29 September 2016

Review and Giveaway: An Aussie Summer Christmas

I was thrilled when Narelle Atkins approached me with news of a secret Aussie project--a box set of romance novellas set in Australia in summer. I understand a summer Christmas is something most English-speaking people find odd. A little foreign, perhaps.

Well, that's kind of the point. These six authors wanted to introduce readers to Christmas Down Under, Aussie style. No snow, just sun, sand, and barbies on the beach. And a bunch of Aussie accents.

Yes, I'm a little biased. This collection features stories from some of my favourite authors. I edited each of the novellas in the collection, and I consider several of the authors personal friends (the others are the authors I haven't met yet, who are are friends-to-be!).

This collection is a great opportunity to try out some new authors, or read the latest from some of your favourite Aussie (and other) authors. Aussies and Kiwis will enjoy the familiar Down Under lifestyle, and our nothern neighbours can get a taste of what they are missing as they cuddle under their quilts and escape the winter.


Melbourne Memories by Marion Ueckermann

Justin Taylor escapes London in an attempt to outrun his pre-Christian past. He comes to Melbourne and befriends barista and cupcake maestro Ella Anderson ... and I so want to visit her coffee shop! Melbourne is well known for the cafe culture, and this novella got it spot on.

I lived in London for ten years and got to experience what many would call a "proper" Christmas (although they were more sludge-grey than white). It was great to revisit London, and to see a different side of Melbourne (a city I've visited only too briefly). This was a standalone story, a lovely romance with a touch of suspense and a strong Christian message.

You can find out more about Marion at her website.

Next Door Santa by Lacy Williams

Lacy Williams is American, and I have no idea if she's ever experienced my idea of a proper Christmas (i.e. SUMMER). No matter. She's done a great job in Next Door Santa, which introduces us to neighbours Christmas-obsessed Bridie, and no-complications workaholic Will. And a dog.

This is standalone romance from Lacy Williams. You can find out more about Lacy at her website.

Seaside Christmas by Narelle Atkins

Political advisor Gus Donovan is reintroduced to Chelsea Somers, the girl he never called back after their one and only date. He's become a Christian since then, and reevaluated what he wants out of life. But will Chelsea see eye to eye with him?

I'm not big into politics (and watching the US election from afar merely reinforces my stuck-in-the-mud views). But even I was sold on Gus as the reformed bad boy turned rising political star ... and yet I could still see why Chelsea hesitated. Enjoyable, if a little more thought-provoking than is normal for short Christian romances.

Seaside Christmas is part of Narelle's Sydney Sweethearts series, but can easily be read as a standalone. You can find out more about Narelle at her website.

A Christmas Resolution by Rose Dee

I've always enjoyed Rose's trademark style: Christian romance with a touch of edgy suspense balanced out by a good dose of Aussie humour, and with a definite emphasis on the Christian. A Christmas Resolution is no exception.

Breeah is back in her childhood home of Kiisay Point ... and face-to-face with her past. Face-to-face with her boyfriend of ten years ago, and his brother--once her best friend. A Christmas Resolution is a great story of reconcilliation and restoration ... and light suspense.

A Christmas Resolution is the final story in Rose's Resolution series, but can easily be read as a standalone. You can find out more about Rose at her website.

All is Bright by Andrea Grigg

All is Bright is the story of good, Christian Amy, whose only fault is that she's been in love with her brother-in-law for the best part of a decade. For his part, Josh has finally over the death of his wife and considering looking for love again. But he's never considered Amy ...

This could be a morose or even cringey plot, but it isn't. Andrea Grigg tackles it with her trademark blend of Aussie and Kiwi humour, and the result is a fun romantic comedy read.

All is Bright is a standalone novella, although fans might notice a couple of characters from Andrea's first novel, A Simple Mistake.

Falling for Maddie Grace

Maddie Grace is the first female professional umpire in Aussie Rules (a football game. It won't surprise you to learn it's unique to Australia). Although she won't be a ref for much longer if she can't control the rumours about her and a certain player after an on-field accident ...

I am not a football fan. No matter what you call it: soccer, rugby, league, American football, Aussie Rules ... I'd rather read a book. Yet Meredith actually managed to convince me it might be fun to watch a game of Aussie Rules (shhh! Don't tell my husband!). This was an excellent novella, with two likeable Christians falling for each other while trying not to.

Falling for Maddie Grace is a standalone novella, although I'm sure Meredith can redeem a few of the other boys on the team and come up with a sequel (hint, hint). You can find out more about Meredith at her website.

27 September 2016

Review: Critical Condition by Nicki Edwards

At Last!

I’ve been waiting to read Liam’s story since the release of Life Support , and was more than disappointed when I discovered Nicki’s last release, The Peppercorn Project, was a new series. I was waiting to find out if Liam would meet his perfect match, thank you very much.

Well, Liam’s story was worth waiting for. It took a while for him and Poppy to get together, but it was definitely worth the wait. I was left with a soppy smile on my face, so the romance definitely hit the right spot.

There wasn’t so much medical stuff in Critical Condition as in Life Support, which is great for those of us who get a little queasy at the sight or mention of blood. For those who enjoy medical romances—don’t worry. There should still be enough medical content to keep you interested, drawing on Nicki’s own experiences as an ED nurse. Just not as much blood.

Liam will need no introduction for those who have read the earlier books in this series. If you haven’t, don’t worry, as this is a standalone novel (although we are reintroduced to the lead characters from the earlier novels).

But Poppy was the standout character for me. She’s likeable and intelligent and beautiful … but the outward perfection hides a woman who is paranoid she’ll develop bipolar disorder and turn into her basket case of a mother. Critical Condition did an excellent job of portraying the difficulties of growing up with someone with an unmanaged mental health condition—a sad state of affairs, and one too many children grow up in.

One note to my Christian readers: while Nicki Edwards is a Christian, her novels are written for the general market. As such, they do include language and scenes you wouldn’t find in a Christian novel.

Recommended for those who enjoy a good general market medical romance. Thanks to Momentum Books and NetGalley for providing a free ebook for review.

You can find out more about Nicki Edwards at her website.

22 September 2016

Review: A Tapestry of Secrets by Sarah Loudin Thomas

Promising but Slow

When Ella's grandmother has a stroke and needs in-home care, quilt artist Ella is happy to volunteer both to help Gran, and to escape Mark, her ethically-challenged overbearing ex-fiance. Here she spends time with her parents, and with Aunt Sadie, who never married.

The story is told in two points of view, in two separate timelines. The present timeline is mostly Ella's story, with some scenes from Gran, Perla. But the stroke has affected Perla's ability to speak, which means she can't share the big secret in her life: the identity of Sadie's father.

The past story is Perla's story from the summer she met Sadie's father and the events leading up to her conception. This is interesting because it gives momentum to the present story, but it was the present story, Ella's story, which engaged me more.

Ella's family live in a small town where their history goes back several generations, which gives the novel a sense of place which fascinates me (a first-generation immigrant to New Zealand). Ella places a lot of importance on the past, on past traditions--perhaps too much, perhaps to the point where she worships tradition over God. There were some great pearls of wisdom around this, especially around our plans vs. God’s plans:
You get to the place where you want whatever the Lord wants and you'll find you have more than you ever dreamed.
Getting things wrong is nothing more than one of the steps on the way of getting them right. All you've done is learn a valuable lesson.
Anything God gives you is sure to be better than what you thought you wanted in the first place.
I thought the first half of A Tapestry of Secrets was excellent. Great characters, great writing, and lots of fascinating questions (although this is part of a series called Appalachian Blessings, and I got no sense of place. It could have been set in any small town in America).

But I thought the second half lost its way. It felt slower, almost as though it was going around in circles and not getting anywhere. The end finally came and was good, but I got frustrated by the whole Mark subplot (if he was such a slimeball, why did she not tell her parents? There was no reason for keeping that a secret).

