New Historical Romance: Charlotte’s Honor

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I am honored to be part of the Virtual Book Tour for Ellen Gable’s new historical romance. In this blog post you will find the book description, early reviews, an excerpt from the story, and an author interview!

Charlotte’s Honor (Great War Great Love #2) by Ellen Gable

Charlotte's Honour Front Cover sm After receiving news that her brother – and only relative – has been killed in action during the Great War, 21-year-old Charlotte Zielinski enlists as a medical volunteer. She eventually begins working in the death ward of the field hospital near Soissons, France, holding dying men’s hands and singing them into eternity.

Dr. Paul Kilgallen is a Canadian surgeon working at the field hospital. During a siege by the enemy, everyone evacuates except for Paul and Charlotte, who volunteer to remain in the basement of the chateau to care for the critically ill soldiers.

During those three days, Charlotte sees a side of Paul that very few have seen and finds herself falling in love with him. Before Paul leaves for the front, he abruptly tells her that he cannot love her, and it would be best to “forget him.”

Just when the war is coming to a close, Charlotte is surprised by two events that are destined to change her life forever.

You can learn more about the book here.

Get a copy of the book here:  Amazon Kindle

Print:  Coming Soon

Book 1 of the Series: Julia’s Gifts: Available on Amazon


Advanced Reviews:

Charlotte Zielinski, to whom we were first introduced in Julia’s Gifts, is a strongly positive role model for our daughters. She endures trials throughout this story that most of us cannot imagine facing today, yet the genuine manner in which the characters react and respond rings true for all time. I would add Charlotte’s Honor to the must-read list for any historical fiction, mother-daughter generational, or virtue-based book club. Of course, Gable’s tales are perfectly delectable as a personal poolside treat as well!”   ~ Jean Egolf, author, the Molly McBride series

“Charlotte’s Honor includes a little bit of everything: WWI history, sweet romance, and a little mystery/suspense. This page-turning love story (it’s a fast read!) is built on a foundation of faith and above all, the dignity of human life. Charlotte devotes herself to the care of dying soldiers. It is through this calling that Charlotte meets and falls in love with Paul, a skilled surgeon who has closed his heart to the possibility of romance. Expect a little humor amidst the backdrop of wartime brutality and a couple of surprises along the way. Charlotte’s Honor is not only a pleasant romantic escape but edifying as well.” ~ Carolyn Astfalk, author, Ornamental Graces

“Set toward the end of the Great War, Charlotte’s Honor allows readers to glimpse ugliness and death, blossoming relationships, and the most challenging experiences a person could face, juxtaposing the brutality of war with the beauty of sacrificial love.” ~ Theresa Linden, award-winning author of Catholic Fiction


EXCERPT

May 1918

Vauxbuin Field Hospital

Near Soissons, France

The air was thick with the mineral stench of blood. Inside the canvas tent that served as Barrack Number 48, Charlotte searched for a place in the unconscious soldier’s body to insert the hypodermic.  The poor gentleman had burns and wounds everywhere, but she managed to find a one-inch diameter spot on his thigh in which to plunge the needle.  The man didn’t flinch, and Charlotte suspected that his injuries were too grave for him to survive.  She recited a silent prayer for this man’s soul, then moved onto the next soldier.

The large canvas tents that were part of the field hospital covered the lawn in front of the chateau. Most volunteers referred to it as a chateau because it looked the part with its high ceilings, plentiful rooms and marble floors. However, it wasn’t a castle. It was a 19th century country manor.

A tendril of dark brown hair slipped from her headscarf, and she tucked it back in. Charlotte Patricia Zielinski didn’t care much whether her unruly hair was tame, but she did care about keeping healthy. She wasn’t a large girl, nor was she small.  However, roughhousing with her brother Ian for so many years made her strong.

After preparing another soldier for the operating theater, she took a short break and sat on a bench near the tent.

She glanced up at the dark sky, enjoying the quiet. After the sunrise, she’d hear the distant booming that came with being ten miles from the front.

After her bout with influenza last month, she’d felt fatigued for weeks.  In the past few days, she had enough energy to move a mountain.

Sister Betty, the medical volunteers’ middle-aged supervisor, called to her from the barrack beside her, Number 49.  She was a big-boned woman who seemed taller because she always stood so straight.  Charlotte wasn’t sure whether it was because she was British or because she was a big woman, but she also had a booming personality and a loud voice.

Charlotte stood up to speak with Sister.

“How many more men have to be prepared for the O.R., Miss Zielinski?”

“Four, Sister.”

“Maybe you’d be of more use in this barrack.” She pointed toward Number 49.

“Certainly.”  She turned to alert her co-worker in 48, when Sister yelled, “Wait.”

