Author Interview and Giveaway – Phoebe’s Light – Suzanne Woods Fisher

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I’m always excited to see books about time periods that don’t get much light in the fiction world! This sounds like a great one, and a story-within-a-story at that!

Phoebe's Light-Book Cover

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Phoebe’s Light

Phoebe Starbuck has always adjusted her sails and rudder to the whims of her father. Now, for the first time, she’s doing what she wants to do: marrying Captain Phineas Foulger and sailing far away from Nantucket. As she leaves on her grand adventure, her father gives her two gifts, both of which Phoebe sees little need for. The first is an old sheepskin journal from Great Mary, her highly revered great-grandmother. The other is a “minder” on the whaling ship in the form of cooper Matthew Macy, a man whom she loathes.

Soon Phoebe discovers that life at sea is no easier than life on land. Lonely, seasick, and disillusioned, she turns the pages of Great Mary’s journal and finds herself drawn into the life of this noble woman. To Phoebe’s shock, her great-grandmother has left a secret behind that carries repercussions for everyone aboard the ship, especially her husband the captain and her shadow the cooper. This story within a story catapults Phoebe into seeing her life in an entirely new way–just in time.

Suzanne’s Website

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Questions about Suzanne’s Story

What inspired your story?

While on a research trip, I signed away my life at the Nantucket Historical Association, put all my belongings in a locker, wore white gloves, and then…at last, I was able to hold Great Mary’s accounting book. It’s over 350 years old! She was one of the first settlers on Nantucket and was considered to be the “Deborah” of the Old Testament. As I squinted to read the faint ink of Mary Coffin Starbuck’s beautiful handwriting and careful accounting (she ran a store), I felt chills run down my spine. It was clear that she was highly regarded, extremely intelligent (though her husband, apparently, was illiterate), and involved in the lives of nearly everyone on the island—local Wampanoag Indians, settlers, visitors, traders, seamen. I knew there was a story here!

What was the hardest part of your book to write? 

Here’s the tricky part. I created a journal, written by Great Mary, that her great grandchildren pass on to each other. Thus, each book in the Nantucket Legacy series has a story within a story. It was not easy to write, to pull a reader along in a story without a sudden jarring of another time frame, another story. Hopefully, the entries of Great Mary’s journal slipped into the larger story arc without being distracting. Hopefully!

Did you include a real historical character or incident in your story?

I’m a firm believer in original sourcing for research—so I visited a number of historical ship museums to try and capture life in the American colonies. There was one whaling ship still in existence, and on it rested a “cuddy.” Think, shed-like. The captain’s wife had joined him on a whaling voyage. Most everyone experiences some seasickness at first, but a very few never recover and get their sea legs. Sadly, this captain’s wife was sick as a dog. He built her the cuddy, which helped a little. But she ended up disembarking and heading home at the first chance. As for me, I tucked that cuddy away and used it in Phoebe’s Light.

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Questions about Suzanne’s Reading

Which book got you hooked on reading Christian Historicals?

Lynn Austin’s Hidden Places. I loved the spunk of her female main character.

What Christian Historical Novel taught you something about the craft of writing because it was so well done?

Christy, by Catherine Marshall, has a little bit of everything—a love triangle, a wise older woman, a secret that shocks everyone, charming and quirky characters, and just enough haunting moments.

What Christian Historical Novel in your To Be Read pile is begging you to make time to plop down with it right now?

Jane Kirkpatrick’s All She Left Behind. Jane writes only one book per year, and puts so much careful research into her work. Can’t wait to dig into it!

Suzanne is giving away a copy paperback (usa only) and I’m giving away winner’s choice of ebook of any of the books mentioned above. Enter the Rafflecopter below!

**If you don’t want to enter Rafflecopter, you must put something very similar to this in a comment below: “I’m not entering the rafflecopter, but please throw me in the hat” so I know to manually put you in there for a chance.**

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A Refuge Assured by Jocelyn Green

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1793 – Pennsylvania

Lacemaker Vivienne Rivard never imagined her craft could threaten her life. Yet in revolutionary France, it is a death sentence when the nobility, and those associated with them, are forced to the guillotine. Vivienne flees to Philadelphia but finds the same dangers lurking in the French Quarter, as revolutionary sympathizers threaten the life of a young boy left in her care, who some suspect to be the Dauphin. Can the French settlement, Azilum, offer permanent refuge?

Militiaman Liam Delaney proudly served in the American Revolution, but now that the new government has imposed an oppressive tax that impacts his family, he barely recognizes the democracy he fought for. He wants only to cultivate the land of his hard-won farm near Azilum, but soon finds himself drawn into the escalating tension of the Whiskey Rebellion. When he meets a beautiful young Frenchwoman recently arrived from Paris, they will be drawn together in surprising ways to fight for the peace and safety for which they long.

Keturah by Lisa T. Bergren

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1772 – England

Lady Keturah Banning Tomlinson and her sisters find themselves the heiresses of their father’s estates and know they have one option: Go to the West Indies to save what is left of their heritage.

