Acquired Book By: I have been participating in the Christian Fiction & Clean Reads Reading Safari readathon for the past three years now. I have found the readathon to be personally enriching as it is a wonderful month of respite for book bloggers who want to focus on reading outside their blog schedules and tuck into the gentler side of fiction which is Inspirational Fiction (ie. INSPY). A portion of INSPY is Christian Fiction however, INSPY overall encompasses all faiths and religious backgrounds as it is faith-inspired literature. As a participant of the readathon – each reader moves through the event at their own pacing – seeking stories to read, authors to get to know socially online and reading the stories which interest them throughout the readathon. As you participate there is a chance you can win a book or several throughout the month. This year I am reading a mixture of stories I’ve won during past CFSRS readathons, stories I’ve won through bookaways with Christian Fiction authors or bloggers as well as stories on my shelf from my personal library as well as borrowing INSPY stories in print and audio from my local libraries.
I won a bookaway during #CFSRS18 wherein I received a copy of “Magnolia Storms” direct from the author Janet W. Ferguson which she happily surprised me with inscribing! I was not obligated to post a review on behalf of this novel and have elected to do so for my own edification as well as continuing to share my bookish and readerly life on Jorie Loves A Story. I did not receive compensation for my opinions or thoughts shared herein.
NOTE:The Press Materials seen on this book review were courtesy of the author’s Media Kit and are used with permission of the author as stated on her page.
Why I wanted to read this story:
I have been wanting to read this lovely ever since it first arrived – however, the past few years have been unique years wherein what I have wanted to read hasn’t always aligned with the ability to read the stories. I attempted to start reading the books I had won during the first year of the readathon last July – however, try as I had – something always pulled me away. I was just thankful I was able to read any INSPY last July as it seemed like the month was taking me up in its tides and not allowing me the grace to settle into the stories which give my heart such an uplift to read.
This year, about two months ahead of the readathon (or as I thought it would be – as I hadn’t known it was switched from July to August until the end of June) I started pulling the stories off my shelves I felt I might be inclined to read this year. I had more than enough to choose from as INSPY Lit is one of my favourite areas of literature to explore – as seen on my 70 Authors Challenge and through my Story Vault wherein I house my review archives. I knew I was going to read more Love Inspired this year – both Contemporary & Suspense whilst I had a few blog tours in August for Harlequin Heartwarming & Love Inspired respectively – however, I wasn’t going to count those in my readathon goals. I like to use the readathon to read the stories already in my personal library, won in bookaways and/or which can become borrowed through my local libraries in either audio or print; whilst seeking out INSPY Fiction on Scribd in audiobook as well.
What first drew my eye into the premise of ‘Magnolia Storms’ when I requested it as one of my book choices in  was the fact this was rooted in the after effects of Hurricane Katrina and storm seasons in the Gulf. Being a traveller during Katrina and having had many conversations with the evacuating families who were fleeing out of its path who had found themselves where I had been at the time in Birmingham, Alabama was quite the experience. Most were on their way back to Louisiana, others were going west to either Colorado or Houston, Texas whilst others were staying in Birmingham as they were given a warm welcome. I couldn’t blame them – it was a friendly city.
Storms in any variety are a part of our everyday lives – they bring destruction and they bring a kind of wrath that is hard to understand. They have after effects that are felt long and wide after a storm has passed. Look at the cities decimated by tornadoes every year and you will see how powerful and how hard it is to find mercy in the dawn after those storms have passed. Hurricanes like their tornado cousins cause emotional trauma and personal loss.
I used to read and watch a lot of natural disaster stories – for reasons which are elusive to me, however several pushed me a bit over the edge of what I could handle – especially if it involved flash flooding, earthquakes, wildfires or a deluge of tornadoes. I had had my fill at the time and only recently re-watched one of my favourites which was about tornadoes affecting a power plant [Atomic Twister] which started Mark Paul Gosselaar and Sharon Lawrence – as it was available for free via Roku. It was hard to believe how terrifying it was all over again and how hard it was to watch one of the team sacrifice his own life to save everyone else when it come to going into the contaminated room to give the team more time to save the plant.
