Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Misery Loves Company ~ Reviewed

MiseryLovesCompanyMisery Loves Company

By Rene Gutteridge

Published by Tyndall

368 Pages

Back Cover:

Don’t tell me it’s terrifying. Terrify me.
Filled with grief, Jules Belleno rarely leaves the house since her husband’s death while on duty as a police officer. Other than the reviews Jules writes on her blog, she has little contact with the outside world.

But one day when she ventures out to the local grocery store, Jules bumps into a fellow customer . . . and recognizes him as her favorite author, Patrick Reagan. Jules gushes and thoroughly embarrasses herself before Regan graciously talks with her.

And that’s the last thing she remembers—until she wakes up in a strange room with a splitting headache. She’s been kidnapped. And what she discovers will change everything she believed about her husband’s death . . . her career . . . and her faith.


To quote TBCN's Novel Reviews reviewer, Nora St.Laurent this novel gives readers a close look inside the writer's world. Although, thankfully, most of us do not go around kidnapping negative reviewers. ;)

This was the first novel I’ve read by Rene Gutteridge, and I’m hooked. The story gripped me without release, often keeping me up well into the night, until I reached the very satisfying end.

Jules Belleno, a talented writer who appears to have little drive for anything but blogging, eating, and sleeping, experiences a terrifying adventure that rocks her to her core, and in doing so, awakens the part of her she’s suppressed for way too long. Captured by an author she once greatly admired, she’s forced to find inner strength and a reason to go on. Held hostage in a secret, remote cabin barricaded in by trees and brutal cold, her fear of death stirs within her a desire to live.

This novel is one of the most captivating, disturbing, hope-infusing stories I’ve read. Ever. There were times my fingertips literally grew sweaty, my stomach churned, and my pulse raced as I wondered if this poor, broken girl would survive. As to Patrick Reagan, the literary genius turned kidnapper, I held as much fear of him and empathy for him as Jules did. Was he crazy? If not crazy yet, would he become it before the novels end? And yet, having experienced with him the death of his wife, could I blame him if he did lose his sanity?

In Misery Loves Company, Ms. Gutteridge masterfully created a villain I couldn’t hate and a “victim” I admired. Needless to say, I am now a committed Gutteridge fan!

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

When Memories Stink

They say smells can trigger some of our deepest, most long forgotten memories; an aroma can bring us back to a special place. For some, it's fresh baked cookies and baking bread. For cows-in-field-902652-mme, it's the ripe aroma of dairy cows and "natural" fertilizer. Oh, and the skunk that decided to take up permanent residence beneath our clothes dryer.

Ah, the smells of childhood. I'm pretty sure those weren't the ones my mother was going for. Nor did she envision Sunday afternoon fights with the septic tank or mid-winter living room camp-outs when the heater broke. At the time, I bet she and my dad were beyond frustrated. Yet now, thirty some years later, many of those moments became cherished memories. (NOT the manure, cow, and skunk smells, in case you wondered. ;) )

It's funny what we moms think of, dream of, as we do this parenting thing. We've heard it's not about the quantity of time, it's about the quality. Of course, we've also been told you can't have quality without quantity. Then there's all that pressure of training and growing and equipping our child, of pushing them to excel and buffering them from disappointments. But along the way, we want more.

father-and-daughter-1392185-mWe want to make memories, like those we see depicted on Pinterest and Facebook.

At least I do, but too often, the memory I create falls so very short of the one I anticipated. Let's just say, many aren't quite Facebook worthy. Unless I'm going for the laugh-out-louds. Later. Like years later.

Maybe you can relate.

One summer, wanting to introduce our daughter to mountain biking, an activity my husband and I loved to do, I took her to Smithville Lake with it's paved paths and mountain biking trails. Backpack filled with snacks and water; sunscrean and bug repellant on, we were good to go.

My daughter was less than thrilled. Seemed she'd rather stay home. In the air conditioning. With a good book rather than venture out into the 90+, very humid heat.

Strange, I know.

But I was bent on making a memory and convinced she'd love our outing if she just gave it a chance. Or ten.

A mile in, after many starts and stops and lots of complaining, I heard a shriek. One of those long, loud shrieks that can only come from sweet, little nine year-old princesses. Being the highly attentive mom I was, I stopped, listened, mentally debated whether it was a true scream or a stall tactic, and turned to see my daughter flailing frantically, still screaming.

You've heard the midwest has ticks, right? Seemed maybe sometimes there could be a whole nest of them. Seemed my daughter knew exactly where that nest was.

And she wasn't exactly an arachnoid lover.


We can laugh about it now, although I might laugh harder than her. But we survived, as did our relationship. And I'm pretty sure we learned a few things, like:

Sometimes, despite your best laid plans, you land in a tick nest... but that doesn't mean the world has to end.

Flailing and shrieking may hurt one's ears, but it doesn't diminish a mother's love.

You can't let a failed adventure hinder you from trying something new, because the next one might be amazing.

Or not, but at least it'll spark a few wedding-day laughs.

We also learned to cut each other some slack, because honestly, no one lives up to their or other's expectations.

The trick in memory making, I believe, is in how we handle the stink.muddykids

How about you? Do you have any memory-making fails that later turned to laughter? How about any situations, like the mid-winter, living room camp-out I mentioned, that started out frustrating but turned out to be special?

