Holly Ivy and Intrigue are three novellas to wet your appetite for Christmas. Only days away from this grand celebration and all mayhem lets lose as the characters in these books face misunderstanding, murder and deceit. So just another day at the office in my world!
I hope you enjoy my review of this collection.
My penny’s worth
Holly Ivy and Intrigue – A Christmas collection
Christmas Murder Mix-Up by Joanie Bruce
Christmas Murder Mix-Up is a novella about a couple in love. However, Connor’s wife Paige misunderstands a telephone conversation which leads her to doubt his intentions. This couple is definitely not singing from the same hymn sheet. Now throw in a couple of villains, snow and a Christmas present, and you have an intriguing suspense story. Can Paige trust her husband and will she find God this Christmas?
A lovely short read that kept me turning the pages.
Holiday Pursuit by Alexa Verde
Brianna Rockwell, the main character is a strong lady ready to help her brother no matter what he has done due to their inseparable bond – even when murder is suspected.
Is there no end to her love?
This story tests sibling love, friendship love and falling in love. Brianne is certainly challenged!
A good read for the Christmas season.
A Holiday Intruder by Denise Weimer
Kelsey Jordan is an everyday young woman trying to make a living for herself using the skills God has given her. I like the fact that she is ordinary and struggling just like many of us.
Denise carefully scripts this story and in my opinion, pulls off an intriguing plot. The characters are likeable which makes the ending unexpected.
A Holiday Intruder is a great short read.
*I received this book for free. No compensation was received, and all opinions are my own.*
About the Book
Title: Holly Ivy & Intrigue
Author: Joanie Bruce, Alexa Verde, Denise Weimer
Genre: Mystery/suspense, Christmas
Release Date: November 13, 2017
Christmas Murder Mix-Up
“I have to get rid of her now.”
After four months of a blissful marriage, Paige is devastated to overhear her husband, Cooper, say those words to his best friend. Because of a suspicious Christmas gift, a gas leak, and a home invasion, Paige’s love for Cooper is tested to the limit. Will their marriage survive the Christmas Murder Mix-up?
When Brianna Rockwell’s brother finds himself in danger and disappears three days before Christmas, she does everything to rescue him. Brianna dodges bullets, escapes fire, and even turns to her longtime crush for help. But the closer she gets to solving the mystery and finding her only sibling, the more desperate someone gets to silence her forever…
A Holiday Intruder
Kelsey Jordan prefers upcycling junk and refinishing antiques for her store in a Georgia mountains town to being the center of attention. When a robbery and an unknown benefactor shove her in the middle of a decades-old mystery, and a real estate developer and a former baseball star compete for her attention, Kelsey isn’t sure who to trust.
As an avid reader, Joanie Bruce welcomed the transition from reading to writing and considered it a wonderful new experience to please others with her words. She has three published Christian suspense novels, and enjoys writing from her home in the country. Thankful that God has given her the ability to write, draw and paint, Joanie strives to use them to encourage others and to honor Him in all her accomplishments.
Alexa Verde penned her first literary masterpiece, a rhymed poem, at the ripe age of eight. Since then she has had 200 short stories, articles, and poems published in the five languages that she speaks. She has a bachelor degree in Spanish, and a master’s in Russian. Alexa enjoys writing about characters with diverse cultures. She’s worn the hats of reporter, teacher, translator, model (even one day counts!), caretaker, and secretary. However, she thinks that the writer’s hat suits her the best. After travelling the world and living in both hemispheres, she calls a small town in south Texas home. The latter is an inspiration for the fictional setting of her series Rios Azules Christmas and Secrets of Rios Azules.
Denise Weimer holds a journalism degree with a minor in history from Asbury University. An associate editor for Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas. Denise is the author of The Restoration Trilogy, The Georgia Gold Series, romantic novella REDEEMING GRACE, and ACROSS THREE AUTUMNS: A Novella of The Backcountry Brides Collection through Barbour Publishing (May 2018). This wife and swim mom of two daughters always pauses for coffee, chocolate, old houses, and to write any story God lays on her heart.
