Marji Laine: Faith~Driven Fiction

. . . Authentic and Intense


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Guest Reviewer: 6 DATES TO DISASTER

disaster-front-5x8Guest Reviewer Lill Kohler shares her thoughts on the new YA release 6 DATES TO DISASTER by Cynthia T. Toney.

This was my first time to read a book by Cynthia T. Toney. The storyline of 6 DATES TO DISASTER shows teens that all is not lost even when things look bad. That the support and stress brought in by parents and other adults is all a part of life and can be influenced by our actions. Cynthia also stressed the importance of good friends. I liked how Cynthia showed that a change in a person’s actions may not mean the end of a friendship or relationship, and sometimes we find support from those we didn’t expect.

The main character, Wendy, makes decisions that take her down a path that pulls her away from the things she loves. All the while, she keeps her final goal in mind in order to make it through the trials resulting from her decision. Along the way, she discovers true friendships and renewed relationships. Wendy is a strong personality who faces the challenges of life without falling to pieces, yet she experiences all the emotions that go along with the stressful events. I must admit I found myself wishing she wouldn’t make the decisions she made, or think the way she did, but the story was a good way to show that anyone can make the wrong assumptions.

Before she gets to her sixth date, Wendy finds herself in a pickle. She’s a good girl with good in mind, and it was never her intention to get in such a quandary but still she found herself there. It’s a great example for anyone, including teens, that it can happen even with our best intentions. Communication was the key to solving the issues Wendy faced.

My only complaint might be that after the second date I lost track of how many dates Wendy had taken. I had to remind myself that the date count was somehow playing into the storyline. But as any author should, Cynthia tied up that loose end when the sixth date rolled around.
lillian-kohler
I enjoyed the upbeat ending which gave the promise that there was more to come in Wendy’s life. I recommend this book for any teen and parent.

About the Reviewer:

Lill Kohler wears many hats…mother, grandmother, nurse, writer, blogger, housekeeper, and aspiring gardener. Each holds importance in her heart, but none as great as following the leading of God. She is published in Guidepost’s book Heavenly Company: Entertaining Angels Unaware and OakTara’s Falling In Love With You. You can follow her posts on her blog sites: http://www.rocking-myworld.blogspot.com, http://www.AbueSpeaks.wordpress.com, lillkohler.wordpress.com.


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New at ACFW Fiction Finder

December 2016 New Releases

disaster-front-5x8First, introducing the newest release from my publishing house! 6 DATES TO DISASTER by Cynthia T. Toney — When Wendy’s family faces financial hardship, she must find a way to see Mrs. V and Sam again—but will she lose David forever in the process? When Wendy’s stepfather loses his job, she needs personal and urgent help—the financial kind. The family’s plan to visit Alaska on vacation is headed down the sewer like a hard Louisiana rain. How will Wendy ever see Mrs. V or Sam again? An opportunity arrives in the form of tutoring Melissa, one of the Sticks, and Wendy’s money problems appear to be solved. Until the arrangement takes a turn that gets Wendy into trouble like never before. In the final months of ninth grade, she might lose everything she counted on for the future. (YA from Write Integrity Press)

More in-depth descriptions of these books can be found on the ACFW Fiction Finder website.

Contemporary Romance:

bella-natale Bella Natale! by Marianne Evans — An aspiring American artist and the widowed, Italian owner of a premier art gallery meet and fall in love in Florence when he champions her work, but there are her American family’s expectations and his five-year-old son to consider. (Contemporary Romance from White Rose Publishing [Pelican])

with-this-kissWith this Kiss by Marianne Evans — A kiss stolen in a midnight snow. A jealous colleague at Jonathan’s firm is bent on revenge…revenge that puts Isabella’s store into legal peril. Will love be enough to see them through? (Contemporary Romance from White Rose Publishing [Pelican])

mistletoe-daddyMistletoe Daddy by Deb Kastner — Bubbly Vivian Grainger bids on gruff Nick McKenna at Serendipity Texas’s annual Bachelors and Baskets for one reason–to help her build her hair salon; but once Nick finds out she’s pregnant, he does his best to build a path to Vivian’s heart. (Contemporary Romance from Love Inspired [Harlequin])

a-hero-for-heatherA Hero for Heather by Marion Ueckermann — When a “homeless” man she’s been helping rescues social worker Heather Blume from a vicious attack, she’s so grateful she violates one of the most important rules in her profession–she takes him home to tend his wounds. But the mysterious Paxton Rathbone is no homeless man…he’s a gentleman. When feelings grow, and Paxton’s past beckons, both he and Heather discover there’s a fine line between gratitude and love. (Contemporary Romance, Independently Published)

a-husband-for-hollyA Husband for Holly by Marion Ueckermann — Holly Blume loves decorating people’s homes, but that doesn’t mean she’s ready to play house. Believing a house is not a home without a woman’s touch, Reverend Christopher Stewart is in the market for a wife. What woman would consider him marriage material, though, with an aging widowed father to look after, especially one who suffers from Alzheimer’s? Despite their differences, Holly resolves to finish her job of redesigning the Stewart home, while Christopher determines to re-form Holly’s heart. (Contemporary Romance, Independently Published)

rocky-mountain-cowboyRocky Mountain Cowboy by Tina Radcliffe — Twelve years after she married another man, Rebecca Anshaw Simpson is back at Joe Gallagher’s ranch as his physical therapist. But healing his body is nothing compared to guarding his heart from the woman he never forgot. Becca won’t let regret and a surly rancher get in the way of her job and the chance to start over with her little girl. But Becca never expected she’d fall all over again for her first love. (Contemporary Romance from Love Inspired [Harlequin])

Cozy Mystery:

christmas-cookie-mysteryChristmas Cookie Mystery by Naomi Miller — With Christmas right around the corner, Katie Chupp and The Sweet Shop get involved in a mystery when a certain dear family finds an unexpected package at their door. (Cozy Mystery from S&G Publishing)

Historical:

michelMichel: The Fourth Wise Man by Katheryn Maddox Haddad — This descendant of Daniel, also a wise man, sacrifices everything – his wife, his father, his home – to do what he is convinced God needs him to do, then finds out he was wrong (Historical from Northern Lights Publishing House)

five-nights-with-pharaohFive Nights with Pharaoh by Kristen Reed — Shortly after entering Egypt with her husband, Sarai is taken into Pharaoh’s harem as his newest, most favored concubine. The breathtaking, ageless beauty is forced to cling to her faith in God as she prays for the strength to accept her new position and endures a series of mysterious plagues that can only be indicative of a wrathful deity’s divine judgment. Discover a remarkable reimagining of Sarai’s plight in Egypt, where she humbly set aside her own honor to protect the man through whom all the nations of the earth would be blessed. (Historical – Independently Published)

Historical Romance:

seven-brides-for-seven-texansSeven Brides for Seven Texans Romance Collection by Amanda Barratt, Susan Page Davis, Keli Gwyn, Vickie McDonough, Gabrielle Meyer, Lorna Leslie Seilstad, Erica Vetsch — Meet the seven Hart brothers of the 7-Heart ranch in central Texas. Each man is content in his independent life, without the responsibilities of a wife and children–until their father decides 1874 will be the year his grown sons finally marry, or they will be cut from his will. How will each man who values his freedom respond to the ultimatum? Can love develop on a timeline, or will it be sacrificed for the sake of an inheritance? (Historical Romance from Barbour Publishing)

a-pony-express-romanceA Pony Express Romance by Misty M. Beller — Pony Express rider Josiah English and the station master’s sister, Mara Reid, fall in love, but when the Express shuts down and Mara’s family home is in peril, the danger looming over Mara’s life may not be half as destructive as that threatening her heart. (Historical Romance, Independently Published)

