestraed by God has been a fun journey that came together even more with this final story. (insert sad whines because this is the last book) BUT, I was thrilled with the swoony happy moments included from the perspectives of Shannon and Tess that fit into the story and showed a little of what their happily-ever-afters look like.

Cat and Chase’s story has been a long time coming, but it was SO worth the wait! Chase has been a present and active character in the whole series. With this book, I was happy to finally learn his whole story and see him grow and be surprised by God’s plan. And when he and Cat are together on the page, talk about chemistry! I loved her spunky personality even when I wanted to talk some sense into her about her rebellion. But oh, her journey back to faith spurred on by Chase and his beautiful frienship was amazing to witness. It is an honest reminder of the strength of God’s love, how He reveals himself through his people (in this case, Chase and Cat’s whole family), and how He loves each of us through our running and floundering, just waiting for us to turn back and embrace Him.

 

Reminds me of lyric “Don’t hide your face from me, for My love won’t be undone.” God is waiting for her to turn back, loving her through her floundering and loving her through her people.

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Enter the rafflecopter giveaway HERE.

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July 23–Singing Librarian Books

July 24–Faithfully Bookish

July 25–Remembrancy | Reading Is My SuperPower

July 26–Paulette’s Papers | Encouraging Words from the Tea Queen

July 27–Flowers of Quiet Happiness | Faery Tales Are Real

July 28–The Green Mockingbird 

July 29–Radiant Light | Cafinated Reads

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Series Feature: Price of Privilege by Jessica Dotta + My Dream Cast!

Series Feature: Price of Privilege by Jessica Dotta + My Dream Cast!

Welcome to my post alllll about a favorite series! The “Price of Privilege” series by Jessica Dotta, that is. This gushing post is long overdue— I’m blaming it on the way this series blows me away each time I consider putting into words my thoughts. I should warn you there might be MILD SPOILERS AHEAD with the cast descriptions and book synopses.

I reviewed book 1, Born of Persuasion, a while ago. Then I reread the whole series a year ago with blogger friends and we fangirled on Twitter (with hashtag #POPral). Now, I want to share a few thoughts on each book and my dream cast for the series.

Oh, and I have compiled this fun Pinterest board with my dream cast, quotes, and photos that match the feel of the series :).

MY THOUGHTS ON EACH BOOK

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Born of Persuasion – like I said in my earlier review, it’s a page-turner with the feel of a slightly gothic setting with deep, complex characters. The story is told from a first person narrative in the future, so it’s like Julia is telling her life story with additional insight. A brilliant setup for the rest of the series, we’re plunged into Julia’s fascinating world with questions of who to trust and very few answers. Pay close attention to every detail in this book — upon rereading I noticed so much foreshadowing for books two and three.

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Mark of Distinction – this book takes us deeper into the secrets Julia’s family has kept and the hidden agenda of a certain person trying to dictate her life. It brings to light a real-life good vs evil battle that tugs Julia in multiple directions at once. Through an unexpected friendship (and even mentor-like relationship) with Isaac Dalry <3, Julia finds her footing and a deeper spiritual purpose driving her toward something…. the cliffhanger-like surprise at the end of this book threw me for a loop and had me rooting for Julia!

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Price of Privilege – like the title suggests, this book truly shows the cost of deception and the contrasting beauty of sacrifice. The Christ-like picture painted through one character’s unalterable choice blew me away. Talk about a twist! (and ugly cries!) I appreciated how both Isaac and Edward are portrayed in this conclusion, both loving Julia through anything. And both making selfless decisions to help her in any way they can out of love. For any fans of gothic mysteries or the Victorian era, this series is perfection.

DREAM CAST

I’ve said before that this book series NEEDS to be adapted to a miniseries! I’ve had some of these actors/actresses in my head since first reading the series. I’ll list the book’s descriptions if you need convincing!

Casting Julia Elliston

Julia Elliston – 17 years old, ebony hair

I think Felicity has a youthful look that would convey Julia’s growth and journey to maturity very well.

Casting Edward Auburn

Edward Auburn – hazel eyes and curly, “honey” hair.

Tom Hiddleston could pull off the boyish charm of Edward, along with the more mature role he portrays while offering wisdom to Julia.

