November 15, 2013

King Nathaniel Stratton

Joy here! First of all I would like to thank King Nathaniel for giving me his permission to write this feature. I do believe this is the first time we have ever hosted a royal, and I don’t know about you guys, but I’m pretty excited about it. =)

I think it was about 6 months ago when I first heard about a book called Once Upon A Prince. I remember seeing the cover posted (repeatedly) on my Facebook thread, encompassed by words of anticipation and multiple exclamation points. And I thought to myself, “What a clever title. And I like the cover. I should read that book.”

Fast forward to the present. I was minding my own business, skimming my Facebook thread, when what to my wondering eyes should appear but Once Upon A Prince. I hastened (because we never rush, we hasten…) to Amazon and purchased the book. And girls, I did not put it down. I couldn’t. Because King Nathaniel (or Nate, as I will refer to him henceforth) captured my hero-girl heart and held on tight. I suppose it was inevitable. We grow up watching Cinderella, Beauty and the Beast, and Sleeping Beauty. Our little girl dreams are for a prince who will fall in love with us at first sight, overcome any obstacles in his way, and lead us off to ‘happily ever after’. As adults we learn that it isn’t that simple, or easy. And let’s face it ladies, real princes are hard to come by. Anyone else want to fess up to a crush on young Prince William or Harry? (Thank you. Yes, I see those hands.)

But what if it could happen? And that is the beauty of Once Upon A Prince. Because Rachel Hauck takes a little piece of what every girl dreams of, dusts it off, and gives it wings. She reminds us that it’s okay to still believe in true love, and that you don’t need a fairy tale to find it. Susanna and Nate are real people. They have real world problems. But they also have true love (which is the greatest thing in the world, except for a nice MLT-mutton, lettuce and tomato sandwich… Ahem- sorry. Moving on.)

This book is real. It’s also innocent and charming, much like the King himself. And I loved every moment of him. It. I meant it.


About Once Upon A Prince (released May, 2013):

Susanna Truitt never dreamed of a great romance or being treated like a princess---just to marry the man she has loved for twelve years. But life isn't going according to plan. When her high-school-sweetheart-turned-Marine-officer breaks up instead of proposing, Susanna scrambles to rebuild her life.
The last thing Prince Nathaniel expects to find on his American holiday to St. Simons Island is the queen of his heart. A prince has duties, and his family's tense political situation has chosen his bride for him. When Prince Nathaniel comes to Susanna's aid under the fabled Lover's Oak, he is blindsided by love.
Their lives are worlds apart. He's a royal prince. She's an ordinary girl. But everything changes when Susanna receives an invitation to Nathaniel's coronation. It's the ultimate choice: His kingdom or her heart? God's will or their own?


Excerpt from Once Upon A Prince:

          She jumped up. Nate. Goodness, she’d forgotten him. Left him in the waiting area.
           The door eased open and two nurses entered.
           “…he’s been sitting there all night,” said one of the nurses. “I can’t keep my eyes off him. He’s like a fine painting,” said the nurse with the name tag that read Kasey. “Hey there, Mr. Truitt.”           “He’s sleeping,” Susanna said. “Did you say a man was still sitting in the waiting room?”
           “The handsome one.” Kasey typed in notes on Daddy’s bedside computer. “Hasn’t budged in the last hour. Said he was waiting for a woman.” She arched her brow. “You that woman?”
           “Of course not.” Well, not that woman in that tone. Susanna gently kissed Daddy’s cheek, then whispered, “I love you. You have all my prayers.”
           She hurried down the hall on tiptoe, trying not to disturb the patients with the click-clack of her heels against the tile. Her legs pushed against the constraints of her tight skirt. Her heart thumped against the confinement of her expectations.
           Why had he waited so long?
           Yet, when she rounded the nurses’ station, the chairs were empty. Susanna stopped cold. So he’d finally gone. Disappointment smarted as she slowly finished her route to the chairs.
          Well, good for him. He shouldn’t have hung around for so long.
           But oh, it would’ve been nice to thank him. Again. Twice in four days he’d been her knight in shining armor.
           Maybe she could contact Mrs. Butler’s event coordinator, see if she’d release his phone number or address.
           “Thanks, Nate,” Susanna whispered to the cold waiting area as she sank down into the nearest chair, her thoughts drifting toward how she was going to get home.
           She looked up into Nate’s fine face. He stood over her with a cup of coffee in his hand.
           “I thought you’d gone.” She rose to meet him, hand pressed against her stomach as her heart splashed down. He was dashing, with his cocky grin and confident glint in his eyes.
           “I’m still here. Just went for coffee.” He hoisted his vending-machine cup. “Would you like some?”
           “No, no. Thank you.” She sank to the chair again, bone tired. “W-why did you stay?”
           “To see how you-and your father- fared.”
           He took the seat next to her, feeling as if she were seeing him for the first time, seeing beyond his high, fine features, beyond the sense that he carried a hundred years of history in his bones.
           He was handsome, yes, but kind was the first word that came to Susanna’s mind when she thought of him- at Lover’s Oak, leading her down the hall to the Butler’s secret garage. Comforting her on the drive to the hospital.
           “I don’t always need to be rescued,” she said, out of the blue, out of her heart.
           His smile challenged the waiting-room shadows. “Would it be bad if you did?”
          She regarded him with wide eyes. “Do you know a man who wants a woman who always needs to be rescued?”
           “Sometimes it does a chap’s heart good to rescue a beautiful woman. Makes him remember why God rescued him.” His velvet confession brushed her heart.
           “You are a very interesting man, Nate Kenneth.”
           “You are a fascinating woman, Susanna Truitt.” He sipped his coffee. “Tell me, how is your father?”
           “Good. He’s lucky. It’s a mild blockage. They’ll do an angioplasty in the morning.”
           “My father” - Nate settled back against the vinyl blue chair - “battles leukemia.”
           “Nate, I’m sorry.” It was the first time she considered whether he had a father or parents.
           “He’s been failing the last few months.” Emotion accented his eyes. “I quite regret all the years I fought him, believing I knew better, rebelled.” He laughed at his comment. “I’m a brave man, am I not? To realize the errors of my youth just as my father is ailing?”
           “Better than after he’s gone.”
           Nate smiled, nodding. “It’s what I love about you Americans. No fussing about. Just say it plain.”
           “Plain? I don’t think I’ve been saying things very plain the past decade of my life.” She slid back against the seat and rested her head against the back of the chair. “I’m too tired to go home.”           “Then we’ll just sit here and rest,” Nate said.
           With a slow breath out, Susanna released the tension of the night, of the day, of the weekend, and drew strength from Nate’s calm company.

Excerpt used with permission. All rights reserved.

Gallant Score

I think one of Nate’s names (and he has 4 =) should be Gallant. It’s impossible to miss the orange here. What’s great about it, though, is that it’s genuine. Gallantry is knit into Nathaniel’s DNA. I know, I know, he’s attracted to Susanna. But I really believe he would step up and sacrifice for anyone, because it’s who he is. Any man who is willing to scrub toilets because that’s where his help is needed is more than worth his weight in gold. The fact that Nathaniel is royalty just makes his sweet, humble spirit that much more appealing.

Wounded Score

Nathaniel isn’t as deeply wounded as most of the other heroes you’ll find in our roster. (I think Nancy and I will both admit to a weakness for wounded heroes.) Which is another reason why Nate was good for me. Instead of being trapped in his past, Nathaniel battles present-day realities. He must decide who he is, and who he is going to become. Is becoming king really a call from God? Or merely a birthright handed down for generations? And let’s not lessen the importance of the weight of a world (or 2) on his broad shoulders. The burdens Nathaniel has to carry as King give texture and depth to his character.

Softie Score

Nate is king. And I think we’d all agree that there’s a certain hardness that comes with being in charge. Nate has to be mature and responsible. But take away the crown, and the responsibilities, and Nate’s inner softie comes shining through. Picture our king laughing and carefree as he takes on his brother in a snowball fight, and you’ve pretty much got the idea. It’s something I imagine Jesus doing, and that made this moment that much sweeter for me.

Stupid Strikes

Because Susanna is a weakness, I think Nate allows that to hinder his better judgment. As a result, situations arise that could have been avoided. I’m giving Nate one strike because he forgot to be gallant in this moment, and it wasn’t pretty.

Swoon Score

To quote Mama Glo: “Oh my stars-a-mighty.” Tall, dark, and handsome fans put your hands in the air! Nathaniel is your man. But what I liked best about our king is that Nathaniel is a man after God’s own heart. He seeks after it it. Hungers for it. And he challenges Susanna to do the same. It’s glorious. And any lingering doubt I may have had about whether Nathaniel belonged here disappeared at the proposal. Girls. THE. PROPOSAL. There should be words to describe how utterly and completely perfect this moment is, but here is the best I can do: go back to THE moment at the end of North & South with Richard Armitage. Feel that? Uh huh. Put that in words and there you have it. S.W.O.O.N.

