June 2020 New Releases

Welcome to summer, readers! I was telling a friend the other day that while a lot of my summer plans have changed, reading books in a hammock is still at the top of my list. If that’s on your summertime agenda too, then I have some adventurous, hope-filled recommendations for you! This month is a powerhouse of historical titles to take you to a different time and place. Read along by clicking on the covers to get to an excerpt.

At Love’s Command by Karen Witemeyer
Hanger’s Horseman #1

Plot Summary: Ex-cavalry officer Matthew Hanger leads a band of mercenaries who defend the innocent, but when a rustler’s bullet leaves one of them at death’s door, they seek out help from Dr. Josephine Burkett. When Josephine’s brother is abducted and she is caught in the crossfire, Matthew may have to sacrifice everything—even his team—to save her.


A Single Spark by Judith Miller

Plot Summary: Wanting to do her part in the Civil War effort, Clara McBride goes to work in the cartridge room at the Washington Arsenal. Her supervisor, Lieutenant Joseph Brady, is drawn to Clara but must focus on preventing explosions in the factory. When multiple shipments of cartridges fail to fire and everyone is suspect, can the spark of love between them survive?


The Way of Love by Tracie Peterson
Willamette Brides #2

Plot Summary: Faith Kenner is pursuing her dream to become a doctor and use her gift to help the native populations on reservations. When she meets Andrew Gratton, a handsome riverboat captain who has been injured, a friendship grows between them—but will the secret of her heritage and rising tensions with the native people prevent them from finding true happiness?


A Gilded Lady by Elizabeth Camden
Hope and Glory #2

Plot Summary: Secretary to the first lady of the United States, Caroline Delacroix is at the pinnacle of high society—but is hiding a terrible secret. Immediately suspicious of Caroline, but also attracted to her, secret service agent Nathaniel Trask must battle his growing love for her as the threat to the president rises and they face adventure, heartbreak, and danger.


What’s your favorite summertime reading spot?

Ask BHP: Should Readers Leave Negative Reviews or Contact the Author?

This week’s question is pretty detailed, and since I’ve seen these conversations going on as well, it intrigued me. The reader said, “In online reader groups, there is an ongoing debate about whether or not it’s okay to leave negative reviews. Those who believe it’s not okay often advocate emailing or messaging authors directly with criticisms of their work, so they can improve future writing. How do authors view such a practice?”

Amy Lokkesmoe (formerly Green) here, fiction publicist at Bethany House, trying to give a good answer to this tough one. I’m not sure what approach I would have taken when I was “just a reader” and hadn’t yet started working in publishing. There are good intentions on both sides, and I can completely understand where people are coming from.

You should also know that just like no book will please every reader, no answer to this question will be right for every situation. I can, though, share from my experience and from what I’ve heard authors say.

The Author Perspective

While authors may not like negative reviews (who would?), most understand that reviews are there from readers for other readers. The pros know that someone leaving a criticism of their book isn’t the same as someone insulting them, their character, or their mom (unless it is, more on that later). Readers are trying to help other readers know when to spend or save their money based on their experience with a book.

Some authors, knowing this, avoid reviews altogether. Others have a writing buddy sift through them to pull out any repeated comments so they can improve their writing without having to directly read the (sometimes blunt) reactions to something they put their heart and soul into. They know themselves, and they wisely decide what they can and can’t handle.

Here’s the thing: if a reader directly messages an author, that takes away the author’s ability to make that decision. They can’t have someone else screen it first to find what they think would be helpful rather than hurtful. They can’t choose to look at it on a day when they’re feeling good and have distance from their work. They can’t disagree with the person writing the message, because anything they might say, even politely, will sound defensive.

It’s just there, in their inbox on Facebook or email, waiting for a response. And it’s pretty difficult to think of a good response to someone who, even graciously, told you they didn’t like your book and that you could do better next time when you didn’t request that feedback.

For these reasons, many authors would prefer that readers not send them critical messages directly, especially if that’s the main/only purpose behind writing to them. Same thing with tagging an author in a negative review or posting it to their social media page.

Again, this isn’t true for everyone. A few authors welcome that kind of critique…but there’s no way to know which author will take your note and say, “That fits with other things I’ve heard, better work on that,” and which ones will have no idea how to respond to you and also cry because they’re so invested in the book you just criticized.


So…What Should Readers Do?

  • Don’t be mean. This is probably why some people don’t like leaving public negative reviews—they’ve seen ones that felt personal and harsh. There are many ways to mention something you didn’t like about a book without being unkind. And there’s no cause whatsoever to get personal in your negative review and call names.


  • Consider not leaving a review. This especially applies if you didn’t finish a book because you realized that it wasn’t your thing (too much war and you like feel-good reads, the narrator’s first-person voice grated on you, you didn’t realize it was going to have a particular kind of content). Or if you’ve disliked the author’s other books and hoped this one was different, and it wasn’t. If you know you’re not the target audience for the book, your review might not help readers who searched for the book because they actually are.


  • View one-star reviews as a way to warn people away from buying a book. I’ve personally never bought a book that fits this category, but I’m sure others have. This one is my personal opinion; your mileage may vary.


  • Leave a tactful critical review. If you want to help out fellow book-buyers and just didn’t enjoy a book or thought it had flaws that made it uninteresting, I’d suggest an explanation of why it wasn’t for you. You can mention any positives, but at least be polite about the negatives. This will be helpful to other readers.


  • Generally, don’t message authors directly with criticisms of their book, even if your goal is to help them improve. For all the reasons I just mentioned, it’s rarely as helpful as you want it to be. Instead, I’d suggest you…


  • Find ways to help authors improve their books through other means. If you’re a reader who finds you have a lot of advice to give on how to improve books, I’d suggest taking that passion (which is awesome, by the way) and seeing if you can be a beta reader for authors. There are Facebook groups where authors look for early readers to point out plot problems at a stage where they can actually fix them, and if this is your drive, that might be a good fit for you.


That’s my two cents, readers. Do you have thoughts or follow-up questions about this?

Seven Musical Instruments on Book Covers

Tomorrow, May 22, is National Buy a Musical Instrument Day, and to celebrate, I thought it would be fun to highlight some Bethany House books that keep musical instruments front and center. Some of the main characters inside the pages are professional musicians and music teachers, others are amateurs. Either way, I hope you enjoy this collection, especially if you play an instrument yourself.


A Song Unheard by Roseanna M. White

Both violin and bow are visible on this cover (barely), and we love how the instrument draws your attention to the thoughtful gaze of the Edwardian protagonist (and vice versa).


Morning’s Refrain by Tracie Peterson

Each book in Tracie’s Alaska Song series has a fun use of close-ups of instruments to frame the main scene, and we love the glint of silver from this flute.


Playing by Heart by Anne Mateer

This music instructor character doesn’t want to take on a teaching job, but we love the class the ornate piano adds to this historical romance cover.

A Note Yet Unsung by Tamera Alexander

Not only does this lovely Belmont mansion novel have a violin, but it also showcases a lovely orchestra performance hall in the background. You can almost hear the music!


Return to Me by Lynn Austin

Let’s go all the way back to ancient musical instruments for this shofar, a horn used in Old Testament times. Maybe not one you’d perform with today, but still cool, especially in silhouette!


The Fiddler by Beverly Lewis

The difference between a violin and a fiddle is in how its played, and this particular fiddle plays an important part in the Amish community during the story.


The House on Foster Hill by Jaime Jo Wright

So, this piano needs a little TLC, but you can almost hear its haunting melody on this atmospheric cover, can’t you?

What other covers can you think of that feature musical instruments, readers? And what instrument, if any, do you play?

Is Escapism Through Reading Bad?

I read a Forbes article recently heralding the benefits of romance novels during stressful times, saying they “provide the distraction and balm people crave when the world seems to be falling apart” and “offer diversion, excitement and escapism.”

To which someone on social media said (and I’m toning things down a bit here), “This is exactly the problem. Escapism isn’t a healthy way to deal with anything, much less a pandemic. Romance novels have always been guilty of this, and now isn’t the time to start saying it’s a good thing.”

While I can sort of see the commenter’s point, I think there are two important questions to ask before you can sort reading romance novels—or books of any kind—as helping or hurting during difficult times.

Important Question 1: What are you escaping?

This one’s pretty straightforward. Are your children running starving and ragged in the streets like Dickensonian urchins while you lounge about, entombed in your library for days on end?

That is not good. Reading (or doing any activity in a compulsive way) to avoid responsibility is bad. Check.

Okay, so that’s clearly not something most of us have to deal with. On a deeper level, though, if you’re so desperate to escape reality that you turn to books as the primary way of meeting emotional needs, this is also not good.

In other words, if you have a “book boyfriend” you love more than real people in your life, if you regularly put off processing problems by burying yourself in novels, if you long so much for fictional happy endings that you have no interest in dealing with your own life story and its ups and downs…that’s also not healthy.

But…that is also not where most readers are right now. Choose some random people waiting in a library curbside pickup line and ask about what escapism through books means, and they’ll say things like:

  • “I love journeying to a totally different time period, culture, or country through books, especially when I can’t travel in real life. Sure, I’m learning, but it also makes that history or those places come alive to me.”
  • “I like being able to sigh along as characters find romance, knowing it’s not my life and love at stake. I get all the fun conflict and drama without actually having to deal with any fallout. And it helps to know things will work out in the end.”
  • “It’s good to have something that makes me laugh. I know not everything resolves neatly in the nonfictional world, but wow, in hard times, it sure helps to plop down with a book for a while and smile again.”
  • “Daily life isn’t usually that exciting, so sometimes when I read a thriller or an epic fantasy novel, it makes me want to be braver. Or at least lets me cheer when good triumphs over evil. It’s a quick look at how justice should work, even if it doesn’t always.”

(Okay, so maybe not everyone at the library would be ready with a snappy answer like this on the spot, but they would think of these responses on the drive home and wish they’d said them. Trust me.)

You can disagree if you like, but to me, those seem like pretty good things. Especially when you consider…

Important Question 2: What changes when you “return” from your escape?

It’s a classic “quest” arc: the character is forced to leave the comfort of home and routine to accomplish something great. And after many obstacles, they (usually) triumph and return again. In the best stories, they come back changed in some way. They have new perspectives. They’ve gained allies or found true love. They’ve defeated a lie that’s dogged them their whole life. They now know something true that will impact all of their choices from here on out.

So think of yourself as a character going through a journey when you read a book. Sure, you’re not actually experiencing the action (usually a good thing, given that the number of gunfights, drama, dangerous secrets, ticking time bombs, etc. are usually way higher in fiction than real life), but you’re leaving your normal world on an adventure. And, if the author’s done the job well, you should leave it changed.

It’s not usually a dramatic change, although many of us can name a handful of books that triggered a transformation. Maybe you come away from a novel understanding others better, mulling over a theme or profound line, or filled with less stress and more laughter.

Some kinds of escapism—hello, binge-eating tubs of Chunky Monkey ice cream—leave you changed in a negative way. And hey, if novels (or certain kinds of novels) give you nightmares or unrealistic expectations or an excuse to consistently neglect real-life responsibilities…then avoid them. Read responsibly.

But most of the time, for most of us, reading leaves us changed in a positive way. When we close a book, we’re equipped with extra mental, emotional, or spiritual resources to live our own lives as more thoughtful, relaxed, or compassionate people.

So if you’re feeling stressed, there are lots of things you can do to help, and we could all make different lists of what we find most helpful or productive—but I hope reading books is on yours.


What do you think, readers? Do you think there’s such a thing as “good” and “bad” escapism? Why do you read, especially fiction, during stressful times?

May 2020 New Releases

Need to travel through the pages of a book? These spring releases have you covered. By opening the pages, you can hunt butterflies on an expedition to India, roam the Canadian prairie, find love in the beautiful Blue Ridge mountains, and explore Gilded Age New York City. We love this collection of books and hope that you find the perfect novel to keep you turning pages late into the night. Click on a cover to read an excerpt, and enjoy!


A Mosaic of Wings by Kimberly Duffy

Plot Summary: Determined to uphold her father’s legacy, newly graduated Nora Shipley joins an entomology research expedition to India to prove herself in the field. In this spellbinding new land, Nora is faced with impossible choices—between saving a young Indian girl and saving her career, and between what she’s always thought she wanted and the man she’s come to love.


Unyielding Hope by Janette Oke and Laurel Oke Logan

When Hope Calls #1

Plot Summary: In this sweeping companion to the Hallmark TV series When Hope Calls, Lillian Walsh rushes to a reunion after discovering the sister she believed dead is likely alive. But Grace has big dreams beyond anything Lillian is prepared for. Can Lillian set aside her own plans and join her sister in an adventure that will surely change them both?


Stay With Me by Becky Wade

A Misty River Romance

Plot Summary: Led to her hometown by a mysterious letter, Genevieve Woodward wakes in an unfamiliar cottage with the confused owner staring down at her. The last thing Sam Turner wants is to help a woman as troubled as she is talkative, but he can’t turn her away when she needs him most. Will they be able to let go of the façades and loneliness they’ve always clung to?


Storing Up Trouble by Jen Turano

American Heiresses #3

Plot Summary: When Beatrix Waterbury’s train is disrupted by a heist, scientist Norman Nesbit comes to her aid. After another encounter, he is swept up in the havoc she always seems to attract—including the attention of the men trying to steal his research—and they’ll soon discover the curious way feelings can grow between two very different people in the midst of chaos.


Have you read a book that inspired you to visit the setting in person? Tell us about it.

Prayer for Authors: May 2020

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.


Authors with Books Releasing in May:

Kimberly Duffy
Laurel Oke Logan
Janette Oke
Jen Turano
Becky Wade

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.

A thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I have come so that they may have life and have it in abundance.”—John 10:10 (CSB)

General Suggestions for Prayer:

  • For endurance in times when motivation and creativity is wearing thin.
  • For a special blessing on these books and the messages of hope they contain.
  • For Christian booksellers who are experiencing and hard time financially right now.

It’s so great that, in these trying times, we can go together to God in prayer. Thanks for joining us!

Top Ten Things We Miss While Working From Home

At Bethany House, there are four marketing team members who work exclusively on fiction (plus Rachael who we claim because even though she writes copy for fiction and nonfiction, she reads a ton of fiction). While we’re very grateful we can work from home and keep amazing books coming to you, each of us shared two things we miss about being in-office…read on and you might discover some things you didn’t know about Bethany House’s work culture.

Amy, Fiction Publicist

The Lunch Table: Anywhere from 4-10 of us eat lunch around 12:30 most days, and after comparing lunches (the healthy salad, the tasty takeout, the bowl of Lucky Charms—with unicorns!—the half-eaten food from an editor’s kid he didn’t want to throw out) the topics of conversation range from informative to ridiculous. I miss my restaurant recommendations, random trivia, discussion of different punctuation marks, and even the conversations about sports.

Vocab Points and Faux-cab Points: Rachael’s office door is filled with sticky notes, each emblazoned with an impressive word a co-worker used in actual conversation or a meeting. Beneath them are the “faux-cab” points, which are words co-workers used that aren’t really words at all, sometimes accidentally blurted out, sometimes used because the real word proved elusive (“moistrous” instead of “humid”), sometimes invented intentionally because it should be a word. These past several weeks, I’ve paused a few times after using a particularly appropriate word…but there was no one to celebrate it with me.

Serena, Fiction Marketing Assistant

Break Walks: Once the weather is tolerably nice—and sometimes when it’s not so nice—we like to use our breaks to go on walks together. It’s nice to get a little exercise and a chance to chat with my lovely coworkers… unless we decide to try a new direction and end up traipsing through a golf course and down a dirt road for an hour trying to get back to the office. Yes, that did happen. (Amy: okay, that one was my fault. Oops.)

My Lovely Coworkers: I love working with the team at Bethany House, and I miss seeing their faces every day. I miss popping over to Brooke’s desk to ask if a shipment of author items arrived and the random gatherings of people in the hallway because someone is telling a funny story or has a picture of their newborn niece.

Brooke, Fiction Marketing Assistant

Puns: Is it strange to say that I miss hearing Amy Green’s puns? Many a team meeting has been had with Amy interjecting purposeful puns and then shaking her head after and saying it was “so bad” and I really shouldn’t laugh. (I think puns are great and remain undiscouraged in my amusement.) I eagerly await hearing more puns in-person.

Good ‘Ole Brainstorming Sessions: I’m blessed to be on a team of crazy-smart people who are willing to share their ideas and time with me. Whether I’m desperate for a fresh idea for a promotional item to fit a new title or whether we’re problem-solving something new as a team, I know I can come away with something to un-stick me if I’m stuck. Email and Zoom are great in the meantime, but I look forward to brainstorming in the office again and feeling the ideas spark around the room.

Rachael, Copywriter and Instagram Coordinator

Physical Books: While packing my office up to prepare for staying at home, I made sure to grab all the physical books I thought I’d need for the weeks to come—I even printed off manuscripts of not-yet-printed books! But even with that kind of preparation, I still find myself missing my bookcase and the easy access to whichever books I need to reference . . . as well as Brooke, my book fairy, (as I have nicknamed her) who delivers our new releases, hot-off-the-press, to my door!

Instagram Days: At least once a month, I distract Amy and Brooke for an afternoon or evening, and use them as hand models or book-balancers. We get many odd looks from passersby as we attempt new ideas and wander around with armloads of props and books. It’s not nearly as fun trying to photograph alone without witty comments and genius ideas.

Noelle, Marketing Director

My Fiction Team: My team of savvy ladies collectively inspire and intimidate me in the best of ways with their creativity and perspectives. The positive force of that just doesn’t translate as well over email: the new selection from Serena’s delightful hat collection, having Enya run through my head everytime when Amy mutters her oft-used phrase “who can say?” the very sweet Brooke appearing at my door with her mischievous finger tapping, or Rachael’s infectious giggles from down the hall.

The Free Stuff: There are certain counters in our office that are unofficially deemed the free sections (so be careful to not accidentally leave something on them). I’ve picked up so many delightful and random things there, including large home-grown zucchini, new car floor mats, pots for plants, cute woven baskets, a Christmas green table cloth, and a pack of gum. But these areas are known to feature not only items, but food (home baked and otherwise), encouraging many dashes. Though the extreme nature of these has seen its peak in past days*, there is still nothing like having free goodies be announced and hear the excitement resound throughout the office as each person reads his/her email. But beware if you take too long to read your email, lest it all be gone. Sure, I can make my own cookies at home, but where is the surprise in that?

*insert memory of poking my head out of my office after hearing a ruckus to find abandoned shoes in the hallway. Apparently they were deemed too much a hindrance to getting their owner quickly to the chocolate that had been announced available for consumption.

I hope you enjoyed these as much as I did! Is there anything you’ll be excited about being able to do once we can meet in groups in person, work-related or otherwise?

Make Your Home Into a Library in These Seven Easy Steps

This week is National Library Week, but since most libraries around the country are closed (or doing curbside pickup), I thought of an alternate way to celebrate. You, yes you, can pay homage to every reader’s favorite location by creating a temporary library in your home. Here are the simple steps to accomplishing this.

One: Name your library.

Honestly, library names are probably the least creative aspect of their existence. Usually, it’s the town/community followed by “Library,” which is great for clarity, but not for hinting at the epic wonder just beyond their doors. When naming your library, I suggest the following process:

The [Column 1] [Your Last Name or Street Name] [Column 2] [Column 3]

Column 1


Column 2

Treasure Trove
Knowledge Repository
Novel Archive
Reader Haven
Book Fortress

Column 3

Of Unending Merit
From Ages Past
To Preserve Wisdom for the Future
Portal to New Worlds
With Volumes Untold


Two: Choose a librarian.

The job qualifications are that this person must be patient, organized, and know basically everything, from where to find books for a school report on termites to the title of that one mystery a patron saw last year with yellow on the cover. Memorizing the Dewey Decimal system is optional, but recommended.


Three: More books. More bookshelves.

A pandemic is a great time to stock up on essential reading supplies. (If you’re an ebook reader, we love you and your method is totally valid, but possibly lacking in the “homey library aesthetic” department.) If a member of your household questions your new practice, it’s time to bring out your “There’s No Such Thing As Too Many Books” speech. (I hope you have one. If not, let me know and I’ll let you borrow mine, just know there’s an interpretive dance with lots of frantic gestures at the end of paragraph five.)


Four: Create your own library card.

In fact, make an application process. I always thought it was crazy that the only thing you had to do to get access to the knowledge of the ages was live in a community. Such unfathomable riches should only lie at the end of an arduous quest! My suggested questions for an application include:

  • Please describe your treatment plan for the care and keeping of paperbacks, in detail and with footnotes.
  • How often, if ever, have you: left a book out in the rain? Colored/written in a book (childhood counts)? Folded a page to mark your place? Lost a library book by leaving it on top of your family’s car at a rest stop in Georgia and driving away, then crying for a half hour afterward until your mom told you it would find another reader? (Maybe that one’s just me.)
  • If we tallied up your past overdue fine history, how many minutes/hours/days in Disney World could we buy once it reopens?


Five: Create fun programs.

On the basic Storytime level, I am 100% in favor of reading books out loud, whether you have kids or not. (My friends and I are reading a P. G. Wodehouse novel over Zoom right now. Our British accents are terrible, and the entire experience has been fantastic.) But you can up your game by imitating the library’s craft nights, guest speakers (get everyone in your home to teach the rest of the household a “skill”), writing contests, puppet shows, and rocket launches. (What, your library hasn’t started those yet? I figured it was about time since they do just about everything else…)


Six: Promote reading in every way you can.

Whether you recommend books to friends or donate to a Little Free Library in your neighborhood; if you encourage an author or give kids page-turners for Christmas; whenever you leave a review or join a book club; every act of literary citizenship is something your real library would approve of.


Seven: Be traditional, yet cutting-edge; scheduled, yet flexible; focused, yet versatile; organized, yet welcoming; and generally helpful and accessible to all kinds of people in all stages of life.

You can do that, right? Because libraries sure do!


In all seriousness, as I think about everything libraries are to us, it makes me more excited for the day when they’ll be open again. If you’re a librarian, thank you for all you do to serve our communities! We’ll see you soon.

In the meantime, I’ve got to open up the Vast France Avenue Book Fortress of Unending Merit.


Using our handy tool, what would you name your in-home library?

Ask BHP: How Do You Create Covers?

When looking for a new cover-related question we hadn’t already answered in this blog series, here’s one from our survey that I found interesting: “What does the process for a cover photoshoot look like? You all find some great models!”

This was just one of many questions to our survey related to covers (if you’re interested in past cover posts, visit the archives here), so I thought I’d chat with Kristen Larson, our Art/Design Coordinator who helped me gather information and images for a blog post Lisa Bergren was doing about the cover of her book Selah.

Kristen, in addition to taking notes at all of our cover meetings and organizing our feedback, does tons of behind-the-scenes work for our covers. If you’ve ever appreciated a particularly cool prop or noticed the raised title treatment or cool texture of a cover, that’s probably her handiwork.

Q: Lots of the historical covers especially have really dramatic dresses. Where do you get the costumes?

Kristen: The costumes we use come from all over! Some we rent from out of state costume shops, some we have custom made, some we purchase, and some we rent local! Our favorite place in the Twin Cities is the Guthrie Costume Rentals, which rents out costumes from previous Guthrie performances. That’s where we got the dress we landed on for Selah.

Q: How do you decide on a cover model? Where do you find them?

Kristen: Our search for cover models is a fun one. Authors will send us the physical and personality descriptions of the character to be featured on the cover, and even include a reference photo they found online of what they were picturing in their heads when they were writing the book. We then scour our local talent agencies to find the best fit.

We sent some of the images to Lisa for her post, “Modeling for Selah,” and she also interviewed the cover model who posed for the book, so consider this a Part Two to her Part One and check out her blog (and the contest there) to learn more.

Readers, is there a costume on a book cover that you’d love to wear?

The Bethany House Grand World Tour…and Giveaway!

Wouldn’t you love to travel? To see the bright colors of India, stare at the ancient architecture of Egypt, or eat Gretel cakes in a cozy little restaurant by the sea? Oh wait. That’s right—we’re all quarantined.

I for one haven’t left my house in twenty days—yes, you read that right, twenty—and I’m getting a little stir crazy. Am I the only one? I doubt it. In light of this, Bethany House brings you a Grand World Tour, compliments of our talented authors! (And if you’re interested enough to complete your journey, the covers are all linked to Baker Book House, running a 30% off and free shipping special for online orders!)

Our first stop is A Mosaic of Wings by Kimberly Duffy, which takes on a journey from Ithaca, New York to India and back again. The author draws on her own experience in that beautiful country to bring the setting alive. She makes it easy to wonder at the lush forests, colorful insects (don’t let that scare you), and strong Indian flavors right along with Nora, the main character.

Here is a sample of the exotic beauty found in A Mosaic of Wings:

“The oxen’s rumps swayed as they pulled the two-wheeled cart, which the driver had called a mattu vandi when he met them at the guest house in Madras. Above his head, Nora watched the dirt road wind into a copse of pine trees. All around them the hills dipped and lifted, disappearing into the hazy blue horizon toward the Nilgiri Mountains in the distance.

Nora raised off the floor a little. She could just spot the large lake thickly fringed by trees. Like jewels strung across a bangle, red-roofed houses crisscrossed the roads leading to and through the Kodaikanal hill station.”

A Mosaic of Wings by Kimberly Duffy

Setting: Kodaikanal, India, July 1885


Next we have the West Indies in 1776, brought to you by Lisa Bergren. In her novel, Selah, the Caribbean comes bursting into full color and warmth, which is especially refreshing on these cool spring days. Who wouldn’t want to journey to this paradise? Although, as you will see if you read it, Selah is in for her own bit of world-changing drama.

Take a short excursion to Selah’s Caribbean home:

“Vervet monkeys chattered at them from the sprawling branches of a purple-flowered jacaranda tree, seeming to complain about the horses’ sudden appearance in their midst. A bird swooped overhead, crying out with his particular singsong call as if to make sure they admired his green, red, and gold breast. The wind rushed in gusts through the ferns and palms on either side of them. Selah closed her eyes and inhaled deeply, taking comfort in the sounds and sights of the island that had become her home.”

Selah by Lisa Bergren

Setting: West Indies island of Nevis, 1776


Leaving the lush greenery behind, we travel to Egypt, where Leif Metcalfe is trying to unscramble the mystery of his past. Not only does Kings Falling take us to the sand of Egypt, it is a world tour in itself, stopping in Africa, China, Taiwan, Afghanistan, The Netherlands, Germany, Saudi Arabia, Maryland, and Virginia.

But for our tour, we will only stop in Egypt:

“Crouched atop the mountain peak, he stared out over the rugged terrain. And that was putting it mildly. The ridges in this section of the Sahara Desert were serrated and forbidding. If you fell, you fell to your death. To his three were the glittering waters of the Red Sea. He shook his head. If he and his team had headed east, they’d have found water. Civilization. But they’d chosen the mountains for protection from the sun, heading south, then west.”

Kings Falling by Ronie Kendi

Setting: Jabal Shaib al-Banat, Egypt, present day


Heading back to the United States and a cooler climate, we come to Alaska. In Under the Midnight Sun, we see the proud face of mount Denali and all the flora and fauna surrounding him through the eyes of one of the first women naturalists, Taylor Hale.

Here is our sample of Alaskan beauty:

“Denali stood tall and fierce in the distance. Covered year-round in snow, today was a rare day when the High One allowed people to see him in his glory. A thin halo of clouds wrapped around his crown. The contrast of the massive mountain against the brilliant blue of the sky was glorious.

The air was still as everyone took in the grandeur before them. Lush valleys lay below them, covered in grasses of varying shades of green, the deep, almost black color of the spruce, and a riot of colorful wild flowers. Rivers snaked their way through the landscape like pathways leading to the great mountain. Thomas spotted the area where the Kahiltna Glacier cut its way down the mountain. Was there anywhere on earth that could compare to this? Was this what heaven would be like?”

Under the Midnight Sun by Tracie Peterson and Kimberley Woodhouse

Setting: Curry, Alaska, 1929


Remember those Gretel cakes I mentioned in the beginning? Well, we have finally come to the cozy little town by the sea where you can eat them to your heart’s content! Or at least read about eating them. The little town, weathered by the ocean and filled with lobstermen and history, has captured many hearts.

Here is your first taste of this idyllic town:

“And there it is. Down the green hill, the harbor curves in a smile. White houses dot the coast, where all is quiet, save the steady lap of waves. Offshore, a scattering of islands trail into the sea, right up to where the two peninsulas come together in a near-embrace around the protected cove. This is what makes this place a haven. Sailors seek it out as a “hurricane hole,” a place to anchor until fierce storms pass, protected as it is.”

Whose Waves These Are by Amanda Dykes

Setting: Ansel-by-the-Sea, Maine, present day

That concludes our Grand World Tour. We hope you enjoyed it and will continue to discover the beauty of far-off places from the safety of your home!

We know that there are so many books we could have included on this list, but we’ll leave that to you! To win one of the books included on this list (your choice), comment with another book with a setting you’d love to visit. I’ll choose three winners on April 16th.