Saturday, November 30, 2019

LIKE A WINTER SNOW: A PORT WILLIS CHRISTMAS NOVELLA by Lindsay Harrel, Reviewed by Winnie Thomas

Like a Winter Snow is a charming Christmas novella that ventures back to Port Willis and some of the characters in Lindsay Harrel’s novel, The Secrets of Paper and Ink. It was such fun to return and visit again. With a setting in Cornwall at Christmas and some fantastic, endearing characters, it was easy for me to settle in for this delightful, easy read. Joy and Oliver were wonderful main characters, and I enjoyed seeing them interact.
Themes of faith, friendship, and forgiveness of self are deftly woven into the novella. I thoroughly enjoyed it, and my only complaint is that I wish it were longer!
*I purchased Like a Winter Snow and was under no obligation to review, nor provide a positive review.

Back Cover Blurb:
Cozy up with this charming and uplifting romance all about unexpected love, true friendship, and family loyalty. Set during a Christmas-time wedding among the falling snow, this sweet story will warm your heart.

Women’s counselor Joy Beckman has always been a friend and helper to all. That’s why she’s given up everything to be with her parents as her mother suffers through Alzheimer’s. Joy may not have a thriving career or a love life at the moment, but she’s doing what she does best—taking care of others. And even though it’s difficult, she knows it’s where she is supposed to be.

But life throws a curveball when she has to leave her parents temporarily to travel to Cornwall, England, for the December wedding of her best friend. While there, Joy helps Sophia tackle her last-minute to-do list, and in the process, finally meets a man who turns her head—and her heart. The only problem? He lives in snowy London, and her life is with her parents back in sunny Florida.

She tries to resist Oliver Lincoln’s charms, but it’s harder than it should be. With her heart torn in two, Joy is forced to choose between a life she knows she’s meant for and the one she didn’t see coming.

Fall in love with this enchanting romance that’s sure to delight fans of Rachel Hauck, Autumn Macarthur, and Alexa Verde. Even if you have not read
The Secrets of Paper and Ink (where the quaint village of Port Willis was first born), you can fully enjoy this heartwarming holiday novella.

Available at Amazon 

Friday, November 29, 2019

FALL BOOK GIVEAWAY #3 THE MEMORY HOUSE by Rachel Hauck, donated by Rebecca Maney

Generously donated by Inkwell Inspirations Reviewer Rebecca Maney

Back Cover Blurb:
In this sweet romance, the power of love and the miracle of faith promise hope and healing in the beautiful Victorian known affectionately as
The Memory House.

When Beck Holiday lost her father in the North Tower on 9/11, she also lost her memories of him. Eighteen years later, she’s a tough New York City cop burdened with a damaging secret, suspended for misconduct, and struggling to get her life in order. Meanwhile a mysterious letter arrives informing her she’s inherited a house along Florida’s northern coast, and what she discovers there will change her life forever. Matters of the heart only become more complicated when she runs into handsome Bruno Endicott, a driven sports agent who fondly recalls the connection they shared as teenagers. But Beck doesn’t remember that either.

Decades earlier, widow Everleigh Applegate lives a steady, uneventful life with her widowed mother after a tornado ripped through Waco, Texas, and destroyed her new, young married life. When she runs into old high school friend Don Callahan, she begins to yearn for change. Yet no matter how much she longs to love again, she is hindered by a secret she can never share.

From the New York Times bestselling author of
The Wedding Dress comes the inspirational story of two women whose lives have been destroyed by disaster but find healing in a special house.

This inspirational read is a mix of contemporary and historical and is a standalone novel. 

Use Rafflecopter options to enter Rebecca's giveaway of THE MEMORY HOUSE. U.S. Postage only.

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Thursday, November 28, 2019

BEFORE AND AFTER by Judy Christie and Lisa Wingate. Non-Fiction reviewed by Winnie Thomas

BEFORE AND AFTER: The Incredible Real-Life Stories of Orphans Who Survived the Tennessee Children's Home Society
After reading Lisa Wingate’s Before We Were Yours, a moving story based on the tragic real-life Tennessee Children’s Home Society adoption scheme headed by Georgia Tann, I was very interested in reading more about the adoptees. Before and After is a nonfiction account of some of the victims of Tann’s greed and corruption. It was interesting to read their stories and thoughts about their lives and how they were affected by the adoptions. Many of them were able to connect with siblings and other members of their birth families with varying results.

