Return Reads: The Blue Willow Brides Series by Maggie Brendan

Happy Thursday, fellow Shelfies!  Erica here. Today’s post is about a potentially divisive topic among readers: to reread or not to reread. Christina doesn’t get into the debate here, but we’d love to hear your views on rereading in the comments section. It’s obvious in this post that Christina is a fan of rediscovering a book or series buried in your kindle or somewhere on your book shelf. If you’re a fan of inspirational historical romance, you might want to give the series a read (a first read or a reread). I’ll let Christina tell you why.

Once upon a time, there was a lovely young woman who fell in love with her father’s humble assistant. This love affair angered the young woman’s father because of the difference in their backgrounds. To keep his daughter from continuing the relationship, the father dismissed the assistant and built a huge fence around his property to keep the young lovers apart. He arranged for his daughter to marry a powerful Duke instead. When the Duke arrived to marry the young woman, he presented her with a box of jewels. On the eve of the wedding, the young assistant disguised himself as a servant, slipped into the house, and escaped with the jewels and the woman he loved. Using the Duke’s ship, the young couple escaped to a secluded island where they lived happily for many years. When the Duke learned of their location, he sent soldiers to capture the couple and put them to death. The gods, touched by their unfortunate situation and the power of their loved, transformed the couple into doves, thus returning them to freedom.

Lovely tale, isn’t it? This is the story, behind the Blue Willow china pattern that became popular in 18th century England.

Blue Willow China

It’s also the inspiration behind a series of books I recently rediscovered buried deep in my kindle library.

The Blue Willow Brides series by Maggie Brendan follows three sisters as they immigrate from Holland to the wilds of the western territory of America to become mail order brides. Each sister has a love of blue willow china, its meaning held deep in their hearts. That love surrounds each of the three books in the series and is enough to make anyone want to start collecting the delicate pattern.

Maggie Brendan writes genuinely vivid characters and journeys that leave readers feeling satisfied with the happy ending they crave. Her stories deal with the trials – and sometimes humor – that comes from navigating romantic relationships without succumbing to traditional romance tropes. It’s no wonder her novels have won many awards.

Rediscovering her series and rereading them much later into the night than I expected reminded me how much I love her writing! I’ve since downloaded several of her other books that I plan to read this autumn when the weather gives me a perfect excuse to curl up with a good book. Check out Maggie’s Blue Willow Brides series and I promise you’ll be reading it (and rereading it) late into the night, too!

 

Get in My Kindle: Nine Perfect Strangers by Liane Moriarty

Title: Nine Perfect StrangersNine Perfect Strangers

Author: Liane Moriarty

Release Date: November 6, 2018

Description:

Could ten days at a health resort really change you forever? In Liane Moriarty’s latest page-turner, nine perfect strangers are about to find out…

Nine people gather at a remote health resort. Some are here to lose weight, some are here to get a reboot on life, some are here for reasons they can’t even admit to themselves. Amidst all of the luxury and pampering, the mindfulness and meditation, they know these ten days might involve some real work. But none of them could imagine just how challenging the next ten days are going to be.

Frances Welty, the formerly best-selling romantic novelist, arrives at Tranquillum House nursing a bad back, a broken heart, and an exquisitely painful paper cut. She’s immediately intrigued by her fellow guests. Most of them don’t look to be in need of a health resort at all. But the person that intrigues her most is the strange and charismatic owner/director of Tranquillum House. Could this person really have the answers Frances didn’t even know she was seeking? Should Frances put aside her doubts and immerse herself in everything Tranquillum House has to offer – or should she run while she still can?

It’s not long before every guest at Tranquillum House is asking exactly the same question.

Combining all of the hallmarks that have made her writing a go-to for anyone looking for wickedly smart, page-turning fiction that will make you laugh and gasp, Liane Moriarty’s Nine Perfect Strangers once again shows why she is a master of her craft.