Military Suspense:

conspiracy-of-silenceConspiracy of Silence by Ronie Kendig — A former Green Beret is confronted by past mistakes as he and his team battle a centuries-old plague and the terrorists bent on rewriting history. (Military Suspense from Bethany House [Baker])

Romantic Suspense:

hazardous-holidayHazardous Holiday by Liz Johnson — Just in time for the holidays, navy SEAL Zach McCloud returns home from deployment–and discovers someone wants his family dead. When he married his cousin’s struggling widow, he vowed to help her and her seriously ill son, and now he’ll risk everything to protect them. Even if their arrangement is only temporary. Kristi’s certain an unhappy client from the law firm where she works is determined to hunt her down. But when a sniper bullet wildly misses its target, they begin to question whether it’s really her someone wants dead. Working together, can they figure out why they’ve been attacked…and keep little Cody from the nefarious forces dead set on making this Christmas their last? (Romantic Suspense from Love Inspired [Harlequin])

christmas-conspiracyChristmas Conspiracy by Susan Sleeman — When Commander Jake Marsh loses control of a hostage situation and Tessa Long is injured, guilt eats at him. He blurs the line between the professional and personal, and visits Tessa at the hospital. But when a man tries to kill her in her hospital room, Jake disregards all of the rules and regulations that have allowed him to control his world and vows to keep her safe no matter what. Trouble is, the situation brings back memories from his childhood of the loss of his entire family, and for the first time in twenty years, he fears he’s no longer in charge of his life, and knows when he’s out of control bad things happen. Very bad things. (Romantic Suspense from Love Inspired [Harlequin])


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So Proud of My New Writer!

house-930940_1920Okay, the truth is, she won’t let me call her a writer. My daughter, code-named Spunky, has a sharp wit and a great imagination, but she’s determined to go into missions or ministry.

Nevertheless, she’s agreed to let me post her most recent assignment for her college English class. The students were given a picture of an old house, much like the one you see, and a list of Halloween-type words they couldn’t use. This was her 20-minute offering.

If you enjoy her flash fiction, please leave her some love!

Moving on

“Gone but not Forgotten,” Jane read the words from her beloved Aunt Ruth’s tombstone out loud.

“I know I should have come sooner; I just couldn’t bear the thought of you not being here.” Jane pulled her sweater closer to herself as a chilled wind rustled through the yellow leaves. She turned to face the place she feared.

The screen door had fallen partially off its hinges. The beautiful yellow paint was almost completely stripped away. Oh, how she had loved this place when she was young, always so warm and inviting. Now it was dark and cold.

She turned back to the grave, “I should have been here for you; if I hadn’t ditched you for my friends, you would still be here.” Jane wiped an unwanted tear from her face. “I know you wanted me to take care of this place, but I don’t deserve it. I let you down. It’s my fault.” Her voice broke at her last word, and she collapsed to the ground weeping.

It had been three years since Ruth had died. The doctor said it happened in the kitchen. One minute she was baking cookies; the next her heart stopped. Aunt Ruth had died alone.

“I should have been here; I could have saved you.” Shaking Jane stood, and walked back to her car. Opening the trunk, she pulled out a toolbox and a bucket of yellow paint. “I’m here now. I’m done hiding. I will not let you or this place down.”

Her knees wobbled as she climbed the steps. Setting the toolbox down, she removed the screen door, grasped the door handle, took a deep breath, and stepped in.


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20 November Releases from FICTION FINDERS!

November 2016 New Releases from FICTION FINDERS!

3dcounterpointMore in-depth descriptions of these books can be found on the ACFW Fiction Finder website.

Romantic Suspense:

Counter Point by Marji Laine — Her dad’s gone, her diner’s closing, and her car’s in the lake. Cat McPherson has nothing left to lose … except her life. And a madman, bent on revenge, is determined to take that, as well. Her former boyfriend, Ray Alexander, returns as a hero from his foreign mission, bringing back souvenirs in the form of death-threats. When several attempts are made on Cat’s life, she must find a way to trust Ray, the man who broke her heart. (Write Integrity Press)

His Perfect Love by Sharon K. Connell — On the run from a hit man, Patricia Campbell is unaware of the FBI’s search for her to learn what information she might hold, so she continues to hide out. Then she meets a persistent computer technician, a charming philanthropist, and a handsome, wealthy businessman who wants to marry her. But her fears resurface, and she wonders if she can trust any of them. Can she survive long enough to find peace…and perfect love? (Independently Published)

Biblical:

Slender Reeds: Jochebed’s Hope by Texie Susan Gregory — In a deadly race to save her son, a young slave woman dares defy the most powerful man in the world. (Barbour Publishing)

Contemporary Romance:

Raining Fools by Jackie Castle — Bekka Winters hung up the phone. Ethan, her brother, needed her help filming a music video for his new music production studio. She stared at her already packed bags. Why not? She’d just graduated from college and didn’t exactly have a job to go to. Besides, a music video might look good on her resume when she looked for real work.

Stephen Gaines couldn’t believe Ethan had called him after their last blow up. They’d been music partners once. Stephen had ruined that. It was his expertise to wreck relationships especially those he had with women. Fortunately, Ethan didn’t know about him and Bekka. She was the one woman that had broken through to the deep parts of his heart. If only… how many times had he said that in the past? A fresh start is just what he needed.

Bekka’s mind bubbled with ideas for Ethan’s studio. Not to mention she couldn’t wait to see Ethan and Haley, the woman who’d captured her brother’s heart. But when she pulled into the drive and saw the familiar fancy car that Stephen drove, her heart dropped. There was no way she’d let him back into her life.

raining-foolsCrazy Woman Christmas by Renee Blare — A quiet cowboy whisks Bianca to his ranch to ride out the Christmas blizzard where she discovers life is cold but also beautiful in the “Cowboy” state. (Inspired [Prism Book Group])

Other Than a Halo by Valerie Comer — Even though she’s a new woman in Christ, single mom Bren Haddock was no angel as a teen. Now managing the Hiller Farm for a CSA, life is good until a friend offers to enter her daughter into the Little Miss Snowflake Pageant. Old insecurities flare when she meets the intriguing head of marketing the pageant. Rob Santoro isn’t so sure about handling the pageant portfolio until he meets Bren. Soon he’s fallen for her and her two kids. When a Thanksgiving adventure goes awry, he’s left wondering how to love a woman who refuses to be loved. What will it take for Bren to retire her tarnished halo and move into the future God has for her? (Independently Published)

Do You Know What I Know? by Becky Melby — What if a phone call from the obstetrician’s office went to the wrong person? Elizabeth Schmidt can’t figure out why her husband doesn’t seem excited about the news she’s sure he heard. Is he unhappy? Or is James cheating on her?