Although it flies against all the conventions for women of the time, they’re determined to make their own way in the world. But once they arrive in the Caribbean, proper gender roles are the least of their concerns. On the infamous island of Nevis, the sisters discover the legacy of the legendary sugar barons has vastly declined–and that’s just the start of what their eyes are opened to in this unfamiliar world.

Keturah never intends to put herself at the mercy of a man again, but every man on the island seems to be trying to win her hand and, with it, the ownership of her plantation. She could desperately use an ally, but even an unexpected reunion with a childhood friend leaves her questioning his motives.

Set on keeping her family together and saving her father’s plantation, can Keturah ever surrender her stubbornness and guarded heart to God and find the healing and love awaiting her?

The Lost Castle by Kristy Cambron

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French Revolution/World War II/Present Day – France

Broken-down walls and crumbling stones seemed to possess a secret language all their own.

What stories would they tell, if she finally listened?

Ellie Carver arrives at her grandmother’s bedside expecting to find her silently slipping away. Instead, the beloved woman begins speaking. Of a secret past and castle ruins forgotten by time. Of a hidden chapel that served as a rendezvous for the French Resistance in World War II. Of lost love and deep regret . . .

Each piece that unlocks the story seems to unlock part of Ellie too—where she came from and who she is becoming. But her grandmother is quickly disappearing into the shadows of Alzheimer’s and Ellie must act fast if she wants to uncover the truth of her family’s history. Drawn by the mystery surrounding The Sleeping Beauty—a castle so named for Charles Perrault’s beloved fairy tale—Ellie embarks on a journey to France’s Loire Valley in hopes that she can unearth its secrets before time silences them forever.

Bridging the past to the present in three time periods—the French Revolution, World War II, and present day—The Lost Castle is a story of loves won and lost, of battles waged in the hearts of men, and of an enchanted castle that stood witness to it all, inspiring a legacy of faith through the generations.

Phoebe’s Light by Suzanne Woods Fisher

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1767 – At Sea/Massachusetts

Phoebe Starbuck has always adjusted her sails and rudder to the whims of her father. Now, for the first time, she’s doing what she wants to do: marrying Captain Phineas Foulger and sailing far away from Nantucket. As she leaves on her grand adventure, her father gives her two gifts, both of which Phoebe sees little need for. The first is an old sheepskin journal from Great Mary, her highly revered great-grandmother. The other is a “minder” on the whaling ship in the form of cooper Matthew Mitchell, a man whom she loathes.

Soon Phoebe discovers that life at sea is no easier than life on land. Lonely, seasick, and disillusioned, she turns the pages of Great Mary’s journal and finds herself drawn into the life of this noble woman. To Phoebe’s shock, her great-grandmother has left a secret behind that carries repercussions for everyone aboard the ship, especially her husband the captain and her shadow the cooper. This story within a story catapults Phoebe into seeing her life in an entirely new way–just in time.

A Passionate Hope: Hannah’s Story by Jill Eileen Smith

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1141 BC – Israel

Hannah and her husband, Elkanah, share a deep and abiding love, for each other, for their God, and for his tabernacle at Shiloh. Greatly disturbed by the corruption of the priests, they long for restoration and pray for a deliverer. But nothing changes as the years pass. Years that also reveal Hannah to be barren.

Pressured by his family to take another wife, Elkanah marries Peninnah, who quickly begins to bear children. Disgraced and taunted by her husband’s new wife, Hannah turns again to prayers that seem doomed to go unanswered. Do her devotion and kindness in the face of Peninnah’s cruelty count for nothing? Why does God remain silent and indifferent to her pleas?

This Treacherous Journey by Misty M. Beller

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1851 – Texas to Canada

Widowed and with child, Emma Malcom is fleeing from the reward offered for her arrest. She’s innocent of the dirty dealings her deceased husband orchestrated, but the angry townspeople didn’t stop to listen to her defense before she narrowly escaped with her life. Now, she and her twin brother, Joseph, must battle the mountain wilderness of the Rockies to reach Canada and the clean start she craves. But when a fall from the rocky cliff leaves Joseph wounded and weak, could the strange mountain man they encounter be God’s gift to see them to safety?

Simeon Grant makes bad choices. His deceased wife and twin babies are lost to him now because of his reckless decisions, and the penance he pays by living alone in this mountain wilderness is only a small piece of what he thinks he deserves. When a city woman, heavy with child, appears on his doorstep with her injured brother, her presence resurrects the memories he’s worked so hard to forget. And when she asks for his help to travel deeper into the mountain country, he can’t help wonder why God would force him to relive the same mistakes he’s already suffered through. Or maybe taking these two to safety could be the way to redeem himself.

But when their travels prove more treacherous than he imagined, Simeon finds himself pressing the limits of his ability to keep Emma and her brother safe. Can he overcome the past that haunts him to be the man she needs? Will Emma break through the walls around Simeon’s heart before it’s too late, or will the dangers of these mountains be the end of them all?

The Sea Before Us by Sarah Sundin

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1944 – England

In 1944, American naval officer Lt. Wyatt Paxton arrives in London to prepare for the Allied invasion of France. He works closely with Dorothy Fairfax, a “Wren” in the Women’s Royal Naval Service. Dorothy pieces together reconnaissance photographs with thousands of holiday snapshots of France–including those of her own family’s summer home–in order to create accurate maps of Normandy. Maps that Wyatt will turn into naval bombardment plans.

As the two spend concentrated time together in the pressure cooker of war, their deepening friendship threatens to turn to love. Dorothy must resist its pull. Her bereaved father depends on her, and her heart already belongs to another man. Wyatt too has much to lose. The closer he gets to Dorothy, the more he fears his efforts to win the war will destroy everything she has ever loved.

 

A Light on the Hill by Connilyn Cossette

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1399 BC – Israel

Seven years ago, Moriyah was taken captive in Jericho and branded with the mark of the Canaanite gods. Now the Israelites are experiencing peace in their new land, but Moriyah has yet to find her own peace. Because of the shameful mark on her face, she hides behind her veil at all times and the disdain of the townspeople keeps her from socializing. And marriage prospects were out of the question . . . until now.

Her father has found someone to marry her, and she hopes to use her love of cooking to impress the man and his motherless sons. But when things go horribly wrong, Moriyah is forced to flee. Seeking safety at one of the newly-established Levitical cities of refuge, she is wildly unprepared for the dangers she will face, and the enemies–and unexpected allies–she will encounter on her way.

Love’s Bright Tomorrow by Naomi Rawlings

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1884 – Michigan

Aileen Brogan wants a place to call home. After leaving Ireland for America and losing her father and brother within a year of each other, she feels lost and alone. No matter how hard she tries, she just doesn’t seem to belong in the quaint town of Eagle Harbor. However, Sheriff Isaac Cummings is determined to help her fit in—into town and into his arms—if only she’ll say yes to his courtship. But if he knew her secrets, he’d surely rescind his offer.

Isaac is determined to serve the people of Eagle Harbor in a way that will do his family proud, but he’s haunted by past mistakes. When a band of criminals threatens his beloved town’s safety, he doesn’t want to fail the people he loves like he did four years earlier. But if he doesn’t turn out to be the hero the town needs, what chance does he have of winning Aileen’s resistant heart?

When old wounds reopen, can Isaac and Aileen figure out how to move past their brokenness and find the promise of a bright tomorrow?

The English Lieutenant’s Lady by Evelyn M. Hill

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1845 – Oregon

It’s 1845. Britain and America both claim the Oregon Territory, and neither side is willing to back down. As the two nations prepare for war, the British government sends Lieutenant Geoffrey Montgomery to Oregon City on a confidential mission. Doing his duty means lying to everyone—including the woman who catches his attention the moment they meet.

Lia Griggs needs to find a home for herself and her nephew. She has the chance to carve a niche for herself in Oregon City—so long as she is prepared to hide her past from everyone, even the Englishman who quickly becomes her friend and ally… and more.

To survive, Geoff and Lia both need to pretend to be someone they’re not. The last thing either of them wants is to fall in love. And as the threat of war grows stronger, choosing to stay together could cost them everything they have.

Suddenly a Frontier Father by Lyn Cote

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1873 – Wisconsin

Mason Chandler is home to meet his mail-order bride—six months too late! Little wonder Emma Jones wants to honor his letter releasing her from their agreement, especially when Mason has returned from his father’s deathbed with two adopted girls in tow. And the dark secret he’s hiding makes the homesteader feel unworthy to woo anyone.

As the new schoolteacher in Pepin, Wisconsin, Emma can support herself without a husband. Yet she’s touched by Mason’s kindness to his half sister and her orphaned companion. Taking the little girls under her wing comes naturally to Emma—and they dearly want her for their mama. Can Mason break free of his past to fight for their surprise family?

The Rancher’s Temporary Engagement by Stacy Henrie

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1898 – Wyoming

The Pinkerton agent that Edward Kent hired is intelligent, capable—and unexpectedly female! Though shocked to learn that Maggy Worthing will be investigating the threats to his Wyoming horse ranch, Edward needs to find the culprit. And if that means a temporary engagement to give Maggy a cover story, he’ll play along with the feisty detective.

Maggy always gets her man—at least when it comes to solving crimes. The young widow refuses to marry again and land under another husband’s thumb. Unmasking Edward’s enemies will earn her a longed-for promotion…but the heart has its own mysteries. Could working together with the handsome English aristocrat spark a real and loving partnership?

Honor-Bound Lawman by Danica Favorite

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1884 – Colorado

When Laura Booth’s dangerous ex-husband escapes from prison, she turns to the one man who can protect her: Owen Hamilton. Living with the widowed former lawman—who once helped put her ex in jail—and his adorable twin daughters on their Colorado ranch is a welcome respite. For the first time, Laura feels safe—but after her troubled past, she’ll never trust her heart again.