Charlotte stopped. “Yes?”

“Perhaps you’d better stay where you are. If there are only four left to prepare, finish that duty, then report to this barrack.”

“Yes, ma’am.”

It took a bit of getting used to, but here in Europe, nurses were referred to as sisters.  And all sisters – and most medical volunteers – wore headscarves that looked like habits.

She approached a soldier on a cot, noticing the maple leaf on his collar. Canadians tended to be an agreeable bunch.  He pursed his lips as she stripped his clothes, wincing as bits of skin came off with his pants.  The poor fellow tensed, but Charlotte could only offer, “I’m so sorry.  I am doing my best not to hurt you.”

The dark-haired man attempted a smile. 

An ear-piercing explosion caused the world around Charlotte to vanish, and she reflexively collapsed on the cot, falling across the soldier lying in front of her. Ears ringing, she remained still for what seemed like an hour but was likely a few minutes. Blinking, she opened her eyes and stared at the metal side of the cot in front of her and felt the soldier moving underneath her.

As she lifted herself up, not one but three large drops of blood splattered the white sheet below her. Her head seared in a flash of pain. 

When the Canadian soldier took hold of her hand, he said something she couldn’t hear. 

His warbling soon became words. “Are you all right, Miss?”

Her mouth was open, but she couldn’t speak.  Nodding, she raised her hand to her headscarf.  When she pulled her hand to her face, it was covered in blood.  Jesus, Mary, and Joseph.

“Are…you all right, sir?”  Charlotte asked the man.

“Yes, no worse than I was.  Thanks to you, Miss.  You shielded my body with yours.” He paused. “You have a bad shrapnel wound on your head.”

“Y…yes.”  Charlotte winced but forced a smile. She turned and picked up a bandage from the side of the overturned cart. She pressed it to her head.

By this time, the entire ward was awake and bustling with moaning soldiers. 

Standing up, her surroundings seemed to shift and sway, so she reached for the soldier’s hand. “I’m so sorry.”

“Think nothing of it.  I’m happy to reciprocate.”

Glancing just above the soldier’s head, she spotted five or six holes the size of watermelons blown through the side of the barrack’s canvas wall and hundreds dotting the rest of the walls. Following the holes from the side wall to the ceiling, she stared upwards at the roof of the tent, now shredded in many places.

A few soldiers near the wall had sustained minor injuries, but no one appeared to be mortally wounded.

Panicked and fearing the worst, Charlotte rushed outside, the bandage still to her head. As she turned toward the adjacent barrack, she stopped and gasped. The influenza ward was no longer there.  Body parts, blood, torn-apart furniture, and bits and pieces of the barrack were all that remained.  The realization that she had escaped death made her knees buckle.

She blessed herself and lowered her head. “Requiescants in pace.”  Her hearing had not yet fully returned, but she could hear someone call her name. 


Author Biography:  Ellen Gable is an award-winning author of nine books, editor, self-publishing book coach, speaker, publisher, NFP teacher, book reviewer and instructor in the Theology of the Body for Teens. Her books have been downloaded nearly 700,000 times on Kindle and some of her books have been translated into Portuguese, Italian, Spanish, and French. The mother of five adult sons, Ellen (originally from New Jersey) now lives with her husband of 36 years, James Hrkach, in Pakenham, Ontario, Canada.

Find Ellen at:

Blog: Plot Line and Sinker

Full Quiver Publishing 

Amazon Author Page

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Author Interview: 

What was the inspiration for Charlotte’s Honor?

Since one of the themes of Charlotte’s Honor is preparing and being with soldiers who are close to death, the inspiration came from being with two close people in my life in the hours before their deaths. These experiences served as inspiration for Charlotte’s Honor.

Eleven years ago, when my mother was close to death, my sister called me in Canada and urged me to come right away (to New Jersey, my home state), that Mom didn’t have much time left.  I arrived before she passed, but by the time I got there, she was unconscious.  My sister and I prayed the Litany of the Saints (which she requested) as well as the Divine Mercy Chaplet. In the middle of the night, I got up to sit with her. I held her hand and prayed for her, talked to her and told her she was loved, and that it was okay to go.  When she did pass away, I was grateful and honored that I was present at the moment of her passing. And an interesting experience happened. My stepdad, siblings, and I were all sitting by my mom’s bedside and all of a sudden, I felt like my mom was on the ceiling staring down.  I lifted my head to look up, but at that point, my brother patted my arm and said, “Hey, El, I have this strange feeling that Mom is on the ceiling looking down at us.”  I believe that we were given a great grace at that moment.

Last year, my mother-in-law passed away. She had both dementia and cancer.  She was surrounded by those she loved and, although unconscious, we prayed the Rosary, the Divine Mercy Chaplet and other prayers for her in the last few days of her life.  It was a good death, a holy death. It’s the kind of death I hope to have: others praying the Rosary and Divine Mercy Chaplet for me as I’m close to death.

Why World War 1?

I’ve always been interested in history and I knew very little about this war.  I decided to focus the bulk of my research on the last year of the War (after the United States entered).  Because I am American, and my husband is Canadian, the female protagonists in this series are American and the male protagonists are Canadian. So for Charlotte’s Honor, Charlotte is American, and Paul is Canadian.

Why is the name of the series Great War Great Love?

I owe my gratitude to the son of a friend of mine, Ian, for coming up with the title. The reason for the title is that World War 1 was called the “Great War” by the Allies before the USA entered the war, and is still often called the “Great War,” by the British, Canadians and Australians. And Great Love because there are many examples of how couples met and fell in love during times of war.

Can you tell us about the first book in the series and next book of the series, Ella’s Promise?

Julia’s Gifts (Book #1 Great War Great Love) As a young girl, Julia began buying gifts for her future spouse, a man whose likeness and personality she has conjured up in her mind, a man she calls her “beloved.” Soon after the United States enters the Great War, Julia impulsively volunteers as a medical aid worker, with no experience or training. Disheartened by the realities of war, will Julia abandon the pursuit of her beloved? Will Julia’s naïve ‘gift scheme’ distract her from recognizing her true “Great Love?” From Philadelphia to war-torn France, follow Julia as she transitions from unworldly young woman to compassionate volunteer.  Julia’s Gifts is now available in Italian and French and will soon be available in Portuguese and Spanish.

Ella’s Promise (Book #3 Great War Great Love) The daughter of German immigrants, Ella is an American nurse who, because of the time period, was discouraged from continuing her studies to become a doctor.  During the Great War, she travels to Le Treport, France, to work at the American-run hospital. She meets her own “Great Love” in the last place she would expect to meet him.  Ella’s Promise will be released in mid-2019.

This is very different from some of your other books in that it is a very clean romance and can be read by young teens to elderly women to middle-aged men.  Was that a conscious choice?

Yes, it is very different and no, it wasn’t a conscious choice at first.  When I came up with the story and as I was gradually developing the characters and plotlines, it made the most sense to keep this a “sweet” and “clean” love story that anyone can enjoy.  It is, however, a war novel, so there are descriptions of war injuries.

Are you working on any other writing projects?

I’m in the process of writing Ella’s Promise, which is book 3 in the Great War Great Love series.

I’m outlining another novel, tentatively entitled Where Angels Pass, based on my father’s life and experience as a clerical abuse survivor. Since he never saw justice in his lifetime, I’d like to create a story where there is justice for him, even if fictional.

I’m also working on a non-fiction project that will offer guidance in coping with loss (I’m still in the outline stages of that project). 

Who are some of your favorite authors?

My favorite Catholic author is Dena Hunt (author of Treason and The Lion’s Heart), but I also enjoy reading Willa Cather’s books (Death Comes For the Archbishop, One of Ours).  Dena’s books are incredibly well-written and moving.  Cather’s books are well-written and rich in imagery and meaning.

And while this may seem biased, I enjoy reading books by all the Full Quiver Authors.  I also enjoy the books of the authors who are fellow members of the Catholic Writers Guild

One of my favorite secular authors is Nelson DeMille (author of the John Corey series).   I also enjoy reading Kathleen Morgan’s Christian historical novels.

 

Virtual Book Tour Stops/Links

October 22      Plot Line and Sinker

October 23       A.K. Frailey

October 24      Book Reviews and More,   Patrice MacArthur

October 25      Amanda Lauer

October 26     Franciscan Mom

October 29     Carolyn Astfalk

October 30     Catholic Mom

November 1    Plot Line and Sinker

November 2    Michael Seagriff

November 5   Virginia Lieto

November 6  Leslea Wahl

November 7   Theresa Linden

November 8   Sarah Reinhard

November 9   Erin McCole Cupp

November 11  Plot Line and Sinker  Remembrance Day/ Veterans Day post

November 12  Mary Lou Rosien

November 13  Therese Heckenkamp

November 14  E.M. Vidal

November 15 Leticia Velasquez

 

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Sweet Romances for Sweetest Day

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Sweetest Day ~ Saturday, October 20th

Are you ready?

I just discovered that Sweetest Day is mostly celebrated in the Midwest. Well, that makes sense, because I also discovered that it started in Cleveland, Ohio!

In 1921, Herbert Birch Kingston, an employee at a candy company, wanted to make the less fortunate happy, so he passed out candy to the homeless and orphans around Cleveland.

