Simple Deceit by Nancy Mehl ~ a Mennonite Community at War

Right off the bat, I became deeply involved with main character Grace Temple. She’s a modern woman, a freelance graphic designer who grew up in the fictitious Mennonite community of Harmony, Kansas. While not leaving her roots, she’s not Old Order, but attends a more modern church. When a baby is abandoned in the snow, rumors start that she’s the out of wedlock mother. Now, how is she supposed to explain this to Sam Goodrich, the farmer she loves?

Sam lives with his aunt Sweetie, a sharped tongued, opinionated woman, with a big heart who cooks up a storm. I felt as if I’d been drawn into a real Mennonite community, one I could believe might actually exist, warts and all. I loved the way every time there was a crisis, the characters gathered around a table to eat the most delectable fare. Being a foodie, it made me want to move out there just so I’d get invited to eat. I also enjoyed the little side story with Snickle the cat.

Speaking of warts and all, Sam’s attitude toward Grace takes an immediate down turn when she tells him about the baby rumors. Had me rooting for the slick city feller there for a minute, a land developer who intends to build a retirement community in Harmony and hires Grace as his freelance designer.

Grace feels the retirement community will breathe new life into Harmony where many business people struggle to make a living, but many in the Old Mennonite Order strongly disagree. Things start getting pretty dicey. One night Grace sees a shadowy figure lurking in her back yard. Then the man who was to sell his land to the developer winds up dead. Not to mention the city-slicker, land developer keeps popping up at Grace’s house at the oddest hours, making her relationship with Sam even more strained.

As if that were not enough, a young Mennonite girl’s life is endangered when she falls in love with an unbelieving man and her staunch Old Order father sees red driving her to extreme action. There was plenty of deceit, and some of it wasn’t so simple. But what captured my heart was the simple faith of the characters as they struggle with their principles, doubts, prejudices, and emotions.

Nancy Mehl, lives in Wichita, Kansas with her husband Norman and her son, Danny. She’s authored nine books and is currently at work on two new series for Barbour Publishing.

All of Nancy’s novels have an added touch – something for your spirit as well as your soul. “I welcome the opportunity to share my faith through my writing,” Nancy says. “It’s a part of me and of everything I think or do. God is number one in my life. I wouldn’t be writing at all if I didn’t believe that this is what He’s called me to do. I hope everyone who reads my books will walk away with the most important message I can give them: God is good, and He loves you more than you can imagine. He has a good plan especially for your life, and there is nothing you can’t overcome with His help.” She and her husband attend Believer’s Tabernacle in Wichita.

Are Christian Crime Fiction Heroes Too Wimpy?

Are we creating a bunch of Dudley Do-Rights? Are these guys so good they’re boring? Are they too saccharine? I’ve read Amazon reviews and heard a few whispers about here and there complaining the hero is so perfect, he’s one dimensional. It’s a Christian novel, so there can be angels in it, but the angel should not be the hero.

They say nice guys finish last, and I think that’s true in crime fiction. The hero has to be as much fun or more fun to watch in action than the villain or antagonist. The hero has to have a backbone. When the hero is set upon by the villain, it can’t be that he overcomes the obstacles and wins the day as a clueless wonder who accidently stumbles through. He’s got to have the fortitude and skills to overcome the villain, or he’s not very compelling.

If the hero is a Christian character, the author has some limits in that the reader will expect the hero to live by certain principles. Of course, that is as it should be. No quarrel there. Yet in life, we know real Christians have faults, some of them major. We know real statistics show a little over fifty percent of all Christian marriages end in divorce, a good number of them due to infidelity. In real life, we know most of those couples do not reconcile. Although it’s changing, we still don’t see too many divorced heroes in Christian fiction. We do have tons of nearly perfect widowers.

One flawed hero in Christian crime fiction who sent the needle on my read-o-meter off the scale is J. Mark Bertrand’s homicide detective Roland March. What a nearly over-the-hill grumble crunch, as he trudges through the case trying not to ogle his new, young,  female partner. I wanted to pinch his cheeks and squeeze. Loved him. Of course this hero’s not a believer so Bertrand did have some leeway. Another fascinating Christian hero is Ellen C. Maze’s Michael Stone, (the series straddles horror and crime fiction categories). I mean this guy drinks blood through most of the first novel, until there is redemption. How can you beat that for interesting?

