Kitfox on the Palouse

Hubbie's friend, Jared Sega, has been creating quite a few flying videos that showcase the Palouse where we live. Jared's a young guy who earns his living as an ag pilot. Like us, he owns Kitfox, which he flies for recreational purposes.

There are a couple advantages to flying the Kitfox over the RV-7 (our other airplane). The Kitfox cruises at than 100 mph, making it a good choice for slow flying to check crops. You can also land it in a field, should you want to get down on the ground for a closer look at something. It's a true bush plane.

We particularly love this video, which really showcases the Palouse in the fall, with all the golden stubble fields as they look just before fall planting.

Just Checkin'

I don't know what my little sweetie was thinking, but we'd just gotten back from a Costco shopping trip. I bought each of the three kids books (What else?). Hers was a princess book, complete with a tiara and looking glass.


The Wedding Journey by Cheryl St. John: Irish Brides Series: Inspy Historical Romance Book Review

Back of the Book

The mysterious inheritance is the answer to a prayer. Now Irish lass Maeve Murphy and her sisters can come to America! She's sure happiness awaits her, even if it won't--can't--come from widowed ship doctor Flynn Gallagher. Yes, he made her his assistant, but she's not foolish enough to fall for the man all the eligible, wealthy female passengers admire.

Flynn Gallagher may have his pick of ladies, but only one cares as he does for the sick and poor. Flynn vowed never to marry another woman who could break his heart. With Maeve, has his heart found safe harbor at last?

This one makes me want to say, "Ah." An old fashioned love story. A very old fashioned love story, and I LOVED it.

This is the first book (of three) in the Irish Brides series, a continuity series about three sisters, written by three different authors. I don’t know the exact details about continuity series, but my understanding is that the Love Inspired editors think up the series, creating a series bible, and then ask different authors if they would like to write the different books. It sounds like a lot of fun to me!  

Cheryl St. John kicked it off with The Wedding Journey. I found it intriguing, and also very cool, that this was a “road trip” story that took place pretty much entirely from the time the sisters boarded a ship in Castleville, Ireland (in 1850) until disembarking in America. It’s the time of the Irish potato famine, and these very strong, very brave young women are destitute. The inheritance, a house, is their only hope for survival. 

This one is Maeve’s story. When the ship’s physician sees her expertly helping an injured person, he asks her if she would be his assistant on board the ship. Though reluctant, she finally recognizes that God is calling her to do so. While on board, Maeve meets many people, some of whom are friendly towards her and her sisters, and others who believe they are superior because the sisters are poor and they are rich.

It’s partly because Flynn, the doctor, comes from this class of people that Maeve feels she would never be his type, although he never behaves in a superior fashion toward her or anyone. Flynn has his own reasons for not wanting to be in a relationship with Maeve, but they are not at all what she thinks.

This is a romance, and so the destination--love, marriage, and happily-ever-after--is never a surprise. But the journey of falling in love is unique with every romance written.

I never give star ratings to books I review, but I will say that this was one of my favorite Love Inspireds, from a line that is full of wonderful, wonderful books.    


World Alzheimer's Day and Somewhere over the Rainbow, Take Three

I saw from Liz Fichera's blog that today is World Alzheimer's Day. Liz recently lost her dear mother to Alzheimer's, as did I, as did a good friend of mine and ... Well, here are some statistics from Liz's blog:

Every 68 seconds, someone develops Alzheimer's disease.  This disease doesn't play favorites and finds people from anywhere on the planet.  There are currently 5.4 million people suffering from it (just in the US!) and that number is expected to quadruple to as many as 16 million by 2050.  I also read recently that 1 out of 2 people over the age of 85 will suffer from Alzheimer's, especially as baby boomers age and people live longer.  

Somehow, we need to figure out why this is happening. I'd read once that in Colonial times, people routinely died from lead poisoning from the lead in the pewter they used in plates and utensils. The cause was a mystery until much later. I hope we're not inadvertently poisoning ourselves in a similar way, from some other environmental toxin. 

This is such an ugly disease. In remembrance of my mother, I decided to post the eulogy I wrote for her, which my husband read at her memorial. I'd written this way back in 2004, when we thought the end was near. Little did we know. She had only entered into Stage 2. The worst was yet to come. She died in May of this year. Because she looked like Judy Garland in her youth, I used phrases from Somewhere Over the Rainbow, from the Wizard of Oz, to mark the stages of her life. 

There’s No Place Like Home

Dorothy grew up in Lake Forest, Illinois, thirty miles north of Chicago, along the Gold Coast of Lake Michigan. Lake Forest is the home of hundreds of country estates housing Chicago’s commercial, professional and cultural leadership, and the greatest concentration of American country estates to be found between the east and west coasts.

Although not one of the wealthiest men in the area, Dorothy’s father owned a paint and wallpaper business that catered to the town’s grand families. Dorothy grew up hearing the names of her father’s famous customers—Adlai Stevenson (who twice ran for president), A.B. Dick (copy machines) , Cudahy (meat), Morton (salt)—to name a few. 

Dorothy could trace her heritage on her father’s side all the way back to John Cary, Plymouth Pilgrim. Though he did not come to America on the Mayflower, he arrived on only a decade later.
On Dorothy’s mother’s side, the Myers’s were German Catholic immigrants who came to America at the turn of the twentieth century.

Like many families in those days, Dorothy’s parents had a good number of children, but only four of them grew to adulthood.Dorothy grew up to be a beautiful, outgoing young woman who happened to look a lot like Judy Garland. Once when Dorothy walked through the doors of the Aragon, a nightclub in Chicago, the emcee said to the guests, “Ladies and Gentlemen: Judy Garland Has Just Walked In.

Dorothy turned 21 on August 15, 1945, which was also V-J Day. For people who don’t know what that means, it was “Victory over Japan” day. The war was over, and the whole world celebrated. She liked to joke that the whole world was also celebrating her coming of age.  

She worked at the Great Lakes Naval Air Station in Great Lakes, eight miles north of Lake Forest. She had the honor of being the 1000th girl hired as a clerk typist to help discharge soldiers after the war. Apparently, each additional clerk typist hired enabled the center to increase the rate of discharge by 21 each day.

Toto, We’re Not in Kansas Anymore

On Friday, July 13, 1946, Dorothy married Walter, in Seattle. She was working at the Auburn Depot as a messenger girl where Walter, also known as “Bud” was a warehouse foreman. Dorothy liked to say, again jokingly, that they met when Bud almost ran over her with a forklift. Bud doesn’t remember it quite that way.
On their wedding, though one year after the war had ended, food was still being rationed. To buy sugar for the frosting on her wedding cake, Dorothy collected ration coupons from her many friends.

Fourteen months after their wedding, Frederick was born. Five years after that, Catherine came on the scene. Cathy was six months old when Dorothy’s parents gave Dorothy and Bud money for a down payment on a new home.

The family lived at 317 Chicago Blvd in Pacific, Washington for seven years. While in Pacific, Dorothy became a cake decorator, an Avon Lady, babysitter and a Tri-Chem Liquid Embroidery distributor.

When the Auburn Depot closed, the family moved to Utah. While in Utah, Dorothy worked as a key-punch operator. That was in 1960, when computers were massive—the size of a room. Data going into them was first key-punched on a manila card about the size of a legal envelope. Dorothy was fast on the key punch, but she soon discovered she was pregnant again. Carol was born in Ogden.

Dorothy wasn’t fond of Utah. In those days, discrimination against non-Mormons was absolutely everywhere. When G.S.A. opened in Auburn and offered Bud a job, the choice was easy. Two years to the day after leaving Auburn, the family rolled back into town. Dorothy and Bud bought their third brand-new home in ten years.

During the next couple of decades, Dorothy would become very involved with her church and the Auburn Hospital Auxiliary. She and Bud were in a pinochle club that met once a month. Twice a month, they played pinochle with an elderly couple and always had them over for dinner.

When Bud retired at 55, they took to the road in their fifth-wheel, spending the winter months in southern California each year for several years. They also crossed the mountains and parked their fifth-wheel in Cathy’s driveway for a couple of weeks each year.