Casting Chance Macy

Chance Macy – a “captivating….dark angel”, longish black hair, much older than Julia.

Two words: Richard Armitage. After all, one moment you are as infatuated with Macy as Julia is, the next, you don’t know if you can believe anything he says.
Casting Isaac Dalry

Lord Isaac Dalry – blue eyes and russet hair

James Norton IS Isaac Dalry in my mind. Might as well call it a fact. ❤ ❤

Casting Minors 1

Casting Minors 2

(all images obtained through Pinterest)

What do you think of my choices? See any of your favorites actors on my list? 😉 Would you pick someone else for these roles?

SONGS THAT MATCH

Sometimes, I run across songs that just match a book I’ve read. These three songs fit this series in feel and theme. Do you agree?

Born of Persuasion: Volcano as performed by Phillip Phillips. The melancholy and mysterious feel of it just works. And, when applied as the male antagonist’s perspective, all sorts of underlying meanings make sense.

Mark of Distinction: You Set Me Free  by Angie Miller. This song perfectly matches the faith transformation Julia undergoes midway through book 2.

Price of Privilege: We Remain by Christina Aguilera. I love how this song matches the struggle Julia goes through with a triumphant “whatever happens here, we remain” proclamation.

ABOUT THE BOOKS

Book 1, Born of Persuasion

Born of PersuasionThe year is 1838, and seventeen-year-old Julia Elliston’s position has never been more fragile. Orphaned and unmarried in a time when women are legal property of their fathers, husbands, and guardians, she finds herself at the mercy of an anonymous guardian who plans to establish her as a servant in far-off Scotland.

With two months to devise a better plan, Julia’s first choice to marry her childhood sweetheart is denied. But when a titled dowager offers to introduce Julia into society, a realm of possibilities opens. However, treachery and deception are as much a part of Victorian society as titles and decorum, and Julia quickly discovers her present is deeply entangled with her mother’s mysterious past. Before she knows what’s happening, Julia finds herself a pawn in a deadly game between two of the country’s most powerful men. With no laws to protect her, she must unravel the secrets on her own. But sometimes truth is elusive and knowledge is deadly.

Book 2, Mark of Distinction

Mark of DistinctionLondon is said to be the glittering jewel of society, a world unto itself—but to Julia Elliston it is a city of shadows. Her life is swiftly dissolving into scandal. And in Victorian society, even a whisper of scandal—substantiated or not—can be the death of a young woman’s reputation.

When Julia discovers that Lord Roy Pierson, her guardian and one of most influential men in England, is the father she has never met, she begrudgingly accepts his protection. But Chance Macy’s power is far-reaching as well.

Thrust into society as the Emerald Heiress, Julia is the toast of London, a celebrated curiosity. But in reality she’s trapped between the clutches of two powerful men. Aided only by a gentleman whose intentions she prays she can trust, Julia must finally take control of her own fate—but outwitting one’s foe rarely goes according to plan.

Book 3, Price of Privilege

Price of PrivilegeHaving finally discovered the truth of her birthright, Julia Elliston is determined to outwit Chance Macy at his own game. Holding a secret he’d kill to keep, however, is proving more difficult than she imagined.

Just when Julia thinks she’s managed to untangle herself from Macy’s clutches, he changes tactics with a risky ploy. As the scandal of the century breaks loose, drawing rooms all over London whisper what so far newspapers have not dared to print: Macy’s lost bride is none other than Lord Pierson’s daughter–and one of the most controversial cases of marital law ever seen comes before Victorian courts.

Though Julia knows Macy’s version of events is another masterful manipulation, public opinion is swaying in his favor. Caught in a web of deceit and lies, armed only with a fledgling faith, Julia must face her fiercest trial yet.

Have you read this amazing series? Do you have thoughts or FEELINGS about it?

Top Ten Tuesday: 10 Favorite Book Quotes About Books

Top Ten Tuesday: 10 Favorite Book Quotes About Books

It’s another Top Ten Tuesday, hosted by  The Broke and the Bookish

Top Ten Tuesday at The Green Mockingbird

The official Top Ten Tuesday meme is taking a hiatus from weekly topics until August 15th. Until then, we bloggers are tasked with coming up with our own topics, if we want!

