Love Unexpected: Coming April 21, 2021

A famous boss. A secret identity. And a hilarious road trip to love.

Yes. Yes, Rosie does have a crush on Isaac, her YouTube-famous boss.

Does she ever talk to him?

Absolutely not. Crippling social anxiety can do that.

But Rosie is nothing if not tenacious. Ignoring her friends’ advice to just talk to him already (Nope, that’s way too hard), she instead opts to pursue a virtual relationship with Isaac using a secret identity.

The plan is genius. Online, Rosie has social skills she’d never dream of having in person. She’s possibly even cool. If Isaac can just get to know her, he’ll see how amazing she is.

But then a spontaneous road trip throws Rosie and Isaac together, and their virtual and in-person lives collide. (Eleven hundred miles in a seventy’s era VW hatchback? What could possibly go wrong?)

Much to Rosie’s surprise, she doesn’t constantly humiliate herself. Conversation is easy, and their chemistry? It’s pretty much off the charts.

But every road trip is bound to hit a speed bump or two.

Will Rosie’s secret identity be the thing that brings them together? Or the thing that tears them apart?

Holiday Gift Suggestions: Husbands, Fathers, Brothers and Other Men you Love

Not gonna lie. Shopping for the men in my life is usually the most stressful part of my holiday shopping. My husband, in particular, isn’t really a “stuff” guy, so finding presents that are useful and wonderful and not just “box-checking” gifts so he has something to unwrap when everyone else does can be tough. I generally opt for “experience” gifts because that’s the love language that resonates with him the most. But sometimes it IS nice to have something to unwrap, so I’ve curated a list of suggestions that might make it easier for YOU to shop for the men in your life.

The list is book heavy. I make no apologies for that. If you’re an Amazon shopper, there are affiliate links throughout the post. But if you’re planning ahead and can survive without two-day shipping, I recommend shopping local whenever you can. Particularly for books! is a great way to shop for your favorite books while supporting local independent bookstores. Okay! Let’s get to the list.

Fancy Pants Work-out shorts from Vuori Clothing: Full disclosure? When the husband wanted to try these shorts, I balked at the price. But I finally caved and ordered some for his last birthday and he vows they are worth every single penny. We’re excited to try the joggers…for him (and me!). Kore shots from Vuori

Face Masks and socks from Pair of Thieves. I know. Face masks aren’t exactly a fun gift. But these are super stretchy and breathable and quickly became favorites at our house. Both times I ordered, I added a few pairs of socks to get free shipping, and they are great too. My husband loves to wear socks with merino wool (no stinky feet!) and the Pair of Thieves option is great.

Gourmet Food from Destination Cities Even though traveling isn’t happening a ton right now (I’m still bitter over the canceled anniversary trip), you can still enjoy the unique flavors of favorite cities/destinations. I particularly love this Charleston County Breakfast basket. The grits are the best you’ll find and the peach butter is out of sight. Maybe it’s a sampling of barbecue sauces from the different regions of the US. Or a particular dessert that you discovered and loved when you were traveling. These days, Google and fast shipping can make just about anything possible, so take advantage!

Full disclosure. These Bose noise cancelling headphones are STUPID expensive. But they really are amazing at what they do. I work from home. And in this season of hybrid/at-home schooling, there are ALWAYS people around. I’m not an audiophile, but when I tried on seven million different pairs of noise cancelling headphones at Best Buy, these were the clear winners. If you have money to burn, I highly recommend.

Cremo Personal Care My husband doesn’t actually have a beard. Just scruff. And I like it that way. But he does use Cremo hair care products and likes them more than other stuff he’s tried. Since the beard craze persists, if you have a hairy man in your life, this might be a great fit.

BNutty Gourmet Peanut Butter We are big peanut butter eaters over here. And BNutty doesn’t disappoint. My favorite is the one with pretzels and white chocolate. But next on my list to try is the Raspberry White Chocolate. Or the Pecan Pie. Or the CoCoNutty. YOU GET THE POINT.

How the South Won the Civil War, by Heather Cox Richardson For anyone interested in history and politics, Heather Cox Richardson’s latest book is worth the read. Straight from the book description: Richardson’s searing book seizes upon the soul of the country and its ongoing struggle to provide equal opportunity to all. Debunking the myth that the Civil War released the nation from the grip of oligarchy, expunging the sins of the Founding, it reveals how and why the Old South not only survived in the West, but thrived.

Destiny of the Republic, by Candice Millard But every single person I know that has read this book has raved about it and called it a fascinating look at an often overlooked presidency. What do you know about James Garfield, after all? “One of the many pleasures of Candice Millard’s new book, Destiny of the Republic, [is] that she brings poor Garfield to life—and a remarkable life it was. . . . Fascinating. . . . Millard has written us a penetrating human tragedy.”
The New York Times Book Review

Shoe Dog, by Phil Knight Another story you might not guess would be as interesting as it is. We added this one to our list because it was one of Bill Gates’s favorite books of 2016. He described it as “a messy, perilous, and chaotic journey, riddled with mistakes, endless struggles, and sacrifice. Phil Knight opens up in ways few CEOs are willing to do.”

Thinking in Bets, by Annie Duke The idea of this book fascinated me right from the start. A book about making decisions from a world-class poker player? This one comes recommended from a friend that I love and trust…it’s on my list for this year. And now it can be on your list too! “A highly-readable balance between memorable, real-world analogies and hardcore behavioral science studies… The book is packed with insights.” –John Greathouse, Forbes

Beneath a Scarlet Sky, by Mark Sullivan Lest you think I believe men only read nonfiction…this novel is another highly recommended by a friend; she says that her husband and his book group all really enjoyed it. “Meticulous research highlights this World War II novel of a youth growing into manhood…a captivating read…” —RT Book Reviews

The Way of Kings, by Brandon Sanderson Honestly, anything that Brandon Sanderson ever writes is going to be brilliant. I’ve read the first two books of this series, my oldest kids have read the first three and are anxiously awaiting the fourth, and my husband just started the first. It is a novel that requires commitment and fortitude because is is ENORMOUS. But it’s worth the effort. Incomparable high fantasy that literally made me stand up on my bed with excitement as I read.

