GIVEAWAY, Review, & Author Interview: “Just the Way You Are” by Pepper Basham

Today’s the day I get to tell you all about a recent independent-release contemporary novel: Just the Way You Are by Pepper Basham. The best news? Pepper is here for an interview AND an ebook giveaway! This story is equally hilarious and romantic, with a depth that draws you into the lives of the characters in the very first chapter. See my gushing review below. Pepper has been gracious to answer a few of my interview questions and provide the ebook giveaway, so many thanks to her for that treat!

About the Book

just-the-way-you-are-by-pepper-bashamJust the Way You Are by Pepper Basham

Book 1 in the Pleasant Gap Romance series

Single mom, Eisley Barrett, prefers to keep romance safely housed within a centuries-old mystery, but when she travels to England to unearth the secret, an actor with a sordid past offers her reluctant heart a very different type of discovery.

Wes Harrison has a past he’s ashamed to confess. Suspicious and cynical, he’s managed to avoid romantic entanglements since a tragedy upended his career and life, that is until American Eisley Barrett comes along. Her authenticity and kindness upend his bitter assumptions and send his heart into unscripted territory.

When his past threatens to ruin a second chance at love, can some Appalachian matchmaking and letters from the grave salvage their unexpected romance?

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Review

At the heart of any great story lies characters who are likable, relatable, and dynamic. Author Pepper Basham always succeeds in penning her characters as such, with a healthy dose of family and joy. Wes and Eisley are what propel this story from a light and humorous start to an ending with surprising transformation, romance, and depth. Add in the fairy tale-like England trip, family mystery, and pop culture references and you have the perfect witty romance.

Country meets England between to covers of this book, in a “Britallachian” style as Pepper coined, using immersive descriptions and words not familiar to the southern vocabulary. I enjoyed seeing the prevalent clash of cultures in the verbiage alone with thoroughly English words like “nick” contrasted to southern expressions.

Wes is the definition of swoon-worthy. With a haunting past and bright career ahead of him, he’s a walking picture of a changed man that’s been redeemed by grace, trying to please his Heavenly Father and juggle his newfound faith within a challenging world. Eisley is someone you want as your best friend, especially with her crazy family and innate clumsiness. Her independence and spunky personality are a contrast to her own emotional insecurities, which she has to learn to surmount.

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This is my FAV quote from the book. It’s so swoony but has even more meaning in context.

Let’s talk about the ROMANCE! (where’s my fan?) Fellow blogger Robin called Pepper the “Queen of Swoony”, and it’s a title well-earned and proven with this story. Wes’s tender pursuit and desire for true friendship, plus the fact that he has no clue how attractive he is to Eisley, combine to make this one of Pepper’s best romances yet. (It’s tied for me with The Thorn Keeper for my fav.) It’s not all chocolate and kisses in centuries-old towers, though, in Just the Way You Are. The romance has a certain maturity to it, a perspective of second chances, that makes it more meaningful. Wes and Eisley are at a point in their lives where they understand of the importance of a deeper friendship, a “gracious heart”-attitude, and this makes the love story all the sweeter.

The way the storyline and characters deal with potential obstacles is a fresh take. It has the requisite insurmountable problems for a modern fairy-tale type story, but the reactions of Wes and Eisley make you cheer them on and step back and think “Yes. This is how to handle it in the real world.” A lesson of “being enough” just as you are because you’re a redeemed, new creation in Christ is a prominent faith thread in this story. I especially liked the family support and encouragement both of them have as they make some important decisions or need advice.

I could go on about more aspects of this story I loved, like the history (and mystery!) threads with long lost letters that tie into the modern story and offer encouragement, the adorableness of Eisley’s kids and how they are so “normal”, or the humor and pop culture references that made me smile (from Pollyanna to Superman to Lucille Ball). Fans of romance, modern-day fairy tales, stories of culture clashes, or humor and faith intertwined will love this start to a new series.

Thank you to the publisher for providing a copy of this novel. This is my honest review.

Interview with the Author

Pepper D. Basham

Pepper Basham

Eisley has a big Appalachian family. You have a big Appalachian family, Pepper. Do any members of your real family have similar personalities or share specific characteristics with this fictional one?

Hee hee, well, there are a few who have characteristics like my characters in Just the Way You Are. I think Sophie is a delightful combination of my cousin, Ashley, and my dear, sweet friend writing buddy, Ashley. My parents certainly influenced the Jenkins’ parents – anyone who knows my dad can see him on the page 😉 I think there are fun parts to Greg which remind me of my brother sometimes, but my bro isn’t a flirt – he’s just funny.  Eisley’s three kids were inspired by my oldest three when they were about the ages of Nathan, Pete, and Emily, so lots of the personality traits and…quirks…aren’t fictional 🙂

Please tell us 1″must-see” destination in both England and the Appalachians?

Oh my! That’s SUPER hard! Let me think…I loved LOVED the Peak District in Derbyshire and among the beautiful parts of it is Haddon Hall, the manor house Lornegrave was fashioned after in the novel. I’d LOVE to go back there.

As far as Appalachia? Blue Ridge Mountains? You HAVE to go somewhere with a view! Just getting on the Blue Ridge Parkway will give you loads of opportunities for vistas that just take your breath away. Pisgah National Forest, Roan Mountain, New River Valley…too many to name, but just drive on the Parkway. That’s what I’d suggest (and if you’re ever close to Asheville, you should visit the Biltmore!!)

I agree, the Blue Ridge Parkway itself is beautiful! As is Roan Mountain. The Biltmore is on my travel list, for sure!

Where do you get character name inspiration?

Some just pop into my head but others are chosen for specific reasons. You can get an idea of it here in the video linked below. In The Thorn Bearer I picked Ashleigh’s name very specifically. Her sister Catherine’s name means ‘pure’ and that was on purpose too – as a deeper meaning in the story about how God makes us pure, even when our sin corrupts our hearts and lives. 

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Review: “Told You So” by Kristen Heitzmann

Today I’m excited to share my review of Kristen Heitzmann‘s latest independent release, Told You So, the first in a new series. Having been a fan of Kristen for a while, I was super excited to read something new from her. To describe this story as unexpected hardly begins to communicate what Kristen has penned between the pages. While it’s classified as a rom-com/drama, it’s really so much more and much deeper than that.

27138578Book summary: From the minute Grace Evangeline throws her sweet tea in Devin Bressard’s face, their battle of wits and cross-purposes overtakes their lives. Sassy “angelic” Grace Evangeline will stop at nothing to see her romance novel produced for Broadway. Devin Bressard knows all about the commercial success of Ms. Evangeline’s “novels”—as far from his literary, nerve-striking plays as anything could be. Grace intends to pull his head out of the rarefied air long enough to make her point, even if it involves stalking him and infiltrating his friends and colleagues. It’s research, after all. Devin knows she’s trouble, but who would guess the spokesperson for strength and virtue would be a calamity vortex? He mounts a fierce resistance, but when he’s forced to work with Grace, his profession and sanity aren’t the only things at risk. Collapsing walls on both sides bring a detente that could shatter their bond—or resound through more lives than their own.

My thoughts: This book is like nothing I’ve ever come across. Granted, every story is unique in some way, even those taking cliche plots and tweaking them to suit…. but this is something else. Maybe it’s the premise, the characters, the dramatic and out-of-left-field plot twist, or just Kristen Heitzmann in every way. It’s the perfect combination of drama and humor, with vivid characters and a hint of suspense.

The witty and layered dialogue alone is worth note. While never mediocre, the conversations between characters can go from funny to personally revealing to reminiscent in a paragraph.

The story follows realistic characters and deals with raw — sometimes painful — honesty. It explores failings and mistakes with the beauty of forgiveness.

Both Grace and Devin escape into their own worlds of writing. When thrown together, their personalities and opposite approaches tear down emotional walls each has built. They are both reluctant to reveal hurts from the past because they are scared of vulnerability (and mistakenly rely on assumptions about each other). Grace and Devin really get under your skin and into your heart.

To comment any further on how the plot moves and delves into unexpected territory for all of the characters would spoil it further! I’m going to end simply by stating it explores the idea of sacrifice and the importance of mercy. It is a beautiful example of God’s plan and purpose  prevailing even amidst chaos and imperfection.

I do want to note the content of this novel is just outside of what you might expect in the CBA market. (Think maybe PG13). It does contain a few very mild slang terms, and some suggestive content is implied. Like Rissi explained, it always remains classy! I say bravo to Kristen for choosing to release it independently, because this story carries a message that needs to be heard as-is.

Wednesday Wonderings, edition 5

It’s another “Wednesday Wonderings” question! Wednesday Wonderings

Do you keep a book or reading journal?

For this week, I wanted to keep with the usual theme around here: books. If you’re like me, sometimes reading more than one book at a time, it can be a bit tricky to keep your thoughts organized — especially if you plan to write a review on one.

Which now brings me to the subject of book journals. I know Goodreads is meant to be the virtual shelf/book-tracking solution, and it IS great, but there’s nothing that compares to hand-written thoughts and lists and quotes (as long as I can read my own writing later, hehe). Since I started reviewing books, I have developed the habit of tracking what I read in a book journal. It’s a good way for me to stay on track and record my thoughts as I read to come back to later.

I also keep a list of the books I’ve read in the current year, along with the dates I start and finish a book. I add my thoughts interspersed with quotes or descriptions of the plot. I have found it very helpful when reading a new book in a series, because I can look back at my impression of the previous one, even if I haven’t written a formal review of it somewhere online. Plus, it’s just fun to keep track of my reading journey!

So, do you write in one? What do you record? Commentary on the story, reading progress, quotes, analysis of the characters, reading lists, etc?

If you’re looking for a printable template for a reading journal, check out this one by the Modern Mrs. Darcy. I found it online the other day – it looks like a lot of fun! I may have to try it myself, soon.

And, if you track what you read on Goodreads, drop me a note and be my friend!

Fun Find Friday: Family Fiction’s Short Story Contest

Ok, I’ve known about this “fun find” for a while, but I wanted my readers to hear about it! (especially you readers who are also writers)

Family Fiction is hosting a short story contest!!!! Officially know as “The Story: A Short-Short Fiction Competition”, the top 200 stories will be judged by a Celebrity Judges Panel, including some of my favorite writers and publicists, bloggers, etc. Several of the top stories will be featured in an anthology published by Family Fiction for purchase. Also, prize packages will go to some winners.

The different entry categories are Historical, Amish, Romance, Contemporary, Suspense, Speculative, and YA fiction. Entry submissions will be accepted starting on February 1. If you are an aspiring writer, this sounds like a great opportunity for experience and publicity!

For details on contest guidelines, visit the guidelines and information page here.

A new reviewing opportunity!

Hi, everyone!

I’m so excited to tell you that I am now a part of a great team of book reviewers for the Family Fiction website and monthly digital magazine!

My first review for them is out in the November issue of the Family Fiction digital magazine. You can view it here! I covered Fired Up by Mary Connealy.

Happy November, and thanks for visiting or following my blog!

Covered in Leaves

And, because every post deserves a photo, here’s one I took this week. It’s close to my house in the Arkansas Ozarks. I just love all of the warm colors of fall!