Love Finds You in Amana, Iowa by Melanie Dobson

This week, the
Christian Fiction Blog Alliance
is introducing
Love Finds You in Amana, Iowa
Summerside Press (June 1, 2011)
Melanie Dobson

Melanie Dobson is the award-winning author of The Black Cloister; Love Finds You in Liberty, Indiana; and Together for Good, and she has now authored nine contemporary and historical novels including Love Finds You in Nazareth, Pennsylvania which releases in November 2011.

Prior to launching Dobson Media Group in 1999, Melanie was the corporate publicity manager at Focus on the Family where she was responsible for the publicity of events, products, films, and TV specials. Melanie received her undergraduate degree in journalism from Liberty University and her master’s degree in communication from Regent University. She has worked in the fields of publicity and journalism for fifteen years including two years as a publicist for The Family Channel.

Melanie and her husband, Jon, met in Colorado Springs in 1997 at Vanguard Church. Jon works in the field of computer animation. Since they’ve been married, the Dobsons have relocated numerous times including stints in Virginia, Tennessee, North Carolina, Colorado, Berlin, and Southern California. These days they are enjoying their new home in the Pacific Northwest.

Jon and Melanie have adopted their two daughters —Karly (6) and Kinzel (5). When Melanie isn’t writing or entertaining their girls, she enjoys exploring ghost towns and dusty back roads, traveling, hiking, line dancing, and reading inspirational fiction.

With a backdrop of the community of The Amana Colonies, the Civil War, and a great love story, Melanie Dobson’s new historical fiction title LOVE FINDS YOU IN AMANA, IOWA both enlightening and entertaining.

The novel is set in the United States during the turmoil of the 1860s. As the rest of the nation is embroiled in the Civil War, the Amana Colonies have remained at peace with a strong faith in God and pursuit of community, intertwined with hard work, family life and the building of their colony.

Amalie Wiese is travelling to the newly built village of Amana in 1863. When she arrives in the colonies she finds that her fiancée, Friedrich has left to fight with the Union Army. Amalie fears for his safety as she also struggles with his decision to abandon the colony’s beliefs. Matthias, Frederick’s friend, stays back in Amana to work in the colonies. But there is something wrong with Matthias; he always seems angry at Amalie when there is no simple explanation for him to act that way.

The goods that colonies manufacture are much needed supplies for the war effort and Matthias decides to deliver the goods to the soldiers. When he leaves, Amalie realizes that her fear for Matthias’s safety is equally as strong. What will become of Friedrich, will Matthias return safely, and will Amalie marry Friedrich? LOVE FINDS YOU IN AMANA, IOWA is a richly told story of life in the Amana Society and the people who live and love there.

If you would like to read the first chapter of Love Finds You in Amana, Iowa, go HERE.
Learn more about Melanie and her books on her Website.


Love Finds You in Amana, Iowa takes place during the Civil War in Amana, Iowa, one of the seven Amana Colonies built by the Inspirationalists. The residents of Amana, a Christian communal town, all work together for the good of all. Although they have strict rules about dress and relationships between unmarried men and women, this group did not forbid marriage and did not participate in any of the strange practices I have recently read about the Shakers who might seem very similar at first glance.

As a romance, Love Finds You in Amana, Iowa features a love triangle that only one of the participants has knowledge of. Matthias secretly loves Friedrich’s fiance Amalie but has managed to keep it from them. When Friedrich leaves the community to fight for the Union army, Matthias is left to explain his absence to Amalie. His guilt over not being able to stop Friedrich from leaving and for loving his best friend’s girl causes him to treat Amalie badly. So the big question in the romance department is how this triangle will play out. Will Amalie and Friedrich marry and live happily ever after? Can Matthias make peace with that and remain friends. Or will the answer be something else entirely?

As a historical novel, this book captures the way of life in Amana that helps the reader see it clearly. The point of view of the peace loving Inspirationalists was illustrated in Friedrich’s personal conflict over the decision to stay in Amana or to go to war to help those who couldn’t help themselves. Once his decision was made, he quickly got an up close look at what war is really like but determined to continue to help others the only way he knew how.

Love Finds You in Amana, Iowa is an excellent historical romance with a strong message of what laying down your life for others really means.

The First Gardener by Denise Hildreth Jones


Although the title of this book is The First Gardener, Jeremiah Williams’ actual role in it is a subtle one. Primarily a story about Tennessee governor Gray London, his wife McKenzie, and the tragedies that threaten to destroy them. His own heart nearly broken, Jeremiah sets about in his own deliberate manner to minister to the family as they struggle with their grief and depression. The basic story is told in third person and Jeremiah’s side of the story is narrated in first person.

The First Gardener is a deviation from earlier books I’ve read by this author. The depth of emotions described in most of the story would be overwhelming if not for some comic relief by Eugenia and her quirky band of sidekicks. Jeremiah’s character adds a steady voice of faith and wisdom.

As a life-long Tennessee resident, I enjoyed the author’s descriptions of the governor’s mansion and nearby Franklin. I would also love to have a governor who seemed to care as much about his state as Gray London. Our new governor is still a somewhat unknown quantity to me so I won’t judge him just yet. I also enjoyed learning the meanings of different flowers.

I can’t say I totally enjoyed this story. It is just too brutally heart breaking to imagine that kind of loss. But as always, I enjoyed the way Denise has with words and characters as she makes them step off the page.


This book was provided for review by The Tyndale Blog Network.



Jeremiah Williams has been tending the gardens of the Tennessee governor’s mansion for over twenty-five years. And like most first families who have come and gone, this one has stolen his heart.

Mackenzie and her husband, Governor Gray London, have struggled for ten years to have a child and are now enjoying a sweet season of life—anticipating the coming reelection and sending their precious daughter, Maddie, off to kindergarten—when a tragedy tears their world apart. As the entire state mourns, Mackenzie falls into a grief that threatens to swallow her whole.

Though his heart is also broken, Jeremiah realizes that his gift of gardening is about far more than pulling weeds and planting flowers. It’s about tending hearts as well. As he uses the tools that have been placed in his hands, he gently begins to cultivate the hard soil of Mackenzie’s heart, hoping to help her realize what it took him years to discover.

A Southern tale of loss, love, and living, The First Gardner reminds us that all of life is a gift, but our heart is the most valuable gift of all.



Denise Hildreth Jones has spent the last six years writing fiction that has been hailed as both “smart and witty.” Her ability to express the heart of the Southern voice has led to her being featured twice in Southern Living and receiving the accolades of readers and reviewers alike, but it is the simple joy of writing stories that keeps them coming. Her previous books include the Savannah series, Flies on the Butter, The Will of Wisteria, Hurricanes in Paradise, The First Gardener, and Flying Solo.

Denise makes her home in Franklin, Tennessee, with her husband, five bonus children, and two dogs. And on her days off, she will settle for a long walk or a good book and a Coca-Cola.

Visit Denise’s website at

Read Denise’s Blog: Flying Solo

Perfectly Invisible by Kristen Billerbeck


 Perfectly Invisible continues where Perfectly Dateless left off with  more of the sometimes funny and often heartrending misadventures of Daisy Crispin. Daisy is a scholarship student (call her a nerd – she does) at an exclusive private school and no matter how hard she tries, she is still mistreated by the “in” girls. Could it be the obviously home sewn clothes or the weird costumes her extremely conservative father wears for his unconventional job?

As her senior year winds to a close, Daisy has met her previous goal of finding a date to the prom (that’s an entire other story – see Perfectly Dateless). With graduation and a partial scholarship in sight, she suddenly finds herself surrounded by problems and can’t seem to do anything right. It doesn’t help that her former crush suddenly becomes interested and the guy she likes doesn’t seem to know she’s alive. A surprising exhibit at school perpetrated by someone who just wants to help brings Daisy more unwanted attention. With help like that, who needs enemies?

Although I am not in the target audience for Billerbeck’s Universally Misunderstood Novels, I have found them delightful. Daisy and her friends seem to be perfectly normal teens. Although they find themselves in some pretty unusual situations, everything fits into the realm of believability. I liked the way some of Daisy’s friends spoke into her life by pointing out that sometimes life is just not fair and that maybe Daisy was actually the person with an attitude. A few surprising twists and misunderstandings work out for the best at the end.