Owen would like to say only obligation draws him to Laura’s side. But in his gut he knows his feelings for the gentle beauty run deeper than duty—and it stops him cold. After guarding their wary hearts for years, can Owen and Laura give love a second chance?

An Inconvenient Marriage by Christina Miller

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1866 – Mississippi

Widowed reverend Samuel Montgomery is excited to start over with his daughter in Natchez, Mississippi—until he learns he’ll lose his job if he doesn’t marry. His solution: a marriage in name only to heiress Clarissa Adams, who needs a husband to win her inheritance. Though the beautiful music teacher will make a good wife, Samuel doubts he can ever truly capture her heart.

Marriage satisfies only the first provision of Clarissa’s grandfather’s will, which pits her against her cousin. And fulfilling the remaining stipulations won’t be easy between caring for Samuel’s rebellious daughter and managing an orphanage. But Samuel seems determined to stand by her side…and maybe even prove their marriage could be more than just convenient.

Cheyenne Sunrise by Janalyn Voigt

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1865 – Wagon Train to Montana

Can a woman with no faith in men learn to trust the half-Cheyenne trail guide determined to protect her?

Young Irish widow Bry Brennan doesn’t want another husband to break her spirit. When she and her brother Con join a wagon train headed to Montana Territory, Bry ignores her fascination with Nick Laramie, the handsome trail guide.
Nick lives in an uneasy truce between the settlers and his mother’s tribe without fully fitting in among either. With no intention of dragging a woman into his troubles, he stifles his yearning for Bry.

The perilous journey throws the two together, leaving Bry no choice but to trust Nick with her life. Can she also trust him with her heart? Answering that riddle forces Bry to confront her unresolved questions about God’s love.

Based on actual historical events during a time of unrest in America, Cheyenne Sunrise explores faith, love, and courage in the wild west.

The Mail-Order Brides Collection by Various Authors

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Escape into the history of the American West along with nine couples whose relationships begin with advertisements for mail-order brides. Placing their dreams for new beginnings in the hands of a stranger, will each bride be disappointed, or will some find true love?

Perfect for the Preacher by Megan Besing
1897, Indiana
Fresh from seminary, Amos Lowry believes marriage will prove to his skeptical congregation that he’s mature. If only his mail-order bride wasn’t an ex-saloon girl, or worse, pregnant.
 
The Outlaw’s Inconvenient Bride by Noelle Marchand
1881, Wyoming
After a gang of outlaws use a mail-order bride advertisement to trick an innocent woman into servitude, an undercover lawman must claim the bride—even if it puts his mission in jeopardy. 
 
Train Ride to Heartbreak by Donna Schlachter
1895, Train to California
John Stewart needs a wife. Mary Johannson needs a home. On her way west, Mary falls in love with another. Now both must choose between commitment and true love.
 
Mail Order Mix-Up by Sherri Shackelford
1885, Montana
A mail-order marriage by proxy goes wrong when a clerical error leads to the proxies actually being married instead of the siblings they were standing in for. In their quest to correct the mistake, the two discover outlaws, adventure and even love.
 
To Heal Thy Heart by Michelle Shocklee
1866, New Mexico
When Phoebe Wagner answers a mail-order bride ad that states Confederate widows need not apply, she worries what Dr. Luke Preston will do when he learns her fiancé died wearing grey.
 
Miss-Delivered Mail by Ann Shorey
1884, Washington
Helena Erickson impulsively decides to take advantage of her brother’s deception and travels to Washington Territory in response to a proposal of marriage intended for someone else. How will Daniel McNabb respond when Helena is nothing like he expected?
 
A Fairy-Tale Bride by Liz Tolsma
1867, Texas
Nora Green doesn’t feel much like Cinderella when her mail-order groom stands her up. But could the mysterious jester from the town’s play be her Prince Charming?
 
The Brigand and the Bride by Jennifer Uhlarik
1876, Arizona 
Jolie Hilliard weds a stranger to flee her outlaw family but discovers her groom is an escaped prisoner. Will she ever find happiness on the right side of the law?
 
The Mail Order Mistake by Kathleen Y’Barbo
1855, Texas
Pinkerton agent Jeremiah Bingham is investigating a mail-order bride scam bankrupting potential grooms. When unsuspecting orphan May Conrad answers his false ad, she becomes the prime suspect in the case.

The Mayflower Bride by Kimberley Woodhouse

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1620 – Holland

Can a religious separatist and an opportunistic spy make it in the New World?
A brand new series for fans of all things related to history, romance, adventure, faith, and family trees.

Mary Elizabeth Chapman boards the Speedwell in 1620 as a Separatist seeking a better life in the New World. William Lytton embarks on the Mayflower as a carpenter looking for opportunities to succeed—and he may have found one when a man from the Virginia Company offers William a hefty sum to keep a stealth eye on company interests in the new colony. The season is far too late for good sailing and storms rage, but reaching land is no better as food is scarce and the people are weak. Will Mary Elizabeth survive to face the spring planting and unknown natives? Will William be branded a traitor and expelled?

Locket Full of Love by Heather Blanton

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1867 – Texas

Was her husband a sinner or a saint? A spy or a traitor? For years Juliet Watts has believed her husband died saving nothing more than a cheap trinket–but the locket he risked his life for turns out to hold a mysterious key. Together, Juliet and military intelligence officer Robert Hall go on a journey of riddles and revelations. But Juliet is convinced Robert is hiding something, too. Maybe it’s just his heart…

Blessed Beyond Measure by Kari Trumbo

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1850 – At Sea

Lenora Farnsworth craves the adventure of the California gold rush.

In the land of her dreams, the work and community are just what she’s looking for. Though she’s drawn to her protector, she must forgive the rumors about his past, or risk her future. Victor is not a Godly man; can he still be the Lord’s choice for her?

Victor Abernathy needs to make some money and get back to England, fast. He’s never met a woman he couldn’t match, until Lenora. She’s supposed to be no more than a job, but her every nuance imprints his heart. He makes a wager with her—it’s his gambler’s nature—but he’s dealt a bad hand when his plans fall through. Lenora is a prize he can’t afford to lose, but when England calls, will he fold, or take his winnings and run?

Isaiah’s Daughter by Mesu Andrews

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732 BC – Israel

In this epic Biblical narrative, ideal for fans of The Bible miniseries, a young woman taken into the prophet Isaiah’s household rises to capture the heart of the future king.
 
Isaiah adopts Ishma, giving her a new name–Zibah, delight of the Lord–thereby ensuring her royal pedigree. Ishma came to the prophet’s home, devastated after watching her family destroyed and living as a captive. But as the years pass, Zibah’s lively spirit wins Prince Hezekiah’s favor, a boy determined to rebuild the kingdom his father has nearly destroyed. But loving this man will awake in her all the fears and pain of her past and she must turn to the only One who can give life, calm her fears, and deliver a nation.

The Melody of the Soul by Liz Tolsma

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1943 – Czechoslovakia

It’s 1943 and Anna Zadok, a Jewish Christian living in Prague, has lost nearly everything. Most of her family has been deported, and the Nazi occupation ended her career as a concert violinist. Now Anna is left to care for her grandmother, and she’ll do anything to keep her safe—a job that gets much harder when Nazi officer Horst Engel is quartered in the flat below them.

Though musical instruments have been declared illegal, Anna defiantly continues to play the violin. But Horst, dissatisfied with German ideology, enjoys her soothing music. When Anna and her grandmother face deportation, Horst risks everything to protect them.

Anna finds herself falling in love with the handsome officer and his brave heart. But what he reveals might stop the music forever.

Harp on the Willow by BJ Hoff

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1869 – West Virginia

Three years ago, Dr. Daniel Kavanagh settled down in the quaint town of Mount Laurel and established a medical practice there. The single doctor has been nursing an unrequited crush on Serena Norman, the local schoolteacher.

Just down the road lies the coal mining town of Owenduffy, considered by most in Mount Laurel to be a backwoods hamlet. When the mine company’s doctor abandons his post, Daniel agrees to visit one day a week, much to the consternation of his fellow residents, including his secret love, Serena.

Addie Rose, the daughter of an Owenduffy coal miner, has a gift for caring for others. When a receptionist position in Daniel’s office suddenly becomes available, what windows of opportunity will God open for Addie Rose—just a job, a possible career as a nurse, or maybe something more?

Author Interview and Giveaway – Missing Isaac – Valerie Fraser Luesse

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I had the opportunity to read Missing Isaac before it released and I quite enjoyed it! Here’s my review:

The title made me think there would be more to the search than there was and the cover and first chapters made me think this was a story of a young boy which I don’t think I would have enjoyed as much as what the book truly turned out to be. The story extends over years and sees him into adulthood and other characters share a lot of the limelight too, but it’s more a story of a set of characters as they grow in a world struggling with change. Valerie’s descriptive ability was simple and authentic feeling, making this town and its people seem real and sucked me in. Reading the author note, she did most of her research by oral history and is likely the reason why it felt so real.

Missing Isaac

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Missing Isaac

There was another South in the 1960s, one far removed from the marches and bombings and turmoil in the streets that were broadcast on the evening news. It was a place of inner turmoil, where ordinary people struggled to right themselves on a social landscape that was dramatically shifting beneath their feet. This is the world of Valerie Fraser Luesse’s stunning debut, Missing Isaac.

It is 1965 when black field hand Isaac Reynolds goes missing from the tiny, unassuming town of Glory, Alabama. The townspeople’s reactions range from concern to indifference, but one boy will stop at nothing to find out what happened to his unlikely friend. White, wealthy, and fatherless, young Pete McLean has nothing to gain and everything to lose in his relentless search for Isaac. In the process, he will discover much more than he bargained for. Before it’s all over, Pete–and the people he loves most–will have to blur the hard lines of race, class, and religion. And what they discover about themselves may change some of them forever.

