BHS Episode 8: Gathering Around with Betsy Pendergrass

45416221_283412482374345_8166301459126681600_nToday, we’re getting to know Betsy Pendergrass By Her Shelf! Besty is a wife, a mom of four, a writer, and a passionate gatherer. Betsy and her husband Taylor share tips for gathering people and recipes for feeding them in the community they’ve built at gatheringaround.com.

In this episode, Betsy and I discuss:

Plot driven vs. character driven novels
Scary librarians
and One More Page Syndrome.

The Books

Christy by Catherine Marshall (Kindle)

100 Days to Brave by Annie F. Downs (Kindle)

Let’s All Be Brave by Annie F. Downs (Kindle)

The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien (Kindle)

The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis (Kindle)

The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis (Kindle)

The Mitford Series by Jan Karon (Kindle)

The Business of Honor by Bob Hasson and Danny Silk (Kindle)

Keep Your Love on by Danny Silk (Kindle)

Becoming Mrs. Lewis by Patti Callahan (Kindle)

Betsy-Tacy Series by Maud Heart Lovelace (Kindle)

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl (Kindle)

Mary Poppins by Dr. P.L. Travers (Kindle)

Miracles on Maple Hill by Virginia Sorenson (Kindle)

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee (Kindle)

Favorite Assigned Reading:

The Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O’Dell (Kindle)

Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH by Robert C. O’Brien

A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens (Kindle)

Julius Caesar by William Shakespeare (Kindle)

The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas (Kindle)

Required Reading that wasn’t for Betsy: Anything with Greek or Roman Gods

Betsy’s Surprising Book: Little Women by Louisa May Alcott (Kindle)

Betsy’s Suggested Reading on Hospitality:

Savor by Shauna Niequist (Kindle)

Magnolia Table: A Collection of Recipes for Gathering by Joanna Gaines (Kindle)

The Pioneer Woman Cooks: A Year of Holidays by Ree Drummond

The Turquoise Table by Kristen Schell (Kindle)

10 Ideas to Entertain Even If You Can’t Cook

Most Underrated Series: Cultivate by Cageless Birds

Currently Reading: Surprised by Joy by C.S. Lewis (Kindle)

On top of Betsy’s TBR Pile:

The Links

That Sounds Fun with Annie F. Downs

Dave Ramsey

Shauna Niequist

The Puffy Muffin

The Pioneer Woman

BHS Episode 7: A Place to Land with Kate Motaung

Today, we’re getting to know Kate Motaung by her shelf:

Kate Motaung - 2017 Headshot

Kate Motaung is the author of  A Place to Land: A Story of Longing and Belonging, Influence: Building a Platform that Elevates Jesus (Not Me), A Start-Up Guide for Online Christian Writers, and Letters to Grief. She is the host of Five Minute Friday, an online community that encourages and equips Christian writers, and the owner of Refine Services, a company that offers writing and editing services. Kate and her South African husband have three children. Find Kate at Heading Home, Five Minute Friday, or on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

In this episode, Kate and I chat about the bookish assignment that made her hate reading, the book that inspired her to restart her book A Place to Land as a memoir, mint chocolate chip ice cream, and so much more.

The Books:

Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls  (Kindle)

Surprised by Motherhood by Lisa Jo Baker (Kindle)

Atlas: Finding Home in the Last Place I Thought to Look by Emily T. Wierenga (Kindle)

Making It Home: Finding My Way to Peace, Identity, and Purpose by Emily T. Wierenga (Kindle)

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas (Kindle)

Born a Crime by Trevor Noah (Kindle)

We Hope for Better Things by Erin Bartels (Kindle)

Love Letters to Writers by Andi Cumbo-Floyd (Kindle)

The One Thing by Gary Keller with Jay Papasan (Kindle)

I Call You Mine by Kim de Blecourt (Kindle)

Control Girl by Shannon Popkin (Kindle)

Glorious Weakness by Alia Joy (Kindle)

All Manner of Things by Susie Finkbeiner (Kindle)

The Links:

Susie Finkbeiner

Lynn Austin

Susan Meissner

What We’re Reading

By Her Shelf has been suspiciously quiet the last couple of months. My co-contributors and I have all been insanely busy working, writing, creating, teaching, mothering, and, somewhere in the mystical gap in the time/space continuum called “free time,” reading. We’ve been so busy, in fact, we took an unintended extended summer vacation from blogging. While our break was fun, it’s time to get back to bringing you the reading related content you’ve come to expect from us. We’re easing back into regular posting with a brief recap of the amazing things we’ve been working on and what we’re reading these days. 

