“Waves of Mercy” by Lynn Austin

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Geesje de Jonge crossed the ocean at age seventeen with her parents and a small group of immigrants from the Netherlands to settle in the Michigan wilderness. Fifty years later, in 1897, she’s asked to write a memoir of her early experiences as the town celebrates its anniversary. Reluctant at first, she soon uncovers memories and emotions hidden all these years, including the story of her one true love.

At the nearby Hotel Ottawa Resort on the shore of Lake Michigan, twenty-three-year-old Anna Nicholson is trying to ease the pain of a broken engagement to a wealthy Chicago banker. But her time of introspection is disturbed after a violent storm aboard a steamship stirs up memories of a childhood nightmare. As more memories and dreams surface, Anna begins to question who she is and whether she wants to return to her wealthy life in Chicago. When she befriends a young seminary student who is working at the hotel for the summer, she finds herself asking him all the questions that have been troubling her.

Neither Geesje nor Anna, who are different in every possible way, can foresee the life-altering surprises awaiting them before the summer ends.

Waves of Mercy completely enthralled me – I couldn’t put it down until I’d turned the last page!  Author Lynn Austin excels at sweeping the reader right along with the main characters in her story, and the same is true for Waves of Mercy

Austin makes use of  my favorite writing technique in this new story – parallel stories that happen at different points in history. I love the way that she builds the theme of mercy and God’s goodness by layering it as details are revealed with each story.  The final twist at the end was not unexpected, but the details were gratifying to read, and I couldn’t stop reading until I got there – I had to know what would happen to the characters I’d fallen in love with.

That’s not to say that I love the ending – because I don’t.  Austin leaves the ending somewhat open, without clear resolution for one of the major issues relating to the main characters, and I prefer to have those details all wrapped up with neat bows.  Real life rarely works like that, however, and perhaps she’ll write a sequel that will answer those open questions?  I’ve got my fingers crossed.

Waves of Mercy is based on real history – the settlement of Holland, Michigan, by a group of Dutch immigrants searching for religious freedom in the early 1800s.  Their story closely mirrors that of the Pilgrims in Massachusetts, though later, and makes for a fascinating backdrop to this story.  I loved learning about what these people endured.

It might sound as if reading about persecution and strife would be depressing, and that angle isn’t exactly a tea party – but the best aspect of the story is the quiet, steady faith that runs through each page.  While the main characters are often struggling, there’s always someone who’s helping them along.  Those people act both as mentors to the characters and examples to us all, even though some of the situations are fictional.  I appreciated both the scripture references used for teaching and the wisdom and advice scattered throughout the pages.  The messages of hope and God’s enduring goodness are inspirational and resonate in one’s mind long after the last page is turned.

Waves of Mercy is the kind of book that you put on your shelf and reread over and over.  If fiction with a strong message of ‘hope’ is the kind of book you like, you’ll definitely want to read this one.

Want to know more?  See what Lynn Austin has to say about Waves of Mercy:

 What inspired you to write this particular story?

I grew up in the area of New York State that was originally owned and settled by the Dutch, and I visited Holland, MI for the first time when I attended Hope College. I was immediately impressed by how proud the community was of their faith and their Dutch heritage. My husband grew up in Holland, so when we decided to move back here two years ago, I began researching Holland’s history to see if it would make a good novel. It intrigued me to learn that the first Dutch settlers came here in 1846 for religious freedom after suffering persecution in the Netherlands. Since that’s true of so many other immigrant peoples over the years, I knew the story would resonate with many readers. I was very surprised to learn how much hardship these early settlers suffered in the process of founding this community. If nothing else, their story taught me not to take our religious freedom or the American Dream for granted.

What is your favorite quote from the book?

It’s actually a promise from Jesus that the characters often refer to: “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them . . . I give them eternal life . . . and no one can snatch them out of my hand.” (John 10:27-28)

What do you hope readers will come away with after finishing Waves?

I hope they see what a close relationship with God is really like, and will learn to trust Him through the hard times and praise Him in all circumstances.

Is it possible to get a small clue, say, the year of the setting on your current work in progress?

It’s about two wealthy sisters who live in Chicago in the late 1800s. They love to travel the world and seek adventure.

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

“A Love Transformed” by Tracie Peterson

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When Clara Vesper’s husband, Adolph, dies suddenly, Clara is stunned–but not grief-stricken. Her marriage to Adolph had been arranged, their primary interaction revolving around the sapphire jewelry Clara designed and Adolph produced and sold. Widowed and penniless, with two small children, Clara decides to return to her aunt and uncle’s ranch in Montana, the only place she has ever been happy.

Curtis Billingham, injured in a sapphire mine collapse, is recuperating at the ranch of his friends, Paul and Madeline Sersland. But when the Serslands’ niece returns from New York City, Curtis curses both his broken body and his broken past. Clara, the love of his life, has come back to him, but he is no longer worthy of her love.

Clara’s brother-in-law Otto Vesper, Adolph’s business partner, fears that the loss of Clara’s design skills will doom the company’s prospects. Following her to Montana, Otto is prepared to do whatever it takes to get Clara to return with him to New York.

As Clara fights for love and freedom, a dangerous secret in her late husband’s life comes to light, threatening everyone she loves.

A Love Transformed is brilliant!  I love the angle played off the Vesper brothers – I don’t want to give anything away – but it definitely adds a layer of suspense and intrigue to the story.  Having information about Adolph’s true feelings come to light slowly throughout the book also paints him as a deeper, more complete individual than one might otherwise surmise.

Clara is a very complex character herself.  With a complicated marriage, a long-lost love, and personal pain carried by the case, how she has managed to smile and go about her way eludes me – but her story is fascinating, and like her husband’s, information slides to the reader slowly.

Set as the United States enters World War I, I’ve read few other books set in this time or that deal with the US joining the Allied forces, but that makes the plot even thicker.  The contrast between serene sheep ranch and war-excited New York City adds unique elements to the story that are rarely seen in other books.

Tracie Peterson always captures the unusual and the dramatic in her books, and A Love Transformed is no exception.  She carries the theme of gemstones into the story by making Clara a jewelry designer but changes the setting completely from the previous two stories, but any Peterson fan will be just as enthralled with this third offering as with the first two.

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

“Where Hope Prevails” by Janette Oke and Laurel Oke Logan

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When Beth Thatcher returns to Coal Valley, she has much to be excited about. She anticipates Jarrick’s proposal of marriage and perhaps a spring wedding. The mine is expanding, and there are more schoolchildren than ever.

But the town’s rapid growth brings many challenges. A second teacher is assigned, and Beth finds herself going head-to-head with a very different philosophy of education–one that dismisses religion and rejects God. Fearful for the children who sit under the influence of Robert Harris Hughes, Beth struggles to know how to respond.

At the same time, Beth wonders if Jarrick is considering a position at her father’s company simply for her sake. Should she admit her feelings on the matter? Or keep silent and allow Jarrick to make up his own mind?

From Janette Oke comes the end of the Return to the Canadian West series.  Like the Love Comes Softly series, Oke has followed the Thatcher family through two generations and continued the adventure into the Canadian wilds.  Like her Aunt Elizabeth, Beth needs to decide whether she will remain in the West or return to ‘civilization.’ 

Oke writes with her signature sweet style.  The story flows smoothly, with the primary action being spiritual and emotional in nature.  Molly continues to provide wise counsel for Beth, and Beth struggles against change in the valley that she loves so dearly.

I would have loved to read about Beth sharing her concerns for their future with Jack.  He shared about his premarital counseling, and they discussed other important issues regarding their marriage, but I would have loved reading this important conversation; but even when they resolved this issue, the conversation was brief and vague.

Beyond that, I loved the wise view of marriage shared throughout the story, and from many different perspectives.  This deep and mature look at marriage is rare in today’s society, and I appreciate that these lessons are shared throughout the story.

Love Comes Softly was the first Christian story I read, and I was about ten at the time.  My daughter has been devouring Oke’s books for the past year, and she can’t wait to read this one.  I love that Oke writes stories that are both timeless in nature, sweet enough for children to read, and yet full of wisdom that will steer them well in the coming years.

I hate that this is the last Thatcher book.  I hope that the Okes have something new in the works.

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

The Best Authors to Follow on Social Media

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I love books, and I’m fascinated by the people who write them – those seemingly magical people with amazing creative minds who can weave stories and transport readers into other worlds.

The Best Authors to Follow on Social Media

Over the past few years I’ve begun to find more and more authors online.  Not only have I been able to find out additional information about books this way, like extra chapters, character interviews, and book trailers, but there’s also advance notice of new releases, giveaways and other fun information.

Some authors share more than others, though.  Some seem to be naturally open, while others are more reticent or, despite writing fantastic books, their posts are less family-friendly.

So here are my very favorite authors to follow online.  Find their Facebook pages, websites, or subscribe to their newsletters to stay on top of the best information.

  1.  Chris Grabenstein is not only a New York Times’ bestselling author, but he writes hilarious posts.  Sure, he shares a lot of fan emails and award information, but he also showcases behind-the-scenes author info.  Even better, his dog Fred is a Broadway star and has his own Facebook page.  Both are just as funny as Grabenstein’s books.
  2. Suzanne Woods Fisher writes for both adults and tweens, and she shares beautiful memes, as well as information about the Guide Dogs she raises.
  3. Tricia Goyer currently has her house full and is homeschooling a wide age range.  She shares homeschooling information, book sales, and great resources for parents.
  4. Colleen Coble stays personal on her page.  With lots of information about her family and mission trips, as well as upcoming book projects, her posts are always interesting.
  5. Robin Lee Hatcher doesn’t share as often as the others, but she stays personal, too.  With information about her fitness goals, Bible journaling, and college classes, she’s an author who lets you know her. 

Who else would you choose?

Click below to check out some of their work:


“The Things We Knew” by Catherine West

A tragedy from the past resurfaces in this tale of family secrets and reignited love.

After her mother’s death twelve years ago, Lynette Carlisle watched her close-knit family unravel. One by one, her four older siblings left their Nantucket home and never returned. All seem to harbor animosity toward their father, silently blaming him for their mother’s death. Nobody will talk about that dreadful day, and Lynette can’t remember a bit of it.

But when next-door neighbor Nicholas Cooper returns to Nantucket, he brings the past with him. Once her brother’s best friend and Lynette’s first crush, Nick seems to hiding things from her. Lynette wonders what he knows about the day her mother died and hopes he might help her remember the things she can’t.

But Nick has no intention of telling Lynette the truth. Besides the damage it might cause his own family, he doesn’t want to risk harming the fragile friendship between him and the woman he once thought of as a kid sister.

As their father’s failing health and financial concerns bring the Carlisle siblings home, secrets begin to surface—secrets that will either restore their shattered relationships or separate the siblings forever. But pulling up anchor on the past propels them into the perfect storm, powerful enough to make them question all they ever believed in.

Catherine West’s story The Things We Knew is more than a roll through family history – it’s the slow, suspenseful investigation of suppressed memories about a suspicious death that devastated a family.  Each family member has moved on but one, and that one is left holding the luggage of responsibility for the present and confusion over the past.  That one wants to find peace with the past and find hope for the future but memory gaps leave her bending under the weight of her burdens.

Her siblings are no different.  While Lynnette is trying to deal with the past, her siblings are all fleeing from it – but they’re just as captive as she is.  Their stories are widely varied and uniqe, and I like the way that West incorporates a broad range of the human condition in the members of this one family.

Lynnette has kept her faith through her struggles, and her journey is inspiring.  Her siblings’ journeys, although all very different, each provide lessons of their own throughout the story, and therein lies the genius of the book.

While Lynnette is a main character, her siblings have strong supporting roles, but no two characters are alike.  This variance keeps the reader turning pages and makes it possible for many different readers to connect emotionally with someone in the story.  I personally liked Lynnette’s determination to find the truth, but I can see my daughter in Ryan and my husband in Nick.  I think the Carlisle siblings will appeal to a widely varied audience.

I thoroughly enjoyed the way that West dispenses the family information.  The Carlisles are full of secrets, and by dribbling them out slowly, often as Lynnette discovers them, the reader is kept thirsting for more.

I don’t think the cover does the book justice.  It’s very simple, and for some reason the title font made me think it was going to be an emotionally-dramatic family story; and maybe that’s not too far off, but with the suspicion of murder, international music stars, alcohol and drug addictions, secret trysts, and controlling parents, it’s so much more than that.  The Things We Knew may not quality for romantic suspense, exactly, but it’s close; it’s definitely a summer must-read.

Click here to read other reviews in this blog hop or here to purchase your own copy now.

Catherine West writes stories of hope and healing from her island home in Bermuda. When she’s not at the computer working on her next story, you can find her taking her Border collie for long walks on the beach or tending to her roses and orchids. She and her husband have two grown children.

I received a free copy of this book from LitFuse Publicity in exchange for an honest review.

“When Death Draws Near” by Carrie Stuart Parks

Death has always been part of Gwen Marcey’s job. But when faced with her own mortality, everything takes on a different hue.

Forensic artist Gwen Marcey is between jobs and homes when she accepts temporary work in Pikeville, Kentucky. The Eastern Kentucky town, located deep in the heart of the Appalachian Mountains, has been plagued by a serial rapist and a series of unexplained deaths. Before Gwen can develop a composite drawing, the latest witness vanishes, just like all the previous victims.

Turning her attention to sketching the face of an unidentified body, she discovers a link between his death and a Pentecostal serpent-handling church. Serpent-handling is illegal in Kentucky, and the churches have gone underground to avoid the authorities and continue to worship as they believe. Gwen is offered a handsome reward to infiltrate the renegade members, a reward she desperately needs as it seems her breast cancer has returned.

Joined by her digitally-obsessed, Generation Z daughter, Gwen goes undercover to a nineteenth century revival, planning to draw the faces of the snake handlers so they can be identified and arrested. Instead she uncovers a murderous plot and a festering evil.

If you’re a fan of criminal suspense books, like those of Terri Blackstock, you’ll want to read Parks’ latest “When Death Draws Near.”  It has all the action and suspense of a murder mystery but the drama like you’d find on the big screen.  The combination can’t be easy to pull off, and yet Parks wrote so many twists and turns into her story that she kept me guessing until the very last page.

Gwen isn’t your typical leading lady.  She’s not super young, super rich, or super pretty.  In fact, she’s divorced, broke, and a cancer survivor  – with the scars to show it.  Her rough predicament pulled at my heartstrings more than once, but I liked her all the more for it.  She was real – and she was really smart, too.  I love stories in which the characters really use their brains to solve the case.

In Gwen’s case, it went a bit beyond that, because while it was her brains that figured out whodunit, it was also her endurance that saved her skin – literally.  Parks wrote a climactic ending that went on and on, spurring me on to find resolution.

Mystery stories have been my favorite since I read my first Hardy Boys’ when I was seven, and I’ve collected a long list of great mystery authors since that time.  I’m happy to report that I’ve just added another.

Learn more and purchase a copy.

Carrie Stuart Parks

Carrie Stuart Parks is a Christy finalist as well as a Carol award-winning author. She has won numerous awards for her fine art as well. An internationally known forensic artist, she travels with her husband, Rick, across the US and Canada teaching courses in forensic art to law enforcement professionals. The author/illustrator of numerous books on drawing and painting, Carrie continues to create dramatic watercolors from her studio in the mountains of Idaho.

Find out more about Carrie Stuart at http://www.carriestuartparks.com.

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

“The Loyal Heart” by Shelley Shepard Gray

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Robert came to Galveston to fulfill his promise to a dying man and look after his widow. He didn’t expect to find love in the unlikeliest of places.

Robert Truax, former Second Lieutenant and Confederate officer in the Civil War, made a promise to his comrade Phillip Markham. If anything happened to Phillip, Robert would look after his beloved wife, Miranda. She was his life, his world, his everything.

After the war, Robert is left to pick up the pieces and fulfill his pact. When he arrives at Miranda’s home in Galveston, Texas, things are worse than he imagined. Phillip’s name has been dragged through the mud, everyone in town believes him to be a traitor, and his widow is treated as an outcast. Even more disturbing is her emotional well-being. Miranda seems hopeless, lost, and so very alone.

Robert had thought his duty would be simple. He would help Miranda as quickly as possible in order to honor a promise. But the moment Robert laid eyes on her, his plans changed. He’s mesmerized by her beauty and yearns to help her in any way he can.

He makes it his duty to protect Miranda, turn her reputation around, and to find some way to help her smile again. But it doesn’t prove to be an easy task—Robert knows something about Phillip that could shake Miranda to the core and alter her view of the man she thought she knew so well.

Shelley Shepard Gray might usually write Amish romances,, but she has the golden touch with historical fiction, too.  I love the way that she created a backstory for this book that sets up the entire series – and developed some seriously awesome men to play the main characters.

Beyond that, the setting is a bit unusual.  Set on an island in Texas in the years following the Civil War, the townspeople were loyal to the Confederacy and shunning one of their own.  Gray’s setup makes for a seriously suspenseful story, though, with lots of personal drama.  The high action keeps the story moving and the kindness of Robert and Miranda gives the reader a vested interest in their lives.

Gray builds that high action with a wide cast of characters and multiple villains.  With several subplots in addition to a few romances, there’s not a dull paragraph in the book.  Gray keeps that tension high throughout the entire story and builds a great lead-in to the next book in the story.

Gray is an expert at building that tension and keeping the reader turning pages – even when the story has ended.   I can’t wait for the next book to be released, and while I’m frustrated at having to wait, if it’s anything like The Loyal Heart, it’ll be well worth it.

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.


“A Beauty Refined” by Tracie Peterson

Phoebe Von Bergen is excited to accompany her father when he travels from Germany to purchase sapphires in Montana. Little does she know that her father’s plans–for the gemstones and his daughter–are not what they seem.

Ian Harper, a lapidary working in Helena, finds the young woman staying at the Broadwater Hotel more than a little intriguing. Yet the more he gets to know her, the more he realizes that her family story is based on a lie–a lie she has no knowledge of. And Ian believes he knows the only path that will lead her to freedom.

Meeting Ian has changed everything. Phoebe is determined to stay in America, regardless of her father’s plans. But she may not be prepared for the unexpected danger as the deception begins to unravel.

Tracie Peterson has penned another winner, although, really; does she write any other kind? What stands out about A Beauty Refined is the setting.  The idea of German royalty visiting a resort in the Wild West is unlike any other book that I’ve read, and the mystery and intrigue definitely added another layer of suspense to the story.  I read the entire book in one sitting – I couldn’t wait to find out what would happen to Phoebe and if she would find the happy ending she desired.

The characters weren’t all my favorites – Ian was a bit stuffy at times, but there were others who more than made up for that, and his flaws were explained throughout the story.  I especially enjoyed the mystery character who appeared partway through the story.  Her bravery was admirable, and while I don’t know that I would’ve made the same decisions that she did, her actions were certainly food for thought. 

The issues that Phoebe faces are really too serious to call this a ‘fun’ story, but it is definitely an intriguing one.  I enjoyed the read, from the setting to (most) of the characters to thinking about how some of these problems are handled in our society today.  A Beauty Refined is definitely worth the read.

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

“The Ringmaster’s Wife” by Kristy Cambron

An ounce of courage. A split-second leap of faith. Together, they propel two young women to chase a new life—one that’s reimagined from what they might have become.

In turn-of-the-century America, a young girl dreams of a world that stretches beyond the confines of a quiet life on the family farm. With little more than her wit and a cigar box of treasures to call her own, Mable steps away from all she knows, seeking the limitless marvels of the Chicago World’s Fair. There, a chance encounter triggers her destiny—a life with a famed showman by the name of John Ringling.

A quarter of a century later, Lady Rosamund Easling of Yorkshire, England, boards a ship to America as a last adventure before her life is planned out for her. There, the twenties are roaring, and the rich and famous gather at opulent, Gatsby-esque parties in the grandest ballrooms the country has to offer. The Jazz Age has arrived, and with it, the golden era of the American circus, whose queen is none other than the enigmatic Mable Ringling.

When Rosamund’s path crosses with Mable’s and the Ringlings’ glittering world, she makes the life-altering decision to leave behind a comfortable future of estates and propriety, instead choosing the nomadic life of a trick rider in the Ringling Brothers’ circus.

A novel that is at once captivating, deeply poignant, and swirling with exquisite historical details of a bygone world, The Ringmaster’s Wife will escort readers into the center ring, with its bright lights, exotic animals, and a dazzling performance that can only be described as the greatest show on earth!

Move over, Karen Kingsbury and Danielle Steele, there’s a new epic storyteller on the scene!  Cambron’s newest work will enchant you with waves of fun, hope, and heartbreak in her newest work about John Ringling’s beloved first wife Mabel and the impact of the circus on the culture of America.

Mabel Ringling was the wife of circus king John Ringing and impacted many who knew her, although she stayed away from the media spotlight and out of the circus business.  Cambron brings her to life through the imagined characters of Rose and Colin, with Mabel leaving a tangible legacy that is felt for decades to come.

Not a linear story, The Ringmaster’s Wife tells a tale in pieces, allowing the reader to reassemble the story in bits at a time.  You’re kept fascinated with the plot line and wanting more with each turn of the page.

I never expected a circus story to excite me as much as this one did.  I enjoyed the reminder that fun has it’s own place in this life, and that dreams and hopes add joy to life that is too easily snuffed out by day-to-day drudgery, and smiles, like those inspired by the circus, are important to the abundant life that Jesus promised.

Despite the trials Colin, Rose, and Mabel face throughout the book, the story is inspiring.  Write on, Cambron!

Click here to read other reviews on this bloggy hop or here to purchase your own copy now.

Kristy Cambron fancies life as a vintage-inspired storyteller. Her second novel, A Sparrow in Terezin, was named Library Journal Reviews’ “Pick of the Month (Christian Fiction)” for February 2015.

Cambron is an art/design manager at TheGROVEstory.com storytelling ministry. She holds a degree in art history from Indiana University and has nearly 15 years of experience in instructional design and communications for a Fortune-100 company. She lives in Indiana with her husband and three football-loving sons, where she can probably be bribed with a coconut mocha latte and a good Christian fiction read.
I received a free copy of this book from LitFuse Publicity in exchange for an honest review.

“My Father’s House” by Rose Chandler Johnson

Growing up, life is idyllic for Lily Rose Cates due to one constant — her father’s love.

But in her sixteenth summer, all that changes without warning. There begins Lily’s struggle to find herself and the life she’s lost. . . . Marriage promises fulfillment, but her happily-ever-after barely survives the honeymoon. Her husband’s sophisticated façade hides a brooding man with even darker secrets.

When all illusions shatter, Lily must make hard choices — abandon her husband or risk losing much more than her marriage. She flees their home in Detroit and sets out on a fearful journey to a house in Georgia that her husband knows nothing about. This is one woman’s compelling tale of love and survival as she finds her way back home to who she’s meant to be . . . in her father’s house.

Lily struggles to face the world after her father’s death, but there’s something compelling about her journey that makes My Father’s House fascinating.  Characters make or break a story for me, and I have little patience for them when they seem to be continually making poor choices, as Lily often seemed to do in the beginning of the book; but Lily charmed me such that I turned page after page, reading quickly, intent on finding out her fate.

There’s something likeable about Lily.  Part of it is her inherent kindness and innocence, I think, but I also admire the way that she works hard and is a good friend.  Family is important to her and she listens to the lessons they teach her, although it doesn’t always ‘stick’ at first.

Johnson’s writing style is clear and concise but pulls you write into the story.  It flows a bit differently than most books popular now, but it’s clear that the plot is well-planned and the author brilliant.  Johnson penned Lily’s story almost like a memoir, and it has a different feel than your typical off-the-shelf fiction story.  The pace is a bit slower, and it’s set back in time just a little, but it has a this-is-important kind of feel to it.  The focus is clearly on people and relationships, not material things, and that theme comes through well.

I enjoyed the lessons that Lily learns throughout the story, as well.  Lessons like the importance of patience, of doing things right, of listening to elders and making relationships a high priority.  Lily’s story was never preachy but felt as if you were sitting on Grandma’s front porch, learning from the best.

My Father’s House is Johnson’s debut novel, but I hope she keeps writing. 

Click here to read other reviews on this bloggy hop or here to purchase your own copy now.

Rose Chandler Johnson is the author of the award winning devotional God, Me, and Sweet Iced Tea: Experiencing God in the Midst of Everyday Moments. My Father’s House is her first novel. She happily makes her home near Augusta, Georgia.
I received a free copy of this book from LitFuse Publicity in exchange for an honest review.