Saturday, November 26, 2022

Book Spotlight: Between Thorns and Glory by Kimberly Frost Pinkney

About the Book:

Saren longs for adventure and her own mystery to solve. While walking in the forest near her family’s flower shop, she’s thrilled to discover a hidden cottage. But as she approaches, the surrounding vegetation attack her and her dog, Frostie. They barely escape with their lives. When Saren’s mother hears of the altercation, she forbids Saren to go back. However, Saren’s father and Uncle Jonathan devise a scheme so she can investigate further.

Jonathan, who was born on the wrong side of the tracks, loved Allison at first sight, but she was the granddaughter of his beloved mentor and employer. After she went missing, Jonathan spent the last thirteen years searching for answers. What happened to her is still a mystery. His only hope lies with young Saren.

As Saren finds out more about the enchanted cottage and the woman who lives there, a woman who is colored gray from head to toe, Saren must grow up quickly to uncover the reasons behind the Gray Lady’s curse. Saren will need all her faith, tenacity, and courage as secrets of the past explode to threaten life as she knows it.

Between Thorns and Glory is a mixed-genre inspirational novel with a love story that brings the Gospel to life in a beautiful and practical way. The story shows how those in authority can use religion to hurt and deceive and how a woman tormented by shame can find forgiveness and love through the untainted faith and simple teachings of a young girl.

This is an ideal book club or Sunday School read complete with scripture references. Discussion questions are also included.

(Trigger Warning: Sexual Assualt)


Chapter One

Allison struggled to find her festive spirit in between her joyful heart’s desire, the path of achievement she’d devoted herself to, and the stifling match her mother had chosen. Taking a deep breath, she summoned her courage to release Professor Mort Hebert’s hand.

Allowing her sparkle to come through her composed and polished persona, Allison gracefully grabbed her sister by both hands, and they swirled in a circle in the middle of the dance floor. Madeleine’s wedding gown and Allison’s emerald maid of honor dress flowed out in a whimsical white-and-green cloud of taffeta, lace, and tulle.

“Oh, Maddie, everything is just perfect! So magical,” Allison said. She spoke with so much joy, she hoped the whole wedding crowd could hear her over the band playing a fast bluesy rock tune.

“Allison, I’ve missed you so much. I can’t wait until you’re back home for good.” She stopped swirling and hugged her sister.

Allison could feel the discord and the distance that had been between them melting quickly. “Almost there. One more semester to graduate. But you better stop being mushy, or we’ll mess up our makeup. Our every move is being recorded.” Allison beamed her signature broad smile at her little sister. “So, are you ready for your wedding night? Or do we need to have the talk?” Allison smiled with a mock-serious look.

“Seriously? I’m not puritanical like you. I know I’m a sinner. But I’m proud of you for waiting until you’re married. Very admirable. You better watch out for Dr. Death, though. I heard Europeans have a different take on the matter than we do.”

“I wish you wouldn’t call him that. Mort is a perfect gentleman. Besides, he blessed the sacrament the first day I met him. He would never do anything to jeopardize his faith or his job, for that matter. Besides, I trust him completely.”

“Oh, good. That is reassuring.” Maddie rolled her eyes. “But are you sure about him? I mean, what about Jonathan? You just don’t seem all that…”

Allison felt her joyful expression fading into defensiveness.

“Oh, never mind. I’m probably just jealous that he gets more time with you than we do these days.” Maddie kissed her sister on the cheek.

Allison looked down and tried to recover her happy face. She felt horrible that she had missed all the wedding planning, but every time she’d tried to come home, somehow Mort needed her there for this event or that. She had felt isolated from her friends and sister for the past six months. She didn’t know how to make everyone happy. She didn’t know how she was going to do it, but she would just have to figure it out. Her own happiness depended on it.

“Maddie, I feel like I’ve missed so much being gone these three and a half years.”

“I know it’s been hard around here without you. Losing Grandma Emma and Grampa John both and having you gone. That just leaves Jonathan and Luke and me against Busy Bea. You were always the buffer.”

“You know how to deal with her, Maddie. Actually, better than me. I just do what she wants, but I’m not really sure that’s the best thing to do.”

“Yeah, probably not. I know it’s selfish, but while you’re doing what she wants, she doesn’t pay much attention to the rest of us. With you gone, she’s trying to micromanage Emma’s Flower Shop and Nursery, and she doesn’t know a thing about it.”

“Don’t worry. She’s still micromanaging my life from afar. Why do you think I started dating Mort in the first place?”

“She thinks she has to run this perfect family to impress Grandmother Scott.”

“Yeah, and that’s impossible. Grandmother Scott has a permanent sourpuss face. Do you think she made that face when she was a kid and it stuck?” Allison said with all seriousness.

They both looked over at the table where Grandmother Scott was talking crossly to her daughter-in-law, Bea. Allison and Madeleine’s father, Spencer, sat next to his mother, wearing his quiet smug look. When Grandmother Scott stopped talking, she realigned the edges of her mouth with the bottom of her chin.

Allison and Maddie broke out in laughter.

“How does she even do that?” Maddie asked, gasping for air in between giggles. Allison hadn’t laughed like that with her little sister in what seemed years although it was only just before her mother had practically ordered her to date Mort.

Luke and Jonathan set their drinks down on the head table and made their way through the crowded dance floor.

“Allison, she’s mine now,” Luke said.

