Thursday, April 17, 2014

Don't Miss Lip Reading!

This week, the
Christian Fiction Blog Alliance
is introducing
Lip Reading
David C. Cook (March 1, 2014)
Harry Kraus


A Word from Harry:

I started writing my first novel during my last year of surgery training at UK. I was a chief resident, and started writing Stainless Steal Hearts in a call room at the Veteran's Administration Hospital in Lexington. It was a crazy time to write! I had a very demanding schedule, often spending days and nights in the hospital. I had two sons at that time, and I recognized the wisdom in my wife's urging: "Now doesn't seem the right time for this dream."

My experience as a writer is far from typical. Having received my formal training in biology and chemistry and medicine, my only preparation for a writing career was a love for reading. The longest thing I'd written before my first novel was a term paper in undergraduate school. My first novel was accepted by Crossway Books and published in 1994, and it wasn't until after I had FOUR published novels that I even opened a book of instruction about the craft of writing fiction. This is not what I recommend to others! Yes, I was successful, but I was bending the "rules" without knowing it. I had a natural talent for plotting, but I realize my initial success may have stunted my growth as a writer. I'd have made faster progress if I'd have gone to the fiction teachers sooner.

I have three sons: Joel, Evan, and Samuel. Look closely in all of my books and you'll see them there. My lovely wife, Kris, provides the basic composition for all those beautiful, athletic, dedicated women in my novels.


She Could Save Millions, or Save Herself

She just needs a little longer. She’s really close. Dr. Rebecca Jackson, a medical researcher, stands on the verge of a breakthrough that will transform medicine. But she soon discovers the reason behind the miraculous progress in her research, and it leaves her with a nearly impossible choice . . . and little time to decide. More than her research is at stake. And more threatens it than this latest revelation. Something she’s tried hard to cover up. There is a high cost to some things in medicine and it’s not always the patient who pays. Can Rebecca find the faith and wisdom she needs to make the right call? The clock is ticking and the pressure is on.

If you would like to read the first chapter of Lip Reading, go HERE.


Harry Kraus solidifies his long-held spot on my list of must-read authors with this latest release. Realistic fiction which features believably flawed characters and conflicts, Lip Reading deeply touches the heart while providing a thoroughly satisfying read. The novel provides a fascinating peek into the conflicted nature of some within the pharmaceutical research industry--competitive and even predatory while simultaneously seeking to discover solutions to medical mysteries--and the opening scenes will forever change how I view "success rates." Uniquely and highly gifted as both a physician and author, Kraus has crafted a story so authentic that at one point I grabbed my nursing handbook to look up a pharmaceutical central to the story, convinced the medication was real! Dr. Rebecca Jackson's emotional, physical and professional struggles stirred my heart and kept me turning pages long into the night. Kraus's strongest gift, however, lies in his ability to weave in a subtle yet strong message of grace that gives the reader much to ponder. More than a riveting tale or an entertaining way to spend a few hours, Lip Reading will stay with you long after you turn the final pages. Another highly recommended offering from Harry Kraus MD!

[On a lighter note, the title and cover are exceptional, and the graphic used for the section breaks within chapters is so clever! And I'd love to ask Dr. Kraus about his research of the very specific lipstick varieties he mentions Dr. Rebecca Jackson using throughout the book! (Grin!)]


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Wednesday, April 16, 2014


It is always an exciting day when the Christy Award Finalists are announced! I know I say it every year but this year there is an especially wonderful selection of books nominated. And although I thought that work would preclude my attending this year, it looks like I will get to be at ICRS and the Christy Award banquet in Atlanta in June! I am sooo excited! Here is the list of finalists from the Christy Award website. The hyperlinked titles will lead you to my reviews.


The 15th annual Christy Awards for excellence in Christian fiction will be presented June, 23 2014 in Atlanta.

The Christy Advisory Board is pleased to announce finalists for the 2014 Christy Awards honoring Christian fiction.

