The only thing Bri Duval loves more than baking petit fours is romance. So much so, she’s created her own version of the famous Parisian lovelock wall at her bakery in Story, Kansas. She never expects it to go viral–or for Trek Magazine to send travel writer Gerard Fortier to feature the bakery. He’s definitely handsome, but Bri has been holding out for a love story like the one her parents had, and that certainly will not include the love-scorned-and-therefore-love-scorning Gerard.
Just when it seems Bri’s bakery is poised for unprecedented success, a series of events threaten not just her business but the pedestal she’s kept her parents on all these years. Maybe Gerard is right about romance. Or maybe Bri’s recipe just needs to be tweaked.
Novelist Betsy St. Amant invites you to experience this sweet story of how love doesn’t always look the way we expect–and maybe that’s a good thing.
The Key to Love, by Betsy St. Amant, is a contemporary romance novel about a bakery, The Pastry Puff, and its owners and an employee in Story, Kansas. This is the first book I have read by Betsy St. Amant.
The story is populated by several characters, from the previous owner’s daughter, Abrielle “Bri” Duvall to the nefarious Charles Richmond, Bri’s ex-boyfriend, who is a lawyer intent on getting The Pastry Puff by any means available (and maybe some that aren’t!). The true stars of the book appear to be the bakery, the Parisian styled love lock fence and the “love angels,” Mabel and Agnes, who are the bakery’s new owners.
I had a hard time becoming invested in the main characters, Bri Duval and Gerard Fortier. Their ongoing disagreements felt somewhat immature and off-putting.
The book also contains some mild vulgar words (though not profanity) and innuendo, with very little of a very spiritually uplifting content.
The Key to Love was, overall, a cute book you could lose yourself in for a few hours, with several laugh out loud moments created by the love angels, Mable and Agnes.
I received this book courtesy of Baker Publishing Group and Revell through Interviews & Reviews. However, I was under no obligation to post a review.
Growing up in the foster care system, Jase Edgar always dreamed of one day starting his own family. But his fiancée’s untimely death shattered his plans. Moving to Kansas and serving as a youth minister should be a fresh start, but he can’t seem to set aside his doubts about God’s goodness long enough to embrace his new life.
Newly-appointed church custodian, Lori Fowler is battling her own challenges. Her strained relationship with her father and her struggles with overeating convince her she’s not worthy enough for love. When an Amish weaver enlists their help locating the owner of a ring found among the donated clothing she uses as fabric, Jase and Lori find themselves drawn to each other. But will they be able to release the past and move forward from this moment into a joyful future?
From This Moment, by Kim Vogel Sawyer, is one of my favorite books written by her. I love how Vogel can write so many different types of stories.
There are three main characters in this contemporary novel. Jase Edgar is the new Youth Minister at a small-town Kansas church, Beech Street Bible Fellowship. Lori Fowler is a spunky young woman drawn quite strongly to Jase, who volunteers to help with the youth and works as the church custodian. In addition, there is Kenzie Stetler, a young woman who left the Amish faith for life in Wichita, Kansas.
It was interesting to read a story about an Amish woman who has left the faith. Usually, you read about someone becoming Amish, or they remain in the faith.
Vogel has a fantastic way of drawing you into a story, making you want to meet the characters, and never leave!
Vogel gives each person real-to-life problems to overcome or deal with, making the story so much more relatable. Jase is struggling with his faith, wondering if God is really there. Lori struggles with emotional eating, speaking without thinking and problems with her father. Kenzie realizes how some of her choices might affect her family and grapples with how to reconcile her feelings.
Rich in optimism, hopefulness and faith, From This Moment, will resonate in your heart, leaving you thinking about it for a long time.
I received From This Moment from Waterbrook through NetGalley. However, I was under no obligation to post a review.
A mother’s heart-wrenching story of her 18- year-old son’s struggle between life and death following his electrocution on a power pole during a random outing. This is an intimate look into those first few agonizing days, and the months of bitter uncertainty that followed, not knowing if her son would live or die, after suffering third and fourth-degree burns on more than 70% of his body. The skilled physicians at the Maricopa County Burn Unit in Phoenix, Arizona all said he should have died. Statistics were against his struggle for life. Yet, this story captured in a mother’s journal yields proof that God answers prayer, and that God is what He says He is: The great Physician, the Healer, the Miracle worker.
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Death Must Bow the Knee, by Virginia Vasser, is a book of intense sadness, pain, mercy and grace, but mostly a book of MIRACLES. Not just one, but multiple mind-boggling, and sometimes unbelievable, MIRACLES!!! God’s hand is all over this true story.
On a hot midsummer, June day in 1980, Sam Vasser left home upset. Before the day was over, his life would be irrevocably changed forever.
Vasser kept a journal of all that happened from that fateful evening when 18-year-old Sam was electrocuted on a power pole, suffering 3rd and 4th-degree burns over 70% of his body, until his release from the hospital months later. Vasser chronicled the doctors and nurses telling her Sam would not, could not, live, and her and her family’s assertion that only God had the power over life and death. She told how the nurses and doctors tried to get her to “face reality” and how the medical staff became frustrated, and perhaps even a little angry when she would not listen to them.
An inspirational story of how God can and will answer prayers, Death Must Bow the Knee is a short story, only 128 pages long. However, you will feel as if you are right there every step of the way through the months of treatment and recovery. Tears will roll down your face as you read and absorb the message: God IS The Great Healer and The Great Physician.
I received Death Must Bow the Knee from the author. However, I was under no obligation to post a review.
Philippians 2:10-11 King James Version (KJV)
10 That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth;
11 And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
About The Author
Virginia resides in Surprise, Arizona with her husband, Rosco, with whom she recently celebrated 59 years of marriage. She is the mother of five adult children, including Sam. Her growing family includes six grandsons, six great-grandsons and a great-granddaughter. When not writing, Virginia enjoys yard work, crossword puzzles, and spending time with her family.
I am humbled, grateful and thankful to everyone for all their prayers and good wishes.
I am still very weak and have a lot of pain, too. As you all probably know from previous hospitalizations, I have had a good portion of my colon and small intestines removed. This time even more has been removed, so I’m having to adjust to a new way of living that involves an ostomy.
This normally isn’t a problem. However, for some reason, almost anything that could happen post-op, has! It has been very discouraging and depressing for me and also very time consuming, involving multiple Dr visits, and at a minimum daily (sometimes many more) visits from home health. We’re still struggling through this and it is very wearing emotionally and physically. Bill, throughout this whole ordeal, has been a rock. I know he’s very weary, too. But, he continues to gently push me where I need to be and encourages me constantly.
We’re praying this will be the final of many surgeries since 2014.
Thank you again so very much for your prayers encouragement for me and my family. (It may take me a while to respond to each comment, but I will).
This is Bill, still not sure I have this figured out.
This is Bill. Shortly after Thanksgiving, Robbie had to go to the ER and was subsequently admitted. We are not sure how long she will be in the hospital. Her health problems will prevent her from keeping up with blogging and book reviewing responsibilities for a while. Sometime after the first of the year, she will determine what she is able to take on. We need your prayers. Thanks so much for your friendship and love.
Update December 14th: After two weeks in the hospital, Robbie will have her surgery tomorrow morning at 9:00 a.m. Her surgeon described the surgery to me as “complicated and lengthy.” Please pray that the surgery will be safe and effectively accomplish the surgeon’s objectives. Robbie has had ill health for so much of her life; she really deserves some relief. Thanks so much for all of your friendship and prayers.
Update December 23rd: This is Bill. Robbie is now home from the hospital at last. She had a very extensive, life-altering emergency surgery that now requires substantial and considerable rehab and recovery to recover from the pain and nausea left by a complicated surgery that has weakened her and changed her life considerably. She won’t be on line much as she has 2-4 months of intensive work ahead of her. Prayer from her family and many friends has sustained her through this ordeal. God bless all of you.
Robbie asks that I please send her love and thank you’s to everyone. And belated Merry Christmas to everyone, too.
After spending her childhood as a street thief, Gabriella Goodhue thought she’d put her past behind her until a fellow resident at her boardinghouse is unjustly accused of theft. Using her old skills to prove her friend’s innocence, Gabriella unexpectedly encounters Nicholas Quinn, the man she once considered her best friend–until he abandoned her.
