Wednesday, September 22, 2010
Book Review and Giveaway!!! A Hope Undaunted By Julie Lessman
Reading Julie Lessman's books is like sitting down for my favorite soap for an hour of guilty pleasure. Her books pack a powerful spiritual punch though, and unlike a soap opera, her characters actually learn from their mistakes and repent.
Her latest release is A Hope Undaunted. Below are some things she graciously shared with me.
1. Are there any scenes in AHU modeled after your own life?
As a matter of fact, there are two things I pulled directly from my own life. The first is mentioned in the opening scene where we find out that Katie O’Connor was made fun of in kindergarten because of skin condition she had, which consequently molds her into a champion for the underdog and women’s rights. In that scene, an elderly nun asks Katie if she has leprosy in front of the whole class, and that kicks off a barrage of ridicule from her classmates, which is exactly what happened to me in the 2nd grade.
You see, when I was in half-day kindergarten, I attended all day because my sisters and brothers were in the upper grades, and my parents only wanted to make one round trip. As a result, I was the teacher’s pet and so popular that kids used to fight over holding my hand. But when my parents moved me to a different school in 2nd grade, the switch was so traumatic that I broke out in psoriasis all over my legs and arms, forcing me to wear sweaters and knee socks year-round just like Katie O’Connor. The summer before I changed schools again in the 5th grade, I got angry about the psoriasis and stopped wearing knee socks and sweaters. Lo and behold, the psoriasis cleared up after being in the sun, and when school started I became “popular” again. I remember how the popular clique wanted me to join them, but I refused, choosing to hang out with the “rejects” instead because I wanted nothing to do with people who thought they were better than everyone else. It was a bitter lesson to learn, but one that has given me (and Katie O’Connor in the story) a soft heart for the underdog.
The second scene that is modeled after something in my life appears later in the book where Katie’s sister, Faith, tries to talk her into turning her life over to God. Katie does not share her family’s deep faith and is almost agnostic, which is a person who doubts the truth of religion. Here’s a snippet of that scene where Faith talks to her about God:
“Katie,” Faith whispered, “you say He’s not real to you, that you’re not sure He even exists. But right this minute, one of us is right and one of us is wrong ...”
Katie looked into her sister’s face, as if compelled to listen by some strange force that pulled at her with a tentative thread of hope.
Wetness shimmered in Faith’s eyes. “If it’s me who is wrong, then I have lost nothing. Because even if I have believed in a lie or a fairy-tale, then that lie or fairy-tale has given me more joy, more hope and more strength than anything I have ever encountered. But if it is you who is wrong, Katie, I tremble to think that you will have lost everything—His joy, His peace, His hope …” Her voice softened to a bare whisper. “His salvation.” She straightened then, her manner as sure as the conviction in her tone. “I repeat, Katie, one of us is right and one of us is wrong. Do it now, I beg of you—invite Him into your heart. Because truly, you have nothing to lose and everything to gain.”
The above words that Faith speaks are exactly what I spoke to an agnostic friend of mine from work years ago, but Katie’s response that follows in the scene below is taken from words I actually spoke in the privacy of my bedroom after a woman at work (the one who brought me to Christ) challenged me to ask Christ into my heart years prior:
Gripping her sister’s hand like a lifeline in a stormy sea, Katie lifted her face to the ceiling while water seeped from her lidded eyes. Her voice quivered, but her resolve was sure. “God, Faith says You’re up there, that You care for me and have a plan for my life. If You are … and I’m not just talking to a ceiling … will You show me? Reveal Yourself to me, Your love, Your purpose for my life. Please, God, come into my heart and make me the woman You want me to be.”
2.) AHU is the fourth novel you've written revolving around the same family, with each previous novel spotlighting its own hero and heroine. Do you resonate with your heroine Katie in any ways differently than you've related to previous heroines?
Katie is actually based on my own 22-year-old daughter Amy rather than me, so I don’t relate to Katie as much as I do to Faith (who is my spiritual self) or Charity (who is my passionate self before Christ) or Lizzie (who is my dreamer self), except for the ways I mentioned above. My Amy is in law school like Katie is and has a quick wit and a precise list as to what she wants in a husband, just like Katie O’Connor.
3.)There are quite a few kisses in AHU. Which one is your favorite and how do you feel it morally and emotionally changed your characters?
Oh, without question, the scene where Luke kisses Katie for the first time in the offices of the Boston Children’s Aid Society is my VERY favorite. I love everything about it—Katie’s attraction to Luke, his concern for her welfare and subsequent kiss, his shock over her passionate response followed by his shock over her slap of his face. That slap triggers something in him that changes his gentle concern to a hard and dominating kiss that’s meant to insult her, but all it does is seal Katie’s fate … and Luke’s.
That single kiss changes Katie O’Connor forever, transforming her from a strong woman in control to a woman weakened at the knees by a man who suddenly controls her, at least emotionally. Morally it weakened her as well because where she once was involved with only one man, she now finds herself passionate about another at the same time, causing her to fall into Luke McGee’s arms at the drop of a hat while she is still going with Jack. Emotionally, that kiss scares the daylights out of her because she does NOT want to be attracted to Luke or allow him to control her in anyway, especially in the arena of love. Nope, Katie has plans to marry Jack, a wealthy lawyer whom she has eating out of her hand … not a penniless street lawyer like Luke McGee who refuses to let her run the show.
Julie Lessman is an award-winning author whose tagline of “Passion With a Purpose” underscores her intense passion for both God and romance. Winner of the 2009 ACFW Debut Author of the Year and Holt Medallion Awards of Merit for Best First Book and Long Inspirational, Julie is also the recipient of 13 Romance Writers of America awards and was voted by readers as “Borders Best of 2009 So Far: Your Favorite Fiction” at http://www.borders.com/online/store/ListView_best2009favefiction. She resides in Missouri with her husband, daughter, son and daughter-in-law and is the author of The Daughters of Boston series, which includes A Passion Most Pure, A Passion Redeemed, and A Passion Denied. You can contact Julie through her website at www.julielessman.com.
One thing I love about Lessman's books is how she writes passion, both emotional and physical. Her stories never fail to drop me into drama and hook me until I reach the end.
When you read romance, what level of steam do you prefer? Have you read Lessman? If so, who is your favorite character in the O'Connor family?
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