Category: Book Recommendation

As for her safety, God already knew when the end of her days would be.

Book Recommendation | Where We Belong by Lynn Austin

Where We Belong starts in 1890, in the Sinai Desert, with forty-five year-old Rebecca Hawes traveling to St Catherine’s Monastery to search for ancient copies of the Bible. It’s a start that hooked me immediately, both because of the historical setting, and because of the age of the heroine—it’s refreshing to read a novel where the heroine is out of her twenties.

I was also intrigued because I could relate to Rebecca’s thoughts about the desolate nature of the Sinai between Cairo and St Catherines. Her journey took seven days by camel. In comparison, mine took seven hours by minibus, but that was quite long enough to feel for the stubborn Israelites, condemned to spend forty years in the heat and dust.

It's one thing to learn a language and another thing to understand the people who speak it.But then Where We Belong left the Sinai in 1890, and travelled back to 1860 Chicago—and I wasn’t impressed. It was still Rebecca’s story, but now Rebecca was a pampered teenager in the days before the Civil War (which I knew was coming, even though she didn’t). Fortunately, it soon became apparent that Rebecca was no ordinary Victorian-era teenager, and nor was her sister, Flora.

The novel followed Rebecca and Flora from their teenage years in Chicago through to showing why they are travelling to the Sinai in 1890 with only a couple of young servants for protection. The most fascinating thing is that Rebecca and Flora are based on real-life adventurers, Agnes and Margaret Smith, born in Scotland in 1843.

This explains one of the strengths of the novel—the feeling of historical authenticity that can only be gained by extensive research (and then leaving out most of the detail of that research). The other strength was related, and that was the Christian element. Rebecca and Flora (like the real-life Agnes and Margaret) were women of deep faith. They were intelligent women who had the strength of character to choose to follow God, not society, and who had endless compassion for the poor.

Lynn Austin has yet to write a novel I haven’t enjoyed, but I do think this is her best yet. Recommended for Christian historical fiction fans, especially those who enjoy authors such as Elizabeth Camden and Jody Hedlund.

I’m a history fan, and I loved it from the first line to the last. (I don’t think I stopped in between). Even better, a recent article from the Smithsonian shows new manuscripts are still being discovered at St Catherine’s:

Lost Languages Discovered in One of the World’s Oldest Continuously Run Libraries

Isn’t that cool?

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

About Lynn Austin

Lynn AustinFor many years, Lynn Austin nurtured a desire to write but frequent travels and the demands of her growing family postponed her career. When her husband’s work took Lynn to Bogota, Colombia, for two years, she used the B.A. she’d earned at Southern Connecticut State University to become a teacher. After returning to the U.S., the Austins moved to Anderson, Indiana, Thunder Bay, Ontario, and later to Winnipeg, Manitoba.

It was during the long Canadian winters at home with her children that Lynn made progress on her dream to write, carving out a few hours of writing time each day while her children napped. Lynn credits her early experience of learning to write amid the chaos of family life for her ability to be a productive writer while making sure her family remains her top priority.

Along with reading, two of Lynn’s lifelong passions are history and archaeology. She and her son traveled to Israel during the summer of 1989 to take part in an archaeological dig at the ancient city of Timnah. Lynn resigned from teaching to write full-time in 1992. Since then she has published 24 novels.

Find Lynn Austin online at:

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About Where We Belong

The Adventure of a Lifetime for Two Indomitable Socialite Sisters
In the city of Chicago in 1892, the rules for Victorian women are strict, their roles limited. But sisters Rebecca and Flora Hawes are not typical Victorian ladies. Their love of adventure and their desire to use their God-given talents has brought them to the Sinai Desert–and into a sandstorm.
Accompanied by Soren Petersen, their somber young butler, and Kate Rafferty, a street urchin who is learning to be their ladies’ maid, the two women are on a quest to find an important biblical manuscript. As the journey becomes more dangerous and uncertain, the four travelers sift through memories of their past, recalling the events that shaped them and the circumstances that brought them to this time and place.

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As a woman, she didn't need to be blissfully happy. She just needed to be secure, safe, and provided for.