This first novel of the Coastal Hearts series felt like a beautiful segue into Realistic INSPY Fiction which combines the drama of living in today’s world as we each face the different (and complicated!) storms which set to unravel our internal and external worlds. It is how we choose to rise through those unforeseen adversities which seek to challenge our perspectives on life and how we want to be living – but with faith, hope and a bit of grit to get through those challenging hours – we can all seek solid ground on the other side of the ‘storms’. This is why I wanted to read “Magnolia Storms” and this year is the best year I believe for me to ‘meet’ the story as who hasn’t been shuffling their own sea of storms crashing ashore this 2020?
Converse via: #ContemporaryRomance, #INSPYRomance, #INSPYbooks,
as well as #SouthernLit and #CoastalHearts
This story received my award for Best INSPY Contemporary Romance.
About Janet W. Ferguson
Janet W. Ferguson is a Grace Award winner and a Christy Award finalist. She grew up in Mississippi and received a degree in Banking and Finance from the University of Mississippi. She has served as a children’s minister and a church youth volunteer. An avid reader, she worked as a librarian at a large public high school. She writes humorous inspirational fiction for people with real lives and real problems. Janet and her husband have two grown children, one really smart dog, and a cat that allows them to share the space.
Acquired Book By: I’ve been hosting for Prism Book Tours since September of 2017 – having noticed the badge on Tressa’s blog (Wishful Endings) as we would partake in the same blog tours and/or book blogosphere memes. As I enquired about hosting for Prism, I found I liked the niche of authors and stories they were featuring regularly. Oft-times you’ll find Prism Book Tours alighting on my blog through the series of guest features and spotlights with notes I’ll be hosting on behalf of their authors when I’m not showcasing book reviews on behalf of Harlequin Heartwarming which has become my second favourite imprint of Harlequin next to my beloved #LoveINSPIRED Suspense. I am also keenly happy PRISM hosts a variety of Indie Authors and INSPY Fiction novelists.
I received a complimentary copy of “Refuge at Pine Lake” direct from the author Rose Chandler Johnson in exchange for an honest review. I did not receive compensation for my opinions or thoughts shared herein.
IF this is your first time seeing my #INSPYSundays showcases – let me explain why I am putting these together! I shared my first one in June & had intended for these to run weekly. I am thankful to resume them this August and will be continuing to have an inspiring story running on Sundays through the rest of the 2019. Thank you as always for following my bookish journey.
You might be aware of my 7o Authors Challenge – wherein I am attempting to get to know more Inspirational Fiction authors and their series? I have been wanting to find a way to bring this reading focus into the life of my blog but also, highlight some of the stories I am receiving for review purposes as well – not all of them can be featured on the weekends, but those which can I’ll be highlighting through this new series of posts as I love the idea of showcasing them on a day meant for renewal of spirit & rest.
The short version of “Inspirational Fiction” is INSPY and I have enjoyed using the tag #INSPY on Twitter to talk about the stories which fall under this umbrella of literature. It is far more encompassing than strictly reading Christian based fiction as INSPY is inclusive of all religions and faith backgrounds of interest – which is why eventually I’ll be expounding outwards from my initial wanderings of my reading challenge and seeking out more authors who write stories of INSPY that are from new and differing perspectives. A lot of what I currently have marked to read are traditional Christian Fiction selections as they were found via a fellow book blogger’s blog.
Although I had intended to introduce this featured focus in January, 2019 – I decided the timing wasn’t right for me to do so until June. I look forward to seeing where my readerly wanderings will take me as this will be just as wicked interesting of a feature to follow as my #HistoricalMondays or #SaturdaysAreBookish!
Robin Lancaster, a twenty-six-year-old former kindergarten teacher, has her summer and her life all figured out. She’s ready to be on her own, writing and illustrating her children’s stories at her family’s beloved lake house. Once there, she intends to rekindle a romance with Caleb Jackson, the area’s top hunting and fishing guide, and bag him for herself.
Complications arise from the start when Robin finds out her mother has rented the lake house to a man they know nothing about.
