You’re Strong Enough by Kassi L. Pontious – Win a $50 Amazon Gift Card!

You’re Strong Enough
By Kassi L. Pontious


About the Book

You’re Strong Enough takes readers on a quest to discover who they are, why they are here, where they came from, and what their ultimate goal is. Christian writer, Kassi Pontious, shares personal experiences aimed at teaching young people that each of us is strong enough for our own trials and challenges. In “You’re Strong Enough,” you will discover who your real enemy is and how to defeat this dragon. As you participate in individual quests at the end of each chapter, you will learn how to cut the strings of dysfunction that may be trying to control your life. Ultimately, you will discover where your true strength lies and how to conquer the obstacles in life’s path. You’re Strong Enough is a book about hope and empowerment. It brings truths to light that will empower your soul and inspire you, and those around you.

KassieKassi L. Pontious

Kassi Pontious is the author of the Christian teenage and young adult books, You’re Enough Series. Kassi wrote the You’re Enough Series, beginning with You’re Strong Enough to help struggling teenagers and young adults who come from dysfunctional families and who feel lost and confused. Her goal is to help her readers to find a way to cope, to forgive, to believe, and to trust again. Kassi is a graduate of the LDS Christian church missionary program and a leader of Christian youth groups. Kassi has studied religion extensively, including four years at seminary and three years at Orem Institute of Religion. She served an eighteen-month mission in North Carolina, leading a group of fifty sister missionaries.

Kassi understands what it is like to be from a divorced and dysfunctional family. Her parents divorced when she was four and she lived with six different families during her childhood. She works with kids that come from divorced and dysfunctional families, teaching them how to cope, and maximize their potential despite their challenging home lives. Kassi is married and has four beautiful children. She runs a successful real estate brokerage firm in Alpine Utah. She loves hiking, playing sports, geo caching, and swimming.

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This book blast is hosted by CrossReads.

We would like to send out a special THANK YOU to all of the CrossReads book blast bloggers!

Dear Mr. Knightley by Katherine Reay – Win a Kindle Fire HDX & An Austen-Themed Prize Pack!

Cover Rating: 4 Stars ****

Blurb:

Samantha Moore has always hidden behind the words of others—namely, her favorite characters in literature. Now, she will learn to write her own story—by giving that story to a complete stranger.

Sam is, to say the least, bookish. An English major of the highest order, her diet has always been Austen, Dickens, and Shakespeare. The problem is, both her prose and conversation tend to be more Elizabeth Bennet than Samantha Moore.

But life for the twenty-three-year-old orphan is about to get stranger than fiction. An anonymous, Dickensian benefactor (calling himself Mr. Knightley) offers to put Sam through Northwestern University’s prestigious Medill School of Journalism. There is only one catch: Sam must write frequent letters to the mysterious donor, detailing her progress.

As Sam’s dark memory mingles with that of eligible novelist Alex Powell, her letters to Mr. Knightley become increasingly confessional. While Alex draws Sam into a world of warmth and literature that feels like it’s straight out of a book, old secrets are drawn to light. And as Sam learns to love and trust Alex and herself, she learns once again how quickly trust can be broken.

Reminding us all that our own true character is not meant to be hidden, Reay’s debut novel follows one young woman’s journey as she sheds her protective persona and embraces the person she was meant to become.

You can purchase it here: AmazonB&N * BAM * CBD * Deeper Shopping

About the Author:

Katherine Reay has enjoyed a life-long affair with the works of Jane Austen and her contemporaries. After earning degrees in history and marketing from Northwestern University, she worked as a marketer for Proctor & Gamble and Sears before returning to school to earn her MTS. Her works have been published in Focus on the Family and the Upper Room. Katherine currently lives with her husband and three children in Seattle. Dear Mr. Knightley is her first novel.

Find Katherine here: Website * Facebook * Twitter * Blog * Goodreads

~My Review~

 
 

Samantha Moore had had a rough childhood with an abusive father, a drug addict as a mother and moving from foster home to foster home. Then she found herself at a Grace House, a home for wayward and orphaned kids, and under the supervision if Father John. Sam had always lived in her books and, being a fan of Jane Austen, she often quoted her characters as a way to hide her true self. When Father John suggested her as a scholarship candidate to the Dover Foundation she refused because she wanted to do things on her own and on her own terms. After failing to do exactly that she contested the grantor of the scholarship to ask for a second chance. It was granted under one condition, that she write letters detailing her progress to his pseudonym–Mr. Knightley.

Sam soon finds herself pouring out her feelings to someone that started out as a stranger but is soon a trusted friend. With Mr. Knightley she can share her deepest, darkest secrets, her fears and her desires, and even a true love. With a new set of “parents”, new friends, a college degree and a new love blossoming in her heart, Sam is finally coming into her own and putting the fears of the past behind her. To her own amazement she is shedding her Jane Austen persona all while bearing her soul to one man and giving her heart to another. Can Sam have the life she has only dreamed of? Could this really be real or is she only a character in one of her beloved novels?

When I first opened this book I have to admit I was skeptical. A book made entirely of letters? My first thought was, “How can this possibly meet my expectations?”. Even though I have read such greats as The Wednesday Letters by Jason F. Wright and The Prayer Box by Lisa Wingate I still had reservations. Those books had such great story lines and the letters were a PART of the story, NOT the story itself. So as I delved into this story I did so with a little skepticism. Have you ever done that? Read a book that you had questions about but, once you read it, were so glad you did? That is exactly what happened. A third of the way through I knew I had chosen well, halfway through I was in tears, three quarters of the way through I was literally giddy (did I say giddy? Yes, GIDDY!) at the prospect of how the story was going to turn out every time I picked the book back up to start reading again. I have read tons of books in my life and, although I have seen times I didn’t want to put a book down, I have never felt giddy at re-entering a story. The way Sam bared her soul to Mr. Knightley just tore at my heart. I felt every heartache and disappointment she went through. I felt every loss and rejection and rejoiced with every happy moment Sam experienced. And when she finally found love, which she desperately deserved, I was ecstatic! It takes good writing to bring out those kind of emotions and in the form of letters? Excellent! If you love a story with depth and feeling, a story that makes you feel like you’re a part of it, you’ll love Dear Mr. Knightley. And, I must add, it’s a DEBUT novel! Which obviously means I have many more books to look forward to from Katherine Reay. I was SO pleased with this book and I recommend it HIGHLY!

 Disclaimer: I received a complimentary copy of the book from the publisher for my honest review. These opinions are mine and mine alone. I was in no way compensated for this review.

My Rating: 5 Stars *****

 

*Tweetables*

 
 
 
 
 

Q & A: I ask the question and you answer with your own personal thoughts! 🙂

While writing her letters, Sam was writing to a pseudonym (A fictitious name). She had no idea who the recipient was or anything about them and that made it easier to be truthful about herself and dig deeper into her life and past. Do you think you could bare your soul completely to a stranger under these circumstances or would it have to be someone you know very well?

 
 
 
 
 
 

Debut author Katherine Reay is celebrating the release of her delightful novel, Dear Mr. Knightley, with a Kindle Fire HDX giveaway, a fun Favorite Austen Moments Pinterest contest, and an Austen-themed Facebook Party.

dearmrknightley-400

One winner will receive:

  • A Kindle Fire HDX
  • Dear Mr. Knightley by Katherine Reay
  • Handmade Austen-themed items (scarf, mug, bracelet, and necklace) 
Two ways to win! Enter today by clicking one of the icons below or participating in the Pinterest contest (see banner below)—or BOTH! 



But hurry, the giveaway ends on December 3rd. Winner will be announced at the “Dear Mr. Knightley” Austen-themed Facebook Author Chat Party on the 3rd. Join Katherine (and Austen fans) for an evening of book chat, prizes, and an exclusive look at Katherine’s next book.

So grab your copy of  Dear Mr. Knightley and join Katherine on the evening of December 3rd for a chance to connect and make some new friends. (If you haven’t read the book, don’t let that stop you from coming!)

Don’t miss a moment of the fun; RSVP today by clicking JOIN at the event page. Spread the word—tell your friends about the giveaway and party via FACEBOOK, TWITTER, or PINTEREST. Hope to see you on the 3rd!

For Love or Loyalty Book 1, MacGregor Legacy by Jennifer Hudson Taylor – Blog Tour & Review

It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old…or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!

You never know when I might play a wild card on you!

Today’s Wild Card author is:

and the book:

Abingdon Press (November 5, 2013)
***Special thanks to Jennifer Hudson Taylor for sending me a review copy.***

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Jennifer Hudson Taylor is an award winning author of inspirational fiction set in historical Europe & the Carolinas. She provides keynotes and presentations on the publishing industry, the craft of writing building an author platform & social media marketing. Her debut novel, Highland Blessings, received a 4 1/2 star review from RT Book Reviews and won the Holt Medallion Award for Best First Book. Jennifer’s work has appeared in national publications, such as Guideposts, Heritage Quest Magazine, RT Book Reviews, and The Military Trader. Jennifer graduated from Elon University with a B.A. in Communications/Journalism. When she isn’t writing, Jennifer enjoys spending time with her family, traveling, visiting historical sites, parasailing, horseback riding, cycling, long walks, genealogy and reading.

Visit the author’s website.

SHORT BOOK DESCRIPTION:

One conquest could destroy her, but avenge his family.

Scotland to Carolina, 1760

Malcolm MacGregor vows to free his family and exact revenge against Duncan Campbell. When the opportunity arises, Malcolm decides to use Duncan’s daughter as the bargaining price. Lauren Campbell is the perfect answer, until she begins chipping away at the bitterness in Malcolm’s heart and changing everything. Her bold faith and forgiveness ignites guilt he would rather avoid and a love he doesn’t deserve.

Lauren Campbell never expected to discover such a caring and protective man behind the façade of Malcolm MacGregor’s fierce reputation. When they arrive in America, things turn against them, and Lauren finds herself in a fate worse than death. Now Malcolm has the dilemma of freeing the rest of his family or rescuing Lauren, but time is short and with little means, he needs a miracle

Product Details:
List Price: $14.99
Series: The Macgregor Legacy
Paperback: 352 pages
Publisher: Abingdon Press (November 5, 2013)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1426714696
ISBN-13: 978-1426714696

AND NOW…THE FIRST CHAPTER:

A feeling of foreboding crawled over Malcolm MacGregor like a colony of insects picking at his skin. He gripped the reins as he inhaled the crisp March air, but it burned his lungs with the residue of tainted fire. A cloud of dark smoke hovered over the wee village of Inverawe—home. Fear coiled inside Malcolm’s gut as he urged his mount forward.

His brother kept pace beside him. At a score and four, Thomas was two years Malcolm’s junior. He favored Malcolm with the same stubborn chin and broad shoulders from hard work.

Distant moors lined the overcast sky. Morning fog hovered over the glen, blending with heavy smoke. As they drew near, their eyes stung and the burnt smell accosted them until they coughed. Keening scraped his ears like a tormented bagpipe.

They reached the stone huts, packed with dirt and straw roofs. At least the village homes weren’t on fire, as he originally feared. Piles of furniture and personal items burned in front of each hut. Sad faces and weeping echoed from every direction.

Malcolm’s throat constricted.His chest tightened in a mixture of compassion and fear for his family. He maneuvered his horse between the huts heading toward the center of the village, seeking the home where he had grown from a lad into a man. Engulfed in flames, itblazed to the sky.

“Mither an’ Carleen . . .” The words fell from Malcolm’s swollen tongue, stalling in the air as his thoughts shifted to their youngest brother, Graham. At only twenty, the lad would have done aught to protect the women in their absence.

“Malcolm, ye’re back!” Heather strode toward him, her eyes red and swollen. Words stalled upon her tongue, increasing his anxiety as he waited for her to collect her emotions and continue.

“What happened?” Malcolm asked, pulling his horse to a stop and dismounting. It was an effort to keep his voice calm, but he tried for Heather’s sake, though his insides quaked.

“‘Tis the worst.” Heather succumbed to tears, shaking with grief.

“What is it, lass?” Malcom shook her hoping to force her out of her temporary stupor.

“Where’s Mither an’ Carleen?” Thomas strode toward them, his voice betraying his fears.

Heather sobbed, falling against Malcolm’s chest. On instinct, his arms slipped around her.He looked up, his eyes questioning the rest of the villagers approaching with sorrowful expressions.

“The Campbells were here.” Roy strode foward, his red eyes weary with similar grief—his right eye swollen and his lip cut. Even in his late fifties, Roy was healthy and robust. It would have taken several men to bring him low. “They took Iona an’ Carleen.”

“Took them?” Thomas gave the elder man a look of disbelief. “Where?”

“How long ago?” Malcolm pressed Heather into the arms of her mother who came up behind her. He turned back to his horse and prepared to mount.

“Nay! There’s too many o’ them. Sixty or more.” A strong hand grabbed his shoulder. “Listen to me, lad. Ye canna help yer mither an’ sister if ye’re dead.”

“I’ve time to catch them if I leave now.” Malcolm pulled away. More hands grabbed him. He didn’t want to fight his own kinsmen, but they wouldn’t deter him from his mission. He had to act now before it was too late.

“Let me go!” Thomas yelled, fighting a similar battle.

“I’ve got ’im, Da.” Strong arms belted around Malcolm’s neck and jerked him backward, cutting off his air. Malcolm coughed. He swung his elbow into Alan’s ribs.

“Argh!” Alan relaxed his hold, but didn’t let go.

“Listen to reason, lad. The rest o’ us are too auld an’ wounded to be fightin’ ye.” A fist from another angle slammed into his jaw. “But fight ye, we will, if it’s the only way to save yer life.” Roy’s voice echoed over the multiple hands and arms keeping him down.

Never had the villagers fought him like this. More dread pooled in the pit of his stomach as he realized there had to be a reason for their adamancy. What had they not yet told him? They were right. How could he and Thomas expect to best sixty or more Campbell men? This feat would require his wits, and he wasn’t thinking, only reacting.

“All right.” He clenched his teeth, willing his body to relax against their resistance. “Tell me why I shan’t go after them. It does not make sense to lose precious time.”

Following Malcolm’s example, Thomas also surrendered.

“Duncan Campbell came to collect the rents,” Roy said. “But he arrived with an army of warriors. He did not come hither on business as he claimsHis purpose was to cause trouble an’ he chose yer family to be the example.”

“They were not supposed to come for another fortnight.” Malcolm jerked away from Alan who sported a bloody lip, already swelling, and a long sword gash upon his arm. Malcolm frowned. Only the Campbells would have been carrying broadswords. Blood soaked Alan’s sleeve, probably more so from his skirmish with Malcolm. Guilt lacerated Malcolm’s emotionally scarred heart. How long must they go on living like peasant pawns for the Campbells’ entertainment?

“They did all this over unpaid rents?” Malcolm lifted his hands in disbelief. “We took the cattle to market an’ we now have the rent. ‘Tis all for naught!” His voice cracked as he ran a hand through his hair. A deep ache twisted his gut.

“Listen to Da.” Alan wiped the back of his hand across his lip. “We need a plan. The Campbells want us to come after them in a mad rage. They have the king’s favor an’ all the wealth they need. We canna fall into their trap again.”

“We can gather more MacGregors an’ break into Kilchurn Manor.” Thomas walked over. The others stepped aside to let him through. “We’ll get Mither an’ Carleen out.” “We canna abandon them.”

“‘Tisn’t that simple. I wish it were.” Roy rubbed a wrinkled hand over his weathered face with a broken sigh. “Even if we gather more MacGregors from other parts of Argyll, we may not be strong enough to break through Duncan Campbell’s forces. He has too many allies. If we succeed an’ bring them home, how will we stop them from coming again?”

Roy and Alan stood still, watching Malcolm and Thomas as though they would tackle them again if need be. More villagers crowded around. All of them looked like a sorry lot, the men having been beaten, the women wearing expressions of grief and sorrow. Soot layered their faces, arms, and clothing.

‘Tis possible they have taken them to a debtor’s prison,” Mary MacGregor maneuvered around her husband and son, “since yer mither did not have the rent money.”

“If that is the case,” Malcolm said. “They will have to release Mither an’ Carleen once I pay the rent.”

“Duncan raised the rents again, plus he’s charging interest,” Mary said. “He took our furniture an’ burned what he did not want.” Tears filled her eyes. “William an’ Graham are young an’ foolish to try to fight them. They killed William this day. How many more do ye think we can stand to lose?”

“An’ Graham?” Malcolm staggered at the news. He closed his eyes, rubbing his brows. William and Graham were inseparable. Had Graham suffered the same fate? Heather broke into more weeping and Malcolm’s chest tightened. The lass had been sweet on their youngest brother as soon as they could walk. Now he understood the extent of her grief. “Where is Graham? Did they take him, too?” Malcolm clenched his fists at his sides, attempting to calm the rising tide of anxiety. “Is he alive?”

“Aye, but barely,” Roy said. “I’m sorry, Malcolm. We tried to fight them, but there were too many . . .”

“Take us to ‘im,” Thomas said in a gruff voice, moving to stand beside Malcolm.

“Greg and Colin are tendin to ‘im. The Campbells beat him bad an’ hung ’im on a tree.” Roy’s voice faltered. “To make an example out o’ ‘im.”

“By the neck?” Malcolm followed Roy and Alan to their hut. Fear clawed at his heart and gripped his lungs, stealing the breath from him.

“Nay,” Alan said. “With his arms spread out. We think both shoulders are dislocated.”

They stopped before entering Roy’s hut. “They left us only one bed, so that is where we put ’im.” Roy held up a palm and shook his head. “Prepare yerself, lads.”

Malcolm bent through the threshold and blinked, allowing his eyes to adjust to the dim candlelight. Their small huts contained no windows for daylight to filter inside. He walked across the dirt floor to the tiny bed. Graham’s long legs hung over the side. His height matched Malcolm’s at six-four. Among the three brothers, Thomas was the shortest, shy of them by a couple of inches.

Colin looked up from where he hunched over stitching a wound in the lad’s side. Greg cleaned his bruised face from the other side. Neither of them spoke as they concentrated on their tasks.

Both Malcolm and Thomas dropped to their knees. Thomas groaned and gulped back a threatening cry. Malcolm searched for his voice, but it lodged in his throat as a sickening pain clutched his soul and wouldn’t let go. They stayed that way for several moments, trying to make sense of it all.

Colin cleared his throat. “The lad fought bravely, like a Highland warrior if ever I saw one.”

Graham disliked fighting. Unlike the rest of them, who thrived upon the sword, Graham had preferred his wits to outsmart the wretched Campbells. He held out in stubborn pride believing forgiveness and reason would bridge the great divide between the Campbells and MacGregors. Today, he had discovered the truth and his faith had almost cost him his life.

“Is he . . .” Still unable to say it, Malcolm laid a hand on Graham’s chest. A faint heartbeat pulsed beneath his palm. Malcolm closed his eyes in relief.

“He passed out from the pain when I reset his shoulders back into the sockets,” Greg said. “As soon as Colin stitches his side, we’ll bind his ribs.”

“At least he’s alive,” Thomas said, shaking his head in disbelief. “I always teased him about being the bonny son. Now look at ’im. I fear he won’t ever be the same again.”

“Graham was never vain.” Malcolm gripped Graham’s limp hand. “I worry ’bout the lad’s spirit an’ his broken ideals. He will blame himself for not saving Mither an’ Carleen. No doubt, he will feel naïve he ever thought reconciliation with the Campbells was possible.”

“Aye, ’twill take him a while to recover,” Thomas said with a sigh. “Did Mither an’ Carleen see what happened to ’im?”

“Nay,” Colin shook his head. “The Campbells split up. Scott Campbell took them away, while his father stayed behind to cause more damage.” Colin rubbed his eyebrows and sat back. “That one has the heart of the devil, he does.”

“I shall get revenge for our family an’ the whole MacGregor Clan. The Campbells have wronged us for two centuries. They have tried to wipe out the MacGregor Clan, an’ here we survive against all odds.” Malcolm raised a fist and growled. “This time, I care not what it takes.” Malcolm turned to Roy. “We shall send a scout to Kilchurn Manor to see if Mither an’ Carleen are being held thereand the nearest debtor’s prison. We will move our family to Glenstrae under the protection of the MacGregor Clan Chief.” He shoved a hand on his hip and rubbed his eyebrow, fighting the onslaught of a headache and too much regret. “Should have done it a long time ago after Da died.”

“Ye were but a wee lad.” Roy shook his head. “Do not do this to yerself. ’Tisn’t yer fault.”

“Aye, ’tis time. I’ve tarried long enough. I almost lost my family because of it.” Malcolm glanced down at Graham, fear spiking inside him. He hoped it wasn’t too late.

* * *

“Where ye going?”

Lauren Campbell jumped with a start, throwing a hand over her hammering chest. She placed a finger across her lips to shush her sister of ten and two. A quick glance around the busy kitchen assured her no one paid them any attention. Cook put away uneaten food, while the rest of the servants cleaned up where the Campbells had broken their morning fast.

“Do I have yer word to say naught?” Lauren peeked at her sister’s wide brown eyes, curious as Blair twisted her lips into a mischievous grin.

“If ye take me with ye.” Blair nodded, her sandy, brown hair slid over her face. She brushed the long strands out of her eyes with an impatient sigh.

“I canna.” Lauren shook her head, biting her lower lip as she placed biscuits in a basket. “’Tis dangerous where I’m going.”

“Where?” Blair sidled up to the counter beside Lauren, excitement building in her tone.

“I’m going to the ancient castle of Kilchurn.” Lauren’s heart swelled as her sister’s eyes widened in admiration.

“All alone? Ye know Da would not approve if he was home.” Blair lowered her voice to a whisper. “He will be angry if ye do not take cousin Keith.”

“Keith is studying to take orders next week and will give his first sermon.” Lauren whispered, touching the tip of her sister’s nose and grabbing a block of cheese. “I canna interfere with the Lord’s work. Besides, Kilchurn Castle is part of our estate. ‘Tisn’t as if I’m leaving the grounds.”

“But ye’re leaving Kilchurn Manor,” Blair said.

“’Tis only a short ride.” Lauren covered the basket with a cloth and tucked in the edges. She paused, considering her sister’s hopeful expression.

“I want to go, please.” Blair linked her fingers as if she was about to pray. She wore the Campbell plaid over a dark blue dress and frowned with a sulky pout as she crossed her thin arms. “Lauren?”

“Run along and get ready. Meet me at the stables,” Lauren said. “I shall see that your horse is saddled and ready.”

Blair disappeared. Her footsteps pattered down the hall. Lauren chuckled and shook her head, knowing the child ran in haste. She hoped Blair would not tumble into one of the servants. With her basket of goods in tow, Lauren let herself out the side door and made her way to the stables.

It was a crisp morning, bright with sunshine and promise. Lauren loved the ancient relic of Kilchurn Castle now crumbling on the far side of Loch Awe. The short journey would take them less than an hour on horseback. On the days she walked the grounds, Lauren loved imagining what it must have been like centuries ago when the castle passed from the MagGregors to the Campbells through marriage.

Lauren entered the shaded stables. “Aidan?” Lauren called to the stable lad. “Are ye there? Blair are going for a ride.” No one answered. Strange. Lauren shrugged and stepped back, trampling on a pair of booted feet. A man’s hand clamped over her mouth, shoving a piece of cloth inside to silence her scream. Another hand pulled her by the hair and jerked her back against his hard body. Her basket of goods went flew over a nearby stall. The horse inside stomped and snorted.

“I took care o’ the lad,” said a gruff voice at her ear. “Just needed to get ’im out o’ the way. ’Tis Duncan Campbell’s daughter I want.”

Lauren’s heart pounded in her ears as she kicked behind her, but he slammed a fist against her temple. Pain sliced through her head. He wrapped an arm around her neck, cutting off her air, and dragged her into a dark corner.

“Lauren?” Blair called. Her footsteps came closer. “Are ye here?”

Closing her eyes, Lauren stopped struggling, praying God would spare her sister. The man breathed heavy at her ear, his grip intense. To Lauren’s relief, he appeared to be alone, and he did not go after Blair.

“Aidan?” Her sister sighed with frustration. “Where did everyone go?” She stomped out of the stables and back toward the manor.

As soon as Blair disappeared , the man slipped a knife to Lauren’s throat. “Go.” The blade nicked her skin as he pushed her forward, leading her out of the stables on the other side. The gag tied in her mouth made her jaw ache and dried her tongue. He dragged her into the woods where a horse waited.

Lauren tripped over a fallen branch, but he caught her and shoved her against a tree. Her bruised hip stung as he pulled her arms behind her and bound her hands. The man slung her over his horse and mounted up behind her. Between a dizzy spell and a wave of nausea, she caught a glimpse of his MacGregor plaid.

They rode toward Inverawe where Lauren often visited the poor and brought them food. Iona and Carleen MacGregor always welcomed her and shared their faith. Iona’s sons were not quite as friendly, but Graham was open-minded and kind. As the youngest, Lauren supposed he wasn’t as set in his ways as the other two. He was closer to Lauren’s age at twenty.

When they arrived at the village, Lauren wasn’t prepared for the devastation she witnessed. Ashes simmered in gray piles. Grief-stricken faces glared at her with hatred. Several people spit at her and one threw a rotten onion at her. The putrid smell made her stomach roll.

They came to a pile of rubble that should have been Iona and Carleen’s hut. Hot smoke still pumped from the smoldering remains. Lauren’s stomach tightened as tears sprang to her eyes. Her father and brother were supposed to arrive here and collect the rents. Surely, they were not responsible? Her heart ached, fearing it was the truth she wanted to deny.

Her abductor stopped at one of the huts, pumping smoke through the chimney. He grabbed Lauren by the arm and yanked her down. She stumbled to her feet, finding it hard to regain her balance. He pushed her toward the door as others surrounded them.

“Why did ye bring a Campbell ’ere?” a woman asked. “Do ye not think they have caused enough trouble?”

“Aye,” a man said. “The whole lot o’ them will come looking for ’er.”

“Malcolm! Thomas!” Lauren’s captor ignored them and banged on the worn wooden door. “Open up. I have Lauren Campbell.”

The door swung open and Malcolm’s tall form ducked under the threshold. He crossed his arms with a menacing scowl. “Colin, ye were supposed to find my mither an’ sister, not bring back a hostage.”

“Iona an’ Carleen were not at Kilchurn.” Colin’s words came out in a rush, as he tightened his grip on her. “But she was.”

“What are we supposed to do with her?” Malcolm pointed at Lauren, venom coating his tone. “This was not the plan.”

“We have no plan since they were not at Kilchurn,” Thomas said, coming to stand behind Malcolm. “Mayhap, she can be the plan. Who else is goin’ to be as important to Duncan?”

“She canna stay here,” another man said. “Her father will destroy the whole village lookin’ for her.”

“Aye, but she’s here now Mary MacGregorsaid. “The damage is done. Ye should best make the best o’ her situation. Could we exchange her for Iona or Carleen?”

Shock vibrated through Lauren. What had her father done? While the MacGregors had never been cruel to her, most were wary and reluctant to befriend her except Iona and Carleen. Now that the villagers had good reason to be seething in anger and resentment, she had no idea how far they would go in using her. She wondered if anyone at home had discovered her disappearance.

“What if he comes back an’ burns the rest o’ our homes?” a woman asked.

“Heather, he owns all these huts. If he burns them all, he canna rent them out.” Malcolm scratched his temple and glanced at Lauren. “Remove her gag. She may know something.”

“How ye plan to get ‘er to talk?” Colin asked, jerking at her bindings. The cloth fell from around her head, and Lauren spit out the other piece.

“Speak up, lass.” Malcolm stepped toward her, his height more like a tower than a mere man. “Where did yer da take my mither an’ sister? The sooner we find out, the sooner negotiations can begin an’ ye can go home.”

“All I know is that he intended to collect the rents and go to the harbor.”

“The harbor?” Thomas joined his brother, his palm up against the side of his head, pondering the possibilities. “Why would he do that?”

