Review and Giveaway: The River Rose by Gilbert Morris

Friday, June 29, 2012

The River Rose (Water Wheel, Book 2)
by Gilbert Morris
Copyright 2012
B&H Publishing
ISBN: 9781433673214
About the book:
Life hasn’t been easy for Jeanne Bettencourt, a widow approaching thirty and struggling to provide for her eight-year-old daughter. But hope arrives in the form of the Helena Rose, a steamboat she unexpectedly inherits from a distant, departed relative. Jeanne’s father had captained a similar vessel and taught her how to pilot a steamer along the banks of Memphis. She’s looking forward to a renewed livelihood on the mighty Mississippi. 


However, as plans are made, news comes of another heir to the Helena Rose - a tough man named Clint Hardin - and a clause in the will that says claimants of the estate must live aboard the boat. Jeanne, a Christian woman, makes it clear she won’t stay with a man who is not her husband. But both are desperate for work, so they agree to keep their distance as Clint occupies the lower deck and Jeanne takes the captain’s quarters. 


As they restore the Helena Rose, the slowly softening Clint becomes attracted to Jeanne - who is now being courted by a wealthy plantation owner. With her family and future at stake, the desires of Jeanne’s heart are duly complex. Only her simple faith can navigate her through what’s about to happen. 




My Thoughts:

My Rating, 3 out of 5 stars

It seems like it's been years since I've read a book by veteran romance writer Gilbert Morris and I'm so happy that I had the opportunity to read The River Rose and reignite my love affair with southern historical fiction. Judging by this story I've been missing out on some first-class storytelling from Mr. Morris. I won't say that this is my favorite book, in my mind no series will ever compare to Morris' Cheney Duvall books, but I enjoyed it.

The River Rose, book two in the Water Wheel series, is the story of poor, young widow Jeanne Bettencourt, her daughter Marvel and what happens when they suddenly inherit half ownership of a steamboat. Clint Hardin, a noted lady's man and pugilist just so happens to learn that he's the owner of the other half of the steamboat but also learns that most likely he's just come upon a boatload of trouble in the form of one determined female. What ensues is an interesting take on the life of a steamboat pilot (yep, you guessed it Jeanne is the captain!) as well as the development of a bittersweet romance.

So this brings me to the point of telling you all what I liked and didn't really like so much. Since I gave this a 3 out of 5 stars (according to Goodreads that means "I liked it") there is obviously more things that I enjoyed in this book than things that didn't necessarily float my boat (no pun intended). Since I like to end things on a high note I'll point out the not so great stuff first. The major beef that I had with this book was George Masters. No he wasn't a bad person, as a matter of fact he seemed like a swell guy most of the time but the thing is, where did he go? About 3/4 of the way through he disappeared! I know he stayed away from town due to the yellow fever epidemic but since he was such an important part of Jeanne's life and the beginning of the story I at least hoped he'd continue to be in her life as a friend and not something like a far off benefactor or what have you. That's really the only issue that I had with the story but since it really bugged me I had to mention it.

Now for the nice bits... first things first I love that this story is set in the south and it's about riverboats. Don't get me wrong, I love me some cowboys but I could use a change of scenery every once in a while and this book delivers it. I loved Jeanne as a riverboat captain. Even though she came of as a bit harsh by the end of the book I liked her. I guess it's nice to read a heroine who isn't puppies and rainbows all the time. Finally I really liked Clint which is hard to believe. When I do read a book by Morris I tend to compare all the heroes to Shiloh Irons (swoon) from the Cheney Duvall series and they usually fall flat but Clint definitely held his own. Really though who doesn't love a rogue?

All in all in spite of not having read book 1, The River Queen this book was very easy to follow and I'm not sure it was in any way related to The River Queen other than being set on the river. It's solid story that I wouldn't hesitate to recommend to Gilbert Morris fans or fans of riverboats. I'll be looking for book 3, The River Palace soon.


To learn more about Gilbert Morris be sure to visit his beautiful WEBSITE!

Check out his Facebook Page.

Follow him on Twitter HERE.

Sign up for his newsletter HERE.

*I received a complimentary copy of this book for review from B&H Publishing Group. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255.*


Giveaway:
Thanks to B&H Publishers I have one copy of The River Rose to give away to one lucky reader! All you need to do is fill out the form below! US residents only. No PO Boxes. Book comes directly from publisher so I can't be held responsible for lost or misdirected prizes. All rules are listed at the top of the form.


Happy Reading!


Meet Debut Novelist Keli Gwyn & Enter to Win A Bride Opens Shop in El Dorado, California

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

It's not everyday that you get to follow an author on their journey from wannabe writer to published novelist and beyond so it's pretty cool to follow along with Keli Gwyn as she travels the path to publication and beyond via her blog. When I first started following other bloggers who read and reviewed Christian fiction I never thought I'd get to meet so many cool authors and Keli definitely qualifies as a "cool" author. I've told her over and over again that I'm probably almost as excited about A Bride Opens Shop in El Dorado, California, as she is so I'm thrilled to have her as a guest to give us the latest scoop on her book and what's happening in her life. So sit back, relax, and feel free to say hi to Keli in the comments section as I'm sure she'll be stopping by.

...and now here's Keli!

~ Hi Keli! Since a lot of people might not know you as a published author can you please tell us a bit about yourself? 

Thanks for hosting me on your awesome site, Renee. It’s great to be here. I write what I love to read: inspirational historical romances with dashing heroes and determined heroines, all of whom embody the spirit and resourcefulness of those who settled the far western United States. I live in the heart of California’s Gold Country at the foot of the majestic Sierras with my husband and two skittish cats. When my fingers aren’t hovering over my keyboard, I enjoy strolling past stately Victorian houses in my historic town, burying my nose in reference books as I unearth interesting facts to include in my stories, and interacting with other romance readers. My favorite places to visit are my fictional worlds, the Coach factory outlet store, and Taco Bell.


~ I know I’m excited for A BRIDE OPENS SHOP... so I can’t imagine what it must be like for you! How long did it take you to get from idea to published book and what do you think was the most difficult stage to get through (brainstorming, research, editing etc.)? 

I wrote the first version of the story six years ago. I was a florescent-green newbie writer and had a lot to learn. I rewrote the story twice before I got my agent and one more time after she offered representation. I enjoyed all but one stage of the process. Dreaming up the story was exciting, especially since I had the assistance of my wonderful husband, who is my plotting partner. Research was such fun that I had to rein myself in at times. I poured the rough draft on the page with gleeful abandon. Being a detail person, editing the story was a delight. But then came writing the synopsis. Reducing my 100,000-word story to a page or two was a wee bit of a challenge. Think about writing book reports in school, and you get the idea.


 ~ I know you are a supremely talented blogger, has blogging helped you with your writing in any way? 

Wow! Thanks for the compliment, Renee. I’ve been blogging four years and have met many wonderful people through my blog, both writers and readers. Those very people, like you, are friends now and are helping me get the word out about my book, which I greatly appreciate. Blogging has also helped me learn to keep my readers in mind. When I first began blogging, I talked about myself much of the time. Yawn! These days I do my best to focus on those who come to visit my blog, and it’s lots more fun that way. This has taught me to keep my readers in mind when I write my stories, too.


~ Now for some fun (I hope!) if you lived in the 19th century like Elenora, who would be a person you would like to have tea with? Personally, I’d love to have a chat with Charlotte Bronte and learn all about just how she came up with Rochester and what it was like living with such talented sisters! 

This is fun indeed! I’d love to have tea and a lively conversation with Laura Ingalls Wilder. Her stories are some of my all-time favorites. I could learn about what life was really like during the Victorian Era, and I would be able to ask her for pointers on descriptions, since hers are so good.


~ Do you have any tips for aspiring authors out there? 

Have fun. It’s easy to get bogged down by all the “rules” or to fall prey to the pressure to get an agent and a contract, but that can sap the joy out of the journey. I know, because I made that mistake at one point. When I let go of my expectations and let the Lord direct my path, things went much more smoothly, and I looked forward to writing again.


~ Please feel free to add anything you would like in closing! 


Thanks again for having me here, Renee. What fun to spend time with you and your readers. I’d like to ask them a question. 

Question for you from Keli:

If you could have tea with a 19th century author, who would you choose, and why would you pick that person?


Be sure to follow Keli and keep up with all her goings on @ the following links:
Facebook Timeline http://www.facebook.com/KeliGwyn 

About A Bride Opens Shop in El Dorado, California:
Love Is Gold in El Dorado, California 
Widow Elenora Watkins heads to California with her nine-year-old daughter, Tildy, eager to become a partner in a mercantile. When the mulish owner withdraws his offer because she’s a woman, she opens her own shop. She’s determined to prove herself capable of running a successful business without the help of anyone—including her controlling father, her seemingly distant heavenly Father, and one Miles Rutledge. 

Widower Miles Rutledge is not about to get involved with another willful woman like his late wife, especially when she’s his competition. But the beautiful Elenora may be too hard to resist. When another man appears out to claim Elenora’s heart, Miles searches for a way to win her back. . .while putting her out of business.

Meanwhile, Maude Rutledge, Miles’s meddling mother, longs to see her son make a good match. And Tildy is just as bent on gaining a loving papa.


The battle of wills begins, but can anyone win when the competition is more than they bargained for?


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GIVEWAY ALERT!
If this sounds like a book you would like to read Keli has graciously offered one of the readers of this post a chance to get their very own copy! Please read over the form and fill it out below to make sure you're eligible to enter and you just might be that lucky reader who gets a copy! ;-) If you can't wait that long to get a copy you can buy a copy or two from AMAZON and other booksellers right now!

Thank you Keli for being such a fun guest and for the generous giveaway!


Happy Reading!


A Peek Backstage with The Director's Cut by Janice Thompson

Monday, June 25, 2012

The Director's Cut (Backstage Pass, Bk 3)
by Janice Thompson
Copyright 2012
Revell Books
ISBN: 9780800733476
About the book:
The one thing she can't direct is her heart.

Tia Morales is used to calling the shots. She's the director of the popular sitcom Stars Collide, and her life on the set is calculated and orderly. Well, most of the time. Life outside the studio is another matter. If only she could get other people to behave as well as her stars do! When she starts to have feelings for handsome cameraman Jason Harris--with whom she's been butting heads for months--it's enough to send a girl over the edge. Will she ever learn to let go and take life--and love--as it comes?

Full of the humor and crazy family dynamics Janice Thompson fans have come to love, this colorful story gives you an inside look at Hollywood and a healthy dose of romance.

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


My Thoughts:
Once again Janice Thompson delivers a fast-moving and lighthearted romance that is a wonderful conclusion to the Backstage Pass series. The characters we met in the previous books are back and better than ever but this time the focus is on Stars Collide director, Tia Morales. You won't be disappointed if you're looking for a sweet romance as well as a book that examines family dynamics and what it means to set worries aside and enjoy life.

Tia, as a famed Hollywood director is calm, cool, and collected - or so it seems. On the outside it appears that she has it all put together but the stress that comes with the responsibility of running a tight ship on set as well as family drama has taken its toll. Along with conflicting feelings for a certain handsome cameraman things could quickly get out of control but thanks to some friends and a strong faith she learns to be herself and take it easy!

Tia, Jason, Kat and Scott and all the other characters I had grown to love along with a few new faces made this story one of the most fun and enjoyable books I've read in a while. Admittedly there were a few eye roll moments but I'm not sure you can read about a sitcom or watch one for that matter and not have a few of those "moments." I was also a little disappointed we didn't see more of Brock Benson's story just because he's been around since the Weddings by Bella series and I thought he was a great character. However, everything was tied up in a neat bow by the last page. I must say my favorite part of the entire book was the author's note from Janice where she "continues" the story of all of our favorite characters. Ever make up more stories for your favorite characters after you've turned the last page? I have and apparently authors do too and it was fun to take a peek into what officially happened after the wrap. Backstage Pass was a nice series that definitely would make a nice beach read for all you vacationers out there. ;-)

My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

To learn more about the author visit HER WEBSITE

To read more about the Backstage Pass series go HERE

*I received my complimentary copy of the book in exchange for posting my honest review, negative or postitive, for the book.*






Litfuse Blog Tour + Review: Glamorous Illusions by Lisa T. Bergren

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Glamorous Illusions (Grand Tour, Book 1)
by Lisa T. Bergren
Copyright 2012
David C. Cook Publishers
ISBN: 9781434764300
About the book:
It was the summer of 1913, and Cora Kensington's life on the family farm has taken a dark turn. Not only are the crops failing, so is her father's health. Cora is carrying on, helping her mother run their Montana farm until a stranger comes to call, and everything changes. Cora then learns a secret that will radically change her future: she is the illegitimate daughter of a copper king who has come to claim her. 


Cora is invited to take the "Grand Tour" of Europe, a journey intended to finish a person's education, to solidify an understanding of ancient culture and contemporary refinement. As she travels from England to France with half-siblings she's never known, Cora encounters the blessings of the Kensington family name, as well as the curses. But when an unbidden love begins to form, she realizes the journey is only beginning. 


Faced with the challenge of accepting her father, new family, and the identity that comes with it, Cora also struggles to accept that she is also the daughter of the one true King-a Father who is the only One who can truly heal. 


My Thoughts:
From the Rocky Mountains in Colorado to fourteenth century Italy Lisa Bergren knows how to take a reader on a journey. With her latest series she takes us from the dusty fields of Montana to luxe early 20th century Paris. Be prepared to live this story. Since there's not a lot happening to capture your attention as far as romance or suspense the reader gets to connect with Cora more and feel every emotion that she feels and sense how overwhelmed by everything, including scenery, that she is.


Glamorous Illusions can definitely be described as a coming of age story. While I was frustrated at the ease her parents let her go with an almost complete stranger, Wallace Kensington, and Cora's lack of contact with her family once she started out on the Grand Tour I really enjoyed seeing her interactions with Vivian, Felix and Lillian as well as the tour guide, Will. While this story focused more on Cora and what it felt like for her as a stranger in a new land so to speak I cannot wait to see what happens with Cora and her potential suitors. I have the feeling that the end of this story was just the beginning for her and there is A LOT in store for her. 


If you're into books that are fast-paced and full of adventure this might not be the book for you but if you like an intriguing read about farm life and later fish out of water tales you'll love this. As a fan of the hit TV series, Downton Abbey, I've been scouring the shelves for books set in the Edwardian period and this one did not disappoint. Book two, Grave Consequences can't come out soon enough! 


To read what others are saying about the book go HERE

To learn more about Lisa and her other books go HERE

My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

*I received my complimentary copy from the publisher in exchange for posting my honest review of the book for this tour.*



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What is our "true" identity? Join the conversation at Lisa Tawn Begren's Glamorous Illusions Author Chat Facebook Event Page. On the evening of 6/27 we'll gather to talk about our spiritual journey, share our stories and a few laughs.

In the meantime, celebrate with Lisa by entering her Glamorous Illusions Giveaway!


One "glamorous" winner will receive a "Glam Prize Pack":

  • A $350 Visa Cash Card (Oh ... think of what you could do: treat yourself to a mani/pedi, a fabulous new dress, dinner for two, or even a two-night escape in a lovely hotel - you're only limited by your imagination!)
  • Glamorous Illusions (by Lisa Tawn Begren)

Enter today by clicking one of the icons below. But hurry, the giveaway ends 6/26/12. Winner will be announced at Lisa's "Glamorous Illusions" Facebook Party on  6/27 {Fun begins at 5pm PDT / 8pm EDT}. Lisa will be hosting an evening of meaningful chat, fun trivia, laughter, and encouragement - bring your friends! She'll also be giving away some GREAT prizes: gift certificates, books, and a Book Club Prize Pack! (Ten copies of the book for your small group or book club and a live chat with Lisa via video or phone.)

So grab a few of your friends and your copy of Glamorous Illusions and join Lisa on the evening of June 27th for an evening of fun.

Enter via E-mail Enter via FacebookEnter via Twitter
Don't miss a moment of the fun. RSVP TODAY and tell your friends via FACEBOOK or TWITTER and increase your chances of winning. Hope to see you on the 27th!

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Happy Reading!


History, Mystery, and Romance: Chameleon by Jillian Kent

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Chameleon: The Ravensmoore Chronicles, Bk II
by Jillian Kent
Copyright 2012
Realms Publishing
ISBN: 9781616384968
About the book:
Lady Victoria Grayson journeys to London for the first time in her adult life after battling an illness that kept her homebound for years. She is embroiled in a hornet's nest of intrigue when her brother is called upon to treat a Member of Parliament after a brutal attack. 


Lord Witt understands that some people are not what they pretend to be. When he meets Victoria, his cynical nature is challenged, along with his doubts about God. Together they must confront their pasts in order to solve a mystery that could devastate their future.


My Thoughts:
Just like the previous novel in this series, Chameleon is not just a romance but also a book that examines a ore serious side, mental health and its treatment in the early 19th century. As a reader of Christian romance and romance in general a lot of what I read sometimes comes across as "fluff" but this series has more substance and I love its Gothic feel. One of the author endorsements on the back cover states something along the lines that the book is a mix of Sherlock meets Jane Austen and I have to agree. I kept expecting Sherlock to pop up in one of the London alleyways! I love a good historical mystery or suspense and unfortunately there aren't enough out there but this one fits the bill.


If you haven't read the first book (it's been a while for me so I didn't remember a lot of details) you will still be able to follow along with the characters and the story line. In the beginning Victoria starts out as a bit of a TSTL (too stupid to live) heroine but as the story progresses she loses some of that naivete and becomes more believable and therefore becomes much more likable. I understand that she was ill for most of her life and cosseted and sheltered by her family but immediately trusting a stranger whom you met over an "almost corpse" is a bit unbelievable. 


In the end however Ms. Kent weaves a web of intrigue that compares to Deanna Raybourn's Lady Julia Grey series or Carol Carr's Madam of Espionage books. Romance, mystery and history abound in this book so it's sure to please fans of most any genre! Lovers of the classics and those who long for something different in the Christian fiction genre might want to give this one a try.




To learn more about the author visit HER WEBSITE

~ 4 out of 5 stars ~


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



FIRST Wild Card Blog Tour + Review: Chameleon by Jillian Kent

Monday, June 18, 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 author is:


and the book:

Realms (May 15, 2012)

***Special thanks to Althea Thompson | Publicity Coordinator, Charisma House | Charisma Media for sending me a review copy.***

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:


Jillian Kent has been a member of American Christian Fiction Writers for several years. She has also been a member of Romance Writers of America for 20 years and a member of The Beau Monde, Kiss of Death, and Faith, Hope, and Love specialty chapters of RWA. With a master’s degree in social work, Jillian is employed as a counselor for nursing students, which reflects within the pages of her first novel, Secrets of the Heart, which won the 2009 Inspiration for Writers contest and was a finalist in the Daphne du Maurier; the Noble Theme; and Faith, Hope, and Love’s Touched by Love contests.


Visit the author's website.

SHORT BOOK DESCRIPTION:







Lady Victoria Grayson has always considered herself a keen observer of human behavior, but when she finds herself involved in a sinister plot targeting the lords of Parliament she is forced to question how much anyone can really know about another human being.





Product Details:
List Price: $13.99
Paperback: 304 pages
Publisher: Realms (May 15, 2012)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1616384964
ISBN-13: 978-1616384968



AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:


We should come home from adventures, and perils, and discoveries every day with new experience and character.
-HENRY DAVID THOREAU

London, 29 March 1818

ST. JAMES PARK loomed in front of them, shrouded in a heavy mist that created difficulty for horse and driver as the coach and four maneuvered its way into the park.
Inside the vehicle Victoria leaned toward the window, straining to see the outline of trees. "Such a disappointment," she sighed. "This is not what I expected my very first morning in London. I'd so hoped to see more on the ride through the park, something exciting to tell Devlin when we get to his home."
"Don't despair, my lady." Nora, her maid, pulled a heavy shawl tighter about her shoulders. "'Tis sure to be the same mist that abounds in Yorkshire. This nuisance will lift eventually. It always does."
Victoria patted the sleek head of her dog. "Even Lazarus grows bored." She marveled at her best friend, a behemoth of a mastiff, as he lowered his bulk to the floor of the coach with a loud groan and laid his head across her slipper-covered feet, creating a comfortable warmth. He'd been with her for years, and she couldn't leave him behind. The poor dear would cry himself to sleep every night.


Victoria allowed the clip-clop of the horses’ hooves and Nora’s penchant for humming songs to lull her into a light sleep. Nora’s humming had comforted her all those years she’d been sick at Ravensmoore. While everyone else lived their busy lives out around her, she’d done little but survive, taking comfort in the small things that brought her joy.
A sudden crash caused the coach door to vibrate. Victoria screamed and bolted upright as Lazarus pressed his nose and giant paws against the carriage window. A low growl rumbled in his throat.
She grabbed the dog by the collar. Heart pounding, she turned to
Nora. “What was that?”
“Highwaymen!” Nora’s hand crept to her neck, and fear filled her eyes.
The coachman drew the horses to a halt and opened the top hatch. “I fear I may have run someone down, my lady, but in this fog I can’t tell.”
“We must find out at once. Someone may be hurt.” Victoria threw open the door, and Lazarus bounded into the mist. “Lazarus! Find!” She called after him, but he was already well on his way. She stepped from the coach, nearly tripping in her haste.
“Wait, my lady,” Nora cried. “’Tis not safe. Come back!”
The driver’s voice echoed through the mist. “You’ll lose your way, my lady. Stop where you are.”
But the warning wasn’t necessary. Victoria could hear Lazarus snuffling the ground someplace nearby. She bit her lip and told her- self to be brave, even as her heart slammed against her chest.
At the same time Lazarus let out a warning bark, the mist shifted. Victoria’s hand clamped over her mouth.
A man lay on his side only a few feet in front of her.
She shouted back to the coach. “I’ve found him! I need help.” She dropped to her knees and touched his shoulder. He didn’t move.


