30 June 2014

Review: A Match of Wits by Jen Turano

Great Banter, Fun Couple

It’s been two years since journalist Agatha Watson left New York for her own safety—despite writing under a pen name, the disgruntled “victims” of her articles detailing the seedier side of New York life seem to know who she is and want her dead. Zayne Beckett also left New York two years ago, to travel to California and marry. They meet by coincidence in Colorado, and Agatha makes it her responsibility to persuade Zayne to return to his family.

Agatha is an excellent character. She’s strong-minded, competent (at writing. Less competent at other things…), intelligent and witty. There’s just the small matter of her getting in trouble a lot—the kind of trouble that leaves her with people wanting her dead. Zayne, in his infinite male wisdom, decides Agatha needs a husband to protect her and keep her in order. Well, it’s not difficult to work out what’s going to happen. It’s particularly amusing to read as various females (including Zayne's precocious eight-year-old niece) attempt to show Zayne the error of his thinking, at the same time as he is trying to keep Agatha safe (which is harder than it sounds).

A Match of Wits is the fourth book in The Ladies of Distinction series, and while it can be read as a standalone novel, it would be best to read A Talent for Trouble first, as this introduces Agatha and Zayne, and A Match of Wits does reference some events out of A Talent for Trouble . This is my favourite in the series so far—while all the books have an element of banter, A Match of Wits takes that witty dialogue one step further, to great effect.

I think readers who enjoy Karen Witemeyer, Carol Cox, Becky Wade and Mellissa Tagg will enjoy Jen Turano’s books. Recommended for fans of historical fiction with a touch of comedy.

Thanks to Bethany House and NetGalley for providing a free ebook for review.

27 June 2014

Friday Fifteen: Adele Jones

Friday Fifteen: Fifteen books which have influenced your life or your writing. Today, I'm welcoming author Adele Jones, from Queensland, Australia. Welcome, Adele!

I’ve had a long love affair with literature, so narrowing down this list was hard! To help myself I’ve targeted key books from my formative years, where my worldview and literary interests were being forged. I’ve cheated a little by referencing series or sequels, but there were many more I’d have loved to include. For today, let’s venture down memory lane...

1) Anne of Green Gables (series) by L. M. Montgomery (and her other books, too)

Anne invaded my soul at a very young age. I also went on to meet Emily (of New Moon), Kilmeny (of the Orchard) and many others – and then reread them over and over again, crying, laughing, sighing and stamping along with darling Anne (with an ‘e’).

2) If Only they could Talk (and many others) by James Herriot

I think these wonderful books are what cemented my desire to become a vet at a rather young age. I was animal mad, armpit deep in animal husbandry related matters due to living on a farm, and really connected with the madcap antics unravelled through Herriot’s works. I really only gave up on that dream in my senior years of high school – and only realised belatedly how near I’d come to achieving it!

3) The Diary of Anne Frank by Anne Frank

This was an eye opening personal account by a young girl not so different to me – except she was living during a horrible war, hiding in an effort to survive the Jewish holocaust, simply because of her people group. I was gripped by her struggles and the reality of existing on a thread in a nation fragmented by war.

4) Joni by Joni Erickson(-Tada)

I found myself drawn to Joni’s incredible strength, rawness and honesty as she told her story of coming to grips with, even living a big life beyond, quadriplegia. I am always challenged and inspired by her ability to draw her readers to a deeper understanding of life and spiritual matters.

5) To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

This book was standard reading material in high school (year nine, maybe ten?), but it widened my eyes as to how differently people could perceive others based on the colour of their skin. I knew that kind of prejudice existed, had read about it in different contexts, but this (along with my next book and other listed) enabled me to consciously dissect these issues.

6) Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry by Mildred D. Taylor

I’m not sure if I read this book before ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’, but I remember crying a great deal as I digested dreadful accounts of human injustice and racial prejudice. It broke my heart in a way I’ll never forget. I’ve always felt strongly about injustice, especially for the vulnerable and voiceless.

7) The Hiding Place by Corrie Ten Boom with John and Elizabeth Sherrill

I was quite young when I read this book, but the impact it had on me was undeniable. These were real people being punished for helping those being ruthlessly oppressed. Certainly struck a chord. (There does seem to be a pattern here, doesn’t there?)

8) A Gift of Music by Jane Stuart Smith and Betty Carlson

As a music student, I loved this book. It opened a door to the world of composers that were otherwise just a name, and humanised them. I suppose in a way it imprinted on me the power of history being woven into stories.

9) The Silver Brumby (series) by Elyne Mitchell

What young Australian girl in her right mind wouldn’t love these books? (At least, that’s what I thought!) Horse mad, lover of the bush – it couldn’t get better than this! I followed wise Bel Bel and Thowra on many adventures.

10) Love Comes Softly (series) by Janette Oke

Janette Oke’s prairie romances became my staple diet for a while. There was something nice about the fact my grandmother, mother, aunts and most of my girl cousins also read these books. We got to pass them around many times and share the love.

