Tuesday, April 8, 2014

A Writer's Review of “Dancing with Fireflies” by Denise Hunter

{My Review}

Well, this was an appropriate book for me to read in the last month... considering I was nine months pregnant--pregnancy being something that I happened to have in common with the main character Jade.  

It isn't a secret that I adore any book written by Denise Hunter. There is something so very real and vulnerable about her heroines that always has me anxiously waiting for her next book. 

Dancing with Fireflies started right off with Jade McKinley's world being tipped on its side--causing her to head home to southern Indiana from a short stint in Chicago. Right back to her old friend Daniel.

If you've never read a book by Denise Hunter just know that when she writes romance and tension, she does it with a skill I am deeply in awe of. The stories have vibrant settings, interesting minor characters.... and they ALWAYS deliver in the edge-of-your-seat department concerning the emotional breakthroughs that the main characters go through.

Denise Hunter's Dancing with Fireflies currently has a rating of 4.29 out of 5 stars (from 98 ratings) on Goodreads. I was given a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This book came out on March 11, 2014.  

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{More about Dancing with Fireflies}


A Chapel Springs Romance

Jade returns home to Chapel Springs after years of protecting her fragile heart. Then along comes Daniel, making her long to dance again.

Creative and complicated, Jade McKinley felt like a weed in a rose garden growing up in Chapel Springs. When she left, she thought she’d never look back. But now, pregnant, alone, and broke, she has no other choice but to return.

The mayor of Chapel Springs, Daniel Dawson, has been an honorary member of the McKinley family for years. While his own home life was almost non-existent, Daniel fit right into the boisterous McKinley family. He’s loved Jade for years, but she always saw him as a big brother. Now that she’s back, his feelings are stronger than ever.

As Jade attempts to settle in, nothing feels right. God seems far away, she’s hiding secrets from her family, and she’s strangely attracted to the man who’s always called her “squirt.” Finding her way home may prove more difficult than she imagined.

Learn more and purchase a copy at Denise’s website.


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{More About Denise Hunter}

 

Denise Hunter is an internationally published best-selling author. Her books have won The Holt Medallion Award, The Reader’s Choice Award, The Foreword Book of the Year Award, and was a RITA finalist. In 1996, inspired by the death of her grandfather, Denise began her first book, writing while her children napped. Two years later it was published, and she’s been writing ever since. Her husband says he inspires all of her romantic stories, but Denise insists a good imagination helps, too. When Denise isn’t writing, she’s busy raising three heroes-in-the-making with her husband.

Find out more about Denise at http://www.denisehunterbooks.com/.


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One winner will receive:
  • A brand new Kindle Fire HDX
  • Dancing with Fireflies and Barefoot Summer by Denise Hunter

Enter today by clicking one of the icons below. But hurry, the giveaway ends on April 10th. Winner will be announced at the Dancing with Fireflies Facebook Party on April 10th. Connect with Denise for an evening of prizes, book chat, and an exclusive look at the next book in the series. 

 

Don't miss a moment of the fun; RSVP today by clicking JOIN on the event page. Tell your friends via FACEBOOK or TWITTER and increase your chances of winning. Hope to see you on the 10th!

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

I Have Release Dates and Titles for my Debut Series from Whitaker House Books!

The Everstone Chronicles 

~ Set in New England during the Gilded Age
~ Inspirational Historical Romantic Suspense Series written from First Person POV


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The Hesitant Heiress by Dawn Crandall 
The Everstone Chronicles, book 1
(previously known as Amaryllis Brigham)

~ Releases August 2014 from Whitaker House Books
2013 ACFW Genesis Contest Semi-Finalist 
~ 2012 Clash of the Titles Olympia Contest Semi-Finalist

After being unjustly expelled from the Boston Conservatory of Music, Amaryllis Brigham sees her dreams of founding a music academy disappearing before her very eyes. Now the only way to achieve her goal comes with high stakes for someone set on avoiding men as much as possible: marry within the year to inherit her grandmother’s fortune. Amaryllis reluctantly takes part in her aunt’s society, intent on getting to the west coast on her own… and without a husband.

Despite her own misgivings, she soon finds herself falling in love with the most unlikely of men, Nathan Everstone, whose father not only had a part in her expulsion, but whose ominous presence has haunted her dreams for a decade since her mother’s tragic death. Nathan turns out to be much more than he seems and everything she never knew she wanted. But just as everything Amaryllis has recently hoped for comes to fruition, it all falls apart when she finds that the real culprit who has been "managing her life" isn't who she thought at all.

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The Bound Heart by Dawn Crandall 
The Everstone Chronicles, book 2
(previously known as Meredyth Summercourt)

~ Releases November 2014 from Whitaker House Books
~ 2012 ACFW Genesis Contest Semi-Finalist
             
One accidental kiss. That was all it took to throw Meredyth Summercourt's world upside-down. Determined to marry the ever-elusive Vance Everstone, she simply doesn't have the time or the desire to fall for her friend Lawry Hampton. However, with Vance out of the country and Lawry constantly at her side, Meredyth can’t help but wonder if what’s holding her to Vance is nothing more than a desire to redeem herself from their unfortunate past.          

When Vance comes home to stake his claim on Meredyth, will she be strong enough to break free from the tangled web of deceit she’s convinced she deserves? Or will she find the strength to accept that God’s plan for her life could include redemption... and quite possibly the love of her best-friend?

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The Captive Imposter by Dawn Crandall 
The Everstone Chronicles, book 3
(previously known as Estella Everstone)

~ Releases February 2015 from Whitaker House Books
~ 2013 ACFW Genesis Contest Finalist
      
Sent away for protection, hotel heiress Estella Everstone finds herself living undercover as a lady’s companion at Everston, one of her father’s opulent hotels in the mountains of Maine. Within the week, Estella discovers that her ex-fiancĂ©, Jay, is in the area and has a new fiancĂ©e who he’s rescued from a nearby brothel and plans to take West with him. Reeling from her feelings of being unwanted and unworthy, Estella forms a friendship with the manager of Everston, Dexter Blakeley. She soon discovers that he is not simply the manager, but the new owner.

Saddened by this fact, Estella severs their friendship. She manages to avoid Dexter until she finds herself fired from her position due to a misunderstanding. Coming to her rescue, Dexter offers her a job as companion to his sister. Though she doesn’t want to be indebted to him, Estella sees no other choice. While rebuilding their friendship, Estella realizes that although she’s been lying to Dexter about her identity, she’s never been freer to be herself in her life. However, when he proposes, she has to tell him the truth—a truth he isn’t happy to find out.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

A Writer's Review of “Princess Ever After” by Rachel Hauck

{About Princess Ever After}

Regina Beswick was born to be a princess.

But she’s content to be a small-town girl, running a classic auto restoration shop, unaware a secret destiny awaits her. One that will leap from the pages of her grandmother’s hand-painted book of fairytales.

Tanner Burkhardt is the stoic Minister of Culture for the Grand Duchy of Hessenberg. When he is tasked to retrieve the long-lost princess, he must overcome his fear of failure in order to secure his nation’s future—and his own.
Yet lurking in the political shadows is a fierce opponent with sinister plans to abolish the throne forever. Overwhelmed with opposition, Regina must decide if she’s destined to restore old cars or an ancient nation. Together—with a little divine intervention—Regina and Tanner discover the truth of her heritage and the healing power of true love.

Purchase a copy and learn more at Rachel’s website.
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{My Review}

Princess Ever After was a sweet, well-written book. It was very much the same sort of situation and plot as Meg Cabot's young adult novel, The Princess Diaries, which was also made into a movie starring a teenage Anne Hathaway.

The writing is good, the characters were engaging, and I was pulled through the book quickly enough... but for some reason I was never really personally invested in what was going on in the book. 

The two books in this series have been the only two books I've read by Rachel Hauck, so I might have walked into the series with my expectations a little off. The books in The Royal Wedding Series are good... just not my cup of tea. I'm not sure if it was the fictional setting in current-day Europe/Britain or the fact that they were just too sweet. I never felt great emotion from the writing or the characters, but I have a feeling that isn't something everyone else is always looking for in a book. Sometimes readers just want to be entertained... and if that's you, this would probably be a very enjoyable book for you to read. 

Rachel Haucks Princess Ever After currently has a rating of 4.22 out of 5 stars (from 161 ratings) on Goodreads. I was given a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
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{More About Rachel Hauck}


Rachel Hauck is an award-winning, best selling author of critically acclaimed novels such as RITA nominated “The Wedding Dress” and RITA nominated “Love Starts with Elle,” part of the Lowcountry series, the Nashvegas series and the Songbird Novels penned with multi-platinum recording artist, Sara Evans. Their novel “Softly and Tenderly,’ was one of Booklists 2011 Top Ten Inspirationals. A graduate of Ohio State University with a degree in Journalism, she worked in the corporate software world before planting her backside in an uncomfortable chair to write full time in 2004. Rachel serves on the Executive Board for American Christian Fiction Writers and leads worship at their annual conference. She is a mentor and book therapist at My Book Therapy, and conference speaker. Rachel writes from her two-story tower in an exceedingly more comfy chair. She is a huge Buckeyes football fan.
Find out more about Rachel at http://www.rachelhauck.com/.

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{Princess Ever After $200 “Princess” Giveaway and Facebook Party with Rachel Hauck!}

Rachel Hauck is celebrating the release of her latest "swoon"-worthy romance,  Princess Ever After, with a fun $200 "Princess" prize package giveaway and a Facebook "Princess" party on March 6th. Grab your tiaras and RSVP today!


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  One winner will receive:
  • A $200 Visa cash card (buy your very own "princess ever after" gown or tanks of gas for your "royal" ride)
  • Princess Ever After, Once Upon a Prince, and The Wedding Dress by Rachel Hauck
Enter today by clicking one of the icons below. But hurry, the giveaway ends on March 6th. Winner will be announced at Rachel's "Princess" Facebook Party on March 6th. Connect with Rachel for an evening of "royal" book chat, princess-themed trivia, laughter, prizes, and an exclusive look at the next book in the Royal Wedding series!

So grab your copy of Princess Ever After and join Rachel and friends on the evening of March 6th for a chance to connect and make some new friends. (If you haven't read the book, don't let that stop you from coming!)

 

Don't miss a moment of the fun; RSVP todayTell your friends via FACEBOOK or TWITTER and increase your chances of winning. Hope to see you on the 6th!

Monday, February 17, 2014

Dawn Crandall's Review of “The Dancing Master” by Julie Klassen

{My Review}

Although there are quite a few characters who find their way to each other’s hearts by the end of The Dancing Master, this book is not so much a love story. Like the rest of Julie Klassen’s books, there is a lot going on, but instead of a majority of the focus being upon a love-relationship building between the hero and heroine, it is focused on the redemption of a town caught up in twenty years of mysteries, rumors and lies. 

The Dancing Master is also written primarily from the hero’s perspective instead of either a heavier heroine POV or an equal balance between the two... which sort of makes sense when you think of the title. Usually a book might lend to the heroine wondering a bit about the trustworthiness or caliber of character of the hero and have the reader be more sympathetic toward the heroine. This book does it a little backwards, having that the hero is the main character and trying to figure out these things about the heroine. Although this is quite backwards to how most "historical romance" books out there are written, it is still a very well written story.

Its obvious from the differing reviews on Goodreads and Amazon that the average reader might not pick up on these things specifically and end up deciding that they don’t especially like it because it’s so different than what they expect after reading Julie Klassens other books. I hope in my explanation as to why they might be having these reactions to this book readers will see that it isn’t so much that the book/story is written badly, but that it is simply different. 

Julie Klassens The Dancing Master currently has a rating of 3.79 out of 5 stars (from 434 ratings) on Goodreads. I was given a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

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{About the Book from Amazon.com}

Finding himself the man of the family, London dancing master Alec Valcourt moves his mother and sister to remote Devonshire, hoping to start over. But he is stunned to learn the village matriarch has prohibited all dancing, for reasons buried deep in her past.

Alec finds an unlikely ally in the matriarch's daughter. Though he's initially wary of Julia Midwinter's reckless flirtation, he comes to realize her bold exterior disguises a vulnerable soul
and hidden sorrows of her own. 

Julia is quickly attracted to the handsome dancing mastera man her mother would never approve ofbut she cannot imagine why Mr. Valcourt would leave London, or why he evades questions about his past. With Alec's help, can Julia uncover old secrets and restore life to her somber village...and to her mother's tattered heart?

Filled with mystery and romance, The Dancing Master brings to life the intriguing profession of those who taught essential social graces for ladies and gentlemen hoping to make a "good match" in Regency England.

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{More About Julie Klassen} 

Julie Klassen loves all things Jane--Jane Eyre and Jane Austen. A graduate of the University of Illinois, Julie worked in publishing for sixteen years and now writes full time. She has won the Christy Award: Historical Romance for The Silent Governess (2010) and The Girl in the Gatehouse (2011) which also won the 2010 Midwest Book Award for Genre Fiction. Julie and her husband have two sons and live in a suburb of St. Paul, Minnesota.  

Find out more about Julie at www.julieklassen.com

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{Other Books by Julie Klassen}

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/3870943-the-apothecary-s-daughter   https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/2043100.Lady_of_Milkweed_Manor   https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/6624391-the-silent-governess

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/8125737-the-girl-in-the-gatehouse   https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/11701627-the-maid-of-fairbourne-hall

Friday, February 14, 2014

Surprised by Crazy, Fierce Love

I thought I knew what I wanted. I really did.  

I was in my mid-thirties, had a terrific husband (of eight years), a cute house in a town not far from my hometown and family, the ability to write from home, a respected literary agent and a three book historical romantic suspense series making the rounds with the top Christian publishers in the industry. I was set. And completely convinced that I had everything I could ask for. Well, everything but the finalized book contract with a publisher, that is.

And then I went on vacation last summer. It was a good vacation. Planned at the last moment—like usual—but to generally the same location my husband and I visit every summer: a rustic cabin built by my husband’s grand-father and great-grandfather in 1948. This pine tree-surrounded cabin sits on a lake in Northern (as in WAY north) Maine. We drive up simply because my husband has the vacation time to spare, and we like to stop along the way and visit places like Sturbridge Village in Massachusetts and Moosehead Lake in Central Maine (where my third book is set). 

But for some strange reason, this vacation felt different. It was our eighth summer staying there and visiting extended family who are closer to me than my own cousins, aunts and uncles... but I was getting restless. I’d heard snippets of interest from a publisher earlier that summer, and my third manuscript was a finalist in a very prestigious writing contest. I was becoming a little obsessive in my thoughts about what was EVER going to happen with these books I’d poured the last four years of my life into. 

One night while staying at the cabin, my husband (being the Mainer that he is) asked to take me out for a moonlit canoe ride. We didn’t have to go far to be surrounded by the moon and a multitude of brightly shining stars. Usually, when I get to such a place all I can think about are my stories and how to make them real for readers... but this time, as we sat there silently staring at the sky I felt a question resound through me, to my heart. 

What do you want more than anything, Dawn?

My quick answer: 

I want my books to be published.

Does that seem like a silly answer to you? It didn’t to me. When I’d begun my first book (the one the publishers had in their hands), I’d written it for myself. Not to be published, but for something to do... because I wasn’t having babies. I’d always wanted to write a book. I just thought I’d do it after I got married (right out of college, of course—haha!), had my children, and they went off to school… much like the time-line of many of my writer-friends who are also my age.

But that night, as I sat there in that canoe, I realized I’d given up on all that. Nothing was happening. Not that I was jumping through hoops, popping pills, or getting fertility shots. I’d simply been told that there was NOTHING wrong with me. I’d spent too many years thinking, “Where are my babies?” that I just needed to stop. So I did. I pretended not to care. I forced myself into a submissive attitude, telling myself that it didn’t matter. If God wanted me to have babies, then I would have babies. If He didn’t, I wouldn’t. It was that simple.

However, my books… now there was something happening. They were SO CLOSE to publication and had gotten there relatively easily. I figured that was what I was meant to do. WRITE. And why not? There’s nothing I’ve enjoyed more than creating and writing an intensely complex love story to thrill my friends with. So yes, my answer made complete sense to me. It was what I’d come to want more than anything else. 

Until I got home from vacation and couldn’t write. I had my rough draft of the third manuscript finished, but there were so many things I needed to polish and add to the end of the story before it came time to go to the ACFW conference to find out the winners of the Genesis Contest in September. There I sat with the desire to write, yet I was suddenly too exhausted to think! I thought it was the fact that we’d been gone for over two weeks, which was longer than usual... but a few weeks later I had another, very odd suspicion that it was something more than that. 

My brain was in a constant fog, and I was too tired to really do anything—more tired than I’d EVER been in my entire life. And suddenly the idea of eating anything sounded disgusting?

I couldn’t fathom the truth. How could it be? It was a fact I knew all too well: Dawn couldn’t get pregnant. But slowly, cautiously, I began to really believe it. My husband took me to the grocery store that week (because I couldn’t make it on my own!) and at the end of the bread aisle I told him, “I think we need to buy a pregnancy test.”

The remembrance of the huge smile on his face when he held those two pink lines up for me to see later that evening still breaks my heart. He’d been praying and praying all those years, even after I’d given up. And suddenly, with the answer of his faithful prayers, it didn’t matter so much if my books ever got published. 

And yeah, I’d thought I knew what I wanted a month before... that week when I'd been asked, and God went into action to immediately prove me wrong.


Photo by Lauren Richwine/A Portrait of a Lady Photography
I was wrong. So wrong.

I’m now six and a half weeks from my baby’s due date... AND I was finally blessed with a three-book contract with Whitaker House Books earlier this winter. I still want both—don’t get me wrong—but nothing compares to feeling the surprising, crazy, fierce love I have for this baby wiggling inside as it grows bigger and stronger.... Not even the joy of completing a 90K manuscript that a publisher actually finds worthy of publishing under their name.

Throughout this pregnancy, although I am quite nervous about the strange mixture of having a newborn baby and a three book contract to deal with at the same time, I can’t help but constantly think back to the two verses that I long ago picked out as the themes for my first book and how they ended up being not just for my heroine, Amaryllis Brigham, but for me too. 

Ephesians 3:20 ~ Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us...”

James 1:17 ~ “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change...”