Sunday, August 30, 2015

The Mistress of Tall Acre, by Laura Frantz

The Mistress of Tall Acre, a much anticipated novel by Laura Frantz, arrived in my mailbox on Saturday. To say I was excited would be an understatement. I have been waiting for this book since I finished Laura's last story, Love's Fortune, a year ago.
The moment I opened the package!
I don't squeal often, but I did then. :)
There is no question in my mind that Laura Frantz is one of the premiere historical voices in Christian Fiction today. Her books have a captivating quality that make you feel as if you are standing inside the story, watching it unfold from the best vantage point in the room. Intrigue, passion, and faith are artfully woven together with vibrant colors and textures. Her voice is stunning, her attention to historical detail is superb, and her characters are breathtakingly realistic. She brings early American history to life in a way few other authors achieve.
The very first scene of The Mistress of Tall Acre grabbed me by the heartstrings and I knew I was in for an emotional journey. As General Seamus Ogilvy, a hero of the American Revolution, meets his infant daughter for the first time, we fall in love with both the general, and the baby girl. This scene is a study in contrasts. Weakness and strength, protection and vulnerability, longing and satisfaction. I felt an instant bond with Seamus and I began to root for him, even before I knew who his enemies were. 
The second scene begins five years later, at the end of the Revolution, when we meet Sophie Menzies, General Ogilvy's neighbor. She is a woman broken in body and soul, but not in spirit. The war has taken almost everything from her, but it has not stolen her hope.
When Seamus comes home from the war, a widower with a young daughter to raise, he and Sophie agree to a marriage of convenience. Their neighborly friendship soon turns to something more--until a woman from Seamus's past arrives on his doorstep, and threatens the life they've built together.
As always, Laura's book mesmerized me. I read it in one day (thank you to my husband and children for the mini-vacation!).
I love so much about her stories--but I think it's the romance that enchants me so. I'm not exactly sure how she does it, but she makes me feel as if I'm falling in love right along with the characters--so when they rejoice, I rejoice, and when they mourn, I mourn. But there is always hope in the happily-ever-after, which Laura delivers with finesse.
I loved The Mistress of Tall Acre, and I highly recommend this book. But beware: you won't want to put it down. ;)
Happy Reading!
**I have a winner from my guest post with Karen Barnett! The winner of a copy of Beyond the Ashes is Edward Arrington! Congratulations, Edward. I'll be contacting you soon.**

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Historical Photos: Guest Post by Karen Barnett

Today I'm welcoming author Karen Barnett to my blog!! I had the pleasure of getting to know Karen better at our agency retreat last October in Monterey. Karen writes historical novels, so we had a lot in common. Today she's talking about finding inspiration in historical photos, something I'm fond of myself. My most recent novel, which I entered in the Blurb to Book Contest with Love Inspired Books, was inspired by a photo I found years ago of a father, his four children, and his wife who was in a coffin at their feet. It's an eerie picture, but one that inspired a whole story. Join me as we learn about a photo that inspired Karen!
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Karen: Sometimes readers are surprised to learn that even though I spend most of my time shaping words and chapters, I’m even more drawn to photographs. I love searching the Internet for interesting historical images. Every time I find a good one, my mind buzzes with story ideas.

I’m not unique, apparently. I’ve met several writers who have been inspired by photographs. Just this week, I met a woman at the Oregon Christian Writers conference who goes out and buys photos at antique shops so she can write stories about them. I love that! I always feel badly for the poor nameless pictures mixed in with the antiques. I want to know the people’s names and stories. Just recently I was able to reconnect a set of orphaned portraits with a ministry who desperately wanted them. It was a fun experience, and I’ll be writing about that Monday over at my own blog (

Have you ever been inspired by an image? Here’s one that got to me.

(Photo courtesy of Stanford Medical History Center)
When I was doing research on Cooper Medical College and Lane Hospital for my recent release, Beyond the Ashes, I stumbled over an image of their surgical amphitheater. I was stunned. The imagery moved me: the eager medical students leaning in to watch, the proud surgeon in white, the glossy wood paneling, and (eww!) the lack of gloves and surgical masks. I could almost smell the ether and the cigar smoke.

I knew I had to capture this imagery in my novel. My character wasn’t a surgeon—he was a doctor working with X-ray technology. No matter. I’d find a way to get him in that room with the scowling surgeon. I had to.

It became a turning point in the novel. The tension visible in the image fed into the scene, creating a make-or-break moment for my character. I loved the amphitheater setting so much, I had another character visit it later in the book—and receive news that would bring her to her knees. If you’ve read Beyond the Ashes, you know what I’m talking about. (Don’t spoil it for anyone else!)

(Photo courtesy of Stanford Medical History Center)
Gabrielle Here: Thank you, Karen! I love seeing the images that inspired you. I know exactly how you feel about finding nameless people in photographs. It's almost as if they're begging us to tell their story.

Karen has graciously offered a free copy of Beyond the Ashes to one lucky winner! Share in the comments what inspires you about this picture of Union Station in 1923. What kind of story do you see? We’d love to hear your thoughts! (Don't forget to fill out the Rafflecopter. Sorry, due to shipping costs, only US Citizens are eligible to win.)

(Free image courtesy of
**The winner of a Novella Collection (winner's choice), from Michelle Ule, is Connie Saunders! Congrats, Connie. I'll be in touch.**

About Karen

Inspired by God’s devotion to His people and her own passion for research and learning, author Karen Barnett creates historical romances that explore her characters’ faith and how their experiences impact the way they view God.

A graduate of Valparaiso University and Oregon State University, Barnett’s debut novel, Mistaken, was released in 2013 and earned her the Oregon Christian Writers “Writer of Promise” award. A former park ranger, she loves getting out into God’s creation. She spends her free time taking photographs, dragging her kids through dusty history museums, decorating crazy birthday cakes and watching movies.

Karen, her husband and their two children live in the beautiful Pacific Northwest.

To learn more about Karen Barnett, visit, become a fan on Facebook (KarenBarnettAuthor) or follow her on Twitter (KarenMBarnett).

About Beyond the Ashes
She’s had her love and lost it.
He’s still missing his heart’s desire.
Is it really better to have loved and lost 
than never to have loved at all? 

Where better to rebuild and face one’s fears than in 1906 San Francisco, a city rising from the ashes? Ruby Marshall, a young widow, is certain she’ll discover new purpose assisting her brother Robert with his cancer research, but she doesn’t anticipate finding new love.

Dr. Gerald Larkspur dreams of filling his empty home with family, but he’d always hoped it would be a wife and children. In the aftermath of the great earthquake, the rooms are overflowing with extended family and friends left homeless by the disaster. When Robert’s widowed sister arrives, the close quarters seem close indeed.

Ruby and Gerald’s fledgling romance is put at risk when Gerald develops symptoms of the very disease they’re striving to cure. Together they must ask—is it worth a second chance at love when time might be short?

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