Monday, May 30, 2011

FIRST: Pompeii by T.L. Higley

It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old...or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!

You never know when I might play a wild card on you!

Today's Wild Card author is:

and the book:

Pompeii: City on Fire

B&H Books; Original edition (June 1, 2011)

***Special thanks to T.L. Higley for sending me a review copy.***


Tracy started her first novel at the age of eight and has been hooked on writing ever since. After earning a B.A. in English Literature at Rowan University, she spent ten years writing drama presentations for church ministry before beginning to write fiction. A lifelong interest in history and mythology has led Tracy to extensive research into ancient Greece, Egypt, Rome and Persia, and shaped her desire to shine the light of the gospel into the cultures of the past.

She has traveled through Greece, Turkey, Egypt, Israel, Jordan and Italy, researching her novels and falling into adventures.

Visit the author's website.


A city shadowed by a roiling volcano
A young politician running from his destiny
A Jewish slave girl with a desperate plan
Are any of them safe from harm?

Pleasure-seeking Romans find the seaside town of Pompeii the perfect getaway. But when the rich patrician Cato escapes Rome, intent on a life of leisure, he is unprepared for the hostility he encounters. In the same place, but at the opposite end of society, Ariella has disguised herself as a young boy to be sold into a gladiator troupe. Survival is her only ambition.
But evil creeps through the streets of Pompeii, and neither Ariella’s secret nor Cato’s evasion is immune to it. Political corruption, religious persecution, and family peril threaten to destroy them, even before an ominous mountain in the distance spews its fire.

As Vesuvius churns with deadly intent, Cato and Ariella must bridge their differences to save the lives of those they love—before fiery ash buries Pompeii, turning the city into a lost world.

Product Details:

List Price: $14.99
Paperback: 368 pages
Publisher: B&H Books; Original edition (June 1, 2011)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1433668572
ISBN-13: 978-1433668579



August 9, 70 AD

Ariella shoved through the clogged street, defying the mob of frantic citizens. Men, women, and children crowded the alleys, senseless in their panic to flee the city. They carried all they could, packed into pouches slung across their chests and clutched in sweaty hands. Soldiers ran with them, as though they had all joined a macabre stadium footrace, with participants who clubbed and slashed at each other to get ahead. Beside her, one of the district’s tax collectors tripped and fumbled a latched wooden box. It cracked against the cobbled street and spilled its meager hoard of gold. The tax collector was dead before he hit the ground, and the Roman soldier pulled his sword from the man’s gut only to scrabble for the coins.

Ariella turned her head from the gore, but felt little pity for the tax man, cheated of life by the Romans for whom he had betrayed his people. Still, concern flickered in her chest at the sudden violence in the street.

Something has happened.

The city had been under siege for months. Three days ago her mother announced that the sacrifices in the Temple had ceased. But today, today was something new. Perhaps three days of sins not atoned for had brought the wrath of the Holy One down on them all.

Unlike those who ran the streets with her, Ariella’s destination was neither Temple nor countryside. She returned to her home—if the dim tenement could be called such—from another useless excursion to secure food.

At sixteen and as eldest child, it fell on her to search the famished city for a scrap of dried beef to feed her brother, perhaps a thimbleful of milk for the baby, crumbs for her father whose eyes had gone glassy and whose skin was now the color of the clay pots he once turned on the wheel.

But there was no food to be found. Titus, the emperor’s son, had arrived in the spring with his army of eighty thousand and his siege wall served well its double function—the people were trapped and they were starving.

Not even such a wall could prevent news from seeping through its cracks, however. From Caesarea, word escaped of twenty thousand Jews slaughtered in a day. Fifty thousand killed in Alexandria. Ten thousand met the sword in Gamla. Such numbers were incomprehensible.

Here in Jerusalem, the bodies thrown outside the city were too numerous to count, piled high in rotting mounds, as though the city itself were defiled and would forever be unclean.

Yet we are not all dead. Ariella’s hands curled into tense fists as she rounded the last corner. She would cling to life as long as she had strength, and like her untiring mother, she would hold tight to that elusive thread for each member of her family.

She pushed against the rough wood of the door and slipped out of the rush of the street. The home’s tomb-like interior had the peculiar smell of starvation. In the corner, her baby sister whimpered as if in response to Ariella’s entrance. Micah met her at the door, his sunken eyes fixed on her and his lips slightly open, as though anticipating the food she might have brought. Or perhaps he simply lacked the strength to close his jaw. She shook her head and Micah turned away, hiding his disappointment as all boys of eleven do when they are threatened by tears.

Her father did not speak from his mat on the floor. Ariella scooped the listless baby Hannah into her arms and gave her a finger to suck. Small consolation.

“Where is Mother?” She scanned the room, then looked to Micah. A low groan from her father set her heart pounding. “Where is she, Micah? Where has Mother gone?”

Micah sniffed and glanced at the door. “To the Temple. She has gone to the Temple.”

Ariella growled and pushed Hannah into her brother’s arms. “She is going to get herself killed, and then where will we be?”

She bent to her father’s side. The man had been strong once. Ariella could barely remember. She touched the cool skin of his arm. “I will bring her back, Father. I promise.” Her father’s eyes sought her own, searching for reassurance. The hunger seemed to have stolen his voice. How long until it took his mind?

She turned on Micah, grabbed his shoulder. “Do not let anyone inside. The streets--” She looked to the door. “The streets are full of madness.”

He nodded, still cradling Hannah.

She kissed the baby. “Take care of them, Micah.” And then she left to retrieve her mother, whose political fervor often outpaced her common sense.

The mid-summer sun had dropped in the sky, an orange disc hazy and indistinct behind rising smoke. The city burns. She smelled it, sensed it, felt it somehow on her skin as she joined the flow toward the temple – a heat of destruction that threatened to consume them all.

