The Covered Deep Reviewed

I was first captured by the title. Then the cover. Then the blurb.

Then I heard this book was 14 years in the making. Fourteen YEARS.

I alternately wanted to weep and gape at the literary genius I was certain these pages would contain . . .

I was not disappointed.

The Heroine: Bianca Marshal
An exceptionally intelligent and adventurous country girl from Ohio, who reads everything she can get her hands on and longs to see the Holy Land almost as much as she longs to meet her knight in shining armor. I liked Bianca, though my first impression of her was bordering on "flibbertigibbet." Then I started seeing similarities between her and me (self-incrimination?), so I gave her a break. :) She had a LOT of growing to do as a heroine, but she braved out her journey and grew into a character to be proud of.

The Hero:
I was guessing about the identity of the true hero of this story until around the halfway point, so I'm not going to give away who he is exactly. Suffice it to say he's an incredibly deep, rounded, perfectly flawed character, and is, at this point, one of my TOP FIVE favorite heroes. He's mysterious, smart, an expert in his field, a man of devotion, but with a harrowing past and thus extremely vulnerable. Deep down under everything else, he's sweet as homemade peach cobbler.

The Setting:
I was awed by the scope of this novel. So many robust historical settings to take in. A Portsmouth, Ohio farmhouse. A London mansion. The British Museum. A luxury cruise ship. The gates of Jerusalem. An ancient Turkish mansion. The Church of the Holy Sepulcher. The Sea of Galilee. I know I'm forgetting something. I'm telling you, the journey was rich, and one of the six main characters is a historian, so you've got a knowledgeable tour guide to sweeten the experience.

The Baddies:
I genuinely liked some characters who turned out to be so desperate and wicked, it surprised me. The one I thought was the mastermind, was only a pawn. But that is one of the themes we'll look at below: discerning truth from falsehood. One of the "villains'" fates was unclear to me, and I would have liked to know whether he lived or died or found redemption. Therein is the novel like real life: not all the characters' lives are perfectly tied up with a bow by the end. I was impressed with the plotting and motives of these villains, however.

The Plot:
The mystery, the history, the glistering little details that connect them all. The reader never knows what's coming next or who will do what. I especially enjoyed that volatility, and it kept me reading into the night.

The Prose:
Ms. Vallance leads the reader through myriad senses and emotions with a beautifully poetic, descriptive style I expected to eventually find cumbersome, but did not in the least. I'm looking forward to more of her novels. I only hope I don't have to wait 14 years for the next one. ;)

The Themes:
Discernment, Redemption, Forgiveness. The examination of these subjects in this work was poignant and powerful. Never overtly trite, but played out in the characters' actions and emotions. The inter-workings of all the characters' motivations and goals was mind-boggling to try and figure out (though fully explained by the end), so I just kept reading instead and enjoyed the story in bite-sized bits as the master plot unfolded.

The End:
I admit, I wish the ending would have lasted longer. Thinking back, I don't know that there was anything more to be said, but I'm one of those types who like to bask in the afterglow when things are finally (mostly) right with the world again. I read on after the last page and soaked up the acknowledgements and author's note, both of which added to the poignancy of turning the last page.
Overall Effect: 
I have the strongest urge to speak with a British accent after reading this novel, even though the heroine is American. I also can tell the author spent years perfecting this work. The vivid descriptions, the spot-on emotions, the character development . . . Kind of makes me despair of ever writing something this good! I'm so happy to have read it, though, and can't wait to see what else comes from the pen of Brandy Vallance.

I loved the journey of this novel so much, I'm giving away a paperback copy! Don't worry, I'm keeping a copy for my keeper shelf, too. ;)
  • To enter: follow my blog using the button in the right sidebar, then comment letting me know you followed. 
  • So I can contact you if you win: Include your email address in the following spam-free format: email (at) address (dot) com.
  • For an extra entry: tell me your favorite film version of a Biblical character's story (Esther, David, Moses, etc.) or a period drama (Pride and Prejudice, Jane Eyre, The Scarlet Pimpernel, North & South, etc.) 
GIVEAWAY ENDS: Saturday, January 31, 2015.
If you can't wait on winning the paperback, the e-book is on sale for $1.99 right now for Kindle you can buy it HERE.

