Review: Love and a Little White Lie

4 Stars
Genre: Contemporary
Subgenre: Christian
Heat Level: Clean

I received a pre-release review copy of this novel through NetGalley. This review is a slightly longer version of the one I posted on NetGalley and on Amazon.

I'd not read anything by Tammy Gray before, but I requested this one because the story sounded reminiscent of Faking Grace, one of my favorite contemporary Christian romances. Both are the story of the conversion of a non-believer into a believer. Sort of...

Before I dive deeper, here's a summary I posted on NetGalley:

January (Jan) Sanders’ life is pretty messed up, but then what should she expect? She doesn’t even remember her biological father, and her mother’s been divorced and remarried four times. Stepdad #5 isn’t looking too promising.

After her own breakup, she takes refuge with her aunt and manages to swing a temporary job at the local community church. Being her aunt’s niece, the church leaders assume she’s a believer. January is anything but. Faking it through one encounter after another and navigating two budding relationships, January starts to realize that maybe, just maybe God hasn’t given up on her yet.

 

Love and a Little White Lie is very sweet, and I enjoyed it immensely. The characters are both believable and likable. If you’re looking for a classical Christian romance (and enjoy conversion stories to boot) you won’t go wrong with this one. Perfect for the beach or a cozy weekend by the fireplace.

 

I only gave it four stars, not because of anything I disliked, but because it was such a light read. Jan’s upbringing and life circumstances were pretty gritty, but that was glossed over. Her path to conversion (and love) was a relatively smooth one, with less angst than I would expect from a typical romance. Though there might be a lot of inner doubt, everything just seemed to work out. I suspect Ms. Gray’s readers and publisher aren’t looking for “gritty” or “angsty,” so consider this a personal preference.


***** 


OK, now to an explanation as to why I say this is "sort of" a conversion story. 


If you're looking for a story about a non-believer coming to Christ, this isn't it. Jan isn't an atheist. She's just been led away from the church by a mother who has rejected God for reasons that seem pretty flimsy. Once she gets past the Christianese (who hasn't been in one of those conversations) she falls into the faith pretty smoothly. It's not the rocky road you find in non-fiction conversions, but again, that may not be what Inspy romance readers are looking for.


There were a couple of interesting aspects to the novel that make it different than other romances. The story is told in first person. That seems to be more common these days, but it was also told completely from Jan's perspective. She has two "love interests" in the novel, and we never really know what either one of them is thinking.


The two love interests is the other aspect that's a bit different from the typical romance. Initially, we see more of the relationship that doesn't work out than the one that does. Not many publishers would allow that, and it took some getting used to, but I can see how it was essential for the story. Still, I had to be careful not to invest too much emotional energy in the first guy, and I would have liked more of the main love interest up front. 


Love and a Little White Lie didn't have the humor of Faking Grace, but I found the hero and the secondary characters more likable, so there were some definite pluses. 



My Journey as an Agented Author – Day 7


And so it begins...

After writing four novels and publishing them through a fairly well-known, but boutique press, I decided I wanted to work with an agent. It’s only been seven days since I signed the contract, so I thought I’d share a bit about my journey while it’s still fresh. Maybe I can help others who are deciding whether to go straight to the publisher, to self-publish, or to seek out an agent.

Today, I just want to share a bit of the background to my journey. My current manuscript is a sweet/clean contemporary romance. This is the first time I’ve written in that genre, so it seemed a logical time to try out another path to publishing. In full disclosure, though, I did query another historical romance quite extensively, but to no avail. I got some nibbles, but nothing connected with any of the literary agencies I reached out to.

Here’s a sample book cover my daughter mocked up for me. Smitten is actually the name of the cat, who has a hand (or should I say paw?) in bringing the hero and heroine together.

I pitched Smitten directly to a dozen literary agencies and participated in one #Pitmad. I got a few nibbles from that, but nothing connected. When #KissPitch rolled around, I decided to pitch one more time. I didn’t expect much but thought it was worth a try. I got a couple nibbles from that.

My plan was to participate in #Pitmad a couple of weeks later, and if nothing panned out, to self-publish. But then, my mom passed away, so life got a bit hectic, and I decided not to bother with #Pitmad. 

Since I hadn’t heard back from either of my other #KissPitch queries, I’d pretty much resigned myself to self-publishing. (I make that sound worse than it was. I was actually eager to try it.)

Then, the day after I missed #PitMad, Katie Salvo from Metamorphosis Literary Agency contacted me, saying that her senior agent had passed my manuscript to her. She was still reading it, but planned to finish over the weekend and wanted to talk on Monday if I was still unagented. I’m not a “squee-type” personality, so let’s just say I was cautiously optimistic, even eager for that conversation.

On a side note, Katie is open to queries. In particular, I know she's looking for more contemporary romance, but she represents a number of genres and subgenres. 

*****

Katie Salvo - Junior Agent
A traditionally published novelist, certified copy editor, and avid reader with eclectic genre interests, Katie Salvo loves nothing more than to see authors succeed in introducing new ideas and fresh voices to the publishing industry. With a degree in Interdisciplinary Studies, Katie has a background in literary criticism, philosophy, political theory, and history. She is particularly interested in representing women’s fiction, romance, nonfiction, historical biography, historical literary fiction, and academic works in the fields of study listed above.

*****

We chatted that Monday, and she sent me a contract to review. It was pretty standard, but never having worked with an agent, I asked a few questions. A week later, we’d both signed, and the proverbial ball in now rolling.

In later posts, I hope to go deeper into items of interest and things I’ve learned on this journey, and maybe even answer some questions. I’ve left the comment section open below if you’d like to respond. You can also find me on Twitter @MaryJeanAdams. If you’re a member of the #WritingGroup community, reach out and say hi!

Review: Just One of the Guys

Just One of the Guys
by Kristan Higgins

4 Stars
Genre: Contemporary
Subgenre: Chick lit (IMO)
Heat level: Sort of steamy
Amazon Link


I don't think I've read a Harlequin in a while, so this one caught me by surprise. It's sort of crosses the line from romance into chick lit, but in a good way. (Nothing wrong with chick lit, but romance readers often seem to want something more traditional.)

The heroine (Chastity) was absolutely awesome. She's smart, snarky, full of life, but with a vulnerability that makes her completely identifiable. Like most of us, she has body issues. The entire story is told from her POV, and she's so funny, I had to stop working out while I read because I was laughing so hard.

I also like that she was at that vulnerable age - thirties and unmarried. That age appeals to me because when they find their 'happily ever after,' I figure it's going to last a little longer than the HEAs in a teen romance.

I really liked the hero, as well, but I wish we had gotten more from his POV. Or at the very least, I wish there had been more interaction. There was enough to not frustrate me, but I still wanted more. The focus on the heroine's life and perspectives is one of the primary reasons I say it dipped a toe over the line into chick lit. Nevertheless, the author did a decent job of giving him a fleshed-out background and motivation.

The second big element that may surprise some traditional romance readers is the drama that surrounds Chastity. Her family is a mess. I wasn't crazy about the way some of their drama was wrapped up. It didn't feel like an HEA to me, although they seemed perfectly content with life giving them less than a fairy-tale ending.

Finally, although this wasn't a clean romance, there wasn't a lot of swearing. (I'm trying to remember if there was any.) And, although the storyline contained sex scenes, we were forced to endure a play by play.

All in all, well worth the read, and I will definitely be picking up more by this author. Reading through other reviews, some of her fans that didn't like this book named other books of hers they really liked. I'll move on to those, but I think this one is a great one to start with if you haven't read Kristan Higgans before.

Review: A Terrible Beauty


A Terrible Beauty
By Stephanie Patterson

5 stars
Genre: Historical Romance
Subgenres: 1850s (Victorian?), Crimean War
Heat Level: spicy
Amazon Link

Between A Terrible Beauty and a head cold, I haven’t had much sleep the last couple of nights. I could have read this in one sitting. In fact, I would put it right up there with some of the best books I’ve read this past year.

Let me go through some of the things I really liked about the book, and then I’ll bring up one thing I had to overlook:

Stuff I liked:
I admit I never knew much about the Crimean War and the nurses like Florence Nightingale who gave up comfortable lives to save soldiers on the front lines. I learned a lot in this book without feeling like I was being fed a history lesson. This book is gritty, but it needed to be.

The heroine is easily one of my favorites. She went from being the talk of the ton to a nurse in the front lines in the space of a few months. Some authors talk about how they torture their characters. Patterson really does, but every step of it was believable.

The plot is tightly woven. Before they see the error of their ways, the hero, heroine and secondary characters are always scheming. Patterson manages to thread these schemes together like pieces of a puzzle to create an amazingly intricate whole.

The heat level is spicy, with several explicit loves scenes and one rather crude one early on, but it is a necessary component of the plot and reveals quite a bit about the character of the hero if one bothers to read closely. I could have done without some of the later love scenes, but they weren’t overly gratuitous.  

I like the overall theme. Essentially, you never really know why someone acts the way they do until you hear (and really listen to) their side of the story.

Last but not least, a Terrible Beauty is available on Kindle Unlimited (at least as I write this), so it was low risk to give it a try. I LOVE finding new authors this way, and I have already downloaded the next book in the series, Mrs. Lady.

One teensy tiny thing I didn’t…
There are quite a few typos in the book and the use of commas is sketchy at best. The typos aren’t egregious…it’s usually a missing article or the use of “nor” when it should be “not.” It’s the kind of stuff an author doesn’t often catch, but a copy editor should have. I might have set a less well written book aside, but the story was so captivating it became easier and easier to overlook these errors.