11) Justin Morgan Had a Horse by Marguerite Henry

I had a pony that looked a lot like the one on the cover of this book. I loved reading about animals, loved horses, and was deeply moved by this story about a horse that endured such hardships throughout its life. I suppose it only heightened my already well established advocacy for animal welfare.

12) Daddy Long Legs and Dear Enemy by Jean Webster

Jean Webster completely captured me with these fabulous tales of young college student Jerusha ‘Judy’ Abbott (Daddy Long Legs), and new orphanage superintendant Sallie McBride (Dear Enemy). The stories are told through letters. I loved the hilarious sketches inserted into the text, along with the absolutely delightful (non-soppy) romances that developed in spite of substantial obstacles. I thought these books were very clever, more so than some of the touchy-feely ‘mush’ romances. They were relationships built around harsh realities, but with substantial quantities of humour and very clever wit!

13) To Sir, With Love E. R. Braithwaite

Some of the information was quite shocking for me, a naive (and happily so) high school girl, but I was drawn by this journey of learning, understanding, grappling for equality and building trust in a rough school nothing like my own! I thought the scene where ‘Sir’ cuts himself and bleeds red was a powerful reminder of our common humanity.

14) The Kensington Chronicles by Lori Wick

I came across these books much later than the others I’ve listed. I thought I was younger, but upon checking the publication dates, realised I had probably left home by the time I read them. I was reading quite a lot of historical fiction at that time and really enjoyed these. I guess they had that spark of history, romance, mystery and I readily added them to my collection. I have a thing for ships and history, so it ticked my boxes.

15) Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers

Okay, this was a grapple – last spot on the ladder – but I had to go with Redeeming Love. (Sorry Maria Kutschera Von Trapp!) This book rewrote how I viewed historical fiction. The themes it explored were absolutely gut wrenching. There were no throw away solutions to these dreadful realities. In a way it forced people to see the humanity behind the prostitution scene, yet still resolved with a hopeful ending.

Well, that’s my list. Thank you so much, Iola, for including me in your ‘Friday Fifteen’ feature. It’s been fun!

Thanks for visiting, Adele. I'll be looking forward to reading (and reviewing) Integrate, and interviewing you about it when it releases. 

About Adele Jones

Adele Jones lives in Queensland, Australia. She’s had a variety of short works published and has two novels scheduled for release in 2014—a YA SciFi and a historical fiction. Her writing is inspired by a passion for family, faith, friends, music and science – and a broad ranging imagination. To find out more visit www.adelejonesauthor.com

A Devil’s Ransom is a historical maritime romance being released through Rose&Crown (the inspirational romance imprint of UK based Sunpenny Publishing).

Integrate is a YA SciFi being released through Rhiza Press.

26 June 2014

Review and Giveaway: Four Weddings and a Kiss Novella Collection

Four best-­selling romance novelists bring tales of feisty heroines, stubborn heroes, and unlikely love in the Wild West in Four Weddings and a Kiss. Don't miss the latest from the Western Brides Collection from Margaret Brownley, Robin Lee Hatcher, Mary Connealy, and Debra Clopton.

The authors are celebrating with a "Sweet on Love" iPad Mini Giveaway and rip-roarin' Facebook party.


One winner will receive:
  • An iPad Mini
  • A Bride for All Seasons and Four Weddings and a Kiss 
Enter today by clicking one of the icons below. But hurry, the giveaway ends on July 8th. Winner will be announced at the Four Weddings and a Kiss Facebook Author Chat Party. Connect with Western Brides Collection authors Margaret Brownley, Robin Lee Hatcher, Mary Connealy, and Debra Clopton for an evening of fun book chat, western-themed trivia, and prizes. The authors will also be answering audience questions and giving an exclusive look at the next book in the collection!

So grab your copy of Four Weddings and a Kiss and join the authors on the evening of July 8th for a chance to connect and make some new friends. (If you haven't read the book, don't let that stop you from coming!)

Don't miss a moment of the fun; RSVP todayTell your friends via FACEBOOK or TWITTER and increase your chances of winning. Hope to see you on the 8th!

My Review

Four Weddings and a Kiss is a set of four novellas, each written by authors who are well-known for their Christian historical romances, set in the American West during the years after the US Civil War. Each of the wedding stories is a tale told to a young minister who feels compelled to break up with his lady love because she wouldn’t make a suitable minister’s wife. The stories of four weddings, related by four more experienced colleagues, are intended to make him reconsider. (And each of the stories can be purchased as a standalone novella as well, although the set is better value.)

Spitfire Sweetheart by Mary Connealy is the story of eighteen-year-old Maizy MacGregor, raised by her elderly father and lacking in any feminine graces. An act of disobedience results in their neighbour, Rylan Carestens saving her life, but seriously injuring himself in the process. Maizy is prevailed upon to care for him as he recuperates.

I liked and admired Maizy for her spunk and her solid work ethic, but I couldn’t say the same for Rylan. He kept putting his foot in his mouth, and I didn’t find his eventual change of attitude believable. It was just too quick.

I liked Love Letter to the Editor by Robin Lee Hatcher much better. This was the story of thirty-five year old Molly Everton, daughter of the town newspaper owner, who is upset when her father hires a new editor—the job she wanted, despite being a woman. Jack Ludgrove, the new editor, finds himself attracted to Molly, even though it’s plain she doesn’t want him there.

I very much enjoyed this story, because both Molly and Jack were strong and intelligent characters, placed in a situation that was entirely believable for the time, yet it transcended time and place in a way that left me smiling.

A Cowboy for Katie by Debra Clopton might have been my favourite of the four. Katie Pearl’s father, her only relative, died three weeks ago in a tornado that flattened their house and left her trapped for days. Since then, every no-good cowboy in town has been by to propose to her—after all, she’s now the sole owner of their farm. She hires drifter Treb Rayburn to rebuild her house, even though she’s too traumatised to go inside. Treb has his own issues. He’s also an orphan, and feels guilty for the death of his family.

I liked this because Katie and Treb were both broken characters in their own way. Katie was the one with obvious problems—no house, a speech impediment, scared of the dark and afraid of enclosed places. Treb was incredibly kind and patient, growing attached despite his personal vow never to love again, because it hurt too much to lose. Yet Katie, despite her own weaknesses, was able to make Treb reevaluate his past, and his future.

The final novella was Courting Trouble by Margaret Brownley, the story of lawyer Brock Daniels, who is called upon to defend the Black Widow, Grace Davenport, who is about to be tried for the murder of her third husband, with husbands number one and two also having died in mysterious circumstances. Unfortunately, this is the Wild West, and Grace isn’t exactly guaranteed a fair trial.

I liked Brock, and the way he took Jesse, Grace’s son, under his wing. I found Grace a little harder to get to know—this is the one story that would have benefited from being longer. I could see that Grace and Brock would make a good couple, but not in the short time allowed in a novella.

Overall, while I liked some stories more than others, Four Weddings and a Kiss is an enjoyable quartet of romances, perfect for a light read for anyone who likes their Christian romance with a solid dose of cowboys, and plenty of Wild West.

Thanks to Thomas Nelson and Litfuse Publicity for providing a free ebook for review. You can find out more about the book (and authors) at the Litfuse Publicity page, http://litfusegroup.com/campaigns/four-weddings-and-a-kiss.

25 June 2014

2014 Christy Award Winners (and giveaway links)

The winners of the 2014 Christy Awards were announced yesterday in a banquet dinner in Atlanta, Georgia. There were around 130 guests present, including 19 of the 24 nominees.

The finalists for Contemporary were:

  • 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)

The winner was Stones for Bread by Christa Parrish, which I've reviewed here: Review: Stones for Bread

The finalists for Historical Romance were:

  • 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 Miller (Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group)
The winner was Harvest of Gold by Tessa Afshar.

The finalists for Contemporary Romance/Suspense were:

  • 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)
  • Vanished by Irene Hannon (Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group)

The winner was Dangerous Passage by Lisa Harris, which I've reviewed here: Review: Dangerous Passage

The finalists for Suspense were:

  • Dark Justice by Brandilyn Collins (B&H Publishing Group)
  • Outlaw by Ted Dekker (Center Street, a division of Hachette Book Group)
  • Singularity by Steven James (Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group)

The winner was Outlaw by Ted Dekker. I haven't read this, but I recently reviewed another in the series and thought it was brilliant: Review: Hacker

The nominees for Visionary were:

  • A Cast of Stones by Patrick W. Carr (Bethany House Publishers, a division of Baker Publishing Group)
  • Dragonwitch by Anne Elisabeth Stengl (Bethany House Publishers, a division of Baker Publishing Group)
  • Numb by John W. Otte (Marcher Lord Press)

The winner is Dragonwitch by Anne Elizabeth Stengl. I haven't read any of these!

The nominees for Contemporary Series were:

  • 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)

The winner was Take a Chance on Me by Susan May Warren, an excellent choice, and another book I've read (although not reviewed). However, I have reviewed the next in this series (which I enjoyed even more): Review: It Had to Be You

The nominees in the Historical category were:

  • All for a Story by Allison Pittman (Tyndale House Publishers)
  • Burning Sky by Lori Benton (WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group)
  • Sweet Mercy by Ann Tatlock (Bethany House Publishers, a division of Baker Publishing Group)

The winner was Burning Sky by Lori Benton. Again, I haven't read any of these, but friends have raved about Burning Sky.

The finalists for First Novel were:

  • 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. Knightley by Katherine Reay (Thomas Nelson, Harper Collins Christian Publishing)

It's not surprising that Burning Sky by Lori Benton also won this award. What is perhaps a surprise is that she also won the Novel of the Year award. Master of Ceremonies Davis Bunn was honoured with a lifetime achievement award.

