Monday, March 26, 2018

A BORROWED DREAM, by Amanda Cabot

Grace Whitfield is the schoolmarm in Cimarron Creek, Texas. She's grieving the loss of her mother due to the town's inept physician, although the youngsters she teaches bring joy to her aching heart. When Austin Goddard, a handsome outsider, buys ranch property in the area and brings his young daughter to the school, Grace senses a man hiding a secret.
            Grace and her mother had planned a trip to Paris and now Grace grieves the loss of that dream as well. However, the idea is never far from her thoughts or her dreams.
            A Borrowed Dream contains a cast of fully developed characters, from her friend who owns a candy store, to an abusive parent of one of the children in the school.
            I really enjoyed this book! With themes of secrets held, big-city gangsters, and a returning prodigal, A Borrowed Dream kept me reading in every spare moment.
            Cabot tells her stories with her heart on every page. Although this is the second book in a series, the storyline kept me informed at each turn of the plot. A map and a genealogical chart at the front of the book also helps readers to track the action.
            My thanks to the author and Baker Publishing Group for my review copy.

Saturday, February 17, 2018


As we continue to celebrate the release month of The Mail-Order Brides Collection, I'm happy to welcome Kathleen Y'Barbo to my blog. The title of her contribution to the Collection is "The Mail-Order Mistake."

    Have you heard the joke about the guy who thought he made a mistake? Well, turns out he was wrong.
    We laugh at that joke, but the truth of it is sobering. We've all made mistakes, whether we acknowledge that fact or not. Maybe you put your trust in the wrong person.  Or perhaps you made a choice that you were certain would fix all your problems only to have the situation end in disaster.
    What then? Do you wonder where God was and how He allowed that to happen? To those of us who believe He controls everything, such a mistake can cause us to ask hard questions of Him.
    When May Conrad moved in with her kindly neighbor after fire destroyed her home, she certainly didn't expect to be thrown into the center of a Pinkerton investigation and be considered a prime suspect in a string of mail fraud crimes involving mail-order brides. After all, she felt God was taking care of her, but was He? May certainly doesn't think so when an infuriating Pinkerton detective insists her next choice is between helping him capture that kindly neighbor or be tossed into jail.
    Can you think of a time when you were forced into a situation where none of the options were good? Maybe you had an idea of what your life was going to be like, and then God came in and did something totally different.  Something unexpected. Something uncomfortable. I know I've been there. And while you're in the middle of that something unexpected and uncomfortable, you might be wondering where God is and why He's allowing this to happen. You may even wonder if God has turned away and forgotten about you.
    Good news! He hasn't forgotten. In fact, He is absolutely and certainly using this unexpected and uncomfortable thing. What's He using it for? Sometimes looking back that answer is obvious. Other times there may never be an answer this side of heaven as to why He has allowed something into your life.
    Through it all, there is one thing that never changes and is always true: God never makes mistakes. He's never wrong. And he never leaves you when you do. If you get nothing else from "The Mail Order Mistake," please do not miss that.
    I know May didn't. I hope you won't.

Here's a teaser:
1855, Texas
Pinkerton detective Jeremiah Bingham is investigating a mail-order bride scam bankrupting potential grooms. When unsuspecting orphan May Conrad answers his false ad, she becomes the prime suspect in the case.

Bestselling author Kathleen Y'Barbo is a multiple Carol Award and RITA nominee with than ninety novels, novellas, and nonfiction books to her credit, and over two million copies of these books in print in the US and abroad. A tenth-generation Texan and certified paralegal, she is the winner of the Inspirational Romance of the Year by Romantic Times magazine and a number of Reader's Choice awards as well as a nominee for an RT Career Achievement Award. She is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers and Novelists Inc. Kathleen loves interacting with her fans and with book clubs. To connect with her through social media or send her an email, check out the links on her website at  And don't miss signing up for her newsletter so you’ll be the first to know about new books. She's got five coming out in 2017!

Thursday, February 15, 2018


Noelle Marchand is visiting me today as we continue celebrating the February release of The Mail-Order Brides Collection. Noelle will be sharing how she decided on the secondary characters in her novella, "The Outlaw's Inconvenient Bride."

Imagine the sound of a single cello playing a melody--deep, rich, vibrant. Now, imagine two violins and a viola joining in. Suddenly, what was once simple becomes complex with each instrument bringing out a new quality in the others. This is exactly what secondary characters do for main characters.  I always try to create well-rounded characters to interact with hero and heroine.
However, in writing "The Outlaw's Inconvenient Bride," I gained a better understanding of the importance of secondary characters within a novel. Never before had I tasked these characters with so much responsibility. With a huge portion of the story taking place in an outlaw gang's secluded hideout, the six outlaws who lived there needed to provide external conflict, help set the tone of the story, and make the time period seem believable.
It was also paramount, due to the short nature of a novella, that these characters be immediately distinct from each other. I ensured this by researching accounts of real outlaws who lived during the old west. Inspired, my imagination went into overdrive. I created six characters complete with a list of their past crimes, endowed with a weapon of choice, unique character traits, motives for mayhem, and outlaw monikers. Meet all six members of the Renegade gang in "The Outlaw's Inconvenient Bride."

Here's a hint of the plot: After a gang of outlaws uses a mail-order bride advertisement to trick an innocent woman into servitude, an undercover lawman must claim the bride--even if it puts his mission in jeopardy.

Noelle Marchand is an award-winning author and a proud Texas native. She enjoys spending time with family, dancing, and going on daytrips.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018


Liz Tolsma is visiting my blog today to share her inspiration for writing "A Fairy-Tale Bride," which appears in The Mail-Order Brides Collection. The Collection released this month and is filled with great stories--each one highlighting a different woman's reason for choosing to be
a mail-order bride.

Here's Liz's story behind the story: "A Fairy-Tale Bride," is set just after the Civil War in the make-believe town of Cuento, Texas. Nora, the main character, is a Southern war widow who has lost her husband, her home, and her land. She is impoverished and has no means to support herself. The only respectable option she has is to become
a mail-order bride.

As I researched the story I wanted to write for this collection, I found it was very common for war widows, especially those from the South, to enter into such marriages of convenience. Most of them had lost everything during the conflict. Some of the surviving Confederate soldiers left the Southeast to begin new lives in the cotton fields of Texas. This air of familiarity helped with their transition back into civilian life.
The Texas cotton industry boomed around this time. With their former homes and crops razed and slaves gone, many men turned to Texas as a place to start fresh. The land was fertile, crops were good, and they were able to tap into the now-freed slaves as a work force familiar with growing cotton. Texas quickly became one of the leading producers of cotton in the nation. With the new plantation owners thriving, it was natural for the Southern war widows to go to Texas to enter into new marriages and to start new families.
While I considered not having the sharecroppers appear in the story because of the oftentimes unsavory aspects of the institution, in the end, I decided to show them because sharecropping was a way of life in the South after the war. The hero and his friend would not have been able to sustain their large plantations without this means of getting workers. Neither of the characters is unkind to the sharecroppers, and I don't dwell on it because the characters wouldn't have. It was part of daily life.
As I researched this book, I learned so much about what life was like for some Southerners following the Civil War. When you read it, I hope you learn a little something too.

Here's a link to order the book from Amazon.

The Mail-Order Brides Collection is also available from Barnes & Noble and Christian Book Distributors, as well as your local bookstore.

Liz Tolsma is a popular speaker and an editor and the owner of the Write Direction Editing. An almost-native Wisconsinite, she resides in a quiet corner of the state with her husband and their two daughters. Her son proudly serves as a U.S. Marine. They adopted all of their children internationally, and one has special needs. When she gets a few spare minutes, she enjoys reading, relaxing on the front porch, walking, working in the large perennial garden, and camping with her family.

Sunday, February 11, 2018


  To celebrate the release of The Mail-Order Brides Collection this month, Jennifer Uhlarik is visiting my blog to tell us how she brainstormed the idea for her novella, "The Brigand and the Bride."


Hi all!

Jennifer Uhlarik here. I'm so excited to share with you the story behind the story on "The Brigand and The Bride," my selection from The Mail-Order Brides Collection. So . . .where did the idea for this story come from? As I pondered the idea of a mail-order bride story, I knew it needed to be different than a previous mail-order bride story I'd done. ("Wedded to Honor" from The Convenient Bride Collection). I began thinking of different scenarios and quickly struck on the idea of a woman marrying a stranger to escape her outlaw family. Probably not the most original of ideas--but then, every story's been told a million times already. It's the fun twists you add that makes a story unique. So as I pondered the heroine that was taking shape in my mind, I saw a scene begin to unfold.

The heroine hurries through town, anxious about being caught by her brother. Rather than heading straight to the church, she stops in the seamstress' shop to pick up a suit for her mail-order groom--something they'd pre-arranged through their letters. Suit in hand, she goes to the church, lays out the clothes and grooming supplies for him, then waits in the sanctuary. A bit later, the hero rushes in, shaves and cuts his hair, dons the suit, and steps out of the room, where the pastor's wife shoves him down the aisle, scolding him for his lateness.

The scene played so vividly in my mind's eye that I knew I had to write it and find out how the rest turned out. From the couple's first awkward face-to-face meeting to the "quickie" wedding that ensues, I was giggling and grinning ear-to-ear. I sure hope you'll read "The Brigand and The Bride" to find out why!

"The Brigand and the Bride," by Jennifer Uhlarik
1876, Arizona 
Jolie Hilliard weds a stranger to flee her outlaw family but discovers her groom is an escaped prisoner. Will she ever find happiness on the right side of the law?

Purchase from your local bookseller or online at:

Jennifer Uhlarik discovered the western genre as a pre-teen, when she swiped the only "horse" book she found on her older brother's bookshelf. A new love was born. Across the next ten years, she devoured Louis L'Amour westerns and fell in love with the genre. In college at the University of Tampa, she began penning her own story of the Old West. Armed with a B.A. in writing, she has won and finaled in numerous writing competitions. In addition to writing, she has held jobs as a private business owner, a schoolteacher, a marketing director, and her favorite--a full-time homemaker. Jennifer is active in American Christian Fiction Writers and lifetime member of the Florida Writers Association. She lives near Tampa, Florida, with her husband, college-aged son, and four fur children.

Friday, February 9, 2018


To celebrate the release month of The Mail-Order Brides Collection, it's my pleasure to welcome Megan Besing to my blog. Megan has agreed to share with us the story behind the story of her novella, "Perfect for the Preacher," which is one of nine novellas in the collection.

 Perfect for the Preacher, by Megan Besing
1897, Indiana
Fresh from seminary, Amos Lowry believes marriage will prove to his skeptical congregation that he's mature. If only his mail-order bride wasn't an ex-saloon girl, and worse, pregnant.

As we all know, lies are a part of everyday life--and every good book. Whether it's one we tell ourselves for years or one someone else makes up, lies consume our time. In my story, "Perfect for the Preacher," lies, gossip, and assumptions nearly become main characters themselves.
Despite his age, Pastor Amos Lowry believes he's the man to fill the pulpit at Hilltop Chapel. He's certain he's qualified and longs to be hired. Wouldn't a congregation with such generosity be a preacher's ideal church? At least that's what he tells himself.
Those on the council assume Pastor Lowry is too young and immature, and they believe marriage for Amos could be the answer to all their problems. Except no one asked for a mail-order bride with a sketchy past to apply as Amos's wife. After all, won't an ex-saloon girl ruin Hilltop Chapel's reputation?
Sophie Ross was told she could be a pastor's wife. Except when gossip mixes with the dreadful experiences from her past, Sophie fights the doubt in her head. If a man of God can't love and accept her, what kind of future does that leave?
Behind every deception, whether in real life or story form, is the truth waiting to save the day and set us free. I hope you discover and enjoy the truths buried in the lies of Amos and Sophie's happily-ever-after. What starts off as an unlikely match might just become a marriage built on unconditional love and a ministry for a renewed congregation. Lies may win a battle, but like the characters of "Perfect for the Preacher," let's not allow evil to claim victory of our lives.

Purchase from your local bookseller or online at:

Barnes & Noble:


Christian Book Distributors:

Megan Besing
adores reading, writing, and reviewing stories with happily-ever-afters. Her own writings have received many awards, including being a multi-category finalist in ACFW's Genesis and a winner of MCRW's Melody of Love contest. Her debut "Perfect for the Preacher" released February 1, 2018, in Barbour's The Mail-Order Brides Novella Collection.
She lives in Indiana with her husband and their children where she dreams of the beach and drinks way too many Vanilla Cokes. Connect with Megan on Facebook and at

Wednesday, February 7, 2018


Today I'm pleased to welcome Sherri Shackelford to my blog, as we continue to celebrate the release month of The Mail-Order Brides Collection. Sherri has some interesting tidbits to share on how authors create the villains in their stories.

The most important thing to remember when creating a villain is that villains don't know they're villains. In my story, "Mail-Order Proxy," the heroine is interviewing a notorious outlaw for her local newspaper. And why does this outlaw agree to the interview? He craves fame and attention, of course, but he also wants people to understand him. He wants people to know his motivation.
Generally, most villains are sociopaths. They lack a conscience. While most sociopaths do not become predators, most predators are sociopaths. They may not feel guilty for hurting someone, but they are aware of the consequences of their actions. They are aware of how they are perceived in society.
As an author, when I’m creating a villain, I use a regular person as inspiration, and embellish their flaws and weaknesses.
Villains shouldn't simply be twirling their mustaches while lashing the heroine to the railroad tracks. The outlaw in my story does some bad things, but he feels completely justified in doing these things: Why should the banks have all the money when he's just a poor, working stiff trying to get ahead?
There should always be a reason for the villain's actions. In "Mail-Order Proxy," the outlaw is perfectly cordial to the heroine until she stands in the way of what he wants. That's when she sees the darker side of his personality. Most folks aren't entirely good or entirely evil. A well-written villain has human foibles and weaknesses.
It's also important to remember that villains are often very charming and engaging individuals. The outlaw in my novella, "Mail-Order Proxy," has convinced the heroine of his sincerity. Part of her growth is learning to discern the difference between a charming villain and a cantankerous hero.  As the old proverb states "The lion is most handsome when looking for food."
I hope you enjoy my story, “Mail-Order Proxy”!

Sherri Shackelford is an award-winning author of inspirational Christian romance novels for Harlequin/HarperCollins Publishers.

A wife and mother of three, Sherri’s hobbies include collecting mismatched socks, discovering new ways to avoid cleaning, and standing in the middle of the room while thinking, “Why did I just come in here?” A reformed pessimist and recent hopeful romantic, Sherri has a passion for writing. She doesn't live on the prairie, but she can see the plains from her house. Her books are fun and fast-paced, with plenty of heart and soul. Look for her exciting new romantic suspense novel this fall!

 Here's where you can find The Mail-Order Brides Collection.