Carol Award Winners Giveaway!

Earlier this month, several Bethany House authors won the 2021 Carol Awards, awarded by the American Christian Fiction Writers. We always love celebrating our books…and giving them away to readers is fun too. Read a little about each one so you’ll know which you want to choose if you win, then find entry directions at the end of the post.

Dead End by Nancy Mehl

Mystery/Suspense Winner

Dead End Plot Summary: When multiple corpses are found, their remains point to a serial killer with a familiar MO but who’s been in prison for over twenty years–Special Agent Kaely Quinn’s father. In order to prevent more deaths, she must come face-to-face with the man she’s hated for years. In a race against time, will this case cost Kaely her identity and perhaps even her life?

Like Flames in the Night by Connilyn Cossette

Historical Romance Winner

Like Flames in the Night Plot Summary: On a hunt for his daughter’s killer, Liyam’s last hope is a bargain to rescue a strong-willed woman who refuses to leave her mission uncompleted. Can Tirzah convince him to fight alongside her in the refuge city of her birth? Or will his thirst for vengeance outweigh his duty to his people, God, and the woman he’s come to love?

Love and a Little White Lie by Tammy L. Gray

Contemporary Romance Winner

Love and a Little White Lie Plot Summary: After hitting rock bottom, January decides she has nothing to lose in working at her aunt’s church–while hiding a lack of faith. A minor deception until she meets the church’s guitarist and sparks fly. Can she avoid disaster–especially when a handsome landscape architect has an annoying ability to push her to deal with feelings she’d rather keep buried?

Things We Didn’t Say by Amy Lynn Green

Historical Fiction and Debut Novel Winner

things-we-didnt-say Plot Summary: In this epistolary novel from the WWII home front, Johanna Berglund is forced to return to her small Midwestern town to become a translator at a German prisoner-of-war camp. There, amid old secrets and prejudice, she finds that the POWs have hidden depths. When the lines between compassion and treason are blurred, she must decide where her heart truly lies.

The Promised Land by Elizabeth Musser

Contemporary Fiction Winner

promised-land Plot Summary: Desperate to mend her marriage and herself, Abbie Jowett joins her son in walking the famed Camino pilgrimage. During their journey, they encounter an Iranian working in secret to help refugees and a journalist searching for answers from her broken past–and everyone is called into a deep soul-searching that threatens all their best laid plans.

To celebrate these authors and their lovely books, we’re giving away one of them to five winners (winner’s choice of which one). To enter, just comment on the blog with what earns a book a place on your “keeper” shelf. We’ll choose five random winners on 9/29, so be sure to enter before that!

Book Cover Lookalike Fashion, Part Four

And so we come to what is now an annual feature of the Bethany House fiction blog…pairing the costuming choices of some of our historical book covers with modern fashion! Take a look at these beauties, releasing in 2021, and their corresponding lookalike dresses. (You can scroll through first, second, and third years of doing this as well.)

Which of these dresses is your favorite? Which do you think matches the book cover most closely?

Prayer for Authors: September 2021

Since it’s Sunday, 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 Lokkesmoe, 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 September:

Misty M. Beller
Elizabeth Camden
Jennifer Delamere
Amy Lynn Green
Beverly Lewis
Karen Witemeyer

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.

“I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” – John 16:33 (ESV)

General Suggestions for Prayer:

  • For peace when making decisions or facing stressful or anxious days.
  • For moments of inspiration and just the right words for authors working on new projects.
  • For the books releasing this month to be read by those who need them most.

We’re so grateful to know there are readers like you praying for these authors (and others). Thank you!

September 2021 New Releases

Looking for something fun to read this September? We’ve got six new releases for you to explore, all of them set in different eras and locations, from the wilds of the War of 1812 to modern day Lancaster county. Take a look at the summary, click on the covers to read the excerpts, and see what stands out to you.

The Beginning by Beverly Lewis

Plot Summary: Susie Mast’s Old Order life has been shaped more by tragedy than her own choices. But when she decides to stop waiting on her childhood friend and accept another young man’s invitation, she soon realizes her mistake. Will family secrets and missed opportunities dim Susie’s hopes for the future? Or is what seems like the end only the beginning?

Crossed Lines by Jennifer Delamere
Love along the Wires

Plot Summary: Mitchell Harris is captivated by Emma Sutton, but when his best friend also falls in love with her and asks for help writing her letters, he’s torn between desire and loyalty. Longing for a family, Emma is elated when she receives a love note from a handsome engineer but must decide between the writer of the letters and her growing affection for Mitchell.