Congratulations to all the winners!

Wynn-Wynn Media, hosts of the Christy Awards, have sponsored to giveaways, to give US residents the opportunity to read some of the winning titles:

US readers of Relz Reviews can enter a draw to win signed copies of all seven winners, and a $100 gift voucher. Click here to visit Rel at Relz Reviews and enter!

US readers of Soul Inspirationz can enter a draw to win a single winning title and a Starbucks gift card. Click here to visit Ellie Whyte at Soul Inspirationz and enter!

24 June 2014

Review: After the Winter by Buffy Greentree

Lovely Twenties Romance

Lucinda Hargraves has recently lost her mother, and has travelled to Piediluco, Italy, to summer with Mrs Goodall, a family friend who believes she needs some relaxation after the strain of nursing her mother.

There is an eternal appeal to the story of the reformed rake, but After The Winter brings a unique Christian spin to the trope. Their initial meeting is unique, and causes Lucinda to take an instant dislike to Lord Everdale. He’s a flirt, and even if she wasn’t past the marrying age (at twenty-seven), she values herself too highly to fall for a man like that, a man with women hanging all over him. The American visiting Piediluco, John Huntingdon the Third, is a much more appropriate companion. After all, he thinks exactly as he ought (which sounds like something Lizzie Bennett would say, except it sounded a lot more admirable from Lizzie).

Lord George Everdale is an enigma. He is titled, polite (apart from his first introduction to Lucinda), wealthy (he owns a Bugatti, and I’m sure they were just as exclusive in the 1920’s as they are now), and he’s intelligent, as evidenced by his witty banter. We learn more about him as the story progresses, and gradually see his true character emerge, the one he keeps hidden behind the women and the wit.

Lucinda is equally interesting as a character. She knows there is no future for her and George, but can’t help liking him, even though she doesn’t believe most of what he says. But he’s an exceptional dancer, a pleasant companion, and she gradually uncovers the layers he has hidden. It’s not explicit, but Lucinda is a Christian (as opposed to merely being a churchgoer), and her underlying values guide her.

The first three-quarters of After The Winter are fully of gaity and witty banter, but it’s the last quarter where the writing goes from strength to strength. While the banter is still present, there is an underlying melancholy in many of the scenes as we find out more about the characters. It’s a romance, but I did start to wonder if Lucinda was going to get her happy-ever-after.

There were some editing glitches (typos and run-on sentences), but nothing that detracted from the story. Overall, a lovely story and I’ll look forward to reading more fiction from Buffy Greentree.

Thanks to the author for providing a free ebook for review.

23 June 2014

Cover Reveal: Bound by Blood by Scott Springer

Bound by blood banner.png

Bound By Blood by Scott Springer
Romance, Anaiah Press


Julia has accepted the Lord and is busy returning her life to order. She is not ready for love, especially when the new site foreman at work stirs up forgotten feelings. She knows a playboy when she sees one, but to Rick Mercado the attraction between them is surprisingly real. Other girls no longer interest him, and if she wants to play hard to get that's fine with him. Let the games begin!

What he doesn't realize is that her dangerous secret is not a game.

Julia's brother has returned from the street, strung out and in trouble with rival gangs. Loyalty to her brother draws Julia deeper into a world of drug deals and thugs. Rick doesn't understand why Julia won't simply go to the cops, especially once the bullets start flying. As Julia slips further into a world of violence, Rick realizes how easily his heart can be broken. His brain says to run, but his heart isn't listening. It may already be too late.

BOUND BY BLOOD. Love and suspense, heartfelt moments and guns a blazing.

What a killer combination!

An inspirational, romantic suspense novel coming September 23, 2014

Add to Goodreads

And now, for the book trailer.......... 

Author Bio:

Scott Springer spent his youth playing pretend and dreaming of being a writer. As an adult he worked as a carpenter before becoming a software developer. Having produced much, his two children remain his proudest accomplishment. His wife led him to the Lord, and he’s glad that she did.

Website: www.scottspringer.com 

Twitter: www.twitter.com/sb_springer

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/4771404.Scott_Springer

Author Interview: Buffy Greentree

I'd like to welcome Australian author Buffy Greentree to Iola's Christian Reads today. I've recently read Buffy's first novel, After the Winter, which I'll review tomorrow, but first I thought I'd like to get to know Buffy a little better. Welcome, Buffy.

First, please you tell us a little about yourself. Where are you from?

I was born an hour south east of Melbourne, in a small country town called Lang Lang, population of 800. Growing up in the country was great, I had a fat little pony called Ricky and we used to go on amazing adventures. When I was six, we moved into the city, which was a bit of a shock. Now my family is based out the other side of Melbourne in the Macedon Ranges, which is a beautiful part of the world and I've just moved up to Brisbane for work at the beginning of this year.

