Sunday, July 31, 2011

Give romance fans some credit, please!

Christian romance has taken some flak recently. Perhaps you’ve heard.

The blog posts are too numerous to link, but in the most famous, Dr. Russell Moore compared inspy romance to pornography for women. If you missed it, here are some of his highlights (emphasis mine):

Thankfully, we do not yet have a market for “Christian” pornography (but just wait, someone will find a way). But we do have a market for “Christian” romance novels….

A lot of this simply a Christianization of a form not intended to enhance intimacy but to escape to an artificial illusion of it. Granted, there’s no graphic sexuality here. The hero and heroine don’t sleep together; they pray together. But that’s just the point.

How many disappointed middle-aged women in our congregations are reading these novels as a means of comparing the “strong spiritual leaders” depicted there with what by comparison must seem to be underachieving lumps lying next to them on the couch?

...It is worth asking, “Is what I’m consuming leading me toward contentment with my spouse (or future spouse) or away from it?"

I’ve been hesitant to join the fray because clearly Dr. Moore can out preach me, probably out write me too. But I’m fairly certain in this genre he doesn’t out read me.

As a Christian fiction book blogger, I read a lot of inspirational romance. And it’s this vast body of knowledge that makes me uniquely qualified to offer Dr. Moore my advice on the subject:


Reading a Christian romance is like watching an episode of Little House on the Prairie. Nothing more than clean entertainment designed to leave you with the warm fuzzies.

(As an aside, many fans of Christian romance read the genre because it leaves them with so much more than that, like deep Biblical truths. But as a matter of taste, I prefer my fiction more like Little House and less like a Billy Graham crusade).

Would Dr. Moore have asked the legions of young Ingalls fans if watching Michael Landon each week lead them "toward contentment with their parents or away from it?" Certainly somewhere in America, there was a poor child using that show as an escape from the real life horrors of his own family, but for the vast majority of us kids growing up in the early eighties, it was just a TV show.

Children who wished they could trade places with Half Pint in real life had problems no feel good drama could fix. Likewise, housewives who read Christian fiction and compare their lumps on the couch to the leading man have marriage issues that go beyond fondness for romance novels.

We should give Christian women some credit and assume most know what real romance looks like. Agape love is a husband who takes out the garbage or puts the seat down when he’s finished. It's a wife who picks her husband's dirty socks off the floor for the umpteenth time without nagging.

We get it, Dr. Moore. Real love doesn't resemble fiction. Real love runs deeper than anything we'll find in the pages of a romance. But to answer your question, consuming Christian romance novels does lead me toward contentment with my spouse.

When I've got the latest inspy in my hand, we’re far less likely to argue over the remote control. He can watch all nine innings of the Superbowl without any complaints from me. That's what I consider a win-win.

(And since neither serious nor thought provoking are my strong suits, allow me to point you in the direction of someone whose response to Dr. Moore covers those bases).

This was a guest post I did for Joanne Troppello and origianlly posted on her Mustard Seed blog.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Review- Redeeming the Rogue by C.J.Chase

Redeeming the Rogue is a Regency by C.J. Chase whose plot propelled me forward.

Someone's trying to kill Mattie Fraser. I spent the entire book trying to figure out the identity of the big bad with virtually every character under suspicion, but ultimately came away completely surprised. Kudos to the author for keeping me guessing.

The spiritual arc in Redeeming the Rogue well written and tied in perfectly with the romance. Mattie is a gutsy heroine from a broken family, Kit is a man of intrigue carrying a few demons from the war. For any hope of a future together they must each let go of the past and forgive the unforgivable.

Complex characters, unexpected twists and light romance makes Redeeming the Rogue the perfect book to stash in your beach bag this summer.

Want more info? Here's the back cover blurb:
Her Ally…or Her Enemy?

With a chip on her shoulder and a pistol in her pocket, Mattie Fraser comes to London determined to find answers. What fate befell her brother after he was forced to join the British navy? Military official Kit DeChambelle knows something, she's sure. But can she trust him—or anyone— as a conspiracy of silence surrounds her?

Kit knows altogether too much—about the guilt that drives Mattie, and the peril she faces. The battle against Napoleon is over, but for Kit, peace is elusive. In helping this brave, stubborn woman, he may be endangering her further. Especially if she learns about the orders he's received, placing them on opposite sides…

My rating:

Review- Always the Baker Never the Bride by Sandra D. Bricker

(from the back cover)
They say you can’t have your cake and eat it too. But who would want a cake they couldn’t eat?

Just ask Emma Rae Travis about that. She’s an award-winning baker who is diabetic and can’t enjoy her own confections. When Emma meets Jackson Drake, the escapee from Corporate America who is starting a wedding destination hotel to fulfill a dream that belonged to someone else, this twosome and their crazy family ties bring new meaning to term “family circus.” The Atlanta social scene will never be the same and neither will your sweet-tooth cravings.


Like the second bite of a crème brulee-filled cupcake which as been frosted with butter cream. and topped with a fondant man’s tie.

In other words, it was a fun, sweet tale with a nutty richness at its core; but as a reader I was surprised to find I connected more with Jackson’s point of view than Emma’s.


***Keep in mind that I read the e-book version and this comment does not (hopefully!) apply to the print version of this novel. ***

In my electronic version of this novel (from Amazon, read on Kindle) a specific and significant formatting error occurred throughout the text. Within a dialogue-heavy scene, a second character would speak, but that speaker’s quote was placed on same line as the first speaker, making it appear, incorrectly, as if the original speaker was answering his own question or commenting on his own comment. –shudder--

I felt this was a significant distraction from enjoying the book. It caused the reader (me) to jolt out of my suspension of disbelief, go back, reread, and try to figure out who was speaking and go “huh?” a lot. I felt this error upended the whole scene and, as it was repeated frequently within the book, took away from the professionalism of the whole of the work. Had this been an ARC or a galley copy, I wouldn’t have given it a moment of consideration – I would have assumed this would be fixed before publication. But this wasn’t an ARC or galley – it was the real deal that people pay real money to download to their devices -- and, therefore I felt I needed to include it in this review. – However – I am giving the editors the benefit of the doubt and chocking it up to “formatting errors” and the difficulty of “transposing material across technologies.”

And, as an aside, I feel really bad for the author, whose hard work on this book could be marred by a technological hiccup. I hope the publisher and Amazon fix this fluke quickly.


Always the Baker, Never the Bride is a fun, quick read for those days when you’re hungry for a slice of romance. Like an artful confection, however, the author has hidden within her tale two contrasting threads of marital grief which, when observed from the other side, compliment the overall flavor of the story.

Although I found the quantity of minor characters a bit superfluous at times, many scenes brought a smile to my face and a few heartfelt lines gave me thoughtful pause.

This is a very sensual book -- but not in a sexual way (although one particular kissing scene made my knees a little weak!) As Emma describes her confections – especially considering she is diabetic and only allows herself the tiniest taste – your mouth will water. Through culinary descriptions and character reactions you will be able to see and smell Emma’s bakery creations and, if you are a sugar fiend like me, you will want to eat them, too.

To make me fatter, apparently, the author has provided actual recipes (Stop. It! My thighs are already busting at the seams!) as well as helpful wedding hints and fun trivia between chapters. Yum.

“No, there is too much. Let me sum up.”

Always the Baker, Never the Bride is a tasty, “beach book”-type read; a fun book for anyone who likes a light inspirational romance. *** IDEA ALERT!!!! This novel would make a great addition to a bridal shower gift basket. (But only if the shower is far in advance of the wedding! – there are some great tips in here for ceremonies and receptions.)***

Featuring characters whose hearts are in need of restoration and renewal, Ms. Bricker has liberally dusted her story with sweetness to bring a palate-pleasing romance to life.

Serena's Rating:

Reviewed by Serena Chase
Follow me on Twitter @Serena_Chase

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Are you joining our discussion of Digitalis by Ronie Kendig?


Our next Christian Fiction Book Club discussion takes place August 13 and we're reading Digitalis by Ronie Kendig.

Julie (who just feels like a Jules to me) is hosting at her blog My Own Little Corner of the World.

Make sure to hit her place for all the details. See ya there!

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

An Amish Gothic Romance...Really?

What does the contemporary Amish romance genre have in common with gothic romance? Nothing at first glance. That's the challenge and fun of being a writer. I get to make the link between the two and create a story that is a little unique.

Gothic romance is usually dark and spooky, and sometimes the hero isn't as sweet as you would find in contemporary romance novels. Think Heathcliff from Emily Bronte's Wuthering Heights, and you've got the picture of a common gothic romance hero-- an obsessed man with inner darkness, secrets, and turmoil. That doesn't have to be the case, though, and in Cries from the Past, the hero, an Amish guy named David Fisher, has a sad past, but he is far from a Byronic Hero.

Setting is another component of gothic romance that fans of the genre recognize and love. Mist, murder, mouldering castles, abandoned graveyards, and ghosts all populate the landscape in the genre. In Cries from the Past, the setting of an old farmhouse where the heroine, Amity Frost, hears strange cries in the night, fits the bill. Other details of setting come into play, but I don't want to give everything away before you've read the novella.

Another component of gothic romance are the secrets that must be uncovered by heroine and hero. In the novella, secrets from the past threaten the present and those in it. The relationship between David and Amity hangs in the balance as do their very lives. The living also try to thwart the hopes of the lovers in the present in order to protect their secrets or fulfill their own wants.

Cries from the Past also focuses on the spiritual journey of the heroine and the faith of the hero. This facet of the novella sets it apart from most gothic romance novels. I believe there is always room for the spiritual growth of and hints at the faith story of characters, and I’ve included these aspects in past works. In this novella, Amity Frost and David Fisher must decide if their love is strong enough to help them find a common faith.

So, what can an Amish romance story and gothic romance have in common? I hope you'll read Cries from the Past and find out.

Cries from the Past excerpt:
The only thing she had planned tomorrow was that a local Amish carpenter was going to come out and take a look at some furniture Gram had put upstairs in storage.

She didn't know anything about the man, but she had set it up through the Fishers' store. Amity wanted to sell the old pieces rather than see them go to ruin. Gram's pack rat ways were clear, and the furniture could be better used as money for repairs on the house as needed or for getting it ready to sell, if that's what Amity decided to do.

She realized as she lay in bed, listening to her watch tick, that she wasn't sure she wanted to leave here at all.

Sometime in the night, she awoke to crying. Tonight, the sound came to her, muffled and terrible, and she whimpered under her comforter, praying for the first time in a long time. Please, God, make it stop. Grant him or her peace. She fell asleep with the sound of crying ringing in her ears, tears on her cheeks.

Lisa Greer is an author of contemporary gothic romance and contemporary sweet romance. She received her M.A. in 18th century British Literature from the University of Alabama at Birmingham and teaches and tutors when she is not working on her obsession that began last year: writing romance. She owns the Gothicked Blog, a blog that reviews gothic novels, especially gothic romance novels. Lisa has two gothic romance novels under her belt: Magnolian from Bookstrand and Moonlight on the Palms from Astraea Press. Her latest release is an Amish gothic romance novella, Cries from the Past.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Review- Jane Austen Ruined My Life by Beth Pattillo

Jane Austen Ruined My Life is the first in the Formidable Series (I reviewed the second, Mr. Darcy Broke My Heart, last year).

I admire how Beth Pattillo plucks her heroes from the ranks of academia, she has a real knack for turning book nerds into dashing leading men. Her quirky writing style makes her novels completely different than anything else in the CBA. Like Mr. Darcy I found the inspy in this inspirational to be very subtle, which might be a selling point for those not used to Christian fiction.

I enjoyed getting a peak into Jane Austen's real life. Although many details were imagined by the author, there were enough facts sprinkled in to find it fascinating. But because of Pattillo's light-handed treatment of the romantic plot line, I found it difficult to consider this a page turner (y'all know how I feel about my romance). It was interesting enough, just not as engaging as the cover promised.

Want more info? Here's the product description:
English professor Emma Grant has always done everything just the way her minister father told her she should -- a respectable marriage, a teaching job at a good college, and plans for the requisite two children. Life was prodigiously good, as her favorite author Jane Austen might say, until the day Emma finds her husband in bed with another woman. Suddenly, all her romantic notions a la Austen are exposed for the foolish dreams they are.

Denied tenure in the wake of the scandal and left penniless by the ensuing divorce, Emma packs up what few worldly possessions she has left and heads to England on a quest to find the missing letters of Jane Austen. Locating the elusive letters, however, isn't as straightforward as Emma hoped. The owner of the letters proves coy about her prize possessions, sending Emma on a series of Austen-related tasks that bring her closer and closer to the truth, but the sudden reappearance of Emma's first love makes everything more complicated.

In the end, Emma learns that doing the right thing has very little to do with other people's expectations and everything to do with her own beliefs. Laced with fictional excerpts from the missing letters, Jane Austen Ruined My Life is the story of a woman betrayed who uncovers the deeper meaning of loyalty.

My rating: (Add an extra couple if you're a mega Jane Austen fan).

Friday, July 15, 2011

Blogfest 2011- $10 gift card giveaway


UPDATE: This giveaway is now closed. Thanks to everyone who entered. Congrats to @AlexConno. I'll email your gift certificate tomorrow.

I'm looking to hobnob with other bookish people on Twitter, and Blogfest 2011 seems like the perfect opportunity to meet some new friends.

Today I'm giving away a $10 Amazon gift card.

The rules are simple:

1. Follow me on Twitter (@joytamsindavid) and leave a comment below with your user name.

(If you're a reader, a writer, or just look literate I'll follow you back).

2. If you're already a Twitter follower, leave a comment with your user name to remind me.

3. Following my book blog is NOT a requirement of this giveaway, but if you're a fan of Christian fiction I'd love to have you join us.

4. There are no bonus entries.

5. This contest runs from 12:00 am EST on the 15th through 11:59 pm EST on the 17th. Winner will be chosen by and announced in this post and on Twitter July 18.

(Sorry guys, I will have to delete entries from people who are not twitter followers).

Blogfest 2011 is hosted by A Journey of Books. There is a complete list of participants on her blog. Or register for an online checklist to help you keep track of your entries here.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Top Ten Authors I'd Love to Meet

You know, social networking is a funny thing. Before book blogging all I ever I knew about my favorite authors was their body of work. But with the popularity of Twitter and Facebook, it's possible to see the person behind the story.

I've lucked out, so far I've found all the authors I loved before book blogging have either very pleasant or neutral online personas. My favorites can stay my favorites and all is right with the world.

(Wouldn't you just be heartbroken to discover one of your favorite writers isn't very nice?!)

What's been a true joy though, is discovering authors whose gracious reputation online precedes them. Some authors just seem to go above and beyond when it comes to reaching out to their readers or helping other writers. From my connections with them on blogs or on Twitter, these authors have consistently impressed me with their gracious, friendly, and humorous interactions.

I would love to meet any one of them in person.

1. Julie Lessman- I'm not sure I've met a friendlier author anywhere on the World Wide Web than Julie Lessman. Find her at Seekerville to see what I'm talking about.

2. Rachel Hauck- I've been a fan of Rachel's work for years, so it was a huge blessing to see the giving, godly woman she is online. After following her on Twitter, I'd read her all over again.

3. Jody Hedlund and 4. Laura Frantz are both authors whose work gets rave reviews from my book blogger friends but it's their gracious interactions with their blog readers that really caught my attention. They're definitely in my TBR pile, I look forward to reading and reviewing their upcoming novels.

5. Jenny B Jones and 6. Mary Connealy are both stinkin' hilarious online and in print. They seem like the kind of people you'd want at your dinner parties, or at the very least in your blog feeds.

7. Lisa Bergren She followed me on Twitter and that was the beginning of my love affair with Marcello Fiorelli. My life might never be the same...

8. Michael Snyder- This is an author who dispenses sage advice on the craft and business side of writing to wannabes like myself at one of my favorite message boards. He's always gracious and humble, and though he writes a genre I don't review, I can't help noticing he's a stand up guy.

9. Dana Pratola and 10. Linda Yezak are special to me because I met them online before I was a book blogger. They've been huge encouragements in my personal writing journey and I'm thrilled to pieces about their debut novels which both released this year.

Leave me a comment to tell me which authors you would like to meet in person. (Top Ten Tuesdays is a meme from The Broke and the Bookish).

Check out these titles by some of the friendliest authors online:

Monday, July 11, 2011

Have we met?

I love how Edgy Inspirational Romance is growing, but I'm sad the days of knowing all my readers individually are slipping away.

I used to track my followers in Google Friend Connect, and each time I noticed a new one I would visit her blog to say hello. Somehow that practice fell by the wayside, but today I want to resurrect some old fashioned networking.

Today I'm talking to you!

Yes, YOU! The lurker, the one reading my blog over her cornflakes this morning.

Maybe you haven't commented because you don't feel like you have anything to add to the discussion. Maybe you haven't commented because we don't really "know" each other online. Maybe you just find leaving comments a pain in the patootie.

It's so easy for bloggers to fall into little cliques and chat with the same people all the time. I want to break out of my comfort zone and meet new friends. So de-lurk for a moment and introduce yourself. Who are you? Are you a writer? A reader? Both?

If you leave me a link, I'll come visit your place.

Have we connected on Twitter yet (@joytamsindavid)? What about Goodreads? Facebook?

C'mon now, don't leave me hanging. Somebody introduce yourself...


And in case you only ever see my blog through your feeds, this is what I look like:

It's what I looked like last summer anyway.

I'm too embarrassed vain to post a recent photo because I gained a few pounds this winter. And by a few, I mean a lot.

Yes, I know vanity is an ugly trait, but if we're going to be friends, it's best I tell you this upfront.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Review- Every Girl Does It by Rachel Van Dyken

If you follow my blog, you know I’m a sucker for snarky humor. I’m excited to tell you I found an author to watch! Rachel Van Dyken has a fun, sassy voice and Every Girl Does It was an easy, humorous, read with several snort-out-loud moments. Van Dyken’s chick lit style kept me flipping the pages.

Occasionally her humor hit a wrong note and the bickering between her hero and heroine was a little overdone, but I whizzed through this book in only a few hours which is a testament to the author’s engaging voice.

Van Dyken is clearly an author who brings the funny and I look forward to watching her craft develop. I have a feeling she’ll be joining the ranks of Kristin Billerbeck or Jenny B. Jones one day (you heard it here first).

Want more info? Here's the book blurb:

Amanda turned down Preston's prom invitation in front of her entire high school, but that was eight years ago.

Somehow, her past mistakes always have a way of catching up with her, and making her pay. Amanda's sarcastic wit mixed with Preston's insufferable ego make sparks fly in more than one way.

Preston, against his better judgment can't fight the desire to get under Amanda's skin and mercilessly tease her, but when that teasing becomes flirting, and flirting becomes something dangerously more, neither of them are prepared for the adventure that follows.

My rating:

(I received an advanced review copy in exchange for an honest review and although I noticed typos, they are typically fixed before the final version is released).


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