Sunday, June 25, 2017

Summer Love: Regina's story about heartbreak, hope and dreams

Interview with Regina Rudd Merrick, author of Carolina Dream:

Alexis: How did you dream up the title for your book, Carolina Dream?

Regina: Funny you should word it like that! I literally had a dream—you know, one of those that would NOT go away—and it became the impetus for the story and plays a large part in the heroine’s decision-making!

Alexis: Sarah Crawford is the heroine in your story. What qualities make her a heroine that readers can root for?

Regina: Sarah is a real person (as far as fictional characters go). She’s been hurt, but she’s doing her best to move on, do what is expected of her, and seek God’s will for the next step in her life. It’s that whole “listening” part of prayer that is giving her a hard time!

Why did Sarah and her fiancé end their engagement? Who is he marrying now? How does his upcoming wedding affect Sarah’s heart and propel her to go to South Carolina?

Regina: I hope to go into more detail about Sarah and her broken engagement in book two (spoiler alert! Lol!), so let’s just suffice it to say that he’s not marrying Sarah. She thinks she has recovered from the heartache, but when she realizes that she has not, the South Carolina trip is her way of running away from it.

Alexis: Jared Benton is the hero of this story. What kind of business is he in? Describe his looks, personality, and heart.

Regina: Ah, Jared . . . He’s a real estate developer. He has very dark brown hair and eyes like dark chocolate; athletic, but slender build; around 6 feet tall. He has some baggage of his own that he’s carrying around, but, like Sarah, he’s trying to continue doing “the next right thing,” and has definitely tired of the dating scene. He’s not really looking, but when Sarah comes along, he’s conflicted. Is she an ally or an opponent?

Alexis: Describe Sarah and Jared’s meet-cute. Were there sparks? Intense dislike? What brings them together and what role do they play in each other’s lives?

Regina: Sarah and Jared meet on the boardwalk between her rental condo building and the beach. Her dog, Oliver nearly mows him down, and while he knows what she looks like, Sarah doesn’t have a clue that Jared Benton exists. Oddly enough, Oliver takes a liking to him immediately!

What were Sarah’s first thoughts when she discovered that a house is part of her inheritance? What does she plan to do with it? Why?

Regina: Sarah’s first thoughts, when approaching the house, was "Whoa!". It was the house in her dream. As for her plans? She’s not at all sure. It’s a bit overwhelming!

Alexis: What role does Sarah’s faith in God play in this story? Tell us about the dream.

Regina: Sarah grew up in church – in this respect, she’s basically me. She received Jesus as her Savior at a young age, active in church, and when troubles come, she seeks guidance from God, not the world – at least she tries. The dream is an extension of that. The dream is of a house with many rooms to be explored, and at the end . . . well, you’ll have to read about that!

Alexis: How does Jared “see” Sarah? What does he notice about her that most people don’t?

Regina: Jared sees in Sarah a girl who has been hurt, but hasn’t let it change her negatively. She comes from a strong family background, and while he was at first suspicious of her, it didn’t take long for him to give the inheritance situation over to God to do His will in his life, whatever that might be. And then there are her eyes. Open, honest, and beautiful.

Alexis: Paint a picture with words of the small town where Sarah hails from and explain why you made her a music teacher.

Regina: The small town where Sarah grew up is a combination of the community where I grew up and the small town where I live now, but has more characteristics of my childhood home. There is basically one intersection with a four-way stop. On the four corners are a bank branch, a gas station, a grocery store, and an empty lot. Down the road is the church she attends with her family, and the school where she teaches is the school I attended in high school – where my parents and grandmother attended. The building actually no longer exists, but if I dream of school, that's the building I dream of. Sarah became a music teacher for a couple of reasons. One, I am a pianist, so I made Sarah a pianist and vocalist. Second, my husband is a teacher, I was a school librarian, and one of my best friends is a retired music teacher so I know how an itinerant teacher works. In my experience as a music student in college, all the nice little piano/vocal majors wanted to be a school music teacher!

Alexis: How does Jared’s dad’s background in the Army affect the way Jared approaches life?

Regina: Jared learned early in his life to accept what life brought him. His family moved around a lot while he was a child, so while he loves the idea of “home,” and has made this area his home, he knows from past experience that you can survive almost anything, even if it changes you.

Alexis: Describe Jared’s relationship with God. How does it affect his storyline?

Regina: Jared came to a place where he had nowhere to go but to God. When that pivotal event took place, he learned to depend on God and his mentor, Alex Crawford. It was his mentor who taught him that a Christian life is not just a life devoted to Christ, but to the church, and to the community.

Alexis: What lesson within this book are you hoping to teach your readers?

Regina: We all have hurts, habits, and hang-ups that can pull us away from communication with God. He loves us so much that he gave his only son to save us, so how can we not trust Him?

Alexis: What—or who—led you to write Contemporary Inspirational Romance?

Regina: Inspirational Romance is what I love to read, whether it be Contemporary, Historical, or Suspense. It only made sense to write what I love. When I had that dream, my mind immediately went into “what if” mode, and the result is Carolina Dream. It’s interesting that when I first finished writing the book, I couldn’t really tell you what, specifically, I wanted to relay to my readers, but in the editing, I could see God’s hand all throughout, tying ideas together with scripture and making sense of a sweet love story. I could never do this on my own!

Alexis: As a writer, what top two authors do you look up to the most? Why?

Regina: Oh my. I have so many authors that I look up to. I have many friends in the Christian publishing industry, but I have to say that there are a couple of authors, dead now, that touched me as early as my teen years. Grace Livingston Hill was my first introduction to Christian Fiction, but it wasn’t called such. She wrote sweet love stories full of conflict and spiritual guidance, many with a mystery. I loved them all. Another author that probably very few people have even heard of is Essie Summers. A New Zealand pastor’s wife, she wrote for Harlequin from 1957-1997. Before Love Inspired, she inspired. There was always a spiritual theme. When I found some of her early books in a closet at my grandmother's as a teen, I devoured them and still enjoy them. My favorite was Sweet Are the Ways published in 1965, about a writer who gives up her career in the city to “live by her pen,” and a young minister caring for his orphaned niece and nephew. There is conflict, to be sure, but the romance – oh, it is sweet!

Alexis: Complete this sentence: At the end of the day, the most important thing to remember is _____________________because_____________________.

Regina: At the end of the day, the most important thing to remember is worrying gets me nowhere because God is on the throne!

Alexis: Thanks for the interview, Regina! God bless you.

Author Bio: 
Regina Merrick began reading romance and thinking of book ideas as early as her teenage years when she attempted a happily-ever-after sequel to “Gone With the Wind.” That love of fiction parlayed into a career as a librarian, and she is currently the director of a small public library in Marion, KY. 

She began attending local writing workshops and continued to hone her craft by writing several short and novel-length fanfiction pieces published online, where she met other authors with a similar love for story, a Christian worldview, and happily-ever-after. 

Married for 30+ years and active in their church, Regina and her husband have two grown daughters who share her love of music, writing, and the arts. 

Book Blurb: Sarah Crawford wants more from life than to attend the wedding of her ex-fiancée. When she learns of an inheritance in South Carolina, she is willing to use any excuse to get out of town. 

When she meets potential business partner Jared Benton, and discovers that a house is part of the inheritance, she is sure that God has been preparing her for this time through a recurring dream. 
But will a dream about an antebellum mansion, many rooms to be explored, and a man with dark brown eyes give her the confidence to take a leap of faith, leaving friends, family, and her job behind? 

Buy Regina's book on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, BAM!

Connect with Regina:

Facebook ~ Twitter ~ Instagram ~ Pinterest ~ Website (personal) ~ Publisher's Website 

Enter this book giveaway contest for your chance to WIN a copy of this book by filling out the entry form on the Rafflecopter widget below: 
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Friday, June 23, 2017

A Guest Post by Christina Lorenzen about her new book "Healing Seas"

From Pirates to The Titanic 
A guest post by Christina Lorenzen

I was the kid in high school who had absolutely no interest in history. I loved English, creative writing and literature classes. I didn’t figure out how they could connect until years later.

It started when I picked up my first historical novel by author Julia Quinn. I had just finished that book when I saw a friend on Facebook talking about a Mary Balogh novel. So I picked it up. I was in the bookstore when the cover of a Sarah MacLean stopped me as I was making my way to the magazine aisle. No magazines went home with me that day, but that Sarah MacLean book did. I was pretty surprised at how much I liked reading historical romance. That’s when it dawned on me that history could be fascinating to write about. I regretted not putting more effort and interest in my history class in high school, but I was ready to write my first historical romance. But life gets in the way, and I was busy at the time as a freelance writer and working on another novel.

I’ve long since stopped freelance writing but writing three novellas and a novel has kept me busy. The push I needed to write my first historical novel came when my publisher, Forget Me Not Romances, announced they were putting together collections of novellas for each of the fifty states. I knew I wanted to write a story about my state, New York. When I queried about a novella, I asked to write a historical one. In my mind, I dreamed of finally writing a story about pirates that had been rattling around in my head for ages. And since I live on Long Island, just an hour from New York City, I knew I had the perfect setting. Long Island has a rich history that includes Captain Kidd himself staying here back in the late 1600s. I was buzzing with excitement, eager to get started.

Excitement was quickly replaced by anxiety and discouragement. While there was plenty of research and facts about Kidd’s visit to Long Island, too many doubts nagged at me. Would I be able to portray a time period so accurately? Would I be able to make the dialogue believable? I started reading advice from historical novelists. Don’t use period slang. Do use period slang. Within a few weeks, I scrapped my pirate story and decided to write about the rum runners on the island during 1923. As I thought about it in bed one night I realized I didn’t feel anything. No excitement. No anticipation. No real rush to get writing. The next night my daughter, having her own stressors over her college senior thesis, asked if I wanted to watch a movie with her. We’d watched The Titanic at least a dozen times together. It felt like the perfect escape.

Enjoying a late night snack, my daughter brought up the memory of her great-grandmother’s love of that movie. Grandma Dorothea was born March 3, 1912, just weeks before the greatest tragedy of that time took place. She used to love to talk about the stories she’d heard about the Titanic as a child. When the movie came out in 1997, my mother-in-law had no choice but to take grandma to see it. Up until she died she talked about that movie. Remembering the excitement in her eyes was a light bulb moment for me.

Forget pirates and rum runners. I was going to write a story about a woman who had survived the Titanic. The excitement was there. The eagerness to get started. The research was enthralling. And all along I felt as if Grandma Dorothea was right there as I wrote Healing Seas, looking on with that look of excitement she had all those years ago.

Author Bio:

Christina started writing as a young teen, jotting stories in wire ring composition notebooks. Her first typewriter made it faster to get all those stories out of her head and down on paper. Her love of writing has sustained her through a myriad of jobs that included hairdresser, legal secretary, waitress and door-­to‑door saleswoman.

Luckily for her, writing proved to be successful and a lot less walking than going door to door. Healing Seas, her first historical romance, is Christina's fifth book. She is also the author of A Husband for Danna, its sequel, A Wife for Humphrey, Snow Globe Reunion and Harvest Blessings. She is busy working on a modern retelling of the classic tale, Rapunzel. 

When she isn't writing or reading, she can be found walking her dog, talking to her herd of cats and spending time with her family.

Book blurb for Healing SeasIn just a matter of days, Addie Mayfield’s life is upended. Through an arrangement her father makes, she sets sail on the RMS Titanic as governess to the two young Fairchild children. 

When tragedy strikes, she finds herself rescued alongside strangers on the RMS Carpathia, headed for New York City. Far from home, she is taken in by the O’Reilly family to wait for her family to send for her. With no money for her passage home, she’s brought to the small hamlet of Montauk to become a caretaker for a great aunt she has never met. 

Captain Frank Shea is a man without a ship. Removed from duty as captain of the RMS Morrow, he’s come to Montauk to recover from a leg injury. More painful than the injury is his fall from grace after spending his entire life at sea. The ocean was his home and he has never needed anyone. Now faced with an uncertain future, he’s desperate for a way back to the sea. Until he meets Addie Mayfield, a woman who is just as lost as he is.

Can these two people find hope for the future after all they’ve lost? Can an unexpected love heal two broken souls?

Buy Christina's book, available exclusively on Amazon

Connect with Christina:
Facebook Author Page ~  TwitterWebsite ~ Goodreads ~ Amazon Author Page 

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Character Interview: Estelle from Kimberly Rose Johnson's new book, "An Encore for Estelle"

Let's welcome Kimberly Rose Johnson's new character Estelle Rogers to the blog today!

Estelle is the star of Kimberly's story, An Encore for Estelle (Melodies of Love Book 2) and you're in for a real treat! She shares insights from her world as a professional actress and gets real with what's on her heart.

Enjoy her character interview and remember to enter the book giveaway contest toward the end of this blog post for your chance to WIN the book, An Encore for Estelle.

Interview with Estelle (a character) from Kimberly Rose Johnson’s new book, An Encore for Estelle:

Alexis: What is the significance of the title to your story, An Encore for Estelle?

Estelle: I used to act, but gave it all up when the parts stopped coming. When I went to visit a friend for the summer, I never expected to help at the local children’s theater. Let’s just say it’s my second act.

Alexis: What drew you to a career as an actress? Now that you’re back home with Blake and Helen, are you thinking of a career change? Why or why not?

Estelle: When I was a kid, I was involved in children’s theater and the acting bug bit me. I knew from that point I wanted to be an actress. Oak Knoll isn’t really home. It’s more of a home away from home. A career change is the furthest thing from my mind, but you never know.

Alexis: What is your relationship with Helen Wood? Why do you feel that she loves you completely, flaws and all? 

Estelle: Helen is a dear friend. I met her six years ago when I was in a different place in life. She led me to the Lord and has been my spiritual mentor these past six years. I know she loves me for me because she saw me in spite of how I behaved six years ago, and she didn’t turn her back on me. She showed me how Jesus loves.

Alexis: Paint a picture of Helen’s garden that you love, with words. Why is it special to you?

Estelle: Helen’s garden is like a magical oasis. It’s situated between the main house and the guest cottage. It’s green and lush, with trees, and a walking bridge over a dry creek bed turned water feature. There are twinkle lights as well as lovely shade plants and flowers tucked here and there. And in the middle of it all is a bistro table set that draws you into the garden. If that wasn’t enough, the sound of singing birds and the trickle of water create a relaxing atmosphere.

Alexis: Blake, your hero, is quite a good-looking character! What about his features or traits were you most attracted to at first? How did that change as you got to know him?

Estelle: He is a ruggedly handsome man. Not Hollywood perfect, but cowboy kind of perfect. As I got to know him he became even better looking to me.

Alexis: How did you meet Jeff and why are you hesitant to say “yes” to his marriage proposal?

Estelle: Jeff is or rather was the chef at my restaurant in California, and that’s how we met. We were together for a long time, and I care deeply for him, but I don’t love him the way a woman should love her husband and that’s why I hesitated to answer him when he proposed.

Alexis: Would you describe your former self as a mean girl? Why or why not? 

Estelle: Oh, I really don’t like to talk about the way I was, but I suppose some people would have considered me a mean girl. I think I was more self-absorbed than anything though. I expected everyone to jump at my command, and I didn’t show compassion or understanding when I should have. I’m not proud of who I was, and I’m glad I’m not like that anymore—at least I try not to be.

Alexis: What role did Helen play in your faith journey with God and how did it change you? I noticed that you now go out of your way to be nice.

Estelle: Helen showed me kindness and patience when everyone else turned their back on me. She was there for me and introduced me to the Lord.

Alexis: In what ways do you hope to impact the children that you’re working with at the theater for the musical production? What do you love most about them?

Estelle: I want to be a good role model and an encouragement to them. I love their innocence. They haven’t been scarred for the most part and see life with stars in their eyes. They are so hopeful!

Alexis: What lesson do you want people to learn from your story?

Estelle: That no one is perfect and we need to forgive ourselves and move on rather than hang onto guilt.

Alexis: Thanks so much for the interview! It’s an honor to interview a movie star! Do you have any closing comments?

Estelle: I enjoyed this interview. Thanks for having me on your blog. I hope you will read my story and tell all your friends about it. Lol. I suppose I still have stars in my eyes.

Author Bio: 
Kimberly Rose Johnson married her college sweetheart and lives in the Pacific Northwest. 

From a young child, Kimberly has been an avid reader. That love of reading fostered a creative mind and led to her passion for writing.

She especially loves romance and writes contemporary romance that warms the heart and feeds the soul.

Kimberly holds a degree in Behavioral Science from Northwest University in Kirkland, Washington. She is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers.

You can sign up for Kimberly's newsletter via her website at this address,

Book Blurb: The theater ties them together but a painful past could pull them apart.

At a crossroads, former movie star Estelle Rogers, returns to the place that set her life on a new course. Although she expects a rough reception she is pleasantly surprised and quickly settles into her new position at the local children's theater. But her road back to acting isn't as smooth as she would like.

Tragedy brought Blake Price to Oak Knoll, Oregon, but it's love that keeps him there. His late wife and daughter loved acting, and he owes it to them to honor their memory with the children’s theater, but his new assistant is making changes he isn’t ready for both at the theater and in his heart. 

Can he forgive himself and move forward, or will he forever be tied to the biggest mistake of his life?

Buy Kimberly's book on Amazon

Connect with Kimberly on Facebook ~ Twitter ~ Amazon Author Page

Enter this book giveaway contest for your chance to WIN a copy of this book by filling out the entry form on the Rafflecopter widget below: 

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Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Summer Love: The Introduction

"Summer Love" is the name of my new series and it's purposed to celebrate summertime by promoting pure romance stories written by Christian authors.

"Summer Love" will be a weekly series with a new post published each Sunday for every week of Summer 2017. 

So each Sunday here on my "God is Love" blog will feature a Christian author who writes romance for the following categories: Contemporary, Inspirational, Suspense, Chick Lit, Historical, and Amish stories. Each author has promised to give away a copy of their featured book to the winner of the book giveaway contest hosted by Rafflecopter.

You are invited to enjoy "meeting" these authors and learning about their stories through features that vary from author interviews to character interviews, devotionals to personal essays, and book reviews with excerpts from the story. 

The "Summer Love" series ends when Autumn 2017 begins. 

I hope that you will enjoy this new series!



Sunday, June 18, 2017

Spring into Love: A story about abuse and God's healing power

Interview with Jo Huddleston, author of Tidewater Summer:

Alexis: Does the title of your book have special significance? Explain.

Jo: The story in Tidewater Summer equates the turbulence and danger of the ocean’s tidewater to the heroine’s recent experience of physical abuse at the hands of her fiancé.

Alexis: What is the theme for your story, Tidewater Summer?

Jo: Tidewater Summer is a story of renewal from brokenness.

Alexis: Rose Marie Henley is your story’s heroine. What qualities make people like—and strongly dislike—her? Describe her looks, personality, and heart.

Jo: Rose has brown eyes, she’s a brunette, and is tall and athletic. Her personality is subdued, damaged from the physical abuse she has encountered. Before the abuse, her heart was full of love that she shared with her fiancé, her parents, and longtime best friend.

Alexis: Why is Rose seeking solitude?

Jo: Rose is seeking solitude to escape additional abuse from her former fiancé, and to heal from her wounds.

Alexis: What, in her heart of hearts, does Rose really want?

Jo: When the story begins, Rose wants only to be alone. As the story continues and her character grows, she becomes more receptive to others.

Alexis: Rose was in a romantic relationship with a man who was physically abusive. Why did you make him abusive? What were the challenges of writing those scenes?

Jo: I find visits to beaches have a cleansing effect, a balm for whatever ails you. My premise was to write a story about a woman who visits a beach to get over a traumatic event in her life. The most traumatic event humans usually experience relates to their relationships. Tidewater Summer is the result of my story's premise and imagination.

Alexis: How does Rose’s ex-boyfriend’s abuse impact her life story?

Jo: The abuse Rose experiences fill her with fear, she’s broken and confused. Where romance is concerned, Rose must find a way to deal with the past in order to move on in the future. 

Alexis: Rose’s Great-Aunt Clara opens her beach home to Rose for the summer in North Carolina. What moves Rose to take it? How does staying there benefit her life?

Jo: Rose has fond memories of many family vacations spent at her Aunt Clara’s beach house in South Carolina. It is a stable place of safety. 

Alexis: Frank Sutton is your story’s hero. Why does Rose think he’s “over the top handsome”? Describe his looks, personality, and heart.

Jo: When Rose meets Franklin Sutton, she isn’t looking for another relationship and only regards his physical appearance—blond hair, blue eyes, tall—that she describes as over-the-top handsome. Frank is a patient, godly man, a true Southern gentleman. He senses Rose has been treated badly and is gentle in his approach to her.

Alexis: Despite her attraction to Frank, Rose doesn’t want a man in her life. Why?

Jo: Rose has thankfully escaped marrying her abusive fiancé. Her physical and emotional wounds are raw and she doesn’t want to give another man the opportunity to do to her the same as her former fiancé.

Alexis: Frank is smitten with Rose. What does he see in her that enthralls him?

Jo: Frank senses Rose’s hurt, her victim personality. He wants to protect her, care for her, help her recover. Her brown eyes almost mesmerize him.

Alexis: What does it take for him to win her over?

Jo: Frank must break through her defenses and convince her to open her heart to trust him.

Alexis: What do you want readers to remember most about Tidewater Summer?

Jo: God didn’t create us for self-reliance or isolation. Scripture says, “Bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.” Those in the New Testament church relied on close friends or brothers and sisters in Christ for support—bearing one another’s burdens! If we share our burdens, our load is not as heavy, and with a lighter load, we know relief.

Alexis: Thanks for the interview, Jo! Would you like to share closing thoughts?

Jo: Alexis, thank you for having me on your blog for a visit.

Author bio: 

Jo Huddleston is a multi-published author of books, articles, and short stories. 

Novels she has written include her West Virginia Mountains series, her endearing Caney Creek series, and her standalone novel, Tidewater Summer. These are sweet, Southern historical romances. 

Jo is a member of ACFW and the Literary Hall of Fame at Lincoln Memorial University (TN). 

Learn more at where you can read first chapters of her novels and novellas and also sign up for her mailing list.

Book blurb for Tidewater SummerWill Rose find the solitude she seeks during her island summer or is solitude what she really wants? 

A compelling story of one woman’s pursuit of restoration from physical abuse at the hands of her fiancé. Rose Marie Henley’s Great-Aunt Clara convinces Rose to spend the summer at her South Carolina beach house.

Aunt Clara’s handyman sends his nephew to repair Rose’s water heater. Last year Rose would have been excited to see his over-the-top handsome nephew, Frank Sutton. But now she doesn’t want any man in her life again.

Frank has an instant attraction to Rose. Can he break through her defenses? He’ll do anything to protect her, but will she open her heart to trust him?

Buy Jo's book on Amazon

Connect with Jo:

Website and blog (Read novel first chapters here):

Sign up for Jo’s mailing list:

Amazon Author page:

Facebook Author page:

Facebook personal page:


Inspirational blog:

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Monday, June 12, 2017

Book Spotlight: The Last Summer, a romance story by Brandy Bruce

Meet Brandy Bruce. She is an author and editor of books, wife to a man named Jeff, and mom to their three adorable children. She loves dessert, especially cheesecake. 

Brandy's been our guest before but today, she's here to share an excerpt from her newest novel, The Last Summer! It's a great story. Read my review of her book then enjoy the story excerpt! :)

Book: The Last Summer
Author: Brandy Bruce
Reviewed by: Alexis A. Goring

Author Brandy Bruce shares her Contemporary Romance fictional story about a circle of friends who support each other like family and hold each other’s hearts.

The Last Summer is the title of her story and it’s a winner! Readers will find the supportive friendship of these main characters to be something that most people desire in real-life.

The story focuses on Sara Witherspoon and her longtime crush Luke. The author does a great job of keeping the focus while also giving the reader time with each of the friends in Sara and Luke’s circle. She does an amazing job of keeping the secondary characters’ subplots in line with the overall plot without confusing the reader, which can happen when an author has more than four main characters. There are seven friends in this story.

The reader is invited to go with Sara and her friends to their lake house summer getaway, engage in the wedding planning, and eat meals with the characters and their families. It is a delightful experience that makes the reader feel like they are in the story with the characters.

This story is about a summer that changes everything. One of their friends is getting married. Another already married announces that she is pregnant. Sara discovers a secret that her parents kept from her, and she struggles to deal with the heartbreak of watching her best friend Luke date Debra.

A handsome pilot from North Carolina enters the story and begins to woo Sara’s heart and for a while, it works. But then there’s Luke who she’s loved from day one, which makes Sara more distressed and confused.

As the story progresses, the plot thickens and this close circle of seven friends finds their bond being tested as they’re faced with a common struggle: Does growing older and making life changes mean that they will grow apart?

The Last Summer is an engaging story filled with likable characters, memorable moments, situations that are true to real life, and a lot of heart.

*The author provided Alexis A. Goring with an ARC of her book in exchange for an honest review.

Excerpt from Chapter Two of The Last Summer by Brandy Bruce:
Addison slid on her sunglasses. “Can you believe this heat?”
I dug through my purse for my own sunglasses. “After a lifetime spent in Texas, unfortunately, yes, I can believe it. Where ARE my sunglasses? Grrr! And I just realized I forgot sunscreen. Someone better have some.” I shook my purse.
Addison tsk-tsked. “How many Diet DPs have you had this morning?”
My addiction: Diet Dr Pepper. The gang liked to tease me about it. As if drinking Dr Pepper in Texas was a novelty. Sure, I might drink more soda than most—but we all have our vices. Thankfully, I’ve managed to keep my unnatural-for-anyone-older-than-ten-years-old appreciation for cherry Fruit Roll-Ups a secret to this point.  
“What about Yoda?” Addison asked.
“She’ll be fine. She’ll have complete run of the place for two days and she’ll love that. I’ll come home to so much fur everywhere that you’d think I lived with a gorilla.” I found my sunglasses and calmed down, then sweet-talked Addison into pulling through a McDonald’s drive-through so I could get a large Diet DP. It was Addison’s fault really. She’d brought it up and then I realized I’d forgotten to bring one for the road.
Summer in Texas was brutal. And even in early June . . . well, you learned to get used to it. The temperature on the car dial read 95 degrees. We chit-chatted as we drove through the city; once we passed the Houston city limits, I turned down the radio.
“So tell me how things are with Glen,” I told Addison, speaking of her boyfriend of the past nine months. She’d met the African-American youth pastor from a nearby Bible church at a leadership conference.
“Good. I adore him,” Addison said.
 “Well, what’s not to adore?” I said, thinking of Addison’s attractive, outgoing, crazy-smart but kind-of-obsessed-with-bike-riding boyfriend, and Addison smiled.
“So true.”
“Are you doing that bike marathon with him this summer?” I asked and worked hard to keep my lips in a line to keep from laughing at the immediate frown on Addison’s face.
“Hmm. I don’t know. Probably. It’s kind of a long marathon and I’m not really . . . but, yeah, I mean, if I buy a new bike seat . . .” her thoughts trailed off.
“Are you in love with Glenn?” I asked.
“Without a doubt. I’m one hundred percent in love with that man,” she sighed a happy sigh, all thoughts of bike-riding having vanished.
“How do you know?” I wondered.
“When it’s love, Sara, you know.” She gave me a sideways glance and her demeanor shifted again.
“How’s Luke doing?”
It wasn’t strange that she asked me. Everyone in our group knew that Luke and I were close.
“You know, he called me earlier, sounding a little distracted, saying we need to talk. Probably a work issue. Other than that, I think he’s fine. He has a lot of pressure on him at his job. That promotion last year has been a mixed blessing. More money, way more responsibility. Still, he’s so capable,” I felt like I was rambling. The conversation with him earlier kept flashing back.
“Like you,” Addison said, turning on her blinker and switching lanes.
“What?” I asked, my mind on that phone call.
“Capable like you,” Addison said again. “It’s like you two are the same person, Sara. You know that. We all know that. You finish each other’s sentences. It’s almost creepy how similar you and Luke are.”
“It’s not creepy!” I protested. But she was right. My friendship with Luke had started slow; conversations that ran long after hanging out with friends, running errands together because we always seem to take the same approach about shopping, about getting things done. Our taste in restaurants, entertainment, our views on spirituality—everything clicked. Eventually we just started spending more and more time together because our friendship was so easy.
Easy for him.
“Do you think it’s hard for girls and guys to be friends?” I asked Addison. From her side profile, I watched her nod.
 “Yes. But it’s possible. Look at the seven of us. Our friendship is . . . “
“Unique,” I answered after a moment.
“Right,” she agreed, checking her blind spot before switching lanes again. “You and Jason are friends, and I was afraid you wouldn’t be after you two broke up.”
“I was afraid of that, too. I’m incredibly thankful we’ve managed to stay friends, great friends. And Luke—well, Luke and I are BFFs and he isn’t even a girl.”
Addison chuckled.
“He’s your match, I guess,” she said. I didn’t answer. The words swirled in my head. For some reason, they didn’t land, they just kept swirling.
“Could you tell from the beginning?” I asked. “Was that why you wanted me in the group, Addison? Because Luke and I were so much alike?”
            Addison turned off the freeway. She shook her head without looking at me.
“Oh no, Sara. It was because of how Jason looked at you from the moment you walked in the room that day. I thought you were Jason’s match.” 

Author Bio: Brandy Bruce is a mom, a wife, a book editor, an author, and someone who really loves dessert. She’s the author of the novels Looks Like Love, The Romano Family Collection, and The Last Summer (June 2017 release). Brandy, her husband, and their children make their home in Colorado.

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Sunday, June 11, 2017

Spring into Love: A story about the "Road to Harmony"

Interview with Sherry Kyle, author of Road to Harmony:

Alexis: What inspired your story title?

Sherry: My story title is a symbol for the inner journey as well as the outer journey for my characters. Elena Seifert is torn between her secret love and loyalty to her family, and she struggles with whether or not to choose the road to harmony and peace in her life. 

Harmony is also the name of the dairy farming community where the story takes place, and if she chooses to marry for love, she stays in the valley, but if she marries the wealthy shopkeeper, the man her parents want her to marry, then she would move to the nearby shipping port town of Cayucos. 

Alexis: Is there a special reason why the era for your story is the early 1900’s? 

Sherry: Yes! Harmony is a real town in California and Road to Harmony is based loosely on actual events. In 1907, rivalries and feuding among dairy farmers caused chaos in the valley. After one shooting death, a truce was called. From then on, all agreed to live in harmony, and named the town Harmony as a symbol of their truce. 

Alexis: Paint a picture of Harmony Valley. Is it a fictional setting or does it exist in the real world?

Sherry: Harmony Valley is a small town 13 miles inland from the California coast and five miles south of Cambria. In the early 1900’s, it was a dairy farming community and was the site of an old-time creamery. 

Today the historic structures have been repurposed to house a glassblowing studio, blacksmith’s gallery, garden shop, pottery store, music studio and the Harmony Café. Harmony Cellars Winery produces award-winning wines and offers remarkable views of the countryside. 

Several years ago, I had the chance to visit Harmony Valley and the nearby coastal town of Cayucos. It was fun stepping into the pages of my book and picturing my characters in that setting. If you get a chance to visit, stop by the nearby sites of Morro Bay, scenic Cambria, and Hearst Castle! 

Alexis: Elena Seifert is the heroine of your story. What are her hopes, dreams, and goals?

Sherry: In the beginning of the story, Elena Seifert resigned herself to marry Lars to provide her disabled brother a more comfortable life in Cayocos, but her goal changed when Jonas Bollinger, her childhood love, returns to Harmony. How can she marry Lars now? 

Deep down, she loves her life in the valley, but she’d do anything for her brother, including marrying a man she doesn’t love. 

Alexis: Why does Elena want to help her dad guard his dairy farm? How does her desire to work on the farm challenge society’s views regarding the roles of women in her era?

Sherry: There’s a thief roaming the hills of Harmony, and he’s chosen the Seifert’s dairy farm as his target. Elena’s parents have made it clear that hunting is a man’s job and she’s not to touch her father’s gun, but how can she sit idly by? Women living in the valley are used to hard work, but if she is to marry a man from town she’ll have to become a proper lady.

Alexis: Jonas Bollinger is the hero of this story. Tell us about his character, flaws, desires, strengths and weaknesses.

Sherry: Jonas Bollinger wanted more for himself than to become a dairy farmer and was working for his uncle in San Francisco when the earthquake of 1906 changed everything. He would’ve stayed away from Harmony, but a family crisis brings him home. Now he needs to prove his worth to his pa, and makes a promise that he’s determined to keep. 

Alexis: Describe the moment where Jonas became Elena’s secret love. Why aren’t they together?

Sherry: Elena grew up in the valley with Jonas and still wears the silver locket he had given her on her tenth birthday. She fell in love with him when the two of them square-danced in her father’s barn. They aren’t together because Jonas left Harmony Valley and broke her heart. 

Alexis: Lars Rissler is a wealthy middle-aged store owner who is Elena’s parents’ choice for her future husband. Why do her parents like him so much and why doesn’t Elena want him?

Sherry: Elena’s parents like Lars because he can provide a comfortable life for Elena and her brother, something they were unaccustomed to. Elena was resolved to marry Lars until Jonas came back into town. 

Alexis: What brings Jonas back to Harmony Valley? 

Sherry: Jonas returns to Harmony Valley because he’s not the fickle young man with big city dreams anymore, and his ma needs his help if the words in her letter were true. 

Alexis: What does Jonas love about Elena and why hasn’t he told her?

Sherry: Jonas loves so many things about Elena, including her spunk, tenacity, and gumption. And, of course, the fact he thinks she’s beautiful. He hasn’t told her because he’s only just arrived back in Harmony when he discovers she has a new beau—the wealthy shopkeeper. How can he compete? 

Alexis: Is there hope for a romantic relationship between Jonas and Elena? Why or why not?

Sherry: Yes, there’s always hope! Jonas and Elena have loved each other for so long, they shouldn’t give up now, right? 

Alexis: What role does a persistent thief play in this story?

Sherry: There are five scenes in the thief’s POV in Road to Harmony. You’ll find out exactly what he’s thinking and the difficult life he lives. 

Alexis: What role does faith in God play in the lives of your characters?

Sherry: My characters have a relationship with God and pray to him often! Like many of us, they struggle with trusting God with their future and finding peace in their lives. 

Alexis: What was your favorite scene to write in this story? Why?

Sherry: I love the journey of writing a novel and have many favorite scenes, but one that sticks out in my mind is the last chapter. Obviously, I can’t tell you what it’s about, but I hope and pray I gave my readers a satisfying ending—one that will give them a big smile!

Alexis: What is the moral of this story?

Sherry: God will give us perfect peace when we trust in Him. 

Alexis: Complete this sentence: If I were not a writer, I’d like to be ________________ because _________________________.

Sherry: If I were not a writer, I’d like to be an interior designer because I love real estate.

Author bio:

Sherry Kyle is a graduate of Biola University, and the author of Delivered with LoveThe Heart Stone, Watercolor Dreams, and Road to Harmony, as well as books for tween girls. 

She lives with her husband and four almost grown children on the California coast. 

Book blurb for Road to HarmonyTorn between love and loyalty, will they choose the road to harmony? 

It’s 1907 and a cattle thief is loose in Harmony Valley. Elena Seifert wants to help her father guard his dairy farm, but everyone thinks that's a man's job. When her childhood sweetheart returns to Harmony, her heart is torn between Jonas Bollinger, her secret love, and Lars Rissler, the wealthy middle-aged storeowner her parents hope she marries.

Jonas never imagined he’d be back in Harmony Valley, but his pa isn’t well. When Jonas makes a promise he wishes he didn’t have to keep, he is torn between loyalty to his family and the woman he has loved since he was a boy.

The thief continues to strike, while a dispute among dairy farmers stirs up discord in the Valley. Is a truce possible so everyone can live in harmony? And will Elena and Jonas find the inner peace to choose love and still do what is best for their families?

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