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.

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JPII Unfolds the Mystery of Love

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menThe mystery of love? Whether it’s Valentines Day, Christmas, your birthday, or any day of the week…who doesn’t want to unwrap that mystery?

A friend of mine recently gave me a copy of Edward Sri’s Men, Women, and the Mystery of Love. I admit I prefer fiction to non-fiction, but I am enjoying this book so much that I want to tell everyone all about it!

Easy to read, this book provides practical insights from John Paul II’s Love and Responsibility. It has discussion questions at the end of each of fourteen chapters, making it ideal for a book club or for digging deeper into what you’ve just read. The topics are ones we all can relate to, but it contains many eye-openers that will likely change the way you think about love and relationships.

It is one I will read over and over so I can more fully grasp the messages and so I can grow in my relationships—especially my relationship with my husband. Honestly, as a writer, I’ll also use it as a resource for relationships in my stories!

The book covers real-life relationship issues:

  • What makes a true friendship and how can this kind of friendship lay the foundation for love?
  • What are the two main ways men and women are attracted to each other?
  • How can these attractions lead to either friendship and selfless love or to a relationship where someone is being used?
  • How do I know if I am in a relationship of authentic love or just another relationship that is doomed to failure?
  • What ingredients are necessary for true love?
  • The differences between men and women and the particular needs of a man and a woman in marriage.
  • Two aspects of love and knowing the difference is crucial for any relationship with the opposite sex.
  • The difference between feeling “I’m in love” and love itself.
  • Why should people wait for marriage to have sex?
  • The problem of pornography.
  • How can I be a better spouse?
  • How can I grow in self-giving love?
  • How to win the fight for purity in our relationships and in our hearts.

There is a lot more about friendship, attraction, relationships, emotions, love, sexuality, marriage, and chastity in the book too.

“Friendship… consists in a full commitment of the will to another person with a view to that person’s good.”    ~John Paul II, Love and Responsibility


While I find this non-fiction book indispensable, I believe fiction is another great way to grow in our understanding of these themes and to unfold the mystery of love.

Full Quiver Publishing is a great place to find fiction that celebrates the Church’s teachings on sexuality and marriage. Check out their website for books in a variety of genres.


carolyn saleAuthor Carolyn Astfalk writes contemporary Catholic romances, sometimes also referred to as Theology of the Body fiction. Her book Ornamental Graces is #FREE on Valentine’s Day!

After 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.


marchmeme.pngA young adult fiction, faithful to Catholic truth, that unfolds the mystery of love:

The ebook version of my contemporary young adult fiction Life-Changing Love is on sale for 99cents through the month of November.

With interesting characters and a fun story-line, this story addresses themes such as courtship vs. current dating practices, struggling with purity, obedience, finding the beauty within, Eucharistic miracles, supporting a friend faced with a crisis pregnancy, abortion vs. adoption, speaking the truth when it’s hard.


CathTeenBooks

For young adult fiction, in a variety of genres, that unfolds one mystery or another of faith and/or love, check out CatholicTeenBooks.com

Check out Carolyn Astfalk’s #OpenBook blog on My Scribbler’s Heart and CatholicMom.com

Book Review: The Grace Crasher

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516arGS316L._SX331_BO1204203200_It’s been a long time since I’ve laughed so much while reading a book. This story has so many hysterical parts! I absolutely loved it!

The Grace Crasher opens with Julia and her best friend Robin in a Christian store, shopping for things that can help Julia look like she’s evangelical. She desperately wants to get an apartment but the landlady is a born-again Christian.

At one point, Julia tries on a shirt and turns her backside to Robin.

“Does this Jesus shirt make my butt look big?”

“Not big, just …trapezoidal.”

Then they move to the Bibles. Julia grabs the plain one that simply said Holy Bible because it seemed like the most Bible-ish one.

We soon learn more about Julia, her family, and her interests. She has a crush on Dylan Heath, the lead singer of a local indie band, but when she sees cute Mark, the store’s manager, she decides it’s a good idea to have a backup crush.

I must admit: it was Carolyn Astfalk’s review of The Grace Crasher that compelled me to get a copy for myself. Her book reviews are thorough and reliable, and I think we have similar tastes.

I cracked this book open (actually I read an ebook, so that phrase doesn’t really work) expecting to find a light, humorous, enjoyable story that I could read a little at a time before bed, and I was not disappointed. Author Mara Faro pokes fun at both Evangelical and Catholic Christians, but not in a mean way. It was all gut-busting fun! But as the story developed I also found surprising depth of character and story-line. The main character faces trials many can identify with and goes through a beautiful transformation.

Well-developed and realistic characters, along with the continuous humor, and the deeper spiritual insights made this a fantastic story that I highly recommend.

Other Reviews:

“A great take on infatuation vs. love, speaking the truth in love, and being true to yourself.” ~

“Julia’s path is a relatable one, and in her flaws and the flaws of the characters around her, we see ourselves and our own brokenness with delightful clarity.” ~

“Loved it! Fun, inspiring, quirky,…I had lots of laughs reading this!” ~Amazon review

Funny, insightful, and brilliant!” ~Vera A. Velk

A hilarious, poignant story that sets the broken love among families, friends, lovers, and fellow believers against the backdrop of God’s unfailing, patient, perfect love.” ~

You can learn more about the author Mara Faro at her website.

You can get the book on Amazon in both paperback or ebook format.

CWG Book Blast: Ornamental Graces

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After 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.

og-front-cover-final

After 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? A Catholic Christmas romance that spans all seasons.

Read for free anytime on Kindle Unlimited or in the Kindle Lending Library with your Amazon Prime membership.

“This is a truly inspiring contemporary Christian romance. Dan Malone comes into the story with some baggage. Mistakes from his past and rejection from the woman he thought he loved has built a wall around his heart that blinds him to the possibility of a happy life. Then he meets Emily.

Smart, strong-willed and virtuous, Emily Kowalski is tired of waiting for life to happen to her. After learning that the only boy she’s ever loved is about to marry—and after a quart of ice cream and a prayer–she’s ready for a change. Dan and Emily meet in a Christmas tree lot. And Emily’s heart knows at once that this man is special. But it takes Dan awhile to feel worthy of another chance, especially when his past keeps coming back to remind him of his failures.

With flawed but loveable characters, this story delves into the real-life consequences of the choices we make in relationships. It brings out the importance of offering and accepting forgiveness, and gives hope to those who find it hard to let go of past mistakes and to forgive one’s self. Ornamental Graces is a story of love, faith, and passion that you won’t want to miss. This story will take you on an emotional rollercoaster and leave you with hope.” ~Theresa Linden

Website:

http://www.carolynastfalk.com/carolyn-astfalk-author/books/ornamental-graces/

Buy Link:

https://www.amazon.com/Ornamental-Graces-Carolyn-Astfalk-ebook/dp/B01M60UCQB/

Excerpt:

It had come to this. Daniel Malone sold instruments of torture just to keep food on his crappy Formica table for one. Of course, that probably wasn’t how others saw it.

They were bringing home a piece of the outdoors, a symbol of the season, a reminder of Christ’s nativity and resurrection, the eternal— evergreen—promises of God. Dan had seen things that way too before the past year took everything he had and shredded it with a mulcher. Mustering his remaining whit of self-respect, he’d succumbed to desperation and now sat in a drafty shack waiting for the next giddy Christmas revelers to select a fresh-scented, needle-dropping nightmare.

Okay, so maybe the trees weren’t exactly torturous, but he’d had enough of rough bark, sticky sap, and sharp needles to last a lifetime. After this, he’d be an artificial tree enthusiast—if he bothered to put up a tree at all.

Inside his small, weather-beaten shack, the one he’d assembled mostly from leftover wooden pallets, Dan couldn’t smell the fresh, evergreen scent, the only trait of Christmas trees he still enjoyed. Instead, the odor of burnt coffee lingered though he hadn’t made a pot in days. He never cared for the taste, burnt or not, but he had needed something to keep him awake during the long, boring hours when no customers visited his lot.

The space heater at his feet gave a death rattle, and its electrical hum ceased. He kicked it with the tip of his boot. Nothing.

Great.

Dan folded his large frame under the wooden table that served as his desk and jiggled the wire where it entered the cheap heater. It knocked against the laminate floor remnants and hummed to life. A blast of warm air hit his face and then penetrated his boots. As he sat upright, he glanced out one of the two square windows and spotted a young couple beneath the lights in the rear of the lot.

The man had lifted a Douglas fir from where it leaned against the rope Dan strung across the lot. He stamped its trunk on the frozen, dry ground a couple times and then twirled it around so the woman could see every side. It was a woman, wasn’t it? No telltale pink gloves or hand-knit, sparkly scarf. No expensive boots designed for gawking rather than walking. Just a puffy, navy jacket and white tennis shoes. It could be a skinny dude.

The person spent less than three seconds observing it before planting hands on hips and signaling disapproval with a shake of the head. Yeah, definitely a woman.

Dan rolled his eyes. Another one. If nothing else, this job had given him an unforgettable real-life lesson in male-female dynamics—a lesson that would’ve been helpful a couple of years ago. The man would ferret out the best-looking tree, well-shaped and full, and the woman would turn up her nose, forcing them to cycle through four to seven more trees before one met her approval—sometimes the same tree the man had first shown her.

Poor sap. He had at least three more trees to go.

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 director of the Pennsylvania Catholic Conference, the public affairs 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. You can find her online at www.carolynastfalk.com.

 

 

Ornamental Graces: New Christian Romance by Carolyn Astfalk

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Christmas is on the way and we all know people who love to read. Why not check out this new release for the readers of Christian romance on your list?

og-front-cover-finalSummary:

After 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.

My review: 

“This is a truly inspiring contemporary Christian romance. Dan Malone comes into the story with some baggage. Mistakes from his past and rejection from the woman he thought he loved has built a wall around his heart that blinds him to the possibility of a happy life. Then he meets Emily.

Smart, strong-willed and virtuous, Emily Kowalski is tired of waiting for life to happen to her. After learning that the only boy she’s ever loved is about to marry—and after a quart of ice cream and a prayer–she’s ready for a change. Dan and Emily meet in a Christmas tree lot. And Emily’s heart knows at once that this man is special. But it takes Dan awhile to feel worthy of another chance, especially when his past keeps coming back to remind him of his failures.

With flawed but loveable characters, this story delves into the real-life consequences of the choices we make in relationships. It brings out the importance of offering and accepting forgiveness, and gives hope to those who find it hard to let go of past mistakes and to forgive one’s self. Ornamental Graces is a story of love, faith, and passion that you won’t want to miss. This story will take you on an emotional rollercoaster and leave you with hope.”

You will want to check out the Book Trailer!

The book is available in eBook or paperback. You can get your copy here: Amazon Link

You can also find Ornamental Graces on Goodreads!

If you’d like to get started reading it, here’s a link to the first two chapters. You can get to know Dan and Emily right now!

Please also check out  Carolyn AstfalkCarolyn Astfalk’s Author website where you will find questions for book clubs, playlist, and recipes!

Carolyn is a member of the Catholic Writers Guild, Pennwriters, the Pennsylvania Public Relations Society, and 10 Minute Novelists. She blogs at My Scribbler’s Heart.

Stay With Me, her debut novel, is published by Full Quiver Publishing. Rightfully Ours, a coming of age story, will be published by Full Quiver Publishing in April 2017.

Stay With Me