The book is well written and kept my interest throughout. It’s a fitting and touching follow-up to Wingate’s story. 

*I voluntarily reviewed a complimentary copy from the publisher through NetGalley. All opinions are my own.

BackCover Blurb:
The compelling, poignant true stories of victims of a notorious adoption scandal—some of whom learned the truth from Lisa Wingate’s bestselling novel Before We Were Yours and were reunited with birth family members as a result of its wide reach.

From the 1920s to 1950, Georgia Tann ran a black-market baby business at the Tennessee Children’s Home Society in Memphis. She offered up more than 5,000 orphans tailored to the wish lists of eager parents—hiding the fact that many weren’t orphans at all, but stolen sons and daughters of poor families, desperate single mothers, and women told in maternity wards that their babies had died.

The publication of Lisa Wingate’s novel
Before We Were Yours brought new awareness of Tann’s lucrative career in child trafficking. Adoptees who knew little about their pasts gained insight into the startling facts behind their family histories. Encouraged by their contact with Wingate and award-winning journalist Judy Christie, who documented the stories of fifteen adoptees in this book, many determined Tann survivors set out to trace their roots and find their birth families.

Before and After includes moving and sometimes shocking accounts of the ways in which adoptees were separated from their first families. Often raised as only children, many have joyfully reunited with siblings in the final decades of their lives. Christie and Wingate tell of first meetings that are all the sweeter and more intense for time missed and of families from very different social backgrounds reaching out to embrace better-late-than-never brothers, sisters, and cousins. In a poignant culmination of art meeting life, many of the long-silent victims of the tragically corrupt system return to Memphis with the authors to reclaim their stories at a Tennessee Children’s Home Society reunion . . . with extraordinary results.

Available in digital ebook, hardcover and audiobook: 
Buy Before and After at Amazon
Buy Before and After at

Wednesday, November 27, 2019

CHRISTMAS AT WHITEFRIARS by Elizabeth Camden, Reviewed by Winnie Thomas

Set in England in 1912 and with a cast of colorful, realistic, and endearing characters, Christmas at Whitefriars is a charming story that delighted my historical romance loving heart. It’s rare to find a novella that doesn’t feel rushed, but Elizabeth Camden unfolds this story with perfect pacing and a satisfying and meaningful conclusion. The heroine, Mary Beckwith, loves Whitefriars Castle and is in her comfort zone there until Everett Wooten arrives with some questions, and problems arise. Camden isn’t afraid to inflict her characters with realistic issues like panic attacks and anxiety, while giving them faith and courage to overcome them. I enjoyed seeing Mary and Everett grow in their relationship and their individual strengths.

“It can be frightening to step out into something new. I’ve been knocked down, but then comes the time to crawl back up onto your feet, start walking, then running, and don’t stop until you get where you need to be.”

Although this novella features characters from the author’s Empire State series, it’s not necessary to have read the other books, as the novella stands on its own perfectly. Elizabeth Camden is a gifted writer and has quickly become a favorite of mine. I’m looking forward to reading more of her stories.
*I voluntarily reviewed a complimentary copy from the author/publisher. All opinions are my own.


Back Cover Blurb:
Mary Beckwith lives in a magnificent English castle during the twilight years of the gilded age. With the help of an American millionaire, she has succeeded in renovating her beloved Whitefriars castle into a splendid estate just in time for Christmas.

From across the ocean, millionaire Everett Wooten has spent a fortune propping up Whitefriars to add modern conveniences and rebuild crumbling old walls. Even though he’s never met Mary, they have enjoyed a lively business correspondence over the nine years they have been working toward a renovation. Now he has finally come to see Mary and the castle in person, but nothing is as he was led to believe.

Mary and Everett try to find a way forward, but red-blooded American entrepreneurship doesn’t always mingle with blue-blooded English tradition. Can a Manhattan business tycoon and an English lady come to an accord, or will their joint venture in Whitefriars result in heartbreak for them both? 

Available in digital ebook and paperback:
Buy Christmas at Whitefriars at Amazon

Tuesday, November 26, 2019

GUEST REVIEWER Lori Chasko with NOT AGAIN by Maria T. Henriksen

Deb: Today, I'm hosting a guest reviewer!  Lori Chasko has offered a unique perspective as a reader of Young Adult Fiction. Along with meeting Lori, you'll learn more about a new release by Author Maria T. Henriksen!

