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Book Review: Smitten Book Club by Colleen Coble, Kristin Billerbeck, Diann Hunt, and Denise Hunter

Posted by Julie on February 18, 2014 in Book Review, Julie Arduini, Life Lessons |

519fdbtKEPL._AA160_About the book: The century-old Gentlewoman’s Guide to Love and Courtship is no ordinary book club choice. But for the little book club in Smitten, Vermont, it might be their best pick yet!

The thick, leathery tome Heather pulled out of the dusty cardboard box was definitely coming home with her. Not only was The Gentlewoman’s Guide to Love and Courtship an appealing curiosity by virtue of its title; it was also written by Smitten, Vermont native Pearl Chambers, a local gentlewoman from three generations back.

Little did Heather know the repercussions this little curiosity would have on her and her friends’ romantic exploits.
When Heather and her fellow book club members begin passing the book around, their respective interpretations are unleashed on their respective love lives . . . for better or for worse. Is it a mystery? An idealist fantasy? An intimation of Jane Austen? As romantic love finds its way to each woman, the Guide proves itself both surprisingly prescient and hilariously irrelevant.

What’s more, a handwritten inscription indicates that the arcane book might hold the only extant clues leading to buried gold—exactly what one of the members needs to keep her house. How could they not go treasure hunting?

In this remarkable collaborative novel, besties Colleen Coble, Kristin Billerbeck, Denise Hunter, and Diann Hunt tackle the tale of the Gentlewoman’s Guide by writing for one book club member apiece. Smitten Book Club is a hopeful, hilarious story of friendship and healing, written by friends for friends.

 

I absolutely adored the premise behind the Smitten Book Club. An old book find full of sage advice from a local woman three generations ago finds its way through Smitten. There is the mystery of buried gold and whether Chambers hid clues to the treasure within the pages of her Gentlewoman’s Guide. There’s the fun of watching romance unfold throughout Smitten thanks to the book.

I thought each story was seamless and as cozy as a Vermont drive. The romances were natural, as were the book club members and their friendships and struggles. The mystery was a fun touch, too.

The hard part for me was reading Diann’s story. I took twice as long because I kept thinking of her and her family as I read, knowing she received her eternal homegoing two months ago. I read so much from the others knowing no matter what Diann was facing or feeling, she met her deadlines. I savored her story knowing how hard she worked to deliver a story readers would love. How hard this must be for Colleen, Denise, and Kristen to promote without their friend.

Diann’s wish is realized. Smitten Book Club is a story readers will love. It’s a smart story that effortlessly weaves friendship, romance, humor, and mystery.

About the authors:

RITA-finalist Colleen Coble is the author of several best-selling romantic suspense novels, including Tidewater Inn, and the Mercy Falls, Lonestar, and Rock Harbor series.

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Christy Award finalist and two-time winner of the ACFW Book of the Year award, Kristin Billerbeck has appeared on The Today Show and has been featured in the New York Times. Her books include A Billion Reasons Why and What a Girl Wants.

Denise Hunter is the award-winning and best-selling author of several novels, including A Cowboy’s Touch and Sweetwater Gap. She and her husband are raising three boys in Indiana.

Diann Hunt has lived in Indiana forever, been happily married forever, loves her family, chocolate, her friends, her dog, and, well, chocolate. Diann lost her courageous battle with cancer in December 2013.

To purchase Smitten Book Club, click here.

I received a copy of Smitten Book Club from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

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Remembering Diann Hunt

Posted by Julie on December 15, 2013 in ACFW, God's Word, Julie Arduini, Life Lessons, Writing |

Anyone seriously interested in the writing craft is going to be a reader first. Long before I put a pen to notebook or a finger to keyboard, I had a book open. Always. My reading style tends to be by author. I find a book by someone, love it, and get my hands on everything they’ve written.

And that’s the case with Diann Hunt.

I found Diann through Kristin Billerbeck, one of my favorite authors. They have a joint blog, Girls Write Out, with Colleen Coble, Cheryl Hodde, and Denise Hunter. I read one of Diann’s books and kept going.

The Girls Write Out Authors. Image from their blog used only here as a tribute to Diann Hunt.

The Girls Write Out Authors. Image from their blog used only here as a tribute to Diann Hunt.

 

I also kept reading the blog and every once in awhile would leave a comment. And they were gracious to respond to the posts. I followed them on social media, and again, everyone was great in responding.

But Diann and her interaction with others blew me away. She wasn’t afraid to be silly and share it. She wasn’t afraid to be bold. And she never wasted an opportunity to tell someone about Jesus and His goodness.

Her books took a backseat to the person, and I think that’s how Jesus wants it. Diann was a double whammy for Him because she was a bright light directing people to Him in both her actions and her words. I’m a better person because of how she conducted herself as a believer in Jesus and an author.