You can imagine that someone who was such a great wife, mother, and friend was also a fantastic grandmother. Dorothy loved nothing so much as making birthdays and holidays, especially Christmas, positively grand. She spared no effort in decorating packages, but kept it economical by making tags and decorations from previous years’ Christmas cards.

One year she claimed to have baked seventy-two dozen cookies. Each and every one of her Spritz cookies were lovingly frosted and sprinkled.

Each year, she would add another piece to the Christmas village she built. After buying the raw pieces, she would paint and decorate them. It was a Victorian village, complete with all the “gingerbread” that comes with the style and it was her pride and joy. It also looked a lot like Lake Forest, the town she grew up in.

In 1996, Dorothy and Bud celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary. It was also the marked beginning of Dorothy’s long struggle with Alzheimer’s.

Somewhere Over the Rainbow

At first, when Dorothy could still communicate with her family, she would talk about wanting to go home. But where was home? She didn’t know where it was anymore, even when she was sitting in her own home. She couldn’t find a familiar room, her familiar bed. She spent a lot of time remembering her parents, insisting that they were still alive and she had recently talked with them. They’d been gone for over 45 years
Finally, Dorothy has found home again. She has found her home with her Savior Jesus.

She has also been reunited with her parents, brothers and sisters. In heaven, she has found the land that she heard of, once in a lullaby . . .  

Cue Music: Somewhere over the Rainbow (Eva Cassidy version).


Six Reasons to Love Throughline (Interactive Index Card Software)

While revising my manuscript over the past two weeks, I was chugging along, no problems, following my notes about what needs to be added/changed/deleted from each scene as I revise it. I had already dumped all scenes that do not fit into the revised concept for my story.

But then, on Monday, when I was four scenes away from the big turning point at half, I discovered I needed a way to see, in a highly abbreviated form, what's been happening in each scene, in each of the story's four throughlines. That way I will know if, emotionally speaking, I have adequately set up the big thing that happens at half. You might be a gifted writer who can keep all of this in your head. Unfortunately, I am not.

How to do that easily? I had originally thought that yWriter would do the trick for me. It has a story boarding component to it, but working with it, I felt boxed in. I had long since pulled everything out of it and gone back to using Microsoft Word.

So, what was I to do? I could use the painstaking, time-consuming process of writing it out on scene cards. Ugh. Are you as tired of that process as I am?

Then I poked around the web and discovered Throughline by the Wright Brothers, who also developed Dramatica Pro, which I love. Here's six reasons why I love "The Deck," as it's called, and you might too:

  1. You are working from your computer to create and arrange the index cards. No writing them in pencil until you fingers cramp, and then standing on your head, arranging all those cards on the carpet. The carpet, which you suddenly become all too aware that you haven't vacuumed for two weeks. Maybe more.  
  2. You can add and delete cards with a single click. If you want only the scene title to show up on your card, you can do that, and then double-click for scene contents. I like having it all up front, and so I write everything on the front of the card. Oh, the glory of having a bird's eye view of my manuscript, from my computer screen! 
  3. Editing content is SO EASY, compared to index cards. Add, subtract, cut, paste, change font, text color, size--if you want to get that fancy with it. 
  4. To rearrange, just drag and drop.
  5. You can have as many cards as you want in a row by re-sizing all from the lower right of the screen. Because I am now ordering my manuscript by Dramatica Pro's Signposts and Journeys, and every story is comprised of four throughlines, each with a total of four signposts and three journeys, I've set my cards (see above), according to that. (Note on image above: you are not looking at the complete manuscript, but only to the halfway point.) I've given each throughline a different colored card, so I am aware at a glance of what's happening in each one, and where the characters are emotionally in each. By Dramatica "rules," if you are working in Signpost 2, for example, then each of the four throughline Signpost 2 scenes need to be completed before moving on to Journey 2, although they do not need to be completed in the same order each time. The colored cards show me this at a glance. 
  6. You can also export this information and print it up.

Here's another great reason: It costs only $9.95, and you have it forever, for every manuscript you write. 


Montana Homecoming by Jillian Hart: Inspirational Romance Review

Back of the book: 

A place to heal

That's all Brooke McKaslin yearns for.

She's returned to Montana on family business, hoping to leave her past behind. And to shield the secret she carries. She's not planning on staying long--until she begins working for reporter Liam Knightly. Liam is handsome, good-hearted--and as leery of relationships as Brooke is. Even as they realize how much they have in common, Brooke fears a threat to their growing love. Will her secret stand in the way of their happiness?

It's pretty hard to review a book, any book, without spoilers, which tends to limit what can be said. Especially in a very short book such as are contemporary Love Inspireds--only about 60,000 words. 

Brooke McKaslin’s come home to Montana to help her sister, Brianna, who’s going to court to testify about a robbery that left her badly injured. While there, she meets Liam Knightly, a reporter who hires her to help with his lovable but totally undisciplined dog, Oscar. 

Oscar, of course, brings these two relationship-shy people together. Brooke has a secret that she fears would destroy any relationship with Liam. Liam had been left at the altar. 

Beyond saying that about the book, I think the most interesting things that can be said about all of Jillian Hart's books has to do with her writing style. While her stories are quite plotless (not entirely, but quite) she is a consummate word-painter. Her stories don't have the depth and breadth of literary novels, nor are they meant to be literary--they're series romance. But she does have a literary, poetic writing style. 

A dozen or so years ago, I used to know Jillian Hart, which is not her real name. We were in a critique group I'd started in Spokane with her and two other ladies. We met over over the good-weather months,  but as winter road conditions loomed, besides the half day it took to meet with them, I decided the costs weren't worth the benefits. What I remember about Jill is that she was sweet and probably the most sensitive person I've ever met. 

Her career was largely just starting out; she'd done a couple books for Zebra as well as Harlequin. Within a year or so, she had been contracted to write another seven or so books. She was a very busy lady and searingly ambitious.

Now all these years later, her ambition has paid off. She is one of Harlequin's superstars, but I wouldn't say the road's been easy for her. I read recently that she gets up at 5:00 AM every day and writes until dinnertime. That sounds like a 12-hour writing day, which would be positively grueling, and she does this day in and day out. This year, Harlequin will be releasing something like nine, possibly more, of her books. 

That means she writes a book about every six weeks? Is that correct? It makes my head spin. 

But hats off to Jillian, who says she simply loves what she does. 


Goal Update Monday, and a treat from George Winston

Hubby and I saw the incomparable George Winston in concert this past Tuesday evening. Like any artist at the top of his form, he is a good example of the virtuosity one can achieve after countless hours of practice. He adapts some pieces and writes others. His season suites are so evocative that I can hear, for example, the individual colors of leaves blowing in an autumn breeze. Or raindrops coalescing and then finally dropping.

As for my goal update:

Writing: Once again, I didn't come very close to reaching my 32-hour goal. I wrote for 25 hours. Almost every day during the week, hubby needed me to help move trucks, tractors and combines! It's my new, part-time job, which I have taken over for my 88-year-old father-in-law, and am happy to do so. On Friday, machinery moving took four hours, alas.

But I met my word goal, which is the important one: I have now revised 24,600 words. If I can keep up this pace, I will be finished in a month, which will give me another month to do a line edit. I'm planning to enter this manuscript in the Romance Writers of America's Golden Heart contest, Young Adult category. The GH opens for enrollment on Wednesday; the full manuscript must be submitted early in December.

Blogging: No goal, except to keep it at or below eight hours each week. I spent 8.5--not too bad of an overage.

Jogging: Goal is 16 miles, no more, no less. I met that goal, although I'm going to change the program in my Polar F60 beginning tomorrow. I currently have it set for weight loss, but I now want to work on increasing my cardiovascular fitness instead. I'll be changing it to a more demanding program. I won't be jogging any more than 16 miles, but will be pushing myself harder to reduce my minutes-per-mile.

Reading: I finished Mistaken Bride by Renee Ryan and started Lady Outlaw by Stacie Henrie. This line from Lady Outlaw made me chuckle:
"Through the blue twilight smearing the western sky, Jennie spotted the familiar outline of the corral fence. Home."
This is an action-packed adventure romance, and so I wasn't looking for poetic prose. But this appears to be   the extent of her nod to literary description. Again, I'm not saying this as a criticism, but merely as an observation.