Okay! I hope at least one of these suggestions resonated with you as useful. Other lists coming soon? (In time for Christmas shopping, I promise.) Books not to miss for Children, Middle Grade and Young Adult readers. I love books that allow my kids to escape, but I also love books that help them see bigger and be better humans, and sometimes we have to look a little bit harder for those books. Until next time…thanks for reading!

In Which I Get a Little Personal…

A few months back, I published a new book. It has done as well as I hoped it would, and like always, it’s been fun to see my words making their way in the world.But this book has raised some concerns with a few readers, many of whom reached out to me to let me know their feelings. The issue has even popped up in a handful of reviews. What’s the big deal? It generally revolves around this question: Why did I choose to put a married gay couple in my novel?

I don’t love that this is a question that even needs to be asked. That doesn’t mean I didn’t expect it. Because I know my readers. My writing career began writing for a small publishing house that focuses on clean, faith-resonant fiction. Content did not need to be religious. But it did need to meet a certain set of standards. I knew those standards; and I knew, when drafting, exactly what my readers had come to expect. Gay characters was not it. To clarify a few issues raised by some readers: no, I did not write this book with a political agenda in mind. It is not propaganda. It is not indoctrination. Love Redesigned is a silly book about fashion and sibling rivalry and falling in love, with a main character who happens to have close friends that are gay and married. That’s all. And yes, I probably could have written the book differently. Written the characters differently. Taken out the gayness and made the story work without it. Though the characters formed in a more organic way (I didn’t intentionally make them gay, they just appeared in the story that way. I can’t really explain, but fellow writers, you get me—), I did have a moment when I considered whether or not I wanted to change them. And I didn’t. Really, I couldn’t.

I am a woman of deep, abiding faith. My relationship with God is very important to me. It is a cornerstone in my marriage and in the way my husband and I approach parenting. It’s important to me that you know this because I am an ally for the LGBTQ community not despite my faith, but because of it.It has been two years since my then fifteen-year-old child came to my husband and me with a look in their eyes that said it was time for a big conversation. Though we had suspected a confession was coming, it was still a sobering moment. As a parent, you want your kids to be safe. To be loved. To be accepted and celebrated for what they have to offer the world. We had always believed ourselves LGBTQ allies in theory, but now it was personal. Now it was our kid.

When it’s your kid, you can’t say, “Sure, I’m supportive,” even while thanking your lucky stars it isn’t “a challenge” you have in your family.

When it’s your kid, you can’t go to church and not worry about the fact that most organized religions are still struggling to find a place within their chapels for the LGBTQ community.

When it’s your kid, you can’t ignore the pressing need to reconcile what religion has taught you with the reality sitting at your kitchen table in need of love and acceptance and support.

I would be lying if I told you we weren’t terrified in those early days. What if we said the wrong thing? Parented in the wrong way? Even more, what if we couldn’t stop the world from being unkind? Couldn’t stop people from defining our child by a classification that shouldn’t matter but stupidly does? What if everyone failed to see the creative, brilliant, capable human that we saw?And so we prayed.

I have said a lot of prayers over my six children. Some days, it feels like I’m uttering one constant prayer. For my own patience. For endurance. For courage. For enough love not to sell the lot of them to the circus and book myself a oneway ticket to crazytown. For their health and safety. For their happiness. For the little ones not to kill each other over who gets to use the best Switch controller, the one that wasn’t thrown down the stairs when someone lost at Mario Kart. For the teenagers to learn life’s most important lessons speedily and with as little collateral damage as possible, particularly to their own hearts. For their faith to persist. For them to feel comfortable asking the hard questions and wrestling their way to answers.Even with all those prayers…never has a prayer felt as significant as the one I took to God over this.

The answer was immediate, the overwhelming peace and assurance tangible.

I know your child. I love your child just as they are. I’ve got this.

I have prayed countless times since. And every time, the answer is the same.

Trust in ME. Love your child. That’s your job.

The reach of my words is not very big. I have not sold millions of books. But I can still do my part. Representation still matters. I would really only need ONE person to read my book and feel a little more comfortable in their own skin, a little more filled with hope that a happy, fulfilling relationship might be a possibility for them or their child/sibling/cousin/nephew/neighbor/friend. Fortunately, it’s been more than one. And that makes all the critical feedback worth it.

I believe that experience is often life’s greatest teacher. Until you have an LGBTQ loved one find their place in the world (if you haven’t already, trust me, you will) you’re welcome to lean on my experience, on my unwavering conviction that the path forward is a path of kindness and acceptance. I know God loves his LGBTQ children. I know He wants them to be happy. To be supported and accepted for who they are.

There are people, right now, in your midst, that need your love. There are teenagers who need support and validation. Suicide rates among LGBTQ teens are alarmingly high, particularly within faith-based communities. Please watch your words. To imply that someone is broken, that someone is sinning simply by existing, is dangerous and damaging and wrong. And people are dying because of these judgements. We must do better. We must teach our children to be kind and inclusive. We must make room in our hearts and in our congregations.

If you are interested in learning more about how to be a better ally, please message me. I have links and podcasts and books that I am happy to recommend, and of course, a willing listening ear. And if you just want to read a fluffy romance with a couple of secondary characters who are loving supportive friends that just happen to be gay, well, I can help with that too.