Her family enjoyed the privilege of living in the shadow of the Temple Mount. A privilege that today only put them closer to folly. She twisted through the crazed mob, darted around wagons and pushcarts laden with family treasures, swatted at those who shoved against her. Already, only halfway there, her heart struck against her chest and her breathing shallowed, the weakness of slow starvation.

She reached the steps to the south of the Temple platform and was swept upward with the masses. Why were so many running to the Temple? Why had her mother?

And then she heard it. A sound that was part shrieking anger, part mournful lament, a screaming funeral dirge for the city and its people. She reached the top of the steps, pushed through the Huldah Gate, dashed under the colonnade into the Court of the Gentiles, and drew up short. The crowd pressed against her back, flowed around her and surged onward, but Ariella could not move.

The Temple is on fire.

The next moments blurred. She felt herself running, running toward the Temple as if she alone could avert this monstrous evil. Joining others who must have shared her delusion. She saw Roman legionaries club women and children, voices raised in a war cry. The yells of zealot rebels and the shrieks of those impaled by swords returned like an echo. The dead began to accumulate. Soldiers climbed heaps of bodies to chase those who fled. She tasted ashes and blood in the air, breathed the stench of burning flesh, and still some pushed forward.

She fought the smoke and blood, climbed the steps and entered the Court of Women. All around her, peaceful citizens were butchered where they stood. Ahead, a current of blood ran down the curved steps before the brass Nicanor Gate. The bodies of those who had been murdered at the top slipped to the bottom.

Ariella swayed on her feet at the carnage. That her mother was one of these dead she had no doubt. Elana’s outspoken defiance of Rome had earned her a reputation among her people, one that matched the meaning of her given name, torch.

She could go no farther. The entire Temple structure flamed now, from the Court of Israel to the Holy of Holies, its beauty and riches and sanctity defiled, raped by the Romans who even now risked their own flesh to steal its treasures.

A groan at her feet drew her attention, and she saw as if from a great distance that indeed her mother lay there, a bloody slash against her chest and a vicious purpling around her eyes. She lifted a hand, claw-like, to Ariella, who bent to kneel beside her and clasp her fingers.

Ariella had no words. What use to say good-bye, when they would all be in the same place soon?

Strange, she was very cold. With the flames so near and so fierce, still her fingers felt numb as she wrapped them around her mother’s hand.

Elana whispered only “Never forget…” before she was gone, and Ariella nodded because it was the expected thing to do. She studied her mother’s face, the eyes open and unseeing, and felt nothing. Was that right? Should she feel something?

After awhile she thought perhaps she should go home. She tried to stand, slipped in some blood that had pooled on the marble beneath her, and tried again.

The noise seemed far off now, though she could see the faces of citizens, mouths gaping as though they screamed in agony, and soldiers, feral lips drawn back over their teeth. But the sounds had somehow receded.

She weaved through the upright who still lived, stepped over the prone who had already passed, and drifted back to her house. Behind her, the Temple Mount was enveloped in flames, boiling over from its base, though there seemed to be even more blood than flames.

The stupor that had fallen over her at the Temple seemed to slough away as she traveled the streets. From open doorways she heard an occasional wail, but largely it was quiet. Too quiet. As thouh a river of violence had washed down the street while she’d been gone and swept away all that lived.

Her own street was not so peaceful. From end to end it burned.

She searched the crowd for her father, Micah, the baby. Grabbed hollow-eyed friends and wailing neighbors. One old woman shook her head and pointed a withered hand to the end of the burning street. “Only Micah.” She coughed. “Only he escaped.”

Micah. She called his name, but the word choked in her throat. Where would he have fled?

They had whispered together, one unseasonably warm night a few months ago on their roof, of running away from Jerusalem. Child’s talk, but now… Would he have tried to leave the city, to make it two hours south to family in Bethlehem?

Minutes later, she stumbled toward the Lower City. The Dung Gate would lead her south, to the valley of Hinnom and onward to Bethlehem. If she could escape.

Too many joined her. They would never be allowed to pass. She climbed crumbling steps to the rim of the city wall. Would she see a thread of refugees weaving out of Jerusalem, beyond the gates?

There was a procession of Jews, yes. But not on foot, fleeing to safety. On crosses, writhing in death throes. An endless line of them, crucified in absurd positions for the Romans’ entertainment, until they had run out of crosses, no doubt. Ariella gripped the wall. She would have retched had there been anything in her stomach.

She considered throwing herself from the wall. Was it high enough to guarantee her death? She would not want to die slowly on the ground, listening to the crucified.

The decision was made for her. From behind, a Roman soldier grabbed both her arms, laughing. She waited for the air in her face, for the spin of a freefall in her belly, that feeling she loved when her father rode the donkey cart too fast over the crest of a hill.

Instead, the soldier spun her to face him, shoved her to the stone floor, and fumbled at her tunic.

No, she was not going to die like that.

She exploded into a flailing of arms and legs, kicks and screams. She used her fingernails, used her teeth, used her knees.

From behind her head another soldier called. “That one’s a fighter, eh, Marcus?”

The soldier on top of her grunted.

“Better save her for the general. He wants the strong ones to sell off, you know.”

Ariella realized in that moment that since the siege began months ago, she had believed she would meet her death in the City of God. But as Jerusalem died without her, something far worse loomed in her future.

Life in the slave market of Rome.

Chapter 1


Nine years later

Night fell too soon, bringing its dark celebrations to the house of Valerius.

Ariella lingered at the fishpond in the center of the dusky atrium, slipping stale crusts to the hungry scorpion fish one tiny piece at a time. The brown and white striped creature snapped at its prey with precision, the venomous spines along its back bristling.

The fish food ran out. There was no delaying the inevitable.

Let the debauchery begin.

Nine years a slave in this household, nine annual tributes to Dionysius. The Greek god, embraced by the Romans and renamed Bacchus, apparently demanded every sort of drunken vice performed in his honor. And Valerius would not disappoint the god.

Indeed, Valerius flaunted his association with the mystery sect, though its practice was frowned upon by the government and disdained by most citizens.

Ariella inhaled, trying to draw strength from the deadly fish her master kept as a pet. For we are both kept as such, aren’t we? The scorpion fish’s body swayed like a piece of debris, its disguise needless in its solitary enclosure.

Within an hour Valerius’s guests poured into the town house, sloshed up most of the wine she’d placed on low tables in the triclinium, and progressed to partaking of the extract of opium poppies, tended in red-tinged fields beyond the city. The sweet, pungent smoke hung like a smothering wool toga above their heads.

A traveling guild of actors somersaulted into the room, their lewd songs and costumes an affront to decency and a delight to the guests. Ariella lowered her eyes, embarrassment still finding her even after all she had endured, and cleared the toppled cups and soiled plates. She passed Valerius, sprawled on a gold-cushioned couch, and he rubbed a hand over her calf. Her muscles twitched like the flank of a horse irritated by a fly.

Her master’s high-pitched laugh floated above the general noise of the intoxicated. Ariella winced. Valerius performed tonight for his honored guest, another politician from the south somewhere.

“Perhaps we shall make a man of you yet, Maius.” Valerius waved his slender fingers at the larger man. “I shall take you out into the city and declare to all that you are one of us.”

The politician, Maius, reddened. Ariella leaned over him to refill his cup. Clearly, he was here to humor Valerius but not align himself with the vile man.

When the actors had twirled their final dance and claimed applause, the herd of guests took their revelry to the streets. Valerius dragged Ariella through the door, always his special companion this night. Her breath caught in her throat. It was not the streets she feared. It was what would come after.

Mother, why could I not be strong like you?

The insanity built to a crescendo as they wound their torch-lit way toward the Via Appia, where the procession would climax. The Bacchanalians howled and pushed and tripped, their vacant eyes and laughing mouths like the painted frescoes of her nightmares. Hair disheveled, carrying blazing torches, they danced along the stones, uttered crazed predictions and contorted their bodies impossibly. Back in Jerusalem, her father would have said they had the demons in them. Here in Rome, Ariella rarely thought of such things.

It was enough to survive.

They passed a cluster of slaves, big men, most of them, herded into a circle amidst a few flaming torches. Strange time of day for a slave auction. Ariella met the eyes of a few, but their shared circumstance did not give them connection.

Snatches of speech reached her. A gladiator troupe. A lanista, the trainer for the troupe, called out numbers, making new purchases. A memory of home flashed, the day she had been sold to Valerius’s household manager. She had thought herself fortunate then, when so many others were sold off to entertain in the arena. Foolish child.

The unruly procession passed the men bound for death and Ariella’s gaze flitted through them. Did they feel the violent shortness of their lives press down on them? Before her stretched nothing but endless misery. Was their lot not preferable?

A muscled slave with the yellow hair of the west shifted and she glimpsed a face beyond him. Her blood turned to ice, then fire.


She yanked away from Valerius’s sweaty grip. Stood on her toes to peer into the men.

Valerius pulled away from the raucous group, wrapped a thin arm around her waist, and brought his too-red lips to her ear. “Not growing shy after all these years, are we?” His baby-sweet voice sickened her.

She leaned away. Caught another look at the boy.

Turn your head. Look this way!

Valerius tugged her toward the road, but her feet had grown roots. I must be sure.

But then he turned, the boy about to be a gladiator, and she saw that it could not be Micah. He was too young, older than she remembered her brother but not old enough to be him. Though the resemblance was so strong perhaps he was a distant cousin, she knew he was not her brother. In fact, the boy looked more like her than Micah. If she were to cut her hair, she could pass for his twin.

She let Valerius pull her back to the procession, but the moment had shaken her. Memories she had thought dead turned out to be only buried, and their resurrection was a knife-blade of pain.

She sleepwalked through the rest of the procession, until their drunken steps took them to the caves on the Via Appia, dark spots on the grassy mounds along the road where greater abuses could be carried out without reprisals.

Valerius and his guest, Maius, were arguing.

Ariella forced her attention to the men, leaving off thoughts of Micah and home. It did not pay to be ignorant of Valerius’s moods.

“And you would sully the position you’ve been given by your dissolution!” Maius’s upper lip beaded with sweat and he poked a finger into Valerius’s chest.

Valerius swiped at the meaty finger. “At least I am not a coward! Running home to pretend to be something I am not.”

“You think me a coward? Then you are a fool. I know how to hold on to power. Yours will wash away like so much spilled wine.”

Valerius cackled. “Power? Ah yes, you are a mighty man down there in your holiday town by the sea. I daresay you couldn’t put a sword to a thief if he threatened your family!”

Ariella took a step backward. Valerius misjudged Maius, she could see. The man’s eyes held a coldness that only came of cruelty.

Before Valerius could react, Maius had unsheathed a small dagger from his belt. He grabbed for a nearby slave, one of Valerius’s special boys, wrapped a meaty arm around his forehead, and in one quick move, sliced the slave’s neck. He let the boy fall. Valerius screeched.

“There.” Maius tossed the dagger at the smaller senator’s feet and glared. “I owe you for one slave. But perhaps now you will keep your pretty mouth shut!”

“What have you done?” Valerius bent to the boy and clutched at his bloody tunic. “Not Julius! Not this one!”

The moon had risen while they marched, and now it shone down on them all, most of the guests taken with their own lustful pursuits and senseless to the drama between the two men. Ariella traced the path of moonlight down to her feet, to the glint of iron in the dirt. Maius’s dagger.

She had not held a weapon for many years. Without thought she bent and retrieved it. Held it to her side, against the loose fabric of her robe.

She could not say when the idea first planted itself in her mind. Perhaps it had been back in the city when she had seen the boy who was not Micah. Perhaps it only sprang to life at this moment. Regardless, she knew what she would do.

She would not return to Valerius’s house. Not participate once more, behind closed doors, in the mystery rites that had stolen her soul. Her nine years of torture had come to an end.

No one called out, no one pursued. She simply slipped away, into the weedy fields along the Via Appia, back to the city, the dagger hidden under her robe. She unwrapped the fabric sash at her waist and wound it around her hair. A few quiet questions and she found the yard where the newly-purchased gladiators awaited their assignment. A little flirtation with the loutish guard at the gate, enough to convince him that she was one of the many Roman women obsessed with the fighters, and he let her in with a wicked grin.

She found the boy within moments. His eyes widened as though she were his first opponent. She pulled him to the shadows, to the catcalls of his fellow fighters.

The dagger was steady in her hand and sharp enough to slice through large hanks of hair. The boy watched, wide-eyed, as she disrobed in front of him, modesty ignored.

He was young enough to easily convince.

Within minutes she had donned his leathers and taken his place on the ground with the other fighters. The boy stumbled across the yard, awkward in his new robes and headscarf.

It was done.

Elana would be proud.

COTT: Why I Love Charles Dickens--Diving Into the Story World

by Jen Slattery

A few years ago someone mailed me a historical fiction about.... Well, I'm not sure what it was about because I never made it that far. I tried. Oh, my, did I try, but after page upon page of life-activities, my perseverance waned and I put the book aside. I learned the heroine wore her hair in ribbons, what she ate for breakfast, and numerous other details of her daily life. To the author, perhaps these events were significant. Maybe she had fond memories of getting her hair done and thought perhaps if she outlined these details, one movement at a time, she could invoke those same emotions in her reader. But sadly, her over-abundance of minute details, void of conflict, dulled my brain.

As I read over today's excerpts again--talking of spiritual warfare, castles, and jail sentences--I realized one of the things I long for in a story is the ability to visit a place other than my own. That doesn't mean I always gravitate toward time-traveling speculative fiction, but I don't want to relive the monotony of life either.

I love books that raise the stakes, introduce me to unique settings and unique characters, and allow my mind to drift from the day-to-day. One of my favorite authors is Charles Dickens. Upon first glance, I might conclude this is due to his "other-than" settings, but I believe it's more than that. His use of language creates images so vivid and emotive, he manages to turn a walk through the city into a unique experience. And yet, somehow he does this without losing the human element--the universal emotions we all share. So basically, he creates a world that is unique enough to grab my attention and propel me into the story, but he does it in such a way that I deeply connect with the characters.

This week's excerpts captured my attention with their unique settings and story-lines. The shuffle of monotony in a high school is intensified by the presence of evil. In excerpt B, I'm introduced to the magnificent Hearst Castle, and the world of antiquity. In both, I realize much more is at stake than castle restoration and chemistry class.

What about you? What are some things you look for in a story? Think back to a story you've particularly enjoyed. What was it about that novel that grabbed you? Is it a slightly quirky character or a castle shrouded by clouds and hidden behind a patch of trees?

(If you haven't already done so, read over both excerpts. And remember, there are numerous ways to be entered into our drawing for the book give-aways: leave a comment on any of the articles posted over the next week, fb share us, tweet us, or subscribe. Remember to shoot us an email letting us know you've shared, tweeted, or subscribed.)

To our blogging readers, if you'd like to join the COTT family as a blog alliance partner, shoot us an email at contactcott(at)gmail(dot)com. We'd love to tell you more.

Jennifer Slattery is a novelist, freelance writer and biblical studies major at Calvary Bible college. In 2009 she won first place in the HACWN writing contest in the book category, placed second in the 2010 Dixie Kane, fourth in the 2010 Golden Pen and third in the 2010 CWG Operation First Novel Contest. She has a short piece appearing in Bethany House's Love is a Flame (under a pen name), forwarded by Gary Chapman, another piece in Cathy Messecar's A Still and Quiet Soul, and writes for Reflections in Hindsight, Christ to the World, Samie Sisters, The Christian Pulse, and reviews for Novel Reviews. She's also written for Granola Bar Devotions, Afictionado, The Christian Fiction Online Magazine, Romantic Times Review, Bloom and the Breakthrough Intercessor. 

Contact Jennifer: slattery07(at)yahoo(dot)com
Jennifer's Blog, Facebook

Sunday, May 29, 2011

The Unexpected Bride by Debra Ullrick

The Unexpected BrideThe Unexpected Bride by Debra Ullrick

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Rainelle (Rainee) Victoria Devonworth will do whatever it takes to get away from her abusive brother...even if it means putting out an ad for a husband. She could only hope the ad was answered sooner then later.

Haydon Bowen has had it with love. After the torment that Melanie put him through, he'll never marry again. However, Jesse has other plans in mind. To help his brother out, Jesse answers Rainee's ad and now Haydon finds himself looking for a woman at the train platform. Haydon is only slightly concerned about what happened to Jesse before he left when he sees a classy woman being accosted by a surly man. Haydon jumps in to the hero and finds out that he's rescuing Rainee.

How does one deal with a woman they don't want? Jesse is in no position to get rid of her, now will Mr. Bowen's mother hear anything of it. She's now a guest in her home. Rainee is thankful and will do whatever she can to stay away from her brother Ferrin, even if it means answering another man's ad for a wife.

I love stories like this! Often times I wish I could have lived back in those times! The formality used is sweet and stuffy at the same time (I cannot imagine calling my husband Mr in these days and times). I appreciated the romance and suspense that this book presented. I did see the ending happening as it did though, so this book was a bit predictable for me.

View all my reviews

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Fade to Blue by Julie Carobini

Fade to Blue: An Otter Bay NovelFade to Blue: An Otter Bay Novel by Julie Carobini

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Suz is an artist who finds herself restoring an old door from the Hearst castle. She recently relocated to Otter Bay to get away from her former life. She has to do what is best for her and her son, Jeremiah. Lynn's sentence is about up and she doesn't want him near their son.

Suz is busy at work when she sees the handsome window washer. Wait, could it be? No, it's not him! What would he be doing all the way out here? Well, it is him. Seth, a former flame is the window washer. Was he following her? What would she say to them? Their last meeting was a bit difficult. She did leave him to marry Lynn after all.

Whatever will Suz do? She's living with her brother (he's so kind to take them in) and doing what she can to make a better life for her and Jeremiah. What will happen after she receives a mysterious letter one day?

I enjoyed this book! It's a great read full of romance, adventure, with a little suspense stirred together. I want to read the first two books in this series now!

View all my reviews

My thanks to B&H Fiction for providing the copy for review!

Friday, May 27, 2011

CFBA: The Reluctant Detective by Martha Ockley

This week, the
Christian Fiction Blog Alliance
is introducing
The Reluctant Detective
Monarch Books (April 30, 2011)
Martha Ockley


Martha Ockley is the pen-name of Rebecca Jenkins. She read history at Oxford University, and spent several years working alongside her father, the Rt. Revd. David Jenkins (Bishop of Durham 1984-94) during the turbulence of the 1980s. She lives in Teesdale in the North East of England where the landscape and history provide the inspiration for her Regency detective, F R Jarrett. Since September 2009 she has been Royal Literary Fund Fellow and Writer in Residence at York St John University. She is a full-time author, writing both fiction and non-fiction. (She should not be confused with a Canadian actor and singer, also called Rebecca Jenkins.)


The Reluctant Detective sees Faith Morgan arriving back in the region of her birth - Winchester in Hampshire. Recently ordained, she had been working as a curate in an Anglican inner-city church. Within an hour of her arrival at Little Worthy, she witnesses the sudden shocking death of a fellow priest during a communion service at St James's. He had been poisoned with a pesticide mixed with the communion wine. The senior police officer who arrives at the scene turns out to be Detective Inspector Ben Shorter, Faith's ex long-term boyfriend.

She is urged by the Bishop to stay on to look after the parish of Little Worthy. As she meets her parishioners she learns some surprising facts about her apparently well loved predecessor, and starts to suspect a motive for his death. And it is she who finally identifies the murderer.

The story gets off to a dramatic start with the previous vicar collapsing as soon as he drank the communion cup, and it holds the interest throughout. There is some romantic interest too. Inspector Ben Shorter starts by sneeringly telling his sergeant, "Ms Morgan is a vicar. One of the ordained," Ben emphasized the word. “She's a card-carrying professional at the touchy-feely stuff.” But he soon starts to feel differently about her again, although she is well aware that he "didn't understand the reality she experienced through her faith. He didn't even recognize its existence. That was the gulf between them." Her own beliefs and doubts are convincingly described, for even she can't help wondering, "What if there is no truth to it?" But for her, as for Pascal before her, it was a gamble worth taking.

If you would like to read the first chapter of The Reluctant Detective, go HERE

CFBA: Over the Edge by Brandilyn Collins

This week, the
Christian Fiction Blog Alliance
is introducing
Over the Edge
B&H Books (May 1, 2011)
Brandilyn Collins


Brandilyn Collins is an award-winning and best-selling novelist known for her trademark Seatbelt Suspense®. These harrowing crime thrillers have earned her the tagline "Don't forget to b r e a t h e..."® Brandilyn's first book, A Question of Innocence, was a true crime published by Avon in 1995. Its promotion landed her on local and national TV and radio, including the Phil Donahue and Leeza talk shows. Brandilyn is also known for her distinctive book on fiction-writing techniques, Getting Into Character: Seven Secrets a Novelist Can Learn From Actors (John Wiley & Sons). She is now working on her 20th book.

In addition, Brandilyn’s other latest release is Final Touch, third in The Rayne Tour series—young adult suspense co-written with her daughter, Amberly. The Rayne Tour series features Shaley O’Connor, daughter of a rock star, who just may have it all—until murder crashes her world.


Torn from the front lines of medical debate and the author's own experience with Lyme Disease, Over the Edge is riveting fiction, full of twists and turns—and powerful truths about today's medical field.

Janessa McNeil’s husband, Dr. Brock McNeil, a researcher and professor at Stanford University's Department of Medicine, specializes in tick-borne diseases—especially Lyme. For years he has insisted that Chronic Lyme Disease doesn't exist. Even as patients across the country are getting sicker, the committee Brock chairs is about to announce its latest findings—which will further seal the door shut for Lyme treatment.

One embittered man sets out to prove Dr. McNeil wrong by giving him a close-up view of the very disease he denies. The man infects Janessa with Lyme, then states his demand: convince her husband to publicly reverse his stand on Lyme—or their young daughter will be next.

But Janessa's marriage is already rocky. She's so sick she can hardly move or think. And her husband denies she has Lyme at all.

Welcome to the Lyme wars, Janessa.

“A taut, heartbreaking thriller. Collins is a fine writer who knows how to both horrify readers and keep them turning pages.”

