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Team Us: Marriage Together by Ashleigh Slater

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Hi Loveys! Here’s a treat for you! We’re talking with my new friend Ashleigh Slater! She’s the author of the new book Team Us: Marriage Together. In her writing, Ashleigh loves to unite the power of a good story with biblical truth and practical application to encourage couples. (For more information visit AshleighSlater.com.) She’s going to give us a marriage tip today and also give us a glimpse into what’s on her to-be-read list (along with what she cooks for company!).

1. How did the writing bug bite you? Have you always wanted to be a writer? What’s your story with that? It’s funny, while writing has always been a part of my story from as early as 3rd or 4th grade, I don’t remember ever sitting down and thinking, “I want to be a writer when I grow up.” Instead, I wanted to be a television producer. To the point that I studied it in grad school. Yet once I had kids, I decided not to pursue that career path. I really wanted to be home with my children on a daily basis. The thing was, once I put that aside, I still needed a creative outlet. Since I’d been writing music reviews and articles since I was teenager, I started to focus more on writing and editing. Almost 20 years after I had my first music review published as a teen, here I am with my first book.

2. Where did the “Team Us” inspiration come from? When it comes to my writing, I actively hold to “write what you know.” So when Moody Publishers approached me last spring about possibly writing a book on relationships, I sat back and thought, “Okay, what can I write about that I have experience in and am passionate about?” The first thing that came to mind as I reflected on Ted and our marriage was how grace has impacted our relationship. This idea of writing on grace turned into the book that is now “Team Us.”

3. As we all know, marriage can be a little like a rollercoaster–highs and lows and freefalls! What’s one practical way that you recommend staying on the same team even through the hard times? Remember that your spouse is not the enemy. It can be easy when you face difficulty to start pointing fingers and assigning blame. You know, to look for what your spouse could have or maybe even should have done differently. And, as a result, “casting” your spouse in the role of villain in the tragedy you’re facing. Instead of making it “you against me,” I think it’s important to make it “us against the problem.” Determine to face whatever comes your way together, united. And I believe this is something that doesn’t just apply to the “big” difficulties, but even the smaller challenges involved in parenting or finances.

4. What books are you currently reading? What’s on your to-be-read list? I tend to read two or three books at a time. Right now I’m finishing up Emily Wiergena’s memoir Atlas Girl and am in the middle of Tessa Afshar’s novel In the Field of Grace as well as Dannah Gresh’s parenting book Six Ways to Keep the ‘Little’ in Your Girl. My to-be-read list includes reading The Hunger Games Trilogy and The Divergent Trilogy again. I’ve also heard a lot of great things about The Nesting Place by Myquillyn Smith.

5. What’s your special go-to meal when having company over? What are you famous (or infamous!) for when it comes to cooking? We actually don’t have one go-to meal. Instead, we kind of cater a few of our favorites depending on who the company is. Things like chili or chicken saltimbocca. But, if we have a large group of friends over, it’s normally an easy crowd pleaser such as bratwursts or burgers on the grill. Ted and I both have a lot of German in our family history, so we love a good brat with mustard and sauerkraut.

Thank you, Ashleigh!! I am super excited to read Team Us and to get to know Ashleigh better! Check out her website and hop over to Amazon to take a look at what others are saying about her book.

 

The Scenes Jane Austen Never Wrote by The Austen Authors Collective

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So I’ve been reading this book that Sara gave me at my book launch dinnerPP200cover7small

party. And I’m loving it! It’s so fun to get glimpses into other characters and read extra scenes that feel as though they could slide right into Pride and Prejudice. It’s a gorgeous book, the kind I want to keep on my bookshelf for a very long time. Because these are just scenes written from the perspectives of many different characters (Charlotte Lucas, Mr. Darcy, Bingley’s sisters, Kitty–to name a few), you can skip around and read wherever you like. The chapters aren’t too long, some are quite short. So I’ll flip through and read whatever looks the most interesting to me at that moment. It’s a large book, but it’s not intimidating for that reason. I think any P&P lovers should take a look. If only to read a few fun scenes from Darcy’s perspective. It’s fun to watch him fall in love with Lizzy.

Many thanks to my precious sister Sara for giving me this beautiful book!

I’ve been thinking about my to-be-read for the fall. What do you recommend? I’m thinking I’d love to pull together a friend or two this fall and dive into reading The Nesting Place by Myquillyn Smith. It looks delightful. I’ll keep you posted!

