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Murmur in the Mudcaves by Kathleen Denly Review and Giveaway

About the Book

Book: Murmur in the Mudcaves

Author: Kathleen Denly

Genre: Christian Historical Romance

Release date: May 16, 2023

He came to cook for ranch hands, not three single women.

Gideon Swift, a visually impaired Civil War Veteran, responds to an ad for a ranch cook in the Southern California desert mountains. He wants nothing more than to forget his past and stay in the kitchen where he can do no harm. But when he arrives to find his employer murdered, the ranch turned to ashes, and three young women struggling to survive in the unforgiving Borrego Desert, he must decide whether his presence protects them or places them in greater danger.

Bridget “Biddie” Davidson finally receives word from her older sister who disappeared with their brother and pa eighteen years prior, but the news is not good. Determined to help her family, Biddie sets out for a remote desert ranch with her adopted father and best friend. Nothing she finds there is as she expected, including the man who came to cook for the shambles of a ranch.

When tragedy strikes, the danger threatens not only her plans to help her sister, but her own dreams for the future—with the man who’s stolen her heart.

Click here to get your copy!

About the Author

Kathleen Denly lives in sunny Southern California with her loving husband, four young children, and two cats. As a member of the adoption and foster community, children in need are a cause dear to her heart and she finds they make frequent appearances in her stories. When she isn’t writing, researching, or caring for children, Kathleen spends her time reading, visiting historical sites, hiking, and crafting.

More from Kathleen

The Making of a Hero

Picture in your mind the typical male rancher or cowboy. Can you see him? If we’re going for the full stereotype, you’re looking at a tall, handsome man who is, above all, strong. Particularly in the nineteenth century, it takes strength to build a house, install fencing, chop wood, haul water, heft hay bales, and most of all manage cattle. Not to mention the 101 other things it takes to start and keep a ranch running. 

Now consider the aftermath of the American Civil War. Many men never returned from the battlefields, and those who did often returned with injuries that would remain with them the rest of their lives. Some would suffer chronic pain until the day they died. 

In considering whose story I wanted to tell next, I wondered about that last group of men in the context of running a ranch. How could a seriously injured man, suffering chronic pain, keep his ranch going in an era where able-bodied men were more difficult to find? And what about those whose ranches were too new and small to support the cost of hiring help? 

This was the beginning of my inspiration for Gideon Swift–a Civil War Veteran still struggling daily with the consequences of having gone to war, ten years after his injuries sent him home. 

Raised to believe true men were strong and weak men were next-to useless, Gideon’s identity is shattered when an explosion leaves him with brain damage that causes recurring migraines with aura and the loss of periphery vision in one eye. For those unfamiliar, a migraine with aura is a severe headache preceded or accompanied by sensory disturbances called aura. Examples of such disturbances include flashes of light, blind spots, general blurry vision, and blurry or shimmery lines in vision. There can also be speech or language difficulty, muscle weakness, and/or numbness or tingling in one side of a person’s face, one hand, or one limb. Gideon experiences most of these at different times, but his most common sensory disturbance is a curled shimmery line that appears in his vision. 

He is further humbled by a series of tragic losses partially triggered by his medical condition. These are the events that send him to California, determined never to work with cattle again, and never to marry.

I am often asked how much of myself I put into my characters. In Gideon’s case, I modeled his pain partially after my own. While I have no peripheral vision loss, nor brain damage, I do have recurring migraines. In my case, these are brought about by my menstrual cycle and only occasionally involve aura symptoms. Still, these severe headaches have lasted from a mere hour, up to nearly a week, and are frequently beyond anything my medications can alleviate. Too often, this pain leaves me unable to function. If I’m lucky I can sleep through it. If not, I lay awake in a darkened room for hours with pain preventing me from drifting into blissful unconsciousness. Nauseousness, foggy thinking, dizziness, and exhaustion are frequently parts of my experience. I have also experienced one-sided tingling numbness and the same curly, shimmering line that Gideon experiences. Yet, I know others who have far worse migraines. So, in describing Gideon’s episodes, I combined my own experiences with those of family and friends whom I have witnessed suffering. 

Through Murmur in the Mud Caves, we see how God works in Gideon’s life and heart to remind him of where his true value and strength come from. It is my hope that his journey will touch the hearts of readers and encourage them in whatever trials they may be facing. We are never alone. Whatever God brings us to, He will bring us through. He loves us and has a good purpose for everything we endure in this life, even when we cannot understand His reasons.

My Impressions

“If you doubt God’s forgiveness, then it seems to me, you’ve been listening to the wrong voice. “

Kathleen Denly brings us back to eastern San Diego County, CA, in Murmur in the Mudcaves(#4 Chaparral Hearts). The year is 1873, and Biddie Davidson, whose adoptive parents and story we read in a previous book, has become a young woman, ready to start her own bakery. But God and her biological sister, Ginny Baker, whom she hasn’t seen since she was four, have other plans for her, or at least, in Ginny’s case, her money.

Biddie meets the war-damaged hero, Gideon Swift, when he shows up to cook for Oliver Baker and his ranch, neither still in existence. When Gideon discovers three women in the middle of the desert with no real shelter, his sense of gentlemanliness will not let him leave the three women alone. But can a man who is damaged from the war really be the protector the women need in this wild place? Gideon has a lot to learn about blaming himself for circumstances beyond his control and also about forgiving himself for false guilt. I love one of the characters who ends up helping him learn this!! Not one I would have imagined.

I love the way Matthew helps interpret Scripture correctly for Gideon, both stealing his argument that he wasn’t strong enough and and offering hope for his spiritual condition as well. That’s what Jesus does. While He may or may not offer physical healing, that healing is never without spiritual healing also offered freely.

I did question one part of the story. “Even as kids, Ginny had always felt she had something to prove.” How would Biddie have understood this at 4 yrs old, since that was the last time she had seen her sister?

I liked that there are some issues and relationships left unresolved, and we are promised another book. I really hope Ginny and Clyve get their own story. Clyve slowly morphed into my fave secondary character. Denly drew him such that I despised him at first, so that is really saying something!

Of course, sometimes Denly just makes me smile. For example: “Biddie could talk a camel into trying to swim the Gulf of Mexico.” What a great word picture!!

With great discussion questions at the end and Denly’s obvious research, Murmur in the Mudcaves is a book I recommend. The Chapparal Hearts Series should probably be read in order.

Notable Quotables:

“God’s voice convicts us when we’ve done wrong, but it sounds like you’ve been living with a heap of shame clogging your ears.”

“Being a man isn’t about what you can’t do, it’s about what you choose to do.”

My Rating

⭐⭐⭐⭐

Blog Stops

lakesidelivingsite, May 17

Debbie’s Dusty Deliberations, May 18

Books You Can Feel Good About, May 18

Texas Book-aholic, May 19

Locks, Hooks and Books, May 20

For Him and My Family, May 20

Melissa’s Bookshelf, May 21

Connie’s History Classroom, May 21

Babbling Becky L’s Book Impressions, May 22

Betti Mace, May 22

Truth and Grace Homeschool Academy, May 23

Madi’s Musings, May 23

Pause for Tales, May 24

Happily Managing a Household of Boys, May 25

Kristina Hall, May 25

Vicky Sluiter, May 26

Blossoms and Blessings, May 26

Blogging With Carol, May 27

Gina Holder, Author and Blogger, May 28 (Author Interview)

Mary Hake, May 28

Cover Lover Book Review, May 29

Holly’s Book Corner, May 30

Karen Baney Reviews, May 30

Giveaway

To celebrate her tour, Kathleen is giving away the grand prize package of 1 set of beautifully engraved, metal measuring spoons, 1 pouch of “Baking Day” potpourri, 1 Cat and Mouse kitchen timer, 1 vintage wooden sign with Christian encouragement message, 1 Cowboy Hat cookie cutter with recipe for Cowboy Sugar Cookies, 1 Kitchen towel that reads, “This Home is our Happily Ever After”, and 1 Kathleen Denly engraved pen!!

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/2606f/murmur-in-the-mudcaves-celebration-tour-giveaway

BLOG, Celebrate Lit Tour, Favorite, Kindle

Spines and Leaves by Chautona Havig Review and Giveaway

About the Book

Book: Spines & Leaves

Author: Chautona Havig

Genre: FICTION / CHRISTIAN / WOMENS FICTION / ROMANCE

Release date: July 8, 2021

Spines-Leaves

 Books are the strings that tie hearts together. 

With a month to get from Orange County, California to Delaware for his next corporate challenge, Milton Coleridge decides to spend a week at Joshua Tree National Park.

He never expected to find a floundering bookstore in need of his particular business skills. Will his methods of saving companies from bankruptcy or takeover work on such a small scale? And can he convince two people to risk their hearts?

Step into the Spines & Leaves, Tamarisk, California’s oldest (and only ever) bookstore. Come in out of the harsh, desert sun and wind and peruse all the store has to offer. It might just be more than you think.

One man, one store, thousands of books.  What’ll it take to keep this bookstore from becoming a book ghost town… and what’ll it take for Milton to tie two heartstrings together?

Spine & Leaves is the introductory novella to the Bookstrings series.

Click here to get your copy!

My Impressions

Whew!! Spines and Leaves by Chautona Havig is a not-to-be missed, fun ride involving a barely surviving, desert bookstore. The town of Tamarisk has almost nothing going for it, with several defunct stores and a few residences in the middle of Joshua Tree National Forest. But, wait! There’s a bookstore! Only a reader would understand how strong that pull is to Milton Coleridge as he enters with his parrotlet. We meet Mercedes, the daughter of the owner, who is managing the store until her ill father can get back on his feet. We see Marcus Mendez, a police officer who hides his feelings for Mercedes as he strives to protect his heart. We begin to see the makings of a love triangle between Marcus, Mercedes, and Milton.

Chautona Havig plays this triangle up well. I wanted to choose one man over the other, but couldn’t. Just as I would choose “Team Marcus” or “Team Milton,” the other would pull ahead by some act or word.

If you’ve never read Havig’s work before, this book is a good place to start. Havig brings her signature style with literature allusions, a touch of romance, plenty of snark and wit, faith lessons, and surprising twists that will keep you reading till the last word.

I received a copy of the book from Celebrate Lit. No positive review was required and all opinions are my own.

Notable Quotables:

“‘Where is human nature so weak as in the bookstore?’”

“Just reminding myself that God’s goodness doesn’t disappear when things seem like they’re going all wrong.”

Mercedes’ heart sighed. I could have fallen for a guy like that… if stupid Marcus hadn’t been here first. Her head said she could choose to love whoever she wanted. Her heart stuck out its tongue and went, “Ptttthtt.” Heart won. Again.

Book people understand each other. There are special connections between bookworms that might exist between football fans or movie buffs, but I doubt it is the same.”

My Rating

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Magnificent!! Book Lover’s Paradise- both the Story and the Store!!

About the Author

USA Today Bestselling author of Aggie and Past Forwardseries, Chautona Havig lives in an oxymoron, escapes into imaginary worlds that look startlingly similar to ours and writes the stories that emerge. An irrepressible optimist, Chautona sees everything through a kaleidoscope of It’s a Wonderful Life sprinkled with fairy tales. Find her at chautona.com and say howdy—if you can remember how to spell her name.

More from Chautona

The more I think about it, the more I realize that the Bookstrings series is a process rather than an idea. Each time I saw an indie bookstore close, each time I went in one with no one else in there for the hour or two I browsed, and each time I heard book lovers lament the lack of a store in their town… Yeah. Those experiences slowly grew into a wish—one where I knew how to rescue those stores from extinction. So maybe that’s a bit melodramatic, but that’s how it felt.

Somewhere in the midst of all that, Milton appeared—a business genius who, along with his faithful parrotlet, Atticus (not Finch), travels the country saving corporations from takeover or bankruptcy.

Milton went through several iterations. Older, balding, mustache, and always wearing a golfer’s cap. Then I had him as a young hipster dude who got sick of the rat race on Wall Street and took off on his own, using what he’d learned. That just felt too cliché.

Instead, I have a forty-ish guy who wears chinos and oxford shirts with topsiders, shorter than most men, and with a nonchalant air about him. And charm. The quiet guy with serious business skills just oozes quiet charm.

After deciding on Milton, I had to choose where to put the stores. I’ve been watching out for towns for years—using trips different places as research times. Would I create places that felt like real towns or use actual small towns? Though drawn to real towns, I had an idea for where to end the series, and, doing that meant a fictional town. Would it be weird to have four or five books set in small towns across America followed by a final fictional one?

The solution came to me as I learned that the Mosaic authors were doing a summer collection in 2021. If I started with a novella and ended the series with both in a fictional town, at least that fictional bit wouldn’t be out of the blue!

So, the Bookstrings series has two novellas and five full-length novels. (I couldn’t resist a Christmas “noella” in the charming town of Noel, Missouri—the “Christmas City.”) We’ll be off to other small towns around the country—one in Red Wing, Minnesota, another in Berne, Indiana, and one somewhere between Kingsport, Tennessee and Traveler’s Rest, South Carolina. If I can find a place in New England, that’d be great, too. Or maybe down in Mississippi… I’d love to visit my sister down there.

The Bookstrings series books all have one very important thing in common (aside from Milton and Atticus, of course). They all illustrate that books truly are the strings that tie hearts together.

Blog Stops

Babbling Becky L’s Book Impressions, April 26

Texas Book-aholic, April 26

Lots of Helpers, April 27

Mary Hake, April 27

Debbie’s Dusty Deliberations, April 28

By the Book, April 29

Truth and Grace Homeschool Academy, April 29

The Avid Reader, April 30

Vicky Sluiter, May 1

For Him and My Family, May 2

Miriam Jacob, May 2

Inklings and notions, May 3

Blogging With Carol, May 4

deb’s Book Review, May 4

She Lives To Read, May 5

Ashley’s Clean Book Reviews, May 6

Simple Harvest Reads, May 6 (Guest Review from Donna Cline)

Because I said so — and other adventures in Parenting, May 7

Library Lady’s Kid Lit, May 8

Pause for Tales, May 8

Locks, Hooks and Books, May 9

Giveaway

To celebrate her tour, Chautona is giving away the grand prize package of a $25 Amazon 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/1d0b3/spines-leaves-celebration-tour-giveaway