To Claim Her Heart by Jodie Wolfe

To Claim Her Heart by Jodie Wolfe is a Christian historical romance story set in Oklahoma in the late 1800’s.

Any of you who have been reading my blog for any length of time know that, although, I read a variety of genres, Christian historical romance is my favorite. I read this book in four days. It usually takes me two weeks to read a book, but Jodie Wolfe created characters that grabbed my attention and my heart right from the start. She also included some very interesting history — I didn’t know there were “runs” to claim land in Oklahoma in the 1800’s. Therefore, I enjoyed learning about these “runs” while reading the story, and, of course, because some humans make bad choices, there were many complications to getting your land claim in some cases. Such was the problem for Elsie and Benjamin.

Elsie is a young woman who is on her own and doesn’t really behave like a lady. She also has no intention of becoming involved in a relationship with any man. She’s tough and independent, or, at least she thinks she is.

Benjamin is a preacher who wants to build a home and a church, to preach to a community. He’s experienced some tragic losses that have left him determined to remain unattached.

The things that happen as Elsie’s and Benjamin’s paths cross are humorous, frustrating, dangerous, and more.

I thoroughly enjoyed this story and fell in love with the characters, not only Elsie and Benjamin but many of the secondary characters as well. I highly recommend this book to any Christian historical romance readers or any reader who just enjoys a good historical romance story that doesn’t contain profanity and explicit sex.

I give To Claim Her Heart by Jodie Wolfe five stars and look forward to reading more of her books in the near future.

Close to You by Kara Isaac

Allison Shire, a former academic, is now a tour guide for all things Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien. She has sworn off love. Then Jackson Gregory steps into her life. He’s on the three week tour with his great-uncle, though he knows next to nothing about Lord of the Rings. He, too, has no interest in love and romance.

So, what happens when the sparks ignite between these two? Lots of mishaps and misadventures.

I really enjoyed this quick, easy read. it’s a really sweet, cute romance story that made me laugh and brought a tear or two to my eye. It was tons of fun with all of the references to Lord of the Rings.

Kara Isaac does an excellent job of writing witty dialogue and original descriptions. I will remember Jackson and Allison for a long time, and I may have to give this another read when I need something light and fun to read.

If you enjoy sweet romance stories or are a Lord of the Rings fan, you may find yourself as drawn into the story as I was. One night, I just couldn’t put this book down and I read past my bedtime. I finished the book the very next night, completed in just one week (I only have time to read for about three hours six nights a week).

This is Kara Isaac’s debut novel and I enjoyed it so much that I can’t wait to read her newer novel, Can’t Help Falling, released just six months after this one. Can’t Help Falling includes references to The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis, which are near and dear to my heart.

The Captain Takes a Wife by Doris Durbin

I received a free copy of The Captain Takes a Wife by Doris Durbin for my honest review for BookLook Blogger.

The war is over and Captain Harry Richardson is looking forward to starting a new life in a small town as a pastor. He also hopes to find a wife sometime soon. His journey to the little mountain town turns quite interesting when he meets Sarah Franklin and realizes she’s in some kind of trouble.

She begs him for his help, and he cannot refuse. After all, she’s quite an attractive woman. So, as he tries to help her during the journey, they seem to meet trouble around every corner.

I thoroughly enjoyed this story. It was suspenseful and romantic. There were unexpected twists, and just when I thought I knew who the head bad guy was, I found out I didn’t.

The plot, character development and dialogue all worked well to move the story forward without slowing down to much or leaving me too breathless for too long. There were some sweet, tender moments to balance out the threats and suspense, yet the pace  didn’t waiver.

Descriptions were vivid and painted pictures in my mind. There was even some humor at places. The  only thing I question is the setting. The place was well described and explained, but the story is to be taking place in 1875, and yet, I felt like I was in present day more often than 1875. That didn’t hinder my interest or the fact that I liked the book, but it did cross my mind a few times.

I’ve been reading books published by West Bow Press for quite a while and often find them lacking in many areas, so it was refreshing and delightful to read a book published by West Bow Press that I felt was quality fiction. So kudos to Doris Durbin for writing a book of good quality that I can honestly say I would highly recommend to anyone who enjoys a romantic suspense story.

A Portrait of Emily Price by Katherine Reay

I received a complimentary copy of this book from BookLook Bloggers in order to write an honest review of the story.

Emily Price is an art restorer. She restores art that has been damaged by fire, water or that has become worn with age while harboring dreams of becoming an original artist, herself, one day. She travels to Atlanta to restore a mural in a home damaged by fire. That’s where she meets Chef Benito Vassallo, who is visiting Atlanta to reconnect with his brother and breathe new life into his aunt and uncle’s restaurant, Piccolo. Emily falls in love with Ben as she works with him to improve the appearance of Piccolo, and shocks everyone when she accepts his marriage proposal and follows him to Italy.

Once in Italy, Emily struggles to fit into Ben’s close-knit family and creates problems for some of Ben’s family members when she was only trying to help. She begins to wonder if she belongs in Italy and in Ben’s family.

The story was romantic and it was easy to be swept away on the wings of love with Emily when she spent time with Ben in Atlanta. However, when she follows Ben to Italy and struggles to fit into his tight-knit family I can relate to her feelings and I cheer for her to fight for her place in the family because she and Ben seem so right for one another. Besides, Ben’s father likes her and encourages her.

I love the relationship between Emily and Ben. It’s sweet and romantic and a little bit magical. I love the dialogues between these two.

Katherine Reay does an excellent job of showing the relationship problems in families; not just mixed cultural families. Yes, some of the issues Emily faces in Ben’s family in Italy has to do with their culture, but most of it has to do with the differences in personalities and in the things they choose to keep inside.

I also think Katherine did a lovely job of painting a picture of Italy for her readers. I loved the driving scenes.

The fact that this was a wonderfully realistic romantic story is what endears it to my heart. Ben and Emily have a deep love for one another but that does not exempt them from challenges in their relationship that could separate them.

To read the way that Katherine Reay chooses to deal with the issues that challenge Ben and Emily both startled me, bringing tears to my eyes, and gave me a warm heart and encouragement I can apply to my own relationships.

If you like romance stories, but prefer your romance more realistic and not of the “happily ever after” flavor, I encourage you to read A Portrait of Emily Price.

My Writing Life

Okay, so I am working on an historical romance story that takes place in the old west.  I have ideas for at least two more books, possibly three, to create a series.

I’m part of several writing groups that offer critiques or are strictly critique groups.  Also, a couple of weeks ago I attended a writers’ conference where I had two appointments for one-on-one conferences with published authors to get input on part of my story.  Of course, I have things I need to work on and am very grateful for the two writers who were kind enough to give me advice.

Being a visual learner, one of the writers, my friend, Mike Dellosso, gave me some great advice that he worded in a way that created a picture in my mind, which I know I will not forget and will be able to apply to my writing.  You see, I am struggling with setting the scenes because I’ve been told not to write too much description.  Therefore I had swung to the opposite extreme and wasn’t writing enough description.  Mike told me to put myself in my character’s shoes and use my five senses and describe what my character is seeing, hearing, smelling, etc. as he walks down the street in that old, dusty western town.  He also gave me some examples which made this advice come alive for me.

A few days after that, I shared a piece of this same story with the critique group I recently joined.  I was extremely nervous and afraid of what might happen in this group.  I was pleasantly surprised that there were many positive things said (One lady really likes my main character) and they also offered some great advice.

Therefore, on Thursday night when I met with my weekly writers’ group, I was feeling overwhelmed about how to go about sorting through all of the advice and applying the needed changes to my story.  I just didn’t know where to begin.  My friend, Laura, who just finished edits on her first novel had great words to help me.  She suggested that I get rid of any advice that I didn’t believe was helpful, which I had already done.  Then she said to go through the ones who offered the least amount of changes and work toward the one who offered the greatest amount of changes.  She said that by the time I get to the one with the greatest amount of changes, I probably will be surprised to find that I’ve already taken care of many of those changes from things the others suggested.  Ahh, thank you, Laura, you gave me a workable plan that I can handle.

I am so thankful to have met and made connections with writers who have gone before me who are willing to help me on my journey.  As writers, we spend a lot of time alone working on our craft, but we need each other.  We need the help and encouragement of others and then we need to pass that on to those who come behind us.

How about you?  Who’s been helping you on your writing journey?


Dauntless by Dina L. Sleiman

Dauntless is the first book in the “Valiant Hearts” series by Dina L. Sleiman.  It is an historical fiction novel that includes adventure, danger and romance.

Born a Baron’s daughter, Lady Merry Ellison is now an enemy of the throne after her father’s failed assassination attempt upon the king.  Merry will go to any lengths to protect the orphaned children in her care.  The group becomes known as “The Ghosts of Farthingale Forest.”

Merry’s life becomes more challenging when an old friend finds her after thinking her dead for two years.

Ms. Sleiman did an excellent job creating characters that wind your care and your heart quickly.  Merry appears as a female Robin Hood, but her and her group are quite different.  As danger lurked around every corner, I found myself routing for Merry and her group.  Another situation arises that caused a dilemma for my heart and mind as I read and found it difficult to know who to route for in the romance department.

Ms. Sleiman did an excellent job of resolving the story line at the end without causing my heart to break for any one of my beloved characters.  I finished the book feeling happy for Merry and her group and satisfied that I had read a good book worthy of my time.

I recommend this story for anyone who loves to read about strong women, adventure, history and romance.  I look forward to digging into Book Two of the series, Chivalrous.


Top Ten Tuesday

The theme for this week’s Top Ten Tuesday as determined by The Broke and Bookish is “Ten Books to Read If You Are in the Mood for Something Sci Fi”.  However I am substituting “Romantic” for “Sci Fi” because I have not read any Sci Fi books.

1.   A Knight in Shining Armor by Jude Deveraux

I read this book years ago but it still stands out as my favorite love story because I             have always loved stories of knights in medieval times, and this story has that plus a         wonderful spin on it.  It includes time travel.  Ms. Deveraux does a wonderful job                 capturing and holding my attention.  She creates wonderful characters and I just get       completely swept up in this story.  I hope to reread this treasure again soon.

2.  The O’Malley series by Dee Henderson (I know we are supposed to give a list with a          total of 10 books, but this is a series and it’s nearly impossible to choose just one                from the series.)  This series is so good.  I totally love it.  Each story has a suspenseful        plot and the characters are so well developed that I felt like I really knew them.  I fell        in love with the characters and was sad when the series came to an end.  I would still        like to see more books about these characters, but I will definitely read this series              over again, probably several times.

3.  Fire and Water by Betsy Graziani Fasbinder

This story drew me in immediately and held me fast.  Jake and Kate have such a                   strong love for one another, but they face some serious struggles.  I kept routing for         them throughout the story.  I think I loved Jake just as much as Kate did and as he               sank deeper and deeper into his mental illness, my heart ached for both of them.               After finishing the book, I was affected as no other book had ever affected me.  I                 literally had to take a week or two to process the story and to deal with the emotions     it had evoked within me before I could move on and read another book.

4.  Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte

I read this story years ago and my husband and I went to see it performed on stage in     the early years of our marriage.  It still remains one of my favorites.  Who can ever             forget Catherine and Heathcliff?  I look forward to reading this story again soon as           well.

5.  The Hunger Games trilogy (I know, again this is more than one book.  I can’t help it.)          I just love the love between Catniss and Peeta.  Peeta is the kind of loving man any            girl would want to have loving her.

6.  Kissed by a Cowboy by Debra Clopton

If you want to know why I like this book so much, you can read my review.

7.  Love Unexpected by Jody Hedlund

This story is a wonderful story about a lonely lighthouse keeper and a young woman       who ends up on the same island after a storm.  Emma, the woman, seems to be                     unwanted at the home where her brother, Ryan was taken in.  She is intrigued by               Patrick, the lighthouse keeper and reaches out to his little boy.  It’s wonderful to read     how the relationship between Emma and Patrick grows.

8.  Prison by Toni V. Lee

This is just a fun story that includes danger, suspense and romance.  The two main             characters are very entertaining and I couldn’t help but chuckle often while they were   falling in love.

9.  Mermaid Moon by Colleen Coble

This book is a wonderful book about an old love rekindled and old hurts healed.  It’s          got suspense, danger, and romance and wonderful characters.

10.  Love Comes Softly by Janette Oke

I will refrain from including this entire series because I haven’t read the entire series       yet, but I know I’ll love the books I haven’t read as much as the ones I have.  This                 series is Janette Oke’s most popular series.  It follows the life of pioneer woman                 Marty and the man she marries for convenience, Clark Davis.  This series was made         into a series of movies which I recently ordered on DVD from Amazon.


Mermaid Moon by Colleen Coble

I received a free copy of this eBook to write a review (my personal opinion) for BookLook Blogger.

This is the first romantic suspense novel I have read by Colleen Coble.  I read her “Journey of the Heart” series last year and thoroughly enjoyed it.  You can read my reviews of each of those by searching for “Book Reviews” under Categories on the right sidebar of this blog.  They were western romance stories.  They had a bit of suspense, but not like Mermaid Moon.

Mermaid Moon is a Sunset Cove novel by Colleen Coble.  I have not read Inn at Ocean’s Edge which is the first book of this series.  But that is one thing I really like about Ms. Coble’s writing.  Even when she writes a series, you can read them out of order, or read one from the series and not the rest, and because of the information she includes in each book of the series, you do not feel lost or confused about the characters or the plot line.

Mallory Davis left her home on Mermaid Point in Maine years ago and never looked back. But when she receives a mysterious call from her father and later is informed of his death, she heads back to Mermaid Point immediately.

She suspects that her father was murdered, and a Downeast Maine game warden, Kevin O’Connor, confirms her suspicions.  Mallory doesn’t want to spend too much time with Kevin, but he wants to help her find out what happened to her father.  Mallory broke Kevin’s heart when she left Maine 15 years ago, and the history between them is something she believes cannot be repaired.

Mallory’s friend and neighbor, Carol brings her daughter, Haylie to Mermaid Point much sooner than planned and informs Mallory that someone showed up at her house in Bangor, Maine looking for her; someone who seemed quite threatening.

As the story continues, more questions arise and more suspicious characters emerge.  Whenever I thought I knew who was guilty, something else would show me I was wrong.  The story kept me guessing almost to the end.

Colleen Coble did a great job creating deep characters that made me care for them and cheer for them right for the start.  The plot line was suspenseful and kept me guessing.   The plot line kept me turning pages.  I look forward to reading more romantic suspense by Colleen Coble.

I recommend this book to all Colleen Coble fans, to anyone who enjoys a real page turner, to anyone who enjoys romantic suspense, and to anyone who likes a story with rich characters and a fast-moving plot line.



The Evolution of a Writer

It’s been a little over three years since I re-entered the writing world.  The first year, I simply studied — reading books and magazine articles and blogs about the writing craft and what’s been happening in the writing world, as well as attending as many affordable, one-day writers’ conferences I could, and I joined a local writers’ group that meets once a month and I have been attending faithfully, for the most part, for these three plus years.

The second year, I began to write again, but I wasn’t sure what I was supposed to be writing.  I couldn’t decide on a genre.  I prayed for God to reveal his will for my writing.  Then, I got an idea and I started writing, but I wasn’t excited about it.  However, I wrote a bit, received some critiques, and then spoke with a writer and marketer at a conference, who offered me some great ideas/advice.  That gave me some excitement.  Unfortunately, the excitement was fleeting, and then I thought I’d finish the story and enter it into a contest.  Long story short, due to technical difficulties, I missed the contest deadline.  Being frustrated about missing the deadline and really just feeling “done” with the story, I let it sit for a month before picking it up and doing a read-through.  Ugh!  So glad I missed that deadline!  The ending is rushed.  The ending isn’t at all what I wanted it to be, and my timeline is a mess!  Some friends have/are read/reading it and offering me feedback, which I will read through carefully and make notes of the things they suggest that I think should be changed.  I will eventually edit, rework, and revise this story to create a, hopefully, better-than-good story.  I may even publish it someday.

However, I have evolved!  What do I mean by that? you may ask.  Well, I have finally found my genre — historical romantic fiction!  I’ve had a story brewing in my brain, even while working on the above-mentioned story, and I recently sat down to begin working on it.  What I first knew I must do, was to research the time period and the place.  I researched to choose appropriate names for my main characters, and as my plot line began to form in my brain, I researched a few other important details.  What do you think I found, in addition to what I was looking for, in all of this researching?  More great circumstances to add to my plot line!  I have completely fallen in love with this genre!

I know what you’re thinking, “So does this mean you’re not a pantser anymore?”  Well, let me just say, “I’m not a plotter, but I’m not a pantser either.”  I now fall somewhere in between, but I have found that while researching and building my plot line, then by creating my characters and their backstories, I have found a place that will allow me to plan enough for historical romantic fiction that gives me the historical facts I need but doesn’t require so much time and drudgery that it kills my creativity and my desire to write the story.  As a matter of fact, it has simply fueled my excitement and eagerness to write the story, and I am sure with the bit of research and planning I put in before beginning the actual story, I will write a much better first draft than the last one.

How about you?  How long have you been writing and how has what you have learned helped you to evolve into a better writer?  I’d love for you to leave a comment and share your story.