Book Recommendation – Provenance by Carla Laureano

Book Description:

From two-time RITA Award–winning author Carla Laureano comes a story of romance, transformation, and the beauty of belonging.

Los Angeles interior designer and former foster kid Kendall Green is in high demand, both for her impeccable eye and for her uncanny ability to uncover the provenance of any piece. But for all her success, skyrocketing costs have put her California home and her business in jeopardy. Then an unexpected inheritance provides a timely solution: a grandmother she never knew has left her a group of historic properties in a tiny Colorado town on the edge of ruin.

To young, untried mayor Gabriel Brandt, Jasper Lake is more than another small town—it’s the place that saved his life. Now, seeing the town slowly wither and die, he’s desperate to restore it to its former glory. Unfortunately, his vision is at odds with a local developer who wants to see the town razed and rebuilt as a summer resort. He’s sure that he can enlist the granddaughter of one of its most prominent former citizens to his cause—until he meets Kendall and realizes that not only does she know nothing of her own history, she has no interest in reviving a place that once abandoned her.

In order to save his beloved town, Gabe must first help Kendall unravel the truth of her own provenance—and Kendall must learn that in order to embrace the future, sometimes you have to start with the past.

Narelle’s Thoughts:

I enjoyed reading Provenance and visiting the charming small town of Jasper Lake in the Colorado high country. Kendall was only five years old when she was abandoned at a day care center because her mom failed to collect her. She is haunted by not knowing what happened to her birth mother, which led to her growing up in the foster care system. Kendall is fiercely independent and believes she can only rely on herself. She rents an expensive home in Pasadena, California, with her interior design assistant that’s the home base for her business. Her business specialty is restoring historic homes.

Gabe is a town planner who has returned to Jasper Lake from Detroit to save his maternal grandparents’ home town. His mother sent him to live with his grandparents when he was a young teen because he was on a destructive path and needed straightening out. Gabe’s grandfather runs the Inn at Jasper Lake, and all the businesses have been struggling since a major flood a few years earlier. Gabe’s attachment to Jasper Lake inspires him to run for mayor. Now he’s the mayor, he’s determined to save the town from a ruthless developer who is intent on building a resort that would forever change the character of Jasper Lake.

Kendall is stunned to learn that her maternal grandmother passed away almost five years ago, and Kendall is the sole heir of a row of historic lakefront homes in Jasper Lake. The houses are situated in the middle of a parcel of land that a developer wants to turn into a large scale resort. The rent on Kendall’s Pasadena home is large, and the annual increases are squeezing her finances too tight. Selling her inheritance appears to be Kendall’s best solution to keep a roof over her head and her business afloat.

Sparks fly when Kendall arrives in Jasper Lake and meets Gabe. His family background is also complicated, and he’s confronted with family issues that impact on his current circumstances. Gabe assists Kendall in claiming her inheritance by the tight deadline, and she stays at his grandfather’s inn.

Kendall and Gabe are drawn to each other despite a number of complications, including Kendall not sharing Gabe’s faith. The faith element in the story is strong, and both Gabe and Kendall wrestle with faith issues. The story includes themes of forgiveness, redemption, and parallels with the prodigal son Biblical story.

I highly recommend Provenance to contemporary romance readers who enjoy small town romances set in the mountains that address problems associated with historic home preservation and urban planning.

I received an advanced reader copy from the publisher. Many thanks to Tyndale House Publishers and NetGalley.

Book Recommendation – Beyond the Tides by Liz Johnson

Book Description:

When Meg Whitaker’s father decides to sell the family’s lobster-fishing business to her high school nemesis, she sets out to prove she should inherit it instead. Though she’s never had any interest in running the small fleet–or even getting on a boat due to her persistent seasickness–she can’t stand to see Oliver Ross take over. Not when he ruined her dreams for a science scholarship and an Ivy League education ten years ago.

Oliver isn’t proud of what he did back then. Angry and broken by his father walking out on his family, he lashed out at Meg–an innocent bystander. But owning a respected fishing fleet on Prince Edward Island is the opportunity of a lifetime, and he’s not about to walk away just because Meg wants him to.

Meg’s father has the perfect solution: Oliver and Meg must work the business together, and at the end of the season, he’ll decide who gets it. Along the way, they may discover that their stories are more similar than they thought . . . and their dreams aren’t what they expected.

Bestselling author Liz Johnson invites you back to Prince Edward Island for a brand-new series about family, forgiveness, and the kind of love that heals all wounds.

Narelle’s Thoughts:

There’s lots to love in Beyond the Tides, the first book in Liz Johnson’s Prince Edward Island Shores series. The historic seaport setting of Victoria on Prince Edward Island in Canada is quaint and pretty. I loved reading the Anne of Green Gables series when I was younger, and I’m drawn to stories that share the Prince Edward Island setting. I also enjoyed learning more about the everyday workings of a family owned lobster fishing fleet business. We meet a cast of interesting characters who live in the small and tight knit seaside community.

At times I found Meg’s stubbornness a little frustrating, especially her grudge against Oliver from a decade ago when they were at high school. That said, I know in real life that many people are like Meg and struggle to forgive and let go of long held grudges. Oliver was patient with Meg, and prepared to apologise, take responsibility, and right the wrongs from the past. The importance of forgiveness was a strong spiritual theme in the story.

The ‘I hate you’ romance trope isn’t my favourite, but I did empathise with Meg and her concerns for her mother’s health, and I understood why Oliver was keen to buy the family business from Meg’s father.

I recommend Beyond the Tides to contemporary romance readers who like the enemies-to-more romance trope with childhood friends reuniting in a small town seaside setting.

I received an advanced reader copy from the publisher. Many thanks to Revell and NetGalley.

Book Recommendation – Uptown Heiress by Lindi Peterson

Book Description:

At an after-party for the reality series, Love Atlanta Style, hotel empire heiress Grace Adams has an epiphany. Love isn’t a game and neither is life. It’s time to find a job and prove she doesn’t need Daddy’s money. 

Waiter, Justin Walker, is biding his time working for the rich crowd who thinks they’re owed everything. But his service pays off when he meets the beautiful Grace Adams. He asks her out, oblivious to the fact that she’s a hotel heiress. 

When they find out they are competing for the same job, Grace and Justin try to maintain their budding friendship and romance, until Justin discovers the truth. Grace represents all he tries to avoid. Will Justin’s view of high society stand in his way of finding love? Will Grace’s heart shatter as she finds love only to lose it? Or will time-honored truths show Grace and Justin the beauty of everlasting love.

Narelle’s Thoughts:

I enjoyed reading Uptown Heiress, and I read the short novella quickly in one sitting. The story is set in the city of Atlanta, Georgia, and opens at a celebrity party at Grace’s father’s hotel for former contestants of a reality tv dating show. Grace has been looking for love in all the wrong places, and the party reminds her of her failures. She’s attracted to Justin, their waiter, despite knowing he’s from a different world. Grace throws caution to the wind and hides her heiress identity from Justin.

A fun romance develops, and Grace experiences life as an everyday person with aspirational career goals. I liked how Grace was down-to-earth and not the stereotypical spoilt heiress. Justin is hard working, and he holds a bias against wealthy people due to a tragic accident from his childhood.

I wanted to see Grace and Justin overcome the obstacles from their different backgrounds to achieve their happily-ever-after. I liked experiencing the urban Atlanta setting with the characters. I recommend Uptown Heiress for readers who like contemporary romance novellas with a light faith element in the story.

Book Recommendation – Hill Country Redemption by Shannon Taylor Vannatter

Book Description:

This cowboy has one more chance to make it right…

He already lost her once…

Now he’s fighting for her—and their daughter. 

When Rance Shepherd takes a job stocking cattle for a local rodeo, he’s shocked that his new client is his ex-sweetheart, Larae Collins. Now he’s determined to prove to the single mother that he isn’t the restless cowboy she remembers. But when he discovers her little girl is his, they both must forgive past mistakes for a second shot at a future together.

Narelle’s Thoughts:

I enjoyed reading Hill Country Redemption and exploring the ranch setting in Texas. Rance worked as a ranch hand for Larae’s daddy when he was in high school. Larae and Rance also dated, and Larae was devastated when Rance unexpectedly broke up with her and started dated other girls. When Larae discovered she was pregnant, her daddy arranged for her to move to the city and hide her teen pregnancy. Larae eventually moved into a marketing role in the rodeo industry and Rance became a cowboy on the rodeo circuit.

Eight years later, Larae’s daddy has passed away and she inherits the ranch that’s now struggling financially. Larae returns to the ranch with her seven year old daughter, Jayda, and has big plans to build a year round rodeo on the ranch. Rance has retired from the rodeo circuit and is building his stock supply business. He agrees to work with Larae by supplying stock for her rodeo, and he soon discovers he’s also the daddy of Larae’s adorable daughter.

Rance and Larae are drawn to each other, but Rance doesn’t want Larae to learn why he broke up with her all those years ago. Larae has trust issues with Rance, and she worries that Jayda will become attached to him, and then he’ll let them down.

A fun romance develops with Jayda doing her best to reunite her parents. Larae and Rance are now Christians, and they have faith issues to untangle as they work together to make the rodeo launch a success and get used to a new family dynamic. I recommend Hill Country Redemption to contemporary romance readers who like secret baby and second chances cowboy romance stories.

ACFW New Releases: July 2021

More in-depth descriptions of these books can be found on the ACFW Fiction Finder website

General Contemporary:

Rocky Mountain Restoration by Lisa J. Flickinger — Josephine Thorebourne doesn’t deserve happiness. Not after the mess she’s made. Mid-voyage, on the steamship Jameson, she learns of the tragic loss of her family’s money. Money she stole with the hopes of turning a profit. What should be a delightful voyage up the Canadian coast turns into a journey of regret. Josephine seeks the solace of the man she loves, only to find out he’s an imposter. Left with no other choice, she must return to her home town of Stony Creek and face the anger of those she’s betrayed.  Owen Kelly was given the opportunity of a lifetime to steward on the SS Jameson. The work meant he could escape his difficult upbringing along the wharves of Chicago. When his heart falls for the woman in cabin eight, Owen must decide if he will continue his work on the ship or follow the love of his life to her Rocky Mountain home. (Historical Romance from Wild Heart Books)

Rescuing Her Heart by Cindy Ervin Huff — On visitation rounds as a lay preacher, the last thing rancher Jed Holt expects is to be shot at from the barn next to a burned-down homestead. But the soot-covered woman hiding inside needs protecting, and Jed is the man to do it whether she likes it or not. Delilah James’s nightmares began when she came to Kansas as a mail-order bride. Her husband was nothing like his letters. Now that he is dead, she can’t shake his abuse from her heart. Trusting men tops her never-again list, and taking a job on the Holt ranch as a housekeeper is a means to save money and bring her parents west. But her attraction to the compassionate former chaplain both angers and confuses her. Jed has his own nightmares from a POW camp and understands Delilah better than she knows. Can two broken people form a forever bond? (Historical Romance from Iron Stream Media)

Gold Rush Bride Caroline by Linda Shenton Matchett — Scarred in a childhood accident, Caroline Vogel has yet to find a man willing to marry her, so she heads to the Pike’s Peak goldfields to pan enough ore to become a woman of means. When she and the handsome assistant trail boss hit it off, she begins to hope her future may not be spent alone. Then she catches wind of dark secrets from the man’s past, and she’s not sure what or who to believe. Orphaned as a teenager, Oliver Llewellyn stole to survive, then used his skills for the army during the war. Nowadays, he applies his knowledge to catch dangerous thieves for the Pinkerton Agency, so guarding a young woman during a wagon train journey should be easy. But he didn’t count on the fact she’d angered a man bent on revenge. He also didn’t count on losing his heart. (Historical Romance from Shortwave Press)

Hollywood is Not Home by Annmarie M. Roberts — Would you trade fame for privacy? Movie star Maggie Malone has a glamorous lifestyle with everything money can buy―except privacy. Hounded by the paparazzi and ridiculed for her faith, Maggie secretly struggles with severe anxiety and loneliness. All she desires is to be herself–southern girl by birth, ranch lover by heart. When an anonymous benefactor invites Maggie to participate in a secret project, will her hopelessness find a new direction? Or will she become another celebrity travesty? What if she discovers Hollywood is not Home? Her faith, family, love, and future hang in the balance . (General Romance from Ambassador International)

The Scarlet Pen by Jennifer Uhlarik — Enjoy a tale of true but forgotten history of an 19th Century serial killer whose silver-tongued ways almost trap a young woman into a nightmarish marriage. In 1876, Emma Draycott is charmed into a quick engagement with childhood friend Stephen Dee Richards after reconnecting with him at a church event in Mount Pleasant, Ohio. But within the week, Stephen leaves to “make his fame and fortune.” The heartbroken Emma gives him a special pen to write to her, and he does with tales of grand adventures. Secret Service agent Clay Timmons arrives in Mount Pleasant to track purchases made with fake currency. Every trail leads back to Stephen—and therefore, Emma. Can he convince the naïve woman she is engaged to a charlatan who is being linked a string of deaths in Nebraska? (Historical Romance from Barbour Publishing)

General Historical:

If it Rains by Jennifer L. Wright — It’s 1935 in Oklahoma, and lives are determined by the dust. Fourteen-year-old Kathryn Baile, a spitfire born with a severe clubfoot, is coming of age in desperate times. Once her beloved older sister marries, Kathryn’s only comfort comes in the well-worn pages of her favorite book, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. Then Kathryn’s father decides to relocate to Indianapolis, and only the promise of a surgery to finally make her “normal” convinces Kathryn to leave Oklahoma behind. But disaster strikes along the way, and Kathryn must rely on her grit and the ragged companions she meets on the road if she is to complete her journey.Back in Boise City, Melissa Baile Mayfield is the newest member of the wealthiest family in all of Cimarron County. In spite of her poor, rural upbringing, Melissa has just married the town’s most eligible bachelor and is determined to be everything her husband―and her new social class―expects her to be. But as the drought tightens its grip, Henry’s true colors are revealed. Melissa covers her bruises with expensive new makeup and struggles to reconcile her affluent life with that of her starving neighbors. Haunted by the injustice and broken by Henry’s refusal to help, Melissa secretly defies her husband, risking her life to follow God’s leading. (General Historical from Tyndale House)

Romance Contemporary:

Make You Feel My Love by Robin Lee Hatcher — In 1895, Cora Anderson jumps on a cross-country train to escape New York society and her domineering father. She leaves with only some spare clothing, jewelry that once belonged to her grandmother, her cherished violin, and hopes for an uncertain future. The tiny town of Chickadee Creek is idyllic and welcoming, but it’s only a matter of time before Cora’s new friends discover the secrets of her past. More than a hundred years later, Chelsea Spencer is fleeing a dangerous situation of her own when her great aunt’s antique shop in Chickadee Creek becomes the perfect haven. At the same time, up-and-coming Hollywood star Liam Chandler has returned to the town of his ancestors to grieve some painful family losses and ponder the direction of his career. (Contemporary Romance from HarperCollins Christian Publishing (Thomas Nelson and Zondervan))

A Future to Fight For by Mindy Obenhaus — Widow Paisley Wainwright’s so close to taking her Texas event-planning business to the next level by turning Renwick Castle into a wedding venue. Only one thing stands in the way: her longtime rival, Crockett Devereaux, who wants the building to become a museum. When the building’s owners insist they collaborate to implement both plans, can Paisley and Crockett put their differences aside…and fight for their dreams together? (Contemporary Romance from Love Inspired (Harlequin))

The Cowgirl’s Sacrifice by Tina Radcliffe — Needing time to heal after a rodeo injury, Kate Rainbolt heads to her family ranch to accept the foreman job her brothers offered her months ago. But the position’s already been filled by her ex-boyfriend, Jess McNally, and the only open job reports to him. With Jess as her temporary boss—and turning into something more—might he finally convince Kate to put down roots? (Contemporary Romance from Love Inspired (Harlequin))

The Yes Dare by Kathleen Y’Barbo — After spending most of her adult life as a football wife and mother to twin sons, fashionista Coco Sutton is learning how to be single and fabulous. Emphasis on Fabulous. The sports trophies, memorabilia, and heavy masculine wood furniture in the home she used to share with Ryan have been banished to the attic, and her home is now a cozy haven of plush candle-scented comfort. She’s got big plans that include owning a boutique or maybe an art gallery, but she never planned to take on the biggest challenge of her life: staying single. Then her best friend gives her a copy of a book called The Yes Dare, and all her plans are turned upside down. (Contemporary Romance from White Glove Publishing)

Romantic Suspense/Thriller:

Her Sanctuary, His Heart by Michelle Dykman — Five years ago, Braelyn Kane’s daughter died. Her marriage imploded, and Forest Hill became Braelyn’s sanctuary. She’s praying for her new life to start, but she doesn’t know where to find it.
(Romantic Suspense/Thriller from Ambassador International)

Lethal Cover-Up by Darlene L. Turner — Some secrets are dangerous…But uncovering the truth could be deadly. Border patrol officer Madison Steele knows her sister Leah’s fatal car crash was no accident. Someone’s willing to kill to cover up a pharmaceutical company’s deadly crime of distributing tainted drugs. Now they are after Madison to tie off loose ends. But with her high school sweetheart, Canadian police constable Tucker Reed, at her side, can Madison expose the company’s deadly plan before she becomes the next victim? (Romantic Suspense/Thriller from Love Inspired (Harlequin))

Speculative Fiction/Fantasy:

Journey to ChiYah by Kimberly Russell — JADE PEPPERDINE HAS A PROBLEM: Her life is crumbling beneath the weight of the past, events of the present, and fears for her future. Things need to change, but she doesn’t know where to start. Answers come in the form of an unexpected opportunity when Jade finds herself stuck in a mythical land. She meets Mayor Dudley, who insinuates she is emotionally broken and in need of repair … a fact she’d just as soon ignore. He offers to help her get home if she is willing to face her issues through a process of restoration. Frightened and skeptical yet out of options, Jade grudgingly agrees. And soon figures out that change is a journey, not a destination. (Speculative Fiction/Fantasy, Independently Published)


A Man with a Past by Mary Connealy — Falcon Hunt awakens without a past, or at least not one he can recall. He’s got brothers he can’t remember, and he’s interested in the prettiest woman in the area, Cheyenne. Only trouble is, a few flashes of memory make Falcon wonder if he’s already married. He can’t imagine abandoning a wife. But his pa did just that–twice. When Falcon claims his inheritance in the West, Cheyenne is cut out of the ranch she was raised on, leaving her bitter and angry. And then Falcon kisses her, adding confusion and attraction to the mix. Soon it’s clear someone is gunning for the Hunt brothers. When one of his brothers is shot, Falcon and Cheyenne set out to find who attacked him. They encounter rustled cattle, traitorous cowhands, a missing woman, and outlaws that take all their savvy to overcome. Ajs love grows between these two independent people, Falcon must piece together his past if they’re to have any chance at a future. (Western from Bethany House (Baker) Publishing)

Young Adult:

You, Me and the Stars by Michelle Dykman — He thinks she’s shallow, she thinks he’s a nerd. What happens when they are forced to work together?
(Young Adult from Ambassador Internation

Book Recommendation – Remembering the Cowboy by Mandi Blake

Book Description:

They have unfinished business. She just can’t remember what it is.

Camille Vanderbilt is headed back home to Wyoming with one goal: find her old best friend and give him a piece of her mind for ghosting her six years ago. She won’t let anyone stand in her way… until a deer runs into the road and causes her to wreck and forget almost everything. 

Noah Harding lives a simple life as a firefighter and rancher until Camille crashes back into his life. When a call at the fire station sends him to save his old best friend’s life, he thinks he might get a second chance until her influential stepdad gives a reminder that his old threats still stand. 

When Camille runs into Noah in town, she knows he’s important to her, but her memories are still fuzzy. 

Noah is hesitant to get close to her when it means having to sacrifice everything to be with her. 

She thinks it’s a new beginning, but he knows it shouldn’t have ever ended. 

When the threats are carried out, who will be left hurting at Blackwater Ranch?

Remembering the Cowboy is the first book in the Christian Blackwater Ranch series.

Narelle’s Thoughts:

I enjoyed reading Remembering The Cowboy, the first book in Mandi Blake’s Blackwater Ranch series. I read the story quickly because I kept turning the page to find out what happens next. The story opens with Camille returning to her hometown in Wyoming to visit with her mother and step father. Camille is an attorney in Portland, Oregon, but she has never gotten over the pain of losing contact with Noah. He was her high school best friend and her first love before she left for college in Oregon.

Noah is a cowboy who works on the family ranch, and he’s also a firefighter. He’s stunned when his team is called out to a car wreck and discovers Camille has been seriously injured.

Camille has memory loss from the accident and her recovery is slow. She stays in town and rekindles her friendship with Noah. Camille can’t remember a lot of things, including why they broke up, but Noah is aware that the stakes are high if he pursues a romantic relationship with Camille.

A charming romance develops as Camille remembers why she fell in love with Noah. I loved exploring the ranch with Noah and Camille, and meeting Noah’s large and tight knit family. When the going gets tough, they pray and fight for those they love, and trust that justice will prevail. I highly recommend Remembering the Cowboy to contemporary romance readers who like fun and exciting faith-filled cowboy romances that include amnesia and second chances story elements.

Book Recommendation – So You Want A Second Chance by Elizabeth Maddrey

Book Description:

A heart attack reunites him with the one who got away. But is he too married to his job to invest in a second chance at love?

Joe Robinson made his first million in his twenties and has expanded that in the decades since. Now a billionaire and active in running of all five of his child corporations, he eats, breathes, and sleeps work. 

Cynthia Mitchell is a top-tier heart surgeon. Moving to the DC area involved a calculated risk that she might run into Joe—but she didn’t expect to find him on her operating table.

When he awakens after surgery to find Cynthia is his doctor, all Joe’s feelings from their college romance return, and he persuades her to go out with him. But he still has his tech empire to run and she’s not willing to take second place to his job.

Will two driven, successful people make room in their lives for love? Or is their second chance dead on arrival?

About the So You Want to be a Billionaire series

Determined to pass his companies to people who won’t make the same mistakes he did, Joe Robinson undertakes some matchmaking cloaked as a competition. They think they’re vying for a top corporate spot and a chance to be a billionaire, but what they really need to find is love.

Narelle’s Thoughts:

I enjoyed reading So You Want A Second Chance, the first book in Elizabeth Maddrey’s new So You Want To Be A Billionaire series. The story is set in Washington D.C., and the main characters are in their fifties. Joe unexpectedly meets Cynthia when he has a heart attack and she is his cardiac surgeon. They broke up years ago when their career aspirations took them in different directions.

Joe works all the time. He’s a generous man, and he’s definitely not the stereotypical unlikeable and ruthless CEO. Joe treats his employees well, and he cares about their welfare. Looking back, he knows Cynthia is the one who got away three decades ago. His heart attack is a wake-up call, and he’s delighted to have an opportunity to reconnect with Cynthia. Old habits die hard, and Joe finds the idea of resting and rehabilitating from heart surgery clashes with his work-a-holic tendencies.

Cynthia’s millions don’t match Joe’s billion plus, but she has established herself in a successful career as a cardiac surgeon. She has climbed the ranks in a male dominated work environment, and she’s aware that the rules are different for women. She’s attracted to Joe, and their old friendship is rekindled.

Joe and Cynthia have both struggled over the years to maintain and nurture their faith around the demands of their careers. They have made mistakes in their personal lives, and have chosen to be single. Being set in their ways, they both question if they have the capacity to alter their lives and make a serious romantic relationship a priority.

I liked the dynamics in this second chance romance that are different to romances with younger couples. Cynthia and Joe’s dreams of romance, as they look toward retirement and beyond, are not the same as a younger couple who are establishing their careers and thinking about starting a family.

We also meet a number of interesting minor characters who will feature in future books in the series. Joe’s matchmaking ideas for his top executive employees are fun, and I’m looking forward to reading their romance stories. I recommend So You Want A Second Chance to readers who like contemporary romance stories with well-heeled mature characters in an urban setting.

Remembering Marion Ueckermann and her books

Dear friends, I’m heartbroken that my dear author friend Marion Ueckermann from South Africa has passed away. I had the pleasure of meeting Marion in person in September 2015 at the ACFW Conference in Dallas, USA. I wasn’t planning on going to that particular conference, but Marion’s joyful enthusiasm and persuasive optimism changed my mind. I booked my flights from Australia, and shared a hotel room in Dallas with Marion, Heidi McCahan, and Janet Ferguson.

L-R: Narelle Atkins, Marion Ueckermann, Judith Robl

A group of us, including Judith Robl and her delightful friend, Sally, went out to dinner during the conference to celebrate Marion’s birthday. 2015 wasn’t an easy birthday for Marion. Both her parents had recently passed, and her beloved husband, Noel, and her family were thousands of miles away on the other side of the world. Marion shared with us her hopes and dreams to step out in faith and follow God’s calling to retire from her day job and write full time. Indie publishing was taking off, and the contemporary Christian romance (CCR) genre offered many opportunities for Marion to write her beautiful and inspiring romances grounded in Biblical truth.

L-R: Narelle Atkins, Lisa Harris, Marion Ueckermann

Marion and I attended the ACFW Zone breakfast, and we sat at the table for international members. I was excited to finally meet Lisa Harris in person, and we all had so much fun catching up with the wonderful writers from around the world who we’d known online for many years.

L-R: Narelle Atkins, Rose Dee, Marion Ueckermann

Back in 2015, I couldn’t have imagined that a global pandemic was around the corner, and that the pandemic would mean Marion only celebrated five more birthdays before Jesus called her home.

I first met Marion online in 2009 when a group of us from the ACFW Beyond the Borders Zone Group started the International Christian Fiction Writers group blog. I was thrilled for Marion when she published her first CCR novelette, Helsinki Sunrise, in the Passport to Romance series.

Marion also blogged for many years at Inspy Romance. Marion’s books are favourite reads that Valerie Comer, Elizabeth Maddrey, and I discuss often on our StoryChats @ InspyRomance podcast/YouTube. In Episode #13 – International Settings in CCR, we discussed many of Marion’s wonderful books set in exotic locations around the world.

A side note: We record the StoryChats episodes in advance, and the upcoming July episodes were recorded and scheduled before Marion became ill. This means we’re talking about Marion and her books in the July episodes in the present tense, and we apologise if this is confusing for our listeners. We will continue to talk about Marion’s books because we love her stories.

I have bought all of Marion’s books, reread a couple of favourites, and I’ve worked closely with Marion in writing A Tuscan Legacy multi-author series.

A Tuscan Legacy story world was created by Marion and our dear friend Autumn Macarthur. I was thrilled to be invited to write a book for the series that included stories by Alexa Verde, Elizabeth Maddrey, Heather Gray, and Clare Revell. Marion designed the gorgeous book covers for the series. My girl in Solo Tu (Book 7), Sienna, is the sister of Marion’s characters: Rafaele in That’s Amore (Book 1), and Alessa in Ti Amo (Book 4). Sienna spent time with Alessa in Rome in Ti Amo before flying to Australia and meeting her own Aussie hero, Dave, in Solo Tu.

I was honoured when Marion, Autumn, and Alexa invited me to write stories in their A Chapel Cove Romance story world. I’m currently writing my first story and, if everything goes according to plan, my book will release later this year.

Over the years I’ve posted a number of book recommendations for Marion’s books. When I reread Marion’s books, I’ll add more book recommendations here. It’s super-hard for me to pick a favourite Marion Ueckermann book because I love them all.

I obviously have a soft spot for Marion’s A Chapel Cove Romance books and A Tuscan Legacy books. Poles Apart and Orphaned Hearts are two of my favourites with international settings.

I’ve included links to my book recommendations below. Marion has also guest blogged for me when I was posting a travel blog series, and I’ve included the links for Marion’s posts below, plus a long list of Marion’s wonderful books.

We will all miss Marion. My thoughts and prayers are with her family and friends from around the globe who are coming to terms with life without her. We are blessed that Marion was a prolific and talented author who has left behind a lovely literary legacy. We can hold onto the promise that we will reunite in eternity. Love to all, Narelle xo

Here’s a list of Marion Ueckermann’s romance books that are available at Amazon.

Limited time multi-author box sets (ebook only)

More Than This — in Love’s Treasure (box set — June 2021 release)

I Take You — in Save the Date (box set 0n pre-order — releasing September 2021)

Chapel Cove Romance series

Remember Me

Choose Me

Accept Me (ebook only)

Ride with Me (ebook only)

A Tuscan Legacy series

That’s Amore

Ti Amo

The Mosaic Collection

In an English Vintage Garden

The Potters House Series

Restoring Faith

Recovering Hope

Reclaiming Charity

Under the Sun – Seasons Change series

A Time to Laugh (Book 1)

A Time to Love (Book 2)

A Time to Push Daisies (Book 3)

Seven Suitors for Seven Sisters series

A Match for Magnolia (Book 1)

A Romance for Rose (Book 2)

A Hero for Heather (Book 3)

A Husband for Holly (Book 4)

A Courtship for Clover (Book 5)

Heart of Ireland series

Spring’s Promise (Book 1)

Heart of Africa series

Orphaned Hearts

The Other You

Dancing in the Rain (ebook only)

Heart of Romance – international series

Poles Apart

Ginger & Brad’s House

Melbourne Memories

Passport to Romance novelettes (ebook only)

Helsinki Sunrise

Oslo Overtures

Glasgow Grace

Book Recommendation – Regaining Mercy by Carolyn Miller

Book Description:

A mom ready to do anything for her son. A man determined to win the woman he loves.

Going on Love at First Glance had seemed like such a good idea. She didn’t care about finding Mr. Right. No, Mindy Murray chose the reality TV show for more mercenary reasons.  A mom’s gotta do what a mom’s gotta do when it comes to feeding her son.

When Mindy returns to Elnora, the girl from the “wrong side of the island” just wants a chance to rebuild her reputation. Too bad the folks at church don’t practice what the preacher preaches.

Enter Dermott Reilly. The interim boss at Greener Gardens has always had a soft spot for Mindy and her son, but with his new responsibilities, an important garden competition, and a few other concerns, he finds it difficult to prove himself to her.

A tropical storm and a missing child prove that sometimes grace appears in the most unusual ways.

Regaining Mercy concludes the Elnora Island romances of the Independence Islands Series, featuring five islands, six authors, and a boatload of happily ever-afters.

The Independence Islands Series: beach reads aren’t just for summer anymore.

Narelle’s Thoughts:

I enjoyed reading Regaining Mercy and visiting the pretty and relaxing Independence Islands beach setting. Mindy is a single mom with low self esteem who can’t catch a break. Her most recent big mistake was her decision to participate in a reality tv dating show. Mindy believes she’ll never be respected or accepted in her home town.

The story opens at the grocery store where Mindy is working as a cashier. A snobbish church lady verbally harasses Mindy in the store and, when Mindy finally takes the bait and speaks up, the customer twists the situation to try and get Mindy fired.

Dermott is friends with Mindy and has worked at Greener Gardens with her brother. Dermott witnesses the grocery store incident, backs up Mindy’s version of events, and inadvertently makes Mindy’s work situation worse. He feels bad about what happened and talks with Callie, his boss, about creating a new job for Mindy at Greener Gardens doing their social media.

Life isn’t fair, and the customer abuse and harassment Mindy was subjected to in her workplace was unacceptable on so many levels. I also empathised with Mindy because she’s struggling to raise her son on her own without family support. Jon is an adorable little boy who’s having difficulties navigating social situations. Mindy is in denial that there might be a medical reason to explain Jon’s behaviour eg. autism spectrum disorder, and she doesn’t have the financial resources to seek medical help for Jon.

A lovely friends-to-more romance develops between Mindy and Dermott with many bumps along their path to happily-ever-after. They work together photographing garden projects, but Mindy doesn’t trust people easily, and Dermott questions whether Mindy shares his faith. I recommend Regaining Mercy to contemporary romance readers who like single mom romance stories that sensitively deal with family issues.

Many thanks to Celebrate Lit Publishing for the advanced reader ebook copy.

Book Recommendation – Joys of Juniper by Valerie Comer

Book Description:

A sheltered dance teacher discovers how the less privileged live when she falls for a struggling college dropout trying to gain custody of his half-sisters in this opposites attract romance.

Dance and music teacher Ava Santoro has led a sheltered life, and she likes it that way. Now she’s ready for Mr. Right to come her way. He’ll be a kindred spirit, a gentle, bookish guy, and a life-long Christian. Not someone like the somewhat-reformed temporary worker in her favorite refuge this summer.

Seth Donahue is scrambling to gain permanent guardianship of his two half-sisters. Too bad he’s dropped out of college — twice — and is struggling to find flexible employment. When his new neighbor offers him a job in Bridgeview’s food forest, he’s surprised to discover he enjoys working with edible plants. He didn’t expect to meet a vivacious dancer who challenges him to choose joy over dulling the pain of his past.

When Ava discovers Seth’s background, it might be too late to guard her heart. How can Seth convince her he’s a changed man?

JOYS OF JUNIPER is the eleventh story in the Urban Farm Fresh Romance series, an off-shoot of the original Farm Fresh Romances. If you love Christian contemporary romance series that focus on engaging characters, strong communities, and deep faith — clean, wholesome, sweet, and inspirational romances — you’ve come to the right place!

Narelle’s Thoughts:

I enjoyed reading Joys of Juniper (Urban Farm Fresh Romance Book 11) and visiting with the characters in the fictional riverside suburb of Bridgeview in Spokane, Washington State. The story is standalone and, since it’s a later book in the series, we meet up with many characters from earlier books. It’s always fun to catch up with couples after their happily-ever-after story closes, and see what’s happening in their lives.

Ava thinks she has it all worked out. After dating a few guys who didn’t meet her expectations, she knows what she’s looking for in her future husband. When she first meets Seth, who’s a waiter at her cousin’s wedding, she’s surprised by their mutual attraction because he doesn’t seem to meet her future husband criteria.

Seth is blown away by Ava, but he believes she’s way too good for him. He has made many poor choices and doesn’t consider himself a good catch. Since he’s come to faith, he wants to finish his college degree in engineering around caring for his newly orphaned and much younger half sisters. He has nothing to offer Ava, and he needs a permanent job ASAP to keep a roof over his head.

Bridgeview is a close knit community where the long term residents look out for each other and help their neighbors who are in need. Most of Ava’s extended family live in Bridgeview, and Ava reconnects with Seth at the food forest. They both start wondering if they could have a future together until big hurdles stall their developing relationship.

The faith element in the story is strong, and the characters are challenged to forgive and seek God’s will. I highly recommend Joys of Juniper to contemporary romance readers who like fun romance stories with adorable children that deal with complex family issues.