Wednesday, December 31, 2014

My Top Book Picks for 2014

January first, I set a Goodreads goal of reading 30 books in 2014. I surpassed my goal by 235% by reading 73 books. (If you're wondering how I did this, I don't really watch TV. I'm able to block out surrounding noises, which enables me to read in the evenings in the same room with my family while they're watching TV.) So, without further ado, here are my top book pics for 2014.

These ten romances received 5 stars from me because once I started I couldn't put them down, the swoon factor was astronomical, and the story stuck with me for days afterward. 

                  Once Upon a Prince by Rachel Hauck                  


Walker's Wedding by Lori Copeland

                                         Meant to Be Mine by Becky Wade                                     

Love In the Balance by Regina Jennings

                                                Dancing With Fireflies by Denise Hunter                                                 

 Fair Play by Deeanne Gist

The Wedding Game by Amy Matayo

A Match of Wits by Jen Turano

Five Days in Skye by Carla Laureano

A Most Inconvenient Marriage by Regina Jennings

These romance series are my top pics because once I read the first book, I devoured them all. Each individual book received 5 stars from me. 

*The Witness Protection Program Series is not deemed Christian Fiction. However, these romance stories are clean, though the characters' actions and choices are riskier than Christian Fiction. 

*This series absolutely blew me away. I read all three books in a week. Deep emotional, soul-stirring content. Pair with a box of tissues. 

These romance novellas were short yet satisfying. All received 5 stars from me. 

Waiting for Lily Bloom by Jericha Kingston

Appalachian Serenade by Sarah Loudin Thomas

These books challenged me with the Word of God and deepened my knowledge of the scriptures. 

Jesus, the One and Only by Beth Moore

To Live is Christ by Beth Moore
*A study of the apostle Paul

These books both taught and challenged me.

Here is Where by Andrew Carroll
*Discovering America's forgotten history

Romance-ology 101 by Julie Lessman
*How to write captivating romance scenes

That's my list! What were your favorite books of 2014?

Monday, December 15, 2014

Christmas Eva by Clare Revell

A voice in the light woke her from a coma. 
But can the man pull her from the darkness of her life?

Eva Anderson is trying to rebuild her life after a devastating accident. The first voice she hears when she awakes is actor Harry “Matthew” Lyell—A man she could love. But left in a wheelchair, she’s withdrawn into herself.

Harry Lyell often wonders about the woman he met at the theatre door and then again, when she woke from a coma. Trusting in his faith in God, he knows there must be something special in Eva. 

As Christmas approaches, Eva and Harry's lives are drawn together in a way neither imagines. Can Harry help Eva find the Christmas miracle she needs or will a simple article destroy any future they might have?

Author: Clare Revell

Publisher: White Rose as part of Pelican Book Group’s 2014 Christmas Extravaganza

Cover design by Nicola Martinez

My Review
What a delightful book just in time for Christmas. Eva Anderson, pronounced Ava, attends a stage play with her best friend one very rainy night in hopes of getting her favorite actor’s autograph after the show by waiting at the back door. Her dream comes true, and Matthew Lyell even calls her beautiful. The night couldn’t get any better. But it could get worse… While crossing the street in the pouring rain to make their way home, Eva and her friend are struck by car. With her best friend dead and Eva’s legs no longer mobile, Eva wants nothing more than for her family to let her wallow in her depression. But when her path once again crosses with Matthew's, perhaps God has a bigger plan.

I really enjoyed this book. I loved the setting, the British phrases, and the humor. This is the first book I've read of Clare Revell’s, and it certainly won’t be the last. I give this book 4.5 stars!

Friday, December 12, 2014

A Most Inconvenient Marriage by Regina Jennings

Abigail Stuart thought she was Jeremiah Calhoun’s widow. 
But Jeremiah Calhoun is very handsome, very alive, and very perplexed. 
Most inconvenient indeed.

With few options of her own, nurse Abigail Stuart agrees to marry her patient, a gravely wounded soldier calling himself Jeremiah Calhoun. They arrange a quick ceremony before he dies, giving Abigail the rights to his Ozark farm and giving Jeremiah the peace of knowing someone will care for his ailing sister after he’s gone—a practical solution for both of them.