Lori's Review of NOT AGAIN:
Not Again was a novel that stayed me from beginning to end.  I loved the different elements and emotions Not Again portrayed. Not Again showed teenagers as real as they come. Compassionate and uncouth,cruel and kind.

Not Again is a novel that will make you think. The element of faith resonates throughout the novel and is beautifully woven in. The scripture is comforting and familiar. Christina,Avery,and the other teenagers are on their journey of discovery as we all once were and still are.

Not Again helped me learn a few things about myself and even brought back some memories that made me laugh and some that made me struggle when I was a teenager myself.

Maria T. Henriksen did a very nice job of putting into words the obstacles teenagers face daily and how to overcome them.
*All opinions are my own. I purchased this book and was under no obligation to provide a review, nor a positive review.

Hi Lori, thanks for being our guest at Inkwell Inspirations. Deb: You've brought a review of Maria T. Henriksen's new release to share with our readers. Amazon lists NOT AGAIN as teen or young adult romance as well as Christian Fiction.

What do you think of the current offerings you find when looking for young adult fiction? What would you like to see more of?

Lori: I think that in the way of Christian Fiction especially young adult that there is too much fluff at times sheltering today's youth. In answer to the 2nd part of your question less sugar-coating. There are real life problems addressed in the Bible that certainly were not. That's not real life.

Deb: What age do you feel is the best audience for NOT AGAIN?

Lori: 16 and up due to some mature content and situations.

Deb: Do you prefer paperbacks, ebooks or audiobooks?

Lori: It depends on what I have handy at the time. All are books just in different forms.

Deb: I agree but boy I'm really dependent on audiobooks these days!

With Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays coming, what would you most like to do with a free weekend?

Lori: I love to be with my family and friends,spending time and sharing laughs. Fun fact I live in Pennsylvania like Maria does but different areas so we really don't know each other. I met her on Facebook during the time she was getting ready to publish Not Again. We clicked as friends and prayer partners. I'm an admin in a group Maria started to bring together Christian authors and reader. My family is small but big. I have my parents, 2 biological brothers, and family friends from India and I'm Godmother to their daughter, 16 months old. I love to sing in the church choir. I'm a Soprano and a Lector (reader) and Eucharistic Minister.

Deb: Wow, I'm impressed! You're a busy gal with some very special interests!
Thanks so much for bringing your perspective to the Inkwell blog!

Lori: Thank you for having me Debra. It is my intent to help Maria's debut release Not Again get noticed!


Christina De Rosa holds a potentially deadly secret that threatens to get out. As an innocent young teenager, Christina survives a terrifying sexual assault that destroys her self-worth and trust.

In her daily struggle, Christina searches for ways to keep her torment at bay, so she can function as a "normal" teenager. Meanwhile, Christina's spiritual journey leads her down a path causing conflict within, as she's riddled with guilt and shame.

A chance encounter with her longtime, hot crush, Avery Evans, sparks a fire in Christina that she can't extinguish. As the sweet, loving, knight in shining armor he readily portrays, Avery offers the safety and security that Christina craves.

In her quest for internal peace, Christina must make a decision. Will she give her heart, body and soul to the super popular, Avery Evans?

Will Christina's nightmares become all-consuming or will her discoveries lead her to a renewed way of life?

Find out if true love triumphs in this edgy, faith-based young adult page-tuner, set in the 1980s.

*Not Again is NOT your typical Christian coming of age story. Fierce faith doesn't come without a fight. Prepare for heartache, self-harm, traumatic events, real romance, and actual scripture in these pages.

Available on digital ebook and paperback:
Author Maria T. Henriksen
Buy NOT AGAIN at Amazon

Learn more about Maria by following her Amazon Author Page.

Sunday, November 24, 2019

FALL BOOK GIVEAWAY #2 FIRE STORM by Nancy Mehl, courtesy of Rebecca Maney

Amazing Inkwell Reviewer Rebecca Maney has generously offered a #giveaway of three brand new paperbacks this fall to thank our Inkwell Inspirations Readers!

Giveaway Book Number Two  FIRE STORM by Nancy Mehl!

