Monday, August 22, 2016

A HEART MOST CERTAIN by Melissa Jagears ~ Reviewed

This book…

…was magical.

Melissa has outdone herself with this story, an enchanting read from cover to cover. I’m even grateful for the summer cold I caught while reading this one, so I could read with fewer breaks. It takes an excellent novel to make me appreciative of a cold. :)

The Hero:
Let’s start this review with Nicholas Lowe. Hero material down to the core. Why? Because however misguided and flat-out wrong he may be in other areas, he is seeking God’s will above anyone else’s and is actively pursuing God’s calling on his life. He’s not a missionary or a preacher or even a Sunday School Teacher—indeed, the ministry he’s called to is unconventional and broadly misunderstood by those around him. But he’s actively and passionately reaching out to the lost with the love of Jesus, doing his best to become a world-changer for God, and that, dear readers, is incredibly attractive. As for other facets of Nick’s character, I love the undercover hero aspect—evidently a lot, since I was not only delighted to find the thread in this book, but the story I’m currently writing contains that angle as well. Yay for disguised crusaders!

The Heroine:
Lydia King is one of those heroines I related to on the very first page. Her love of books, her desire to help people and make a difference, and yes, even her myriad flaws, mirrored many of my own tendencies.

The Romance:
The love story was beautiful. I especially liked how the hero and heroine got to know one another while doing ministry work together—a very intriguing sort of ministry I must say. And the way the hero risked rejection and became vulnerable enough to show the heroine his interest with no guarantee of her returned admiration... *sigh* ...though he waited forever and a day to bare his heart, even after he knew he loved her—so long I wanted to whop him over the head with his shiny new copy of Mark Twain’s Roughing It. However, seeing he was hurt so deeply in the past makes that detail forgivable—and the ending that much sweeter. The snow, the garden bench, the wounded knight beseeching his lady to love him in return… Such is the stuff of fairy tales. The characters certainly have to slog through their share of troubles, doubts, and failures to get there, but watching two imperfect characters learn to forgive, grow, and love selflessly gives this book-lover’s heart cause to patter.

The Setting:
Kansas, 1905. I love the historical details Melissa has included and the world she creates visually and with sensory descriptions, as well as social attitudes fitting for the times. She delves into some less-featured characteristics of life in a small Kansas town during the turn of the nineteenth century. If you like the historical era of Hallmark’s fantastic “When Calls the Heart” series, you’ll like this book.

The Characters:
The smooth, subtle graduations in each character’s learning arc delighted me as the story unfolded. Then to watch these characters I liked turn into characters I could love… Bravo! And of all the host of characters in this sprawling cast, none of them fell flat. That is a great feat in itself.

The Spiritual Message:
The spiritual threads convicted me. It isn’t often a work of fiction searches out and spreads light on our standing with God such as in this novel. Melissa Jagears writes with great depth of insight and a sensitive counselor’s soul. The truths in this book are lived out (with no small struggle) in the lives of the characters and discussed from several points of view, with scripture as a basis. Would make a great book club pick for those sincere in wanting to become more like Christ.

The Plot:
This story is different from others I’ve read from Melissa in that the main story action starts much sooner in the plot—which kept me turning pages into the night. Several twists had me alternately smiling and blinking wide eyes. One thing I just realized about this plot—usually I’ll start grinning about halfway through a book, seeing how the author is leading the reader's emotions, guiding them right where s/he wants them. With this novel, I forgot everything except the characters and their plights. I so wanted to help Lydia, and help Lydia help Sadie, and my heart broke for Pepper, Angel, and little Robbie. I was incensed at the gall of some characters who paraded spotless reputations while secretly profiting from and supporting wickedness. A great read with a few red herrings that kept me guessing for a while. Fun stuff, y’all. If you haven’t picked up a copy, I have a giveaway of this book going on through the 29th. Comment with your email address either on this post or my character interview with Nicholas and Lydia, and you’ll be entered in the draw!

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Sharing My Exciting Publishing News!


For all of you who have encouraged and prayed for me over my years of writing, I'm here to tell you, thank you, I love you--and we have some celebrating to do! Because...


*squeal, happy dance, wiping tears, praising*

It's been my long-standing wish to become published with a traditional publisher. I can't wait to share more about the project and will do so very soon! This story, the third writing project I plotted is going to become the first story I publish. The tentative scheduled release date is sometime next summer. My story will be a novella in one of Barbour's romance collections. You've probably seen similar titles like this:

I'll be publishing in a collection alongside eight other fabulous ladies with whom I am elated to be collaborating! God is sooo good! He "just so happened" to let me debut in a collection with several of my writer-hero-ladies and the very writer whose work I was reading when I decided to try writing my own novel at the age of twelve. I call that a God-wink moment. So many feels!

The collection is titled, Of Rags and Riches: Nine Stories of Poverty and Opulence During the Gilded Age. If you'd like to know more about my plot and the other eight stories--there are some fabulous authors in this collection, y'all--then here's a link to an article about the whole collection!

Since this all still seems surreal to me, here are a few photos of the contract signing for proof so I can stop pinching myself.

I was working in a kitchen at a camp meeting when I got "The Call" from my agent telling me about the contract and I actually missed it! But I got the email before that and have been in a state of "Is this real?" for a while now. I guess it will seem more real when I hold the book in my hands. :)

Oh! And I forgot to announce--I'm giving away one e-copy of a Barbour novella collection book of your choice! Comment with your email to enter. If you need a list of all the collections so you can decide which you want, here is a list! :) Winner will be announced September 1st, 2016.

For an extra entry, sign up for my e-newsletter by clicking the button on the right sidebar that says, "Get My Book News." Let me know in the comments that you signed up. If you already get my newsletter, let me know, and you get an extra entry, too! :) 

Comment Fodder:

--Do you have any burning questions about the publishing process? 

--Have you ever read a novella before or do you normally stick to full-length novels? 

--Are you an avid novella-reader? If so, name one you really enjoyed recently.

--What are some important things you look for in a novel?

Monday, August 15, 2016

Meet the Characters ~ A HEART MOST CERTAIN by Melissa Jagears

Oh my goodness, oh my goodness, oh my goodness! Y'all!!!! This book!!

Okay, I'll try to tone down my excitement, but I just finished reading this story and am beyond excited to share my review with week. :D THIS week, you get to meet the characters! Whoop! Whoop! Enjoy!
Lydia King knows what it's like to be in need, so when she joins the Teaville Moral Society, she genuinely hopes to help the town's poor. But with her father's debts increasing by the day and her mother growing sicker by the week, she wonders how long it will be until she ends up in the poor house herself. Her best chance at a financially secure future is to impress the politician courting her, and it certainly doesn't hurt that the moral society's president is her suitor's mother. Her first task as a moral society member—to obtain a donation from Nicholas Lowe, the wealthiest man in town—should be easy . . . except he flat-out refuses.

Despite appearances, Nicholas wants to help others but prefers to do it his own way, keeping his charity private. When Lydia proves persistent, they agree to a bargain, though Nicholas has a few surprises up his sleeve. Neither foresee the harrowing complications that will arise from working together. When town secrets are brought to light, this unlikely pair must decide where their beliefs—and hearts—truly align.

Answers from A Heart Most Certain’s Nicholas Lowe:
What is your first reaction when you meet a fetching lady?
I let her talk first if at all possible. If she says something that isn’t utterly inane I’ll stick around and listen some more. If she’s a dunderhead, I move on. I haven’t the time for women with fluff for brains.

What happened the last time you spoke to a large group of people?
I often hold meetings with the workers at the many businesses I own. The last time I held a meeting, it was for my employees at the lumberyard. I saw a serious lack of concern for safety and addressed it. People think I’m cold-hearted, but I don’t want a single person’s death or injury on my conscience—I have plenty of regrets weighing me down already.

Any current romantic interests?
Women don’t tend to see me, they see my money. I don’t have time to figure out if there’s one out there who would actually care for me.

What’s your greatest source of frustration?
Right now? I’m about to put the finishing touches on my mansion and I’m not at all sure what to do with it. It’s a bit absurd for a bachelor to own such a beautiful monstrosity. I thought building it would make me feel better about something I’d rather not talk about, but it hasn’t.

What is your worst fear?
That this town will figure out what I’m using the mansion for at the moment.

Answers from A Heart Most Certain’s Lydia King:                                                             
Has anything significant happened in your life in the past two weeks?
The woman I hope will be my future mother-in-law has tasked me with getting a donation from the town’s miser. He’s likely not going to give me a red cent, but I’m going to get something from him if I can. Mrs. Little wants me to fail so she can convince her son that marrying me is a mistake. I’m not from a good enough family in her opinion—and considering who my father is, I sort of agree. But if I’m going to have a financially secure future, I really think Sebastian Little is my best chance. He might not be the husband I’ve dreamed of, but then, at some point, you have to give up fairy tale romances or end up a spinster.

Your most embarrassing moment?
The day the pastor’s wife realized that Momma and I were surviving on one meal a day because of my father’s gambling problem. She brought us lunch every day for several months during a particularly trying time. As grateful as I am for her generosity, that first day when I realized my father’s vices were known to more than just Momma and me, I was ashamed of being my father’s daughter.

Are there any hardheaded people in your life right now? What’s the issue?
Does my father count? He won’t change his ways no matter how much it’s hurting us. Momma is terminally ill according to the doctor and needs medication to help her with pain, but that hasn’t stopped Father from wasting his paycheck at the poker tables in the red light district.

