SPOTLIGHT: Author Jane McGarry’s “Unexpected Rewards”

Today, I have the privilege of spotlighting Jane McGarry’s “Unexpected Rewards”. This is a sequel to “Not Every Girl”. And right now, both books are available on Amazon and Barnes and Noble for only $0.99 on ebook!!! So, take a look and see what you think, but I for one have already downloaded them without delay. But, for your convenience, I have put together a spotlight to give you a taste of what you’ll experience in “Unexpected Rewards”.

Unexpected Rewards

 

Olivia Davenport is looking forward to her future. After all, Prince Liam has professed his love and King William has promised her a reward for her role on a recent mission. She fully expects to continue her knightly training while enjoying a blossoming romance with her Prince. The King, however, has other ideas, appointing her as a lady-in-waiting to Queen Helen.

Thrust into unfamiliar territory and left to fend against the malicious women of court, Olivia feels awkward and confused. With the help of her new friend, Kat, and her sister, Anne, she tries to find her footing among the courtiers, their protocol, and the added complication of Jocelyn Crawford, a lady who has her eyes set on becoming Liam’s bride.

When, a disturbing prophecy puts the safety of the King in question, fear spreads through kingdom. Intrigue abounds at the palace with an enigmatic witch and a strict Friar at the center of the controversy. Olivia must use her training and instincts to unravel what is truly going on in order to protect the King. Through it all, she questions if she will ever be able to fit into Liam’s life and if, in the end, their love can prevail.

Enjoy an Excerpt

“Excuse me, Sir Davenport, Lady Davenport,” says a voice, and suddenly Liam stands beside us. “But I would very much like to have a dance with your daughter.”

“Of course, Your Highness,” Mother replies in awe, dipping into a curtsey.

My acknowledgement is a much stiffer bow of the head. The moments with my family had briefly smothered my worry, but now it hurtles back full force. He takes my hand and I follow him onto the floor, silently praying my knees don’t give out from the terror that rises in me like the tide. One hand fits on the small of my back, the other grasps mine. His palms are uncharacteristically sweaty.

Something is definitely wrong.

I look into his beautiful, blue eyes. They swim with misery. Now that I am going to find out the reason, I am not sure I want to anymore.

He clears his throat. “I didn’t want to have to tell you in public, but I can’t let the night pass and deceive you.”

Not good.

At my silence, he continues, “Somehow Jocelyn has influenced my father. He wants me to court her, to give her a fair chance, because he considers her a more suitable match.”

There she sits now, right next to King William, her usual smug expression in place. Our monarch absently surveys the room. The monarch I saved—who praised me for it—stabs me in the back without a second thought. I should have left him to die in that escape tunnel.

“And what do you think of that?” I ask pointedly.

“Naturally, I protested…abundantly, but…” He stops, won’t meet my eyes.

But? But cannot be good. But can only be disastrous.

I stop moving and we stand looking at each other like mannequins while couples rotate around us.

“But what?” I whisper, the cacophony of music and chatter turning into an otherworldly buzz while my senses brace for the impact of his answer.

“But…my father told me if I did not give Jocelyn a fair chance, he would not only send you from the palace, but ship you down to Prescott and arrange a marriage for you there. I don’t know what to do, Olivia. I don’t know how to fix this.”

A barrage of thoughts leap to mind, none of them in any way accepting of this information. Send me away? Ship me to Prescott? As if I were livestock? And arrange a marriage? So many protests, I hardly know where to begin.

The music ends and couples saunter off the floor. Liam and I stand alone in the center.

Eyes will be upon us soon if we remain here like statues.

With every ounce of composure I can muster, I curtsey and hear my voice say, “Thank you for the dance, Your Highness. I hope you enjoy the rest of your evening.”

Then, I walk away.

Buy Links

Amazon

Barnes & Noble

Not Every Girl – Buy Links (for your convenience)

Amazon

Barnes & Noble

About the Author

Reading was always a big part of Jane’s life. Over the years, creating stories developed out of this love. Finally, she decided to try her hand at writing a novel and that was when Not Every Girl was conceived.

