Thursday, December 30, 2021

Paula Shreckhise's TOP TEN ... or so Paula's Favorite Reads of 2021

Paula says, "I couldn’t narrow it down to just ten. I took these from my BEYOND FIVE STARS SHELF on Goodreads."
(Alphabetical by Author):
1. Chasing Shadows by Lynn Austin 

2. Hope Between the Pages by Pepper Basham 

3. As Dawn Breaks by Kate Breslin 

4. Prince of Spies by Elizabeth Camden

5. Paint and Nectar by Ashley Clark

6. Yours is the Night by Amanda Dykes 

7. The Nature of Small Birds by Susie Finkbeiner

8. Tidewater Bride by Laura Frantz

9. Along a Storied Trail by Ann Gabhart 

10. Shadows of the White City by Jocelyn Green

11. Under the Bayou Moon by Valerie Fraser Luesse

12. Undercurrent of Secrets by Rachel Scott McDaniel

13. A Midnight Dance by Joanna Politano 

14. The Nature of a Lady by Roseanna White

15. On the Cliffs Of Foxglove Manor by Jaime Jo Wright

1. A Dance in Donegal by Jennifer Deibel 
2. You Belong With Me by Tari Faris

3. The Sowing Season by Katie Powner

4. Roots of Wood and Stone by Amanda Wen
5. If it Rains by Jennifer L. Wright

1. The Wish Book Christmas by Lynn Austin

2. The Mistletoe Countess by Pepper Basham

3. Christmas at the Inn by Ashley Clark

4. A Small Town Christmas Challenge by Susie Dietze

5. Under the Texas Mistletoe by Karen Witemeyer

Wednesday, December 29, 2021

THE FINDER OF FORGOTTEN THINGS by Sarah Loudin Thomas, Reviewed by Winnie Thomas

“I reckon there’s a plan for everybody. Don’t go putting words into God’s mouth—they’re bound to be the wrong ones.”

One of the reasons I love reading historical fiction is that I get to learn more about different slices of history while enjoying a fictional story. This book is a great example. Sarah Loudin Thomas tells the tragic story about the digging of the Hawks Nest Tunnel in West Virginia, while simultaneously sharing a tale about three seemingly incongruous characters whose lives converge in that area.

Beautifully written and wonderfully thought-provoking, Thomas’s story is filled with colorful, carefully-crafted, realistic characters. As I came to know these characters, my opinion of them changed as their backgrounds and experiences emerged. Sully, Jeremiah, and Gainey are all multi-layered, and I enjoyed meeting them and going along with them on their journey.

“Other people’s expectations can make you do all sorts of things against your better judgment.”

I’ve enjoyed all of this author’s books. She is a master at tucking deep meaning into what may seem at first a simple tale. I would recommend this book to those who enjoy thought-provoking historical fiction.
*I voluntarily reviewed a complimentary copy from Bethany House Publishing. All opinions are my own.

BackCover Blurb:
It's one thing to say you can find what people need--it's another to actually do it.

It's 1932 and Sullivan Harris is on the run. An occasionally successful dowser, he promised the people of Kline, West Virginia, that he would find them water. But when wells turned up dry, he disappeared with their cash just a step or two ahead of Jeremiah Weber, who was elected to run him down.

Postmistress Gainey Floyd is suspicious of Sulley's abilities when he appears in her town but reconsiders after new wells fill with sweet water. Rather, it's Sulley who grows uneasy when his success makes folks wonder if he can find more than water--like forgotten items or missing people. He lights out to escape such expectations and runs smack into something worse.

Hundreds of men have found jobs digging the Hawks Nest Tunnel--but what they thought was a blessing is killing them. And no one seems to care. Here, Sulley finds something new--a desire to help. With it, he becomes an unexpected catalyst, bringing Jeremiah and Gainey together to find what even he has forgotten: hope.

Bethany House Publishing, December, 2021
Available in digital ebook, paperback, hardcover, and audiobook:


Debra: Hi Carolyn! Thank you for visiting the Inkwell Inspirations Blog and agreeing to some questions! I can't be the only one surprised to see contemporary romances (*with hockey!) from an author whose historicals have been so popular. Which genre did you write when you first started?