 

 

Dearest Cousin Jane by Jill Pitkeathley

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9780061986178_p0_v1_s260x420So I just finished reading Dearest Cousin Jane by Jill Pitkeathley and I thoroughly enjoyed it. The story is told from the perspectives of several members of the Austen family, and in some cases through letters. In some ways, it didn’t feel like one cohesive story, since we’re hearing from several people whose lives are plenty interesting on their own, but that didn’t detract at all from the worth of the novel. The purpose was to give us a better look at Jane Austen’s cousin Eliza, who married Jane’s brother Henry. I’ve always found Eliza to be captivating so I was glad to get to read more of her story and get to know her a little better. For any and all Janeites, I’d say this novel is a good read. The most intriguing part of Eliza’s history is the question of her father. But that’s also the frustrating part because we never get a definite answer. There’s a lot of speculation that her godfather was her actual father.

I loved all the parts about Jane Austen specifically. Reading this book made me want to watch Becoming Jane in order to see Jane, Eliza, and Henry again. Eliza lived a fascinating life, full of adventure, glamor, style, romance, and more. She seemed to have a lot of depth to her, however, and her love for her family shines through in this novel.

 

 

 

 

Paige Turned by Erynn Mangum

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This week, the 

Christian Fiction Blog Alliance 

is introducing 

Paige Turned 

TH1NK (April 1, 2014) 

by 

Erynn MangumABOUT THE AUTHOR:

A few things about her:

So, if we were having this conversation in person, we would probably be hanging out at Starbucks or one of the cute coffeehouses in town. I’m nuts about all things coffee, I’m crazy about all things pink and girly, and I love, love, love the Food Network! I’m married to my best friend and the most amazing guy ever, Jon. He is amiable toward coffee, does not like anything pink or girly and tolerates the Food Network. So, we make a good match! In July 2010, we became parents to one of the funniest, cutest, sweetest little guys in the whole world (and nope, we aren’t biased at all!), our Nater-Tot, who is legally known as Nathan. Most days, I’m cleaning up messes, making goofy faces, trying to fit some writing in, and just LOVING the life that God has given me!

ABOUT THE BOOK

Despite her valiant efforts, Paige Alder seems stuck in chaos. Her new job as youth intern keeps her hopping from coffee shop to coffee shop all summer long, but at least she’s loving the one-on-one time she gets to spend with the girls. The unfortunate side-effect is that now, four weeks of laundry fills her apartment. Plus, she barely has time to help her sister and best friend with their weddings! And even worse? Something is definitely wrong between her and Tyler. She apologized for what he thought he saw happen with Luke. Can’t they move past it? Or could there be something he’s not telling her—something that could change everything?

If you’d like to read the first chapter of Paige Turned, go HERE.

Table for Two by Brandy Bruce

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It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, nonfiction, for young, or for old…or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!

You never know when I might play a wild card on you!

Today’s Wild Card author is:

 

Brandy Bruce

 

and the book:

 

Table for Two
Heartsong Presents (April 28, 2014)
***Special thanks to Brandy Bruce for sending me a review copy.***

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
BrandyBruce

Brandy Bruce has worked in book publishing for more than nine years–editing, writing, reading, and making good use of online dictionaries. She’s a graduate of Liberty University and works as a part-time book editor for a publishing house. She and her husband, Jeff, make their home in Colorado with their two children, Ashtyn and Lincoln. When Brandy isn’t editing manuscripts or writing novels, she loves spending time with her family, baking any kind of cheesecake, watching movies based on Jane Austen novels, or curling up with a favorite book. You can contact her through her blog at http://brandybruce.blogspot.com.

Visit the author’s website: http://brandybruce.blogspot.com

She’s doing a Q&A today on Goodreads! Check it out! https://www.goodreads.com/topic/show/1797930-april-28-30-q-a-with-brandy-bruce#comment_form

SHORT BOOK DESCRIPTION:
cover

Mandy Seymour always books a table for one. So the pretty food critic is stunned when she captures the eye of dashing chef Leo Romano. Leo’s good looks and fabulous cooking are swoon-worthy, but it’s his tender care of his ailing father and affection for his warm Italian family that really touch her heart. A broken engagement has made Leo cautious. And as he grapples with his dad’s illness he’s skeptical about starting a new relationship, even with a woman as compelling as Mandy. But as he spends more time with Mandy, Leo starts to realize maybe the last thing he should give up is love.

 

Product Details:
List Price: $4.99Publisher: Harlequin/Love Inspired

Language: English

ISBN-13: 978-0-373-48703-5

AND NOW…THE FIRST CHAPTER:

Mandy Seymour held up one hand to hold off traffic as she dashed across the crowded
street, wincing as the “Walk” sign changed to “Stop” before she could reach the
other side.

Sorry,she muttered as the sound of horns honking followed her. She pushed
through the revolving door of the Hyatt Regency hotel and rushed past the front
desk. Taking a quick moment to look down at the brochure in her hand, Mandy
took the next left and sighed with relief when she saw that the double doors to
the conference room directly ahead of her were still open. She slid into the
last row of seats and turned her attention to the speaker at the front of the
room. Gabriel Romano. The Gabrielstar restaurants,
one in Denver, the other in Los Angeles.
Mandy’s mouth watered at the very thought of his infamous tiramisu.

She caught the end of Mr. Romano’s introduction as she shuffled through her purse,
looking for a pen and a notepad.

How can I not have a pen? I always have
pens—but of course, when I need one, there are none to be found.

Mandy  ignored the disapproving voice in the back of her mind that always sounded just
like her mother. Mandy, why are you so disorganized? Mandy, when are you going to be more responsible? Mandy, isn’t it
time you got yourself together?

“Here, take this.”

Mandy looked up in surprise at the voice whispering next to her. A man in a blue
tailored suit with a silver tie handed her a pen.

“Thanks,” Mandy whispered back, accepting the pen, her gaze lingering just a little too
long on the man. His dark wavy hair, jet-black eyes, and olive skin were a nice
combination.

Don’t even think about it, Mandy. He’s probably married.

Was that her voice or her mother’s in her head? Mandy shook away the question and settled in her seat, eager to be swept into Gabriel Romano’s rise-to-success story, beginning with learning to cook from his grandmother during summers spent in the Italian countryside.

“So, why are you here?” the guy leaned over and whispered again.

Mandy barely glanced at him. Okay, I know you’re cute, but I’m here to hear Gabriel Romano so stop talking!

Mandy shrugged. “The same reason everyone else is—Gabriel Romano,” she whispered, hoping her annoyance would register with the guy.

“So you’re another admirer,” he said.

It obviously didn’t register with him.

“I’m a food critic,” Mandy whispered in a rush. “I’m going to the new Romano’s on 15th Street tonight and doing a review, so I thought I’d come hear his story.”

A woman in front of them looked back, holding her finger to her lips. “Shh!”

Mandy’s face burned with embarrassment. The guy next to her seemed unaffected.

“What time will you be there?”

“What?” Mandy asked, forgetting to whisper. The woman in front turned around again, glaring this time.

The guy leaned closer. “What time will you be at Romano’s tonight?”

Mandy blinked, caught for a moment by those dark eyes of his. Why did he want to know? She looked back down at the notepad on her lap without answering.

“I’m Leo, by the way,” the guy whispered.

Mandy sneaked another look over at him. He had a nice smile. But that didn’t mean anything. There could be a lunatic lurking behind that nice smile.

“I’m Mandy Seymour.”

What happened to the lunatic theory? I’m now having a conversation with a complete stranger—missing out on the speech that I
came to hear!

Leo nodded. “Nice to meet you. What time will you be at Romano’s tonight, Mandy?”

Mandy licked her lips and gripped the borrowed pen in her hand.

“8:00.”

Leo winked at her. “Maybe I’ll see you there,” he whispered with a smile before leaving the conference room. Mandy watched him go, wondering where he went and wishing she had asked him why he was there.

 

Leo Romano typed the name Mandy Seymour into his phone and waited for the search engine to give him what he needed. Within seconds, the first page of hits came on the screen and Leo scrolled through, clicking on the third link.

 

Mandy Seymour, respected food critic for Denver Lifestyle magazine, recommends the Coffee
and Crepes
delicatessen off 23rd and Mountain View. Mandy was quoted as saying, “The service was impeccable and the breakfast quiche exceeded my expectations . . .”

Leo clicked off his phone and shoved his hands in his pockets. Even from the hallway, he heard his father’s voice booming through the conference room. He could quote verbatim his father’s speech, and while it was usually inspirational for the audience, Leo could only stand to hear it so many times.

He stepped closer to the open door, scanning the back row where Mandy Seymour sat, scribbling on her notepad. She’d rushed into the conference room, late, juggling a purse and shoulder bag; then she’d furiously rummaged through her purse until Leo had given her his pen. He’d been amused by her effort to ignore him and her frustration at his attempt at conversation. Wisps of brown hair had escaped the knot tied at the nape of her neck. Leo doubted that Mandy knew her scarf was haphazardly dragging on the floor when she’d rushed in. Everything
about the woman shouted scatterbrained.

Still, scatterbrained or not, when Mandy dropped her pen and then scrambled to find it under her chair, Leo smiled without warning from where he stood watching.

She’s charming. In a clumsy, disheveled sort of way. Leo watched her sit back up and blow a stray hair from her face while she continued taking notes. Not like Carol Ann. Those are two words that could never describe her.

Leo’s neck stiffened at even the thought of Carol Ann Hunt. It had been more than six months since she’d broken off their engagement and moved back to her parents’ home in Chicago.

Leo leaned against the wall near the doorway and closed his eyes, sending up a quick prayer for just a little more endurance.

Please help me get the new restaurant off the ground, Father. It’s so important to my dad. He can’t do this without me.
And I can’t do this without You.

The sound of laughter coming from the conference room broke the moment of reverie and Leo looked up, glancing at his watch and knowing that the speech would be over soon. His father’s voice echoed through the corridor and Leo couldn’t avoid hearing the highlights of his father’s life story. He listened as Gabriel Romano talked about discovering his passion—and talent—for cooking, marrying the love of his life and raising a family in Los Angeles, struggling financially to get his first restaurant off the ground. But through hard work, determination, and a stellar reputation for good food, that first Romano’s eventually thrived.

Gabriel told the audience that he hired his brother to be the manager and overseer of the restaurant while he concentrated on cooking, and a few years later he decided to move his family to Colorado. With the success of the Los Angeles Romano’s, the opening of a second restaurant proved to be much easier. The restaurant on Franklin Street in Denver turned into an overnight success.

As the speech came to a close, Leo noted that his father hadn’t mentioned that Leo would be the head chef, running the kitchen at the 15th Street location. He knew his father wanted to create more buzz by keeping the new chef’s identity a mystery until the restaurant opened. That suited Leo just fine; he had enough on his plate without enduring the press and questions about his new role as head chef, along with the inevitable comparisons that would be made to his father.

As the crowd filed through the double doors, Leo moved back. From a distance, Leo could see Mandy Seymour make her way back down toward the lobby. Knowing she would be at the grand opening tonight, Leo would make sure everything from the food to the service to the lighting would be perfect.

 

Mandy took her time walking down the street back toward Union Station. She planned to headd tried the week before. It was one of the things she loved most about herway place right outside of Denver  that served amazing meat loaf or that tiny diner off Mosely Street that had the best cherry pie and homemade ice cream.
Not that Romano’s could ever be described as a little hole-in-the-wall type place; with its marble flooring, an outdoor fountain, stone fireplaces, textured walls, and magnificent murals—it was more than impressive. Mandy had been to the restaurant on Franklin Street a number of times. The Italian restaurant stood as practically a landmark in the area. But this latest Romano’s promised new items on the menu, created by a new chef—someone with Gabriel Romano’s obvious stamp of approval.

Mandy tightened her pea coat around her and picked up her pace as the wind brushed across her face. She wished she’d thought to wear a more substantial coat. It had been a mild January for Denver, but as a lifelong Coloradan, Mandy knew how unpredictable the weather could be. The sounds of downtown Denver competed with the brisk wind as Mandy reached Union Station. She loved the energy of being in
the mile-high city. She thrived on the lights, the noise, the crowds; living in a place bustling with people helped with the loneliness of living on her own.

Within seconds of finding a seat on the train, Mandy’s cell phone rang. Just the sound of the Shirelle’s singing Mama Said told Mandy all she needed to know. Claire Seymour was nothing if not predictable. Mandy held the phone to her ear.

“Hi, Mom.”

“Mandy, are you still downtown?”

“No, Mom. I’m already on my way back home. Why?”

“I thought you said you’d call me on your way back to the Tech Center.”

“I’ve only been on the train for about two minutes. I was going to call you once I’d been on the train for three minutes.”

“There’s no need to be snippy, Mandy.”

Mandy watched the city fly by as the train moved. “Sorry.”

“Good. Now, I’m cooking pot roast tonight, and I want you to come over for dinner. Your brother and his wife are coming, too. Six o’clock.”

“Mom, I already told you that I have plans tonight. I have to visit that new restaurant and then start my review. So I can’t make it. But please tell Brian and Samantha that I said hello.”

