Just in time for Valentine’s Day, my February Fic Picks feature a nine book inspirational romance series plus a stand alone historical fiction novel and the first in a fantasy retelling trilogy.

The Daughters of Boston and Winds of Change series by Julie Lessman

Inspirational Fiction – 1913-1935 Boston, Massachusetts Julie Lessman

In a nutshell: While listed as two separate series, these books actually contain one complete storyline following Marcy and Patrick O’Connor from Boston Massachusetts and their six grown children as they deal with life and love from World War I through the Great Depression. Each book centers can stand on its own, however readers will be pleased to reencounter past characters within the subsequent books. Therefore it is recommended that the series be read in the order of publication:

  • Daughters of Boston series (Books 1-3) – Focus on sisters Faith, Charity, and Lizzie from 1913-1922
  • Winds of Change Series (Books 1-3) – Focus on Katie and her brothers Sean and Stephen from the 1920’s through 1933
  • A Whisper of Hope and The Best Gift of All (Christmas Novellas) – Focus on Charity and Lizzie in 1935
  • A Light in the Window (Prequel) – Focus on Mary and Patrick before they married

My take: The cover for the third book in this series, A Passion Denied, reads “This isn’t your mother’s inspirational fiction.” And they weren’t kidding. It only took one book for me to fall in love with Julie Lessman’s writing style and the O’Connor family, then I blazed through the next six books and two novellas despite each novel being nearly 500 pages. Even if you’re not typically an inspirational fiction reader, these novels will change your mind. Truthfully, I didn’t realize it was inspirational fiction when I picked it up at random from the library shelf. I was simply in the mood for a good historical romance set in the same time period as my own work in progress. However these books contained everything I could want from my ideal inspirational fiction novel:

  • Religious references that make me think about my own spiritual life rather than simply preaching at me. Disclaimer: Book One does have some large blocks of religious speak, but they taper off with each subsequent novel.
  • Steamy romance crafted around swoon worthy couples while maintaining clean content. Note: The parents, Marcy and Patrick, completely stole the show for me, so finishing the series with their beginning was the perfect ending.
  • Imperfect characters who deal with real world issues. No one is perfect and inspirational characters shouldn’t be either. This series dealt with some heavy issues, and every one was completely relatable.
  • Dialogue heavy scenes, continuing characters between novels, and plotlines that keep me turning pages late into the night. Check to all three.

My individual reviews for these books can be found on Goodreads.

I also discovered this interesting post detailing the process for creating the covers for this series: https://theartistlibrarian.blogspot.com/2014/11/covering-boston-to-san-francisco-julie-lessman.html

For more information on Julie Lessman’s books, visit: http://www.julielessman.com


Before We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate

Historical Fiction – 1939 Memphis, Tennessee and Present Day Aiken, South Carolina

In a nutshell: What if as a child you were stolen from your home, moved far away, and told that another couple were now your parents and your name was no longer your own? That’s what happens to twelve-year-old Rill Foss and her four siblings in 1939. One night they’re kidnapped from their family’s Mississippi river boat and taken to the Tennessee Children’s Home Society Orphanage, a place that is more a prison than a refuge. In a desperate attempt to return to her family, she quickly learns that being taken was only the smallest of their worries. Years later, wealthy lawyer Avery Stafford comes into contact with an elderly woman whose unusual words send her on a chase to uncover her own family’s history, leading to a truth she never could have imagined.

My take: First, after reading this novel, I was surprised that I had never heard of Lisa Wingate before. She has 25 novels under her belt by this point, and Before We Were Yours was named a Goodreads Choice 2017 Winner.

While this was a quick read and a wonderful read, it was often at times not an easy read. Lisa Wingate includes a wonderful author’s note at the end of the novel that describes what was true, and it was startling to learn how much actually happened. As a mother, I can imagine the utter terror of having my children taken from me, never knowing what happened to them. But the interesting idea that the novel addresses is: what about the other side? Which has more potential – the life we should have had or the one we end up living? What about the future that would have never been if we’d gone down a different path? This book asks the reader to think about the bigger picture and consider that sometimes it isn’t so black and white. While at times deeply sad, overall the story is one of family, love, and ultimately hope.

For more information visit: http://lisawingate.com


Rise of the Sea Witch by Stacey Rourke

Fantasy Retelling

In a Nutshell: Have you ever wondered how Ursula in The Little Mermaid became so evil? She claims she lived in Triton’s palace at some point, but gives no other details in the movie. What exactly happened to cause her fall from Triton’s good graces? Is she really as bad as we all think or is she just given a bad rap? What’s her deal? Well, Rise of the Sea Witch answers all our pre-Little Mermaid questions in splendid fashion. Things may not be so black and white anymore.