2


She touched his arm and gently shook it. “Sir, are you conscious? Are you injured?” But before she could investigate further, strong arms lifted her and turned her away from the sight. She assumed it was Mr. Smythe, the carriage driver.
“This is not something a lady should see,” the man said.
But as he turned her from the body, she caught a glimpse of the man’s head. She gasped. There was just enough light to see streaks of blood upon one deathly pale cheek.
“We hit him,” she cried. “The coach—” She lifted her head expecting to see the kind eyes of Mr. Smythe and met the warm, brilliant, gray eyes of a stranger. “Who . . . who are you? Who is he? Did we kill him?” She buried her face in her rescuer’s shoulder to rid her mind of the sight.
“It does not appear so, my lady,” he said, his voice low and comforting.
He deposited her inside the coach. Before she could speak, Lazarus bounded in next to her, rocking the vehicle precariously. She patted his head to calm him, and when she looked up at the man again, she saw only icy gray eyes and a rigid jaw line.

She studied those eyes momentarily and heard Nora say, “You poor dear. What is it that you saw?”
“Not the sight any young woman should witness, miss,” the stranger said. “But I believe I prevented her from viewing the worst of the man’s injuries.” He hesitated, then added, “This was no fault of the driver. Take care of this young woman. I’ll get help for the gentleman. Carlton House is nearby.”
“Nonsense,” Victoria whispered. “Use the coach. Our driver will take you.”
He nodded and bowed. “You’re very kind.”
She wondered if it had been her imagination or if his eyes fre- quently switched from an icy gray coolness to a warm molten gray


3


in only moments.. She wondered what this meeting might have been like under different circumstances.
“Be still,” Nora said. “You’ve had a shock.”
She heard the stranger and Mr. Smythe lifting the injured man to the driver’s seat. “God have mercy,” the driver said.
“I’ll show you to Carlton House through this heavy fog. He can get the help he needs there. Who am I indebted to?”
“I’m taking Lady Victoria Grayson and her maid to the lady’s brother.”
“And that would be?” “Lord Ravensmoore, sir.”
They approached Carlton House a few minutes later. Victoria clutched the edge of the seat, attempting to recover from what had happened and what she’d witnessed. As if he understood, Lazarus licked her hand. The coach came to a halt.
The fog still lay heavy on the ground. Victoria could barely make out the two figures moving toward the door and into the palace. But even as their images faded, her thoughts returned to the stranger who’d lifted her away from the bleeding man and carried her back to the coach. The stranger with strong arms and fascinating gray eyes.
Victoria found her strength as the fog lifted and patches of sun- light appeared through the trees, dappling the ground with their shadows. London came alive. Though her curiosity remained keen, she turned her thoughts to her brother and kept her mind on the joy it would be to see him again. He’d only been absent from their home at Ravensmoore for two months, but it seemed far longer.
She stared in unabashed awe at the sea of activity that sur- rounded them as their coach merged with others, making its way through the muddy, rutted streets. The crowded sidewalks teemed with people of all classes. Women in brilliant gowns of color swirled


4


past street urchins and beggars, meshing into an ever-shifting tap- estry of humanity.
She’d stepped into a world bigger than York, a world she’d only dreamed about. Victoria leaned back against the banquette and sighed. “Now that I can see it properly, London is magnificent.”
“I think it best if you have your brother examine you when we arrive, my lady Victoria. You know how he worries. You know how I worry. ’Tis a blessing to have a brother who is both a lord and physician.”
Victoria turned away from the window and assessed her maid. “I am no longer an invalid, Nora, and well you know it.” She lifted her chin a notch. “I’m stronger than either you or my brother realize.” Nora met her gaze, her brow furrowed with worry. Victoria lifted her hand to dismiss the words of warning she knew were sure to come. But Nora, having been her constant companion the past eleven years and knowing her so well, caught Victoria’s hand.
“Child, you’re pale and weary from our travels and that horrid incident in the park. ’Tis a good thing we’ve made this journey, but I think your brother will agree with me that you need to rest.”
“I’ve been resting my entire life. It’s time to live and catch up on the adventures that God has in store for me. How many times did you read Jeremiah twenty-nine, eleven to me throughout the years? Did you not believe those words yourself?”
Nora nodded, keeping her lips firmly pressed together in an obvious effort to curb her tongue. A difficult feat, Victoria under- stood and appreciated.
As if sensing the tension and hoping to break up an ensuing argument, Lazarus nuzzled and nudged Victoria’s attention away from her maid and back toward the window to watch a group of young boys chasing each other down the street. He barked and strained against the coach door. Victoria couldn’t move him from his place of entertainment if she’d tried.


5


“Such a window hound you are, Lazarus.” Victoria rubbed her hand over his big, sleek head, ruffling his ears. “If you wanted my attention, you would more readily share your window.” She smiled and turned her gaze toward the window on the opposite side. Men and women hawked their wares and called to them in hopes of making a profit. “You can do no wrong in my eyes, Lazarus. If you hadn’t been with us earlier, that poor man might still be lying in the park.” She tried to shake off the sense of dread that seeped through her pores. She refused to allow the upset of the morning to ruin her reunion with her brother.
“I’m sorry, Nora.” She studied the dark-haired, blue-eyed woman who was eleven years her senior. Nora had always seemed more of an aunt to her than a maid and companion.
“You’re forgiven.” A smile quirked the corners of her mouth. “You really are too pretty to continue caring for me much longer.
Why is it you haven’t yet married?”
Now Nora chose to gaze out the window to escape further inquiry. “I will when the time and the suitor are right.”
Victoria ended that line of questioning, and they rode in com- panionable silence the rest of the way, each lost in thought.
The busy streets gave way to quieter and more prestigious ave- nues as they made their way to Grosvenor Square and her brother’s London townhome. The quality of the air improved as they moved farther from the central streets and into the areas of the upper crust. The coach slowed and then pulled to a halt in front of number three, Devlin’s home.
“I cannot wait another moment.” Grabbing the handle of the coach door, Victoria stepped out onto the curb. Lazarus bounded out after her and onto the street.
“Good heavens! It’s a bear,” an elderly woman said, clinging to her husband.
Victoria smothered a grin. “He’s quite harmless.”


6


The couple hurried away from the dog.
Nora bolted from the coach and grabbed Lazarus by the collar, holding him fast as he strained to make chase.
“Thank you, Nora. Just in time.”
Victoria gathered her blue velvet traveling skirts and ran up the five steps to the entrance. She reached for the gilded knocker, hesi- tated, and then, after adjusting her gloves, started to grab the handle instead. But the door opened before her hand reached it.
Devlin’s butler appeared. A smile lit his face when he saw Victoria. “Lady Victoria,” he said, and then executed a most noble bow. When he straightened, his pleasure at seeing her was still apparent. “Welcome to London.”
“Henry!” Victoria said. “It is good to see you. Do you mind taking Lazarus? He adores you almost as much as I do.”
“For you I would take Lazarus on a walk to the ends of the earth,”
he said with cheerful amiability.
“Who is it that you are taking for a walk, Henry?” Devlin appeared in the doorway, tall and handsome with that brotherly smile of his and assessing green-eyed gaze. “Ah, there she is. My favorite imp. What took you so long? I expected you yesterday.” He held out his arms. “Are you well?”
“I believe so. We stopped at a nearby inn last evening. The rain made travel a bit difficult.” Victoria burrowed deep into her brother’s warm, comforting embrace. “I’ve missed you, Dev,” she whispered into his chest and squeezed him tight. “I’ve missed you so much.”
“And I, you.” Devlin held her at arm’s length. “It’s good to see you. Now, come in and tell me all about your journey and how my wife is doing at home without me.” He looked up at Nora. “Has she behaved herself on this trip, Nora?”
Her companion grinned. “Nothing out of the ordinary for Lady
Victoria, yer lordship.”


7


“That speaks volumes.” Devlin gently pinched his sister’s cheek. “Henry, I believe Nora would love to hear about town.”
“Of course, yer lordship. Welcome to London, Nora. Would you care to accompany me? And allow me to take Lazarus off your hands.”
“Bless you for that, Henry. He wears me down too quickly.” “Come along, Lazarus.” He accepted the leash from Nora and
quickly fastened it to the dog’s collar.
Nora nodded. “It will help me find my balance again after a long, bumpy, and perilous ride in the coach. I’ll catch you up with all that’s happened back at Ravensmoore.”
Devlin started to enter the house with Victoria and then turned back to Henry. “And Henry,” he called, “don’t forget to feed the beast before you return him to Victoria.”
“Feed him, sir? And just who should be the sacrifice? Lazarus has a shine to his eyes, and I’m thinking it is for me.”
“Get creative, man. Start with Cook.”
“Now, there’s a right smart answer,” Henry said and laughed. “Mrs. Miller will faint dead away.”
Devlin grinned, a wicked glint in his green eyes. “If Cook has the nerve to faint, let Lazarus nibble at her.”
“Devlin!” Victoria feigned horror. “What an outlandish thing to say.” She covered a grin. “That would bring her around faster than smelling salts.”
She turned to watch Lazarus leading Henry and Nora down the street. Her thoughts fled to what might be happening at Carlton House. A shudder crept up her spine. She decided to wait to tell Devlin of her experience in the park. Guilt niggled, but she just wasn’t ready to divulge that bit of information. After all, her freedom was at stake. One thought of her in danger, and Devlin would ship her back to York before she got settled in. No doubt


8


Nora would reveal all if she didn’t stop her maid when she returned from the walk.
“Are you cold?” Devlin asked, assessing her carefully. “Come in. You must be exhausted.”
“Not really. The ride was but a couple of hours.” “No adventures during your journey, Snoop?”
She loved his pet name for her. She was more than a bit curious about everything life had to offer, and Devlin used her nickname more often than her given name. “Adventures? What could possibly happen on a two-hour ride into town?” She swallowed hard, hoping her expression didn’t give her away. She would tell him when the time was right.
“Knowing you, just about anything.”
“I promise to give you a full report.” Eventually. And as she stepped into her brother’s townhome, she wondered how she could discover more about her gray-eyed stranger and the bloodied man he’d taken to Carlton House.





Jonathon Denning, Lord Witt, nearly collided with the guard on duty while carrying Lord Stone into Carlton House.
“Send for the regent and his physician immediately,” he ordered. “There’s been an accident. I need a place where Lord Stone can be treated, and privacy is a must. Not a word of this leaves your lips. Do you understand?”
The guard nodded and headed toward one of the pages standing nearby. “You heard Lord Witt. Be off with you, and hurry, Thomas.”
Witt watched as the page fled down a long corridor.
“Follow me, Lord Witt. We’ll take him upstairs to the guest lodg- ings. Allow me to carry him.”
“I can manage,” Witt muttered. “Go, man. Lead the way, and make sure you choose a room that is not easily found.”


9


The guard wasted no time, and after climbing to the second floor, Witt lay Stone on a four-poster bed surrounded by green drapes. Out of breath, Witt collapsed into a chair, mentally taking stock of all that had happened in the period of a mere half hour.
The guard paled when he saw the severity of Lord Stone’s wounds. “Not a word. Remember that, or I’ll have your post. Now draw those drapes and leave. Send a decanter of brandy. I need a drink.
Better yet, send two.”
Witt sat in a chair near the bed and tried to think about what to do next, as the regent was sure to ask his opinion. He’d been a valued spy during the war, and the regent frequently asked his advice. He sat forward and rested his head in his hands. He’d simply gone out for an early morning walk before Parliament, heard the coach approaching, and scrambled to get out of the way before he was run down.
The muffled sounds of an obviously disturbed dog had fired him to action. He ran a short distance through the mist and then had come upon a well-dressed lady, her massive dog, and Lord Stone. One look at the huge dog had almost caused him to retreat, but he couldn’t leave a young woman to deal with what he’d seen of Stone’s face.
The driver had said the woman was Ravensmoore’s sister. Ironic, since he’d been keeping an eye on the “Lord Doctor” at Prinny’s request.
Prinny, as the regent was known amongst the ton, didn’t know if he liked the idea of one of his lords working as a physician. A nobleman working a trade drew suspicion. What was the point? Although Ravensmoore’s reputation had been spotless when he’d come into his title, it was anticipated that he would leave the study of medicine to manage his estate. Instead he’d pursued this obses- sion that he referred to as a calling and allowed his man of affairs


10


to run his estate when he was forced to be absent. Prinny wanted to know if there was more to it or if Ravensmoore was simply eccentric.
He heard the unhappy growling of the regent and his doctor as they neared the suite of rooms. Witt steeled himself.
“What in the name of all that is reasonable has caused this incon- venience?” roared Prinny when he burst through the outer sitting room. He was still steaming as he entered the bedroom with his physician in tow.
Witt stood. “Your Royal Highness.” He bowed. “Lord Stone has been attacked. I found him in the park. He needs your physician’s immediate attention.”
The overstuffed physician huffed. “I’ll decide what necessitates immediate attention, Lord Witt.”
“Then I suggest you make the determination.” Witt nodded toward the bed. The physician hesitated.
The regent said, “Get on with it. I’m busy today. For the love of good food, Parliament reconvenes this afternoon.”
The physician huffed again and went to the bed, grabbing the drapes and pulling them back. “Great heavens. What’s happened to the man?” He opened the black bag he carried with him. “I’ll need a nursemaid.”
Prinny then stepped closer to evaluate Stone’s condition himself. He sucked in a breath. “The poor devil! Get on with it, doctor. Do everything you can to save him.” The regent, visibly shaken, looked at Witt. “Tell me everything. What happened? We must find out who did this to Stone.”
“Your Majesty.” The physician turned from the bed with a bloody missive in his shaking hand. “I found this pinned to his waistcoat. A warning.”
“Who dares?” He snatched the paper away and read it. “Lord
Witt, today’s session of Parliament must be canceled.” Witt arched a brow.


11


Prinny handed him the blood-stained parchment.
Witt read the note aloud. “‘You have been found guilty of con- spiring with sinful men for sinful purposes. I will now handle the situation as I see fit. Stone is only the first. Repent, you lords of par- liament.’ And it’s signed, ‘Lord Talon.’”
“Curse this Lord Talon.” Prinny looked to Witt for direction. “We must decide the best course of action, and soon. No one has dared attack a member of Parliament since Bellingham assassinated our prime minister, and that was six years ago.”
Ravensmoore came to mind, but Witt faltered for just a moment. No doubt the man was the best there was, and his skills badly needed. But his sister had only just arrived in London, and this sit- uation could put her and her brother in danger. An edge of uneasi- ness rippled down his back.
“Witt,” the regent said. “What is your recommendation?”
Witt took charge. “We must proceed with caution. Tell no one about the note. Not yet. And don’t say anything to anyone about the signature of this Lord Talon. I suggest we ask Lord Ravensmoore to join us immediately. Having a physician who is a peer can prove most helpful.”
The regent paced and mumbled to himself, seemingly in a struggle to make a decision. Finally he said, “Send for him.”


12


*Edited to Add LINK TO MY REVIEW*


Free Book Alert: Waiting for Midnight by Merrie Destefano

A few weeks ago I posted about a new ebook collection by one of my favorite authors, Merrie Destefano. I'm pleased to let you all know that Waiting for Midnight is free to download on your Kindle for two days, June 18-19. If you're interested in the book definitely make sure you grab it soon and don't forget to post a review on Amazon if you like the story! :-)

Waiting for Midnight by Merrie Destefano

Happy Reading!


Clash of the Titles: A New Literary Contest Comes

Friday, June 8, 2012

Get Ready to Spar!

Dust off those swords (in the Spirit, of course) and put on that literary armor, 
because Clash of the Titles has an announcement.

The Laurel Award is expanding, and we know you’ll be excited about it.

We are creating a NEW annual literary contest, and it’s strictly for unpublished writers! 
Also, authors will no longer need to be a previous Clash Champion in order to compete for the crown. 

Submissions for this contest open October 29, 2012
but first we must name it. That’s right! We want your help naming this exciting, new branch of Clash of the Titles. After reading about it, please take a moment to click on which name you think most fitting for this contest—The Spartan OR The Olympia. (Use survey below.)

About this new contest:

All never before published writers of Christian fiction may submit their work.
$10 Entry fee.
First two chapters will be judged.
Final scoring by a select panel of beta-readers.

