Archives For Christian fiction

Meant to Be Mine

Renee Ann Smith —  May 4, 2014 — 6 Comments

I was a daddy’s girl. So I’ve always loved stories that feature tender father/daughter scenes, like . . .

  • Atticus Finch including precocious Jean Louise in his nightly newspaper reading.
  • Or shy Matthew Cuthbert picking out a dress with puffed sleeves for Anne Shirley.
  • Charles Ingalls playing the fiddle as Half Pint and Mary fall asleep.
  • Oh, and that scene from Little Women, where Father March comes home from war, and Amy wraps her arms around his leg, determined to hold on and never let him go.

wade book coverFor me, Meant to Be Mine evoked that feeling.

Becky Wade’s novel tells the story of estranged husband and wife, Ty Porter and Celia Park. The main action takes place five years after an impromptu wedding, which ended with Ty informing Celia the marriage was a mistake. However, their time together produced a tiny, glasses-wearing miracle named Addie—which Ty discovers when he feels an urge to see Celia again after many years apart. 

The first time Ty meets his little girl Addie, this story lassoed my heart and galloped away for a wonderful ride.

Check out Ty’s response to spending time with her: “If she turned that sunray of a smile on him again and asked her to buy him a boat or a pony or a swimming pool, he’d probably buy those, too . . . Addie fascinated him. Enchanted him. Wrapped him around her pinkie . . . He expected it would take him a good while to win her heart. But it hadn’t taken her long at all to win his.”

This father/daughter magic works on Addie’s mother Celia, as well. As Celia watches Ty with Addie, her heart begins to yearn for a renewed relationship with her Heavenly Father. Yet even this involves her estranged husband as God leads Celia through the painful process of forgiving him.

I love how God restores this family by wooing the hearts of the parents to Him—-just like a doting, in-love-with-His-kids, always-there-for-you Father. And, of course, there’s plenty of romantic sweetness & sizzle along the way!

What I liked best . . .

  • The fun, flirty conversations between estranged-but-still crazy-about-each-other Celia & Ty
  •  Imagining what kind of cowgirl boots I’d wear if I were visiting the Porter family (Everyone in Texas wears boots!)
  • Celia’s creative take on princess stories
  • Every time the Porter family got together
  • Uncle Danny’s surfer dude adventures
  • Meeting long-timed marrieds Jerry and Donetta

My favorite quotes . . .

Meant to Be Mine Becky Wade

 

(Click to Tweet)

 Meant to Be Mine Becky Wade(Click to Tweet)

What you should do next . . .

Follow this link to purchase your copy of Meant to Be Mine. ***Thanks to Becky Wade and Bethany House for providing a copy for me to review.

becky wadeAbout the author: Becky’s a California native who attended Baylor University, met a Texas boy, and settled in Dallas.  She published historical romances for the ABA, then put her career on hold for several years to care for her three children.  When God called her back to writing, Becky knew He meant for her to turn her attention to Christian fiction.  She loves writing funny, modern, and inspirational contemporary romance!  Her CBA debut, My Stubborn Heart, was a finalist in both the RITA and INSPY awards.  Undeniably Yours kicked off her Texas-set Porter Family series.  Her newest contemporary romance, Meant to Be Mine, has just hit shelves!

You can connect with Becky . . .

So glad you stopped by today, friends! Come back Wednesday, to see my graphic of the theme verse of this novel. Blessings!

This week I might be linking up with Inspire Me Monday, Sharing His Beauty, Mommmy Monday Blog Hop, Monday Musings, Hear It on Sunday, Unite @Rich Faith Rising, Modest MondaysBook Notes, Make Your Home Sing Monday, Living Proverbs 31, Salt & Light, Manic Monday, Turn It Up Tuesday, Teach Me Tuesdays, The Bloggers’ Digest, Titus 2 Tuesdays, Teaching What Is Good, What I Learned This Week, Titus 2sday Link-up, Living Proverbs 31, Busy Monday, Raising Homemakers, Deep Roots at Home, Imperfect Prose, Wholehearted Home Wednesdays, Winsome Wednesday, Wise Woman Wednesday, Three Word Wednesday, Works for Me Wednesday, Walking Redeemed, Whimsical Wednesday, A Little R&R, Capture Your Journey Wednesday, The Barn Princess, Adorned from Above Wednesday Link Party, Whimsy Wednesday, In Him We Live, Juana Mikels Wednesday Link-up, Hope in Every Season Homemaking Party, Thursday Favorite Things, Thriving Thursday, Hearts for Home, Throwback Thursday, Thoughtful Thursday, Cozy Book Hop, Booknificent Thursday, Tell His Story, Thought Provoking Thursday, Raising Mighty Arrows, From House to Home Link Party, Share the Joy Thursday, Time Travel Thursday, Thrive @Home Link Up, Grace at Home, Christian Fellowship Friday, Faith-filled Friday, Fantastic Friday, Faith & Fellowship Friday, Fellowship Friday, Friendship Friday, Freedom Friday, Womanhood w/ Purpose Friday Link Up, Essential Friday Link-up, Saturday Sharefest, Sunday Stillness, and Heart Reflected.

