Book Recommendation: Kept by Sally Bradley

Kept

Book Description:

Life has taught Miska Tomlinson that there are no honorable men. Her womanizing brothers, her absentee father, and Mark, the married baseball player who claims to love her—all have proven undependable. But Miska has life under control. She runs her editing business from her luxury condo, stays fit with daily jogs along Chicago’s lakefront, and in her free time blogs anonymously about life as a kept woman.

Enter new neighbor Dillan Foster. Between his unexpected friendship and her father’s sudden reappearance, Miska loses control of her orderly life. Her relationship with Mark deteriorates, and Miska can’t help comparing him to Dillan. His religious views are so foreign, yet the way he treats her is something she’s longed for. But Dillan discovers exactly who she is and what she has done. Too late she finds herself longing for a man who is determined to never look her way again.

When her blog receives unexpected national press, Miska realizes that her anonymity was an illusion. Caught in a scandal about to break across the nation, Miska wonders if the God Dillan talks about would bother with a woman like her—a woman who’s gone too far and done too much.

Narelle: I bumped Kept up to the top of my ‘to be read’ pile after my Aussie and NZ writer friends raved about the book on the Australasian Christian Writers blog. You can read Ian Acheson’s review of Kept here.  My dear friend Andrea Grigg, who knows my reading tastes, assured me that I’d love Kept. She was dead right (thanks, Andrea!). If I had to describe this book in only one word, I would choose brilliant. I read the book in less than a day because I just couldn’t put it down.

What was it about Kept that grabbed my attention and wouldn’t let me go? It was different to the typical Christian romance. I will confess that I didn’t particularly like Miska, the heroine and main character, for a large part of the story. It’s unusual for me to enjoy a romance when I’m not fully engaged with the heroine and comfortable spending time in her head.

Miska was real and flawed and her life was very messy. When Dillan and Garrett move into the apartment next door and Garrett’s fiance, Tracy, befriends Miska, she interacts with Christians for the first time. Miska’s dysfunctional family and upbringing contributed to her making a series of decisions that would have big and hard consequences down the track. Miska was closest to her half sister, Adrienne. Their father’s reappearance created additional problems in Miska’s already complex relationship with Adrienne.

Dillan was an assistant pastor who struggled with his strong physical attraction to his wild child neighbour. Miska was initially very scathing of all things Christian. I loved Dillan’s strength of character and his integrity when confronted with temptation and Miska’s lifestyle choices that were so very different to his own.

I really liked the realism in the story. The character’s motivations and actions weren’t sugar coated and the minor characters added significant value to the story. Tracy was a fascinating character and her unconditional love and acceptance of Miska was a highlight in the story. The faith element in Kept was more overt than in many Christian romances, but it worked and the story didn’t feel preachy.

In many ways Kept was all about sex. Miska believed she was in love with Mark, a married professional baseball player who gifted her with large amounts of money when he was in town and warming her bed. Miska was a romance editor who worked from home and lived in a luxurious Chicago apartment with a mortgage she couldn’t afford on her salary alone. There was sexual tension in the story and off-stage bedroom scenes that were tastefully handled. The duplicitous and hedonistic behaviour of a few of the characters in the story was well done and a reflection of our society.

I highly recommend Kept to mature readers who are looking for a cutting edge contemporary Christian romance that tackles real to life issues.

Read a FREE sample at Amazon.com

USA trip: Chicago and road trip to Indy

Last week I shared my highlights from the Great Train Adventure. If our itinerary had run according to plan, Suzie and I would have spent two hours in Chicago before boarding a train to Indy. Instead, we were still in Wisconsin when the train to Indy departed from Chicago. 20140326-205804.jpg

The Amtrak staff were helpful, and we decided to accept their offer of a free night’s accommodation in Chicago. We were given a room in the gorgeous Swissotel overlooking the Chicago River. Our dinner ended up being room service at midnight. This was the start of nearly a week where my Aussie body clock decided that 2am was an appropriate time to fall asleep! I never adjusted to the eastern time zone in Indy that is ten hours different to Australia. Needless to say, I wasn’t feeling at my best in the mornings at the conference in Indy.

2013-09 September USA trip Swisshotel Chicago 017

The next morning we decided to hire a car to Indy instead of waiting for the train that departed later in the day. The ACFW conference was starting the following day, and we wanted to arrive in time to get settled the night before. Plus, we had dinner plans with writing friends that we didn’t want to miss. I was disappointed that we didn’t have time to explore Chicago, and I’d love to visit again. I was looking forward to our road trip and seeing the countryside between Chicago and Indy. This was my first visit to the midwest, and we drove past miles of corn fields on the interstate. But, the real challenge was leaving Chicago and ending up on the right road to Indy.

