Madeline and Jason agree to a year of service in Sunlit
Lands in exchange for their greatest desire. In Madeline’s case, it’s to have a
more normal life—one where she can breathe without issue. Jason is battling his
own personal demons. They will soon learn, however, that things are not as they
were led to believe.
The latest from Mikalatos is the first installment in a new
YA fantasy series. It contains an interesting cast of characters. The cover
will likely catch the reader’s eye, and it’s a good fit for the story. I’ve
never read a story from this author before, and I was impressed with this imaginative
tale, which included humor and numerous twists. Mikalatos gives the reader a
few things to ponder along the way, as some relevant social issues are explored
in this tale. An excerpt from the next book is included. I enjoyed the
additional items, such as: a creative map, a detailed cast of characters, and various
stories/songs/proverbs/poems from Sunlit Lands.
Disclaimer: I received
a complimentary copy from the publisher as part of the Tyndale Blog Network,
but I wasn’t required to leave a positive review.
Francesca Haversham is eighteen years old and about to step into a glittering future - all she has to do is secure her wealth with an advantageous marriage. Then she learns the truth:her entire identity is a lie. Now Francesca faces a horrible choice. Will she give up all she knows or continue to lie about her past and risk everything, including her heart?
Julie Matern is a resident of Utah. She attended the University of Exeter in Exeter, England, and graduated with a double major in French and Education. She was born and raised in England, moving to America after her marriage and is the mother of six children. She has served in the PTA for over 20 years, taught tap dance, and enjoys amateur photography. She is the author of 'British War Children' ( for which she received a "Recommended Read" award from the League of Utah Writers) and 'British War Children 2: An Enemy Among Us'.
Hometown: Highland, UT
1. If you could go to tea with any of the characters in The Secret of Haversham House, who would you go with and why?
Lady Augusta Haversham firstly, though she might refuse the invitation as I am a social ‘nobody’! I would ask her if she is lonely and whether her pride is worth the price of exclusion from her family. I would also ask her if she has any regrets about her own behavior.
Secondly, I would be very interested to talk to Antonio, Francesca’s birth father, about how he felt when he learned that he had a daughter and all the emotions it stirred up and if he was angry about the contract they made him sign.
I think I might also like to go to tea with Mario and ask what he really thought of Giorgio’s revelation about a secret granddaughter and the search for her.
2. Did you travel to gather research for The Secret of Haversham House? If so, where did you go? If not, what did you do to gather your research for this story?
I travel to England frequently to visit family and I have lived in France twice and often pop over when I am in England. So my research has been conducted over a lifetime. I have been to Italy once but a daughter spent time there on a study abroad and shared her love of it. In terms of research of the language style, I read Jane Austen, Charlotte Bronte, Elizabeth Gaskill and watch lots of period dramas.
3. What did your writing process look like for The Secret of Haversham House?
This was my first book for adults and though I was careful not to write down to the middle grade readers obviously, the language for an adult regency book needed to be of a higher level. Also, the number of characters was much greater (necessitating some family group sheets and family trees to keep it all straight!) and the plot was more complex. I am not an extensive planner when I write (though many authors are). I know the end and perhaps the middle but then I let the story write itself. It can surprise me and is an exciting way to write. The characters are like this to some extent too. I write a bio of each character for reference at the beginning but they often change during the course of the novel and I have to go back and edit the bio. I also often write amidst lots of noise and activity. I am drawn into the writing so much that I am able to block the disturbance out, fortunately, which means I can be in the middle of my family while writing and not closeted away.
4. What inspired the idea for The Secret of Haversham House?
Social class. It is still alive and well in England but not to the extent it was in this period. One day I wondered what would happen to a person who discovered that they were actually from a much lower class. Would it change the way friends and family treated them? I decided it would and thus a main character with a secret past was born.
5. What did you as a writer take away from writing The Secret of Haversham House?
When I started the novel I did not know that Phillip was going to experience an emotional crisis. His reaction to Francesca’s heritage showed me that we all might have hidden prejudices that we only discover when circumstances tease them out. I also firmly believe that through Christ we can overcome all and any prejudices.
6. What is your current WIP? What can you share with us about this project?
Arranged marriage was obviously the standard during this period. Jane Austen’s writings show us that marrying for love was an often unattainable wish. It is a concept so foreign to our culture that I wanted to examine it. In order to do this, I created a character who is thrust into different households as a governess. She experiences the difficulties of arranged marriage as an observer. I plan on writing a third novel from the viewpoint of the bride of an arranged marriage.
5 Things I Wish I Knew About Being an Author I Didn’t Know Before
In no particular order-
Writing isn’t just about writing any more.
I had no idea how much the publishing industry had changed because of the internet. (Yep, I’m old!). When I first started out, before I had anything more than an idea for a plot, I took an adult education class at a local college by a visiting presenter and came back absolutely overwhelmed. I had thought I was going to a class about how to write a book and found out it was really a class about how to market the book you have written. I almost gave up as this was not really what I wanted to sign up for. I decided just to write the book and worry about the other stuff later. I entered my book into a local contest which meant joining my local writer’s chapter. This was a gift. I was with like minded strangers who were hiking the same path as me and once a month they had education classes on the whole industry. It has been invaluable. I won third place in the contest! (we had self-published and made mistakes on the formatting and done the cover ourselves - these were the main critiques) This was the validation I needed that I could write. Then I had the courage to take the plunge into the marketing side.It has been five years and I still feel like a marketing novice but I am continuing to learn new things all the time.
