Sweetbriar Cottage by Denise Hunter

61kabzeSXfL._SX326_BO1,204,203,200_I’m an avid Denise Hunter fan with my very favorite book of hers being The Convenient Groom, but in all honesty, almost every book I’ve read by this author has been such a fun, romantic read. What I’ve come to expect in a Denise Hunter novel is solid characters, a sprinkle of humor, a dash of adventure, a peppering of faith, and a good slathering of romance.

So when Denise’s newest book, Sweetbriar Cottage, also added my Blue Ridge Mountains to the list…well, seriously, how could I NOT want to read this book? With Denise’s usual expertise of charming and bittersweet, she also has a knack for showing us God’s unfailing love in the way the hero ends up loving the heroine. (This is one of my favorite tropes, btw)

We get a beautiful picture of this ‘love story’ through the relationship of Josephine and Noah, a couple who used to be married, thought they filed for divorce, and then discover they’re NOT divorced after all.

SweetbriarcottageIn the dazzling way known as Denise-Hunter-writing, we delve into a novel of what love really looks like when hurts are deep and forgiveness is hard. It’s her signature. A hero who shows God’s love in a tangible way to a broken, insecure, and wounded heroine. It’s one of the reasons I love her books so much. Some of the other reasons are…super romance, wonderful kisses, sweet storytelling, and excellent descriptions.

If you’re a fan of stories with a deeper thread of redemption, two people trapped in a cabin during a snowstorm, and a God who mends broken things with his unfathomable love, you’ll probably enjoy Sweetbriar Cottage.

A delightfully sweet read with a poignant core about the healing power of love.

Purchase your copy today: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Christian Book

About the Author

Denise Hunter is the internationally published bestselling author of 30 contemporary romances. In 2016 two of Denise’s novels, The Convenient Groom and A December Bride, aired as Hallmark Original movies. When Denise isn’t orchestrating love on the written page, she enjoys traveling with her family, playing drums, and reading as much as humanly possible. After raising 3 boys in Indiana, she and her husband are rapidly approaching an empty nest.
Connect with Denise: WebsiteFacebook, Twitter

Conference Tips with Denise Hunter

If you attended ACFW last year, you would have seen the coolest drummer EVER! Denise Hunter was part of the worship team, lead by Rachel Hauck. It was a wonderful experience of praise and worship, with a fabulous chorus of hundreds of Believers from all over the country and every denomination. I’m sure God LOVED it!!!

Okay so, let’s get to the point, right?

Known for her emotionally riveting novels of grace and romance, Denise Hunter has a consistent ability to break the hearts of believeable characters and then show how God mends them back together again. Her newest release, A Cowboy’s Touch, has received top reviews and the pleasure of being on the ACFW bookclub list.

So – what are Denise’s top THREE things to remember to bring to a writer’s conference??

1. Reasonable expectations. Focus on what you can control. Your pitch, your wardrobe, your attitude. It’s extremely rare to walk away from a conference with a new contract or an agent. The conference is the jumping off point not the destination.

 2. Patience. With yourself and other people. Spread grace around you like fairy dust, and be sure some lands on your own sweet head.
3. Chocolate. Your one-stop source for celebration and comfort.
Denise, those were great suggestsions – especially 2 & 3. Patience, grace, & chocolate! WOW, what a combo.
Learn more about Denise’s books at her website: www.denisehunterbooks.com
Stop in tomorrow to find out what Missy Tippens’ top 3 picks are.
17 days until ACFW!

Conference Tips Series

Starting next Tuesday, I’ll be hosting a series about conference tips – straight from some of your favorite authors. Each have given 3 top things to remember to bring with you for your future Writers Conference -experience.

So who’s on the agenda for this coming week?

Denise Hunter

Missy Tippens

Kaye Dacus

Mary Connealy


Laura Frantz

It’s gonna be inspirational, educational, and FUN! Stop by and get prepared!

Are YOU Conference Ready?

Stop by for the next three weeks and get some conference tips from fabulous authors like:

Denise Hunter

Rachel Hauck

Ruth Logan Herne

Siri Mitchell

Mary Connealy

Kaye Dacus


Look for the weekend lineup on Saturday so you’ll make sure to stop by for a quick note that will help prepare you for ACFW or any other writers conference you might have in your sights. It all starts on Tuesday, Sept. 6.


Emotional Hooks and Such – The Reader

You know it’s true.

The heart of a good story is emotion.

If we can’t evoke emotion in our readers, then there’s a really good chance that story isn’t going to be at the top of anyone’s reading list. Most people pick up a book because it strikes some emotional chord with them.

An interest or curiosity



A romantic twinge

But it all starts and ends with emotion. All types of emotions.

There are readers’ emotions (of course) and there are authors’ emotions.

For the readers, the story must trigger an emotional pull on the back cover or in the first paragraph. Otherwise, the book with land firmly back on the shelf. Here are a few back cover blurbs from popular Inspirational novels:

“Kate Lawrence has everything in place. Everything, that is, but the groom. She might not have a career either, when her nationwide audience finds out their marriage guru has been left at the altar. Enter Lucas Wright, who offers to stand in for the missing husband-to-be and marry her.”

The Convenient Groom by Denise Hunter

What draws us in? What emotion is evoked? Sympathy? Curiosity? And there’s definitely an element of conflict.

How about this one:

Morrow Little…finds herself explicably drawn to a forbidden love that both terrifies and intrigues her. Can she betray the memory of her lost loved ones – and garner suspicion from her friends- by pursuing a life with him?

 –Courting Morrow Little by Laura Frantz

Conflict again. And what emotion did you feel? The whole ‘forbidden love’ thing edges our curiosity, doesn’t it? There are great words in these sentences: forbidden, terrifies, intrigues, betray, garner, suspicion, and pursue…these are ‘emotive’ words. Important to remember.

Claire Prescott…finds herself holding a lost version of Pride and Prejudice. When a tall, dark, and dashing stranger crosses Claire’s path, will she suddenly discover her inner Lizzie Bennet? Neil’s unexpected arrival in Oxford complicates Claire’s journey to finding her true romantic lead and she discovers that finding the right hero can be more difficult than she ever imagined.”

–          Mr. Darcy Broke My Heart by Beth Pattillo

Intrigue is the key to this one. A lost copy of Pride and Prejudice? A tall, dark, and dashing stranger? Her boyfriend unexpectedly comes to find her in the middle of all this drama? And is there more conflict?

What questions do you leave the reader asking from page number one?

Last one – guess who this one belongs to:

When this shy little bookworm blossoms into a beautiful young woman bent on loving John, she discovers that his past won’t let him return that love. But Lizzie refuses to give up – until his shocking secrets push her away.

No conflict here, right? Again, our emotions are drawn to the mystery, but a goal is set here. We want to cheer for someone with a purpose. Lizzie has a distinct purpose – “loving John”, but the conflict happens with his unwillingness to love her back. WE note her determination to win him, but his ‘secrets’ may be wall that proves much bigger than her purpose. Our emotions want her to succeed.

So what would be one key ingredient to igniting emotion in the readers?


Of some sort.

Can you sum up the conflict in your story into a few sentences? If someone flipped over the back of your book, what conflict might charge their emotional curiosity?

Are you emotionally charged by the story of your heart?

Well, I’ll chat more about the author’s emotions later this week.

AS A BONUS (if you have time)

Here are a few short sentences from my wips:


Sophia meets Ethan Taylor, her contact and a hybrid vampire. Torn between wanting to kill him and the other less hostile feelings, Sophia and Ethan embark on a perilous mission to battle the cult father and a psychotic scientist bent on immortality.  Can Sophia trust her heart to someone who doesn’t have one? Her life to her immortal enemy?

Here To Stay

Betrayed, single-mom Eisley Barrett really doesn’t need romance. She needs to research mysterious truth about her ancestor, write a book about it, and prove to herself she’s worth soemthing – even after her husband traded her in for a newer model. Suspicious of everyone who isn’t a part of his family, the last thing actor, Wes Harrison needs is a visiting houseguest, but Eisley Barrett is nothing like anyone he’s ever known. Can he trust her with is unsavory past? Can she trust him with a broken heart? 

A Twist of Faith

 Dr. Adelina Roseland’s big-university dreams come to a full-stop when she is sent to a tiny town in a crevice of Appalachia. Sent to develop a new program for UVA’s satellite university there, Adelina fights against her own prejudices of the mountain culture. Determined to prove herself and get out of Appalachia forever, Adelina makes a daring wager – but  she didn’t plan for the faith and friction of single-dad  Reece Mitchell. When Reece discovers he’s been a mere pawn in her step up thecorporate ladder, will he be able to forgive her deceit or will their miscommunication end in two broken lives?

Daggling the Reader by a Cliff

One of the hallmarks of a great story is the ability to keep the reader engaged. Now, of course, fantastic characters and riveting plots are the main contributors to fantastic novels. Conflict is another thing. But something else to remember in the grand scheme of a story, is the element of cliffhanging.

What is a cliffhanger?

According to dictionary.com, a cliffhanger is:

  1. a melodramatic adventure serial in which each installment ends in suspense in order to interest the reader or viewer in the next installment.
  2. a situation or contest of which the outcome is suspensefully uncertain up to the very last moment.

 So, how do authors do this? Let’s take a look at a some examples for the next few days to get a ‘taste’ for how the experts do it.

 I’m going to start by introducing you all to one of my son’s favorite authors. He’s quickly becoming one of mine too. Stephen Lawhead writes epic fantasy with historical threads, with Celtic and Britain mythology braided throughout. In his book, Hood, he takes on the tale of Robin Hood and brings it to life.

Here are the last few paragraphs of chapter one:

 As he turned to take the third attacker, Iwan glimpsed his king struggling to keep his saddle. He saw Brychan lurch forward and topple from his horse into the water.

 The king struggled to his knees and beheld his champion fighting to reach him a short distance away. “Ride!” he shouted. “Flee! You must warn the people.”

 Rhi Brychan made one last attempt to rise, got his feet under him and took an unsteady step, then collapsed. The last thing Iwan saw was the body of his king floating facedown in the turgid, bloodstained waters of the Wye.

 Now, do you wanna turn the next page and see what happens? Sure. You’re left wondering what’s going to happen next. You can’t just go to sleep now?

 Okay – okay, for those of you with a more romantic leaning, let’s visit Denise Hunter’s newest novel, Driftwood Lane. Can ladies who write romance create cliffhangers too?

“The fact is, the children are in dire need of your assistance, Meridith. Since Mrs. Hubbard fell ill, members of the church have been taking shifts. Very kind of them, of course, but it can’t go on. If you don’t come quickly, I’m afraid I’ll have no choice but to alert Child Protective Services. I’d hate to see the children go to foster care, even temporarily. And there’s no assurance they’d be placed together.

Foster care! Meridith imagined suited men coming into their home, carrying them off. She imagined the littlest boy, screaming for his mommy.

From somewhere deep inside compassion swelled, followed quickly by a surge of protectiveness she didn’t know she was capable of. She had no doubt there were decent foster homes. But the thought of the children being separated seemed cruel when they’d just lost their parents. Besides that, they were orphans. And didn’t he Good Book admonish them to look after the orphans?

She had to do something. It was her responsibility, even if she’d never met them, because T.J. and Eva had named her the children’s guardian. And because, like it or not, she was their sister.

 Yep, I’d say Denise does a nice job of a cliffhanger here at the end of chapter one.

How about one more for today. Let’s try Deeanne Gist’s novel, A Bride Most Begrudging.

“How dare you!” she cried. “You will not get away with this. Mark you, if you do not arrange an audience with the governor at once, I will create a commotion of such magnitude they will write legends about it.”

 The captain did not even bother to acknowledge her. “Throw her back in the hold, Cooper,” he said over his shoulder as he descended the steps.

 She filled her lungs with the intention of letting out a scream the likes of which would not be ignored. Before she could release it, the first mate squeezed a band of flesh between her neck and her shoulder.

Debilitating pain cut off her scream and buckled her knees. She crumpled to the ground. Cooper did not let go but followed her to the floor. She whimpered, trying to pull away from the torturous vice his fingers created.

     His hot, foul breath invaded her ear. “Not one sound, dovey. Not one.”

 What’dya think? The key element of the cliffhanger is creating a question in the reader’s mind. It’s an unsettling thing. That’s why snatching the reader’s emotions in the first chapter is so important. They HAVE to find out what’s going to happen to this character they ‘care’ about now.

 How have you created a cliffhanger in your WIP? Or novel? Is it a sufficient hook to make the reader HAVE to turn to chapter two?

A Kiss to Build a Scene On with Denise Hunter

A Touch. Lips to lips. Waiting, wanting, speaking wordless words. Ahh, what a caress. What a moment!

What brings those moment to life. What ignites color from black and white print?  What heightens the pulse, shallows the breaths, and floods your skin with a flush of warmth.

The senses.

And who else could heighten our senses like author, Denise Hunter. Her books breathe with contained passion, longing, and a need to be desired. Oh dear me, they are so lovely. If you’ve never read her books, well…you just need to. To read a review of her feature book today, Seaside Letters, follow this link: https://pepperbasham.wordpress.com/2009/09/25/seaside-letters-by-denise-hunter-2/

 To learn more about her books visit her website at www.denisehunterbooks.com

Now, Denise, what do you think makes a good kissing scene?

There are many elements that go into a great kissing scene, but everything that comes before it is just as important as the romantic scene itself. Building the hero’s and heroine’s back stories and motivation, ramping up the conflicts that keep them apart, and showing why the characters are drawn to each other are crucial. No matter how well-written the kissing scene, the reader won’t be moved if you haven’t done your work leading up to it.

Having said that, here are some things that help build a great kissing scene:

Sensory Details—what is your character seeing, smelling, tasting, hearing, touching or physically feeling? These are the details that put your reader there.

 Setting—choose the scene of the crime, er . . .kiss, carefully. Night or day? Sunny or storming? Alone in a boat or on a crowded street corner? Decide on the mood you want to set and go from there.

Internal Conflict—Unless you’re writing the happily-ever-after kiss, you’ll probably want your character to feel conflicted. Often during the kiss, they’ll remember why the kiss isn’t such a great idea.

Timing—This is about where you place the kiss in the story. Making the reader wait builds anticipation, but waiting too long will leave them irritated.

Pacing—Since your reader has been anticipating the scene, be sure it’s worth the wait. Slow the pace down. Linger in the scene a while.

Word choice —Words can set a romantic mood.  Watch your verbs and nouns. Go for specificity. Graze or brush, for instance, might be better than touch. 

 Wow, what great tips to remember. Do you have a scene for us?

From Seaside Letters (Thomas Nelson, 2009)

She laid her head in the crook of his elbow, the strength of his bare arm resting against her neck. Oh, how she’d missed this. Things email could never provide. Security. Comfort. She could a list a hundred more.

She inhaled the scent of his cologne, not daring to tear her eyes from the night sky. Smells.

The boat rocked slightly, a cradle on the water. The wind hummed a lullaby and waves lapped the boat, a gentle percussion.

“Sabrina?” he whispered.

Voices. She swallowed around a dry lump in her throat. Don’t look.

Do. Not. Look.

“What?” she asked so quietly she wasn’t sure if he heard.

“Look at me.” His voice, low and deep, beckoned.

She turned her head. He was so close. His breath mingled with the salty air and cooled her cheeks. His eyes . . .

His eyes were a deep pool, the color of the ocean at midnight. Had anyone ever looked at her the way he looked at her now? What was there, shimmering on the surface? Longing? Devotion? Desperation? She soaked it up, every ounce.

 “What?” she asked, needing to know. Needing words, not trusting herself to interpret his expression.

And then his hand was on her face, his palm cooling her flushed cheek. His thumb grazed the ridge of her lower lip, and she thought her lungs might explode. Touches.

He drew closer and then his lips were on hers, the merest of touches. A butterfly’s wings, a baby’s breath. It shook her to the core.

His lips tasted hers, teasing gently. Kisses.

It had been so long since she’d felt like this. Had she ever felt like this? Really wanted? Needed?

He deepened the kiss, ran his hand through her hair. This wanting, this needing, filled her to overflowing. She breathed him in. Tucker. The man who knew everything about her, the man who knew her every scar, inside and out. The man who loved her anyway.

Only he didn’t know he loved her. Didn’t know she was Sweetpea.

He was supposed to love Sweetpea.

Why was he kissing her? She felt betrayed. Then she felt silly because he was betraying her with her.

Even so, the feeling persisted. If he loved Sweetpea, how could he kiss Sabrina? She felt enraged on Sweetpea’s behalf.

She pushed at his chest, breaking the kiss.

Her breaths came hard and short. She saw the confusion in his eyes before she turned. “Take me home.”

“What’s wrong?”

The answer to that question could fill a book. Did she have desperation written all over her? Is that why he’d kissed her? Wasn’t he getting enough action from Arielle? The thought provoked her.

“I’ve had enough of the second show.” She pulled the blanket more tightly around her, but the chill seeped right through.

Oh Denise, you are such a tease. The final scene of that book is FANTASTIC with a kiss to build a SCENE on for sure, but this one is great too. Very take-your-breath-away too. Sigh. I will shamelessly plug this book, and all of your books, as much as you want. They are wonderful, passionate, and dig deep into so many heart-issues.

Thank you, thank you for being here today and what a way to end the week. Whew…

 Kissing Quote for the Day: 

“Love is friendship set on fire.”
Jeremy Taylor

 Inspirational Quote for the Day:

What is love, you ask? Below is a checklist that none of us can ever fully meet. An aspiration, perhaps, but a truth as well. A list that HAS been met in the love of our Savior.

“No matter what I say, what I believe, and what I do, I’m bankrupt without love.

   Love never gives up.
   Love cares more for others than for self.
   Love doesn’t want what it doesn’t have.
   Love doesn’t strut,
   Doesn’t have a swelled head,
   Doesn’t force itself on others,
   Isn’t always “me first,”
   Doesn’t fly off the handle,
   Doesn’t keep score of the sins of others,
   Doesn’t revel when others grovel,
   Takes pleasure in the flowering of truth,
   Puts up with anything,
   Trusts God always,
   Always looks for the best,
   Never looks back,
   But keeps going to the end.”

I Corinthians 13:3-7

Who’s Got Character?

What a better week to talk about ‘characters’ than the week we dress up as different ones. I am thrilled to announce the ‘line up’ for next weeks’ “Who’s Got Character?”, where your favorite authors tell us their favorite heroes and heroines, AND the ‘behind-the-scenes’ making of those characters?

To whet your creative interests, check out the guests:

Monday, Ruth Axtell Morren –morren_photo

             author of love stories set in history, specifically Regency. Her novels not only inspire the romance between a man and woman, but sprinkle the fingerprints of a Divine love throughout the story. Of all her fascinating characters, who could possibly be her favorites? Move over Mr. Darcy 😉


Tuesday, Julie LessmanJulie-Lessman-2

           -winner of the Book Of The Year Award at the American Christian Fiction Writer’s Conference in Denver, Julie is a master-craftsman/woman at making the written word breathe with energy, conflict, and tension. Her heroines are powerfully memorable and her heroes are dangerously loveable. Stop by and figure out which ones she loves the most.



Wednesday, Bryan DavisBryanDavis_l

      Known for his colorful detail and powerful imagery, Bryan Davis has won the hearts of adults and children alike with his fantasy serieses Dragons In Our Midst and Oracles of Fire.  His writing sets the reader’s senses on hyperdrive into a world of imagination.



Thursday, Cheryl WyattCheryl Wyatt

     Faster than a F-117 Night Hawk, more powerful  than a rotary gun, able to write a novel in 6 weeks, look…at the computer, it’s Cheryl Wyatt. Cheryl’s action-packed stories bring ‘real life’ situations onto the page with warmth, beauty, and humor. She has so many characters to choose from, who will she choose as her favorite and why?


Friday, Denise Hunterdenise hunter

       Known for her beautifuly crafted love stories of emotional growth, spiritual renewal, and ‘rescue’, Denise combines a wonderful trilogy of faith, humor, and romance to weild a story with memorable value. The rescues that happen on her pages are rescues of the heart. I’m curious who her favorite ‘rescuer’ will be?


And we don’t stop there. During the first week of Novemeber, there will be a whole new set of authors ready to reveal the secrets behind the favorite characters. So keep checking in to learn more.

Seaside Letters by Denise Hunter

“No matter where you are or how long until we can be together, I’ll keep searching for you.”

Little secrets, big secrets, and a ‘boat load’ of heart-stopping romance pumps through the pages of Denise Hunter’s novel Seaside Letters – A Nantucket Love Story.

seasideSabrina Kincaid carries around much more than a loaded tray of food for six people at the Cobblestone Cafe – inside she carries a wealth of secrets that constrict her heart from feeling and bind her dreams into inactivity. Now, she’s being asked by sweet Tucker McCabe to help find a woman he’s corresponded with for a year – a woman he says he loves…he has to find…he’ll do anything to find.

So – how does Sabrina keep her heart in check, when the woman Tucker’s searching for is…her? 

Tucker knows Sabrina is the face behind all the letters he’s enjoyed for the past year. Her words, her life, the beauty of her heart swelled into a perfect rhythm for his life…his future. The only problem is…she won’t admit who she really is. As a guise to get to the truth, Tucker comes up with a plan to use Sabrina’s sluething skills to find the mysterious woman of these letters. So…he hires her to find…her.

As usual, Denise Hunter writes a lovely story about God’s grace and the amazing power of love. Unforgiveness and fear are mighty foes, but they tremor in the wake of true and pursuing love. Sabrina struggles with her past, her betrayal, and the pain of being betrayed – but Tucker’s gentleness, steadfastness, and beautiful grace are the trinity of emotions that break down the stubborn wall of fear around her heart.

Will it be too late though? Will Tucker offer his heart to someone else? And are some secrets too treacherous to forgive?

Pick up the book and find the answer for yourself. Poignant, memorable, funny, and…oh so sweet – with a kiss to build a dream on (actually a few of those), you’ll want to read and possibly reread the last chapter a few times over.

And keep your eyes open – Denise’s next Nantucket Love Story Driftwood Lane should be out in the Summer of 2010. It’s on my wishlist.