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Barbara J. Shelton’s Review of “A Love Surrenderd” by Julie Lessman

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A Love Surrendered

Winds of Change, #3

A Love Surrenderd

She’s hoping to find her first true love. He’s hoping to forget his.

Will her secret come between them?

Orphaned in Iowa, Annie Kennedy has moved to Boston and is embracing the city life, with a new name and wide open future. When she gets involved with a fast crowd at Ocean Pier—one that includes the handsome Steven O’Connor—she is pulled deeper and deeper into a world of rule breakers and mischief makers. She finds herself drawn to Steven and the whole O’Connor family. But a secret Annie is keeping has the power to destroy her best-laid plans.

Will Steven ever see her as more than a sweet country girl who needs protecting? And will he break her heart when he finds out who she really is?

With heart-pounding romance, intense family drama, and the emotional twists and turns Julie Lessman fans have come to expect, A Love Surrendered will ignite your senses and inspire your spirit.

JUST SAYIN…….

Time:  1932, Boston, Ma.  Prohibition was about to be repealed by the 18th Amendment.  Some concerns of that era…prohibition, politics, war and as in any year, belief in God.  The young crowd wanted good times and were expert lawbreakers to do so.  Times were hard….and that’s not exactly what Julie Lessman’s story is about…but difficult times there were.

A Love Surrendered is the third book in the Winds of Change Series.  It is the continuation of the O’Connor family saga through each of the 7 children born to Patrick and Marcy O’Connor.  Stories previously began with the Daughters of Boston Series.  The children – whose stories update naturally through each novel are: Faith, married to Collin McGuire; Charity, married to Mitch Dennehy; Lizzie, married to John Brady; Sean, married to Emma; Katie, married to Luke McGee: and Steven, the youngest and still single.  A foster daughter, Gabe (Gabriella Dawn), has appeared in Marcy and Patrick’s lives through the romance and marriage of Katie and Luke McGee in A Hope Undaunted.  This reader has enjoyed the pleasure of devouring each one of these books, except for Sean and Emma’s story which will be rectified soon.

To begin, I am including some of the summary from the back of the book to familiarize my followers with the gist of the story.  I add that this is Steven O’Connor’s story – and it is wonderful! A Love Surrendered – The very best of Julie Lessman’s writings so far in my estimation.  Julie’s stories touch my very soul in that I personally relate to many of the problems and struggles, blessings of God’s grace, and surprise events that occur without warning in this story as well as real life.

The love interest involves sisters – but that’s all I’ll reveal about that.  Steven is a Federal Agent as is his best friend Joe, which leads to much tension and comedy among the book characters.  One leading character is a natural at drawing others to Christ – which I feel is the most important factor in all relationships, real or imagined.

Orphaned in Iowa, Annie Kennedy moves to Boston to stay with her spinster aunt.  She gets involved with a fast crowd at Ocean Pier – one that includes the handsome Steven O’Connor – she is pulled quickly into a world of rule breakers and mischief makers.  Annie, actually Susannah Grace Kennedy, longs for romance to fill the void left by her parents’ death. But when she falls hard for Steven O’Connor, the man who broke an engagement to her sister, Annie is worried. Will he break her heart too when he discovers who she really is? With heart-pounding romance, intense family drama, and emotional twists and turns, each page and chapter leads to faster page turns as the story bends and shapes.

Julie’s creative use of similes and metaphors paint a vivid picture in my mind of the action in each scene.  Playing as a movie in my head, her words exploded my imagination wide open. She describes each story character in detail – from a tic in the jaw to the color of the hair on a man’s chest.

Ms Lessman has perfected the art of writing around and through a “steamy” romantic scene of passion and desire without relying on heavy emphasis of “overwriting” actions as might a secular novelist.  Smut and profanity is not found in Julie’s books. Her words don’t prompt embarrassment and shock over titillating phrases – much more educational than four letter words blatantly shouting from the page.  Julie seems to train your focus as a bystander. As a reader, I appreciated the non-explanation of spice and ginger in love scenes; my imagination works just fine in that category.

