Keeping Christmas by Dan Walsh – Review

Keeping Christmas by Dan Walsh

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Keeping Christmas is a holiday novella about adjusting to Christmas when there is a change in the family. For Stan and Judith, that change happens to be an empty nest. This is the first holiday they’ll be spending without any of their kids, and they don’t know what to do about it. Judith just can’t seem to muster up any Christmas spirit. The novella is heartwarming and emotional, all too relevant for anyone who has ever spent holidays without a loved one. If you’re looking for a holiday read with a little more substance and a little less fluff, Keeping Christmas is the book for you! It can be easily read in an evening or two, and it also makes a great gift for friends or neighbors. Recommended for fans of Christmas novellas and inspirational fiction.

Publisher Info:

Stan opened the ugly ornaments box and pulled out the top three ornaments, the ones wrapped in green paper, the kids’ favorites, and set them on the coffee table. He picked up the first one, the biggest one–Anna’s blue pinecone–and began to unwrap it. Without thinking, Judith walked up, stopped him, and gently took it out of his hand. She wrapped it back up, set it carefully in the box. Then picked up the other two ornaments, put them in the box, and closed the flaps.

“What’s the matter?” Stan said. “Did I do something wrong?”

“I don’t think I can do this.”

Nothing is more beautiful than family

For the first time since their children were born, empty nesters Judith and Stan Winters spent Thanksgiving without the kids, and it’s looking like Christmas will be the same. Judith can’t bring herself to even start decorating for the holiday; her kids always hung the first ornaments on the tree, ornaments they had made each year since they were toddlers. Sure, the ornaments were strange-looking–some were downright ugly–but they were tradition.

With Judith refusing to decorate the bare spruce tree in their living room, Stan’s only hope for saving the holiday is found in a box of handmade ornaments . . .

Dan Walsh is the bestselling author of several books, including The Unfinished Gift and The Restoration Series with Gary Smalley. He has won three Carol Awards, and three of his novels were finalists for the RT Book ReviewsInspirational Book of the Year. A member of American Christian Fiction Writers, Dan served as a pastor for twenty-five years. He lives with his wife in the Daytona Beach area, where he’s busy researching and writing his next novel. Learn more at www.danwalshbooks.com.

*I received this book in exchange for an honest review.

Another Way Home by Deborah Raney — Review

Another Way Home (A Chicory Inn Novel) by Deborah Raney

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Another Way Home is the third Chicory Inn Novel by Deborah Raney. The first, Home to Chicory Lane(See my review here), centered on Chase & Landyn (Whitman) Spencer along with the entire Whitman family. Two Roads Home focused on Landyn’s older sister, Corinne, and her family. Another Way Home follows the middle sister, Danae, & her husband Dallas Brooks. Danae and Dallas are having trouble trying to get pregnant, which seems more and more prevalent in today’s world. Raney handles the relevant subject with a grace and honesty that is refreshing. Fans of Chicory Inn will be ecstatic to see the rest of the Whitman family is still completely involved in the story. I was so happy to dive into this book and catch up with the characters! The Chicory Inn is idyllic. One of my favorite things about this book is the cover. Simply gorgeous, inviting, and relaxing. I love the continuity between all 3 books in this series in terms of cover art. I have to say the novel is a bit more intense than the picturesque cover would suggest. I was completely surprised when the second book in the series took a suspenseful turn, but I kind of expected it with this book. This is a story about marriage, infertility, family, and trust in God. I’m looking forward to the next title in the series and luckily a teaser chapter is included at the end of Another Way Home. Close to Home will feature Bree Whitman, Tim’s widow. I can’t wait to find out more about her story! It’s not too late to visit Chicory Inn. Pick up the first book and join the fun! Highly recommended to fans of Inspirational Fiction, Family Fiction, and books featuring an inn!

Publisher Info:

Sometimes God’s ways are not at all what we expect . . . and exactly what we need.

Grant and Audrey are adding grandchildren to their family left and right, but middle daughter, Danae, and her husband, Dallas Brooks, have been trying for years with no baby in sight.

Though Danae is ready to consider adoption, Dallas will not even discuss it. Despairing of ever having a family of her own, Danae decides to pour her passion and energies into volunteer work with a newly opened women’s shelter in town. Looking for a good cause to fill her lonely days, she never expects to give her heart to the hurting women she meets there. She’s finally learning to live her life with gratitude, but then heart-wrenching events on Thanksgiving weekend threaten to pull the entire Whitman clan into turmoil-and leave them all forever changed.

