Tag Archives: Christian fiction

Review: Unwrapping Hope, by Sandra Ardoin

Book cover: Unwrapping Hope, A  Widow's Might Novella, by Sandra Ardoin

Unwrapping Hope, by Sandra Ardoin (Corner Room Books, 2019)

In the fall of 1986, Phoebe Crain supports her mother and her 5-year-old daughter on her scant earnings as a small-town piano tutor. It’s a long way from the concert stage, but it lets her hide from a past that’s left her bitter.

Spence Newland the Third, owner of the local department store, represents everything she’s come to despise and distrust—or does he? Her daughter, Maura, discovers his kindness.

In this historical romance, Phoebe and Spence each have past hurts that threaten to keep them from discovering a future that would bring young Maura the father she’s been wishing for.

Unwrapping Hope is a prequel novella that leads into Sandra Ardoin’s Widow’s Might series. The Widow’s Might circle is a group of widows in the town who, whether rich or poor, meet for support and to knit scarves etc for the nearby orphanage.

The author does an excellent job of setting the scene and the atmosphere, and I found the historical details interesting. I don’t think of this specifically as a Christmas story, but it does run through fall and finish on Christmas Eve. So while it can be enjoyed any time of year there might be an extra resonance in the season leading up to Christmas.

Favourite lines:

At the same time, she would eat the crow she already smelled cooking. [Kindle location 257]

Years ago Phoebe had seen a similar look in the mirror. If she could go back in time, she would shatter the glass. [Kindle location 378]

Verbenia was the durable thread that kept the emotions of each member of the [Widow’s Might] circle from unraveling. [Kindle location 412] 

Enduring Dreams, the next book in the Widow’s Might series, releases in 2020. For more about historical romance author Sandra Ardoin and her books, visit sandraardoin.com.

[Review copy provided by the author. Opinions are my own.]

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New Releases in Christian Fiction (October 2019)

October 2019 New Releases from members of American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW)

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

 


Biblical Fiction:

 

Lioness: Mahlah’s Journey by Barbara M. Britton — To keep her orphaned sisters together, Mahlah must seek what has never been granted to girls, an inheritance of God’s Promised Land. (Biblical from Harbourlight Books [Pelican])

 


Contemporary Romance:


 

Hiding from Christmas by Alice K. Arenz — No matter how hard she tries, Maddie Kelley can’t seem to fit in at Ornamental, a company founded by her great grandfather and his best friend. Now, after yet another screw-up, she’s been sent into the “enemy’s” camp—two hours away from home for the next two months. A punishment or a blessing? Her life is turned upside down when the mundane turns unexpected, and she finally discovers where her heart truly lies. (Contemporary Romance from Forget Me Not Romances [Winged Publications])

Practically Married by Karin Beery — Ashley Johnson moved to northern Michigan to finally meet her fiancé face-to-face, but she arrived in time to attend his funeral. With no home back in Ohio, she decides to stay in what would have been their house, except his cousin Russ lives there too, and Russ has never heard of Ashley. To complicate matters, her fiancé accidentally willed her the family farm house. Eager to please everyone and desperate to disappoint no one, she proposes a marriage of convenience that could solve her and Russ’ problems, if they can get past her aunt, his sisters, and an ex-girlfriend. (Contemporary Romance from Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas)

Once Upon a Christmas by Andrea Boyd, Mikal Dawn, Toni Shiloh, Angela Ruth Strong, and Jaycee Weaver — Embrace the magic of the Christmas season with these contemporary twists on timeless tales. Upon a Dream: A rare sleeping disorder keeps Talia from performing, but when Philip recognizes her gift, he’ll do whatever it takes to see her onstage. Claim My Heart: Li Na and Colin Wen face off in a Mulan-esque courtroom battle where the real win might be losing their hearts. A Snow White Christmas: Sheltered heiress Amala White flees her conniving stepmother’s plans and finds refuge with a handsome orchard owner and his seven quirky uncles. Christmas Ella: Reality TV meets Cinderella story when a location director is swept off her feet by a rising star. A Splash of Love: Las Vegas glitz meets Land of Enchantment culture in A Splash of Love, a modern twist on the Little Mermaid. (Contemporary Romance, Independently Published)

The Twin Bargain by Lisa Carter — A mutually beneficial temporary arrangement…But can they keep it strictly professional? Nursing student Amber Fleming couldn’t be more stunned when ex-marine Ethan Green makes an offer: he’ll babysit her twin girls if she cares for his injured grandmother. Amber knows it’s temporary. Ethan isn’t one for roots—or their hometown. But his steadfast caring has her wanting more than friendship. And with help from Amber’s mischievous twins, can they risk becoming a forever family? (Contemporary Romance from Love Inspired [Harlequin])

