Anne Norris moved to Savannah, Georgia, for a fresh start. Now her pirate-tour business is flagging and paying the rent requires more than wishful thinking. When she discovers evidence of a shipwreck off the coast of Tybee Island, she knows it could be just the boon she needs to stay afloat. She takes her findings to local museum director Carter Hale for confirmation, but things do not go as planned.
Carter is fascinated with the wreck, the discovery of which could open the door to his dream job at a prestigious museum. But convincing Anne to help him fill in the missing pieces of the puzzle is no easy task. And working with Carter means Anne will have to do the one thing she swore she’d never do again: trust a man.
Liz Johnson writes such beautiful stories. They always have such interesting and unique storylines. This one follows suit. I mean who doesn’t like a book about a sunken ship, treasure floating to shore, plus some mild romance? Mystery and history! It’s a perfect combination. The story clips along nicely, it kept my interest well. I felt like the characters were likable and relatable. Themes of forgiveness, restoration, love, grace, and family ties were evident throughout the story. I love the way Ms. Johnson writes these themes into her stories. They are parts of real life and she handles them beautifully. I also liked that Anne wasn’t a spoiled rich kid. She was struggling financially. This is something most people can relate to at some point in their life. I love that it was part of this story. This book is great for a day at the beach, an afternoon in your favorite chair, or a cold winter night wrapped in a blanket. You’ll soak up every part of the story and learn a little bit about pirate history too! What’s not to love? I recommend this book and gave it 4 stars. I received a copy from Revell. I was in no way required to write a positive review. All thoughts are my own.
At one time or another, shifting seasons in family, friendships, employment, and communities will bring each of us face-to-face with the feeling of being on the outside looking in. Because we are made for connection, this will often lead us down one of two roads. Either we will hop on the popular but crowded highway that asks us to do whatever it takes to get noticed or we’ll stand still, paralyzed by the fear that we’re not important, lovable, or worth other people’s time and attention.
But there is another way — the back road to belonging — and Kristen Strong is ready to walk it with you. With compassion and encouragement, she shows you how to remain in Christ and relax into the unique role God has for you. Along the way, you will learn simple, doable actions that will not only help you know that you belong but welcome others in as well.
I was drawn to the tag line of this book: “Unexpected paths to finding your place and your people.” I wasn’t sure what I expected to find inside but I liked the wording. Sometimes the strangest things catch your eye and intrigue you. The best part of this book was how relational the author is. She tells her story. I feel like I know so much about her. It’s like we sat together for hours, her telling her story, and me listening in with a cup of coffee in my hand getting cold as I listened. She makes some great points throughout the book. Real life things that anyone can do to help them find their path towards where they belong. Ms. Strong’s story is a great example for this book. I cannot imagine a life as a military family having to move all the time. But even though that’s not my life, I know what it’s like to feel like I don’t belong. So these principles are applicable to anyone.
I did struggle a bit with how much story there is. The scripture content was rather low in my opinion. There was a lot of talk of scripture though which is nice but I want more meat. I feel like the content got clouded a bit by all the stories. I felt like the stories jumped around a lot and I had trouble picking through the stories for the message. The book could have been much shorter and packed a bigger punch.
I gave this book 3 stars. I received a copy from Revell. I was in no way required to write a positive review. All thoughts are my own.
Aven Norgaard understands courage. Orphaned within an Irish workhouse, then widowed at just nineteen, she voyaged to America where she was wooed and wed by Thor Norgaard, a Deaf man in rural Appalachia. That the Lord saw her along the winding journey and that Aven now carries Thor’s child are blessings beyond measure. Yet while Thor holds her heart, it is his younger brother and rival who haunts her memories. Haakon—whose selfish choices shattered her trust in him.
Having fled the Norgaard orchard after trying to take Aven as his own, Haakon sails on the North Atlantic ice trade, where his soul is plagued with regrets that distance cannot heal. Not even the beautiful Norwegian woman he’s pursued can ease the torment. When the winds bear him home after four years away, Haakon finds the family on the brink of tragedy. A decades-old feud with the neighboring farm has wrenched them into the fiercest confrontation on Blackbird Mountain since the Civil War. Haakon’s cunning and strength hold the power to seal many fates, including Thor’s—which is already imperiled due to a grave illness brought to him at the first prick of warfare.
Now Haakon faces the hardest choice of his life. One that shapes a battlefield where pride must be broken enough to be restored, and where a prodigal son may finally know the healing peace of surrender and the boundless gift of forgiveness. And when it comes to the woman he left behind in Norway, he just might discover that while his heart belongs to a daughter of the north, she’s been awaiting him on shores more distant than the land he’s fighting for.
What an adventure! I feel like I got transported back in time. The sights the sounds the colors of life appeared vividly in front of me as I gulped down this book. Loved the pictures of Norway that I got as I read. It’s always been on the top of my bucket list for places to visit. I feel like I got a lovely picture through this book and now I want to visit even more. The characters captured my heart. They were so well written and intriguing. So much story but so well paced that I didn’t feel like I was overwhelmed with trying to sort out the different elements of each character while trying to sort out the plot line. There was some romance, some mystery, some conflict, some loss, some family, lots of things that happen to us and that we experience in daily life. The writing flowed nicely and I didn’t struggle to understand the story or keep reading. I never felt the need to go back and reread for lack of understanding. I loved this story. It touched my heart. What more can you wish for in a book! I gave it 5 stars. Can’t wait to read Sons of Blackbird Mountain. I received a copy of this book from CelebrateLit. I was in no way required to write a positive review. All thoughts are my own.
About the Author
Joanne Bischof is an ACFW Carol Award and ECPA Christy Award-winning author. She writes deeply layered fiction that tugs at the heartstrings. She was honored to receive the San Diego Christian Writers Guild Novel of the Year Award in 2014 and in 2015 was named Author of the Year by the Mount Hermon conference. Joanne’s 2016 novel, The Lady and the Lionheart, received an extraordinary 5 Star TOP PICK! from RT Book Reviews, among other critical acclaim. She lives in the mountains of Southern California with her three children. Visit her online at JoanneBischof.com; Facebook: Author, JoanneBischof; Instagram: @JoanneBischof.
More from Joanne
One of the questions I receive most often is “How do you get it all done?” As a single, homeschooling mom, I’ve long-since learned that there would be easier ways to have a day job than being an author, but God has been gracious in providing abundantly in so many areas. Here are four that I am most thankful for as I look back over the last few years, including this season of writing Sons of Blackbird Mountain and Daughters of Northern Shores.
Now, most authors would agree that “togetherness” isn’t exactly conducive to quality writing time – especially when kids are involved! And while I do need quiet focus to be able to work through a scene or chapter, what I’ve been thankful for is the chance to share story and research discoveries with my children. It’s created more unity around the stories. Instead of needing to usher the kids away, isolating them from the novels I’m writing, I’m able to invite them into them. For the Blackbird Mountain series, I walked them through the Pinterest boards, showing them the different characters. Then we did a history unit on Vikings since that’s the Norgaard Family’s background. We had a blast and it helped make “the story that Mom was working on”, something that they were more aware of and interested in. For my current work-in-progress, we just recently finished an all new history unit including visits to a few local museums and stories that the kids wrote on their own!
I used to want to write, write, write all the time. And often, that’s what I did! Well, I still would love to write as often as I can, but God has been teaching me something oh-so-important: patience. As part of this, I set aside certain parts of the week for writing office hours. These slots of writing time typically occur on Tuesday evenings, and include a few additional 1 ½ hours slots during the week, once homeschooling is done. In this manner, I am able to carve out some quiet writing time while still making sure the kids are having a great and productive day. But for any writer or working mom, we can agree . . . that’s not a lot of time when added up! In God’s wonderful provision, though, He seems to extend much richness to those little snatches of time. They might not be many, but they are mighty! It’s been a prayer of mine for several years now, that by keeping my writing below these other priorities, that God would help me fill in the cracks of time and energy—and He has been so faithful to supply. I still have my moments when I feel frazzled, especially when deadlines are near, and that’s why I am thankful for this next lesson that God has been teaching me . . .
The thing about living with a writer, is that you often find them staring at a computer screen. That doesn’t look all that productive, does it? But what we’re doing on the other side of that screen is weaving a story-world of plot, characters, purpose, and heart. Typing words onto the page that we hope will touch lives, digging through old articles for research, or jotting down messy plotting notes that we pray will somehow amount to a story one day. By communicating with my kids (like sharing with them about the story and characters) I’m able to help them see what I’m doing and why. And since kids can be rambunctious and full of life (and questions, and needs for snacking, and ideas, and messes . . . *wink*) and since this writer works well with quiet, I have a little chalkboard that I hang on my doorknob when it’s one of my “office hour” slots. I jot down my start time and end time for that 1 ½ hour block, add a heart or smiley face, and often make note of what our next task will be like preparing a meal or doing an activity together. Then I shut my door and the little sign dangling from the knob outside helps the kids remember what I’m up to. It reminds them that I won’t be tucked away for long, but that I do need to focus for a little while. They’re always allowed to come knocking if a need arises, but for the most part, they’re happy on these afternoons with their own projects. When the hour or so is up, we reconvene and go back about our day, usually slipping into something fun that we do together. By having these slots of time in the week, and by communicating carefully with them in a way they can understand, it helps to bring us all what we need.
There are days when I blow it, and days when I need a lot of grace. Maybe I’ve spilled iced tea on one of the research books (don’t worry, this is a hypothetical example 😉 ) or maybe I didn’t save a scene properly, or just feel stuck and exhausted with a plot thread. These days can certainly tamper with the harmony, which begins with my heart and the need to remember the reason for why I write these stories: for God’s glory. When I begin to lose my calm, or grow frustrated or weary with the challenges afoot, I know it’s time to circle back to what it’s all for. It’s for the readers, it’s for my children, it’s for my joy, and most of all, it’s for God’s glory. By me being harried or stressed, very little of this is being accomplished! God has used the writing process to speak to my heart in ways that have reminded me of what I can surrender, and more and more of the ways that I can look to HIM for guidance. The lessons aren’t always easy, but through each season, and through each book, I have come to see more and more all the ways to be thankful.
There’s a fine line between love and hate . . . And for the last seven years, Natalie Groves has hated Jeremy Walters.
Natalie Groves was meant for great things. But soon after her fiancé left, Natalie’s father was diagnosed with cancer. Suddenly her grand plans evaporated . . . and God felt very far away.
Fast-forward seven years, and an internship presents Natalie a chance at her destiny—but she needs a job to work around it. And the only offer available is worse than a life sentence. Her ex Jeremy, now back in town, is desperate for help with his infant son and troubled teenage niece, Lili. And Natalie may be just the one to help Jeremy . . . provided they don’t kill each other in the process.
When Jeremy and Natalie join forces, sparks fly. But will either of them get burned along the way?
This is my first experience with this author and won’t be my last for sure! I loved the storyline. It was funny, it was charming, it was full of emotion and depth, it did not leave out real life hard issues, sadness, pain, but it embraced them as part of the journey. I liked the characters too. They were genuine and interesting individuals. I did struggle a bit with the writing. I found a lot of sentences really long and overly full of detail, especially at the beginning. I felt like the details were a bit forced and unnecessary all at once. I liked all the information but wish it came out a little slower. Overall though the storyline won my heart and the writing issues seemed to fade into the background. I was mostly able to ignore them because I enjoyed the story. I consider that a win. I give this story 3 stars. I look forward to reading more from this author. I received an early release copy of this book from CelebrateLit. I was in no way required to write a positive review. All thoughts are my own.
About the Author
Australian author Jessica Kate writes inspirational romances with wit, sass, and grit. Jessica is a screenwriting groupie, cohost of the StoryNerds vlog and podcasts, and her favorite place to be—apart from Mum and Dad’s back deck—is a theme park. She has traveled North America and Australia, and samples her favorite pasta wherever she goes—but the best (so far) is still the place around the corner from her corporate day job as a training developer. She loves watching sitcoms with her housemates and being a leader in a new church plant.
Jessica Kate brings rom-com fans a reminder that love has its own timing in her breakout novel, Love and Other Mistakes. Kate is best known in the book world as the cohost of StoryNerds, a vlog and podcast about all things books and pop culture, recorded from her home city of Toowoomba, Australia. Now, she’s carving her own place in the Christian fiction arena and helping to fill the rom-com genre gap with a novel full wit, sass, and grit.
More from Jessica
A romance that makes me laugh and snort my strawberry milkshake across the keyboard when I sneak in chapter at work – that’s just the best. My loftiest career aspiration is to create that experience for someone else. There can never be enough of those books in the universe, especially novels that include deep faith and emotion, as well. I adore love-hate romantic comedies like The Hating Game by Sally Thorne, and I spend my days dreaming up plotlines that force characters who hate each other to work together as a team. But, Natalie’s journey came from a real place for me—that feeling you’re missing out on your purpose and you don’t know how to fix it.
Can two broken paths lead toward God’s redemption?
When Ashley Showalter and Ben Henning meet on Ashley’s horse rescue farm, they quickly discover how much they have in common. Both were raised by single moms. Both want to help where they see a need. And both work with horses in the Boise valley. Ben needs Ashley’s help and expertise after starting an equine therapy barn on his great-great-grandfather’s farm—and the more time they spend together, both Ashley and Ben have the feeling that there could be something more between them.
They also carry the burden of past experiences that may drive them apart if the truth is ever revealed. Ben is a recovering alcoholic with five years of sobriety behind him, while Ashley’s brother is an opioid addict residing in court-ordered rehab. Holding fast to the belief that addicts can never be cured, Ashley has promised herself she will never walk knowingly into the chaos created by addiction. Ben knows that with God, all things are possible—but will Ashley find it within herself to give love a chance? Or will her brother’s mistakes and the pain of her past jeopardize her future with Ben?
Cross My Heart threads together a contemporary love story with the heartwarming tale of Ben’s great-great-grandfather, Andrew Henning—reminding us that God’s Word is timeless and that His promises are new every morning.
First things first, the cover on this book is just so beautiful. I love the distant mountains, big blue sky, the big red barn and the couple holding hands. It did however, give me a little too much information! I came into the story with a big idea what would happen. It left little to the imagination. So while I love the cover, I wish it wouldn’t have included so much information.
Anyways, the story! The story was great. It was unique with its focus on rescue horses and horse therapy. I didn’t come into the story knowing much about these topics so that was a nice treat. The characters are really likeable and well written. I love the romantic tension between Ben and Ashley from the moment they first meet. I found myself rooting for them as a couple! I love the way Hatcher balances dialogue with story. It’s never too much. It comes in right at the right time and gives the reader a good feel for the characters and what is going on not only externally but internally as well. The story reads quickly and is enjoyable. Great for a slow summer evening or a cold winter day inside.
I did feel a little disconnect between the time hops. I felt like that could have been left out with no real affect on the storyline. I know people love time hops and usually I do too. Sometimes though I feel like they are a little overdone. I loved the consistency of the time hop, at the end of the chapters. They were well written and interesting… I am just not sure how much they add to the story.
Overall I loved the story. It follows suit from Hatcher’s previous books. I almost wished for a little surprise. A little something unexpected. But I love Hatcher’s books and will continue to read each one! They are great. I give this book 3.5 stars. I received a copy from CelebrateLit. I was in no way required to write a positive review. All thoughts are my own.
About the Author
Robin Lee Hatcher is the author of over 75 novels and novellas with over five million copies of her books in print. She is known for her heartwarming and emotionally charged stories of faith, courage, and love. Robin is an ACFW Carol Award winner and an eight-time finalist and has won two RITA Awards and been a finalist eleven times. Her numerous other awards include the Christy Award, the HOLT Medallion, the National Reader’s Choice Award, and the Faith, Hope & Love Reader’s Choice Award. She is also the recipient of prestigious Lifetime Achievement Awards from both American Christian Fiction Writers and Romance Writers of America. When not writing, she enjoys being with her family, spending time in the beautiful Idaho outdoors, Bible art journaling, reading books that make her cry, watching romantic movies, and decorative planning. A mother and grandmother, Robin and her husband make their home on the outskirts of Boise, sharing it with a demanding Papillon dog and a persnickety tuxedo cat.
For more information, visit robinleehatcher.com; Facebook: robinleehatcher; or Twitter: @robinleehatcher.
More from Robin
MY WRITING DESK ROBIN LEE HATCHER
I have a wonderful home office with a large screen iMac and the perfect place to keep important papers and reminders right in front of me for easy access. There is also a bed for my dog, Boo, because no office is complete without a bed to welcome the dog. Right?
I also do a lot of writing while seated in a big easy chair in the living room. It all depends upon my mood and how many reference books I might need at the time.
My office usually looks neat when I begin a book. By the time I’m writing the end, the room has become a disaster—stacks of papers demanding my attention and a layer of dust are the most obvious issues.
My office also serves as my art studio (where I do decorative planning and Bible art journaling), so every inch that isn’t taken up by writing related items is filled with art related ones—paints, washi tape, stickers, pens galore, etc.
An early riser naturally, I consider sleeping in to be anything after 6 AM. On a normal writing day, I try to get in half an hour on the treadmill first thing in the morning (and often return to it for ten minutes segments a couple other times during the day). Then I sit at my desk or in my easy chair to do my Bible study. And finally I begin writing.
I can usually create new words for about four hours or so a day. The rest of the work day is filled with editing, revising, research, and correspondence with publisher, agent, readers, and other writers. I have an active online presence which needs attention daily, as well.
I am also a late-in-life part time college student, taking my classes online, so at least a couple of days a week, you’ll find me doing assignments and taking quizzes. For some reason, I rarely use my office for that. The kitchen table seems to suit me better. Probably because it is a large table and I can really spread out.
I feel very blessed to be able to work at home. I had a full time job when I wrote my first book. In fact, I wrote nine novels over the course of nine years while still working full time. The month my ninth book released, I quit my job in order to write full time. Seventy books and almost 28 years later, I’m still at it. As I said, I am blessed.
Rule #2: If any one person refuses to play, the threats to all players will come to pass.
What a rush! This story is so incredibly creative. So original. It’s one that you won’t be able to stop reading. You just have to figure it out! I read the book in a day. It moves quickly and reads easily. The story is fast paced and gripping.
I did wish there was a little more character development. I felt like I didn’t know much about the characters. There were so many players and I felt like I couldn’t keep them straight because all they were was a name. It seemed like some detail was left out for the sake of packing more action into the story. While the action was great the story would have been better developed had there been some more detail development. I felt like some of the places could have been described better. Some of the in-between scene stuff could have helped the reader understand the flow. It felt kind of jumpy. I had a hard time keeping track of who where what why how.
Overall I liked the story. I give it 3.5 stars. I received a copy from the publisher. I was in no way required to write a positive review. All thoughts are my own.
In this high-stakes romantic suspense novel where tensions mount on both sides of the border, bestselling author Kelly Irvin explores what happens when the past explodes against the present and the only person you can turn to is the one who broke your heart.
When a college student dies at Gabriella’s feet after muttering her brother’s name, vicious gun smugglers believe she knows too much. And they’re determined to make sure she suffers the same fate. With no one else to turn to, Gabriella reunites with her former fiancé, homicide detective Eli Cavazos, to investigate the dead man’s murder and her brother’s disappearance.
In a desperate race against time, Gabriella and Eli are determined to clear her brother and find him before the gun smugglers can kill them both. Bit by bit, they tear away the masks worn by men masquerading as law-abiding citizens. No one can be trusted.
Working as a team forces Gabriella and Eli to face the problems that ended their relationship. She realizes she’s the one who needs to learn to forgive, but Eli must also learn to trust her with his secrets.
This ragtag team must fight a powerful ring of criminals protected by the very institutions that should prosecute them in an all-out battle that may cost them their lives.
Want to go on a wild ride? Check out this book! Just when I thought there would be some relief, some answers, more questions came and the action got crazier. This is an intense book. The pages practically turn themselves. I had a bit of trouble with the relationship between Eli and Gabriella. It just didn’t have a realistic feel to it. It felt written instead of lived. I also noticed quite a bit of repeat information throughout the story. It was written into the story well but I was like I just read this! I remember it from back there. Why do you need to retell? But that’s not a major issue. Overall I really liked the plot line. The characters were ok. It clipped along at a good pace and was really interesting. I gave the book 3.5 stars.
I received a copy of this book from Celebrate Lit. I was in no way required to write a positive review. All thoughts are my own.
About the Author
Kelly Irvin is the bestselling author of the Every Amish Season and Amish of Bee County series. The Beekeepers Son received a starred review from Publishers Weekly, who called it a “beautifully woven masterpiece.” The two-time Carol Award finalist is a former newspaper reporter and retired public relations professional. Kelly lives in Texas with her husband, photographer Tim Irvin. They have two children, two grandchildren, and two cats. In her spare time, she likes to read books by her favorite authors. Visit her online at KellyIrvin.com; Instagram: kelly_irvin; Facebook: Kelly.Irvin.Author; Twitter: @Kelly_S_Irvin.
More from Kelly
Over the Line by Kelly Irvin turns the heat up on suspense with a setting in Laredo, Texas. Here’s a spicy chili to pair with the book while you’re reading.
(adapted from 1979 World’s Fair Chili Recipe)
3 lbs. round steak, chopped 3 lbs. chuck roast, chopped 6 T. vegetable oil 6 T. chili Powder 6 T. cumin 6 garlic cloves minced 2 whole onions, chopped 1 T. oregano 2 T. paprika 2 T. cider vinegar 4 ounces green chilies, diced 14 oz. stewed tomatoes (one can) 1 T. Tabasco sauce 2 T. cornmeal 3 c. beef broth Pepper to taste Brown meat in oil. Pepper to taste. Drain oil from meat, add chili pepper, cumin, garlic, and onion. Cook for 30 to 45 minutes. Stir often. Add oregano, paprika, vinegar, 2 c. broth, green chilies, stewed tomatoes, and Tabasco sauce. Simmer 30 to 45 minutes. Stir often. Dissolve cornmeal in one cup of beef broth. Pour into chili. Simmer another 30 minutes, stirring often. (Chili is done when meat is tender.)
Kelly’s Note: My husband loves his chili with saltine crackers. I like Fritos. We all agree that chili should NOT have beans in it. My mom always made homemade cinnamon rolls to have for dessert when she made her chili. Hmmm. That sounds good. I’m off to the kitchen! Enjoy!
When a damaged young woman is given a chance to reclaim her life in a small South Carolina town, she must reckon with the dark secrets she left behind in order to accept the love she deserves.
On the run from a violent past, Leah Allen arrived in tiny Rivertown, South Carolina, battered and broken, but ready to reinvent herself. By a stroke of fate, Leah is drawn to the Southern hospitality of a small café, looking for a warm meal but finding so much more. Lulu, the owner, offers her a job, a place to stay and a new lease on life. Through Lulu’s tenacious warmth and generosity, Leah quickly finds herself embraced by the quaint community as she tries to put herself back together. Given she’s accustomed to cruelty, the kindness is overwhelming.
Soon Leah meets Crowley Mason, the most eligible bachelor in town. A lawyer and friend of Lulu’s, Crowley is wary of Leah’s sudden, mysterious arrival. Despite his reserve, something sparks between them that can’t be denied. But after all she’s been through, can Leah allow herself to truly love and be loved, especially when her first urge is to run?
Exploring the resiliency of both the heart and the spirit, Lulu’s Café gorgeously illustrates how old scars can finally heal no matter how deep they seem.
This book deals with major real life issues. Heads up if you’re sensitive to books containing abuse/trauma/miscarriage situations. This story begins tragically. The intensity of the writing is amazing but scary at the same time. I can’t imagine what it took to write that. The author writes it well… descriptive enough so you get the dynamic of what’s going on but with great care so you don’t get too much. There’s a bit of a shift in the narrative and the main character is in another part of the country. The story is lighter. You kind of loose some of the abuse storyline… what I mean is, it’s almost all but forgotten. I think the author could have added some more PTSD type reactions and some more of the ways people struggle after getting out of an abusive relationship. I felt like you kind of loose that for most of the 2nd half of the book. It’s there but I felt like it should have been more prominent in the character’s daily life. Other than that the story ends much different than it began. I’m glad I had a chance to read this book. It was the first time I’d ever read anything by T. I. Lowe. I loved her writing and am looking forward to reading more of her work. I gave this book 3.5 stars.
I received a copy of this book from CelebrateLit. I was under no compulsion to write a positive review. All thoughts are my own.
About the Author
T. I. Lowe is a native of coastal South Carolina. She attended Coastal Carolina University and the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, where she majored in psychology but excelled in creative writing. Go figure. Writing was always a dream, and she finally took a leap of faith in 2014 and independently published her first novel, Lulu’s Café, which quickly became a bestseller. Now the author of ten published novels with hundreds of thousands of copies sold, she knows she’s just getting started and has many more stories to tell. A wife and mother who’s active in her church community, she resides near Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, with her family.
Read an excerpt of LuLu’s Cafe
The building was a two-story redbrick structure with expansive windows along the first floor’s front and sides. Each set of massive windows was shaded with sprawling royal-blue awnings, which were decorated with vibrantly painted sunflowers and whimsical white letters spelling out Lulu’s Café across the remaining space. It looked inviting from the outside. Peering into the window, Leah could see that the café was bustling with customers. Outside the café, the sidewalk was lined with wrought-iron tables and chairs. Every table was occupied with customers chatting as they sipped steaming mugs of coffee.
The sign for the store hours indicated that, Monday through Saturday, the café opened at six each morning and closed at two each afternoon, and it was closed on Sundays. Leah found the hours a bit odd. Most restaurants served dinner and were open on Sundays too, or so she thought. She reminded herself that she was in a new environment and that the customs from the West Coast probably wouldn’t apply here.
The café had its fall decorations on display as well. Large planter boxes overflowed with giant yellow and orange mums. One had a wooden sign sticking out from the middle declaring, Happy Fall, Y’all.
Leah was beginning to think the place was too happy and, more importantly, too busy for her liking, when she spotted a vacant four-person table right inside the door. She made her way in and slipped into the chair closest to the window. She deliberately faced away from the entrance, hoping not to draw much attention. Once she was situated, she noticed that the back of the café was made up of a large butcher-block counter that housed a bakery case full of treats on the right. The remainder of the counter was lined with half a dozen stools, with customers perched on each one. Leah noted approvingly that the tables and chairs were a variety of mismatched shapes and sizes stained in the same mahogany tint. She liked the relaxed, unpretentious atmosphere.
Leah watched a petite lady behind the counter serving up coffee and laughs. Her stomach began to rumble at the fragrant smells whirling around her, so she turned her attention to the menu resting on the table. Turkey sausage, turkey bacon, egg-white omelets, whole grain breads and cereal, fresh fruit . . .
Leah blinked at the odd menu. She gazed around at the customers enjoying their healthy meals. Her heart had been set on a stack of pancakes and greasy bacon. She studied the bakery case but found no donuts hiding.
“Humph.” She went back to studying the menu.
“I didn’t keep you waiting too long, did I?” A Southern drawl interrupted Leah’s thoughts.
Leah looked up to find the petite lady with a perfectly coiffed silver bob smiling at her. She was so short that she was nearly eye level with a seated Leah. Her clear gray eyes seemed to bubble with hospitality. Leah instantly liked the woman and gave her a slight smile, being careful not to stretch her bottom lip.
“Well, you gonna keep giving me that sweet smile or are you gonna order something?” the lady asked in a teasing voice.
Leah pointed at the bright-orange cursive L embroidered thickly on one of the lady’s apron pockets. “Please tell me you’re Lulu.”
“Of course I’m Lulu. Why do you ask?” Lulu smoothed her ruffled apron, which swam in a variety of rich blue swirls.
“You match the happiness of the place perfectly,” Leah said.
“Well, that’s the nicest thing someone has said to me today. What can I get you?”
“Coffee and whatever you recommend.”
Lulu gave her a wink and strolled back to the kitchen.
When Annie Jacobson’s brother Mike enlists as a medic in the Army in 1967, he hands her a piece of paper with the address of their long-estranged father. If anything should happen to him in Vietnam, Mike says, Annie must let their father know.
In Mike’s absence, their father returns to face tragedy at home, adding an extra measure of complication to an already tense time. As they work toward healing and pray fervently for Mike’s safety overseas, letter by letter the Jacobsons must find a way to pull together as a family, regardless of past hurts. In the tumult of this time, Annie and her family grapple with the tension of holding both hope and grief in the same hand, even as they learn to turn to the One who binds the wounds of the brokenhearted.
Author Susie Finkbeiner invites you into the Jacobson family’s home and hearts during a time in which the chaos of the outside world touched their small community in ways they never imagined.
I feel like I just spent a weekend with a family who on Friday I hardly knew. Now it’s Sunday and I feel like they’re my own family. This book goes on the shelf of books that tug your heart to new places, the shelf of books that captivate you, the shelf of books that don’t let you forget them. All Manner of Things, is not filled with high action, suspense and mystery, instead, it’s filled with family. The normal kind of things families deal with, the hard things families deal with and the happy things families deal with. And because of that, the story is unforgettable. I really do feel like I spent time with some people who have become like family. The author writes in such a beautiful way. The words dance and come to life. The pages fly past. I could not stop reading. It was a relaxing but emotional read. I put this up next to All The Light We Cannot See (Doerr) How the Light Gets In (Petersheim) And We Hope for Better Things (Bartels). If you like those you will love this story. There wasn’t much in the way of strong Christian content in the storyline, which is just fine. I would rather it be a little than too much and in your face. This is my first read from Susie Finkbeiner and it definitely won’t be my last. I’m going to hunt down her other books right now! I gave this book 5 stars. I received a copy of this book from Revell. I was in no way required to write a positive review. All thoughts are my own.
After fulfilling a pledge to a dying friend, Zacharias Hamilton is finally free to live life on his own terms. No opportunities to disappoint those he cares about, just the quiet bachelor existence he’s always craved. Until fate snatches his freedom away once again when the baker of his favorite breakfast treat is railroaded by the city council. As hard as he tries to avoid getting involved, he can’t turn a blind eye to her predicament . . . or her adorable dimples. Abigail Kemp needs a man’s name on her bakery’s deed. A marriage of convenience seems the best solution . . . if it involves a man she can control. Not the stoic lumberman who oozes confidence without saying a word whenever he enters her shop. Control Zacharias Hamilton? She can’t even control her pulse when she’s around him. Once vows are spoken, Abigail’s troubles should be over. Yet threats to the bakery worsen, and darker dangers hound her sister. As trust grows between Zach and Abby, she finds she wants more than his rescue. She wants his heart.
Oh my goodness, where to start! This book is captivating. I love the cover. It just looks like it’s going to be a super cute story. And it is! I connected with this story immediately when I saw that it centers around a bakery. I’m a baker myself so this was a huge connection point for me. The words flow so nicely. I flew threw the pages. It’s definitely a book where you find yourself saying late into the night, “Just one more chapter!” The story progresses at a great speed. Not too fast not too slow. The details are interesting and pertinent. The main characters are great, the other characters make you like the main characters better and make you root for them. I love how the story opened like a flower. A little bit more revealed as the story progressed until you know the characters deeply. The chemistry between Abigail and Zach is so well written. It makes your heart pound and you smile a little to yourself. I love how Zach stands up for her. This story made me laugh. It made me smile. It made me grit my teeth. It made me frustrated at people’s vindictiveness. The whole gamete of emotion is contained within this story. This is my first experience with Karen Witemeyer’s work. It will not be the last. I’m intrigued by her writing. Well done! I give this book 4.5 stars.
I received a copy of this book from CelebrateLit. I was in no way required to write a positive review. All thoughts are my own.
About the Author
Winner of the HOLT Medallion and the Carol Award and a finalist for the RITA and Christy Award, bestselling author Karen Witemeyer writes historical romance to give the world more happily-ever-afters. Karen makes her home in Texas, with her husband and three children. Learn more about Karen and her books at www.karenwitemeyer.com.
More from Karen
Settings – Real or Imagined?
One of the key decisions an author has to make before she begins to write is selecting the setting for her story. And the first choice she faces is the question of whether to use a real or imagined location. Roughly half the stories I have written are set in fictional towns. The use of a fictional setting allows an author greater freedom to manipulate the environment of her characters to fit her plot. This provides a great deal of flexibility. However, there is something special about setting a story in a real place. First, readers who are familiar with that place never fail to get excited about seeing a town they recognize in print. Second, if an author can find historical photos and documents, she can add a wonderful layer of authenticity to her setting that might otherwise be missing. Third, an author may turn up fascinating tidbits when studying the history of her setting that find their way into the story and bring a flavor the author never could have supplied on her own. This was the case as I wrote More Than Words Can Say. All of the stories in my Patchwork Family series have been set in real places. Pecan Gap, Texas for More Than Meets the Eye, Honey Grove, Texas for More Than Words Can Say, and coming this fall we’ll travel to Gainesville, Texas for the concluding novella, More Than a Pretty Face. Researching each location brought its own unique discoveries, but I have to admit that researching the small town of Honey Grove brought this history-loving girl a special level of joy. For example, there is a legend about how the town got its name that I knew needed to be incorporated into my story. Legend has it that when Davy Crockett was on his way to join the fight at the Alamo, he stopped in a grove of trees and set up camp. There were so many bees in that in letters to family and friends, he called the place a “Honey Grove.” He carved his initials into one of the trees and intended to return and settle there after the war. Unfortunately, as we know, Crockett did not survive the Alamo and therefore did not return. One of his friends, Samuel A. Erwin, later found the grove and became the first settler in 1839. Many people recall seeing the initials carved into Crockett’s bee tree even into the early 1900s, which led me to believe that this legend was based in truth. It doesn’t play a pivotal role in my story, but if you watch for it, you’ll find it mentioned. Discovering the Honey Grove Preservation League’s website proved a tremendous boon. Their online historical resources are some of the best I have ever come across. Historical photos, newspaper articles, government records—it was like stepping through a time portal every time I visited. And I visited often. Thanks to the Preservation League, I was able to mention real people and places in my novel. Places like the Commercial Hotel, the home of James Gilmer that was built during my time period, Wilkins, Wood & Patteson Dry Goods, and Dora Galbraith Patteson’s millinery shop on the east side of the town square. While Zacharias Hamilton and Reuben Sinclair are completely fictitious characters, there really was a lumberyard located on the corner of Sixth Street and Rail Road. As fiction authors are wont to do, I did take a few liberties with Honey Grove’s history. To my knowledge, there was never any city ordinance banning women from owning businesses in town, which was a key plot point in More Than Words Can Say. In addition, Mayor Chester Longfellow was a complete invention of my imagination. The true mayor of Honey Grove during this time period was J.H. Smith, a man who served in that capacity from 1888-1897. He must have been a well-loved city official to hold office for nearly a decade. I paid brief homage to him by having him step back into office when my fictitious mayor resigned. I hope you enjoy stepping back in time with me into historic Honey Grove, Texas. Zach and Abigail might not have lived there in truth, but I like to believe their tale is a representation of the many amazing love stories have taken place in that sweet little town through the years.