Fiction Faith & Foodies

Fiction Faith & Foodies: May 2014

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Here to Stay by Melissa Tagg ~ Sharing My Review

Purchase Link
About Here to Stay ~ After playing nomad for five years, Blake Hunziker has finally had enough of adventure. Not sure what reception he'll get from everyone back in Whisper Shore, he's stunned at not only a warm welcome from his hometown but also a job offer. The job is his if he can successfully pull off the annual Christmas Festival. If only he knew the first thing about coordinating events...

If there's one thing Autumn Kingsley knows, it's Whisper Shore. For years, she's been stuck running her family's inn when all she wants is to see the world. Now she has a visit scheduled from a potential investor who could take over the inn, as well as a dream job offer in Paris. But with just two weeks to whip the inn into shape, her chance at escape is a long shot.

The Hunzikers and the Kingsleys may not get along, but Blake knows Autumn's the only one who can help him. She agrees to a trade--she'll help with the Festival and he'll help with inn repairs. But what was meant to be a simple deal quickly becomes much more than that when the guy who's done running away joins forces with the girl who can't wait to leave.

Sharing My Review~
Oooh, I loved this book. Everything from the ornery secondary characters to the quaint town of Whisper Shore to the funny little "happenings." And, oy, the romance...

From the very first page, I could almost feel the chilly lake breeze and picture the "pale ribbon of beach, where the turquoise waters of Lake Michigan tussled with the shore." I got Autumn's frustration with her predicament, owning and loving Kingsley Inn, but the lack of tourism has drained her bank account. Autumn carries around the weight of a dreamer father who put the lust for Paris in her heart. 

Adventurous Blake, who's wandered the globe seeking peace, finally returns home to face his past. He worries about how he'll fit in the small tight-knit community, and if his parents and friends will still blame him for his brother's death. Understandable since he still blames himself.

It doesn't take long for Autumn to question what she really wants and for Blake to realize what's really important.
"We shared an awareness that life's greatest adventure is love. Loving each other, loving others. And being loved-first by God, then by each other. There's no better purpose." ~ Mrs. Satterly

The bad blood between the two families, the Kingsley's and the Hunziker's, is almost a modern day Montague-Capulet story, and keeps ramping up the conflict. Tagg balanced some weighty stuff with grace and humor. One minute I was chuckling, the next I was reaching for a tissue. Here to Stay has it all: awesome characters, zippy dialogue, realistic emotions, great story line. If you enjoy romance (not just inspirational!), you'll want to scoop this one up. 

Oh, and Blake also appeared in Tagg's first book, Made to Last athe fake hubby of Miranda Woodruff, who makes an appearance here. Totally loved that book, too. If you haven't read it, you'll definitely want to pick that one up first. 

Disclaimer: Sending a big thank you to Bethany House Publishers and NetGalley for allowing me the privilege of reviewing Here to Stay and for the free copy I received in exchange for my fair and unbiased review. This opinion is my own, and I received no compensation.

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Saturday, May 24, 2014

Agape for Writers...

I so appreciate Sandra Ardoin for inviting me to participate in a writer's blog hop. Sandy's blog is always a great source of encouragement to writers, especially her High Five Fridays!! Discovering new blogs and getting to know other writers is the perfect reason to join a blog hop, don't you think? But I'm following an example of another sweet writer friend and, instead, sharing some "Agape" love to some writers who have meant a lot to me in my life. Sorry, Sandy, for shaking it up a bit. Hope you don't mind! 

So here we go...

What am I working on?
After cranking out six books in the last sixteen months, I breathed a relieved sigh and scheduled a little decompression time. I stuffed three weeks full of family, travel, and...not so much writing. I used that break to prayerfully consider my journey and reestablish some goals. An idea for a new series simmered, featuring three Kester siblings who vow to save their ranch after their father's sudden death. It's my first contemporary western featuring, you guessed it...cowboys!

Roping the Cowboy is the first book in the Kester Ranch series:
Hungry for the coveted VP position in her father’s company, an ambitious oil executive chooses the cowboy’s heart over the contract.

Picture Channing Tatum as hunky hero Fargo Kester who attempts to romance Darby Brewster (Keira Knightly) away from her father's company and onto the ranch to stay. Have I mentioned lately how much I love being a writer? :)

This is my first venture outside the inspirational genre, but it's still sweet, with the same values and standards as my other books. 

How does my work differ from others in its genre?

My writing tends to veer towards the steamy side of inspy, which might make some people uncomfortable, but I don't believe romance is all about the bedroom. You don’t need to be embarrassed if your children or grandchildren pick up one of my books and start reading. They won’t find graphic bedroom scenes or vulgar language. They will find stories bursting with passion and depth, and characters who deal with real life issues such as single parenthood, domestic violence, weak self-images, emotional or physical abandonment, and more. 

The major difference between secular and inspirational romance is the faith element. I love creating stories where the faith thread is weaved, natural and seamless throughout the story, framing a theme or message that wraps itself around your heart and remains with you long after you reach “the end.” 

But lately, I'm sensing a call to toss my fishing net farther away from the boat. :)

Why do I write what I do?

To me, romance is an integral part of everyday life. It takes on many forms. Whether that's sharing coffee or lunch with my hubby on our back deck, content to just soak in each other's company and the natural beauty surrounding us; catching my grandson's face light up when he sees me arrive at daycare and his tiny hand stretching up to grab mine; that sweet spot in my soul as worship music covers me like a warm blanket; or feeling the warmth of the sun on my back as I walk around the park. God showers me with His love every day. How can I not write about love and hope, grace and forever? How can I not sprinkle my books with messages of forgiveness or that it's never too late for redemption?

How does my writing process work?

I started my writing career as a total pantser. My goal was to give birth to great characters or an idea and let the story flow organically from there. Since I’ve graduated to contracting on proposal with my publisher, I have forced myself to become a plotter, but that just means I have an initial story concept, like the blurb on the back cover, along with a skeletal outline, including the cute meet and how I want the story to end, but nothing is written in stone. Then, it's all a matter of planting my tush in the chair and tapping out the story, four hours a day, five days a week.
Maria Bostian

That wraps it up for me. Now, to share some AGAPE love for writers who have blessed my life. Say hello to Maria Bostian > 

She's a Life Safety Educator for the City of Kannapolis Fire Department and- who knew? -a writer!  She works at the fire station with my hubby and she always has a smile on her face. Can't you just see the joy bubbling over? That's Maria. Her September debut is a children’s safety book about playing with matches and lighters. You can get to know Maria here. Maria will be carrying the blog torch, and be sure to stop by and congratulate her on her contract and her blog debut.

Susan Tuttle
Next, I'd like you to meet someone who has encouraged me tremendously and faithfully... 
<<Susan Tuttle. When I put out the call for influencers for my first book, Journey's End, Susan immediately responded with a fabulous review. She took a chance on a new writer, and for that, I will be forever grateful. When I asked her to join Seriously Write as a monthly contributor, she didn't hesitate. She's an inspiration, a blessing, and a true friend. One day I will meet her face to face and tell her how much she's meant to me. Susan just completed her first novel, and I'm sure we'll be hearing wonderful news from her real soon! Be sure to check out her blog, Steps Into An Abundant Life. Her devotions always seem to be just the words I needed to hear on that particular day, and I look forward to her Wednesday quotes and Bookshelf Fridays. 

Sandra Ardoin
And lastly, Sandra Ardoin. >>
Sandy and I met online through ACFW, and imagine my surprise to discover that we lived just a few miles away! Our friendship has evolved over coffee breaks and local ACFW meetings, and I treasure our time together. Since inviting me to join this blog hop, Sandy signed her first contract with Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas for her Christmas novella, The Yuletide Angel! Don't you just love the title? I can't wait to read it! Congratulations, Sandy! If you know Sandy, please stop by and offer your congratulations here. Even if you don't know Sandy, I'm sure she'd be thrilled to hear from you. 

Sandy and Susan have already shared some writer love, but how about you? How can you encourage your favorite writer? Find a way to spread the love...

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Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Meant to Be Mine by Becky Wade ~ Sharing My Review

Purchase Link
About the book~
Ty Porter has always been irresistible to Celia Park. All through high school--irresistible. When their paths cross again after college--still irresistible. This time, though, Ty seems to feel exactly the same way about Celia. Their whirlwind romance deposits them at a street-corner Las Vegas wedding chapel. 

The next morning they wake to a marriage certificate and a dose of cold reality. Celia's ready to be Ty's wife, but Ty's not ready to be her husband. He's a professional bull rider, he lives on the road, and he's long planned to settle down with the hometown girl he's known since childhood. 

Five and a half years pass. Celia's buried her dreams so that she can afford to raise her daughter. Ty's achieved all of his goals. Or thought he had, until he looks again into the eyes of the woman he couldn't forget and into the face of the child he never knew he had.

How much will Ty sacrifice to win back Celia's trust and prove to her that their spontaneous marriage can still become the love of a lifetime?

Sharing my thoughts~
Bull Rider Ty Porter is confident, flirtatious, and determined to marry his long time girlfriend, Tawny, as soon as she dumps her current boyfriend. After all, they'd grown up together and everybody believed they were meant for each other. Celia Park has loved Ty since high school, when she dreamed of marrying him and opening a coffee shop. Years later, she's working as a sous chef when she reconnects with Ty after a rodeo in Vegas. Drunk and freshly broken up with Tawny, Ty sweet talks Celia into a hasty wedding ceremony. The next morning, sober and serious, he confesses that he's still in love with Tawny, and that their marriage was a mistake. One spectacular night together changes the course of her life. Not so much, his. At least, not for a few years. 

Normally, I don't reach for a book where the couple is married already, but a friend's review enticed me to scoop up Meant to Be Mine. I'm glad I did. The dialogue is real, the banter is flirty, and zingers constantly fly between Ty and Celia. 
“I’ve been looking for you.”
“I can’t imagine why.”
“I went to your house. Your car was there but you weren’t, so I figured you’d come to the square.”
“Your mental powers rival Einstein’s.”
He laughed. “You’re rude as ever.”
“I prefer to think of myself as charmingly feisty. Why were you looking for me?”
“I missed you, sweet one.”
During the opening chapter, Celia's heartbreak is actually tangible, so real and raw, her pain practically seeps from the pages. It was hard to like Ty at first, but even the morning after, the author paints a picture of a repentant Ty. It doesn't take long for him to prove himself faithful and trustworthy, and he only wants what's best for Celia and Addie, even if that isn't him. Their journey to romance is fraught with emotion and obstacles, including ex-girlfriend, Tawny.

It took Celia much prayer and practice to forgive Ty, but Celia wasn't totally off the hook here. More than a romance, this is a story of forgiveness, and how two people found their way back to each other, but maybe their hearts had never been that far away in the first place. I enjoyed everything about this book, and I think you will, too.

Disclaimer: Sending a big thank you to Bethany House Publishers and NetGalley for allowing me the privilege of reviewing Meant to be Mine and for the free copy I received in exchange for my fair and unbiased review. This opinion is my own, and I received no compensation.

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Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Whisper Goodbye by Myra Johnson ~ Sharing My Review

Purchase Link
About the book~
Crippled both physically and emotionally by his war injuries, First Lt. Gilbert Ballard struggles to find himself again in civilian life. After breaking his engagement to Annemarie Kendall, he has found solace in the arms of Mary McClarney, a spunky Irish immigrant nurse he met at the Army and Navy Hospital in Hot Springs, Arkansas. Yet Mary’s love for Gilbert goes unreturned.

If it’s not Gilbert’s insane jealousy over his former fiancée’s new marriage, it’s his addiction to pain killers and gambling that thwarts Gil’s own happiness. Worse, Gilbert’s mother, Evelyn, continually reminds him of what he lost when he pushed Annemarie away. Under Evelyn’s critical eye, Mary fights to believe in her worth, wondering if she will ever be enough.

As Mary longs for the day when Gilbert will finally let go of the past and learn to love her as she loves him, she realizes that the only way to open Gilbert’s heart is to whisper her goodbyes . . . and pray God will bring them back together.

Sharing my review~
After being introduced to both Gilbert and Mary in When the Clouds Roll By, the first book in Myra Johnson's Till We Meet Again series, I couldn't wait to get my greedy hands on the second book, Whisper Goodbye. Wounded war veteran First Lt. Gilbert Ballard was a character I couldn't forget after finishing When the Clouds Roll By. He'd treated his former fiancee and best friend dreadfully, but it was so hard to be upset with him. He was a casualty of war, broken and bitter, floundering without purpose, minus a leg, and nursing a morphine addiction for constant pain. See what I mean?

If he could drive far enough, fast enough, he might outpace the unrelenting emptiness that had haunted him since the war. ~Gilbert

Without the morphine, sweet Mary's soothing touch was the only way to relieve the blinding phantom pain cursing his missing leg, but Mary soon tires of Gilbert's obsession with his ex-fiancee and refuses to be second choice. Toss in Gilbert's mother, Mrs. Ballard, who reinforces Mary's sense of unworthiness, and you have one unhappy heroine. 
When it seems like Mary and Gilbert will never find their happy place, Gilbert finally acknowledges that he can't mend his broken spirit on his own and determines to win Mary's affections with a job and hard work, but even that came at a cost. I appreciate how each of the characters had to find their own way, to their faith and to each other.

With a sweet secondary romance to savor, characters you can't help but cheer for, and nuggets of historical tidbits tucked inside, Whisper Goodbye is sure to please historical and contemporary readers alike. Another 5-star worthy book by Myra Johnson!

I'm looking forward to reading the third book in the series, Every Tear A Memory, starring Gilbert's brother, Thomas. If you missed my review of When the Clouds Roll By, you can read it here, but trust me when I say you'll definitely want to read these books in order. :)

Disclaimer: Sending a big thanks to Myra Johnson and Abingdon Press for sending me an advance review copy of this book in exchange for my fair and unbiased opinion. This review is my opinion, and I received no compensation.

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Sunday, May 11, 2014

Happy Mother's Day
to all moms and to all those who fill the role of mother. May your day overflow with many hugs, much love and joyful laughter. 

Here are some special ladies who have influenced and blessed my life...

My mother

Our daughter-in-law, Lorie                   

My sister, Julie

My sister, Tammy

My husband's mother, deceased. 

Happy Mother's Day!

How about a shout out to the ones who have influenced your life in a "motherly" way?

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Saturday, May 3, 2014

A Tribute to Dads......and it isn't even Father's Day. :)

It's been an emotional couple of weeks at the fire department where my hubby works. We lost two "Dads" in our KFD extended family, so I decided not to wait until Father's Day to honor my dad. You know my feelings, right? Why wait until a holiday?
My Dad
My dad is my real life hero and an inspiration for many of the heroes in my books. He may not track down criminals or rope cattle like my book heroes, but he's strong and solid, and always there when I need him. He's an anchor, a trusted adviser, a dependable friend, and a great listener who never judges or berates my mistakes. And I've made plenty of them! 

I'm sure I'm not the only offspring to confess that our relationship hasn't always been this way. You see, I was a rebellious teenager, definitely not a model child. The grief I gave my dad is probably the reason he doesn't have much hair left. Or maybe the hair loss had more to do with my parents birthing three daughters spaced just seventeen months apart. What were they thinking trying for that precious boy?? :D

My dad raised us to be independent. He volunteered our services mowing all the lawns in our neighborhood at a dirt rate price, which I'm sure broke all the child labor laws at the time. lol. He made us change tires until he was confident we wouldn't be stranded on the side of the road with a flat. Dad modeled a strong work ethic, encouraged us to play sports as well as any guy and with the guys, and challenged us to always keep learning. 

But he was also over-protective. What happens when you mix Overprotective Dad with three Missy Independents? A tumultuous household, that's for sure. I really don't know how any of us survived our growing up years, including him. 

I didn't truly appreciate my dad until I moved out of the house. After graduation at the mature age of seventeen, I knew it all. By eighteen, I was married, within four years had my first child, and was divorced at twenty two.

Do you think I learned to appreciate my parents then? Oh yeah.

Especially the occasional respite from single parenthood, which allowed me a few days of absolutely wonderful and desperately needed peace considering my toddler son's dispensation towards daredevil escapades. And what about the few times my dad plucked who-knows-what remains from the back of my car, remnants of the frantic pace of a single woman balancing a demanding career with a Houdini-wannabe child. At the time, I was convinced that my dad did it because he was a neat freak. But later, I realized that's how he shows his love. Just like the countless times my parents pitched in to help me move, both while I was an apartment manager, and it came with the territory, and even after Ernie and I married. But believe me when I tell you, that debt's been repaid. :) An avid DIY'r, he's helped us with numerous home improvement projects, including hanging drywall, room additions, replumbing, crawling in attics, you get the idea. 

Love in action. That's how my father demonstrates his love for me. Much like our heavenly Father, don't you think?

Just like these precious firefighters who lost their daddies, I know there will come a day when mine isn't around anymore, and every time I think about it, my heart feels like it is being ripped out of my chest. What will I do without my dad? 

How I will miss seeing his face light up as he starts to tell a story, only to laugh so hard that he has to pull out his hanky and blow his nose before he can finish. And he's a huge NASCAR fan. It's hilarious the way he's always pacing the floor, chomping at the bit to hit the road at least thirty minutes earlier than planned. I will miss our driving vacations and our cruises, but I will always cherish the precious memories.
My Dad and Hubby headed to a NASCAR race, their favorite hobby
My dad. My hero. 

Death strikes all of us eventually. We're either standing at the graveside, staring into a cavernous hole about to say goodbye to our loved one, wondering how people can go on as if nothing had happened...or we're the ones driving by, sorrow welling up for the people clustered around a graveside, a heavy cloud of sadness hovering over them.

Life goes on. For the ones who live. 

Life begins for the ones who die. Eternal life.

I love you, Dad.

What would you say to your dad?

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