Isle of Hope: His Steadfast Love by Julie Lessman

Saturday, July 29, 2017




Series: Isle of Hope
Genre: Contemporary, Romance, Christian
Publisher: Indie
Publication date: August 1. 2017

She’s bent on fun.
He’s bent on faith.
Till true love bridges the gap.

Cat O’Bryen is the prodigal daughter unhappy with God. First, the father with whom she reconciled dies of cancer and now her twin sister and best friend marries, leaving Cat at home with a newlywed mother, her new husband, and a little brother. But when Cat moves in with a roommate of questionable morals, her family is worried, certain she’s on a path that could damage her faith forever. 
Reluctant to get involved with a woman like the one who destroyed his life, ex-Navy SEAL Pastor Chase Griffin steers clear of the attraction he feels for Cat O’Bryen. Until her family begs him to take her under his wing, hoping he can draw her back into the fold. But when the draw she has on him proves too strong to resist, he must rely on the strength of God to offer a friendship as steady and strong as the God whose love is wooing her home. 

The Books in the Series

Julie Lessman is an award-winning author whose tagline of “Passion With a Purpose” underscores her intense passion for both God and romance. A lover of all things Irish, she enjoys writing close-knit Irish family sagas that evolve into 3-D love stories: the hero, the heroine, and the God that brings them together.

Author of The Daughters of Boston, Winds of Change, and Heart of San Francisco series, Julie was named American Christian Fiction Writers 2009 Debut Author of the Year and has garnered 18 Romance Writers of America and other awards. Voted #1 Romance Author of the year in Family Fiction magazine’s 2012 and 2011 Readers Choice Awards, Julie was also named on Booklist’s 2010 Top 10 Inspirational Fiction and Borders Best Fiction list.

Julie’s most recent novel, Isle of Hope was voted on Family Fiction magazine’s Best of 2015, and Surprised by Love appeared on Family Fiction magazine’s Best of 2014. Her independent novel A Light in the Window is an International Digital Awards winner, a 2013 Readers' Crown Award winner, and a 2013 Book Buyers Best Award winner. Julie has also written a self-help workbook for writers entitled Romance-ology 101: Writing Romantic Tension for the Sweet and Inspirational Markets. You can contact Julie through her website and read excerpts from each of her books at www.julielessman.com.
1-How many novels have you written?  Are all of them published?
Yes, every one of the 19 books I have written — thirteen novels, five novellas, and one writer’s workbook — are all published, nine traditionally and nine independently. Sometimes I wish I had a ton of unpublished manuscripts under my bed like many authors do so that I could polish and publish them on my own. But I don’t because the first book I ever wrote — A Passion Most Pure — was published by Revell along with eight subsequent books in three series, so I guess I can’t really complain.

2-What is your current WIP?  What can you tell us about this project?
Well, my current WIP is book 3 in my Isle of Hope Series, His Steadfast Love, which sadly enough for me, is the final book in this contemporary series that I have really grown to love. It’s the story of a prodigal and a pastor thrown together by family and by God, creating quite a few sparks on the Isle of Hope. Here’s the jacket blurb:

She’s bent on fun.
He’s bent on faith.
Till true love bridges the gap.
Cat O’Bryen is the prodigal daughter unhappy with God. First, the father with whom she reconciled dies of cancer and now her twin sister and best friend marries, leaving Cat at home with a newlywed mother, her new husband, and a little brother. But when Cat moves in with a roommate of questionable morals, her family is worried, certain she’s on a path that could damage her faith forever.

Reluctant to get involved with a woman like the one who destroyed his life, ex-Navy SEAL Pastor Chase Griffin steers clear of the attraction he feels for Cat O’Bryen. Until her family begs him to take her under his wing, hoping he can draw her back into the fold. But when the draw she has on him proves too strong to resist, he must rely on the strength of God to offer a friendship as steady and strong as the God whose love is wooing her home.

