Monday, April 30, 2018

Review and Author Q&A: The Hidden Side by Heidi Chiavaroli


New York, 2016

Natalie Abbott offers answers for hurting listeners on her popular radio program. But she struggles to connect with her teenagers, with her daughter in an unhealthy relationship and her son uncommunicative and isolated. When one member of the family commits an unspeakable act, Natalie is forced to uncover who she truly is under the façade of her radio persona.

New York, 1776

Mercy Howard is shocked when her fiancé, Nathan Hale, is arrested and hanged as a spy. When she’s asked to join the revolutionary spy ring in Manhattan, she sees an opportunity to avenge Nathan’s death. But keeping her true loyalties hidden grows increasingly harder as the charming Major John Andre of the King’s Army becomes more to her than a target for intelligence.

Mercy’s journals comfort Natalie from across the centuries as both women struggle with their own secrets and shame, wondering how deep God’s mercy extends.

My Thoughts:

The Hidden Side is the first book I have read by author Heidi Chiavaroli, and I am giving this a five star review not because I loved it. I did not, in fact this story was a very hard read for me but the author pulled me into her story even when I didn’t want to go. The topics discussed in this novel are basically from the front page news. We have all read about them, know about them, and ultimately our country has been changed by them. This is a gritty, heart tugging story of three women and their lives that will forever be changed.

This is a time slip novel, the contemporary story is told from the views points of a mother and daughter: Natalie and Maelynn. The historical story takes place during the Revolutionary War surrounded by facts and told to us from the viewpoint of a young woman by the name of Mercy.  As the contemporary story was being told, and as harsh as it was, I naively thought that the historical story would be more of an escape. However, that was not the case and by the time I closed the book, both stories had touched me more than I wanted and more than a book has in a long time.

I think I have made my point that this is a tough, heartbreaking story to read. It mirrors too much of real life, and I like to escape into my reading and I like happy endings. However, this book has given me much food for thought and to look at this broken world with a little bit more compassion. Author Chiavaroli tells this story in a compelling and compassionate way and I don’t know how she did it. This story will stick with me for a long, long time.

I received a complimentary copy of this novel from Tyndale House Publishers. I was not required to post a positive review and all views and opinions are my own.

About the Author:

Heidi Chiavaroli began writing eleven years ago, just after Jesus had grabbed hold of her heart. She used her two small boys’ nap times to pursue what she thought at the time was a foolish dream. Despite a long road to publication, she hasn’t stopped writing since! Heidi won the 2014 ACFW Genesis contest in the historical category. Her debut novel, Freedom’s Ring, was a 4½-star Romantic Times Top Pick and a Booklist Top Ten Romance Debut. Heidi loves exploring places that whisper of historical secrets, especially with her family. She loves running, hiking, baking, and dates with her high-school sweetheart and husband of fourteen years. Heidi makes her home in Massachusetts with her husband, two sons, and Howie, her standard poodle. Visit her online at

Author Q&A:

1. What inspired you to write The Hidden Side?

My ideas usually begin with research. I was searching for a true-to-life historical figure from the American Revolution who could inspire a new story when I stumbled upon Agent 355, a woman who played an important part in General George Washington’s most successful spy ring, a woman whose identity we still don’t know for certain. That was enough to get my imagination going! Before long, I had a solid historical story down—a story about a woman seeking to redeem the wrong done to her fiancé, infamous spy Nathan Hale. A story about a woman hiding behind a facade that could not only ruin every relationship she has, but could put her life in peril as well. A story about a woman who finds herself caring for a man she must deceive. 

The contemporary story didn’t come so easily. I was brainstorming with my friend and fellow author Melissa Jagears when we remembered a recent news story about a man who had committed a terrible crime and an interview with a relative who raised him, who was just as shocked as the rest of the country over what her kin had done. Before long (and with additional help from my extraordinary editor, agent, and critique partner) we had the story of Natalie, a mother and radio host of a popular Christian morning show— whose son had committed an unspeakable crime. This woman would go through grief, but she would also struggle with moving on, with the impulse to hide behind her radio personality, and with finding her identity not in her son’s deeds but in Christ. Through her attempt to find healing, she turns to the journal her son gave her on the eve of his crime, a journal that tells the story of another woman, centuries earlier, who also felt the need to hide behind a false persona.

