Monday, September 26, 2016

OF RAGS AND RICHES ROMANCE COLLECTION ~ Cover Reveal and Publishing Story

Have you ever seen something with your own eyes and still couldn’t believe it? That’s the way I feel when I look at this book cover and see my name down there at the bottom. I'm beyond thrilled to be included in this collection with eight fantastic ladies whose writing I love.

Since I'm bursting to tell you, here’s a little about my novella:

Collection: Of Rags and Riches Romance Collection: Nine Stories of Poverty and Opulence During the Gilded Age
Title: For Richer or Poorer

Setting: Newark, New Jersey, 1885
Publisher: Barbour Publishing
Release Date: July 2017

Summary Sentence
In order to bring her starving family to New Jersey, Polish immigrant Marcella Lipski must marry wealth, so she takes Americanization lessons from the poor-but-mysterious cart driver teaching her English--and loses her heart in the process.

But my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:19


I’m awestruck, y’all. When I see this lovely cover put together by Barbour Publishing’s fabulous marketing team, I blink and stare and whisper, “God, did you really do this for me?”

Oh, yes He did.

And here’s how it came about…

Last year, in September, I attended the American Christian Fiction Writers conference for the first time. Nervous as a country mouse can be in an international airport hotel in Dallas, TX, I sat at a small table across from an empty chair and awaited the editor who I had signed up to meet so I could tell her about my novel. Was I crazy? What kind of imposter did I think I was, a nobody in such a big place, dreaming I could talk to an editor at my dream publishing house? As if I was a real writer or something.

I waited. And waited. And my editor didn’t arrive due to a small miscommunication in the scheduling department. Another lovely author, Gabrielle Meyer, whom I had met a day or two before while stalking my favorite authors in the hotel hallways, sat a couple tables away from me, waiting for her own editor to arrive. Thankfully, Gabrielle took pity on me, probably because I looked ready to crawl under the table. We talked about the stories we were hoping to publish, and all the while I was slightly distracted, trying to figure out how to get my hair to curl like hers. (You have great hair, Gabe, lol!)

Fast forward a month to when my family and I vacationed for a week on a beautiful wooded mountain top in Virginia with the leaves in full color. I had just met a lady whose parents were immigrants from Poland and had a story idea percolating in my brain while my Dad spent the week reading my latest full length historical manuscript.

I drove to the top of the mountain to check my email, hoping to hear back from one of the agents I had submitted to after the writing conference. Whaddya know, but Gabrielle had emailed me asking if I wanted to throw in an idea for her new novella collection proposal. I hadn’t checked my email in a week, and the deadline to submit an idea was a week away! Five days and nights of brainstorming, writing, editing, proofreading, and precious little sleep later, I sent off my idea to Gabrielle with a sigh and a prayer.

After we signed the contracts (in July of this year), it hit me that the Lord had done some pretty sweet things with this collection. Not only will I become published before I turn 30 (my original goal was 18, but the He knew I wasn’t ready), debuting in a collection with eight other authors will help some of my marketing anxieties, and I’m publishing with some of my writer heroes like Erica Vetsch, who is extremely awesome by the way, and if you haven’t read any of her stories you should stop everything and pick up one of her books--after you say hey in the comments here. :D Erica's a three-time finalist for the 2016 Carol Awards and won overall in the novella category with her story A Bride for Bear. Another writer-hero in the collection is Kathleen Y’Barbo, whose stories I have loved since I was a young teen, AND whose novella I was reading when I decided to try writing my first chapter book and titled it after a phrase in one of her stories. I could go on about the rest of these ladies, some of whom have befriended me on various writerly sites online, and others whom I met last month at the American Christian Fiction Writers Conference. It's a small world when you have a big God.

I'm mindful that innumerable prayers—mine, yours, and others’—have gone into this writing journey, and I am immensely grateful, moved at the support of so many kindred hearts. I’m blessed to see how God has used this adventure to bring us together and look forward to sharing the cover of lots more books with you! For His glory!

I'm very late announcing this, because the winners should now have their books already, but the winner of a paperback copy of A Heart Most Certain is Amanda T. The winner of the Barbour romance collection e-book is Halita Wilson. Congrats winners!

Monday, September 19, 2016

THE LADY AND THE LIONHEART by Joanne Bischof ~ Reviewed

I’ve got a book hangover, folks. 
Thanks to Joanne Bischof and Charlie Lionheart. And Holland. And Ella. And Regina.

This post was supposed to be about my latest media faves: online videos, books, movies, songs, etc. Then this lion tamer guy named Charlie Lionheart sort of took over my life for a week…

This may turn out to be a short review for me, because I don’t want to give away too much. To quote Jane Austen’s Mr. Knightly, if I loved this book less, I might be able to talk about it more. I will say I can count on one hand the novels that have resonated as deeply with me as this one.

The Setting and Characters

The story unfolds in a flavorful adventure, rich with wonder and delight and grounded with poignancy. From elephants to aerialists, popcorn, caramel, gypsies holding dances in open fields, a calliope, and of course the lions, Joanne skillfully pulls out all stops to awaken the reader to the charm of Victorian circus life. A memorable thrill in itself. Even more so, these characters will live on in my heart for a long, long time to come. Oh, so talented half-gypsy Charlie and his debonaire-yet-humble skill with his kingly lion brothers. Ella and her love for sweet little Holland. The treachery that lurks within jolly, striped circus tents.

Nearing the end of the book, I read at a maddeningly slow pace, because I knew I would have to say goodbye to these characters, and I ached to think of my time with them ending.

The Love Story

I must mention the romance. The hero’s gentle pursuit of the heroine is utterly beautiful. I don’t have the words…which is a strange place to be for me as a writer. If I tried hard to describe their relationship, I’d say Charlie’s wooing of Ella starts long before he meets her, perhaps when the lion tamer decides he will no longer indulge in fleeting infatuations with his many admirers under the big top, but save all his wooing and affection for one woman, whom he prays he will recognize when the day comes. While Charlie is careful of his behavior and interactions with all women, there is a reverence coupled with vulnerability in his dealings with Ella. Though enigmatic, proud, passionate, and quite famous, this sought-after circus performer carries deep scars and at times questions his worth—still, he lives his life in a pattern of sacrifice for each friend, family member, and person he loves. This all works together in forming a life that blesses Ella and their relationship together because of Charlie’s own personal choices.

The Redemption

Joanne has woven into The Lady and the Lionheart an emotional tapestry that builds on every page. Her signature, I think. Every character brings a special nuance to the journey you’ll still be walking inside your heart long after the last leaf is turned. The spiritual application still brings tears to my eyes when I think of my Savior and all He has born…and still bears for me.

Read this story for yourself. If you don’t read another novel this year…or the next five years, read this one.

Want to find out more about the book? Or nurse your own book-hangover if you’ve already read the story? Check out Joanne’s Pinterest board for the book!

Also, indulge in Annie Moses' "Blush," a sweet song about chivalrous things lost and longed for. The chorus repeated itself constantly in my mind after reading The Lady and the Lionheart and still hasn’t left my head altogether. :) You can find the lyrics here.

Comment Fodder:
Have you heard of this novel before or is this your first glimpse?
Do you know the symbolism of the top hat on the cover?
What novel(s) have you read that you will never forget?

Monday, September 12, 2016


This collection of novellas takes the reader back to the day when anyone willing to brave the California gold fields could make a fortune in a day, or lose it in a day. Where paupers could become kings in a matter of hours. And where true love was as rare in the land as the women who brought it there.

The Price of Love by Amanda Barratt
The plot twist (which I shall not reveal) that drives this story is so fun! Not to mention the whole setup of a hero and heroine competing for a newspaper job, unbeknownst to one another, and the hero’s being challenged beforehand by his boss to win the heart of the lady in order to gain the position. Of course the heroine’s task is to go west to the bachelor-ridden gold fields to write a story and NOT come back as someone’s “Mrs.,” since that would likely prohibit her from her coveted work as an editor for a major New York paper. I love Amanda’s style, wit, and attention to historical detail. She also has a beautiful way with words. I especially liked one scene in which a “good Christian person” realizes his own good works aren’t good enough, but that he must surrender his life to the Lord. This mischievous novel has a fair amount of the “independent woman pursues social freedom” message prevalent in Christian fiction today, but is tempered by the heroine’s discovery of a love for home and family.

