Friday Feature: Interview with Jackie Ashenden (& Giveaway)!

Erica here! I’m so honored to bring you a new author each week through the Friday Feature! I’ve reached out to some of my favorite authors and asked them to do an interview, provide an excerpt, or guest post here to introduce you to their work or to speak on some aspect of writing. This week, I interviewed Jackie Ashenden. Jackie writes dark, emotional romances with alpha heroes and kick butt heroines who aren’t afraid to stand up to them. I hope you enjoy this interview, and pick up a copy of Jackie’s newest release, Never Refuse A Sheikh, out today. You could win a copy and a $10 Amazon gift card by leaving a comment. 

 When did you realize you wanted to be a writer?

I think probably when I was twelve, when I decided to write my own story – it was a fantasy heavily based on the Lord of the Rings and it was awful.  But I loved writing it. Admittedly I stopped after the first five pages, but it was great when I started! 🙂

What is your tagline for your brand of stories?

Ah taglines… On my website it says sexy, dirty love. So I guess that’s what I write. Sexy, dirty and dark love stories.

What sort of reader would enjoy your books?

A reader who likes hot sexytimes and heavy doses of angst. Who isn’t afraid of strong emotion.  Who also like alphas heroes and strong heroines. 🙂

What publishers are you currently writing for?

St Martin’s Press, Tule Publishing, Kensington and Random House. Quite a list!

 What writers have influenced your writing the most to this point?

Well, definitely my critique partner and friend Maisey Yates. I also find Megan Crane/Caitlin Crews’ writing wonderfully inspiring.

 Thank a teacher/mentor (because I heart teachers and think they need more thanks)

I would like to thank my 4th form English teacher (I was 14) for loving my creative writing and encouraging me. Because basically she was the first teacher I ever had who told me I was good at something.

What advice do you have for writers just starting their journey to publication?

Write. Keep writing. Then write some more. Don’t stop. Oh and if you’re after a publication contract, never, ever give up.

Do you write full-time or do you also have a “day job”?

I’m lucky enough to be able to write full time.  I used to be a librarian though!

How do you balance your writing/release schedule? 

It’s a tough one, especially when you have a lot of releases scheduled. To keep myself from freaking out, I work out my deadlines and how many words I need to do each day to meet them. Everything else to do with writing (marketing, social media etc,) comes second to making my word count.

What led you to write such “dark, emotional stories featuring alpha heroes?

Good question! I guess it’s because I really enjoy the psychology of it, plus I think everyone deserves a happy ending no matter how broken they think they are.

You write mostly series books, whether your own or as part of a continuity. What draws you to writing linked stories?

I think most writers are doing this these days and that’s because series sell better than stand alone stories. Publishers tend to want linked books for that reason. I like it because it gives you a wider range of stories and characters to explore.

How did you get involved with the International Bad Boys Series from Tule Publishing?

Oh that’s an interesting story. I wrote a sheikh book that I wanted to send to Harlequin Presents, but it didn’t end up being right for them so I shelved it. And then when I was at RWA in San Antonio last year I met the lovely Jane Porter.  We were talking about sheikhs and I said I’d written one that wasn’t right for Harlequin and she said she’d love to see it. So I sent it to her and she ended up putting it on the Tule schedule! I was thrilled!

Which type of hero do you prefer writing the most–sheikhs, tycoons, bikers, or others?

Wow, hard question. I don’t have a favorite type when it comes down to it, I love them all. They all have their different strengths and weaknesses. I just like writing guys, period.

How do you make your heroines so kick butt and so vulnerable at the same time?

Well, the trick is to giving the heroine layers. For example, on the outside she’s a kick butt chick who stands up to the hero and doesn’t take any crap. But on the inside, she’s vulnerable and the vulnerable side comes out gradually the more she begins to fall for the hero. She’s like all of us really. We’re never strong all the time, just like we’re not vulnerable all the time.

We don’t want our vulnerabilities on the outside so we keep them hidden, only showing them to our loved ones. That’s my typical heroine basically.

You also contributed a book to The Deacons of Bourbon Street Series with writer friends/critique buddies Maisey Yates and Megan Crane. How did the idea for that come about, and how did you sell the series?

And not forgetting Rachael Johns too!  (Erica: Sorry Rachael!) Yeah, they were all at RT in NOLA last year and I didn’t go because I’m in NZ and it was too far. But they got on really well and wanted to write this biker series. Maisey asked me if I wanted to join in because I write those kind of heroes anyway and I said of course! So we all wrote a pitch and a first chapter and our agents shopped it around. Yay Random House and Loveswept for buying it!

Who’s your favorite couple that you’ve written thus far?

Oh, that’s tough!!!  I loved writing Vin and Kara from Having Her. I could have written them forever. (Erica prefers Hunter and Ellie from linked book Taking Him) I really liked Zac and Eva, my 3rd Nine Circles book, and writing a biker dude and a biker chick for the Deacons series was pretty great too.

 Who’s your favorite fictional couple of all time?

