Sweet Romances for Sweetest Day



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.


#Open Book: November 2017


This is my second Open Book blog post! I don’t know if anyone caught the date of my last Open Book post, the one for September, but I titled it with the year 2107! Wow, I was really looking into the future with that post! library-2544157_1920

I hope that by the year 2107, I’ll be reading books from the Divine bookshelves!

One reason I like doing the Open Book blogs: I’ve discovered that while it feels like I have no time to read, I actually #AmReading! I guess it feels like I don’t read because I don’t get to read in my favorite way: resting on a mound of pillows on the couch with a hot beverage and pastry within easy reach in a quiet house, for hours and hours and hours. Oh well; there’s always the Divine library in the year 2107 for that.

I am happy to participate in CatholicMom.com and Carolyn Astfalk’s My Scribbler’s Heart #OpenBook, where bloggers link posts about books they’ve recently read. You are welcome to link up your own blog about the books you’ve read. Stop by Carolyn’s blog to see how.

Jairo'sBattleFrontCover I first stumbled upon Lisa Mayer’s Aletheian Journeys a year or so ago. I enjoyed The Arrow Bringer, the first book in the series, and jumped at the opportunity to read the second book. These fantasy stories contain Christian allegory, much in the style of C.S. Lewis and Tolkien. They are filled with action, adventure, battles, and a bit of magic. Jario’s Battle shows the struggles of a man who has turned away from a life of profound wickedness. As he strives to fight the good fight, his past continues to haunt him. He wants others to believe that he’s changed, but at times he can’t even convince himself. I enjoyed the thorough development of themes about free will, forgiveness, and the purpose of suffering.

I love solving puzzles. Lately, I’ve been addicted to Sudoku. The lousy game keeps me up51Bfmxs18CL._SY346_ at night. I tell myself, “As soon as I find one more number, I’m turning out the light.” Then I find another number, and I’m saying the same thing again! I guess I like to keep my mind busy, and maybe that’s why I enjoy Judith White’s 1940s mystery series. I was excited to learn that Drowning in Deception, the next installment of The Case Files of Sam Flanagan, is out! Set in Detroit, these sleuth stories remind me of the Old Time Mystery Radio Shows. I’ve come to know the regular characters, so it’s fun to see them again in each new book. My favorite is Sam Flanagan’s grandmother! In addition to enjoying the great time-period details, I love how Judith White’s mysteries are a challenge to solve. She develops characters and threads so well, revealing a bit at at time so that you’re never really sure who done it! Her newsletter is quite a treat too. I encourage everyone to sign up. It’s unique and entertaining.

Because I am now following Erin McCole Cupp’s Sabbath Rest Book Talks, several of the books I’ve read have Christmas themes! Unlike the rest of the country, I don’t like to think about Christmas until we are at least in Advent. (I guess that’s not entirely true because I think christmasgracecoverabout the Blessed Nativity every Monday when we pray the Joyful Mysteries of the Rosary! But I digress…) Anyway, I still enjoyed these Christmas-themed books.

The first one I read was Christmas Grace by Leslie Lynch. This story follows three women (a mom, her daughter, and her mother) who are also not in the Christmas mood, each having her own personal struggles. Natalie is pregnant and her husband is deployed, Ella’s husband takes her for granted, and Gert is trying to find herself after losing her husband. Before they find answers to those problems, crisis strikes and they are forced to reevaluate their priorities. This story got me thinking about the challenges and blessings of different stages of life.

unearthingchristmascoverThe next book I read for the SRBT was Unearthing Christmas by Anthea Piscarik. This book is hard to get a hold of at the moment, so I am grateful to Carolyn Astfalk for sharing her copy. This story jumps back and forth between 1955 and modern times, following two 14-year-old girls and their families. The families have their share of flaws and you can see how the faults of one generation affect the next generation. When one of the girls gets permission to turn the family bomb shelter into her own personal Christmas room, the story takes a wild turn. This story brought home to me the message that we shouldn’t put of reconciliation because tomorrow is never promised to us. I also enjoyed a little thread about the Infant of Prague and the St. Andrew Christmas Novena.

