Book Review: My Heart Belongs in Castle Gate, Utah

Hi, reader friends! Have you ever gone Greek? Besides watching “My Big Fat Greek Wedding,” my knowledge of this rich culture is limited so I am delighted by all the history and heritage within the pages of today’s featured book!

About the Book

My Heart Belongs in Castle Gate, Utah by Angie DickenSchoolteacher Leanna McKee plans on leaving the coal mining town of Castle Gate, Utah, and never looking back. Good riddance to coal dust, rugged men, and the fatal mine that took her husband’s life.

Until the widow meets a widower who awakens her heart…and she finds herself inexplicably falling for miner Alex Pappas which stirs up a whole heap of trouble.

Alex’s Greek parents have arranged a more traditional match for him. When the schoolteacher’s association with the Greek family begins to anger the American miners, they threaten Alex and his family. Leanna has received an offer to teach elsewhere and feels she has no choice but to leave Castle Gate. . .though she will be leaving her heart behind.

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My Thoughts

This story of love, hope, and second chances amid heartbreak, disappointment, and prejudice tugs at my heartstrings and reveals yet another pocket of history we would do well to remember.

Leanna McKee is angry and frustrated by her circumstances and I can’t say that I blame her! She surely didn’t expect to end up a poor miner’s widow practically stranded and alone. I have to admire Leanna for marrying both for love and for the freedom to follow her convictions and dreams of teaching the less fortunate.

Alex Pappas has been working in the mines for several years now and he has dealt with a lot over the years. He is a dedicated worker and devoted family man. Alex has made more friends than enemies during his time in America yet it is the actions of a few that tend to be the loudest and most troublesome.

I would love to spend a day or two visiting with the extended Pappas family (especially after they learn a little more English because I don’t speak Greek!) not only for the company but also for the FOOD! Oh, the many tempting dishes in this book make me want to hunt down the nearest Greek restaurant and try everything!

I definitely recommend this story and look forward to more stories from this author and within this series!

I requested the opportunity to read this book through Celebrate Lit.
The opinions expressed are my own.
This review was originally posted on Faithfully Bookish.

 

About the Author

Angie DickenAngie Dicken is a third generation Greek American, the granddaughter of strong men and women who endured hardship to grow American roots.

My Heart Belongs In Castle Gate, Utah is set near the birthplace of her grandfather, a Greek coal miner’s son, and published 100 years after his birth.

Angie is a contributor to The Writer’s Alley blog and an ACFW member since 2010. She lives with her husband and four children in the Midwest where she enjoys exploring eclectic new restaurants and chatting with friends over coffee.

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Author InterviewGUEST POST on Faithfully Bookish

 

What aspects of Greek culture do you find most interesting or appealing?
The Pappas family’s deep apprecitation for food is completely endearing.

 

Review by Beth Erin

 

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Author Interview: Lee Tobin McClain

Hello, reader friends! From Rescue River and Sacred Bond to her new Arcadia Valley Romance seriestoday’s featured author often highlights diversity through her contemporary romance. 

About the Author

Lee Tobin McClainLee Tobin McClain read Gone With The Wind in the third grade and has been an incurable romantic ever since. The PW bestselling author of fifteen contemporary Christian romances, she enjoys crafting emotional, faith-infused love stories with happy endings.

When she’s not writing, she’s probably driving around a carload of snarky teen girls, playing with her rescue dog and cat, or teaching aspiring writers in Seton Hill University’s MFA program. She is probably not cleaning her house.

WEBSITE | FACEBOOK | TWITTER

 

Interview

Beth: Writing is generally a solitary endeavor. Tell us a little bit about writing within the Arcadia Valley Romance universe. 

Lee: Writing in Arcadia Valley feels communal in two ways. First, it’s fun being part of a community of writers who are creating Arcadia Valley together. We’ve become good friends and are in touch all the time with questions, ideas, and support for each other.

And second, Arcadia Valley has become a community that feels very alive, with families and shops and greenhouses and farms and churches. We have pictures of the town (it’s modeled on a real town in Idaho) and of the surrounding terrain. When I write about Arcadia Valley, I feel like I’m actually there!

Wise at Heart takes place primarily at the hero’s home—a big converted barn surrounded by open land. That’s because Daniel, the hero, is a bit introverted, and he feels alienated from his family and community. Throughout the book, that changes, and he becomes more strongly connected to his siblings and to Arcadia Valley.

