April 2017 New Releases
More in-depth descriptions of these books can be found on the ACFW Fiction Finder website.
Sandpiper Cove by Irene Hannon — When a police chief and an ex-con join forces to keep a young man from falling into a life of crime, sparks fly. Given their backgrounds, it’s not a promising match—but in Hope Harbor, anything is possible. (Contemporary Romance from Revell [Baker])
Oh Baby by Delia Latham — Dawni Manors seeks peace in Angel Falls, Texas. What she finds is a cowboy, an abandoned infant, and emotional chaos. If the Heart’s Haven angels really are there, what in the world are they thinking? (Contemporary Romance from White Rose Publishing [Pelican])
Waiting for Butterflies by Karen Sargent — When tragedy strikes, Maggie discovers a mother’s love never ends–not even when her life does. Longing for her family after her sudden death, she becomes a lingering spirit and returns home where she helplessly witnesses her family’s downward spiral in the aftermath of her passing. Her husband is haunted by past mistakes and struggles to redeem himself. Her teenage daughter silently drowns in her own guilt, secretly believing she caused her mother’s death. Only her five-year-old, full of innocence, can sense her presence. Although limited by her family’s grief and lack of faith, Maggie is determined to keep a sacred promise and save her family before her second chance runs out. (General from Walrus Publishing [Amphorae Publishing Group])
Sunset in Old Savannah by Mary Ellis — When a philandering husband turns up dead, two crack detectives find more suspects than moss-draped oaks in charming old Savannah, including a scheming business partner, a resentful mistress, and a ne’er-do-well brother. (Mystery from Harvest House Publishers)
Above Rubies by Keely Brooke Keith — In 1863, young teacher Olivia Owens establishes the first school in the remote settlement of Good Springs while finding love. (Historical, Independently Published)
A Rose So Fair by Myra Johnson — Caleb Wieland would give anything to win farm girl Rose Linwood’s heart, but Rose’s stubborn independence is proving as thorny as the flower for which she’s named. (Historical Romance, Independently Published)
Under the Same Sky by Cynthia Roemer — In 1854 Illinois, Becky Hollister wants nothing more than to live out her days on the prairie, building a life for herself alongside her future husband. But when a tornado rips through her parents’ farm, killing her mother and sister, she must leave the only home she’s ever known and the man she’s begun to love to accompany her injured father to St. Louis.
Catapulted into a world of unknowns, Becky finds solace in corresponding with Matthew Brody, the handsome pastor back home. But when word comes that he is all but engaged to someone else, she must call upon her faith to decipher her future. (Historical Romance from Mantle Rock Publishing)
The Pony Express Romance Collection by Barbara Tifft Blakey, Mary Davis, Darlene Franklin, Cynthia Hickey, Maureen Lang, Debby Lee, Donna Schlachter, Connie Stevens and Pegg Thomas — Nine historical romances revive the brief era of the Pony Express. Join the race from Missouri, across the plains and mountains to California and back again as brave Pony Express riders and their supporters along the route work to get mail across country in just ten days. It is an outstanding task in the years 1860 to 1861, and only a few are up to the job. Faced with challenges of terrain, weather, hostile natives, sickness, and more, can these adventurous pioneers hold fast, and can they also find lasting love in the midst of daily trials? (Historical Romance from Barbour Publishing)
Plain Target by Dana R. Lynn — Horse trainer Jess McGrath only wants to clear her disgraced brother’s name, but enemies keep coming out of the woodwork and danger only gets closer. Jess soon learns that no place is safe—and no one can be trusted…except for the last white knight she’d ever expect to ride to her rescue. Paramedic Seth Travis was the boy behind her high school humiliation, but he’s also the man keeping her alive. When they find sanctuary in the Amish community, can they uncover answers in time to stop a killer—and resolve their past in time to build a future together? (Romantic Suspense from Love Inspired [Harlequin])
Dangerous Testimony by Dana Mentink — Four weeks before she’s set to testify at a gang murder trial, someone is determined to make sure that Candace Gallagher Andrews never takes the stand. When nowhere is safe for the private investigator or her little girl, Candace turns to the only person she can trust—longtime friend and former navy SEAL Marco Quidel. For Marco, protecting Candace is not just another duty. As the trial date nears and the killer stalks ever closer, Marco knows fear for the first time—the fear of losing Candace and her daughter. But while Marco begins seeing Candace as more than just a friend, her late husband’s memory is never far from her mind. So he must keep Candace alive—and not get emotionally involved—long enough to put away a killer. (Romantic Suspense from Love Inspired [Harlequin])
Deep Extraction by DiAnn Mills — Special Agent Tori Templeton is determined to find who killed her best friend’s husband. Tori finds an unexpected ally in the newest member of the task force, recently reinstated Deputy US Marshal Cole Jeffers. As Tori and Cole dig deeper into Nathan’s personal and business affairs, they uncover more than they bargained for. And the closer they get to finding the real killer?and to each other?the more intent someone is on silencing them for good. (Romantic Suspense from Tyndale House)
Final Verdict by Jessica R. Patch — When Aurora Daniels becomes the target of someone seeking their own twisted justice, Sheriff Beckett Marsh is the only one who can rescue her. As a public defender, Aurora has angered plenty of people in town—and in her past. And while Beckett constantly clashes with the feisty lawyer professionally, it’s his duty to protect and serve. Guarding her 24/7 is now his sole assignment. He may not have been able to save his fiancée from a dangerous felon, but he’ll do whatever it takes to keep Aurora alive. Even if working with her to catch and convict this ruthless killer puts his heart in the crosshairs. (Romantic Suspense from Love Inspired [Harlequin])
Guardian by Terri Reed — When a fellow FBI agent is kidnapped and a protected witness vanishes, Leo Gallagher will stop at nothing to find them both. So when he discovers a link between the case and a single mother in Wyoming, Leo and his trusty K-9 partner rush to question Alicia Duncan. Could she be the key to locating the missing persons? Not if a killer has anything to say about it. Someone is determined to keep Alicia from talking, so Leo and his chocolate Lab must keep her and her little boy safe on their family ranch. With danger lurking around every corner, Leo must work overtime to not lose another person who’s important to him. (Romantic Suspense from Love Inspired [Harlequin])
Witch by Denise Weimer — Having restored Michael Johnson’s ancestors’ house and apothecary shop and begun applying the lessons of family and forgiveness unearthed from the past, Jennifer Rushmore expects to complete her first preservation job with the simple relocation of a log home. But as her crew reconstructs the 1787 cabin, home to the first Dunham doctor, attacks on those involved throw suspicion on neighbors and friends alike. And while Jennifer has trusted God and Michael with the pain of her past, it appears Michael’s been keeping his own secrets. Will she use a dream job offer from Savannah as an escape, or will a haunting tale from a Colonial diary convince her to rely on the faithfulness of his love? (Romantic Suspense from Canterbury House Publishing)
The Fairetellings Series (Books 1 through 3) by Kristen Reed — Discover a trio of enchanting novellas inspired by three beloved fairy tales: Cinderella, Snow White, and Beauty and the Beast. (Speculative Romance/Fantasy, Independe
March 2017 New Releases
More in-depth descriptions of these books can be found on the ACFW Fiction Finder website.
Reunion at Crane Lake by Robin Bayne — Colt’s memory is returning after the accident that ended his career. Now he wants to take over his family’s inn, but he’ll have to partner with his former fiancée to be able to afford it. He’ll need forgiveness to make that happen. Tia’s goal is clear: to return the inn to its former grandeur. And she’ll even work with Colt to do so. But like the inn, their relationship needs a lot of work. He broke her heart…can she ever trust him again? (Contemporary Romance from White Rose Publishing [Pelican])
Hope by Fay Lamb — She’s a starving artist facing a serious illness; he’s the doctor who’s her only hope of survival. If only she hadn’t caused his sister to die. (Contemporary Romance from Write Integrity Press)
Muffins & Moonbeams by Elizabeth Maddrey — Malachi Baxter is happy to hide in the background and manage the business-end of the family bakery. He’d much rather live in the online world of computer games where he can explore the galaxy and no one has to know he’s deaf. Ursula Franks designs websites during the day and spends her evenings battling alien races online where relationships are easy and uncomplicated. When she agrees to design a website for the local Community Supported Bakery, she has no idea that Malachi is the real man behind her online persona’s best friend and her own secret crush.As the two work together on the website, they uncover an attraction, but will they be able to put aside past hurt and insecurity to find love? (Contemporary Romance, Independently Published)
Then Came You: A Bradford Sisters Novella by Becky Wade — Garner Bradford, heir to the troubled Bradford Shipping empire, doesn’t know much about babies. But he’s going to have to learn fast because he’s just become a single father to his newborn daughter. Career girl Kathleen Burke is wholly uninterested in settling down. She has big dreams, and none of them include Garner and his small hometown in Washington State. Yet she can’t seem to get her handsome boss out of her head or her heart…. (Romance Novella, Independently Published)
When the Bough Breaks by Ane Mulligan — Her dream job has a Catch 22—and time’s running outRookie lobbyist Sienna O’Shea is determined to make a name for herself in New York’s capitol city and use that influence to gain easier access to her birth records. For years she’s searched for her birth mother, but when she’s handed her first assignment—to lobby support for the permanent sealing of all adoption records—her worlds collide. Swept up into the intrigue of backroom politics, falling in love was not on Sienna’s agenda, but the candidate for Lt. Governor runs a formidable campaign to make her his first lady. When an investigative reporter discovers foreign money infiltrating political campaigns, the trail leads to Sienna’s inner circle. (General, Independently Published)
The Memory of You by Catherine West — Thirteen years ago, Natalie lost a part of herself when her twin sister died. Will traveling back to the family winery finally put the memory to rest, or will it completely destroy her? (General from HarperCollins Christian Publishing [Thomas Nelson and Zondervan])
Murder Is No Accident by A. H. Gabhart — When murder comes to call at a stately Victorian house, the town of Hidden Springs looks to Deputy Sheriff Michael Keane to solve the crime before anyone else dies. (Cozy Mystery from Revell [Baker])
A Rocky Mountain Romance by Misty M. Beller — When Zeche takes shelter from a blizzard in a remote cabin, he doesn’t expect to find a beautiful woman and her father, a disturbed Civil War veteran. Zeche’s instincts tell him Greta is endangered and he should stay and protect her, but his own presence aggravates her father’s condition. With a dangerous snowstorm outside and growing hostilities inside, can he find a way to keep them all safe from harm? Or will it be to the detriment of his heart? (Historical Romance, Independently Published)