Contributor Alex participated in Camp NaNoWriMo in July. Her work in progress (WIP), Project Pastelitos, now sits close to 30,000 words! She also purchased her ticket to attend BookNet Fest in September. You can also catch Alex’s book related writing on Frolic. Alex is currently reading Second Chance Summer and Next Year in Havana

Contributor Christina recently launched Other Words Press, offering editing and critiquing services. She’s currently working on her first course, Inspire: From Idea to Draft, which will launch later this year. I’ve had the opportunity to read the modules, and I’m excited for all the aspiring authors who will have their writing lives changed by Inspire. Christina is currently  reading Where the Crawdads Sing and loving it.

I’ve been a busy bee. I released The Speaking Season: Poems and Pieces in paperback and kindle eBook. I’ve continued working with authors to publish their books, mostly through formatting and proofreading. I’ve been working on a super secret suite of author related content since December, and I’m finally ready to start releasing it. I’m announcing the first course this month.

After experiencing a hardcore reading slump, I crawled out of the abyss by picking up My Sister, the Serial Killer. I flew through it in two days and started another. I just finished Personal Protection, and it was really good as well. There are few things better than a Julie Miller romantic suspense to get me out of a reading slump.

And that’s what the ladies behind the shelf have been up to and reading. What are you reading now? What or who is your go-to genre, series, or author when you’re experiencing a reading slump?

Hate the Author, Not the Book?: When Horrible People Write Good Books

Erica here! One of the things I hope to do with By Her Shelf is to encourage readers to examine what their reading life says about them, and if it’s reflective of the person they are/want to be. In this vein, I’m opening up a controversial can of worms. This post doesn’t have the answers to the questions it asks…it just recognizes the need to have the questions and have the discussions. 

Although it just came out Friday, May 31st, it seems everyone on my social media has seen and is commenting on When They See Us, the new docu-drama based on the trial of the group of men formerly known as The Central Park 5 (now the Exonerated Five).

When They See Us

Ava DuVernay’s TV mini-series took over social media and Netflix, and has caused at least one key figure in the trial to experience book-related backlash.

The former head of the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office’s sex crimes unit, Linda Fairstein, has been receiving backlash for her handling of the trial all over social media and in the media. Many who watched the When They See Us have started campaigns to have the mysteries Fairstein has written boycotted, with calls for booksellers like Amazon and Barnes & Noble to stop carrying her books and boycotts of her publishers, Simon & Schuster and Penguin Random House.

We live in an interesting time when it comes to how we treat the art of people we don’t agree with morally, politically, or religiously, regardless of what their work addresses. Yet many literary works that are considered part of the classic canon or well loved were written by extremely flawed individuals. The cold hard fact is talent isn’t given only to the most virtuous or agreeable among us. But what does this obligate us to as readers, if anything? Can I read literature by people whose personal lives or belief systems are repugnant? Should their work be judged on its merits alone, or must we take the person who created it into account when choosing what we read?

This issue isn’t just affecting readers. The #metoo movement has spotlighted several celebrities in the movie and music industries accused of sexual assault, and many of the accused have been cut out of movies or experienced plummeting sales as consumers make their disgust and outrage felt by not financially supporting their projects. The recent college admissions scandal cost Lori Laughlin several roles, and caused some to wonder about Felicity Hoffman’s inclusion in When They See Us playing the aforementioned Fairstein. Even Chick-Fil-A was allegedly denied a restaurant in an airport due to donations made to Christian groups with “a history of anti-LGBTQ discrimination.” It seems Americans and decision makers have decided to “cancel” artists over personal beliefs and conduct unrelated to their works.

Yet there are still several in the pop culture and literary canon who, given this line of thought, should be removed from required reading lists. Lists of beloved children’s authors and members of the American literary canon include men and women who were/are attempted murderers, sexual predators, racists, Nazi sympathizers, perpetrators of domestic violence, drug abusers and alcoholics. How far should these campaigns to scrub an author’s work go? What traits should they look for in authors to determine who should be effectively silenced? Who gets to decide?

Ultimately, America is touted as the land of the free. Every American has the right to choose whose books they will read, movies they will watch, and food they will eat (except in public schools with set curriculums in their formative years). You can spend your money and time in support of the things others are in opposition to if you’re so inclined. I’m most interested in the question of reader responsibility: What responsibility do we have to express our personal convictions in our reading lives beyond what we read? Should who wrote the book matter just as much as or more than the content of the specific work? Let me know your thoughts below. 

Articles of interest (not endorsements or agreements):

Respected Writers Who Were Actually Horrible People– Grunge.com

‘When They See Us’ Sparks Boycott of Linda Fairstein Books– New York Post

Central Park 5 Prosecutor Linda Fairstein Faces Backlash after ‘When They See Us’ – AM New York

Pay to Peruse?: What ARC-Gate Means to Readers & Reviewers

There’s a little drama playing out all across authortube, and while I realize this is a reading blog, I feel as if I would be remiss if I didn’t address this issue that may affect our reading lives as the book publishing realm continues to change.

For those of you who are unaware, Creative Entrepreneur and Young Adult/Self-Help author Kristen Martin sparked a bit of controversy when she announced how she was going to handle advanced reader copies (ARCs) of her upcoming releases. Martin has started a Patreon community, where fans of an author or artist’s work can subscribe for exclusive content, sneak peeks, and early access to offerings. Martin announced her plans to offer ARCs to those who are subscribed to her Patreon at the highest level of $50/month for at least 3 months, which prompted many to speak out against her $150 ARCs.

#ARCSAreFree
A small portion of the videos that come up when you search “ARCs are free.” Notice 3/4 pertain to Kristen and ARC-Gate

Traditionally, publishers offer advanced reader copies to reviewers, hosts and influencers free of charge. In fact, many send additional gifts to top influencers, all in exchange for mentioning/reviewing the book. The cost of the package they send is their price of admission to access the audience. It should also be noted that the goal of sending out ARCs is to create buzz ahead of a book’s release with honest reviews and endorsements. As the indie publishing sphere has grown, authors who self-published have started offering ARCs as well. The practice isn’t new to either group, and it seemed everyone accepted the fact that ARCs are about exposure and future profit, not a product for immediate profit. Martin’s move shook up the writing and reading community and called us to examine whether the way it’s always been is the way it should continue to be.

As a writer, reader, and reviewer, my thoughts have thoughts on this approach. The first thing I thought was that Martin’s business mentor or coach messed up. Maybe the person/people she’s looking to for guidance on growing her business didn’t fully understand the bookish community and saw an untapped opportunity for profit in a space reserved for exposure and honest early feedback. Maybe Martin focused in on an option offering exclusive access to her most invested fans without realizing how it would appear. Maybe she didn’t think people would conclude she’s charging $150 for access to her ARCs. As far as I’ve seen, Martin hasn’t addressed this at all, so I don’t know what her thoughts are on the backlash. What I do know, is that the rise in indie publishing and changes to the publishing industry in general have allowed us all the ability to question how things have always been done and whether that’s the best course of action going forward, even when it comes to something like this.

In my opinion, the purpose of Advanced Reader Copies is to generate buzz and reviews for a book ahead of its release. In order to keep the review process honest, no one should have to pay for a review copy, and no one should be paid by a publisher or author for writing a review. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with giving your biggest supporters ARCs of your book first. This is pretty much the purpose of launch teams. Launch teams—and, I would add, influencers, Patreon subscribers and members of similarly exclusive groups—are given other gifts in exchange for promoting the book, but they don’t have to pay for the privilege. I know the inherent cost of producing and distributing ARCs can be prohibitive for some, but this cost shouldn’t be past to those who support you the most.

A long time ago, when CDs were the way we consumed music, I got a bee in my bonnet over Usher’s Confessions album. I went to Best Buy when it came out and bought my copy like a real fan instead of illegally downloading it or waiting for the bargain bin. After the album had been out for a while, an extended version with additional songs was released, and I felt like I’d been punished for buying it earlier. They wanted me to pay the price of another CD for three or four additional songs, and I didn’t think it was fair to do that to real fans of his work. If anything, the first run of CDs should have had the exclusive content, in my opinion.

