Monthly Archives: March 2014

Writing Update: Devising Devious Deeds (or Plotting Romantic Suspense)

If you’ve been following my writing journey thus far, you know that I’m approaching the end of my first draft of my first novel.  (Yay!)

But I’ve put that on hold for a while to plot murder and mayhem (the fictional variety of course).


Which is to say, Harlequin’s Love Inspired Suspense (LIS) line is having a contest that they’re calling “The Search for a Killer Voice” (Twitter hashtag #KillerVoices).  The contest is designed to find talented new authors of inspirational romantic suspense, who just might wind up with publishing contracts with LIS.  At first, I was hesitant to enter because I didn’t want to set aside my first novel until it was complete.  But the more I thought about it, the more I came to realize that my first novel will still be waiting for me when I get back to it.  And this opportunity was one I simply could not refuse.

See, the idea I’ve had for my second novel, that’s been percolating for a very long while now, is one I want to target for the Love Inspired Suspense line.  And this contest is just the nudge I need to get it written.

Best case scenario, it may catch an editor’s eye and garner a contract offer (which would be AWESOME!)  And if I don’t make it that far in the contest?  No harm done.  I may even get some helpful feedback from the editors along the way that could benefit my writing in the long run.

So yes, I entered the first page of my next novel, and now I’m waiting with bated breath for the editors to announce which entrants will be advancing to Stage 2 of the contest.  Supposedly the decision has already been made, but we’re being kept in suspense until March 28th.

Meanwhile, I’m reading, plotting, and writing at an intense pace, because the deadlines in this contest are no walk in the park.  Unless that walk in the park happens to take place while pursued by a serial killer….  😉

That, in and of itself, could make this contest worth entering, for the productivity boost that comes with a deadline!

As an aside, I’ve really enjoyed plotting the suspense in this book.  It feels kind of like playing both sides of a game of chess, where the stakes are life and death.  The mental exercise of considering what villain, hero, and heroine would do, and how each would respond to the other players’ moves, as well as how they would each expect the others to respond has been intense.  And a whole lot of fun!

So tell me, how do you feel about deadlines?  Appreciate or dread?  Or somewhere in between?

Book Review: Dear Mr. Knightley by Katherine Reay

Title: Dear Mr. Knightley
Author: Katherine Reay
Publisher: Thomas Nelson
Genre(s): Literary, Romance
Published: 2013

Dear Mr. Knightley has found a place among my favorite books. I was swept away by the characters and the emotions, and simply had to keep reading to see what might happen next. So much for the errands I intended to get done that day….

Here’s what it’s about (from publisher Thomas Nelson):

Samantha Moore has always hidden behind the words of others—namely her favorite characters in literature. Now, she will learn to write her own story—by giving that story to a complete stranger.

Growing up orphaned and alone, Sam found her best friends in the works of Austen, Dickens, and the Brontë sisters. The problem is that she now relates to others more comfortably as Elizabeth Bennet and Jane Eyre than as herself.

Sometimes we lose ourselves in the things we care about most.

But life for this twenty-three-year-old is about to get stranger than fiction, when an anonymous benefactor (calling himself “Mr. Knightley”) offers to put Sam through the prestigious Medill School of Journalism. There is only one catch: Sam must write frequent letters to the mysterious donor, detailing her progress.

As Sam’s program and peers force her to confront her past, she finds safety in her increasingly personal letters to Mr. Knightley. And when Sam meets eligible, best-selling novelist Alex Powell, those letters unfold a story of love and literature that feels as if it’s pulled from her favorite books. But when secrets come to light, Sam is – once again – made painfully aware of how easily trust can be broken.

Reay’s debut novel follows one young woman’s journey as she sheds her protective persona and embraces the person she was meant to become.

And here’s why I loved it:

As I’m writing this review several days after reading the book, the characters are still with me, vivid and alive like cherished friends. And I’m tempted to dive right back into the book and read it again.  In fact, I already have read a few of my favorite scenes a second (and third) time.  The emotional resonance of those scenes is truly powerful.  I feel for the characters, their vulnerabilities and fears, and I want to see them find love, acceptance, and happiness.  Sam desperately wants to experience “normal” and I want that for her too.  It’s what drives her to grow and change and to confront her fears.

The format of the book is unusual in that it consists almost entirely of the letters Sam writes to her benefactor, Mr. Knightley.  Those letters are detailed accounts of the things that matter in her life, told in first person narrative format.  At times, it was easy to get swept up in the action, description, and dialogue Sam records, and forget that I was reading a letter.  And yet, the really great thing about the use of letters was getting to see Sam’s perspective on events more or less as they were happening rather than her perspective looking back from the conclusion of the story.  It gives a sense of immediacy, and allows the reader to see how her thinking changes as the story progresses.

The faith element in this story shows up in the subtle influences of Christian characters Sam encounters who love and accept her, and show her a reason for hope.  Given her fascination for literature, I loved the role her reading of CS Lewis’s The Voyage of the Dawn Treader played in her growth and development, as well as her changing understanding of Scrooge in Dickens’s A Christmas Carol.  Framing her newfound understanding within a context of literature really seemed to make sense for her character, and provided a glimpse into the Christian worldview without becoming preachy.  I think this is a story that could be enjoyed by Christians and non-Christians alike.

This is a must-read debut novel, particularly if you’re into Jane Austen or romance or literary novels or loveably flawed characters trying to find their place in the world.  Please, do yourself a favor and give this book a try.  And if you enjoy reading it as much as I did, you’ll be on the lookout for Katherine Reay’s next book, Lizzy and Jane, due out in October.

To learn more about author Katherine Reay, visit her Web site at where you can find links to connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and her blog.

Thank you to publisher Thomas Nelson for providing a complimentary copy for review purposes, via NetGalley.  This is my own honest review.

For more book reviews and other posts of interest to readers of Christian fiction, please subscribe to my blog at

Book Review: The Lawman’s Honor by Linda Goodnight

Title: The Lawman’s Honor
Author: Linda Goodnight
Series: Whisper Falls, Book 4
Publisher: Harlequin (Love Inspired)
Genre: Inspirational Romance

Linda Goodnight is known for sweet romances featuring a strong sense of family and community, and The Lawman’s Honor certainly lives up to that reputation. This is book 4 of the Whisper Falls miniseries based around a small town in the Ozarks that is named after a nearby tourist attraction, where prayers are said to be answered. I have not yet had the pleasure of reading the first three books in the series, but I was happy to find that this one can stand on its own. Even so, now that I’ve been introduced to Whisper Falls through Cassie and Heath’s story, I find myself curious to read more about the town and its inhabitants and I can definitely see the appeal of reading the miniseries in its entirety.

Summary (from the publisher):

Love’s Duty

As assistant police chief, Heath Monroe never expected he’d ever need rescuing. But that’s exactly what Cassie Blackwell does when she pulls him out of a car wreckage. He’s surprised at the beautiful widow’s strength and joyous spirit. But he’s been burned before and is cautious to get involved. Especially since his investigation into the town’s drug operation might implicate Cassie’s ex-husband! Yet the more time he spends with her, the deeper he falls. Will he have to choose between duty and his growing love—or is there a way he can have both?

Whisper Falls: Where every prayer is answered…

My reaction:

I liked the premise of a policeman falling for the widow of the man he’s investigating. There’s some very real potential for conflict and challenges built in there to keep things interesting. Was she an innocent bystander or somehow involved? How will she react to his investigation and the information he uncovers about her deceased husband? Can they trust each other? And most importantly, how can they possibly find their way to happily ever after with the investigation coming between them? I thought the author did a great job exploring these questions (and others) and their ramifications for the developing relationship between Cassie and Heath.

I found the characters, both major and minor to be interesting and well fleshed out, and I loved the chemistry between hero and heroine as well as the witty banter between them. The pace of the romance and the various plot elements worked for me. In fact, I didn’t want to put the book down, from the opening onward. I think my favorite scene was when Cassie went to investigate the car crash and waited with Heath for help to arrive.  What a way for two strangers to become instantly well-acquainted!

The faith element in this one is relatively minor, featuring church attendance, prayer, and an emphasis on the importance of family and community. I enjoyed watching both characters learn and grow as Heath comes to realize the importance of family, and Cassie learns to open up and feel again, even at the risk of getting hurt. And of course, I loved the happily ever after. The epilogue tied things up in a refreshing way for Cassie and Heath as well as providing some further details into the lives of other characters previously featured in this miniseries.

If you’ve enjoyed any of the other books in the Whisper Falls series, you’ll definitely want to get your hands on a copy of The Lawman’s Honor.  Likewise, if you have enjoyed other titles in the Love Inspired line from Harlequin, you’ll want to check this one out too.  And, if you’re new to Love Inspired, this or another title by Linda Goodnight would serve as a great intro to the line.  She is an award winning and bestselling author, and has written quite a few Love Inspired romances.  In fact, she is one of a few authors that the Love Inspired editors have mentioned as recommended reading for authors new to the line and looking to get a feel for what makes a good Love Inspired romance.

To learn more about Linda Goodnight or to connect with her on social media, check out her Web site at  While you’re at it, you may also want to check out this imaginative interview with the hero of The Lawman’s Honor.

And if you haven’t already, please be sure to subscribe to my blog at for more book reviews and blog posts of interest to fans of Christian fiction.

Thank you to Harlequin for providing an electronic copy of this book via NetGalley for my honest review.

See Also: Karen Collier Guest Contributing at Edgy Inspirational Romance

See also

If you follow the Edgy Inspirational Romance {and occasionally YA} blog, aka “EIR” you may have seen an announcement a couple of weeks ago that introduced me to readers as a new guest contributor to the blog. And if you missed it, feel free to hop on over there now for a few biographical details about me that you may not have known.

Here’s the link: Introducing Karen Collier! New EIR Guest Contributor

Go ahead.  It’s okay.  I don’t mind  waiting a bit for you to get back.

[Karen steals a moment to read a few pages of a novel on her Droid’s Kindle app. Either that or she attempts to quell whatever chaos is being wrought by her toddler and pre-schooler.]

Okay, back?  Cool.  Me too.

I’m super excited about contributing over at EIR, partly because of all the authors, reviewers, and fans of Christian romance I’m getting to virtually “meet” and “hang out with” in the process.  And partly because EIR is such a fun and entertaining read, it’s frankly an honor to be asked to join in the fun.

So why did I wait so long to mention it?  Because I wanted to wait until my first guest post went live so I could share it with you.  That first post went live this morning, so without further ado, here it is:

My review of Short-Straw Bride by Karen Witemeyer.  (Hint: I loved the story’s blend of light humor with tender romantic moments, and I’m happy to recommend it.)

In case you were wondering, I do plan to continue blogging right here at on a more or less weekly basis as well as making regular guest contributions to the EIR blog.

Thinking about following EIR, so as not to miss any of my posts there?  Great!  If you haven’t already met, I’d love to introduce you to co-bloggers Serena and Joy, and to Megan who’s also joining in as a new guest contributor.  And if you’re curious what EIR means by “Edgy,” be sure to check out their post entitled “What is Edgy Christian Romance?”

So tell me, do you prefer your Christian fiction edgy or sweet?  Are you a fan of romance or do you have another favorite genre?  Please leave a comment, subscribe, or connect.  I’d love to hear from you.