The Ultimate Happily Ever After


Romance is a funny thing. Christian romance can be even funnier. Questions about ‘how far is too far’ and ‘is this (historically) appropriate’ and even ‘should Christians read fiction’ crop up every now and again, making this author pause, reflect—and keep on writing.

I write Christian romance. I hope my stories entertain, and that people enjoy the historical details and the elements of romance I include. Most of all I hope people respond to the faith message. Because I believe ‘Christian’ and ‘romance’ aren’t mutually exclusive, and that Christian romance should be the epitome of romance stories.

The Bible is full of romance, with stories of marriages, stories of wooing. God Himself is depicted as a bridegroom, longing for His bride (the church). Here in Australia I grew up singing about Jesus, the ‘Lover of My Soul.’ God is into love. Hello, God IS love!


But more than the thudding hearts and scorching kisses we so often see portrayed in today’s world, I enjoy (and endeavor to write) stories that show the reality of love. The practicing of forgiveness. The need for patience. Choosing to trust and not fear. Sacrificing selfish ambitions. These are the godly components for love, aspects of the fruit of the Holy Spirit, and those qualities often read at weddings from 1 Corinthians 13. These are the real drivers of ‘true love,’ far more than how passionate a kiss might be.

Don’t get me wrong. I’ve been married for over 21 years now, and with four children, I believe in passion :) . But more important than that, our marriage has meant learning to love in a way that means swallowing pride, keeping anger checked, learning to compromise. My husband and I are definitely not perfect, we’re still learning what real love looks like.


In this Instagram-perfect, happiness-hungry, disposable world such things can seem peculiar. In a world of TV bachelors and ‘social experiment marriages’ and celebrity divorce, people who live promises of ‘until death do us part’ can seem extreme. Our world needs stories that reflect God’s ways, that hint of the Divine Romance, and show God’s principles, principles that may at first seem counter-intuitive, but ultimately lead to peace and joy and hope.

I love how God can use fiction to draw people to His truth, how these godly principles can make people pause, reflect, and maybe even repent. My books have been called ‘defiantly Christian,’ so it surprises me when non-Christian friends tell me they have enjoyed my novels. I hope (and pray) that God will continue to use my fictional romances to wash away the dirt of the world and help people see Him just a little bit more. Not that I have all the answers, but I know that God does.

Romance might be a funny thing, something that evokes a wide range of responses from Christians and not-yet Christians, but I think it’s wonderful that God can use our stories to woo readers to Himself. I pray my readers may find the ultimate Love of their life, the Lover of their soul, the One who demonstrates what true love looks and feels and sounds like, the One whose story never ends, and in whom is found the ultimate happily-ever-after.

Carolyn Miller.jpg

Carolyn Miller lives in the beautiful Southern Highlands of New South Wales, Australia, with her husband and four children. Together with her husband she has pastored a church for ten years, and worked part-time as a public high school English and Learning and Support teacher. Carolyn holds a BA in English Literature, and loves drawing readers into fictional worlds that show the truth of God’s grace in our lives. Visit her website for more information.

Carolyn’s books, The Making of Mrs. Hale (a Gold Star review) and A Hero for Miss Hatherleigh, are featured in the Launch & Spring issues of Hope By The Book magazine.

SPECIAL EXCERPT: Relational Reset

HAPPY VALENTINE’S DAY! Today, we’re excited to bring you an adapted excerpt from Relational Reset by Dr. Laurel Shaler, which released February 5, 2019 from Moody.


relational reset.jpg

Are your relationships all that you want them to be?

Do rough patches ever catch you by surprise, causing you to think Why is it so hard right now? Why is there tension? Was it something I did? Despite our best intentions, we all have blind spots—bad relational habits that are keeping us from enjoying our relationships fully. And since relationships stand at the center of all we do, if we can learn to do relationships even fractionally better, every aspect of our lives improves. Whether you struggle to overcome past wounds, insecurity, blame, or envy, it’s time to reflect on your relational habits and reset.

An experienced counselor, Dr. Laurel Shaler is passionate about helping women thrive in all of their relationships. Relational Reset will reveal unhealthy patterns that may be holding you back, give you practical steps for improving your relationships, and help you find your ultimate security and identity in Jesus Christ. When you reset your relationships, you honor God, yourself, and the ones you love.

What are you waiting for? Get started today.


DR. LAUREL SHALER is a national certified counselor and licensed social worker. She is an Associate Professor at Liberty University where she serves as the Director of the Master of Arts in Professional Counseling program. Dr. Shaler writes and speaks on the intersection of faith, culture, and emotional well-being, and is the author of Relational Reset: Unlearning the Habits that Hold You Back and Reclaiming Sanity: Hope and Healing for Trauma, Stress, and Overwhelming Life Events. She and her husband, an officer in the Navy Reserves, have one daughter and live in South Carolina. Learn more and contact Dr. Shaler at


In 2004, my husband and I were spending our first Valentine’s Day together as a married couple. Not realizing that February 14 is one of the restaurant industry’s busiest nights of the year (we were young, after all), we neglected to make reservations for dinner. Unconcerned, we got dressed up and headed out for dinner. As we drove around the city we kept encountering packed parking lots and wait times that were far too long, and Nick became increasingly hungry and angry—yep, hangry. In a moment of exasperation, my usually calm, patient, and accommodating husband declared, “If we don’t find someplace to eat now, we are going to Wendy’s!” Well, of course, that was not going to do for this young bride of six months. A fast food restaurant on our first Valentine’s Day? I don’t think so. What followed was a very unpleasant conversation—okay, argument—about where we should eat. Thankfully, within a few minutes, we passed by a mom-and-pop Italian restaurant tucked away in a strip mall. My husband pulled in without a word. After parking the car, we walked in silence, and were both relieved to know there was no wait. We were seated immediately, and before the bread basket hit the table Nick broke the ice. His apology led to mine, and we were both quick to forgive each other for the spat that took place during our dinner search. We went on to enjoy a delicious Italian dinner that night and ate at this restaurant frequently until we relocated out of state. We never fail to chuckle over how we almost missed out on a lovely first Valentine’s Day because of a silly fuss.

That silly fuss could have become something much worse. Without one of us being willing to apologize first and the other being willing to quickly forgive, it would have. People often mistakenly think that forgiveness is a feeling, but it is actually a choice. We make the decision whether to forgive. In Matthew 18, Peter asks Jesus how many times he should forgive his brother who sins again him. “Up to 7 times?” he asked. Jesus answers “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.” In other words, forgiveness should be endless. I get it – it’s much easier to forgive when someone has apologized. That made it easier for me on that Valentine’s night many years ago. Yet, we have to accept that we will not always receive an apology, and we have to decide whether or not that will be a condition for our forgiveness. John MacArthur said this: "To make conditionality the gist of Christlike forgiving seems to miss the whole point of what Scripture is saying. . . the emphasis is on forgiving freely, generously, willingly, eagerly, speedily -- and from the heart.  The attitude of the forgiver is where the focus of Scripture lies, not the terms of forgiveness." I say we err on the side of forgiveness (recognizing that this is not the same as reconciliation).

Since 2004, Nick and I have enjoyed many more Valentine’s Days together. A big part of our relationship has been learning to say “I’m sorry” a lot, and forgiving one another even more. The forgiveness and grace we are able to offer each other does not come from our own strength. If that’s what I relied on, I might still be upset that my husband wanted to take me to a fast food restaurant for our first Valentine’s Day! Our strength to forgive can only from the Lord. We should forgive others as He has forgiven us.

Adapted from Relational Reset by Dr. Laurel Shaler (©2019). Published by Moody Publishers. Used by permission.

10 Reasons Why Book Boyfriends Make the Perfect Valentine's Date


1. A book boyfriend is schedule-friendly! Your date with your book boyfriend will begin exactly when he fits into your schedule. He'll stay up late with you if you like. Or, without a single complaint, he'll let you nod off at nine p.m.


2. He's location-friendly. He'll meet you anywhere you are. He'll travel with you on the subway on your way to work. He'll join you on the sofa at your parent's house. He'll fly on a plane with you. Sail on a cruise with you. Keep you company on your beach chair when your toes are buried in the sand.


3. He's extremely romantic. Especially if you select a book boyfriend who originates within the pages of a romance novel. My heroes frequently make big sacrifices for their heroines while saying things like, "I'll always love you. As long as there's an earth and a sun. Longer. I will love you."



4. A book boyfriend can break the constraints of time. It's a wee bit hard to date a Regency era duke or a Viking or a Civil War soldier these days. But not if he's a book boyfriend!  Imagine spending your Valentine's day wearing a ball gown, dancing a waltz in the arms of a Viscount.


5. Any food you eat with him while inside his story world is calorie free!



6. You don't have to clean up after him. At all. Ever. Book boyfriends don't leave socks on the floor or dirty dishes on the counter.


7. Your book boyfriend looks the way you want him to look. Yes, the author has provided you with a few details about him. But thanks to the powers of your imagination, you can envision him in your mind's eye exactly the way you prefer.


8. Book boyfriends are larger than life!  Go on a Valentine's date with a billionaire rancher. A European prince from the 1700s. A pro football player. A single father who's also a famous country singer.



9. He's memorable. If you choose your book boyfriend wisely, chances are that he'll carve his name onto your heart and you'll remember him fondly for years and years to come.


10. You can count on a happy ending!  He may be flawed and he's likely to make mistakes, but by the end of your time together, he'll have redeemed himself. You're guaranteed to part from your book boyfriend with a happy sigh and a smile.


Becky Wade.jpg

Becky Wade is a California native who attended Baylor University, married a Texan, and settled with him and their three children in Dallas. She’s the Christy and Carol award winning author of the heartwarming Christian romances included in the Porter Family series and the Bradford Sisters Romance series. Visit her website!


When You Fear That the One Who Has Swept You Off Your Feet Has Dropped You

I returned to the critical care waiting room on the neurosurgery floor and saw, through the glass, my mother-in-law’s smile and thumbs-up. My heart flooded with relief as a smile broke across my face. I knew my husband had survived his second brain surgery in four years.

In that moment, I did not think of our starkly different personalities or the fact that my love language is quality time and his love language is hunting. Really, I didn’t think of anything but the fact that I love my man.

In that moment, he could do no wrong.

Two days later, I was so grateful that his severe post-craniotomy headaches had eased, and his appetite returned, that I offered to get him cold-pressed juice, omelets . . . coffee. He teased me and said I would flip the breaker to the whole hospital just to dim the lights in his room, or I would pay $3,000 and walk through snow to purchase the fizzy drink he craved. It was true (well, maybe not the snow part). I would have done anything for my husband because the trial of brain surgery had blurred everything but love.

The day after we returned home, however, my vision returned to normal.

My husband is a minimalist except when it comes to undershirts and camouflage. He likes smooth surfaces and clean, white lines. I like color and texture and plants.

This morning, I ate breakfast and left the plate on the table. The leftover yolk would have congealed, but my husband was so kind and rinsed it off. At lunch, I ate a salad and left the container on the counter. I also left a wet diaper on the living room floor, which I forgot to take back to the diaper genie in the nursery.

My husband commented on these things, and I snapped out the fitted sheet and began folding it (which you probably shouldn’t do if you’re already frustrated). I snapped out the pillowcases. I began folding towels. And then I took off, cleaning baseboards and wiping down walls. If he wanted a clean house, by George, he was going to get it.

My husband, in his recliner while recovering from brain surgery, started laughing.

“Can’t there be a balance?” he said.

But he knew the answer to his own question. Part of the reason he married me is because I am an all or nothing kind of gal. Part of the reason I married him is because he is an all or nothing kind of man. When we’re all in, even the harshest of trials cannot stop us. And here we were, getting annoyed with each other because we had different ways of keeping house.

Marriages are often formed between starkly different personalities because we’re drawn to strengths that offset the places where we’re weak. But over time, those stark differences can clash instead of complement, and you find yourself wondering if the one who swept you off your feet really wishes he would have dropped you.

But then, when we focus on love, every perceived “fault” or difference blurs. Did I care about our differences when I saw my mother-in-law’s thumbs-up through the waiting room window? No. Did I wish he liked my red gingham tablecloth instead of surreptitiously stuffing it into the storage cupboard? No.

In that moment, all I cared about was him: my dryly funny man, who drives me up the (very clean) wall and makes me laugh till my sides hurt.

Let’s focus on love, my friends. Love is the greatest commandment because, when we focus on it, every surface fault blurs.


Jolina Petersheim is the highly acclaimed author of The Divide, The Alliance, The Midwife, and The Outcast, which Library Journal called “outstanding . . . fresh and inspirational” in a starred review and named one of the best books of 2013. That book also became an ECPA, CBA, and Amazon bestseller and was featured in Huffington Post’s Fall Picks, USA Today, Publishers Weekly, and the Tennessean. CBA Retailers + Resources called her second book, The Midwife, “an excellent read [that] will be hard to put down,” and Booklist selected The Alliance as one of their Top 10 Inspirational Fiction Titles for 2016. The Alliance was also a finalist for the 2017 Christy Award in the Visionary category. The sequel to The Alliance, The Divide, won the 2018 INSPY Award for Speculative Fiction. Jolina’s non-fiction writing has been featured in Reader’s Digest, Writer’s Digest, Today’s Christian Woman, and Proverbs 31 Ministries. She and her husband share the same unique Amish and Mennonite heritage that originated in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, but they now live in the mountains of Tennessee with their three young daughters. Jolina’s next novel, How the Light Gets In, a modern retelling of Ruth set in a cranberry bog in Wisconsin, releases March 2019.

In Review... February 8, 2019

HBTB In Review.png

Are you ready for the weekend? What’s the weather like where you are? No matter what it’s doing outside, we know you’re happy to curl up with a good book. Here’s our latest batch of reviews to help you out :)

Bookmarked Review

Contemporary Romance
Kara Isaac

one thing i know.jpg

This captivating novel is one that readers will not be able to put down. Isaac masterfully displays the fight of good versus evil, and the trials that come from dishonesty. Rachel and Lucas have chemistry that cannot be denied, which gives way to a toe curling kiss that will leave readers breathless. Secrets have a way of coming out, and Rachel and Lucas have to learn how to forgive not only each other, but themselves and their loved ones. One Thing I Know is sure to touch hearts, brings smiles, and remind readers of the need to rely on the Lord to do the things that cannot be done otherwise. (HOWARD BOOKS, Feb. 384 pp., $11.00)

Reviewer: Jessica Baker


Historical Fiction
Allison Pittman

the seamstress.jpg

As France is ready to explode in rebellion from the tyranny of the nobility, young Émile Gagnon takes in two young cousins to keep them from starving. This moving tale of the seamstress who makes a brief appearance in A Tale of Two Cities shows the good, the bad, and the ugly of France at a desperate turning point in her history. As the girls grow to womanhood they are faced with the choice of what to heed: the gentle voice of their protector calling for them to fix their eyes on God, or, that of the debonair insurgent crying out for revolution. Readers can expect to be swept away by this powerful narrative and experience this tragic time in history through the eyes of the cousins, Laurette and Renée. With a strong message of the grace of God, The Seamstress brings the conflict of the French Revolution to life in a vivid, insightful manner. (TYNDALE HOUSE, Feb., 480 pp., 14.99)

Reviewer: Phyllis Helton


Children’s Board Book
DON’T CLOSE YOUR EYES: A Silly Bedtime Story
Bob Hostetler; illus. Mark Chambers

don't close your eyes.jpg

Silly and lilting and adorable in every way, this new children’s book from Bob Hostetler is sure to be a hit with children and parents alike! With clever reverse psychology, the cute rhymes beg children to keep those eyes open when, of course, the goal is to actually get them to fall asleep. Hostetler’s words (and wit) and Chambers’ whimsical illustrations follow the natural world (moon, stars, animals, etc.) as they settle down to sleep, creating a soothing speech pattern that lulls children to dreamland. It might be a ‘silly bedtime story’, but it’s also creative, fun, and intentional. A must-have for every child’s book collection… and one that parents may find themselves even after their kiddos have long gone to sleep. (THOMAS NELSON, Feb., 20 pp., $9.99)

Reviewer: Carrie Schmidt


Inspirational/Historical Fiction/Mystery
Michelle Griep


Embark on three tales of intrigue in this novella collection from Award-Winning author, Michelle Griep. With the same high quality and standard of story that Griep is well known for, readers will easily get lost in this compilation. Along with sweet romance, these stories have a dash of mystery woven through as well. These are quick-paced stories that can easily be read in one sitting. Ladies of Intrigue is the perfect winter-day read. So curl up and get ready to uncover a few secrets with three admirable heroines. (BARBOUR BOOKS, Jan, 288 pp., $12.99)

Reviewer: Rachel Dixon


Gold Star Reviews are for those books that are just truly in a class by themselves. Given rarely.

Bookmarked Reviews are for those books you'll definitely want to put on your 'keepers' shelf! Given sparingly.

For more on our review philosophy, click HERE

What Reading Books Means to Me with Rachel Scott McDaniel

Happy Monday! At Hope By the Book we are trying out some new regular features here on the website, and today’s guest - author & avid reader Rachel Scott McDaniel - is someone you need to meet! Her debut novel, Above the Fold, releases December 2019 and she’s bringing us the first installment of “What Reading Books Means to Me” .

What Reading Books Means to Me

by Rachel Scott McDaniel, Author of Above The Fold

Have you ever considered the power of story? How is it possible that words on a page can refresh a wearied soul or bolster a feeble heart? It’s just a conglomeration of sentences and paragraphs. Just a book. Yet within the boundaries of Chapter One and The End lies the potential of something remarkable. What if I told you it holds the capability of bringing to life that which is deemed dead?

Ten years ago, I was a stay-at-home mom who wrote Christian romance during my kiddos’ naptimes. Then something occurred in my family that challenged my secure little world. My three-year-old daughter was diagnosed autistic. I wish I could say that I donned my super cape and stood as Faith Woman, but the truth was, I struggled. Everything came to a screeching halt. I closed my laptop, stopped reading Christian fiction, and only concentrated on surviving the day. The following decade was spent focusing on caring for my kids and reorienting myself to life. My daughter was significantly progressing, overcoming delays which were branded insurmountable. Slowly, my brittle faith strengthened, but I allowed my dream to collect dust in the corner of my heart.

how to catch a prince.jpg

One day, my sister-in-law mentioned a contemporary romance she’d read by some novelist named Rachel Hauck. At that point, I had been so far removed from Christian fiction—hadn’t browsed the inspy aisle at Barnes and Noble, hadn’t fangirled any authors on Facebook, hadn’t even cracked open a book in years. Not to mention, I hadn’t written a single word in my own story. I completely detached myself from my dream—that aspiration which had once sparked my soul. So on a whim, I snagged To Catch A Prince from the local library, yet I was inwardly skeptical. After all I’d experienced, did I even believe in such a thing as happily-ever-after? But the unexpected occurred in the form of me binge-reading the book, taking in the layered characters and absorbing the vivid prose.

Then it happened.

Somewhere between the pages, the dormant ember ignited. The love of story returned. The only way I can explain it is that I had a “God-nudge.” A pivotal mark on my soul where I knew what had to be done. I dug out my laptop and opened my manuscript. It’d been so long that I nearly forgotten what I’d written. I started creating again and immersed myself into the world of storytelling. Before long, I had the entire novel completed and from then on, the dream unraveled before my eyes. That particular story had won a national contest. I signed with an agent and within a year, I’d landed a book contract.

What would’ve happened if I never had picked up that book? Would my lifeless dream have been revived? I’m not certain. But one thing I do know is the power of story. It can fortify what is frail. It can liven what is dull. So what does reading books mean to me? Simple. Reading is—and always will be—a game changer.


Rachel McDaniel Headshot.jpeg

Rachel Scott McDaniel is an award-winning Christian romance writer. She hopes to inspire the mind and refresh the soul with words infused with faith and heart. Because she could never resist a good mystery, suspense and intrigue routinely sneak into her stories. She currently enjoys life in Ohio with her husband and two children. You can find Rachel at her online home or on all major social media platforms.

Look for her debut novel - ABOVE THE FOLD - coming December 2019 from Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas!

In Review... February 1, 2019

HBTB In Review.png

Our idea of a Super Bowl is a big tub of chocolate for reading snacks ;) Here’s our latest batch of reviews!

Historical Fiction
Sarah Sundin
SERIES: Sunrise at Normandy #2

the sky above us.jpg

Brought together by the war, two Americans find themselves on foreign soil preparing for D-Day. While the characters are different from what I have come to expect from Sundin’s recent books, her elegant style of weaving words into a story of love and redemption remains the same. A steady paced story building up to the climax of D-Day, there are many things to learn about WWII within these pages, including types of aircraft and the Red Cross. This is the second installment of the Sunrise at Normandy series, and the books really are best read in order. (REVELL, Feb, 384 pp., $15.99)

Reviewer: Rachel Dixon


Contemporary Romantic Suspense
Susan Sleeman
SERIES: Cold Harbor #7

cold dawn.jpg

Susan Sleeman continues to write inspirational romantic suspense with enough thrill and danger to capture any true romance and suspense fan. In Cold Dawn, Sleeman reaches back into the world of Blackwell Tactical and allows the groups' teamwork to help solve Andy's, a friend of Samantha Willis and Matt Griffin, death. Using police procedural research and knowledge, she creates deep dimensional plot lines to keep the tension pumping. Her applicable characters jump off the page, making readers want to read the series from the beginning to understand all the dynamics between them. The predictable romance has depth and illustrates how trust can conquer fear. With all the tension, romance, and the hunt for justice, this makes for an entertaining and informative read. (EDGE OF YOUR SEAT BOOKS, INC, Jan., 314 pp., $3.99)

Reviewer: Kelly Bridgewater


Bookmarked Review

Historical Fiction
Jocelyn Green

between two shores.jpg

History collides with fiction in this remarkable story. Catherine Stands-Apart is an admirable heroine as, by taking charge of her own life and her own story, she changes the course of history. This can be a difficult and emotional read with possible triggers due to the setting of this story (violence and abuse) but these are handled with grace. Catherine’s growth in her faith is an excellent reminder to believers that our faith should be ever expanding, ever growing. Through this unique perspective on the French and Indian War, customs, and loyalties, readers will discover a new view of history. Reading this story was like watching a sunrise, the shift from darkness to light, an overwhelming burst of life and color. As rhythmic as rowing a bateau along the river, readers will spend many a sleepless night alongside Catherine Stands-Apart fighting for freedom and for what is right. Green has created a masterpiece of literature with beautiful imagery and vocabulary as her medium. (BETHANY HOUSE PUBLISHERS, Feb, 416 pp., $14.99)

Reviewer: Rachel Dixon


Contemporary Amish Fiction
Suzanne Woods Fisher
SERIES: The Deacon’s Family #1

mending fences.jpg

Fans of Fisher’s Stoney Ridge books will be delighted at this return to familiar characters and story threads introduced in previous books that now get a chance to shine. (And before anyone wonders, yes HANK LAPP IS BACK TOO.) When readers last saw Luke Schrock, his life was a mess of his own making, and most people in Stoney Ridge had given up on him. As his story picks up in this new series, the tough love that deacon Amos Lapp and bishop David Stoltzfus show to the newly-rehabbed (again) Luke is as inspiring as Luke’s own determination to change. Of course there is much laughter to be had as well, from the usual sources in Stoney Ridge and from poor Luke’s sincere but misguided attempts at redemption. Izzy’s plot line is also very compelling - and responsible for a couple of gut-punches along the way. While some threads are tied up by the end of this first book, there are others which are waiting to be fully played out and promise some emotional moments ahead. (REVELL, Feb., 330 pp., $15.99)

Reviewer: Carrie Schmidt


Non-Fiction/Spiritual Growth
Jill Eileen Smith

when life doesn't match your dreams.jpg

This non-fiction release - a concise study of twelve Old Testament women - from novelist Jill Eileen Smith offers women compassion and encouragement in the face of regrets, disappointment, betrayal, and more. Drawing on her years of experience in bringing Biblical people to life through fiction, she invites readers to walk a mile in these women’s shoes and explore their disappointments and the choices that impacted their lives. With gentle wisdom, Smith also leads readers to consider how they can learn from women such as Eve, Rachel, and Zipporah, and grow their trust in the Lord no matter what circumstances they find themselves in. Brief discussion questions at the end of each chapter make this an ideal resource for small groups or individual study. (REVELL, Feb., 224 pp., $14.99)

Reviewer: Katie Donovan


Contemporary Amish Romance
Lenora Worth
SERIES: Amish Seasons #2

her amish child.jpg

This second installment in Worth’s “Amish Seasons” series is reminiscent of the Biblical story of Ruth and Naomi. Raesha is shocked to find baby Dinah on the doorstep of the house she shares with her mother-in-law Naomi, whereas Josiah Fisher, in town to sell his family homestead and look for his missing sister, wonders if Dinah is his niece. Some parts are a bit redundant (such as multiple reminders of why Josiah is in town), but the flawed characters are relatable and the pace steady in this sweet read. Second chances and new beginnings are key themes that are likely to resonate with readers. While this is part of a series, it can stand alone. (LOVE INSPIRED, JAN, 224 pp, $5.99)

Reviewer: Leslie L. McKee


Contemporary Romantic Suspense
Rachel Dylan
SERIES: Atlanta Justice #3

breach of trust.jpg

The author closes out her Atlanta Justice trilogy with the fast-paced thriller one would expect after the first two books in this legal series. Despite the similar predictability of the opening sequence to a television drama, Breach of Trust smooths out into an investigation within a murder trial filled with intrigue and dubious characters. As danger lurks behind a seemingly simple open-and-shut murder, corporate lawyer Mia may realize too late the implications it has to her current corporate case. While unexpected romance blossoms with private investigator Noah, Mia and readers alike will not know who to trust as they embark on finding the truth behind both cases. One thing for sure, this is one suspense-filled legal thriller that will keep readers guessing. (BETHANY HOUSE, Feb., 304 pp., $14.99)

Reviewer: Annie Sturt


Gold Star Reviews are for those books that are just truly in a class by themselves. Given rarely.

Bookmarked Reviews are for those books you'll definitely want to put on your 'keepers' shelf! Given sparingly.

For more on our review philosophy, click HERE

Change. New. Unknown.

Change. New. Unknown.

What kind of emotions do those words stir in you? Do you feel a bubble of excitement rising? Or maybe your stomach just sank and the blood drained from your face? Maybe your response was somewhere between those extremes, or maybe you’re wondering what the context is. After all, the context could make all the difference, couldn’t it?

Read More

Books That Have Shaped Me with Laura Frantz

Happy Wednesday, dear readers! At Hope By the Book we are trying out some new regular features here on the website, and we adore today’s guest - author Laura Frantz - who is bringing you the first installment of “Books That Have Shaped Me”.

Books That Have Shaped Me

by Laura Frantz, Author of A Bound Heart

More than anything, reading has taught me how to write. It didn’t hurt that I was raised on the lap of my reading teacher mom who early on inspired me with countless books. As I grew, my reading tastes settled and sharpened. Looking back, three books stand out as shaping me. My hope is that they’re already on your reading radar…

the blue castle.jpg


Move over, dear Anne with an e! Though I’m an avid Anne of Green Gables fan, I’m most smitten by her creator’s The Blue Castle. Within its novella-length pages, Lucy Maud Montgomery makes the endearing Valancy Stirling shine and breathes life into the most heroic yet un-heroically named Barney Snaith. With her signature wit, wisdom, and perfect pacing, The Blue Castle has been called a ‘forgotten book,’ incorporating enchanted woods, a cabin turned castle, and a ‘chase contentment’ theme. It’s one of those rare novels I’ve read more than once. For an added look at the author’s inner life, L.M. Montgomery’s complete journals are also extraordinary.

A few favorite lines:

“All that supported her through the boredom of her days was the hope of going on a dream spree at night.” 

“His eyes, which she had always thought brown, now seen close, were deep violet – translucent and intense…”

a lantern in her hand.jpg


Another shaper is A Lantern in Her Hand by Bess Streeter Aldrich. Epic in spirit, we meet within its pages the pioneer Abbie Mackenzie Deal with her unquenchable courage. Reading this classic is like looking at landscape photography through the author’s astonishing, evocative prose. Equally memorable is Aldrich’s Song of Years. Tissues required!

A few favorite lines:

“You are so much a part of me, that if you were taken away, I think it would seem that you just went on with me. And I’m sure if I were the one taken, I would go on with you, remembering all you had been to me.”

love's pursuit.jpg


Lastly is Love’s Pursuit by Siri Mitchell. Rich in historical detail and a unique setting, the novel’s Puritan heroine is wonderfully complex, and her unconventional hero might well make this a Christian classic in time. The novel has a literary vibe I love and since I shy away from formulaic writing, her remarkable ending is heart-stopping and layered with meaning.

A few favorite lines:

“I am not good. I merit no favor, deserve no grace from God. There is nothing I can do to coax God to save me. Nothing I can do to deserve to whisper in God’s ear, to feel His eye upon me. There is no work that I could accomplish that would place God in my debt or coerce Him to act on my behalf. But still, He does it.”


Laura Frantz is a Christy Award winner and the ECPA bestselling author of several books, including The Frontiersman’s Daughter, Courting Morrow Little, The Colonel’s Lady, The Mistress of Tall Acre, A Moonbow Night, The Lacemaker and The Ballantyne Legacy series. She lives and writes in a log cabin in the heart of Kentucky. Learn more at

Her newest book A Bound Heart (Revell, Jan 2019) is getting rave reviews as well!

"Equally suspenseful and heart-wrenching, Laura Frantz's A Bound Heart takes readers on a journey that begins in the misty isles of Scotland and crosses oceans to the sun-drenched plantations of the New World, with finely drawn characters who rose from the pages to quickly capture my sympathies. From start to finish, A Bound Heart is an absorbing, tenderhearted story about the grace of second chances." - Lori Benton,author of Many Sparrows and the Christy Award-winning Burning Sky



a bound heart.jpg

Though Magnus MacLeish and Lark MacDougall grew up on the same castle grounds, Magnus is now laird of the great house and the Isle of Kerrera. Lark is but the keeper of his bees and the woman he is hoping will provide a tincture that might help his ailing wife conceive and bear him an heir. But when his wife dies suddenly, Magnus and Lark find themselves caught up in a whirlwind of accusations, expelled from their beloved island, and sold as indentured servants across the Atlantic. Yet even when all hope seems dashed against the rocky coastline of the Virginia colony, it may be that in this New World the two of them could make a new beginning–together.

Laura Frantz’s prose sparkles with authenticity and deep feeling as she digs into her own family history to share this breathless tale of love, exile, and courage in Colonial America.


Here at HBTB, we are all about making space for you to be YOU. After all, that’s why we created this magazine - to celebrate books & the reading life. It’s one reason we’re excited about Lisa Leonard’s new book Brave Love, releasing today (January 29) from Zondervan! We’re also excited that we have a special sneak peek excerpt to share with you today ;)


brave love.jpg

When Lisa Leonard said her marriage vows, she was determined to be the best wife she could be. When her first son was born with a severe disability, Lisa promised herself she would always be the mother he needed. When she began her jewelry business, Lisa committed to giving it her all.

Over the years, the exhaustion of trying to be the perfect wife, mother, and businesswoman took its toll. Lisa knew it wasn’t working. She wanted to change things, but how? Everyone depended on her. So she kept going, kept pushing, kept trying to prove she could do it all.

Until one evening, in tears and desperation, Lisa realized that she could no longer be everything to everyone. Somewhere along the way, she had lost herself.

In Brave Love, Lisa shares her story of finding truth and wholeness in the midst of life’s competing demands. Brave Love is about what it means to be human, how it feels to be broken and afraid, and what happens when we dare to love deeply. Join Lisa on a journey where you will discover you are worthy and lovable just as you are. You don’t have to try harder or be better. You don’t have to prove yourself and you don’t have to make others okay. In this freedom you will find more peace and more joy. Most importantly, you will learn that as you stop trying to be everything to everyone, you will love others better.


Lisa is the founder of and designer for Lisa Leonard Designs. With Lisa’s creativity and her husband Steve’s vision, together they turned her hobby into a multi-million dollar company. Today they employ more than 150 people in three countries reaching around the world.  Lisa is a popular jewelry designer, blogger and speaker, sharing her story around the country. Lisa and Steve partner with non-profit organizations and ministries to protect the vulnerable and serve those in need. Lisa, Steve, and their sons David and Matthias live on the Central Coast of California. They love slow mornings, good coffee, chocolate chip pancakes, and adventure. Lisa’s favorite things are treasure hunting at local thrift stores, dabbling in photography, and having heart-to-heart conversations over coffee.


One sunny Saturday when David was less than a year old, Steve and I decided to splurge and go to Baja Fresh for lunch. We couldn't really afford to eat out, but we needed to get out of the house. I gathered diapers and food for David in a bag while Steve strapped our still tiny baby into his car seat, and we drove the short mile and a half to the strip mall for lunch. Steve parked and then pulled David's car seat out of the car, with David still buckled inside. He was cozy and happy in his little seat.

At the restaurant, we turned a high chair upside down to hold him and his car seat while we ate. If we were lucky, David would stay contentedly in his car seat while we ate. As I got David sit­ uated, Steve went up to order food-two steak burritos with rice and beans. I gave David a little kiss on the forehead and looked over toward Steve. Near him were two boys, about eight and ten, laughing and pointing at David. I couldn't hear what they were saying, but it seemed that they had noticed David's small hand with only two fingers, and they were nudging each other and gawking.

My cheeks flushed bright  red and my heart shattered  into a thousand  pieces.  I wanted to climb under the table and hide. I wanted to grab David and run far away where no one would ever be mean to him. I wanted to protect him from a life in which the kids at school called him names and excluded him from their activities. Instead, I sat motionless as shame threatened to swal­low me whole. But then a spark of bravery ignited somewhere inside me.

No, no, no! I am not ashamed of my son. Yes, he has only two fingers on his left hand. Yes, he is different. But he is amazing, and he is mine.

My first instinct was to grab those kids by their collars and scream, "How dare you laugh at my son! You are awful, terrible kids!" But in my heart, I knew. They didn't understand David. They had probably never seen a baby with seven fingers instead of ten. They were probably scared, so they were making fun of what they didn't understand.

Slowly, I unstrapped David from his car seat and carried him over to where the boys were now sitting with their parents. As I approached, I could see the look of terror on their faces. They probably thought they were about to be in big trouble. But instead, I calmly looked at the boys and said; "Hi, I'm Lisa, and this is my son David. I saw that you noticed him, and I wondered if I could answer any questions for you." They looked back at me with blank expressions.

"Hello," the parents said warmly. "Thanks for coming over. He's adorable. How old is he?" They were incredibly kind.

We chatted for a minute or two while the boys stared blankly at David and me. Then I walked back to our table with my head held high and my chin quivering. It was terrifying, but I had been brave. I thought my heart would break when I saw those boys pointing and laughing at David, but I took a deep breath in and realized that my heart wasn't broken. I had been afraid that shame would swallow me up, but where was shame now? I didn't feel any shame at all. I felt pride.

I learned something about myself that I hadn't known when we left the house just a few minutes earlier. I wasn't powerless. I didn't have to sit by and let shame swallow me up. I didn't have to fear other people's opinions or  judgment.  I could stand  up; I could be brave; I could speak my mind.

My chin was still quivering when Steve came back to  the table with our burritos. With tears in my eyes, I told  him  what had happened. I looked at David, who was snuggled back into his car seat, and I felt overwhelmed with love for him. Maybe, just maybe, with a little bit of bravery, we could change the world, one conversation at a time.

Taken from Brave Love: Making Space for You to be You  by Lisa Leonard. Copyright © 2019 by Lisa Leonard. Used by permission of Zondervan.

In Review... January 26, 2019

HBTB In Review.png

Looking for some good reads this weekend? Here’s our latest batch of reviews!

Non-Fiction/Spiritual Growth
WHAT IF IT’S TRUE: A Storyteller’s Journey with Jesus
Charles Martin

what if it's true.jpg

Taking the same storyteller’s heart that has made his novels so soul-deep meaningful - and channeling it into a non-fiction platform - Martin challenges readers to see Jesus on a more personal level than ever before. Bringing scenes from Jesus’ life, death and resurrection vividly to life, this prolifically talented author also shares his own struggles and progress on the journey with an honest and authentic voice. Sometimes raw, sometimes almost graphic (while maintaining a tasteful tone), each chapter aims right at the soul and hits its mark every time. This is a book that readers will be tempted to devour in one sitting but would be best savored and reflected upon slowly, allowing the sensory visuals and profound truths to fully sink into the heart. (THOMAS NELSON, Jan., 320 pp., $24.99)

Reviewer: Carrie Schmidt


Bookmarked Review

Historical Romance
Kristi Ann Hunter
SERIES: Haven Manor #2

a return of devotion.jpg

Hunter continues to dive deep into the written world of nobility and their secrets in the second book of the Haven Manor series. As Daphne’s haven - and secret - threatens to implode with the arrival of a marquis with an obvious connection to her past, readers will be roped into the emotional thread and the ironically unpretentious storyline. Sincere and genuine, the author skillfully incorporates wit and depth amid the intricacy of emotions in both the storytelling and the dialogue. What at first seems like a simple romance novel in fact blossoms into a profound story about finding the courage to forgive and to move forward. (BETHANY HOUSE, Feb. 2019, 400 pp., $14.99)

Reviewer: Annie Sturt


Remember that your pride isn’t as valuable as you think it is. Keeping it might cost you more than you
could imagine.
— A Return of Devotion

Inspirational Historical Romance
Elizabeth Camden
SERIES: Empire State Novels #3

a desperate hope.jpg

Camden excels at taking little-known bits of history and bringing them vividly to life, particularly those actions that dramatically changed the lives of those immediately affected and the world as we know it. In her Empire State novels, she has done exactly this, and the third novel again keeps readers riveted, this time to the early stages of New York’s aqueducts - and the towns in its path. The people of Duval Springs tug at the heartstrings as they valiantly do whatever it takes to save their beloved community in the face of imminent domain. Alex and Eloise’s relationship - from childhood friendship to first romance to distant strangers - leaves readers with plenty of swoony moments as they slowly find a new footing, and the growth in each of their characters warms the heart. A dash of suspense adds a different kind of tension, rounding out the novel with something for everyone. (BETHANY HOUSE, Feb, 352 pp., $29.99)

Reviewer: Carrie Schmidt


Amish Suspense
Debby Giusti
SERIES: Amish Witness Protection #2

amish safe house.jpg

Giusti’s latest is part two of the Amish Witness Protection continuity series, but it can be read as a standalone. Julia and her family find themselves in the crosshairs of a local gang, and the witness protection program is their only hope of staying alive, though they didn’t expect to find themselves in an Amish community with Abraham, who is leery to give his heart away again. While there are a few lulls midway through the book, the action keeps the reader hanging on through the twists and turns. Romance takes a bit of a backseat to the suspense in this non-typical Amish-themed tale that will have the reader questioning just what price Abraham will pay to keep his charges safe. (LOVE INSPIRED, Feb., 224 pp, $5.99)

Reviewer: Leslie L. McKee


Gold Star Review

Time-Slip Romance/Women’s Fiction
Lindsay Harrel

the secrets of paper and ink.jpg

Harrel delivers a wonderfully unexpected and skillfully executed adventure of love, loss, and healing. The ebb and flow of perspectives between two modern-day women and the life of a mysterious Victorian woman mesmerizes and captivates. While each woman’s life is individually compelling, when intricately stitched together into the same tapestry, the result is unforgettable and breathtaking. Book lovers will be right at home in (or perhaps envious of) the quaint and cozy Cornwall bookstore and intrigued by the historical journal’s mystery. The author champions the soothing balm of friendship and community, all while exuding a spiritual strength, hope, and irrefutable faith-based identity in the face of brokenness, desperation, and betrayal. (THOMAS NELSON, Feb., 336 pp., $15.99)

Reviewer: Beth Erin


On the outside, I was a simple woman, with a simple life. I did not, however, have simple dreams.
— The Secrets of Paper and Ink

Western/Historical Romance
Sarah Eden
SERIES: Savage Wells #2

healing hearts eden.jpg

Eden weaves fact and fiction effortlessly into the pages of this story where readers will get the chance to explore the repercussions and influences of mental health in the 1870's. While many of the situations are the same as we face today, the knowledge and treatment were primitive at best and make for some intriguing reading. Miriam is a heroine that makes her own mark - plucky, defensive, and independent - and she will go to any length to protect her past. With a communication mix-up that adds levity to the story, this sweet romance will seep into the heart. The descriptions of the Wyoming Territory of 1876 are vivid and bright; for example, Eden paints pictures in a way that allows readers to feel and hear the wind blow across the open plains.  (SHADOW MOUNTAIN, Feb, 336 pp., $15.99)

Reviewer: Patsy Glans/Rachel Dixon


Juvenile Nonfiction
LIES GIRLS BELIEVE: And the truth that sets them free
Dannah Gresh

As readers on the precipice of adolescence help a new friend with questionable situations that arise after Gresh addresses common misconceptions, a foundation of truth is formed. From topics of boys, family, friendships, appearance, and more, each lie is combated with biblical truth in this conversational, colorful, and interactive manual. In addition, readers are given the tools to identify other lies in their lives and counteract them by seeking out God’s word and talking to their parents or a trusted mentor when questions arise. Gresh equips girls ages 8-12 by offering ways to identify “sticky” feelings and talk about difficult topics with their parents or mentors. The companion book, A Mom’s Guide to Lies Girls Believe, allows mothers to follow along with their charges as they seek out answers to some of today’s most common lies. (MOODY, Feb., 176 pp., $12.99)

Reviewer: Suzie Waltner


You become the most beautiful to God when you get excited about wearing things like kindness, helpfulness, and cheerfulness, rather than some cool new shoes, or a great lip gloss.
— Lies Girls Believe

Gold Star Reviews are for those books that are just truly in a class by themselves. Given rarely.

Bookmarked Reviews are for those books you'll definitely want to put on your 'keepers' shelf! Given sparingly.

For more on our review philosophy, click HERE

Soul Care: Making a Personalized Discipleship Plan

We’ve been talking about self-care here on HBTB this week. Did you catch the Feeding The Temple and Bookish Pampering Essentials articles? Today, author Dana Allin is here to chat about his new book SIMPLE DISCIPLESHIP (NavPress, Jan 8) and how we can personalize our own discipleship.

4 Elements of a Personalized Discipleship Plan

by Dana Allin

I was regularly meeting with a man who wanted to grow in his own discipleship. He had taken our Discipleship 360° Assessment and felt that he needed to grow in the area of generosity. This included being generous with his finances, but he also wanted to be generous in the way he related to others; for example, being more willing to give of his time and to forgive. The challenge he faced was how to grow in this area. He knew he needed more than simply sermons on the topic—he had heard plenty of those. He needed a more comprehensive approach to growth. I introduced him to the four dimensions of developing a discipleship plan that I learned from LeaderSource SGA ( In my book I call these the four directions to look when developing a personalized discipleship plan.

simple discipleship.jpg

Look up to God: We need to rely on the Lord to develop in our discipleship. This probably seems obvious, but it is easy to think that we can simply grow in our own power and ability to execute our plans. The reality, however, is that we need to look to the Lord for His example and strength. This young disciple who wanted to become more generous needed to do more than budget to give of his finances and his time. He needed to engage with the Lord in such a way as to experience the depth of the Lord’s generosity in his life. As part of his discipleship plan, he scheduled time in the morning and evening to reflect on the Lord’s provision and love during that day and within his life as a whole. He took some personal retreat time to fast and rely on the Lord’s provision and to immerse himself in Scriptures about the Lord’s generosity. He also prayed daily for strength to recognize opportunities to be gracious toward others.

Look down to truth: When we read Scripture, we are looking down. First and foremost we look down to God’s Word to give us guidance and instruction. We might also look to other books or resources, which, while not the ultimate truth, give helpful insight in the areas where we are trying to grow. The man who wanted to grow in generosity planned to read the Gospels over a two-month period and reflect upon the ways in which Jesus was generous or called us to be generous. He also picked up a devotional book that focused on living a sacrificial life.

Look right to others: God has not called us to walk the path of discipleship alone but has given us the community of believers to support, nurture, and challenge us to grow. We need to involve others in our plans of discipleship. The man seeking to grow in generosity enlisted the help of people close to him. They prayed for him to mature in this area, and they had permission to call him out when they saw him not living generously and to ask him questions on how his plan was progressing. One of the greatest benefits for this man was to have his wife and others lovingly give him real-time feedback and support. 

Look left to experience: God gives us experiences that help develop the qualities and characteristics that we need. Many of these experiences happen to us unexpectedly, and we need to be ready for them. We can also actively plan experiences that will help us develop in our discipleship. This man built in a few experiences that would help him grow. He first made sure that he intentionally gave of his time and attention to others every week. This may have meant engaging with a talkative, needy person at work or within his extended family. He also built in opportunities to give financially: Not only did he commit to tithing, but he also sometimes skipped going out to eat or to the movies and used those finances to bless others.

It takes significant time to make and follow a plan that will help you grow, but it is absolutely crucial to have such a plan. Growth in discipleship doesn’t happen quickly or by accident, but with a personal and comprehensive plan, you can see tremendous growth.


Rev. Dr. Dana Allin is synod executive for the Covenant Order of Presbyterians (ECO). Dana formerly served as the president of the board of ECO, the pastor of Indian River Presbyterian Church in Fort Pierce, FL, and the pastor of Christ Presbyterian Church in Lakewood, CA. He is an associate certified coach with the International Coach Federation. He lives in Santa Barbara with his wife, Beth, and their three children, Micah, Peyton, and Piper.

Bookish Pampering Essentials

Whether you are looking to pamper yourself, or you have a bookish person in your life who deserves some pampering, here are a few ideas to get you started.

Give me a book, a bath, some candles, and I am one relaxed, happy, reader. What makes any bath more relaxing and enjoyable? BATH SALTS! Here is my favorite recipe for relaxation, sleep, and aching muscles:


Lavender & Peppermint Bath Salts

1 1/2 cups Epsom salt
1/2 cup baking soda
4 drops lavender essential oil
2 drops peppermint essential oil

Combine all ingredients in a large bowl. Mix well. Put into mason jars for storage. Pour 1/2 cup under running bath water. Relax and enjoy!

Now, while any candle will work in a pinch, why not try some candles that have literary inspirations? Novelly Yours is one of my absolute favorites. With scents ranging from YA fandoms (like Harry Potter and Marissa Meyer) to general bookish themes (like “Book Club” and “Cliffhanger”)

The Soap Librarian has several scents inspired by the classics as well as some modern-day favorites. I want to try the Raven scent, it is Pomegranate Tea.


Story Scentsations has some fun sounding scents as well. Including “Anne Shirley” and “The Phantom of the Opera”.

Out of Print has so many fabulous bookish socks available! I personally love the thick cozy “Muggle” socks from Target.

Bookish Star Designs has some fabulous rice bags and eye masks that are bookish themed

Cherry Pit Crafts has some fun lotions, lip balm, and more all “Escentually Geeky”

And if you have littles (or not so littles) that need some encouragement to leave you in peace and quiet so you can read, relax, and recharge...Here is a printable “Do Not Disturb” door hanger for you.

Rachel enjoys reading, reviewing books, and sharing her passion for literature at She's a virtual assistant and shares the small-town life with her husband and children.

Feeding the Temple

Feeding the Temple

Feeding the Temple: Books that inspire a healthy living.

The Bible says our bodies are God’s temple and that His spirit dwells in us (1 Corinthians 3:16-17). How do we keep our bodies healthy with all the fast food and genetically modified stuff out there? Then there’s also those situations that is out of our control like illnesses or food allergies. What can we do about that?

Read More

Spring 2019 New Releases: Our Editors' Must Read Lists

With a new year comes a new season brimming with new books just waiting to be read. How do you narrow down the list?? Well… you don’t. In fact, there was much weeping and gnashing of teeth when we tried (and that was just me).

But HBTB’s fearless editors (and me) finally managed to list our 10 most anticipated reads for January-April 2019…. each. Because we can only do so much narrowing down, people!! And while some lists overlap a lot, we are all different readers with different tastes, so hopefully there’s something on these lists that will appeal to you too!


annie bio shot.jpg

Brunch at Bittersweet Cafe by Carla Laureano
Weddings, Willows and Revised Expectations by V. Joy Palmer
The Memory House by Rachel Hauck
Sweet on You by Becky Wade
Flights of Fancy by Jen Turano
A Return of Devotion by Kristi Ann Hunter
The Curse of Misty Wayfair by Jaime Jo Wright
Deadly Isle by Dani Pettrey
The Warrior Maiden by Melanie Dickerson
Within These Lines by Stephanie Morrill

Bonus: (Carrie’s note - this is totally cheating. Just saying. LOL)

  1. Settle My Soul by Karen Ehman & Ruth Schwenk

  2. The Secrets of Paper and Ink by Lindsay Harrel

  3. A Bound Heart by Laura Frantz


BethErin square.jpg

My Heart Belongs in the Blue Ridge by Pepper Basham (plus Finding Ever After a February novella collection by Pepper Basham, Rachel McMillan, Ashley Clark, and Betsy St. Amant)
A Bound Heart by Laura Frantz
Flights of Fancy by Jen Turano
With This Pledge by Tamera Alexander
Castle on the Rise by Kristy Cambron
Brunch at Bittersweet Café by Carla Laureano
Weddings, Willows, and Revised Expectations by V. Joy Palmer
Of Fire and Lions by Mesu Andrews
Daughters of Northern Shores by Joanne Bischof
Code of Valor by Lynette Eason and The Unexpected Champion by Mary Connealy are sharing my final spot because I still need to read the previous book for each series!



first … i’m going to go with ‘everything the other three said’ ;)


One thing I Know by Kara Isaac
Winning the Cowboy’s Heart by Karen Rock
A Rancher to Remember by Karen Rock
Whose Waves These Are by Amanda Dykes
The White City by Grace Hitchcock
Cat Got Your Crown by Julie Chase
Mending Fences by Suzanne Woods Fisher
How the Light Gets In by Jolina Petersheim
Fame, Fate and the First Kiss by Kasie West
Louisa on the Front Lines by Samantha Seiple


Rachel Dixon new.jpg

Within These Lines by Stephanie Morrill
Castle on the Rise by Kristy Cambron
In the Shadow of Croft Towers by Abigail C. Wilson
The Curse of Misty Wayfair by Jaime Jo Wright
Between Two Shores by Jocelyn Green
Far Side of the Sea by Kate Breslin
The Warrior Maiden by Melanie Dickerson
Brunch at Bittersweet Cafe by Carla Laureano
Daughters of Northern Shores by Joanne Bischof
The Last Year of the War by Susan Meissner


Hope By the Book is now on Goodreads! Check out our 2019 Most Anticipated Reads shelf to add these titles to your TBR pile too!! And don’t forget to join us in our 2019 Reading Challenge! Click HERE to get all the deets.


Here at HBTB, we love amazing stories so of course we love Rewired by Dr. Ajay K. Seth - which just released January 8, 2019 from Thomas Nelson. It’s a true story about “an unlikely doctor, a brave amputee, and the medical miracle that made history.” And we love that we have a special sneak peek excerpt to share with you today since reading is kinda what we do around here ;)



A raccoon bite on the arm doesn’t seem that serious, but it soon becomes a life-or-death medical crisis for Melissa Loomis. After days of treatment for recurring infection, it becomes obvious that her arm must be amputated. Dr. Ajay Seth, the son of immigrant parents from India and a local orthopaedic surgeon in private practice, performs his first-ever amputation procedure. In the months that follow, divine intervention, combined with Melissa’s determination and Dr. Seth’s disciplined commitment and dedication to his patients, brings about the opportunity for a medical breakthrough that will potentially transform the lives of amputees around the world.

Rewired is the inspirational, miraculous story of Dr. Seth’s revolutionary surgery that allows Melissa to not just move a prosthetic arm simply by thinking, but to actually feel with the prosthetic hand, just as she would with her natural arm. This resulted in what others have recognized as the world’s most advanced amputee, all done from Dr. Seth’s private practice in a community hospital, using a local staff, and with no special training or extensive research funding.


Dr. Ajay Seth is an orthopaedic surgeon in North Canton, Ohio, whose education includes the University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee, Medical College of Wisconsin, the Ohio State University, and Allegany General Hospital. Dr. Seth is working on advancements in prosthetics with Johns Hopkins University, in relationship with Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, and through his company, Bionic Miracle, LLC. He and his high school sweetheart, also a physician, are raising two children. (Besides being a surgeon, he serves as the physician on call for the Canton Regional SWAT team, training the thirty-six members, and providing medical care during raids and calls around the city.)


Twelve hours earlier, I’d been so sure of myself. After doing something hundreds of times, we start to think we’ve seen all there is to see, and that we know all there is to know. But I’d been taken by surprise, and I couldn’t take back my bold promises. You can’t unring a bell once it’s been rung

I could have doubled down on my promise: She’s still not going to lose that arm! I’ll come back and wash it again in a few days, and there will be no bacteria by that time. Everything will heal, folks.

But I knew that wasn’t the truth. The truth was this was the most challenging case I’d ever been presented with since I’d started in orthopaedics—not in relation to technical skill, but because of the still-unknown but powerful, ravaging bacteria confronting us.

I looked at David and gave him a sad-but-honest answer to his question about saving his sister-in-law’s arm. I said, “I don’t know.”

I paused, letting them take in those words, then continued, “I don’t know if she’s going to lose her arm now. But I can tell you one thing: I will work day and night and do everything I possibly can do to see that she keeps it.”

I think they all had some idea of the seriousness of the situation. What we didn’t discuss was the possibility that the infection might continue its journey from Melissa’s wrist to her shoulder and points beyond. I’d made it clear that now the bacteria had an outlet, a place to disembark.

They asked more questions, and I fielded them. We all shook hands, and I hugged Michelle—a worried sister—and told her everything was going to be okay.

Doctors work to heal the body, but a surprising share of our work involves nurturing the spirit. We do all we can to reassure people everything will come out all right, but we always walk that tight line between offering comfort and avoiding harsh reality. The best practitioners find ways to provide an honest prognosis with genuine hope and encouragement. And we hope people understand we’re not God; there are situations we simply cannot master, battles against infections and diseases we cannot win.

I hoped and prayed this occasion was not one of those.

I walked out of the room and down the hallway, into the post-anesthesia care unit. I looked at the clock. By now my family was out of church. They’d surely watched the door, expecting me to walk in at any moment, so they could gesture and show me where they were sitting. I hadn’t made it, but they’d understand. They knew that in the world of surgery, all other bets are off.

To my surprise, Melissa was already awake and resting comfortably. I walked up to her bed and said, as gently as possible, “Melissa, we operated on you for about ninety minutes. Longer than we initially expected because there was more infection there than we thought. It’s a challenging situation, but you’re going to be all right.”

I didn’t yet realize what kind of patient Melissa was. You don’t have to break things to her gently; she has an inner constitution of iron. As I finished saying my piece, Melissa replied, “I hope you got all that raccoon bacteria out of my arm.”

“I looked and I looked, Melissa, and I can tell you I couldn’t find any raccoon left in that arm. I beat every single one of those bacteria out of there.

She smiled, and I was pleased with the conversation. This wasn’t the best time to give her a foreboding preview of what was next. She had twenty-four hours to prepare for the current condition of her arm. Her family would be the ones to talk with her first because they knew her best. I could fill in the details afterward.

Soon I’d changed back into my street clothes and was heading to my car. It was 11:30 a.m. I dialed my wife. “What happened?” she asked.

“Long story,” I said. “Short version: I have an arm to save. It’s in terrible condition, but I’ve got to save it.”

Taken from Rewired by Dr. Ajay K. Seth Copyright © 2019. Used by permission of Thomas Nelson.

In Review... January 11, 2019

HBTB In Review.png

Are you hunkered down for the big winter storm? Either way, do you need some ideas on what to read? Check out our 2018 Staff Picks and this week’s batch of reviews!

Inspirational Suspense
Elizabeth Goddard
SERIES: Uncommon Justice #1

bold and blessed.jpg

Readers are in for a treat with this sit-on-the-edge-of-your-seat suspense novel. Between the romantic tension, surprising twists and turns, and constant danger, there is no time for readers to pause until they reach the end. Goddard presents a common theme throughout the book – not everything is as it seems. Willow’s stubbornness puts her into some tough situations, but thankfully for readers, Austin McKade has been hired for help. Austin has his own demons to face, but watching him sort through them and become more open with Willow in the process will have readers cheering for this destined-to-be-together couple. Austin’s brother Heath is a swoony secondary character that will have readers begging for more by the end. Thankfully his story is coming next! (REVELL, Feb., 368 pp., $10.99)

Reviewer: Jessica Baker


Bookmarked Review

Amish Romance
Laura V. Hilton
SERIES: The Amish of Mackinac County #2

Her Cowboy Inheritance.jpg

Readers may want to invest in a big bag of gourmet chocolate or their favorite candy before indulging in this latest sweet-with-a-little-sass-mixed-in story from Laura V. Hilton. The author delves deeper into Agnes’s personality, a character previously a little difficult to connect with, and delivers a heroine who is engaging and very easy to like. Isaac will weaken knees with his winks and flirty behavior, and like Agnes he becomes even more likable as more of his story is revealed. Delightful banter and swoonworthy kisses between the two, as well as the adorable scenes with Isaac’s young charges, will leave a perpetual smile on readers’ faces from start to finish - even though a few tears may be shed as well. Another delicious visit to Hilton’s Mackinac County, in more ways than one! (WHITAKER HOUSE, Feb., 256 pp., $14.99)

Reviewer: Carrie Schmidt


Inspirational Historical Romance
Stacy Henrie
SERIES: Sheridan’s Sweethearts #3

their wyoming courtship agreement.jpg

Sweet and heartwarming, this is a light and entertaining story that readers will delight in from cover to cover.  This novel intricately brings to life what it’s like to live in a Wyoming town in 1902 and the hardships of building up a small business in such a town. The author also beautifully highlights the timeless struggle of people comparing themselves to others - and realizing everyone is special and can succeed in their own and unique ways.  The story of an old and beloved friendship that blossoms into a romance when least expected also plays a large role in capturing the attention of readers.  A fabulous combination of history, friendship, and romance, this splendid book is sure to enthrall readers. (LOVE INSPIRED HISTORICALS, Feb, 288pp., $5.99)

Reviewer: Sydney Anderson


Inspirational Contemporary Romance
V. Joy Palmer

the coffee club mysteries.jpg

When Apryl Burns’s life is turned upside down, she finds herself required to work with Chance McFarland, the man she has claimed as her nemesis. Apryl’s big personality includes a humorous sarcastic streak, stubbornness, a love of potato chips, and a fiery temper, but also love for family and a vulnerability which makes her likable. The debates between her and Chance are heated and passionate, foreshadowing what a less tumultuous relationship between them could entail. Palmer includes several fun pop culture references, a few discussions of superheroes, and a bonus romantic storyline for Apryl’s twin sister in this book, but also the challenges of remaining loyal to family when goals and dreams don’t align and leaning into God when storms of change arrive. (WHITEFIRE, Feb., 217 pp., $15.99 )

Reviewer: Suzie Waltner


Inspirational Historical Romance
Kathleen Y’Barbo

SERIES: Daughters of the Mayflower

love made.jpg

The author’s love of Texas history shines from cover to cover with all the drama and action readers would anticipate from a story touting a connection to the Alamo. Ellis is an engaging and independent heroine. Her knowledge of herbs and healing, fierce love of her family and home, and willingness to boldly and courageously do anything in her power to protect and defend them are just some of the many layers which make Ellis such an endearing character. Clay embodies the swoony hero vibes with integrity and vulnerability as his complex mission is compromised by both injury and his distracting attraction to Ellis. Matters of trust, subterfuge, loyalty, and love muddy the waters as they weigh their contributions to the greater good against their individual desires, hopes, and dreams. (BARBOUR, Feb., 256 pp., $12.99 )

Reviewer: Beth Erin


Children’s Picture Book
Christie Thomas

With beautiful, soft pictures and the constant reminder of God’s care over us, young readers will treasure this picture book by Christie Thomas. In a world full of anxiety and fear, adults and children both can be reminded through the gentle guidance of father owl that there really is nothing to fear at all. God loves everyone and strives to keep them safe. The fun examples will entertain young ones, while also teaching the depth of God’s love. Although written for the benefit of young readers, older readers will also find themselves comforted with the knowledge of God’s love as they read. (HARVEST HOUSE, Feb., 32 pp., $16.99)

Reviewer: Jessica Baker


Gold Star Reviews are for those books that are just truly in a class by themselves. Given rarely.

Bookmarked Reviews are for those books you'll definitely want to put on your 'keepers' shelf! Given sparingly.

For more on our review philosophy, click HERE

Bookish Resolutions: Organize Those Shelves

Organize Those Shelves.png

Give your bookshelves some love

I don’t know about you, but I am swimming in books. More books come in the mail almost daily, and I get a little (ok, a lot) behind on organizing my shelves. Let’s kick off 2019 with revamping, reorganizing, and refreshing our bookshelves together.

Sort by Color

This reader gets a bit of anxiety over this one...While it is aesthetically pleasing and the artist side of me the OCD side says, “but how will you find the book you want???”

Bookstagrammers like @paperfury share GORGEOUS photos usually color themed...and they make me drool. But the thought of doing that with my own books...Scares the daylights out of me.

The “Standard” Method

While we’re on the subject, this is the way I organize my shelves:

I sort the sections of my reading nook by Genre, first. Then I alphabetize by the author’s surname. If that author has any stand-alone books, I place those in alphabetical order by the title. Then if the author has any book series I place those in alphabetical order by series name then Book 1, Book 2, etc. My Nonfiction books are organized by subject and then title.

Organize Those Shelves 1.png

Books Read, Want to Read, Favorites, Not Favorites...

It’s like the real-life version of Goodreads. Sorting your books into these categories will make it easier to figure out what to read next, what books to loan out, which books to reread, and which books are only good for collecting dust (because let’s face it, we all own books we didn’t like but can’t part with, it feels like betrayal).

Frequency of Use

This is good for your reference books, nonfiction, etc. I keep my WWII nonfiction books on the easier to reach shelves because I am more likely to read those ones than the biographies of past presidents. But that’s just me.

Organize by Size

I love that we have an abundance of kids books. But trying to organize them is next to impossible. I keep collections together as much as possible (see below) but the randomness of the rest of the books can just get confusing. So, I have taken to organizing by SIZE. It gives the shelf an organized FEEL and lets it all flow nicely.


Being a homeschool mom, I have my fair share of different collections of books. Eyewitness, geography types, different vintage collections, and reader collections. I always keep these ones together. It just makes life so much easier when I know where to find that geography book about the Appalachian Mountains.


Organize Those Shelves (2).png

My bookshelves hold more than just books. Granted the more I acquire the fewer places I have to put pretties on the shelves. But I still make it work. A few things to add a little flavor to your shelves can be:

Storage Books

Framed Quotes

Twinkle Lights

Bookish Candles

Funko POP!


Willow Tree



Send us your beautiful shelfies on social media @hopebythebook

Rachel enjoys reading, reviewing books, and sharing her passion for literature at She's a virtual assistant and shares the small-town life with her husband and children.

Bookish Resolutions: Be a Read-Aloud Family

Making Time for Books and Family

 Beginning new traditions can be refreshing...but sometimes we don’t know where to begin. Here are a few ideas to incorporate into your everyday routine.

 Read Aloud Revival

Sarah Mackenzie’s book, The Read-Aloud Family is a book to help us connect with our kids and help prepare them for the future, all through reading books aloud together. With tips and encouragement for families with kids of all ages. But how do we get started?


The Bed-Time Story

I don’t know about you, but when bed-time rolls around I am READY to have some peace and quiet. There are days when my husband and I have to force ourselves to slow down and honor the bed-time story routine that we have established.

Recently we have been reading a little bit of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone each night. We have the illustrated edition which both kids (and us adults) absolutely love. Reading together before bed has become a good way for us to come together at the end of the day, put all electronics aside, calm down the rambunctious children, and focus on a good story.

Whether you set a time limit, chapter limit, or pick a short story book or two, I encourage you to give this a try.


Lunch Reading

The curriculum that we use for our homeschooling (BookShark) incorporates the reading aloud of several books throughout the school year. This is one of the reasons I decided to go with them in the first place. Every day we read a portion of the current book, discuss the vocabulary, talk about what might happen next, ask questions about the setting and people, and we do all of this while the boys are eating lunch.

I have found that this is a really good way to include my youngest (who isn’t quite school age yet) in our daily classroom routine. Whether you are using a curriculum that incorporates reading aloud or not, you can easily begin reading aloud during lunch. If you don’t know where to start, I recommend Little House in the Big Woods or The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe.


Morning Devotions

A new tradition that we are starting in our home, thanks to a little inspiration from Jessica Smartt’s Memory-Making Mom (watch for my review of this incredible book in our Spring issue), is morning devotions. Now, this is something that I have tried and failed, to do for the past couple of years. The boys were antsy, I was too busy trying to organize the rest of the day, nothing we did made it stick.

And then, I had an “Ah-ha” moment while reading Smartt’s book and I decided to give it another go. Freshly baked muffins, “tea” in fancy cups, candle, flowers, and devotions. And do you know what? It was a huge success. I am super excited to continue this on a daily basis.


Juggling the Age Differences

Luckily, my two boys are pretty close in age. Although, while one is beginning to get a decent grip on reading, the other can’t tell his colors apart yet. So what do you do when you have an extremely varied age range?


The Toddlers

This is an easy age for reading aloud. Although reading the SAME book again for the 17th time that day can get a little rough. Why not take a jaunt over to the library and select a couple new board books to try? Or check out Usborne’s That’s Not My… series. These are some of my all-time favorite toddler books! Sensory, repetition, and OPTIONS! You can have the same style of book in so many different editions, it’s glorious.


Beginning to Read

Like I said earlier, my oldest is just on the edge of getting a good grip on reading. Plainly put, we are in the excruciating period where it takes a painfully long time for him to get through 1 line. But do you know what? I don’t care how long it takes him, because HE IS READING!!! We do use a lot of the I Can Read! books for schoolwork, but my personal favorite is the My First Reading Library. It gets the parent/teacher involved in the reading as well. I read a page, he reads a page, and repeats. It is nice because the stories are able to use a broader range of vocabulary than if he were required to read the book in its entirety. “Cat sat. Cat ran. Cat ran and sat.” type of stuff. 


The Older Kids

I have very distinct memories of sitting around the living room and reading together as a family. We would each take turns reading a chapter and then pass it on to the next family member. We read The Chronicles of Narnia in this fashion and other stories. Looking back, I suppose I should have read-aloud more as a child/teen to help with pronunciation. Because even now, there are several words that I can spell, give you a definition of, and use it in a sentence, but I can NOT say it out loud correctly.  Like “memoir” and “regularly” (and no, I did NOT just practice saying those out loud).


Reaping the Benefits

Do you want to know what is the most wonderful thing as a bookish parent? Seeing your children cherish and adore books just as much as you do. And what better way to encourage their love for literature than by reading aloud together on a regular basis.


Neither of my parents would be considered “bookish” but somehow, through the reading aloud together, Wishbone, and a never-ending penchant for curiosity, I have become THE book nerd of the family. Is it worth taking the extra time to read aloud together? Absolutely!

Do I see a difference in the way my kids speak? YES! My oldest used the word “nearly” in a sentence the other day. He used it correctly and was very intentional about using it. I can only attribute it to the variety of vocabulary he receives on a daily basis.

Do my kids beg to read books? YES! Is their favorite place to go, the library? YES! And through read aloud together, we are preparing them, nurturing them, and instilling a love for books that will be lifelong into those tiny little hearts of theirs.


Get Started Today

Sarah Mackenzie has the Read-Aloud Revival 31-Day Challenge active on her website right now. Sign up for free and jump into reading-aloud today!