Thanks to Bethany House and NetGalley for providing a free ebook for review. You can find out more about Sarah Loudin Thomas at her website, and you can read the introduction to A Tapestry of Secrets below:

20 September 2016

Review: Disillusioned by Christy Barritt

Fast-paced Suspense

Nikki Wright has successfully rescued her brother Bobby from the clutches of Colombian terrorists, but soon finds that's not the end of his trials. Or hers. Not as long as people believe her brother is hiding information, that his amnesia might not be real. And when a kidnapping attempt goes wrong, Bobby contacts the one person he trusts, the one person Nikki doesn't want to see: Kade Wheaton, the man who broke her heart.

Kade is happy to be helping his friend, and happy to be see Nikki again. But not so happy when Bobby starts acting strangely, to the point where even Kade wonders if there might be truth in the rumour that Bobby sold his country out to the Colombians. No matter what Nikki says to the contrary. But Bobby isn't the only problem ...

Disillusioned is Christian romantic suspense at its best, with plenty of suspense, a solid romance, and a very definite Christian theme. No, God doesn't forget us even when we forget about him.

Nikki is my favourite kind of fictional character—intelligent and savvy, but with a vulnerability behind her. And Kade was a great match, protective when he needed to be, but not controlling, and not protective to the point of belittling Nikki's talents.

The writing was excellent, especially the fast pace and the suspense. It was one of those novels you don't want to put down because you want to find out what happens next, but at the same time you suspect that what's coming might be a bit scary or unpleasant, so you want to put the book down.

Recommended for Christian suspense fans.

Thanks to Waterfall Press and NetGalley for providing a free ebook for review. You can find out more about Christy Barritt at her website, and you can read the introduction to Disillusioned below:

19 September 2016

Introducing Barbara M Britton and Providence: Hannah's Journey

Today we welcome debut author Barbara M. Britton and get to know a little more about her. Barbara, welcome!

Thank you for hosting me on your blog today. I am happy to share my writing journey with you and the story behind “Providence: Hannah’s Journey.”

Do you plot or let the story unfold as you write?
I have read articles on whether writers should be plotters or pantsers (write by the seat of your pants). I tend to be a combination of the two. I’m a plantser. I have an outline of where the story is going and I write to meet each plot point. With Biblical fiction, sometimes the Bible gives the entire storyline, but other times it doesn’t. I based Hannah on the servant girl in the story of Naaman in II Kings 5. The Bible doesn’t tell us if that girl was rewarded with her freedom for essentially sending Naaman to the prophet to be healed. I wrote the happily ever after.

Have you ever cried while writing a book?
Yes, definitely. I know I am writing well if I’m crying and my critique partner is crying. The number one job of a writer is to elicit emotion from the reader. I know I have done my job if there are wadded up tissues on my desk.

How well did you do in English class as a kid?
I was A material with spelling words and using them in sentences. I still struggle with comma usage and other grammatical details. I took a grammar class recently and discovered there are different types of sentences. Who knew? I flunked some of the homework assignments. That is why I love my editors.

Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp? If so, what is it and why?
When I taught chapel to elementary students, my husband would always challenge me not to tell a story, but to think of the theology behind it, and why God placed this story in the Bible. Easy, right? So, all my books have a theme. For “Providence: Hannah’s Journey,” the theme is God is in control even in the chaos of life. I let each reader pull out the theology in the novel.

As I reviewed the galley for Hannah’s story, I was battling breast cancer. I needed to remind myself every day that God was in control no matter the outcome. Praise the Lord, for it seems I am cancer free.

What is your favorite comfort food?
Easy peasy. It’s chocolate. But I can be a chocolate snob. I grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area, home to See’s Candies, so dark chocolate butter creams are my favorite chocolate. I have many, many close seconds. And I am open to discovering new favorites.

If you were stranded on a desert island, what three things would be essential for you?

A cell phone. A cell phone tower. Unlimited fresh water. I know some would say a Bible, but I hope I have enough Scripture stored in my heart that I could recite it to myself. Prayer just comes with the territory—no pun intended.

Do you laugh at your own jokes?
Of course, even if no one else does. Laughter is the best medicine to calming the stress in life.

Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?
Thank you so much for reading Hannah’s Journey. It’s exciting to have a book release into the world, but it’s also scary. I am grateful for the support of my readers.

Want to learn more?

My website: www.barbarambritton.com

My real name is Barbara M. Britton. The journeys will continue in February with “Building Benjamin: Naomi’s Journey.”
Thanks to Barbara for stopping by today. Be sure to pick up her debut Biblical fiction, Providence: Hannah's Journey.

Visit all the stops along the tour

COTT: Olympia Winner Announcement

Many deserving competitors entered the fray. One became the victor!

Congratulations Jennifer Uhlarik, 
2016 Olympia Award Champion.

We took a few moments to get to know Jennifer a little better, and now here's your chance to do the same:

Jennifer Uhlarik discovered the western genre as a pre-teen, when she swiped the only “horse” book she found on her older brother’s bookshelf. A new love was born. Across the next ten years, she devoured Louis L’Amour westerns and fell in love with the genre.

In college at the University of Tampa, she began penning her own story of the Old West. Armed with a B.A. in writing, she has won five writing competitions and finaled in two other competitions. In addition to writing, she has held jobs as a private business owner, a schoolteacher, a marketing director, and her favorite—a full-time homemaker.

Jennifer is active in American Christian Fiction Writers and lifetime member of the Florida Writers Association. She lives near Tampa, Florida, with her husband, teenaged son, and four fur children.

How did you come up with the idea for this book and what made you want to write this particular story?
While working with a few other authors on some novella collection ideas, I came up with the idea of three adult siblings who reunite after being separated by adoption in their youth. This story and the two that follow it are the result of that idea—three strong siblings devoted to law and justice, each in their own way.

What does winning the Olympia Award mean to you?

It is such an honor! I love the Olympia since the first round is judged by readers. That is probably the truest group of judges one can have. And I know the competition is always stiff in contests, so just to final is quite humbling. To win is indescribable (and I’m an author, so that says a lot. I’m speechless. LOL)

How can people find you online/contact you?
I can be found in the following places:

Website: www.jenniferuhlarik.com
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/JenniferUhlarikAuthor/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/JenniferUhlarik
Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/jenuhlarik/

16 September 2016

Friday Fifteen: Heather Blanton

Today I'd like to welcome Heather Blanton to Iola's Christian Reads. I reviewed A Lady in Defiance, her debut novel, last month at Reality Calling, and am delighted to announce Radiqx Press have awarded Heather with a Redemptive Fiction Award of Excellence:

Now Heather's newest book in the series has recently released—A Promise in Defiance.

Now she's going to share some of her favourite novels with us. Welcome, Heather!

Heather Blanton's Friday 15

1. Red Bird by Stephanie Grace Whitson

The first Christian fiction book I read that showed me the right story CAN carry real spiritual truth. The heroine finally gives her dreams up for what God wants for her and she finds true joy in that!

2. The Mirror by Marlys Millhiser

Just a little gothic suspense story that carried me back in time during some cold, winter days in high school. I’ve read it many times since!

3. The Masque of the Red Death 

Poe’s most masterful use of nearly all the senses. A truly visceral story. You hear it. You smell it. You see it. Dang he was good.

4. The Dead Zone by Stephen King 

King has a conversational style in his writing that sets him apart. You forget you’re reading.

5.It by Stephen King

Then he writes something stupid like It. I pray to God I never write a book with such a catastrophically disappointing ending.

6. Ride the River by Louis L’Amour

The consummate Western author. He has transported me back to the Wild West more times than I can recall, but this story about Echo Sackett is my favorite.

7. The Virginian by Owen Wister

Speaking of Westerns, Owen Wister wrote this gem. While it has a few oddball curves in it, like stepping out of the story to address capital punishment, that gunfight at the end left me breathless. It is awesome. For anyone who loves the West, you’ll “get” every sentence.

8. Shane by Jack Schaefer

A slow-burn of a book built on tension and told through the eyes of a young boy. A stunning POV full of subtle nuances, but the themes of honor, courage, and self-determination tower!I read it in high school and it has always stayed with me.

9. The Last Sin Eater by Francine Rivers

I’m from Western North Carolina and I felt like I was walking through the Mt. Laurel along with Cadi and suffering her guilt right along with her. Masterful internal dialogue.

10. Several of the poems by Tennyson 

A masterful poet, I had only read him when I had to take an English class a few years back. And it was like, “Wow, look what I’ve been missing?” Studying poetry gives one the chance to look at the power of words in a micro scale. Sentences, sometimes mere phrases, carry a wollop.
Tears, idle tears, I know not what they mean,
Tears from the depth of some divine despair
Rise in the heart, and gather to the eyes,
In looking on the happy Autumn-fields,
And thinking of the days that are no more.

11. The Art of Being Unmistakable: A Collection of Essays About Making a Dent in the World by Srinivas Rao 

Rao was tied up in a world of expectations and none of them were his own. These essays tell how he broke free. For me, this secular book got me to quit looking at what the Christian publishing world expects and write what God gives me!

12. A Time for Christmas by Heather Blanton

Speaking of breaking free from toxic expectations, I should list In Time for Christmas by me! I wrote this story in high school, finally decided to re-write it and publish it in 2014. A time travel romance based on a particular scripture, it’s out of the box and out of my genre, but it paid for Christmas one year. So the moral is sometimes, you’ve just got to follow your heart.

13. Montana Sky by Nora Roberts

A story of three sisters looking for a murderer on a Montana ranch. I read this back in ’96 when my sister Susan was alive. After she passed away, this is the book that gave me the idea to write about three sisters facing challenges in a rowdy mining town.

14. A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens

The first book I remember reading that really brought home the nobility of sacrifice, outside of what Jesus did. A mere man, not a god, who laid down his life for his friends and his country. A beautiful story.

15. The Screenwriter’s Bible by David Trottier

I could list a hundred books on the craft of writing, but this one by David Trottier was so concise, so clearly and simply written, it opened up plotting for me like no other. I used to write by the seat of my pants, but something about this book helped me SEE my stories, start to finish. I write so much faster now!

About Heather Blanton

A former journalist, Heather is an avid researcher and skillfully weaves truth in among fictional story lines. She loves exploring the American West, especially ghost towns and museums. She has walked parts of the Oregon Trail, ridden horses through the Rockies, climbed to the top of Independence Rock, and even held an outlaw's note in her hand. You can learn more about her and her work at https://ladiesindefiance.com/ or https://www.facebook.com/heatherfreyblanton.

Sign up for Heather’s email newsletter to receive the latest book release updates, as well as info about contests and giveaways (https://ladiesindefiance.com/).

Heather is the independent bestselling author of several Christian Westerns, including the Romance in the Rockies series, which has sold over 40,000 copies. Intrigued by the concept of three good sisters stranded in a lawless Colorado mining town, a few notable Hollywood producers have requested the script for her first book in that series, A Lady in Defiance. Heather’s writing is gritty and realistic. In fact, her books have been compared to AMC’s Hell on Wheels series, as well as the legendary Francine Rivers book, Redeeming Love.

She writes Westerns because she grew up on a steady diet of Bonanza, Gunsmoke, and John Wayne movies. Her most fond childhood memory is of sitting next to her father, munching on popcorn, and watching Lucas McCain unload that Winchester!

She can be reached several different ways:


15 September 2016

Review: A Lady Unrivaled by Roseanna M White

Outstanding Conclusion to Trilogy

Book Description

Lady Ella Myerston can always find a reason to smile--even if it's just in hope that tomorrow will be better than today. All her life everyone has tried to protect her from the realities of the world, but Ella knows very well the danger that has haunted her brother and their friend, and she won't wait for it to strike again. She intends to take action . . . and if that happens to involve an adventurous trip to the Cotswolds, then so much the better.

Lord Cayton has already broken two hearts, including that of his first wife, who died before he could convince himself to love her. Now he's determined to live a better life. But that proves complicated when old friends arrive on the scene and try to threaten him into a life of crime. He does his best to remove the intriguing Lady Ella from danger, but the stubborn girl won't budge. How else can he redeem himself, though, but by saving her--and his daughter--from those dangerous people who seem ready to destroy them all?

My Review

This is this third and final novel in the Ladies of the Manor series, and while I thought each of them was excellent, I thought this was definitely the best. There are several reasons for that view. First, this story was excellent. Ella and Cayton were both wonderful characters, determined not to do anything so foolish as to fall for each other, but both unable to stop themselves. Their joint scenes were they weren’t interested in each other (ha!) brought a smile to my face.

It was also good to revisit the main characters in the two previous books, Brook and Justin from The Lost Heiress, and Brice and Rowena from The Reluctant Duchess (it was less good to revisit some of the evildoers from previous books, but they were equally important as characters). But the main reason I enjoyed the Ladies of the Manor series was the way each novel was a standalone romance, but there was the mystery of the Fire Eyes underlying each of the three novels.

I’m also continually impressed by the way Roseanna White brings out truths about human nature and about God without ever descending into preachiness:

Ours is a God who delights in providing for His children, who charges us to be whole, complete, to find joy in all our circumstances through Him.
It only takes a moment to marry someone, but an entire lifetime to have a marriage with them. Faith is like that. It takes one moment to confess it, and a lifetime to live it out.
And sometimes her writing is just plain funny:
It was terribly cliché to be attracted to a man just because he was a good father … and handsome … and clever … and charming. And Ella hated to be a cliché.
Roseanna White also demonstrates a solid understanding of human nature. Ella says:
Some women like the challenge of a man who needs saving. Others see the potential hiding under the layers of the world, and it is that they love.
Yes, too many women (and men, perhaps) fall for the person who needs saving, and find themselves in difficult or abusive relationships (naming no names, but too many popular novels perpetuate this lie). Ella goes on to clarify her own view, a lesson too many women still need to learn:
Fall for a man in need of saving and you will be sorely disappointed to find you are no savior. Fall for a man who is only potential, and you shall be constantly disappointed that he doesn’t live up to it. No, I prefer gentlemen who already know redemption and who have sloughed off the ways of the world.
All in all, A Lady Unrivaled is a novel unrivaled. I’m sorry to see the end of Ella and her friends and family.

Thanks to Baker Publishing and NetGalley for providing a free ebook for review. You can find out more about Roseanna M White at her website.

13 September 2016

Review: Grime Family by Marji Lane


Amazon Description

Meeting the parents can be murder. For Dani Foster that’s a literal statement, and there’s little chance her boyfriend’s parents will ever warm up to her. Not after what she uncovers.

After dating for several months, it’s only natural that Jay Hunter should want his girlfriend to meet his family. But Dani’s curious nature and extraordinary observation skills can’t be turned off. Not even for his parents. Their secrets aren’t her doing, and the fact that she unearths them aren’t her intentions, so why is she openly hated?

His parents’ obvious dislike for the lady he loves leaves Jay with a terrible decision. Does he accept their counsel and give up this woman who has meant so much to him, or does he return to Dallas with Dani and never look back? Or is there some way the problems can be resolved without destroying either relationship?

My Review

I didn't enjoy Grime Family as much as I enjoyed the previous books in the series. The scenes between Dani and Jay's parents were awkward and often rushed, and while I understood the purpose of that when everything was explained at the end, it make for an uncomfortable read. It also means I can't really explain what annoyed me, because that would effectively be a spoiler.

Yes, the message was solid. But the writing wasn't as good as in previous books in the series. I also didn't see enough of the developing relationship between Dani and Jay, and that story arc is one of the things I've enjoyed most about this series. Readers are waiting for Dani to reveal her big secret to Jay, and it still hasn't happened. I'm getting a little impatient.

Having said that, if you've read Grime Beat, Grime Wave and Grime Spree, you'll want to find out what happens next to Dani and Jay, no matter what I say. And I'm sure you'll find the book as alternately enjoyable and frustrating as I did. If you haven't read the earlier books and you enjoy contemporary Christian mystery novels with a touch of romance ... well, you should start with Grime Beat.