The only way it works in crime fiction if the author creates a wimpy hero is when the plotline shows him morphing into a forceful protagonist who can meet and defeat the villain. In this way, all of his goody-two-shoes traits can grow into some type of competent strategy to stop the evil deeds of his enemy. This is the type of storyline I can sink my teeth into.
There should be some fireworks. This is especially true if the story is a romantic suspense. If there isn’t any chemistry between the hero and heroine, it leaves me flat. Those romantic fireworks don’t have to be physical. There can be an intense lingering gaze…even a hostile one, or witty repartee. Although physical magnetism on some level is a plus as far as I’m concerned. Christians do have bodies and those bodies do respond when there’s attraction. There might be some type of mystery to the guy. The hero has something lurking in his past, which functions as the catalyst for his actions in the story.

For me, it’s a given the hero has to have passion. He has to be driven by something, could go nearly over the top about it. My hero, Detective Ian Daltry, in my soon to be released novel GOODBYE NOEL cares about justice for the murder victim. He feels the murdered nearly cry out to him from their graves to avenge them. In COMES A HORSEMAN, Robert Liparulo’s hero FBI agent Brady Moore is passionate about saving his son from the clutches of evil forces he can’t quite comprehend until nearly the end of the novel. His passion is his human relationships, depicted in a riveting way as he pits himself against a near army of evil doers in an attempt to rescue his female partner.

A hero doesn’t have to be good as much as he has to be operational. By that I mean capable of carrying out the hero role in the story to it’s logical conclusion when he defeats the villain. To do that he’s got to have some smarts. Readers today have no tolerance for a dumb hero. In addition, a great hero isn’t predictable. Yes, he’s true to his core values, but the author is able to reach within him and pull some response out that creates unexpected plot twists.
Graphics Courtesy of Photobucket.

FALLING TO PIECES, An Innovative Amish Mystery by Vannetta Chapman

As many of you know, I’m always attracted to new ideas in fiction, to new angles and new ways of doing things. Today I’m thrilled to be featuring Vannetta Chapman’s wonderful and inventive Amish-cozy mystery, FALLING TO PIECES. This is Amish with a bit of a new twist.

In the Amish community of Shipshewana, two women — one Amish, one English — reluctantly join forces for a short-term business venture. Neither is looking for friendship, but when the town’s newspaper editor is murdered, and an unexpected prime suspect is identified, the women form an unlikely alliance to solve the mystery.
In this first book of a three-book series, a fresh twist is brought to the popular Amish fiction genre. She blends the familiar components readers love in Amish books — faith, community, simplicity, family — with an innovative who-done it plot that keeps readers guessing right up to the last stitch in the quilt.
When two women — one Amish, one English — each with different motives, join forces to organize a successful on-line quilt auction, neither expects to gain a friendship. As different as night and day, Deborah and Callie are uneasy partners who simply want to make the best of a temporary situation. But a murder, a stubborn detective, an unlikely suspect, and the town’s reaction throw the two women together, and they form an unlikely alliance to solve a mystery and catch a killer.
Set in the well-known Amish community of Shipshewana, FALLING TO PIECES will attract both devoted fans of the rapidly-growing Amish fiction genre, as well as those who are captivated by the Amish way of life. This is a novel both traditional Amish fans and also cozy mystery fans will love.

Purchase Links:

Vaneerta’s blog.

Barnes & Noble.

Author Bio:
Vannetta holds BA and MA degrees in English and has published over one hundred articles in Christian family magazines, receiving over two dozen award from Romance Writers of America chapter groups. She previously published an Amish novel with Abingdon Press, SIMPTLE AMISH CHRISTMAS.

BURNING HEARTS is #2 on Amazon in Christian Historical Fiction WWII

Yesterday BURNING HEARTS was at #4 on Amazon in Christian Historical Fiction WWII and I was thrilled to death and had to tell everyone.

Today is even better. Apparently overnight BURNING HEARTS rose from the #4 spot to #2. I’m ecstatic at this point. So, natch, I had to take a picture to show all my friends…

It’s a little hard read, but still…

Hot Picks For End Of The Summer Reading

I’m the one to end the 2011 Hot Summer Reads With Edge Summer Blog Tour, sponsored by Edgy Christian Fiction Lovers (Ning). Here it is September and Labor Day’s approaching, but the weather is still mighty hot in many places around the US. No need to let go of that summer reading spirit. Kick back with a wonderful read, recommended by any of the authors participating in the tour this summer. [A link will be provided at the end to see the entire blog tour calendar.]

