Book Review: Chances Are by Traci Hunter Abramson

~ About the Book ~

Maya Gupta is a survivor. After escaping an impending arranged marriage in India as a teenager, she has thrived in America. But now she faces her greatest challenge yet—cancer has invaded her life, and unless she finds a way to participate in a clinical trial in Washington, DC, this may be one battle she loses. When Maya’s best friend Kari offers Maya the lifeline of a place to stay—her brother’s currently vacant DC apartment—the young woman eagerly accepts and goes to meet her fate . . .

Ben Evans’s plans have changed, and he’s heading home for some much-needed rest and relaxation during his off-season in the major leagues. Upon arriving at his DC apartment, however, Ben is shocked to find Maya—his sister’s friend, who he hardly knows—in residence. He soon finds himself trapped between protecting his above-reproach reputation and searching for a way to help a woman he is coming to admire. When Maya’s fight to survive her disease becomes more complicated than ever, she and Ben scheme an extreme solution to her predicament that tests to what lengths they’re willing to go together to save Maya’s life.

AMAZON  //  GOODREADS

~ Excerpt ~

“Maya, I spoke with your father again today.” Dr. Schuster took a deep breath and blew it out as though trying to steel himself against the words he was about to say. “I’m sorry, but if you have no means of paying for your surgery, I don’t have any choice but to drop you from the trial.”
Maya didn’t try to fight back the tears that instantly sprang to her eyes. “Doctor, please. Please give me a little more time. I can come up with the money. I only need another week or so.”
Dr. Schuster sighed heavily. “I’ve already talked to the board, and they aren’t budging on this.” Before Maya could protest further, he added, “Since it’s the weekend, I can delay the paperwork, but if you can’t come up with some proof that you’ll be able to continue treatment after this trial by Monday morning, I’ll have to cancel your infusion.”
Maya lifted her hands to cover her mouth as she bit back a sob. Her mind raced with possibilities, but she knew that even if the credit card came through with a high limit, she would need at least one more to afford the additional living expenses to make it through an extra three months here.
Dr. Schuster clenched his teeth for a moment and then shook his head. “I’m sorry, Maya. I really am.”
“If I can’t come up with the money now, would I be able to get into the trial again in a few months?”
She sensed the doctor’s discomfort as he shook his head again. “If you were responding more quickly, I might be able to get you in, but the truth is that your cancer is probably more aggressive than we first thought for the results to be so slow. If you have to stop now, medically speaking your survival rate wouldn’t be high enough to readmit you to the trial.”
Tears continued to run freely down Maya’s cheeks, and she could no longer form words. The doctor put his hand on her shoulder and then took a step back. “I’ll check back on you in the morning. The nurse will be in to give you something for the pain in about an hour.”
Maya watched him make a quick exit and swiped at the tears on her cheeks. Sliding farther down in to the hospital bed, she curled up beneath the blankets, silently praying that somehow God would give her a glimmer of hope, some indication that her life might still have meaning.

~ Review ~

This is definitely a story that tugs at the heartstrings! Maya Gupta has a large tumour at the base of her skull, and her only hope of survival is treatment to reduce it to an operable size. Chemo and radiation have been unsuccessful, and the clinical trial in Washington DC is her last chance. But even that presents problems. She has no one who can stay with her during the treatment, the side effects of which are nausea, and extreme fatigue and muscle soreness. The one thing she does have going for her is the fact that her best friend’s brother doesn’t need his DC apartment, meaning she has somewhere to stay. Except… her best friend didn’t exactly get permission from her brother, and when he returns from LA much earlier than expected, suddenly Maya doesn’t even have accommodation anymore.

I confess there were a few times I begged Maya to just speak up for herself rather than trying to cope with everything by herself, but I could also understand how she would feel like she didn’t have the right (or the energy) to do so. For that reason, Ben nearly missed learning just how precarious Maya’s situation was, but once he knew, I loved watching the gentle growth of their relationship as he cared for her. And I can’t forget to mention Henry, hospital orderly of the year! What a gorgeous heart he had!

