Stories of faith, life, and love

Tag: Contemporary Christian Romance

Full Of Character with Hope Toler Dougherty

Today I have the pleasure of interviewing Hope Toler Dougherty, author of Rescued Hearts, Irish Encounter, and Mars…with Venus Rising. Keep reading after the interview to find out a little more about Hope’s books and where you can connect with her on social media. Welcome, Hope.

What character from the books you’ve read has impacted you more than all the others?

Jane Eyre! Despite being an orphan with plain looks and nothing but her intellect and strong will to help her navigate the world, she remains true to her Christian character. Jane Eyre is a classic novel, not Christian fiction, but Charlotte Bronte wrote Christian lessons throughout the whole story.

What character you created was the easiest to write? The hardest?

I loved writing Agnes in Irish Encounter, Jancie and Winnie in Mars…With Venus Rising, and GiGi in Rescued Hearts. They’re senior saints who have a zest for life. They were so much fun to write! I hope to be like them many years from now!

I’m struggling with a character in my fifth manuscript. I know a few things about her, but she’s pretty quiet about her real main goal. She’s a tough nut to crack.

I have no doubt you’ll find out exactly who she is and be able to share her with the rest of us! Scripture is full of real people who had character to spare. Which one do you most relate to or enjoy reading about?

You know when Paul writes in Romans 7:15 about knowing what to do, wanting to do it, but then doing what he hates to do? Sometimes I feel like that, like the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.

I wish I was bold like Moses’ sister, Miriam, when she appealed to Pharaoh’s daughter or Abigail when she appealed to David when her husband, Nabal, was being foolish or like all those new Christians in Acts who spread the Gospel amid so much persecution and fear. I love reading about average people acting courageously for God.

I don’t know about our readers today, but I can also relate to that verse and the reasons you chose those people. Do you plan your characters and their back stories before you begin writing or are you as surprised by them as your readers?

I’m a seat-of-the-pants writer, but I try to get to know my main characters as much as I can before I begin. I have a character sketch activity with about 100 questions from a writing class I took at Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writing Conference. I fill out as many of those questions as I can before I begin because it makes the writing easier for me.

I think Blue Ridge is where I first met you. It’s a great conference. If someone wrote a movie about you, who would you like to play your character? Why?

Maybe Sandra Bullock. She’s got a quirky vibe going even when she’s dressed up. Plus, we both studied at East Carolina University, but I never saw her there.

I love her, and I like that you have that connection to her, no matter how distant. I can’t think of anyone famous that I’m even distantly connected to. Just two more questions and a fun fact. What is the most encouraging thing you’ve heard or experienced as an author?

A couple of years ago, I was shocked to find myself sitting beside Steve Laube, a top literary agent and owner of his own agency, at a meal at ACFW. During dessert, he asked what I write. I answered, love stories. He asked, “Do you mean love stories between men and dogs or men and cats or…?” I said, “No, men and women.” He replied, “Ah, romance. Then you should say it. Own it. Romance is the biggest genre in the publishing world. It’s the biggest for a reason. People love it.”

I’ve always struggled a little with the idea of writing romance because I used to teach real literature. Now I’m trying to focus more on gratitude for the perfect path God’s created for me. I write romance!

What a great reminder for the tough days as an author. What is your biggest challenge as an author?

Marketing. I’m sure that’s true for a lot of introverted writers.

I hated selling Girl Scout cookies, and they should be the easiest thing in the world to sell. I don’t even like asking people for reviews. If they’ve shelled out money to buy the book, taken the time to read it, taken more time to tell me in person or my message or email that they like, I feel greedy asking for one more thing. And those reviews are so important!

And now I’ll share a fun-fact Hope included as the answer to an alternate question. Her favorite go-to snack whether writing or not? It’s Cheez-Its. I couldn’t pass up sharing that one since it’s also my youngest son’s go-to snack! And now a little about Hope’s books and where to find her.

Back cover copy for Rescued Hearts:Children’s clothing designer Mary Wade Kimball’s soft spot for  animals leads to a hostage situation when she spots a briar-entangled kitten in front of an abandoned house. Beaten, bound, and gagged by the two thugs inside, Mary Wade loses hope for escape when a third villain returns with supplies.
Discovering the kidnapped, innocent woman ratchets the complications for undercover agent Brett Davis. Weighing the difference of ruining his three months’ investigation against the woman’s safety, Brett forsakes his mission and helps her escape, the bent-on-revenge brutes following behind. 
When Mary Wade’s safety is threatened once more, Brett rescues her again. This time, her personal safety isn’t the only thing in jeopardy. Her heart is endangered as well.

Hope’s bio: Hope Toler Dougherty holds a Master’s degree in English and taught at East Carolina University as well as York Technical College. She’s a member of ACFW and  RWA, and her novels are Irish EncounterMars…With Venus Rising, and Rescued Hearts. A native North Carolinian, she and her husband, Kevin, look forward to visits with their two daughters and twin sons. 

Where to purchase Hope’s books:

Irish Encounter 

Rescued Hearts

Here are Hope’s social media links:

http://hopetolerdougherty.com/

https://www.facebook.com/AUTHORHOPETOLERDOUGHERTY/

https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/13941031.Hope_Dougherty

https://www.instagram.com/hopetolerdougherty/

https://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=hope+toler+dougherty

What I’m Reading: Ordinary Snowflakes

Southern Illinois definitely did not see a Hallmark worthy white Christmas this year. In fact, the temperatures were more like late spring or early summer. While I appreciated not having to bundle up (I’m really not a fan of weather in either extreme), it didn’t feel entirely right to celebrate Christmas in a t-shirt without a jacket. Even the twinkling lights on the way home from my in-law’s house seemed less festive without the chill of winter to add to their mystique.

I needed an infusion of white, and I needed it quickly. My holiday spirit was beginning to fade. I did what any Hallmark Christmas movie loving reader would do in this situation. I scanned my shelf for a new snow-filled Christmas book. My gaze landed on Ordinary Snowflakes by Jennifer Rodewald. Perfect. Couldn’t get more winter-filled than a book with snowflakes actually in the title, right?

I’d read a couple other books by Jennifer Rodewald, and I enjoyed them. If you’re interested, look up my reviews of Blue Columbine and Red Rose Bouquet. My one concern with this Christmas themed novella was whether or not it would be a heavy read. I’d enjoyed the last Christmas book I’d read, but it was fairly heavy by the end. I wasn’t sorry I’d read it, but I was ready for something a little lighter that still held some conflict to make the story interesting.

Ordinary Snowflakes delivered exactly what I was looking for. Kale is a single mom raising a child with special needs thanks to an accident early in childhood. She’s a great mom, but she suffers the same mom guilt most of us battle along with a large dose of guilt from the choices of her past.

Kale’s guilt pushes her to be extra protective with her daughter, in areas where she feels Sydney might be hurt. This extends to everyday activities most children take for granted. It’s in an instance of lashing out in fear that Kale meets Craig, a handsome, charismatic man who ignites the gushy feelings of crushing on a guy that Kale hasn’t felt in a long time. Everything she feels for Craig stands in direct opposition to what she’s known with Joe, her friend and Sydney’s physical therapist since her accident.

Joe has been her rock, standing beside her as she cares for Sydney and her aging father. He’s offered wisdom and support, but friendship is where their relationship stops. There aren’t sparks, and he doesn’t make her weak in the knees. As he pushes her in different areas regarding Sydney’s care, conflict tinges their friendship. Kale becomes even more aware of the differences between the two men in her life.

While Kale considers the role each man should play in her life, Sydney brings fun and adventure to her days. Their relationship is sweet and honest just like the story itself. And scattered along the way are nugget (or maybe snowballs in this case) of truth for the reader to take away. One of my favorite is a reminder to chase the things that are important to the heart of God rather than those things the world says we should check off our list. It’s a lesson for Kale and for us that’s especially pertinent as we say good-bye to 2019 and begin 2020.

