Top 5 Wednesday: Favorite Angsty Romances

I’m linking to Top 5 Wednesday (#T5W) on Goodreads to share five of my favorite angsty romances. So that we’re all on the same page here, let’s define the term:

adj.: describes a situation or literary piece which contains dark, depressing, angry, and/or brooding emotions from the participating characters.

Angsty Romances

  1. My Stubborn Heart by Becky Wade I’m really trying to figure out how to fit a re-read of this book into my schedule. As a grieving widow, Matt Jarreau is the depressed, broody hero who needs the determined Kate Donovan to draw him out.
  2. The Memoirs of Jane E, Friendless Orphan by Erin McCole Cupp Have you noticed how often I mention this series? It’s because it’s that good. My intention is to wear you down until you just buy it already. And I’m pretty sure you can’t find a more brooding hero than Mr. Thorne. (This is, after all, based on Jane Eyre.)
  3. This Dread Road by Olivia Folmar Ard The mood of this book isn’t dark, but it doesn’t sugarcoat the anger, grief, and bitterness that have a way or weaving themselves into life and relationships, even marriage.
  4. Blue Columbine by Jennifer Rodewald The author did a masterful job with an alcoholic hero, Andrew Harris. The result is an intense, moving – angsty – romance that ultimately is filled with hope.
  5. Just a Kiss by Denise Hunter Riley Callahan is returning home from active duty in Afghanistan as an amputee. He endures the assistance of Paige, his best friend, who has relegated him to the friend zone. A recipe for some angsty, heart-tugging romance.

What are your favorite angsty romances?

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Author Interview with Robin Patchen

Author Interview Twisted Lies by Robin PatchenRobin Patchen has released the second book in her Hidden Truth series, Twisted Lies. Robin is a fellow 10 Minute Novelist, and a terrific writer and editor. I can’t wait to get started on the Hidden Truth series!

She thought they’d never find her.  And then her daughter vanished.

Marisa Vega’s life as an adoptive mom in a tiny Mexican village isn’t what she’d dreamed while growing up in New York, but as the target of a man who’s convinced she stole millions of dollars from his financial firm, Marisa believes hiding is her only way to stay alive. When her daughter is snatched and held for ransom, Marisa must discover who really stole the money in order to rescue her.

Months after being kidnapped, tortured, and left with PTSD, Nate Boyle is ready to live a quiet life in rural New Hampshire. When the source of his breakout newspaper article—and the woman who haunts his dreams—begs for help, he gets pulled into a riddle that’s proved unsolvable for nearly a decade.

Can Nate and Marisa unravel the years-old mystery and bring her daughter home?

Author Interview Finding Amanda by Robin PatchenMaybe it’s merely my perception, but it seems there’s been a surge in Christian romantic suspense, which includes your Hidden Truth series and Finding Amanda. The best-written books in that genre, in my opinion, are those able to resolve the mystery, develop the romance, and deliver a cohesive faith message, perhaps while developing a series-long arc for the main characters, without short-changing or rushing any of those aspects. It’s a lot to juggle. What appeals to you about the genre?

I love suspense. It’s probably my favorite genre to read, because I love to see how characters react under pressure and in fear. I think we can all wear lovely masks when we feel safe, but when our lives are in danger—or worse, when the lives of the people we love are in danger—the masks fall off, and we show the world, and maybe discover for ourselves, who we really are. In my latest book, the hero and heroine are not believers, but when they fear for their lives, they both pray. Not the Scripture-laced prayers that believers might come up with, but desperate, terrified prayers for help. Let’s face it: when the guns are pointed or the headlights are coming too fast to jump out of the way, everybody in the world says, “Oh, God.” Even atheists will call out to Him in that moment. So I like to put my characters in peril, to see who they really are. In this book, along with the peril that’s caused the hero and heroine to seek God, I use a four-year-old girl to open her mother’s eyes to His presence. It’s subtle. I hope it works.

You’ve written several novels and several novellas. How does writing at varying lengths affect your storytelling? Any tips for writing short or writing long?