The challenges Ben and Maya face aren’t limited to the effects of Maya’s treatment. A desperate attempt to contact Maya’s family in India has unintended consequences and could see her deported, her financial situation is dire, and Ben’s growing popularity as a rookie in the major leagues makes it difficult to keep his relationship with Maya out of the public eye. And even if they manage to deal with all that and make it through the treatment, there’s no guarantee that the tumour will be reduced enough to operate safely.

The characters occasionally seemed a little too ‘nice’, and there was a tendency toward telling in some of the writing, but it was impossible not to get caught up in Maya’s story as she struggled to overcome the odds stacked against her.

~ About the Author ~

AuthorTraci Hunter Abramson was born in Arizona, where she lived until moving to Venezuela for a study-abroad program. After graduating from Brigham Young University, she worked for the Central Intelligence Agency for several years, eventually resigning in order to raise her family. She credits the CIA with giving her a wealth of ideas for suspense novels as well as the skills needed to survive her children’s teenage years. She has gone on to write a number of bestselling suspense novels that have consistently been nominated as Whitney Award finalists. She considers shoes an optional accessory which became evident when she won her first three Whitney Awards in 2013 (Code Word), 2014 (Deep Cover), and 2016 (Failsafe.) She currently lives in Virginia with her family where she enjoys sports, travel, writing, and coaching high school swimming.

Readers may wish to note that Ms. Abramson is a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter-day Saints (LDS/Mormon), and the faith element in some of her novels is specific to that faith. There are no references specific to the LDS faith in “Chances Are.”


Review by Katie Donovan.

 

 

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Author Interview: Stacy Hawkins Adams, featuring “Dreams That Won’t Let Go”

Good Morning and Happy Monday, reader friends!

Journalist Stacy Hawkins Adams returns to the blog today to answer my questions about book number three in her Jubilant Soul Series, Dreams That Won’t Let Go.

Enjoy her interview!

~*~

About the book:

 Indigo Burns is excited. Her wedding preparations to the man of her dreams are under way, her career as a photographer is a success, and her family seems to be doing better than ever–all except her brother Reuben who nobody has seen in years. But that’s about to change, because Reuben has decided to move back home to Jubilant, Texas.

But Reuben’s hope to find healing with his sisters doesn’t seem to be working. Soon enough their lives intersect in dramatic, sometimes painful, and ultimately healing ways. This insightful novel by an Essence bestselling author will pull in women readers from the urban market and beyond.

Purchase the book: Amazon ~ Barnes and Noble ~ CBD

~*~

Author Bio: Stacy Hawkins Adams is an award-winning author, journalist, and writing mentor whose fiction and nonfiction enlightens readers while helping them find confidence in their own stories.

She has penned nine faith-based novels and one devotional book.

She also serves as a parenting columnist for a Virginia-based newspaper and blogs for the Huffington Post on social justice issues.

Stacy lives in Virginia with her family.

Learn more about her at www.StacyHawkinsAdams.com.

~*~

Interview with Stacy Hawkins Adams about her book, Dreams That Won’t Let Go:

Alexis: Why did you title this book “Dreams That Won’t Let Go”?

Stacy: I chose this title because in their own ways, each of the featured characters was striving to achieve a dream that wouldn’t give his or her spirit rest. Until they resolved the issues related to their goal or dream, they would remain unsettled or unfulfilled.

Alexis: In this book, the reader reconnects with Indigo Burns whose passion for photography in Worth A Thousand Words (Jubilant Soul Book 2) has turned into a successful career and now she’s ready to get married. Describe her journey to her dreams. What were the highlights and struggles?

Stacy: I don’t want to give away the plot of the story by sharing too much with readers, but I’ll say that in this book, Indigo has matured into a lovely young woman who now has to deal with some of life’s twists and turns in a mature way. She finds herself in a gender-reversed version of the Prodigal Son story when her long-lost brother returns home, and she begins to resent the attention showered on him. Part of her journey to her dreams is wrestling with how to give others space to also experience theirs, without feeling like her needs are being overlooked or disregarded. It’s a matter of learning to look and love beyond yourself.

Alexis: Indigo is getting married! Who is her future spouse, how did she meet him, and how did she know he was “The One”?

Stacy: Sharing this news will give away the ending of the previous book in the series, Worth a Thousand Words! So as an author, I’ll remain somewhat coy with my response, okay? Lol. Let’s simply say that as Indigo began to figure out who she was and what she truly wanted in life, she also was able to recognize true love and what it could look like for her. The person she is marrying is also confident in himself and his purpose, and certain that Indigo is the woman meant to walk life’s journey with him.

Alexis: Indigo has not seen her brother Rueben in years. Why?

Stacy: Reuben moved away years ago to attend college and take a job on the West Coast – far from their Texas hometown – and the family never understood why he rarely came home. All of a sudden, however, he shows up with a wife and a child, ready to re-insert himself back into family life. They are so excited to have him home that they don’t ask too many questions. Before the book is over, however, readers will learn why he has returned, and why his journey back has everything to do with the dreams in his heart and mind.

Alexis: How do drama, pain, and healing play a role in this story?

Stacy: In the effort to pursue the dreams in their hearts and also love their family, Indigo, Reuben, and other members of their family deal with the everyday twists and turns that come with being in relationship with other people. They have to learn how to fall down, get back up, deal with anger, decide to forgive, and ultimately how to love and support one another no matter what.

Alexis: What were the challenges and rewards of writing this book?

Stacy: The challenge as a writer is always finding the discipline to sit in the chair and write! Lol. There are always dishes in the sink, laundry to be folded, places to be and things to do. So there’s that challenge of making yourself focus on the blank screen or the blank page right in front of you to create something out of nothing. The rewards have included finishing a book that I hope will both entertain and transform readers, and also hearing from those who have read the novel about how it spoke to them in a meaningful way regarding issues they personally were wrestling with or trying to maneuver. That always makes the hard work worthwhile.

Alexis: What do you want readers to remember most about this book? Why?

Stacy: What I want readers to remember most is that we have to honor the dreams in our hearts, especially when we believe or know that God has placed them there. I also want readers to learn, as the Burns family discovers in this book, that you don’t always have to fully understand another person’s dream to support them in that dream. Sometimes all you have to do is love them, and trust that as you love them unconditionally, God will take care of the rest.

Alexis: How did your personal faith in God affect how you wrote this story?

Stacy: My personal faith infuses every aspect of my life, so in terms of how it affected this story (and every story I write), it just became a natural extension of the characters and plot, regardless of whether God is referenced. There are characters in the book who are entrenched in their faith and others who struggle with understanding how God can allow bad things to happen to good people. This is real life, and in capturing these issues in my fiction, I hope I’m helping dissect the questions and the answers that readers may be wrestling with in their daily lives.

Alexis: Would you say that this book is targeted to women in the urban market or that this book has a universal message? Explain.

Stacy: I write about issues and people who are just people; and while most of my “people” happen to be African American, the challenges, joys, fears and hopes that fill their lives are the same that many women from all walks of life encounter and embrace. So my target audience is women readers who want to be encouraged, inspired and uplifted; and by reading a book that features women of color, it’s also an opportunity for women of color to see themselves reflected in the pages of fiction or for Caucasian and other women to learn more about their “sisters” of another culture.

Alexis: What advice do you have for authors of all races who want to write for the urban market but may not be sure how to start?

Stacy: I wouldn’t say that my books have been targeted to an “urban” market. That is a specific genre versus writing African American fiction. My readers tend to be African American, but I also have many, many readers beyond this readership group. So my advice for writers as a whole is to write the book that is in your heart. Create characters that reflect who you are, but also the world around you. Very few of us live in a monolithic society, where there’s only one culture or color. Incorporate the broader world into your fiction, so that readers either see themselves or learn about what they may be missing by not getting to know people beyond their current boundaries.

Alexis: Briefly share your journey to becoming a published author.

Stacy: I began my writing career as a newspaper reporter and columnist, and one of the opportunities in that arena opened the door for me to meet an acquisitions editor for Baker Publishing Group. As destiny would have it, Baker was looking for an opportunity to publish some African American fiction, and I had a manuscript I had been working on for about three years almost ready to go. I polished it and got it in the best shape possible, and Baker’s Revell Books imprint published that first book, Speak To My Heart, in 2004.

Alexis: Will there be another book in your Jubilant Soul Series? Or is this the end?

Stacy: I don’t think I’ll write another full-fledged novel in the Jubilant Soul series, but a short story that updates readers on the characters’ lives is always a possibility. Stay tuned!

Alexis: Thanks for the interview, Stacy! Would you like to share closing thoughts?

Stacy: Thanks for the opportunity to share details with your readers about my sixth book, Alexis. It’s always an honor to talk about my characters and the messages each book offers. I’d like to thank your readers for their interest in my work and invite them to visit me on my website, www.StacyHawkinsAdams.com, or to connect with me on my Facebook and Twitter pages. I love hearing from readers. And to the aspiring writers reading this, my advice is to write what’s in your heart; seek out the best editors or critical readers to give you honest feedback; revise, revise, revise and make your story the best it can be, because someone somewhere needs to read what you have to share with the world. Godspeed and God bless.

~*~

Connect with Stacy:

Website – www.StacyHawkinsAdams.com

Twitter – www.twitter.com/shadams

Facebook – www.facebook.com/stacyinspires

~*~ Interview conducted by Alexis A. Goring ~*~

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Author Interview: Vanessa Riley

Today, we’re featuring Vanessa Riley.

She’s the author of Regency-era novels with gorgeous book covers, captivating characters, and intriguing storylines!

Vanessa visits with us today to talk about her story, Unmasked Heart.

About the book: 
Shy, nearsighted caregiver, Gaia Telfair always wondered why her father treated her a little differently than her siblings. 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. 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 Romance novel.

Purchase the book: Amazon, BAM!B&N

Author bio: 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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Interview: 

Alexis: Unmasked Heart is the first book in your Challenge of the Soul Regency series. Tell us about it. How did you create the concept for this story?

Vanessa: Unmasked Heart is a story in which I kept pushing the envelope. I didn’t want to tell a normal tale. Every novel in the series will focus on a challenge of faith from someone who has been rocked to his/her core by life circumstances. The hero or heroine or both must answer, “Who am I in Christ?” Am I conqueror, a temple, no longer a slave, an heir?

When we meet Gaia, we see she is a nice young woman from a modest family. She’s the kind sister and the caregiver in her family. She is doing good things and takes primary care of her stepbrother. Gaia is a believer and her faith is evident from the beginning. When she is alone, she prays to God, mentioning all her frustrations. At first, these problems seem to be nothing more than what a young woman of the 1800s would face.

Yet, what would make Gaia challenge everything that she knows including her bedrock of faith? It wasn’t enough to have her requited in love. It wasn’t enough to have her doubt her father’s love. What if she doubted who she was? That is where her story begins. Who am I in Christ? Am I who He says I am or the lies I’ve grown up believing?

Alexis: What are Gaia’s greatest hopes and deepest fears? Why?

Vanessa: Like all of us, Gaia wants to be loved. She has spent her life in want of it. She wants deep and abiding, love-all-of-me love. Fear of never possessing it or not being brave enough to say she deserves it, this is Gaia’s problem. If she can overcome the fear of asking and failing, she will never have everything God wants her to have. How can she be all that God wants her to be if she does not have the strength to try?

Alexis: Gaia grew up believing that her natural tan is a result of her mother’s Spanish ancestry. But then she learns the truth. How does her father’s confession rock her world?

Vanessa: The day Gaia learns that her mother had an affair and that Gaia is the product of a liaison with an African man, her world is turned upside down. She is ashamed of her mother’s sins. She knows little of the African race. In her isolated village away from London, she may have not seen that many. She has heard the jokes about that race being slow-witted or happy slaves. She must come to terms with who she is as a biracial woman. She has to accept that the past does not matter. It is who she in in Christ, how she makes her life a willing sacrifice to Him—that is what matters. My hope is all who read Unmasked Heart, will sense her heartache of learning the truth and the weight of her dilemma. Some will never value her humanity because of the sins of the past, but she must come to understand that Gaia is not defined by it. Her present counts more. She is wonderfully made molded in the image of the Creator.

Alexis: A mulatto “passing” for White was an act that is not limited to the Regency era but still happens in modern times. What is your definition of a mulatto?

Vanessa: A mulatto is a person of mix ancestry with typically one white parent and one black parent. Gaia is a mulatto. A Blackamoor is a person of darker colored skin. Had she been darker skinned, unable to pass for White, she could have also been labeled as a Blackamoor.

Alexis: William St. Landon, the Duke of Cheshire, is the hero of your story. Describe his looks, mannerisms, and heart.

Vanessa: William is a handsome, older hero. He’s in his mid-thirties, which was older for the shorter Regency life spans. William is a military man. Rigor and discipline are his norms. It’s what he is used to, but now he finds himself widowed and raising a daughter who is mute. Can you imagine if you are accustomed to shouting commands to your men who do as they are told but you can’t command this little girl? She won’t say “Yes, Sir” and do his bidding. He is frustrated and desperate. So, when he meets Gaia and finds out that she is a caregiver who has taught her mentally disabled brother to speak, he has hope. He must meet Gaia and find a way to convince her to help.

Alexis: What is it about Gaia that draws William to her, making him reconsider his desire to remain single?

Vanessa: William is a widower, but his marriage was difficult. His wife married him for his title and his wealth. He meets Gaia who doesn’t care about either. In a truly Darcy-kind-of-way, he’s taken by her because she’s not running after him or fawning all over him. In fact, she believes herself in love with someone else. He feels he can be himself around her without worrying about her trying to attach herself to him. The problem with spending more time with Gaia is that he sees her heart, begins to covet it then wants it for himself.

Gaia is love with her neighbor, Elliot. Unfortunately, he has begun to court her sister, Julia. Gaia is heartbroken to see her sister’s treachery for who else would know of her love for Elliot better than the sister she with which she was close? Gaia’s happily-ever-after won’t come until she is able to repair relationships with her family and learning to live without bitterness if her efforts fail. Not everyone will be able to accept who you are, but you must love yourself enough to not crumble. Gaia should accept the challenge to love herself more than sorrow, more than loss. If God loves us so much that He sacrificed his only Son for our sakes, why can’t we love ourselves beyond our own failures or the poor labels given to us by those who are not working for our good?

If Gaia and William, can both learn to love to love in the light, beyond the shadows of the past, they will earn their happily-ever-after.

Alexis: What were the challenges of writing this book?

Vanessa: There wasn’t a challenge per se. The problem lies more in the attitudes one confronts during and after publication, centering on the lie that this story could never happen. Dido Belle, the mulatto niece raised by Lord Mansfield is not known by many but there is a lovely movie called Belle if one needs cliff notes to this history. One may not care to know that Jane Austen wrote about a mulatto heiress in Sandition (1817). One probably doesn’t know of the scandal of Prince William, the brother of the Regent who was caught in an affair with a mulatto woman from Jamaica (1778).

I was on a panel and a very, very popular bestselling author, tried to make a joke about it being “impossible to put African Americans in her Regency novels because it was England.” She thought it was cute to indicate, “that you people have no seat at the table.”

She forgot about the American-born slave women brought to London post the Revolutionary War, technically African-Americans. She forgot about the free Blackamoor and mulatto women present in London at the time Pride and Prejudice was written. Bless her heart. She did have her hands full marginalizing other populations in her books as her answer to the growing call to add diversity to her stories.

Alexis: What would you like to see change in CBA when it comes to authors of color who write about characters of color and how that impacts their journey to publication?

Vanessa: I would love for there to be more opportunity, but opportunity is only part of the battle. The systemic marketing issues are huge. Stories centered on characters of color are often packaged as exotic like it’s the same as an alien futuristic novel. Other marketing tactics are to put a house on the cover as if the reader should be tricked into buying the book. Or lastly, the guilt-ridden complex which equates to buy this book of color because it’s Black History Month, etc. as if the story would not make a good read in March. The CBA is not alone in this struggle, but it seems that with the data available about buying patterns and habits, newer fresher ways to market diverse books should also exist.

Alexis: You’ve said that ABA wants your historical romance stories that feature characters of color but CBA does not. What did they say was the reason? How do you feel about that? Explain.

Vanessa: I can’t speak for the ABA (American Booksellers Association) or CBA (Christian Booksellers Association) but ABA seems to be more successful in getting different types of books to the market. They take more risks, which paid off with more unexpected hits.

With the ABA or CBA, you still face challenges in marketing diverse stories. If the sales numbers are not there, you’ve now doomed the slots for your future books and or books like yours. Yes, this is the extra weight of every diverse narrative that is traditionally published. Can you stand the rain?

I have an umbrella, and I decided to go with a publisher who has had success in publishing different books to a wider market and has the distribution to land New York Times bestsellers. For my 2018 releases, I am being published by Entangled in their single title historical select imprint. I am very happy for the opportunity to tell my story to a broader audience.

Alexis: What advice do you have for authors of color who want to share their stories but are afraid to write what they know?

Vanessa: Tell the story you are given. Don’t chase the market for it always moving. Write what is on your heart. When I gave up trying to fit my square peg Regency tales into a round market that didn’t necessarily think a market for diverse Regencies existed, I found my lane, my audience. I am ever grateful for my traditionally published CBA debut and every one of my independently published titles that have found homes around the world on readers’ shelves or Kindles.

Alexis: Thanks for the interview, Vanessa!

~*~

Connect with Vanessa:

Website – www.vanessariley.com

Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/VanessaRileyAuthor

www.facebook.com/ChristianRegency

Twitter – http://www.twitter.com/VanessaRiley

Pinterest – http://pinterest.com/regencymaid

Instagram – https://www.instagram.com/govanessariley

Purchase Vanessa’s book: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B00WDR6C7S

Sign up for Vanessa’s newsletter: http://christianregency.com/subscribe.html

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

~*~

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

Book Spotlight: Unmasked Heart by Vanessa Riley

Happy Wednesday, Reader Friends!

Thanks for stopping by Diversity Between the Pages.

Today, I’m bringing you a book spotlight of Vanessa Riley’s Unmasked Heart

Enjoy!

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About the book: 

 Shy, nearsighted caregiver, Gaia Telfair always wondered why her father treated her a little differently than her siblings. 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. 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 Romance novel.

Book purchase links: Amazon, BAM!, B&N

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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: Website, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, Goodreads

Book Review: Veil of Pearls by MaryLu Tyndall

She thought she could outrun her past…

It is 1811, and the prosperous port city of Charleston is bustling with plantation owners, slaves and immigrants. Immigrants such as the raven-haired Adalia Winston. But Adalia has a secret: her light skin belies that she is part black and a runaway slave from Barbados. Skilled in herbal remedies, Adalia finds employment with a local doctor and settles into her quiet life, thankful for her freedom but still fearful that her owner will find her.

Born into one of Charleston’s prominent families, Morgan Rutledge is handsome, bored—and enamored of the beautiful Adalia, who spurns his advances. Morgan’s persistence, however, finally wins, and Adalia is swept into the glamorous world of Charleston high society.

But Adalia’s new life comes at a high price—that of denying her heritage and her zeal for God. How far is she willing to go to win the heart of the man she loves? And when her secret is revealed, will that love be enough, or will the truth ruin Morgan and send Adalia back into slavery?

REVIEW

I read Veil of Pearls a few years back. I remember thinking “Wow, I can’t think of another Christian fiction book that has a person of color as lead.” The seeds were already being planted back then!

Re-reading books is always a fun and interesting experience. Some books I realize are no longer for me, but that was not the case with this one. While there were some things that I wasn’t a fan of (specifically some of the ways secondary characters were described or treated), I like that Tyndall chose to deal with a something that was prevalent throughout the history of slavery and Jim Crow; people choosing to “pass” as white.

This idea of “passing” for white was something many people experienced and wrestled with during this historical era. Even some of Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemmings’ children passed as white once they were freed by Jefferson.

Sidenote/Bonus: This story reminded me of The House Behind the Cedars (published in 1900) by Charles W. Chesnutt (who himself could have passed for white, his grandfather was a white slaveholder, but chose not to). His story also deals with many social issues, one being the main character passing for white, falling in love and what happens from there. (I highly recommend reading it). 

Tyndall has well researched pieces (of both Charleston and Barbados) and faith plays a strong role in the story. There are some dramatic scenes (in very much Tyndall fashion), along with characters who wrestle with their identity, their long held beliefs and come face to face with racial views. I like that this novel opens up that discussion. If you enjoy history, consider adding this to your list.

Where to Buy: Amazon | CBD | BN.com | Goodreads