2. How do you expect this story to resonate with your audience?

Although most of us haven’t gone through something as horrific as Natalie, Maelynn, and Mercy, we have probably all struggled with the different masks we find ourselves wearing. We struggle to discover our “true” selves. How often does who we truly are fail to translate into who we walk around being?  

Natalie hides from the shame caused by her son’s actions behind a radio name. Filled with grief, she convinces herself she will hurt fewer people if she lives behind this facade. Her daughter, Maelynn, is a sixteen-year-old who struggles with fitting in with her peers. When her twin brother commits his unspeakable crime, she begins to realize how living untruth to please others has hurt not only her brother, but her entire family and community. And Mercy, like Natalie, feels she is fighting for a good cause, but when her noble intentions collide with those she cares for, she finds herself wondering if living untruth can ever produce something good.

3. Can you tell us about the historical research that went into writing this novel? Did you learn anything new that surprised you?

Research is always one of my favorite parts of writing a novel.  After I read everything I could on the Culper Spy Ring, we visited the village of Setauket on Long Island. This was the hometown of real historical people who were part of the ring—Abraham Woodhull, Major Benjamin Tallmadge, Caleb Brewster, and Anna Smith Strong. These were ordinary people who dealt with suppression and, through the prompting of George Washington, used the trust they already held for one another to conduct a covert group that would smuggle information out of British-occupied Manhattan. As Mercy came alive in my mind, it was wonderful to visit the very places she would have grown up, the places she walked and lived and worshipped and worked. Love that stuff!

I think the most fascinating fact I learned was how adamant the members of the spy ring were about keeping their secret—most of them until death. With the exception of the brazen Caleb Brewster, the members of the Culper Spy Ring were extremely hesitant to talk of the role they played in their country’s freedom, even years after it happened. In fact, it wasn’t until the twentieth century that Robert Townsend’s role in the ring came to light. That’s how scared they were. That’s how ashamed many of them felt living beneath false motives. And yet they persevered for what they considered to be the greater good.

4. What role does faith play in the story?

Natalie is a woman with all the answers . . . for everyone else. She is revered as a woman of faith. But when her family and community collapse beneath the actions of her son, she doubts everything. Her true self is revealed, and it’s not pretty. (Hardship has a way of doing that to us!) 

For many of us, it’s easy to put our confidence in our works—in the pretense that we’re actually pretty good people. But you know what? We’re a lot worse off than we fool ourselves into thinking. That’s the bad news. But hold your breath, because the good news is close behind it—we’re also WAY more loved than we know.
Like Natalie, we often busy ourselves trying to hide that unflattering person. We try to protect it, cover it, hope nobody really knows the depths of our messiness. But the gospel tells us that the real us—that one we’re so busy hiding—that’s the one God loves so much. That’s the one Jesus came to redeem.

5. What lessons or truths do you hope readers will take away from The Hidden Side?

That no matter what we try to conceal, even from ourselves, there is nothing that God can’t free us from. That the only place worth hiding is in Jesus. There, we don’t have to have it all together or pretend to be something we’re not. We don’t have to be afraid of rejection. He loves us perfectly and enough to do a good work in us—a real work that will draw us closer to Him and make us more like Him. That’s where our true identity resides.

6. As an author, what did you particularly enjoy about crafting this story?

When I started writing this story, I expected to write in two viewpoints—Natalie, my contemporary character, and Mercy, my historical character. But as I began the story, another character, sixteen-year-old Maelynn, begged to have her story told, and even though I hadn’t planned for her, I couldn’t ignore her either.

I’ve never written in the point of view of a contemporary teenager and I can’t believe how much I enjoyed it. Sure, there was a lot to tackle in this book with Maelynn, but she came alive to me in a very unique way. I absolutely felt her. I was her. Though I craft many characters, they don’t all speak to me in the same way. To me, Maelynn’s character was especially powerful.

7. This novel explores some devastating events and topics—a school shooting, the loss of loved ones, and division within and among families. Why did you choose to tackle these difficult issues?

After I brainstormed with a couple of my author friends and my agent and editor, I saw the story before me, but absolutely balked at the idea of writing it. This was difficult stuff. Didn’t my readers see enough of the difficult when they turned on the news? Wasn’t it my job to give them an escape from the harsh realities of life?

Honestly, I didn’t wrestle with this for long. Since I first began pursuing publication, I knew my stories would not be the sweet, easy ones. There is darkness in this world, and as a writer who longs to bring truth into it, I can’t in good conscience ignore the darkness. I can, however, bring hope into it.

The funny thing about hope and good news is that it shines more brightly in the darkness. So when I write about a bombing or a historical war, when I write about the unspeakable actions of a family member or a heart torn apart by addiction and suffering, in part, it is what I relate to. It’s where despair tends to trip me up in this messy, broken world.

BUT there is hope. And that is where I choose to cling, and it is this message that burns in my heart to bring forth to my readers.

8. The Hidden Side features three main characters: Natalie and Maelynn Abbott of modern-day New York and Mercy Howard of colonial New York. Which character did you personally relate to the most? Which character surprised you the most?

Writing Natalie’s character made me an emotional wreck. I think this was because I could relate to her so well. And though she goes through something no mother should ever have to go through, my mother’s heart was ripped apart when writing her character. I can imagine what it’s like to have a troubled son, a prodigal son. I know what it’s like for a child to dread going to school because of bullying issues. I also know what it’s like to be held to a certain standard and to not measure up. In these ways, I could very much relate to Natalie.

Maelynn was definitely the character that surprised me most. When I began writing, I didn’t know her place in the story, but as it progressed, she became central to it. She surprised me not only with her honesty, but how she grew throughout the story as well.

9. Your novel gives readers permission to have questions about their faith. Why do you think this is important?

I think if we’re honest, we all struggle with doubts and questions once in a while. It’s that in-between dilemma again—that place between the now and the will-be promise that God has given us, that place where our real selves are hidden with Him. 

If we ignore our questions and doubts, we’re not being real with ourselves or with God. And so often, in my experience, doubt has been a threshold to a deepened faith. Our God doesn’t need a fake faith. He’s the Almighty, the Creator of all things. He can handle our doubts and questions. Really. And I absolutely believe He will use them to strengthen us as He did for Thomas, Abraham, and many others in Scripture.

10. Forgiveness and reconciliation can be difficult topics, and you include them as core themes of the novel. What do you hope your reader will learn from this?

Forgiveness is something I so often look at on the surface and think, No big deal, easy peasy. Then, when it comes time to put it into practice (when someone has really and truly hurt me) . . . well, not so easy. And what about when we have to forgive someone who isn’t even sorry for what they’ve done?
My characters all face these dilemmas. What they are asked to forgive is monumental. I can hardly begin to fathom it, but I think, in some ways, as I walked this journey with them, they helped me better understand the real meaning of mercy, and the extent of grace that Jesus has given us. 

11. What led you to choose the title The Hidden Side?

The working title for this manuscript was Hidden Mercy. I’m so thankful for my amazing editors at Tyndale who brainstormed the stronger title of The Hidden Side. I think it really conveys the struggle of both contemporary and historical characters, as well as the fact that there is a hidden side of God’s Kingdom as well—one we can’t see fully right now, but one that is nevertheless real and at work in our lives.

12. What are some future projects you’re working on?

Right now, I’m finishing up some research for my third book with Tyndale, scheduled to release in 2020. We’ll be back in revolutionary and contemporary Boston for that, so I’m excited!

I’m also busy preparing some speaking engagements, as well as revising another timeslip story set to release next year. A lot to work on, but I’m loving every minute of it!

Review: Pelican Point by Irene Hannon

To Purchase

After inheriting a crumbling lighthouse, Dr. Ben Garrison is more than ready to get rid of it until he meets a determined Marci Weber who wants to save the landmark. Can she make him see her point of view?

My Thoughts:

Pelican Point was such a fantastic surprise of a read in Irene Hannon’s Hope Harbor series. The story starts out slowly with a less than stellar meeting between Editor Marci Weber and Army doctor Ben Garrison. Both try to avoid each other as it seems sparks fly every time they are near one another. However, Ben finally gets an idea that maybe the sparks are flying due to the attraction that neither wants to acknowledge.

There was a lot in this story from the town saving the lighthouse on the Point to a young married couple who are trying to save their marriage after an IED reshaped their lives.  I was rooting for Rachel and Greg as much as I was for Marci and Ben.

As I was reading I realized how much Marci and Ben had in common- the events that brought them to Hope Harbor to the secrets both of them kept close. Once the secrets started to be revealed, I thought the author was going to take the story a certain route, but I was surprised with the completely different direction and the twist that ended up happening. I was happily surprised to see a little suspense play in the story.

It was nice going back to Hope Harbor and the very familiar faces of all the secondary characters that I have come to enjoy. From the people like mysterious Charley and his yummy fish tacos to the animals that have even been an interesting addition to the story. I am glad that there is another book coming in this series.

I received a complimentary copy of this novel. I was not required to post a positive review and all views and opinions are my own.

Saturday, April 28, 2018

Weekend Briefing by Jes Drew

Weekend Briefing

Welcome back, agents. Today we’re letting all agents with clearance see the new cover for Ninja and Hunter book two, The Time I Saved a Damsel in Distress.

The former versions The Time I Saved the Day and The Time I Saved a Damsel in Distress:

The new cover for The Time I Saved the Day:

Thank you Y. Kilolova at Ammonia Book Covers for the beautiful art work. 

And finally- the new cover for The Time I Saved a Damsel in Distress:

Join us next week, agents, for the publication party of the reboot of The Time I Saved a Damsel in Distress with its new cover. Until then, don’t do anything to get yourselves brain-wiped. Ciao!

Review: Listen Up by Marty Machowski

To Purchase

"Listen Up" to Jesus with your family!

After teaching a parable Jesus often said, "Whoever has ears, let him hear." In other words, "This is important, so you better listen up" and what could be more important than the good news of the kingdom of God?

Children love stories, especially stories that engage their minds and imaginations as they learn new concepts and ideas. In his newest devotional, Listen Up, Marty Machowski provides a unique opportunity to tell their children some of the oldest, yet most important, stories---the parables of Jesus.
Designed for families, this thirteen-week devotional offers parents and children an opportunity to "listen up" to Jesus and learn the biblical truths his stories were meant to convey.

"Jesus knew the importance of storytelling, and used the parables to capture the attention of his audience and teach them the gospel," author Marty Machowski says. "Today we get to teach these same stories, and the meaning behind their symbolism, to our children. Captivated by these simple yet exciting stories, using everyday objects and activities like treasure, hiding in a field, a precious pearl, and a house built on a rock to withstand the storm, our children won't easily forget the stories Listen Up introduces to them."

My Thoughts:

If you are looking for a family devotional study to do, Listen Up is a 13-week family devotional that focuses on Jesus’ parables. This is a really nice set up and I like that it encourages families to work together and discuss what Jesus taught. We hear stories all the time, either by reading or watching T.V., etc., and this is a great way to get into deeper detail of what the greatest story teller of all time had to say to us. There are activities listed as well that helps make the parable resonate deeper, for example to make cookies for a neighbor. All the activities make word pictures to help younger children to grasp the concept being taught, but this is for older tweens and teens as well. This is a nice, well thought out and planned teaching tool.

I received a complimentary copy of this book. I was not required to post a positive review and all views and opinions are my own.