Author Interview One Christmas Eve by Robin PatchenI wrote my first novella because, honestly, I didn’t think I could do it. My first (terrible, never-to-see-the-light-of-day) book weighed in at over 300,000 words. When I decided to attempt a novella, I knew I had to stick to one story objective and give myself limited characters and a limited time frame. One Christmas Eve takes place in less than 24 hours. I’ve loosened up on those self-imposed rules a bit, and I’ve managed to write four novellas that all come in at about a hundred pages.

With the long books, I usually aim for about 90,000 words, and I usually go over that by 10,000 words or more. I can’t seem to get my word count under control with the longer books, so perhaps my advice would be, don’t take advice from me.

Faith House and One Christmas Eve are both Christmas novellas. What liberties can you take with Christmas storytelling? What do you think makes these stories uniquely appealing to readers?

Most of us love Christmas and all it represents, so Christmas stories can add to readers’ holiday experience. And don’t we like to believe in the idea of Christmas magic? A writer can write perfectly “normal” books the vast majority of time but add a little supernatural to a Christmas story. Normandie Fischer did this with great success in her delightful novella, Twilight Christmas. If I do another Christmas story, I’ll be adding a little magic to it.

Author Interview Faith Home by Robin PatchenHow do you think being a hybrid author (being both independently and traditionally published) can be beneficial to authors?

I love indie publishing, but there is a huge portion of the population that doesn’t read e-books and still buys their books at bookstores or borrows them from the library. I’d like to reach those readers, too, and traditional publishing is still the best way to do that. There are pros and cons to both indie and traditional publishing. By doing both, an author can reap the benefits of both markets and can mitigate a lot of the negatives they each bring to the table.

In addition to your own writing, you are active in helping other writers through the Quid Pro Quills blog, Robin’s Red Pen editing services, and your contribution to 5 Editors Tackle the 12 Fatal Flaws of Fiction Writing. What aspects of writing and publishing are you most compelled to share with writers and aspiring writers to help them accomplish their goals?

Author Interview 5 Editors TackleThat’s such a great question. I certainly don’t know everything about writing, and there are so many fantastic authors who are farther along this path than I am, but I do feel a responsibility to share what I know with fellow authors, especially Christian authors. We believers have been given a message, and we’ve been tasked with taking that message to the world. As novelists, we have a unique ability to share Truth through the medium of story in a way that can reach people who might not otherwise want to hear what we have to say.

I love to help writers improve their prose. So many writers have good stories but need help in communicating them. I love to replace boring words with strong ones, to find ways to make the prose more impactful, to teach devices that draw out readers’ emotions. I love help writers make their good writing great or their great writing sparkle. And I love to see those stories reach the market and reach readers’ hearts.

I interview a lot of authors who are juggling their passion for writing, the business of publishing, and their mom duties. What tips do you have for establishing a healthy balance that allows you to meet the needs of yourself and your family as well as your writing?

Author Interview Convenient Lies by Robin PatchenIt’s probably easier for me, because my kids are teenagers. I write when my kids are at school and my husband is at work, and I leave other tasks, those that don’t take as much concentration and mental energy, for when my family is home. The key for me is to prioritize my time. Writing comes first, then emails, then editing, then marketing tasks. If I spend my first two hours of work every day writing, then I feel like everything else I do that day is gravy.

Author Interview Robin Patchen

Robin Patchen





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Seven Quick Takes

7 Quick Takes

Fish Fry Edition


Celebrating 20 Years

SSBVM Fish FryOur parish, Seven Sorrows of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Middletown, Pa, has been hosting an annual Lenten fish fry each Friday of Lent (excluding Good Friday) for twenty years! It’s a local attraction of sorts with delicious food and a fun and friendly atmosphere. More than 100 volunteers are required each week to keep the operation running.


The Queue

Fish Fry QueueThe line starts here in the gym. It’s hard to make out in this picture, but the line wraps around the perimeter then weaves back and forth between rows of chairs. The area in the center is set up with balls and hoops to keep the little kids occupied while they wait. Lenten comic strips decorate the walls along with the menu.


The Dining Room

Fish Fry DiningOnce you make it through the gym, you are seated downstairs in the upper or lower cafeteria where you are greeted by volunteer servers and a basket of rolls.



Fish Fry Menu 1Fish Fry Menu 2Here’s a peek at the menu. The fish & chips are most popular, but you can choose crab cakes, macaroni and cheese, baked haddock, shrimp, scallops, pierogies, and more!


All You Can Eat

All You Can Eat FishThese are the all-you-can-eat fish & chips baskets. The two- or three-piece fish & chips are enough for us, but these are extremely popular.



Fish Fry DessertsYou’d better hope you didn’t give up sweets or dessert for Lent because these desserts are out of this world. My son and I are fans of the coconut cream pie. The most popular dessert – also delicious! – is the lemon-berry mascarpone cake.


Chocolate-Dipped Eggs

Dipped EggsIn case you didn’t have room for dessert after all that fish and French fries, you can buy one of these hand-dipped 2.4-oz. chocolate eggs for $1.00. They come in peanut butter, butter cream, peppermint, and coconut cream and are dipped in either milk, dark, or white chocolate. In 2016, volunteers made 62,000 eggs!

Do you patronize a local fish fry during Lent?


For more Quick Takes, visit This Ain’t the Lyceum.

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Catholic Writers Guild Writers Retreat Slated for October 2017

Catholic Writers Guild logoIf you are surrounded by sufficient silence and solicitude to nourish your creativity . . . I simply cannot relate. My dearly beloved noisemakers are always nearby, sometimes physically clinging to me. Often completing thoughts, let alone sentences strung together to complete a novel, is a struggle of epic proportions.

Even if you, however, have ideal conditions for writing, a change of environment, away from the daily distractions of home or office, could be just what you need to get your creative juices flowing.

Dangling the words “writers retreat” before me when I am unable to participate, tempts me to envy. But maybe your circumstances are different. If they are, I recommend a writing getaway. Continue reading

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CatholicTeen Is Resource for Readers, Parents

A group of authors writing primarily for Catholic and other Christian teens has launched the website The website provides teen readers, parents, catechists, homeschool co-ops, youth ministers, teachers and others with direct links to exciting, well-crafted books that raise the heart and mind to God and reflect the fullness and beauty of the Catholic faith. Continue reading

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Sabbath Rest Book Talk: March 2017 (Theme: Justice)

Sabbath Rest Book TalkLast night I had the opportunity to join in author Erin McCole Cupp’s Sabbath Rest Book Talk. Erin has been producing these short fiction talks built around a specific theme for several months, but this is the first group edition in which she was joined by the lovely Rebecca Willen and me!

Here are the featured books that we discussed:

SRBT March 2017

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An Open Book

An Open Book CatholicMom

Welcome to the March 2017 edition of An Open Book, hosted both at My Scribbler’s Heart AND!

I know all the months roll by quickly, but really, February’s short. Add to that the fact that this bizarro “winter” has delivered only about four inches of sticking snow to our Pennsylvania home (here and gone), and I’m really not sure what month it is. The trusty calendar, however, says March 1, so it’s time to break open our books and see where we’re at!

The Complete Beer CourseIt’s been a few months since my husband has read a beer book, right? I can post another, can’t I? He’s currently working his way through The Complete Beer Course: Boot Camp for Beer Geeks: From Novice to Expert in Twelve Tasting Classes by Joshua M. Bernstein. This book has sent him scurrying to bottle shops in three counties seeking the beers needed for the course. Completion of the course will, I assume, elevate him to heretofore unknown levels of beer snobbery knowledge. Because there is a list of beers to procure, one thing that my husband said would be a helpful companion to the book is a checklist of some sort available in an app or a .pdf file. Lugging an oversize hardcover book to the bar would certainly be cumbersome. (If I were the author, this is an extra I’d offer as an incentive for signing up for my newsletter.) This would make an excellent gift for the beer lover in your life.

Still Life

I zipped through the second book in the Chesapeake Valor Series, Still Life by Dani Pettrey. There’s A LOT going on in this book – multiple crimes, several romances, and series-long arcs. The author handles it well, in my opinion, making this book stronger and better than the first book in the series, Cold Shot. I also enjoy that this series takes place relatively close to my home. While the first book included scenes from one of my favorite haunts, Gettysburg National Military Park, this one centers in and around Baltimore. I’m looking forward to more in the series.

An Unexpected RoleAn Unexpected Role by Leslea Wahl is a much simpler story than Still Life, but like her first novel, The Perfect Blindside, an ideal book for teens. It only took me several pages to adapt to the first person, present tense point of view, which works well for the main character, Josie. Sixteen-year-old Josie makes a summer escape to the beach, fleeing the petty meanness of the high school scene. Hoping to rediscover herself and enjoy a summer romance in the process, she’s disappointed to find Ryan, a boy from her school, on the same South Carolina island. Not everything or everyone is as they seem, however, and with a little mystery culminating in peril for both Ryan and Josie, she realizes what’s important, who she really is, and the value of authentic relationships. Recommended especially for musical theater buffs.

Game OnMy eighth grader just finished up last month’s read (The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes) and is ready to pick out something new. In the meantime, he’s been reading Game On!: All the Best Games: Awesome Facts and Coolest Secrets. (What’s with the two colon titles this month?) Not exactly a literary classic, but he enjoys these types of books. He appreciates the gaming tips and the ease of picking the book up when he has a few minutes to read here and there.

Key to the TreasureMy daughter checked out Key to the Treasure by Peggy Parish from her school library. Apparently, the school’s collection is from another era, with cringe-worthy covers that even my nine-year-old is embarrassed to be seen with. (I may have ruined her – or given her a discerning eye –  by sharing some truly awful book covers with her.) Thankfully, the content between the covers is good. I hadn’t realized that the Amelia Bedelia author wrote chapter books as well.

We let our kids pick out one book each at the Scholastic Book Fair during Catholic Schools Week. There is, however, a price limit on their purchases, so I helped my little girl find The Great Shelby HolmesThe Great Shelby Holmes by Elizabeth Eulberg, which seemed to suit both her interests and our price cap. The title character is a play on Sherlock Holmes. She started it right away, declared it good, then promptly misplaced it for weeks. Sort of. She re-discovered it right where she left it, so, I don’t know. Kids.

No David Both books I’ve been reading to my little kids are short on words and big on illustrations. When I had my first child, I’ll admit that I didn’t really get these types of books. It’s not that I didn’t see the appeal of the illustrations. It’s just that books, in my mind, required words. Lots of words. Rhyming words are especially nice in kids’ books. It took a while for me to warm up to the idea of playing with the inflections in the few words I was given as a narrator and lingering over illustrations, studying them, finding interesting aspects, and asking questions. (I also discovered these are great books to “read” when you can barely hold your head up or your eyes open, for whatever reason. It’s a lot easier to get through one of these at two o’clock in the morning with a child who is sick or cannot sleep than a chapter book. Trust me on this one.) George ShrinksWe are currently savoring No, David! by David Shannon, a Caldecott Honor book. I’d heard of this book many times, so when my son snatched it from the take-home table after story time at the library, I was pleased. The other book we’ve been re-reading is George Shrinks by William Joyce, first published in 1985. (Apparently it became a Canadian/Chinese animated series in the early 2000s. Missed that.) To my mind, 1985 isn’t long ago, yet I enjoy noticing the out-of-date details in the illustrations, such as corded phones and two-prong electrical outlets. Ah, the good old days.

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Slowly Learning to Accept Little Blessings

For the past several weeks, despite soaring, unseasonable temperatures, it seems that everybody is sick. Stomach bugs, flu, bacterial infections, etc. Each time I hear or read someone bemoan the sickness in their home or complain of this winter as the worst ever for illness, I internally cringe. Because our family has enjoyed what is probably our healthiest winter ever. (Don’t get me wrong, there’s been migraines and sinus headaches, sniffles and coughs, an injured knee, recovery from oral surgery, and an epic and ongoing battle with warts. But all in all, super healthy.)

Now, I don’t consider myself a superstitious person, but I’m summoning all sorts of courage to type this. It feels like an invitation for a variety of degenerating, lingering, maleficent ailments to descend upon our home and ravage our bodies.

Why can’t I simply enjoy this unexpected winter free from the minor suffering sickness brings? Why do I sit and wait with worry for the proverbial shoe to drop?

Trusting God Continue reading

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