Monday, May 30, 2016

With "Blue Stars", author Emily Gray Tedrowe has written an extraordinary novel about ordinary people, a graceful and gritty portrayal of what it’s like for the women whose husbands and sons are deployed in Iraq

Blue Stars: A Novel

Book group fiction at its best, Blue Stars explores the bonds of family and the limits of fidelity, to tell the story of life on the home front in the twenty-first century.

Emily Gray Tedrowe has written an extraordinary novel about ordinary people, a graceful and gritty portrayal of what it’s like for the women whose husbands and sons are deployed in Iraq.

Blue Stars brings to life the realities of the modern day home front: how to get through the daily challenges of motherhood and holding down a job while bearing the stress and uncertainty of war, when everything can change in an instant. It tells the story of Ellen, a Midwestern literature professor, who is drawn into the war when her legal ward Michael enlists as a Marine; and of Lacey, a proud Army wife who struggles to pay the bills and keep things going for her son while her husband is deployed. Ellen and Lacey cope with the fear and stress of a loved one at war while trying to get by in a society that often ignores or misunderstands what war means to women today. When Michael and Eddie are injured in Iraq, Ellen and Lacey’s lives become intertwined in Walter Reed Army Hospital, where each woman must live while caring for her wounded soldier. They form an alliance, and an unlikely friendship, while helping each other survive the dislocated world of the army hospital. Whether that means fighting for proper care for their men, sharing a six-pack, or coping with irrevocable loss, Ellen and Lacey pool their strengths to make it through. In the end, both women are changed, not only by the war and its fallout, but by each other.

MY REVIEW:  "Blue Stars", from author Emily Gray Tedrowe, picks the scabs from the ugly wounds of war and its festering, widespread devastation. A compelling storyline combines the horrors of combat for our armed forces with the stateside survivorship of their family and friends. Two very different women find their lives are changed forever when each must face the care and rehabilitation of their gravely wounded returned soldiers. Ellen, a conservative professor, and Lacey, a restless personal trainer, are drawn together by their shared experiences as "those who wait" at the Walter Reed Army Hospital in Washington, DC. Although the characters are fictionalized, the story is inspired by the real-life 2007 housing scandal at Walter Reed. "Blue Stars" will open your eyes, permanently alter your perceptions of war and its home front consequences, and linger long in your thought processes.

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"An impressive addition to our national war literature ... informed, graceful, and deeply compassionate." ―Roxana Robinson, author of Sparta

“A strikingly nuanced portrait of military family life. ... If you've ever wondered what happens when wounded service members return, read this book.” ―Siobhan Fallon, author of You Know When the Men Are Gone

“As vivid as a news flash, Tedrowe's riveting new novel explores the shatteringly personal cost of politics. ... Blue Stars is as dazzling as it is important.” ―Caroline Leavitt, author of Pictures of You

“Tedrowe's crisp clear voice weaves a haunting tale of the unvarnished intricacies of the human spirit and the very dear price we pay for human conflict.” ―Lee Woodruff, author of Those We Love Most

“A stunning novel about war as it is lived on the home front, Blue Stars offers us characters so endearing and flawed that they feel like people I know and love. Emily Gray Tedrowe has crafted a story that reminds us that the real stuff of life is in the everyday, and that there's a quiet heroism to the mothers and wives back home. I couldn't put it down.” ―Ann Leary, New York Times bestselling author of The Good House

“To read Blue Stars is to dive headfirst into two lives so fully realized that they both instantly claim our sympathy and loyalty--even as they stand, at times, diametrically opposed. To this military outsider, the book was an education and a delight; to those steeped in that world, it should resonate profoundly. Beautifully told and compulsively readable, this is a timely book--and an important one.” ―Rebecca Makkai, author of The Hundred-Year House

“A penetrating novel about the Iraq War's inevitable collateral damage – the lives of the mothers and wives left behind . . . Tedrowe's examination of military families is honest and nuanced, and she manages to wrestle some kind of equanimity for the flawed heroes of her tale. As more stories about Iraq appear, novels like Tedrowe's, focused on the home front, will be a valuable contribution to our understanding of the war.” ―Kirkus

“A deep look into the strain of being a military wife and mother and the power of women and their emotional bonds.” ―Library Journal

“Tedrowe (Commuters, 2010), a deeply perceptive observer of family dynamics complicated by social and moral concerns, offers staggering insights into the struggles of military families and the ghastly conditions at Walter Reed that erupted into scandal in 2007. Tedrowe's sensitive parsing of questions of loyalty, honor, and sacrifice illuminates the wrenching conflicts inherent in women's lives and a nation at war with a clear, searching light and pinpoint humor, resulting in an enormously affecting novel guaranteed to generate much thought and discussion.” ―Booklist, starred review

“Tedrowe's novel really tugs on the heartstrings as it spotlights military families, their relationships and woes. The ups and downs are dizzying, but the importance of modern depictions of soldiers at war and the ones who sit home awaiting their return will keep readers grounded. Each chapter colorfully portrays the struggles and long journey each strong-willed character must face. Keep a box of tissues nearby.” ―Romantic Times, Top Pick

“An unflinching look at the emotional and physical cost to soldiers on the front lines of war, viewed through the eyes of the women holding things together at home. Whether their loved ones are still deployed, home on leave or rehabilitating at the Walter Reed Army Hospital, these strong ladies share a powerful bond.” ―All You

“A timely and engrossing novel of the challenges faced--and connections formed--on the home front during wartime.” ―Shelf Awareness





EMILY GRAY TEDROWE is the author of COMMUTERS: A Novel, which was named a Best New Paperback by Entertainment Weekly. Her short fiction has been published in the Chicago Tribune's Printers Row Journal, Fifty-Two Stories, and Other Voices. She lives in Chicago with her family.

Red Platoon: A True Story of American Valor--The only comprehensive, firsthand account of the thirteen hour firefight at the Battle of Keating by Medal of Honor recipient Clinton Romesha, for readers of Black Hawk Down by Mark Bowden and Lone Survivor by Marcus Luttrell






Red Platoon: A True Story of American Valor

 by Clinton Romesha

"'It doesn't get better.' To us, that phrase nailed one of the essential truths, maybe even the essential truth, about being stuck at an outpost whose strategic and tactical vulnerabilities were so glaringly obvious to every soldier who had ever set foot in that place that the name itself -- Keating -- had become a kind of backhanded joke."

In 2009, Clinton Romesha of Red Platoon and the rest of the Black Knight Troop were preparing to shut down Command Outpost Keating, the most remote and inaccessible in a string of bases built by the U.S. military in Nuristan and Kunar in the hope of preventing Taliban insurgents from moving freely back and forth between Afghanistan and Pakistan. Three years after its construction, the army was finally ready to concede what the men on the ground had known immediately: it was simply too isolated and too dangerous to defend.

On October 3, 2009, after years of constant smaller attacks, the Taliban finally decided to throw everything they had at Keating. The ensuing 14-hour battle-- and eventual victory-- cost 8 men their lives. 

Red Platoon is the riveting first-hand account of the Battle of Keating, told by Romesha, who spearheaded both the defense of the outpost and the counter-attack that drove the Taliban back beyond the wire, and received the Medal of Honor for his actions. 