Matthew McLaughlin, forty-year-old widowed university professor and author from California, shows up at Pine Lake in crisis. A sabbatical might be his only hope to save much more than his career. He needs a place of refuge. Sharing the lake house with a lighthearted young woman and her dog is the last thing on his mind.
Caleb Jackson has his own plans. He’s used to things going his way, but a man staying in Robin’s house presents unforeseen challenges. When paths unavoidably tangle for these three, hearts are on the line.
I am launching a new weekly featured concentration of book reviews on Jorie Loves A Story which celebrates my love and passion for the historical past! For those of whom are regular readers and visitors to my blog, you’ll denote a dedicated passion for reading Historical Fiction (and all the lovely segues of thematic therein) – I am a time traveller of the historical past every chance I get to disappear into a new era and/or century of exploration. There isn’t a time period I haven’t enjoyed ruminating over since  and there are a heap of lovely timescapes I’ve yet to encounter.
This feature was inspired by the stories I’ve read, the stories I’ve yet to experience and the beauty of feeling interconnected to History through the representation of the past through the narratives being writ by today’s Historical Fiction authors. It is to those authors I owe a debt of gratitude for enlightening my bookish mind and my readerly heart with realistic characters, illuminating portals of living history and a purposeful intent on giving each of us a strong representation of ‘life’ which should never become dismissed, forgotten or erased.
I am beginning this feature with the sequel to a beloved historical novel I first read in  – it was one of the first ARCs I received and it was the first year I was a book blogger though it was through a connection outside my life as a blogger. I am celebrating K.B. Laugheed’s literature to kick-off this feature and hopefully will inspire my followers to take this new weekly journey with me into the stories which are beckoning to read their narrative depths and find the words in which to express the thoughts I experienced as I read.
Acquired Book By: In  I was still participating in the Early Reviewer programme via Book Browse wherein I received an ARC for “The Spirit Keeper” – a new Historical Fiction narrative which sought to break boundaries of its genre and which captured me heart and soul as I read it. It was an emotionally gutting read, a historical reckoning of a story and it left me ruminatively curious about what the ‘next’ chapter of this extraordinary character’s life would be in the sequel.
I decided to write an expanded review on my blog for my own edification after having contributed my Early Reviewer review to Book Browse – it was one of the few times I was able to do this even though there are a few other ARCs I received from Book Browse I’d like to still blog about in the near future which fittingly have more to be said on their behalf from my readerly experience.
Likewise, I also reached out to the author directly shortly after I posted my review in September of 2013; remember dear hearts, I launched my blog live on the 6th of August, 2013 – so this expanded review became one of the first officially celebrated novels of Jorie Loves A Story in the beginning of finding my writerly voice and my bookish presence in the book blogosphere. It pre-dated hosting blog tours and working with publishers, publicists and authors directly.
Although I remained in contact with the author a bit over the years – simply checking the status on the sequel or offering encouraging thoughts on writing it – I don’t consider this a conflict of interest as to be honest, it was not constant contact and we weren’t in contact on a regular basis nor did we touch base each year since 2013.
When I received an email from Ms Laugheed this past December, 2018 – to say I was pleasantly gobsmacked to have heard from her after a long absence of communication is putting it mildly! I was overjoyed – more for her than for me – as she was announcing the sequel was being published! She decided at long last to go the Indie route towards publication and I was full of joy and happiness for her as this was a very long and dedicated route back to publishing a sequel I believed in as a reader (and there are others like me out there) but of which I wasn’t sure if any of us would get a chance to embrace it in published form.
Thereby, I did not hesitate to respond to her request to accept this new novel for review consideration – the only thing which delayed my entrance into its chapters was my five week Winter virus (from before Christmas to the early weeks of January, 2019) and my three successive migraines (from mid-January to early February). I read this immediately after recovering from my third migraine and was thrilled I could finally attach my mind and heart round the continuing journey of Katie and Hector!
I received a complimentary copy of “The Gift of the Seer” by the author K.B. Laugheed in exchange for an honest review. I did not receive compensation for my opinions or thoughts shared herein.
Re-visiting “The Spirit Keeper”
My original motivation to read the novel: I wanted to partake in her journey untoward becoming one man’s living vision of ‘a creature of fire and ice’ and to see if they could fulfill each other’s destinies therein. It is such a curious proposition, to be taken by force from one’s own family, and re-positioned into a life, by which, you’re in complete unfamiliar territory, amongst people who speak a different tongue than your own, and by your own wits, have to determine how to survive. I was curious by how she was going to effectively change her life and heart; and to what end she must do so! This felt to me like a piece of Magical Realism wrapped up inside a Historical Fiction, rooted into the conscience of the American Frontier! I was besotted with the plot, and needed to read it to ascertain what the story truly was about! The Spirit Keeper spoke to me, as a book I needed to read rather than merely a book I wanted to read! I listen to my intuition in other words!
Ms Laugheed advised me to re-read “The Spirit Keeper” ahead of reading “The Gift of the Seer” – what I hadn’t the heart to tell her is my copy of the novel is packed as most of my personal library has been packed for the last four years. I couldn’t sort out which box it is held within if I had a compass as I literally have quite the expansive library being stored right now. This is one key reason why I can’t always re-read the novels I’m reviewing – as I only have a handful of books I’ve reviewed the past few years unpacked and shelved – most of which, are first or seconds in series, awaiting new releases to where I can turn back to and re-read a bit ahead of delving into the next installment. I did have The Spirit Keeper prominently shelved for quite a few years after it was released – it was only recently I had to make the hard choice to pack it away for safe keeping til I can restore my library back to rights.
Therefore, I did what any other book blogger would do in this situation – I borrowed a well-loved copy from my local library and as I re-entered the story, I was quite shocked by what I discovered! I hadn’t forgotten as much as I was expecting, too! I re-read the opening bridge of the novel – re-visiting how Katie was taken from her family, the traumatic transitioning into life with the Spirit Keeper and Hector as much as re-aligning in my mind the era this series is set and the mannerisms of how the story is told. As Ms Laugheed has a very distinctive style of historical story-telling; it is one reason I was hugged so dearly close into the story originally.
Secondly, as I noticed a lot of readerly flashbacks moving through my mind’s eye after that particular re-visitation – I immediately flipped to the last quarter of the novel, resumed as if I hadn’t been absent from this story for :six: long years and re-lived the concluding chapters, as fresh as dew on recently mowed grass. I seriously was re-captured by what was left behind for my eyes and heart to find – thereby, I knew with certainty I was prepared as I ever could be to re-enter Katie and Hector’s world.
For those of you who might never have had the pleasure of joy reading this novel, let me select a few quotations from my original review – both from what I shared with Book Browse after first reading the ARC and what I expounded upon on Jorie Loves A Story thereafter.
The inertia of reality that besots you as soon as you enter into the world of The Spirit Keeper, is quite a hard bullet to bite, because before you can wrap your eyes and heart around what your visually aware of, your niched into the story! I credit this to the author, as Laugheed endeavours you to jump straight out of your comfort zone, wholly free-falling into a brutal, raw, and untamed section of the American Frontier in the mid-1700s and take a quest towards unraveling the complexities of building a new life in a foreign land. The thematics that are entrenched in the story parlay an exposition on language, translation, and sense of being. She readily elevates our awareness that our words can draw an impact that is not always aware to us, but like the life paths we are walking, we are not always in charge of their meaning or purpose of use.
I will lament, that if you’re a reader who begs off for lighter faire, you might want to caution yourself, as within Chapter One, the author does not hold back on the grim realities of what it was like in the 1700s when an Indian War Party descended upon a settler’s family.
The beauty of the outside world envelopes you from the jump-start, as the open wilderness is the footing for setting this story outside the reach of our known world. Even for those of us who are akin to the natural environment and the inhabitants therein, there is still so much of that world that is readily just outside our scope, outside our understanding. The Native Americans who are on the forefront of the story, evoke a cultural education into accepting stark differences of living, as much as embracing traditions that hold merit (such as the menstrual huts for women).
Flickerments of “Medicine Man” (the motion picture) streamed through my mind, as did “Dances with Wolves” (the motion picture), as in each story, those who only spoke English, learnt to adapt and to live amongst the natives by which they found themselves belonging too better than their own kind. I am drawn into stories that attach us to whole new cultures, traditions, religions, and walks of life. Stories that etch into our imaginations a wholly new world, where there are similarities, but otherwise, as we dip into their narratives, we find ourselves in a foreign land, attempting to understand what we cannot yet conceive possible.
An incredible journey of self-preservation, fortitude of spirit, and overwhelming grief: I was not quite prepared for the journey that Katie, Syawa, and Hector embark upon! It wasn’t so much the long distances that they must traverse through rough hewn terrain, but rather, they are each going through a personal, intimate, internal journey concurrent to their outward journey towards the men’s originating homeland! Each is carrying secrets of their own experiences, and in Katie’s instance, her life is muddled and blighted with far more devastation than anyone could ill-afford possible to a seventeen year old young lady!
Her lot in life has been tempered by abuse and misguided notions of love, unto where she has encouraged a naïve sense of the living world, and has grown an ignorance of how right a life can be lived! I grieved for her and bleed emotions with her recollections of past memories,.. memories that were nearly too hard to bare and to ruminatively lay pause upon. It is through Syawa’s gentleness and effective way of easing her out of her shell, that she truly started to see who she was and who she could be. I only wish I could pronounce Syawa’s name, as I feel as guilty she does in her own story, about the misunderstandings that evolve out of not understanding language and meaning of words, phrases, or names outside our own native tongues!
Language & Translation: the Invisible Barriers we never foresee: Laugheed paints a clear window towards our greatest struggle in accepting and understanding each other, as we present ourselves to each other in our conversations! Each inflection of tone, voice, and the words we use to explain ourselves, can lead us down a path of misunderstanding and of misalignment in what we are attempting to represent as our thoughts, hopes, dreams, and passions. Throughout the story, we are seeing the story as a first-hand account of a diary the protagonist is writing to assert her own history back in her life, as she’s amongst those who do not understand the necessity of having a living history or a story to be told of one’s heritage. She values her experiences, her struggles of faith, and the lessons she is ought being taught as she walks forward into her future. She hasn’t had the easiest of lives, but she isn’t going to allow herself to wallow in the situations she could never effectively change, but rather, pull out a strength deep from within her, to carry her through the tribulations that she was certain were still to come.
Whilst she’s (Katie O’ Toole) recounting her days in her diary, I mused about how this differed from the diary of Robinson Crusoe as it contained more of her essence, her internal quagmire of thoughts, and the irrevocable distraught by which she plagued herself with for most of her arduous journey towards Syawa and Hector’s homeland. From the moment I read the opening page, by which the author departed a precognitive knowledge of how the story might transform as you read the words, I was left with a museful pre-occupation of how that would transpire, and further still, of one particular scene that I had presumed was forgotten within the re-writes and draughts, leading up to publication! However, this falls perfectly into this category of observation about ‘language and translation’, about how what we first perceive to be just and truth, can altogether change and alter, either by the different perception we’ve learnt through experience OR through reading a book that is quite unlike another! This book truly lives up to the proportions of what Laugheed mentions at the start gate: the words transcend their own meaning as you etch closer to the ending, the whole of the story is much larger than the sum of the parts as they are revealed!
In this way, she is giving each of us to turn on our heels, the gross misconception of how we drink in words, knowledge, and observational data. The reader is very much at the heart of this story, and I think, is as central as Katie’s voice in re-telling her own history. What is humbling too, is how as our knowledge expands, the words that were once lost on us, as being completely irreverent suddenly take on new meanings, as they now evoke an ’emotion’, a ‘resolution’, or a ‘truth’ we did not understand previously. An Irish girl cast out into the wilderness of the wild frontier, with two Indian’s as her sole guides and protectors, makes for a curious precept initially, but it’s how they interact with each other, during the everyday hours, that Laugheed excels in not disappointing her reader! She never makes their interactions dull or predictable, because she has woven their personalities into the core of how they interact with each other! You pick up little character traits that come to play a larger part of the story as it threads through its climax, but inside these key portals of frontier life in campsites and canoes, you start to see how its possible to thread a new life together out of the ashes of the old! In this way, I was quietly savouring each exchange between the threesome, curious how they would come to depend on each other, and how they would draw strength by each others’ presence.
