Friday, 30 September 2011

Out of Control by Mary Connealy

Synopsis:~

Julia Gilliland has always been interested in the natural world around her. She particularly enjoys her outings to the cavern near her father's homestead, where she explores for fossils and formations, and plans to write a book about her discoveries. The cave seems plenty safe--until the day a mysterious intruder steals the rope she uses to find her way out. Rafe Kincaid has spent years keeping his family's cattle ranch going, all without help from his two younger brothers, who fled the ranch--and Rafe's controlling ways--as soon as they were able. He's haunted by one terrible day at the cave on a far-flung corner of the Kincaid property, a day that changed his life forever. Ready to put the past behind him, he plans to visit the cave one final time. He sure doesn't expect to find a young woman trapped in one of the tunnels--or to be forced to kiss her! Rafe is more intrigued by Julia than any woman he's ever known, but how can he overlook her fascination with the cave he despises? And when his developing relationship with Julia threatens his chance at reconciliation with his brothers, will he be forced to choose between the family bonds that could restore his trust and the love that could heal his heart?

My take:~

Mary Connealy is well known for her historical romantic comedies and her latest, Out of Control, is the first in her new Kincaid Brides series. As I have come to expect from Mary, there is humour, sticky situations, contrary characters and plenty of attraction but while it is a cute story, it didn't sweep me off my feet, so to speak! I had some trouble warming to the main characters, Rafe and Julia, and was more taken with Rafe's brother, Ethan whose story is hinted at in this book. Julia is a somewhat abrasive character and Rafe is quite ornery. No doubt that was Mary's intention but it did detract a little from the story for me. That said, Mary's writing is strong and the fossil and cave exploration angle was a unique one for this time period. There's plenty of action and danger on many fronts and I'm sure Mary's fans will be thrilled with this story.   I'm still interested to read the remaining books in the series, especially Ethan's which is up next in, In Too Deep.

With thanks to Bethany for my review copy

Relz Reviewz Extras
Visit Mary's website and blog
Review of Doctor in Petticoats
Buy Mary's books at Amazon or Koorong

Thursday, 29 September 2011

Character Spotlight ~ Jamie Carie's Dorian Colburn & Kendra Townsend

Character Spotlight ~
Dorian Colburn & Kendra Townsend


Jamie Carie's latest historical romance introduces an English beauty and an American rogue!  

Over to you, Jamie:~

Brief physical description

English rose Lady Kendra Townsend has blond hair and violet eyes. She is a wee bit on the short side and that is why she prefers big hats – they make her feel taller!

Dorian Colburn is a swashbuckling American sea captain. Tan and wide shouldered from all that time on board his ship. He’s very swoon worthy.

Actor/famous person

I picture Kendra to look a bit like Jamie King. Same violet eyes and blond hair. Very sweet natured and pretty.

Here’s the cover model for Kendra in one of her big hats!

Dorian looks very piratey. :)

Strengths and weaknesses

Kendra’s strength is her sunny disposition and her reliance on God both in good times and bad. She reminds herself of the fruits of the Spirit whenever the occasion calls for it. Her aunt (who she lives with) is being mean and nasty to her – patience, long-suffering! Dorian finally kisses her – joy! It’s a theme that runs throughout the book and has encouraged me to think actively about the fruit of the Spirit and try to act accordingly through my day.

Kendra’s weakness is her strong attraction to Dorian. He really tests her “goodness” and makes her feel all sorts of emotions she has never had to deal with before.

Dorian’s strength is his steadfast nature and loyalty. His weakness is his guardedness. He stubbornly protects his heart instead of letting love in – both God’s and Kendra’s love.

Quirk (if any)

Kendra’s passion for hats is a bit of a quirk. She goes to great lengths to get them how she wants them (beribboned, bejewelled, be-birded – lol). Dorian thinks they are ridiculously endearing.

Your inspiration for the character

These two really came alive when they first met. The sparks fly and the attraction they feel for one another simmers underneath all their words. If you like true romances where the characters and their love story are central to the plot, this is the one for you. :)

Background to the story

When her doting father dies, Lady Kendra Townsend is given a choice - marry the horrid man of her uncle's choosing or risk a new life in America with unknown relatives. Armed with the faith that God has a plan for her she boards a cargo ship and meets American sea captain, Dorian Colburn. But the captain has been wounded by a woman before and guards his independent life. He doesn't need an English heiress who makes him feel again and asks probing questions about his faith, or so he thinks. It is not until he must save her from the dark forces around her that he decides she just may be worth the risk.

Thanks Jamie!  Love having you visit here :)

Relz Reviewz Extras
View the trailer
Reviews of The Snowflake, Love's First Light, Wind Dancer, Snow Angel, The Duchess and the Dragon and Angel's Den
Character spotlights for The Snowflake, Angel's Den, Love's First Light, Wind Dancer, The Duchess and the Dragon & Snow Angel
Visit Jamie's website and blog
Buy Jamie's books at Amazon and Koorong

Wednesday, 28 September 2011

Shadow in Serenity by Terri Blackstock

Synopsis:~

Carny Sullivan grew up in the zany world of a traveling carnival. Quaint and peaceful Serenity, Texas, has given her a home, a life, and a child. Logan Brisco is the smoothest, slickest, handsomest man Serenity, Texas has ever seen. But Carny Sullivan knows a con artist when she sees one---and she's seen plenty, starting with her father. As far as Carny Sullivan can tell, she's the only one in town who has his number. Because from his Italian shoes to his movie-actor smile, Logan has the rest of the town snowed. Carny is determined to reveal Brisco's selfish intentions before his promise to the townspeople for a cut in a giant amusement park sucks Serenity dry. Yet, as much as she hates his winning ways, there is a man behind that suave smile, a man who may win her heart against her will.