"A vitally important story that needs to be understood by the public, and I cannot imagine an account that does it better justice that Romesha's." —Sebastian Junger, journalist and author of The Perfect Storm

Red Platoon is sure to become a classic of the genre.”—Hampton Sides, author of Ghost Soldiers and In the Kingdom of Ice

“This ranks among the best combat narratives written in recent decades, revealing Romesha as a brave and skilled soldier as well as a gifted writer… Romesha remains humble and self-effacing throughout, in a contrast with many other first-person battle accounts, and his powerful, action-packed book is likely to stand as a classic of the genre.” —Publishers Weekly (starred review)

“The book is riveting in its authentic detail…Romesha ably captures the daily dangers faced by these courageous American soldiers in Afghanistan.”—Kirkus Reviews

“[Romesha’s] account displays all the hallmarks of superlative wartime reporting: unflinching honesty; vivid, in-the-trenches description; and deeper reflections on the pathos of battle.” —Booklist

“[A] clear and expertly crafted account of an iconic fight during the Afghan War." —Library Journal

“[Red Platoon is] compelling and rich with detail into a world most of us will not experience. It will make readers really think about what soldiers go through for their country. Romesha is a great storyteller, knowing how to draw you in and leave you breathless.” —News and Sentinel

“I couldn’t recommend [this] book, RED PLATOON, any higher.” —Bill O'Reilly

“[A]n amazing read … a gripping account of men in desperate combat against an overwhelming enemy.” —The Tampa Bay Tribune

“[Romesha’s] experiences blaze the pages of his new memoir.” —Investor’s Business Daily

“The battle, from start to finish, is riveting. … I’m confident in saying that anyone who reads the full account — from the initial assault to the end of the attack — will be sucked into the action.” —Conservative Book Club

“RED PLATOON is an exceptional book … [a] meticulous and powerful telling of the 2009 battle at COP Keating in Afghanistan.” —

“It is a gripping read. It's something that will have you gasping as you hold your breath, rooting for Romesha and his comrades to prevail.  More important, it is something that rises to the level of literature in its portrayal of a battle most Americans probably know nothing about, as a part of a war our country still seems to be struggling to understand.” —Grand Forks Herald

“What sets 'Red Platoon' apart is Romesha’s thoroughness in recounting the frantic scramble of events.” —Herald and News

“It is so well written you're likely to feel you're in the middle of the action…Red Platoon will make you marvel at the courage of our young men in the face of a much larger force and the stupidity of the generals who put them there.” —Minneapolis Star Tribune

"I read the first half of Red Platoon in one sitting and that night had such intense combat dreams that I actually thought twice about picking the book up again. In addition to being a superb soldier, Romesha is an utterly irresistible writer. I'm completely overwhelmed by what he has done with this book. The assault on Camp Keating is a vitally important story that needs to be understood by the public, and I cannot imagine an account that does it better justice that Romesha's." —Sebastian Junger, journalist and author of The Perfect Storm

“Rendered hour by hour and sometimes second by second, here is battle narrative the way it's supposed to be written. Gritty, plangent, and unflinching, Red Platoon is sure to become a classic of the genre. Through his courageous and no doubt painful act of remembrance, Romesha has done his comrades, indeed all of us, a great serviceleaving an epitaph that will live through the ages.”—Hampton Sides, author of Ghost Soldiers and In the Kingdom of Ice

Red Platoon is riveting. Like many who were in either Iraq, Afghanistan, or both, I often read books about the wars reluctantly, because it is hard to capture the essence of the experience. In my view Red Platoon is a brilliant book. Had Clint Romesha depicted the soldiers at Keating as a collection of steely-eyed warriors, their feat would have been impressive. Because he captures the reality of a collection of personalities as diverse as America itself, their courage is truly inspiring.”General Stanley McChrystal, U.S. Army, Retired

Red Platoon celebrates the most crucial aspect of military operations: the team. Clinton Romesha and the men of Black Knight Troop faced harrowing conditions and a determined enemy during the Battle for COP Keating, and in the process discovered exactly who they are. This account is an important tribute to everyone who fought, and especially to the eight Americans who on that day made the ultimate sacrifice for their country.”Mark Owen, author of No Easy Day and No Hero

Red Platoon exemplifies the courage and resiliency our country was founded on. Clint is a true brother and a man that I look up to.” –Dakota Meyer, Medal of Honor Recipient and author of Into the Fire

"The men of Red Platoon and their actions at COP Keating deserve to be known. Clint Romesha's story takes hold from page one and makes you feel every inch of the battle, but it is the bond between soldiers that will stick with you. Red Platoon is on my list of the best books about the Afghan war." - Kevin Maurer, bestselling co-author of No Easy Day

"A visceral, heart-pounding account of men in close-quarter combat that is simply impossible to put down. Astonishingly intimate and beautifully written. A word of advice: don't start this book if you're planning on doing anything else for the next few hours." --Scott Anderson, author of Lawrence in Arabia

“Danger and death accompany combat. When unexpectedly surrounded and outnumbered by a Taliban enemy force, the stakes soared. Responses by the men of Keating were courageous. Led by Staff Sergeant Clint Romesha, this band of brothers countered with supreme valor. This true story will make you proud of the American soldier. You will not want to put Red Platoon down.”Colonel Bill Smullen, U.S. Army (Ret.)


About the Author

Former Staff Sergeant Clinton L. Romesha enlisted in the Army in 1999. He deployed twice to Iraq in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom, and once to Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. At the time of the deadly attack on Combat Outpost (COP) Keating on Oct. 3, 2009, Staff Sgt. Romesha was assigned as a section leader for Bravo Troop, 3-61st Cavalry, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division. He is the recipient of numerous awards and decorations, including the Medal of Honor, which has been received by only 12 others for the heroism they displayed while serving in Iraq or Afghanistan. Romesha separated from the Army in 2011. He lives with his family in North Dakota.

“COLD CASE JUSTICE SERIES” by author Janice Cantore--talented storyteller whose work rings true with the authenticity of her own law enforcement background--well-written crime thrillers with enjoyable characters whom readers will enjoy reading more about in each entry in the series

One case from her past defines homicide detective Abby Hart.

With a possible serial killer stalking elderly women in Long Beach, California, Abby's best lead is Luke Murphy, an irritating private investigator who saw a suspect flee the scene of the latest homicide. When Abby discovers that the most recent victim is related to the governor, she's anxious to talk to him about a cold case that's personal to her--one Luke is interested in as well.

As she learns more about the restaurant fire that took her parents' lives years ago, Abby discovers why Luke is so invested in finding the ones responsible. The more they uncover, though, the more questions they have. Can Abby find peace without having all the answers?

MY REVIEW: Author Janice Cantore is a talented storyteller whose work rings true with the authenticity of her own law enforcement background. With "Drawing Fire" she begins her latest book series, "Cold Case Justice". Long Beach, California homicide investigator Abby Hart's adherence to her principles and her determination to bring criminal offenders to justice has earned her the nickname "Superglue". At the age of six, she had lost own parents to a still-unsolved homicide. Almost thirty years later, she is haunted by the case and resolute in her vow to find the killer of her mother and father. Conflicts over her dangerous duty are a troublesome issue between Abby and her fiancé, Ethan. His absences due to his missionary work building homes in third-world countries adds even further distance. When a possible serial killer may be stalking and claiming elderly women as his prey, Abby is brought into contact with Luke Murphy, a private investigator who witnessed a suspect fleeing one of the crime scenes. Common elements and a shared sense of uncovering the facts soon have Abby and Luke working together to solve more than one mystery. The two of them each have their own measure of faith, and as further secrets are uncovered, they must each look more deeply into the role faith plays in their lives. Learning to rely on each other, they must also learn to wary of those who will stop at nothing to keep the chill on a decades-old cold case. "Drawing Fire" is well-written crime thriller with enjoyable characters whom readers will enjoy reading more about in future entries in the series.

