Thursday, January 29, 2015

Susan Meissner Discusses Secrets of a Charmed Life

On Tuesday, I shared with you my review of Susan Meissner's compelling new novel, Secrets of a Charmed Life. While Susan was already one of my favorite authors, this is my favorite of her books thus far. (And yes, I said that last year with A Fall of Marigolds! She has a phenomenal gift for crafting exceptional works of literature.) I am pleased to welcome her today as she shares a Q&A session with us regarding the background of this story that releases on Tuesday, February 3.

1. Susan, tell us where the idea for Secrets of a Charmed Life came from.
The story began first as an image in my head of an impoverished girl on the brink of adulthood sketching wedding dresses in the tiny bedroom she shares with a younger half-sister. I could see her in my mind’s eye imagining a life far different from the one she is living. She wants a fairy tale life where love and comfort and happiness are in abundance, and for her, that charmed life begins with a wedding dress worn on that blissful day a girl’s childhood dreams come true. I decided to set her in London at the start of the war because I knew that even for a young woman not yet sixteen, war is a crucible. It is a tester of dreams and desires and determination. I knew the London Blitz was an opposition that would bring out the very best and the very worst in this girl, as war so often does.

2. What is the story about, in a nutshell?
Like many of my other novels, Secrets of a Charmed Life is historical fiction framed by a contemporary layer that links to a story in the past. An American college student named Kendra, who is studying abroad at Oxford, interviews Blitz survivor Isabel McFarland just when the elderly woman is ready to give up secrets she has kept all her life – beginning with who she really is. The story then takes the reader to England in 1940. An unprecedented war against London’s civilian population is about to take place and half a million children are evacuated to foster
homes in the countryside. Fifteen-year-old Emmy Downtree and her much younger sister Julia find refuge in a charming Cotswold cottage, but Emmy’s burning ambition to return to the city and apprentice with a fashion designer pits her against Julia’s profound need for her sister’s presence. The sisters’ lives are forever changed when—acting at cross purposes—they secretly return to London on the first day of the Blitz.

3. What drew you to include in your story the evacuation of London’s children?
Prior to researching for this book, I was only minimally aware of what London’s parents did to keep their children safe during World War II. I’d long ago read C.S. Lewis’ The Chronicles of Narnia and I knew the four children in those stories had been sent out of London into the countryside at the start of the war.
But I didn’t know that for tens of thousands of children just like them, that stay in the countryside lasted for the duration of the war. We’re talking five years. How difficult it must have been for the parents and their kids to be separated from each other – with just occasional visits – for half a decade, and during a time of fear, danger, and deprivation. From a storyteller’s standpoint, the emotional pull of this situation is intense. I knew I wanted to explore what this scenario might have been like for two young sisters.

4. Is this a book about sisters, then?
It is that, but it is also a book about mothers and daughters, and other family bonds as they relate to children. The universe of children is rather small – home and family are pretty much their world. They don’t always see how their decisions are impacted by the decision of others, nor do they have much frame of reference for war, which is an especially cruel teacher to a child.

5. What is the significance of Emmy’s wedding dress sketches?
Those bridal gown designs represent Emmy’s na├»ve notions about the happily-ever-after life that she believes begins for a girl on the day she wears a dress emblematic of bliss and perfection. Emmy sees her unwed mother as someone on whom fate has frowned and that she is somewhat to blame for that. Emmy’s vision for her future is to rise above the constraints of her mother’s unlucky life. But those sketches blind her at first to the larger forces at work. And there are always larger forces at work.

6. What were you most surprised by in your research for Secrets of a Charmed Life?
I think many of us who were born after World War II have a limited understanding of what England suffered because there were so many other more shocking situations, like the slaughter of millions of Jews, the occupations of nations like Poland and France, the bombing of Pearl Harbor, the storming at the beach at Normandy, and the Bataan Death March, to name just a few.
I didn’t realize the magnitude of what London suffered until I took a closer look. The city was never occupied by Hitler’s forces but it was bombed relentlessly. Seven of Christopher Wren’s beautiful churches were destroyed, as were thousands upon thousands of homes. More than sixty thousand civilians were killed in the whole of the British Isles. Those are staggering losses. And yet the British people were and are resilient. Their rallying cry of Keep Calm and Carry On (I truly can’t stand trivializations of this motto!) is truly the hallmark of that resiliency. You can go to London’s East End now and see street after street of 1950’s-era buildings, framed by a quiet horizon of much older buildings that the war did not flatten. London, Coventry and the other bombed cities rebuilt what was destroyed and moved on. The memories of the war aren’t in the streets but in the museums, and in national cemeteries, and sometimes, if you look closely enough, in the faces of those who survived it.

