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I'm a writer and library worker who wears many hats. I believe a good book and a good piece of chocolate are the keys to a happy life.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Saving Madeline by Rachel Ann Nunes

Okay, as promised, here is my review of Saving Madeline by Rachel Ann Nunes. Saving Madeline is compelling story about one of many challenges we face in the world today. While Rachel’s signature romantic tones come through loud and clear, it by no means overwhelms a very powerful and thought provoking story. But don’t worry, even though the subject matter is far from light, Saving Madeline will pull you in with out depressing you beyond belief.

I enjoyed the story very much and think Rachel will manage her goal of expanding her audience while still inspiring and teaching at the same time. I think Saving Madeline has earned a place on my “favorites” shelf. It was a good read.

I had very selfish reasons for wanting to know if writing this story kept Rachel up and night, since she managed to keep me up past my bedtime in order to find out what happened. Even though I had a pretty good idea of how things would play out, the last third of the book sucked me right in and wouldn’t let me go until I reached The End. Some may have difficulties with an aspect of the ending, but I agree with Rachel. It needed to be there, and I don’t see any other way she could have made such a powerful point. Kudos to Rachel for her sensitive and powerful storytelling ability in Saving Madeline.

I also liked the fact that even though it was clear who the love interest for heroine was supposed to be, it wasn’t an easy path and he wasn’t her only choice. There were others that liked her and others she liked and had to get to know as well. While not every woman will have multiple suitors I still think it’s a healthier view than having the world revolve around one man and one woman as if no one else has or ever will exist.

Did I have any hiccups while reading? I guess, for me, I felt the timing of when and how people were investigated seemed a little off. It was what the story needed, but it still felt slightly backward to me. Did it pull me far enough out of the book to make me unsatisfied with it? No, not at all. It was more like a yelling at the guy in the movie, “You moron what do you mean you can’t tell he’s guilty?” moment.

Rachel should be very proud of Saving Madeline. I look forward to seeing where Imprints, and her future titles take her.

Don’t forget to leave a comment on this blog to be entered in the drawing for a copy of Saving Madeline. I believe this is her last stop on the tour, so speak up quick!

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

One Hit Wonder

Have you ever considered what happened to your favorite One Hit Wonder?

I mean, really. What happened? Did they just decide they didn’t like performing? Did they “sell out” for a bigger market and never made it? Did they just sing really awful stuff except for one song? Or, was it just their goal in life to make it big that one time, kind of an “I want to climb Mount Everest” kind of deal?

Personally, my goal has always been to be a Million Mid-list Master of Mediocrity. (Say that five times fast.) I don’t exactly want to be a best seller. I just want to someday be so prolific that people all over the world say “oh, yeah, her” when they hear my name. I just want to write. A lot. But every few days I wonder about that aspiration.

I recently started the final edits on my upcoming LDS novel, The Prodigal Son.

High point: I’ve had a few nice “wow, I actually wrote that!” moments. I still think it’s a great story and I’m amazed that I was able to find a way to tell it.

Low point: Letting Satan sneak back in to remind me that now this means I have to do it again, and again. What if I can’t? (Yes, Judy. I can hear you lecturing me on that one from the other side of the United States. You’re so awesome.)

Here’s the problem. I have several WIP in various stages of done-ness. I started each because I loved the premise and I wanted to tell the story, but then self doubt and rationalizations start creeping in. What if I get finished and it’s only okay, not amazing?

I’ve finished other projects since I wrote The Prodigal Son. I’ve liked them, too. But they are still waiting for some editor or agent to recognize my genius. A whole ‘nother problem of inferiority anxiety.

I specifically recall that these types of concerns never even entered my mind the day I announced I intended to become a writer. This is not what I signed up for. I just wanted an outlet for the voices in my head. I was under the impression that those voices could be a benefit to others so they needed to be published. Ah, naive aspirations.

My husband suggests I quit writing and take up crocheting. He knows darn good and well that I can’t crochet. So, I guess my only choice is to quit whining, dust off my “I can do anything ego”, and keep writing a few more books. They may turn out to be nothing special, but at least I wrote them.

I refuse to be a One Hit Wonder. Mid-list Mediocrity, here I come.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Alma by H.B. Moore

Well, H.B. Moore has done it again. Personally, I’m very glad the wait is over. I loved the direction she took with Abinadi: it really made me think. But I’m relieved the wait is over to find out what happens next.

Okay, yeah, I know what happens next. But see, the scriptures don’t have Raquel and Maia in them. I missed the connection with the women Ms. Moore created to expand and personalize history. In my opinion Alma is another hit.

Just as a matter of coincidence I was reading the same chapters from the Book of Mormon while I read the fictional account of Alma. It made it kind of fun and added a new dimension. In the morning I’d read the scripture version. In the evening I’d read Ms. Moore’s version. As always, she did a great job of staying true to the scriptures while bringing them alive for my imagination.

I loved the way the events became more personal, more intimate to me through Alma. Nothing can compare to the word of the Lord for building a relationship with Him. But I do feel there is a place of gratitude and respect for those that can take the scriptures and help others [me] understand the emotion and difficulty behind the messages that Heavenly Father would have us learn from.

I have a greater understanding now of the suffering the believers faced, and a greater appreciation of the fact that no lines of black and white, good and evil, can be drawn by mere race alone.

Still, I have to admit I still don’t get the kidnapped Lamanite women. Ms. Moore did her best to help me understand and while I get it, I just don’t “get” it. That’s just me. I would have been right there with Maia thinking nothing in the world could be worse than having to marry a man who had so violently tried to capture my heart.

Whines and complaints? Um, I really don’t know. I seem to recall hitting a scene somewhere in the middle of the book that appeared to be abruptly cut short. But, when I went back to find it, I couldn’t. So I have no idea if it really was a little choppy or if I was just completely brain dead when I read it. I suspect the latter. Either way I doubt it’s enough to take away from the message the book and the scripture story carry.

Alma by H.B. Moore goes right next to Abinadi in a place of “hip-hip-horray!” honor on my bookshelf. She is a master of scripture based fiction and one to count on for an uplifting experience in imagination and faith. It’s a good thing she’s all ready working on Alma the Younger. I need to know how everything turns out. Well, I know, but. . . . you know what I mean.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Introducing Simply Singing Time

With the implementation of the new Primary theme outline I faced a bit of a quandary: how to provide quality and inspired supplements for those things that would be most needed. My publisher and I spent the better part of a month going back and forth with ideas and thoughts until this emerged.

Simply Singing Time will replace the now retired Sharing Through Song series, but I hope it will prove just as fun and useful to my readers and my previous yearly materials. As always, my goal is to help you feel inspired and prepared to give the Primary children the best opportunities to feel the Spirit and learn and grow in the gospel.

Simply Singing Time will be available for purchase in early October from Cedar Fort, Amazon and LDS Bookstores everywhere.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Don't Forget to Comment for Free Books!

Don’t forget,

Joyce DiPastena’s blog tour and book giveaway for Illuminations of the Heart ends September 14th.

Gale Sears’ tour and giveaway for The Route ends September 17th.

Rachel Nunes’ tour for Saving Madeline ends September 25th, here on this blog.

Leave a comment on the actual reviews here, and track down as many other reviews as you can to leave comments on. Each comment earns you an entry for a free book. That’s the best kind if you ask me.

Friday, September 11, 2009

A Few Moments with Rachel Ann Nunes

Rachel Nunes is a prolific, best-selling author, the founder and president of LDStorymakers, and an all around awesome lady. I had to include the picture, ‘cause, isn’t she just so cute? I could never even hold that pose much less look elegant doing it. ;)

When Rachel decided to do a blog tour to promote her newest title, Saving Madeline, of course I was happy to jump on board. But, when I began to read the story behind the story, I thought it was compelling enough that it needed to be shared as well.