“Only one explanation,” an older man said, lifting a finger. All eyes turned to him. “To sell them. What else?”

The women gasped, some wept, while the men groaned and complained in outrage. Colin jerked Lauren by the arm and shoved her to the center. “We have one of their own!” She stumbled and fell to her knees. He pulled her hair. Fire burned her scalp. She prayed her neck wouldn’t break from the pressure. Tears stung her eyes. Lord, I thank you for sparing Blair.

“What would Duncan do to save this bonny face?” An elderly woman bent to squeeze Lauren’s cheeks. The others came at her all at once with raised hands. Lauren closed her eyes, expecting a beating.

“Stop!” Malcolm’s firm voice sliced through the mob like a king. With the MacGregors scattered throughout Campbell lands that used to belong to the MacGregors, none of them had a clan chief.The exception was Glenstrae farther north in the heart of the Scottish highlands. Yet, no one laid a hand on her. They obeyed Malcolm out of respect.

“Let us think about our actions an’ how the Campbells might retaliate.” Malcolm lifted his hands and pointed in the direction of Kilchurn Manor. “As long as the lass lives an’ remains unharmed, we have something to bargain. None o’ us wanna worry ’bout being murdered in our beds at night or forced to flee to the hills again.”

Eyes widened, mouths dropped open, and heads shook back and forth in slow motion. Some of the villagers’ skin turned paler. They backed away from her.

“Duncan an’ Scott Campbell have a good head start. At this point, we would be guessing which harbor they went to an’ taking the lass at her word,” Malcolm said.

“Taynuilt Harbor is the closest,” Roy said. Lauren had heard one of the others call him by name. He was a middle-aged man who looked at her with so much malice her skin itched and burned. “’Tis on Loch Etive an’ leads out to sea.”

“Aye.” Malcolm nodded, rubbing the back of his neck. “First, I want to ensure Graham’s safety ’til he heals, as well as the villagers. I shall find her wretched father.” His boiling gaze landed on Lauren and their eyes met. If the good Lord hadn’t been holding her together, she might have crumbled in fear, but Lauren not only found the courage she needed, but managed to lift her chin and kept her peace. Later in solitude she would bear her burdensome fear to the Lord.

“Let us bring her inside while we tend to Graham an’ make our plans,” Malcolm said, turning to the others.

Colin shoved her. Lauren stumbled into Malcolm. He reached out a steady hand and gripped her arm. She assumed the action was only out of instinct, not for her welfare.

“What happened to Graham?” The words tumbled through her lips. Of all the MacGregor men, he had always been kind to her.

Malcolm paused, his lips twisting in anger. “Yer da ordered him beaten. They tied him to a tree, pulled an’ tortured him ’til his shoulders snapped out o’ the sockets. They murdered his best friend, William.”

Lauren cringed as her mouth drained dry and her stomach twirled. The temptation to deny his words frayed at the edge of her mind, as she followed him inside.

Malcolm directed her over to a large figure lying motionless on a small bed. A candle burned on a makeshift table beside him. She took small steps, her heart pounding into her throat.

“Graham?” Lauren leaned over him, taking in the sight of his bruised and disfigured face. The memory of his handsome features were like a vision. Graham didn’t respond. Deep sorrow filled her soul as she imagined what agony he must be enduring. “My . . . da . . . did this?”

“Aye,.” Malcolm’s tone dripped with bitterness. “I was not here, but they tell me he tried to protect my mither an’ sister—yer friends.” He emphasized the last words as if she had betrayed them herself.

“They are my friends,” she whispered, unable to wipe at her tears with her hands bound behind her. Bile rose to the back of Lauren’s throat, threatening to overcome her. Graham’s wounds would be branded in her brain forever. What would become of Iona and Carleen? She slid to her knees as grief wracked her body. Lauren had never been able to deny the emotional tug of compassion. While she wondered what was to become of her, Graham’s grave condition weighed upon her heart along with the spiritual state of the souls within her father and brother.

Lauren turned and tried to wipe her cheek on her shoulder. Malcolm strode toward her, his mouth set in a grim expression. She resisted the desire to cower and forced her muscles to remain still.

 

~My Review~

After having their name abolished by King James, the McGregor clan lived from day to day struggling to survive. The Campbells were a harsh clan and, being their tenants, the McGregors were at their mercy. When Malcolm McGregor returned home to find his younger brother severely wounded and his mother and sister sold as indentured servants by the Campbells he knew he would do whatever it took to get them back. Kidnapping Duncan Campbell’s daughter Lauren was the first step. Malcolm sets off with Lauren to find his mother and sister intent on using Lauren as an exchange for his mother. He never expected to fall in love with her and when Lauren sells herself willingly to save his mother he vows to save her or die trying.

Lauren Campbell was a woman of faith with a compassionate heart. That’s why she went to the McGregor clan’s home. To bring food and necessities to those less fortunate. Her friendship with Iona and Carleen McGregor was something she cherished. Malcolm’s mother, Iona, was like her own mother and when she found out what her father had done she was shocked and, though she was forced on the journey to find her against her will, she soon found herself falling for her captor. When they find Iona worn and tired at a plantation Lauren willingly gave her own self in exchange for the elderly woman. Malcolm vows to get her back and Lauren prays he can find a way. Will Malcolm save her in time or will Lauren succumb to the world of slavery?

I must admit that “Highland” books or books with a Scottish setting are not something I read very often but I was pleasantly surprised when I got into this story. I loved the entire plot from beginning to end and it kept me turning the pages to find out what would happen next. There were a few twists that just enhanced the overall story. I loved that Malcolm was a brawny guy but tender and loving. Lauren displayed amazing faith in even the most dire of circumstances. No matter what she was going through she turned to God without wavering. I also liked that the story brought forth the topic of slavery and indentured servants. The treatment they received was horrible and inhumane and this book described their conditions in an excellent manner. Overall I loved this book and if you are a fan of Scottish romances you will too. Even if you’re not I still recommend it.

