Tag-Archive for » family histories «

New Fiction for Women: Mini Book Reviews

         I am always on the prowl for new authors (to me) to read, review and interview. If I’m lucky I find them to my taste for my pleasure reading too. An added bonus! These mini-reviews are books I wanted to share with my readers and unsolicited by the authors.

Christmas at the Beach Hotel by Jenny Colgan          reviews, authors, writingreviews, authors, writingreviews, authors, writingreviews, authors, writing 4 out of 5 quills

A wacky little story set in a wacky little village on a remote rock (really) jutting out of the north Atlantic sea. The sentence structure, the run-on sentences and the odd flavor and cadence of the language made this writer/reader wonder if English was the author’s first language.  Rather than distract from the story, it turned out (at least for me) to add charm and credence to the unlikely characters living, willingly, on the harsh and unwelcoming island that is Mure.
It took a couple chapters in to fully believe in said characters and stop wondering why anyone in their right minds would live there. I recommend this book and look forward to the next one I shall be opening soon.
 

Seabreeze Inn by Jan Moran   reviews, authors, writing reviews, authors, writing reviews, authors, writing reviews, authors, writing   
                                                                   4 out of 5 quills

I’ve been reading Jan Moran for awhile now. Very enjoyable contemporary stories set along the coast of southern California.

Seabreeze Inn is a series set in what was an old private home, now, out of necessity, turned into a charming Inn by a reluctant widow. Her husband, recently deceased, had neglected to tell her about his acquisition. She is quite surprised to find herself the sudden owner of an old house, with back taxes past due, broke on top of everything else. Its beautiful location on the beach and steps from the sand inspires her to convert the house into an inn. Throughout the series the old house gives up its secrets and becomes another vibrant character in the story line. 

The characters are well drawn and very plausible. The reader will be  happy to know that there are more challenges, conflict, surprises and love interests in the following books. 

    reviews, authors, writingreviews, authors, writingreviews, authors, writingreviews, authors, writingreviews, authors, writing        5 out of 5 quills 
                                    Married To The Rogue  by Mary Lancaster

This Regency romance is a perfect mix of good writing.  A fun, interesting story, several love stories woven in, and a hint of sex. Written in the style of Barbara Cartland, Georgette Heyer and Mary Balogh, the raciest romance scenes go no further than the kissing of fingers, the inside of a lady’s wrist, one or two passionate kisses….and the rest is left to the imagination of the reader.  This is my favorite approach to sex scenes in this genre. When an author is blatant, for no apparent reason, I find it is frequently to compensate for weak writing. A Literary Commentary

Married To The Rogue is strongly written. Deborah is a self assured young debutante who finds herself painted into a corner of scandal where there appears to be no escape.  Christopher is a young peer who has political ideas far ahead of his time and has an urgent need for a wife. 
Having just discovered Mary Lancaster, I look forward to reading more of her books. (Hurry up, Amazon!) 
I highly recommend this book to my readers.
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My weekly BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!    November: Ella Quinn, December: Lauren Willig, January: Madeline Hunter, February: Mike Lupica 
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Book Review ~~ The Daydream Cabin

4  out  of  5 quills                             Book  Reviewreviews, authors, writingreviews, authors, writingreviews, authors, writingreviews, authors, writing

Light, funny with a twisty, ‘feel good’ ending. Piney Wood Academy sounds like a well-heeled, private school for boys or girls whose parents can afford it. Wrong. It is a well-heeled, private boot camp for juvenile delinquents whose parents can afford it. And it’s a last stop  before serving serious time in ‘juvie’. The girls who are sent there are incorrigible and are not going to go quietly. 

The Daydream Cabin teaches the readers what boot camp is really like. This reviewer enjoyed learning something new. The writing is good, as we have come to expect from author, Carolyn Brown. The characters are well drawn and empathetic. I recommend this book to my readers. 

Did you miss my Interview with Carolyn Brown?

 

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My weekly BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!    November: Ella Quinn, December: Lauren Willig, January: Madeline Hunter, February: Mike Lupica 
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Interview with Author, Lauren Willig (part 2)

Future writer

Q. What’s your best advice to other writers for overcoming procrastination?

LW. There’s something to be said for the famous Nora Roberts dictum: “butt in chair”. But I do believe there’s something to be said for productive procrastination. Are you procrastinating because you just don’t wanna? (Trust me, there are days when all of just don’t wanna.) Or are you procrastinating because there’s something wrong with the story and your subconscious mind needs some time to worry away at it? What I usually do is try to power through (aka butt in chair, coffee in hand), but if powering through doesn’t get me anywhere, then it probably means that there’s something fundamentally off and the best possible thing I can do is go browse through the clearance racks at T.J. Maxx, call my college roommate, or buy pumpkin themed goodies at Trader Joe’s. Giving yourself license to not think about the book and do something else entirely can give you the room to make sense of what’s not working. I’ll be on the Trader Joe’s checkout line or a in a dressing room and have that “aha!” moment when I’ll realize that the reason I’ve been stuck for a week is because I have the scene in the wrong viewpoint, or the scene doesn’t need to exist, or I’m trying to shoehorn my characters into doing something that works for the plot but isn’t true to their character. So… procrastination ain’t all bad. Just watch out for the just don’t wannas.

Q. Where/when do you first discover your characters?

LW. Baroness Orczy, the writer of The Scarlet Pimpernel, said that Sir Percy Blakeney walked up to her one day at a London Tube stop. I’ve never had a character accost me on the subway, but they do tend to pop up in all sorts of strange places. Generally, mine jump out at me from whatever historical source I’m reading. For example, my upcoming book, Band of Sisters, came about because I was researching Christmas customs in Picardy during World War I (for a different book) and stumbled on a memoir by a Smith alum, talking about throwing Christmas parties for French villagers in the Somme in 1917. I thought “what on earth is a group of Smithies doing on the front lines in World War I?” And that was that.

Q. What first inspired you to write?

LW. I was six years old. As I saw it at the time, my choices were ballerina, princess, or novelist, but since I can’t dance to save my life and no-one was considerate enough to offer me a hereditary principality, I was really left with no other option but to focus on fiction. So I told my first grade classmates I was going to write books. And I did. I was rather disappointed when my first novel was rejected by Simon and Schuster when I was nine, but I stuck the manuscript in a drawer and kept on at it.

Q. What comes first to you? The Characters or the Situation?

LW. A little from Column A… a little from Column B…. It’s the old chicken and egg question. For me, the two tend to be bound up together. The characters are shaped by the situation and the situation is formed by the characters. I write historical fiction, so there’s the added layer of characters being shaped by their times.

Q. Do you ‘get lost’ in your writing?

LW. I read recently about a state called “flow”, where there is nothing but you and the task. And that pretty much sums it up. On a good day, the world around me falls away and there’s nothing but me and the characters. I come to at some point to realize that hours have passed and my coffee’s all gone. Those are the best sort of writing days (aside from the whole disappearing coffee bit).

Q. Are you working on something now? If so tell us about it.

A. Right now I’m working on a prequel to my upcoming book, BAND OF SISTERS. (Release date in March; don’t miss my review of this fine book.) BAND OF SISTERS is about the Smith College Relief Unit, a group of Smith College alumnae who charged off to France at the height of World War I to bring humanitarian aid to French villagers on the front lines. While I was writing it, I became fascinated by the charismatic and eccentric founder of the Unit, a ground breaking archeologist who periodically dropped everything—her career, her children—to bring aid in war zones. The real life founder of the Smith Unit had gotten herself tangled, right out of Smith, in both the Greco-Turkish War and the Spanish American War and wound up being decorated by Queen Olga of Greece for her contributions war nursing. I wanted to know what she’d seen in Greece that made her plunge into the Spanish American War with the Red Cross—and what it was that turned her into a lifelong pacifist and humanitarian. I decided to go back and write her story, as a young woman just out of Smith, fighting to be allowed to excavate as an archaeologist with the boys and finding herself on the front lines of a war. That book doesn’t have a title yet (other than my working title, Smith II: The ReSmithening) but it’s slated to appear on shelves in spring of 2022, a year after BAND OF SISTERS.

Q. When did you begin to write seriously?

Next week will feature the conclusion to this wonderful interview. Don’t Miss It!
Did you miss Part I?
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My weekly BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!   November: Ella Quinn, December: Lauren Willig, January: Madeline Hunter, February: Mike Lupica 
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How to Write A Stage Play: Exercise

In this exercise, featured in my Journal, “How To Write a Play’, I have started a play for you to continue writing. It can be a 10
minute play, a full one act play, or a full length play. I have left the story plot ‘threads’ dangling in order for you to choose where the plot goes.
Tip: If you choose to write a longer play you might want to consider writing something in front of these few lines to get more ‘back story’.
Remember the best plays begin, early on, with some tension. 

 

                                                                    Scene 1  ©

At Rise: A hallway in a high school.

              (JASON and ROBIN stand next to some lockers away from the flow of students
              hurrying to their classes.)

                                                                    ROBIN (Hissing.)

You better not hurt my friend.

                                                                     JASON

What are you talking about?

                                                                ROBIN

I know your rep….luv ‘em and leave ‘em.

                                                                JASON

Naw. Not me.

                                                                ROBIN

Yes, you. Just be careful.  Do not start dating Sara, coming on strong like she’s the only girl in the world. Then dumping her.

                                                                JASON

I wouldn’t.

                                                                ROBIN

You would. I’m just sayin’, if you plan on doing something like that, you’ll have to go through me to get to Sara.  

                                                                JASON  (Smirked.)

What if I’m planning on going through Sara to get to you?

                                                                ROBIN

What? You’re crazy.

                                                                JASON

That doesn’t answer my question.

                                                                ROBIN

You don’t even like me. 

(Now try continue writing this play. Make your own choices about where it goes and who does what.)
Want to read more about Playwriting?
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My weekly BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!    October: George Scott, November: Ella Quinn, December: Lauren Willig, January: Madeline Hunter, February: Mike Lupica 
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Book Review ~~ The Cowboy Who Saved Xmas

          3 out of 5 quills   ~~    Book Review reviews, authors, writingreviews, authors, writingreviews, authors, writing

Jodi Thomas contributed a short story to this collection of cowboys and Christmas.  With her fellow authors, Sharla Lovelace and Scarlett Dunn, they have written three stories capturing the spirit of Christmas amidst ranch life. 

Father Goose by Jodi Thomas left this reviewer wanting more!  I was disappointed this wonderful story was not developed into a cozy length novel or a full novel. The story line could have supported either.  93 pages was just a tease but still conveyed Thomas’ unique style of writing and a taste of life on a ranch.  The children were well drawn and delightful. 

Sharla Lovelace and Scarlett Dunn contributed the other two short stories.  I wasn’t impressed. They seemed rushed and not developed. It was almost as if someone said to these two authors, ‘we’re publishing a trilogy of cowboys saving Christmas; your story needs to be 100 pages and your deadline is (date).  Oh, yes and your story needs to have kids in it.’  And that’s exactly what they provided.

I wished the whole book had been filled with pages from Father Goose

Goes on sale today. Click here
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My weekly BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!   October: George Scott, December: Lauren Willig, February: Mike Lupica 
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A Literary Commentary and a Book Review

Historical romances are fun reading and in the good ones, the reader learns a little history along the way. Second only to ‘sci-fi’, this genre is the most popular with the reading public. It is part of the ‘bodice ripper’ tradition that sex scenes range from vague titillation to  down-right pornographic in their descriptions.  In the well written ones, it’s a fine line between eroticism and blatant porn. Sometimes the most provocative is what is not said by the writer.  As in the case of my two favorite authors in this genre, Grace Burrowes (early books) and Annie Grace, who are masters at this. They suggest, they titillate, they let you use your imagination.  It is so much more satisfying than crude, blatant sex described in lurid detail which is porn written on paper and not to my taste.  In the case of sex scenes, less is more. 

reviews, authors, writingreviews, authors, writingreviews, authors, writingreviews, authors, writingreviews, authors, writing

 5 out of 5 quills           ~~  Book Review

Madeline Hunter deftly walks this line successfully in her earlier books. She seems to know when to stop and let her readers participate with their imagination.  Lady of Sin was such a great story with many layers. Lady M. was a strong, independent woman. Nathaniel, our sexy hero was strong, confrontational and opinionated, but was a softie in love with Lady Charlotte.  The plot had lots of twists and turns and led our reader around by the nose until the very last page.

The main thread of the plot is about divorce. Women of that era (1800’s), were lobbying for ‘divorce’ laws more favorable to and including women who were victims of domestic abuse. They were not allowed a position in the House of Lords or House of Commons (our Congress) so they had to petition through the influence of their fathers, husbands, or brothers.
Then add in a wonderful sub-plot about a ‘lost boy’ of aristocratic birth, if it can be proven. No spoiler alerts here. All I am saying is the plot is sophisticated and rich in layers.  Excellent writing that never needs the crutch of flagrant sex scenes to prop it up. 
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My weekly BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!    October: George Scott, November: Ella Quinn, December: Lauren Willig, January: Madeline Hunter, February: Mike Lupica 
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Interview with author, George WB Scott (part 2)

Q. What first inspired you to write?

GS. I’ve always written, since elementary school. I won a contest in junior high school, and have always gotten good feedback from school writing. In ninth grade I showed a girl a story I wrote for another class, and she told me I wrote well. That made a big impression.

Q. What comes first to you? The Characters or the Situation?

GS. For “I Jonathan” I have always had the idea of a man out of place, seeing a culture with “new eyes.” I built a story around the historical events, and developed people, some based on historical figures, who would act the parts. One example of a history-based character is the captain of the blockade runner. He’s based on a real person.

Q. Do you ‘get lost’ in your writing?

GS. Oh, yes. When I can work without interruption, I’m totally in the scene. My wife makes me eat.

Q. Are you working on something now? If so tell us about it.

GS. Yes, I’m working on a story about the Christianization of the Slavic people in Bohemia. History is pretty sketchy in that period, so the research is more based on culture, legends and traditions. It’s another clash of civilizations.

Q. When did you begin to write seriously?

GS. I had no direction when I went to college, and dropped out after one semester. Then I worked jobs in kitchens and landscaping for six years. One day I found myself literally digging a ditch, and realized I needed to focus. I went back to college and got a degree, and concentrated on my work, first in television news.
One job I had later involved driving a lot in the country where I listened to a station that played Country music from back in the 1950s and 1960s. This was the inspiration for a screenplay, “Big Sky Country,” written in 2001, and since then I’ve accepted that writing is something I need to do.
When my wife and I visited Charleston in 2000, I was inspired to try to build a story around what I learned about the war, and to go deeper into the “why” of the people who lived there then. I also wrote a childhood memoir in 2004, “Growing Up in Eden.”

George in the Low Country

Q. Do you think we will see, in our lifetime, the total demise of paper books?

GS. I think paper books will always be around. There is something tactile that is part of my reading experience. People growing up with portable electronic screens may be more comfortable with them, but I believe the printed page will always endure.

Q. What makes a writer great?

GS. I don’t know. Many of my favorite writers are not considered “great” by some, and I have no doubt that there are many, many great writers who never get published, and so will ever remain unknown.

Q. and the all-important: What does the process of going from “no book” to “finished book” look like for you?

GS. It’s a thing you can hold. I can pick up a volume of my work and feel the weight of it, the sum of many hundreds of hours of work. But what it really means to me is a vehicle to convey ideas in a substantial form, one that takes hours to explore, and hopefully leaves the reader interested in the subjects it touches.

Q. How has your life experiences influenced your writing?

GS. I could write nothing without my life experiences. Some people will like my work, and others who lived very different lives may not. A book can be a bridge of one’s experience to another.

Q. What’s your down time look like?

GS. We garden when we can. We ride bikes. I like to travel, to experience new places and learn their histories. And I like movies, though in 2020 I experience them at home instead of at a theater. Hopefully that will change soon.

Q. Have you or do you want to write in another genre`?

GS. My screenplay was Science Fiction, and I liked that. I’ve got a mystery in mind for another year, and also a series for younger readers.

Q. Note to Self: (a life lesson you’ve learned.)

GS. Be kinder, and forgive yourself.
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My weekly BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!    October: George Scott, November: Ella Quinn, December: Lauren Willig, February: Mike Lupica 
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Interview with author, George WB Scott

TS. George WB Scott is an East Tennessee video producer and videographer with a life-long interest in the causes and events of the Civil War. His years of research on this topic are the basis of a story of Jonathan’s personal journey through one of the most interesting and important regions of the South. Scott was born in Stuart, Florida, and is a cum laude graduate of Appalachian State University. He lives with his wife Mary Leidig in Knoxville, Tennessee.

Q. Where do you write? Do you have a special room, shed, barn, special space for your writing? 

GS. I work in an office with many windows that looks out on our backyard. My wife shares the office with a desk next to mine. I write on an Apple Macbook Pro, which I use as a desktop computer. I have two large monitors and a wireless keyboard, which I also use for video editing as part of my business. Sometimes I take the laptop and keyboard to other locations when I need more privacy.

Q. Do you have any special rituals or quirks when you sit down to write? (a neat work space, sharpened #2 pencils, legal pad, cup of tea, glass of brandy, favorite pajamas, etc.)

GS. In the morning I drink at least three cups of coffee, and caffeinated like that I can burn up several pages in the morning. Sometimes when I am into a chapter or scene I write late into the night.
I keep a small notepad by my hand.

Q. Could you tell us something about yourself that we might not already know?

GS. I’ve always thought of myself as a writer, but until my book was edited I didn’t realize what I didn’t know. For years I have kept a small notebook of random thoughts and musings which I have dipped into for my last novel, and I expect I will for the next one.

Review:  ”I know lots of people who call themselves writers who aren’t as good…Civil War Charleston, was a complex place of fiery secessionists and perplexed immigrants, African Americans both enslaved and free, sailors, soldiers, musicians and drunks, old veterans and young secessionists knew nothing of war but would learn about its horrors all too soon.” –Jack Neely, Executive Director of Knoxville History Project, journalist and author.

Q. What tools do you begin with? Legal pad, spiral notebook, pencils, fountain pen, or do you go right to your keyboard?

GS. I find I do much of my best thinking when I am doing some physical labor, such as yardwork or hiking. For my last novel I wrestled with how to craft a story into the historical timeline of the Civil War, and stressed over that for a long time. Finally I just sat at my computer and wrote one random scene, the chapter about the delivery of the CSS Hunley submarine. After that, I determined how the character came to that spot, and what happened afterwards.

Q. Do you have a set time each day (or night) to write?

GS. I like to get a start after a cup of coffee in the morning, and write until I either have to get up and move around a bit, or when I reach the end of an event in the book. Afternoons are not usually as productive.

Q. What’s your best advice to other writers for overcoming procrastination?

GS. It’s like I have always heard from every writer I ever asked: write! Just write something, even if it’s a letter to an old friend, or a review of a movie. It’s easier to direct your writing to a bigger project once you have some “writing momentum.”

Q. Where/when do you first discover your characters?

GS. Most characters are derived from people I know. Some I will sketch in as “placeholders,” until I can build a backstory that justifies the actions each is used for. In “I Jonathan,” for instance, I researched how Isabella could come to be where she was and in the condition she was in. The same goes for the policeman Kerry. William was a pretty stock character for Civil War books, but I have known people like him, and I enlarged him to be grander than reality, which was right for him.
Zeke is an adaptation from a man in an old Charles Kuralt “On the Road” episode.

Q. What first inspired you to write?

Part 2 of this wonderful interview will post Oct. 17th.  Please join us. 
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My weekly BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!    October: George Scott, November: Ella Quinn, December: Lauren Willig, February: Mike Lupica 
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  On the home page, enter your email address.  Thanks!

 

 

Book Review ~~ Return to Virgin River

reviews, authors, writingreviews, authors, writingreviews, authors, writing         3 out of 5 quills  ~~  Book  Review

Most fans of the Virgin River series are going to love this latest offering. It’s a good story of loss, grief, and recovery. But!  Remember, I mostly review ‘the writing’.

This story seemed lopsided. The female protagonist, Kaylee, must have described the loss of her mother six ways to Sunday. Almost everyone she met she told her story to, and the reader had to hear it again. Then every couple of chapters the author found a way for Kaylee to reiterate her loss to the readers; albeit, it was clever and smooth, it was still wash and repeat. Kaylee didn’t come across to this reviewer as strong. She seemed weak and lukewarm about everything. The Christmas tree was beyond beautiful in the town square. ‘Yes, but it would have been better if my mother was here’. (Kaylee) The puppies were fat, soft and cuddly. ‘If only my mother could have seen them. (Kaylee)…  You get the idea. 

I think it would have been a better story if (spoiler alert!) Kaylee’s Dad had shown up earlier, if the love interest had had a conflict or two (he was too perfect and his one conflict was slightly unbelievable.) and it would have been a terrific story if Mallory had entered much, much sooner. 

Robyn Carr always delivers with good writing. (I adore the series, Sullivan’s Crossing). She draws good characters.  I think my only problem with this book was the PLOT. I got fatigued with the grief.  I know grief. Believe me, time does not cure all things. But…Robyn, we get it…move on.  I didn’t love this book, nor did I hate it. It left me lukewarm. 
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My weekly BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!    October: George Scott, November: Ella Quinn, December: Lauren Willig, February: Mike Lupica 
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Book Review ~~ Breakfast at the Honey Creek Cafe

reviews, authors, writingreviews, authors, writingreviews, authors, writingreviews, authors, writing         5 out of 5 quills  ~~  Book  Reviewreviews, authors, writing

 

Jodi Thomas has delivered again!  BREAKFAST AT THE HONEY CREEK CAFE is a new series, beginning with this title.  Jodi’s writing style is consistent and reliable. That means (to her fans and new readers) that she will always deliver flawless writing and  well drawn and thoughtful characters. 

Piper Jane Mackenzie, a small town mayor and a ‘travel’in’ preacher, Sam Cassidy meet while an undercover detective Colby McBride circle the wagons to her heart; sounds like a clique, right? Nope. It turns out to be a charming story written in Jodi’s unique voice, with characters that are provocative and intriguing.  You are pulled in before you turn the first page.

I am a fan and I highly recommend this book. 

Did you miss my Interview with Jodi Thomas?
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My weekly BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!    October: George Scott, December: Lauren Willig, February: Mike Lupica 
To receive my posts sign up for my 

  On the home page, enter your email address.  Thanks!