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UPDATE: Giveaway winners announced here.

What is it about a wedding that turns even the most unsentimental heart to mush? Or that transforms an ordinary man and woman in a tux and white gown into emissaries of True Love Always? Maybe it’s the rich biblical symbolism that makes us swoon over bride and groom—because God so often uses the wedding metaphor to describe how He woos us. (“As a young man marries a maiden, so your sons marry you. As a bridegroom rejoices over his bride, so will your God rejoice over you.” ~ from Isaiah) Wherever the magic stems from, Rachel Hauck has infused it into her charming new book, The Wedding Dress.

The story begins with Charlotte Malone, a bridal boutique owner who dresses brides for a living yet can’t summon any enthusiasm for own wedding. Charlotte attends an estate sale and feels compelled to bid on a mysterious battered trunk. When she finally breaks through the trunk’s welded lock, she discovers a vintage wedding dress. The book then moves from present day to 1912 so we can understand how the unusual dress came to be through suffragette Emily’s story. As Charlotte works out the history of the dress, we learn about Mary Grace in 1939 and Hillary from 1968. But it’s the connection between Emily and Charlotte and what they learn about true love that really makes this story special. Though I knew there had to be an HEA (Happily Ever After) coming, I enjoyed every discovery and lover’s quarrel and sweet reconciliation along the way. I’d love to see this as a Hallmark movie!

I adore my Kindle. However, I keep hard copies of favorite stories so I can share them with my friends. And I’ve already thought of several folks I want to pass this book along to—a few of my avid teen readers at school, a friend who has cancer and delights in heartwarming stories, and a recently engaged bride-to-be. Now that I think of it, I may need more than one copy! How about you?  You can purchase your pass-along-copies of The Wedding Dress at this link.

***Thanks to Litfuse and Thomas Nelson for providing my review copy.

What is “true” beauty? Join the conversation at Rachel’s Author Chat Party Event Page. On the eventing of 4/19 we’ll gather to talk about inner and outer beauty and share moments of beauty in our lives.

In the meantime, celebrate with Rachel by entering her True Beauty Giveaway!

One “beautiful” winner will receive:

  • A $200 Visa Cash Card (Treat yourself to a spa day or weekend get-away!)
  • The Wedding Dress (by Rachel Hauck)

Winner will be announced at Rachel’s “True Beauty” Facebook Party on  4/19. Rachel will be hosting an evening of beauty (inner/outer) chat, fun trivia, laughter, and encouragement – bring your friends! She’ll also be giving away some GREAT prizes: gift certificates, books, and a Book Club Prize Pack! (Ten copies of the book for your small group or book club and a live chat with Rachel via Skype.)

About the author: Rachel Hauck is the bestselling author of Carol Award winner Sweet Caroline, and RITA Finalist Love Starts With Elle, and of the critically acclaimed fiction collaboration with multi-platinum country artist Sara Evans, The Songbird Novels.

She lives in sunny, though sometimes hurricane-plagued, central Florida with her husband and their ornery pets. Rachel earned a degree in Journalism form Ohio State University and is a huge Buckeyes football fan. She is the past president of American Christian Fiction Writers and now sits on the board as an adviser. Visit her web site at www.rachelhauck.com to read her blog and follow her on Facebook and Twitter.

On Monday, I uncovered a drug ring in South Minneapolis. On Tuesday, I spotted a felony theft at a country club in Edina. On Wednesday, I overheard plans for industrial espionage while staking out the back room of a workshop in St. Paul.

On Thursday, my daughter blew all my cases out of the water . . .

With these first lines from Symphony of Secrets, author Sharon Hinck ushers us into the slightly-zany mind of single mom and talented flutist, Amy Johnson. As a crime novel buff, Amy is always on the lookout for a real-life mystery to solve, yet she can’t seem to follow the clues that lead to understanding her daughter’s heart—much less, her own.

Caught reading--instead of cleaning my messy home office!

Amy is flawed and funny and filled with an overabundance of imagination. She’s a main character who works her way into your heart until you’re ready to follow her into any fictional situation. I found myself rejoicing to see her win a spot with the Minneapolis Symphony (which brings her to the attention of the handsome conductor) and empathizing with the self-doubts that swamp her as she pursues her dream.

When she attempts to discover who is sabotaging the symphony and steps out of her comfort zone to connect with the non-musical mothers of the cheerleading squad, some of her antics made me laugh out loud.

But, for me, her bravest moments come when she faces her past, acknowledges the pain she has caused, and finds a way to move forward in love.

If you’ve ever yearned for a dream, loved someone enough to sacrifice for them, stumbled a time or two on the path of life, or experienced blessings in unexpected ways, you’ll be charmed by this book.

And here’s some advice for other aspiring writers out there: read this book!

In a class Sharon Hinck recently taught for American Fiction Christian Writers, she emphasized that “one of the keys to writing was to help your reader build a relationship with the characters.”

Since Sharon demonstrates this so successfully with the creation of Amy Johnson, this story is a great study in character development. (After all, Sharon was named “Writer of the Year” at the 2007 Mount Hermon Christian Writers’ Conference.)

Madeleine L’Engle once cautioned writers, “Your point of view as a human being is going to come over in your writing whether you know it or not. There’s no way you can hide it. And that’s a very scary thing, particularly true, oddly enough, in fiction. Story is revelatory.”

Sharon, too, takes her responsibility as an author seriously and shared her thoughts in our lessons:

“I think it’s appropriate to approach our story telling with a little healthy fear and trembling. When someone is willing to spend several hours in your created world, with your created characters, absorbing your world-view, you have an opportunity to influence for good or bad.

Therefore, be saturated with the Word. We work with words, but we never exhaust our need to be IN the Word—taught, fed, and shaped by the Bible.”

To learn more about Sharon and her other books, visit her website. The sidebar section labeled Encouragement links to some meaningful reads, sure to touch your heart.

Book Giveaway: Let me share this sweet story with one of you.

I made the mistake of starting Sharon’s book during a school week, and you can see by my

My copy of Sharon's book where it should NOT be--in my school bag!

photos that I ended up reading when I should have been working. My copy of the book shows some outer wear from having been dragged around with me and handled by my curious students, but the pages are pristine. So if you’re the type of person who doesn’t judge a book by its cover, this is the giveaway for you!

To win my somewhat used copy of this book, you must be a subscriber or GFC follower. Then simply leave a comment below to let me know you’d like to be included in the drawing. Please include your email address. (Remember to write it like this jenniebee [at] gmail [dot] com.) I’ll run the giveaway until next Friday, October 15.

Follow this link to purchase your own copy of the book.