I feel the same way about ARCs. ARCs are usually uncorrected proof copies, not polished products. They are sent out for critical analysis ahead of the book’s release. True fans who are a part of your launch team or Patreon or other exclusive group should be given more than an ARC to show your appreciation. If I really enjoy an ARC, I buy the book when it comes out, even if only to sponsor a giveaway. I know how much it costs to offer a book for free. I’m committed to being better about reviewing the ARCs I receive for this reason as well. The official position of By Her Shelf is “Keep ARCs free, and reward your supporters with some other exclusive offering.”

What are your thoughts on Advanced Reader Copies? Should authors/publishers be paid for them? As a reader, what do you expect from authors and early reviewers? Let me know what you think below!

The Stories Have Changed, but the Love Remains the Same: Romance Novel Love

Happy Wednesday, Shelfies! I’m making it my mission to start posting regularly here, and while I was sorely tempted to post a simple WWW Wednesday post, this post peeked at me from my draft bin and begged to be shared. I’ve read three great romances lately, so this post seems fitting. I hope you enjoy it!

Romance has been one of my favorite genres since I began reading. I’ve been reading romance novels since my tween years, when I started sneaking my mom’s Harlequins.

In the twenty plus years since I started reading romance (o_O), the genre has changed as dramatically–and in some cases, even more dramatically–as the times we live in. Here are a few of the changes I’ve noted in romance novels over the years:

  1. I can hear men’s thoughts. When I start reading romance novels, they didn’t share the male point of view (POV). The entire story was told from the heroine’s perspective, and the reader was left to guess about the man’s motivations and the reasoning behind his actions just like the heroine. Today, most romances include both perspectives, and readers get to spend time in both characters’ heads. This  has given readers more opportunities to see the black moments and misunderstandings coming, and be even more frustrated they can’t do anything to help the characters avoid them.
  2. Now, that’s a man. In the older romance novels I read, not only was the hero’s POV often absent, he was often cast as cold, aloof, unfeeling, and even vengeful or mean toward the heroine until the last few pages where he confessed his undying love (in a totally masculine way, of course). In today’s romances, men are presented as much more three dimensional. Hardened alpha males with forceful personalities are given dimension and even ask for things. Authors cast men as the “inexperienced” one or give them beta male characteristics more often. Publishing finally realized more than one type of man could be attractive to women. Men are allowed to be concerned about what their romantic counterparts want, which brings me to my next point…
  3. Let’s talk about sex. In romances of old, no one used or discussed contraception, shared health records, or verbalized consent. I read at least a couple romances from earlier decades where the encounters are clearly rapes, and it’s disturbing anyone ever thought this was OK. In the romances of today, most open door sexual encounters address safe sex and consent on the page. Men and women are both given opportunities to state they are willing participants. Women aren’t being “ravished” without saying it’s what they want, which leads me to…
  4. I’m free! If you’ve been reading romances as long as I have, or read older romances, you may have come across the alarming trend of stories with false imprisonment or women forced into marriage. I clearly recall stories in which men kept women against their will to extract revenge for some perceived slight (usually committed by the heroine’s sister or cousin or worldly friend who was nothing like the sweet, innocent woman being held captive). Unlike Belle who chose to give up her freedom to save her father, these stories were women who didn’t have a choice. While there are some romantic suspense or niche stories that feature kidnapping or false imprisonment today, kidnapping isn’t positioned as a perfectly acceptable thing to do when you’d like the pleasure of a woman’s company.
  5. Making the hard choices. In many of the older romances I’ve read, all of the heartache and pain could have been avoided if someone hadn’t missed a phone call, letter, or visitor. Their conflicts could be resolved in seconds if the hero and heroine just sat down and TALKED to each other. Assumptions and misunderstandings abounded. Today, romances are showcasing conflicts that aren’t so easily resolved. Characters have to make real sacrifices or overcome tremendous odds to receive their happily ever after. It’s not always easy to choose to love, but somehow, they do.

There are several other changes I could highlight, but it’s more than obvious even from these few examples that the romance genre is a dynamic one, growing and changing with the times and the readers it serves. If you’ve avoided the genre because you think it’s all bodice rippers and erotica, ditzy dames and toxic masculinity, subpar sentences and too many adjectives for private parts, or where feminism or a moral code goes to die, I encourage you to take another look.

What’s the last great romance you read? For my romance loving readers, what changes have you noticed in the genre, and how do you feel about them? Let me know in the comments below.