“I’m making pot roast!”

“Next time, okay?”

“Sunday dinner. I won’t take no for an answer. I expect you in Evergreen by 4:00.”

“Fine. Sunday. 4:00. I’ll be there.”

“And I certainly hope you’re wearing your good coat! It’s freezing outside!”

“I know it is. See you Sunday.”

Mandy clicked her phone off and leaned her head back against the cold window, ignoring the familiar wave of defeat that came over her whenever she talked to her mother.

As the train rattled to a stop, Mandy jumped up, swung her bag over her shoulder and braced herself for the cold wind. She allowed herself a little time to think about the mysterious Leo.

He’s Italian, obviously. Aren’t Italian men famous for flirting? Or maybe that’s Greek men . . . Anyway, he probably didn’t
mean anything by it. And I’m sure he won’t be at Romano’s tonight. He’s too good-looking to be interested in me.

Without a doubt, that last thought had her mother’s tone.

Don’t think about Mom. I’ve proved her wrong, so far, haven’t I? Here I am, living in the city with a job I love . . .
I haven’t turned out to be the failure she feared I would be. Okay, so I’m not married to a dashing, successful man and I’m not the size-six,
fashion-conscious, top-executive she’d wanted me to be—there are worse things in life.

Mandy’s shoulder bag fell to the ground, its contents scattering. Mandy sighed.

Like being a walking disaster.

Dating, Dining, and Desperation by Melody Carlson

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This week, the 

Christian Fiction Blog Alliance 

is introducing 

Dating, Dining, and Desperation 

B&H Books (March 1, 2014) 

by 

Melody CarlsonABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Over the years, Melody Carlson has worn many hats, from pre-school teacher to youth counselor to political activist to senior editor. But most of all, she loves to write! Currently she freelances from her home. In the past eight years, she has published over ninety books for children, teens, and adults–with sales totaling more than two million and many titles appearing on the ECPA Bestsellers List. Several of her books have been finalists for, and winners of, various writing awards.

She has two grown sons and lives in Central Oregon with her husband and chocolate lab retriever. They enjoy skiing, hiking, gardening, camping and biking in the beautiful Cascade Mountains.
ABOUT THE BOOK

Daphne Ballinger has learned to accept her deceased, eccentric aunt’s strange request that she marry in order to inherit her estate, along with taking over her aunt’s hometown paper’s advice column.

But knowing and accepting that God’s will be done becomes harder when a new neighbor, a divorced socialite, learns of Daphne’s predicament and takes on the task of finding her the perfect man, even if it includes speed dating. When God does open Daphne’s heart, it is instead to take in a young girl left parentless and in the care of her dying grandmother. It may be a temporary arrangement until the girl’s uncle returns from the Marines, but God uses Daphne to speak His heavenly love and protection into the life of the child — whom Daphne soon discovers has a very handsome and single uncle.

If you would like to read the first chapter of Dating, Dining, and Desperation, go HERE.

Once Upon a Winter’s Heart by Melody Carlson

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This week, the 

Christian Fiction Blog Alliance 

is introducing 

Once Upon a Winter’s Heart 

Center Street (January 7, 2014) 

by 

Melody CarlsonABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Over the years, Melody Carlson has worn many hats, from pre-school teacher to youth counselor to political activist to senior editor. But most of all, she loves to write! Currently she freelances from her home. In the past eight years, she has published over ninety books for children, teens, and adults–with sales totaling more than two million and many titles appearing on the ECPA Bestsellers List. Several of her books have been finalists for, and winners of, various writing awards.

She has two grown sons and lives in Central Oregon with her husband and chocolate lab retriever. They enjoy skiing, hiking, gardening, camping and biking in the beautiful Cascade Mountains.
ABOUT THE BOOK

Emma Burcelli has suffered over a decade of dating disasters. But she concludes that love is officially dead when her grandfather Poppi suddenly passes, leaving her grandmother Nona devastated. To help out, Emma works in the family bookstore, which Nona insists must be decked out in sweetheart décor as Poppi would have done for Valentine’s Day. Although she feels like a V-Day Scrooge, Emma quickly learns to enjoy the task with the help of a handsome family friend, Lane Forester, who shows her that hanging hearts is much more fun when done to the tune of Dean Martin. As Emma and Lane share time and memories of Poppi, she reconsiders the notion that romance is alive.

If you would like to read the first chapter of Once Upon a Winter’s Heart, go HERE.

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