Valerie’s Website

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PHOTO CREDIT: Image by Mark Sandlin

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Questions about Valerie’s Story

What inspired your story?

I think I was still in college—many years ago!—when my uncle told me about the disappearance of a man who helped him pick cotton on his family farm. The man just vanished and was never heard from again. One of my cousins, listening to the story, speculated that this farm worker had met with foul play and ended up in a backwoods hollow. Those stories were the spark for mine—just imagining what might have happened. Before I knew it, I had a community of interconnected Southern families, a coming-of-age story, and two love stories, all wrapped around this mysterious disappearance.

What did you enjoy most about writing this book?

I would have to say the freedom of it—the joy of just turning my imagination loose. When I first started, I wasn’t thinking about getting published or writing to a particular market. I just wanted to see if I could take what I’ve learned as a magazine writer and produce a good fictional story. I so enjoyed watching the central character, a boy named Pete McLean, grow up, and I loved “meeting” other characters as they materialized: Isaac Reynolds, a black field hand who becomes Pete’s mentor and beloved friend; Dovey Pickett, a beautiful backwoods girl and the love of Pete’s life; Pete and Dovey’s widowed parents, Lila McLean and John Pickett; Miss Paul Pickett, queen of the backwoods . . .

What character in your book turned out to be your favorite?

Dovey’s widowed father, John Pickett, who started out as just a cardboard cutout of a character—very primitive and a little scary. I saw him primarily as an obstacle for Pete and Dovey to overcome. But the more I wrote him, I realized that John was meant to be a true romantic hero and the perfect vehicle to illustrate the basic dignity of every human being: Just because a man is poor, that doesn’t mean he isn’t intelligent and talented and devoted to his family. John embodies the longing and loneliness that I think are key to the book, but he also has great strength, integrity, and passion. Plus he’s one handsome farmer-craftsman. 🙂

Which scene is your favorite, the one you never tired of working with? Give us a reason to look forward to it.

There are actually two—Pete McLean and Dovey Pickett’s first real date and first kiss (Chapter 14), and the scenes during the tornado and its aftermath (Chapter 26). Those were incredibly difficult because it’s so easy for a romantic scene—or a highly dramatic one—to turn melodramatic. I tried to make them realistic—to capture that throbbing-heartbeat moment when you’re not sure what’s going to happen next. Readers will have to let me know if I managed it.

Some of my friends who read the manuscript described it as cinematic—they said they felt like they were watching it instead of reading it. That’s how I wrote the scenes I mentioned. I “watched” them first in my imagination and then wrote what I saw, if that makes sense.

Why did you choose the year your book is set?

There’s a wonderful singer-songwriter named Kate Campbell whose music I first discovered many years ago. I remember listening to her CD Visions of Plenty, which included songs about the South during the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s. And I was so taken by it because she was singing about that time the way I remembered it—through the eyes of a white Southern child. It was such a confusing time for kids—black and white—because so much of what we saw around us didn’t make sense. And it was such a dramatic and violent era that what often gets lost are the little pockets of humanity I saw back then —just ordinary people trying to do the right thing, only they weren’t sure what that was any more.

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Questions about Valerie’s Reading

Which book got you hooked on reading Christian Historicals?

I’m actually very new to this genre because I didn’t set out to write a Christian Historical—I just set out to tell a compelling story, and it so happened that the characters who interested me were people of faith, and the time period that interested me was historically significant. So I sort of looked up and found myself in Christian Historicals! I had a little exposure to them way back in the eighties (dating myself here), when I worked for a literary journal as a grad student at Baylor. Since then, this category seems to have exploded, with talented writers taking it in countless directions and exploring myriad time periods, settings, and characters. I just got back from the Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance trade show in New Orleans, and it was almost too much to take in—so many exciting new titles and interesting writers. I look forward to discovering their work.

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Since Valerie is new to the genre, comment below with the name of one  Christian Historical novel you’ve loved that you’d recommend and a Christian Historical novel you really want to read but haven’t got your hands on yet. If you win the ebook, I’ll send you either Valerie’s book or the one you want the most but don’t have. 🙂 (Must be available in ebook format)

Valerie is giving away a copy paperback (USA only) and I’m giving away winner’s choice of ebook. Enter the Rafflecopter below!

**If you don’t want to enter Rafflecopter, tell me in a comment below: “I’m not entering the rafflecopter, but please throw me in the hat” so I can manually put you in for a chance.**

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Their Daring Hearts by Sharlene MacLaren

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1863 – Pennsylvania

Levi Albright rebelled against his Quaker roots to fight for abolition in the Union army in the first year of the Civil War. Two years later, 19-year-old destitute orphan Josephine Winters, with chopped hair, boy’s clothes, and new name, “Snipp,” enlists in the Union army out of sheer desperation. 
Just over five feet tall and barely weighing as much as a newborn calf, Snipp seems to Levi to be barely old enough to hold “his” gun. But despite being teased by the regiment, Snipp quickly earns admiration for skill with a musket and unequaled bravery. When Levi explains one night that he is a Quaker leading a regiment, it leads to a late-night discussion of faith and a developing friendship.
But Snipp’s secret can only be hidden for so long. After an injury forces Josie to reveal her real identity, Levi is angered by her deception. Worse, Josie is marched out of the company without a chance to explain—or even say goodbye. Will their friendship survive? Or will the hatred saturating the war-torn nation affect even the heart of a peace-loving Quaker?     

Under a Cloudless Sky by Chris Fabry

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1933/Present Day – West Virginia

A charming and engrossing novel for fans of Southern fiction and the recent hit memoir Hillbilly Elegy about a lush and storied coal-mining town—and the good people who live there—in danger of being destroyed for the sake of profit. Will the truth about the town’s past be its final undoing or its saving grace?

1933. In the mining town of Beulah Mountain, West Virginia, two young girls form an unbreakable bond against the lush Appalachian landscape, coal dust and old hymns filling their lungs and hearts. Despite the polarizing forces of their fathers—one a mine owner, one a disgruntled miner —Ruby and Bean thrive under the tender care of Bean’s mama, blissfully unaware of the rising conflict in town and the coming tragedy that will tear them apart forever.

2004. Hollis Beasley is taking his last stand. Neighbors up and down the hollow have sold their land to Coleman Coal and Energy, but Hollis is determined to hold on to his family legacy on Beulah Mountain. Standing in his way is Buddy Coleman, an upstart mining executive who hopes to revitalize the dying town by increasing coal production and opening the Company Store Museum. He’ll pay homage to the past—even the massacre of 1933—while positioning the company for growth at all costs.

What surprises them all is how their stories will intersect with a feisty octogenarian living hundreds of miles away. When Ruby Handley Freeman’s grown children threaten her independence, she takes a stand of her own and disappears, propelling her on a journey to face a decades-old secret that will change everything for her and those she meets.

Until We Find Home by Cathy Gohlke

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1940 – England

For American Claire Stewart, joining the French Resistance sounded as romantic as the storylines she hopes will one day grace the novels she wants to write. But when she finds herself stranded on English shores, with five French Jewish children she smuggled across the channel before Nazis stormed Paris, reality feels more akin to fear.

With nowhere to go, Claire throws herself on the mercy of an estranged aunt, begging Lady Miranda Langford to take the children into her magnificent estate. Heavily weighted with grief of her own, Miranda reluctantly agrees . . . if Claire will stay to help. Though desperate to return to France and the man she loves, Claire has few options. But her tumultuous upbringing—spent in the refuge of novels with fictional friends—has ill-prepared her for the daily dramas of raising children, or for the way David Campbell, a fellow American boarder, challenges her notions of love. Nor could she foresee how the tentacles of war will invade their quiet haven, threatening all who have come to call Bluebell Wood home and risking the only family she’s ever known.

Set in England’s lush and storied Lake District in the early days of World War II, and featuring cameos from beloved literary icons Beatrix Potter and C. S. Lewis, Until We Find Home is an unforgettable portrait of life on the British home front, challenging us to remember that bravery and family come in many forms.

The Blessed Bride by Lynn Winchester

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1850 – California

Leaving Ireland for America, Patience “Pati” O’Connor has followed the trail of her heartbroken father west, to the Sierra Nevada Mountains. With no money and a missing father, Pati has no choice but to settle down in a small, gold mining town of Blessings, California. Maybe the rough and tumble place could use a skilled seamstress…

Pete Jones has spent a lifetime fighting. Wounded in battle during the Mexican War, Pete is left with shaking hands, nightmares, and a sour disposition—but his new job protecting gold claims in Blessings just might be what he needs to kick the anguish of his past.

When Pati’s new business is robbed, she seeks help from the ornery yet honorable Pete, who doesn’t seem too keen on sticking his nose into her business. But Pete can’t seem to say no to the vibrant, fiery, oh so beautiful lass, which may spell trouble for his plans to stay lonely and single.

As the town begins to grow around them, and as trouble starts to slither in, Pati and Pete are desperate to find a love more valuable than all the gold in the mountain.

But can Pete be a man worthy of Pati’s love, and can Pati convince Pete she is destined to be his blessed bride?

Judah’s Wife by Angela Hunt

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168 BC – Israel

Seeking peace and safety after a hard childhood, Leah marries Judah, a strong and gentle man, and for the first time in her life Leah believes she can rest easily. But the land is ruled by Antiochus IV, descended from one of Alexander the Great’s generals, and when he issues a decree that all Jews are to conform to Syrian laws upon pain of death, devout Jews risk everything to follow the law of Moses.

Judah’s father resists the decree, igniting a war that will cost him his life. But before dying, he commands his son to pick up his sword and continue the fight–or bear responsibility for the obliteration of the land of Judah. Leah, who wants nothing but peace, struggles with her husband’s decision–what kind of God would destroy the peace she has sought for so long? 

The miraculous story of the courageous Maccabees is told through the eyes of Judah’s wife, who learns that love requires courage . . . and sacrifice. 

Out of the Ashes by Tracie Peterson

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1926 – Alaska

After the death of their father, Collette and Jean-Michel Langelier are no longer tied to post-war France. While his sister dreams of adventure, Jean-Michel is hoping to finally escape reminders of the horrors he faced in the war. When Jean-Michel receives an unexpected invitation for them to visit Alaska and the Curry Hotel, it seems an opportunity for a change he needs.

Katherine Demarchis is a young widow who does not grieve the dangerous husband she was forced to marry. Now she just wants to retreat to a quiet life, content to be alone. First, though, she’s agreed to accompany her grandmother on a final trip, but never expects to see a man from her past.

Katherine and Jean-Michel once shared a deep love that was torn apart by forces beyond their control. Reunited now, have the years changed them too deeply to rediscover what they had? And when Jean-Michel’s nightmares return with terrifying consequences, will faith be enough to heal what’s been broken for so long?

Missing Isaac by Valerie Fraser Luesse

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1960s – Alabama

There was another South in the 1960s, one far removed from the marches and bombings and turmoil in the streets that were broadcast on the evening news. It was a place of inner turmoil, where ordinary people struggled to right themselves on a social landscape that was dramatically shifting beneath their feet. This is the world of Valerie Fraser Luesse’s stunning debut, Missing Isaac.

It is 1965 when black field hand Isaac Reynolds goes missing from the tiny, unassuming town of Glory, Alabama. The townspeople’s reactions range from concern to indifference, but one boy will stop at nothing to find out what happened to his unlikely friend. White, wealthy, and fatherless, young Pete McLean has nothing to gain and everything to lose in his relentless search for Isaac. In the process, he will discover much more than he bargained for. Before it’s all over, Pete–and the people he loves most–will have to blur the hard lines of race, class, and religion. And what they discover about themselves may change some of them forever.

The Lacemaker by Laura Frantz

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1775 – Virginia

When colonial Williamsburg explodes like a powder keg on the eve of the American Revolution, Lady Elisabeth “Liberty” Lawson is abandoned by her fiancé and suspected of being a spy for the hated British. No one comes to her aid save the Patriot Noble Rynallt, a man with formidable enemies of his own. Liberty is left with a terrible choice. Will the Virginia belle turned lacemaker side with the radical revolutionaries, or stay true to her English roots? And at what cost?

Historical romance favorite Laura Frantz is back with a suspenseful story of love, betrayal, and new beginnings. With her meticulous eye for detail and her knack for creating living, breathing characters, Frantz continues to enchant historical fiction readers who long to feel they are a part of the story.

His Forgotten Fiancée by Evelyn Hill

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1851 – Oregon

Liza Fitzpatrick is stunned when her fiancé finally arrives in Oregon City — with amnesia. Matthew Dean refuses to honor a marriage proposal he doesn’t recall making, but Liza needs his help to bring in the harvest, and maybe she can help him remember…

Matthew is attracted to the spirited Liza, and as she tries to help him regain his old memories, the new ones they’re creating together start to make him feel whole. Even as he falls for her again, though, someone’s determined to keep them apart. Will his memory return in time to save their future?

A Daring Escape by Tricia Goyer

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1938 – Czechoslovakia

When Danger Closes In, Who Will Save the Children?

At the height of World War II, American Amity Mitchell is living a comfortable life abroad as a tutor in England. But that changes when an urgent telegram arrives from her brother, Andrew, summoning her to Prague. Andrew’s efforts to help Jewish children escape Czechoslovakia have grown desperate as Nazi forces tighten their grip on the country. Amity knows she can’t ignore God’s call to join Andrew in coming to the children’s aid.

Amity’s boss, Clark, follows her to Prague to urge her to return but soon finds himself helping the Mitchell siblings prepare Kindertransports bound for the safety of England while threats of German occupation escalate. As Amity and Clark race to save innocent lives, God is drawing them closer to each other.

Hearts Entwined by Various Authors

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Four top historical romance novelists team up in this new collection to offer stories of love and romance with a twist of humor. In Karen Witemeyer’s “The Love Knot,” Claire Nevin gets the surprise of her life awaiting her sister’s arrival by train. Mary Connealy’s “The Tangled Ties That Bind” offers the story of two former best friends who are reunited while escaping a stampede. Regina Jennings offers “Bound and Determined,” where a most unusual trip across barren Oklahoma plains is filled with adventure, romance, and . . . camels? And Melissa Jagears’ “Tied and True” entertains with a tale of two hearts from different social classes who become entwined at a cotton thread factory.