Under the Texas Mistletoe by Karen Witemeyer

Plot Summary: Spiced with Witemeyer’s signature blend of humor, thrilling frontier action, and sweet romance, this charming holiday novella collection includes three novellas, “An Archer Family Christmas,” “Gift of the Heart,” and a brand-new story, “A Texas Christmas Carol,” along with a Christmas devotion, holiday recipes, and fun facts about 1890s Christmas celebrations.

A Warrior’s Heart by Misty M. Beller
Brides of Laurent

Plot Summary: On assignment to help America win the War of 1812, Evan MacManus is taken prisoner by Brielle Durand–the key defender of her people’s secret French settlement in the Canadian Rocky Mountains. But when his mission becomes at odds with his growing appreciation of Brielle and the villagers, does he dare take a risk on the path his heart tells him is right?

Carved in Stone by Elizabeth Camden
The Blackstone Legacy #1

Plot Summary: When lawyer Patrick O’Neill agrees to resurrect an old mystery and challenge the Blackstones’ legacy of greed and corruption, he doesn’t expect to be derailed by the kindhearted family heiress, Gwen Kellerman. She is tasked with getting him to drop the case, but when the mystery takes a shocking twist, he is the only ally she has.

The Lines Between Us by Amy Lynn Green

Plot Summary: After Pearl Harbor, sweethearts Gordon Hooper and Dorie Armitage were broken up by their convictions. As a conscientious objector, he went west to fight fires as a smokejumper, while she joined the Army Corps. When a tragic accident raises suspicions, they’re forced to work together, but the truth they uncover may lead to an impossible–and dangerous–choice.

Do you ever re-read novels? If so, what makes a book worthy of a second read?

Ask BHP: What Do You Look For In New Authors?

From our Ask BHP survey, we’re answering a question from very early in the publishing process: “What are factors Bethany House Publishers look for when considering publishing a new author?”

This was probably the question that we got the most via our survey, with slight variations. We know that both aspiring authors and readers love to hear what goes on in deciding to publish a book, and even though we’ve shared about this before, it’s a fun one to revisit.

Keep in mind that because we continue working with many established authors every year on their next releases, Bethany House usually doesn’t have more than 1-2 new-to-us authors every year, and not all of them are debut (first-time) authors. I don’t say that to be discouraging, just to give context to some of the items below. Traditional publishing tends to be more competitive because logistically, there are only so many “slots” that our staff and publishing schedule can handle.

That said, it is possible to stand out in the crowd with some focused effort. Here are a few of the top answers I’ve gotten from Bethany House team members in recent years when they share what draws them to a project from a new author.

A complete manuscript (for a debut author). We want to see that you can not only start a story well, but have a strong middle and ending as well. It’s rarer than you might think!

What you can do: Finish that book! Also, make sure that you’re not making the first 3-4 chapters super polished for contests and proposals and neglecting the rest of the book. We can always tell, and many first readers at publishing companies care.

A story that’s a good fit for our audience. Sometimes we give a “no” to an otherwise strong manuscript because of the way a faith theme is treated or because me notice a prominent element that our core readers might not respond well to. In those cases, we’re really not a good fit.

What you can do: Make sure you’re familiar with the breadth of books we publish, and be able to explain why your book fits in nicely with them.

A strong pitch for the sales team about how the book will sell. Obviously, there is a time for experimentation and risk, and our team is willing to do that for a project that has other strong points or is just a story we feel we have to publish. Generally, though, our sales team is hesitant to sign projects that are squarely in categories that have sold poorly in the past, unless we and the author can demonstrate that a particular genre is on the rise.

What you can do: Know the market and what’s currently selling. If you know you’ve got some sales obstacles, collect and present data. Tell us why your book is different, show evidence that readers are interested in this genre/setting, give us some recent comparable titles that have done well.

A story that finds the balance between original and familiar. The best story pitches have a mix of compelling points that make the sales team think, “Ah, yes, readers love that” and fresh takes that will make them think, “Nice, this will stand out.” We’re usually less interested in both ultra-safe stories that only repeat super common tropes and zany tales that break nearly every reader expectation.

What you can do: If your book is something more common, like a marriage of convenience romance, great! Some readers love that. You’ll just need to make it very clear why it’s different than the thousands of other marriage of convenience stories out there. If you’re trying something that’s less common in Christian fiction, then tell us what makes it familiar as well—a detail that readers would recognize and feel drawn to the story.

An author with demonstrable marketing savvy. We love it when proposals show that an author knows their way around the world of connecting with an audience of readers. That could mean they have friendships with published authors who will endorse their book, or they’ve started a platform (often by talking about others’ books) where they have an audience already, or they have a great plan for how to launch their book. All three is even better! Publishing is a team effort, and being an author with marketing savvy is a great way to stand out.

