Detective Jackson Forge can hardly wait to marry the street-sly swindler who’s turned his life upside down. Kit Turner is equally excited to wed the handsome detective, and what better way to show her love than providing him with a gift any man of the law would love? She determines to bring to justice the men who years ago maimed his brother—despite Jackson’s warning to leave the past in the past. As she digs into the mystery of what happened, she unwittingly tumbles into her own history and endangers her future happiness with Jackson.
Why you should run out and buy this Michelle Griep book immediately!
The author. Griep. The Bride of Blackfriar’s Lane is historical fiction at its best. You will race through the ratty streets and back alleyways of London with Kit and Jackson, learn to love the street urchins, and look over your shoulder every time the hair on the back of your neck prickles. Plus, enough language from 1880s inner city London to put you squarely in those streets that will give you the willies.
A special-needs character is presented with great authenticity and compassion. As someone who has worked with special needs people for a length of time, this is essential to me.
Humor in all the right places, plus a ton of great metaphors! How does Griep do it?!
All I can say is, that I have bought a paper copy and an ecopy of the book so far, plus I received a copy from the publisher. No positive review was required, and all opinions are my own.
This will be one of the few I will be rereading for great relationship advice applicable to today!! Times change, but basic relationship issues do not.
“You’d keep secrets from God Himself if you thought you could get away with it.”
“The Mayfair neighbourhood had a way of frowning down upon those who didn’t belong, like a great aunt with a penchant for lip curling, making one feel the size of a grease ant for having shown up at the dinner table with a crooked collar.”
It wasn’t as if you could slam the door on fear’s face when it came calling.
“Look up, child,”… “Look ever upwards, therein shall you be saved.”
“What have I done?” she whispered. “Dear God, what have I done?”
“More than anything, a husband must be able to trust his wife, for she holds his very heart in her hands. Respect that truth. Respect him. That is the most precious gift you can give.”
Words once spoken cannot be unheard.”
If the lad wasn’t careful, he might sprain his tongue with such verbal gymnastics.
“Sometimes there is just no righting a wrong, sir.”“Good thing God doesn’t hold that view.”
“Yes, you were wronged, but that doesn’t mean you must spend the rest of your life playing the victim.”
“Why did you not rail against God?” A small chuckle rumbled in his throat. “Never raise a fist against one who is more powerful than you.”
“I have learned,” he said at length, “to look past the darkness of my anger and see the light of creation. To choose to think on the good my Creator has brought into my life rather than the hardships. Anger and bitterness are a choice. Either you may dwell on your losses or you may be grateful for what you have.”
Magnificent!! Amazing Action, History, Humor, Romance, & Truth!! I love Michelle Griep!!
Michelle Griep’s been writing since she first discovered blank wall space and Crayolas. She is the Christy Award-winning author of historical romances: A Tale of Two Hearts, The Captured Bride, The Innkeeper’s Daughter, 12 Days at Bleakly Manor, The Captive Heart, Brentwood’s Ward, A Heart Deceived, and Gallimore, but also leaped the historical fence into the realm of contemporary with the zany romantic mystery Out of the Frying Pan. If you’d like to keep up with her escapades, find her at http://www.michellegriep.com or stalk her on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.
And guess what? She loves to hear from readers! Feel free to drop her a note at email@example.com.
More from Michelle
A Visit to Borough Market
Whenever I skip across the pond, I make it a point to stop at the Borough Market for some great meals. This area was—and is—a popular place to shop and an absolute must-see for food lovers. From grocers, fishmongers, cheese sellers, and butchers to all kinds of ethnic eats, it’s hard not to want to sample everything. My personal favorite are the buddha bowls.
Believe it or not, Borough market has been in operation for the past thousand years. Yes, you read that correctly. It actually began as a bridge, constructed in 990. But let’s fast forward to the Victorian era, shall we?
In the nineteenth century, a railway viaduct was constructed through the middle of the market, which brought in more people—but also brought in more noise, soot, disruption, and crime. In such a hotbed of activity, it’s easy to imagine cutpurses and pickpockets of all sorts.
And that’s the perfect scene for a certain con-artist turned investigator to meet with an informant. In The Bride of Blackfriars Lane, Kit Turner is up to her old shenanigans, much to Jackson’s chagrin. You can visit Borough Market along with her in this wild ride through Victorian London. It’s just one of the many stops in a city that never gets old.
Genre: Historical Romance, Christian Mystery/Suspense
Released: September 2022
Length: 320 pp
Julia Schultz has a reputation for being a storyteller–or as others see it, a liar. But with a dark and painful past, stories were all that kept her company and made her interesting to others. Longing for a fresh start and a second chance to earn real trust, Julia takes a job as a Harvey Girl at the El Tovar hotel, where she’s challenged to be her true self.
Learning the trade of a master jeweler is hard work, but Christopher Miller takes pride in running his family’s small shop and earning the respect of the people around him. But when he discovers that he has six weeks to buy his shop from his landlord before it is sold, he must find a way to save his grandfather’s legacy.
United by the discovery of a legendary treasure, Chris and Julia find hope in each other. But when Julia’s past catches up with her, doubt creeps into Chris’s heart. Can he really trust her and her stories?
After reading Kimberley Woodhouse’s first book in the Secrets of the Canyon series, I knew I had to read the next, A Gem of Truth. What a gem it is, too! Set mainly at the Grand Canyon Harvey House in the early 1900s, history and romance marry action to form an exciting book you won’t soon forget.
“Instant friends. If only there were such a wonderful thing.” I could empathize with poor Julia who had trouble feeling worthy and making friends. Unfortunately, Julia tells fantastically entertaining stories to gain approval, but loses people’s trust in bargain. Will she learn to tell the truth before her life lays in shambles at her feet?
How many people can identify with Julia as “she still felt very much alone…Surrounded by people, but lonely.” This is so easy to fall in this trap. We often try to be good enough to please people, hiding who we really are, afraid of rejection if people discover the real us.
Told in third person, the novel switches back and forth quickly between characters and the reader must be alert.
I loved seeing our friends from Woodhouse’s first book, as well the new characters who added so much to the story. Ruth figures into this narrative until we are ready for her story, which will be out next year! (Yay!)
Woodhouse has done her Harvey House waitress homework, as well as incorporating a legend masterfully to add so much suspense! And her detail to jewelry making!
I appreciated that the main characters respected the Hopi Indians and treated them and their culture well. I would love to have seen that part of the Canyon, something we need to rectify next time we visit, as well as visiting the El Tovar.
Don’t miss this book!! I received a copy from the publisher through NetGalley, plus I purchased my own ecopy. No positive review was required, and all opinions are my own.
“Would she never get past who she’d been? Would anyone truly love her for who she was?”
“There are no bad eggs, just a bunch of people with sin natures. God loves every one of us the same.”
“Humility is knowing your worth and choosing to put others ahead of yourself anyway.”
Rating: 5 out of 5.
Magnificent! Exciting Mix of History, Romance, and Suspense in the Grand Canyon!
About the Author
Kimberley Woodhouse is an award-winning and bestselling author of more than twenty-five books. A lover of history and research, she often gets sucked into the past and then her husband has to lure her out with chocolate and the promise of eighteen holes on the golf course. She loves music, kayaking, and her family. Her books have been awarded the Carol Award, Holt Medallion, Reader’s Choice Award, Selah Award, Spur Award, and others. A popular speaker/teacher, she’s shared with over 1,000,000 people at more than twenty-five hundred venues across the country. Married to the love of her life for three decades, she lives and writes in the Poconos where she’s traded in her hat of “craziest mom” for “coolest grandma.” Connect with Kim at
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.
“I used to worry about you, our little Trixie. Growing up in this house. None of us set a very good example of how to be a wife or mother. Almost like each of us could do one but not the other.”
Allison Pittman tends to write books just a little grittier than I expect, not quite the happily-ever-after that I often want, but, oh, the impressions her books leave behind!
Laura’s Shadow by Pittman surprised me in a few ways. I had never imagined people NOT liking Laura Ingalls (except for Nellie Olsen, but does she count?) So this took me aback. Then, I had another issue to overcome. Usually, a main character or such a prominent one is positively portrayed, but I really did not like Mariah much. She was a very bitter woman, who gave up what she could have for something she knew was out of reach and bounds. That said, there are a lot of unlikable people in life. So, I really appreciated Mariah’s character. Her personality made this novel feel more like literature. Bold move, Ms. Pittman, bravo!
My heart just went out to each of these four women for different reasons. Each, except for Trixie, acted in such a way that I was sure I didn’t like her. Then, as Pittman reveals secrets and motivations one-by-one, like a slowly peeled onion, my feelings reversed. Perhaps that is why we are not to judge others. How can we really understand what they’ve been through, without knowing them deeply? Only God knows us that thoroughly.
I loved the romantic triangle. Another well-drawn sub-plot.
I received a copy of the book from Celebrate Lit via NetGalley. No positive review was required, and all opinions are my own.
“That was a bald lie, but it seemed the thing to say, and the relief that washed across his face justified the sin.”
“Was there sin? Yes, but sin can be forgiven. Shame you drag around with you.”
“Life was exercise. We never got to stop moving until we died.”
“I knew the living child would be a piece of God’s mercy I could hold in my hands. I felt his love in a way I would never feel Oscar’s. I swallowed his forgiveness along with my unshed tears.”
“She’d been living with a decades-old broken heart, and that heart had been broken by Cap Garland.”
“I don’t know how many tomorrows I have left.”
“There’s nobody at this table with a right to throw stones.”
Magnificent! Memorable, Literary Vibes
About the Author
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.
This epic journey is her last hope to find her lost brother—the only family she has left.
When Lola Carson’s father died, his last words spoke of a half-brother she’d never known about. And now, to claim her own inheritance and come to terms with her father’s secret life, she must find this mysterious man—whose last known whereabouts are somewhere west of the wild Rocky Mountains. After hiring family friends to accompany her on the trek, she sets out for a wilderness few white women have ever seen. She doesn’t expect the majestic peaks to captivate her so, nor the half-dead brave they find on one of the slopes.
White Owl left his village and his broken heart behind when he set out for a fresh start. His newfound faith is the one anchor in his life. He’s desperate to learn more about the God he’s committed to follow and become an interpreter for the missionaries who led him to faith. But he barely starts his journey when a hunting accident nearly kills him. The woman who discovers him in the midst of his fevered delirium seems to be a gift from above.
But the more White Owl learns about Lola’s companions and her dangerous quest, the more he realizes his own calling is clear—to take her safely to her brother. The question is, will he have to sacrifice more than his heart to accomplish that goal?
From a USA Today bestselling author comes another epic journey through breathless landscapes and adventure so intense, lives will never be the same.
“Just because he was afraid didn’t mean she had to be.”
Beautiful!! I love each novel of Misty M Beller’s better than the last! In Grace on the Mountain Trail, Beller takes us back to the 1830s West as we travel this exciting journey with Lola Cameron and Ike and Will Van Buren. Lola’s cold, distant father has died, and left behind the startling news that she has a half-brother. To keep her home, she must find him and return East within a year. Lola finds a severely injured Native American, White Owl, on the trail, and that changes the trajectory of the journey.
Grace on the Mountain Trail is the 8th book in this series, Call of the Rockies. It is an awesome mixture of faith, fear, doubts, and emotions. Romance struggles with societal expectations and other relationships that may be affected. I loved how the title fits one character’s life all the way through the book, while another only sees the truth of that Grace in retrospect. Beller provides plenty of action, but also draws her characters strongly so that many relationships are equally important to the successful tapestry of the story. I love a tightly woven story like this!
I also loved how Biblical truth was inserted a verse or thought at a time, with a great, short application to the situation, the story flow uninterrupted, but enriched. “Do good to those who persecute you. Repeating the verse was the best way to keep his frustration down.” And how I loved the faith in action of this faithful character!!
I loved how Beller takes a few stereotypes and turns them on their heads. How refreshing! If you love historical fiction and pioneer-age West, don’t miss this Beller offering!
I received a copy of this book from Celebrate Lit via NetGalley. I also bought my own ebook. No positive review was required, and all opinions are my own.
“Between conniving men and stubborn ones, she had her work cut out for her.”
“Truthfulness was one of the gifts she now valued most.”
“…And she’d be on her own with one she no longer trusted.”
“She’d been petty in her life, thinking that the way she’d given God the cold shoulder all those years gave her the upper hand. He had created all this, imagined it and spoke it into being. If He wanted a part in her life, who was she to say no?”
Misty pens such rich, compelling novels, and Grace on the Mountain Trail is no exception!
About the Author
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
Is this the book for you?
With so many books out there, it’s sometimes hard to know if a new book will be the right fit for you or not. I thought it might be fun to share some highlights that may help you know if you’d like to read Grace on the Mountain Trail.
Love adventure and don’t mind being snowed in (at least in your imagination as you sit snuggled in your comfortable house).
Fall for Native American heroes who are, yes, strong and capable, but also searching for a fresh start and eager to grow in their fledgling faith.
Find unusual and remote settings fascinating, especially the Rocky Mountains!
Enjoy historical detail and are eager to live vicariously in the early 1800s Montana frontier.
What to expect from Grace on the Mountain Trail?
Emotion-rich sweet romance.
Native American heroes who know how to be both tough and gentle.
The grandeur of the Montana Rockies.
Tough heroines who do what needs to be done.
Adventure that will keep you turning pages.
A peek at one of our favorite characters from earlier in the series!
If Grace on the Mountain Trail sounds like the right fit for you, I pray you love Lola and White Owl’s story!
Curl up with your pup and sink into a delightful small-town mystery as riddles and rescues stack up in book one of a new cozy mystery series.
Marigold Evans’ first attempt at rescuing an abandoned pooch lands her in a drainage pipe in Brenham Texas. . .and almost in jail, until Parker Jenson comes to her rescue. Then a bad day only gets worse as the Lone Star Vet Clinic, where they both work, is vandalized and the list of suspects starts to climb. With the help of her fellow employees, Marigold sets out to simultaneously solve the crime, rehab the rescued dog, and help more dogs in crisis. But why would anyone continue to work against all their good efforts?
I thoroughly enjoyed Off the Chain by Jan Thompson. This first in a new series by Barbour, (each cozy mystery written by a different author) is a smashing success in my book. Here’s why:
Faith. I didn’t have to worry about bad language. While I love cozies, what I read is limited because of either bad language or inappropriate bedroom scenes, neither of which are present in this book, nor do I expect them in this series. This is a book and series where faith is very real part of story. There are many mentions of prayers for specific needs, and God’s answers. “Just pray about it, Marigold. God’s got an answer for you.”– I love this advice from one friend of Mari’s. As one radio counselor recently reminded her audience, ‘Instead of taking problems to everyone else, take them to God. He’s the One with the answers!’
Friends. I loved the group of vet clinic workers who actually are friends and supportive of each other. You can see that they will make a great character base in the little town (another must of a cozy) of Brenham.
Hilarity. Another cozy must-have. This one has it in spades. While situations may be ridiculous, that doesn’t stop the genuine laughter from erupting often. Score again.
Animals. Specifically, rescue dogs. And they are a main focus of the story, not just a sideline or afterthought. If you are a dog lover, this book just became irresistible for you(It will actually hook you on the first page).
Romance, loss, and an eccentric grandma. These all feature well into our novel and help round it out to be the great experience it is! Don’t miss this one!
I received a copy of this book from Celebrate Lit via NetGalley, plus I bought my own ebook. No positive review was required, and all opinions are my own.
Magnificent!! I can’t wait for the next in this great dog rescue cozy series!
About the Author
Janice Thompson, who lives in the Houston area, writes romantic comedies, cozy mysteries, nonfiction devotionals, and musical comedies for the stage. She is the mother of four daughters and nine feisty grandchildren. When she’s not writing books or taking care of foster dogs you’ll find her in the kitchen, baking up specialty cakes and cookies.
More from Janice
Dogs, dogs, and more dogs! My world is full of dogs. If you follow me on social media you’re probably overwhelmed with dog photos, but I simply can’t help myself. I’m in love with pooches of all shapes and sizes.
My fascination with dogs began when I was six years old and I got my first pup, Spunky. He was a mixed breed terrier. From that day until now I’ve had the pleasure of owning many, many pups—some purebreds, some street dogs that needed a safe place to stay, some elderly with chronic or acute health issues. I can’t get enough. They offer unconditional love, after all!
A few years back I was asked to foster for a local rescue, My Chi and Me. The rest, as they say, is history. For a quick glimpse at some photos, follow this link. You’ll see that I’m mostly enamored with small dogs. (Hey, I live in a tiny townhome and have limited space!) That said, I’m always willing to take on one more.
My most recent rescue ventures landed me squarely in the middle of a book idea: Why not use a dog story as the basis for a cozy mystery? My editor at Barbour Publishing wanted something dog-themed and I was happy to oblige. That’s where the idea for Off the Chain (and the whole Gone with the Dogsseries) came from—a simple idea involving dogs and crime.
I took the opportunity to focus solely on rescue dogs as the idea developed. These days (especially post-Covid) the need for homes for these pups is great. I linked arms with my BFF, Kathleen Y’Barbo, and together we set our series in Brenham Texas, not far from our stomping ground in the Woodlands. I felt strongly that we should merge two separate dog worlds: rescue and veterinary. (Hey, Brenham is close to A&M and they know a thing or two about veterinary training!)
Thus, the Gone with the Dogs series was born. And writing the first book, (Off the Chain), was a blast! I hyper-focused on one primary point of view character, a vet tech. (As the owner of three dogs I feel like I’m always in the vet’s office!) My stories, which is written in first person, took me back to my writing roots. I love, love, love writing in first person because I “become” the character. Fun, right?
My editors loved the book and it got some fun endorsements, so I’m excited to see what my readers think. I can’t wait to get their feedback. I hope it’s not too “Ruff!”
But, seriously. . .I’m hyped! And I’m feeling so blessed to merge my worlds—dogs and writing!
Luke Davenport has been fighting all his life–for respect, for country, and for those unable to fight for themselves. But now that his Horsemen brothers are domesticated, he’s left alone to battle the wildness within. When an opportunity arises to take a job on his own, tracking down a group of rustlers, he jumps at the chance.
Damaris Baxter has mastered the art of invisibility. Plain and quiet, she hides in books and needlework, content to be overlooked. Until her brother dies suddenly, leaving her custody of her nephew. She moves to Texas to care for Nathaniel, determined to create the family for herself that she never thought she’d have and to give him the family he desperately needs.
When Nate finds himself knee-deep in trouble, Luke’s attempt to protect him leaves Damaris feeling indebted to the Horseman. But suspicions grow regarding the mysterious death of Damaris’s brother. And the more questions they ask, the more danger appears, threatening the family Luke may be unable to live without.
In Honor’s Defense, #3 Hanger’s Horsemen, by Karen Witemeyer is the story of the fourth and final Horseman. I enjoyed the first but didn’t get a chance to read the second. This book can be read as a standalone, but you will appreciate the relationships and characters so much more, if you read the other two first.
I enjoyed the easy reading style, coupled with the romance, historical western setting, and suspense all wrapped up into one unputdownable package. Witemeyer uses humor to help drive her thoughts home and make her characters relatable and memorable. “She’d persevere, even if the thought of asserting herself among strangers delighted her as much as the prospect of being dragged behind a horse. By her hair. Through a bed of cacti.” How fun this book is!
Prayers, verses, and thoughts on spiritual matters as relates to a character’s development are smoothly woven into the story. I love the verses Witemeyer chooses to include in the story and how very apropos each one is to the situation. And how appropriate the book about “the Preach” would contain numerous Scripture references!
Damaris Baxter and Luke Davenport are two people who are polar opposites, yet life and God throw them together. Damaris has always been overlooked, but Luke’s attention and example help her develop from a wallflower into a formidable force, “Texas Damaris.” I love that kind of influence!
Luke first meets Damaris and her nephew, Nate, when he agrees to locate missing cattle for a neighboring rancher. Luke is attracted to the little struggling family who possesses a sense of home he never had. Can Luke and Damaris work together to rescue not only the ranch, but her nephew’s wayward heart? And what of their own lonely hearts?
Those who like historical fiction, a bit of a mystery, and westerns, will want to read this novel. Also, those interested in troubled youth, and the difference mercy and love can make in lives will find this book a treasure.
I received a copy of the book from the author through Celebrate Lit via NetGalley. No positive opinion was required, and all opinions are my own.
“To be chosen for herself—it was the secret desire of her heart. To be important to someone. More than a glorified servant who fetched and carried and entertained at her aunt’s whim. To be wanted truly for herself. Seen instead of invisible. Valued instead of tolerated.”
“A good boss knew his men, but no man knew another completely. Everyone had secrets.”
“Strange that she should feel more valued and cherished in the middle of an armed standoff than in the middle of her family.”
“The longer the anger lives in you, the more it erodes your soul and destroys your relationships. If you’re not careful, one day it’ll hollow you out and leave you with nothing.”
“sugarcoating danger only left a person ill-equipped to respond when it came calling.”
“Unfortunately, the law isn’t always about what is true. It’s about what you can get a judge and jury to believe is true.”
“Contentment isn’t chained to a certain set of circumstances, Luke. It’s portable. You can take it with you wherever you go.”
“…it’s that there are always more options than you see at first glance. You just might have to get a little creative in where you look for them.”
“It don’t matter how dark things look or how big your opponent is. If you believe you can win, you’re already halfway to victory.”
Magnificent!! A great conclusion to the Horsemen Series!!
About the Author
For those who love to smile as they read, bestselling author Karen Witemeyer offers warmhearted historical romance with a flair for humor, feisty heroines, and swoon-worthy Texas heroes. Voted #1 Readers’ Favorite Christian Romance Author in 2019 by Family Fiction Magazine, Karen is a multiple award-winning author and a firm believer in the power of happy endings. She is an avid cross-stitcher, tea drinker, and gospel hymn singer who makes her home in Abilene, TX with her heroic husband who vanquishes laundry dragons and dirty dish villains whenever she’s on deadline.
More from Karen
Meet Luke and Damaris
As the Hanger’s Horsemen series comes to a close, I’m thrilled to introduce you to Luke Davenport and Damaris Baxter. If you haven’t read the other books in this series, don’t worry. This one stands on its own just fine.
Luke Davenport is a former cavalry officer who is part of an elite squad of men known as Hanger’s Horsemen. Haunted by the horrors of war, this group of Texas legends has spent the last few years fighting for justice on behalf of those who cannot fight for themselves. Luke is Matthew Hanger’s right-hand man, but when Matt retires the Horsemen in favor of a more settled life with his new wife, Luke is left feeling adrift. So when a solo job comes his way to track down rustled cattle, he jumps at the opportunity.
Known for his strength, his size, and his skill with his fists, I modeled Luke after a pair of football players, Howie Long and JJ Watt. He’s a man of action with a bit of wildness inside, yet his ability to memorize Scripture earned him the nickname Preach. He’s a godly man with scars, seeking to find his place as his Horsemen brothers move on to new phases of life.
Damaris Baxter has been invisible her entire life. Plain of face and quiet of manner, she it’s the epitome of unremarkable. While she dares heroic feats and grand adventures between the covers of her favorite books, life outside the pages consists of little more than needlework and dull conversation with her great aunt. Until her brother dies under suspicious circumstances and she travels to Texas to care for her nephew. Determined that the “Texas Damaris” will be bolder and braver than her former self, she sets out to win the heart of a grieving boy and ends up mixed up in a dangerous murder plot with a handsome cowboy who actually sees her.
When creating Damaris’s character, I gave her two of my favorite hobbies—reading and cross-stitching. She shares other similarities with me as well. She’s a quiet person who dislikes making waves, but when family needs her, there’s nothing she won’t do to help. Her questionable baking skills might also have found some inspiration in my personal experience. Just ask my husband about my famous transparent chocolate chip cookies.
I love to explore what brings people together, and while it’s a common idea that opposites attract, I’ve always believed that there must be some core commonalities beneath the differences to bind a couple together for a lifetime. So, while Luke and Damaris seem to be stark opposites—he an adventure-seeking soldier used to solving problems with guns and fists; she a quiet, proper lady used to escaping problems with books and needlework—they actually have several core commonalities. They both crave belonging and family, they both value God’s Word, and they both have a strong, protective instinct toward those they care about. This core common ground is what serves as the foundation for their relationship.
Now that you’ve been introduced to Luke and Damaris, I hope you’ll join them on the adventure that leads them to love.
Jilted by her fiancé, Dawn Dixon escapes to beautiful Cape Cod on a groomless honeymoon–with her mother. But she didn’t expect her mom to risk everything, on a whim, to move there permanently or buy a rundown ice cream shop in need of repair. In order to make their new life work, they’ll also need her ex’s help.
“Never invest with your heart, only with your stomach.”
If you’re not looking for the nearest made-from-scratch ice creamery after you finish The Sweet Life by Suzanne Woods Fisher, you may not be completely human. The extensive details about ice cream making are fascinating and show Fisher’s great research/familiarity with the cold dessert. For me, this was the strongest and best part of the book.
I truly enjoyed seeing how this mother-daughter duo interacted with each other. I couldn’t decide whether I identified with Dawn or Marnie more. Each had qualities that were relatable, so I flipped back and forth, which really made me enjoy that aspect of the book.
I was a fan of the novel by its end, which is superb. However, it took me a good one-third of the book to truly care about Marnie, Dawn, Kevin, and others the way I wanted to. I felt that we were told, rather than shown, much about the characters in the first part.
Lincoln is such an endearing, encouraging person to have as a friend! If only there were more such selfless people in the world. His view on cancer is upbeat, and he holds out the light of Hope and faith to others traveling that scary path.
Great discussion questions at the end would make a book discussion group easy to lead. I am prepared for a field trip to Cape Cod, Chatham in particular!!
I received a copy of the book from Celebrate Lit through NetGalley. No positive review was required, and all opinions are my own.
“Love does not have an expiration date.”
“I’m not going to let you hemorrhage Dad’s life insurance policy on a melting ice cream cone.”
“Cancer is a wonderful teacher. If you let it, it’ll teach you lessons you never dreamed you needed to learn.”
“The most important thing Dawn expected from her ice cream was consistency—because she couldn’t expect it from the rest of her life.”
“God wants to hear those honest prayers. No filter. From the gut…”
Great! Guess what kind of shop I’m stopping at, on my next vacation!! I’ll be picturing Dawn and Marnie behind the counter!!
About the Author
With over 1.5 million copies sold, Suzanne Woods Fisher is a bestselling author of over 30 books, ranging from novels to children’s books to non-fiction. She is a Christy Award finalist, a winner of Carol and Selah awards, and a two-time finalist for ECPA Book of the Year. She writes stories that take you to places you’ve never visited—one with characters that seem like old friends. But most of all, her books give you something to think about long after you’ve finished reading it. Suzanne lives with her very big family in northern California.
More from Suzanne
The Sweet Life is a story about a mom and a daughter who, both in need of a little respite from life’s bumps and bruises, start an ice cream shop on Cape Cod…thinking it will be easy. After all, who doesn’t love ice cream?
Well, sure. That’s true. Everybody loves ice cream. But ice cream can be tricky. This I can say with authority. My husband is a serioushobby ice cream maker. He even attended Penn State’s Ice Cream School. While Steve was working on his vanilla recipe, he experimented fifty-nine times before he was finally satisfied. 59 times! Other flavors, like chocolate, can mask mistakes. Not vanilla. Too pure.
Here’s a few other things you probably didn’t know about ice cream:
The very first mention of a frozen dessert dates back to Persia in 550 BC, though it might have been sorbet-like. It’s said that Emperor Nero had ice brought down from the Apennine Mountains to produce a sorbet of honey and wine. And then there are those who insist that ice cream came out of China, and were introduced to Italy with the help of Marco Polo. Regardless of its origins, a love of ice cream has been around for a very, very long time.
Quaker colonists introduced ice cream to early America, having brought their recipes with them from England. Some argue that the French brought ice cream to America. Regardless, during the colonial era, ice cream was sold in shops in New York.
George Washington loved ice cream. So much so that he even brought ice cream making equipment to Mount Vernon! There are many accounts of “ice creem” (as it was then called) served during his administration.
First LadyDolley Madison, wife of U.S. President James Madison, served ice cream at her husband’s Inaugural Ball in 1813. Common colonial flavors were soft fruits, like peaches or strawberries, added to a vanilla custard. Dolley had a curious favorite flavor: oyster. (Ugh.)
In September of 1846, a Philadelphia house wife named Nancy Johnson filed patent #3254 for a simple hand cranked ice cream churn. Prior to this point, ice cream belonged to the wealthy. Her hand cranked ice cream churn made it affordable for everyone. Nancy Johnson’s design is still used today.
During the St. Louis World’s Fair in 1904, an ice cream vendor ran out of cardboard dishes. The vendor next door offered to make cones by rolling up his waffles. Voila! The birth of the ice cream cone.
The majority of American ice cream companies have been in business for more than 50 years. Many of them are still owned by single families.
For the last 128 years, Penn State University has held Ice Cream School for professionals and serious hobbyists during January (for obvious reasons). All the greats have attended: Baskin & Robbins, Ben & Jerry, Dreyer’s, Nestle’s, Blue Bell Creamery, Dairy Queen, and…my husband.
The most popular flavor in the world? Vanilla. Of course.
One of the Bible’s most notorious women longs for a love she cannot have in this captivating novel from the award-winning author of Isaiah’s Legacy.
“Mesu Andrews yet again proves her mastery of weaving a rich and powerful biblical story!”—Roseanna M. White, author of A Portrait of Loyalty
Before she is Potiphar’s wife, Zuleika is the daughter of a king and the wife of a prince. She rules the isle of Crete alongside her mother in the absence of their seafaring husbands. But when tragedy nearly destroys Crete, Zuleika must sacrifice her future to save the Minoan people she loves.
Zuleika’s father believes his robust trade with Egypt will ensure Pharaoh’s obligation to marry his daughter, including a bride price hefty enough to save Crete. But Pharaoh refuses and gives her instead to Potiphar, the captain of his bodyguards: a crusty bachelor twice her age, who would rather have a new horse than a Minoan wife.
Abandoned by her father, rejected by Pharaoh, and humiliated by Potiphar’s indifference, Zuleika yearns for the homeland she adores. In the political hotbed of Egypt’s foreign dynasty, her obsession to return to Crete spirals into deception. When she betrays Joseph—her Hebrew servant with the face and body of the gods—she discovers only one love is worth risking everything.
How on earth can anyone make an even semi-palatable character out of one of the most infamous women of the Bible?! Potiphar’s Wife by Mesu Andrews will open your eyes to possible reasons why this much-maligned lady acts as she does. Your attitude may be more sympathetic as you consider this well-researched historical novelty that is careful to agree with any actual Biblical truth we are provided of her and her times. Well-done, Ms. Andrews!!
This novel is unique in that it employs first-person and third-person POV’s. Only a very skillful writer can successfully carry this off, and Andrews soars with this style.
What a wonderful chance to glimpse the inner workings of an Egyptian courtroom. I loved the intrigue and the fine line between friendships and servants. Also, the relationship between friends that changes when one of them becomes Pharaoh, a god, yet obviously with human foibles.
Cultural differences are such a huge part of this breathtaking story. I kept saying, “Why doesn’t this character do this or that?” But Andrews opens my eyes to how training and environment make a huge difference in the way a person views and responds to a situation.
And the multiple love relationships within this novel are compelling. Some friend for friend, some husband for wife, some familial, some lovers. Ah… so well-depicted, yet clean enough to not feel shame for reading.
Since I have a penchant for picking favorite supporting characters, I will give two. Pushpa, Potiphar’s surrogate mother, and Ahira, who is Zuleika’s personal maid. Both are so wise, gentle, and care so much for others.
Oh, one other thing I loved that I must mention. Thank you for showing Joseph to be human, not perfect as we sometimes are either taught or caught!
I loved that the maps, glossary, and character list were all at the front!! I was also pleased with such well-organized author’s notes at the end. These were the best or at least most useful reader’s helps in a book I’ve yet read!
Thank you to NetGalley for a copy of the book. No positive review was required, and all opinions are my own.
A slave doesn’t always wear chains, nor does a master possess all power.
“No one should know everything about anything.”
“I can’t tend the wounds inside you, dear one, but they will heal. I promise. They may leave scars—ugly ones. But you can choose how those scars affect your future. Will you use the ugliest memories as the focal point, weaving every future event tightly around it with its repetitive themes? Or will you weave your scars into a larger tapestry with more variegated experiences that can comfort or instruct others?”- Pushpa
Don’t assign the sins of men to a faithful God. Elohim will never betray you, and He can protect you in ways I never could. Trust Him, Ahira.”- Joseph
“What if I don’t like your god’s plan?” She squeezed my hand. “Then we trust Him together for a future we don’t understand and perhaps see His goodness when we recount our past.”-Ahira
but let mercy and forgiveness become the ruins on which a stronger house is built.”
Sometimes God’s favor is simply a spark that keeps hope alive in utter darkness.
Trust His presence in the dark, but never stop hoping for light.
“Honesty is telling the truth. Transparency is telling the whole truth. Some are honest but become deceitful in the things they choose to hide.”— Pharaoh Khyan
5 stars because 6 are not allowed. One of the most powerful Biblical fiction novels you’ll read in 2022!!
About the Author
Mesu grew up with a variegated Christian heritage. With grandparents from the Pilgrim Holiness, Nazarene, and Wesleyan Churches, her dad was a Quaker and mom charismatic. As you might imagine, God was a central figure in most family discussions, but theology was a battlefield and Scripture the weapon. As a rebellious teenager, Mesu rejected God and His Word, but discovered Jesus as a life-transforming Savior through the changed life of an old friend.The desire for God’s Word exploded with her new commitment, but devotional time was scarce due to the demands of a young wife and mother. So Mesu scoured the only two theology books available–children’s Bible stories and her Bible. The stories she read to her daughters at night pointed her to the Bible passages she studied all day. She became an avid student of God’s Word, searching historical and cultural settings as well as ancient texts and original languages. Mesu and her husband Roy have raised those two daughters and now enjoy a tribe of grandkids, who get to hear those same Bible stories. Mesu’s love for God’s Word has never waned. She now writes biblical novels, rich with spiritual insight learned through fascinating discoveries in deep historical research.Her first novel, Love Amid the Ashes (Revell)–the story of Job and the women who loved him–won the 2012 ECPA Book of the Year in the Debut Author Category. Her subsequent novels have released with high praise, shedding light on some of the shadowy women of Scripture. Love’s Sacred Song (Revell, 2012) tells the story of the beloved shepherdess in King Solomon’s Song of Solomon. Love in a Broken Vessel (Revell, 2013) tells the story of Hosea and Gomer and is the final stand-alone novel in the Treasures of His Love Series. Her fourth novel, In the Shadow of Jezebel (Revell, 2014) tells the fascinating story of Queen Athaliah and the courageous Princess Jehosheba. The Treasures of the Nile series (Waterbrook/Multnomah, 2015-16) included The Pharaoh’s Daughter and Miriam and spanned Moses’ life from birth to the Exodus. Her 2017 release, Isaiah’s Daughter (Waterbrook/Multnomah), begins the Prophets and Kings series and explores the life and ministry of the prophet Isaiah and the tumultuous days of Judah under kings Ahaz and Hezekiah. But its focus is on the woman Hephzibah–a fascinating character in Jewish legends. OF FIRE AND LIONS, Book #2 in Prophets and Kings (WaterBrook/Multnomah), released in 2019 and tells the familiar childhood stories of Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego in the technicolor detail of grown-up research and awareness of Babylon’s splendor. 2020 holds #3 in the P&K series and the conclusion to Hephzibah’s story, ISAIAH’S LEGACY, when Andrews introduces King Manasseh to her readers and describes the most wicked king of Judah’s stunning prodigal story. In 2022, readers will meet POTIPHAR’S WIFE, who pursued and falsely accused Joseph, one of Scripture’s greatest heroes. Joseph will, however, save all of Egypt and realize God’s greater plan, IN FEAST OR FAMINE, that releases in 2023.Mesu and her husband live in the Appalachian Mountains. She loves Jesus, coffee, her dog, and time with her grandkids–not necessarily in that order.
Full of intrigue, adventure, and romance, this new series celebrates the unsung heroes—the heroines of WWII.
With her father in a German POW camp and her home in Ste Mere Eglise, France, under Nazi occupation, Rosalie Barrieau will do anything to keep her younger brother safe. . .even from his desire to join the French resistance. Until she falls into the debt of a German solder—one who delivers a wounded British pilot to her door. Though not sure what to make of her German ally, Rosalie is thrust deep into the heart of the local underground. As tensions build toward the allied invasion of Normandy, she must decide how much she is willing to risk for freedom.
An impossible situation in WWII France. A German soldier helping his French enemies. A young French boy, not quite man, deeply involved in the Resistance. His older, beautiful sister wants nothing but to pacify the Germans,certainly not to engage the enemy. What difference could one person make?
In A Rose for the Resistance, Angela K Couch brings to vivid life the danger and deprivation of occupied France. The hatred each opposing group held for each other, the inability to see the humanity of one for the deeds of the whole group. At one point, Franz tells Rosalie, “But I am not this uniform.” Can Rosalie look past his hair, his complexion, and see his heart? A timely question for our country and times.
I enjoyed seeing how Couch slowly lets the reader see what events and traumas of the past formed Rosalie and Franz into who they are when we meet them. I also appreciated the considerable growth of both characters throughout the book. The suspense is real, and fear seems omnipresent. Franz is afraid, maybe more than others. “I’m not ready to meet God. The truth of it settled, heavy in Franz’s chest. It really wasn’t death he feared. Truthfully, death might even be a release from the misery of this world. But to stand and be judged by God? His hands were too stained for that.”
Someone we never see during the book was my fave character. How could he not be?!! Rosalie keeps having flashbacks to her father’s tender ways and times with her. He taught her in small bits of teachable moments and assured her of his love. A father’s steady love can mirror the Father’s love for His children.
I cannot imagine the bleakness of an occupied land. I could understand why Rosalie felt useless against the evil in her land. Yet, she would learn the truth of these words:
“No one soldier will win this war. But each is needed for victory.”
While the Nazis could take their crops, ration their food, and change the future she had expected, Rosalie discovers a shining light amidst the darkness. “‘Don’t give up hope,’ she whispered. That was the one thing the Nazis could not take from her unless she allowed them.”
Hope spurred on by faith. Why these stories of WWII are so powerful and worth reading!
I received a copy of this book from the author and publisher through Celebrate Lit via NetGalley. No positive review was required, and all opinions are my own.
Magnificent!! Hope Shines in the Darkest Times!
About the Author
To keep from freezing in the great white north, Angela K Couch cuddles under quilts with her laptop. Winning short story contests, being a semi-finalist in ACFW’s Genesis Contest, and a finalist in the 2016 International Digital Awards also helped warm her up. As a passionate believer in Christ, her faith permeates the stories she tells. Her martial arts training, experience with horses, and appreciation for good romance sneak in as well. When not writing, she stays fit (and toasty warm) by chasing after four munchkins.
More from Angela
The story of A Rose for the Resistance has been in the making for a while. Rosalie and Franz came to life for me in the first novel I started writing as a teenager… (not even going to mention how long ago that was). Though much of that early work will never see the light of day, I am glad I can finally share them with you.
Every November 11th since I was a child, I would sit with my dad and watch WWII documentaries and movies like A Bridge too Far, or The Longest Day which featured Sainte-Mère-Église during the D-day landings. So many of those stories beg to be remembered and I tried to include as much as I could in this novel, even in passing. Stories such as John Steele of the 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment who dropped into the warzone of Sainte-Mère-Église that night and his chute caught on the spire of the church. He hung limply for hours, pretending to be dead, before the Germans took him prisoner. John later escaped and rejoined his division. Or, Henry Langrehr who landed five miles from his drop zone, crashing through a greenhouse on the way down. He was unharmed from the fall, but was later wounded and captured. He lived into his nineties to tell the tale.
Many of the events and deeds of The Resistance in the novel are also pulled from history. The French citizen’s willingness to risk their lives to transport weapons and information, and to staunchly resist the brutal German occupation. It is estimated that approximately 90,000 men women – and children – were killed, tortured, or deported by the Germans for their efforts.
Though many of the characters in this story are fictional, there are so many men and women who truly did live through the horrors of the War in Europe, and more importantly risked or sacrificed their all for the freedom and lives of others.
Charlotte Anne Mattas longs to turn back the clock. Before her husband, Sam, went to serve his country in the war, he was the man everyone could rely on–responsible, intelligent, and loving. But the person who’s come back to their family farm is very different from the protector Annie remembers. Sam’s experience in the Pacific theater has left him broken in ways no one can understand–but that everyone is learning to fear.
Tongues start wagging after Sam nearly kills his own brother. Now when he claims to have seen men on the mountain when no one else has seen them, Annie isn’t the only one questioning his sanity and her safety. If there were criminals haunting the hills, there should be evidence beyond his claims. Is he really seeing what he says, or is his war-tortured mind conjuring ghosts?
Annie desperately wants to believe her husband. But between his irrational choices and his nightmares leaking into the daytime, she’s terrified he’s going mad. Can she trust God to heal Sam’s mental wounds–or will sticking by him mean keeping her marriage at the cost of her own life?
Debut novelist Janyre Tromp delivers a deliciously eerie, Hitchcockian story filled with love and suspense. Readers of psychological thrillers and historical fiction by Jaime Jo Wright and Sarah Sundin will add Tromp to their favorite authors list.
“Sometimes God uses broken things to save us … Ain’t no light that can get through something solid. It sneaks through the broken places.”
Broken… that is what so many characters are, in Janyre Tromp’s debut novel, Shadows in the Mind’s Eye. WWII is over, but as the surviving men return home, many face the kind of difficulties that own Sam Mattas and his family.
Wives and other family not going to war attempt to keep the family homestead going, waiting their men’s return. When Sam Mattas reappears, his wife and family are left to wonder how to navigate the much less-than-ideal situation God allows. Is God still to be trusted? Does God have a plan for this mess?
This psychological thriller is immersed in the Southern mountain culture, with the heart of truth only revealed after much emotional upheaval (including on the reader’s part!) First person narrative, alternating between Sam and Annie, made me want to choose sides, then switch repeatedly until my head was spinning. Characters are so multi-faceted and fluid that I found myself identifying with even some of the “villains.” I must admit this novel reminded me of some great classics- not easy to enter into for awhile, but once I did, I felt like I had discovered a treasure by the end!
My favorite character is Dovie May. Elderly, life has not been kind to her, yet she remains full of faith, optimism, and encouragement for others to keep pressing forward. Wisdom is certainly on her tongue.
I received a copy of this book from the I Read with Audra Tour via NetGalley. No positive review is required, and all opinions are my own.
So many, but I will give my fave:
“We think everything eventually goes back to what we want it be. That everything’ll be happy and familiar, the good winning. We never want to travel beyond the point where everybody’s happy. But life’s everything after, and the question is, what are you going to do with the truth life drops in your lap?”
Magnificent!! Fabulous Psychological Thriller of WWII Era
About the Author
Janyre Tromp is a historical novelist whose loves spinning tales that, at their core, hunt for beauty, even when it isn’t pretty. She’s the author of Shadows in the Mind’s Eye and coauthor of It’s a Wonderful Christmas.
She’s also a book editor, published children’s book author, and lives in Grand Rapids, Michigan with her family, two crazy cats, and a slightly eccentric Shetland Sheepdog. And if you ever meet in person, you pronounce that first name Jan-ear.
In Shadows in the Mind’s Eye (Kregel Publications),debut novelist Janyre Tromp delivers a deliciously eerie, Hitchcockian story filled with love and suspense as she takes readers back in time to 1940s Hot Springs, Arkansas.
Charlotte Anne Mattas longs to turn back the clock. Before her husband, Sam, went to serve his country in the war, he was the man everyone could rely on—responsible, intelligent, and loving. But the person who came back to their family farm is very different from the protector Annie remembers. Sam’s experience in the Pacific theater has left him broken in ways no one can understand—but that everyone is learning to fear.
When Sam claims to have seen men on the mountain when no one else has, Annie isn’t the only one questioning his sanity and her safety. If there were criminals haunting the hills, there should be evidence. Is he really seeing what he says, or is his war-tortured mind conjuring ghosts?
Annie desperately wants to believe her husband, but between his irrational choices and his nightmares leaking into the daytime, she’s terrified he’s going mad. Can she trust God to heal Sam’s mental wounds—or will sticking by him mean keeping her marriage at the cost of her own life?
Q: The back of the book describes Shadows in the Mind’s Eye as, “A deliciously eerie, Hitchcockian story filled with love and suspense.” In your own words, introduce us to your debut novel.
Charlotte Anne Mattas wants to go back to the way things were before her husband, Sam, left their farm for the war in the Pacific. Sam used to be her protector, but when he arrives home in Spring of 1946, his battle fatigue has everyone questioning his sanity and her safety… especially after he nearly kills his brother, then claims to see men on the mountain where no else has seen them. Are there really dangerous men on the mountain or is his twisted mind conjuring things that aren’t there?
In the tradition of Hitchcock with a hint of psychological thriller, In the Mind’s Eye explores the illness we now call PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder) and persistent love in a world determined to destroy it.
Q: Sam and Charlotte Anne both expected life to go back to normal when he returned from the war, but that doesn’t exactly happen. How was life post-war different from what they expected? How does each of them respond to those differences?
This story actually began while talking to my grandparents over a glass of lemonade. My U.S. History professor had given us an assignment to talk to family about the Depression and/or World War II. Until that point, I’d had no real concept of what the war was like, either for the soldiers or their families back home. I guess I’d thought that the greatest generation slid back into life and easily became the loving people I knew my grandparents were in their 70s. When I discovered that wasn’t the case, I wondered how they had survived the fear and drastic changes.
Like my grandfather, Sam glorified the home front, anticipating a glorious homecoming, delicious food, a soft bed, and an easier life.Charlotte Anne expected Sam to quickly become part of the teamagain as they worked their peach orchard. Instead, Sam has nightmares and reacts to food he used to love (I even gave Sam a reaction to orange marmalade just like my grandfather). Sam tends to jump to conclusions because he doesn’t understand the context, struggles with the physicality of farm work, and is overwhelmed with the amount of work that has to be done since Charlotte Anne wasn’t able to do a lot of the upkeep.
At first, neither Sam nor Annie knows quite what to do with one another, but they’re determined to understand each other.Eventually they each open up to Sam’s mom, Dovie May, and she becomes a healing balm for each of them. If I had to give Dovie a theme, it would be: “You’d think holding joy right up against sadness would shatter a body. But it don’t. Joy, it sneaks in all around, sticks everything together, and finds a way to make you whole. See, light sneaks through the broken places.”
Q: In our current day, we are very aware of what PTSD is, and that it is very prevalent among men and women who have been in the military and seen war. What was known about PTSD back in the 1940s after World War II?
Although the general population didn’t shame WWII soldiers with PTSD symptoms as much as they did their WWI counterparts, WWII era doctors knew little about how to treat trauma of any kind. Battle fatigue, as it was known then, was treated with electroshock therapy (something that was terrifying and had limited success), and many of the men who suffered from it were often divorced, angry, confused, and quietly addicted to drugs and alcohol. Of course, I didn’t want to leave Sam and Annie here, so I dug for treatment options and talked with a few modern therapists.
In my research, those who fared best were often those who lived a little off the grid, in places where they could be physically active, with people who loved them and gave them the space to remove themselves when necessary. Sam also stumbles on a bit of a modern treatment technique by accident. Most folks have heardthat going for a walk can help with mental stability. What isn’t as familiar is that the rhythm of walking combined with talking can actually replicate bits and pieces of EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) therapy which is one of the most successful battlefield PTSD treatments.
Q: What are some struggles Sam deals with upon returning home to Hot Springs? Is he able to hide what is going on from those closest to him or does it become apparent to everyone around him?
Sam’s reactions to “normal” stimulus are off the charts. If he hears a sound or sees a shadow, he immediately jumps into fight/flight/freeze reactions. As is normal for people when they’re first dealing with PTSD, he has no tools to hide his responses and lacks a bit of impulse control. He’s a good, good man with an enormous heart and his reactions cause a horrendous amount of guilt for him. The last thing he wants is to put the people he loves in danger.
As the story progresses and circumstances continue to slide sideways, Sam faces his own mental instability. Imagine watching yourself become more and more unstable and wondering if there’s anything you can do to stop it.
Q: Sam claims to see and hear things going on around him that no one else does. How does Annie deal with what’s going on with her husband?
At first Annie is supportive of her husband and backs him up. She lists all the reasons she believes him: He’s a man she has always trusted. He’s amazing with his daughter. He’s gentle and kind and strong. Unfortunately, circumstances continue to prove that Sam is unstable, and she’s forced to question his sanity. She is rightfully terrified and confused.
To deal with her husband’s instability, she leans on her family—Sam’s mom and brother. They give Annie perspective and help with both the emotional and physical toll of working through unexpected circumstances. One of the things I’m most proud of in Annie is that she doesn’t allow Sam to abuse her even by accident. She holds the line and doesn’t budge from that. It’s something I hope all people do for themselves. That said, Sam is horrified by the fact that he hurt Annie in his sleep and refuses to put her in any further danger. But he also doesn’t give up.
Q: Hot Springs, Arkansas, is an unusual setting for a book. How did you choose the location and how does it play into the story?
Even though the book idea started with wondering how my grandparents’ marriage survived the pressure of war, the book isn’t biographical. So, I needed a setting other than my grandparents’ hometown. For the characters that I was building, I needed a small town. When one of my good friends told me she had an entire book of stories from her family in Arkansas, I jumped at the chance to read first-hand history. Amongst the Hughes family stories, I acquired the basis for Dovie May and Hot Springs, Arkansas—home to the largest illegal gambling racket in the country.
Well, I don’t have to tell you that mobsters and illegal activity are an excellent backdrop for a story with a bit of suspense. The book The Bookmaker’s Daughter by Shirley Abbott confirmed that Hot Springs mobsters operated with full permission of the authorities. In Shirley’s stories, I also discovered the foundation for Charlotte Anne’s father. All of which gave me a location and a cast of characters that could stoke Sam’s fears and make everyone (including the reader) wonder whether or not he was crazy.
Q: What kind of research did you do on the effects of war during that time period? What sparked the inspiration for that part of the story?
As I mentioned, the initial interest came from my grandparents and their stories. But PTSD is also something I’ve struggled with for years. I had some childhood trauma that I worked through back in college. I started writing this book using the nightmares and struggles I had as a kid. Then my daughter became very, very illwhich sparked a new trauma all its own.
That said, battlefield PTSD has different components than the trauma I suffered. To research that, I had several long conversations with a friend who treats battlefield PTSD. She’s the one who reminded me that EMDR is, in essence, any activity thatuses bilateral stimulation to trigger both sides of the brain—thus the positive effects of walking and wide-open spaces. I also read Soldiers from the War Returning by Thomas Childers to get an idea of the authentic story of the men returning from war; The Body Keeps the Score by Bessel van der Kolk, M.D. for how PTSD affects the brain and body; and Wounded Warrior, Wounded Home by Marshele Carter Waddell and Kelly K. Orr, PhD, ABPP to understand the battlefield specific emotional wounds, and how that affects a warrior’s family.
Q: An author often writes part of herself into the story, or at least something she knows about. How have you been affected by PTSD?
There have been long stretches of my life where I was all too familiar with debilitating fear. I still have occasional flashes from my childhood, the rush of adrenaline causing my pulse to pound and hands to shake. I was terrified to have kids, to be the one responsible for their physical/mental/emotional wellbeing. The last thing I wanted was for them to have the same problems I had. But, as Dovie May says, “The best place for miracles is where we don’t fully believe, where our believing has run out.” My husband, Chris, and his family, as well as my good friend, Sarah De Mey,and my mom (who worked hard to get help), have been amazing role models for me as I navigate what it looks like to raise emotionally healthy kids.
All that peace came crashing down when my daughter became ill. She was hospitalized seven times over a few months’ time and the doctors had no idea what caused her illness. After months of visiting doctors to find out why my thirteen-year-old daughter was experiencing increasing abdominal pain, she collapsed at school. What followed was a living nightmare. Doctors found her abdominal cavity full of a fungal infection that quickly went septic. That was the first time we almost lost her. Months later, she’d lost more than forty pounds, and both she and I were wracked with nightmares, an inability to drive anywhere near the hospital, or be in a room with needles. To this day, I can’t smell rubbing alcohol without my body responding with panic.
On paper she should not have survived, and I can’t describe the immense fear that comes from the Pediatric ICU or a parade of doctors. My girl is doing great now, but I don’t think it’s a coincidence that I didn’t finish the book, and hadn’t found the path to hope until after my daughter had walked out of the hospital for the last time.
I’m enormously grateful for EMDR, my therapist, and the grace of God that much of my fear is gone.
Q: The novel includes a good deal of discussion about the nature of evil and the character of God. The characters acknowledge that God doesn’t stop bad things from happening. How do they reconcile the hurt and pain in their lives with their concept of a loving God?
The problem of pain is one that even the best and brightest theologians and thinkers don’t have a perfect answer for. There are pat answers—God uses hard things to make us better or God walks with us through our pain. But when I was in the hospital, totally overwhelmed and crying in the bathroom so my daughter wouldn’t hear me, the easy answers didn’t help. And so I (and my characters) often sit with C. S. Lewis saying, “I never knew grief felt so much like fear.” Fear is the great consumer. Sam is afraid he’s going crazy and that he can’t protect his family. Annie is afraid she won’t ever be able to cope, and that the Sam she marriedis lost forever. And when they (or we) focus on fear, there are no solutions, no ways to move forward because they cannot solve fear on their own. We aren’t trustworthy enough or strong enough to fix it.
And so what do we do?
In the story, Sam says, “If you pop in the middle of the story, you might just mistake the hero for a failure or worse, a monster. But it’s the scrabbling out of trouble and finding the truth deep inside him that transforms that character into a hero of light and goodness.” In essence, “Remember that it ain’t over until it’s over.” I’m a huge proponent of looking for and celebrating the beautiful even when it isn’t pretty. Gratitude isn’t a pretty bandage to slap on a hemorrhaging wound. It is a way to shift your attention while the master healer does his work.
Annie and Sam find their way to gratitude—for simple joys of a birthday Karo nut pie, collard greens, the sunrise, and mostly the people in their lives. Their determination to be the good in each other’s lives is what slowly, over time, turns their attention away from the shadows and back on the life they have. As Dovie May says, “Sometimes God uses broken things to save us . . . Ain’t no light that can get through something solid. It sneaks through the broken places.” It isn’t immediate. And it isn’t easy. But the sunrise always follows the dark night.
Q: How does the imagery of light and darkness, especially in a spiritual sense, weave throughout the story?
Early in the story, Annie says, “A body can hide where the light was closed out, but the devils can hide there just as easy.” The temptation for both Annie and Sam (and all of us, really) is to either give up (wallow in the darkness) or to run away from it (which only keeps us in the darkness longer). While wallowing or running seem like easier choices, they’re also dangerous and far more painful in the long run. Both Sam and Annie try to fight the darkness alone, each not quite trusting anyone else.
Throughout the book, they both learn that the dark places are really where strength starts. Since Sam and Annie are farmers, they come to think of it in terms of seeds. “There ain’t no growth without darkness. You know that better’n most. If you throw a seed atop the soil, it’ll get snatched away by the wind or the birds. You gottabury it in the good, rich soil, and then it’s gotta split open afore it can grow. . .. We were all made to grow and stretch into the sunlight.”
Q: You’ve been on the publisher’s side of things for many years, both in marketing and as an editor working with authors. Have you always wanted to write as well? Has anything surprised you being on the author side?
I didn’t start writing or really even think about being a writer until a few years into my career as the marketing manager for a publisher. I actually started college as a chemistry major and ended up as an English major by default. There’s a whole story in hereabout me being a sassy know-it-all seventeen-year-old punk, and my mom being right. But suffice it to say, the major change was me heeding my mom’s advice to do what I loved (reading).
Anyway, I was freelancing for our editorial department, and our managing editor asked me if I would consider writing a book. It sounded interesting. I wrote a short novel for the middle schoolers I mentored at my church, then I did a few picture books for my daughter, and then I took a long break to raise my kids. When I found time to write a book again, it was so life-giving, I don’t even have words to describe it. I was hooked.
But let me tell you that being an author has changed drastically in the last decade. There’s a much heavier load to lift for authors now—both in terms of tracking story trends and marketing. But it’s also easier than ever to be in contact with readers. I absolutely adore the opportunity to chat with folks about their lives on Facebook, see their pictures on Instagram, and just talk books with the world. It’s crazy to me that I can chat with friends in California and Australia and South Africa and Brazil just by typing (or speaking) into a little box on a screen. I will forever love technology for that.
The writing community also took me by surprise. I don’t think I’ve ever been in a varied group as welcoming and helpful as this group. They’ve been a tremendous support as I’ve worked through edits and marketing and all the highs and lows that come with publishing. There’s so much love and joy there. Julie Cantrell, Rachel McDaniel, Janine Rosche, Susie Finkbeiner, J’nellCiesielski, and so many more have been absolutely amazing.