A Stolen Heart by Amanda Cabot — From afar, Cimarron Creek seems like an idyllic town tucked in the Texas Hill Country. But when former schoolteacher Lydia Crawford steps onto its dusty streets in 1880, she finds a town with a deep-seated resentment of Northerners–like her. Lydia won’t let that get her down, though. All will be well when she’s reunited with her fiancé. But when she discovers he has disappeared–and that he left behind a pregnant wife–Lydia is at a loss about what to do next. The handsome sheriff urges her to trust him, but can she trust anyone in this town where secrets are as prevalent as bluebonnets in spring? (Historical Romance from Revell [Baker])
My Heart Belongs in the Superstition Mountains: Carmela’s Quandary by Susan Page Davis — Experience the Wild West as Carmela seeks freedom of body and soul. Forced for years by her uncle to pose as a survivor of an Indian kidnapping so he can profit on the speaker circuit, she longs to end the lies. On a stagecoach in Arizona Territory, Carmela and her uncle are fellow passengers with a deputy US marshal and his handcuffed prisoner. When the stage is attacked, will Carmela’s wish come true, or will she forever be branded by her past? (Historical Romance from Barbour Publishing)
Desert Moon & Honor Bound by Susan Page Davis and Colleen L. Reece — Enjoy an Old West romance adventure from author Susan Page Davis. Julia Newman looked forward to moving home to Arizona, then she got word that her mother has died and Julie’s stagecoach is robbed. If that wasn’t enough, the first person she sees in town is Adam Scott—the man she always loved but could never have—and now he is accusing her brother of criminal activity. Also includes a bonus historical romance, Honor Bound by Colleen L. Reece. (Historical Romance from Barbour Publishing)
Her Motherhood Wish by Keli Gwyn — En route to the Double T Orphanage to work on its expansion, carpenter Chip Evans and Caroline Hunt discover two orphaned children—and become their caregivers. But Chip’s determined not to let himself get too attached to the children who just lost their widowed father…or to the lovely woman helping him care for them. Especially since Callie and the little ones just don’t fit into his detailed plans for the future. Callie can’t help but fall in love with the orphans, and despite her better judgment, she’s falling for Chip, too. Her dreams of being a wife and mother were not quite like this. But Callie believes a plan bigger than Chip’s brought them all together…and now she just has to help him see it, too. (Historical Romance from Love Inspired [Harlequin])
The Planter’s Daughter by Michelle Shocklee — When her father’s Texas cotton plantation faces bankruptcy, Adella must choose between the man who can her family’s land and the man who can save her! (Historical Romance from Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas)
When Tides Turn by Sarah Sundin — When Quintessa Beaumont learns the US Navy has established the WAVES program for women, she enlists, eager to throw off her frivolous ways and contribute to the war effort. Lt. Dan Avery employs his skills in antisubmarine warfare to fight U-boats at the peak of the Battle of the Atlantic, but the last thing he wants to see on his radar is fun-loving Tess. As Dan and Tess work together in Boston, the changes in Tess challenge his notions–and his heart. (Historical Romance from Revell [Baker])
Dcotor’s Dilemma by Richard L. Mabry M.D. — Young surgeon Tyler Gentry thought the offer to join the Hall Group of surgeons offered the answer to his problems, but things changed when he received a 3 AM phone call that told him such a move would be hazardous to his health. (Medical Suspense, Independently Published)
Her Baby’s Protector by Margaret Daley and Susan Sleeman — Saved by the Lawman by Margaret Daley: As an unknown assailant attempts to kidnap family-court judge Kate Forster’s infant son, police officer Chase Walker thwarts the attack—and vows to keep the pair safe. But who will protect the ex-marine’s heart when the widowed mother and her little boy make him long for a permanent spot in their family? Saved by the SEAL by Susan Sleeman: The tragedy that killed Bree Hatfield’s best friends–and left her with custody of their young daughter–has been ruled an accident. But Bree knows it was murder. Scared and alone, she turns to her ex-boyfriend, navy SEAL Clint Reed, who’ll risk everything to protect baby Ella and the woman he never stopped loving. (Romantic Suspense from Love Inspired [Harlequin])
Agent-in-Training by Terri Reed — FBI intern Zara Fielding and her K-9 partner, Radar, stumble across a robbery gone wrong and put themselves in the criminals’ crosshairs. Her childhood friend FBI computer guru Dylan O’Leary works for the secretive FBI unit she longs to join, and he vows not to let anything happen to her. As they work to stay one step ahead of the bad guys, new feelings ignite. When she goes missing, it’s only Dylan–and Radar–who can track her down. Will they arrive in time to save her and the future she and Dylan have started dreaming about? (Romantic Suspense from Love Inspired [Harlequin])
Ingrid’s Engagement by Kristen Reed — When King Viggo marches through the kingdom of Schlagefilde in a relentless quest for retribution against its wicked king, the Count of Anselm attempts to make peace with him. As the two strike a deal that will protect the people of Anselm, the King of Villriket becomes enthralled with a portrait of the Count’s oldest daughter, Ingrid. The vengeful king vows that he will leave Edmund’s county in peace if he will allow him to marry Ingrid. To prevent her father from incurring the sovereign’s wrath, the young lady hastily agrees and enters into an unforeseen engagement with the grim ruler. Ingrid’s Engagement tells the enchanting tale of a beautiful young woman who softens the hardened heart of a beastly king with nothing more than her quiet wisdom and gentle spirit. (Speculative Romance/Fantasy, Independently Published)
January 2017 New Releases
More in-depth descriptions of these books can be found on the ACFW Fiction Finder website.
Romance Grows in Arcadia Valley by Valerie Comer, Mary Jane Hathaway, Elizabeth Maddrey, Danica Favorite, Lee Tobin McClain and Annalisa Daughety — Is love possible for a makeshift mom and a handsome widower? What about a bed and breakfast owner and the farmer next door? A curvy jilted bride and a mysterious, handsome chef? Then there’s the real estate consultant and the grandson of her elderly client; a high-powered lawyer and a woman farmer, and a formerly engaged couple. Can love make a difference in their lives? Exploring food, friends, and family in Arcadia Valley, each of these novellas kicks off a three-book series, intertwined with the works of the other authors. This collection is only the beginning of your adventure! (Contemporary Romance, Independently Published)
Restoring Love by Jennifer Slattery — Mitch, a contractor and house-flipper, is restoring a beautiful old house in an idyllic Midwestern neighborhood. Angela, a woman filled with regrets and recently transplanted to his area, is anything but idyllic. As Mitch struggles to keep his business afloat, and Angela works to correct the mistakes of her past, these two unlikely friends discover they have something unexpected in common–a young mom fighting to give her children a better life after her husband’s incarceration. While both Mitch and Angela are drawn to help this young mother survive, they also find themselves drawn to each other. Will a lifetime of regrets hold them back from redemption and true love? (Contemporary Romance from New Hope Publishers)
Murder on the Moor by Julianna Deering — Drew and Madeline Farthering visit the Yorkshire moor to catch a killer and solve a mystery that involves an old feud, a new rivalry and a huge, spectral hound that may or may not be a harbinger of death. (Historical Mystery from Bethany House [Baker])
A Note Yet Unsung by Tamera Alexander — A master violinist trained in Vienna, Rebekah Carrington manages to get an audition at the newly-formed Nashville Philharmonic. But the conductor–determined to leave his mark on the world of classical music–bows to public opinion. Women are “far too fragile and frail” for the rigors of an orchestra, he says, and Rebekah’s hopes are swiftly dashed. Nathaniel Tate Whitcomb is Nashville’s new orchestra leader. And despite a reluctant muse–and a strange buzzing and recurring pain in his head–he must finish composing his symphony before the new opera hall opens. But far more pressing, he must finish it for his dying father, who inspired his love of music. Then Tate’s ailment worsens. Rebekah can help him finish his symphony. But how do you win back a woman’s trust when you’ve robbed her of her dream? (Historical Romance from Bethany House [Baker])
The American Heiress Brides Collection by Lisa Carter, Mary Eileen Davis, Susanne Dietze, Anita Mae Draper, Patty Smith Hall, Cynthia Hickey, Lisa Karon Richardson, Lynette Sowell and Kimberley Woodhouse — Meet nine young women in America between 1880 and 1911 who have been blessed by fortunes made in gold, silver, industry, ranching, and banking. But when it comes to love, each woman struggles to find true love within a society where “first comes money, second comes marriage.” What kind of man can they trust with their greatest treasure—their hearts? (Historical Romance from Barbour Publishing)
Two Suitors for Anna by Molly Jebber — In 1903 Ohio, a young Amish woman must choose between the life she has long planned for with her beloved Noah Schwartz, and a new, very different future… But Noah has a surprise for Anna: once they’re married, he wants them to travel and live in other communities. Anna, who loves her home and her job at the quilt shop, is distraught when he takes her hesitation as rejection—and leaves. Daniel Bontrager’s arrival adds to Anna’s confusion. Since taking over his late brother’s farm, the handsome roofer has offered friendship and gentle attentions. Yet the pull of first love is strong and deep, especially when Noah returns. Through each revelation, Anna must search her faith for guidance, knowing she is choosing not just a husband, but a life to nurture and to share… (Historical Romance from Kensington)
My Heart Belongs in Fort Bliss, Texas by Erica Vetsch — Journey to Fort Bliss, Texas, where a battle of emotions versus ideals is about to be waged. When a high-steppin’ eastern fashion artist, Priscilla Hutchens, swoops down on the fort to gain custody of her twin niece and nephew she is met with resistance by their uncle, post surgeon Major Elliot Ryder, who thinks he knows what is best for them. Who will win the battle? Or will a truce be called for the sake of love and family? (Historical Romance from Barbour Publishing)
Dead Run by Jodie Bailey — Kristin James’s morning run turns deadly when she’s attacked by a stranger who’s after something her deceased soldier brother stole overseas. Her neighbor Sergeant First Class Lucas Murphy steps in to help her and won’t let her brush the attack under the rug. He’ll do everything he can to keep Kristin alive, but he can’t tell her that he’s under orders to investigate her link to her brother’s misdeeds. Kristin has no idea what the bad guy is after and doesn’t want to believe that her brother wasn’t on the straight and narrow. But as evidence against him piles up, can they catch the criminals without becoming the next casualties? (Romantic Suspense from Love Inspired [Harlequin])
Justice Delayed by Patricia Bradley — It’s been eighteen years since TV crime reporter Andi Hollister’s sister was murdered. The confessed killer is behind bars, and the execution date is looming. But when a letter surfaces stating that the condemned killer didn’t actually do it, Detective Will Kincaide of the Memphis Cold Case Unit will stop at nothing to help Andi get to the bottom of it. After all, the person who confessed to the crime is Will’s cousin. They have less than a week to find the real killer before the wrong person is executed. But much can be accomplished in one week–including uncovering police corruption, running for your life, and falling in love. (Romantic Suspense from Revell [Baker])
Undercover Protector by Elizabeth Goddard — Undercover at a tiger sanctuary, Special Agent Grayson Wilde is convinced the owner’s involved in a wildlife trafficking ring–until someone tries to kill her. Gemma’s determined to rebuild the tiger oasis she lost when her family died, but someone wants her out of the way, and she’s starting to wonder if her parents’ and uncle’s deaths were really accidental. Grayson says he’ll do anything to protect Gemma, but she can’t shake the feeling that her alluring new volunteer might not be all that he seems. With a vicious criminal closing in, though, she has to trust Grayson…because she won’t survive without him. (Romantic Suspense from Love Inspired [Harlequin])
Buried Memories by Carol J. Post — A soldier hero suffering from PTSD and a young woman struggling to overcome a traumatic childhood fight for their lives and find healing together. (Romantic Suspense from Love Inspired [Harlequin])
Still Life by Dani Pettrey — Blacklisted in the photography business over a controversial shot, Avery Tate answered an ad for a crime scene photographer. She expected to be laughed at, but crime scene analyst Parker Mitchell hired her outright–and changed her life. But six months ago, when her feelings for Parker became too strong, she left his employ to sort out her heart. Now, for the first time, Avery is facing the world that rejected her to attend the gallery opening of a photography exhibit and support her best friend, who modeled for the show. But the only image of her friend is a chilling photo of her posing as if dead–and the photographer insists he didn’t take the shot. Worse, her friend can’t be found. She immediately calls Parker for help. As Avery, Parker, and his friends in law enforcement dig into the mystery, they find themselves face-to-face with a relentless and deadly threat. (Romantic Suspense from Bethany House [Baker])
Fatal Accusation by Rachel Dylan — Attorney Olivia Murray hopes her life in Windy Ridge will get back to normal after a hard-fought trial. But she soon finds out that the forces of evil have not given up. An embezzling scandal rocks the community church to its core. The New Age groups are ready to declare victory when a high-profile prosecutor files criminal charges against the local pastor. However, Olivia is not willing to give up on the community she’s come to love. She takes on the defense pro bono knowing it could destroy her career, but it’s a case she is called to defend. The battle will be fierce, but she’s not fighting it alone. Her friend and fellow attorney Grant Baxter is by her side. Olivia must use all the tools in her arsenal to combat those who seek to destroy the believers in the community. If Olivia can’t prove the pastor’s innocence, more than her career is on the line. The entire community of Windy Ridge could fall to the forces of darkness. (Supernatural Thriller, Independently Published)
I’ve been enjoying literary agent Ann Byle’s “I’m Annoyed by Christian Fiction” series of posts, starting here (be sure to read the whole series–there are some things she likes about it, too!). As annoyances, she names things like too many “zings” per page. A “zing” is when the hero admires the heroine’s alabaster skin and the heroine admires the hero’s rippling biceps–some zings are needed to establish attraction, but too many can be like too much pepper in the soup. A little goes a long way.
Another phenomenon Ann mentions is the “I’m fine” syndrome, where characters toss off deep lacerations, lack of food or sleep for days, etc., with a glib “I’m fine,” reminding me of Monty Python’s Black Knight: “‘Tis but a flesh wound.” (stagger, stagger).
Several readers joined the chorus, expressing fatigue with heroines who are impossibly beautiful, heroes who are invariably handsome, and damsels who forget to eat when under stress. (Some people do lose their appetite. Others rip through entire boxes of graham crackers smeared with Nutella. Don’t ask).
I have a few pet peeves of my own, including loving and loyal best friends who appear in exactly one scene and are never heard from again, simply to advance some plot point, and children who remain unflaggingly adorable, winsome, and charming for an unrealistic 24/7.
Anyway, I was relieved to see that You’re the Cream in My Coffee does not annoy in the ways Ann and her followers mention.
*Lead character Marjorie is not impossibly beautiful. She’s not even particularly slim. Her hair tends to frizz, and she laments that the straight, boyish fashion silhouette of the 1920s does not work well with her curves.
*The man she’s engaged to marry is good-looking, but he wears spectacles, so his vision is not 20/20, so he’s not an unflawed specimen. And The Other Guy has a rugged battle scar down one side of his face. Think Ross Poldark.
(Okay, you can stop thinking Ross Poldark. Really. No, seriously, stop. Earth to Sparkler! Earth to Sparkler!)
*Yes, there are some zings in my book. But not three per page. And the thing that Marjorie most appreciates about her true love is not his biceps or his green eyes, but the way he–
AHA! You thought I was going to give something away, didn’t you? Not a chance.
What annoys you about the fiction you read (Christian or general)? What do you like best about it?
You’re the Cream in My Coffee is available in Sandpoint, Idaho, at Sandpoint Super Drug, Vanderford’s, the Bonner County History Museum Gift Shop, and the Corner Bookstore, and in Coeur d’Alene at the Sower Bookstore and the Well-Read Moose. Support the little guy! In many cases you can order online or by phone. If all else fails, of course, there’s always that big South American river.
My debut novel, You’re the Cream in My Coffee, is scheduled to be published exactly three months from today!
Tick … tick … tick …
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All across the country, fall means sports. Football, soccer, volleyball . . . you name it, we’ve got it! More kids than ever are participating in sports of one kind or another. I thought it would be fun to compare the (fictional) experience of a high school athlete of nearly a century ago with today’s players. What do you notice that’s the same now as it was then? What’s different?
(Edited to add: Some people talk as if girls’ sports programs started with Title IX, and no girl ever sweated in public before 1972. Here’s a bit of counter-evidence.)
This exciting excerpt is from Marjorie Dean: High School Freshman by Pauline Lester, written in 1917. The story picks up just after our heroine, Marjorie Dean, has succeeded at her basketball tryout and won a place on the Sanford High School freshman team.
“‘Hurrah for the new team!’ cried Muriel Harding. ‘Let’s call ourselves the Invincibles. You certainly can play basketball, Miss Dean. How lucky in you to come to Sanford just when we need you. By the way, ‘Miss Dean’ is too formal. Please let us call you Marjorie. You can call us by our first names. What’s the use of so much formality among teammates?'”
(Unfortunately, Marjorie gets into squabble with some teammates who play a mean joke played on another girl–prompting Marjorie to quit the team. This means she doesn’t get to play in the big Freshman-Sophomore game, but she goes to watch it anyway. Her nemesis and the chief “mean girl,” Mignon LaSalle, is on the team.)
“By half past one Saturday every seat in the large gallery surrounding the gymnasium was filled, and by a quarter to two every square foot of standing room was occupied by an enthusiastic audience largely composed of boys and girls from the high school.
‘I never went to a basketball game before,’ confessed (Marjorie’s friend) Constance after a time. ‘What are those girls over there in the red paper hats and big red bows going to do?’
‘Oh, that’s the sophomore class. They lead their class in the songs. The green and purple girls are the freshman chorus.’
‘I didn’t even know our class colors were green and purple.’
‘You didn’t! Why, that’s the reason you and I wore violets. Almost every freshman has them.’
‘Oh, look!’ Constance’s eyes were fixed upon a tiny purple figure that had just emerged from a side door in the gymnasium and was walking slowly across the big floor. Immediately afterward a door opened on the opposite side and a diminutive scarlet-clad boy flashed forth.
‘They are the mascots,’ explained Marjorie. The two children advanced to the center of the room and gravely shook hands. Then the boy in red announced in a high, clear treble: ‘Ladies and gentlemen, the noble sophomores!’
The door swung wide and a band of lithe blue figures, bearing a huge letter “S” done in scarlet on the fronts of their blouses, pattered into the gymnasium amid loud applause.
‘The valiant freshmen!’ piped the purple-clad youngster.
There was a rush of black-clad girls, with resplendent violet ‘F’s’ ornamenting their breasts, another volley of cheers from the audience, then a shrill blast from the referee’s whistle rent the air. The teams dropped into their places, the umpire, timekeeper and scorer took their stations, and a tense silence settled over the audience.
The referee balanced the ball. Ellen Seymour and Mignon LaSalle gathered themselves for the toss. Up it went. The two players leaped for it. The referee’s whistle sounded again. The struggle for basketball honors began.
A jubilant shout swelled from the throats of the watching freshmen and their fans. Mignon had caught the ball. She sent it speeding toward Helen Thornton, who fumbled it and, losing her head, threw it away from instead of to the basket. An audible sigh of disapproval came from the freshman contingent as they beheld the ball pass into the hands of the sophomores, who scored shortly afterward.
Now that the ball was in their hands, the sophomores had the advantage and they kept it. Try as the freshmen might, they could not score. Toward the close of the first half they managed to score, but all too soon the whistle blew, with the score 9 to 2 in favor of the sophomores.
Their fans went wild with delight and their chorus sang,
‘Hail to the sophomores, gallant band!
See how bold they take their stand!”
The freshmen answered with their song, ‘The Freshmen’s Brave Banner,’ but they did not sing as spiritedly as they had before the beginning of the game.
The teams changed sides and hastened to their places. Again Mignon and Ellen faced each other. Then the whistle shrilled and the second half of the game was on.
From the beginning of the second half it looked as though the freshmen might retrieve their early losses. They worked with might and main and made no false moves. Slowly their score climbed to six. So far the sophomores had gained nothing. Then Ellen Seymour made a spectacular throw to the basket and brought her team up two points. With the realization that they were facing defeat, the freshmen rallied and made a desperate effort to hold their own, bringing their count up to eight.
Two more points were gained, and the score was tied, but the time was growing short. Helen Thornton had the ball and was plainly trying to elude the tantalizing sophomore who barred her way. She made a clumsy feint of throwing the ball. It slipped from her fingers and rolled along the floor. There was a mad scramble for it. Mignon and Ellen leaped forward simultaneously.
The crowd in the gallery was aroused to the height of excitement. Marjorie, breathless, leaned far over the gallery rail. She knew every detail of the dear old game. She saw Mignon’s and Ellen’s heads close together as they sprang; then she saw Mignon give a sly, vicious side lunge which threw Ellen almost off her feet. In the instant it took Ellen to recover herself, Mignon had seized the ball and was off with it. Eluding her pursuers, she balanced herself on her toes and threw her prize toward the freshman basket. But it never reached there. A long blue figure shot straight up into the air. Elizabeth Corey, a girl whose sensational plays had made her a lion during freshman year, had intercepted the flying ball. She sent it spinning through the air toward the sophomore nearest their basket, whose willing hands received it and threw it home.
Mignon’s trickery had availed her little. The sophomores had won.”
(from Marjorie Dean: High School Freshman by Pauline Lester, 1917)
Here’s the complete list of winners.
Every so often someone asks what my novel is about. But recently someone asked me why I wrote it. That was a new question for me. I needed to give it some thought since I, too, was curious why I wrote it. For me, the best way to figure out what I think about something is to write about it. So here goes.
At the risk of sounding a bit unhinged, I typed “Chapter One” when I started hearing the characters in my head, and I knew they wouldn’t leave me alone until I told their story. But of course there’s more to it than that.
In middle school I had a friend who was fascinated by the American Civil War (or the War Between the States, or the War of Northern Aggression, depending on where you sit. In middle school I sat in Illinois, the Land of Lincoln, so connect the dots.). Anyway, my friend couldn’t get enough of reading about the war, watching movies about it, and talking about it (at least to me, her similarly nerdy friend. Let’s just say an obsession with the Civil War doesn’t win popularity points in middle school.) She knew the names of generals, the dates of battles, the words to marching songs. But when I’d ask her why she had such a deep interest in the Civil War in particular, she didn’t know why.
For reasons I don’t fully understand, I’ve long been fascinated by the early 20th century, from 1900 through World War II. I think there’s something about people of faith banding together and pulling through hard times–wars, the Great Depression–that inspires me. I’m also attracted to eras that were in many ways much harder than our own, but in other ways simpler and slower-paced. Yet at the same time, not boring.
The Roaring Twenties in particular is rich territory for fiction. The era crackled with excitement. The aftereffects of a world war and enactment of women’s suffrage shook things up like never before. The automobile gave dating couples more freedom—and subjected them to more temptation—than they’d ever experienced in their parents’ front parlor. The highly publicized Scopes trial forced many people to examine their faith: some clung more tightly to it while others abandoned it. And of course there was the inherent drama of Prohibition, the tension between the “drys” and the “wets,” and the rise of the criminal underworld. Chicago, the setting of You’re the Cream in My Coffee, was at the epicenter of it all.
Further, the era had much in common with our own. It was a time of great upheaval between the older Victorian values and way of life—largely damaged if not shattered by World War I—and the rebellious, freethinking youth culture. In You’re the Cream in My Coffee, the protagonist, Marjorie, finds herself torn between the glittering world of the “flapper” and the traditional conservative values she grew up with. This is, of course, a universal theme that resonates with Christian women today—how to live in the world but not be consumed by it, and where to draw the line.
There’s also a spiritual thread to the story. You’re the Cream in My Coffee is in no way autobiographical. Even so, like Marjorie, I’ve known heartache and have blamed God when things didn’t turn out the way I wanted. At times I’ve made poor choices, headed down thorny paths, chosen questionable companions, and just generally been my own worst enemy. But our God is a God of second chances. And third, fourth, and fifth chances. As different as we are, Marjorie and I share a story of healing and hope, and faith in the One who gives them to us.
