Author: Iola Goulton

Author Interview - Christine Dillon

Author Interview | Introducing Christine Dillon and Grace in the Shadows

Today I’m interviewing author (and editing client) Christine Dillon. Christine has recently released her second novel, Grace in the Shadows, and is currently working on the sequel.

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

This is always a tricky question for me. I’m Australian but I grew up in Asia, as my parents were missionaries. Since 1999 I’ve also spent 80% of my time in Taiwan working with the same organisation as my parents. To my delight, I recently discovered that I’m also a New Zealand citizen.

Yay! It’s always good to meet and interview a fellow Kiwi, no matter how remote the connection.

About Your Books

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

I have three published non-fiction books on discipleship (2009) and Bible storytelling (2012, 2017) and two contemporary Christian fiction novels. The stories are set in the mid to late 1990’s in Sydney, Australia.

What was your motivation for writing Grace in Strange Disguise and Grace in the Shadows?

As I discipled people in Taiwan and Australia I saw a widespread problem. So many people want to follow a God who blesses us on our own terms. But what if we feel disappointed with Him? What if we can’t see the blessing? I wanted to write about this whole issue of what is God there for?

I also saw some ‘lacks’ in Christian fiction. One was that there were too many ‘happily ever after stories’. I wanted to write fiction that was about obedience and submission to Jesus no matter what happened. I also wanted stories that were thoroughly Christian in the way that characters not only thought about issues but also shared Jesus with others. I don’t want to read books that tack the Christianity on top. I’d prefer those kind of books to not mention Christianity at all.

Lastly, I wanted to write fiction that was life changing. Fiction that spurred readers on to follow Jesus with more and more passion. Fiction that made a difference. Having seen the power of Bible stories, I knew that fiction was important. It’s another medium to impact lives.

I think a lot of people start writing novels because they want to read fiction with more “x” or less “y”. We’re all individuals, so fiction speaks to us all in different ways. As you say, it’s another medium to impact lives.

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

I never planned to write fiction as I was aware that it would be well beyond my abilities. But God seems to have had other ideas and thankfully it is not beyond his. The main idea for the story ‘downloaded’ (this is what it felt like) into my mind during a prayer day as far back as 2007. I put it on hold saying, “You’re going to have to push me to do this and give me the ability.”

Never say anything is beyond our abilities!

The push came in 2012 when I was reading a Francine Rivers set of novellas called ‘Sons of Encouragement’. Again the idea was clear in my head, “You’re a Bible storyteller. Write a biblical novel to practice writing fiction.” So I started immediately. The two practice stories I wrote are ones I hope to get back to soon. In 2013, I started on the ‘real thing’. Initially I thought it was a stand alone novel until told, “This isn’t one story, its one and a half.” When I recovered from the shock, I decided I’d be writing a trilogy. But it’s grown again. I can now see six stories.

Francine Rivers has been a big influence because she tackles issues. I wanted my books to make a difference in people’s lives like hers have.

Two other influences have been C S Lewis (how many people have his books influenced?) especially the Narnia series and The Screwtape Letters, and Randy Alcorn. They write in different genres but they’re life changing. Their stories teach deep truths but wrapped in fiction. They move our emotions and change our worldview. That is what I’m aiming for.

I agree—the best fiction is the kind that makes us reconsider our worldview and bring us closer to Christ.

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

I have quite a few favourites. Joy, who is a major secondary characters. The only thing we have in common is that we both speak Chinese. Naomi is also a favourite.

Josh and Dirk in book two. The only things we have in common is that we love Jesus and I’ve worked in a plant nursery before. Dirk is modelled on two men I admire – one was the boss of a plant nursery. I’ve also started to have fun naming people after various friends or names that my readers have chosen.

The character most like myself is Esther. We both like hiking and she’s a physiotherapist because that was something I felt confident writing about. The timing of the stories is quite deliberate because I wasn’t confident to write about physiotherapy after the date that I worked in hospitals. The hospital in my mind for her workplace is where I worked (although bits of it are made up). I prefer to work with real locations and then adapt from there.

I deliberately made Esther unlike myself in key areas so that people wouldn’t think she was me. I think she likes swing dancing and coffee. Too uncoordinated for one and not a fan of the other.

Will there be a sequel? When can readers expect to see this?

I am working on the third novel now and hope that it will be out by August 2019. There may be three more stories in this series. After that, I would love to write something different and am thinking of biblical fiction which would tie in nicely with my Bible storytelling ministry.

I know a few readers who will be glad to hear that!

About Your Writing

How long did it take between starting to write Grace in Strange Disguise and publishing it? What about Grace in the Shadows?

The first novel took four and a half years. That’s not unusual. I first had to learn to plot and then to write. Along the way I had huge numbers of things to learn in terms of marketing, setting up a website … it felt like doing several university degrees concurrently.

The second book only took about ten months. That was both because I already had material left over from the first book (although it had to be rewritten) and because I’d improved so much. I also had my team in place in terms of editors, beta readers and proofreaders. Everything ran more smoothly and I’m beginning to find my rhythm.