This particular list has been bouncing around in my head and in my “book journal” for a while. I’ve been noting and collecting a few quotes here and there during my reading routine about books. It’s super fun when you can share a love for reading with authors vicariously through their own stories. Further proof that books and stories are influential and important to life!

Top Ten Tuesday 10 favorite book quotes about books

10 Favorite Book Quotes About Books

1. “That’s what I love about reading: one tiny thing will interest you in a book, and that tiny thing will lead you onto another book, and another bit there will lead you onto a third book. It’s geometrically progressive – all with no end in sight, and for no other reason than sheer enjoyment.” – Juliet in The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows

2. “I wonder how the book got to Guernsey? Perhaps there is some secret sort of homing instinct in book that brings them to their perfect readers. How delightful if that were true.” – Juliet in The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows

3. “‘They’re as much your friends as they are mine. I don’t mean it in some strange or creepy anti-social way. I mean that reading forms your opinions, your worldview, especially childhood reading, and anything that does has an impact. So call them friends, call some stories enemies if you want, but don’t deny their influence.’ She popped up straight. ‘You learn drama from the Brontës; sense from Austen; social justice from Dickens; beauty from Wordsworth, Keats, and Byron; patience and perseverance form Gaskell; and don’t even get me started on exercising your imagination with Caroll, Doyle, Wells, Wilde, Stoker –‘ “-Lucy in The Brontë Plot by Katherine Reay

4. ” ‘You are your own person and I wouldn’t worry about the stories. We all compare our lives to them. That’s why we love them; they help us understand ourselves.’ ” – Helen to Lucy in The Brontë Plot by Katherine Reay

5. “I love coming to the bookstore. Cause it’s awesome. I take a deep breath. Inhale. Exhale. I love the smell of books. Of paper. Of coffee. Of coffee and paper. It’s poetically beautiful.” – Izze’s POV in Love, Lace, and Minor Alterations by V. Joy Palmer

6. “Books told stories. Books told us about ourselves.” – from A Portrait of Emily Price by Katherine Reay

7. ” ‘You put new meaning to the word bookworm. More like a book… boa constrictor.’ “- Blake Hunziker in Here to Stay by Melissa Tagg

8. “She still remembered the expression on his face last week when he’d finished and closed the last tome. He’d looked pleased and just a bit melancholy. She knew those dual feelings well – the satisfaction of completing a well-written piece of literature while also coming to terms with the fact that those few moments of pure bliss would soon be replaced with a longing for more.” – from Whispers in the Reading Room by Shelley Gray

9. ” ‘Within the pages of books one’s heart can be revealed.’ “-Sister Agnes in The Sound of Silver by Rachelle Rea Cobb

10. “John had once vanquised terrorists intent on killing him and the people he’d been guarding. She couldn’t even vanquish the to-be-read pile of books on her nightstand.” – from True to You by Becky Wade

Did you participate in this week’s TTT? What are some of your favorite quotes about books? 

 

Mini Review: Life After by Katie Ganshert

It’s time for another mini review! I read this book in conjunction with a virtual book club on Facebook, The WaterBrook and Multnomah Summer Fiction Book Club. (Hint: they are reading 2 more books this summer… you can join any time!).

Life After by Katie Ganshert in roses.jpg

 

 Life AfterLife After by Katie Ganshert

About the book: It could have been me.

Snow whirls around an elevated train platform in Chicago. A distracted woman boards the train, takes her seat, and moments later a fiery explosion rips through the frigid air, tearing the car apart in a horrific attack on the city’s transit system. One life is spared. Twenty-two are lost.

A year later, Autumn Manning can’t remember the day of the bombing and she is tormented by grief—by guilt. Twelve months of the question constantly echoing. Why? Why? Why? Searching for answers, she haunts the lives of the victims, unable to rest.

Paul Elliott lost his wife in the train bombing and wants to let the dead rest in peace, undisturbed and unable to cause more pain for his loved ones. He wants normalcy for his twelve-year-old daughter and young son, to see them move beyond the heartbreak. But when the Elliotts and Autumn are unexpectedly forced together, he fears she’ll bring more wreckage in her wake.

In Life After, Katie Ganshert’s most complex and unforgettable novel yet, the stirring prose and authentic characters pose questions of truth, goodness, and ultimate purpose in this emotionally resonant tale.

My Thoughts: This book deals with the long-reaching aftermath of an event that forever marks and changes two separate lives. Even with its hard subjects, though, it is written with a flowing style that is easy to read (and the characters! I just adored Paul’s kids, Reese and Tate). It is profound in its simultaneous complexity and simplicity. I can easily recommend it to anyone, because everyone can relate: we’ve all asked “Why? Why do horrible, evil things happen in this world? Where is the hope, the divine plan?” Through the separate perspectives of Autumn and Paul, a bigger and intersecting picture of LIFE with all its joy, loss, and potential for happiness is revealed –and life can be a wonderfully unexpected masterpiece.

June Happenings

It’s that time of month AGAIN……(head’s up: this post has A LOT of Jane Austen/Jane of Austin gushing)

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on the bookshelf

I added more than a few books to the bookshelf in June. It’s going to be a busy summer! One fabulous just-because read being True to You by Becky Wade, others being Then There Was You by Kara Isaac, Wives & Daughters by Elizabeth Gaskell, and a neat Jane Austen Memoir compilation by some of her relatives. Other for-review copies include Jane of Austin by Hillary Manton Lodge, The Whys Have It by Amy Matayo, High as the Heavens by Kate Breslin, and On Love’s Gentle Shore by Liz Johnson.

on the blog

Most popular posts:

  1. Top Ten Tuesday: 10 Memorable Dads in Literature + #BookDadQuotes
  2. How-To: Solar Dyed Yarn Project (With Kool-Aid)
  3. Book Spotlight, Author Interview, & GIVEAWAY: My Unexpected Hope by Tammy L. Gray

Screenshot_2017-06-15-22-48-28-1Most popular book reviews:

  1. I’ll Be Yours by Jenny B. Jones
  2. Jane of Austin by Hillary Manton Lodge
  3. The Road to Paradise by Karen Barnett

in the kitchen

I really, really want-to-make these olive oil chocolate chunk cookies I found on The Little Epicurean site. Soon.

20170626_150604 (800x450)did bake scones just this week from Hillary Manton Lodge’s recipe in Jane of Austin. Her recipe is for cranberries, but I happened to have fresh blueberries on hand and they worked just as well!

on the screen

Sense and SensibilityYet again, because of Jane of Austin, I re-watched the 1995 Sense and Sensibility movie. It had been way too long since I had watched it, and I appreciated it all the more this viewing. It is brilliantly cast!!! And the acting performances are wonderful, particularly that of Emma Thompson (I ❤ her).

Recently, I discovered the weekly travel show Born to Explore with Richard Wiese on a local TV station. So far, I’ve really enjoyed the episodes on Morocco, India, Uganda, and Cyprus.

around the web

Continuing with all the Jane Austen love this month, here are 3 wonderful articles by Hillary Manton Lodge:

Thanks to a Tyndale House Facebook post, I found these adorable little Lender’s Library Bookmarks — a free printable library-ish bookmark to keep tabs on your lent books.\

If you like “armchair adventures”, or traveling through reading, this is a “reading list road trip” from Bethany House Publishers of 2017 releases and their locations across the U.S. and globe.

 

Review: “Jane of Austin: A Novel of Sweet Tea and Sensibility” by Hillary Manton Lodge

My Jane of AustinSisters. Tea. Texas transplants. Tacos. Music. Scones. A heroic yet humble veteran. BBQ. The crazy complexities of family…. ALL INFUSED WITH JANE AUSTEN. Hillary Manton Lodge’s new release, Jane of Austin, is a feast for the voracious reader and fan of contemporary romance and classic literature alike. A contemporary retelling of Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility, this book delves deeper into the emotional complexities of Austen’s personas while maintaining a humorous and modern atmosphere.

FUN FACT: There are RECIPES at the end of some of the chapters of this novel! So, you won’t be hungry and bereft, as long as you have a functioning kitchen and small pantry nearby. Go ahead and buy some tea if you need it. And maybe the ingredients for scones or pie. You’ll thank me later.

