As many of you know, I’ve been rather scatterbrained and uncommunicative in recent weeks. Thanks to computer deaths and publishing glitches, I’ve even been late with reviews.
So, when I finally finished everything I needed to last night, I took a deep breath, inhaled beautiful sweet, dusty, desert air, and sighed in relief.
Then I remembered that other little thing I had to do—review another book. One I hadn’t quite been sure about when I requested it. from Celebrate Lit
But, I got done with a few other things, and started reading, fully expecting to skim much.
Sometimes, I’m rather ridiculous. Nah, who am I kidding. I’m often ridiculous. This was one of those times. Completely, utterly ridiculous. How, you ask?
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When the Unexpected Delights You with Its Uniqueness
My Heart Belongs in Castle Gate Utah: Leanna’s Choice gives the very deceptive appearance of yet just another “prairie bonnet” story. I mean, it has all the makings of it. Miners, Mormons, and schoolteachers. How cliche can you get?
But Angie Dicken didn’t “go there.” She took all those elements we’re so accustomed to seeing and gave us more from them. A rich story that kind of takes all the best of a Romeo and Juliet story (and I admit, there’s not much that you can call good in that) and fixes it. Bravo for that. It has the personal self-sacrifice—without the tantrum death scenes. It has the disapproving families, and it has Perfect love conquering all.
Funny thing about this book?
I can’t tell you if it’s well-written. There certainly wasn’t enough in it that jumped out and disappointed me. Why? I was too engrossed in a little-shared story of American immigrants—the Greeks who came to make a better life for themselves after the Greco-Turkish war.
I have a Greek friend now. If you’ve ever seen My Big Fat Greek Wedding, you know exactly what it is like to talk and laugh with her. She’s that rich, loving, vibrant.
And you see it in these people in this book. I wanted to lambaste my forefathers for being such narrow-minded jerks. And actually, that’s the only thing that ticked me off about the book. Ms. Dicken (for reasons, I don’t know but am sure she has) continually referred to the Anglo folks as “Americans” but the American Greeks were only Greek. It perpetuated that divide—kind of like we see today with [insert ethnic group here-]Americans vs. [insert ethnic group here].
Forgive the political rant, butfor the love of the God who made us all one people can we just be people! Click To Tweet Can we love and embrace our heritage and our rich cultures without them being a means of looking down on or dividing others? We’re different! So what! That’s beautiful in my not-so-humble (obviously) opinion.
Okay, political rant over.
This book is recommended for anyone who just loves a good story. If you want to see a side of the American west we don’t often see, this is the one for you. If you want to see Utah without the stereotypical Mormon wives and the polygamy that gets a little old and cliched (twice, I could have sworn Ms. Dicken was going there—was going to try to force Leanna into some kind of arrangement only to be saved at the last minute. Thankfully, she didn’t), anyway. If you’re ready for that kind of change, this book is for you.
I will say, though. Characters follow a bit of a stock market graph for their growth arc instead of a lovely, smooth rainbow. It’s more realistic, but sometimes you want to scream, “Can’t you make up your mind?”
But that’s how life is, isn’t it?
Thinking we have it all figured out and then life throwing something at us we couldn’t have anticipated? Yeah. It’s actually rather well done, but it isn’t classic. So if that bothers you, be warned.
One last issue… There is an agenda in this book. Leanna is… progressive in her ideologies. And while I don’t disagree with many of the things she stood for, I do get just a little weary of every historical book showing only the new and improved woman instead of women embracing where they were and working within that. It is, after all, what the majority of women did. So if that bothers you (and usually it does me), then you should know it’s in here. Honestly, though, it more fit this character’s personality than felt like the author’s agenda. I give Ms. Dicken excellent kudos for that.
Again, I can’t tell you if it’s a “good book” or not. I can just tell you that I loved it and I can’t wait to give my copy to my friend, Vicky from Greece. Seeing so many of the things she’s talked about mentioned in here—that was beautiful. Well done, Ms. Dicken!
Leanna’s Choice is on tour with Celebrate Lit!
A Baker’s Perspective, October 31
Faithfully Bookish, October 31
Caffeinated Reads, October 31
Captive Dreams Window, November 1
Reading Is My SuperPower, November 1
A Greater Yes, November 2
Janices book reviews, November 2
Daysong Reflections, November 2
Red Headed Book Lady, November 3
Books, Books, and More Books., November 3
Just the Write Escape, November 3
Carpe Diem, November 4
Christian Bookaholic, November 4
Radiant Light, November 5
History, Mystery & Faith, November 5
Chas Ray’s Book Nerd Corner, November 6
Texas Book-aholic, November 6
Babs Book Bistro, November 7
Kristin’s Book Reviews, November 7
Singing Librarian Books, November 8
Connie’s History Classroom, November 8
D’S QUILTS & BOOKS, November 9
J.E. Grace Christian Author Blog, November 9
Neverending Stories, November 9
Have A Wonderful Day, November 10
Pause for Tales, November 10
Tell Tale Book Reviews, November 11
Mary Hake, November 11
Splashes of Joy, November 11
Bigreadersite, November 12
Blossoms and Blessings, November 12
Debbie’s Dusty Deliberations, November 12
Vicky Sluiter, November 13
Bibliophile Reviews, November 13
About the Book
Name of book: My Heart Belongs in Castle Gate, Utah
Author: Angie Dicken
Genre: Historical Romance
Release Date: November 1, 2017
Schoolteacher Leanna McKee plans on leaving the coal mining town of Castle Gate, Utah, and never looking back. Good riddance to coal dust, rugged men, and the fatal mine that took her husband’s life.
Until the widow meets a widower who awakens her heart…and she finds herself inexplicably falling for miner Alex Pappas which stirs up a whole heap of trouble.
Alex’s Greek parents have arranged a more traditional match for him. When the schoolteacher’s association with the Greek family begins to anger the American miners, they threaten Alex and his family. Leanna has received an offer to teach elsewhere and feels she has no choice but to leave Castle Gate. . .though she will be leaving her heart behind.
About the Author
Angie Dicken is a third generation Greek American, the granddaughter of strong men and women who endured hardship to grow American roots. My Heart Belongs In Castle Gate, Utah is set near the birthplace of her grandfather, a Greek coal miner’s son, and published 100 years after his birth. Angie is a contributor to The Writer’s Alley blog and an ACFW member since 2010.
She lives with her husband and four children in the Midwest where she enjoys exploring eclectic new restaurants and chatting with friends over coffee. You can connect with Angie at www.angiedicken.com.
Guest Post from Angie Dicken
My Publishing Story: A Journey of Perfect Timing
I wrote a story five years ago. My footing was finally solid on how to write, after a couple ACFW conferences and connecting with my bestie writing sister, Ashley. So in 2012, I poured my heart out within the parameters of what I’d learned.
The story I wrote stemmed from my heritage. From a very young age, I’ve been inspired by my grandfather. He was the son of a Greek coal miner who came over from Greece in the 1910’s. My grandfather always had wonderful stories to tell–he stirred up my intrigue for WWII era as he was a Purple Heart recipient (twice),
and spoke of freeing concentration camps and invading Hitler’s homes.
My grandfather lived a rags-to-riches legacy, having been born in a tent in a coal town, and then becoming a successful home and commercial builder–I declared I’d be an architect at age eleven…even majoring in Landscape Architecture in college.
My great-grandfather, born in 1884 and immigrated to Utah in 1910’s.
Papou was one of my greatest heroes.
And my novel was a tribute to him, to my Greek roots, to an American legacy.
So, at ACFW 2012, I took my novel to conference with more confidence than I had before. This story caught the attention of an agent– and I signed a contract with the Steve Laube Agency in November of that year. That was amazing…I chuckle now because the name of the room that I interviewed with Tamela was the “McKee” room–the last name of my heroine.
A sign? Maybe. When she sent my story out for all publishers to see that next month, I thought my time for that book was just around the corner.
Now it’s 2017, and that story is under contract with a publisher as of Fall 2016.
What timing, right?
Why the heck did it take so long? Not for lack of trying. My agent and I took every possible measure.
Why did I get rejection after rejection, and write two other books in the wait?
What happened between then?
Only in looking back, do I see why I had to wait for this book. And when I look back, I realize just how much Timing is His and there’s nothing I can do to speed it up or make it mine. All I can do is take courage, and wait.
I’ll give you a quick recap of what happened between 2013–when the book was put in the proverbial drawer of unwanted manuscripts–and now, 2017, the year it will get published (um, after a few rewrites and edits–always learning…).
In looking back, this is what I see:
My Community was Built.
I fell in love with my writer friendships. A bit dramatic? Maybe, but it’s the truth. I connected with ladies who knew my heart as a writer, and allowed me into their lives in an authentic, Christ-loving way. I found hope in the writing journey because my friends held my hands and rubbed my back when all seemed lost. And in this, I grew not as a writer, but as a heart.
My heart became soft for the needs of others and the value of authenticity in this short, precious life.
There was a Pride Monster, and He needed to kill it.
Oh, Lord, if ever there was a pride monster, it was me. My gut reaction in every rejection, every criticism, every other person’s success was a measurement against them according to me. Yuck.
Do you know what the best way to kill a Pride Monster? Starve it. Even though I had my sweet friends and my agent encouraging me along the way, my heart was set on publication and I was not getting that. I wanted it so badly that I turned ugly when it seemed to slip through my fingers with every rejection.
And I spiraled and I came up for air to those authentic friendships speaking Truth in love. God knew what He was doing when He built my community, and He knew He would use it to lift me up and tear down my ugly.
The Darkest Valley Was Ahead.
Everything stood still in 2014. My personal crisis gave me little room for any true focus on my writing success. If anything, it made the effort seem petty. When you go through your days wondering if you’ll make it to the next morning without a complete mental breakdown, you can’t really dream.
My dream in those moments was to crawl out of my skin and run away. This was not about my writing, this was about God’s faithfulness to someone who was losing faith–in the person she loved, in the life she constructed, in the heart that was broken.
Looking back (I did climb up and out of this valley), I needed this valley walk (or crawl) to happen when it did–without a book on the shelf, without confidence in something that I had accomplished. I needed brokenness to become stronger and know that my strength has nothing to do with me.
There are several other moments and signs that I see as I look back, but I’m not going for the longest blog post of 2017, but I do want to share two sweet confirmations that the timing really is His.
First, I got a book contract! You know this, but, the contract came at a time when I had grown peaceful in the journey–the pride monster lay slain, and I picked up a pen and took an opportunity.
My Oklahoma Land Run book with Love Inspired Historical won the Manuscript Matchmakers contest…and WAS coming out in Spring 2018.
I had secretly told those closest to me, that it would’ve been nice for it to come out in September instead…just because that’s when the book opens–September, 1893–the historical date of the Land Run.
So, what happens after I turn in my complete book a few days before its deadline? My editor tells me they bumped up my date to September of 2017. And I am sure, for them, it had nothing to do with the history, but for me, it was everything to do with the history–and His timing. Look for my debut novel, The Outlaw’s Second Chance this September!
My second contract came in! And this was a wonderful surprise. My agent and I had found out last spring that a new series was being launched based on geographical places around the U.S. I immediately thought of my Coal country story. So, I put together a proposal for a book I’d written long ago…and got a contract with Barbour this Fall for my novel, My Heart Belongs in Castle Gate, Utah.
But, the timing? November 2017 is my release.
God’s Timing in its finest…The book comes out during the centennial year of my grandfather’s birth. He was born in Dec. 1917 in Carbon County, Utah. My hero and my inspiration for this very book.
I just can’t stop smiling at the chance to honor my late grandfather with a story written by his third-generation Greek-American granddaughter who was inspired by his roots grown a century ago.
If only he could be here now. But I know he’s smiling, too.
It took a CENTURY.
Only by God’s grace, and His perfect timing. (Edited)
There’s a giveaway, too!
Head on over to the TOUR PAGE at CelebrateLit.com and get your entries in!