BOOK REVIEW: Hers to Protect by Catherine Lanigan


On Tour with Prism Book Tours

Erica here: Guys! I’ve been horrible at sharing reviews for books this year! I haven’t signed up to review very many, and yet and still the reviews keep falling through the cracks in the surface of a BUSY first half of the year. But I’m committed to bringing you more reviews (ahem…ON TIME…ahem), and what better way to back up that promise than share my review of Hers to Protect, book #11 in the Shores of Indian Lake series by Catherine Lanigan? So let’s get to it, shall we? (Please note, I received an advance Kindle copy of this book in exchange for an honest review)

I have a confession to make. Somehow, I’ve missed the first 10 books in this series. A surreptitious search of my Goodreads shelves says I haven’t read anything else by Ms. Lanigan. I know, the rule is every books in a romance line like Harlequin’s Heartwarming line can be read as a standalone, but every time I read about a couple in this book, I wondered what happened in THEIR book. This didn’t detract from the story for me, but I figured you should know and take my perceptions with a grain of salt if you’re a die-hard, start at the beginning of the series and go straight through kind of reader like me. There’s a handy dandy “other books in the series” graphic at the end of this post in case you want to go back and read the others.

In Hers to Protect, we’re following Indian Lake rookie cop Violet Hawkins in her quest to become a detective. Up to this point, she’s done little more than hand out the occasional parking ticket, but she knows she has the instincts and skills to be a Grade A detective. She’s secured her first “real” assignment-a stakeout. She’s tasked with finding a suspect in a drug trafficking gang. Instead, she pulls over famous race car driver Josh Stevens.

Josh Stevens is week’s away from an important race when he ends up in Violet’s path. He doesn’t need the bad publicity of a speeding ticket and arrest in the final lead up to the big race. Both his lawyer and his manager advise him to lay low and find a way to get in the tiny town’s good graces. Just when he’s winning over the town, and the pretty Officer Hawks, her investigation and his past seem to place him on Violet’s bad side. Will Violet end up placing Josh under arrest again, or will her heart be the one behind bars?

I really enjoyed this book! I read it in a couple days (work and life interrupted, unfortunately). The plot was engaging and Ms. Lanigan kept the conflict strong throughout the story. The author did a great job of balancing moving both the plot and Josh and Violet’s relationship forward.

I have to admit, I didn’t like the characters right away. They both jumped to conclusions and made assumptions about each other that were a bit extreme. This doesn’t usually bother me, but these came before I felt I had the opportunity to learn their true characters. It took me a while to sort them out and grow to like and care about them.

Another thing that threw me off about them is how quickly they went from dislike/distrust to having strong feelings for each other. I was little more than 50% in when I felt like they might have the conflict resolved and race toward the happily ever horizon. Luckily, Catherine through some hairpin turns in the road to force them to slow down. I don’t have a problem with strong feelings early and often if the writer can keep the conflict equally strong, and Ms. Lanigan managed to do so.

Other than the conflict and plot, I also loved the subplot. The project Violet and Josh work on together with other members of the Indian Lake community not only brought out a bit of the characters’ backstories, it showed their commonality, yet sharpened their conflict at the same time (I won’t say how. You’ll have to pick up the book to find out!).

I would recommend Hers to Protect to anyone looking for a clean read with a compelling conflict, a light enemies to lovers angle, and plenty of small town heart.

Hers to Protect
(Shores of Indian Lake #11)
By Catherine Lanigan
Contemporary Romance
Paperback & ebook, 384 Pages
April 1st 2019 by Harlequin Heartwarming

She’s sworn to protect…

But does that include a speeding celebrity?

Violet Hawks is a by-the-books police officer—so when she catches a man speeding, she arrests him. Only, the man is famous race car driver Josh Stevens. To make amends, Josh launches a charm campaign, and it works on the small town…and on Violet. But when Josh is connected to an investigation, Violet begins to wonder—can she trust her instincts when her heart is involved?

GoodreadsAmazonB&NiBooksHarlequinKobo

Other Books in the Series


About the Author

Catherine Lanigan is the international bestselling and award-winning author of over forty-five published titles in both fiction and non-fiction, including the novelizations of Romancing the Stone and The Jewel of the Nile. Ms. Lanigan’s novels have been translated into over twenty-four languages. Lanigan was tasked by the NotMYkid foundation to pen a collection of compelling and informative true stories of teen addicts. Ms. Lanigan’s SHORES OF INDIAN LAKE series for HARLEQUIN HEARTWARMING includes LOVE SHADOWS, HEART’S DESIRE , A FINE YEAR FOR LOVE, KATIA’S PROMISE, FEAR OF FALLING, SOPHIE’S PATH, PROTECTING THE SINGLE MOM, FAMILY OF HIS OWN, HIS BABY DILEMMA, RESCUED BY THE FIREFIGHTER and HER TO PROTECT (2019).

Ms. Lanigan is a frequent speaker at literary functions and book conventions as well as inspiring audiences with her real stories of angelic intervention from her Angel Tales series of books. She is an outspoken advocate for domestic violence and abuse and was honored by The National Domestic Violence Hotline in Washington, D.C. She has been a guest on numerous radio programs including “Coast to Coast” and on television interview and talk show programs as well as blogs, podcasts and online radio interview programs. She writes a monthly blog for Heartwarmingauthors.blogspot.com.

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BHS Episode 6: Hollow Hearts with Christina Yother

Today, we’re getting to know Christina Yother By Her Shelf:

Christina Yother

Christina Yother is the Amazon Bestselling Author of the Hollow Hearts historical romance series. She has been involved with writing, blogging, and social media for several years and earned a Ph.D. in 2012 by writing one of the first dissertations to explore how women build community through writing online. She lives in small-town Georgia with her husband and three children. You can find her writing at christinayother.com

In this episode, Christina and I chat about:

  • Hollow Hearts, Christina’s historical fiction trilogy.
  • Books you don’t remember buying (or reading)
  • Censorship vs. Age appropriateness
  • Dust jackets and dog-eared pages

And so much more. You’ll even hear Christina convince me to join her in an informal Goodreads challenge you may want to implement if you’re guilty of a certain reading habit.

Since the recording of this episode, Christina has launched Other Words Press, a publishing company dedicated to offering quality fiction as well as providing services and coaching to developing writers. If you’re an aspiring writer seeking developmental editing or professional critiquing, I can’t recommend Christina highly enough.

The books:

Book that ignited/reignited her love of reading: Just as Long as We’re Together by Judy Blume (Kindle)

Are You There, God? It’s Me, Margaret, Deenie, Blubber, Tiger Eyes

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte (Kindle)

Least favorite assigned reading: Lord of the Flies by William Golding (Kindle)

The Hobbit by JRR Tolkien (Kindle)

Les Miserables by Victor Hugo (Kindle)

Flowers in the Attic by V.C. Andrews (Kindle)

VC Andrews

Save the Cat Writes a Novel by Jessica Brody (Kindle)

Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott (Kindle)

Christina’s Books
Reverie (Kindle)

Reliance (Kindle)

Reconcile (Kindle)

Twilight by Stephenie Meyer (Kindle)

The Vampire Diaries (Amazon Series Page)

Kaye Gibbons (Amazon Author Page)

A Virtuous Woman by Kaye Gibbons (Kindle)

Girl, Wash Your Face by Rachel Hollis (Kindle)

Coulson’s Wife by Anna J. McIntyre (Kindle)

Reader, I Married Him by Tracy Chevalier (Kindle)

Vox by Christina Dalcher (Kindle)

The Girl Aquarium by Jen Campbell (Kindle)

Weird Things Customers Say in Bookstores by Jen Campbell (Kindle)

The Beginning of the World in the Middle of the Night by Jen Campbell

Links:

Nalia (Cover Designer)

Book Outlet

What Should I Read Next

Jen Campbell’s YouTube

Book Launch: The Speaking Season

Hello, Shelfies! Erica here. It’s been a while. I’ve been holed up in a corner, hunched over a laptop, printed pages stained with multicolored ink slashes, squiggles, and writing with more in common with Egyptian hieroglyphs than English words. All of my hard work has paid off, and I’m interrupting regularly scheduled programming to bring you this very, very special announcement: 
121418_SS Front Cover*deep breath*

I’m releasing a new book April 23, 2019 entitled The Speaking Season: Poems and Pieces. It’s 40 poems, their origin stories and explanations, and three creative non-fiction essays written to inspire dialogue and discussion, challenge you to look at a topic or issue from a different perspective, or express feelings you can meet with an enthusiastic (or teary-eyed) me, too.