Allison offered Madeleine’s hand to her new husband and bowed as though she were a gentleman excusing himself from a lady. She found it very amusing to pretend to be proper since Southern California had a such a casual atmosphere.

Allison watched Luke swirl his bride around the dance floor while holding her tightly.

“Wanna dance?” Jonathan asked.

“Absolutely!” Allison gazed up into Jonathan’s shining obsidian eyes. She marveled once again at how such a bright light could come from such dark eyes.

Not everyone considered Jonathan to be good-looking, but Allison had always thought he was the most beautiful man she’d ever seen. His skin was deep brown like the center of a black-eyed Susan. He wore a closely trimmed beard that was soft and scratchy at the same time. His tightly curled black hair was cut close, almost military style, and his head seemed to have a permanent dent around it where his cap usually sat.

“I think this is the first time in all these years that I’ve actually seen your head, Jonathan.”

“It probably is.” He gave her his sideways grin.

“Is that old hat you always wear the same one Grampa gave you on your first day at Emma’s?”

He chuckled. “Yep. I never saw the need for another one.” He changed to a low, serious tone. “Just like you, Allison. Once I saw you, I never saw another.”

“Jonathan, please. Don’t bring this up again. We’re having such a good time.”

Allison tore her gaze from Jonathan’s obsidian eyes. She forced her focus on the twinkling lights interspersed among hundreds of flowers that draped over the dance floor.

“You know I’ll always love you. The preacher is still here. The place is still decorated. You and Maddie can trade dresses.” He gave her that gorgeous toothy grin she loved.

“Oh, Jonathan.” Allison looked down from the lights and followed the happy bride being twirled around the dance floor by her beloved groom. “You know that I’ll always love you too, but you know how things are. We can’t. I…”

“Alli, when are you going to start making yourself happy for once?”

“Making others happy makes me happy.”

“But you can’t be responsible for other people’s happiness, especially someone like Busy Bea. She isn’t even in charge of her own happiness. Being perfect won’t control how she treats you.”

Allison looked around the room and spotted her mother. Jonathan must have sensed it because he twirled her away.

“Honestly, Jonathan. I know you and Grampa John have both told me that a million times, but I just don’t understand what you mean. I don’t want to control anyone.”

She looked up into his eyes, hoping to convince him once and for all, but she could see that she hadn’t.

“I really hope you get it soon because I’m afraid that if you don’t you’ll really lose yourself to that Dr. Death. There’s definitely something fishy about that guy.”

Allison felt her whole demeanor sinking into the floor. “But he…”

Jonathan let her off the hook by interrupting her. “How long is Busy Bea going to make us wear these monkey suits anyway?” Jonathan fidgeted inside his tuxedo without letting go of Allison.

She was grateful for the change of subject. “If it were up to her, forever. Oh, speak of the devil—here she comes.”

“Jonathan, the band is having a problem with the power or something. I thought you said they were set up,” Bea said as she grabbed Allison away from him.

“Mom, we’re dancing. The band sounds fine to me. Jonathan—”

“It’s okay, I’ll go see what they need.” Jonathan smiled as he interrupted Allison.

She marveled at how Jonathan never lost his joy no matter what her mother threw at him. “Mom, I wish you wouldn’t treat Jonathan like a servant. Grampa left him an equal share of Emma’s as he left me and Maddie.”

Allison wished her mother would accept Jonathan and stop thinking of him as that poor African American kid from the wrong side of the tracks. She thought that maybe her mother would accept him if he belonged to their church. Allison felt guilty that she’d failed at her attempt to convince Jonathan to join her church. But he was stubborn, just like Grampa, and although he believed in Jesus, he chose to steer clear of traditional organized religion.

“Allison, you’re forgetting your manners. You have left your beau alone for far too long.”

“Mom, he’s occupied.” Allison looked around the reception area for Professor Mort Hebert and found him deep in a discussion with a group of professors. She dutifully approached the group.

“Ah, Allison. At long last,” Mort said in his distinctive French accent. “You know Professor Bluff and—”

“Of course, I’ve known them my whole life. How are you? It is so good to see you all again.” She smiled at the group of researchers and professors.

“Your grandpa would have loved this night. He was so proud of his two granddaughters. I know Maddie is a talented administrator like your grandmother. But you, Allison, he always saw you stepping in to take his place in the research side of the business. And don’t you worry—we all know you had the equivalent of a PhD before you went for your bachelor’s. You’ll do great things in this field.”

“Thank you so much, Professor Bluff. It’s always been my dream to return to Emma’s Nursery and Flower Shop to continue Grampa’s legacy and his research contracts with you and all the other professors. Jonathan will do innovative things as well. He’s done a great job running Emma’s, don’t you think?”

The professors and their spouses looked around at the expansive tree section of the nursery covered in millions of lights and red roses lushly decorated for the reception.

“Yes, indeed,” Professor Bluff answered. “Jonathan outdid himself and anyone else on this wedding.”

“I heard he started a Bible group for youth here at Emma’s,” said Professor Sloan, dean over religious studies at the Christian college where they all taught. “Let’s see… What did they call it? Seeds?”

“Sprouts,” Allison said.

“Yes, of course, Sprouts. What a clever name.”

“Yes, he’s training teen boys the way Grampa taught him. They listen to the Bible while working with plants. Grampa always said that boys weren’t meant to sit in a room all dressed up. The land is theirs to toil, and that’s where they’ll find their connection with the Creator.”

“Well, your family, and the community, are extremely lucky to have Jonathan. How did your grandfather find him?”

“He was a friend of Luke’s. The two of them came to Emma’s one day when Luke and Jonathan and I were about fifteen to pick up an order for Luke’s dad, Bobby. Grampa saw something in Jonathan, and he hired him that same day. He’s been here ever since.”

Jonathan and Luke suddenly appeared one on either side of Professor Hebert. “Enjoying yourself, Professor He Burt?” Luke slapped him on the back just as he had taken a drink, nearly spilling it on his suit.

“It is Eh-bear,” Professor Hebert said, emphasizing the French pronunciation of his name. He gave a small cough and inspected his suit for spilled punch.

“Where is a bear?” Jonathan looked around, acting innocent.

“No, my name is pronounced eh-bear, not he-burt.” Professor Hebert was visibly perturbed.

“Oh, don’t worry about it. We’ll just call you Dr. Death, Mort,” Luke said dragging out his name and popping the T while simultaneously slapping him on the back again.

Allison came to his rescue. “Don’t mind them. They’re just a couple of jokers.”

She grabbed him by the hand and led him to the dance floor. They could hear the group of professors laughing with Luke and Jonathan. Allison knew that everyone was watching Professor Hebert dance her around the floor. She felt like a sparkling jewel in her green taffeta maid of honor dress, dancing with an elegant and brilliant man. Allison was so happy.

She looked up into Mort’s face and saw a man out of his element, a Frenchman in an uncouth society. She thought how wonderful it would be to be married to such a sophisticated, prestigious man, a graduate of the University of Paris, a professor at a Christian college, and a leader in the church. Even her mother and father approved.

She was happy to have their approval, for once. She was used to bending to her mother’s will. She didn’t have any other choice. In fact, as she danced with him, it reminded her of how he’d looked that night at the gala, when her mother had insisted she go out with him. He’d been asking her out for months. She hadn’t really been able to figure out why. She didn’t think they had any chemistry together, but he was relentless in his pursuit.

He was good looking in an exotic European kind of way and sophisticated. Maybe too sophisticated for her. She was a dirt girl, born to be a nurturer of flora, and he was a man of letters on the subject of horticulture. Her only problem was that she couldn’t picture him here at Emma’s Nursery and Flower Shop. Hopefully, he would get a position at one of the local colleges if they were to marry.

“Allison, my dear, you look lovely tonight. Most women begin to lose their polish as the night wears on, but somehow, you become even more radiant,” Mort said.

“Thank you, Prof… Mort.” Even though they’d been dating now for six months, she still hadn’t settled in on what to call him. A formal distance between them kept her off balance. She wondered if it was from her or him. He said all the right things—things that Jonathan and Luke would have found corny but women loved to hear. Her stubborn anxiety would not subside. He was so aristocratic, and she was so American. Her mother was excited about him and told her that it would come in time. Her father was a stiff kind of guy, and her mother adjusted. So Allison had decided to adjust. But she didn’t want to think of anything like that tonight. Her life-long friend had just married her little sister, and they were so happy. Settling for contentment, she could dance here with Professor Mort all night.

“Allison, darling, why do you not give the tour of your family’s grounds?”

“Sure, I can show you around. Let’s go.” She led him out of the reception to a small footbridge over a slow-running brook and into the perennial area, which had been set up for the wedding. The nearly endless selection of colorful flowers had been placed around the perimeter in an impressive design. An elaborate arch of roses of various shades of red stood empty and dark at the front of the rows of white wooden folding chairs. The automatic misters hissed, sending sparkling drops over the various colorful blossoms of impatiens and dianthus. The farmhouse-style building that housed the offices and flower shop was also lit up with lights on the outside but was dark on the inside. Fresh potted flowers decorated the wraparound porch in a beautifully rustic display.

“That’s the flower shop. Plus it has the offices that Maddie uses to keep the books and where Jonathan manages the orders and contracts.”

“Is that where your grandfather kept his research notes and logs?” Mort asked.

“Yes. He called his office ‘the crow’s nest.’”

The office was set off from the rest of the building. It had three walls with huge windows overlooking Emma’s property. Two rows of greenhouses, the barn, the outdoor display area, and the tree section could be seen from there. The office was separated from the inside display area and floral workshop by a wall-sized plate glass window.

“He said he could see the whole operation from right there at this desk.”

She stepped into the dark display area. Her footsteps echoed across the empty shop as she led Mort to the crow’s nest. Taking a deep breath, Allison savored the mixture of soil, flowers, and ink that flooded her senses as she stepped into the office.

“It’s just as he left it when he passed over a year ago. He was so organized, there was no need to move anything.” She lovingly glided her hand over a neat row of log books on a built-in counter. Mort did not seem to be listening. Instead, he fingered the file cabinet, opening and closing each one softly.

“In fact, Jonathan records the research results in these log books just like Grampa used to.” Allison was eager to redirect Mort’s attention back to herself. “But he waits for me to come home on break to write up the reports. I’ve been helping Grampa write reports since I was about twelve. Grampa John and Grandma Emma passing within days of each other has left a huge hole.”

“That is a lot of trust your grandfather had in you,” Mort said.

She smiled proudly. “Yes, I guess he did.”

“Do you trust me, my dear?”

“Of course. Why wouldn’t I?” Allison had no reason not to trust him. She wondered why he would ask that. Couldn’t he see that she did? She would try harder in the future to show her trust. She respected and admired him, and she loved him in an awestruck way as though she were dating the horticulture version of a rock star. He was well into his life at age twenty-eight, while she had yet to reach her twenty-first birthday. He had completed his PhD and postdoc programs in record time and had become one of the youngest tenured professors ever at her college. Although at times she wondered why he hadn’t pursued a more prestigious college rather than settling for a Christian university, she assumed he had chosen this path out of religious fervor.

“In fact, Maddie had always wanted to get married at Grandma Emma’s cottage, but no one could bear to move their stuff around, so they opted for the nursery. Come on, let’s get back to the reception.”

“Not just yet, my dear.” He romantically scooped her up by the waist. “I want you all to myself.” He guided her out of the office and shop, back into the night lit with thousands of twinkling lights.

They walked arm in arm past the beautifully decorated wraparound porch of the farmhouse converted to offices, display area and floral workshop.

“Back here are the greenhouses. This is where all the real work happens, like growing all the flowers and the research we’re contracted for.”

He held her snugly to him as they walked between the two long rows of a half dozen greenhouses on each side. He felt stiff in his European tailored suit. It made Allison feel rigid on the inside.

When they arrived at the last greenhouse, Allison pointed to a big old-fashioned red barn. “There’s the barn where the mower repair shop is and all our equipment and supplies are stored. Upstairs is Jonathan’s apartment.”

“He lives here? In the mechanic’s garage? Tsk.” He gave a motion of his hand in an arrogant gesture of disapproval.

Allison glossed over his disrespect. She wasn’t in the habit of taking up for anyone, not even herself. She tried to muster a matter-of-fact tone. “Yes, he has since he was sixteen. Grampa had an apartment built for him in there.”

Professor Hebert opened the door of the last greenhouse and ushered Allison inside.

She could hear the faint music in the background. “We better get back. We’re going to miss the party.”

“You know how much I like to have you to myself,” Mort said.

The greenhouse filled with tropical greenery and rare roses was warm and humid, and Allison started feeling uncomfortable in her taffeta dress. She was trying to hang on to the mood she had accomplished earlier when dancing, but it was fading quickly. Professor Mort seemed to have a morose effect on her frame of mind.

“Look, I almost blend right in to the vegetation in here.” Allison giggled with forced delight. She twirled around, and when she came back to face the professor, he was down on one knee.

He held out his hand to her. “Will you marry me, Allison Louise Scott of Emma’s Nursery and Flower Shop?” He popped the p of shop, mocking the American accent.

At first, she thought he was joking. She laughed. “Oh, do get up. You will soil your trousers,” she said, imitating his formality.

“Well, will you?” The simple words sounded flowery in his French accent.

She thought about if she should answer in French, but she feared his criticism of her pronunciation. She didn’t want to ruin the moment. She knew she shouldn’t take so long to answer. He would get the idea that she didn’t want to. She wondered if she did want to or if she really had a choice.

Suddenly, her promise to Jonathan to come back to Emma’s flooded over her. She put the thought aside. She would sort it out later.

After all, the professor was her perfect match. Everyone said so. Well, her mother, father, and Grandmother Scott did. Maddie, Luke, and Jonathan couldn’t stand him.

About the Author:

Since her birth was considered a miracle, Kimberly Frost Pinkney has always had a sense of purpose and thirst for spiritual truth. Raised in the boondocks of New Mexico, pegged “Loco Hills” because the hills were on one side of the road one day and the other side the next day, she had a vivid imagination that blossomed from listening to the tall tales of her dad, who influenced her love of public speaking and reading. He also gave her his entrepreneur spirit, which guided her in starting, growing, and selling her own small businesses, including starting her own financial consulting practice.

Kimberly shot professional photography and video for musical acts, corporations, and churches for television broadcast. She dreamed up and ran CrunchTime Popcorn in the Gas Lamp District of San Diego, two Major League Baseball stadiums, and several concert venues, where she mentored young adults from all over the world. There, she made a smoothie for Major League Baseball MVP Ryan Braum, who broke his record and Petco Park’s with three homeruns and a triple that same day. Yes, he came back the next day for another one.

Buying and restoring abandoned properties, Kimberly made it possible for young people to become homeowners. Her quest for truth, a good story, and cooler weather led her on great adventures.

Kimberly has lived in the Rocky Mountains, in a loft overlooking Boston Commons, and on a yacht. She studied Greek and Latin at Harvard, stand-up paddle boarded the San Diego bay, invested in a mansion in the California mountains to turn it into a homeless shelter and resting place for traveling missionaries. She circumnavigated America in a forty-foot motorcoach, visiting churches of all kinds.

Kimberly has hiked many trails to settle down with her husband, David, in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia to write, draw, hike, garden, and feed hummingbirds. Her goal is to inspire others to seek and find peace, freedom, and joy.

Sunday, November 20, 2022

Book Review: The Brilliance of Stars by J'nell Ciesielski

About the Book: 

Amid the chaos of the Great War, two elite assassins learn precisely how dangerous it is to have something—or someone—worth losing.

Washington, DC, 1914. Ivy Olwen knows how to survive on the streets without two coins to rub together. Then destiny thrusts her into the nest of a covert agency of assassins sworn to drive back the world’s darkness, and she acquires a new set of lethal skills. Her education—from explosives to etiquette, sharpshooting to sabotage—is as far reaching as the organization’s missions. But it’s the hours she spends among the towering bookshelves in the library and stargazing on the roof with Agent Jack Vale that make her heart fly.

Jack knew plenty of hardship before the agency refined his rough edges, transforming him into the man who never misses. But he didn’t know the feeling of home until Ivy entered his world. Now Jack’s heart drums with a singular purpose: he will fight for her, fight alongside her. No matter the cost.

When the pair is sent on a seemingly simple mission to take down Russia’s newest and most dangerous arms dealer—a soulless man using the Great War as an opportunity to further his own depraved agenda—they discover that no amount of training could have prepared them for a manhunt that takes them across the frozen tundra, to the Crimean Peninsula, and along the Trans-Siberian Railway . . . only to discover that there is evil in the world they will never understand.

The first book of an epic duology from bestselling author J’nell Ciesielski, The Brilliance of Stars incorporates her signature blend of thrilling adventure, glamorous espionage, and sweeping romance.

My Thoughts:

The Brilliance of Stars by J’nell Ciesielski starts off the Jack and Ivy Duology with a story of camaraderie and a quest to defeat evil. The novel hooked my interest early on as Ivy transitioned from homeless teen to educated, elite assassin. There was no lack of action, but once Jack and Ivy’s team traveled to Russia, things heated up and kept me flipping pages. Somewhere around the 60%-70% mark, the story slowed and grew darker. I knew to expect a cliffhanger, but this one wasn’t bad. It was more open ended rather than stopping at the pinnacle of suspense. It’s the type of cliffhanger I can live with although I am eager for book two.

I enjoyed Ivy and Jack’s relationship from beginning to end, even when only the barest hint of romance existed. Gradually, their romantic relationship grew, and I adored the way that Jack loved Ivy. I wish every man loved his woman that way. There was a fade-to-black bedroom scene with more detail than I was comfortable with. However, the novel still stayed in the “clean” romance category.

Speaking of categories, The Brilliance of Stars by J’nell Ciesielski contains some Christian undertones, but is largely general fiction, making it appealing to readers of both genres. I recommend this novel to fans of historical romantic suspense.


Disclosure of Material Connection: I was provided a copy of this book by the author or publisher. All opinions in this review are my own.

Thursday, November 17, 2022

Book Spotlight: Matters of the Heart by Heidi Gray McGill


Matters of the Heart JustRead Blog + Review Blitz 

Welcome to the Blog + Review Blitz for Matters of the Heart by Heidi Gray McGill, hosted by JustRead Publicity Tours!


Matters of the Heart Title: Matters of the Heart 
Series: Discerning God's Best #3 
Author: Heidi Gray McGill 
Publisher: Heidi Gray McGill Books LLC 
Release Date: July 26, 2022 
Genre: Christian Historical Fiction, Christian Historical Romance

She determines to champion the needs of others, no matter the fallout.

He’s determined to be his own man and make his own way. 

Will stubbornness keep them from discovering God’s best? 

Unconventional Katie empathizes with the widows and orphans of the Civil War who are searching for a place to call home in Shumard Oak Bend. But with no one to help her, she’ll need to do it secretly, a challenge she readily accepts. Katie’s taken charge before, and she’ll do it again, no matter whom she has to outwit to get the job done. 

Hans vows to stop doing everyone else’s bidding. But he follows orders when a pair of emerald green eyes, blazing red hair, and freckles that dance on the bridge of a pert nose conscript him to duty. Be his own man. Who is he kidding? Skunks don’t change their stripes. They leave disasters in their wake wherever they go, just like him. 

Overcoming personal obstacles and finding your true self doesn’t mean going it alone. Yet the answer isn’t always in the one you seek. 

True Christian Fiction. Relatable Characters. Life-changing stories.

PURCHASE LINKS: Goodreads | Amazon | BookBub


Katie’s heart thudded in her chest, and she was sure her aunt could see the tatted collar move up and down. Why was she nervous? She’d done no wrong. She crossed one leg over the other, her knee hitting the underside of the table. Ignoring the pain, she used her napkin to wipe up the tea that had breached the rim of her cup.

“Care to explain the plate?”

Katie lifted her chin. She did not want to burden Aideen, nor would she be dissuaded from her mission. She carefully uncrossed her legs and willed herself not to choke, stalling as the small sip of her tea went down wrong.

“I see. If you’ll not tell me, perhaps I’ll simply guess. We’ve no animals but a stray cat. Are you to tell me, or not as it seems, that you have someone holed up out there?” Aideen’s Irish accent increased along with her volume.


Heidi Gray McGill

Whether historical or contemporary, you will find Heidi Gray McGill's works to be true Christian Fiction, full of God’s redeeming love. Everything Heidi writes is purposeful. She believes in bringing a reader into the awareness of who God is to them and how He interacts with them on a personal level. She does this by crafting characters so relatable you feel part of who they are. Heidi reaches deep into the reader’s heart through masterfully written words and offers ways toward healing by seamlessly applying God’s Word throughout her stories.

Connect with Heidi by visiting her website to follow her on social media or subscribe to email newsletter updates.


(1) winner will receive an Amazon Fire 7 tablet.

Matters of the Heart JustRead Giveaway

Full tour schedule linked below. The giveaway begins at midnight November 16, 2022 and will last through 11:59 PM EST on November 23, 2022. Winner will be notified within 2 weeks of close of the giveaway and given 48 hours to respond or risk forfeiture of prize. US only. Void where prohibited by law or logistics.

Giveaway is subject to the policies found here.


Follow along at JustRead Tours for a full list of stops!

JustRead Publicity Tours

Wednesday, November 16, 2022

Author Interview: Reclaiming Hope in Wishing Bridge by Ruth Logan Herne

Reclaiming Hope JustRead Blog Tour 

Welcome to the Blog Tour for Reclaiming Hope in Wishing Bridge by Ruth Logan Herne, hosted by JustRead Publicity Tours!


Reclaiming Hope in Wishing Bridge Title: Reclaiming Hope in Wishing Bridge 
Series: Wishing Bridge #5 
Author: Ruth Logan Herne 
Publisher: Independently Published 
Release Date: October 22, 2022 
Genre: Women's Fiction with romantic elements (clean) 

She swore she'd never come back to Wishing Bridge. 

She needed nothing. No family. No links to a past that broke her heart. Heather Johnstone was successful in her own right, by her own actions. She'd built a pristine life and gave no one the right or opportunity to disrupt it, but then her father called... the one person who'd loved her. Who'd cared. 

And there was no other choice, it seemed. 

She'd go back and face a past that was now tragically changed and fairly unimportant, but that's the thing about growing up. You don't always know what's important until it's too late. 

Hank Reynolds had spent over a decade trying to inspire change. Change in a shrinking town adjacent to Wishing Bridge, and a school district that serviced several towns. Hank took his teaching and coaching seriously. Seriously enough to help no small number of kids find their way to success, but when a tragic flood takes a major toll on the little town of Hopewell, the aftermath stuns the surrounding communities with the loss of life and livelihood. Who can help? Who can help them re-establish the good old days in a place that had lost their grip on good a long time ago? 

Hank knows what the school needs the minute he sees Heather. Northeast Wyoming Central needs an administrator that puts kids first, all the time. Not just when it looks good for a photo op. And when his phone calls bring back more of their high school football teammates, Hank knows something else is happening... Coming back to Wishing Bridge isn't just good for the town and the schools... It's good for the prodigals. 

Because whoever said you can't go home again was wrong and Hank Reynolds intends to prove it, but when Heather's life takes a sudden turn, he realizes something else: sacrificial love means putting others first. Even if it's the person you love more than anyone else on the planet. 

Grab a cup of coffee, a Coke or a spot of tea and join the folks of Wishing Bridge, NY as they gather folks in to help, to love, to fix, to nurture... Welcome back to Wishing Bridge... where prayers and wishes mingle to make dreams come true.

PURCHASE LINKS: Goodreads | Amazon


Ruth Logan Herne

Multi-published, award-winning and bestselling inspirational author Ruth Logan Herne has worked with multiple publishers and has published over seventy novels and novellas: Basically, Ruthy is living her dream of being a published author and having a great deal of fun doing it! With words to warm the heart and ease the soul, Ruthy takes her readers on the journeys of some unforgettable characters and situations, but in the spirit of being a true Pollyanna at heart, she loves a happy ending! She has a heart for women as overcomers and that spirit of faith and strength shines through every one of her stories. A mother of six with a seventh "daughter of her heart", Ruthy has fourteen grandkids, runs a busy big pumpkin farm with her husband Farmer Dave, and has an absolute love for God, Jesus, her family, country, dogs, chocolate and coffee....

Connect with Ruth by visiting to follow her on social media or subscribe to email newsletter updates.


Q: What was the inspiration behind Reclaiming Hope in Wishing Bridge?

Ruth: Having read a very weak story about a big storm I realized that the reason it didn’t resonate with me was because no one perished… there was no human toll and that thinned the plotting and characters for me. There’s a dreadful learning curve that springs from loss and tasks left undone and the story left that out…. And over the past few years I could see Heather’s story developing in my head. And writing it gave me such wonderful satisfaction. That’s the joy of writing fiction: You can fix things!!!

Q: How long did it take you to write this story?

Ruth: I began this story several years ago but when I finally sat down to write it for Wishing Bridge, it was probably about four months. And I love the final product.

Q: Do you have a favorite quote from this book?

One of my favorite quotes from Reclaiming Hope in Wishing Bridge is this: Her sister’s home screamed ‘family’ in an echo of silence. (Heather Johnstone, Reclaiming Hope in Wishing Bridge)

Q: What do you hope readers take away from Reclaiming Hope in Wishing Bridge?

I want every reader to realize that they make a difference. I want them to feel empowered, I want them to see how intrinsically God’s timing weaves its way through our lives, allowing us the opportunities to be the best we can be… we just have to be open enough to see it.

Q: Would you share something about yourself that most readers would not know?

Ruth: You know there’s probably not much about me that readers don’t know! When you’re 70+ books in, there’s not too many secrets left, so how about this fun fact: I am dying to have time to write a fantasy/sci-fi type book and I haven’t been able to fit it into the schedule yet! I loved Ray Bradbury growing up, I love Star Wars and Star Trek and I was born to take down futuristic colonies with the might of God! 😊 So we’ll see about that!!!

Q: What are you reading now?

Ruth: Oh, that’s a funny question… If I have time to read, I write…. Life on a pumpkin farm saps hours a day, even when we’re closed, but I don’t mind that. So reading now is nothing… And I have authors that scold about how authors should be well-read and be devouring things in and out of their genre…. So I’ll read mid-winter… but I’d rather write. And that’s the absolute truth.

Q: How many bookcases are in your home?

Ruth: There are three bookcases in the house. This time of year they’re probably pretty much covered with farm stuff and/or laundry, and/or stuff that no one knew where it belonged. We’ll uncover the possibility of lurking books in a few weeks, LOL!

Q: What do you like to do when you are not writing?

Ruth: Hmm… when I’m not writing I’m usually doing some amazingly necessary house project! #truth My house is 168 years old, when I fix one thing, I break two others so it’s a mission, LOL!


(1) winner will receive a lovely book bundle from Ruthy including several books, chocolate, and a $20 Amazon Gift Card... cozy just got a little bit better.

Full tour schedule linked below. The giveaway begins at midnight November 14, 2022 and will last through 11:59 PM EST on November 21, 2022. Winner will be notified within 2 weeks of close of the giveaway and given 48 hours to respond or risk forfeiture of prize. US only. Void where prohibited by law or logistics.

Giveaway is subject to the policies found here.


Follow along at JustRead Tours for a full list of stops!

JustRead Publicity Tours

Thursday, November 10, 2022

Author Interview: Deep End of the Lake by Carol Grace Stratton

About the Book

Book: Deep End of the Lake

Author: Carol Grace Stratton

Genre: Women’s Contemporary Inspirational Fiction

Release date: March, 2021

Life looks great for Ally Cervantes. She has a gig with the paper in Lake Surrender, two adorable kids, and is marrying camp director Will Grainger in a few months. What could go wrong? Her optimistic side assures her she can juggle it all, especially her new custom cake business.

But typical, Ally bites off more than she can chew. Her dream job as a reporter is turning into the treadmill she left when downsized from a prestigious publishing company in Northern California. Now she covers everything from a contentious school board meeting to the new dog food store in town. Oh to have a day off. But she is bound to prove her worth as a writer even as Janice, the know-it-all office manager, scrutinizes her every move.

Her home front isn’t much better. Benjie, a 7-year old on the spectrum has a penchant for squirrels, tantrums and running off at school. But Will has a way with him and can already see changes in Benjie as he bonds with the boy.

Kylie, her precocious thirteen year old is another story She’s trying to wedge herself in-between Will and her mother, obvious she doesn’t want her mother to remarry. And worse still, she’s discovered boys – the kind that drive cars.

When Will hints at Kylie’s resistance to the upcoming marriage, Ally blows him off.  Will, being a camp director, hears things about Kylie but Ally is in no mood to listen. When he confronts her on Kylie’s doings around town, Ally takes offense. Blending this family together is like mixing half dried cement. The tension builds between them as he seeks out God’s will for his life. Has he taken on too much? A side of him reminisces about his ex-fiancé. Sarah, a quiet, calm woman doesn’t have a tangled mess for a life.

It’s only through a near tragedy and coming close to losing Will, that Ally, a new believer, realizes what it means to trust God for her future. Her aunt reminds her “When you’re swimming in the deep end of the lake you’d better know how to swim.”

Click here to get your copy!

About the Author

Carol has published three books through Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas: Changing Zip Codes, Lake Surrender and Deep End of the Lake. Her first novel, Lake Surrender, won a 2016 Illumination Award Medal for Inspirational/Romance Fiction and was chosen as one of the top favorite books for Prismatic Prospects blog in 2015 as well as being a finalist for Serious Writer’s Book of the Decade.

Her work has appeared in a Guideposts book anthology, with credits from Focus on the Family online, CBN online, the MOPs website, In Touch and Your Church magazines. Carol was a reporter for the Mooresville Weekly for two and a half years with over 500 articles to her credit. She speaks to MOPS groups, has taught at writing conferences, and has had a blog for twelve years (

Although born on the West Coast, she lived in the Midwest for years and now lives with her literary muse husband in Winston-Salem, North Carolina where she diddles around on a mandolin, plays with eight grand kids and encourages new writers. Her most recent book, Deep End of the Lake, is a sequel to Lake Surrender and is a Golden Scroll winner. 

Author Interview with Carol

Q: What was the inspiration behind this novel?

Carol: I wanted to give readers the taste of working at a small newspaper. I was a reporter for a few years and found the job stressful, fascinating and exhausting, great elements for a novel.

Q: How long did it take you to write this novel?

Carol: It took me five years as I originally had the story as a cozy mystery. That didn’t fly with my editor as I was outside of my genre so I had to completely rewrite it!

Q: Do any of the novel’s characters hold a special place in your heart?

Carol: I love Benjie, Ally’s autistic son. He’s become endearing to me as he loves his mom a lot and has insights into people that others don’t. But don’t be fooled, as his tantrums can morph into indoor tornadoes.

Q: What do you hope readers take away from this novel?

Carol: Deep End of the Lake focuses on a new believer who thinks she can do it all, plan a wedding, deal with a wild teen and autistic son and work a pressured job. It’s only when she acknowledges her weaknesses as a parent and a bride-to-be. God is always there at the end of our meltdowns, ready to give us new hope.

Q:. What do you like to do when you aren't writing?

Carol: I love to garden. As publishing a novel is a long process, sometimes years in the making, I find satisfaction in planting zinnia seeds which bloom in a month, and green beans I can pick for dinner. It’s a contrast of a simple task versus a more complex one …but isn’t that what makes life interesting?

More from Carol

Camps are in my blood.

I committed my life to Christ at a Young Life camp, kissed my husband-to-be (for the first time) at Mt. Hermon and worked at two summer camps as a college student.  Experiences like standing under a giant California redwood tree in the rain or hiking in the rugged Sierra Nevada Mountains with a backpack shaped my early life and unleashed in me a love for God and His creation.

The tradition continued with all four of my children attending Bair Lake Bible Camp in Michigan when they were growing up. Experiencing camp helped them grow in their Christian life while having a blast water skiing, hiking and boating. They still talk about the experiences.

Now my grandchildren have discovered camp life. Fresh from their first experience, my grandsons shared stories of the 48 foot tall, (“Not just forty but forty-eight feet, Gammi.” they corrected me) climbing wall and the WATER BLOB a camper could jump onto to catapult their friend into the lake. So when I hunted a setting for my story, a summer camp seemed the perfect fit. Why, of course, send Ally Cervantes to work at a camp.

Because at camp, magical things happen.

We can make lifelong friends at a camp, commune with nature, and most of all connect with the God of the Universe. At summer camp you and I drop all pretenses of our normal life. Suddenly we find ourselves singing ridiculously silly songs around a campfire, and there’s no other world that exists at that moment besides friends, fresh s’mores, a smoky fire and a lumpy sleeping bag.  But in the midst of the fun we mull over life’s important issues while trudging through dusty hiking trails or having a whispered late night conversation on the cabin porch with our new best friend.

Best of all, God shows up, knowing He can get our attention. Suddenly our mind becomes aware there is more to life than getting good grades, finding the right boyfriend, and discovering that perfect career. At camp we shift into slow gear and listen to our Heavenly Father say, “Be still and know that I am God.”

Ah, what a life.

Blog Stops

Debbie’s Dusty Deliberations, November 7

Texas Book-aholic, November 8

Inklings and notions, November 9

Beauty in the Binding, November 10 (Author Interview)

deb’s Book Review, November 10

Locks, Hooks and Books, November 11

She Lives To Read, November 12

Because I said so — and other adventures in Parenting, November 13

Truth and Grace Homeschool Academy, November 14

Spoken from the Heart, November 15

Ashley’s Clean Book Reviews, November 16

Blogging With Carol, November 17

Gina Holder, Author and Blogger, November 18 (Author Interview)

For Him and My Family, November 19

Adventures of a Travelers Wife, November 20 (Author Interview)

Mornings at Character Café, November 20


To celebrate her tour, Carol is giving away  the grand prize package of a $50 Amazon gift card and a copy of Deep End of the Lake!

Be sure to comment on the blog stops for nine extra entries into the giveaway! Click the link below to enter.

Link for giveaway:

Wednesday, November 9, 2022

Book Review: The Hidden Prince by Tessa Afshar

About the Book:

From the bestselling author of Jewel of the Nile comes the thrilling tale of a woman who feels she has no future but soon discovers the fate of nations may rest in her hands.

The beloved daughter of Jewish captives in Babylon, Keren is sold into Daniel’s household to help her family survive. She becomes Daniel’s most trusted scribe, while taking lessons and swordsmanship training alongside Daniel’s sons and their best friend, Jared.

But after a tragic accident changes the course of her life, Keren finds herself in a foreign country, charged with a mysterious task: teaching a shepherd boy how to become a lord. When she overhears whispers that hint at his true identity, she realizes she must protect him from the schemes of a bloodthirsty king.

Jared cannot forgive Keren. Still, he finds himself traveling over mountains to fetch her back to the safety of home. When he discovers the secret identity of Keren’s pupil, Jared knows he must help protect him. Love battles bitterness as they flee from the king’s agents, trying to save the boy who could one day deliver their people from captivity.

Purchase at: Amazon ┃Barnes & Noble ┃Christianbook 

My Thoughts:

Fire and Lightning! Keren, female lead in The Hidden Prince by Tessa Afshar, captivated me with her perceptiveness and intelligence. Her “voice” invited me into her story and kept me turning the pages. I devoured the novel, excited for the plot and relationship developments. Then I read the book again, with knowledge of what would happen, and enjoyed it more the second time! With an ancient setting, beautiful prose, and spiritual truths, The Hidden Prince deserves to be savored.

Like so many of Tessa Afshar’s novels, The Hidden Prince, embeds spiritual themes into captivating fiction. The characters deal with so many things: following God’s will, setting one’s heart on truth, moving from upheaval to fruitfulness. My personal favorite was the theme about flourishing in the desert. I marked over forty quotes during my readings. If I read the novel again, I’d likely find more nuggets of truth to meditate on.

The Hidden Prince swirls together powerful themes, a thwarted romance, and royal intrigue. The story holds a strong dose of tragedy for Keren and Jared, creating depth and emotional investment for the reader, but without feeling overly heavy. I enjoyed reading The Hidden Prince and rate it five stars.


Disclosure of Material Connection: I was provided a copy of this book by the author or publisher. All opinions in this review are my own.