Today's review is extra special to me because this debut novel is written by my friend and fellow local author, Heather Norman Smith. I am thrilled and honored to be sharing in the excitement of the release of her first novel, Grace and Lavender.
Thank you for being here to share a little of your journey with us.
So many people dream about writing and publishing a book. Your dream is becoming a reality, right now, with your first book released on March 1. I’m so excited for you.
I’ve read Grace and Lavender, and I’m intrigued by both your characters and the themes you’ve woven into this story. Your characters tackle some tough, true-to-life issues and the ending still managed to leave me feeling like this…
Let’s talk about your main characters for a minute. Colleen, Grace and Melody, three women from three different generations. I loved that each woman was unique, totally believable for her generation, and yet they connected to each other beautifully and providentially.
Amy- This question may be a bit like asking a mom to choose a favorite child, but which character was the hardest to let go when you had to write, ‘The End’?
Heather- I love them all, but the story started in my head with Colleen, so she’s probably the one I missed the most at the end. I connected with her the most.
Amy- Is it possible we will meet any of these ladies again in a future book?
Heather- I’ve heard a few people say they’d like to know what comes next for those characters. I might write a sequel one day, but for now, I’m working on another short novel that is set in their town. Colleen has a cameo in this story, and Melody and Grace are both referenced, but it doesn’t really carry on with their story. This book might become part of a “Springville Series” that focuses on different members of their church.
No spoilers, here. So, I’m going to try not to give away any of your surprises or plot twists. Grace is so much more than a name in this story, but the young woman, Grace, is key. Grace is a teen orphan who lives in a children’s home. She’s a kid with potential who has gotten herself into trouble.
Amy- Foster care and adoption are important issues to you. I can’t help but think this book may inspire some readers into action for the sake of the Graces out there. Do you have any suggestions of where they can get more information or find volunteer opportunities?
Heather- I love this question, because the desire to encourage others to consider foster care and adoption, or to help orphans in some way, is one of the reasons I wrote the book. I think a good place to start is an internet search for the department or division of Social Services in your county. Then call and ask for more information. Aside from county agencies, there are other local non-profits that provide foster care licensure and other resources. I encourage people to pray about it, just make a phone call, and see how the Lord would have them serve.
Amy- The theme of grace is also part of this novel. Did you experience a growing understanding of God’s grace through the process of writing?
Heather- I did! Not to give too much away, but there’s a scene in the book that is special to me, where Colleen defines grace as a special favor that isn’t deserved. And I think it’s so true. God lavishes His love on me. It’s completely unmerited, yet He does it anyway. That’s grace.
Thank you so much for your willingness to answer these questions and give us an inside view of Grace and Lavender from your perspective. Reading your book was a pleasure. I look forward to many more!
Grace and Lavender is a heartwarming story of hope and home for a teen girl who begins this journey without either one. I will admit that I had to push through the beginning of this story as it was a little slow at the start. The reward was a beautiful story with relatable characters who left me satisfied at the end.
The book takes us into the world of a young teen who lives in a children’s home. Three generations of women tell us this story. I found myself cheering for all three women along their intertwined journey toward healing for the young protagonist.
While the story has a happy ending, it does not gloss over the emotional difficulties and painful experiences along the way. The theme of Grace is woven throughout by a new author with an exceptional gift of story-telling.
I cannot possibly over-rate this book. Romantic Mystery/Suspense is not something I read a lot, but I’ve read enough to know this one is different. The psychological and spiritual intrigue is as well written as the intense and complicated mystery. Every character has a well-planned role and yet none seem robotic or gratuitous. They are all believably real. The author’s talent amazed me.
I felt a thrill being pulled into this story. Isn’t that how a suspense novel should be? I think so. I’ll keep reading mysteries, so long as ones like this are available.
I received a complimentary copy of this book from Barbour Publishing and was under no obligation to post a review.
What elements are a must have for you in a good book? I have two which never change, no matter the genre or my mood. First, I want relatable characters who struggle with true-to-life relationship problems. And secondly, I have to have a satisfying ending, preferably a happy one.
I’ve been looking forward to this book ever since reading Laurel’s first, A Family for the Farmer. She delivers on both of my must-haves and weaves a beautiful story along the way.
As a preacher’s daughter, I found the inner workings of this fictional church amazingly realistic. It wasn’t difficult to find myself rooting for the young minister and his cause. There are no perfect characters in this story, but there are definitely some who are easier to like than others. One of the most heart-warming aspects of the characters is how they come to terms with their mistakes and short-comings.
Laurel Blount has created a place many of us would love to call home. If only, Pine Valley were real after all. Thankfully, it's as close as your next best read.
A Sparkle of Silver by Liz Johnson is a fun, fast-paced contemporary romance with a 1920’s twist and a mystery too. I most enjoyed the uniqueness of this story in its setting and intricate plot. Johnson writes a coming-of-age story of sorts that doesn’t shy away from one of the most difficult aspects of a woman’s growing up. She handles the subject with spiritual insight, while being both delicate and brave.
I recommend this for ages 15 and up, due to the sexual nature of one heroine’s struggles. This recommendation is by no means censure or a cause for alarm.
In my opinion Liz has written a well-balanced and spiritually wise story which embraces the realities of becoming a woman. I applaud her for her creation of a beautiful, well-told and wonderfully unique story.
The Light of Day by Suzanne Woods Fisher is set in 1840’s Nantucket with a secondary story told through a 1600's journal entries. I thoroughly enjoyed this novel filled with both mystery and romance, alongside well researched history of both Nantucket and the Quakers. I can honestly say this is my favorite by Fisher to date. And that’s saying something!
The Sound of Distant Thunder is a story of love put to the test by faith and family relationships. Young love seems easy and limitless until real life begins to stand in the way of Katie Stuckey’s starry-eyed dreams. For Jonas, the man she wants to marry, becoming the man God wants him to be is complicated by his abolitionist convictions and his church’s pacifistic stand. The young couple have a great deal of growing up to do in the midst of the turmoil of the Civil War before the desires of their hearts can be met.
Jan Drexler’s tale carried my heart back to the wonders and worry of new love and left me satisfied in the end with the same hope all those beautiful young emotions always supply. This is the kind of sweet love story I will never outgrow.
on love's gentle shore
Book Three of Liz Johnson's Prince Edward Island Dreams is possibly the best in the series.
While we get to revisit the familiar settings of Grady's Diner and the Red Door Inn, along with a deeper glimpse into the past of some of my favorite secondary characters, the hero and heroine are new and refreshing.
Natalie O'Ryan and Justin Kayne have a history running deep into the past experiences of the tight knit community. A painful past which hasn't been forgotten, even if it has yet to be brought to light.
A story of forgiveness and healing, On Love's Gentle Shores, is one of my favorite new releases from this summer.
(This is a stand alone story and can be read apart from the first two books.)
looking glass lies
When Varina Denman tackles a tough subject, she takes it all the way down and leaves the reader flush with the thrill of a hard won victory. This book is for every woman who has ever struggled with self esteem and every man who loves her.
The third book in Suzanne Woods Fisher's Amish Beginnings, this historical contains all the elements I love in a Pre-Revolution Era novel.
The dangers faced by the Amish settlers challenge their pacifist beliefs. The abduction of one of their own by Shawnee warriors engulfs them in the turbulent confusion of hatred and bigotry propelling those around them, even those among them, to violence.
Politics of the day, innovations, and romance fill the pages for the well-rounded enjoyment of a history lover.
Based on historical events, Fisher's tale bears the wisdom of the past and a spark of hope for the future.
(Another third in a series, this book can be read as a stand alone.)
Set in 1846 Indiana, Naomi’s Hope by Jan Drexler, is the third stand-alone novel in the Journey to Pleasant Prairie series. While I enjoyed the entire series, Naomi’s Hope turns out to be my favorite of the three.
Jan writes with a delicate touch through the emotional trials of the members of the fledgling Amish community in northern Indiana. The hard work of creating homes and farms from the wilderness comes to life along with the inherent dangers of their world. In the middle of it all, we are touched by the love of a young woman for her adopted son, as well as the hope for a tender love story of her own.
Naomi's Hope combines everything I love about an Amish love story with everything delightful in a historical novel for a beautiful capstone on this series.
Meet the Author
Welcome, Jan Drexler!
Jan is joining us from her home in South Dakota with breath-taking views of the prairie on one side and the Black Hills on the other.
Amy: Hello Jan. Thank you for taking time from your writing schedule to be here.
In your series, Journey to Pleasant Prairie, you take us on tour of the wilderness and prairies of northern Indiana in the 1840's. I know you love research. Did you have a favorite source for descriptions of the land over one hundred seventy years ago?
Jan: I used a combination of resources, but I started out with my familiarity of the land as it is today. That part of Indiana is “home,” since my 3 x great-grandparents settled there in the 1850’s. Between knowing the area so well and being a frequent visitor to nature preserves when we lived there several years ago, I found it easier to imagine the way the area must have been for the first pioneers. I also found a fabulous resource, a book about the pioneer history of Elkhart County by a man who had interviewed the first settlers. It provided details that would have been lost to memory, otherwise.
Amy: Wow. Interviews with the first settlers—what a treasure!
Naomi's Hope pulled on my mama heart-strings. I also found the story to be full of wisdom and gentle hope for mothers in all stages of their journey. You're a home school mom veteran, and even married off a son during this process. Congratulations! How do you manage the balance between writing and family?
Jan: It’s much easier now that the children are all adults, and two of them are married. Once our youngest children graduated from our home school, I was able shift my time from teaching to writing. The discipline needed for home schooling also translated well into the writing life, although without anyone but the dogs to keep me accountable during the day, I find that procrastination is a constant battle!
Amy: I believe Naomi’s Hope is your seventh published novel! Can you give us any hints about upcoming books?
Jan: Naomi’s Hope is my sixth published novel, and I still have a hard time believing that! My next series is from Love Inspired Historical, and the books are set in the same time period and area as my first two books from LIH, so readers will see some familiar characters. The first story from that series, “An Amish Courtship,” will release in August.
I’ve also recently signed a contract with Revell (publishers of the Journey to Pleasant Prairie series) for another historical series with Amish characters. This one takes place during the Civil War in the Amish communities in Holmes County, Ohio. I’ve been deep in the research for this one, and I can’t wait to start it!
Amy: As a Civil War buff, that’s a series I wouldn’t miss. I can hardly wait for you to write it.
Aside from a good piece of chocolate—a favorite indulgence we share—how do you celebrate writing The End to your books?
Jan: Yes, I do love chocolate! But when I finish a book, my husband and I head to our favorite local restaurant – The Alpine Inn in Hill City, not far from Mt. Rushmore.
Amy: Last but not least, for all of us bibliophiles, which book title is currently at the top of your TBR pile?
Jan: I love to read historical romance, and right now I’m reading the first book in Susan Anne Mason’s Courage to Dream series, “Irish Meadows.” The next book on my TBR pile is the second one in the series, “A Worthy Heart.”
You can find more about Jan Drexler and her books on her website or on Facebook. Each Monday she hosts on the YankeeBelleCafe and often shares a delicious recipe. Click here for her heirloom Molasses Cookies recipe.
What I look for in an Inspirational WW2 Novel.
When Tides Turn nails all the above.
Book #3 and the final of the Waves of Freedom series, this story is a stand-alone novel. While you may fully appreciate this book without knowledge of the previous two, I recommend reading the series in its entirety.
1. Because they’re that good.
2. When you’re done, you will want to go back and read the first two anyway.
Why I always read Sarah’s novels as soon as they release?
I am partial to a great WW2 love story. I expect authentic history, a sense of the turmoil of the times, as well as flawed heroes and heroines who exemplify ordinary men and woman making a difference. Sarah delivers again and again, just as she does in this novel. But she also handles the spiritual struggles of her main characters with a realism, perhaps even more precise than her meticulous research. The families and communities of her novels come to life in a way that compels me to remember them all.
What I can tell you about When Tides Turn without spoilers.
Both Quintessa Beaumont and Dan Avery have made an appearance previously in the series. Both are somewhat misunderstood characters. But from the start of When Tides Turn, we are confronted with the truth of what makes them each tick. I think you’ll like them. And like me, you’ll be rooting for them. I can truthfully say, they are my favorite of Sundin’s heroes and heroines to date.
As with all the Waves of Freedom stories, there is a mystery subplot. Another character whom we have met before, Yvette, plays a more significant role in this story bringing a new intrigue with her. You will experience lesser known historical events in Boston, the vantage point of the newly minted WAVES, as well as a sneak peak into the war from the vantage point of a military strategists and engineers.
A must read for an eventful and satisfying end to a terrific series.