3-What inspired the idea for His Steadfast Love?
Well, the entire Isle of Hope series was inspired by my own dysfunctional relationship with my estranged dad, in which God taught me how to really forgive. Book 1, Isle of Hope: Unfailing Love (which is now on e-sale for 99 cents, by the way, and its prequel novella, A Glimmer of Hope, is available for FREE DOWNLOAD), was basically a therapy session for me and admittedly, one of the most important books I’ve ever written.

Prior to writing it, God brought me to a place where He asked me to step away from business as usual to take a sabbatical to focus more on Him, family, and writing for the sheer joy of writing. So I told my publisher I wouldn’t be pitching any new books or series for a while. During that time I wrote Isle of Hope instead, and from there, books 2 and 3 just flowed from my pen as easily as forgiveness from my heart once God taught me how to let go.

That’s a roundabout way to get to your question of what inspired the idea for His Steadfast Love, but truly, I just saw Cat’s story as the culmination of a series on forgiveness. I had a strong sense from the beginning that this book would have a deep spiritual impact on readers, so I was really excited about that. But when I got around to writing the final four chapters, I’ll admit that I was disappointed in the spiritual takeaway. So much so, that I hit the wall and couldn’t finish those last four chapters.

So I prayed hard for God to give me a powerful wrap-up, and BOOM! Just like that (well, it took a couple of days), God brought a memory back to me that I’d forgotten, a second HUGE lesson on forgiveness that literally changed my life. It involved a hidden bitterness for my baby sister whom I loved with all my heart and soul, just like Cat loves her twin sister Shannon, so I never really knew it was there. But just because we don’t know a sin is there doesn’t stop the stronghold it has in your life, a lesson that I — and Cat — had to learn all too well.

4-What do you want readers to take away from reading His Steadfast Love?
Besides the usual wisdom of purity before marriage that God taught this 70’s wild child way back when, there is the deep, deep message of buried bitterness in people’s lives that needs to be addressed in order for that person to really be free in Christ. That’s what I hope this book truly imparts to everyone who reads it.

5-What other “hats” do you wear other when you are not writing?
Mmm … hats, huh? Well, I don’t physically wear many hats, but I do love being a wife, mom, and grandmother (aka Juju), which are the true highlights of my life. But I also really enjoy hobnobbing with neighbors and friends since we live on a lake and only see most of them on weekends. And although I am not athletic at all, my husband has been nudging me into kayaking, biking, swimming, and boating, so this summer has been really fun.

Top 10 Favorite Pieces of Literature

​1.) Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell
2.) To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
3.) The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
4.) Sins of the Father by Susan Howatch
5.) Cashelmara by Susan Howatch
6.) Mistress of Mellyn by Victoria Holt
7.) Bride of Pendorric by Victoria Holt
8.) Lowlands of Scotland series by Liz Curtis Higgs
9.) Mark of the Lion series by Francine Rivers
10.) Love’s Reckoning by Laura Frantz
​1.) Book 1, Isle of Hope: Unfailing Love is loosely based on how God healed my own dysfunctional relationship with my father.
2.) Like IOH’s secondary hero, Ben Carmichael, my father was also a surgeon and a recluse.
3.) My dad, like Ben, had a dog named Beau that he took fishing with him.
4.) Like the heroine, Lacey, I also took meals over to my father’s house to try and make amends.
5.) And like Lacey’s situation, my father seldom talked to me when I did bring meals and never hugged me or indicated any love.
6.) Like the series’ secondary heroine, Tess, I was insanely jealous of boyfriends I dated and made a fool of myself many a time.
7.) The peach crumble pie Mamaw made was my favorite pie I made when I was young.
8.) When I originally wrote Isle of Hope, the O’Bryen’s and Carmichael’s docks were in their back yards, which I had facing the Skidaway River until I discovered during research that all the homes on Bluff Drive (where the O’Bryen’s and Carmichael’s live) face the river from the front of the houses, necessitating a walk across the street to get to each neighbor’s docks.
9.) When I wrote book 3, Cat and Chase’s story, I strongly felt it was going to have huge spiritual impact, but when I came close to the end, I was disappointed in the spiritual takeaway and hit the wall on the last four chapters. So I prayed for God’s anointing and creativity, and BOOM! He reminded me of the 2nd biggest spiritual lesson He ever taught me (the first being about how to forgive as depicted in book 1), so that’s the lesson Cat (and Chase!) learn too in the final chapters of His Steadfast Love, a lesson that literally changed my life.
10.) Lacey’s chocolate chip pie is one of my favorite pies I make today, and here’s the recipe:

Recipe: Chocolate Chip Pie (makes one pie), from: Julie Lessman, serves: 8-10
Cooking time: 350 degrees for 45 minutes or longer. Can leave out or refrigerate.
—    1 cup sugar
—   ½ cup flour
—     2 beaten eggs
—    1 tsp. vanilla
—   1 stick butter
—    ¾ cup chopped pecans
—    ¾ cup chocolate chips
—    1 unbaked pie shell
—    Vanilla ice cream and Magic Shell (optional)
Melt butter, cool in fridge while mixing sugar, eggs, flour and vanilla. Mix in butter, then add nuts and chocolate chips. Mix well. Serve on individual plates and microwave each piece for about 30 seconds or until warm. Serve with vanilla ice cream (I streusel Magic Shell over ice cream and top pie with whipped cream and strawberry).

Snippet #1 (Romantic)

This time he was ready for her, and with an easy twist, he scooped her up and launched her high in the air, her squeals bouncing off the water before she did.
Ker-splash!
A gush of water plumed, and Chase grinned outright when she shot from the surface, mouth going strong as usual. “Chase Griffin, you are the lowest, sneakiest, most diabolical—”
His laughter rang over the water. “Sorry, Catfish, but ‘diabolical’ belongs to you, kiddo, so I wouldn’t be throwing pitchforks if I were you.”
“And a p-pastor too!” she sputtered, still spitting water out of her mouth.
He cocked a hip on the edge of the board, thumbs hooked into the back pockets of his wet jeans. “That’s right, Catherine,” he said, his grin definitely ‘diabolical,’ “anything you need to get off your chest?”
“Come into the water, Rev, and I’ll show you ‘diabolical.’” She delivered a sweet smile that was anything but, paddling in place with a glint of dare in her eyes.
“Oh, no doubt about that,” he said with a grin, loosely crossing his arms. “But I’ll pass, if you don’t mind, and work on my tan while I fish.”
“Chase Griffin, you are nothing but a wet blanket!” she snapped.
“Yep, thanks to you,” he said with a chuckle, fetching his rod and tackle box and settling into his chair.
Nose in the air, she spun around in a swoosh to head to the neighbor’s dock, her strokes deft and sure like his demise would be if he got into the water with Cat O’Bryen. He was tempted to take a quick dive just to cool off because that minx sure had a way of heating him up, and they were just friends, for pity’s sake. God help him, he couldn’t imagine dating the woman, subject to temptation day in and day out. Those teasing eyes, that sexy smile, her flirtatious ways.
Those come-on kisses …
Heat engulfed him that had nothing to do with the sun beating down and everything to do with the vamp in the water. Although his mind was made up, Cat O’Bryen was too much of what his body and soul craved, and he wasn’t going there again. Ever. Especially not with a woman whose faith was as weak as water.
“Oh!”
He glanced up from his tackle box, heart constricting when he saw Cat freeze in the water. “What’s wrong?” He shot to his feet.
“Cramps.” It was a strained response as she maneuvered to a dead-man float.
“Where?” His heart rate took off in a sprint, memories of a SEAL buddy dangerously compromised on a mission from severe abdominal cramps.
“Left leg.” Her voice matched the grimace on her face. “I’ll be fine … I’ll just wait it out.”
“Grab your toes on the cramped leg and pull toward you,” he ordered, gaze pinned to her body for any sign of distress, “then straighten your leg.”
Face pinched, she did as he instructed, her groans hitching his pulse. “Never this bad before …”
That’s all it took. The tackle box hit the weathered wood with a hard clunk as Chase dove from the dock, arriving by her side in mere seconds. “Any better?” He watched while she continued pulling and stretching, his breathing heavy as he hovered close, finally catching his breath.
“I’m not sure …” she said in a weak voice.
And then she lunged, stealing his air all over again when she brought him down, submerging him with a power that belied her small size. “No, wait …” She bolted away when he hit the surface, coughing up water. “Yes, definitely better now.” Her giggles bounced off the lake as she swam for the shore, arms slicing through the water with an efficiency that would outdistance most people.
But he wasn’t most people. He was a seasoned professional.
With a store of adrenalin usually reserved for workouts at the gym, work days at Lake Loon, or dangerous missions overseas, Chase easily overtook her mere feet from the sandy shore, clamping onto her foot to reel her in hard. One arm latched to her waist, he handily dunked her with the other, her shrieks and giggles lost in a tide pool of bubbles and foam. Quickly lurching her back up, he chuckled low in her ear as she kicked and squealed in his arms. “I thought I told you never to mess with an ex-Navy SEAL, Catfish,” he said with a husky chuckle, soundly dousing her all over again.
He released her, and she literally exploded from the water, twisting in the air like some headstrong sea nymph, taking him down with a grunt as she clung stubbornly to his head.
And didn’t let go.
They burst from the water as one, her body welded to his as she death-gripped his hair, obviously intent on one more plunge.
But the only thing that plunged was his gut when their eyes locked, the laughter in her face dissolving into something far softer and warm while her ragged breathing mated with his. Her gaze dropped to his mouth, and a tidal wave of want surged through his body, taking him down as easily as Cat had done with her well-placed dunking.
She absently licked her lips, and his stomach cramped with need as he fought the pull of her parted mouth, her shallow breathing in dangerous sync with his own. His eyelids felt as heavy as if he were drugged, arms slowly curling around her waist like they had a mind of their own. And God help him, they did, because he had little control as they drew her close, luring his mouth to hers with a low, aching moan.
She tasted like sheer heaven as he nuzzled the lips he’d dreamed about since the night she had kissed him in her room. Forcing himself to take it slow, he caressed her mouth with all the tenderness that swirled inside for a lost, little girl named Cat. But the moment a soft mew left her lips, he was a goner, his groan hoarse as he delved in to explore with a passion too long denied.
And that’s when he knew.
He was dead in the water.
Literally

