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.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Happy News!

Spring has sprung! At my house, birds are nesting, the fruit trees have blossomed, and the lavender is in full flower. The bees love it.

When the sunshine glows, my mood follows suit. And I can't help sharing happy news!

  • Today on Inkwell Inspirations, debut author Jessica Nelson is giving away a copy of her Love Inspired Historical, Love on the Range. It's a fun story--hop on over to enter the drawing!
  • I'm thoroughly biased, but my critique partner Ruth Reid's latest book, Brush of Angels' Wings, is fabulous, and it's available now from Thomas Nelson (check it out on Amazon). Ruth weaves great romance, Amish setting, and spiritual warfare for a unique and enjoyable read. 
  • RWA National Conference in Anaheim is coming up quickly, and I'm getting excited about it! Meeting friends, learning at the workshops...it'll be fabulous. It's not too late to register for this July event. Also open for registration, the ACFW Conference in September, this year held in Texas.
  • And last but not least... I'm an ACFW Genesis Contest semi-finalist! I can't share the name of my story, but as you can imagine, I'm thrilled to be on the list. I have to come back to earth and get busy writing, though--but what a motivation!
I hope you're enjoying your spring, and may your day be filled with happy things, too!

    Monday, April 16, 2012

    Sanctuary for a Lady by Naomi Rawlings

    Set in northern France, 1794, The shadow of The Guillotine falls over the characters in Naomi Rawlings’ Sanctuary for a Lady (available now from Love Inspired Historicals).

    Isabelle de La Rouchecauld is on the run. An aristocrat, she’s hidden her identity and evaded French soldiers for years since her family was murdered by the revolutionaries who murdered members of France’s upper classes. Just before she can catch a ship to England, she’s attacked by Revolutionaries and left for dead. Injured and unable to go on, Isabelle has no choice but to remain with the farmer who found her, Michel, and his confused mother, even though they could be in grave danger for harboring a member of the aristocracy. Despondent over the loss of her family and intent to keep a promise, Isabelle has to get out of France…but the God she doesn’t quite believe in may have other plans for her.

    Michel Belanger has no interest in farming. He hoped to be a furniture maker, but since his father’s death and brother’s disappearance, he has had no choice but to stay home and provide for his ill mother. When he stumbles across an unconscious female in his field, he naturally brings her home, unaware of the trouble she’ll bring. Michel isn’t a political man, he keeps his head down, yet suddenly, he’s hiding a fugitive! She’s foolish to think she can make it to England on her own, but the sooner she leaves, the safer he and his mother will be. Too bad his heart is already lost.

    I enjoyed the setting and learned quite a bit about the French Revolution as I read. The details were woven into the story, however, and supported the plot points well. I also appreciated how the characters grappled with ethics, Christianity, and guilt as they progressed through the story. They are strong examples that sometimes the right thing to do isn’t the easiest.
    Although it contains some thought-provoking themes and is set in a dark period of history, Sanctuary for a Lady is not a heavy read; it’s edifying, entertaining, and full of romance. I recommend it to fans of inspirational historical romance. 

    I received a copy of this book for purposes of review. A positive review was neither expected nor promised.

    Thursday, April 12, 2012

    The RMS Titanic and the Stolen Baby!

    Over on Inkwell Inspirations, I've got a post on what the RMS Titanic taught me about my spiritual life. But there was another story I wanted to share, too...

    This past summer, my family visited an exhibition of artifacts from the RMS Titanic as the Luxor Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada. All over the globe, visitors have attended similar exhibitions, moved by the recreated staterooms, biographical sketches, miniaturized iceberg, and perfectly-preserved remnants on display. Dishes, unbroken. Precious jewelry, its wearers lost. Money and sheet music, protected by leather from the watery deep.

    When you enter the exhibit, a docent hands you a card with the name, class, and a brief biography of a real Titanic passenger printed on it of your sex (many Holocaust museums do the same thing). The card doesn't tell you, however, if your passenger survived. You have to get to the end of the exhibit to find out, but boy, do you start worrying about your assigned passenger. Mine was sixty-year-old Emma Bucknell, a first-class passenger whose husband founded Bucknell University. My heart dropped when my children were assigned third-class passengers, however. Things didn't look good for them, and I hoped they wouldn't be devastated to learn of their deaths.

    It turned out both of their passengers lived. When we got home, we decided to do a little research on them. It turned out that the Titanic's sinking was just the beginning of a terrible nightmare for my daughter's passenger, Mrs. Leah Aks.

    Born in Poland, eighteen-year-old Leah Rosen Aks boarded the Titanic with her ten-month old son, Frank. Leah's husband, Sam, awaited them in America, where he'd gone ahead to Norfolk, Virginia, to open a tailoring shop. Leah and "Filly" received their own third-class cabin, and no doubt they enjoyed the privacy.

    Leah and Filly were fortunate to make it up to the deck after the ship struck the iceberg, although they were not dressed warmly. Leah found herself next to Madeleine Astor, who provided her white silk shawl for Filly. As lifeboat 11 was lowering into the water, a frantic passenger ripped Filly from Leah's arms and tossed him into the boat. Like any mother would, Leah rushed the boat, screaming, but she was restrained by crew members.

    Her baby disappeared over the side.

    Leah, in a state of panic, was eventually pushed onto lifeboat 13 beside a woman named Serena Cook. I can't imagine what Leah went through that night. The trauma of the sinking, the cries and moans of injured and grieving, the bitter cold, and the unbearable not knowing. Where was Filly? Was he safe? Cared for? Would she ever know?

    After being rescued by the Carpathia, Leah was with Serena on deck, freezing, exhausted, and desperate for her child. She heard a cry and looked up. An Italian woman walked past, carrying a baby boy. Filly?

    Of course. Leah would know her Filly anywhere. With joy, she tried to take Filly back, but The Italian woman (possibly Argene del Carlo) insisted the child was hers. She wouldn't relinquish hold. Ever.

    She'd seen her baby gone over the edge of the Titanic. He wouldn't be stolen from her arms again. Leah didn't back down, and in a scene reminiscent of the two women before King Solomon, the captain was called in to mediate.

    Some reports say that Filly had a birthmark on his chest that Leah could describe. Other stories say Filly's circumcision was sufficient, proving he came from a Jewish mother. Nothing mentions Filly's response upon seeing his mother, which should have said it all.

    Leah was reunited with Filly, and they arrived safely in America. The next year, Leah gave birth to a daughter, Sarah Carpathia Aks, although the nurses clearly knew about Leah's harrowing journey, because someone wrote Sarah Titanic Aks on her birth certificate.

    And what happened to Filly, the tiny survivor of the Titanic?

    Forty years later, he attended a reunion for survivors. He met the woman on whose lap he'd sat in lifeboat 11, Edith Russell. She reported that Frank became a wealthy steel magnate in Virginia.

    And he kept Madeleine Astor's scarf, which is now on display in a Virginia museum.

    As if the sinking of the Titanic doesn't want to make you hugs your kids already, the story of Leah and Filly is just another reminder of how precious our loved ones are.

    Monday, April 9, 2012

    Buckle Up! Jennifer's AlLee's The Mother Road

    (To set the mood, enjoy the swinging sounds of Bobby Troupe while you read!)

    Fasten your seatbelt and settle in for a journey full of laughter, heartbreak, and hope in Jennifer Allee’s The Mother Road—a road-trip novel I loved so much I took it everywhere with me. Including, of course, the car, where it made excellent reading on an overnight trip.

    Natalie Marino’s life is enviably perfect. Despite her struggle with infertility, she’s had a successful life:  handsome hubby, nice home in Southern California, and an amazing career writing Christian romance and speaking to women on marriage.

    So when her husband demands a divorce so he can marry his pregnant mistress, the betrayal costs Natalie her marriage, her hopes for the future, and her credibility. She’s still in shock when her father delivers more bad news: Natalie’s mom, who’s stricken with Alzheimer’s, has taken a turn for the worse. Natalie and her estranged sister Lindsay must return to Illinois to visit their parents before their mother forgets who they are.

    Wigwam Motel, Holbrook Arizona
    Lindsay is reluctant, and, adding salt to Natalie’s wounds, pregnant. But their mother is ailing, and the sparring sisters need to see her, fast. Flying to Illinois is out of the question for Lindsay. That leaves an old-fashioned car trip on The Mother Road, old Route 66—the historic two lane highway that, for decades, ran from the Santa Monica pier in Los Angeles to Chicago.

    The road trip is bumpy in every sense of the word, chock full of quirky pit stops, emotional hairpin turns, and speed as the sisters endure heavy pursuit by Lindsay’s stalking ex-boyfriend, Ben. As the sisters drive toward the unknown, things start to change for Natalie—in her relationship with Lindsay, and within her heart. Only God can get her to Illinois without losing it, but maybe He has other plans for her once she gets there.

    The Mother Road is a road-trip book at its best, with engaging scenery, witty banter, and an end-of-road destination that may not be what the protagonist first expects. The characters are multi-layered and their experiences are familiar to most readers. Every woman who longs for motherhood can relate to Natalie's grief over her empty arms, and my heart ached for her. I also appreciated how she grows throughout the story. Natalie may be a relationship expert, but she isn't the most attentive daughter, and she has a way of ignoring her problems until they're too large to deny.

    In other words, Jennifer Allee's characters act like real people. Sometimes it seems like Christian characters say everything right, but that's a trait most of us won't be able to claim this side of heaven. In times of stress, Natalie sometimes speaks without thinking, and her quips occasionally worsen a situation. The way humans respond to each other in this story, with grace and also judgment, reveals a lot about how Christians should strive to be with one another, but often fall short.

    Disappointment, betrayal, and a devastating disease are handled with moving realism—there are no easy answers here—but the story isn’t bogged down in grief. I love how Jennifer Allee writes with shades of light and dark, realism and humor, and she made me laugh out loud several times. Her style is engaging and engrossing, and I’ve been waiting for The Mother Road for a long time.

    It was a journey I’m glad I took.

    This post originally appeared on Inkwell Inspirations.