Thursday, July 31, 2014

Full Steam Ahead Review

A few short thoughts on Full Steam Ahead by Karen Witemeyer:


This story starts with a bang (literally) and draws you into the plot. Darius Thornton and Nicole Renard don't meet until well into the story, but the payoff was definitely worth staying with it.

The faith thread, as well as the romance, is sweetly beautiful.

The hero/heroine combo is delightful:
Pirate-princess secretary meets deeply wounded, propriety-flouting gentleman scientist.

This hero broke free of every character cliche I've ever read. Darius is just chock full of contradictions. Gentle, but intense. Wounded, but so strong. Protective, but entrusting. Curious and cautious. Clean and unkempt. Taking on the world's problems while shirking his own responsibility. Annoyingly determined. Dangerous. Delightful.

His perfect complement, Nicole was a gutsy, running off by herself, protecting everyone at her own risk, females can do anything kind of girl. I've seen quite a few of these types recently, but happily, despite her opposition to the view of womanhood held by society in the 1830s and 40s, she remains decidedly feminine. Bravo, Mrs. Witemeyer! Also, Nicole's willingness to sacrifice for those she loves and her ability to bring healing to the hero was a beautiful thing to behold.

Random Reading Facts: 
  • While reading, I sensed nuances of both Pride and Prejudice and Beauty and the Beast.
  • Also, I kept picturing Darius as Tom Hiddleston a la Cransford, which makes no sense, since I haven't watched that in a while and Darius doesn't exactly look the same, but there you have it.
  • Nicole's name and irrepressible spirit reminded me strongly of Drew Barrymore's character Danielle in Ever After.
  • I kept closing the book to scowl at the cover--Darius is blonde.
  • On page--er, I forgot what page it was (and can't go find it, because I just loaned the book to my BFF), but somewhere in the middle of the book, on the lower right-hand page, is a smudge of caramelly praline goodness. I had made a praline graham cracker treat and was so into the story, I forgot to lick the caramel off my finger before turning the page. :) (Sorry, BFF!)

Back Cover Blurb:

          When love simmers between a reclusive scientist and a wealthy debutante, will they abandon ship or is it full steam ahead?

          Nicole Renard returns home to Galveston, Texas, to find her father deathly ill. Though she loves him, Nicole's father has always focused on what she's not. Not male. Not married. Not able to run Renard Shipping.
          Vowing to find a suitable husband to give her father the heir he desires before it's too late, Nicole sets out with the Renard family's greatest treasure as her dowry: the highly coveted Lafitte Dagger. But her father's rivals come after the dagger, forcing a change in Nicole's plans.
          After a boiler explosion aboard the Louisiana nearly took his life, Darius Thornton has been a man obsessed. He will do anything to stop even one more steamship disaster. Even if it means letting a female secretary into his secluded world.
          Nicole is determined not to let her odd employer scare her off with his explosive experiments, yet when respect and mutual attraction grow between them, a new fear arises. How can she acquire an heir for her father when her heart belongs to another? And when her father's rivals discover her hiding place, will she have to choose between that love and her family's legacy?

*** I received a free copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for my honest opinion. ***

Have you read Full Steam Ahead? What did you think of it? What are you reading now?

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Mary L. Ball Interview

Hi, Mary! Thanks for visiting us today! 

Why don't you start by describing what you write.
I write Inspirational fiction, mystery, suspense, and romance.

How would you label the overall mood of your stories: dark, gritty, poignant, sensitive, heart-warming, raucous, light, fresh, funny, educational, adventurous, witty, passionate, reminiscent, sweet, forceful, eye-opening?
Hallmark stories laced with the faith and the Lord’s mercy. 

What is the name of your latest book?

Stone of Destiny. 

What is the theme of your story and how did you come to it?
The theme is having faith through prayer. It really came about in an odd way. My grandson likes to read all those magic books. One day I passed him reading and  thought, “I need to write about God’s wonderfully, mysterious ways.” 

A sneak peek into what you're working on right now?
Before Christmas, I signed another contract with my publisher. We’ll soon begin the editing process. Below is the blurb.

Redemption in Big Fork Lake

What happens when an addiction takes over?

Only after Robert Turner attempts to hurt someone does he realize how much of a hold alcohol has on his life.
For Robert, a chance meeting with an Alcoholics Anonymous sponsor offers hope.
A new devotion to the Lord and a relationship with Belle McBride gives him expectations for a better future.

His life appears to be on the right track, until he comes full circle with his past and faces the one mistake that haunts him daily. Can forgiveness-free Robert or will he return to the life he once had?

Wow! That premise resonates with me, because the hero of my historical WIP faces the same issue. Very needful subject these days. 
Now, about you. Do you work a job other than writing? Is there a secret/technique you’ve found that helps with balancing the writing and working life?
Yes and no-I don’t work in a public job, but I keep my grandchildren and I’m a part-time caregiver for my eighty-one year old mother. My technique isn’t one at all. I write when I can, as I can. Sometimes, it’s a few hours a day, or I go several days and only write a few paragraphs.    

When you read, do you prefer paperback, e-book, or audio? Why?
I read both paperback and e-Books. I love paperbacks. The feel of the pages takes me back to an easier time, but with my busy schedule there are times when I wouldn’t be without my e-reader. I can read while waiting at appointments and don’t have to worry about remembering my books. 

I completely agree! Thanks for coming, Mary!

About the Author:
Mary L. Ball enjoys weaving together Inspirational fiction novels blended with romance.
Mary lives in North Carolina and weaves together stories that she hopes will encourage people to see the wonder of love and a divine guidance that often lies dormant, waiting to be found.
When she’s not writing Mary enjoys fishing, reading, and hiking.

Stone of Destiny Book Blurb):

Taylor has given up on everything but her work. After becoming the youngest CEO of Mugful’s Beverage Company, she believes life is complete--until her grandmother asks her to oversee the renovations of the family home, in addition to searching for a missing heirloom.

Her first contact with what she believes is an insignificant ring, lost for fifty years, sends her life spinning. Taylor experiences strange, unexpected feelings that she doesn't understand. Thoughts that should remain unspoken are voiced.

Taylor’s emotional journey begins, testing a heart as cold as the ring itself and forcing her to question everything she believes.

Is this a fairytale, or simply her soul reaching out for a different world--a life she can only find through faith and a divine trust in God?

Where can readers find you and your books online?

To follow Mary on her blog, click here:
Like Mary's Facebook page:

Follow Mary on Twitter:

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Book Challenge Update

To see the original book challenge post click here.

Challenge Stats:

My goal - 50 books this year.

Books read thus far - 23.

Currently reading: The Lawyer's Luck by my lovely critique partner Piper Huguley and Full Steam Ahead by Karen Witemeyer.

Goal 46% achieved - 2 books behind.

TWO whole books, y'all! :) The holdup? I've entered the submission process for my own book, Heart of Valor. Yay! I've queried and submitted to several agents and am praying it all falls into place.

So, out of the 22 books I've read thus far, which have been my favorite? Here are a few:
  • Crazy Busy by Kevin DeYoung
  • Vanished by Irene Hannon
  • A Noble Groom by Jody Hedlund
  • Chasing the Lion by Nancy Kimball
  •  Rivet Your Readers with Deep Point of View by Jill Elizabeth Nelson
  • The Guardian's Promise by Christina Rich
Next on my TBR list:
  • Yankee In Atlanta by Jocelyn Green
  • Caught In the Middle by Regina Jennings
  • The Beast's Enchantress by Elizabeth Kitchens
  • It Happened at the Fair by Deeanne Gist
  • Courting Kate by Leslie Gould
  • Against the Tide by Elizabeth Camden
  • The Letting Go series by Nicole Deese
  • The Convenient Groom by Denise Hunter
  • Love In Disguise by Carol Cox
  • The Snowflake by Jamie Carie
  • Submerged by Dani Pettrey
  • The Colonel's Lady by Laura Frantz

How's it going with your own challenge? What books have you really enjoyed this year?

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

ACFW July 2014 New Releases

Hi, everyone! Here's a list of Christian fiction books coming out this month from the members of the American Christian Fiction Writers. Some great titles coming out this month!

More in-depth descriptions of these books can be found on the ACFW Fiction Finder website by clicking author's name or book title.

July 2014 New Releases

Amish Romance:

A Plain Love Song (The New Hope Amish) by Kelly S. Irvin -- Adah Knepp wants nothing more than to sing and play the guitar and write her own songs. That's a dream that will never come true in her strict Amish community. But then she meets Jackson Hart, and all of a sudden she finds the chance for a different kind of life. But pursuing her dreams means turning her back on her family and community--and saying goodbye to Matthew, the gentle Amish farmer she can't get out of her mind. Is it worth giving up the only home she's ever known to pursue her dreams? (Contemporary Romance from Harvest House Publishers)

Biblical Fiction:

In the Field of Grace by Tessa Afshar -- Destitute, grief-stricken, and unwanted by the people of God, Ruth arrives in Israel with nothing to recommend her but Naomi's, love. Her loftiest hope is to provide enough food to save Naomi and herself from starvation. But God has other plans for her life. While everyone considers Ruth an outcast, she is astounded to find one of the most honored men of Judah showing her favor. Long since a widower and determined to stay that way, Boaz is irresistibly drawn to the foreign woman with the haunted eyes. He tells himself he is only being kind to his Cousin Naomi's chosen daughter when he goes out of his way to protect her from harm, but his heart knows better. (Biblical Fiction from River North [Moody Publishers])

Contemporary Romance:

When I Fall in Love (Christiansen Family) by Susan May Warren -- Hawaii was the last place Grace Christiansen ever imagined she’d vacation, much less fall in love. But when her family surprises her with a cooking retreat in paradise, she is pulled—or maybe yanked—away from her predictable, safe life and thrown headfirst into the adventure of a lifetime. Max Sharpe may make his living on the ice as a pro hockey player, but he he lives for the three-week culinary vacation he takes each year in Hawaii. Upon being paired with Grace for a cooking competition, Max finds himself drawn to her passion, confidence, and perseverance. Wrestling with personal demons, Max fights against opening his heart to a love he knows he should never hope for. And as his secrets unfold, Grace is torn between the safe path in front of her and what her heart truly desires. If love means sacrificing her ideal happily ever after, Grace’s faith will face its toughest test yet. (Contemporary Romance from Tyndale House)

Contemporary Women’s Fiction:

Hope Deferred by Elizabeth Maddrey -- Can pursuit of a blessing become a curse? June and July and their husbands have spent the last year trying to start a family and now they're desperate for answers. As one couple works with specialists to see how medicine can help them conceive, the other must fight to save their marriage. Will their deferred hope leave them heart sick, or start them on the path to the fulfillment of their dreams? (Women’s Fiction from HopeSprings Books)

The Tidewater Sisters by Lisa Wingate -- Tandi Reese and her sister, Gina, have always been bound by complicated ties. Amid the rubble of a difficult childhood lie memories of huddling beneath beds and behind sofas while parental wars raged. Sisterhood was safety . . . once. But now? Faced with legal papers for a fraud she didn't commit, Tandi suspects that her sister has done something unthinkable. With Tandi's wedding just around the corner, a trip to the North Carolina Tidewater for a reckoning with Gina was not part of the plan. But unraveling lies from truth will require confronting strained sibling bonds and uncovering a dark family secret that could free Tandi from her past or stain her future forever. (Novella) (Women’s Fiction from Tyndale House)

Historical Mystery:

Murder at the Mikado (A Drew Farthering Mystery) by Julianna Deering (DeAnna Julie Dodson) -- Just as Drew Farthering thinks his life has found smooth waters, Fleur Landis, an old flame, reappears in his life. She's married now, no longer an actress, and he expects she'll soon disappear--until she comes to him in dire need. The lead actor in her old troupe's production of The Mikado has been murdered, and Fleur is the police's number one suspect. Drew would love nothing more than to just focus on his fiance, Madeline, and their upcoming wedding, but he can't leave Fleur in the lurch--even if she did break his heart once. As Drew, Nick, and Madeline dive into the murder, they discover more going on behind the scenes of the theater troupe than could ever have been imagined. Nearly everyone had a motive, and alibis are few and far between. It's Drew's most complicated case yet. (Historical General Fiction from Faith Words [Hachette])

Historical Romance:

Captured By Love by Jody Hedlund -- Michigan Territory, 1814. A voyageur and a young woman swept up in a time of upheaval and danger discover firsthand the high price of freedom. The British Army has taken control of Michilimackinac Island and its fort, forcing the Americans to swear an oath of loyalty to the crown in order to retain their land. Pierre Durant is a fur trader who returns after being away from the island for years, only to find the family farm a shambles and those he cares about starving and at the mercy of British invaders. Torn between the adventurous life of fur trading and guilt over neglecting his defenseless mother, Pierre is drawn deeper into the fight against the British--and into a relationship with Angelique MacKenzie, a childhood friend who's grown into a beautiful woman. She now finds herself trapped by the circumstances of war and poverty, and the cruelty of her guardian, Ebenezer Whiley. As tensions mount and the violence rages on, Pierre and Angelique must decide where their loyalties rest and how much they'll risk for love. (Historical Romance from Bethany House [Baker Publishing Group])

Groom by Design (The Dressmaker's Daughters, #1) by Christine Johnson -- Dressmaker Ruth Fox gave up her dream of a husband and children long ago. Her family's floundering dress shop, her ailing father and her two younger sisters require Ruth's full attention. Though the handsome new stranger in town is intriguing, Ruth is certain he wouldn't look twice at a plain spinster of twenty-six. Sam Rothenburg's connection with the shy young woman next door is immediate, but he knows Ruth will be crushed when she discovers his real purpose in town. Sam is secretly working to open one of his father's large department stores in Pearlman, Michigan, which will surely put Ruth out of business. How much is Sam willing to sacrifice to claim Ruth's heart? (Historical Romance from Love Inspired [Harlequin])

A Hero in the Making (Brides of Simps) by Laurie Kingery -- Nate Bohannan won't let anything stand in the way of his grand plans in California. Even if it means traveling there with unreliable huckster Robert Salali. But after a destructive bender in Simpson Creek, Texas, the unscrupulous Salali runs out, leaving Nate to carry the blame—and the debt. He can fix broken furniture…but can anything fix the despair in café owner Ella Justiss's eyes? When her café was destroyed, Ella felt sure she'd lost her dreams along with it. Yet somehow Nate's cheerful care and optimism fill her with hope again. Painful secrets from her childhood make Ella wary of men. When danger threatens, will Nate be the hero Ella can finally trust—and love? Brides of Simpson Creek: Small-town Texas spinsters find love with mail-order grooms! (Historical Romance from Love Inspired [Harlequin])

The Warrior's Vow by Christina Rich (Historical Romance from Love Inspired [Harlequin])

Historical Women’s Fiction:

Annie's Stories (Ellis Island) by Cindy Thomson -- The year is 1901, the literary sensation The Wonderful Wizard of Oz is taking New York City by storm, and everyone wonders where the next great book will come from. But to Annie Gallagher, stories are more than entertainment—they’re a sweet reminder of her storyteller father. After his death, Annie fled Ireland for the land of dreams, finding work at Hawkins House. But when a fellow boarder with something to hide is accused of misconduct and authorities threaten to shut down the boardinghouse, Annie fears she may lose her new friends, her housekeeping job . . . and her means of funding her dream: a memorial library to honor her father. Furthermore, the friendly postman shows a little too much interest in Annie—and in her father’s unpublished stories. In fact, he suspects these tales may hold a grand secret. Though the postman’s intentions seem pure, Annie wants to share her father’s stories on her own terms. Determined to prove herself, Annie must forge her own path to aid her friend and create the future she’s always envisioned . . . where dreams really do come true. (Historical Women’s Fiction from Tyndale House)


Operation Zulu Redemption: Overkill by Operation Zulu Redemption: Collateral Damage Part 1 by Operation Zulu Redemption: Out of Nowhere - Part 2 by Seagrass Pier (The Hope Beach Series) by Colleen Coble -- Elin Summerall was one of the lucky ones. Not only did she get a heart transplant, but the donor was a perfect fit. A miraculously perfect fit. But when Elin begins having violent flashbacks—and vivid dreams of being strangled—she realizes that she has been the recipient of more than just a new heart . . . Elin is remembering her donor’s murder. Her strange affliction has attracted some unwanted attention: from the press, from the authorities . . . and from the killer himself. Now, living alone with her young daughter and aging mother, Elin is being stalked—by a man she’s only met in her nightmares. The police are dubious of her story, but one off-duty FBI agent is eager to help her: Agent Marc Everton. Now, in a remote cottage on Hope Island, Elin and Marc must probe the secrets buried in her borrowed heart. But one man is desperate to silence her—before she remembers too much. (Romantic Suspense from HarperCollins Christian Publishing [Thomas Nelson & Zondervan])

Firewall (Deadly Force) by DiAnn Mills -- After a whirlwind romance, Taryn Young is preparing to board a plane at Houston International Airport, bound for a dream honeymoon, when a bomb decimates the terminal. Injured but still alive, she awakens to discover her husband is missing and they’re both considered prime suspects in the attack. Further, the FBI is convinced her husband isn’t who he appears to be. Agent Grayson Hall’s number-one priority is to catch those responsible for the day’s act of terror. All evidence is pointing to Taryn and her new husband. But his instinct tells him her pleas of innocence are genuine. Is her naiveté just for show, or could she truly be another victim of a master scheme, possibly linked to the software she recently developed for her company? With both their lives and reputations on the line, and the media outcry for justice increasing with each passing minute, Taryn and Grayson have no choice but to trust one another . . . and pray they can uncover the truth before they become two more casualties. (Romantic Suspense from Tyndale House)

Shake Down by Jill Elizabeth Nelson -- To clear his imprisoned father's name, Shane Gillum must find evidence hidden in a Martha's Vineyard cottage. But he arrives to find the "vacant" property being prepped for sale by real estate agent Janice Swenson. Is she tied to the notorious owners? Or is she in over her head as the "accidents" on the property grow increasingly dangerous? And who is the saboteur targeting—Shane with his search, or Janice with her dark, hidden past? With so much at stake, trusting Janice is a huge risk…but keeping silent about the cottage's mysteries could mire them both in a deadly scheme. (Romantic Suspense from Love Inspired [Harlequin])