2013-09 September USA trip Road trip Chicago to Indy 001

I had started adjusting to being on the wrong side of the road while we were in Washington (our cars are right hand drive in Australia). The freeway system south of Chicago was an experience. Our car rental company wouldn’t provide us with a GPS because we were travelling interstate from Illinois to Indiana. We were given a map and told which interstate turn off we needed to make. I concluded there was a road to every city in the US out of Chicago! I’ve never seen so many turn offs in such a short distance. Suzie was driving and it was my job to navigate. Well, that was a big fail on my part when we worked out we were on the road to Detroit, Michigan and had somehow missed the Indy turnoff! After turning around and putting the smart phone to work, we ended up on the correct interstate and crossed the Illinios state line into Indiana. We eventually reached Indianapolis and made it to dinner at the hotel with our friends on time. If you’re interested in learning more about my 2013 ACFW Conference experience, I blogged about it here. I farewelled my travelling companion, Suzie, in Indy. Next week I’ll continue my journey from Indy to the beautiful state of Oregon.

USA trip: The Great Train Adventure

Last Friday I shared the highlights from watching my first live American baseball game in Seattle. Suzie is a big fan of train travel and we decided to travel together to the ACFW writing conference in Indianapolis on the train. The Amtrak Empire Builder train travels along the main northern train line from Seattle to Chicago. Our plan was to catch a connecting train in Chicago to Indianapolis. Below is a photo of the Empire Builder train at King Street Station, Seattle.

20140227-221733.jpg

Suzie and I shared a roomette. During the day we had two seats facing each other, with a fold up table between us. At night the seats converted into a lower bed and an overhead shelf was pulled down to create an upper bunk bed. The sleeper carriages have an attendant who looks after you, and all your meals are provided in the dining car.

Amtrak have recently announced their new Writer in Residency program. They are offering free trips for writers, and I can understand why many writers are interested in applying. Suzie and I spent most of our time on the train writing and brainstorming new book proposals while we enjoyed the scenery. I started brainstorming and outlining three new book proposals that I hope to sell to my publisher.

There is something inherently relaxing about train travel. I didn’t get a lot of writing done on my current work in progress (The Doctor’s Return, August 2014 release) despite having a deadline less than three months later. My problem (if you can call it a problem, lol) was that I was entranced by the view outside the window. I’m used to seeing gum trees in Australia. The Pacific North West, for example, was a big distraction with miles of fir trees in the gorgeous Cascade Mountains.

We spent two nights on the train. The sun set on our first night while we travelling in Washington toward Spokane. We travelled overnight through the northern part of Idaho and woke up in Montana. The photo below was taken from the train in Montana.

20140227-215507.jpg

The Canadian Rockies were on the far northern horizon as we continued our journey through Montana toward North Dakota. The Amtrak staff were super-helpful and the servers quickly learned how I like my English-style cups of hot tea with two percent milk instead of cream. I also tasted grits for the first time, courtesy of another passenger who shared our breakfast table. We met some interesting people during our meal times, and I was delighted to meet a group of Aussies who were travelling to Minnesota.

I’ve always wanted to see prairies, since I was a little girl who loved Laura Ingalls Wilder’s books and the Little House on the Prairie tv series. We travelled through hundreds of miles of flat prairie and beautiful mountain scenery in Montana.

20140227-215425.jpg

The sun set in Montana on our second night and we woke in the morning in North Dakota, not far from Fargo. We were supposed to be in Minnesota by morning and stopping for 45 minutes in St. Paul. Suzie and I had arranged to meet our other writing critique partner, Stacy Monson, at St. Paul station. We ended up seeing Stacy for ten minutes on the train station platform. Those precious minutes were a highlight of my trip.

20140227-215221.jpg

I was thrilled to see the Mississippi River for the first time in Minnesota. At one stage we stopped beside the river for half an hour while we waited for a freight train to pass us. The stops along the river provided great photo opportunities and another distraction from writing.

20140227-215259.jpg

By lunch time on our second day in Minnesota, we knew for certain that we were going to miss our train connection in Chicago to Indianapolis. The Amtrak staff were helpful, and kept us updated on our options during the afternoon and early evening as we travelled into Wisconsin. The sun set before we reached Milwaukee and travelled along Lake Michigan to Chicago, Illinois.

Stop by next Friday to learn about our unexpected overnight stop in Chicago and impromptu road trip to Indianapolis.