Boondock Ramblings

Book Review: Husband Auditions by Angela Ruth Strong Book Tour with Audra Jennings PR

Book Title: Husband Auditions by Angela Ruth Strong

Genre: Christian Romantic Comedy

Publisher: Kregel Publications

Release Date: August 17, 2021

Description: How far would you go to find the perfect husband? All the way back to the 1950s?

In a world full of happily-ever-after love, Meri Newberg feels like the last young woman on the planet to be single, at least in her Christian friend group. So when she’s handed a strange present at the latest wedding–a 1950s magazine article of “ways to get a husband”–she decides there’s nothing to lose by trying out its advice. After all, she can’t get any more single, can she?

Her brother’s roommate sees the whole thing as a great opportunity. Not to fall in love–Kai Kamaka has no interest in the effort a serious relationship takes. No, this is a career jump start. He talks Meri into letting him film every silly husband-catching attempt for a new online show. If it goes viral, his career as a cameraman will be made.

When Meri Me debuts, it’s an instant hit. People love watching her lasso men on street corners, drop handkerchiefs for unsuspecting potential beaus, and otherwise embarrass herself in pursuit of true love. But the longer this game goes on, the less sure Kai is that he wants Meri to snag anyone but him. The only problem is that he may not be the kind of husband material she’s looking for . . .

With droll comic timing, unbeatable chemistry, and a zany but relatable cast of characters, Angela Ruth Strong has created a heartfelt look at the reality of modern Christian dating that readers will both resonate with and fall for.

REVIEW

This is a witty and humorous/light hearted and fun read. The characters are — specifically Meri and Kai, but also Gemma — are immediately likeable.

What I liked about this book was how real and raw it was, mixed in with the humor. I loved how Strong wasn’t afraid to be blunt about issues of marriage without being crass or crude. When the subject of sex in marriage was broached, it was done so in a mature, natural, and to the point manner without descriptions or any kind of detail. In other words, there are zero sex scene in this book, making it very clean; but the subject was discussed in a very appropriate way.

Strong also knows how to get in the head of a man and show how clueless they can be sometimes. I know. That sounds super sexist but let me explain. Men and women are wired differently (obviously). Men don’t often sit and debate issues in their head to death like a lot of women do. Men just go do things and figure it out later.

That’s not always bad, but sometimes, like Kai in this book, it is. I love the differences between men and women and too many female authors write their male characters like they are women — emotional, sentimental, dramatic.

That’s not realistic.

Strong wrote a realistic man in this book, which is why there are many women who aren’t going to like him. I, for one, did. I don’t know if I agreed with some of the ideas that he or Meri had that led to the ending of this book, but it has me thinking and I don’t see that as a bad thing.

I see women reviewers write things like, “I didn’t connect with HIM”, about books like Strongs all the time. The reason for that is because the author wrote a realistic male character, and most female readers want to read a book where the man thinks and acts like a woman. That’s just weird. If I’m not confused by the male character, then I know the author doesn’t know how to write from the point of view of a man.

Bottom line, this was a fun and easy read that I needed and one I have a lot of other people need these days. Yes, it featured some deep thoughts and challenges, especially for Christians, but those deep thoughts aren’t enough to pull the book, or reader, down.

I received a complimentary copy through Audra Jennings Book PR, which did not require a positive review. All opinions are my own.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Angela Ruth Strong sold her first Christian romance novel in 2009 then quit writing romance when her husband left her. Ten years later, God has shown her the true meaning of love, and there’s nothing else she’d rather write about.

She is the author of the Resort to Love series and the CafFUNated mysteries. Her books have since earned TOP PICK in Romantic Times, won the Cascade Award, and been Amazon best-sellers. Finding Love in Big Sky was recently filmed on location in Montana and will air soon. Her latest release is Husband Auditions.

Strong also writes non-fiction for SpiritLed Woman. To help aspiring authors, she started IDAhope Writers where she lives in Idaho and teaches as an expert online at Write That Book.

Learn more at www.angelaruthstrong.com, and follow her on Facebook (Angela Ruth Strong Fan Page)Twitter (@AngelaRStrong), and Instagram (@ang_strong)

GIVEAWAY

To enter a giveaway for a copy of this book visit Audra Jennings PR.