BackCover Blurb:
When FBI profiler Kaely Quinn's mother is diagnosed with cancer, Kaely takes time off work to go to Dark Water, Nebraska, to help her brother care for their mother. Upon her arrival, she learns of a series of fires in the small town, attributed by the fire chief to misuse of space heaters in the frigid winter. But Kaely is skeptical, and a search for a pattern in the locations of the fires bolsters her suspicions.

After yet another blaze devastates a local family, Kaely is certain a serial arsonist is on the loose. Calling upon her partner from St. Louis, Noah Hunter, and her brother's firefighter neighbor who backs Kaely's suspicions, Kaely and her team begin an investigation that swiftly leads them down a twisted path. When the truth is finally revealed, Kaely finds herself confronting a madman who is determined his last heinous act will be her death.

Thanks Rebecca!

See Paula's Review of Fire Storm!

For today's giveaway, please enter our rafflecopter where we give you three ways to win!
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Saturday, November 23, 2019

PROTECTING TANNER HOLLOW novella collection by Lynette Eason, Reviewed by Nicole Cook and Paula Shreckhise

Award-winning author Lynette Eason takes readers on a fast-paced, adrenaline-filled ride through the small town of Tanner Hollow in her latest romantic suspense novella collection, Protecting Tanner Hollow. The first three novellas were previously published as e-books by this author (Lethal Homecoming, Lethal Conspiracy, and Lethal Secrets), so readers will love how these stories come together in this fantastic collection. Since the novellas primarily take place in the town of Tanner Hollow, several of the characters have appearances in multiple stories in the collection, which makes the novellas more enjoyable to read.

The addition of Lethal Agenda, the highly anticipated story of Derek St. John from Lynette Eason’s Blue Justice series, makes this novella collection a must-read for fans of the St. John family. I was thrilled when I found out that Derek St. John would be getting his own story. As a huge fan of the Blue Justice series, I would have preferred for Derek’s story to have been told in a full length novel, but Lethal Agenda does provide an extremely satisfying conclusion to the Blue Justice series.
*I received a complimentary copy of this book from Revell and was not required to write a positive review. All opinions expressed are mine.


Protecting Tanner Hollow by Lynette Eason is a four novella collection. I have been a fan of Lynette Eason for quite a while. I frequently say I will read anything she writes.

This collection did not disappoint!

LETHAL HOMECOMING starts out with a very exciting scene and the suspense builds. Who wants Kallie Ainsworth dead? Her stepfather has died, but she isn’t a threat, or so she believes. Detective Nolan Tanner wants to ensure her safety and to keep her from being accused of murder. Ms. Eason keeps you guessing until the end.

LETHAL CONSPIRACY: Lillian Maloney sees something she shouldn’t and her life is in danger. Can firefighter Jason Tanner help find the evidence that conveniently disappeared? This was full of twists and turns and unexpected events to keep you on your toes. Then the pieces begin to fall into place.

LETHAL SECRETS: Honor McBride is running from her past and the mess her dead husband left for her to deal with. She seeks refuge in Tanner Hollow. All she wants is to live in peace in the house her great aunt willed to her. But someone wants to disrupt that peace. Eli Murphy helps her the minute she rolls into town with a flat tire. He seems to be there for her no matter the danger. Ms. Eason portrays a widow with five children with realism and heart as she ramps up the tension and confounds us with possible suspects.

LETHAL AGENDA is in my opinion the best of the bunch. I read the whole Blue Justice series earlier this year and was longing to see what brother Derek St. John’s story would be. I couldn’t be happier. Ms. Eason has a way of coming up with fresh ideas for criminals to harass and perplex their victims. I love the way Derek and Claire found each other again and how he protected her. The whole St.John family came together at Thanksgiving for their celebration of love and friendly chaos. It was the icing on the cake for the St. John family stories.
I give this book 5 stars.
*A copy of this book was provided by Revell Publishers through Interviews and Reviews.i was under no obligation to post a favorable review. All opinions are my own.*

Back Cover Blurb:
Four nail-biting novellas in one!

Lethal Homecoming
Nolan Tanner never got over Kallie Ainsworth's sudden, unexplained departure. Now when he comes to her rescue after an attempt on her life, all the old feelings come rushing back.

Lethal Conspiracy
When professional fundraiser Lillian Maloney sees her father's campaign manager commit murder, she goes on the run from the men he hires to kill her. A close call brings firefighter Jason Tanner to the rescue, but the killer is closing in . . .

Lethal Secrets
Someone wants Honor McBride dead. When Eli Murphy helps her change a flat tire and discovers the danger Honor is in, he longs to help--but Eli has secrets of his own that could get them all killed.

Lethal Agenda
When Detective Derek St. John rescues a woman he's met only once before--and has never been able to forget--he finds himself falling for her. But he'll have to keep Claire Montgomery alive if they're to have a future together.

Author Bio:
Lynette Eason is the best-selling, award winning author of almost fifty books including the Women of Justice series, the Deadly Reunions series, the Hidden Identity series, the Elite Guardians series and the Blue Justice series. She writes for Revell and for Harlequin’s Love Inspired Suspense line. Her books have appeared on the CBA, ECPA, and Publisher’s Weekly bestseller lists. She has won several awards including the Carol Award, the IRCC award, the Selah, and the Christian Retailing’s Best 2017 Award. She placed in the top ten in the James Patterson 2016 co-writer contest. The movie, Her Stolen Past, based on Lynette’s novel, aired February 2, 2018 on the Lifetime Movie Network. Lynette is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW), Romance Writers of America (RWA), Mystery Writers of America (MWA), International Thriller Writers (ITW), and Faith, Hope, and Love (FHL) chapter of RWA as well as the Kiss of Death (KOD) chapter. Lynette can be found online at and and @lynetteeason on Twitter

Available in digital ebook, paperback, hardcover and audiobook:
Buy Protecting Tanner Hollow at Amazon
Buy Protecting Tanner Hollow at

Friday, November 22, 2019

ONCE UPON A DICKENS CHRISTMAS from Michelle Griep, Reviews by Winnie Thomas and Trixi Oberembt

Once Upon a Dickens Christmas by Michelle Griep

I've always enjoyed stories by Michelle Griep, so to have a three-in-one was like opening an extra special Christmas present! Which is exactly what these are based on, Christmas. Step back in time and walk in the Victorian era, Dickens classics come to life.

Each story has its unique blend of cast, characters, plot and a little mystery behind them. I like the recurrence of a “second chance coin” that blended these three together beautifully. I also loved how circumstances brought two people together and how by the end, they fell in love. If I had to choose a “favorite” among them, I'd have to go with “The Old Lace Shop” as it reminds me of “North and South”. My favorite four-part TV show made into full length movie in the history of movies! And let's not forget the unique dialogue Griep uses to tell these tales of old; all in her own writers voice that I know so well. I've never been disappointed by any of her novels and know I'm in for a treat with each story she pens!

If you're looking for those perfect Christmasy reads for the holidays, be sure to pick up “Once Upon a Dickens Christmas”!

“You see, my dear, real joy is not found in the best moments of life, but in trusting that God is making the best of every moment...” A Tale of Two Hearts.
*I received a complimentary copy from Barbour Publishing through Netgalley and was not obligated to leave a review. *

12 Days at Bleakly Manor (2017) and A Tale of Two Hearts (2018) were released previously and now brought together as part of the three story collection with the addition of The Old Lace Shop to create the ONCE UPON A DICKENS  CHRISTMAS Collection!

12 Days at Bleakly Manor by Michelle Griep

Full of plot twists and turns, Michelle Griep’s take on Bleak House by Charles Dickens, and Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None, kept me turning pages well into the night. The setting in England in 1850 and the fascinating characters added to my enjoyment of this intricate tale. The cover is charming and enhances the atmosphere of the story. 
I appreciated the explanation of Victorian Christmas Traditions in the back of the book, as it helped to understand some of the happenings. This is a perfect cozy mystery for Christmas. I would recommend this to those who enjoy clean historical fiction mysteries.
*I voluntarily reviewed a complimentary copy of this book. All opinions are my own. 

A Tale of Two Hearts by Michelle Griep

Set in Victorian London and populated with colorful and engaging characters, A Tale of Two Hearts by Michelle Griep is a charming Christmas story. Mina is delightful with her love of books and her heart for helping others, and Will is kind and caring. They learn valuable lessons when they enter into a deception which digs a hole that gets deeper and deeper. Miss Whymsy was delightful and her observations showed great insight.

I enjoyed the Dickens quotes at the beginning of each chapter which added meaning and atmosphere to the story. The themes of second chances and faith are skillfully woven throughout and give an uplifting touch. Griep’s talents shine in this story, especially in the settings, the characters, and the rich imagery. I’m looking forward to the next book in this series.
*I voluntarily reviewed a complimentary copy from the publisher/Net/Galley. All opinions are my own.

BackCover Blurb:
Three Delightful Christmas Tales from Beloved Storyteller Michelle Griep

Pour yourself a cuppa, get lost in the merriment of the season, and enjoy a Dickensian Christmas in three stories from fan favorite Michelle Griep:
12 Days at Bleakly Manor: Brought together under mysterious circumstances, Clara and Ben discover that what they’ve been striving for isn’t what ultimately matters. What matters most is what Christmas is all about . . . love.
A Tale of Two Hearts: Pleasure seeker William Barlow needs a wife immediately to gain his uncle’s inheritance, and Mina Scott is just the girl to make him look respectable—too bad she turns him down. Ought he give her a second chance?
The Old Lace Shop: Recently widowed Bella White is finally freed from the domination of the overbearing men in her life, but when she enters into a business partnership with the handsome Edmund Archer, she begins to wonder if marriage is worth a second chance.
Available in digital ebook, paperback, hardcover and audiobook:

Buy Once Upon a Dickens Christmas at Amazon
Buy Once Upon a Dickens Christmas at

Thursday, November 21, 2019

THE PRINTED LETTER BOOKSHOP by Katherine Reay, Reviewed by Rebecca Maney

"It felt sad, as if the shop itself had just realized that what lay ahead could never be better than what lay behind."

Or could it? It certainly seems out of the realm of possibility. When Madeline Cullen's world is upended by a crushing disappointment in one career, she is subsequently thrust down a vocational path that she never wanted; how could the death of an aunt whom she would have loved to deem beloved, seem so painfully ironic?

The Printed Letter Bookshop is an iconic landmark and gathering space in the small
Winsome community; its two remaining employees suddenly heartbroken and downtrodden about the certain possibility that the shop will be sold after the death of its owner. Their own lives have become like pages in the books that surround them, constantly turning, hoping for a happy ending. They could never have imagined that their real life stories would end up being the best chapters of all.

Synergy comes to mind as an appropriate descriptive of this quite lovely and thought provoking story; three women whom most would incorrectly assume had nothing in common, managing to forge friendships around the things they did have in common; life's messy details.

"You hem me in, behind and before, and lay your hand upon me." 

*I purchased this book with no obligation to review, nor provide a positive review.

Books. Love. Friendship. Second chances. All can be found at the Printed Letter Bookshop in the small, charming town of Winsome.
One of Madeline Cullen’s happiest childhood memories is of working with her Aunt Maddie in the quaint and cozy Printed Letter Bookshop. But by the time Madeline inherits the shop nearly twenty years later, family troubles and her own bitter losses have hardened Madeline’s heart toward her once-treasured aunt—and the now struggling bookshop left in her care.
While Madeline intends to sell the shop as quickly as possible, the Printed Letter’s two employees have other ideas. Reeling from a recent divorce, Janet finds sanctuary within the books and within the decadent window displays she creates. Claire, though quieter than the acerbic Janet, feels equally drawn to the daily rhythms of the shop and its loyal clientele, finding a renewed purpose within its walls.
When Madeline’s professional life falls apart, and a handsome gardener upends all her preconceived notions, she questions her plans and her heart. Has she been too quick to dismiss her aunt’s beloved shop? And even if she has, the women’s best combined efforts may be too little, too late.

This sweet, contemporary read is a standalone novel, though characters in this story will appear in Katherine Reay’s forthcoming book, Of Literature and Lattes. 
Available in digital ebook, paperback, library binding and audiobook:

Wednesday, November 20, 2019

Tale of the Tiny Discarded Tree

Draper's Acres, Winter of 2007
In October 1999 when we moved to our farm, we planted an 18" spruce tree where it would stand as a beacon to show the corner where the lawn ends and the gravel driveway branches off. This is needed to aid snow clearing so we don't ruin our lawn every winter. It was the perfect spot for the imperfect little tree. The tree is special to us as we had rescued it in 1994 from a large tree farm operation that threw out several hundred seedlings because they'd grown too large for the automatic tree planting equipment. We rescued 10 of the trees, deep down from a pile that had been left lying with their roots exposed to the sun for several hours. We planted them at home on our acreage, hoping they'd survive. The next year we retired from our military careers and left CFB Cold Lake, Alberta for the balmy climate of Saskatchewan. Along with our kids and belongings, we took our houseplants and six containers of sorry-looking seedlings which we transplanted into the garden of our new home. (The seedlings, not the kids.) We lived in town for five years. The seedlings were alive, but didn't thrive. Then came the move to the farm where we picked the healthiest seedling for the honored corner spot.

By 2010 the small spruce was still too small for Christmas lights. Although it wasn't actively growing, it was still green and healthy looking.

Draper's Acres, May 2010

Then during the summer of 2011, we noticed new growth at the ends of each little branch and it didn't look lopsided if you looked at it from the right angle.

Draper's Acres, Dec 2011

In 2013 the tree grew upwards and outwards, filling out yet still with its signature branch jutting out.  The gardener in me figures the roots had stretched out and down and the tree decided to put its efforts into growing topside. But my heart likes the thought that the little discarded tree finally realized it was home and would never be uprooted again.

Draper's Acres, Nov 2013

The tree was 20 years old in 2014 and continued its growth spurt--so much that when Nelson (and the boys who are hidden) went to string the lights, they had a tough time reaching the top branches. And oh, that tree shone through the darkness, a wonderful sight to behold during those long winter nights.

Draper's Acres, Dec 2014

It's hard to tell how tall the 2015 spruce tree is in this next photo, so that's when I decided I'd need to include the power line above it in all future shots.

Draper's Acres, Dec 2015

By 2017 the once-discarded spruce was over 14 feet tall as shown by the height of Nelson and JJ, the space between them and above them. To string the lights, JJ used two of those picker-upper things so it looked like he had extended lobster claws, but they did the trick of reaching the top of the tree. (For comparison, check out the 2010 photo to see the progress in the past 7 years!)

Draper's Acres, Nov 2017

Throughout the years we've lived on the farm, the tree has been the gathering place for family photos. It's a visual reference to the growth of the kids as well as the tree. Like this 2017 photo when all four kids were home for Christmas and after they went home, we were left with a beautiful memory of the event.

Draper's Acres, Christmas 2017

Draper's Acres, Nov 2018

The guys have gotten inventive over the years and last week when they went to string the lights, Nelson taped one of the picker-uppers to the end of a long handle. JJ held the lights up and they both circled the tree, winding the lights around as they went.

Draper's Acres, Nov 2019

A few hours after this year's tree was strung with lights, the moon tried to peek out and add to the light show. .

Draper's Acres, Nov 2019

So there you have the tale of the tiny discarded spruce tree. I only have one worry now...because of where we planted it, we may have to shave a bit off the top side if it reaches the power line. It's my fault--something I should have considered, but never imagined 20 years ago on that late October day when we moved to Draper's Acres to raise our family.

What started out as a tiny discarded tree provides us with immeasurable blessings throughout the year.


Anita Mae Draper lives on the Canadian prairies where she uses her experience and love of history to enhance her stories of yesteryear's romance with realism and faith. Readers can enrich their story experience with visual references by checking Anita's Pinterest boards. All links available on her website at

Tuesday, November 19, 2019

SERVING UP LOVE Collection (multiple authors), Reviewed by Trixi, Paula and Winnie!

In this novella collection, we meet four women from different walks of life who become Harvey House girls. This is a time in history that is especially fascinating to me because it's a turning point for women to pursue a career other than marriage and motherhood. I love the true story of how Fred Harvey opened up Harvey Houses all around the country, therefore providing opportunities for these women to find independence and sustain themselves financially. When I had a chance to read and review this book, I couldn't respond fast enough! Plus, these are written by four powerhouse historical fiction authors and knew I would enjoy each story.

In “A Flood of Love” by Tracie Perterson we meet Gretchen Gottsacker and Dirk Martinez. They have a past history together as he left on the eve of proposing to her ten years prior when something went awry and changed both of their lives. I love second chance love stories and how God gave them both a chance to make amends, forgive, move past the pain and start over again. Dirk's daughter Katiann is such a sweet addition to the story! Her prayer for a mama was fulfilled in the most special way.

In “More Than a Pretty Face” by Karen Witemeyer we meet Rosalind Kemp and Caleb Durrington. I love the overall lesson Rosalind learns that her past doesn't define her and God willingly gives second chances. Caleb was the perfect hero for her and showed her gentle love and acceptance of who she is.

In “Intrigue a la Mode” by Regina Jennings we meet Willow Kentworth and Graham Buchanan. This one was fun because Jennings threw in a bit of a mystery thread to the mix along with the romance between these two!

Finally in “A Grand Adventure” by Jen Turano we meet Myrtle Schermerhorn and Jack Daggett. I love the fact that this was set in the Grand Canyon area of Arizona—a place I hope to visit one day, I've heard it's a spectacular sight! At first Jack is the strong silent type, admiring Myrtle from afar until his younger brother Walter breaks the ice. Though Jack often blunders the romantic pursuit, he's still quite charming! They both hide secrets from one another that almost ruin it, but God works out all the kinks at the end. I also loved the double romance in this one!

These were charming short love stories still packed plenty with faith, second chances, and penned by four of the best authors I could recommend to any reader! You will even find a bit of wit and humor in the most unexpected places to make you smile.
*I received a complimentary copy from Bethany House on behalf of the authors and was under no obligation to write a favorable review. All opinions are my own. *

Serving up Love a Four-in-one Harvey House Brides Collection has stories by four of my favorite historical romantic comedy authors.

A FLOOD OF LOVE by Tracie Peterson. Ms. Peterson always delights with her settings and characters. This story Is set in San Marcial, New Mexico and is based on a real flood that happened in 1929. Gretchen and Dirk end up back in San Marcial ten years after parting. Dirk now has a precocious 9 year old daughter, Katiann, who is hard on nannies and is praying for a mama. Full of colorful characters of the Old West, this story is exciting and fun-filled and shows trust in God.

MORE THAN A PRETTY FACE by Karen Witemeyer. Fans of Ms. Witemeyer’s More Than Words Can Say will be glad to read about Abby’s sister, Rosalind Kemp, and her time as a Harvey Girl in Gainesviile, Texas. She is content in her position until her past comes back to haunt her and threatens her new romance with Caleb Durrington, a young lawyer. Ms. Witemeyer’s signature wit melds with her always interesting story. Then she wraps it up with panache in an ending full of forgiveness.

INTRIGUE A LA MODE by Regina Jennings. A mystery keeps getting more mysterious when a new busboy isn’t who he seems to be. Willow Kentworth knows something is unusual when she has to collect empty liquor bottles from the street every morning. It is puzzling since Emporia, Kansas is a dry town in 1898. Family and romance are important to Willow but so is loyalty to Harvey House. Ms. Jennings brings unique characters and an intriguing plot to this novella.

GRAND ENCOUNTERS by Jen Turano- Grand Canyon, Arizona, 1908. Lots of fun in this story about a society darling who becomes a Harvey Girl after being jilted. Ms. Turano has given us more madcap characters sure to tickle your funny bone, her concluding scenes are the best!

These trips back in time with the Harvey Girls make for enjoyable reading by some of my favorite authors of Romantic Christian Fiction.
*I received a complimentary copy of this book from Bethany House on behalf of one of the authors. I was not required to give a favorable review. All opinions are my own.*

Serving Up Love is a delightful collection of novellas by some of my favorite authors. I’ve read books by all of these authors before and loved them, so I was quite sure I’d enjoy these stories. I wasn’t disappointed. Although the stories were short, they were full of action, history, romance, with a dash of inspiration. The characters were colorful and endearing, and I was fascinated by the historical tidbits I picked up about the Harvey House Girls and the part they played in the history of the United States. I’d heard of the Harvey Houses before, but wasn’t very familiar with them, the people they employed, or the services they offered to train travelers.

The authors did a great job of making the collection feel cohesive, yet unique. I’d recommend it to those who enjoy historical fiction novellas. I’m looking forward to more books from these excellent authors.
*I voluntarily reviewed a complimentary copy from Bethany House. All opinions are my own.

BackCover Blurb:
Bestselling novelist Tracie Peterson joins Karen Witemeyer, Regina Jennings, and Jen Turano in this collection of four novellas, each featuring a Harvey Girl heroine. From Kansas to Texas, the Grand Canyon to New Mexico, the stories cross the country with tales of sweet romance and entertaining 

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