Historical Romance Fun

I recently finished Kathleen Y’Barbo’s The Inconvenient Marriage of Charlotte Beck. That one was just too fun—classic Y’Barbo. She can come up with the cutest plots, not to mention fun characters! Charlotte had me laughing loud enough to raise MSB’s eyebrows.

Charlotte wants to go to college and become a partner in her father’s business in a time when such things were unheard of in women. Alex wants to study the stars, but must save his crumbling estate with finances he does not have. Neither of them want to marry the other. Charlotte, especially, will go to extremes to avoid getting married. But when her father makes an offer neither can refuse, that’s exactly what happens.

The frequent cameo appearances of Buffalo Bill Cody were fun too. I like the idea of tossing in a character from our past and having him interact with the fictional ones. Cody’s influence on Charlotte early in the book made for some fun scenes. Though, it wasn’t like Charlotte needed that much help to get herself in trouble!

If you like to laugh, grab  The Inconvenient Marriage of Charlotte Beck . I give it a full five coffee cups—or five full coffee cups!

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New Christian Titles for April!

More in-depth descriptions of these books can be found on the ACFW Fiction Finder website.


Claiming Canaan: Milcah’s Journey by Barbara M. Britton — When the tribal elders make marriage a requirement for claiming her land, Milcah bat Zelophehad must find a betrothed straightaway. The only problem in finding a husband is that all her suitors were slain while conquering the land of Canaan. Men avoid her in order to stay alive. After praying to God to send her a bold suitor, a man from her father’s clan plummets from a tree right on top of her. Is this God answering prayer, or a foolish antic by Eli, the war-scarred brother from one of her clan’s rival families. Will settling in Canaan sort out Milcah’s troubles, or have her woes just begun? (Biblical Fiction from Harbourlight Books [Pelican])

Contemporary Romance:

Ryan’s Father by June Foster — The rippling influence of Ryan Reid’s less than moral mother and absent father made a mark on his soul. Yet everything changed when the young school teacher accepted Christ—almost everything. An earthquake hurls the beautiful Sandy Arrington into his life, tossing his world upside down. When God calls him to build an annex for needy teens at his church, Ryan must face the carefully guarded secret he’s held deep in his heart. Though Sandy falls in love with him, Ryan’s forbidden affections lie elsewhere, and he must depend on the Lord to see him through a struggle he always hoped he’d never have to face. Sandy’s wealthy cardiologist father and the battle Ryan is powerless to win are hurtles to their romance. Can he dig his way out to find Sandy’s love? (Contemporary Romance from Winged Publications)

Historical Romance:

The House at the End of the Moor by Michelle Griep — What Can a London Opera Star and an Escaped Dartmoor Prisoner Have in Common? Opera star Maggie Lee escapes her opulent lifestyle when threatened by a powerful politician who aims to ruin her life. She runs off to the wilds of the moors to live in anonymity. All that changes the day she discovers a half-dead man near her house. Escaped convict Oliver Ward is on the run to prove his innocence, until he gets hurt and is taken in by Maggie. He discovers some jewels in her possession—the very same jewels that got him convicted. Together they hatch a plan to return the jewels, clearing Oliver’s name and hopefully maintaining Maggie’s anonymity. (Historical Romance from Barbour Publishing)

Spies & Sweethearts by Linda Shenton Matchett — A secret mission. A fake bride. A run for their lives. According to the OSS training manual, the life expectancy of a radio operator in Nazi-occupied France is six weeks. Partnered with one of the agency’s top spies, Gerard Lucas, newly-minted agent Emily Strealer plans to beat those odds. Then their cover is blown and all bets are off. The border to neutral Switzerland is three hundred miles away-a long way to run with SS soldiers on their heels.
Will Emily and Gerard survive the journey and get home? And what about their hearts? Nothing in the manual prepared them for falling in love. (Historical Romance from Shortwave Press)

Devyn’s Dilemma by Susan G Mathis — 1910, Thousand Islands, New York. Others may consider The Towers castle on Dark Island an enchanting summer retreat, but to Devyn McKenna, it’s a prison. Yet as she works as a maid for Frederick Bourne, former president of the Singer Sewing Machine Company, her life blossoms under the kindness of his family and fascinating entrepreneurs such as J.P. Morgan, Thomas Lipton, and Captain Vanderbilt. But more than anything, the growing friendship of Mr. Bourne’s valet, Brice McBride, begins to pry away the painful layers that conceal Devyn’s heart. Brice is drawn to the mysterious Devyn even though he’s certain she’s hiding a secret, one far more dangerous than the clues they find in The Towers that hint of a treasure on the island. When Devyn is accused of stealing Bourne’s investment in Vanderbilt’s New York City subway expansion, he might not be able to protect her. (Historical Romance from Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas)

A Life Renewed by Olivia Rae — In 1554, Lady Jane Grey, “The Nine Days’ Queen” was executed for high treason. But what if, instead of feeling the blade on her neck she secretly survived? Escaping execution, Lady Jane hides as a peasant girl in a principality in Germany. She loves the simple life and never wants to return to England. But her benefactor, a power-hungry German prince, wants to march on London and place her on the English throne again, thereby increasing his dominance in Europe. If she doesn’t agree to his plan, her beloved childhood nurse will be put to death. Desperate for help, Jane must put her trust in the mysterious spy Asher Hayes. Asher Hayes is done rounding up Protestants for “Bloody Mary” and wants nothing more than to live a quiet life as a farmer and expunge the blood of many from his hands. Except Queen Mary isn’t done with him yet. She throws his father, mother, and sister into prison on false charges in order to force him to accept one last mission – find and kill Lady Jane Grey. But when Asher discovers Lady Jane isn’t a threat to the throne as he believed her to be, he faces a devastating decision – does he sacrifice his family for the woman who reigns in his heart? (Historical Romance from HopeKnight Press LLC)

The Chisholm Trail Bride by Kathleen Y’Barbo — Stubborn Hearts Clash on a Cattle Drive Eliza Gentry’s pursuit of marriage to the son of her family’s sworn enemy has cost her greatly. Furious at his daughter’s choices, her father sends her off with the cattle drive heading toward Fort Worth and the Barnhart ranch, but under the watchful eye of Wyatt Creed, a Pinkerton man he has hired to see to her safety. With danger at every turn—not the least of which to his heart—can Wyatt Creed keep his focus with Eliza Gentry around? Is the Chisholm Trail a place for falling in love or a place to die at the hands of cattle thieves? (Historical Romance from Barbour Publishing)


Cooking Up A Mystery by Gail Pallotta — In this romantic mystery Laney Eskridge battles insecurities, loss and a criminal who attempts to destroy her tea house and catering business. (Cozy Mystery from Inspired [Prism Book Group])

Romantic Suspense:

Flight Risk by Cara Putman — Savannah Daniels has worked hard to establish a small law practice, and her early career gambles have paid off with a life that she loves. Jett Mason Glover has almost reached the pinnacle of the journalism ladder in Washington, DC. He just needs one breakout story to seal his destiny. When a plane crashes into the 14th Street Bridge during take-off from Reagan National, everyone thinks it’s a freak accident—until the passenger list is released and the black box is compromised. Savannah does not expect to be connected to the crash until she learns her ex-husband was piloting the plane. She must manage his estate while his name is under a fog of accusations leveled by a journalist named Jett who now claims he wants to help Savannah find the truth. As the threads untangle, Savannah begins to question what she knows and whether she’ll survive the investigation. Maybe she’s as deceived as everyone else, but someone believes she’s closer to the truth than she is. And that belief may just kill her. (Romantic Suspense from HarperCollins Christian Publishing)

Border Breach by Darlene L. Turner — When drugs are smuggled across the border, it’s their duty to stop the culprits…at any cost. Forming a joint task force, Canada border officer Kaylin Poirier and police constable Hudson Steeves have one objective: take down a drug-smuggling ring trying to sell a new lethal product. But when the smugglers come after Kaylin and Hudson, this mission becomes more than just a job. Can they live long enough to solve the case? (Romantic Suspense from Love Inspired [Harlequin])

Plus check out these recent additions to Fiction Finder published within the past month:
Only a Glimpse by LuAnn K. Edwards, Contemporary Romance
Fugitive Trail by Elizabeth Goddard , Romantic Suspense
Critical Decision by Richard L. Mabry, MD, Medical Mystery
Glacier of Secrets by J Carol Nemeth, Romantic Suspense
A Perfect Fit by Christine Schimpf, Contemporary Romance
Riven by H.L. Wegley, Romantic Suspense (Historical)

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Create a Buzz

Word of mouth. It’s the best marketing tool there is. The pros on Madison Avenue can develop all the ads they want, can generate tons of hoopla, but until people try a product and give a glowing report to others, it isn’t really successful.

Products that get the most tongue-wagging time are those that supply a need. The need for food and beverage, the need for making work easier, the need for entertainment and information, even the simple need to find something beautiful in this crazy, mixed-up world.

Authors thrive on both written reviews and word of mouth. Our preference, of course, is to have positive reviews spread like wildfire. One person tells her friends, who each go and tell their friends, who then go and tell their friends—and the next thing you know, the number of people who are talking about the book has increased exponentially.

Want proof? Look what happened when a simple desert-dweller proclaimed, “Behold the Lamb of God!” That statement resonates through the centuries and even now continues to bring people to the cross.

Day 4 of the Walking Softly with John study, “Came for a Witness,” illustrates the rapid spread of the good news and the continuing need for word-of-mouth witnessing. But what tickles me most about the post is that in four days, I’ve covered only six verses. I have been loving this soft, quiet walk with John. And I hope you have been too.

To catch all the lessons in the study, be sure to click on the “Walking Softly with John” tab above.


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In the Dark

If you don’t know by now, we’re moving 150 miles from our home in east Texas back to our hometown in central Texas. As hard as it is on MSB and me, it’s even harder on PB. She’s in the dark about what’s going on. It would be so much easier on all of us if she could just grasp the English language, but she can’t—which means when I say “Bad girl!” for her pooping on the carpet, she just looks at me.

And that’s what she’s been doing: pooping on the carpet. She’s in the dark, she doesn’t know what’s going on, her life is not continuing in a normal fashion, with her humans bowing to her every whim, so she performs the second greatest of all kitty-cat sins. The first would be if she peed on the carpet. That would be far worse and would result in a far stricter penalty than being told bad girl.

Here’s the thing. She knows it’s wrong, but she’s doing it anyway. In her little feline mind, she thinks she has reason. What she doesn’t understand is that she’s not queen bee in this house. I am. And I have the power to see to it she does not reside here any longer.

But even at 15, she’s my baby girl, my sweet kitty. I put up with her belligerence because I love her. Because I understand. Even though I don’t grasp what she’s saying when she meows at me, I understand that all this change must be scaring her.

Just like PB is in the dark about so much going on, so are a lot of people. Some are being belligerent; some simply don’t know they’re in the dark. There is only one Light that can help. Read about it here, in Day 3 of Walking Softly with John.

(For other studies in this series, click the “Walking Softly with John: a Bible Study” tab in the menu above.)

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Thankful for This Particular Spring

As I write this, the trees have budded and many of them are already filling out with new leaves, spring green in its various shades. In a few more days, my front yard will look like this again. And the reason I’m so excited about it is that the Lord granted me one last spring in this lovely setting.

When we first moved here, I would get so lonely at times and have the biggest pity parties, sitting in front of the big windows in the living room, overlooking the pond in our back yard. It belongs to the neighbors, but because it borders our property, it belongs to us too.

The couple who lived in our neighbor’s house before knew how to keep the pond clean of weeds, and it was absolutely gorgeous. One day, while I was really feeling sorry for myself—so far from home where Daddy had cancer and Mama was handling everything all by herself and I wanted to be there so badly to help—I sat down on the love seat in front of the windows, clutching a box of Kleenix, and had a good, old-fashioned boo-hoo. It was a gray day, and the pond was the same ecru color as in this picture. Everything was still and quiet outside, and inside, I kept weeping as if I’d never stop.

That was when I got the first of many God-kisses out here in our little forest. He parted the clouds and blew a breeze across the pond, then sent the sun to make the water sparkle. Ripple after ripple of sparkling diamonds, blinding me and delighting me and making me laugh. The result was a lighter heart and an assurance that everything would be okay.

We have almost eleven acres out here, and the house sits on about two of them, maybe two and a half. Every square inch of it is beautiful to me, especially near the water.

But the young couple in the process of buying this place are going to love it as much. The mister came to the house Saturday with his dad, a contractor who can update the house itself and restore it.

Our new house has been renovated, a flipped 1970s ranch, and I love it already. But when I look out those windows, I won’t be seeing anything like this. Neighbors with fences. A yard a fraction of the size of ours here. Traffic noises will replace the birds and frogs. But on the good side, there won’t be as much pine pollen as there is here.

Lands, I’m going to miss this place. But God has granted me one more spring.

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Creative Ability

When I was growing up, we had clay to play with—not Play-Doh, just plain ol’ clay. It came in different colors, but when I tired of whatever I’d created, I would ball it up until all the colors mixed into one: gray mud. But it was fun. I made elephants and monkeys, flowers and honey bees, whatever came to my imagination.

Then, Mom introduced me to watercolors, and I felt like an artist holding that brush in my hand. I was never really good with watercolors, but as I got older and moved to acrylic and then to oils, I got better and learned the joy of creating a scene from a blank canvas.

Now, of course, I create characters and story worlds on my computer and send them out to the world in the form of books.

But the reason I’m capable of creating is because I’m made in His image. Because He creates, I can create. Just not as perfectly or skillfully.

Read about His creativity in Day 2 of the Walking Softly with John study: Without Him Nothing was Made. 

If you missed Day 1 of the study, “In the Beginning,” you can access it from the drop-down menu under the Walking Softly with John tab above, or click here. Or to catch the series from the beginning, just hit the Walking Softly tab.

I hope to put up a new post every Sunday as I go through this slower paced study of the Gospel of John. It has been a wonderful walk. I hope you continue to join me.

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Jessie’s Hope: a Review

Jennifer Hallmark’s book, Jessie’s Hope, isn’t just her debut novel, it’s also a 2020 Selah Award finalist–which says a lot about the quality of the story and its writing. I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Jessie’s Hope is more than a romance. In fact, I don’t think I’d call it a romance at all, although it definitely has romantic elements in it. For instance, it has a wonderful tear-jerker of an HEA ending. But there are two many POVs in the novel to be called a romance, and the emphasis of the story isn’t on Jessie and her boyfriend Matt.

But Jessie’s Hope concentrates on forgiveness from several levels and through several characters. Jessie herself struggles with forgiveness throughout the novel—trying to forgive her father of abandonment, primarily, but also her old enemy from high school, her beloved grandfather, and at one point, Matt himself. Jennifer explores other angles of forgiveness through Jessie’s grandfather and her enemy-turned-friend.

Life is messy, and everyone has someone they must forgive–or must ask forgiveness from. Jennifer’s debut novel explores the subject from multiple angles with beautiful depth and sensitivity. Definitely recommending this one.

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88 And Counting!

Sweet Mama turned 88 on the 8th. All she wanted to commemorate the day  was pizza and a tie-dye cake. She got both, and then some.

My mother never ceases to amaze me. She is the poster-child for the slogan “growing old ain’t for sissies,” yet she always has a smile and she’s always happy.  Even if she’s always cold and in pain.

Her active life slowed considerably when the osteoporosis crippled her and macular degeneration blinded her. Now she spends days on end in front of the TV watching game shows, news, and preachers. She can’t see a lot, but as she’s always fond of telling us—when we’re whispering about her in the kitchen—there’s nothing wrong with her hearing. The one thing she’s looking forward to most is the day MSB and I finally get to close on that house we found less than a mile from her own. She needs me there. She needs help. But she amazes me how much she’s able to do on her own. She has always been able to figure out how to get something done, but now she’s also figuring out how to get folks to help her.

Mom’s the one who gave me my love of Bible study, the one who taught me how to do it. She was my source of godly wisdom as I grew and matured and my best friend throughout my life.

And now, she’s 88 years old, and despite all her handicaps, she still has a zest for life and tie-dye cake!



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Walking Softly with John: A Bible Study

Not long ago, I read my first Anne Graham Lotz book, and I believe I picked the perfect one to be my first. Jesus in Me: Experiencing the Holy Spirit as a Constant Companion kept me thinking all the way through and opened my eyes to things I hadn’t thought of. The appendices were even better than the main context, and I have each of them bookmarked for future reference.

One of the things I loved was her method of Bible study. In the appendix, Anne gives an example of what she does and the questions she asks herself to prompt a deeper understanding.

Here’s the thing: I didn’t exactly grow up in church. I was raised by non-church-attending Christian parents, and my mother taught me how to study the Word. Mom’s method is very much like Kay Arthur’s Precept approach, and it’s been my method of learning since I was a kid. I’d grab my Bible, the Strong’s Concordance, with its Hebrew and Greek dictionaries in the back, and a trusted Bible encyclopedia, and go off on my merry way to find God’s truths. Basically, I study the same way now that I did when I was thirteen or so. The biggest difference is that the topics are deeper.

It’s an effective way to study, but I found I like Anne’s way too.

When I’m just reading the Bible, I read a chapter or even five chapters at a time, but Anne showed me a another way, a slower way: A paragraph at a time. A segment at a time. Giving time to mull things over and let the Holy Spirit reveal things to me. It’s a Spirit-led study that I’ve never experienced before and it has added an amazing new depth.

Since Anne’s illustration was from the Gospel of John, I decided to start there too. It took me almost a week to finish the first five verses. And I’m amazed at the direction the Spirit took me with these few familiar verses. And the wonderful discoveries didn’t stop afterward. I’m still learning, still making connections I hadn’t seen before. Still being amazed by the Spirit’s active teaching method.

In his Life Principles to Live By CD collection, Charles Stanley taught that the Spirit talks to us. Anne Lotz reiterates this. We can have actual communication with God. I know it to be true. He has spoken to me several times before, but never like this. It’s exciting!

I’m sure many of you are wondering how someone my age could go through my entire life as a Christian and not already know this. But some of you are in the same boat I was in before—studying and learning, but not getting the fullness of the Scripture quite as well as what I’ve learned to do now.

So I invite you to study the Gospel of John with me. Some lessons are short; some are a bit longer. But all are intended to bless. Just click here for Day 1 . . .




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ACTION, by example

One of the things I try to teach my clients–mostly new authors–is how to create tension during action scenes. How to accelerate readers’ heart rate and make them race through the pages. It’s an easy trick: stronger verbs, shorter sentences and paragraphs, and short, yet highly visible descriptions. And the way to make action scenes more memorable is to add character emotions. Without emotion, action doesn’t carry the same impact.

Usually, when I’m editing, I have the client’s own work with which to illustrate the “better way.” For this post, however, I have to come up with my own example. So, below is a write-up of an action scene similar to those that cross my desk, followed by how I would ramp it up.


Mike looked at his watch. Time was running out before the charges were set to explode. He looked back to see if Lorie was keeping up, but she wasn’t there. He couldn’t believe she wasn’t on his heels. He rushed back into the building, keeping an eye out. He knew the bad guys could be anywhere, but he had to find Lorie. He thought he saw her and someone else as the shadows in a window. He had to get back to her. He started running toward the window. He ducked when someone shot at him.


Mike looked at his Timex–one minute, fifty seconds left. A minute forty-nine now. They had to get farther away before skyscraper blew up.

But Lorie wasn’t with him. She’d been right behind him when they raced through the lobby. How had she not escaped?

Shadows darkened a plate-glass window in one of the building’s conference rooms, then moved from sight. One was roughly Lorie’s size and shape. The other . . .

Mike balled his fists. He had to get to her. Had to save her, not just from being buried in the rubble, but from the gorilla manhandling her. If he got his hands on that ape, he’d wish the building had fallen on him. Mike would make certain of it.

He dropped to a crouch behind an aluminum bench, glancing left, right. Over his shoulder. The other bad guys could be anywhere, but he had to get back inside. Fifty feet away. Open concrete broken by an occasional potted shrub or bench.

His blood raced through his veins. Going back inside was madness, but he couldn’t leave Lorie. He wouldn’t leave her.

Fifty-eight seconds. Fifty-seven.

One more glance over his shoulder, then he darted to the nearest bush. Another quick survey. Was that movement behind the other shrub? He studied it an instant longer. No. Bird or something.

He swallowed and took a deep breath. He couldn’t fail–not this time.

He charged across the open pavilion, zig-zagging to the front door. A gunshot pierced the air, echoing against the skyscraper. The bullet missed Mike, but sent flak flying from the entry’s concrete pillars. He jetted toward another pillar and ducked behind it. The next shot might not miss . . .


One simple fact: amping action takes longer to write than simply describing it. The POV must be deeper, which means avoiding words like saw, heard, felt, thought, knew—anything internal like that, because it’s telling. What you want is to show the action and  how it affects the character. Verbs like “run” or “rush” can easily be replace with more descriptive verbs. Check any thesaurus. High-impact words deliver high-impact action. Short, even choppy, sentences makes the readers’ eyes race across the page. Their adrenaline rises, just as they imagine the character’s does.

And that’s what you want.



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