Ms. Lessman’s natural spirit of humor, effectively used in tight places, never backs the script in a corner without an opening for resolve.  She is brilliantly funny and I laughed, cried, snorted and hungered for more.  Speaking of tears reminds me of the deep emotions Julie’s story emitted from my subconscious memories, oh so many.  My throat in a constant lump, caused easy tears and prayers to emanate from my consciousness.

The expressions Julie inserts…”Sweet Saints,” “Knickers in a Knot,” “bees knees.” among others were familiar to me…although I faintly admit it.  Did they wear Keds back in 1932?  What are Sardines, Ghost Game and a couple of other unknown games kids played?   The music and movies are quite nostalgic to my early years of childhood. Even the pets had great names…Mr. Grumpy, the Basset Hound that belonged to Annie and Glory;   Cats….ah, guess you’ll need to read the book to find out.  LOL

The O’Connor grandchildren grab your heart instantaneously – and there is always one mischievous kid in the bunch that makes the others all appear angelic.  Of course, food fights and everyone loves coming to grandparents house to be pampered with their special love.

When God created Julie, he must have added teacher or preacher of His truth and Word to her genes.  Her first name could well be “Charisma” sparkling with glitz and glitter on the cover of her books.  She pulls the reader in with such light that sparks fly from every page in the name of Jesus.  I wish Julie would write an advice book for teens, young adults and even the seniors about God’s will regarding romance, engagement and marriage.

Julie Lessman

A Love Surrendered is everything Julie Lessman’s many fans have been waiting for and it ends on promises to come.  Thank you, God, for sending Julie to our time and place.  I’m so thankful we are friends, and speaking for myself, I adore you, sister Julie Lessman

A Love Surrendered is available now at Amazon for KindleAudio, and Paperback. Also available @B&N!

Barbara J. Shelton’s Review of “A Light in the Window” by Julie Lessman

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One Woman. Two Men.
One stirs her pulse and the other her faith.
But who will win her heart?
A Light in the Window
Marceline Murphy is a gentle beauty with a well-founded aversion to rogues. But when two of Boston’s most notorious pursue her, she encounters a tug-of-war of the heart she isn’t expecting. Sam O’Rourke is the childhood hero she’s pined for, the brother of her best friend and a member of the large, boisterous family to which she longs to be a part. So when his best friend Patrick O’Connor joins in pursuit of her affections, the choice seems all too clear. Sam is from a family of faith and Patrick is not, two rogues whose wild ways clash head-on with Marcy’s—both in her faith and in her heart.

While overseeing the Christmas play fundraiser for the St. Mary’s parish soup kitchen—A Light in the Window—Marcy not only wrestles with her attraction to both men, but with her concern for their spiritual welfare. The play is based on the Irish custom of placing a candle in the window on Christmas Eve to welcome the Holy Family, and for Marcy, its message becomes deeply personal. Her grandmother Mima cautions her to guard her heart for the type of man who will respond to the “light in the window,” meaning the message of Christ in her heart. But when disaster strikes during the play, Marcy is destined to discover the truth of the play’s message first-hand when it becomes clear that although two men have professed their undying love, only one has truly responded to “the light in the window.”

I’m Just Sayin….

My reading began with high anticipation as eighteen year old Marceline (Marcy) Murphy stood on the front porch of the O’Rourke home nervously preparing to ring the doorbell. Five long years had passed since Marcy and her family had left Boston for New York where her father had taken a new job as a vice president for Reading Railroad, and subsequently lost due to the worldwide economic depression in 1893, costing him and thousands their jobs. Marcy’s family returned to Boston in hopes of new beginning. How could she predict what heartache lay ahead? She and her family would need to lean on their faith in God to see them through.Marcy’s best friend Julie (Jewels) O’Rourke lived behind those doors with her large family and the memory of Julie’s older brother Sam made her hands clammy. Hmm, I thought as I read. Sweet memories of Sam? Wasn’t her love interest……? Marcy’s thought leads us into the story, “A Light in the Window” and promptly caught my attention. I still puzzled over Marcy’s romantic thoughts about Sam when she…..oh never mind…just keep on reading.

