His Blessing in Disguise by Ava Winters

His Blessing in Disguise: A Western Historical Romance Novel by [Winters, Ava]

“His Blessing in Disguise” by Ava Winters is a sweet romance story. I gave this story a 4-star rating based on the story line and characters. Ms. Winters did a good job of making her characters believable and likeable. The story line was interesting and had just the right amount of tension and conflict.

“His Blessing in Disguise” is set in the Old West where Layla runs away from her outlaw husband to begin a new life on her own. She finds her place in Richstone but complications arise when she begins to have feelings for one of the town’s lawmen, then her outlaw husband comes looking for her.

Tensions heat up as Layla’s outlaw husband convinces her to leave town with him while the lawman, now Sheriff, has already given his heart to her but will not stand in the way of husband and wife. Will Layla and Peter ever see each other again?

For those of you who dislike reading books with editorial mistakes and flaws, I have to say if I was rating this book on the technicalities of writing, I would’ve given it three stars. In addition to too many dialogue tags in the first chapter, there were typographical errors and wording issues scattered throughout the book. The biggest problem I came across, however, was the fact that one entire scene was immediately rewritten following the first telling of the exact same scene but with a different setting and some other differences. I really can’t see how that happened, but it led to quite a bit of confusion on this reader’s part until the story returned to its proper place.

Beyond the Valley by Rita Gerlach

Beyond the Valley (Daughters of the Potomac Book 3) by [Gerlach,  Rita]

The third and final book in the “Daughters of the Potomac” series by Rita Gerlach, Beyond the Valley is my favorite. I enjoyed all three books, but I found myself on the edge of my seat cheering for things to get better in Sarah Carr’s life in this book. This book made me laugh and cry, which is another way I measure how good a book is–that it evokes strong emotions within me and moves me to both laughter and tears.

This story begins with a tragic event that affects Sarah’s life, and this event is quickly followed by three more tragic events in Sarah’s life. Then things in Sarah’s life seem to improve a little for a short while before the next tragic event, and this is the pattern for the rest of the story–Sarah, dealing with one tragedy after another, and all she wants is to be free and loved.

When she meets a doctor, who falls in love with her, it appears that her hopes and dreams will be fulfilled. However, as an indentured servant, Sarah is not free to marry as she wishes, and the man who owns her refuses to allow the doctor to buy Sarah’s indenture, but instead sells her to a backwoodsman. And so, Sarah’s life is thrust into more struggle for survival, as her heart aches to be reunited with the doctor.

Sarah’s faith, courage and bravery in all that she faces is an inspiration.

The doctor’s unwillingness to give up in his search for Sarah because of his love for her is the stuff an outstanding romance story is made of.

Once again, I highly recommend the “Daughters of the Potomac” series by Rita Gerlach to all who love history, romance, and adventure. The first two books are strongly connected, and I believe should be read together. However, this book, though connected to the first two, could be read on its own without the reader feeling lost.

These books and the strong characters in them will live in my memory for a long time to come.

Beside Two Rivers by Rita Gerlach

Beside Two Rivers (Daughters of the Potomac Book 2) by [Gerlach,  Rita]

Beside Two Rivers is book two in The Daughters of the Potomac series by Rita Gerlach. I think I read this book much faster than the first one. This book is about the life of Darcy, the daughter of Eliza from the first book.

Once again, Rita Gerlach has created well-developed characters that I could relate to immediately, and, again, I cheered for them, grew angry when others mistreated them, ached with them through their struggles, cried with them in their times of sadness and loss, and laughed with them in the good times. The characters in these books become like good friends.

I found it interesting that two of the characters, in these first two books, were cousins but had more similar character attributes and attitudes than some brothers. However, I longed for one to find redemption. The other I simply disliked and held no sympathy toward–there has to be one of these in almost every book.

I was also extremely pleased that the things, I longed to have resolved in the first book, were resolved in this book. Maybe not the way I had wished, but in a satisfactory and understandable way.

These are the first books I have read by Rita Gerlach, and I have to say that Ms. Gerlach is now on my list of favorite authors, and I will look for more books by her as soon as I can.