What you can do: We know that most authors start out focusing just on the craft of writing—as it should be! But you should also consider an investment in marketing know-how (via conferences, online seminars, and even old-fashioned experimentation) as the next step in becoming a professional writer. Just know that it’s very unlikely that you’ll find a quick fix to accumulating marketing know-how or building a platform in the space of a few months. This is usually a long-build process.

A fantastic story. This is always key for us. Even marketing team members like me have read widely and will always advocate strongly for characters that jump off the page, a compelling voice, and a plot that keeps us turning pages.

What you can do: Besides the obvious of investing in your craft and always learning and improving, get feedback from other writers or beta readers to make sure your story shines. As a bonus, you’ll start to learn more about doing rewrites based on others’ recommendations, a great publishing skill. I also tell new authors to keep writing. If the first story of your heart can’t find the traditional publishing home you wanted, it might be time to work on a new one, applying all you’ve learned. Out of more than a dozen debut novels that Bethany House has published in my eight years here, I believe only one was the first book the author had completed. The best way to become a better writer is to do more writing!

How about you, readers? Are there other questions you have about the publishing process, either from a writer or reader’s perspective?

Four Places to Travel Through Books

If your summer is winding down and you feel the need for one last adventure, here’s an easier solution than packing your bags: you can go anywhere (and anywhen) in the pages of a novel. Here are four books with lovely atmospheric settings to give you some bookish travel ideas…and we know you can come up with many more. Feel free to share in the comments!

A Tapestry of Light by Kimberly Duffy

This novel starts in the heroine’s home country of India, including natural beauty, city life, and details of traditional methods of art like beetle-wing embroidery.

From the Book: “Calcutta was a beautiful place, a vibrant mixture of British and Indian architecture, traditional and modern, planned and chaotic. Where wealthy English roses lounged on palanquins and took the air on King’s Bench Walk, and also where bent women, their arms taut from decades of labor, washed clothing on the steps of the ghats.”

The Barrister and the Letter of Marque by Todd M. Johnson

If you want to visit the London of Dickens and Sherlock Holmes (both the scenic and the seedy parts), dive into this legal historical novel. You’ll find yourself as intrigued by the setting as the mysterious crime under investigation.

From the Book: “Out the stern cabin windows of the Padget, the harbor waters rippled as the ship edged toward the London dock in the rhythmic tugs of the oarsmen off the bow. The midnight moon split the Thames into streaky lines that ducked and weaved amidst the crowd of scows, schooners, brigs, and warships docked or anchored on the river. The scents and sounds of London grew stronger the nearer the Padget drew to the quay.”

Yours is the Night by Amanda Dykes

In the middle of the Battle of Argonne during WWI, the descriptions of the forest can vary from magically beautiful to sinister depending on what the characters are experiencing. Throughout, you’ll feel like you’re journeying with the characters to safety.

From the Book: “At some point–and I cannot pinpoint precisely when–I entered another world. There was no mark of it–no creaking of hinges, no fall into a rabbit hole, no flight unto a second star to the right. More of a gradual mist of quiet, where the pleasant smell of decomposing leaves and pine washed away the smell of decomposing flesh. Where the air was tinged with open clarity, not a veil of sulphur.”

The Promised Land by Elizabeth Musser

The characters in this novel travel down the Camino, a famous pilgrimage road through France and Spain, and readers are treated to lush descriptions along the way.

From the Book: “Most of the homes and shops in the village are made from volcanic stone. I soak in the contrast of the ancient black stones and the red tiled roofs against a background of rippling, green-carpeted mountains. I feel like I’m standing in paradise. I take a photo on my phone, although I know full well I cannot capture the unique beauty of this place.”

Where have you most recently traveled in a book you read? Share the destination and book title in the comments.

Calling All Book Club Members!

Do you love reading and discussing books with other book lovers? Do you like getting book recommendations and exclusive content from authors? If you answered yes, then we have the perfect community for you: An Open Book!

An Open Book is a program specifically designed for book clubs, to help make planning meetings easy and fun. We offer a variety of resources, including a monthly newsletter, book giveaways, and an engaged Facebook community. Our newsletter features a different recommended novel each month and includes a letter from the author, a discussion guide, and an assortment of other extras related to the book:

  • Recipes
  • Games
  • Author Q&As
  • Inspirational photos
  • Downloadable images, like a phone wallpaper or a printable Gilded Age dance card
  • Virtual tours or research expeditions
  • Fun facts
  • So much more!