My take:~

Terri Blackstock's latest release, Shadow in Serenity, was originally written back in the 1990s for the general market. Revised and updated for a new audience, Terri doesn't disappoint with an enthralling, character driven story, and while quite different to her trademark suspense, it is a compelling read. It is a testament to Terri's talent that she can create a character like Brisco, ruthless and deceitful, yet  vulnerable when his heart is reached by a community eager to welcome him into their lives.  Carny is a unique character who has experienced forgiveness from a shameful past and I enjoyed her feisty and protective nature.  Terri keeps the reader guessing as to the outcome despite Brisco's intentions being clear throughout the story.  Shadow in Serenity is an excellent story with a redemptive message that is not forced.  Be prepared for something a little different from what you might expect from Terri but don't miss this tale.

With thanks to Zondervan for my review copy

Relz Reviewz Extras
Enter Terri's Heart of Serenity contest
Visit Terri's website
Buy Terri's books at Amazon or Koorong

Tuesday, 27 September 2011

Relz Reviewz' 5th Anniversary (2 days late!)

Photo Credit
On 25th September, 2006 I started this blog as a place to keep a few reviews I was doing for my local Christian bookstore in Melbourne, Australia, and I began by posting a review of Siri Mitchell's Chateau of Echoes.  I had no inkling at the time that five years later I would still be blogging and reviewing books, having to juggle a reading schedule and be forced to decline books to review!

It is still fascinating and not a little surprising to me, that people visit my blog and actually find some of my thoughts interesting, let alone helpful!  I received a lovely email from a reader the other day who said this, "I’ve ordered and read a number of books based on your reviews – thank you for them, also. Your blog is prominently listed in my “favorites” as I check it often."  What a blessing that brief note was to me as that is what I hope my blog achieves ~ a link connecting readers to fabulous books that challenge, encourage, entertain and stimulate and the amazing authors who pour blood, sweat and tears into their tales, for our enjoyment.

Since 2006, my blog has expanded from just reviews to include author interviews, character spotlights, character interviews, giveaways, previews of future releases and more. While many more people lurk than comment, I appreciate every single person who drops by whether they comment or not :)

Inspired by fabulous blogger and dear friend, who started her blog only a few days before mine, Deborah of Books, Movies & Chinese Food, I've put together a short survey that I'd so appreciate you filling in on what you love here and what you would like to see improved.




A big thank you to everyone of you who has stopped by my blog over the years and a very special nod to some wonderful blogging friends who have had a significant impact on my blogging journey, who may or may not even realise it ~ Jenny of My Buckling Bookshelf, CeeCee of Book Splurge, Jenny of So Many Books...So Little Time, Deena of A Peek at my Bookshelf, Deborah of Books, Movies & Chinese Food, Amy of My Friend Amy,  and Hannah of Wordlily ~ thanks girls, you are fabulous :)

Sunday, 25 September 2011

Coming in early 2012 from Abingdon Press

Abingdon Press have a great range of titles releasing in February and March, 2012 so enjoy checking them out.  I'm particularly looking forward to Shelley Gray's second non-Amish historical novel (my review of A Texan's Promise coming soon) and Margaret Daley's romantic suspense.

How about you?  Any take your fancy?!

Before the Scarlet Dawn by Rita Gerlach

In 1775, Hayward Morgan, a young gentleman destined to inherit his father’s estate in Derbyshire, England, captures the heart of the local vicar’s daughter, Eliza Bloome. Her dark beauty and spirited ways are not enough to win him, due to her station in life.

Circumstances throw Eliza in Hayward’s path, and they flee to America to escape the family conflicts. But as war looms, it's a temporary reprieve. Hayward joins the revolutionary forces and what follows is a struggle for survival, a test of faith, and the quest to find lasting love in an unforgiving wilderness.

February, 2012




Honor Redeemed by Loree Lough

Highly skilled Search and Rescue (SAR) team leader, Honor Mackenzie, works almost as hard at guarding the dark secrets of her past as she does when training SAR dogs. As for widowed Sun reporter Matt Phillips, not even his former SAR work is as important as protecting his ten-year-old twin boys.

When a jumbo jet crashes outside Baltimore one cold night, their respective jobs put them face-to-face at the grisly scene--and force Matt and Honor to reconsider the difficult decisions that resulted in their long-standing "single forever" status.

As Matt tries to come to terms with his feelings for Honor, he gets word that she hasn’t reported in since starting the search for a missing child. Reverting to his SAR training, Matt leads the search team as a vicious winter storm bears down on the area. Will he find her in time? And if he does, will they find their way back to each other or go back to living life alone?

February, 2012


River's Call by Melody Carlson

Anna Larson's daughter, Lauren, is confused, brokenhearted, and misguided. It's the turbulent 1960s and feeling alienated from her mother, Lauren chooses to stay with her paternal grandmother. However, repelled by the woman's manipulative and spiteful ways, Lauren returns to her mother, the river, and the Inn at Shining Waters.

There, Lauren begins to appreciate the person her mother is becoming - and she loves the river. However, her mother's romantic interest throws a wrench into the works and Lauren, jealous and angry, returns to her grandmother yet again.

But as time passes, and Lauren, now a mother to her own defiant teenager, faces a new crisis, one that puts the entire family at risk.

February, 2012



Downtown Green by Judy Christie

When the short bypass around Green opens with much fanfare, downtown dries up faster than cement on the roadway. Businesses close and the hospital becomes a clinic. Mayor Eva must decide whether to sell her historic store or close it. The Holey Moley Antique Mall seems less like a dream and more like a nightmare. While the road is progress to some, it seems to be leading Green toward a national trend--a town that is merely a shadow of itself.

With the town going backwards, Lois is both intrigued and jealous when a fellow business owner come up with a strategy to save Green. But can his plan rescue the town from the path it’s on?

March, 2012



Saving Hope by Margaret Daley

When a teenager goes missing from the Beacon of Hope School, Texas Ranger Wyatt Sheridan and school director Kate Winslow are forced into a dangerous struggle against a human trafficking organization. But the battle brings dire consequences as Wyatt's daughter is terrorized and Kate is kidnapped.

Now it's personal, and Wyatt finds both his faith and investigative skills challenged as he fights to discover the mastermind behind the ring before evil destroys everyone he loves.

March, 2012


 

A Texan's Honor by Shelley Gray

Texas, 1874. Years ago, Will McMillan had fought in the open, next to his Captain, Clayton Proffitt. Now he’s waging another war undercover, pretending to be a member of the notorious Walton Gang.

But when a hostage situation goes awry and an innocent woman is in the middle of the fray, Will knows he must protect her no matter what happens. Even if his cover is blown. Even if they risk being killed by his gang or by the lawmen on their trail. Even if the woman he’s risking everything for will never love him back.

March, 2012





Hearts That Survive by Yvonne Lehman

On April 15, 1912, Lydia Beaumont is on her way to a new life with a boundless hope in love and faith. Her new friendship with Caroline Chadwick is bonded even more as they plan Lydia’s wedding on board the “grandest ship ever built.” Then both women suffer tragic losses when the “unsinkable” Titanic goes down. Can each survive the scars the disaster left on their lives?

Decades later, Alan Morris feels like a failure until he discovers he is the descendant of an acclaimed, successful, heroic novelist who went down with the Titanic. Will he find his identity with the past, or will he listen to Joanna Bettencourt, Caroline’s granddaughter, who says inner peace and success come only with a personal relationship with the Lord?

Will those who survived and their descendants be able to find a love more powerful than their pain?

March, 2012



The Dog That Talked To God by Jim Kraus

A wonderfully quirky, heart-breaking, heart-warming and thought-provoking story of a woman's dog who not only talks to her, he talks to God.

Recently widowed Mary Fassler has no choice except to believe Rufus, the miniature schnauzer, who claims to speak to the Divine.

The question is: Will Mary follow the dog's advice, and leave everything she knows and loves? Is this at the urging of God? Or is it something else? Will Mary risk it all or ignore the urgings of her own heart?

March, 2012

Saturday, 24 September 2011

Deadly Pursuit by Irene Hannon

Synopsis:~

As a social worker, Alison Taylor has a passion for protecting children and seeing that justice is served on their behalf. But when she starts getting harassing phone calls and bizarre "gifts," it seems she may be the one in need of protection. When her tormentor's attentions take a violent turn, her brother Cole comes to her aid, along with his new partner, an ex-Navy SEAL, Detective Mitch Morgan. As her relentless stalker turns up the heat, Mitch takes a personal interest in the case. Protecting Alison has become more than just a job--because his own happiness now depends on keeping her safe.

My take:~

Irene Hannon always provides a well written romantic suspense novel and Deadly Pursuit continues that record.  All the elements are in play in her second Guardian of Justice story featuring Alison Taylor, the sister of Jake Taylor, the subject of Deadly Pursuit, the first book in the series.  Danger, fear, obsession, and revenge feature as Mitch turns up the heat on the person seeking to destroy Alison's future.  I enjoyed the interplay between Alison and her sometimes overbearing  brothers as Irene does create intriguing characters.  There is greater emphasis in this story on the attraction between the leading characters than in Irene's previous books which ended up a bit distracting for me.  I prefer the action and suspense to take the lead rather than repeated references to the protagonists' physical appearance and attraction to each other.  Deadly Pursuit is still an enjoyable read and a nice addition to this series.  I'm keen to discover what Irene has in store for the remaining Taylor sibling and police detective, Cole, in the final instalment of this series.

Available September 2011 at your favorite bookseller from Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group.

With thanks to Revell for my review copy


Relz Reviewz Extras
Reviews of Fatal JudgementAgainst All Odds , An Eye for An Eye and In Harm's Way
Character spotlights on Jake & Liz,
Coop & Monica, Mark & Emily and Nick & Rachel

Interview with Irene Visit Irene's website
Buy Irene's books at Amazon or Koorong

Thursday, 22 September 2011

Character spotlight on Pamela Binnings Ewen's Amalise Catoir & Jude Perret

Character Spotlight ~ 
Amalise Catoir & Jude Perret


Pamela Binnings Ewen brings the '70s and New Orleans to life in her latest novel, Dancing on Glass.  Enjoy meeting her young lawyer and her river boat pilot!

Over to you, Pamela:~

Brief physical description

Amalise Catoir is a young woman lawyer in New Orleans. She is about 5’2 or 5’3, with short dark hair, straight, silky—reaches her chin. She’s slim, well dressed. And she is pretty, with classic, delicate features, but not beautiful. Not glamorous.

Jude Perret is about 5’11. He is athletic, in good shape. Works as a river pilot so he’s in the sun a lot and his skin is weathered. Good looking. Tanned, striking blue eyes. Sturdy chin.

Actor/famous person

Amalise – I think Wynona Ryder would be a good choice.

Jude – How about Matt Damon! This is a good question for readers once you’ve finished the book. I’d love to know. What do you think about these two?

And for Phillip Sharp—I’d say either Jude Law or Kevin Bacon.

Strengths and weaknesses

Amalise was raised in a loving family—had a wonderful childhood in a small town 100 miles from New Orleans, in bayou country. She loves the outdoors, and with her best friend Jude who taught her how to use a pirogue, she’s explored the beautiful swampy areas around Marianas, their home town. Like many women she’s empathetic, caring, nurturing, and because of her self-confidence and inner strength, she believes that she can fix any problem if she puts enough effort into it. In fact, that’s one of her weaknesses, because she also thinks she can fix a broken man.

Amalise is also somewhat a dreamer, a romantic—loves movies, particularly Audrey Hepburn movies. She has a deep, personal relationship with Christ, who she has called her Abba since she was a child. Amalise has great inner strength. She’s left the small town behind now and loves living in the city. She’s smart, self-sufficient, with a streak of independence. She’s an optimistic person. Amalise is a hard worker, and ambitious. She loves children, and wants a career and a family someday.

Jude’s father was the town drunk. His mother died when he was a child. Amalise was about six and he was ten when they met, and he’s thought of her family as his own since then. Jude’s father and mother took him under their wing, so to speak. He taught Amalise how to paddle a pirogue through the swamps, how to fish, read the stars, tutored her in math, taught her how to dance, listened to her problems and gave advice, and has always been there for her. Protecting her—dispensing wisdom when sometimes her dreams run off the rails or she gets ahead of herself. He’s wise and a little caustic now and then.

Jude is now about 32 years old—has had many girlfriends, but no one serious and he’s still unmarried. In high school he was an athlete and women love him. He’s a ship pilot now, more particularly, a ‘bar’ pilot on the Mississippi River—piloting ships over the sandbars down at the mouth of the river, through the treacherous passes in and out of the Gulf of Mexico. This job requires him to live two weeks of every month ‘on watch’, living in the pilots’ station house on a small island in the river near the Gulf. The other two weeks are spent in his house in New Orleans. He’s been athletic all his life, and is healthy and in good shape, particularly because of the hard work he does for a living. As a pilot he’s earned good money, and he’s invested well and saved, so he’s doing well financially. His faith is ingrained and deep, and he’s constant, steady force in Amalise’s life. He’s Amalise’s oldest, dearest, friend, and he feels that way about her too.

Quirks

Amalise compartmentalizes problems and deals with them one at a time. Which means she also puts off until tomorrow the problems she doesn’t have to deal with today? But she gives 100% to everything she does—each in its own time. She has a habit of tucking her hair back behind her ears when feeling self-conscious.

She sees beauty in simple things…dappled sunlight, dew drops on a dark green clump elephant ears, the crack of acorns under her shoes in the fall, the fragrance of sweet olive and jasmine, the white gleam of an egret’s soaring wings. Jude is her rock. But she also loves pretty clothes, make-up, a new hair-style, romantic movies, and sometimes she envies the more glamorous beauty of her friend, Rebecca.

Inspiration for Amalise and Jude

You might recall that in the Moon in the Mango Tree, my grandmother’s story in the 1920’s, women had just won the right to vote. Doors were beginning to open for women then. Opportunity beckoned. But there was not yet a network of support for those who took the dare. My grandmother wanted to sing grand opera.  But she was married and her desire to sing, in society’s eyes at the time, was secondary to her husband’s career. And if she’d taken off for a career on stage, there’s have been no one around to help—no web of friends and family urging her on, to be there for her if she failed, or became ill. So options were somewhat limited.

But today, women have reached the stars. And in 1974, when Dancing on Glass was set, women were already half-way there. Amalise is in law school at a time when the majority of students were still male. (The majority, but not all!) And the idea of hiring a woman as a lawyer was still fairly new. I entered law school in 1977 and even by that time things had changed. But Amalise is a woman right on the cusp—just at the breakthrough edge between my grandmother’s time and today, 2011. She’s a woman rising on the wave of what I see as a paradigm shift, not only in the world’s perception of us, but also in our relationships with men. I call this the ‘double bind—the two sides Amalise’s nature: her new-found strength and independence, coupled with her softer side, the tenderer, nurturing part of her personality. Women like Amalise are perfect targets for manipulative relationships, and I wanted to explore that because I think this is a new way to look at these relationships. This is not the burning bed. A woman like Amalise could leave anytime. But instead, to use an old term—she still stands by her man. Think of a woman like Elizabeth Edwards as an example today; but examples are everywhere, particularly in the celebrity and business worlds.

So Amalise personifies that women caught in the double-bind, fighting to survive in what is essentially still a man’s world, and preserving secrets as she fights to solve the problems at home, nurturing, rescuing…fixing. Understanding is the key. And knowledge is power.

I have to confess that the inspiration for Jude came from my own husband, Jimmy. We’ve been good friends practically all our lives, and like Jude with Amalise, he’s always been there for me in good times and bad. I wanted the character of Jude to have an interesting job that would somehow convey the history and charm of south Louisiana, and river pilots filled the bill. Piloting on the Mississippi is a unique career that runs in families through many generations, right back through history to protecting New Orleans from pirates, marauders, the French and Spanish, and even German U-boats during WWII. The research was fascinating and I made some great new friends along the way.

Background for the story

I wanted to explore that change in Western women’s place in the world as we’ve evolved since the early suffragette movement, and particularly how that’s affected our relationships with men—the paradigm shift that’s taking place, as described above. 1974 is about 50 years after my grandmother’s and I thought that would be an interesting place to start, particularly since I started law school myself in 1977. I hope that young women today find that part of the story interesting, given the changes today. Part of the drive behind writing this book came from past events in my own life, and part from observation.

