Saturday, December 31, 2011

A Victorian Christmas by Catherine Palmer

I so enjoy reading novella compilations at Christmastime, so when this one came as a freebie for Kindle, I downloaded it. Especially considering it’s written by Catherine Palmer, one of my favorite authors of Christian historical romance. She has a way with story and characters that wins me over.

Let’s begin with the summary:
A beautiful patchwork of four novellas about love and joy at Christmastime by best selling author Catherine Palmer. These four novellas were previously published in four anthologies—A Victorian Christmas Quilt, A Victorian Christmas Tea, A Victorian Christmas Cottage, and A Victorian Christmas Keepsake. Return to a time when life was uncomplicated, faith was sincere … and love was a gift to be cherished forever. Includes author’s favorite holiday recipes.
And now my thoughts:
Each story immerses you in the Christmas spirit. You’ll be there with the characters. And all the characters are diverse, from a Texan quilter to a lord in England. Each of these novellas was previously published, but having all four together under one title is great for Catherine’s fans (like me). And though I may have read the novellas before (some go as far back as 2001), I still enjoyed them.
I liked reading these on my Kindle as well, in e-book format. You can see where you are in the story and that each story will be 25% of the total. A fun element.
Also, it easy to become immersed into every story, to feel for the characters and care about their pursuit of happiness in love. Of course, all the stories were wholesome and when you add the Christmas element, very enjoyable. One thing I noticed, though, too, is that you wouldn’t have to read them at Christmastime. Of course, the holiday element is present, but they don’t all begin on Christmas day, so you can read them whenever you like, whenever fits your schedule. An enjoyable read!

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Night With a Perfect Stranger by David Gregory

This book isn’t due out until early March 2012, but I wanted to highlight it now so you could be watching for it. 

Have you read The Perfect Stranger series by David Gregory? (Dinner with A Perfect Stranger and Day with a Perfect Stranger) I did and loved them. Even saw the movies. So glad David’s writing on this series again. 

Here’s the summary:

Six years ago, businessman Nick Cominsky encountered Jesus the old-fashioned way—in a face-to-face meeting. And the Christian life seemed a breeze . . . for a while. But now, having done everything he knows to grow spiritually, he wonders where his closeness with Jesus has gone. Burned out and hopeless, Nicks wails his complaints to God during a late-night interstate trip. Then suddenly he runs out of gas—and finds Jesus along the roadside with a gas can. Jesus hops in the truck and offers answers Nick never heard in church . . . and a nighttime of adventures ensues beyond anything Nick could have imagined.

And now, my review:

Our hero from book one is burned out. He feels his life isn’t as victorious as he thought it would be now that he’s a Christian. Where is the abundant life Jesus promised in the Bible? Why isn't he as spiritually mature as he feels he should be by now? And how can he change that? He feels like his prayers only hit the ceiling. When he runs out of gas on a highway in the middle of night, who should be standing at the roadside for a ride along, gas can in hand? Yes, the Perfect Stranger. And the ride that follows, coupled with the insights from this not-exactly-a-stranger traveling Companion, changes his life.

I enjoy reading David’s writing style. Very simple, straightforward. No 25¢ words. Lots of symbolism, though. And the concepts will get you thinking. I don’t want to give away the central concept (or at least the one I took away), because I encourage you to read this book for yourself.  I will say that it’s a theme God’s highlighting in my own life lately.

If you’ve been a Christian a while, and you are feeling burned out, (or ever have felt burned out or disillusioned in your Christian walk), if you’ve ever wondered where your joy went or where God seems to have gone, read this novella. Read this series. Great books.

Highly recommended.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Baby, It's Cold Outside by Susan May Warren

I love reading Christmas stories at Christmastime, don't you? Especially when they're penned by one of my favorite authors.

Here's the summary:

Five strangers with broken hearts. One raging blizzard. Baby, it's cold outside!

Dottie Morgan has no desire to share her home or her heart over the Christmas holidays. After all, her Christmas spirit froze over when Dottie lost her son in World War II. But when a blizzard of the decade traps Dottie in her home with four near strangers, she just might discover that opening her door might also open her heart to a Christmas miracle and a new reason to celebrate Christmas.