Every Waking Moment
by Chris Fabry (Tyndale House Publishers)

The Prayer Box
by Lisa Wingate (Tyndale House Publishers)

Stones for Bread
by Christa Parrish (Thomas Nelson, Harper Collins Christian Publishing)

(I don't even know what to do with this category - I loved Every. Single. One. of these books! Apparently, the judges are just as conflicted because the reason there are four nominees is because two of them tied! I wish they could all win!)

Dangerous Passage
by Lisa Harris (Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group)

Once Upon a Prince
by Rachel Hauck (Zondervan, Harper Collins Christian Publishing)

Rosemary Cottage
by Colleen Coble (Thomas Nelson, Harper Collins Christian Publishing)

by Irene Hannon (Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group)
*This category includes four nominees due to a tie in scoring.

Firefly Island
by Lisa Wingate (Bethany House Publishers, a division of Baker Publishing Group)

Lock, Stock, and Over a Barrel
by Melody Carlson (B&H Publishing Group)

Take a Chance on Me
by Susan May Warren (Tyndale House Publishers)

Burning Sky
by Lori Benton (WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group)

A Cast of Stones
by Patrick W. Carr (Bethany House Publishers, a division of Baker Publishing Group)

Dear Mr. Knightly
by Katherine Reay (Thomas Nelson, Harper Collins Christian Publishing)

All for a Story
by Allison Pittman (Tyndale House Publishers)
(I thought I reviewed this book; I remember reading it and loving it and I'm embarrassed that I never published my thoughts. I love Allison's writing!)

Burning Sky
by Lori Benton(WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group)

Sweet Mercy
by Ann Tatlock (Bethany House Publishers, a division of Baker Publishing Group)

Harvest of Gold
by Tessa Afshar (River North, from Moody Publishing)

Stealing the Preacher
by Karen Witemeyer (Bethany House Publishers, a division of Baker Publishing Group)

Under a Blackberry Moon
by Serena B. Miller (Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group)

Dark Justice
by Brandilyn Collins (B&H Publishing Group)
(This is the only category that I am going to tip my hand on. I really hope Brandilyn Collins wins. She is a phenomenal suspense author, and Dark Justice is her most chilling book yet.)

by Ted Dekker (FaithWords, a division of Hachette Book Group)

by Steven James (Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group)

A Cast of Stones
by Patrick W. Carr (Bethany House Publishers, a division of Baker Publishing Group)

by Anne Elisabeth Stengl (Bethany House Publishers, a division of Baker Publishing Group)

by John W. Otte (Marcher Lord Press)


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Tuesday, April 15, 2014

A Beauty So Rare - The Seamstress & the Cover Photo Shoot

Meet the Woman Behind the Cover Dress
by Tamera Alexander

Dear friends,

Have you ever wanted to meet the woman who sewed the dress on a novel cover? Then please allow me to introduce you to Beth Schoenherr, the ever-so-talented seamstress who sewed Eleanor Braddock’s dress for the cover of A Beauty So Rare.

I’m thrilled that Beth was willing to share about her experience in making the dress, and I love the behind-the-scenes glimpses she shares. I hope you will, too!

Tamera: Where did inspiration for the dress for A Beauty So Rare come from (both the style and color)?

Beth: The style, of course, was determined by the post–Civil War timing of the story.

I believe the cover designer and editors talked about a garden setting and felt pink would look lovely against the backdrop of the green foliage and other flowers, which it does! I then had the fun of finding the right shade of pink to keep it a believable color for the time. Hot pink or neon pink, of course, would never do!

Tamera: Um, no. LOL! Not even Adelicia Acklen could have coerced Eleanor into neon pink! ; )

Tamera: Have you made dresses for photo shoots before?

Beth: I started doing period costumes for men, women, and children in amateur theater in 1999 and then had opportunities in the following years to progress to working in the costume shop of a professional theater. This is my first costume for a photo shoot, however.

Tamera: How cool, Beth. I’m so grateful for your work on this dress. Well done!

Tamera: Do you have an appreciation for period clothing? And if yes, what’s your favorite style of women’s dresses from history?

Beth: I do enjoy period clothing. I don’t think I can pick one favorite style though. I just enjoy the various and changing silhouettes and fabrics throughout the history of fashion.