Rachel Hauck is an award-winning, best selling author of critically acclaimed novels such as the RITA nominated The Wedding Dress and Love Starts with Elle, part of the Lowcountry series. She also penned the Songbird Novels with multi-platinum recording artist, Sara Evans. Booklist named their novel, Softly and Tenderly, one of 2011 Top Ten Inspirationals. A graduate of Ohio State University with a degree in Journalism, Rachel worked in the corporate software world before planting her backside in an uncomfortable chair to write full-time in 2004. She serves on the Executive Board for American Christian Fiction Writers and leads worship at their annual conference. She is a mentor and book therapist at My Book Therapy, and conference speaker. Rachel writes from her two-story tower in an exceedingly more comfy chair. She is a huge Buckeyes football fan.

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The FHF Exclusive Directly from the Author

I pretty much left all of Nathaniel on the field. ;) He rebelled against his dad as a youth but that's in the story. He hired an inspector to watch Susanna when he went back home and I had a bit of a scene with Jonathan, his aide, over it. But I cut that angle. Here's a snippet.

“She's still working at the Rib Shack.” He eased down into the chair adjacent Nathaniel. “Doing a few landscaping jobs but nothing stellar.”
“Call off the inspector. I don't want to know anymore.”
“She could've sold these pictures to the Informant.”
“Why? For money? She doesn’t care that much about money, Jon.”
“Everyone says they don’t care about money until they are sitting on a gold mine.” Jonathan shrugged. “Maybe this is her comeuppance for breaking her heart.”
“I didn't break her heart. She never even told me she loved me.”
“Just a theory.”
“What do Madeline and Hyacinth know?”
Jonathan sighed. “We tried to find out but their office is tight as a drum. Not leaking a word. Even our inside source can’t be found. Word is the Informant's web site crashed this morning with people checking out the picture, leaving comments.”
“Do you think she’s here? In Brighton?”
“Our dog on the ground in St. Simon's says she's at her parents, working at the restaurant.”
Nathaniel moved to the window. A southern breeze kicked over the island last week and melted the December snow. “Of course, why would she come?” He turned to Jon. “Any word on the other thing?”


The giveaways

Same drill as always! One copy of Once Upon A Prince, print or e-book (winner’s choice), goes to a randomly drawn commenter. Make sure you tell us if you want in the book drawing and leave an email address in a spam fighting format like: see you (at) Lover’s Oak dot com

If you have already enjoyed Once Upon A Prince, a $10 Amazon or Barnes & Noble gift card can be yours if you leave the name of a character from the book in your comment. Again, once the character name has been used, you have to find another.

And since we’re on the subject of fairy tales and princes and true love, I want to hear from you. What is your favorite “royal” romance movie/fairy tale? And yes, Disney movies totally count. *The first person who can identify (no cheating with Google, peeps) the movies I quoted in my feature will get an extra 2 entries in the drawing of their choice.* On your mark… get set… GO!

November 1, 2013


It's been a REALLY long time since a hero made me fall all over myself with an equal mix of spiritual admiration, carnal desire, and personality envy. In fact, I'm not sure that's ever happened. Briggs may very well be my favorite hero of 2013. When I caught this novel as a free Kindle download and noticed it was self-published, I didn't go into it thinking orange-head hero. Then Briggs just... happened. From the moment he burst into the story he had my full attention, making me wonder at his past, laugh at his jokes, his personality, reacting to being dubbed "Manny" as in Man-Nanny by the heroine when he's placed in charge of her house-arrest, and wondered at his patience and heroism page after page.A very different orange-headed hero, but a very strong one.

About All She Wanted (released May 2013)


They determine how we live, who we are, and what we want. Some choices are made for us.

Others we must make for ourselves.

Charlie Lexington is a living consequence of both. Everything about the feisty redhead represents a second chance—even her name. Though she was rescued at the age of five, her past is a lingering reminder of what she longs for most.

And the one thing she has spent a lifetime trying to find.

After a series of less-than-stellar choices, her Performing Arts Scholarship now hangs by a thread. Her sudden suspension has not only resulted in her father’s disappointment, but in the loss of her freedom as well.

She is forced to face the music: four weeks house arrest.

Briggs is the carefree, charming, yet all-too-mouthy fireman who is asked to keep an eye on the pretty little spitfire. He quickly learns, however, that his first assessment of her was off—she’s tougher than she looks. When her stubborn resolve pushes his sanity and intercepts his heart, his loyalties are put to the test.

Sometimes the hardest choice we make, is the one we must make for love...