Have you ever wanted to be a secret agent or superhero? I grew up with Thunderbirds (yes they were puppets in 1965 – but who cared) and The Hood, the most feared villain and the world’s most dangerous man. Enthralled by the storyline and willing the Tracy brothers to overcome the evil plots that the Hood conquered up, I imagined myself as part of the team fighting for good. Move over Lady Penelope with your pink car! I wanted to be the secret agent with a motorbike decked in leathers speeding to save Scott Tracey – yes I had a crush on a puppet, but then I was only seven!
I had a strong sense of right and wrong and the Tracy family mirrored that quality. The plots were not complicated, and usually, the episodes lasted one sitting. But the dastardly Hood seemed always to get away.
Set in 2060 with their futuristic technology they either rescue or need saving themselves!
In some ways, Jes Drew’s book The Bachelor Missions is similar to Thunderbirds. You have the goodies and the baddies, the intrigue, the rescuer needing to be rescued and a boss man who is keen on disposing of the good guy (or organisation in Thunderbirds case). I wonder if you were a secret agent if you could figure out the various plots that Kristian Clark the main character in the book is embroiled in?
Let me introduce you to The Bachelor Missions – you will find my review below.
My penny’s worth
A new Secret Agent
Kristian Clark, the main character is a new breed of Secret Agent, well at least to me! He is a man on a mission who doesn’t realise he needs rescuing.
What can I say about The Bachelor Missions? Well, it’s full of twists and turns that also incorporates Christian elements too, and Jess Drew draws you into her world of writing right from the start. I wanted to know who the Boss Man was, what he wanted and why. I didn’t like him.
The main character
Enter Kristian Clark, a spy with morals and a past. A thoroughly good guy, like a superhero without the underwear over his tights! He is lovable but a bit slow on the relationship front. So will he get the girl in the end?
Sorry, who is who?
The plot and subplots were for me a bit confusing – maybe I am getting old – like a comic book detective talking his way through the scene, suddenly changing to the bad guy and his antics to bring down the hero. It might have helped if I read the book in one sitting, but my family expected attention and nourishment at intervals.
Can you have spies without violence?
There were scenes of violence, some seemed to stretch the imagination, and I wondered how certain movements were possible – however, I am not an expert in spy training.
Moments of humour
I enjoyed Jess Drew’s humour in the characters she carved out and could picture the somewhat crazy world of subterfuge. Did I see some pink hair streak by?
The dark side
A lot seemed to happen in the book with the most action centred on the final mission. It did creep me out a bit as I wasn’t expecting such dark happenings, but then there are nasty forces at play in this world. The Hood (from Thunderbirds) was tame in comparison.
Who would like this book?
Reading The Bachelor Missions has been an interesting experience. If you are looking for a different type of book for New Adults as Jess Drew coins it, that has a Christian bias in the spy fiction genre; then you may like this one.
Thank you, Jess Drew, for writing this book.
*I received this book for free. No compensation was received, and all opinions are my own.*
About the Book:
Name of book: The Bachelor Missions
Author: Jes Drew
Genre: Christian speculative spy fiction
Release Date: February 18, 2017
The good-guys, the bad-guys, and the wild card- it’s the ultimate game of cloak and dagger…
Kristian Clark, private eye, thought his days as a special agent were behind him, but when he’s drafted into action, he finds himself reunited with his old team- and painful memories of why they broke up in the first place. But as he plunges into mission after mission- from a ‘holy heist’ to babysitting a young hacker to going undercover in a cult- Kristian find that everything he tried to leave behind is coming back to haunt him with a vengeance, and then some. First, there’s the mysterious woman who knows more about Kristian- and his past- than makes sense while using science fiction weapons that don’t make sense period. Then there are the shady powers-that-be who are responsible for drafting him back into this world to satisfy their own nefarious agendas. It’s all Kristian can do to keep from being pulled into their games as he tries to figure out who to trust and what to fight for, even as the trap put in place to destroy him is set with a ticking clock.