A year later, it became an official holiday!

So Sweetest Day is not just for couples. You can do something sweet for anyone! And while candy is nice, I think books are better!

This Sweetest Day, I would like to recommend a few sweet inspirational romances that will deepen your understanding of and longing for true love.

I’ve also interviewed the author, Carolyn Astfalk, so you can see what makes her books unique.


41MmpqQbnbLWith her sister Abby’s encouragement, Rebecca has moved out of their overbearing father’s home. When a chance encounter with Chris ends with an invitation, Rebecca says yes. The authentic way Chris lives his life attracts Rebecca and garners her affection. Chris loves Rebecca and her innocence, but he’s confounded by the emotional scars she bears from her parents and an attempted assault. Her father’s disdain for Chris’s faith and career only make matters worse. With the counsel of their friend Father John, can Rebecca and Chris overcome every obstacle and bridge the deepening gulf between them and her dad? Or will a crucial lapse in judgment and its repercussion end their relationship?

Click here for reviews.  Click on the book covers to reach the Amazon links.


OG-Front-Cover-FINALAfter his duplicitous girlfriend left, Dan Malone spent six months in a tailspin of despair and destruction: emotional, physical, and spiritual. Just when his life seems to be back on track, he meets Emily Kowalski, younger sister of his new best friend. Emily’s the kind of girl he’d always dreamed of—sweet, smart, and sincere. But he’s made a mess of his life and ruined his chances for earning the love and trust of a woman like her. Could Dan be the man Emily’s been waiting for? How could he be when every time they get close he pulls away? And will he ever be free from his shady past and the ex-girlfriend who refuses to stay there?

An inspirational Christmas romance that spans every season.

Check out the book trailer here.


rightfully oursSixteen-year-old Paul Porter’s relocation to Pennsylvania is a temporary move during his dad’s deployment. Or so he and his brother think, until devastating news lands on their doorstep. Paul’s new home with the Muellers provides solace, especially in the form of Rachel, his friend and confidante. Their abiding friendship deepens as they work side by side to uncover what could be lost treasure. Will they acquire the strength of character and virtue to take only what rightfully belongs to them or are they in way over their heads, with more than a few lost artifacts at stake? Themes include premarital chastity and overcoming temptation.

This young adult Christian fiction is always listed high on Amazon’s “Values & Virtues” category.

Read an excerpt from Chapter 1.


Author Interview: Carolyn Astfalk

I’ve read all three of your published books. I found them all to be well-written and enjoyable with characters that remained with me even to this day. Stay With Meand Ornamental Graces are both adult romance and Rightfully Ours is young adult. Why do you write romance?

I didn’t set out to write romances. In fact, before I wrote the first draft of Rightfully Ours, which was my first attempt at fiction writing, I read very few romances. Somehow, as words spilled onto the page, what I imagined as a teen adventure morphed into a romance. And that’s what I’ve been writing ever since.

I’ve come to love clean, inspirational, and Christian romances. And I continue to read and write them because that spark of romance is not only fun, but provides opportunities for reflecting on the role of romantic love, which gives us a glimpse of the loving fervor with which God pursues each of us and helps us love as He loves.

Romance stories revolve around a central love story that ends in an optimistic ending. Christian romances are typically sweet (no explicit content) and they contain an element of faith woven into the plot. What makes your romance stories different from other Christian romance stories?

What sets my romances apart from other Christian romances is my Catholic worldview. Only a small minority of Christian romances include Catholic characters and themes.

I read heavily in the non-Catholic Christian genres and enjoy those novels very much. But there’s something to be said for seeing your own experience reflected in novels from time-to-time. So, when my characters pray, they’re more likely to bring out the rosary beads. If they’re practicing their faith, they’re at Mass on Sunday. They have the benefit of the sacraments and the grace that they offer. They’re more likely to be open to large families.

And, less significant, but contrary to what some Christian booksellers and publishers would condone, my characters enjoy a good beer, a glass of wine, or use a rare, well-placed mild curse word.

I also treat sexuality in a frank but non-explicit manner. I don’t gloss over the temptations we all face in remaining chaste, no matter our state in life. I try to communicate the joys and challenges of married sexuality lived in accordance with God’s plan.

I understand that themes in your stories reflect ideas found in Pope Saint John Paul II’s Theology of the Body. What is TOB and how do these ideas influence your writing?

When my husband and I were newlyweds, Pope St. John Paul II’s Theology of the Body was becoming more widely known thanks to people like Christopher West, Janet Smith, and George Weigel. Simply put, the Theology of the Body, presented in a series of Wednesday audiences between 1979 and 1984, is a reflection on the body’s capacity for making visible an invisible reality manifested in our creation as male and female. It is an integrated look at the human person, made to love and be loved.