Book Recommendation | An Unexpected Groom by Nerys Leigh

Nerys Leigh’s Escape to the West series is unique.

All the books run concurrently, which means the stories can be read in any order as none comes first. Each book follows one of five women who have come west to California as a mail-order bride.

The Unexpected Groom is the fourth book in the Escape to the West series.

Louisa has been raised to believe she must marry well in order to be happy. She’s arrived in California to marry Jesse Johnson, an accountant with the local bank—a man with the right kind of social standing for Louisa. But when she arrives, she finds Jesse’s letters neglected to tell her one significant fact …

Jesse Johnson is used to women calling off relationships when they find out what’s wrong with him. So, despite his better judgement, he agrees when his friend Adam suggests he doesn’t mention his problem. Instead, let the lady arrive and get to know the real Jesse before making a decision.

Louisa is taken aback at first, but agrees to stay for two weeks, to get to know Jesse. But she finds more than bargained for and has to make the difficult decision to follow her parents, follow her heart … or follow God.

The Unexpected Groom was an excellent romance.

I loved the growing romantic tension between Lousia and Jesse almost as much as I loved the Christian element. It was great to see a character really consider their Christian faith and deepen their relationship with God, even over the relatively short timeframe of this novel (a few weeks).

The one problem with the story was the excess of run-on sentences (Leigh uses British spelling and grammar, which explains Britishisms like gammon, but run-on sentences are wrong in all versions of English). But these didn’t detract from the excellent story, and the great use of humour:

A proper lady knows that breaking a leg is one thing, but allowing anyone to see it is far, far worse.

Recommended for fans of Western Christian historical romance.

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

About Nerys Leigh

Nerys LeighNerys Leigh writes thoroughly romantic Christian historical love stories. She loves heroes who are strong but sweet and heroines who are willing to fight for the life they want.

She’s from the UK, which you would think puts her in a unique position to not write about mail order brides in the American west, but the old adage of writing what you know has never appealed to her. She has an actual American read each book before publishing to make sure she hasn’t gone all English on it.

No One’s Bride is the first in the Escape to the West series which tells the stories of a group of women willing to travel across America to find happiness, and the men determined to win their hearts.

Nerys can be found relaxing and generally enjoying the view at and

About The Unexpected Groom

When heart and mind pull in opposite directions, which way do you turn?

Louisa Wood’s parents have always taught her that appearance is everything, and to behave like a lady because one day she would marry a man who could make her one. But without money or social standing, New York society has proved beyond Louisa’s reach. The answer? Go where no one knows who she is.

A young accountant advertising for a mail order bride seems the perfect solution, until Louisa arrives in California to find that Jesse Johnson has been keeping a secret and isn’t at all what she’s expecting. What he is, however, is charming and handsome, and she agrees to stay for two weeks despite knowing she will likely return home at the end.

But as a mystery at the bank where Jesse works draws them closer and her heart wakes to new possibilities, for the first time in her life Louisa finds herself doubting everything she’s been raised to believe.

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Book Recommendation | Uncharted Hope by Keely Brook Keith

The Next Installment in the Uncharted Series

Uncharted Hope is the fifth book in a series, and it is one of those series that you’ll understand and appreciate better if you’ve read the earlier books first (at least The Land Uncharted). There is also a prequel series, Uncharted Beginnings: Aboard Providence, and Above Rubies.

Uncharted Hope felt like it was a little shorter than some of the other books in the series. It also had dual locations: Sophia and Nicholas in the Land, and Bailey Colburn back in the “real” world. This also meant the focus was less on the romance and more on the challenges each character faced, especially Sophia.

Sophia has had a rough upbringing in a family that was anything but supportive, and she’s left with a desire to escape, and with low self-worth. Now she’s living in the medical cottage and working as an apprentice to Lydia … although she’s actually more interested in researching the properties of the gray leaf tree. And navigating the potential of a relationship with Nicholas Vestal.

Bailey is also a survivor, both of a shaky upbringing, and of the plague and war that have ravaged the US. A strange meeting finds her also researching the properties of the gray leaf tree. I didn’t actually make the connections between Sophia and Bailey until I started writing this review, because the book kept me engrossed. And the ending … now I want to read the next book!

Anyone who has read the earlier books in the Uncharted series will want to read Uncharted Hope.

If you haven’t, and you think you’d like a Christian series that’s a mix of historical romance and speculative/dystopian, then you’ll enjoy this series—you can either start with Aboard Providence (the 1860’s origin story) or with The Land Uncharted (the start of the futuristic story). Recommended!

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

About Uncharted Hope

Sophia Ashton’s new medical assistant job comes with the perks of living on the Colburn property, which include being surrounded by a loving family—something she’s never known. During the job’s trial period, a patient puts Sophia in a questionable position. Now she must prove her competence or lose her job and home.

Nicholas Vestal is working on a sheep farm to earn a starter flock, but before his contract is up, he inherits a house in the village. While fixing up the old house he pursues Sophia Ashton, believing she is the woman God wants him to marry. But when Sophia’s difficult past blocks Nicholas’s plan, he must find a way to her heart.

Meanwhile, outside the Land…

When plant biologist Bailey Colburn is offered a research job, she knows Justin Mercer is playing her somehow. Working for the former naval flight officer sounds better than her other options in post-war Norfolk, even though Justin says he once met her long lost relatives. But when Justin introduces Bailey to the mysterious gray leaf tree, his unbelievable claims change her world.

About Keely Brooke Keith

Keely Keely Brooke KeithBrooke Keith writes inspirational frontier-style fiction with a slight Sci-Fi twist, including The Land Uncharted (Shelf Unbound Notable Romance 2015) andAboard Providence (2017 INSPY Awards Longlist). Keely also creates resources for writers such as The Writer’s Book Launch Guide and The Writer’s Character Journal.

Born in St. Joseph, Missouri, Keely grew up in a family that frequently relocated. By graduation, she lived in 8 states and attended 14 schools.  When she isn’t writing, Keely enjoys playing bass guitar, preparing homeschool lessons, and collecting antique textbooks. Keely, her husband, and their daughter live on a hilltop south of Nashville, Tennessee.

Find Keely Brooke Keith online at:

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Find Uncharted Hope online at:

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Read the introduction to Uncharted Hope below:

Book Recommendation | Magnolia Storms by Janet W Ferguson

Magnolia Marovich is a meteorologist who lost her father, a river bar pilot, in Hurricane Katrina. Now another hurricane is bearing down on the Mississippi and Alabama coasts, and she receives a phone call that calls her home—her sister is in hospital, and Maggie is needed to take care of Cammie’s daughter, and their elderly aunt.

Josh Bergeron has followed in the footsteps of his teenage idol, Mr Marovich, and become a ship’s pilot—a decision that cost him his relationship with Maggie. But now they are brought back together when she returns to her childhood home in Ocean Springs … next door to where he lives with his son.

I loved Magnolia Storms.

I think I read it all in one sitting (or I would have if my family hadn’t tried to talk to me). Magnolia was an excellent character—an intelligent and competent professional woman, but not perfect. A long way from perfect. But someone I could like and relate to and want to spend time with.

Josh (great hero name, by the way) was an equally strong character. He’s a boat pilot, and it was great (if scary) to see him in action in his work. He was also an excellent father—a testament to his relationship with Mr Marovich, because his own father was nothing like that.

The writing was excellent, and I especially liked the humour, and the way both Maggie and JD had a Christian faith that was central to the plot without being overwhelming or preachy. Okay, so maybe the end was a little cheesy, but this is a romance. It’s to be expected. There was also a lot of yummy-sounding Southern food like etouffee and beignets.

Recommended for fans of contemporary Christian romance, with an emphasis on the Christian.

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

Have you eaten etouffee? I’d love to try it – do you have a recipe you can recommend?

About Janet W Ferguson

Janet W FergusonJanet W. Ferguson grew up in Mississippi and received a degree in Banking and Finance from the University of Mississippi. She has served her church as a children’s minister and a youth volunteer. An avid reader, she worked as a librarian at a large public high school. Janet and her husband have two grown children, one really smart dog, and a few cats that allow them to share the space.

Click here to read my interview with Janet W Ferguson.

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Book Recommendation | Portrait of Vengeance by Carrie Stuart Parks

About Portrait of Vengeance


An unsolved case. A tempest of memories. The future’s at stake—and time is running out . . .

Portrait of Vengeance cover image

Gwen Marcey has done a good job keeping the pain of her past boxed up. But as she investigates the case of a missing child in Lapwai, Idaho, details keep surfacing that are eerily similar to her childhood traumas. She doesn’t believe in coincidences. So what’s going on here?


No one knows more about the impact of the past than the Nez Perce people of Lapwai. Gwen finds herself an unwelcome visitor to some, making her investigation even more difficult. The questions keep piling up, but answers are slow in coming—and the clock is ticking for a missing little girl. Meanwhile, Gwen’s ex-husband is threatening to take sole custody of their daughter.

As Gwen’s past and present collide, she’s in a desperate race for the truth. Because only truth will ensure she still has a future.

My Review

A Portrait of Vengeance is the fourth Gwen Marcey novel, following When Death Draws Near, The Bones Will Speak, and A Cry from the Dust. Each novel centres on a crime or series of related crimes, with an underlying thread about Gwen’s relationship with her teenage daughter (not good) and her ex-husband (even less good).

But Portrait of Vengeance was unique in that it gave some of Gwen’s own personal history.

This gave an insight into the person she has become, and showed us what she has overcome–not just the breast cancer and divorce we learned about in the earlier novels, but something of her childhood and upbringing.

As Gwen investigates the disappearance of a native American child from a small town in Idaho, she finds details which are similar to her own childhood memories. Is the person behind this disappearance the same person who destroyed her childhood? And what happens when the memories don’t make sense.

I don’t want to say too much, because it’s impossible without giving away spoilers. If you’ve read the previous Gwen Marcey novels, you’ll want to read this—it’s the best yet in terms of both the characters and the suspense. If you haven’t read any Gwen Marcey novels yet, and you enjoy Christian thrillers from authors such as Colleen Coble, then you’ll want to read this—but you might want to start with When Death Draws Near.

Recommended for those who enjoy fast-paced thrillers with great characters.

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

About Carrie Stuart Parks

Carrie Stuart ParksCarrie Stuart Parks is a Christy finalist as well as a Carol award-winning author. She has won numerous awards for her fine art as well. An internationally known forensic artist, she travels with her husband, Rick, across the US and Canada teaching courses in forensic art to law enforcement professionals. The author/illustrator of numerous books on drawing and painting, Carrie continues to create dramatic watercolors from her studio in the mountains of Idaho.

Find Carrie Stuart Parks online at:

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You can read the introduction to Portrait of Vengance below:

Quote from Freedom's Ring

Book Recommendation | Freedom’s Ring by Heidi Chiavaroli

For Liberty and Freedom

Freedom’s Ring is a dual-timeline romance set in Boston. The modern story follows Anaya, a victim of the Boston Marathon bombing, which left her afraid to run and suffering guilt over her niece’s injuries. The historical story follows Liberty, a single woman alone in 1770’s Boston, left to raise her son after being raped.

Both women have their traumas to overcome.

Anaya responds by withdrawing—from her family, and from running. Liberty also runs away, but that’s understandable in a time when society had definite opinions about unwed mothers, no matter the circumstances.

What connects the two women is a ring, which Liberty stole from her employer, and which Anaya is given by the stranger who rescues her after the bombing The present story shows Anaya and Brad meeting and seeking to find the story behind the ring—Liberty’s story.

It’s an engaging and intriguing timeslip story.

Freedom’s Ring the difficult task of making each timeline as compelling as the other. Recommended for fans of dual timeline novels, especially those with a patriotic American feel.

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

About Heidi Chiavaroli

Heidi ChiavaroliHeidi Chiavaroli is a writer, runner, and grace-clinger who could spend hours exploring Boston’s Freedom Trail. She writes Women’s Fiction and won the 2014 ACFW Genesis contest in the historical category. She makes her home in Massachusetts with her husband, two sons, and Howie, her standard poodle.

Find Heidi Chiavaroli online at:

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You can read the introduction to Freedom’s Ring below:

Book Recommendation | An Inconvenient Beauty by Kristi Ann Hunter

Excellent Christian Regency Romance

Griffith, Duke of Riverton, has decided it is time he completed his familial duty to marry and produce an heir. He has set his sights on Miss Frederica St Clare, who is perfect for him in every way. Except one: he discovers she has a previous love.

Can he compete with a dead man?

Worse, he finds himself attracted to Miss St Clare’s cousin, Miss Isabella Breckenridge. Miss Breckenridge is everything he doesn’t want in a wife—young, beautiful, a diamond of the first water. Or is she? As the Season progresses, he finds everything is not as it seems with the beautiful Miss Isabella and her uncle, the manipulative Lord Pontebrook.

I wasn’t entirely convinced by the setup.

It felt contrived and less than believable—as Isabella herself commented, it didn’t paint the ruling class in a good light. Also, a few Americanisms snuck into the narrative—campus, graduate, math, druggist. Most people wouldn’t notice them, but I’m not American, so I did. I also would have liked to have seen more of the faith aspect—Isabella and Griffith were both Christians, but that didn’t come out as much as it could have.

But I still enjoyed An Inconvenient Beauty.

Book quote

The dresses were beautiful, the balls glamorous, the dialogue witty. There were no kisses (which I know will disappoint some readers and reviewers), but there was so much attraction this was barely noticeable. Yes, the writing is excellent.


Kristi Ann Hunter is one of the rising stars of Christian Regency fiction, although her take has more focus on the romance than authors like Julie Klassen, as well as more humour.

Recommended for fans of Christian Regency Romance authors such as Carolyn Miller, and historical fiction authors such as Jen Turano and Karen Witemeyer.

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

Find Kristi Ann Hunter online at:

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Do you read Regency Romance? Who is your favourite author?

The Space Between Words 1

Book Review: The Space Between Words by Michele Phoenix

The Space Between Words starts in Gatingy, France, with Adeline Baillard as the narrator.

It’s 1695, the time of the persecution of the Huguenots, those Protestants who refused the King’s orders to convert to Catholicism. The story then skips forward to 2015, to a first-person account from thirty-four year-old Jessica. Jessica is living in Paris with her friends Patrick and Vonda.

They are about to leave Paris to go touring around Southern France. First, they decide to celebrate with one last night of fun. Vonda suggests a concert at the Bataclan nightclub.

On 14 November 2015, the night of the real-life massacre.

I read The Space Between Words in June 2017, in the week after the London Bridge attack and the benefit concert for the victims of the Manchester attack. That brought home all the more the horror and confusion of the Bataclan bloodbath.

I don’t’ want to say any more about the plot because *spoilers*.

Instead I’ll say this is Jessica’s story. It’s about searching for what has been lost. About finding hope in the midst of  loss. It’s also a story of struggle and courage and faith, especially Adeline’s faith and that of her fellow Huguenots. It’s inspiring.

The story has a strong spiritual thread. This is mostly in the past words of Adeline Baillard, but also in the present conversations between Jessica and her companions. It’s not a “traditional” Christian novel in that the main characters aren’t Christians

But there is a definite faith journey.

The Space Between Words 2

It reminds me of The Writing Desk by Rachel Hauck, The Long Highway Home by Elizabeth Musser, and The Five Times I Met Myself by James L Rubart. The writing was strong, and the story unpredictable (in a good way).

I recommend The Space Between Words for those looking for a novel with depth.

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

Book Recommendation | The Hearts We Mend by Kathryn Springer

It’s Throwback Thursday, which means it’s time to repost one of my older reviews.

This week it’s The Hearts We Mend by Kathryn Springer, the second book in the Bannister Falls series, following The Dandelion Field. The Hearts We Mend is a finalist in the ACFW Carol Awards, in the Romance category.

This review first appeared at Iola’s Christian Reads on 22 March 2016.

About the Book

Planning and Post-It notes are the epitome of Evie’s life. But when she meets Jack, her life gets more than a little complicated.

Thirteen years ago, Evie’s firefighterhusband was killed in the line of duty, leaving her to raise their young son, Cody, alone. Now, Cody is marrying the love of his life, and as he packs up his belongings, the house feels as empty as Evie’s heart. But for all her planning and mad organizational skills, Evie could never have anticipated the dramatic shift her life is about to make.

Tattooed, rough-around-the-edgesJack raises quite a few eyebrows in the tight-knit community of Banister Falls. Where Evie’s life is stream-lined, Jack’s approach to living is moment-by-moment. But as Evie gets drawn into Jack’s world—a world that isn’t as safe or predictable as the one she’s worked so hard to create—he challenges her to open her eyes to the problems outside the walls of the church.

Jack doesn’t make Evie feel comfortable, but he definitely makes her feel something. Something she hasn’t felt since Max passed away—or, maybe ever. Because even though Jack isn’t anything like her late husband, he just might be everything she needs.

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My Review

One of the challenges of writing a series must be around how much of the early books you include in later books in the series. I’ve read some truly awful examples, including one which shall not be named where the author spent the first half of the novel (yes, over 150 excruciatingly boring pages) rehashing the backstories of characters I already knew from the first 22 books in the series.

At the other end of the spectrum are novels where the author must assume readers will recall every minute detail of the earlier book/s, because nothing is explained. It’s equally excruciating, because it’s like finding yourself at a party where no one introduces you to anyone because everyone assumes you know everyone else, except you know no one.

The Hearts We Mend initially felt like the party.

Actually, it did begin at a party, but I didn’t know anyone although it was obvious I was supposed to. Too many characters too quickly, and I couldn’t work out who was who, and who was meant to be important. Yes, I had read—and enjoyed, and recommended—The Dandelion Field, the first of the Banister Falls series, but that was more than a year ago. I’ve read a lot of books since . . .

Yes, Chapter One of The Hearts We Mend was beyond awkward.

But it improved with Chapter Two, because we got to meet our hero, Jack Vale, and he’s new in town so felt as lost as I did. And the book suddenly got a whole lot better. As time went on, I remembered Evie from the first novel: she’s the widowed mother of Cody, who is getting married to his pregnant girlfriend despite them both being a mere eighteen (as Cody tells Evie, the age she was when she married).

A lot of romance readers are looking for novels about “older” couples.

I’m not convinced Evie and Jack count as older—they’re both in their mid-thirties, scarcely older than the first-love couples in many novels (especially romantic suspense novels). But Evie is about to become a grandmother, which certainly places her ahead of me in terms of life experience category, if not years.

Anyway, Jack is new in town, here to look out for his deadbeat brother and his family. He’s got a temporary job at the church where Evie is director of women’s ministries, which brings the two of them together a lot. They’re opposites in many ways: he’s never married and never had children, she’s widowed and about to become a grandmother. He’s from a rough upbringing and his family have had more than a few brushes with the law. She’s not had an easy life, but none of it involved excess alcohol or drugs, and her relationship with the law is as friends, not foe.

But they find they have things in common.

They have their faith, their concern for Lily, Jack’s niece, and their attraction for each other. Evie’s faithful friends aren’t going to make it easy for Jack, and nor is he.

I thought The Hearts we Mend was excellent, a great sequel to the challenging and recommended The Dandelion Field. I loved all the characters, especially Lily, and Jack’s unorthodox neighbours. And Jack was the perfect hero, the way he brought Evie out of the shell no one even realised she was in. I especially liked the way the Christian themes were shown in the way Jack reached out to his neighbours. Recommended.

Thanks to Zondervan and NetGalley for providing a free ebook for review.

About the Author

Kathryn SpringerKathryn Springer, winner of the 2009 ACFW Carol Award (Family Treasures), grew up in a small town in northern Wisconsin, where her parents published a weekly newspaper. As a child, she spent many hours sitting at her mother’s typewriter, plunking out stories, and credits her parents for instilling in her a love of books – which eventually turned into a desire to tell stories of her own.

After a number of busy years, when she married her college sweetheart and became a stay-at-home mom, Kathryn rediscovered her love for writing. An unexpected snow day from school became the inspiration for a short story, which she submitted to Brio magazine. She went on to publish over a dozen more short stories for Brio, but it wasn’t until her youngest child started school that she decided to pursue her dream to write a novel. In August 2004, her Love Inspired® debut novel, Tested by Fire, was published.

Encouraging women in their faith journey is the reason Kathryn loves to write inspirational fiction. She hosts a women’s Bible study in her home and volunteers in a local MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers) ministry. When she isn’t at the computer, you’ll find her curled up with a good book, spending time with family and friends or walking on the trails near her country home.

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Read the Introduction

Quote from My Unexpected Hope

Book Recommendation | My Unexpected Hope by Tammy L Gray

Tammy L Gray doesn’t write nice Christian fiction.

She writes fiction about broken characters who’ve done stupid things, who are now trying to pull themselves out of the hell they have created. My Unexpected Hope is no exception.

It’s the story of Leila and Chad, united by their common family histories of drug and alcohol abuse and addiction, and separated by those same addictions. Laila eventually kicked Chad out, unwilling and unable to be with someone who showed every sign of turning into his father, or her mother.

Now he’s back. But can she trust him?

I didn’t enjoy An Unexpected Hope as much as I enjoyed My Hope Next Door. However, that might be like saying I didn’t enjoy Hitchcock’s Vertigo as much as I enjoyed Rear Window, given that My Hope Next Door has just won the 2017 RITA award from Romance Writers of America for Romance with Religious or Spiritual Elements.

My main issue was Chad. I liked him, and wanted him to succeed in his quest for sobriety. But his characterisation wasn’t even, and while he was convinced he was Laila’s soul mate, I wasn’t. There was no reason for them to be together beyond their extensive shared history. My other reason could be that I’m not a fan of the Other Woman or Other Man trope, because it always means a perfectly nice character ends up hurt (as happened in this case).

My Unexpected Hope isn’t a comfortable read.

It’s full of conflict and angst as two messed-up people try and sort their lives out. But it’s an excellent story of redemption, and well worth reading. It can be read as a standalone novel, although those who have read My Hope Next Door will enjoy seeing Katie and Cooper again. Well, perhaps not Cooper.

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

About the Book

After a year of grieving her divorce and living a life permanently stuck on pause, Laila Richardson is finally ready to have her own happy ending. Then a listing for a quaint cottage in another town answers her prayers for a fresh beginning—one that will bring her closer to her new boyfriend, Ben. Unfortunately, in her small town of Fairfield, Georgia, letting go of the past is virtually impossible. No one wants to see her move on, including the man who destroyed her heart to begin with.

Chad Richardson has spent years in misery but finally has his life on somewhat stable ground. When he learns his ex-wife is dating, he knows it’s time to go back and fight for the life he abandoned. Bolstered by his newfound sobriety, Chad has every intention of winning back the woman he loves, even if that means facing old demons that are waiting for him to fail.

Passions run deep as two souls searching for a second chance find the courage to let go of old patterns. Can they recognize that their dreams are still possible, even when forged from a broken past?

About the Author

Author Photo Tammy L GrayTammy L. Gray lives in the Dallas area with her family, and they love all things Texas, even the erratic weather patterns. She writes modern Christian romance with true-to-life characters and culturally-relevant plot lines. She believes hope and healing can be found through high quality fiction that inspires and provokes change.

Tammy is often lauded for her unique writing style within the inspirational genre, preferring to use analogies verses heavy-handed spiritual content. Her characters are real, relatable and deep, earning her a 2017 RITA award nomination in the Romance with Religious and Spiritual Elements category.

When not chasing after her three amazing kids, Tammy can be spotted with her head in a book. Writing has given her a platform to combine her passion with her ministry.

Tammy L. Gray has lots of projects going on.

You can find Tammy Gray online at:

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You can read the introduction to An Unexpected Hope: