Monthly Archives: February 2022
…which means there’s more light to read by! Enjoy these February new releases. Lots of good ones in the mix!
February 2022 New Releases
More in-depth descriptions of these books can be found on the ACFW Fiction Finder website
Strength in the Storm by Laurel M. Blount — After the murder of both her parents, Emma Hochstedler returns to the small community of Johns Mill, hoping to resume her quiet existence. Reclaiming her place proves harder than expected—especially now that a movie is being made about her family’s loss. But then, an old friend offers her a lifeline that gives her new purpose. Amish builder Samuel Christner is the biggest—and the strongest—man in town. In fact, the gentle giant has only one weakness—Emma. Even though she broke his heart, he won’t let his childhood sweetheart face her troubles alone. He hires Emma as a nurse for his elderly aunt…and finds himself falling for her all over again. (Amish Romance from Berkley Penguin Random House)
Defending David by Barbara M. Britton — When a quiet journey to Jerusalem turns tragic, newly orphaned Rimona must flee a kinsman set on selling her as a slave. Racing into the rocky hills outside of Hebron, Rimona is rescued by a Philistine commander journeying to Jerusalem with six-hundred warriors. Exiled commander, Ittai the Gittite, is seeking refuge in the City of David. Protecting a frantic Hebrew woman is not in his leadership plan. Although, having a nobleman’s niece in his caravan might prove useful for finding shelter in a foreign land. Rimona and Ittai arrive in Jerusalem on the eve of a rebellion. In the chaos of an heir’s betrayal, will they be separated forever, or can they defend King David and help the aging monarch control his rebellious son? (Biblical from Harbourlight Books (Pelican))
Checked Impressions by Carolyn Miller — parks fly when a hometown hockey hero meets a classy art-loving museum guide hiding a secret…Jai Mullins is used to being the fastest man on ice. Trouble is, his ability to find a genuine woman is tracking at glacial melt levels. He’s trusting God she’s out there, but he’s wary of getting trapped by a superfan, when all he wants is someone with whom he can be real. Allie Davis has two great loves: impressionist art and hockey. More specifically, a certain hockey player. But between her shyness and her family, she’s convinced she’ll never meet him, let alone connect with him in a non-embarrassing way.?Until she does. And they connect. And romance sparks. But she is hiding a big secret, and he’s about to find that first impressions sometimes need a reality check. Will they learn to trust and find a way forward, or will half-truths lead to further hurt on opposite sides of the country and lonely lives? (Contemporary Romance, Independently Published)
Her Tycoon Hero by Narelle Atkins — Cassie Beaumont believes in second chances. Cassie is set on proving she’s no longer a party girl, instead focusing on her career as an event planner. Ryan Mitchell, her dad’s top executive, proves to be a handsome distraction, especially when someone from Cassie’s wild past tries to draw her back into the life she has worked hard to escape. Ryan is taken with his boss’s beautiful daughter. But he is slow to trust, having been burned by a brother who ran in the same circles. When Cassie’s newfound faith works its way into his heart, Ryan wants to claim both Cassie and her faith as his own. Can they forgive past mistakes and navigate a future together? (Contemporary Romance, Independently Published)
In Search of a Prince by Toni Shiloh — Brielle Adebayo is fully content teaching at a New York City public school and taking annual summer vacations with her mother to Martha’s Vineyard. But everything changes when her mom drops the mother of all bombshells–Brielle is a princess in the kingdom of Oloro Ilé, Africa, and she must immediately assume her royal position, since the health of her grandfather, King Tiwa Jimoh Adebayo, is failing. ?Distraught by her mother’s betrayal, Brielle is further left spinning when the Oloro Ilé Royal Council brings up an old edict that states she must marry before assuming the throne or the crown will be passed to another. Uncertain who to choose from the council’s list of bachelors, she struggles with the decision along with the weight of her new role in a new country. With her world totally shaken, she must take a chance on love and brave the perils a wrong decision may bring. (Contemporary Romance from Bethany House (Baker) Publishing)
