Tuesday, May 23, 2017

2nd Annual British Blooms and Books Giveaway!

Hello, gentle reader, and welcome to the second annual British Blooms and Books giveaway! This week, we’d like to celebrate the Royal Horticultural Society’s Chelsea Flower Show. After enjoying this post, please visit each of the other five authors’ blogs (links provided below) and, after a bit of reading fun, follow one simple instruction and then leave a comment on each blog. You’ll be entered to win a fabulous, British Blooms and Books prize. (US winners only, please, due to shipping the petit fours.) Enjoy, and thank you for stopping by!

There's nothing quite like an English garden. On my tour of the Cotswolds and Cornwall (with a brief stop in Devonshire) last autumn, my family enjoyed little more than being set free to explore the beautiful grounds of the houses we toured, or frolicking about the rugged cliffs of Land's End.

We saw the stunning terraced gardens of St. Michael's Mount, in Cornwall, from above.

We saw the most perfect rose, still wet with rain, in the gardens of a manor house that had once been an abbey, in the Cotswolds.

We wandered the paths of Knightshayes's expansive gardens in Devonshire.

But for all the beauty and appeal of a formal flowerbed, of carefully plotted and potted and planted gardens, sometimes it's the wild that appeals most to us. Sometimes it's the accidental beauty, or the little bits that God positioned just so for us. Perhaps it's the purple heather or the yellow-sprigged gorse or the white wildflowers growing beside a cliff...

Or perhaps it's something as simple as a dandelion--a little burst of yellow blooming where it shouldn't. A little ray of sunshine, too often overlooked or dismissed as a nuisance.

In A Lady Unrivaled, Ella is quite determined not to be charmed by the scowling Lord Cayton, who has broken too many hearts before--fortuitous, because Cayton is quite determined not to do any charming. But when an impromptu walk through the gardens of Ralin Castle, still not quite in bloom, lead them out to the gardener's shed, they happen upon one of those weeds that the gardener would no doubt obliterate.

Just a dandelion. Nothing special. But when Cayton's toddler daughter shows delight with the spot of yellow, Cayton picks two of them. Gives one to his daughter and hands the other to Ella.

An admission that sometimes, as Ella had just insisted, you can find a reason to smile even when you shouldn't. That sometimes, even when there are clouds overhead, you can find a little patch of sunshine.

Sometimes, what the world dismisses can be the most treasured beauty of all.

Ella's optimism is perhaps what makes her A Lady Unrivaled . . . and Cayton's moods can't ever stand long against her. I hope you have a chance to read more about this unlikely couple, and the other adventures they have in a Cotswolds garden--not to mention the dangers and adventure they face as they work together to trap a villain haunting both their families. PLEASE SIGN UP FOR MY NEWSLETTER (current subscribers, you've already done this step!) and comment below for a chance to win A Lady Unrivaled as well as the other amazing books in the giveaway, plus a sweet set of tea hat petit fours to enjoy while you read!

Giveaway Rules:
Photo from Divine Delights
One grand prize winner who comments on each of the six authors’ blogs and agrees to the one boldfaced condition posted at the end of each post will win a signed copy of each of the books plus delivery of six English hat petit fours to enjoy while you read! Name will be drawn via random.org

Finished? Well done! Please visit these other fabulous authors of England-set historicals to see what flowers mean to them and their heroines.


Monday, May 22, 2017

Word of the Week - Boss and Bossy

This isn't one of those words I expected to be surprised by--but I was.

So. Waaaay back in the day, in the 1300s, the word boss was in English. But it was a noun meaning "a protuberance, a button." It came from the French boce, which meant "something swollen or protruding."

For nearly 350 years, that was the only boss in the English language...until American English adopted the same word in imitation of the Dutch baas, which means "overseer." Americans, you see, had an interest in a word other than "master" for someone in charge of a workplace, especially to distinguish between slave and paid labor. So around 1640, boss became the American term for an overseer, especially on a ship.

It wasn't until 1856 that boss is recorded as a verb. And not until 1882 that bossy became a word. (Though back in the Middle Ages, bossy was used to mean "something decorated with buttons." Wee bit different meaning there!) So all in all, a much newer word than I thought, with a far different meaning before the familiar one came about!


D O N ' T   F O R G E T !


I'm going live on Facebook at 7 p.m. EDT to talk about A Soft Breath of Wind. Which has some of my all-time favorite elements and characters in it, and I'm so excited to chat with you about Zipporah and Samuel and Benjamin and Dara!


The 2nd Annual British Books and Blooms will go live!

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Thoughtful About . . . Doing All Things Through Him

Last weekend, my dad preached on a rather familiar passage in Philippians 4. His sermon was great, focusing on how God can conquer any of our weaknesses and enable us to do the work He calls us to. It was a message full of things you just want to shout "Amen!" to. (You can watch it here if you need this reminder right now.)

But something struck me as he just read the passage at the start of the sermon. Something that hadn't quite ever struck me this way before. Let's look at Phil 4:11-13.

I've read this verse in context countless times. But before, every time I reached verse 13, I defaulted to "Oh, I've memorized this one!" So I just recite to myself as that mantra, that motto, that reminder that with Christ, I can conquer anything the world throws at me.


But last weekend, I read it differently. Because this verse isn't just about conquering and coming out on top, right? It's about withstanding. It's about existing in ways we might not deem good.

It's not just about Jesus helping you find food.
It's about Him sustaining you through times of hunger.

It's not just about Jesus helping you defeat your enemies.
It's about Him holding you close when they win.

It's not just about Jesus giving you enough.
It's about Him giving you strength when there isn't enough.

Paul says time and again how much he's suffered for the sake of the cross, and for the first time, as I read this I realized it was another example of it. Another way that Paul says, "Listen, friends. Sometimes we have and sometimes we don't. But in all times, He's there. And through Him, we can learn to thrive even in those bad times. We can be content without 'enough.' We can be content in pain. We can be content when the world hates us."

Yes, He does also give us the strength to do. To fight, to be brave, to overcome our limitations and be used by Him. He enables us to answer the call He puts on our lives.

But sometimes, He also just gives us the strength to be, when we don't feel like it. He fills us when by rights we should be drained. He teaches us how to greet with peace a tumultuous, bitter world that will abuse us.

Sometimes the only victory we can cling to is that Christ is in us.
And that's enough.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Remember When . . . Rosemary and Peter Arrived!

It's always an exciting day when the first copy of a book arrives in the mail. For A Name Unknown, that day came over a week ago--a shocking two months before release. Not only did it make my day, it was a complete surprise.

Some things are always just a bit different than expected when you hold the final copy in your hands. The back cover copy may have been tweaked slightly, for instance...

It's a bit blurrier than I wanted in this image, but here's what it says:

She's Out to Steal His Name.
Will He Steal Her Heart Instead?

Rosemary Gresham has no family beyond the band of former urchins that helped her survive as a girl in the mean streets of London. Grown now, they are no longer pickpockets--instead they focus on high-value items and have learned how to blend into upper-class society. Rosemary is beginning to questions whether she can continue in this life when she's offered the challenge of a lifetime--determine whether a certain wealthy gentleman is loyal to Britain or to Germany. After all how does one steal a family's history, their very name?

As Europe moves ever closer to World War I, rumors swirl around Peter Holstein. Awkward and solitary, but with access to the king, many fear his influence. But Peter can't help his German last name and wants to prove his loyalty to the Crown--so he can go back to anonymously writing a series of popular adventure novels. When Rosemary arrives on his doorstep pretending to be a well-credentialed historian, peter believes she's the right person to help him dig through his family's past.

When danger and suspicion continue to mount, both realize they're in a race against time to discover the truth--about Peter's past and about the undeniable attraction kindling between them.
Then there's the spine--I had no idea what that would look like, but I LOVE it. They used Big Ben's clock tower for the series, and that London icon plays an especially important role in book 3 (which I'm writing now), so it's awesome to see it there!

The editors at Bethany House always include a little note with the first copy as well. I have 4 of these cards now, and I always keep them in that book, put it on a shelf, and treasure it. My previous three cards were all written by Karen Schurrer, who has since retired from Bethany House. Dave Long is now my main editor, so this one had a new script, a new personality. So fun to see his well wishes and add them to my collection!

And then there are those interior pages. There's nothing in the world like flipping through them in a bound book!

And there we have it. =) I'm so excited for the release of this book, which is SO much fun. I pray you guys all enjoy it!

I'll be highlighting different aspects of the book in the weeks leading up to release. For now though, I just wanted to share some images from the very first, fresh-off-the-presses copy!