Tag Archives: fiction

Wellspring of Life Review and GIVEAWAY!

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About the Book

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Book: Wellspring of Life

Author: Allen Brokken

Genre: Middlegrade Christian Fantasy

Release date: November 4, 2022

Lauren (12), Aiden(9), and Ethan(5) have been reunited with their mortally wounded Father. But, they must take him to the Wellspring of Life before it’s too late.

The Dark One suffered a massive loss when twelve-year-old Lauren and her younger brothers Aiden and Ethan rescued their father from his clutches. However, the battle left Father horribly burned and barely hanging on to life. However, they found a clue to his salvation, the fabled Wellspring of Life.

As the children trek across the wildlife of the prairie, take sides against them to drive them off their path. Meanwhile, the giant known as Skull Crusher hunts them mercilessly while seeking to master the Darkness so he can destroy the family once and for all.

New friends join them in their quest to save Father, but they could also choose the Darkness and lead them further astray. The children’s mission to save their father will fail if they can’t find the Wellspring of Life in time. Will they have the faith to stay on the narrow path to redemption?

Click HERE to get your copy!

About the Author

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Allen Brokken is a teacher at heart, a husband and father most of all. He’s a joyful writer by the abundant grace of God. He began writing the Towers of Light series for his own children to help him illustrate the deep truths of the Bible in an engaging and age appropriate way.

He’s dedicated 18 years of his life to volunteer roles in children’s ministry and youth development. Now that his own children are off to college he’s telling stories and sharing clean humor on social media @allenbrokkenauthor, and through his website allenbrokkenauthor.com.

More from Allen

Wellspring of Life was a blast to write! As a writer, one of the things I’ve had to contend with is that my characters rarely take me on an easy linear path from the start of a book to the end. As I work on a story, things tend to develop organically, and suddenly, the story’s conclusion is very different than when I put the first word on a page.

That’s where I found myself at the end of book 4 in the series, Armor of God. Unfortunately, the devastating way Father was wounded wasn’t in the original outline of the story or the series as a whole. So I had to write a whole book to determine if he survived. I also wanted to collaborate with a good friend, K. A. Cummins, author of the Snowglobe Travellers series, on a possible crossover. These combined to let me try out some new things as a writer.

For example, Wellspring of Life has a glitter bomb, a murder of wicked crows, and no good egg stealin’ prairie dogs, to name a few of the twists and turns you’ll find in this book. The kids also meet some new friends along the way. I enjoyed this the most because the new kids reflect the personality of my kids’ best friends from our homeschool co-op. Despite these kids now being off to college, we all had fun brainstorming their roles in the story.

Speaking of homeschool co-op, the book is dedicated to the Wellspring Homeschool Co-Op that my kids grew up in. Their verse is Proverbs 4:23 “Guard your heart because it’s the wellspring of life.” I couldn’t find a more appropriate theme for this book that deals with the consequences of an unguarded heart.

So I hope you take the time to pick it up, because it’s a wild ride across the prairie with a message of redemption I’m sure your family will enjoy.

My Review

The Towers of Light series has found a special place in my heart. It is just the sort of story that I would have loved and devoured as a child, and the same is true now a few decades later! As such, these books are versatile enough that older children can read them on their own or adults can read them out loud. As author Allen Brokken notes, he intentionally identifies the adults in the stories by titles rather than proper names—such as Father, Knight Protector—in order to make them more relatable to the young audience. These books should be read in chronological order, as they do build upon each other and form an ongoing storyline. With that in mind, something that I greatly appreciate is the brief summary of each previous book that Brokken provides, along with a description of each faction from the story, a cast of characters, and notes on the world of Zoura. Placing these at the very beginning of each book is so helpful, and can also help to facilitate discussion between adults and children as they enter again into the battle of light vs. darkness, good vs. evil.

Book five in the Towers of Light series, Wellspring of Life returns readers to the perilous circumstances of siblings Lauren, Aiden, and Ethan, whose seriously injured Father is in desperate need of healing from the Wellspring of Life. They face even more challenges to their faith as they continue on their quest to find healing for their Father and to dispel the darkness from Zoura. In keeping with the series, each book becomes more intense and slightly more complex, and Wellspring of Life is no exception. I think that this encourages readers to truly think and to engage with the story and with the conflicts therein, right alongside the main characters. The Biblical teaching that Brokken infuses into Wellspring of Life is age-appropriate for a middle-grade audience and is interspersed cohesively into the narrative without feeling stilted or sanctimonious. Not all of the children’s friends share their devotion or even their faith, an accurate portrayal of real life, and these exchanges prove to be some of the most enlightening. The theme explored in Wellspring of Life is redemption, and Brokken demonstrates how redemption applies not only to those caught in Darkness, but to those who belong to the Light, as well.

Wellspring of Life, along with the rest of the series, blends the simplicity of rural life with the ingenuity of fantasy to create a story that fuels the reader’s imagination in all of the best ways. I love that Lauren, Aiden, and Ethan work hard and are respectfully obedient yet able to think for themselves, and that they will challenge authority when it goes against their conscience. Brokken portrays them as true children, with humorous quirks, and they do make mistakes, as do the adults. In our current world where many kids are hooked to screens all day long, I find it incredibly refreshing and heartening that the children in the Towers of Light series naturally spend their time outdoors and that they compassionately connect with animals and interact with each other face-to-face with truthful, honest discussions. The dialect and colloquialisms in this fifth book, in particular, are endearing and provide comic relief. We are all always learning while, hopefully, growing and maturing in our faith in Christ, and Wellspring of Life encourages readers of all ages to let their light shine no matter the circumstances.

I received a complimentary copy of this book through Celebrate Lit and was not required to post a favorable review. All opinions are my own.

My rating: 5 stars ♥♥♥♥♥

Blog Stops

Debbie’s Dusty Deliberations, November 9

Texas Book-aholic, November 10

Inklings and notions, November 11

Blossoms and Blessings, November 12 (Author Interview)

deb’s Book Review, November 12

Locks, Hooks and Books, November 13

Ashley’s Clean Book Reviews, November 14

Adventures of a Travelers Wife, November 15 (Author Interview)

Library Lady’s Kid Lit, November 15

Because I said so — and other adventures in Parenting, November 16

Truth and Grace Homeschool Academy, November 17

For Him and My family, November 18

A Reader’s Brain, November 19 (Author Interview)

For the Love of Literature, November 20

Lights in a Dark World, November 21

Encouraging Words from the Tea Queen, November 22 (Author Interview)

Giveaway

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To celebrate his tour, Allen is giving away the grand prize of a $50 Amazon gift card!!

Be sure to comment on the blog stops for nine extra entries into the giveaway! Click the link below to enter.

https://www.celebratelit.com/wellspring-of-life-celebration-tour/

Curtain Call Author Interview and GIVEAWAY!

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About the Book

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Book: Curtain Call

Authors: Hope Bolinger & Alyssa Roat

Genre: Sweet Contemporary Romance

Release date: November 5, 2022

With their future in theater on the line, can a newbie actress and overwhelmed playwright put on a production to remember?

Part-time thespian Griffith Williams can’t seem to do anything right in his parents’ eyes, especially compared to his brother, a missionary in the Dominican Republic. But if he can pull off the biggest play of the year, the Christmas play, he could win a job as a full-time director, and prove to himself—and his family—that he hasn’t mistaken his calling to the arts.

Would-be actress Hadassah Wright spends her days teaching and corralling her many, many younger siblings in a large homeschool family. Her only escape seems to be through marriage to a childhood not-so-sweetheart—until a casting call for a local play provides an opportunity to act, perhaps for the last time.

When the two end up as leads in the play, the chemistry they feel isn’t just on the stage. Hadassah finds refuge from familial pressures through helping Griffith at the theater, and Griffith finds a kindred spirit in Hadassah’s longing to pursue the art she loves.

But when an envious stage manager, a director with far too many demands, and a relentless suitor threaten to derail the show, will the curtains close on any chance of romance?

Click HERE to get your copy!

About the Authors

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Hope Bolinger and Alyssa Roat are the authors of more than twenty books both independently and co-authored. They have worked in a wide variety of roles within the publishing industry as agents, editors, writers, journalists, and publicists.

When not writing, Hope is a theatre nerd who loves to hike, and Alyssa is a history geek and game enthusiast. Both are proud cat moms. You can learn more about them on social media @hopekbolinger and @alyssawrote.

More from Alyssa

When you think of calling, what comes to mind? Pastoral calling? A call to missions?

What about a call to theater?

Hope and I (Alyssa) found ourselves with a feeling of calling from a young age. We both felt the Lord leading us to writing and publishing.

I, for one, didn’t listen too well at first. Writing? But I wanted to serve God! I wanted to live a life that mattered for God’s kingdom! So instead, I studied math and science to prepare for a future in the medical field so I could work in medical missions.

The problem was, I didn’t enjoy it. Words beckoned to me. Books and writing gave me deep joy other endeavors never quite could. But if I didn’t go into traditional ministry, how was I supposed to serve God?

In Curtain Call, our characters struggle with calling. Griffith feels pressure to be a missionary like his brother. Hadassah feels obligated to be a good wife and mother like her own mom and sister. But they never feel quite as alive, quite as themselves, as when they’re on the stage. Is it possible that God might…want them there?