7. What would you especially like readers to take away from Secrets of a Charmed Life?
The title of this book, which I love, is meant to cause the reader to wonder if there really are secrets to living a life that has happily-ever-after written all over it. The title seems to suggest there are hidden truths to being able to have everything you’ve always wanted. But in actuality, and what I hope readers will take away, is that a happy life is not made up of what you have chased and achieved, but rather who you have poured your life into, who has poured their life into yours, and the difference you’ve made in the lives of others. Most of the dreams we pursue don’t have intrinsic worth, but people always do. It’s not a perfect world, and we can only play our own hand of cards – if you will – but if we play the hand as best we can with love for others as the motivation, I think we can rest content.

8. What are you working on right now?
My next book is set primarily in Hollywood’s golden age, specifically in 1939 when a treasure trove of timeless movies was released, including the most iconic movie of all time, Gone With The Wind. Two studio secretaries who become friends on the set of this movie forge a tale of love, desire, and survival that hints at the dynamic between the characters Scarlett and Melanie. The contemporary thread features a woman whose vintage clothing shop specializes in updated designs of classic Hollywood fashions. When her version of the infamous Gone With the Wind curtain dress is photographed for a local newspaper, a surprising delivery comes her way that ushers the reader back to old Hollywood and the two studio secretaries who, like Scarlett O’Hara, must decide what they are willing to do to get what they want most. The novel will release in February 2016 and is tentatively titled Stars Over Sunset Boulevard. I’ve always loved the movie Gone With the Wind; the sound track alone can stop me in my tracks. It has been a wonderful experience researching the details of how this film came to be made. Like most unprecedented endeavors, there was plenty of drama!

Thanks for giving us this peek inside the writing of this novel, Susan. Readers, don't miss this extraordinary book! Preorder now, or pick it up at your favorite bookstore on Tuesday.

Susan Meissner is the multi-published author of seventeen books, including A Fall of Marigolds, named to Booklist’s Top Ten Women’s Fiction titles for 2014, and The Shape of Mercy, named one of the 100 Best Novels in 2008 by Publishers Weekly. She is also a speaker and writing workshop leader with a background in community journalism. She and her husband make their home in Southern California.


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Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Don't Miss Secrets of a Charmed Life!

Secrets of a Charmed Life
Susan Meissner
ISBN: 9780451419927
February 2015/416 pages/$15.00

She stood at a crossroads, half-aware that her choice would send her down a path from which there could be no turning back. But instead of two choices, she saw only one—because it was all she really wanted to see…

Current day, Oxford, England. Young American scholar Kendra Van Zant, eager to pursue her vision of a perfect life, interviews Isabel McFarland just when the elderly woman is ready to give up secrets about the war that she has kept for decades…beginning with who she really is. What Kendra receives from Isabel is both a gift and a burden–one that will test her convictions and her heart.

1940s, England. As Hitler wages an unprecedented war against London’s civilian population, hundreds of thousands of children are evacuated to foster homes in the rural countryside. But even as fifteen-year-old Emmy Downtree and her much younger sister Julia find refuge in a charming Cotswold cottage, Emmy’s burning ambition to return to the city and apprentice with a fashion designer pits her against Julia’s profound need for her sister’s presence. Acting at cross purposes just as the Luftwaffe rains down its terrible destruction, the sisters are cruelly separated, and their lives are transformed…

Susan Meissner is the critically-acclaimed author of 20 novels. Her engaging stories feature memorable characters facing unique and complex circumstances, often against a backdrop of historical significance. A multi-award winning author, her books have earned starred reviews in both Publishers Weekly and BookList.

She was born and raised in San Diego, California, but spent some of her adult life living in Minnesota as well as in England and Germany, before returning home to southern California in 2007.

Susan attended Point Loma Nazarene University in San Diego. Prior to her writing career, she was a managing editor of a weekly newspaper in southwestern Minnesota.

She enjoys teaching workshops on writing, spending time with her family, reading great books and traveling. Susan makes her home in the San Diego area with her husband Bob, a pastor and chaplain in the Air Force Reserves. They are the parents of four adult children.


Susan Meissner, already one of my favorite authors, has truly outdone herself with this novel. Written in her trademark style weaving a contemporary story with a historical thread, Secrets of a Charmed Life captivated my mind and my heart from the opening pages, and I simultaneously devoured and soaked it in. Elegantly polished prose brings each page to life, and I felt as if I were sitting in the room listening to Isabel McFarland tell her story. . .or with Emmy and Julia as they are evacuated from their home to Cotswold. I had not previously read much about the evacuations that took place during the war, and while the idea of children being sent away for their safety was distressing but understandable, the sisters' subsequent separation absolutely broke my heart. Meissner seamlessly and naturally transitions between the two time periods. While the bulk of the story occurs in the historic era, intermittent insertions of the interview moments between Isabel and Kendra enhance and help direct the story. Meissner effectively employs flashbacks, journals, letters, and other means to give voice to multiple individuals in the story, providing depth and direction. And the ending? Perfection! After I finished it, I gave it to my nineteen-year-old daughter (WWII is her favorite genre) and she couldn't put it down, either. If you read but one book this year, let it be this one. You will not regret it.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a copy of this book free from Susan Meissner and Penguin/NAL Press 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.”