Tamera: Understandable. I have many "favorites," too!

Tamera: What’s the most challenging dress you’ve created for a cover (and what was most challenging about it)? Also, what has been your most challenging sewing project in general?

Beth: As I mentioned, this is the first dress I have made for a cover. It has been really fun and exciting to create this dress from scratch and then see it on the cover of this book. A new experience I had when making this dress was the cartridge pleats at the back of the skirt. The pattern called for the front and side pieces of the skirt to be pleated to fit into the waistband and left only a five-inch opening in the back of the waistband. Then I had to fit the 50-inch-wide piece of fabric for the back part of the skirt into that five-inch opening. I thought, “There is no way I’m going to get that much fabric into that little space.” But the cartridge pleats worked fabulously at neatly pleating 50” down to 5”.

The most challenging costume I worked on was a waistcoat designed and then cut out by someone else and given to me to sew. Not a single piece matched up in size to its coordinating piece. There was no extra fabric to work with so I had to just rework the pieces I had while making sure the finished garment would still fit the actor it was designed for. Definitely a “make it work” project!

Finally, probably the most thrilling dress I got to make was the first complete dress for a play at the Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis. Many of my costumes prior to that had to be remakes of existing dresses or costumes due to tight budgets. But I was graciously given the opportunity to sew, from start to finish, the schoolteacher dress in Little House on the Prairie: The Musical, which premiered at the Guthrie and then went on to tour nationally. It was so exciting to see the professionally-designed dress come together step-by-step and then to see it on stage.

Tamera: Wow, Beth, I bet that was a rewarding experience with Little House on the Prairie: the Musical. Congratulations! I’ve always admired people who know how to sew, and sew well!

Thank you for sharing your talent and time with us––and with the cover of my latest novel.


And now, here are a few pictures Tamera has shared of the cover photo shoot!

Be sure to enter my giveaway to win a copy of this wonderful novel!


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Monday, April 14, 2014

A Beauty So Rare is Just That!

A Beauty So Rare
A Belmont Mansion Novel
Tamera Alexander
(Bethany House)
ISBN: 978-0764206238
March 25, 2014/480 pages/$14.99

Pink is not what Eleanor Braddock ordered, but maybe it would soften the tempered steel of a woman who came through a war--and still had one to fight.

Plain, practical Eleanor Braddock knows she will never marry, but with a dying soldier's last whisper, she believes her life can still have meaning and determines to find his widow. Impoverished and struggling to care for her ailing father, Eleanor arrives at Belmont Mansion, home of her aunt, Adelicia Acklen, the richest woman in America--and possibly the most demanding, as well. Adelicia insists on finding her niece a husband, but a simple act of kindness leads Eleanor down a far different path--building a home for destitute widows and fatherless children from the Civil War. While Eleanor knows her own heart, she also knows her aunt will never approve of this endeavor.

Archduke Marcus Gottfried has come to Nashville from Austria in search of a life he determines, instead of one determined for him. Hiding his royal heritage, Marcus longs to combine his passion for nature with his expertise in architecture, but his plans to incorporate natural beauty into the design of the widows' and children's home run contrary to Eleanor's wishes. As work on the home draws them closer together, Marcus and Eleanor find common ground--and a love neither of them expects. But Marcus is not the man Adelicia has chosen for Eleanor, and even if he were, someone who knows his secrets is about to reveal them all.


Tamera Alexander is a bestselling novelist whose works have been awarded or nominated for numerous honors, including the Christy Award, the RITA Award, and the Carol Award. After seventeen years in Colorado, Tamera and her husband have returned to their native South and live in Tennessee, where they enjoy spending time with their two grown children.

Tamera invites you visit her website, her blog, on Facebook, or Twitter.


