A Sparkling Vintage Life

Episode 40: A Night at the Opera

Jennifer discusses her latest novel, LOVE’S GRAND SWEET SONG, set in the world of grand opera in Chicago during World War I. 



Love’s Grand Sweet Song e-book

Love’s Grand Sweet Song softcover

Love’s Grand Sweet Song audio


“Un Bel Di” from Madama Butterfly (Puccini)

“Habanera” from Carmen (Bizet)

“Song to the Moon” from Rusalka (Dvorak)

Thank you for all your kind messages and prayers concerning my Amazing Eye Adventure (if you’re new here, I was diagnosed with ocular melanoma last fall, a rare form of cancer. My right eye was removed in November and I received a prosthetic eye in January. I’m adjusting well to mono-vision. I can pretty much do everything I did before, including driving, and of course, reading, writing, and editing. Pouring liquids can be a challenge. So can fitting keys into locks and plugs into sockets. And don’t get me started on stairs! Walking up is fine; walking down looks like a toboggan run. Even so, my depth perception is getting better all the time. At least, that’s what I keep telling myself.

I love my new prosthetic eye, which I’ve nicknamed “Iris”! Check out these photos to see the progression:


Welcome to A Sparkling Vintage Life, where we talk about all things vintage and celebrate the grace and charm of an earlier era. I’m your host, Jennifer Leo, and it’s March 18, 2024 as I record this. And we’re at episode number 40.

In writing and publishing news, I’ve just released Love’s Grand Sweet Song, which is now available in ebook and softcover formats on Amazon, and also on selected retailers as an audiobook. I’ll put links in the shownotes at jenniferlamontleo.com.

Love’s Grand Sweet Song is set in the world of grand opera in Chicago in and around World War I. It’s the third in the Windy City Hearts series, but is really a standalone book, meaning you don’t have to have read the other books in the series to enjoy this one. The Windy City Hearts series is loosely connected by the Chicago setting, the early 20th century time period, and each book features a strong female protagonist overcoming hardship through the help of faith, friends, and family. This means that you can read the books in any order, as the stories themselves aren’t connected. So you can start with Love’s Grand Sweet Song, or with Moondrop Miracle, or with The Rose Keeper. If you enjoy them, and I hope you will, I’d appreciate it if you’d leave a review on Amazon or Goodreads or wherever you get your books. Reviews are pure gold to authors in terms of getting our little books noticed in the ocean of books available. So thanks in advance for leaving a review.

As I mentioned, Love’s Grand Sweet Song is set in the world of grand opera in the nineteen-teens. The main character, Francie, is a waitress in a small Midwestern college town. Born into poverty, she doesn’t have much going for her  except for a glorious singing voice. And from that brief description you can probably guess the trajectory of where the story’s going. I promise you, it’s a tale of dreams come true and dreams crushed, of romance and heartbreak, of serious missteps and second chances. Above all, it’s a story of faith, and what it means to be a Christian trying to make a living in the demanding world of the arts, specifically opera.

I’ll admit, I get a fair amount of eye-rolling and nose-wrinkling when I tell people what the story’s about. Some people ask, “Why opera?” Well, for one thing, I happen to like opera! Some of it, anyway. Some of the beautiful arias, especially. My parents loved opera, so I grew up listening to it on records or on the radio (shout out to WFMT in Chicago). On many a lazy Saturday morning, I woke up to a blast of opera from the stereo if my father thought I’d slept in long enough. For my birthday one year–I couldn’t have been more than 8 or 9 years old–I asked for and received a recording of Gilbert & Sullivan’s The Mikado. I played it over and over and pretended to be the character Yum-Yum. If you don’t know it, look it up. And don’t judge.

Another reason I set the story around opera is that, in the time period of the book, opera was in the public eye much more than it is today. In those pre-Hollywood, pre-television days, some opera stars were like the Kardashians of their day, up to all sorts of hijinks and drama offstage as well as on. So it was fun to write about that world and some of its larger-than-life personalities.

There’s a lot more to the story in Love’s Grand Sweet Song, including threads tied more directly to the Great War. But today I wanted specifically to talk to you about the opera part, in case you’re one of the nose-wrinklers. I want to encourage you to give opera a chance–not only in my book, but in real life.

The word “opera” is the Italian word for “work,” like a work of art. It’s simply an art form that tells a story through music and singing. Opera was born in the 1600s in Europe–Venice, to be exact–and so a lot of it is in the languages of continental Europe. Italian, French, and German, Czech, and others. There is not one single opera style–there are many styles, some light, some heavy, some romantic, some comedic, some tragic. You might love Puccini, for example, as I do, and dislike Wagner, as I do . . . or vice versa.

If you’re ready to give opera a try, I suggest starting by listening to an aria or two, rather than an entire opera start-to-finish. An aria is a song written for one singer or perhaps a duet. You can readily find some examples on YouTube by searching for “aria”. I’ll link to some of my favorites in the show notes at jenniferlamontleo.com/podcast, episode 40.

Read a summary of the story, so you can understand the gist of what’s going on. Then, as you listen, follow along with an English translation of the song, easily found on Google by typing the name of the aria and “English translation.” When you hit on an opera or composer you like, see if you can find the whole opera on video.

When you’re ready to attend your first live opera, you may be surprised that it’s a much less intimidating experience than its sometimes portrayed in movies and on TV. For example, many opera companies nowadays project English subtitles, so you always understand what’s being sung. You can also read a plot synopsis ahead of time, if you want to (and doing mind potential spoilers). And the rules are no more strict than they are for any live performance: sit quietly, pay attention, don’t play on your phone, and don’t talk to your neighbor or, heaven help you, try to sing along.