 
My Rating: 4 Stars **** 
 

*Tweetables*

 
 
 
 
 

Q & A: I ask the question and you answer with your own personal thoughts! 🙂

 Although I have never been, I have heard that Scotland is a beautiful country. Have you ever been? If so, what was it like? If you haven’t, would you like to?

Shannon Ethridge’s TO KNOW YOU giveaway and Facebook Party!

Cover Rating:

 

Blurb:
 
Julia Whittaker’s rocky past yielded two daughters, both given up for adoption as
infants. Now she must find them to try to save her son.
 
Julia and Matt Whittaker’s son has beaten the odds for thirteen years only to have the odds—and his liver—crash precipitously. The only hope for his survival is a “living liver” transplant, but the transplant list is long and Dillon’s time is short. His two older half-sisters, born eighteen months apart to two different fathers, offer his only hope for survival.
 
But can Julia ask a young woman—someone she surrendered to strangers long ago and has never spoken with—to make such a sacrifice to save a brother she’s never known? Can she muster the courage to journey back into a shame-filled season of her life, face her choices and their consequences, and find any hope of healing?
 
And what if she discovers in her own daughters’ lives that a history of foolish choices threatens to repeat itself? Julia knows she’s probably embarking on a fool’s errand—searching for the daughters she abandoned only now that she needs something from them. But love compels Julia to take this journey. Can grace and forgiveness compel her daughters to join her?
 
You can purchase it here: Amazon * Barnes and Noble * BAM * CBD * Deeper Shopping

 
 
 Shannon Ethridge is a best-selling author, speaker, and certified life coach with a master’s degree in counseling/human relations from Liberty University. She has spoken to college students and adults since 1989 and is the author of 19 books, including the million-copy best-selling series, Every Woman’s Battle. She is a frequent guest on TV and radio programs and mentors aspiring writers and speakers through her BLAST Program (Building Leaders, Authors, Speakers & Teachers.)
You can find Shannon here: Website * Goodreads * Facebook * Twitter
 Kathryn Mackel is a best-selling author and acclaimed screenwriter for Disney and Fox. She was on the screenwriting team for Left Behind: The Movie and Frank Peretti’s Hangman’s Curse. She is the acclaimed author of The Surrogate, The Departed, and The Hidden and resides in Boston, Massachusetts, with her husband.


You can find Kathryn here: Website * Goodreads
 
 
 

~My Review~

 
Julia Whittaker was no stranger heartbreak. After two failed relationships that ended with giving up two daughters for adoption, she didn’t think her heart could break anymore than it had in the past. But now her son Dillon was dying. Dillon was diagnosed with Biliary Artresia Liver disease at birth. Now at the age of thirteen he needed a new liver and he needed it soon. Having ruled out ever possible donor, Julia and her husband Matt knew their only hope were the two daughters she gave up at birth. Julia embarks on a journey to save her son but it ends up being so much more.
Destiny Conners has been living with Luke for awhile and things were going great until Luke let God into his life. When Luke started changing Destiny refused to accept it. She wasn’t only pushing Luke away but God as well. What had a God ever done for her? When Her biological mother showed up on her doorstep asking her to be tested and save her step-brother’s life she knew she would be faced with some hard decisions. Her only request was to meet her real father and her step-sister, Chloe.
Chloe Deschene felt trapped. Her whole life was planned for her by her husband. Jack was methodical. He lived his life by schedules and time tables. They even made love on a schedule. Chloe wanted passion in her marriage and to be able to do what God was calling her to do. She was bored with the way her life was going and when Julia and Destiny appeared out of nowhere, she jumped at the chance to get away from her life.
Three women, who are perfect strangers, embark on a journey together not knowing where it will lead or how it will end. But the bond they form is strong enough to weather any storm. Will they find their miracles or will their hearts be broken?
In my last review I said the book was my best read of the entire year. I can honestly say To Know You is fighting hard for that number one position. I am mostly a romance junkie but in this book romance takes a back seat. “A back seat to what?”, you might ask. My only response is “to everything good”. This story is about family and healing and forgiveness and discovery and, yes, miracles. It’s about strong bonds and sacrifices. It’s about putting someone else’s needs before your own. It’s about seeing God in the midst of your troubles. There is so much about this book that I absolutely loved. The way Julia insisted on supporting Destiny when she needed her even though she knew her son was only a few hours from dying. The way she cared for Chloe during a crisis just the way a mother would. The way Julia’s husband Matt supported her throughout the entire story. And, most of all, the way her son Dillon smiled in the face of death. His part of the story really tore at my heart. I shed many tears during the course of this book but I love that. I love a book that has the ability to make me look into my heart and ask what I would do in that same situation. I guarantee you will love this book but make sure you have plenty of Kleenex handy while reading it. If I could give it more than five stars I would. Very highly recommended!

Disclaimer: I received a complimentary copy of the book from the publisher for my honest review. The opinions expressed are mine and mine alone. I received no monetary compensation.
 

My Rating: 5 Stars *****

 

*Tweetables*

 
 
 
 

Q & A: I ask the question and you answer with your own personal thoughts! 🙂

Destiny and Chloe faced a very difficult decision. Be tested and, if compatible, give there step-brother Dillon part of their live. That’s a very life-altering selfless act. If faced with a similar situation what do you think your decision would be and why?

Shannon Ethridge is celebrating the release of  To Know You (co-written by Kathryn Mackel), by giving away a $100 gift certificate to Lisa Leonard Designs and a personal coaching session, as well as throwing a Facebook Author Chat Party!

toknowyou-rafflecopter

One winner will receive:

Enter today by clicking one of the icons below. But hurry, the giveaway ends on November 19th. Winner will be announced at the “To Know You” Facebook Author Chat Party on the 19th. Connect with Shannon and friends for an encouraging evening of fun chat, book club discussion, giveaways, and a chance to win a PERSONAL COACHING SESSION WITH SHANNON!


So grab your copy of To Know You and join Shannon on the evening of November 19th for a chance to connect and make some new friends. (If you haven’t read the book, don’t let that stop you from coming!)
 

  Don’t miss a moment of the fun; RSVP today by clicking JOIN at the event page. Spread the word — tell your friends about the giveaway and party via FACEBOOK or TWITTER or Pinterest and increase your chances of winning. Hope to see you on 11/19!

 

Snow on the Tulips by Liz Tolsma – Win a $50 Amazon GC – Blog Tour & Review!

Cover Rating:

Blurb:

A stranger’s life hangs in the balance. But to save him is to risk everything.

The war is drawing to a close, but the Nazis still occupy part of the Netherlands. After the losses she’s endured, war widow Cornelia is only a shadow of the woman she once was. She fights now to protect her younger brother, Johan, who lives in hiding.
When Johan brings Gerrit Laninga, a wounded Dutch Resistance member, to Cornelia’s doorstep, their ives are forever altered. Although scared of the consequences of harboring a wanted man, Cornelia’s faith won’t let her turn him out.

As she nurses Gerrit back to health, she is drawn to his fierce passion and ideals, and notices a shift within herself. Gerrit’s intensity challenges her, making her want to live fully, despite the fear that constrains her. When the opportunity to join him in the Resistance presents itself, Cornelia must summon every ounce of courage imaginable.

She is as terrified of loving Gerrit as she is of losing him. But as the winter landscape thaws, so too does her heart. Will she get a second chance at true love? She fears their story will end before it even begins.

You can purchase it here: Amazon * Barnes and Noble * BAM * CBD * Deeper Shopping

Author Bio:

Liz Tolsma has lived in Wisconsin most of her life, and she now resides next to a farm field with her husband, their son, and their two daughters. Add a dog and a cat to that mix and there’s always something going on at their house. She’s spent time teaching second grade, writing advertising for a real estate company, and working as a church secretary, but she always dreamed of becoming an author. When not busy putting words to paper, she enjoys reading, walking, working in her large perennial garden, kayaking, and camping with her family.

You can find Liz here:

Website * Blog * Pinterest * Facebook * Twitter

 
 
 
 
 
In the Province of Friesland, Netherlands, war widow, Cornelia de Vries, spent her days simply trying to survive the ravages of the war going on around her. The Germans had taken over her city but with the Allies coming the war would soon be over. When her brother, Johan, brings home and injured man Cornelia is torn. Should she send him on his way knowing he will die or should she risk everything, even the safety of her brother, and let him stay? Once she decides to let Gerrit stay she find she is not only risking their safety but her heart as well. After the death of her husband due to the war Cornelia is afraid she won’t survive another loss so she guards her heart like the Germans guard the city. But a lone Resistance worker soon finds his way into her badly bruised heart. Now if they can only survive so they can build a life together.

Gerrit Laninga knew he was going to die. After surviving his own execution he was sure he was going to bleed to death unless the beautiful woman before him agrees to take him in and tend to his wound. Fighting against her fear, Cornelia de Vries follows her heart and relies on her faith and takes Gerrit into her home. Gerrit is a Resistance worker aiding the people of the city. He never thought about the danger until he lost his heart to Cornelia but he knows he must continue the fight and trust God to keep him safe. The biggest fight of all will be tearing down the wall around Cornelia’s heart. Can he help her get past the fears that are stopping her from living a happy life with him?

I can very easily say that Snow on the Tulips is the BEST book I have read this entire year! It brought out such raw emotions in me that I can’t even begin to describe them. (A few Kleenex? Try a whole BOX!) This book was so descriptive I felt as if I were IN the story fighting along side Cornelia and Gerrit. I’m sure you have heard the phrase “I wish I were a fly on the wall” well I actually felt like I was. It couldn’t have been anymore real had I been in Friesland in 1945. When I was young I saw a movie that touched me so much I fell in love with it then and there and I watch it every chance I get to this day. I still haven’t forgotten the way I felt watching it for the first time. That movie was The Diary of Anne Frank. I love the similarities between the movie and Snow on the Tulips, such as Dr. Boukma hiding five Juden and being discovered by the Germans. In The Diary of Anne Frank Victor Kugler hid several Juden, including Anne’s family, and was later discovered as well. The Germans ravaged the countryside and the reality of just how devastating it was is brought to life on every page. I also loved the trust they had in God. They trusted Him to keep them safe no matter what situation they were in and that is a beautiful thing indeed. This is the first book I have read from Liz Tolsma and I have found a new author to love. If you love books that bring out emotions you thought were hidden or if you’re a fan of The Diary of Anne Frank you will love this book. Just make sure you have the Kleenex handy because you will need them! I most definitely recommend it!

 
My Rating:
 
 
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Giveaway!

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Liz Tolsma is celebrating the release of her novel, Snow on the Tulipsby giving away an Amazon Reading Pack to one lucky winner. Find out what readers are saying about the book here.

snowtulips-rafflecopter

One winner will receive:

  • A $50 Amazon gift card
  • Snow on the Tulips by Liz Tolsma

Enter today by clicking one of the icons below. But hurry, the giveaway ends on November 16th. Winner will be announced November 18th at Liz’s blog.

Don’t miss a moment of the fun; enter today and be sure to stop by Liz’s blog on the 18th to see if you won. (Or, better yet, subscribe to her blog and have the winner announcement delivered to your inbox! Just enter your email address on the left sidebar of her blog.)