Excerpt from All She Wanted ***
*** For the record, I bookmark potential excerpts that really highlight an orange hero as I read. When I finish I usually have between eight or a dozen to have to pick from. With Briggs, I had FORTY-EIGHT bookmarked passages where he was popping orange from the page. I managed to cull them down to this one but it was SOOOO hard.


Charlie knocked on my door a tad after eight, and for a second, I hesitated.
Is this really a good idea--Charlie and I alone together in my apartment?
I swallowed hard and reassured myself that it was fine. We were just friends.
Friends watched movies together all the time, right?
"Hey, Manny." She walked past me, placing a bowl of popcorn on the coffee table. But it wasn't the fragrance of popcorn that overpowered my senses. It was the smell of fresh peaches--coming from her wet hair.
Charlie--recently showered--was clad in flannel pj's and slippers.
Get a grip, Briggs.
Why does she have to look so good in flannel? I mean, who looks that good in flannel?
As my inner-dialogue progressed, I suddenly realized she was talking to me.
"What?" I shook my head slightly.
"I asked if you wanted the recliner?"
"Uh no, go ahead. I'll sit over here," I replied, not-so-smoothly.
"Okay." She shrugged.
Just put the movie on, Briggs.
... although, I doubt even Harrison Ford could smell that good after a shower.
She curled up on the recliner, pulling her legs beneath her like she was some sort of carnival pretzel.
"When was this movie even made?" she asked snottily as I made my way over to the couch.
"I don't know--the 80's I think?"
"Awesome." She rolled her eyes.
I picked up a handful of popcorn and threw it at her. She laughed.
That laugh was my favorite. I had learned that Charlie had many laughs--at least a dozen. Some were soft and airy, some were strong and showy... but this one, this one was completely unabashed. When she laughed like that, her defenses were down. Her pride was gone, and it was just her--raw and open.
I sat on the far end of the couch--the end farthest from the recliner. I grabbed the remote and put my feet up on the table.
I pressed play.
"So where does your sister live?"
I pressed pause.
"About an hour north."
I pressed play.
"Do you get to see her much?"
I pressed pause.
"About once a month, sometimes more."
I pressed play.
"What's your nephew like?"
I pressed pause.
"Charlie... we will be here till three in the morning if you don't shut it," I said.
"Oops, sorry," she shrugged, "I'm not a very good movie watcher."
"Gee, I couldn't tell."
She laughed.
I smiled.
For the next two hours Charlie stayed relatively quiet, except for her snarky remarks about fashion or special effects. To which I told her to shove it. To which she would hurl more insults my way. It went on like that till the end credits rolled.
When she stood and stretched, it was difficult to find something equally distracting anywhere else in the room. Her hair was a wild mess of waves as it had dried while being pressed against the back of the recliner. Yet somehow it still looked amazing.
I swallowed hard.She walked over to the sink to get a glass of water, stopping in front of the fridge.
"Cute--is this from Cody?" she asked, looking at the picture I had put on the freezer door.
She remembered his name?
It was a drawing of a fireman that he had done last year after I spoke to his class during safety week. It was one of the few things I treasured. I had brought it over with me when I picked up the poker paraphernalia from my apartment last week.
"Well, I can tell it's you," she said, her words dipped in mockery.
"How's that?" I asked, too curious to let it slide.
"Toothy grin, broad shoulders--but what really tipped me off was how he nailed your big, fat head." With that, she flashed me a smile and laughed heartily.
I made a beeline for her as she shrieked, running to the other side of the kitchen. She realized a second too late that she had nowhere to go. She had boxed herself into a corner. I put my hands on either side of her, gripping the counter.
"Take it back," I said.
I inhaled. She smells so good.
I was so close--closer than I'd ever been to her.
Her laughing eyes changed then, our smiles fading-out at the same time.
I wanted to kiss her. No, I needed to kiss her.
But with some supernatural strength unknown to me, I released her, taking several steps back. She seemed just as dazed in that moment. I cleared my throat, turning to walk her to the door. She followed behind me, quietly.
At the bottom of the stairs, I shoved my hands into my pockets and watched her walk toward the house. I wanted to make sure she got inside okay, but as she passed, a familiar urge crept up into my throat again, begging to be released.
And this time, I didn't hold the words back.
"Yes?" She stopped, turning to stare at me.
"He was a fool."
"Who?" she asked.
"The idiot who left you. He didn't know what he had--if he did, he wouldn't have let you go."
Thought it had been dark all around us, the motion light came on in that instant--illuminating her in its spotlight. She stared at me, as if contemplating my words. Finally she spoke, in a volume that was practically soundless. "Thanks."
She disappeared beyond the light a second later.

Excerpt used with permission. All rights reserved.