So that, in a nutshell, is why I wrote this story. If you’re reading this post in August 2015, then know that you’ve popped in at an early stage of the journey. Recently I contracted with a publisher. I’m currently scribbling away on a revision due this fall, fixing some timeline and pacing issues and the occasional anachronistic detail (gasp! and here I tried to be so careful…). This winter we’ll be finalizing the title, planning the cover, and doing all manner of furious underwater paddling to prepare to launch in about a year.
Would you please consider coming along for the journey and being part of my crew? I’ll be putting together a sort of inner circle, a team of a limited number of people I’m calling the “Cream Team,” to help brainstorm ideas, offer feedback at various points, spread the word about the book on blogs and social media as the publication date nears, and–above all–support the whole project in prayer. In return, Cream Team members will receive sneak peeks, yet-to-be-decided (but cool! definitely cool!) gifts and perks, not to mention my undying gratitude. It’s still early days, but if you’re interested in being part of the Cream Team, e-mail me privately at jenny @ jenniferlamontleo.com (without the spaces) and let me know you’d like to help.
All I ask is that Cream Team members be active on social media in some capacity (i.e., Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, your own blog, whatever) and enjoy reading fiction. If you want to be supportive but you’d rather chew tinfoil than read fiction, there will be other ways to get involved. 🙂
Have a question about the novel, the writing process, the Cream Team, or anything else? Leave a comment here or e-mail me at the address above. I’d love to hear from you.
So, from what I can tell, cool, hip, and sophisticated fiction readers detest Grace Livingston Hill.
Her writing is “cheesy,” they say. “Saccharine.” “Formulaic.” “Goody Two-Shoes.”
Well, for once I’m really, really glad that few people can ever accuse me of being cool, hip, or sophisticated. Because I’ve only recently discovered this writer, beloved by thousands– whose heyday of popularity peaked nearly a century ago–and I can’t seem to get enough. She’s like crack cocaine for the vintage soul.
Banging around in the Christian publishing arena as I have, I’ve been hearing the name Grace Livingston Hill for years and years, but have steered clear because of negative impressions like those above. Among the cognoscenti, her name is often accompanied by a lifted eyebrow, a slight sneer, as if to say Good thing we’ve evolved beyond all that wholesome stuff.
But recently I chanced upon “Happiness Hill,” written in 1932. So, I like reading stories set the early 20th century, which is also my favorite time period to write about. Maybe I could pick up a pointer or two about what life was like back then. In an idle moment, I opened the cover (okay, I’ll grant that the cover is a little cheesy, from a 1972 reprint–but then the 1970s were pretty much hideous all around, so there’s that) and started reading.
One chapter later, I set it down. A lump had formed in my throat. An actual lump. What was that all about?
In the story, a young, single businesswoman named Jane Arleth has cut her vacation short to return home because her family needs her.
Now, first of all, the very idea astonished me. What? No indignant insistence on her inalienable right to “me-time?” No disdain for her family for being a burden, for cramping her style? No cries of “but what about me-e-e-e-e? At twenty-three years old, I’m still just a kid!” No, siree. She simply packs her little valise and catches the train home.
And the descriptions! As the train leaves the station, Jane notices “the winding mountain road, fern-fringed and enticing, climbing back out of sight into the cool upward shadowed curves. Beyond and above, there would be the glimmer of the lake sparkling like a sheet of sapphire in the morning sunlight, tilting the canoes that rocked and lapped along its edges, slapping the sides of the larger boats anchored a little way out, bearing softly on its blue bosom the flock of white sails that a little later in the morning would be curvetting and billowing in the wind across the little island.”
What? Hello! Where have you been all my life?
“There would be cool blue shadows on the north porch, where the pines were thickest about the hotel, a wonderful spot to come with a book before the young world generally was astir. There would be the aroma of coffee, honeydew melons and toast, hot rolls just out of the oven, and a hint of brook trout frying in deep fat.”
Where do I sign up?
And then there’s the faith element. Many (most?) of her characters are unabashedly Christian in a way that would get them ridiculed by sophisticates today.
“She had awakened early before anyone had seemed be astir, reached from the bed to the little table where she had laid her Bible the night before, and lay there reading, beginning at the first of Genesis and taking the story of the universe as if it were all entirely new to her.”
She lays there reading, happily, until her friend comes to fetch her for breakfast.
“What on earth do you find so interesting?” demanded Carol lazily as Jane laid the handsome bound volume on the table. “The Bible! Why, Jane Arleth! You don’t meant to tell me you have turned saint!”
“. . . [A] slow color stole into [Jane’s] cheeks and a feeling akin to shame came over her. Had there been a tinge of sarcasm in Carol’s voice as she said that about being a saint, a curl of mockery on the lovely lips?”
*sigh* The more things change . . .
Please indulge my latest literary crush. I’ll be posting quotes of hers from time to time, as they capture my fancy, and perhaps commenting on the differences between Then and Now.
If you’re a fan of Grace Livingston Hill, I’d love to hear from you. What are your favorites among her stories?
If you have no idea who she is, check your local library or thrift store.
And if you don’t like her at all . . . well, you’re welcome to say so, of course, but I may just have to lift my chin and speak cordially but coolly to you.
Which is exactly what Jane Arleth would do.