Friday, February 24, 2012

A Darkly Hidden Truth by Donna Fletcher Crow

Song Stuck on the Brain: Sigh No More from the Much Ado About Nothing Soundtrack

Today I'm touring a book for Kregel Publications



I thoroughly enjoyed reviewing A Very Private Grave in 2010, the first book in the series, and was excited to have the opportunity to review it's sequel. After tearing through it, I assure you it's as exciting as the first. A Darkly Hidden Truth has as many twisty turns and secrets as the many ruins and historical sights would suggest. I also enjoyed seeing inside a world that's foreign to my everyday life, both in religious practice and culture. Curl up with your favorite cuppa tea and prepare to be whisked across the Pond to a whole new world.


Welcome, Donna, to ProjectingA. Thank you for being here and answering my questions.
1. Here at, music is like air, it's necessary for life. Do you have a favorite song or style of music? How does it fit into your writing life, does it inspire you?

Donna: Fortunately, April, I love English choral music, especially church music, and the earlier the better— Gregorian chant, for example. I say fortunately, because that’s what Felicity hears a lot of in her life as a student at The College of the Transfiguration. Even Felicity, who had little church background when she came to life in this “parallel universe,” quickly learns to love the ethereal melodies, the echoes rising to the vast vaulted ceilings and the sense of peace she never found in the outside world.

2. A Very Private Grave introduced Felicity and Father Antony to your fans and gave us a unique glimpse inside the monastic life. What led you to write about a modern woman wanting to become a nun?

Donna: Well, the old saw of “write what you know” holds true here. I had wanted to tell the stories of ancient English saints for many years, but I never found the right avenue until our daughter, who studied classics at Oxford found she didn’t like teaching school in London and went off to study in a theological college run by monks in a monastery in Yorkshire. Sound familiar? Other than that background, Felicity isn’t at all like our Elizabeth, but visiting her gave me an opportunity to get to know and appreciate this very unique expression of Christianity— an experience I wanted to share with my readers.

3. Your stories are so well researched, The Monastery Murders are so detailed, many times it felt as if I had stepped back in time with the characters. What do you love most about research? What was the most exciting part of A Darkly Hidden Truth to research?

Donna: Thank you, April! That’s exactly what I hope to achieve— giving my readers a sense that they are there. The on-site research is always the most fun. In 2008 I was able to visit all the settings for A Darkly Hidden Truth: The headquarters of the Knights of St. John in London, the cell of Mother Julian in Norwich, and those soggy, boggy Norfolk Broads where a body could just sink into the ooze. I invite your readers to take a look at my research album and pick a favorite spot for yourself: since I could never decide which was the best.

4. You've revived the English mystery genre and made it fresh and exciting for everyone, combining all the historical charm with modern day suspense and conflicts. Is there an author or book from your past that made a genre new and exciting for you?

Donna: The many excellent writers working in the clerical mystery subgenre really opened my eyes to the possibility of combining church life and mysteries. Kate Charles, Julia Spencer-Fleming and Phil Rickman are some of my favorites, but I think the very best clerical mystery is P. D. James: Death In Holy Orders and I was privileged to meet Baroness James when she spoke about writing that book at the Community of the Resurrection which serves as the model for my Community of the Transfiguration.

5. What are your future plans for Felicity and Father Antony? Are there more adventures to come?

Donna: Absolutely! Thank you for asking, April. I’ve just completed the rough draft of Book 3 An Unholy Communion. Felicity joins Antony in leading an ecumenical youth pilgrimage across Wales. Felicity was reluctant, but Antony promised her a time of peace and quiet in a beautiful landscape. If I tell you that the theme is the reality of evil you’ll get some idea that it didn’t exactly work out that way.

Life never works out the way we want, but it never fails to amaze me that no matter the evil in the world, Jesus and the beauty that He created is always there. Many times I stop and think, this may not be what I planned, but praise God I'm here! His plan was so much better!

Thanks again for sharing, and especially your travel album link. What beautiful pictures, Donna. They also prove just how well you describe these scenes. I felt like I recognized several of them. :)


Felicity can't possibly help Father Antony find the valuable missing icon. She's off to become a nun. And then her impossible mother turns up unexpectedly. And a good friend turns up murdered...

Breathtaking chase scenes, mystical worship services, dashes through remote water-logged landscapes, the wisdom of ancient holy women, and the arcane rites of The Knights Hospitaller keep the pages turning. Will Felicity choose the veil - or Antony?


Donna Fletcher Crow is the author of 36 books, mostly novels dealing with British history. The award-winning Glastonbury, an Arthurian grail search epic covering 15 centuries of English history, is her best-known work. A Very Private Grave, Book 1 in the Monastery Murders series, was her reentry into publishing after a 10-year hiatus. Book 2, A Darkly Hidden Truth, is now available, and she is at work on Book 3, An Unholy Communion, scheduled for 2012.

I received a free copy of the featured book from the publisher. I receive no compensation for my review.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

CSFF: The Realms Thereunder by Ross Lawhead

Song Stuck on the Head: Heavy In Your Arms by Florence and the Machine

Today I'm touring with CSFF:



I was so excited to see Ross Lawhead listed on the tour, I just knew the son of Stephen Lawhead must have inherited his dad's talent right? WOW did he. After this book, I won't need to remind you who his famous dad is, his writing stands up on it's own two feet and knocks a solid punch.

The Realms Thereunder, is his debut novel and the first in a series. Suspenseful entertainment mixed with the right balance of intelectualism and heart. It left me counting the days until September 2012 when the sequel releases. The story is a blend of the fantastic myths and legends of the Brittish Isles with present day danger and turmoil. Dragons and Trolls in modern day Scotland. Sleeping knights hidden in caves awaiting the day they're called forth to fight for righteousness. Freya and Daniel's tale is told in masterful blend of story threads from past and present. The descriptions are so clear, I'm thinking Ross might actually have seen the underground city. He certainly set the bar very high for other writers in his genre.


Ancient legend tells of an army of knights that will remain sleeping until the last days.

The knights are waking up.

A homeless man is stalked by a pale, wraithlike creature with a mouthful of needle-sharp teeth. Maimed animals and a host of suicides cluster around a mountain in Scotland. And deep beneath the cobbled streets of Oxford, a malicious hoard besieges a hidden city.

Freya Reynolds is a university student with a touch of OCD and an obsession with myth and folklore. Daniel Tully is living rough on the streets of Oxford, waging a secret war against an enemy only he can identify. Years ago, they found themselves in a world few know is real. They have since gone their separate ways and tried to put that adventure behind them.

But the mythical world is now bleeding into our reality-a dark spiritual evil that is manifesting itself in forgotten corners of the British Isles. Alex Simpson is a Scottish police officer who specializes in hunting mythical creatures. Together, they must confront the past, the present, and points beyond to defeat the ultimate threat to humanity.

Nothing they've seen so far prepares them for what awaits . . . in The Realms Thereunder.


Ross Lawhead comes from a literary household. He has collaborated with his father, Stephen R. Lawhead, on a trilogy of speculative fiction, written and illustrated a graphic novel, and published two volumes of “awful” poetry in a series called “The Colour Papers.” He lives in Oxford, England and this is his first full-length novel. For more of Ross’s musings on comics, movies, books, and culture, visit

In conjunction with the CSFF Blog Tour, I received a free copy of this book from the publisher.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

CFBA: Sixty Acres and a Bride by Regina Jennings

Song Stuck on the Brain: Bits and Pieces by The Dave Clark Five.
This one is truly an LF Syndrome moment, I have no clue where this one came from, but it's truly catchy and has stuck around.

This week, the Christian Fiction Blog Alliance is introducing:
Sixty Acres and a Bride
Bethany House (February 1, 2012)

Regina Jennings


The story of Ruth and Boaz seems to be popular this month, although it wasn't intentional. I've already posted my review of Ruth's Redemption earlier. I knew that one was intended to be a homage to the Bible story. Although good, I didn't sense a strong connection between the two tales.

However, after reading Sixty Acres and a Bride and I can say that Regina Jennings did an awesome job of reimagining the story of Ruth. The book blurb doesn't even hint at that, but it was clear from the first chapter that Ruth and her mother Naomi were an inspiration for this Texas set historical novel. It was so well done too. It wasn't a traditional retelling by anymeans, but the framework from the Biblical tale was strongly set and was a great setting for Rosa's story of moving to a new country as an outcast and finding a home and true love.

Rosa is strong and a little naive at moments, but never stupid. I love her gumption. Weston is easy to fall for, a man who's so willing to give his all to protect and care for those he loves. Every woman dreams of that to some degree. Regina takes these two idealistic characters, has them fall in love and then show honestly how they aren't so perfect and that fear is a weakness we all suffer. You may want to throttle one or both or our lovers before the tale is said and done, but it's so worth the emotional investment.


With nothing to their names, young widow Rosa Garner and her mother-in-law return to Texas and the family ranch. Only now the county is demanding back taxes and the women have only three months to pay.

Though facing eviction, Rosa can't keep herself from falling in love with the countryside and the wonderful extended family who want only her best. Learning the American customs is not easy, however, and this beautiful young widow can't help but catch wandering eyes. Where some offer help with dangerous strings attached, only one man seems honorable. But when Weston Garner, still grieving his own lost love, is unprepared to give his heart, to what lengths will Rosa go to save her future?

If you would like to read the first chapter of Sixty Acres and a Bride, go HERE.

A Word from Regina:

See me laughing. That’s what I do when someone calls me an author. Yes, it’s always been my dream, but I still can’t keep from giggling over it.

Other things I am – a Christ-follower, a wife, a homeschooling mother of four, a graduate of Oklahoma Baptist University, and a voracious reader.

Getting reading time isn’t easy. Seems like my family does more than our share of traveling. My husband is an insurance adjuster (I know, save the hate mail) and travels with the catastrophe team often. That’s allowed us to see a lot of the United States. True many times it’s in the middle of a hurricane or blizzard, but after spending three weeks in a hotel room with six people, you’ll brave anything to get out and see the sights – no matter how damaged they might be.

We also serve on the Missions Team at an amazing church, so we break out the passports frequently. Highlights include singing at a leper colony in India, holding church inside a Mexican prison and showing the Jesus film to a tribe in Senegal who’d never heard the gospel.

But I don’t have to go far away for unusual. My family provides plenty of colorful material with their love for practical jokes, pithy observations and strong agricultural roots. Because of the family business, a significant chunk of my life has been spent at sale barns and auctions – often behind the scales where I weigh pigs. I like to think of myself as a “redneck bluestocking” but I brought an entire marketing team’s discussion to a screeching halt when I said those words, so you didn’t hear it from me.

When I have spare time I love to talk books and quirky characters (real and fictional).

Friday, February 10, 2012

CFBA: Blue Moon Bay by Lisa Wingate

Song Stuck on the Brain: Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow by The Shirelles. Heard it while watching Fringe tonight, and it's been with me ever since. Good song. :)

This week, the Christian Fiction Blog Alliance is introducing:
Blue Moon Bay
Bethany House (February 1, 2012)
Lisa Wingate


Blue Moon Bay may be a sequel, but it reads more like a stand alone novel, which IMO is good in a lot of ways. Moses Lake in a way is a character of it's own, so revisiting the lake area and it's residents is comforting, like coming home after a very long vacation, or traveling back to a favorite childhood memory of a family vacation. The story and main characters are new, only connecting to book one by the thread of location. But that works really well here.

Heather and her family have a lot of baggage. Her last year of high school is a tortured memory and she's shut down her ability to connect with people. Her mom and brother seem flighty and unreliable, irresponsible even. And Heather feels like the only one that can fix it all. She finds, like most of us do, that not even on our best days can we control our family or the events around us. That's a God thing. That never stops her from trying and the ensuing drama, mystery and love that abounds in the story is entertaining and also enlightening. Serving as a good reminder to all of us that God works in mysterious ways and that the truth isn't always what we want it to be. But happiness is still possible if you open up your heart.


Heather Hampton returns to Moses Lake, Texas, to help facilitate the sale of a family farm as part of a planned industrial plant that will provide the area with much-needed jobs. Heather's future fiance has brokered the deal, and Heather is in line to do her first large-scale architectural design--if the deal goes through.

But the currents of Moses Lake have a way of taking visitors on unexpected journeys. What was intended to be a quick trip suddenly morphs into Valentine's week--with Blaine Underhill, the handsome banker who just happens to be opposing Heather's project. Spending the holiday in an ex-funeral parlor seems like a nightmare, but Heather slowly finds herself being drawn into the area's history, hope, and heart.

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


Lisa Wingate is an award-winning journalist, magazine columnist, popular inspirational speaker and a national bestselling author of sixteen books. Her first mainstream novel, Tending Roses, is in its eighteenth printing from Penguin Putnam. Tending Roses is a staple on the shelves of national bookstore chains as well as in many independent bookstores.

Recently, Lisa’s Blue Sky Hill Series, set in Dallas, received national attention with back-to-back nominations for American Christian Fiction Writers Book of the Year Award for A Month of Summer (2009) and The Summer Kitchen (2010). Pithy, emotional, and inspirational, her stories bring to life characters so real that readers often write to ask what is happening to them after the book ends.

Lisa is one of a select group of authors to find success in both the Christian and mainstream markets, writing for both Bethany House, a Christian publisher, and NAL Penguin Putnam, a general market publisher. Her bestselling books have become a hallmark of inspirational fiction. Her works have been featured by the National Reader's Club of America, AOL Book Picks, Doubleday Book Club, the Literary Guild, Crossings Book Club, American Profiles and have been chosen for numerous awards.

When not busy dreaming up stories, Lisa spends time on the road as a motivational speaker. Via internet, she shares with readers as far away as India, where her book, Tending Roses, has been used to promote women's literacy, and as close to home as Tulsa, Oklahoma, where the county library system has used Tending Roses to help volunteer mentors teach adults to read. Recently, the group Americans for More Civility, a kindness watchdog organization, selected Lisa along with Bill Ford, Camille Cosby, and six others as recipients of the National Civies Award, which celebrates public figures who work to promote greater kindness and civility in American life.

Thursday, February 09, 2012

What would the stethescope play for you?

A friend sent me this video and I loved it. It's a commercial, but you probably won't be able to guess what it's advertising until the very end. Be sure and watch to the end, it really made me smile.

Wednesday, February 08, 2012

CFBA: Song of my Heart by Kim Vogel Sawyer

Song Stuck on the Brain: Sitting on the Dock of the Bay by Otis Redding... cue whistling...

This week, the Christian Fiction Blog Alliance is introducing:

Song of My Heart

Bethany House (February 1, 2012)


Kim Vogel Sawyer


Kim did a beautiful job painting the relationships in this book, especially between Sadie and her Papa, the man who adopted her as his own when he married her mother. The scene in the beginning as she and her parents discuss her moving to Kansas for work was especially moving. It made me remember my father and our time together. It felt as if that scene could have been my family, had we lived over a 100 years ago.

Sadie's father is always in her heart and her mind as she faces the tough decisions. A remembered word of council or a shared scripture from memory. The example is there to also remind us that regardless of our relationship with our earthly fathers, we all have a Father in Heaven that loves us with that same devotion and acceptance.

I also loved how she showed mercy and forgiveness don't always mean no consequences, but that even the consequences can be made for a blessing if its all turned over to God.

The story is fun, full of lighthearted romance and a little bit of mystery. All told on a solid message of faith. I really enjoyed it.


Sadie Wagner has always been devoted to her family. So when her stepfather is injured and can't work, she decides to leave home and accept a position as a clerk at the mercantile in Goldtree, Kansas. Goldtree also offers the opportunity to use her God-given singing talent--though the promised opera house is far different from what she imagined. With her family needing every cent she can provide, Sadie will do anything to keep her job.

Thad McKane comes to Goldtree at the request of the town council. The town has been plagued by bootlegging operations, and Thad believes he can find the culprit. After he earns enough money doing sheriff work, he wants to use it to pay for his training to become a minister.

Thad is immediately attracted to the beautiful singer who performs in Asa Baxter's unusual opera house, but when he hears her practicing bawdy tunes, he begins to wonder if she's far less innocent than she seems. And when Sadie appears to be part of the very crimes he's come to investigate, is there any hope the love blossoming between them will survive?

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


Kim Vogel Sawyer is the author of fifteen novels, including several CBA and ECPA bestsellers. Her books have won the ACFW Book of the Year Award, the Gayle Wilson Award of Excellence, and the Inspirational Readers Choice Award. Kim is active in her church, where she leads women's fellowship and participates in both voice and bell choirs. In her spare time, she enjoys drama, quilting, and calligraphy. Kim and her husband, Don, reside in central Kansas, and have three daughters and numerous grandchildren.

Friday, February 03, 2012

CFBA: In Too Deep by Mary Connealy

Song Stuck on the Brain: Merlin tv series theme song

This week, the Christian Fiction Blog Alliance is introducing:

In Too Deep

Bethany House (February 1, 2012)


Mary Connealy


In Too Deep is Mary's follow up to Out of Control, the first book in the Kincaid Brides series. I loved book one, the suspense and humor mixture always hooks me right in, but I was anxious to read Ethan's story, because as much as I enjoyed Rafe, Ethan was the one that really intrigued me.

Ethan may be clueless about women, but he's a good hearted soul looking for healing and validation as a man. Audra has been beaten down by pushy men her whole life and she's had enough. Both want to be seen for the strength inside of them, but struggle to stand their ground with bossy Rafe and Julia always making choices without consulting anyone else. That's how Ethan and Audra end up married in the first place. But their good for one another, they see each other for who they really are and together are stronger. I loved watching them find their true feelings for one another.

And of course it wouldn't be a Mary Connealy book without a lot of humor and action to go with it. One of my favorite lines in the book is where Audra is describing Ethan at a moment when she's frustrated with him. "Ethan looked like six full feet of stubborn and another few inches of dumb." :)


In 1866 Colorado, Ethan Kincaid agrees to a marriage of convenience with the same casual disregard he gives every decision. Audra Gilliland, young mother of two, accepts his proposal because she wants to stop being a burden to her newly married stepdaughter. And suddenly both of them are in far deeper than they'd planned.

Ethan doesn't expect Audra to affect him so profoundly, and when she begins to, he's terrified of the pain he's felt before when someone he loved was seriously injured on his watch. He's determined that his new wife will do as he says so he can keep her safe from the dangers that lurk on their ranch. Audra has been cared for all her life by one man or another--and they've done a poor job of it. Now she's planning to stand up for herself. And her new husband had better agree or get out of her way!

What will it take to transform two wayward hearts fearful of getting in too deep into two trusting hearts ready to risk falling deeply in love?

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

Watch the book trailer:


Mary Connealy writes romantic comedy with cowboys. She is a Christy Award Finalist, a Carol Award Finalist and an IRCC Award finalist.

The Lassoed in Texas Series, Petticoat Ranch, Calico Canyon and Gingham Mountain. Petticoat Ranch was a Carol Award Finalist. Calico Canyon was a Christy Award Finalist and a Carol Award Finalist. These three books are now contained in one large volume called Lassoed in Texas Trilogy.

The Montana Marriages Series, Montana Rose, The Husband Tree and Wildflower Bride. Montana Rose was a Carol Award Finalist.

Cowboy Christmas—the 2010 Carol Award for Best Long Historical Romance, and an Inspirational Readers Choice Contest Finalist.

The Sophie's Daughters series. Doctor in Petticoats, Wrangler in Petticoats, Sharpshooter in Petticoats.

She is also the author of; Black Hills Blessing a 3-in-1 collection of sweet contemporary romances, Nosy in Nebraska, a 3-in-1 collection of cozy romantic mysteries and she's one of the three authors contributing to Alaska Brides with her Carol Award Winning historical romance Golden Days.

Wednesday, February 01, 2012

CFBA: Ruth's Redemption by Marlene Banks

Song Stuck on the Brain: NCIS theme song. We're watching season 2 on dvd. Love NCIS, and it's a real toss up who's the favorite character. Gibbs is probably the best looking, but McGee is geekalicious. :) Even Ducky has a special spot in my heart.

This week, the Christian Fiction Blog Alliance is introducing:

Ruth's Redemption

Moody Publishers/Lift Every Voice (February 1, 2012)


Marlene Banks


I've read a lot of civil war era fiction, some did their best to shine a light on the reality for African Americans at that time, but none presented it as well or realistically as Marlene Banks did in Ruth's Redemption.

Although there are some surface attempts at connecting it to the Bible story of Ruth and Boaz, such as character names and a few well timed phrases, I didn't really see it as retelling of the story of Ruth. And I was perfectly fine with that, because the story of Ruth I did get was just as compelling. The author doesn't avoid any of the 'ugly' that was reality for slaves. It's not sugar coated or watered down, neither is it crass or gratuitous. The vernacular and setting sends you back in time and although it's not always a comfortable place to be, the story of redemption make it worth the trip. Ruth isn't the only one finding redemption either. Bo finds healing as well and their journey together provides a love story that shines all the brighter for the ugliness they over come.

The story provoked very strong emotions for me, anger, disgust, fear and finally compassion. Be prepared to walk more than a mile in Ruth and Bo's shoes in the dusty lanes of Virginia.


Set in the 1800s, Ruth's Redemption, is an unusual depiction of the lives of slaves and free blacks in pre-Civil War America. Bo, a main character, was educated while a slave. He was given his freedom and now owns a farm buying slaves for the sole purpose of giving them their freedom.

Bo is also a man of God and widower whose life is destined to change when he meets the proud and hard-hearted slave girl, Ruth. Ruth has known nothing but servitude and brutality since being separated from her mother at age thirteen. Purchased and sold primarily for breeding, Ruth struggles to adjust to life outside of bondage. She wants no part of Bo's Godly devotion. Yet Bo is unlike any man she's known and her experiences with him will leave her forever changed.

A gripping slave era novel, Ruth's Redemption is a story of love, forgiveness, and redemption. Set against the backdrop of the Nat Turner Rebellion in Tidewater, Virginia, this novel shines the light of God's unconditional love in the darkness of a culture's cruel socially accepted inhumanity.

If you would like to read the first chapter of Ruth's Redemption, go HERE.


Marlene Banks has worked 30+ years combined in nursing and the business arena. Her goal as a writer is to create inspiring, gripping and realistic stories with an emphasis on African American literature. She believes her gift and desire to write is from God and desires to use it to fulfill His purposes. Marlene lives in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania where she is a member of Bethel Deliverance International Church.