Share your thoughts with us.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Candy, Roses, and All Things Mushy

loving-girl-1387838-mI hate to admit it, but I tend to be a Valentine's Day dud. I don't intend to. I'm just not hugely creative when it comes to mushiness. And honestly, I cherish those simple things like snuggling on the couch or going for long walks or car rides, or maybe chatting in Starbuck's.

Kinda funny, when you think of it, considering I write missional romance.

But my husband is a full-out marshmallow. (My daughter's words, not mine. ;) ) He's as mushy as they come and normally has all sorts of romantic surprises planned from roses to candles. In fact, one of my favorite memories is of the day he came home with a case--yes a case--of assorted, sweet-smelling candles, because he couldn't decide on the "perfect" one. Yes, I love that man. :) But my love for him extends far beyond candy, roses, and all things mushy. I love him for who he is, irritating behavior and all, and for the way He shows Christ to me, often when I need it most.

That doesn't mean all of our eighteen years have been a picture of marital bliss. We've had some crazy-tough times!

If you're struggling with marital isolation or perhaps just long to grow closer to your spouse, I encourage you to read my article on Internet Cafe Devotions called Marital Intimacy.

What about you? What are some of your memorable Valentine's Days? Share them with flowers-to-her-1234776-mus! And for a fun Valentine's Day treat, I invite you to visit the Family Fiction website to read my short story titled Love Long Lost But Not Forgotten. If you like it, I'd appreciate it if you'd vote for it by giving it a thumbs' up. :) Also, feel free to share the story with your romance-loving friends. Then, come back tomorrow for some Faith-filled news. :)

As an additional fun Valentine's Day gift, we're announcing the winner of our launch give-away basket. The winner is medasmr! Congrats! We'll be contacting you shortly to get your gift items to you. :) If you didn't win this time, no worries. A new give-away starts in March, with the winner being announced at the end of May. Check out the items in our May gift basket here, and come back tomorrow for some in-house, Faith-filled news. :)

valentines-day-background-3-1335571-mMeanwhile, take time to hug your spouse, your kids, and your friends, because Valentine's Day, I believe, is much more than an emotional sentiment. It's a reminder to live lives of love.

Monday, February 10, 2014

With Love

Have you heard the whispers? They’re rustling in the seasonal aisles and near the check-out counters. Scads of heart-themed products—candies, balloons, jewelry, and more—are competing for our attention this week. Listen! There they go again. “February 14 is almost here. PICK ME!”

With so many Valentine’s options, how do you choose the right gift?

My husband and I have a simple solution. We don’t choose.  That’s right. No Valentine’s gifts for us. After twenty years of marriage, it’s difficult to find fresh ideas. Besides, we’re on a mission to de-clutter, to shift our focus from material goods to what matters most—God, family, friends. Plus, we’ve earmarked our surplus dollars for more urgent purposes, such as paying medical expenses to treat our chronically ill daughter.

But we do set aside a quiet time to exchange greeting cards.

FFF Feb 11 pic 1

That’s why choosing the right card is a serious undertaking for me, and this year, I found the perfect one.

I didn’t select it for its graphics. A heart is a heart is a heart, after all. So what captured my attention?


FFF Feb 11 pic 2c

“Real love isn’t found in the falling—,” the American Greetings sentiment begins.

Jake Wilson would agree. Co-owner of a small-town florist in my debut novel Delivery, Jake depends upon business thriving in February. He earns a significant portion of his yearly income from Valentine’s sales. But while his wife Ida receives one of the most stunning bouquets in town, he knows expressing love isn’t that simple. In fact, he learns it requires much more than he ever expected.

FFF Feb 11 pic 3

“It’s found in the staying . . .” the greeting card message continues.

Jake Wilson stays. Even after his sweet Ida grows inappropriately suspicious, argumentative, and sometimes hateful. Even after her mysterious behavior turns her into someone he no longer recognizes. Even after her illness steals her ability to remember he is her spouse.

Jake stays considerate. He stays compassionate. He stays committed. He loves, honors, and cherishes his wife through the darkest of days.

But he’s a fictional character! He can do whatever I make him. Can real people love like that?


Last fall, I met a gentleman who could have been my inspiration for creating Jake Wilson, if only our paths had crossed earlier. In recent months, I’ve witnessed this man caring for his ailing wife of 55 years, brushing her silver locks with tenderness unexpected from such farmer’s hands, wheeling her with compassion to the breakfast table on days she couldn’t walk, lifting her with dignity onto a bedside commode after she lost the ability to attend to her own personal duties. Yet he never helped without first asking her permission--even when she could not recall his name.

A few days ago, I stood with my new friend beside his wife’s casket, her wispy hair brushed smooth, her slender hands folded at rest, her lovely face at peace. As his shoulders quaked in grief, my tears also rolled. I wept in sadness. I wept in awe.

For better or for worse, in sickness and in health, for over half a century he offered his heart as our Creator intended us to do. With patience, with kindness, with perseverance. With love.

What Valentine’s gift can top that?

Let’s talk about love! Are you making plans to surprise someone special on February 14? Are Valentine’s gifts a tradition for you? What are some of the most memorable tokens of love you have given or received? Please share! Who knows? Maybe your ideas will help a fellow reader touch someone else’s heart this week!