Once I finished school I ended up spending about a decade in and around academics. I started in Classics and Archaeology, then moved over to Theology and particularly Old Testament studies. I also managed to pick up a Grad Cert in Business Management, just for some variety (very useful now that I run my writing as a company). However, when I finally got out of it all, I didn't really know what to do with all my skills—although it turns out years of drafting, editing and polishing my own and other people's essays is very good training for becoming an author. For one thing, it kills any illusion that I can only write when I feel motivated. Nope, I'd write essays when they were due, regardless of inspiration, so fiction is just the same. And honestly, it so much more fun to make it all up.

However, I still have a long learning curve to become a master of the craft. I spent almost 10 years in the University system, so I'm giving myself another 10 years as an apprentice writer. I'm two years in now, and already I can look back on my work from last year and see I am better.

You’re a house mother at a boarding school. How does that fit in with your writing?

Honestly, I couldn't believe my luck when I got this job at the beginning of the year. For the past few years I've been trying to write in between working and balancing life. So much time is taken up with the tasks of everyday life; cooking, cleaning, dealing with the electricity company, etc. At times I'd dream about robbing a bank so I'd be incarcerated or handing myself over to a psychiatric ward, just so I'd have no distractions and all my meals cooked for me. Well, living in a boarding house is kind of like that, only it pays and looks better on my resume.

The school provides me with my own little flat rent free, they feed me six meals a day (yup, six: breakfast, morning tea, lunch, afternoon tea, dinner and supper, as well as toast and ice cream at any time of the day), they pay all my bills, fix all my maintenance requests, and pay me a full time wage. In exchange, I work from 3pm -11pm doing a job I love, and I still get paid school holidays. In the mornings I try to do at least two hours of writing and also go to the gym. During my shift, I still usually get an hour or two to read or work on my blog while the girls are studying or sleeping. The job is at times emotionally stressful, but it is much better than working at a computer all day, then trying to come home and sit in front of a computer for another few hours.

So, for all the writers out there, if prison or a mental institutionalisation doesn't appeal I highly recommend becoming a boarding house supervisor.

Do the girls provide any inspiration? Do they know/ask about your writing?

Yes the girls know. They've even found my YouTube video and websites. They think it is really cool in itself, but also great because I can proof read all their assessments. (There are 170 girls in the boarding house, at times I wish I hadn't mentioned it!)

It's also a very interesting experience for a writer to live with 170 teenage girls. 170? Wow. That's a lot of teenager girls. There is just a breadth of personality that I get to experience on a daily basis. Understanding their motivations for different actions is an education in itself. But I am also going to use them for more specific inspiration, as there is no way I could think of some of the situations these girls get themselves into. In fourth term I'm going to start a boarding house series that will be a cross between Artemis Fowl and St. Trinians. It's about a girls' school for the daughters of evil masterminds. My girls are pretty excited about the work, and are already letting me know what types of characters could be based on them.

Though, I also use my writing experience to help them. Trying to give a teenage girl love advice can be tricky, as it's hard for them to see beyond the next few weeks. However, we've started a game. They will tell me their situation, and then I tell them what would happen if I were writing this as a romance novel. Perhaps there is a girl who is trying to choose between two boys and doesn't know which one to take to the formal. One has been her best friend for years, but the other is the new boy in town and every girl wants to go with him. First I'll ask a few more questions to get a really good character description in mind.

Then I'll bring in commonly known romantic tropes. For example, the best friend next door who goes away and comes back really good looking and popular, which you need to hold on to (think Suddenly 30). On the other hand, the new guy will probably turn out to be self-centred and more concerned about how he looks than how my girl feels. He might even hook up with someone else at the formal and tell her that she's lucky he even went with her (all the girls will nod along to the shared wisdom of this and add in their own interpretation and narrative extension.

Tell us about After the Winter. Who will enjoy it?

It's aimed towards readers who like sweet, inspirational romances. As my favourite romance author is Georgette Heyer, the queen or regency romance (she basically invented the genre), I've grown up with romances driven by dialogue, which is something I've worked hard to capture with After The Winter. As it's set in the 1920's, I've worked hard to capture some of the feel for the period, particularly in language and focus. For those who like racy, contemporary stories it might come across as a bit slow, but for those who want to relax into a book it will be a nice holiday.

What was your motivation for writing After the Winter?

I really had two motivations for writing the book. On the positive side, I wanted to write a story for slightly older women who haven't yet found their partners, encouraging them that love can happen even after society says you're too old. Lucinda is only 27, but at the time that was considered well and truly 'on the shelf', as most girls were married before their twenties. She's also virtuous and moral, something not considered attractive in the 'roaring 20's' when women were meant to be daring and flashy.

I also wanted to highlight the inconsistency in many (secular) romances that try to make happy endings out of bad decision. In a lot of books, the woman has to give in to the sexual advances of the rake before she can have her happy ending. This is a message I'm strongly against (especially now that I look after teenage girls). So I wanted to show that by standing up for her beliefs Lucinda really got what she wanted, a reformed rake not just a currently appeased one.

Where did the characters and story come from? What were your influences?

My main character Lucinda developed I suppose largely from my own personal fears. I started with an older main character who has been faithful in doing her duty, but because of this feels she has missed out on love. I wanted to write her a story where she is rewarded, where her patience and moral character is an asset rather than the liability people often paint it as. I feel Lucinda is a reflection of the struggles many Christian women face, and I hope she brings joy and hope to some of them.

My main men, Lord George Everdale and John Huntington the Third, are a mix of real life men, movie stars, and their own beings. Lord Everdale is physically based on Stephen Campbell Moore in the movie 'A Good Woman' (I have a Pinterest board with my inspirations if you need to check him out), though with one or two characteristics of a few friends of mine. But over the period of writing the book, he developed his own personality. John Huntington physically is my idea of a Ralph Lauren male model, and psychologically brings in some characteristics of American friends I have. I have always admired the openness of American manners.

Who is your favourite character and why? Do you have anything in common with him/her?

Of course I would love a Lord Everdale to come into my life. However, it is really Lucinda that has my affection. One of my Goodreads reviewers said: "Lucinda is a lovely character who makes you just want the best for her. I wanted to give her a hug at different points and tell her that it would all be ok." I loved this because it's exactly how I feel about Lucinda. When I had to break her heart, I was so upset. I had to keep writing if only to make everything all right for her. While she has aspects that are based on me, she is a lot more passive than I am, and I would like to think I'm a bit more adventurous. Having said that, I've never had the courage to stand up to a guy and tell him what I really think about his libertine ways, despite wanting to a few times.

What kind of books do you write? Where and when are they set?

As part of my 'apprenticeship' to the craft, I've set myself a challenge to write first drafts in as many different genres and styles as possible, although I usually try to clump them (e.g. do a series of romances or children's work), so I can learn and build. The first series I wrote (so far unpublished) was a YA Christian supernatural trilogy. It was a lot of fun, though now that I live with teenage girls, I know I need to update some of my language #yolo.

The first two books I published were non-fiction, one on preparing to write (The Five Day Writer's Retreat) and one on internet dating profiles (The Nice Guy's Guide To Online Dating Profiles). After my years of essay writing, the structure of non-fiction was very natural to me. Now I'm working on romances. I've just brought out the 1920's romance After The Winter, and I'm currently writing a contemporary chick-lit serial based in Melbourne. I have one more romance planned for July, and I'll be bringing out the second Five Day Writer's book after that, then I'm back to some YA stuff.

What are you working on at the moment? What other books do you plan to write?

I am trying out a new medium (for me) of writing a serial. Like a TV show, the story is written as a series of episodes which connect into a season. I'll release each episode separately as an ebook, and once the season is complete, bundle it together as a whole book.

The actual story, Virtually Ideal, is about 29 year old Laurie Barker, who wants to be an author but hasn't quite made it yet. Instead, she works as an unpaid intern/slave for a literary agent and does the night shift at a call centre to pay the bills. She's single and unhappy, but refusing to acknowledge that things might not be working out as she planned. However, when her little sister announces that she's getting married in seven weeks, Laurie is forced to realise that her life isn't working. So she sets herself the goal of finding a boyfriend by the wedding. That will show how under control her life really is.

On the one hand, it's a classic chick-lit set in an urban environment (Melbourne, my darling Melbourne), dealing with romance, career aspirations and personal relationships However, it again has developed a much stronger Christian theme than I intended. Laurie starts off trying to do everything herself. She thinks she's a Christian, but doesn't really expect much of God. Realising over the course of the story that this isn't working, she then tries throwing everything into God's hands, and accepting anything that comes along as his will. Finally she realises that being a Christian is an active role, seeking God's will, putting it into practice, and rejecting anything that's against it. Only then will she get what she really wants.

I have to admit, it's a lot of fun to write. Each episode is only 12,000 words so needs to be fast paced. But over the length of the series a lot has to happen, so I have many threads I'm handling at once. People pop in and out, and little events in the first episode might turn out to have huge consequences later on. I plan to finish the first draft by the end of June, and then need to do a complete structural refit as I made a lot of discoveries on my way. So you'll have to keep an eye out for the release date at www.100firstdrafts.com.

20 June 2014

Review: Seagrass Pier by Colleen Coble

Excellent Romantic Suspense

Elin Summerall, widowed mother of four-year-old Josie, has recently undergone a lifesaving heart transplant operation, receiving the heart of Laura Watson, a murder victim. Now she’s experiencing nightmares—memories of murder. Marc Everton is an FBI agent who believes the death of his partner is linked to Laura’s murder, and although he doesn’t really believe in residual memories, he wonders if Elin can help. But there’s a catch …

I’ve read several books by Colleen Coble, both contemporary and historical. I personally prefer her contemporary novels, and Seagrass Pier is excellent. At first I thought the plot was going to be like Double Blind: A Novel by Brandilyn Collins, but Seagrass Pier was quite different (although it came close to Brandilynn’s trademark “Seatbelt Suspense”, in that it was full of tension and hard to put down).