And, in my opinion, you can never go wrong starting the year off with a good book. So tomorrow, while you’re still tired from the late New Year’s Eve night, take time to relax with Ordinary Snowflakes. It’s a quick , enjoyable read that will encourage you to start the new year right.

https://www.amazon.com/Ordinary-Snowflakes-Romance-Christmas-Novella-ebook/dp/B01LXNRC2C

What I’m Reading: Just the Way You Are

I’m from small town southern Illinois. Though Carbondale has Southern Illinois University to make it more recognizable, the small village of Makanda can only boast of being one of the places where the 2017 eclipse could be seen for the longest amount of time and for Vulture Fest. Yes, Vulture Fest. No, I’ve never been. Though that’s really not surprising. Makanda is actually very large in area, and as most residents do, I end up in Carbondale more often than the tiny strip of eclectic stores making up Makanda’s business district.

Being from a small, rural town surrounded by other small, rural towns has its advantages. It also has drawbacks. One of these is the country drawl prevalent in the area. It’s not a pretty southern drawl or the twang of the southwest. It’s less refined. Hick is the term most often used.

As a kid I fought that way of speaking. I worked hard to make sure my pronunciation and vocabulary were not filled with the southern Illinois vernacular. I thought I was doing a great job, until I went to summer camp in Peoria, Illinois. Peoria is about 4 hours north of where I live. Kids came from all over Illinois, Missouri, Michigan, and other states for camp.

Imagine my surprise when all the work I’d done to distance myself from the southern Illinois sound was repeatedly met with, “Are you from the south?” Every northerner I met decided I was not just from the south, but from the deep south. Over and over I explained I was not from Mississippi or Alabama or any other southern state. I was from Illinois just like most of them. So much for my efforts to conceal my vocal heritage.

Adulthood has brought perspective. I’m more appreciative of the benefits of small town life, and the downsides don’t bother me as much. (I admit I still cringe when I hear myself say “fer” instead of for, but I’m working on it!) I love where I grew up, bad grammar and all. I try to bring that to my writing (the love, not the bad grammar!). That same attitude is part of the reason I enjoyed Pepper Basham’s Just the Way You Are.

Eisley Barrett grew up in the Appalachian region, but the story starts with a trip to England to find answers to a family mystery. In addition to meeting wonderful new friends,Eisley has a real life adventure on her quest to find answers her dying uncle needs to finish the book he’s writing.

Though initially drawn to her due to a cynical nature that insists Eisley is a gold digger out to take his family fortune or ruin their good name, Wes Harrison finds he’s drawn to her for other reasons as well. As their friendship progresses, Wes enjoys the opportunity to solve the mystery with Eisley.

As their relationship progresses, it’s time for Eisley to return home. She and Wes have enough emotional baggage from the past to make the distance between England and Virginia seem like child’s play. This baggage comes back to wreak havoc on their relationship and threatens to tear them apart.

This is the first book by Pepper Basham I’ve read. She does a wonderful job of telling an entertaining story. The differences in how Eisley and Wes were raised and currently live are explored and alternately provide helpings of drama and comedy for the reader.

Respect for both ways of life are easily seen. Pros and cons of each are laid out for the reader to enjoy. In the end, it’s a great reminder that our differences can bring us together or tear us apart. It’s all in how we want to look at them.

By the Book: We’re all different. Think of someone you’ve had trouble working or ministering with and pray for God to show you how to celebrate your differences to make the job/ministry stronger.

What I’m Reading -Brunch at Bittersweet Cafe

macaronsSometimes it’s the name of the author or the back cover copy. This time it was the cover. The title is written in a fun, laid back script. The woman is blurry, but her hands are not. And those hands are holding colorful macarons.

Before Brunch at Bittersweet Cafe, I’d heard of Carla Laureano. You can’t follow authors on social media without hearing about her. The Saturday Night Supper Club was everywhere I looked for a while. Now, this second installment is taking it’s place in all the posts. I’ve still not read the first book. I considered it, but this one was on sale. It made my decision easy. My only concern was whether or not I would be lost reading stories out of order. I didn’t need to worry. I had no trouble keeping up, and I don’t think you would either.

Anyway, back to the colorful macarons. I’ve never had a macaron. In all my amateur baking, I’ve never had occasion to make them. But they definitely caught my attention and convinced me to check out the blurb on back. Finding out the story centered on a baker pushed me over the line from curiosity to “buy this now”. With the button successfully pushed, I began the story.

Brunch at Bittersweet Cafe follows Melody Johansson, a dreamer that feels locked into her life. Her hopes of owning a bakery seem impossible. Her desire for a love life where she’s good enough is an even bigger impossibility. Her track record is awful, and she’s decided she can’t trust her heart to lead her to the guy God has for her.

This is where Justin Keller enters the story. Their attraction is immediate, but he decided long ago that lasting love and the pilot’s life can’t coexist. He won’t go for anything more than a casual date, and he won’t go after any woman who might want more. And Melody definitely projects wanting more.

Circumstances throw them together, and against their better judgment they both seek more time together. As they come to the place of hoping for a future with each other, Melody finds the pieces of her life coming together in unexpected ways. A cutting loss allows her the opportunity to follow her dream and open a bakery with her best friend. Her roots are quickly becoming firmly planted in Colorado.

But Justin’s are taking him to Florida. He’s agreed to go in business with his brother-in-law for the sake of his sister’s health. It’s the roadblock he’s ignored as he and Melody get to know each other. As his plans force him to consider a swift end to their relationship, Justin knows neither heart will escape unscathed.

The bitter and the sweet events of the past have shaped both their lives and outlooks. They’ve also worked together to bring Melody and Justin together, whether for a time or forever.

Isn’t it the same for us? Bitter and sweet mingling together to create the story of lives. And isn’t it encouraging to know the One who is working to create that life knows exactly how much of each is needed to create the most beautiful story possible?

What I'm Reading -Brunch at Bittersweet Cafe

macaronsSometimes it’s the name of the author or the back cover copy. This time it was the cover. The title is written in a fun, laid back script. The woman is blurry, but her hands are not. And those hands are holding colorful macarons.
Before Brunch at Bittersweet Cafe, I’d heard of Carla Laureano. You can’t follow authors on social media without hearing about her. The Saturday Night Supper Club was everywhere I looked for a while. Now, this second installment is taking it’s place in all the posts. I’ve still not read the first book. I considered it, but this one was on sale. It made my decision easy. My only concern was whether or not I would be lost reading stories out of order. I didn’t need to worry. I had no trouble keeping up, and I don’t think you would either.
Anyway, back to the colorful macarons. I’ve never had a macaron. In all my amateur baking, I’ve never had occasion to make them. But they definitely caught my attention and convinced me to check out the blurb on back. Finding out the story centered on a baker pushed me over the line from curiosity to “buy this now”. With the button successfully pushed, I began the story.
Brunch at Bittersweet Cafe follows Melody Johansson, a dreamer that feels locked into her life. Her hopes of owning a bakery seem impossible. Her desire for a love life where she’s good enough is an even bigger impossibility. Her track record is awful, and she’s decided she can’t trust her heart to lead her to the guy God has for her.
This is where Justin Keller enters the story. Their attraction is immediate, but he decided long ago that lasting love and the pilot’s life can’t coexist. He won’t go for anything more than a casual date, and he won’t go after any woman who might want more. And Melody definitely projects wanting more.
Circumstances throw them together, and against their better judgment they both seek more time together. As they come to the place of hoping for a future with each other, Melody finds the pieces of her life coming together in unexpected ways. A cutting loss allows her the opportunity to follow her dream and open a bakery with her best friend. Her roots are quickly becoming firmly planted in Colorado.
But Justin’s are taking him to Florida. He’s agreed to go in business with his brother-in-law for the sake of his sister’s health. It’s the roadblock he’s ignored as he and Melody get to know each other. As his plans force him to consider a swift end to their relationship, Justin knows neither heart will escape unscathed.
The bitter and the sweet events of the past have shaped both their lives and outlooks. They’ve also worked together to bring Melody and Justin together, whether for a time or forever.
Isn’t it the same for us? Bitter and sweet mingling together to create the story of lives. And isn’t it encouraging to know the One who is working to create that life knows exactly how much of each is needed to create the most beautiful story possible?

What I’m Reading: My Stubborn Heart

You know THOSE moments. You can’t tell me you don’t. They’re the moments when the guy, like Patrick in 10 Things I Hate About You, have opened themselves up to loving only to have the girl turn away because they did something stupid. You feel it deep in your being when he stands on the balcony, crushed as she runs away from him. It’s when the characters in your favorite Hallmark movies look at each other with longing, finally admitting to themselves that something bigger than friendship is going on, but they can’t admit it to each other yet. Your chest tightens with the tension of love that won’t be admitted. It’s that desperation that rises to the surface as you watch Jack walk away from Lucy in While You Were Sleeping because Lucy is in love with his brother.

With those feelings, in those moments, you react as if those characters are real, as if those characters were you. You can feel what they’re feeling. It’s scenes that evoke these kinds of feelings that Becky Wade peppers throughout her book, My Stubborn Heart.

The prologue sets the reader up for what is going to happen in the story. To those who would say she gives away the ending, I’d remind them the journey is half the fun. Everyone knows from the first five minutes who is going to end up together in a Hallmark movie, but it makes the movie no less enjoyable. Besides, the prologue reads like the beginning of a fantastic fairy tale. It reminded me of the opening scenes of the movie Ever After, not because of the content but because of the feeling it gives.

While the prologue drew me in, those special feeling moments in the story kept me engaged. There were moments of attraction, loss, and jealousy that rivaled any from the movies. I ached with the characters and felt the excitement of their growing attraction.

Kate is a caring and spirited woman who wants to heal the hurts of the world. Matt is a man with enough hurts for the entire world. As Matt works to renovate the home of Kate’s grandmother, friendship is slow to grow between them. It’s one step forward two steps back, but Kate is determined.

Even as friendship gives way to unwanted attraction, the path refuses to become easy. These two have a lot to work through, and it’s these challenges that provide the moments that reach deep into the heart of the reader. It’s these moments that keep the reader engaged from prologue until the end.

What I'm Reading: My Stubborn Heart

You know THOSE moments. You can’t tell me you don’t. They’re the moments when the guy, like Patrick in 10 Things I Hate About You, have opened themselves up to loving only to have the girl turn away because they did something stupid. You feel it deep in your being when he stands on the balcony, crushed as she runs away from him. It’s when the characters in your favorite Hallmark movies look at each other with longing, finally admitting to themselves that something bigger than friendship is going on, but they can’t admit it to each other yet. Your chest tightens with the tension of love that won’t be admitted. It’s that desperation that rises to the surface as you watch Jack walk away from Lucy in While You Were Sleeping because Lucy is in love with his brother.
With those feelings, in those moments, you react as if those characters are real, as if those characters were you. You can feel what they’re feeling. It’s scenes that evoke these kinds of feelings that Becky Wade peppers throughout her book, My Stubborn Heart.
The prologue sets the reader up for what is going to happen in the story. To those who would say she gives away the ending, I’d remind them the journey is half the fun. Everyone knows from the first five minutes who is going to end up together in a Hallmark movie, but it makes the movie no less enjoyable. Besides, the prologue reads like the beginning of a fantastic fairy tale. It reminded me of the opening scenes of the movie Ever After, not because of the content but because of the feeling it gives.
While the prologue drew me in, those special feeling moments in the story kept me engaged. There were moments of attraction, loss, and jealousy that rivaled any from the movies. I ached with the characters and felt the excitement of their growing attraction.
Kate is a caring and spirited woman who wants to heal the hurts of the world. Matt is a man with enough hurts for the entire world. As Matt works to renovate the home of Kate’s grandmother, friendship is slow to grow between them. It’s one step forward two steps back, but Kate is determined.
Even as friendship gives way to unwanted attraction, the path refuses to become easy. These two have a lot to work through, and it’s these challenges that provide the moments that reach deep into the heart of the reader. It’s these moments that keep the reader engaged from prologue until the end.

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