Thanks to the author for providing a free ebook for review. You can read the introduction to Grime Family below:

9 September 2016

ACRBA Tour: Mail Order Surprise by Lucy Thompson

5 - 9 September 2016

is Introducing 

Forget Me Not Romances, a division of Winged Publications (April 19, 2016)

By Lucy Thompson

About the Book:
Colorado, 1881. Lydia Walsh is on the run. The quiet rancher she marries and expected to find safety and protection with turns out to have three siblings, next to nothing to live on, and is a crack shot who may or may not be one of the states best cattle rustlers.

Beau Harding wants to keep his family together and do the right thing by them. His mail order bride comes with her own set of baggage: two more mouths to feed and empty hearts begging him to fill. The job he took for some quick money gets him thrown in jail for rustling, and then to clear his name he takes on another job--and learns that his wife may have been the one plotting his family’s downfall all along.

About the Author:
Hi! My name is Lucy Thompson. I’m a stay-at-home mum to five precocious children and wife to the ultra-handy Dave by day and a snoop by night, stalking interesting characters through historical settings, and writing about their exploits.

I enjoy meeting new people from all over the world and learning about the craft of writing. When I can be separated from my laptop, I’m a professional time waster on Facebook (really!), a slave to the towering stack of books on my bedside table, and a bottler, preserving fruit the old fashioned way so I can swap recipes and tips with my characters. 

My home is in central Queensland, Australia where I do not ride a kangaroo to the shops, mainly because my children won’t fit.

Represented by the fabulous Chip MacGregor of MacGregor Literary, I’m a member of American Christian Fiction Writers, and Romance Writers of America.

I have already reviewed Mail Order Surprise, and very much enjoyed it. You can read my review here: Mail Order Surprise by Lucy Thompson

8 September 2016

Review: Just a Kiss by Denise Hunter


This is the third and final novel in the Summer Harbor trilogy, and features one of my favourite romance tropes: friends to lovers (although, as is proper for Christian romance, it’s actually friends to more-than-friends). It’s the story of Riley, who has recently returned from service in the Middle East, service which has left him with issues.

But there were also some more awkward parts, like the implication that oysters weren’t shellfish (when the speaker is a lobsterman and therefore should know better, and he’s talking to someone who is allergic to shellfish). Or the suggestion that amputees can do anything these days—look at "that Olympic runner". As I write this (June 2016), the Olympic runner in question is awaiting sentencing on a murder charge after shooting his girlfriend four times, thinking she was an intruder.

I doubt this is the kind of “anything” the author was referring to—this is meant to be a romance novel, not a tragedy. As an aside, my husband often feels I’m too nit-picky in my criticisms of novels, but even he agreed this reference was in poor taste—and something that even the most basic of internet searches should have picked up on. A reference to the Paralympics or Invictus Games would have been more timely and appropriate. Boom.

But what of the novel? Well, it was good but the ending was more cliché that I’d have liked, the Christian content was sporadic (I get that Riley may well have been having a crisis of faith due to his injury, but he actually made no reference to having any faith at all, ever). There were a couple of references to him having PTSD which didn’t entirely fit but came across as a half-fledged idea, never fully executed. I liked seeing more of the relationship between Miss Trudy and Sheriff Colton, and that would have been a highlight if the author hadn’t effectively given away the ending in her introductory Author Note.

After the first two books in the series, I was genuinely expecting Just a Kiss to be a five-star read for me. But as you will have seen, there were too many not-quite-right aspects for my taste. It was good, but not great and not as good as I hoped it would be. Riley’s injury gave Hunter a great opportunity to delve into the physical and mental health issues facing returned servicemen and women, and it didn’t deliver. A solid read, but not something I'll re-read.

Thanks to Thomas Nelson and NetGalley for providing a free ebook for review.

5 September 2016

This Month's Clash Champ: Congrats to One Thursday Morning and T.K. Chapin!

Congratulations to T.K. Chapin
and his novel

One Thursday Morning

for taking home this month's Clash crown!

About the book:
Running not only for her own life, but that of her unborn baby, Serenah moves across the country to a little town outside of Spokane Washington called Newport. It's here she'll begin to build a new life and go by a different name in the hopes of staying hidden from her abusive husband John. Can Serenah find happiness in her new life? Or will the past eventually catch up to her?