Secrets of Their Past by Allie Pleiter — Facing the past could change his future. Veterinarian Neal Rodgers is in Wander Canyon seeking the truth about his past—not to rescue a litter of kittens under his next-door neighbor’s porch. But persistent single-mom Tessa Kennedy is impossible to ignore—especially when she uncovers a family secret of her own. Discovering the hidden facts of their histories could be the key to unlocking everything in this small town. (Contemporary Romance from Love Inspired (Harlequin))
The Valentine Proposal by Beth Pugh — Can Love Be 10 Years in the Making? Award-winning photographer Mason Montgomery is back in Pine Valley, Kentucky. Hopefully, for good, if his business proposal is accepted. On paper, he’s the perfect buyer for Forget-Me-Not Photography. Too bad the seller, Ol’ Man Rowe, doesn’t see it that way. He’s looking for a family man to take over, and Mason’s bachelor status doesn’t fit the bill.For shy Lily Anne Dawson, life has not turned out the way she’d hoped. Working at her mother’s bakery and editing for the local newspaper is a far cry from her journalistic dream. She’s a failure. A lonely failure worrying about infertility with no romantic prospects in sight. That all changes when a decade-old promise to marry on Valentine’s Day pushes the two together at their high school reunion. The impromptu proposal offers a solution to their problems. But marriage requires honesty?and both have secrets. Secrets that could make or break their budding love. (Contemporary Romance from Candlelight (an imprint of Iron Stream Media))
To Belong Together by Emily Conrad — Fame and money have a way of complicating love. Drummer John Kennedy can keep a beat, but he can’t hold a conversation, so he relies on actions to show he cares. Unfortunately, when he’s instantly intrigued by a spunky female mechanic, he can’t seem to convey the sincerity of his intentions. And the rejections don’t stop there. His own sister is pushing him away just when he could help her most. Erin Hirsh’s life would be easier if God hadn’t given her a love for cars. Only her father understood her, and she’s losing him to dementia. Her brief romances have always backfired worse than a mistuned engine, and she refuses to give John the chance to wreck her heart. A rock star with a supermodel ex can’t possibly see anything in her. At least that’s what she thinks until they find common ground in faith and their worsening family situations leave them each longing for a place to belong. Could God intend for this pair of opposites to belong together? (Contemporary Romance, Independently Published)
Avenue of Betrayal by Sandra Merville Hart — Betrayed by her brother and the man she loves…whom can she trust when tragedy strikes? Soldiers are pouring into Washington City every day and have begun drilling in preparation for a battle with the Confederacy. Annie Swanson worries for her brother, whom she’s just discovered is a Confederate officer in his new home state of North Carolina. Even as Annie battles feelings of betrayal toward the big brother she’s always adored, her wealthy banker father swears her and her sister to secrecy about their brother’s actions. How could he forsake their mother’s abolitionist teachings?Sergeant-Major John Finn camps within a mile of the Swansons’ mansion where his West Point pal once lived. Sweet Annie captured his heart at Will’s wedding last year and he looks forward to reestablishing their relationship—until he’s asked to spy on her father.To prove her father’s loyalty to the Union, John agrees to spy on the Swanson family, though Annie must never know. Then the war strikes a blow that threatens to destroy them all—including the love that’s grown between them against all odds. (Historical Romance from Wild Heart Books)
Gold Rush Bride Tegan by Linda Shenton Matchett — Tegan Llewellyn has always been different than her adopted family, except Grandmother Hannah, a prospector during the 1829 Georgia gold rush. Now, seventy years later there are reports of gold in Nome, and the opportunity is too good to pass up. But Tegan doesn’t count on the dangers that strike from the moment she steps off the steamer, including the threat of losing her heart. Elijah Hunter has prospected for gold all over the US and Canada and likes being on the move. The last thing he expects to find on his latest search is a lady miner who proves to be nothing but trouble. Can he convince her that leaving is for her own good before it’s too late…for both of them? (Historical Romance from Shortwave Press)