Sadly, Diann passed away November 29th after a long battle with ovarian cancer. I never knew Diann beyond her kind replies to blog and Facebook posts but her passing knocked the air out of me. I know I’m not alone. She was so open sharing her journey, so my heart breaks for her husband, children, and grandchildren. I have a small circle of friends who are everything to me. To think of Colleen, Denise, Cheryl and Kristin not having Diann present to knock ideas off of or laugh, my heart is as heavy for them as the Hunt family.

Thing is, Diann’s still changing the world for Christ. Her family has shared letters Diann left and conversations with others. Diann just didn’t believe in God, she believed Him. She knows where she is, and she is not sleeping on a cloud. That woman is healed and celebrating with Jesus. She had no doubt, and neither do I. I can picture the laughter. Don’t think heaven is sterile, it’s perfect, and there’s a difference. And there is much joy and laughter in heaven.

One of the trademark Diann conversations was something the funeral home director shared. As people dealt with the funeral process she wanted everyone to know when they saw the casket that what they saw inside was just a shell. “The nut is in heaven.” That’s Diann.

I want to leave an eternal mark as she has, one that transcends the author’s life. Yet, she lived in a real world that has a grieving family. I’d like to introduce you to her words as an author because I believe you’ll fall in love with her work. I also know any purchases you make will help her family.

And I’d be remiss not to share eternity with you. One of the books Diann read in her journey was Randy Alcorn’s Heaven. It is a book that brought me great comfort and is Biblically based. If you’d like to get a better visual on Diann’s eternal home, I recommend this book.

Thank you for allowing me to share a tribute on a beloved woman today. There are many others across the blog-o-sphere doing the same today, all about Diann. Do find and read their posts. You will be blessed.

 

Be Sweet ~ Same mom. Same dad. Completely different lives. Who’s to say which sister has it sweeter?

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Bittersweet Surrender ~ Carly spends her days at a spa (okay, so she owns the place), she’s dating a hunk, and she’ssurrounded by chocolate. She’s living the dream . . . or is she?

 

 

For Better or Worse ~ She’s a wedding coordinator. He’s a divorce attorney. She begins marriages. He ends them. How could these two possibly find common ground.

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510ltTGrS7L._AA160_Hopeful Hearts ~ 2 delightful romances. Abigail O’Connor is determined to discover who left her as an infant on her adoptive parents’ doorstep—and why. Adelaide Sanborn longs for an adventurous life at sea, but society’s conventions prevent seafaring ventures for “respectable” women.

 

Love Letters in the Sand ~ Though the tide of World War II washed away her happily-ever-after dreams, years later, Eva Hilton dares to consider another chance at love.51fqDvzJL5L._AA160_

 

51wDSETJ5aL._AA160_Hot Flashes and Cold Cream ~ An eccentric best friend, a leaky Chihuahua, a teenager in trouble, and a workaholic husband with a gorgeous new colleague. Those are the ingredients for Diann Hunt’s wise and funny story about growing…well, older…with grace.

 

 

RV There Yet? ~ Life’s a journey. Midlife’s an adventure. But two weeks in a RV with the hot-flash sisters could drive anyone over the hill.41x9HlzwYxL._AA160_

 

feetHot Tropics and Cold Feet ~ When the going gets tough, the tough hit the beach. After years of being single, Lily’s about to head down the aisle again. But just as she’s about to take the plunge, she gets cold feet–ice cold.

 

 

Prayers & Pawprints ~ When two very special dogs descend on Acorn Hill, Alice wonders, could a dog be an answer to prayer?

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51VFxDISSFL._AA160_We Have This Moment ~ When one of the inn’s guests reunites with a long-lost beau, the former high school sweethearts get a second chance at love. But will their families accept their rekindled romance?

 

 

Smitten ~ Welcome to Smitten, Vermont. With the help of four friends, it’s about to become the most romantic town in America.

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5131up3d4lL._AA160_Smitten Shelby You’ve Got A Friend ~ When a group of friends devise a plan to turn Smitten, Vermont, into the country’s premier romantic getaway, Shelby finds her own true love along the way.

 

 

Knit One, Love Two ~ Winter, spring, summer, and fall, Smitten is a place for love  . . . and mystery. But will knit-store owner Anna ever find patience for either?51hTD1U-C8L._AA160_

 

51RRhBOW7GL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_Secretly Smitten ~ Summer, fall, winter, spring—Smitten, Vermont, is the place for love . . . and mystery!

 

 

 

Smitten Book Club ~ The century-old Gentlewoman’s Guide to Love and Courtship is no ordinary book club choice. But for the little book club in Smitten, Vermont, it might be their best pick yet!

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51iaGsBGxcL._AA160_Delight Yourself in the Lord, Even on Bad Hair Days ~ Using the great and small “bad hair days” of life, the authors deliver reminders that the first step toward triumph is joy in the Lord. Whether single or married, career girl or stay-at-home mom, today’s Christian woman is faced with daily obstacles. Delight Yourself in the Lord……Even on Bad Hair Days is a devotional filled with upbeat reminders about infusing hope and joy in the Lord as the first step toward conquering life’s problems and chasing down the desires of your heart. Through 100 funny and thought-provoking devotions, the authors remind women to go back to the basics with God. And they even share a few private “bad hair confessions” along the way!

There are other authors/bloggers sharing their tributes today. Please visit them!

Carrie Turansky: http://carrieturansky.com/index.php/diann-hunt-day/

Lena Nelson Dooley: http://lenanelsondooley.blogspot.com

Trish Perry: www.trishperry.com

Julie Arduini: www.juliearduini.com

Bonnie Calhoun: http://bonniescalhoun.blogspot.com/

www.agatharemembered.blogspot.com

www.Writingcareercoach.com

Ane Mulligan: www.anemulligan.com

http://everythingwriterly.blogspot.com

http://writingonboard.com

Rachel Hauck: http://rachelhauck.com/blog/

Rose McCauley: www.rosemccauley.blogspot.com

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Book Review: Secretly Smitten by Colleen Coble, Kristin Billerbeck, Diann Hunt, and Denise Hunter

Posted by Julie on January 26, 2013 in Book Review, Julie Arduini, Life Lessons, surrender |

When it comes to romance, there are a lot of sub-genres. Historical, contemporary, suspense, inspirational, and chick-lit to name a few. Secretly Smitten enters a sub-genre I don’t think I’ve heard–cozy romance.

This book, written by real life best friends Colleen Coble, Kristin Billerbeck, Diann Hunt and Denise Hunter, is a sequel, but you wouldn’t know. Each story is a stand alone and doesn’t confuse readers with information from the previous book. Although mystery is part of Secretly Smitten, romance takes center stage and deserves a standing ovation.

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Each author wrote a story and they are all quick reads. They flow so well together, it’s obvious these are authors who know each other well enough to finish each other’s sentences. Afterall, that’s what BFF’s do, right?  Aside from reading enough from the authors to know their own quirks (who knits, for example) I would not have been able to tell this was written by more than one author. The transition between stories was seemless.

Each story is held together by the past. One of the characters, Tess, finds a pair of dog tags in her grandmother’s attic belonging to David Hutchins. Turns out he was her grandmother’s first love, and she believed him to be dead. Tess and her sisters work to unravel how David was thought to be dead when he really wasn’t, and was he still alive?

While they investigate the past, the Thomas’ women discover love on their own. Each woman has her own struggles, and I love that the women had to overcome. Each character was strong in her own right, but there was a challenge in each story. Their men were also each different, with their own backgrounds and conflicts that threatened the romance.

Mystery and romance would be enough to satisfy, but the authors create an added layer for the reader to work through, family. As the David Hutchins mystery unravels, two sisters endure hurt and unforgiveness. I thought this backstory was exceptionally well done and relatable. There truly is something for everyone in Secretly Smitten.

From Amazon:

Summer, fall, winter, spring—Smitten, Vermont, is the place for love . . . and mystery!

There’s a secret in Grandma Rose’s attic—a forgotten set of dog tags belonging to her first love. But David Hutchins was killed in action and never returned to Smitten. How did the dog tags end up in the attic?

The mystery intrigues Rose’s three granddaughters—Tess, Clare, and Zoe—and they decide to investigate, though their mother, Anna, warns against meddling. But as the seasons turn and the mystery unravels, the three young women and their mother encounter some intriguing mystery men of their own. Has a sixty-year-old puzzle sparked something new for this close-knit family of women?

Join popular romance novelists—and real-life BFFs—Colleen Coble, Kristin Billerbeck, Diann Hunt, and Denise Hunter for four delightful intertwined tales of mystery and sweet intrigue.

Secretly Smitten was as comfortable as a pair of slippers, a favorite blanket, and a roaring fire. Which I think you should gather as you read this equally cozy book.

Purchase Secretly Smitten here.

I received Secretly Smitten from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

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Secretly Smitten Live Webcast February 5th

Posted by Julie on January 22, 2013 in Book Review, Julie Arduini, Life Lessons, webinars, Writing |

The “gals” are celebrating the release of Secretly Smitten with a fun Live Webcast on February 5th. They’ll be debuting the *NEW* animated Smitten trailer, giving away tons of prizes, dishing on the book and their friendship. They’ll also be wrapping up the Secretly Smitten blog tour, answering audience questions and testing your trivia skills. Don’t miss the fun and bring your friends. Click here to RSVP and set up a reminder.



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