What are your hobbies?
I read whatever I can get my hands on! My former high school English teacher has lent me everything he owns several times over, a few other friends have loaned me books, and I’ve scraped up enough money for a few books of my own, but this town really needs a library!

When’s the last time you had a really good meal? Courtesy of whom?
The last time Sebastian took me to the hotel to eat. That man won’t eat anything deemed ordinary. He ordered us both oyster soup. I couldn’t stand it, but he thought it was salted to perfection.

Melissa is generously offering a PAPERBACK copy of A Heart Most Certain. US entrants only this time, please. Comment with your email address to be entered. If you don't want to wait and find out if you won the giveaway before you start reading, you can buy a copy right now from one of these vendors:

Melissa Jagears is a Carol Award-winning author, a homeschooling mother to three, and an extreme night owl. She lives with her family in Kansas. You can connect with Melissa on her website, blog, Facebook (author page), Facebook (blog page), Goodreads, and Pinterest.

Comment fodder:
Have you ever thought someone was snobbish or mean, then they turned out to be a good friend?

Have you ever visited or lived in a mansion? What was your favorite thing about the place?

How many times a week/month do you visit your local public library?

Monday, August 8, 2016

Ask Me Anything: Random Q&A with Natalie

Hello friends! You asked for it! And here it is. Haha.

Thank you SO much for the questions you submitted to the Q & A bank. I think I've got them all answered below. If I missed you, give a shout in the comments and I'll answer it there!

Side note: when submitting some of the questions for this Q&A, some of you may have thought you were asking questions of one of my guest bloggers. Sorry about that! I'll clarify better next time, and in the meanwhile, I'll just answer all of them the best I can.

Lisa Medeiros asked, Are you working on another book?
Multiple, actually. One non-fiction book for single ladies and a fiction series, about which I'm keeping very quiet until the idea is fully developed. :)

*Stay tuned for some possibly very exciting news soon. Sorry I can't tell you more, but I have to keep quiet until things are finalized!

Lientjie Human asked, At what age did you decide to become an author?
I was around 12 when I attempted my first manuscript, but I started writing seriously to pursue publication at around age 22.

Caryl Kane asked, If you could have a pet, real or imagined, what would it be and why?
I'd LOVE a bunny rabbit. Or one of those pink miniature pigs. Puppies are fun, too, especially the miniature variety. I love small, cute things. :)

Lynda E. asked, What inspires your story ideas?
My stories are usually the result of daydreaming, wondering "what if?" Many times real-life situations and old movie classics I love get twisted up and turned on their heads, then *voila* I have a new story idea. :) Also, watching/reading a story I don't like helps me think of ways to rewrite it in another setting to my satisfaction.

Rose Milligan asked, What do your book shelves look like...very organized or overflowing with books?
Mine are fairly organized at this point, thank goodness. One drawer in my dresser is actually full of books, too, but they are orderly and in a row. :) You can take a look at photos of my bookshelves which I uploaded in a previous post HERE.

Melody asked, I read then pass my books on. Do you or just keep them?
Most of the hard copies I read, I giveaway here on the blog. Sometimes I keep my very favorites and give away a duplicate copy. Also, there are several local ladies with whom I swap books.

Ohiohomeschool asked, Do you have any input on the cover of your books?
Since I don't have firsthand experience on the topic of book covers as of yet, I'm linking to THIS ARTICLE  on the Bethany House blog for more info. I believe authors generally do have input as to the main idea of the scene/character/feeling of the cover, then final negotiations are between an author, their agent, and the publisher.

Rachael Koppendrayer asked, Do you like to reread books? If so, what are some favorites?
I do like to reread books every once in a while. But when I re-read, I usually skim my favorite parts to save time. :) I recently re-read A Man Called Peter by Catherine Marshall. I have a "To Read Again" shelf on you can check out HERE. Some at the top of that list (which may not be on the Goodreads list--I need to update it!) are Lori Wick's Californians and A Place Called Home series, Francine Rivers' The Mark of the Lion trilogy, Redeeming Love, and all Karen Witemeyer's books!

Amber Schamel asked, What does your writing schedule look like? Do you write every day, or just once a week?
Yikes. My writing schedule and I have a love-hate relationship. When I'm drafting, on a good day I usually get 3-5 hours a day. On the other hand, I'm a one-thing-at-a-time kind of person, so I'm eager to try a one-whole-day-for-writing approach with maybe two solid days of writing per week.

Thanks so much for all your questions! Y'all are great! If you'd like more elaboration, let me know in the comments!

Winner of Brandy Vallance's Within the Veil is Lisa Madieros. *Winner randomly drawn using the random number selector on