Riches Picked from the Family Tree

By Ada Brownell

Could  the unusual things your ancestors did make a good historical romance?
My grandmother, Minnie, was an elocutionist who performed her original poems and songs on stage in Colorado when she was a teenager. Among those was a humorous poem based on the nursery rhyme, “Old Mother Hubbard,” and with a little smile, Grandma recited it until she was in her 90s.
 Grandma wrote poetry and her song, “Rocky Mountain Columbine,” was in the running for the Colorado state song. She loved to play the piano and sing the tune until she died in her early 90s..
She wasn’t a redhead like my mother, but she had spunk. From what I’ve been told by different relatives, she was orphaned at a young age and traded among relatives. She ended up with an uncle in Pueblo, Colorado.
 In Pueblo, she graduated from Centennial High School and received a teaching certificate. Called High School of District One in the beginning, the school was an adobe building renamed Centennial three years later in 1876. It was one hundred years after the signing of the Declaration of Independence and the year Colorado was admitted to the union. Colorado was dubbed “The Centennial State,” and that’s how the school became Centennial.
Some relatives said, and others denied, that among all Grandma’s successes trouble brewed. From what I’ve heard, the uncle was abusive. (I’m the youngest in the family and not all the stories among us jibed.)
 Whatever the reason, Minnie packed a suitcase and took off walking.
Perhaps she caught a ride on a wagon, but she ended up about 35 miles down the road near Florence, Colo. She got a job teaching in a one-room adobe school.
In that area is where she met William Shepherd, my grandfather.
He died before I was born, but I’ve always been fascinated that he traveled around in his youth showing one of the first Passion-of-the-Christ moving picture shows. My brother has the reel.
As with William in The Lady Fugitive, Grandpa’s father was murdered.
After they were married, Grandma and Grandpa moved to Iowa, where their farming and ranching prospered. When my mother, Rita, went to college in about 1917, she said money wasn’t a problem.
Then Grandpa invested in sheep, and during the Great Depression of 1920, often called, “the forgotten depression,” they lost everything. They homesteaded near Walsenburg, Colo., and then Grandpa became the sheriff in Alamo, a nearby mining community. He died of pneumonia one night after making his rounds in the small mining town. My uncle had Grandpa’s guns.
Grandma took the money they’d saved, invested in two large houses in Pueblo, divided them into apartments, and supported herself. She never married again.
I wish I had been there to find out how my grandparents met and more details, but I wasn’t. So The Lady Fugitive is the story of Jenny Louise Parks and William O’Casey. They have some experiences similar to my grandparents, such as Jenny, an orphan like Grandma, running away from an abusive uncle. Yet in my story, she has a price on her head. But Jenny and William and the events in The Lady Fugitive are fiction. Any resemblance to persons living or dead is entirely coincidental, and it’s probably a good thing.
One reviewer said, “Jenny will have you laughing, biting your nails, wishing you had a gun to help.”
What else can you expect from a fugitive?
The Lady Fugitive
How does a respected elocutionist become a face on a wanted poster?
Jenny Louise Parks escapes from the coal bin and her abusive uncle offers a handsome reward for her return. Because he is a judge, he will find her.
Determination to remain free grips Jenny, especially after she meets William and there’s a hint of romance. But while peddling household goods and showing a Passion of the Christ moving picture, he discovers his father’s brutal murder.
Will Jenny avoid the bounty hunters? Can she forgive the person who turns her in? Will she find peace, joy and love?
Ada Brownell 


Ada Brownell is the author of five books, about 300 stories and articles in Christian publications, and she spent a large chunk of her life as a reporter, mostly for The Pueblo Chieftain in Colorado. She and her husband L.C., have five children, one of them in heaven, eight wonderful grandchildren.and two great-grandchildren.

Among her books: The Lady Fugitive, an historical romance released July 18, 2014, Imagine the Future You, a youth Bible study (November 2013). Joe the Dreamer:

The Castle and the Catapult, (Jan. 15, 2013); Swallowed by Life: Mysteries of Death, Resurrection and the Eternal, (Dec. 6, 2011); and Confessions of a Pentecostal, out of print but released in 2012 for Kindle; All the books are available in paper or for Kindle. Imagine the Future You audiobook is available at Free book with new Audible membership.
Amazon Ada Brownell author page:


Twitter: @AdaBrownell


 Stick-to-Your-Soul Encouragement

What about you? Do you have any stories in your family history that would make a good book?

She Asked for a Miracle. God Gave Her a Hurricane.

Hey, y'all! Jennifer Slattery is here today with a word from her main character in her upcoming novel When Dawn Breaks.

Have you ever been living your life, going through the mundane but not really knowing it was mundane, only to have something snap you out of it? Something drastic and permanent?

Catastrophes have a way of making us reevaluate our lives, don’t they? Of causing us to do a 180, abandoning everything we once found important to chase after something we’d never before considered.

At least, that’s what happened to me. For the past two decades, I was chasing after success—a false and depleting, and soon depleted, success. As a realtor, my schedule was crazy, my paycheck unpredictable. The market would soar, and I’d get caught up in the rush, easily pulling 70-hour work weeks.

No matter who I hurt. No matter how many relationships I destroyed. But then I met Christ and started to do things differently. Nothing drastic. I gave up clubbing for ladies Bible studies, and allocated a chunk of my commission checks to the church. I even served on occasion.

But my relationships continued to flounder, most noticeably with my daughter. Delana and I haven’t spoken, really spoken, since she was a teenager, and though I’ve tried again and again to apologize to her and make things right, I’d begun to wonder if perhaps my efforts were too little too late. This sense of defeat, and a strong fear of rejection, kept me from truly fighting for my daughter.

I’m not proud of this, but it’s true.

So I retreated, sending out the appropriate greeting cards, making an occasional phone call, all the while praying for a miracle, anything to help me rebuild a relationship with my daughter.

I prayed for a miracle. God sent a hurricane.

Isn’t that often how it is? It’s like we need a stiff kick in the pants to actually make a true effort. At least I did. Pacing my living room floor, watching as mandatory evacuations scrolled along the bottom of my screen, I felt stuck between a rock and a hard place. Or more accurately, between a hurricane and one of the biggest relational storms I’d ever known.

It was a tough decision. (*wink*) But after a bit of coaxing from my bestie, I headed north to begin the long trek toward what I hoped to be reconciliation.

Let’s just say my daughter was less than thrilled. She did, however, allow me to stay, and while there, while in the middle of my maternal regret, I encountered three precious children who’d been abandoned by their mother, and I began to sense that God wanted me to help them.

Talk about ironic, huh? Here I was, suffering the consequences of neglecting my own child when she needed me most being called to reach out to neglected children.

I’d heard God often brings us back to our points of greatest failure in order to help us fully grab hold of the freedom He offers in Christ.

I’ve also heard He can turn our greatest pain into our most powerful ministry.

I’m not sure if that’s true or not, but for now, I keep stepping. Keep trusting. Keep hoping that He can turn my sorry life into something beautiful. And in the meantime, I’m grateful that I don’t have to go this road alone. Not only do I have Christ, always with me, but He’s brought me a sweet (and handsome!) friend to walk along beside me.

Now there’s a plot twist, huh? To think God might be offering me a second chance of love.

All this after I prayed for a miracle.

If this is how God works out His plans, I’ll take a hurricane any day. 

Jennifer Slattery writes soul-stirring fiction for New Hope Publishers, a publishing house passionate about bringing God’s healing grace and truth to the hopeless. She also writes for, Internet CafĂ© Devotions, and the group blog, Faith-filled Friends. When not writing, Jennifer loves going on mall dates with her teenage daughter and coffee dates with her handsome railroader husband.
Visit with Jennifer online at JenniferSlatteryLivesOutLoud. 

When Dawn Breaks:

As the hurricane forces Jacqueline to evacuate, her need for purpose and restitution forces her to head north to her estranged and embittered daughter and into the arms of a handsome new friend. Dealing with his own issues, Jacqueline isn’t sure if he will be the one she can lean on during the difficult days ahead. And then there are the three orphans to consider, especially Gavin. Must she relinquish her chance at having love again in order to be restored?

Read a free, 36-page excerpt HERE.

You can buy a copy HERE.

Happy 2015 Book Challenge :)

The hard, honest truth: I'm an overachiever. There. I said it.

My 2014 reading goal was 50 books.

I read 49 & 1/2 amazing books in 2014.

You read that right. 49.5. :s Kills me to just look at that number.

Last night I was bewailing this titanic failure to my mom and she said something to the affect of, "Natalie, just think of all those books you wouldn't have read if you hadn't challenged yourself to read that many."

Thank you, thank you, thank you, my sweet Momma.  :) She's so right. I read a grand total of 27 books in 2013. So that's almost double. Yay!

Ah, sweet freedom. She let me off the hook of my own criticism. Ever heard the quip, "You're your own worst critic?" It's true. 

On a related note, I watched the movie When the Game Stands Tall a couple nights ago. My takeaway was that we're not always as perfect as we'd like to be, but we can give a perfect effort. That's what we should aim for. We should aim high and do our best. Just don't steamroll your sense of self-worth if you aim for the impossible and don't reach it.

Also true is that we humans tend to think more highly of ourselves than we ought. Oxymoron, anyone? Even so, while we can be quite narcissistic, sometimes our own expectations can set us up for feelings of deep failure when we don't meet them. And all along, all that God wants from us is for us to love Him and give our best effort to obey His Word. (BTW, when we love Him, we will want to obey Him. Can't explain why. It just works thataway.)

To end this rambling post (I promise that's not a harbinger for my future posts, lol), I must include my One Word for 2015. While everyone is choosing a new life word or "One Word" for 2015, mine is... 


Several dream-like opportunities lay ahead in 2015, but if I don't work to meet my goals, those opportunities may pass. I need to cherish those opportunities and work diligently. I'm surrounded by the most wonderful family a girl could ask for, and need to better practice balancing writing, work, and family time, because I don't want to miss a moment I could have enjoyed with my amazing loved ones. Most of all, I want to learn to cherish my Savior more. And cherishing Him means cherishing the things He cherishes. I also want to be more of a witness of His saving grace. In 2015, I want "to do justice, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with my God." (Micah 6:8)

Some books I read this year and my brief thoughts on them:

A really fun book. Enjoyed this one and recommend it for a fun Christmas read guaranteed to bring you a laugh. 

This one reminded me how much I like military suspense. 

This series wreaked havoc on my emotions, haha! So many twists and turns to show the grace of God's care even in painful situations. Poignant is the word I'd use to describe it. If you're going to read them, keep the next books right next to you and tissues handy.

Vanished (Private Justice, #1)
Vanished was the first I'd tried by Irene Hannon. Let me just say she knows what she's doing in that genre. Gripping story.

The Guardian's Promise 
An intriguing look at the times of young king Josiah.

Excellent book on plotting. There were some unnecessary "four letter words" that lent the book a unprofessional air. Hopefully the author has changed this now, because this is one of the most condensed, choc-full-of solid writing advice craft books I've read so far.
This has been my most recommended craft book this year. Excellent. If I wanted to learn to write gripping prose, here's where I'd start.

This book surprised me. I was shocked at how insightful this book is. It was written in the 1800s and explores the pros and cons of relationships carried out via text messages. Has an interesting love story plot, too.

Books I'm looking forward to this year:

All for Anna (Letting Go #1)A Talent for Trouble (Ladies of Distinction, #3)Caught in the Middle (Ladies of Caldwell County, #3)Take a Chance on Me (Christiansen Family, #1)
All God's Children (Peacemakers, #1)Against the TideCourting Morrow LittleLove in Disguise

What are some books you're looking forward to this year? 
I'm doing a different kind of reading challenge this year. Check it out HERE on the Christian Fiction Devourers group on Goodreads.

Happy New Year!

P.S. I just logged back into my Goodreads and found a book I'd read this year marked as a 2013 read. The book wasn't released in 2013, lol. I read it this year, set the date to this year, so now my "books read" tally is officially 50. But it's too late to change this post now. LOL. Just didn't want to be lying to the internet--on the first day of the year of all things. :D

Thank You!

Thank you so much for participating in the Book-lover's Christmas Giveaway! You have been an awesome group of readers and writers, and I can say for both Courtney Phillips and myself, you've made our Christmas a very happy one by supporting our writing and our blogs.

Here are all the winners of all the prizes:

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Also, here's the winner of Susan J. Reinhardt's books, which she gave away on the Sweet South Blog earlier this week!
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Coming up next: I've got a great line-up for 2015: Christian historical romance author interviews, character interviews, historical facts, writer how-to articles and lots of surprises and giveaways, so tune in!

I wish I was more organized and scheduled every post for a certain day of the week, but alas, I haven't. If you'd like to have my posts sent to your inbox so you won't have to worry about checking for new posts, you can subscribe by putting your email in the field to the right that says "FOLLOW BY EMAIL." Thanks again!

God bless you in the coming year!

P.S. Here's a pic of my new 'writing gear'--a "Do Not Disturb" sign. (Don't laugh, it works! LOL) My brother did bust out laughing when he saw it, though. My face below looks like a socially challenged chipmunk, but it's supposed to communicate the idea, "A writer's gotta do what a writer gotta do." :D

Okay, so that's not really my new writing gear. My new writing gear is the new Acer Aspire E 15 laptop I'm using to write this post. My wonderful, wouldn't-trade-them-for-the-world, bestest-ever family surprised me with this new laptop for Christmas! But my favorite present was just spending time with them. :) I'm unable to fully comprehend all of God's blessings this Christmas season, including all of His wonderful gifts to me. But I'm so very thankful!

What's your favorite Christmas memory from this year? Not done celebrating? What fun plans do you have to stretch out the Christmas holiday celebrations?

A Christmas Poem

star, at night, dark, stars, blue

A Christmas Poem
by Natalie Monk

Waiting, praying, pain and hating.
Soldiers, blood and fear.
A burst of light. No sleep tonight.
A baby's cry. A virgin's tear.
A lamb bleats in a shepherd's ear.

In warm, sharp hay, Deity lay,
Sweet promises fulfilling.
Cool desert breeze. A tiny sneeze.
Dust stirred by an angel's wing.
Carpenter laughs while mama sings.

Heralds praising, no more waiting.
"Jesus, he is called."
A King, a Prince, Deliverance.
Dark cross ahead, but joy gives pause.
This spotless Lamb atones for all.

Book-lover's Christmas Giveaway Part 4--THE END!

For info on previous winners and other giveaways, see bottom of post.

This is it! Time has zoomed by, and this is the last week of our Book-lover's Christmas Giveaway! Man, we have had so much fun, haven't we? (If you're joining us for the first time, jump right in!)

This week, we're giving away a $25 Amazon e-card, and TWO 5-page writing critiques, one from Courtney and one from Yours Truly.

Concerning the critiques: We will not critique anything outside of the inspirational/Christian genre. I typically enjoy romantic suspense, and historical romance. Because I don't read much sci-fi (etc.), I probably wouldn't be the best one to critique that type of work. The critiques will be done in as constructive a manner as possible. We've learned so much from other writers that we'd like to share what we can with you. :)

The Booklover's Christmas Giveaway has been such a blessing to us and we hope to you as well! We can't say how grateful we are for your participation and support! We hope you are blessed abundantly this Christmas season!

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Natalie's Email Newsletter

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Courtney's E-mail Newsletter

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The random WINNER of Carrie Fancett Pagels' The Fruitcake Challenge from the review post earlier this week is Connie Almony! Congrats! Carrie or I will be in touch with you soon!

Random WINNERS in this giveaway:
Winner of  The Hope for the Holidays Historical Collection and The Hope for the Holidays Contemporary Collection (e-book)  is amyc!
Winner of the Smittien Series (paperbacks) is... (Check Rafflecopter below)

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Our question this week is this: What was your favorite childhood Christmas gift?
My favorite was probably a huge, 3 & 1/2' stuffed bear named Java...whom I later called Mr. Darcy. That was a special bear. I took him to youth camp as a teen and later made senior pictures with that loveable critter...Yes-way. And no, don't think I'm going to share that one on here, LOL.