December 2019 New Releases

December at Bethany House is full of traditions, including decorating the office, eating dishes at our famous potluck (which is today), and attending our Christmas service project, but one of my favorite things to celebrate is the release of our new books this festive month! In case you need to snag a holiday gift for a reader on your list, these new releases would be perfect. (Click on the covers to read the first chapter of each.)

 

The Bridge to Belle Island by Julie Klassen

Plot Summary: While Benjamin investigates a mysterious death, evidence takes him to a remote island on the Thames. There, Isabelle is trapped by fear and has a recurring dream about a man’s death. Or is it a memory? When a murder brings everyone under suspicion, and the search for truth brings secrets to light, she realizes her island sanctuary will never be the same.

 

Seconds to Live by Susan Sleeman
Homeland Heroes #1

Plot Summary: When cybercriminals hack into the U.S. Marshal’s Witness Protection database and auction off personal details to the highest bidder, FBI Agent Sean Nichols begins a high-stakes chase to find the hacker. Trouble is, he has to work with U.S. Marshal Taylor Mills, who knows the secrets of his past, and the seconds are slipping away before someone dies.

 

The Major’s Daughter by Regina Jennings
The Fort Reno Series #3

Plot Summary: Caroline Adams returns to Indian Territory craving adventure after tiring of society life. When she comes across swaggering outlaw Frisco Smith, his plan to obtain property in the Unassigned Lands sparks her own dreams for the future. When the land rush begins, they find themselves battling over a claim—and both dig in their heels.

 

Echoes among the Stones by Jaime Jo Wright

Plot Summary: Mystery begins to follow Aggie Dunkirk when she exhumes the past’s secrets and uncovers a crime her eccentric grandmother has been obsessing over. Decades earlier, after discovering her sister’s body in the attic, Imogene Flannigan is determined to obtain justice. Two women, separated by time, vow to find answers . . . no matter the cost.

 

And now, an important question, readers: how do you request books as Christmas gifts? A wish list? Subtle hints? Clipped-out catalog listings? Inquiring minds want to know.

Prayer for Authors: December 2019

Since it’s the first Sunday of the month, we’ll be continuing the Bethany House Fiction tradition of taking time to pray for authors who have new releases coming out this month. I’m Amy Green, the fiction publicist here, and I’m thankful for all of the readers who show their support for our authors in the way that matters most: by praying for them. To read more about the reasons behind this time of prayer, go to this post.

Prayer

Authors with Books Releasing in December:

Regina Jennings
Julie Klassen
Susan Sleeman
Jaime Jo Wright

Verse of the Month: Feel free to use the text of this verse to guide your prayers for these authors, as well as other people in your life who you want to remember in prayer today.

And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”—Colossians 3:17 (NIV)

General Suggestions for Prayer:

  • For the ability to have times of rest during a busy holiday season and launch month.
  • For excellence in storytelling as they work on future projects.
  • For those who will receive one of their books (or other books by Christian authors) for gifts this year to be impacted by the message they contain.

It’s a joy to have such a great group of readers joining us in prayer for these authors. Thank you so much for doing so!

Ask BHP: What’s It Like Being Married to an Author?

This question for our Ask Bethany House blog series might just be my favorite yet: “Any chance you can ask some of your authors’ husbands about the interesting/amusing things they’ve lived through while being married to an author? I’d love to know!”

Was this question submitted by a real reader, or a spouse of one of our novelists trying to find out if he’s the only one who finds writers’ quirks strange? We may never know. But I do know that when I asked our authors to submit a line or two from their husbands about being up close and personal to the novel-writing life, I got some great answers! Enjoy.

Dave, husband of Beverly Lewis: “Being married to a novelist means I get to enjoy the roleplaying Bev and I do for some of the protagonist’s scenes and dialogue with her love interest.”

Peter, husband of Leslie Gould: “I get to go along with Leslie on research trips and look, listen, and participate in conversations that turn into stories, from imagining an Amish girl at Gettysburg in 1863 to visiting on the porch with a contemporary Amish family in Indiana.”

Paul, husband of Elizabeth Musser: “As a writer, she guesses (correctly) the ending of every movie we watch. Spoiler alert!”

Ivan, husband of Mary Connealy: “I was reading one of my wife’s books once (I forget which one), but Mary tends to kill off worthless husbands so the hero can come riding to the rescue. Knowing what I’ve heard about authors drawing on their own lives for their books, I couldn’t stop trying to figure out if I was the hero or the worthless husband.”

Mark, husband of Susan Sleeman: “When I come home from work I never know where your mind will be. Sometimes you’re killing people. Sometimes helping people escape from an evil villain, or worse, you’re in the mind of the villain.”

Bill, husband of Elizabeth Camden: “My wife usually has scenes with different ethnic cuisines in her books. Neither one of us are great cooks, so we go out to do ‘research’ at cool restaurants all over town. We’ve been to German beer-gardens, a Polish deli, a Japanese place, and lots of Irish pubs.”

“His Highness,” husband of Becky Wade: “I never get to figure out how a movie ends on my own. She always tells me what’s going to happen before it does.” (From Becky: “I still feel sheepish about ruining The Sixth Sense for him, poor guy!”)

Jacob, husband of Kristi Ann Hunter: “She analyzes. Everything. And I mean e-ver-y-thing.”

Mike, husband of Dani Pettrey: “The most interesting thing is probably drifting off to sleep while she talks herself through the latest way to plot and execute the demise of the victim in her next book. In the morning, my fitness tracker says I basically slept with one eye open the entire night!”

Tim, husband of Nicole Deese: I was married to my wife for over eight years before she started writing her first novel. In that time I witnessed many of the characteristics that contributed to her becoming an outstanding author. Creativity, humor, emotion, passion (and a desire to become an expert in things she was passionate about) and the ability to tell a story that would enrapture any room were on full display before she wrote word one of her first book.

But as she prepares to release her tenth book, the thing that has been the most interesting to me through this whole journey is how…unexpected it was. Hear me. I was first drawn to my wife because of many of the same qualities I just mentioned. I knew she was funny. But I didn’t know she would be able to write humor that would make me snort water out of my nose. I knew she was great at expressing emotion when she told stories, but I didn’t know I’d be sitting on a crowded airplane reading her latest book and trying to cover my man-sobs with a too-small cocktail napkin. No, I didn’t expect that.

I guess I should have seen it coming before she wrote her first book. With her tenth book in process, I definitely should know that anytime I read something she’s written I can expect to be surprised. But the interesting thing is that every time I read something new she’s written I’m totally caught off guard all over again. Maybe I’m just a slow learner. Or maybe she just keeps getting better.

Aren’t these answers heartwarming? What do you think would be an interesting aspect of being family members to a writer? (Or you can speak from personal experience if you are!)

6 Ways Books Are Like Thanksgiving Dinner

Thanksgiving is coming up soon, and with that, I got to thinking about the many similarities between this traditional festive feast and how I approach reading books.

Skeptical? Read on, my friend. Read on.

One: You feel a deep gratitude for the people you spend time with.

Whether they’re your real family gathered for the celebration…or fictional friends who feel just about as real. Who here counts books among their blessings? (Hopefully all of you. If not, you’re not reading the right books.)

Two: There’s always something to pass around.

In my family, the rule of Thanksgiving dinner is “Don’t ask, just pass,” which I feel applies pretty well to the way I foist my favorite books on—I mean, generously share them with—my unsuspecting friends.

Three: Everybody has different (often very strong) opinions on what’s good or bad.

There’s no argument like an argument over whether to serve mashed potatoes and gravy or sweet potatoes with those little marshmallows…unless you watch a die-hard romance lover argue with a literary fiction fan. As with food, to each their own! (Except I think we can all objectively agree that ham is tastier than turkey.)

Four: You’ll be on the edge of your seat, wanting to find out what will happen next.