Life in General: Hubbie still hasn't had time to finish painting the outside of the house, and I haven't given a thought to the rooms inside that still need painting. Nor will we be able to fly down to Utah, as we'd hoped before fall planting season. We have run out of time for the time being.

How was your week? I hope you met all of  your goals, writing or otherwise. 


Who are You Writing To?

When we’re working on a manuscript, it’s helpful to have a visual in mind of our audience. Charlotte Rains Dixon wrote a post on it recently, which I mentioned in last Friday’s link roundup.

I don’t have much trouble visualizing the teenage girls that I’m writing to as I revise my Young Adult manuscript. It's a contemporary romance about two teens, one with a very big dream and the other who, it would appear, is okay with “ordinary.” It takes place in think "Music Man" small town America.

I have seen plenty of girls (and their mothers) in the library where I used to work, who would enjoy this book, or one like it. 

They’re probably not the girls who frequent the library sporting shades of hair from blue to orange, and wear short, skin-tight skirts and army boots with four-inch heels. I have nothing against these girls, but they are probably not my target audience. 

The purple haired girls are the hip and trendy girls, or the geeky, maybe wanabe hip and trendy girls. It's possible that they might go for the type of book I write. My heroines are not Buffy. They are not Bella. They may not single-handedly save the world, but they're not passive wimps either. Their world is smaller in scope, school and community-sized, actually, but certainly important to them and the people sharing it. They are also girls who want and need a great boyfriend!

Mostly, I envision my audience to be the other girls, and there are just as many, possibly more, of them as the blue-haired girls. They are the popular girls and the girls who are being homeschooled, and/or are from strongly conservative backgrounds. They're the girls whose mothers try to exert some control over what their daughters are reading. 

When I was a children's librarian, these mothers frequently came and counseled with me about appropriate titles for their daughters, and  became irate when they discovered their daughters had stuffed books for an older, or more worldly-wise, YA audience into their checkout bags.

As authors, we need to be true to ourselves and write books that reflect who we are, our values, what we like to read and, what we want to offer our audience. We write to an audience that shares similar tastes and values.

Who is your audience? Who are you writing to?


Lilac Wedding in Dry Creek by Janet Tronstad: Inspirational Romance Review

Back of the book:

When she ran away from the juvenile home she was raised in, Cat Barker left more than an unstable childhood behind. She also left her first love, Jake Stone. The two had more in common than anyone understood, but neither knew how to trust. Now Cat needs help, and there's only one person she can turn to—Jake, her daughter's secret father. Though Cat can see the tender man she once cared for, she still fears love and marriage. Until a daunting challenge renews her faith—and teaches them all a lesson about trust.

This book was an exceptionally tender-hearted read, as well as a page-turner. Jake Stone and Cat Barker met when they were teenagers living in a home run by the state. There, they fell in love, but Cat didn't have enough self esteem to believe that he could truly love her, and so she ran away at 18. He was pretty sure he wasn’t good husband and father material anyway, as he was raised by an abusive father.

Years go by. Jake becomes a wealthy gambler in Las Vegas, sending Cat some money every year. When illness threatens her life, and there is no one to take care of Jake’s secret child, Cat takes their little girl to meet her daddy. Jake persuades Cat to travel with him to Dry Creek to attend his brother’s wedding. As Cat’s health worsens, Jake’s love and fears for her and their daughter grow.    

This is a prodigal son story, which seems to be a staple to inspirational romance, and I can understand why. In this story, Jake not only finds his way home to the small town of Dry Creek and his family, but to God as well.

Apparently this is the 20th book Janet Tronstad has written in the Dry Creek series, some contemporary and some historical. I will definitely be reading more. Wildflower Bride in Dry Creek is already sitting on a shelf, waiting to be read ... 


Goal Update Monday

Do you like to hold yourself accountable for how you spend your time? I do too. I'm planning to use my blog today, and if I decide I like doing it, every Monday, as a place for personal and public accountability. My goal is to spend 32 hours each week on my manuscript.

If you're interested in doing the same on your blog, or if you already do, drop in a comment. I'll visit you and give you praise or encouragement!

Writing: I did not meet my goal. I wrote for 23.25 hours and revised 12,000 words.

Blogging: I don't have a goal for this, but I love to read blogs. I am currently subscribed to 606 blogs. I am social and nosy, and I prefer reading blog posts to Facebook.

But I dumped a hundred or more blogs this past week (my total subscriptions had numbered 700+); they were fabulous blogs, but all of the category I had labeled as "Artful." When I was working full time, I didn't even try to keep up on the 250-500 new posts that show up in Google Reader each day, but now I have more time; I can actually do it, although I needed to dump the artful blogs (scrapbooking, home decorating, food, knitting, etc). Time spent blogging: 7.75 hours.

Jogging: Goal is 16 miles/week. I met my goal. In my Brooks Ghost Runners, shown at left. These shoes are wonderful.

Reading: I need to set up a reading goal. Currently, it's "catch-as-catch-can." I read some pages in The Mistaken Bride by Renee Ryan. It's book two in a continuity series (of three books) in the Love Inspired line. I'm enjoying it very much. Don't let the sleeping dog fool you. I'll be reviewing the series soon.

Life in General: Don't you just love the new name for yellow?

  • Saw all five of my grandkids on Saturday. 
  • Spent a couple of hours at the County Fair on Saturday. 
  • Went out to dinner with friends in celebration of Mike's and my 38th wedding anniversary. 
The big time consumer this week, and it's not done yet: Mike and I started painting our house, which will always be yellow. The part that is still unpainted (gray primer color), we cannot reach with ladders due to the slope of the land. Mike needs to rent a man lift to do that, as well as to paint the trim, the fascia, and to put up new rain gutters. Not sure if that will get done in the coming week; he'll probably be harvesting garbanzo beans instead.

Best wishes on the coming week, and may you meet all of your goals.


Bicycling Adventure: Wallace, Idaho

On September 1, hubbie and I took a bicycle trip on the Trail of the Coeur d'Alenes, an old railroad line that is now a popular bicycle path. We got on in Kellogg, home of Silver Mountain Ski Resort and the world's longest gondola.

When I first became acquainted with Kellogg, Smelterville and Wallace, Idaho, back in the mid 1970's, it was an economically depressed silver mining area. The air was polluted. You could see a distinctive, reverse tree-line. Trees would grow above a certain area on the hillsides, but not below it. There were newspaper articles about kids having lead poisoning. Then there was a terrible mine explosion at the Sunshine mine, and the mine was closed for a time, reopened, closed--read its history in Wikipedia. In the community's attempt to revive a dying location, local businessmen got together and built Silver Mountain Ski Resort.

Today, the area has become a tourist attraction. The air is clean. The Trail of the Coeur d'Alenes is something like 70 miles long, all paved.

Hubbie and I rode from the trail head at Kellogg to Wallace and back, a 23-mile (round trip), leisurely afternoon bike trip.

We were thirsty by the time we got to Wallace, so we stopped for a micro brew made by Wallace Brewery.

In addition to an impressive display of animal heads that included a bison, a moose, a wild boar, a brown bear, deer and elk, there were funny signs, such as the one at the left.

Wallace's claim to fame were its brothels, which continued to exist until 1987. More on that, later.

Here, hubbie is standing in front of the oldest building in Wallace. It's the only building that survived the famous 1910 forest fire that took out millions of acres of forests.

Here's a picture of the Oasis Bordello, now a museum. We took a tour and learned some very interesting things about prostitution in the area. This bordello was shut down in 1987. The madam suspected a FBI raid, and so she and her girls fled, leaving absolutely everything (except their money). You can tour the girls' rooms. It's said that they made about $100,000/year. They were on a prostitution circuit, which meant they were rotated out of the area about every four months. They worked a 16-hour shift, seven days a week, and saw up to 40 men each night. Prices for their services were listed. In 1987, for $15.00, a man could spend 5-8 minutes with a prostitute, and have standard sex. Sessions were timed with a kitchen timer. As I glanced in the rooms, I noticed reading material. Any guesses about what that was?

Torrid bodice rippers.

Here's the old Northern Pacific railroad station.

If you look closely between the trees, you will see a gondola making its way back to the terminal, at Silver Mountain Ski Resort in Kellogg, Idaho. It's the longest gondola in the world.

We started our trip with lunch at the Red Robin in Spokane, and ended it with dinner--a Cinnabon--at the West Valley Mall in Spokane.

It was a delightful Saturday in early September.


The Cowboy Takes a Bride by Debra Clopton: Inspirational Romance analysis

Back of the Book
Sugar Rae Lenox is famous...in Mule Hollow. For wanting her name in lights on a Hollywood marquee. For wanting to leave. And for thinking the local matchmakers are mighty mistaken! Why applaud the attraction between her and a too--handsome cowboy with boots of lead? Ross Denton lives on the outskirts of town on some dusty ranch. And the only place he wants to see his name is on a marriage certificate. So why isn't she singing and dancing away from that ranch? She can't possibly want a starring role in Ross's life as his bride...can she?

Caveat: I realized when I started reviewing Love Inspireds three weeks ago that I'm not really writing a review of each book so much as an analysis from a writer's perspective. From someone who is new to the series, and reading it to understand what readers are hoping to get from the stories. I'm reading to discover its boundaries, and how far the envelop can be pushed within the series. I'm reading to distinguish the authors' individual voices, and the personal gifts that each one brings to the Love Inspired line.

If you're a romance reader expecting a review, you may find what I have to say unsatisfying. There may even be spoilers, so be warned!

The Cowboy Takes a Bride
By Debra Clopton

This book is part of the very popular, and deservedly so, Mule Hollow series by Debra Clopton. I chose to read this story because I had written a Young Adult manuscript that dealt with the the same themes, the theatre, and  a young woman whose dream is Broadway. Because I would like to write for Love Inspired, I was wondering if I could transform my manuscript into an inspirational romance, if it didn’t sell in the YA market.

I’d read that artsy themes aren’t popular with Love Inspired readers, and so when I ran across the synopsis of this book, which appeared to be about the theatre, I was curious to see how Ms. Clopton handled it.

It’s a story about a young woman, Sugar Rae, who desperately wants to be a Hollywood star. Despite her talent and beauty, she hasn’t seen much success.

God brings her to Mule Hollow for a time to help a friend. While there she meets a handsome rancher, Ross, whose family, including Ross, had been in show biz. Ross now wants nothing more to do with it. Forever.

Things that DO resonate with Love Inspired readers are small towns (Mule Hollow), a sense of community (played large in this story), and cowboy heroes. Ms. Clopton also writes with humor and a light touch—reading this book was like eating a fluffy dessert with lots of whipped cream after dinner. Yummy!

So despite the artsy theme, which pushed the series envelope slightly, she stayed firmly within its boundaries in just about every other way.  

In this story, instead of finding success in Hollywood, Sugar Rae finds a sense of community and belonging in Mule Hollow, which was ultimately more important to her. She also learned lessons about living her life in the present, instead of spending all of her time chasing an elusive dream. She was able to bring a touch of Hollywood to Mule Hollow, and to enlarge the lives of the people there, in addition to her own life. She learned that God’s plan for our life is often different, but no less satisfying, than the life we had imagined. (I suspect this is a strongly recurring theme in Love Inspired.) And, of course, she found the love of a good man in the process.

I’d wondered about the title. Considering that the story has an artsy theme, I’d wondered how that was represented in the title. It seemed that it was not. Instead, Love Inspired (or Debra Clopton) chose to capitalize on two of the romance industry’s biggest hooks: cowboy and bride. But if you read the book you will also discover that the play Sugar Rae writes, and helps to stage in Mule Hollow, is called The Cowboy Takes a Bride—and so, cleverly, the artsy theme is represented in the title

I like the way that Ms. Clopton used this theme to explore the role of dreams and ambitions in our lives, and to show that, in order to live a happy life, we need to find a balance between living our lives and chasing our dreams. In that it was an inspirational romance, God’s overruling in our lives played a big role. But the story could be read and enjoyed by anyone who finds themselves in a similar situation as Sugar Rae. Anyone who yearns for success and finds it elusive, until the definition of success is altered. 

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