For fun, I looked up the “rules” for going to the opera in an etiquette book published in Boston in 1860. The book is “Ladies’ Book on Etiquette” by Florence Hartley.

“At the opera you should wear full dress, an opera cloak, and either a head-dress, or dressy bonnet of some thin material. Your gloves must be of kid, white, or some very light tint to suit your dress. Many dress for the opera as they would for the theatre; but the beauty of the house is much enhanced by each lady contributing her full dress toilette to the general effect.

If you go to the dressing-room, leave your hood and shawl in the care of the woman in waiting, whom you must fee when she returns them to you.

If you do not wish to go to the dressing-room, allow your escort to take off your shawl or cloak, and throw it over the back of the seat. As your opera cloak must be light enough to keep on all the evening, though you may throw it open, you must wear over it a heavier cloak or a shawl. Throw this off in the lobby, just before you enter your box. Your gloves you must keep on all the evening.

Avoid handling the play bills, as the printing ink will soil your gloves in a few minutes, making your hands appear very badly for the rest of the evening.

You should be in your seat at the opera before the overture commences.

[175]Never converse during the performance. Even the lowest toned remark will disturb a real lover of music, and these will be near you on all sides. Exclamations of admiration, “Exquisite!” “Beautiful!” or “Lovely!” are in the worst taste. Show your appreciation by quiet attention to every note, and avoid every exclamation or gesture.

In our new opera houses there are rooms for promenade, and between the acts your escort may invite you to walk there. You may accept the invitation with perfect propriety. He will leave the box first and then offer his hand to you. In the lobby take his arm, and keep it until you return to the box. If you have taken your cloak or shawl to your seat, leave them there during your promenade. Return to your seat when the gong sounds the recall, that you may not disturb others after the next act commences.

In walking up and down in the promenading saloon, you may pass and repass friends. Bow the first time you meet them, but not again.

If you meet your gentlemen friends there, bow, but do not stop to speak. They may join you for once round the room, then allow them to leave you. Your escort will feel justly offended if you allow any other gentlemen to engross your attention entirely when he has invited you to the entertainment.”

Sheesh! No wonder people think the opera is stuffy! Times have changed.

These days, although many people dress up for opening night, for most performances you can wear whatever you like. And you certainly don’t need to cling like a barnacle to the arm of your escort. In fact, you don’t even need an escort, unless you want one.

If you’re a fan of Downton Abbey . . .

. . . you won’t want to miss this sweepstakes that includes a fabulous collection of Downton Abbey-themed swag, as well as an assortment of e-book novels that have that certain “Downton vibe,” whether time period or setting or other characteristics shared with the show you love. (My own LOVE’S GRAND SWEET SONG is included, a heartwarming, inspirational story set in the world of grand opera during the Downton Abbey time period.)

Buona fortuna!


Refresh your to-read stack in February!

February 2024 New Releases

More in-depth descriptions of these books can be found on the ACFW Fiction Finder website

Contemporary Romance:

Finally Forever by Karin Beery — Former competitive dancer Caroline Novak dreams of leaving the corporate world to work with special needs women at the Pathways nonprofit, but the organization can’t afford a fulltime director. All-American defensive end Ben Allen was on his way to the NFL when a knee injury sent him home and into the same office as Caroline, his best friend’s older sister. When Pathways participates in a Dancing with the Stars-inspired fundraiser, Caroline quickly volunteers, and Ben joins her as the local “star.” It doesn’t take long for Ben to realize it’s more than a dance competition, and Caroline is more than his best friend’s sister, but after two failed engagements, she’s hesitant to trust her heart with another man. When the NFL calls Ben, it looks like his dream might finally come true—but it could cost them the championship and Caroline her heart. (Contemporary Romance from Elk Lake Publishing)

Taylor’s Trek to Love
by Elsie Davis — Escape to the Great Smoky Mountains…where fresh mountain air and love await! This is the fourth heartwarming Christian Inspirational Women’s Fiction Romance that will take you to the Great Smoky Mountains for a vacation getaway that will change the lives of Taylor and Andrew in ways they would have never expected! (Contemporary Romance from Sweet Romance Publishing)

Much Ado about Romance by Susan Page Davis, Shannon Sue Dunlap, Linda Fulkerson — A collection of novellas inspired by Shakespearen romantic comedies. (Contemporary Romance from Scrivenings Press)

A Mommy for Easter by Linda Goodnight — Back in his hometown after a decade, Jake Colter and his adorable toddler are a reminder of everything Rachel Hamby lost. And working on the same Easter committee with her ex-husband makes avoidance impossible. Throw in a small town’s matchmaking scheme and Jake’s sweet dog, and soon Rachel’s falling for the little girl…and her father. But will Rachel risk a second chance with the painful secret she’s keeping? (Contemporary Romance from Love Inspired [Harlequin])

Cozy Mystery:

Birds Alive! by Jennifer Dodrill — Widow, mom blogger, and empty nester Peg forms the Empty Nesters Birding Group. On their first outing, a birder dies from an allergic reaction to peanuts from birdseed that should be peanut-free. Later, she finds another of her new birder friends wounded and dying. Peg recruits a fellow birder and her mother-in-law to help solve the crime. She teams up with the detective investigating the case, whose dimples draw her in a way she hasn’t experienced in years. (Cozy Mystery from Scrivenings Press)