So this week you get a prequel to a book review. You can read Rachel's thoughts on the Saving Madeline, those she's shared with others and a few she graciously shared with me. You'll have to pop back in on the 25th to see what I thought about the actual book.

In the cases where I've pulled information from other interviews, you'll find a link back to the source. This is both to give the original author credit and to give you someplace else to look if that particular topic catches your eye. So, please spend a few moments with Rachel Nunes.

Alison: So, tell us why writing Saving Madeline was important to you.

Rachel: Several years ago, shock radiated throughout Utah when an infant was found dead after ingesting meth she had found in a plastic bag on the floor of her home. What made this tragic circumstance even more notable and horrific is that weeks earlier her father had forcibly taken her across state lines, hoping to protect her from her mother’s substance abuse. Authorities found the child, placed her back with her mother, and sent the father to jail for assault and burglary. A little over a week later, the baby was dead and the mother was charged with desecration of a dead body for moving her daughter to cover up the mother’s drug abuse. All charges against the father were eventually dropped.

. . . In meth homes throughout the country, baby bottles share sinks and refrigerators with meth containers, and the drug is often made in the same kitchen where food is prepared. Poison is only inches away from dinner plates and glasses of milk. Law enforcement officers wear protective gear when dismantling these meth labs, but the children who live there on a daily basis are unprotected from the toxic fumes that saturate their bodies, clothing, and toys—if they are lucky to have such things. Often these houses have no food, no toilet paper, and no sheets on the beds. The children are completely neglected, and the houses are filthy. Many of these children show developmental delays, organ injuries from the fumes, heart problems, seizures, and violent behavior.

. . .States seem to be losing the battle against methamphetamine addiction. Child welfare, law enforcement, substance abuse, and treatment systems are overloaded. Some estimate that over 8.3 million children in the United States live with a parent who has a substance abuse issue. Nearly 2 million child abuse cases each year are investigated, and a half million of those have enough evidence to act on. Some 200,000 children are removed from their homes each year.

But what about the cases that aren’t proven? What about the children who fall through the cracks, but are still at risk? To what lengths might a non-custodial parent be compelled to go in order to protect a child from danger?

These were the questions I thought about as I began writing Saving Madeline. I wanted to show one man’s dilemma in balancing his need to protect his daughter with his duty to obey the law, to detail his struggle in an overloaded system where there are no second chances for the innocent victims. Please keep in mind that though the idea for this novel was inspired by the numerous true-life stories I researched, the plot, characters, and resolution in Saving Madeline are completely fictional. No actual experiences or interviews of real -life people were used in the text itself. (Neither does this story in any way reflect the life of the sweet Madeline I dedicated this book to. Though challenged with Muscular Dystrophy, that Madeline has the great fortune to have been born to loving and responsible parents.)

Could such a story actually happen? I believe so. Trust me about the outcome of my story, though, okay? My young character has a lot of people fighting for her. But keep in mind as you read my story all the children who have no one to fight for them and who do not survive.

Anne Bradshaw: So is the book a tragedy? Are people going to be sad when they’re through reading it?

Rachel: My work has always been about touching on tough issues in a positive light. I believe in happy endings, though maybe not perfect ones. My young character has a lot of people fighting for her, and I have a few twists in store for all the characters. I think my readers will be content when they finished reading but also very much aware of all the children who have no one to fight for them and who do not survive.

Anne Bradshaw: On your website, Saving Madeline is listed as a romance. Why is that?

Rachel: Good question. The story has heavy suspense elements, and it is certainly a family drama, but it also is a great romance. I had so much fun with the interaction between Caitlin, Parker, and two other love interests. The back and forth dialogue, the misdirection, the teasing—all so much fun! In the end I just couldn’t put the novel under any other category.