CAROLYN: The first book I ever wrote (before writing any historicals) came from watching the Vancouver Winter Olympics in 2010, when I saw an Aussie female athlete holding hands with a US male athlete as they entered the closing ceremony. I was struck by how two people from different countries and (presumably) different sports could meet, let alone sustain a relationship, especially given the gruelling nature of their elite athlete training schedules and all those time zone differences. Despite my best efforts, I never found out who they were, so I made up 'their' story, which became Love on Ice, an Olympics-focused book about an Aussie short track speed skater (bc I like stories about tough chicks), and an ice hockey player (also tough – but handsome ;). Love on Ice is now the second book in the Original Six series, and The Breakup Project precedes it, and incorporates some of the same characters I’d used all those years ago. So yes, even though my historicals were the first published, I’d written maybe 4-5 contemporaries prior – so it’s wonderful to finally return to my writing roots and see these books get the chance to shine!

New Year. New Resolution. New Romance?
What happens when the best-laid plans break a friendship?

As the twin sister of hockey’s hottest forward, romance-loving Bree Karlsson is used to being ignored, leading to a New Year’s resolution to not date any athlete in her attempt to find Mr. Right. But what happens when the man who might prove to be her personal Mr. Darcy is her brother’s hockey-playing best friend?

Mike Vaughan might be happy playing in Boston, but he’d be even happier if Bree could one day see him as more than a good friend. He agrees to help Bree with a special project in the hope she’ll finally see him as something more. But when a misunderstanding ends in a Valentine’s Day disaster, Bree realizes that her breakup project may have broken her friendship with Mike in two. Can she ever redeem her mistake?

This friends-to-more romance has plenty of heart, humor, and swoon-worthy kisses in this first book of the Original Six, a sweet, slightly sporty Christian contemporary romance series.

Debra: What's the best part of having two genres in your wheelhouse?

Carolyn: I love the refreshing nature of switching genres. I’ve recently just finished edits on my next historical (Midnight’s Budding Morrow, out May 31) so it was great to dive back into contemporaries having had a mental ‘palate cleanse.’ I think readers are coming to expect certain things from my books (solid ‘unapologetically Christian’ themes, some banter and humor, relatable characters, and touching on grittier issues) so I think they’re looking for that kind of story, and aren’t super fussed on whether it’s set in contemporary times or 200 years ago in England.

Debra: Can you tell us why you chose hockey for the first of the 'sporty contemporaries'? and what's to come from the rest of the series?

Carolyn: This series is a hockey based series, mainly because I think the sport is awesome! It’s a tough sport with 82+ games per season, and I’m awed by the physicality and skill of skating at huge speeds, the danger and excitement of the games, and the stories behind the players who play at an elite level. The first book is set in Boston, one of the original six teams of the National Hockey League, with the other stories set in other cities of the original six (Detroit, Chicago, MontrĂ©al, New York and Toronto.) Each book can be read as a standalone, but the interconnected characters (NHL players who are Christians involved in an online Bible study – which I was thrilled to discover is a legitimate thing!) add some extra fun factor as people read through the series. I hope readers enjoy travelling to these places (four of these cities I’ve visited) as I have, and learning a little more about this sport. But don’t worry – early readers who aren’t hockey fans tell me it’s not too sporty, and have described the romance as ‘swoonworthy!’

Debra: I know we are looking forward to it! Carolyn, what's something you'd like to share with our readers about your life or hobbies?

Carolyn: I’m something of a creative, and I have long enjoyed playing music and creating through art. It’s been fun to write songs and albums and incorporate some of these things into some of my stories. Two of the books in this new series see my characters involved in these activities, such as leading worship and doing artwork in Checked Impressions (which might also see some of my love of the Art Institute of Chicago from my visit there), and what it’s like to play music and write songs in Muskoka Blue, the sixth book in the Original Six series.

Debra: If you could do any travel in 2022, where would you like to go?  

Carolyn: I visited England and the UK back in 2015, so I feel like it’s really time to revisit some of the wonderful places I’ve seen, and explore some new places too. But next year also sees my 25th wedding anniversary so France would be ideal, please.

Debra: Thanks so much for participating! We wish you the best with both series!

Carolyn: Thanks so much for having me!

Carolyn Miller lives in the beautiful Southern Highlands of New South Wales, Australia, with her husband and four children. Together with her husband she has pastored a church for ten years, and worked as a public high school English and Learning and Support teacher.

A longtime lover of romance, especially that of Jane Austen, Georgette Heyer and LM Montgomery, Carolyn holds a BA in English Literature, and loves drawing readers into fictional worlds that show the truth of God’s grace in our lives. Her contemporary romance series includes the Original Six hockey romance series, and the Independence Islands series, and her historical series include the Regency Brides and Regency Wallflowers series.

Connect with Carolyn at:   website | facebook | pinterest | twitter | instagram





Tuesday, December 28, 2021

A COWBOY TO RELY ON by Jill Kemerer, Reviewed by Winnie Thomas

Set in Sunrise Bend, Wyoming and populated with realistic, engaging, and relatable characters, A Cowboy to Rely On is the second in Jill Kemerer’s Wyoming Ranchers series. Kemerer is a pro at writing small-town, sweet and charming stories that warm the heart, and this one fits perfectly into that scenario. Jet Mayer is a fantastic hero—family-oriented, loyal, and compassionate. When he discovers that his deceased brother has left a wife and daughter in destitute circumstances, he brings them to his family’s ranch to heal and get back on their feet. Holly is resourceful, hard-working, and independent, but she realizes she needs some help. Jet’s family is just what she needs. Little Clara steals everyone’s heart and adds to the enjoyment of the story.
For a delightfully charming, sweet and clean read, this book is sure to melt your heart and leave you wanting to meet more Wyoming ranchers.
*I voluntarily reviewed a complimentary copy. All opinions are my own.
BackCover Blurb:
A lonely rancher. His brother's surprise widow.

Can they find their way home?

Still processing his grief, Jet Mayer is shocked to learn his late brother had a secret wife and child. Though he's neck-deep running his family's ranch, nothing will keep Jet from supporting Holly and little Clara. But Holly wants to follow her own path—even if Jet’s the steadfast man she once wished for. Can they somehow reconcile their dreams to make a forever life together?

From Love Inspired: Uplifting stories of faith, forgiveness and hope.

Wyoming Ranchers

Book 1: The Prodigal's Holiday Hope
Book 2: A Cowboy to Rely On

Harlequin Love Inspired, December, 2021
Available in digital ebook and paperback at Amazon and

TRIXI OBEREMBT'S TOP TEN or so... Trixi's Favorite Reads of 2021

I narrowed my list down to 20 books....I tried, I really did to stick with 10 but it's too hard! I read well over 100 books per year so there's a lot to choose from, and here's my list in no particular order:

Favorite series:
The Fairest Maidens series by Jody Hedlund:
Besotted, Beguiled, Beholden
Everyday Heroes series by Margaret Daley:
Hunted, Obsessed, Trapped, Kidnapped, Stolen, Missing
The Fab Forties series by Liwen Y. Ho:
Retying the Knot, Head Over Stilettos
Father Christmas series by Robin Jones Gunn:
Finding Father Christmas, Engaging Father Christmas, Marrying Father Christmas

Debut authors:
The Glass Cottage by Alyssa Schwarz

The Unlikely Yarn of the Dragon Lady by Sharon Mondragon

And the rest of my favorites:
The Escape by Lisa Harris

Buried Evidence by Kelly VanHorn

On the Cliffs of Foxglove Manor by Jaime Jo Wright
Freedom's Song by Kim Vogel Sawyer

Manor for Sale, Baron Included by Esther Hatch

The Shell Collector by Nancy Naigle

Stay With Me by Becky Wade
All That Really Matters by Nicole Deese

The Way it Should Be by Christina Suzann Nelson

Husband Auditions by Angela Ruth Strong
The Mistletoe Countess by Pepper Basham

Merry and the Gentleman by Donna K. Weaver

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We, the ladies of Inkwell Inspirations, would love to give free stuff to everybody. Since we can't, we will often have a giveaway in conjunction with a specific post. Unless otherwise stated, one winner will be drawn from comments left on that post between the date it was published and the end of the giveaway as determined in the post. Entries must be accompanied by a valid email address. This address is used only to contact the commenter in the event that he/she is the winner, and will not be sold, distributed, or used in any other fashion. The odds of winning depend on the number of entrants. NO PURCHASE, PLEDGE, OR DONATION NECESSARY TO ENTER OR TO WIN. ALL FEDERAL, STATE, LOCAL AND MUNICIPAL LAWS AND REGULATIONS APPLY. VOID WHERE PROHIBITED.