Nine-teen seventy four was a time for young women to reap the rewards that our grandmother’s sowed. Although everything was still new and there was a lot to learn on our own, by Amalise’s time we had networks of friends to help, and for the most part, understanding families. This was also about the time that the business world began to wise up, to figure out that women were assets, not risks, for their companies. For the most part I think they wanted to help us make things work.

But the city of New Orleans is also big part of the story in my mind. More than a good setting, I see the city almost as a character in the book that adds some balance of light and whimsy to the story. I love this city--lived in New Orleans at the time of Amalise and consider it home. I still live in the New Orleans metro area, across the lake now, twenty miles away. So for readers, I also wanted to peel back the years and show you what the city was then, when it was really much like a small town. Jackson Square in particular was different. What someone sees today is full of ghosts of the past. For example, the Jackson Brewery, now a glitzy condominium and shopping place on the river, had just been closed as a brewery in 1974 and the entire area down to the docks was dark. There was no ‘Moonwalk’ on the levee across from the square, and no river walk. And streets weren’t blocked off at that time, so artists were on sidewalks up against the fence…hence the name fence artists today. It was a simpler place—and I wanted to strip back time and bring you all back to that wonderful place.

Thanks Pamela ~ the spotlight is fabulous.  Thanks for the extra info on the city and social background of the times.

Relz Reviewz Extras
View the trailer
Read Tracy's review of The Moon and the Mango Tree
Interview with Pamela
Visit Pamela's website

Buy Pamela's books at Amazon or Koorong

Wednesday, 21 September 2011

A Heart Revealed by Julie Lessman

Synopsis:~

Ten years ago, Emma Malloy fled Dublin for Boston as a battered woman, escaping the husband who scarred her beautiful face. The physical and emotional wounds have faded with time, and her life is finally full of purpose and free from the pain of her past. But when she falls for her friend Charity's handsome and charming brother, Sean O'Connor, fear and shame threaten to destroy her. 

Could Sean and Emma ever have a future together? Or is Emma doomed to live out the rest of her life denying the only true love she's ever known?

My take:~ 

If there is one thing I have learned having read every one of Julie Lessman's historical romance novels, is not to expect a relaxed and calm reading experience!  Julie's writing will evoke almost every emotion in you, from delight to frustration, joy to heartache, humour to sympathy and that's all before chapter five!  You will live and breathe each character's emotional journey as their feeling bleed through the pages and into your heart.  Katie's despair, Luke's sense of betrayal, Charity's fear and Emma's confusion will resonate with you, and if you are anything like me, Mitch's pride will have you tossing the book across the room!  Lest you think I was unhappy with the story, let me reassure you, Julie has again penned a passionate, moving and deeply spiritual story which enthralled my mind and engaged my heart.  Emma's journey is a painful one, honest and authentic, as she remains faithful to her deeply held beliefs and clings to the promises in God's word.  A Heart Revealed is another worthy addition to your bookshelves from this gifted writer.

Available September 2011 at your favorite bookseller from Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group.

With thanks to Revell for my review copy
Relz Reviewz Extras
Character spotlight on Sean & Emma
Reviews of A Hope Undaunted, A Passion Most Pure, A Passion Redeemed & A Passion Denied
Character spotlight on Cluny & Katie
Character spotlight on Lizzie & Brady
Interview with Julie
Visit Julie's website
Buy Julie's books at Amazon or Koorong

Tuesday, 20 September 2011

The Doctor's Lady by Jody Hedlund

Synopsis:~

Priscilla White knows she'll never be a wife or mother and feels God's call to the mission field in India. Dr. Eli Ernest is back from Oregon Country only long enough to raise awareness of missions to the natives before heading out West once more. But then Priscilla and Eli both receive news from the mission board: No longer will they send unmarried men and women into the field. Left scrambling for options, the two realize the other might be the answer to their needs.

Priscilla and Eli agree to a partnership, a marriage in name only that will allow them to follow God's leading into the mission field. But as they journey west, this decision will be tested by the hardships of the trip and by the unexpected turnings of their hearts.

My take:~ 

After receiving high praise for her debut novel, The Preacher's Bride, Jody Hedlund ensures she retains readers' favour with her second novel, The Doctor's Lady.  Once again Jody has been inspired by real life people to develop her multi layered characters, Priscilla and Eli.  Fashioned on the lives of pioneering missionary couple Marcus and Narcissa Whitman, Jody deftly draws readers into the emotion and tension surrounding Eli and Priscilla's wedding and their subsequent arduous trip across the Continental Divide into Oregon.  Rich in characterisation and historical detail, Jody's prose flows naturally and is a pleasure to read.  Easily immersed into the adventure, heartache and frustrations of their journey, readers will fall in love with Eli's tenderness and Priscilla's determination.  Jody easily measures up to gifted historical writers like Tamera Alexander, Laura Frantz and Julie Lessman so be sure to look her up.

With thanks to Bethany for my review copy

Relz Reviewz Extras
Q&A with Jody
Enter my signed giveway of The Doctor's Lady thanks to Jody
Character spotlight on Eli & Priscilla
View the trailer for The Doctor's Lady
Review of The Preacher's Bride
Visit Jody's website and blog
Enter Jody's 'Be a trailblazer' contest
Buy Jody's book at Amazon or Koorong

Monday, 19 September 2011

Character Spotlight ~ Darlene Franklin's Judson Morgan & Wande Fleischer with giveaways

Character Spotlight ~
Jud & Wande


Darlene Franklin's Lone Star Trail is the first book in the six book Morgan Family series with two books to be written by each of Darlene, Susan Page Davis and Vicki McDonough.  

Over to you, Darlene:~

Brief physical description

My hero, Judson “Jud” Morgan

Actor/famous person

The cover is a pretty good image for Jud!

Credit: zandura577
Strengths and weaknesses

Jud took over running the family ranch, the Running M horse ranch, when his father died, even though he was only 17. He has provided for his family, and takes his responsibilities seriously. Unfortunately, he has a big chip on his shoulder against anyone who’s taking over “his” Texas—including the wave of German immigrants, who want to establish a “New Germany.”

Your inspiration for the character

I wanted to create tension in the story—so I needed a hero with a reason to dislike the German immigrants. Jud came to life as I pictured a man, proud of his Texas heritage, protective of his family and his country, who resents the constant stream of newcomers. Of course, then I had to work twice as hard to also make him likeable and not just a bigot!

Background to the story


Texas declared its independence from Mexico in 1835. Ten years passed before the Republic of Texas joined the United States. At the time of Lone Star Trail, Prince Carl von Braunfels had created the Adelsverein, encouraging Germans to emigrate to Texas and to take advantage of land being given to anyone willing to settle in more remote areas. Texas is joining the Union, and within months the United States is embroiled in a war with Mexico. Diphtheria and cholera swept through the Gulf Coast, killing thousands. It was a difficult and challenging time to make a home in Texas.

~~~~~~~~~~~~

Brief physical description

My heroine, Wande Fleischer, is the picture of Aryan beauty, naturally blonde hair, blue eyes, fair skinned.

Credit: Good Wallpapers
Actor/famous person

Piper Perabo

I would have liked to pull an image from the trailer but didn’t have any luck figuring out how to get a “still.” So Piper will have to do.

Strengths and weaknesses

Wande has a tendency to let her pride get in the way of doing what is best. She almost lets that pride stand between her and joining the Chorale Society, and also of accepting a job at the Running M Ranch.

Wande is also sweet and the first to offer to help if someone has been hurt. As the oldest, she is her mother’s strongest support.

Your inspiration for the character



I wanted Wande to be a little na├»ve, but with an adventuresome spirit: her name means “wanderer.” She did not want to come to Texas, but she had no say in the family’s decision. Her attitude changes once she arrives in the new world, deciding instead to make the best of Texas. Germany is now her past.

Background to the story

In Germany, the Fleischers were part of a land-poor servant class. Land was divided equally among the children, until no one had enough land to make a living. Texas was portrayed as a land flowing with milk and honey and compared to the homes they left behind, it was.

Thanks Darlene ~ this should be a great series for historical romance readers to enjoy!

Relz Reviewz Extras
Visit Darlene's blog
Visit the Texas Trails website for info on the authors, a character family tree & more
Buy Darlene's books at Amazon or Koorong

Sunday, 18 September 2011

The Queen by Steven James

Synopsis:~

While investigating a double homicide in an isolated northern Wisconsin town, FBI Special Agent Patrick Bowers uncovers a high-tech conspiracy that twists through long-buried Cold War secrets and targets present-day tensions in the Middle East.

My take:~

Super talented story teller, Steven James, returns with his fifth Patrick Bowers thriller, The Queen, providing readers with another spine-chilling story  brimming with plot twists,  enigmatic characters and a frozen landscape that takes on a personality of its own.  Multi layered in every way, James delves more deeply into Patrick's family and personal life, revealing familial tension and awkwardness, all with good reason.  Succinct chapters keep the pace moving although readers will need to focus on the multiple points of view that are regularly rotated.  Crime scenes are detailed authentically and therefore are not for the feint of heart and James' words command an emotional investment in the journeys of Patrick, Alexei, Valkyrie and the victims.  The Queen is a sophisticated psychological thriller that will satisfy any reader looking for a superior storytelling experience with the guarantee of more to come from Steven James.


Available September 2011 at your favorite bookseller from Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group.

With thanks to Revell for my review copy
Relz Reviewz Extras
Visit Steven's website and blog
Buy Steven's books at Amazon or Koorong

Friday, 16 September 2011

Q&A with Jody Hedlund

If you love beautifully written stories, don't go past Jody Hedlund's novels, 
The Preacher's Bride and The Doctor's Lady and if you have any interest in writing her blog is a must read.  
I'm thrilled to have Jody visit today ~ enjoy!



What appeals to you most about writing fiction?

I love telling stories. I love shaping characters, putting them in impossible danger and seeing how they get themselves out of it! And I love the adventure and the challenge of putting a book together from start to finish.

Why Christian fiction?

I want to glorify God with the gifts he’s given me. And I want him to use my stories to encourage and touch lives.

Name five things you can’t live without (no need to take this too seriously!)

I can’t live without the 5 C’s:

Chocolate.

Coffee.

Chocolate.

My computer.

Chocolate.

Favourite book ~ Favourite movie ~ Favourite TV show


Book: Anne of Green Gables because it played a role in developing my creativity as a writer.

Movie: The most recent version of The Lion, the Witch, & the Wardrobe because it was a fantastic representation of the book!

TV Show: Survivor. I’ve watched almost every season for as long as the show’s been running!

Where is the most interesting place you have been?

I lived in the Middle Ages in Germany for about nine months. I got to visit the inside of a convent, watch the Peasant War from the sidelines, and see medieval torture firsthand. Was quite an exciting adventure!

Credit: Ben Franske
Okay. I’m sure you meant real place (versus the story world I live in during the writing of a book!). The most interesting real place I’ve been is Plymouth Plantation in Massachusetts, which is a recreation of one of the first permanent settlements in the United States. It’s a fascinating place, rich in history, and of course, I’d love to write a book set there at some point!


What did you want to be when you grew up?

A famous author! (I know, boring answer! But it’s the truth!)

What are two things people might be surprised to know about you?

My dad was a twin. My husband’s mom was a twin. And believe it or not, my husband and I were still taken completely by surprise when we found out at a five month ultra sound that we were having twins! Go figure! My twin daughters are now 12.

I grew up a PK (pastor’s kid). And yes, for a while, I was the stereotypical rebellious pastor’s daughter who didn’t want to be known as the goody-two-shoes. But, thankfully God had his hand on my life, protected me, and gave me a rich spiritual heritage that has blessed my life immensely.

The Doctor’s Lady

Which character did you connect to the most?

I probably relate the most with Eli. I’m incredibly independent like he was, and think I can do a lot in my own strength. I have a hard time asking others for help but have been learning to rely on others (especially my husband) during these past few years of juggling a writing career, homeschooling, and mothering.


Which character was the most difficult to write?

I had the most difficulty with Priscilla. In the first draft of the book, I ended up making her too focused on her own problems (particularly her infertility). She was moody, somewhat helpless, and rather selfish. While realistic, she wasn’t entirely likeable! In subsequent rewrites, I worked on making her less fixated on herself.

What characteristics define a true hero for you?

I think heroes can come in all shapes and sizes. I personally like mine to have enough flaws that the average reader can relate to, but then also have qualities that rise above the problems and difficulties we encounter.

What was your favourite scene to write in The Doctor’s Lady or share your favourite paragraph?


I had a lot of fun writing the wedding night scene. Because Eli and Priscilla have agreed to a marriage in name only, they have no plans to consummate their marriage. However, nobody else knows their secret. And so after the wedding, Priscilla’s mother and sister help her get ready for her first night with her new husband. They turn back the covers on the bed, brush her hair, and give her instructions on what to expect. While they’re doing this, Priscilla gets really nervous. And a little later when Eli finally comes into the room and sees her in her nightgown with her hair down, he gets nervous too.

I enjoyed exploring the growing attraction between them, the awkwardness of being thrust together in the same bedroom (after only knowing each other for about a week), and then watching them figure out how they’re going to handle the physical aspect of their relationship for the duration of their trip West.

What’s next in your writing pipeline?

Public Domain
I’ll have another historical romance releasing next year in 2012. I’m really excited about this story because it’s set in my home state of Michigan. It takes place during the 1880’s at a time in history when the lumber era was at its height. Although the story isn’t inspired by a true person the way my first two books have been, I do include several real people, particularly a real villain by the name of James Carr who was notorious in central Michigan for his violence and for introducing white slavery into the state.

The heroine of the story is a young woman, Lily Young, who is looking for her sister who’s caught up into the degradation of lumber camp life. While Lily searches for her missing sister, she fights against the evil that runs rampant around her, and she fights not to lose her heart to the lumber baron who turns a blind eye to the lawlessness of the lumber business.

Anything other than historical novels floating around in your brain?


My daughters are begging me to try my hand at a YA (Young Adult) novel. I may branch into that down the road at some point. But for now, I’m more than busy with all that I have on my plate!

I'm sure my daughters would love that as well :)  Thanks for sharing today and for your generous giveaway! 

My review of The Doctor's Lady will be posted next week but I can tell you know, I loved it.  If you adore Laura Frantz, Tamera Alexander and Julie Lessman then you will be a fan of Jody :)

For a short time, her debut novel, The Preacher's Bride is available to download for FREE to your Kindle, Nook or PC ~ don't miss it!

Relz Reviewz Extras
Character spotlight on Eli & Priscilla
View the trailer for The Doctor's Lady
Review of The Preacher's Bride
Visit Jody's website and blog
Enter Jody's 'Be a trailblazer' contest
Buy Jody's book at Amazon or Koorong

Thursday, 15 September 2011

Character Spotlight ~ Lisa T Bergren's Lord Rodolfo Greco

Character Spotlight ~ 
Lord Rodolfo Greco


Lisa T Bergren's Lord Greco has divided readers of her fabulous River of Time series, uncertain whether to love or despise him!  Read the books to find out exactly why he has caused such a furore ;-)

Over to you, Lisa:~

Brief physical description

Tall; broad shouldered; dark, wavy hair; dark eyes; powerful intensity

Actor/famous person

I was thinking of a younger Dylan McDermott with dark eyes…

Rel: But I was more partial to Eduardo Verastegui and Lisa wasn't too hard to convince...I wonder why?!?

Strengths and weaknesses

Strengths: Incredibly smart, good warrior, leader, focused, attentive

Weaknesses: Torn between loyalties

Quirk (if any)

He can sneak up on you without you hearing him

Your inspiration for the character

I first brought in Lord Greco purely as an antagonist, but soon saw he went much deeper, and was far more intriguing than I first thought. Since I write by the seat of my pants (rather than outlining), this surprised me as much as Gabi. He just kind of GREW out of his original bit spot to a major role in TORRENT. Good characters often do…

Background to the story

Marcello was such a strong hero for me, and dedicated to Gabriella in such a heart-stopping, and yet traditional, way. As Lord Greco began to steal into more and more scenes, I thought it’d be interesting for him to find himself equally drawn to her, in spite of himself. And, well, since he alternately captures and saves Gabi, and he’s rather, cough, handsome, he has her thoroughly confused about WHAT she feels for him. In sorting out what she thinks of him, she clarifies what she feels for Marcello, and this helps her decide her future.

Ah, Lisa ~ the Greco dilemma!  I so hope we will get to discover what happens to the man :)  

For a sneak peek into what Lisa has planned for the infamous Lord, if future books in this series develop, stop by her blog here for an excerpt of Tributary.

Relz Reviewz Extras
Character interviews with Luca Lia, Gabi and Marcello
 

Reviews of Waterfall & Cascade
Character spotlight on Gabi, Marcello, Luca & Lia
View the trailer for Cascade
Visit Lisa's author website and her travel website
Buy Lisa's books at Amazon or Koorong


Tuesday, 13 September 2011

Character Spotlight ~ Suzanne Woods Fisher's Jaime Fitzpatrick & Mattie Riehl

Character Spotlight ~
Jaime & Mattie


Suzanne Woods Fisher returns with one of the season's first Christmas stories.  Enjoy meeting her characters.

Over to you, Suzanne:~

Brief physical description

Two women—unlikely friends—are the main characters in “A Lancaster County Christmas.”

Jaime Fitzpatrick (non-Amish): Age 25, married, no children. Caucasian, curly red hair that she tries very, very, very hard to straighten. Has a natural outdoor beauty—a “cuteness.” Struggling to lose that exasperating extra five pounds. Works as a photographer at Sears Portrait Studio but prefers photographing nature.

Mattie Riehl (Amish): Age 28, married with one six-year-old son. Very plain in appearance—easy to overlook. Petite, fair-haired. Loves being a wife and mother.


Actor/famous person

Jaime Fitzpatrick: A young, red-haired Meg Ryan

Mattie Riehl: Scarlett Johansson without any make-up or touch-up!

Strengths and weaknesses

Jaime Fitzpatrick: A little self-centered and a lot insecure, leans to the materialistic side…but endearing. Very amusing.

Mattie Riehl: Calm, centered, mature, wise. Petite, fair-haired. Recently miscarried and is suffering from a mild depression. She’s the “hub of the extended family wheel.”

Quirk (if any) 


Both of these women are coping with the realization that their lives aren’t turning out the way they had hoped and planned. Jaime Fitzpatrick blurts out whatever thought runs through her head. A total contrast to the Amish reserve. She gets herself into all kinds of awkward, amusing moments with her “lack of filter.” Yet her openness and vulnerability is good for Mattie Riehl, too.

Your inspiration for the characters

There were two threads that wove together to become a story…

In the Amish culture, motherhood is highly valued. I felt as if there could be a story in that: what does a woman do when she feels an inner and outer pull toward motherhood, and yet she isn’t able to have children? A character from “The Choice,” Mattie Riehl, came to mind as a woman who had the depth to tackle that enormous disappointment.
Photo credit

The story of Jaime Fitzpatrick was loosely based on the relationship a close friend of mine has with her father. I’ve known this friend long enough to see how her father’s “on again, off again” interest in being a dad has affected her. Hard stuff!

Over Christmas weekend, these two women weave an unlikely friendship that helps them both find what they’re looking for.

One little extra note: Service dogs is a subject near and dear to my heart. A very cool Search and Rescue dog plays a role in this story when a little boy wanders off in a snowstorm. I’ve been a puppy raiser for Guide Dogs for the Blind—many of the pups who don’t become guides are “career changed” into other service organizations—including Search and Rescue. SAR dogs and their handlers are truly heroic—risking life and limb to rescue lost people. I interviewed a friend, Celeste Butrym, who works at GDB and volunteers with SAR—she gave me all kinds of pointers and was kind enough to read the manuscript to make sure the search was accurately portrayed.

Background to the story


This is a story about two couples—one Amish, one English—whose lives intersect for 48 hours (Christmas weekend). Both couples are facing difficulties, for different reasons. And yet they both learn important lessons from each other.

Jaime and C. J. Fitzpatrick began their married life as most couples do--in love and looking forward to a bright future together. But four years later they've drifted apart and are almost ready to call it quits.

Mattie Riehl was hoping to give her husband Sol the Christmas gift they have both longed for--news that a baby was on the way. But as usual, she is disappointed. The holidays bring an acute awareness to Mattie that her dream of a big family isn't likely to become a reality.

Then a winter storm raging outside blows the Fitzpatricks into the Riehl home--and into a much slower pace of life. Can these two couples from different worlds help each other understand the true meaning of love this Christmas? 


Many thanks to you, Suzanne ~ so lovely to have you visit!

Relz Reviewz Extras
Reviews of The Choice and The Waiting

Visit Suzanne's website and blog
Buy Suzanne's books at Amazon or Koorong

It’s Christmas in September!

To celebrate the release of her first Christmas book, Suzanne Woods Fisher has teamed up with her publisher, Revell, to bring you the "Christmas in September" iPad Giveaway! The winner will be announced on 9/27 at the A Lancaster County Christmas Facebook Party! Details below. Tell your friends and join in the fun (9/7-9/27).


Oh and be sure to follow the blog tour here - many of the bloggers have copies of the book to giveaway! 



Suzanne and Revell will be presenting one merry winner with a Christmas Prize Pack (valued at over $600):


  • A Brand New iPad 2 with Wi-Fi
  • $25 gift certificate to iTunes
  • A copy of A Lancaster County Christmas

To enter, click one of the icons below. But, hurry the giveaway ends on 9/26.


But, wait! There's more! The winner will be announced at the A Lancaster County Christmas Facebook Party on 9/27 at Suzanne's author page. During the party she'll be revealing something *BIG* - you won't want to miss it. She'll also be hosting a book chat, trivia contest and giving away a few early Christmas presents! Hope to see you there.



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