Tag: Christian Romance

First Line Friday

First Line Friday | Week 96 | A Girl’s Guide to the Outback by Jessica Kate

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 a combination cover reveal and first line from A Girl’s Guide to the Outback by Australian author Jessica Kate. Woot!

So here’s the cover!

Isn’t that fun? I love the colours, and the little kangaroo bouncing along the bottom …

And here’s the first line:

Samuel Payton was an idiot. Kimberly Foster jammed her phone in her pocket and rushed down the sunny Charlottesville street in a Mr Potato Head costume, peep-toe heels, and a murderous rage.

 

 

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

About A Girl’s Guide to the Outback

Kimberly Foster needs help from the last man in the world who would give it.

She and Samuel Payton fought so much during their three-year stint as colleagues that they now reside in different halves of the globe. She’s still the business director of the Virginia-based youth ministry that Sam founded, while he’s back at his family’s farm in rural Australia.

But Kimberly can’t find a suitable replacement for Sam, and the ministry is in trouble. She needs him back. What she doesn’t know is that the Payton farm’s finances are scarier than statistics on Australian spider bites.

She and Sam strike a deal: if she can use her business savvy to save the farm, he’ll return to Virginia and recruit and train his replacement.

Soon Kimberly’s on the edge of the Outback, working more closely with Sam than ever before. Can she protect his family’s legacy, the ministry, and her heart?

You can find A Girl’s Guide to the Outback online at:

Amazon | ChristianBook | Goodreads | Kobo

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

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Which Christian romance has the best first date scene?

Bookish Question #111 | Which Christian romance has the best first date scene?

This question puzzled me at first, because it took me a while to any Christian romances which had an official “first date” scene. Most seem to have the couple meet and spend time together in normal life, rather than in the context of an official date.

They may be thrown together by work, through another character (e.g. a child if one is a parent) or through a crime (especially in romantic suspense). They spend time together, and the relationship develops from there.

This seems more natural to me than the official “date”, which often feels contrived and doomed to failure. (A view which might be affected by the number of characters in Christian fiction who are dating the wrong person!)

But then I remembered True Devotion by Dee Henderson.

Here’s the Amazon description:
Kelly Jacobs has already paid the ultimate price of loving a warrior; she has the folded flag and the grateful thanks of a nation to prove it. Navy SEAL Joe “Bear” Baker can’t ask her to accept that risk again—even though he loves her. But the man responsible for her husband’s death is back; closer than either of them realize. Kelly is in danger, and Joe may not get there in time.

(That’s not the cover on my paperback version. I don’t much like my cover, but I like it better than this cover.)

True Devotion is a slow-build romance between long-time friends, and the first date doesn’t happen until around halfway through the book. But it’s worth waiting for: Joe wants to make it a memorable occasion, but only has three hours to organise the date. He calls a bunch of favours and gets a window table at the classiest restaurant in town, and even manages to buy Kelly flowers and a bear (which is a bit of a pun, as Joe’s SEAL nickname is Bear).

Kelly is suitably impressed, and it’s a great scene.

What’s your favourite first date scene in Christian romance?

What's your favourite romance trope?

Bookish Question #108 | What’s your favourite romance trope?

Romance is full of tropes, and this is probably because romance readers can be voracious. If we find a story we like, we want to read all the books by that author. Then we want to read all the books with similar plots—which means we want all the books with that romance trope.

First, what’s a trope?

Reedsy says:

Tropes are plot devices, characters, images, or themes that are incorporated so frequently in a genre that they’re seen as conventional.

For example, the mail order bride is currently a popular trope, especially in Christian fiction.

I’ve seen box sets of fifteen or twenty mail order bride stories for sale on Amazon. I’m a fan of mail order bride stories (e.g. the Escape to the West series by Nerys Leigh), but I don’t think I could manage a set of twenty!

Fortunately, there are dozens of popular romance tropes, including:

  • Friends to Lovers
  • Enemies to Lovers
  • Fake Romance
  • Love Triangle
  • Forbidden Love
  • Marriage of Convenience
  • Secret Royal/Billionaire
  • Secret Baby
  • Secret Romance
  • Second Chance Romance
  • Reunited Lovers
  • Trapped in an Elevator/Snowstorm
  • Mail Order Bride
  • Belated Love Epiphany
  • Opposites Attract
  • Soul Mate

I’m not a big fan of the love triangle.

It seems to me that a perfectly nice person ends up getting hurt. Mind you, that’s better than the alternative, where the guy thinks he’s in love with Woman A (who’s a real piece of work) but is also attracted to Woman B (the obvious best choice), but I’m left wishing he’d stick with Woman A because Woman B deserves someone with more depth.

That can also happen in reverse (and I can think of one far-too-long-running Christian romance series where the woman had the choice and chose who I think was the weaker man. One reviewer said that if the character was that shallow, then the second man was better off without her, and I had to agree (#TeamCody).

That’s the other problem with the love triangle: half your audience will be convinced the story ends with the wrong couple getting together.

I went through a phase of reading and enjoying secret baby romances, but then the improvements in technology and social media made it harder to believe that the woman couldn’t tell the father she’d had his baby. This meant she hadn’t, which meant she had to have a good reason for not telling him … and many didn’t. Also, secret baby is a more difficult trope to pull off in Christian fiction.

I’m also a big fan of friends-to-lovers (especially in novellas and short fiction—I’m a little wary of a novella where the couple go from first meeting to marriage in less than a hundred pages), and enjoy the occasional enemies to lovers (Maybe It’s You by Christy Hayes is a fun example).

And I enjoy most other tropes … in small doses.

So what’s your favourite trope, and what’s a great example of that trope in Christian romance?

This is the story of my feeble attempts to make sense of my life

Book Recommendation | The Secret Life of Sarah Hollenbeck by Bethany Turner

Wow! Wow! Wow!

I’ve read a lot of books this year—some good, some great—but few that I want to read again. Right. Now. The Secret Life of Sarah Hollenbeck is one.

Sarah McDermott divorces her high school sweetheart-husband after he cheats on her, and goes back to being Sarah Hollenbeck. Only she has no idea who Sarah Hollenbeck is, because she’s been the trophy wife for so long. She joins a book club, writes bad poetry, quits book club, and writes a naughty novel under the pen name of Raine de Bourgh. The novel goes immediately to the top of all the bestseller charts, as do the two sequels (because, donchaknow, that’s what happens to all debut novelists? Not).

And then Sarah Hollenbeck becomes a Christian. She says:

This book could be a detailed story of how my best friend led me to the Lord. It’s a good story … but that isn’t the story I need to tell. This is the story of my feeble attempts to make sense of my life.

Sarah realises she can’t write naughty novels any more. Instead, she joins her one remaining friend at church, where she immediately develops an inappropriate crush on the first guy she meets. Who happens to be the pastor. The married pastor. With a daughter. Oops.

I was picturing myself in his arms and imagining how his lips would feel on mine. And then I remembered that I was in church and that I had become a Christ-follower on Monday.

Fortunately for Sarah, the pastor turns out not to be married but widowed (fortunately for Sarah. Ben is somewhat taken aback at the thought of dating the notorious Raine de Bourgh, but he copes (lol). It’s interesting to watch their relationship unfold, because Ben’s first marriage was everything Sarah’s wasn’t.

Sarah decides to write Christian fiction, so reads some of what’s on sale:

The books I read didn’t feel realistic. At least, they weren’t my reality. Then again, my reality was messed up, so maybe I wasn’t the best judge.

I’ve had a lot of conversations along the same lines—too much Christian fiction doesn’t feel realistic (I’m not counting the suspense genre here. I’m perfectly happy for my reality not to include dead bodies and stalkers, and I’ll trust those authors are presenting their information accurately).

Sarah goes on to make another point that’s recently come up in my reading and freelance editing (yes, I’m a freelance fiction editor specialising in Christian romance): how the women in the books don’t seem to feel desire or temptation. Yes, I’d noticed that as well. In fact, I’ve read Christian romances where the hero and heroine had all the romantic attraction of siblings (that has even more of a yuck factor than a sex scene). I don’t want lots of hot-and-heavy in Christian fiction, but there needs to be some sexual attraction. Otherwise it’s not realistic.

I loved the humor.

There’s a scene where Sarah shares some poetry with her book club. Most are politely complimentary. One woman is not:

What’s with the subjects? It’s like you just flipped through the yellow pages until something jumped out at you. What’s next? Exterminators?
I looked at the papers in my hands and sheepishly shuffled “Insecticide Nuclear Winter” to the bottom of the stack.

And she (Sarah Hollenbeck? Bethany Turner? Both?) has great taste in actors:

Can you believe I couldn’t even get Martin Freeman to give me Benedict Cumberbatch’s phone number?

Yeah. I’ve got to read this again.

Recommended for fans of contemporary romance with humour, from authors such as Kara Isaac, Beth Troy, Becky Wade, and Melissa Tagg.

Thanks to Baker Publishing and NetGalley for providing a free ebook for review.

About The Secret Life of Sarah Hollenbeck

Becoming a Christian is the best and worst thing that has ever happened to Sarah Hollenbeck. Best because, well, that’s obvious. Worst because, up to this point, she’s made her very comfortable living as a well-known, bestselling author of steamy romance novels that would leave the members of her new church blushing. Now Sarah is trying to reconcile her past with the future she’s chosen. She’s still under contract with her publisher and on the hook with her enormous fan base for the kind of book she’s not sure she can write anymore. She’s beginning to think that the church might frown on her tithing on royalties from a “scandalous” book. And the fact that she’s falling in love with her pastor doesn’t make things any easier.
With a powerful voice, penetrating insight, and plenty of wit, Bethany Turner explodes onto the scene with a debut that isn’t afraid to deal with the thorny realities of living the Christian life.

Find The Secret Life of Sarah Hollenbeck online at:

Amazon US | Amazon UK | Amazon AU

ChristianBook | Goodreads

About Bethany Turner

Bethany TurnerBethany Turner has been writing since the second grade, when she won her first writing award for her essay explaining why, if she could have lunch with any person throughout history, she would choose John Stamos. Do-gooders all around her chose Reagan, Thatcher and Gorbachev, but it was Bethany’s ode to Uncle Jesse which walked away with the prize. More than 25 years later, her writing is still infused with pop culture and off-the-beaten-track ideas.

Bethany is a born and bred Kentucky girl who relocated to Colorado in 2001, three years after meeting the love of her life in a chat room, back before anyone knew that wasn’t always a good idea. Thankfully, it worked out in this case, and she and her husband are the proud parents of two boys. In 2014 Bethany walked away from her career as a bank vice president to step out in faith as a writer. Since then, God has not only opened doors in the publishing world, but has also called her to full-time ministry serving on a church staff. She is an innovative systems administrator for a rural church that is passionate about reaching the unchurched.

Find Bethany Turner online at:

Website | BookBub | FacebookInstagram | Pinterest | Twitter

Read the introduction to The Secret Life of Sarah Hollenbeck below:

Bookish Question #30: Who is your favourite Christian romance author?

Bookish Question #30: Who is your favourite Christian romance author?

Yes, I know.

Asking you to name your favourite Christian romance author is like asking you to choose a favourite child or grandchild. It’s impossible.

If you’re anything like me, it depends on your mood at the time someone asks the question.

Sometimes I need to read something funny.

If so, I’m going to suggest authors like Kara Isaac, Beth Troy, Bethany Turner, Jen Turano, or Karen Witemeyer.

Other times, I’ll be in the mood for something with a little more depth. In that case, I might turn to Courtney Walsh, Carolyn Miller, or Denise Hunter.

Sometimes I’ll want a specific genre or trope: Regency romance (Kristi Ann Hunter), mail order bride (Nerys Leigh), speculative utopian (Keely Brooke Keith), or Victorian village (Julie Klassen).

And some days, if you ask me who my favourite Christian romance author is, it will be the author of whichever book I’ve just finished or reviewed (because writing the review reminds me of the book all over again). Ask me again in a week, and it will be someone else.

What about you? Who is your favourite Christian romance author?

Book Recommendation | Uncharted Hope by Keely Brooke 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:

Website | Facebook 

Find Uncharted Hope online at:

Amazon US | Amazon AU | Amazon UK | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository | iBooks

Read the introduction to Uncharted Hope below:

First Line Friday

First Line Friday | Week 6 | The Promise of Rayne

It’s Friday, which means it’s time to open the book nearest you and share the first line.

Today I’m sharing from The Promise of Rayne by Nicole Deese.

Desperation undermines wisdom. Her grandfather’s legendary words crash-landed in the space between Rayne Shelby’s heart and head, though they did nothing to combat her frantic thoughts.

This book comes highly recommended, and is sitting on my to-read pile. Yes, it’s an actual paper book, not an ebook! That makes it perfect for winter reading in the spa (aka hot tub).

About The Promise of Rayne

Rayne Shelby has spent her entire life trying to earn the approval of her high-powered family, with the hope of one day managing her late grandfather’s prestigious Idaho lodge. But when she makes a mistake that puts her future in jeopardy, she faces an impossible choice: defy her family or deny her dream. The only way to fix the mess she’s created is to enlist the help of her neighbor, Levi, the apprentice of her family’s greatest enemy. And if Rayne gets caught crossing the divided property lines, the consequences will be irreparable.

Levi Harding has never forgotten the August night he shared with Rayne when they were teens—or the way she later rejected him. Despite his warring instincts, he can’t ignore her plea for help or the spark that’s ignited between them. But now, as wildfires bear down on their town and family secrets are revealed, their newfound alliance might just go up in smoke.

Amazon US | Amazon UK | Amazon AU | Goodreads

You can check out what these lovely FirstLineFriday bloggers are sharing today:

Bookworm Mama | Singing Librarian Books | Faithfully Bookish

Radiant Light | Encouraging Words from the Tea Queen

All the Book Blog Names are Taken | Robin’s Nest

Fiction Aficionado | Bibliophile Reviews | Kathleen Denly

Lauraine’s Notes | With A Joyful Noise | A Baker’s Perspective

Joy of Reading | C Jane Read | Moments Dipped in Ink

Molly’s Cafinated Reads | Romances of the Cross | Christian Fiction Girl

It’s Storytime With Van Daniker | Reading Is My SuperPower | Alicia G Ruggieri

If you would like to join FirstLineFriday, contact Carrie at at Reading Is My SuperPower, Rachel at Bookworm Mama, Sydney at Singing Librarian Books, or Beth at Faithfully Bookish. And check out my previous FirstLineFriday posts.

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

Bookish Question 19

Bookish Question #19: What’s the best Christian Romance Novel?

This is another fact-finding post in preparation for my upcoming presentation at the 2017 Romance Writers of New Zealand Conference. In case you missed it, I’m presenting on Christian Romance: the biggest genre you’ve never heard of.

Last week we discussed the (not easy) question of how you define Christian fiction in general, and Christian romance in particular. Well, it’s a romance writer’s conference. That’s what they want to read.

As part of my presentation, I’d like to be able to recommend some excellent examples of Christian romance novels.

What’s the novel you’ve read over and over because you love it so much? What novel do you loan out to friends over and over again? What novel do you recommend to people who ask you what they should read?

More importantly, why?

Do you love and recommend that novel because of the plot? The subplot? The characters? The writing? The way it shows the Christian faith? The setting? The author? The emotion? The theme? The message?

What’s the best Christian romance novel?

Bookish Question 18

Bookish Question #18: How do you define Christian Fiction?

This is a cross-post with Australasian Christian Writers. Click here to add to the discussion.

I have an ulterior motive in asking this question.

I’m presenting at the 2017 Romance Writers of New Zealand conference later this month. My topic is Christian Romance: the biggest romance genre you’ve never heard of.

I’ve been to two previous Romance Writers of New Zealand conferences, and met many authors writing all kinds of romance, from sweet to erotica. Some of these writers are Christians, who confess their worry at breaking in to the writing world when they don’t want to include sex scenes in their novels. They’ve barely heard of “clean” or sweet romance, let alone Christian romance.

That’s what prompted me to pitch the topic to the RWNZ Conference organisers last year (among others). And I guess it intrigued them as well, because this is the topic they asked me to speak on.

Here’s what I pitched to RWNZ:

Romance is one of the most popular genres in the US-driven Christian fiction market, but many New Zealand authors—even Christian authors—don’t know it exists. This session will:

  • Introduce authors to the Christian fiction genre and the CBA market.
  • Highlight the main Christian fiction imprints and publishers.
  • Consider how Christian fiction (and especially Christian romance) differs from general market fiction.
  • Discuss Christian vs. inspirational vs. crossover fiction, and the emerging trends for ‘clean reads’ and ‘edgy Christian fiction.’

Parts of the presentation will be easy. Who publishes Christian fiction? Easy—check the free download available from my website, www.christianediting.co.nz.

Which agents represent Christian authors? Also easy, thanks to a free download compiled by Michael Hyatt, the ex-CEO of Thomas Nelson.

And where can you buy Christian books? At Christian book stores—like Koorong.com in Australia, or Manna Christian Books and Sonshine Books here in New Zealand. And at Amazon. Of course.

But this leaves one big question. How do we define Christian fiction?

It sounds easy, but it isn’t. I’ve written several blog posts on defining Christian fiction and Christian romance. There is no easy answer.

What do you think, either as a reader or as a writer (or both)? How do you define Christian fiction? Specifically, Christian romance?

I’d love to know what you think!