Tuesday, April 30, 2013

May's Author of the Month: Deeanne Gist

Welcome to May!!! This year is moving right along, isn't it? I can't believe summer is right around the corner!! April was great, and I LOVED being able to have MaryLu Tyndall as our Author of the Month! Have you read her new book?! Oh good, I'm glad to hear you have! *hint, hint*

Pinch me!! Somebody please pinch me! Am I dreaming?! Ladies, I cannot tell you how THRILLED I am to be featuring one of my ALL-TIME-FAVORITE historical Christian romance authors this month-- Deeanne Gist! 

AHHH!!! Holy romance!!! Dee is my hero, my idol, my writing-role-model! Her new book IT HAPPENED AT THE FAIR has just been released, and I can't wait to get my copy in the mail!! Did you have it on pre-order too?! I thought you did. *wink*

I am so honored that Dee would do this interview for me and I am thrilled to share it with you. So, with no further ado, here is Dee!!

Tell us about Dee!! Is there anything fun or unique about you we might not know?

When I was in high school, one of the boys teased me mercilessly. So in speech class I used him as my “volunteer” to demonstrate how to tie someone up. Once I securely tied him, I informed the class my speech wasn’t really about how to tie someone up, but about how to throw a pie in someone’s face.

I wrapped a shower curtain around his neck, then proceeded to make a pie out of whipped cream. When I was putting the finishing touches on the pie, I said, “Now, the most important thing to remember is to … splat … catch them by surprise.” ☺

Your characters are so real, with real issues. How do you choose who/ what to write about?

I have always been fascinated with intriguing little historical tidbits I would find in those historical time-line books, or in an article somewhere. With It Happened at the Fair, the springboard for my idea was the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair.

With that one detail, I went to the reference part of the library and found two huge, oversized albums filled with pictures and descriptions of the Fair. In one was a picture of a woman teaching children. It turned out, she and the children were part of an exhibit and she was teaching them to lip read. I ground to a halt and immediately thought of all kinds of fun scenarios that could take place with a heroine who could lip read. And Della Wentworth was born.

What is your favorite scripture? What about it inspires you?

There are so many great ones. I’m afraid I don’t really have a favorite, per se. Every day a different one jumps to the forefront because it’s so dependent on what my circumstances are. I don’t know if I could possibly choose just one.

But if I have to, I’d probably go with the one about love. Romans 8:38, 39.

Of all your characters, who would you say you are most like?

There’s probably a little bit of me in all of them. I think the heroine I relate to most, though, is Essie Spreckelmeyer from Courting Trouble and Deep in the Heart of Trouble. Not so much because of what she liked to do. (She’s a much better athlete than me and I hate snakes.) But more because I really empathized with her desire to find a mate. Though I married very young, being a “wife and mother” were the things I most wanted to be when I grew up. My benchmarks were Maria Von Trapp and Mrs. Brady. ☺

WOW! Wasn't that awesome! Dee, I can't being to thank you enough for being on my blog this month! You and your books have blessed my life in so many ways--and I know many other readers feel the same. I CAN'T WAIT to read and review your next book--I know its going to be awesome!!

What is your favorite "Dee" novel, my friends? Who are your favorite characters? I'd love to know--please share!!

God bless you all and Happy Reading!

Deeanne Gist—known to her family, friends, and fans as Dee—has rocketed up the bestseller lists and captivated readers everywhere with her original historical and contemporary novels. A favorite among readers and reviewers alike, her popular titles include A Bride Most Begrudging, A Bride in the Bargain, and Maid to Match. Her latest book, It Happened at the Fair (releasing April 2013), is her ninth published novel.

A popular speaker, Gist’s presentations have been featured on the front page of the Wall Street Journal and in other publications. The Wall Street Journal’s accompanying online video was the most watched video on the FrontPageWSJ.com website for several days following their feature.

Gist has a background in education and journalism. Her credits include People, Parents, Parenting, Family Fun, Houston Chronicle and Orlando Sentinel. She is also the creator of I Did It!®, a parenting line of products. Gist lives in Houston, Texas with her husband of thirty years. The couple has four grown children.

Gist’s fans enthusiastically interact with her at her popular online communities: IWantHerBook.com, as well as on Facebook (@DeesFriends) and Twitter (@DeeanneGist).

Thursday, April 25, 2013

A Matter of Character

It was about time for me to sit back, relax and enjoy a Robin Lee Hatcher story. So that's just what I did! *wink* A mom's gotta look out for herself, right?

Book Rating: Here a little, there a little

OK, now if you have ready most of my reviews on Hatcher's stories, you know I am a huge fan. For me, this story was almost too slow. But don't let that disway you...every Hatcher book has great romance, fun characters and a good spiritual message. This book fits the bill, but it wasn't as tension/drama filled as I would have liked to see.

Daphne McKinley is a writer (dime novels!) but she doesn't want anyone to know! She's been writing a series loosely based on local lore, and her books are fairly popular. When Joshua Crawford comes to town, searching for the "man" behind the novels that are defaming his grandfathers name, Daphne has to rethink her tactics--and what she wants out of life!

So, give it a try! You might love it!

Happy Reading!
Buy it!


Oh my friends, this little eShort is the sweetest kind of torture!

Book Rating: Best of the Best

Now, it may seem a little overboard to rate a little-teeny eShort as if it is an entire book, but I just had to write a quick review.

Friends, this is AWESOME! I laughed and smiled my way through this and when it was over, I was thinking, "WHAT? I have to wait a whole year to read the entire book?"

Hunter Scott (that's probably the most masculine, macho, hunky guy name E-V-E-R!) is a Columbian Guard for the Chicago's world's fair, and he's proud of it. Except for the fact that he's stationed at the Women's Building! As a Texas ranger, little can get him down. Unfortunately, there's something wrong with his stomach and its causing him excruciating pain. When he succumbs to his pain, he is mortified that the "doctor" attending to him is a woman--and her diagnosis is humiliating! Too bad she is cute and sweet, and smart all at the same time.

There's not much more I can say except, for a mere 99 cents you could read this and be in as much pleasant torture as I am, as we wait for the entire novel...misery loves company you know!

Read it and let me know what you think!

Happy Reading!
Buy it!

Monday, April 15, 2013

Love at any Cost

Oh, to hear Tony Bennett croon, "I left my heart in San Francisco..." (I gotta hear that song again!)

After reading this book, I gotta agree with Tony. This book took my heart and planted it right in the middle of San Fran, ladies!

Book Rating: Up All Night'er

Come all Julie Lessman fans, and feast your minds on another fabulous novel by the Queen of Romance herself. *wink* This story is excellent and I know you are going to love it. (BTW, its out today, in case you didn't already know, so if I were you I would go out and get a copy...like now. *giggle*)

Cassie McClare won't have anything to do with men--not after her heart was ripped out and stomped on by a man who was only interested in her money. But when she comes to San Francisco, she meets another "pretty boy" by the name of Jamie McKenna who is poised to steal her heart again. Jamie wants to marry well, and marry into money-- but his motivation to do so isn't what it seems.

These characters are lots of fun. If you are afraid of how you might warm to them after having gotten so attached to the O'Connors, don't fret. I'm willin' to bet you will take to this new crowd real quick. *wink again* In many ways they reminded me of the O'Connors--in how they talked, and how close they were as a family, so I think you will like that.

There are some excellent twists and turns in the story, where you might say (like I did), "Holy crud! No way!"That's another thing I like about Lessman, there's always something unexpected--and that's a good thing!!!

Great spiritual message, as in all of Lessman's books, so you can be assured that in that department you will come away with a stronger faith in God.

As for romance, my friends, Lessman never disappoints! It really is fabulous!!

You must tell me what you think about it after you've read it. I can't wait for you to enjoy it as much as I did.

Thank you to Revell for providing me with this free copy in exchange for an honest review.

Available April 15, 2013 at your favorite bookseller from Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group

Happy Reading!
Buy it!

Saturday, April 13, 2013

What Makes A Great Story

Recently I have found myself very interested in the craft of writing. How DO these authors do what they do—what makes a good story? Well, I’ve found out a few things, and thought you might be interested.

So, grab a delicious, calorie-laden muffin and a cup of something soothing, cuz this is gonna be fun! *grin* WARNING: This is a longer post then I usually write, so forgive me. And I won't feel bad if you skim.

If you are like me and you like reading—and I know you do, then you might very well have similar ideas about what makes a good story. And when you find a story that meets all your nitty-gritty criteria, you have found a friend for life! Now, authors know all these things that we as readers want (how do they know?!), and they do their best to weave them together for our benefit, and boy, am I glad they do.

Not everyone’s tastes are similar—if they were, then everyone in the world would read only inspirational romances in third person POV, just like I like to do. But the things that make universally good stories aren’t the POVs/places/times/plots of a story, per se. The things that make gripping stories are more general and can be found in any story, no matter how different they are—from GONE WITH THE WIND to STAR WARS. (Or if we want to focus on historical romance here, we would mention A HOPE UNDAUNTED and TO WIN HER HEART.) Both those stories are mind-blowingly awesome for the same reasons.

Let me explain. (Here’s where you take a sip of that drink, and a nice little nibble of your muffin.)

Here are the four ingredients for what makes a marvelous story (there may be more or less, depending on who you talk to, but these are the ones I have found to be most important). These ingredients make the kind of story you will want to read over, and over, and over, and over, and over, and….well, you get the point.

1: Make mine a Hero (and Heroine!) sandwich, please.

Characters are paramount!

The hero and heroine of the story are where it starts for me, folks. You might have an awesome book—fabulous plot, great conflict, etc. But if the characters are so awful you’d rather watch reruns of BONANZA for twelve hours straight, then we have a problem.

When I read a book, I want the characters to be so real, so believable, so likable and sympathetic that I feel like I know them inside and out. I want to root for them, laugh with them and cry with them. All you have to do is read a Julie Lessman book and you know exactly what I’m talking about.

If the hero (or heroine, of course) in the book is believable, and I can sympathize with him, if I feel for him and can desire what he desires, then I will follow him anywhere!

This leads me to point number 2…

2. Excuse me. Why did you just do that?

Motivation, people. That’s where it’s at!

If I can understand the hero’s “motivation” and know his “goal” (I’ve learned these are terms writers use), then it doesn’t matter if he’s saving the planet from an alien invasion or simply ordering a Happy Meal—for himself, mind you—I’ll be right there with him, cheering him on every step of the way. I love a story where the motivation is real and driven by powerful emotion, because without the emotion behind the motivation, well, all I have to say is, that’s like trying to get excited about a three hour visit at the dentist office. No thank you. (I like to tease my husband...who happens to be a dentist! Love you, Robby!)

This leads me to point number 3…

3. “Cut! That was great. But do it again and this time, give me some emotion! Action!”

I’ve been called a drama queen a time or two, and no, I’m not ashamed of that. I like the emotions in the stories I read piled on thick—but not too thick, of course, because then we’ve got melodrama and that’s when we start rolling our eyes and skimming pages.

If this character that I love so much is being driven to do something, then I want to experience it with him! I want to know what is happening in his head, his heart and in his body—because when we experience something, isn’t that how it happens? We are thinking about it, we feel something inside and then somehow our body reacts to what we are thinking and feeling. And a lot of times all of that happens completely subconsciously—we don’t even know its happening! But, you’ve been there—you know what I’m talking about.

For example, the hero sees his old flame after a year of being a part. He might first wonder how he’d forgotten how lovely she was, his heart will flutter and then his hands will start to sweat from sheer nerves. “Hi Megan,” he gulps and stands straighter, hoping she didn’t notice the catch in his voice.

Get my drift?

Then…what would happen if suddenly the heroine moves aside and says with a jaw-dropping smile, “Hey, James, its great to see you again. I’d like you to meet my boyfriend Mark.”

That’s where we get conflict! Love it!

And that bring me to number 4…

4. C-O-N-F-L-I-C-T, baby!

OK, so we have this hero that is fabulous—we love him—and he’s motivated to save the world from a terrible alien invasion. (I know I’m venturing away from the “romance theme” of my blog here, but I’ve been watching a lot of sci-fi recently, please forgive me…) We’re rooting for him all the way when he pulls out his super-high-powered-mega-awesome-death-ray blaster gun and destroys every alien without a bit of resistance. Aliens obliterated. The end.

You mean that’s it?!

Where’s the excitement and entertainment in that? There is none. If there is no great conflict in a story, believe me, its no fun to read. Are ya with me?

Going back to romance here, if a heroine and hero fall in love with nothing to keep them apart during the book, what’s the point in reading? Conflict (or tension, which ever you choose to call it) puts you on the edge of your seat and keeps you turning pages. The more conflict and tension the better—for the most part. We like to see our hero/heroine struggle over and over before they reach their goal, so that when they finally accomplish what they are working toward we can cheer and/or cry tears of joy with them at the end.

Again, a talented writer like Lessman, or Tyndall, or Witemeyer, or Gist do all of these things and they do them brilliantly.

What do you think? Do you agree with me? Do the authors you love do these things in the stories you cherish? I’m bettin’ they do!

Tell me what you think!!

Happy Reading!

Monday, April 8, 2013

Love in the Balance


I have such a hard time being critical of any author when I know they put their heart and soul into their stories. But I do want to give my honest opinion, so here I go.

Book Rating: Here a little, there a little

I really enjoy Regina Jennings' style, and if you enjoyed her first book SIXTY ACRES AND A BRIDE then you might really enjoy this also. I thought I would...but for me, it wasn't my cup of tea.

The more I read, the pickier I get, I guess. The scenario of this book intrigued me, but it ended up taking a turn that I didn't like, and I just couldn't get over it. I have almost considered changing my rating system to a simple "I'd read it again" or "I won't read it again." And this story I wouldn't read again.

The conflict in this story is very strong--and that's a good thing of course--but the kind of conflict, mainly from the heroine, came across in such a way that made me not care for her and that's what soured the story for me. Molly Lovelace came across as quite self-centered for a large portion of the book--to me, anyway. Also, I found myself frustrated at the fact that Bailey (her long-time love interest) is trying his best to avoid temptation, but Molly doesn't seem to be trying as hard. At least that's the way it felt to me. I hate to say it, but frankly I couldn't see what Bailey saw in her. *gulp*

This is a clean book, but with a lot of adult themes, just so you know...

Now, again, all of these things being said, there are very nice things about the story. I thoroughly enjoyed Bailey's character. I thought he was honorable, and really continued to strive to do what was right most of the time. For me, he is the one shining element of the story.

So, if you are up for it--read it, and then tell me what you thought!

Thank you to Bethany House to my review copy in exchange for my honest opinion.

Happy Reading!
Buy it!

And the winner is...

The lucky winner of this month's drawing is:


Thank you so much to everyone that entered and commented!! You are all fabulous!!

I can't wait for next month's author...and I would let you know who she is *eh hem*, but I better keep it a secret. ;)

Until then, God bless you all and have a wonderful April!

Happy Reading!!

Monday, April 1, 2013

April's Author of the Month: MaryLu Tyndall

I am so happy April is here, for oh-so-many reasons! How about you?? Spring has finally sprung (at least here in WA where I live) and the birds are singing...what's not to love about April? (Before we move on, I must say real quick that it was great to be able to have Mary Connealy with us last month, wasn't it?!)

Well, if this month wasn't already totally fabulous, I have another reason for you to be jumping for joy. 

Wait for it.....

This month's featured author is none other than MaryLu Tyndall!! Yippee!!! See, I knew you would be just as excited as I am--I knew you would be jumping up and down!! *wink*

Well, instead of beating around the bush, let's get right to it.

Hope you enjoy getting to know the magnificent MaryLu!

Tell us about MaryLu! And please include a delicious tidbit that we HCR fans might not already know about you!

I'm a passionate, creative, romantic introvert who loves to create stories in my head. When I was little, I would spend hours daydreaming by putting myself into different settings and adventures and then letting the story play out in my mind. (Of course I was always the beautiful heroine!)  In fact, most of the time, I would prefer to remain in my head than face real life!  Despite that, I wandered off path and away from God for several years and became a computer nerd (a.k.a. as a programmer) where I spent 15 years in misery trying to shove a square peg into a round hole. I've only known the Lord for 19 years now and they've been the best years of my life! I grew up on the beaches of South Florida and love anything to do with the sea and tall ships and swashbuckling heroes. Popcorn, chocolate and cats make the world go around, and God is the sole purpose I write.

Your books are loaded with amazing historical detail. Did you have to do gobs of research? Was it daunting?  

Gobs? Yes!  Daunting? Always. Honestly, research is not my specialty. I much prefer writing. I truly love history and it's fun reading all the fascinating stories from the past, but it can be quite grueling if you're looking for that one tiny detail you need for one small scene and it takes hours to find! I'm very fortunate to have quite an extensive library in my office, but the internet is also invaluable for research. Depending on the story and the time period, I can spend up to a month doing research for just a single book. 

The Christian element in your stories is wonderful. Do you know the spiritual theme before you start a book or does it come to you as you write? 

Good question. I'm definitely a theme-writer. I start with a theme or spiritual lesson, something the Lord puts on my heart to share through the story. Then I create a story and characters around that theme. Most everything that happens in the plot and to the characters is a part of moving that theme along from beginning to end. What's really cool is that many times other themes sort of grow out of the first one and I end up with more than one moral of the story. 

What is your favorite scripture?

Psalm 84:10-11 
For a day in Your courts is better than a thousand.
I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God
Than dwell in the tents of wickedness.
 For the Lord God is a sun and shield;
The Lord will give grace and glory;
No good thing will He withhold
From those who walk uprightly.

Was that not simply delightful?! MaryLu, thank you SO much for being a part of my blog this month. I know that I am not alone when I say that your books have blessed my life and I'm so thankful you are following God's path to write. May His blessings be upon you!

OK, now ladies, April is a biggie--many FABULOUS books are out this month, so your quandary about what to read next has been solved! If you haven't read FORSAKEN DREAMS, then go get it, because it's fabulous. Wanna see what I thought of that book? You can read my review here.

MaryLu has offered to do a giveaway (one copy and US addresses only) of FORSAKEN DREAMS!! Awesome, huh?! So, if you want to be entered, you must FOLLOW MY BLOG here or on FB and leave a COMMENT about which Tyndall book is your favorite. You must include your email as well. Pretty simple, I must say. *grin* The drawing will be a week from today (April 8th).

God bless you and have a great April!

Happy Reading!