Purchase a copy: http://bit.ly/1NQhjf8

 About the author:

Deborah Raney’s books have won numerous awards, including the RITA, National Readers Choice Award, HOLT Medallion, and the Carol Award, and have twice been Christy Award finalists. She and her husband, Ken, recently traded small-town life in Kansas-the setting of many of Deborah’s novels—for life in the (relatively) big city of Wichita, where they enjoy gardening, antiquing, movies, and traveling to visit four children and a growing brood of grandchildren who all live much too far away.
Find Deborah online: website, Twitter, Facebook
From the Litfuse Blog:

Story Behind Another Way Home

Tell us a bit about the story behind your latest novel. Where did you find inspiration?

My writer friend Courtney Walsh planted the idea for the Chicory Inn Novels one evening a few years ago while we sat in a hotel lobby talking late into the night after a conference. I’d told several family stories during our visit, and at one point Courtney said, “Deb, you have so many fun family stories, you really ought to write a book about a big extended family like yours! Or better yet, a series!” That got my wheels turning, and I’ve been excited about the people who live on Chicory Lane ever since!

What was the hardest part about writing your novel: Getting started? Keeping it going? Finding the perfect ending?

For me, it’s always writing the first draft (which I’d classify as “keeping it going” since I usually have fun with the idea, with creating the characters, living in the setting in my head. But that first draft kills me. Once I near the end, I almost always find the perfect ending. Unlike many authors, I love the editing process, too.

What trait do you love most about your main character?

I love the way Danae loves her husband. She’s not perfect, and she sometimes gets too self-absorbed, but she loves Dallas unabashedly, and would do anything for him. She loves her extended family the same way, and she loves that Dallas also loves her family.

When readers get to the last page, what do you hope they take away from the story?

I hope readers will think of difficult situations in their own lives, and realize that God already knows the ending to their story. He already has a plan for redeeming their toughest situation. And He will get them through!

What are you working on next?

I’ve just finished the fourth novel, Close to Home, which will release next spring. And then there is one final novel in the Chicory Inn series—Whitman son Link’s story, Home at Last—and I can’t wait to write it. I’ve already started on the research for an issue that will be key in the story. But it’s still a secret. :) :)

Interesting question posed in Deborah Raney's 'Another Way Home'

Deborah Raney’s Writing Favorites

What are your ideal writing conditions?

Clean house, perfect weather (so I can write out on the deck), great music playing, good coffee in a mug at my side.

If you could write in a different genre, which would you choose?

Believe it or not, I’d probably say suspense! I don’t like too scary books, and I wouldn’t enjoy all the research a suspense novel takes, but I’ve really enjoyed writing my women’s fiction novels that took a more suspenseful turn!

What book have you reread the most?

You know, I’ve only re-read a handful of books in my life! Cold Sassy Tree, my favorite novel of all time is one. And LaVerle Spencer’s Then Came Heaven (which I finished, then turned to the front and began re-reading immediately!)

If you could have lunch with any literary character, who would it be and why?

Oh, probably Cynthia, Father Tim’s wife in Jan Karon’s Mitford novels. I just think we’d be kindred spirits, and Father Tim is a lot like my Ken.

Favorite first line of a book:

I read this one recently and it made me smile. From Lisa Wingate’s The Sea Keeper’s Daughter: Perhaps denial is the mind’sway of protecting the heart from a sucker punch it can’t handle.

Do you have a go-to writing snack?

It’s hard to beat M&Ms—or any chocolate. I love Coffee Nips too! And Gobstoppers (miniature jawbreakers).

What is your favorite writing tool?

I must say I love having my Chicago Manual of Style open beside me. I’ve tried the online version, but there’s just something about having the hardcover book at hand. (And it doesn’t hurt that the new 16th edition’s aqua cover looks great in my office!)

If you were trapped in a book, what fictional place would you like to explore?

What a fun question! Well, I think I’d really love exploring Mitford (Jan Karon has a way of creating a cozy, warm environment.) But maybe I should use this opportunity to travel to Europe and explore some author’s fictional towns there.

What would the title of your biography be?

Better Late than Never. LOL! I’m really a fairly punctual person, but I do tend to experience some of life’s landmarks later than most. I was in my thirties before I’d ever flown in an airplane (I LOVE flying!) I still have never been to Europe… I’ve barely been outside the U.S. except for a brief jaunt into Mexico over the California border, and a couple of ports of call on the one cruise we went on years ago.

If you could live a day in one of your characters’ lives, who would you choose? Explain:

It would definitely be one of my Chicory Lane characters simply because their lives are very much like mine (AND they live near my grandbabies!) I truly love my life and while I do have a bucket list, I couldn’t ask for a better life than the one I’ve already lived!

Favorite quote:

He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose. —Jim Elliot

*I received this book in exchange for an honest review.