From the best-selling Inspirational Christian Romance Author T.K. Chapin comes a story of love, faith and passion that will keep your fingers turning the page to see what happens next. 

One Thursday Morning is book one in the Diamond Lake Series by T.K. Chapin.

What Voters had to Say:

Thank you T.K. Chapin for providing real life in your books.
I really like books by T.K.Chapin, Because he writes with a theme of religion and hope. I especially like One Thursday Morning.
Excellent story. I have also read Friday Morning. Good story line Makes me feel like I am at the Lake with them.
T.K. Chapin, I was enticed by the beautiful cover and description of the novel,  One Thursday Morning.  Can't wait to read it. 
I love your stories. Very enjoyable, heartwarming and inspiring. Keep them coming,
I enjoy finding new authors and found T.K. Chapin's writing adding to my authors' list.
I think "One Thursday Morning" by T. K. Chaplin will be one popular book.  I love the plot and can't wait to read it.
I love to read and discover new authors. T.K. Chapin is quickly becoming a favorite! He tackles tough topics, and tells the story in such a way as to keep you interested. Ups and downs, twists and turns, T.K. knows how to keep the plot line tight and the story believable and uplifting.
Sounds like a good book. I hope you have a great career!
Keep writing.  It helps me escape my everyday life.
TK - love your writing and your interest in your reader's lives.
 I love TK CHAPIN books!

Have a blessed week, everyone!
From your friends at Clash of the Titles!

2 September 2016

Author Interview: Nerys Leigh

Today I'd like to welcome Nerys Leigh to Iola's Christian Reads. I reviewed her Christian Western Romance novel yesterday (you can read the review here), and heartily recommend it. I'll be looking forward to future books in the series.

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

I was born and grew up in the UK, in the county of Essex.

What was the last book you read? Would you recommend it? Why/why not?

I’m currently reading The Book of Things to Come by Aaron D. Gansky, a Christian YA fantasy. I don’t usually read YA, but I’m enjoying it. It’s about four teenagers who wake up as characters in a video game world that two of them created. I haven’t found out why yet! I would recommend it, especially to readers in that age group. It’s well written and clips along at a good pace with lots of action.

Tell us about your latest book. Who will enjoy it?

My latest book is No One’s Bride, a Christian historical mail order bride romance set in Northern California in 1870. It tells the story of Amy, who has no intention of even meeting the man who thinks she’s coming to marry him. But when her plans go awry and she stays to earn the money to pay Adam back her train fare, she begins to doubt her determination to start her new life elsewhere. It’s filled with lovable characters, humour, and even some excitement. And, of course, romance. Always romance! I think anyone who likes romance will enjoy it, although one reader who is more into science-fiction and zombies said she loved it, so maybe I should just say anyone could enjoy it!

Who is your favourite character in No One’s Bride and why? 

That’s like asking me to pick a favourite flavour of ice cream – practically impossible! I love Amy because she’s strong and determined to make a new life for herself, but not so inflexible that she’s not able to recognise when God is leading her in another direction.

I love Adam because he’s forgiving and kind and won’t let what others think prevent him from doing what he knows is right. I also love George, the ornery owner of the livery who reluctantly hires Amy to work for him. He was a lot of fun to write!

Do you have anything in common with him/her?

I think that for all authors some aspects of their personalities come through in their characters, without even thinking about it. It just happens! The way my characters speak, their moral compass, their relationship with God, I think those come from me. And probably their insecurities too!

What is the hardest part of getting a book written, edited and published?

To be honest, the writing, editing and publishing is the easy bit. It’s what comes after, bringing the book to the attention of the readers who will enjoy it, that’s much more difficult. I’m still working on perfecting that part!

Thanks for visiting, Nerys!  You can find out more about Nerys at her website (http://nerysleigh.com) or Facebook page, and you can buy her books at Amazon or other online retailer.

1 September 2016

Review and Giveaway: No One’s Bride by Nerys Leigh

I'm visiting Australasian Christian Writers today, to review No One's Bride by Nerys Leigh. I'm also offering a giveaway of a Kindle version to one lucky commenter, so come on over and join the discussion. Click here to visit.