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

Everything is hard! A novelist has to have huge courage (to cope with the inevitable criticism) and determination to simply keep going. If I have to choose, I think the first draft is the most difficult. There are parts in the latter part of editing that I enjoy. The parts where I’m reading it out loud to catch errors and poor rhythms. That part is satisfying because it is taking something good and polishing it to high gloss.

What made you choose to self-publish?

Self-publishing is not for the faint-hearted or lazy. There is a HUGE amount to master especially in the areas of writing and finding good editors (I was blessed to find my ‘perfect matches’ the first time around but that was the result of prayer), marketing (an area most authors find difficult), and business.

Having been twice traditionally published I had some experience of the book industry. I wanted the freedom to set prices, give away books if I wanted … most of the time I’m loving it. Yes, I’ve probably sacrificed in sales at the beginning but the reviews have been good and word of mouth recommendation is spreading.

I have no time pressures except the ones I set myself. I’m someone with plenty of initiative and discipline and self-publishing suits me. I would not enjoy the pressure of a three book contract. My daily life is too busy for that and I regard the rest of my ministry/work as more important than writing.

I also love being able to choose the kind of stories I write and not be forced to stick to one genre.

What advice do you have for someone seeking to write and publish a novel?

  • Find a community who can help and support you. You’ll need it. I found mine with various Facebook groups – Australasian Christian Writers, Christian Writers Downunder and also Christian Indie Authors (much broader in terms of where authors are from). I also have a group of three other authors who can kick me or hug me (in my case virtually via the internet).
  • Work on your humility and also become confident about who you are in Christ. You must be able to cope with people tearing your work apart. Most of them do it out of love for you and it is much better to let them do it before you send your baby out into the big wide world. Make sure your motivations are for the glory of Jesus. Poor and selfish motives will only cause loads of pain.
  • Take things much more slower than your heart wants. The worst thing you can do is to publish too early and release an inferior product. I don’t want to run ahead of God’s speed. This is another reason I prefer to self-publish, so I can pray about the timing.
Great tips—thank you!

About Marketing

You have created your own book trailers. How hard was this? Was it worth doing?

It was impossible until someone on the Christian Indie authors group directed me to a free online company called Lumen 5. After that it was a matter of drag and drop as all the copyright images and music are already there. You can also add your own photos and music.

I hear you’re currently in the process of recording audiobook versions of both your novels. What made you decide to produce an audiobook, and record it yourself? How is the process going?

I am literally in the first week of attempting this. I’ve recorded and edited two chapters. Only forty something to go for book one. Then book two.

Audiobooks are a hugely expanding market. It makes sense to have books available in as many formats as possible to suit different kinds of buyers – digital books, print and now audio.

I was praying for someone to help me get started as I don’t have much confidence with technology and it was yet another new thing for me to learn. God has provided someone with a studio and the equipment a five-minute walk away. I can go there in the afternoons and do a few hours recording.

There are excellent resources online to teach you how to do it (which I’ve added onto my ‘self publishing’ board on Pinterest). Pinterest is my filing system for articles related to writing/marketing …

Please feel free to add some information about yourself (e.g. website, purchasing links, book trailer links) to the end of the post.

Thank you for joining us today, Christine! Readers, if you want to find out more about Christine, check her out online at:

Website | Facebook | Pinterest

And click here to check out Grace in Strange Disguise, Grace in the Shadows, and other great Christian fiction in my Amazon shop!

 

Bookish Question: How many books have you read in 2018?

Bookish Question #84 | How many books have you read in 2018?

I actually don’t know. I’d set myself a target of 180 books for the 2018 Goodreads Reading Challenge, roughly one every other day. I’ve just looked through the list of books I’ve read.

It’s kind of disturbing.

There are a lot of books I remember reading (yay!).

There are the novel or novella collections, which mess with my reading challenge. Does a four-novella collection count as one book or four? Novellas are short, so I’m usually happy to count that as one book, especially if I read them all.

But does a nine-novel collection count as one book or nine? Does it count towards my reading challenge if I read only read five of the books in the collection? (It’s rare that I find a collection where all the stories are compelling enough to keep me reading. I usually end up skipping some.)

There are quite a few books I remember starting and giving up on (boo!) I find the more I read and edit great fiction, the less patience I have for poor writing. But (as best as I can tell) Goodreads won’t take the book off my Am Reading list unless I mark it as read, so it then counts toward my annual total. There might be a way of taking it off my bookshelves completely, but I don’t know if I want to. If it’s on my Read list, then I know not to read it again (or buy it again).

Then there are the books Goodreads says I’ve read, but I can’t remember reading. I guess those are the three-star reads, the ones I didn’t love enough to rave about, and didn’t dislike enough to remember.

So how many books have I read?

As of mid-November, Goodreads says I’ve read 140 books, but I have no idea how many of those were collections (so maybe count as more than one book), or books I started but didn’t finish. Maybe I need a new system for 2019. Any suggestions?