Snippet #2 (Spiritual)

She cried her heart out for a solid ten minutes until her heaves thickened and slowed, the front of his shirt near sopping. He rubbed her arms. “Feel better?” His lips tipped when she allowed a few jerky nods against his chest, and fishing out a wad of tissues, he nudged them into her hands. “Here. My shirt is soaking wet, kiddo, and I’m a little worried it’s not all saltwater.”
“It’s not,” she said with a soggy smile, promptly blowing her nose several times. She blotted a handful of fresh tissues against the wet spot on his shirt. “One of the pitfalls of being a pastor, I suppose.”
“Or a good friend,” he said softly, wondering if she had any inkling how attracted he was to her. He hoped not because Cat was the type of woman who would use that to her advantage, and he couldn’t afford that. He’d worked too hard at keeping his distance.
A lesson learned the hard way.
“Hey,” he said with a duck of his head, compassion warm in his eyes, “wanna talk about it?”
With a soft moan, she flopped back against the console seat like a ragdoll. Resting her head, she stared up at a section of the headliner that was just beginning to buckle on the roof of his car, arms limp at her sides. “What’s there to talk about? My lifeline is gone, so I have to learn to go it alone, I guess, without Shannon there every minute of every day.”
“Hey, you still have Davey and your mom and Ben, with Jack and Lacey right next door,” he said, hoping to remind her how lucky she was to have the family she had.
A groan ground from her lips. “Oh, super. A twenty-six-year-old spinster in the same house with mommy, daddy, and little brother. One, I might add, who has to wear earplugs at night so she can’t hear what’s going on in her newlywed mother’s room.” A shiver rumbled her shoulders. “No, thanks. And Jack and Lacey are just as bad when they come over, always playing kissy-face.” Her nose lifted in a scrunch. “Face it, Rev, I might as well be alone.”
“Not alone,” he said carefully, pausing long enough to make a point. “There is another lifeline, you know.”
A low groan slipped past her lips as one eyelid edged up. “You’re not going to start talking to me about God, are you?”
He grinned as he reached toward the cup holders beneath the dash, handing her coffee over before he took a sip of his own. “I’m a pastor, Catfish, what do you think?”
She sat up and snatched the cup with a stubborn bent to her chin. “Well, I’m not on speaking terms with God right now, so you can just shelve the sermon till Sunday.”
His smile faded as he studied a profile that could have been etched in stone. “How ’bout shouting terms then? He’ll take whatever He can get, Catherine,” he said quietly, “because His love for you never changes no matter what you say or how you say it.”
“Ha! Sure not willing to test a lightning bolt on that one, Rev, not with a God who’s burned me before.” She took a quick glug of her coffee, gaze hard and fixed straight ahead.
“How?”
She swiveled to face him, mouth gaping. “How? A God who allows my father—a man devoted to Him, no less—to abandon his family, then turns right around and does it all over again with cancer?” She issued a grunt. “Sorry, but that doesn’t inspire a whole lot of trust in me.”
“The affair was your father’s choice, Cat, not God’s,” he said quietly.