Coming this week: A Q&A with Susan Meissner about the book!


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Monday, January 26, 2015

A Stitch in Crime

A Stitch in Crime
Cathy Elliott
(Abingdon Press)
ISBN: 978-1426773655
January 2015/240 pages/$13.99

Thea’s first quilt show is coming apart at the seams!

Thea James has accepted an assignment as co‑chairperson for Larkindale’s first quilt show extravaganza. Juggling the new assignment with running her antique business, she’s already feeling frayed when things start to unravel.

Mary‑Alice Wentworth, a much‑loved town matriarch, respected quilt judge, and Thea’s dear friend, is covertly conked on the head during the kick‑off Quilt Show Soiree, throwing suspicion on her guests. It also appears that a valuable diamond brooch has been stolen during the attack. The family is furious. But is it because of their mugged mother or the missing diamonds?

When a renowned textile expert goes MIA and the famous Wentworth heritage quilt disappears, Larkindale’s reputation as a tourist haven is at risk. Thea attempts to piece the mystery together and save the town’s investment in the quilt show before Mary‑Alice is attacked again . . . with far worse results.

Find out more and purchase a copy at the Quilts of Love Books website.


Author and speaker Cathy Elliot nourishes her night‑owl habit by creating cozy mysteries and more on her trusty laptop in Anderson, California. Like the protagonist in her new mystery, Cathy is an avid quilter. Besides collecting (too much) cool fabric, she also enjoys hunting for antique treasures.

Find out more about Cathy at


Cathy Elliott adds to the Quilts of Love series with this cozy mystery surrounding a quilt show where, if anything can go wrong, it will! A unique assortment of characters populate this tale, although at times they tend a bit toward the outrageous. Clever word play enhances and adds humor to this story. Because it is a cozy mystery, the pacing of this novel is slower than I generally prefer, and at times it tends to bog down in unnecessary details. However, Elliott keeps the resolution hidden until the appointed end reveal and tucks in a couple of surprises. A good read for a wintry night.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a copy of this book free from Abingdon Press and 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.”

Don’t miss the newest Quilts of Love book, A Stitch in Crime by Cathy Elliott. Thea's first quilt show begins to fall apart at the seams. Will she be able to piece the mystery together and save the town’s investment in the quilt show before another attack happens . . . with far worse results.

Enter to win a Kindle HDX!


One winner will receive:
  • A Kindle HDX
  • A Stitch in Crime by Cathy Elliott
  • Masterpiece Marriage by Gina Welborn
  • Swept Away by Laura V. Hilton and Cindy Loven

Enter today by clicking the button below. But hurry, the giveaway ends on February 8th. Winner will be announced on the Quilts of Love blog February 9th.



Enter today and spread the word—tell your friends about the giveaway
via FACEBOOK or TWITTER and increase your chances of winning.


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Thursday, January 22, 2015

Brentwood's Ward

Brentwood's Ward
Michelle Griep
(Shiloh Run Press/Barbour Publishing)
ISBN: 978-1630586799
December 2014/320 pages/$13.99

Place an unpolished lawman named Nicholas Brentwood as guardian over a spoiled, pompous beauty named Emily Payne and what do you get? More trouble than Brentwood bargains for. She is determined to find a husband this season. He just wants the large fee her father will pay him to help his ailing sister. After a series of dire mishaps, both their desires are thwarted, but each discovers that no matter what, God is in charge.


I hear voices. Loud. Incessant. And very real. Which basically gives me two options: choke back massive amounts of Prozac or write fiction. I chose the latter. Way cheaper. I've been writing since I discovered blank wall space and Crayolas. I seek to glorify God in all that I write...except for that graffiti phase I went through as a teenager. Oops. Did I say that out loud?


This is the first of Michelle Griep's novels that I have read but it won't be the last! She grabbed my attention from the opening pages and I was captivated by the characters and the story, hardly pausing until I practically read the book straight through. Amidst the backdrop of the Regency era, Griep intertwines hefty doses of danger, romantic tension, and humor at a lively pace that kept me eagerly turning pages. A thoroughly enjoyable read, this is a must for your TBR pile!

Michelle Griep is this week's Featured Author on ACFW's Fiction Finder. Read that interview here.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a digital copy of this book free from Shiloh Run Press/Barbour Publishing 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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Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Winter Wednesday Hodgepodge

1. American Idol is back for a 14th season. Are you watching? Have you ever watched? If you were to audition for the show (or were made to audition), what song would you sing?

I am not an American Idol fan. I've only watched specific auditions after-the-fact on YouTube. I have absolutely no idea what I would sing. Probably something like How Great Thou Art or a song along the lines of those sung by Laura Story or Sandi Patty.

2. Mark Twain is quoted as saying, "If it's your job to eat a frog, it's best to do it first thing in the morning. And if it's your job to eat two frogs, it's best to eat the biggest one first."

