Friday, September 27, 2013

Love's Awakening

Love’s Awakening is the 2nd book in The Ballantyne Legacy by Laura Frantz.

I’ll admit it.
My expectations were high.

I had fallen completely and thoroughly into the world she created in the first book in the series, Love’s Reckoning, last September (you can read my review here) and have been eagerly waiting for more of the story to unfold.

Love’s Awakening did not disappoint.

In Love’s Awakening, we meet Ellie Ballantyne, the youngest daughter of Silas and Eden Ballantyne, as she’s returning home from finishing school. She’s young, beautiful, worth a fortune, and not interested in marrying the man everyone thinks she should.

I loved Ellie. Full of spunk and determination. Tired of being the baby. Ready to find her way in the world. Totally unprepared to fall in love with the one man her parents would never approve of.

Oh. Did I forget to mention him?

Jack Turlock is the son of a whiskey magnate with a reputation for being a scoundrel. But Jack’s growing up and becoming his own man. A man who doesn’t agree with his father’s treatment of slaves, or his business tactics. A man who doesn’t share his family’s hatred of the Ballantyne’s.

Especially not Ellie.

Love’s Awakening is set against the backdrop of Pittsburgh in the early 1800s. A time when slaves making their way to freedom in the North had to pass through Pennsylvania. A state that—laws on the books notwithstanding—still had slaveholders as late as the 1840s.

Laura Frantz doesn’t shy away from the grim realities of that era. The horrific treatment of slaves, the desperation for freedom, the dangers of every day life.

Of course, some truths transcend time and place. The high cost of doing what’s right. The way some families are a place of shelter and hope, while others are places of turmoil and destruction. The way love can and does transform hearts.

Love’s Awakening is the kind of book that transports you to a different world and when you come back to reality, you discover you are so much better off for having made the trip.

Love’s Awakening is available as of September 2013 at your favorite bookseller from Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group.

The super fine print: I received a free copy of Love’s Awakening in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are my own.

Monday, September 16, 2013

The First to Fall

I saw it yesterday morning, green morphing into yellow.
And then, today, I saw the first to fall.
One lonely leaf, landing at the base of the tree.

I felt sorry for him. 

Imagine it. Poor guy burst out of a blossom a few months ago. He’s hung on through day after day of rain (we’ve had a lot of rain here in South Carolina this summer). He’s held on through storms that removed entire limbs that grew nearby. He’s endured the baking heat that finally showed up at the end of August.

My guess is that he was ready to hang on all winter, but…things changed.

Circumstances beyond his control took hold. Chlorophyll production ended, no matter how hard he tried to keep it going. And now, here he is, laying at the bottom of the tree, while everyone else is still clinging to the branches above.

I wonder if he feels like a failure. Weak for dropping so soon.

I wonder if he’s shocked to find himself on an unexpected path. He never imagined he’d touch the ground, or be the playzone for squealing toddlers, or find himself living out his days tucked in the bumper of a minivan or trapped in a gutter.

Sometimes I feel like that leaf. My guess is that you do, too.

Maybe you feel like a failure because life has gone off on an unexpected path. Circumstances you never wanted or planned for took hold of you and now?

You never imagined the divorce, the unemployment, the silence of an empty womb. You didn’t expect to be living out your days in a shelter or buying your groceries with food stamps. 
You didn’t anticipate the aging parent who has forever altered your perception of the term “empty nest” or the diagnosis that messed with your definition of “healthy.”  
You knew your children would never flunk a class or have a DUI or father a child out of wedlock, and no way you’d ever struggle to get out of bed or fear the depths of the night.

You were ready to hang on to life and make it awesome, but here you are, wondering how on earth you could have fallen so far.

We think falling is bad. A mistake. A catastrophe. A sadness. At times it is. 

But what if, like our leaf, the fall was not a disaster, but was simply the next step in fulfilling your purpose here on earth for this season.