Again, this story was an historical romance story, so if that’s the kind of book you like to read, I’m sure you’ll like these books. I have one more to read to complete this series, and I plan to begin reading it tonight.

Before the Scarlet Dawn by Rita Gerlach

In 1775, Eliza Bloome’s ailing father dies and just a couple days later she receives notice that she has to vacate her home. Her father was a vicar and the home would be needed for his replacement.

An Englishman who would soon inherit a wealthy estate expressed interest in marrying Eliza, but he was not the kind of man Eliza wished to marry. There was another Englishman she wished to marry, but he thought her beneath him. However, when his plans didn’t go the way he wished, he agreed to wed her and take her with him to America. Eliza’s maid, Fiona, went along.

Things were going fairly well in America, though Eliza was unsure of her husband’s love, and she longed for it–for him to say the words. America was in turmoil and the Revolution began. Her husband had embraced America as his home and agreed that they should break free from the King of England’s control. So, just after Eliza gave birth to a daughter, her husband left to join the fighting.

Nothing was the same after that. One tragedy followed another, and Eliza returned to England with no real place to go.

This book has well-developed characters that I could empathize with. I cheered for them and cried for them, and my heart broke for them. There is romance, the struggles of war and the family’s the soldiers left behind, and there is loss, and pain and suffering.

I couldn’t put the book down. It is the first in “The Daughters of the Potomac” series by Rita Gerlach, and when I reached the end, I found the end written well enough that it could be the end, but there was one thing that had not been resolved that my heart longed for. So, I immediately began the second book in the series. You’ll see that review soon.

If you like historical romantic fiction, you will enjoy this story.


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.

Forbidden Love

Okay everyone, I’m not sure how long this story will be, but I got this idea and began writing it for my Friday post here on my blog. I hope you will enjoy it and follow it through to the end. I will post installments of this story every Friday until I reach its end.

Forbidden Love by Kelly F. Barr

The sun beat down and the air was hot and dry. Amelia carried a parasol to shield her from the sun as she walked along the wooden walkway. The pounding of hooves and shouting of men burst through the air and Amelia turned to see six men on horses galloping down the middle of the street as townspeople scattered out of their way. The men arrived in a cloud of dust, reining their horses in, dismounting and tethering the animals outside the saloon across the street from where Amelia stood.

Amelia entered the dressmaker’s shop.

“Good afternoon, Amelia. Your dresses are finished. I think you’ll be pleased.” Miss Rachel, the dressmaker greeted her.

Miss Rachel led the way into her back room and pulled a dress from a rack. Amelia changed into the dress and was greatly pleased with the fit. It was a cornflower blue dress. It was perfect for Sunday wear. Next came a yellow dress covered with tiny pink roses, followed by an emerald green dress with a cream colored bodice. They all fit perfectly.

“Oh Miss Rachel, you have such skill with a needle and thread.”

“You are quite adept at choosing colors that compliment your coloring. No wonder every man in town watches as you pass by.”

Amelia felt her cheeks grow warm. “I think that’s an exaggeration, but thank you for the compliment. How much do I owe you?”

“That will be $9.”

Amelia opened her purse, paid Miss Rachel, placed her packages in her basket and left the shop.

She went next door to the milliner’s shop and picked up her new Sunday hat. It would go very well with her new cornflower blue dress.

She stepped out onto the wooden walkway and began to stroll down the walkway when her path was suddenly blocked by the strangers who had rode into town a little earlier.

One of the men tipped his hat to her. “Well, howdy. Ain’t you a purty little thing? What’s your name?”

Amelia stiffened and pulled herself to her full height. “Would you mind letting me pass?”

“Oh, now don’t be like that. I’m just tryin’ to be friendly. My name’s Cade Jeffries.”

Amelia gasped and put her hand to her throat. Cade Jeffries was a known outlaw who rode with the Brody gang. She realized that must be whom she must be facing at the moment. Her mind raced and her eyes searched to her left and right hoping that someone would see her predicament and come to her aid.

Cade narrowed his eyes at her and spoke in a sharp tone. “I’ll ask once more. What’s your name?”

Amelia cleared her throat. “I’m Amelia Williams, daughter of Sheriff Williams.”

Cade grinned at her. “The sheriff’s daughter. Well, don’t that beat all. Guess we should let the lady pass.” He motioned for the others to open a pathway, but he remained directly in front of Amelia.

“Would you allow me to carry your basket for you and accompany you on your way?”

His bright blue eyes and deep dimples were hard to resist. Amelia had always had a soft spot for dimples, and Cade’s were the deepest she’d ever seen. She also noticed his strong arms and broad shoulders.

“That’s very kind of you, but I assure you it’s not necessary.”

“I’d still be obliged if you allowed me the privilege of carrying your basket and walking with you.” His eyes pleaded with her.

“Well, I suppose there wouldn’t be any harm in that.” She offered a small smile and handed the basket to Cade, who then offered her his other arm.

She took it and hoped her father would not see her with Cade.

“So what brings you to town?” Amelia asked.

“We were just passin’ through, but now that I met you, I might stick around a while.”

Amelia was certain the warmth in her cheeks meant she was blushing under his gaze.

“Oh, don’t let me be a reason to change your plans.”

“Why not? Do you have a beau or are you just afraid your daddy won’t allow you to be seen with Cade Jeffries?”

Amelia was unsure if the glint in his eyes was teasing or mocking her. “My father trusts my judgment, although I’m sure if he saw me with you, he would question it for the first time.”

“And you’d be quite right about that.”

Amanda’s hand flew to cover her mouth at the sound of her father’s voice. He was standing on her right, having just come out of the jail in time to see her with Cade and hear her last sentence. She’d been so focused on Cade that she hadn’t realized that had come to the jail.

Her father grabbed her arm and pushed her behind him.

“I don’t know what you and the Brody gang are doing in my town, Cade, but you can just keep moving, and stay away from my daughter.”

Cade and her father stared each other down for a few minutes. Then Cade reached around her father to hand her basket to her. A smile slid across his lips. “It was a pleasure, Miss Williams. I hope we meet again.”

He gave Sheriff Williams an icy glare, turned on his heel and headed back up the walkway toward the Brody gang who were waiting for him by their horses.

Between Plotting and Pantsing

I have written here in the past about writing as a pantser and my attempt at becoming a plotter, and what I have found is that what works best for me is something between the two. I know there is a lot of talk about plotting and pantsing and many writers try to fit into one mold or the other or struggle to find their fit, so I am going to share my writing process in hopes of helping other writers who might find it more comfortable somewhere in between.

When I began my current WIP, I wrote down my two main characters’ (protagonists) physical descriptions, personality traits and their back stories. I did the same thing for my antagonist. Then I found some great sheets, that are FREE from a great website for writers:  Writers Helping Writers in their “Tools for Writers” section, called “Reverse Backstory Tool” and the “Character Pyramid” which I found helpful and not overwhelming, and I filled one of each of those out for my two main protagonists and my antagonist. I also wrote down the main plot and conflicts that I knew I wanted to include in the story.

Since I have decided that clean historical romantic fiction is the genre I am passionate about writing, I also did a little bit of research in regard to  the setting: historical time period and the real life towns that would be mentioned in my story and that would be home to my main characters; and into the life of some real life people who did the job I wanted my main male character to do so that I could make him as realistic as possible, and so, of course I also had to research that particular job. This sounds like a lot of work and plotting, but I didn’t feel that way, and writing something historical requires historical accuracy. I enjoyed the research almost as much as I enjoy the writing.

After that, I began my writing. In the midst of  working on this novel, I participated in two writer retreats where we did a couple of cool exercises that gave me a bit more insight into my main male character. I have also attended one writers’ conference, where I spoke with two published authors and shared a portion of my writing and they gave me helpful feedback. I am also a part of two different critique groups where I frequently share a piece of this novel for feedback. All of this feed back helps me to improve the story, and think about what I might be missing, which led me to contact a museum for more information about the historical aspects of my story (you can read about this here.)

I have also had to pause to research a few more things I needed to know about horses and riding and caring for horses. So, as you can see, because I do most of my writing as a pantser, I end up having to occasionally pause to research something I didn’t think about or anticipate before I began writing. Also, just because knowing that I have mistakes or missing parts in what I’ve already written, I cannot continue writing without fixing, changing and/or adding as needed during my writing sessions, so that interrupts my writing as well, but I’d much rather take care of those things as soon as possible and not have to go back and do ALL of those edits after finishing the entire novel. Taking care of it in bits and pieces is much less overwhelming to me. That’s why I submit to critique groups.

Some say that I am creating extra work or that it takes a lot more time to write the way that I do with these interruptions, but I don’t see how it takes any more time than all of the plotting some people do, and then writing the entire novel, and then going back and having to edit the whole thing. I think if a plotter and someone like me actually wrote down our time for the entire process, it really wouldn’t be that much different, assuming we are writing the same genre.

I hope that this information will be helpful for at least one of you out there.  Let me know if you’ve found it helpful or would like more information on any of this by dropping a comment in the comment box below.

Happy writing!

What Have I Been Reading Lately?

I suppose some of you may be missing my book reviews.  I know it’s been quite a while since I’ve done one because I have been reading books in the genre I am trying to write in hopes to help me with my scene setting.

Therefore, I have been reading a lot of Love Inspired Historical Fiction books and other Historical books about the old west.  Some of the titles I recently finished are:

The Love Inspireds:
Wagon Train Reunion by Linda Ford
The Runaway Bride by Moelle Marchand
Hill Country Cattleman by Laurie Kingery

Other Historical Fiction:
Heart of Gold by Robin Lee Hatcher

I enjoyed each of these stories and if you like romance stories of cowboys in the old west, you would enjoy them as well.

I’m not sure when I will get back to doing book reviews because my main focus is writing my novel, and now I have begun to read the Love Comes Softly and Prairie Legacy series by Janette Oke.  These are older books but are still great stories of the old west as well, and so I continue to read for help with my writing.

Do you like old west stories involving romance with cowboys?

Flash Fiction Friday: An Unlikely Love to the Rescue

He walked into the saloon.  All sound stopped – no more talking, no more piano, not even the sound of a beer bottle being set on the bar.  Every eye turned toward this stranger.

Dixie was the first to move.  She was always the first to approach the men who entered the saloon, but not this time.  Lily stepped in front of her and took hold of her arm.

This could be my ticket out of this awful life.  He’s handsome, not too old and looks like he’s got some money.  “I’ve got this one, Dixie.”

Dixie stood watching, her jaw slack, as Lily approached the handsome stranger.

The piano player resumed playing.  Everyone began talking again.

“Good afternoon, handsome.  You must be new in town because I’ve never seen you before.”

His deep green eyes appraised her.  “That’s right.  I’m a gambler.  I’ve been hearing this town has some tough gamblers and I like a challenge.”

“Fine looking gentleman like yourself, I hope gamblin’ ain’t all you’re interested in.”  She smiled, put her hand on his arm and leaned toward him.

“I wouldn’t mind getting to know you better, Darlin’.  What’s your name?”


“After a beautiful flower.”  He leaned down and placed a soft, short kiss upon her lips.

Lily felt a tingling sensation from her lips all the way down to her toes.

“And what’s your name, Handsome?”

“Jaxon.  Jaxon McDaniel.”

*  * *

Jaxon had been in town for a month by the time the other gamblers got a taste for his blood because of the flogging they took from him at the gambling table.  The gamblers played every day in the saloon.  Lily was a permanent fixture at Jaxon’s side during the games.  Every night found Jaxon in Lily’s bed.

Lily knew that Jaxon would be moving on soon.  In the evening as he held her in his arms, she said, “You’ll be leavin’ soon, won’t you?”

“Yes, I’m afraid I’ve worn out my welcome at the gambling table here.”

The silence between them was heavy.  Then Jaxon turned on his side, faced her and propped his head upon his hand.  He ran his fingers down the side of her jaw and kissed her deeply.  She was afraid to hope that the kiss expressed a deep love for her.

When he broke the kiss, he spoke in a husky voice, “Lily, I want you to leave here with me tomorrow.  You don’t belong in a life like this.  You’re young, beautiful.  You deserve to experience love and a man who will respect you.”

She was sure the small smile she offered showed her uncertainty.  “Could you really respect me, Jaxon, knowin’ what I’ve been?  Knowin’ that I’ve had other men?  You deserve better than me.”

Jaxon chuckled.  “My dear Lily.  My chosen lifestyle isn’t exactly a respectable one, and to be honest, you aren’t the first woman I’ve shared a bed with, but you are the first woman who has captured my heart.”

He took her hand, placed the palm of it against his chest.  “Do you feel my heart beating?  It’s beating hard and fast because I’m afraid you’ll turn me down.  You, with your black curls and chocolate brown eyes are the most beautiful woman I’ve ever met. You have devoted yourself to me this entire month, not spending time with any other man.”

“You paid for me.  Besides the men around here disgust me.  Most who have come seeking my bed are old, dirty and married.  I never wanted this life.  I was trapped into it when I arrived here young, naive, alone.  You see, I ran away from home when I was seventeen because my pa wanted me to marry a fat, bald forty-year-old man.  Pa said it would be a good marriage.  The man could provide well for me.  The man leered at me and when he touched me with his sausage fingers, I cringed.  So, I ran away and ended up here.  Crazy, ain’t it?  I didn’t want to marry a fat, bald, old man but I’ve given myself to worse, more times than I can count.”

Jaxon kissed her fingers.  “My sweet Lily, that settles it.  You’re leaving here with me tomorrow.”

“Jake won’t let me go easily.  He makes a lot of money off a me.”

“I’m sure I can strike a bargain with Jake.”  Jaxon lay back down and pulled her close again.

*  *  *

The next morning, Jaxon left Lily upstairs dressing and packing while he went to talk with Jake.

“Mornin’ Jake.”


“I’ll be leaving today and I want to take Lily with me.”

Jake stared at Jaxon long and hard.  “Well now, I don’t see how’s that possible.  You see, Lily belongs to me.”

“Lily works for you.  She doesn’t belong to you.  I’m willing to pay you generously since you’ll be losing an employee.”

“Is that so?  How much you figurin’ on payin’?”

“Well, you’ve charged me $10 a night to spend with her this entire month, and I figure she doesn’t usually have just one gentleman in an average evening.  So, if I was to pay you $20 a night for three months, that’d be $1,800.  I’m willing to make it an even $2,000.  What do you say?”

Jake’s eyes grew round.  His lower jaw appeared to come unhinged.  After a few minutes he managed to say, “You got yourself a deal.”

Jaxon shook Jake’s hand, paid him cash and hurried upstairs for Lily.

She looked startled as he burst through the door.  He picked her up, swung around, brought her down and gave her a long, passionate kiss as her tears washed over his face.

“Sweetheart, why are you crying?”

“I can’t believe it.  I’m really leaving here with you?”

“You certainly are, but we gotta go before Jake tries to squeeze more money out of me.  Now where are your bags?

Lily pointed to the floor by the bed at one small satchel.

“That’s it?”

“I don’t have many respectable clothes.”

“We’ll take care of that.  Now let’s get out of here.”  He took her satchel in one and and picked her up in his arms.  He carried her down the stairs, out of the swinging saloon doors, and neither he nor Lily looked back.


Top Ten Tuesday

Today’s Top Ten Tuesday’s list as suggested by The Broke and the Bookish is: Ten of my Most Recent 5 Star Reads.

I have written reviews of all of these books on Amazon.com.  However, I wouldn’t say that all of these are “recent” as I do not give out “5 Star” reviews easily.  To me, 5 stars are for books that are outstanding, in their story line, in having well developed characters that I love and care about and hate to say goodbye to and in the quality of the writing.

The last book on this list, I read and reviewed in September of 2013, #9 I read and reviewed in December 2014, #’s 1-3 are the most recent – I read and reviewed those in 2016, all the rest I read and reviewed in 2015.