At the time, we volunteered for Catholic Engaged Encounter in our diocese and saw first-hand the extra challenges faced by couples who rejected the Church’s teaching on sexuality. As a consequence, I really delved into that aspect of theology and developed an affinity for it and a real love for Pope St. John Paul II.

While I never set out to write about the Theology of the Body, that holistic view of the meaning of our bodies always seems to find its way into my stories because it is integral to the intimacy between men and women and ultimately discovering our happily ever after.

How can a romance novel combat the false notions about love and sex that permeate our culture?

There’s a real dichotomy between the way love is often portrayed in modern media, often self-serving and fickle, and the kind of self-donative love we’re called to live.

The kind of romances I write are sometimes witty and flirty—at least I hope so! But, they also delve deeper. While the rush of attraction has an important role to play, I force my characters to move beyond those feelings to deal with what sustains love over the long term. So, that means they’ll wrangle with temptation, sin, forgiveness, mercy, and self-sacrifice.

Ultimately, that kind of love, self-sacrificial love, is more satisfying and fulfilling.

Christian YA fiction #Giveaways!

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Summer is a great time for books and free books are even better! If you enjoy Christian young adult fiction, here are two GIVEAWAYS for you!

THE PERFECT BLINDSIDE – Fresh off a championship medal, Jake Taylor’s parents have dragged him to a middle-of-nowhere town in Colorado, far from where he wants to be. Smart and savvy, Sophie has spent the summer before her junior year of high school avidly following Jake Taylor in every article she can find, but now she sees the “truth” behind the story — he’s really just a jerk. When the only thing they can see is each other’s flaws, how can Jake and Sophie work together to figure out what’s really been happening at the abandoned silver mine? Follow Sophie and Jake into secret tunnels as they unravel the mystery and challenge each other to become who God wants them to be.


AN UNEXPECTED ROLE – The devastation of a ruined summer.The gift of a second chance. Can Josie learn the lessons she needs in order to discover her true self? After a humiliating event and overwhelming peer pressure, 16-year-old Josie flees her home to spend the summer with her Aunt on a South Carolina island. Her fresh start turns into the summer of her dreams as friendships grow, romance blossoms, and a series of thefts surround her with excitement. However, when tragedy strikes someone close to her, Josie realizes there are more important things than her reputation. As she sets out to solve the mystery she has become entangled in, she not only realizes the importance of relying on her faith but along the way also discovers who God wants her to be.


Click here for a chance to win both of Leslea Wahl’s books. Winners will be selected August 7th!


carolyn3

RIGHTFULLY OURS – Sixteen-year-old Paul Porter’s relocation to Pennsylvania is a temporary move during his dad’s deployment. Or so he and his brother think, until devastating news lands on their doorstep. Paul’s new home with the Muellers provides solace, especially in the form of Rachel, his friend and confidante. Their abiding friendship deepens as they work side by side to uncover what could be lost treasure. Will they acquire the strength of character and virtue to take only what rightfully belongs to them or are they in way over their heads, with more than a few lost artifacts at stake?

Themes include premarital chastity and overcoming temptation.

“When a young man or woman recognizes that authentic love is a precious treasure, they are also enabled to live their sexuality in accordance with the divine plan, rejecting the false models which are, unfortunately, all too frequently publicized and very widespread.” Letter of His Holiness Pope John Paul II to the Young People of Rome, Sept 8, 1997

Click here for a chance to win an AUDIOBOOK of Rightfully Ours! All you need to do is comment on the blog post here.  The winner will be selected on August 15th!


Happy reading and have a wonderful summer!

Books that Touch on Life Issues: by Carolyn Astfalk

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Guest Post by Carolyn Astfalk, Inspirational Romance Author

Because fiction excels at creating empathy, books that involve deeply personal, emotionally-intense issues help readers consider situations in a whole new light. Over the years, I’ve read many books that touch on life issues – both at its beginning and end. These books are ones that touch on abortion and related life issues.

The reviews may not even mention abortion, as these aren’t “message” books but rather novels that skillfully weave life issues into the plot. Beneath the reviews are several other books that merit being included, but for which I did not post a review. (There was actually a time when I didn’t review almost everything I read! I also haven’t reviewed my own book, for obvious reasons.)

And finally, there are four dystopian series listed, which were also included in the end-of-life post. I hope you’ll click through and read more about these exceptional books!


