September 29, 2016

A Lady Unrivaled by Roseanna White | My Review

The mark of a truly great book--and author--is when you don't want to see it end. And this is how I feel upon finishing A Lady Unrivaled. Roseanna has outdone herself with this conclusion to her Ladies of the Manor series--where we finally once and for all get to see the end of the Fire Eyes diamond intrigue. This book also allows the reader to re-meet the past books' beloved characters and their families, get to know new characters, old characters with 180-turnarounds of redemption--and one of the latter just happens to be the now-unrivaled in my book, Cayton.

Oh my gosh. I thought Brice from A Reluctant Duchess was my all-time fictional crush. He still ranks way high up on my lengthy list. But Cayton. CAYTON. While we technically met him in The Lost Heiress and saw him again fleetingly in book two, now we get a front-row seat to this redeemed, poignantly and endearingly imperfect but dashing hero's heart. A heart deeper than his title, lands or riches--a heart working to grow past the regrets of his past, be involved as a loving parent in his daughter's life--and a heart that is (mostly) patient with one Lady Ella who is constantly getting lost.
Lady Ella Myerston is Brice's younger sister--another character we got to meet in the earlier books and oh, when the news broke that this third and final book was about her, I was thrilled. In Roseanna's author's note she confesses that this is the heroine most similar to herself. Which explains why I love Ella so much.
Ella is truly a lady unrivaled. She is bold, so very lovable, and has a huge, open heart and a joy that emanates from page one. It has been a while since I felt such a true kinship and desire to be friends with a fictional character as I did with Ella.

Now Ella and Cayton together. Oh the sparks. It takes a deft hand to craft such unique sparks riddled with both foreshadowing and meaning from their "meet-cute" and onward through the story. Ella reminded me a lot of Belle from Beauty and the Beast with her cheeriness and bookish ways, while Cayton--redeemed, complicated, occasional grump with a hidden enormous and creative heart--reminded me of The Beast. Just a tad. Their witty repartee was positively delightful, and I loved loved loved how Ella drew him out

Perhaps my favorite part and quite frankly, a part of the essence of grace with how God sees us, His works in progress, is this.
Cayton asks Ella, "You know nothing about me. Why are you so determined to believe in me?"
Ella thinks a moment, considers and admits her "cliche attraction," until she arrived at the only answer that came to her mind. "Someone has to."

I could just keep gushing and gushing and give away far too many spoilers about this wonderful story and its characters, so I will leave you with this. Iif you like/miss Downton Abbey--pick up this series of books.
All the mysteries, the upstairs-downstairs tête-à-têtes, secrets revealed, and the delectable drama with such redemptive themes threaded through out this novel makes it a truly unrivaled book, a tender, and blithe romance. My favorite of the entire series.

 Lady Ella Myerston can always find a reason to smile--even if it's just in hope that tomorrow will be better than today. All her life everyone has tried to protect her from the realities of the world, but Ella knows very well the danger that has haunted her brother and their friend, and she won't wait for it to strike again. She intends to take action . . . and if that happens to involve an adventurous trip to the Cotswolds, then so much the better.

Lord Cayton has already broken two hearts, including that of his first wife, who died before he could convince himself to love her. Now he's determined to live a better life. But that proves complicated when old friends arrive on the scene and try to threaten him into a life of crime. He does his best to remove the intriguing Lady Ella from danger, but the stubborn girl won't budge. How else can he redeem himself, though, but by saving her--and his daughter--from those dangerous people who seem ready to destroy them all? 

Roseanna M. White pens her novels beneath her Betsy Ross flag, with her Jane Austen action figure watching over her. When not writing fiction, she’s homeschooling her two small children, editing and designing, and pretending her house will clean itself. Roseanna is the author of a slew of historical novels and novellas, ranging from biblical fiction to American-set romances to her new British series. Spies and war and mayhem always seem to make their way into her novels…to offset her real life, which is blessedly boring. You can learn more about her and her stories at

September 26, 2016

Lady Bosses, Superwomen and Cheerleaders, Oh My!

It has been a most gloriously busy, nervewracking, stretching-out-of-comfort zone, strengthening, patience-trying, humbling, experience-gleaning month. 
As I am prayerfully preparing to re-enter the workforce on two good hips (prayers that God comes through sooner rather than later, please?) I tend to get overwhelmed. With a conglomeration of conflicting emotions. The biggest overwhelming one being--how to balance it all. It's going to be a lot of transition and readjusting, being increasingly aware of my time management, my procrastinator tendencies and focus. Is it getting warm in here or is it just me?
Don't get me wrong I am stoked to see what God has next for me and have been knocking on a ton of doors to try and discern what exactly that is. A lot. Of. Doors.
But um, wow. I've never worked full time yet and balanced my writing. I am up for the challenge, God will equip me to what He has inspired in my heart for me to do--write--but...yeah.
It's been keeping me up at night with a fog of underlying anxiety, wondering as I wander a bit here. But I'm not here to talk about me, but about the tribe of women I am so stinking crazy blessed to know. Many of whom I got to meet in person for the first time this last month between the CFRR and ACFW conferences and this past weekend--the second annual Writing to Inspire Workshop.

Inspired by my dear Laurie's practice of Selah she posted on Instagram here
A question I have been asked at almost every job interview has been the searching, double-meant: "What are your long-term goals?"
Because on my resume is some editing experience and, inevitably, the discussion comes to my writing. Prospective employers have asked me (one point blank) "Well what if your novel hits it big?"
And I smile wryly, keep calm and confident and somehow manage to speak succinctly: "That rarely happens. The wide majority of authors I am personal friends with also have a day job."
A day job, a consistent blogging rhythm, husbands, children, grandchildren even, multiple publishing houses, multiple manuscripts--or in some book bloggers' case: a truly towering stack of To Be Read books!
My friend Barbara and I were recently shaking our heads in awe over some of these superwomen we both know.
And that's not to mention the entrepreneurs! I have one friend with a custom baking business that's taking off, another amazing gal who's a freaking Mary Poppins nanny, incredible artist and fledgling lifestyle/food blogger, another with a virtual assisting/editing business, and yet another who's a new wife, hardworking nanny and is heading up multiple ministries at her church because her heart is as big as her smile.
All these women are friends of mine. Thanks to social media that connects us across so many miles, I am assured and more at rest to know these women. And so very inspired day in and day out.
Because if they can do all the things--only through Jesus, I know all of them would say--so can I, whenever the heck the next employment phase of my life begins.
Because we all serve an amazing, creative and all-sufficient God. One whose timing is never late.
A dear new-ish friend introduced me a few times at ACFW as, "This is Meghan. She is the best cheerleader and encourager!"
But it is because I have been poured into by so many wonderful women that I am this way. I just listen, take time and care. That is all. And it is a joy for me to both know so many crazy-talented lady bosses, superwomen authors/bloggers--and cheer them on as much as I can.
There isn't much of a point to this post other than one big fangirling thank-you post to all the amazing women in my life. You have encouraged me, prayed for me, spoken truth over me, bared pieces of your heart whether in messages, manuscripts, first drafts, or just a quiet conversation.

And, for you fellow overwhelmed intimidated spazzing out doubting-if-you-can-chase-your-dream one?
Chase it. God inspired it and He will serendipitously bring just the right people to become your tribe. I promise. You are in good company.

September 22, 2016

The Bound Heart by Dawn Crandall | My Review

Having quickly grown to love this novel's two main characters--Meredyth and Lawry--in book one, this story surpassed my excited expectations by a long shot. Now that I was familiar with all the characters and accustomed to Dawn's unique but stellar writing style (1st person for the win!), I fell all the more in love with Meredyth and this, her heart's story. This is a lovable and easily relatable character, but one whose story tugs at your heart strings, dare I say (in this reader's opinion) even more than Amaryllis and Nathan's story.
With the looming presence of Meredyth's past, her personality that is oft veiled (but not to the reader), Dawn took us on quite a heart-tugging journey with an intense, high-stakes climax and one of my favorite types of romances: where friends become more.
These two have a few years of friendship behind them. This results in a more open relationship between the opposite sexes than typical for the era, but oh those pesky societal rules propriety dictated during the gay 1890's for these two! Their "accidental" first kiss (I'm not spoiling! It's in the book description!) was one so full of promise and tenderness it just propelled me forward, deeper invested into seeing them to their Happily Ever After.
And oh, what an ending. Such redemption and restoration in the midst of quite an intense romantic suspense plot. A fine balance has been struck and so well, yet again, by this talented author!
*Disclaimer: I was provided a copy of this book by the author in exchange for my honest, unbiased review.

One accidental kiss from Lawry Hampton. That was all it took to throw Meredyth Summercourt's world upside-down. Determined to marry the ever-elusive Vance Everstone, she simply doesn't have the time or the desire to fall for her best friend. But with Vance out of the country, and with Lawry at her side nearly every day, teaching her what the world is like through the eyes of a little orphan girl named Wynn--Meredyth can't deny that what's holding her to Vance is nothing more than a desire to redeem herself from her past.

Will she marry Vance once he returns from Europe? Or will she be strong enough to break free from the tangled web she's convinced she deserves, and accept that God's plan for her life includes redemption...and, quite possibly, Lawry Hampton?


Dawn Crandall is an ACFW Carol Award-nominated author of the award winning series The Everstone Chronicles, which currently consists of: The Hesitant Heiress, The Bound Heart and The Captive Imposter. The Cautious Maiden is her fourth book and releases October 4th, 2016.
Apart from writing, Dawn is also a mom of two little ones and serves with her husband in a premarital mentorship program at their local church in Fort Wayne, Indiana. 
A graduate of Taylor University with a degree in Christian Education and a former bookseller at Barnes & Noble, Dawn Crandall didn't begin writing until 2010 when her husband found out about her long-buried dream. It didn't take her long to realize that writing books was what she was made to do. 
Dawn is a member of the American Christian Fiction Writers, the secretary for the Indiana ACFW Chapter (Hoosier Ink), and an associate member of the Great Lakes ACFW Chapter. She is represented by Joyce Hart of Hartline Literary Agency.

September 15, 2016

Dance Over Me by Candee Fick | My Review

 There is an old worship song that goes, You dance over me. When I am unaware...
And this novel, colored with the golden glimmer of classic musical theater of days gone by, a mystery, romance, and oh, so much heart, was a delightful trip down the light fantastic.
And a worshipful one, at that.

Danielle "Dani" Lefontaine, the heroine, is a multi-faceted brilliant diamond of a character that shines as bright as a theater marquee from page one, to the tear-jerking ending. Thanks to Candee's incredibly gifted skill in penning her story, solely told in Dani's 3rd person POV, we get to watch Dani's journey from the best seats in the house. And what a journey, ya'll.
The mark of a great book (in my book) is one that I did not want to see end. And Dance Over Me fits that bill in its entirety. Mainly because of dear Dani--quite possibly my favorite fictional heroine of the year.
This gifted dancer has a heart of gold--but a work in progress one, I will say, that is just as dedicated to her Lord and Savior as she is to her passion for dancing. She is down to earth, humble, real--and clings to the love of the Lord. Through her past, her hopes and dreams for the future, and all the upsets and divas that come along in between. And that is what endeared her to me the most--her authenticity. A fictional character painted so vividly across the pages that you can't help but invest in her life and want to be friends with her.
Couple this fantastic heroine with a humble, cute and talented musician hero in Alex Sheridan?
Plus the delightful and unusual setting of musical theater, supporting characters varying from a grandmotherly fairy matchmaking godmother to a derisive diva and endless tap routines and old songs--makes this novel a true show-stopper for this reader. SO very privileged to have read this impactful and heartwarming story from Candee Fick. One that left me humming that old worship song. (Okay, and a lot of old musical tunes!)
Because Jesus, His perfect love and the reminder that HIS plans are not ours--but still perfect--shone through every page of this book.
**Disclaimer: I received this novel from the author in exchange for my honest review**

Danielle Lefontaine, a fledgling actress raised to the lullaby of Broadway, searches for her long-lost brother and her place on the stage, but a jealous cast member and numerous fruitless leads threaten to drop the curtain on her dreams and shine a spotlight on her longing for a place to belong.

Meanwhile, Alex Sheridan is living his dream except for someone to share it with. When Dani dances into his life, he hopes he’s found the missing piece to his heart but fears the bright lights of the stage could steal her away. Will the rhythm of dancing feet usher in their deepest desires or leave them stranded in the wings?

Candee Fick is the wife of a high school football coach and the mother of three children, including a daughter with a rare genetic syndrome. When not busy with her day job or writing, she can be found cheering on the home team at football, basketball, baseball, and Special Olympics games. In what little free time remains, she enjoys exploring the great Colorado outdoors, indulging in dark chocolate, and savoring happily-ever-after endings through a good book.
In addition to her inspirational romance and non-fiction titles, Candee has published a dozen articles in publications including In Touch, The War Cry, Exceptional Parent, and Special Education Today. As a member of American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW), she was a Double Finalist and WINNER in the 2014 ACFW Genesis contest short novel category, 2011 Semi-finalist in contemporary fiction, and 2009 Runner-Up in women's fiction.

September 9, 2016

My First ACFW Conference

Forgive the delay, ya'll, in getting this up. My head and heart are spinning between recovering from conference and getting back to real life with a slam-bang beginning of job interviews, edits, physical therapy--and a towering To Be Read Stack.
Without further ado...
This was the perfect "first conference" for me. To not be a technical attendee (like many others which only made the days even more fun!) and get to mingle, make connections, meet friends, encourage those going off to pitch appointments and observe? This people-watcher was in her element 24/7 for three straight days.
Upon arriving at the hotel it was being held at with Carrie and one of the Rach(a)el's, we literally walked in and gasped. #freakingoutandflailingabout Because Kristy Cambron in all her tall, real-life, in person, blonde glory was like twenty feet away.
Forgive the lipstick-less puffy eyed gritting teeth look. LOL
I really was stoked to meet this sweet woman!
(I've also found out it looks like I grit my teeth when I just smile super excitedly for a quick picture. But I don't, I promise!)

Got pics, got autograph (in my handy-dandy autograph book), a few hugs and then I hustled upstairs to meet with Emilie Anne Hendryx for my headshots. I may not have hustled so much as strolled, head on swivel, eyes huge and thankfully didn't trip my way up the escalators.
Oh yeah! I think right before I tripped up the light fantastic for the headshot sesh, MY TWIN (Marisa) sped over and a reunion was had. With lots of laughing and just shaking our head at the huge provision of God in getting us both here. To ACFW. Together.
And we had no idea what we'd be in for the next two days of conference.
After a ridiculously fun photoshoot with the effervescent Emilie, I'm sitting down just for a second to write out a quick check, and lo and behold my first Bling author Patricia Beal runs over! Her debut, A Season to Dance releases this coming May and ya'll--it is a POWERFUL tale. She is quite a woman, and a what writer let me tell you and it was so so so good to meet her in person after months of emails and edits and encouragement in the often painful editing process. Next up to join us is another Bling author, Candee Fick, whose sophmore novel Dance Over Me releases in ten days, and is a stunning read. I was loath to put it down to write this blog post, actually.

So basically I was inwardly freaking-out-and-flailing-about but what superseded just...everything was the community felt within the walls of the hotel. I am still truly shocked at how many people recognized me. Without a name tag. At a conference of 600+ people with some of THE biggest names in the industry.
Amongst my people, happy as a lark (though my feet at that point were already swollen. Again) and around the corner comes Laurie Tomlinson and Anne Love. Who, oh my word, are so freaking wonderful. We headed to a very impromptu mutually hangry-fueled lunch across the street at the Omni and talked books and the industry and Gilmore Girls and One Tree Hill probably and families and oh, it was just the greatest getting to hang with them. Over $4 pizza--as if the day could get better.

Lobby-lingering with fellow CFRR attendees (pictured in this post from the other day) was a total blast. Getting to sit and talk with Ruth Logan Herne who was the most Titus 2 kindly funny and all around wonderful woman had me and the Bookworm Mama going, "Can we just sit with her forever and listen to her?" And we haven't even yet read any of her books! Laura Frantz, same thing. I couldn't fit one photo in my collages (so many pictures, ya'll. I unashamedly confess to playing paparazzi at times) that had Pepper sitting close to Laura Frantz and (I think they maaay've been taking a selfie LOL) but it was just so full of mutual love and admiration it was too sweet a moment not to capture. Much like what Pepper is to me--one of those "I want to grow up to write like you" authors--so Laura is to Pepper.
My Lord I'm not even through the first day. Yeeeeesh.
Featured Authors in No Particular Order with links to their websites:
Teresa Tysinger, Ruth Logan Herne, Pepper Basham, Mary Vee, Betsy St. Amant, Julie Lessman, my twin Marisa Deshaies, Jaime Jo WrightAmanda Barratt, Laurie Tomlinson, Anne Love,
and Emilie Hendryx.
I feel like this post could be a Who's Who of my favorites/FB friends list. But oh, how sweet it is to be loved by such a good, good Father God. Who made a way for me to go to ACFW, meet such amazing women, soak in their smiles, their embraces so genuinely thrilled to see me, me?!, and oh, the encouragement (more on that in Monday's post). The opportunity to talk about the stories God alone has inspired in each and every one of us. And unabashedly fangirling happened too of course. I was so far from calm cool and collected the whole time. LOL The laughter that rang out. Oh, the laughter. These photos are but a mere smattering of so many memories with such dear women but what sticks out in my sleepy brain are the laughter, the God-moments, the pinch-me-living-a-new-dream moments alongside Marisa as editors...
So many autographs, exchanging of business cards, helping out a very blonde (she called herself that!) author (Katie Ganshert!) figure out the elevators, walking past a handful of people en route to a workshop and turning to whomever I was with and going, "Was that who I think it was?!"

Being amongst my people was a priceless treasure. I miss them all so much. And there are not enough words to fully communicate how my time in Nashville touched my heart, bolstered my faith and was just that fun and colored with minute-to-minute memories.
God is too good. All the time.

September 8, 2016

Starving Hearts by Janine Mendenhall | My Review & Giveaway!

When a novel has it all--romance, heart, faith, a dastardly villain and mystery--to
say it hearkens to mind the work of Jane Austen doesn't do it complete justice. It's just that good! But for Austen fans--this book is for you.
With a deft hand that painted vivid settings, so much heart and faith, Ms. Mendenhall has started off her Triangular Trade Trilogy with a fantastic first installment in Annette and Peter's story. What can often be a difficult balance within a historical romance--two individual characters' journies plus an engaging romance--Ms. Mendenhall strikes a chord with each storyline. And so very much warmed my heart with their romance at the same time. Getting to be a part of Annette and Peter's journies was immensely special--their character development, the struggles they faced and overcame were spectacularly written. I cannot wait to see what the next two books in the trilogy bring. Definitely an author to watch.
Fans of Kristi Ann Hunter, Jane Austen and The Bronte Sisters will love this novel!
**DISCLAIMER: I received this book for free as part of a Litfuse book tour in exchange for my unbiased honest opinion**

Will Annette's search for love and acceptance replace the loss and hurt in her heart? Find out in Janine Mendenhall's book one, Starving Hearts, of the Triangular Trade Trilogy. Since her assault, Miss Annette Chetwynd has been plagued by nightmares and worries about an arranged marriage. But she yearns to find her anonymous rescuer. Unfortunately, her health and intellect prevent it. Both repel suitors and cause Annette to doubt God’s existence, at least until He answers her prayers in an unusual way. . .

Janine Mendenhall teaches teens English, of all things! Sometimes she sleeps, but most nights she reads, writes, or watches movies like Pride and Prejudice and claims she's researching her next book. Splickety Love and Splickety Prime have published her flash fiction. She and her husband, Tom, live in North Carolina where they and their two golden retrievers help gratify the needs of their five children and two cats.

Join in the search for love and acceptance with Janine and Starving Hearts by entering to win the Delightful Heart Gift Pack Giveaway.

starving hearts - 400 
One grand prize winner will receive:
starving hearts - collage 

Enter today by clicking the icon below, but hurry! The giveaway ends on September 12. The winner will be announced September 13 on Janine's blog.

starving hearts - enterbanner

September 5, 2016

The Celebration of Story

God is so good. Through a surprise chain of events and only HIS provision, I found myself heading to the airport on Tuesday, August 23rd, 2016. Ten weeks after my left (and final for a *while*) hip replacement.
O'Hare's airport for my connecting flight beat my feet up, but even that exhausting walk from Terminal C to Terminal E (all on time, praise the Lord!) could not deter my excitement.
I would be meeting so many dear friends and fellow book lover nerds (#bestillmynerdgirlheart) in a matter of hours. My fairy godmother Carrie of Reading is My Superpower and co-facilitator/inventor of the Christian Fiction Reader Retreat picked me up in Nashville and was my first hug. She gives THE greatest hugs.
Tucked into her car with the brave Singing Librarian navigating, (Sydney! How did I not get a photo with you?) we departed for the Nashville home Carrie rented for the week. Less than an hour later she gets a text that Laura Frantz is popping by to pick up some things of Bonnie's--another fearless leader and faith-filled soul who dreamt up the retreat.
THE Laura Frantz. Granted I could write THE next to  everybody's name I got to meet. But um, her novels are freaking amazing and Pepper still fangirls over her, so. I'm allowed.
She comes in all sweetness and light and gasps, "Meghan! Ohh I'm so glad you're here how're you feeling?!"
First "Be still my nerd-girl heart" moment. Props to Rachel/The Bookworm Mama for coining such an apt catchphrase.
And the rest of that first evening was spent with much laughter, lots of hugs and just such surrealness of being amongst my people. My tribe. Mikal finally got back to the house and burst in with a, "WHERE'S MY MEGHAN?!" with the sweet Rachael Wing tagging along beside her--a roommate and fellow fangirl who carried my bags for me up the steep flight of steps.
That first evening was somewhat of a blur, to be honest--my feet were screaming and the airport trekking was exhausting. But that did not fade my excitement at meeting Rachel Dixon (two Rachel's made for a fun time in more ways than one!), her friend Abi and fellow indie author Sarah Monzon. Who saved my feet with band-aids.
The next day dawns hazy, hot and humid--I felt right at home. Upon reaching the Scarritt-Bennett Center in Nashville the next day armed with my three books (two fiction, one strictly for autographs because of carry-on size luggage restrictions), we sign in and not five minutes later I hear a sweet foreign accent go, "I know you!" and it's THE Kara Isaac. #FreakingOutandFlailingAbout
Another "Pinch-Me" moment (I'm going out of order here. Bear with me) was when out of the corner of my eye during a session with Mary Connealy and Ruth Logan Herne, I see a flash of raven-black hair and Rachael dashes off with a muffled squeal. I turn and look and it's THE Pepper Basham in the doorway. Luckily I'm in a farther-back row and slip out and half-run over to her on my swollen feet. This woman has been (whether she intended it or not or perhaps I'm just that needy ;)  ) a light in my life, such an empathetic encourager and a constant source of inspiration--pointing me back to the Ultimate Author and Finisher of our faith. Both in the stories she writes, and just who she is. Getting to hug this dear woman for the first time was such a treasure.

To sit amongst like-minded bookish souls, and under the Spirit-led authors who shared their testimonies, participated in panel discussions (including the smooching panel that was so much fun to hear about--how to write fictional kisses!), and who all poured out so much of themselves.
It was a privilege.
Despite the amount of introverts in one room, no one knew a stranger. One activity was Author Speed Chats/Dates. The authors would rush around to cluster groups and we'd have five or so minutes with them to ask them anything and get to know them better. SO fun. And an ingenious idea. There were times of praise and worship and prayer and stories of how authors came to writing--tales of how God called them to Himself, and to writing--left me with tears in my eyes for the sheer grace of God. was amazing.
The entire day. The heart and hard work three (incredibly modest!) women--Bonnie, Carrie, and Annie--did to put on this joyous day was felt in every minute that went off without a single hitch. There was such a current of empathy, encouragement, and genuine, transparent love throughout the day that I couldn't help but be moved to tears at times, smiling until my face hurt and just shaking my head at what God can do with willing hearts with a story to tell. And those hearts with a love of stories that point back to HIM.

I found in beginning this three-part series on my time in Nashville that I could write/talk for hours about the days there, the memories made and God's fingerprints over every second of every day. So I am hitting the high points, and continuing to ponder all of these things in my heart as real-life and "adulting" kick in now that I'm home sweet home.
Stay tuned tomorrow for when I share some photos and fun times lobby-lingering at THE ACFW conference!

September 1, 2016

When a Novel of the Heart Gets a New Dream Interview with Joanne Bischof {And Giveaway!}

YA'LL. I am so happy to have here today one of my favorite authors, role models--one I am privileged to call friend. Settle in with a cup of your favorite beverage of choice, and hear the story behind Joanne Bischof's The Lady and the Lionheart.
And be sure to enter her amazing Big Top Giveaway at the end of this post--it's as magical as the story and you don't want to miss out.
(You can check out my review here)

Joanne, thank you so much for both writing such powerful, redemptive stories—and for your friendship. Knowing you these last few years has been a constant blessing, gleaning from your example…I could go on. Suffice it to say I thank God upon every remembrance of you—and I especially thank God for inspiring you to write The Lady and the Lionheart. You’ve said before it’s the novel of your heart—what first sparked the idea of such a unique story? Les Miserables/Beauty and the Beast/set in a circus in turn of the century Virginia!

JB: Thank you so much, Meghan! It’s been a joy knowing you and being able to call you friend. So blessed by you!

The novel of my heart – I remember our chat about that with such fondness! This story idea sparked at a time in my life when I was struggling with something that brought me great sorrow—something in life that could not be changed. I imagine we’ve all been in that place before.

God used the writing of this novel to work on my heart and change my perspective and attitude. That by telling Charlie and Ella’s story, each of them facing a piece of their past that cannot be rewritten, it taught me to give my worries to the Lord and trust that His plan is not only perfect, but that He uses trials to shape us and mold us.

Were there any “aha!” moments for you as you wrote Lionheart, whether it be a character breakthrough, a plot twist, or a beam of our awesome God’s divine inspiration?

JB: Oh my goodness—so many “aha” moments! One of my favorites was the character of Regina, Charlie’s godmother—a dwarf woman who is about three feet tall.

With this novel a romance between Ella and Charlie, and much of it taking place in Charlie’s tent and wagon, it felt too intimate for the two of them to be alone together. As Christians, we’re called to not leave room for the “appearance of evil” and even if Charlie and Ella were on their best behavior, I didn’t want the other characters—or the reader—to always see them alone together. Especially since they’re an unmarried couple in love. I needed someone to fill that “chaperone” role. With also needing a nanny for Charlie’s baby, little Holland, while Charlie’s performing, Regina’s presence on the page solved all of those riddles.

Another is that since Charlie always has his face painted for the matinee performance and I didn’t know how he would do his own makeup. It was another role that Regina fulfilled. This sweet, stout woman was my right hand gal the whole novel through. I think it showed in how she was always there for Charlie and on a heart level, she is such a dear character that I couldn’t imagine the story without her!

Can you share with us how The Lady and the Lionheart first got it’s name (titling is a daunting but fascinating process for me LOL)

JB: Oh, yes. I set out writing this novel fast and furious. It was an utter whirlwind, the whole novel being completed in about a month’s time—that there wasn’t quite time to come up with a proper title. I began to call it Lionheart, after Charlie. Soon, my critique partners and even my agent were also calling it that so there was no need to come up with a title. ;)

But down the road, it was time to come up with something that more bespoke the romance that is this book—the love story between Charlie and Ella. When it came time to show the manuscript to publishers, my agent and I both agreed that we needed to come up with an actual title. We texted one another ideas for about a day or so and late one night I landed on The Lady and the Lion Tamer. It felt really close to being the one—but also not quite right. That’s when The Lady and the Lionheart came to mind and I knew instantly that it was the one.

What made you decide to “go indie” with this novel celebrating it’s one month “birthday” today? Was this a dream you had for the book from it’s conception or a new dream God led you to?

JB: This is one of those questions that I look back on and see a few years of my life all stretching out toward the horizon—filled with doubts, tears, joys, celebrations…and everything in between.

Indie was the farthest thing from the dream that I had for this book. But after two years of the book being rejected by publishers, it began to be clear that it was time to try a different avenue. Thanks to the support of some amazing friends and fellow authors, people had already begun to rally around this story, making me feel like yes, it was time. The journey wasn’t easy, but it was amazing. God provided in so many ways from the cover shoot to the editing process, and this book just began to come together. When I first held it in my hands, there was no sorrow over it being indie, but there was a whole outpouring of joy. In holding The Lady and the Lionheart, I was reminded of what God can do with something so small as the dream of a story. I think it’s one of the reasons why this story of my heart became even more so.

Wow. WHAT a testimony, right? Thank you to Joanne for taking the time to sit with us and share her heart behind this magnificent story. Be sure to click the graphic below to enter her Big Top giveaway celebrating the release of The Lady and the Lionheart.
Two worlds collide when the circus comes to Victorian-era Virginia.
Raised amid the fame and mystique of the Big Top, Charlie Lionheart holds the audience in the palm of his hand. But while his act captivates thousands, it’s away from the spotlight where his true heart lies. Here he humbly cares for his pride of lions as if they were his brothers, a skill of bravery and strength that has prepared him for his most challenging feat yet—freeing an orphaned infant from the dark bondage of a sideshow. A trade so costly, it requires his life in exchange for hers, leaving him tarnished by the price of that choice.
As the circus tents are raised on the outskirts of Roanoke, country nurse Ella Beckley arrives to tend to this ill Gypsy girl. All under the watchful eye of a guardian who not only bears a striking resemblance to the child, but who protects the baby with a love that wraps around Ella’s own tragic past, awakening a hope that goodness may yet reign. When their forbidden friendship deepens, Charlie dares to ask for her heart, bringing her behind the curtain of his secret world to reveal the sacrifice that gave hope to one little girl—boldly showing Ella that while her tattered faith is deeply scarred, the only marks that need be permanent are his own.

A Carol Award and two-time Christy Award-finalist, Joanne Bischof writes deeply layered fiction that tugs at the reader’s heartstrings. She was honored to receive the SDCWG Novel of the Year Award in 2014 and in 2015 was named Author of the Year by the Mount Hermon Writer’s conference. Her 2014 novella This Quiet Sky broke precedent as the first self-released title to final for the Christy Awards. She lives in the mountains of Southern California with her husband and their three children.