Wednesday, July 11, 2018

"Hope of Azure Springs" by Rachel Fordham ... and a GIVEAWAY! (JustRead Blog Tour)

Title: The Hope of Azure Springs
Author: Rachel Fordham
Publisher: Revell
Release Date: July 3, 2018
Genre: Historical Romance 

Alone in a strange town, can she find healing for her new home . . . and herself?

Ada, Mich.—Between 1854 and 1929, the orphan train movement relocated over 200,000 orphaned, abandoned, or homeless children from the eastern United States to rural areas throughout the country, focusing primarily in the Midwest. Since that time, this movement has captured the attention and curiosity of readers. In The Hope of Azure Springs, debut author Rachel Fordham masterfully blends history and romance in her well-crafted tale of a former “train rider.”

Seven years ago, orphaned and alone, Em arrived at a new home in Iowa after riding the orphan train. But secrets from her past haunt her, and her new life in the western wilderness is a rough one. When her guardian is shot and killed, Em, now nineteen, finally has the chance to search for her long-lost sister, but she won’t be able to do it alone.

Sheriff Caleb Reynolds is determined to solve the case and secure justice for Em. But what he doesn’t expect is the hold this strange young woman will have on his heart.

Historical romance readers will be charmed by the town of Azure Springs as they journey with Em to face her past, embrace her future, and rescue what she’s lost.

Debut Author Deftly Combines Orphan Train Tale with Sweet Prairie Romance


Q & A with Rachel...

Q:  Can you tell me the "story behind the story"?
A:  I can't remember a time in my life when I was not drawn to adoption and foster stories. I also love writing (obviously) and old things. When I learned about the orphan trains, it only made sense that I'd build a story around them. I knew I wanted to represent different orphan train rider's outcomes, but I didn't know much else going in. Authors often talk about stories that tell themselves, and that's what was happening with this book. I had a few rough ideas and then just went for it. About halfway through, my son became very ill, and I had to set my laptop and all writing projects aside for five months. Going back to it, I think the pain and hope I had for my own family's future came out in the writing. It truly was a unique writing experience. Our lives changed so much during the writing of this novel.

Q:  I'm so sorry to hear about your son. I'm glad you were able to use the experience in a positive way through your book. What do you hope readers take away from your story?
A:  I am proud of the bits of wisdom that wove themselves into this tale. I knew I wanted Em to struggle with her looks, but the other lessons just came. I hope readers walk away with a new conviction that we are all beautiful in our own way. I hope that when they are walking down dark paths that they will be able to hold to the notion that there are brighter days ahead. I hope they will have an increased believe in the power of love. That makes it sound like it's a nonfiction self-help book, and it's not. The Hope of Azure Springs is very much a fictional story with bits of real life sprinkled in. I hope readers enjoy and feel happier having read it!

Q:   What character do you relate to the most and why?
A:   That's a tough one. I think I can relate to aspects of each of them. As a teenager, I didn't think much of my looks and often wondered if the right person would find me beautiful. Em Struggles with her looks and, though I don't have the scars she does, I think we often see ourselves in the harshest light. I can also relate to Caleb's desire to please. I'm grateful for wonderful parents that have always loved and accepted us, but I've still always wanted to make the people around me proud. I can relate to Margaret because just like her, I got to the point where what people thought didn't matter as much. And, of course, I love "happily ever after" like the twins. Ha! Is that cheating to pick so many? :)

Q:   Not at all! Each character is so relatable. Readers are likely to see a bit of themselves in at least one, if not more, of them. Speaking of those characters, how did you choose your characters' names? Are they based on real people?
A:   The main characters' names were not picked for any specific reason other than the fact that Em with a simple name that worked for its purpose in the story. My kids' names all show up as secondary or side characters, and Beckford is a combination of my maiden name and married name. I usually look at censuses or lists of names from the era I'm writing in. Alroy was found off an Irish immigrant name list.

Q:  Very interesting. Thanks for explaining that. How much research went into this story?
A:  Azure Springs the fictional town which eliminated some of the research. The main thing I researched was orphan trains (or mercy trains or baby trains, as they were originally called). I read enough stories to realize that there were happy stories that came from this placement program and sad stories. I tried to represent both extremes in this book.

Q:   What would you be doing if you weren't an author?
A:    I am a stay-at-home mom. Even now with a book out and others in the works, that's what I tell people I do. I  have a houseful of kids, and they are my number one. To many readers, that might sound dull or like a waste of time, but for me, it is my joy. I adore my kids! And husband (don't want to leave him out, but he isn't nearly as needy as the little people that run underfoot). I am also a foster parent and an advocate for my son's disease ALD. I do our businesses' book, but that's work! I am also an avid reader, road tripper, history lover, and Sunday church goer!

Q:   Wow! You are certainly keeping busy! I'm glad you are able to find time to write, as well. What advice do you have for aspiring or new writers?
A:   I often tell people I couldn't have written a book at twenty or twenty-five because I wasn't humble enough to take criticism. I wouldn't tell aspiring authors to find people that will give you honest feedback that are well-read in your genre and be willing to listen to their feedback. It won't all be useful, but most likely, there are bits of truth in what they say. I have come to a place now where I truly appreciate people who give me honest feedback — the good, the bad, and the what were you thinking!

Q:  What's something about you that would surprise your readers?
A:   Even though I write (clean) romance novels, I was slow to fall for my husband. We were in a college class together, and his roommate encouraged him to find a date to double with them to a concert. He had this feeling that he should ask the girl from his class out. He came up to me and said, "Do you want to go to a concert?"
I said, "No. I'm busy this weekend."
He replied, "It's tonight."
I could think of no good excuses, so I agreed. We had so much fun on that first day, and he says there was a moment where he just knew I was going to change his life. I, on the other hand, had no intention of getting serious with anyone for a long time. To make a long story short, he patiently stuck by me, being my friend and nothing more until I finally realized plans and dreams change sometimes, and that's not always a bad thing. In fact, it's been a really amazing and wonderful thing. We've been married 14 years now!

Q:  Congratulations! What a great story. Do you have any specific writing rituals, such as music, a certain pen or outfit, or a favorite snack?
A:   Nope. I usually sit on the couch with my laptop and write while the littlest kids nap or when they are in bed. I like to think that when they are all in school I'll have a good routine and maybe a cute office, but that dream seems pretty far off, and to be honest, I'm in no hurry for these little people to grow up. I'm a bit of Peter Pan and want them to stay little forever!

Q:  What writers have inspired you in your journey?
A:   One of the first authors I met in person was Laura Frantz. She was so genuine and encouraging. I've often fallen back on her example and try to be equally kind to new authors who reached out to me. She truly is a good and caring person. I tried to narrow down what books and authors have inspired me and usually come back to the idea that my desire to write is not the result of one or two books, but it was born after years of reading and beautiful memories escaping into different worlds. I've read a whole variety of books (classics, contemporary, historical fiction, religious), and somehow the combination of them all triggered in me a desire to tell my own stories.

Q:   What book do you wish you'd written?
A:    I would love to write a Jane Eyre or The Light Between Oceans. the moral conflicts created in those stories are so powerful that they stay with you years after reading them. I wish I'd written These is My Words because despite the immense amount of tragedy in the book, it captures a love story from start to finish rather than just proposal or marriage. I would very much love to write a book that follows love as it ebbs and flows throughout my characters' lifespan. Someday…

Q:  Those are certainly some powerful stories. I believe we will see yours "someday." What three fictional people would you love to meet?

A:   That's a hard question! I'm not sure my husband would want me to get to chummy with any of the leading men I adore (Jack Elliot, Gilbert Blythe... You know who you are!) That narrows my choices a bit, so here goes:
  • Scarlett O'Hara: I think she'd intimidate me, but I'd love to sit down with her and talk some sense into her. Maybe I could save her and Rhett's relationship.
  • Jane Eyre: I'd like to meet her years after the book and just witness her happiness. It was so long in coming, and I think it'd make my heart happy seeing a good friend doing so well. I am certain we'd get along great.
  • It's really hard just picking three, but for my final pick, I'm going to say Sarah from These is My Words. She's such a hearty pioneer woman but still so full of love. The journal format of the book really got us in her head. It'd be fun to meet her in real life and ask her who she managed to get through so many challenges and remain optimistic still. 
Q:  I've never read These is My Words, but it sounds like I'll have to check it out. What's your favorite writing-related book?
A:   I'll be honest. I didn't use writing books when I started out. I just dove in and started writing. Then, as I went through the process, when I'd get stuck or feel like something wasn't right, I'd search the internet for help. I learned the writing process backwards. I think if I'd been smarter, there are lots of great resources out there that likely would have kept me from making so many rookie mistakes!

Q:  Ha! Well, your system apparently worked well for you with your debut release. One final question. What can you tell us about your current project/next book?
A:   My next book is titled Yours Truly, Thomas. It's due to release summer 2019 with Revell. Penny, my main heroine, words at the dead letter office in DC and comes across a letter from a heartbroken man. She makes it her mission to return the letter to its rightful owner, and as a result, she ends up on a path she never anticipated.

Thanks so much for taking the time to answer some questions. I'm sure my readers will enjoy getting to know you a bit better. All the best with your book!

My review...

Em and her sister were separated years ago while riding on the Orphan Train. Em is determined to find her sister, but she knows she’ll need help. Caleb is also dealing with a loss: his brothers in the Civil War. He’s now a sheriff, and he’s wants to prove himself to his parents. It doesn’t take him long to discover that Em is more than he initially thought.

If you’re a fan of Little House on the Prairie and Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman, or just a fan of historical fiction and westerns, you will likely enjoy this book, set in Iowa in 1881. This is Fordham’s debut novel, and her writing is fluid and draws the reader in. Characters (main and secondary) are well-crafted, and there is character growth throughout (especially with Em). Em and Caleb’s relationship develops at an appropriate pace. However, it was a bit hard for me to really connect with Caleb. I enjoyed the mystery, and I wish it had been a larger part of the overall story, as some parts of the book moved slower than others. Grief and not judging people are key themes. The cover is beautiful and complements the tale.

Disclaimer: I received a complimentary copy as part of the JustRead Blog Tour program. I wasn’t required to leave a positive review.

About Rachel...

Credit: Kylee Ann Maughan

Rachel Fordham started writing when her children began begging her for stories at night. She'd pull a book from the shelf, but they'd insist she make one up. Finally she put her love of good stories with her love of writing and she hasn't stopped since. She lives with her husband and children on an island in the state of Washington.

TO CONNECT WITH RACHEL:  website,  facebook,  goodreads


The publisher has graciously offered (3) winners each a copy of The Hope of Azure Springs and special Revell swag!

Giveaway will begin at midnight July 9, 2018 and last through 11:59 PM EST on July 17, 2018. Winners will be notified within a week of close of the giveaway and given 48 hours to respond or risk forfeiture of prize.  Complete prize open to US mailing addresses only.  For our giveaway rules and policy, click HERE.

Be sure to stop at a stop each day for extra entries!


For the full tour schedule, click on either of the launch pages below.

(All stops expected to post by 11:00 AM EST)

*NOTE: This post contains affiliate links.


  1. Thank you for your review and the information on "Hope of Azure Springs" by Rachel Fordham. Enjoyed the author interview. Always love learning more about the author of books I want to read and in doing so learn more about behind the book as well. I'm so glad that she stated that being a Mom was a job. So many overlook that as not being a job. It's a hard one going 24/7 for years with no days off, but hundreds times more rewarding than any other job. I'd love the opportunity to read this book.
    2clowns at arkansas dot net

    1. Kay,

      You're very welcome. Thanks for stopping by.

      I agree. I love learning how the story came to be, as well as about the author. Sadly, you're correct about how mom's are viewed at times. It certainly is a worthy and rewarding job.

      Good luck!

  2. Great interview. Thank you for joining the tour!

  3. Wow, this book sounds so good! I can't wait to read this.

  4. Replies
    1. It is. I hope you get a chance to read it.

      Good luck!

  5. I love historical fiction, this sounds like a really good book.

    1. Good luck! If you're a fan of historical fiction, I think you'll really enjoy it.

  6. I enjoyed learning about Rachel and her debut novel! Thank you for sharing.

    1. I'm glad you enjoyed it. You're very welcome :)

      Good luck, Caryl!