Welcome to Book Chat with Julie! For your July reading, we have some great book recommendations that feature brave men and women from all eras of the American military.

Our first book is Kathi Oram Peterson’s romantic suspense, Danger Unknown.  Ithas a little bit of everything—romance, suspense, and a twist you won’t see coming.Brooke Steward’s husband has been murdered and his killer wants Brooke and her daughter Izzy, dead. Brooke goes on the run to protect herself and her daughter, and we are introduced to them just as the killer has found them again. She gets away, but also gets in an accident. An Iraq war veteran Michael Calder hears a knock at the door one morning and a little girl leads him to her injured mother unconscious in their car. Michael is a former medic who saw too much pain and suffering in Iraq, and he has a past that haunts him. But the more he helps Brooke and Izzy, the more it seems like he might be able to lay some of those old ghosts to rest. It quickly becomes clear that things aren’t exactly as they seem, and neither Brooke nor Michael realize the true nature of who is trying to kill them. Readers will have a hard time putting this book down and will be turning pages long into the night to see how it all ends!

The plot and characters of Danger Unknown have so many layers that it truly helps the reader get lost in the story. The Montana setting is beautiful and easy to imagine from the descriptions. The supporting cast all intertwine with the main story and connects them in a way that seems natural and realistic. But the author truly shines with the hero and heroine. Michael has had a difficult past from his time in the military and the aftereffects of what he experienced there. He runs an equine therapy ranch to help others with PTSD and readers will come to know and love the horses in the story. Brooke is another multi-dimensional character. She’s so relatable as a mother, trying to be strong and doing everything she can to keep her daughter safe, even when she doesn’t know exactly what to do. Izzy has also been traumatized by her father’s death and hasn’t spoken a word in six months. The way the author writes the little girl’s healing journey is sweet and realistic. The scenes with Brooke and Michael slowly learning to trust and rely on each other is another thread in the story that readers will enjoy while they root for a happily-ever-after ending for them. The pulse-pounding suspense combined with characters who have a chance to open their hearts to love sets this book apart and will pull readers in. It is a roller-coaster of emotions, but in all the best ways!

The second recommendation I have for you is the new Where Dreams Meet collection. Some of my favorite authors have written stories about American history and heroes from the past including those who served in the Revolutionary War and Civil War. Each story shows men and women who were dealing with extraordinary circumstances and the research, great settings, and attention to details add a new perspective to the time period.

To Love a Spy by Jennifer Moore is the story of Susannah Partridge whose father and brother have decided to fight for the rebels, and Susannah, a “loyalist” must live with her aunt and uncle and help them with their inn. The local apothecary has caught her interest, though he is acting quite strangely. When an English officer’s important letter goes missing, the views Susannah has always had about the war are tested. Whose side is she really on? And could she really love a spy? I loved all the intrigue and romance in this story!

The second novella is Southern Belle, Yankee Heart by Renae Weight Mackley. Rebecca Steed has just lost her mother, but is trying to take her place by traveling to Richmond to purchase material for her work as a seamstress. Before she can board the train to go home, however, Virginia secedes from the Union and Rebecca is trapped in Richmond! She is drawn to Nathan Hill, a young man who boards at the same boarding house as Rebecca, but with the country being torn apart by war, Rebecca decides it’s not a good idea to fall in love with a Southerner. But sometimes the heart wants what the heart wants. A sweet, slow burn romance of love during war.

The third novella is Where Dreams Meet by Carolyn Twede Frank and it was so tender. Jane O’Shea has immigrated from Ireland, only to find herself stranded and unable to get to Missouri, until a stranger helps her. She meets him again in Missouri, but he is suffering some troubles of his own. The townspeople have turned against him and are trying to run him off his farm that has been in his family since his own grandparents immigrated. Can Jane trust what her heart tells her about him or will she be swayed by the rumors swirling around him? This couple had so many obstacles to overcome, that the ending was especially satisfying.

The last novella in the collection is The Sun, Moon, Stars, and You, by Carla Kelly. Hank Thornton, the son of a Medal of Honor recipient, has been called to the Teddy Roosevelt White House as a military aide. His duties include dancing with the wallflowers and escorting them around town, and Hank isn’t excited about it, wishing he was back on his horse in the Philippines. Minnie Gallagher, another boarder at the boardinghouse where Hank now resides, is doing her best to become a reporter and move up from her current position of correcting copy, but that occupation isn’t really open to women. She’s also a suffragette. I loved their romance and the wit and banter between them. But that’s not all! Hank is assigned to ride and be a sort of bodyguard for Teddy’s Roosevelt’s daughter, Alice, which added a fun element in getting to know some of these historical figures through a fictional lens. Ms. Kelly spins a tale that will tug at your heart and make you want to read it again!