Mardi Gras and Mayhem by Jann Franklin— Just a fun girls’ weekend in New Orleans during Mardi Gras…except for the murders. Chantilly Romero held an important place as a mover and a shaker within the New Orleans business world. But she had her secrets. Did she run an illegal high-stakes poker game out of her whiskey distillery? Had her bodyguard committed a few dastardly deeds, so Chantilly could profit? Did Chantilly’s husband die by his own hand, or did she help him along to the pearly gates? Regardless, the police never found proof of any wrong doing. Did someone take matters into their own hands? (Cozy Mystery, Independently Published from Rougarou Press)

Historical Romance:

A Reluctant Melody by Sandra Ardoin — Kit Barnes’ drinking ruined more lives than his own. Now sober, he wants to make amends by opening a mission for drunkards. The most suitable location belongs to Joanna Cranston Stewart, a love from his sordid past and the person he hurt the most. A pariah among her peers, Joanna is all too eager to sell her property and flee the rumors that she sent her late husband to an early grave. But she will let the gossips talk and the walls of her rundown property crumble around her before she’ll allow Kit back into her life. When a blackmailer threatens to reveal her long-held secret, she must choose between trusting Kit or seeing her best friend trapped in an abusive marriage. (Historical Romance from Corner Room Books)

Protecting the Mountain Man’s Treasure
by Misty M. Beller — Jude Coulter is far more comfortable in his family’s sapphire mine tucked in the Montana mountains than on the bustling streets of New York City, where he’s been sent to deliver a shipment of gems. His relief at boarding the train for the first leg of his journey home is short-lived when an accident renders him unconscious. Angela Larkin worked hard to earn this assignment for the Treasury—an undercover mission to determine the source of the sapphires brought each year for auction in the city. When an accident causes her target to lose his recent memory, Angela jumps at the opportunity to create the ideal ruse. Jude seems surprised to learn the two of them had married and were returning from a glorious wedding trip, but his severe head injury keeps him from protesting…for now. But the accident is far from the worst threat they face. When enemies close in, Angela and Jude must depend on each other to survive the treacherous journey home. (Historical Romance, Independently Published [ACFW QIP])

An Uncertain Road
by Abbey Downey — When young widow Flora Montfort returns to America, she’s determined to use her training in auto racing to support herself and her French mother-in-law—even if female drivers are rare in 1905. When the owner of a successful sporting goods store hires her to drive in a ten-day race through New England, she jumps at the opportunity. Jensen Gable is not convinced that joining the team as the ride-along mechanic is worth the risk. After losing his best friend in a tragic racing accident, Jensen has vowed never to participate in the sport again. But a promise to protect his friend’s younger brother, also on the tour, outweighs his fear of the dangers. As they race through New England, Flora and Jensen find common ground that ignites their interest in each other, but doubts and old enemies come between them. As the race of a lifetime heats up, one question rises above all others…can their love find the road that leads to forever? (Historical Romance from Wild Heart Books)

Relying on the Enemy by Danielle Grandinetti — All widowed mother Marian Ward wants is to provide for her girls. However, she faces the dead of winter with no income and dwindling resources. Then she overhears a nefarious conversation, putting her life and that of her children in immediate danger. Aiming to make amends to the Wards, Gilbert steps in when the threat to Marian escalates. It costs him dearly. Either lose his career or marry her and be tied to his past until death do them part. He leaves the decision to Marian, who will do anything to protect her girls, even marry the son of the man who ruined her family. How will their fledgling trust prove strong enough to fulfill their vows as winter tightens its grip and desperation stalks at the door? (Historical Romance from Hearth Spot Press)

To Marry an English Lord by Robin Lee Hatcher — Sebastian Whitcombe, Viscount Willowthorpe, comes to America to experience the great Wild West for himself before it disappears for good. The adventure comes with a convenient bonus—it postpones his father’s edict that he take a wife from the British aristocracy. Sebastian isn’t so much against marriage as he is an arranged marriage to the wrong woman. Jocelyn Overstreet hasn’t returned to her family’s eastern Idaho cattle ranch in six years. She’s far too busy managing the New York City offices of Overstreet Shipping. But when her older brother has a serious run-in with a bison, she returns to the ranch only to find the Overstreet home invaded by visitors from England, one of them a disturbingly handsome viscount who disarms her defenses at every turn. Sebastian’s future lies in England. New York City holds Jocelyn’s future. Amidst the clash of their worlds, Sebastian and Jocelyn find that the risk of love, against all odds, might just be a risk worth taking. (Historical Romance, Independently Published from RobinSong, Inc.)

Embers in the London Sky by Sarah Sundin — After fleeing the German invasion of the Netherlands, Aleida Martens searches for her missing child in London—which sets her on a collision course with BBC radio correspondent Hugh Collingwood. During the London Blitz, they will risk their lives to discover the truth—and find a connection closer than they imagined. (Historical Romance from Revell – A division of Baker Publishing Group)


A Day Ago by Luana Ehrlich — As he prepares to defend his client of murder charges, not only does Attorney Mylas Grey receive unexpected news about his future, he discovers he has feelings for a former female acquaintance and uncovers evidence that points to the real killer, someone who’s determined to put an end to Mylas’s future. However, Mylas has other plans. (Crime/Mystery, Independently Published)

8 Down by Kimberley Woodhouse — Investigator Carrie Kintz is new blood with the Alaska Bureau of Investigation in Anchorage. But with a serial killer on the loose, there’s no easing into the job. The only clues to stop this madman are the taunts he drops into crossword puzzles across the country–always in the same 8 DOWN position. Calling in security specialist Scott Patteson for his expertise seems like the right move–until Carrie realizes that he may be a dangerous distraction for her heart. With her faith fading in the face of horror and uncertainty and her career in danger of ending, this is no time for flirtation.But with a killer who is determined to prove that he’s smarter than everyone else, it may be impossible to fight both the madman and their feelings for each other . . . (Contemporary Thriller/Suspense from Kregel Publications)