The Splendor of Ordinary Days by Jeff High — Review & Giveaway

The Splendor of Ordinary Days by Jeff High

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The Splendor of Ordinary Days is the third book in Jeff High’s Watervalley series. I haven’t read the first two titles in the series (More Things in Heaven and Earth and Each Shining Hour), but that didn’t affect my enjoyment of The Splendor of Ordinary Days at all! High’s Watervalley series revolves around a small town in Tennessee and tells the stories of its inhabitants. If you enjoy character driven stories with small town settings, this is definitely a book for you. The main character, Dr. Luke Bradford, is well developed and realistic. He harbors a natural curiosity about the townspeople, and he’s definitely a character for whom you’ll be cheering. The supporting characters were both believable and compelling. High’s storytelling makes you feel like you’re a part of the Watervalley community and have lived the very stories he’s telling. I greatly enjoyed my time spent reading The Splendor of Ordinary Days, and I expect to read the other two books in the Watervalley series in the future. If you enjoy small town series, don’t hesitate to jump into Watervalley!

*I received this book in exchange for an honest review.

Publisher Info:

The pastoral charm of small-town Watervalley, Tennessee, can be deceptive, as young Dr. Luke Bradford discovers when he’s caught in the fallout of a decades-old conflict.

After a rocky start as Watervalley’s only doctor, Luke Bradford has decided to stay in town, honoring the three-year commitment he made to pay off his medical school debts. But even as his friendships with the quirky townsfolk deepen, and he pursues a romance with lovely schoolteacher Christine Chambers, several military veterans’ emotional wounds trigger anger and unrest in Watervalley.

At the center of the clash is the curmudgeonly publisher of thelocal newspaper, Luther Whitmore. Luther grew up in Watervalley, but he returned from combat in Vietnam a changed man. He fenced in beautiful Moon Lake, posting “Keep Out” notices at the beloved spot, and provokes the townspeople with his incendiary newspaper.

As Luke struggles to understand Luther’s past, and restore harmony in Watervalley, an unforeseen crisis shatters a relationship he values dearly. Suddenly Luke must answer life’s toughest questions about service, courage, love, and sacrifice.

About the author:

After growing up on a farm in rural Tennessee, Jeff Highattained degrees in literature and nursing. He is the three-time winner, in fiction and poetry, of an annual writing contest held by Vanderbilt Medical Center. He lived in Nashville for many years, and throughout the country as a travel nurse, before returning to his original hometown, near where he now works as an operating room RN in open-heart surgery. He is theauthor of the Watervalley novels, including More Things in Heaven and Earth and Each Shining Hour.

Connect with Jeff: website, Twitter, Facebook

Splendor of Ordinary Days

Just Show Up by Kara Tippetts & Jill Lynn Buteyn — Review & Giveaway

Just Show Up – The Dance of Walking Through Suffering Together by Kara Tippetts & Jill Lynn Buteyn

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I’ve never read a book quite like Just Show Up. The book is meant to be helpful and to motivate people to actually show up when others are suffering. Kara Tippetts was diagnosed with breast cancer shortly after she met Jill Lynn Buteyn. Ignoring her anxieties, Jill stepped up and became a real source of support for Kara. Just Show Up is the story of their relationship. Jill’s parts of the story are insightful and immensely helpful if you’re wondering how to act around someone who is suffering or wondering what to say (or not say). Hearing Kara’s opinions about what hurt the most in terms of reactions or comments from friends was both enlightening and surprising. You’ll undoubtedly cringe at some point in this story when you happen upon a situation you’ve been in–I’m sure just about all of us have made a comment we wish we could take back! I feel much more prepared for the next time someone I know is suffering. I have ideas of what not to say and how to actually help. One of the most interesting ideas in Just Show Up was the comfort in, dump out circle. It’s a simple illustration that helps you determine who you should talk about what–you never want to complain or vent about a situation to someone who is closer to the situation than you are. I know that sounds murky, but read the book–they explain it very well! I was amazed by the things Kara did to plan for her family to be taken care of after her death. Her friends built a community around her in the face of tragedy. I’m planning to pass this book on immediately, but I think I’ll pick up another copy for a refresher when I’m facing this type of situation. I highly recommend Just Show Up to anyone who wants to be supportive and helpful to people who are suffering.

Publisher Info:

About the book:

Kara Tippetts’s story was not a story of disease, although she lost her battle with terminal cancer.

It was not a story of saying goodbye, although she was intentional in her time with her husband and four children. Kara’s story was one of seeing God in the hard and in the good. It was one of finding grace in the everyday. And it was one of knowing “God with us” through fierce and beautiful friendship.