She scorched him with a glare. “But He didn’t stop him!” she screamed, the cup quivering in her hand. “Anymore than He stopped Lacey from stabbing me in the back when she’d been my best friend, or Kyle from dumping me in college because I was too blinkin’ pure. I did nothing wrong!” she shouted, “and He’s supposed to be God, all powerful, all loving! He could have stopped Dad, but He didn’t! Yes, the burden of sin was on Dad’s shoulders, but tell me, Chase, what did Mom, Jack, Shan, and I do to deserve having our hearts and lives ripped apart at the seams? All we ever did was honor God, loving Him and trusting Him like Dad always taught us to do.”
She straightened slowly, shoulders squaring almost imperceptibly while that formidable chin rose, as defiant as the gleam of anger in her eyes. “But your so-called loving God did nothing, so tell me, Chase, please, because I really want to know. What good is a God who hangs His own out to dry?” Turning away, she held the cup with both hands, body trembling while rivulets of tears slithered her face.
So that was the crux of her pain, then. Chase exhaled a quiet sigh. He thought so. It had been Jack’s beef with God when Chase had confronted him last year and now apparently Cat’s too. The root of rebellion shackled to their greatest fear.
That God didn’t really love them at all
Picture 


 It's no secret that Julie Lessman is my absolute favorite author, and while I've been a huge fan of her historicals, her contemporary work has the same thread her historicals do, Passion With a Purpose. Ms. Lessman isn't afraid to write romance scenes that leave you weak in the knees, or looking for a fan to cool off. Yet, the passion is always in the right place, striving for God's purpose first! With books out there like 50 Shades, we need authors like Ms. Lessman to put love, and sex in it's proper place! 
I have to add that I adore my character Andi Tubbs. I was blessed to win her Ind'tale Contest and have a character named after me. So much fun to read about a character with my name and see a character created around it. 


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Comments

3 Responses to “Isle of Hope: His Steadfast Love by Julie Lessman”
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ANDI!!! Thank you SO much, not only for the amazing review (as always!!), but for your ongoing support and friendship. You are a true blessing in my life, my friend, and I thank God our paths have crossed!!

LOVE YOU!!
Julie

Thank you Andi for this review and interview! Absolutely love Julie Lessman as a person and writer! Like you always enjoy her stories whether historical or contemporary,and her latest His Steadfast Love ranks with the best of them! Oh,Btw Congrats on having a character named after you,I know it was an absolute thrill when I had a character named for me in Love Everlasting! Thanks ,especially to Julie Lessman,too for this interview,stories,and for the sweet giving person you are! Hugs to both you and Andi!!

Bonnie Roof said...
July 31, 2017 at 11:42 AM

Thanks for the great review and interview, Julie and Andi!! I loved "His Steadfast Love" - one of Julie's best, never get enough of her writing, LOL - loved the behind the scenes and other fun extras in this post also!!

 
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