Romantic Suspense:

Hidden Chance by Shawna Coleing — Hannah spent her childhood on the mission field in Burma, but witnessing the tragic murder of her father propelled her into a life dedicated to making a difference. A specialized military team is carrying out a mission in Burma to stop a militant group that has been wreaking havoc on local villages. After breaking into a school that has been the militia’s base of operations, they uncover an elaborate plan to exploit those most vulnerable. Robby, the specialized military team leader, determined to expose the truth, discovers a company based in America may be behind the chilling acts of savagery. Robby and Hannah must find common ground to save the lives of countless children and bring an end to the threat at their front door. (Romantic Suspense, Independently Published [ACFW QIP])

Rebuilding Joy by Regina Rudd Merrick — Single mom Darcy Emerson Sloan has enough to do raising twins and running a restaurant. She’s doing fine on her own and doesn’t need the complications of a man in her life. But when her café turns into a crime scene, putting her and her children in danger, she begins to take interest in the handsome young FBI agent that comes on the scene. Contractor Del Reno is as even-keeled as they come, but even he has his limits. And Darcy Sloan has pushed him too far. Every time he tries to help, it backfires. But now that Darcy and her kids are in trouble, he has no choice but to come to her aid and to protect her. She’s just going to have to deal with it. Secret tunnels, organized crime, adorable children, and a wedding. (Romantic Suspense from Scrivenings Press)

Western Romance:

Chasing the Horizon by Mary Connealy — Uncovering her tyrannical father’s malevolent plot to commit her to an asylum, Beth Rutledge fabricates a plan of her own. She will rescue her mother, who had already been sent to the asylum, and escape together on a wagon train heading west. Posing as sisters, Beth and her mother travel with the pioneers in hopes of making it to Idaho before the others start asking too many questions. Wagon-train scout Jake Holt senses the mysterious women in his caravan are running from something. When rumors begin to spread of Pinkerton agents searching relentlessly for wanted criminals who match the description of those on his wagon train, including Beth, she begins to open up to him, and he learns something more sinister is at hand. Can they risk trusting each other with their lives–and their hearts–when danger threatens their every step? (Western Romance from Bethany House)

Plus check out these recent additions to Fiction Finder published within the past month:

Marrying the Mountain Man’s Best Friend by Misty M. Beller — A marriage of convenience, desperate escape from danger, and the Christmas miracle of love that heals wounded hearts. (Historical Romance)

Silencing the Witness by Laura Conaway — Can he keep both of them alive long enough for her to testify. (Romantic Suspense)

Meet Me Where the Windrush Flows by Valerie Massey Goree — Will the threat to her life and accusations of malpractice against him aid their romance or keep them apart? (Romantic Suspense)

Love or Lies by Craig Hastings — Overcoming the lies of the past: A journey of self-discovery, faith, and love. (Contemporary Romance)

Testimony: The Fourteenth Codex by Christopher J. Mooney — Can a Coptic nun complete the quest and find relics of the founders of the church? (General Historical)

The Rare Jewel of Everleigh Wheaton by Susan L. Tuttle — In her search for a rare gem, will she end up uncovering the true treasure of her heart? (Contemporary Romance)

Episode 39: Christmas Treat: “A Candle in the Forest”

Illustration by Nat Little, from the frontispiece of the 1925 edition of “The Holly Hedge and Other Christmas Stories” by Temple Bailey

I hope you enjoy this latest episode of A Sparkling Vintage Life, where I share one of my favorite Christmas stories.

Also, here’s a link to the Jacquie Lawson Edwardian Advent Calendar I mentioned in the episode. It’s an absolute delight and also–fair warning–deliciously addictive.

Ain’t Misbehavin’, the second book in the Corrigan Sisters series, is now available as an audiobook. Below are links where the audio edition had rolled out so far. I’ll let you know when it’s available at more stores, including Audible.

Kobo, Walmarthttps://www.kobo.com/us/en/audiobook/ain-t-misbehavin-11



NOOK Audiobookshttps://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/book/1128155371?ean=2940160615523


Google Playhttps://play.google.com/store/audiobooks/details/Jennifer_Lamont_Leo_Ain_t_Misbehavin?id=AQAAAEASVTgVOM

A Soup-er Warm-up for Fall

Apple, Onion, and Curry Soup

I first enjoyed this tasty soup years ago at the now-closed Blue Moon Cafe in Sandpoint, Idaho. I’ve used whatever apples I’ve had on hand; the type of apple doesn’t seem to make a difference. I have tweaked the recipe a bit over the years, and it remains a family favorite for fall.

  • 4 Tbs. butter
  • 6 apples, peeled, cored, and diced
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 3 or 4 springs fresh thyme
  • 1 tsp. curry powder
  • 6 cups chicken stock
  • salt and pepper to taste, and maybe a dash of cinnamon or nutmeg if you’re feeling wild

In a large saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the apples, onions, and thyme. Cook, stirring frequently, until soft and golden brown. Stir in the curry powder and mix well.

Pour in the chicken stock and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer until apples are very soft (about 30 minutes). If you like your soup chunky, as we do, season to taste and it’s ready to serve. If you prefer a smoother soup, puree it in a blender until smooth (best to do this in batches). Then season to taste and serve.

What’s your favorite fall-ish food?