The promotion that didn’t happen puts you on a path that leads to a co-worker’s salvation.
The child who broke your heart puts you on your knees and you find that prayer is more powerful than any other weapon in your arsenal.
The marriage that disintegrated, the finances in disarray, the depression that nearly destroyed you puts you in a place to be used of God in a way no one could have anticipated. Especially not you when you were young, green, and flapping high in that tree.

You aren’t the first to fall and this fall probably won’t be your last.

As you watch the leaves floating on the breeze, settling in the grass, being blown into piles, or ground into mulch, know that while they may be surprised to find themselves no longer flying high in the sky, they aren’t sad.
They are fulfilling their purpose and they find rest in that.

Oh that we could do the same.

Psalm 138:8 ~ The LORD will fulfill his purpose for me; your steadfast love, O LORD, endures forever. Do not forsake the work of your hands. (ESV)

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Sunday, September 15, 2013

Friday, September 13, 2013

Let Down

Ever had someone let you down?

It happened to me recently.

At first, I was surprised. I have a fairly optimistic outlook and I tend to expect the best of people, so when they reveal a different side of themselves, it often catches me off guard.

The surprise was followed up with dismay and a lot of self-incrimination. “How could I be that gullible?” and “Am I really that naive?” and “I should have known…”

Now, I’m a “good Christian girl” or at least I try to be. So while I vented to my husband, there were several methods I did NOT take advantage of.

I did not compose a vague but needy Facebook post.

          I did not ....

If you want to read the rest of this post, you'll need to pop over to my dear friend Lori Roeleveld's fabulous site, Deeper with Jesus in Rhode Island. It is an indescribable honor for me to be guest posting there. 

Lori's blog is the first one I recommend whenever someone asks me which bloggers I follow. If you've never visited her site, do it today. And go ahead and sign up to have her posts sent to your email. You'll be amazed by the encouragement (and occasional kick in the rear!) you'll find there!

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Monday, September 9, 2013

The Alaskan Adventures Sweepstakes

A couple of weeks ago, I shared with you my review of Stranded by Dani Pettrey. 

You can click here to read it

In Stranded, Book 3 in author Dani Pettrey’s acclaimed Alaskan Courage series, reporter Darcy St. James knows something is wrong when her friend vanishes from her job on a cruise ship. Everyone else believes Abby simply left of her own accord, but something isn’t lining up, and Darcy knows the only way to find the truth is to put herself in Abby’s position.
Gage McKenna has taken a summer-long stint leading adventure excursions for the passengers of various cruise lines that dock in Alaska for a few days of sightseeing. He’s surprised to find Darcy onboard one of the ships, working undercover as a reporter.
Something sinister is going on, and the deeper they dig, the more they realize they’ve only discovered the tip of the iceberg.
To celebrate the story, author Dani Pettrey and Bethany House Publishers are pleased to present the ALASKAN ADVENTURES Sweepstakes, and your chance to win one of three fabulous prizes connected with the story!
Timeframe & Notifications:
This giveaway starts September 2, 2013 and ends September 19, 2013 @ 11:59 pm (PST). Winners will be selected Friday, September 20, 2013, and announced at
Alaskan Adventures Sweepstakes Grand PrizeGRAND PRIZE:
In Stranded, Darcy, Gage, and the McKenna family launch into all kinds of adventures: from high-octane ocean kayaking, to rugged island camping beneath the vast Alaskan skies.
Our grand prize winner will have the chance to build their own adventure, with a $300 adventure gear gift card of their choice from either Eddie Bauer or L.L. Bean.
And what would our hero and heroine do if they won the prize? Gage would use it towards one of L.L. Bean’s gorgeous ocean kayaks, while Darcy would go for “Glamping” gear:)
Alaskan Adventures Sweepstakes Grand PrizeSECOND PRIZE:
Everyone knows Gage McKenna’s campfire cooking is second to none. But in Stranded, Darcy discovers that before Gage was a search and rescue hero, he secretly dreamed of attending culinary school.
Our second prize winner will have the chance to fulfill Gage’s dream with a $200 value, 1-year membership to Top Chef University.
Membership includes over 200 video lessons taught by Top Chef contestants, covering everything from soups to desserts.
Alaskan Adventures Sweepstakes Third PrizeTHIRD PRIZE:
Darcy once gave her missing friend, Abby, a beautiful shell necklace, engraved with a special message that made it one-of-a-kind.
Our third prize winner will receive their very own, one-of-a-kind “Earth & Sea” necklace valued at $100.
Handmade of New Zealand Paua shells, hammered copper, and Tahitian pearls, this necklace is the perfect compliment for a soft sweater and jeans, or a unique finishing touch for a little black dress on a special date night.
How to Enter:
Go to and complete the entry box, anytime between September 2 and September 19
All you have to do to enter is include your name and email. You won't be spammed or stalked in any way, but she's going to need that email address to let you know if you've won! You'll be asked which prize you'd most like to win, and then you'll have an opportunity to earn additional entries by sharing about the contest on Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, etc. It's ridiculously easy to enter multiple times and each entry increases your odds of winning while helping spread the word about a great book!
I would LOVE IT if one of my Out of the Boat readers won one of these fabulous prizes. Please pop over to Dani's website and enter today, and if you're so inclined, leave us a comment telling us which package you would most enjoy and why.
I'll start...I love to cook, so I'd have to say the Top Chef University package would be my first choice. But I certainly wouldn't turn down that gorgeous necklace, and I'm sure I could find lots of fun stuff to buy at L.L. Bean!

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Friday, September 6, 2013

The Promise

Y’all know that I prefer to read any series of books in order, but I made an exception with The Promise because I was intrigued by the concept…a man has been lying to his wife for five months and he’s about to destroy his already fragile marriage because of his deception.

Jean Anderson has no idea that her husband, Tom, lost his job five months ago. All she knows is that something is terribly wrong. And her own secret is only going to complicate things further.

Dan Walsh’s storyline is sprinkled liberally with practical marriage advice from relationship expert Gary Smalley and while it may slow the narrative down in places, it didn’t detract from the powerful message that God can fix any mess.

Tom and Jean annoyed the snot out of me, but I think that’s because they were so frustrating realistic. While I read, I wanted someone to knock some sense into Tom and kept wishing Jean would grow a backbone. I wanted to sit them both down in a room and make them take a long hard look at the mess they’d made. And then I wanted to make them fix it. So, while I can’t say the characters were endearing, they certainly were memorable.

I appreciated that this book delved into issues both of them brought into their marriage from their childhoods and how Tom’s parents, who weathered their own marital crisis in Book 1, The Dance, played a role in helping Tom and Jean find hope and a way back.

In a world where so many marriages are facing seemingly insurmountable obstacles, stories like The Promise help remind us that no mess is too messy for God if we’ll humbly take it to Him and then follow His leading and direction.

The Promise is available as of August 2013 at your favorite local bookseller from Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group.

The super fine print: I received a free copy of this book in exchange from my honest review. All opinions are my own.

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Thursday, September 5, 2013

Write Every Day

So how much writing did you get done this summer?

Every time someone asks me this, I have to fight an intense desire to slink away in shame. Instead, I mumble something about being busy with the kids and vacation because I hate to tell them the truth.

How much did I write this summer? Not much.

Now I know some of you are going to try to tell me that it’s okay. I have young children. I’m not going to get much writing done during the summer. 

But the truth is, I wasn’t getting much writing done before summer started.

I’ve been stuck for a while.

So when a Writer’s Digest email popped up in my inbox with the words WRITE EVERY DAY How to write faster and more in the title, it took my fingers less than a minute (thanks to the wonders of one-click ordering) to download that title to my Kindle app.

At $2.99, I figured I didn’t have much to lose. Even if I got one decent tip, it would be worth it.

It was.

I'm guest blogging today over at The Write Conversation. Come on over to read the rest of my review.

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Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Dear Jesus...Amen

I love hearing my kids find their voice as they learn to talk to God.

Emma goes for loud and proud. “Dear Jesus,” she’ll begin, then we usually get a nice pause. This is followed by her thanking Him for something about her day, or the food, or something really random like swings or a television show.
I know God looks forward to her prayers. I believe they make Him smile.

Then there’s James. At four, his prayers are already starting to sound like the prayers he’s heard. He’s likely to ask God to help us “have a great day” or “keep us safe” and he’s been known to throw in a request for frozen yogurt or a trip to the park. He also is starting to question things. 

He recently wanted to know why we say “Amen” at the end of our prayer. I told him what I’ve always been told, that “amen” means “so be it." That went flying over his head, so I backed up and went with, “it’s a word we use to end our prayers.” He hasn’t started saying “goodbye” or “later” so I think he’s good with amen.

Of course, I imagine God cracking up as this little guy starts to have more of a conversation with Him. I think He loves the questions and looks forward to James coming to Him with more complex queries in the years ahead.

And then there’s Drew. At two, his prayers go like this…Dear Jesus…(long pause)…Amen.
It’s cute, right? Adorable really.
He’ll grow more verbose in the months ahead.

But I wonder if God kinda wishes he wouldn’t.

I wonder if He wishes more of us prayed the way Drew does.

Dear Jesus…(long pause…sitting quietly, waiting for Him) … so be it.

So often, I try to tell God everything I need, because I know what I need. I try to explain the mess, because I know all the ins and outs of the situation. I try to propose a solution, because I’ve been thinking about this for a while.

Wait…why am I praying again?

Maybe we could all take a lesson from Drew. Maybe we need to approach the throne, not with a laundry list of desires, but with one desire.

Dear Jesus…whatever You want…so be it.


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Tuesday, September 3, 2013


I read a lot.
I read a lot of romantic suspense.
I even try to write it.

This combination of reading and writing has given me a pretty good idea of the elements that need to be present in a romantic suspense novel to keep everybody happy. This is both good and bad because sometimes it can make a book rather predictable.

So I love it when I crack open a book and find all those elements, but find that each one comes at me in a fresh or unexpected way.

Irene Hannon’s second book in the Private Justice series, Trapped, did just that.

Trapped opens, not in the head of the hero, James “Dev” Devlin, former ATF agent turned private eye, or the heroine, librarian Laura Griffith, or the villain (no, I’ll not be giving you his name), but in the head of Darcy, the sixteen year old half-sister of the heroine. A young woman who is about to make a very poor choice that will send Laura and Dev on a race against time, the elements, and the twisted mind of a sociopath.

And speaking of sociopaths . . . This guy is C.R.E.E.P.Y.

I find the villain-next-door to be the scariest of all and this one, well, you’ll have to read it. We spend a disturbing amount of time in our villain’s head and Irene Hannon did a masterful job of presenting him, not as a caricature of evil, but as a deeply troubled soul.

Our hero, Dev, has his own troubled past that rears its ugly head when Laura, complete with her own trauma, walks in his door and asks for his help. As their search takes them to train stations, homeless shelters, and through late-night stakeouts, they will both have to find a way to leave their pasts, and their future, in God’s hands.

Doesn’t it sound great? Wouldn’t you like to have your very own copy?
Well, guess what? You can! 

I happen to have an extra copy, so I’m giving it away. I’ll put entries from Facebook, Twitter, and the comments on this post into a random number generator, and someone will win their very own copy of Trapped!

All you have to do is leave me a comment and let me know you want to be entered into the drawing!

So what are you waiting for?

Trapped is available as of August 2013 at your favorite bookseller from Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group.

The super fine print: I received a free copy of Trapped in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are my own.