To enter a giveaway for a free flight on Alegiant Air by Angela Ruth Strong click HERE.

Book Review: Rose Among Thornes by Terrie Todd with Just Read Blog Tours

Welcome to the Blog Tour for Rose Among Thornes by Terrie Todd, hosted by JustRead Publicity Tours!

ABOUT THE BOOK

Title: Rose Among Thornes

Author: Terrie Todd

Publisher: Iron Stream Media (Heritage Beacon)

Release Date: August 31, 2021

Genre: Christian Historical Fiction

Forgiveness is the deadliest force on earth.

War might be raging overseas, but Rose Onishi is on track to fulfill her lifelong goal of becoming a concert pianist. When forced by her government to leave her beloved home in Vancouver and move to the Canadian prairie to work on the Thornes’ sugar beet farm, her dream fades to match the black dirt staining her callused hands. Though the Thorne family is kind, life is unbearably lonely. In hopes that it might win her the chance to play their piano, Rose agrees to write letters to their soldier son.

When Rusty Thorne joins the Canadian Army, he never imagines becoming a Japanese prisoner of war. Inside the camp, the faith his parents instilled is tested like never before. Though he begs God to help him not hate his brutal captors, Rusty can no longer even hear the Japanese language without revulsion. Only his rare letters from home sustain him—especially the brilliant notes from his mother’s charming helper, which the girl signs simply as “Rose.”

Will Rusty survive the war only to encounter the Japanese on his own doorstep? Can Rose overcome betrayal and open her heart? Or will the truth destroy the fragile bond their letters created?

PURCHASE LINKS*: Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | BookDepository | IndieBound | Christianbook | BookBub


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Terrie Todd

Terrie Todd is the award-winning author of The Silver Suitcase, Maggie’s War, Bleak Landing, and Out of My Mind: A Decade of Faith and Humor. Her next novel, Rose Among Thornes, releases in August 2021. The Last Piece releases in November 2021. Terrie is represented by Mary DeMuth of Books & Such Literary Agency. She lives with her husband, Jon, in Portage la Prairie, Manitoba, Canada where they raised their three children. They are grandparents to five boys. When she’s not writing, Terrie can usually be found reading, cleaning, cooking, painting, weeding, watering, or watching something. You can follow her at www.terrietodd.blogspot.com

CONNECT WITH TERRI: Website | Facebook | Instagram | Twitter

REVIEW

Rose Among Thornes offers a unique story that I don’t believe a lot of people are aware of, especially Americans.

As an American, I knew there were Japanese internment camps in the United States during World War II. I didn’t realize this happened in Canada as well. The story told in his book will open the eyes of many Canadians to their nation’s history, which, sadly, is as heartbreaking as my own nation’s past.

It’s hard to read Todd’s book without falling in love with the main characters, Rose and Rusty. Their story is what carries the reader on through the pages, hoping to find some happiness within the very difficult journey they both find themselves in the midst of.

Rusty’s story of being a prisoner of war and Rose’s of being forced into an internment camp are equally heartbreaking. This book isn’t only about heartbreak, though. It’s about forgiveness, about not judging an entire race or group of people based on what one person or small group has done, and it’s about hope rising out of what looks like hopeless situations.

Rating: 4 stars

I voluntarily reviewed a complimentary copy of this book which I received from the author and Just Read Blog Tours. All views expressed are my honest opinion.

TOUR GIVEAWAY

(1) winner will receive the winner’s choice of one print copy: The Silver Suitcase, Maggie’s War, or Bleak Landing!

Rose Among Thornes JustRead Giveaway

Full tour schedule linked below. Giveaway began at midnight August 30, 2021 and will last through 11:59 PM EST on September 6, 2021. Winner will be notified within 2 weeks of close of the giveaway and given 48 hours to respond or risk forfeiture of prize. US/CAN only. Void where prohibited by law or logistics.

Giveaway is subject to the policies found here.

ENTER GIVEAWAY HERE


Follow along at JustRead Tours for a full list of stops!

JustRead Publicity Tours

*NOTE: This post contains affiliate links.

Interview with the authors of Set in Stone, the fourth book in the Rembrandt Stone series, with Just Read Blog Tours (with giveaway)

Welcome to the Blog + Review Tour for Set in Stone by David James Warren, hosted by JustRead Publicity Tours!

