Character Spotlight: Liz Johnson’s Justin and Natalie

About the Story:

Fifteen years after she left Prince Edward Island, Natalie O’Ryan had no plans to return. But when her fiancé, music producer Russell Jacobs, books their wedding in her hometown and schedules a summer at Rose’s Red Door Inn, she sets out to put the finishing touches on the perfect wedding. But she can’t possibly prepare for a run-in with Justin Kane–the best friend she left behind all those years ago after promising to stay.

Justin’s never forgotten Natalie or the music career he always dreamed of pursuing. He’d been prepared to follow her off the island until his dad died and he was left to run the family dairy farm. He’s done the best he can with the life that was thrust upon him–but with Natalie back in the picture, he begins to realize just how much joy he’s been missing.

After Natalie’s reception venue falls through, she must scramble to find an alternative, and the only option seems to be a barn on Justin’s property. As they work together to get the dilapidated building ready for the party, Natalie and Justin discover the groundwork for forgiveness–and that there may be more than an old friendship between them.

Meet Natalie

Image Credit: Pinterest

Resembles: Jessica Chastain

Physical description: She’s a petite redhead with all the pale features of her Irish heritage. She has blue eyes and a smattering of freckles across her nose.

Age: 32

Loves: She’s exceptional at keeping track of the details and pleasing people. But what she really loves is verbally sparing with Justin, a pastime that she’s missed terribly in the last fifteen years.

Hates: Gossip—especially when she’s the one being gossiped about. And she hates being the center of attention.

Favorite flower: Purple orchids

Favorite song: One that Justin wrote called “On This Shore.”

Favorite cake: Caden’s lemon cake with raspberry filling and whipped lemon frosting.

Biggest struggle: She’s not always honest with herself about what she wants, and she struggles to tell her fiancée the truth about why she left PEI and never wanted to go back.

Background: She’s an only child with a childhood that was filled with pain and neglect. She longs to forget the past, but is stuck reliving it upon her return to PEI.

Work: She’s the concierge at a ritzy hotel in Nashville, serving many of Music City’s elite.

Meet Justin

Image Credit: Pinterest

Resembles: Christian Kane

Physical description: Justin is a stocky dairy farmer. He has black hair that he wears in a ponytail. He always keeps his sideburns long too. His eyes are a piercing blue, and he perpetually has a five-o’clock shadow.

Age: 33

Loves: He’s always dreamed of having a music career, but he’s settled for playing shows in his small PEI hometown. He spends his free time writing songs in his favorite place, an old lighthouse on his family’s property.

Hates: He hates watching Natalie pretend to be someone she’s not. And he hates having to pretend not to care about her while she’s engaged to another man.

Favorite song: “Good-bye, girl,” a song he wrote after Natalie left. It’s become a local favorite and reminds him how much she’s hurt him, and somehow that pain is better than letting her memory go.

Favorite cake: The same as Natalie’s. (But, really, he’s not picky about cake.)

Biggest struggle: He can’t seem to forgive Natalie for leaving the island and him behind.  

Background: Justin is the oldest of three siblings. When his father passed away, he took responsibility for his family’s dairy farm, which he runs with his mom’s help.

Work: Early morning chores on the farm, and now he’s agreed to fix up the old barn on his property for Natalie’s wedding.

About the Author:

By day Liz Johnson is the marketing director for a radio network. She finds time to write late at night and is a two-time ACFW Carol Award finalist. Liz makes her home in Tucson, AZ, where she enjoys theater, exploring local history, and doting on her nieces and nephews. She loves stories of true love with happy endings.

Connect with Liz through her website, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.

Top Ten Tuesday: Best 2017 Reads So Far

Can you believe we’re already six months into 2017? I don’t know what it’s like where you are, but here, summer has kicked in with a vengeance.

For this week’s Top Ten Tuesday post, I will share my favorite reads for the first half of 2017.

Romance

On Love’s Gentle Shore by Liz Johnson

The book in one word: Hopeful

Fifteen years after she left Prince Edward Island, Natalie O’Ryan had no plans to return. But when her fiancé, music producer Russell Jacobs, books their wedding in her hometown and schedules a summer at Rose’s Red Door Inn, she sets out to put the finishing touches on the perfect wedding. But she can’t possibly prepare for a run-in with Justin Kane–the best friend she left behind all those years ago after promising to stay.

Justin’s never forgotten Natalie or the music career he always dreamed of pursuing. He’d been prepared to follow her off the island until his dad died and he was left to run the family dairy farm. He’s done the best he can with the life that was thrust upon him–but with Natalie back in the picture, he begins to realize just how much joy he’s been missing.

After Natalie’s reception venue falls through, she must scramble to find an alternative, and the only option seems to be a barn on Justin’s property. As they work together to get the dilapidated building ready for the party, Natalie and Justin discover the groundwork for forgiveness–and that there may be more than an old friendship between them.

Rescue Me by Susan May Warren

The book in one word: Exhilarating

When Deputy Sam Brooks commits to something, nothing can sway him–not just on the job as liaison between the Mercy Falls sheriff’s department and PEAK Rescue, but in his private life. He’s the one who stuck around to take care of his mother after his father’s accidental death. And he’s the one–perhaps the only one–who believes Sierra Rose is the perfect girl for him. Safe, practical, and organized, she’s nothing like her hippie, impulsive, bleeding heart sister, Willow.

Willow, however, has been in love with Sam Brooks for as long as she can remember. But she wants her sister to have a happy ending. Besides, Willow has other things to focus on–namely, nabbing the job as youth pastor for her small-town church. Best thing for her to do is to purge Sam from her heart.

Neither can predict the events that will bring them together in a fight for their lives in the forbidding wilderness of Glacier National Park. Stranded, injured, and with the winter weather closing in, Sam and Willow will have to work together to save a crew of terrified teenagers. As they fight to survive, they might just discover a new hope for love.

Mystery & Suspense

If I Run by Terri Blackstock

The book in one word: Unputdownable

Casey knows the truth. But it won’t set her free.

Casey Cox’s DNA is all over the crime scene. There’s no use talking to police; they’ve failed her abysmally before. She has to flee before she’s arrested . . . or worse. The truth doesn’t matter anymore.

But what is the truthThat’s the question haunting Dylan Roberts, the war-weary veteran hired to find Casey. PTSD has marked him damaged goods, but bringing Casey back can redeem him. Though the crime scene seems to tell the whole story, details of the murder aren’t adding up.

Casey Cox doesn’t fit the profile of a killer. But are Dylan’s skewed perceptions keeping him from being objective? If she isn’t guilty, why did she run?

Unraveling her past and the evidence that condemns her will take more time than he has, but as Dylan’s damaged soul intersects with hers, he is faced with two choices: the girl who occupies his every thought is a psychopathic killer . . . or a selfless hero. And the truth could be the most deadly weapon yet.

Women’s Fiction

The Memory of You by Catherine West

The book in one word: Haunting

Thirteen years ago, Natalie lost a part of herself when her twin sister died. Will traveling back to the family winery finally put the memory to rest, or will it completely destroy her?

When Natalie Mitchell learns her beloved grandfather has had a heart attack, she’s forced to return to their family-owned winery in Sonoma, something she never intended to do. She’s avoided her grandparents’ sprawling home and all its memories since the summer her sister died—the awful summer Natalie’s nightmares began. But the winery is failing, and Natalie’s father wants her to shut it down. As the majority shareholder, she has the power to do so.

And Natalie never says no to her father.

Tanner Collins, the vintner on Maoilios, is trying to salvage a bad season and put the Mitchell family’s winery back in business. When Natalie shows up, Tanner sees his future about to be crushed. He knows Natalie intends to close the gates, and he’s determined to convince her otherwise. But the Natalie he remembers from childhood is long gone, and he’s not so sure he likes the woman she’s become. Still, the haunted look she wears hints at secrets he wants to unearth. He soon discovers that on the night her sister died, the real Natalie died too. And Tanner must do whatever it takes to resurrect her.

But finding freedom from the past means facing it. For both of them.

Historical Fiction

When Tides Turn by Sarah Sundin

The book in one word: Sweet (Though the heroine would probably prefer useful or practical.)

When fun-loving glamour girl Quintessa Beaumont learns the Navy has established the WAVES program for women, she enlists, determined to throw off her frivolous ways and contribute to the war effort. No-nonsense and hoping to make admiral, Lt. Dan Avery has been using his skills to fight German U-boats. The last thing he wants to see on his radar is a girl like Tess. For her part, Tess works hard to prove her worth in the Anti-Submarine Warfare Unit in Boston–both to her commanding officers and to the man with whom she is smitten. When Dan is assigned to a new escort carrier at the peak of the Battle of the Atlantic, he’s torn between his lifelong career goals and his desire to help Tess root out a possible spy on shore. The Germans put up quite a fight, but he wages a deeper battle within his heart. Could Tess be the one for him?

With precision and pizazz, fan favorite Sarah Sundin carries readers through the rough waters of love in a time when every action might have unforeseen world-changing consequences.

Courting Morrow Little by Laura Frantz

The book in one word: Gripping

Morrow Little is haunted by the memory of the day her family was torn apart by raiding Shawnee warriors. Now that she is nearly a grown woman and her father is ailing, she must make difficult choices about the future. Several men–ranging from the undesired to the unthinkable–vie for her attentions, but she finds herself inexplicably drawn to a forbidden love that both terrifies and intrigues her. Can she betray the memory of her lost loved ones–and garner suspicion from her friends–by pursuing a life with him? Or should she seal her own misery by marrying a man she doesn’t love?

This sweeping tale of romance and forgiveness will envelop readers as it takes them from a Kentucky fort through the vast wilderness to the west in search of true love.

What are your favorite 2017 reads so far?

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Top Ten Tuesday: Authors I’d Love to Meet

Who wouldn’t love to meet some of their favorite writers? As an aspiring author, I dream of taking those meetings a step further and turning them into brain-picking sessions. I want to uncover their secrets and discover the tools that have served them so well in creating some of my favorite stories.

This week’s Top Ten Tuesday is a non-exhaustive list — you don’t want to be here all day, do you? — of some of those authors I’d love to meet in person.

 

1. Catherine West

If you spend any time around me or follow my blog, you’ve probably heard me mention Catherine West on multiple occasions. That’s because I’m completely captivated by her writing style. Her books pretty much check all the boxes my writing profs, mentor, critique partners, etc. tirelessly try to ingrain in me on how to create powerful stories. By the way, her latest novel releases TODAY! Congrats, Cathy! (Review)

 

2. Ronie Kendig

As someone who writes mystery/suspense, a fight scene or two is bound to appear in my WIP (work in progress). However, try as I might, my hero and villain make the three stooges look like fighting experts. (Trust me, that’s NOT the vibe I’m going for!) Ronie Kendig, fight-scene-writer extraordinaire, has not one, not two, or even three, but FOUR military suspense series under her belt, as well as a serial novel, a romantic suspense story, and more. I would love nothing more than to learn from her knowledge so I can turn my Moe, Larry, and Curly into Jason Bourne and Ethan Hunt. (Review)

 

3. Carla Laureano

I met James MacDonald in 2013. I am still swooning! I love the hero in my WIP, but I want my readers to as well. If the mention of his name still makes them sigh four years later, even better. So yes, I’d like to follow Laureano around until I can figure out her secret. (Review)

 

4. Lisa Gardner

For a hero to truly shine, he needs a worthy opponent, not simply a caricature intended to make him look good. Gardner creates some of the best — albeit bone-chilling — villains I’ve found in fiction. Their complexity, goals, and motivations rival the protagonists’ in strength, making them come to life a little too well. You really don’t want the electricity to go out while immersed in a Gardner novel. (Review)

 

5. Dani Pettrey

As my bookcase attests, my favorite genre is romantic suspense. Pettrey masterfully delivers both emotions. One second I’m pinned to the edge of the seat as someone targets the protagonists, but the next I’m grinning ear to ear as the hero and heroine finally admit their feelings. Of course, two seconds later Pettrey tips the balance again and I return to biting my nails. Her entire book turns into a seesaw of emotions that keep me flipping pages desperate to know what will happen next. (Review)

 

6. Pepper Basham

Humor is not my strong suit. Ask me to write suspense or romance, but please don’t ask me to make a scene funny. It will fall flat on its face. Basham’s unique sense of humor shines through her stories. Not a single page goes by where I don’t laugh at least once. I’m hoping that, if I could hang out with her, maybe a bit of that humor would rub off on me. (Review)

 

7. Liz Johnson

Though a new-to-me author last year, Johnson penned one of my favorite 2016/7 series the Prince Edward Island Dreams. I’d treasure the opportunity to quiz her on all things romance and exotic locations. (Review)

 

8. Sarah Sundin

Historical fiction has never been one of my go-to genres. Yet ever since I read With Every Letter, not only am I first in line to read every new Sundin novel, they have consistently been favorites. I don’t just like her stories, I LOVE them. I’m curious how she does that so I can hopefully accomplish the same with my own writing. (Review)

 

9. Jane Austen

From here on out, I’ve listed authors I won’t be meeting in this lifetime. However, how could I not include my all-time favorite author — the one who gave me Pride and Prejudice, Persuasion, Emma…and some of the most swoon-worthy heroes in all of history.

 

10. Elizabeth Gaskell

John Thornton. Enough said!

 

 

 

 

 

11. L. M. Montgomery

I tried to stop at 10. I really did! But I couldn’t close this list without mentioning Lucy Maud. After all, she’s the mastermind behind my first book crush — Gilbert Blythe.

 

What authors do you dream of meeting?

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Top Ten Tuesday: New-To-Me Authors I Read For The First Time In 2016

November didn’t exactly go as planned due to computer struggles, but I’m excited to be back here with all of you, and what better way to jump back into the groove than with a Top Ten Six Tuesday post.

Discovering new authors is always cause for celebration. Today, I’m going to share some authors I came across for the first time this year, and the books (or series) that introduced me to them.

(1) Catherine WestThe Things We Knew

the-things-we-knew-west

When their tragic past begins to resurface, can he help her remember the things she can’t?

After her mother’s death twelve years ago, Lynette Carlisle watched her close-knit family unravel. One by one, her four older siblings left their Nantucket home and never returned. All seem to blame their father for their mother’s death, but nobody will talk about that tragic day. And Lynette’s memory only speaks through nightmares.

Then Nicholas Cooper returns to Nantucket, bringing the past with him. Once Lynette’s adolescent crush, Nick knows more about her mother’s death than he lets on. The truth could tear apart his own family—and destroy his fragile friendship with Lynette, the woman he no longer thinks of as a kid sister.

As their father’s failing health and financial concerns bring the Carlisle siblings home, secrets surface that will either restore their shattered relationships or separate the siblings forever. But pulling up anchor on the past propels them into the perfect storm, powerful enough to make them question their faith, their willingness to forgive, and the very truth of all the things they thought they knew.

(2) Liz Johnson —  Prince Edward Island Dreams series

prince-edward-island-dreams-johnson

The Red Door Inn

Marie Carrington is running from a host of bad memories. Broke and desperate, she’s hoping to find safety and sanctuary on Prince Edward Island, where she reluctantly agrees to help decorate a renovated bed-and-breakfast before it opens for prime tourist season.

Seth Sloane didn’t move three thousand miles to work on his uncle’s B&B so he could babysit a woman with a taste for expensive antiques and a bewildering habit of jumping every time he brushes past her. He came to help restore the old Victorian–and to forget about the fiancée who broke his heart.

The only thing Marie and Seth agree on is that getting the Red Door Inn ready to open in just three months will take everything they’ve got. Can these two wounded souls find hope, healing, and perhaps a bit of romance on this beautiful island?

Step into the Red Door Inn, a lovely home away from home tucked along the north shore of fabled Prince Edward Island. It’s a place where the wounded come to heal, the broken find forgiveness, and the lonely find a family. Won’t you stay for the season?

Where Two Hearts Meet

In her kitchen at the Red Door Inn, executive chef Caden Holt is calm, collected, and competent. But when her boss asks her to show off their beautiful island to impress a visiting travel writer and save the inn, Caden is forced to face a world much bigger than her kitchen–and a man who makes her wish she was beautiful.

Journalist Adam Jacobs is on a forced sabbatical on Prince Edward Island. He’s also on assignment to uncover a story. Instead he’s falling in love with the island’s red shores and Caden’s sweets.

When Caden discovers Adam isn’t who she thought he was, she realizes that the article he’s writing could do more than ruin the inn’s chances for survival–it might also break her heart.

Readers will discover hope for the hurting, joy for the broken, and romance for the lonely at the enchanting Red Door Inn.

(3) Pepper BashamA Twist of Faith

pepper-basham-twist-faith

Dr. Adelina Roseland has worked ten years in research as an accent reduction specialist to attain her dream job. But a secret wager to transform Appalachian cattle farmer Reese Mitchell into corporate material challenges Adelina in ways she never expected, threatening her new position.

For one, Adelina didn’t plan for the faith and friction of Reese, or the unexpected influence of his chaotic family. Now, drawn into a culture she’d tried to forget, Adelina finds the warmth of family, the hope of faith, and the joy of love melting away the deep wounds of her past.

But when Reese discovers that he’s a pawn in her climb up the academic ladder, will he forgive Adelina’s deceit or will their miscommunication end in two broken lives?

(4) Sarah MonzonThe Isaac Project

the-isaac-projec-monzont

Becky Sawyer’s life unravels in a single day. Not only does she catch her boyfriend, the man she hoped to marry, lip-locked with another woman, she also receives the gut-wrenching news that her grandfather, the man who raised her, is dying. His last wish? To see her happily married. Heartbroken, Becky seeks inspiration in the pages of the Holy Scriptures. And finds it in the story of Isaac and Rebekah.

If love couldn’t keep his parents together, Luke Masterson wonders what will make a marriage last. He decides to steer clear of all women—especially crazy ones like Becky Sawyer, who employs a friend to find her a husband. But when he feels the dogged promptings of the Holy Spirit to move across the country and marry a complete stranger, it seems love has little to do with it anyway.

With commitment their only foundation, and love constantly thwarted, can an arranged marriage find happiness in the twenty-first century?

(5) Michelle GriepThe Captive Heart

the-captive-heart-griep

Proper English governess Eleanor Morgan flees to the colonies to escape the wrath of a brute of an employer. When the Charles Town family she’s to work for never arrives to collect her from the dock, she is forced to settle for the only reputable choice remaining to her—marriage to a man she’s never met. Trapper and tracker Samuel Heath is a hardened survivor used to getting his own way by brain or by brawn, and he’s determined to find a mother for his young daughter. But finding a wife proves to be impossible. No upstanding woman wants to marry a murderer.

(6) Brandy VallanceWithin the Veil

within-the-veil-vallance

They never should have met. But they might be made for each other.

 Feya Broon, a Scottish half Gypsy, knows what it is to go hungry. Trapped in the Edinburgh tenements with a father lost to his past and only the faded memory of her mother’s faith, Feya is desperate to provide for her siblings. When an ill-conceived plan leads to thievery, she finds herself in the last place she’d ever want to be–captured by a palace guard. But there’s something about this man that tears at every preconceived notion she’s ever had about the haughty English.

Alasdair Cairncross never dreamed he’d be forced to transport a Gypsy woman halfway across the wilds of Scotland. The timing is disastrous, considering his fiancée’s imminent arrival and his father’s political goals. Not only that, but the fiery young woman threatens to lay bare secrets Alasdair would rather keep hidden. And yet the farther they travel together, the less concerned he finds himself with duty–both to the crown and to the plans his family has for him

As their walls begin to crumble, Feya and Alasdair must fight to survive a decades-old feud, a Highland kidnapping, and the awakening of their own hearts.

 

What authors have you read for the first time this year?eli-signature

Top Ten Tuesday: Books To Read If Your Book Club Likes…

Does your book club not know what to read next? No problem! This week’s Top Ten Tuesday will fix that dilemma. For the sake of time and space, I have stuck to my favorite novel(s) by each author. However, in most cases (unless specified in the header), you can pick up any of their books and/or series and they will fit the bill.

book-club

(1) Romantic Suspense: Dani Pettrey

dani-pettrey-shatteredShattered (Alaskan Courage #2)

Something about long time friends falling in love always makes my heart pitter-patter. I can’t help it! Combine that with an exhilarating adventure and I’m a goner.

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(2) Military Suspense: Ronie Kendig

ronie-kendig-talon-raptor-6Talon (A Breed Apart #2) and Raptor 6 (The Quiet Professionals #1)

D, N, A, E — whether you arrange those letters to spell Dane (Talon) or Dean (Raptor 6), you get the names of my favorite Rapid-Fire heroes.

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(3) Historical Fiction: Sarah Sundin

sarah-sundin-with-every-letterWith Every Letter (Wings of the Nightingale #1)

A third culture character who writes to a service member, Mellie introduced me to Sarah Sundin’s books. While I’ve enjoyed them all so far, Mellie’s story remains my top pick.

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(4) Mysteries: Mary Higgins Clark

mary-higgins-clarkAll Around the Town and A Cry in the Night

Mary Higgins Clark has been my favorite mystery author since high school. I especially like her earlier work, the two listed above top the list.

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(5) Thrillers: Lisa Gardner

lisa-gardner-carsh-burn-fear-nothingCrash & Burn and Fear Nothing

Lisa Gardner’s books come by the thriller title honestly. At times, I wish they were a little — or lot — less “thrillery.” Yet Gardner creates such complex characters and mind-twisting plots, I can’t help but keep coming back, making these the most intense novels I’ll read.

(Warning: They contain strong language and mature content.)

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(6) Legal Thrillers: Randy Singer

randy-singer-dead-lawyersDead Lawyers Tell No Tales

Think John Grisham with a thread of faith.

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(7) Travel and Romance: Carla Laureano and Liz Johnson

carla-laureano-liz-johnsonFive Days in Skye (The MacDonald Family Trilogy #1)

and

The Red Door Inn (Prince Edward Island Dreams #1)

Until I can afford to visit Scotland and PEI (Prince Edward Island) in person, these books are my first-class tickets there.

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(8) Retellings: Pepper Basham‘s A Twist of Faith (Mitchell’s Crossroads #1)

pepper-basham-twist-faith

A modern-day retelling of My Fair Lady — only better!

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(9) Agatha Christie: Eric Keith‘s Nine Man’s Murder

eric-keith-nine-man-murder

I like a mystery that keeps me guessing until the end.

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(10) Nicholas Sparks: Kevin Alan Milne

kevin-alan-milne-misfortune-goodSweet Misfortune and The One Good Thing

While I am personally not a huge fan of Nicholas Sparks (he has more misses than hits in my book), I do see some similarities in style with Kevin Alan Milne’s novels. The difference being, I’ve greatly enjoyed the Milne stories I have read.

What about you? What books/authors would you recommend to book clubs that like any of the categories listed above or genres that didn’t make this list?

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