So when did you last have to 'eat a frog'? Or two? How'd that work out?

I've never heard that expression! I regularly "eat a frog" at work. It kinda goes with being a nurse.

3. If you were going on safari, what is the number one animal you'd want to see?

A safari is probably one of the last things I'd ever choose to do, but I guess I'll choose zebras, just because their mere appearance showcases God's incredible creativity!

4. January 21st is National Granola Bar Day. I know. Do you like granola bars? Chewy or crunchy? Your favorite flavor? How about regular granola? Let's exhaust this topic in honor of the holiday okay?

I'm not a fan of the straight granola bars - they are too hard and crumbly. I used to eat the Quaker chocolate chip granola bars for breakfast but then I realized there was basically no nutritional value to them. LOL

5. If only _____________________________.

...we didn't spend so much time thinking "if only!"

6. You can add one item to your bedroom. What will it be? Keep it family friendly please.

A new mattress. It's on the list!

7. What is one thing you've enjoyed about winter thus far? If it's not winter in your corner of the globe, what season is it, and what is something you've enjoyed about whatever season it happens to be?

The fact that we've had no icy weather that has made traveling to and from work a hassle or made staffing at work difficult.

8. Insert your own random thought here.

The past few days have been absolutely gorgeous with highs in the mid-seventies, but winter is about to return in full force, and by Thursday it will be raining and only in the forties all day. I am counting the days until spring!


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The Ultimate DIY Bundle!

Do you have the crafty gene? Or do you just need a little push-start? My author friend Angela Hunt and a host of others have joined forces and put together a Do It Yourself Bundle of e-books and e-courses that cover a wide range of areas, including home/garden, holidays/seasonal, writing, photography, crafts, scrapbooking/art journaling, sewing, and more!

Learn to…
  • Decorate the perfect space for your family
  • Make your own skincare products
  • Take beautiful photos
  • Create gifts from scratch
  • Nurture your creativity

A value of over $1200, this bundle is available for purchase for five days only (Jan 21-26, 2015), for $34.95. You will have a full year to download the books, bonuses, and courses. For more information and to order, click here! And be sure to visit Angela Hunt's blog. She explains her involvement and gives a much better picture of this project than I have!

Disclosure of Material Connection: I have not received or purchased a copy of this bundle and do not offer this as a review. 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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Monday, January 19, 2015

A Brush with Love

A Brush with Love:
A January Wedding Story

(A Year of Weddings Novella, Book 2)
Rachel Hauck
December 2014/1896 kb/114 pages/$3.99

Ginger Winters is a gifted hairstylist with scars no one can see. The last thing she expects from the New Year is a new chance at love.

Overcoming a childhood tragedy, Ginger emerges from the pain and trauma with a gift for bringing out the beauty in others. From the top big city salons to traveling the world as personal stylist to a country music sensation, success was almost enough to make Ginger forget her she would never be one of the beautiful people.

Almost. Now that she’s back home in Rosebud, Alabama and running her own salon, the truth remains: Ginger is still that girl, forever on the outside looking in. But she needs her confidence this weekend. She’s the acclaimed “beauty-maker” for the Alabama society wedding of the decade.

When high-school crush Tom Wells Jr. also returns to town and shows up at her shop looking for a haircut, Ginger’s thinly veiled insecurities threaten to keep her locked away from love, Despite Tom’s best efforts, Ginger can’t forget how he disappeared on her twelve years ago and broke her heart. Can she ever trust him again?

When Tom challenges her to see her own beauty, Ginger must decide if she will remained chained to the past or move freely into a new, exciting future.


Rachel Hauck is an award-winning, best selling author of critically acclaimed novels such as “The Wedding Dress,” “Love Starts with Elle,” and “Once Upon A Prince.” She also penned the Songbird Novels with multi-platinum recording artist, Sara Evans. Booklist named their novel, “Softly and Tenderly,” one of 2011 Top Ten Inspirationals. She serves on the Executive Board for American Christian Fiction Writers and is a mentor and book therapist at My Book Therapy, and conference speaker. Rachel lives in central Florida with her husband and pets. Find out more about Rachel at


What's not to love about a wedding tale? Rachel Hauck packs a lot of story into this novella. Authentic characters make it easy to connect with this charming digital book. I empathized with Ginger as she struggled with her self-image, and I wanted to smack a few of the "mean girls" that Hauck created! Tom is a worthy hero and definitely makes up for some of the other clueless males in the story. Any woman who has dealt with insecurity (i.e., every woman!) will relate to Ginger and benefit from the message tenderly woven throughout this book. Grab your copy today!

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a copy of this e-book free from Zondervan/HarperCollins and 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.”


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Thursday, January 15, 2015

Esther: Royal Beauty

Esther: Royal Beauty
A Dangerous Beauty Novel, #1
Angela Hunt
(Bethany House)
ISBN: 978-0764216954
December 2014/352 pages/$14.99

When an ambitious tyrant threatens genocide against the Jews, an inexperienced young queen must take a stand for her people.

When Xerxes, king of Persia, issues a call for beautiful young women, Hadassah, a Jewish orphan living in Susa, is forcibly taken to the palace of the pagan ruler. After months of preparation, the girl known to the Persians as Esther wins the king's heart and a queen's crown. But because her situation is uncertain, she keeps her ethnic identity a secret until she learns that an evil and ambitious man has won the king's permission to exterminate all Jews--young and old, powerful and helpless. Purposely violating an ancient Persian law, she risks her life in order to save her people...and bind her husband's heart.

Read an excerpt.


With nearly five million copies of her books sold worldwide, Angela Hunt is the New York Times bestselling author of The Tale of Three Trees, The Note, and The Nativity Story. Angela's novels have won or been nominated for several prestigious industry awards, including the RITA Award, the Christy Award, the ECPA Christian Book Award, and the HOLT Medallion Award. Romantic Times Book Club presented Angela with a Lifetime Achievement Award in 2006. In 2008, she completed her doctorate in Biblical Studies and is currently completing her Th.D. Angela and her husband live in Florida, along with their mastiffs. She can be found online at


Angela Hunt is one of my top five must-read authors, so I was thrilled to receive a copy of Esther for Christmas from my family. As a personal preference, I rarely read Biblical fiction as I don't like embellishing that which is in the Bible. However, knowing that Angela Hunt has a doctorate in Biblical studies and that she does a tremendous amount of research (including a lengthy bibliography in the back of the novel), I knew it would be a fascinating and credible--albeit fiction--account. Hunt paints an intriguing picture of this well-known Bible story and provides much insight into the era and culture. Her portrayal of life outside and inside palace walls captivated me as I followed Esther from her loving home with Mordecai and his wife to the palace and the lengthy preparatory process for that all-important audition with the king, continuing with her day-to-day life once she became queen. Hunt ably marries facts and feelings in her creation of multi-faceted characters and a powerful story. I gained a fresh perspective of one of my favorite Biblical characters and continued to ponder her life long after I closed the book. Add this to your must-read list. I'm already looking forward to her next book, about Bathsheba!


When I interviewed Angela Hunt at ICRS last summer, we talked a bit about this book and series, and Angie shared some things she learned during her research. While I posted most of our chat in July, I saved this excerpt to include here.

Tell me what's next for you. Esther is coming out next?

Yes, Esther is done and comes out in January. I'm working on the first draft of Bathsheba. I'm doing the three "Bible Babes." I was researching beauty and the word tob in Hebrew means a certain kind of beauty that is sexual and draws men to you. Those three are tob women. Their beauty got all of them into precarious situations.

That's interesting, because I don't put Esther in the same category as Delilah and Bathsheba. I've always thought of her as a purer beauty. I didn't think she did the same treatments as the other women.

She did the same treatments; I don't think she had a choice. The difference with Esther was, the night she got dressed she let Hegai dress her. She let him choose whatever he thought she should wear. But she went through all the same ointments and rubbing and treatments the other girls did.

I learned some things that I'd always wondered about such as, why did Mordecai not want her to say she was Jewish? I could never find a reason for that, but I found it [researching this novel]. If you study Nehemiah, there was a king, Xerxes, who stopped the assistance. The Jews had already returned, under Cyrus, to start rebuilding what became Zerubbabel's temple before Xerxes became king. But Mordecai's family did not go back. They could have gone back to Israel but they chose not to. They were still in Persia and Mordecai had a good position working in the king's gate but he still told Esther not to divulge her identity. I think it's because he knew Xerxes had been influenced by the Samaritans. They had sent him letters saying the Jews coming back were troublemakers so he had stopped sending supplies and money and had them stop the building. So just that tiny bit of anti-Semitic action, I think, put Mordecai on his guard, so he told Esther not to say who she was. I think I had her not eat shellfish and keep Kosher but not make a big deal about it.

No protagonist is perfect, no matter what we think of these women in the Bible. They're still human. I saw her as similar to an American Christian girl who is in love with the culture; I painted her as someone who loved Persia. She loved this cute Persian boy. One day she saw the Queen go by with her entourage in the marketplace and she was enamored. She's all caught up in that adulation, and it's not until her crisis moment that she even realizes what being Jewish is all about. There's no recorded time that she prays or says "God" up to that point. She's just like a lot of American girls who are so in love with culture that they have to get knocked down before they realize what faith is all about.

* * * * *

You can find out more about this book in a Q&A with Angela Hunt which her publisher has provided here.


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Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Like a Flower in Bloom

Like a Flower in Bloom
Siri Mitchell
(Bethany House)
ISBNL 978-0764210372
December 2014/368 pages/$14.99

He Stole the Work She Loved.
Will She Let Him Steal Her Heart as Well?

It's all her uncle's fault. For years Charlotte Withersby has been free to pursue her love of plants and flowers by assisting her botanist father. But now that she's reached the old age of twenty-two, an intrusive uncle has convinced her father that Charlotte's future--the only proper future for a woman--is to be a wife and mother, not a scholar.

Her father is so dependent on her assistance that Charlotte believes he'll soon change his mind...and then Edward Trimble shows up. A long-time botany correspondent in the South Pacific, Trimble arrives ready to step in as assistant so that Charlotte can step out into proper society--a world that baffles her with its unwritten rules, inexplicable expectations, and confounding fashion.

Things aren't perfectly smooth between Trimble and her father, so Charlotte hatches a last gasp plan. She'll pretend such an interest in marriage that the thought of losing her will make her father welcome her back. Only things go quickly awry, and she realizes that the one man who recognizes her intelligence is also the person she's most angry with: Edward Trimble, her supposed rival. Suddenly juggling more suitors than she knows what to do with, Charlotte is caught in a trap of her own making. Will she have no choice but to leave her beloved flowers behind?

Read an excerpt.


Siri Mitchell is the author of nearly a dozen novels, among them the critically acclaimed Christy Award finalists Chateau of Echoes and The Cubicle Next Door. A graduate of the University of Washington with a degree in business, she has worked in many different levels of government. As a military spouse, she has lived in places as varied as Tokyo and Paris. Siri currently lives in the DC-metro area. Visit


Siri Mitchell always writes an enthralling story and her latest is no exception. I love the title's double meaning, as Like a Flower in Bloom refers not only to the botanical work done by Charlotte and her father but to Charlotte herself. Mitchell seamlessly weaves details of botanical art's history into this story of a young woman who chafes at the idea that her role in life is simply to marry and play society's games. Charlotte's naivete is refreshing and her observations about communication and societal expectations are amusing and spot-on. A host of engaging characters add depth to this charming tale. Grab your copy today.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a copy of this book free from Bethany House Publishing 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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Monday, January 12, 2015

Masterpiece Marriage

Masterpiece Marriage
Gina Welborn
(Abingdon Press)
ISBN: 978-1426773631
December 2014/240 pages/$14.99

He wants to save his business. She wants to be a professor. But are they asking for more than they can really have?

After a flood damages the looms at Zenus Dane’s Philadelphia textile mill and the bank demands loan payment, Zenus turns to his aunt for help repurposing his textiles. Trouble is . . . his aunt has already been hired by the lovely yet secretive Englishwoman Mary Varrs.

Eager to acquire his aunt’s quilt patterns, Zenus attends the summer Quilting Bee, a social event his aunt has uniquely designed with the secret purpose of finding Zenus a wife. However Zenus only has eyes for Mary, but Mary has no such desire for him.

Though his aunt is determined to design a masterpiece marriage, both Zenus and Mary will have to overcome their stubborn ways. Can he realize that love requires stepping out of his routine? And will she recognize that following her heart doesn’t mean sacrificing her ambition?

Find out more and purchase a copy at the Quilts of Love website.

Read an excerpt.


Gina Welborn is the author of several novels and novellas, including The Heiress’s Courtship. She is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers; the president of Faith, Hope and Love; and a founding member of She lives in Cache, Oklahoma, with her pastor husband and their five children. Visit her online at


I always enjoy Abingdon's Quilts of Love books. Gina Welborn has written an engaging story centering on Zenus and Mary, at odds with each other while individually vying for the help of Zenus's Aunt Priscilla, whose main goal is to bring the two of them together. Filled with amusing as well as tender moments, this satisfying read will keep you warm on a winter night. Curl up with Quilts of Love!

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a copy of this book free from Abingdon Press and 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.”

Don’t miss the newest Quilts of Love book, Masterpiece Marriage by Gina Welborn. December’s QOL release celebrates the ebb and flow of marriage.
Enter to win a Kindle HDX!


One winner will receive:
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  • Masterpiece Marriage by Gina Welborn
  • Swept Away by Laura V. Hilton and Cindy Loven
  • Quilted by Christmas by Jodie Bailey
Enter today by clicking the button below. But hurry, the giveaway ends on January 18th. Winner will be announced on the Quilts of Love blog January 19th.



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Monday, January 5, 2015

Hidden Agenda: A Must-Read!

Hidden Agenda
Southern Crimes
Lisa Harris
ISBN: 978-0800721923
December 2014/320 pages/$14.99

His cover is blown. Now his enemies are on his heels and closing in.

Presumed dead by friends and family, Michael Hunt is alive--and on the run. Presumed dead by friends and family, the undercover assignment he's been working for the past eight months has just been blown. With a hit out on his life and corruption inside the Atlanta police department, Michael finds himself hunted by both the cartel and the law. His only hope is Olivia Hamilton--the daughter of the man who wants him dead.

This nonstop chase from Christy Award-winning Lisa Harris will leave you breathless.

Read an excerpt.


Lisa Harris is a bestselling author, a Christy Award winner, and the winner of the Best Inspirational Suspense Novel for 2011 from Romantic Times. She has sold over thirty novels and novella collections. Along with her husband, she and her three children have spent over ten years living as missionaries in Africa where she homeschools, leads a women's group, and runs a nonprofit organization that works alongside their church-planting ministry. The ECHO Project works in southern Africa promoting Education, Compassion, Health, and Opportunity and is a way for her to "speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves . . . the poor and helpless, and see that they get justice" (Proverbs 31:8).

When she's not working, she loves hanging out with her family, cooking different ethnic dishes, photography, and heading into the African bush on safari. For more information about her books and life in Africa, visit her website at or her blog at For more information about The ECHO Project, please visit


Wow. Lisa Harris has cemented her spot as one of my must-read authors with this final novel in her Southern Crimes series. I loved the first two books (click the titles to read my reviews of Dangerous Passage and Fatal Exchange), and she pulls out all the stops with Hidden Agenda. Unrelenting danger and suspense kept me breathlessly turning pages, and the emotional impact tugged at my heart. I was particularly struck by Harris's portrayal of Olivia and her journey as she comes to grips with the truth about her father. Like its predecessors, this book can be easily read as a standalone, but intersecting characters make it that much more enjoyable if you read the entire series. Besides, you don't want to miss any of this gifted author's writing. Fair warning, though: once you start reading, you won't be able to stop! Grab your copy of Hidden Agenda today.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a copy of this book free from Lisa Harris and Revell Publishing 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, January 2, 2015

ACFW's January New Releases

January 2015 New Releases

More in-depth descriptions of these books can be found on the ACFW Fiction Finder website.

Amish Romance:

The Beekeeper's Son by Kelly Irvin When Deborah Lantz arrives in drought-stricken Bee County, she longs for her lush, green Tennessee home. But more than that, she wants her mother, a widow with six children, to be happy again. Even if that means moving to a wasteland and accepting a new stepfather. Then she meets the beekeeper's son. Phineas King's face is disfigured by scars from an accident that killed his mother and destroyed his trust in God. Both Phineas and Deborah are rarely alone, but always lonely. Through their encounters both begin to realize the beauty in all of God's creation. Deborah begins to see Bee County through Phineas's eyes and Phineas learns to see himself through hers. (Amish Romance from HarperCollins Christian Publishing [Zondervan])

You Get What You Pray For by E.N. Joy -- Lorain has been a prisoner of secrets almost all of her life. At the age of thirteen, she'd managed to keep her pregnancy a secret, discarding the infant she'd given birth to and leaving it for dead. She also never revealed the fact that the baby's father was her middle school guidance counselor. Not even when her mother married her molester, years later. To complicate matters, Lorain discovers that the baby she abandoned all those years ago survived, and God has placed Lorain in the now adult child's life. It seems the legacy of secrets has been passed on, too, as Lorain helps her daughter conceal the true details behind her own pregnancy. Lorain has managed to maneuver the secrets and lies like a strategic game of chess, but even her lavish new life as a doctor's wife is a lie. With the rug about to be pulled from underneath her by the woman who raised her abandoned child, all Lorain prays for is that everything will end well. In this cycle of lies, secrets, shame, and guilt, will Lorain get what she prays for? (Contemporary from Urban Christian)

Contemporary Romance:

Daddy Wanted by Renee Andrews -- Former wild child Savannah Bowers goes from being happily single to the guardian of three children after the sudden death of her best friend. Struggling with her new role, Savvy's not sure if Brodie Evans's offer to help is a welcome one. She has trouble forgiving her childhood friend's past mistakes, but she gives him a chance for the sake of the kids. Their growing mutual attraction catches her off guard. If Brodie can prove he's changed his ways, he might just be this instant family's perfect daddy. (Contemporary Romance from Love Inspired [Harlequin])

At Home in Last Chance by Cathleen Armstrong -- Kaitlyn Reed and Steven Braden have always had a similar philosophy of life: when the going gets tough, they get going--out of town and away from the problem. Now they are both back in Last Chance, New Mexico, and trying to start over. Kaitlyn is working to reestablish a relationship with the seven-year-old daughter she left behind six months earlier. Steven is trying to prove to his family that he is not the irresponsible charmer they have always known him to be. As Kaitlyn and Steven find themselves drawn to one another, one big question keeps getting in the way: How will they learn to trust each other when they don't even trust themselves? (Contemporary Romance from Revell - A Division of Baker Publishing Group)

A Match for Meghan by Kimberly Rose Johnson -- Life has taught Meghan Black she is unlovable, so she focuses her attention on finding her friends their perfect match. Her plan backfires when the handsome veterinarian she's matching asks her out. Ben Young's plan to stop Meghan's meddling backfires when he finds himself falling for her instead. (Contemporary Romance from Love Inspired [Harlequin])

Lakeside Redemption by Lisa Jordan -- Zoe James is starting over. She's worked hard to get past the foolish mistakes that landed her in trouble four years ago. Now the young mom is back in Shelby Lake and ready to reconnect with her son. When she bumps into old friend Caleb Sullivan and his two adorable girls, she sees the possibility of a happy future. Caleb has always secretly loved Zoe, but her turbulent past brings up tough memories of his own. As they spend time together training his girls' new puppy, Zoe and Caleb will learn that if they can forgive themselves, they might have a chance at a new life-and new love-together. (Contemporary Romance from Love Inspired [Harlequin])

Small-Town Fireman by Allie Pleiter -- Karla Kennedy doesn't belong in Gordon Falls. The aspiring restaurateur has far loftier goals than running her grandfather's quaint coffee shop. The only person who seems to relate is handsome volunteer firefighter Dylan McDonald. Dylan understands dreams—he risked everything to start his fishing charter business. Now he needs Karla's help to make it succeed. As they work together, Karla and Dylan quickly discover that while their timing may be bad, their chemistry is undeniable. Karla always thought of Gordon Falls as a layover on her way to a big-city career, but could it be where her heart truly belongs? (Contemporary Romance from Love Inspired [Harlequin])

Rodeo Family by Shannon Taylor Vannatter -- Running from her abusive ex-boyfriend, Tori Eaton settles in Aubrey, Texas, where she is surprised by a helping hand from the church's new song director, Brant McConnell. And by the warm emotions he inspires. Brant is drawn to Tori. But Tori is still hounded by her past, and the walls she's built around her heart are high. Can he convince the wounded beauty that he's exactly the kind of man she needs-and deserves? (Contemporary Romance from Love Inspired [Harlequin])

Dakota Love by Rose Ross Zediker -- Modern South Dakota individuals use quilting to bring them joy and comfort, but suddenly quilting is leading them to romances they didn't even know they wanted. Caroline and Rodney have each been loaded with many worries, but a tattered quilt could bring them together to share their burdens. Sarah and Mark embrace their independence until a quilting class throws them together and reveals their need for companionship. Lil is outgoing where Walt is private, but as they use quilting for physical therapy, an old secret could be revealed that will expose just how different they really are. (Romance from Barbour Publishing)

Historical Romance:

Hope Reborn by Caryl McAdoo -- New York novelist May Meriwether decides a heroic Texas Ranger will make a great love interest for her new novel's heroine. Stuffing away dreams for a husband and children, she sets out to the Lone Star State looking for adventure with her constant companion and confidant, Chester, in tow. But a near-perfect Texan widower resurrects a smidgen of romantic hope. Only his impenetrable, superstitious religious beliefs stand in the path to her falling head over heels, those and his love for his dead wife. (Historical Romance, Independently Published)

Beyond All Dreams by Elizabeth Camden -- Map librarian Anna O'Brien works a predictable job at the illustrious Library of Congress until she stumbles across a baffling mystery of a missing ship. When she turns to a dashing congressman for help, she opens a world of danger they never saw coming. (Historical Romance from Bethany House [Baker] Publishing)

Brentwood's Ward by Michelle Griep -- Place an unpolished lawman named Nicholas Brentwood as guardian over a spoiled, pompous beauty named Emily Payne and what do you get? More trouble than Brentwood bargains for. She is determined to find a husband this season. He just wants the large fee her father will pay him to help his ailing sister. After a series of dire mishaps, both their desires are thwarted, but each discovers that no matter what, God is in charge. (Historical Romance from Barbour Publishing)


The Salt Covenants by Sylvia Bambola -- Spain 1493: Isabel has broken her mother's heart by becoming a sincere convert to Christianity. But when she is noticed by Friar Alonso at La Casa Santa, the Holy House, she is forced to flee the Inquisition by entering into a loveless marriage and sailing with Christopher Columbus on his 0second voyage to the New World. But all too soon Isabel is forced to struggle alone in her new life and new faith. With all the risks and hardships how is she to survive? And will she ever find love in this strange land? What of the dangerous Enrique Vivar? Will his hidden agenda cost her her life? (Historical, Independently Published)

Young Adult:

The First Principle by Marissa Shrock -- In the not-too-distant future, the United Regions of America has formed. Governors hold territories instead of states, and while Washington, DC, is gone, the government has more control than ever before. For fifteen-year-old Vivica Wilkins, the daughter of a governor, this is life as usual. Until an unexpected, now-illegal pregnancy pits her against the Population Management Officer Marina Ward. She has to decide whether to get the mandatory abortion--or follow her heart, try to keep the baby, and possibly ruin her mother's chances at becoming president. A rebel group called the Emancipation Warriors, who are fighting to restore freedoms once held unalienable, offer her asylum. But with everything crashing down around her, Vivica no longer knows whom to trust. (Young Adult from Kregel Publications)


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