Behind the Scenes—An Interview with Kathi Oram Peterson

As a romantic suspense fan, I was thrilled to interview Ms. Peterson. If you’d like to hear more of our chat, you can tune into my Book Chat with Julie podcast. She will also be the featured guest at my Book Chat Book Club on July 14th at 7:00 p.m. MT. If you would like to join the Book Club, you can click here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/1055727957843897

Here’s a little bit of what she had to say.

Julie: Your hero in Danger Unknown is an Iraq war veteran. Did you or any of your family serve in the military?

Kathi: My father was in the Navy during WWII. He helped build torpedoes in Keyport, Washington. My oldest brother also served in the army. When I have questions, I usually call him. This isn’t the first book that I’ve had military veterans as main characters. In Breach of Trust, both the male and female leads were veterans. I try to do extensive research for all of my characters.

Julie: Equine therapy for PTSD is featured in your book, did you have to do a lot of research for that?​

Kathi: Yes, I did a lot of research into equine therapy. Plus, my sister had a brain injury and she used equine therapy to recover. Before her injury, she had taken me on several outings with her horses. We herded cattle, rode the trails at Little Lost River, and even dodged rattlesnakes. Since that time, she has suffered brain trauma and can hardly sit in the saddle. But her horse, Tex, has helped her immensely. They go on walks together. She brushes his coat and loves feeding him tangerines. They have a special connection.

Julie: Without giving any spoilers, what was your favorite scene to write?​

Kathi: This is difficult. But I think the scene I enjoyed the most was when Izzybee made a connection with Sherlock.

Julie: Have you been to Montana where this book is set? ​

Kathi: I’ve been to Montana many, many times. Please know that Whispering Pines ​is a fictional town. I used the Crazy Mountains as inspiration for the Mad Mountains in my book. One reviewer wrote that Apsaalooke (Crow) nation were Plains Indians and weren’t in the mountains. However, my research told of how the Crow used the Crazy Mountains for their vision quests, so I put in my story that they believed the Mad Mountains to be sacred.

Thank you so much for joining me for our book chat today. I hope you’ve found a new author to read this month!   

Danger Unknown by Kathi Oram Peterson published by Covenant Communications, 310 pages, available in softcover, audio, and ebook.

Where Dreams Meet by Jennifer Moore, Carla Kelly, Carolyn Twede Frank and Renae Weight Mackley, published by Covenant Communications, 439 pages, available in paperback and ebook.

After winning $10 in a second grade writing contest, Julie Coulter Bellon knew she wanted to be a published author someday. That dream came true and she is now the author of thirty books. She is also a podcast host for Authors Off the Page and Book Chat with Julie.

In the Non-Fiction Corner with Lauren

Praying with the Enemy, by Steven T. Collis, is a riveting book based on a true story and you won’t want to miss it. I finished Praying with the Enemy in just a few hours because I could not put it down!

The story starts with Ward Millar’s plane coming down in enemy territory during the Korean war. What seems like a hopeless situation causes Millar to call upon God and rely on faith he wasn’t sure he had. Meanwhile, Kim Jae Pil, a Korean soldier whose family has been persecuted for their Christianity, is also relying on God to get him out of the war that he does not want any part of, and to the safety of South Korea. In this page turner, it is incredible to see to what lengths these men are willing to go for their freedom. Their courage in the face of such hardship is inspirational and this story highlights that God works in mysterious ways and with the most unlikely of friendships.

Another part of Praying with the Enemy that I enjoyed was getting to see the faith of Millar’s wife during this ordeal. Even though her husband was missing for months, she never lost hope. She sent him letter after letter so that he would have something to read when he was rescued. Even while others were trying to deter her from having hope, Barbara Millar was a stalwart example of faith and turning your life over to God.

An absolutely marvelous book that every history lover should pick up!

Lauren is from Utah and has been an avid reader her whole life. She graduated from BYU in History and currently teaches elementary school and works at a rare bookstore. She is also a docent at the Church History Museum. Her passions include traveling, spending time with family, learning about history, and of course, reading.