ABOUT THE BOOK

The continuing adventures of Rembrandt Stone from the creative minds of James L. Rubart, Susan May Warren, and newcomer David Curtis Warren, writing collectively as David James Warren.

Title: Set in Stone

Series: The True Lies of Rembrandt Stone #4

Author: David James Warren

Publisher: TriStone Media

Release Date: August 10, 2021

Genre: Time Travel Detective Series

Rembrandt Stone is on the case of a serial killer. But when the killer finds him first, he puts the one person Rembrandt loves in his cross hairs. Now, Rembrandt must outwit time to save the people he loves.

PURCHASE LINKS*: Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | BookDepository | BookBub

BOOKS IN THIS SERIES

CONNECT WITH REMBRANDT STONE: Website | Instagram

INTERVIEW

I’m so excited to introduce my readers to the Rembrandt Stone series through an interview with the three authors who are writing it, Susan May Warren, James L. Rubart, and David Warren. Together, these three authors writer under the name David James Warren.

This series has kept me enthralled for the last two months as I breezed through the first three books so I could read book four for today’s blog tour. I read the books thinking I had signed up for a review. Instead. I had signed up for an author interview (yes, I do have memory issues. Why do you ask?) but was told I am welcome to offer a review as well, so at the end of this post you will find my review of book four. Spoiler alert, it will be a positive review.

Thank you to the authors for taking time to answer my questions.

What inspired you all to join forces for this series of books?

Early in their friendship, Susie and Jim discovered their mutual love of time travel stories. One day they were on an airplane together coming back from a writing conference and they started brainstorming a book. Nothing came of that story idea, but the desire to write a book together someday was cemented in both their minds. Then, in the summer of 2016 Susie called Jim and said, “I’ve got it! The story is a series about a time traveling detective named Rembrandt Stone who goes into the past in order to solve the cold cases that have haunted him for decades. What do you think?” It took Jim a milli-second to shout, “Yes!” So in February of 2017 Susie and Jim and Susie’s son David gathered at Jim’s home and brainstormed the entire series over a long weekend.

Did you find writing a book series together to be a rich or challenging experience for all of you? Or both?

All of the above. When you bring three creative minds together (with strong personalities as well) there are going to be different approaches and ideas on what the best outcome is going to be for a project. But thankfully we all have great respect and love for each other so it’s been an extremely rewarding experience.

Was there a particular literary character or person who inspired your main character Rembrandt Stone? Or maybe a combination of people?

I’m (Susie May) a rabid fan of Henry Cavill and he has a little known movie called Night Hunter. In this movie, Henry plays an on the edge police detective who is searching for a serial killer. Now—I watched this movie AFTER we conceived Rem and his plot, but as soon as I saw it I knew Henry, in this movie, was Rem. I saw him both as young Rem and old Rem, so it helped tremendously as I wrote his character.  Oh, and I also wrote the books for Jim to voice, so he was in my head, too. So, let’s say a morph of Henry Cavill and Jim, who are very much alike anyway. 😊

These books are being released close together in a type of serial style, which this reader, and many readers love. What was behind the decision to release these books this way?

So glad you like the way we’re releasing the books! From the start we saw the stories as if they were a TV series. Episodic. In other words, we knew each book would end on a cliff hanger which meant readers would want the next book FAST. (We’ve tried to let our potential readers know upfront, the Rembrandt Stone books are NOT stand alones.) With the above in mind made sure we were going to be able to release them every other month so the series would conclude quickly.

Now that you’ve combined forces with other authors, do you think you will do it again with other authors? 

I think each one of us is very open to the idea if the right project comes alone. The reality is getting input and ideas and perspective from others is always going to make a story stronger. When Susie and Jim write their stand-alone novels, they still get a tremendous amount of input from others, so getting to work directly together with other creatives is only going to enhance a project.

How important are books in our times when things in the world can feel chaotic and unsteady to many?

They’re critical. If only to pull people away from an increasingly divided nation and world. Good stories entertain, inform, heal, offer a chance to escape and show truth in ways non-fiction simply can’t. We hope readers will be taken on a thrill ride by The True Lies of Rembrandt Stone, but also come away with more hope and joy in their lives.

What future projects do each of you have coming up and where can readers learn more about those projects?

Susie -I’m currently writing the third book of an epic Alaska series due out next year with Revell. I’m very excited because I think readers will enjoy meeting the brothers of Sky King Ranch. Readers can always stop by www.SusanMayWarren.com for more updates on what’s going on!

Jim – At the moment I’m focused on narrating books five and six in the Rembrandt Stone series and I’m giving serious consideration to writing a book for fathers on how to have a stellar relationship with their sons. Readers can connect with me and sign up for my newsletter at: https://jameslrubart.com/

David – The True Lies of Rembrandt Stone is very much a first foray into writing for me. It’s been a heck of a ride trying to make these books the best they can be. I’m buckling down for Rembrandt Stone’s finale, and then I’ll see where the wind takes me.

My Thoughts on Set in Stone

In her book The Story Equation, Susan May Warren talks about how in a well-written book the main character must have a dark moment.

Well, Rembrandt Stone has dark moment after dark moment in David James Warren’s time travel series about him and it’s enough to make a grown woman cry. Each of the books provides a heart-pounding, never-ending emotional roller coaster ride for readers, and the latest installment, the fourth book, Set in Stone, is no exception.

Just when the reader thinks Rembrandt is going to get back to where he should be, after fixing some mistakes he’s made in past timelines, the authors send you skittering down the emotional slope again where you sit and wonder if you — er I mean — Rembrandt will ever see the light of a hopeful day again.

I have truly enjoyed these novels so far (there are two more set to be released) and I’m going to be brutally honest, I wasn’t sure if I would or not. When I started these books and signed up for this tour, I simply wanted to try something different by two authors I enjoy and one guy I hadn’t heard of yet. I’m not usually a reader of time traveler stories, despite being a fan of Doctor Who, but this one held my attention through all four books. The novels held my attention so well that I am literally vibrating with anticipation at reading the final two books in the series set for release in the fall and winter.

Thankfully, these books are being released in three-month (or so) increments so book five will come out Oct. 5 and book six a little earlier on November 23 (which also happens to be my husband’s birthday and my brother and his wife’s 25th anniversary).

I don’t know how this series will end, and I don’t want to spoil anything for those who haven’t read it yet, but I want the authors to know that things better work out for my favorite characters or I am going to need a box of chocolates and box of tissues mailed to me personally by each one of them. It will be the only way I will make it through my grief.

It helps to know when you start the series that there are more books to come and there is still a chance it will all work out okay.

What is fun about a time travel series, especially when the book is about a character traveling back and forth in their own timeline, is that there are a plethora of twists the plot can take and paths the character can walk. This series reminds me a lot of those “choose your own ending” books, but instead of the reader being able to choose the endings we want, we are at the mercy of two men and one woman to bring us the ending we so desire.

However, we the readers have to remember that the authors have their own endings in mind, and we, or at least I, trust them to write the ending that is best for Rembrandt, Eve, Burke, Booker, and everyone else we’ve come to love.

I voluntarily reviewed a complimentary copy of this book which I received from the author. All views expressed are only my honest opinion.

The bottom line: 5 stars out of 5


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

James L. Rubart, Susan May Warren, David Curtis Warren

James L. Rubart is 28 years old, but lives trapped inside an older man’s body. He’s the best-selling, Christy Hall of Fame author of ten novels and loves to send readers on mind-bending journeys they’ll remember months after they finish one of his stories. He’s dad to the two most outstanding sons on the planet and lives with his amazing wife on a small lake in eastern Washington. More at http://jameslrubart.com/

CONNECT WITH JAMES: Website | Facebook | Instagram | Twitter

Susan May Warren is the USA Today bestselling, Christy and RITA award–winning author of more than eighty novels whose compelling plots and unforgettable characters have won acclaim with readers and reviewers alike. The mother of four grown children, and married to her real-life hero for over 30 years, she loves traveling and telling stories about life, adventure, and faith. For exciting updates on her new releases, previous books, and more, visit her website at www.susanmaywarren.com. CONNECT WITH SUSAN: Website | Facebook | Instagram | Twitter David Curtis Warren is making his literary debut in these novels, and he’s never been more excited. He looks forward to creating more riveting stories with Susie and Jim, as well as on his own. He’s grateful for his co-writers, family, and faith, buoying him during the pandemic of 2020, and this writing and publishing process.
CONNECT WITH DAVID: Instagram

TOUR GIVEAWAY

(1) winner will receive a print copy of Set in Stone and a $15 Amazon gift card!

Set in Stone JustRead Blog Giveaway

Full tour schedule linked below. Giveaway began at midnight August 10, 2021 and will last through 11:59 PM EST on August 17, 2021. Winner will be notified within 2 weeks of close of the giveaway and given 48 hours to respond or risk forfeiture of prize. US only. Void where prohibited by law or logistics.

Giveaway is subject to the policies found here.

ENTER GIVEAWAY HERE https://widget-prime.rafflecopter.com/launch.js


Follow along at JustRead Tours for a full list of stops!

JustRead Publicity Tours

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Book Review: Journey to ChiYah by Kimberly Russell. A deeply allegorical journey of our walk with Christ.

Book Title: Journey to ChiYah

Author: Kimberly Russell

Genre: Christian fiction/Christian fantasy

Goodreads Description: JADE PEPPERDINE HAS A PROBLEM

Her life is crumbling beneath the weight of the past, events of the present, and fears for her future. Things need to change, but she doesn’t know where to start.Answers come in the form of an unexpected opportunity when Jade finds herself stuck in a mythical land. She meets Mayor Dudley, who insinuates she is emotionally broken and in need of repair … a fact she’d just as soon ignore. He offers to help her get home if she is willing to face her issues through a process of restoration. Frightened and skeptical yet out of options, Jade grudgingly agrees. And soon figures out that change is a journey, not a destination.Come along on the adventure of a lifetime, and maybe you’ll find someone you never knew you lost: Yourself. 

Excerpt from the author (Thank you, Kim!):

Abaddon’s eyes darkened black like coal. “My idea is simple. You’ve got a gal coming in soon that I think will be perfect for this experiment.” He clucked his tongue. “Thirtyish, a bit, chubby, works in a library. Same tired scenario as the others. Past issues affecting her present. Fear and insecurities. Blah, blah, blah.”

Watch it. She’s one of mine.”

Abaddon’s mouth tightened. “Aren’t they all? Just send her off to gather her journey relics like always, but if I can get them away from her, she stays with me, and I get the Avnet, too.”

Mayor grunted in distaste. No wonder his nemesis’ name meant destruction in Hebrew. He opened his mouth to put the rogue in his place then hesitated. Maybe he could use Abaddon’s plan against him and teach him a lesson he wouldn’t soon forget. A deterrent against future complications.

But at what price? Did he really want to potentially position one of his own in harm’s way? No, but assigning his top emissaries to the case would keep her safe. The unsuspecting woman would be fine, and Abaddon would get what he so richly deserved. And it wouldn’t be the Avnet.

Mayor pushed to his feet. “Fine. Do what you have to.” He whirled and threw a scowl over his shoulder, “But you cannot hurt her. I’m warning you.”

“Oh, I won’t.” Abaddon shot him an evil leer. “Not much, anyway.”

My Review: 5 starts out of 5



Some who read the title of the book will be perplexed and think, “I don’t think this is the book for me,” but they would be wrong. This is a book for everyone.

The book is “fantasy”, I suppose you might say, but it is also deeply allegorical to our journey through life and especially our journey with God and Christ.

This book will transport you to a world of restoration, healing, redemption, and personal revision. It will remind you that we do not merely war against flesh and blood, but “against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.”

The book takes the reader on a fantastical journey with Jade Pepperdine, a 30-something woman who has faced her fair share of heartache, rejection, and flattened self-worth.

Hook yourself in, readers. This is a work of fiction but for many it will be a hard dose of reality wrapped up in a gentle embrace.

After an accident tosses Jade, quite literally, upside down, she finds herself in a mystical land, which she at first believes is part of a dream. She soon learns that ChiYah is very real indeed. A group of five eccentric helpers come alongside her to help her battle her way through the various dangers of ChiYah to reach her personal healing.

But reaching restoration won’t come easy for Jade. She’s agreed to the quest Mayor Dudley has offered to her, albeit grudgingly, so she can go back to her reality in “the real world” working at a library and fending off her overly critical mother. Now she has to sidestep the traps along the way, including unassuming attacks from a mysterious stranger who hopes to cause her to stumble and come work for him instead.

Journey to ChiYah is a book that will have you looking inside yourself, maybe not liking what you see, and then considering taking your own quest to make peace with every part of you  — the happy parts, the grumpy parts, the sometimes unreasonable parts, the parts that have been hurt, the parts that have been rejected, the parts that still have hope left in them.

Russell is a talented writer who uses well-written, engaging fiction laced with humor, well thought out dialogue, and entertaining characters to drive her point home. She uses fiction and prose to touch on so many issues we frail humans deal with, including anxiety, anger, unforgiveness, self-deprecating behavior, distrust, insecurity, a critical spirit.

Most of all, though, she uses her talent to point us to the only one who can heal us of the issues that threaten our joy — a Heavenly Father who wants to take us on a journey that might seem difficult but in the end will lead us into a meadow of peace, even with the chaos of life swirls around us.

Book Review: Sarah’s Choice by Pegg Thomas

Book: Sarah’s Choice

Author: Peggy Thomas

Genre: Christian Historical Fiction

Release date: August 3, 2021 (preorder here).

Bottom line: Four stars out of five. Heart pounding read. Not for the faint of heart.

My review: If you are a lover of historical fiction in all it’s raw and gritty detail then Sarah’s Choice is a book you want to pick up.
It is well-written with vivid descriptions and heart pounding action.
The story is well-paced throughout but really picks up in Chapter 2 and goes full force from there.
I had a hard time putting it down, chewing my fingernails much of the book, even though I’m not normally a fingernail chewer.
Pegg Thomas is an award winning author and it looks like she has another winner on her hands with this one.

The characters are engaging and clutch at your heart, leaving an impression you’ll certainly feel for days, if not longer, after you finish the book.
I will, however, warn you that this isn’t a book where you will find a message of forgiveness, toward the natives who lived on the land before the settlers came. If you are looking for a well-rounded view of the early history of settlers, you’re not going to find it here. One reason you won’t find it here is because the author, by her own admission, is presenting one viewpoint. That isn’t a bad position, since it is the point of view of the characters, it’s just the full story, which again, Pegg reiterates on her Goodreads page:

Because I’d recently researched Pontiac’s Rebellion for a novella, it was fresh in my mind. It was a harsh, even brutal event in American history, and I knew it would provide the backdrop that Sarah’s story needed. Sarah’s Choice does not present all sides of the conflict, instead, it is seen only through the eyes of Sarah and Cully.

I hope to give the reader a glimpse of what happened in a time and place that was incredibly volatile from the perspective of the people caught up it in unawares. It was not my intent to interject 21st-century norms or ideals into the 18th century. It does no good to look at history through the modern lens. What happened, happened. It’s history to be learned from, warts and all.

There is only one opinion of Native Americans held in the mind of the main character throughout the book, right up until the end. Her feelings were valid considering all she had been through, however, which is what makes the book very authentic (uncomfortably so).

Book Review: Amanda by Sarah Monzon. Eye-opening, humorous, and touching all rolled into one.

Genre: Christian romantic comedy

Amazon Description:

“The devil made me do it” is a phrase that will never pass my lips. Why would it when I have Delores, my undiagnosed autoimmune disorder, to make all my decisions for me? (Yes, I named her myself since the doctors couldn’t do it for me.) A get together with friends? Delores says no. I’ll have my prescheduled daily afternoon fever and fatigue at that time.

My two biggest regrets with having Delores direct my fate? One, my family thinks my illness is all in my head. And two, I set the love of my life, Peter Reynolds, free from my anchoring tether so he could fly. I never thought I’d see him again, but five years later he’s soaring in the limelight as one of the most talked-about defensive players in professional football. Oh, and did I mention he also happens to play for the team my boss just assigned me to as a social media manager?

Meanwhile, nothing much has changed for me. Delores still bosses me around, and I’m still hopelessly in love with Peter. What’s a girl to do?

My Review:

Amanda by Sarah Monzon was a spur-of-the-moment read for me after I read about her in an online forum for Christian Fiction readers. The covers of her recent series caught my eye, of course, but the obvious talent for writing an engaging story was apparent in the first few paragraphs and caught my attention even more. 

Amanda Murphy has spent a good deal of her adult life dealing with an invisible enemy — an undiagnosed autoimmune disease she has nicknamed Dolores. Because Dolores rears her ugly head at the most inopportune times, Amanda has learned to push people away, to keep them from having to deal with Dolores the way she does.

One of the people she’s pushed away is the hunky, now NFL star Peter Reynolds. Of course, Peter wasn’t an NFL star when they first met, but now he is one of the hottest and most popular professional athletes in the country, and Amanda’s boss wants her to work with him to create a social media presence.

The only problem? Amanda hasn’t spoken to Peter since she broke up with him five years ago; since she decided she didn’t want him to have to deal with her health issues. Those issues would have held him back and he probably wouldn’t be the star he is today if he’d stayed with her. That’s her rationale at least and for someone who doesn’t deal with chronic health issues, it may seem silly and like an unrealistic plot point.

Take it from someone who deals with chronic health issues first-hand, both in my life and family members’ lives — it is not an unrealistic plot point.

Maybe one reason I was drawn to this story is that I also deal with an undiagnosed condition, which may or may not be autoimmune. I just haven’t come up with a cute name for it like Amanda has. I’d probably nickname mine Hildegard the Destroyer.

 I actually didn’t read the description of this book until I downloaded it to my Kindle, which makes the fact I chose this book in the series that much more interesting.

Like Amanda I can function in life despite the aches, weakness, brain fog, tingling in the extremities, and fatigue. Like Amanda, I have learned not to talk about a condition many doctors can’t diagnose and many in my past have suggested is “in my head.” Like Amanda, I have had friends and family walk away because they simply can’t deal with my “drama” or my “obvious cry for attention” even though I now rarely talk about the condition that knocks me down with its ever-changing symptoms from day to day. I rarely talk about it except for this review, of course. *wink*

 I could relate to Amanda not wanting her new friends to know about her condition. If they did there were a number of scenarios that could unfold. Her friends could grow weary of her using Delores as an excuse not to attend events or accomplish tasks the rest of them could. Her friends might also try to push their suggestions on her and when she didn’t accept them, simply walking about because Amanda “obviously doesn’t want to get better.” Been there, done that.

Honestly, it is hard to be friends with a person with a chronic illness. I do understand that. After the friend has made so many excuses for why they can’t go here or there or do this or that, you do feel like no longer asking them, and eventually, you not only stop asking them but also stop talking to them. Who wants to keep talking to someone who can only talk about what natural remedy they’ve tried this time to help their symptoms? The struggle is real.

A reviewer who shared her impression of this book told me she hoped that when I read it I would feel seen. I guess I could say that, yes, I did feel seen after reading this book. I could relate to a lot of it (sans the hot NFL star chasing after me) so I did feel seen but I have some family who does support me, does see me, and does support me. The people who need to read this book are the people who don’t have that support, who feel alone, lost, and are basing their worth on how bad their symptoms have flared that day and what activity it has kept them from participating in.

My grandmother was dismissed for years. She suffered in silence, crying out in agony late into the night. Doctors ignored her or gave her medicine or surgeries instead of really trying to find out what was wrong. She was most likely mocked, abandoned, and told she didn’t pray enough, rebuke Satan enough, or didn’t have the faith necessary to be healed.

Amanda is a book for the people who have faced those uphill battles, who know that the book they are reading won’t perfectly tell their story (since each story is unique) but will remind them that the world is not as cruel as it seems sometimes. That there are people who understand what they are going through. There are people who “get it.” That there are people who will do their best to understand, even if not everyone in their lives does.

One of the people who gets it, whether from personal experience or simply doing research is Sarah Monzon. Maybe she hasn’t experienced what Amanda did personally. Maybe she doesn’t know anyone who has, but if she took the time to research the trials those with autoimmune diseases go through then she is one more person who understands, one more person who will view a person with an invisible disease with compassion and not scorn.

Even one person telling people with an autoimmune disease that they aren’t alone is worth as much or even more than an entire medical community finally admitting they have tossed people like my grandmother and mom to the side because they simply have no idea how to treat them.

This is a book that is fun to read even if you can’t relate to Amanda’s challenges. It isn’t a downer or a heavy read at all, even if some of the subject matter is a heavy topic for those who deal with it. The book has funny, raw, cute, authentic, and sweet romantic moments all rolled into one quick-readable package.

Book Review: Love Happens at Sweetheart Farm

Book: Love Happens At Sweetheart Farm: A Pacific Northwest Romance

Author: Dalyn Weller

Genre: Christian Fiction (Romance)

Goodreads Description:

What if your pursuit of happiness robs someone you love of theirs?

Ian MacTavish is a disillusioned wealth manager for his family’s firm in Seattle. He’s desperate for change but chasing happiness instead of wealth will cost him more than mere money. When he jilts the firm’s wealthiest client and hides out at Sweetheart Farm, his inheritance and the family’s legacy are at stake.

Lexi Taylor is the overworked owner of Sweetheart Farm B&B, a romantic getaway and wedding venue. Too bad she’s never had a sweetheart of her own. She’s convinced she’s better off without one. Love is only a recipe for more loss in her experience.

But then Ian MacTavish shows up looking for an escape and winds up helping her make the farm profitable again. Lexi never knew she was lonely until she met Ian.

As they work together, Lexi’s resolve melts and Ian’s bruised ego begins to mend. Life in the country is just what the city boy needed. Lexi and her Grandmother remind Ian what he’s been missing sitting behind a desk in the business district.

But Ian never imagined he’d have to chase pigs, fight bears, and mend fences to repair his bruised ego and find love. With one reckless act, he restores his confidence and wins the admiration of the women who come to matter most.

It seems so until Ian’s troubles follow him to the farm with Lexi’s riding shotgun.

My Review:

Love Happens At Sweetheart Farm: A Pacific Northwest Romance is a book of redemption, forgiveness, and embracing joy.

This book is what I would describe as a comfort read and that is a very good thing.

I fell madly in love with this book’s characters within only a couple of chapters. Grandma Isobel, Lexi, Grandpa Ewan, and of course, the dashing Ian McTavish are so well fleshed out, full-rounded characters, which is something you don’t always find in modern books. I even loved the non-human characters of Bijou, Brodie, and Wanda.

Ian McTavish.

Sigh. Just his name is dreamy.

Ian is the heartthrob hero who, by the middle of the book anyhow, puts the only Ian I ever knew in my life to shame. In fact, that Ian should read about this Ian, wherever he is, and take some notes.

Ian starts out a little less than dreamy and under a lot of stress, but give him a few weeks working with his hands on Sweetheart Farm and you’ve got a swoon-worthy main character on your hands who you won’t be able to wait to learn more about.

Lexi, sitting on her beautiful farm turned bed and breakfast with her grandmother, has put up walls around herself to protect her from sadness and loneliness left from childhood tragedies and her younger brother’s personal struggles. She helps to run a farm and a bed and breakfast catering to lovers but she is unwilling to open her own heart to love. Even when she starts to fall for the dashing Ian who visits the bed and breakfast to run away from his family’s multi-million dollar business.

Lexi frustrated me at times, but only because I saw so much of me in her. The stubbornness, the mood swings, the unwillingness to open herself up to chance for fear of being hurt again. Me. Me. And Me. And she didn’t frustrate me for long because soon I was in love with her as I was everyone in her world.

And just when you think this book couldn’t have any more loveable characters, in walks Ewan McTavish, Ian’s grandfather who plays his own integral role in Lexi and her Grandmother’s life later on.

I read this book mainly in the evenings, before bed, and now that I’ve finished, I feel a sense of sadness and will be looking for more books from this author to help fill that void.

I thought I’d share a few of my favorite quotes from the book:

“He had a job he didn’t want. He had an office he didn’t ask for. And now he had a fiancée he didn’t even like.”

“Grandmother went on, “Forgiving doesn’t mean you must pretend the wrong never happened, but that you  abandon the offense. Having boundaries would have saved me some grief, that’s true, but unforgiveness would  cost me more than my life savings.”

 He opened them again and pushed out his breath until there was  nothing left in his lungs, nothing left in his heart, and nothing left in his soul. Where was God when he needed  him?

Grandmother took a step back. “You can’t live with what-ifs. The Bible says, taste and see that the Lord is good!  You must overcome your distrust and fear, or you will never experience all that God has for you, chéri.”

“The thought of letting my heart go wild is kind of like jumping out of a plane and hoping the parachute opens.  Scary.” “Thrilling.” The look in Grandmother’s eyes was a challenge.

You can pick up a copy of the book where books are sold.