BOOK REVIEW: His Forgotten Fiancée by Evelyn M. Hill

My dear friend, Evelyn Hill, is starting out the New Year on a high note! Today, January 1st, is the release date of her debut novel, HIS FORGOTTEN FIANCÉE, from Harlequin’s Love Inspired Historical line. SQUEEE!

Now, I know what you’re thinking. Evelyn is my friend and of course I’m going to say Nice Things about her book. Which is true, to an extent. I mean, I almost never review books and I’m definitely making an exception for her.

BUT, here’s what you might not know: I’ve never met Evelyn in person. We’ve never spoken to each other on the phone. I wasn’t even sure what she looked like until sometime last year when she posted author photos.

Everything I know and like about her is based on words she has written.

So it’s not true that I love her writing because she’s my friend. She’s my friend because for years I have loved her writing and her voice, not to mention her dry sense of humour, even when I could only read it in blog comments.

I was absolutely thrilled when she finally admitted she was writing fiction. I am not disappointed by the result.

So, about this book. I admit to feeling some trepidation when I learned it was an inspirational romance, agnostic heathen that I am. I’d never read one before and wasn’t sure what to expect. But that aspect was fine. I didn’t feel preached to or made uncomfortable about my own beliefs. Faith was clearly important to the main characters and it was just part of who they were. It was refreshing.

I loved the premise of a man losing his memory, not knowing who he is, not remembering he’d fallen in love and asked a woman to marry him. And then not being able to explain why he’d vanished for an entire year. I thought that was handled well — his confusion and frustration, even anger at times — and its eventual resolution was believable.

I admired Liza’s strength and courage and practicality. The details of that time period (c. 1850) rang true and fit with stories I’ve heard about the strong pioneering women who were my ancestors. I really enjoyed her sense of humour– and Matthew’s as well. Plus, the kitten was adorable. No, actually, it was Matthew’s interactions with the kitten that were adorable.

The threats and drama in the story were suspenseful even though the perpetrators were readily identified. I liked that there was some ambiguity in how justice was served. Life is often like that, probably more so in that time period.

I’ve got to say, I do prefer more kissing in my books — at times I was like those sea creatures in The Little Mermaid, “Go on and kiss the girl!” — but I can hardly fault the book for being true to conventions of the genre. After everything Liza and Matthew had been through and how their faith in each other had been tested, their happily ever after felt genuine.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book and can’t wait to read whatever Evelyn Hill publishes next.

Five shiny (and so very delighted) stars.

 

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Joyeux Noël


Wishing you the peace and joy and hope of the season.

May you find beauty in simple things, a light in the darkness, and warmth in your heart. Today and throughout the coming year.

 

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Exciting News: TAKE TWO

Subtlety is a dying art form. Or it is if I’m in charge of it. Apparently.

There’s an expression in journalism — “burying the lede” — which means, according to Wikipedia: “To begin a story with details of secondary importance to the reader while postponing more essential points or facts.”

Well, in my last post, I buried the important news so deep, only a couple people even figured it out. I thought I was being clever, posting the clearly-not-an-orchid pic of my daughter’s dog with a sonogram propped up against her leg. And a caption that said, “May 2018.”

And tagging the post with, “yes that’s a sonogram.”

It’s a good thing I don’t write mysteries, since apparently I’m less than competent at this whole “leaving clues” thing. Or maybe it was my failure to even point out that there was a mystery to be solved.

Sigh.

So let’s try this again, sans subtlety:

I am excited and happy to announce that my daughter is pregnant!

The baby is due in May 2018, which I hope will give me enough time to get used to the idea of my baby having a baby of her own. And also to the concept of being a grandma. Yikes!

 

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A time and a place for gratitude

Thanksgiving. A time to reflect and be grateful. It should be easy in this land of plenty, right? Except this past year it hasn’t been all that easy. We tend not to be truly appreciative of things we take for granted, and we take a lot for granted, until someone tries to take them away and then we’re all, “Oh, hell no.”

It’s been an “Oh, hell no” kind of year.

. . . and then I wrote several hundred words about things that have transpired this past year to make it difficult to feel thankful . . . until I (gently) slapped myself upside the head and said to myself, “What the hell is wrong with you? No one wants to hear that.”

DELETE DELETE DELETE

So, instead, here are a few things that have succeeded in making me immensely grateful and appreciative in the past twelve months.

I have siblings. No matter how difficult certain losses and situations have been or inevitably will become, my sisters are there to share them. I am so grateful I’m not an only child.

I have writer friends. As much as I love and treasure my non-writer friends, there is a special camaraderie among writers, an understanding that doesn’t need to be explained about the struggles and triumphs of being a writer. I am immensely grateful to have found the community of smart and funny writers over in the comment section at agent Janet Reid’s blog. This is not the only place where my writer friends congregate, but it’s by far the most plentiful and diverse sampling, which has value all on its own. I appreciate that Janet tolerates our neurotic brand of crazy creativity even as she attempts to educate us about an agent’s perspective of publishing.

Speaking of that blog, Janet occasionally hosts flash fiction contests, which I occasionally enter. [WARNING: shameless self-promotion ahead] [someone has to do it] [apparently] The competition is FIERCE and I never expect to win or even be a finalist. It’s great practice, but this is not my forte. I mean, please, I can barely say hello in 100 words, let alone tell a complete story incorporating five ungainly prompt words. Except, this past weekend, my entry DID manage to be a finalist.

These were the prompt words, first names of the authors whose books were the prize:

Tony
Peter
Mick
Nick
Bill

This was my entry, exactly 100 words:

* * *

My brother’s joint was the kind they’d slip you a mickey sooner than start an honest fistfight.

The regulars played billiards in the back, the snick of balls an accent to rough voices. Couldn’t compete with the tony clubs on the north side, but the table felt was immaculate. Priorities.

Conversation petered out as I stepped up to the bar.

“We don’t serve cops.”

“Good thing I ain’t planning to order one.”

We traded hard stares, harder memories.

“Cut bait while you still can, Frank.”

He sneered.

Priorities.

Goddammit.

I held the door for the Feds on my way out.

* * *

These were Janet’s comments (she generously tells us what she liked about each finalist and/or why she chose it, which is remarkably educational):

“That first line is one of the best I’ve seen in a long time. The importance of a good first line can not be overstated. And the ending is sublime. This is a perfect story.”

SQUEEEE. And yet, even with it being a “perfect story,” someone else won. THAT’S how tough these contests are (if you want to see the other finalists and winner, they’re here). But I was just thrilled, to put it mildly. A few words of praise from someone with her experience go a very long way. And for that I am deeply thankful.

Let’s see, what else.

Oh, I know! Some of you might remember that last December my Bossy Older Sister gave me a birthday gift of a year of flowers, specifically orchids. I received the twelfth delivery yesterday and I think they’re the most beautiful of all. Of course, I’ve said that about each month’s delivery. This pic makes them look rather pink, but they’re actually a deep rich cranberry colour.

November 2017

Here’s a shot from above, the colour is a bit better:

I’m grateful for her generosity and creative gift-giving skills. I posted pics of a few of the early months’ orchids last spring but sort of got distracted and forgot to post the rest of them. So here they are, April through October (slideshow):

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Aren’t they gorgeous? What’s that, you say? One of the pics is not like the others? Well, imagine that.

IMAGINE THAT.

Yes, that is yet another thing for which I am grateful and thankful and OMG SO EXCITED ABOUT and very much looking forward to in the coming year.

What have you found to be thankful for in this “Oh, hell no” year?

 

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From chaos to quiet, a family story

It’s been a quiet week in my hometown . . .

Okay, fine, it’s been way more than a week. It also hasn’t been particularly quiet.

Where did we leave off? Looks like mid-August. Well, since then, my daughter and her husband found a house they loved, made a successful bid for it and bought it. No one was allowed to talk about it until it was a done deal, for fear of jinxing it. That’s how fraught that competitive process had become. They accomplished a relatively fast closing and moved out of my house and into their new one in mid-September.

Sometime in there, my daughter got a new job and her husband settled in to his shifts at the hospital (I’m happy to report that being an attending physician is far less time-intensive, averaged over a month, than being a resident). Along the way, they cooked in my kitchen. And cooked. And cooked. Both of them. The results were delicious. And of course, they cleaned up after themselves. Mostly.

We all jockeyed for stove time as well as space in my fridge and pantry, and gave my dishwasher epic daily workouts, while trying to respect conflicting sleep schedules.

Just for the record, and I don’t care how quiet you are about it, no one can sleep through the aroma of frying bacon. Or sautéed garlic and onions.

I wouldn’t describe them as loud, exactly. But my daughter and her husband are intense. Full of non-stop energy and motion. It was exhausting just watching them. Several mornings, as I was finally drifting off to sleep around 6 AM (I am not kidding when I say I’m nocturnal), they were up and dressed and out the door for a 2-3 mile run around the lake. No caffeine, no food, just get up and GO. Insanity.

Apart from the running, there was a lot of coming and going. Much of it move-related. I think they slightly underestimated the amount of belongings they’d managed to accumulate in my house when they decided not to rent the moving truck for an extra day after they cleared out the storage unit.

“We’ll just move the rest by car, Mom. It’ll be fine, stop worrying.”

Uh-huh. Like I’ve never moved before. Suffice to say, many many car trips were involved.

Oddly enough, there were no reports of domestic disturbances or related trips to the ER. Just a few incidences of slightly sore tongue, due to judicious application of teeth to same. On the whole, we did all right.

The White Ninja was in charge of inspecting the unusual influx of cardboard boxes. She was unimpressed that these did not appear to be cat-sized, but mostly took the commotion in stride.

 

The dog was another matter. Poor Jenny. She is so sweet and so well behaved. But she’s been so confused. She stayed here with me for a while until the kids got major stuff unpacked and somewhat settled. Then, finally over at the new place, she freaked out about uncertain footing on the hardwood floors. And then, just when she was getting comfortable there, she came back here for two weeks because of conflicting work schedules and trips out of town.

Of course, there were still the usual ridiculous text message conversations, even while my daughter was out of town:

Kids. Never wanting their parents to have any fun.

But Jenny went back home last Thursday and is reportedly thrilled to be there. The White Ninja misses everyone — so do I, honestly — but life here has gotten quiet again and I’m settling back into my own schedule. Uninterrupted sleep and long quiet stretches of time to concentrate on writing. Bliss.

Speaking of breathing a sigh of relief, fall is by far my favourite season and the weather is finally cooperating. Summer extended its stay this year and temps haven’t really been cool enough yet for many leaves to change colour, but all in good time.

You know where it does look like fall right now? Minnesota. My youngest sister took these pics a couple days ago and gave me permission to share them here. Isn’t my home state gorgeous? Enjoy!

 

 

 

 

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