My Take: This is the fourth of Stacey Rourke’s novels I have read, after The Legends Saga and Adapted for Film, and I’m happy to say that Rise of the Sea Witch had everything I’ve come to love about Rourke’s writing. If you enjoy a healthy dose of sarcastic humor and amazing one liners bundled together with plenty of action, a bit of romance, and an origin story of a well-known villain then read this immediately. After viewing four different productions of The Little Mermaid stage musical last year, I was beyond excited to read an explanation of why Ursula is the way she is, and this book did not disappoint.

The second book in the series, Entombed in Glass, releases March 29, 2018. For more information visit: http://staceyrourke.com

Now it’s your turn!

Read a good book lately? Think others would enjoy it too? Submit your suggestions on the comment page and I just may highlight them in a future post. And don’t forget – when you like a book, post a review on your favorite site!

Text Copyright © 2018 Kelsey Gietl.

Launch Day – Across Oceans

It’s finally here! I’m so excited to share that my novel, Across Oceans, is now available in the online stores listed below:

Amazon (USA) – bit.ly/ao-amzn-usa
Amazon (Canada) – bit.ly/ao-amzn-ca
Amazon (UK) – bit.ly/ao-amzn-uk
Amazon (Germany) – bit.ly/ao-amzn-de
Barnes & Noble – bit.ly/ao-bn
iBooks – bit.ly/ao-kg-apple
Kobo – bit.ly/ao-kobo
Large Print (USA) – bit.ly/ao-lp-amzn
Large Print (Canada) – http://bit.ly/ao-lp-ca

It has been a long two years from the day I started outlining to publication. It was a challenging two years, and a most rewarding two years. Independent publishing is a journey to be sure, but it is one I am so blessed to have so much support for. Thank you to everyone who has walked this path with me from the beginning; I could not have accomplished this without each and every one of you.

For my new readers, welcome! I hope that you enjoy Across Oceans as much as I loved bringing it to life for you. If you would be willing to leave a review on any or all platforms, it would be so greatly appreciated. Also, if you have questions, comments, or suggestions after reading, please send me a line here, or find me on Goodreads.

Two Announcements!

I have two exciting announcements this exceedingly hot Saturday Morning – 103 before heat index in St. Louis today. With a day as warm as this one, it seems only logical to stay inside and read the paperback proof for my upcoming novel. And then that’s it, folks! The hard part is done, and I can focus on getting it into your hands to read. Which means…

Announcement #1 – The publication date for Across Oceans is moving up to August 10! It will be available as an ebook, paperback, and large print paperback. More details to follow soon.

Announcement #2 – It’s time for a cover reveal! I absolutely love how it turned out and I hope you do too!

AO ebook

Text and Photo Copyright © 2017 by Kelsey Gietl.

Dare to Fail

There’s something so beautiful about fireworks: the kaleidoscope of color, each boom’s heart-stopping thrill, and the emotion they convey when displayed against a well-chosen soundtrack. At the same time, they can be terrifying. One misplaced fuse, one ill-timed action, and everything will, quite literally, go up in smoke.

Standing on the edge of achieving a goal can sometimes feel like that – beautiful and thrilling, yet in the same breath, terrifying. One step away from victory and also one step away from disaster. We begin to doubt everything we were so certain of yesterday.

For writers, as we near our novel’s publication date we begin to ask, “What if every review is negative? What if I overlooked an embarrassing grammatical error? What if, despite all my research, I explained every detail inaccurately?” We spend months or years, perhaps decades, crafting what we believe to be an amazing story. We pour a little piece of ourselves onto the paper and risk much to share it with others. Is it worth it?

One summer during college, I apprenticed at Opera Theatre of St. Louis. During one of the most rewarding and educational summers of my life, the most important lesson I learned was said by our technical director during our first apprentice meeting: “Dare to fail.” This phrase has been posted on a little purple sticky note on my desk for over a decade now.

Every goal has a possibility of failure. If we never take chances, we never fail, but we also never succeed. Does this mean we should make reckless decisions? Of course not. We must be smart with our actions, but sometimes breaking out of our comfort zone is the only way to see what we are truly capable of. For introverts, this can be especially difficult, which is why so many of us write our thoughts instead of saying them.

Today is America’s Independence Day, a celebration of people who risked much to achieve much. What if our forefathers never fought for what they believed in? What if our ancestors, from all corners of the world, decided that leaving their country’s familiarity was easier than starting over somewhere new? What if Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, or Abraham Lincoln quit before they began? The United States would look very different from the country we know today.

To quote Thomas Edison, “Many of life’s failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up.”

Fear of the unknown is worth the effort. We may succeed in exactly the way we imagined, or nothing could go according to plan, and it all blows up in our face. But we can sift through the ashes to discover that something even better lies hidden beneath our supposed failures.

So dare to fail. I am. Because sometimes, like fireworks, even explosions are beautiful.


Text and Photo Copyright © 2017 Kelsey Gietl.