If you love poetry and/or want to help me get this book in the right hands, sign up to be a part of my launch team: https://forms.gle/4jChxnDYqH8hg3Rt6

‘Kay, thanks, bye!

*runs around the corner* *faints*

Seriously, I’m so excited about this collection. It’s thought-provoking, challenging, and vulnerable in ways I’ve never been before, which makes me anxious in good and bad ways for readers to get their hands on it. If you have any questions about the collection, or just want to leave me some encouragement, feel free to do so in the comments section. 
XOXO,
Erica D. Hearns

Book Review: Romancing His Rival by Jennifer Shirk

If you’ve been following By Her Shelf for a while, you may remember me reviewing a book called Catch Him If You Can by Jennifer Shirk (you can find the review here). In that review, I said

This isn’t my first Jennifer Shirk book, and it most definitely won’t be my last. I have to know what happens in the next book to the next heroine. I know Jennifer is going to give her a great happily ever after as well.

Six months later, I had the opportunity to read that heroine’s book. Entangled Publishing sent me an advance copy of Romancing His Rival by Jennifer Shirk to review because I begged requested it. 

Title: Romancing His RivalRomancing His Rival

Author: Jennifer Shirk

Release Date: February 11, 2019

Review:  Hotel receptionist Elena Mason is left heartbroken months before her wedding when her fiancé dumps her, and it’s all Lucas Albright III’s fault. Her fiancé’s so-called best man talked him out of marrying Elena, and months later, she still hasn’t recovered, or stopped believing her fiancé will realize they’re meant to be together and come back. As for Lucas, Elena hopes to never see him again.

Lucas Albright is a marketing executive on the fast track to promotion. After a failed marriage, Lucas focuses all of his attention on his career, and it’s paid off. Convinced he works better alone, professionally and personally, Lucas is frustrated to find out his long sought after promotion is dependent upon him working with the one person who thinks of him as her archenemy.

Elena knows she has to work with Lucas. but that doesn’t mean she’s going to make it easy for him. She wants him to pay for breaking up her engagement. Lucas is willing to do whatever it takes to secure his promotion, even work with Elena. But the closer Elena and Lucas work together, the more each has trouble remembering they’re supposed to be rivals and not romantic partners.

I was ready to read Elena’s story from the time I turned the last page of Catch Him if You Can. The little glimpse into what happened with Elena intrigued me and I couldn’t wait to see how Ms. Shirk would pull of Elena’s happily ever after. Coming to a book with high expectations like this can be dangerous. I loved Elena as a supporting character, but how would I feel about her as a heroine? Could Jennifer make me love this character and her hero as much as Wade and Arden?

When I first met Elena in Romancing His Rival, I didn’t connect with her right away. I wanted to grab her and shake her out of her depressive funk. I wanted to say “get over it, already!” She seemed a little too whiny and was a little too eager to foist all the responsibility onto Lucas for why her relationship didn’t work out. Yet there was something about her that kept me reading.

This also did a curious thing: it immediately made me more willing to hear Lucas’s side of the story. Instead of being aligned with Elena against him, I was open to the idea there would be more to him and what he did or didn’t do than Elena knew or was willing to admit. I couldn’t love a man who went around destroying engagements for fun, but I could hear out the guy who was being unjustly blamed for the fate of an entire relationship.

Once Lucas and Elena were on the page together, things got even better. Even though Lucas is supposed to be the uptight ad exec, he’s funny and even laid back with Elena, who, although usually rainbows and sunshine, is acerbic and a little dramatic with Lucas to begin with. I liked them together from their first encounter on the page.

It’s evident from their first appearances that both of these characters have some growing and changing to do, and Ms. Shirk pulls them through it with an invisible string. Their actions, even the slightly outrageous ones, seem self-motivated and not driven by the plot. There were a couple moments I felt pulled out of the book by a bit of dialogue that felt clunky, but for the most part, I was able to immerse myself in Elena and Lucas’s story.

I would recommend Romancing His Rival to anyone looking for a sweet, enemies to lovers romance with humor liberally sprinkled in. Although you don’t have to have read them to enjoy Romancing His Rival, I would also recommend Bargaining with the Boss and Catch Him If You Can, the first two books in the Accidentally Yours Series by Jennifer Shirk.

Star Rating 3.5/5