 

About the Book

Wise at Heart by Lee Tobin McClainWhen Daniel Quintana needs a summer nanny for his twins, it only makes sense to hire Tabitha Moore. Just back from an extended mission trip, she needs the job. The fact that she was his wife’s best friend shouldn’t matter, and neither should the fact that he finds her attractive. Daniel’s not in the market for relationships because he’s just so bad at them.

Tabitha Moore doesn’t want to work for Daniel because she knows a terrible secret about his daughters. But when staying with her sister is no longer an option, she feels like she has no choice. After all, it’s just for the summer…

With the help of Daniel’s five-year-old twins, Daniel and Tabitha start to become more than friends. Growing vegetables, rescuing a mama cat and her kittens, eating delicious Mexican food at El Corazon… all of it makes these two lonely souls crave to create a family long term… unless Tabitha’s secret rips apart everything they’re starting to build.

GOODREADS | AMAZON

 

Beth: I’m certainly looking forward to reading Wise at Heart! What do you want readers to gain from this story?

Lee: First, of course, I want readers to escape from their problems and immerse themselves in a happily-ever-after story. Because Wise at Heart has a secret at the center, I want readers to stay up late, turning the pages, to discover how everything plays out.

And I also hope that readers will enjoy seeing how God’s hand hovers over everything, gently nudging us in the directions we need to go in order to become the people He means for us to be.

 

Beth: What inspires you to create diverse minority characters like the Quintana family?

Mexican food

Lee: When I got involved in the Arcadia Valley project, I was immersed in studying Spanish, so that was a factor.

Also, the fictional town of Arcadia Valley is set in a part of Idaho where about 1/3 of the population self-describes as Latino or Hispanic, but when I joined the group, we didn’t yet have any major Latino characters.

Since the series is food-oriented—and since I love Mexican food—it made sense to create the restaurant, El Corazon, run by a family of Mexican descent.

 

Beth: I appreciate your dedication to crafting authentic settings, characters, and stories for your readers. In what ways do the second (and third) generation of the Quintana family honor their Mexican heritage?

Lee: One big way is through food! The Quintana siblings update their family restaurant throughout the series, moving toward healthier, more contemporary fare, but they keep many of their mothers’ traditional recipes untouched.

star-shaped piñata

They also maintain some Mexican holiday customs. For example, in Wise at Heart, the story ends with a traditional posada celebration that marks the beginning of the Christmas season—and leads into the hero and heroine’s happy ending.

On a deeper level, in traditional Latino families, the oldest male is considered as the head of the family. That would be Javier Quintana, the hero of Secrets of the Heart (review), and he feels every bit of that responsibility. His siblings alternately rely on, and get exasperated with, him and his tendency toward bossiness and control.

Honoring your heritage isn’t a simple matter, especially when you’re living in a different country and are surrounded by competing cultural traditions and ideals.

 

Beth: Since food plays such a major role in Arcadia Valley Romance, what is your favorite authentic Mexican dish?

Lee: My favorite authentic Mexican dish is tacos! Not the crunchy Americanized ones, or that abomination my daughter adores, the Walking Taco of concession-stand fame. But rather, small soft tacos made with homemade corn tortillas and various fillings. Buying a tortilla press and learning to use it rocked my culinary world! I’m mostly vegan, so my taco fillings tend to be vegetable based.

 

Coming soon from Lee Tobin McClain…

Available in stores mid-February


preorder now

Romance from the Heart: an Arcadia Valley Romance series

  
Look for Book 3
Joy of My Heart
April 2018

 

Lee, thank you so much for joining us!
Are y’all familiar with Mexican posada celebrations? I learned something new today!

 

interview by Beth Erin

Open Discussion: Vanilla Questions

Hello, reader friends! It’s me again, timidly edging out of my comfort zone to ask an (innocent and hopefully not offensive) question to spark open and honest discussion.

As mentioned in the previous Vanilla Confessions, my home county is not blessed with diversity (96.6% “White alone, not Hispanic or Latino” according to Census.gov).

The only descriptions needed on a regular basis around these parts, besides hair and eye colors, are various degrees of “white” and “farmer’s tan.”

Share which comparisons or adjectives you find appealing,
which ones make you cringe, and why.

What kinds of descriptors are preferable in diverse fiction?
Is it taboo to use food to describe skin color?
Are there alternative ways to identify ethnicity without physical descriptions?

Post by Beth Erin

Book Spotlight: Wise at Heart

Hello, reader friends! Today’s featured book takes us back to my favorite fictional foodie community, Arcadia Valley, Idaho! It’s time for a sweet yet reluctant romance.

About the Book

Wise at Heart by Lee Tobin McClainWhen Daniel Quintana needs a summer nanny for his twins, it only makes sense to hire Tabitha Moore. Just back from an extended mission trip, she needs the job. The fact that she was his wife’s best friend shouldn’t matter, and neither should the fact that he finds her attractive. Daniel’s not in the market for relationships because he’s just so bad at them.

Tabitha Moore doesn’t want to work for Daniel because she knows a terrible secret about his daughters. But when staying with her sister is no longer an option, she feels like she has no choice. After all, it’s just for the summer…

With the help of Daniel’s five-year-old twins, Daniel and Tabitha start to become more than friends. Growing vegetables, rescuing a mama cat and her kittens, eating delicious Mexican food at El Corazon… all of it makes these two lonely souls crave to create a family long term… unless Tabitha’s secret rips apart everything they’re starting to build.

goodreads | amazon

 

About the Author

Lee Tobin McClainLee Tobin McClain read Gone With The Wind in the third grade and has been an incurable romantic ever since. The PW bestselling author of fifteen contemporary Christian romances, she enjoys crafting emotional, faith-infused love stories with happy endings.

When she’s not writing, she’s probably driving around a carload of snarky teen girls, playing with her rescue dog and cat, or teaching aspiring writers in Seton Hill University’s MFA program. She is probably not cleaning her house.

website | facebook | twitter

 

Also Available

Arcadia Valley Romance

 Summer's Glory by Mary Jane Hathaway       

 

Eeep! What could the terrible secret be?!
What are your thoughts, reader friends?

Spotlight by Beth Erin

Book Spotlight: The Esther Paradigm by Sarah Monzon

Hello, fiction fans! Today’s featured book simply knocked my socks off! I did NOT see this one coming, the blurb didn’t much appeal to me but I took it for a spin since I enjoy the author’s work… Great romance, intense culture clash, and deep faith elements are all wrapped up in this engaging and entertaining story. Definitely a #mustread!

About the Book

The Esther Paradigm by Sarah MonzonHannah Pratt dreams of starting a school for the Bedouin clan she grew up with as a missionary kid, and finally her hopes are coming true. But shortly after she returns to the desert from her college years in the U.S., she discovers her parents have received threats from their Muslim neighbors. As the danger escalates, Hannah finds she’s in the middle of a battle no one seems to understand. She must decide to what lengths she’ll go to stay faithful to the mission to which God has called her. Even if it costs her everything.

As sheikh, Karim Al-Amir feels the weight of responsibility as the leader of his people. When a mysterious illness ravishes the clan’s flocks and threatens to destroy their centuries-old way of life, locals believe the American doctors and their daughter, his childhood friend, Hannah, are to blame. Karim must do something to keep them safe—even if the only solution can be found within marriage vows.

In a society where the line is drawn between us and them, Christianity is outlawed, and foreigners are mistrusted, will their union heal wounds or inflict the final fatal blow?

goodreads | amazon

 

RT Book Reviews The Esther Paradigm review quote

 

About the Author

Sarah MonzonSarah Monzon is a Navy chaplain’s wife and a stay at home mom to the two cutest littles in the world. Playing pretend all day with them isn’t enough, she spends the evenings after their heads hit the pillow to create her own imaginary characters.

When she isn’t in the world of make believe, she can be found in a small desert town in central Washington taking care of her family, fostering friendships, and enjoying all the adventures each day brings.

website | facebook | twitter | pinterest

 

What are your first impressions, reader friends? 

Karim Al-Amir character spotlight on Faithfully Bookish

spotlight by Beth Erin

Open Discussion: Vanilla Confessions

Hi, y’all! I am an avid reader and actively seek out diverse fiction yet I am seriously lacking in the life experience department. Growing up in our small rural farming community has a lot of benefits but exposure to cultural diversity is not one of them.

HandsI was taught that we are all the same, regardless of skin color, which is true at the very core of who we are, members of the human race, children of God, residents of the third rock from the sun, yet we are also shaped by our experiences. Although I am still not completely sure why… colorblind doesn’t make it all better.

Fellow Christian fiction enthusiasts, share your thoughts and help a vanilla sister out!

What do you as members of a multicultural community want us backcountry white folks (with little to no exposure to diversity apart from the media) to know?

Book Spotlight: A Time to Stand by Robert Whitlow

Hello, reader friends! Today’s featured book is written by a new-to-me author and I’m so intrigued by the blurb and the mood set with this cover. Be sure to tell me what your first impressions are and let me know if you’re familiar with this author’s work.

About the Book

A Time to Stand by Robert WhitlowIn a small Georgia town where racial tensions run high and lives are at stake, can one lawyer stand up for justice against the tide of prejudice on every side?

Adisa Johnson, a young African-American attorney, is living her dream of practicing law with a prestigious firm in downtown Atlanta. Then a split-second mistake changes the course of her career.

Left with no other options, Adisa returns to her hometown where a few days earlier a white police officer shot an unarmed black teen who is now lying comatose in the hospital.

Adisa is itching to jump into the fight as a special prosecutor, but feels pulled to do what she considers unthinkable—defend the officer.

As the court case unfolds, everyone in the small community must confront their own prejudices. Caught in the middle, Adisa also tries to chart her way along a path complicated by her budding relationship with a charismatic young preacher who leads the local movement demanding the police officer answer for his crime.

This highly relevant and gripping novel challenges us to ask what it means to forgive while seeking justice and to pursue reconciliation while loving others as ourselves.

goodreads | amazon | bookdepository | christianbook

 

About the Author

Robert Whitlow is the best-selling author of legal novels set in the South and winner of the prestigious Christy Award for Contemporary Fiction.

A Furman University graduate, Whitlow received his J.D. with honors from the University of Georgia School of Law where he served on the staff of the Georgia Law Review.

A practicing attorney, Whitlow and his wife, Kathy, have four children. They make their home in North Carolina.

website | facebook | twitter

So intriguing! What a great story for book club discussions!
Enter to win a paperback copy of A Time to Stand
What are your thoughts reader friends?

Spotlight by Beth Erin

Book Review: The Samurai’s Heart by Walt Mussell

About the Book

Japan, 1587. Sen must find a husband to marry into her family’s swordsmith business. She seeks a Christian husband, though Christianity is banned.

Enter Nobuhiro. Third son of a high-level samurai, Nobuhiro fled his harsh father and apprenticed himself to a swordsmith. He yearns to prove his worth.

They seem an ideal match. But for Sen, the choice is faith or family. For Nobuhiro, choosing a Christian ends any reconciliation with his family. Can love be forged from the impossible?

goodreads | amazon

 

My Thoughts

This book’s rare setting alone is enough to tempt a horde of historical fiction fans. The story is saturated with the everyday culture and historical climate of late-sixteenth century Japan as well as a healthy dose of suspense and a dash of romance. After months of eager anticipation, I’m so pleased to share my experience of this intriguing literary journey.

Sen is an innocent young woman who is devoted to her faith and her family. As the only living child of her parents, Sen’s duty is to marry and ensure the family business and family name lives on. Simple, right?! Wrong! The ban on Christianity complicates her search for a good husband and endangers her life.

Nobuhiro is completely dedicated to his work and to the master swordsmith he is apprenticing under. While he has tight bonds with his brothers, Nobuhiro is estranged from his father yet still desperate to make him proud. Nobuhiro sets the bar high for himself and bends over backwards to care for his master’s family.

Take your time to savor the little things in this story and a slower pace will help keep those long unfamiliar names from becoming a stumbling block. This book is first in a three part series and while Sen and Naobuhiro’s story came to a satisfying conclusion, there seems to be a suspense thread that will continue throughout the series. Now onto the next order of business, eagerly anticipating the release of book 2!

I received the opportunity to read this book through the Kindle Scout program. The opinions expressed are my own.
This Review was originally posted on Faithfully Bookish.

 

About the Author

Walt MussellWalt Mussell lives in an Atlanta-area suburb with his wife and their two boys. He works for a well-known corporation and writes in his spare time.

Walt primarily writes historicals, with a particular focus on Japan, an interest he gained during the four years he lived there. He refers to his work as “Like Shogun, but the heroine survives.”

Outside of writing, his favorite activity is trying to keep up with his kids. As they are both teenagers, this is proving more difficult each day.

website | facebook | twitter

 

I highly recommend this one, reader friends!
Enter to win The Samurai’s Heart here and here!
What are your thoughts?

 

Reviewed by Beth Erin

Book Spotlight: The Bride’s Broken Bond by Lee Tobin McClain

Hello, reader friends! Today’s featured books is from one of my favorite series! I adore this diverse group of men and their unique stories. Plus y’all can pick up a Kindle edition of Sacred Bond book 1 for free and book 2 below is currently on sale for just $0.99!

About the Book

The Bride's Broken Bond by Lee Tobin McClainAs the wedding music starts playing, poor little rich girl Hope DeMille learns that her husband-to-be loves someone else, but her domineering, high-society father won’t let her back out of the expensive wedding he’s funded.

Enter Rock Anderson, a former inner-city kid mentored by Hope’s parents, who’s always wanted Hope. After helping Hope escape, Rock gets her a job at his urban mission and helps her find meaning in her life.

But when Hope’s powerful father seeks revenge and one of the inner-city kids goes missing, it’ll take the best efforts of the Sacred Bond brotherhood to help this opposite-sides-of-the-tracks couple overcome their differences and commit to love.

goodreads | amazon

 

About the Author

Lee Tobin McClainLee Tobin McClain read Gone With The Wind in the third grade and has been an incurable romantic ever since. The PW bestselling author of fifteen contemporary Christian romances, she enjoys crafting emotional, faith-infused love stories with happy endings.

When she’s not writing, she’s probably driving around a carload of snarky teen girls, playing with her rescue dog and cat, or teaching aspiring writers in Seton Hill University’s MFA program. She is probably not cleaning her house.

website | facebook | twitter

 

I have a huge soft spot for stories and series centered around a dedicated group of male friends. Are YOU a fan of these “band of brothers” or “brotherhood” type storylines?

Review by Beth Erin

Book Review: The Ebony Cloak by April W. Gardner

About the Book

In the wilds of 1816 Florida, a beautiful slave is free game for depraved men. But for an honorable man, she is a military objective, an asset to be protected, a love that should never be pursued.

The Ebony Cloak by April W. GardnerMilly’s pale skin provides her with special privileges, but every luxury comes with a command. And Milly is done yielding. On the run, she can pass for white only as long as no one demands she lower her hood. But there’s hope. It lies in the Floridas in a refuge commanded by an army of runaways. Negro Fort. The first sweet taste of freedom convinces Milly that surrender is not an option. But the U.S. Army is keen on the fort’s conquest, and when it accomplishes the unthinkable, Milly must decide whether life is worth fighting for.

Major Phillip Bailey has orders to subdue the uprising and return the runaways to their masters, all the while being forced to fight alongside Creek warriors—the same who etched the scars into his mind and flesh. The same who, in a storm of flame and blood, ripped out Phillip’s heart and took her for himself.

And then came Milly…

While musket balls fly, a war of another sort rages inside Phillip—perpetuate a crumbling dream or pursue the forbidden; follow orders or follow his heart.

goodreads | amazon

 

My Thoughts

Y’all!!!! Just go buy this series. Seriously. Love and war, prejudice and duty, people of all sizes, shapes, and colors… this story is a historical fiction lover’s dream!

Phillip Bailey is haunted day and night by his past horrors and heartache. Although I sometimes questioned his motives and character in previous books, the significant time spent in his perspective during this story won me over! I most admire Phillip’s integrity and courage.

Milly is a beautiful, strong, and intelligent woman. She has suffered terror and sorrow few can comprehend yet Milly remains compassionate and steadfast. Her backstory breaks my reader-heart but Milly’s endurance and attitude make me so proud of her.

While Totka, Copper Woman, and the rest of the McGirth family continue to play important roles in this saga, the addition of some exceptional secondary characters enhances this great adventure. The Ebony Cloak is a splendid expedition! This series has earned a place among my all time favorites!

I received a copy of this book from the author. The opinions expressed are my own.
THIS REVIEW FIRST APPEARED ON FAITHFULLY BOOKISH.

 

About the Author

April W. GardnerA military spouse, April has performed the art of homemaking all over the world. Currently, she lives in Georgia with her two children and USAF spouse. She is unashamedly a child of the King. In her free time, April enjoys reading, organizing, and DIY. In no particular order, she dreams of owning a horse, visiting all the national parks, and speaking Italian.

After a year gaining experience as a content editor with Clean Reads, April is now a freelance editor, certified through the University of California, San Diego. As a way to give back to the writing community and to promote Christian fiction, April founded and runs the literary contest site, Clash of the Titles.

Read more in April W. Gardner’s author interview

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Also Available


 
goodreads
| amazon
book 1 review | book 2 review

REVIEW BY BETH ERIN