The Amish Christmas Matchmaker by Vannetta Chapman — With her wedding business thriving, Annie Kauffmann could never leave her beloved Amish community. So when handsome Amish cowboy Levi Lapp tries to convince her father to move the family to Texas, she must put a stop to it. If Annie finds Levi a wife, he might forget his dream of moving…but can she keep from falling for him herself? (Amish Romance from Love Inspired [Harlequin])

Sara’s Gift by Kimberly Rose Johnson — Christmas is the season of giving, but Sara isn’t sure she is up to the task. Playing secret angel in high school was fun, and now, years later, Sara has the opportunity to do it once more on a bigger scale. She enlists the help of Gabe, her long-time best friend, to come up with a deserving recipient. But something is off with Gabe—he’s more attentive than usual.
The Christmas season has put Gabe in a reflective mood. His evaluation of his life has left him lonely and wanting more. But can his heart have its desire? That’s up to Sara. Can these two long-time best friends navigate their changing relationship, or will the romance Grinch steal their Christmas joy? (Contemporary Romance, Independently Published)

Their Christmas Prayer by Myra Johnson — Searching for a new start, Pastor Shaun O’Grady can’t wait for his next foreign missionary assignment…until he begins working with Brooke Willoughby on the church’s Christmas outreach program. Even as they clash over program specifics, Shaun and Brooke are drawn to each other. Now Shaun’s not sure where he belongs: overseas for his ministry, or at home by Brooke’s side… (Contemporary Romance from Love Inspired [Harlequin])

Her Amish Holiday Suitor by Carrie Lighte — Lucy Knepp has no time for heartbreaker Nick Burkholder…until a pretend courtship means she can finish her embroidery for a Christmas fund-raiser in peace. Nick’s arrangement with the too-reserved Lucy is the perfect cover while he repairs the cabin his brother damaged. But once Nick sees how vibrant Lucy really is, can he prove himself—and show their love is for all seasons? (Amish Romance from Love Inspired [Harlequin])

 


General/Contemporary:

 

Chasing Dreams by Deborah Raney — Reconsidering her dream of law school, Joanna Chandler finds promise in a possible wedding planning career—especially when she meets wedding DJ Lukas Blaine. But there’s more to Luke than meets the eye. The angry young boy he’s been mentoring has lost his mother and become Luke’s ward. How can Luke possibly find the time to start a new relationship or saddle someone else with a wounded child? He may have to let go of the woman of his dreams–and crush her dreams at the same time. (General/Contemporary from Kregel Publications)

 


Historical Romance:

 

Unwrapping Hope by Sandra Ardoin — When Phoebe receives a handcrafted cigar box by mistake, her desperation to give her daughter something special for Christmas drives her to suggest a trade with Spence Newland, a man she views as no more principled than her daughter’s late father. But the more time she spends with the department store heir, the more Phoebe struggles to keep up her guard against him. Spence believes the cigar box will help him gain a reclusive investor’s financial support for his proposed five-and-ten-cent stores. Yet he hesitates to bargain with a widow who mistrusts him for no apparent reason…until he meets a charming little girl at the train station who awaits the arrival of a prince. Will a betrayal in Phoebe’s past and Spence’s unraveling business plans derail their hope for happiness and keep a child’s fairy tale from coming true? (Historical Romance from Corner Room Books)

Hope’s Highest Mountain by Misty M. Beller — Ingrid Chastain travels readily with her father to deliver vaccines to a mining town in the Montana Territory. But after a tragic accident leaves her alone and injured, Ingrid finds rescue in the form of a mysterious mountain man who tends her wounds. Micah Bradley gave up his own medical career after unintentionally bringing home the smallpox disease that killed his wife and daughter. With Ingrid dead set on trekking through the mountains to deliver the medicine as soon as she’s well enough, he has no choice but to accompany her through the treacherous, snow-covered Rocky Mountains. The risk-laden journey ahead will change their lives more than they could have known. (Historical Romance from Bethany House [Baker])

Aiming for Love by Mary Connealy — Josephine Nordegren is one of three sisters who grew up nearly wild in southwestern Colorado. She has the archery skills of Robin Hood and the curiosity of the Little Mermaid, fascinated by but locked away from the forbidden outside world–a world she’s been raised to believe killed her parents. When David Warden, a rancher, brings in a herd much too close to the girls’ secret home, her older sister especially is frightened, but Jo is too interested to stay away. David’s parents follow soon on his heels, escaping bandits at their ranch. David’s father is wounded and needs shelter. Josephine and her sisters have the only cabin on the mountain. Do they risk stepping into the world to help those in need? Or do they remain separated but safe in the peaks of Hope Mountain? (Historical Romance from Bethany House [Baker])

Lessons on Love by Susanne Dietze, Rita Gerlach, Kathleen L. Maher, and Carrie Fancett Pagels — Step back into the classroom alongside four new teachers who face unexpected tests. In 1840 New York, Gilda’s religious beliefs are challenged. In 1870 Kansas, Mary helps ostracized immigrant children. In 1894 Michigan, Jesse discovers an unlikely friendship. And in 1904 Virginia, Margaret wants to make controversial changes. Will these tests teach the teachers about faith and love? (Historical Romance from Barbour Publishing)

 


Mystery:

 

The Silver Lode by Suzanne J Bratcher — A dying child and a seventy-year-old cold case draw historian Paul Russell and antiques expert Marty Greenlaw into a desperate search for the silver lode, a rich deposit of silver and gold one person considers worth murdering to keep. (Mystery from Mantle Rock Publishing)

 


Romantic Suspense:

 

Deadly Commitment by Kathy Harris — When Danielle Kemp walks out of her downtown Nashville condominium, she gets the eerie feeling that someone is watching her. She’s convinced that the homeless man outside her building is stalking her. But after learning the real identity of the intimidating stranger, she faces something even more threatening?the truth about her fiancé. (Romantic Suspense from New Hope Publishing)

Cold Pursuit by Gayla K. Hiss — A December tour of Yellowstone National Park sounded like the perfect escape from Faith Chandler’s problems at home—until she discovers her tour guide is her jilted childhood sweetheart, Jake Mitchell. (Romantic Suspense from Mountain Brook Ink)

Legacy Restored by Robin Patchen — She’s a new Christian working to take down an art thief and murderer. He’s a grieving artist who refuses to let another woman die needlessly. When their desires clash, will it lead to hostility… or fireworks? (Romantic Suspense, Independently Published)

 


Young Adult:


 

Heart of a Royal by Hannah Currie — Brought to the palace as a newborn, the royal life bestowed upon Mackenna Sparrow was never meant to last forever. With Princess Alina engaged to be married, Mackenna’s presence as companion is no longer required and, like it or not, she must return to the birthright which should have been hers – that of a commoner. But not everyone at the palace wants her gone. When the truths she’s based her life on start crumbling as fast as her future, will she find the courage to trust, both herself and the prince she’s fallen in love with? (Young Adult from WhiteFire Publishing)

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Review: Going Back Cold, by Kelley Rose Waller

Book cover: Going Back Cold, by Kelley Rose Waller

Going Back Cold, by Kelley Rose Waller (Versive Press, 2019)

On the one hand, Going Back Cold is a science fiction novel about a small group of scientists based in Antarctica experimenting with faster-than-light technology. But it’s also an exploration of the different ways people grieve.

In year one of the four-year research and development project, Dr. Jane Whyse discovers she’s pregnant with her second child. After the baby girl is stillborn, Jane, her husband Dr. Lucas Whyse, and their young son Sebastian continue work on the project. Both committed Christians, Jane and Lucas find their faith shaken. Lucas is working through his grief, but Jane appears trapped in her anger. Her research soon becomes her obsession.

The science is intriguing (I can’t say I understood it, but I expect that in science fiction). The observation of a small group of people interacting in a closed environment is interesting, too. The Whyses’ grief is instructive for those who haven’t experienced a significant loss—and I expect it’s affirming for those who have. And the ethical dilemma Jane’s obsession unleashes could come from near-future headlines.

Negatives: This is Christian fiction, and I was surprised to find the occasional mild profanity, as well as some crude comments. (Yes, I know some Christians swear, but it always catches me off-guard in real life and in books.)  

Positives: There are some delightfully geeky references, and Jane and Lucas are transparently honest with God about their grief.

Favourite lines:

Jane was determined to have her family cake and eat the career, too. [On bringing their young son with them to the research base. Kindle location 268]

Good luck seeing God in me. I’m broken and failing when I try to rebuild. There aren’t words for where I am, none that make sense anyway. But I believe it. I will believe it. And I trust You. God, it hurts, but I trust. I will believe. [Lucas’s personal log. Kindle location 1941]

Kelley Rose Waller has also written The Senator’s Youngest Daughter. For more about the author and her work, visit kelleyrosewaller.com.

[Review copy provided by the author. My opinions are my own.]

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Review: Up From the Sea, by Amanda Dykes

Book cover: Up From the Sea, by Amanda Dykes

Up From the Sea, by Amanda Dykes (Bethany House, 2019)

After I read Whose Waves These Are, I went looking for more fiction from Amanda Dykes and was excited to find two free ebook novellas.

One of those is Up From the Sea, a prequel novella for Whose Waves These Are. Reading it later let me enjoy recognizing details significant to the novel, which features the next generation. It also made me want to go back and read the novel again with this deeper understanding of the past.

Savannah Mae Thorpe was born and raised in Georgia, but after her parents’ deaths in 1925 the young woman returns to her mother’s family in coastal Maine. She doesn’t fit in with her aunt and uncle’s ways, nor with her cousins, although Cousin Mary used to be a good friend.

A local legend from the 1700s captures her imagination with a wild hope to save her inheritance. Local lumberjack Alastair Bliss agrees to help, but Savannah’s quest sounds more like a fairy tale than reality.

Favourite lines:

Lord, you created the dark just as you created the light. Help me find life there, and not fear. [Chapter 3]

“She was imagination itself.” It felt good to speak of her [Savannah’s mother] with laughter, to feel the jagged edges of grief gentled with fond memory. [Chapter 7]

Vague light seeped in through a window whose wavy glass dripped with time. [Chapter 7]

Amanda Dykes’ tag line is “spinning stories, gathering grace.” As well as the historical fiction Up From the Sea and Whose Waves These Are, she’s written the novella, Bespoke: A Tiny Christmas Tale, and one of the stories in The Message in a Bottle Romance Collection. For more about the author and her work, visit amandadykes.com.

[Review copy from my personal library.]

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Review: True Confections, by Ruth Hartzler

Book cover: True Confections, An Amish Cupcake Cozy Mystery, by Ruth Hartzler

True Confections, by Ruth Hartzler (Clean Wholesome Books, 2019)

Unexpectedly divorced, 50-year-old Jane Delight moves into the apartment above her twin sister Rebecca’s cupcake store near Pennsylvania Amish territory. Rebecca commutes daily by horse and buggy, but Jane has long since left their Amish ways behind (she does, however, still have a personal faith).

When an unpleasant customer collapses in Rebecca’s store and dies, Jane decides to divert suspicion from herself and her sister by finding the murderer. Some of the comedy that ensues is a bit over-the-top, like when Jane literally falls into the handsome detective’s arms, but it’s a light-hearted mystery after all.

Jane’s quirky roommates are part of what makes this book fun: 80-somethings Matilda and Eleanor Birtwistle and their mischievous cat.

The narrative has a distant feel and I did find it a slow start, especially since Jane’s ex-husband’s dialogue doesn’t match his role as a successful lawyer. Once he was out of the picture, the story started to work for me.

Another aspect of the story I enjoyed was the Amish/non-Amish (English) dynamic, with the perceptions of outsiders and their awkwardness of knowing quite how to treat Rebecca as an Amish woman.

True Confections is the first novel in the Amish Cupcake Cozy Mystery series. Ruth Hartzler writes cozy mysteries, Christian romantic suspense, and Amish romance. For more about the author and her work, visit ruthhartzler.com.

[Review copy from my personal library.]

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Review: Whose Waves These Are, by Amanda Dykes

Book cover: Whose Waves These Are, by Amanda Dykes

Whose Waves These Are, by Amanda Dykes (Bethany House, 2019)

This is the most beautiful and heartwarming novel I’ve read in a long time. Satisfying. Peace-inducing and hope-whispering. Amanda Dykes writes with a gentle, lyrical quality that invites readers to linger in this tale and savour every page.

Annie Bliss and her great-uncle Bob (“GrandBob”) have shared a special bond since the summer she spent with him in coastal Maine as a child. Now his need calls her back to the struggling town of Ansel-by-the-Sea, away from the soul-drying big-city job where she’s been hiding.

The novel follows two timelines: Annie’s in the present and Bob’s in the past, weaving together to tell a story of great loss and greater hope. Of light in the darkness and faith in despair. Of breaking and mending.

The town and its inhabitants add a richness, evoking the best attributes of small fishing communities where the locals stand together, no matter what. 

See some of the evocative description:

There’s a strength in his stance, as if his feet are putting roots down into the very granite. [page 25]

The past uncoils like a fiddlehead fern, a tender ache with it. [page 81]

This part of Maine was a place like no other spot in the universe, and being back was like finding an old patch of sunlight in a long-lost home, and settling in. [page 86]

I won’t share my favourite line, because it’s too near the end. You’ll need to find it yourself. It’ll mean more to you that way.

I admit the present-tense narrative jarred me at times, but even with that, Whose Waves These Are has claimed a special place in my heart. I’m grateful for the experience.

Amanda Dykes’ tag line is “spinning stories, gathering grace.” Whose Waves These Are is her first novel, but readers may know her from her novella, Bespoke: A Tiny Christmas Tale, or from The Message in a Bottle Romance Collection. For more about the author and her work, visit amandadykes.com.

[Book has been provided courtesy of Baker Publishing Group and Graf-Martin Communications, Inc. Available at your favourite bookseller from Bethany House, a division of Baker Publishing Group.]

