Messes can become miracles: Review of More by Tammie Head

WhMORE coveratever the mess, God can work a miracle.

Author and Bible teacher Tammie Head knows firsthand because that’s what happened to her. She tells a bit of her story and encourages others to believe in God’s goodness and power to heal in her book MORE: From Messes to Miracles. (Disclaimer: I received a free copy of the book in exchange for my review.)

It’s a passionate plea to not let your past or present circumstances keep you from the life God intends. More is encouraging and strengthening for anyone wondering if the life they have is all there is.

And the book is full of inspiring word art. I think my favorite one is this:

Printable 7

It’s hard to read this book and not catch Tammie’s joy and enthusiasm for Jesus. If you’re in the middle of a mess, let Tammie’s words lead you to more.

Read on for a Q&A with the author to find our her heart for this message. head, tammie

1. What do you want readers to learn from reading your book?

People everywhere are looking for something more. Churched and nonchurched alike. They’re in the grocery store aisle behind you, in the nail chair beside you, singing praise songs in front of you, and perhaps in the mirror staring back at you. People feel messy; plagued by looming feelings of ineffectiveness, indifference, depression, and purposelessness. However, all of us were made for more than surviving. Old stale religion never satisfies. Neither do the solutions the world has to offer. What all of us need is an encounter with God that reveals truth and sets our hearts ablaze. I have seen this in my own life as well as in countless lives around me.

2. Your life was a bit of a mess before you came to know Christ. How has He used your story to advance His kingdom?

I have watched God use my story repeatedly as a tenderizing agent for hardened hearts toward God. People cannot believe what God has done for me. In turn, I have also been privileged to lead many people to Christ, to the One who changed me. People are glad to know God loves and pursues even the messiest of people.

3. What encouragement do you have for men and women who feel like their lives are too messy for God to use?

If God can use me, He can use anyone! But even more profound than “He can” is this: He wants to! God specializes in taking the most broken of lives and turning them around for His glory. The Bible is full of broken men and women who, after encountering the Lord, were used dramatically by God and for His kingdom.

4. What encouragement do you have for men and women who are yearning to have more in their lives?

The more we’re longing for, at the end of the day, is God. More of His presence. More of His love. More of His power. And so on! What I want men and women to know is God wants “so much more” of us than we could ever want “so much more” Him. The deal is, we must risk making more room for God. The key is sitting with Him, soaking Him in, allowing Him to minister to us on a deep level and, lastly, deeply surrendering our lives to Him day-by-day.

5. What are some resources for readers who are ready to take the next step and start living for more?

I have written a Bible study called Duty or Delight: Knowing Where You Stand with God. I think that would be a great resource for digging deeper into more of a relationship with God.

6. Where can readers connect with you online?

Readers can connect with me at several social media sites. Twitter: @tammiehead Instagram: @tammiehead Facebook: Tammie Head My website and blog:

A royal tale: Review of How to Catch a Prince by Rachel Hauck

What if you’d secretly married a prince five years ago and thought the relationship had ended only to find that same prince standing in front of you with annulment papers in hand?

how to catch a princeRachel Hauck’s Royal Wedding series wraps up with How to Catch a Prince, the story of American heiress Corina del Rey and Prince Stephen of Brighton, the secret they share (and another one they don’t), and the obstacles they’ll need to overcome to find love between them again. (Disclaimer: I received a free e-copy of the book in exchange for a review and blog tour participation through Litfuse Publicity Group.)

Hauck’s previous books in the series, Once Upon a Prince and Princess Ever After, introduced us to the fictional kingdoms and royal families of Brighton and Hessenberg, and while reading those books would help give background for this one, you could pick up How to Catch a Prince and read it without having read the others.

I found the premise of this book interesting, but I must say I was a tad disappointed in the story overall. I loved the first two books in this series, but this one didn’t quite meet my expectations. I just wasn’t as drawn in by the characters, and I wasn’t really surprised by how things played out. Still, it was an entertaining read, and there were some unforgettable moments and lines from the book.

The overall theme of loving people well, even if it’s not romantic love, will stick with me. As will advice like,

“You can play it safe if you choose, but it’s the brave, those who face their fears, who tame the world, who win the day. Walk on waves.”

