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Celebrating New Releases

Mistletoe Memories: Six New Inspirational Holiday Romances

boxed-setThis past week the Mistletoe Memories bundle released and I couldn’t be more excited to share this group of stories with you. Myself and five other multi-published authors joined together to bring you six never before published novellas about love at Christmastime. The best part: right now you can snag this bundle for only 99 cents. I’m serious. You can’t beat that deal.

And I’m even more excited to share this with you because my story in the collection – It Was You – launches my new King’s Cove series. Expect to see two more King’s Cove novellas releasing before the end of the year!

The Ranger’s Texas Proposalrangers-texas-proposal

Last year my editor at Love Inspired called me, offering the chance to write a series with five other authors and I jumped at the opportunity. The Ranger’s Texas Proposal is the second book in the Lone Star Cowboy League: Boy’s Ranch series (but can be read as a stand alone). It’s the story of a hunky Texas Ranger and a tough, pregnant widow. I loved writing these characters and really fell in love with them. This one’s a tear-jerker with a warm ending. I can’t wait for it to hit the store shelves!

Small-Town Girl 

Small-Town Girl FrontSmall-Town Girl released in August and it’s really special because it was my fifth book published by Love Inspired. It is the fourth book in the Goose Harbor series and follows newcomer, Kendall Mayes, as she tries to chart out a new future and avoid relationships along the way. That is, until she meets the handsome loner Brice Daniels. This book has already received a lot of great reviews and so many of you have contacted me privately letting me know how much this story meant to you. Small-Town Girl was also recommended on the USA Today Happy Ever After blog by the wonderful Serena Chase: “Highly recommended for fans of inspirational and sweet romance, this is a story that offers many sigh-worthy moments …”

Thanks for reading! -jess

Upcoming Books, News, and Pizza

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Small-Town Girl

A little over a week ago I was given the final cover art for my next Love InspirSmall-Town Girl Fronted release! Isn’t is gorgeous? I love that Lake Michigan got a place of honor on the cover. Small-Town Girl releases in August (although Amazon says it’ll send it your way in by mid-July!).

Here’s the blurb from the back cover:

Goose Harbor, Michigan, is the perfect place for Kendall Mayes to start over and open her date-planning business. When she encounters handsome loner Brice Daniels, who is struggling to keep the shipping business he runs going, she sees an opportunity. A weekly sunset cruise catering to couples and tourists will keep their dealings strictly business. Kendall has had enough of failed romances, and Brice is too burned by love to give it another chance. But despite their reservations, they soon let down their walls. Yet when Kendall’s silent business partner is revealed to be Brice’s longtime enemy, staying together might be next to impossible.

The Ranger’s Texas Proposal

Last year I got a call from my editor asking if I had any interest in writing a book in a series of six books with five other authors. I said yes immediately before I realized that five of the six authors writing for this series all had “best-seller” attached to their name. Guess who was the odd man out? Yup. Talk about intimidating! But the other authors were a dream to work with and I learned so much from them.

These books will release in back-to-back months for six months and mine is the second book (coming out in November). The difference in writing The Ranger’s Texas Proposal (as opposed to my Goose Harbor books) is that my publishing house came up with the general plot and character sketches and then I wrote and fleshed it out. I *loved* the process and I adore the story that came out of all of this. Texas Ranger Heath Grayson really worked his way into my heart and his struggles hit me hard (not ashamed to admit there was a lot of at-my-desk-crying happening while writing this one). I’ve been told by my publishing house that the story got three editors crying at their desks over the book/characters – so that’s fun! I’ve never done that before.

I don’t have a cover yet, but I will share it the second I do. However, the preorder is up on Amazon and here’s the blurb:

When Texas Ranger Heath Grayson agrees to investigate thefts at the boys ranch, he’s also hoping to solve a decades-old murder case: his father’s. Getting involved with pretty, pregnant widow and boys ranch volunteer Josie Markham is not on Heath’s agenda. But the more time he spends with Josie, the harder it is to ignore their growing attraction. The somber ranger is convinced a wife and child are not in his future. But with a little help from the boys at the ranch, he may just realize a family is what he needs most of all.

More Goose Harbor

The fifth book in the Goose Harbor series has a name and release date: Apple Orchard Bride is Jenna and Toby’s story (we’ve meet Jenna in many of the other books) and it’ll hit stores January 2017.

I’m currently writing the sixth book in the series RIGHT NOW! And there are solid plans for more Goose Harbor books after that.

More News

I’ve been getting a lot of emails and PMs asking when to expect the final TimeShifters book. I’m always so appreciative when people reach out to me – especially about Gabby and Michael. Those two and the TimeShifters series are all very close to my heart and I think about them often. I would love to continue their story, but at present I’m contracted to write several other books for my publisher and can’t devote enough time to my independent projects. Book three (Reaching Tomorrow) is completely plotted – I just need to find a gap of time to write it in. Like my Amazon Author Page or follow this blog or subscribe to my newsletter for updates on when Reaching Tomorrow will become available.

Last but not least I’m sitting on some very exciting news about a few projects that I’m working on with a team of other authors that amounts to at least two more releases before the end of 2016. I can’t share the details yet … but stay tuned!

I’m sorry there was no pizza in this post. I just felt like the title needed a little something else and pizza did it.

Celebrating a New Book!

Celebrating a New Book!

Today I’m handing out party hats and slicing the cake (oh, it’s totally okay to eat cake at before noon!) to celebrate my latest book which released this week! My newsletter subscribers are already having a lot of fun. I announced the release on my newsletter on Tuesday morning and gave them an opportunity to enter to win signed copies of both the new book Searching for Home and The Widower’s Second ChanceIf you don’t want to miss out on upcoming fun, make sure to stop by my website and sign up to receive future updates first. You’ll find the “Join Jessica’s Mailing List” box on the front page.

I also wanted to let you guys know that you may start to see some construction dust on my blog very soon. In the coming months my author website and my blog will both be revamped (design wise) and joined on one complete site. Won’t that be nice? I sure hope so.

But let’s get to the good stuff…a new book!

Searching for Home – Spies of Chicago, Book One

for websiteShe thought a dead relative ruined her life, but discovering his story will save it instead.

When the story of Whitney’s long-dead anarchist ancestor, Lewis Ingram, makes front-page news, she must find a way to exonerate her relative, or risk losing everything–her mayoral-candidate boyfriend and her job at a local magazine. Aided by Nate, a volunteer at the Chicago Historical Foundation, she digs in, determined to find a positive spin on the situation. But what awaits her isn’t spin at all. It’s truth–and it will change her life.

In the world of 1886, Ellen Ingram and James Kent didn’t intend to get caught in the middle of an anarchist spy ring. Ellen was content to leave all such intrigue to her brother, Lewis Ingram. But as the political climate in Chicago changes, Ellen and James have no choice. In the midst of the famous Haymarket Riot, both realize that they must live the life God created them for, not the one dictated by society.

Two generations encounter the same truth–and neither will ever be the same.

Review for: The Next Target

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I recently finished reading the book The Next Target. Man alive, what a roller-coaster of emotions. From start, up until the very last page this was a thrilling, nail-biting, wildly suspenseful read. Honestly, from the back cover this is not a book I would have picked up (I’m a hopeless romantic and often historical reader), so I’m indebted to publisher David C. Cook for having me read this book to review because I’m so glad I got the chance. I enjoyed this page-turner, but more than that it challenged me in my own beliefs and faith.

Book Summary:

Heroine, Austia Donatelli, struggles to keep her late husband’s ministry alive. Austia uses the career center she runs to teach English classes to Muslim women in the evenings. In truth, the classes are a cover to lead these women to God and teach them about Christianity. When the leaders within the Muslim community discover Austia’s duplicity they vow to end her underground ministry. Austia’s fears she may be killed for her faith just like her husband was.

The rubber meets the road when one of Austia’s students is murdered for converting. From that night out, Austia’s ministry—and all the women she’s worked with—become targets.

Austia’s live spirals out of control and the circle of trustworthy people in her life grow smaller and smaller. Can she really trust anyone? Furthermore, Austia’s on edge about the translator she employes at the career center, Zaki. Things keep happening when he’s around and Zaki doesn’t have satisfactory explanations.

As the toll of suffering rises, Austia’s left asking if her mission and faith are worth the end costs.

My Reaction:

While I do feel like the characters could have been more deeply explored, and the tension for weather Zaki was good or not could have remained unknown longer, the theme of this book is well-worth the read.

Her topic is completely taboo—the relationship, and sometimes lack thereof, between Christians and Muslims in America. She demonstrates that even those with great intentions find the divide between these two religions difficult to navigate because both sides constantly misunderstand the other’s, their motives, and interests.

The author, Nikki Arana, serves persecuted Christians who are under the threat of death because of their conversion through the organization, A Voice for the Persecuted. She clearly drew extensively from her own personal experiences.

Arana writes all her characters—no matter their religion and beliefs—with respect. She’s non-judgmental in her portrayal and challenges the reader to be the same.

I’d highly recommend this book to all readers for its thought-provoking nature.

Okay, Legal Stuff 🙂

I received a free advance reader copy of this book from publisher David C. Cook for my honest review. Also, if I’m one of the two bloggers who receives the most comments, I’ll win a free Kindle Fire courtesy of David C. Cook! And you know what that means…I’m trying to win it in order to give to ONE OF YOU! Yes, if I get the most comments, I’ll be giving the Kindle away to one of my faithful readers.

So what do you think? If you were in Austia’s position, what would you do? Would you give up on the mission you feel called to if your life was in danger? Have you ever been in a tough situation where you felt persecuted—would you be willing to share that experience with me and my readers? Would this be a book you’d be interested in reading?

GREAT NEWS! If you already own a Kindle this book is FREE to download right now. How cool is that? Just click here. And if you’re interested in finding out more about author Nikki Arana, just press here.

Amanda Cabot’s Almost-Healthy Chocolate Cake

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*This post is written by Author Amanda Cabot. To learn more about Amanda and her books visit her website

Who can resist chocolate?  Not I!  Not only is chocolate one of my favorite flavors, but I married into a family of chocoholics, so it’s safe to say that I’m always looking for good chocolate dessert recipes.  One of the things I like about this cake (in addition to the flavor, of course) is that it’s relatively healthy.  It’s actually very low fat, and the use of egg whites rather than whole eggs means that it’s also low cholesterol.  As for calories, well … I won’t claim it’s diet food, but it is lower in calories than many chocolate cakes.  So, enjoy!

Note: Because this is a low-fat recipe, it’s important to not over-process the flour.  Do not use an electric mixer, and be careful to stir gently when you add the liquid ingredients to the flour mixture.

Prepare the bottom of a 9 x 13 pan by either spraying it with a non-stick floured coating like Baker’s Joy or by greasing it and dusting it with flour.

In a large mixing bowl, stir together until well mixed:

  • ¾ cup cocoa
  • 2 cups sugar

Stir in and mix well:

  • 2 cups whole wheat flour
  • 1 ½ tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • ½ tsp salt

In a blender or food processor, blend until smooth:

  • ½ cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 2 egg whites
  • 1 ½ cups water
  • ½ tsp instant coffee crystals

Pour over the dry ingredients and stir gently until completely mixed.

Pour into the prepared pan and bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Frost as desired.


Though she had planned to spend the summer in Vermont with her sweetheart, Abigail Harding cannot dismiss her concerns over her older sister. Charlotte’s letters have been uncharacteristically melancholy, and her claims that nothing is wrong ring false, so Abigail heads west to Fort Laramie, Wyoming. The endless prairie seems monotonous, but when her stagecoach is attacked, Wyoming promises to be anything but boring. Luckily, the heroics of another passenger, Lieutenant Ethan Bowles, save the day.

When circumstances–and perhaps a bit of matchmaking–put Abigail and Ethan together, there’s certainly attraction. But Abigail is planning to marry another man and return to life in Vermont as soon as she is finished attending to her sister. And Ethan loves his life in the Army and the wilds of Wyoming. When summer ends, will Abigail go back East? Or will she fall in love with this rugged land herself?

Summer of Promise is ON SALE right now on Amazon!


Review For: The Embittered Ruby, by Nicole O’Dell

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*Guest reviewer: Author Laura Anderson Kurk

Book Overview:

The Embittered Ruby is the story of sixteen-year-old Carmen Castillo’s struggle with the tumultuous change in her life. Her parents have just divorced and her father has a shiny new girlfriend. In an effort to prove to her ex-husband that she’s a survivor, Carmen’s mom takes a job in Hackensack, New Jersey, and moves her three daughters away from their life of luxury in Briarcliff Manor, New York, to a tiny apartment in a questionable neighborhood.

Carmen, accustomed to country clubs, fancy dinners, and the company of her wealthy boyfriend, Nate, hates being the new girl in a gang-infested school. Unfortunately, she attracts the attention of a gang leader, and has to rely on another tough guy who protects her by pretending to be her boyfriend. Even running to the store in this neighborhood is scary.

She feels like she’s living someone else’s life. She longs for a pair of ruby slippers to take her home, and her longing turns to bitterness when she sees that her old life really is gone.

Desperate and determined, she hatches a plan to take back her world in bits and pieces through a hastily orchestrated manipulation that hurts everyone involved. Nate is heartbroken; her family is crushed; and, Carmen is ashamed.

Carmen needs help in the worst way. It has to be drastic, and it has to be now. That kind of help can only come from above. But is Carmen ready to make the necessary changes? Or is it business as usual for this girl who is used to getting her way, even when it means hurting those she loves best?

Series Overview:

The Embittered Ruby is O’Dell’s second book in the Diamond Estates Series. It follows the popular first book The Wishing Pearl, released in 2011, and will be complete with the publication of the third in the series, The Shadowed Onyx, in 2013.

All three books shine a spotlight on a teen girl in crisis who reaches out a hand at the last minute and finds help at the Diamond Estates Home for Girls in Colorado. Ben Bradley, the director of Diamond Estates, and his wife, Alicia, started the home because they had experienced a crisis as a teen couple and they felt led to help girls. Ben said, “Sometimes teens need to be plucked out of their environment so they can focus on getting healthy.”

O’Dell is open about the fact that her own life was saved by a place like Diamond Estates as a teen, and her books give a lot of credit to the folks who helped her out. This is one of the many, many reasons I admire O’Dell and love this book series.

Positive Content:

Carmen is real. She’s somebody we’ve all known. Maybe somebody we’ve been. She experiences that crash of self-realization when she sees that she’s the one who messed up. She’s the one who manipulated. She’s the mean girl. There’s no one else to blame. That’s a lonely place to be, and O’Dell handles the emotional aspect of self-awareness deftly. That part of Carmen’s story will touch both teen and adult readers.

O’Dell brings her readers into Carmen’s mind to show just how easy it is to get caught up in sin. Through Carmen, we learn big lessons like—just because we want something doesn’t mean we should have it; just because we feel like saying something doesn’t mean we should; and just because we feel like our life is unfair doesn’t mean we get to choose again.

With the help of the counselors, staff, and other girls at Diamond Estates, Carmen sees how interconnected we all are with each other. Families must work together. Not only that—we must find healthy ways to engage with boyfriends, friends, classmates, neighbors, and the world. Life’s tough all over and there are really no pat answers. That’s a bitter pill to swallow for a sixteen-year-old girl.

Consider This:

What I love best about O’Dell is that she never shies away from tough topics. She writes in that place so often ignored by inspirational YA fiction—the place where the teens who are hurting live. These are the girls who have tried, who have good hearts, but have made poor choices, and now they’re desperate for relief. Her message is soaked in authenticity and realism—the mark of an author who understands that heaping judgment upon girls who have messed up doesn’t really help them make things right. Instead O’Dell takes the hand of the hurting reader and leads her out.

The Embittered Ruby deals with a lot of heavy things—divorce, teen sex and its results, gangs, cutting, alcohol and drug use, and racism. Sounds like a lot for one novel to take on, but these issues are handled well and realistically. O’Dell doesn’t “go there” just to “go there.” And much of that, I believe, comes from muddling her way through some of these same issues when she was a teenager. She’s authentic, both in her depiction and in the solutions she offers.

I recommend the book for teens who are ready for tough topics. I would say ‘older teens,’ but I don’t want to stamp it with that label because I know there are ‘younger teens’ who are already faced with some of these issues. I also highly recommend the book to parents of teens, youth leaders and teachers, and adults who have a heart for teens who are hurting.

If you are considering the book for your daughters or friends, and you’re concerned about the tough topics addressed, read the book first, and see how O’Dell, more than anything, shows where true grace and mercy come from. I found the book to be refreshingly compassionate, honest, and unapologetic. ‘Real’ in that way teens today need real.


Laura Anderson Kurk is the author of Glass Girl, a YA novel, and its upcoming sequel, Perfect Glass. She blogs at Writing for Young Adults ( and writes monthly features for Choose Now ministries and Katharos Now, a popular e-zine for teen girls.

She works with teen writers through the Write With Me critique group of NextGen Writers. She’s also a regular contributor to YA blogs and radio shows, and speaks to teens and young adults about the issues on their minds and in their hearts.

She lives in College Station, Texas with her husband and two ginger-headed kids. You can find her hanging around on Facebook, Twitter, and her e-home.

Review for: A Wedding Transpires on Mackinac Island

Looking for a summer read? A book that’ll transport you on a mental vacation? Author Cara Putman gave me a copy of her new release, A WEDDING TRANSPIRES ON MACKINAC ISLAND, and it did just that.

Mackinac is a small touristy island located in Lake Huron. One of the things I really loved was that this book is laced with wonderful details—fudge shops, the grand hotel, horses clipping down the street, and people on bicycles—it’s written so well it made me want to pack my bags and book a one-way trip to Mackinac!

Add this quaint setting to a charming love story, and it would have been the perfect beach read…but Cara upped the ante. Instead of the typical boy-meets-girl-love-story, A WEDDING TRANSPIRES became an exhilarating can’t-put-it-down suspense/mystery story that had me flying through the book, trying to figure out the details of the crime.

What really happened the night of the drowning? Who killed the owner of the fudge shop?

Yet through it all, the mystery didn’t lose the love story which includes a love triangle. Who would Jonathan choose? The high-school-sweetheart who was the only woman he ever loved? Or the woman with a two-year-old son who needed him?

So, in the end, I’d call this a summer-read with a punch! It was great, I loved that there were so many layers and it wasn’t just a run-of-the-mill love story. I enjoyed the heart-pounding moments where their safety was in jeopardy, and I always enjoy a good who-done-it. As if that wasn’t enough, Cara packs in a powerful message: sometimes we have to dig up past pain in order to heal.

Much love -Jess

P.S. You should check out Cara’s website, she has so many other books to choose from!


Back cover copy, from Barbour:

Can the truth set Alanna Stone free?

Attorney Alanna Stone has never forgotten Jonathon Covington–or the pain of his betrayal. In fact, he’s why she’s avoided returning to Mackinac Island. But an exhausting, high profile case and an urgent plea from her parents bring her home. She immediately finds herself thrust into controversy as an unsolved murder once again turns public opinion against her family. Jonathon has been waiting for her return, but the woman he sees now has little in common with the one who left. Will they be able to lay aside the past and let God heal their hearts, or will reconciliation come too late?