You feel like a fraud.
It’s called the ‘Imposter Syndrome’. It’s a real thing and there are studies about it. When I grabbed my courage by the throat and attended my first writer’s meeting I felt way out of my league. I almost didn’t go back. These people were real writers (or so I thought) and I was just a pretender. After attending several meetings and meeting a few of the other members I learned that many of them had not published anything. That didn’t mean they were not writers.Jennifer A Nielsen author of ‘The False Prince’ gave the keynote at the second writer’s conference I attended. It was a game changer for me. She gave the most inspiring pep talk ever and really boosted my confidence. Then she showed us the pile of rejection letters she had received when trying to get her book published. She had felt like a fraud once!
You can spend a lot of money.
If you have a ton of money then spend away. Most people don’t so I would caution you to be careful with your precious funds.I self published my first book on a shoestring. Three web-site domains that were $15 each, I incorporated by creating an LLC and the license cost approx $40. I designed the cover and we used KDP to upload the e-book and Createspace for the hard copy which are both free. So for around $100 my first book went live. My initial goal was just to publish a book. For $100 I achieved that goal and it was a great feeling. Did I make any money on it? Nope. But that was not my initial goal.Here’s some ways you can spend money to improve your chances of making money on your book:
Pay an editor. The price here can vary but it’s not cheap. This is valuable if you don’t have the best grammar and are worried about plot holes etc…
Pay a cover designer. Again the price can vary widely. If you send your finished manuscript to a publisher they may not use your cover.
Pay someone to design your web-site and pay to have someone maintain it.
Pay for FB or other social media advertising.
Hire an agent to sell your book to publishers.
Buy promotional products to give away.
You’ll make lots of new friends
If you are an introvert you may not see this as a perk! Joining writer’s groups and attending writer’s conferences are great ways to meet new people who are like-minded. The conference I attend has evening social activities for those from out of town who are staying at hotels near the conference.
Critiques can be harsh
I have a critique partner who is a close friend who is an author. She is kind in her critiques.My writer’s group moved closer to me so I thought I would try their critique session. There were not many in attendance that night so I was not put with people who write in my genre. They were brutal. I was a mess. I had already had my manuscript for Haversham House accepted by this point and I was still a mess at their harsh critique.
10 Things you didn’t know ( and maybe didn’t want to know) about Julie Matern
I was born and raised in England.
My name was going to be Victoria as my maternal grandfather died just before I was born and his name was Victor.
I attended an all girls high school from age 11. We had a very strict uniform. At the beginning of each school year the teachers checked our uniforms to make sure they were to code. They even measured the height of our heels. They couldn’t be higher than 2”. I credit that school with giving me the best of educations and helping me believe that I could become anything.
I love dogs. I have had 7 dogs during my life. My current dog is a Golden Retriever named Duchess.
I was a tap dance teacher for 7 years.
I love amateur photography. I cannot do it for money as I become neurotic that the pictures won’t be good enough and drive myself and my husband crazy!
I sew. I sew clothes, curtains, baby bedding and table runners.
Thrillers and detective novels are my guilty pleasure. I have subscribed to the Reader’s Digest edited books for decades. This is how I read my thrillers and detective books - edited.
I am the mother of twins. Double trouble and double the fun. I have six children and three grandchildren.
I hate running. Like really hate it. I could dance for three hours straight but I can’t run to the end of the block.
Francesca stopped breathing as Mr. Ashbourne gently took her gloved hand in his and expertly spun her around the room, leaving her former partner spluttering at the lack of manners, in the center of the dance floor. She became dizzy at the realization that Mr. Ashbourne was actually dancing with her. After several turns, he lowered his head and whispered into her ear, his nose tickling her skin and sending a thrill up her spine, causing a delicious sensation in her midriff. “Are you unwell?” he asked. “You look faint.” She recovered herself and observed that he had a playful smile on his lips, fully aware of the power his presence had on young ladies. Not wanting to appear as inexperienced as she really was, she blurted out, “Oh no, you merely surprised me, that is all.” “Then I shall take pleasure in surprising you whenever I can as it only serves to heighten your beauty!” Francesca’s cheeks burned under his scrutiny and she bent her neck to avoid his piercing gaze and gather her confused thoughts.
Eighteen-year-old Francesca Haversham is set to make
her way, and name, in society, but a deathbed confession changes her life
forever. If the truth comes out, it will have a major impact on Francesca, as
well as her family. Will she follow her heart, even if it means giving up on
her standing in society or love? Is it possible for her to find someone who
will love her for who she is vs. what she has to offer?
