First Line Friday

First Line Friday | Week 103 | Beneath a Camperdown Elm by Janet Chester Bly

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 Beneath a Camperdown Elm by Janet Chester Bly:

On the goat trail known as Highway 95, halfway between Winnemucca, Nevada and Road’s End, Idaho, otherwise known as home, Reba Mae Cahill relished a rare bit of joy.

I haven’t read any of Janet Chester Bly’s books before, so I’m looking forward to starting this.

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

About Beneath a Camperdown Elm

Reba’s scary stalker is locked up in jail. She finally snatches a rancher fiancé. Her runaway mother returns home. Reba has everything she ever wanted. But Grandma Pearl has disappeared! Is Reba about to lose it all?

Reba Mae Cahill brims with joy. Her life’s perfect. She’s finally bringing her prodigal mother, Hanna Jo, home to Road’s End from a Reno mental institute. With them is Jace McKane, her fiancé, who promises to help fight the unjust lawsuit that threatens the family ranch.

Then Hanna Jo claims she sees alleged wild horses in the mountain valleys as she learns her son and ex-husband’s fishing boat sank in an Alaskan sea. Can Reba keep her from flipping out for good?

As Grandma Pearl struggles with guilt, health issues, and finding purpose for the rest of her life, will the new church building project provide an answer?

Will any of the answers be found in the mysteries of an old Scottish elm?

You can find Beneath a Camperdown Elm online at:

Amazon | Goodreads | Kobo

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!

Echoes of Mercy by Kim Vogel Sawyer

#ThrowbackThursday | Echoes of Mercy by Kim Vogel Sawyer

It’s Throwback Thursday! Today I’m resharing my review of Echoes of Mercy by Kim Vogel Sawyer, who consistently delivers challenging historical romance novels.

About Echoes of Mercy

Sometimes a secret must be kept for the truth to be revealed.

When a suspicious accident occurs at the famous Dinsmore Chocolate Factory in Sinclair, Kansas, Caroline Lang goes undercover as a factory worker to investigate the circumstances surrounding the event and how the factory treats its youngest employees—the child workers. Caroline’s fervent faith, her difficult childhood, and compassionate heart drove her to her job as an investigator for the Labor Commission and she is compelled to see children freed from such heavy adult responsibilities, to allow them to pursue an education.

Oliver Dinsmore, heir to the Dinsmore candy dynasty, has his own investigation to conduct. Posing as a common worker known as “Ollie Moore,” he aims to find out all he can about the family business before he takes over for his father. Caroline and Oliver become fast friends, but tension mounts when the two find themselves at odds about the roles of child workers. Hiding their identities becomes even more difficult when fate brings them together over three children in desperate need. When all is revealed, will the truth destroy the love starting to grow between them?

Find Echoes of Mercy online at:

Amazon US | Amazon UK | ChristianBook | Goodreads | Kobo | Koorong

Excellent romance, through-provoking plot

Ollie Moore, the day janitor at Dinsmore’s World-Famous Chocolate Factory finds himself attracted to the new toter, Carrie Lang. But he knows Carrie isn’t someone his parents will approve of. After all, he’s not really janitor Ollie Moore. He’s Oliver Fulton Dinsmore, son of the owner of the chocolate factory, working in disguise to investigate working practices at the factory, and the factory manager, Gordon Hightower.

Carrie isn’t who she seems, either.

She’s an undercover investigator for the Labor Commission, working to ascertain whether the recent death at the factory was an accident or something more sinister, and with a personal mission to end child labour. Carrie is attracted by Ollie, but suspects there is more to him than meets the eye—he might look like a common factory worker, but he doesn’t always sound like one.

I have enjoyed the previous books I’ve read by Kim Vogel Sawyer, and Echoes of Mercy was no different. She combines interesting and likeable characters with a historical romance plot that manages to exceed my expectations in the way she weaves in issues of the day, in this case, child labour. Yet this theme is a natural outflowing of the story and never seems forced, and she gives weight to the arguments both for and against child labour: economic necessity vs. human compassion.

Echoes of Mercy also includes a subtle but solid Christian element, best evidenced for me with this quote:

“Jesus tells us in the eleventh chapter of Matthew, verse twenty-eight, ‘Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest’. He’ll honor the promise, but you must do your part in laying down the burden.”

