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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Blog Contributor:
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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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Review+Book Snippet: “Reclaimed” by Jennifer Rodewald ~ Blog Tour

Review+Book Snippet: “Reclaimed” by Jennifer Rodewald ~ Blog Tour

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Today I’m happy to be a part of the Singing Librarian Books tour for Reclaimed by Jennifer Rodewald, a contemporary Christian release from Rooted Publishing. Read on for my review, a snippet from the book, and GIVEAWAY + blog tour details.

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reclaimed-kindle-coverGenre:
 Christian, Contemporary
Publisher: Rooted Publishing
Publication date: February 28, 2017
Number of pages: 346

Left wounded by a marriage cut short, Suzanna Wilton leaves city life to take up residency in a tiny Nebraska town. Her introduction to her neighbor Paul Rustin is a disaster. Assuming he’s as underhanded as the other local cowboys she’s already met, Suzanna greets him with sharp hostility.

Though Paul is offended by Suzanna’s unfriendliness, he can’t stop thinking about her, which unsettles his peaceful life. A hard-fought friendship slowly kindles something more, but just as Paul’s kindness begins to melt Suzanna’s frozen heart, a conflict regarding her land escalates in town. Even in the warmth of Paul’s love, resentment keeps a cold grip on her fragile heart.
Will Suzanna ever find peace?
***2014 Olympia Winner***

GOODREADS | AMAZON

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Reclaimed  is the kind of story that settles into your heart after the final page. Engaging from the start, it is an amazing story of finding unfailing love, peace, and belonging that seriously had me laughing and crying multiple times.

Jennifer Rodewald has a beautiful writing style that is prose-like at times and to-the-point just when it needs to be. One paragraph could make me smile from the humor or an endearing nickname and the next paragraph could tear my heart out and bring deeper emotions to the forefront.

The hard-working yet relaxed pace of country life is painted as a perfect backdrop for the characters’ journeys, because this book is all about the characters. It centers on a painstakingly subtle transformation; a “reclaiming”, if you will, of heritage, faith, and dreams (with the addition of a sweet love story).

The main characters’ personalities are vibrant and endearing!

Suzanna is someone I just want to hug! She needs it. She starts off as a prickly, though always likable, person who is deeply hurting over some things from her past. She often reacts in anger toward others to stave off the pain or prevent further rejection. As her story slowly comes to light, she begins to change because of the encouragement and no-strings-attached friendships that grow from her new neighbors, Paul and his sister, Andrea.

Paul! He’s the quintessential country gentleman: a humble person who finds joy in his work and a man with integrity who loves his mama (and dad). Not to mention the humor and flirting he’s capable of ❤ …. But, he is not without his own flaws or difficulties. His current attitude is one resulting from growth, though, having dealt with his own struggles with pride to find peace and be settled with his home. I enjoyed the genuineness of his perspective.

These two emotional perspectives – Suzanna’s and Paul’s – are contrasted in a way that makes them even more understandable — one outlook of questioning, searching, and subsequent pain/anger and the other of a seasoned wisdom and hope. Paul really believes in Suzanna, something that no one has done for her in far too long. He exudes a kind and grace-filled spirit, understanding the need to slowly break through her walls.

The faith thread is never overstated, though central to the story. At the root of Suzanna’s problem is her disconnected idea of and relationship with God. When these encouraging personalities discover that this is the heart of Suzanna’s struggles, they understand it has to be addressed before healing can take place. And the way Paul — and his sister and a few other precious secondary characters — prove to be the hands and feet of Jesus in guiding Suz to Him plays out beautifully.

I really appreciated the way this entire story thoroughly points to the fact that only God can make one whole. That knowing Jesus is not the same as having religion. That the truth is as simple as a freely offered relationship with the Savior of the world. All of this is combined with the sweetest story of romance born of friendship to make this one of my favorite books I’ve read so far this year. It’s my first novel by Jennifer, but it won’t be my last!

Thank you to Singing Librarian Books and the publisher for providing a complimentary review copy for the purpose of this tour. This is my honest review.

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jennifer-rodewald_4_origJennifer Rodewald is passionate about the Word of God and the powerful vehicle of story. The draw to fiction has tugged hard on her heart since childhood, and when she began pursuing writing she set on stories that reveal the grace of God.
Jen lives and writes in a lovely speck of a town where she watches with amazement while her children grow up way too fast, gardens, and marvels at God’s mighty hand in everyday life. Four kids and her own personal superman make her home in southwestern Nebraska delightfully chaotic.
She would love to hear from you! Please visit her at https://www.authorjenrodewald.com or on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/authorjenrodewald or email her at write2edify@gmail.com.
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Suzanna felt shock contort her face. Paul Rustin? The neighbor who had been kind to her even when she’d been horrible to him? She studied him, unable to picture him as anything other than the gentleman he’d shown himself to be.
Warmth shaded his complexion crimson. “See, not a very good story, right?”
“Why?”
“Why did I do those things?”
She pressed her lips together, wondering why she pushed him but nodded anyway.
“I don’t really know, Suz. I was just angry, and I’m not even sure why. I didn’t want to live here, I didn’t want to be nothin’, and I couldn’t see anything beyond myself. I didn’t have a real reason.”
“What happened?”
Paul’s eyes softened, and a smile crept over his features again. “I didn’t graduate from Rock Creek—I went to Boys Town in March of my senior year. My grandpa came to Omaha to visit me in April with a proposal. If I studied and got my GED, I could come out and live with them. I would have to work like a ranch hand, but they’d keep me on until I figured out what I wanted to do with my life.
“It wasn’t the out I was looking for. I didn’t want to come back to Rock Creek. I thought, man, give me some money and let me go find a life. But Boys Town wasn’t exactly Park Place, and it didn’t look like I’d be passing GO anytime soon, so I agreed.
“I must have thought it would be like visiting my grandparents when I was a kid. You know, farm breakfast at nine every morning, Grandma always ready with a cookie, and I’d collect eggs or do some trivial chore as a token of work.”
Paul chuckled and rubbed his neck. “Nope. My grandpa meant some w-o-r-k. I stayed in the bunkhouse, which was nothing more than a tin can trailer. If I wanted breakfast, I had to get up at six to eat with them because Grandma had things to do. They paid me what they would have paid a hand, and out of my earnings came the cost of rent, electricity, and food. When I slacked off that winter, my bunkhouse got awful cold because Grandpa didn’t pay me enough to cover both heat and food.”
Suzanna’s eyebrows rose. “Seriously? Your grandpa put you out in the cold?”
He laughed. “Tough love, Suz. I found out later they’d set a threshold on the thermostat of around fifty degrees so the pipes wouldn’t freeze, so it wasn’t as bad as I thought. But it felt awful cold. I hated it. And then… I didn’t.”
He stopped, and Suzanna puckered her eyebrows. His attention wandered toward his place south of hers, and she wondered if the scenes unfolded in his mind as he recounted them.
“It came time for calving, and Grandpa said it was my responsibility.” He rubbed a hand against his jeans, and the apples of his cheeks lifted. That look said it all—he loved his work. “I was so tired, but I knew he’d hold me responsible if something went sour. I wound up with a couple of bucket calves, and somewhere in between the late nights and early mornings while checking heifers and feeding orphans, I found myself. I found who God had made me to be, where I needed and wanted to be. It was right here the whole time.”
Bronco shifted under her, and Suzanna slipped a hand around the saddle horn. Fierce rebellion melted away while Paul fed a few cows?
“As simple as that?”
Paul’s gaze fell on her, his relaxed countenance contradicting his story. He looked toward the spring, then the trees, and finally to the hill rising before them.
“Not simple.” He returned his attention to her. “That’s the short version, but it wasn’t simple. I wrestled everyone, including God, for things I thought I wanted. There was a whole lot of humbling that had to happen before I made peace with life. Pride made me useless; selfishness made me difficult.”
His explanation created more questions than it offered answers. Suzanna longed for answers. His story, his life, looked nothing like hers, sounded nothing like hers, but he had peace.
Peace eluded her. She hadn’t found it in church, not the lasting kind. She hadn’t secured it in sacrifice. It wasn’t in love. Love had made her ache all over again.
Where had Paul found this peace?
“Shall we take the hill, Pickle?” Paul gathered his reins and nodded toward the rise.
The mare perked her head, and Bronco followed. Opportunity slipped away, like the waters that rose from the depths of the earth and tumbled down the creek. Suzanna swallowed, pushing a smile across her lips. At her nod, Paul took the lead.
Peace remained hidden with the secret of Rock Creek.
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April 17–Faithfully Bookish Fiction Aficionado
April 18–Book by Book | Paulette’s Papers
April 19–The Green Mockingbird Singing Librarian Books
April 20–Cafinated Read | Encouraging Words from the Tea Queen
April 21–Zerina Blossom’s Books | Remembrancy  | A Baker’s Perspective
April 22–Soulfully Romantic Reading Is My SuperPower

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Review: “Love Everlasting” by Julie Lessman ~ Blog Tour & Giveaway

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Today I’m happy to be participating in the blog tour for Julie Lessman’s latest indie release, Love Everlasting, the second book in her contemporary “Isle of Hope” series. Read on for more about the book, Julie, my review, and an opportunity to enter the giveaway for an ecopy of book 1 or 2!

(Just a little note here: you can read this book as a standalone, for sure, but you would experience the story with more perspective and deeper emotional investment if you start with book 1, Isle of Hope: Unfailing Love.)
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PictureSeries: Isle of Hope
Genre: Christian, Romance
Publisher: Julie Lessman, LLC
Publication date: September 30, 2016
Number of pages: 307

He sets hearts on fire.
She’s been burned by love.
Can hope survive the flames of the past?

School teacher by day, ghostwriter by night, sweet and shy Shannon O’Bryen doesn’t mind writing romance on the sly, but to live it? No, thank you, not since the man she loved turned out to be a player who broke both her heart and her spirit. Now focused more on her faith and her fiction, she vows the next time she falls in love, it will be safely—through the pages of a book.

Dr. Sam Cunningham is a charismatic player who breaks hearts as regularly as he washes his pearl-white Corvette. Abandoned as a young child, Sam was an orphan shuffled through the foster-care system, bitterly driven to prove he is worthy of love—the kind that lasts forever. Once he learns Shannon is a romance writer, he enlists her help in winning back his ex-girlfriend. She teaches him about faith and the true definition of love, and he soon discovers he’s been seeking it in the wrong place all along—and with the wrong girl. But can he convince a woman who’s been burned by love to open her eyes—and her heart—to a love everlasting?

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PictureJulie 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 Lessman was named American Christian Fiction Writers 2009 Debut Author of the Year and has garnered 17 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 list of Top Ten Novels 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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Whew! Julie Lessman calls herself a caffeinated drama queen, and this book certainly reaffirms that fact with the characters’ habits of caffeine and my need for some after losing a little sleep for “just one more chapter”.
What begins as an engaging, sweet story of friendship with moments of romance grows into a story full of Scriptural truths, honest failures and pain, and a message of the hope we can only find through the love of Christ.
Sam and Shannon’s dynamic is somewhat predictable at first, with the shy good-girl and rebellious player thrown together in a new friendship. While their eventual mutual love might have been predicted from page one, the arduous journey each one of them travels to get to their happy ending comes with an unexpected grittiness. Shannon’s past is hinted at as holding her back from trusting herself to love again, and Sam’s lack of faith in God combined with his carefree lifestyle prove to be obstacles for both of them. With a realness and loving approach, Julie takes these two on a journey of faith influenced by the wisdom of family and close friends, showing them both what unconditional love looks like.
Also, we get to see our favorite returning families and spunky supporting characters again! I was happy to read a secondary plot and romance carried over from book 1 between Tess O’Bryen and Ben Carmichael. Their relationship continues to grow while facing its own hurdles to overcome (like trust).
This is another fantastic contemporary romance with so much depth and several swoony moments from Julie. I personally am already anxious for book 3, releasing in 2016, because I suspect it’s centered on two of my favorite secondary characters from this series (Cat and Chase!! 🙂 ).
Thank you to the publisher and Singing Librarian Books for a complimentary copy of the book in exchange for my honest review.
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Review & Behind-the-Scenes: “More Than a Promise” by Ruth Logan Herne

1218071_origToday is my stop on the Singing Librarian Books Tour for a recent release from Ruth Logan Herne, a new-to-me-author. Her new novel, More Than a Promise, can be classed as a realistic contemporary drama/romance about finding happiness in chaos, the hope in family, and long-sought healing through faith. Read on for my review, 10 awesome behind-the-scenes facts, and a giveaway!

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7274318Genre: Christian, Contemporary, Romance
Publisher: Franciscan Media
Publication date: February 23, 2016
Number of pages: 292

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“My Three Sons”… Naughty sons, at that!… meets “Sarah, Plain and Tall” in this delightful marriage of convenience story that shows how amazingly inconvenient love… and life… can be!

Widower Matt Wilmot is in trouble. His boys are causing chaos and wreaking havoc, his former mother-in-law is threatening to sue for custody, his father just had heart surgery and their family company is liable for a huge balloon payment on a loan his father took out to expand the business the previous year. But rain and illness took their toll, and Matt is having a rough time spinning multiple plates in the air. 

But when he discovers Elle Drake next door, a woman with a wonderful hand at managing errant boys, cranky relatives, and frustrated men… Matt’s world suddenly tips back into a more normal orbit. And when drastic measures are required, it’s the girl next door who’s there to save the day.

Elle Drake wanted nothing more than to create beautiful pottery and have a family, but when her millionaire husband publicly dumped the renowned artist for another woman, Elle moves back to Cedar Mills to start anew, the spinster artist with her big potting shed. But when her to-die-for good-looking neighbor thinks marriage is a good idea, Elle figures he’s either crazy, desperate or right.

But a marriage of convenience can become its own conundrum, and when life takes sudden turns, can this marriage become all that they bargained for? And maybe more than a promise?

Purchasing Links:
AMAZON | B&N | CHRISTIANBOOK.COM

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First, let me just address the Wilmot children! They are a hoot. Ruth fabulously captures their vibrant – and contrasting – personalities. My favorite parts of this dynamic were the moments of sheer honesty from the kids, especially Randy, the notorious middle child and instigator. In his case, bluntness resulted in some hilarious and insightful conversations!

Elle and Matt, and the problems they face, and very relatable. Learning to trust God with full control over your life, for instance, is a daily surrender of yourself to His will and purpose. I was rooting for Elle as she learned to open herself up to love and realize a long-lost dream. And, I was rooting for Matt as he dealt with lingering grief, learned to share his burdens, and found joy again. By the end, I was elated with their journey I felt like I witnessed as a part of their crazy famly.

From the very beginning, this story drew me in with a combination of humor and heart. The realness of the characters, their resounding struggles and possibility of finding happiness and healing, were beautifully blended. If such heartfelt stories are the norm from Ruth, as I’ve heard, I’m eager to read more by her pen!

While you’re here, be sure to enter tie GIVEAWAY for a chance to win 1 of 5 copies of More Than a Promise!

Special thanks to Singing Librarian Books for a review copy of this novel in exchange for my honest review.

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392151Multi-published, bestselling author Ruth Logan Herne loves God, her family, her country, dogs, chocolate and coffee! A country gal with a heart for the big city, Ruthy likes nothing more than to write the kind of books she loves to read, and she’s even more happy that now she gets paid to do it! She’s been married for a Very Long Time and she and her husband Dave live on a small farm in upstate New York where lake effect snow buries them on a regular basis in winter. But that’s all right… it gives her more time to write!

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10 Facts from Ruth!

1. I have friends in the excavating business, and a comment they made once a long time ago, about how some folks figure they’ve got plenty of money, and put off paying them… so that became the reasoning behind the financial difficulties that raised up to trip up the company

2. Somewhere there are three boys who were the original three little boys who came into church SO RELUCTANTLY about six years ago, and inspired this book… and I hope they’re all well and happy!

3. The Polish aspects of Elle’s family were inspired by a wonderful wedding reception I attended years ago, where the ladies of St. Stanislaus’s Church did a Thanksgiving dinner, pass the plate at each table kind of meal, and it was marvelous! Wonderful turkey and stuffing, puddles of gravy and delicious cranberry sauce and homemade pickles. I love church dinners!

4. And at that same wedding, I made the wedding cake, drove it hours to the reception and a layer CRACKED…. Luckily I had made an extra layer (just in case!) and I took the broken layer out, slipped the extra layer in, frosted, decorated and used real red roses to give a “cascade” effect, and NO ONE KNEW A THING!!!!! Yes!

5. The three boys were actually based on two brothers and a sister I’ve had in daycare/after school care for years… Amos is based on Casey, when she was little, and my readers see Casey on my facebook page, on my blog, and in Yankee Belle Café because she’s my “mother’s helper” now and helps on the farm in the summer. And she’s ALMOST DONE WITH HIGH SCHOOL so you can see that life has moved on since I wrote “More Than a Promise”, LOL!

6. Sarah, Plain and Tall is one of my favorite children’s stories, and I used that premise to write an adult version in “More Than a Promise”. If you’ve never read “Sarah, Plain and Tall”, you should… it’s just a wonderful marriage of convenience story set in the early 1900’s. I love it!

7. I love heroes that work with their hands… and guys with big equipment are as happy as little boys with Tonka Trucks until they break! And then they are GRUMPY. If you’re wondering about farmers, insert “tractor” for “backloader” or “grader” and you get the same result! And don’t talk to these men about weather!!!!! EEEK!

8. I love the church setting in Cedar Mills. The fun of older Catholic churches is how the church may reflect the ethnicity of the immigrants who came here with nothing, but pooled together to explore and expand their right to practice their faith freely. Neighborhoods were often defined by these beautiful churches and the congregations that flocked there weekly and daily.

9. I’m always amazed at how pockets of art can bring mass appeal. I wanted Elle’s work to be that way, based on a Thomas Kincade-type fame. Her longing and love came through her work and appealed to the masses, the “you and me” types. But there’s a downside to some of that because “true artistes” often find fault with commercial art, and abandon their friendships. Is it jealousy? Or disregard?

10. And finally… The spray-painted dog is a real thing. It happened a long time ago, and it wasn’t one of my kids (although it could have been!) and it took a long time for that dog’s fur to grow out. But… it did. Eventually!

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April 11–cherylbbookblog | A Holland Reads
April 12–Toni Shiloh Prayerfully-Lifted Romance | Reading Is My SuperPower
April 13–Buzzing About Books The Power of Words
April 14–Smiling Book Reviews | Singing Librarian Books
April 15–Katie’s Clean Book Collection | Colorimetry | The Green Mockingbird
April 16–Just Commonly Red Headed Book Lady

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