Nick, Elin and the supporting characters are all well developed and believable, and the plot is a tightly-woven web of suspense with a little romance added in. Seagrass Pier is Christian fiction and while Christian values underpin the lives of all the main characters, it’s not preachy fiction. My one concern is that I never saw Elin accept God’s forgiveness for her sin. In real life, God forgives us before we even ask, yet even at the end, Elin doesn’t seem to understand she is forgiven.

Seagrass Pier is the third book in the Hope Beach series, following Tidewater Inn and Rosemary Cottage. However, it can easily be read as a standalone title (I have read the previous two books—while all three books have the same location, they focus on different characters with only a few cameo appearances from the earlier books). Recommended for fans romantic suspense.

Colleen Coble Seagrass Pier

Thanks to Bethany House, Litfuse Publicity, and NetGalley for providing a free ebook for review.

Remember, the Kindle edition of Seagrass Pier is available for $4.99 if you preorder by 30 June!

19 June 2014

SEAGRASS PIER | Pre-order @ColleenCoble’s NEW book for just $4.99. Enter for a chance to win a Kindle Fire!

Don’t miss Colleen Coble‘s latest release in the Hope Beach series, Seagrass Pier. The book releases July 1st, and Colleen's publisher is offering the ebook at a special pre-order price of just $4.99 between now and 6/30 everywhere ebooks are sold.

PLUS . . . between 6/9 – 6/30 Colleen will be hosting a Kindle giveaway.


One winner will receive:
  • A brand new Kindle Fire HDX
  • Seagrass Pier and the rest of the Hope Beach series by Colleen Coble
Enter today by clicking one of the icons below. But hurry, the giveaway ends on June 30th. Winner will be announced on Colleen's blog on July 1st.

Tell your friends via FACEBOOK or TWITTER and increase your chances of winning and be sure to stop by Colleen's blog on July 1st to see if you won!

(My review will post tomorrow).

18 June 2014

CrossReads Book Blast with Lisa Schuster

Service Station Angel
By Lisa J. Schuster

About the Book:

Screenshot (102)Sometimes God places you in a situation of great perplexity, but you perceive His intentions are premeditated and purposeful. Do you trust His lead?

"Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him; do not fret when people succeed in their ways, when they carry out their wicked schemes." - Psalms 37:7 (NIV)

Ernie Price is a middle-aged, humble-hearted man who owns and operates a service station in a rural Midwest town in Upper Michigan, back in a time when full service was the only service, and you got your windows cleaned and your tires pumped for free.

Ernie's life has been a reflection of God's love, giving of himself fully and graciously to people in the community and his church. As music director for the children's choir or hosting the yearly Christmas party for the less-fortunate children in town, Ernie impacted lives and was loved by many.

When trouble rocks the small town and Ernie is physically incapacitated to offer his help, the community is left to pick up the pieces, mourn, and move on, while Ernie wrestles with the spiritual questions of his accident:

My glimpse of heaven is for what purpose on earth?
Why do I feel compelled to help this stranger know the love of the Lord? Who is this stranger anyway?

This heartwarming story of love, faithful forgiveness and following God's perfect plan, will inspire and delight!

80c6dd3e31f90a82390bef.L._V366868119_SX200_Faith, family and friends inspired Lisa J. Schuster to write again and God nudged her to publish her first novel, Service Station Angel. She believes the words in this book are her service to others, so that they may find joy and comfort during a season of time when they need it most. "May your hand reach up towards His so that you may touch another with Jesus' abundant love," prays Lisa.

Lisa lives in Highlands Ranch, Colorado with her husband and two children. She enjoys creative writing, traveling, working with inner city youth, bible study groups, singing and theater.
Follow Lisa J. Schuster

Enter to Win a $50 Amazon Gift Card!

Enter below to enter a $50 amazon gift card, sponsored by author Lisa J. Schuster!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

This book blast is hosted by Crossreads.

We would like to send out a special THANK YOU to all of the CrossReads book blast bloggers!

17 June 2014

Review: Truth be Told by Carol Cox

Christian Western Romance

It’s 1893, and Amelia Wagner has returned to Granite Springs, Arizona Territory, to spend the summer with her father, editor of the local newspaper. However, he is dying, and leaves her in charge of the newspaper—and of investigating the Great Western Investment Company, who are buying up all the land around town for mining.

Ben Stone is employed by Great Western to research and negotiate possible land acquisitions. His boss encourages him to befriend Amelia in the hopes that she will print a retraction of her father’s stories maligning the company. He’s pleased to be spending time with Amelia, but finds she’s not easy to persuade, especially when her oily stepfather arrives in town (yes, her mother remarried only days after the death of her father).

