Tuesday, March 29, 2016

NOT BY SIGHT by Kate Breslin ~ Reviewed

About the Book:
In the spring of 1917, all of Britain's attention is on the WWI war front and the thousands of young men serving their country on the front lines. Jack Benningham, dashing heir to the Earl of Stonebrooke, is young and able-bodied but refuses to enlist despite the contempt of his peers.

A wealthy young suffragette, Grace Mabry will do anything to assist her country's cause. Men like Jack infuriate her when she thinks of her own brother fighting in the trenches of France, so she has no reservations about handing him a white feather of cowardice at a posh masquerade ball.

But Grace could not anticipate the danger and betrayal set into motion by her actions, and soon she and Jack are forced to learn the true meaning of courage when the war raging overseas suddenly strikes much closer to home and their fervent beliefs become a matter of life and death.

How I learned of the book:
After reading Kate’s For Such a Time, I couldn’t wait to read more of her work. At the 2015 American Christian Writers Conference I met Kate for the first time when she was dressed as Grace from NBS (I wish I’d taken a photo!). It was after this I learned Kate envisioned Chris Hemsworth as Jack Benningham, the hero in NBS. That’s when I added the book to my Christmas wish list. :)

Grace strikes me as the quintessential Christian romance heroine. Lovely, spunky, and driven, with a sassy mouth and a love for everyone around her—except the absurdly handsome playboy Jack Benningham, of course. Even then, I think she loves hating him a bit and especially loves the opportunity to write about the mystery surrounding him. Our hero reminded me of James Bond, Batman, and The Scarlet Pimpernel, all rolled together into a dashing, temperamental, high-handed, spoiled, very charming, very wounded hero we can root for.

The push/pull of two characters who mistrust one another so much was fun to read. This may be one of Kate’s specialties. In the beginning, I honestly didn’t see how they could ever overcome their differences and form a believable romance (I wondered the same with For Such A Time) but somehow, gradually and organic to the story, the characters yield ground one grain of sand at a time, not fully knowing it until they look back and wonder how they not only started tolerating, but sympathizing with and eventually loving, the enemy. The execution of the emotional transformation in this novel is one for writers to take note of and study.

In a time when everyone was suspect for spying, some shot for treason without sufficient evidence, WWI makes the perfect backdrop for this historical romantic suspense. Living with the heroine during her work with the Women’s Forage Corps and hiding out with the hero for reasons of his own grounded me in the stakes and motivations of characters personally touched by war. I particularly loved Kate’s varying the setting during the first half of the novel, even when the plot confines her characters to automobile rides, which shows her diligence in research and her love of travel. I was transported through the pages to the English countryside, the beach, and a carnival. Pure charm.

This book kept me guessing. I was amazed how every player had a key part in the overall story, and each individual thread built together into the final resolution. Kate has unbeatable talent for meshing twisty plots and lining things up for a beautiful, poignant resolution at the end. I did feel a teensy tiny disconnect toward the end when one of the off stage characters took the point-of-view during the hero's climactic moment, but the mystery of the ending kept tugging me toward the finish line. This book is definitely late-night-reading!

With every book I review, there are usually one or two aspects which I think really make the book sing. In Not By Sight, it’s the interconnected character plots, the organic feel of the main characters’ relationship, and the attention to history. I’d recommend this book to anyone who loves reading a believable love story and taking a glimpse into history without slowing down the plot. I just heard Kate's planning another WWI book for 2017. Can't wait!

Comment Fodder:
Have you read any books, fiction or nonfiction, set in WWI? In a sentence or two, tell us what book, what it was about, and how you liked it.

Note: If you'd like to win a copy of Not By Sight or Kate's WWII retelling of Esther, For Such A Time, leave your email address in your comment (email AT server DOT com). US addresses can enter for paperback or e-book, non-US addresses can enter to win an e-book. 

Monday, March 21, 2016

NOT BY SIGHT ~ Character Interview with Kate Breslin

Hi, everyone! I'm so excited to be hosting award-winning author Kate Breslin on the Sweet South Blog today along with her character, Grace Mabry, from Not By Sight. Stick around for a giveaway of her books at the end of the post! But first, here's a little about NBS.

About Not By Sight:

In the spring of 1917, all of Britain's attention is on the WWI war front and the thousands of young men serving their country on the front lines. Jack Benningham, dashing heir to the Earl of Stonebrooke, is young and able-bodied but refuses to enlist despite the contempt of his peers.

A wealthy young suffragette, Grace Mabry will do anything to assist her country's cause. Men like Jack infuriate her when she thinks of her own brother fighting in the trenches of France, so she has no reservations about handing him a white feather of cowardice at a posh masquerade ball.

But Grace could not anticipate the danger and betrayal set into motion by her actions, and soon she and Jack are forced to learn the true meaning of courage when the war raging overseas suddenly strikes much closer to home and their fervent beliefs become a matter of life and death.
WHERE TO BUY: Available at most bookstores, and for online shopping, please visit http://katebreslin.com/books/ and click on your favorite store purchase link. 
You can download an excerpt of Not By Sight from Baker Publishing by clicking here: Download PDF

Here's Kate:

Hi Natalie, thanks so much for this opportunity to be on your blog. What fun! I chose to interview my heroine, Grace, as she wanted to say a few words, and I hope readers will get to know her a little bit better. :)

Hello, Grace! Tell us a little about yourself.
Hello! My name is Grace Mabry and I suppose I’m the heroine of this tale. I’m twenty, have green eyes, red hair, and I’m a suffragette. My father is Irish widower, Patrick Mabry, wealthy owner of the prestigious Swan’s Tea Room in London. I love to write, as I’m an aspiring author, and I enjoy a good adventure when I get the chance. Unfortunately, that isn’t often. My mother, Lillian, passed away last year and my father tends to be most overprotective. The year is 1917 and the war overseas is in full swing. I intend to do my duty as a patriot and help in any way I can to see a quick end to it, with victory for Britain.

Has anything significant happened in your life in the past two weeks?
Well, a few months ago I did create a bit of a stir, during a Red Cross Benefit costume ball at Lady Bassett’s home in Mayfair. However, I’m back to rights and finally free of my father’s in-home incarceration as I travel to Kent, working for the Women’s Forage Corps with my maid, Agnes. In truth, I think Da is much relieved to get me out of London. You see, the Germans have been dropping bombs over the city lately and he thinks I’ll be safer in the country. At last, my adventure begins!

Your most embarrassing moment?
I must admit, I’m going to have several, which if you’ve read my story you’ll know about. Working in agriculture with the Women’s Forage Corps aiding the war effort isn’t quite what I imagined it would be. Let’s just say I’ve had some difficulties adjusting. And I find I don’t take well to mud at all.

What was your first reaction when you met your handsome gentleman? Blush? Stutter? Run? Engage him in intelligent or witty conversation?
I certainly blushed and I confess my heart palpitated a bit, much to my dismay. He is a handsome devil though, devil being the operative word. A renowned playboy, a laze-about aristocrat, and worst of all, he’s a coward! And I’m a woman on a mission. Actually, we didn’t speak. I simply walked up to him at the ball and gave him his due. :)

What are your hobbies?
I take immense enjoyment in driving a motorcar and racing my horse with the buggy around London, though I suppose those aren’t truly hobbies. I do keep a journal and have visions of being a published writer one day.

Do you have any grandparent figures in your life? How have they influenced you?
No grandparents, but I do have my spinster aunt, who insists I conform to convention—and very tedious it is, being made to sit and needlepoint all day! My mother’s cousin in Kent, Dr. Strom, is wise and kind and offers me good counsel on occasion. I’ve also met an older woman at Roxwood, Ida Vance, our work force supervisor. She watches over us all and has shown me more patient understanding than I probably deserve.

Siblings? How many? Do you get along?
I have my twin 20-year old brother, Colin, who’s with the cavalry fighting at the Front. Colin is quiet and steadfast, where I tend to be more impulsive—that is, I allow my mouth to overrun my brain. Colin has always been my hero.

What is your dearest dream?
I dream that one day all women in Britain will get the right to vote and to better themselves.

Any current romantic interests?
Not at present. I’m much too busy aiding in the war effort. Though I can’t stop thinking about that handsome devil…

Where were you born? What other significant happenings surrounded this event?
I was born in London in 1897, the only daughter to my British mother and Irish father. Queen Victoria celebrated her Diamond Jubilee as monarch that year, and the first electric taxicabs began operating in London.

What is your worst fear?
I have nightmares that my twin won’t come back from the war.

When’s the last time you had a really good meal? Courtesy of whom?
Oh, I did enjoy a lovely birthday dinner at the home of my mysterious and engaging employer, known by the villagers as Lord Roxwood, or the Tin Man. Our first course was spiced carrot soup, followed by grilled salmon with seasoned potatoes and a medley of garden vegetables. There was white linen, candles, fine bone china, and Knowles, the butler, served our drinks in crystal goblets. It was quite memorable.

Are there any hardheaded people in your life right now? What’s the issue?
Yes, my co-worker in the Women’s Forage Corps, Clare Danner! I don’t know why she’s determined to dislike me. Just because my father’s wealthy, she insists I’m an aristocrat and completely inept at hard work. I think she’s got bigger problems and she’s just using me for target practice.

What’ been the most surprising outcome of your adventure so far? Have you gained any insight?
One thing I’ve come to realize is things are not always as they seem. In fact, judging by outward appearances and making assumptions can be quite dangerous! The heart is what truly reveals a person’s character, I think. I’ve also learned that everyone’s got a secret, and while some are more difficult to keep than others, in the end all come out.

About Kate

Former bookseller-turned-author Kate Breslin enjoys life in the Pacific Northwest with her husband and family. A writer of travel articles and award-winning poetry, Kate received Christian Retailing's 2015 Best Award for First Time Author and her debut novel, For Such A Time, won the 2015 Carol award for Debut Novel. Kate's second novel, Not By Sight released in August, 2015. When she's not writing inspirational fiction, Kate enjoys reading or taking long walks in Washington's beautiful woodlands. She also likes traveling to new places, both within the U.S. and abroad, having toured Greece, Rome, and much of Western Europe. New destinations make for fresh story ideas. You can visit her online at the following locations:

Hi, folks! Natalie here. Kate is generously giving away a paperback copy of either Not By Sight or her previous novel For Such A Time (details on that book below). International readers can enter to win an e-book. Comment with your email address (email AT server DOT com) to enter. Giveaway ends April 4.

About For Such A Time

Powerful Retelling of the Story of Esther

In 1944, Hadassah Benjamin feels abandoned by God when she is saved from a firing squad only to be handed over to a new enemy. Pressed into service by SS-Kommandant Colonel Aric von Schmidt at the transit camp of Theresienstadt in Czechoslovakia, her Aryan-like looks allow her to hide behind the false identity of Stella Muller. However, to maintain her cover as von Schmidt’s secretary, she is forced to stand by as her own people are sent to Auschwitz.

Suspecting her employer is a man of hidden depths, Stella appeals to him on behalf of those in the camp. Aric's indulgence gives her hope even as she risks discovery with every attempt to help the prisoners. When her bravery brings her to the point of ultimate sacrifice, she faces an excruciating choice. God may have brought her to the camp for such a time as this, but how can she save her people when she cannot save herself?

Comment fodder:
Is Kate a new-to-you author, or have you read her work before?
What is your favorite thing about reading stories set in the Gilded Age?
Name a Bible character you'd love to read about in a retelling. Or maybe one you've read.

Tune in next Monday for my review of Not By Sight!

Grace Mabry tells all from NOT BY SIGHT by Kate Breslin (Click to Tweet!)

Monday, March 14, 2016

A WORTHY HEART ~ Character Interview with Susan Anne Mason

About A Worthy Heart:
The answer to Maggie Montgomery’s dream of seeing America has arrived at just the right time. Not only will she be reunited with her beloved brother Rylan, but she’ll finally be able to escape Neill Fitzgerald and his increasingly unwanted attention. She’s intent on never returning to Ireland, hoping to build her future in the land of opportunity and perhaps find the love of her life.
While visiting Irish Meadows, she meets an intriguing man she thinks is a stable hand. Only when her brother demands she stay away from Adam O’Leary does she learn he’s Rylan’s brother-in-law, recently released from prison. Nonetheless, Maggie can’t seem to make her stubborn heart conform to her brother’s request.
Adam O’Leary has never felt worthy of his place in the family. Now a free man, Adam’s only desire is to earn back his family’s trust. Falling in love with the newly arrived Maggie, however, was never in his plans. Despite everyone’s effort to keep them apart, the two develop a bond it seems nothing can break—but they soon discover the past isn’t easy to overcome.
A Worthy Heart is available for purchase at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Christianbook.com

Hello Sweet South Belles (and gentlemen)! I'm very excited to have here with us Adam O'Leary from Susan Anne Mason's A Worthy Heart.

Hello, there, Mr. O'Leary. Tell me about yourself.
My name is Adam O’Leary. My father owns a horse breeding farm called Irish Meadows in Long Island, New York. Unfortunately I don’t share my father’s passion for horses and we have always been at odds. My mother, on the other hand, has always been my greatest champion. For her sake, I have vowed to turn my life around and make a fresh start.

Are there any children or pets in your life? What do you love about them?
(smiles fondly) I have an adopted niece, Delia, who is adorable. And a lovable mutt named Chester seems to have adopted me. Since I have no place to keep a dog, I gave him to Delia because she loved him so much.

What are your hobbies?

My hobby is my passion—woodworking and furniture building. Our head horse trainer, Sam Turnbull, taught me how to carve and work with wood when I was a boy.

Do you have any grandparent figures in your life? How have they influenced you?
No grandparents, but Sam Turnbull was the closest thing to a grandfather figure in my life.

Siblings? How many? Do you get along?
I’m the oldest in the family. I have a brother and three sisters. (Another younger brother drowned when he was 8). We get along fine, although since my incarceration, there’s been a definite strain on the relationships. My sister, Brianna, is the sweetest of the bunch, and I’m hoping she’ll be able to smooth the way with the rest of the family.

What is your dearest dream?

To open my own furniture shop. Building furniture is my passion and to be able to have my own shop, where I can create the pieces and sell them, would be a dream come true.

Any current romantic interests?
I have my eye on Maggie Montgomery, my brother-in-law’s sister who recently came over from Ireland, but her brothers will never let her have anything to do with me because I’m an ex-convict. She’s beautiful, kind and talented, and she deserves someone far better than me.

What is your worst fear?
That I’ll never earn my father’s respect. Now that I’ve spent time in prison, this task seems even more impossible.

What has happened in your life to influence your faith?
The prison chaplain, John McNabb, was a huge influence on me, enabled me to 'see the light' so to speak. His guidance and wise advice, as well as his non-judgmental attitude, really helped rekindle my faith. His offer to help me transition back into society has been a godsend.

Are there any hardheaded people in your life right now? What’s the issue?
My father, James O’Leary. He’s always been hard on me growing up and now refuses to believe that I’ve changed. No matter how sorry I am for my crimes, I fear he’ll never give me another chance. Especially if I’m right about my suspicions.

Susan Anne Mason describes her writing style as “romance sprinkled with faith.” She loves incorporating inspirational messages of God’s unconditional love and forgiveness into her characters’ journeys. A Worthy Heart is her second historical novel in the Courage to Dream series. Irish Meadows won the Fiction from the Heartland contest sponsored by the Mid-American Romance Authors chapter of RWA.
Susan lives outside Toronto, Ontario, with her husband, two children, and two cats. She loves chocolate, is not partial to snow even though she’s Canadian, and is ecstatic on the rare occasions she has the house to herself. In addition to writing, Susan likes to research her family history on-line, and occasionally indulges in scrapbooking. Learn more about Susan and her books at www.susanannemason.com. You can also find Susan on Facebook.

Meet Adam O'Leary from A WORTHY HEART by Susan Anne Mason (Click to tweet)

Monday, March 7, 2016

March 2016 New Fiction Releases #ACFW

March 2016 New Releases

More in-depth descriptions of these books can be found on the ACFW Fiction Finder website.

Contemporary Romance:

The Nanny's Secret Child by Lorraine Beatty -- She had a chance to be a nanny for the child she gave up at birth, and couldn't say no. (Contemporary Romance from Love Inspired [Harlequin])

The Goodbye Bride by Denise Hunter -- Lucy Lovett can't remember the last seven months of her life. She doesn't remember leaving her fiancé Zac Callahan, moving to Portland, Maine, or getting engaged to another man. All she remembers is loving Zac more than life itself. Zac was just beginning to get his life back on track after Lucy left him with no explanation. And now she's back--vulnerable, homeless, and still in love with him. Has he been given a second chance with the only woman who stirs his passion and haunts his dreams? Lucy knows she must unlock those missing months and discover why she threw everything away. And Zac knows that if he follows his heart he'll win back the love of his life--but if Lucy's memory returns, his would-be bride might say goodbye forever. (Contemporary Romance from HarperCollins Christian Publishing [Thomas Nelson and Zondervan])

The Red Door Inn by Liz Johnson -- Marie Carrington is hoping to find safety and sanctuary on Prince Edward Island, where she reluctantly agrees to help decorate a renovated bed-and-breakfast before it opens for prime tourist season. Seth Sloane didn't move three thousand miles to work on his uncle's B&B so he could babysit a woman with a taste for expensive antiques and a bewildering habit of jumping every time he brushes past her. He came to help restore the old Victorian--and to forget about the fiancée who broke his heart. The only thing Marie and Seth agree on is that getting the Red Door Inn ready to open in just three months will take everything they've got. Can these two wounded souls find hope, healing, and perhaps a bit of romance on this beautiful island? (Contemporary Romance from Revell [Baker Publishing])

A Glimmer of Hope: A Novella Prequel to Isle of Hope by Julie Lessman -- Lacey Carmichael is a wounded girl serving up trouble. Jack O'Bryen is a pastor's kid bent on serving God. But can they find a glimmer of hope for a future together? (Contemporary Romance from Julie Lessman LLC)


Grace in the Flames by Michelle Massaro -- Three people. One God of Grace. John Douglas thought he knew the future God had for him--raise a family and grow old with his bride, Hannah. But then a deadly house fire incinerates his faith, destroying the man he'd been. Worship leader Jenni Dupont conquered her demons years ago and has the scars to prove it. But temptation strikes when her world is shattered, and this time she's not sure if God can carry her through. Bar waitress April Johanson lives with the secret trauma of an abusive past. Desperate to stay off the streets of Vegas, she'll do whatever is necessary to pay the rent. When their lives intersect, God will ask them to do the impossible. To love Him even if… (General from Harvest House Publishers)

Historical Mystery:

Dressed for Death by Julianna Deering -- Drew and Madeline Farthering attend a Regency-era house party but end up with a murder mystery to solve when one of the guests dies from a drug overdose. Then the dark question arises of whether the death is an accident or murder. Drew is shocked when the police arrest someone he's trusted and admired since his childhood--someone who's been smuggling drugs into the country for years. Questioning his own ability to see people as they really are, Drew doesn't know who to trust, and he's not ready for the secrets he's about to uncover--or the danger he'll bring down on everyone he holds dear. (Historical Mystery from Bethany House [Baker Publishing])

Historical Romance:

The Cowboy's Bride Collection by Susan Page Davis, Vickie McDonough, Susanne Dietze, Nancy J. Farrier, Miralee Ferrell, Darlene Franklin, Davalynn Spencer, Becca Whitham, and Jaime Jo Wright -- Ride onto the open range alongside cowboys and cowgirls who embrace the adventures of living in the Old West from Kansas to New Mexico, Colorado to Texas. Whether rounding up cattle or mustangs, training horses, fending off outlaws, weathering storms, competing in rodeos, or surviving drought these cowboys work hard each day. But when hardheaded men have their weaknesses exposed by well-meaning women will they stampede away or will a lasting love develop? (Historical Romance from Barbour Publishing)

The Marriage Bargain by Angel Moore -- Lily Warren's new hat shop is her ticket to self-reliance…until a fire threatens to destroy her dreams. And when Edward Stone--her landlord and the town blacksmith--bursts into her private rooms to rescue her, Lily's reputation is tarnished. So Edward proposes a solution that could save her good name--even as it puts her independence at risk. With an orphaned niece who needs a mother, Edward believes a marriage of convenience is the answer to his and Lily's problems. But he didn't plan on developing feelings for his new wife. Perhaps it's time for the wary blacksmith to try forging something truly precious--a real family… (Historical Romance from Love Inspired [Harlequin])


A Fool and His Monet by Sandra Orchard -- Despite her mother's pleas to do something safer--like get married--Serena Jones has joined the FBI Art Crime Team and is learning how to go undercover in hopes of catching the art thief who murdered her grandfather. When a local museum discovers an irreplaceable Monet missing, Jones leaps into action. The clues point in different directions, and her boss orders her to cease investigating her most promising suspect. But determined to solve the case and perhaps discover another clue in her grandfather's murder, she pushes ahead, regardless of the danger. (Mystery from Revell [Baker Publishing])

Romantic Suspense:

The Stronghold by Lisa Carter -- Drug violence, revenge killings, and kidnapping are nothing new along the U.S.-Mexican border. But now teenage girls are disappearing from the Apache reservations of Arizona and New Mexico. Apache tribal cop Pilar To-Clanny and FBI Special Agent Alex Torres have a long and tumultuous history. When someone close to them disappears, Pilar and Alex must risk everything to rescue the child, including facing the unresolved issues of the past, and venture into the no-man's land of the drug cartels. Can Pilar and Alex work together to stop a sadistic killer before he strikes again? On a quest to rescue those they love, who will rescue them? (Romantic Suspense from Abingdon Press)

Protecting Her Daughter by Lynette Eason -- After someone attempts to abduct her daughter, single mom Zoe Collier flees to a remote ranch for safety. But when the would-be kidnappers follow them to Wrangler's Corner, Zoe must figure out why somebody wants Sophia. Local vet Aaron Starke is determined to help Zoe investigate--and to keep his intriguing new neighbors safe. Zoe's used to relying on her own wits to survive. But quick-witted, caring Aaron is just the type of man she needs in her corner. And he might be her partner for keeps…if they can find the truth without losing their lives. (Romantic Suspense from Love Inspired [Harlequin])

Women's Fiction:

Breaking Free by Jennifer Slattery -- Women's ministry leader and Seattle housewife, Alice Goddard, and her successful graphic-designer husband appear to have it all together. Until their credit and debit cards are denied, launching Alice into an investigation that only leads to the discovery of secrets. Meanwhile, her husband is trapped in a downward spiral of lies, shame, and self-destruction. Can they break free from their deception and turn to the only One who can save them? And will it be in time to save their marriage? (Women's Fiction from New Hope Publishers)

12 Hot New Releases in Christian Fiction #ACFW (Click to tweet)