If you would like to sign up to be part of An Open Book, or browse our resources, you can do so here at bethanyhouseopenbook.com. Or, if you’d like to be part of our Facebook group where you can enter giveaways, get book recommendations from fellow readers, chuckle on Funny Fridays, be a featured club of the month, and more, you can find us here: facebook.com/groups/openbookies.

We hope to see you soon!

Prayer for Authors: August 2021

Since it’s Sunday, 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 Lokkesmoe, 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 August:

Amanda Dykes
Tammy L. Gray
Todd M. Johnson
Jen Turano

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.

“Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.” – 1 Corinthians 15:58 (NIV)

General Suggestions for Prayer:

  • For endurance during release month, and as they work on future writing projects.
  • For independent bookstore owners connecting readers with encouraging books.
  • For health and strong relationships between authors and their family members, especially in busy seasons.

Once again, thank you so much for joining us in prayer for these authors and their books. We’re grateful for all of you.

August 2021 New Releases

In this last full month of summer, we hope you’re able to steal a moment to read. We have a contemporary romance, a novel set in WWI, a Regency mystery, and a Gilded Age romance releasing this month, and we love recommending them to readers! Be sure to click on the covers if you’d like to read an excerpt.

Yours is the Night by Amanda Dykes

Plot Summary: Mireilles finds her world rocked when the Great War comes crashing into the idyllic home she has always known, taking much from her. When Platoon Sergeant Matthew Petticrew discovers her in the Forest of Argonne, three things are clear: she is alone in the world, she cannot stay, and he and his two companions might be the only ones who can get her to safety.

To Write a Wrong by Jen Turano
The Bleecker Street Inquiry Agency

Plot Summary: Daphne Beekman is a mystery writer by day, inquiry agent by night. She happily works behind the scenes, staying away from danger. But when Herman Henderson arrives on the doorstep, desperate for someone to investigate numerous attempts on his life, Daphne finds herself in the thick of a case she’s determined to solve–and finds her heart in jeopardy as well.

The Barrister and the Letter of Marque by Todd M. Johnson

Plot Summary: As a barrister in 1818 London, William Snopes defends the poor against the powerful–but that changes when a struggling heiress arrives at his door with a mystery surrounding a missing letter from the king’s regent and a merchant’s brig. As he digs deeper, he learns that the forces arrayed against them are even more perilous than he’d imagined.

Love and the Silver Lining by Tammy L. Gray
A State of Grace Novel

Plot Summary: After her dreams of mission work are dashed, Darcy Malone has no choice but to move in with the little sister of a man she’s distrusted for years. Searching for purpose, she jumps at the chance to rescue a group of dogs. But it’s Darcy herself who’ll encounter a surprising rescue in the form of unexpected love, forgiveness, and the power of letting go.

Do you pre-order books you know you’ll want to buy, or get them after release?

A Look at Regency England with Todd M. Johnson

Historical fiction fans, rejoice! Today, we have Todd M. Johnson here to share some behind-the-scenes details about the famous Regency period, the setting of his new historical legal thriller, The Barrister and the Letter of Marque. If you’re intrigued by barrister William Snopes and his adventures, you can get a signed copy by pre-ordering the book from Baker Book House before the book releases on August 3, 2021. But now, I’ll turn it over to Todd.

Grand King George III of England finally went fully insane in 1811. People saw it coming. After all, he’d suffered bouts of incapacity for decades – including, some believe, during the American Revolutionary War. Still, England’s parliament had no precedent for replacing a mature but incapacitated sovereign. After much wringing of hands, they settled on the strategy of making the King’s son, George IV, his “regent” to rule in his stead.

That period, 1811 to 1820, became known as England’s “Regency Period.”

Why is such a short period in British history so famed? Probably because it was a time of rapid, unprecedented change—in English literature, music, architecture, courts, and concern for the poor. It was also vividly depicted in the books of Jane Austen– and echoed in the later writings of other great English authors, including Dickens, Thackeray, the Bronte Sisters, and Collins. 

Which is why, in my latest book The Barrister and the Letter of Marque, barrister William Snopes, a lawyer with a heart for the poor and a troubled link to high society, insisted upon being featured in London during this period.

So, what was William’s Regency Period London like?

Early 1800s London was the heart of the growing English empire and a mix of old wealth and rising mercantile affluence; bone crushing poverty and an aspiring middle class of merchants, bankers, priests, doctors, civil servants, solicitors, and (yes) barristers.

As depicted in The Barrister, London’s carriages, cabs, and walkways were shared by the well-dressed wealthy, equally well-dressed pickpockets, investors, muggers, tradesmen, sailors, stable hands, and kidnappers. Restaurants, bars, hotels, and pubs were ubiquitous. Wide areas were unsafe to walk at night (Whitechapel), while a few miles away were neighborhoods of beautiful public gardens and gas lit townhomes (Mayfair).

With that summary in mind, here are some London locales featured in The Barrister.

Gray’s Inn

“Impartial justice, guardian of equity, mistress of the law, without fear or favour rules men’s causes aright.” – The Motto of Gray’s Inn

William Snopes is a member of Gray’s Inn, one of the four “Inns of Court” which British barristers were (and still are) required to join in order to practice as barristers. William’s offices were at Gray’s Inn and, at one point in the story, he is threatened with severe discipline by the Inn for his conduct at court.

Gray’s Inn is the smallest (some would say the most elite) of the four Inns of Court in England. It is located at in posh Central London. Like the other three Inns of Court (the Middle Temple, the Inner Temple, and the Lincoln Inn), Gray’s Inn was (and is) at once a professional body, a source of discipline for its members, and a provider of office accommodations for many of its barristers.

Some more fun trivia:

  • The Hall at Gray’s Inn has a large, carved screen at one end over the vestibule entrance. That screen was given to the Inn by Elizabeth I. It was carved from the wood of a Spanish galleon captured from the Spanish Armada.
  • The Inn is known to this day for its sumptuous gardens, which have existed since at least 1597. William Shakespeare is believed to have first performed The Comedy of Errors there because his patron was a member.

Newgate Prison

How dreadful its rough heavy walls, and low massive doors, appeared to us – the latter looking as if they were made for the express purpose of letting people in, and never letting them out again.” – Charles Dickens describing Newgate Prison in 1836

Before the events in The Barrister, William Snopes, an experienced lawyer, had been forced to visit clients in the horror that was Newgate Prison on many occasions.

The original Newgate prison was built in 1188, but was rebuilt many times, including in 1770 and again in 1782. Divided into two sections, it housed a “Common area” for poor prisoners and a “State” area for those who could afford more comfortable accommodation. These sections on the prison were further divided between debtors and felons. The women’s section alone usually contained 300 women and children. The foul, crowded conditions spread misery and disease—including the dreaded “gaol fever” that took swaths of the prison population at intervals.

In The Barrister, Captain Harold Tuttle, William’s client, is held, inexplicably, in the most isolated cells of the prison: in a basement gallery without fresh air or natural light. It isn’t necessary to conjure a vision of the place—you can visit it. Although Newgate was demolished in the early twentieth century, a Victorian gin house called the “Viaduct Tavern” sits across the street from the former prison site. In its cellar, you can find some of Newgate’s original basement cells, still replete with rusty bars and damp walls.

Perhaps the very ones poor Captain Tuttle once occupied.

The Thames Docks


But she still repeated the same words, continually exclaiming. “Oh, the river!” over and over again. “I know it’s like me!” she exclaimed. “I know that I belong to it. I know that it’s the natural company of such as I am! It comes from country places, where there was once no harm in it—and it creeps through the dismal streets, defiled and miserable—and it goes away, like my life, to a great sea, that is always troubled—and I feel that I must go with it!” –
Charles Dickens, describing the Thames in 1844

Much of The Barrister takes place in and around the Thames Port of London. At the time, that port was the lifeblood not only of London, but of the British Empire and even greater Europe.

As William Snope’s and Lady Madeleine Jameson’s experiences in the book demonstrate, the Thames port in 1818 seethed with cross currents of people and intrigue, commerce and crime. 

At that time, the port regularly squeezed in as many as 2000 vessels at a time. River navigation was “frequently impeded, and the losses, damages, accidents, and plunder” sustained were huge. Cargo was at the mercy of “river pirates,” “scuffle hunters,” and “mudlarks” who stole and smuggled goods from ships waiting up to two weeks to be off-loaded – much of that stock of goods in the form of tea, spices, textiles and furnishings carried by the fleet of 1,000-ton East India Company ships from Bengal and China.

Workers at the port and transient sailors often lived in nearby tenements, ancient and rickety buildings on fouled streets surrounded by wasted pastures. A far cry from London today.

***

So there’s a bit of the London world that barrister William Snopes and his friends and occupied. I hope you enjoy their adventures across the breadth of the city which launched a thousand stories and which, for all its growing pains, each of the characters loved.

Plot Summary of The Barrister and the Letter of Marque: As a barrister in 1818 London, William Snopes defends the poor against the powerful—but that changes when a struggling heiress arrives at his door with a mystery surrounding a missing letter from the king’s regent and a merchant’s brig. As he digs deeper, he learns that the forces arrayed against them are even more perilous than he’d imagined.

Have you ever visited London? If so, what did you enjoy about it? If not, what would you love to travel to see?