9780997674743.mainAnyone But Him by Theresa Linden

Anyone But Him is brimming with delicious romance, keep-you-guessing mystery, and a dose of humor. Wonderfully written with well-developed characters, and a solid plot – all hallmarks of Theresa Linden’s books. With her first novel aimed at the new adult market, I hope many, many more readers are introduced to her writing. It’s a joy to read novels both well written and underpinned by the Catholic faith and the values Catholics hold dear. [Learn more about Anyone But Him.]


shadowsShadows of Hope by Georgiana Daniels

Shadows of Hope is a book-length exercise in dramatic irony that kept me engrossed until all was revealed, in dramatic fashion.

From the first pages – or from the book description alone – the reader knows that Marissa counsels Kaitlyn throughout her unplanned pregnancy and that, unbeknownst to both women, Marissa’s husband Colin is the father.

Tension builds as various conflicts unfold and layers of the characters are revealed: infertility, the absence of a father, infidelity, insecurity, and more bring great depth to Marissa, Kaitlyn, and even Colin.

The reader gets to examine the situation from each of the three characters’ points of view – closest with Marissa (1st person), but also Kaitlyn and Colin (3rd person).

Georgiana Daniels resists an easy resolution, instead delivering a true-to-life examination of the shared heartache, joy, and, eventually, hope, of three imperfect people bound by an unborn child.

Fans of women’s fiction will especially enjoy this well-written, thoughtful story. I look forward to reading more from this author.


discoveryDiscovery by Karina Fabian

If your mental picture of religious sisters is dour, old women with wimple habits and ankle-length skirts, then scrub that image before opening Discovery. The sisters in the Order of Our Lady of the Rescue are post-modern, brave pioneers with habits suited to work in zero gravity.

The challenges to their present mission on the alien craft Discovery are best summed up by Sister Rita’s exclamation of “Codists and Wiccans and evangelists, oh, my.” Sister Rita, along with stalwart pilot Sister Thomas and “spacey” but brilliant Sister Ann, have all sorts of conflicting interests to contend with: the brainy researchers, the working-class rockjacks, and, oh yeah, that alien ship.

Interwoven amongst the crew’s scientific discoveries are their personal discoveries, brought to light within the desolate alien craft. Karina Fabian does a good job of managing what could be an unwieldy cast of characters, two romances, devious intrigue, and a guilty conscience.

In the end, the most profound discovery isn’t an alien life form, but a relationship with God, whose love knows no boundaries, whose mercy overflows, and who calls us each for a unique purpose.

Just enough bread crumbs are dropped to keep the reader intrigued by the various interpersonal relationships and cryptic messages of Sister Ann, mounting to page-turning suspense in the final chapters.

Discovery is a journey worth taking.


23440072Unfailing Love by Julie Lessman

I awaited Isle of Hope for months, eager to read Julie Lessman’s voice in a contemporary novel. She did not disappoint.

The characters have depth, are well-drawn, and inhabit their modern coastal Georgia isle so naturally they made me long for a beach vacation.

The dramatic plot turns in Isle of Hope call to mind a soap opera (as they often do in Julie Lessman’s historical novels), which is less a criticism and more a testament to the author’s savvy given the enduring popularity of soaps (and perhaps a nod to her well-known love of Gone With the Wind). The novel includes perhaps the best one-sentence chapter-ending cliffhanger I’ve ever read.

The faith element is organic to the story, but is more extensive than in most inspirational romances or women’s fiction as multiple characters’ arcs echo the themes of forgiveness, (re)conversion, and redemption. I highlighted several passages that struck a chord – something I typically don’t do. By showing the natural consequences of selfish actions, the narrative deftly demonstrates how no sin is truly private, and its repercussions affect many people besides the perpetrator.

Some beautiful, tender, heart-melting moments of grief and sorrow are interwoven with the painful longing and simmering passion you’d expect.

A little tightening to reduce thematic repetition and some of the analogies would only make this good novel even better. As it is, it’s an engaging story of love, forgiveness, healing, and rebirth that left me looking forward to the next book in the series.


9780996816861.MAINLife-Changing Love by Theresa Linden

Not only is Life-Changing love an entertaining read, but it’s a great tool for launching conversations between teens and parents about their expectations for dating and relationships.

Caitlyn Summers is in love with being in love. She yearns for her first boyfriend and her first kiss. And she knows just the boy to make those dreams come true: Roland West. Only Roland, despite the mixed signals he sends, is not interested in having a girlfriend.

By contrast, Caitlyn’s gorgeous best friend Zoe has gone from zero to well beyond the speed limit in mere days with Roland’s dangerous older brother Jarret.

When Jarret’s twin Keefe returns from a trip to Italy with his father, he’s changed -unwilling to allow Jarret to manipulate him, introspective, pious, and intrigued by Caitlyn.