Friday, April 27, 2018

Review and Giveaway: Julie by Catherine Marshall

Title: Julie
Author: Catherine Marshall
Publisher: Gilead Publishing
Re-Issued Date: April 17, 2018
Genre: Historical Romance Fiction

*A New York Times bestseller*
Will the dam hold?

Julie Wallace has always wanted to write. Trying to escape the Great Depression, Julie’s father buys the Alderton Sentinel, a small-town newspaper in flood-prone Alderton, Pennsylvania, and moves his family there. As flash floods ominously increase, Julie’s investigative reporting uncovers secrets that could endanger the entire community.
Julie, the newspaper, and her family are thrown into a perilous standoff with the owners of the steel mills as they investigate the conditions of the immigrant laborers. As the Alderton Sentinel and Julie take on a more aggressive role to reform these conditions, seething tensions come to a head.
When a devastating tragedy follows a shocking revelation, Julie’s courage and strength are tested. Will truth and justice win, or will Julie lose everything she holds dear?

About the Author:

Catherine Marshall (1914-1983), “The New York Times” best-selling author of 30 books, is best known for her novel “Christy.” Based on the life of her mother, “Christy” captured the hearts of millions and became a popular CBS television series. Around the kitchen table at Evergreen Farm, as her mother reminisced, Catherine probed for details and insights into the rugged lives of these Appalachian highlanders. Catherine shared the story of her husband, Dr. Peter Marshall, Chaplain of the United States Senate, in “A Man Called Peter.” A decade after Dr. Marshall’s untimely death, Catherine married Leonard LeSourd, Executive Editor of “Guideposts,” forging a dynamic writer-editor partnership. A beloved inspirational writer and speaker, Catherine’s enduring career spanned four decades and reached over 30 million readers.

My Thoughts:

Julie by author Catherine Marshall was a riveting book, and I do believe I may actually enjoy it a bit more than Christy. Christy was a good book, but there was just something about Julie that really snagged my attention. This is a coming of age story about Julie Wallace and her family set during the Great Depression. Life is financially hard for them, like many other others during that time, but this family has also been hurt by the church and affected by illness. So they have decided to move away from their home state to a small factory town in Pennsylvania.  Instead of being a pastor, Julie’s dad is now the editor of a small floundering newspaper and Julie hopes to write articles for the paper to further and fulfill her dream of becoming a writer. Along with her father, Julie, her mother and younger brother and sister set out on this new adventure.

This adventure is wrought with many challenges. Julie who is seventeen is still very young and has many experiences yet she must go through with new friendships and especially romantic encounters with young men.  With the back drop of the Great Depression, social injustices with factory workers, and prejudices of the day, there is an even more foreboding danger. It is the ominous dam that holds back the water from the town. There was some great information on dams that I learned in this story and due to the fact that I have experienced flooding as well, this story became all the more real to me.

There is heartache and some plot points I had hoped did not happen, but it did paint a pretty accurate picture of a young girl coming of age with her family in the depression era US and meeting head on some extraordinary challenges. There were good lessons to be learned as well.

I received a complimentary copy of this novel. I was not required to post a positive review and all views and opinions are my own.


(1) Winner will win:
·         $25 Amazon Gift Card
·         Bookmark Swag
·         Necklace (exact or similar & *subject to change)
(Only Gift Card open internationally. Others open to US Mailing Addresses)

Review and Guest Post: Ice by Lauren Carr

About the Book:

The clues for a close-to-the-heart missing person’s case heat up when Chris Matheson starts chipping away at the ice on the cold case.

When Sandy Lipton and her unborn child disappear, the court of public opinion finds young Chris Matheson guilty. Decades later, the retired FBI agent returns home to discover that the cloud of suspicion cast over him and his family has never lifted. With the help of a team of fellow retired law enforcement officers, each a specialist in their own field of investigation, Chris Matheson starts chipping away at the ice on this cold case to uncover what had happened to Sandy and her baby and the clues are getting hot!

My Thoughts:

Ice by Lauren Carr, starts off a brand new series that deals with solving cold cases. In this particular story the past and present collide when retired FBI agent Chris’s reputation is at stake again for a crime he did not commit some 24 years ago. In author Carr fashion, we have several past and present crimes that have taken place that may or may not be related. This story kept the pages turning quickly as there were a lot of possible suspects and way too many victims and their families whose lives that had been touched by the violence and now demanded justice.

I have enjoyed author Carr’s previous series, so I was excited to dive into this one. Chris is a widower with three young girls and living with his mom. I liked how he and his mom looked after each other especially since both are still in the grieving process for Chris’s late wife and his late father. Life has dealt them both some serious blows but they have a very strong family bond. Enter Chris’s first love, Helen, an assortment of loving, furry critters- Thor an adorable bunny and Sterling a very smart and as the book describes him, goofy German shepherd- and you have the makings of another brilliant series. Along with the strong family bond, we have an eccentric group of retirees called the Geezer Squad with the right amount of skills to help Chris and Helen get justice for the cases that are so cold they are like Ice.

I am very curious and happily awaiting for more from Chris, Helen, Doris, the Geezer Squad, Thor the bunny and goofy Sterling and all the characters that author Carr makes come to life in her books.

Please note that due to the nature of the crimes, some language, and some innuendo this is an adult read.

I received a complimentary copy of this novel. I was not required to post a positive review and all views and opinions are my own.

About the Author:

Lauren Carr is the international best-selling author of the Mac Faraday, Lovers in Crime, and Thorny Rose Mysteries—over twenty titles across three fast-paced mystery series filled with twists and turns!

Now, Lauren has added one more hit series to her list with the Chris Matheson Cold Case Mysteries. Set in the quaint West Virginia town of Harpers Ferry, Ice introduces Chris Matheson, a retired FBI agent, who joins forces with other law enforcement retirees to heat up those cold cases that keep them up at night.
Book reviewers and readers alike rave about how Lauren Carr’s seamlessly crosses genres to include mystery, suspense, crime fiction, police procedurals, romance, and humor.

​Lauren is a popular speaker who has made appearances at schools, youth groups, and on author panels at conventions. She lives with her husband, and three dogs on a mountain in Harpers Ferry, WV.

Connect with the author: Website  ~  Twitter   Facebook  ~  Instagram
Guest Post:

The Jail Bird Who Saved Christmas
Meet the Real Sterling from Lauren Carr’s Ice
By Lauren Carr

On February 26, Lauren Carr’s latest best-selling mystery, Ice (A Chris Matheson Cold Case Mystery) was released. Along with a new set of series characters, this mystery also introduced a new set of furry characters—featuring among them a goofy German shepherd named Sterling.

In this guest post, Lauren Carr reveals the true life story of the real Sterling, who holds a special place in her and her family’s hearts.

On Thursday, December 8, 2016, my heart was broken.

After two months of battling a brave good fight, my handsome guy, and best canine friend, Gnarly passed away from cancer.

Cradling his head in my lap, stroking his soft fur, I broke down. Man, I didn’t know the human body could hold so many tears.

December 8 marked the climax of a very rough two months.

It all started in October when my beloved German shepherd was diagnosed with cancer. Yep, my constant canine companion, my best canine friend, my muse who I dedicated Candidate for Murder to, was very ill and from the time of his diagnosis he went downhill fast.

At first, I was in denial. Gnarly was only four years old. He was a big strong dog. It wasn’t cancer. Burying my head in the sand, I blew my nose, sucked on sore throat lozenges, and plunged away on A Fine Year for Murder while praying that God would prove me right. Writing the second installment of Thorny Rose mystery series was not easy. Often, I would find myself curled up on the sofa with Gnarly’s head in my lap.

Stroking his tall ears, I prayed that God would bless this beautiful dog with a miracle to save him. It wasn’t like I was asking for a big miracle. Gnarly was just a dog—but he was my best friend—my muse.

God, can’t You bless me with this one little miracle?