In the meantime, here are my “hot picks” for great warm weather reading…
BURNING HEATS, Book One in the Sanctuary Point Series by Nike Chillemi (arson/murder, action, and romance in equal measure)
Can a sheltered young seamstress, disillusioned by the horrors of WWII, escape an arsonist/murderer who has killed her employer and mentor, while trying to decide if she can trust the dashing war hero who’s ridden into town on his Harley—who some say is the murderer?
Erica Brogna’s parents doted on her and taught her to think for herself. Many boys she grew up with have fallen in the war, shaking her childhood faith. In rides a handsome stranger, at the hour of her most desperate need. A woman who is her best friend and mentor is trapped in a burning house. After making an unsuccessful rescue attempt, Erica stands by as this man rushes into the inferno and carries her friend’s lifeless body out.
Lorne Kincade can’t out run his past on his Harley Davidson WLA, the civilian model of the motorcycle he rode in the war. He’s tried. He’s been a vagabond biker in the year since the war ended. His Uncle Ivar bequeathed him a ramshackle cottage in Sanctuary Point, on the Great South Bay of Long Island, NY and now he’d like to hope for a future again, repair the miniscule place, and settle down. The only problem is, a young woman with hair the color of mink is starting to get under his skin and that’s the last thing he needs.
REVENGE, the Travis Mays series by Mark Young
When a trained killer threatens ex-cop Travis Mays — and those Travis loves — he finds a skilled adversary and an unexpected fight.

After a high stakes gamble ends in personal tragedy, Travis walks away from years of training and a highly successful law enforcement careet. Determined never to look back, he starts a new life and a new career teaching criminology at the university and building a cabin in the idyllic Idaho mountains. He hires a beautiful river guide, Jessie White Eagle from the Nez Perce trive, to guide him safely down the Lochsa. The turbulence of the whitewater, however, is just the beginning of his troubles. Travis finds himself in the crosshairs of a killer — calling himself Creasy — bent on revenge.

This fast-paced thriller takes readers on a wild ride down Idaho’s white water rivers, along the historic Lolo Trails once tread by the Nez Perce nation, and onto the city streets of California. Tighten your helmet. This ride never stops until the last shot is fired and the final body falls.

K-I-L-L FM 100 by Teric Darken

Disc jockey Carter “The Cart-Man” Jackson has been climbing the stairway to heaven,

keeping his life as simple as possible by living from one song to the next. He had the world by the tail, coming from a family of power, prestige, and politics — until he let it all go.

Killer Queen is burning up the highways to hell, terrorizing a town in her crimson stilettos, by holding random men at gunpoint. She had nothing except a dad who abused her, and now she has nothing to lose.

K-I-L-L FM 100 is the visual soundtrack of two opposing lives colliding head-on at a destined radio station. As Killer Queen put the DJ under the gun during his night shift, she begins to question who the real hostage is, as she confronts the demons of her past. And as the DJ shines his light into her darkened world, a few shadows of his own begin to loom from his closet.

When the lane narrows on this solitary stretch of highway, both captor and captive realize that something’s got to give. Someone’s got to go. Closing in fast on this dead-end drive, two souls discover that their lives are not so different. Each has lived under a mask and each is in dire need of genuine love.

A full-throttle storyline, injected with one of the most unique twists ever unleashed. K-I-L-L 100 is the thriller that reads like a soundtrack. There’s a time for everything under heaven. Killer Queen knows there’s a time to kill.
THE CLOUDS ROLL AWAY, the Raleigh Harmon series by Sibella Giorello

Closing her assignment with the FBI’s Seattle office, a forensic geologist Raleigh Harmon returns to her hometown of Richmond, Virginia expecting a warm welcome. Instead she finds herself investigating an ugly cross burning at a celebrity’s mansion and standing in the crosshairs of her boss at the Bureau. And the deeper Raleigh digs into the case, the murkier the water becomes — until she’s left wondering who the read victims might be.

To make matters worse, Raleigh’s personal life offers almost zero clarity. Her former confidant is suddenly remote while her former boyfriend keeps popping up wherever she goes. And then there’s her mother, Raleigh’s move home was supposed to improve Nadine’s fragile sanity, but instead seems to be making things worse.

As the threads of the case begin crossing and double-crossing, Raleigh is forced to rely on her forensic skills, her faith, and the fervent hope that a breakthrough will come, bringing it that singular moment when the clouds roll away and everything finally makes sense.