Sigh. Tamera Alexander's books have one major flaw. They end. Even this gloriously epic tome of 480 pages concluded before I was ready to bid farewell to the captivating story, the delightful characters, and even to the manner in which the words flowed upon the page. Tamera Alexander has once again created a multifaceted saga that gripped me from the opening pages. Her impeccable historical research mingles seamlessly with her gift for crafting rich fiction, resulting in a magnificent tale which pulsates with authenticity. I empathized with Eleanor's insecurities, mourned over her father's decline, winced at Adelicia's stern proclamations, and fell in love with sweet Caleb and "Magpie" and their penniless mothers--as well as gallant Marcus! Of course, as with every good story, A Beauty So Rare also includes a few individuals that raised my hackles but, like Eleanor, I learned which battles were worth fighting. This riveting tale prompted me to turn the pages faster and faster while at the same time Alexander's exquisite prose cautioned me to slow down and savor every sentence, and occasionally I paused to reread a passage just to soak it in. As always, Alexander weaves in a beautiful message of faith which springs from the characters' experiences, encouraging the reader's soul. A Beauty So Rare aptly describes as well as titles this story that will now rest on my shelf of treasured novels. The second in the Belmont Mansion series (yet it stands alone), this is a must-read!

Tamera has been sharing some of the recipes from the novel! You can make Eleanor Braddock's Savory Custard or her Shortbread!


I have a second copy of this book which I am going to give to one of YOU! Enter via Rafflecopter below by 11:59 PM CDT next Tuesday, 2/22/14, and I will randomly choose a winner. Continental US residents only, please.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a copy of this book free from Bethany House Publishers as part of a blog tour. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”


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Friday, April 11, 2014

Ten Author Giveaway!

Check out this awesome giveaway from some fabulous authors! Tamera Alexander, Deborah Raney, Robin Lee Hatcher, Cara Putman, and six other authors have joined forces on a fabulous joint blog and to celebrate, they are each giving away one of their novels. Click the picture or this link to enter!


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Thursday, April 10, 2014

Whetting Your Appetite for a Wonderful Book!

Once again, here's Tamera Alexander with a recipe from her new release, A Beauty So Rare!

Hey friends,

Is there anything that smells as good as homemade shortbread baking in your oven? Oh so scrumptious, and a time-honored recipe. Shortbread is just one of the many recipes included in A Beauty So Rare, the second stand-alone novel in the Belmont Mansion series.

Since Eleanor Braddock (the heroine in A Beauty So Rare) is practical to a fault, she makes her shortbread in a cast-iron skillet, so I did the same. Gives you the best crunchy edges and buttery middles! Wish I could share some with you. But I'll do the next best thing––share the recipe!

Have you ever made shortbread? It's so easy.

Eleanor Braddock's Shortbread
(from A Beauty So Rare)

3/4 cup butter at room temp (1 1/2 sticks)
1/2 cup powdered sugar*
1/3 tsp vanilla
1 1/2 cups flour (sifted)

Preheat oven to 325 degrees, then spray a smaller (8-9 inch) cast-iron skillet very lightly with non-stick cooking spray. You don't need that much spray. Trust me, the butter in the recipe will take care of that.

Cream the butter until light and fluffy. Add the powdered sugar, then the vanilla. Next, work in the flour. You can either mix the flour in with an electric mixer, or you can get into the 1860s way of doing things and knead the dough on a floured surface until it's nice and smooth.

Press the dough into the iron skillet (or you can use a pretty shortbread pan too). Bake for 30-35 minutes until golden brown. Cool for about 10-15 minutes then flip the pan over onto a wooden cutting board. Cut the shortbread into pieces while still warm. It "sets up" as it cools. Or serve it warm. Serves 10-12. And it really does. This stuff is rich and delicious. Hope you enjoy.

And just for fun, a bit of history:
*Did you know that in 1851, Oliver Chase (of NECCO Wafer fame) developed a mill for pow-dering sugar which he used in his candy making process? But if a cook wanted powdered sugar back then, refined loaf sugar was pounded into a fine powder in a mortar and pestle. So much easier today, huh?

For more recipes and to watch the novel trailer for A Beauty So Rare, visit

Mocha with Linda here: My review and a GIVEAWAY of A Beauty So Rare are coming next week!


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Tuesday, April 8, 2014

A Savory Recipe from a Delectable Book!