And here's my review:

Take one strong blizzard and set the story shortly after World War II, in a year that coincides with this year’s calendar (where Christmas falls on a Sunday), mix in some romance and wholesome Christ-related storylines, and you’ve got a great read. I love how Susan didn’t shy away from the fact that the title’s namesake song is suggestive, but had her 1949 characters acknowledge that and not dwell on it. She used “cold” as a symbol. Her character’s suffered “the cold” in their lives due to their unforgiveness, or their regrets, or the lies they believed. They couldn’t come in from the cold until they loosed their lies and unforgiveness. Until they believed the best about the people around them. They had a choice to stay miserable or choose Jesus's love at Christmastime and let Him "fix" things by healing their hearts.

Loved the snowed-in setting, how that encouraged the characters to figure out their relationship woes. And the coinciding romances. While reading, I laughed aloud, teared up, caught my breath—all the best reactions to great fiction! At first I wasn’t sure about the inclusion of the fifth character, but that Storm House idea was ingenious. Made me long for snow. (I know, unbelievable!) Love how Susan captured the magic of snowy December days and Christmastime. And though I don’t live where blizzards are commonplace any longer, I could so recall being snowed in and surrounded by walls of snow. And who doesn’t love a grand, old Victorian house?

I’d recommend this read during this season and beyond. It’s timeless and universal. Her characters’ emotions are so relatable. I didn’t want the story to end. Again, her characterization hooked me as soon as I figured out who everyone was and bonded with them. Susan is a master story-teller.

Highly recommended. 

  First link is for print; the second is for the e-book.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Author Interview: Anita Higman

It's almost Christmas! I have one more holiday treat for today--an interview with author Anita Higman about her two-in-one re-release: Love Finds You Under the Mistletoe. So, let's see, we've had the egg nog and the candy cane. Today, grab a chocolate-covered marshmallow Christmas tree, and enjoy!

Welcome, Anita! Please tell us a bit about yourself.

I grew up on a farm in western Oklahoma. I came to know hard work, the wonderful ebb and flow of planting and harvest, the ever present quiet, and the tangy aroma of pig manure. It really wasn’t an elegant way to grow up, but it was intriguing.

In fact, it was fascinating enough to feed my writer’s appetite. I was about thirty when I decided to take writing seriously. Until that time I had very little confidence to do anything. But eventually the calling to write was stronger than my fear of failure.

What is your favorite Bible verse?

"I lift up my eyes to the hills—where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth." Psalms 121: 1-2 (NIV). This was also my mother’s favorite passage.

How did you get started writing Christian fiction?

I love reading and writing fiction, and I’m a Christian, so it was a natural progression that I should want to write Christian fiction. I’ve written in quite a few genres, but inspirational romance is my favorite.

How did you come up with the concept for Love Finds You Under the Mistletoe?

The publisher decided to put two Christmas stories together with two different authors. The first story is historical and ties into my contemporary one, which is entitled, Once Upon a Christmas Eve. Irene Brand and I enjoyed finding ways to connect our two stories.

Is any part of your novella factual?

Once Upon a Christmas Eve is pure fiction, but the town of Noel, Missouri is real! 

How closely is the novella based on your life experiences?

There is a sprinkling of my life within my novella. Even though I was not abandoned or adopted as a child, I have occasionally felt neglected by friends and family. So, I tried to infuse the work with those memory-emotions.

Please share the summary of your novella, Once Upon a Christmas Eve.

Holly Goodnight’s store has just been voted best Christmas shop in America. All the publicity draws flamboyant novelist Van Keaton to the cozy town of Noel, Missouri, demanding to write Holly’s story—a dramatic tale of misfortune and triumph. She is swept up in his world of beautiful words…until Owen Quigly, her lifelong best friend, launches a plan to win her back.

Do you have a favorite character in Once Upon a Christmas Eve? Why?

I like the heroine, Holly Goodnight. She’s the kind of person I aspire to be.

How much research did you do for your novella?

My husband and I drove to Noel, Missouri to research the town. Everyone there was very welcoming and helpful in answering all my questions about the area. In fact, I dedicated my novella to the fine folks of Noel, Missouri.

What are some of the challenges you face as an author?

I have no problem coming up with unusual characters, but strong conflicts in the plot don’t come to me as quickly and easily. Needless to say, my novels are more character driven than plot driven.

What aspects of being a writer do you enjoy the most?

I love that moment when the UPS man hands me my box full of books. I lift the lid and then hold a copy of the long-awaited book in my hands. Ahh. After lots and lots of work it’s a great feeling.

Do your characters begin to take on a life of their own as you write?

Yes, they really do. So much so that sometimes I wish I could invite my heroine and hero over for dinner. You know, to spend more time with them. Too bad they’re just in my head. That whole concept makes me think of the movie, Stranger Than Fiction.

What message would you like your readers to take from your novella in Love Finds You Under the Mistletoe?

I hope readers will come away feeling that God is in the midst of their everyday trials, big and small, and that even though circumstances look impossible, He really will make all things work for good.

What is your greatest achievement?

My children. I love my kids dearly, and I think they turned out well.

What is your goal or mission as a writer?

To entertain readers and inspire them. To hopefully let them rest for a while, away from life’s many struggles.

What do you do to get away from it all?

I love to go to a local spa for a short retreat. It really helps me to let go of the stress, and I can assure you that this business is loaded with stress. Also, now that my husband and I have empty nest we are traveling some. We went to Canada and France last year, and next year we’re hoping to go to Alaska and Ireland.

Is there anything else you’d like to add?

A note to readers: If you’ve ever taken the time to read one of my novels I thank you. You are deeply appreciated. In fact, you did such a great job supporting Love Finds You Under the Mistletoe last year that it has been rereleased by the publisher for this new Christmas season. Thank you so much!

Best-selling and award-winning author, Anita Higman, has twenty-eight books published (several coauthored) for adults and children. She’s been a Barnes & Noble “Author of the Month” for Houston and has a BA degree, combining speech communication, psychology, and art. Anita loves good movies, exotic teas, and brunch with her friends. Please visit her website.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Author Interview: Lauralee Bliss

Hey everyone. You're in for another Christmastime treat today! Lauralee Bliss, one of the authors of the four-in-one entitled A Quaker Christmas is here to share her behind-the-scenes information about this compilation. Since you had egg nog last week *wink*, grab a candy cane and enjoy!

Welcome, Lauralee! What type of books do you write?

I write Christian romance, both historical and contemporary, although right now I am working on a nonfiction book about my experiences hiking the Appalachian Trail (I have completed the trail in both directions)

Why do you write?

I write because I like my readers to experience romantic love God's way and not man’s way. That two people can experience adventure and love within the context of a sweet story. I also tend to throw in some curves within the storyline to keep things interesting. Trials beget blessings.

What is your new release about?

In the collection A Quaker Christmas the Christmas holiday is a simple matter among the Quakers of the historic Ohio River Valley, but can it be a time to welcome love into four households? In my novella, “A Crossroad to Love” Mary Hall’s family runs an inn for weary travelers, but some guests, like Silas Jones, pressure them to compromise their steadfast Quaker ways. Could it be that Silas just needs a reminder of why simpler ways are often better?

What do you hope the reader will take away after reading it?

That kindness can affect others for the better, especially those who suffer. There is a reason we are to practice hospitality. We can receive a blessing as well as bless others. I have experienced firsthand the kindness of others who invited me into their home while I was hiking the Appalachian Trail. I never forgot such wonderful hospitality, and it helped me accomplish my goal.

Which is your favorite character from your book?

I like the hero, Silas. He struggles with injustice and blames the wrong people for it. But he learns through the patience and understanding of others what he needs to do to come to grips with the injustice in his life that weighs him down and how to overcome it.

Do you have a funny or touching story that relates to your book?

This novella actually came into being while I was hiking the Appalachian Trail last fall. I received a call from my agent that my editor wanted me to write a novella for a Quaker Christmas collection. Here I am, out in the middle of nowhere, on the trail hiking, and a call comes in to write a novella! Talk about an unexpected crossroad in my journey but albeit, a most pleasant one. Of course I had to come up with an idea quick for the editor. It just so happened that at that same time, a wonderful couple had taken me into their home for a few days where I could enjoy nice meals and a real bed instead of a tent on the trail. From their kindness and the lending of a computer, I was able to formulate the idea of an inn taking in weary travelers. Thus my novella “A Crossroad to Love” was born.


Lauralee Bliss has always liked to dream big dreams. Part of that dream was writing, and after several years of hard work, the dream of publishing was realized in 1997 with the publication of her first romance novel, Mountaintop, through Barbour Publishing. Since then, she's had over twenty books published in both historical and contemporary. Lauralee is also an avid hiker, completing the entire length of the Appalachian Trail both north and south, one of only 24 women to have accomplished this feat. Lauralee makes her home with her family in Virginia in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains where she writes and speaks. Find Lauralee online: Website:; Blog:; “Readers of Author Lauralee Bliss” on Facebook; Follow her on Twitter – @lauraleebliss

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Author Interview: Susan Sleeman

Hey readers, it's Christmastime! Just for fun, I've got some interviews lined up this month with authors of recently released Christmas books! Today's guest is Susan Sleeman, author of The Christmas Witness (see book info below). She's here to share some behind-the-scenes info with you. Grab a glass of egg nog and enjoy!

Hi Susan, what inspired you to become an author?

The life long love of reading inspired me to want to write a book, but it was God who arranged free time for it to happen. I’ve always enjoyed writing from creative to technical writing I’ve done in the corporate world, and I said for years that I was going to write a book, but I was so busy working full time, raising children, and volunteering at church that I never made the time. Then in 2000, I began having health issues that limited my physical activity. Forced to sit for long periods of time, I started to research the craft of writing and began my first book. As my health deteriorated, I had more and more time available and soon I was writing full time and actively pursuing publication.

What is the most important thing you want your readers to take from your books?

No question here. God is in charge and, if we know what’s best, we will seek His guidance and follow His leading. I guess since this is something I continually struggle with, it shows up time and again in my writing. But I know I am not the only one who has a hard time wanting to be in charge of my life and so I write about it to remind others, too. We are taught as we grow up to be independent, take charge, and make something of ourselves, and we lose sight of the fact that only with God’s guidance can we become everything He has created us to be.
Q: Do you put yourself into your books/characters?

Because of our experiences and perceptions, we all put something of ourselves in our characters, but I try to make each character different and unique and that means they have to possess a variety of characteristics. If anything, I try to write characters that have features I would want to have or that I admire.

That said, though not done intentionally, when I finish a book and evaluate the spiritual struggle of the main character I am surprised to see issues I am either struggling with and or have recently come through. Though Christian fiction entertains, and some would say that is the only purpose of fiction, God can really help us develop our spiritual walk through great stories.

Can you tell us what you’re working on now?

I am currently working on the edits for Double Exposure my June of 2012 release from Love Inspired Suspense and writing my fall of 2012 release tentatively titled Justice Denied. These are the first two books in the Justice Agency series featuring five adopted siblings who used to work in law enforcement but now own a private investigative agency, called what else but The Justice Agency.

How do you integrate faith into the stories and lives of your characters?

This is actually one of the easiest parts of writing for me as it is such a fundamental part of my life. Before I begin a book, I pray for guidance on a verse to base the story on. Once I am clear on the verse, I think about lessons I may have learned revolving around this verse or how this verse has changed my life. Then I create a story where the characters struggle with this lesson.

What is your favorite book?

I don’t have a favorite book, but favorite genres. I read mostly mystery, suspense, and romantic suspense because I like a book that moves along and has a mystery to solve. As a writer, there are books that I love because of the prose, books I love because of the great/creative plots, books I love for wonderful/quirky characters, books I love for the message, and of course, books I love for the pure entertainment value. When a book includes all of these under one cover, I cannot put it down.

What is your favorite Bible verse?

Though I don’t have a favorite verse as different verses speak to me at different times of my life, the verse I use for my writing life and for my life in general, “And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.” Colossians 3:17

What is the accomplishment that you are most proud of?

Though, I don’t think of this as an accomplishment per se, I am proud of my two daughters. Of the women they have become and of their walk with the Lord. It’s hard to raise godly children these days with all the competing noise and distractions of our hectic world and the fact that faith is so important to both of them makes me so happy.

Thanks for visiting today, Susan!

The Christmas Witness by Susan Sleeman, available now.
"Don't say a word!"

When a criminal threatened to kill Megan Cash if she testified against him, she didn’t back down. Years later, he’s out of jail and ready for revenge against Megan and her daughter. The only one who can protect them is the former FBI agent who broke Megan’s heart.

But Reid Morgan isn’t the same man—he’s now a widowed father with a harrowing past. . .and a heart more guarded than ever. Still, he’s the only who believes Megan when she says she’s in danger. Because someone wants to make this a Christmas she won’t live long enough to forget.


SUSAN SLEEMAN is a best-selling author of inspirational romantic suspense and mystery novels. She grew up in a small Wisconsin town where she spent her summers reading Nancy Drew and developing a love of mystery and suspense books. Today, she channels this enthusiasm into writing romantic suspense and mystery novels and hosting the popular internet website Susan currently lives in Florida, but has had the pleasure of living in nine states. Her husband is a church music director and they have two beautiful daughters, a very special son-in-law and an adorable grandson. To learn more about Susan visit her Facebook page or website

Thursday, December 1, 2011

New Christian Fiction Releases: December, 2011

Here is the list of recent and/or upcoming releases in Christian fiction as compiled by ACFW (American Christian Fiction Writers). More in-depth descriptions of these books can be found on the ACFW FictionFinder website. Where possible, I've included links to Amazon for you. Some of these are only $0.99 during December. Enjoy!

An Amish Wedding by Beth Wiseman -- Romance from Thomas Nelson; Pricilla's upcoming wedding is stirring up trouble - and romance - in Paradise.

Christmas Pearl by Robin L. Bayne -- Romance from White Rose Publishing (Pelican). Joe Gardner never expected to see Elizabeth again, not after the part she'd played in ruining his life. Refusing to believe she now shares his faith, Joe tosses aside her efforts to apologize. But when they are forced to work together in the midst of the Christmas season, Joe has to face the truth about Elizabeth, and himself.

Daddy’s Little Matchmakers by Kathleen Y'Barbo -- Romance from Love Inspired -- Wanted: Wife And Mother. Veterinarian Eric Wilson is confounded by the classified ad his three young daughters have placed. The handsome widower is not in the market for a bride!

Death in Dahlonega by Deborah Malone -- A Mystery from Lamp Post Inc.. A vacation with a friend should never include murder and mayhem.

Gold, Frankincense, and Murder by Barbara Early -- Romance/Mystery from White Rose Publishing (Pelican); A missing coworker. A brawny sidekick. Sometimes the holidays can be murder.

His Holiday Family by Margaret Daley, -- Romance from Love Inspired. In the aftermath of a hurricane, will Kathleen Hart and Gideon O'Brien, two scarred people, find hope and love?

Love Finds You in Annapolis, Maryland by Roseanna M. White -- Romance from Summerside Press. In 1784 peace has been declared, but war still rages in the heart of Lark Benton.

Polar Bear Plunge by Linda Glaz -- Romance from White Rose Publishing (Pelican). Aleni Callan can’t accept that God allowed her husband to die in Afghanistan while war hero, Brice Taylor, returns from Iraq to cheers and fame and feelings that he somehow failed. Neither can accept that one man lived and one man died.

Replication by Jill Williamson -- Young Adult from Zondervan; A girl discovers her biologist father is covering up multiple secrets—all of which are named Jason.

Savanna’s Gift by Camille Eide -- Romance from White Rose Publishing (Pelican); When Savanna gets a second chance at the love of her life, will her dream that once divided them get in the way?

Small-Town Sweethearts by Jean C. Gordon-- Romance from Love Inspired; With the help of God and the love of Drew Stacey, a down-sized Wall Street analyst turned church camp manager, NYC assistant art director and former town misfit Emily, ne Jinx, Hazard finds the thing she wants most in the place she least wants to be — Paradox Lake.

Smitten by Colleen Coble, Kristin Billerbeck, Denise Hunter, and Diann Hunt -- Romance from Thomas Nelson; When a failed logging company threatens their town's survival, four friends devise a plan to turn Smitten, Vermont, into the country's premier romantic getaway.

The Christmas Witness by Susan Sleeman-- Thriller Suspense from Love Inspired; Can a former FBI agent let go of the devastating loss of his wife to cancer in order to save a critically ill child and her mother from a ruthless criminal?

Tracks in the Snow by Sandra H. Esch-- General Fiction from Lamp Post Inc.; Jo Bremley feared losing her husband to World War II, but when a snowstorm rips apart her storybook world, how can she heal her broken heart, and move on?