Thursday, August 25, 2011

Destiny's Dream: Discussion #4

Your book club hostess is Michelle Massaro

Wow, I can't believe it. Our last discussion! Have you enjoyed your read? I know I sure have, and I'm totally wanting to read Kylie's Kiss now, too. We'll be drawing one lucky winner to receive a copy of the sequel. If you haven't already put in your request for your free bookmark and bookplate, make sure you do that before it's too late.

We've discussed Destiny's use of annointing oil, and the angelic beings that watch over her. As we close out the book, there is one subject I'd like to talk about: Forgiveness.

Destiny is able to forgive her attacker, not just in word but in heart. She feels for him and longs to see him find the Lord. That's faith. That's a woman after God's own heart! Have you been in a situation that called for that kind of grace? Please jump in and share.

Toward the end of the book we see Claire finding new spark in her life. How often do we relegate "older" people to passing their days sitting in rockers and baking cookies, as though their time to really live has passed? I put "older" in quotes because I don't think Claire was even that old. But her sons (like most children) had trouble seeing her as vibrant person. Clay couldn't at first fathom that his mother would want to find a soulmate through Solomon's Gate, and everybody is later startled by her interest in sleuthing. But the truth is, many retired people need new interests to make them feel useful and we don't always acknowledge that need. Have you seen this for yourself?

Finally, one of the most precious aspects of this story, to me, is the love between Destiny and her mother. Destiny inherited a legacy of faith  from her mother, who prayed for her and thought continually of her spiritual well-being. I've been on both ends of that kind of relationship, having been raised by a godly woman and now doing my best to raise my kids to know the Lord. The responsibility of a parent to be good stewards of the children God places in their lap, is a great and heavy one, not to be taken lightly. And the resulting relationship between parent child, as demonstrated in this book, is so strong and so moving. Does this inspire you to intercede more on behalf of your children, or motivate you to be more proactive in imparting spiritual truths to them? What have you gleaned about this special relationship while reading Destiny's Dream?

Don't forget, we also meet on facebook for those who "live" over there and find it easier not to venture out of the house. That link is: 

Thank you so much for being part of our book club this summer. I've thoroughly enjoyed reading your answers and questions! Leave a comment to be entered to win Kylie's Kiss. 

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Destiny's Dream: Discussion #3

Your book club hostess is Michelle Massaro

Hi everyone! Have you all finished reading Destiny's Dream yet? We still have one week left so don't despair.

One of the things I liked was seeing how God used Destiny's scary ordeal to "wake up" other around her, causing them to do some serious soul-searching (or should I say "God searching").
Have you ever experienced something like this in your life? Whether you were the one with the difficult circumstance, or the one brought to your knees in the wake of someone else's crisis, if you are comfortable, please share your experience.

One of the characters we see affected is Destiny's sister Jenna, who has so immersed herself in being the perfect society wife that she allowed God to take a back seat. Many people do this, for various reasons. What is meant by putting God first? How can we make sure God is at the top of our to-do list?

Destiny was attacked, and her life threatened, by a creepy psycho. If it'd been me, I'm not sure I'd have been as calm as Destiny was. She knew God was with her and even though she felt fear, her faith gave her a steady assurance so that she was able to speak peace to her assistant Julie, and even to the crazy gunman. We've all probably read countless real-life stories of people receiving supernatural boldness in the face of death. Have you thought of what you'd do or how you'd feel in that situation?

After the villain threatened and physically injured people, Destiny had to decide whether or not to heed his demands and close Solomon's Gate. Do you think her hesitancy to do so was selfish? Should she have closed her business, even though she strongly felt God's guidance in opening it?

Before I hand you the mic, let me remind you that Delia has offered to send each of our participants a free bookmark and signed bookplate. She is also generously giving away a copy of Kylie's Kiss--book 2 in this series. All who join in our discussions will have their name put into the hat to win that book, and I'm positive that after reading Destiny's Dream, you'll want the sequel. So don't be shy, jump on in and share your thoughts, answer a question, or pose one of your own. Our lovely author will be around to interact with us all. Woo hoo!

Don't forget, we also meet on facebook for those who "live" over there and find it easier not to venture out of the house. That link is: Please share it (and this blog) with your friends.

Tweet it, link it, honk if you love us.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Destiny's Dream: Discussion #2

Your book club hostess is Michelle Massaro

Welcome, clubbies! Real quick, don't forget Delia will send each of you a free bookmark and signed bookplate (just let us know you're in our bookclub and would like one.) She is also generously giving away a copy of Kylie's Kiss at the end of the month, to one lucky reader. So make sure to join the conversation. Delia will be very available all month long for us to interact with. What a treat!