Prizes: 
Special feature on Clash of the Titles' blog.
Tour through COTT’s Blog Alliance.
Page on our site for a full year.
Podcast interview with Author and CAG board member, Cynthia L. Simmons.
A beautiful plaque.

The outcome is in the hands of readers, not industry professionals.

You’ve written the book of your dreams, now what do readers think? Enter the arena and find out. 

Stay tuned for further dates and details by 
subscribing to our blog and “liking” our Facebook page.

Create your free online surveys with SurveyMonkey, the world's leading questionnaire tool.


Blog Vacation!



I just wanted to let everyone know that June 8-16th I'll be on a blog vacation so there won't be any posts from me...I know, I know, what WILL you do? In the meantime if you're looking for some great blogs to read please check out my "Blogs I Love" list at the top of my blog or the "More Blogs I Love" list on the left sidebar and I can guarantee you that you won't miss me at all. The ladies whose blogs I have listed there are pretty darn amazing if I do say so myself! I'm sure they all will post some wonderful book reviews, movie reviews, and recipes that are sure to keep you adding to your reading and to watch lists as well as your waistline while I'm gone. ;-) I hope you all are enjoying the beautiful spring weather and find time for some rest and relaxation like I plan to do this week.


Submerged Winner!

Thursday, June 7, 2012

The winner of a copy of Submerged by Dani Pettrey is...

Liz!

Liz has been contacted and has already claimed her prize. Be sure to stop back soon for more giveaways. :-)


My New Favorite TV Series...

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

At the nudging of my cousin Melissa and my friend Ruth @ Booktalk and More I started watching White Collar a few weeks ago and I have to say I am Hooked with a capital H. Why did nobody tell me how fun and interesting this show was? Oh...wait...the aforementioned ladies did tell me but I guess I wasn't listening! I should know better, when people with great taste tell me to do something I need to do it ASAP! So thanks to Melissa and Ruth I am now a White Collar addict and want to recommend the show to anyone who loves dramas but not necessarily the grittiness of say NCIS or CSI and anyone who likes a bit of fun (say, ABC's Castle). I haven't finished watching season 3 but I'm recommending the entire series just because what I've seen so far is that good. Did I mention there is some serious eye candy in the form of smooth conman turned FBI consultant Neal Caffrey as played by Matt Bomer? Yes ladies, you will swoon 5 minutes into the first episode or my name isn't Renee! Here's a trailer for season 4 which starts July 10th. Watch the clip and I'm sure you will see what I mean. ;-)




Interview with Debut Novelist Dani Pettrey + Giveaway!

Friday, June 1, 2012

I'm so happy to have the opportunity to introduce you to one of my favorite new Christian fiction writers, Dani Pettrey. Dani's debut novel, Submerged (Book 1 in the Alaskan Courage series) is definitely making my list of great books I read in 2012. I thought since I accidentally got an extra copy I'd also offer a giveaway! If you read the interview and the cover blurb and you're interested in the book feel free to enter the giveaway! Remember to read the rules first to see if you're eligible to enter.

by Dani Pettrey
Copyright 2012
Bethany House Publishers
ISBN: 9780764209826

A sabotaged plane. Two dead deep-water divers. One single clue. 

Bailey Craig vowed never to set foot in Yancey, Alaska, again. She has a past, and a reputation--and Yancey's a town that doesn't forget. She's returned only to bury a loved one killed in the plane crash, but then dark evidence emerges and Bailey's own expertise becomes invaluable for the case.

Cole McKenna can face dangerous rescue dives. He can face the fear a murderer may be threatening his town. But facing the reality of Bailey's reappearance is a tougher challenge. She broke his heart... but doesn't seem to be the same girl who left Yancey ten years ago. And he's not the same guy she left behind.

Racing against the clock and a rising body count, Bailey and Cole must move beyond the hurts of their pasts to work together until the truth of what is hidden in the depths finally surfaces.

Read my review of Submerged HERE

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

Follow Dani on:
TWITTER
FACEBOOK
WEBSITE
~ Please tell us a bit about yourself, what do we need to know about Dani Pettrey and Submerged? :-)

I am a wife, homeschooling mom and author. I feel so very blessed to write inspirational romantic suspense because it incorporates so many things I love--the thrill of adventure, nail-biting suspense, the deepening of one's faith and plenty of romance. I am a huge fan of dark chocolate, am always in search of the best iced mocha, and would love to one day own a little cottage on a remote stretch of beach. I live in Maryland with my husband and our two teenage daughters.


~ Three words that best describe Submerged.

 Riveting. Tender. Hopeful.


~ I loved Submerged and Bailey and Cole, will we be seeing more of them in future books? 

Yes. While each book in my Alaskan Courage series focuses on different a McKenna sibling and can be read as a stand alone, the rest of the McKennas do populate each of the stories in the series.


~ This is probably a terrible question to ask an author but was there a character who stood out as a favorite? I know as a reader I always have a favorite but they’re not always main characters.

I love each of my characters, but if I had to pick the one that tugs at my heart the most, it’d be Gage McKenna. He is drowning in loss. Readers will get to learn more about him in Book 2—Shattered.


 ~ I confess, I hate cold weather but the beauty of Alaska as described in Submerged has made me want to pack a suitcase and head north. Do you think you would like to live in Alaska or would you rather live in a warm, tropical paradise? 

While I would love to visit Alaska, I’d rather live in a tropical paradise. I’m a beach girl at heart!


~Feel free to add anything else that you would like! :-) Thank you so much for taking the time out to do this interview.

Thanks so much, Renee. Fun questions!



Happy Reading!