GG Vandagriff: You seem to be an inexhaustible well of creativity. Where do your plots originate?

Rachel: They just come–out of thin air, from what I see, from research, from inspiration. The more I write, the more the ideas flow. I’m always compelled to write. It’s as if I’m in a huge amphitheatre and sitting in the audience are all the thousands of story ideas and they are calling to me to write them. The one that yells the loudest wins. Hmm, that’s sort of like real life children, isn’t it? :-) When I don’t get regular writing time, I’m pretty unhappy.

Teri Rodeman: Do you create stories or scenes from dreams you have?

Rachel: Sometimes I will receive inspiration in dreams, but more often than not they are day dreams that I'm purposefully pursuing rather than night dreams. There have been notable times, however, when I've gone to bed thinking about my characters and then dreamed about the plot and it worked perfectly into my story.

Alison: Was there a scene or character from Saving Madeline that really kept you awake at night while you were writing?

Rachel: I was haunted by the real life stories I'd researched about children who didn't survive the similar situations my characters were facing. And I kept seeing a man sneaking into a child's bedroom, a man who wasn't perfect and had done a lot of dumb things in his life, but who was now trying to right those wrong and protect a child he loved. I enjoyed the feel of him appearing to be the bad guy, when in reality he was doing the only thing he felt he could to help Madeline. This scene, now in the second chapter, was the first I wrote. Toward the end of the book, there was a scene I really worried over, and it might bring tears to some readers, but ultimately, I knew I had to show some very real consequences.

Alison: Tell me about the real Madeline that you dedicated the book to.

Rachel: Ah, not a question I've ever been asked thus far, though in my author's note at the very end of the novel, I do explain a little more about her. Madeline is a six-year-old girl whose family we lived next door to for ten years. She has very blonde hair, an adventuresome nature, and loves to talk. She and my youngest daughter were best friends for most of their lives and still adore spending time together now that we've moved. Madeline has Muscular Dystrophy and speeds around in a motorized wheelchair. This year we discovered she can also swim, bouncing up and down in water over her head, barely coming up for a breath and then going back under again. A very frightening event for those watching, but to her it's ultimate freedom. So far, she's always come back up, though someone's always watching to make sure. Madeline is the youngest of six children. Her older sister and brother, the first two children born to the family, also had MD and died before Madeline was born. Madeline's strong spirit, and the example of her wonderful parents have inspired me for many years. Though my character is younger than the real life Madeline and doesn't share the challenge of MD, she was definitely patterned after her.

GG Vandagriff: What do you think about the direction that LDS fiction is going? Do you think it is getting better? If so, why?

Rachel: Overall, I think LDS fiction is getting better. However, some of it isn’t. I feel that many writers are still stuck on the conversion story, which is a great venue for the younger generation, but I personally feel converted and my reading tastes have changed. Now I want to read stories about LDS people in every day situations where they don’t have to convert their neighbor or future spouse. The real life truth is that not everyone sees the light. Perhaps every LDS author goes though the conversion phase, I don’t know. I certainly did, and I’m glad I wrote those novels. But I think it’s time LDS authors explored the other issues our people need to read about. I’m not saying we shouldn’t write about conversions at all, because when they are portrayed realistically they can be powerful and compelling, but for me, it’s hard to see a plot in a suspense novel come to a screeching halt so that we can hear a missionary discussion or have a baptism. I would much rather see the quiet convictions of a character living her religion during personal trials. Or a family who has members struggling with their faith in the midst of some compelling plotline.

I was able to attempt this in several of my LDS novels, and now I’m also reaching out to a wider market where my characters are not overtly LDS. The plot doesn’t focus at all around the Church and convincing the reader that it’s true, but rather on the lives of the characters and what they are feeling and experiencing that may or may not involve their faith (depending on the genre).

I think a lot of LDS readers are ready for this, and I’m grateful my publisher has a national imprint where they can publish such stories. I think our market is growing up a bit, focusing deeper or perhaps even on simply creating more entertaining, believable genre stories that are every bit as good as what is being published in the national market. If we continue in this direction, I think we will eventually reach an entire new set of LDS readers who now don’t read LDS novels because they are so focused on convincing rather than portraying.

Alison: Is this what you envisioned when you first sat down to be a writer? How have your aspirations and interests evolved during the process and where do you see yourself going in the future?

Rachel: I think I am heading in the right direction of what I've always dreamed of doing. For many years, I strictly wrote LDS novels, but I've also wanted to write novels that could reach anyone anywhere, regardless of religious affiliation. There are so many experiences shared by the human family, and there are good people everywhere. I want to portray these people and their trials.

I also aim to write stories that allow people to take time out from the stress of their busy lives and relax in another world for a while. Good, page-turning literature meant to thrill and entertain. I'm grateful my publisher has different imprints that have allowed me to explore my various plotlines and audiences.

My next book, Imprints, takes another different direction as I'm jumping on the national bandwagon by including a paranormal element. On the day of her father's funeral, Autumn discovers a paranormal gift that allows her to find clues about missing people. Nothing so weird as to put off my regular readers, though. In fact, I'm sure they will enjoy what I have planned. I hope to have four or more books in the series.

GG Vandagriff: Are you taking your fiction in a different direction permanently? If so, what path are you pursuing now?

Rachel: Saving Madeline is very similar in style to other novels I’ve written–family drama with suspense and romance. However, my next novel Imprints, also contemporary suspense, does go in a different direction as it contains a paranormal element. I’ve always been interested in fantasy, and as a believer I feel that sometimes we are given certain gifts when we need them at different times in our lives. It was only natural that at some point I’d combine my love of women’s fiction and my beliefs with my love of the supernatural. Yet at the same time the novel isn’t so strange as to be considered high fantasy or anything. I think my current readers will be very pleased.

Teri Rodeman: What does Rachel do in her spare moments when she's not writing? . . . Do you have other interests and also Church callings and how many children you have and any grandchildren?

Rachel: TJ and I have six children. No grandchildren yet, though I'm looking forward to having them. My oldest son (19) is on a mission to Japan and my oldest daughter is 17 and just started college at SUU. My other children are 15, 13, 10, and 6.

As for what I do in my free time. Well, there isn't much of that because usually someone wants me to do something--correct homework, make food, run an errand. You get the idea. But what I love to do when I have a moment is to read, go for walks, swim with my kids. I enjoy exercising while I watch a video. I love traveling, always taking the whole family at this point. I enjoy going out on dates with my husband.

I teach Relief Society once a month, I'm a visiting teacher, and I'm the chairman of the activities committee (which, BTW, is a feast or famine calling, and we have an activity this week so I'm pretty stressed). I love my ward and my neighbors. I feel really fortunate in that.

GG Vandagriff: You have literally thousands of fans who wonder how you can possibly publish as much as you do while raising six children. I have seen first hand what a hands-on, terrific mother you are. How do you balance such an intense inner life with your love for and the needs of your children?

Rachel: The kids always came first. Period. That’s my rule. But they have learned not to run to me for every little thing. They learned to solve some problems themselves, and I learned to buy microwaveable snacks. I used to write more easily when they were little children under my desk and around my feet, but as they grew, they became involved in more things and I had less time at the computer. I’d have to tell them I was going into my office for a while and to watch this show, or play in the back yard for certain time. I’d say, “If you aren’t bleeding and it’s not really that important, then don’t come to my office. If you give me time to work, I’ll do x and x for you then.” Sometimes that even worked. I’d often leave the computer on and steal into the office for any available second.

Teenagers are even more demanding, I’ve found. They always need rides or help with some incredibly important last-minute task. But finally for the first time all six are in school (my oldest is on a mission), so I anticipate having a bit easier time writing in the next few months.

One important thing is that I’m careful to tell my children often that I love them more than my writing and if they need me, I’m available to hear what they have to say. Often that means I don’t get all the writing in that I want, but that is the life I chose when I decided to have children. They are the reward that makes not doing all I want with my writing okay. I wouldn’t trade being their mother for all the success in the world.

See? I told you she was an awesome lady. ;)

Rachel is also doing a book give away with this blog tour. Leave a comment here, and track down other blogs from Rachel’s site to leave comments on. Each comment gives you and entry for the drawing to win a copy of Saving Madeline. Yippeee!

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Funny Sunday

This past Sunday I came home from a meeting to find all of my boys (husband included) in the kitchen laughing up a storm. I also noticed the house smelled a little funny. Yes, boys unsupervised usually means pyrotechnics in my home. Fortunately the instigator of said fire play is the biggest boy. It never occurs to the children to experiment with out dad because his ideas are always the coolest.

I knew I shouldn’t have, but I just had to . . . I asked what was so funny. My husband presented me with a paper plate full of neatly lined up little grape halves. My first thought was he was teaching them something perverse ‘cause the things looked like marching rows of, well, a certain female anatomy.

I glowered. He laughed, “No, no, really! Come watch.”

Like a moth to the flame I was drawn to the microwave where my husband inserted the grapes and punched cook. My boys cackled and I watched in awe as the little suckers burst into flame.

Coolest thing I’ve seen in a long time and definitely worth the lingering smell. I just told myself it was really generic citrus potpourri.

Wanna try it? True to my husband’s form I got the whole technical explanation about how it works. Something about how it wasn’t technically torching the grapes, it was causing “arcing” between the two halves. . . .

He insists that all you have to do is carefully cut the grapes in half, leaving a tiny portion of the skin still attached to both parts. Lay them out on a paper plate with the cut side down. They should be almost, but not quite touching. Then toss ‘em in the microwave and watch the sparks fly!

Oh, and something about less is more- don’t fill the entire plate with grapes, start with like six or so.

There you go: a cheap bit of entertainment for Family Home Evening next week. I’m sure there’s a gospel message in there somewhere, but I’ll let you figure that one out for yourself.

Friday, September 4, 2009

The Route by Gale Sears

For me, reading The Route by Gale Sears was a sweet, sweet experience.

Gale Sears has artistically created a unique form of memoir with The Route. This is a true story veiled in fiction to protect the “innocent”. She takes us on a tour to explore what it’s like to work as a meal provider for the elderly and infirmed. That doesn’t sound all that exciting in a “me” centered world, but it was a journey I intend to walk with her over and over again. She did an excellent job of showing how fully satisfying service-- and life-- can be.

Sometimes the journey, both in life and in the story, can be hard. Very hard. But it is gracefully balanced with moments of joy that keep the trials in perspective.

I laughed, I cried, I came away satisfied and inspired. To me, those are key qualities in an exceptional book. This is a quick, comfortable read for a Sunday afternoon. I’m betting you won’t regret your time on The Route with Gale Sears.

This is a book that belongs on the shelf of every Relief Society president and elder care provider. For that matter, it belongs on the shelf of anyone who’s ever questioned whether or not a little bit of service can make a difference.

Whines and complaints about this book? Hmmm. That’s a tough one. I’d say I stumbled a little bit with the introduction. The writing felt flighty and rambling at first. It distracted me for a few moments. But, I was totally won over by the time I finished the first page of chapter 1. Oh, and I was sad it was so short. (Well, okay it wasn’t that short but I wasn’t ready to close the book on my new friends quite yet.) Great job, Gale!

Just to add a little personal touch to this review I asked Gale to answer a few questions for me. Here are her answers.

  • When did you first realize that your service was more than just something to do?

I think I knew by the end of the first day. These dear people were so appreciative of just five or ten minutes of my time. It amazed me.

  • If you could have changed one thing about your time delivering meals, what would it have been?

I never wanted my route to change. At one point they were going to change me to an entirely different route, and I put up such a fuss, that they only changed a couple of people. I know I would have grown to love the new set of seniors, but it just goes to show how attached I'd become to my 'regulars'.

  • Was there someone on your route that you wish you would have been able to include in your book but didn’t?

There was one woman who had a lot of cats. I didn't include her because her story was a little too sad for the telling.

  • Okay, honestly, how was the food?

It was mixed. Sometimes it was good...other times, yucky. In fact a couple of times I was embarrassed to drop the meal off. I wanted to add chocolate pudding or a big dish of cold peaches.

Can you feel her sweet spirit? You’ll find that in abundance in The Route. I would also highly recommend becoming a regular visitor to her blog. This month she is featuring daily insights on service. It’s a great place to spend a few minutes of your day.

Don’t forget to leave a comment here on this post (and visit as many other stops on her blog tour route that you can to leave comments- see my sidebar for details) in order to be entered in a drawing for a copy of The Route. And thanks to Walnut Springs Press for inviting me to participate in the tour. This one was a completely inspiring pleasure.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Illuminations of the Heart by Joyce DiPastena

Well, what can I say? Illuminations of the Heart by Joyce DiPastena is one amazing book. I have heard nothing but praise for this book, but I’m always a “read it to believe it” kind of person. I fully recognize that not every book is going to strike the same chord with every reader, and that’s just fine. Still, every reader loves it when they come across those titles that leave them breathless to the last page. When Illuminations first arrived I looked at the size and thought, “Yikes! That’s a lot of mush.” (Incidentally, what is it with all the stunningly beautiful women and breathtakingly handsome heroes, anyway? Okay, don’t answer that. . .)

First impressions can be deceiving and the many positive reviews turned out to be well deserved. The book turned out to be wonderful stuff. I couldn’t get enough of it. I will admit that some of the monologue and diatribes could have been pared back a little but all in all I was so caught up in the excellent story that I didn’t mind.

At first, Illuminations of the Heart seemed to give me a reading flavor reminiscent of the classic novel Rebecca. It involves a young woman living in the shadow of another whose past is a little muddled and unclear. But, I have to say the execution and time period of Illuminations of the Heart were much more fun. Not that that I’m saying Rebecca isn’t good, just, you know . . . a little depressing.

This is one that you want to make sure you have a good chunk of reading time carved out before you start. Or, it can potentially take over your life until you reach happily-ever-after. Not only is it beautifully, and cleanly, romantic but the historical backdrop and storyline were excellent as well.

I had to laugh when the male characters could tell the difference between the two floral scented perfumes and name them correctly, though. It was sweet, but I don’t know that it’s all that accurate. All I get out of my husband is, “Why do you smell weird?” Then again, maybe other men pay better attention to such things. Now, if my husband walks in the door and I have a crazed look in my eyes or he finds out I haven’t written anything that day- that he notices and that’s good enough for me.

Giggles about perfume aside, you’ll find plenty of excellent smoochies, damsels in distress, trickery, and sword fighting, to satisfy just about any historical romance reader.

Here’s my personal whine about it though: the character Clothilde. I’m sure no one but me will have a problem with this, but every time I read her name it came out “cloth hide” in my head. I’d have to back up and re-read it to give her a proper name. Sadly, about halfway through the book I was too caught up in the story and got tired of re-reading it. Cloth Hide she became. Poor girl. As if she didn’t have enough problems. ;)

If you are into historical romance, Joyce Dipastena is definitely someone to look up. I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.

Illuminations of the Heart and Joyce’s other title, Loyalty’s Web are both available through Walnut Springs Press. Don’t forget to leave a comment on this post to be entered in Joyce’s drawings for a copy of Illuminations and gift certificates to several book stores. Stop by multiple review spots from her route and leave more comments to up your odds! You can find the complete list of links in my side bar or on Joyce’s blog.