What about you? How many books have you read in 2018?

Quote from On Magnolia Lane by Denise Hunter

Book Review | On Magnolia Lane (Blue Ridge Romance #3) by Denise Hunter

On Magnolia Lane is the third book in Denise Hunter’s Blue Ridge Romance series. Or maybe the fourth—Sweetbriar Cottage isn’t officially part of the series, but is set in the same small town and features several of the same characters. Yes, the novels can be read as standalone stories, but this is definitely Daisy and Jack’s story and you don’t have to read the earlier books to enjoy it. But I know readers who prefer to read a series in order will want to start with Sweetbriar Cottage (which is still my favourite).

I found the beginning of On Magnolia Lane was somewhat slow.

It took me a while to get into On Magnolia Lane. This could be because I had high expectations (thanks, Sweetbriar Cottage). But I didn’t need to worry, despite the could-be-predictable set-up. This story was as strong as any in the series even though a couple of plot points ran the risk of being cliché.

Daisy runs the family florist business and helps out at Hope House, a home for teenage girls. When Hope House loses its roof in a storm, Daisy is given the task of organising a fundraiser for the house. She can’t do it alone … but help comes from unexpected places.

Pastor Jack has been secretly in love with Daisy for two years.

He thought it was a secret, but his friends know and they sign him up for the online dating app Daisy is using. The two begin a friendship, except she doesn’t know TJ is Jack. So when will Jack tell her the truth?

There were a couple of areas I was less certain about. Jack was a pastor and Daisy a member of his congregation. She’s apparently been going to Jack for counselling for a couple of years (although I never was exactly clear what she was being counselled about, and whether it was appropriate for a single male pastor to be counselling a single female congregation member without supervision, even if the office door was always open).

But the novel wasn’t really a “Christian” novel in the way, say, Sweetbriar Cottage was. Several scenes took place in the church, but the focus seemed to be more on the outward appearance of faith than inward belief.

That contrast was actually a feature of the book, as it came through in the subplot about Daisy’s father—the town mayor who insisted his daughter always act the part. Daisy finds something that challenges her perception of her father, and has to reconcile her memories of him with the lies. Because she doesn’t like lies. Jack helps her work through her issues, which is kind of ironic … And, of course, we’re always waiting for the big reveal, where Daisy finds out what we’ve known all along. How will she react?

Overall, this was a contemporary romance with solid characters, plenty of layers, and unexpected depths. Recommended for contemporary Christian romance fans.

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

About Denise Hunter

Denise HunterDenise Hunter is the internationally published bestselling author of more than 30 books, including “The Convenient Groom” and “A December Bride” which have been made into Hallmark movies. She has appeared on the The 700 club and won awards such as The Holt Medallion Award, The Carol Award, The Reader’s Choice Award, The Foreword Book of the Year Award, and is a RITA finalist.

Denise writes heartwarming, small-town love stories. Her readers enjoy the vicarious thrill of falling in love and the promise of a happily-ever-after sigh as they savor the final pages of her books.

In 1996, inspired by the death of her grandfather, Denise began her first book, writing while her children napped. Two years later it was published, and she’s been writing ever since. Her husband says he inspires all her romantic stories, but Denise insists a good imagination helps too!

When Denise isn’t orchestrating love lives on the written page, she enjoys traveling with her family, drinking good coffee, and playing drums. Denise makes her home in Indiana where she and her husband raised three boys and are currently enjoying an empty nest.

Find Denise Hunter online at:

Website | Facebook

About On Magnolia Lane

Falling in love with Daisy was easy for Jack. But finding the courage to tell her becomes problematic when his secret feelings lead to even bigger complications.

After two years of counseling sessions with Daisy Pendleton, Pastor Jack McReady has earned a permanent spot in her life as a spiritual leader—and nothing more. Jack would never risk losing her trust by exposing the depths of his heart, but he’s hopelessly in love with her.

Daisy loves her southern small-town life and her job at her family-run flower shop, but she doesn’t have the thing she longs for most: someone to share it with. Her recent foray into online dating has been a disaster—until she meets TJ.

Jack could kill his friend Noah for using his initials and some indistinct photos to set up a profile on the dating app Daisy is using. But when he’s finally afforded the opportunity to show her a different side of himself, he’s sucked into the plan before he has time for second thoughts.

Online, Daisy shares some of her greatest fears with TJ, but in person, Jack and Daisy are spending more time together. When a devastating family secret surfaces, Daisy knows that only her trusted friend and counselor can bring her comfort. Jack wants nothing more than to be both men for Daisy, but revealing his secret will prove to be the ultimate test of Daisy’s grace.

Find On Magnolia Lane online at:

Amazon | ChristianBook | Goodreads | Koorong

Click here to check out On Magnolia Lane and other great Christian fiction at my Amazon shop!