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Review: On a Summer Tide, by Suzanne Woods Fisher

Book cover: On a Summer Tide, by Suzanne Woods Fisher

On a Summer Tide, by Suzanne Woods Fisher (Revell, 2019)

When their widowed father announces that he’s sold the family home and bought an island off the coast of Maine, Cam Grayson and her sisters are afraid he’s losing his mind. Partly due to this fear and partly due to life circumstances, each of the women decide to spend some time with him on Three Sisters Island.

Their father, Paul, plans to renovate the rustic island camp where he first met his wife. He hopes the family project will draw his daughters closer together. In the beginning, this is a family who don’t listen to one another, who may work together but without sharing any depth of relationship.

The daughters are widely different in personality and goals. I feel they’re perhaps too much defined by their dominant traits, to the point I didn’t really connect with any of them. We have Cam the driven businesswoman, Maddie the counsellor-in-training who analyzes family members at every opportunity, and Blaine the 19-year-old who can’t decide on her future path.

Despite a bit of disconnect, I enjoyed the story. The setting is isolated and beautiful, and I enjoyed watching the camp restoration. There’s a nice romance between Cam and Seth, the island’s schoolteacher. Seth’s gentle conversations with Cam about faith are a good example of natural ways to engage with non-Christian friends in real life.

There are flashbacks sprinkled throughout the novel and I don’t think they added anything that wasn’t (or couldn’t have been) conveyed in straight story time. For me they were more of a distraction than a bonus. The bonus was watching the interaction between teacher Seth and Cam’s son Cooper.

Favourite lines:

The driveway unfurled in a lazy curl through strands of trees until it reached the clearing where the old house sat against a windbreak of pines. [page 69, Cam’s first sight of their father’s new house]

“It’s okay to start with a small faith. We’ve got a big God.” [page 220, Seth to Cam]

On a Summer Tide is book 1 in the Three Sisters Island series, and since Cam was the central sister in this story, I expect Maddie and Blaine will each be the heroine of their own book as the series continues.

Suzanne Woods Fisher is a multi-published author of contemporary and historical novels. For more about the author and her work, visit suzannewoodsfisher.com.

[Book has been provided courtesy of Baker Publishing Group and Graf-Martin Communications, Inc. Available at your favourite bookseller from Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group.]

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Interview: Christine Dillon

Author Christine Dillon
Author Christine Dillon

Author Christine Dillon’s third novel, Grace in Deep Waters, released in July, and I caught up with her for a few questions. You’ll find her author bio and the details of her book below, but first, let’s hear from Christine herself.

Janet: You’ve lived in a number of countries. Where are you based now? And what’s something you love about where you live?

Christine: I’m currently back in Taiwan where I’ve worked as a missionary for the past twenty years. As my parents were also missionaries, I have also done most of my schooling in Malaysia and the Philippines. However, my passport country is Australia.

I love using my life to tell people about Jesus. People here are friendly and hospitable.

Janet: You’re a Bible storyteller, verbally recounting events from Scripture. How did writing novels come about?

Christine: As a Bible storyteller I couldn’t fail to be impacted by the response that people had to stories and the fact that they often learned far more than they would if I’d taught them the main points. The stories lingered.

I had also been strongly impacted by certain stories like the Narnia series and Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis. However, I didn’t think I could ever write a novel. Non-fiction yes, but novels were well beyond me.

It seems that God has other ideas because he literally dropped the initial ideas and title into my head for the first novel which went on to start a series. It was kind of Him not to give me too much up front because I would have been overwhelmed. I spent nearly five hard years learning to write fiction. Some things get easier but it is still the hardest thing I’ve ever done.

Janet: Grace in Deep Waters is book 3 in the Grace series, each one tackling some heavy issues in a character-driven, thought-provoking way. Do readers need to begin with book 1, or can they dive right into the “Deep Waters” of book 3?

Christine: I’ve written each book as a ‘stand alone’ story but it would be much more beneficial to read from book 1.

Janet: Each book in the series features a different member of the Macdonald family. Do you have a favourite character, and if so, why?

Christine: You spend so much time with the characters so they grow on you. Most of my favourite characters are the minor characters. I loved Joy from book 1 and Dr Paul Webster. I am planning a separate book for him. In book 2, I loved Josh and Dirk at the plant nursery. Throughout the series I also love Naomi, Esther’s grandmother. In book 3, one of the main characters is quite hard to like. I am thankful God doesn’t give up on him because most of us would have. The side characters of Reg (modelled a bit on my grandfather) and Davy are my favourites. Writing an eight-year-old was fun.

Janet: I know you’re here to talk about fiction, but could you give us a quick intro to what Bible storytelling is?

Christine: Of course, I love to talk about Bible storytelling. It is a way of simply telling Bible stories so that people not only hear God’s word but can then interact with it. I mostly tell stories to adults and most often with non-Christians. Storytelling has a unique ability to get under people’s defences and allow us to communicate with people who wouldn’t usually listen. I have two non-fiction books on storytelling and you can find out more at storyingthescriptures.com. There are many training posts/videos and video stories there, plus testimonies of people using storytelling around the world.

Janet: Christine, thanks for taking time to chat today, and all the best with your writing!

More about the book:

Book cover: Grace in Deep Waters, by Christine Dillon

William Macdonald is at the pinnacle of his career. Pastor of a growing megachurch and host of a successful national radio programme. Clever and respected, he’s a man with everything, including a secret. His wife has left him and he can’t risk anyone finding out.

Blanche Macdonald is struggling. Her once rock-solid marriage is showing cracks. She promised to love her husband for better or for worse, but does loving always mean staying? Blanche desires to put God first. Not William. Not her daughter. Not herself.

When is a marriage over? When do you stand and fight?

Buy links for Grace in Deep Waters:

More about Christine Dillon

Christine never intended to become an author. The only kind of writing she wondered if she might do was biography. However, it was a surprise to her to write poetry, non-fiction and now fiction.

Christine was a physiotherapist but now she writes ‘storyteller’ on any airport forms. She can legitimately claim to be this as she has written a book on storytelling and spends much of her time either telling Bible stories or training others to do so from her base in southern Taiwan.

In her spare time Christine loves all things active – hiking, cycling, swimming, snorkelling. But she also likes reading and genealogical research, as that satisfies her desire to be an historical detective.

Visit Christine’s website: storytellerchristine.com

Subscribe to Christine’s newsletter: subscribe.storytellerchristine.com

Review: Grace in Deep Waters, by Christine Dillon

Book cover: Grace in Deep Waters, by Christine Dillon

Grace in Deep Waters, by Christine Dillon (Links in the Chain Press, 2019)

Should Blanche go home? But how can she resume life with her legalistic husband now that her growing faith conflicts with his dogma? And while he denies their shared grief over their daughter’s death?

William didn’t even go to the funeral. And he denies the existence of their other daughter, Rachel, who left home many years ago at 15.

Grace in Deep Waters is book 3 in the ongoing Grace series (there are more books to come). New readers can start here and not feel lost, but I’d recommend starting at the beginning with Grace in Strange Disguise.

The women in this series develop a faith that’s nothing like the showy façade William has drilled into them. When life circumstances hit—and hit hard—Esther, Rachel, and Blanche each discover a truer Christianity and make the hard choices to live for God’s honour instead of living to satisfy or defy William’s rules.

William is proud, self-centred, and unyielding. Author Christine Dillon does a fine job of letting readers into his head to understand him and develop enough compassion to hope he’ll change.

Part of the novel is his story: will he change or harden himself further? Can he change, even if he wants to?

Another part is a beautiful observation of Blanche, a fallible woman growing in her faith and trying to find a healthy way to grieve.

Is this a depressing novel? Not at all. It’s heartwarming, inspiring, and it can challenge us to prayerfully make better choices in our own lives.

Favourite lines:

She’d let fear bind her. What might life be like if she walked free? [Kindle location 288]

The kid turned around and gazed at  him with a piercing eye a high school principal would die for. [Kindle location 2159]

Anyone who thinks Christian fiction is light and fluffy or dry like a dusty sermon needs to read Christine Dillon’s Grace series. The faith message is strong and clear yet presented organically through the characters’ thoughts and decisions, leaving readers free to draw their own conclusions. The questions are real and deep.

In Grace in Strange Disguise, the challenge was “what happens when the prayer of faith doesn’t heal?” In Grace in the Shadows, it’s “how—and why—would God love me, after what I’ve done?” In Grace in Deep Waters, characters wrestle with grief, marital breakdown, and that contentious issue, submission.

As the characters wrestle, readers can wrestle, too. This isn’t a series that hands out easy answers. Discussion guides are available on the author’s website, for book clubs or individuals who want to dig deeper.

Christine Dillon is a missionary whose tag-line is “multiplying disciples one story at a time,” and the author of the Grace fiction series. She has also written non-fiction books about the Bible storytelling approach. For more about the author, visit storytellerchristine.com.

[Review copy provided by the author.]

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New Releases in Christian Fiction (August 2019)

2019 New Releases from Members of American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW)

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


Contemporary Romance:

The Butterfly Recluse by Therese Heckenkamp — Lila finds solace in her sheltered world by raising butterflies and surrounding herself with their gentle beauty. They’re all she needs—until a motorcycle-riding stranger roars up her driveway, invading her safe haven, throwing her life off-kilter, and forcing her to question everything. What exactly is he after, and what is he not telling her? In one intense night of desperation and revelation, Lila must confront her darkest fears—and hopefully discover that with faith and courage, shattered dreams can be restored, damaged hearts can love again, and broken wings can heal . . . maybe even fly. (Contemporary Romance from Ivory Tower Press)

A Glitter of Gold by Liz Johnson — Anne Norris moved to Savannah, Georgia, for a fresh start. Now her pirate-tour business is flagging and paying the rent requires more than wishful thinking. When she discovers evidence of a shipwreck off the coast of Tybee Island, she knows it could be just the boon she needs to stay afloat. She takes her findings to local museum director Carter Hale for confirmation, but things do not go as planned. Carter is fascinated with the wreck, the discovery of which could open the door to his dream job at a prestigious museum. But convincing Anne to help him fill in the missing pieces of the puzzle is no easy task. And working with Carter means that Anne will have to do the one thing she swore she’d never do again: trust a man. (Contemporary Romance from Revell-A Division of Baker Publishing Group)

Hometown Healing by Jennifer Slattery — She’s home again, but not for long… Unless this cowboy recaptures her heart Returning home with a baby in tow, Paige Cordell’s determined her stay is only temporary. But to earn enough money to leave, she needs a job—and her only option is working at her first love’s dinner theater. With attraction once again unfurling between her and Jed Gilbertson, can the man who once broke her heart convince her to stay for good? (Contemporary Romance from Love Inspired [Harlequin])


General Contemporary/Women’s Fiction:

Grace in Deep Waters by Christine Dillon — William Macdonald is at the pinnacle of his career. Pastor of a growing megachurch and host of a successful national radio programme. Clever and respected, he’s a man with everything, including a secret. His wife has left him and he can’t risk anyone finding out. Blanche Macdonald is struggling. Her once rock-solid marriage is showing cracks. She promised to love her husband for better or for worse, but does loving always mean staying? Blanche desires to put God first. Not William. Not her daughter. Not herself. When is a marriage over? When do you stand and fight? (Women’s Fiction, Independently Published)

When Mountains Sing by Stacy Monson — Mikayla Gordon loves nothing more than sleeping under the stars, reeling in the “big one,” and long hikes in the wilderness. A medical crisis reveals a 30-year-old secret that turns everything she’s known and believed upside down, unraveling her dreams and her identity. In search of answers, she follows a trail from Minnesota to Colorado and discovers more unwelcome secrets even as she falls in love with the majestic beauty of the Rocky Mountains, and a wilderness camp leader who shares the greatest secret of all. Knowing her life can never go back to what it was, she must make decisions that will impact far more than just her future. (Contemporary from His Image Publications)

All In by L. K. Simonds — Cami Taylor: a blackjack dealer, a bestselling author, and a fraud. Cami’s boyfriend, Joel, loves her in spite of her flaws. He wants to marry her, buy a house on Long Island, and raise a family–a life that’s a million miles from Cami’s idea of happiness. Her therapist suggests compromise and trust, but Cami bolts like a deer. She breaks off the relationship and launches on a new quest for happiness, not knowing that a nasty surprise waits around the corner. What follows is a fight to the death. Who will be the one left standing? (Contemporary from Morgan James Fiction)


Historical:

Finding Lady Enderly by Joanna Davidson Politano — A rag girl accepts an invitation to become the lady she’s always dreamed of being, but some dreams turn out to be nightmares. (Historical from Revel – A Division of Baker Publishing Group)


Historical Romance:

Lady and the Lawman by Crystal L. Barnes, Vickie McDonough, Annette OHare, and Kathleen Y’Barbo — Four historic stories of lawmen and the ladies who love them. (Historical Romance from Barbour Publishing)

The Farmer’s Daughter by Mary Davis, Kelly Eileen Hake, Tracie J. Peterson, Jill Stengl, and Susan May Warren — Enjoy five historical novels by some of Christian fiction’s bestselling authors. Meet daughters of prairie farms from Montana south to Kansas who find love in the midst of turbulent life changes. Marty’s nieces are kidnapped. Rosalind’s town is overrun by a railroad company. Amy’s jealousy comes between her and her twin. Beulah’s answer is needed to a marriage proposal. Lilly’s choice puts her at odd with her neighbors. Into each of their lives rides a man who may only make their situations worse. (Historical Romance from Barbour Publishing)