Jes Drew lives with her mom, dad, younger sister (the illustrious Nicki Chapelway), four younger brothers (yes, four), and two dogs. She is the author of both the Ninja and Hunter trilogy and the Howling Twenty trilogy. Besides writing, she enjoys reading, daydreaming, and her day job. There is also a possibility that she may or may not be a secret agent, but that’s classified. Still, you can contact her at http://pausefortales.blogspot.com/
Guest Post from Jes Drew
I began writing at a very young age. I don’t think I even started school yet when I came out with my first children’s titles. The Swan Princess and Flamingo Queen was followed by a sequel The Duck Prince and Unicorn King (because I thought it was unfair that only the mom and sister had to go through transformations), and Julian and Juliette had many reprints- all carefully printed and illustrated by myself before moving to their final destination: safekeeping in my mom’s possession.
Years later, I resumed my writing craft near the end of elementary school with two series of chapter books I wrote and then read aloud to my family. However, it was not until I watched Marvel’s Avengers that I found my true muse (Captain America, obviously). The story was so enthralling, I could do nothing but pick up the pen and compose my first published trilogy: The Ninja and Hunter Series published when I was sixteen. This was followed by the tree books of The Howling Twenties two years later.
But, no longer a ‘young adult’ I’ve moved on beyond that genre to the next age group: New Adult. That genre infamously known for its many vices and sins. However, we as Christians are called to “Take every thought captive to obey Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5b), and a genre targeted toward twenty-somethings should be no exception.
So this is my first release in the New Adult genre. Kristian Clark might be a secret-agent-turned-private-investigator-turned-secret-agent again, but he still deals with the same problems all twenty-somethings face: adapting to a career, longing for a soul mate, and searching for deeper meaning in all the noise. With a little intrigue and cool gadgets on the side because, well, he is a secret-agent-turned-private-investigator-turned-secret-agent after all.
Have you ever been in a love triangle? Over fifty years ago I loved two boys, one with freckles and glasses and a couple of inches smaller than myself, the other tall dark and handsome. My dilemma – which one should have my spare lollipop?
A tough decision, Davy had been my first love, solid and faithful but Ben, new on the scene, had charisma. At eight years old friendships meant everything, and I didn’t want to lose either of them.
Pondering over the solution, it dawned on me that the best answer lay in a competition. I turned my back and threw the lollipop over my head…. (scroll down to the bottom of the post to find out who ended up with my lolly!)
Out of Darkness is a fast-moving story carefully crafted by the author. The main characters drew me into the book immediately, and I had a hard time putting it down. I loved them from the first page and could feel their pain as events unfolded very quickly.
Drew, Elisabeth and Gabe, a love triangle that weaves in and out of the pages. Elisabeth caught in the middle through no fault of her own. Grappling with the love of her heart this courageous woman calls on God to help her make the right decisions. I could feel her pain.
The key to success
The wonderful golden thread of faith underpins this great book, an element that is often lacking in other thrillers where so often it is left out and ignored. But this made it for me, spies with faith.
An excellent book
I love spy thrillers, so I looked forward to reading this book, and it didn’t let me down. Page after page the action ran along with me in tow. I needed to know what happened next and it kept me awake long past my bedtime. Yes, in my opinion, it was that good.
Would I recommend it
I have no hesitation in recommending this page-turner; it has it all, suspense, love and heartbreak, mystery, danger and turmoil, courage, trust, daring and a good ending. It simply is the best read I have had in this genre. I would also recommend reading the prequel “First Light.”
Thank you Erynn for writing this book.
*I received this book for free. No compensation was received, and all opinions are my own.*
About the Book
Book title: Out of Darkness
Author: Erynn Newman
Release date: May 18, 2017
Genre: Romantic Suspense
Elisabeth Allen gave her heart to Jesus as a little girl and to Drew Marek as a teenager. When their wedding day finally arrives, it’s the happiest day of her life–until a car bomb transforms her dream come true into a living nightmare.
As Best Man at the wedding, Gabriel Di Salvo promises Drew–his best friend and CIA partner–he’ll look after Elisabeth, but he never dreams it will become necessary so soon. As Elisabeth struggles to put the pieces of her life back together without Drew, Gabe becomes her rock, and as they share their grief and begin to heal, their friendship gradually deepens into something more.
Three years later, Gabe and Elisabeth are planning a future together when he receives a shocking call from the one man who can upend his happiness: Drew. Suspecting someone at the CIA is behind his abduction, Drew refuses to come home. Instead, he asks Gabe to bring Elisabeth to him. Now Gabe just has to figure out how to let her go.
Drew and Elisabeth race across Europe, dodging international arms dealers and attempting to reclaim what was stolen from them. But years of captivity and torture have left their mark on Drew. He is no longer the same boy Elisabeth fell in love with, but he is still her husband, and she’s determined to build something new and leave her relationship with Gabe in the past if her heart will get the memo.
When their enemies close in and the threat of a terrorist attack escalates, Gabe may be the only person they can trust. Drew, Elisabeth, and Gabe are thrown into a fight for their lives–one that will test their loyalties to God, country . . . and each other.
About the Author
Erynn Newman is a pastor’s kid, raised in churches all over the Eastern Seaboard. Since earning her degree in Christian Studies, she has travelled the world and served as a missionary, a counsellor, an ESL teacher, and a nanny. Though she has never worked with the CIA, her DVR contains a veritable Who’s Who of international spies. She is a Carolina girl, a wife, and Mama to a very busy little boy, two cats, and a gaggle of characters that live inside her head.
20 Facts About Out of Darkness
I write novels while the rest of the house sleeps. That’s also when I do most of my editing work and social media stalking. During the day, I get to hang out with an awesome 4-year-old who is the reason I get up in the morning (both because he’s my heart and because he’s staring into my soul asking me to make pancakes).
I don’t like wine or coffee. My writer fuel is partially frozen Cherry Pepsi.
It took me a long time to realize I was a writer. I thought that everyone made up imaginary people and back stories for them and imagined the lives they lived and sometimes talked to them in traffic. Turns out no. Fortunately, other writers found me and helped me figure it out.
My greatest nemeses are also my greatest inspirations. Facebook and Netflix. Finding the balance of hanging out with other writers and readers and being inspired by great story telling and actually doing the work is the hardest thing for me.
I am obsessed with casting characters. Finding the perfect actor/actress or model who embodies my characters is one of my favorite parts of the process. I also do this for every single book I read.
So, of course, now you want to know who I chose for Drew, Elisabeth, and Gabe. I’m glad you asked.
Drew is based on Matt Bomer’s portrayal of Bryce Larkin in the show Chuck (there are quite a few nods to this show hidden throughout Out of Darkness).
Elisabeth is partially based on a character from a show I watched when I was in college (also a waitress and artist), but she looks like this model.
Our house has a really great office with a nice desk and comfortable chair that looks out on our wooded back yard. But I work almost exclusively while sitting on the couch with my laptop propped up on the back of it. My uniform is yoga pants and an old t-shirt. The author life is G.L.A.M.O.R.O.U.S.
I got my start writing fan fiction. Most of it has been obliterated from the interwebs, but there may still be a few Star Wars stories floating around out there (I owe this to my love for Ewan MacGregor and my hatred of Annakin Skywalker). Fan fiction is also the way I found my very first critique group. And our leader, Susan Kaye Quinn, best-selling author and real life rocket scientist, helped me realize I could be a real author. And later she taught me how to publish. I want to be her when I grow up.
Speaking of fan fiction, the original idea for Out of Darkness was a fan fiction based on that character from that show I talked about above. The waitress/artist who lost her first love and then fell for someone else. And then when her love returned, he was… recast. And terrible. And she forgot who she was and made every wrong decision. And everyone was miserable ever after.
And I was like, what even IS this show?!?! So I started writing my version of how it should have gone.
But then a surprising thing happened. My characters took on lives of their own, and I fell in love with ALL of them, and I knew I had to tell their story. So I started creating a different back story for them (and I introduced them to Jesus), and then they became their own characters and started telling me what to do. And I’m a little insane now, but I’m not even mad because I love what this story has turned into (and turned ME into).
I started writing Out of Darkness in its earliest form in 2006. I stopped and restarted several times. I wrote other things that may or may not ever see the light of day. I learned that I was writing all wrong, and I ripped it apart, started over and stitched it back together piece by piece. In fact, my original chapter one is now chapter FOURTEEN. And all of that is after the first fifty pages that now comprise First Light, the prequel novelette that tells the story of how Drew and Elisabeth met and fell in love.
Of all the exotic locations mentioned in Out of Darkness: Venice, Italy; Paris, France; Cordoba, Spain; Trim, Ireland; and even Washington, D.C. and Baltimore, Maryland, I have been to two—Baltimore and Paris.
Google Maps Street View and Wikipedia are an author’s best friends.
Music inspires me to write, but I can’t write to music. I often hear a song that makes me think of a scene or helps me get the emotion right. And I add those to my play list, but when I write, I prefer quiet (or instrumental music).
I want the Gospel to be front and center in every story I write (including my own), but there were two scenes in particular that I really felt like the Holy Spirit guided me in writing. One is when Drew finds his Bible in the backpack Gabe packed for them, and the other is Gabe’s argument with God when he decides to let Elisabeth go. In both instances, I feel like God really led me to the right Scriptures and gave me the words in a way I didn’t experience with any other scenes.
The hardest scenes were all of the ones with Drew and the gas. Both because I don’t like to torture my characters (contrary to what you may believe) and because the science behind the weapon is way above my head. I worked with a couple of microbiologists to get it at least to plausible/possible, but I’m sure there are still some issues with my science there.
I cried several times while writing this book. Elisabeth and I grieve much the same way, so I saw a lot of myself in her moments crying out to God—especially in the ones where she just wanted to feel Him and couldn’t. I cried when Drew fell apart reading his Bible, and I cried at the end when I wasn’t sure who would live or die.
Gabe was the biggest surprise of the writing process. He was supposed to be out of the picture after chapter sixteen. He was just supposed to be a supporting character in the first half of the book, but at every turn, he was tapping me on the shoulder and telling me, “there’s so much more to my story.”
A few scenes didn’t make it into the final book. Two of them are in the outtakes section of my website but don’t read those until after you’ve read the book. Seriously.
After being told by one agent that Out of Darkness would never sell because it didn’t fit neatly into a genre category, I signed with my current agent in 2012, and we submitted it to several publishers. I received lots of compliments on my writing, but ultimately, people didn’t seem to like the fact that both of my leading men were good guys, and there was no one to root against. One even suggested that I make Gabe complicit in Drew’s abduction. And one suggested I kill Drew (again!) so Elisabeth and Gabe could end up together. Both interesting ideas, but neither were the story I wanted to tell. In the end, I decided to indie publish, which has been really challenging, but I’m so happy with the way everything turned out. We all got the ending we were supposed to have.
Speaking of endings, the one in the final version is very different from the original. I’ll try not to be too spoilery, but let’s just say that the original ending was far less happy, but I felt like it was the only way out. One of my characters made a choice that I couldn’t see any way around. And I thought that a happy ending would be too fake. I didn’t want to tie everything up with a pretty pink bow and say “they all lived happily ever after,” because, after everything they’d been through, that wouldn’t be real life. But a very good friend of mine convinced me that I could instead tie everything up with a frayed knot. It’s still messy and difficult and a little raw, but I think it’s real… and full of hope and possibility.
So what’s next, you ask? There’s more to explore here perhaps, but I honestly don’t know what comes next for these characters. That’s something I’m still thinking about.
The story I’m working on right now also begins in D.C. but takes place mostly in the Pacific Northwest. It’s the story of an ex Army Ranger who has to protect his three little brothers when the youngest witnesses their parents’ murder. And there may also be a girl involved.
To celebrate her tour, Erynn is giving away a grand prize of a signed copy of Out of Darkness, a signed copy of First Light, The Joy Eternal~A Sweet and Bitter Providence CD, a $10 Starbucks gift card, and Italian Chocolate Hazelnut Creme Cookies.!! Click below to enter. Be sure to comment on this post before you enter to claim 9 extra entries! https://promosimple.com/ps/beac
And the answer to who got the lolly?
The two boys jumped to catch the lolly, but then the fighting started. Davy lost his glasses in the scuffle and Ben took his chance to steal the sweet. He immediately began to unwrap his prize, and Davy conceded defeat, retorting “You can have the lolly, but I get the gal!”