First Line Friday

First Line Friday | Week 67 | Romancing the Bride by Melissa Jagears

It’s First Line Friday! That means it’s time to pick up the nearest book and quote the first line. Today I’m sharing from Romancing the Bride by Melissa Jagears:

First line from Romancing the Bride by Melissa Jagears: Annie Gephart pressed her lips together to keep from begging Tom Passey—the greasiest, most foul-mouthed cowpuncher she'd ever met—to stay on.

What’s the book nearest you, and what’s the first line?

About Romancing the Bride

Marrying a stranger to save a ranch is one thing; losing the land on their wedding day is another.

Desperate to keep the ranch where three of her children and a husband lie buried, Annie Gephart must marry or sell. Which of the few bachelors in town would consider a surprise proposal to wed a plain widow with a rebellious daughter, a spirited boy, and unpaid taxes—without laughing in her face?

Jacob Hendrix has never fully let go of his ranching dreams despite ending up as a small Wyoming town’s marshal. The job wouldn’t be so bad, except he’s more errand boy than lawman. When Annie proposes marriage without a single coquettish bat of an eyelash, can he commit himself to a woman he hardly knows for a choice piece of property he’d be an idiot to pass up?

But taxes aren’t all that threaten Annie and Jacob’s plans. Cattle rustlers, crumbling friendships, and wayward children make this marriage of convenience anything but. When they lose what they’ve sacrificed everything to save, will the love of a stranger be enough?

You can find Romancing the Bride online at:

Amazon | Goodreads

Click the button to check out what my fabulous fellow FirstLineFriday bloggers are sharing today:

You can then click the link which will take you to the master page of all this week’s #FirstLineFriday posts.

And you can click here to check out my previous FirstLineFriday posts.

Share your first line in the comments, and happy reading!

And don’t forget to click here to check out my Amazon shop for my top picks in Christian fiction!

Quote from A Heart Most Certain: One day society will not condemn a man or woman for a past choice and instead discern and judge the heart.

#ThrowbackThursday | A Heart Most Certain by Melissa Jagears

It’s Throwback Thursday! Today I’m resharing my review of A Heart Most Certain by Melissa Jagears, first in the Teaville Moral Society series. Melissa has just released the first book in her new series, Romancing the Bride, and I’ll be highlighting that tomorrow in my First Line Friday post.

A Heart Most Certain shows Melissa Jagears to be a fresh voice in historical romance (even if the title does sound more Siri Mitchell).

Everything about A Heart Most Certain impressed me.

The writing was excellent, there was a clear and challenging Christian message, the plot was solid with plenty of twists and turns, and just enough predictability (hey, this is romance! There are some aspects we want to be predictable).

And both lead characters were excellent—an intelligent heroine who wasn’t afraid to ask hard questions, and a truly heroic hero (okay, he might have been a bit too perfect. But that’s the closest I can get to a criticism about A Heart Most Certain).

Lydia and Nicholas are both excellent characters—complete opposites, so of course we know they are both going to have to change their views. The setting was portrayed well, both in terms of time and place—and reinforced why I’m glad I live now, not then. It’s also an example of how historical fiction can shine a light into some of our more modern social problems. We can be thankful for the truth of Nicolas’s words in the quote above.

We might not treat “sinners” in the same judgmental way as Mrs Light’s Teaville Ladies Moral Society does, but we still have to guard against turning our faith into a religion of rules. Melissa Jagears is to be commended for not shying away from difficult subjects like prostitution, but showing a proper Christian response to the problem.

Recommended for fans of Francine Rivers, Karen Witemeyer, and Dawn Crandall.

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

About Melissa Jagears

Author Photo: Melissa JagearsI stay home with my kids, and though that’s PLENTY to do, I added homeschooling and writing to my schedule too!

My husband and I have been married since 2001 and have a daughter and two sons. I’m a former high school ESL teacher and an avid book reader. If you don’t believe me, come peruse the 16 bookshelves in my house. The only reason I don’t have more is because my husband is convinced he can hear the house’s foundation groaning.

He only claims one of those bookshelves which is full of how-to manuals because he loves blacksmithing, knife smithing, traditional archery, hunting, etc. Generally whatever a mountain man does, he’s done or wants to do. He and his one lonely bookshelf often come in handy for research.

My daughter is also an avid reader who owns the book shelf chair, is a lover of famous art, and wants to be a fashion designer. My middle son builds and creates all day long, his creations are mostly knives and swords since he wants to be a knifesmith like his daddy. And my youngest is the quietest of the bunch. At the moment, he self-identifies as a cat. A black one. He answers in meows.

A pronunciation lesson for the curious: Jagears sounds like /Jag – ers/, like Mick Jagger with an S.

You can find Melissa Jagears online at:

Website | Facebook | Pinterest | Twitter

About A Heart Most Certain

A Fresh Voice in Historical Romance!

Lydia King knows what it’s like to be in need, so when she joins the Teaville Moral Society, she genuinely hopes to help the town’s poor. But with her father’s debts increasing by the day and her mother growing sicker by the week, she wonders how long it will be until she ends up in the poor house herself. Her best chance at a financially secure future is to impress the politician courting her, and it certainly doesn’t hurt that the moral society’s president is her suitor’s mother. Her first task as a moral society member–to obtain a donation from Nicholas Lowe, the wealthiest man in town–should be easy . . . except he flat-out refuses.

