Not Your Average Romance

While straight romance reads may not be my favorite, I do like a a little romance thrown into stories. Even Steven James’ thrillers have small elements of romance. I enjoy stories with unique protagonists, stories in which the romance is secondary to the main plot, yet still vital. Below are a few of my favorites because of their uniqueness.

JANE EYRE (Charlotte Bronte) – I love the atypical heroine in Jane Eyre. Not the modelesque heroines we’ve come to expect in modern day stories, but someone plain, someone relatable.

A VOICE IN THE WIND (Francine Rivers) – Another unique heroine–Hadassah certainly wouldn’t win any beauty contests, but that’s what makes the attraction between Hadassah and Marcus Valerian so captivating.

THE MISTRESS OF TALL ACRE (Laura Frantz) – I could probably put all of Laura’s books on my favorite romance list, but I’ll stick to one and choose her most recent. Laura’s musical prose and her exquisite settings are enough to draw me in every time, so her multi-faceted characters and page-turning stories are like the cherry on top.

MY STUBBORN HEART (Becky Wade) – This introduction to Becky’s writing made me a forever fan. The story’s a bit edgier than your typical Christian romance, which is, naturally, why I enjoyed it so much. Her Porter series is also very good, but My Stubborn Heart remains my favorite.

DANCE OF GRACE (Stacy Monson) – The heroine is a one-legged dancer, and the hero is an ex-con. Does Christian romance get more unique than that? Seriously, that’s all I need to hear to know that this is a must-read romance.

Have you read any of these romances? What are your five favorite romances?

Toe-Curlin’ Cowboys

I’m rip-roarin’ excited to hold Shannon Vannatter’s new release, RODEO REGRETS in my hand! As her critique partner, I’m privileged to see her books in their early stages, so it’s always fun reading that polished version.

(You can order a copy of RODEO REGRETS at Christianbook.com, Barnes & Noble, or at Amazon.com. And don’t forget, if you’d love to win a copy of RODEO REGRETS, see the contest rules below.)

For those of you who haven’t checked out Shannon’s toe-curlin’ cowboy romance, here’s a teaser:

NATALIE WENTWORTH’S PAST IS ABOUT TO CATCH UP WITH HER

Natalie once dreamed of finding true love. Then Lane Gray broke her heart. After running wild to fill the emptiness inside her, she heads back to her hometown to heal. But when she sees the cowboy she once loved so much, she finds him hard to resist.

Lane Gray is a changed man. The handsome cowboy wants Natalie’s forgiveness-and more. Natalie has made plenty of mistakes in her life, but so has Lane. Could falling for each other again be the worst one yet? Or the path to redemption?

Undeniably Yours

Doesn’t that just make you want to run down to your local store and lasso a copy? And if you want to read about more toe-curling cowboys, here’s a title you have to check out: UNDENIABLY YOURS by Becky Wade. Becky Wade galloped onto the  Christian fiction scene last year with the widely successful MY STUBBORN HEART. She followed that up with the first of her Texas cowboy series (the Porter Family series). Sneak a peek at this fun romance:

When Meg Cole’s father dies unexpectedly, she becomes the majority shareholder of his oil company and the single inheritor of his fortune. Though Meg is soft-spoken and tenderhearted–more interested in art than in oil–she’s forced to return home to Texas and to Whispering Creek Ranch to take up the reins of her father’s empire.

The last thing she has the patience or the sanity to deal with? Her father’s thoroughbred racehorse farm. She gives its manager, Bo Porter, six months to close the place down.

Bo’s determined to resent the woman who’s decided to rob him of his dream. But instead of anger, Meg evokes within him a profound desire to protect. The more time he spends with her, the more he longs to overcome every obstacle that separates them–her wealth, his unworthiness, her family’s outrage–and earn the right to love her.

But just when Meg begins to realize that Bo might be the one thing on the ranch worth keeping, their fragile bond is viciously broken by a force from Meg’s past. Can their love–and their belief that God can work through every circumstance–survive?

Now doesn’t that sound like a book you’d like to rustle up? Can your recommend any toe-curlin’ cowboy novels? If so, I’d love for you to share their titles in the comments below.

Rodeo Regrets

*** Book Giveaway ***

Shannon has generously offered to give away two copies of Rodeo Regrets to readers who comment during this two week series (beginning July 1, 2013). The contest ends on Friday, July 12, 2013 at midnight. Be sure to stop by every day for a rip-roaring good time, and remember, every time you comment, you’ll get another entry in the drawing. Yee-haw!

Dazzling Debuts in 2012

There’s nothing I enjoy more than finding new, gifted authors, and 2012 has introduced several who have earned a second look. There’s something for every taste, so if you’re clueless about what to get that special someone, try one of these books and support a new author.

Becky Wade, in her first novel for the Christian market, My Stubborn Heart, set a new standard for romance authors. I love her gritty story and authentic characters! Her next novel, Undeniably Yours, comes out in April and is available for pre-order. I will be first in line to get this one!

Another author who reset the level for romance writers is Katie Ganshert. Her Wildflowers from Winter was poetically written and the characters were true to life. I also loved the small town, Iowa farm setting. Having grown up on a farm in Minnesota, the setting really resonated with me. Katie’s next work, Wishing on Willows, also comes out in April of 2013 and is available to pre-order.

Kellie Coates Gilbert took a gritty look at life in her debut, Mother of Pearl. The story is about a mother who finds out her high school-aged daughter has been having a relationship with a football coach. It’s not easy reading, but Gilbert deals with the topic with a gentle, yet instructive hand. You’ll want to read this book with tissues handy.

Women writers weren’t the only ones with dazzling debuts. Todd M. Johnson, a Twin City attorney, delivered a fascinating legal thriller, The Deposit Slip. I especially liked that his courtroom scenes weren’t long and drawn out as legal fiction has a tendency to do. And Johnson deftly developed likable characters we could root for.

M.K. Gilroy is not a stranger to the publishing world, but Cuts Like a Knife is his first venture as a novelist, a successful venture at that. Gilroy introduced us to Detective Kristen Connor, a dedicated, sometimes cynical cop with a quirky but close family. Gilroy even throws in a hint of romance. Gilroy followed up Cuts Like a Knife with another winner that came out this fall, Every Breath You Take, which again stars Kristen Connor.

Did you discover any debut authors this year?

Talking Romance with Becky Wade

Brenda here: I discovered Becky Wade this past spring when her debut novel in Christian fiction, My Stubborn Heart, released. Her book hooked me from the enchanting prologue and kept me fascinated until the end. I love her authentic characters and situations–they come across as very real. This is one of those rare books that should appeal across genre lines. My husband even enjoyed it. 🙂 It’s become so popular that it made August’s CBA Bestseller List! I cannot wait for Becky’s next book!

So, I’m very excited that Becky agreed to an interview. And she’s offered to give away (1) autographed copy of My Stubborn Heart to one lucky commenter. I’m also throwing in a small box of See’s Candy, Becky’s favorite. To enter, leave a comment below. The contest ends this Saturday, August 25th at midnight. The winner will be announced on Sunday, August 26th.

Now, without further delay, here’s Becky Wade.

Hi Becky, thank you so much for stopping by Inkspirational Messages today. We’re excited to get to know you! Could you tell us a little bit about yourself and your family?

I’m a California girl who attended Baylor University where I got a degree in business (Ha!  Never used that.) and met a college boy from Texas.  After graduation, I married the Texas boy and he and I lived overseas for four years in the Caribbean and Australia.

When we returned to the U.S., we settled in Dallas.  My husband is the Athletic Director at a racquet club.  We have three children (a daughter who’s 11, a son who’s 8, a daughter who’s 3).  I spend most of my time keeping the planet of my household spinning.  This includes glamorous tasks like grocery shopping, cleaning, cooking, driving kids places, chasing my toddler in circles, and nagging my older children until they finish their homework.

Oh, I can relate to the job of keeping that household planet spinning, albeit my children are a tad bit older. Somewhere amid your household planet spinning, you found time to write. I love hearing about authors’ journeys. Could you describe your path to publication?

I’d always been a reader, but it was during my years abroad that it first occurred to me to try my hand at writing.  From the start, I loved it.  I loved the creativity it demanded, the challenge inherent in the work, the joy of dreaming up people, conflicts, settings, dialogue.

Like most beginners, though, I wasn’t any good at it.  Not at all!

What I did have?  Determination.

I wrote, went to conferences, solicited critiques, wrote, sent off query letters and proposals, wrote, entered contests.  I completed four long historical romance manuscripts in four years and compiled a towering stack of rejection letters until — on one magical day — a New York city editor called and told me she wanted to publish my novel.  I eventually released three historical romances for the general market.

I understand your historical releases were published several years ago.  Why did you take the time off between writing them and My Stubborn Heart? And Why did you change to the Christian market?

I’d been writing for six years straight, the last two years under the pressure of deadlines, when my first child arrived.  Well!  That threw me for a loop.

In those early weeks of caring for a newborn, I felt overwhelmed, sleep deprived, frazzled, and burned out on writing.  When my publisher declined my proposal for a new contract I knew that God was telling me that He didn’t want me to write any more secular novels.  I also knew, in that season, that He wanted me to concentrate on mothering.

I quit writing. On the one had, to let go of that responsibility came as a relief.  But on the other, a heartbreak.  I’d abandoned my career as an author, with all it’s early hope and promise, on the side of the road.  Broken.

For seven years, I didn’t write a page.  It was all I could do, usually more than I could do, to take care of my little ones.  I was certain I’d never write again. But God has the authority to bring things back to life, does He not?

Gradually, over time, the Lord began to move in my heart during church services.  I’d be standing, singing praise songs, and I’d sense Him telling me, It’s time, Becky.  It’s time to try to write again.  You’re not done.  I have plans for you.

So I cleared my schedule during the hours when my kids were at school and pre-school.  I sat down at my computer, kicked off the rust from all those years away, and wrote.

This time, I knew for sure that God meant for me to write for the Christian market.  What’s wonderful to me is the way that He equipped me.  Once He called me back to writing, He met me faithfully day after day at that computer.  He assured me that my past mistakes were forgiven and that He delighted in giving me a second chance.  He supplied everything, including a renewed passion within me, for the work.  He let me know that my job was to pen the novel, and that He’d take care of the rest.

Sure enough, when I finished My Stubborn Heart, the first agent I sent it to agreed to represent it.  And the very first editor she sent it to bought it for publication.

After reading My Stubborn Heart, I’m not surprised that you had immediate success with it. I absolutely loved it! Could you tell our readers what the story is about?

It’s about a single girl (Kate) who sets out to renovate an old and charming estate that’s been in her family for generations.  When she meets the contractor for the project (Matt), she learns that he’s an ex-pro hockey player still devastated from the death of his wife three years prior.

Kate quickly realizes that Matt needs even more restoration work than the house.  So she determines to help bring him back to life and to hope.

Matt has no intention of leaving his prison of grief.  Nor does he want to open his heart to Kate.

But as we all know….

God’s will is unavoidable.

Apparently I’m not the only one who loves My Stubborn Heart as it made CBA’s August 2012 Best Seller List! Congratulations!

Thank you!  My Stubborn Heart’s placement on that list came as a wonderful surprise.

To what do you attribute its success?

God’s grace, first and above all.

I think the book appeals to readers for two reasons:

1) It’s a Love Story.  Capital L, capital S!  In My Stubborn Heart the romance isn’t a sub-plot.  It is the plot.  I believe that there are lots of women out there who are (like me) crazy about emotional, gripping, and satisfying love stories.

2) It’s a faith story.  God’s role in the book gives the book whatever power or depth it possesses.

Aside from it’s success, My Stubborn Heart has been the target of some controversy as some reviewers claimed it used mild expletives. Plus you had poker-playing adults and Halloween celebrations (gasp!). Having read the book and finding nothing wrong with it, the controversy took me completely by surprise. Did it surprise you?

Yes, the controversy completely surprised me also.

I knew that I had a humorous, modern, and blunt author’s voice.  But I didn’t imagine that anyone would find what I’d written offensive.  In my opinion, the book is very clean.

I would agree, Becky. Do you attribute some of your sales’ success to the controversy?

Yes, I do. But only because God has the power to redeem any situation, no matter how negative, for good.

Several bloggers who wouldn’t have otherwise looked twice at My Stubborn Heart suddenly decided to feature it on their blogs.  Discussions, comments, and opinions flew.

To be honest, it was hard for me.  I tried to stay out of the fray.  And I prayed.

Sounds like you responded with wisdom. I’m curious, what are you currently working on?

I’m currently working on what will be my third book for Bethany House.  It’s tentatively titled Worth The Wait and it’s about a single mom and a professional bull rider.

Fun! Our own Shannon Vannatter has written a rodeo series and it’s proven very popular. I’m sure Worth the Wait will excite readers too. But before your bull rider book, you’ve another novel coming out. When does it release, and what is it about?

My next book is called Undeniably Yours and it’ll be out in May.  Bethany House has been incredibly good to me.  They’re allowing to me do something I’ve longed to do for ages — write a series! Undeniably Yours will be the first in a group of four novels.  Each one will tell the love story of one of the four siblings in the Porter family, a group of larger-than-life Texans.

Undeniably Yours is about an heiress who takes over control of her father’s Thoroughbred racehorse farm.  If only she could control the (very hunky) cowboy who manages it as easily!

Oh, I can’t wait to read it! When you’re not writing, what do you enjoy doing?

I love to read in the tub, play tennis, get a pedicure, eat out, watch romantic movies, and lie on the sofa enjoying So You Think You Can Dance and other cerebral TV shows.

As a mom with young children, you deserve that break with the cerebral shows. 🙂 Now for a fun question. What is your favorite food?

Well, I’m a chocoholic and adore See’s Chocolates.  But since I’ve divulged that secret in other places, I’ll tell you that I’m also fanatical about homemade biscuits.  Love love love them with butter.  I put jelly on some, honey on some and I eat them alongside eggs, bacon, coffee.  MMmm……

That sounds delicious! Now I’m hungry.

Thanks so much for stopping by today, Becky! It’s been a pleasure getting to know you better.

~*~*~

Becky Wade makes her home in Dallas, Texas with her husband, three children, and one adoring (and adored) cavalier spaniel. Her inspirational contemporary romance, My Stubborn Heart, has just been released by Bethany House.

Web Site: www.beckywade.com

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/authorbeckywade

MY STUBBORN HEART description:

Kate Donovan is burned out on work, worn down by her dating relationships, and in need of an adventure. When her grandmother asks her to accompany her to Redbud, Pennsylvania, to restore the grand old house she grew up in, Kate jumps at the chance.

Upon her arrival in Redbud, Kate meets Matt Jarreau, the man hired to renovate the house. Kate can’t help being attracted to him, drawn by both his good looks and something else she can’t quite put her finger on. He’s clearly wounded–hiding from people, from God, and from his past. Yet Kate sets her stubborn heart on bringing him out of the dark and back into the light… whether he likes it or not.

When the stilted, uncomfortable interactions between Kate and Matt slowly shift into something more, is God finally answering the longing of her heart? Or will Kate be required to give up more than she ever dreamed?