After being taken under the wing of a professor who introduced him into society and named him as heir, Nicholas is living far removed from his childhood life of crime. As a favor to a friend, Nicholas agrees to help clear the name of an innocent woman, never imagining he’d be reunited with the girl he thought lost to him forever.
As Gabriella and Nicholas are thrown together into one intrigue after another, their childhood affection grows into more, but their newfound feelings are tested when truths about their past are revealed and danger follows their every step.
I love Jen Turano books. There’s always fun, laughter and elements of faith-a great combination!
To Steal a Heart focuses on Gabriella Goodhue and Nicholas Quinn, along with the ladies of The Bleeker Street boarding house, aka The Bleeker Street Inquiry Agency.
Gabriella and Nicholas knew each other when they were orphaned children but lost touch over the years. Through a series of unique circumstances, they cross each other’s paths again, except this time danger lurks around every corner.
I loved the ladies of Bleeker Street. They are all such a hoot. The funniest in this story is definitely Daphne! Her “disguises” and antics are sidesplitting! All the ladies’ capers result in bumbling, inept escapades that somehow save the day, even when Pinkerton agents are not able to solve it!!
I always look forward to Jen Turano’s new books and cannot wait for her them. I am so excited To Steal a Heart is book one of a new series. Her stories usually focus on the Gilded Age and feature a strong female protagonist, which creates a great storyline.
Turano’s books are such a joy to read. She, without fail, has a great story from start to finish.
I received To Steal A Heart from Celebrate Lit and NetGalley. However, I was under no obligation to post a review.
About the Author
Named one of the funniest voices in inspirational romance by Booklist, Jen Turano is a USA Today bestselling author, known for penning quirky historical romances set in the Gilded Age. Her books have earned Publishers Weekly and Booklist starred reviews, top picks from Romantic Times, and praise from Library Journal. She’s been a finalist twice for the RT Reviewers’ Choice Awards and had two of her books listed in the top 100 romances of the past decade from Booklist. She and her family live outside of Denver, Colorado.
More from Jen
“To Steal a Heart” is the first book in a new series. How did you come up with the idea for this series?
Oddly enough, this series was inspired by a lot of different things. I keep this idea box, and whenever I stumble on something interesting, I throw the idea into the box. When I was getting ready to assemble a proposal for a new series, I took out the box and began rifling through it. Unfortunately, nothing struck my fancy. What did strike my fancy though, was the movie “My Fair Lady.” I’d recently watched it for the millionth time, and I thought…hmmm…what could I do with that? Well, I didn’t want to do a recreation of “My Fair Lady” and that’s when it hit me – what if I used a gentleman instead of a lady and improved his circumstances in life with the help of a professor? That wasn’t really enough, though, for me to formulate an entire series, but then I went to New York City for a research trip. While there, I roamed around Bleecker Street for hours. It was the perfect place to set a series, and then I saw this older building that my tour guide thought might have once been a boardinghouse. That was what really started me thinking, and before I knew it, I’d created an inquiry agency run by women that came about when a resident of a boardinghouse was unjustly accused of theft. When the police would not investigate further, believing they had the true culprit behind bars, the ladies who lived in the boardinghouse felt compelled to step up and clear their fellow boardinghouse resident of the charges brought against her. The series took off from there, the first book centering around one of the lady inquiry agents, Miss Gabriella Goodhue, who used to live on the mean streets of the Lower East Side and, at one point in her life, was best friends with Nicholas Quinn, the man who has now found his circumstances vastly improved from the time he knew Gabriella. Throwing the two of them back together made for an interesting storyline, especially since Gabriella believes Nicholas abandoned her all those years ago, which makes it next to impossible for her to trust him.
Are there other interesting characters in this series?
Of course. All of the lady inquiry agents come with their own secrets. Miss Daphne Beekman is a reclusive author who lives in the attic of the boardinghouse. She has the propensity to faint at the drop of a hat, which makes for a few amusing scenes in the first book. She’ll get her own story in “To Write a Wrong,” coming out later in 2021. Then there’s Eunice Holbrooke. She’s the owner of the boardinghouse, and she only wears full mourning garb, covering her face with numerous veils and refusing to speak to anyone about her past. Clearly, there’s a mystery just waiting to be solved there, one that will be solved in book three, which I’m just now beginning to work on. The other residents of the boardinghouse provide a lot of color to the story, from the two sisters who work as paid companions by day to gossip collectors and carriage drivers by night, to the resident artist, Miss Judith, who has recently decided to dip her toe into the portrait market even though she’s really not proficient with painting people. There’s also a one-eyed, patch-wearing dog by the name of Winston, a parrot that likes to nick sparkly items named Pretty Girl, and a neurotic poodle that falls for Winston that goes by the name of Precious.
Did the pandemic affect the writing process at all for “To Steal a Heart?”
Luckily, I had already turned in the book before the pandemic hit. With that said, though, I then had to do some of the edits during the first few months of the pandemic. That was interesting. I have very specific conditions I need in order to write and edit and having Al (the husband person) working from home isn’t one of those conditions. It took me far longer than it normally does to complete the editing process, which threw off my schedule for the next book in the series, “To Write a Wrong.” Drastic measures were needed. That’s why I’m now the proud owner of a she-shed. Al thought I was joking when I first broached the subject of a she-shed, but after I had my millionth meltdown, he decided that might be a really good idea. Turns out sheds are in high demand at the moment, so getting a shed in a timely fashion wasn’t possible. It took 6 weeks for us to get a shed delivered and then we had to frame the inside and put up a ceiling and walls. I was not actually very involved with that process because I’m a danger to everyone surrounding me when nail guns are being used. 🙂 I did paint the outside of the shed, then painted the inside. Of course the air conditioning unit I had to order was delayed, so I painted in 100 degree heat. Lost about five pounds doing that, so…unexpected bonus there. I just recently finished decorating the inside, and I’m typing this interview from my new space. I’m thinking I’m going to call it “Jen’s Novel Nook” but that might change, so don’t quote me on that.
Anything else you’d like to add?
Just that I hope everyone is surviving these crazy days. I know there are many people out there who are suffering from many different problems this pandemic has caused. Know that you’re not alone, and that brighter days will show up again. Until that time, try to remember to smile and, perhaps, read a few books.
To celebrate her tour, Jen is giving away the grand prize package of copy of To Steal a Heart, plus all three books in the American Heiresses series and a 30 second mystery kit (Link: https://amzn.to/3nqrIpC)!!
Be sure to comment on the blog stops for nine extra entries into the giveaway! Click the link below to enter.
By the Light of the Moon series: “Readers who love being trapped in a character’s mind should relish this finely written, gripping series. A must read for fans of historical fiction.”–The Prairies Book Review
A tale of precious things more rare than a blue moon…
The year is 1885 and unwed Vanessa Gulet must surrender her newborn son to her married twin sister, Valerie, to raise. A seed of bitterness grows in Vanessa. When the opportunity arises for her to have what she’s always wanted, Vanessa takes it despite the consequences to her family, getting more than she bargained for.
Meanwhile, Valerie, overcome with loss and grief, faces a diagnosis of multiple sclerosis. Will she and her husband, Felix, forge through their trials together, or will these upsets cause them to drift apart?
Will Vanessa and Valerie remain at odds, or will they allow the power of forgiveness to heal their strained relationship?
Love seems to bloom in the most unlikely of places in Webaashi Bay for an old friend of Jenay’s and a woman who owns the local dress shop. A parallel tale of love, forgiveness, and reuniting lost things is spun by a local author adding another dimension to the tale of the Gulet twins and their saga.
Fans of historical fiction, Christian historical fiction, clean romance, and literary fiction will enjoy this dramatic read!
Blue Moon, by Jennifer L Knipfer, has a distinctive and dramatic plotline. The story features identical twins, Vanessa and Valerie, who are able, like many anecdotal tales, to intimately know and intuit each other’s feelings. Also, the historical and medical accuracy of the time and of Multiple Sclerosis (MS) are impressive. I am sorry that Knipfer has first-hand experience with MS, thereby giving her great insight and comprehension of the disease.
I had a hard time, however, getting into the book. Knipfer jumps constantly between different time frames and POVs. This can be a great tool for revealing more about a character or characters. However, when a point of view is introduced, then changes when a character reminisces or time and locations change, then again in the span of a few paragraphs or pages, then the changes become redundant. I know for many readers this probably isn’t a vexation, but for me the story becomes ponderous. I admire the author’s ability to write a novel this way.
Blue Moon works as a standalone, as enough backstory is covered you don’t feel you have missing pieces.
I enjoyed the story overall for its uniqueness and historical accuracy.
Due to a minor amount of adult subject matter, I would not recommend this to those under 13.
I received Blue Moon from Celebrate Lit. However, I was under no obligation to post a review.
About the Author
Jenny lives in Wisconsin with her husband, Ken and their pet Yorkie, Ruby. She is also a mom and loves being a grandma. She enjoys many creative pursuits but finds writing the most fulfilling.
Jenny’s education background stems from psychology, music, and cultural missions. She spent many years as a librarian in a local public library but recently switched to using her skills as a floral designer in a retail flower shop. She is now retired from work due to disability.
She authored and performed a self-published musical CD entitled, Scrapbook of a Closet Poet.
Jenny’s first three books earned five-star reviews from Reader’s Favorite, a book review and award contest company. Their praise: “Ruby Moon is entertaining, fast-paced, and features characters that are real. Blue Moon continues a well-written and highly engaging saga of family ties, betrayals, and heartaches… Silver Moon is a highly recommended read for fans of historical wartime fiction, powerful emotive drama, and excellent atmospheric writing.”
She holds membership in the: Midwest Independent Booksellers Association, Historical Novel Society, Wisconsin Writers Association, Indie Christian Publishing Association, and Independent Book Publishers Association.
Jenny’s favorite place to relax is by the western shore of Lake Superior, where her novel series, By The Light of the Moon, is set. She has self-published the first two books, Ruby Moon and Blue Moon in her four-part series. Two more novels to complete the series are planned for 2020. She is currently writing a new historical fiction series called, Sheltering Trees.
Libraries and retailers may find Jenny’s books on Ingram. Support your local bookstores, and request a copy of Jenny’s books there. Purchase paperbacks retail on Amazon. Ebooks are available through your favorite ebook retailer.
In Blue Moon I play off a minor character from Ruby Moon, Vanessa Gulet. When Ruby Moon ended, I started wondering what Vanessa’s life had been like, rejected by Renault, her old flame who had promised her his devotion.
Vanessa’s story grew along with Valerie’s, her identical twin sister. Asking the question of what could divide twin siblings drew me deep into the drama of the Gulet sisters, and a story of desire and loss sprang from my imagination.
An even richer depth occurred when I brought the main character from Ruby Moon, Jenay, into the thick of the twins’ saga. Vanessa must come to grips with what really happened to Renault and who was involved. Will she forgive the past and the unintentional wrongs committed and embrace the new friend she has made or not?
Also, I wrote from experience in Blue Moon, as Valerie must face the diagnosis of multiple sclerosis and how to live with the fear of the unknown shadowing her life. It was therapeutic for me to write some of my own feeling and thoughts through Valerie. Journaling has always been a way for me to manage my emotions, and writing via story form was no different. Chances are you either know someone with MS or know of someone with MS. The disease is very prevalent in the U.S., and through Blue Moon I want to draw some awareness to what I and many people live with every day.
I hope in Blue Moon that the theme of forgiveness will encourage readers through their own struggles and believe that choosing to forgive is always the better choice, often bringing unforeseen blessings.
Thank you for taking the time to read a little about Blue Moon and its origin! I hope you get a chance to read it and the twins’ tale of forgiveness. If you do, please let me know, and please leave a review.
P.S. Did you know I include a recipe pertaining to the story in most of my books? In Blue Moon, I include an old family favorite: butter tarts. Lily, a daughter of the man Vanessa meets and is drawn to in Webaashi Bay, loves butter tarts. Vanessa and Lily make them together. Following is the recipe.
Lily’s Butter Tart
1 C sugar
¼ C softened butter or butter substitute
juice of half a lemon
½ C golden raisins
½ C sweetened shredded coconut
Your favorite pie crust recipe for one 9” crust
Cream butter and sugar. Add eggs and lemon juice. Beat well. By hand mix in the raisins and coconut. Line pastry tin with pie crust and fill with mixture. Bake at 350 degrees for 40 minutes or until set.
I based this recipe from an old one of my grandmother’s from the late 1800’s. NOTE: You can also cut rounds of pie crust to fill muffin tins to make smaller tarts. (Lily’s style) I make the one dish version because it’s less fuss.
Genre: Christian Contemporary Women’s Fiction, Holiday Fiction
Release Date: October 10, 2020
Like Christmas ornaments, good-looking men are all glitter and no substance. Right?
Julia Metcalf tries to be content with her life in the foothills of the Sierra Nevadas, despite secretly yearning for more. Raising her son as a single mom might be tough sometimes, but with friends, family, and a job she enjoys, Julia has a rich life. Risking her heart again—not a good idea. Especially with a guy like Marty.
The guy is too handsome and funny for his—or her—own good.
But when Julia’s ex-husband disappears and puts her and her son in danger, Marty steps in to help.
All That Glitters, by Jennifer Sienes, is a holiday novella featuring Julia Metcalf and her son, Max, along with Julia’s estranged husband and mother-in-law and Julia’s friend, Marty.
All That Glitters, although a contemporary romance, touches on some heavy subjects such as infidelity, absentee parents and unscrupulous business practices.
Stephen, Julia’s ex-husband, puts Julia and Max at grave risk-especially when he disappears without a trace!
I adored Max. He’s such an endearing, precocious child. His interactions with those around him, particularly Marty, are adorable. Wanting to visit Santa, to ensure he gets his Christmas wishes, presents a problem when the line is so long, he’ll miss the Christmas parade. However, he decides a letter might still work. I really liked Max’s pluckiness, ability to adapt and willingness to be helpful. I would love to see Max in a more prominent role.
There are a lot of deep lessons to be learned from All That Glitters, a major feat of accomplishment in a novella. I admired the author’s Biblical insights on forgiveness, along with true friendship, discipleship and love.
Mystery, intrigue and romance tie together to create an illuminating Christmas story. I can’t wait to read other stories in the series.
I received All That Glitters from Celebrate Lit. However, I was under no obligation to post a review.
About the Author
Jennifer Sienes holds a bachelor’s in psychology and a master’s in education, but discovered life-experience is the best teacher. She loves Jesus, romance and writing—and puts it altogether in inspirational contemporary fiction. Her daughter’s TBI and brother’s suicide inspired two of her three novels. Although fiction writing is her real love, she’s had several non-fiction pieces published in anthologies including several in Chicken Soup for the Soul. She has two grown children and one very spoiled Maltese. California born and raised, she recently took a step of faith with her real-life hero and relocated to Tennessee.
More from Jennifer
As a fiction author, the characters I create become as close as friends by the time my novels are complete. Maybe it’s because I spend weeks delving into their personality traits, emotional wounds, and spiritual needs. My husband recently asked me if I ever get them confused with each other. A good question, since the list grows with every story I write, but the answer was a definitive no. There is no one, except my husband, I interact with more while I’m writing a novel than my characters.
Have you ever noticed some friends are with you for only a season or two? This could be unique to me, but those I’m closest to are those who are connected by mutual experiences. When my children were young, I was the community 4-H leader, so I was surrounded by other parents with small children. Later, when I completed my degree and started teaching, it was other teachers I hung out with. Now, it’s church family or fellow writers. As we move through our lives, some of those friends dissipate as if from a long-ago dream forgotten in the light of day. The same is true for my characters.
When my publisher asked me to write a Christmas novella, I jumped at the chance to revisit my old friends Julia and Marty from Surrendered, Book 1 in my Apple Hill Series. Although they didn’t take center stage in the novel, they played a significant role in the lives of main characters Tess and Jake. I purposely left their stories unfinished and let my readers draw their own conclusions. But it appears Julia and Marty weren’t satisfied with that ending. Another example of my characters taking on a life of their own.
All That Glitters was a pleasure to write, although visions of all things Christmas were a challenge in the heat of summer. It was like hanging out with old friends for a short time. I hope you enjoy your visit with Julia and Marty, whether it’s your first introduction to them or you previously met them in Surrendered.