Perfectly Invisible is another great book by Kristen Billerbeck for teen girls. It is a lot of fun and teens should be able to identify with some of the characters. They might also learn something valuable while reading it. I heartily recommend this book.

Available July 2011 at your favorite bookseller from Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group.

This book was provided for review by
Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group.


St. James Academy Seeks Culprit In Rooftop Incident…



MOM, help me! I’m in big trouble, come back to school now! Daisy


Award-winning author Kristen Billerbeck returns with another story about Daisy Crispin in Perfectly Invisible (ISBN: 978-0-8007-7913-9. $9.99, 272 pages, July 2011). A lot is happening in Daisy’s senior year of high school. Daisy faces many ups and downs as she tries to finish her final year in high school being a normal teen in a not so normal environment.  She wants to stand up for her faith when others don’t care about theirs. Readers will relate to the situations Daisy encounters at school, at home, and in the work place and how she deals with them.

It’s Daisy’s final three months of high school, and she plans to make it count. Her grades should secure a scholarship to the college of her dreams and she loves her job. Daisy is in control of everything, or is she? Her handsome boyfriend, Max is treating her like she’s invisible, and her best friend, Claire is selling bad costume jewelry in the school quad–and hanging out with Daisy’s boyfriend. To top it off, Daisy’s major humiliation for the year will be remembered in the yearbook for all eternity. Then comes the crushing news…it’s enough to make Daisy wonder if maybe being invisible isn’t so bad after all.

With more of the funny-but-true-to-life writing readers have come to expect from Kristin Billerbeck, Perfectly Invisible shows teen girls that everyone is special–no matter what they’re going through.


Kristin Billerbeck is the bestselling, award-winning author of several novels, including What a Girl Wants and Perfectly Dateless. A Christy Award finalist and two-time winner of the American Christian Fiction Writers Book of the Year, Billerbeck has appeared on The Today Show and has been featured in the New York Times. She lives with her family in northern California. For more information about Kristin visit her website at

Canary Island Song by Robin Jones Gunn

This week, the
Christian Fiction Blog Alliance
is introducing
Canary Island Song
Howard Books; Original edition (July 5, 2011)
Robin Jones Gunn


Robin Jones Gunn was born in Wisconsin and lived on a dairy farm until her family moved to southern California when she was five years old. She grew up in Orange County and spent her summers at Newport Beach with friends from her church youth group. After attending Biola University and Capernwray Bible School in Austria, Robin and Ross were married and spent the next two decades working together in youth ministry.

It was the young teens at Robin’s church who challenged her to write stories for them. She hadn’t thought much about being a writer, but took their request to heart and set her alarm for 3am, three days a week. With two small children it was the only time she could find to write the first story about Christy Miller. After two years and ten rejections the novel Summer Promise was accepted for publication in 1988. Robin hasn’t stopped writing since. Over 4 million copies of her 75 books have sold and can be found in a dozen translations all over the world.

Robin and her husband now live in Hawai’i where Ross is a counselor and Robin continues to write to the sound of tropical birds chattering in the palm trees outside her window. Their children are grown but manage to come to the islands with their families every chance they get. Robin’s awards include: three Christy awards for excellence in fiction, a Gold Medallion finalist, Mt. Hermon Pacesetter and the Mt. Hermon Writer of the Year award. Robin travels extensively and is a frequent key-note speaker at various events around the world. She serves on the Board of Directors for Media Associates International and Jerry Jenkin’s Christian Writer’s Guild.

When Carolyn’s grown daughter tells her she needs to “get a life,” Carolyn decides it’s time to step out of her familiar routine as a single woman in San Francisco and escape to her mother’s home in the Canary Islands. Since Carolyn’s mother is celebrating her seventieth birthday, the timing of Carolyn’s visit makes for a perfect surprise.

The surprise, however, is on Carolyn when she sees Bryan Spencer, her high school summer love. It’s been seven years since Carolyn lost her husband, but ever since that tragic day, her life has grown smaller and closed in. The time has come for Carolyn to get her heart back. It takes the gentle affection of her mother and aunts, as well as the ministering beauty and song of the islands to draw Carolyn into the fullness of life. She is nudged along by a Flamenco dance lesson, a defining camel ride and the steady gaze of Bryan’s intense blue-gray eyes.

Is it too late for Carolyn to trust Bryan? Can Carolyn believe that Bryan has turned into something more than the wild beach boy who stole her kisses so many years ago on a balmy Canary night?

Carolyn is reminded that Christopher Columbus set sail from the Canary Islands in 1492 on his voyage to discover the New World. Is she ready to set sail from these same islands to discover her new life?

If you would like to read the first chapter of Canary Island Song, go HERE.


I always enjoy a book by Robin Jones Gunn because I can usually expect a sweet romance in a somewhat exotic location and a liberal dose of practical spiritual wisdom. Canary Island Song did not disappoint.

Gunn is a master of description and made me feel like I was along for the ride with Carolyn as she returned to the Canary Islands for the first time in years. Historical and local details enhanced the story while I painlessly gained a bit of education.

Canary Island Song is a story about family, especially the strong bond between mothers and daughters. It is also a story about second chances and allowing God to heal your wounds.

I purposely am not giving details about the story because to add to what has already been said in the book description above would be taking a chance on spoiling the book for another reader. If you have not read anything by Robin Jones Gunn before, Canary Island Song would be a great place to start.

Water’s Edge by Robert Whitlow


Enterprising young attorney Tom Crane feels like he has just had the rug pulled out from under him. Believing that he has a partnership in his law firm in his pocket, he is shocked to find that he not only didn’t get the partnership but no longer even has a job. To make matters worse, his girlfriend leaves him a “Dear John” letter and takes his cat. With nothing to hold him in Atlanta, Tom travels to his home town of Bethel to wrap up loose ends of his recently deceased father’s estate and to close his office before returning to the city to find a new job.

Of course nothing goes according to Tom’s plans. His uncle Elias encourages him to return to his spiritual roots but Tom is not interested. Friends and other lawyers in town encourage him to continue his father’s law practice but all Tom wants is to quickly close the office and get back to Atlanta. When Tom finds information in his father’s belongings that does not add up, his investigation leads to a trail of deceit and possibly murder. He soon learns that he cannot be certain who to trust.

Water’s Edge is a riveting legal suspense in the tradition of John Grisham. I personally prefer the novels of Robert Whitlow because the plots are more people centered without the excess legal terminology that tends to bog me down. The characters of Water’s Edge are very realistic. I found myself telling Tom “Don’t do that” on more than one occasion. I wish he had listened but then the story wouldn’t have been nearly as interesting.

I was particularly impressed by the strong message of faith woven unobtrusively throughout the story. Tom’s transformation was truly amazing. The author’s description of “thin places” was of interest to me and I would like to learn more about them.

I would highly recommend Water’s Edge as well as any other of Robert Whitlow’s books, especially to those who enjoy good legal suspense. If you are not familiar with his novels, Water’s Edge would be a good place to start.


This book was provided for review by BookSneeze.


Sometimes the smallest towns hold the biggest secrets. Ambitious young attorney Tom Crane is about to become a partner in a big-city law firm. One final matter has to be cleared from his docket—the closing of his deceased father’s law practice in the small town of Bethel. Killed in a tragic boating accident, John Crane didn’t leave his son anything except the hassle of a bankrupt estate. Then, within twenty-four hours, Tom loses his job, his girlfriend, and his cat. Job didn’t have it much worse. Returning to Bethel with his pride ground to powder, Tom’s plan to quietly shut down his father’s practice and slink out of town runs into an unexpected roadblock—two million dollars of unclaimed money stashed in a secret bank account. Tom follows the money into a tangled web of lies, theft, and off-shore financial transactions manipulated by powerful men who will do anything to stop him from discovering the truth.


Robert Whitlow is the best-selling author of legal novels set in the South and winner of the prestigious Christy Award for Contemporary Fiction. A Furman University graduate, Whitlow received his J.D. with honors from the University of Georgia School of Law where he served on the staff of the Georgia Law Review. A practicing attorney, Whitlow and his wife, Kathy, have four children. They make their home in North Carolina.