The Everstone Chronicles and a Giveaway

I have had the privilege of getting to read and review The Everstone Chronicles by Dawn Crandall and I’d like to share my thoughts with you about each of the books in the series today. While the books do connect, each of the books can easily be read as a stand alone.

The Hesitant Heiress is the first book in the series.

51txzn8mvwlAfter being unjustly expelled from the Boston Conservatory of Music, Amaryllis Brigham sees her dreams of founding a music academy in her hometown of Seattle, Washington, disappearing before her very eyes. Now, the only way to achieve her goal comes with high stakes for someone set on avoiding men as much as possible: Marry within the year to inherit the immense fortune of her estranged grandmother. Amaryllis reluctantly moves in to her aunt’s Boston home and rubs shoulders with fashionable society. Despite her own misgivings, she soon finds herself quickly falling in love with the most unlikely of men–Nathan Everstone, the envy of every eligible female, whose father has haunted her dreams for the decade following her mother’s tragic death. However, Nathan turns out to be much more than he seems…and everything she never knew she wanted. But just as everything Amaryllis has recently hoped for comes to fruition, it all falls apart when she finds that the real culprit who has been managing her life isn’t who she thought at all.

My Thoughts:
This book captured my attention from the very first page. Ms. Crandall did a wonderful job of immediately engaging me and even my emotions on behalf of the heroine, Amaryllis. She weaves an interesting, intriguing story that had me unwilling to put the book down until I found out some answers and saw some resolution.

I do have to admit I was a little confused toward the beginning, trying to figure out what was going on and what the truth was about the past, and I wanted things to unfold a little faster than they did.

While my attention was quickly captured by the situation the Amaryllis finds herself in at the beginning of the book, it wasn’t long before I began to get a little frustrated with her. As the book progressed, I realized that things were probably not as they appeared to her, but she was very stubborn in refusing to see events and people any differently than she had. Amaryllis was so insistent that every man is inconsistent and I think she viewed God that way as well. She thought she trusted Him, but she didn’t really.

While she had a tendency to be extremely honest with others about what she saw in them and their situations, she was not so with herself. She was blinded to the truth for so much of the book and that became more than a little frustrating after a while, especially when she had opportunity to find out more about the past, but would not, as if she were in denial, refusing to see the past in any way other than how she currently viewed it.

Even though Amaryllis’ stubborn refusal to see the truth became exasperating, Nathan’s sweetness and his obvious care for her made up a little for that exasperation. I loved Nathan and his character and I was a little disappointed that it took Amaryllis so long to let go of grudges from the past that were not even based on full truth so that she could finally see him for the godly, sweet man that he was. She wasted a lot of time running from her past and her problems instead of facing them. And while that was incredibly irritating, I can see how we often do the same thing in our own lives. Hopefully, we won’t be quite as long in coming to see the truth as it took Amaryllis. The more I read, the more thankful I became for Nathan and his willingness to love her in spite of how she treated him. Through that willingness and consistency, he eventually won her over. The resolution and ending finally came and helped make up for all the rough bumps in getting there.

 

The second book is The Bound Heart.

51nrqmfgdxl

 

One accidental kiss from Lawry Hampton. That was all it took to throw Meredyth Summercourt’s world upside-down. Determined to marry the ever-elusive Vance Everstone, she simply doesn’t have the time or the desire to fall for her best friend. But with Vance out of the country, and with Lawry at her side nearly every day, teaching her what the world is like through the eyes of a little orphan girl named Wynn–Meredyth can’t deny that what’s holding her to Vance is nothing more than a desire to redeem herself from her past. Will she marry Vance once he returns from Europe? Or will she be strong enough to break free from the tangled web she’s convinced she deserves, and accept that God’s plan for her life includes redemption…and, quite possibly, Lawry Hampton?

My Thoughts:
I really enjoyed this book and getting to know better some of the characters I was introduced to in the first book. Watching Meredyth’s story, her past, and her thought process about what she must deserve because of it unfold was a little heartbreaking and more than a little realistic. How often do we view ourselves as she did, knowing we must deserve one thing for our actions when God just wants to offer us His precious grace and redemption? I loved getting to see God break through to Meredyth, showing her the healing and hope He has in store for her. So often, we try, as Meredyth did, to do things to earn right standing with God, to somehow right our wrongs when really the only way to do so is to admit them and let God heal them, let Him cover our sins with the pure blood of His perfect Son.

Lawry was a wonderful character and one of my favorite things about this book was seeing Meredyth’s eyes slowly open to him, his love for her, and her own love for him. His steadfast love for Meredyth was precious and swoon worthy.

Ms.Crandall did an excellent job of engaging me as the reader in Merdyth’s journey in discovering God’s forgiveness, truly being able to accept it, and finally being able to forgive herself so that she could be set free for the life God has for her. I love how Ms. Crandall tells her stories in first person. She so very accurately captures the way we, especially as women, often view ourselves and the people around us. She shows how our doubts, hurts, and insecurities can affect our thought processes and the way we view others all while still managing to convey to the reader things about other characters that the heroine may not see so accurately.

 

Next we have The Captive Imposter.

51wau6tcxslFor her own protection following the murder of her brother Will, hotel heiress Estella Everstone assumes the alias of Elle Stoneburner and takes a job as companion to an elderly widow. Never did she imagine that her position would lead her back to her beloved Everston, a picturesque resort property tucked away in the rugged mountains of Maine. Living below her station in a guise of anonymity has its struggles, but her spirits are buoyed by a newfound friendship with the hotel manager, Dexter Blakeley. And his distaste for the spoiled socialites who frequent his hotel causes her to take a close look at her own priorities and past lifestyle. When Estella finds herself in need of help, Dexter comes to the rescue with an offer of employment she can’t refuse. As the two interact and open up to each other, Estella feels a growing attraction to Dexter; and increasing discomfort over concealing her identity. Yet, in spite of the false pretense she’s putting forth, she’s never felt freer to be herself than in his presence. But will he still love her when he learns the truth about who she is?

My Thoughts:
In this, the third book of the The Everstone Chronicles, we find yet more mystery as we encounter Dexter Blakely and his family. Discovering more about the Blakely family and their connections with the Everstone family is an intriguing part of this novel. Each of the books in Ms. Crandall’s series has allowed us a view into the lives of the Everstones, their history, their flaws, and their good sides. Getting to know more about them in each book is a great draw of the series.

Estella has spent a long time pining after someone, who, in my opinion, quite frankly doesn’t deserve her and hasn’t treated her well. Just like Estella, many of us have, at some point in our lives, tried to force something to be that was not meant to be—maybe a relationship or a job among other things. Finally, here in this novel, we get to see Estella truly let go of something not meant to be, something that God knows is not best for her and then watch as He orchestrates His beautiful best for her.

I believe that Estella and Dexter’s developing relationship is one of my favorites of the series. Again, we find a steadfast character in the hero who makes you fall in love with him right along with the heroine. In spite of the false name and position Estella has to use for protection, she’s actually able to more freely be herself than she would as Estella Everstone, enabling Dexter to get to know the real her without personal prejudice potentially getting in the way. Their sweet friendship that grows into love will melt your heart as you join them on their journey.

 

The Cautious Maiden, the fourth book in The Everstone Chronicles, just released at the beginning of October and is well worth the read! I will be sharing my thoughts on The Cautious Maiden as a part of Dawn Crandall’s blog tour on Friday, November 4! I hope you’ll come back and join us then for my full review of it as well as a giveaway.

51rmy4yc8rl

 

**I received the books in this series free of charge from the publisher. All opinions in these reviews are my own.

If you haven’t read any of the books in this series, but you’d like to start, click  below for the chance to win a Kindle version the first book in the series, The Hesitant Heiress.

adobe-spark

Where Was God When I Was Hurt?

Why do bad things happen? That’s a question that many of us desperately want an answer to, but we often don’t like the possible reasons that bad things happen so we don’t allow ourselves to think that there could actually be a reason. We’d rather believe there isn’t one. But the reality is, there are reasons.

One reason is that we live in a fallen world, one where sin entered through the first man and woman and has continued to run rampant. Not all things that happen to us are a direct result of our own sin. Yes, at times, the things we face are consequences of our own sin, but not everything hurtful thing we face is because of that. Sometimes it’s a result of someone else’s sin that, in one way or another, happens to affect us; and sometimes, it’s a result of the fact that sin entering the world changed the world, changed the dynamic of the way things work now. The world no longer functions in the perfect form God created it in. Evil has been allowed in, and through that evil, disease, destruction, and decay have followed. It’s something we have to deal with in this world we live in. It’s a consequence of allowing sin into this once perfect and whole world. But we don’t like to think that way, to admit that sin is the reason for our fallen and changed world. But the Bible is clear on that and we can’t ignore it and pretend it’s not true just because we don’t like it.

Not only do we not want to face the idea that we live in a broken world and that because of the sin that caused it, we now experience pain and heartache, we also don’t want to believe that God could allow the bad things in this world to happen. But the reality is, He has and He does. I can’t help but think of Job. If you read the first chapter of Job, you will quickly find that God did indeed allow bad things to happen to Job. In fact, God Himself is the one who brought Job and his upright standing with Him up to Satan. Did you get that? GOD asked Satan if he had noticed His upright servant Job! AND THEN, He put everything Job had (all the blessings and good things God had given him) in the hands and power of Satan, essentially giving Satan the power to do with it whatever he wanted (which happened to be taking it away). I also think of Simon Peter. In Luke 22, Jesus tells Simon Peter that Satan has asked to sift him as wheat—and God allowed it.

It’s not easy for us to accept this idea—that God would allow sifting, that He would allow bad things to happen, that He has given His permission for them to happen. It doesn’t sit well with us, but it’s truth. It is a reality. And there is actually a hope that comes with it.

After Jesus tells Simon Peter about Satan’s desire to sift him as wheat, Jesus goes on to say, “But I have prayed especially for you [Peter], that your [own] faith may not fail; and when you yourself have turned again, strengthen and establish your brethren.” ~Luke 22:32, AMPC

You see, while God may allow these bad things to happen in our lives, He does not allow them to be without purpose. We have that promise from God—And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. ~Romans 8:28, NASB

God can and does take those horrific events and situations in our lives and He redeems them by bringing purpose to them, by not letting them be for nothing. God does not waste a hurt. Instead, He uses it to our benefit.

Yes, I’ve been through some events and situations that I did not want to go through—things that were painful, situations I did not enjoy in any way, shape, or form. But I also know that I would not be the person I am today nor would I have the faith that I do today if I had not gone through those tough things, through those trials that God ultimately redeemed by using them to change me. There have definitely been times when I felt torn apart, times when I felt like the enemy just might get his way in destroying me and I didn’t see how good purpose of any kind could come from what I was going through. But God!—God had other plans for what the enemy meant for evil. He refashioned and repurposed those times, using them to draw me to Him, to help acquaint me more intimately with Him and His love and His power. He brought me out on the other side stronger and with more faith and more trust in Him. And with each event that happens, He only draws me closer and gains more of my trust. I am who I am today because of God’s work in my life, because of Him taking what the enemy meant for evil and giving it a purpose and using it to shape me and change me. And I am so thankful that He’s done that—that I am not the same person that I was, that I’ve grown and changed and am being made new.

And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulation, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope. ~Romans 5:3-4, NASB

Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of you faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete lacking in nothing. ~James 1:2-4, NASB

(You should] be exceedingly glad on this account, though now for a little while you may be distressed by trials and suffer temptations, So that [the genuineness] of your faith my be tested, [your faith] which is infinitely more precious than perishable gold which is tested and purified by fire. [This proving of your faith is intended] to redound to [your] praise and glory and honor when Jesus Christ (the Messiah, the Anointed One) is revealed. ~1 Peter 1:6-7, AMPC

What an incredible God!—to know that He can take those painful things, those things that seem to us to happen without reason and repurpose them. Things the enemy meant for evil, God repurposes to use for our benefit to mold us and shape us to be more like Him, to let the Holy Spirit grow in our lives and have more control over us, to let us learn from those things. What the enemy intended to destroy us, to bring us down, God can actually use to strengthen us, to draw us closer to Him, to show us who He is, to bring glory to Himself, to exhibit the power of His redemption.

God has the power to redesign, to reshape, and to make the pain, the hurt, the bad, and the ugly in our lives worthwhile. He is sovereign. Nothing happens outside of His knowledge—He sometimes allows Satan to poke and prod us to bring us to a place where we can be refined. And He already knows how He’s planning to use the next storm you face to bring you closer to Him; to change, shape, and mold you into being more like Him; to give you a glimpse of who He is and who He wants to be to you. Can’t you just picture our mighty God looking at Satan and saying, “Do your best, but what you intend for evil I have the power to turn around for good, to make it work for My purpose, My will, and My glory.” How frustrating that’s got to be for the enemy! And what a blessing it is for us!

Not only do we have this promise of God using even evil for ultimate good, but we can also know that the Holy Spirit Himself is interceding on our behalf just as Jesus told Simon Peter that He had done for him. In the same way the Spirit also helps our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groaning too deep for words; and He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. ~Romans 8:26-27, NASB

God does not promise us a life without conflict or pain or hurt. Those things will happen because we live in a sinful, fallen world. We may hurt someone else or someone else may cause us pain, but those things can be redeemed with purpose. Those afflictions we face, the trials, the struggles, the pain, the temptations can all be turned around for our benefit and for His ultimate glory.

For I consider that the sufferings of this present time (this present life) are not worth being compared with the glory that is about to be revealed to us and in us and for us and conferred on us! For [even the whole] creation (all nature) waits expectantly and longs earnestly for God’s sons to be made known [waits for the revealing, the disclosing of their sonship]. Fo the creation (nature) was subjected to the frailty (the futility, condemned to frustration), not because of some intentional fault on its part, but by the will of Him Who so subjected it—[yet] with hope. That nature (creation) itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and corruption [and gain an entrance] into the glorious freedom of God’s children. ~Romans 8:18-21, AMPC

What You’ll Find in My Hope Next Door by Tammy L. Gray (or in other words—Reasons Why This Book Is Worth Your Time) and #Giveaway

51yf66azhblCan love grow in the shadow of a broken past?

Former bad girl Katie Stone can feel the weight of her reputation settle over her as she drives home for the first time in years. Feeling deeply guilty about her past mistakes, Katie wants to do the right thing for once. But the small town where she grew up is not nearly as forgiving as she’d hoped. Despite it all, she’s determined to help her parents cope with her mother’s recent illness, and Katie finds a surprise ally in the man next door.

Asher Powell never minded being the son of a small-town pastor until a recent breakup leaves him wounded by lifelong members of his church. He remembers his new neighbor as a mean-spirited high school troublemaker, but he senses that her newfound faith and desire for forgiveness are sincere.

Through an unexpected friendship, two people from different worlds find peace, hope, and a second chance they never dreamed was possible.

 

If that blurb from the back of the book doesn’t convince you to delve in and read this incredible book, then let me see what I can do to help.

What you’ll find in My Hope Next Door:

Flawed characters dealing with real life kinds of situations.
Ms. Gray is not afraid to address the tough situations that we really face, including our own flaws. She doesn’t deal in fairy tales, but in the grit of real life and the powerful redemption God offers. Not a single character in this book is perfect or without sin or their own struggles. This is not some fluff piece where changes are instantly made in a character’s life and struggles are quickly and easily overcome—and I appreciate that because I know from my own experience that, in real life, sometimes we struggle for a while before we finally begin to see victory on the horizon. If you’re looking for a book that doesn’t ignore the pain we face or the sin we deal with, but offers hope to the frustrating and sometimes even desolate situations we find ourselves in, then you’ve found it in My Hope Next Door.

adobe-spark-18

What it’s like dealing with others expectations of you, both the good and the bad.
The people in Katie’s life expected her to rebel, to live a rough and selfish life while some of the people in Asher’s life expected him to be perfect and not mess up. How often do we put these kind of expectations on others? I’m a PK (Preacher’s/Pastor’s Kid) like Asher and I grew up in church. I know the battle in being a PK and being watched and expected to be perfect, but I’ve also experienced some of the things Katie has—having people expect you to mess up. It’s tough knowing you’ve changed inside, that you’re different, but having the people you love still think of you as the old, untrustworthy, rebellious person you used to be. Sometimes it might just feel like it’s easier to live up to their expectations that you’re going to mess up. There’s a definite struggle for both Katie and Asher in dealing with other’s expectations, but don’t despair! Ms. Gray also shows us that second chances really can happen and that we can overcome those things, especially as we choose to just be real with each other.

adobe-spark-41

A journey in forgiveness.
Forgiveness is an essential part of life, whether it’s accepting God’s forgiveness towards us, or us extending forgiveness towards those who’ve hurt us so that we don’t become bitter, or forgiving ourselves. You’ll find a little of all of these in this book and you’ll find that it’s not always an easy journey to accept forgiveness or to give it, especially to ourselves. While I may not have lived the life Katie lived, I have made my own share of mistakes and struggled with forgiving myself for them and struggled with fully accepting God’s unconditional love as well as His forgiveness and the freedom He offers so I get the battle. Learning to stop punishing ourselves and to forgive ourselves and others and let go so we can move forward is a vital part of this book. Ms. Gray reminds us that there is hope, and though the journey may take a while sometimes or be a bit of a struggle, we can get there.

adobe-spark-27

The power of someone believing in you and fighting for you.
Asher sees beyond Katie’s past, beyond her shame, beyond her mistakes to the Christ living in her. He sees the hope in her, the potential, the second chance just waiting to be taken and the confidence she can have in God’s forgiveness, in His healing, and in His wiping the slate clean. He sees how she doesn’t have to live in shame over her past because of what Christ has done for her. And Asher doesn’t stop fighting for her to see all those things for herself. He doesn’t give up on working to get her to see past the lies of the enemy to the liberating truth of God’s grace, forgiveness, and healing. This speaks to my heart because this is what my husband has done so many times for me. It reminded me of how, when I’ve been entrenched in the lies of the enemy, he has patiently spoken truth to me and over me and prayed for my eyes to be opened to God’s truth of who I am in Christ. Asher’s not the only character in the book who does this. I can think of at least three other characters that pray for Katie, that encourage her with the truth of who she is in Christ, and treat her like she is a daughter of the King rather than the castaway slave that the enemy wants her to be seen as. We all need people like this in our lives sometimes AND sometimes we need to be that for someone else—someone believing in us when we can’t believe in ourselves, someone believing in the power of God in our lives when we can’t quite bring ourselves to believe it can be true or real for us, too.

adobe-spark-45

That freedom from believing the lies the enemy wants us to believe about ourselves can be found.
Katie has a past and reputation that wants to cling to her. She wants to ignore it all and leave it in the past, to not have to face all that she’s done. God wants to take away the guilt and the shame she struggles with, but that means actually coming face to face with her actions in the past instead of trying to stuff it all down and pretend like it’s not there. Ms. Gray demonstrates the freedom that comes when we stop trying to hide from our pasts, our mistakes, our sins (trying to act like they don’t exist) and face them, admit them, get them out in the open. They lose their power then and we can begin to replace lies with truth and find hope. Then we can walk forward in true freedom.

adobe-spark-43

Y’all, these are just a few of the things you’ll find in My Hope Next Door! There’s so much to this story and there’s just no way I could convey to you what I got from reading this book in one blog so I’m going to have to leave the rest of the discovering up to you. I sincerely hope that you’ll take a chance on this book. I don’t think you’ll regret it. I would venture to say that the struggles and the truths in this book will resonate with you, that you will find pieces of yourself in the characters. And hopefully, you will walk away from this book encouraged and blessed as I was.

Who doesn’t need reminding of the truths of God’s Word, how much He loves us, how much He wants us to heal, and how ready He is to offer us second chances? And what a great way to be reminded of those things—through such a powerful story that speaks to the heart (with some sweet, swoon worthy romance thrown in 😉 )! Ms. Gray has a way of writing the truths we need to hear and weaving them into the fabric of her story in a natural, non-preachy, realistic way. My Hope Next Door is a story rich with real situations and wonderful truths and I hope you check it out and enjoy it as much as I did!

My Hope Next Door—Releasing this Tuesday, September 13, but it’s available for preorder now on Amazon! You can have it waiting for you on your Kindle!

Interested in finding out more about Tammy L. Gray and her other books? Just click on any of the links below to connect with her!
Ms. Gray’s website
Facebook
Twitter
Instagram
Goodreads
Pinterest
Amazon

adobe-spark-57

**I received this book free of charge from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. All opinions in this review are my own.

Just an Update

You may have noticed that my blogs have been hit and miss over the last few months. Well, really a lot more miss than hit. The reason is actually some good news! We are going to have another baby! Which is very happy news! 🙂 However, as with most of my pregnancies during the first trimester, I have been pretty miserable. 😦 Nausea 24/7, tired, weak, and just overall feeling bleh. Which is why I have been pretty much miss and no hit with the blog recently. I have not felt well and have not been up to blogging much. I am now 16 weeks and past the first trimester, but I am still not feeling great. I am having some better days, but the nausea still hasn’t completely gone away. Hopefully, soon the good days will outnumber the yuck days, and as I feel better, I will be able to get back to blogging more. Of course, we’ve also started back to school (we homeschool) which means I am teaching 5 kids and chasing a toddler while being pregnant, so I have to admit to myself that even though I plan to be more consistent with blogging, I might not be able to get one out each week like I had been trying to do before I started feeling sick. I just wanted to give those of you who read my blog a heads up about what’s going on and why I haven’t posted much. Thank you for reading, and if all goes well, I hope to have a new blog post next week.

I would greatly appreciate your prayers about a few things.

~I’m having better days, but there are still many days where I don’t feel well and getting school done on the days I don’t feel well can be tough sometimes. But I know that we need to keep moving with it if we’re going to get much done before the baby comes in February. Prayers for strength to do school even when I feel awful and prayers for cooperative kids would be appreciated.
~I have also felt a little more emotionally off-kilter this pregnancy which concerns me about after the baby is born and how my emotions and hormones will be then. After I had Juluia (our 5th), I experienced some intense postpartum depression and it’s a concern that it could happen again. Please pray that whatever comes, the Lord will prepare me for it and be with me through it, whether it’s major or nothing at all.
~I am also a little overwhelmed at the idea of homeschooling 5 children while chasing a two year old and taking care of an infant after the baby arrives. We plan to take several weeks off right after the baby arrives, but we will eventually have to start back up to finish up the school year. Prayers in advance for that would be appreciated as well.

Thank you for taking the time to read my blog and thank you for your prayers.

Phoebe and the Rock of Ages

Y’all, I had not planned to write a Book Review on my blog so soon after doing an Author Spotlight. My plan was to wait a while, but THEN I had the wonderful opportunity to read an ARC of Phoebe and the Rock of Ages by Becky Doughty. After reading it, I can’t help but share my thoughts with you on the book. First, here’s the synopsis to give you an idea of what the book is about:

519PQEH0kYL._SY346_

MEET PHOEBE GUSTAFSON
Phoebe Gustafson has been running wild her whole life. A gifted artist, she portrays people and places the way she wishes they were, not the way she really sees them. Her jaded perspective is born out of disillusionment, betrayal, and loss, and of memories too painful to dwell on. Rather than face the past, Phoebe charges full throttle into the future, never investing in anything or anyone for longer than it takes to finish a job.

Trevor Zander, a gifted musician, is bone-weary of always being on the go. He dreams of putting down roots and staying in one place longer than the time it takes to plan the next tour. While on a much-needed break, he happens upon a damsel not in distress, but he can’t resist helping her anyway. He’s entranced by the view of the world through Phoebe Gustafson’s eyes, and commissions her to help him redefine his image and brand.

When a family emergency and the charming, unconventional Jesus-Freak, Trevor Zander, converge on her life at the same time, will Phoebe find the courage to remove her blinders and discolored filters so she can truly see life, and love—and herself—the way they really are?

MEET THE GUSTAFSON GIRLS
When Paul and Simone Gustafson are killed by a drunk driver, the lives of their daughters change irrevocably. Although raised by loving grandparents, it’s the G-FOURce—the Gustafson Four Sisters Club—that binds them together when their differences would tear them apart. All grown up now, Juliette has become the quintessential doormat, Renata, the self-appointed matriarchal figure. Phoebe is, at least according to Renata, borderline narcissistic, and Gia is on the verge of a major identity crisis.

Then there’s Angela Clinton, the senior class darling who drove her cherry black 1970 el Camino into the side of their parents’ car on the night of Juliette’s high school graduation. Angela’s prison sentence is winding down; soon she’ll be eligible for parole and moving back to town. Will the G-FOURce be strong enough to hold them together as they step into the eye of the storm that’s been brewing for the last fifteen years? Will they finally be able to let go of the past and embrace the future, no matter what it holds?

Let me start by saying that I highly recommend reading the first two books in this series before reading this one. You could read Phoebe and the Rock of Ages on its own, but I think the reading of it will be that much sweeter and the power of it that much more powerful if you read Juliette and the Monday ManDates and Renata and the Fall from Grace first.

On to my thoughts on Phoebe and the Rock of Ages. This book right here is my FAVORITE of the series. The other two books written so far are wonderful, but this one . . . this one is even beyond wonderful in my opinion. After not really knowing what to think of Phoebe in the other books, I fell in love with her in this one. Learning her struggle, hearing her thoughts, being able to see her soft side, the hurting side, the part she tries to keep hidden opened the door on my compassion for her.

Phoebe and the Rock of Ages is believable, real, raw, and powerful. I felt every drop of emotion, of the struggle each character had. I felt like this book lived and breathed as I read it. It is a beautiful demonstration of the way God works, His power, His might, His love, His unfailing pursuit of us. It’s so full of God’s truth being laid out and spoken to such real life struggles and hurts. The words I have seem inadequate in describing the beauty of this book, the way Becky Doughty brings to life such great and precious truths of God’s Word and His grace.

This book reveals the masks we hide behind, sometimes that mask being our belief in our own piety. It reveals the way the enemy works to make us feel alone in our struggles, how he tries to keep us from reaching out for help. It shows how openness and honesty allows for real healing to take place and the burden to be shared.

I’ve never seen a more genuine, real, healing take place in a book before; the freedom that comes from getting it all out, of verbally sharing your secret struggles with a trustworthy person and how the struggle begins to lose its power over you in that moment and light begins to shine in on the dark places and freedom marches in to send captivity on its way.

Phoebe and the Rock of Ages is so richly full of truth in a way that calls out to you, to the part of you that is desperate for honesty, for being free, for healing. So many of the truths shown in this book are truths God has worked so diligently to show me over the years, so they resonated with me as I read. I would venture to say that there is some desperately needed truth for everyone in this novel.

It’s amazing how God gently, lovingly works on our hearts to change us, to make us more like Him, to prepare us for things ahead, to see things differently, more from His point of view and you can see that clearly in this book.

This book resonates. There’s forgiveness. There’s healing. There’s hope. There’s struggle. There’s hurt. There’s pain. There’s real life. There’s redemption and grace and genuine, believable change. There’s bitterness and holding it all in and then finally letting it all out and finding the beginning of freedom. There’s openness and honesty. There’s peace. Comfort. Quiet hope. There’s God working and orchestrating, bringing good from that which was meant for evil. There’s prayer. There’s spiritual warfare. I can’t even begin to relate all the incredible elements of this book.

I cannot recommend Becky Doughty‘s Phoebe and the Rock of Ages enough. I read most of my kindle books on an app on my phone and I have a tendency to screen capture the pages that have words that stick out to me, things that meant something to me as I read them. With this book, I think I ended up screen capturing half the book.

There are some other things I would really love to share with you, but to do so would involve “spoilers” and I don’t want to spoil anything about this book for you before you read it! Check it out and see if some part of it doesn’t resonate with you!

Phoebe and the Rock of Ages releases today on Amazon and it’s available on Kindle Unlimited for those of you who use that service.

**I received this book free of charge from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. All opinions in this review are my own.

Needed Encouragement

I don’t have a long post today. This last week was kind of rough for us in some ways and I just wanted to share a couple of things that God used to encourage me in my struggles this week, things He used to remind me of His power and His might as well as His love and the fact that He never leaves me. God is always at work even when I can’t always see what He’s doing.

First is a song that I heard on the radio while driving this week. I’d heard it before, but hadn’t really paid close attention to the lyrics. The link to the video is below. I hope it encourages you and points you to the Savior as it did for me.

 

The other thing I want to share with you is a video of a couple telling the story of their struggle with infertility and eventually adoption. It. Is. POWERFUL! Please take the time to watch it.

Chloe

Maybe you haven’t seen God work in your life in quite this way, but there was a time when this couple hadn’t either, a time when they questioned God’s goodness. Maybe you’re in the eye of the storm right now, you’re in the spot where you’re questioning God’s goodness because you just can’t see how what you’re going through can be turned around for good. We have His precious promise to us as His children—

And we know that God causes all things to work together for good tho those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. Romans 8:28, NASB

There are some precious, humbling truths in this video. Great reminders of how God cares for His creation. He is always at work even when we question it. He has this great big aerial view that allows Him to see all at once, from the beginning of time to the end. Nothing catches Him off guard and He’s always moving, working, orchestrating things to show His great love and His mercy and grace toward us. God loves you just as much as He loves the couple in this video and their sweet Chloe. Never doubt that you are planned for and cared for by a loving Father.

My prayer and heart for you today is that, if you’re struggling, you will be lifted up and encouraged by these things as they encouraged me.

Remember God is with you always. He loves you deeply. You are not alone. He has the power to carry you through anything you face and He will do it. He wants to be your shelter in the storm. Let Him be and worship Him today for His goodness and never failing love.

Shanna Hatfield

Welcome to my first Author Spotlight! I’m so excited to start doing this! I will be doing these occasionally where I interview a favorite author of mine who has graciously agreed to answer some questions by yours truly so that I can introduce you to them and their books!

So without further ado, let me introduce you to our first guest (of hopefully many),
Shanna Hatfield.

Shanna Hatfield 2

SMALL FEISTY WOMAN:  Hi Shanna! I’m so glad you agreed to be my first guest author. Thank you for joining us.
SHANNA:  Hi Julie! I’m absolutely thrilled to be here with you today and so incredibly honored to be your first guest author. Thank you for the invitation. 

SFW:  Tell us a little bit about yourself. Let’s start with three unusual things about yourself.
SHANNA:  1. I was a “late” baby, meaning my parents hadn’t planned on adding another child to their nearly-empty nest. My oldest brother wed when I wasn’t even yet two and his oldest child is only four years younger than me. Growing up, I sometimes felt like I had three sets of parents with my two brothers and sisters-in-law keeping an eye on me.

SFW:  Oh, wow! I totally understand the whole “late” baby thing. I’m the youngest of 7 with the others all being anywhere from 9 to 22 years older than me. My oldest nephew is only one year younger than me.

SHANNA:  2. My entire childhood was spent on a farm where I tagged after my dad every chance I could. Even though I could be something of a tomboy, my bedroom was a pink ruffled oasis of girliness where I daydreamed about my handsome prince and imagined a romantic future. (Little did I know my prince would turn out to be Captain Cavedweller and my future would include being a Hopeless Romantic writing sweet romances for a living!)
3. Painfully shy doesn’t even begin to describe my introverted tendencies during my entire childhood. I avoided eye contact with people until I was out of college then I gradually grew out of it. Now, I love meeting people and making new friends. (And if I can grow out of it, anyone can!)

SFW:  I’m so glad you outgrew being painfully shy, especially since it means we get to interact with you now! How about a few more fun facts? Favorite color?
SHANNA:  I have more than one… Pink (pale shades and raspberry) and Green (shades from mint and spa to hunter and emerald)

SFW:  Favorite flower?
SHANNA:  Roses. I’ve loved roses as long as I can remember. I also adore lilacs and tulips.

SFW:  Favorite hobbies?
SHANNA:  Reading! *Wink* I also enjoy baking and cooking and trying new recipes. Is Pinterest a hobby? If it counts, I love hanging out there finding all sorts of wonderful ideas. I also enjoy crafts on occasion as long as it doesn’t involve more than dozen steps and doesn’t require too much time to complete. And I like to fuss with the flowers in my yard. Oh, and tormenting Captain Cavedweller. I’m pretty sure he’d say that has turned into a hobby for me.

SFW:  When did you start writing? Was it a dream even before then? 
SHANNA:  I sat down and started writing my first sweet romance novel in February 2010. After that, I was hooked! I’d always dreamed of being a writer. The first story I remember writing was about a racoon in the third grade. My brother had a racoon at the time and I’m sure that’s what inspired the story. When I graduated from college with a degree in communications, I started a career in journalism that lasted ten years, working for a few different newspapers. Then I switched gears into marketing. I missed writing and finally decided one winter day to see if I could write a book. I had no clue what I was doing, but it was so much fun, I couldn’t quit!

SFW:  Do you have another job besides writing fantastic novels? 🙂
SHANNA:  I’m incredibly blessed to be able to get up every day and do something I love so much – write sweet romances! I left my day job as marketing director of a boutique hotel almost three years ago to pursue my dreams full time.

SFW:  Who or what has encouraged you most in your writing journey?
SHANNA:  My husband has been fantastic about encouraging my writing journey. When I first started writing a novel in 2010, I worked between 50-60 hours a week in my day job. To give me time to pursue my writing, Captain Cavedweller (my awesome hubby) took over most of the cooking duties and learned how to do laundry and any number of things that helped around the house.  He’s the one who encouraged me to take a huge leap of faith and leave behind my day job so I could fully pursue my dreams of writing as a career. Any time I need a pep talk, a dose of reality, or a champion – he’s there for me. Along the way, I’ve also met the most amazing people (including some unbelievably wonderful friends online like you), who have been so supportive and encouraging. I give thanks for them every day.

SFW:  Sounds like you found quite the prince in Captain Cavedweller! You write sweet romance, mystery with a little intrigue, historical, western, cowboy, contemporary, younger couples, older couples and you write all of it well. I’m more than a little bit impressed. How do you come up with so many different ideas and story lines?
SHANNA:  An active (or maybe it’s overactive) imagination has always been a huge part of  who I am. I think that definitely plays a big role in being able to come up with different story lines and ideas. I can be standing in line at the grocery store and something will catch my eye or spark a thought and the next thing I know, I’m working on a new book idea. Also, I had an interesting childhood on the farm and often incorporate elements of things that happened to me or happened to people I know into the stories. And I’m a bit of a crazy weirdo klutz and keep myself supplied with fodder for story ideas. Captain Cavedweller is also a great sounding board for bouncing off ideas. We’ve yet to take a road trip or go on vacation when I didn’t come home with a few new ideas for books.

SFW:  Nice to know there are other “crazy weirdo klutzes” out there besides me! 🙂 Will you share some examples with us of situations or people who’ve provided inspiration for your books?
SHANNA:  People who’ve behaved badly have ended up as bad guys in my stories (the boss in The Coffee Girl is based on a boss I once had). And I’ve had so many experiences (strange, amazing, and otherwise), that I often work them into a story.  My close friends still shake their heads sometimes in disbelief, even when they witness the craziness! Some examples: In the book Capturing Christmas, there is a scene where Celia (the heroine) gets really sick and basically passes out and remains out of it for the better part of a day. One reviewer called it “unrealistic,” but the truth of the matter is that I got that sick once (on our honeymoon) and lost almost an entire day before I came back to reality. I guess it’s that whole “truth is stranger than fiction” thing, but I do enjoy incorporating things like that into my stories because it’s fun. Another fun example is once I was helping my dad move gated irrigation pipe. It was so hot and muggy and the smells coming from the pipe were awful. Then he tipped up a pipe and all this steaming ooze (dead mice, fish parts, slimy mud and all) ran down the front of me and into my boots. It was horrid! And I have the same thing happen to my character Jenna (Country Girl vs. City Boy) as she’s helping her husband move gated pipe.

SFW:  Oh my! Those definitely make for interesting additions to a story. I’m sorry you had to experience them in real life though! I’ve noticed two things that I think are in nearly all of your books. One is that faith in God seems to be an underlying, background theme and then family or a community of great family-like friends exists. How have you experienced these things in your own life?
SHANNA:  Faith is a very important part of my life and piece of my heart. Life hasn’t always been easy, but through everything I’ve never once doubted that God would see me through, and I think that carries over into the stories I write although they aren’t technically part of the inspirational genre. There have been times when I felt like my faith was all that kept me going, so I can relate that into my characters. As for the community and family aspect, I grew up with bunches of extended family around. As a teen, I couldn’t go to town without running into a cousin or aunt or someone who knew one of my brothers (which drove me nuts… it’s hard to do something you shouldn’t when there are eyes everywhere! LOL!) The little community where my parents farmed was tight-knit for the most part and I think that feeling of community and family I knew as a child is expressed in the communities and families I create in my stories.

SFW:  Is there one character you’ve written that you relate to more than others?
SHANNA:  Hmm… I see parts of myself (both good and bad) in many of my characters. If a character enjoys baking or has a bit of a sarcastic side or goes loopy over babies, you could point that finger back at me. I’d say Callan from Heart of Clay is close to my heart not just because it was the first book I wrote, but because she and I are alike in so many ways. The character I’ve written I’d like to be more like is probably Aundy.

SFW:  Yes, Aundy seems like quite the SuperWoman with how strong she is, all that she accomplishes, and the high level of perseverance she seems to possess! I’d kind of like to be more like her myself! What makes the perfect writing environment for you?
SHANNA:  I have an office where I work and I treat it like I would a regular job. I’m most often at my desk ready to work by seven in the morning and am often still working at seven at night (although I do take plenty of breaks, especially when Captain Cavedweller arrives home from work!). A “perfect” writing environment or day would be when my office is spotless and the only thing out on my desk are research books that go with my current work in progress and whatever visuals I need for the book. I’ve got a song playing on a loop in the background to keep me focused on the story and I have hours of uninterrupted time to get lost in the characters and story. That is perfection!

SFW:  What’s your favorite part of the writing process?
SHANNA:  Writing the first-draft of the story. I enjoy research and figuring out the characters, but I love sitting down and putting their words and thoughts – the setting – to paper. My favorite part of writing the story is probably the dialogue, especially if there is a little tension or banter going on between the main characters.

SFW:  I do love the witty banter you often have going between your characters! What advice would you give those who are aspiring to write?
SHANNA:  Keep at it! Don’t give up. Don’t listen to people who discourage you from following your dreams. Follow your heart and never quit!

SFW:  For the last bit of our interview, please tell us a little bit about your reading preferences. Favorite location/time for reading a good book?
SHANNA:  I’ll read a good book any time I have the chance! I do most of my reading in the late evening, curled up in a chair (and I also like to read in bed).

SFW:  Favorite snack while digging into a good book?
SHANNA:  My favorite snack is Peanut M&Ms but I never turn down a piece of really good dark chocolate either.

SFW:  Ebook or paperback?
SHANNA:  Both! I love the convenience of taking my Kindle with me when I’m away from home, but the rest of the time I read both it and paperbacks.

SFW:  Favorite genre?
SHANNA:  Romance! I read a broad range of genres, but my hands-down favorite is historical romances set between the 1890s and 1910s.

SFW:  What drives you crazy in a book?
SHANNA:  When authors don’t do their homework. I’ve read historical books where they’ve included sayings or things that are inappropriate for the period (or the cover is a decade – or century – off from the story). I’ve recently read several books where the heroine is annoyingly whiny and needy – and that is a sure way to lose me as a reader. I like to read women characters who have a mind and use it, who have strength, yet maintain their femininity. And, being a farm girl, when authors write about country life and cowboys and get the details wrong… that really drives me nuts. So many writers seem to think hay and straw are the same thing and that positively drives me bonkers. I’m not a card-carrying member of the grammar police. If the story-line flows and the characters are believable, that’s all I really ask for  – well, to not bed the horses on hay and feed them straw. *Wink*

SFW:  Last question! What is your favorite book?
SHANNA:  Oh, I can’t pick just one. Honest, I can’t!  I’ll share a few of my favorites, though. I fell in love with the Girl of the Limberlost when I was in high school I still read it from time to time. It’s just beautiful! I’m a huge Ralph Moody fan and think everyone should read Little Britches (the whole series, actually). I also like Deeanne Gist, Karen Witemeyer, Carolyn Fyffe, Cathy Marie Hake, Lauraine Snelling, and Marcia Lynn McClure. And everyone should read Randy Pausch’s The Last Lecture.

SFW:  Thank you for sharing some of your favorites with us. I know asking a book lover what their favorite book is is like ???? I don’t think I could pick just one favorite either! And thank you so much for answering my questions and sharing a little about yourself and you writing journey with us today!

Y’all (Yes, I’m from Texas, and I embrace it!), Shanna Hatfield is a wonderful writer! I highly recommend checking her books out if you haven’t already, especially if you love strong, masculine, yet wonderfully sweet heroes and feisty, smart, yet feminine heroines. She weaves a great, well-thought out story with no loose ends! I never feel like I’m left hanging at the end of one of her books, yet she’s interested me so much with the characters that I look forward to the other books she’ll write in that series. I don’t have to worry if she’s going to resolve all the situations in her book satisfactorily. I may wonder how she’s going to manage it, but never if; and her resolutions are never reached too hastily, making me feel like things happened too fast. Her books often have little surprises and turns in the plot that I don’t expect or see coming and I really appreciate that aspect of her writing. She creates wonderful communities of friends in her books and it’s always so much fun to catch up with them in her new books. A degree of humor is present in each of her books as well. I think I’ve laughed out loud at least once while reading each of her books. And the romance! It. Is. Perfect. Her books are filled with heart-melting scenes mixed with just the right amount of fiery, flirtatious banter.

I have yet to read any of Shanna’s books that I didn’t like, and I’ve read all of them! Please take some time and check them out! Shanna has a couple of ebooks, Heart of Clay and QR Code Killer, that are free right now on Amazon, if you want to take a look at those! Many of her books are also offered through Kindle Unlimited right now if you participate in that. She also has a Savvy Entertaining book for each season of the year that offers tips and ideas for planning parties and get-togethers. Each of those books is also free on Amazon right now.

Millie Cover

Shanna just had her 41st book, Millie, release yesterday. A huge CONGRATULATIONS to her on that! In celebration and just for this weekend she’s offering Aundy, the first book in the series for free, and Caterina, the second book in the series for only $0.99! Find out more about Shanna at her website or connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, or Goodreads. She also has some incredible Pinterest boards that show her visual inspirations for her books that you might want to check out.

 

 

Now for a giveaway! For a chance to win a Kindle version of any one of Shanna’s books, comment below and tell me your favorite Shanna Hatfield book or tell me who one of your favorite authors is. Make sure to leave your email address in the comment form so I have a way to contact you if you win. Winner will be drawn on June 17th.