The art of story-telling plays a center part of The Spirit Keeper’s heart, but it’s the transformative power of understanding the words that are imparted throughout the story, that turn everything into a new light once the conclusion arrives. What the reader first mistook as a course of events, was truly a resounding precognitive journey that guided two characters forward into a future they would not have been strong enough to embrace otherwise. It’s the redemptive nature of grasping a hold of the essence of those who pass forward and away from our living world that is truly the most remarkable arc of the story! For we all have the ability to be a keeper of a spirit whose touched us deeply and left us remorseful for their presence! We only need the strength to transcend our perception and view our experiences from a different angle to see how the threads stitch together the pattern of our living tapestry!
An environmental conscience: Is cleverly hidden within the context of the story, but is one of the inclusions that I found to be the most illuminating to see!! I oft have found myself the most happiest amongst the trees, rivers, lakes, streams, and out-of-door hideaways that only a person can walk to find! Nature’s door is ever beckoning us to re-enter that sacred space between the natural world and the world by which we live as men. We are drawn towards nature as keenly as we are attached to water as a source of lifeblood, but it isn’t always an easy attachment to maintain, when the hectic nature of our lifestyles can circumvent our efforts to keep our hearts and souls aligned with the seasons and timescape of the natural world just past our windows! Laugheed draws a breath of vitality into the forest, where you can nearly hear the echoings of the trees, the rushing power of the rivers, and the harmonious tickings of the inhabitants therein. I appreciated that the animals that were killed in the book were used for what they could give back to the ones who fell them. I always respected this aspect of Native American beliefs, as they take what they need and only what they can use, at the time they go hunting. It’s a beautiful circle of life, as nothing is wasted and everything is respected. She wants you to see the beauty past what you expect to find whilst out in the deep woods, as the forest plays a fourth character or rather, that of a narrator that has not yet found its voice.
Katie O' Toole's epic adventure began in "The Spirit Keeper" (Plume 2013) when she was rescued from a 1747 frontier massacre only to find herself chosen as the "Spirit Keeper" of a dying Indian seer. She hesitated to accept this mysterious obligation until she fell in love with the Seer's bodyguard, an Indian man she called Hector.
Much has happened since my last writing,..
In The Gift of the Seer, Katie and Hector continue their journey across the continent, but the more Katie learns about the peculiar ways of her husband's people, the more she dreads arriving at their destination. Will anyone believe she is the Spirit Keeper she pretends to be? Equally troubling, Katie knows the Seer expected her to prove his Vision - a Vision which foretold of infinite Invaders coming to his world - but to prove this prophecy, she must give his people the great Gift he also predicted. The only problem is that Katie has no gift to give.
Years pass as she desperately searches for a way to fulfill her promise to the dead Seer, but when his former rival threatens to expose her as a fraud, Katie finally understands that her life and the life of all the people in her new world hang in the balance. That's when she knows she must give a Gift - she must - before it is too late.
Did you honestly think you could get so much and give nothing in return?
Converse on Twitter: #GiftOfTheSeer, #TheSpiritKeeper Sequel + #KBLaugheed
as well as #HistNov + #HistoricalFiction or #HistFic
About K.B. Laugheed
K.B. Laugheed is an organic gardener and master naturalist who wrote her first published novel, The Spirit Keeper, as part penance for the sins of her family’s pioneer past, part tribute to all our ancestors, and part grandiose delusion as she hopes to remind modern Americans of the grim price we paid for the glorious life we take for granted today.
But The Spirit Keeper is not a story about guilt. It’s about gratitude.
The Gift of the Seer is officially available worldwide as it was published on the 7th of January, 2019.
To support the author directly, kindly consider purchasing her novels through her online store.