 I read this book with some of my #bookbesties as an impromptu read-along on Twitter! If you’d like to see our Tweets and gushing, check out the hashtag #JofARAL.

About the Book

“Know your own happiness. You want nothing but patience – or give it a more fascinating name, call it hope.”―Jane Austen, Sense and Sensibility

Just a few years after their father’s business scandal shatters their lives, Jane and Celia Woodward find themselves forced out of their San Francisco tea shop. The last thing Jane wants is to leave their beloved shop on Valencia Street, but when Celia insists on a move to Austin, Texas, the sisters pack up their kid sister Margot and Jane’s tea plants, determined to start over yet again.

But life in Austin isn’t all sweet tea and breakfast tacos. Their unusual living situation is challenging and unspoken words begin to fester between Jane and Celia. When Jane meets and falls for up-and-coming musician Sean Willis, the chasm grows deeper.

While Sean seems to charm everyone in his path, one person is immune – retired Marine Captain Callum Beckett. Callum never meant to leave the military, but the twin losses of his father and his left leg have returned him to the place he least expected—Texas.

In this modern spin on the Austen classic, Sense and Sensibility, the Woodward sisters must contend with new ingredients in unfamiliar kitchens, a dash of heartbreak, and the fragile hope that maybe home isn’t so far away.

Jane of Austin on Goodreads | Amazon

Review

I think it’s beneficial to know a few of the main points of Austen’s classic, Sense and Sensibility, a movie/series adaptation of it, or even some of her other works to fully appreciate the brilliant aspects of Jane of Austin. I’m not an expert by any means, but I greatly appreciated the nuances of the story more having seen the Sense and Sensibility film and read it a loooong while ago.

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With Jane of Austin, Hillary lends her own originality to the structure of a classic. She maintains the focus of a sisterly bond, the story of uncertainty in the face of circumstance. But a new light is shined, in many ways: what if Marianne was just as emotional and dramatic, but an introvert? Elinor, still as logical and caring, an extrovert? And, how had Colonel Brandon’s previous life experiences shaped him into the quiet hero? What hardships had he endured for such perspective? These are just a few of the ways Jane, Celia, and Callum Beckett are brought into focus through Hillary’s lens, sharpening formerly overlooked elements and delightfully expounding on others.

This novel is distinctly Hillary’s voice, though. Having read her previous AMAZING “Two Blue Doors” series, I recognize the slight humor, sarcasm, and honesty of her tone. It pairs unbelievably well with the natural wit of Austen’s story for laugh-out-loud moments, especially when conversations between the sisters involve the youngest, Margot.

On that note, the sisterly dynamic is BRILLIANT! The extremes of such relationships are accurately shown… from the camaraderie and familiarity stemming from a shared history to the clash of personalities and disillusioned disagreements. Most of all, the moments of care and support of one another, the bond of family, and even the rhythm of working together were my favorite parts of seeing Jane and Celia together.

And oh, the romance! Callum Beckett is the ultimate selfless and steadfast hero. The familiar juxtaposition of Jane caring for Sean (the Willoughby character) is there, while Callum and his unrequited love plays out in a very plausible way. Callum’s veteran status and penchant for reading aloud just up the attractiveness. Oh, and have I mentioned he’s tall, dark, and handsome!? I’m still not sure why it takes Jane so long to notice ;).

Jane of Austin is a fresh and original twist that delightfully emphasizes the strength of family and home, which can sometimes be people instead of a place. This is the type of novel that ends with a happy sigh and a craving for tea and scones. I’m enamored with the way the combination of Hillary’s skill and a contemporary setting reveal how absurdly interconnected life and relationships can be — in a very Austen-Esque way.

Sincere and hearty thank you to the publisher/author for the complimentary review copy. This review is my honest and enthusiastic opinion.

About the Author

HILLARY MANTON LODGE is the author of Together at the TableReservations for TwoA Table by the WindowPlain Jayne,  and Simply Sara. Hillary Manton LodgeA graduate of the University of Oregon’s School of Journalism, Hillary discovered the world of cuisine during her internship atNorthwest Palate Magazine. Her next novel, Jane of Austin, will release June 13, 2017, from WaterBrook Multnomah. 

Over the years, Hillary’s novels have enjoyed critical success from Publishers Weekly, Library Journal, and Romantic Times and have reached readers around the world. In 2010, Plain Jayne was nominated as a Carol Award Finalist, and Simply Sara was an ECPA Bestselling book. In 2015, A Table by the Window was shortlisted in the INSPY Awards.

In her free time, Hillary often finds herself experimenting in the kitchen, attending indie concerts, and finding new walking trails. Formerly a resident of the Pacific Northwest, she and her husband now live near Memphis, Tennessee, along with their Cavalier King Charles Spaniels, Shiloh and Sylvie.

Review: The Road to Paradise by Karen Barnett

Screenshot_2017-06-15-22-48-28-1Take a step back in time with me today as we journey to 1927 Washington state and the beginnings of a majestic Mount Rainier National Park! The Road To Paradise kicks off a new series, “Vintage National Parks”, from author Karen Barnett and Waterbrook Multnomah publishers, featuring historicals set in different parks across America. For the outdoor or travel enthusiast, this is an “armchair” journey not to be missed!

About the Book

An ideal sanctuary and a dream come true–that’s what Margaret Lane feels as she takes in God’s gorgeous handiwork in Mount Rainier National Park.The Road to Paradise It’s 1927 and the National Park Service is in its youth when Margie, an avid naturalist, lands a coveted position alongside the park rangers living and working in the unrivaled splendor of Mount Rainier’s long shadow.
 
But Chief Ranger Ford Brayden is still haunted by his father’s death on the mountain, and the ranger takes his work managing the park and its crowd of visitors seriously. The job of watching over an idealistic senator’s daughter with few practical survival skills seems a waste of resources.
 
When Margie’s former fiancé sets his mind on developing the Paradise Inn and its surroundings into a tourist playground, the plans might put more than the park’s pristine beauty in danger. What will Margie and Ford sacrifice to preserve the splendor and simplicity of the wilderness they both love?
 
Karen Barnett’s vintage national parks novels bring to vivid life President Theodore Roosevelt’s vision for protected lands, when he wrote in Outdoor Pastimes of an American Hunter: “There can be nothing in the world more beautiful than the Yosemite, the groves of the giant sequoias and redwoods, the Canyon of the Colorado, the Canyon of the Yellowstone, the Three Tetons; and our people should see to it that they are preserved for their children and their children’s children forever, with their majestic beauty all unmarred.”

Review

This book is a scenic journey in itself that winds through rugged mountain landscapes, subtly treaded witty banter between the lead characters, and deeply carved lessons of faith.

It’s truly an experience reading it, with the setting and era as vividly portrayed as the hearts of Margie and Ford. Karen Barnett expertly expressed the awe, wonder, and respect one should have for Creation as a beautiful testament to God’s design and plan. (I want to vist Mt. Rainier now!!!!) Margie and Ford are an extension of that Creation, serving as examples and instruments of God’s expression; Margie through her reliance on faith and Ford through his discovery of the true source of strength.

Let’s talk about my favorite aspect of the story! I love, love, loved how Margie lived out her faith. And that it was an essential part of who she was, to the extent that she would not entertain a romance with someone who was didn’t share her beliefs and deep convictions.  While she never denied her attraction to Ford, she clearly made the call to witness where she could and let God lead Ford the rest of the way, if it was His will for them to be together like that. She stood her ground, and I was cheering her on! This is an important point of contention in real life, and it comes up sometimes in Christian fiction, but I just really appreciated the way it was handled by Karen in this particular story.

The Road to Paradise has a broad appeal with its moments of action and adrenaline-pumping adventure in the mountains, a sweet romance, an up-close “waltz” with nature, lessons in faith, AND a bit of an underdog-vs.-power-hungry rivalry story. The colorful side characters, including the wildlife, add great dimension and subtle humor. And, the “man-‘o-the-mountains” hero caught off-guard by love is a wonderful bonus! (Who doesn’t love a rugged, stetson-wearing hero?)

 

Sincere thanks to the publisher, Waterbrook Multnomah, and the author for the complimentary review copy of this novel. This is my honest review.