Saturday, May 10, 2014

Until That Distant Day: Blog Tour!

"Jill Stengl is one of the rare authors with the ability to transport the reader to another world--a delightfully rich world of scent and sight and sound.” 
Kim Vogel Sawyer, bestselling author of Echoes of Mercy

  "In her latest novel, Mrs. Stengl creates a magnificent portrait of the early French Republic, weaving her delightful cast of characters both in amid the fray and out into the daily life of Paris. What a delight! I have not found a well-researched and compelling historical romance for many years, but this is a breath of fresh air to the genre The strength of the character relationships (brother-sister, father-daughter) gives an honesty and resonance to the realities of all kinds of love. Mrs. Stengl raises the historical romance to a new height in this fantastic tale!"
- Oywen, Reader of Many Books

Colette and her brother Pascoe are two sides of the same coin, dependent upon one another in the tumultuous world of the new Republic. Together they labor with other leaders of the sans-culottes to ensure freedom for all 
the downtrodden men and women of France.

But then the popular uprisings turn bloody and the rhetoric proves false. Suddenly, Colette 
finds herself at odds with Pascoe and struggling to unite her fractured family against the lure of violence. Charged with protecting an innocent young woman and desperately afraid of losing one of her beloved brothers, Colette doesn’t know where to turn or whom to trust as the bloodshed creeps ever closer to home.

Until that distant day when peace returns to France, can she find the strength to defend her loved ones . . . even from one another?

Dear Readers,
  I am so excited to share this book and author with you! I was honored with the chance to ask Mrs. Stengl one question, and while I usually lead with something random ("If you were a marsupial, what would you be?"), or distracted ("What day is this? I wonder is my daughter is wearing matching socks..."), I thought long and hard about all the ways I adore this book, and you can read all about it below. But I wanted to say first: 

Be sure to take the time to go here and take

 advantage of the incredible discount being 

offered by Rooglewood Press! 

A fantastic novel at a fantastic price? HUZZAH!

Now read all about it below!

P.S. Would you like to win an autographed copy? (Of course!) And perhaps a cup of tea to go with it? Then remember to enter in the raffle at the  bottom!

Jill Stengl 

is the author of numerous romance novels including Inspirational Reader's Choice Award- and Carol Award-winning Faithful Traitor, and the bestselling novella, Fresh Highland Heir. She lives with her husband in the beautiful Northwoods of Wisconsin, where she enjoys 
her three cats, teaching a high school English Lit. class, playing keyboard for her church family, and sipping coffee on the deck as she brainstorms for her next novel.

She blogs at Books, Cats, and Whimsy. Do stop by and follow her to keep up with all her writing!

Oywen: Your historical perspective is fantastic! Most French Revolution novels are centered on the execution of the King and the subsequent Reign of Terror, but your novel takes place at least eighteen months earlier. Is there a particular draw to this place and time in history for you as an author? Was this setting important to you (and your characters)? Why?

I chose this particular time in the French Revolution, just as its triumph began to go seriously sour, because it was a turning point in the lives of my major characters. Most players on both sides of a revolution or war believe themselves to be in the right. Who would give up his life for a cause he believed to be evil? Doctor Hilliard, in particular, left his medical practice to become a politician largely because he sincerely believed in the Republic of France. Those early legislators intended to follow the example of the newly-birthed United States and establish a government "of the people, by the people, and for the people". 

But something went seriously wrong, and what began as a noble venture ended in anarchy, chaos, and carnage. Yet many good and intelligent men clung vainly to the belief that a strong republic could and would emerge from regicide and rampant vengeance.
This is a story, not a history lesson - and yet I believe it is important for us today to observe, even through fiction, how unscrupulous journalists and politicians of the past vilified their political counterparts and used fear to arouse the common citizens of Paris to overthrow not only the king but also the original Republic itself. In the name of justice and equality, these men gained fleeting personal power, produced anarchy, and incidentally caused the deaths of thousands of the very people they had promised to protect. It is chilling yet ironic that most of these rabble-rousers later died at the hands of the rabble they had deliberately roused.
In such a battle, nobody wins.
I find it interesting that many French people today take pride in their revolution and believe it was successful - when in truth it was a resounding failure. Within a decade, after much bloodshed at home and on battlefields, they had exchanged a king for an emperor - and France endured a series of revolutions and counter-revolutions throughout the nineteenth century. How easily we can rewrite history to suit our desired ends!
This all sounds depressing, yet Until That Distant Day is about light in the darkness, peace amid chaos, and the hope that conquers despair. Life often makes no sense at all, yet God is near, and He is enough.

Want to hear more about it? Follow the tour on these awesome blogs!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Giveaway Winner!


Congratulations to my new reader, Kailin, for being randomly selected to win the autographed copy of 
'Starflower' by Anne Elisabeth Stengl! 

Please email your address to me, Kailin, and your incredible new book will be on its way to you soon! 

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Gold Medal Winner of Erin's Favorite Book of 2013 Award! & GIVEAWAY!


by Anne Elisabeth Stengl

(I realize that I promised this review and giveaway weeks ago, but an unreasonable amount of THINGS have happened since then, and it took a stomach virus to get me and both my kids stricken upon the sofa, whereupon I finally had time to write this while they watched a movie and this is the closest thing you will get to an apology for any writing issues below because I've got to find more pretzels for all the miserable tummies around here. 
Where was I? Right. Review. Giveaway. Read on.)

'Fans of Tolkien... will be drawn into Stengl's effusive prose and wonderfully scary worlds... a series to stretch your imagination over several long winter nights." - USA Today

   Whatever, USA Today. Quit playing it so close to the vest. Just admit that you are wildly in love with the most fantastic recent incarnation of the fairy tale. There are good reasons that I keep her award-winning Tales of Goldstone Wood series right next to my beloved Lord of the Rings set. This author makes every reader laugh, every girl sigh, every stalwart man cry. And she makes a mean cup of tea.
    I admit, I could be a little biased. But even if she wasn't one of the most kind, generous, faithful, loving, beautiful, and brilliant cat-tamers I know, I'd still order random strangers to run out and buy her books at once. Because what Ms. Stengl does so marvelously well is hard to find anywhere else.
    It's called growth.
    Beginning with 'Heartless' (2011 Christy Award for Best Debut Novel), the reader is entranced by a fantastic world, a timeless princess tale, and the beautiful ideals that have been missed since the days of George McDonald and C.S. Lewis. 'Veiled Rose' pulls the audience further back, paints the tapestry wider, and allows the reader to see the complexities of what a fantastic world means (Also, best children characters I've seen in a long time). 'Moonblood' dares to you to ask the darker questions, to see in yourself all the selfish ambition we think of as 'love', and how the world is greater than one need or one desire. Basically, with every question answered, there are a hundred more to ask, and I never finish a single one of her books without needing:
       a.) several days to ruminate on the brilliance and
       b.) the next novel. Now.

     'Dragonwitch' is my standing favorite (but 'Shadowhand' releases very soon and you are going to LOVE it), if only for the tropes which are handled so masterfully and with such tongue-in-cheek genius. It is the largest ensemble cast that Ms. Stengl has offered, but each character draws the reader's mind and heart too completely to be lost in the beautiful tangle of objectives. And remember what I mentioned earlier about growth? It's inescapable. For the characters and for the reader.
      There is a moment, as a child, when every one of us begins to understand real consequence. When the Disney glitter fades away and loss is real and inescapable. When what we will lose in irreplaceable. When how we choose to sacrifice or flee will define our character and shape us forever.
      And those are the moments which Ms. Stengl never fails to deliver with honesty and depth, while never losing the glitter. Her stories are incredible, her plots complex, and her settings stunning, but what sets her apart from all others (in my rarely humble opinion) is her ability to create good and evil which never fails to ring true.
      This is not to say that one is manipulated into feeling sorry for the bad guy, or the good guy turns out to be the bad guy, or any of those grayer ideals which are the refuge of cowardly authors everywhere. What Dragonwitch delivers with masterful artistry is the rawness of evil and the desperately broken good in every character (and every reader). What Dragonwitch offers is what good fantasy everywhere is founded on; the Truth that is true in every reality.

     Still not convinced? Then I'll make you an offer. The long-awaited GIVEAWAY!

    'Starflower', book four of the series, is an excellent prequel to all the other novels. It is the winner of the 2013 Clives Staples Lewis award and features most prominently my two favorite characters. And I'm giving away one SIGNED copy (just to get you sucked into the glory of Goldstone Wood)!

     To enter?

     1. Follow this blog. 
     2. Leave a comment below.

     Then call your friends and ask them to follow and leave a comment below, because if they win, then you can borrow the book when they're done! (And that's the whole point of having friends, right?)
      Who doesn't love FREE books?
    * Giveaway closes March 25th. *

Monday, February 24, 2014



  The Tales of Goldstone Wood are the award-winning series of author Anne Elisabeth Stengl. These incredible adventure fantasies are told in the classic Fairy Tale style (and are consistently favorites of mine!). Her books include Christy Award-winning Heartless and Veiled Rose, and Clive Staples Award-winning Starflower. 

She makes her home in Raleigh, North Carolina, where she lives with her husband, Rohan, a passel of cats, 
and one long-suffering dog. (I have visited this menagerie, and it is just as marvelous as you would expect. Tea in china cups with a happy fluffy Monster cat watching over me? Pure heaven). When she's not writing, she enjoys Shakespeare, opera, and tea, and practices piano, painting, and pastry baking. She studied illustration and English literature at Grace College and Campbell University.
   (And I named my daughter after her. She's that awesome).

   So I am honored and thrilled to be involved in the cover reveal for her upcoming novel, GOLDEN DAUGHTER!

 The cover illustration was done by Julia Popova. Visit her website,, 
to learn more about her and her fantastic work!



Masayi Sairu was raised to be dainty, delicate, demure . . . and deadly. She is one of the emperor’s Golden Daughters, as much a legend as she is a commodity. One day, Sairu will be contracted in marriage to a patron, whom she will secretly guard for the rest of her life.But when she learns that a sacred Dream Walker of the temple seeks the protection of a Golden Daughter, Sairu forgoes marriage in favor of this role. Her skills are stretched to the limit, for assassins hunt in the shadows, and phantoms haunt in dreams. With only a mysterious Faerie cat and a handsome slave—possessed of his own strange abilities—to help her, can Sairu shield her new mistress from evils she can neither see nor touch?

For the Dragon is building an army of fire. And soon the heavens will burn.

Want. Now.

You too? Learn more at the fantastic website:
Golden Daughter

(Is it November yet?!?)

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Where'd You Go, Bernadette: A Novel

Where'd You Go Bernadette: A Novel  (2012)  
by Maria Semple

   SILVER MEDALIST for the coveted Erin's Favorite Book of 2013 Award

   My dear husband and I took a trip to Washington D.C. in December to see a couple of dear old friends. I  mean, friends we have known for ten years but who are in no way elderly. Anyway, we drove up on Saturday and back on Sunday, so it was a whirlwind affair that promised at least 4.5 hours in the car one way - so my wonderful mother-in-law loaned us a book. She is an incredible connoisseur of all things literature, and quite frankly, she ought to be writing a review blog. I worship her for many reasons, but I don't want to make you jealous, so just understand that my Mother-In-Law is the BEST, and her recommendation of a book is always a good sign.
   From the moment I merged onto I-40 and the dulcet sound of my husband's voice began the first chapter, I was hooked. By the time we were driving north on I-95, we were both impressed, and putting the book down to check into our hotel was perhaps the hardest think we faced all weekend. (In a moment, you'll understand the true compliment). As we emerged from the car and gathered the overnight bags, we both asked, "Do you have the book? Good" because we were willing to live without pajamas, but NOT our new found love.
   We had an incredible evening at the Arena Stage Theatre in the big city, and an even better late night with friends. The next day, we started the five hour trip home.
   Only I-95 is a monument to infrastructure of its worst, and it took us four hours just to get to Richmond.
   Did we gnash our teeth? Perhaps.
   Were there adult words uttered because there were no children in the car? Probably.
   But did we despair? No.
   Because while it took us TWICE as long to get home, my husband was able to read 'Where'd You Go, Bernadette' in its entirety. It made me cry. It made me scream in outrage. It gave me goosebumps, and it made me yell at characters, and it made me terribly, terribly sad when it was over. Not because the ending isn't perfect, but because I was sorry to see Semple's wonderful point-of-view dance come to an end. There was first person insight, there was epistolary drama, and always, a continuity of voice that made all the jumps and changes feel completely natural. It is absolutely brilliant writing.
   I cannot recommend this book highly enough. It isn't because the "Good ends happily and the bad unhappily" as Oscar Wilde so aptly described fiction, but because 'Good' is found in the most wonderfully unexpected places, and 'Bad' is not always what you think it to be. It sparked some of the most wonderful conversations I've had in a long time.

   So... quick! To the library! But be warned - it's really impossible to put down. So you ought to carve out a day and a half to be swept away.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Review: The Bridges of Madison County

I promised to post about a book that I didn't love. Or recommend. Or even remotely like.

"The Bridges of Madison County"
by Robert James Waller

   Published in 1992, The Bridges of Madison County is set in 1960s Iowa. It is the fictional account of an affair conducted between a lonely housewife and a traveling photographer. It was one of the best selling novels of the twentieth century -

Because there is no accounting for taste.

   Let me preface with the reason I picked this book off the Goodwill shelf. I have noticed that, to date, my reviews have been confined to the genre of Young Adult literature. I thought to myself, 'Self, you have no credibility without a wider palette!'  'Self!' I said, 'You must broaden your horizons! You must read books for grown ups!'

   And for the sake of this blog, I finished it. I read the whole thing, and wiped the tears from my eyes at the end. I could not stop crying -

   Because I couldn't stop laughing.

   I could go on about the boredom that settles into the reader's soul when the only driving force of the plot is a sexual tension based entirely on animal magnetism. This is not a couple reunited, for a missed connection, or a slow awakening. It's a, 'I'm bored, you're bored, let's do this'.
   I could go on about the lack of motive, the unrealistic passion of the protagonist when weighed against her claim to love her family (which is somehow more important in the end, but not in the beginning?).
   I could get snarky about the, ahem, 'adult' moments.

   But what I really took away from the book was the real reason I adore young adult literature. Young adults, you see, are not naive and unaware of what is important in life. They understand complexity, and they can weigh conflicting needs and desires. Young adults are able to recognize short term urgency and long term importance. A good YA book will offer real dilemmas, real consequences, and measurable (positive or negative) character growth.

   What this book, with its claim to Real Grown Up Fiction, did was appeal to the most base instincts of the average, world-weary adult. It is an escape, the most purely selfish act that an adult can commit. Nothing about either character indicates their hope of pleasure for the other person, or anything more than a hormonal affection. It is the account of four days spent in complete self-absorption.

   I laughed, and laughed, and laughed. Then I wanted the two hours of my life back.

   In Summary? It's a D minus. Why not an F, you ask? Because I always give credit for correct punctuation. I'm not unreasonable. :)


Next week! Review and Book Giveaway!

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Until That Distant Day - COVER REVEAL!

Paris, France

Colette DeMer and her brother Pascoe are two sides of the same coin, dependent upon one another in the tumultuous world of the new Republic. Together they labor with other leaders of the sans-culottes to ensure freedom for all the downtrodden men and women of France.

But then the popular uprisings turn bloody and the rhetoric proves false. Suddenly, Colette finds herself at odds with Pascoe and struggling to unite her fractured family against the lure of violence. Charged with protecting an innocent young woman and desperately afraid of losing one of her beloved brothers, Colette doesn’t know where to turn or whom to trust as the bloodshed creeps ever closer to home.
Until that distant day when peace returns to France, can she find the strength to defend her loved ones . . . even from one another?
Coming April 25, 2014


Jill Stengl is the author of numerous romance novels including Inspirational Reader's Choice Award- and Carol Award-winning Faithful Traitor, and the bestselling novella, Fresh Highland Heir. She lives with her husband in the beautiful Northwoods of Wisconsin, where she enjoys her three cats, teaching a high school English Lit. class, playing keyboard for her church family, and sipping coffee on the deck as she brainstorms for her next novel.

(P.S. - She's also my HERO. :)

Opening of Chapter 1

I was born believing that the world was unfair and that I was the person to make it right.
One of my earliest memories is of Papa setting me atop a nail keg in the forge; I could not have been older than two at the time.
“Colette, give Papa a kiss,” he said, tapping his cheek.
“Come and sit on my knee.”
My response to every order was the same, asked with genuine curiosity. I did not understand why his watching friends chuckled. Why should I press my lips to Papa’s sweaty, prickly cheek? Why should I hop down from the keg, where he had just placed me, and run to sit on his knee, a most uncomfortable perch? I felt justified in requesting a reason for each abrupt order, yet he never bothered to give me one.
Mama, when thus questioned, provided an answer in the form of a sharp swat. This I could respect as definitive authority, although the reasoning behind it remained dubious.
My little brother Pascoe was born believing that the world was his to command. As soon as he acquired his first vocabulary word, “No,” he and I joined ranks in defiance of established authority.
Many impediments cluttered the path of destiny in those early years: parents, thirteen other siblings, physical ailments, and educational difficulties. And as we grew into adulthood, more serious matters intervened, even parting us for a time. But I will speak more of that later. For now, let me assure you that, no matter the obstacles thrown in our way, our sibling bond seemed indissoluble; the love between us remained unaffected by any outside relationship.
Pascoe and I were young adults when revolutionaries in Paris threw aside the tyranny of centuries and established a new government based on the Rights of Man. From the seclusion of our little village in Normandy we rejoiced over each battle fought and won; and when our local physician, Doctor Hilliard, who had first mentored then employed Pascoe for several years, was elected as deputy to the National Assembly from our district, a whole new world opened at our feet.
My story truly begins on a certain day in the spring of 1792, in the little domain I had made for myself in the kitchen at the back of Doctor Hilliard’s Paris house. Perhaps it wasn’t truly my domain, for it did not belong to me. I was merely the doctor’s housekeeper and could lay no real claim. Nevertheless, the kitchen was more mine than anything had ever been, and I loved that small, dark room; especially during the hours when sunlight slanted through the bubbled-glass kitchen windows, making bright, swirling shapes on the whitewashed walls, or each evening when I arranged my latest culinary creation on a platter and left it in the warming oven for the doctor to discover whenever he arrived home. That kitchen was my home. Not the home I had grown up in, but the home I had always craved.
On that particular day, however, it did not feel the safe haven I had always believed it to be. Loud voices drifted down from the upper floor where the doctor and Pascoe were in conference, disturbing my calm. When I closed the connecting door to the dining room, the angry voices drifted in through the open kitchen windows. I couldn’t close the windows; I might smother of heat. Yet I needed to block out the sound, to make it stop.
So I slipped a filet of sole into a greased skillet and let it brown until golden on both sides. The hiss and sizzle did not quite cover the shouting, but it helped. Then I slid the fish onto a waiting plate lined with sautéed vegetables fresh from my kitchen garden; and I topped all with an herbed wine-and-butter sauce. A grind of fresh pepper finished off my creation.
But my hands were still trembling, and I felt as if something inside me might fall to pieces.
Pascoe often shouted. Shouting was part of his fiery nature, a normal event. He shouted when he gave speeches at section meetings. He shouted about overcooked meals or inferior wines. He shouted when his lace jabot refused to fall into perfect folds.
But never before had I heard Doctor Hilliard raise his voice in anger.
Doctor Hilliard was never angry. Doctor Hilliard never displayed emotion. At most, he might indicate approval by the glance of a benevolent eye or disapprobation by the merest lift of a brow. Yet there could be no mistaking the two furious voices overhead. I well knew Pascoe’s sharp tenor with its sarcastic edge; but now I also heard the doctor’s resonant voice crackling with fury.
I managed to slide the hot plate into the warmer alongside a crusty loaf of bread and closed the door, using a doubled towel to protect my shaking hands.
Behind me the connecting door was flung open, and Pascoe burst in as I spun to face him. “Gather your things; we are leaving,” he growled. His eyes blazed in his pale face, and the jut of his jaw allowed for no questions. He clapped his tall hat on his head as he passed through the room.
I donned my bonnet and sabots and picked up my parasol. “What has happened?” I asked just above a whisper.
“I’ll tell you once we are away from this house.” His lips snapped tight. His chest heaved with emotion, and he grasped a portfolio so tightly that his fingers looked white.

I could not recall the last time I had seen my brother in such a rage.

I can't wait! Can you? Learn more HERE.