The Birds’ Christmas Carol by Kate Douglas Wiggin is the third book that I 413qLkDHFALstarted reading for Sabbath Rest Book Talks. I didn’t get to finish the book yet because I was reading on my library’s website and they only let me read the first chapter. My reserved copy just arrived at the library so I’ll finish it today. But so far it seems like a sweet Christmas story that would make a perfect read-aloud. It begins with a beautiful presentation of family and motherhood. And the descriptions are lovely. The brand-new baby girl is described as “a rose dipped in milk” and “a little cherub with a halo of pale yellow hair softer than floss silk.”

Okay, that’s all I’ve got for this month! If you want to link up to Open Book with the books you’ve read, you are more than welcome to! Click here for details.

#Open Book: September 2107


Reading is an important pastime that has the potential to create lasting effects. We can learn life lessons without actually experiencing them ourselves. We can develop compassion for others whose lives are different from our own. Books can take us to new lands or even planets and still teach us life lessons. They can educate and inspire, make us think and help us to grow in so many ways. But they should always entertain!

This is my first time participating in CatholicMom.com and Carolyn Astfalk’s #OpenBook, where bloggers link posts about books they’ve recently read.

img2955552a9b133eda3I didn’t read the first two books in this series, Bleeder and Viper, but I thoroughly enjoyed Specter. I read this book in preparation for October’s Sabbath Rest Book Talk, where the hosts discussed books that deal with the afterlife.

This story opens fast, with gripping scenes of conflict and intrigue that set up the mystery characters will face in the rest of the story. Then we meet Selena De La Cruz, a tough young woman who drives a souped-up 69 Dodge Charger and who knows how to fight. While scenes alternated between point of views, I enjoyed following this character the most, especially when she was with the rest of her family. Their strong Mexican culture influences the way they face everything, from her engagement to a gringo, to the strange dreams and visions of a deceased family member.

TOSOF front cover FINAL (002) I recently blogged about The Other Side of Freedom, but I wanted to mention it again because it will be coming out October 9th! I read an advanced copy of the book and posted my review on Goodreads.

Written for ages 10 to 17, this story is set in the 1920s and follows Salvatore and his Italian immigrant father as they get tangled up in a crime which results in a murder. The author’s descriptive writing style let readers step back in time. In addition to the strong messages of courage and self-sacrifice, themes include the ugliness of segregation and the courage of the immigrant.

22749769Mummy Cat is another book that was discussed in October on Sabbath Rest Book Talks. My library had an eBook version that I could read right away.

I loved the beautiful artwork throughout this book. It looks like water color and pen & ink. And every picture has so much to look at. I would’ve enjoyed the book for that reason alone! But the story was good too. As soon as mummy cat woke up, he immediately pulled at my heartstrings, checking to see if his “lovely friend” came back too. I know the Egyptians didn’t have Divine Revelation to help them understand the afterlife, but they did recognize a universal truth: we were made for more than just this world. Death is not the end.

I absolutely love Fatima: The Apparition that Changed the World by Jean M. Heimann. I wish everyone could read it, especially since this is thefatima cover year of the 100th Anniversary of Fatima. It begins with a timeline that sets the visions in context with other historical events. It contains over 50 beautiful illustrations, biographies of the visionaries and of the recent popes, and details about relevant devotions and heavenly promises. And, of course, it explains the messages of Fatima and shows its relevance today. I confess that I felt all tingly reading some of the messages and the popes’ interpretations of messages. And I am determined to pray even harder, not only for my loved ones but for the conversion of sinners.

PlayingbyHeart cover (002)Playing by Heart is Carmela Martino’s newest release. This is a historical fiction inspired by the lives of two talented sisters who lived in the eighteenth century. One sister loves learning (things like philosophy, math, and languages) but she longs to take the veil and serve the poor. The other sister other loves music (playing and composing it). This is an absorbing story of perseverance, the pursuit of excellence, and of sacrificial love. The engaging prose brings the story to life. And I loved to see how the family members practiced their faith.

“Angelhood” is a bit of “It’s a Wonderful Life” and “13 Reasons Why” with some Dean Angelhood2 1400x2100-1 (003)Koontz style supernatural elements! Written for young adults, this story deals with the difficult subjects of teen depression, loneness and suicide in a way that offers hope. This book could potentially save lives by providing a new perspective to someone who is suffering with similar struggles.This story sheds light on our fallen human nature and offers a new perspective and hope.

My full review is on Amazon. And this book was also featured on Sabbath Rest Book Talks!

Okay, that’s all I’ve got for this month! If you want to link up to Open Book with the books you read, you are more than welcome to! Click here for details.