Acquired Book By: I started hosting with Prism Book Tours at the end of , having noticed the badge on Tressa’s blog (Wishful Endings) whilst I was visiting as we would partake in the same blog tours and/or book blogosphere memes. I had to put the memes on hold for several months (until I started to resume them (with Top Ten Tuesday) in January 2018). When I enquired about hosting for Prism, I found I liked the niche of authors and stories they were featuring regularly. I am unsure how many books I’ll review for them as most are offered digitally rather than in print but this happily marks one of the blog tours where I could receive a print book for review purposes. Oft-times you’ll find Prism Book Tours alighting on my blog through the series of guest features and spotlights with notes I’ll be hosting on behalf of their authors.
I received a complimentary copy of “Falling for You” direct from the publisher Bethany House Publishers in exchange for an honest review. The Digital Audiobook copy of the novella “Then Came You” was a self-purchase of my own which I added to my personal digital audiobook library. The copy I read of “True to You” was borrowed via my local library. My ruminations on behalf of the audiobook novella and the first book in the series are being shared for my own edification and to help introduce my readers to the series overall whilst sharing my own journey in its discovery. I did not receive compensation for my opinions or thoughts shared herein.
On the joy of finding a new INSPY Contemporary novelist I love reading,
within the *prequel!* novella ‘Then Came You’ | #BradfordSistersRomance series
I truly have been thankful for my discovery of reading this series by Ms Wade, as I journalled my initial reactions to listening to the *prequel!* audiobook on Twitter, sharing the following:
Whilst #amlistening to Then Came You (#audiobook) a prequel #novella by #BeckyWade – suddenly sorted out ‘where’ this story fits w/in Bradford Sisters Romance series! The ‘Willow’ of Falling for You IS the baby who changed the life of Garner!
As you can gather, I hadn’t connected the dots – nor the sequencing of the series – in essence, if I hadn’t listened to the audiobook (don’t worry, I’ll be sharing my reactions soon!) I might have missed the beautiful back-story of how this series centres on one man’s joyful presence as a father to three darling daughters! They are the ‘Bradford Sisters’ who populate the series, as the novella (Then Came You) explores what happened to Garner Bradford, how he fell in love with parenthood and how he took a rather unconventional approach to both marriage & becoming a Dad!
Initially, it took me a bit to get my bearings within the novella, as this was writ within the style of narrative I personally *adore!* called: Epistolary, where the main format alters points of view from a variety of sources. The traditional approach are through letters (postal mail), postcards & telegrams as I have found this style most present in Historical Fiction. However, in Contemporary story-lines with the advantage of technology, you can see these perspectives explored using a variety of different entries of thought from cell phones, voicemail, text messages, chat interfaces, email exchanges whilst still pulling together a feel for the traditional by augmenting the ‘tech’ with passages from diaries, journals or the letters themselves.
Ms Wade opted to use a journalling approach to allow Garner to get his thoughts down onto paper whilst she used the letter-writing approach to anchour the thoughtful musings of Kathleen into the context of the story-line as well. Supplemented by phone calls (ie. voicemail or live calls), official office memos or notes used for personal correspondence and other variables, you have to get your ‘head’ to wrap round how this novella unfolds in an audiobook narration. Thus, there are some prompts to help you navigate it which I found to be the best way to segue into the story itself, as those prompts helped me realise what was ‘shifting’ in and out of focus. I would presume the shifts would be as easy to read in the print edition as generally speaking that’s where publishers get creative by showing the differences in straight dialogue exchanges and background narrative by selecting certain bits of text to ‘stand-out’ from the rest.
Either way, if I had to choose how I wanted to first ‘greet’ this series, I would hands-down pick the novella audiobook!! By the time I reached the concluding chapters, I was so emotionally taxed and committed to the characters, I felt this true ache in my heart just to *know!* the ending! You truly are on the edge of your soul listening to this story unfold – due to the circumstances contained within it but also, the heart-pulse of watching a relationship build through the aftermaths of how sometimes life doesn’t quite go according to plan. In truth, I felt like I had found a new beloved INSPY Contemporary novelist I could enjoy reading for years to come which is why I capstoned my notes on Twitter by saying the following: