Christian fiction

New stories for the historical fiction lover in you

 

New Year’s Day 2016 was wonderful.

Partly because I got to sleep later, partly because I spent the whole day at home with my family, partly because my husband made the cornbread so I didn’t even have to cook. 🙂

And partly because I spent a large chunk of the day in my jammies curled up with a book — guilt free!

Those days don’t happen very often for me, so when they do they’re a special treat. And although I read a lot of different things, I always find myself leaning back toward historical fiction. Maybe it’s because I’ve always loved history and think so many things about days-gone-by are fascinating. Maybe it’s because there’s usually some romance — and what girl doesn’t love some romance? (My daughter certainly does, especially now that she’s discovered Hallmark movies — but that’s a story for another day!)

lassoed by marriageIf you’re like me and love a good historical novel, here are some releasing this month that you might want to check out. Titles in this first section are from authors affiliated with American Christian Fiction Writers:

  • A Reluctant Melody by Sandra Ardoin — When a blackmailer threatens to reveal Joanna’s long-held secret, will she risk losing everything she owns to Kit … including her heart? (Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas)
  • The Lassoed by Marriage Romance Collection by Angela Bell, Angela Breidenbach, Lisa Carter, Mary Connealy, Rebecca Jepson, Amy Lillard, Gina Welborn, Kathleen Y’Barbo, and Rose Ross Zediker — Come along on a romantic journey jam-packed with all the angst of marriages founded upon practical choices as well as coercion. Meet nine couples who barely know each other before they find themselves suddenly married to please family, to stem the tide of gossip, to save the land and joined for life. But can love grow when duty comes before romance? (Barbour Publishing)
  • Calico Spy by Margaret Brownley — Someone is killing off the Harvey Girls and undercover Pinkerton detective Katie Madison hopes to find the killer before the killer finds her-or before she burns down the restaurant trying. (Barbour Publishing)
  • With This Ring? by Mary Connealy, Melissa Jagears, Regina Jennings, and Karen Witemeyer — Four top historical romance novelists team up in this new collection of stories with love, romance, and a twist of humor: “The Husband Maneuver,” “Her Dearly Unintended,” “Runaway Bride” and “Engaging the Competition.” (Bethany House [Baker] Publishing)
  • Austen in Austin, Volume 1 by Susanne Dietze, Anita Mae Draper, Debra E. Marvin, and Gina Welborn — Discover four heroines in historical Austin, TX, as they find love – Jane Austen style. Volume 1 includes: “If I Loved You Less” based on Emma, “Romantic Refinements” based on Sense and Sensibility, “One Word from You” based on Pride and Prejudice, and “Alarmingly Charming” based on Northanger Abbey. (Whitefire Publishing)
  • All That Glitters by Lisa J. Flickinger — Leaving behind her family and a dying father, Ginny Connor follows the cunning Logan Harris up North to strike it rich. Her sister Vivian follows to “rescue” her, and they are both led into the chaos of the Klondike Gold Rush. Meanwhile, Ben McCormack leaves his farm to retrieve his intended bride from a rowdy tent town on the Alaskan coastline. Ben’s path inadvertently entwines with Vivian’s and he finds his heart tugging him in a different direction. (Ambassador International)
  • A Worthy HeartA Worthy Heart by Susan Anne Mason — Irish lass Maggie Montgomery visits her brother in America secretly hoping to find her fortune and love. While visiting Irish Meadows, she meets an intriguing man whom she thinks is a stable hand. Her brother demands she stay away from Adam O’Leary, who he says was recently released from prison. Nonetheless, Maggie can’t seem to make her heart listen. Adam plans to make amends and earn back his family’s trust. Falling in love with Maggie Montgomery, however, was never in his plans. (Bethany House [Baker] Publishing)

 

The Forgotten RoomIf you’re looking for mainstream historicals, you might want to learn more about these or other titles highlighted by the Historical Novel Society:

  • A Taste for Nightshade by Martine Bailey – Suspense, cooking, and revenge in early 19th-century England (St. Martin’s)
  • Midnight in St. Petersburg by Vanora Bennett – One woman’s fight for survival and love in revolutionary Russia (St. Martin’s)
  • Fallen Land by Taylor Brown – A couple flees pursuers during Sherman’s march through Georgia (St. Martin’s)
  • Exposure by Helen Dunmore – Cold War London, 1960: Lily suspects that her husband’s arrest for passing information to the Soviets is part of a cover-up, unaware that he may be guilty of a worse crime (Hutchinson)
  • Gunner Girls and Fighter Boys by Mary Gibson – East End girls become ATS ack-ack gunners and find love and freedom during the London Blitz in WWII (Head of Zeus)
  • Murder Most Malicious by Alyssa Maxwell – A lady’s maid and her 18-year-old mistress cross class lines to solve murders in 1918 England (Kensington)
  • The Forgotten Room by Karen White, Beatriz Williams and Lauren Willig – A multi-period mystery about three generations of women (NAL)

Your turn: So … do any of these sound interesting to you? I’d love to know which one(s) you might let steal you away to another time for a while!

Categories: Book reviews, Christian fiction, New releases | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

What I’ve learned lately … with Jennifer Hudson Taylor

I was added to an online critique group soon after joining American Christian Fiction Writers a few years ago. Jennifer Hudson Taylor was part of that group, and taught me so much by her comments! She’s now a published novelist with Abingdon Press; her debut novel, Highland Blessings, was released in 2010 and her follow-up, Highland Sanctuary, releases this month. We’ll finally meet in person when she joins the faculty at our local writers’ group conference in November. In the meantime, I’m she’s able to stop by to share with us here today.

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Micro Progress is Still Progress

By Jennifer Hudson Taylor

 

How many times have you heard someone say, “I take two steps forward, and one step back.”

This cliché was born out of frustration. Most of the time we feel like we’re being pushed back. It isn’t a step we’re actually taking with purpose. It’s unplanned and it breeds discouragement.

The good news is even if you feel like you’re back where you started, most of the time you’ve learned something in the process or God may be protecting you from being in a place at the wrong time. There is a reason for everything—even when we can’t see it.

Recently, our family has been going through many things. My father-in-law passed away from cancer a month ago and at the same time my mom was battling a different kind of cancer. We knew he wouldn’t make it, but were assured hers was caught in time. Cancer is a kind of illness that takes a while to overcome or succumb. It not only wears out the ones battling it, but the loved ones trying to surround their loved one with strong support.

I was frustrated that I couldn’t take time off from work for every visit to be with my mom and help her make decisions. I had to rely on the info she relayed to me, hoping she had heard correctly and wasn’t forgetting something important in the midst of her distress. Yes, I may be a published author, but I still have a full-time job with a boss who owns my time during those 40 hours each week. My time is not my own, and I struggle with this concept—especially when I feel like I’m needed elsewhere.

During this time I had to let go of some things such as canceling a trip to a writer’s conference where I was scheduled to present three workshops, took a sabbatical from some blogs, stopped scheduling events and book signings for my new book release. These were temporary setbacks, but my family was much more important. The only thing that nagged me was falling behind on my word count each week because I had signed a contract that I would finish a book by a certain time, and I was already stretching myself to meet this contract obligation in my already limited schedule.

I’ve always been taught to meet my obligations no matter what it takes, so a bit of anxiety began to set in when my word count dropped until there were a few days with no word count. But I didn’t give up, and kept plugging away at what I COULD do. Guess what? By the end of September, I’d written 20,000 words—more than I’d planned by 8,000 words.

I can’t explain it, but what I learned is that if we are faithful in the small things, God will multiply our efforts. Pennies saved can become hundreds saved if we keep adding to it. We have to keep sowing seeds, and let God give the increase.

 

“I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the increase. So then neither he who plants is anything, nor he who waters, but God who gives the increase. Now he who plants and he who waters are one, and each one will receive his own reward according to his own labor.” (1 Corinthians 3:6-8)

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Jennifer Hudson Taylor is an award winning author of historical Christian fiction set in Europe and the Carolinas and a speaker on topics of faith, writing and publishing. Her work has appeared in national publications, such as Guideposts, Heritage Quest Magazine, Romantic Times Book Reviews, and The Military Trader. She serves as the in-house Publicist at Hartline Literary Agency and co-owns Upon the Rock Publishing, an e-publishing/publicist company. When she isn’t writing, she enjoys spending time with family, long walks, traveling, touring historical sites, hanging out at bookstores with coffee shops, genealogy, and reading.

 

Categories: Christian fiction, Wednesday Writings, What I've Learned Lately, Writing life | Tags: , , , , | 5 Comments

Review: Swept Away by Nicole O’Dell

In a publishing world where Christian fiction is trying to be more realistic for teens while still maintaining a Christian worldview, author Nicole O’Dell walks the fine line quite well. The books in her Scenarios for Girls series offer something I’ve not seen in other Christian YA novels – the chance for readers to truly see the story from both sides of the spectrum.

The books tackle many of the issues facing teens today – cheating, purity, taking dares, dealing with parents or teachers, and more. Each story has you firmly “along for the ride” with the main character until she reaches the point of needing to make an important, life-changing decision. The main story stops, and readers are asked to decide how they would handle the situation in the exact same circumstances. Then you continue the story, depending on how you answer. Better yet, you can read both endings to see how things might play out in the real world for both options. It’s a great way to help girls think through situations and the potential outcomes before they find themselves in the same predicament. Once a girl finishes reading the book, she has the chance to make a written commitment to implement the lessons she’s learned from the story. A parent or other trusted adult can witness her commitment and help her with accountability.

The stories I read were from Swept Away, which includes two of the Scenarios books – High Stakes and Essence of Lilly. I haven’t read others in the series, but love the whole concept. The stories themselves are interesting and right on target for today’s girls. Letting them become a part of how the story ends will hopefully help girls remember the story and its message, long after the book goes back on the shelf. I applaud O’Dell for writing for these girls in such a real way, and I’ll be passing Swept Away onto some of the girls at church. With Christmas shopping time right around the corner, you might want to look for Swept Away or the other Scenarios for Girls books for a special middle or high school girl in your life.

For more info on Nicole O’Dell and her books and Teen Talk radio program, visit her online.

Categories: Book reviews, Christian fiction | Tags: , , , , | 2 Comments

Review: The Healer’s Apprentice

The Healer’s Apprentice, by Melanie Dickerson

Rose is a woodcutter’s daughter in 14th century Germany. Social classes have distinct divisions and expectations, but Rose has been pulled from the lowly life she experienced as a child. She’s been appointed as the apprentice to the town healer, Frau Geruscha, which means she lives on the castle grounds with a hands-on education. She struggles to conquer her uneasiness around blood and to focus on learning the healing arts instead of letting her mind wander to thoughts of Lord Hamlin, the future duke. But her mind and heart refuse to follow her orders. Every encounter with Lord Hamlin increases her respect and affection.

Rose and her friend Hildy dare to dream that Lord Hamlin might return some of Rose’s feelings. But he’s betrothed to the mysterious daughter of another duke, and has been in hiding for years. She can’t come forward to marry Lord Hamlin until he finds and destroys the evil sorcerer who cursed her.

The Healer’s Apprentice is what’s called a fairy tale retelling, because it’s loosely based on the story of Sleeping Beauty. But Dickerson weaves in enough other elements and supporting characters to keep things interesting instead of by-the-book predictable. Yes, some readers might connect the pieces before they all come together in the story, but that shouldn’t spoil the fun. The Healer’s Apprentice was a fun read for me, and I’ve heard that teenage girls especially loved it.

Look for it in your local bookstore or download the ebook version online. Then visit Melanie Dickerson’s website to learn about her other projects, including her next book The Merchant’s Daughter. It’s a retelling of Beauty and the Beast and will be available in November. I’m looking forward to reading it, too!

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