Book Copy Gratis Tyndale Blog Network

After months of investigating the brutal homicide of a young girl, Detective Abby Hart finally has the evidence she needs. But when the arrest goes terribly wrong, Abby begins to doubt her future as a police officer. As she wrestles with conflicting emotions, old questions about the fire that took her parents’ lives come back to haunt her.

“There is proof.” PI Luke Murphy can’t stop thinking about what Abby’s former partner, Asa Foster, mumbled just before he died. When he uncovers a clue to the murder of Abby’s parents and his uncle, he’s reluctant to tell Abby, despite his growing feelings for the beautiful detective.

A decade-old abduction case brings Luke and Abby together, but will his secret tear them apart?



Twenty-seven years after the deaths of Detective Abby Hart’s parents, she’s desperate to find the proof that will put the mastermind―the governor’s wife―behind bars. When she joins a newly formed task force and teams up with PI Luke Murphy, Abby is sent to San Luis Obispo to work the cold case of a murdered college student. Realizing their investigation will bring them near the town where Alyssa Rollins grew up, Abby decides to do a little digging of her own into the Triple Seven fire.

Luke is eager to help Abby close the books on a case they both have personal stakes in. But as she uncovers long-held secrets, Abby stumbles into an explosive situation, and Luke fears that her obsession may prove deadly.

Janice Cantore


A retired Long Beach California police officer of 22 years (16 in uniform and 6 as a non-career officer), Janice Cantore worked a variety of assignments, patrol, administration, juvenile investigations and training. During the course of her career in uniform Janice found that faith was indispensable to every aspect of the job and published articles on faith at work, one for a quarterly newspaper called "Cop and Christ", and another for the monthly magazine "Today's Christian Woman". With retirement Janice began to write longer pieces and several novels were born. Janice is excited and honored to now be a part of the Tyndale Publishing House family. Accused, the first installment in her new suspense offering, The Pacific Coast Justice Series, was released February 1, 2012 and kicked off a brand new chapter in her writing career. In addition to suspense and action, her books feature strong female leads. Janice writes suspense novels designed to keep you engrossed and leave you inspired.

"Motherland"--sweeping WWII saga from acclaimed author & screenwriter William Nicholson


You come from a long line of mistakes, Guy Caulder tells his daughter Alice. My mother married the wrong man. Her mother did the same.


At the end of a love affair, Alice journeys to Normandy to meet Guy's mother, the grandmother she has never known. She tells her granddaughter that, in spite of the troubles her family has faced, there was one true love story in her past.


In the summer of 1942, Kitty is an ATS driver stationed in Sussex. She meets Ed, a Royal Marine commando, and Larry, a liaison officer with Combined Operations under the command of Louis Mountbatten. Kitty falls instantly in love with Ed, who falls in love with her. So does Larry.


Mountbatten mounts a sea borne raid on the beaches of German-occupied Dieppe in northern France. One of the worst disasters of the war, it has a profound effect on both Larry and Ed, and its repercussions will echo through the generations to come.

MY REVIEW:   Accomplished author William Nicholson struck a resonant chord with me as a reader in "Motherland", a sweeping tale of romance, human drama, and survival. I am deeply drawn to the poignancy, passion, and patriotism of the WWII era. I am in my early fifties, and the stories told to me by my mother and her parents of life during this time helped to shape the person I am today. I also had a very dear friend, an older gentleman who had served as a US Navy gunnery sighter aboard a noted WWII battleship in the Pacific. His vivid recollections of his combat experiences are just like photos in my own mind. "Motherland" begins with a young woman meeting her grandmother for the first time. Born out of wedlock to a disinterested father, Guy Caulder, Alice Dickinson is eager to pull the pieces of her disjointed heritage together. Surprisingly, during one of her rare shared moments with her father, he informs her that his mother is very much alive and living in Normandy, France. Alice journeys to meet her grandmother, Pamela Avenell, whose remembrances of her own mother, Kitty Teale, and the two men whom she loved, and was loved by in return: Ed Avenell and Larry Cornford are intertwined with the horrors and heroism of WWII. In Sussex, England, in 1942, Kitty was a young and pretty army driver who met Ed, a Royal Marine commando, and Larry, a liaison officer. Kitty and Ed soon fall in love, but Larry also loves Kitty. The two men go off to war, with Ed returning a war hero and claiming Kitty as his prize. However, the war which changed the world forever has left its mark on Ed, a mark which tragically remained indelible. As the years pass, the darkness which often overcomes Ed casts a shadow upon his life with Kitty, and she is more and more drawn to Larry for comfort. Eventually, after years of yearning, Kitty and Larry will be together, but not without great personal cost. "Motherland" is much more than a complex love story. It is the story of humankind in the midst of a mighty battle against an evil and insidious foe. While one side may eventually surrender the victory to its opponent, a war never really ends. Its effects are widespread and consuming, with spots of hope for humanity rising here and there from the ashes. William Nicholson has written a well-researched, thoughtfully-told tale of heartbreak and redemption. For many survivors of war, their day-to-day lives are ever filled with sights and sounds from a battle fought long ago--their memories never fade.

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Author William Nicholson 

William Nicholson

Author William Nicholson is also one of the most successful Hollywood scriptwriters, twice Oscar nominated, the go-to man for big characters, big stories and worldwide audiences. From Shadowlands to Gladiator, to the current Les Misérables and next A Long Walk To Freedom — the Nelson Mandela biopic being released later this year.

William Nicholson was born in 1948, and grew up in Sussex and Gloucestershire. He was educated at Downside School and Christ’s College, Cambridge, and then joined BBC Television, where he worked as a documentary film maker. There his ambition to write, directed first into novels, was channeled into television drama. His plays for television include Shadowlands and Life Story , both of which won the BAFTA Best Television Drama award in their year; other award-winners were Sweet As You Are and The March . In 1988 he received the Royal Television Society’s Writer’s Award. His first play, an adaptation of Shadowlands for the stage, was Evening Standard Best Play of 1990, and went on to a Tony Award winning run on Broadway. He was nominated for an Oscar for the screenplay of the film version, which was directed by Richard Attenborough and starred Anthony Hopkins and Debra Winger.

Since then he has written more films – Sarafina, Nell, First Knight, Grey Owl , Gladiator (as co-writer), for which he received a second Oscar nomination, and Elizabeth: the Golden Age. He has written and directed his own film, Firelight; and four further stage plays, Map of the Heart, Katherine Howard, The Retreat from Moscow , which ran for five months on Broadway and received three Tony Award nominations, and Crash.
His novel for older children, The Wind Singer, won the Smarties Prize Gold Award on publication in 2000, and the Blue Peter Book of the Year Award in 2001. Its sequel, Slaves of the Mastery , was published in 2001, and the final volume in the trilogy, Firesong , in 2002. The trilogy has been sold in every major foreign market, from the US to China.

His second sequence of fantasy novels is called The Noble Warriors. The first book is Seeker (2005), the second book, Jango (2006) and the third book Noman (2007).

His novels for adults are The Society of Others (2004), The Trial of True Love (2005), The Secret Intensity of Everyday Life (2009), All the Hopeful Lovers (2010) and The Golden Hour (2011).

His love-and-sex novel for teens, Rich and Mad, was published in 2010.

He lives in Sussex, England with his wife Virginia and their three children.

"Noble Cause: A Novel of Love and War" by Jessica James--superb Civil War tale--history and romance blended in an elegant, evocative style with a history lover's eye for detail

My lifelong love of history and romance grew and came into bloom from my roots deep in my home state of Virginia. From one corner of the state to another, and points in-between, Virginia is a living history book. It's also breathtakingly beautiful. Many times, as I have looked at my mountains, I have wondered about the past lives of people who once stood gazing at the same glorious sight. I truly believe that the answers to our future lie in the questions from our past. It is very important to never forget the sacrifices made by those who have fought to preserve the American way of life. We must also remember that heroes and heroines are real people with imperfections and vulnerabilities. Their gallantry and honor often comes with a high price. The year 2011 marked the 150th anniversary of the American Civil War. Not a cause for celebration, but one for reflection and remembrance. It is hard for many of us to imagine the scope of the Civil War. Americans fighting against each other on our home soil. Friends and family members so divided by the cause of "North versus South" that they battled with one another to the death. To this day, the American Civil War remains the conflict in which the most Americans lost their lives. The death toll? Over 600,000 lives were lost in the War Between the States.

Author Jessica James has written a superb historical romance, "Noble Cause: A Novel of Love and War". With an elegant, evocative style, and a history lover's eye for detail, Ms. James brings to vivid life one of the most devastating of American tragedies. The involving battles scenes and fascinating military strategies are well-blended with the human issues of the war. An impossible and undeniable love is found just as so much is lost forever. Confederate Colonel Alexander Hunter is legendary for his battlefield brilliance and his deeply felt love of his Virginia homeland. His almost supernatural ability to outthink, outmaneuver, and upstage the Union Army faces only one real challenge: a young Union scout, small in stature, with unequaled horsemanship and the wiles of a fox. Andrea Evans, in her guise as Andrew Sinclair, risks her life at every opportunity to forward the cause of the Union. She is a scout, a spy, and a young woman on the run from her past. Born a privileged daughter of the South, Andrea fled her home at a very young age to leave behind the cruelty of her father, a slave-owner not afraid to use his whip.

Time and time again, Alex and Andrea provoke and elude each other in a daring wartime dance.   When Andrea is finally captured, she is sent to a hell-hole Confederate prison camp where she suffers unspeakable torture and becomes gravely ill. When Alex learns Andrea's fate, which was against his direct orders, he rescues her and takes her to his Virginia home to recover. He gambles much by keeping the infamous Yankee spy under his own roof, but he is following the dictates of his heart. Andrea proves to be more than a match for Alex, and their sparring intellects and spirited verbal battles make for a stirring romance. For me, a true hero must have an inner core of compassion. Alex is a man of ideals, a revered leader who has learned to place the needs of his command above his own personal needs. Andrea is a strong and intelligent woman, never afraid to stand up for her own beliefs, and those are the characteristics which Alex finds hardest to resist! The more that these two sworn opponents clash, the more their attraction begins to grow. As they learn about each other, they also learn about the "shades of gray" that cloud both sides of the horrific War Between the States. The skillful storytelling of Jessica James will keep you enthralled from beginning to end. The outcome of the Civil War is unchangeable, but the romance between the gentleman colonel and his fearless lady is one that you will not want to end. Highly recommended!


Thank you for visiting with us today, Jessica. Please tell us about yourself and how you came to write and publish "Noble Cause".

JJ: I’m from Gettysburg, Pa., so with all of that history surrounding me, you’d think I’ve always had an interest in the Civil War. As fate would have it, things didn’t happen that way. I didn’t catch the Civil War bug until I moved to Virginia in my 20s to accept a job as a veterinary technician at a horse hospital. While living there, I learned about the charismatic Confederate commander John Mosby who was the epitome of the Southern cavalier.  The more I read about Colonel Mosby, the more I wanted to know. I was soon traipsing all over northern Virginia, down dirt roads, and across the rolling fields to walk where he walked and see what he saw. Storylines started running through my head that involved a Mosby-like main character, and soon Colonel Alexander Hunter was officially born on the pages of Noble Cause. (A side note on walking in his footsteps: One of the more famous stories about Colonel Mosby concerns the night the Yankees surrounded the house he was sleeping in. Although they found his clothes, they never found him. He had climbed out of the window onto a limb of a huge walnut tree. The tree is still there—and so is the house. I drove by it many times, but that wasn’t enough. I sent a letter to the owner and was graciously invited inside for a tour. I can’t begin to describe the feeling of walking through that house and standing in that bedroom). As I was writing Noble Cause, and its predecessor Shades of Gray, one of the main goals I had in mind was to get readers as interested and excited about history as I had become. I wanted them to feel the pain and experience the emotions of living during that turbulent time. Although we’ve all been taught that the Civil War caused brothers to fight against brothers, I don’t think the enormity of that really hits home until you can relate or connect to people (or characters) in that situation.  I get many emails from readers who tell me that Noble Cause made them cry (and laugh) or kept them up all night reading even though they had no prior interest in the Civil War. That’s a great gauge for me to know that they connected with the characters.

In all of your research so far about the Civil War, is there one fact which stands out the most? 

JJ: The first thing that comes to mind is the number of deaths—upwards of 623,000—which is more than other American wars combined. Considering how small our population was at that time makes that number even more sobering. Another thing that draws me to this era, and why I write romance set in this time period, is the relationship between men and women. When they said “til death do us part” they really meant it. It’s evident in letters, in diary accounts, and even tombstone epitaphs. This “everlasting love” was a deep, sincere, poignant love that is somewhat difficult to grasp today.  Going hand in hand with that is the strong reliance that people had on faith and honor. Honor is a huge theme in Noble Cause because it played such a huge role in the war. Most people probably don’t know that at the beginning of the war, prisoners were paroled “on their honor” to put down their weapons and promise not to take up arms again until they were officially exchanged for another prisoner. Another interesting example of the strong principles that were present during the Civil War is that when the American flag was hit during the bombardment of Fort Sumter, the Confederates rowed a boat to the fort and gave the Federal soldiers a new flag.

I know that you put together a very poignant and beautiful collection of Civil War love letters. Is there one that touched your heart more deeply than the rest?

JJ: That’s a really tough question because they are all so touching—in different ways. The one from Sullivan Ballou, made famous by Ken Burn’s Civil War, is touching because it is so eloquently written, and because he dies within a week of sending it. His words are also special because he ties his love for his wife with his love for country—a theme that was often repeated by men who were away from their loved ones. Here’s a short example for those who have never read it: “Sarah, my love for you is deathless, it seems to bind me to you with mighty cables that nothing but Omnipotence could break; and yet my love of Country comes over me like a strong wind and bears me irresistibly on with all these chains to the battlefield.” I am also touched by the ones from General George Pickett of Pickett's Charge fame, and Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson, because they are thought of as such tough warriors. Yet, when you read their sweet words to their wives, you realize what soft hearts they had. Many books have been written about these historical figures and their accomplishments, but the personal side is often neglected. One of the reasons I put the booklet together was to make sure readers understand the "other side" of the war. It's easy to forget that these were real people, with families, relationships, hopes, dreams, and problems. Though they lived in a time that required exceptional courage, faith and valor, they were in the end, human.


Image of Jessica James

"Life in the Past Lane" blog

Award-winning historical fiction author Jessica James resides in Gettysburg, Pa., where she enjoys writing and reading about the American Civil War. Her Civil War novel Noble Cause is the winner of the 2011 John Esten Cooke Award for Southern Fiction and the Next Generation Indie Award for Regional Fiction.
It was also Finalist in the Romance and Historical Fiction categories. Most recently, Noble Cause was announced as a bronze winner in Forword Magazine's BOOK OF THE YEAR AWARD contest in the Romance category. Originally published as Shades of Gray, Noble Cause provides readers with a new, happily-ever-after ending to the classic romantic tale. Shades of Gray was the winner of numerous national awards and has hit #1 on the Amazon best-seller list in its category. James is featured in the book "50 Writers You Should Be Reading," published in 2010.


Both the "North and South" are known for producing delicious varieties of apples. In the spirit of peace and unity, and appreciation of apple goodness, here are some recipes for your enjoyment!

Apple Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

1 cup light vegetable oil
2 cups sugar
3 eggs
2 1/2 cups flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 tsp. ground nutmeg
1 tsp. vanilla extract
4 cups peeled and chopped tart apples (like Granny Smith)
1 (8-oz.) pkg. cream cheese, room temperature
1 stick butter, softened
1 lb powdered sugar
2 tsp. vanilla extract

1 cup chopped pecans Combine oil and sugar together in a bowl; beat in eggs. Sift all dry ingredients together and then add to egg mixture. Fold in vanilla and apples. Pour into a greased 9" x 13" pan. Bake at 325°F for 45 minutes or until done; set aside to cool. For the frosting, combine cream cheese and butter in a large bowl using mixer. Gradually add the powdered sugar; beat until smooth and then add vanilla. Frost the cooled cake and then sprinkle pecans over top.

Roast Chicken with Apples and Onions

1 Whole chicken
3-4 Apples (mix tart and sweet for best flavor)
2 Yellow onions
3 Tablespoons lemon juice
4 Tablespoons melted butter
1/4 tsp dried sage
1/4 tsp dried thyme
salt & pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Chop onions and apples into one-inch chunks. Toss together with lemon juice, half of the melted butter, sage, thyme, salt and pepper. Rinse chicken thoroughly and pat dry with a paper towel. Rub the remaining butter into the skin. Stuff as much of the apple mixture into the chicken as possible. Cover and set aside any remaining apple mixture. Place in a roasting pan breast up and put in oven. Roast for 15 minutes. Turn oven down to 350 degrees and cook for 45 minutes. Take chicken out. Baste and add remaining apple/onion mixture to the pan. Roast for up to another 30 minutes, until the internal temperature of the chicken reaches 160 degrees. Test for doneness. Let chicken stand for about 10 minutes at room temperature before carving.

Apple Dumplings with Brandy Sauce

Apple Dumplings: 2 cups all-purpose flour ; 1/4 teaspoon salt; 1/2 cup (one stick) chilled butter; 2/3 cup sour cream; 6 medium tart cooking apples, cored, peeled; 1/3 cup sugar; 1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg; 1/3 cup chopped pecans; 2 tablespoons butter, softened

Brandy Sauce:  1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar; 1/2 cup heavy whipping cream; 3 tablespoons butter; 2 tablespoons brandy

Heat oven to 400°F. Combine flour and salt in medium bowl; cut in 1/2 cup butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Stir in sour cream with fork until mixture forms a ball. Roll dough into 19x12-inch rectangle on lightly floured surface. Cut 1-inch strip off 19-inch end; reserve. Cut remaining dough into 6 (6-inch) squares. Place apple in center of each square. Combine sugar, nutmeg, pecans and 2 tablespoons butter in small bowl. Fill center of apple with 1 1/2 tablespoons mixture. Fold dough up around apple; seal seams well. Place onto greased 15x10x1-inch jelly-roll pan, seam-side down. Brush dough with milk; prick dough with fork. Bake for 35 to 45 minutes or until apples are fork tender. If crust browns too quickly, cover with aluminum foil. Combine all sauce ingredients in 1-quart saucepan. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until mixture comes to a full boil (3 to 4 minutes). Allow sauce to cool several minutes. Serve sauce over warm dumplings.

Apple-Cranberry Sausage Stuffing

16 ounces seasoned stuffing mix, cubed kind; 6 tablespoons butter, divided; 1 lb sage sausage; 4 cups chopped tart apples, cut into 1/2-inch pieces; 1/2 teaspoon salt; 3 cups chicken broth; 2 teaspoons dried parsley; 1 cup chopped celery; 1 large yellow onion, chopped; 2 eggs, beaten; 1/2 cup dried cranberries.

Preheat oven to 425 and butter a 3 qt baking dish. Place stuffing in large bowl; reserve. In large nonstick skillet, melt 2 T. butter over medium high heat. Crumble in sausage; cook, stirring, until well-browned. Stir sausage with drippings into stuffing. In same skillet, melt 2 T. butter over medium heat. Add apples, onion, celery, and salt; cook stirring occasionally, until softened. Add broth and parsley; bring to a boil. Pour over stuffing; stir until moistened. Stir in cranberries and eggs. Spoon into baking dish; cover with foil. Bake 30 minutes. Melt remaining butter, uncover stuffing; drizzle with butter. Bake until crisp and golden, about 10 minutes.

Long Ago and Far Away: Reminiscences of Robert Sams of his 27 months aboard the USS Cambria APA-36 during the Pacific Campaign of World War II

Long Ago and Far Away: Reminiscences of Robert Sams of his 27 months aboard the USS Cambria APA-36 during the Pacific Campaign of World War II

Long Ago and Far Away: Reminiscences of Robert Sams of his 27 months aboard the USS Cambria APA-36 during the Pacific Campaign of World War II

Sadly, it is a little-known fact that the men of the U.S. Coast Guard served bravely alongside the more-oft thought of branches of the US Military during a time of great turmoil in our country’s history. If you were to ask 100 random people to tell you what role the U.S. Coast Guard played in World War II, it is likely that many of them would talk about defending our own coastal areas. It is unlikely, however, that most of those queried would be able to tell you that on September 17, 1945 the Coast Guard vessel USS Cambria APA-36, designated as flagship of Temporary Squadron 12, led her squadron into Japan after the bomb was dropped. It is also doubtful that those questioned would know that once the Cambria arrived, a Japanese delegation boarded the vessel and the Japanese Governor of Nagasaki Prefective and the Acting Mayor of Nagasaki received instructions from Major General LeRoy B. Hunt, USMC, Commanding General of the 2nd Marine Division Occupational Forces regarding the signing of surrender papers. Author Robert Sams was one of the brave men serving on the Cambria at that time. His memoir not only gives insight into the day-to-day life of a sailor in wartime, but is a valuable historical chronicle as well. More than just a “history book”, Long Ago and Far Away beckons the reader to step back into time and experience what Sams experienced. So grab this book, find a comfy place to relax and prepare to experience history in a way that you may never have experienced it before.

About the Author

Robert Sams was born in Seebert, WV in 1925. After graduating from high school in Covington, VA in the summer of 1943 he worked briefly at Firestone Tire Company before enlisting in the Coast Guard on September 4, 1943. After serving on the USS Cambria, Sams received his honorable discharge in October 1946. Following his Coast Guard service Sams was hired by the Chesapeake & Ohio Railroad where he served the company in several capacities including that of a Fireman, Train Engineer, Trainmaster and Supervisor of Locomotive Operations for the entire C&O Railroad. Mr. Sams World War II photos and documents have been on display at Virginia Military Institute and the History Museum in Roanoke, VA. He and his wife, Nancy, have 2 sons, 3 grandchildren and numerous great-grandchildren. The Sams have enjoyed their retirement living in the Roanoke Valley

MY REVIEW:  "Long Ago and Far Away: Reminiscences of Robert Sams of His 27 Months aboard the USS Cambria APA-36 During the Pacific Campaign of World War II" is written in a personable, informative style as if the author were speaking directly to the reader. A fascinating mix of historical facts and personal memories, the book features many photos which add depth to the author's remembrances. Veterans such as Mr. Sams are truly a national treasure, and without their sacrifices, none of us would have the free life which we enjoy here in the United States. Mr. Sams, who is from my home area here in Virginia, served aboard the Coast Guard-manned US Navy vessel USS Cambria in the Pacific Battle Theatre of WWII. Another gentleman from my home area--a very dear friend of mine--served aboard the US Navy vessel, the USS Mustin, also in the Pacific Battle Theatre. Reading the words written by Mr. Sams, and hearing similar stories from my friend first-hand have given me a greater appreciation for my freedoms here in America. "Long Ago and Far Away" is history at its most fascinating--told by the person who lived it, and told in a readable and involving manner. A highly-recommended up-close-and-personal look at World War II, and a keen observer's insight into a very momentous and poignant time in history.

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Thanks for the memories, Bob!!!--HOPE: ENTERTAINER OF THE CENTURY by Richard Zoglin--a matchless legacy of service and support for our military through the USO


The first definitive biography of Bob Hope, featuring exclusive and extensive reporting that makes the persuasive case that he was most important entertainer of the twentieth century.

Born Leslie Townes Hope in Eltham, England on May 29, 1903, "Bob Hope" became an enduring, iconic symbol of America around the world. He was the only entertainer to achieve top-rated success in every major mass-entertainment medium, from vaudeville to television and everything in between. He virtually invented modern stand-up comedy. His tours to entertain US troops and patriotic radio broadcasts, along with his all-American, brash-but-cowardly movie character, helped to ease the nation's jitters during the stressful days of World War II. He helped redefine the very notion of what it means to be a star: a savvy businessman, pioneer of the brand extension (churning out books, writing a newspaper column, hosting a golf tournament), and public-spirited entertainer whose Christmas military tours and tireless work for charity set the standard for public service in Hollywood. But he became a polarizing figure during the Vietnam War, and the book sheds new light on his close relationship with President Richard Nixon during those embattled years.

Bob Hope is a household name. However, as Richard Zoglin shows in this revelatory biography, there is still much to be learned about this most public of figures, from his secret first marriage and his stint in reform school, to his indiscriminate womanizing and his ambivalent relationship with Bing Crosby and Johnny Carson. Hope could be cold, self-centered, tight with a buck, and perhaps the least introspective man in Hollywood. But he was also a dogged worker, gracious with fans, and generous with friends.


Hope is both a celebration of an entertainer whose vast contribution has never been properly appreciated, and a complex portrait of a gifted but flawed man, who, unlike many Hollywood stars, truly loved being famous, appreciated its responsibilities, and handled celebrity with extraordinary grace.

Far more than a funny man with a funny nose, Bob Hope became the most recognized profile and talent in the world. Indisputably, and in the entire history of show business, no individual traveled so far -- so often -- to entertain so many. Bob Hope lived to be 100 years old, passing away on July 27, 2003. Entertainer of the century, indeed.


“Bob Hope was an entertainment colossus, shrewd and influential well beyond show business. Richard Zoglin’s biography captures it all—the public and private Hope.” (Tom Brokaw)

“This beautifully written volume is, at last, the book about Bob Hope. Zoglin covers everything: the early life, the sky-rocketing triumphs in every medium, the life-risking—and ego-feeding—patriotism that spanned the globe, bringing laughter (and gorgeous ladies) to our troops in wartime, the wealth, the women, the quirks, the warts, the temper, the cheapness, the touching generosity, the fabulous talent and the genius-managed career." (Dick Cavett)


"Richard Zoglin's fascinating biography is as close as we're ever going to get to one of the most opaque human beings ever to become justifiably world-famous. Bob Hope lived so long that it's easy to forget how original he was, not to mention brilliantly funny and attractive. It's all here: the women, the politics, the amazing career, the selfless devotion to American soldiers, the unexpected empathy, and, thank God, the laughter." (Scott Eyman, author of John Wayne) 

About the Author

Richard Zoglin is a contributing editor and theater critic for Time magazine. His book Comedy at the Edge: How Stand-up in the 1970s Changed America is considered the definitive history of that seminal era in stand-up comedy. Zoglin is a native of Kansas City, Missouri, and currently lives in New York City. His late wife, Charla Krupp, was the author of the bestselling books How Not to Look Old and How to Never Look Fat Again.

Compelling and touching--MARGARET FROM MAINE by Joseph Monninger--a romance shaped by war--with characters for whom you root for to find a happy ending

Margaret from Maine: A Novel
Brought together by war, separated by duty, a love story for the ages

Margaret Kennedy lives on a dairy farm in rural Maine. Her husband Thomas—injured in a war overseas—will never be the man he was. When the President signs a bill in support of wounded veterans, Margaret is invited to the nation’s capital. Charlie King, a handsome Foreign Service officer, volunteers to escort her. As the rhododendron blossoms along the Blue Ridge Highway, the unlikely pair fall in love—but Margaret cannot ignore the tug of her marriage vows.
Joseph Monninger’s Margaret from Maine is a page-turning romance that poignantly explores the dilemmas faced by those who serve our country—and the men and women who love them.

MY REVIEW:  As I began to read "Margaret from Maine", by author Joseph Monninger, the fluidity of the story line and the immediacy of the characters quickly drew me in. Before I knew it, I had finished the book, but I didn't feel finished with the characters--I wanted to read more. I wanted to know what the future held for these people whose loneliness led them to each other. Margaret Kennedy's husband, Tom, was considered a war hero. His personal sacrifice to save a comrade had left him in a vegetative state. His body lived, but the spirit of the man had long ago left his physical shell. We meet Tom in the first chapter of the book, and experience the horrible moment which changed the lives of all the Kennedys forever. Tom never got to know his young son, Gordon, and Margaret took over the running of their dairy farm with the assistance of Tom's father, Ben. Six years after Tom was wounded, Margaret receives an invitation to attend the Washington, DC signing of a bill to improve care for comatose veterans. Margaret would be escorted to DC by Charlie King, a member of the diplomatic core with whom she had conversed by phone. Charlie is himself a veteran, assigned to desk duty after losing part of one leg due to a battle wound. When Charlie and Margaret meet, there is an immediate and intense attraction of both body and soul. The trip to DC becomes an extended romantic interlude, one that is unexpected and irresistible despite the undercurrent of conflict. Margaret never expected to be with any man other than her husband, but Charlie is warm and courtly, and his attention to her is like sustenance for her too-long-deprived female sensibilities. Charlie is smitten, and he knows it. Margaret is the woman he has waited for his entire life, but how to make her see it? Two good people, who have lived dutiful lives, now have a chance for true love and happiness, or do they? Charlie is about to leave the States for a diplomatic post in Africa. Margaret has the huge responsibility of caring for her family and overseeing the running of the dairy farm. She's still married to a man who has been spiritually dead for six years, and as long as his body still breathes in the care facility, she is bound to him as his wife. Will the love between Charlie and Margaret be lost, or will their fates somehow become intertwined? Joseph Monninger has created a compelling and touching romance with characters for whom you root for to find a happy ending. Happiness comes and goes sometimes in unexpected, random surges, but we must all be prepared to grab that happiness and hold on when it finally comes our way.
Book Copy Gratis Library Thing


Joseph Monninger

Joseph Monninger has published eleven novels and three non-fiction books. His work has appeared in American Heritage, Scientific American, Readers Digest, Glamour, Playboy, Story, Fiction, The Boston Globe, Sports Illustrated and Ellery Queen, among other publications. He has twice received fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and has also received a fellowship from the New Hampshire Council for the Arts. His young adult novel, Baby, was awarded the 2008 award for best children’s literature from the Peace Corps Writers. It was also chosen as a top ten book by YALSA, the American Library Association. The Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books awarded Hippie Chick, a young adult novel, a blue ribbon for a top book of 2008.

Joseph Monninger grew up in Westfield, New Jersey and attended Temple University on a football scholarship. He served as a Peace Corps volunteer in Upper Volta, now Burkina Faso, from 1975-77. He has been a licensed New Hampshire Fishing Guide and has fly-fished from New Zealand to Wyoming’s Wind River Range. He lives with his wife, Wendy, and his son, Justin, in a converted barn near New Hampshire’s Baker River. For several years his family competed in the New England Sled Dog sprint races and ran a small sled dog business in New Hampshire’s White Mountains. Laika and Willow, two sled dogs, live in happy retirement with them.
As a teacher at one time or another at the University of New Hampshire, the Lincoln School in Providence, Rhode Island, The American International School in Vienna, and at Plymouth State University, Joseph Monninger has spent thirty years in classrooms. During the summers he directed academic enrichment programs at Williams and Amherst Colleges. He led student groups on bicycle tours across Europe, sailed the Whitsunday Islands near the Great Barrier Reef, and worked on community service projects in Montserrat, West Indies and on the Crow Reservation in Montana. He has taken a mail boat across the southern edge of Newfoundland and, as a young man, hitch-hiked across the United States three times.

His novel, Eternal on the Water, was published by Pocketbooks in February 2010.

We must never forget--Read to Remember--sacrifices made to ensure our precious freedom

I have tremendous empathy for all of our armed services members and their families. I greatly appreciate the sacrifices made so that I may enjoy a free way of life here in the United States. Seeing our service members standing so proud in their uniforms makes me want to stand up taller and straighter, shoulders back! The greatest way to honor all of those who served and sacrificed is to hold your loved ones close to your heart, and live your life in celebration of precious freedom. Make a new memory each day. Whether you gather together with others to observe ceremonial traditions, or you take a moment for quiet reflection, live each day to the fullest and savor the flavors of life. Read to remember.  

From Ashes to HonorHonor RedeemedMan of Honor



The First Responders Series   by Loree Lough is a look into the lives of first responders — EMTs, Search and Rescue (SAR) professionals and firefighters — what motivates them and how their job choices affect their lives and relationships. At last count, this popular Inspirational author had 82 award-winning books (more than 3,000,000 copies in circulation), 67 short stories, and 2,500+ articles in print. The oft-invited guest of writers' organizations, colleges and universities, corporate and government agencies in the U.S. and abroad, Loree Lough loves sharing learned-the-hard-way lessons about the craft and the industry. Loree has traveled coast to coast and border to border, appearing on national, regional, and local TV and radio shows. Although this once-upon-a-time traveling troubadour refuses to say when, exactly, she traded her Yamaha for a wedding ring, she IS willing to admit that, every now and then, she blows the dust off her six-string to croon a tune or two. But mostly, she just writes (and writes). Loree and her husband split their time between a home in the Baltimore suburbs and a cabin in the Allegheny Mountains, where she continues to perfect her talent for identifying critter tracks. Her favorite pass time? Spending long, leisurely hours with her grandchildren... all seven of them! She loves hearing from her readers, and answers every letter, personally. Visit her website, 

Sarah Sundin is the author of the “Wings of Glory” series–”A Distant Melody”, “A Memory Between Us”, and “Blue Skies Tomorrow”–which follows the three Novak brothers, B-17 bomber pilots with the US Eighth Air Force stationed in England during World War II. Sarah Sundin followed an unusual career path for a novelist, receiving a bachelor’s in chemistry from UCLA and a doctorate in pharmacy from UC San Francisco. She now lives in northern California with her husband, three children, an antisocial cat, and a yellow lab determined to eat her manuscripts. When not driving kids to soccer and tennis, she works on-call as a hospital pharmacist and teaches women’s Bible studies and fourth- and fifth-grade Sunday school. She has been writing since 2000 and belongs to American Christian Fiction Writers and Christian Authors Network. She is the author of the Wings of Glory series – A Distant Melody (Revell 2010), A Memory Between Us (2010), and Blue Skies Tomorrow (August 2011). In 2011 she received the Writer of the Year Award from the Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference. A Memory Between Us was featured on Booklist’s Top Ten Inspirational Fiction List for 2010.

   Tricia Goyer’s “The Liberator Series”, includes “From Dust and Ashes”, “Night Song”, “Dawn of a Thousand Nights”, and “Arms of Deliverance”. Four different tales, rich in authentic historical detail, connected by the WWII setting. Tricia Goyer is the author of twenty-six books including Beside Still Waters, The Swiss Courier, and the mommy memoir, Blue Like Play Dough. She won Historical Novel of the Year in 2005 and 2006 from ACFW, and was honored with the Writer of the Year award from Mt. Hermon Writer’s Conference in 2003. Tricia’s book Life Interrupted was a finalist for the Gold Medallion in 2005. In addition to her novels, Tricia writes non-fiction books and magazine articles for publications like MomSense and Thriving Family. Tricia is a regular speaker at conventions and conferences, and has been a workshop presenter at the MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers) International Conventions. She and her family make their home in Little Rock, Arkansas where they are part of the ministry of FamilyLife. Visit for more about Tricia and her books.

  It has been a while since I have read a book where the overall story was the star, and the characters were necessary components to reach the final page. I enjoyed “Restoration”, by Olaf Olafsson, very much. The human failings and strengths of each character add shaded complexities to the horrific World War II story line. The contrast of the settings of glorious Tuscany and the destruction from bombing, killing and marauding invaders is piercing. There is no hero or heroine in this story, but a collection of people and lives that you hope will somehow be set to rights. There are secrets, betrayals, devastating loss, and mysteries which propel the characters toward resolutions and new beginnings. Alice is the wealthy daughter of a class-conscious British family. She shocks everyone by marrying Claudio, an entitled minor-landowner, and moving with him to Tuscany. They begin their life together in a once-beautiful villa in need of much repair. As they work side by side to build a dream life, they try to ignore their underlying differences. A much-loved son, Giovanni, is born, and they find a measure of contentment. However, as the villa and its lands begin to flourish, more and more demands are made upon both Claudio and Alice. He is very much a man of the land and his dependents, and she begins to long for tastes of the life she left behind. She recklessly reaches out for greater fulfillment, and yet she is not without guilt and self-recrimination. The illness and eventual death of young Giovanni pushes Claudio and Alice further apart. Her intended reparation to their marriage is halted by Claudio’s strange disappearance. Alice is left to manage the villa and its lands with the help of a devoted family friend, Pritchett. As the war progresses, more and more seekers of sanctuary descend upon Alice and her home. One of them, a young woman named Kristin, comes bearing a serious wound and deep secrets which could gravely affect many in their wake. The effects of our actions and missteps are very much evident here, and those with survivor guilt must find a way to move forward. Chose to live, and live the life you are given. This is a book which will make you want to read it all in one setting. You will want to know how the final pieces of the puzzle fall into place. A very good read.

  Just as the garden of “Winter Bloom” is lovingly and skillfully brought back to life, so are the lives of the characters revived and renewed. Tara Heavey tells the story of five people who work together toward a common goal and discover much about themselves and each other along the way. When young widowed mother Eva Madigan spies the sadly neglected walled garden of the elderly Mrs. Prendergast, she is struck by the desire to restore the wasted space to its former glory. It takes some convincing, and Mrs. Prendergast warns her that the garden is meant to be sold, but Eva is given permission for her project. She places an ad at the grocer for help with a community garden, and only two people respond to the ad: Uri, a distinguished older gentleman, and Emily, the clerk from the grocer. Soon they are joined by Uri’s son Seth, and after a time, even Mrs. Prendergast begins to help with the work. Each of the gardeners has been touched by tragedy, and their individual stories are woven throughout the telling of the restoration. Uri, a tailor by trade, was taught much by his own father, who was a master gardener. Seth, who inherited his love of cultivating the soil from his father and grandfather, has his own landscaping business. Emily, stuck in her clerk’s job, longs to further her education and move on with her life. Mrs. Prendergast, a lady of impeccable social grace, is nonetheless rumored to have killed her husband and buried him somewhere in the garden. It is her greedy, needy son, Lance, who is pressuring her to sell the land. Eva’s husband took their baby daughter for a drive to settle her crying, and they were both killed in a terrible accident. Eva was left to care for their young son, Liam, and to manage her survivor guilt. These are remarkable people, trying their best to live “ordinary” lives. I was touched by their heartaches, and I celebrated with them their joys. Their shared experience was an affirmation of life, not only for the characters, but also for the reader. I will definitely read more work by the wonderful storyteller, Tara Heavey!

  Prepare to have your eyes opened, your heart broken, and your view of the amazing endurance of the human spirit revised and revived. You will experience all of these things when you read Rosie Alison’s “The Very Thought of You”. A shattering, yet spirit-sustaining, glimpse into loss and survivorship, this is a story which will resonate with many. Few will be unaffected. In the summer of 1939, with the impending threats of WWII devastation looming large, thousands of children were evacuated from London, sent to safer locations in the surrounding countryside. These children were torn from their homes and separated from their parents, and no one could be certain what the future would hold. “The Very Thought of You” focuses on one such child, Anna Sands, relocated to the wealthy manor home of Thomas and Elizabeth Ashton. Childless themselves, the Ashtons welcome the children and provide them with care and an education. It is the gallant and gentle Thomas who becomes a touchstone in Anna’s life. He is a man who suffers great loss and unspeakable tragedy, yet he lives his life with appreciation for the beauty he sees among the devastation. True love comes to Thomas in midlife, but it is not a love with whom he will be allowed to share life on earth. However, even death cannot dim the luminescence of this love. Your heart will ache for Thomas, but his soul remains undaunted through it all. As with many who have experienced the shock of wartime desolation, Anna searches throughout her life for real peace of mind. As a married adult, with children of her own, Anna finds some measure of comfort in reconnecting with Thomas. They form a somewhat tentative, but still caring relationship, keeping touch in letters and Christmas cards. Ultimately, Anna’s search for fulfillment will come full circle and bring her once again to Ashton Manor. As the song says: “The very thought of you, and I forget to do those little ordinary things that everyone ought to do….”. This story and these characters are neither little nor ordinary. They will stay in the reader’s consciousness for a very long time.

  “The Soldier’s Wife” by Margaret Leroy is a thoughtful, well-told tale based on the true German occupation of the small Channel Island of Guernsey during World War II. After I read the novel, I researched the facts of the occupation, and the real story is just as compelling as the fictional account. Reading them both enhances the collective story content. Vivienne de la Mare is the wife of an English soldier, and she and her two daughters live with her mother-in-law at the family home in Guernsey. Vivienne’s husband was absent from her life long before he went off to war. His affair with an actress alienated him from Vivienne’s heart. Left to care for her mother-in-law, who is rapidly succumbing to dementia, Vivienne makes life as pleasant as possible for her two young daughters. When the German occupation arrives in an intense and violent manner, many rapid changes occur in the life of the islanders. German soldiers take over the empty house next to Vivienne’s, and she becomes involved with one the officers. Theirs is a poignant, passionate, and ultimately improbable affair. During the time of the occupation, Vivienne is faced with many difficult decisions, some of which may have dangerous consequences for those she loves. “The Soldier’s Wife” is written in a beautifully descriptive style, and it offers glimpses into both sides of the horror of the Second World War. The shades of survivorship are well represented. My mother and grandparents often talked about food shortages and rationing during the Great Depression and also later during World War II. My grandparents were very resourceful, skilled in gardening and preserving food, and they were practical in making the most of what was available. As a matter of survival, the characters in “The Soldier’s Wife” had to learn to do the same thing. Used to the bountiful produce from the land and the sea, and the superior dairy products from the famous Guernsey cows, the islanders suddenly were faced with scrambling to find substitutions for everyday foods. They learned to use vegetables in many different ways including making flour from dried ground beans and coffee from roasted and ground parsnips. I am not sure that I would be that resourceful, but we never know what we are capable of until we are faced with great challenges. One of my favorite scenes in “The Soldier’s Wife” involves the rapture of Vivienne’s struggling family’s enjoyment of an unexpected gift of overripe peaches. The fruit was sweet and succulent, and it seemed like a taste of Heaven. The juice from the peaches ran freely down their chins as they gratefully devoured their fruity treasure.

More reading recommendations:

“The Bungalow” by Sarah Jio (author of “The Violets of March”):
“A sweeping World War II saga of thwarted love, murder, and a long-lost painting. In the summer of 1942, twenty-one-year-old Anne Calloway, newly engaged, sets off to serve in the Army Nurse Corps on the Pacific island of Bora-Bora. More exhilarated by the adventure of a lifetime than she ever was by her predictable fiancé, she is drawn to a mysterious soldier named Westry, and their friendship soon blossoms into hues as deep as the hibiscus flowers native to the island. Under the thatched roof of an abandoned beach bungalow, the two share a private world-until they witness a gruesome crime, Westry is suddenly redeployed, and the idyll vanishes into the winds of war. A timeless story of enduring passion, The Bungalow chronicles Anne’s determination to discover the truth about the twin losses-of life, and of love-that have haunted her for seventy years.”

“The House at Tyneford” by Natasha Solomons:
It’s the spring of 1938 and no longer safe to be a Jew in Vienna. Nineteen-year-old Elise Landau is forced to leave her glittering life of parties and champagne to become a parlor maid in England. She arrives at Tyneford, the great house on the bay, where servants polish silver and serve drinks on the lawn. But war is coming, and the world is changing. When the master of Tyneford’s young son, Kit, returns home, he and Elise strike up an unlikely friendship that will transform Tyneford-and Elise-forever.


“The Lost Wife” by Alyson Richman:
A rapturous new novel of first love in a time of war-from the celebrated author of The Last Van Gogh. In pre-war Prague, the dreams of two young lovers are shattered when they are separated by the Nazi invasion. Then, decades later, thousands of miles away in New York, there’s an inescapable glance of recognition between two strangers. Providence is giving Lenka and Josef one more chance. From the glamorous ease of life in Prague before the Occupation, to the horrors of Nazi Europe, The Lost Wife explores the power of first love, the resilience of the human spirit- and the strength of memory.

“Letters From Home” by Kristina McMorris:
Liz Stephen’s life changes when she meets infantryman Morgan McClain at a Chicago USO club. Liz has long expected to marry her childhood friend, Dalton, yet her instant attraction to Morgan is mutual. But when she misinterprets Morgan’s chivalrous rescue of her friend Betty, she flees without explanation. When Betty begins corresponding with Morgan, she asks for Liz’s help. Soon, Morgan and Liz, under Betty’s alias, are exchanging soul-baring letters. Betty, serving in the Woman’s Army Corps, finds unexpected romance of her own, as does Liz’s engaged best friend Julia. But as the war ends, each woman faces the repercussions of her choices. Inspired by the true story of her grandparents’ epistolary courtship during World War II, Kristina McMorris captures the heartache and sacrifice of love and war in a story that is timeless, tender, and unforgettably moving.