She lives in New Jersey in a house full of boys, including one over-indulged cat. When she is not running around with her family or writing, she can be found curled up with said cat and a good book.

You can visit her online at: www.janemcgarrybooks.com .

Connect with Jane and her books

Websitehttp://www.janemcgarrybooks.com/

Facebookhttps://www.facebook.com/pages/Jane-McGarry-Author/712005068914626

Twitterhttps://twitter.com/JMcGarryauthor

Instagramhttps://instagram.com/janemcgarryauthor/

Pinteresthttps://www.pinterest.com/janem0378/

SPOTLIGHT: Author Emily A. Steward’s “Thomas Templeton and the Whispers of Branson Manor”

Welcome to my blog. Fridays are returning to author spotlights, interviews, and guest posts. There will be various genres featured, but they will all be clean reads. This Friday, I have a middle grade novel featured from author Emily A. Steward. Let’s check it out.

Thomas Templeton and the Whispers of Branson Manor

A sinister force awaits…

Thomas has only vague memories of the night his parents vanished, and the memories haunt his dreams: an old mansion, a game of hide and seek, and panicked screaming.

After their aunt threatens to split them up, Thomas and his two sisters journey to the abandoned family mansion looking for clues to their parent’s disappearance. Soon after they arrive, terrifying messages and apparitions make it clear that someone or something doesn’t want them there.

When another person close to Thomas disappears, the children must work quickly to stop the sinister force before they become the next victims of Branson Manor.

Enjoy an Excerpt

Evie stood in the doorway of the room just ahead. She seemed frozen to the spot. “I think it’s in here,” she said in a loud, breathy whisper.

I looked past her into the room. It was empty except for a full-length iron mirror in the right corner. The knocking came from the opposite side of the room. As I stepped inside, I signaled for my sisters to wait and crept closer. The sound was definitely getting louder and was way too consistent to be an animal. It sounded like a pattern. Just as I reached the wall, the knocking stopped.

“Thomas . . . ” Sarah’s voice came out thin. “Let’s go back to the living room.”

I ran my finger along the edge of the peeling wallpaper. Some faint markings were beneath it. “Just a second,” I murmured, pulling the paper back. There was definitely something written under here. The letter t?

A loud thud sent me sprawling. It sounded like something was trying to get out. I scrambled to my feet and backed up to where the girls were waiting. The knocking resumed, louder and faster now.

“Thomas,” she said in a low voice. “I think it’s . . . I think it’s Morse code.” Sarah and I had spent a whole summer learning Morse code. We wanted a way to communicate without our aunt understanding. Turning my head, I listened hard. The knocks came in short quiet raps and louder distinct pounding. This might represent the dots and dashes. I tried to concentrate. The first one sounded like an h . . . no, an r. Rats, it was too fast for me and I couldn’t make it out. Sarah had always been better at it. She squinted in concentration as she counted under her breath.

“It’s just one word over and over.” As she spoke her face went pale.

“What is it?” I asked, afraid to know the answer.

“Run.”

Buy Links

Amazon

Barnes & Noble

About the Author

Emily Steward spent the better part of her childhood dressed as a ninja and trying to convince others to call her ‘Ace.’ When she wasn’t saving the world from evil samurai, she could usually be found in the branches of a tree reading a good book. She now lives in the Pacific Northwest with her husband, three daughters, and dog Bentley. Though she seldom dresses as a ninja now, her adventurous spirit remains as does her love of tree climbing and reading good books.

Connect with Emily and her books

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Emily_Steward14

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/emsteward14/

Website/Blog: https://estewardblog.wordpress.com

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/emilyasteward

 

A LITTLE OFF TOPIC: Eating Plans…do they work?

Hey, all! As some of you may already know, I am on a journey to better health. Now, there have been bumps on that road, but I, like many of you I am guessing, have tried out some eating plans out there with mixed success. I am at the stage in my life where I am looking for a plan that will revolutionize the way I eat from here on out, not just give me a “diet” per say that will last until I lose weight and then send me off on my own to get right back into the same food struggles I had before. Is anyone out there feeling me?

