I knew that C.S. Lewis and I had more in common than our Christianity when he said, "You can never get a cup of tea large enough or a book long enough to suit me." Welcome to a celebration of faith, tea, and the written word. I'm always engaged in a book, and whether it's one I'm reading or one of the inspirational historical romances I write, there's always a cup of tea close by. Join me in a cup as we chat about faith, our favorite books and the exciting places our reading and writing adventures take us.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Redeeming the Rogue: Her Ally or Her Enemy?

C.J. Chase’s Regency, Redeeming the Rogue, is a quick-paced tale of treachery and deliverance. Suspense, action, and romance come together for a satisfying inspirational read.

American Mattie Fraser comes to London in search of answers after her brother is forcibly taken by the British Navy during the War of 1812. Military official Kit DeChambrelle offers help, but trust comes hard to Mattie, and it’s clear Kit knows more than he’s letting on. While the two hunt for answers in the highest and lowest of London streets, threats on Mattie’s life follow, and Kit must protect her and all who shelter her from danger. But he can’t protect his awakening heart, no matter how hard he tries.

Mattie and Kit are complex characters. Mattie can’t forgive those who’ve wronged her; Kit can’t forgive himself. Both cope with their pain in self-destructive ways, as Kit drinks to excess and Mattie seeks revenge. When they recognize peace prevailing in the hearts of their Christian companions, however, both Kit and Mattie take steps toward God and find He’s been there all along.

I appreciate the spiritual struggles of Chase’s characters. Relatable and familiar, their struggles aren’t easily dealt with—just like in real life—and the characters’ experiences are an encouraging reminder of God’s faithfulness and the high price of grace. Mattie is likable, brave, and kind, but flawed. At times her choices disturbed me a bit, especially when she uses others—like a young urchin, Nicky— to achieve her goals, but her realistically-portrayed sins are essential to her character development. When she recognizes her errors and seeks forgiveness, there is great significance for her…and for me as a reader.

I felt the same way about Kit. He is bold, dashing, and adorably sweet with his sister. Yet the burden of his sins weighs heavily on him, and he hasn’t the means to cope, so he drinks to excess. Mattie’s presence makes him confront the rifts in his family and in his soul, and grace isn’t cheap to him when he finally accepts it.

Chase’s research impressed me. From detail types of pistols to the inner chambers of ships, historical details are woven into the action in a way that enhances each scene. Chase's writing is tight, descriptive, and cohesive, with a plot full of twists and turns.

I look forward to more from Chase, and I recommend Redeeming the Rogue to any lover of Christian historical romance, suspense, or the Regency period.

Redeeming the Rogue is available wherever Love Inspired Historicals are sold, including Amazon.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Book Recommendation: A River to Cross

Yvonne Harris’ novel A River to Cross is a fast-paced, action-packed love story, set in 1886 on both the US and Mexican sides of the Rio Grande River.

Budding journalist Elizabeth Evans has come to El Paso to help her widowed brother, the editor of the local paper, raise his child, but his work exposing the dangers along the US-Mexican border costs him his life. When Elizabeth is kidnapped by his murderers, it’s up to Jake Nelson, Texas Ranger, to sneak across the border and bring her back. But the rogue Mexican military who took her won’t stop until they achieve their ultimate purpose—war between America and Mexico—and killing Elizabeth is part of their dangerous plan.

Jake is a compelling hero. His emotions are charged by a thoughtful back story; he’s brave and deadly yet sweet with children; and he’s conflicted about his future as a Ranger and his growing feelings for Elizabeth. Jake is fully committed to being the best Ranger he can be, even though he’s aware his service affects his ability to have a home and family—if it doesn’t kill him first.  Gunfights, quick escapes, and clandestine missions across the Mexican border are all in a day’s work for Jake.

Elizabeth isn’t accustomed to Jake’s way of life, of course. The daughter of a senator, she was raised in Washington, D.C, with servants to see to her every need. She has experience with with military life, however; she was briefly married to an Army officer, whose early death inspired her to veer away from making another marriage that will end in tragedy. While she’s brave enough to continue her brother’s work exposing dangers along the US-Mexican border, she’s not sure she’s ready to take a chance on falling in love with a Ranger.

The story is well-researched, with the descriptions of Jake’s Frontier Battalion woven skillfully into the narrative. Likewise, the Texas scenery came alive under Harris’ pen.

The portrayal of the characters’ Christianity is subtle.  Both Jake and Elizabeth consume alcohol, but drunkenness is not glorified in the novel.

Fans of westerns as well as romance should be pleased with this satisfying story. I look forward to reading more by Yvonne Harris.

A River to Cross is available at your favorite Christian retailer, Amazon, and other e-retailers.

A copy of this book was provided by the publisher, Bethany House, courtesy of the author, for my review. No positive review was expected or required in exchange.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Sea is for Cookie (and That's Good Enough for Me!)

When I read about a little red-barn of a cookie shop in Cayucos, a California coastal village of about 3,000 souls, I had two thoughts. One, I was going to be passing through Cayucos with my family this summer and should stop by, because, well, come on. It's cookies.

And two, the little shortbread gems available at The Brown Butter Cookie Company would undoubtedly go well indeed with a good book and a nice cup of tea. Which, from the name of this blog, you know I like.

I did not expect to write an entire blog post about the Best Cookies Ever. But it would be ungenerous--nay, criminal!--to not tell you about them. They're the sort of cookie that makes professional wrestlers weep and inspires astonishingly good behavior from children and all that sort of stuff.

Ok, maybe I exaggerate slightly. But The Brown Butter Cookie Company (click here to visit their website) makes one fabulous cookie, all soft and rich with brown sugar and browned butter, sprinkled on top with a dash of sea salt.

This is not a place to hang out and visit. No Starbucks-wanna-be, The Brown Butter Cookie Co. is nothing but cookies. Inside the shop, most of the space is devoted to crafting and baking. A small front area lined with shelves of packaged cookies and partitioned by a bakery counter was just large enough for me and my family to enter, browse, and turn around before squeezing through the throng of other wise cookie devotees who also crammed the space. The word is OUT about these cookies.

Behind the counter, a half-dozen women perched on stools, patting cookies in their hands and laying them on sheets for baking. (They also looked quite happy, probably because they know the secret ingredients of the cookies. Luckies!) In the background, an industrial mixer whirred the magical secret ingredients.

One young woman offered us samples. Our first taste was the original, a shortbread-esque cookie. One quarter of a cookie. A little nibble.

That was enough. I was sold.

We also tried cocoa and gluten-free cocoa mint cookies (which were sensational), but settled on purchasing a 2-dozen count package of the original. Just one package, you may ask, after all of this hoopla? Well, the cookies don't come cheap. Individually, they sell for a dollar each, plus. And you can't just stop at one cookie.

I predict it won't be long before this little cookie shop gains national attention.

So if you find yourself on California's central coast anytime soon, plan to swing by Cayucos. And let me know in advance, so I can have you pick up a bag of cookies for me!

To see how they make the cookies, check out this little video I found on YouTube.