Pastor Jay Davidson is in shock. Bethany Schmidt, the woman he’s in love with, is pregnant. Should he walk away, or is God asking him to play the part of Joseph in real life and not just in the church Christmas program? Bethany can’t figure out why Jay is acting so weird. Has he figured out one of the two secrets she’s keeping until after Christmas? Can a pony-tailed itinerant carpenter with a pet chicken help unravel the confusion? (Independently Published)

How to Charm a Beekeeper’s Heart by Candice Sue Patterson — Weddings are the last thing beekeeper Huck Anderson wants to be associated with, considering his past. So when he inherits a building occupied by a bridal boutique, he aims to evict the failing business and open a sporting goods store. That is until his tenant ends up being Arianne Winters, a woman he’s indebted to from a mistake made years ago. When a life-threatening injury derails Huck entirely, Arianne offers to aid in his lengthy recovery if he’ll allow her to remain in his building. But nursing her adversary proves challenging when her adolescent crush resurfaces. (White Rose Publishing [Pelican])

A Portrait of Emily Price by Katherine Reay — After a whirlwind romance and marriage, Emily Price returns home to Italy with her new husband and learns that life at its richest is only found when she accepts its chaotic beauty. (HarperCollins Christian Publishing [Thomas Nelson and Zondervan])

Contemporary Women’s Fiction:

Forgiveness by Marianne Evans — Country music bad boy, Chase Bradington is on the comeback trail. Fresh from rehab for alcohol addiction and  transformed by the power of Christ, Chase is battling to rediscover the music he loves and a career he nearly ruined. Then he meets up-and-comer, Pyper Brock and instantly sparks ignite.

Despite her rampant attraction to the handsome and talented icon, Pyper knows of Chase’s reputation and soundly dismisses his romantic overtures. No way will Pyper repeat the mistake of trusting a man whose done battle with the bottle. Can a sin-damaged past be released in favor of forgiveness? (Harbourlight Books [Pelican])

Historical:

Beneath a Golden Veil by Melanie Dobson — As elegant as the Sacramento residence she operates, Isabelle Labrie keeps her past concealed, like the treasure she hides under the Golden Hotel. Then, unexpected guests—fugitive slaves seeking safe passage to the North—force her to confront her past and reconsider her path. (Waterfall Press)

Forest Child by Heather Day Gilbert — Historically based on the Icelandic Sagas, Forest Child brings the memorable, conflicted persona of Freydis Eiriksdottir to life. (Elk Lake Publishing Inc.)

The Lost Generation by Erica Marie Hogan — On August 5th 1914, the world changed forever. For John and Beth Young, it meant the happiness they finally achieved was snatched out from under them. For Emma Cote, it meant that her husband Jared would do his duty, despite her feelings. For Christy Simmons it meant an uncertain future with the boy she loved. The lives of six people, spread across the British Empire to America were changed forever. (Elk Lake Publishing Inc.)

Historical Romance:

The Blue Ribbon Brides Collection by Jennifer AlLee, Angela Breidenbach, Darlene FranklinCynthia Hickey, Carrie Fancett Pagels, Amber Stockton, Niki Turner, Gina Welborn, and Becca Whitham — Meet nine men and women whose competitive goals take them to state and county fairs between 1889 and 1930. From baking pie to polishing pigs, from sculpting butter to stitching quilts, everyone has something to prove to themselves and their communities. But in going for the blue ribbon, will nine women miss the greatest prize of all—the devoted heart of a godly man? (Barbour Publishing)

Left at the Altar by Margaret Brownley — In the wild and untamed West, time is set by the local jeweler…but Two-Time Texas has two: two feuding jewelers and two wildly conflicting time zones. Meg Lockwood’s marriage was supposed to unite the families and finally bring peace until she’s left at the altar by her no-good fiancé. Hired to defend the groom against a breach of promise lawsuit, Grant Garrison quickly realizes that the only thing worse than small-town trouble is falling for the jilted bride. But there’s something about Meg’s sweet smile and determined grit that draws him in…even as the whole crazy town seems set on keeping them apart. (Sourcebooks)

Mail Order Mommy by Christine Johnson — Nursing a broken heart, Amanda Porter had answered a frontier mail-order bride ad placed by Garrett Decker’s children—only to find the groom-to-be didn’t want a wife. But his adorable children are determined she’ll be their mother by Christmas… His wife’s betrayal and tragic death demolished Garrett’s life. Now he can’t even look at another woman, let alone marry Amanda, who resembles his first love. But with his daughter convinced Amanda is the perfect mother, will Garrett realize she’s also his perfect match? (Love Inspired [Harlequin])

Hope’s Design by Dawn Kinzer — An independent city girl aspiring to be a fashion designer falls for a stubborn artist from the country who wants to keep his talent a secret. (Independently Published)

Brides of Wyoming by S. Dionne Moore — Roam the Wyoming range alongside three couples who meet under danger from bands of outlaws. Renee escapes a gang of outlaws and lands in the arms of a sheepherder. Olivia’s sleuthing upturns secrets key to solving the murder of a reluctant rancher’s father. Maira is trying to keep her ranch running alone when a drifting cowboy offers a hand. Can love develop where suspicion and greed roam the range? (Barbour Publishing)

The Negotiated Marriage by Christina Rich — When the railroad pushes to buy her land, orphaned Cameron Sims will do anything to keep the only home she and her sisters have ever known. Even if she must marry a stranger. Duncan Murray doesn’t want a wife. He wants Sims Creek, a sanctuary that can help him forget a troubled childhood. But his reluctant, and captivating, bride-to-be is key to making his dreams a reality. And despite their business arrangement, Camy and Duncan might be signing on the dotted line for true love… (Love Inspired [Harlequin])

Love in the Seams by Jodie Wolfe — A little girl on a quest for a new mama has the local seamstress in her sights. (Independently Published)

 

Speculative:

The Flaming Sword by Heather L.L. FitzGerald — When evil joins forces in the Tethered World, Sadie Larcen must risk all to protect the Flaming Sword and her family…even if it takes her life. (Mountain Brook Ink)


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COUNTER POINT Release Day! Yea!

cpcoverfI’m so excited to finally get COUNTER POINT into the hands of readers! It is now available in both EBOOK and in PRINT! Woohoo!

Here’s the blurb for the book: 

Someone is determined to finish a murdered hit man’s final assignment.

Her father’s gone. Her diner’s closing. Her car’s in the lake. Cat McPherson has nothing left to lose. Except her life. And a madman’s bent on taking that away.

Her former boyfriend, Ray Alexander, returns as a hero from his foreign mission, bringing back souvenirs in the form of death-threats. When several attempts are made on Cat’s life, she must find a way to trust Ray, the man who broke her heart.

Keeping Cat safe from a fallen cartel leader might prove impossible for Ray, but after seeing his mission destroyed and several godly people killed, he knows better than to ignore the man’s threats. Cat’s resistance to his protection and the stirring of his long-denied feelings for her complicate his intentions, placing them both in a fight for their lives.

Can she survive when ultimate power wants her dead?

Here’s the first chapter:

Villa Montes, Chiapas, Mexico

“A boy.” Sevilla clapped his hands. The smack echoed against the bare adobe dome. “He will be a fine boy.” He beat his boot heels on the marble floor. His black beard bounced against his white tunic. “Ha. Go upstairs, wife. Lie down. Rest.”

“I have plans for the afternoon.” Oleta took a step backward, putting the leather sofa between them. Her large eyes wary. But her middle already showed evidence of his child.

“You will do as I say.” He snapped in her direction and put his back to her. His child would be the heir to his business. His kingdom. He must be strong and healthy. “Go now and take care of my son.”

“He is my son, too.” The woman’s voice cracked. She pressed her back against the wall.

She tested his good humor. His eyes hardened as he shot her a glare. His hands fisted at his side, prepared to take action on her insolence.

But this was supposed to be a joyful time. He relaxed his muscles and applied a measured smile under his black whiskers. “Be careful, Oleta. I cannot guarantee that my gratitude will last too far beyond my son’s birth.”

She stiffened. Good. She should be scared. She’d seen enough to know her fortunate circumstances and to be thankful for them.

Sidestepping out of his study, she scurried up the stairs. Her heels clicking like the little mouse she was. Popping in a hollow manner. The sounds grew louder. She gasped as glass broke, echoing in the entrance of his villa.

“Oleta?” He stepped toward the great hall.

Señor Sevilla.” Two from his security. Good. He needed answers.

“Go, check on Oleta. Make sure my son is all right.”

Captain Ortega gestured to the other man. “We must get you to safety.”

“Another drill? These are getting tiresome.”

“They prepare your security team to keep you safe, sir.” Ortega ushered him through the thick hallway to his helicopter hangar.

The other man had seen to Oleta. “Make sure my wife comes.”

The captain touched his earpiece and issued the order.

Sevilla climbed aboard the revving bird and looked back.

Ortega grew pale. “We must go.” He climbed aboard.

“Not until Oleta arrives. She is carrying my son. My heir.” His humor returned. A young prince to carry on his legacy.

The angled roof sections lifted.

“Stop. I will not leave without her.”

“We have to go, Señor.” Ortega strapped a belt around Sevilla and shouted at the pilot.

“I will have your head.” Sevilla kicked at the man, willing him to fall out of the gaping side of the transport. No such luck.

Ortega pulled the sliding door closed as they cleared the roof. Pings hit the heavy metal siding.

“What is that? Is something wrong with the rotor?”

The copter lurched forward and accelerated.

“Gunfire, Señor.”

“You idiot. You left Oleta back there.”

“I am sorry, sir. Fernandez reported that she was dead when he reached her. Shot on the stairs.”

No. Bile gathered in his mouth. “She carried my son. The coming leader of the Montes Cartel.”

“There is no more Montes Cartel, sir.” Ortega shouted over the pounding of the blades. “There is only you, me, and our pilot.”

“What are you saying?” What about his soldiers? His loyal followers? His faithful ones who would die before injury befell him? “The cartel lives.”

“All of your property is under siege except for the bunker near Asmirandu.” Ortega wiped sweat from his eyes with the back of his hand. “A few men there. And the federales know nothing about the compound.”

“Asmirandu.” Sevilla growled the village name. “His home.”

“The missionary?”

“He did all of this. His noble report in the face of fear.” The man would pay. “He has no idea what fear looks like.”

“I will kill him myself, Señor.”

“No.” Sevilla tapped his fingertips together. “I want him to worry. And then see everything that he loves destroyed. As he has destroyed everything that is mine.”

“Most of what he loves is in America.”

“Then I will go to America.” He spat out the hated word. “By the time I am finished with Raymond Johnson, he will understand true terror.”

 

Heath’s Point, Texas

“We’ve lost contact.”

The shout, spurred on by a January gust, flew past Cat McPherson without fully engaging her brain. “You did what?”

Violet Alexander rarely came to the diner at sunset, but Cat’s focus was on the needy people who waited in the treacherous cold for dinner. She stepped off the stoop of Mac’s Diner, handing a boxed meal to a dirty-faced man dressed in clothes much too large for him. “Do you have shelter for tonight?”

He nodded.

“Got him a spot near mine, Miss Cat.” Dash, a regular for as long as Cat could remember, put his hand on the younger man’s shoulder. “I’ll take care of ’em.”

She smiled and handed Dash a meal. The man’s wide smile showed his gratitude. “You such a blessing, Miss Cat. Can’t tell ya how thankful I was to know you’d keep serving meals after your daddy passed.”

Cat’s mouth twitched. She wished Dad were there. Talking about Jesus. Praying over the meal. How could she ever fill his shoes? “Sunset dinners are way too important to let them go.” And she’d do everything in her power to keep the diner profitable, as long as Dad’s silent partner didn’t get in the way, if only to keep serving these dinners.

Rubbing her hands on her blue jeans, she hoped to ignite heat and restore feeling to her fingers. Vi came closer.

Cat paused. Her hand steadied the rolling cart just inside the door. The chilling gale rested a moment. A warm breath from the heater inside caressed Cat’s frigid cheeks. “I’m so sorry, Vi. I couldn’t hear you over the wind.”

She caught a glimpse of Violet’s face. The woman’s puffy, red eyes, a contradiction to her usually flawless makeup, shook Cat from her routine. The rare sight of a not-having-it-all-together Vi shoved the words back through Cat’s brain, this time engaging it. We’ve lost contact.

The nerve endings along Cat’s spine filled with ice. The wind picked up, whipping her curly ponytail into a knotted frizzle. She grasped the edge of her red wool coat as the gale snatched at the hem. Trying to shout over the force of the blast used all her energy, and she struggled to form the single syllable that came out as a broken whisper.

“Ray?” Her heart lurched at the name she hadn’t uttered in months.

Vi bit her bottom lip.

Cat’s breath came in sharp gasps as her eyes locked onto Ray’s mom. “Is he all right?” Surely the message contained more information. Some hope. He had to come back.

But the woman stood silent as tears pooled against the bottom rim of her eyes.

No.

Dash laid a hand on her shoulder. “I can finish handing out these here dinners if you need some time.”

She stared at him for a full second, her thoughts whirling to some wilderness where Ray was trapped, unable to return, or maybe … Shutting her eyes against her worst fears, she nodded. “Thank you.”

“Come inside.” Vi pulled Cat out of the frigid air and into the diner, warmed from hours of grilling. Aromas of stale frying oil mixed with freshly baked chocolate cake failed to offer Cat their usual familiar comfort. Her mind refused to settle on one thought. Like when the doctors told her they could do nothing more for her father.

This couldn’t be happening. Even with Ray’s silence when he left for his mission field, she still dreamed of a future together, the ministry they had spent hours talking about. Was that dream gone forever? Lifting her eyes, she hoped to ask more questions.

Vi lowered into the nearest chair. Her hands folded in her lap. Her gaze somewhere between the edges of the red laminate table.

Oh God, comfort Violet right now.

Cat couldn’t imagine losing Ray, but when Vi looked at him, she saw her baby. Unwilling to allow her angst freedom, she hurried into the kitchen. She had to get control of her emotions. Before she caused Violet even more pain.

Cat grabbed a pair of sodas from the fridge and rejoined Vi. The hollow clomps of her boots on the black and white checkerboard linoleum reverberated in her chest. Empty. Alone.

She pushed the ache aside and set the Dr Pepper in front of Vi. “Have some. You’ll feel better. Or can I get you some of Grady’s leftover cookies?”

“No, no. I’ll be fine.” She tugged a napkin out of the table canister and folded it. Resetting her can on the makeshift coaster, she popped it open.

Cat opened her Diet Pepsi and observed the woman, her eyes still rimmed in red, though wiped dry. Petite with short, highlighted hair and the same chocolate eyes as Ray. If anyone had a right to crumble it was his mother, but Vi stood strong. Coming to offer comfort to Cat instead.

“What is the board doing about it?” Cat wrapped her hands around the can and took a sip, forcing the bubbles down with a loud gulp.

Vi stared at her soda. “They’ve contacted Ray’s ministry partners, but those missionaries live over a hundred miles from his village.”

“Wherever that is.” Cat chided herself immediately for letting her frustration have voice. Especially around Vi.

But the fact that Ray had told her nothing, advancing no trust whatsoever, cut as deeply as his leaving her behind. Almost as deeply. Taking the future they expected to share for himself and leaving without her was a betrayal she could never forget.

But she’d always expected him to return.

“Ray’s journal noted an appointment to preach last Sunday at the little church he helped to build, but he logged in nothing further.”

“Haven’t they contacted the US Embassy? Called the police? Anything?” Surely there were ways to find him. She bounced her right leg.

“Things are different in other countries, Cat. You know that.” She sniffed.