In Just Show Up, Kara and her close friend, Jill Lynn Buteyn, write about what friendship looks like in the midst of changing life seasons, loads of laundry, and even cancer. Whether you are eager to be present to someone going through a difficult time or simply want inspiration for pursuing friends in a new way, this eloquent and practical book explores the gift of silence, the art of receiving, and what it means to just show up.


Purchase a copy:
http://bit.ly/1Guvl0N

About the authors:

The late Kara Tippetts was the author of “The Hardest Peace” and blogged faithfully atmundanefaithfulness.com. Cancer was only a part of Kara’s story. Her real fight was to truly live while facing a crushing reality. Since her death in March 2015, her husband, Jason, is parenting their four children and leading the church they founded in Colorado Springs, Colorado.

Read Kara’s blog.

Jill Lynn Buteyn is the author of “Falling for Texas,” an inspirational novel, and a recipient of the ACFW Genesis Award for her fiction work. She has a bachelor’s degree in communications from Bethel University. Jill lives near the beautiful Rocky Mountains with her husband and two children.

Connect with Jill: website, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram

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An Interview with Jill Lynn Buetyn — from The Litfuse Blog

While your heart might be in the right place, it is not unusual to feel uncomfortable or insecure when you’re around loved ones who are in the midst of a trial. The temptation to back away can be strong; after all, couldn’t they use some space? You don’t want to be a burden. Is that ever the right choice though? Is there something both of you can gain from friendship in the midst of suffering? Bestselling author Kara Tippetts and Jill Lynn Buteyn answer those questions in the new book Just Show Up: the Dance of Walking Through Suffering Together. With grace and practical advice, the friends wrote about what relationships look like in the midst of changing life seasons, loads of laundry and even Tippetts’ battle with cancer, which she tragically lost on March 22, 2015.

Q: You wrote Just Show Up with your late friend Kara Tippetts. Can you tell us about Kara and the circumstances that led you to write this book together?

Kara Tippetts was a grace-filled mother and pastor’s wife who was diagnosed with breast cancer at the age of 36. While fighting cancer, she shared her story with thousands of readers on her blog, Mundane Faithfulness. She also wrote the book The Hardest Peace about her journey and co-authored Just Show Up with me before passing away at the age of 38. While Kara was blogging, I was writing fiction. We often talked about collaborating on a book. We settled on the subject of walking through suffering together because we could write from both of our perspectives. I learned a lot from watching Kara’s community rally around her, from seeing her friends in action. Of course, as the one suffering, Kara had firsthand knowledge of what works well and what doesn’t. We both hoped the book would take some of the mystery out of showing up for each other and allow people to engage more confidently in community, even during really hard times.

Q: How and when did you learn about Kara’s cancer diagnosis? Did it change your relationship with her?

I actually heard about Kara’s diagnosis when she posted about it on her personal Facebook page. We were friends through school and church, but as I say in the book, our friendship developed more after her diagnosis. She had only been in Colorado for six months at the time. I do remember thinking about our friendship. Where did I fit in all of this? Was I “in”? I decided the answer was yes. I wasn’t going to shy away from Kara because things could get scary or hard. I told her later that choosing her was a conscious choice for me.

Q: Do you think it’s easier to be someone’s friend when times are good?

Certainly there’s a simplicity to friendship when things are good, but at the same time, when is “good”? We all have hard times, and we’re often dealing with tough stuff in different areas of life at the same time. But there’s also beauty that comes in doing the really hard stuff together. When I look back on my time with Kara, on the way she let me and so many others in when she was suffering so much, I see a lot of tears, prayers and pain, but I also see grace and even peace. I see really great friendships formed in a short amount of time. It was beautiful to walk with her, even though it hurt so much. It still hurts. But I would choose her all over again.

Q: You write in Just Show Up that being there for a friend can be as simple as literally just showing up. Why is presence so important during suffering?

Presence is so important in suffering because sometimes that’s really all we have to offer. We don’t have the right words, or there isn’t anything we can do to help. Sometimes it is just about being there. There’s peace and support in being with each other — from both sides. Often it was a comfort for us to be with Kara, even if she was sleeping, and I think she felt that same thing. One time I sat at the hospital with her while she slept. I brought my laptop and just wrote, sitting in the chair. I remember wanting to have something to do so she would feel free to sleep and rest. She opened her eyes and said something about how it gave her comfort that I was there. I could have easily second-guessed offering to sit with her — it wasn’t really necessary. But just being present with each other meant something to both of us.

Q: You talk about learning to be “comfortable with your uncomfortable.” Can you share a story from your friendship with Kara that illustrates what you mean by that?

Kara never expected us to have answers for the hard she was being asked to walk. I could say, “I don’t know what to say,” and that was enough for her. Or, “I’m so sorry. I hate this for you.” She accepted things like that. She was dying, and even though our hearts were breaking, we still wanted to be with her. We craved time with her.

Q: Could you offer some advice for others on how to move past moments of awkwardness?

Pray, then step out in faith. God will meet you there. Be honest. You could even say to a friend, “I want to help. I don’t want to be the person who disappears because this is awkward or uncomfortable. How can I be there for you? Will you help me by telling me if I’m doing something offensive or don’t have a clue?” I think friendships can grow from this kind of honesty.

Q: Sometimes it’s easy to struggle with self-doubt and wonder if your efforts to help will be a nuisance. How did you work through some of those concerns?

I prayed a lot about decisions regarding how to help. I also had a few friends I could hash out my doubts with who were willing to process with me. Sometimes we just need someone to speak truth into our doubts. And at times, I did things and still didn’t know after if they were a help. Sometimes it’s just about doing. We may never know exactly how our help impacted someone else for the better.

Q: When offering help to someone, why is it important to be very specific about how you would like to help them?

It’s far easier for people to accept help when we offer something specific. I used to say to people, “Let me know if you need anything.” And I meant it. But rarely, if ever, did anyone ask me for anything or admit what might help them. However, when I offer a specific, “Hey, I’m at the store, can I pick anything up for you?” or, “I’d love to come by and do a couple loads of laundry this week. What day works?” it easier for the suffering people to decide if and when they need that specific help or how they can tweak it to meet their needs. The other bonus to offering a specific help is that it gives us the freedom to serve within our gifting. If I’m a kid person, and someone asks me to paint their guest room, that probably won’t bring me the same joy as watching kids. We can find so much joy in helping others, and I think part of that is in doing the things we’re gifted in — not that we don’t ever step beyond that. It’s just a good place to start. I love what I learned about being specific in helping others. It was a light-bulb moment for me. It just makes sense, and yet, I’d never really thought about it before. It’s important because it makes things easier and more comfortable for both sides and takes away the guess work.

Q: What are some words we can use to offer comfort? Are there any words that can hurt more than help?

I don’t think there are perfect words. I guess that’s why showing up for others can be confusing and scary. But maybe recognizing this — that there isn’t anything perfect to be done or said — will make it easier for people to dive in with each other. Say things that are comforting, listening phrases. “I’m so sorry. That’s hard.” Comforting is also about what not to say. Don’t try to solve your friend. Listen and love them in their hard.

Q: How did you see God and his love expressed in your friendship with Kara?

When I think about how she let us in during really hard stuff: while she was dying. In pain. Broken. I’m amazed. She gave and gave. She loved so big. I don’t even know how to explain it. God’s presence was felt by so many. It was really beautiful even though it’s still hard.

Q: What do you think holds people back from pursuing deep connections with others even during the good times?

Hurt. We’re all a bunch of sinners, and relationships can be scary. We do stupid things and say stupid things, even in good times. I know I have regrets in this area. Plus, relationships are hard work. It’s hard to open yourself up to others, to let people in to the not-so-great sides of ourselves.

Q: When you and Kara wrote about “big love,” what did you mean?

Loving more, bigger than you thought possible. Opening yourself up to community. Loving beyond your limits. Kara didn’t find a few friends and then stop letting others in. She kept opening herself up to more people. Even online, she shared so much of herself and impacted many lives.

Q: Even though Kara knew she was dying, why was it important for her to finish Just Show Up with you?

Kara fostered community in everything she did. And even though she had to accept a lot of help from others, she also gave. This was a way she could give: by taking some of the unknown out of showing up and being in community with one another. Plus, she was just Kara. Stubborn and wonderful and wanting to squeeze every minute out of life.

Q: Kara’s blog, Mundane Faithfulness, had a large following of faithful readers that followed her through her cancer journey. What were the main messages Kara always tried to impart to her readers? Kindness, kindness, kindness. And loving big.

Q: So many readers fell in love with Kara and her family through her blog and book The Hardest Peace. Can you tell us how the Tippetts family is doing since her passing in March?

I think only the Tippetts can really answer how they are doing. I would suggest following the Mundane Faithfulness blog. Jason has been gracious to share updates there about how he and the kids are doing.

What does friendship look like in the midst of changing life seasons, loads of laundry—and even cancer? Kara Tippetts and Jill Lynn Buteyn teamed up to write Just Show Up, a story of their close friendship and walk through Kara’s battle with terminal cancer. Whether you are eager to be present to someone going through a difficult time or simply want inspiration for pursuing friends in a new way, this eloquent and practical book explores the gift of silence, the art of receiving, and what it means to just show up.

Celebrate the gift of friendship with a Tried & True Friendship giveaway—a prize for you and for a friend!

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One grand prize winner will receive:

Enter today by clicking the icon below. But hurry, the giveaway ends on October 23rd. The winner will be announced October 26th on Jill’s blog.

Is one of your friends going through a tough time—maybe you need some encouragement? Stop by Kara and Jill’s author page, click on the reviews bar, and read through some bloggers’ stories of how their friends got them through suffering.

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*I received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Shadows of Ladenbrooke Manor by Melanie Dobson — Review

Shadows of Ladenbrooke Manor by Melanie Dobson

Shadows of Ladenbrooke Manor is the collision of three generations of stories. The setting jumps back and forth between the past and present, which is noted by the date on the past sections and a different font used for each time-frame. The story starts with Maggie and later moves to Libby, but much of the book is viewed through the eyes of Heather, our present-day main character. Without giving away any spoilers, I can say this is a story about history repeating itself. It’s also a tale of secrets–from family, from others–and what happens when they come out. I enjoyed this story very much. There’s a definite twist that the author lets us in on late in the story, but well before the characters pick up on it. This book is a mystery of sorts, mainly of family heritage and a suspicious death. It’s not super intense, which I actually liked. It’s interesting and realistic and sheds a light on how people with disabilities were viewed in the past. Libby likely falls somewhere on the autism spectrum, but no one knew that in her time. The author paints a picture of what life was like and mentions how different things are today. It’s ultimately a story of family and forgiveness, how truth can heal wounds. There are a lot of moving parts, which took some getting used to. Early on I had to keep looking back to remember which character was which. That being said, I’m very glad I read Shadows of Ladenbrooke Manor, and I hope you’ll read it, too. The book is extremely well written and includes beautiful descriptions of gardens and manors. I strongly suggest you read the author’s note after finishing the story, as I found it informative and a nice conclusion to the book. Highly recommended for fans of inspirational fiction, family sagas, and mild suspense.

Publisher Info:

When Heather Toulson returns to her parents’ cottage in the English countryside, she uncovers long-hidden secrets about her family history and stumbles onto the truth about a sixty-year-old murder.

Libby, a free spirit who can’t be tamed by her parents, finds solace with her neighbor Oliver, the son of Lord Croft of Ladenbrooke Manor. Libby finds herself pregnant and alone when her father kicks her out and Oliver mysteriously drowns in a nearby river. Though theories spread across the English countryside, no one is ever held responsible for Oliver’s death.

Sixty years later, Heather Toulson, returning to her family’s cottage in the shadows of Ladenbrooke Manor, is filled with mixed emotions. She’s mourning her father’s passing but can’t let go of the anger and resentment over their strained relationship. Adding to her confusion, Heather has an uneasy reunion with her first love, all while sorting through her family’s belongings left behind in the cottage. What she uncovers will change everything she thought she knew about her family’s history.

Award-winning author Melanie Dobson seamlessly weaves the past and present together, fluidly unraveling the decades-old mystery and reveals how the characters are connected in shocking ways.

Set in a charming world of thatched cottages, lush gardens, and lovely summer evenings, this romantic and historical mystery brings to light the secrets and heartaches that have divided a family for generations.

Purchase a copy: http://bit.ly/1HuCCkT

About the author:

Melanie Dobson is the award-winning author of thirteen historical romance, suspense, and contemporary novels. Two of her novels won Carol Awards in 2011, and Love Finds You in Liberty, Indianawon Best Novel of Indiana in 2010. Melanie lives with her husband Jon and two daughters near Portland, Oregon.

Find Melanie online: website, Twitter, Facebook

The Story Behind Shadows of Ladebrooke Manor — from The Litfuse Blog

Maya Angelou once said, “There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.” Where does a writer find inspiration? What’s the hardest part about writing a book? What do you hope your writing achieves? We’ve asked Melanie Dobson to tell us the story behind Shadows of Ladenbrooke Manor. Read our interview with Melanie to learn more!


Tell us a bit about the story behind your latest novel. Where did you find inspiration?

Researching and writing a novel is a little bit like working on a puzzle—I find pieces of inspiration from all sorts of places and then try to fit those pieces together to create a story. For Shadows of Ladenbrooke Manor, I was inspired by a number of things: the manor homes and gardens in England, the process to restore damaged artwork, the beauty and migration of butterflies, parents who fight for their autistic children, unique, talented kids who don’t always fit into society’s box of normal, and most of all, by the power of God to redeem and restore broken relationships.

What was the hardest part about writing your latest novel: Getting started? Keeping it going? Finding the perfect ending?

Middles have always been my greatest challenge. I start writing a novel excited about the beginning, and I have a fairly good idea of how the story will end. Weaving together all the threads in the middle is hard for me though. I’ve learned to press on, and then come back and edit once I’ve written the last chapter of my book.