So, I have been on some of these really good and well regarded eating plans with mixed success and wanted to talk through them, some of the pros and cons, ups and downs. I am in no way endorsing or meaning to criticize any of these plans. All of the ones I am speaking on today are GOOD plans. They are sound and well-researched. I am simply sharing my experience.

21 Day Fix

This is a fabulous plan. The plan involves containers color-coded for each type of food group (protein, fruit, veggies, etc). You calculate (very easy, the book has the formula) how many of each container you get per day and what types of (for example, proteins) go in that container. It can train you what kinds of foods are good for you to eat as well as teaches you portion control. And what actual portion sizes should look like. Never before did I realize how many vegetables I should be eating! What a learning curve! I did well on this plan. I lost weight and, more importantly, I lost inches while on this plan.

There is a set of exercise DVDs with the program and they are different each of the 7 day week. Which I love…not the same video over and over again. But I will admit, I wasn’t totally consistent after that first week. I tried, I really did. But it was difficult to motivate myself and I was on restrictions from my doctor about exercising (I had some medical issues at the time). I was a part of a Facebook Group that did a great job of keeping each other accountable and encouraging each other, but still, something wasn’t quite right.

When I did exercise (the workouts are great for all levels – there is a “modifier” to help those who aren’t as hard core as others), I felt bad for 2-3 days after. Not sore, just bad…there’s no other way to describe it. No one else in my group had this experience, my doctor became curious about this issue. Was I working out too hard? I insisted this wasn’t possible…I wasn’t huffing and puffing, I was not sore afterward, I wasn’t even sure I worked hard enough to raise my heart rate (as I was under strict orders to stick with the modifier).

Still, something wasn’t right and, in the end, I struggled to stick with the plan. But I admit that was all me, not the plan’s fault. As I said, I did lose weight and inches…even with the exercising deficiencies.

Trim Healthy Mama

I’ll be honest, I thought this was the plan that I would make it on. It is all about food freedom. The plan is based on the research that your body burns most effectively when you eat either fat or (healthy) carb at a sitting, but not both at the same time. So, you anchor your meal with a protein, eat either a fat or carb, and fill out your meal with veggies, etc. It sounds a lot harder than it is in practice. Trust me. Once I got going, I really enjoyed it. The cookbooks are full of easy, yummy recipes…including chocolate cake! And you eat plenty.

Then the THM sisters (who do all that wonderful research) came out with a “Work-in” video series. 5-15 minute workout sessions. Who can’t get on board with that? Well, my doctor had determined that I my body was overstressed and under-recovered (which he believed was the bulk of my exercise-then-feel-bad-for-2-3-days-problem). So, I got the exercise program, but was unable to use it. The most exercise I am permitted by my doctor is restorative/relaxing yoga.

When I first started on THM, I lost about 10lbs…my husband lost like 40. Bitterness, party of one? Yeah. But overtime, I felt less motivated, life stuff happened, and I lost my focus on the plan. I’m still really fatigued all day, no matter how much sleep I get and I’m having a myriad of problems…abdominal pain that no one can track down or eliminate and other random ailments. Then, as I’m coming around, learning to cope with these pains, things are falling back into a routine, and I’m ready to get back on plan, my doctor does a thorough blood panel on me. And decides I need something radical.

The Elimination Diet

So, my doctor sees in my blood work that I’ve got sensitivities in my body to certain food groups. And a raised white cell count. Which, I had been running a slight fever (unexplainable) for a couple of months. Now, we are starting to find the answer. He believes now that I have what is termed “leaky gut”…where certain things are seeping into and inflaming my small intestine. So, we need to eliminate the culprits and start from square one. He also notes that I am having an allergic reaction to something I’m eating. Likely one of these foods. So, we need to eliminate all of these things, and then slowly reintroduce them and find out what it is.

So, I’m on the strictest plan I’ve ever been on. And following it the most faithfully. Because now my health is on the line. Before, it was all about “becoming healthier” or “I’d like to lose a few pounds”. Now, it’s different. I am working to eliminate this pain I’m in. I’m working to improve some of these numbers he showed me in my bloodwork that we had never looked at before.

So, I am (have have been for a week now), and will be for a total of 30 days, dairy free, gluten free, sugar (and sweetener) free, grain free, carb free, (and I know you’re thinking “taste free”, right?). I have a regiment of how many servings of protein, veggies, fruits, nuts, fats, and dairy alternatives I am supposed to eat each day and I am supposed to eat all of those servings (one of my problems on all of these plans has been eating enough). And I have lists of what is “allowed” in each of these categories.

I’m not gonna lie, it was intimidating. I did not look forward to it. And I needed every ounce of encouragement I could get. But I’m going to say that it has not been as difficult as I thought. Sure, I have my moments when I crave a caramel latte or ice cream or cheese. But those moments are fleeting.

But in 7 days, I have lost 10lbs. My abdominal pain is gone. Gone. A couple of my other problems have vanished completely as well. And I have more energy that ever and don’t struggle with fatigue.

Now, as I say that, I would not recommend a diet like this for more than 30 days. Nor do I intend to be on this plan more than is absolutely necessary. But I am enjoying the benefits and am eager to see what my plan transitions to next. Perhaps my doctor will transition me to THM or 21 Day Fix. I feel I am in a much better mindset now to follow one of those plans.

Rewarding Yourself

I believe in non-food rewards. The healing and weight loss is a reward, yes. But the non-food rewards help me get through those tough craving moments. I have several non-food rewards I can choose from at the end of every day in which I don’t cheat. And every week without a cheat, I have a larger non-food reward. Then I have a grand prize planned for making the 30 days with no cheats.

And that, my friends, is what I know…

BOOK REVIEW: Hannah Conway’s “Up in Smoke”

Hey! I’m here to share my thoughts on Hannah Conway’s “Up in Smoke”. I have spent more time this summer reading than I thought I would. Strange, as I have had less free time than I thought I would. Where is this reading time coming from? Oh well. Before I get to the review, let me first remind you about the book…

Up in Smoke

Life heats up for Leanna Wilson when an accident claims her parent’s lives. Her dreams of a high profile law career are reduced to rubble when she returns home to assume custody of her sister, Brie. Without the financial means to take legal custody of her sister—or a binding will to place her safely in her arms—Leanna’s future becomes more uncertain than ever. Already prepared for a blazing custody battle, with less than capable relatives, Leanna’s world is set ablaze when her ex-fiancé complicates matters in an attempt to destroy her future and her faith.

US Army, SSG Garrison Burke has spent the last few years alone—balancing flag and fatherhood since the tragic death of his wife. Facing deployment, Garrison is desperate to find a safe caretaker for his son, Ezra—preferably anywhere but the abusive home he grew up in. So, when Leanna Wilson walks unexpectedly back into his life, he’s not sure if she’s a blessing or a curse. More importantly, Garrison cannot seem to forget how he betrayed Leanna many years ago. Yet, as Leanna and Garrison begin to run out of time, they start to see that the solution to their problems might lie within each other, but will they forget the past and allow their broken hearts to mend? As sparks begin to fly and their love is rekindled, a marriage of convenience will either make their wildest dreams come true or cause their best-laid plans to go up in smoke.

My Thoughts

Hannah R. Conway hits this third book out of the park. It is a home run. There are so many good things to say about this book.

Leanna’s story is relatable and heart-wrenching. We feel with her, we struggle with her…and, in the end, we believe in her growth as a character. Garrison, too, pulls at the reader’s heart as we follow his arc, through the worst of his story and the best of it.

As far as the story itself, the pacing was good. The twists and turns were well-placed and kept me hooked. I just kept turning pages and never once wanted to put the book down!

All in all, Conway has brought a story that nearly anyone can relate to and the reader can close at the end with a warm heart and a contented sigh. Well done.

The Verdict – 5 STARS!!!

SPOTLIGHT: Hannah R. Conway’s “Up in Smoke”

Hello, all! I have some very exciting news for you. Some of you may be aware that there are a few authors that I absolutely adore. Of those authors, there are a few that I have connected with through conferences and whatnot. Of those, there are a few that I would call “friend”. Well, I happen to have the privilege of calling Mrs. Hannah R. Conway a close friend and mentor. She has taught me so much about writing, the ups and downs of this career, and continues to pour her knowledge into me.

All that said, I would like to bring to you a spotlight on her upcoming new release, Up in Smoke, coming next Tuesday (August 8th)! So, without further ado, let’s get to it…

UP IN SMOKE

 

Where there’s smoke…dreams may be going up in flames… or rising from the ashes.

Life heats up for Leanna (Lee) Wilson when an accident claims her parents’ lives. Her dreams of a high profile law career burn to ashes when she returns home to assume custody of her sister, Brie. Yet, without the financial means, and a binding will that places Brie in the hands of unwanted relatives, Leanna is left preparing for a blazing battle, especially when her ex-fiancé sets out make her life more difficult.  Leanna must learn to have faith–something she hasn’t had in  years.

US Army, SSG Garrison Burke has faced flames balancing flag and fatherhood alone since the tragic death of his wife. With an upcoming deployment, he is desperate to find a safe place for his son, Ezra; anywhere but the abusive home he grew up in, but with Leanna, the woman he betrayed so long ago? He must mend their broken relationship, but first he must heal the wounds of his past.

A marriage of convenience only worsened their problems, and threatens to ruin their lives. But there’s always hope. Can Leanna learn to embrace a new dream before incinerating Garrison’s, or will the sparks that fly between them send both their dreams up in smoke?

More about Hannah R. Conway

Hannah is an Army wife of more than a decade, mother of two, writer and speaker. Her novels are a deployment experience of their own, threaded with faith, and filled with twists and turns that are sure to thrill, and encourage. Though she is a Kentucky native, Hannah and her family now live in Tennessee. She holds a BA in History from the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs.She is the author of The Wounded Warrior’s Wife and Wedding a Warrior from Olivia Kimbrell Press. Hannah is a member of the American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW) and My Book Therapy (MBT).

Interact with Hannah and her books at

https://hannahrconway.com/

 

Join me on TUESDAY for my honest review of the book – I promise, I won’t pull any punches!

 

A LITTLE OFF TOPIC: I love my kids AND I’m excited for school to start

Yes, contrary to (apparently) popular believe, I can love my kids, love spending time with them, and be excited for school to start. No? You don’t think so? Well, maybe it’s my perspective on the return to school.

School is NOT…

I do not see returning to school as an opportunity to “get rid” of my kids for a few hours a day. Or to “dump them” somewhere. Not by any means. I think this is too harsh a criticism on moms that put their kids in school or look forward to the return of the school year. Are there some parents that look at it this way? I’m sure there are. Not anyone that I would look up to or model my life/attitude after. These folks have missed the boat completely.

School IS…

I welcome the return to school because I embrace routine. For myself as well as for my kiddos. As you may already know I have a child who is ADHD, one who is autistic and ADHD, and one who is lovingly nicknamed “Destructo” (and he earns it). I enjoy their sweet antics and never-ending energy. The middle of the day laughs, playtimes, and cuddles are priceless. But they all need the kind of routine (and actually thrive in it) that school offers. Try as I might, I cannot stick to a routine at home during the summer. So, a more laid back home environment and more structured school scene works for them.

School also offers them other things I cannot provide – a mix of personalities. Don’t get me wrong, we do many many playdates. But these are mostly other children that they get along with (for the most part). The lessons they learn from being in a class with children they have to LEARN to get along with are valuable and necessary. Who gets to choose their coworkers? Ever had one you had to get along with but didn’t quite mesh with? It’s a learned skill.

I also want my kids to be little lights in this world. To be salt. Does salt have more affect on it’s environment in the salt shaker (with the rest of the salt) or sprinkled elsewhere (preserving food, flavoring food, etc)? Salt is meant to leave the salt shaker and change the world around it.

In closing…

I am thrilled and a little nervous about sending my kiddos back to school. I know they will have tons of fun, some challenges to overcome (which will also be a learning experience), and lots of questions to ask about what they see and hear (things I cannot shield them from forever, but I would rather them still be under my roof where I can help them find truth rather than be floating out there on their own). So, while I am prayerfully and cautiously sending them into their respective schools, you might catch a little bit of this at my house: