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.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Christmas Roses by Amanda Cabot



Christmas Roses, a short inspirational, historical novel by Amanda Cabot, is a sweet tale of romance and renewal just perfect for a cozy autumn afternoon.

Although her friends counsel her to remarry, widow Celia Anderson isn’t interested, not even to provide a father for her infant daughter. She provides for herself and her baby by running a boarding house, caring for a widower’s small son, and serving dinner to two townsmen who are potential suitors. They’re nice enough, but her first marriage was arranged, and she won’t marry again unless it’s for love … to the type of man who would give her roses for Christmas.

Mark Williams’ search for his father leads him to a small Wyoming town where he comes across Celia and her ill baby girl. He’s the answer to her prayers, but he thinks it’s just chance: if God cared about Mark, why would He allow Mark’s father to abandon him? With winter’s approach, Mark decides to stay in town and sets up a carpentry shop, and for the first time, he’s tempted to put down roots, thanks to the pretty widow and her baby.

At only 172 pages, Christmas Roses is the perfect length story for a holiday escape. The characters are well-formed, the story is heartwarming, and the plot issues are tied up at the end like a pretty Christmas ribbon. The cover invokes a sense of Currier & Ives, but the story is not Christmassy until the final pages (a reader expecting the sleigh ride shown on the cover might be disappointed).

I recommend Christmas Roses to fans of inspirational historical romance.

This novel was furnished by the author for purposes of review. A positive review was neither promised nor expected.


Thursday, September 20, 2012

A Bride Opens Shop in El Dorado, California



Keli Gwyn’s debut novel, A Bride Opens Shop in El Dorado California, is an engaging, satisfying read set in the golden foothills of California’s gold country.

Widow Elenora  Watkins wants two things: a fresh start for her and her daughter Tildy, and to have a partnership in a mercantile. She travels to El Dorado, California for the opportunity to make both dreams a reality. Unfortunately, when her potential associate Miles Rutledge finds out she’s female, he won’t make her his partner. 

What’s a spunky woman to do? Why, open her own mercantile, of course. Right across the street from Miles’ store.

Miles was married to a willful woman like Elenora before, and he won’t make the mistake of falling for someone like that again. And if Elenora thinks she can run him out of business selling folderol and fancy soaps, she’s going to be disappointed. And if she thinks she’ll displace him as El Dorado’s best violinist, she’s crazy. If it’s a battle of the sexes she wants, he’s game. But when Elenora’s daughter gets hold of his heart, there’s no untwining their lives.
If he and Elenora can stop being competitors, they just might become a family.

Gwyn’s writing is charming, and her story left me smiling. The dialogue is quick and amusing, but the story has its share of sad and serious moments, too, making for a balanced tale. The characters have areas to grow spiritually, and I appreciated the inspirational elements. I also enjoyed how Gwyn wove historical detail into the story (from Victorian brand names to rose varieties), enhancing the sense of time and place.

I recommend A Bride Opens Shop in El Dorado California and I look forward to more from Keli Gwyn! 


This novel was furnished by the author for purposes of review. A positive review was neither promised nor expected.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Keli Gwyn's Writing Journey ... and a Winner!

Keli Gwyn graciously offered a DVD copy of the movie The Young Victoria to one of our guests this past week. One winner was randomly drawn. Drum roll please!

Congratulations Amy Campbell! (I'll be in touch with you!)

In addition to giving away the DVD, Keli has been kind enough to share her writing journey with us. I hope reading it encourages you as much as it's encouraged me.

My Writing Journey

I embarked on my writing journey January 1, 2006. During the next two and a half years I pounded out five historical romance manuscripts. Why historicals? The research is a blast. Plus I get a kick out of using words like addlepated, gewgaws, and smitten.

Contest fever grabbed me early on. I submitted 36 contest entries during those early years, receiving a wealth of helpful feedback from my generous contest judges along with a few finals. The most exciting was my double final in the 2008 Golden Heart®, a national contest sponsored by Romance Writers of America®. That led to my first blog guest appearance and introduced me to the wonderful world of writers online.

At that point, I learned how much I had yet to learn and spent a year studying craft. Armed with my newfound knowledge, I took a look at my stories to see which of them showed the most promise. I loved them all, but Miles and Elenora told me theirs was the story I should pick, and I listened. I’d rewritten it once, but I knew it needed more work, so I got busy.

That rewrite proved my characters were right. Miles and Ellie’s story won several contests, earned me requests from editors and agents, and led to my offer of representation. Rachelle Gardner made her offer on the eve of Christmas Eve in 2009. Talk about an amazing Christmas present!

I’d love to tell you that Rachelle sold my story right away, but I still had work to do. After spending several months making my story the best I possibly could, I sent it to Rachelle and held my breath. To my delight, she liked it and was ready to submit it, which she did. Six weeks later we had two offers, and I got a contract for Christmas.

On July 1, 2012, my debut novel was released, eighteen months after my contract offer. July is my birthday month, and I can’t think of a better birthday present than holding my debut novel in my hands. It was a thrill. I hope readers enjoy reading the story as much as I enjoyed writing it.

***

http://keligwyn.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/05/BrideOpensShop-Small-Web.jpgPlease visit Keli on her website, www.keligwyn.com, and be sure to check out her amazing novel, A Bride Opens Shop in El Dorado, California.

Widow Elenora Watkins looks forward to meeting her new business partner, Miles Rutledge, who owns a shop in 1870s El Dorado. But Miles is shocked to see a woman step off the stagecoach. His rude behavior forces Elenora to reconsider—so she becomes his competition across the street. Can Miles win her heart while destroying her business?

Monday, September 10, 2012

Big News...and a Giveaway!


It's official!

Photo: I'm thrilled to announce I signed with agent Tamela Hancock Murray of the Steve Laube Agency!
I signed the contract. The ink is dry. I'm now represented by agent Tamela Hancock Murray of the Steve Laube Agency!

I couldn't be more thrilled. I respect and admire Tamela, and working with her has been a pleasure. I feel very, very blessed.

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Head over to Christian Fiction Book Reviews for the chance to win a $300 Kindle shopping spree--yes, that's right, $300. Contest ends September 30.

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Today I've got a post on Inkwell Inspirations about my favorite TV shows returning to fall. I want to know: what did you think of how "Castle" ended back in May? What's going on now that magic has returned in "Once Upon a Time?" Hop on over and visit--I want to know what you think!

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In other news, my website is coming along! (Click link at the top of this page, or click here.) I've posted articles on Regency weddings, currency, forms of address, a recipe, and a LOT of links to cool sites. More to follow.

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Don't forget to enter the giveaway for a DVD of one of my favorites, The Young Victoria, generously offered by Author Keli Gwyn. Just leave a comment with a way to contact you, and you'll be entered. Giveaway limited to the US and Canada only.

Learn more about Keli by reading the previous post. Her debut novel, A Bride Opens Shop in El Dorado, is delightful--with humor, interesting characters, a lively pace, a rich California setting, and meticulous research. I recommend you pick it up!


Friday, September 7, 2012

Ten Things with Author Keli Gwyn!


Welcome Keli Gwyn to Tea and a Good Book!

Keli Gwyn writes stories that transport readers to the 1800s, where she brings historic towns to life, peoples them with colorful characters, and adds a hint of humor. A California native, she lives in the Gold Rush-era town of Placerville at the foot of the majestic Sierra Nevada Mountains. Her debut novel, A Bride Opens Shop in El Dorado, California, set in the heart of the Gold Country where she lives is currently available.

When Keli’s fingers aren’t hovering over the keyboard of her newfangled laptop, she enjoys strolling past stately Victorian houses in her historic town, burying her nose in reference books as she unearths interesting facts to include in her stories, and interacting with other romance readers. Her favorite places to visit are her fictional worlds, the Coach factory outlet store, and Taco Bell.

1. I was born in a sanitarium. Seriously. The Glendale Sanitarium and Hospital in the Los Angeles area, affectionately known back in 1959 as Glendale San. And in case you were wondering, my mom was in the hospital side. What I find fun is that the hospital was housed in an old Victorian hotel and now I’m writing Victorian-era romances.

2. I attended a one-room school in seventh and eighth grade. My dad was stationed at a Forest Service ranger station west of Redding, California. The only school in the area was in the nearby town of Platina, population 56. My two sisters and I made up one-eighth of the student body.

3. I had a pet mouse once. Don’t ask me what possessed me to get it, since I don’t like rodents. Maybe it was those adorable pink eyes peering out of his snowy white face. I didn’t have it long. The tiny thing got out of its cage one time too many and freaked my dad out. Today it would freak me out.

4. Gwynly and I lived in Germany from 1989-1993. He was teaching the dependents of U.S. Army personnel at Nürnberg American High School. We were there when the Wall came down and got to watch history in the making. While we were there, I got to visit twelve other European countries.

5. I never learned how to perform a cartwheel. I admire those who can, but my attempts were laughable. I have a feeling I’ll meet my Maker without having mastered this skill.

6. I don't like pie. Well, I like the crust. I just don’t like the filling.

7. We don’t wrap our Christmas presents with paper. We put them in reusable drawstring bags made out of pretty Christmas fabrics. They do a great job of disguising what’s inside and make clean up a breeze.

8. I’m not a shoe person, but I love purses, especially Coach bags. I’ve carried them since the 1980s, way before they were as popular as they are now.

9. I had LASIK surgery twelve years ago. Before the surgery, my good eye was 20/800 and my bad eye 20/900. When I came up out of the chair afterward and could read the eye chart without corrective lenses, I was so happy I couldn’t stop smiling and had to be reminded to blink.
10. I’m a hopeless romantic. I love reading romances, watching romances, and writing romances. One of my favorite romances is The Young Victoria because it’s a real-life love story. I'm giving away a DVD of the movie on this post. See below for the details.

To learn more about Keli, you can visit her Victorian-style cyber home at www.keligwyn.com, where you’ll find her parlor, study, carriage house, and more, along with her blog and her social media links.

***

Back cover copy
 
Love Is Gold in El Dorado, California

Widow Elenora Watkins heads to California with her nine-year-old daughter, Tildy, eager to become a partner in a mercantile. When the mulish owner withdraws his offer because she’s a woman, she opens her own shop. She’s determined to prove herself capable of running a successful business without the help of anyone—including her controlling father, her seemingly distant heavenly Father, and one Miles Rutledge.

Widower Miles Rutledge is not about to get involved with another willful woman like his late wife, especially when she’s his competition. But the beautiful Elenora may be too hard to resist. When another man appears out to claim Elenora’s heart, Miles searches for a way to win her back. . .while putting her out of business.

Meanwhile, Maude Rutledge, Miles’s meddling mother, longs to see her son make a good match. And Tildy is just as bent on gaining a loving papa.

The battle of wills begins, but can anyone win when the competition is more than they bargained for?

First Page

April 1870

The Sierra Foothills of California

The stagecoach lurched to a stop, throwing Elenora and Matilda Watkins against a damask-covered sidewall.

Elenora clutched her nine-year-old daughter to her side. “Are you all right, Tildy?”

“Oh Mama. You don’t have to be so skittery.” Tildy shrugged out of the protective embrace, scooted across the bench seat, and shoved the leather window shade aside. “I want to see what’s going on.” She peeked out, whirled around with wide eyes and an enormous grin, and let the dust shield fall with a thwap. “It’s an outlaw, and he’s pointing a gun at the driver.”

Where did her daughter get those wild notions of hers? Elenora shot Tildy a reassuring smile and leaned over the center jump seat to have a look. “Lord, help us.”

A shudder ripped through her. The horrid man atop the big black horse was, in fact, aiming a gun at the coachman, but he was aiming a look of sheer evil at her. One of his eyes bored into her while the other seemed to roam. His sneer made her skin crawl.

How could this be happening? They’d ridden all the way from Omaha on that snorting beast of a train and made the line changes in Ogden and Sacramento City without incident. Why did something have to go wrong on the final five miles between Shingle Springs and El Dorado?

The outlaw’s deep voice boomed. “Hand it over.”

***

Susanne here. Ooh, don't you want to keep reading?

Keli has graciously offered a DVD of the movie, The Young Victoria--one of my personal favorites. To enter the drawing, please leave a comment before September 14. Include a way to contact you (please take precautionary measures to protect yourself from spammers, ie., email at site dot com). Giveaway is limited to the US and Canada. One winner will be randomly drawn the morning of September 15!

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Veil of Pearls by MaryLu Tyndall



MaryLu Tundall has crafted yet another exceptional story in Veil of Pearls—a tale set in 1810 Barbados and South Carolina that’s rich in romance, suspense, and faith.

Adalia Winston is beautiful, with dark hair and pale skin—a trait that belies the fact that she’s one-quarter black. As a child in Barbados, she was kidnapped and enslaved by a greedy, loathsome master. Years later, Adalia manages to escape and flees to Charleston, South Carolina, hiding her heritage and hoping to support herself with her healing skills and knowledge of herbs.

She finds employment … and a whole lot more. Wealthy, spoiled Morgan Rutledge, son of a plantation owner, finds Adalia too beautiful to resist. Although she dislikes him and all he stands for, Morgan is more complex than she assumed, and she is drawn to him, even though he doesn’t share her Christian faith. When he invites her to take part in glittering Charleston society with him, she can’t say no to the fun and grandeur—and if she convinces Morgan to trust God, then all the better.

But living under the threat of her secret being revealed is a heavy price. Especially when she loses her heart to Morgan.

Tyndall writes a well-crafted story. As always, her settings are fascinating, and her characters are multi-dimensional and flawed. I appreciate how Adalia—while a faithful Christian—makes poor choices at times, just like the rest of us do. She’s distracted by worldliness and in denial about the nature of her relationship with Morgan. Morgan has a journey to undertake, too. He’s blind to the cruelty of slavery, and he’s enslaved by familial expectation, although he yearns to leave the plantation behind captain a ship.

Veil of Pearls is an engrossing novel. While it covers some heavy topics, like slavery, justice, and rape, there are also light moments to balance the story. I was rooting for Adalia and Morgan, and had to keep turning the pages to discover what happened next.

On a side note, this cover is gorgeous, isn’t it?

I highly recommend Veil of Pearls. And right now, it's only $1.99 on Kindle!

This novel was furnished by the publisher for purposes of review. A positive review was neither promised nor expected.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Ten Things with Amanda Cabot!


Welcome author Amanda Cabot to Tea and a Good Book!



 From the time that she was seven, Amanda Cabot dreamed of becoming a published author, but it was only when she set herself the goal of selling a book by her thirtieth birthday that the dream came true.  A former director of Information Technology, Amanda has written everything from technical books and articles for IT professionals to mysteries for teenagers and romances for all ages.  She’s delighted to now be a fulltime writer of Christian historical romances.  Her Texas Dreams trilogy received critical acclaim, and Christmas Roses, her first stand-alone story, was just released.
  1. I’ve lived in a number of different places, each with its own appeal, and each has influenced my writing in some way.  For example, although I left there when I was seven, the six years I spent in a small town in Texas helped me create my fictional town of Ladreville for the Texas Dreams series.
  2. One of my favorite mottos is “Justice will somehow prevail” from a song called “Light One Candle.”  I can’t imagine how people get through each day if they don’t believe that.
  3.  Fortunately for the world, my first attempts at writing (including a memorably bad story of two kids and a camper) have been destroyed.  The scripts for the two plays I wrote for my fifth grade class are also gone, although they both had a very short run.  Translation: my classmates and I presented them to each of the other fifth grade classes.
  4.  My favorite place on earth is Yellowstone, and if I had to pick just one spot within the park, it would be the Lamar valley. 
  5.  My most exotic vacation was to Australia where I fulfilled a long-time wish and saw kangaroos in the wild.  Several were so tame that they poked their heads into our picnic basket.
  6.  I enjoy knitting but never seem to get the gauge right.  As a result, you’re more likely to find me making afghans and prayer shawls rather than sweaters – no fitting needed.
  7.  When I was researching World War One-era cameras, I had the opportunity to visit the George Eastman House in Rochester, NY.  Although it’s not normally open to visitors, the curator took me into the archives, where he casually pointed out Ansel Adams’s camera and the one that took the first pictures on the moon.  I had goose bumps!
  8.  My favorite flowers are lilacs.
  9.  I caught an incurable case of carousel fever when I spotted a carousel horse in – of all places – an interstate rest area.  Ever since, I’ve been visiting antique carousels around the country and learning everything I can about the carvers.
  10. Yes, there will be at least one story with a carousel carver in it.  It’s part of a novella collection scheduled for early 2014.
Amanda's Christmas Roses is now available! I love how the cover invokes a Currier & Ives scene, and hearkens back to a good old fashioned Christmas. Look for Christmas Roses at your favorite Christian retailer, Amazon, B&N, CBD, and Goodreads.