Despite appearances, Nicholas wants to help others but prefers to do it his own way, keeping his charity private. When Lydia proves persistent, they agree to a bargain, though Nicholas has a few surprises up his sleeve. Neither foresee the harrowing complications that will arise from working together. When town secrets are brought to light, this unlikely pair must decide where their beliefs–and hearts–truly align.

You can find A Heart Most Certain online at:

Amazon | ChristianBook | Goodreads | Koorong

You can read the introduction to A Heart Most Certain below:

And click here to check out A Heart Most Certain and other great Christian fiction in my Amazon shop!

New Releases in Christian Ficiton via ACFW Fiction Finder

New Releases in Christian Fiction | November 2018

It’s the beginning of another month, which means it’s time for new releases in Christian fiction from members of American Christian fiction writers. More in-depth descriptions of these books can be found on the ACFW Fiction Finder website.

Contemporary Romance

Christmas in Jingle Junction by Tabitha Bouldin — In the small town of Jingle Junction, Holly Winters owns the local coffee shop, Jolly Java. It’s here that she meets Patrick Cooper and promptly throws coffee everywhere. Not only does Patrick not like coffee, he also despises Christmas! It’s up to Holly to show Patrick that Christmas is worth giving a second chance, just as Patrick himself deserves a second chance when he is accused of robbing a local convenience store. In a town full of Christmas spirit, lively debates over the best superhero and riding in a sleigh pulled by actual reindeer is just a normal day. Will Holly be able to prove to Patrick that Christmas is more than a holiday that has to be endured? (Contemporary Romance, Independently Published)

A Picture Perfect Christmas by Candee Fick — Freelance photographers Liz Foster and Ryan Callahan are finally making plans for their future. And what better time to get married than during the festive holiday season that brought them together? If only Liz’s parents weren’t standing in the way of a picture-perfect wedding. Spurred on by the ghosts of Christmases past, Dan Foster has already written Liz out of his will, so even attending the wedding—let alone walking his daughter down the aisle—is out of the question. However, this is the season for miracles and Ryan will do anything to make his bride smile. What will it take to bring this family back together in time for the wedding? (Contemporary Romance, Independently Published)

I enjoy Candee Fick’s writing, so I’ll have to check this one out.

On Magnolia Lane by Denise Hunter — When his secret crush joins a dating website, Jack takes a leap of faith and soon becomes Daisy’s online suitor. But when they begin growing closer in real life also, Jack finds himself with an unexpected dilemma. Is Daisy falling for the real Jack or for the online version of himself? And how is she going to respond when she finds out they’re one and the same? (Contemporary Romance from HarperCollins Christian Publishing)

I’ve read this, and my review will post later this month.

A Merry Miracle in Romance by Melanie D. Snitker — Baxter Reid returns to his hometown of Romance, eager to see his childhood crush. Unfortunately, Savannah hasn’t forgotten all the ways he used to tease her back then. He’s got his work cut out for him if he’s going to get a second chance. Savannah Miller avoids Baxter and the embarrassing childhood memories he evokes…until he apologizes and suggests a truce. Now what is she supposed to do? Only time will tell whether the spirit of Christmas in Romance is enough to transform a grudging relationship into true love. (Contemporary Romance, Independently Published)

I Still Do by Melanie D. Snitker — What’s worse than running into your ex-husband? Becoming snowbound with him and an avalanche of memories you can’t escape. (Contemporary Romance, Independently Published)

Contemporary/Women’s Fiction

A Southern Season by Eva Marie Everson, Claire Fullerton, Ane Mulligan, and Linda Yezak — Four seasons. Four stories. Each one set in the enchanting world of the South. These are the kinds of stories your grandmother told you from a front porch swing. (Women’s Fiction from Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas)

Historical

Second Chances by Carol Ashby — A widowed father, still grieving the loss of his wife and child, and a devoted mother, who leaves behind everything she’s ever known to rescue her daughter from the ex-husband who would hurt her, are first drawn together by their love for her little girl, but God has much more for them than either could have imagined. (Historical, Cerrillo Press)

I haven’t yet read any of Carol Ashby’s Roman-era stories, but the description of this shows how historical fiction can address some very contemporary issues.