Gallant Score

Briggs is a good man. A really good man. The nature of the story gives him some incredible opportunities to show this gallantry. For those who know this story, can we say TUESDAY!!!, or the four hour drive after issuing the no phone call edict, or the not taking physical advantage of Charlie's emotional wounds, or his relationship with his sister and nephew, and that's before we even get to the fact that HE IS A FIREMAN!

Wounded Score

Briggs has some history and it's not a good history, except for the part where he came to Jesus and turned his life around. After as much as he'd made me laugh it was so poignant when he turned down Charlie's "friend" because... I wasn't into meaningless sex. Not anymore. That hinted at pain which was later explained, as well as the night that changed his life when he went back for his wallet. The self-inflicted wounds of his past gave depth to his gallantry, more meaning to his humor, especially the way he refers to "The Dive" as a booty-call club, Charlie's choice of footwear as hooker-boots and gives substance to his good intentions when he orders her back up the stairs to change from the "black saran wrap". That was one of my favorite parts. As Charlie tries to convince him that leggings are pants and he's not having it in a firehouse full of guys and wants her in pants, HIS definition. =)

Softie Score

Briggs is a total softie. Not a marshmallow though, as no one as shredded as he is could be considered a marshmallow. I wanted to see the scenes from his nephew's birthday party and their water balloon war as a movie SO MUCH. He's cute and funny, and I won't spoil it for you, but you will bust a gut laughing when you find out how he put his contact info into Charlie's phone. I still laugh when I remember it.

Stupid Strikes

No way. You would think so, with his personality, but no way. Briggs is someone who understands my life verse, Galatians 6:9 which says "Do not get tired of doing the right thing. In due time, you will reap the reward if you don't give up."

Swoon Score

Truthfully I'm still swooning. I've been unable to read another book because I know when I do, Briggs is going to slip a little further into my memory and I don't want him to. There's really no way to fully explain how Briggs is EXACTLY what this blog is about except to get him in your hands. Yes, he's hot. Or "hottie" as he prefers, LOL, He's fireman hot. He's redeemed by Jesus and choosing the better path hot. He's giving hope and life and love and healing to Charlie kind of hot. If you enjoy contemporary romance at all, this is a must-read for you. If you don't usually do contemporary but can dip your toes in this story to be able to experience Briggs, you should. I'm never wrong about an orange-head hero. Briggs is orange. Well actually, here's a good place to put this other great quote of his I have to share and haven't gotten to yet. Kai tells him he is losing his edge. Briggs's answer?
And he is.

Nicole Deese is the self-published author of the Letting Go series, a mother of two rambunctious boys, and a wife of ten years. She loves reading, writing, snacking, chatting (mostly about books) and planning pretend vacations. Her family lives in Frisco, Texas.



The FHF Exclusive Directly from the Author

After I wrote All for Anna, book one of the Letting Go series, I knew I just had to write Briggs’ story next. However, liking Briggs from afar is very different than being inside his head. Talk about intimidating. My husband actually laughed at me when I told him I was going to write this witty fireman from first person point of view. I mean, Briggs is so cool, and tough, and well…HOT. Okay, enough said on that. (I blush easily.) But interestingly enough, the voice of Briggs was the clearest character voice I’ve heard to date.

I love a flawed hero. But more than that, I love a hero who is not afraid to be raw.

Volunteering in several recovery ministries at church has exposed me to some gut-wrenching stories of failure, addiction, and heartache. But within each of those stories, I’ve also heard the inspiring testimonies of life-change and transformation through Christ.

I wanted Briggs to be that man. The one who was lost. The one who was damaged. The one who was hopeless. Ultimately, that’s a man who can measure the distance between regret and redemption and love deeper, stronger, and richer because of it.

Nancy here hero-girls and I couldn't have nailed the heart and soul of Briggs and why he is here any better than his author just did.

The giveaways

I love Briggs SO MUCH that we're going to give away 3 copies of All She Wanted. Please note at this time this great story is only available in ebook for Kindle (which you can read on your computer, tablet, ipad, etc.) not in Nook. So let me know in the comments what about Briggs makes you want his story and we'll get you in the book drawing. As always, drawing winners choose their format of choice--ebook or paperback.

If you have already read (and therefore LOVED) All She Wanted and Briggs, or you went ahead and spent the $3 to get his story now (GOOD FOR YOU!) give me a character from the novel by name that is not Charlie or Briggs or Kai and we'll get you in the $10 giftcard drawing.

Please remember to leave your email address in a spam fighting format so I can contact winners. Something like =) Drawings will be on November 14th so let's play!