Lumberjacks and Ladies by Jennifer Lamont Leo, et. al — Lumberjacks and Ladies Work Together to Build America…Struggling to remain independent in the 1800s, four women reluctantly open up to help from lumberjacks—and love. All That Glitters by Candice Sue Patterson, 1851—Maine. Winifred finds herself running the family lobstering business when her father and brothers join the California gold rush. Will she stubbornly reject help from a local lumberjack? Winter Roses by Pegg Thomas, 1865—Michigan. Elizabeth cooks for a logging crew, spurning the men’s advances, until reoccurring gifts capture her attention. Will she heed her mother’s warning about “shanty boys”? Not for Love by Naomi Musch, 1881—Wisconsin. Widowed, Maggie seeks a husband—in name only—from the logging camps, but the man who answers her letter is a surprise. Can she open her heart to love again? Undercover Logger by Jennifer Lamont Leo, 1890—Idaho. Carrie will not sell her timberland and allows the banker’s nephew to sign onto her logging crew to ferret out the reason she is losing money at an alarming rate. Will truth be revealed to her forlorn heart? (Historical Romance from Barbour Publishing)
Mrs. Witherspoon Goes to War by Mary Eileen Davis — A WASP Goes Above the Call of Duty to Free Captive American Soldiers. Full of intrigue, adventure, and romance, this new series celebrates the unsung heroes–the heroines of WWII. Peggy Witherspoon, a widow, mother, and pilot flying for the Women Airforce Service Pilots in 1944 clashes with her new reporting officer. Army Air Corp Major Howie Berg was injured in combat and is now stationed at Bolling Field in Washington D.C. Most of Peggy’s jobs are safe, predictable, and she can be home each night with her two daughters–until a cargo run to Cuba alerts her to American soldiers being held captive there, despite Cuba being an “ally.” Will Peggy go against orders to help the men–even risk her own life? (Historical Romance from Barbour Publishing)
Until Leaves Fall in Paris by Sarah Sundin — As the Nazis march toward Paris in 1940, American ballerina Lucie Girard buys her favorite English-language bookstore to allow the Jewish owners to escape. Lucie struggles to run Green Leaf Books due to oppressive German laws and harsh conditions, but she finds a way to aid the resistance by passing secret messages between the pages of her books. Widower Paul Aubrey wants nothing more than to return to the States with his little girl, but the US Army convinces him to keep his factory running and obtain military information from his German customers. As the war rages on, Paul offers his own resistance by sabotaging his product and hiding British airmen in his factory. After they meet in the bookstore, Paul and Lucie are drawn to each other, but she rejects him when she discovers he sells to the Germans. And for Paul to win her trust would mean betraying his mission. (Historical Romance from Revell – A Division of Baker Publishing Group)
Wilderness Wife by Delores Topliff — arguerite Wadin MacKay believes her 17-year marriage to explorer, Alex MacKay, is strong—until sudden fame makes him announce their frontier marriage is void in Montréal where he now goes to choose a society wife—not one with native blood. Taking their son, MacKay sends Marguerite and their three daughters to a trading post where she lived as a child. Deeply shamed, she arrives in time to assist young visiting Doctor John McLoughlin with a medical emergency. Marguerite now lives only for her girls. When Fort William on Lake Superior opens a school, Marguerite moves there for her daughters’ sake. Newly assigned there, Doctor McLoughlin’s friendship with Marguerite grows. When he declares his love, she dissuades him from a match harmful to his career. She’s mixed blood and nine years older. He will have no one else. After abandonment, can a woman love again and fulfill the key role in North American History that is her destiny? (General Historical from Scrivenings Press)
With a Trusting Heart by Dawn Kinzer — Will trust be the winning ticket to mending two wounded hearts? The 1909 Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition is taking place in Seattle with participants from all over the world when Lizzie Clark accepts a position at an orphanage in the city. After suffering heartbreak and loss, she is determined to make a life for herself independently. Jack Butler’s mother abandoned their family when he was a young boy. Loyalty to his father cost him fulfilling his own aspirations, so Jack strives to take their family farm in a new direction. A newborn is left at the orphanage with a note asking Lizzie to take care of him. Why did the woman abandon her child? And why is Jack, a handsome local farmer so interested in helping Lizzie search for the infant’s mother??When shocking revelations disrupt their plans, Lizzie and Jack are faced with life-changing decisions. Will they open their hearts to trusting again? (Historical Romance from Morningview Publishing)
Cliffhanger by Susan Page Davis — The Novel Inn’s reopening goes smoothly until a guest vanishes. The new owners prepare for their first large group—a former squad of cheerleaders meeting for a reunion. Things go awry when the head cheerleader fails to show up. Sisters Kate and Jillian, the innkeepers, enlist the help of their brother Rick, a local police officer. They’re confident the missing woman will be found, but they soon learn to expect the unexpected, even during a walk on the beach. (Mystery: Cozy from Scrivenings Press)
The Prediction by Jean Rezab — Thea deals with the limits her father places on her when she has a vision of his death. He has never accepted her ability, and he also deals with his own depression regarding his past. (Mystery: Romance, Independently Published)
Safe House Exposed by Darlene L. Turner — Witness protection should have kept them safe. Instead, it left them completely exposed…Canadian border patrol officer Emma James has only one concern after putting a crime boss behind bars: keeping her daughter safe. But witness protection has a leak, and Emma’s enemies know exactly where to find her. Now on the run with no safe haven, trusting her estranged former brother-in-law, police constable Mason James, to shield them is her only hope… (Thriller/Suspence/Romance from Love Inspired (Harlequin))
That Scott Woman by Carlene Havel — Maggie Scott returns home in 1966 after serving four years in prison. She has only one goal in mind, to create a secure and stable life for herself. Then Maggie meets Blake Hamilton, ex-rodeo cowboy turned preacher. The chemistry between this unlikely pair is undeniable, but there are problems. Blake is sure his calling is to serve God. Maggie is convinced she is beyond redemption.?Common sense tells Maggie her attraction to Blake will end in heartbreak. (Thriller/Suspense/Romance, Independently Published)
Touch of Innocence by Robin Patchen — How can she protect the child if nobody believes her? Grace used to try to save people, but that was before she realized how powerless she is. Now, she avoids emotional ties, working from her secluded cabin, content with her aloneness. When eight-year-old Lily starts hanging around, Grace enjoys her company but carefully keeps her distance—until she discovers the girl is being exploited. Little though she wants to, she must get involved, even if it means risking her own safety to secure Lily’s. Andrew can’t help but be drawn to his new neighbor and her beautiful foster child. When he learns about Lily’s disturbing history, he offers to help Grace prove her suspicions about the girl’s father. But the more they learn, the more puzzling Lily’s history seems. They work together to unravel the mystery, determined to ensure Lily ends up with a family who loves her. But Lily’s father isn’t giving up his muse—or his obsession—that easily. He believes Lily is rightfully his, and he’ll do anything to get her back. (Thrilled/Suspense/Romance, Independently Published)
Plus check out these recent additions to Fiction Finder published within the past month:
Boundary Waters Search and Rescue: Beyond Imagination by Joy Harding, An old foe, unimaginable twists, and deep disappointments challenge both Jack’s and Liz’s faith and their young marriage. (Contemporary Romance)
Recaptured from Oblivion by Cindy M. Amos, In the heat of pursuit, ordination slips toward a far-off horizon—?or can Karch safeguard Lolo and recapture his dreams from oblivion? (Contemporary Romance)
The Winter Rose by Melanie Dobson, In this gripping WWII time-slip novel from the author whose books have been called “propulsive” and a “must-read” (Publishers Weekly), Grace Tonquin is an American Quaker who works tirelessly in Vichy France to rescue Jewish children from the Nazis. (Historical Romance)
Jennifer talks about a range of tantalizing topics, from fine china to bridal registries to teen magazines of yore. If you prefer to read rather than listen, scroll down for a transcript.
A couple of listeners have asked what my china pattern is. It’s Noritake Blue Hill. Here’s a picture I snapped a while back:
TRANSCRIPT: Episode 34: Six Reasons to Love Fine China
Hello, Sparklers. Welcome to Episode 34 of A Sparkling Vintage Life, where we discuss all things vintage and celebrate the grace and charm of an earlier era. I’m your host, Jennifer Leo, and it’s February first, 2022, as I record this.
In writing and publishing news, the novella collection Lumberjacks and Ladies comes out from Barbour Publishing on February first, so by the time you hear this, it may already be available at your favorite book retailer. Do check it out, if historical romance set in the deep woods during the nineteenth century sounds like your kind of story. There’s even an audiobook version available.
I’m also scrambling to finish writing Love’s Grand Sweet Song, also known as “the opera novel.” It’s due to go to the editor later in February, and I could use all of your prayers and well wishes to see me over the finish line. This one has been a challenge to write for lots of reasons, but once it’s done, I think you’re going to love it.
Today I want to talk to you about fine china, the kind your grandmother might have set the table with on holidays. Now understand that, through the magic of podcasting, I can see some of you listeners out there, rolling your eyes. You think that fine china is stuffy, out-of-date, and irrelevant to casual modern life. Well, as you can probably predict by now, I disagree, and I’m here to tell you why.
I own a set of fine china that I collected in my twenties. Back in those days, it was common for young women to choose a china pattern they loved and then register for it at a favorite store. Often they would register for silverware and glassware patterns at the same time. Family and friends who wanted to do so could purchase pieces for her as gifts, usually for a wedding or a bridal shower, but sometimes on other gift-giving occasions like birthdays and Christmas. Eventually she’d end up with a full set or near-full set of fine china, something of a marker of adulthood.
According to Wikipedia, the bridal registry or wedding registry is a service provided by a retailer that assists engaged couples in the communication of gift preferences to wedding guests. The Chicago-founded department store Marshall Field’s first instituted the practice of a bridal registry in 1924 at its Marshall Field and Company Building as a means for the engaged couple to indicate chosen china, silver, and crystal patterns to family and friends. Readers of my first book, You’re the Cream in My Coffee, will remember that Marjorie nearly had a panic attack in the bridal-registry department of Marshall Field’s, but that had more to do with the groom than with the registry.
Selecting items from store stock, the couple lists desired items and files this list with the chosen merchant. The list is then made available to wedding guests, either by the couple’s family or by the merchant. Upon the purchase of a listed item, the merchant updates the gift registry accordingly. In addition to providing valuable information for the buyer, the system helps prevent the receipt of duplicate or unwanted gifts, potentially saving time for both the giver and recipient.
I consulted the New Seventeen Book of Etiquette and Young Living, published in 1971, to see what it had to say about bridal registries. It says “By registering your china, silver, and crystal, duplications are reduced to a minimum, and you won’t have a lot of unmatched tableware. The registry is of equal service to your friends because it makes their shopping easier. It is wise to choose china, silver, and glassware early in your engagement since these are popular gifts for friends to give. Before you select any one pattern, think about how the three will look together. Since these are things you want to keep a lifetime, don’t decide hastily. Your tableware should express your individuality and the ambience you want your home to reflect, whether sophistication, informality, tradition, or a contemporary look.
Those words were written fifty years ago. Brides today don’t seem to be as stoked about china, silver, and glassware, but who knows. Maybe fancy tableware will cycle back into fashion someday, as these things tend to do.
On a cultural note, the New Seventeen Book of Etiquette and Young Living was written by Enid A Haupt, who was the longtime editor-in-chief of Seventeen magazine. It contains advice on things like making and keeping friends, getting along with your family, dining out with a date, belonging to clubs and sororities, hosting and going to parties, going to college, manners in the business world, and engagement and wedding advice. For kicks I took a look at the current website of Seventeen magazine. The biggest headlines these days seem to go to celebrity gossip, with another huge chunk of real estate to left-wing political causes like Black Lives Matter, Stop Asian Hate, and Are You Latinx Enough. The ubiquitous article about getting rid of acne, the bane of teenage existence from time immemorial, is titled “Your Pimple is Officially Cancelled.” And the article called “20 Kissing Secrets to Master the Perfect Smooch” featured a photo of two girls locking lips. Suffice to say, it is not your mother’s Seventeen magazine.
Speaking of mothers, my mother and grandmother also had their own sets of fine china, which they trotted out on holidays and other festive occasions. It helped to mark the day or the meal as special, versus “everyday.” Seeing a table set with fine china was downright mood-altering, signaling that “something special this way comes.”
The world is very casual these days. Most people no longer dress up for church or travel or restaurants or even weddings. Some people seem to pride themselves on foregoing fine china and other elegant tableware, perhaps as a critique of late-stage capitalism or some other statement, or maybe out of sheer laziness and desire for comfort.
Now don’t get me wrong. I love comfort as much as the next person. But I think that in cultivating an attitude of all casual, all the time, we risk starting to think nothing is special, nothing is worth an extra effort. Happily, recent research disagrees.
It’s long been known by behavioral scientists that our thinking affects our decisions about what we do and how we do it. Now, there’s a field of neuroscience called “embodied cognition” that says the reverse is also true: that our environment–what we do and how we do it–can affect our thinking more than was previously thought.
I’m extremely oversimplifying the concept, to be sure, but basically our hearts are affected or influenced by what our physical selves are doing. You can help create a feeling of specialness or happiness about a day or a meal by treating it as such. Pulling out the fine china can seem stuffy and pretentious, or it can seem celebratory and important. It’s all in your attitude. You get to choose.
Here are six reasons why I still love using my fine china.
- It’s beautiful. It pleases me to look at it, like a work of art. Happily my taste hasn’t changed over the last forty years. I still like the pattern and the colors. If you’ve inherited china in a pattern you dislike, or your tastes have changed since you first chose a pattern in your teens, you can be forgiven for not loving it. But realize it’s the style you dislike and not fine china in general. if that’s the case, maybe treat yourself to a some new dishes and let the old ones go. One woman’s hideous china from Aunt Louise may be another woman’s charming vintage breakfast set.
- China manufactured in recent decades is dishwasher-safe. A reason I frequently hear for disliking fine china is that it requires hand-washing, creating extra work. That may be true for some antique patterns, but my 1980s-era china has stood up beautifully to being cleaned in the dishwasher. I make sure to space pieces so they don’t bump into each other and chip, and I use a gentler cycle and allow them to air dry rather than heated dry, and it’s been fine. One thing that I can’t do with my china, though, is I can’t use it in the microwave. It has a silver metal band around the edge that is not microwave-safe. I understand that more recent china patterns use microwave-safe decorations. Even so, avoiding the microwave seems a small price for the amount of joy my dishes give me. If something needs to be microwaved, I’ll simply use an everyday dish and then transfer the heated food to the china serving dish. No biggie.
- Fine china elevates the everyday. Some days are just hard. And if it lifts my mood even a little bit to use a special plate to hold my mundane meal of leftovers, I see nothing wrong with that.
- Fine china is affordable, especially these days when it’s largely fallen out of fashion. Stacks and stacks of lovely dishes are available for a song at thrift shops, and on sites like Etsy and eBay. And remember, you don’t have to buy a whole set of dishes. Just a piece or two can elevate your tablescape and gladden your heart. In fact,
- You don’t need a matched set of china at all. Different pieces can blend together beautifully, some solids, some patterns, different color combinations all add interest and beauty to your table.
- Bringing out the good china is honoring to family and friends. Sure, I love that the people closest to me are fine with paper plates and plastic forks, and much of the time these are perfectly suited to the occasion. But also, once in a while it’s also nice to show these same people that they’re worth the extra effort of setting an elegant table, of ironing a tablecloth or putting together a pretty centerpiece.
And there you have it, Sparklers: six reasons to pull out the fine china. Do you have any pieces of fine china, either that you inherited or received as a gift or even purchased for yourself? If so, do you use it? Tell us about it in the Comments section at sparklingvintagelife.com. If you enjoyed this episode, please leave a rating or review at Apple or Google or Spotify or wherever you get your podcasts. Reviews are very valuable for helping other like-minded kindred spirits find our quirky little podcast. As always, you can email me at email@example.com, or look for me on Facebook or Pinterest. Meanwhile, thank you for listening, and I look forwarding to talking with you again soon on another episode of A Sparkling Vintage Life.