Rich details combine to bring Mattern’s charming
Regency romance to life as she takes the reader across England, France, and
Italy. Multi-layered characters quickly engage the reader. A bit of mystery is
involved, which is a nice addition to the tale. The reader may notice a
connection between the Regency-era high society to the modern world’s social
media, especially when it comes to prejudices and judging others based on their
position, wealth, etc. I look forward to reading other books by this talented
I received a free copy from the publisher as part of the SLB Blog Tour. I
wasn’t required to leave a positive review.
Kadee is here to share a bit about her latest release. She's offered to give away a copy of the book (US - winner's choice of hard copy or ebook; International - ebook) . You can enter by using the Rafflecopter link at the end of the post. (Giveaway ends August 2, 2018. If you are the randomly chosen winner, I'll contact you.)
About KINGDOM COME...
In my research and
life experiences while writing my soon-to-be-released novel EARTHSHINE, I found
myself in this dark, aching place of brokenness and hurt, of lost dreams and
tainted hopes. While I wrote the story of a girl who had to get back up, I found
my own self in the shadows. Could I be the girl who got back up? In my Sunday
school class, our leader mentioned that all people had three tools they carried
which God uses for good. I had never heard this premise before and immediately
looked into what he meant. Within the next few months my life changed, from a
place of devastation to intention. My attitude changed, my purpose shifted,
and I found true focus on what I knew my life needed to be as I unearthed and
sharpened my three tools. I didn’t need the ache of loss; I craved adventure
and purpose. Here I’ve collected my thoughts, study, and research which offer
readers applicable, faith-based tools for braving the earthly plot line and
forging empires. From this guidebook KINGDOM COME, we begin rewriting the
stories of our lives to fulfill our mission and create the life less ordinary.
An excerpt from the chapter, “A Cup of Wrath”...
say that the obstacle is the way. They say that the best way to manage fear,
failure, and mis-stepping is by first tackling the mountain. Get some failure
under your belt and then reflect on it. How does it change you?
faced many crucibles lately, one particularly being my book sales. I groan even
saying those last two words because almost anyone I talk to on a regular basis
has seen me struggling through it. About five years into this “authorial”
business, I’m just now getting to where I think I know what I want to do and
how I will use written communication as a tool. One particular, glaring moment
ripped apart the curtain, I feel like it’s a curtain, between ‘doing life on
earth’ and ‘being fully alive.’ Being awake. There’s this invisible line
between life survived and life thrived.
moment included a poor, two-star review for one of my novels. Broke my heart
right into tiny shrapnel pieces. I stumbled upon the review and immediately
decided to give up my life’s work. Because if one person didn’t like what I was
doing, well, then, might as well give up right then and there. And then my
husband said, quite logically as always, “If you’re going to be a writer then
you have to be able to handle people disliking your work.” Or even hating you.
Or simply dismissing you. But the truth is, if you’re going to be alive, then
there’s always going to be someone who rejects you. You know what happened the
morning after the review posted? I didn’t die. I woke up just like I had the
morning before and the morning before that. I was a little shocked. I didn’t
wake up destroyed or with permanent bedhead. The sun still streamed in through
my kitchen window, dancing across my coffee pot. And instead of being broken, I
had the opportunity to dive into the questions. Instead of being done, I had a
fresh start. The questions rolled in. Why am I doing what I’m doing? Why do I
care? Who am I when the rejection arrives? Am I doing this in an attitude of
service? If I quit now, will I be satisfied with the ending? How can I use this
for good? What can I learn?
suddenly I saw life clearer. I saw the strain of light weaving across the
counter, just like starlight shines upon my soul. My books are not about
reviews. My books are not about giving up. My books, my writing, is one work,
part of a greater work, of building a legacy which inspires life. And if I can
find gratitude and abundance in the middle of crumbling walls, then that’s the
real treasure. It’s a glorious moment when you realize you’re made of eternal
substance and the thing that meant to break you only made you more resilient.
Opt in for an
adventure to discover purpose, tenacity, and to build your empire. Are you
stuck? Questioning your purpose? Are you tired, broken, and hurting in the
stale crumbs of the daily grind?
Even the most
ordinary of humans can do impossible things. The elements of storytelling are
tools to help us understand our purpose and to build a life greater. Here we
discover the three protocols every hero satisfies in order to fulfill the
mission. You’re the hero in your own story. Transforming into the hero may be
the most difficult thing you’ve ever done, but it will be the best thing you’ve
pages, discover the ultimate objective in understanding and experiencing the
combined unity of these three tools in your hero story. Get ready to travel the
vast horizon of the hero plot line and forge new paths toward your legacy.
*I highly recommend purchasing the paperback because
there’s a workbook in the back to provide you with applicable steps to get you
on track to build your best life.
Fierce yet sparkly, I rally seekers to
thrive in their stories. The goal is magic, the medium is ink, and the fuel is
coffee. And sometimes pizza. I teach English on the university level when I'm
not dancing around the living room with my family, lifting heavy at the gym,
traveling the planet, or binging superhero shows.
INSURRECTION, INCOMPLETE, INDELIBLE, HERE BE
DRAGONS, and non-fiction inspirational KINGDOM COME roll out perilous motives,
twisty plots, and daring protagonists. Grab some real estate and your copy of
my latest adventure, and follow along on KadeeCarder.com.
About Kadee’s most recent publication, HERE BE DRAGONS...
Will the shadows of his past and the tech of
tomorrow rip Tucker Thompson to shreds? Or can he lead his small crew of rogue
warriors on a daring rescue op? Find out now with your copy of HERE BE DRAGONS!
“Those voices that tell you to stop, those
are wrong. Those voices lie. They steal your victory. Out there be dragons, but
in here—” Burkman tapped my chest, “—here lodges your sword and shield.”
Follow Tucker Thompson to the brave wilds of
the Australian Outback in search of his long-lost home (which he doesn’t
remember) and to rescue the remnants of an undercover mission gone wrong (which
has been attacked). HERE BE DRAGONS is a young adult science fiction adventure
for the thrill seeker and action taker from Clean Reads Publishing.
And please feel free to subscribe for encouraging
giving away a free, empowering e-book
to those who subscribe to my email list
Titled IGNITE, the 60-page book
offers a serving of inspiration, a dash of hope, and a cup of grace to help you
get kickin’ on those challenging tasks you’ve got to do!
My word for the year is “Enough,” so I was excited to come
across this title. And after reading it, all I can say is if you have ever
wondered if you’re enough (pretty enough, smart enough, good enough, or
whatever), you need to read this book!
Valentine has penned a book that is relatable and relevant
to teens, young adults, and women everywhere. The author shares her own experiences,
including her insecurities and struggles, and she mixes in Scripture verses and
biblical truths along the way. This is an inspiring read, though some parts may
challenge the reader to confront long-held (and possibly mistaken) beliefs. The
book is designed to remind the reader that God made you just as you are, and you
are enough! Nothing in the world can
change that. You can learn to see yourself through God’s eyes.
The book addresses ten lies that many women are led to
believe. Each chapter ends with “Real Talk,” where there are questions for reflection.
Relevant bible verses and stories are referenced throughout. Valentine talks
about the two races in life: chase the world or chase Jesus. It’s not possible
to do both, and daily time with God will make the race a bit easier.
I love the end of the book, as well. Chapter thirty lists
sixty-five tips to live the “I Am” life, and it’s something you may want to
copy and place in a location where you can look at it on a regular basis. The
conclusion included ten truths that the world doesn’t want you to know, but God
does. Again, these reminders are worth reading daily. For instance:
·“You are beautiful because God created you in
·“Your weakness presents an opportunity for God
to display His strength.”
enough. God says you are.”
A few of my favorite quotes from elsewhere in the book
·“God made you the way you are for a reason.”
·“Comparison is the thief of joy because it tends
to highlight others’ best moments while reminding you of your worst.”
·“…the world does not define us. God does.”
Disclaimer: I received a complimentary copy as
part of the HC BookLook Bloggers Program, but I wasn’t required to leave a
The general rule is that if a word begins with a consonant, "a" should be used. If the word starts with a vowel, you use "an." However, this rule is based on pronunciation of the word, not the spelling.
While there is
a prequel to this book (A Search for
Refuge), this can be read as a standalone.
Kit and Lord Graham Wharton meet at a ball. Graham is bored,
and Kit is hiding behind a plant 😊 From that point on, their lives get more
interesting and intertwined, particularly after Wharton’s best friend’s sister
disappears. Graham is determined to find her, and the search leads him to Kit …
and a house full of women and children. What will happen when he discovers what
Kit is doing? Is it possible Kit is connected to the missing woman Graham is
There’s a nice blend of serious topics and humorous moments.
The topics are still important and relevant today. I particularly enjoyed the
ongoing chuckle regarding dancing with plants! Kit is a strong, determined heroine.
Graham is kind and a gentleman. There is solid character growth, and the
romance is not a fluffy one, as the reader may assume based on the beautiful
cover. This is a Regency romance with a few twists, particularly regarding what
Kit is doing with the women and children. (No spoilers!) The story is a
reminder of how God can bring beauty from any situation, as well as the
importance of forgiveness and how it can bring freedom and peace.
Disclaimer: I received
a complimentary copy from the publisher, but I wasn’t required to leave a positive
Title: Darkwater Secrets
Author: Robin Caroll
Publisher: Gilead Publishing
Release Date: July 17, 2018
Genre: Inspirational Romantic Suspense
A murder investigation uncovers sordid secrets and haunting mistakes
The Darkwater Inn stands tall and proud in the French Quarter, the hub of New Orleans. Bourbon Street is bustling, and General Manager Adelaide Fountaine has her hands full with a hotel at capacity. She, along with everyone else, is shocked when a body is found: a hotel guest stabbed with a kitchen knife.
Detective Beau Savoie, Adelaide’s childhood friend, is on the case. As Beau digs into the victim’s past, he unearths a shocking connection between Adelaide and the murdered guest. Beau is hurt that his friend—the woman he’s quietly loved for years—kept the truth from him. To make matters worse, the stress of the investigation has sent Adelaide right into the comforting arms of her coworker Dimitri. But Beau can’t press Adelaide too hard . . . he’s keeping secrets of his own.
Can Adelaide and Beau afford to hide from the truth with a killer on the loose?
leaned close to Addy’s ear. “I meant what I said, you do look breathtaking.”
smiled and lowered her chin, the blush spreading across her cheeks visible
under the mask.
music started and groups of people made their way toward the dance floor.
wanted nothing more than to have Addy in his arms again. He stood and made a
sweeping bow, then extended his hand to her. “Shall we, milady?”
took his hand, grinning.
he had her in his arms, they swayed in time to the music from the live band.
The space on the floor became more crowded, so he pulled her closer to him.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
“I love boxing. I love Hallmark movies. I love fishing. I love scrapbooking. Nope, I've never fit into the boxes people have wanted to put me in.” ~Robin Caroll is definitely a contradiction, but one that beckons you to get to know her better.
Born and raised in Louisiana, Robin is a southerner through and through. Her passion has always been to tell stories to entertain others.
When she isn’t writing, Robin spends time with her husband of twenty-five-plus years, her three beautiful daughters and two handsome grandsons, and their character-filled pets at home—in the South, where else?
She serves the writing community as Executive Director/Conference Director for ACFW. Her twenty-five books have finaled/placed in such contests as the Carol Award, Holt Medallion, Daphne du Maurier, RT Reviewer's Choice Award, Bookseller's Best, and Book of the Year.
Enter via the Rafflecopter giveaway below. Giveaway will begin at midnight July 21, 2018 and last through 11:59pm July 28, 2018. US only. Winners will be notified within a week of close of the giveaway and given 48 hours to respond or a new winner will be chosen.
Giveaway is subject to the policies found here.
Kathleen has offered to give away a copy of the book (US ONLY) . You can enter by using the Rafflecopter link at the end of the post. (Giveaway ends July 27,2018. If you are the randomly chosen winner, I'll contact you.)
The story behind the story...
The short version of how My Heart Belongs in Galveston, Texas came to be is that my agent called and asked if I was interested in writing a book for Barbour's new location-based series. I jumped at the chance to write about a city that has been my favorite since I was a little girl. Growing up on the Texas Gulf Coast, Galveston was the exotic beach city that captured my childhood attention every time my parents took the ferry over from the mainland. The more I visited and learned about the island's rich history, the more I loved it. From the sandy beaches to the historic seaport and Strand tot he fabulous and historic Rosenberg Library, the island is a place of almost magical enchantment to me. I have not lived there--yet, anyway--but my son does, and that's close enough for now.
Of course, no story of Galveston could be told without mentioning the pirate Jean Lafitte, one of the island's earliest and most famous settlers. I have dealt with the mystery that surrounds Lafitte in other books, namely Millie's Treasure and The Alamo Bride (Barbour, 2019), but this story is different in that it takes a "what if" question that has been tugging at my creativity for quite some time: what if Lafitte lived to a ripe old age, quietly married, and had a family? Then what? My Heart Belongs in Galveston, Texas explores that question. Throw in a reporter who is looking for that answer and a Pinkerton agent who thinks he's merely following orders, and that's where the book begins.
Gulf of Mexico
September 19, 1855
The storm raged
around us like a mad beast intent on taking our ship and all aboard down to the
briny depths. The men assigned to the watch had given up and lashed themselves
to their posts. We had already lost at least two to the waves.
once I gave thanks that my wife had been too ill to travel with us. The illness
that forbade her travel just may have saved her life.
lay behind us now, the storm’s surge making it impossible to put in at port. So
we sailed on, heading into the eye of the monster rather than out to sea where
the waves would likely have already been stilled.
reason for this decision, the cause for the choice to chance death and find a
port to drop anchor, lay down below on a bank in the captain’s quarters. For
tonight, regardless of the tempest that raged, a child would be born.
child’s father came to stand behind me, his face etched with nearly a full day
and night of watching the one he loved endure indescribable pain. Behind him,
the woman hired as nursemaid shook her head.
the child did not survive?”
single tear traced my son’s cheek. “The child, she is weak but alive.”
the nursemaid shook her head. This time she, too, showed tears. “Gone.”
groaning sound roared from the depths of the ship, and warning bells rang. We
had been taking on water since an hour after sunset. I looked beyond these two
to the man standing in the door.
was waiting. No words were needed. The vessel and its occupants were done for.
With only two small boats with which to evacuate, I knew what must be done.
for Indianola,” I said. “We race the wind and hope for the best.”
sir,” my loyal crewman protested. “We will not make land in this vessel.”
will get close enough,” I told him.
we did. The storm still raged farther south, but the winds were more
companionable to sailing into port at Indianola. We did no such thing, of
course, for to sail into that port in this ship would be to invite unwanted
attention, even in this abysmal weather.
ordered two small crafts sent out. One carried my son and the remains of his
wife along with a loyal crewman to row. The other carried the child and her
nursemaid. On this vessel, I sent my most trusted man to see to their safety.
matter what,” I told him. “See that the child lives, even at the cost of your
he had vowed it would be so.
son, a devoted sailor always, went on my orders but under a protest I understood.
Even my answer, that separation from the child meant one might arrive safely if
the other did not, did not dissuade him from his despair.
and bury your wife,” I told him as my crew fought to keep the ship from ruin.
“Take rooms and wait for me here. Find a wet nurse for your daughter. I will
come to you.”
that, I sent my son off into the night with the body of his wife wrapped in the
same blankets where she had so recently given birth.
moment later, I heard a sound like the mewling of a cat. I turned to see the
nursemaid holding a bundle.
will live?” I asked her, for I knew I must make a report to my wife should the
Lord allow us to be reunited this side of heaven.
pulled back the wrappings to see wide brown eyes peering up at me. One tiny
fist had found its way free of its prison and now shook at me like an angry
little treasure,” I said to her. “Go with God. We will be together soon.”
then I released my granddaughter to the waves and the wind and the care of God.
Most certainly and especially the care of God.
March 14, 1880
Of all the assignments Jonah had
been given since he joined the agency almost ten years ago, this one had to be
the strangest. Though his career thus far had included putting his life on the
line to bring in murderers, thieves, and con men, here he sat sipping tea in
the fancy New Orleans parlor of a woman old enough to be his grandmother.
Or at least pretending to while he
studied the distinctly feminine rose-scented room. His gaze landed on the
mantel where mismatched crystal vases were filled with the pink blossoms.
Larger vases on the bookshelves opposite the fireplace vied for space among the
Given the fact it was early March,
Jonah wondered if she had a greenhouse to grow the flowers all year, but he
didn’t ask. In fact, there was much he wondered about this room, but with the
goal of getting out of this place as quickly as possible, he remained silent.
The only space that did not show
some evidence of the owner’s penchant for pink roses was the window seat that
looked out through lace curtains onto Prytania Street. As if to make up for
that grievous transgression, the seat had been wrapped in the same rose-strewn
fabric that covered the walls and the two chairs where he and Mrs. Smith now
When Jonah returned his attention
to his hostess, he found Mrs. Smith, a tiny woman who had obviously once been a
great beauty, watching him carefully. Her dark eyes twinkled as she regarded
him with what appeared to be equal parts assessment and amusement.
Though she’d only yet offered him a
polite greeting and settled him into this parlor, Jonah couldn’t help noticing
this elderly woman had the smile and graceful movements of a much younger
person. And her voice, when she spoke, held the slightest trace of an accent.
Whether it was the familiar Acadian French of his grandfather’s people that he
recognized in her tone or something else entirely, he couldn’t say.
“So, you think I’ve lost my mind,
don’t you?” she said as she lifted the teapot to pour more of the fragrant brew
into his cup.
He did, and he’d told the captain
as much. However, the woman sitting across from him had apparently paid dearly
for the privilege of hiring a Pinkerton man to solve her case, and she had
requested him specifically.
“Ma’am,” he said in the reverential
tone he’d learned from his mama back home in Texas, “I take every assignment
A smile rose and then she chuckled,
lighting her wrinkled face as she set the teapot back in place. “Well done,
Detective Cahill. You’ve answered my question without actually giving me your
opinion of my sanity.”
“Begging your pardon, Mrs. Smith,”
Jonah said, “but I don’t believe you hired me to determine that.”
“True, I most certainly did not.”
She sat back and gave him an appraising look. “Yes, I believe you’ll do.”
This is a book that fans of historical novels will want to
check out. Buried treasure, a mystery, and a Pinkerton agent all combine in Y'Barbo's tale, which is set in Texas (mainly) in 1880. While the answer to the mystery
isn’t a total surprise, it is interesting to see the characters piece
everything together. Jonah was a bit annoying at times, particularly in how he
would jump to conclusions and then sort out the facts later. Madame is
eccentric, but loveable. Madeline is a plucky, capable, and likeable, but you do have to get past a
few quirks (such as her nosiness). The historical details are accurate, and
they enhance the story.While there is a sweet romance, there is so much more to this enjoyable tale, including some memorable secondary characters. This is a quick read, making it an
easy addition to your summer reading list!
Disclaimer: I received
a complimentary copy from the publisher, but I wasn’t required to leave a
Bestselling author Kathleen Y’Barbo is a multiple Carol Award and RITA nominee and
author of more than ninety books with almost two million copies of her books in
print in the US and abroad. A tenth-generation Texan and certified paralegal,
she has been nominated for a Career Achievement Award as well a Reader’s Choice
Award and several Top Picks by Romantic
Times magazine. She is a member of ACFW, Novelists Inc., and the Texas Bar
Association Paralegal Division.
her fifteenth year as a published author by receiving the Romantic Times Inspirational Romance Book of the Year Award for her
historical romantic suspense Sadie’s Secret, a Secret Lives of Will Tucker novel. Her
novels celebrate life, love and the Lord—and whenever she can manage it, her
home state of Texas. Recent releases include
The Pirate Bride and My Heart Belongs in Galveston, Texas.
To find out more about Kathleen or connect with her through social media, check out her
website at www.kathleenybarbo.com.
Brandy Bruce is a mom, a wife, a book editor, an author, and someone who really loves dessert. She’s the author of the award-winning novel The Last Summer, Looks Like Love, and The Romano Family Collection. Brandy, her husband, and their children make their home in Colorado.
What does your writing process look like?
I write as the story comes to me. I don’t usually create outlines; sometimes I’ll list out things that I know need to happen in the story (or to help me keep track of my timeline). Usually, I write the story in order, but often one or two scenes will come to me out of order and I’ll jot those down to add in later.
If you could travel anywhere in the world for book research (no cost to you), where would you go and why?
England! I’ve been once before and loved it so much. Also, I love writing about travel. My novel Looks Like Love involves a trip to Europe, and I hope to eventually write another book that includes travel.
What does "a day in the life of Brandy Bruce" look like?
My children trickling into my bed, one by one—usually by 7:30 a.m. Then everyone starts begging for breakfast, and my husband and I have to get up. It’s summer now, so our days are pretty low-key. My husband heads to his office, and the kids and I do whatever we’ve got planned for the day. (This usually involves playing in the backyard and eating ice pops.) Lots of snacks and sunblock happen—then finally Jeff comes home. We eat dinner early at our house, usually by five o’clock. Then Jeff and I switch off, and I work on whatever freelance edits or writing projects I have going on before we tag-team bedtime for the kiddos.
If you were to go to lunch with one of the characters from The Last Summer, who would it be and why?
I’d choose Sara. She’s my favorite out of the gang, and I think we’d get along well. Also, we both really like California Pizza Kitchen. That’s where we’d go.
What inspired you to write The Last Summer?
I was in college when the story came to me. It’s a time when friendship is paramount, and that’s why it’s a huge theme in the book. All seven of the main characters came to me almost at once.
What did you as a writer take away from writing The Last Summer?
That friendships change as we grow older and enter different seasons of life. And that when it comes to real-life love stories, no one is perfect. That’s where grace comes in.
What is your current WIP? What can you share about this project with us?
We’re going through the proofs for the follow-up book to The Last Summer. (Squeals with happiness!) I’m so excited about this next novel. It’s slated to release early February 2019 and I’ve poured my heart and soul into it.
10 Behind-the-Scenes Facts
about The Last Summer’s Texas Setting
The museum’s Pink-Floyd-laser-light-show date that Sara goes on was inspired by one of my first dates with my husband! He planned the whole date and we went to the Spaghetti Warehouse (which was also a place my parents went to when they were dating) and then the laser light show at the very same museum. Best. Date. Ever.
Bodegas, the restaurant near the museum where Sara and her friend Wendy like to eat, is a real restaurant very near the Houston Museum of Natural Science.
I wrote the scene about the gas station barbeque because there’s truly a gas station in Texas that serves amazing barbeque. (There are probably hundreds actually!) The food in Texas can’t be beat.
Sara and her girlfriends go eat doughnuts at Shipley’s. Shipley’s is my favorite doughnut chain in Texas. I am still devastated that there are no Shipley’s in Colorado. For the longest time, no one I knew in Colorado had ever even heard of kolaches! What in the world. I grew up eating sausage kolaches and chocolate-iced doughnuts at Shipley’s Donuts, and every time I’m in Texas, finding a Shipley’s is a must.
The Lake Shore Woods lake house was inspired by a real lake house out in East Texas. My best friend and I stayed there for a weekend years ago and I remember loving how woodsy and beautiful the area was, and thinking that I was going use that setting in a book too.
Sara goes shopping in The Woodlands at a place called Market Street and it’s an area I love to go to whenever I’m back in town—lots of fun restaurants and shops and a movie theater.
There’s a scene where the gang are all hanging out in Hermann hospital waiting room and one of the characters, Debra, brings in several sacks of Whataburger meals. Which is Texas to a T.
I mention Dickens’ on the Strand at Christmastime in the book. This is a real festival in Galveston, Texas, held in late November/early December. It’s a Charles Dickens-esque Christmas celebration with people in costumes and a parade and carolers and street vendors. My grandmother was the one who first told me about it. She and her best girlfriends loved to go to Dickens’ on the Strand together.
When describing Sara’s parents’ house in the affluent Willow Heights area, I mention the azalea bushes by the back deck. This stemmed from the trail of azaleas in Houston’s River Oaks section. It’s a beautiful area with stately homes and during azalea season, you can drive through and see what they call the trail of azaleas. My dad used to drive us through River Oaks when I was a little girl.
As you can probably tell, I love Texas. I was born in Houston and lived there, then Conroe, Texas, and then Porter—both on the outskirts of the city—until I went away to college in Virginia. All of my extended family still live there and whenever I step off the plane and feel the humidity and heat of Texas—and see all the belt buckles and cowboy hats and T-shirts that say, “Most likely to Secede”—I know I’m home again. The places in the book that I didn’t create, such as the museum district and The Woodlands and San Jacinto, are all real places that I’ve touched and experienced. And from the sweet tea the girls drink to the tomato plants Addison grows, these little details come from real-life in Texas.
Guest Post: Everybody Loves Jason
I’ve had people ask about the inspiration behind the characters in The Last Summer and while I love talking about the group of friends, truth be told, they came to me so long ago that it’s hard to remember the original inspiration! Almost all seven friends came to me at once. The book was always meant to be a story about friendship. Every member of the group is essential. But over time, as I reworked and rewrote the story, the characters became more developed, and I can definitely see some glimpses of who and what inspired the people they became.
I’ve said before that the image of Sara in my mind looks a lot like my sister, who happens to be named Sara! 😊 My sister is elegant and introspective and great at design. I think I put some of my own characteristics into her as well (mainly my love for Diet Dr Pepper and tacos). So, in some ways, Sara’s character is a bit of a blend of me and my sister. Jason is another one who is clearly defined for me. I have a cousin named Jason, who happens to have tattoos and dark hair and he’s Hispanic (so am I!) and he’s funny and delightful.
I’ll be honest, I’m pretty sure Luke was heavily influenced by an early Brad Pitt (think Legends of the Fall, A River Runs Through It, and Oceans 11). Not a bad place to start, if you ask me! As time went on, Luke started to look a lot like Chris Hemsworth to me (aka Thor). Everett’s character, while not really a member of the group, also came to me almost from the beginning and was essential, of course. As I worked through his character, in my mind he started to look a lot like Henry Cavill (also known as Superman).
To me, all the characters bring to the table something that adds to who they are as a group. The insecurity and yet elegance of Sara; the sweetness and levelheadedness of Addison; the Southern sarcasm and loyalty of Lily; the swagger and flirtatiousness of Jason; the easygoing, along-for-the-ride person who is Sam; and the calm, dedicated, a-bit-hard-to-read (intriguing) Luke. Then you add in the charm and boyishness of Everett, and you’ve got a story.
One thing I found to be unexpected and great was that as we were going through the editing process, I had two lovely girls as my editors. When I’d read their comments, I kept seeing “Team Jason!” or “Team Everett here!” or “Team Luke!”, which I thought was hilarious. I loved how invested they were. I honestly think I saw “Team Jason!” the most. And when feedback started rolling in from other authors who read the book for endorsements, I started hearing again how much people enjoyed Jason. He seemed to be a favorite among the group. He’s a favorite of mine too.
I mainly just love the idea of a group of friends who love each other like family. That sense of community—that you always have people who will show up for you. In The Last Summer, that perfect circle of friendship gets a bit fractured, and I think that’s a mirror of real life too. Friendships change over time and as people move into different seasons of life. I think lots of people have certain groups of people during specific times in life. You’ve got your college friends, then young marrieds or maybe work colleagues, then often, you find yourself looking for fellow moms and dads to be friends with. Church groups, neighbors, friends at work—it helps to have community to lean on and help each other. But people change, sometimes they move away, and sometimes friends just drift apart. All of that is normal and part of life. Sometimes this can hurt more than others, and I explore a little of that in The Last Summer. The beauty of friendship and the push and pull of life changing.
One thing I think a lot of readers don’t know about is the Pinterest board I created for the book. I love Pinterest boards for writers. It’s a great place to gather photos that help you visualize your characters or settings. My Pinterest board is where I gathered photos of actors who look like my characters, quotes, images of lake houses that are what I envision for the book, and pictures from the book launch gathering. So hop over and take a look and get to know these characters even better! (The specific Pinterest board is called ‘book launch for The Last Summer.)
The follow-up novel releases in early February next year, so now is the perfect time to read The Last Summer!
They all exchanged looks around the table. I felt like they were having this private conversation and hoped the conclusion would be that they wanted me. Because there was something special about the people at this table. The way they kidded and joked and touched each other and moved like one breathing organism. The way they did seem like a family. Six people connected to each other. I wanted to be the seventh.
“I have a feeling, Sara Witherspoon,” Addison said, tilting her head to the side and studying me as though she could see all the way to my heart, “you belong too.”
I don’t know how she knew, but she did. Like I said, Addison is the leader. She’s the glue. Once she said those words, all tension melted away, and I was included. If Addison said I belonged, I did. She reminded me of Melanie Wilkes in Gone with the Wind. If Mrs. Wilkes was the cool-headed voice of reason that could settle the chaos around her, Addison was that same strong, trusted constant amid these six friends. Her word was law. And from that day forward, the six people around that table at Isabella’s became like six extensions of myself.
We were a circle. Within a month, Jason asked me to go out to dinner with him. Luke hadn’t shown any romantic interest in me, and there was Jason, with that thick, dark hair and playful personality and handful of tattoos on his olive skin—how could I say no? We started dating. A year after that, we
broke up. As much as I truly liked Jason and couldn’t help feeling attracted to him, I hadn’t fallen in love. I couldn’t picture us married and having babies. We were better as friends. I know Jason didn’t agree, but he and I both refused to let our break up damage the circle. Eventually, things between us returned to normal.
During my dating-Jason phase, Sam and Lily got married, which didn’t really change anything since they were already such a unit. I realized early on that Luke and Debra were never an item. I’d mistaken Debra’s warm and friendly demeanor and Luke’s tendency to be protective and kind as the traits
of a dating couple, but those endearing qualities of both of them extended to all of us. My crush on Luke diminished as Jason and I dated and then shifted to ‘just friends.’
And somewhere along the way, painfully, Luke and I became best friends.