Among the research online and friends who were dog experts I would talk to was Deb, the breeder who I had gotten Gnarly from as a pup. Deb and her late husband have been friends for years. As time wore on, and Gnarly’s health deteriorated, she offered that, if the worst was to happen, that when I was ready, I was welcomed to the pick of the litter for a new puppy.

No, I insisted. It’s not cancer and Gnarly will get better.

I was in such a funk over Gnarly’s illness that I wasn’t even aware that it was the Christmas season.

Usually, I would be the first to put the tree up—the Saturday after Thanksgiving. I anticipated Cyber Monday the way others look forward to Black Friday.

But that December, I didn’t even notice that we were in the midst of the Christmas season. All I could see was a looming deadline with an unfinished book, an editor frantic to finish the project before she left for the holidays, and my best canine friend wasting away before my eyes.

On Thursday, December 8, I let Gnarly go.

That afternoon, I called my sister to blubber out the news of Gnarly’s passing. After a long talk, Karen asked, “Are you going to take Deb up on her offer for a puppy?”

Not that she was suggesting that any dog could possibly replace Gnarly. However, we also had another German shepherd, Storm, a two year old female who had enjoyed Gnarly’s company. At this point, however, we were uncertain if she would be able to adjust to being an only dog.

“No,” I said, “we don’t really want to go through the puppy training stuff.” I went on to explain that we weren’t even going to actively look for another dog. My heart needed time to heal. “I’m leaving this in God’s hands. When the time is right, He’ll send the perfect dog my way.”

The next day, December 9, I called Deb to give her the sad news about Gnarly’s passing. Kindly, I declined her offer for a free puppy, explaining that we did not want to go through the puppy training.

“Well,” Deb said, “if you don’t want a puppy, maybe you’ll be interested in Gnarly’s nephew.” Gnarly’s nephew!

On Thursday, December 8, the very same day that Gnarly had passed away—his nephew landed in an animal shelter.

Gnarly’s sister, Morgan, had been adopted by another dog breeder, Vicki. One of her puppies, Sterling had been adopted by a family who lived one state away. In the midst of a nasty divorce, neither parent wanted the responsibility of the German shepherd so the wife surrendered him to the county animal shelter. During check-in, the animal control officer discovered that Sterling had been microchipped, which was still registered to the breeder, and called Vicki to notify her that they had one of her dogs.

Luckily for Sterling, his adopted family never bothered changing the microchip registration. Otherwise, Vicki would have never discovered that Sterling was in jail. She has every one who adopts her puppies sign an agreement that they will not turn the dog into the pound or shelter. If the new owners can’t keep the dog, they are to return it to Vicki who will find the dog a new home.

Vicki had a cow! She called everyone from the humane society to the sheriff in an effort to get Gnarly’s nephew released into her custody. Unfortunately, fighting the doggie jail system is not that easy.

Luckily, one of Vicki’s calls was to fellow breeder Deb, who told me the news: Gnarly’s nephew was in jail! Yes, I know I was emotional, but immediately I saw the love connection that God had in mind for us. I lost Gnarly—my best friend—on the same day that his nephew lost his family and his home—all right before Christmas. I had to save Sterling.

Vicki and I connected on Facebook. She hadn’t seen Sterling since he was a puppy, but she did send me pictures of Morgan, Gnarly’s sister, who looked just like her brother.

For eleven days, we battled the system for Sterling’s release.

Meanwhile, Gnarly’s nephew was locked up. I prayed that the family would pick him up and turn him over to Vicki, who accepted my offer to adopt him. Then, my husband pointed out that after all the fuss Vicki and I had been causing, Sterling’s family could pick him up and give him to someone else. Both Vicki and I changed our prayers to that Sterling would remain in the shelter until Day 11, at which point my son Tristan offered to bail him out for my Christmas present.

Suddenly, I was filled with the Christmas spirit. God had declined my prayer to save Gnarly, because He had a better plan. He was bringing Sterling who needed a family who wanted him, and me with my broken heart together.