As you may have guessed, I eventually learned that God calls all of us to different things. He put the love of words inside of me. He guided me to writing, and doing what He has called me to do brings the greatest joy of all.

As Hadassah and Griffith in the book struggle with identifying their calling, I pray that we all may explore the unique joys and talents the Lord planted within each of us. We hope you enjoy reading Curtain Call as much as we enjoyed writing it. May His still, small voice lead you on the adventure of a lifetime.

Author Interview

What is your work schedule like when you’re writing?

Alyssa and my (Hope’s) work schedules will look a little different, but we both work nine to five jobs. Alyssa and I will frequently talk about writing during “pockets” of time, five or ten minutes here or there between breaks in emails or tasks. Whenever people are shocked at how fast we write, we tell them we’re used to doing it in really short spurts of time.

Are you a plotter or a pantser?

I’ll answer this question for both Alyssa and myself. Alyssa is definitely a pantser, and I am a plotter. So when we work together, it creates something really beautiful. She’s pushed me to pants more, and I’ve pushed her to plot more.

Describe your book in five words.

Adorable Christmas play romance

What are your hobbies?

I (Hope) absolutely love doing theater (hence why I loved writing Curtain Call so much), modeling, hiking, singing, and playing tennis. I tend to keep really busy.

Do you prefer traditional books, ebooks, or audiobooks?

I’m a paperback gal myself (and hardback gal, when I can find a good deal), but I absolutely love that we have so many formats! We’re meeting readers where they’re at, and I love that technology has brought us this far.

Blog Stops

Debbie’s Dusty Deliberations, November 5

Texas Book-aholic, November 6

deb’s Book Review, November 7

Inklings and notions, November 8

Locks, Hooks and Books, November 9

For the Love of Literature, November 10 (Author Interview)

Ashley’s Clean Book Reviews, November 10

Because I said so — and other adventures in Parenting, November 11

Truth and Grace Homeschool Academy, November 12

For Him and My Family, November 13

Susan K. Beatty, Author, November 14 (Author Interview)

Blossoms and Blessings, November 15 (Author Interview)

Holly’s Book Corner, November 15

The Sacred Line, November 16

Happily Managing a Household of Boys, November 17

Guild Master, November 18

Giveaway

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To celebrate their tour, Alyssa and Hope are giving away the grand prize package of a $20 Amazon gift card and copy of each of the three books in the series!!

Be sure to comment on the blog stops for nine extra entries into the giveaway! Click the link below to enter.

https://promosimple.com/ps/22670/curtain-call-celebration-tour-giveaway

His Brother’s Atonement Author Interview and GIVEAWAY!

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About the Book

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Book: His Brother’s Atonement

Author: Amy Walsh

Genre: Contemporary romance – western

Release date: April 26, 2022

Shane Phillips had given up hope of ever meeting the nephew born to the woman his brother assaulted. After checks he sent to Aubrey Anders were returned, Shane decided the most he could ever do was pray for the Anders family. When Shane discovers that he and Aubrey work for the same graphic arts company, he must find a way to assure her he means no harm before both Wyoming branches meet for a conference.

Aubrey thinks she has worked through most of her trauma with the help of her psychologist and loving community. However, meeting Shane Phillips seems to have unleashed suppressed anxiety and insecurity. But as their paths continue to intersect, Aubrey begins to wonder if Shane could be part of God’s plan for her despite their painful connection.

Click HERE to get your copy!

About the Author

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Amy Walsh is a 5th-grade teacher who loves teaching children about what she loves to do herself: reading and writing. She enjoys outdoor activities, especially hiking and camping. Amy also appreciates opportunities to share her faith through singing, teaching, and writing for her church family. Amy and her husband, Patrick, have three children: Bree, Spencer, Liz, and a son-in-law, Kyle. Amy and her family love to spend time together celebrating special occasions, listening to great music, swimming and kayaking, and having occasional ping pong tournaments.

More from Amy

Thank you for helping me spread the word about my first Whispers in Wyoming novel! I am thrilled to be part of this gospel and heritage-themed series! If you haven’t read any of the novels yet, you are in for a treat! There are thirty-three novels ahead of His Brother’s Atonement – and they are all STANDALONES, so they can be read in any order!

Meet Aubrey, Shane, and Jayson

Aubrey is a young mother and graphic designer from Engelmann, Wyoming. Her terrible experience during college has caused her to keep to herself. Aubrey has no close friends and has never dated. But her parents are supportive, her son keeps her happy and busy, and she loves her job. Aubrey believes she is doing pretty well emotionally until the brother of the man who assaulted her turns up in town.

Shane suffered quite a bit when his brother was tried and imprisoned for assaulting Aubrey. People actually turned their backs on his family, and Shane’s fiancé ended their engagement. Even worse was watching how it affected his parents. After Shane’s brother died in a freak prison accident, their mother spent several days in the ICU. For years, Shane has yearned to do something to help Aubrey and her son, wanting to atone for his brother’s terrible action. But Shane gave up hope of ever meeting his nephew years ago.

Jayson is Aubrey’s six-year-old son. He is obsessed with cowboys, horses, and the wild west. Art runs in Jayson’s genes from both sides of his family, so it is not surprising that he loves drawing and helping his grandpa with woodworking. Jayson never seemed to notice that he doesn’t have a dad, but when he finds out that his father died, he is so heartbroken that Aubrey promises to let him meet his uncle. So much for her thinking that she would never have to see Shane again!

The Creation of His Brother’s Atonement

I never really know when or how a story idea will enter my head. I can drive by a house that catches my eye, and the next thing I know, I am imagining the characters that live there and writing their story in my imagination. Sometimes watching the interactions of people prompts a story. Other times my ideas come from research.

For His Brother’s Atonement, there were a bunch of factors that came into creating Aubrey and Shane’s story as far as the setting. I had just been to a writing conference where one of the speakers said that many readers still love contemporary westerns. Adding to that, I had been following the multi-author group Whispers in Wyoming and other authors who wrote westerns, and I had been enjoying their posts. Additionally, one of my teacher friends has spent portions of her summers out west and I love to hear her talk about landscapes and small communities. A camping trip to Yellowstone and other western parks has been high on my bucket list for several years.

As for the situation that Aubrey is in, how she became a single mother and how she now deals with anxiety, her story just came to me while I was brainstorming. Her and her son’s personalities developed in my mind as if they were real people. I have wondered what it must be like to have a family member who is a criminal, the conflicting emotions it must bring: to still love that person; to be ashamed for what that person has done; to yearn to find a way to help the victim. So I am sure those thoughts helped me create Shane’s struggles.

I wrote most of Aubrey and Shane’s story while I was spending nights with my grandmother in hospice. Grammy was often sleeping while lovely hymn instrumentals were playing, and I felt as though I was in a sacred space. I think some of my own inner struggles with trusting God’s sovereignty, with remembering that God does work out everything for our good, may have become part of the novel. And in the last chapter when Aubrey prays during the Thanksgiving dinner, you can see some of my own angst about life changing and my own feelings of grief being resolved.

His Brother’s Atonement is a fundraiser!

As I was researching for this novel, I read too many firsthand accounts of women who had been assaulted and the devastating effects of the violence in their lives. According to rainn.org, every 68 seconds another American is assaulted, and one out of every six American women will be the victim of an attempted or completed rape in her lifetime. According to multiples sources, there are at least 30,000 rape-related pregnancies in the U.S. each year. Sexual violence is a significant problem in the U.S., and in other countries around the globe, it is even more rampant.

As I was delving into Aubrey’s thoughts and pondering how her assault had affected her and her family, I decided that I needed to do more to help women and children who have been victimized. As a first step, ten percent of the profits from the sales of His Brother’s Atonement will be donated to Heaven’s Family. To find out more about this organization, follow this link: https://www.heavensfamily.org/ministries/victims-of-sexual-violence/

Here is the recipe for Nana Ander’s Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Pie. Bloggers can copy and paste or just share the link.

https://walshmountainpublishing.com/2022/03/26/nana-anders-chocolate-chip-oatmeal-pie/

Shane and Aubrey’s Anti-Meet-Cute

Aubrey and Shane don’t get to have a “meet-cute”, you know that sweet moment when a couple-to-be meet for the first time? In fact, when Aubrey sees Shane across Engelmann Park, she almost has a panic attack thinking that he is the man who assaulted her.

In the next book about Engelmann Wyoming, Portrait of Redemption, Cody will help Shane set up a “meet-cute” redo. I think it is so adorable that Shane wants to do that for Aubrey!

Two special characters mentioned in His Brother’s Atonement are from another of my novels, Elsie Whitmore. Elsie meets famous actor Graham Thurston for the first time when he tracks her down at her school, determined that she will audition for a movie he is producing. A somewhat spoiled star, he is annoyed that she hasn’t taken calls from his talent agency, so he is cold and judgy during their first meeting. In return, she thinks it is ridiculous for Graham to assume that she would consider giving up teaching just because he liked one of her YouTube videos. They also do not have a cute first meeting!

Here is my meet-cute! I worked part time at a Sears in a mall while I was going to college. My husband, Pat, was a loss prevention agent there. A coworker who had a crush on Pat asked me to draw a Christmas card for her to give to him. In the PS, she told Pat that I was the one that illustrated the card. That led to Pat investigating who I was, and soon he was regularly stopping by my register at Sears to make small talk. He would have silly excuses to stop by, like having me help him put a baby outfit on a stuffed animal to purchase for his nephew. It could have become very awkward if my co-worker hadn’t developed a crush on someone else in the meantime!

During the launch party for His Brother’s Atonement, some of the readers shared the stories of their first meeting with their husbands. Some were adorable, and some were so awkward. Have you shared your “meet-cutes” with your children and grandchildren? Surprisingly it is something we forget to talk about, but it is part of their heritage!

Author Interview

What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?

I think I have some unique favorite places to write:

One of the best writing opportunities is when my husband is playing one of his role playing XBox games in bed and I am snuggling next to him. If he were watching a show, it would be too distracting, but his games are boring enough (to me) and the background noise is repetitive enough for me to stay in my own characters’ heads. This is a great writing situation because it provides no-guilt writing time of togetherness!

Another of my favorite places to write is on the trampoline in the backyard. I pull it under our giant spruces so it is partially in the shade. When I am writing, I stay on the shady side. When I need to stretch and get some sun, I roll over to the other side. When I need exercise, I put my laptop down on the chair next to the trampoline and I can run and jump and listen to some music. And the entire time I am outside, I can listen to birds singing and feel like I haven’t wasted the day indoors.

Is there a particular literary period that you’re drawn to (Regency, Victorian, Romantic, Modernism, etc.)? Why?

I adore the Victorian Era. To be honest, I am a bit drawn to strange and morbid things, and the Victorians were also drawn to the strange and morbid. Some of their beliefs and traditions are so bizarre!
I also love studying contrasts and unearthing hypocrisies. Perhaps Charles Dickens said it best, “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of light, it was the season of darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair.” Charles Dickens is an example of these extremes himself. This same Victorian author whose writing instilled a global compassion for the impoverished treated the woman he had pledged to love until death terribly. The story of the Dickens Marriage is heartbreaking.

Two of my novels so far take place in the later part of the Victorian Era, both in the 1880s: A Misplaced Beauty and A Dark Lustre.

Describe your book in five words.

God redeeming a hopeless situation

What are your hobbies?

I love so many things. Sometimes I only have time to dabble due to my work and writing schedule, but I would love to have the hours in each day extended so I could focus on these more! Some of my favorite things to do are: reading, singing, racquet sports, hiking, arts and crafts, fancy teas, antiquing/ thrifting, card games/murder mystery games. I also love to “research” via traveling adventures!

Who was/is your biggest inspiration?

I have so many wonderful people in my life that inspire me and hold me to a higher standard of diligence, discernment, and compassion.

One special person who I would hope to emulate is my Grandpa Cooley. He laughed all the time and he enjoyed the simple things of life. He would laugh until he cried reading Dr. Seuss books to his grandkids, no matter how many times he had already read them. He enjoyed sitting on his porch watching birds, and he delighted in visiting with people.

Grandpa had such a giving spirit and he was so consistent in noticing the needs of others and being willing to sacrifice for others. His pockets were deep in supporting missionaries, those in the community who were struggling, and taking care of his own family. He gave of his time so willingly. Some Sundays, he did multiple rounds of picking up people who needed rides to church. Since he lived in the country, those multiple rounds might have meant a couple hours of driving before the service started.

He never said an unkind word about others and his love for others was truly unconditional even though he had very high standards for himself as far as his convictions.

Grandpa was an avid reader. He would read every book that I borrowed from the library, borrowed, or purchased no matter the genre. We read everything from Georgette Heyer to Trixie Beldon to Louis L’Amour to Frank Peretti. And I will never forget his wild laughter while reading Patrick McManus and Gilbert Morris’s Barney Buck series.

Grandpa Whitmore, from Elsie Whitmore: A Star of Oak Hills, is a character very much like my Grandpa Cooley. He even tells a story about his siblings and a box of “donuts” that my grandfather told about his own brothers.

Blog Stops

Texas Book-aholic, September 23

Debbie’s Dusty Deliberations, September 24

deb’s Book Review, September 25

Inklings and notions, September 26

Ashley’s Clean Book Reviews, September 27

Locks, Hooks and Books, September 28

Truth and Grace Homeschool Academy, September 29

Because I said so — and other adventures in Parenting, September 30

Happily Managing a Household of Boys, October 1

A Baker’s Perspective, October 2 (Author Interview)

Simple Harvest Reads, October 3 (Guest Review from Donna Cline)

For the Love of Literature, October 4 (Author Interview)

For Him and My Family, October 4

Pause for Tales, October 5

Tell Tale Book Reviews, October 6 (Author Interview)

Holly’s Book Corner, October 6

Giveaway

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To celebrate her tour, Amy is giving away the grand prize package of a $25 gift card along with His Brother’s Atonement, a Rocky Mountains Shirt and a Rocky Mountains wooden bookmark!!

Be sure to comment on the blog stops for nine extra entries into the giveaway! Click the link below to enter.

https://promosimple.com/ps/21a6a/his-brother-s-atonement-celebration-tour-giveaway

Tethered Author Interview and GIVEAWAY!

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About the Book

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Book: Tethered

Author: Eleanor Bertin

Genre: Christian Contemporary

Release date: July, 2020

Perfectionistic librarian Jacqui Penn is ripped up by the roots when she’s dumped by her longtime boyfriend. She is drawn two thousand miles west across Canada to the last place she ever thought could offer stability—the old homestead where her father grew up.

Renovating the derelict house soon becomes a personal battle as it stubbornly resists her efforts. While Jacqui struggles to renew the home, she spends time with the family Pops bitterly resented. Her hunger for roots grows stronger as she fights to discover the long-buried reasons her father fled the house as a beleaguered teen. But will she ever find the belonging she craves?

Click HERE to get your copy!

About the Author

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Eleanor Bertin loves books, people, and the sweeping skies of the Canadian Prairies where she was raised.

She studied Communications in college and returned to writing after raising and home-educating a family of seven children. The author of Lifelines, Unbound, Tethered, and the memoir, Pall of Silence about her late son, Paul, she lives in central Alberta with her husband and youngest son where, much like Jacqui, they are coaxing to life a century home.

More from Eleanor

Long before Jacqui came to be, I had the title Tethered, drawn from the first book in the Ties that Bind series, Lifelines. I was taken by the rope imagery that played so well into biblical themes of God drawing people to Himself. The second book, Unbound, deals with the way cables of guilt and fear can keep us in bondage to legalism.

But ropes have positive uses too. Tethered explores how ties of family and home provide the roots and grounding we all crave. Through each of the books, we see Anna, a widow of deep trust in God. She may seem insignificant, but her influence is powerful. Through her Jacqui, who’s been raised by Anna’s bitter brother, finds the foundation on which her family history is built, and makes it her own.

One of my favourite scenes in Tethered is where Anna teaches Jacqui to bake pie. It’s a piece lifted from my own life. My mother, now 94, was renowned for her pies, which she often gave to the bereaved or struggling. Like Anna, she generously taught her techniques and tips to the women of our family who carry on the tradition.

Here’s where Mom’s tips make all the difference. We don’t freeze whole pies. Instead, we freeze pie crusts already rolled out to size, layered between parchment paper, or better still, the plastic liners from cereal packaging cut to size. (Mom was “green” long before it was fashionable.) Making a batch of skins ahead of time saves space in the freezer compared to fully assembled pies, yields a fresher result when baked, and saves so much time. Whenever you want a pie, pull out a couple of the prepared crusts. While they quickly thaw, prepare your pie filling, assemble, and bake! Even our menfolk have been able to proudly say they baked a pie themselves.

Here is the recipe we use:

Pie Skins

5 cups all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon salt

In mixer, mix dry ingredients together. Then, a half cup at a time, cut in (with wire whips):

1 lb. lard (vegetable shortening will not give the desired flakiness)

Cut into flour mixture until crumbled to the size of peas. Do not overmix!

In a 2-cup measuring cup, beat:

2 eggs until frothy

Add: 2 Tablespoons vinegar

Add enough cold water to the liquid to make 1 cup. Then add to flour/lard mixture.

Using dough hooks, mix gently just until dough forms and will hold together. Again, do not overmix.

Divide dough into six or seven balls.

On each floured piece of cereal box plastic, roll out pastry from the center outward to just over 1/8-inch thickness. Keep flouring the rolling pin to prevent sticking.

Cut the crust to size of pie plate with ½ inch extra all around. Re-roll the scraps into the next ball of dough.

Freeze skins in a plastic pie keeper or even in a zippered plastic bag on a flat surface.

Bake pie on bottom rack of oven, 450F for 15 minutes, then 375F until golden brown (another 10-15 minutes). No pale, anemic pies for us!

Author Interview

When/how did you decide to become a writer?

My older sister praised a brief story I wrote when I was eight. She was impressed with the line, “Mother’s voice trailed away.” Rank plagiarism! However, throughout school, I did well in English and various teachers encouraged me to continue writing though I was set on other careers like pediatrician, real estate tycoon, and fashion designer. Ha! By high school graduation, reality struck, and I recognized my natural bent – which definitely was not medicine! I went on to study Communications in college.

After spending a year and a half as a reporter for a farm weekly newspaper, I settled into a long, rewarding vocation as a wife, and homeschooling mother of seven children. But the nest has a way of emptying, despite filling it so full.  At fifty, I wondered what to do with my newfound time and freedom. Out of the bucket list I compiled, “write a book” seemed the least expensive and most possible. My first novel took four years to write and another two to publish, but the best advice I ever received was to keep at it faithfully, even if only a few words a day, and walk through every door of opportunity that presents itself.

Which one of your characters speaks most to your heart? Why?

My first novel, Lifelines, centers on a character named Anna Fawcett, a 60-something widow with an adult son, Jesse, who has Down syndrome. Patterned after my own 94-year-old mom, she reappears in each of the Ties That Bind novels (Unbound, and Tethered). Like Mom, Anna is a selfless mentor, a devoted mother, sister, and friend, and a sort of Christ-figure in her sacrificial, faithful love of her Lord. When I grow up, I want to be just like her. My mother would laugh to know I’ve written a Christmas anthology short story in which she receives a marriage proposal and accepts.

And of course, her son Jesse is special to me, too. My youngest son, Timothy, 25, has Down syndrome and still lives with my husband and me. Only after I had written the trilogy did it occur to me that each of the novels features an individual with special needs: Jesse in Lifelines, Carol, a severely brain-injured woman in Unbound, and Lewis, a teenage boy with autism in Tethered. Having a disabled son myself has opened my eyes to a whole world of interesting and God-beloved people who deserve notice, both them and the caregivers who devote themselves to them.

Do you ever hide things in your stories for readers to find?

What an interesting question! I haven’t consciously hidden things in my stories, but a funny thing has happened with readers’ responses to my books. I’ve been asked for sequels about some of the most minor characters – even a dog! I suspect this is because in real life, I love people and in writing, I abhor flat characters. After all, even the hair stylist, caterer, or banker has an essential inner life uniquely their own. So, when I mention them in my books, I give enough quirky detail to reflect their value and humanity. Which backfires on me as a writer, because readers seem to want more of what I had no intention of giving. Sigh.

What are your hobbies?

If a hobby is something that’s enjoyable and costs, rather than earns us money, I could certainly say writing. But although I find it so satisfying, it’s also hard work at times. The things that most often distract me from writing are home décor (you’ll find references to it sprinkled throughout my books), flower gardening, and sewing (especially quilts). If the Lord gives me time, I also have a hankering to try oil painting, learning Greek, Hebrew, and Latin, and taking up the cello again. There should probably be something on this list pertaining to physical fitness, but you asked about hobbies, not personal tortures.

Do you have a favorite Bible verse, or is there a particular Bible story that really resonates with you?

I have always felt subpar in Christian circles because I could never pinpoint a favourite Bible verse or story. The reason must be that whatever book or passage I’m studying or memorizing at any given time is my favourite. Scripture is so rich and deep that it wows me no matter where I dig into it. So currently, my “favourite” is the book of Romans which is taking me forevah to memorize. I began in mid-April, 2021, and I’m still not quite half through, yet every day it speaks to my heart.

Blog Stops

Texas Book-aholic, September 21

deb’s Book Review, September 22

Inklings and notions, September 23

Truth and Grace Homeschool Academy, September 24

Locks, Hooks and Books, September 25

Debbie’s Dusty Deliberations, September 26

lakesidelivingsite, September 27

Because I said so — and other adventures in Parenting, September 28

Ashley’s Clean Book Reviews, September 29

Happily Managing a Household of Boys, September 30

Guild Master, October 1 (Author Interview)

Rebecca Tews, October 1

For Him and My Family, October 2

For the Love of Literature, October 3 (Author Interview)

Holly’s Book Corner, October 3

Pause for Tales, October 4

Giveaway

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To celebrate her tour, Eleanor is giving away the grand prize package of a $50 Amazon gift card and a copy of the book!!

Be sure to comment on the blog stops for nine extra entries into the giveaway! Click the link below to enter.

https://promosimple.com/ps/21aad/tethered-celebration-tour-giveaway

Calm in the Mountain Storm Review and GIVEAWAY!

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About the Book

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Book: Calm in the Mountain Storm

Author: Misty M. Beller

Genre: Christian Historical Romance

Release date: September 13, 2022

This epic journey will test his strength and ability to protect his children—and they’re all he has left.

When Elise Lane and her brother set out as missionaries to the native tribes in the Rocky Mountains, she knew the work would be challenging. But nothing fully prepared her for the hardships, nor the joys of getting to know the people. And even more so when some of them decide to accept God’s grace. When they discover the entire village where they’ve been working has been massacred, the mysterious brave standing at the edge of the devastation appears to be part of the danger. Especially when Elise realizes he’s holding a baby she recognizes as the daughter of one of the women who now lies dead.

Gone far too long on a mission to return his son who’d been taken by an enemy war party, Goes Ahead is relieved to return home with the boy. Until they reach their village, and the death they find there ignites his fury. His wife has been killed, along with all their friends and neighbors. No one is left alive—except their infant daughter. It can’t be coincidence that both his children have survived such evils. Now he must keep them alive and cross the mountains to return to his family, people who can help protect his family from further danger.

Traveling with an infant not yet four moons old—and no mother to feed her—is more than even Goes Ahead can overcome. Allowing the white strangers to accompany him seems the only choice since one in their party is already nursing a babe of her own. As winter closes in and the mountains prove treacherous beyond anything Goes Ahead can control, only a strength and love greater than his own can save his children—and the woman he’s come to love.

From a USA Today bestselling author comes another epic journey through breathless landscapes and adventure so intense, lives will never be the same.

Click HERE to get your copy!

About the Author

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Misty M. Beller is a USA Today bestselling author of romantic mountain stories, set on the 1800s frontier and woven with the truth of God’s love.

Raised on a farm and surrounded by family, Misty developed her love for horses, history, and adventure. These days, her husband and children provide fresh adventure every day, keeping her both grounded and crazy.

Misty’s passion is to create inspiring Christian fiction infused with the grandeur of the mountains, writing historical romance that displays God’s abundant love through the twists and turns in the lives of her characters.

Sharing her stories with readers is a dream come true for Misty. She writes from her country home in South Carolina and escapes to the mountains any chance she gets.

More from Misty

Early Missionaries to the Rocky Mountain Native American Tribes

One of the things I love about writing stories set in the 1830s Rocky Mountains is that Eastern civilization hadn’t yet touched the frontier. The only people who lived in or visited the Rockies during that were Native Americans and mountain men (usually trappers, but sometimes just explorers).

From that limited experience with white people, two of the native tribes realized they wanted to learn more about the white man’s God and his “Book of Heaven” (the Bible). In 1831, a delegation of four Native Americans—two Nez Perce and two Flathead—showed up in St. Louis, Missouri, asking for someone to come and teach their people about God.

Over the next several years, a number of people went west as missionaries, and this was the real-life inspiration for the heroine in Calm in the Mountain Storm. Though the characters in this story are fictional, the events certainly could have happened!

When Elise Lane heard that the Indians actually wanted to learn about God and simply needed someone to come tell them, she knew she had to answer that call. Of course, her brother Benjamin couldn’t let her go into that danger alone, so together, they set out on an expedition they knew would likely change them forever. Elise doesn’t have any idea exactly how much!

I pray you enjoy reading the story of Elise and Goes Ahead, the brave she meets who’s desperate for help getting his young children across the mountains. As with our hero and heroine in the story, I pray your faith is inspired!

Blessings!

Misty

My Review

This series just keeps getting better, and each title that releases becomes my new favorite! Even as an historical fiction aficionada, I am always impressed by Misty Beller’s ability to create new plotlines set in the Rocky Mountains with the same general cast of characters without any redundancy ever marring the narrative. Add to that the thrill of wilderness adventure and a sweet romance, and the Call of the Rockies series always exceeds my expectations! Calm in the Mountain Storm, book nine, appealed to me by the title alone, and I appreciate how the storm reflects both the natural phenomenon as well as that which occurs within us at times.

From the first heartrending chapter, Calm in the Mountain Storm dives headfirst into the grittiness and reality of frontier life in the early 1830s, as experienced by a group of missionaries. Elise Lane and her brother, Ben, joined by Lola and her husband, White Owl (a couple whose story is told in Grace on the Mountain Trail), travel to various tribal villages to introduce them to the God of the Bible: “In every village where they stopped to share the gospel, the people there would be resistant until a single person finally softened. Then one by one, others would come to meet the Lord for themselves.” Beller does not shy away from the challenges of this lifestyle, presenting it authentically yet without graphic details, even when the opening scene reveals the aftermath of a massacre survived by a single infant, whose warrior father returns with his young son to find the mother of his children dead with the rest of her tribe. Despite his deep distrust and disdain for the missionary party, he has no choice but to travel with them on his way to his own home village. The Lord works in mysterious ways, indeed.

One of the facets of Beller’s novels that I appreciate the most is the dual perspective that provides readers insight into both the Native American and white viewpoints. Realizing and recognizing such differences between people groups is just as important today, too, but can be easy to overlook. In Calm in the Mountain Storm, it becomes evident that Christianity is countercultural to the Native American way of life in general, and to that of Goes Away in particular. No matter how strong or capable we are, we will never be enough on our own because we all fall short and need the Savior, Jesus, who also provides strength in our weakness. The most incredible part is how, when the Lord is actively made a part of the equation, the two contrasting perspectives are brought together and reconciled, without either being cast aside. In the midst of prejudice, Elise’s frustration is no less apropos today: “Why couldn’t everyone let a person’s character stand for itself without worrying over their race or how they lived?” Then, as now, our faith must be demonstrated and lived out through our actions and not merely through words, because that is how we will reach people for Christ. Scripture is essential, yes, but only if we apply it to our lives.

I received a complimentary copy of this book through Celebrate Lit and was not required to post a favorable review. All opinions are my own.

My rating: 5 stars ♥♥♥♥♥

Blog Stops

Babbling Becky L’s Book Impressions, September 15

Debbie’s Dusty Deliberations, September 16

Texas Book-aholic, September 17

Holly’s Book Corner, September 17

Inklings and notions, September 18

Pause for Tales, September 19

Betti Mace, September 19

Library Lady’s Kid Lit, September 20

For Him and My Family, September 21

Blossoms and Blessings, September 22

deb’s Book Review, September 22

Locks, Hooks and Books, September 23

Ashley’s Clean Book Reviews, September 24

Jeanette’s Thoughts, September 24

Connie’s History Classroom, September 25

For the Love of Literature, September 26

Truth and Grace Homeschool Academy, September 27

Mary Hake, September 27

Happily Managing a Household of Boys, September 28

Giveaway

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To celebrate her tour, Misty is giving away the grand prize of a $50 Amazon gift card!!

Be sure to comment on the blog stops for nine extra entries into the giveaway! Click the link below to enter.

https://promosimple.com/ps/21812/calm-in-the-mountain-storm-celebration-tour-giveaway

Fighting and Flirting with my Cowboy Enemy Author Interview and GIVEAWAY!

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About the Book

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Book: Fighting and Flirting with My Cowboy Enemy

Author: Julia Keanini

Genre: Clean and Wholesome Romance

Release date: July 26, 2022

Jackson Ashford seems to have it all. Gorgeous looks, fulfilling job, loving relationship with his family . . . and he looks amazing in a cowboy hat. He may be a bit of a grump at times, but that doesn’t deter the women of Blue Falls from vying for his attention. So when Ruby Ellison arrives at his doorstep and hates Jackson on sight, he’s confused, to say the least.

Ruby Ellison never intended to come to the tiny town of Blue Falls, Idaho, but when her best friend’s search for her birth father takes her there, Ruby follows. She comes because she’d never let Madi down, but she stays because she quickly comes to love the small town. It’s the best place she’s ever lived . . . with one exception. Jackson Ashford. But Ruby figures she’ll just avoid him. Blue Falls is a small town but surely it’s big enough for two people to keep their distance.

But when Jackson and Ruby are both asked to coach an eight-year-old girls’ basketball team, Ruby realizes there will be no avoiding the man. She’ll just have to hate him up close rather than from afar. But as Ruby gets to know him she realizes that maybe the man she thought she knew isn’t really who Jackson is at all.

Join Ruby and Jackson as they fight and flirt their way to a happily ever after.

Click HERE to get your copy!

About the Author

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Julia Keanini is just a city girl living in a country world (and secretly loving it). She loves the mountains and would adore the beach, if it weren’t for all the sand and salt (wait, that is the beach?). A good book, a great song, or a huge piece of chocolate can lift her mood, but her true happiness is found in her little fam. She writes about girls and women who deal with what life throws at them and always about love, because she LOVES love.

More from Julia

I almost got run over by a cow when I was thirteen. I homeschooled during my middle school years and my parents decided I needed to do more with my free-time. So they sent me to work at a friend’s ranch. I was a typical very self-conscious teen and I had been near horses and cows probably at most five times in my life. You could see that this maybe wasn’t the best combination but my parents were sure and they promised me a juice at the end of every shift so I was game.

I started by brushing horses tails and braiding them. I was the oldest of five girls so this was totally in my wheelhouse. I also shoveled a whole bunch of manure. This wasn’t my favorite part of the job. But I quickly fell in love with horses. They were majestic if not a little stinky, but I loved them all the same.

Then came the big day. The cows needed to be branded and it was my job (who decided this I will never know) to get the cows into the chute where they would be branded. Granted I did this with four other grown men, the people who should have been doing the job, but I was out there as well. In the middle of this arena. Trying to not get killed. I managed for about five cows and then there was a mean one. I knew from the moment I saw her that she wanted me out of there. The moment she was let free she beelined it in my direction, letting me know that I didn’t stand a chance. Somewhere in the background I heard people yelling my name, telling me to move. But I froze. Did nothing. Thankfully one of those grown men saved me and I lived to tell the tale.

But even after all of that, I loved ranch life. I knew I would one day write a story about it. I saved it in my heart for a long time, this is book number forty-seven for me, but it finally came to fruition. A series about seven brothers (even though I grew up with four sisters) in the most beautiful land in Northern Idaho.

Welcome to Blue Falls Ranch.

Author Interview

When/how did you decide to become a writer?

I think I always wanted to be a writer. Books were some of my very first best friends. That sounds kind of sad, but I promise it wasn’t. I grew up as the oldest of six kids and found my escape from the loving but chaotic atmosphere in books. I could do chores on the prairie with Laura, I often imagined I was Anne’s bosom friend, and I was always an honorary baby-sitter. That love of reading grew into a natural love of writing. Getting to discover my very own stories has been one of my greatest life adventures.

What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?

I have to write on my couch. I know most authors need a desk or an office or even a corner at a coffee shop but I adore writing on my couch. It started because as a mom it was easier to write in the midst of everything than to escape because my boys always found me and would decide to play wherever I was. If I started in the living room with them and their toys it was actually the easiest way to get it all done. So even now that I do this as a full-time job and I could go into a writing cave, I choose not to.

What is your work schedule like when you’re writing?

I’m really lucky with my schedule now. When I started it was whenever I could find a free minute, typically when my boys were asleep, but now I get to choose exactly how I want things. So I write four days a week. I always work on one project at a time. I typically write about seven-thousand words a day for three or four weeks and then I edit for another one or two (depending on the length of book). I usually start writing at about nine am and try to get my words in by one.

Are you a plotter or a pantser?

I used to be a pantser and I miss it some days. I have to outline now because it helps me to stay on track. I’d never make my word count without an outline. Although more often than not my characters take over the book so even though I always have an outline these days, it will often be more of a guide than an actual template for what is going to happen.

Do you ever hide things in your stories for readers to find?

Yes! This is so fun to do. I like to do crossover places or characters. I’ll use a hotel that is central to one series in another. In Fighting and Flirting with my Cowboy Enemy I’m back in a small-town that I created for another series so it’s been fun to write characters that I haven’t been in touch with for a while. I actually have a pen as well and I’m going to start crossing a few things over between names so that readers of both names will get some exciting surprises.

Blog Stops

Texas Book-aholic, September 5

Debbie’s Dusty Deliberations, September 6

Inklings and notions, September 7

For Him and My Family, September 8

A Baker’s Perspective, September 9 (Author Interview)

deb’s Book Review, September 9

Locks, Hooks and Books, September 10

Ashley’s Clean Book Reviews, September 11

Because I said so — and other adventures in Parenting, September 12

Truth and Grace Homeschool Academy, September 13

For the Love of Literature, September 14 (Author Interview)

Happily Managing a Household of Boys, September 15

Tell Tale Book Reviews, September 16 (Author Interview)

Holly’s Book Corner, September 16

Simple Harvest Reads, September 17 (Guest Review from Donna Cline)

Pause for Tales, September 18

Giveaway

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To celebrate her tour, Julia is giving away the grand prize package of a $50 Amazon gift card and copy of the book!!

Be sure to comment on the blog stops for nine extra entries into the giveaway! Click the link below to enter.

https://promosimple.com/ps/2136a/fighting-and-flirting-with-my-cowboy-enemy-celebration-tour-giveaway

Laura’s Shadow Review and GIVEAWAY!

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About the Book

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Book: Laura’s Shadow

Author: Allison Pittman

Genre: Christian/Historical/Romance

Release date: August 1, 2022

Family Secrets Spill One Conversation at a Time

Visit historic American landmarks through the Doors to the Past series. History and today collide in stories full of mystery, intrigue, faith, and romance.

De Smet, South Dakota—1890
Young women growing up in DeSmet live by two rules: don’t go out in a snowstorm and don’t give your heart to Cap Garland. Young Mariah Patterson only managed to obey one. Orphaned and having devoted her youth to scrapping out a life with her brother Charles, Mariah finds herself with no interesting suitors or means of support. Throwing caution to the wind, she seizes an opportunity to lay her feelings at Cap’s feet, even though she knows Cap sees the world through the torch he carries for Laura Ingalls. Mariah is certain her love for Cap will be strong enough to break both bonds, and she’s willing to risk everything to prove it.

De Smet, South Dakota—1974
Trixie Gowan is the fourth generation of living Gowan women residing in the sprawling farmhouse on the outskirts of De Smet. Well, former resident. She’s recently moved to Minneapolis, where she writes ads for a neighborhood paper edited by Ron Tumble. She might live and work in the city, but her co-workers still call her Prairie Girl. Thus the inspiration for her comic strip—“Lost Laura”—in which a bespectacled girl in a calico dress tries to make her way in the city. The name is a quiet rebellion having grown up in a household where she’d been forbidden to mention the name, Laura Ingalls. But when her great-grandmother Mariah’s declining health brings Trixie home for a visit, two things might just keep her there: the bedside manner of Dr. Campbell Carter and the family secret that seems to be spilling from GG’s lips one conversation at a time.

Click HERE to get your copy!

About the Author

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Allison Pittman is the author of more than a dozen critically acclaimed novels and a four-time Christy finalist—twice for her Sister Wife series, once for All for a Story from her take on the Roaring Twenties and most recently for the critically acclaimed The Seamstress which takes a cameo character from the Dickens’ classic A Tale of Two Cities and flourishes her to life amidst the French Revolution. She lives in San Antonio, Texas, blissfully sharing an empty nest with her husband, Mike. Connect with her on Facebook (Allison Pittman Author), Twitter (@allisonkpittman) or her website, allisonkpittman.com.

More from Allison

I can credit Laura Ingalls Wilder for just about every aspect of my identity. I’m a reader because I read her books over and over and over again, checking them out from my little elementary school library. I can still see them—last bookcase, bottom shelf. During the summer, I checked them out from the Bookmobile, and one magical Christmas, I received my own set. The well-worn, yellow paperbacks have a place of honor in my office: top shelf, center stage. It was amazing to my eight-year-old self that I could pick up Little House in the Big Woods, skip the dull parts, and jump straight to These Happy Golden Years in a single afternoon.

Looking at Laura’s writing now (as I often do), I realize I spent my childhood absorbing the art of telling a story. Her books masterfully string meaningful vignettes within an over-arching conflict. She creates stories-within-a-story-within-a-story whenever Pa launches into a tall tale, and minor characters come to life no matter how brief their appearance. (Aunt Docia, anyone?)

When I first came up with the concept of writing a story set in the world of Laura Ingalls Wilder, I knew I couldn’t bring Laura herself in as a character. There’s a sacredness to her story, and I wouldn’t dream of inserting myself into the cannon of her pages. But—I thought—surely she had peers who grew up alongside her, classmates who also hated Miss Wilder, young men who might have set their own cap for her, townsfolk who remembered the vibrant young woman with the button-brown eyes and dark curls. And then I pondered further: maybe there was another side to Laura—a side that she kept from the romanticized ideal skipping through the pages of her books. My first thought was to create a fictional De Smet town girl, but then…

In researching and reading Pioneer Girl, The Annotated Autobiography of Laura Ingalls Wilder, I came across a bit of information that brought the story to life for me. In These Happy Golden Years, Laura teaches her first class: five students, two families. And while the “Brewster” children are documented in other sources, the Harrison children are not. There are no census records, land deeds, or any official documents to support the identity of Charles and Martha as they are depicted in the novel. And so, it clicked. If Laura could fictionalize these people, well, then, so could I. Thus Martha Harrison was lifted from those pages, renamed Mariah, and given a new life and a new story in mine.

Writing Laura’s Shadow allowed me to indulge in a few favorite directions. First, I’m fascinated with the idea of extreme longevity (showcased in my novel All for a Song), and creating a character whose lifespan stretches from homesteading to disco was delightful. My Mariah chafes at the romanticized depiction of pioneer life, telling us in her old age that it was really more of a daily struggle for survival. I also enjoyed exploring the family dynamic of four generations of women and how each generation faced the same battles and fought them so, so differently. Finally—and this is what truly speaks to my fourth-grade self…

You know that Elton John song, “Your Song” with the lyrics, “I hope you don’t mind that I put down in words…” Well, I got to put down in words my lifelong crush on Cap Garland. Sure, Almonzo is great and everything, but I always thought Cap was more exciting. More fun. More…more. Bringing him to life in this book set my old heart racing. My research for this novel took me to De Smet, and to his gravesite, where I spoke this story to his stone. I like to think he’d approve, and I hope all of the Laura fans will join me in this tale and let their imaginations run wild.

My Review

Even if I had not already committed myself to reading each of the Doors to the Past books (not out of obligation, but simply because it is another superb series by Barbour), I would not have been able to pass this one up. You see, the Laura in Laura’s Shadow refers to that Laura, Laura Ingalls Wilder, and like so many others, I too was enamored with the world of Little House on the Prairie as a child; I just never outgrew it. So when I realized that this ninth installment, penned by Allison Pittman, had a connection to that legacy, I was thrilled. Having read countless renditions of the pioneer story and of the Ingalls family in particular over the years, I went into this novel with a somewhat jaded curiosity, not expecting anything truly distinctive but ready to just enjoy a good story. Thus I was pleasantly surprised by how different this narrative proved to be.

Despite the link with Laura Ingalls, she is not the focal point. Rather, Laura’s Shadow is a character unto itself, always lurking in the background and serving as a reminder of the shadowed secrets of the past. Two timelines and four generations converge near De Smet, South Dakota in 1974 when Trixie Gowan gradually learns more about her 104-year-old great-grandmother Mariah’s life as a young woman in 1891. This provides a unique perspective on how an outsider may have seen Laura Ingalls, and it offers a speculative glimpse into Cap Garland, who had a crush on Laura and for whom Mariah developed feelings. Generational trauma and keen humor demonstrate that the line of unconventional Gowan women are as inspirational as they are tragic. As Trixie’s grandmother says, “Was there sin? Yes, but sin can be forgiven. Shame you drag around with you.” Coming to terms with the past and making peace with it are necessary regardless of the circumstances, and it is never too late to do so.

A few aspects of Laura’s Shadow that I most enjoyed include a witty romance that I won’t spoil by detailing and the Lost Laura cartoon, which epitomizes the struggles of both Mariah and Trixie, in my opinion. I found this latter to be such an interesting addition to the story, as well as a reminder of perseverance. The one thing that I wish had been more prominent is the Christian element, especially given the subject matter, which highlights the need for and beauty of redemption.

I received a complimentary copy of this book through Celebrate Lit and was not required to post a favorable review. All opinions are my own.

My rating: 4 stars ♥♥♥♥

Blog Stops

Happily Managing a Household of Boys, August 30

Debbie’s Dusty Deliberations, August 30

Babbling Becky L’s Book Impressions , August 31

Texas Book-aholic, August 31

Genesis 5020, September 1

Inklings and notions, September 1

The Avid Reader, September 2

For Him and My Family, September 2

deb’s Book Review, September 3

Simple Harvest Reads, September 3 (Guest Review from Mindy Houng)

Locks, Hooks and Books, September 4

Blogging With Carol, September 4

Betti Mace, September 5

Ashley’s Clean Book Reviews, September 5

Blossoms and Blessings, September 6

Jeanette’s Thoughts, September 6

lakesidelivingsite, September 7

Abba’s Prayer Warrior Princess, September 7

Connie’s History Classroom, September 8

Mary Hake, September 8

Truth and Grace Homeschool Academy, September 9

Through the Fire Blogs, September 9

Tell Tale Book Reviews, September 10

Bigreadersite, September 11

Pause for Tales, September 11

For the Love of Literature, September 12

Labor Not in Vain, September 12

Remembrancy, September 13

To Everything There Is A Season, September 13

Giveaway

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To celebrate her tour, Allison is gicing away the grand prize package of a $25 Amazon E-gift card and a copy of the book!!

Be sure to comment on the blog stops for nine extra entries into the giveaway! Click the link below to enter.

https://promosimple.com/ps/210cb/laura-s-shadow-celebration-tour-giveaway

Twin Murder Mix-Up Review and GIVEAWAY!

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About the Book

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Book: Twin Murder Mix-Up

Author: Sami A. Abrams

Genre: Romantic Suspense

Release date: August 23, 2022

A case of mistaken identity…

has lethal results

After capturing a murder on her camera, photographer Amy Baker becomes the next target—but her identical twin is killed instead. Now on the run with her sister’s newborn, Amy has only one person to turn to—Detective Keith Young, her childhood crush. But when they discover Keith is the baby’s father, can he regain Amy’s trust to keep them safe…before the killer strikes again?

Click HERE to get your copy!

About the Author

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Sami A. Abrams lives in Northern California, but she’ll always be a Kansas girl at heart. She loves to travel and watch sports. However, most evenings, you’ll find her engrossed in a romantic suspense novel. She thinks a crime plus a little romance is the recipe for a great story.

More from Sami

#Authorproblems That’s what the excitement around Keith Young was…a problem—Kinda. Lol!

When I started to hear request for his story, I panicked. Authors don’t want to disappoint their readers. And being new to the published scene…Well, you get the picture. 😊

After the release of Buried Cold Case Secrets, many readers told me they wanted Keith’s story. In fact, the overwhelming response puzzled me. What had I done to create such a buzz about Jason’s partner? And of course, I had to ask why?

The general answer I received…Keith’s a nice guy and the perfect partner.

I have to admit, I got a little nervous since I had already written his story. And I worried if I’d done his character justice?

However, after writing Buried Cold Case Secrets, I knew Keith had to have his own story. He’s such a great guy and needed his happily ever after. So, I dove in and asked, what would happen if he made a huge mistake? Not just a physical one, but a heart one.

By the time I finished, I loved seeing Keith and Amy move past their poor choices and hurt to find acceptance and love. The perfect ending to Keith’s struggles.

All that to say, I hope you love Keith and Amy’s story as much as I do. #TeamKeith

My Review

Amy Baker maneuvered through the afternoon traffic, whispering a prayer for the millionth time that the person for her sister’s death hadn’t discovered his mistake: he’d killed the wrong twin.

There is something about twins, particularly identical twins, that has always fascinated me and has sometimes made me wish that I was one. As Sami Abrams demonstrates in Twin Murder Mix-Up, however, there are obviously a few disadvantages, too! Most cases of mistaken identity end up being of little consequence, but in this case, the stakes are much higher when Amy Baker inadvertently photographs a murder in progress. Like Amy, readers find themselves thrust into the middle of an intense cat-and-mouse game with no answers and everything to lose. Detective Keith Young, her childhood best friend who dropped out of her life a year ago, is the only person she can reach out to, but wounds run deep and add to the challenges.

Featuring one of the characters from Buried Cold Case Secrets, Twin Murder Mix-Up can easily be read as a standalone. Abrams focuses more on the characters and their relationships than on the suspense element per se, highlighting how a person’s actions and communication (or lack thereof) have direct consequences. As much as the main characters frustrated me at times, I realized that it is important for Christian fiction to portray realistic characters that have flaws and have made mistakes. These are the types of characters that people can relate to the most, and even more importantly, they are the types of characters that might speak to nonbelievers. Amy and Keith do grow throughout the story as they encounter situations that test their faith and their perspectives, and Abrams explores the nearly-ubiquitous problems of lacking self-confidence and being unable to forgive oneself. When we come to the end of ourselves, we realize that God has been in control all along, and that when we accept Him as Savior and Lord, all things do work together for our good and His glory (Romans 8:28).

I received a complimentary copy of this book through Celebrate Lit and was not required to post a favorable review. All opinions are my own.

My rating: 4 stars ♥♥♥♥

Blog Stops

Book Reviews From an Avid Reader, August 27

Bizwings Blog, August 27

The Avid Reader, August 27

Debbie’s Dusty Deliberations, August 28

Christina’s Corner, August 28

Genesis 5020, August 29

Texas Book-aholic, August 29

Inklings and notions, August 30

Through the Fire Blogs, August 30

EmpowerMoms, August 30

Betti Mace, August 31

deb’s Book Review, August 31

For Him and My Family, September 1

Pause for Tales, September 1

The Sacred Line, September 1

She Lives To Read, September 2

Locks, Hooks and Books, September 2

Ashley’s Clean Book Reviews, September 3

Britt Reads Fiction, September 3

For the Love of Literature, September 4

Lights in a Dark World, September 4

Paula’s Persuasion, September 4

Truth and Grace Homeschool Academy, September 5

Book Looks by Lisa, September 5

Because I said so — and other adventures in Parenting, September 6

Vicarious Living , September 6

Mary Hake, September 6

Babbling Becky L’s Book Impressions, September 7

Bigreadersite , September 7

Happily Managing a Household of Boys, September 8

Blogging With Carol, September 8

Simple Harvest Reads, September 9 (Guest Review from Donna Cline)

Labor Not in Vain, September 9

Giveaway

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To celebrate her tour, Sami is giving away the grand prize package of a $25 Amazon card and signed copy of Twin Murder Mix-Up (US only) or eBook for outside the US!!

Be sure to comment on the blog stops for nine extra entries into the giveaway! Click the link below to enter.

https://promosimple.com/ps/210ca/twin-murder-mix-up-celebration-tour-giveaway

The Heart of the Mountains Review and GIVEAWAY!

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About the Book

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Book: The Heart of the Mountains

Author: Pepper Basham

Genre: Christian Fiction / Romance

Release date: July 1, 2022

Can their hearts overcome the darkness of the mountains?

To escape a forced marriage, Cora Taylor travels from England to the Blue Ridge Mountains in search of her brother, who is working as a teacher in a mission school. She hopes to find a place where her nursing skills and independent ideas will be accepted and appreciated, but nothing prepares her for the wild mixture of isolation, community, brokenness, and hope within these mountains…or in the person of Jeb McAdams.

Returning from the devastation of World War 1 emotionally damaged, Jeb McAdams struggles against the rampant mountain alcoholism to soothe his nightmares. It’s easy to hide within the mountains, or it was, before Cora Taylor arrived. Now, she seems to show up at every turn, bringing her modern ideas, curiosity, and beautiful eyes with her.

Bound by their shared war history, the pair develop an unlikely friendship, which unexpectedly hints to something more. But when Cora’s desire to help the women of the mountains crosses an unspoken line, will Jeb be able to protect this feisty flatlander from the wrath of the mountain men or will he end up losing much more than his heart?

Click HERE to get your copy!

About the Author

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Pepper Basham is an award-winning author who writes romance peppered with grace and humor with southern Appalachian flair. Both her historical and contemporary novels have garnered recognition in the Grace Awards, Inspys, and ACFW Carol Awards. Her historical romance, The Thorn Healer, was a finalist in the 2018 RT Awards. Her historical romance novels, My Heart Belongs in the Blue Ridge and The Red Ribbon, and her contemporary novels, the Mitchell’s Crossroads and Pleasant Gap series, showcase her Appalachian heritage, as well as her love for humor and family. She currently resides in the lovely mountains of Asheville, NC where she is the mom of five great kids, a speech-language pathologist to about fifty more, and a lover of chocolate, jazz, hats, and Jesus.

You can learn more about Pepper at her website http://www.pepperdbasham.com or connect with her on FB, IG, or Twitter.

More from Pepper

It’s so interesting how one idea can influence an entire series, or…how one person’s story can.

The idea for The Heart of the Mountains started in Laurel’s Dream with a hint of a family history story about a girl named Kizzie. (Someday, I hope to bring Kizzie’s story to the pages of a book). From there, the idea began to grow out of a love for my Appalachian culture into a series of books which highlighted (and fictionalized) stories from my family history.

The main story in The Heart of the Mountains is about Jeb and Cora, two different people with similar servant hearts, but the secondary story that touched me so much was the one based on my great grandfather’s life. I write about it in the Author’s Note at the end of the novel, so I won’t go into detail about it. However, what I loved getting to do is bring the truth of God’s redemption in my great grandfather’s life…to life again.

I never knew “Papa Rat”. I only knew the stories handed down to me by my granny and my mama, but in writing this story, I feel as though I had a tiny opportunity to “meet” him in these pages. He was a gruff mountain man with a broken past which led him to make a whole lot of broken choices, but his story is incredibly encouraging, because it points to the God of broken people. My great grandpa wasn’t left in his brokenness, but, after years of running away from God, he would later recount that God pursued him. The beauty of Sam McAdams’ journey in The Heart of the Mountains is only a little glimpse into what I imagine my great grandpa’s redemption story looked like.

Because my great grandpa was forever changed when Jesus saved him (as any of us should be).

I think that’s what my granny and her siblings (and even “Papa Rat” himself) would want most -that his story would point to Jesus. I hope that’s what you see when you read about Sam McAdams in The Heart of the Mountains.

Have you ever read a book based on family history? One of my favorites is Catherine Marshall’s Christy.

My Review

Pepper Basham is one of those rare authors whose work I pick up without question, knowing that it will end up being one of the best books I’ll read that year. What makes it more remarkable is that I mostly steer away from romance-driven novels, yet here I sit after finishing The Heart of the Mountains, thinking that if another author had attempted this story, I likely would have found it overdone, but as it is, I feel a sense of fulfillment. It occurred to me that while some of the circumstances in the story seemed almost too providential or too sweet at times, there is a reason that our hearts ultimately long for these outcomes, and a reason to include them in Christian fiction. Just as the stories of some characters will reflect the fallen, broken nature of humanity, some may also point to the love Christ has for each of us. After all, happily-ever-after IS real for born-again followers of Jesus!

With its 1919 Appalachian Blue Ridge Mountains setting, The Heart of the Mountains is primarily a romance, complete with the inherent challenges, dangers, and customs therein. Cora Taylor arrives in Maple Springs after fleeing her family’s upper-class home in England to avoid being forced into an unwanted marriage, following the earlier path of her brother, who teaches at a local mission school. In spite of her experience on the war front over the past year, she still finds herself overwhelmed by how primitive her new surroundings are, and determined to prove herself, she considers that “Surely, she couldn’t just entrust everything to God. She’d had to fight so hard to make her place in a world where people thought she was too young to manage the devastation of nursing in war and too ‘female’ to do anything but end up as the wife of a rich man.” Even today, the struggle lives on, whether it’s based on gender bias or any other form of preconception. It is so much easier to try to take matters into our own hands than it is to trust the One who is truly in control. However, as the longsuffering Caroline McAdams wisely tells Cora, “But prayin’ is where we admit we ain’t the lords of our own lives, nor of any lives, to be true. And, as I study on it, God uses prayin’ to change my heart into what He’s wantin’ it to be in sun or rain, ‘cause I’m trustin’ His love and His plan.” This profound statement speaks to the place where our will and God’s will come into alignment, which is when mountains are moved and miracles happen.

There are a myriad of life lessons contained within The Heart of the Mountains, all gently stemming from the truth of Scripture. As Cora observes and experiences more of the mountain life, she begins to realize the beauty and goodness amidst the hardship. Having less doesn’t necessarily mean that someone is worse off. Cora herself admits to local resident Jeb McAdams: “But I’ve felt more alive and more myself in the middle of the hardest days, than I ever felt in the easiest. There was purpose and this…this joy in making a difference, in offering even the smallest hope to those who were hurting or heartbroken. I don’t think I would have seen it before in my gilded world, but I do now. And I don’t wish to go back to what I was before.” Likewise, as is the case with life today, most of those in bad situations do not want to stay there and did not land there intentionally. Acting with kindness and love will always accomplish more, and as we live out the gospel, we will find more ways to share it with those who need it the most.

While a sequel to Laurel’s Dream, which offers more backstory on the secondary characters, The Heart of the Mountains can be read as a standalone. It is such an inspirational, uplifting story that will touch every reader regardless of background. On a personal note, I love that Basham included a dulcimer in one of the scenes; my mom, who passed away last year, played the mountain dulcimer, and it’s rare to find it in a novel. Speaking of loss, Cora’s statement to Jeb resonated with me as well: “We trust that God’s love for us and the people we’ve lost is even bigger than ours for them. And so, whatever He’s chosen for their lives is a much better plan than one we can imagine.” Our relationship with the Lord is based on trust and our eternal hope in Him, and as with her other novels, Pepper Basham perfectly exemplifies this with The Heart of the Mountains.

I received a complimentary copy of this book through Celebrate Lit and was not required to post a favorable review. All opinions are my own.

My rating: 5 stars ♥♥♥♥♥

Blog Stops

Bizwings Blog, July 28

Rachael’s Inkwell, July 28

Bigreadersite, July 28

Babbling Becky L’s Book Impressions, July 29

Texas Book-aholic, July 29

Inklings and notions, July 30

Happily Managing a Household of Boys, July 30

Boondock Ramblings, July 30

Debbie’s Dusty Deliberations, July 31

Reading With Emily, July 31

Gina Holder, Author and Blogger, July 31 (Author Interview)

lakesidelivingsite, August 1

Where Crisis & Christ Collide, August 1

Abba’s Prayer Warrior Princess, August 1

Daysong Reflections, August 2

deb’s Book Review, August 2

Live. Love. Read., August 2

Betti Mace, August 3

Book Looks by Lisa, August 3

Locks, Hooks and Books, August 3

Remembrancy, August 4

For Him and My Family, August 4

Blossoms and Blessings, August 4

Mypreciousbitsandmusings, August 5

By the Book, August 5

Wishful Endings, August 5

For the Love of Literature, August 6

Books, Books and More Books, August 6

Ashley’s Clean Book Reviews, August 6

Connie’s History Classroom, August 7

SodbusterLiving, August 7

Splashes of Joy, August 7

Where Faith and Books Meet, August 8

Truth and Grace Homeschool Academy, August 8

Back Porch Reads, August 9

Through the Fire Blogs, August 9

Pause for Tales, August 9

Labor Not in Vain, August 10

Miriam Jacob, August 10

To Everything There Is A Season, August 10

Giveaway

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To celebrate her tour, Pepper is giving away the grand prize package of a $25 Amazon e- gift card and a paperback copy of the book!!

Be sure to comment on the blog stops for nine extra entries into the giveaway! Click the link below to enter.

https://promosimple.com/ps/20389/the-heart-of-the-mountains-celebration-tour-giveaway

Vanished Without a Trace Review and GIVEAWAY!

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About the Book

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Book: Vanished Without a Trace

Author: Sarah Hamaker

Genre: Romantic Suspense

Release date: June 28, 2022

A missing person case. A new clue. And a fight for survival.

After nine years searching for his missing sister, attorney Henderson Parker uncovers a clue that leads him to Twin Oaks, Virginia—and podcaster Elle Updike investigating the case. Partnering with the journalist is the last thing Henderson wants, until mysterious thugs make multiple attacks on both their lives. Now they’ll have to trust each other…before the suspected kidnappers make them disappear for good.

Click HERE to get you copy!

About the Author

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Sarah Hamaker loves writing books “where the hero and heroine fall in love while running for their lives.” She’s written romantic suspense novels and nonfiction books, as well as stories in Chicken Soup for the Soul volumes. As a writers coach, her heart is encouraging writers. She’s a member of ACFW; ACFW Virginia Chapter; and Faith, Hope and Love, as well as the president of Capital Christian Writers Fellowship. Her podcast, “The Romantic Side of Suspense,” can be found wherever you listen to podcasts. Sarah lives in Virginia with her husband, four teenagers, a preschool foster child and three cats. Visit her online at sarahhamakerfiction.com.

More from Sarah

As a podcaster myself, I’ve listened to many true crime podcasts, such as “Up and Vanished” and “Accused,” so when I was thinking about the plot for Vanished Without a Trace, I decided to have my heroine be a true crime podcaster investigating cold missing persons cases. I also am fascinated by unsolved mysteries, probably because I love history, and have a strong sense of justice—I want those who commit crimes to be caught. Of course, as a Christian, I do rest in the assurance of God as the ultimate and only truly righteous Judge, but I do find myself rooting for cold cases to be solved and criminals brought to justice. Thus the book combines my two of my interests—cold cases and true crime.

Personally, I can’t imagine anything more difficult than to have a loved one go missing and never be found or heard from again. The uncertainty of their fate must weigh very heavily on the family members left behind. I wanted to capture some of that with Henderson’s strong desire to find his missing sister, Helena, and reunite her with their mother. He’s seen how much Helena’s absence has taken a toll on their mother’s health and mental well-being, and when he has a chance to chase down the first real lead in years, he jumps at it.

Elle’s motives are no less personal than Henderson’s—her own heart aches for these grieving families. Having distant parents, she wants to help families heal by discovering what happened to a loved one if possible. But Henderson doesn’t trust her motives and the two clash more often than not over her podcast.

I hope you enjoy seeing how Elle and Henderson learn to work together to find Helena…and perhaps, their own happy ending.

My Review

There’s something about disappearances that is both intriguing and chill-inducing. As a mystery reader, I tend to gravitate toward those which involve disappearances because they are often more challenging and can offer any number of outcomes. That, combined with the fact that I had not previously read anything by Sarah Hamaker, compelled me to read Vanished Without a Trace. I went into the book blindly, solely viewing the title and cover and only reading the summary on the back cover after finishing the story, and I would personally recommend this to future readers, especially those who don’t wish to know any plot points ahead of time. The novel is enjoyable either way, and this is a personal preference, so it does not affect my rating; it’s simply a suggestion based on my experience.

A diverse cast of characters and a savvy use of modern technology make Vanished Without a Trace an interesting romantic suspense tale, complete with a bit of humor peppered in to lighten the tension. As is characteristic of the Love-Inspired Suspense series, there is relentless action rivaling that of a TV movie, with the same high stakes, to boot. The nearly decade-old vanishing of Henderson Parker’s sister, Helena, has set him on a quest to find her, following any and every lead until he winds up in Twin Oaks, Virginia. Podcaster and journalist Elle Updike is similarly pursuing the cold case for her show, and when dangerous threats are manifested, Henderson realizes he has to join forces with Elle, despite his dislike of journalists. Elle brings important investigative techniques she has learned from her prior experiences and from online research, underscoring the ubiquity of such resources. I appreciated her character and how she contributed to the story, but it didn’t seem to me that she or Henderson grew much as characters throughout the course of the novel, as their approaches did not change, which I admittedly found frustrating at times. Henderson’s stubbornness was, however, counterbalanced by loyalty and compassion.

Vanished Without a Trace also focuses on relationships and the impact of trauma. Several of the characters have had poor relationship experiences in the past, and Hamaker demonstrates how the lingering effects impact the present. This is particularly notable with Henderson, as “His guilt over failing to find Helena had eaten away at his ability to have a relationship with anyone, leaving him with a hollow hole where his heart had been.” I do wish that the faith element would have been more prominent; the faith theme naturally coalesces with the plot, and I would love to see it further emphasized. The challenges which the characters encounter are relevant to those facing society today, and the ultimate solution is the same as well: trusting the Lord with our concerns and seeking Him above all else.

I received a complimentary copy of this book through Celebrate Lit and was not required to post a favorable review. All opinions are my own.

My rating: 4 stars ♥♥♥♥

Blog Stops

Book Reviews From an Avid Reader, July 25

Where Crisis & Christ Collide, July 25

Bizwings Blog, July 26

Truth and Grace Homeschool Academy, July 27

Through the Fire Blogs, July 27

Betti Mace, July 28

For the Love of Literature, July 28

Debbie’s Dusty Deliberations, July 29

Pause for Tales, July 29

Texas Book-aholic, July 30

Inklings and notions, July 31

Genesis 5020, August 1

Bigreadersite, August 1

For Him and My Family, August 2

A Good Book and Cup of Tea, August 2

deb’s Book Review, August 3

Livin’ Lit, August 3

Locks, Hooks and Books, August 4

Ashley’s Clean Book Reviews, August 5

Paula’s Persuasion, August 5

Because I said so — and other adventures in Parenting, August 6

Blogging With Carol, August 7

Mary Hake, August 7

Giveaway

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To celebrate her tour, Sarah is giving away the grand prize package of a Vanished Without a Trace branded tote bag, Vanished Without a Trace pin, a print copy of the book, plus a $75 Amazon gift card!!

Be sure to comment on the blog stops for nine extra entries into the giveaway! Click the link below to enter.

https://promosimple.com/ps/1ffe1/vanished-without-a-trace-celebration-tour-giveaway