Saturday, January 30, 2010

Lethal Dreams

Title: Lethal Dreams
Author: Anne Patrick
ISBN: 978-1-936167-08-1

Blurb from Amazon:

"Dr. Erin Jacobs is making a name for herself in the sports world. Drawing on her own life experiences, she encourages and inspires athletes to recover from career ending injuries. So why would someone want to hurt the good doctor?

Detective Logan Sinclair is determined to find that answer. He’s been mesmerized by Erin from the moment she found him and his partner shot in an alleyway. Since that night their lives have never been the same. Will Logan be able to solve the puzzle of who wants Erin out of the way before it’s too late? And if so, what impact will those answers have on their lives?"

My take:

I'm a fairly new follower of Anne's blog, but I was aware of the quality of her work there so I was excited she asked me to review her book. Swamped, but excited. You can read more about this book or her other work at Suspense by Anne.

Both her main characters are very appealing. Logan is protective, considerate, determined and jealous. He's also a man of strong convictions and faith with a weakness for cats and cartoons, especially Road Runner. Erin is generous, loyal, great at her job and invested in the community. She also has a lot of baggage she's carrying around from her past that keeps her at arm's length from God and men ~ especially police.

So, the author throws these two characters together, stirs in the bad guys who try not once but several times to get rid of Erin, and sparks are bound to fly. The relationship evolves naturally and is fun to watch. There is some tension, but this is a tame romance. The author labels her books as "Sweet" and I think that's appropriate.

She doesn't limit herself with solving the one mystery of who is trying to kill Erin. There are mysteries that come up during the course of their investigation and a surprise or two as well. :o) This is a well-paced suspense novel. I didn't find any part of it lagging - but it also didn't feel like a runaway train.

There is also a whole host of secondary cast members to keep you on your toes. From famous clients that may or may not be interested in being more than friends with Erin to her boss that she sets up on a date, and the kids from the shelter ~ you meet a lot of interesting people who help flesh out the story and her character.

If you're looking for a sweet romantic suspense, you may want to give Lethal Dreams a try.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Swinging on A Star

Title: Swinging on a Star
Author: Janice Thompson
ISBN: 978-0-8007-3343-8

From the back cover:

Bella Rossi's life is nearing perfection. Not only does she have the perfect guy, but she's also running a successful wedding planning business and is about to plan its most ambitious wedding yet -- a Renaissance themed fairy tale come true, complete with period costumes and foods, horse-drawn carriages, and even a castle. There's only one hitch. The best man just happens to be Hollywood's hottest and most eligible bachelor, and he's showing an interest in Bella. Oh and did we mention he's staying at her house to avoid the paparazzi?

With all the pressure surrounding this wedding, Bella's not sure she's going to make it through. Add her starstruck sister and her feuding aunt and uncle, and you've got a recipe for disaster -- and a lot of laughs.

My take:

I couldn't wait to get my hands on this book ever since I finished Fools Rush In. I knew it was going to be just as good, if not better, when I read (on page 1 and available on the Amazon preview) "If Aunt Rosa hadn't landed that gig on the Food Network, I probably wouldn't have ended up on the national news. And if their pesky camera crew hadn't shown up at our house on one of the most important days of my life, I'm pretty sure I wouldn't have been hauled off to the Galveston County jail."

Now any book that starts off with the main character talking about how she landed herself in jail ~ and due to the Food Network no less ~ you know has got to be interesting, especially when you know the Rossi clan. :o)

It's rare for a sequel to stand up to the original in movies. This book stands up to the first. We see Bella move from the first blush of love with her handsome cowboy to thinking about whether their love is the kind that will last and the difference between love and attraction. More than one romance blooms in this book and though Janice does a great job at making us laugh, she also grabs our hearts and makes us care about these people. My teenage son wants to lodge a formal complaint about how many times I said "awww" while reading this book. :o)

The author manages to tickle our funny bone, stir our hearts, challenge us not to judge others based on... anything and encourage us to dare to do anything put on our hearts. It's all tied up in a fabulous package of memorable characters who live long after the cover is shut. Treat yourself, you'll be glad you did.

Make sure you've eaten something first, otherwise you'll get hungry while reading all about Aunt Rosa's cooking. You'll have to get up and make yourself a snack to eat while reading. Then you might get food on your pages and then where would you be? lol

Monday, January 25, 2010

The Noticer

Title: The Noticer
Author Andy Andrews
ISBN: 978-0-7852-2921-6

From the back cover:

Poverty. A Failing marriage. Old Age. Lost dreams. A failing business. An unsure future. To the residents of Orange Beach, Alabama, these desperations are dead ends. Hopeless, barren places with no chance of change.

But to an old drifter named Jones with a gift for seeing what others miss, there is no such thing as a dead end. It only takes a little "perspective," he says, to recognize the miracles in our moments, the seeds of greatness tucked into our struggles.

As Jones mysteriously makes his way through this coastal town and into the searching hearts of its residents, he offers simple wisdom and sound hope.

"My contention is that you are right where you are supposed to be. This may look like barren sand to you, but nothing could be further from the truth. I say to you that as you lay your head down tonight, you are sleeping on fertile ground. Think, learn, pray, plan, dream. For soon... you will become."

My take:

This book is a more or less a collection of stories where a character called Jones meets people and shares with them wisdom that is conventional in most respects, though it comes in a round-a-about way. For example: There is nothing out of the ordinary about sharing that an older person is not useless and has quite a lot left to offer to others. The way Jones approaches the conversation and the other "links" he makes are not so conventional ~ though I have heard the argument before.

I enjoyed the stories about the changed lives and how he brought together all different age groups and nationalities. What gave me pause was that this is an inspirational book, published by a Christian publisher, and there is no mention of Christ. Jones thought people in a church should smile more often (I agree). One dying man is told to keep his fork because, like his mother's big holiday meals, the best is yet to come (which reminds me of an email story), but there really isn't much in the way of Christianity.

Jones himself appears and then leaves just as quickly. He knows things he can't possibly know. His presence seems to calm people and make them agree to do things they wouldn't ordinarily do. He also seems to be kind of an all things to all people. The Hispanics call him Garcia and see him as one of their own. The Chinese have their own name for him and other people claim he's black.

All in all I think there is a lot of wisdom in these pages. Just about anyone can benefit from reading one or more of the encounters with Jones. This is also kind of a "Pay it Forward" deal. By learning these lessons, you can become a noticer yourself. You can learn more about The Noticer Project here: The Noticer Project I thank Thomas Nelson for my copy.

Have any of you had someone like Jones in your life that came along at just the right time and mentored you or just said exactly what you needed to hear?

Buy The Noticer

Friday, January 22, 2010

Mr. Darcy Broke my Heart

Title: Mr. Darcy Broke my Heart
Author: Beth Pattillo
ISBN: 978-0-8249-4793-4

From the back cover:

Claire Prescott doesn't understand Mr. Darcy's appeal. She's been comfortably dating Neil, a nice- if a bit negligent- sports fanatic. But when she agrees to stand in for her sister at a Jane Austen seminar in Oxford, England, she finds herself holding a lost version of Pride and Prejudice. Scholars thought Austen's original manuscript was destroyed centuries ago, but as Claire reads the beloved author's first draft, she discovers that Austen didn't always have Darcy in mind for Lizzie Bennet.

And when a tall, dark, and dashing stranger crosses Claire's path, will she suddenly discover her inner Lizzie Bennet? Neil's unexpected arrival in Oxford complicates Claire's journey to finding her true romantic lead, and she discovers that finding the right hero can be more difficult that she ever imagined.

My take:

First of all, don't you just love this cover? I read another book this author wrote called Jane Austen Ruined My Life. It is related to this one, but both books stand alone and both are fabulous ~ if you like Jane Austen.

There is a current popularity for all things Austen. I don't mind at all ~ but it can lead to a certain amount of been there-read-that syndrome. The basic concept of these books is not brand new. I don't know how many fans have dreamed of discovering letters or manuscripts tucked away somewhere that escaped a fiery death. What makes this interesting is the way she goes about telling the story and the characters she uses to tell it.

This is a packed novel. If you are just a casual fan of Jane Austen, you can learn a lot about her just from reading this story. There are also mysteries to be solved. Some of them are simple and resolve themselves quickly and some seem dangerous. People are not always who or what they seem to be and many of them change over the course of the novel.

Then we come to the love story. The back cover really told you just about as much as I can without giving too much away. Let me just add that the romantic scenes are wonderfully written. Claire has a time where she isn't sure which end is up as far as her heart is concerned. At one point, I didn't know who she was going to end up with, and I can usually guess these things in advance.

Claire was such a complex person. I liked that she wasn't perfect. She was someone I could relate to in at least a few situations. All the characters, with one possible exception, were people I felt I could meet on any street. Claire's struggles felt authentic, and the fact that she didn't overcome them right away was real as well.

There are incredible secondary characters like Harriet, an old woman who lives near the college and loves to talk to Claire over tea ~ when she remembers who Claire is. Then there's Martin. He's an older gentleman who adopted Claire during the seminar and looks after her. He's an expert on all things Austen but came anyway, just to spend time with people who love Jane Austen.

And that's what this book is really about ~ love. What we do for it, how it changes us and why, who we love... what real love is. It doesn't just examine romantic love, but looks at it in all its glorious facets. What the love of parents, friends, and siblings looks like.

What's your favorite love story so far this year? How about of all time?

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

The Silent Governess

Title: The Silent Governess
Author: Julie Klassen
ISBN: 978-0-7642-0707-5

From the back cover:

Olivia Keene is fleeing her own secret. She never intended to overhear his.

But now that she has, what is Lord Bradley to do with her? He cannot let her go, for were the truth to get out, he would lose everything-- his reputation, his inheritance, his very home.

He gives Miss Keene little choice but to accept a post at Brightwell Court, where he can make certain she does not spread what she heard. Keeping an eye on the young woman as she cares for the children, he finds himself drawn to her, even as he struggles against the growing attraction. The clever Miss Keene is definitely hiding something.

Moving, mysterious, and romantic, The Silent Governess takes readers inside the intriguing life of a nineteenth-century governess in an English manor house where all is not as it appears.

My take:

From the very beginning of the book you are whisked into a world you know will be different. Young Olivia Keene can solve math problems in her head incredibly fast and it allows her access to areas that normally would have been considered taboo. When she makes one fateful decision, all that comes to an end.

The story shifts to several years later and one desperate act forces her to flee home and family. When she innocently overhears a conversation not meant for her ears, she is arrested, attacked and left without a voice. Lord Bradley sees to it she is released and gets her medical attention, but he must also protect his own interests. He presses her into service as an under nurse at Brightwell. Although it is expected that her voice will at some point return, her continued silence is part of the bargain. She accepts.

Despite their rather hostile beginning, Lord Bradley sees how good Miss Keene is with the children and can't help but admire her ~ though he still doesn't trust her. Miss Keene initially believes Lord Bradley to be without heart. She sees the attention and generosity he lavishes on the children and warms to him as well. She cannot trust him with her own secret though.

This story has everything. There are all kinds of characters, and they are well drawn and interesting. I was fascinated by the way she created such variety~ not only in their type, but also in their responses to each other and their situations.

Mystery and surprises start almost from the first page and keep coming until the end. The romance is perfect. It builds slowly and very authentically. They care about what is important to each other, and they also feel all the natural feelings of anyone falling love... jealousy, doubt, excitement...

This is one of the best books I have read so far this year. I made a silly mistake and entered a contest for the book when I had already pre-ordered it from Amazon. That means you get to gain from my mistake. I am going to pass along my extra copy to one of you.

The normal rules apply. Only US entries please. Void where prohibited. A comment earns you one entry, become a follower and you get two, old followers get three and if you post about the contest you get four. Leave a valid email address in your comment box like this: leesmithwriting {at} yahoo{dot}com in order to qualify and for me to contact the winner. The contest will run until midnight on the 27th of January. I will announce the winner in this post on the 28th and contact them via email as well. If they don't respond within 48 hours, a new winner will be chosen. Thanks and good luck!

Sunday, January 17, 2010

First Impressions

Title: First Impressions
Author: Michelle Sutton
ISBN: 978-1-936000-67-8

Blurb: Sammie Carpenter understands how a uniform influences behavior. Wearing her Army fatigues puts her in the mindset of a soldier and donning her Class-A Uniform always helps her shift into Captain Mode. So what harm could come from her dressing like a saloon girl and strutting through the streets of Tombstone? She didn't know how to flirt to save her life, and she wasn't getting any younger.

When she met the lonesome stud cowboy, Jimmy, she knew he was the one. So why was their communication always so awkward? Couldn't he see that she was interested in him? No matter how hard she tried to win him over, she couldn't seem to get him to see past his first impression of her. But Sammie didn't give up easily. Somehow she would make him see that they were meant to be together, but how can she do that when all of her plans keep falling apart?

Video Trailer:

My Take:

If you've read my bio, you see that I was in the Army for a while. I did my training in Fort Huachuca, the area where this book takes place. In a lot of ways I could relate to what Sammie felt like. Michelle Sutton has once again dared to give us characters that are so true to life you could meet them at the gas station or live next door to them.

Sammie is good at her job, respected by her coworkers and yet feels as if she's left something behind in order to accomplish her goals. She still wants to be a woman ~ desired by men. At least that's what she tells herself. Her issues go much deeper than that though and flirting and hanging around Tombstone in a saloon girl outfit may get her more than she bargained for ~ in more ways than one.

Rustle up one tall, handsome cowboy and you have all you need to complicate things. This cowboy is a Christian, and doesn't want to fall for a saloon girl ~ even if her, um assets are well displayed, and everything about the woman herself is hard to resist.

The heat of the Arizona climate has nothing on the two of these people as they try to determine what they want out of life and each other.

I think this is an excellent example of realistic romance today. It shows how hard it is to try and avoid temptation, why we need people to stand strong with us and support us (not to mention those who are brave enough to tell us we're headed down the wrong path), and yet how wonderfully passionate romance can be when we find the one God has intended for us. Christian romance doesn't need to be limited to a peck on the cheek. This is the kind of book that would be great to share with a non-believing friend - or someone who thinks Christian romance is boring.

Just don't forget to bring the cold drinks, and be ready for anything. You never know where the conversation could lead. :o)

Friday, January 15, 2010

The Country House Courtship

Title: The Country House Courtship
Author: Linore Rose Burkard
ISBN: 978-0-7369-2799-4

From the back cover:

It has been five years since Ariana Forsythe married the Paragon, Mr. Phillip Mornay. Now, Ariana's sister, Miss Beatrice Forsythe, is seventeen and determined to marry advantageously as well. (Surely Ariana's society connexions all but guarantee Beatrice's success-- especially if Mr. Mornay is created a baronet by the Prince Regent! Ariana would be Viscountess Mornay.)

But the Mornays have disappeared from high society as they raise a family at their country estate. Can Beatrice persuade them to chaperone her in London? And what about her business with the curate, Mr. O'Brien, whom Beatrice had rashly promised to marry years earlier? She is too sophisticated now to settle for a mere clergyman-- despite his agreeable countenance and gentle, understanding ways.

When Mr. Tristan Barton becomes tenant of the Manor House, Beatrice's hopes seem to have found their object. But when Ariana falls gravely ill, secrets come to light, motives are revealed, and pretenses that were easy to keep up in the darkness begin to crumble. As hearts are bared and truths uncovered, a country house courtship like no other cannot be far behind!

My take:

Leave it to Linore Burkard to pack not one, but three love stories within one romance novel. Ariana and Mr. Mornay are still deeply in love. Their romance is felt throughout these pages. It is heartening to see when they have children roaming about, guests visiting, and even when they disagree, how their love for one another has grown through the course of their marriage.

They also play a very important role in helping Beatrice choose the type of marriage she would like to have. Initially she only sees the surface qualities their marriage offered Ariana, but with time she realizes the love they share would have been the same no matter what their financial situation. She is then free to choose a man she loves whether he is wealthy or not.

Her research into the times is always second to none. When serious illness with terrible fevers sweeps through the cities and then into the country as well, the doctors at the time don't know how to treat it and many die. It was disheartening to hear how they were using bleeding, smothering people with blankets and avoiding even cool compresses.

This was a book about relationships more than anything else. The author beautifully captured the interplay between families, rivals, friends, husband and wife... and all done in an era where the rules were different but the heart doesn't change. I would love to say it was a perfect ending to the series she's written about this family, but I'm still considering a petition for more books. :o)

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Fools Rush In

Title: Fools Rush In
Author: Janice Thompson
ISBN: 978-0-8007-3342-1

From the back cover:

Ever wonder how Italian sounds with a southern drawl?

Bella Rossi's life is just starting to get interesting. When her Italian-turned Texan parents hand over the family wedding planning business, Bella quickly books a Boot-Scootin' wedding that would make any Texan proud. There's only one catch- she doesn't know a thing about country music. Where will she find a deejay on such short notice who knows his Alan Jackson and George Strait? And will Bella ever get to plan her own wedding?

Fun, fresh and full of surprises, this flavorful combination of Italian and Tex-Mex highlights the hilarity that ensues when cultures clash.

My take:

I cannot believe how many outstanding books I have been reading in 2010. This is one of the very best so far. This author knows how to mix it up just right to come up with a story that leaves you pulling for the characters, laughing at just the right moments, biting your lip when things don't seem to be going right and then sighing with relief at all the happy moments. That doesn't even go into how often I was hungry with all the mouthwatering food mentioned. I swear I could almost scratch and sniff the pages.

The characters... all these adjectives come to mind. They were quirky, fun, amazing and original. Who would think to have the hero show up for the first time dirty and with sawdust in his hair? I won't even spoil the trio for you. That I'll save for when you read the book ~ which you really should. Both Bella's family and D.J.'s are real in the way they interact with each other and others.

This is a touching romance that also has multiple surprises in store. This is one I'll read again and I look forward to the rest of the books in the series. I hope she writes a lot faster than I do.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Havah ~ The Story of Eve

Title: Havah ~ The Story of Eve
Author: Tosca Lee
ISBN: 978-1-60006-124-0

From the back cover:

A single decision has the power to unravel mankind.

Created, not born.

The world's first woman, without flaw until one fateful choice. Now all humanity must pay for the mistake.

From paradise to exile, from immortality to the death of Adam, experience the dawn of mankind through the eyes of Eve ~ the woman first known as Havah.

My take:

I've never read anything by this author before but I can tell you she does her research. The author's notes and acknowledgments let you know how much work she put into each thought and idea before she put it on paper. Still, she had to use a great bit of imagination to create the world and people that come alive in this book.

The language sings. I tried to come up with a better word, but in light of the subject being covered, perhaps it fits. Since none of us were present, and the world today is nothing like the Garden of Eden, her descriptions were very important. All through the book the imagery is second to none.

Her portrayal of Adam & Eve (who go by many names) changes throughout the book. I think that's appropriate as they did change once sin entered into their lives, and then as they faced the consequences of that sin. The change that happened once they ate the fruit was written brilliantly. There could be no doubt what they lost and how badly it hurt and frightened them.

I really enjoyed the book. I thought it was an imaginative and well written version of a story some of us take for granted and forget to think about after we leave Sunday School. I did think it was slightly feminist in nature ~ probably owing in part to the fact it came from Eve's point of view and showed her bias.

I think the author intended to show women were considered equal by God, which has been distorted by some translators and modern religions. However, Eve often was rude and callous to Adam, named all the children and held his comments to God about the fruit against him, even though she passed blame to the serpent as well. They each sinned in the same way.

Eve also was very vain and jealous, often comparing herself to her daughters and later women who came to visit. Even in the Garden, she loved to listen to how beautiful she was, and remarked upon how she was faster than Adam and even most of the animals.

It also seemed like it was this "weakness" to like to hear how beautiful, smart and how like God she was (always told to her by the Serpent) that led her to listen to his other comments about the fruit. The Serpent was a very unusual character. His description and manner were very well done ~ and it is interesting how differently Adam & Eve respond to him.

The book doesn't end with the ousting from the Garden. The secondary characters and their tales are done just as well, though I may not agree with all her conclusions as to how things came to pass. I do think she did a terrific job weaving a tale where you can almost see the dust on the sandals and smell the bread baking.

This is a thought-provoking, entertaining, and very well written book. If you like Biblical fiction, consider picking up this one.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

How Do I Love Thee?

Title: How Do I Love Thee?
Author: Nancy Moser
ISBN: 978-0-7642-0501-9

From the back cover:

She dreams of love for others but never for herself...

Elizabeth Barrett is a published poet and a virtual prisoner in her own home. Blind family loyalty ties her to a tyrannical father who forbids any of his children to marry. Bedridden by chronic illness, she has resigned herself to simply existing. That is, until the letter arrives...

"I love your verses with all my heart," writes Robert Browning, an admiring fellow poet. As friendly correspondence gives way to something more, Elizabeth discovers that Robert's love is not for her poetry alone. Might God grant her more than mere existence? And will she risk defying her father in pursuit of true happiness?

My take:

I'm missing my husband and this book didn't help. If you need help believing in true love, this is your book. Their story is overwhelmingly beautiful. I remember studying her ~ way back in high school ~ and just getting a small idea of how deeply they cared for one another. I didn't do the kind of research the author did, and hearing it told this way... well you might need a stack of tissues for the happy tears.

I enjoyed the way the author brought about such interesting themes as the difference between a controlling and freeing love, what it means to honor father and mother and how good people have twisted the idea, and a few others you can discover for yourself.

I was touched by parts of their story I didn't know before. I think they were both wonderful people who loved each other with their whole hearts ~ and unconditionally. Everyone should be so blessed. I could relate to what they went through in some ways and how they were each other's strength as well.

My one complaint is that such a highly romantic couple didn't seem to have much passion. More attention is paid to the physical sensations Elizabeth has when wondering if she's jealous when he kisses her hand the first time than their first kiss (which happens right after she accepts his marriage proposal). She thinks it happened too easily and he must have kissed a lot of hands . Since he claims to be a "supremely passionate man," that didn't feel right. It was as if something was off because there was such intensity in their correspondence, even in the risk they took to be together ~ and then the physical aspects of their romance were so chaste that it almost appeared as if the romance was reserved to their writing.

At one point in the story Elizabeth says she "lived for the post." Do you still write and receive letters and cards or are you an all electronic person? How about books? Do you prefer paper books or e-books? Have you ever had a long distance relationship?

True Romance

Those of you who have known me for a while ~ or personally ~ know I treasure my utterly sweet husband. He has to put up with a lot because of my health problems... but he is and always has been so generous and romantic. Think white knight, romance novel hero ~ the works. That's just who he is.

We had a hard 2009. I've never been so happy to wave good-bye to a year before in my life. Through it all he never stopped being my greatest supporter and best friend.

I got sent this story in my email and it made me think about him.


When I was a little boy, my mom liked to make breakfast food for dinner every now and then. And I remember one night in particular when she had made breakfast after a long, hard day at work. On that evening so long ago, my mom placed a plate of eggs, sausage and extremely burned biscuits in front of my dad. I remember waiting to see if anyone noticed! Yet all my dad did was reach for his biscuit, smile at my mom and ask me how my day was at school. I don't remember what I told him that night, but I do remember watching him smear butter and jelly on that biscuit and eat every bite!

When I got up from the table that evening, I remember hearing my mom apologize to my dad for burning the biscuits. And I'll never forget what he said: "Baby, I love burned biscuits."

Later that night, I went to kiss Daddy good night and I asked him if he really liked his biscuits burned.. He wrapped me in his arms and said, "Your Momma put in a hard day at work today and she's real tired.. And besides - a little burnt biscuit never hurt anyone!"

You know, life is full of imperfect things... and imperfect people. I'm not the best housekeeper or cook. What I've learned over the years is that learning to accept each other's faults - and choosing to celebrate each other's differences - is one of the most important keys to creating a healthy, growing, and lasting relationship.

And that's my prayer for you today. That you will learn to take the good, the bad, and the ugly parts of your life and lay them at the feet of God. Because in the end, He's the only One who will be able to give you a relationship where a burnt biscuit isn't a deal-breaker!

-- Author Unknown

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Signed Copy of The Country House Courtship

I'm having my first contest of the year and you're all invited. :o)

The Country House Courtship is the much-awaited final book in the series by Linore Rose Burkard. I really liked the first two books and pre-ordered this one, but it has been so popular that Amazon just notified me that my copy cannot be shipped until the end of the month. :o( So, one of you will be much luckier than I will be. The author has agreed to send an autographed copy to a reader of my blog as long as I have at least 10 distinct comments.

The rules of the contest will be: 1. Leave a comment (+1 entry), 2. Become a Follower (+2), 3. Established Follower (+3), 4. Advertise the contest on your blog (+4), 5. Chances of winning determined by number of entries and dependent on enough people posting. 6. Void where prohibited. 7. Only U.S. entries allowed. 8. The contest will end on 13 Jan. That is the date I will announce the winner, so all entries and comments must be made by midnight the night before (Central Time). The winner is chosen randomly by a disinterested party (not me).

Now for the fun stuff!

Short description of The Country House Courtship

England, 1818: It has been five years since Ariana Forsythe married The Paragon, Mr. Phillip Mornay. Now, Ariana's sister, Miss Beatrice Forsythe, is seventeen and determined to marry advantageously as well. (Surely Ariana's society connexions all but guarantee Beatrice's success-especially if Mr. Mornay is created a baronet by the Prince Regent!

But the Mornay's have disappeared from high society as they raise a family at their country estate. Can Beatrice persuade them to chaperone her in London? And what about her business with the curate, Mr. O'Brien, whom Beatrice rashly promised to marry years earlier? She is too sophisticated now to settle for a mere clergyman-despite his agreeable countenance and gentle, understanding ways. When Mr. Tristan Barton becomes tenant of the Manor House, Beatrice's hopes seem to have found their object. But when Ariana falls gravely ill, secrets come to light, motives are revealed, and pretenses that are easy to keep up in the darkness begin to crumble. As hearts are bared and truths uncovered, a country house courtship like no other cannot be far behind!

Fans of Linore's first books, Before the Season Ends, and The House on Grosvenor Square, will be delighted with final addition to the Regency Inspirational Series, as will all readers of historical romance.

Would you like to know more? Here's a link to read an excerpt from the first chapter:

Excerpt PDF from "The Country House Courtship"

What do you hope for when you get to the end of a series like this one? Have you read the other two books? I hope you enjoy the contest. :o)

Monday, January 4, 2010

The Lightkeeper's Daughter

Title: The Lightkeeper's Daughter
Author: Colleen Coble
ISBN: 978-1-59554-267-0

From the back cover:

Addie Sullivan leads a quiet life in a northern Californian lighthouse. She mourns the death of her father and endures her mother's bitterness, until the night a storm brings an injured stranger and a dark secret to her home. The man insists she is not who she thinks she is, but rather "Julia Eaton" - the child long lost and feared dead by her wealthy family. Seizing the chance to be reunited with the Eatons, Addie leaves her lighthouse home but decides to keep her true identity a secret until they can unravel the mystery.

Addie loves the Eatons' palatial home tucked away among the California redwood forests. She feels secure with the jovial family, adores the young boy who is her charge as governess, and finds romance with his father John, a young widower. But sinister shadows overtake Addie's joy. As dusty rooms and secret compartments give up their clues about her past, Addie finds a faith and a love she could never have guessed. To embrace this new world of promise is to risk her life; but to run away is to risk losing the greatest love she's ever known.

My take:

First a confession. Many of you know I'm in the process of writing a book. Part of that process includes reading. I read a lot. The book idea that came to me was slightly out of my normal scope of reading material. Okay ~ way off the map. :o) I've never read suspense before ~ plus it's contemporary (but we won't go there). So, I've been asking around for who does it well. Colleen Coble was was of the first names I was given. Now I don't generally enjoy homework, but let me tell you, I'm starting off 2010 in grand style because this is yet another fabulous read.

Her back cover sets up the story beautifully, but in Addie Sullivan we have a character that faces conflict in every form. She doesn't know who to trust in this new "family" of hers. Someone wanted her to stay hidden away and she doesn't know who or why. There are stories told about her dashing naval love interest that don't paint him in a particularly good light. She doesn't want to believe them, but she hasn't known him for very long ~ could he want something to happen to her so his son can inherit?

Everyone seems to have a motive and nobody acts in a way she can trust. Throw in the fact that once she is accepted into the family, she gets caught up and forgets to seek God... and finds herself trying to please her new father instead... You can imagine how twisted up things can get.

I was under the impression this author did contemporary books only. I don't go through and check for historical accuracy, but I can tell you she did a wonderful job with the most important things in this kind of story: writing, characters, romance and suspense/mystery.

Addie Sullivan popped off the page in living color. She was so vibrant and alive, I wished I could sit down with her (or splash in a creek) and eat ice cream with her until we both couldn't move. I have to believe the author spent a good amount of time on her because she felt too real for just a paragraph or two of notes.

The other characters were also very well done and had strengths and weaknesses that had you pulling for them and caught you off guard. She pulled the wool over my eyes more than once. I think this is the most twists and surprises I have seen in a book yet ~ and it wasn't confusing. The whole thing felt like a wonderful romantic action adventure movie. Perhaps Hollywood will come calling. :o)

I know everyone has their niche they like to read ~ or don't like. Don't let the beautiful cover stop you from trying this book because you think it will be too "Austen-esque." (Is that a word?) This is one of those books that kind of transcends genre and just is a great story. I hope you'll give it a try and let me know how you like it.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

The Raven Saint

Title: The Raven Saint
Author: M.L. Tyndall
ISBN: 978-1-60260-158-1

From the back cover:

Grace Westcott has spent her entire life serving God and helping the poor-- not to mention trying to save the souls of her two wayward sisters. But while on an errand of mercy, she is kidnapped by a French mercenary and told she will be sold to a Spanish Don in Columbia.

Determined to hold on to her faith and see God in every situation, she believes she must have been sent to help someone find God's love. But no one will listen to her pleas, warnings, and prayers.

When Grace's situation grows far worse than she could imagine, she is forced to face her own human weaknesses. But she isn't prepared to face her biggest weakness of all--falling in love with the nefarious captain, Rafe Dubois.

Will Grace discover God's purpose for this harrowing journey? And what will she do when she realizes His purpose for her is not to redeem the captain and his crew, but herself?

My take:

I'm so glad I got this book and it was my first book of 2010. What a way to start the year! I love MaryLu Tyndall and this series so much, but the saying "saved the best for last" really fit this book well for many reasons. Not the least of which is the dashing mercenary captain, Rafe Dubois. I loved his character. In full disclosure, it didn't hurt that the author let it slip she pictured Rafe looking like Orlando Bloom in the Pirates of the Caribbean movies.

I ask you, what's not to love? lol

Seriously, this book tackled an issue a lot of Christian fiction doesn't. Sometimes we're the problem. Sometimes we're the ones needing fixing~ for a whole lot of things. Grace isn't a bad person, but she has become more than a little judgmental and it's hurting her relationships with friends and family, and ultimately, it doesn't please God.

How she comes to that revelations and deals with it is both realistic, tender and at times somewhat funny. Add to that a serious and passionate attraction to a man she is certain has to be evil incarnate ~ and poor Grace has quite the journey.

Rafe is a complex character in his own right. He doesn't want to be attracted to Grace any more than she wants him and yet... he can't seem to keep his thoughts from her. She is nothing like he expected her to be. Will he be able to hand her over to the Don knowing she isn't who he thought she was? Plus, just like the rest of the books in the series, there are plenty of other surprises and danger in store for the whole crew.

The romance in this book sizzled like yummy bacon on a Saturday morning. Every character reached out and grabbed your heart in their own way. MaryLu Tyndall captured not only Rafe and Grace, but colorful characters like Father Alers ~ a crewman who had once been a Jesuit but had given up his faith, Thorn ~ Rafe's first mate and a man who seems as out of place on the ship as Grace, but is determined to remain, and who can leave out Spyglass? That's Rafe's cat who becomes more enamored with Grace than Rafe and saves her from trouble.

I hope you'll consider adding this one to your reading wish list; I know you won't be disappointed.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Happy New Year!

I was looking for some interesting quotes about the new year, resolutions and how it has been celebrated and came upon these from The Quote Garden:

Youth is when you're allowed to stay up late on New Year's Eve. Middle age is when you're forced to. ~Bill Vaughn

An optimist stays up until midnight to see the new year in. A pessimist stays up to make sure the old year leaves. ~Bill Vaughan

Many people look forward to the new year for a new start on old habits. ~Author Unknown

A New Year's resolution is something that goes in one year and out the other. ~Author Unknown

Be always at war with your vices, at peace with your neighbors, and let each new year find you a better man. ~Benjamin Franklin

Never tell your resolution beforehand, or it's twice as onerous a duty. ~John Selden

Year's end is neither an end nor a beginning but a going on, with all the wisdom that experience can instill in us. ~Hal Borland

Cheers to a new year and another chance for us to get it right. ~Oprah Winfrey

Ring out the old, ring in the new,
Ring, happy bells, across the snow:
The year is going, let him go;
Ring out the false, ring in the true.
~Alfred, Lord Tennyson, 1850

Every man should be born again on the first day of January. Start with a fresh page. Take up one hole more in the buckle if necessary, or let down one, according to circumstances; but on the first of January let every man gird himself once more, with his face to the front, and take no interest in the things that were and are past. ~Henry Ward Beecher

For last year's words belong to last year's language
And next year's words await another voice.
And to make an end is to make a beginning.
~T.S. Eliot, "Little Gidding"

We will open the book. Its pages are blank. We are going to put words on them ourselves. The book is called Opportunity and its first chapter is New Year's Day. ~Edith Lovejoy Pierce

Yesterday, everybody smoked his last cigar, took his last drink and swore his last oath. Today, we are a pious and exemplary community. Thirty days from now, we shall have cast our reformation to the winds and gone to cutting our ancient shortcomings considerably shorter than ever. ~Mark Twain

People are so worried about what they eat between Christmas and the New Year, but they really should be worried about what they eat between the New Year and Christmas. ~Author Unknown

And ye, who have met with Adversity's blast,
And been bow'd to the earth by its fury;
To whom the Twelve Months, that have recently pass'd
Were as harsh as a prejudiced jury -
Still, fill to the Future! and join in our chime,
The regrets of remembrance to cozen,
And having obtained a New Trial of Time,
Shout in hopes of a kindlier dozen.
~Thomas Hood

Drop the last year into the silent limbo of the past. Let it go, for it was imperfect, and thank God that it can go. ~Brooks Atkinson

Each age has deemed the new-born year
The fittest time for festal cheer.
~Walter Scott

But can one still make resolutions when one is over forty? I live according to twenty-year-old habits. ~Andre Gide

One resolution I have made, and try always to keep, is this: To rise above the little things. ~John Burroughs

It wouldn't be New Year's if I didn't have regrets. ~William Thomas

We spend January 1 walking through our lives, room by room, drawing up a list of work to be done, cracks to be patched. Maybe this year, to balance the list, we ought to walk through the rooms of our lives... not looking for flaws, but for potential. ~Ellen Goodman

May all your troubles last as long as your New Year's resolutions. ~Joey Adams

He who breaks a resolution is a weakling;
He who makes one is a fool.
~F.M. Knowles

The object of a New Year is not that we should have a new year. It is that we should have a new soul and a new nose; new feet, a new backbone, new ears, and new eyes. Unless a particular man made New Year resolutions, he would make no resolutions. Unless a man starts afresh about things, he will certainly do nothing effective. ~G.K. Chesterton

I think in terms of the day's resolutions, not the year's. ~Henry Moore


I haven't made any resolutions in several years. I do like the idea of a fresh start though. I like that about each new day, new week, new month... I think it's nice to think about starting over and leaving the past behind. I guess that's why I don't do resolutions anymore. They seem always to tie you to whatever failures you believe you've had in the past. Goals are a more positive statement I suppose.

How about you? Do you make resolutions each year? Are you good about keeping them? What's your favorite thing about the the new year?