We live in a world where so many of us are so very busy, yet we are not always prepared to lay that burden at the cross.  Hmm …

I very much enjoyed the story, and found the information in the notes at the end informative. The state of Kansas passed laws in 1905 prohibiting children under the age of 14 from working in factors or mines, while national (US) laws weren’t passed until 1917.

Overall, I highly recommend Echoes of Mercy as a good story with a thought-provoking yet unobtrusive theme.

Thanks to Waterbrook Multnomah and Blogging for Books for providing a free ebook for review.

About Kim Vogel Sawyer

Kim Vogel SawyerAward-winning, bestselling author Kim Vogel Sawyer is a wife, mother, gramma, chocolate-lover, cat-petter, and–most importantly–a daughter of the King! With more than 1.5 million books in print in seven different languages, Kim enjoys a full-time writing and speaking ministry. Her “gentle stories of hope” are loved by readers and reviewers alike. Kim and her retired military husband, Don, reside on the plains of Kansas, the setting for many of her novels.

Find Kim Vogel Sawyer online at:

Website | Amazon | BookBub | Facebook | Goodreads | Twitter

Read the introduction to Echoes of Mercy below:

What makes a good book review?

Bookish Question 118 | What makes a good book review?

Reviews are for readers.

The objective of a review is to help a potential reader decide whether or not they will like a particular book. Should they spend their hard-earned money buying this book? Is it worth their time to read? My time is valuable. I don’t want to waste hours reading a bad book when I could be reading a good book.

So what makes a good book review?

Some reviewers, especially Christian reviewers, say a good book review is a five-star review. They believe that “if you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all”, or that a positive review is building up God’s Kingdom.

I disagree.

I don’t believe God’s Kingdom is built on second-rate work.

Praising books with basic writing faults encourages mediocrity, and we should be aiming to give God our best. This takes a combination of (God-given) talent and (our) hard work.

I also believe reviews should be honest.

Readers deserve to know whether a book is worth their time and money. Even a free book takes several hours to read, hours the reader can never get back, so the book needs to be good enough to justify that time. As a reviewer I have a responsibility to be honest, and sometimes that means being critical. If I don’t like a book, I need to say so.

It’s hard to write a less-than-glowing review. Really hard. It’s much easier to write a four-star ‘I liked it’ review or a five-star ‘I loved it’ rave than to try and explain why I could barely finish the book “everyone” else loved.

Having said that, I don’t review every book I read. And I don’t publish every review I write.

I don’t have time. And I don’t have the space on my blog. I’m only sharing one new review a week, so (as far as possible) I want to review books I’ve enjoyed and recommend. On that note, I don’t force myself to finish every book I start. If I get to the point where I’d rather clean the toilet, then that book goes on the Did Not Finish pile.

Everyone has different opinions on what makes a good book review. What do you think? #BookReviews #BookishQuestion Click To Tweet

But we’re all different.

I’ve had conversations with hundreds of book reviewers over the years, and discovered that most of us tend to write the kind of reviews we like to read. So people who like reading long book report-type reviews with all the trigger warnings and all the spoilers will write those kinds of reviews. People who like the one-sentence “best book eva!” reviews will write those reviews.

Over the years I have come to the conclusion that there are five main aspects that contribute to my enjoyment of a book.

So these are the issues I try to address when I write a review:

  • Plot: Does the plot make sense? Do the sub-plots add to the overall story? Is it believable? Is it original, or do I feel I’ve read it before?
  • Characters: Do I like the characters? Are they people I’d want to know and spend time with in real life? Or are they too-stupid-to-live clichés?
  • Genre: Does the book conform to the expectations of the genre? If it’s Christian fiction, does the protagonist show clear progression in their Christian walk? If it’s romance, is there an emotionally satisfying ending? If it’s fantasy or science fiction, has the author succeeded in convincing me the world they have created is real?
  • Writing and editing: With many books, especially those from small publishers or self-published authors problems with the writing or editing take me out of the story (like a heroin wearing a high-wasted dress). Bad writing or insufficient editing makes a book memorable for all the wrong reasons.
  • The Wow! Factor: Some books, very few, have that extra something that makes them memorable for the right reasons. The Wow! factor is usually a combination of a unique plot and setting, likeable and intelligent characters (I loathe stupid characters), and a distinct and readable writing style, or ‘voice’. This is highly subjective and other readers might not agree with my taste. And that’s okay.