One of the things Tamera Alexander and I are "kindred spirits" about is a love for delicious recipes! Food plays a prominent part in her new release, A Beauty So Rare, and she will be sharing some of Eleanor Braddock's recipes. Today, she has dropped by to share Eleanor's Savory Custard. Enjoy!

Eleanor Braddock’s Savory Custard
(or Ham and Cheddar Quiche)
From the novel A Beauty So Rare
by Tamera Alexander

Most people think quiche originated in France. Not so. It’s originally a German dish and people referred to them as "savory custards" in the 19th century. Which is accurate since the egg-based mixture forms a luscious-like custard as it bakes.

In my novel A Beauty So Rare, the second standalone novel in the Belmont Mansion series, the heroine, Eleanor Braddock, is "a cook with a dream." But her dreams don’t quite turn out like she thinks they will. However, her savories always do!

I hope you enjoy this recipe (or "receipt" as recipes were called in the 1800s) from A Beauty So Rare. For more about A Beauty So Rare and for recipes from all my novels, visit

1 old-fashioned unbaked pie crust (recipe below)
1 large onion, diced (or sliced if you like larger pieces of onion in your savory)
2 tablespoons butter
1 pound cooked ham diced into cubes (if using bacon, use 8 slices, fried chewy, not too crisp)
8 large eggs
1-1/2 cups heavy cream or half-and-half
1/2 teaspoon salt and pepper, or to taste (I always go heavier on the pepper, personal preference)
1 3/4 cups sharp cheddar cheese, grated

Sauté onion in the butter in a skillet over medium-low heat for about 10 to 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the onion is golden brown. Set aside to cool.

Chop the ham into bite-sized pieces (or fry your bacon until chewy, then chop). Set aside to cool. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Roll out pie crust and press into a deep dish pie plate. A medium-sized iron skillet works wonderfully for making a savory custard (and is what Eleanor used). The crust comes out divine. I just happened to use a pie plate this time.

Whip the eggs, cream, salt and pepper in a large bowl, then mix in the onions, ham (or bacon), and cheese. Pour the mixture into the pie crust. Cover the pie plate (or skillet) lightly with aluminum foil and bake for 40 to 45 minutes. Remove the foil and continue baking for 10 to 15 minutes, or until the quiche is set and the crust is golden brown. QUICK BAKING TIPS: The quiche may still seem a little loose when you first remove it from the oven, but it will firm up nicely once removed from the heat. Also, watch that lovely crust so the edges don’t get overly brown. I use a silicone pie crust shield if that starts to happen. Those are a fabulous invention (but foil crimped around the edges works just as well).

Remove from the oven and allow the savory custard to rest for 10 to 15 minutes before diving in. It’s so good, and just like Eleanor Braddock would make. It’s also delicious left over and warmed up the next day.

Eleanor Braddock’s Old-Fashioned Pie Crust
(makes two large crusts)
From the novel A Beauty So Rare
by Tamera Alexander

This is a wonderful crust that I’ve been using for years. Eleanor would likely have used lard in place of Crisco (since lard was cheaper than butter in her day), and you may too, if you prefer. Yes, lard is still available on most grocery shelves, although I’m pretty sure I just felt you shudder!

This pie crust "freezes beautifully " as they say in Steel Magnolias (instructions on freezing below), so even though I may need only one pie crust at the moment, I always use this recipe and make a second, and freeze it for later. Makes that next pie (or savory custard) go twice as fast!

1 ½ cups Crisco (or lard)
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 egg
5 tablespoons ice water
1 tablespoon white vinegar
1 teaspoon salt

In a large bowl, using a pastry cutter (or two knives will do the job), gradually work the Crisco into the flour for 3 to 4 minutes until it resembles coarse meal. In a smaller bowl, whip the egg and then pour it into the flour/shortening mixture. Add 5 tablespoons of ice-cold water, 1 tablespoon of white vinegar and 1 teaspoon of salt. Stir gently until all ingredients are blended well.

Halve the dough. Form 2 evenly-sized balls of dough and place each into large sealable plastic bags. Using a rolling pin, slightly flatten each to about 1/2 inch thickness to make rolling easier later. Seal the bags and place them in the freezer until you need them. (If you’re using the crusts immediately, it’s still a good idea to let them chill in the freezer for about 15- 20 minutes. They’ll be much easier to work with.)