Corina does a lot of brave and courageous things and learns to fight for what matters to her. That’s inspiring. And Prince Stephen learns that exposing his secrets is the only way to live in freedom.

If you’re a fan of the real royal family and all things British, this is a great series to make you feel like you’re part of that world.

And to celebrate the launch of this book, there’s a royal giveaway! And to find out more about the author, the book and what others are saying, click here.

An American heiress and a crown prince seem destined to be together. Will the devastation of war keep them apart forever? Find out in Rachel Hauck’s new book, How to Catch a Prince. True love has a destiny all its own. With a little heavenly help, Prince Stephen and Corina embark on a journey of truth. But when the secrets are revealed, can they overcome, move forward, and find love again?

Enter to win a “royal” prize pack! 


One grand prize winner will receive:

  • A royal-themed Brighton charm bracelet
  • 2 tickets to see the new Cinderella movie
  • The Royal Wedding series (Once Upon a Prince, Princess Ever After, and How to Catch a Prince)

Enter today by clicking the icon below. But hurry, the giveaway ends on March 23rd. Winner will be announced March 24th on Rachel’s blog.



When women are heroes too: Review of Dauntless by Dina Sleiman

When I first saw the cover for Dauntless by Dina Sleiman, my initial reaction was, “Oh, so like Robin Hood only for girls.”

After reading the book, I’m happy to say that was a shallow assumption and a horrible first impression. (Disclaimer: I received a free copy of the book from Bethany House in exchange for my review.)

dauntlessDauntless does feature a strong female lead in Merry Ellison, a former noblewoman who has been forced into outlaw living because of the fickle and ruthless King John who ordered the murder of her family. And Merry does lead a band of fellow outcasts, mostly children, who steal to survive. But her story is much more than a retelling of Robin Hood. The similarities to that legend are few, but if you like Robin Hood, you’ll probably like this one.

This is the first in Sleiman’s Valiant Hearts series and each book will feature a strong, young female lead. (The next book has an aspiring knight on the cover!) Set in Medieval times in fictional parts of England and Britain, the books are classified as juvenile fiction, but I think they have a wider appeal.

I enjoyed the story and appreciate tales where the female is not always the “damsel in distress.” Merry has a leadership role among her group but learns that she cannot, nor does she need to, handle everything all by herself. She leads with wisdom but lets others in. She learns to trust her instincts but also to delegate and trust others.

These are valuable lessons for women of any age. I’m excited for what this series has to offer.

Yes, there is a love story in this also, and while Merry tries to deny any ideas of romance because of her situation, she discovers it is a natural part of life. The romance is not what carries the story nor does it give false impressions for younger readers.

Overall, this is a great book to share with younger readers (and then read for yourself!).

A speculative series worth investing in: Review of Beneath the Forsaken City by C.E. Laureano

Last summer I took a chance on a new series of speculative (think fantasy/adventure) fiction, even though I wasn’t sure it was the genre for me. But author C.E. Laureano hooked me from the start of The Song of Seare series, and I gobbled up book one. You can read my thoughts about it here. Book Two recently released, and my expectations were high. (Disclaimer: I received a free copy of the book from the Tyndale Blog Network in exchange for my review.)

forsaken cityBeneath the Forsaken City continues the tale of the faithful men and women fighting for the heart and soul of their land which is deep in darkness under the influence of an evil king. It’s hard to talk about a second book in a series without giving away too much from the first book, so I’ll try, instead, to tell you what I like about the series overall.

First, I’m in awe of an author creating an entire world, including a language, that is similar to an existing world but not quite the same. Seare (pronounced SHAR-uh) is reminiscent of Britain, with influences from Ireland, Scotland, England and Wales. It’s an island nation with clans and the setting is somewhat medieval with horses, castles, kings and sword-fighting. And yet it’s entirely its own world.

At times it reminds me of Lord of the Rings and other times I think of The Princess Bride. The stories contain a lot of action and suspense, some hints of romance, and plenty of food for thought about faith, spirituality, and morality.

It is not hard to get lost in this world and be completely caught up in the characters. The stories move along at a pace that keeps you turning the pages. And book two definitely left me aching for book three. All in good time, I guess. That’s the worst part of reading the second book in a trilogy: having to wait for book three to wrap it all up!

When it comes to this set of stories, though, the wait is worth it. And the wait for book three will be worth it too.

If you’re looking for something different than what you normally read, or if you’re looking to add to your collection of fantasy/adventure stories, look to this series. (But don’t say I didn’t warn you!)

A story that teaches: Review of Remember the Lilies by Liz Tolsma

liliesEither World War II fiction is hot right now or I’m just more drawn to those stories than I ever have been. Whatever the reason, Liz Tolsma’s Remember the Lilies is another strong offering in the World War II fiction genre. (Disclaimer: I received a free copy of the book from the author in exchange for my review.)

Unlike her first two books, Snow on the Tulips and Daisies are Forever, which take place in Europe, her latest focuses on the Santo Tomas Internment Camp in the Philippines, an area of World War II history about which I am under-educated. I would expect I’m not alone. American civilians were held there for a good chunk of the war and Tolsma’s book portrays what conditions were like for those who experienced it.

The story focuses on Rand Sterling, who, before the war, was a successful American businessman in Manila, and Irene Reynolds, who was raised among missionaries in the Phillipine jungle. Both are prisoners at the camp. After a failed escape attempt by Rand, their paths cross more often and the two become friends trying to make the best of the worst circumstances.

Of Tolsma’s three books, this was my least favorite. It covers a large chunk of time in which the two main characters are prisoners. Months and years pass, noted by a paragraph, and the “action” is limited to the activities of prisoners in the camp. It wasn’t boring, not in the least, but the journey the characters were on was more of an internal one. The danger was more subtle and psychological than in the other books.

Still, it’s a great story, and I’m so grateful for the untold stories Tolsma is telling with her books. Tolsma’s research and attention to detail are so good I feel like I’ve been in a history class. The scenes depict realistic suffering–violent punishment, starvation–so if that bothers you, just be forewarned.

I’d encourage you to check out any of Tolsma’s books for a better idea of what it was like to live through World War II. I’m always more thankful for the sacrifices of the people who lived during that time period after I read one of Tolsma’s books.

Help for making nutritious food for families: Review of Supermarket Healthy cookbook

I became a fan of Melissa D’Arabian years ago when she was a contestant on Next Food Network Star, and though I never got a chance to catch her show, I appreciated her food philosophy: healthy, affordable meals for a family. (D’Arabian has four kids!)

supermarketHer new cookbook, Supermarket Healthy, is a handy resource for families who want to make the most of their grocery budget without resorting to the nutritionally lacking pre-packaged meals that are often cheaper but not necessarily better. (Disclaimer: I received a free copy of the cookbook from the Blogging for Books program in exchange for my review.)

D’Arabian offers practical tips for both the shopping and cooking phases of preparing a meal, and those tips are scattered throughout the recipes. I remember her offering these sorts of shortcut tips and tricks on the show, too. One of my favorites from the book is to always add the liquid first in the blender when making a smoothie because it creates a vortex. Previously, I would add the chunkiest ingredient, thinking it needed to be closest to the blades.

And let’s talk about the recipes. While some are a bit out of reach (and maybe more do-able in an area like California, where D’Arabian lives, because of more access to fresh produce year-round), I’ve already found some new favorites.

I’m not much of a smoothie person when it comes to breakfast but the Caffeinated Coffee-Oat Smoothie was a delicious and satisfying start to my day. I wasn’t sure it would fill me up for a morning, but it did! Super easy to make (as long as the blender is clean!) and filling. With a little do-ahead prep (cooked oatmeal), it’s pretty much a snap.

For breakfast, I also tried to Healthy Breakfast Benedict, a twist on one of my favorite breakfast dishes, eggs Benedict. This one uses spinach and a basil-cream sauce. I think this one could have been better because I didn’t properly execute the poached eggs. I usually fry my eggs, so my poaching skills are a little rusty.

Tuna Noodle Bowls was probably my favorite of the ones I’ve made so far. Our family is a big fan of tuna noodle casserole, especially on dreary winter days. It’s a comfort food that warms you from the inside out. The recipe we typically use is heavy and full of processed cheese and canned soups. So, I was eager to try D’Arabian’s take, which uses reduced-fat cream cheese, a leek and fresh lemon juice, among other ingredients. It’s a refreshing twist on the comfort food I love. Still comforting but with flavorful bursts of citrus that lighten it up. Like sunshine breaking through on a cloudy day.

I notice this trend in D’Arabian’s recipes: fresh ingredients full of flavor. And that’s part of what excites me about her recipes. I look forward to using even more of them as we move into spring and start to see more fresh produce at the farmer’s market and in the stores.

Other recipes I tried were the Poached Chicken Puttanesca, which used an olives, capers and tomatoes sauce, and Spicy Honey-Mustard Chicken, which was a last-minute dinner idea one night not long after I got the book. Both were satisfying dinners the family enjoyed.

I’ve yet to try any of the snacks, soups or desserts, but this cookbook will continue to be in my rotation for meal planning. I also hope to make more use of the pantry list at the beginning of the book so that some of these recipes are more accessible on short notice.

Overall, another winning cookbook from the Food Network folks.

You can read an excerpt here.


Melissa d’Arabian was a corporate finance executive before becoming the host of Food Network’s Ten Dollar Dinners and Cooking Channel’s Drop 5 Lbs with Good Housekeeping. She also developed the seriesThe Picky Eaters Project, serves as lead judge on Guy’s Grocery Games, and is the author of the New York Times bestselling cookbook Ten Dollar Dinners. Melissa has an MBA from Georgetown University, and lives with her husband and their four daughters in San Diego.

You don’t have to love Valentine’s Day to love this story: Review of Paper Hearts by Courtney Walsh

I sometimes have a love-hate relationship with Valentine’s Day, even as a married woman. There’s a lot of pressure on that one day, and not every February 14 has been memorable or spectacular in my history. Though I still love a good happily-ever-after story, as I’ve gotten older, I’ve found myself drawn more to songs and stories that present a more realistic version of love and relationships.

Stuff like this:

But the very best love stories are the ones that are flawed and full of forgiveness and pain and joy and challenges and happiness. All these things make up a love story.

paper heartsThat’s a line from Paper Hearts by Courtney Walsh, which is–and isn’t–a Valentine’s Day story. (Disclaimer: I received a free copy of the book from the Tyndale Blog Network in exchange for my review.)

Here’s a summary:

Abigail Pressman lives in a town that is fascinated by love. Founded by a her ancestors whose love story is legendary, Loves Park, Colorado, capitalizes on its name, drawing tourists year-round, all in the name of love. Abigail runs a local bookstore and, to her mother’s disappointment, is single with a waning interest in dating. Reluctantly resolved to remain single and expand her business, Abigail’s plans are thrown into disarray when Dr. Jacob Willoughby arrives in town and buys the building that houses her bookstore. With his own plans to rebuild his life and practice in the other half of the building, Jacob is unprepared for the conflict his plans bring to the town. When Abigail is drafted into a club that gathers in her store and stamps mail with the town’s romantic postmark, she discovers a love story that is both touching and tragic in the form of paper hearts a couple writes to each other each Valentine’s Day. As she uncovers their story through the hearts, her beliefs about love are challenged and her own chance at happily ever after emerges.

This is a story about love, yes, but it’s also a story about dreams, and it’s a novel forged from the author’s own journey of dreams crushed and dreams realized. (You can find that story on her blog.) It’s about happily ever after, in a way, but about how sometimes you have to walk through some not-so-happy days to get there.

It’s a realistic picture of love in real life–not always pretty or tidy but ugly and messy and beautiful all at the same time. Abigail and Jacob were such realistic characters I could picture their actions and words as if they were flesh and blood people. I could see this as a Hallmark or Lifetime movie (please-oh-please producer type people, check this one out!).

And the whole angle of the paper hearts–of creating a tradition where you write what you love about the other person on hearts throughout the year and then reveal them to each other on Valentine’s Day–is such a sweet and creative idea. It’s the kind of thing you can take from this book and apply to life. (Fiction can do that!)

So, if you aren’t yet in love with the idea of this book, then check out this video, which is all kinds of adorable (and real):

And catch up with Courtney on her website or on Facebook.

If this is your introduction to her work, then you also should check out her three previous books: A Sweethaven Summer, A Sweethaven Homecoming, and A Sweethaven Christmas.

All good things must come to an end: Review of Sabotaged by Dani Pettrey {plus giveaway!}


I knew this day was coming, the day we’d bid farewell to the McKenna family and this crazy amazing series of romantic suspense books by Dani Pettrey. Sabotaged, the fifth and final book in the series, releases this month, and it’s just as heart-pumping as the rest. (Disclaimer: I received a free copy of the book from the author in exchange for my review.)

SabotagedSM1This book centers around the Iditarod and a missing dog sled driver who is also the uncle of Kirra, a local veterinarian who grew up around the McKenna family. Reef, a McKenna sibling with a sketchy and troubled past, is working search-and-rescue with Kirra when her uncle goes off course. They’re then thrust into a mystery that has them traveling to points along the race path and fearing for their lives.

Each of five books follows one of the McKenna siblings and a crime/mystery they find themselves involved in solving. If you want to catch up and start from the beginning, you can. You could read each book separately but the background helps, I think.

Here’s the order, with links to my reviews:

Submerged. (Sadly, I didn’t actually review this one, but it hooked me enough to want to read and review the books that followed!)





Pettrey’s books are so well-written I find myself wanting to hang out in Alaska, no matter the cold, and re-read the whole series (a rare act on my part). They’re full of action, suspense, romance and deep truths. Now that the series has ended, I’ve been thinking about which story or character was my favorite and I have a hard time choosing. It’s a toss-up between Submerged, which introduced the series with Cole and Bailey, and Stranded, which focused on Gage and Darcy.

Overall, these stories are like a Nancy Drew/Hardy Boys mash-up for grown-ups if those main characters were related and each had love interests.

I’m sad to see this series end but thrilled and excited about the next series Pettrey is working on. It’s set on the East Coast and will revolve around the Chesapeake Bay area.

But you know what makes the ending of a series better? A fun giveaway! Click the picture below to enter the Heart of Adventure sweepstakes. Prizes include a gift certificate to, a donation to an animal shelter or veterinarian, and a sweetheart survival kit (chocolate included!). You can find everything you need to know about the giveaway here. The contest runs through Feb. 22, so head on over and enter!

Enter the HEART OF ADVENTURE Sweepstakes from Author Dani Pettrey!
And if you want to get a glimpse of what Pettrey’s stories are like, check out her amazing Pinterest boards for each book. If that doesn’t get you interested in an Alaskan adventure, nothing will!

War changes everything: Review of Secrets of a Charmed Life by Susan Meissner

SecretsOfACharmedLifeCOVERI hope last week’s interview with Susan Meissner piqued your interest in her new book, Secrets of a Charmed Life. Today, you’ll get to read more about it and what I thought about the book, as well as enter for a chance to win a copy! (I love free books, don’t you? I received my copy free in exchange for my review, but my opinion is my own.)

The one thing I love about every book of Meissner’s I’ve read is how she blends a contemporary story with a historical one. I love the connections between two stories from different eras that on the surface seem to be unrelated. She always weaves them together with such skill that I’m as awed by the storytelling as I am by the story.

In this book, her newest release, grad student Kendra arrives at a cottage in the English Cotswolds to interview 93-year-old Isabel McFarland about her experiences during the London Blitz of World War II. But the interview takes a turn when Isabel reveals two secrets she’s been keeping for decades. Thus begins the story of Emmy Downtree, a teenager in 1940s London with dreams of opening a bridal shop. She’s the daughter of an unmarried mother with a younger half-sister she looks after. Just when Emmy glimpses a chance for her dream to come true someday, London’s children are evacuated to the countryside. Emmy and her sister Julia find refuge at Thistle House, but Emmy can’t let go of her dream. She plans a return to London on the very night the Blitz begins setting off a series of events that will alter her future and change the lives of those she loves.Thistle House

I couldn’t be exactly sure where the story was going or how it was going to turn out, which is one of Meissner’s storytelling strengths. She keeps the story moving in a way that’s hard to step away from. And this particular circumstance, children being separated from parents during a time of war, was one I didn’t know much about. It’s both heart-breaking and inspiring because it was true for thousands of families.

Are there secrets to living a charmed life? Emmy believes there are if she can only discover them. As Isabel tells the story, she presents Kendra with the same question. Though it’s not the interview she expects when she walks into the cottage, Kendra leaves with something far better.

You can’t go wrong with a Susan Meissner novel, and if you’re a fan of fiction set in World War II, this is a not-miss book.

And guess what? I get to give a FREE signed copy to one of you, (if you live in the U.S. or Canada) if you leave a comment on this post.

Tell me this in your comment:

What is one sacrifice you’ve had to make for your children or that your parents made for you?

(Could you send your kids away to the country for months, maybe years, if it meant they would live in safety? I don’t know!)

If that’s too deep then tell me your favorite World War II book, fiction or non-fiction, and why it’s your favorite.

I will choose one random winner on Tuesday, Feb. 3, the official release day of Secrets of a Charmed Life. Good luck to you!

And if you missed the interview with Susan from last week, click here to catch up!




When my favorite author talks about her new book: Q&A with Susan Meissner

Forgive this moment of gushing, but Susan Meissner is among my top favorite authors for no other reason than she writes a story I can’t put down and blends contemporary and historical storylines in a way I admire (and envy and aspire to!).

SecretsOfACharmedLifeCOVERSo, it’s with great pleasure that I give you the scoop on her newest book, Secrets of a Charmed Life. We’ll take two weeks to talk about it. Up first, an interview with the author including some teasers from the book and background on the historical storyline. Scroll down to read all about an aspect of World War II that isn’t often talked about, at least not in the U.S. (and get a sneak peek at her next book!) Then, come back next Wednesday to read my review of the book and enter for a chance to win your very own copy! (You’ll want it, I know.) Between now and then, watch Facebook and Twitter for some hints at the themes in the book. (You should know that I received a free copy of the book from the author in exchange for my review and help promoting the book, and although I’m not obligated to give a favorable review, I can say without hesitation that you should buy/read this book!)

Okay. Got it? Author interview this week. Review and giveaway next week.

Without further ado … here’s Susan Meissner! MeissnerHeadshot1

Susan Meissner is the multi-published author of seventeen books, including A Fall of Marigolds, and The Shape of Mercy. She is also a speaker and writing workshop leader with a background in community journalism. She and her husband make their home in Southern California.

Susan, tell us where the idea for Secrets of a Charmed Life came from.

The story began first as an image in my head of an impoverished girl on the brink of adulthood sketching wedding dresses in the tiny bedroom she shares with a younger half-sister. I could see her in my mind’s eye imagining a life far different from the one she is living. She wants a fairy tale life where love and comfort and happiness are in abundance, and for her, that charmed life begins with a wedding dress worn on that blissful day a girl’s childhood dreams come true. I decided to set her in London at the start of the war because I knew that even for a young woman not yet sixteen, war is a crucible. It is a tester of dreams and desires and determination. I knew the London Blitz was an opposition that would bring out the very best and the very worst in this girl, as war so often does.The Cotswolds

What is the story about, in a nutshell?

Like many of my other novels, Secrets of a Charmed Life is historical fiction framed by a contemporary layer that links to a story in the past. An American college student named Kendra, who is studying abroad at Oxford, interviews Blitz survivor Isabel McFarland just when the elderly woman is ready to give up secrets she has kept all her life – beginning with who she really is. The story then takes the reader to England in 1940. An unprecedented war against London’s civilian population is about to take place and half a million children are evacuated to foster homes in the countryside. Fifteen-year-old Emmy Downtree and her much younger sister Julia find refuge in a charming Cotswold cottage, but Emmy’s burning ambition to return to the city and apprentice with a fashion designer pits her against Julia’s profound need for her sister’s presence. The sisters’ lives are forever changed when—acting at cross purposes—they secretly return to London on the first day of the Blitz.

What drew you to include in your story the evacuation of London’s children?

Prior to researching for this book, I was only minimally aware of what London’s parents did to keep their children safe during World War II. I’d long ago read C.S. Lewis’ The Chronicles of Narnia and I knew the four children in those stories had been sent out of London into the countryside at the start of the war. But I didn’t know that for tens of thousands of children just like them that stay in the countryside lasted for the duration of the war. We’re talking five years. How difficult it must have been for the parents and their kids to be separated from each other – with just occasional visits – for half a decade, and during a time of fear, danger, and deprivation. From a storyteller’s standpoint, the emotional pull of this situation is intense. I knew I wanted to explore what this scenario might have been like for two young sisters.evacuees=poster

Is this a book about sisters, then?

It is that, but it is also a book about mothers and daughters, and other family bonds as they relate to children. The universe of children is rather small – home and family are pretty much their world. They don’t always see how their decisions are impacted by the decision of others, nor do they have much frame of reference for war, which is an especially cruel teacher to a child.

What is the significance of Emmy’s wedding dress sketches?

Those bridal gown designs represent Emmy’s naïve notions about the happily-ever-after life that she believes begins for a girl on the day she wears a dress emblematic of bliss and perfection. Emmy sees her unwed mother as someone on whom fate has frowned and that she is somewhat to blame for that. Emmy’s vision for her future is to rise above the constraints of her mother’s unlucky life. But those sketches blind her at first to the larger forces at work. And there are always larger forces at work.Little girl 1940 London2a

What were you most surprised by in your research for Secrets of a Charmed Life

I think many of us who were born after World War II have a limited understanding of what England suffered because there were so many other more shocking situations, like the slaughter of millions of Jews, the occupations of nations like Poland and France, the bombing of Pearl Harbor, the storming at the beach at Normandy, and the Bataan Death March, to name just a few. I didn’t realize the magnitude of what London suffered until I took a closer look. The city was never occupied by Hitler’s forces but it was bombed relentlessly. Seven of Christopher Wren’s beautiful churches were destroyed, as were thousands upon thousands of homes. More than sixty thousand civilians were killed in the whole of the British Isles. Those are staggering losses. And yet the British people were and are resilient. Their rallying cry of Keep Calm and Carry On (I truly can’t stand trivializations of this motto!) is truly the hallmark of that resiliency. You can go to London’s East End now and see street after street of 1950’s-era buildings, framed by a quiet horizon of much older buildings that the war did not flatten. London, Coventry and the other bombed cities rebuilt what was destroyed and moved on. The memories of the war aren’t in the streets but in the museums, and in national cemeteries, and sometimes, if you look closely enough, in the faces of those who survived it.

What would you especially like readers to take away from Secrets of a Charmed Life?

The title of this book, which I love, is meant to cause the reader to wonder if there really are secrets to living a life that has happily-ever-after written all over it. The title seems to suggest there are hidden truths to being able to have everything you’ve always wanted. But in actuality, and what I hope readers will take away, is that a happy life is not made up of what you have chased and achieved, but rather who you have poured your life into, who has poured their life into yours, and the difference you’ve made in the lives of others. Most of the dreams we pursue don’t have intrinsic worth, but people always do.  It’s not a perfect world, and we can only play our own hand of cards – if you will – but if we play the hand as best we can with love for others as the motivation, I think we can rest content.

What are you working on right now?

My next book is set primarily in Hollywood’s golden age, specifically in 1939 when a treasure trove of timeless movies was released, including the most iconic movie of all time, Gone With The Wind. Two studio secretaries who become friends on the set of this movie forge a tale of love, desire, and survival that hints at the dynamic between the characters Scarlett and Melanie. The contemporary thread features a woman whose vintage clothing shop specializes in updated designs of classic Hollywood fashions. When her version of the infamous Gone With the Wind curtain dress is photographed for a local newspaper, a surprising delivery comes her way that ushers the reader back to old Hollywood and the two studio secretaries who, like Scarlett O’Hara, must decide what they are willing to do to get what they want most. The novel will release in February 2016 and is tentatively titled Stars Over Sunset Boulevard. I’ve always loved the movie Gone With the Wind; the sound track alone can stop me in my tracks. It has been a wonderful experience researching the details of how this film came to be made. Like most unprecedented endeavors, there was plenty of drama!

So, are you intrigued yet? Don’t forget to come back next week for a chance to win your copy!