After the war, Abigail fulfills her side of the bargain—until the real Jeremiah Calhoun shows up, injured but definitely alive, and wastes no time in challenging Abigail’s story. Abigail is flummoxed. After months of claiming to be his widow, how can she explain that she’s never seen this Jeremiah Calhoun before? How can she convince him that she isn’t trying to steal his farm? And will she find a way to stay, even though this practical arrangement has turned into a most inconvenient marriage?

Author: Regina Jennings

Publisher: Bethany House, 2014

Cover by John Hamilton Design

My Review
I’m a sucker for marriage of convenience stories—or inconvenience in this case. I love how this author put a fresh spin on an old concept. As with all of Regina’s stories, I was hooked from the first page. “First, you’re going to write a good-bye letter to my sweetheart, and then you’re going to marry me.” 

Abigail thought she was marrying Jeremiah Calhoun, until months later, after moving in with his ma and sister and claiming her land, the real Jeremiah shows up, exhausted from fighting a war, weakened from an injury that didn't heal properly, and determined to marry Laurel, his only love, and the woman whose memory coaxed him to survive. But returning to home to find himself already married ruins Jeremiah’s plans, and the fact that he’s not dead ruins all of Abigail’s. An inconvenience on both sides.

This story is well-paced, full of emotion and humor, and a swoon-worthy romance. Regina has easily made her way to my list of favorite historical romance authors. I give this books 5 stars!

*A free copy of this book was given to me in exchange for my honest review. 


Regina Jennings is a graduate of Oklahoma Baptist University with a degree in English. She is the author of Sixty Acres and a Bride, Love in the Balance, Caught in the Middle, and she contributed a novella to A Match Made in Texas. She and her family make their home in Oklahoma City. Regina can be found online at

Monday, December 1, 2014

Silver White Winters Giveaway!

Today's the official release date for Silver White Winters! To celebrate, I'm hosting a giveaway. Lots of great prizes. See picture and restrictions below. Ends 12/20/14.
**After following the directions to place an entry, you MUST click the blue button in the bottom right hand corner to complete your entry. Otherwise, it will not be counted.

A winner will be announced on this blog and my Facebook page. Share with your friends!

Click here to enter!

*Yankee Candle, Bath & Body Works, Google, and Facebook are not affiliated with this giveaway.

Silver White Winters is available for download at AmazonBarnes & NoblePelican Book Group, and

Monday, November 24, 2014

Silver White Winters--Early Release!

Silver White Winters released on Amazon today! I'm so excited to share this story with you. Stay tuned...I've got some great giveaways planned!

Raelynn Rivers dreams of reviving her floundering career. The “Country Music Queen” hasn’t had a number one hit in six years, and her song-writing ability has vanished. But Raelynn’s hopes are derailed when tragedy strikes. Returning to her home town forces her to confront her past—Lane Ryan, the childhood best friend and former fiancĂ© she abandoned in order to pursue her music career. 

In the snow-covered mountains of Appalachia, Raelynn reconnects with family and rediscovers her musical abilities—and her faith. And no one inspires her more than Lane. She’s finally ready for a relationship, but the secret Lane carries is as big as Coal Mountain and threatens any future they may have together. 

Second chances don't come around every day. Will Raelynn sacrifice her career this time or say goodbye to Lane forever?

*Silver White Winters is available now on Amazon!

*Pre-order Silver White Winters at Pelican Book Group and (Barnes & Noble coming soon)

Friday, November 21, 2014

The Christmas Cat by Melody Carlson

He felt his face flushing as Cara opened the door. Wearing a garnet-colored knit dress and with her dark hair pinned up, she looked even prettier than he remembered. Suddenly he wished he'd thought to bring a hostess gift. Like a cat. 

After years abroad, Garrison Brown returns home to Vancouver to build a new life. When his beloved grandmother passes away a few weeks before Christmas, Garrison goes to her house to sort out her belongings, including six cats who need new homes. While Garrison hopes to dispense with the task quickly, his grandmother's instructions don't allow for speed. She has left Garrison with some challenging requirements for the future homes of her furry friends--plus a sizeable monetary gift for the new owners. Garrison's job is to match the cats with the right owners without disclosing the surprise gift. Along the way, he may just meet someone who can make him stay. 

Author: Melody Carlson
Publisher: Revell, 2014
Cover Jacket Design: Smartt Guys Design

My Review
As a cat lover, the cover art and title immediately caught my attention. The story begins with Garrison Brown receiving tragic news about his grandmother's death, followed by a strange request--to find homes for all six of her cats per a list of requirements she left behind. Garrison, despite his feline allergies and phobia, is determined to carry out his grandmother's last wishes and sets out to find her furry children the perfect families.

I enjoyed Garrison's adventure and how each cat had its own distinct personality. I recommend this book to anyone who's looking for a clean, light-hearted Christmas story and, of course, to cat lovers everywhere! I give this book 3.5 stars!

Melody Carlson is the award-winning author of over two hundred books, including Christmas at
Harrington's, The Christmas Pony, and A Simple Christmas Wish. Melody recently received a Romantic Times Career Achievement Award in the inspirational market for her books. She and her husband live in central Oregon. For more information about Melody, visit her website at

Monday, November 17, 2014

Finding Mr. Write--An Interview with Author Carol Moncado

Today, I’d like to introduce you to author Carol Moncado and her debut novel Finding Mr. Write.

Jeremiah Jacobs moved to the Ozarks for a fresh start. He knows no one and has no plans to get romantically involved with anyone. Ever. He’s already had his heart ripped out once and once is enough. Besides he has contractual obligations that prevent him from talking about work - and what woman would want to be involved with a man who has to keep his job a secret? When he attends his first local writers’ group meeting, he finds the leader so intriguing, his instant attraction to her threatens to complicate his currently uncomplicated life.

Dorrie Miller has never been good enough. Not for her father or any of the guys she’s dated in the past. She’s pushed beyond her father’s disapproval to have a good career while pursuing her dream of becoming a published novelist. The Christian Authors Network – Dedicated to Inspirational Distinction, or CANDID, is hosting their annual conference in Indianapolis and who’s rumored to be in attendance? The super reclusive, super-star author, Mya Elizabeth Linscott.

The hunky new member of her local CANDID group, Jeremiah, wants to carpool to Indy. Dorrie can handle not making a fool of herself for eight hours each way. Right? But she never imagined doing a favor for someone during the conference would leave her accidentally married to the gorgeous guy she barely knows. How will she get out of this mess, married to a near stranger? Does she want to? Will her insecurities and Jeremiah’s secrets tear them apart? Or can she trust that, all along, God’s been helping her with Finding Mr. Write?

Thanks for joining me today, Carol. I’ve heard the characters in Finding Mr. Write are based on fellow authors. What fun, real-life, stories about writers ended up in Finding Mr. Write?

CM- When Jeremiah talks about worshiping in a room with several hundred other people who “get it,” that’s very much a real experience for me and many others. I cry during the first worship session at the ACFW (American Christian Fiction Writers) Conference—Every. Year.

But my favorite story is about Dorrie and the writer she was talking to in the elevator. At ACFW 2012 in Dallas, a woman walked into the elevator. We greeted each other like long lost friends. About halfway through the elevator ride, we realized we didn’t know each other, but neither of us wanted to admit it. To this day, I can’t tell you who I thought she was. And vice-versa. We ran into each other constantly that year. In Indianapolis in 2013, we hung out a lot on purpose and she joined my critique group [though she fails to see the wisdom in adding dinosaurs to a WWII epic - sigh]. This year, in St. Louis, we were roommates with plans for Dallas again next year. I thank God for the best “oops you’re not who I thought you were” ever! Jen Cvelbar is a true blessing!

Your book is loosely based on the ACFW Conference? How fun! I attended the conference in Indianapolis last year where we met in orientation. I love how you’ve incorporated that conference into this story. Tell us, how do ACFW and CANDID compare?
CM- The ACFW conferences are only 3.5 days long, though many of us wish they could last all month! You never get to see all of the people you’d hoped to, much less actually spend time with them! There’s lots of other differences between CANDID and ACFW, but some are the same. The appointments, for instance. The coordinators really do pray over every appointment as they make them and others spend those appointment times walking up and down the halls praying over them.

What are you working on next?
CM- This is the beginning of my “grand opening” as an author! Six books are releasing this year and I’m working to finish them up right now.
* Finally Mr. Write: CANDID Romance book 2; November 24, 2014
* Falling for Mr. Write: CANDID Romance book 3; December 2014
*Good Enough for a Princess: The Montevaro Monarchy book 1; November 17, 2014
*Along Came a Prince: The Montevaro Monarchy book 2; December 2014
*More Than a Princess: The Montevaro Monarchy book 3; December 2014

Spring 2014 will see the release of the next series - The Brides of Bellas Montagnes. When I have the time, I’m working on book 3 in that series, Prince from her Past. The first two are mostly done - Hand-me-down Princess and Queen of His Heart [working title].

Wow! You’ve been busy. So, why indie publishing? Why now?
CM- I’ve been doing this for a long time and most of my books are just a bit too outside “the box” for traditional publishers to take a chance on. I completely get that. Plus the number of fiction slots available each year with a traditional publisher has shrunk several times through the closure of fiction lines in the last couple of years.

Why now? I have 13 manuscripts under my belt, many of which were a polish or two away from being ready. Plus, I really, truly, believed God gave me the go-ahead when I prayed about it.

Congratulations on Finding Mr. Write. It’s getting great reviews. Thanks for joining me today. I look forward to reading your book!
CM- Thanks for having me!

When she's not writing about her imaginary friends, Carol Moncado is hanging out with her
husband, four kids, and a dog who weighs less than most hard cover books. She prefers watching NCIS to just about anything, except maybe watching Castle. She believes peanut butter M&Ms are the perfect food and Dr. Pepper should come in an IV. When not watching her kids - and the dog - race around her big backyard in Southwest Missouri, she's teaching American Government at a local community college. She's a founding member and President of MozArks ACFW, category coordinator for First Impressions, blogger at InspyRomance, and represented by Tamela Hancock Murray of The Steve Laube Agency.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Surprised by Love by Julie Lessman

She can turn the head of the man who spurned her—
but can she turn his heart?

When Megan McClare left San Francisco to study in Paris, no one would accuse her of being poised and pretty. But on the other side of the Atlantic, this wallflower blossomed into a beauty with big dreams. When she returns to California and accepts an internship at the district attorney’s office, she’s thrilled that her life is taking shape. But the exciting opportunity quickly loses its glow when she discovers she’ll be working alongside Devin Caldwell, who mercilessly mocked her at school—and with whom she was hopelessly enamored.
Bram Hughes is the best friend to whom Megan has always turned for support and advice. But when she seeks his counsel about working with Devin Caldwell, Bram’s vision is clouded by his sudden unwelcome attraction to a girl he had always thought of as a little sister. He advises forgiveness, but can he forgive himself for pushing the woman he loves into the arms of another man?

Author: Julie Lessman

Publisher: Revell, 2014
Cover Photography and Design: Brandon Hill

My Review
Surprised by Love is the third novel in Lessman’s “The Heart of San Francisco” series. This story was sweet, torture. I was on the edge of my seat the entire time two love triangles battled for the best man to win. Lessman had a magnificent way of making me root for all the men, until their secrets are revealed. And there were a lot of dirty secrets. Then I was nail-biting to see if the wreckage could be salvaged. Another strong and lovely romance from Lessman with a goose bump-worthy moral. I’m definitely putting the rest of this series on my “to read” list. I give this book 4.5 stars!
Award-winning author of The Daughters of Boston and Winds of Change series, Julie Lessman was
American Christian Fictions Writers 2009 Debut Author of the Year and voted #1 Romance Author of the year in Family Fiction magazine’s 2012 and 2011 Reader’s Choice Awards. She has also garnered seventeen RWA and other awards and made Booklist’s 2010 Top 10 Inspirational Fiction. Her book A Light in the Window is an International Digital Awards winner, a 2013 Reader’s Crown Award winner, and a 2013 Book Buyers Best Award winner. You can contact Julie and read excerpts from her books at

Thursday, November 6, 2014

At Bluebonnet Lake by Amanda Cabot

Her life is set to warp speed. His is slowing to a crawl.
But love has its own timing.

Marketing maven Kate Sherwood's world is fast-paced, challenging, and always changing. The last thing she wants to do is slow down to a crawl at Rainbow's End, a dilapidated resort in the Texas Hill Country. But she cannot deny her ailing grandmother's request to visit the place where she and her deceased husband spent one glorious week (albeit fifty years ago). There Kate meets Greg Vange, the resort's handyman. But there's more to Greg than meets the eye--billions more, in fact, as he recently sold his successful software company and is at the resort in search of what's next for his life.

Kate isn't looking for romance, but she can't deny the sparks of attraction that fly every time she and Greg are together. She even starts to see potential in the rundown resort. Could there be a future there? Or will Kate's long-sought promotion take her back to the big city?

Amanda Cabot invites readers to step away from the pressures of the daily grind. They might be surprised by what they find at Rainbow's End.

Author: Amanda Cabot
Publisher: Revell, 2014
Cover Design: Peter Gloege, LOOK Design Studio
Cover Photo: Aimee Christenson

My Review
A cabin retreat away from the daily grind and demand of technology, a warm fireplace on a chilly evening--this was the scene as I read At Bluebonnet Lake on our fall break trip to Tennessee, the first book I've read by Amanda Cabot. So I was delighted to discover that getting away and rediscovering God and nature was exactly what this story was about. How fitting.

This book is the journey of two love stories from different generations, yet, despite the age gap, they all arrive at the same destination, in both life and love. Set in the Texas Hill Country, this slower pace of living will refresh and invigorate the reader while entertaining with satisfying romance. I gave this book 4 stars!

With both parents avid readers, it's no surprise that Amanda Cabot learned to read at an early age.
From there it was only a small step to deciding to become a writer. Of course, deciding and becoming are two different things, as she soon discovered. Fortunately for the world, her first attempts at fiction, which included a play for her fifth grade class entitled "All About Thermometers," were not published, but she did meet her goal of selling a novel by her thirtieth birthday. Since then she's sold more than thirty novels under a variety of pseudonyms. When she's not writing, Amanda enjoys sewing, cooking and - of course - reading.

Learn more at

Monday, October 20, 2014

Becoming Bea by Leslie Gould

Can Bea and Ben turn rivalry into romance?

Beatrice Zook knows God wants her to learn patience toward others. When assisting a family overwhelmed by triplets proves surprisingly successful, her confidence in dealing with others, both young and old, grows.

One person she'll never be able to find peace with though is Ben Rupp. They've known each other forever, and Ben understands precisely how to antagonize her. What neither she nor Ben will admit is that beneath all their bickering, attraction awaits. When friends decide to try and bring the couple together, will the pair be able to find true love? Or will they damage their relationship beyond repair?

Publisher: Bethany House, 2014
Cover Photography: Mike Habermann Photography, LLC
Cover Design: Jennifer Parker

My Review
In all honesty, I normally shy away from Amish fiction. The few Amish stories I have picked in the past left me less than satisfied, therefore I tend to gravitate toward other genres instead. However, I hadn't read anything by Leslie Gould yet and the cover was gorgeous, so I chose this book to review. The result? It definitely changed my mind toward Amish fiction. The main characters were spunky, as promised by the book's description, and the writing pulled me into the story immediately. The storyline was enjoyable and unique and it had a great cast of supporting characters.

I'd recommend this book to anyone who already enjoys Amish fiction, or anyone who'd like to give this genre a try. I gave this book 4 stars.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Stolen by Katariina Rosenblatt, PhD with Cecil Murphey

There is HOPE, even on the darkest of days…

A twelve year old girl—verbally, mentally, physically, and sexually abused—walks into a church in 1985, hears the word of God preached by Billy Graham, and gives her life to Christ during the invitation where Mr. Graham points his finger at her and says, “Remember this: God will never leave you or forsake you.” Little did this girl, or Billy Graham, know how special those words would become to her a year later when she was naively lured into sex trafficking.

Katariina Rosenblatt was a lonely and abused young girl, yearning to be loved, wanting attention. That made her the perfect target. On an ordinary day, she met a confident young woman—someone Kat wished she could be like—who pretended to be a friend while slowly luring her into a child trafficking ring. A cycle of false friendships, threats, drugs, and violence kept her trapped.

As Kat shares her harrowing experiences, her ultimate escape, and her passionate efforts to now free other victims, you’ll see that not only is sex trafficking happening frighteningly close to home—it’s also something that can be stopped. Stolen is a warning, a celebration of survival, and a beacon of hope that will inspire you.

Authors: Katariina Rosenblatt and Cecil Murphey
Publisher: Revell, 2014
Cover art: Design Source Creative Services

My Review
Tears fell from my eyes as I read Katariina’s story, both happy and sad. Joyous for her survival and amazement at how merciful God is. Grieved for everything she endured and how frighteningly real and more common sex trafficking is becoming. I rarely read anything that’s not fiction, and I write contemporary romance so why did I choose this book? I chose this book because I’m a Sunday school teacher to a group of pre-teen girls, many of whom live in abusive situations and ride the bus to church. I want to be aware of child predators so not only can I protect my own children, but so I can help protect other children as well. Human trafficking is on a steady rise and as much as I’d like to pretend it doesn’t happen, it does. Billy Graham had no way of knowing how his words to Katariina would pull her through the toughest times in her life. How his words would point her to Jesus, the Light in the darkness, the Hope in a hopeless situation. A situation most don’t survive. Our cause for Christ has a purpose.

I recommend this book to anyone with children, especially girls. I also recommend this book to anyone who works with children. Get to know the facts, know the signs. Are parts of this book difficult to read? Yes, but they’re vital to learning the truth. I appreciate Katariina for sharing her story with the world, which I’m sure wasn’t easy, and for her continuous effort in helping other victims.


Katariina Rosenblatt, LLM, PhD, is living proof of the promise she heard long ago at a Billy Graham crusade that God would never forsake her. Katariina has a PhD in conflict analysis and resolution and an LLM graduate law degree in intercultural human rights, and she works closely with law enforcement agencies such as the FBI and Homeland Security to eliminate human slavery. She also founded Stolen Ones—There Is H.O.P.E. For Me, Inc., a nonprofit organization dedicated to freeing other victims of human trafficking. For more information, visit She lives in Florida.

Cecil Murphey has written or coauthored more than 130 books, including the bestselling 90 Minutes in Heaven with Don Piper and the autobiography of Franklin Graham, Rebel with a Cause. He was a collaborator on the bestseller Gifted Hands with Dr. Ben Carson. Cecil resides in Georgia.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Pulling Weeds

Cute isn’t he? Our youngest is still at the age where he enjoys working—he says it’s fun—because it makes him feel grown up. Our oldest children, ages ten and twelve, found out a long time ago work is far from fun. But enjoyable or not, pulling weeds is vital to a successful vegetable or flower garden. The same goes for our lives. We must pull the weeds of negativity and hurt, even if it means refusing to let others take advantage of us. Except we’re Christians, so standing firm against others when we know we should is wrong if it will upset the other person, right? WRONG!

Jesus called people out when needed and spoke the truth bluntly. Just look at the account of the moneychangers in the temple, or the times the Pharisee’s attempted to trick Him into saying or doing something wrong. The key is Jesus did so in love. He stated the facts and those individuals could choose to listen and change or ignore Him, but either way He still loved them. Enough to die on the cross for them (us), in fact. So what does this have to do with weeds?
I’ve been reading a fantastic book by Paul Coughlin and Jennifer D. Degler, Ph.D. called No More Christian Nice Girl. The truths in this book are profound. You see, from the time we females are born we’re taught to be nice—never intentionally hurt anyone’s feelings, always do what we can to help others, be soft-spoken, never rude, and—if raised in a strict religious household—remain silent, keeping opinions and ideals to ourselves, especially in the presence of men. Problem is these characteristics can be poisonous if not used correctly. Over time we grow so accustom to these traits we let others trample upon us like a doormat. It’s time to take the Welcome sign off our foreheads and be, as the book states, the 360-degree human God created us to be. Yes, Jesus is love, but he’s more than just love. What’s killing a lot of churches today is that His gentle and kind side is the only side of Him being taught. Folks are putting God in a box and refusing to experience the rest of Him. How can we conform to His image if we only choose to study one aspect of His personality?
This book not only walks the reader through the 360-degree Jesus, giving many examples of this truth from scripture, but also provides a study of many women from the Bible who chose to be bold and were blessed for doing so. See, being silent isn’t always the best option. Even when in the presence of men.

          Topics covered in this book include:
*Social and Cultural Pressures
*Harmful Childhood Experiences
*Friendships and Family
"Nice girl” syndrome negatively affects every one of these areas. Yes, even sex. So if you want a beautiful, inviting, more productive life garden start pulling weeds!

To purchase your copy of No More Christian Nice Girl, click here! 

*Yes, there's also No More Christian Nice Guy! Click here!

Friday, October 3, 2014

Playing by Heart by Anne Mateer

Lula Bowman has finally achieved her dream: a teaching position and a scholarship to continue her college education in mathematics. But then a shocking phone call from her sister, Jewel, changes everything.

With a heavy heart, Lula returns to her Oklahoma hometown to do right by her sister, but the only teaching job available in Dunn is combination music instructor/basketball coach. Lula doesn't even consider those real subjects!

Determined to prove herself, Lula commits to covering the job for the rest of the school year. Reluctantly, she turns to the boys’ coach, Chet, to learn the newfangled game of basketball. Chet is handsome and single, but Lula has no plans to fall for a local boy. She’s returning to college and her scholarship as soon as she gets Jewel back on her feet.

However, the more time she spends around Jewel’s family, the girls’ basketball team, music classes, and Chet, the more Lula comes to realize what she’s given up in her single-minded pursuit of degree after degree. God is working on her heart, and her future is starting to look a lot different than she’d expected.

Publisher: Bethany House, 2014
Cover Design by Dan Thornberg, Design Source Creative Services

My Review
We all have dreams. Our parents have dreams for us. God has a plan for our lives. But what if all of these things don’t coincide? Do we choose to please others, please God, or please ourselves?

Lula Bowman’s mother wanted her to pursue music. But when her mother dies, Lula feels lost and chooses to please her father by achieving his dream of her becoming the first Oklahoma female to obtain a Ph.D. Not only is she a talented pianist, but Lula discovers she’s a brilliant mathematician as well. Determined to shed her former image of “Fruity Lu,” she throws herself into her studies, wins the Donally Mathematics Award to further her education, and works as a college professor while she finishes her schooling. A breath away from achieving her Ph.D., Lula’s sister, Jewel, calls to tell Lula she’s lost her husband to a freak accident and needs her to come back home. Being the only unmarried sibling without any “responsibilities,” Lula’s brothers and sisters decide Lula’s the only one capable of moving in with Jewel and her five children. As much as Lula wants to help her family, her education is at risk. Reluctantly, she leaves her college teaching position to accept the opening for a music teacher/girls’ basketball coach in Dunn. She’s determined to help Jewel get back on her feet so she can earn her degree. But when the handsome mathematics teacher and boys’ basketball coach, Chet Vaughn, makes Lula question the motive of her dreams, will she seek God's plan for her life and discover what she’s always wanted? Or will she continue to please others and follow the dreams of her dying father?

Playing by Heart is my favorite book by Anne Mateer. Written in first person, the character’s voices are strong and engaging. I love stories with tough, independent women and Lula hit the mark. Though I’m not normally a sports fan, this story had me wanting to attend a local basketball game. The plot was beautifully crafted and kept me turning the pages. A lovely story of self-discovery and learning to seek God’s plan for our lives versus following the plans others have for us. I gave this book 5 stars!

Anne Mateer has a passion for history and historical fiction, and her vacations often revolve around research trips in different parts of the country. She and her husband live near Dallas, Texas, and are the parents of three young adults. For more information about Anne and her books, please visit her website and blog at