Another hard question! I don’t really have one favorite. I do like Lizzie and Darcy. And Jane and Rochester. Phillippa and Francis Crawford from Dorothy Dunnett’s Lymond series.

Any upcoming projects readers should be on the lookout for?

I have Never Refuse A Sheikh, which comes out on the 5th – today! So if you like a sheikh fantasy, you may like that one. If sheikhs aren’t your bag then I have the 3rd Nine Circles book, You Are Mine, which comes out October 6th.

What’s next to cross of your writing bucket list?

Ooooh….I thought I might try writing something in first person. I’m not a huge fan of it as a reader but it’s good to try new things as a writer. Whenever I get time…

Every writer needs a good…

Cup of coffee, chocolate, massage and finally, a large glass of wine. 😉

 

JackieAshenden-SMALL When the sheikh claims a wife, she cannot refuse …

Altair is a man perfectly in control both of himself and the power he wields as regent of  Al Harah. Yet in order to retain his stronghold on the country he loves, he must wed a  princess wilder than the Bedouin tribe she was raised in. A princess who only has one  word for him: no.

Princess Safira knows what freedom means and it isn’t a palace or a crown. Neither  does it mean being told what to do by a man with more ice in his veins than blood.  Safira is innocent in the ways of men, but the heat in Altair’s gaze calls to a deep,  unclaimed part of her soul she cannot deny. Altair seems hellbent on civilizing her, but  she’s not so easily tamed. Especially not when she can sense the wildness that lives in  him….

Available for Kindle on Amazon here.

 

Jackie A Jackie has been writing fiction since she was eleven years old. Mild  mannered fantasy/SF/pseudo-literary writer by day, obsessive romance  writer by night, she used to balance her writing with the more serious job of  librarianship until a chance meeting with another romance writer prompted  her to throw off the shackles of her day job and devote herself to the true  love of her heart – writing romance. She particularly likes to write dark,  emotional stories with alpha heroes who’ve just got the world to their liking  only to have it blown wide apart by their kick-ass heroines.

She lives in Auckland, New Zealand with her husband, the inimitable Dr Jax,  two kids, two cats and a couple of curious rats. When she’s not torturing  alpha males and their stroppy heroines, she can be found drinking chocolate  martinis, reading anything she can lay her hands on, posting random crap on Twitter, or being forced to go mountain biking with her husband.

www.jackieashenden.com

@JackieAshenden

https://www.facebook.com/jackie.ashenden

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Writing Wednesday: Destroying Doubt & Soldiering On with Your Manuscript

The official doubt crow, courtesy of @doubt_crow

The official doubt crow, courtesy of @doubt_crow

With a little more than a month and half a manuscript left to go before my Book to Blurb final is turned in, I’ve found myself in a strange place. I’m getting to my word count goal (though now I think I need to up it a bit to give myself a better cushion) and finding that I have great revision plans for the manuscript that will make it even stronger (I’m not revising much while getting the first draft to take shape). I’ve been really consistent with my writing, getting up when I don’t feel like it and always getting something on the page. Yet, something has been dogging my every step: doubt.

Writers tend to be very familiar with doubt, particularly those who seek publication. There’s always something you can second guess. Second guessing and trying things a different way isn’t bad; it’s when our questioning of our choices renders us unable to move forward, meet deadlines, or even submit our work that it becomes troublesome.

At the moment, I have a myriad of doubts that are difficult to combat:

  • deadline doubt. Sometimes it seems as if the deadline is coming faster and my word count is climbing slower. It seems like I’ll never have the first draft done in time, let alone have time to revise and send in my best quality work. Many other participants have told me about family vacations, births, conferences, and other events standing between them and the deadline that causes them to feel as if they aren’t getting enough done now to compensate for losing that time. No one wants to miss the deadline or feel like they didn’t turn in their best book.
  • balance doubt. Is there enough conflict? Have I shown enough of their budding romance? Is the faith element present enough? Is there enough plot to this story? Did I show enough emotion? Will readers like/relate to/fall in love with my hero & heroine? I always feel as if I haven’t done enough somewhere.
  • word choice doubt. How many times did I say gaze in two paragraphs? Five. Seriously. And I had both my characters think “No, this isn’t happening” ON THE SAME PAGE.If my characters don’t stop looking, staring, gazing, flicking glances, or locking eyes, someone may be arrested for stalking. Finding fresh ways to say things can get stale if you let it, and it will drive you crazy trying to find just the right word all the time.
  • revision doubt. Did I change this enough to address the editor’s concerns? Will changing the hero’s motivation from this to that strengthen or hurt the story? I know I said I was cutting this scene, but maybe I should keep it? Is this scene really advancing the romance like I want it to? Is this subplot adding to things or detracting from them? Should I dial back the faith element here? How do I tie this subplot into the main plot to make it all make sense?
  • doubt scrapping. Maybe I should chuck the whole darn thing and start over.

So what do you do to combat doubt? I keep writing. I skip scenes that aren’t working to work on a scene where the words are coming fast and furious. I type things I know I’m not saying write but also know I can change later if I get the general gist down. I keep myself accountable by posting my word counts each day. I reach out to my critique buddies and writer friends when only a kick in the pants or a good brainstorming session will do. I make revision notes while they are fresh in my mind and plan out how I will address them. And I pray. A LOT.

Your two cents: How do you deal with doubt, in writing or any area of life?

Two for Tuesday: The Fairy Tale Bride and Finally His Bride

The Fairy Tale BrideWelcome to my first two for Tuesday. I’ve fallen a bit behind on my reviews, but I promise I have a ton of new books to suggest to you that will take you on an emotional roller coaster and leave you sighing in Happily Ever After (HEA) bliss. To begin, I have two books, the first and the fourth in Tule Publishing’s new Montana Born Brides Series, The Fairy Tale Bride by Scarlet Wilson, and Finally His Bride by Maisey Yates. First, let me say the covers for these books are to die for! I love everything about them–the dresses, the couples, the backdrops–they look so summery and perfect. I’m also a little jealous that they beat me to writing a series centered around one character’s impending wedding and those involved falling in love (I’m not tossing my series idea, though. There’s plenty of room for more books based on brides. Who doesn’t love a good wedding story?) Now, to the reviews!

The Fairy Tale Bride

Lisa Renee loves fairy tales and weddings–even though her own fairy tale romance ended in disaster. She indulges her love of weddings by owning her own bridal salon, and uses her love of fairytales to brighten up the days of patients at the local hospital where she volunteers. When a celebrity wedding brings a media circus and cantankerous bridesmaids to town, Lisa finds solace in her volunteer work, and may just find love with the new doctor in town…

Adam Brady loves the small town life he’s found in Marietta, Montana. He fled the big city seeking anonymnity and a hospital where he didn’t have to specialize. He’s found a circle of friends, a job he loves, and no one knows about his past. When hospital volunteer Lisa breezes into his path, it seems as if his life is finally falling into place. But the media swarming the town threaten the life he’s come to enjoy, and Lisa Renee and her shop are right at the center of it. As there attraction grows and their secrets come to light, can they let go of the past and grab on to the love they could have with each other?

I thought this was a really fun read. I just wish it was a little longer. I thought Ms. Wilson did a great job balancing the budding romance, the difficult bridal party, and both the hero and heroine’s pasts to strike the right chord with the reader, but a few parts felt rushed. It was like an amusement park rollercoaster: fun and over way to quickly.

Also like a rollercoaster, I didn’t appreciate all the elements that Ms. Wilson wove together until I reflected on it later. I would recommend this book to anyone looking for a fun, romantic beach read that showcases two people trying to outrun their past when what they really need is the right partner to help them face it head on.

B+/4* (of 5) for a fun and funny read with surprisingly sweet and sexy moments and a swoon worthy HEA

Finally His Bride Finally his Bride

Melanie Richards has decided to stop pining for the man she can’t have and let go of the hurts of the past by losing her virginity. It’s been far too long in coming, and she sees it as the perfect way to get over her tragic past and embrace normal life. Her best friend, Luke Shuller, is already raging mad when he sees Mel in Grey’s trying to pick up a drunk cowboy. He yanks her out and takes her to his hotel to sober up. When Mel insists on going through with her cockamamie plan to lose her virginity to be normal, Luke offers to let her practice her feminine wiles on him. Being temporarily coupled up with Mel helps him with a family problem and allows him to keep Mel safe at the same time. Both soon realize that they’ve rung a bell that can’t be unrung. As the line between friends with benefits and a real relationshp begins to blur, will they be able to part as friends, or will Luke finally make Mel’s closest held dream come true and make her his bride?

I love Maisey Yates’ writing style. Her voice is at turns funny and saucy as well as heavy with weighty emotional baggage. Ms. Yates has a way with angst that most writers don’t. She neither downplays nor belabors the real emotional gravity of a story. I found both Melanie and Luke to be complex characters with emotional resonance that I truly felt invested in. I wanted their relationship to work even though they were both messed up and coming at it all wrong. Most writers can’t do both humor and angst without ending up campy or a caricature of the genre, but somehow Ms. Yates manages to strike just the right balance. The black moments are black, and the emotional work requires some heavy lifting, but the HEA is all the more satisfying for it. I would recommend this book to anyone who loves a strong heroine who knows how to be vulnerable, a complex hero you want to strangle and snuggle at the same time, gratuitous use of cake, sizzling sexy times, and an HEA that is happy sigh inducing.

A+/5* for snappy dialogue, fun sexy times, more angst than an emo teen, and a hero and heroine who are all jacked up and just right at the same time.

Friday Feature: Autumn MacArthur & Splash! Novella Collection (with Giveaway!!)

When did you realize you wanted to be a writer?
Like so many writers, I started writing stories as soon as I could write. I submitted poetry and short stories to magazines in my teens. All rejections, apart from one article in a Christian magazine. My first ever earnings from writing – $5! I was so excited! I always wrote and journalled, but didn’t start writing for publication again until 2010, when I entered a Harlequin online contest.

What is your tagline for your brand of stories?
“Sweet inspirational romance to make you smile.” My aim is to write stories that don’t just show the love of the hero and heroine, but God’s love for us all too.

What writers have influenced your writing the most to this point?
I read a lot of Harlequin Love Inspired! All the authors for that line are wonderful. Marta Perry is one of my favourites. I also love Debbie Macomber’s books. For favourite comfort reads take me back to beloved authors from my teens. A Harlequin sweet romance author from New Zealand who wrote in the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s, Essie Summers; and Canadian author L.M. Montgomery, who wrote a lot more than the Anne of Green Gables books. I adore those older books, but oh my, they would never get them past an editor today, with all that head hopping!

I know you went through revisions with a publisher but ultimately decided not to continue pursuing that opportunity. How did you come to that decision?
I was blessed to receive revisions on my semi-finalling Harlequin SYTYCW 2013 entry, Believe in Me, from Heartsong. I did the revisions and was ready to hit send when I had one of those whispers of Spirit. I loved the books Heartsong released and was overjoyed to be published there, but I had problems buying copies, which raised concerns about the distribution. I prayed a lot and made the difficult decision to write a prequel novella and self-publish both books. As it happened, Heartsong may never have published the story as an October 2015 release was suggested, and sadly the line will be closing. Also, through several rounds of edits, the story grew to 68,000 words, far too long for Heartsong!

I have second revisions on a Love Inspired submission, too. Although I’m far from a prima donna and will gladly make huge changes to my stories if it will make them stronger, the editor has asked me to remove a prayer which feels key to my heroine’s spiritual development. I’m torn. Publication with Harlequin has been a dream since my teens, but I need to be true to the stories God asks me to write too!

Do you plan on pursuing traditional publishing again in the future?
I’m open to God’s lead. 🙂 For now, I have a long list of stories to write, and I’m feeling called to focus on self-publishing.

What has been the most rewarding part of your indie journey?
The direct contact with readers, having them tell me what they love about the stories. The reader community for Christian romance is so sweet and so supportive!

Being able to write the stories I feel called to write, rather than having to fit publisher requirements is a huge plus too. Now Heartsong is closing, there aren’t a lot of publishers taking on Christian contemporary romances set outside North America. I have some US set stories, but I also want to write UK and Australian set books.

And I do like having control of every aspect of book production. I work with a professional editor and a wonderful critique partner, but I had to teach myself cover design, formatting, and a whole lot of other stuff!

The most difficult?
LOL, having to be responsible for every aspect of book production! It’s a lot of work and I’m still learning. A bit like being a Mom. Once you think you have it all figured out, something changes!

What advice would you give to writers who have just started their journey toward publication?
To keep on writing and not expect too much from your first draft! I have five years worth of unfinished or unedited first drafts that may never be published, but I learned something from every one of them. Let yourself write learning manuscripts, and know that ANYTHING can be edited, no matter how bad it seems in first draft. I had a lot of failed starts and gave up writing again and again over the years because I couldn’t get the first chapter or two the way I wanted, and so I stopped. I know now that although I do plan a little before I start, I write best when I pants it. Often, the first two or three chapters may never appear in the final version at all because they’re the way I get to know the characters. I now take every story through at least three rounds of edits, and it only really comes together in the final draft. I know that makes planners scream, but the most important thing is to discover and trust your own writing process, whatever it is.

Where did you get the idea for the Love in Store series?
Um, the truth is, I can’t remember! I drafted Believe in Me, which is now book 2 in the series, as a sweet secular romance novella back in 2011, in response to a romance publisher’s Call for Submission asking for Christmas stories based on one of two Christmas songs. I’m not sure now what made me decide to set it in a London department store. Probably because I worked in central London at the time and walked along Oxford Street, London’s main shopping street, every day on my way to the office, just like Cara does at the start of the story.

Was it always intended to be a series?
Not at all! It was supposed to be a stand-alone novella! But Believe in Me grew in edits from a 20k novella, to a 48k submission to Heartsong, and then through two more rounds of edits to the final 68k story. When I decided to indie publish it, I wrote a prequel standalone novella set in the same department store, The Wedding List, which is now available free on Amazon, Nook  or Kobo. Then minor characters all started needing their own stories!

Tell the readers about the concept behind your Love in Store series.
Imagine a slightly run-down central London department store, a cross between Selfridges (a real London store) and Grace Brothers (a store in the slightly risque UK 70’s comedy series Are You Being Served), and all the people connected to the store. Books 1 and 2 focus closely on the store and the attempts to keep it open, while books 3 & 4 have links to the store but also to Paris and Edinburgh, as the heroines are the American twin sisters who have some travel planned while they are in Europe! Supporting homeless people also developed into a theme running through the series, and the local homeless shelter plays an important role.

Who’s your favorite couple from the Love in Store series thus far?
Oh my, that’s like asking a mother who her favourite child is! I love all of them for different reasons.

Who’s your favorite fictional couple of all time?
My favourite movie ever is probably The Princess Bride, so I’ll go for Westley and Buttercup, and their True Love.

What’s next for Love in Store?
My new release More than Friends is a linked story, not actually part of the series, but the hero and heroine appeared as minor characters in Book 3, A Model Bride. Part of that story is set in Edinburgh on New Year’s Eve, as the hero Mac takes Tiffany home to stay with his parents so she can experience a real Scottish Hogmanay. More than Friends features Mac’s younger sister Catriona, and Alistair, the man she’s been in love with since her teens. Plus a dog and a busload of disabled kids on a Vacation Bible School trip to the beach!

Are there more books coming in this series?
Absolutely! I love wedding stories, so stories #5 & #6 will be romances growing from the weddings of Cara and Nick from book 2, and James and Beth from Book 1. Plus I have a Thanksgiving story planned which is also loosely connected, as Brad, a minor character from book 4 tries to reunite with his divorced wife. I need to write faster!

Any upcoming projects readers should be on the lookout for?
My summer novella More than Friends is part of the “Splash! 9 refreshing summer romances filled with faith” boxed set. This wonderful collection includes 9 complete Christian romance stories by 9 different authors, over 800 pages total reading. The ebook of the entire set is only 99c! It releases on June 23 but can be preordered now. http://amzn.to/1EOsp0a

Every writer needs a good…
LOL, can’t decide if that should be laptop or critique partner! On the basis I can always get a new laptop but my CP is irreplaceable, I’ll go for critique partner.

Autumn is giving away a mobi for Kindle copy of A Model Bride, from her Love in Store Series. A model Bride is on sale at a special reduced price of 99c until June 2. It can be purchased here

Splash, 9 inspirational summer romances for just 99c teal

Splash, 9 inspirational summer romances for just 99c

Splash! NINE RefreshingRomances Filled with Faith!

Nine beloved authors of contemporary Christian romance have banded together to offer this limited-time collection of all-new romance novellas perfect for your summer vacation reading pleasure. Come visit Scotland, Zambia, Australia, Canada, and several American states, including Alaska, in these inspirational romance novellas. You’ll love each refreshing contemporary romance as the characters enjoy the water on hot summer days, whether it be in a river, lake, ocean… or a swimming pool!

His Perfect Catch by Narelle Atkins, author of the Snowgum Creek series
A holiday romance isn’t part of the plan when Mia Radcliffe temporarily moves to Sapphire Bay and lives next door to Pete McCall, her secret crush from years ago. Pete prefers the simple life. Can Mia leave behind her big-city dreams and settle with Pete in the seaside town?

Sweet Serenade by Valerie Comer, author of the Farm Fresh Romance series
Carly and Reed thrive on the rush of running rapids in a canoe until they capsize in both river and romance. Will secrets from the past drown their future, or can this idyllic summer romance lead to a lifetime of sweet serenades?

More than Friends by Autumn Macarthur, author of the Love in Store series
When nurse Catriona asks for help with her Vacation Bible School for disabled children, she never imagines how much could go wrong on a simple seaside day out — or that the colleague she’s secretly loved for years might come to see her as more than his best friend’s little sister.

Love Flies In by Heidi McCahan, author of the Emerald Cove series
He’s a seaplane pilot determined to honor his convictions. She’s a kayak guide who mocked his faith for sport. One small lakeside cabin in Alaska can’t house them both.

Testing the Waters by Lesley Ann McDaniel, author of the Madison Falls series
After breaking up with her ultra-critical boyfriend, Teresa decides to reinvent herself. She meets a nice guy named Curt on the beach in Crescent Cove, Oregon, and tells him she’s Terése from Paris. Pretending to be someone else is fun until the unthinkable happens — she starts to fall for him.

The Lifeguards, the Swim Team, and Frozen Custard by Carol Moncado, author of the CANDID Romance series
Lifeguard Alivia Collins looks forward to another summer on the guard stand at the Serenity Landing Aquatic Center. This year, she’s going to have to keep herself from falling for the cute, new guard – or realize it’s time to give love another chance.

Time and Tide by Lynette Sowell, author of the Lone Star Hearts series
When out-of-work fashion journalist Karyn Lewis uses the summer to regroup on the coast of Virginia, she plans to lie low at Pine Breezes campground. She doesn’t plan for her heart to be on a collision course with old friend Brodie Reed. They must decide if the past that looms between them will be too much for them to have a future together.

Draw You Near by Jan Thompson, author of the Savannah Sweethearts series
Savannah artist Abilene Dupree keeps her personal life out of her commercial paintings except one. That one painting has now brought Londoner Lars Cargill back to the coastal town and into her art world. Can she hold him at bay before he invades her personal space and her heart?

Orphaned Hearts by Marion Ueckermann, author of the Heart of Africa series
His faith buried with his wife, Simon devotes himself to raising his daughter and orphan elephants. Lady Abigail postpones an arranged marriage, leaving England to teach the children of Africa. Will his past—or her future—keep their hearts orphaned?

Grab a tall glass of lemonade or iced tea and dip your toes into a cool pool of water on a hot summer’s day while you enjoy the never-before-released Christian romance novellas in SPLASH! Scroll up and snag your copy today.

Amazon
KOBO
NOOK

autumn macarthurAutumn Macarthur is an Australian writer of inspirational romance living near London with her very English husband, three spoiled cats, and a guinea pig with a dandelion addiction. She loves reading, cooking, gardening, and writing deeply emotional stories to make you smile and remind you how big and wide and deep God’s love and forgiveness can be.

She tends to talk a little too much and laugh a little too loud, her sleep schedule is all over the place so you’ll often find her on the internet at 5am, and she’s grateful to be blessed with some good friends and a very patient husband. She’s also eternally thankful for God’s great love and mercy.

When she’s not talking to her strawberry plants or cherry blossoms, she can be found blogging at http://www.faithhopeandheartwarming.com, on Facebook as Autumn Macarthur, and on Twitter as @autumnmacarthur. She loves hearing from readers so do get in touch!

You can subscribe to her mailing list here.

Thanks for inviting me to visit your blog!

Book Review: From the Start by Melissa Tagg

From the Start Confession,: this is not my first Melissa Tagg book. I was also given Made to Last a long time ago and still haven’t finished it. After reading From the Start, though, I plan to start it over and read it all the way through.

From the Start is the story of screenwriter Kate Walker. Kaye hasn’t sold a script in a long time and believes that maybe this is her opportunity to finally write something meaningful. At the same time, Colton Greene is having to accept his football career and his relationship with his almost fiancée is over. While his agent is strategizing on air commentator positions and book deals, Colton is adrift and handling his early retirement badly.

A devastating tornado in Maple Valley Iowa brings Kate home to help her father and Colton arrives to help an old friend’s family. When Colton discovers Kate is a writer, he hires her to help him write his book. Colton’s offer to write his story will give Kate the money she needs to go on a trip to Africa and write about the work her late mother’s foundation is doing for grants–the meaningful writing she’s been longing to do. It seems like a perfect solution for both of them. But it seems God has other plans for them.

I loved the story between Kate and Colton. Ms. Tagg does a wonderful job of making both Kate and Colton the kind of people you can root for and want to see succeed. The supporting characters were well rounded and added to the story for the most part. At times, there seemed to be a few too many, but Ms. Tagg was able to show what each one was necessary and tie up the loose ends for a satisfactory ending.

I fell in love with Maple Valley. The small town really came to life on the page. I could see the spirit of resilience and community that Ms. Tagg created as if it were a real place. I can’t wait to see more stories based around my favorite supporting characters.

I would recommend From the Start to anyone looking for a longer Christian romance read filled with the best aspects of small town Midwestern life–faith, family and football, who loves stories of starting over and finding what you didn’t know to look for.

4*/B+

Friday Feature: A Love Like Ours by Becky Wade

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A Love Like Ours by Becky Wade, Published by Bethany House.

A Love Like Ours is the third Porter Family book by Becky Wade and the second that I’ve read. It released on Tuesday, May 5th. Part of the proceeds of sales of the book now until May 17th will be given to the Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund, an organization that helps veterans with physical and psychological injuries.

Lyndie James and Jake Porter were childhood best friends until her family moved from Texas to California and they lost touch. Now that her family has moved back to Texas, Lyndie is eager to work for her former best friend at Whispering Creek exercising the thoroughbreds he trains as well as rekindling their friendship. There’s only one problem: Jake Porter is nothing like the boy she used to know. Jake’s been broken by PTSD and survivor’s guilt in ways he thinks can never be repaired. The last thing he wants is to have Lyndie and her optimistic, unwavering faith around. He doesn’t want to see her hurt, either by the horses or by him.

Jake agrees to hire Lyndie despite his reservations. Lyndie is determined to show Jake that he’s not broken beyond repair, that God can fix him. She believes the boy she used to know and love is still in there, and that God wants to use her to heal him. But is she letting her attraction to Jake lead her into falling for the man she thinks God wants her to save? With Jake’s PTSD and lack of faith in God, is she setting herself up to be one of those girls that falls in love with a man and ends up heartbroken when she can’t change or fix him?

I. LOVED. THIS. STORY! There was very little not to like about this book. Becky Wade’s writing is so descriptive, it pulls you right in to the story and doesn’t let go. I could clearly see every character and understand them. Lyndie is optimistic and a believer in the impossible being possible without being annoying or irritating. Jake is tall, dark and brooding without being maudlin. Wade doesn’t downplay the seriousness of the issues faced by Jake and Lyndie to get to the happily every after, a fact which I appreciated. She shows the ugly realities or Cerebral Palsy, PTSD, Survivor’s guilt, and lost faith without sugar coating it. This makes the happily ever after even more satisfying because she doesn’t cheat or short change  the reader with a tidy ending. This story says sometimes life sucks, and it scars us in ways that may never fully heal, but we can keep living and living in love and abundance. God is good.

One thing I enjoy about reading a longer contemporary inspirational romance is the opportunity to have secondary characters and subplots to invest in. I especially love when it’s a book in a series and I can revisit beloved characters from previous books. One of the things that sets Becky Wade’s books apart is the well drawn secondary characters. I loved getting to see Celia and Ty again (from Meant to be Mine, book 2), as well as Uncle Danny and Bo and Meg. I also loved the subplot with Amber looking for love. None of this took away from the central plot. Everything worked together to show how God loves us and wants to give us good gifts no matter how unworthy we feel or how far we have strayed.

I would recommend A Love Like Ours to anyone looking for a longer inspirational romance filled with rich descriptive writing, fun and fully fleshed out secondary characters and subplots, a hero in serious need of God and love and a faith-filled, fantasy land dwelling, feisty heroine with more than enough courage to love a stubborn man back to life.

5*/A+

Book Review: Meant to Be Mine by Becky Wade

Meant to Be Mine COVERToday, it is my pleasure to review Meant to Be Mine by Becky Wade, the second Porter Family Novel, by Becky Wade. This book is published by Christian publisher Bethany House and is available beginning this month.

Confession: I haven’t read the first book in this series, Undeniably Yours. I hate starting a series in media reas. Also, I haven’t read too many contemporary Christian romances from Bethany House. I tend to stay with what’s familiar and branch out when I get opportunities to review books or find new authors through familiar publishers. This is why reviewing is perfect for me; it stretches my horizons a bit. Lastly, I’m a sucker for a story that gives you an almighty mess to untangle and really makes the characters work for their happily ever after.

The Short Version: Ty Porter and Celia Parker got married in Vegas after dating four days. It shouldn’t have worked, and for a long time, it didn’t. But God had a plan to save the bull rider and the baker’s marriage, and He carried it out despite their stubbornness, bitterness, and inability to forgive. This reader really enjoyed being along for the ride.

The Long Version: Celia Parker has been infatuated with Ty Porter since he sat beside her in Ceramics class her first year of high school. They  became good friends, but not the more Celia longed for. Several years later, Celia meets up with Ty in Las Vegas after a bull riding competition, and for the next four days the two become nearly inseparable. They decide to get married after this whirlwind courtship and have a perfect wedding night. But in the morning, Ty shatters Celia’s happily ever after:

“You…you didn’t force me into marrying you, if that’s what’s upsetting you. I made my own decision.”

“Without all the facts.”

“What do you mean–”

“I’m in love with someone else.”

Heartbroken, Celia returns to real life and struggles through. She’s determined to put Ty Porter behind her and pursue her dream of opening a bakery/coffee shop–until she finds out that their wedding night resulted in a baby.

Meanwhile, Ty Porter goes on to have a successful rodeo career and waits around for the woman he thinks he’s meant to be with, Tawny. Five and a half years after his marriage, Ty returns to Vegas and passes the corny chapel where he married Celia and feels a sudden need to track her down and close that chapter of his life once and for all. He meets her and thinks everything is done–until he meets his little girl, Addie.

Once Ty knows about Addie, he’s determined to be a good father to her. Celia is just as determined to protect her daughter’s heart, and her own, from the charming man who fooled her once into giving her heart to him and then breaking it. The more time Ty spends with Celia, the more his attraction to her grows. But with two stubborn people, it takes a lot of divine intervention to get them on the right path to happily ever after.

Meant to Be Mine by Becky Wade is a book filled with classic romantic themes–friends to lovers, a secret baby, a marriage of inconvenience–and classic biblical themes–forgiveness, sacrifice, repentance, prodigal son (or daughter). Ms. Wade does a wonderful job of blending together the tropes of contemporary romance and the tenets of faith here. Ty and Celia’s story, while the circumstances might not be as common, is a common story: two people, in the middle of the first throes of infatuation, do something they both come to bitterly regret and spend a long time either punishing themselves for or paying for. Yet, God is still able to use those things to accomplish His purposes.

I thought the characters in Meant to Be Mine were well written. Even though there were times I wanted to shake both Ty and Celia, I could see where both of them were coming from. They felt like real people grappling with a difficult situation. The supporting characters, particularly their daughter Addie and Uncle Danny, were well written and added to the story. I loved Addie’s obsession with civic minded princesses who found their princes, and Uncle Danny’s surfer mentality and pursuit of a foreign bride brought much needed levity.

The only character I didn’t like was Tawny. I couldn’t get a good read on her. I knew what both Ty and Celia thought of her, but her motivations were completely lost on me. Whenever I see a character that is somehow in play for a main character’s affection, I think of My Best Friend’s Wedding and 2 Dresses. I either expect to like the character and feel a bit bad for her (MBFW) or I really don’t like them (27D). Every now and then, I know they are spoiled and conniving, but they have some good characteristics under there somewhere (a la The Wedding Date). I got none of those from Tawny. She felt more like a plot device, which was noticeable more because everyone else was so clearly depicted.

Ms. Wade did a good job of interweaving the faith element and making God’s footprints visible in the story. I liked how we saw how both Ty and Celia felt about faith in their lives, and that their relationships with God weren’t perfect, but a work in progress. The supporting characters who impacted their faith showed how God uses others to reach us and demonstrate His love to us. I really enjoyed this aspect of the story.

I would recommend Meant to Be Mine to anyone who likes to see two characters who get themselves into a hopeless tangled mess that only the Lord can get them out of, with the help of a little girl, an old surfer, a crotchety donut shop owner, and a whole lot of Porters.

Meant to be Mine: A- for strong faith element, compelling story, and wonderful characters, outside of Tawny.

Don’t forget to enter the Rafflecopter for your chance to win a $50 Visa gift card and your copy of Meant to Be Mine and other great prizes!

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Author Amy Vastine Talks Up a Storm about The Weather Girl

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A themed tour with Prism Book Tours

Welcome to my stop for the April Showers Book Tour for

The Weather Girl

by Amy Vastine

The Weather Girl Book Cover

 

The Weather Girl
by Amy Vastine
Clean Adult Contemporary Romance
January 1st 2014 by Harlequin

Erica: Today, I am pleased to bring you guys a guest post from the lovely and talented Amy  Vastine! I’ve been following Amy’s journey since before she was published and was so excited when I saw that her debut, The Weather Girl,  was being published by Harlequin. I’ll be back in to give a review of her debut in a future post, but right now, I’m turning over Copywrite1985 to Amy. Enjoy!

Thank you so much for hosting me on your blog today! I am so excited to be here and be able to promote my debut novel, The Weather Girl. In the book, Summer Raines is a quirky meteorologist in West Texas who falls in love with the fallen football hero, Travis Lockwood.

 

Having grown up with two brothers and a father who still talks about the good ol’ days playing ball in high school as well as being the mother of two boys who play, I felt pretty confident about my football knowledge. The weather, on the other hand, was something on which I needed to do a little research.

 

Summer tends to rattle off some pretty obscure weather facts when she’s nervous, so finding interesting tidbits took some time but made me a fan of Mother Nature. The photographs I saw while researching this story blew me away! From Texas hail the size of baseballs to lightning storms in Venezuela, there are some amazing stories out there.

 

One of the dilemmas that Summer faces is should she or shouldn’t she take the job of her dreams, a job that would allow her to travel around the world and see these weather phenomena first-hand. An old family friend tries to lure her by sending her examples of some of the adventures she would go on if she took the job. My favorite is when he tempts her to come to Finland to see the northern lights from a glass igloo.

 

In reality, there is this incredible resort in the Laplands where you can stay in these glass igloo rooms. Here’s a link to the website if you’re interested – http://www.kakslauttanen.fi/. There’s something about the northern lights that intrigues me. I hope to go see them someday, maybe not in Finland but perhaps in Canada!

 

I also have a Pinterest board for The Weather Girl where I have a bunch of weather-related pictures – http://www.pinterest.com/vastine7/the-weather-girl/. My favorite picture on there is either of the sky punch or the sky wave. They make the boring clouds drifting over my house seem very boring. If you get a chance, check it out!

 

Do you have a favorite weather event? Are you thrilled by tornados or maybe love to watch it rain?

Weather Girl - Amy Vastine

 Amy Vastine has been plotting stories in her head for as long as she can remember. An eternal optimist, she studied social work, hoping to teach others how to find their silver lining. Now, she enjoys creating happily ever afters for all to read.

In September of 2012, she saw a tweet about Harlequin’s So You Think You Can Write contest. She entered, hoping for nothing more than a little feedback from some people in the business. Amazingly, The Weather Girl made it into the semi-finals, thanks to the many wonderful voters out there! The manuscript didn’t make it to the finals, but the editors over Harlequin were still interested. A few revisions later and The Weather Girl was contacted for publication with Harlequin Heartwarming – a dream come true!
Amy lives outside Chicago with her high school sweetheart-turned-husband, three fun-loving children, and their sweet but mischievous puppy dog.

New Entangled Brazen Titles: February 24th

If you like your heroes hot, the sex hotter, and a swoon-worthy romance to swoop in and save your happily ever after, Brazen has the story for you. Sinfully sexy soldiers. Alpha cops who demand control. Sweet guys with a naughty side in the bedroom. At Brazen, they’ve got the hero destined to melt your… heart. Visit the Entangled website, the Brazen Blog, follow them on Twitter, Like their Facebook page, and follow them on Pinterest.

Introducing Brazen’s Feb 24th releases:
His rival’s in his bed and this rocker is ready to play.

Find out more!

 

Special $0.99 Introductory Price!



Giveaway

When one touch isn’t enough, why resist?

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Special $0.99 Introductory Price!



Giveaway

Four lessons,no strings…

 

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Special $0.99 Introductory Price!



Giveaway

At his majesty’s service…     or so he thinks.     



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Special $0.99 Introductory Price!


Giveaway      

Letting go might be the key that unlocks her pleasure…

 

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Special $0.99 Introductory Price!



Giveaway

Erica here: FYI, I will be reviewing some of these titles in the next couple days, so stay tuned if you’re interested in my take on them. These tend to be on the spicier side, I’m told, so we’ll see if I survive! I’m currently enjoying my BIRTHDAY (!!!), so feel free to leave me some birthday love as well.