Knowing that I would have my hands full with Gnarly’s jail bird nephew upon his release, I dug in to finish A Fine Year for Murder and get it off to the editor. I sent it out the night before I went to get Sterling out of jail.

On Day 11 of Sterling’s incarceration, I was at the animal shelter one hour before they opened. After all of my phone calls to them, they knew I was making the hour and a half drive to complete all the paperwork and pay Sterling’s bail for his release, so they let me in.

After completing the dozens of forms and paying all of the necessary fees, the animal control officer explained that Sterling would need to be transported to their vet to be neutered before I could pick him up the next day. “Do you have any questions?” she asked after we had wrapped up all the bureaucratic paperwork.

“Can I meet him?” I asked.

The animal control officer’s eyes got big. “You haven’t met him?”

That’s right. I was so set on adopting Gnarly’s nephew that I had just signed dozens of adoption forms and paid fees for the German shepherd sight unseen. Remember, Vicki had not seen Sterling since he was a puppy. Neither of us had any idea about his temperament.

All I knew about Sterling was that he was Gnarly’s nephew and he lost his family and home on the same day that I lost Gnarly. We were meant to save each other.

So, I waited in the reception area for them to bring out the jail bird who I had just agreed to take home to my family. Sure, there were a dozen things that could be wrong with him. Sterling could be a vicious dog who didn’t like people. Maybe he didn’t get along with other dogs, which would create chaos with Storm, our other German shepherd.

Whatever the case, I was prepared to do what I had to deal with it. We were now stuck with each other.

A few minutes later, I heard this loud deep bark as the animal control officer was dragged into the reception area by Canine Inmate #227.

After eleven days of living in a cage, Sterling was bouncing off the walls, overturning water dishes, jumping all over anyone who came near him. This good looking guy clawed his way toward me and I knelt down to meet him eye to eye. As our eyes met, Sterling drop down onto the floor and laid his head in my lap—just like those last moments that I had with Gnarly.

The bond between us was instant.

Stroking his tall bronze ears, I burst into tears and hugged him. He licked my whole face. Even the animal control officer got teary eyed.

You couldn’t ask for a better Christmas present.

Since his release from jail, Sterling has fit into our family like a glove. Of course, it is impossible to not compare him to Gnarly, who had a lot of bad boy ways that endeared him to me—like opening doors, which my husband hated.

Yet, Sterling is his own dog. While Gnarly was extremely smart, Sterling is goofy. Within two months of adopting him, he ended up at the vet with a broken paw when he got while chasing a squirrel. The squirrels are still laughing at him.

He is extremely lovable. The last time I took him to the vet, the veterinary assistants and doctors made petting Sterling part of their rounds while waiting for the vet to do her examination. By the time we left, everyone had a turn to pet Sterling and get a kiss on their face. Even the animal shelter from where we got him declared that of all their canine inmates, Sterling had the best attitude.

Fifteen months later, I still really miss Gnarly and hold a very special place in my heart for him, but Sterling has helped to heal it. I feel like I still have a piece of Gnarly here with me—laying at my feet—taking on his role as my muse—which is why Sterling earned his spot in the Chris Matheson Cold Case Mysteries.


April 2 - Working Mommy Journal - review / giveaway
April 2 - Live To Read ~ Krystal - review / guest post / giveaway
April 2 - XoXo Book Blog - book spotlight / guest post / giveaway
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April 10 - 3 Partners in Shopping, Nana, Mommy, & Sissy, Too! - review / giveaway
April 11 - Books are love - review / author interview
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April 12 - Nighttime Reading Center - review / giveaway
April 13 - My Reading Journeys - review / author interview / giveaway
April 17 - A Mama's Corner of the World - review
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April 20 - fundinmental - review / author interview / giveaway
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My Thoughts and More on Trail of Promises by Susan F. Craft

    About the Book Book:  Trail of Promises Author:  Susan F. Craft Genre:  Christian Historical Romance Release date: June 25, 2024 A marr...