Shane Phillips had given up hope of ever meeting the nephew born to the woman his brother assaulted. After checks he sent to Aubrey Anders were returned, Shane decided the most he could ever do was pray for the Anders family. When Shane discovers that he and Aubrey work for the same graphic arts company, he must find a way to assure her he means no harm before both Wyoming branches meet for a conference.
Aubrey thinks she has worked through most of her trauma with the help of her psychologist and loving community. However, meeting Shane Phillips seems to have unleashed suppressed anxiety and insecurity. But as their paths continue to intersect, Aubrey begins to wonder if Shane could be part of God’s plan for her despite their painful connection.
I really liked this book. It is a book that deals with a sad topic but done without graphic details because it is after the fact. It is also a book about forgiveness and trust. I really responded with a yes I need to do this when I read this statement in the book “Relying on Christ immediately rather than building walls in fear.” This is a story that clearly shows God can and does turn terrible things into joy.
I received a complimentary copy from the author and Celebrate Lit and these opinions are my own.
About the Author
Amy Walsh is a 5th-grade teacher who loves teaching children about what she loves to do herself: reading and writing. She enjoys outdoor activities, especially hiking and camping. Amy also appreciates opportunities to share her faith through singing, teaching, and writing for her church family. Amy and her husband, Patrick, have three children: Bree, Spencer, Liz, and a son-in-law, Kyle. Amy and her family love to spend time together celebrating special occasions, listening to great music, swimming and kayaking, and having occasional ping pong tournaments.
More from Amy
Thank you for helping me spread the word about my first Whispers in Wyoming novel! I am thrilled to be part of this gospel and heritage-themed series! If you haven’t read any of the novels yet, you are in for a treat! There are thirty-three novels ahead of His Brother’s Atonement — and they are all STANDALONES, so they can be read in any order!
Meet Aubrey, Shane, and Jayson
Aubrey is a young mother and graphic designer from Engelmann, Wyoming. Her terrible experience during college has caused her to keep to herself. Aubrey has no close friends and has never dated. But her parents are supportive, her son keeps her happy and busy, and she loves her job. Aubrey believes she is doing pretty well emotionally until the brother of the man who assaulted her turns up in town.
Shane suffered quite a bit when his brother was tried and imprisoned for assaulting Aubrey. People actually turned their backs on his family, and Shane’s fiancé ended their engagement. Even worse was watching how it affected his parents. After Shane’s brother died in a freak prison accident, their mother spent several days in the ICU. For years, Shane has yearned to do something to help Aubrey and her son, wanting to atone for his brother’s terrible action. But Shane gave up hope of ever meeting his nephew years ago.
Jayson is Aubrey’s six-year-old son. He is obsessed with cowboys, horses, and the wild west. Art runs in Jayson’s genes from both sides of his family, so it is not surprising that he loves drawing and helping his grandpa with woodworking. Jayson never seemed to notice that he doesn’t have a dad, but when he finds out that his father died, he is so heartbroken that Aubrey promises to let him meet his uncle. So much for her thinking that she would never have to see Shane again!
The Creation of His Brother’s Atonement
I never really know when or how a story idea will enter my head. I can drive by a house that catches my eye, and the next thing I know, I am imagining the characters that live there and writing their story in my imagination. Sometimes watching the interactions of people prompts a story. Other times my ideas come from research.
For His Brother’s Atonement, there were a bunch of factors that came into creating Aubrey and Shane’s story as far as the setting. I had just been to a writing conference where one of the speakers said that many readers still love contemporary westerns. Adding to that, I had been following the multi-author group Whispers in Wyoming and other authors who wrote westerns, and I had been enjoying their posts. Additionally, one of my teacher friends has spent portions of her summers out west and I love to hear her talk about landscapes and small communities. A camping trip to Yellowstone and other western parks has been high on my bucket list for several years.
As for the situation that Aubrey is in, how she became a single mother and how she now deals with anxiety, her story just came to me while I was brainstorming. Her and her son’s personalities developed in my mind as if they were real people. I have wondered what it must be like to have a family member who is a criminal, the conflicting emotions it must bring: to still love that person; to be ashamed for what that person has done; to yearn to find a way to help the victim. So I am sure those thoughts helped me create Shane’s struggles.
I wrote most of Aubrey and Shane’s story while I was spending nights with my grandmother in hospice. Grammy was often sleeping while lovely hymn instrumentals were playing, and I felt as though I was in a sacred space. I think some of my own inner struggles with trusting God’s sovereignty, with remembering that God does work out everything for our good, may have become part of the novel. And in the last chapter when Aubrey prays during the Thanksgiving dinner, you can see some of my own angst about life changing and my own feelings of grief being resolved.
His Brother’s Atonement is a fundraiser!
As I was researching for this novel, I read too many firsthand accounts of women who had been assaulted and the devastating effects of the violence in their lives. According to rainn.org, every 68 seconds another American is assaulted, and one out of every six American women will be the victim of an attempted or completed rape in her lifetime. According to multiples sources, there are at least 30,000 rape-related pregnancies in the U.S. each year. Sexual violence is a significant problem in the U.S., and in other countries around the globe, it is even more rampant.
As I was delving into Aubrey’s thoughts and pondering how her assault had affected her and her family, I decided that I needed to do more to help women and children who have been victimized. As a first step, ten percent of the profits from the sales of His Brother’s Atonement will be donated to Heaven’s Family. To find out more about this organization, follow this link: https://www.heavensfamily.org/ministries/victims-of-sexual-violence/
Here is the recipe for Nana Ander’s Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Pie.
Aubrey and Shane don’t get to have a “meet-cute”, you know that sweet moment when a couple-to-be meet for the first time? In fact, when Aubrey sees Shane across Engelmann Park, she almost has a panic attack thinking that he is the man who assaulted her.
In the next book about Engelmann Wyoming, Portrait of Redemption, Cody will help Shane set up a “meet-cute” redo. I think it is so adorable that Shane wants to do that for Aubrey!
Two special characters mentioned in His Brother’s Atonement are from another of my novels, Elsie Whitmore. Elsie meets famous actor Graham Thurston for the first time when he tracks her down at her school, determined that she will audition for a movie he is producing. A somewhat spoiled star, he is annoyed that she hasn’t taken calls from his talent agency, so he is cold and judgy during their first meeting. In return, she thinks it is ridiculous for Graham to assume that she would consider giving up teaching just because he liked one of her YouTube videos. They also do not have a cute first meeting!
Here is my meet-cute! I worked part time at a Sears in a mall while I was going to college. My husband, Pat, was a loss prevention agent there. A coworker who had a crush on Pat asked me to draw a Christmas card for her to give to him. In the PS, she told Pat that I was the one that illustrated the card. That led to Pat investigating who I was, and soon he was regularly stopping by my register at Sears to make small talk. He would have silly excuses to stop by, like having me help him put a baby outfit on a stuffed animal to purchase for his nephew. It could have become very awkward if my co-worker hadn’t developed a crush on someone else in the meantime!
During the launch party for His Brother’s Atonement, some of the readers shared the stories of their first meeting with their husbands. Some were adorable, and some were so awkward. Have you shared your “meet-cutes” with your children and grandchildren? Surprisingly it is something we forget to talk about, but it is part of their heritage!
What’s a girl to do when her life sounds ripped from the lyrics of a country music song?
Charlotte Van Cleave’s hissy-fit reaction to her husband’s infidelity sours her world like a pot of boiled chitlins. She’s left with no husband, no job, and no home—well, besides the dilapidated farmhouse inherited from her nana.
But Charlie learned early that southern girls dig deep when things go sideways. She’d climbed out of the mire when her missionary parents were killed in Congo, endured two late-term miscarriages, and survived the death of her nana and papaw. Too poor to paint and too proud to whitewash, Charlie follows a new path with her interior design skills.
Derek Daniels spent his life serving his country until a helicopter accident ended his military career. Now back home on the family farm, he’s stuck between his philandering brother, Nicky, and the only girl he’s ever loved—sweet Charlie Van Cleave. Unwilling to cross a line, he vows to keep his feelings to himself. Easier said than done when Charlie discovers a mystery surrounding her parents’ death and asks him to help investigate.
What’ll Charlie and Derek have to do to turn those lyrics into a country hit?
Night Songs" by Jennifer Sienes is a wonderful tale of forgiveness and second chances. I like that the Gospel message is shared in this book. The characters are "Real Life". I wonder what I would do if I found out what I thought was my fault for years turned out to be a lie. This book was an emotional read for me. Several plots in the books was like reading about stages in my life. I definitely recommend this book.
I received a complimentary copy from the author and Celebrate Lit and these opinions are mine own.