Why I Can’t Wait to Read: I have a confession to make. I haven’t read or watched Big Little Lies. This oversight is probably worth a FOMO book post where I invite you to tell me whether or not it’s worth it, but at the moment I’m simply establishing the fact I am not a Liane Moriarty fan. I’ve heard the name, but to be honest, I think of the arch nemesis of Sherlock Holmes before the #1 New York Times Bestselling author.

What intrigues me about this book isn’t name recognition or a particularly well thought out title (Although the title is reminiscent of the original title of an Agatha Christie mystery that was renamed, and the prospect of reading a book like that is exciting. Perhaps the title is ironic and the characters are either not strangers or not as perfect as they seem. Operating on the book’s description, I can’t be sure. However, I reserve the right to a smug, knowing smile if either guess proves correct). The draw for me is the description.

I’m a big fan of character driven works. Having an attention grabbing premise is a good hook, but if you want to reel in a reader like me, you’re going to need to get me on the side of at least one character quickly. From the brief description of the main character, Frances, I think I’d love to follow her. She’s a former bestseller, which makes me wonder why she isn’t a bestseller now. She’s nursing a bad back (how old is she) and a broken heart (who broke her heart? Does that factor into the story). Then we’re given the curious detail of the “exquisitely painful paper cut,” when her back and broken heart aren’t given such descriptors. It’s not surprising that a writer would be intrigued by the other people at the health resort, but the teasing hint of danger at the end, should she run while she still can?, well, that is surprising.

If Ms. Moriarty is as skilled a writer as the internet says she is, this may be a page turner I can’t put down until I know what happened and who’s behind it. It’s times like this I wish I had enough of a following to be sent ARCs of books like this for review, or be granted interviews with well known authors, because I would love to be ahead of the curve on this one.

If a potentially witty page turner with an interesting protagonist and a good bit of mystery thrown in strikes your fancy, pre-order your copy from Amazon using my affiliate links below:

Hardback:

Kindle:

Have you read anything by Liane Moriarity? Are you looking forward to Nine Perfect Strangers? Let me know your thoughts on this week’s pick in the comments

Get in My Kindle: Remember God by Annie F. Downs

Title: Remember God Remember God

Author: Annie F. Downs

Release Date: October 2, 2018

Description: 

I know God is loving; I know He is good; I believe He is big and powerful. But sometimes I wonder if He is really kind— really deeply always kind.

Is He?

Christians love to talk about how God is in control, but that’s harder to grasp when things aren’t going like you thought they would, when your life looks quite different than you imagined.

For centuries, God’s people have been building altars to Him—to remind themselves and the people around them of His work. His goodness. His kindness. Stacks of stones. Altars. Temples. Cathedrals. Why? Because they believed God and wanted to remember Him.

In the back of my mind, God reminds me that He is the same trustworthy God—the One who always finishes the stories he starts. And this is my story—of wrestling with our God who gives a limp and a blessing. A God who is always kind even when my circumstances feel the opposite. God is who He says He is. He is kinder than you imagine. In a world where it is easy to forget who He is, we will not. We will remember God.

Why I Can’t Wait to Read: I’ve been following Annie for years and have read Let’s All Be Brave and Looking for Lovely. What I love about Annie’s writing is its honesty. Annie shares a lot of her life in her stories. Annie doesn’t lecture; she simply shares what she has learned by telling her story.

If you’ve read any of my Get in My Kindle picks, you know that I love a memoir or story of someone’s life, and all of Annie’s books are deeply personal. I’ve followed her journey of writing and editing this book, and as with Dani Shapiro’s forthcoming Inheritance, I feel invested in this story because I’ve seen what it cost the author to write it.

Annie is my friend in my head. We are both single Christian women in our thirties trying to make sense of a life that hasn’t turned out like we expected. God is still refining and teaching, and sometimes it’s hard to remember there’s a God behind what’s happening, and He has a purpose for it all. From what I’ve heard, Annie shares the story of her struggle to remember God through a particularly trying season. I can’t wait to see what she learns.

If you’re interested in Annie’s book, pre-order it right away! Annie is giving the first five thousand people to pre-order a free copy of the audio book! Go to anniefdowns.com to redeem your pre-order. You can order using my affiliate link below or use the links for other retailers on Annie’s site. The offer will disappear once all the audiobooks have been claimed. 

Grab It. Affiliate Links: 

Paperback:

Kindle: This wasn’t available when I checked. I’ll post it as soon as I find it.

 

Writing Wednesday: Diary of a Submission

Previously on By Her Shelf…

…“How Pleasure and Pain Became Friends.” I started it as a teenager… Over the years, their backgrounds and relationship has changed but the idea has always been there. I even entered a version of it in So You Think You Can Write. My CPs have read a large chunk of it, and one in particular always asks me when I’m going to finish it, but I haven’t… If I can get out of my own head, I might be able to have a finished story worth submitting. -Erica D. Hearns

I wrote this last month about my white whale story, an inspirational romance at the same time Harlequin was running the Romance Includes You submission blitz to find diverse stories from underrepresented groups. Sunday night at 11:59PM EST. The first chapter and synopsis of the above story was submitted at 9:53PM. This is the story. *insert Law and Order chimes*

Two weeks ago, I told my critique partner and fellow By Her Shelf blogger Christina I was thinking of submitting Pleasure’s Paine to this blitz. She urged me to do it, even offering to beta read and critique my entry that weekend. I didn’t get to it. She told me she was ready to do it anytime I needed her to. Flash forward to Sunday morning. After staying in bed the day before with a headache, I woke up pain free and energized. I decided to take the plunge and submit. I printed off the first chapter to edit on paper, saved my document, and treated myself to a decaf caramel latté. I knew many of the things I wanted to address, and editing flew by. When I returned to my computer, I realized I’d somehow erased the first chapter from the document. *cue panic attack*

But after the panic came…freedom. All of a sudden, I was back in the driver’s seat. I didn’t have to try and rework what was on the page because nothing was on the page. I didn’t even have to stick with the changes I’d made earlier that morning. Staring at the a blank page that shouldn’t have been blank broke the chains that tied me to what I’d already written.

In less than 12 hours, I rewrote the first chapter and created the entire synopsis from scratch. I sent pages to Christina in between writing sessions, received her feedback, and made adjustments. Then I uploaded my document, crafted a cover letter on the spot, and hit submit for the first time in three years.

I believe I was able to turn this submission around so quickly because I’ve lived with these characters for well over a decade, know their voices/POVs, and wasn’t afraid to kill any darlings that didn’t fit the story I was crafting. The reality of the deadline kept me plowing forward and forced me to figure out fixes on the fly. All of that is true. But the one thing I would point to above all those factors is the fact I was tired of letting golden opportunities pass me by without making any effort to grab them.

This year, I’ve committed myself to the concept of sowing. My only goal has been to say yes, take the opportunity, make the attempt, and see what happened. This blog is one of the seeds I sowed. I enjoy seeing that people are reading, liking, and commenting, but my commitment is to showing up and sharing my views on books and all things pertaining to the reading life.

Even though  I’ve made significant progress on my goal, I’ve allowed myself to watch potentially life-changing opportunities pass me by. These opportunities would have cost me nothing but the time, effort and courage to try. Sowing those seeds could have led to a new career, meeting new people, and getting to see more of the world I live in. I didn’t want this to be another thing I wished I had the courage to reach for.

All I’m guaranteed is feedback by October 1st. Whether the feedback is good or bad, whether they request more of the manuscript or not, the feeling of accomplishment that came over me when I took the time to acknowledge I’d done the thing I set out to do is reward enough for me to keep working on this story. I hope this seed will grow into something, but I’ve done my part for now. I’ll continue doing it.

Good luck to everyone with a story on submission?

What leaps have you made to move closer to your dreams/goals? Which leap are you preparing to make? Any book recommendations on taking leaps?

If you’re thinking of taking a creative leap, you might want to check out the kindle version of bestselling author and creativity expert Jeff Goins’ #1 bestseller, Real Artists Don’t Starve: Timeless Strategies for Thriving in the New Creative Age. It’s on sale right now for $1.99! I just snagged my copy. Click the affiliate link in the photo to snag yours.