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.

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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
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Book Spotlight: Love’s Second Chance by Cindy Flores Martinez

Happy Wednesday, Diverse Reader Friends!

We’re featuring a new book today. Love’s Second Chance is a book that was written by accomplished author/screenwriter Cindy Flores Martinez.

Enjoy her book spotlight!

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About the book: 

Can two broken hearts find healing together?

Brad McIntyre is much too young to feel so disillusioned with his life as a deputy sheriff. Esperanza De La Cruz has left the only home she has ever known to work at Sweet Grove’s daycare. When someone steals her car, Deputy McIntyre comes to the rescue.

There’s an instant attraction between them, but they’re both broken on the inside. Her father is in prison for intoxicated manslaughter and she’s afraid that Brad won’t want to be with her because of it.

He’s thinking of leaving the only career he’s ever known but pretends that everything is fine. His desperate prayers seem to go unanswered.

When they start spending time together and their feelings for each other begin to grow stronger, things become even more complicated. When the truth comes out, will it pull them apart or will they find a second chance at love and in life together?

Buy the book on Amazon

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About the Author: Cindy Flores Martinez is a USA Today bestselling author. She writes Christian romance. She has an MFA in Creative Writing with an emphasis in Screenwriting. Her debut novel, Mail-Order Groom, started as a screenplay and movie project, which she shopped around Hollywood, New York, and other parts of the world. You can learn more about her at www.cindyfloresmartinez.com.

Follow Cindy: Facebook ~ Twitter

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Book Review: Hello Stars (Faithgirlz / Lena in the Spotlight)

Book title: Hello Stars

Author: Alena Pitts

Contributor: Wynter Pitts

Illustrator: Annabelle Métayer

Number of Pages: 176

 Book blurb: Lena Daniels never thought she’d get the chance star in a movie. Headstrong and determined, she has her life planned out to the minute. But when her best friends, Savannah and Emma, tell her about an audition, she knows there’s nothing else in the world she’d rather do. And now that she’s gotten her wish, Lena finds that being in the spotlight is harder than it sounds. She got everything she never wanted! Her face turns up everywhere she goes, and everything in her life is flipped upside down. Lena wonders if this is a dream come true or a horrible nightmare. Even a visit from her best friends during filming turns into a disaster.

With her little sisters—Ansley, Ashton, and Amber—and her mischievous pup, Austin, constantly at her side, Lena must face the challenges of everyday life while chasing her dreams of being a model and actress on the big screen. Lena tackles tough choices, learns the value of perseverance, and keeps her hopes high. She knows her faith and family will keep her feet on the ground and her eyes on the stars.

This Faithgirlz series entitled Lena in the Spotlight, written by Alena Pitts, star of War Room and tween blogger of For Girls Like You, and co-written with her mother, editor and author, Wynter Pitts, is a reflection of Alena’s own life experiences as she reaches for the stars and keeps her faith in balance.

Book purchase links: Amazon, B&N, CBD

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My Thoughts:

Hello Stars is a children’s book written by Alena Pitts.

Alena is an author, actress, model and contributor to the magazine, For Girls Like You.

Hello Stars features Lena Daniels who the reader can infer is based on Alena and her real-life experience as a movie star, except the characters in this story have been changed. In real-life, Alena played Danielle, the daughter of Priscilla Shirer’s character Elizabeth Jordan in the movie War Room. In the story Hello Stars, Lena gets to meet her favorite celebrity. She goes through an audition process and is chosen to star in a movie with Mallory Winston.

Lena’s best friends Savannah and Emma play a role in helping her become a movie star because they were the ones who told Lena about the audition. The friendship between Lena and her best friends is sweet, solid and heartwarming. The bond that Lena shares with her parents, sisters and pet dog is also very encouraging. This fictional family is portrayed as happy, healthy and helpful. It’s very refreshing to read.

This story is not without challenges. Lena works hard on making her dreams come true. But when Lena starts working on the movie, she realizes that being in the spotlight is more difficult than she dreamed. She doesn’t like seeing her face on advertisements and being in the public eye. This is where Lena’s faith plays a strong role. She writes letters to God in her journal. She prays, and she relies on her parents to help her navigate fame. Through it all, Lena learns how to persevere, make good decisions, and trust God.

Alena’s real-life Mom Wynter Pitts contributed to the writing of this book. Just like Mrs. Daniels (fictional Lena’s Mom), Wynter plays a crucial role in keeping her daughter Alena grounded in reality and soaring high with her faith in God as her dreams come true.

My favorite character in this story was Lena because of her sweet personality, strong work ethic, drive to succeed and her heart for helping people. The characters in this book, though fictional, felt real. The storyline was a bit predictable but did have its surprises with plot twists that keep the reader guessing at times. My favorite part of this book was watching Lena’s dreams to star in a movie with her favorite celebrity come true. It’s my favorite part because it reignited my hope that my own creative career dreams—though I am much older—can come true if it’s God’s will for me.

There are no heartbreaking scenes in this book that will make the reader cry. But there are highs and lows that Lena experiences in the journey to her dreams, causing her faith walk with God to be tested. The author writes these scenes with believability, skill and perfect prose. The way she details Lena’s journey endears her character to the reader’s heart. Readers may find themselves rooting for Lena from the start of the story and caring about what happens—or does not happen—to her throughout this book.

There is a very tense scene in this story that involves a moment where Lena disappoints the entire film crew and something Mallory says crushes her spirit. But to find out the details on this, you’ll have to read the book!

This book didn’t make me laugh or cry but it did make me smile quite often. I loved reading this story! There honestly is not anything about Hello Stars that I did not like. I was pleasantly surprised that this story did not have any cliffhangers. As a reader, I enjoyed journeying through this story with Lena, her family and friends. The characters are relatable and the dialogue is lively. The author’s writing style is sweet and engaging.

Overall, Hello Stars is a wonderful story filled with captivating characters, a creative premise, hope, faith, love, and a heroine’s journey that will encourage you as the reader to dream again.

I’d recommend this book to younger readers ages 8 to 12. But I’d also tell teenagers and young adults to read this book because the heroine’s journey to her dreams is relatable with a lesson that’s universal. This book is unique and in a class of its own though the theme is slightly reminiscent of Natalie Grant’s book, Miracle in Music City (Faithgirlz/Glimmer Girls), which is also a Faithgirlz book series.

Hello Stars is worth every bit of a five-star rating!

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Author Bio: 

 Alena Pitts is a young actress and model from Dallas, Texas. As the oldest of four girls, Alena first cut her teeth in acting through making home videos and dramas with her sisters, using their entire home as their recording studio. She has a natural love for all things creative which falls right in line with her gifts and talents. The Kendrick Brothers’ War Room marks Alena’s professional acting debut. With only school theater on her young resume, Alena jumped at a chance to audition for the role of Danielle Jordan. In addition to school and acting, Alena models and is a frequent contributor for the magazine For Girls Like You.

Connect with Alena: Facebook ~ Twitter ~ Instagram

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Contributor Bio: 

 Wynter Pitts is the founder of For Girls Like You Magazine and the author of For Girls Like You: A Devotional for Tweens and You’re God’s Girl. The mother of four girls, Wynter’s mission is to empower and equip girls to walk boldly into becoming who God has created them to be and to provide parents with the resources and support needed to raise strong Christ followers. In addition to publishing the quarterly magazine, Wynter is a frequent blogger, a contributor for LifeWay’s ParentLife Magazine, and a public speaker. She is also the niece of Dr. Tony Evans. Wynter, her husband Jonathan, and four daughters (ages 6-11), reside in Dallas, Texas.

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Book Spotlight: Hello Stars (Faithgirlz / Lena in the Spotlight) by Alena Pitts

Happy Wednesday, Reader Friends!

Thanks for stopping by Diversity Between the Pages.

Today, we’re bringing you a book spotlight featuring a movie star! Alena Pitts is a multi-talented young girl who is an actress, model, magazine contributor, and author. She wrote a fictional book called Hello Stars focusing on a character named Lena, and today we’re sharing the story with you.

Enjoy!

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About the book:

 Lena Daniels never thought she’d get the chance star in a movie. Headstrong and determined, she has her life planned out to the minute. But when her best friends, Savannah and Emma, tell her about an audition, she knows there’s nothing else in the world she’d rather do. And now that she’s gotten her wish, Lena finds that being in the spotlight is harder than it sounds. She got everything she never wanted! Her face turns up everywhere she goes, and everything in her life is flipped upside down. Lena wonders if this is a dream come true or a horrible nightmare. Even a visit from her best friends during filming turns into a disaster.

With her little sisters—Ansley, Ashton, and Amber—and her mischievous pup, Austin, constantly at her side, Lena must face the challenges of everyday life while chasing her dreams of being a model and actress on the big screen. Lena tackles tough choices, learns the value of perseverance, and keeps her hopes high. She knows her faith and family will keep her feet on the ground and her eyes on the stars.

This Faithgirlz series entitled Lena in the Spotlight, written by Alena Pitts, star of War Room and tween blogger of For Girls Like You, and co-written with her mother, editor and author, Wynter Pitts, is a reflection of Alena’s own life experiences as she reaches for the stars and keeps her faith in balance.

Book purchase links: Amazon, B&N, CBD

~*~

About the Author:

Alena Pitts is a young actress and model from Dallas, Texas. As the oldest of four girls, Alena first cut her teeth in acting through making home videos and dramas with her sisters, using their entire home as their recording studio. She has a natural love for all things creative which falls right in line with her gifts and talents. The Kendrick Brothers’ War Room marks Alena’s professional acting debut. With only school theater on her young resume, Alena jumped at a chance to audition for the role of Danielle Jordan. In addition to school and acting, Alena models and is a frequent contributor for the magazine For Girls Like You.

Follow Alena: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram

Book Review: Unmasked Heart

Book title: Unmasked Heart

Author: Vanessa Riley

Number of pages: 412

Book blurb: Shy, nearsighted caregiver, Gaia Telfair always wondered why her father treated her a little differently than her siblings, but she never guessed she couldn’t claim his love because of a family secret, her illicit birth. With everything she knows to be true evaporating before her spectacles, can the mulatto passing for white survive being exposed and shunned by the powerful duke who has taken an interest in her?Ex-warrior, William St. Landon, the Duke of Cheshire, will do anything to protect his mute daughter from his late wife’s scandals. With a blackmailer at large, hiding in a small village near the cliffs of Devonshire seems the best option, particularly since he can gain help from the talented Miss Telfair, who has the ability to help children learn to speak.

Ex-warrior, William St. Landon, the Duke of Cheshire, will do anything to protect his mute daughter from his late wife’s scandals. With a blackmailer at large, hiding in a small village near the cliffs of Devonshire seems the best option, particularly since he can gain help from the talented Miss Telfair, who has the ability to help children learn to speak.

If only he could do a better job at shielding his heart from the young lady, whose honest hazel eyes see through his jests as her tender lips challenge his desire to remain a single man. Unmasked Heart is the first Challenge of the Soul Regency novel.

Book purchase links: AmazonBAM!B&N

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My Thoughts:

Sadness, sweetness and true beauty were poetically woven throughout this story with the perfect title for its content.

The story is called Unmasked Heart and the author Vanessa Riley is a true authority on all things regency romance. She skillfully and flawlessly paints vivid pictures in every scene featuring characters of color.

The heroine Gaia Telfair is what people back then (and now) would call a “mulatto” which means that she is a mix of White and Black blood/heritage/lineage. Due to her mixed blood, her skin is a bit darker than her White family members and she’s very self-conscious about it. She even stays out of the sun for a month prior to a fancy masquerade ball so that she appears paler and closer to the skin color that was accepted by society at that time which was a milky white complexion.

Gaia’s father spun the story about her skin color from her birth to be socially acceptable. He said that she had Spanish ancestry and for a while, that lie worked…until Gaia discovered the truth.

The author knows how to peel back the layers in this story like a Le Cordon Bleu-trained chef would expertly peel back the layers of an onion. Every layer reveals something new about the hero and heroine of this story. It’s so well done and intriguing that the reader will keep turning the page until they reach the end. The reader’s journey through this book is an experience of a myriad of emotions as the plot twists and the tension builds.

Highlights from this book include the scene where William St. Landon, the Duke of Cheshire, advises Gaia that she give her love interest “something to chase” because “every man wants to win love and know that it’s his alone.” It ups the ante on the love triangle that’s happening in this story. It’s the classic case of the heroine wants the object of her affection but he does not want her (at first) and meanwhile, the true hero (William) wants the heroine. The difference, however, is that William is a hero worth his weight in gold who makes Elliot (Gaia’s love interest/first hero of choice) pale in comparison.

Another highlight in this book was when Gaia confesses her feelings to a man that she thinks is Elliot. But his face is hidden behind a mask because they’re attending a masquerade ball. It was compelling to hear Gaia pour out her “unmasked heart” to “Elliot” only to find out that it is not he. The reaction of the man who is not Elliot was swoon-worthy.

A sad part of this story was the fact that Gaia believed the Black side of her heritage prevented the only father that she knew from loving her as one of his biological daughters. Even sadder was the scene where Gaia learned the circumstances of her conception and the tragic results of the affair that her mother had with Gaia’s biological father. Worse yet is her belief that her Blackness will prevent the man she loves from loving her back.

However, the reader may be surprised by Gaia’s unique marriage proposal. It was a scene that made me laugh out loud. The interaction between Gaia and her suitor was heartwarming.

One of the most clever lines in this story was when a Black man named Albert talks about his mixed-race niece whose hair like Gaia’s which he describes as “feathers in the fog”. It was a very clever way for this author to reveal that Albert knew that Gaia was part Black and it rings true even in the year 2017 when quite often a Black person in America can easily point out another Black person no matter what percentage of Black blood they have just by details that most people who are not Black may miss.

It made me sad that a character advised Gaia to not tell William that she is Black because it would “ruin everything”. But that’s a reality that Black women of mixed heritage still sometimes face in 2017 which is centuries after the era this book was written to reflect.

Most powerful was the point in this story where Gaia realizes that it doesn’t matter how her biological father’s background or status in society ranked. What matters is that she’s a Child of the King (GOD) so God made her somebody and she deserves happiness.

I loved reading this story! The author’s storytelling style is historically accurate, enthralling, and smooth. The storyline is strong and so well told that it was hard to take a break from reading it.

Unmasked Heart is worth every bit of a 5-star rating!

*The book reviewer (Alexis A. Goring) received a complimentary copy of Unmasked Heart from the author in exchange for an honest review.

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About the Author: Vanessa Riley worked as an engineer before allowing her passion for historical romance to shine. A Regency era (early 1800s) and Jane Austen enthusiast, she brings the flavor of diverse peoples to her stories. Since she was seventeen, Vanessa has won awards for her writing and is currently working on two series. She lives in Atlanta with her military man hubby and precocious child. You can catch her writing from the comfort of her southern porch with a cup of Earl Grey tea.

 Follow Vanessa:  WebsiteFacebookTwitterPinterestInstagramGoodreads