When you’re ready to roll the dough for your crust, remove from the freezer and allow to thaw for 15 minutes (if it’s frozen). On a well-floured surface, roll the dough, starting at the center and working your way out. Sprinkle flour over the top of the dough if it’s too moist. If the dough starts to stick to the countertop, use a metal spatula and gently scrape it up and flip it over and continue rolling until it’s about ½ inch larger in diameter than your pie plate (or iron skillet).

Using a spatula, carefully lift the dough from the surface of the counter into the pie pan. (I sometimes fold my well-floured dough in half and then "unfold" it onto iron skillet. Or you can lop it over your rolling pin. That works well, too.) Gently press the dough against the sides of the pan or skillet, getting it all tucked in. Then crimp the edges in whatever way you prefer. And now, you’re ready for that yummy savory custard filling above, or maybe for a fruit pie.

If you make this recipe (or if you’ve read A Beauty So Rare), I’d love to hear from you. You can write me through my website at

Mocha with Linda here again: Doesn't this look delicious?! And I must say that A Beauty So Rare is every bit as delicious! My review is coming soon. I'm savoring each page - Tammy's writing is too beautiful to rush through!


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Monday, April 7, 2014

Win a NEW Spring Wardrobe - Maybelle in Stitches Giveaway!

Don’t miss the newest Quilts of Love book, Maybelle in Stitches, by Joyce Magnin. Maybelle can’t sew. But when she finds an unfinished quilt in the attic of her mother’s house, she gets the crazy idea to complete it.

Maybelle in Stitches
Quilts of Love #16
Joyce Magnin
(Abingdon Press)
ISBN: 978-1426752803
Marcy 2014/240 pages/$13.99

Maybelle Kazinzki can’t sew. She was after all, the only girl in the seventh grade Home Economics class to sew the zipper in the neck hole of the A-Line dress they were supposed to make. But when she finds an unfinished quilt in the attic of her mother’s house she gets the crazy idea to finish it—somehow, come heck or high water. She thinks it will help fill the lonely nights while her husband, Holden, is serving overseas during World War II.

Her recently departed mother’s quilt is made from scraps of material Maybelle traces back to her mother’s childhood, her grandmother’s childhood and her own childhood. She tries to add one of Holden’s stripes to it but the sewing is not going well and neither is her life. After receiving some harsh news, Maybelle’s faith falters and she puts the quilt away and stops trusting God. But God is faithful- no matter what. And it’ll take a group of neighborhood women armed with quilting needles to help Maybelle believe that.

Learn more and purchase a copy at the Quilts of Love site.


Joyce Magnin is the author of the Bright’s Pond novels, including the award-winning The Prayers of Agnes Sparrow. A member of the Greater Philadelphia Christian Writers Fellowship, Joyce is a frequent workshop leader and the organizer of the StoryCrafters fiction group. She lives near Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.


Like other novels in Abingdon's Quilts of Love series, Maybelle in Stitches centers on a quilt and the story behind its creation. Set in World War II, there was much to like about this book and its characters. I enjoyed reading about women on the home front who worked in factories and dealt with the uncertainty that came with their men serving overseas in a time when letters were virtually the only means of communication. However, editing and continuity lapses interrupted the flow of the story and were quite distracting. Admittedly, I notice things like that more than the average reader so you may not be as impacted. Mildly recommended.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a copy of this book free from Abingdon Prss & Litfuse Publicity as part of a blog tour. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Joyce is celebrating the release with a $200 Modcloth giveaway. Enter today for a chance to spruce up your spring wardrobe!


One winner will receive:
  • A $200 gift card
  • Scraps of Evidence by Barbara Cameron
  • A Sky Without Stars by Linda S. Clare
  • Maybelle in Stitches by Joyce Magnin
Enter today by clicking one of the icons below. But hurry, the giveaway ends on April 19th. Winner will be announced on April 21st on the Quilts of Love blog!

Spread the word—tell your friends about the giveaway via FACEBOOK or TWITTER.


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