Jennifer Sienes holds a bachelor’s in psychology and a master’s in education, but discovered life-experience is the best teacher. She loves Jesus, romance and writing—and puts it altogether in inspirational contemporary fiction. Her daughter’s TBI and brother’s suicide inspired two of her three novels. Although fiction writing is her real love, she’s had several non-fiction pieces published in anthologies—two in Chicken Soup for the Soul. She has two grown children and one very spoiled Maltese. California born and raised, she recently took a step of faith with her real-life hero and relocated to Tennessee.
About the Narrator
Speaking Life into Story
Queen of the one-eyebrow quirk, Christa DelSorbo auditioned for the role of Tarzan’s mom and has the photos to prove she ended up as the only cast member in a literal cast. These days, they keep her stuck in a box with a ball on a stick and only feed her when she reads another chapter of another fabulous book. She loves every minute. Or so they tell her. *eyebrow slowly raises *
Why do weddings do their best to ruin relationships? Friends, family—even the couple!
Beth Stevens didn’t come to the Independence Islands to find a guy, but thanks to her beloved Gram, she had a place to go and the skills to start a business she loves. Meeting Scott again and getting engaged was a bonus she only dreamed of.
Now, in the final weeks before their Christmas Eve wedding, she can’t imagine not having him in her life. They have endured one hurdle after another in their two-year relationship and have remained devoted through it all.
And then months of wedding planning begins to fall apart as one person continues to undermine Beth’s choices.
Scott has waited for this day to come but as he witnesses Beth unravel, he does everything he knows to do to protect and stand by her.
The question is, will things ever come together enough to get them both to the altar before it’s too late?
This Breakers Head novel is Melissa Wardwell’s final novel in the Independence Islands Series featuring five islands, six authors, and a boatload of happily-ever-afters.
The Independence Islands Series: beach reads aren’t just for summer anymore.
“I don’t know how many times, that I needed to stop looking for joy in people and start letting the good Lord show me what joy looks like.” the act of forgiveness is different from letting go of the emotions that went with it.” My favorite sentences from the book. I really liked this book. It is a tale of forgiveness.,yes; I cried again while reading. Both happy and sad tears. I recommend reading the stories as they were written.
I was given a complimentary copy by the author and Celebrate Lit and these opinions are my own.
About the Author
Melissa Wardwell resides in Owosso, Michigan with her husband and three teen-aged children.
She doesn’t mind alternating between the world of writing and the reality of being a mother, but she would rather sit with a good book or a good friend and a cup of coffee.
When she isn’t penning works of fiction, she is busy reviewing books for her blog, Back Porch Reads.
For five books I have tormented and teased readers. Some have even emailed me asking when they were going to see a wedding for Beth and Scott. Now I can say, this is your chance.
I cannot tell you how fun this book was to write. Every plot line, great or small, that I left hanging in the previous four books will come together here. I know some didn’t like it, and I’m sorry, but that was the way the characters told me their stories.
See, my books for The Independence Islandsrun together like that of a television series. Not every plot is resolved at the end of the season and the characters come back in the next season. We know someone is ill at the end of season four, but will they survive through season five? And if it involves legal issues, well those don’t resolve in a short amount of time, no matter what. Then, there is the slow burn romance. I mean, come on, not every romance is a flash in the pan. The good ones build over the span of months, or in Beth and Scott’s case, years.
Throughout this series, these characters have faced their demons while learning to trust God’s hand in their lives. They have lost and loved, married and buried, celebrated and cried all while searching for something more. I don’t know about you, but finishing Delicious Devotion was like saying good-bye to dear friends. Of course, the hardest was Gram’s final piece of wisdom to the bride and groom…
“Be vulnerable with each other, in every way. If you cannot be vulnerable and open with your spouse, then there is no trust in your foundations. When you pray together, pray openly. When you talk about those private things that only spouses talk about, be willing to listen to your spouse and act accordingly. Remember to keep everything stated in those moments of vulnerability between the two of you. No bed is big enough for three people.”
That lady was so smart.
Thank you for going on this journey of self-discovery and growth in faith. Beth was not the only one who went through some changes over the last two years. I’d like to think that she and I grew together as we processed loss, success, new friendships, and healing of old wounds.
If you stuck with it through all five of my contributions and loved every minute, then you are welcome. If you wanted to lay hands on my swiftly and repeatedly, I apologize. Stories like this have minds of their own.
I hope you will continue to follow me as I publish more books with the wonderful people at Celebrate Lit and integrate a couple of these characters in future books.
“To enter Faerie’s blessed demesne four secrets must be found: the land unbound by time and space opens only to the one who knows the Light, the Song, and Mortal Gate.”
In the sheltered town of Carmel, women do not have a future outside of a good marriage. That future is threatened when Leah Edwards’ father gambles away the family’s livelihood and estate. She and her sisters must hurry to find husbands. Then August Fox, a Guardian from Cariath, comes to town and purchases a supposedly haunted manor. Charged to keep the peace between mortals and Faerie, the Guardians are the stuff of legend. After he stuns her with a marriage proposal, Leah reluctantly journeys to Cariath, discovering there is more to August and the legends than she guessed.
Nimrod and his Oath-breakers betrayed the Guardians, seeking to solve an ancient riddle that would unlock the Faerie realm. Not all his followers share his desire for conquest. Benedict Fox, his second-in-command, has different motives. But as he continues fulfilling Nimrod’s plan, Benedict hurtles towards a choice between saving his family and settling a personal vendetta.
For Leah, August, and their allies, it is a race against time to solve the ancient riddle before the Oath-breakers, and reunite the Guardians to save the mortal realm. The war is never really over, and this time, the battle lines cut through blood ties and brotherhood.
I am not a fan of fantasy but if there were more book like “The Vermilion Riddle” that might change. I really kept turning those pages as fast as I could. This story was really quite different that I imagined it would be. I am really hoping there is another book with these characters. Of course the plot would have to be different but they are lots of possibilities.
I was given a complimentary copy from the author and Celebrate Lit and these opinions are my own.
About the Author
Dana Li is a software product manager by day, and a novelist by night. She holds an MS in management science and engineering from Stanford University and a BS in computer science from USC, but she’s always been better at writing stories than code. Her writing misadventures began with a dozen now-deleted Star Wars fanfiction tales. She loves good fantasy/sci-fi, classy cuisines, and roller coasters (but not all at once). Dana currently lives in the San Francisco Bay Area, and The Vermilion Riddle is her first novel.
More from Dana
Two of my favorite fiction authors are J.R.R. Tolkien and Jane Austen. Besides both being British, their works are worlds apart, literally – one wrote epic, sprawling stories of the battle between good and evil, while the other wrote of small town families, romance, and culture in the Regency era. If Tolkien’s heroes failed, death and darkness would sweep across the land. If Austen’s heroes failed, a lady would be single at thirty. (The horror!)
As different as they are, I had a desire to blend the best of both genres. I didn’t think it’d be the most marketable book, but then, I also thought no one else would write this. That concept sparked the genesis of The Vermilion Riddle. I wanted an epic fantasy that was also character-driven and intimate. I love how Austen deftly explored familial and romantic relationships in the framework of her society, and I was curious to see how that would unfold in the context of a traditional fantasy. I shamelessly drew influence from the Regency era for parts of my story’s culture, simply because it’s got that quaint, cozy vibe, stored inside a broad, sweeping world.
This is a snippet of what I wrote in my original query letter for The Vermilion Riddle:
“While the novel evokes elements of classic fantasy—quests, duels, and the battle of good versus evil—it thrives on character exploration. The plot hums to the beat of a cosmic conflict and climax, though the struggles within a family—between fathers and sons, brothers by blood (and not), husband and wife—forms its core melody.”
When it came to the characters and relationships in the story, three questions framed my writing.
What makes a strong, relatable, and feminine heroine?
What happens to brothers who are pitted against each other ideologically?
What does a love story that happens after marriage look like?
I did not know, concretely, the answer to any of these when I began, and Riddle was going to be my way of exploring them. In retrospect, I was in over my head. I’m not sure if I ever found totally satisfactory answers, but as I worked on the novel over the years, I felt the story mature quietly alongside of me. There were nuggets of wisdom I gleaned from life and other people that made their way into the story. There were also surprising insights that emerged from the characters as I was writing.
In the end, I wanted to write characters who, though born into another world, were achingly human. Though they chase ancient secrets and face the fury of the faerie-kind, they aren’t wrapped in an air of mythology that makes them feel far removed from us. They are the sort of people who could be legends – but a legend is usually formed in retrospect. They are like Merry and Pippin, hobbits who felt like useless baggage for much of their journey before they were hailed as heroes.
That’s what I strove for, at least – a story that’s epic yet intimate, that’s far-flung and yet close to home.