Y’all, today I have the incredible privilege of participating in a blog tour for Shanna Hatfield’s Garden of Her Heart, an amazing book that is the start of her new series, Hearts of the War. Shanna was the guest of my first Author Spotlight several months ago. If you’d like to get to know her a little better, feel free to check out my fun interview with her here.
I love Shanna’s writing, and Garden of Her Heart is no exception. Take a look at the special tour post below that includes a quick interview with Miko, the heroine of Garden of Her Heart, and an excerpt from the book. Then check out my review of the book (basically why I think you should take the time to read this book) and a GIVEAWAY!
USA Today Bestselling Author Shanna Hatfield joins us with her latest release, a sweet World War II romance.
Thank you for hosting me today, Julie. It’s such a pleasure to be here on your blog. I thought it might be fun for you and your readers to meet Miko Nishimura from Garden of Her Heart.
Thank you for joining us, Miko!
Miko: Hello. Thank you for welcoming me here today.
Can you tell us a little about how you ended up as a fugitive in the land of your birth?
Miko: I was out of town, visiting my best friend, when the order came down for all Japanese Americans in our area to report to an assembly center. My parents couldn’t find my friend’s number, and by the time they got in touch with me, it was nearing the deadline to report. After some difficulty procuring a bus ticket, I finally started home to Portland. But the bus driver took exception to my presence on the bus. I ended up walking about twenty miles to my grandparents’ farm. By the time I arrived, my family had already left for the assembly center and I found a wounded soldier at the back step, about to lose his battle to survive. I couldn’t leave him, so I stayed. Because I failed to report, I became a fugitive.
What do you think of the soldier?
Miko: He’s um… (blushes) very handsome, and tall. He seems kind and gentle. From what I’ve observed, he is intelligent and has a sense of humor.
He sounds pretty dreamy.
Miko: He is.
If you could share one piece of advice with people, what would it be?
Miko: Be kind. I can’t think of any one thing that could change so much of what is wrong in the world if more people would just be kind.
Is there anything else you’d like to share with readers today?
Miko: An invitation to read Garden of Her Heart. It’s a romance, but it’s also a story of hope and faith and courage – even in the face of great adversity.
Can forbidden love blossom
amid the constraints of war?
The moment the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor, life shifted for Miko Nishimura. Desperate to reach the Portland Assembly Center for Japanese-Americans, she’s kicked off the bus miles from town. Every tick of the clock pushes her closer to becoming a fugitive in the land of her birth. Exhausted, she stumbles to her grandparents’ abandoned farm only to find a dying soldier sprawled across the step. Unable to leave him, she forsakes all else to keep him alive.
After crashing his plane in the Battle of the Atlantic, the doctors condemn Captain Rock Laroux to die. Determined to meet his maker beneath a blue sky at his family home, he sneaks out of the hospital. Weary and half out of his mind, he makes it as far as a produce stand he remembers from his youth. Rather than surrender to death, Rock fights a battle of the heart as he falls in love with the beautiful Japanese woman who saves his life.
A poignant, sweet romance, Garden of Her Heart proves love can bloom in unlikely places even under the most challenging circumstances.
Dazed and drained, Miko came to her senses as she reached a road she recognized in the predawn light. It led to a farm owned by one of her grandparents’ neighbors. If she cut through their pasture, it would save her a few miles of walking.
She pushed down the wires of the fence and stepped over it, then reached back for her suitcase. The barbed wire caught her coat. Miko jerked it away from the snag and rolled her eyes in frustration when the fabric ripped.
Sudden anger, at herself for her own arrogance and stupidity as well as the circumstances that left her walking through the woods in the rain at night, fueled her steps. Indignation lent her spent body strength as she hurried across the pasture. A few cows tossed uninterested glances her direction, but none moved her way.
Relieved when she reached the far end of the pasture, she hurried over the fence and along the edge of the trees that circled the vast acres her grandparents owned.
The first fingers of dawn stretched across the drab sky as she stepped from the trees and swallowed back a sob at the sight of her grandparents’ produce stand. As long as Miko could remember, her family had sold produce from the red-painted structure filled with shelves and bins to hold every type of vegetable and fruit the fertile soil would grow.
A hundred yards behind the produce stand, a white picket fence surrounded the cheery yellow bungalow home her grandparents had built in the mid-1920s. With a wide porch and a plethora of flowers surrounding all four sides, the house appeared welcoming. Beyond the yard, a barn and large storage building, along with a collection of outbuildings, alluded to a prosperous farm.
With a prayer to find her family waiting inside for her, she raced up the front steps of the porch and tried the door. The knob rattled but didn’t turn, locked from the inside. Miko set down her suitcase and rushed around to the back door. In her haste, she tripped over the body of a man as he sprawled across the back step.
Unconscious, the uniformed soldier shuddered against the chill in the air, his clothes every bit as wet as hers. At least his jerky tremors assured her he wasn’t dead.
Panicked, she pounded on the door. “It’s Miko! Open the door! Please!” Fist banging against the wood, she called out to her grandparents, willing them to be there.
All remained eerily silent in the house. Single-minded in her efforts to enter the dwelling, Miko stepped over the man and lifted a brick from the border edging the flowerbed. With a spare key in her hand, she jammed it in the lock and pushed the door open, rushing inside.
USA Today Bestselling Author Shanna Hatfield writes character-driven romances with relatable heroes and heroines. Her historical westerns have been described as “reminiscent of the era captured by Bonanza and The Virginian” while her contemporary works have been called “laugh-out-loud funny, and a little heart-pumping sexy without being explicit in any way.”
Convinced everyone deserves a happy ending, this hopeless romantic is out to make it happen, one story at a time. When she isn’t writing or indulging in chocolate (dark and decadent, please), Shanna hangs out with her husband, lovingly known as Captain Cavedweller.
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From the first sentence, I was drawn into the story and Miko’s plight. Shanna doesn’t shy away from the reality of the ridicule the Japanese Americans faced during World War II while still keeping the story hopeful. Her vivid descriptions of the people, places, and situations in the book will take you back in time to a bygone era and make you feel like you’re there. Every scene, every moment is filled with the poignant emotions of the time. You can tell that Shanna did her research down to the minutest detail, and it shows in the way the story pulls you into the very essence and atmosphere of the time.
The love story of the book is one of the most touching ones I’ve read. Each scene, each step, each stage of their friendship turned love story captured my attention and my heart. I felt deeply the heartrending, bittersweet moments that passed between Rock and Miko as they struggled to figure out what to do about her situation and about her family’s farm. I loved watching their relationship change and grow, made strong even in the challenges and adversities they faced together. The gentle moments of their slowly building love are so moving and perfect, though Miko is resistant to letting herself give in to her feelings out of fear for what Rock would face for choosing to be with her. Rock’s caring restraint as he holds himself in check to prove his love for Miko is real and steadfast and as he patiently waits for Miko to come to him when she’s ready is precious. Their romance is heart meltingly tender and unforgettable. All of Shanna’s romances have sweet, tender moments, but to me, Garden of Her heart is the tenderest of her sweet romances and I felt it to my core.
The supporting characters of the novel are more than worth a mention. Each of them truly brings a needed element to the story in his or her own way. Learning about and getting to know Miko’s family accentuates the richness of her ancestry and heritage. Checking in with them throughout the book allows for us to get a glimpse into the conditions and struggles they faced while also showing us their courage and strength. The family on the neighboring land adds their own element of help and charm to the story in so many different ways. I can’t wait for you to meet the delightfully precocious character of Petey. His engaging personality and vibrant chatter are, in my opinion, an essential part of giving the novel some moments of humor and extra warmth. Pastor Clark is indispensable as a stand in father/uncle type figure for both Miko and Rock. Even the villain of the story plays his role perfectly in adding some surprising twists and turns to the story and efficiently creeping me out.
Garden of Her Heart will evoke in you an array of emotions—from anxiousness, to anger, to frustration, to heartache, to joy, to hope and so many more. The characters latched onto my heart and did not let go. There was just something about them and about their story that held me captive and I didn’t want the story to end. It was a wonderfully satisfying ending while still giving the feeling that it was really just the beginning of a lasting and epic love story. I would not object at all to catching up with this family of characters in an epilogue or novella. It is well worth the read.
Shanna dedicates Garden of Her Heart “to those who face adversity with courage, strength, and hope” and that is a perfect summation of the characters in this story. Her preface as well as her note at the end are sincere and heartfelt additions to the story. I highly recommend making sure you read them both.
Take a chance on this great book and let it invite you in as a front row guest to the unfolding of the beginning of an enduring love story.
Now for a GIVEAWAY! Click on the graphic below to enter for a chance to win one Kindle version of Garden of Her Heart.