Books often have cliffhangers and plot twists, much like the moment when your Uncle Larry brings up politics while passing the cornbread stuffing. The drama! The stakes in a book are probably higher, but they’re also slightly less impactful to your real life.

Five: The best part is usually at the end.

Don’t tell me you don’t eye the dessert tray (or table) before budgeting room in your stomach for the rest of the meal. it’s a smart practice. Similarly, the best books are great all the way through…but the real payoff is in those last several chapters.

Six: You finish feeling surprisingly full.

…and maybe a little lethargic. It’s a lot of content to take in, especially if you consume it all (book or Thanksgiving meal) in one sitting. But it’s a great feeling nonetheless. And you can always enjoy leftovers the next day—or re-read the book again.

What books are you thankful for this November, readers?

November 2019 New Releases

Our November new releases are finally here! Grab a warm beverage of choice and curl up with these page-turners in all different genres. There’s something for everyone in this list. (Don’t forget to check out the first chapter by clicking on the covers.)

When I Close My Eyes by Elizabeth Musser

Plot Summary: Famous author Josephine Bourdillon is in a coma, her memories surfacing as her body fights to survive. But those around her are facing their own battles: Henry Hughes, who agreed to kill her for hire out of desperation, is uncertain how to finish the job now, and her teenage daughter, Paige, is overwhelmed by fear. Can grace bring them all into the light?

 

A Pursuit of Home by Kristi Ann Hunter
Haven Manor #3

Plot Summary: When she learns the family she thought dead might be alive and in danger, Jess Beauchene knows her secrets can only stay buried for so long. Desperation brings her to Derek Thornbury, an expert in history and artifacts, to help her decipher the clues in an old family diary. Will their search to uncover the truth of the past lead to a future together?

 

When Silence Sings by Sarah Loudin Thomas

Plot Summary: After the rival McLean clan guns down his cousin, Colman Harpe chooses peace over seeking revenge with his family. But when he hears God tell him to preach to the McLeans, he attempts to run away—and fails—leaving him sick and suffering in their territory. He soon learns that appearances can be deceiving, and the face of evil doesn’t look like he expected.

 

The End of the Magi by Patrick W. Carr

 

Plot Summary: Fleeing for his life after his adoptive father is put to death by a ruthless Parthian queen, Myrad, a young magi acolyte, escapes the city. There he begins an epic journey filled with peril, close escapes, and dangerous battles. Over everything shines the dream of a star that Myrad can’t forget and the promise that the world will never be the same.

 

Serving Up Love by Tracie Peterson, Karen Witemeyer, Regina Jennings, and Jen Turano

Plot Summary: This intriguing novella collection crosses the country—from Kansas to Texas, the Grand Canyon to New Mexico—with tales of sweet romance while exploring the fascinating history of the Harvey girls: young women seeking adventure and independence who worked in hotels throughout the country from the early 1880s to the late 1920s.

 

Here’s a question for you, readers: how do you choose what book you’re going to read next?

Mountain Heroes: Guest Post with Misty Beller!

Today on the blog, historical romance author Misty Beller is here to talk about all things books and research and swoony heroes to celebrate the release of her latest novel, Hope’s Highest Mountain. Enjoy getting to know more about her and her writing style!

Amy: Thanks for joining us, Misty! What do you think makes a mountain-man hero who is loved by both readers and the heroine?

Misty: Ooo, this is a great question! When I’m writing a mountain man hero, I always wonder what it was that drove him into the wilderness to live by himself. Did a deep wound force him to want a life totally different than anything he was accustomed to? Or maybe he just loves the mountain country and craves adventure. The majestic grandeur of the Rockies has seeped into his soul and feeds his spirit like nothing else can. I think the best-loved mountain man is probably a combination of all of these! Micah Bradley from Hope’s Highest Mountain definitely fits that bill.

I imagine the ideal mountain man to be the strong, silent type—he would definitely have to be an introvert to be content living with minimal human interaction! And no matter how wounded (emotionally or otherwise), no matter how bitter from the scars of his past, his protective instincts have to be strong. He has to be willing to fight through any obstacle to protect those around him—especially the heroine!

Amy: Love it! Micah is a great example of that trait. Is there a fun historical fact you came across while researching Hope’s Highest Mountain that you’d like to share?

Misty: Hmm…I’m a history nerd, so every time I get to research, I find fun facts! Surprisingly, not everything I consider fun is a fun fact for “normal” people. For Hope’s Highest Mountain, I got to research so many things about smallpox, including what the disease looks like at each stage, the differences between smallpox and chicken pox, and the history of the vaccination (which included lots of milk maids and a few young children). As I was trying to choose which of these to share here, I decided it might be better to switch gears.

Let me tell you about puppies! Namely, the history of the cute little dog named Shadow who plays a starring role in the story. Shadow is a sweet little male Havanese, solid black and the runt of the litter. We also have two Havanese (in real life), so I’m pretty family with the current version of the breed.

I knew for the story to be accurate though, I would need to do some quick research on what the breed would have looked like back in the 1860s. They actually would have been called Bichons back then (not Bichon Frise, which is another breed that spun off from the original Bichons). For several centuries, they were bred on the island of Cuba, but vacationing Europeans discovered the dog there and helped spread the breed abroad. One of those sweet little puppies even made it all the way to the mountain wilderness of the Montana Territory! (wink)

Amy: I’m sure both the smallpox and the dog research were helpful as you wrote, but this is a good excuse for puppy pictures! Now, what do you most admire about early pioneers like the ones in your books?

Misty: The men and women who thrived on the frontier were amazing! They weren’t just living without modern conveniences and technology. They were living far from “civilization,” often far from family and church. Yet they built these strong lives, homes, marriages, families, and relationships with God. The challenges they faced made them stronger, developing them into people I respect wholeheartedly.

Amy: That’s such a great summary. And for those of you who’d like to hear Misty share more about her book, you can watch this short video!

So, readers, let’s talk heroes: what for you are the traits that make a fictional hero endearing or worth cheering for?

Christy Award Finalist Giveaway

Next month, it’s time for the Christy Awards in Nashville! You can see all of the fantastic finalists here, or on the Christy Awards Instagram account, but here at Bethany House, we like to celebrate upcoming awards with a giveaway of our finalists for readers who might not be able to walk down the red carpet and join the celebration. (Although you should come some year…it’s really fun!)

Here are the Bethany House award finalists and their books:

Falling for You by Becky Wade

Shelter of the Most High by Connilyn Cossette

A Defense of Honor by Kristi Ann Hunter

Mind Games by Nancy Mehl

The Christmas Heirloom – finalist novellas are A Shot at Love by Sarah Loudin Thomas and Legacy of Love by Kristi Ann Hunter

The Mark of the Raven by Morgan L. Busse

The Wounded Shadow by Patrick W. Carr

We’re giving away one of each of these books to our readers! Winners will be randomly chosen on Monday, October 28 and contacted via email.

To enter, just do two things: make sure you’ve followed this blog, and then comment with an answer to this question: if you could create a fake fiction award (like “Best Opening Line” or “Top Books with Dogs on the Cover”), what would it be?

The Seven Best Things About *Not* Living in a Historical Novel

Have you ever seen a person on the cover of a historical novel and thought, “Wouldn’t it be amazing to live in a story world like that?”

Me too.

For about five seconds.

After I came to my senses, I decided to make a list of a few things I appreciate about being able to read about historical heroines without actually being one. Enjoy!

One: I can wear sweatpants. (Also pants in general.)

Every now and then I get a twinge of longing looking at pretty dresses on historical novel covers. And then I remember that it would take forever to put on the corset and multiple layers of petticoats and the oppressive heat of that many layers and how did they even use an outhouse properly in those things? And I’m grateful for fleece leggings, sweaters, T-shirts, and jeans.

Downside: This may sound shallow, but the fact that I don’t have to lace myself into a day gown also means that the men around me aren’t obligated to wear suits. And a good-looking man in a suit…well, that might be a strong reason to get a time-travel ticket back to 1900.

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Two: No expectation of constant wittiness/feistiness.

Fictional women are all way better at witty comebacks than I am. Also romantic compliments. And confrontational speeches. And persuasive arguments.

Okay, fine, so they’re just better at talking in general. That said, because I’m not a historical heroine, there’s way less pressure to come up with something dialogue-worthy on the spot. So, that’s good, right?

Downside: Maybe stepping into a historical novel would somehow endow me with the ability to fire back quotable lines all the time. Who can say? That would be pretty great.

 

Three: No chance of becoming a mail order bride.

This is not a particularly viable method of conducting a romance today, which I’m grateful for. Like, I don’t even know what sort of advertisement would apply to me. “Hardworking pioneer seeking directionally-challenged woman who loves eating chocolate and is conversant in moving pictures about legendary super-humans”? Somehow I doubt that one ever existed in history.

Downside: I do like to imagine how that first conversation with my husband-to-be would go if I was a mail-order bride. “Okay, you like to bake, good. But what is this washer and dryer you’re talking about?” “When I asked for experience with chickens, I meant raising them, and anyway, I’ve never heard of Chick-fil-A.” “Sure, I’m very proud of my extensive library, miss. I have four whole books!” (At this point, I’d hop back on that stagecoach and ride away!)

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Four: Low chance of witnessing a murder, getting caught up in a scandal/scheme, fleeing an arranged marriage, or having my house ruined in a bombing raid.

Listen, I love these things in books. If every historical protagonist had a life as boring as mine, no one would read more than a few pages. (“Plot twist: she had yogurt and granola this morning for breakfast instead of a bagel. THE DRAMA!”)

That said, when you really think about it, a boring life isn’t so bad. Anyway, it’s way less stressful not to have an actual plotline.

Downside: Okay, I’ll admit it: every now and then I wonder, “What would it be like to race a carriage through the streets to reach a burning building in time to save a child’s life?” Come on, be honest. Don’t tell me you haven’t thought the exact same thing.

 

Five: I can vote.

Seriously, this took the U.S. way too long, but my pre-1920 counterparts will never know the feeling of participating in the democratic process. Yay, civic duty!

Downside: I’m not saying that I can’t stand political rants and clickbait and campaign ads on social media…but sometimes I get nostalgic for the days when your only contact with a politician would be a whistle-stop speech-giving tour. And you could throw rotten vegetables if you wanted. Hypothetically.

 

Six: No one actively hates me. (As far as I’m aware. If you do, feel free to let me know.)

Seriously, if I were in almost any fictional work, the odds of me having supportive parents, an undramatic romantic life, a circle of encouraging friends, and a healthy community would be very, very low.

I would have at least one of the following to add some drama: a stalker, an estranged sibling, an ex-fiancé (probably rich) who left me at the altar, a shadowy figure from my past, a nagging mother with unrealistic expectations, or a sworn enemy who wants revenge on me for complicated reasons.

So yeah…I’ll pass.

Downside: I’m not actually sure this one has a downside.

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Seven: Regular bathing.

This applies to both my personal hygiene (can you imagine how greasy my hair would be if I only washed it for church on Sundays?), and the general health and pleasantness of such activities as breathing in a public space. Train rides with the barely-washed masses couldn’t have been quite as charming as they seem in books.

And have you noticed that historical romance heroes and heroines usually smell nice regardless of the availability of bathtubs? Like another character will get close and smell a whiff of lavender and a hint of cinnamon, or fresh air and lemongrass, or rosewater and hope. Meanwhile I’m over here like, “You’re on a farm in Nebraska in 1873—if you don’t smell like sweat and lye soap, take me to the general store where you’re buying your perfume, lady, because I want some.”

Downside: There’s really no excuse for me not to smell nice in today’s world, what with indoor plumbing and all. But sometimes it’s just so hard to make time to wash my hair in my shiny, indoor, hot-water shower that any self-respecting 19th century gal would kill for, you know?

That’s my list, readers. What reasons do you prefer to live in today’s world while reading about people in the past?

Ask BHP: How Do You Decide on the Spiritual Content of Books?

Here’s a fun question from our Ask BHP mailbag for this month: “Why does Bethany House publish books that have very light spiritual content? I’m not being critical, just curious as to why some books are very faith-oriented and others only mention faith elements a little bit. How do you decide that as a Christian publisher?”

First of all, thanks to the person who asked this question (and ones similar to it), in a gracious way. I’m Amy Green, fiction publicist here at Bethany House, and I love talking about these sorts of issues, and I think it’s a fair question to wonder about.

As far as who decides the amount of Christian content, that’s pretty easy: the author shapes that based on the kind of story they want to tell.

Sometimes others, like beta readers or an agent, might guide them in a particular direction, and editors will as well once the manuscript enters the publishing process. For example, Bethany House editors might help authors make a certain character less “preachy” or point out an additional place a theme could be emphasized.

Because of this, each story is going to be different in faith content just as it’s different in every other way, like how often the authors intersperse humor or how they approach setting descriptions, historical detail, or chapter-ending cliffhangers.

An author who wants to write a book about the aftermath of a preacher’s fall from grace in the lives of his three children will probably have more noticeable references to faith than the author of a lighthearted comedy about a dogwatcher-turned-matchmaker or a fantasy novel set in a realm where people can turn into statues.

And here’s the thing: God can use all of those books* to reach people with powerful truths.

If you’re skeptical about this, we recently hosted a survey where people could share how a Bethany House novel had an impact on their lives. (Which you can still submit to, if you like.) I’ll admit that even I was surprised at how deeply touched people were by books that fit everywhere on the spiritual content spectrum. Reading our Christian fiction has led people to work to strengthen their marriages, feel convicted about gossiping, find hope during a family member’s illness, forgive a long-time enemy, and much more.

Besides that, some books with strong faith threads speak directly to a need in the hearts of Christians, or are given to unbelievers by friends who want to show a different perspective on their beliefs, while others are so accessible that we’ll get atheists leaving reviews like, “This is a great story—and I usually hate books with ‘God talk.’” I love seeing those reviews, and often (though not always!) they show up on books with a more subtle spiritual journey.

But back to the question. Here’s the thing: I think some people may have a specific mission in mind for a novel when they think that only a strong faith thread is acceptable in Christian fiction.

And I can see why they might think that, because mission matters. For example, the purpose of a church is to worship God, spread the gospel, and train believers to be disciples of Jesus. It probably wouldn’t be able to fulfill that purpose with “light spiritual content.”

However, the purpose of a fiction book written by a Christian could be lots of different things:
• Provide hope and laughter during a hard time.
• Reach a reader who might never open a Bible or nonfiction book.
• Illustrate a Biblical truth or parable in a new way.
• Show the destructiveness of sin on the world or in one person’s life.
• Give a picture of self-sacrificing romantic love that mirrors God’s love.

To me, these and many others are all perfectly valid aims for an author. Bethany House, as a Christian publisher, focus on stories that align with our mission statement, but we know there’s a place for good, clean reads or novels reaching mainstream readers with truth.

You’re probably not going to agree with every theological nuance of all of our fiction books—certainly many people leave reviews of our nonfiction books with disagreements large and small, and it’s just as true that fiction authors will approach faith and Scripture from different perspectives and traditions. And even if you would affirm every spiritual aspect of a book…it might not be your style or in a genre you’re interested in.

Not every Christian fiction book is going to be your book—a novel that has a deep impact on you or fills a need or finds its way to your keeper shelf of favorites. But we pray that all of our books will be someone’s book and impact them in a unique way.

What do you think, readers? Do you tend to prefer more or less spiritual content…or does it depend on the story?

*As far as I know, none of those books are real, but if you want to write them, they are now in Amy’s Yard Sale of Free Ideas. (Along with lots of crazy inventions and ridiculous get-rich-quick schemes.)