Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Jessilyn Lassiter Series by Jennifer Erin Valent

As you know, I love to read books in a series. For me, the Jessilyn Lassiter series did it all--invoked every emotion from laughter to tears, took me back to thirteen and angst that came with it, made me reminisce over friendships, reminded me what a blessing my parents are, put me in Depression-era Virginia and made the tragic history of that time real for me, and contained a romance so beautiful, I sighed at the end.
Stick with me for just a few minutes as I introduce you to author Jennifer Erin Valent and the Jessilyn Lassiter series.


Jessilyn Lassiter never knew that hatred could lurk in the human heart until the summer of 1932 when she turned 13. When her best friend, Gemma, loses her parents in a tragic fire, Jessilyn's father vows to care for her as one of his own, despite the fact that Gemma is black and prejudice is prevalent in their southern Virginia town. Violence springs up as a ragtag band of Ku Klux Klan members unite and decide to take matters into their own hands. As tensions mount in their small community, loyalties are tested and Jessilyn is forced to say good-bye to the carefree days of her youth.

Publisher: Tyndale House
Awards: Fireflies in December won the 2010 Christy Award, is the 2007 winner of the Christian
              Writer's Guild First Novel contest, and won the Audie Award for Inspirational Fiction in

My Thoughts
I was immediately drawn into the story with the first sentence: "The summer I turned thirteen, I thought I'd killed a man." Jessilyn's spitfire character connected with me (and reminded me how glad I am that I'll never have to be thirteen again). Here, we're introduced to her older and loyal best friend, Gemma, Jessilyn's protective and loving parents, and the All-American guy, Luke Talley, her first crush who happens to be six years older than her. The Lassiter's accept Gemma and Luke as part of their family,while battling violent prejudice and losing innocence. I listened to Fireflies in December in audio-book format (Kate Forbes does an amazing job!) as I cooked and washed dishes in the evening. I found myself creating more work in the kitchen just so I could listen longer!


Jessilyn Lassiter and her best friend Gemma Teague have survived prejudice and heartache in their lifelong friendship, but the summer of 1936 threatens to tear them apart yet again. Gemma's job with the wealthy Hadley family leads to a crush on their youngest son. But Jessilyn's insistence that he's no good and that no rich white man would ever truly fall for a poor black girl like Gemma puts them at odds. Tragedy strikes when Jessilyn's cherished neighbor girl is hit by a car and killed. Things get worse when an elderly friend is falsely accused of the crime, and the only way to clear his name is to put her family's livelihood in jeopardy. For Jessilyn, this is a choice too hard to bear and she wonders where to turn for answers, especially when an angry mob threatens vigilante justice.

Publisher: Tyndale House

My Thoughts
Hatred consumes the town of Calloway again in Cottonwood Whispers. A friendship I thought could never be broken was. This book makes you feel the loss of a neighbor, the loss of a child. The characters were put into situations where decisions had to be made and no matter how they chose, tragedy would strike. It made me wonder what I would do in their shoes. As another of Jessilyn's summers crumbles around her, Luke Talley begins to see Jessilyn in a whole new way--as a woman. Cottonwood Whispers kicks everything up a notch, and I couldn't put it down!


Jessilyn Lassiter no longer has to convince people she's not a child. Having just turned 19 in the summer of 1938, her love for Luke Talley has never been more real. And Luke is finally beginning to care for her in the way she's always dreamed of. But their budding romance is interrupted when Tal Pritchett--a young, black doctor--comes to Calloway, stealing the heart of Jessilyn's best friend, Gemma, and stirring up the racial prejudice that's been simmering just beneath the town's surface. The tension starts to bubble over as Jessie's elderly neighbor Miss Cleta becomes the first towns person to accept Tal's treatment. And when a young black man is lynched, Calloway is brought to its knees once again as Jessilyn realizes that her anger can make her heart as full of hate as the klan members who have terrorized her town and her family.

Publisher: Tyndale House

My Thoughts
Just when I thought things in Calloway couldn't get worse, they do. Catching Moondrops took me inside the human heart and showed how bitterness and hatred poisons the soul. As Jessilyn battles her inner darkness and struggles to find the peace-filled faith in God her parents have, the romance between her and Luke blossoms into a love story I won't soon forget. (I won't say anymore, so I don't spoil how it all comes together.)

This series was so fantastic, I know I'll read it again. And from a writer's point of view, it encouraged me to dig deeper into my own plots and characters.

I gave all three books five out of five stars on Goodreads.

About the Author
Jennifer's sincerest hope is to glorify the Lord by writing quality Christian fiction that will inspire, encourage, and uplift readers of all ages. She began writing in her mid-twenties, which led to her acclaimed fourth novel Fireflies in December. She's also been a nanny for fifteen years. For more about Jennifer, her blog, and novels, visit

1 comment:

  1. This series sounds great! Thanks for introducing me to a new-to-me writer.