 

Old People

My sweet mom, who went to be with the Lord nine months ago

I recently fell hard for a fictional character: Ruby Redding, the star of Adam Thomas’s novel, Letters from Ruby. Ruby is a feisty octogenarian who ministers to others with her pep talks, her prayers, her piano playing . . . and her pen.
Ruby reminds me of some of the older folks I’ve treasured in my life.
I love how her legacy of wise words influences all those around her.
Here’s how her story goes . . .

When Calvin Harper arrives at Victory, West Virginia’s St. John’s Episcopal Church—St. Jacks-across-the-tracks—he’s a scared 25-year-old with a bad haircut and a brand new seminary degree. He knows little of life. And most of what he knows about God comes from his books. Fortunately, God sends an expert to take Calvin under her wing—80-something Ruby Redding.

In her pearls and cardigan sweater, Ruby may look like she just stepped out of a Norman Rockwell painting, but there’s nothing posed about her joyful nature and her deep love for God. Ruby’s faith sort of rubs off on people. All who meet her find themselves changed, including Calvin. 

This novel begins with an older Calvin being prompted to reminisce about his time at St. John’s when he discovers a stash of Ruby’s letters in the midst of moving into a new home . .  .

“Calvin traced the loops and lines of Ruby’s signature. It was graceful and beautiful without being ostentatious. Like its owner, thought Calvin. He ran his finger along the signature a second time. Wishing you all good things, too. He looked at the stacks of letters in his lap and then looked at the living room where all the pictures still needed hanging. ‘They can wait.’

As Calvin pulled out Ruby’s letter, he thought back to those days in Victory. ‘Dear, dear, Ruby,’ he said again. ‘All of them dear to me.’

He took the last sip of lemonade, rocked the chair back on two legs, and waded out into the depths of memory.”

As Calvin recalls his past—his first day when he was almost arrested for breaking into the church, meeting Ruby and her quirky cronies, baptizing babies, sitting by the hospital beds of the folks he’d come to love, filling his plate at church picnics—each chapter of his experiences ends with a letter from Ruby.

What I Liked Best . . .
  • Being treated to Ruby’s story in her own words.
  • Reading about her World War II romances. (Love that time period!)
  • Ruby’s relationship with her husband Whit, a beautiful love story that spans sixty years.
My Life Lesson Takeaway & Favorite Quote . . .

Ruby letter 3abc1a

You think you have all the time in the world to know someone but there’s always something you never said.
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What a blessing when we take the time to share those special words with the people we love before it’s too late.

Since dementia stole so many of my mom’s memories, I often wish she had left a journal or letters behind. And I can’t help but regret the things we left unsaid in our years together. But it comforts me to remember Paul’s words in Corinthians about how we can leave a living legacy in each life we touch. I treasure the legacy my mom implanted in my heart.

You are our letter, written in our hearts, known & read by all. ~II Cor. 3:2~
(Click to Tweet)

letter in our hearts

I recommend this simple, charming story. If you’d like to “meet” Ruby or introduce her to a friend, you can purchase your copy of Letters from Ruby here. ***Many thanks to Adam Thomas and Abingdon Press for providing a copy for me to review.

Thanks for stopping by today, sweet friends!

ruby letters 1About the Author: Adam Thomas was ordained to the Episcopal priesthood in 2008 at the age of 25, making him one of the first priests from the millennial generation. His unique voice in the faith community emanates from a combination of his youth, honesty, humor, and tech-savvy nature. A self-described nerd, Adam is the author of Digital Disciple. He also writes the blog WhereTheWind.com, belongs to the Christian Century Blogging Community and Day1.org, and knows everything about Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Adam lives in Weymouth, Massachusetts.

You can connect with Adam on his Facebook page, through Twitter, and on YouTube. Continue Reading…

“’It is about the heart and knowing the voice of the Great Good God in your spirit,’ he told them in his newborn fervor. ‘It is by His grace we are saved. By His goodness, not your own.’”
So speaks Joseph Tames-His-Horse, the Mohawk truth-teller from Lori Benton’s sweetly evocative novel, Burning Sky.

Burning Sky tells the story of Willa Obenchain, who was abducted from her family home at age fourteen in the early days of our country—when New York State was a frontier. (As an upstate New Yorker I so enjoy imagining that. Think Drums Along the Mohawk and Last of the Mohicans.) She lived with the Mohawk People until her husband died in a raid and small pox killed her children. As the novel begins, grief-stricken Willa is returning to New York to live out her days alone. However, God has other plans.

upstate new york today

Upstate New York today. My view of Catskill Mts. as I drive to work.

If Willa were a Bible character, she’d be . . .

Initially, Willa’s view of life could be summed up with Naomi’s pronouncement from the book of Ruth: “Call me Mara, because the Almighty has made my life very bitter. I went away full, but the Lord has brought me back empty. The Lord has afflicted me; the Almighty has brought misfortune upon me.”

Her story made me imagine what might have been different for Naomi had she been as young as Willa when tragedy struck. In real life, God brought new blessings to Naomi and filled up the three empty places in her heart.

The same happens for Lori Benton’s character, Willa. And her journey from brokenness to blessing, filled with adventure, romance, and grace, makes for great reading. I devoured this 300+ page story in two sittings and highly recommend it.

A section I loved  . . .

“’Sister,’ said the Indian, ‘I am called Joseph Tames-His-Horse, and I have come far to say a thing to you. In my dream of you, I was saying it. Will you let me say it now?’

For the first time she didn’t recoil at a Mohawk calling her sister. She would listen to anything this Indian had to say, as long as he said it in English. But what he said was one of the very last things she’d expected. A verse of Holy Scripture.

‘A bruised reed shall He not break, and the smoking flax shall He not quench.’ Believe this, my sister, because He who said it is both great and good, and cannot lie.’”

burning sky 11a

Beautiful reminder, no?

Thoughts stirred by this theme: Reeds were bent and bruised not only when trodden under foot but also when used to fashion something strong and good—like a roof or basket. Though we don’t understand why griefs come as they do, we can rely on God’s promise that He will not crush His children.

Who will love this story?
  • Readers seeking faith-strengthening fiction.
  • History buffs, for sure
  • Fans of Laura Frantz, Rosslyn Elliott, Jocelyn Green, Elizabeth Camden, Colleen Coble.
  • Readers who love people of God portrayed as strong, believable characters.
  • Older teen readers on up.
  • Homeschoolers may particularly appreciate the attention to detail in capturing American frontier life of the 1780’s.

I purchased (pre-ordered even) Burning Sky after noticing comments and ads while browsing Amazon and Romantic Times. (It’s a Romantic Times Top Pick.)

***Follow this link to purchase or wish list your copy.

See more book reviews & top picks here.

Or check out my Goodreads shelves.

LoriBenton 3About the author: Lori Benton was born and raised east of the Appalachian Mountains, surrounded by early American and family history going back to the 1600s. Her novels transport readers to the 18th century, where she brings to life the Colonial and early Federal periods of American history, creating a melting pot of characters drawn from both sides of a turbulent and shifting frontier, brought together in the bonds of God’s transforming grace.

You can connect with Lori at her website here and her Facebook page here.

This week I’m linking up with Inspire Me Monday, Miscellany Monday, Monday Musings, Hear It on Sunday, Unite @Rich Faith Rising, The Better Mom, Modest Mondays, GraceLaced Mondays, Teach Me Tuesdays, Gratituesdays, Just Write, Titus 2 Tuesdays, Teaching What Is Good, What I Learned This Week, Heart and Home, Domestically Divine Tuesday, Tuesday Muse, Raising Homemakers, Deep Roots at Home, Wise Woman Builds Her House, Tell His Story, Wholehearted Home Wednesdays, Winsome Wednesday, Wise Woman Wednesday, Works for Me Wednesday, Wednesday Hop @Adorned from Above, Hope in Every Season Homemaking Party, Thursday Favorite Things, Thriving Thursday, Hearts for Home, Thoughtful Thursday, Raising Mighty Arrows, Share the Joy Thursday, Time Travel Thursday, Desire to Inspire,Thrive @Home Link Up, Grace at Home, Faithful Friday Blog Hop, Faith-filled Friday, Fellowship Friday, Friendship Friday, Freedom Friday, Aloha Friday Blog Hop, Womanhood w/ Purpose Friday Link Up, TGIF, Friday Company Girl Coffee Link Up, Essential Friday Link-up, Sunday Collective, and Heart Reflected.

Catch Star 4

Author Beth Vogt is one of those folks who generously gives time and talent to help others achieve success. She writes an encouraging blog, shares glimpses of her life on Facebook, and helps us hone our writing technique at My Book Therapy. When she offered me the opportunity to review her latest novel, I jumped at the chance and am really glad I did! I highly recommend Catch a Falling Star. I know you’ll love it, too.

Why? Here are some things you’re sure to appreciate about this heartwarming story:

The unique, multi-talented heroine: Kendall Haynes is a smart, feisty family practice physician, who can tirelessly treat kids all day and rebuild a jeep in her spare time. She’s the type who interrupts her dinner when she notices that a nearby teen appears ill, saves his life, and then casually returns to chat with her friends. Kendall knows what to prescribe for other people’s lives, but she doesn’t quite know how to fix what’s missing in her own. I was rooting for her after that first phone call from her selfish sister.

The trying-to-do-the-right-thing hero: My heart went out to Griffin Walker, an Air Force pilot who suffers from Vertigo—a fitting metaphor for a man whose life has been turned upside down. After the loss of his parents, Griffin gets thrown into the role of guardian to the hurting teenage brother he hardly knows. His first marriage failed, and now even his career is on hold. The storms of life have swamped poor Griffin. At first, he doesn’t know which way is up. Watching him find his way was sweet and satisfying.

The Love-Is-Lovelier-the-Second-Time-Around aspect: Kendall and Griffin are nearing forty with failed relationships behind them when God brings them together. And that beautiful second chance, as the song says, “Makes you think perhaps that love like youth is wasted on the young.”

The story behind the story: Beth dedicated the book to a teen named Ian Lyons, a friend’s son who suffered through cancer and died in 2009. This story is a fitting tribute to a young person who faced life’s toughest challenges with faith and courage.

The Spiritual Takeaway: Catch a Falling Star is more than a simple romance novel with the expected HEA.* It’s a story that takes a look at some difficult truths.

  • Truth: Loving others can be painful.
  • Truth: We can’t go back in time and relive wasted years.
  • Truth: Some decisions cannot be undone.

But the characters live out how Jesus enables us to view the reality of our lives and see this transcendent Truth—that God can redeem our bad decisions and foolish mistakes and offer in their place Hope, Peace, and Second Chances.

Don’t you love when that happens in a story? Yeah. Me, too!

You can order your copy of Catch a Falling Star at this link. (Even though the protagonists are older, I plan to bring my copy to my students. They’ll enjoy the romance and the teenage boy’s story—plus pick up some ideas about God’s grace and forgiveness. I bet the teen girls in your life would enjoy it also.) ***Thanks to Beth Vogt and Howard Books for providing a copy for me to review.

beth vogt authorAbout the Author: Beth Vogt is a non-fiction author and editor who said she’d never write fiction. She’s the wife of an Air Force family physician (now in solo practice), though she said she’d never marry a doctor—or anyone in the military. She’s a mom of four, though she said she’d never have kids. She’s discovered that God’s best often waits behind the doors marked “Never.” An established magazine writer and former editor of Connections, the leadership magazine for MOPS International, Beth is also the Skills Coach for My Book Therapy, the writing community founded by best-selling author Susan May Warren. You can connect with Beth on her Facebook page, on Twitter, or at her website.

*HEA = Happily Ever After (A definition for you non-romance buffs out there!)

GIVEAWAY: Follow this link to enter Beth’s $200 Visa Gift Card Giveaway and to sign up for her June 4th Facebook Party! Continue Reading…

Take a Chance on Me

Renee Ann Smith —  April 28, 2013 — 6 Comments

Jensen crop

I probably shouldn’t have started reading Take a Chance on Me right before bedtime on a school night. Then the next day the book distracted me from grading papers. This became slightly dangerous when my students realized I had a new book by a favorite author. But it was worth the risk. Yes, Take a Chance on Me was that good.

This romantic story is the first in Susan May Warren’s new series about The Christiansens: six adult siblings and their parents. Here’s Susan May Warren’s intro to this fictional family: “They’re a family like you might find next door. Or in your church. Or maybe they’re like your family. Parents trying to figure out the delicate steps of guiding adult children into responsibility, hoping to leave a legacy. When I crafted the Christiansen family, I Iooked close to home, at our family, and the families of our friends. At their challenges, and joys, and their hopes to raise children who embody the values they were raised with. Then I created a family I’d like to get to know and hang out with. To fall in love with. I hope you do too.”

What’s this book about? Best friends, Jensen Atwood and Darek Christiansen, become estranged after a tragic accident—when Darek’s wife is killed and Jensen ends up sentenced to community service for her death. Now years later both men must decide if they can take a chance on God’s forgiveness and the second chance at life He seems to be offering through two smart & savvy ladies named Ivy Madison and Claire Gibson. (I had fun imagining Jensen as a younger Jack Shepherd from Lost vs. Darek as a younger John Reese from Person of Interest!)

I experienced a strong emotional response to Take a Chance on Me. How can you tell if you’ll feel the same?

  • If you’ve ever had that sick feeling in the pit of your stomach when you fear you’ve ruined your chance at happiness,
  • Or felt a hole in your heart because you’ve hurt someone you love. And it can never be undone.
  • If life has made you bargain and beg and weep before God
  • Then, after all that, a moment arrived that stole your breath away—when God offered you a second chance
  • And you took it. You grabbed it with both hands
  • And God’s grace and forgiveness filled you until you felt like you could soar,

Then you will love this story.

Two characters quickly worked their way into my heart: Jensen Atwood, a handsome, under-appreciated, intent-on-beating-himself-up secondary hero. Fortunately, Jensen has Gibs. Jack Marshall Gibson, Grandpop or Gibs to his family and friends, Vietnam vet and man of God. Gibs gives Jens exactly what he needs: love, godly counsel, a good checkers game, and a wake up call. Here are some of Gibs’ best lines:

grandpop gibs crop

You can read about the individual members of the Christiansen Family—each to be the subject of an upcoming novel—here.

Tweetables: “You can’t make yourself & your life whole again. God can.” (Click to Tweet)

“So plan A is a bust. God can make a plan B better than plan A ever would have been.” (Click to Tweet)

“He’d settle for Peace.The kind that let you sleep thru’ the night & look at yourself in the morning.” (Click to Tweet)

Need more details? Here’s the back-cover copy: Darek Christiansen is almost a dream bachelor—oldest son in the large Christiansen clan, heir to their historic Evergreen Lake Resort, and doting father. But he’s also wounded and angry since the tragic death of his wife, Felicity. No woman in Deep Haven dares come near.

New assistant county attorney Ivy Madison simply doesn’t know any better when she bids on Darek at the charity auction. Nor does she know that when she crafted a plea bargain three years ago to keep Jensen Atwood out of jail, she was releasing the man responsible for Felicity’s death. All Ivy knows is that the Christiansens feel like the family she’s always longed for. And once she gets past Darek’s tough exterior, she finds a man she could spend the rest of her life with. Which scares her almost as much as Darek learning of her involvement in his wife’s case.

Caught between new love and old grudges, Darek must decide if he can set aside the past for a future with Ivy—a future more and more at risk as an approaching wildfire threatens to wipe out the Christiansen resort and Deep Haven itself.

***Thanks to Susan May Warren, Litfuse, and Tyndale House for providing a copy for me to review. You can purchase Take a Chance on Me at this link. (And remember, the teens in your life will enjoy this book, too!)

About the Author: Susan May Warren is the RITA award-winning novelist of over thirty novels. A five-time Christy award finalist, a two-time RITA Finalist, she’s also a multi-winner of the Inspirational Readers Choice award, and the ACFW Carol Award. A seasoned women’s events speaker, she’s a popular writing teacher at conferences around the nation. She is also the founder of MyBookTherapy.com, a story-crafting service that helps authors discover their voice. You can find her online at www.susanmaywarren.com. Continue Reading…

Promise Box Collage 4

If you had stopped by my house this weekend, you would have found me crying over the fictional characters from Tricia Goyer’s latest Amish novel, The Promise Box. This book moved me because the heart of the story is the damaged relationship between a mother and daughter. The mother doesn’t understand her daughter’s choices. The daughter doesn’t appreciate her mother’s sacrifices.

And the healing they need almost comes too late.

I lost my mom in February. Though our circumstances differ from Ada Mae’s and Lydia’s, I could relate to the soul-searching that comes when human love doesn’t seem to be enough to repair a fraying bond.

Watching these characters find the answers in Jesus was a beautiful experience.

And I especially love that a simple wooden box filled with letters and God’s promises became the vehicle that helped them communicate.

So will reading The Promise Box benefit you? Yes!

  • Read this book for your daughter.
  • Or your mother.
  • Read this book with them.
  • Discuss what keeps the characters apart and what ultimately brings them together.
  • Begin a Promise Box of your own.
  • Celebrate the people God gave you to love, mentor, and cherish.

(You can read about how my mom and I experienced bonding in her last weeks here .)

What’s also great about this book is that the author knows well the birth mom/adoption experience that the character Lydia goes through. Tricia Goyer is the founder of Hope Pregnancy Ministries in Northwestern Montana, and she currently leads a Teen MOPS Group in Little Rock, AR.

Tricia is a godly mentor to many young women. You can trust her with the teen girls in your life. Connect with Tricia at triciagoyer.com and read about her service to teen moms, parenting books, marriage advice, homeschooling tips, and much more!

Oh, and did I mention it’s a romance? This is the second book in the Seven Brides for Seven Bachelors series. As the book blurb says, “Every year, young Amish men descend on the cozy little town of West Kootenai, Montana, arriving in the spring to live there for six months and receive ‘resident’ status for the hunting season in the fall. They arrive as bachelors, but go home with brides!” This story focuses on Lydia and Gideon as they meet, become friends, and then realize God means for them to be more than friends—another aspect of the book you’ll love.

A third plus: as a teacher, I really enjoyed the classroom scenes as Lydia begins her teaching career in a one-room Amish schoolhouse.

The Promise Box Tricia GoyerYou can purchase your copies of The Promise Box at this link. ***Thanks to Tricia, Litfuse, and Zondervan for providing a copy for me to review.

More About the Author: Tricia Goyer is a busy mom of six, grandmother of one, and wife to John. Somewhere around the hustle and bustle of family life, she manages to find the time to write fictional tales delighting and entertaining readers and non-fiction titles offering encouragement and hope. A bestselling author, Tricia has published thirty-three books to date and has written more than 500 articles. She is a two-time Carol Award winner, as well as a Christy and ECPA Award Nominee. In 2010, she was selected as one of the Top 20 Moms to Follow on Twitter by SheKnows.com. Continue Reading…

Some days more than others, I hunger and thirst for the things that are “true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent, or praiseworthy.” I long to soak them in and make them a part of me. Where do I find these sources of beauty? In any person, movie, story, or song that reflects the attributes of my Lord.

Without a doubt, My Foolish Heart by Susan May Warren is one of those sources. This story of healing and second chances reminded me of what God can do in the lives of hurting, damaged people . . . people just like you and me.

I loved the main characters: Isadora, who wants desperately to escape the trauma that haunts her; Caleb, a warrior who is fighting his way back from a debilitating injury; Lucy, whose bad choices have led her far away from the woman she thought she’d become; and Seb, a former athlete who is certain his best years are behind him. Oh, and I can’t forget the Coach, whose fragile body belies the powerful faith within him.

I rooted for the characters as they worked through their troubles and found some scenes incredibly touching. The sweet romance was a breath of fresh air. In fact, elements of the plot brought to mind one of my favorite old movies, The Shop Around the Corner–where two people who rub each other the wrong way in daily life are unaware that they’re secretly anonymous pen pals who are falling in love with each other.

If I had to choose one word to describe this novel, it would be Refreshing. And the key verse? Philippians 4:23: “Receive and experience the amazing grace of the Master, Jesus Christ, deep, deep within yourselves.”

I’d love to see this story turned into classic Hallmark–one of those movies that shows people at their best, living in faith, taking risks for love, and honoring one another with thought, word, and deed.

My advice? Treat yourself to this story. You can follow this link to pre-order a copy of Susan’s beautiful book!

Susan’s bio: Growing up in Minneapolis and attending the U of MN, Susan learned to love city life, although she’s a woodsy girl at heart. Or maybe she’s an adventurer–having lived and traveled all over the world, including Siberia, Russia, as a missionary for eight years. Probably that’s why her characters can’t sit still and seem to get into one scrape after another. They’re too much like her! Susan loves God, her family, her country, her church, and feels privileged every day to be able to write stories that inspire and entertain!

**Thanks to Tyndale, who sent me a copy of this book for free in exchange for my honest opinion.

Emily with daughter Bella

Here at Doorkeeper, we celebrate those who are opening doors for others, either through mentoring, mothering, teaching, writing or more. From time-to-time I’ll be interviewing a faithful Doorkeeper—especially if she’s a fellow booklover—and giving away a book by her favorite author.

You’ll find giveaway details for The Thorn by Beverly Lewis at the end of this post. But first, take some time to get to know a fellow Christian fiction enthusiast!

This week’s booklover, Emily DiRenzo Steele, wanted to be a Broadway singer when she grew up, but God, it seemed, had other plans.

You won’t find Emily on a New York City stage, entertaining an adoring crowd before flitting off to sample the night life. But you just might find her driving the back roads of her quiet hometown, singing a duet of Mighty to Save

Emily and daughter Gabi

with her three-year-old daughter Bella, while fifteen-month-old Gabbi looks on. Two beautiful daughters are all the adoring crowd this young mother needs!

Emily and her husband Jon are members of First Baptist Church of Rhinebeck, New York, and together they head up the youth ministry. Emily also teaches the teen girls’ Sunday school class.

Emily’s take on church life: “Being in the Youth Ministry means that Jon and I are always busy. But it also means that my girls get to have the influence of some awesome, Godly young people. We like when the teens are in our home, eating, and hanging out. It brings all that we do together.”

True Life Romance

Emily on her wedding day

Emily first met Jon on a Word of Life Youth Mission trip to South Africa. They became fast friends, along with two others on the team. After the trip, Emily returned to high school in New York, and Jon returned to Michigan.

On a long weekend, Emily traveled to Michigan to visit her new friends. That was when she and Jon began dating.

Emily says, “I don’t know that there was one single moment where I thought he was ‘the one.’ I just knew in my heart that this young man loved the Lord. That serving God was important to Jon.”

Emily and Jon today

“And,” she adds, “I think being ten hours apart was the best part about dating. It truly made us get to know each other. I remember getting snail mail from him and smiling from ear to ear, just reading about his week. He was my best friend.”

Present Joys
Emily describes their family life as crazy—in a good way. Jon works second shift at the Dutchess County Jail (on the Corrections Emergency Response Team). So it’s an event to have him home for dinner, and a special treat for the four of them to pray together before putting the girls to bed.

Since Emily was saved at age four (cousin Tara prayed with her to receive Christ during a sleepover), she understands how vital those first years are in a child’s faith journey. She

Mom and Bella explore the world

loves when life offers an opportunity to open the “faith” door with her girls—and not just through church, AWANA, Scripture memory, or praise music. And her efforts are paying off. Recently while watching the Narnia movie, Bella exclaimed, “Aslan is like Jesus. He died and came back to life!”

One of Emily’s special joys is hosting Thanksgiving for her siblings, a job which she inherited from her grandfather. “I would sit with Poppy and memorize how he made the stuffed mushrooms and prepared the turkey. Now I make everyone’s favorites, and it literally makes my heart happy when we all sit down to eat. I love it!”

Past difficulties
Though Emily’s life is presently rosy, it hasn’t been without its thorns. (Notice the title of the book giveaway!)

Emily with girls from her youth group

During her high school years, she realized she’d gotten in with the wrong crowd and needed to flee the bad influences. The insightful teen begged her mother for a chance to attend Northern Dutchess Christian School, and Mom made it happen. Emily enrolled, blossomed, and stayed for three years before graduating.

During her adult years, Emily has also had to work through some residual issues caused by her parents’ divorce, which she sees as hugely impacting her life. Emily comments, “I know my parents love us kids so much, and I have a great relationship with both of them. Praise God that He’s been so good to us . . . The divorce has shaped me, though.”

Everyday Struggles
Emily wrote, “Last week I sang a song in church, and one of the lines said, ‘When anything that’s shattered is laid before the Lord, just watch and see. It will not be, unredeemed.’”

“God is so much more capable than I am! Yet I always try to do things on my own. I am a worrier, and I am borderline obsessed with getting things done yesterday.

God uses those weaknesses to bring me to my knees often! Whether it is my shattered attempt at conquering the world, or my shattered attempt at being humble and asking forgiveness, He is always able to redeem, and always able to do it FAR beyond what I have ever imagined.”

Family vacation photo

Future Goals
“I would love to see my kids firmly rooted in the Lord! I want the same for my marriage. I don’t know that I can think of any other goals for myself. Though, opening my own hair salon and keeping my laundry from piling up would be wonderful!”

Favorite Books
The Last Sin Eater by Francine Rivers: “This book illustrates how the weight of our sins was removed by Christ, our Last Sin Eater. I loved Cadi, and her desire to understand God’s forgiveness. This book grabbed me with its characters.”

This Present Darkness by Frank Peretti: “I love the way that he paints a picture of the war for our souls! Incredible book!”

Shades of Blue by Karen Kingsbury : “Covers the topic of abortion and all the healing that God can do through even our sinful choices. I read this one in two days—couldn’t put it down!”

Emily enjoying snow camp with youth group

The Centurion’s Wife & The Hidden Flame by Janette Oke & Davis Bunn: “This is the latest series I have read, and I’m so glad it’s not finished! An awesome look into the time of the disciples. It brings Scripture to life!”

ANYTHING by Beverly Lewis: “I have read everything she has written! I think she is one of the greatest authors ever. I have NEVER been disappointed.”

Book Giveaway:
In honor of Emily, I’m giving away a brand new copy of The Thorn by Beverly Lewis. If you haven’t read this, sign up today and get reading. Then you’ll be ready for the sequel, The Judgment, which will be out in April!

Steps To Enter the Giveaway:
1. Join this blog through email or Google Friend Connect. To join by email, enter your email address in the space provided on the sidebar. But you’re not done yet! Look for an email from Feedburner in your personal email account. Follow the link provided to verify your subscription.

2. Leave a comment here to let me know that you are a follower or subscriber. Be sure to put your email address in your comment. However, write it like this jenniebee [at] yahoo [dot] com and NOT like this jenniebee@yahoo.com. (This helps keep your email safe from spammers!)

Confused? For blog newbies, if you’re reading this on the main page, look for the tiny words “Leave a comment” in the notes at the end of this post. If you’re on the post page, you should see a large box in which to leave a reply.

So whether you’ve known Emily a long time or just met her today, why don’t you leave a comment to encourage her? And if you’d like to view more of her photos, check out the Sidebar Photoblog. Simply click on the cover photo so view the rest of the pictures.

How about you? Do you have a list of favorite books you’d like to talk about, some family photos to share with us, a life story you’d like to tell? Maybe we’ll be reading about you here at Doorkeeper in the future!

Follow this link to view the website of author Beverly Lewis.

Follow this link to view or pre-order The Judgment by Beverly Lewis.

Follow this link to read an excerpt or to purchase a copy of The Thorn by Beverly Lewis.

If you’re new to this site, follow this link to read the inspiring true story of A Woman’s Miraculous Faith in the Jungles of World War II!

Amazon.com book summary of The Thorn:
Lancaster County, with its rolling meadows and secret byways, may seem idyllic, but it is not without its thorns. THE ROSE TRILOGY is the stirring saga of two Amish sisters on the fringes of the church, and the unforeseen discoveries that change their lives.

Rose Kauffman, a spirited young woman, has a close friendship with the bishop’s foster son. Nick dresses Plain and works hard but stirs up plenty of trouble, too. Rose’s sister cautions her against becoming too involved, but Rose is being courted by a good, Amish fellow, and so dismisses the warnings. Meanwhile, Rose keeps house for an English widower but is startled when he forbids her to ever go upstairs. What is the man hiding?

Rose’s older sister, Hen, knows more than she should about falling for the wrong man. Unable to abandon her Amish ways, Hen is soon separated from her very modern husband. Mattie, their young daughter, must visit her father regularly, but Hen demands she wear Amish attire–and speak Pennsylvania Dutch, despite her husband’s wishes. Will Hen be able to reestablish her place among the People she abandoned? And will she be able to convince Rose to steer clear of rogue neighbor Nick?