The Best Man in Brookside by Angela Bell
Reminiscent of the Biblical story of Joseph with flavors of Jane Austen, this novella brings together a plot of social revenge with fun historical steampunk elements. Horse enthusiasts will enjoy this story as well. The relationship of the hero and heroine went from enemies in the beginning to forgiven friends at the end of the story. I was a bit surprised, though, when out popped a marriage proposal without either character’s thinking of the other person much in a romantic light, or even inner narrative of their own wishes for a marriage or family of their own. Maybe some of the earlier landscape description or introspection could have been condensed to make room for a few more sentimental thoughts to forward the romantic thread.

Civilizing Clementine by Dianne Christner
This is a coming of age story about a young woman raised in the gold fields adjusting to womanhood with the help of the Last Resort Traveling Etiquette School. Of course, when you try to force a trouser-wearing, bad grammar-spewing, tomboy to become a lady, chaos ensues. Divided into three parts, this novella was unlike any I’ve read before. There are two contestants for the heart of the heroine. While the romance seemed to play second fiddle to the plot, the friendships in this story were endearing.

The Marriage Broker and the Mortician by Anne Greene
This is a curious story about a hero and heroine in two opposite lines of work. Their differences make the reader wonder if they will ever be able to resolve the relationship in a happy conclusion. Also, this was a case of love-at-first-sight for the hero, while the heroine stubbornly refuses to entertain notions of matrimony. The hero’s relentless pursuit drives the story forward to its HEA ending.

The Lye Water Bride by Linda Farmer Harris
Besides introducing us to the fascinating process of measuring gold’s worth using lye water, this story takes us through the mysteries of embezzlement, bank robbery, and attempted murder. This tale also includes a courtship triangle with two men pursuing the heroine—both men are accused of crimes, but only one is innocent. Plot twists and intriguing characters move this story along to a satisfying conclusion.

A Sketch of Gold by Cynthia Hickey
This sweet tale is about a young woman dressed as a boy, trying to keep her identity as a female hidden in dangerous gold-fields full of desperate men. The hero, a newspaper man, is clued in to her secret at their first meeting and decides to work undercover in order to publish her story. Their journey to love is fraught with relationship troubles, outside threats from other men, and a flash flood, but the ending leaves the reader with plenty to smile about.

Love Is a Puzzle by Pam Hillman
This is a sweet, adventuresome novella, full of the splendor—and danger—of the California landscape. I loved the heroine’s tenacity and drive to find her father, even after all hope was lost. Speaks loudly of the strength of a well-nurtured father-daughter relationship. And you’ve gotta love the scene where the father demands to know the hero’s intentions. :) Makes me wonder how many modern young men might handle a situation like that. The hero holds his own with a mile-wide protective streak due to the sorrow he faced in losing loved ones. This of course shows up in his kindness and attentiveness toward the heroine. The proposal scene at the end is absolutely adorable and showcases the hero’s quiet ways—the emotion and subtext will paint the reader with happy smiles. I love reading Pam’s books, firstly because I can trust the content, and secondly, because they all follow characters through unique challenges that culminate in a heartwarming, sigh-worthy conclusion. Her stories are laced with a cozy flavor that will keep readers coming back for more.

The Golden Cross by Jennifer Rogers Spinola
If you’ve ever wanted to read about the struggles of living through the California Gold Rush through the eyes of a young Asian woman, this is the novella for you. Filled with American history and personal struggles of the heroine, this book will give the reader greater insight into the times and dilemmas of the Chinese people who came to the gold fields in America. I loved the focus on Chinese culture, proverbs, and food and how the hero helped the heroine when she needed it most.

Gold Haven Heiress by Jaime Jo Wright
I didn’t know such rich plot and character development could be packed into a novella’s limited word count, but Jaime Jo has accomplished great depth with this story. The characters are multi-dimensional and the plot deliciously unpredictable. My eyes even welled up at the ending—and I don’t often cry with books. One thing I loved is even though I guessed at the final plot twist when it was being set up, the events and character reactions that followed convinced me my guess was wrong, so when things actually did turn out as I had hoped and imagined, I was still shocked. Perfection. This is my first story to read from Jaime Jo. I’m super excited to read more. (For all who are interested, she has another story coming out July 2017 in the same anthology as my debut story. I’m thrilled to be publishing in a novella collection with her!)

*I was provided with a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Monday, September 5, 2016

September 2016 Christian Fiction New Releases #ACFW

July 2016 New Releases

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


Daughter of the Nile by Jill Eileen Smith -- Explore the exotic world of ancient Egypt and ponder the dilemma Siti faces when she leaves her homeland, her family, and the worship of her many gods, to live in Jerusalem where only Yahweh is worshiped. Can Siti leave her favorite goddess Bastet behind? Will she ever make sense of this land, it’s strange worship of one God, and a husband who is as wise and ever-changing as the wind? (Biblical from Revell [Baker])

Contemporary Romance:

When Love Arrives by Johnnie Alexander -- Dani Prescott plans revenge when Brett Somers blames her mother for the plane crash that killed his parents. But the crash killed her mother as well, so Dani can't believe the story Brett's trying to sell to the media. She vows to find a way to discredit his story, but when she catches his eye instead, she offers up a fake name and agrees to a date—only to spy on him. Brett knows this mystery girl is hiding something, but he's got his own secrets to keep. What will happen when he discovers who she really is? (Contemporary Romance from Revell [Baker])

Feta and Freeways by Susan M. Baganz -- Nikolos Acton is the lead singer of a Christian Band, Specific Gravity, struggling to make it in the industry after an unplanned break, touring the country with their manager, Tia Bartel. Tia loved Niko for the longest time, but it’s not until she steps in to save his life that he finally realizes what has been there all along. Is it too late for him? Could a relationship between them work after years of ignoring her? How would he ever convince her he’s worthy of her trust? As they journey on the freeway of life and love, they encounter struggles as they are forced to rely on their faith, and friends, to make it through. (Contemporary Romance from Inspired [Prism Book Group])

Sarah's Orphans by Vannetta Chapman -- Sarah Yoder belongs to a Plain community in Oklahoma, but her days are far from simple. After Sarah's bipolar father dies, her long-abused mother packs a bag and leaves Sarah behind with five needy siblings. Though exhausted with new responsibility, Sarah is finally at peace. Then she nearly runs over a small Hispanic boy with her buggy...and somehow finds herself sheltering two more orphans. Paul Byler moved to Cody's Creek to help his brother in a time of need. But now that Joseph has recovered from his heart attack, Paul's ready for a quiet place of his own. The only problem? His new property lands him next door to the orphaned Yoder family—and a calling from God he can't seem to ignore. (Contemporary Romance from Harvest House Publishers)

Dance Over Me by Candee Fick -- Danielle Lefontaine, a fledgling actress raised to the lullaby of Broadway, searches for her long-lost brother and her place on the stage. But when a jealous cast member threatens to drop the curtain on her dreams, Danielle fears her one brilliant moment in the spotlight is about to become a dim memory. Alex Sheridan is living his dream. Playing the trumpet. Helping run his family s dinner theater. But there’s a hole in his soul that can only be filled with the love of that "someone special" -- the better half of him. When "Dani" dances into his life, Alex thinks he’s found his perfect partner. But will the bright lights of a bigger stage steal her away before they find their perfect song? (Contemporary Romance from Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas)

Cozy Mystery:

Out of the Frying Pan by Michelle Griep and Kelly Klepfer -- When the retirement center's chef is found dead, two retired sisters-in-law decide to solve the case, but their zany attempts to track down the killer leads them on a downward spiral into drugs, extortion, and worst of all. . . broken hearts. (Cozy Mystery from Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas)

Historical Romance:

Mountain Christmas Brides by Mildred Colvin, Mary Davis, Susan Page Davis, Lena Nelson Dooley, Darlene Franklin, Debby Lee, Tamela Hancock Murray, Carrie Turansky, and Gina Welborn -- From a Wyoming ranch in 1880, to a logging camp in Washington Territory in the late 1800s, to Denver, Colorado, in 1913, meet nine couples who find that Christmas is the perfect time for climbing to the heights of romance. Watch as their faith and courage propel them through challenges that come with mountain winters to cozy fireside celebrations that lead to lasting proclamations of love. (Historical Romance from Barbour Publishing)

Mattie's Pledge by Jan Drexler -- Since Mattie Schrock last saw her childhood sweetheart Jacob Yoder, they've both grown into different people with different dreams. Jacob yearns to settle down, but Mattie can't help but dream of what may lie over the western horizon. When a handsome Englisher tempts her to leave the Amish behind to search for adventure in the Wild West, will her pledge to Jacob be the anchor that holds her secure? (Historical Romance from Revell [Baker])

You're the Cream in My Coffee by Jennifer Lamont Leo -- In 1928, Marjorie Corrigan thinks she sees her first love--believed killed in the Great War--alive and well in a train station. (Historical Romance from Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas)

A Lady Unrivaled by Roseanna M. White -- All her life, Lady Ella Myerston has been sheltered from the realities of the world, but Ella knows very well how the dangerous Fire Eyes diamonds have haunted her brother and their friends. Unwilling to wait around for peril to strike again, she sets out on an adventurous journey to the Cotswolds. Lord James Cayton has already broken two hearts, including that of his first wife, who died before he could convince himself to love her. Now he's determined to live a better life . . . but that proves complicated when old acquaintances pull Cayton into their desperate attempt to seize the jewels. He does his best to remove the intriguing Lady Ella from danger, but the stubborn girl won't budge. How else can he redeem himself, though, but by saving her--and his daughter--from those intent on destroying them all? (Historical Romance from Bethany House [Baker])

Romantic Suspense:

Breach of Trust by Jodie Bailey -- A former soldier teams up with the partner she thought was dead in order to expose a cybercriminal bent on terrorizing the US military. (Romantic Suspense from Love Inspired [Harlequin])

Twilight at Blueberry Barrens by Colleen Coble -- To supplement income from her family’s failing blueberry farm, Kate Mason rents out the small cottage on the property, but it won’t be enough. When entrepreneur Drake Newham shows up looking not only for a place to rent but also for a nanny for his two nieces, it’s almost too good to be true. And maybe it is—because Drake brings with him dangerous questions about who might be out to kill his family. The more time Kate spends with Drake and the girls, the more difficult it becomes to hide her attraction to him. But between Drake’s family crises, news of an escaped murderer, and a local stalker’s threats, there’s no time for romance. Kate wonders if her blueberry fields will ever flourish again . . . or if this twilight is her last. (Romantic Suspense from HarperCollins Christian Publishing [Thomas Nelson and Zondervan])

Game On by Lillian Duncan -- Congressman Lucas McMann believes he's the victim of a bizarre stalking game, but to stop them he needs proof—and help from an old friend. Private Investigator Nikki wants to refuse, but her new found faith tells her she should help him—even if he was the first man to break her heart. (Romantic Suspense from Inspired [Prism Book Group])

Widow by Denise Weimer -- In book two of The Restoration Trilogy, Jennifer Rushmore has overseen the restoration of brooding bachelor Michael's ancestors' doctor's house long enough to work through their initial differences. Now the apothecary shop discloses a heart-breaking tale circa 1870 Georgia, shaking loose Jennifer's own carefully suppressed past. She fears that when Michael sees beyond her facade, her tentative steps toward trust and love may disintegrate into rubble. On her journey to forgiveness, Jennifer draws on her new faith and friendships, even as the mysterious accidents clouding her first preservation job escalate into imminent danger. (Romantic Suspense from Canterbury House Publishing)


Killswitch by Victoria Buck -- The world's first transhuman finds his true calling, and it's not what his creators intended. (Speculative from Harbourlight Books [Pelican])

*All authors whose books are included on the ACFW New Releases list attest that their book meets CBA standards for clean, Christian content. The posting of this list on the Sweet South Blog is not a review or an endorsement of any book on the list.