The lives of the West brothers and Caitlyn and Zoe turn topsy-turvy as they struggle to navigate obedience to their parents, the longings of their hearts, and the predicament Jarret and Zoe have created for themselves.

Theresa Linden does an outstanding job of capturing the tension of the teenage years. The result is a moving story that shows the consequences of premature sexual relationships and the value of pursuing friendships that honor God and respect the dignity of each person.


22293276The Truth and Nothing But Lies by Cheri Vause

The Truth and Nothing But Lies is an engaging tale that could be ripped from the headlines if only the media delved so deeply. Its intricate plot and suspense hold attention and draw the reader to the end. Its greatest value, however, lies in its plain demonstration of the dire consequences of all-too-familiar actions cloaked in euphemisms of sexual liberation and freedom to choose.


17786919Rapunzel Let Down: A Fairy Tale Retold by Regina Doman

“Where sin increased, grace abounded all the more.” – Rom 5:20 In this modern adaption of the classic tale of Rapunzel, Regina Doman brings us the story of Hermes, a conservative senator’s son, who falls in love with Raphaella, the adopted daughter of a radical feminist. Hermes impregnates the innocent Raphaella and from there, sin begets sin and suffering. Fans of Doman’s fairytale novels and new readers alike will enjoy this adaption that brings to life both the dire consequences of sin and the graces borne of virtue. The contemporary setting meshes wonderfully with the timeless fairytale sprinkled liberally with a Catholic worldview. Reminiscent of Doman’s other novels, the heroic ending will have you on the edge of your seat.


tob-coverImage and Likeness: Literary Reflections on the Theology of the Body edited by Erin McCole Cupp

Even if you’ve read St. John Paul II’s Theology of the Body from start to finish and a half-dozen nonfiction books about it on the side, I guarantee this collection of shorts will uncover the teachings in ways you hadn’t considered. It will challenge you in unexpected ways. One or two (or more) of the stories may make you uncomfortable. While the writing is polished, the varnish coating the darkness of our lives is stripped, laying bare the truths written on our heart and the lies we tell with our bodies.


Recommended for reading, reflection, discussion, and even entertainment. A gritty but beautiful introduction not only to the Theology of the Body as it is lived (or rejected), but also to the breadth and promise of Catholic fiction being written by contemporary authors. These shorts are accessible to any careful reader, whether familiar with the Theology of the Body or not.

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Red Rose Bouquet by Jennifer Rodewald

Ornamental Graces by Carolyn Astfalk

Stealing Jenny by Ellen Gable

Emily’s Hope by Ellen Gable


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The Gifting Series by K.E. Ganshert

The Liberty Series by Theresa Linden

I Am Margaret Series by Corinna Turner

The Memoirs of Jane E, Friendless Orphan by Erin McCole Cupp


carolyn

Carolyn Astfalk is a wife, mother, and author of contemporary inspy romances Stay With Me, Ornamental Graces, and Rightfully Ours. She formerly worked as a communications director and now works just to keep her head above water. Find her books on Amazon and her other words scattered around the blogosphere and social media.

Follow her blog “My Scribblers Heart”.

New Adult Mystery Romance: Giveaway

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My new adult Christian mystery romance ANYONE BUT HIM came out this month. And you have two chances to win a free copy!

  1. Stop by Sarah Damm’s blog for her book review and a giveaway!
  2. Stop by CatholicMom.com to check out an excerpt and the book trailer and then enter a second giveaway!

Click here to check out the entire Virtual Book Tour. You’ll find more reviews of Anyone But Him, a cooking video and printable recipe taken from a scene in the story, and an author interview!

If you know someone who might enjoy this book, please spread the word!

Anyone But Him is brimming with delicious romance, keep-you-guessing mystery, and a dose of humor. Wonderfully written with well-developed characters, and a solid plot.” ~An Open Book Family

Book Blast: Rightfully Ours by Carolyn Astfalk

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rightfully oursRightfully Ours: This young adult romance by inspirational fiction author Carolyn Astfalk bears a Nihil Obstat and is a CWG Seal of Approval winner!

A coming-of-age story of first love, buried treasure, and discovering some things are worth the wait.

Summary:

Sixteen-year-old Paul Porter’s relocation to Pennsylvania is a temporary move during his dad’s deployment. Or so he and his brother think, until devastating news lands on their doorstep.

Paul’s new home with the Muellers provides solace, especially in the form of Rachel, his friend and confidante. Their abiding friendship deepens as they work side by side to uncover what could be lost treasure.

Will they acquire the strength of character and virtue to take only what rightfully belongs to them or are they in way over their heads, with more than a few lost artifacts at stake?