Also, you can let your friends know they can find us on facebook:  

Okay, it's time to jump back into our story. How are you enjoying it so far? As I read, I remember at first wondering how the author was going to pull off a deeply spiritual book about a dating service. Hey, I'm just keeping it real! But I quickly realized that not only was she capable of doing so, but she went deeper into territory not often touched by other authors. The annointing with oil for one. For some reason this makes a lot of us squirm, even though it was put into practice by the Lord Himself, and has such rich meaning once we get past the "weirdness" it makes some of us feel.

We had comments last week touching off a conversation about angels watching over us. It reminded me of Elisha's prayer for God to open the eyes of his servant, and when He did, the hillside was filled with spiritual warriors ready to go to battle on behalf of God's people. The idea of angels surrounding us, of an unseen world, is not just an abstract concept. It's fact. God is the same yesterday, today, and forever. Those messengers still exist and they are still serving God the way they were created to. We just tend to have difficulty living in that truth. But when we are reminded of it. . . wow. Kinda makes you remember what an all-consuming, powerful God we serve, doesn't it? So let's talk about that. . .

Q: A couple of times during the storyline, Destiny experienced supernatural occurrences—not overtly dramatic things, but small miracles completely outside the realm of the "everyday."
Would you like to experience such things, or does the idea frighten you, take you outside your comfort zone? What can you do to make yourself more at ease with God's supernatural side?

Q: Not everyone in the novel witnessed the signs that Destiny had divine guardians. Only two people actually saw the angels.
Why do you think that happens? If one person can see them, why not all?

Q: Destiny owned a beautiful bottle of anointing oil, which she used during her daily prayer time to anoint the applications turned in by her Seekers.
Did this practice make Destiny seem eccentric or fanatical? What purpose do you think it served?

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Destiny's Dream: Discussion #1

Your book club hostess is Michelle Massaro

Welcome, readers! I am so excited to host this month's club selection, Destiny's Dream by Delia Latham. If you don't already know, Delia has offered to send each of our participants a free bookmark and signed bookplate. She is also generously giving away a copy of Kylie's Kiss. All who join in our discussions will have their name put into the hat to win that book, and I'm positive that after reading Destiny's Dream, you'll want the sequel. So don't be shy, jump on in and share your thoughts, answer a question, or pose one of your own. Our lovely author will be around to interact with us all. Woo hoo!

Don't forget, we also meet on facebook for those who "live" over there and find it easier not to venture out of the house. That link is: Please share it (and this blog) with your friends.

Tweet it, link it, honk if you love us.

Ready to dive into the final club selection of the year? I am! You know, I'm never sure what I'm going to think of a new book or author I've never read. So I always crack open the first page with a bit of apprehension. Especially when I've met the author and really really want to love their work. Well, I knew immediately that I had no need to worry about Delia's story or her prose. It's right up my alley and I was thrilled that I'd get to be her hostess. So here we go:

Q: The story opens with a very difficult scene where Destiny's mother is dying. Anyone who has lost someone close to them will no doubt feel those emotions stirred up again while reading this scene. I know I did.
Was this passage at all difficult for you to read?

Q: Destiny's mother leaves her a scripture, a promise she says Jesus specifically told her to give Destiny. Psalm 91:11's promise: "He shall give His angels charge over thee, to keep thee in all thy ways."
How do you feel about the idea of angels around you? Does it comfort you? If not, why not?

Q: Destiny and her siblings decided not to conduct a "death watch" over their dying mother.
Do you think having her children hovering near, dreading and anticipating her death, would have been a comfort or a discomfort to Miss Margie? How would you feel under that same circumstance?

Q: Destiny's behavior at her mother's funeral was not typical for her character.
Have you ever been in a situation where emotions/nerves caused you to behave in a manner not normal for you? Were there repercussions, and if so, how did you handle them?

Q: Clay's relationship with God has taken a back seat over the years. He has a bit of difficulty understanding Destiny's very personal relationship with Him, wherein she speaks about and to God as if He is her close Friend and Confidante.
Have you reached that place in your relationship with Him? If not, what's holding you back?

Q: Clay tends to look at Destiny's career choice as a frivolous occupation, while Destiny considers matchmaking a ministry.
Have you ever felt the sting of someone's less-than-appreciative opinion of something you consider important? How did you handle it, especially if that someone's opinion really mattered to you?

Friday, July 29, 2011

The Conclusion of The Stones by Eleanor Gustafson

--by COTT Sr. Editor, April Gardner

As I finished the last pages of this epic biblical novel, I asked myself what had impacted me most. What truth would I carry away with me? I found my own thoughts summed up on one of the last pages.

David is laying on his deathbed. Asaph has discovered a sack of five smooth stones under David’s pillow and asks the reason for them. “My Lord, are they connected with…Goliath?...David answers, No…small stones…to remind me…God uses weak things—stones…half-grown he-goats…broken, wayward kings—to conquer giants, vast armies. What was I against  Absalom? Only Hushai’s wit saved me. I hold the stones, feel…not my power…but God’s. Keep them Asaph. The power is there, but only for those who know their own weakness.”

Powerful words. Makes me want to run outdoors to collect my own stones, to carry them in my purse for rubbing when I’m feeling weak…or prideful. Either way, there is nothing we can do without God.
In a day when the Holy Spirit descended only occasionally upon men, Ellie says her in Study Guide, “when Samuel anointed David to replace Saul, we’re told that the Spirit of the Lord came upon him mightily from that day on.” What a gift!

It was that Spirit that led David to be the king that he was. Ellie states in her Study Guide, “He sinned fervently, but he also repented fervently, which set him apart…” Aren’t you glad David sinned? Pride, disobedience, adultery, murder--to name a few. If he hadn’t, we wouldn’t have had a chance to see God’s mercy and love toward a truly repentant heart. “A man’s heart—that’s where the sum of his life rests…And Yahweh knows me, everything about me, yet…love me still. Asaph, what can I do? What can I say? Who can bear such love?” (David, The Stones)

Imagine what it will be like to stand before the Great White Throne and an Almighty God? We’ll be aware of every black sin we committed against him, but He will see nothing but the blood of his Son covering us from head to foot. Who can bear even the thought of such love?

Thank you, Ellie, for driving that truth home for me, for your countless hours of dedication toward this amazing work of biblical fiction. Do you care to give us a peek into your next project? Will it be biblical, or are you trying your hand at something new?

Here’s a question Ellie has for her readers. It, along with many others, can be found in her Study Guide, which I highly recommend. Even without the novel, it makes an excellent Bible study.

How can a person’s sin ultimately bring pleasure and even glory to God?

Ellie, it's been such a pleasure getting to know you this month! I've learned so much through reading The Stones. Thank you for taking part in our COTT Book Club!

Next week, we'll be diving into Delia Latham's, Destiny's Dream. Here's a little about the book. Get your copy here!

Is a little respect too much to ask at a parent’s funeral?

Apparently it is for Destiny May. Clay Gallagher is built like a small mountain and far more vocal than is fitting when he shows up late to her mother’s “going away party.” When it turns out he’s not even at the right funeral, Destiny demands retribution in the form of an escape from the day’s dreary proceedings. Spending time with a handsome stranger who makes her laugh is more therapeutic than fighting with her overbearing family.

Clay finds Destiny beautiful, charming...and intelligent. So why is she stubbornly determined to open a Christian dating service? Clay has little respect for such a frivolous profession, and doesn’t think the small, conservative town of Castle Creek will welcome such a progressive business. But when Destiny is threatened by an anonymous caller who deeply resents her and what she does for a living, Clay makes it his business to keep the saucy redhead out of harm’s way.

Trouble is, spending time in her company weakens his defenses, and Destiny may be the one thing Clay can’t escape...if he even wants to.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

The Stones--David's Bathsheba

We’re on to Week Three of our look at Eleanor Gustafson’s The Stones

As a missionaries, while Stateside, my family and I traveled all over the nation visiting churches. This equaled many long, boring miles in the car with two siblings just as grumpy as I was. Like it was yesterday, I remember the day one of us grew desperate and asked Dad for a story we had never heard before. He took off on a tale of a king who had many wives but “hugged and kissed” that of another man. I remember my  horror at the thought, but it was compounded when I learned how this king covered his sin—by murdering her husband. At the end of this fascinating (yet rather embarrassing--Dad was talking about kissing. Yuck!) story, Dad told us that this king was none other than King David.

My little heart was completely broken. King David? No way! He was the lowly shepherd boy that killed lions and bears and mean giants. He was my hero. Isn’t he every kid’s? A tiny part of my innocence died that day.
I hated the story, but today, I look at in a different light—with gratitude. If David can behave in such a despicable way and still be called “a man after God’s own heart”, maybe there’s hope for me.

In The Stones, Ellie handles this portion of David’s life with brutal clarity and truth, and I thank her for it. Uriah is a sharp contrast to the king, who, at the height of his power, had become self-indulgent. In the voice of Asaph, Ellie writes:

I meditated, too, on the supreme irony of Uriah, flame of Yahweh. Had he known or guessed his wife was pregnant? He was certainly intelligent enough to put two and two together. Yet he would not do the one thing that would get David off the hook, and his very bravery and zeal became David’s weapon to destroy him. A man of gallantry, ready to die for his prince’s honor, died instead by his prince’s hand. 

Poor guy.

In her study guide, Ellie asks a couple of questions, which I thought I’d put to you, as well.

Why do you think God chose Bathsheba rather than a more “acceptable” wife (such as Abigail) to establish the House of David and the long line leading to the birth of Jesus?

In The Stones, Asaph was greatly affected by David’s colossal sin. (See Scroll Two, chapter 18). What, beyond the armband and scroll that David brought to him, restored his relationship with David?

And my question for Ellie—What first made you consider writing David’s life in the form of biblical fiction?

If you haven’t gotten it yet, make sure you pick up your copy of COTT champ, Delia Latham's,Destiny's Dream. We'll be discussing this fun romance next month!

--April W Gardner is the Sr. Editor at Clash of the Titles
and the award-winning author of Wounded Spirits

Thursday, July 14, 2011

The Stones--A Glimpse of Jersualem

Welcome back to our discussion of The Stones
by Eleanor (Ellie) Gustafson!
by April W Gardner

I’ve just reached chapter six, which doesn’t seem like much, but it’s actually very close to the half-way point. Each chapter is jammed packed, filled to brimming with historical events recorded in the Bible. Much of it is narrative, but when Ellie pens dialog, she does it with expertise.  The things her characters say either crack me up or sober me with their depth of wisdom. Ellie, you are indeed a master crafter of engaging dialog.

The event that stood out to me the most during this quarter of the book was David’s move from Hebron to Jebus (which he renamed Jerusalem). I’m not sure if I've just glanced over it every time I’ve read the account in Scripture or if there just isn’t much there, but it was practically all new information for me. Ellie, did you fill in details from other historical sources? If so, how much? 

Ellie wrote a nail-biting account of the take-over of the city from the Jebusites. I'd never thought about who occupied Jerusalem before David or for how long. For those who haven’t read the book, the Jebusites had control of the city for hundreds of years before David decided he wanted it for his capitol. But that’s all I’m saying! You’ll have to buy the book if you want to find out exactly how David entered the highly-defended and, up to that point, unconquerable fortress. Hint: God had something to do with it.

Before the battle David addressed the troops. This is what he said:
“Look up, all of you, to the hill above Jebus. Mt. Moriah, Abraham brought his son Isaac from Beersheba to this place to sacrifice him in obedience to God’s command. He stood right where you’re standing now. He looked up in dread, yet set food to the mountain, confident that God—somehow, in some way—would provide. And he did. As Abraham raised his knife, the angel of the Lord stayed his hand. So shaken he could hardly stand, Abraham looked around, and there in the thicket, caught by its horns, was the sacrifice God provided in place of Isaac.
“Abraham called the mountain, ‘The Lord will provid,’” David continued, “and we’ll hold to that word today. We’ll climb Mt. Moriah, and there Yaweh will provide. Here, in the name of the Lord, we claim that miserable shelf called Zion. It shall be cleansed of Jebusites and be forever known as Jerusalem, Mt. Zion, the Holy City of God.”

Eleanor Gustafson
That passage deeply impacted me. Having grown up reading the Thoene’s  work, I’ve always been fascinated with Jerusalem, but Ellie, you took me back to the beginning and drew a thread through the centuries, through David and all the way to Christ. Although you didn’t mention it, the reader easily draws the thread the rest of the way through to present-day and the ongoing struggle for God’s Holy City.

Our God is an awesome God! (Made you sing it. Wink.) History is already written, and He sees the big picture with perfect clarity. (Aren't you glad?) We can only hope to catch a glimpse.

Ellie, have you been privileged to visit Israel? If so, tell us your favorite part of the experience. If not, tell us what the first place is you’d want to see if you were told you’d be flying there tomorrow.

I pose the same question to our readers as well as the following—Was there a particular passage that stood out to you in this quarter of the book?

If you haven’t gotten it yet, make sure you pick up your copy of COTT champ, Delia Latham's, Destiny's Dream. We'll be discussing this fun romance next month!

--April W Gardner is the Sr. Editor at Clash of the Titles
and the award-winning author of Wounded Spirits

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Our First Peek at THE STONES by Eleanor Gustafson

Welcome to The Stones COTT book club discussion! And a massive welcome to this month’s COTT conquering author,  Eleanor (Ellie) Gustafson. Welcome, Ellie!

I decided to do like Jennifer did during A Tailor-made Bride and read the book throughout the month as we go along. Most of us know the end (wink), but Ellie presents the details in such a fresh and unique way that I find it’s almost as if I’ve never read the story before.

I just finished chapter twelve. It’s hefty reading, but I’m really enjoying it. Ellie, you write with such a lovely, almost poetic prose. It’s enchanting. And the historical detail simply fascinates me. I’m quite in awe, actually.

Question to readers: Do you have a favorite character yet? I do!

Abigail, David’s third wife, was always one of my favorite female Bible characters. I think it’s rather romantic that saving her retched husband’s life earned her the (future) king’s love. Her dead husband was barely cold in the ground before David took her to wife. Talk about making an impression!

Quite the colorful character in The Stones, she’s strong-willed (which wasn’t a gift in those days) and she’s usually the cause for tension. But it’s generally because she’s fighting for what she believes God requires of them. David’s standing before God and the people is more important to her than his good graces, which she doesn’t lose for long anyway. David loves her too much.

I just finished reading chapter 12 where Abigail chides him for bringing home booty from the Amalekites he’s raided and killed.

Abigail says, “Did you consult Abiathar and the Urim and thummin to find out if you’re the man to do it? It seems to me you’re tearing off this ‘vengeance’ thing, when it’s the Lord’s business to—”
“Enough, woman! You have a find hand on my faults and don’t hesitate to say so.” (great line, by the way) The flare died quickly, and David sighed as he wrung a cloth and wiped his dusty face. “Abigail, Abigail, you don’t understand. We have our reasons. We—”
“You mean Joab has his reasons. This was his idea, wasn’t it?”
“Yes, and it’s a good idea.” His voice grew irritable again. “We must get Achish to trust us. Once he thinks we’ve made ourselves odious to the Israelites… And besides, I thought you’d like clothes and jewelry.”
“They’re soaked in blood. I’d never wear them” Wow. You go, girl.  A scene with this feisty gal is always interesting!

If I remember correctly, not overly much is said about her in the Bible. So, Ellie, what made you decide to give Abigail such a strong personality? Which portions of Scripture lead you to construct her character in such a way?

Here are a couple of questions for you taken from the same source.

If Abigail is David’s most valuable wife, why is he uncomfortable with her? 
In what way does Abigail exemplify God’s love?

Historical/biblical fiction is my all time favorite genre, but I can’t help but wonder the entire time that I’m reading--Which parts are real and which are made up? But this time, I get to ask the author questions as I’m reading. How fun is that?! Ellie, my question to you is (after reading the two you asked in the Study Guide)—“What makes Abigail David’s most valuable wife?” Is that something you found in the Bible or something you created? Will we discover the answer as we read further?

At the end of the month, there will be a drawing for The Stones Study Guide. It’s the ideal companion book that you’ll want to have to go along with The Stones. You could create six months worth of Bible and history lessons from it, if you had a hankering to. That’s how much great stuff it has in it. Perfect for a home school setting!

Enter the drawing by leaving a comment on either Blogger or Facebook. Every comment counts for one entry.

Next week, I plan to have read approximately to the half-way point. Can’t wait to see what David is up to by then!

Next month, we'll be discussing another COTT Conquering book-- Delia Latham's Destiny's Dream. Make sure you get your copy of this fun romance now!

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Goodby to A Tailor-Made Bride and Hello to The Stones

By Jennifer Slattery

It has been a wonderful month. I've enjoyed chatting with you all about Karen Witemeyer's A Tailor-Made Bride, but alas, all good things must come to an end. Okay, so that's not true. How about, the good only gets better? Because now that July is upon us, we launch into Eleanor Gustafson's The Stones, a novel about the life of King David.

Starting Thursday our Senior Editor and author of Wounded Spirits, April Gardner, will be here to discuss Eleanor's book. Make sure to order your copy now and pop back every Thursday to join the discussion!

And remember, if your purchased A Tailor-Made Bride during the month of May and would like a signed bookplate, shoot us an email and we'll get you hooked up!

Happy reading all!

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

A Damsel in Distress--Concluding Karen Witemeyer's A Tailor-Made Bride

Host: Jennifer Slattery

Love is in the air...but villains lurk on the ground.

I was not expecting Karen's ending. Here I sat, nose-deep in the story, envisioning wedding bells and lacy gowns when all of a sudden, out pops slimy Warren who grabs Hannah and holds her hostage.

And just when you start to hate this warty toad, he sheds a bit of his slime and offers Hannah an apology. My question to you is, what were your feelings toward Warren? Did you hate him entirely? Feel a smidgen of compassion?

And how did you feel a bit earlier when J.T. confronted Warren's father?

One thing I thought about during the interaction between J.T. and Warren's father was the tendency parents have to over-compensate. Compassion is a wonderful and necessary emotion, especially when it comes to parenting. However, taken to far, it appears, compassion can actually harm the recipient. Although there's no way of knowing if Warren's villainous behavior resulted from ineffective parenting, I'm sure we can all think of real-life examples where coddling led to spoiling.

How did you feel when Hanna returned from the picnic to find her store ransacked? Have you ever experienced a similar let-down? Maybe you worked hard for something, only to see the goal slip between your hands. Or maybe, like Hannah, someone worked against you. If so, were you able to rebuild and start again?

Finally, what did you love most about this book? Did God use this book to show you any truths? Were there any moments you felt drawn to God afresh?

Join our discussion then hop on over to Clash of the Titles to meet two more great authors. And I hope you're getting ready for our next book club. For July, we're diving into Eleanor Gustafson's The Stones! Fun, fun, fun!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Falling in Love

Hosted by Jennifer Slattery

I know many of you flew through Karen Witemeyer's novel, A Taylor-Made Bride, the first week. I can't wait until next week to talk about the story in it's entirety and learn what drew you most. Personally, I'm reading the chapters as we go to prevent my mind from slurring the details.

Last night I read about the flash flood and Hannah's near death experience. One year our family went canoeing on a river ravaged by a storm--only we didn't know that until we got going. Branches clogged the river and in many places, it was so bad, we had to get out and carry our canoes along the bank until we passed the rubble. At one point, the river curved and began to pick up speed. My husband and daughter capsized. Ahead, a mass of branches acted like a dam and the water funneled beneath it. Seeing this, I jumped out and grabbed the girl in my canoe. My husband quickly carried both girls to a dry patch. And yet, before I could breath a sigh of relief, I looked up to see my husband sailing down the river, clutching the over sized canoe. Praise be to God, the Canoe got lodged in the brambles and not him, otherwise I have no doubt he would have died. It was a divine moment, for sure.

In the story, Hannah expresses similar feelings. She felt two angels saved her life. Do you remember who those angels were?

Jericho seemed less than pleased to hear her praises of his behavior. According to his sister, he was uncomfortable with compliments and was emotional from the experience. I've heard it said that anger is a secondary emotion. Think of a time when you've been scared. Perhaps you lost your child or saw them dangling from a tree branch. Have you ever felt a surge of anger arise?

It is also interesting how often it takes nearly losing someone to realize their value. Although Jericho acknowledged his feelings for Hannah shortly before the flood experience, his love became most apparent, it seemed, when he saw her lying on the log. And did you notice the emotions that welled up within him? He wanted to protect her. I believe men were created to be the providers and protectors and if you look at many of the heroes in novels and fairy tales, often you'll see this same trait. Men want to feel strong, powerful, needed and respected. Women want to be cherished.

Did you find it interesting that Hannah's independence threatened Jericho? Initially, he thought she would use her "wiles" to manipulate him into doing things for her, then later, it was her lack of asking for help that made him feel unnecessary. I wonder if that is a fine balance? In today's world, do men still need to feel needed? And if so, how does that translate in our dual working society?

Here's a personal question for you--do you want to feel cherished? Think of your interactions with your spouse or boyfriend. When do you most feel loved?

Did you like the interchange between Ike and Cordelia? Do you think it was Cordelia's make-over and physical change that drew him? And what about the conversation Hannah had with Jericho? Is it true that men are attracted to beauty most of all? And how do Christian women find the balance between enjoying nice things and becoming overly consumed with appearance? As a mom of a teen girl, this is something I think of and pray about often. I want our daughter to feel confident, but I don't want her obsessed with appearance and I certainly don't want her to become prideful. What about us? How do we maintain that balance?

Lost of questions today. I hope you're enjoying your reading. Have you purchased your copy of Eleanor Gustafson's, The Stones, yet? Should be a great read!

Next week we will discuss the remaining chapters of a Taylor-Made Bride and our over-all thoughts.

Don't forget to hop on over to Clash of the Titles to join the fun!

Have a great week!

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Discussion: A Tailor Made Bride, through Ch 19

hotess: Michelle Massaro

Last night I finished reading Tailor Made... at 2:00 AM. I can't speak for all of you, but I found this book to be a very satisfying read. Although I find myself wanting to dive right in to gushing over the ending, this week's discussion must focus on the book up to about chapter 19. (next week you can prepare to discuss up to chapter 26.)

One of the things that stood out to me in chapter 15 was the way Hannah reacted to Jericho's accusation that she was a stumbling block, appealing to women's vanity. Not only did Karen do a great job at writing persuasive arguments on both sides of the debate, I also admired Hannah's ability to pause to consider whether she might be wrong or at least not fully right. How often would we do well to reflect on whether there might be truth in something hurtful someone has said to us?  What did you think about this?

In chapter 16, Jericho learns more about Hannah's activities helping those around her. I love how conflicted he is. He grumbles but can't deny the good she is doing for those in the town. This is one thing I like about J.T.--he gives people credit when due, even if he has a problem with them. Do we do that? I had to ask myself how often I let a personal squabble or irritant keep me from acknowledging the good done by a person. Sometimes I want to explain it away or ascribe a false motive to their actions, all because they've done something to irritate me or because I have found fault in some part of their personality. Did this come through to you? What are your thoughts?

In chapter 17, we get a delicious flirtation/competition going between Hannah and J.T. I loved the way Hannah so stubbornly challenged his strength, really trying to give him a run for his money. I enjoyed watching him try to impress her, and the little sparks that flew between them. What was your favorite thing about this scene?

In chapter 19, J.T. takes his sister's challenge to read about the Proverbs 31 woman. This is difficult for any of us to do. To open our hearts to the possibility that something we've firmly believed was God's will might not be the truest expression of His nature. My favorite line in this chapter, and perhaps the book, is this: Apparently, I'm an idiot.  Says it all, doesn't it? LOL Has this ever happened to you? If you are willing, please share with us a time when God challenged your thinking. Was it a quick surrender on your part?

What other scenes in the book jump out as favorites for you so far?

Send your friends to join in the discussions. They can visit previous posts and jump in at any point as they read. If you haven't already done so, pick up Eleanor Gustafson's The Stones for next month's club reading.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

The Action-Reaction Merry-Go-Round

Today's host: Jennifer Slattery

The other day, after tripping over one too many messes, mentally adding them to my "could you please..." list, I bided my time waiting for our daughter (the mess-maker) to come home. She walked through the door with a scowl, shoulders slumped. (Turns out, she'd taken a three hour algebra test and had a major headache. Which I didn't find out until quite some time later.) Had I been a loving and observant mom in that moment, I would have switched gears--from task-oriented to nurturing. Unfortunately, I didn't and launched into the long "honey-can-you-do-list."

The results were less than optimal and initially I was shocked by our daughters angry reaction...until I simmered down and reviewed our interaction. Had I given her a few moments to unwind, she likely would have reacted better. Had I not reacted to her reaction, likely our spat wouldn't have erupted. Hannah's sewing bee story in chapter eleven reminded me of all the times my reactions create and expand problems.

Hannah said, "Emily might have been guilty of instigating the trouble, but my reaction to her is what caused the situation to escalate out of control...."

Charles Swindoll often says that life is 90% how we take it. The Bible tells us a gentle answer turns away wrath. Have you found this to be true? Any stories to share?

I also liked how Hannah used a story from her life to speak truth to young Tessa. By doing so, she turned the situation into a joint effort, communicating to Tessa that she was on her team, that she understood her and wanted to help.

How might Tessa have reacted had Hannah launched into lecture mode?

I'm reading Boundaries With Teens by Dr. Townsend, for a contemporary youth series I'm working on for Christ to the World. In the book, Dr. Townsend reiterates the importance of empathy in parenting. How does parenting change when we remember our experiences, thoughts, and feelings from our teen years?

I imagine the same principle applies to any relationship. Empathy and finding ways to relate to others always seems an effective approach. Do you agree? Any examples to share? Any times when this is not true?

What are your thoughts regarding Hannah? What do you find most endearing about her? What do you think her greatest challenge is? What do you think is her greatest strength?

Last question: Are you ready for July? We're diving into Eleanor Gustafson's The Stones.

And...there's still time to vote for our next literary champion! You might even win a free book in the process!

Next week I'll be in El Salvador leading a children's conference and ministering to orphan girls recovering from sexual abuse, so April and Michelle will facilitate the discussion. But, if I can find internet access on occasion, I'll pop in to join the fun. Happy reading, all!

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Have You Performed Your Morning Constitutionals?

Today's host: Jennifer Slattery

Although I'm hesitant to "assign" chapters, for ease of discussion purposes, we are up to chapter 15 today in Karen Witemeyer's A Tailor-Made Bride. Again, if you haven't purchased your book yet, there's still time. We'd love to have you join our discussion. And please, don't let the questions I pose box you in. If something in the novel triggered your curiosity or provoked a thought, by all means, share it! The more rabbit trails we skip down the better, right? (Or am I the only gabby one?)

As someone who believes whole-heartedly in the need for physical activity, I found Hannah's morning "constitutionals" amusing. I forget that women didn't always exercise. No wonder they fainted all the time! What are some other changes we ladies enjoy?

I also found Hanna's reaction to "free" advertising quite amusing. You may remember, when the laundress came to meet her, the two discussed ways Hannah might generate more business. Do you remember Louisa's suggestion? Quite sound business advice, really. Everyone loves a freebie, right?

In today's culture, freebies are almost expected, but as I read the conversation between Hannah and Louisa, noticing Hannah's somewhat shocked reaction, I realized someone started this practice. Some business owner, at some point in history decided they needed to spend money to make money.

Do you think Hannah's bread cloth give-away will drum up business? Anyone else worried she may run out of funds before that happens?

If you were Hannah, what might you do to generate a bit of business?

Tom Packard is an enthusiastic young man with slow mental functioning, yet Jericho trusts him to run the livery when he's not around. What kind of giftedness did Tom exhibit despite his disabilities? How well do you think today's society welcomes and involves people with similar mental challenges? Are they viewed as important contributors to the community or simply as a responsibility?

Can't wait to hear your thoughts (and questions) on all this! And don't forget to hop on over to Clash of the Titles to vote for our next literary champion! Who knows, you might even win a free book in the process.

Are you getting excited for July? I can't wait to dive into Eleanor Gustafson's The Stones! King David is one of my favorite biblical characters.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Launching Clash of the Titles' Book Club--Join the Fun!

This month's host: Jennifer Slattery

I can't believe June's already here! Have you stopped by Amazon to pick up your copy of A Tailor-Made Bride yet? If not, there's still time. We'll be chatting about Karen Witemeyer's book all month, and considering the sparks flying between J.T. and Miss Richards, I'd say we're in for a lively conversation.

It's interesting how times have changed, isn't it. When you read about Miss Richards plumes of fabric, petticoats and stockings, did you find yourself longing for the 1800's? Me? I spend most of my time in jeans and t-shirts. I like fashion, but comfort rules.

It appears Miss Richards might find some similarities among her clients. You probably remember her concern upon seeing the townsfolk and their simple attire. And it appears, if J.T. is any indication of the overall mindset of the town, that many are rather opposed to seamstresses.

To those of you who've devoured this novel already, no spoiling the ending!

I'd be curious to know what you think of J.T. so far. Rough on the outside with a heart of gold? Too stubborn and opinionated for his own good?

What about Miss Richards? Do you think she has what it takes to make it as a businesswoman? Now before you answer a hearty, "Yes, ma'am!" remember the decade we're talking about and all the struggles women faced. Now add to that starting a a woman.

Final question: Early in the story, Jericho is frustrated because he believes Hannah's arrival interferes with his calling to minister to Louisa James. He had planned to provide Louisa with a new building for her laundry business, but the Lord saw fit to give it to an outsider. Have you ever experienced confusion or frustration when a ministry you felt called to doesn't progress in the way you expect? Does resentment or envy ever creep in when you hear other believers talk about the way the Lord has blessed them?

(And don't forget to stop by Clash of Titles' main site to meet Julie Carobini, author of Fade to Blue. choose our next book club novel! CLICK HERE to vote for August's book.)

Happy reading all!

Friday, May 6, 2011



Join us in June for our first COTT Book Club Read! 
(Open to the public. No membership required.)

Our first selection will be COTT Champ Karen Witemeyer's
A Tailor-Made Bride,
available for free Kindle download in the month of May.

In addition to free Kindle books, Karen is offering a signed book plate to every active COTT Book Club participant who purchases a hard copy of A Tailor-Made Bride
during May 1-June 15.

Visit Karen's Clash
Read Karen's COTT Excerpt (A)
Read Karen's Interview


When a dressmaker who values beauty tangles with a liveryman who condemns vanity, the sparks begin to fly!

Jericho "J.T." Tucker wants nothing to do with the new dressmaker in Coventry, Texas. He's all too familiar with her kind--shallow women more devoted to fashion than true beauty. Yet, except for her well-tailored clothes, this seamstress is not at all what he expected.

Hannah Richards is confounded by the man who runs the livery. The unsmiling fellow riles her with his arrogant assumptions and gruff manner, while at the same time stirring her heart with unexpected acts of kindness. Which side of Jericho Tucker reflects the real man?

When Hannah decides to help Jericho's sister catch a beau--leading to consequences neither could have foreseen--will Jericho and Hannah find a way to bridge the gap between them?


Karen Witemeyer writes historical romance fiction for Bethany House Publishing. She is a member of ACFW, RWA, and her local writers' guild. Visit Karen online at

To help you decide, learn more about these author, their books, and their Clashes:

Eleanor Gustafson's Clash and More about The Stones.
Margaret Brownley’s Clash and More about A Suitor for Jenny.
Lena Nelson Dooley’s Clash and More about Love Finds You in Golden, New Mexico

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