I grew up on a diet of Christian historical fiction, westerns, classics, and just about anything else I could get my hands on. Particular favorites were Janette Oke, Lori Wick, Louis L’Amour, Alistair MacLean, Jane Austen, Agatha Christie, L.M. Montgomery, Francena H. Arnold, Mary Grant Bruce, and Grace Livingston Hill. As an older teen I branched out and read Linda Chaikin, Brock and Bodie Thoene, Hilda Stahl, and Francine Rivers. As as adult, I added in Georgette Heyer and Josephine Tey.
There are probably more, but those are the ones I can recall off the top of my head. One thing they all have in common is that they all wrote stories set before my time. The Thoenes and MacLean came the closest to my time period, but their books were still set during WWII, so still historical fiction.
It wasn’t until sometime in the later 2000s. Around 2008, I think, that I got an email from my sister-in-law, letting me know about this new author she’d discovered through Amazon’s list of free books. The book in particular was a serial novel, and the episodes were going free on Amazon, one at a time, one episode per week (or something like that). I started collecting them, but I didn’t know about them until sometime halfway through the series, so I collected and waited. My sister-in-law assured me that this particular author often had other books priced at 99¢ or free, so I kept watching and waiting.
12 years is far too long a time to know how long I waited or watched before a book went free, but within that year I was able to get the first in a three book series for free. I tried it. And loved it.
I don’t know if I’d ever heard of contemporary romance before then. It seems hard to imagine that I didn’t know about it, but I do know I hadn’t read it before then. That book was my first taste of reading a story set in my own time period and I couldn’t get enough. Money was super tight at the time, so I couldn’t do much more than grab free books when they became available, or get the odd 99¢ book when I could. And slowly built a nice little library of books written by Chautona Havig.
My Amazon history tells me that my next book was 31 Kisses. After that came everything of hers I could get my hands on. For the first time ever, the story I was reading really resonated with me. I knew what it felt like to do some of the things the heroine was doing. I had kids of my own, so I knew what it felt like to go shopping with a bunch of little kids. The hero in 31 Kisses? I knew what a UPS truck was, what the driver would wear, there was no guessing whether I got it right or not. It was easy to picture the story as it played out. In short, I was in love.
With a genre.
The story doesn’t stop there though. Fast forward to 2019 and… a short conversation via text message with a favorite author led to further conversation. And then the admission that I’d written a book. That I wanted to publish. One thing led to another until Chautona herself mentored me through the process of publishing my first book. We’ve never met, we may never meet in person, but her books led me to the genre I now write in, and it was her advice and guidance that brought me to where I am now–a published author with four books under my belt (still struggling to believe that dream is now reality!).
But, putting all of that aside… she’s still one of my favorite authors. I gobble up as many of her books as I can. I recommend her books to whomever I can, whenever I can because I like her writing. I like the characters she creates, I like how she weaves themes of Christianity through her writing without becoming preachy. I just like her writing and have for a rather long time. If you ask me for the name of an author I think you should try, when it comes to contemporary romance, hers comes to mind first.
But she doesn’t just write contemporary. She also does historical, western, sci-fi, suspense, mystery, and the list goes on…
If you asked me where you should start, I’d say with my favorite of all her books, Blessing Bentley. It’s been a while since I read it, so I’ve forgotten a lot of what I should have remembered, but it definitely left an impression on me. A good impression. Marriage is so much more than falling in love and living happily ever after.
Or there’s Random Acts of Shyness if you’re looking for a fun, romantic story with a little bit of awkwardness to overcome. Another favorite, it had such a cute cover I had to buy the paperback (only available in paperback, unless you buy the Christmas collection it was part of).
Or there’s 31 Kisses, or The Matchmakers of Holly Circle, or if you’re looking for a story with older characters, there’s Wrong About Mr. Wright (also only available in paperback unless you buy the Christmas collection). There are so many to choose from, I think it’s safe to say you’ll probably find something to read.
And now for the free book I promised. At the time of writing… Fine Print, #3 in the Meddlin’ Madeline series is free (but only until Monday, so if you want it, grab it now! If you miss it, or want to try something else, just do what I did and keep an eye out for the next book to go free because this author periodically has books go free.
Or course, it struck me as funny that the free book for this weekend is one of the few books of hers I haven’t read. You see, Meddlin’ Madeline is a series and I’m patiently waiting until the series is complete before I binge read them all. I have heard great things about this series and am looking forward to the day when I sit down and read them.
Side note: No, I’m not all about getting free books, but the idea of this blog series is to introduce you to authors by way of a free book where you can try them before you buy. So that free book is key to what I’m doing right now.