Focused on a career in medicine and not on romance, Willa Duvall is thrown slightly off course during the summer of 1859 when she discovers a never-opened love letter in a crack of her old writing desk. Compelled to find the passionate soul who penned it and the person who never received it, she takes a job as a nurse at the seaside estate of Crestwicke Manor.
Everyone at Crestwicke has feelings—mostly negative ones—about the man who wrote the letter, but he seems to have disappeared. With plenty of enticing clues but few answers, Willa’s search becomes even more complicated when she misplaces the letter and it passes from person to person in the house, each finding a thrilling or disheartening message in its words.
Laced with mysteries large and small, this romantic Victorian-era tale of love lost, love deferred, and love found is sure to delight.
In this highly engrossing, totally original Christian historical romantic fiction, Ms. Politano mixes science and faith to show the power of words. Words both expressed and unspoken, written words, careless words, honest words all have the power to affect lives. They hurt feelings, break hearts, change events. They also heal, give hope, and express love in various forms.
… that’s what words do, when you choose ones with eternal impact. They are remembered, repeated, embraced. They burrow deep and remain, outliving short human lives and becoming a legacy.
The Love Note is a departure for me from my usual reads. Its prayer-filled content is a far cry from the steamy stories I myself write. Nevertheless, I find myself enjoying this tale of how a mysterious unsent love letter transforms the lives of everyone in Crestwicke Manor.
Written in multiple points of view (first-person for the heroine Willa, third-person for others), the story takes shape in intriguing, unpredictable, and surprising ways. The named characters are so well drawn and properly developed that the sheer number of them doesn’t confuse the reader. There’s a strong theme of feminism that’s assertive but not too aggressive to be controversial. And the romance is not confined to one couple. At least three more found love restored or newly-discovered.
Matched souls always find their way back to one another, for they seek refuge in the same place.
While I mostly enjoyed the story, I wish that humor was more consistently employed throughout the book. It was present in the beginning but was gone in the second half. As a romance writer, I want more focus on the romance between Willa and Gabe. There were lovely moments, but I always wish for more.
Thanks to Lone Star Literary Life and Revell Books for providing me with the review copy of this fantastic book.
Joanna Davidson Politano is the award-winning author of Lady Jayne Disappears and A Rumored Fortune. She loves tales that capture the colorful, exquisite details in ordinary lives and is eager to hear anyone’s story.
She lives with her husband and their two kids in a house in the woods near Lake Michigan. You can find her at www.jdpstories.com.
KAREN WITEMEYER, REGINA JENNINGS, AMANDA DYKES, and NICOLE DEESE
Genre: Christian / Romance / Anthology Publisher: Bethany House Date of Publication: October 13, 2020 Number of Pages: 400
Scroll down for the giveaway!
In this Texas-sized romance novella collection, courting couples, decades apart, leave a permanent mark of their love by carving their initials into the same oak’s bark.
Regina Jennings: “Broken Limbs, Mended Hearts” When a young man from her past returns and upends their small town with a new invention, schoolteacher Bella Eden is reminded of the heartbreak she suffered years ago under the old oak tree. When her job is on the line, can she trust the man who disrupted her life to help her fight for a brighter future?
Karen Witemeyer: “Inn for a Surprise” Determined to keep love alive for others, Phoebe Woodward builds an inn that caters to couples. When her father sends a property manager to help make it a success, she finds her whimsical vision thwarted by his stodgy practicality. Finding the right blend of romance and reality is a challenge, and her spinster heart may be in for a surprise.
Amanda Dykes: “From Roots to Sky” WWII airman Luke Hampstead found comfort in letters from the sister of a lost compatriot. When he visits Texas to thank her, he discovers her constructing a project with surprising ties to his letters . . . and that she herself is even more surprising. While a promising opportunity awaits him elsewhere, will what they’ve shared be enough to give their future flight?
Nicole Deese: “Heartwood” Abby Brookshire’s world is turned upside down when the historic tree she’s strived to preserve as the head groundskeeper at the Kissing Tree Inn is put in danger of removal. Making matters worse, the only way to protect its legacy is to partner with the man she’s been ignoring since he left town years ago. Will she have the courage to move on from the past and start a new beginning?
With its four delightful, heartwarming, and romantic novellas, The Kissing Tree is one of my favorite books of 2020. Easily in the Top 20 of the 160 titles I’ve read so far.
Four excellent stories of love spanning generations. Three historical, one contemporary. One special tree at the center of them all. Related storylines, seamless integration of elements from one story to the next, cohesive execution. Each time I finished a story, I’d say it was my favorite. In the end, I couldn’t pick one. I choose all four.
Broken Limbs, Mended Heart by Regina Jennings tells the story of how the stately live oak in Oak Springs, Texas became The Kissing Tree through Bella Eden and Adam Fisher. The pairing of schoolteacher and modern farmer is something I don’t read often and I’m long past the point of being able to relate to characters in their early 20s, but this sweet story appealed to me because Ms. Jennings created a lovely tale of young dreams being fulfilled and of a community coming together to welcome an innovation after initial skepticism.
Inn For a Surprise by Karen Witemeyer had me laughing with the rivalry between romantic innkeeper-wannabe Phoebe Woodward and practical self-made businessman Barnabas Ackerly. I love their conversations and the way their contest showed them how well they complement each other’s styles. Opposites do attract and with parental matchmaking at work, these two have their happily-ever-after. Barnabas’ nicknames for the inn are some of the highlights of this story. I also like the cameo of Bella and Adam from the first story to establish continuity.
Phoebe’s line really resonated with me: “I refuse to settle for anything other than soul-stirring, fully reciprocated love.”
From Roots to Sky by Amanda Dykes is both light and deep. I always have a soft spot for military romance and this story of pilot Luke Hampstead and Hannah Garland, the woman he’s been corresponding with, induced me to both laughter and tears. Hannah’s vibrant personality matched Luke’s quiet steadfastness perfectly. As in the previous story, I love it when the couple works together to achieve a common goal. This time, on building the cottage inspired by Danny’s letters and Luke’s drawings from Europe.
Heartwood by Nicole Deese gutted me. The only contemporary story of the collection, this second-chance romance between Abby Brookshire and Griffin Malone is the most relatable to me. Like Abby, I too lost my father to illness and that letter she wrote him had me bawling. While tears-inducing, this story managed to also have light moments and it ends the series on the right note. That of hope and strength in community and love.
This is one of my favorite quotes- “When things feel completely out of my control, my options become very simple: I can either tighten my grip and hang on no matter how much that hold might hurt myself or others, or I can open my fist and trust in a process much bigger than myself … and let go.”
The stories have an awesome sense of place. I actually looked up “Oak Springs, Texas” and “The Kissing Tree, Texas” on the internet with the intention of visiting them when it’s safe to travel once more. Alas, they’re only in the imagination of four talented authors.
Thanks to Lone Star Lit and Bethany House for giving me an early copy to review this wonderful book.
Regina Jennings is a graduate of Oklahoma Baptist University, with a degree in English and a minor in history. She’s the winner of the National Readers’ Choice Award, a two-time Golden Quill finalist, and a finalist for the Oklahoma Book of the Year Award. Regina has worked at the Mustang News and at First Baptist Church of Mustang, along with time at the Oklahoma National Stockyards and various livestock shows. She lives outside of Oklahoma City with her husband and four children.
Voted #1 Reader’s Favorite Christian Romance Author of 2019 by Family Fiction Magazine, bestselling author Karen Witemeyer offers warmhearted historical romance with a flair for humor, feisty heroines, and swoon-worthy Texas heroes. She makes her home in Abilene, Texas, with her husband and three children.
Amanda Dykes is a drinker of tea, dweller of redemption, and spinner of hope-filled tales who spends most days chasing wonder and words with her family. She’s a former English teacher and the author of Whose Waves These Are, a Booklist 2019 Top Ten Romance debut, as well as three novellas.
Nicole Deese’s eight humorous, heartfelt, and hope-filled novels include the 2017 Carol Award-winning A Season to Love. Her 2018 release, A New Shade of Summer, was a finalist in the RITA Awards, Carol Awards, and INSPY Awards. Both of these books are from her bestselling Love in Lenox series. When she’s not working on her next contemporary romance, she can usually be found reading one by a window overlooking the inspiring beauty of the Pacific Northwest. She lives in small-town Idaho with her happily-ever-after hubby, two rambunctious sons, and princess daughter with the heart of a warrior.
Children’s Picture Book / American Historical Fiction / Elections and Voting Ages 4-7 Publisher: Albert Whitman and Company Date of Publication: September 1, 2020 Number of Pages: 32
Scroll down for the giveaway!
Callie knows there’s a presidential election coming up, and people will soon vote to decide the country’s leader.
Her class is having an election too, about an issue that affects them all–the class field trip. Should they choose the cookie factory or the wilderness park?
Join Callie as she campaigns for the wilderness park she loves and learns how people have organized, marched, and protested for the right to vote. And find out how a vote–even just one vote–can make a difference!
PRAISE FOR A VOTE IS A POWERFUL THING:
“Gets the job done.” ―Kirkus Reviews
“A galvanizing read for children interested in politics or parents who hope to instill such interests.” ―Publishers Weekly
Catherine Stier is the author of several awarding-winning children’s books. Her titles include If I Were President, If I Ran for President, If I Were a Park Ranger, and the A Dog’s Day chapter-book series. In grade school, Catherine ran a class campaign for student council with handmade signs, and, although she didn’t win, she found the process exciting! She went on to earn an MA in reading and literacy from the University of Texas at San Antonio and has conducted children’s literature research. She now resides with her husband in San Antonio and volunteers at a local wilderness park.
Ezekiel Holloway’s proposition could save his friend Reagan Sinclair’s inheritance and give her the freedom she craves. But when family scandals force Ezekiel to end their fake engagement, the heiress comes up with a counterproposal—and they elope to Vegas after all! Is there something more than mere convenience at stake here?
Ezekiel stared at Regan, struck speechless. Dozens of questions bombarded him, and he mentally waded through them, finally settling on the most important one. “What?”
“Marry me,” she repeated, closing the short distance between them, not stopping until her hands fisted the lapels of his suit jacket, her thighs braced against his and that honeysuckle scent embraced him like a long-lost lover.
He swallowed a groan at her nearness, at the feel of her body pressed to his. Lust, hot and hungry, punched him in the gut, then streamed through him in a swollen flood. Desperate to place distance between them so he could f*cking think, he gripped her hips to set her away from him. But touching her backfired. Instead of pushing her back, he held her close, his body rebelling and taking control. Two weeks. It’d been two long weeks.
“Reagan,” he rumbled.
“No, Zeke. Don’t give me all the reasons why we shouldn’t. I don’t care. Do you know where I just came from?” she asked, switching topics with a lightning speed that left him floundering. Between that and his *ick finding cushion against her stomach, he couldn’t keep up. “I just left a restaurant where my father arranged for me to have lunch with Justin McCoy.”
“The hell?” His grip on her tightened. Douglas had set her up with that a**hole?
“Yes.” Reagan nodded as if reading his mind. “Apparently my father considered him a more suitable match than you. A man who uses and throws away women for his own gain rather than you, a man who has been nothing but honorable and unfailingly kind and respectful. I had enough. I walked away from him and his machinations. I’m through allowing him to run my life, to make choices for me out of guilt and loyalty.”
Guilt? What the hell did that mean?
Shoving the questions aside for the moment, he refocused on her. “I understand your anger, believe me, I do, but take a moment and think this through before you make a mistake you can’t take back. This decision will cost you your inheritance. It could damage your relationship with your parents. Is this rebellion worth that? Because you’re not in…” He couldn’t finish that sentence. Couldn’t fathom it.
“No, Zeke, I’m not in love with you,” she assured him, and he exhaled a heavy breath. Even as an unidentifiable emotion twisted in his chest. “And maybe this is a little bit of rebellion on my part, but it’s so much more. I’m taking control—of my choices, my mind, my life. I respect you, Zeke. But this isn’t about you. It’s about me. About finally becoming the woman I’ve been too afraid to own. So, from now on, I’m making my own decisions,” she continued. “And that includes you. I choose you, Zeke. And I want you to marry me.”
Jesus, did she know what a delicious temptation she was? How he’d fought following after her that evening he’d let her walk out of his house? That had required strength he hadn’t realized he possessed. Doing it a second time…
No, she might feel certain here in this office, but she was still upset. Could feel very differently in the morning, hell, hours from now. Maybe after they talked this out, she would see—
She rose on her toes and crushed her mouth to his.
His control snapped.
Like a flash fire, the press of her lips to his poured gasoline over the lust that had been steadily simmering. He took possession of that sweet siren’s mouth, claiming it with a thrust of his tongue. Possessing it with a long, wet lick. Corrupting it with an erotic tangle and suck that left little to the imagination about what he wanted from her.
And he wanted it all. In this moment where the lines between platonic friendship and desire incinerated beneath his greedy mouth and her needy whimpers, he wanted everything she had to give him.
Signed, print copy of Trust Fund Fiance $25 Amazon gift card Journal Jewelry
Published since 2009, USA Today Bestselling author Naima Simone loves writing sizzling romances with heart, a touch of humor and snark. Her books have been featured in The Washington Post and Entertainment Weekly, and described as balancing “crackling, electric love scenes with exquisitely rendered characters caught in emotional turmoil.” She is wife to Superman, or his non-Kryptonian, less bullet proof equivalent, and mother to the most awesome kids ever. They all live in perfect, sometimes domestically-challenged bliss in the southern United States.
An angsty, seriously steamy read that’s in keeping with what I expect from Naima Simone’s books.
Marriage-of-convenience and friends-to-lovers are two of my favorite tropes in romance and Reagan and Zeke’s story brings them to life in an emotional and sexy way.
At first, it’s easy to dismiss the premise of their coming together as rich people problems. Reagan wants access to the millions in the trust fund her grandmother left her. Zeke needs to help out a friend to feel useful amidst his family’s rapidly escalating financial scandal. Reading further along, one could see that the causes of their internal turmoil are real and relatable. Reagan chafes from living under the control of her parents as a decade-long penance for a teenage mistake. Zeke has closed off his heart after the death of a beloved. Their union, however temporary, changes their lives for the better.
I especially liked Reagan’s growth arc in this book. She takes control of her life even if it means losing the people she loves. Zeke’s turnabout could have been less sudden. Same with Reagan’s father’s change of heart.
While Trust Fund Fiancé can be read as a stand alone, I’d recommend starting the series from the first book in order to fully appreciate the dramatic saga of the Wingate family.
Genre: Christian Romantic Suspense Publisher: Tyndale House Publishers Date of Publication: September 8, 2020 Number of Pages: 400
Scroll down for the giveaway!
Heather Lawrence’s long-awaited vacation to Salzburg wasn’t supposed to go like this. Mere hours into the transatlantic flight, the Houston FBI agent is awakened when passengers begin exhibiting horrific symptoms of an unknown infection. As the virus quickly spreads and dozens of passengers fall ill, Heather fears she’s witnessing an epidemic similar to ones her estranged husband studies for a living—but this airborne contagion may have been deliberately released.
While Heather remains quarantined with other survivors, she works with her FBI colleagues to identify the person behind this attack. The prime suspect? Dr. Chad Lawrence, an expert in his field … and Heather’s husband. The Lawrences’ marriage has been on the rocks since Chad announced his career took precedence over his wife and future family and moved out.
As more victims fall prey days after the initial outbreak, time’s running out to hunt down the killer, one who may be closer to the victims than anyone ever expected.
A NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR
The story line for Airborne came to me three and a half years ago. All I had was a what-if: A virus unleashed on an international flight.
The search to find experts who were willing to give me accurate information took another year. Along the way, God placed the right people in my path: a woman and new friend whose doctorate is in microbiology and immunology, a man who trains flight attendants for the airline that I envisioned in my story, a pilot who not only flies for my designated airline but is also a suspense and thriller writer, the amazing people and resources of the CDC, and the wisdom and guidance of the FBI.
Tyndale House Publishers saw my passion for Airborne. This book was completed and edited before COVID-19 spread across our globe. My mission then and now is to show a story that weaves hope, reality, and the sacrificial work of first responders when a deadly virus spreads through innocent people.
My prayer is people will experience God’s presence during our current global crisis. Will you join me in that prayer?
With its fast-paced action, impeccably researched scientific facts, and super timely plotline, Airborne is totally unputdownable. I suggest for potential readers to schedule a few hours of uninterrupted reading time because they’ll surely be as absorbed in the story and characters as I was.
To be honest, I had some apprehensions when I accepted the opportunity to review an advance copy of this book. Reading fiction is one of my escapes from the worries of real life and the subject of a virus being the central plot in the story seemed to be contrary to that objective. I am glad to have been relieved of my doubts.
While the book deals with the race to find a cure before more people died and the search for the villain who unleashed the deadly biological weapon, it also tackles relationships and the role of faith in them. Heather’s strong belief in God and Chad’s denial of a divine being are at the center of everything that happened to them. These informed how they made their decisions about their past and future, whether apart or together.
Ms. Mills showed great skill in developing the characters in this book, especially the growth arc for Chad and the reveal of the villain. Her writing is commendable in that she incorporated science, medicine, law enforcement, and religion with a deft hand. The language is simple and the situations are realistic.
My only quibble is the insufficient romance in the book. There’s not a lot of it except for the final chapter. Heather and Chad were separated physically and emotionally for the majority of the story and the few scenes when they interacted were mostly spent fighting. The Christian and Suspense parts were satisfactory, the Romantic aspect was a little lacking.
Content advisory: several on-page deaths, physical violence, description of abuse.
DiAnn Mills is a bestselling author who believes her readers should expect an adventure. She is a founding board member of the American Christian Fiction Writers; director, alongside Edie Melson, of the Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference and Mountainside Retreats; and a member of Advanced Writers and Speakers Association, Mystery Writers of America, Sisters in Crime, and International Thriller Writers.
DiAnn is passionate about helping other writers be successful and speaks to various groups and teaches writing workshops around the country. She and her husband live in sunny Houston. DiAnn is very active online and loves to connect with readers on social media and at diannmills.com
Three years ago, he lived through the car crash that took his wife and twins away from him—though “lived” barely describes his current state. Giving up professional hockey, going off grid, and drinking himself into oblivion are his coping mechanisms. Another is texting his dead wife about his days without her. Therapeutic? Doubtful. Crazy?
Definitely. But those messages into the ether are virtually the only thing stopping him from spiraling to even darker places.
Until someone texts back . . .
Sadie Yates is losing it.
Suddenly guardian to a little sister she doesn’t know and a misbehaving hound she’d rather not know at all, she’s had to upend her (sort of) glamorous life in LA and move back to Chicago. The nanny has quit, the money’s running out, and her job is on the line. The last thing she needs is her sister’s hockey camp counselor, a judgmental Viking type, telling her she sucks at this parenting lark. Thank the goddess for her sweet, sensitive, and—fingers crossed—sexy text buddy who always knows the right thing to say. In the same city at last, they can finally see if their online chemistry is mirrored in real life. She just needs to set up a meeting …
A ruined man who claims to have used up all his love is surely a bad bet, but Sadie’s never been afraid of a challenge … even one that might shatter her heart into a million pieces.
Originally from Ireland, Kate cut her romance reader teeth on Maeve Binchy and Jilly Cooper novels, with some Harlequins thrown in for variety. Give her tales about brooding mill owners, oversexed equestrians, and men who can rock an apron or a fire hose, and she’s there. Now based in Chicago, she writes sexy contemporary romance with alpha heroes and strong heroines who can match their men quip for quip.
Korean-American author Jayci Lee delights with A Sweet Mess, a delicious and light-hearted romantic comedy that readers will devour and ask for more.
Aubrey Choi loves living in her small town nestled in the foothills of California, running her highly successful bakery away from the watch of her strict Korean parents. When a cake mix-up and a harsh review threaten all of her hard work and her livelihood, she never thought the jaded food critic would turn out to be her one-night stand. And she sure as hell never thought she’d see the gorgeous Korean hunk again. But when Landon Kim waltzes into her bakery trying to clean up the mess he had a huge hand in making, Aubrey is torn between throwing and hearing him out.
When she hears his plan to help save her business, Aubrey knows that spending three weeks in California wine country working with Landon is a sure recipe for disaster. Her head is telling her to take the chance to save her bakery while her heart—and her hormones—are at war on whether to give him a second chance. And it just so happens that Landon’s meddling friends want them to spend those three weeks as close as possible…by sharing a villa.
When things start heating up, both in and out of the kitchen, Aubrey will have to make a choice—to stick it out or risk her heart.
Asian-American main characters, lots of hunger-inducing food descriptions, and classic romance tropes. How can I turn that down? That’s essentially what I write too.
I like the choice of having the Korean leads be beautiful people in successful occupations–an influential food critic in Landon and a talented baker in Aubrey. I like that this story is light, focusing on the travails of a romantic relationship instead of societal struggles that minorities face in the US. We have too many of those stories and not enough of this kind. The angst comes from the yearning, the risking of professional reputation versus personal desires.
While there’s instalust, the sex scenes are sweet and not explicit. The food scenes are sumptuous, so don’t read this hungry. Friendships are tight and mothers are honored. Overall, Ms. Lee’s storytelling is enjoyable. She handled one of my most disliked tropes quite well and the push-and-pull was just enough to cause tension but not too much to make me give up on the couple.
As the title suggests, this book is both sweet and a little bit of a mess. In the early copy I read, there were several times when the transitions between Aubrey’s and Landon’s points of view weren’t smooth and the time jumps weren’t clear. Also, the dual daddy issues were too much and the cover, while cute, didn’t reflect the ethnicity of the lead characters. These are minor issues and don’t stop me from recommending A Sweet Mess to Romance readers who are looking for books that reflect the diversity of the society we live in today.
JAYCI LEE writes poignant, sexy, and laugh-out-loud romance every free second she can scavenge and is semi-retired from her fifteen-year career as a defense litigator. She loves food, wine, and travelling, and incidentally so do her characters. Jayci lives in sunny California with her tall-dark-and-handsome husband, two amazing boys with boundless energy, and a fluffy rescue whose cuteness is a major distraction. She is the author of A Sweet Mess.
Macmillan is giving one of my followers a digital copy of Jayci Lee’s A Sweet Mess. All you have to do to enter is Follow @carpediemchronicles on Instagram and Like my bookstagram of the book. Comment there or return here to let me know you’ve entered. I will draw the winner on Tuesday, July 21 at 12 noon Central time.
Western / Historical Fiction / Clean and Wholesome Romance
Publisher: Sourcebooks Casablanca
Date of Publication: May 26, 2020
Number of Pages: 384
Scroll down for Giveaway!
He may be a Texas Ranger, but he only has eyes for the outlaw’s beautiful daughter . . .
Texas Ranger Matt Taggert is on the trail of a wanted man. He has good reason to believe that Ellie-May’s late husband was involved in a stagecoach robbery, and he’s here to see justice done. But when he arrives in town, he discovers the thief has become a local hero . . . and his beautiful young widow isn’t too happy to see some lawman out to tarnish her family’s newly spotless reputation.
Ellie-May’s shaken by her encounter with the ranger. Having grown up an outlaw’s daughter, she’ll do anything to keep her children safe—and if that means hardening her heart against the handsome lawman’s smiles, then so be it. Because she knows Matt isn’t about to give up his search. He’s out to redeem himself and find proof that Ellie-May’s husband wasn’t the saint everyone claims . . . even if it means losing the love neither expected to discover along the way.
Whenever I read a book by Margaret Brownley, it’s always exactly what I needed at the time. Cowboy Charm School provided a humorous break from the controversies in the fall of 2018. In 2020, when there is widespread distrust against those who work in law enforcement, The Outlaw’s Daughter allows the readers to visit a time when people in the profession were like Texas Ranger Matt Taggert — honest, honorable, determined to fulfill his sworn duty while caring deeply for the innocent family members whose lives will be affected adversely by the justice he seeks.
From the first chapter, the stakes were set high for Matt and Ellie-May. Matt was investigating her husband for a possible connection to a crime. Ellie-May was resolute in trying to keep her children’s father’s reputation sterling. She didn’t want them to suffer as she did from society’s ill-treatment because of who her father was.
The two main characters were at cross purposes for most of the book, I wasn’t sure how the author would bring about their happily ever after. Of course she did and it was a satisfactory resolution as far as I’m concerned. Such is Ms. Brownley’s writing prowess that my belief regarding Neal’s innocence closely matched Ellie-May’s in that there was a point that it wavered slightly.
There’s a lot to love in this book. The characters, including secondary ones like Lionel and Alicia, Anvil, and Jesse James, are sympathetic, the storytelling is topnotch, the romance is sweet and natural. If not for some repetitive elements that lengthened the story unnecessarily, a bit of an ineffectual villain, and parroting of oppressive gender roles Ellie-May had to adhere to, I’d have given this the full marks.
Content advisory: six-year old child in peril and handled firearm, alcoholism, child neglect
New York Times bestselling author Margaret Brownley has penned more than forty-six novels and novellas.
A two-time Romance Writers of American RITA® finalist, Margaret has also written for a TV soap and is a recipient of the Romantic Times Pioneer Award. Not bad for someone who flunked eighth-grade English. Just don’t ask her to diagram a sentence.
Historical Fiction / Historical Romance / Women’s Fiction
Publisher: Wyatt-MacKenzie Publishing
Date of Publication: May 5, 2020
Number of Pages: 315
Scroll down for the giveaway!
The First Emma is the true story of Emma Koehler, whose tycoon husband, Otto, was killed in a crime-of-the-century murder by one of his two mistresses—both also named Emma—and her unlikely rise as CEO of a brewing empire during Prohibition. When a chance to tell her story to a young teetotaler arises, a tale unfolds of love, war, beer, and the power of women.
PRAISE for The First Emma:
“Di Maio’s take on a shocking American drama pleasantly blends romantic and historical fiction . . . a sweet memorialization of a real-life female business pioneer in San Antonio.” —Kirkus
“A beautifully crafted portrait of an intriguing woman. Mystery and romance are set against the backdrop of fascinating pieces of twentieth-century history, and a richly drawn setting leaves the reader feeling wholly immersed. Historical fiction fans will love this one!” —Chanel Cleeton, NYT bestselling author of Next Year in Havana
“Di Maio does a brilliant job of weaving together all the threads—from past to present—while unearthing a tale of blossoming love, the power of our chosen family, and the losses that make us whole again.” —Rochelle B. Weinstein, USA Today bestselling author of This Is Not How It Ends
Born out of Camille Di Maio’s creative imagination and impeccable research, The First Emma is a wonderful tribute to a remarkable woman whose historic contributions to San Antonio have not been much touted as she deserved. Seamlessly intertwining fact and fiction, dual timelines, details of the brewery business, and the intricacies of the lives of two women, Ms. Di Maio has created a novel that engages the emotions and captivates the intellect at the same time.
In this book, close-to-dying Emma Koehler narrates her life story to young Mabel Hartley, spanning from her and her husband’s beginnings in St. Louis through their move to Texas and until the end of the Prohibition. All the while, the titular Emma provides a new home for the lonely young woman, matchmakes her with Erik, a nephew, and inspires her in her future. As Mabel said in the book, “Mrs. Koehler’s story was interesting, yes. But more than that, it offered hope to girls who were beginning to see a world where opportunities were available to them that were never there before.”
Having lived in San Antonio, I delighted in being transported to its past. I’ve only seen Pearl as it is now, a tourist destination filled with chic shops and fancy restaurants. This book took me on a fascinating “tour” of how it was eighty years ago through detailed descriptions of the brewery, the theater, cars, and the war. I can only say the “trip” was awesome.
So many themes in this book resonated with me–female strength, found family, hope, and love. I highlighted several passages that spoke to me.
“… there is much in life that is out of our control. The answer is not to give up and crumble. The answer is to find a way around it, no matter the difficulty. No matter how impossible the obstacles.”
I related so much to this because I met cousins in San Antonio I didn’t know I have. “… what I can give them is the gift of each other. It’s not easy to come from a different country and make a life here. But if they have each other to lean on, they will have a far better foundation than most.”
Well-crafted and evocative, The First Emma is a novel I highly recommend for readers of historical fiction and historical romance, and maybe even those who like true crime.
Content advisory: On-page deaths, gun violence, alcoholism, war.
Camille Di Maio always dreamed of being a writer, though she took a winding path of waitressing, temping, politicking, and real estate to get there. It all came to fruition with the publication of her bestselling debut, The Memory of Us, followed by Before the Rain Falls, The Way of Beauty, and The Beautiful Strangers. In addition to writing, she loves farmers’ markets, unashamedly belts out Broadway tunes when the mood strikes, and regularly faces her fear of flying to indulge her passion for travel. Married for twenty-three years, she home-schools their four children. (Though the first two are off at college now!) She is happy to live in Virginia near a beach.
Lyrical captions perfectly synced with superb drawings depicting a diverse, inclusive community that cares deeply for the environment make this picture book a must-buy for purchasers of children’s literature.
My fifth-grader delighted in reading the passages out loud because of the simplicity and rhythm of the words. He related well with the children in the book since it’s his responsibility to water my flowers and herbs on the porch of our home. He rated it five stars.
For my part, I approve the representation of various races, genders, and age groups in the characters. That’s reflective of the multicultural society we live in today. I also appreciate the positive values imparted in the book – environmental sustainability, self-sufficiency, and sense of community. I rate it five stars as well.
Liz Garton Scanlon is the author of many beloved books for kids, including the brand new Thank You, Garden, as well as the Caldecott Honor book All the World and others, including several co-authored with her pal Audrey Vernick. Scanlon also wrote the middle grade novel The Great Good Summer and is published in numerous poetry anthologies. She serves on the faculty of the Vermont Faculty of Fine Arts and is a frequent and popular presenter at conferences and festivals. Find more about her life and work at www.LizGartonScanlon.com