The Pursuit of Tameson Littlejohn by Lori Benton

Franklin
New historical Christian fiction release

One of my favorite discoveries last year was Lori Benton.  Her debut novel Burning Sky was one of my favorite reads for 2013.  I recently devoured her new book, which releases today, The Pursuit of Tameson Littlejohn, in less than 3 days (would have been 2 but work and sleep got in the way).  So, so good.  I love the cover, too!  In fact, I loved it so much that we included it as part of our blog heading above.  Oh, the power I have (insert evil laugh here…).

 
Pursuit of Tamsen LittlejohnIn an act of brave defiance, Tamsen Littlejohn escapes the life her harsh stepfather has forced upon her. Forsaking security and an arranged marriage, she enlists frontiersman Jesse Bird to guide her to the Watauga settlement in western North Carolina. But shedding her old life doesn’t come without cost. As the two cross a vast mountain wilderness, Tamsen faces hardships that test the limits of her faith and endurance. 
 
Convinced that Tamsen has been kidnapped, wealthy suitor Ambrose Kincaid follows after her, in company with her equally determined stepfather. With trouble in pursuit, Tamsen and Jesse find themselves thrust into the conflict of a divided community of Overmountain settlers. The State of Franklin has been declared, but many remain loyal to North Carolina. With one life left behind and chaos on the horizon, Tamsen struggles to adapt to a life for which she was never prepared. But could this challenging frontier life be what her soul has longed for, what God has been leading her toward? As pursuit draws ever nearer, will her faith see her through the greatest danger of all—loving a man who has risked everything for her?

I’m happy to have Lori here today to share about some of the history behind her new novel.

Welcome, Lori!

 

Lori BentonThe Lost State of Franklin

Can you name the fourteenth state? If you answered Vermont, you’re correct. But if you lived in some parts of the fledgling United States, in the year 1787, you might have had a different name in mind: Franklin. Never heard of it? Until relatively recently, I hadn’t either. Let me tell you the story of The Lost State of Franklin…

In 1783 the Revolutionary War officially ended with the signing of the Treaty of Paris, but for those frontier settlers living in the river valleys west of the Blue Ridge Mountains, the struggle for independence simply took another turn.

They’d always been men and women of independent spirit, those Overmountain folk. In 1772, before the region came under the jurisdiction of North Carolina, settlers along the Watauga River drafted a semi-independent government and called themselves the Republic of Watauga (or the Watauga Association). During the Revolutionary War, men from the Overmountain settlements fought bravely in the southern campaign, most famously at the Battle of King’s Mountain, where Patriot militia attacked and captured the Loyalist militia led by British Major Ferguson.

FranklinAfter the War came the need for the United States, newly independent and all but bankrupt, to pay down war debts. To help with this, the former colonies ceded their western territories to the federal government. North Carolina complied in 1784. Feeling neglected by the distant centers of power on the eastern seaboard, desperate for protection, aid, and structure, the western settlements took the opportunity to declare their own independence. They created a state government, elected a governor, and called themselves the State of Franklin.

That’s when things got troublesome. In short order, North Carolina re-asserted its claim on its western territories, and a civil war ensued. Neighbors chose sides against neighbors and defended their politics with acrimonious words, fisticuffs, sometimes even powder and lead. One was either a Franklinite (a supporter of the “New State”, Franklin) or a Tiptonite (a supporter of the “Old State”, North Carolina). The leaders of the opposing factions emerged as John Tipton for the North Carolinians, and Revolutionary War hero John Sevier for the Franklinites.

Despite more than one petition for statehood, and repeated appeals, the United States government failed to recognize Franklin’s legitimacy as a state. Left in limbo, for the next four and a half years the people of the Tennessee Valley found themselves living day to day under the simultaneous jurisdiction of two governments—two court systems vying for the same territory and tax dollars (or deer hides), when they weren’t raiding each other’s courthouses, menacing clerks, and stealing official papers.

Understandably this led to confusion. For instance, if a couple wanted to be married, it was a good idea to do so twice, once before a North Carolina judge, once before a Franklin judge—just to be sure of being legal in the end.

The Pursuit of Tamsen Littlejohn opens in late summer of 1787, well into this unsettled situation. I thought it a Franklin 2fitting backdrop for a story about two young people from very different upbringings who find themselves thrown together in a moment of crises with two paths to choose—much as confronted the people of the frontier valleys. Tamsen Littlejohn and Jesse Bird are each faced with the choice of what kind of person they want to become, what sort of life they want to live, and what they’re willing to sacrifice to pursue that choice.
The story of the State of Franklin culminates in a battle that took place on a snowy day at John Tipton’s farmhouse, in February of 1788. The dream of a statehood crumbled swiftly after that, but the men and women of that Overmountain country, true to their independent spirit, found new dreams to pursue. On June 1, 1796, the land once called the Republic of Watauga, then the State of Franklin, finally donned a name that would endure: Tennessee.

In the Shadow of Jezebel

Beautiful re-telling from the Old Testament

Friday’s are great days to talk about some of our favorite books.  Today, Ruth Anderson (fellow LifeWay chick and blogger at booktalkandmore) is here to share her great review (in my humble opinion) on Mesu Andrews’ latest novel, In the Shadow of Jezebel.  If Ruth and I were honest, we’re a bit obessed with Mesu and firmly believe she needs to come to Nashville to hang out with us.  It would be ah-mazing, we just know it.

Oh, and Mesu’s new book would make a great selection for your next book club.  She has some resources on her website like a discussion guide and questions that will help you facilitate the group.  Check those resources out here.

Welcome, Ruth!

 

Ruth picThe kingdoms of Israel and Judah stand on the precipice of destruction. To the north in Israel, the Giverah Jizebaal (Jezebel), the queen mother, rules with an iron hand, determined to see the Baal worship and corrupt government that she instituted with her husband Ahab grow and flourish under her son Joram’s reign. And to the south, in Judah, Jehoram sits on the throne in Jerusalem with Athaliah, Jezebel’s daughter at his side, a queen every inch her mother’s equal in word and deed. Although not Athaliah’s daughter by blood, Jehosheba strives to make her adopted mother happy, enduring the rigors of training as a Baal priestess, her future assured. Then a letter is delivered to the court, purporting to be from the prophet Elijah — a foe Athaliah and Jezebel thought long dead –promising Yahweh’s coming judgement on Jehoram and his family for their embrace of idolatry. In defiance Jehoram makes plans to cement their alliance with Israel, sending his youngest song Ahaziah, along with his queen and favorite daughter as political emissaries. But instead of being a fulfillment of the destiny she’s dreamed of, instead of strengthening her relationship with her volatile mother, entering Jezebel’s orbit rips the veil from Jehosheba’s eyes, revealing the extent to which she’s become a pawn in the dangerous scheme of two queens determined to claim the Israeli and Judean thrones for Baal. When Jehoram’s prophesied day of reckoning arrives, Jehosheba finds herself traded in marriage to Yahweh’s high priest and enters the most sacred dwelling of those she’s been taught to regard with fear and disdain. Within the halls of Solomon’s Temple, at the side of a husband she never wanted, she begins to wonder if the God of her fathers is the answer to her heart’s cry for peace — but is she brave enough to lay claim to a very different destiny than the one Athaliah long planned for her life, where Yahweh’s grace covers all her fears?

In the Shadow of JezebelA new Mesu Andrews novel is always a highly anticipated event in my reading world, and In the Shadow of Jezebel is no exception. Andrews possesses an extraordinary gift for breathing fresh life into Old Testament texts, bringing the history and passion of the lives chronicled within the pages of scripture to life with a fresh intensity and relevancy. I was particularly intrigued by the subject matter she chose to tackle for this fourth novel, as this is the second novel I’ve read that explores the story of Jehosheba and Athaliah — the first being Ginger Garrett’s gorgeous Dark Hour. Taking as her basic scriptural basis 2 Kings 8-11 and 2 Chronicles 21-22, Andrews crafts a rich exploration of the history, customs, and intrigue surrounding this pivotal period in Jewish history. This is biblical fiction at its finest — a story that takes a few slim pages of scripture and breathes life into the characters sketched upon its pages, so that once again they are more than characters, they are living and breathing individuals whose passions, mistakes, and triumphs leap from the annals of history with a stunning vibrancy. Fiction of this ilk is a powerful reminder that the Bible is more than a religious text or “life manual;” there is a history to this faith, a history peopled with individuals as gloriously unique and fallible and in need of a savior as those of us seeking to walk in their steps today.

Andrews’s flair for characterization positively shines with Jehosheba, who receives scant mention in the scriptures — in 2 Kings 11, she is hailed for saving her young nephew Joash from his murderous grandmother, while 2 Chronicles 22 adds the detail that she was the wife of Jehoiada, the high priest, and as such able to conceal the child within the environs of the temple grounds. Since there is little known of her life prior to the moment she takes center stage during Athaliah’s reign, serving as the vessel through which Yahweh preserves the Davidic line of kings, Andrews crafts a backstory that is wholly plausible, engrossing and heartbreaking by turns. Emotionally abused and manipulated her entire life, until she marries Jehoiada, Jehosheba has no concept of her value as an individual, or of how to build healthy relationships, or of a faith that speaks grace and forgiveness, rather than condemnation and abuse. Her journey toward faith and healing is painfully honest, as Andrews never glosses over the deep-seated effects of emotional and physical abuse. Though the road is rocky, she walks a path strewn with grace and provision, empowering her to become a woman of grace — a heroine for the ages who overcame her past to play a critical role in seeing God’s promises fulfilled.

Similar to Love’s Sacred Song, which explored the story of Solomon, In the Shadow of Jezebel is a fascinating study in the political, social, and religious aspects of Judean society. There is the faint air of a historical political thriller here, with Jezebel’s pernicious influence crossing borders to wreak havoc, by planting her daughter in the Judean court and seeking to spread Baal worship and consolidate power, wealth, and influence via Baal’s “queens of destiny.” The sights and sounds of court life are vibrantly recreated on the page as Andrews’s research and passion for the period shines, transporting readers to a world long since returned to dust. Even more fascinating is the insight she provides through Jehoiada and Jehosheba’s lives and roles as regards the Jewish faith and Temple protocols. And speaking of Jehoiada, Iloved how Andrews handled his developing relationship with Jehosheba with such delicacy, especially considering the multiple decades difference in their respective ages (Jehoiada lived to be 130 – 2 Chronicles 24:15).

In the Shadow of Jezebel is a stunning re-creation of a pivotal, dangerous time in Judah’s history, where for all the darkness of idolatry and corruption, the redemptive light of God’s never-failing promises and provision shines all the brighter. Once again Andrews has delivered a masterful example of why I love biblical fiction — it’s powerful potential to illustrate timeless truths with freshness, vibrancy, and passion. And, to remember that there but for the grace of God go you or I — as in the case of Jehosheba’s beloved brother, Ahaziah, forever immortalized in scripture as one who “did what was evil in the sight of the Lord” (2 Kings 8:27). But was this godless king always so? Or, is it possible, as Andrews posits within the pages of her novel, that Ahaziah is a tragic example of one who chose to reject the faith of his fathers out of expediency, and so embarked on the slippery slope of compromise until, one day, the call he’d run from became the final judgement that could denied (2 Kings 9:27). Villains are not born thus — choices are made. When the darkness seems overwhelming, may one remember, like Jehosheba, to listen for the still, small voice calling us to be brave, and then may we leap into the unknown, trusting in the provision of a God whose promises never fail.

Special Guest: Kate Breslin

Kate Breslin
Get to know a debut novelist

I’m so happy to have debut novelist Kate Breslin here to share about her novel, For Such a Time, which is now available at LifeWay Christian Stores.  I did a post on Monday where I proceeded to gush on this special book.  Hands down, one of the best novels I’ve read in any genre.  I think people might be tired of me talking about it.

Let’s get to know Kate a bit more today!

Welcome, Kate!

 

Kate BreslinRachel, thank you so much for hosting me today on your Lifeway blog—it is such an honor to be here with you and to share with your readers! In fact, I’m overwhelmed by the responses I’ve received so far for my debut novel, For Such A Time. Many of you out there have written to tell me how much you enjoyed Aric and Hadassah’s story, and it’s been truly humbling for me to note how each of you has interpreted different aspects of the novel as they resonate with you. Some have had relatives who suffered during the Holocaust, or perhaps a loved one who fought in the war against Germany. Many have grasped a sense of what it must have been like for those living with the constant threat of death, not only in the transit camp of Theresienstadt (Terezin,) but also in the final leg of that journey—Auschwitz. You’re able to relate to Stella’s (Hadassah’s) quandary, like that of Queen Esther’s, in her struggle to do the right thing while trying to play it safe; how similar choices are put before us each day as we stand up for our faith in the midst of a “modern” society. I thank you so very much for sharing with me your heartfelt impressions of the story, and I hope that For Such A Time will linger with you and others who read it long after you close the book. May we never forget…

What inspired you to adapt the Biblical story of Queen Esther into a WWII venue? 

The motivation to write For Such A Time came about while I was enjoying one of my favorite love stories of the Bible—the Book of Esther. It occurred to me as I read how the Jewish people had suffered throughout history at the hands of one tyrant or another; I began to associate similarities between the wicked Haman’s plot to annihilate the Jews and Hitler’s more recent attempt with the Holocaust of WWII. I wondered if I could place the ancient Biblical account into this more modern venue, and from there the idea grew. I began my research understanding little about the Nazis or Judaism or the Second World War, but as I gained knowledge, I was shocked to read first-hand accounts of the horrible conditions of the camps, and of Nazi cruelty; I read about depravation, starvation, and death, and it felt incredulous to me at times as I tried to comprehend how man could be so insidiously evil toward his brother. Yet I was also inspired—there were so many stories of courage and sacrifice, real-life heroes and heroines who risked their lives to save others; how so many clung to their faith in the face of injustice and death. The more I explored this moment in history, the stronger my passion and conviction became to write this story.

For Such a TimeHow long did it take you to write For Such A Time and what did your research involve?

The entire research and writing process took me about five years. I studied WWII history in the European theater; the Nazi party, including Himmler’s evil SS; I also pored through personal accounts written by prisoners of the camps, including Dachau, Theresienstadt (Terezin,) and Auschwitz. I read the memoirs of German Wehrmacht soldiers fighting from North Africa to Stalingrad, and also attempted to become well-versed in the tenets and traditions of Judaism. At final count, my bibliography stood at close to thirty research books, several documentary videos, and substantial online information. It was so important to me to treat this horrific period of time with the sensitivity and accuracy it deserved, while crafting a fictional romance story between a Jewess and an SS-officer.

What challenges did you experience in adapting the Biblical Esther’s story into this different venue? Were there parts of the original plot you weren’t able to work into yours? And how did you manage to keep the ending a surprise when most readers know how the Biblical Esther’s story ends?

Great questions! For those familiar with the Biblical Book of Esther, you know it isn’t a long story, containing only ten chapters (exempting the four additional apocryphal chapters.) Since I’d planned to write an estimated 400-page novel, it served as a blueprint for my story rather than a scene-by-scene adaptation—which allowed my imagination to conjure the rest! J Using key elements from the Bible story, however, I was able to transpose them into my own setting, for example: King Xerxes singling out Hadassah Benjamin, secretly a Jewess, as his bride; Haman’s hatred for Mordecai Benjamin and his plan to have all Jews annihilated; the threat on the king’s life by two of his officials, and the king’s anger when he finds Haman with his queen at the banquet. Then there is finally Esther’s struggle for the courage to save her people, even as she fears for her own life. I’ve included an epigram with each chapter heading, a Scriptural passage to convey to readers the parallel between my story scene and that from the Book of Esther. The rest of my novel is influenced by my research—the Holocaust and those prisoners in the camps and their struggles, and I’ve included enough twists, turns, and love conflicts, including the surprise ending—to hopefully keep readers engaged.

How did you make Aric both sympathetic and believable as a Nazi officer, and as a man who might win Hadassah’s heart?

I’ll admit, writing Aric wasn’t easy and I did much reading into real-life accounts of German soldiers and their views in order to help me understand Aric better. Obviously, he’s a very complex character. I had to “climb into his head” if you will, in order to make him both believable and attractive to our heroine. Writing the vicious and cruel Captain Hermann wasn’t a cake walk, either. Without giving away the story, I’ll just say at this point there are no two-dimensional characters. Even the worst villain loves his mother.

As a debut novelist, have you anything to share about the publishing process? Any surprises?

Having been an aspiring novelist, as well as a bookseller for many years, with friends who are also published authors, I was still amazed at all the work involved in producing the finished product. From the time the contract was signed, I found myself involved in cover art, titles, revisions, galleys, and more double-checks, making certain the reader would receive a good copy to enjoy—I even got to see how my book would be printed when I visited Bethany House last year. Then there’s the marketing platform that both my publisher and I must accomplish before, during, and after the novel’s release. It’s fast and furious, like being on a roller-coaster—but oh, what a ride! I wouldn’t trade it for the world.

Any tips you would pass on to other aspiring novelists?

I would say first of all, keep the faith! I’ve written for twenty years and despite the tears and fears and bad “rejection” days, I hung in there and it finally happened for me. Secondly, make sure you do the work—research, workshops, conferences, how-to books if that’s your strength, revising, critique groups—anything that will improve your craft. And do the time, writing every day even if it’s only a few minutes, to stay fresh in your story. Read your favorite authors and observe their techniques. These are things that have worked for me and I feel they helped to move me closer to publication and kept me passionate about my writing career. In a time of so many emerging writers and the advent of self-publishing, never forget that good writing AND a great story will always sell! J

What are you working on next? Are you going to adapt other Biblical stories?

While I may adapt other Bible stories in the future, my next novel for Bethany House is a historical romance that takes place in Britain during WWI. Since I’m a huge fan of Downton Abbey and the time period, I’m having a lot of fun writing this story! The novel is scheduled to release in spring of 2015.

Where can people find you on the internet?

Either my website: www.katebreslin.com

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Kate_Breslin‎

Face Book: https://www.facebook.com/KateBreslinAuthor

I’m also on Pinterest and Goodreads!

Anything you’d like to add?

If you like, you can sign up on my website to become a “Kate’s Crusader” and receive information on future events, books, giveaways, and/or blurbs from me. There’s also a contact form, or you can email me direct at katebreslinauthor@hotlink.com. I’d love to hear fro

For Such a Time by Kate Breslin

Powerful new release from debut novelist

I can’t tell you how happy I am that it’s April 2014.  I’ve been waiting for you to have the opportunity to read For Such a Time by Kate Breslin for almost 2 years.  Oh, the wait has been excruciating, I tell ya!  I had the privilege of reading an earlier draft of it and was immediately obsessed with it.

For Such a TimeIn 1944, blond and blue-eyed Jewess Hadassah Benjamin feels abandoned by God when she is saved from a firing squad only to be handed over to a new enemy. Pressed into service by SS-Kommandant Colonel Aric von Schmidt at the transit camp of Theresienstadt in Czechoslovakia, she is able to hide behind the false identity of Stella Muller. However, in order to survive and maintain her cover as Aric’s secretary, she is forced to stand by as her own people are sent to Auschwitz.

Suspecting her employer is a man of hidden depths and sympathies, Stella cautiously appeals to him on behalf of those in the camp. Aric’s compassion gives her hope, and she finds herself battling a growing attraction for this man she knows she should despise as an enemy.

Stella pours herself into her efforts to keep even some of the camp’s prisoners safe, but she risks the revelation of her true identity with every attempt. When her bravery brings her to the point of the ultimate sacrifice, she has only her faith to lean upon. Perhaps God has placed her there for such a time as this, but how can she save her people when she is unable to save herself?

It’s a widely known fact that I gravitate to historical novels.  Couple that with a story that is set in World War II and I’m all about it.  I have had an interest in the Holocaust since I was in middle school and love reading anything that deals with it.  When I learned that Kate has taken the story of Esther from the Old Testament and created a World War II era novel, I knew it was going to be amazing.

Amazing doesn’t begin to describe For Such a Time.  It’s also beautiful, stirring, and powerful.   Kate masterfully paints the pain, suffering, and horror that millions of people, especially the Jews, felt during the War.   Just like the story of Esther, the novel is complex with many characters, some good and some bad.   And also like the biblical account, you sense the sovereignty of God working in Stella’s life as she risks her own life to save her Jewish neighbors in the concentration camp.

I recommend this book to anyone who loves historical novels, especially those built around biblical events.  I have also mentioned it to several men that I work with.  With the well-researched historical facts and the strong characters, I know it’s a book men would be impacted by as well.

I have never wanted to read a novel twice but this is one that I want to read again… and soon.

Check out the first chapter to For Such a Time here.

Oh, and be sure to check back with us on Thursday!  Kate Breslin will be popping by to share more about this special novel.

Tracie Peterson Giveaway

Tracie
Celebrating publishing milestone in Christian fiction

If you’ve been around Christian fiction long enough, there’s a really good chance you have read or at least heard of Tracie Peterson.  Her writing was some of the first that really got me into reading  Christian fiction many years ago.  Tracie is a pretty big deal in our world here at LifeWay.  Whenever she has a new book release, we can count on a lot of you coming through our doors to pick it up.

Tracie just released A Sensible Arrangement, the first book in the Lone Star Brides series.  Here’s a quick glimpse at the story:

Sensible ArrangementMarty Dandridge Olson is ready to leave behind the pain of the past.
Answering an advertisement for a “Lone Star bride,” she leaves her Texas ranch and heads to Denver to marry a man she doesn’t know.

Jake Wythe is the man waiting for her.
Burned by love, he marries now simply to satisfy the board of Morgan Bank, which believes a man of his standing in society should be wed. Together Jake and Marty agree they are done with romance and love and will make this nothing more than a marriage of convenience.

When missing money and a collapsing economy threaten his job, Jake’s yearning to return to ranching grows ever stronger, much to Marty’s dismay. But a fondness has grown between them, as well, further complicating matters.

What will happen when their relationship shifts in unexpected ways…
and dreams and secrets collide?

There’s something extra special about this new novel:  it marks Tracie’s 100th book.  Wow!  I can barely put 3 sentences together and make them sound relatively coherent.  I can’t imagine writing 100 books!  But, that’s why she’s a rock star in my book.   Evidently others think so, too, based on these glowing reviews:

Tracie Peterson“One of inspirational fiction’s top writers.”  —Booklist

 
“Tracie Peterson has forged her own trail through the world of literature and reached the plains of accomplishment. . . .”—Fiction Addiction

That’s some pretty high praise for a writer who has sold 5.8 million books.  Yes, I said 5.8 million!  Crazy, huh?  You go, Tracie!

Thanks to her publisher, Bethany House Publishing, we have several of Tracie’s books to giveaway!

 

We’ll have one grand prize winner who will receive:

Tracie

Tracie’s last full series, Land of Shining Water, All Things Hidden and Sensible Arrangement

We’ll also have 4 other winners who will each receive a copy of the new book, A Sensible Arrangement.

 

For your chance to be one of our winners, simply leave your name in the comments section of this post.  And for fun, tell us what you’re looking forward to about Spring!

You have until midnight tomorrow night (Friday,  March 28) to enter.  We’ll announce our 5 winners on Saturday.

 

By entering today’s giveaway, you affirm and acknowledge LifeWay Christian Resources’ official promotion rules here.

Today’s giveaway starts at the posting time of this blog and ends Friday (3/28/14) at 11:59 p.m. central time.  You must be 18 years old to enter and you may only enter once.  The winner will be selected at random.  For questions about the rules and regulations of this giveaway, please contact Rachel McRae  at One LifeWay Plaza, Nashville, TN 37234.