That’s what I think makes a good book review. What do you think?

Book Review | Living Lies (Harbored Secrets 1) by Natalie Walters

I read Living Lies right after reading two other brilliant Christian thriller novels. That may well have been a mistake, because Living Lies didn’t measure up. But the other two novels were both from multi-published award-winning authors, and I fully expect one or both of those other novels to feature in various 2020 award lists. So it may not be a fair comparison, given that Living Lies is the debut novel from Natalie Walters.

Lane Kent is the widowed mother of a young son, and the owner of a small-town bakery. She lives a quiet life, but that changes when she discovers a body in the woods. Charlie Lynch, the new deputy in town, is assigned to the case. This brings him into contact with Lane and her son. The police think the case a suicide at first, but it soon becomes apparent that it’s a murder … a murder to hide another crime.

Living Lies is one of the few Christian novels I’ve read that depicts mental health issues in a realistic way.

In addition, it was refreshing to see Christian fiction where the mental health issue wasn’t PTSD resulting from the hero’s time in military service in some place with more sand than water. After all, Christian fiction readers tend to be women, so it’s good and healthy to see a romance novel dealing with an all-too-common mental health issue that affects women as much as or more than men.

But there were a few things which bothered me.

One was the heroine’s name: Lane Kent. Every time I saw it, my brain thought “Lois Lane and Clark Kent”. Yeah, that’s weird. But it is what it is. Another botheration was a research fact: I’ve heard (from a forensic pathologist) that Jane Does are identified by fingerprints, dental records, or DNA—not by distraught parents (apparently, distraught friends and relatives have a nasty habit of getting IDs wrong, especially when bodies have been in the woods for a few days).

The final botheration was Lane’s father’s attitude towards her depression. He came across overbearing and controlling for most of the novel. I later realised this was the attitude of a caring and protective father who didn’t know how to deal with something he didn’t understand, but by then the damage had been done. I’d been set up to not like him, and I didn’t.

Overall, Living Lies was a solid first novel that addresses issues most Christian fiction ignores.

It was perhaps a bit too careful to tick all the plot and character boxes (but that’s better than the opposite), and I’ll look forward to seeing what Natalie Walters can produce next.

Thanks to Revell Books and NetGalley for providing a free ebook for review.

About Natalie Walters

Natalie WaltersNatalie Walters is a military wife who currently resides in Hawaii with her soldier husband and their three kids. She writes full-time and has been published in Proverbs 31 magazine and has blogged for Guideposts online. Natalie comes from a long line of military and law enforcement veterans and is passionate about supporting them through volunteer work, races, and writing stories that affirm no one is defined by their past.

Find Natalie Walters online at:

Website | Facebook | Goodreads | Instagram | Twitter

About Living Lies

In the little town of Walton, Georgia, everybody knows your name–but no one knows your secret. At least that’s what Lane Kent is counting on when she returns to her hometown with her five-year-old son. Dangerously depressed after the death of her husband, Lane is looking for hope. What she finds instead is a dead body.

Lane must work with Walton’s newest deputy, Charlie Lynch, to uncover the truth behind the murder. But when that truth hits too close to home, she’ll have to decide if saving the life of another is worth the cost of revealing her darkest secret.

Debut novelist Natalie Walters pulls you to the edge of your seat on the first page and keeps you there until the last in this riveting story that will have you believing no one is defined by their past.

Find Living Lies online at:

Amazon US | Amazon AU | ChristianBook | Goodreads | Kobo icon| Koorong

Read the introduction to Living Lies below:

First Line Friday #102 | Underestimating Miss Cecilia by Carolyn Miller

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 Underestimating Miss Cecilia by Carolyn Miller—my favourite Christian Regency Romance author. Here’s the first line:

It was, perhaps, the greatest torment to love someone who barely seemed to notice one’s existence.

Unrequited love is one of my favourite romance tropes, so I’m looking forward to reading this.