What do you love most about your main character?

My main characters are four generations of Doyle women, and one man—Walter Doyle—who loved all of them. Walter and each of these women are crucial to the story, but I’ll pick Libby sinceShadows of Ladenbrooke Manor revolves around what happened to her. I love Libby’s creativity, her desire for relationships even when they are difficult, her loyalty to Oliver Croft, and her passion to paint beautiful butterflies.

When readers get to the last page, what do you hope they take away from the story?

Shadows of Ladenbrooke Manor was my exploration of God’s light shining through the shadows of life, along with the beauty and power of His restoration through generations. The story is ultimately about transformation — how even in the hardest situations God can weave together a story of hope and redemption and create incredible beauty from the ashes of our lives. When readers finish reading this novel, I hope they are inspired to see God working through the shadows in their own life.

What are you working on next?

Right now I’m writing another novel set in England, and I’m editing a magical middle grade series that I wrote with my daughters.

*I received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Side Note: IT’S OFFICIALLY 5 MONTHS UNTIL CHRISTMAS!!!!!

Picture Perfect Love by Melissa McClone — Review

Picture Perfect Love by Melissa McClone

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Picture Perfect Love is the newest addition to the Year of Weddings series from Zondervan. Like the other titles, it’s a novella that somehow includes a wedding. This is the first of Melissa McClone’s titles that I’ve read, and I thoroughly enjoyed it! Picture Perfect Love is a story of trust–in others, in oneself, and in God. It’s a tale of forgiveness, faith, and second chances. Jenna Harrison is a wedding photographer who happened to be left at the altar during her wedding rehearsal. But that was two years ago, and she’s moved on…mostly. When her ex-fiance shows up on her doorstep, all bets are off. Picture Perfect Love will offer you a one to two hour getaway from the stresses of life. You’ll grow attached to the characters very quickly and be sad to see their story end after spending such a brief period of time with them. (I hope we’ll see a sequel!)  McClone sets a picturesque scene for the final wedding in the book. I probably reread that paragraph five times because I love it so much! Often novellas can feel rushed or drawn out, but McClone manages to set (and keep) the pace just right. There was only one time in the story that felt rushed by jumping a few weeks instead of letting us see a relationship develop. Apart from that, I have no criticism! If you have an hour or two for an extremely enjoyable read, pick up Picture Perfect Love. You won’t regret it!! Highly recommended for fans of inspirational fiction, Christian romance, and novellas.

Favorite lines:

His heartbeat rivaled the rumble of thunder.

No air remained in her lungs. She drew in a short breath so she could answer. “I want to believe things could be different.”

The smells of hairspray and perfume filled the dressing room. Music played from an iPod docking station. The strawberry-blonde flower girl danced barefoot.

Real love can be messy.

Publisher Info:

When image becomes everything, it’s up to love to refocus the heart.

Photographer Jenna Harrison wants every bride and groom to lookpicture perfect on their special day, putting her heart into every wedding to give the couple memorable images of their love. But her own heart is still broken, the unworn wedding dress hanging in her closet a reminder that relationships aren’t always as perfect as they look through her camera lens. But Jenna has faith that she will find true love. Until then, she must be patient and trust in God’s plan and His perfect timing.

Attorney Ashton Vance is the one that got away. When an embarrassing Photoshopped picture of put an end to his political aspirations, he blamed Jenna. So what if the photo led to his being offered a dream job and changing his life for the better? Jenna betrayed his trust, and two years later, Ashton’s heart still hasn’t recovered.

It was me. His younger sister’s three words turn Ashton’s world upside down. He must ask Jenna’s forgiveness, but can he risk his heart a second time? Even if Jenna can forgive him, dare he hope for a second chance at her love?

About the author:

Melissa McClone has published more than thirty novels with Harlequin and Tule Publishing Group. She has also been nominated for Romance Writers of America’s RITA® award. She lives in the Pacific Northwest with her husband, three school-aged children, two spoiled Norwegian Elkhounds and cats who think they rule the house.

Find Melissa online: website, Twitter, Facebook, Litfuse

*I received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

The Wonder of You by Susan May Warren — Review

The Wonder of You by Susan May Warren

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The Wonder of You is the 5th book in Warren’s Christiansen Family series. This time the focus is on the youngest Christiansen member, Amelia. It’s a classic love triangle story–which boy should she choose? There’s Roark-the Brit she fell in love with overseas, or Seth- her hometown lifelong boyfriend. Amelia’s story is about more than romance, though. She’s struggling with her purpose and God’s plan for her life. Failure is a strong theme throughout The Wonder of You. Warren tackles the issue from several different angles, showing us self-failure in different situations and life stages and how we can react and rebound in each. While this story didn’t grab me as quickly as When I Fall in Love (book 3), it slowly worked it’s way to the forefront of my mind. By the end, I wanted more! Warren weaves in a bit of suspense in places, and she has superbly set up the next (and final) book in the Christiansen Family series. Fans of the series will be overjoyed to see a lot of Grace and Max in The Wonder of You. It’s really nice to see where they are now and what they’re dealing with, and they are strong secondary characters in this story. I give this book a solid 4 stars. Recommended for fans of inspirational fiction, family series, and Christian romance.

Publisher Info:

Mortified after her semester abroad is cut short, Amelia Christiansen returns to Deep Haven, certain she isn’t brave enough for the adventures she’s dreamed of. The last thing she expects is for the man who broke her heart to cross the Atlantic and beg forgiveness.

Heir to a European hotel dynasty, Roark St. John has trekked from one exotic locale to another, haunted by tragedy and the expectations that accompany his last name. Amelia is the first woman to give him a reason to stop running. He’ll do anything for a second chance—even contend with Amelia’s old flame, who is intent on sending Roark packing.

While one surprise after another leaves Amelia reeling, Roark’s continued presence only highlights the questions pursuing her. Like him, is she running from the life God has called her to? Could finding her new place mean leaving home behind?

Susan May Warren

{MORE ABOUT SUSAN MAY WARREN}

Susan May Warren is the bestselling, RITA Award–winning author of more than forty novels whose compelling plots and unforgettable characters have won acclaim with readers and reviewers alike. She served with her husband and four children as a missionary in Russia for eight years before she and her family returned home to the States. She now writes full-time as her husband runs a lodge on Lake Superior in northern Minnesota, where many of her books are set. She and her family enjoy hiking, canoeing, and being involved in their local church. Several of her critically acclaimed novels have been ECPA and CBA bestsellers, were chosen as Top Picks by Romantic Times, and have won the RWA’s Inspirational Reader’s Choice contest and the American Christian Fiction Writers Book of the Year award. Five of her books have been Christy Award finalists. In addition to her writing, Susan loves to teach and speak at women’s events about God’s amazing grace in our lives. She also runs a writing community for authors. Visit MyBookTherapy.com to learn more. For exciting updates on her new releases, previous books, and more, visit her website at http://www.susanmaywarren.com

ABOUT THE CHRISTIANSEN FAMILY SERIES:

Set on the north shore of Minnesota, the series features the Christiansens, a family readers can identify with as they try to figure out how faith meets real life.

In Take a Chance on Me . . . (the 2014 Christy Award winner for Contemporary Series)

Darek Christiansen, heir to the historic Evergreen Lake Resort is angry since the loss of his wife. After a charity auction connects him with assistant county attorney, Ivy Madison, Darek begins to believe there might be love again in his future, but he’ll have to overcome his painful past – and Ivy’s secret connection to his wife’s death.

In It had to Be You . . .

Eden Christiansen’s job as handler for her NHL rookie brother, Owen, leaves her little time to focus on her own career. If only team enforcer, Jace, would mentor the young man. When Owen’s carelessness leads to an injury, Eden and Jace are thrown together and begin to wonder if they belong on the same team after all.

In When I Fall in Love . . .

Hawaii was the last place Grace Christiansen ever imagined she’d vacation, much less fall in love. But when her family surprises her with a cooking retreat in the Aloha State, she is pulled away from her predictable life and thrown headfirst into the path of hockey player, Max Sharpe, and the romantic adventure of a lifetime.

In Always On My Mind . . .

After a failed dig in Honduras, aspiring archaeologist Casper Christiansen heads home to Minnesota to face his unresolved feelings for Raina Beaumont, the woman of his dreams. But when he arrives unannounced on her doorstep, he receives the shock of a lifetime: Raina is pregnant with someone else’s baby.

In Evergreen (CHRISTMAS NOVELLA!!). . .

An empty nest has Ingrid Christiansen dreading the upcoming holidays, but her husband, John, couldn’t be more excited about this new season of life. He even has a surprise trip abroad planned. He’s sure she’ll love it. What’s more romantic than Christmas in Paris?

Before he can stop her, however, Ingrid agrees to spearhead a major church project. Then their faithful dog, Butterscotch, needs emergency surgery, draining their savings. And then—because disasters strike in threes—an unexpected guest arrives, dredging up old hurts.

As a beautiful blanket of snow transforms the north woods into a winter wonderland, a deep chill settles over John and Ingrid’s marriage. With the holidays fast approaching, their only hope of keeping their love evergreen depends on turning the page on the past and embracing a new chapter of their future.

Coming in Spring 2016: You’re the One That I Want

I urge you to check out the Christiansen family series!!

*I received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.