Historical Mystery

Murder of Convenience by Linda Shenton Matchett — May 1942: Geneva Alexander flees Philadelphia and joins the USO to escape the engagement her parents have arranged for her, only to wind up as the number one suspect in her betrothed’s murder investigation. Diagnosed with Retinitis Pigmentosa, she must find the real killer before she loses her sight…or is convicted for a crime she didn’t commit. (Historical Mystery, Independently Published)

Historical Romance

The Great Lakes Lighthouse Brides Collection by Lena Nelson Dooley, Rebecca Jepson, Carrie Fancett Pagels, Candice Sue Patterson, Kathleen Rouser, Pegg Thomas, and Marilyn Turk — Along the Great Lakes, America’s inland seas, lighthouses played a vital role in the growth of our nation. They shepherded settlers traveling by water to places that had no roads. These beacons of light required constant tending even in remote and often dangerous places. Brave men and women battled the elements and loneliness to keep the lights shining. Their sacrifice kept goods and immigrants moving. Seven romances set between 1883 and 1911 at Great Lakes Lighthouses bring hope to the lonely lighthouse keepers and love to weary hearts. (Historical Romance from Barbour Publishing)

A Musket in My Hands by Sandra Merville Hart — Two sisters have no choice but to disguise themselves as men to muster into the Confederate army in the fall of 1864–just in time for things to go very badly for the Southerners at the Battle of Franklin. (Historical Romance from Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas)

Uncharted Journey by Keely Brooke Keith — Young widow Eva Vestal assumes loneliness is God’s permanent plan for her life. She keeps busy by raising her son and co-managing the Inn at Falls Creek with her elderly father, but her heart yearns for more. Solomon “Solo” Cotter has spent his life working with horses, but he secretly wants to write a book of the children’s stories his grandfather told him as a boy. He barters with Eva’s father for a 40-night stay at the inn, a needed respite from work to get his stories on paper. Once Eva discovers the barter, she believes Solo is taking advantage of her father’s failing memory. But when tragedy strikes and Solo works hard to save the inn, Eva sees his true nature. As her heart stirs with feelings for Solo, she wrestles with the guilt of loving someone new. (Historical Romance, Independently Published)

I’ve enjoyed this series, and I’ll be reviewing Uncharted Journey next week.

Snow Angel by Davalynn Spencer — Lena Carver works as her physician brother’s medical assistant, housekeeper, and cook. Maimed in a childhood accident at Christmas, she believes she is beyond love’s reach—until a dark-eyed cowboy arrives broken, bruised, and bent on changing her mind. Wil Bergman wakes in a stranger’s home with a busted leg and a bullet-creased scalp. Trail-weary, robbed, and penniless, he is at the mercy of a country doctor whose sister’s healing touch has power to stitch up his heart and open his eyes to the impossible. (Historical Romance from Wilson Creek Publishing)

Romantic Suspense

Tell Her No Lies by Kelly Irvin — After Nina Fischer is accused of murdering her uncle and adopted father, she must unlock deadly family secrets in order to clear her name and learn to trust love again. (Romantic Suspense from HarperCollins Christian Publishing)

I haven’t read any of Kelly Irvin’s earlier books, because they are mostly Amish romance. I have read this, and my review will post later this month. It’s a must-read for romantic suspense fans!

North by Starlight by Diane and David Munson — Attorney Madison Stone hurries to help her client Jordan Star defeat a mysterious relative who claims a share in his inheritance, and during the Christmas season Maddie learns to leave past regrets behind her, embrace the warmhearted people of Starlight, and dig deep to find her true heart. (Romantic Suspense from Micah House Media)

Her Deadly Reunion by Beth Ann Ziarnik — What will it cost an estranged daughter when she meets her birth father at his home and discovers it’s a dangerous place to mix past and present? (Romantic Suspense from Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas)

Speculative

Mark of the Raven by Morgan L. Busse — When the new Lady of Ravenwood inherits her family’s secret gift of dreamwalking, she discovers a dark history. Women in her family have been wielding the gift to preserve her family’s legacy—through assassinations. She’s determined to find the true reason behind the gift, convinced there must be a more noble purpose. But she’s torn about upholding her family’s legacy–a legacy that supports her people. What will she do when she is tasked with assassinating the one man who can bring peace to the nations–but who is also prophesied to bring about the downfall of her own house? One path holds glory and power and will solidify her position as Lady of Ravenwood. The other path holds shame and likely death. Which will she choose? And is she willing to pay the price for the path chosen? (High Fantasy from Bethany House [Baker])

Thriller/Suspense

Stratagem by Robin Caroll — Psychologist Grayson Thibodeaux creates mind-bending adventure games for businesses as team-building explorations. When his ex-wife’s company hires Grayson’s for their executive retreat, he doesn’t see how things can get worse. Until she dies during the course of the game he created…making him the prime suspect for murder. (Suspense from Barbour Publishing)

Curious. I thought this released in October, so I’ve already published my review. Click here to read it.

That’s all for this month. What have you added to your to-read mountain!

Bookish Question: Will you buy books as Christmas gifts this year?

Bookish Question #83 | Will you buy books as Christmas gifts this year?

For those of you who are now getting shouty because Who. On. Earth. has started thinking about Christmas shopping in the first week of November … I didn’t set the question. And we have to start thinking about Christmas shopping at some point, or we end up being the last person left in the big box store on Christmas Eve, hoping there is something left worth buying, then resorting to gift vouchers.

So will I be buying books as Christmas gifts?

Kind of. My niece has her birthday shortly after Christmas, and I’ve planned to buy her a book for her birthday which relates to her Christmas present. No, I’m not going to say what I’m buying!

My daughter is currently buying her summer reading list online (she’s a teenager, so that means buying secondhand paperbacks. Yes, she could borrow them for free from the library, but the library doesn’t let you keep the ones you liked.

My mother might ask for a book again—I’ll have to ask her.

I bought my husband two books for Christmas last year, and he’s yet to crack the spine on either. No books for him this year. Most of my other relatives aren’t readers, so no books for them either. I like buying books people will read and enjoy, not books we buy because “everyone” is reading that this year.

So, all in all, I’d have to say no. What about you? Will you be buying books as Christmas gifts this year?

Quote from Things Left Unsaid: She'd written the story of Cassie's death a dozen different ways, but she still wasn't clear on what had actually happened that night.

Book Review | Things Left Unsaid by Courtney Walsh

When Cassie Jacobs drowned, she left behind a lot of messed-up people blaming themselves for her death.

Ten years later, people are pretending they’ve moved on. Cassie’s mother has organised a memorial party. Her father is withdrawn. Her brother owns an adventure tourism business. One of Cassie’s best friends getting married. Another is on the verge of a career breakthrough … if only she can open herself up to feeling emotion again.

Things Left Unsaid is one of those novels with a slow build. We’re introduced to each of the characters and their somewhat petty present-day problems (many of which are caused by the interfering Nora, Elle’s future mother-in-law). But as the plot develops and we get to know each of the characters, we start seeing beyond the petty and into their hearts as Walsh takes us into the hidden places and we see the hurts and where they’ve come from.

And that’s neither petty nor pretty. But it is powerful. And it’s worth reading.

But, as I said, the novel has a slow build. The first quarter feels almost confusing as it changes point of view often: Lyndie, Elle, Karen, Tucker. The story settles into itself in the next quarter, but it still feels like it’s lacking something. It’s lacking emotion, but that’s deliberate: all the characters are holding back emotionally, and that comes through in the writing.

The novel really comes into itself in the final quarter.

Secrets are acknowledged, things once left unsaid are said, and the emotion arrives like a roller coaster on that final downward swoop. Things Left Unsaid definitely hits all the right spots for a contemporary Christian romance with a side of real life.

Recommended for fans of authors like Robin Lee Hatcher, Denise Hunter, Kara Isaac, Amy Matayo, and Becky Wade.

Thanks to Waterfall Press and NetGalley for providing a free ebook for review.

About the Author

Courtney WalshCourtney Walsh is a novelist, artist, theater director, and playwright. Change of Heart is her fifth novel and is set in the same town as Paper Hearts. Her debut novel, A Sweethaven Summer, hit the New York Times and USA Today e-book bestseller lists and was a Carol Award finalist in the debut author category. She has written two additional books in the Sweethaven series, as well as two craft books and several full-length musicals. Courtney lives in Illinois where she and her husband own a performing and visual arts studio. They have three children.

Find Courtney Walsh online at …

Website | Facebook | Instagram | Pinterest | Twitter | Goodreads

About Things Left Unsaid

An emotional novel of family, friendship and forgiveness from Courtney Walsh, the New York Times bestselling author of Hometown Girl.

Lyndie St. James is thrilled that her best friend, Elle, is getting married but unprepared for the emotional storm of the wedding week and returning to her childhood summer home of Sweethaven. The idyllic cottage community harbors some of her best—and worst—memories. It’s not only the tragic death of her childhood friend Cassie that has haunted her for ten years, it’s the other secrets she’s buried that have kept her from moving on.

But Lyndie isn’t the only one with secrets.

Cassie’s mother, father and brother, still struggling with the loss, have been drifting further and further apart. And Elle herself, the last to see Cassie alive, carries an impossible burden of guilt. Now reunited, each of them has a choice: to reveal the truths of that night or continue to live in its shadow. That means embarking on a personal journey of the heart—to escape the darkness and all its regrets and to finally come to terms with the past and, especially, with each other.

Find Things Left Unsaid online at:

Amazon | ChristianBook | Goodreads

Click here to find Things Left Unsaid and other great Christian fiction at my Amazon shop!

First Line Friday

First Line Friday | Week 66 | Pathway to Peace by Elizabeth Maddrey

It’s First Line Friday! That means it’s time to pick up the nearest book and quote the first line. Today I’m sharing from Pathway to Peace by Elizabeth Maddrey:

First line from Pathway to Peace by Elizabeth Maddrey: Overly chipper instrumental versions of Christmas music played through the speakers, just loud enough to be heard over the customers who wandered the aisles of the Bullseye discount department store looking for the first of the season’s bargains.

What’s the book nearest you, and what’s the first line?

About Pathway to Peace

All she wants is to leave her past behind.

Lindsey Bowers has spent five years hiding from her mistakes. She’s created a life, such as it is, where few people know about her past. If that means she has to keep people at arm’s length, so be it.

Gavin Harder is ready to tackle the future. Newly relocated to the D.C. area, he plans to spend Christmas with his grandmother and get settled before attending the Police Academy in January. He’s can’t wait to protect and serve with his new brothers in blue.

When Gavin’s grandmother invites Lindsey to share Thanksgiving dinner with them, Gavin makes it clear he’s not looking for a relationship. But the instant attraction he feels has him rethinking that decision. Before long, attraction turns to friendship with the hope of something more.

If they can move beyond the secrets they’re both keeping.

Pathway to Peace is the final installment of the Grant Us Grace series and touches base with now-grown Lindsey, the pregnant teenager who appeared in Courage to Change (Grant Us Grace Book 2). Revisit old friends in this Christmas novella by grabbing your copy today!

You can find Pathway to Peace online at:

Amazon | Goodreads

Click the button to check out what my fabulous fellow FirstLineFriday bloggers are sharing today:

You can then click the link which will take you to the master page of all this week’s #FirstLineFriday posts.

And you can click here to check out my previous FirstLineFriday posts.

Share your first line in the comments, and happy reading!

And don’t forget to click here to check out my Amazon shop for my top picks in Christian fiction!

Quote from Miss Serena's Secret by Carolyn Miller

#Throwback Thursday | Book Review | Miss Serena’s Secret by Carolyn Miller

It’s Throwback Thursday! Today I’m sharing my review of Miss Serena’s Secret, the second book in the Regency Brides: A Promise of Hope series by Carolyn Miller. The final book in the trilogy, The Making of Mrs Hale, is due out this month, and I definitely want to read it!

This review previously appeared at International Christian Fiction Writers.

The title is a little misleading.

Miss Serena actually has several secrets. These combine to persuade her that she will never marry. She will especially not marry a man like her father, a gambler who lost their fortune at the tables. So she is not impressed when she meets gambler and womaniser Lord Henry Carmichael.

This is a sweet and slow love story. It’s not the romance novel where we meet the hero and heroine and wham bam they’re together. Instead, both characters have plenty of time to get to know each other and to change—to mature into people who are able to fall in love and contemplate marriage.

Miss Serena is an artist, and her art plays a key part in the novel. I’m no painter, but I loved the painting references—the colours, the techniques, and the little upset at the Royal Academy’s Summer Exhibition.

Regency romance has had a resurgence of popularity in recent years, but many of the general market novels have a lot of sex and not much Christian faith—which seems at odds with the period. So it’s good to see more Regency romance coming out of the Christian market, from authors such as Julie Klaassen, Kristi Ann Hunter, and now Carolyn Miller.

Miss Serena’s Secret is Carolyn Miller’s fifth novel, and the second in her Regency Brides: A Promise of Hope series. If you’ve read the others, you’ll enjoy catching up with some of the characters from the previous stories. If you haven’t, don’t worry: this is a standalone novel.

Recommended for Regency romance fans.

Thanks to Kregel Publications and NetGalley for providing a free ebook for review.

About Carolyn Miller

Carolyn MillerCarolyn Miller lives in the beautiful Southern Highlands of New South Wales, Australia. She is married, with four gorgeous children, who all love to read (and write!).

A longtime lover of Regency romance, Carolyn’s novels have won a number of Romance Writers of American (RWA) and American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW) contests. She is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers and Australasian Christian Writers. Her favourite authors are classics like Jane Austen (of course!), Georgette Heyer, and Agatha Christie, but she also enjoys contemporary authors like Susan May Warren and Becky Wade.

Her stories are fun and witty, yet also deal with real issues, such as dealing with forgiveness, the nature of really loving versus ‘true love’, and other challenges we all face at different times.

Find Carolyn Miller online at:

Website | Facebook | Google+

Goodreads| Pinterest | Twitter

About Miss Serena’s Secret

How can a wounded young woman ever trust a too-flirtatious earl with her heart?

With devastating scars in her past, Serena Winthrop is sure no man can be trusted—especially not a man like the too-smooth Viscount Carmichael. His reputation as a flirt and a gambler is everything she despises. And the young artist makes sure that this disreputable heir to an earldom knows of her deep disapproval whenever they encounter one another.

Henry, Lord Carmichael, is perfectly aware of his charms. He’s gambled with plenty of ladies’ hearts as easily as he has with their husbands’ money. But lately he’s wondered if there’s more to life—and if his actions might prove unworthy of an admirable wife such as his friends have found.

When Serena’s guardian asks his best friend to protect his young ward, Henry promises to be on his best behavior and not woo her. But the more he learns of her, the more he realizes she might be his best reason for changing his character.

Then the lady’s art leads her to London infamy. Now Henry must choose between the life mapped out for him as the earl apparent and the love of his life. And Serena’s secret may mean the end of his titled family line.

You can find Miss Serena’s Secret online at:

Amazon | ChristianBook | Goodreads | Koorong

You can read the introduction to Miss Serena’s Secret below:

And you can click here to find Miss Serena’s Secret and other great Christian fiction recommendations in my Amazon store!