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

About Underestimating Miss Cecilia

Shy, sweet Cecilia Hatherleigh has always been in love with Edward Amherst, the boy next door. Yet he’s never seen her as anything but the quiet girl in the background as he flirts with the other vivacious women of the ton.

When a near tragedy brings Edward’s attention to his family duties, this prodigal son decides he needs to settle down with a proper wife. Cecilia hopes to convince him to choose her—but God may want her to forget the wayward nobleman and put her future in His hands alone.

These two try to find their way toward happiness, but prejudice, political riots, and the changing face of England’s societal structures begin to block them at every turn. Can their struggles turn to triumph—or will their paths permanently diverge?

You can find Underestimating Miss Cecilia online at:

Amazon | ChristianBook | Goodreads | Koorong

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 More than Meets the Eye: She was stuck. Apparently she had more in common with those foolish dime-novel heroines than she'd thought.

#Throwback Thursday | More than Meets the Eye by Karen Witemeyer

A Worthy Pursuit is larger than life in more ways than one.

Miss Charlotte Atherton is happy in her role as headmistress of Sullivan’s Academy for Exceptional Youths in Austin, Texas—at least until Dr Sullivan announces the school is closing. The students will be returned to their families … including Lily Dorchester, an orphan for whom Charlotte is the legal guardian. So she does what any sensible 28-year-old woman would to in 1891: she kidnaps Lily and two other parentless students and takes them to a remote farm where she hopes they won’t be found.

Stone Hammond is the best retriever in Texas—he always gets his man. Or, in this case, his girl. He’s been hired to find little Lily Dorchester, who was kidnapped by her teacher. Only when he finds her, he finds the teacher claims she is Lily’s legal guardian, and she has the papers to prove it. Awkward. The two settle on an uneasy truce while Stone looks into Charlotte’s claim, and he finds the whole experience unexpected: the relationship Charlotte has with the children, the unique talents each child has, and his reaction to Charlotte. Especially his reaction to Charlotte.

I’ve enjoyed every single Karen Witemeyer book I’ve read, and this one is no exception.

The only problem with her books is that she doesn’t write them fast enough – it’s usually the best part of a year between releases. Her plots and characters are both excellent, and she manages to inject a lot of humour into her novels without ever going over-the-top or descending into cliché or cringe.

Despite the light humour, this was also a story of two wounded adults doing their best to follow God and protect the children in their charge from similar wounds. While the Christian aspects of the novel weren’t overpowering, they were powerful.

Overall, an excellent novel. Recommended for fans of historical fiction from authors such as Jen Turano and Carol Cox.

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

About Karen Witemeyer

Author Photo: Karen WitemeyerFor those who love to smile as they read, bestselling author Karen Witemeyer offers warm-hearted historical romances with a flair of humor, feisty heroines, and swoon-worthy Texas heroes. A transplant from California, Karen came to Texas for college, met a cowboy disguised as a computer nerd, married him, and never left the state that had become home.

Winner of the HOLT Medallion, ACFW Carol Award, Inspirational Reader’s Choice Award, National Reader’s Choice Award, and a finalist for both the RITA and Christy Awards, Karen is a firm believer in the power of happy endings. . . and ice cream. She also loves to reward her readers. Every month she gives away two inspirational historical novels to someone from her newsletter list and offers substantial bonus content on her website.

Find Karen Witemeyer online at:

Website | Facebook

About More Than Meets the Eye

Many consider Evangeline Hamilton cursed. Orphaned at a young age and possessing a pair of mismatched eyes–one bright blue, the other dark brown–Eva has fought to find her way in a world that constantly rejects her. Yet the support of even one person can help overcome the world’s judgments, and Eva has two–Seth and Zach, two former orphans she now counts as brothers.

Seeking justice against the man who stole his birthright and destroyed his family, Logan Fowler arrives in 1880s Pecan Gap, Texas, to confront Zach Hamilton, the hardened criminal responsible for his father’s death. Only instead of finding a solitary ruthless gambler, he discovers a man not much older than himself with an unusual family. When Zach’s sister, Evangeline, insists on dousing Logan with sunshine every time their paths cross, Logan finds his quest completely derailed. Who is truly responsible for his lost legacy, and will restoring the past satisfy if it means forfeiting a future with Evangeline?

Find More than Meets the Eye online at:

Amazon | ChristianBook | Goodreads | Kobo | Koorong

Read the introduction to More than Meets the Eye below:

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

Janet Chester Bly

Author Interview | Introducing Janet Chester Bly

Today I’d like to welcome author Janet Bly, to share about her new release, Beneath a Camperdown Elm. Welcome, Janet! We’ll start off with some quick questions so we get to know you a little better.

What is your favourite fruit?

Cherries and grapes make an easy and healthy to eat snack when I’m reading or at the computer. And bananas provide potassium when my legs cramp. But I sure love fresh peaches or nectarines, when I can get them, in my morning cereal.

I love cherries. I just wish they were in season for longer.

Which is your favourite season?

The first days of Spring after the long, snowy winter, and the mud disappears. And any day in the Fall.

Where is your favourite place?

In my cozy bed, after a long day of difficult or satisfying work.

What is your favourite Bible verse?

The life verse I discovered from the early days of receiving Christ as my Lord & Savior is Ephesians 2:10 …

For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

That nudged me many times over the years to constantly be looking for the works, big or small, that God created  for me to accomplish.

What’s something funny or quirky that not many people know about you?

My late husband, Stephen Bly, built a full-sized, false-front town with fire pit called Broken Arrow Crossing in our yard and I often entertain for family, friends, and church events there.

A full-size fake town? And Janet even sent photos:
Plenty of room to sit!

 

Check out the fire pit!

 

Isn’t that cool?

Now, let’s talk about your book, Beneath a Camperdown Elm.

Reba’s scary stalker is locked up in jail. She finally snatches a rancher fiancé. Her runaway mother returns home. Reba has everything she ever wanted. But Grandma Pearl has disappeared! Is Reba about to lose it all?

In August 1991, at Road’s End, Idaho, three generations of women travel separate journeys of the heart.

Reba Mae Cahill brims with joy. Her life’s perfect. She’s finally bringing her prodigal mother, Hanna Jo, home to Road’s End from a Reno mental institute. With them is Jace McKane, her fiancé, who promises to help fight the unjust lawsuit that threatens the family ranch. He wants a new start, away from his unscrupulous father and all his drama.

Just as Reba’s getting Jace trained to become her rancher husband, she discovers Grandma Pearl betrayed her once again, in a way that also harms her mother. Reba believes she’s lost everything—her career, her identity, her lifelong pursuit, and her main reason for marrying Jace.

When Jace returns to California to bail out his father and pursue Quigley, a psychotic killer, who escaped from prison, she wonders if he’ll ever return to Road’s End?

Then Hanna Jo claims she sees alleged wild horses in the mountain valleys as she learns her son and ex-husband’s fishing boat sank in an Alaskan sea. Can Reba keep her from flipping out for good?

As Grandma Pearl struggles with guilt, health issues, and finding purpose for the rest of her life, will the new church building project provide an answer?

Meanwhile, twenty-one-year-old Scottish twin tourists, Archie and Wynda MacKenzie, mesmerize the town with their trick biking skills and charming accents. Reba’s not sure they’re all they claim to be. And someone harasses Reba with letters and phone calls. What are they really after?
Will any of the answers be found in the mysteries of an old Scottish elm?

What inspired the plot of Beneath a Camperdown Elm?

My late husband and I were privileged to travel to Europe and especially loved Scotland. In Dundee, Scotland, I learned of the existence of a mutant, twisted Camperdown Elm, snaking low across the ground, first discovered at Camperdown House in the early 1800s. When we returned home, I found out that the nearby University of Idaho campus had a special planting by cuttings from the original of about twenty of the wild-headed trees.  Their gnarliness and rarity fascinated me. I determined to write a story around a theme of the trees and their connection to and, perhaps, part of a curse on generations of an American family.

What a great inspiration!

Who is your favourite character in this book, and why?

I’m afraid I’ll have to admit that three different characters equally interest me—grandaughter, Reba Mae Cahill; mother, Hanna Jo Cahill; and grandmother Pearl Cahill. Living vicariously through each of their stories, I aspire to replicate their strong traits and recognize flaws of my own. They each represent in a shadowed, though not specific way, various seasons of my life.

Is there a particular theme or message in Beneath a Camperdown Elm?

No matter what choices the people in our families before us have made, and how that has affected our personal circumstances, we are free to start again, by our own thought through decisions. We can forge our own story. Also, all things can work together for good when God is in it.

Amen!

Beneath a Camperdown Elm is the third book in a series. What are the other books? Do readers have to start with the first book?

Beneath a Camperdown Elm can be read alone. However, most readers tell me they want to know more of the backstory of The Trails of Reba Cahill and do read Books 1 & 2 afterward, or start with them, for all the other tales leading into the finale. Each of the books happen in the summer of 1991.

Wind in the Wires, Book 1

Twenty-five-year-old cowgirl Reba Cahill searches for love in a rancher husband and healing from the hurts of her runaway mother, who abandoned Reba as a child.  Finding a love interest is quite a challenge, in the small town of Road’s End, Idaho, population 400, the setting of the Cahill Ranch, owned by Grandma Pearl.

Meanwhile, a ninety-year-old man in town decides to take a journey to the Nevada desert in his Model T car, to seek justice in solving two cold case murders. He talks Reba into going with him, after giving her a very expensive gold and turquoise squash blossom necklace, formerly owned by his niece who just died. During the trip, Reba and the old man uncover an eerie story of lies and betrayal. Will the truth be too hard for either of them to bear?

Down Squash Blossom Road, Book 2

Cowgirl Reba Cahill’s schedule is full. Save the family ranch. Free her mom from a mental institute. Take another road trip. Solve a murder and a kidnapping. Plus, she must evade a scary stalker. Can she also squeeze in romance?

What do you find is the easiest part of the writing and publishing process? What’s the hardest?

The actual writing is the easiest  part, even though it can take many months or even years to accomplish, with much strain on the brain at times. However, the most difficult challenge is all the necessity of marketing involved. It does no good to write something, if no one knows about it.

Somehow the writer must spark that elusive word-of-mouth dynamic that incites a satisfied reader to tell others. But most writers dread this part of the process, as he or she tends to be an introvert and enjoys most the solitary comfort zone of creating. Not always fun to put yourself ‘out there’ and do promotion.

What impact does your faith have on your writing?

Every writer has a world view of some sort. Mine comes from my Christian belief. And as I write, I try very hard not to be preachy, but to show the struggles of characters in coming to terms with God’s part in their lives. Some believe in Him. Others don’t. But He is definitely a Being to be reckoned with.

I think an increasing number of Christian readers want to read books with real-life struggles, so keep it up.

What’s your favourite fiction genre, and why?

Mysteries of all kinds, historical and contemporary, cozy and thriller. Love the challenge of guessing who did what, digging through the intricate plotting, and the motive behind it all. In The Trails of Reba Cahill Series, I stay with the western genre of my late husband, Stephen Bly, but add mystery and a touch of romance. Actually, I have to admit that by Book 3, the story is more romance than mystery!

Well, I love a good romance!

What book (or books) are you currently reading?

The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco. This is a tedious read in many ways, but also charming at the same time. Set in 1327 about Franciscans in a wealthy Italian abbey suspected of heresy. Brother William of Baskerville arrives to investigate and his mission is overshadowed by seven bizarre deaths. Brother William turns detective. Never would have picked this novel on my own, but was recommended by members of an online fiction book club. Have enjoyed entering a world so unlike my own or any of our own genre stories.

Thank you, Janet! It’s been great to meet you and learn more about Beneath a Camperdown Elm.

You can find Janet Bly online at:

Website | Facebook | Instagram

Twitter | Pinterest | Goodreads | LinkedIn

Readers, what question would you like to ask Janet? Let us know in the comments!

What's one thing you'd like to see less of in Christian fiction? Why?

Bookish Question 117 | What’s one thing you’d like to see less of in Christian fiction?

If you’ve read my posts over the last two weeks, then this week’s answer probably won’t come as much of a surprise.

Two weeks ago, we talked about edgy Christian fiction, and how did I see edgy. My answer: fiction that reflects all of us, not just white middle class feel-good safe fiction.

Last week, we talked about what we’d like to see more of in Christian fiction. My answer: Jesus.

So what do you think I’d like to see less of in Christian fiction?

I’d like to see less cultural Christianity and more real faith. Less WASP and more diversity. Less America and more international. Less sanitised “safe” content, and more delving into real issues affecting real Christians (and non-Christians).

I live in New Zealand, which has been called a post-Christian culture for over twenty years. In New Zealand, people might go to church out of habit, but they don’t go just because all the neighbours go and going to church is the “done” thing. People go to church to meet with God and fellowship with other believers—which isn’t the impression I get from a lot of Christian fiction.

What would you like to see less of in Christian fiction? Why? #ChristianFiction #BookishQuestion Click To Tweet

So that’s what I’d like to see in Christian fiction: less sanitised church and more real Jesus.

What do you think? What would you like to see less of in Christian fiction? Why?

People didn't always understand his humor, which tended to be extremely dry and somewhat rare.

Book Review | An Agent for Clara (Pinkerton Matchmakers) by Nerys Leigh

An Agent for Clara is Nerys Leigh’s second book in the multi-author Pinkerton Matchmaker series.

If you’ve read any of the others, you’ll know the series is about the “daring women who seek adventure and are of sound mind and body” who sign up to join the Pinkerton National Detective Agency only to find they are to be married to a male agent for their first assignment.

If you can buy into that somewhat unlikely premise, then you’ll enjoy the story.

Clara Lee joins the Pinkertons because she’s been fascinated with detecting ever since reading about the first female Pinkerton agent. She is assigned to learn from—and marry—Mr Tobias Campbell. Tobias has an interest in forensic investigation that makes him ahead of his time. (If you’ve read The Bug Man series by Tim Downs, then Tobias is the 1871 version).

Tobias agrees to marry Clara for the purpose of the case, but that’s all. He’s not interested in marriage. He’s not especially interested in training Clara, but he’s not given the option. The couple are sent to New York to locate a woman who went missing almost two years ago—hired by the man who possibly fathered a child with her, and now wants to help.

Tobias finds Clara hard to deal with at first. She’s his opposite in many ways, but they gradually get to know each other and come to value their differences as well as their similarities. Those who have read Nerys Leigh’s Escape to the West series will see some familiar references. I won’t say more, because #Spoilers 🙂

An Agent for Clara is a fun story and Christian romance fans with a fondness for 1900s Westerns will enjoy it.

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.

You can find Nerys Leigh online at:

Website | Facebook

About An Agent for Clara

Falling in love could risk more than just their hearts.

Women aren’t supposed to fight crime, not in 1871. But solving mysteries is all Clara has ever wanted to do, so when the Pinkerton detective agency advertises for new female recruits, she jumps at the chance.

Not even having to marry her training agent for the duration of her first case fazes her, although Tobias Campbell is overly serious and a little unusual. Clara is exceptionally good with people. She’ll get him to him to loosen up before the case is over.

But when the search for a missing woman forces them into the dangerous underworld of New York’s notorious gangs, Clara and Tobias must learn to rely on each other.

Because it’s not only their hearts that are on the line. It’s their lives.

Find An Agent for Clara online at:

Amazon | Goodreads

Read the introduction to An Agent for Clara below:

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First Line Friday

First Line Friday #101 | Fire Storm (Kaely Quin #2) by Nancy Mehl

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 Fire Storm by Nancy Mehl. Here’s the first line:

He waits, hidden in the shadows of the tall stately trees that line the street. He is the only one who knows that hell has just opened its door.

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

About Fire Storm

When FBI profiler Kaely Quinn’s mother is diagnosed with cancer, Kaely takes time off work to go to Dark Water, Nebraska, to help her brother care for their mother. Upon her arrival, she learns of a series of fires in the small town, attributed by the fire chief to misuse of space heaters in the frigid winter. But Kaely is skeptical, and a search for a pattern in the locations of the fires bolsters her suspicions.

After yet another blaze devastates a local family, Kaely is certain a serial arsonist is on the loose. Calling upon her partner from St. Louis, Noah Hunter, and her brother’s firefighter neighbor who backs Kaely’s suspicions, Kaely and her team begin an investigation that swiftly leads them down a twisted path. When the truth is finally revealed, Kaely finds herself confronting a madman who is determined his last heinous act will be her death.

You can find Fire Storm online at:

Amazon | ChristianBook | Goodreads | Koorong

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!