--Publishers Weekly

“Tense and dramatic. Holds its tension while following the protagonist in a withering battle.” –NY Journal of Books

“A frightening and all-too-real scenario. Very timely and meaningful book.” –RT Reviews

“If you know someone who suffers from Lyme, you need to read this compelling novel.” –Lydia Niederwerfer, founder of Lyme-Aware

If you would like to read the Prologue of Over the Edge, go HERE

Watch the book video:

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

COTT: Congratulations Christine Lindsay!

by Michelle Massaro
Christine Lindsay crowned COTT champ!
Shadowed in Silk won the vote for Best Back Cover Blurb against competitor Sunny Eads.
A clip of her winning excerpt:
After the Great War, Abby Fraser returns to India with her small son, where her husband is stationed with the British army. She has longed to go home to the land of glittering palaces and veiled women . . . but Nick has become a cruel stranger. It will take more than her American pluck to survive.
read the full blurb here
A few reader comments
  • I'm drawn to the post war aspect of the second one.
  • Both really pulls you in but the romance of India under the Bristh rule caught my attention.
  • Oh, India! Sounds mysterious!! Makes me wonder if this is a romance or not. Would def give this book a go.
  • Blurb B is just so intriguing! Definitely makes me want to read the whole thing. So much clearly going on.
Christine says
The only reason I write is in order to encourage readers to love Christ and follow Him. He's God---if He wants me to succeed, then He'll make it happen. And if He wants me to have quiet success, then I'll praise the Lord for that.
read the full interview here.
About her experience with COTT she writes:
I'm so thankful for this opportunity. Thank you every one, especially Sunny and Lisa. What a fun contest. And to every one for their positive comments.
Want to get in on the voting action? Head over to Clash of the Titles now and cast your ballot for this week's Clash!
Join us in June as we premier COTT's book club! Karen Witemeyer and her COTT winning novel, A Tailor-Made Bride is up as our first read (The books is offered as a free e-book here; if you don't have a Kindle, you can download the program to your pc or mobile device free here). More details and to vote for July's book, CLICK HERE 

Michelle Massaro is a homeschooling mom and aspiring novelist. She is Assistant Editor for the literary website Clash of the Titles and writes for COTT's Blog Alliance. Michelle also serves on the worship team and teaches origins science to the youth at her church. She and her husband of 15 years live in sunny So Cal with their four children. Connect with her on twitter @MLMassaro, facebook, Clash of the Titles, and her blog Adventures in Writing.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

CFBA: Undaunted Faith by Andrea Boeshaar

This week, the
Christian Fiction Blog Alliance
is introducing
Undaunted Faith
Realms (May 3, 2011)
Andrea Boeshaar


Andrea Kuhn Boeshaar has been married for more than 30 years. She and her husband, Daniel, have three adult sons, daughters-in-law, and two precious grandchildren. Andrea's educational background includes the University of Wisconsin - Milwaukee, where she studied in English, and Alverno College where she studied in Professional Communications and Business Management.

Andrea has been writing stories and poems since she was a little girl; however, it wasn't until 1984 that she started submitting her work for publication. Eight years after that, she was convicted about writing for the Christian market. She read books in her genre (Inspirational Romance & Women's Fiction), studied the market, and worked hard to hone her craft.

Finally her first novel was published in 1994. Since then she's written numerous articles and devotionals. Andrea has also published inspiration romance novels, women's fiction, and novellas.

In 2003, Andrea joined the Hartline Literary Agency and worked for Joyce Hart as a literary agent. She saw much success. But then in 2007, Andrea realized she was more of a teacher/encourager than a sales person. She left the agency and became a certified Christian life coach. Now, in addition to her writing, Andrea enjoys encouraging others to use their God-given talents and gifts to their fullest.

Andrea Kuhn Boeshaar is a certified Christian life coach and speaks at writers’ conferences and for women’s groups. She has taught workshops at such conferences as Write-To-Publish, American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW), Oregon Christian Writers Conference, Mount Hermon Writers Conference, and many local writers conferences. Another of Andrea’s accomplishments is cofounder of the American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW) organization. For many years she served on both its Advisory Board and as its CEO.  


When Pastor Luke McCabe begins paying extra attention to her, Bethany takes his fine-sounding words with a grain of salt. She's heard sweet talk before. This time she is going to keep her mind on the Lord and on her new teaching job in the Arizona Territory.

But when her reputation is accidentally soiled by the rakish town sheriff, Luke steps in with a marriage proposal to save Bethany's good name. Luke is certain their marriage is God's will...but Bethany is just as certain God must have someone else in mind to be Luke's wife.

Someone sweet and spiritual, who knows the Scriptures better than Bethany does. Someone like Luke's old friend from home.

If you would like to read the first chapter of , go HERE.

Watch the video trailer:

Monday, May 16, 2011

CFBA: Fade to Blue by Julie Carobini

This week, the
Christian Fiction Blog Alliance
is introducing
Fade to Blue
B&H Books (May 15, 2011)
Julie Carobini


A word from the author:

I grew up as Julie Navarro, in a family of truly right-brained individuals. Among us you’ll find writers, artists, and musicians, all of us willing to talk about the arts at a moment’s notice.

Over the years, I’ve published several hundred articles and stories in magazines and books, including Aspire, Decision, Expecting, Focus on the Family, Key Magazine and God’s Abundance: 365 Days to a Simpler Life. As I wrote, I found a common theme cropping up: my family, the sea, and God’s timely work in the lives of those around me.

Maybe it was time to incorporate those interests into novels, I thought.

And so I did. Not once, but twice. Both times, God shut both doors and windows. So I continued to write and dream and raise my kids with Dan. Eventually I decided to write romantic seaside novels, and that’s where I found my voice.

When I’m not writing, marketing, or editing for others, I’m driving my kids around town, imagining that my mid-sized SUV is actually a sleek sailing yacht.


Suz Mitchell is the determined dreamer we should all be and won't allow her ex-husband Len's jail sentence to ruin their young son Jeremiah's life. An accomplished artist, she moves with her child across the country to California's central coast and lands a sweet job restoring priceless paintings at the historic Hearst Castle overlooking the ocean.

To her utter surprise, a serious old flame, Seth, is also now working at Hearst and jumbles the dreams inside Suz's heart. While sorting out the awkwardness of their past split and current spiritual differences, a repentent Len shows up eager to restore his family.

Suz must learn to let God be the true restorer of all that once seemed lost.

If you would like to read the first chapter of Fade to Blue, go HERE.

I'm about a quarter of the way through this one. I am really enjoying it so far! Check it out today! 

COTT: So, What About the Back Cover?

article by Lisa Lickel
Join us in June as we premier COTT's book club! Karen Witemeyer and her COTT winning novel, A Tailor-Made Bride is up as our first read (The books is offered as a free e-book here; if you don't have a Kindle, you can download the program to your pc or mobile device free here). More details and to vote for July's book, CLICK HERE 

Read this week's excerpts here and vote!
What's the Big Deal About the Back of the Book?
I hid behind a copy of the NYTimes at the local bookstore, my trench coat belt pulled tight and my fedora at a swanky angle. Totally incognito, I was on the case. My assignment? To discover once and for all the answers to an author's most persistent questions: Do readers really care about the back of the book? Would they buy based on a catchy blurb or teasing headline or a really cool picture of the author?
I thought back to my own published books which I'd flipped over and compared that morning. Were they exciting enough that someone would buy them? One had an endorsement by an editor; one had my picture and bio – scary. They all had a pretty enticing one-line teaser. One had the illustration continued from the front; one had the picture I originally wanted on the front; others had none.
A half-hour at the book store was all I needed to see for myself. The evidence was in. Serious readers turn the book over—or, open and read the fly. People that are on a mission to buy gifts for someone else grab and pay. Perusers even read a few pages. One guy read the last few pages. Persnickety readers might actually put the book down after reading the back. Even on the discount table. That's how important the back cover copy is: The blurb can make or break a sale.
My informal poll to the ACFW book club group resulted in the following:
Do you look at the back cover first or second? Only one person (an author, go figure) looked at it first; most said they looked at it after checking out the front; three said they don't usually look at the back cover; two said they rarely look at all.
What do you like to see on a back cover? Accurate, enticing teasers without giving too much away, one person said reviews and a couple people said endorsements; one person said something about the author.
Did you ever buy a book because of the back cover? Most said yes, the back cover blurb has sold the book.
I had to include all these responses; they were too good to pass up or condense. Enjoy!
I always read the back cover copy and if it interests me, then I look at the first few pages before I buy the book. The "blurb" is very important with books ordered on-line as that is all we have to go on. I've skipped a few because what I read didn't click with me. With authors I know well, I usually don't look, and only once or twice have been disappointed when the book didn't live up to what I expected.
~Blessings, Martha Rogers
The FRONT cover is the main thing I look at. Frankly I hardly ever read the back of a book. They really don't tell you exactly what is in the book. If the front cover grabs my attention. I read the FIRST page of the book. If the author had grabbed my attention in the first page. I'm going to be interested in the rest of the book not matter what it's about. So, no the back of a book has never convinced me to buy a book. The few times I've read the back first and then checked out the first page of the book. I wasn't grabbed by the first page and put the book back on the shelf!  
I know I might be an odd duck not to read book blurbs on the back of books but they have let me down so many times! Or made it more confusing than helped. Oh, I forgot one more thing that I check about a book are the DISCUSSION QUESTIONS!! Since I try to mostly read books I think will be a fit for book club discussions. I check out the discussion questions. This tells me one, the heart of the author and what they think is important and some of the topics that will be discussed in the book.
~Blessings, Nora :D
1) look at the front cover first (enjoy looking at beautiful covers—it's what draws me to a book first. If the publisher cares about presentation, they'll care about the story--usually)
2) Then the back cover. I found the back cover on Laura Frantz's Courting Morrow Little to be lovely!
3) I read the blurb; and that usually will convince me "aye or nay" to purchasing the book.
~Pat Iacuzzi
I usually look at the type in the book.....I know, it is weird, but often the font in the book convinces me if I want to read or not read a book. I usually read the back cover of a book after I read the first chapter and am wondering where the story is going. I read a back cover one time that basically told the whole story in short form (It was a book from the 1940s) it ruined the book. Yes, often the back cover has convinced me to buy the book. I do not want too little info on there, and I do not want too much.
~Martha Artyomenko
I look at the back of the book right after the cover. I like to see a synopsis on the back and do pay attention to endorsements and what they say, especially so if they are from other authors I know and respect. Without question, the blurbs have a lot to do with whether I buy the book. 
~Pat Rowland

I look at the back cover immediately after I look at the cover. Both are important to me.
I like the back cover to give me a blurb that leaves me wondering what I’m going to see inside.
And YES, the blurb makes a lot of difference whether I will read the story. Sometimes after I purchase my books, and then re-read the blurbs, that also determines to me which book I will read first.
~Shirley Kiger Connolly
Lisa Lickel is a Wisconsin writer who lives with her husband in a hundred and fifty-year-old house built by a Great Lakes ship captain. Surrounded by books and dragons, she has written dozens of feature newspaper stories, magazine articles, radio theater, and several inspirational novels to date. She is also the senior editor at Reflections in Hindsight.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

To Win Her Heart by Karen Witemeyer

To Win Her HeartTo Win Her Heart by Karen Witemeyer

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Levi has a past that he would like to the past. His move to Spencer, TX is just what he needs. The local town is in need of a blacksmith and he has the skill and knowledge to fit the job.

Eden is a lonely lady who is really thinking she'll live the rest of her life alone after what her broken engagement. While she loves books and reading, there are some things that pages in a book cannot replace. She could have anyone she wanted. Afterall, she is the heiress to the town's founder!

Sheriff Pratt is always on the prowl...for women that is. While he desperately wants to woo Eden, she won't give him the time of day. How can he ever win her heart?

This is the 3rd Karen Witemeyer book and I believe she gets better with each one. She spins a tale of romance, humor, and a little bit of suspense as well. The mine scene seemed so real in this book it's as if she was sitting there watching the activity all unfold while writing this story.

My favorite line in this book comes from a scene with Chloe while she's chewing Eden out. Having teenage daughters, it was almost as if they were saying the line and I found it very funny (although the scene is very serious). Chloe says "...but if you can't see the good man he is, you need to unscrew them eyeballs of yours and try on a different pair." I just love that!!!

So who wins who's heart? Well you'll have to read and find that one out. I loved the ending. It was a total surprise to me (based on what I thought would be a small part in the book!). That's all I'm saying about that though! Have a tissue handy...I bawled like a baby through the last 10 pages or so!

Many thanks to Karen and to Bethany House for providing a copy to review. I have also purchased a copy of this book so look for a giveaway soon!

View all my reviews

Saturday, May 14, 2011

CFBA: Hidden Affections by Delia Parr

This week, the
Christian Fiction Blog Alliance
is introducing
Hidden Affections
Bethany House (May 1, 2011)
Delia Parr


Delia Parr, pen name for Mary Lechleidner, is the author of 10 historical novels and the winner of several awards, including the Laurel Wreath Award for Historical Romance and the Aspen Gold Award for Best Inspirational Book. She is a full-time high school teacher who spends her summer vacations writing and kayaking. The mother of three grown children, she lives in Collingswood, New Jersey.


Betrayed by her husband, Annabelle Tyler wears the burden of legally being a divorcee, a difficult position for an upstanding young woman to find herself in.

While attempting to start a new life for herself, an unexpected turn of events once again has Annabelle married--this time to Harrison Graymoor, the most eligible, yet elusive, bachelor in Philadelphia. Harrison assures her that he will secure an annulment immediately, unaware that the constable has sent word of the marriage to the press in Philadelphia. And here things continue to go awry.

Harrison's past, a philanthropic cousin with his eye on Annabelle, and the appearance of Annabelle's ex-husband threaten the tentative relationship growing between Harrison and his "wife." For two individuals set against marriage, there are certainly a lot of second thoughts regarding the one forced upon them.

If you would like to read the first chapter of Hidden Affections, go HERE.

Friday, May 13, 2011

It's Colleen Coble Day! An interview with our esteemed author....

The Lightkeeper's Ball.jpgWhat do I have to offer this world?  Can I really be loved for who I am on the outside and not for how others view me?  Where does my true significance come from?  In her third installment of the Mercy Falls series, The Lightkeeper’s Ball, award-winning author Colleen Coble will answer these questions while leading her readers down a path of betrayal, desire and ultimate fulfillment. 

The Mercy Falls series centers on a small town in California and its lighthouse.  Coble uses the lighthouse as a reminder that Jesus is our lighthouse always leading us home.  In her latest addition to the series, the main characters must wrestle with their desire to find fulfillment in more than their work and money while being hunted by those who are holding on to resentment and unforgiveness. 

With murder, suspense and desire, readers will enjoy peeling back the layers and discovering that this is more than your average romance novel.  They will be perched on the edge of their seats trying to solve a mystery while discovering that the true worth of an individual never comes from a name or accomplishments.  True worth can only be found in Christ.

An interview with Colleen Coble, author of The Lightkeeper’s Ball

Q: Did you always dream of becoming a writer?  Why did you choose the romance genre?

I wrote my first story in the first grade.  It was about a horse that had twin colts.  The teacher praised it and the writing seed was planted.  I love illustrating God’s love through romance.  I especially love the suspense I put into all my books as well.  I have a strong streak of justice and it plays out in the suspense element.

Q: What inspired you to write a historical series based in the early 1900’s?  What would you have enjoyed about living in that time period and what would you have found the most difficult?

I happened to read an article about the Gilded Age and it mentioned how that era was so similar to today’s.  I was intrigued with that, plus I wanted to choose a time period that wouldn’t be too much of a departure from my contemporary books.  In that era, there were still cars and telephones!

I would have loved the simpler lifestyle.  However, I would miss my jeans!  How vain.

Q: Society at the turn of the century was very preoccupied with appearances and impressing other people.  How is that not so different than our society today and how can we keep from falling into that same trap?

That’s exactly right!  The parallels between the two eras are astounding.  I’ve been at the cancer hospital this week with a dear friend, and it was a reminder of how fragile this life is.  We seek THINGS when God wants us to seek Him.  We need to keep our eyes set on eternity and remember that THIS life is the real dream.  When we reach heaven, we will finally start to really live.

Q: Bitterness and unforgiveness led to the death of Olivia’s sister.  Why is it so important to forgive those who have wronged us?

An unforgiving spirit hurts us much more than the person we hate.  It makes us ugly and crowds out the love we want to show other people.  God is love, not hate.  Bitterness is the very opposite of the attitude God wants us to have.

Q: This is the third book in your Mercy Falls series.  Addie and Katie were the main characters in your first two books.  Olivia was given a true gift in the friendship of Katie and Addie.  What does it take to find trustworthy and loyal friends?  Why do you think that we all desire to find friends like these?

You have to first be a friend.  You have to be open and giving of yourself to have those kinds of friends.  A true friend tells you the truth in love, and that’s an important component of the give and take of real friendship.

Q: What do you hope that your readers will take away from reading The Lightkeeper’s Ball?

I hope the readers who feel they have to earn love will take away the realization that their true worth is that Jesus loves them and died for them.  They are valuable beyond comprehension.  When we can step into the role of daughters and sons, we can realize our true potential.

The Lightkeeper’s Ball by Colleen Coble

Thomas Nelson/April 19, 2011
ISBN: 978-1-5955-4268-7/304 pages/paperback/$14.99

For review copy and interview information, contact:

Audra Jennings
Senior Media Specialist
The B&B Media Group
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