I didn’t enjoy Truth Be Told as much as I enjoyed the last Carol Cox novel I read (Trouble in Store), as I found it a bit slow to get going, and the initial interactions between Amelia and Ben didn’t have the same level of charm. This was partly because they were on opposing sides of an argument, and partly because they simply didn’t spend enough time together. It’s difficult to believe the progression of a romantic relationship when they’re never together!

However, Truth Be Told took off after the halfway point, and the second half was an excellent mix of romance and suspense as the two seek to find the truth behind Great Western. Truth Be Told is Christian romance, but the faith aspects are understated and not at all preachy. Overall, Truth Be Told was an enjoyable enough read, but not one I’d keep and reread.

Thanks to Bethany House and NetGalley for providing a free ebook for review. You can find out more about Carol Cox at her website, blog, Facebook or Twitter.

16 June 2014

RUMSPRINGA’S HOPE | Kindle Giveaway from Beth Shriver

Don't miss the first book, Rumspringa's Hope, in Beth Shriver's new Spirit of the Amish series.
Beth is celebrating the series launch with a Kindle Fire Giveaway!


One winner will receive:
  • A Kindle Fire
  • Rumspringa's Hope by Beth Shriver
Enter today, but hurry! The giveaway ends on June 22nd. Winner will be announced June 23rd on Beth's blog.

Don't miss a moment of the fun; enter today and be sure to stop by Beth's blog on June 23rd to see if you won.

14 June 2014

Cover Reveal: Bound by Blood by Scott Springer

Bound by blood banner cover reveal

by Scott Springer
An inspirational romantic suspense novel coming September 23 from Anaiah Press!

About the book:
Julia has accepted the Lord and is busy returning her life to order. She is not ready for love, especially when the new site foreman at work stirs up forgotten feelings. She knows a playboy when she sees one, but to Rick Mercado the attraction between them is surprisingly real. Other girls no longer interest him, and if she wants to play hard to get that's fine with him. Let the games begin!
What he doesn't realize is that her dangerous secret is not a game.
Julia's brother has returned from the street, strung out and in trouble with rival gangs. Loyalty to her brother draws Julia deeper into a world of drug deals and thugs. Rick doesn't understand why Julia won't simply go to the cops, especially once the bullets start flying. As Julia slips further into a world of violence, Rick realizes how easily his heart can be broken. His brain says to run, but his heart isn't listening. It may already be too late.
BOUND BY BLOOD. Love and suspense, heartfelt moments and guns a blazing.
What a killer combination!
And now for the cover...
Bound by blood 1600x2400

About the Author:
Scott Springer spent his youth playing pretend and dreaming of being a writer. As an adult he worked as a carpenter before becoming a software developer. Having produced much, his two children remain his proudest accomplishment. His wife led him to the Lord, and he’s glad that she did.

13 June 2014

Review: Hacker by Ted Dekker

Outstanding YA Sci-fi

Nyah is seventeen, brilliant, and has lost everything. Her father and brother died in a car accident which left her mother brain damaged. She’s been accepted into a medical trial which is going to cost $250,000—money she doesn’t have. She has a plan, but is left running for her life after it goes horribly wrong.

Nyah teams up with Austin, the only person she’s ever met who is smarter than her. Austin’s dying of a brain tumour, but he’s got a plan … which is a cross between Fringe and The Matrix. He’s trying to find a mysterious person known as the Outlaw, as Austin believes the Outlaw will be able to heal him. In order to find the Outlaw, Austin is hacking into the most complex computer on the planet: his own brain.

The plot is fast-paced as the danger grows ever closer to Nyah. The characters are excellent and the writing outstanding. Dekker is one of the few authors I’ve read who have managed to pull off the combination of first person and third person point of view (first person from Nyah, third person from Austin and other characters). It shouldn’t work, because it’s a technique that reminds us we are *only* reading a book. It shouldn’t work, but it did.

This is only the second Ted Dekker book I’ve read. I like suspense, especially romantic suspense, but the previous Dekker I read (Three) was so full of psychological suspense I didn’t think I could put myself through that again (the only other book that’s come close was Abomination by Colleen Coble). Anyway, while Hacker was full of suspense, it was a mixture of physical and psychological, and I was better able to cope with that (although there was one scene where I closed my eyes. I don't like drills). I still don’t know if I’m brave enough to read Dekker’s older books, but I certainly enjoyed this one.

Hacker is the fourth book in The Outlaw Chronicles, but is easily enjoyed as a standalone novel. I wouldn’t call it Christian fiction—Dekker’s presentation of life and death in Hacker seems to only allow for a pleasant afterlife. Despite this possible drawback, it’s excellent YA science fiction, recommended for teens who enjoyed tech-based Sci-fi.

Thanks to Worthy for providing a free ebook for review. You can find out more about Ted Dekker at his website.