Fall into some Fabulous Fiction

October 2023 New Releases More in-depth descriptions of these books can be found on the ACFW Fiction Finder website
Road Trip Rescue by Becca Wierwille — After spotting a photo of her lost dog, twelve-year-old Kimmy embarks on a wild road trip to bring him home with her pink-haired, adventure-hungry aunt who makes some unexpected detours. (Children’s/Middle Grade/Chapter Books from Beloved Chronicles LLC)
Contemporary Romance:
A Christmas Romance by Annette M. Irby — A wannabe novelist with writer’s block. A best-selling children’s book author with a knack for story. And the romance they brainstorm together. Can they deny their attraction, or will they live their own Christmas romance? (Romance Novella from Prism Effect Publishing) A Country Christmas by Lisa Carter — The rancher and the city girl have nothing in common…except the wedding that brings them together (Contemporary Romance from Love Inspired/Harlequin) A Deeper Love by Heidi Gray McGill — There’s no such thing as going “too deep” where spiritual things are concerned. But I’ll stay at the surface and snorkel rather than dive into the depths when it comes to relationships. (Contemporary Romance from Celebrate Lit Publishing) A Horseman’s Mission by Sandra Ardoin — A guilt-ridden horseman works to establish an equine therapy center for veterans with PTSD while attempting to ease the fears of an overprotective widow whose son suffers panic attacks. (Contemporary Romance from Corner Room Books) Fields of Glass by Alyssa Schwarz — A rancher facing bankruptcy and a corporate sales rep who wants to buy his family land. Sparks fly when they are forced to work together toward a common goal, and discover what they’re willing to sacrifice to save those they care for most. (Contemporary Romance, Independently Published) Mama Dated Santa by Amy R. Anguish — Trudy McNamara doesn’t do Christmas anymore. But Trudy finds herself tangled up with the toy store Santa and Christmas when she discovers her mom … dated Santa. Nick Russo, manager of Russos’ Toy Emporium, is at a loss as to how to save his family’s store. When Uncle Paul, the Santa and part-owner, hires Trudy to revamp their store, Nick’s life turns upside down. (Contemporary Romance from Scrivening’s Press) Their Holiday Secret by Betsy St Amant — Preston Green will do anything for a fake girlfriend—even bid on one at a charity auction. Sweet and quirky baker Lulu Boyd is the perfect choice to stop his mother’s constant matchmaking. And it’s just for one holiday family dinner—until his father’s failing health makes ending their ruse impossible. Soon it feels all too real…but another secret might make this their last Christmas together. (Contemporary Romance from Love Inspired/Harlequin)
General Contemporary:
Secret Mercy by Lynn Waite Chapman — Talk to Liberty Cassell and you will hear her extoll all the advantages of living in her hometown of Twin Fawn. Little traffic. Easy parking. However, in this little town, when Harley Ottenweller failed to show up for dinner one day, most residents failed to notice. Those who did take note seemed grateful not to meet up with him on the street. His wife Willow and son Johnnie went on with life. No questions. No search. Does the tiny woman with wispy white hair and wild imagination know more about her husband’s disappearance than she’s telling? (General Contemporary from Winged Publications)
General Historical:
Appalachian Song by Michelle Shocklee — A young pregnant woman bonds with the midwives who take her into their Appalachian home. Decades later, a famous country singer heads to the Appalachian Mountains to search for the midwife who holds the truth about his past. (General Historical from Tyndale House) The Kidnapped Groom by Susan Page Davis — Riding through the Flint Hills on his way to Dodge City, cowboy Sam Cayford finds himself the kidnapping victim of two children. When he meets their lovely mother, Maggie Piner—whom the kids insist he should marry—Sam starts to question God’s plans versus his own. (General Historical, Tea Tin Press)
Historical Romance:
Abounding Hope by Cindy Kay Stewart — Poland’s looming defeat forces an American teacher to escape with children wanted by the Nazis. (Historical Romance, Independently Published) Against the Wind by Amanda Cabot — When a female doctor-in-training saves a handsome stranger’s life, little does she know that he’ll bring both love and danger into her life. (Historical Romance from Revell) Angelina’s Resolve by Cindy Ervin Huff — Architect Angelina DuBois isn’t looking for love as she builds a town run by businesswomen. Carpenter and Civil War veteran Edward Pritchard’s dream of building homes for Chicago’s elite must be put on hold until he gains references. Serving as a contractor under Angelina’s well-known DuBois name provides that opportunity. But can Angelina trust her handsome new carpenter to respect her as his boss? Will the project take Edward one step closer to his goals, or will it make him a laughingstock? Can these two strong-willed people find love amid such an unconventional experiment? (Historical Romance from Iron Stream Media) Chiseled on the Heart by Kelly Goshorn, Elaine Marie Cooper, Cynthia Roemer, and Candace West — Four generations carve out a journey of faith. The Gift of a Lamb by Elaine Cooper; A Lasting Legacy by Cynthia Roemer; Healing within the Pieces by Candace West; The Christmas Carving by Kelly Goshorn (Historical Romance from Revell) The Case of the Missing Detective by Rebecca Hemlock — A spin off series of The Granton House Mysteries. We follow sixteen-year-old Dorothy Corbin as the family secrets are passed to her. She’s ready to discover her grandfather’s past, but nothing could have prepared her for what she’d find there. (Historical Romance from Bluecap Publishing)
Military Suspense:
Havoc by Ronie Kendig — Former Special Forces operator Sergeant Crew Gatlin is putting his life back together after a career-ending incident that separated him from the Army, half a leg, and his beloved working dog, Havoc K027. When he takes a job and is unexpectedly reunited with Havoc, it’s too good to be true. Their first assignment is to work as a K-9 team for a TV drama. Being a stunt double allows Vienna Foxcroft to fulfill her acting dream—with a side of MMA—and stay out of the limelight. Then in walks Mr. Mountain-of-Muscle and his tough-as-nails dog, and Vienna has a bad feeling her life is about to turn upside down as they head overseas for a location shoot in Turkey. When an attack sends the cast fleeing into the streets of Turkey, Vienna must face the demons of her past or be devoured by them. And Crew and Havoc are tested like never before. (Military Suspense from Sunrise Publishing)
Romantic Suspense:
Crime Scene Conspiracy by Jessica R. Patch — A string of staged deaths forces Texas Ranger Emily O’Connell on a covert mission to investigate a governor’s connection to the deceased women. She doesn’t trust anyone—including crime scene cleaner Stone Spencer. But when Emily’s questioning makes her the serial killer’s next target, she must turn to ex-ranger Stone for help. With threats at every turn, outrunning a merciless villain could be the last thing they do. (Romantic Suspense from Loved Inspired Suspense/Harlequin) Christmas in the Crosshairs by Kate Angelo, Kelly Underwood, Sami A. Abrams — Christmas is about to get dangerous! Get ready for three brand new Elite Guardians romantic suspense stories from Sunrise Publishing in this exciting anthology. (Romantic Suspense from Sunrise Publishing) Grave Secrets by Elle E. Kay — In the historic city of Philadelphia, a mystery begins to unfold that will lead to the tranquil beauty of Ricketts Glen State Park and the dark secrets hidden just beyond the park’s borders. (Romantic Suspense, Independently Published) Holiday Menace by Jerusha Agen, Mary Alford, Lori Altebaumer, Danielle Grandinetti, Sarah Hamaker, Kendall Hoxsey, Karen Kirst, Pat O’Brien, Hope Welborn, and Terri Weldon — Will Christmas be merry and bright? Lives are in danger when menacing pressures threaten to derail Christmas in this heart-pounding suspense—plus a little romance—collection of 10 brand-new novellas from some of the genre’s most popular Christian romantic suspense authors! (Romantic Suspense, Independently Published) Running to You by Robin Patchen — She dumped him, ghosted him for five years…and then showed up on his doorstep with bruises and a head injury she can’t explain. She has no memory of the years since she left him–or their breakup. She also has no idea why men are chasing her. (Romantic Suspense, Independently Published) Shadows at Dusk by Elizabeth Goddard — A missing person. A murder victim. And two hurting people seeking justice, connected in ways they could never imagine. (Romantic Suspense from Revell) Skye Fall by Paige Edwards — The dirty cop who left her for dead now lies in wait to silence her once and for all. (Romantic Suspense from Covenant Communications) Snowbound Escape by Dana Mentink — After months tracking a colleague falsely accused of a double homicide, officer Tanner Ford and his K-9 partner finally locate crime tech Mara Gilmore—but the real murderer is closing in. Now they must run into a frozen wilderness to survive. Evading the killer is the only way for Mara to clear her name. But will the harsh winter conditions cover their tracks…or bury them forever? (Romantic Suspense from Love Inspired Suspense/Harlequin)
Another Christmas Story by Susan Page Davis — Beryl’s father is badly injured, and the wagon train leaves her and her little brother behind and at the trading post. They are at the mercy of the trading post manager, his wife, and their adult son, James. Grieving after her father’s death, Beryl sees that James loves her young brother. Soon she comes to care for James too. Come spring, Beryl will have to decide whether she and her brother will continue on to Oregon or go back East. (Western from Tea Tin Press)
Young Adult:
Royal & Ancient by Amanda Lauer — When a lightning strike transports a high school senior from modern-day America to 1600s Scotland, she must learn the ways of the Scots before a battle between England and Scotland decimates the land her true love is destined to rule. (Young Adult from Chrism Press/WhiteFire Publishing)   Plus check out these recent additions to Fiction Finder published within the past month:
April’s Promise by Terrie Todd — As a world war wages across the globe, the Kimball family faces a different kind of conflict at home. Will their personal battles drag them down and tear their family apart? (General Historical)
Center Point by Nancy J. Farrier — Her husband is married to someone else — or is he? (Contemporary Romance)
Heart Restoration by Regina Rudd Merrick — A renovations expert and a contractor come across a corpse on the job site, along with a series of tunnels beneath the property. (Romantic Suspense)
Malia’s Courage by Pamela Harstad , A Native Hawaiian interior designer and her architect co-worker encounter murder and threats after a company plans to build illegally on Hawaiian sacred land. How will they uphold their relationship and others’ rights, while trying to survive? (Romantic Suspense)
Speaking Through the Silence by Linda Sammaritan , Will Debbie continue to keep quiet under the Mean Queen’s snarky abuse, or will she screw up the courage to speak through her self-imposed silence? (Young Adult)
Tipsy in Love by Anne Greene, A hilarious tale of love almost lost. (Contemporary Romance)

Cool Reads for Hot Summer Days

August 2023 New Releases
More in-depth descriptions of these books can be found on the ACFW Fiction Finder website

Amish Romance:

The Heart’s Bidding by Kelly S. Irvin — Together, schoolteacher Rachelle Lapp and auctioneer Toby Miller must face their hardest battle yet: trusting God’s plan for their uncertain future. As their families matchmake, Toby and Rachelle realize their jobs may not be all that’s holding them back from a future together. They both must learn not only to trust each other, but also trust God’s plans for them. But do those plans involve a lifetime together or them going their separate ways? (Amish Romance from HarperCollins Christian Publishing)


Bold and Brave
by K.A. Cummins — Sometimes courage is loud like an elephant, and sometimes it’s quiet like a llama. Lily, a young autistic girl with a vivid imagination, wants to sing the solo in the school’s choir show, but the thought of standing at center stage turns her heart a gloomy grey. School is overwhelming enough. Now all eyes will be on her, and she can’t wear the red polka dots she needs to be bold and brave. (Children’s/Picture Book from Eleonora Press)

Contemporary Romance:

Window of the Heart by Amy R. Anguish — Lennox Malone may not believe in love, but she’s determined to do the best job she can as her friend Sara Beth’s maid of honor. Problem is, the man in charge of fixing up the chapel doesn’t match her determination. Fighting against preconceived notions, a past that catches up to her, and an attraction she wants nothing to do with, this wedding is turning into more than she can handle. Ty Dunne might be laid back and easy-going, but he’s determined to make sure the chapel is ready for his cousin’s wedding. Not only is it his duty as best man, but he wants to preserve the family’s history in the building. If only he could live up to his family’s other expectations—or those of Lennox Malone, the fiery redhead he can’t stop thinking about. Before he can go any further with her, though, he has to convince her that love is real and worth the risk. Lennox has built her walls high and sturdy, but Ty is determined to find a way in—even if it’s a window. (Contemporary Romance from Scrivening’s Press)

Her Cowboy Blind Date
by Narelle Atkins — He’s a small-town guy, a cowboy at heart. She’s a city girl from the other side of the world. Will a blind date lead to a love that lasts a lifetime? Since Becky is only in Gilead until June, a blind date with a suitable plus-one before the wedding seems like the perfect solution for Sam. No strings and no commitment. But the blind date turns into a not-so-fake relationship when Sam and Becky must work together on the passion play. Can they overcome past emotional wounds and geographical distance to create a future together? (Contemporary Romance, Independently Published)

A Surprise Wedding for the Cowboy by Valerie Comer — Everything hit all at once. Tate Sullivan became the guardian of his young nephew after his brother’s death, and now Grandfather has bought a failing guest ranch in Montana. Tate’s used to handling Fortune 1000 companies, but moving halfway across the country and learning an entirely new, rural business is a challenge, especially with a toddler in tow. Nice girls finish last… or that’s what it seems like to Stephanie Simpson when her ex-boyfriend, a pastor, proposes to a former bad girl. It’s not that Stephanie wants her ex to rethink his life choices, but would it be so wrong to move on as quickly as he has? A quick wedding to that cute but faltering cowboy with the adorable toddler might get her what she wants. After all, it’s clear Tate needs a helping hand. He’s a Christian, just like she is. What could possibly go wrong? (Contemporary Romance, Independently Published)

To Protect His Brother’s Baby
by Linda Goodnight A stranger in his house…Could be the family he never knew he needed? After he spent six months on the road, the last thing cowboy Wilder Littlefield expects to come home to is a pregnant woman living on his ranch. Taylor Matheson not only believes the house is hers, but she’s carrying his estranged late brother’s child. Tied together by blood, Wilder lets Taylor stay as his housekeeper. But as they learn how to be a family, could obligation turn to love? (Contemporary Romance from Love Inspired/Harlequin)

His Heart Renewed by Cynthia Herron — Three choices. Two dreams. One path. A girl from his past. The woman who holds his future. Will a wrong detour lead to the right destination? As the couple navigates blunders and heartaches, a new season emerges—one that taps into Erin’s and Mike’s deepest longings and desires—the spring that holds their future. At last, it seems their happily-ever-after is within reach…
But in the bat of an eyelash, a memory from Mike’s past emerges in an unexpected way. Will this change in circumstance hinder what he has with Erin or will truth prevail by way of a divine appointment? (Contemporary Romance from Mountain Brook Ink)

Muskoka Spotlight
by Carolyn Miller — Jackie O’Halloran never expected her actions at a friend’s wedding in Muskoka to go viral. Even less did she expect to gain the notice of a famous actor, Lincoln Cash, and all the temptation his handsome presence provides. But she’s a good Christian girl, so a man like him has to be out of the picture. Or so she thinks. Linc’s visit to see his ailing grandfather was supposed to be a quick visit to Muskoka. He hadn’t counted on meeting a forthright young lady whose courage made headlines around the world. But as he gets to know her he’s tempted to stay, which just might prove dangerous for his agent’s peace of mind, and for Linc’s own heart. Can these two opposites push past mere attraction to find real love? And what does faith have to do with it at all? (Contemporary Romance, Independently Published)

The Friendly Disaster
by Dineen Miller — He waited too long to admit how he feels and now she’s found a perfect match. Will this triangle of passion end in calamity or kisses? As Calen’s plan to attract visitors to Emma’s show pales in comparison to her new boyfriend’s connections, the besotted man fears he’ll never be enough. But when Emma’s eyes are opened to her platonic pal’s extreme efforts, she wonders if it’s wrong to keep him in the friend zone. Can a bashful barista prove to a struggling artist that he’s soulmate material? (Contemporary Romance, Independently Published)

The Cowboy Bargain by Tina Radcliffe — A little competition…Brings a change of heart. Sam Morgan never thought he’d see his ex-fiancée again after she skipped town days before their wedding. He certainly didn’t expect to find her opening a restaurant on his property—in the building he’d intended to sell his crafts from. This time Olivia’s sticking around, forcing Sam to strike a deal: work together and see whose products sell best. Could their business venture lead to a surprising reunion? (Contemporary Romance from Love Inspired/Harlequin)

The Love Script by Toni Shiloh — Hollywood hair stylist Nevaeh Richards loves making those in the spotlight shine but prefers the anonymity of staying behind her stylist chair, where no one notices her. But when a photo of Nevaeh and Hollywood heartthrob Lamont Booker goes viral for all the wrong reasons, her quiet life becomes the number-one trending topic. Lamont Booker’s bold faith has gained him a platform, and the authenticity of his faith is well known . . . until the tabloids cause the world to question everything he claims to be. With his reputation on the line, he finds himself hearing out his agent’s push for a fake relationship–something he never thought he’d consider in a million years. With their careers at risk, Nevaeh and Lamont have to convince the world that their scripted romance is more than just an act. But when fake seems to turn into something real, can Nevaeh trust her heart in a world where nothing is ever as it seems? (Contemporary Romance from Bethany House)

An Unexpected Gift
by Melissa Wardwell — Cruising around the island on a Moped in a business suit may seem incongruous, but wedding planner Kiana knows how to blend practicality and professionalism, a strong work ethic and relaxation. With no time for mistakes or changes in plans, she’s also decided to forgo romance (for herself). There just isn’t enough time in the day. That is until the early arrival of one of the groomsmen of Something Suamalie’s first booking throws everything off balance, including her thoughts on long distance dating.
Beau was perfectly content with his job and the growing attraction to a girl back home; however, he hadn’t figured in the sassy and sometimes unprofessional wedding planner. Seeing her world begin to unravel while she and her partners fumble with their first weddings tugs at his heart strings and leaves him second guessing his choices in the romance department. (Contemporary Romance from Celebrate Lit Publishing)

General Contemporary:

Where the Wings Rise
by Ashlyn McKayla Ohm — After years of disastrous choices, Addisyn Miles has a second chance with the person she once betrayed—her older sister, Avery. Moving from Whistler, Canada, to Avery’s home in the Colorado Rockies seems like the perfect opportunity to not only rebuild her fragile relationship with her sister but also distance herself from the past she can’t forget. But adjusting to Avery’s life is harder than she expected, especially with her heart drawing her back to the chance at love that she left behind in Canada. When she begins helping her sister care for an injured hawk, Addisyn is forced to confront the fears that have left her just as wounded—or to allow her darkest enemy to sabotage her future. The second book in the Climbing Higher series, Where the Wings Rise is a story of the scars that keep us earthbound, the choices that lead to healing, and most importantly, the faith that allows us to always fly free. (General Contemporary, Independently Published)

General Historical:

The Girl From the Papers by Jennifer L. Wright — Beatrice Carraway has dreams. Although she’s aged out of the childhood pageant circuit, she’s intent on carrying her talents all the way to the big screen―if only she can escape the poverty of West Dallas first. But as the Great Depression drags the working class further and further under, Beatrice struggles just to keep herself, her mother, and her younger sister afloat. And then in walks Jack Turner. Though Beatrice is determined to pull herself up by her bootstraps, Jack has decided on a different path out of the gutters. It isn’t long before Beatrice is swept into an exciting and glamorous life of crime beside the man she loves. Keeping one step ahead of the law, she sees her dreams of fame come true when her name and picture are plastered in newspapers across the country. Yet as their infamy grows, the distance between them widens. While Jack begins seeking bigger payouts and publicity, Beatrice starts to long for a safe, quiet life and something deeper to fill the emptiness in her soul. But when the danger of Jack’s schemes ratchets up, Beatrice fears her dreams―and her future―will end up going down in a hail of bullets (General Historical from Tyndale House)

Historical Romance:

Beryl’s Bounty Hunter
by Linda Shenton Matchett — Orphaned as a child, Beryl Atherton has lived on the streets of London for as long as she can remember. Reduced to stealing for survival, she is arrested. During her incarceration, one of her cellmates shows her a newspaper ad for an American mail-order bride agency. But all is not as it seems, and moments after landing in Boston, she must run for her life. Will things be no different for her in the New World? Working as a bounty hunter since The War Between the States, Lucas Wolf just needs a few more cases before he can hang up his gun, purchase a ranch out West, and apply for a mail-order bride from the Westward Home & Hearts Mail-Order Bride Agency. While staking out the docks in Boston, he sees a woman fleeing from the man he’s been tailing. Saving her risks his job. Not saving her risks his heart. (Historical Romance from Shortwave Press)

Romantic Suspense:

Hunting the Witness by Kate Angelo — Attacked in the mountains with no memory of why…She’s the only witness to see the face of a killer, but a deadly attack leaves Belinda Lewis unable to remember even her own name. She’ll have to rely on her rescuer, FBI special agent Jonah Phillips, to survive repeated attempts on her life—but she doesn’t know he’s in hiding because his description matches the killer’s. Can they unmask the true criminal to clear Jonah’s name and save both of their lives? (Romantic Suspense from Love Inspired/Harlequin)

Mountain Abduction Rescue
by Darlene L. Turner — A wildfire threat…becomes a missing person search. A serial arsonist is out for revenge in the Canadian Rocky Mountains—and kidnaps park warden Hazel Hoyt’s son and his camping troop. Now Hazel must team up with the man who broke her heart, firefighter Mitchell Booth, to find the missing boys as wildfires blaze around them. But someone has no intention of letting the pair get off the mountain alive… (Romantic Suspense from Love Inspired/Harlequin)

Plus check out these recent additions to Fiction Finder published within the past month:
The Gunslinger Next Door by Susan Page Davis, Is he really just a harmless old fellow? (Romance/Mystery)
The Mailboat by Susan Page Davis, When Robyn and Mike meet again, things begin to happen. (Contemporary Romance)

The Spinsters Next Door by Susan Page Davis, Can the schoolmaster persuade Rachel to defy her aunts and open a locked box–or will she remain alone with a tangle of unanswered questions? (Historical Mystery)
The Yuletide Angel by Sandra Ardoin , Who is the mysterious Yuletide Angel? (Historical Romance)