A Wonderful Romantic Tale: The Maid of Fairbourne Hall by Julie Klassen

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

The Maid of Fairbourne Hall
by Julie Klassen
Copyright 2012
Bethany House Publishers
ISBN: 9780764207099
My Thoughts:
When it comes to Regency romance nobody does it quite like Julie Klassen. I've come to expect nothing but the best from Ms. Klassen and she has once again delivered it with The Maid of Fairborne Hall. Fans of the hit British drama, Downton Abbey will fall in love with this story where upstairs meets downstairs and love overcomes all obstacles.

Margaret Macy who stands to inherit a fortune when she comes of age is at the end of the rope where her conniving and deceitful stepfather is concerned. With seemingly no other option than to flee his household Margaret escapes with her lady's maid, Joan, in hopes of avoiding him for a few months. With no money of her own she not only faces the fierce streets of London but also the prying eyes of society and so disguises herself and takes on a position as a maid at gorgeous Fairbourne Hall. At every turn she risks the master of the house seeing through her paltry disguise and dismissing her or worse yet recalling that she once spurned him as a suitor!

Each character is flawed and yet perfectly written so that one feels their struggles and their desperation. Don't get me wrong, this is a romance with a H.E.A. but the attention to detail makes it seem like you're reading something more substantial. I so love how Ms. Klassen weaves faith into the story without bashing it over one's head so to speak. It all flows neatly and lends to the authenticity of the time period of the story. All in all The Maid of Fairbourne Hall impressed me with its sweetness, the danger, and most importantly just that little bit of sigh-inducing romance. Bravo, Julie, I can't wait for the next story!

~4.5 out of 5 stars~

About the book:
To escape a scheme to marry her off to a dishonorable man, Margaret Macy flees London disguised as a housemaid. If she can remain unwed until her next birthday, she will receive an inheritance, and with it, sweet independence. But she never planned on actually working as a servant. And certainly not in the home of Nathaniel and Lewis Upchurch--both former suitors.

 As she fumbles through the first real work of her life, Margaret struggles to keep her identity secret when suspicions arise and prying eyes visit Fairbourne Hall. Can she avoid a trap meant to force her from hiding?


To learn more about the author visit:
HER WEBSITE

*I received my complimentary copy through the publisher in exchange for posting this honest review.*



Congrats RITA Awards Finalists!

Monday, March 26, 2012

I don't normally do posts like this but I think it is important to give recognition where recognition is due. Some of these writer's books I admittedly haven't read but those whose books I have read are amazing and they so deserve the nomination. I'm so glad I don't have to choose the winner because I know for sure I wouldn't be able to pick just one! Let me know what you think about the finalists and who you are cheering on!

See all the RITA finalists HERE


The Christmas Child by Linda Goodnight (Harlequin Love Inspired; Allison Lyons, editor)


Deadly Pursuit by Irene Hannon (Revell; Jennifer Leep, editor)


Katie's Way by Marta Perry (Berkley Publishing Group; Ellen Edwards, editor)


The Ladies' Room by Carolyn Brown (Avalon Books; Lia Brown, editor)


Love on the Line by Deeanne Gist (Bethany House Publishers; David Long and Julie Klassen, editors)


The Measure of Katie Calloway by Serena Miller (Revell; Vicki Crumpton, editor)


My Foolish Heart by Susan May Warren (Tyndale House Publishers; Karen Watson, editor)


Save the Date by Jenny B. Jones (Thomas Nelson; Natalie Hanemann and Jamie Chavez, editors)


To Win Her Heart by Karen Witemeyer (Bethany House Publishers; Karen Schurrer, editor)

Happy Reading!


Winner of A Bride's Sweet Surprise in Sauers, Indiana

Sunday, March 25, 2012

I'm so happy to announce the winner of the giveaway from A Bride's Sweet Surprise in Sauers, Indiana by Ramona K. Cecil and that lucky girl is...

Casey!!

Casey has been notified and has 48 hours to claim her prize or another winner will be selected.

Please remember if you didn't win that this book is available NOW from Amazon and other retailers. :-)

Clash of the Titles: Unpub'bed Clash!

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Guest blogger: Jennifer Slattery



Sometimes Clash of the Titles highlights great talent. Other times we get to "discover it." This is exactly what happened with our speculative fiction unpub'bed clash.

Join me in welcoming Chawna Schroeder to the COTT family!

There's nothing like discovering great talent before it goes to print! And I have a feeling we're going to see our latest COTT champion's books on bookshelves very soon. When we do, we can all say, "We saw her on COTT first!" And this clash--a battle for best speculative fiction unpub'bed--was even more exciting because the winner has been invited to submit a full proposal to Asraea Press for immediate review!

Her winning excerpt was pulled from the pages of Metamorphosis, a gripping tale of a Beast and her master:

Once upon a time there lived a Beast…
Not in a shining castle, but among a pack of dogs.

For as long as Beast can remember she has lived among her master’s dogs. With them she sleeps. With them she eats. With them she fights and struggles to survive. But through hunger and cold, she dreams of one day becoming Master’s favorite, earning bones with meat and a place beside the fire.

Then strangers attack. Her pack scatters. Fire eats the village. And Beast knows: Master is no more.

Alone and unprotected, Beast tries to defend herself against slavers scavenging for any leftovers. But she is only one, and they are strong.

Tracked by men, sold as a monster, is Beast only prey to be hunted…
…or something more?

A few comments from readers:

"I enjoyed both excerpts! I am curious about the world created in A, but B really got me in the gut."

"Great job! Keep writing!"

"God has given you a gift. Your TRUE fans will always be there for you!! Never give up and follow your dreams!!! I am sending up a prayer for you and your family!!!"


Join us March 19-23 for a fun Flash Clash!



FIRST Wild Card Blog Tour + My Review: The Heart's Frontier by Lori Copeland & Virginia SMith

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old...or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!




You never know when I might play a wild card on you!








Today's Wild Card authors are:




and the book:


Harvest House Publishers (March 1, 2012) 

***Special thanks to Karri | Marketing Assistant | Harvest House Publishers for sending me a review copy.***



ABOUT THE AUTHOR:


Lori Copeland is the author of more than 90 titles, both historical and contemporary fiction. With more than 3 million copies of her books in print, she has developed a loyal following among her rapidly growing fans in the inspirational market. She has been honored with the Romantic Times Reviewer's Choice Award, The Holt Medallion, and Walden Books' Best Seller award. In 2000, Lori was inducted into the Missouri Writers Hall of Fame. She lives in the beautiful Ozarks with her husband, Lance, and their three children and five grandchildren.



Visit the author's website.






Virginia Smith is the author of more than a dozen inspirational novels and more than fifty articles and short stories. An avid reader with eclectic tastes in fiction, Ginny writes in a variety of styles, from lighthearted relationship stories to breath-snatching suspense.



Visit the author's website.





SHORT BOOK DESCRIPTION:




An exciting new Amish-meets-Wild West adventure from bestselling authors Lori Copeland and Virginia Smith weaves an entertaining and romantic tale for devoted fans and new readers.



Kansas,1881—On a trip to visit relatives, Emma Switzer’s Amish family is robbed of all their possessions, leaving them destitute and stranded on the prairie. Walking into the nearest trading settlement, they pray to the Lord for someone to help. When a man lands in the dust at her feet, Emma looks down at him and thinks, The Lord might have cleaned him up first.



Luke Carson, heading up his first cattle drive, is not planning on being the answer to anyone’s prayers, but it looks as though God has something else in mind for this kind and gentle man. Plain and rugged—do the two mix? And what happens when a dedicated Amish woman and a stubborn trail boss prove to be each other’s match?












Product Details:

List Price: $13.99



Paperback: 320 pages

Publisher: Harvest House Publishers (March 1, 2012)

Language: English

ISBN-10: 0736947523

ISBN-13: 978-0736947527






AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:







Apple Grove, Kansas
July 1881

Nearly the entire Amish district of Apple Grove had turned out to help this morning, all twenty families. Or perhaps they were here merely to wish Emma Switzer well as she set off for her new home in Troyer, fifty miles away.
From her vantage point on the porch of the house, Emma’s grandmother kept watch over the loading of the gigantic buffet hutch onto the specially reinforced wagon. Her sharp voice sliced through the peaceful morning air.
“Forty years I’ve had that hutch from my dearly departed husband and not a scratch on it. Jonas, see that you use care!”
If Maummi’s expression weren’t so fierce, Emma would have laughed at the long-suffering look Papa turned toward his mother. But the force with which Maummi’s fingers dug into the flesh on Emma’s arm warned that a chuckle would be most ill-suited at the moment. Besides, the men straining to heft the heavy hutch from the front porch of their home into the wagon didn’t need further distractions. Their faces strained bright red above their beards, and more than one drop of sweat trickled from beneath the broad brim of their identical straw hats.
Emma glanced at the watchers lined up like sparrows on a fence post. She caught sight of her best friend, Katie Beachy, amid the sea of dark dresses and white kapps. Katie smiled and smoothed her skirt with a shy gesture. The black fabric looked a little darker and crisper than that of those standing around her, which meant she’d worn her new dress to bid Emma farewell, an honor usually reserved for singings or services or weddings. The garment looked well on her. Emma had helped sew the seams at their last frolic. Of course, Katie’s early morning appearance in a new dress probably had less to do with honoring Emma than with the presence of Samuel Miller, the handsome son of the district bishop. With a glance toward Samuel, whose arms bulged against the weight of holding up one end of the hutch, she returned Katie’s smile with a conspiratorial wink.
Emma’s gaze slid over other faces in the crowd and snagged on a pair of eyes fixed on her. Amos Beiler didn’t bother to turn away but kept his gaze boldly on her face. Nor did he bother to hide his expression, one of longing and lingering hurt. He held infant Joseph in his arms, and a young daughter clutched each of his trouser-clad legs. A wave of guilt washed through Emma, and she hastily turned back toward the wagon.
From his vantage point up in the wagon bed, Papa held one end of a thick rope looped around the top of the hutch, the other end held by John Yoder. The front edge of the heavy heirloom had been lifted into the wagon with much grunting and groaning, while the rear still rested on the smooth wooden planks of the porch. Two men steadied the oxen heads, and the rest, like Samuel, had gathered around the back end of the hutch. A protective layer of thick quilts lined the wagon bed.
Papa gave the word. “Lift!”
The men moved in silent unity. Bending their knees, their hands grasped for purchase around the bottom edges. As one they drew in a breath, and at Papa’s nod raised in unison. Emma’s own breath caught in her chest, her muscles straining in silent sympathy with the men. The hutch rose until its rear end was level with its front, and the men stepped forward. The thick quilts dangling beneath scooted onto the wagon as planned, a protective barrier from damage caused by wood against wood.
The hutch suddenly dipped and slid swiftly to the front. Emma gasped. Apparently the speed caught Papa and John Yoder by surprise too, for the rope around the top went slack. Papa lunged to reach for the nearest corner, and his foot slipped. The wagon creaked and sank lower on its wheels as the hutch settled into place. At the same moment Papa went down on one knee with a loud, “Ummph.”
“Papa!”
Ach! ” Maummi pulled away from Emma and rushed forward. Her heart pounding against her rib cage, Emma followed. Men were already checking on Papa, but Maummi leaped into the wagon bed with a jump that belied her sixty years, the strings of her kapp flying behind her. She applied bony elbows to push her way around the hutch to her son’s side.
She came to a halt above him, hands on her hips, and looked down. “Are you hurt?”
Emma reached the side of the wagon in time to see Papa wince and shake his head. “NoA bruise is all.”
“Good.” She left him lying there and turned worried eyes toward her beloved hutch. With a gentle touch, she ran loving fingers over the smooth surface and knelt to investigate the corners.
A mock-stern voice behind Emma held the hint of a chuckle. “Trappings only, Marta Switzer. Care you more for a scratch on wood than an injury to your son?”
Emma turned to see Bishop Miller approach. He spared a smile for her as he drew near enough to lean his arms across the wooden side of the wagon and watch the activity inside. Samuel helped Papa to his feet and handed him the broad-brimmed hat that had fallen off. Emma breathed a sigh of relief when he took a ginger step to try out his leg and smiled at the absence of pain.
“My son is fine.” Maummi waved a hand in his direction, as though in proof. “And so is my hutch. Though my heart may not say the same, such a fright I’ve had.” She placed the hand lightly on her chest, drew a shuddering breath, and wavered on her feet.
Concern for her grandmother propelled Emma toward the back of the wagon. As she climbed up, she called into the house, “Rebecca, bring a cool cloth for Maummi’s head.”
The men backed away while Katie and several other women converged on the wagon to help Emma lift Maummi down and over to the rocking chair that rested in the shade of the porch, ready to be loaded when the time came. Maummi allowed herself to be lowered onto the chair, and then she wilted against the back, her head lolling sideways and arms dangling. A disapproving buzz rumbled among the watching women, but Emma ignored them. Though she knew full well that most of the weakness was feigned for the sake of the bishop and other onlookers, she also knew Maummi’s heart tended to beat unevenly in her chest whenever she exerted herself. It was yet another reason why she ought to stay behind in Apple Grove, but Maummi insisted her place was with Emma, her oldest granddaughter. What she really meant was that she intended to inspect every eligible young Amish man in Troyer and handpick her future grandson-in-law.
Aunt Gerda had written to say she anticipated that her only daughter would marry soon, and she would appreciate having Emma come to help her around the house. She’d also mentioned the abundance of marriageable young men in Troyer, with a suggestion that twenty-year-old Emma was of an age that the news might be welcome. Rebecca had immediately volunteered to go in Emma’s place. Though Papa appeared to consider the idea, he decided to send Emma because she was the oldest and therefore would be in need of a husband soonest. Maummi insisted on going along in order to “Keep an eye on this hoard of men Gerda will parade before our Emma.”
As far as Emma was concerned, they should just send Maummi on alone and leave her in Apple Grove to wait for her future husband to be delivered to her doorstep.
Rebecca appeared from inside the house with a dripping cloth in hand. A strand of wavy dark hair had escaped its pins and fluttered freely beside the strings of her kapp. At barely thirteen, her rosy cheeks and smooth, high forehead reminded Emma so sharply of their mother that at times her heart ached.
Rebecca looked at Maummi’s dramatic posture and rolled her eyes. She had little patience with Maummi’s feigned heart episodes, and she was young enough that she had yet to learn proper restraint in concealing her emotions. Emma awarded her sister with a stern look and held out a hand for the cloth.
With a contrite bob of her head, Rebecca handed it over and dropped to her knees beside the rocking chair. “Are you all right, Maummi?”
Ach, I’m fine. I don’t think it’s my time. Yet.”
Emma wrung the excess water from the cloth before draping it across the back of Maummi’s neck.
Danki.” The elderly woman realized that the men had stopped working in order to watch her, and she waved her hand in a shooing motion. “Place those quilts over my hutch before you load anything else! Mind, Jonas, no scratches.”
Papa shook his head, though a smile tugged at his lips. “Ja, I remember.”
The gray head turned toward Emma. “Granddaughter, see they take proper care.”
“I will, Maummi.”
Katie joined Emma to oversee the wrapping of the hutch. When Samuel Miller offered a strong arm to help Katie up into the wagon, Emma hid a smile. No doubt she would receive a letter at her new home soon, informing her that a wedding date had been published. Because Samuel was the bishop’s son, there was no fear he would not receive the Zeungis, the letter of good standing. Rebecca would be thrilled at the news of a proper wedding in tiny Apple Grove.
But Emma would be far away in Troyer, and she would miss her friend’s big day.
Why must I live there when everything I love is here?
She draped a thick quilt over her end of the hutch and sidled away while Papa secured a rope around it. The faces of her friends and family looked on. They filled the area between the house and the barn. She loved every one in her own way. Yes, even Amos Beiler. She sought him out among the crowd and smiled at the two little girls who hovered near his side. Poor, lonely Amos. He was a good father to his motherless family. No doubt he’d make a fine husband, and if she married him she wouldn’t have to move to Troyer. The thought tempted her once again, as it often had over the past several weeks since Papa announced his decision that she would live with Aunt Gerda for a while.
But she knew that if she agreed to become Amos’s wife that she would be settling. True, she would gain a prosperous farm and a nice house and a trio of well-behaved children, with the promise of more to come. But the fact remained that though there was much to respect about Amos, she didn’t love him. The thought of seeing that moon-shaped face and slightly cross-eyed stare over the table for breakfast, dinner, and supper sent a shiver rippling across her shoulders. Not to mention sharing a marriage bed with him. It was enough to make her throw her apron over her face and run screaming across Papa’s cornfield.
He deserves a wife who loves him, she told herself for the hundredth time. Her conscience thus soothed, Emma turned away from his mournful stare.
“That trunk goes in the front,” Maummi shouted from her chair on the porch. “Emma, show them where.”
Emma shrank against the gigantic hutch to give the men room to settle the trunk containing all of her belongings. An oiled canvas tarp had been secured over the top to repel any rain they might meet over the next week. Inside, resting on her dresses, aprons, bonnets, and kapps, was a bundle more precious to her than anything else in the wagon: a quilt, expertly and lovingly stitched, nestled within a heavy canvas pouch. Mama had made it with her own hands for Emma’s hope chest. The last stitch was bitten off just hours before she closed her eyes and stepped into the arms of her Lord.
Oh, Mama, if you were here you could convince Papa to let me stay home. I know you could. And now, without you, what will happen to me?
Yet, even in the midst of the dreary thought, a spark of hope flickered in the darkness in Emma’s heart. The future yawned before her like the endless Kansas prairie. Wasn’t there beauty to be found in the tall, blowing grasses of the open plain? Weren’t there cool streams and shady trees to offer respite from the heat of the day? Maybe Troyer would turn out to be an oasis.
“Emma!”
Maummi’s sharp tone cut through her musing. She jerked upright. Her grandmother appeared to have recovered from her heart episode. From the vantage point of her chair, she oversaw every movement with a critical eye.
“Yes, ma’am?”
“Mind what I said about that loading, girl. The food carton goes on last. We won’t want to search for provisions when we stop at night on the trail.”
An approving murmur rose from the women at the wisdom of an organized wagon.
“Yes, ma’am.” Emma exchanged a quick grin with Katie and then directed the man carrying a carton of canned goods and trail provisions to set his burden aside for now.
A little while later, after everything had been loaded and secured under an oiled canvas, the men stood around to admire their handiwork. Samuel even crawled beneath the wagon to check the support struts, and he pronounced everything to be “in apple-pie order.”
Emma felt a pluck on her arm. She turned to find Katie at her elbow.
“This is a gift for you.” Her friend pushed a small package into her hands. “It’s only a soft cloth and some fancy-colored threads. I was fixing to stitch you a design, but you’re so much better at fine sewing than I am that I figured you could make something prettier by yourself.” She ducked her head. “Think kindly of me when you do.”
Warmed by her friend’s gesture, Emma pulled her into an embrace. “I will. And I expect a letter from you soon.” She let Katie see her glance slide over to Samuel and back with a grin. “Especially when you have something exciting to report.”
A becoming blush colored the girl’s cheeks. “I will.”
Emma was still going down the line, awarding each woman a farewell hug, when Bishop Miller stepped up to the front of the wagon and motioned for attention.
“It’s time now to bid Jonas Switzer Godspeed and fair weather for his travels.” A kind smile curved his lips when he looked to Maummi and then to Emma. “And our prayers go with our sisters Marta and Emma as they make a new home in Troyer.”
He bowed his head and closed his eyes, a sign for everyone in the Apple Grove district to follow suit. Emma obeyed, fixing her thoughts on the blue skies overhead and the Almighty’s throne beyond. Silence descended, interrupted only by the snorts of oxen and a happy bird in the tall, leafy tree that gave shade to the porch.
What will I find in Troyer? A new home, as the bishop says? A fine Amish husband, as Papa wishes? I pray it be so. And I pray he will be the second son of his father so that he will come home with me to Apple Grove and take over Papa’s farm when the time comes.
A female sniffled behind her. Not Katie, but Rebecca. A twist inside Emma’s rib cage nearly sent tears to her eyes. Oh, how she would miss her sister when Rebecca left Troyer to return home with Papa. She vowed to make the most of their time together on the trail between here and there.
Bishop Miller ended the prayer with a blessing in High German, his hand on the head of the closest oxen. When the last word fell on the quiet crowd, Maummi’s voice sliced through the cool morning air. “Now that we’re seen off proper, someone help me up. We’ll be gone before the sun moves another inch across the sky.”
Though she’d proved earlier that she could make the leap herself at need, Maummi allowed Papa and the bishop to lift her into the wagon. She took her seat in her rocking chair, which was wedged between the covered hutch and one high side of the wagon bed. With a protective pat on the hutch, she settled her sewing basket at her feet and pulled a piece of mending onto her lap. No idle hands for Maummi. By the time they made Troyer, she’d have all the mending done, and the darning too, and a good start on a new quilt.
Emma spared one more embrace for Katie, steadfastly ignored Amos’s mournful stare, and allowed the bishop to help her up onto the bench seat. She scooted over to the far end to make room for Papa, and then Rebecca was lifted up to sit on the other side of him. A snug fit, but they would be okay for the six-day journey to Troyer. Emma settled her black dress and smoothed her apron.
“Now, Jonas, mind you what I said.” Maummi’s voice from behind their heads sounded a bit shrill in the quiet morning. “You cut a wide path around Hays. I’ll not have my granddaughters witness the ufrooish of those wild Englischers.”
On the other side of Papa, Rebecca heaved a loud sigh. Emma hid her grin. No doubt Rebecca would love to witness the rowdy riots of wild cowboy Englischers in the infamous railroad town of Hays.
Papa mumbled something under his breath that sounded like “This will be the longest journey of my life,” but aloud he said, “Ja, Mader.
With a flick of the rope, he urged the oxen forward. The wagon creaked and pitched as it rolled on its gigantic wheels. Emma grabbed the side of the bench with one hand and lifted her other hand in a final farewell as her home fell away behind her.




My Thoughts:
~3 stars~
We've all heard of Cowboys and Indians, cowboys and aliens and now it's time for cowboys and the Amish! With this latest book from the fantastic duo of Copeland and Smith two very different world's collide -- that of a peace-loving Amish family and the ruff and tumble life of a cowpoke. I have to admit I wasn't sure how this story was going to turn out but knowing these two authors I knew it was going to be fun and interesting to say the least! I wasn't disappointed and I bet you won't be either. If you 're looking for a thick, juicy read this isn't it but it you're looking for a sweet story minus the stop-and-make-you-think stuff this is your book! The entire story takes place over a week of riding the range with a herd of cattle so other than your standard cattle rustler bad guys there isn't a whole lot of drama. Luke and Emma's relationship never goes beyond a few heated glances for most of the book but the chemistry definitely lurked behind the scenes so to speak. I loved Emma's grandmother, she definitely provided for some fun moments especially when she overstepped her bounds with the camp cook, McCann by invading his "kitchen." All in all this was a cute story that I would recommend to readers of any age who like a sweet book.

I've Been Interviewed...

Monday, March 19, 2012

You guys are probably used to seeing me feature author interviews on this blog on occasion, well I'm so happy to say that one of my dear blogging buddies who just so happens to be an almost published author (her debut with Barbour releases this summer) is featuring lil' ol' me on her blog! How cool is that?! I hope you guys can stop by and chat with us today and if you're not a follower I hope you subscribe to Keli's wonderful blog. If you don't have time to comment today I at least hope you will check out this little bit about her book and give Keli a holler sometime soon, you won't be sorry. ;-)


A Bride Opens Shop in El Dorado, California
by Keli Gwyn
Barbour Books
2012
ISBN: 9781616265830

(As of 3-18-12 it's $5.35 which is dirt cheap and more than 50% off the cover price! I'm sure that price won't last long so double check before you order!)

About the book:
An ever-resourceful widow, Elenora Watkins arrives in El Dorado ready to go into partnership with Miles Rutledge. When he refuses, Elenora becomes the competition across the street. Is this town big enough for the two of them? Miles can't help but stick his well-polished boot in his mouth whenever he comes face-to-face with Elenora. Can he find a way to win her heart while destroying her business? Miles's mother, Maude, is bent on Elenora becoming her new daughter-in-law while Elenora's daughter, Tildy, thinks Miles would make a perfect papa. How far will these meddlers go to unite this enterprising pair?

Happy Reading!


A "Sweet" Interview with Author Ramona K. Cecil + Giveaway!

Thank you all once again for participating in my blog party last week,it was a huge hit! As promised I have Ramona K. Cecil author of A Bride's Sweet Surprise in Sauers, Indiana, as well as other inspirational romances through Barbour Publishers here with us today. Please take a few minutes to check out my interview with her and to leave a comment to be entered to win a copy of Bride's Sweet Surpise....

Since you're new to my blog could you please tell us a bit about yourself? :-)

I live in southern Indiana with Jim, my husband of 39 years. We have two grown daughters and three grandchildren. I've been writing creatively most of my life. I consider myself first a poet. I've had about ninety verses of poetry published on Christian gift items by a leading company in that market. My first book published was published in 2006. A historical romance novel, it won the publisher's inspirational contest. My next three books, all historical romances were published in 2008 by Barbour Publishing's Heartsong line. In 2010, the three were repackaged in Barbour's Indiana historical collection titled Freedom's Crossroad. Two Christmas novellas followed in 2010 and 2011. A Bride's Sweet Surprise in Sauers, Indiana is my seventh published novel.


I know you've written shorter length stories for Barbour, how different was it to write a full-length book? Is the writing process the same, more difficult, easier?

In a way, it was a challenge since my earlier works were shorter. I plot, so the process was pretty much the same. I'd become used to writing chapter by chapter synopsis for my Heartsongs, so I did the same with this longer story. The pacing was a little different, but basically I used the same writing formula. I kept to a strict writing schedule with a goal of 1000 words per day. Usually, I exceeded my goal. It was funny, during the writing I was afraid I'd be short on words. As it turned out, I was a little over.


Give us three words that describe Diedrich Rothhaus the hero of Bride's Sweet Surprise… 

Noble, Christian, handsome.


Who, if anyone inspired you to become a writer?

My parents. Both had written poetry in their youth. They even met at a group for aspiring poets in Indianapolis, then realized they lived in the same county. But as often happens, life got in the way and their writing took a backseat to raising a family. My mother did have some poetry and articles published in Christian magazines in her later years. I began composing poetry at the age of about three or four. My parents encouraged my writing. Of the three of us kids (I had a sister and brother) I was the only one who got the writing “bug.” From a very young age, my parents read to us from the poetry of James Whitcomb Riley. I still love those folksy verses by the “Hoosier poet” that so perfectly captured life in rural Indiana. I've always been a voracious reader. I became interested in the books by the Indiana author Gene Stratton Porter as a young girl. I believe the works of these authors helped instill in me at a young age a love for my native state, and most of my stories are set in Indiana in the places I know.


Any tips for unpublished writers out there looking to get their stories out?

You cannot do this alone. My first tip is to join a writers group that consists of both published and unpublished authors. I am certain I would not yet be published if God hadn't led me to American Christian Fiction Writers. Once you've found a good group of writers who will encourage you to grow and learn, join a critique group and take writing workshops. I rarely passed up a chance to take one of the many free online writing workshops offered by wonderful multi-published authors of ACFW. Attend writers' conferences. There you'll find unique opportunities to make connections with editors, agents, and other writers and really “learn the ropes” of the publishing business. I'd also encourage the aspiring writer to enter their work in contests. Despite where you place in a contest, you will get valuable feedback from the judges which you can use to make your writing stronger. Basically, immerse yourself in the writing community. My final suggestion would be to keep writing. In the words of Winston Churchill, “Never, never, never, never give up.”

Visit Ramona @ HER WEBSITE

To order this book from Amazon, click the title

About the book:
Travel to a German settlement in Sauers, Indiana, and meet Regina Seitz. Her sisters were allowed to marry for love, but Regina has been told by her father she must marry a man she has never met—just so Papa can have a German son-in-law to inherit the family homestead. Diedrich Rothhaus is as reluctant as she is, until her striking beauty and deep faith stir emotions he hadn’t expected. Against both their wills, love claims their hearts. Then a cruel family secret is revealed, and Diedrich must fight to save the most precious thing in his life—Regina’s love.

If you think that this books sounds amazing (who doesn't?!) and want to enter to win Ramona has generously offered to send one lucky commentor a copy! 
~US Residents ages 18+
~Leave a comment with your email disguised something like this: steelergirl83(at)gmail(dot)com so I can contact you if you win.
~Contest open until Friday, March 23, 2012 @ 11:59pm EST
~Winner will be selected using random.org and will have 48 hours to respond to the email I send to claim their prize or another winner will be selected.
~Follow this blog via GFC on the sidebar or subscribe via email and get ONE bonus entry (please leave a note in your comment if you are a follower or subscriber). 

Happy Reading!


Blogiversary Winners + Special Announcement!

Sunday, March 18, 2012


Many thanks to everyone who helped me celebrate 3 years of blogging. I loved reading your comments and getting to know some great new authors with you. For those who are new to the blog I hope you continue to stop by and visit. A special thanks to Sandra, Lisa, Mesu and Ramona for taking time out of their busy schedules to participate in the party too and offering up such great "presents".  The winners of said presents were selected using random.org and they are as follows...

Day 1 Book giftpack from me- Kate S. CLAIMED

Day 2 Always the Designer, Never the Bride from Sandra- Angie B. CLAIMED

Day 3 Prize of My Heart from Lisa- Christina B. CLAIMED

Day 4 Love's Sacred Song from me- Amber S. CLAIMED

Day 5 The Scent of Cherry Blossoms from me- Tammy S. (Bluerose) CLAIMED

All winners will have 48 hours to respond to the email to claim their prize or another winner will be selected. 

SPECIAL ANNOUNCEMENT:
Author Ramona K. Cecil who was unable to attend Friday's party will be here on MONDAY! Please stop by and say hello and enter to win her new book, A Bride's Sweet Surprise in Sauers, Indiana!


3 Year Blogiversary Day 5: Author Ramona K. Cecil

Friday, March 16, 2012

Hi guys I know today author Ramona K. Cecil was supposed to be a guest but unfortunately her uncle passed away last Friday and she will be unable to attend. I'm sure Ramona and her family would appreciate your thoughts and prayers as they try to cope with his passing. Please feel free to leave a note in the comments directed at Ramona if you so desire. Hopefully Ramona will stop by the blog sometime in the future and see the comments. I've decided to post the blurb from Ramona's newest book, A Bride's Sweet Surprise in Sauers, Indiana, that you might enjoy and I'm offering a book giveaway of Cindy Woodsmall's latest fiction novel, The Scent of Cherry Blossoms.


About the book:
Travel to a German settlement in Sauers, Indiana, and meet Regina Seitz. Her sisters were allowed to marry for love, but Regina has been told by her father she must marry a man she has never met—just so Papa can have a German son-in-law to inherit the family homestead. Diedrich Rothhaus is as reluctant as she is, until her striking beauty and deep faith stir emotions he hadn’t expected. Against both their wills, love claims their hearts. Then a cruel family secret is revealed, and Diedrich must fight to save the most precious thing in his life—Regina’s love.

Visit Ramona's website HERE

Order A Bride's Sweet Surprise in Sauers, Indiana, HERE

Ramona will be a guest on this blog soon and I will have that interview posted for you all and Ramona may have a giveaway surprise for you but in the meantime I'm giving away my brand new copy of The Scent of Cherry Blossoms by Cindy Woodsmall! Read more about the book HERE.


Happy Reading!

A Story of Passion: Love's Sacred Song by Mesu Andrews

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Love's Sacred Song
by Mesu Andrews
Copyright 2012
Revell Books
ISBN: 9780800734084
My Thoughts:
Have you ever been to Jerusalem? I have. Have you ever been to the palace of a king? I have. Have you ever experienced life of a shepherdess? I have and it was all through Mesu Andrews' book, Love's Sacred Song an expanding of the life and love of biblical King Solomon and Arielah his best-loved wife. Even if you have never read the Song of Solomon I think you will find Love's Sacred Song to be a gripping story of raw emotion and most importantly flawed characters whose faith-filled lives are anything but perfect and far from easy. Brimming with palace intrigue, politics, clashing of religions, and the unrest among the women of Solomon's harem there is something to capture everyone's attention and really get you thinking about faith and life in ancient times. I can't even begin to imagine the luxuriousness of Solomon's palace but Mesu paints a vivid picture that, as I said, brings everything to life. Love's Sacred Song is one of the most gorgeous works of biblical fiction I've ever read and I fully intend to read ALL of Mesu's books in the future.

~5 stars~

About the book:
Standing in the shadow of his famous father, young King Solomon wavers between fear and bravado, longing for a love that is true and pure--a love that can be his cornerstone.

A shepherdess in the northern city of Shunem, Arielah has known since she first laid eyes on Solomon that it was her destiny to become his bride. When her father secures a promise from Solomon to marry Arielah as a treaty bride to help unite the kingdom, it seems her dreams will come true.

But how can this simple shepherdess live as part of Solomon's harem? Can Solomon set aside his distractions to give himself completely to just one woman? Or will he let duty, deception, and the daily routine divide his heart?

Available March 2012 at your favorite bookseller from Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group.

Visit Mesu's newly redesigned WEBSITE

Read my interview with Mesu HERE

*Many thanks to Revell for providing my complimentary copy in exchange for posting my honest review.*



COTT Spotlight on Gail Pallotta

*guest post by COTT Sr. Editor, April W Gardner


This week, it was my privilege to spend a few extra minutes with author Gail. Gail is one of the blog alliance correspondents at Clash of the Titles.

Her husband, Rick, says she’s the only person he knows who can go in the grocery for a loaf of bread and come out with someone’s life story. That’s probably because she inherited her mother’s love of people and enjoys talking to them. Working as an editor and freelance writer, Gail published a couple hundred articles. While some of them are in anthologies, two ended up in museums. In 2004, the American Christian Writers Association named Gail a regional writer of the year. She recently published her first romance, Love Turns the Tide. When she isn’t writing she likes reading, swimming, and getting together with friends and family. Gail wants to write books of faith that show God’s love. She and Rick live in Georgia. Just a couple hours north of me, actually! We’re practically neighbors. :-)

Every COTT staff member is a professed child of God. Gail, can you tell us about your relationship with Christ?


I can’t remember when I didn’t love Jesus. My father’s father was a minister, so I grew up listening to Bible verses and references to Jesus. But my mother played a huge part in helping me establish a relationship with Christ. At bedtime she said prayers with me and told me stories from the Bible. First, she taught me “Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep,” but even then I had a copy of “The Lord’s Prayer” hanging on the wall above the headboard of my bed. She taught it to me a few lines at a time. We soon started saying it instead of “Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep.” She also told me about the Crucifixion in her own words, explaining how much Jesus had to love me to die for me. She taught me to talk to Jesus, to say the things I was thankful for, to praise Him, and ask for things I needed. I did the same with my daughter. I’m so grateful for the many blessings Jesus has given me and that He’s always there for me. I don’t always get the answers I want to my prayers, but I get the answers I need to fulfill God’s plan for my life. Whenever I’ve needed a miracle, Jesus has supplied one. There are several hymns that touch on how I feel about my relationship with Christ. “What a Friend We Have in Jesus,” and “He Leadeth Me” are two. My daughter recently gave me a CD, Elvis, An Evening Prayer. The first song on it, “His Hand in Mine,” conveys how I feel about my relationship with Christ. It’s an old gospel song written by Mossie Lister. It’s on YouTube. The URL is http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ulTtL_YaC-w

Beautiful testimony! A mother’s faith is essential in a child’s life, and you’re proof of that!
None of us are perfect though, so what’s the craziest thing you did as a teenager? 


Gail Pallotta
I grew up at the foothills of the mountains. At a reunion a few years ago, many of us told our beloved biology teacher how much she meant to us. She replied, “Well, I had to teach biology. There was no one else in town that could.” Teachers were scarce. We had a very old algebra teacher. He couldn’t stay awake during class. Nope. He took the roll and told us to turn to the next chapter and work the problems. Then he pushed back his seat and propped his feet on the trash can. We’d give him about ten minutes, and he was out like a light. His classroom was in the basement with a window level to the ground. In the spring as soon as he started snoring, we went out the window, got in my friend’s convertible (she had the only car) and went to the lake.

No way! That’s so funny!! How long were you gone? What is something else people would be surprised to know about you?

At age twenty-two when I graduated from college, I packed my clothes in a medium-sized suitcase and moved to a large city with eighty dollars in my pocket. Had no car, no job, and nowhere to live. 
Wow! You can’t leave us hanging, lol! How did that work out for you?

On a slightly more serious note, what is the nearest book to where you’re sitting?

I love to read anything, non-fiction, fiction, any genre, Christian and many secular. But the book closest to me, probably because I also write as well as read, is Essentials of English.

I’d imagine that covers grammar? Forms of writing? Sounds like a must-have for every writer! What are three things you can’t live without?
   
Faith, family, fun

Three very important f’s! Makes me wonder though, when I say the word “fun,” what’s the first thing to pop into your mind?

What is the message you most want to convey to readers with your writing? 
God loves you. Accept His love and let the greatness of it overcome the imperfections of this world. 

That brings to mind. John 16:33 "These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world." NAS (©1995)
Anything else you’d like to add? 


I was honored when asked to be part of the Clash of the Titles Staff. I love helping to promote Christian books and writers.
And we love having you!!
***
Get to know Gail better by visiting her website or her blog.





3 Year Blogiversary Day 4: Author Mesu Andrews

Wow! Has this week been a blast or what?! I'm loving all the comments you guys are posting and I'm sure the authors do too! Today's VIP is author of Love Amid the Ashes and Love's Sacred Song, Mesu Andrews. Please welcome Mesu and feel free to leave any (nice) comments that you'd like concerning Mesu, her books, writing or even this blog -- we wanna read 'em! Did I mention I'm giving away my copy of Love's Sacred Song? Read on for details. Oh, and ladies please feel free to tell me the cover model chosen as Solomon isn't the best looking guy you've ever clapped eyes on and I will happily debate with you as to why you are wrong! :-P

Mesu
Could you tell us a little abut yourself for those of us who haven’t had the chance to “meet” you yet?

Most people are curious about my name...it’s a nickname. My given name is “Maralasu”—a concoction of my mom’s creative mind. As a toddler, I couldn’t say my big, long name, so it always came out “Mesu.” That’s what stuck. My ornery husband likes to tell people my parents were missionaries in China...nope. Just a nickname.

I’m married to the man who led me to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. “Dating evangelism,” I think it’s called. *-* We have two grown daughters and have recently acquired two fabulous sons-in-law. We all live in the lovely Pacific Northwest, transplanted in 2007 from the cornfields of Indiana. I’m still a Hoosier at heart when it comes to football (Go Colts!) – sorry, Steeler Girl. Our family LOVES football. I grew up watching Sunday afternoon football, sitting on my dad’s lap, cheering for the Steelers, actually (it was before Indianapolis got a team).

I like pizza and lobster—not at the same meal, please. And I adore my faithful writing companion, Bouzer (the 75 lb. Rotty-pitbull lump of love curled up at my feet).


Debut Novel: Love Amid the Ashes
What do you enjoy most about writing biblical fiction?

I’m totally, hopelessly, irrevocably in love with my God! And biblical fiction gives me the best excuse in the world to delve into the depths of His fascinating Love Letter. When I research the history and study the ancient texts, I discover new things about God’s interaction with real people. THAT sets it apart from typical fiction because we’re dealing with actual people and a Living God. With every new challenge comes a new discovery, and with every new discovery comes a new challenge. It’s fascinating. And exhausting. And I wouldn’t trade it for the world!


Three words to describe your books?

Passionate. Complex. (I hope) Engaging.


If you could collaborate with any author past or present would you and who would it be?

Moses! I want to know how the Lord gave him the Creation story! Don’t you wonder about that? Okay, I don’t suppose that’s the kind of “author” you meant. The Land of Israel is so rich with history and context. I would love to partner with a Messianic Jew who has been trained in the archeology and geography of the Land itself. I’m relying on information I remember from my short visit to Israel in 2000 and from maps, charts, and books. The stories could be so much richer, hold so much more meaning, if I could incorporate more about the Land of Israel as I write. I’m hoping to go back there for a research trip soon.


This is sort of a fun question, I love the cover for Love’s Sacred Song (that Solomon is a hunk!) what were your thoughts when you first saw the cover?

“Hello, Hottie!” (tee-hee) In fact, I think those words came out of my mouth! Ha! Revell does such a fabulous job on my covers. I’m so grateful and blessed. They ask me for some input on age, hair color, facial characteristics, etc.; but for the most part, they choose the models. If your readers would like to get in on a little fun, I’ve got a Pinterest Board called “Character Faces” where I’ve listed a couple of celebs that I might have also been good candidates for Solomon and Arielah. It’s fun to imagine!

Thanks so much for giving me the opportunity to share a bit with your readers! If anyone would like to keep in touch, they can visit my website @ http://www.mesuandrews.com. Or sign up for free weekly e-devotionals @ http://www.mesuandrews.com/deep-o-tionals-2/acts-of-the-apostles/.

Sophomore book: Love's Sacred Song
About the book:
Standing in the shadow of his famous father, young King Solomon wavers between fear and bravado, longing for a love that is true and pure--a love that can be his cornerstone.

A shepherdess in the northern city of Shunem, Arielah has known since she first laid eyes on Solomon that it was her destiny to become his bride. When her father secures a promise from Solomon to marry Arielah as a treaty bride to help unite the kingdom, it seems her dreams will come true.

But how can this simple shepherdess live as part of Solomon's harem? Can Solomon set aside his distractions to give himself completely to just one woman? Or will he let duty, deception, and the daily routine divide his heart?

Order the book HERE

Giveaway time! I'm giving away my gently read copy of Love's Sacred Song to one lucky reader. US residents ages 18+ only. PLEASE READ the complete rules in the giveaway form.


Happy Reading!!!


3 Year Blogiversary Day 3: Author Lisa Norato

Wednesday, March 14, 2012


Please join me in welcoming novelist Lisa Norato as she tells you a bit about herself, her book Prize of My Heart and her furry baby Chaka! I'm so glad to have her and as a new Christian fiction author I'm sure she'd appreciate a friendly or encouraging comment. :-)


Lisa and Chaka
Thank you, Renee, for inviting me to your week-long party in celebration of three years of blogging on the Black n’ Gold Girl’s Book Spot. Happy Anniversary!! I love what you’ve done with the blog, love the fact you’re a dog lover like me, and just want to say I’m so happy to be featured here among such wonderful, fellow Christian authors.

Since Prize of My Heart is your debut can you tell us a bit about yourself and your
writing journey?

The truth is, I’m a bit of a homebody, having lived in New England and close to family my whole life. I grew up surrounded by its rich colonial history, changing seasons and close proximity to the coast. Years later, this would greatly influence my writing, but it wasn’t until I was “forced” to try my hand at writing—when assigned to compose and illustrate a children's book at the art college I was attending—that I discovered the joy of creative expression through telling stories. Still, writing a complete novel seemed a frightening and awesome task, and it wasn’t until many years later that I found the courage to actually attempt a book of my own. That was the beginning of Prize of My Heart, which has gone through years of evolving and many revisions to
become the book it is today.

Meanwhile, I continued to work full-time as a legal assistant while penning several other manuscripts. Prize of My Heart is my inspirational debut, but people might not know that I’ve also written two secular romances previously published by a small library press. When I was nearly finished with the first of those early romances, a close writer friend of mine introduced me to her agent during the welcome reception of a New Jersey writer’s conference. That was how I met my agent, Mary Sue Seymour.

Throughout, the story of Prize remained close to my heart, and I hoped that one day it would be worthy to share with readers. I believe when God puts a desire in your heart, He also guides you towards making that dream come true. Your job is to trust and to always strive to do your best.

I love historical fiction and can only imagine how much research goes into writing it.
How difficult was it to find info for this story?

The setting for Prize of My Heart was originally inspired by an issue of Colonial Homes magazine that caught my eye while in line at the grocery store. It featured an article on the historic seaside village of Duxbury, Massachusetts. At the end of the War of 1812, well-built vessels were in demand, and Duxbury developed into one of the country’s leading shipbuilding centers.

An inordinate amount of time goes into researching any historical, but luckily Duxbury is within driving distance for me, and I’ve had the opportunity to tour its many historic homes. I quickly learned Duxbury is a town proud of its history. Numerous books have been written by local historians, and I’m pretty sure I’ve collected them all! For me, the hardest to research were the sailing scenes. I found navigation very complicated, with so much to keep in mind at once—the sails and rigging, the winds and direction, plus all the seafaring terminology used during the federal time period. It left me with great respect for 19th century sea captains of square-rigged, wooden ships.

There is one historical tidbit I’d like to share. If you read Prize, you’ll probably begin to wonder why the town is spelled Duxboro. That’s because the name went through several changes during its history. In 1637, the town was officially incorporated as Duckborrow by the Mayflower Pilgrims who sailed across the bay from Plymouth to settle there. In 1779, the name was changed to Duxbury, but in 1813 the town clerks adopted the spelling of Duxboro, which persisted until 1824, until the name was permanently restored back to Duxbury. There are many theories, but no one knows for sure the origin of the name or who chose it.

Give us three words to describe the heroine Lorena.

Devoted
Domestic
Self-Assertive

Besides writing what are some of your other loves? (I imagine that dogs might be an
answer here so feel free to share Chaka’s story!)

Yes, dogs and a love of all animals are high on my list. My New Year's resolution was to adopt a vegan lifestyle. It’s something I've wanted to do for a long time; and now that I have, I find the transition to not eating animal products a lot easier than I had anticipated.

My precious dog Chaka is a 6-pound, 10-year old, half Yorkshire Terrier/half Poodle mix. I still remember the first time I held her. She snuggled into my chest, and I fell in love. She was so small she fit in the palm of my hand. Because she was so small, I asked the breeder if I would be able to take her for walks. Well, Chaka must have been listening, because walking is Chaka’s favorite thing to do. She is very persistent in letting me know when it is time to get my sneakers!


Are you currently working on a new story? If so could you share a bit about it?

I’m working on another Federal-era, Duxbury-set historical. This one is a touch gothic, set in a large seaside mansion whose inhabitants continue to be affected (in Rebecca fashion) by the lingering influence of its deceased mistress. The heroine, a retired, sea captain’s daughter, climbs to the mansion’s widow walk each morning to stare out across the bay at the town’s lighthouse. She’s never seen its keeper even though he’s manned the light for a year now and it was her father who secured him the post. When they do meet, confusing dreams haunt her, making her suspect they share some past connection. It is not until a storm brings a shipwreck survivor to her door that she discovers the connection involves her mother’s dangerous past and now it is her life that is in peril.

Visit Lisa @ her WEBSITE or on FACEBOOK

Order Prize of My Heart

****************************

In order to celebrate the release of her book Lisa has kindly offered one copy of Prize of My Heart to one lucky winner! US residents ages 18 and up only. Winner selected at random, Sunday, March 18th. PLEASE read the entry form below for additional rules.


CORRECTION: The form incorrectly states that the giveaway ends on March 15 but it ends March 17 so please feel free to enter up until that date.


Happy Reading!!