The Cowboys by Sandra Merville Hart, Cindy Ervin Huff, Jennifer Uhlarik, and Linda W. Yezak — Taming the West–one heart at a time. Healing Heart: A physically scarred cowboy finds solace with a ranch girl who is hiding from her past. Becoming Brave: A cattle drover wants to get his boss’s heard safely through Indian Territory…as soon he figures out why a bloodstained woman is holding a gun on him. Trails End: Waiting for his boss’s cattle to sell, a cowboy takes a kitchen job at a restaurant where the beautiful and prickly owner adds spice to his workday. Loving a Harvey Girl: To improve the local preacher’s opinion of career women, a Harvey Girl makes it her mission to redeem a wayward cowboy, but finds herself longing for a husband, hearth, and home. (Historical Romance from Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas)

Lost in the Storm by Tamera Lynn Kraft — Lavena, a journalist during the Civil War, wants to become a war correspondent. She finally gets her chance, but there’s a catch. She has to get an interview from a war hero who has refused to tell his story to every other journalist, and she has to accomplish this impossible task in a month or she’ll lose her job. Captain Cage, the war hero, has a secret that will destroy his military career and reputation. Now, a new journalist wants him to reveal what he’s been hiding. He’d prefer to ignore her, but from the moment she came into camp, he can’t get her out of his mind. Leading up to the turbulent Battles for the city of Chattanooga, will Lavena and Cage find the courage to love and forgive, or will they be swept away by their past mistakes that don’t want to stay buried? (Historical Romance from Mt Zion Ridge Press)

Love’s Allegiance by Linda Shenton Matchett — Inspired by the biblical love story of Rebekkah and Isaac, Love’s Allegiance explores the struggles and sacrifices of those whose beliefs were at odds with a world at war. (Historical Romance from Shortwave Press)

The Brightest Hope by Naomi Musch — Five years after the Great War, Holly Allen is a well-adjusted war widow with a knack for running the family press. She’s over the days of waiting for a white knight to ride in and sweep her away from her cares. Besides, if Hugh Phelps is a knight, he’s certainly a black one—with his prison record, personal demons, and the ghosts of war that haunt him. When Holly hires Hugh, despite her reservations, it isn’t long before she sees the man he could really be, and as Hugh finds his niche at Allen’s Printing, he finds his lady boss equally appealing. Despite the attraction, however, Holly won’t let herself fall for a faithless man, and Hugh isn’t on gracious terms with God. Then, just when new beginnings seem possible, old heartaches from the war come calling. Now it might only be in letting go of everything dear that they both discover what real love is. (Historical Romance, Independently Published)

Annabelle’s Joy by Betty Thomason Owens — She’s waited too long. When Tom proposed last year, Annabelle wasn’t ready to open her heart to another man. Pain still held a thin crust around it. Time has healed her heart, but with a new woman in town, one who clearly has her sights set on Tom, does it matter if Annabelle’s heart is ready to love again? Folks in town are keeping a close eye on their pharmacist, hoping to be the first to hear the good news. He’s been courting the widow Cross for nigh on two years now. Annabelle Cross better wake up and put her dancing shoes on. Mr. Tom is prime real estate. (Historical Romance from Write Integrity Press)


Mystery/Cozy Mystery:

Hidden Secrets by Janet Sketchley — When an online vendetta against the Green Dory Inn escalates to physical threats, a cryptic message about a tunnel points to the property’s original owner, a notorious Prohibition-era sea captain rumoured to have left hidden wealth. (Mystery, Independently Published)

Murder at Rendsburg Resort by C. L. Wells — Trapped in a remote resort with a killer on the loose, the body count piling up, and no one else to save them, mystery writer Jill Pemberton must help find the killer before they claim their next victim. (Cozy Mystery, Independently Published)


Romantic Suspense:

Two Steps Forward by Luana Ehrlich — When CIA operative Titus Ray has an unexpected encounter with a Jihadi terrorist while he and Nikki are on their honeymoon in Morocco, he assumes it’s a coincidence, but when they travel to Israel for the second half of their honeymoon and encounter him again, he takes action, which takes him to Baghdad to prevent the assassination of a high-profile government official. (Romantic Suspense, Independently Published)

Edge of Truth by Kimberly Rose Johnson — The DEA sends two of its best agents, Kara Nelson and Jeff Clark, to Central Oregon, to shut down a major drug ring. Kara and Jeff usually work alone, but Operation Trail Ride throws them undercover together in a way neither of them expected. A notorious Miami drug lord wants Kara dead. Can these agents pull off the greatest acting job of their lives—and manage the sparks flying between them? Or will they die trying? (Romantic Suspense, Independently Published)


Speculative:

Redemption by Jacques R. Pye — Sterling Newman and Armena Sandal face death as they struggle to help the Alesandrans and the Kirilleans combat a force seeking the destruction of both worlds. (Speculative, Independently Published)


Young Adult:

Shards of Light by Susan Miura — Sometimes the pieces of a shattered dream can transform into something extraordinary. (Young Adult from Vinspire Publishing)