Cat laid her hand across Vi’s. “We’ll find out this is just a mistake. I bet you hear from him tomorrow. He’ll be fine and have a good laugh at the worrywarts back home.”

Sad eyes lifted. “I have learned that some of the surrounding villages have been contacted.” She pulled another napkin from the canister and rubbed her nose.

“So, maybe he went someplace else. Maybe he tried a new place and has yet to update his journal.” Cat could believe that. And Vi needed other options to think about besides …

“Someone from one of the communities responded to the contact.”

Cat glanced at Vi’s reflection in the darkened glass of the storefront. The woman opened her mouth and shut it again. Beyond that virtual mirror, the small group that had huddled outside dispersed with their dinner packages.

“What did they say?” Despite the warmth of the diner, she shivered and jumped as Dash opened the door.

He shoved the cart through, staying well outside the doorframe. “You all right in here?”

She waved at him. “We’re okay. Thank you for your help.”

The old man whose girth didn’t match his nickname stepped back a few steps and waved at Cat through the window.

“Probably as close to being inside a building as Dash has been for some time.”

Vi’s jaw muscle twitched briefly. The corner of her mouth angled downward.

Cat’s attempt to lighten the air failed. “Oh, Vi, you know God is with Ray. You told me yourself how He led him to the mission. Don’t give into fear now.”

Brave words. And she tried to believe them.

Tears brimmed Vi’s lashes again. “There’s word that the mission fell under attack.”

 

Outside Asmirandu, Chiapas, Mexico

¡Pégalos!” Get them.

Voices of the hooded attackers chasing Ray Alexander echoed under the canopy of trees. He stumbled over briars and weaved between gnarled trunks. Branches slapped his face as he followed the man who pulled him from a chaos of shouts and gunfire at the small church he helped to build.

Dodging the vine tentacles, he pushed aside the fronds of invading plants along an invisible path. His lungs burned. His shoulder screamed pain. Dislocated? Keep moving. He focused on the man, Miguel, a recent transfer to his mission team. He dared not lose sight of him.

Not here. Especially not now.

Voices somewhere behind him called out again. His own crashing boot steps far overwhelmed the sounds of his pursuers. Had he widened the gap?

Miguel halted then folded his frame into the fronds of a large fern. Huffing, Ray tucked himself behind a giant elephant ear leaf nearby. He struggled to listen over his heaving chest. His blood-stained shirt clung to his limp left arm.

Shouts began again. Farther away, he felt sure this time.

“Are you okay?” Miguel’s hoarse whisper blended with the jungle noises.

Ray nodded. He yanked the leather belt from his waistband. Lassoing his middle, he lashed his useless arm to his torso.

Miguel bobbed his head. Time to move on.

A steep ditch lay on his right, and Miguel dropped over the edge. Ray slipped from his cover. Without hesitation, he scooted down the ridge. Angular trees provided regular braces on the way. He practically fell against the first, catching himself with his good arm. The same technique worked for the second descent. Reaching for the next trunk, he stepped into a rotted log. The misstep propelled him into the rough and broken bark, left-shoulder first. He gritted his teeth against a choked cry. Pain blinded him. Miguel glanced back and changed course, but Ray waved him on. Breathing deep, he pushed off the tree and forged ahead.

His rescuer hesitated while Ray closed the gap. At the bottom, a gully with a trickling stream provided them with secretive travel. Downed trees and boulders made the path look like something out of a video game.

But the men searching for them weren’t playing.

“Not sure how many are dead at the mission.” A man’s low voice in sharp Spanish staccato floated down from behind the heavy undergrowth on the ridge above them. Obviously he’d been involved with the attack.

Ahead, Miguel paused and held up his hand. Ray halted.

“The missionary got away, but we’re looking for him.”

Ray went cold. He’d received threats from the drug cartel when he helped to shut down their traffic within his area. His actions had even flushed out the powerful leader of the cartel, Sevilla. But that placed Ray in a precarious position. The policía hadn’t arrested the drug lord yet, but Ray was hopeful. Could Sevilla have arranged for the attack on Ray’s mission? Was he really that powerful?

After a pause, the one-sided conversation above him continued. “We believe he headed to Dumaus, and when we find him, we will bring him to the compound as instructed.”

Ray recognized the village name. He hoped Miguel had a different destination planned.

“Say again? The signal here is not so good.” The man’s voice rose. His footstep tramped closer in the undergrowth on the plateau.

Miguel motioned for Ray to crawl beneath the overhang created by a massive Montezuma Cypress on the edge of the eroded ravine. Soundlessly, Ray darted for cover, hunkered under a cascade of exposed roots.

“I’ve passed on the explicit instructions. Raymond Johnson will be taken alive.”

A sliver of fear danced around the back of Ray’s neck. Using a fake, utterly common, last name struck him as overkill at the onset of his mission. Now he thanked God that this powerful man couldn’t trace him or his family. Good thing there weren’t any other Johnsons in Heath’s Point. But then, no one knew his hometown either.

The man’s voice faded, but his intent had been clear. People—friends and brothers in Christ—had just given their lives so some insane man could prove his power to Ray. Sevilla gave little thought to the people of the church. He only wanted to destroy the pastor.

Guilt added more weight on his already heaving chest.

They waited for the silence to deepen. The music of birds and animals marked the absence of the phone-using marauder. Ray worried their delay allowed the hunters to get ahead of them. What if he and Miguel caught up to them while trying to escape?

Finally, Miguel stepped out and climbed up the roots.

He shimmied back down, rejoining Ray underneath. “I see no one.”

“I must thank you. I owe you my life.”

“You owe me nothing, my friend. I am happy I came to Asmirandu when I did.”

Only a few days before the raid, Miguel had arrived from a village to the north. He’d brought with him some supplies for the mission and a letter of introduction from a missionary Ray had met a few times.

Miguel wiped the back of his hand across his forehead. “I saw the men heading for the mission, but I could not run fast enough to warn you.”

“I’m still in your debt. I don’t want to think of what might have happened if you had not pulled me out the back door.” In truth, Ray didn’t want to think about the raid at all, but he expected the scene to revisit him again and again.

Miguel took the lead again. They broke through the forest cover far too quickly to suit Ray. Miguel dashed across a large field of head-high grasses. Ray accelerated, but his guide disappeared into bobbing reeds. He hoped his steps remained straight. An accidental circle to return the way he came promised disaster.

Shots rang out behind him. The assassins had caught up. At least gunfire confirmed he ran in the right direction.

He climbed a hill. More shots went off. Running in a dark brown shirt through the waving tan stalks, he stood out like a cockroach on a wall. Ducking low, he veered right. Twelve paces. Then peeled to the left for seven. The soft pffft of bullets finding ground nearby made him dart right again.

Reaching the crest, Ray escaped into the shelter of thick forest.

Miguel waited for him inside the dark shadows. “Do you need to rest? We could stop.”

“No!” His burning lungs couldn’t waste air on words. And the crack of a shot hitting a nearby tree propelled him on.

Miguel led him through the outer edges of the Montes Azules Reserve that lay in Chiapas. The shouts from behind them faded, finally stopping altogether. Ray followed his guide’s breakneck pace, desperate to reach safety before the dimness of jungle became the blackness of night.

They slowed to a jog when the growth thickened. Several times Miguel stopped to help Ray push through walls of vegetation. His shoulder ached and his cheek stung with every drop of sweat that found its way to a cut he’d received during the attack. Thankfully it stopped bleeding.

Thoughts of Cathy filled his head—the way she looked running through the hayfield, her bright red hair standing out among the stalks. Leaving her behind tore him apart but, at least, his lone departure kept her safe. What would he have done had she been at the mission with him? He shuddered.

With God’s help, he hoped to see her again, though he knew things would never be the same between them.

Ray lost sight of Miguel in the filtering light. He’d ducked into a low arch in a mass of vines. Ray saw no other way around the layers of underbrush. Like the Going on a Bear Hunt book his mom used to read to him, the living barrier allowed no access around, over, or through the bushes. He had to follow Miguel and crawl under heavy branches. He thanked the Lord that he had tied up his arm to keep the lifeless thing out of the way.

He hit all fours—well, threes—hopping like a lame dog. He struggled through the labyrinth, army-crawling for the last few yards. Working his way out, Ray left the great wall of jungle. A western road that led to San Salbitaso lay under his knees.

At least the path didn’t go near Dumaus, though the hunters might have changed course.

Ray’s memories of the vicious surge, led by the four hooded men, hurt worse than the throbbing of his shoulder and his cheek put together. He had no idea who or how many, but people died in that little stucco building. His people. They had depended on him. He let them down. He didn’t know how deeply the assassin’s knife had slashed his cheek, but nothing cut as deeply as the consequences of his failure.

All of his failure.

Miguel stopped to look at his cheek before the setting sun removed all chances of seeing anything. “Your cut looks bad, amigo. Better stop and clean it.”

“The airfield’s close, right? Wait ’til we get there.” Ray didn’t pause. Let Miguel catch up with him for a change.

Hesitations caused this problem in the first place. Ray received threats but didn’t take them seriously. Well, he believed them now. With people he cared for at risk, he dare not let his guard down.

He jogged to the rise above San Salbitaso. The valley spread below him like a panoramic photograph. The last rays of the sun illuminated the tiny village of thatched roofs cradled between two rocky hills. Though he likely viewed the beauty for the last time, he dared not pause to create a mental picture, as the camouflage of the jungle no longer protected them. The little-used road gave direction, but if Miguel found this washed-out, two-rutted track, those hunting them would have no problem. The remaining light faded. Dusk worked in their favor. He picked up the pace.

Safety neared, but uncertainty threatened to blast a hole in the net.

I hope you enjoyed the taste of COUNTER POINT. Buy your copy HERE!


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Heart Sparks is Free

heartsparks-coverI love romance. Any season is perfect for a juicy, clean love story with hardships and misunderstandings. Give me a strong man, made unexpectedly vulnerable by a confident woman, and a woman failing to stifle her growing feelings for the man of her dreams …. Oh, yes. I can get wrapped up in the deliciousness in no time!

And I have a collection of stories just like that, and I’m giving it away FREE! This is an e-book, to be viewed in a Kindle reader. And it’s a special bonus for anyone who pre-orders my newest release, COUNTER POINT, before October 30. It’s easy! After you order COUNTER POINT, forward the Amazon receipt to FreeBookForPreorder@gmail.com.

That’s all there is to it!

Not only will you be able to enjoy a great romantic suspense when it releases on November 1, but you’ll have several short stories and novellas to tide you over until then!

Here’s the LINK to purchase COUNTER POINT. I hope you enjoy both of your books!


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Brand New for October!

cpcoverfOctober 2016 New Releases

First, don’t forget to pre-order my COUNTER POINT. You can learn more about my special gift with your order HERE! AND, Write Integrity Press just released Fay Lamb’s latest intense suspense with a gripping romance, EVERYBODY’S BROKEN. You won’t want to miss this one! everybodys-broken-cover-final-frontOUTSTANDING!

More in-depth descriptions of the following books can be found on the ACFW Fiction Finder website.

Biblical Fiction:

Providence: Hannah’s Journey by Barbara M. Britton — When the prophet of Israel refuses to heal her, Hannah flees Jerusalem and is captured by an enemy with a curse all his own. (Biblical from Harbourlight [Pelican])

Shadow of the Storm by Connilyn Cossette — In defiance of her mother, Shira pursues her heart’s calling to become an apprentice midwife. When a delivery goes horribly wrong, Shira finds herself bound to a man who betrayed her, the caretaker of three young children, and the target of a vengeful woman whose husband was killed by Shira’s people, the Levites. As contention between the Hebrew tribes and the foreigners fans the flames of another dangerous rebellion, Shira will come face-to-face with the heartbreak of her past that she has kept hidden for so long. How can she let go of all that has defined her to accept the love she’s denied herself and embrace who she truly is? (Biblical from Bethany House [Baker])

Christmas Novella:

Christmas Lights by Chautona Havig, Vikki Kestell, Cathe Swanson, and April Hayman — From historical romance to contemporary cozy mysteries and Christmas wonder, these four “light” reads will warm your heart and ignite your Christmas spirit! (Christmas Novella, Mixed Genres, Independently Published)

Contemporary Romance:

Risking Love by Brenda S. Anderson — Can cautious bank employee Lissa Morgan risk falling in love with a former thrill-seeker, a widowed single dad, when she may have to foreclose on his house? (Contemporary Romance, Independently Published)

A Mom for Christmas by Lorraine Beatty — Noah’s dream of a happy family and Beth’s dream of a continuing ballet career are both dashed, but when they come together they discover that the Lord might have a new dream for both of them. (Contemporary Romance from Love Inspired [Harlequin])

Sleigh Bells Ring by Sandra D. Bricker, Barbara J. Scott, Lynette Sowell, and Lenora Worth — Santa Claus is coming to town, and so are the Tucker sisters. The girls have inherited their father’s run-down horse farm for Christmas. It needs some serious TLC in order to make it sell-ready. Joanna knows that by recruiting her sisters and one handsome ranch hand they can fix up the place and even celebrate one last Christmas while they’re at it. However, to Isabella, returning to their home in Kentucky bluegrass country for Christmas seems like an impossible hurdle. Can her Chicago boyfriend make life merry and bright again? One thing’s for sure: nothing is peace on earth for Sophia as a new beau brings up old wounds. And when the fate of the horse farm is put in jeopardy because Amy accidentally fraternizes with the enemy, tensions rise. But it’s not like the land developer stole Christmas . . . just her heart. Can the Tucker sisters have themselves a merry little Christmas? (Contemporary Romance from Gilead Publishing)

Do You Hear What I Hear? by Margaret Brownley — Stranded at the old Star Inn until the road back to his cabin reopens, lumber mill owner Rick Talbot suddenly comes face to face with the past. The only woman he’s ever loved is standing in front of the inn’s blazing fire trying to get warm. Both Rick and Sally regret what happened between them years ago, but his family lumberyard clashes with her tree-hugging ways and neither is willing to try again. It will take the storm of the century, one stage-struck young boy, a certain meddling “angel”–and even a cranky cat–to convince them that in matters of the heart, sometimes the second time around is best. (Contemporary Romance from St. Martin Press)

More Than a Tiara by Valerie Comer — Marisa Hiller abandoned her modeling career to nurse a broken heart in Montana, far from the photographer who ruined everything. Her family farm is now part of a CSA program teaching gardening and cooking to single moms, but when the coordinator begs her to represent the program in the Miss Snowflake Pageant, Marisa balks. God has forgiven Jase Mackie but hasn’t answered his prayer to bring Marisa back into his life… until Jase finds himself out West as the official photographer for a beauty pageant, face to face with the woman he’s never forgotten. (Contemporary Romance, Independently Published)

Room at the Inn for Christmas by Mary Connealy — Ambitious hotel executive Amanda Star’s has got her sights set on the CEO job at the multi-national Halston hotel chain. But then she inherits the Star Inn, a place her father had always wanted her to run alongside him. With no time to be away from her job, she rushes home to put the inn up for sale. Once there, she’s struggles against keen regret, sweet memories, and the longing to return, which grows stronger when she is reunited with an old classmate: Anthony Carter, a handyman with a guarded heart. (Contemporary Romance from St. Martin Press)

Can’t Help Falling by Kara Isaac — A funny, heartfelt romance about how an antique shop, a wardrobe, and a mysterious tea cup bring two C.S. Lewis fans together in a snowy and picturesque Oxford, England. (Contemporary Romance from Howard [Simon & Schuster])

A Christmas Homecoming by Kimberly Rose Johnson — Interior design assistant Bailey Calderwood suspects the mysterious admirer sending her cards and flowers is none other than the son of her unpleasable, bed-ridden boss. When Stephen Belafonte’s mom demands he fire Bailey, can he find a way to heal the rift in his family as well his own heart, or will he be forced to let Bailey go? (Contemporary Romance from Mountain Brook Ink)

Where Two Hearts Meet by Liz Johnson — When Caden Holt’s boss asks her to show off their own beautiful Prince Edward Island to impress a visiting travel writer and save the Red Door Inn, the reclusive executive chef is forced to face a world much bigger than her kitchen–and a man who makes her wish she was beautiful. (Contemporary Romance from Revell [A Division of Baker Publishing Group])

Trust My Heart by Carol J. Post — Grant McAllister, a jaded big-city lawyer and small-town reporter Jami Carlisle have no hope for finding true love–except for a zany old matchmaker who won’t give up. In the unspoiled beauty of the Smoky Mountains, there’s healing and forgiveness to be found. And for Grant, this unplanned detour may be just what’s needed to finally guide him home. (Contemporary Romance from Waterfall Press)

Insight by Deborah Raney — She’s having a baby. It’s a blessing that brings comfort to newly widowed Olivia Cline. Yet with no insurance, no job and precious little money, how will Olivia care for herself and her child? The answer is a handsome and brooding artist seeking an assistant. Reed Vincent has recently regained his eyesight thanks to a donor. And through his eyes, Olivia begins to see all the possibilities before her. Before them. Until, in a flash of insight, she knows why his signature is so hauntingly familiar. (Contemporary Romance from Raney Day Press)

Silver Bells by Deborah Raney — As Elvis croons from the radio and Christmas descends upon a small Kansas town, two people find the miracle of love. (Contemporary Romance from Raney Day Press)

A Family Under the Christmas Tree by Terri Reed — In this heartwarming tale set during the Christmas season, a single father and a fashion photographer are brought together by a young boy and a mischievous Bernese mountain dog–but first they must learn to set aside their differences if they are willing to let their relationship bloom. (Contemporary Romance from Howard [Simon & Schuster])

Third Strand of the Cord by Catherine Richmond — Caroline will do anything to keep her ex-husband from putting her son with Down syndrome in an institution–even enroll the boy in a class taught by a know-it-all karate instructor. Lee Marivaux is an expert at reading people. He knows his feisty new student will thrive with firm guidance – and he’s right. He pegs the boy’s mother as a clueless socialite who loafs at the country club – and he’s never been so wrong. When Caroline’s abusive ex shows up, demanding custody, Lee and Caroline must join forces to keep the boy safe. (Contemporary Romance, Independently Published)

Buying Love by Toni Shiloh — Impatient for marriage, Nina Warrenton places an ad in the newspaper for a husband–attaching a monetary reward. But when she begins to fall for the small-town chef who answers her add, she realizes how much she wants him to love her and not her money. Dwight Williams needs fast cash to save the family restaurant, but can he let it go to prove his love for Nina? (Contemporary Romance from Celebrate Lit)

Moonlight Over Manahttan by Carrie Turansky — Professional organizer Sarah Montgomery is hired to organize her elderly neighbor’s cluttered apartment by Justin Latimer, her neighbor’s grandson. Sarah believes free-spirited Justin is a lazy, unemployed poet who is taking advantage of his grandmother’s generosity. Though attracted to him, she guards her heart against her growing feelings. As Sarah and Justin work together to help his grandmother and enjoy Christmas events in NYC, romantic sparks fly. When Sarah discovers who Justin really is, she must decide if she will continue to hide behind her protective wall or open her heart and embrace love. (Contemporary Romance, Independently Published)

Love Bears All Things by Beth Wiseman — Charlotte Dolinsky needs time to recover after breaking up with her boyfriend, Ryan. But when a surprise visitor shows up on her doorstep in Texas, she’s forced to put aside her own worries to help her Amish friends in Lancaster County. Daniel Byler struggles each day in his Amish community to heal from his fiancée’s betrayal. When he discovers that a member of his family is in danger of being shunned, his pain turns to fear. His only way to help is by partnering with Charlotte, a woman he barely knows who has already deceived them all before. (Contemporary Romance from HarperCollins Christian Publishing)

General Contemporary (includes Women’s Fiction):

Paint The Storm by Dawn V. Cahill — When Meg is challenged to love her lesbian daughter as Christ would, she struggles to live out God’s command, and when her daughter goes missing, she finds herself joined with the unlikeliest of allies in her search for Linzee, and finally learns of God’s unconditional grace for sinners. (Contemporary Women’s Fiction from Spring Mountain Publishing)

Restoration Road by Elise Phillips — Mallory Andrews’s short trip back to Texas for her mother’s funeral quickly becomes a move home to help her grieving father with his contracting business. When her old crush, Tres, hires them for a restoration project Mallory falls in love with the crumbling old house. And when feelings bloom between her and Tres, she finds herself on the road to a brand new, unexpected life filled with faith, sweet tea, and fresh paint. (General Contemporary from Desert Breeze Publishing)

Above All Things by Deborah Raney — Expecting their first baby, Judd and Evette McGlin are thrilled to become parents. But the couple faces the ultimate test when Judd learns he already has a child: a six-year-old mixed-race girl born amid secrets and lies. Now, Evette must decide if she can accept the child. She thought she was open-minded–until hidden prejudices threaten the future of an innocent little girl, Evette’s marriage and the very notion of who she thinks she is. (Contemporary Women’s Fiction from Raney Day Press)

Restoring Christmas by Cynthia Ruchti — Alexis set out to restore a fieldstone farmhouse in need of repair. She didn’t expect to restore a life in the process. (General Contemporary from Worthy Inspired)

Strings of Faith by Terry Stafford — Darcy is a classically trained violinist who dreams of playing bluegrass and winning The National Oldtime Fiddle Contest in Weiser, Idaho. When tragedy strikes, Darcy lays her gift aside for her family and faces unimaginable pain and loss, leading to dissension with her husband, disappointing judgment from her church, and anger with God Himself. Can her gift of music survive when her life is turned upside down? (General Contemporary, Independently Published)

Historical:

The Lost Generation by Erica Marie Hogan — On August 5th 1914, the world changed forever. For John and Beth Young, it meant the happiness they finally achieved was snatched out from under them. For Emma Cote, it meant that her husband Jared would do his duty, despite her feelings. For Christy Simmons it meant an uncertain future with the boy she loved. The lives of six people, spread across the British Empire to America were changed forever. (Historical from Elk Lake Publishing Inc.)

Aboard Providence by Keely Brooke Keith — When an accident forces Jonah Ashton to serve as a ship’s physician, he boards the Providence with the plan to escort a group of families to their new settlement in South America and then return to Pennsylvania to finish medical school before rumors of Southern rebellion erupt into all-out war. What he doesn’t count on is getting lost at sea… and Marian Foster. When the settlers finally reach land, Jonah makes a startling discovery that changes everything, but will it change his heart? (Historical from Crossriver Media Group)

Historical Romance:

The Rails to Love Romance Collection by Diana Lesire Brandmeyer, Amanda Cabot, Lisa Carter, Ramona K. Cecil, Lynn A. Coleman, Susanne Dietze, Kim Vogel Sawyer, Connie Stevens, and Liz Tolsma — Journey the Transcontinental Railroad along with nine unlikely couples who encounter all the dangers and disappointments of traveling the rails in the late 1800s. From sight-seeing excursions to transports toward new lives, from orphan trains to circus trains, can romances develop into blazing love in a world of cold, hard steel? (Historical Romance from Barbour Publishing)

Cowboy Christmas Homecoming by Mary Connealy, Ruth Logan Herne, Julie Lessman, and Anna Schmidt — For widow June Harper, another cold front is about to hit. Most call him Hugh. She’d call him Scrooge, except as the man ensures her needs are met, June can’t help but wonder how to meet the needs of his heart. Netty Lewis can take care of herself, has for a while now. And even if Roy, her hired help for the holidays, does take care of her, that doesn’t mean he cares for her or that he’ll stay past Christmas. Pastor Colton McCabe is not sure he’ll make it through the holidays with his new housekeeper. Grace can’t seem to do anything right but love. Perhaps being a homekeeper will earn her a permanent residence in his heart. Connie Lancaster is determined to return to St. Louis, and no cowboy can change her mind. But if Isaac can change her heart, maybe Connie will see the homecoming she’s been longing for isn’t to a place but a person. (Historical Romance from Gilead Publishing)

The Captive Heart by Michelle Griep — Stranded in a strange land, Eleanor Morgan faces starvation or marriage . . . but who wants to marry a murderer? (Historical Romance from Barbour Publishing)

The Rightful Heir by Angel Moore — Cowboy Jared Ivy must work with stranger Mary Lou Ellison until a judge comes to town and determines which one of them is the rightful heir to his family’s Texas newspaper. Intrepid reporter Mary Lou won’t lose the Pine Haven Record–the legacy he left her–without a fight. But when she and Jared stop sparring long enough to investigate a story together, they become a force to be reckoned with. Will they let their battle over the Record get in the way of something even more newsworthy: true love? (Historical Romance from Love Inspired [Harlequin])

Christmas at Stoney Creek by Martha Rogers — When newspaper reporter Tom Whiteman befriends a homeless man named Joe, Tom decides to bring him home to Stoney Creek, Texas for Christmas. As Tom and his childhood friend Faith Delmont set out to learn the truth about the mysterious old man with the kind, sad eyes, they discover that God’s love can turn tragedy and loss to triumph, and that true love comes to those who wait. (Historical Romance from Realms [Charisma Media])

Mystery:

Another Day, Another Dali by Sandra Orchard — In order to regain her grandmother’s favor FBI Special Agent Serena Jones agrees to investigate a missing Salvador Dali painting. But when the evidence points to members of the owner’s own household, it becomes clear that Serena won’t be winning any popularity contests. Then Serena stumbles upon links to her grandfather’s unsolved murder. (Mystery from Revell [A Division of Baker Publishing Group])

Romantic Suspense:

Tangled Webs by Irene Hannon — After a disastrous Middle East mission ends his six-year Army Ranger career, Finn McGregor needs some downtime in the woods. But when someone threatens his neighbor, publishing executive Dana Lewis, Finn and Dana must work together to discover who wants her to leave her lakeside cabin before it costs both their lives. (Romantic Suspense from Revell [A Division of Baker Publishing Group])

Identity Unknown by Terri Reed — When a John Doe washes up on the shores of Calico Bay, no one knows who he is—including him. But one thing’s instantly clear to deputy sheriff Audrey Martin: the man’s marked for murder. And she’s the only one who can protect him from the assassins who lurk at every turn. The arrival of a team of men claiming he’s Canadian Border Services officer Nathanial Longhorn only further complicates the matter. As his memories slowly start drifting back, Nathanial and Audrey work to uncover who wants him dead and why. If they don’t, this Christmas might be their last. (Romantic Suspense from Love Inspired [Harlequin])

Speculative:

A Time to Rise by Nadine Brandes — What more can you sacrifice than your life? Parvin Blackwater is dead. At least that’s what the Council and the world thinks. But her sacrifice tore down part of the Wall long enough to stir up hope and rebellion in the people. Parvin and Solomon must uncover the mysterious clues that Jude left behind in order to destroy the projected Wall once and for all. Meanwhile, the Council schemes to new levels of technology in its attempts to keep the people contained. Can a one-handed Radical and a scarred ex-Enforcer really bring shalom to the world? (Speculative Young Adult from Enclave Publishing)

Unblemished by Sara Ella — Eliyana can’t bear to look at her own reflection. But what if that were only one Reflection—one world? What if another world exists where her blemish could become her strength? (Speculative Young Adult from HarperCollins Christian Publishing)

Beast by Chawna Schroeder — For as long as Beast can remember, she has lived among her master’s dogs. With them she sleeps. With them she eats. With them she fights and struggles to survive. But through hunger and cold she dreams of one day becoming her master’s favorite, earning bones with meat and a place beside the fire. When her pack scatters after a surprise raid, Beast must defend herself against slavers, hunting down the loners. They are so strong, and she is only a beast . . . or is she? (Speculative Allegory from Enclave Publishing)

Accelerant by Ronie Kendig — He’ll destroy the world. But he must save it first. As the only able-bodied heir to the Fire Throne, Haegan, Prince of Seultrie must return to the Nine Kingdoms and fight for his people. But there are insidious forces at work. When reality itself falls into question, Haegan struggles to know where to fight, who to trust. Caught between duty to his country and duty to the world, Haegan must see clearly enough to choose the right path to save his devastated world. (Speculative High Fantasy from Enclave Publishing)

Thriller/Suspense:

Death in the Mind’s Eye by Rick Acker — It knows what you’re thinking. It knows when you’re lying. Does it know how to kill? San Francisco attorney Mike Webster and Dr. Johanna Anderson, a brilliant and beautiful psychologist, must clear Jo’s name of a malpractice case before the controversial, technologically-assisted Mind’s Eye therapy is seized by a shadowy finance firm and used as a weapon. (Thriller/Suspense from Waterfall Press)

The Warrior’s Seal by Ronie Kendig — A Special Forces team is thrust into a war with the past to save the president after an artifact unleashes a deadly toxin. Special Forces operative Cole “Tox” Russell and his team are tasked in a search-and-rescue–the U.S. president has been kidnapped during a goodwill tour. The mission nosedives when an ancient biblical artifact and a deadly toxin wipe out villages. Tox must stop the terrorists and the toxin to save the president. This is a free e-novella prequel! (Thriller/Suspense from Bethany House [Baker])

Deadly Infiltration by W. Richard Lawrence — Infiltrators inside the American government are betraying undercover agents while helping sneak weapons of mass destruction across our borders. To keep their work hidden, they are willing to murder anyone who gets in their way. Sara, a brilliant computer expert working for the FBI, finds herself caught in the middle. Sara’s young faith in God is gravely tested when she is framed for the murder of an FBI agent, forcing her to go into hiding. Meanwhile, Sara’s fiancé Derry lives up to a promise he made to her, and gives up his future to save her and hopefully the country. (Thriller/Suspense from Boarding House Publishing)

Western Historical:

Refining Fire by Carol Cox — Meet the Arizona Territory Brides. Four strong, independent women–each determined to stand on her own two feet, and not one of them looking for romance. But sometimes love shows up when you least expect it… (Western, Pioneer/Prairie, Independently Published)