Excerpt:

An unexpected detour left them lost in the dark. Paul had been certain they were heading the right way, but the two-lane country roads they had traveled the last half hour had few markers, and his older brother questioned whether they had missed a junction sign. Paul’s grip tightened on the clumsily-folded map as he peered out the window. Maybe Sean should drag his knuckles out of the Stone Age and get a GPS.

 Paul had been anxious about this move more than the others, even though it would only be temporary. The claw-like limbs of the barren trees whizzing by his window made the whole ordeal seem even more foreboding. He’d never been through North Central Pennsylvania, but in the daylight, the mountains would probably be beautiful, if a little desolate.

It’s only for a few months. By spring, Dad would be home, and things would go back to normal. Normal for them anyway. Besides, maybe he’d like it here.

Website:  http://www.carolynastfalk.com

Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/CarolynMAstfalk

Twitter:  https://twitter.com/CMAstfalk

Instagram:  https://instagram.com/cmastfalk/

My Review:

Well-written and enjoyable, this story takes an honest look at the physical, spiritual, and emotional aspects of teens in a serious relationship. As Paul’s and Rachel’s feelings for each other grow, they confront new emotions and urges that they don’t always know how to deal with. Like every child raised Christian, they know what they are “supposed” to do but in some moments, they don’t understand “why.” Sometimes they are confused and make poor choices, but through all the temptations, challenges, and even failures, they both develop an understanding of the value of chastity. By the end of the story, they have a clear, solid, and mature grasp of its worth.

Rightfully Ours provides a thoughtful analysis of intimacy from a teen’s point of view, making it a great book especially for teens who struggle with sexual temptation and for parents who want a deeper consideration of the trials teens in love face. (check out my full review on Goodreads!)

 


Author Bio:   carolynCarolyn Astfalk resides with her husband and four children in Hershey, Pennsylvania, where it smells like either chocolate or manure, depending on wind direction. She is the author of the inspirational

 

romances Stay With Me and Ornamental Graces and the coming-of-age story Rightfully Ours. Carolyn is a member of the Catholic Writers Guild and Pennwriters and a CatholicMom.com contributor. Formerly, she served as the communications direct of the Pennsylvania Catholic Conference, the public affair agency of Pennsylvania’s Catholic bishops. True to her Pittsburgh roots, she still says “pop” instead of “soda,” although her beverage of choice is tea.

Buy Link: http://a.co/9BT0frl

Tweet:

A coming-of-age story of friendship, love & doing the right thing – even when it’s tough. Rightfully Ours @cmastfalk #YA #CatholicTeenBooks

Countdown to release ANYONE BUT HIM, New Adult Christian Mystery

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In two days, my debut Christian mystery romance comes out! So today I am sharing the “Press Release.”


 

Press Release: Award-Winning Novelist Pens Pro-Life Mystery Romance

Redemptive Message Converts Hearts and Minds

Pro-life mystery romance, ANYONE BUT HIM by Theresa Linden, is slated for release this April 5, 2018. Theresa writes Catholic fiction in a variety of genres, including dystopian, supernatural, and contemporary. She has eight published young adult and new adult novels. Two of her short stories appear in Image and Likeness: Literary Reflections on the Theology of the Body. Her books won awards from the Catholic Press Association two years in a row. Theresa’s passion is to create stories that weave together the natural and supernatural, bringing spiritual realities to her readers’ imaginations and showing the power of faith and grace.

Her emotionally-charged mystery romance, ANYONE BUT HIM, follows a young woman suffering from amnesia. She finds herself clear across the country from her childhood home and married to a man who pushed her best friend in high school to have an abortion. Unable to remember the past three years, she struggles to solve the mysteries of her amnesia and her marriage to this man who had never shared her values. Suspicious circumstances surrounding her husband tempt her to leave and start life over, but they also challenge her Christian faith and convictions about marriage. The arrival of her first love, her husband’s younger brother, intent on helping her regain her memory, offers a glimmer of hope. Together they uncover secrets involving her coworkers and the local abortion clinic, but nothing to explain why she married this man. Who changed – him or her?

Early Review:

“I sped through chapters trying to guess who could be trusted, who had changed, and how an investigation into an abortion clinic’s deceptive practices could be the key to Caitlyn regaining her memory.”  ~Carolyn Astfalk, author of contemporary inspirational romances, including Stay With Me and Ornamental Graces

 

ANYONE BUT HIM by Theresa Linden

6 x 9 300 pages ISBN-13: 978-0-9976747-4-3 LCCN:  2017918741

$13.99 in USA Publication Date: April 5, 2018

Hardback Paperback eBook

Christian Mystery Romance

 

Stay tuned for the “Virtual Book Tour” blog stops & dates! The book tour will include early reviews, a recipe from the story, book trailer, author interview, and a giveaway!