2016, 272p, LDS Contemporary Romance
My Rating=4 Stars
Source: I received a complimentary copy from the publisher, which did not affect my review in any way
Filled with plans, McKenzie Forsberg returns to her hometown to spend Christmas with her family. Stressed by a year of intense, ongoing problems, she quit her high-powered job to move back and rebuild her life. Kenzie desperately needs the peace and security she is sure will come from buying the home she grew up in. But when she arrives, Kenzie discovers that a handsome widower, Jared Rawlins, has already put an offer on the house. However, he can only close the deal if he sells his own house by Christmas Eve.
When Kenzie unexpectedly runs into a couple who are considering buying Jared’s house, she unthinkingly gives them information that changes their mind. Jared is more than a little interested in Kenzie, but has second thoughts when it appears Kenzie may have attempted to sabotage the sale of his home. Feeling bad, Kenzie apologizes but the damage may be too much for their relationship to overcome. Despite themselves, sparks of attraction grow into something more. Then, a few days before Christmas, Kenzie makes a stunning discovery about her past. In that moment, everything changes. Will the power of love be enough to bring Jared and Kenzie together and allow them to find their happily ever after?
Kenzie returns home to spend Christmas with her family and has a big surprise for them. She has a new job and plans to buy her brother's house. She quickly runs into a snag when she learns that her brother has an offer on the house. Jared, a widower with a son, has submitted the offer but needs to sell his home first. Kenzie is determined to have that house and is willing to do whatever it will take.
This was a fun, quick read! Kenzie was difficult to like at first. She is divorced with a daughter. I felt some sympathy for her and her situation so I wanted to take her side, but I also wanted to yell at her for not letting her family know about her plans if she felt that strongly about getting that particular home (which is the point her brother, Tom, made to her several times, so I took his side on this). Jared was easy to like. He's the town's most sought after bachelor and Kenzie has caught his eye, but he's not sure if he can trust her. Kenzie also had a contentious relationship with her father, based on a conversation she had with him soon after telling her parents she was getting a divorce. She made a mess of most of her relationships for a while and I hoped she would redeem herself in the end.
This story takes place around Christmas so I especially enjoyed reading it during this time of year. There are some LDS references (nothing preachy) so it's a great read for anyone who enjoys clean, contemporary romance!
Guest Post by Marlene Bateman
Author of For Sale by Owner
Twenty-four Easy Tips for Improving Your Writing
I want to thank Melanie for asking me to do a guest post on writing. There are many elements of writing, such as characterization, plot, dialogue, etc. but today, I’d like to focus on style. Style is not what you write but how you write. Over the years, I’ve come up with some simple tips that will immediately improve your style of writing.
1. Begin sentences with subjects and verbs. Make your meaning clear early in your sentence, then let the weaker elements branch out. I’ll give you four examples. Notice how the main element comes first, then the sentence branches out with some detail.
Rebels seized control of the northwestern corner of the city.
The tide goes out imperceptibly.
The boulders show and seem to rise up.
Before prayer, warriors massed outside her window.
2. Place strong words at the beginning and the end of your sentence. Since the period acts as a stop sign, the reader’s eye will be drawn to the next word, so make it a strong, eye-catching one.
3. Activate your verbs. Strong verbs create action and save words. Never use passive when you can use active. Avoid qualifiers such as ‘sort of’ ‘must have’ ‘seemed to’ ‘used to’ and ‘begin to.’
4. Watch out for “to be” verbs. Don’t say; “There were leaves all over the ground.” Say; “Leaves covered the ground.”
5. Don’t be pompous. Don’t say; It is interesting to note that the burrowing owl has a short life span. Say; The burrowing owl has a short life span. Don’t say; There are those occasions when a simple thank you will suffice. Say; Often, a simple thank you will suffice.
6. Watch those adverbs. Use adverbs sparingly and only when it’s necessary to change or explain the meaning of the verb. It’s redundant to say things like; ‘She smiled happily.’ But the use of an adverb can change the meaning—for example; ‘She smiled sadly.’ Also, avoid adverbs that express a meaning already contained in the verb. For example;
The blast completely destroyed the church office.
The accident totally severed the boy’s arm.
7. Take it easy on “ing” endings. Use the simple present or past. To put it simply, wish, hope and think are much stronger words than wishing, hoping, and thinking. Swimming and walking are good, but it’s better to swim and to walk.
8. Don’t be afraid of a long sentence. Go ahead and take the reader on a journey of language and meaning. Just be careful not to overdo it and always mix up the length of your sentences.
9. Establish a pattern, then give it a twist. Build parallel constructions, but cut across the grain. Let’s look at an example from Martin Luther King Jr., who frequently built a crescendo from the repetition of words and grammatical structures. He wrote; “So let freedom ring from the prodigious hilltops of New Hampshire. Let freedom ring from the mighty mountains of New York. Let freedom ring from the heightening Alleghenies of Pennsylvania! Let freedom ring from the snowcapped Rockies of Colorado.” Here's another example; If there are people starving in the world, and there are, if crime is rampant in the streets and it is, if our schools are not working, and they aren’t, if we are plagued by such problems, it is because something else is missing.
10. Let punctuation control pace and space. Learn the rules, but realize you have more options than you think. Use commas for a pause. Keep material within parentheses short. A colon announces what follows with a flourish.
11. When revising; cut big, then small. In other words, prune the big limbs first, then trim out the dead leaves. “Vigorous writing is concise,” said William Strunk. Start with the big stuff first when editing and cut any passage that does not support your focus. Cut the weakest scenes to give power to the strongest.
12. When the material is complex, choose the simple over the technical. When you are explaining complicated ideas—go for simple. Use shorter words, sentences, and paragraphs at points of complexity. It’s not easy, but you can create a sentence that shines by using your imagination. For example; “The few colored beads slid along the wire paths haphazardly, like ships on the high seas.” Give your readers a picture to see in their minds.
13. Play with words, even in serious stories. Choose words the average writer avoids but the average reader understands. Try to write as if you are seeing an object for the first time.
14. Be precise. Dig for the concrete and specific—details that appeal to the senses. Novelist Joseph Conrad said his task as a writer was; “To make you hear, to make you feel, to make you see.” Some examples;
The floorboards creaked under the weight of his college textbooks.
The white lilies leaned palely from their waisted cut-glass vase.
He pressed his thumbprint in the warm wax pooled on the oak veneer of the highboy.
15. Pay attention to names. Interesting names attract the writer and the reader. Think of J.K. Rowling and her characters; Voldemort, Sirius Black, Alastor “Mad-Eye” Moody, and Severus Snape.
16. Seek original images. Reject cliché’s and first-level creativity. Never use a metaphor, simile or figure of speech which you are used to seeing in print—that is a substitute for thinking. One trick is to think of between 3-10 different images, then use the best one.
17. Set the pace with sentence length. Vary sentences to influence the reader’s speed. If you want to simplify the complex, slow the pace of the story. In moments of danger and action, you’ll also want to shorten sentences.
18. Vary the lengths of paragraphs. You can make them short or long—just remember that the paragraph is a unit of thought, not of length.
19. Choose the numbers of descriptive elements carefully. By using more than one descriptive element, you are sending the reader a message to the reader. If you want the reader to think something is the absolute truth, render it in the shortest possible sentence. For example; The girl is smart. Or; God is love. If you want the reader to balance two characteristics and weigh them against each other, use two: The girl is smart and sweet. If you use three, the reader will see a more well-rounded person. The girl is smart, sweet, and determined. Use one element for power. Use two for comparison and contrast. Use three for completeness. And use four to list and expand.
20. Recruit your own support group. Create a corps of helpers for feedback. Create a network of friends, and colleagues who can offer constructive criticism. Have people who keep you going, someone who understands your quirks, someone who can answer your questions about your writing. You can ask them all sorts of questions; “Is this too Catholic?” “Do you find it interesting?” “Does it seem real?”
21. Write toward an ending. Help readers close the circle of meaning by writing with an ending in mind. J.K. Rowling began writing the Harry Potter series by crafting the final chapter of the last book. In one book, the author’s lead paragraph listed the names of citizens who asked effective questions in a presidential debate, and in the final paragraph, the author mentions what he talked about in the opening paragraph. In the end, remind your readers of the beginning.
22. Foreshadow dramatic events and powerful conclusions. Plant important clues early. For example, in Harry Potter and Prisoner of Azkaban, terrible events at the end are reversed when Hermione reveals her ability to travel back in time by a charm she wears. Rowling mentions that charm early in the book. This way, it doesn’t come as a surprise to the reader.
23. To generate suspense, use internal cliffhangers. To propel readers to read further, make them wait. This is an indispensable tool that leaves the reader in suspense and fuels their desire to learn what happens next. The cliffhanger can be simple. Perhaps an author is describing a wise priest, and at the end, says there was a swish of long skirts and the door opened and there stood one of the oddest human beings he’d ever laid eyes on.” The reader must turn the page to see what this person looks like.
24. Use dialogue as a form of action. Dialogue attracts the eyes of the reader and if done well, advances the story. Novelist Elmore Leonard advised writers to “leave out the part that readers tend to skip,” and it certainly isn’t dialogue. In other words, cut out thick paragraphs of prose and narration and backstory, but don’t cut dialogue.
Marlene has also written a number of LDS, non-fiction books: Latter-day Saint Heroes and Heroines, And There Were Angels Among Them, Visit’s from Beyond the Veil, By the Ministering of Angels, Brigham’s Boys, Heroes of Faith, Gaze into Heaven; Near-death Experiences in Early Church History, and The Magnificent World of Spirits; Eyewitness Accounts of Where We Go When We Die.