Among the many fans of Julie’s writing, I had been waiting for her story about the young couple who started this saga of the O’Connor family. Having read all of the previous books in Daughters of Boston and Winds of Change; both series about the O’Connor children, my curiosity about the couple that sired them didn’t end. Finally, Julie Lessman is telling how it all began.

This had to be good!

As I continued reading, Jewels opened the O’Rourke front door to an anxious grown up Marcy and enthusiastically noticed the beauty her best friend had become. Jewels commented that Marcy would certainly turn heads during their senior year, especially her brother Sam’s.The best friends begin to reminisce, giggling and talking about the old crowd…mentioning Sam and his best friend Patrick often. Marcy grimaced at the recalling of what she already knew about Patrick – considering him the rogue of all rogues and thinking him to be the cause of Sam’s unruly shenanigans. She kept her opinion of Patrick to herself because Jewels had a wild crush on him, as did other girls. Their conversation brought up the St. Mary’s church Christmas play fund raiser for the soup kitchen, and Marcy eagerly told Jewels that she had already talked to Sister Francine and got the job to spearhead the fundraiser. She also volunteered Jewels to be the pianist and her assistant in directing the play performance. Marcy was pleased with her selection of the play. It was something old she found that was significant regarding a true Irish tradition at Christmas. At this point, she had no idea of the real meaning that would evolve into her life forever.

Marcy believed that a solid marriage needed commitment and faith in God. It was her heart’s desire to have such a marriage. She recently developed mistrust toward the opposite sex from traumatic revelations of adultery and unfaithfulness before returning to Boston. She thinks she knows Sam and has hope that he will be the love of her life, even though she is aware of his oat sowing. She feels her prayers can change him. Marcy is an only child and looks to the O’Rourke’s as being the ideal family and wants desperately to be a part of them. She considers Patrick a devious rogue and rover, causing her mixed emotions as she gets to know him. What Marcy eventually comes to learn of her parents and family surprises her.
Patrick has been disliked and misunderstood by his father all his life. His father, a hypocrite controls his family through physical, emotional, and verbal abuse. Despite his upbringing, Patrick is a young man with refined values that are not fully developed yet, until he sees Marcy again for the first time after five years. He questions himself and begins to seek the real meaning of his life with the desire to be better.

The scene with Sam and Patrick hiding in a confessional at St Mary’s drinking the sacristy wine from the bottle and smoking shows the audaciousness of youth in a humorous and predictable way. Of course, they get caught! Father Fitzgibbons is not shocked and handles the situation thoughtfully while assigning a consequence to the boys that leads into the gist of the story and from thereon we are hooked.
Julie Lessman’s writing is always a great mix of high emotion, clashes of right and wrong, forgiveness, past and present hurts, secrets, guilt, shame, fun, humor, family stresses, life decisions, love and lust – the good, the bad and the ugly, dishonesty, thievery, hypocrisy, dreams and always God’s love and the human struggle to entrust their hearts Him. Her script is divinely developed around the evidence that she has researched the time period extensively as to history, fashions in style, education, religion, morals, courting, and human behavior which is primarily the same from generation to generation. She writes such beautiful and easily comprehended word pictures that are vivid to the imagination throughout her story. Ms. Lessman has no qualms at expressing belief in the plans that God has for each individual.

The characters are all mostly lovable, with a couple of deterrents there, yet each one is unique and vital to the story. You will meet the children that perform in the play and learn their life struggles. Julie Lessman has no lack of imagination in creating the right character(s) for every situation. The surprising compassion and involvement of one character in the youngster’s lives is heartwarming and tender. It brings a bit of a tear to the eye.Here is where I will leave my review of Julie Lessman’s book. As always, after I have finished reading a Julie Lessman novel, I discover I have learned much from her words in relation to my own life. Some of my personal damaged emotions begin to heal and my faith in God has rooted deeper. Recently I told Julie “Your talent overwhelms me….how do you do that?” She answered, “LOL … my so-called “talent” overwhelms me too, and I have NO earthly idea how I do it except by the grace of God – just like you!! :)” There, by the grace of God, we write.

Julie Lessman
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Barbara J. Shelton’s Review of DARE TO LOVE AGAIN by JULIE LESSMAN

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Julie Lessman
Dare to Love AgainSpunky Allison McClare is determined to be a fearless, independent woman. But when she takes a notion to explore the wild Barbary Coast, she quickly discovers she’s no match for the unsavory characters that haunt the dark streets.
 
Detective Nick Barone would rather do almost anything than teach this petite socialite self-defense, but it seems he has little choice. Sparks fly every time the two meet until a grudging friendship develops into something deeper. But is he just a fraud like all the rest of the men Allison’s cared for? Or is he the one who will let her dare to love again?
 
Award-winning author Julie Lessman brings the glamour of Gilded Age San Francisco to vibrant life in this journey to find a love that never fails.
 
“With memorable characters and an effervescent plot that’s as buoyant as it is entertaining, Dare to Love Again is Julie Lessman at her zestful best.”–Tamera Alexander, bestselling author of A Lasting Impression and To Whisper Her Name
 
“Nobody pens a more splendid romance than Julie! The expert on dazzling dialogue, engaging characters, and wonderful romantic plots with a twist wins my heart over every time.”–Maggie Brendan, author of Heart of the West and The Blue Willow Brides series
 
“Julie’s ability to thread romance and longing, deception and forgiveness, and lots of humor are unparalleled by anyone else in the Christian market today.”–Rachel McRae, LifeWay Stores
 

BARB’S REVIEW

♥♥♥♥♥  FIVE STARS  ♥♥♥♥♥

Applause!  Applause!!  Applause!!!  Julie Lessman just keeps on writing a new favorite to replace an older favorite and a yet older favorite.  Personally, I hope it never ends!  My recent visit with the McClare family in 1903 San Francisco was so much fun even though we faced some fiercely intense moments sitting together in the parlor on Caitlyn’s loveseat praying and waiting for one crisis to subside before facing whatever came along next. Reading one of Julie’s novels is a marvelous release mechanism…..all my giggles over Lessman-style humor released endorphins that caused me to feel great; or releasing pent up emotions through easy tears that flowed along with Caitlyn’s.  All those tears caused an enormous pile of tissues for Rosie the housekeeper to sweep up with an audible “tsk tsk,” and slight shake of her head.

Dare to Love Again is the perfect title for this Julie Lessman novel.  The title is a story in itself, so to speak, because Allison, the eldest daughter of Caitlyn McClare, has been jilted and left disappointed four times causing a jaundiced eye toward romantic love.  The hunky lead hero Detective Nick Barone becomes the big dare for Allison.  Nick will not allow himself to dare fall in love with a rich Nob Hill debutante.  Both characters are well equipped with mixed emotions about each other and their sparring is comical and typical of independent personalities.  Brother-in-law Logan McClare continues to dare hope that his widowed sister-in-law Caitlyn would dare love him as she did in their youth and accept his proposal of marriage.  Will Nick and Logan dare to believe in God?  Ms. Lessman brings her characters so close to taking the dares and so far away again; that I do not attempt to dare guess what happens next.  

Julie Lessman stories encompass everything from romance, danger, bad guys, good guys, secrets, smells, tastes, vivid scenery, laughter, mystery, trauma to a fascinating script.  Most importantly being the lessons learned through human error, confession, forgiveness, and accepting God’s love.  Warm feelings among some characters occur where negative attitudes had been the mode.  Certain new personalities added to the story are quite endearing….fall in love with La-di-da, and Miss Penny.  Who gets nauseous riding the streetcar?  What do animal crackers have to do with anything?  Some shocking information is revealed about members of the McClare Clan in this second episode of The Heart of San Francisco series.  Historical facts and location research appear as a natural part of Ms. Lessman’s innate writing gift to render the beauty in words meaningful.  She writes page turners for avid readers who would not dare put her book down.  There is no less in Julie Lessman.  She owns it all where word art is involved.    

It is not this reviewer’s intent to detail excess information about the characters and subject matter, the back and front cover is capable of drawing reader interest.  Revealing too much might prevent one from an intriguing read and my intent is for curiosity to take the dare and enjoy my personal recommendation. Julie Lessman has caused me to fall in love with San Francisco all over again.  

Through her faith in our loving Abba, Julie Lessman dares to write as she does.  Dare I ask Julie why she has won many awards and trophies?  She will give our Lord all the credit.  Ok, the dares are dropped….anyone taking bets that Julie’s next story will be the most read yet?  My bet is yes, it will….and winner take all! Thank you to the publisher for providing a copy of this novel in exchange for my honest review.

ABOUT JULIE LESSMAN…….

Julie Lessman is an award-winning author whose tagline of “Passion With a Purpose” underscores her intense passion for both God and romance. Winner of the 2009 ACFW Debut Author of the Year and Holt Medallion Awards of Merit for Best First Book and Long Inspirational, Julie is also the recipient of 14 Romance Writers of America awards and was voted by readers as “Borders Best of 2009 So Far: Your Favorite Fiction.”

Chosen as the #1 Romance Fiction Author of the Year in the Family Fiction magazine 2012 and 2011 Readers Choice Awards, Julie was also awarded #1 Historical Fiction Author of the Year in that same poll and #3 Author of the Year, #4 Novel of the Year and #3 Series of the year. She resides in Missouri with her husband, daughter, son, daughter-in-law and granddaughter and is the author of “The Daughters of Boston” series—A Passion Most Pure, A Passion Redeemed, and A Passion Denied. Book 1 in her “Winds of Change” series A Hope Undaunted ranked #5 on Booklist’s Top 10 Inspirational Fiction for 2010.

Websites:  

http://www.julielessman.com

http://seekerville.blogspot.com/

NOTES OF INTEREST FROM JULIE ABOUT HER CHARACTER PERSONALIZATIONS…..

Angi Griffis, gave me a great idea. You see, she’s currently reading Dare to Love Again and asked me if I had any pix of celebrities I had pegged to play Alli and Nick. And, OF COURSE, I do and can hardly believe I haven’t posted them before now! So … without further ado, here are the shots I pictured while writing the story.

Allison McClare:  Alli McClare is petite with curly black hair in the typical Gibson Girl style of the day, usually up, as indicated in the 2nd pic below. She has eyes that are a very deep green with creamy, porcelain skin. She is fun and adventurous and has a flair for drama. She wants to be an independent woman so she learns jiu-jitsu and carries a large hat pin to protect herself when she takes a notion to explore the Barbary Coast. She has a dry sense of humor, is down to earth and doesn’t trust men because she’s been engaged and brokenhearted by three men who were fortune hunters and frauds.

The first pic is what I sent to Revell of a model whose name I do not know, and the next four model pics are the model Revell hired who actually appears on the cover of the book.

Visit Julie’s  Journal Jots to see the pictures  http://www.julielessman.com/journal-jots1/

Next … we have Detective Nick Barone, or as Alli calls him, Mr. Ga-roan! Nick Barone is a six-foot-four Italian and 30 years old with green, almost hazel eyes and dark hair that tends to curl. I see him as a the unnamed model below or a younger George Clooney. He is a no-nonsense, hard-nosed plain-clothes detective with a hair-trigger temper and an axe to grind with the upper class. He’s smart, good-looking and a bit on the grouchy side, but ALWAYS has his shoes polished and animal crackers in his pocket (and on his breath).