Monday, January 28, 2008

Awaken My Heart by DiAnn Mills

This week, the

Christian Fiction Blog Alliance

is introducing

Awaken My Heart

Avon Inspire (February 5, 2008)


DiAnn Mills


Award-winning author, DiAnn Mills, launched her career in 1998 with the publication of her first book. She is the author of numerous titles including novels, novellas, and a nonfiction. In addition, she's written several short stories, articles, devotions, and has contributed to several nonfiction compilations.

DiAnn believes her readers should "Expect an Adventure." Her desire is to show characters solving real problems of today from a Christian perspective through a compelling story.

Several of her anthologies have appeared on the CBA Best Seller List. Three of her books have won the distinction of Best Historical of the Year by Heartsong Presents, and she remains a favorite author by Heartsong Present's readers. Two of her books have won short historical of the year by American Christian Fiction Writers both in 2003 and 2004. She was named Writer of the Year for 2004 at the 35th Annual Mount Hermon Christian Writer's Conference and is the recipient of Inspirational Reader's Choice Awards for 2005 in the long contemporary and novella categories.

DiAnn is a founding board member for American Christian Fiction Writers, a member of Inspirational Writers Alive, ChiLibris, Advanced Writers and Speakers Association and a mentor for the Jerry B. Jenkins Christian Writers Guild. She speaks to various groups and teaches writing workshops. DiAnn also belongs to Cy Fair Women's Networking, an exclusive professional women's networking organization.

She lives in sunny Houston, Texas, the home of heat, humidity, and Harleys. In fact she'd own one, but her legs are too short. DiAnn and her husband have four adult sons and are active members of Metropolitan Baptist Church.


1803, the colony of Texas

Awaken My Heart is set in 19th century Texas and tells the story of 18 year old Marianne Phillips, the daughter of a wealthy rancher, Weston Phillips. Weston is involved in a hostile struggle with Armando Garcia, the infamous rebel leader of the 'mestizos' who claim to own the land that Phillips has settled.

Marianne Phillips, the daughter of a wealthy rancher, has never agreed with her father's harsh treatment of the poor mestizos who first inhabited the colony of Texas. When rebels kidnap Marianne, in hopes her father will trade back their land for her freedom, she realizes her loyalty lies with her abductors, not her father, who plans to marry her off to the don of a nearby estate.

Armando Garcia is the locals' reluctant leader, but his people revere and depend on him. Knowing that without his leadership they'd be forced from their land, Armando accepts his role, but does not approve of the latest attempt to manipulate their enemy. When he learns that Marianne actually speaks his language, of her loyalty to his people, and of the faith that keeps her strong, Armando is faced with a difficult decision. Will his newfound love keep him from letting her go? Or will he set her free and risk losing their land forever?

My review:
I have to admit that this is my first experience with DiAnn Mills and I have to say that I like her. "Awaken My Heart" was thrilling to read. Just the right pinches of rebellion and devotion to God... Real emotions and the struggle to understand them make this book and it's story true to life.

An early 19th century Texas Colony Zorro meets Romeo meets Shakespeare in Love.

The heroine Marianne is a much better person than I, but she gives me an example of a woman's life that I should strive to be as strong as she. This book does have the desired kidnapping, fall in love, find peace with Christ, someone dies, and an almost happier ever after ending just as most good Christian Inspirational Fiction novels do, but it is even better because it is real and not overly flowery as some. Other plus points to this book are the little inputs of the Spanish language that I knew just enough of to really be able to enthrall myself into the atmosphere of the narrative. I could smell the earth and roses she described as well as hear the speech and playful banter of the characters throughout. As well as the main struggle with "culture, religion, and social demands [to] embrace the love that comes only from the great Creator."

I would definitely read this author again.

Q&A with DiAnn Mills on writing AWAKEN MY HEART

Q. Did you always want to be a writer, or is it something you fell into in your adult life?

Always. As soon as I could hold a pencil. My mind was always filled with some kind of story. As a child, I was punished for lying, now I get paid for it!

Q. Your love of Texas history is displayed throughout the book, especially since it takes place in 19th century Texas. Why do you think this would appeal to your readers?
Texas is known for it's rugged and courageous people. The folk lore and legends could fill volumes--and has. Those people who were not born here got here as fast as they could. The good people are the best, and the outlaws were the worst. That makes for grand stories. Awaken My Heart shows the beginnings of Texas from a Spanish and Mexican perspective. Where would this state be if not for those who stood up to tyranny?

Q. Marianne is in love with Armando Garcia, her father's arch enemy. How is Marianne able to suppress her feelings for Armando around her family?
Marianne understood that above all things, she should obey her parents. Outwardly, she respected their wishes, but in her heart, she could not deny her growing feelings for Armando.

Q. Weston Phillips is a hard man to understand, perhaps an even harder man for his wife and daughter to love. Do you have people like him in your life?
All of us have unlovable people in our lives. Sometimes we attempt to be indifferent or ignore them, but it doesn't change the way that person hurts us.

Q. Armando is confused by his feelings for Marianne. He feels like his heart has betrayed him. How does his past drive those feelings? Do you understand his hesitation?
Armando's parents were involved in a forbidden relationship--his father a member of the Spanish aristocracy and his mother a peasant. When it appeared that Armando's father had deserted his mother and son, Armando despised him. Now Armando has fallen into the same trap--forbidden love. He doesn't want to experience the same rejection again, but his heart is more powerful than his logic. He begins to understand the powerful force of love between two people.

Q. Armando and Marianne admit their love, but social and political environment of the day frowned on their relationship. Forbidden love often pulls two people together, but what does God say is the foundation for His gift of love?
The foundation for God's gift of love is rooted in His Son Jesus Christ. Those who have put their faith and trust in Him understand that all are equal in the eyes of God.

After reading the book, I realized it was published by Avon Inspire and that name is new to me so I did a little contacting and digging and this is what I found out about Avon Inspire and HarperSanFrancisco.

The new imprint, which will publish several titles each season, is a partnership between Avon and HarperSanFrancisco (HSF). ”This partnership recognizes what we have witnessed happening in the CBA industry over the last few years. Namely, that Christian fiction is no longer a sideline in CBA and general trade stores, but has become a mainstay,” says HSF Deputy Publisher Mark Tauber. Books will be acquired and edited by HSF editor Cynthia DiTiberio, and published by Avon Books. “Avon Inspire is dedicated to offering the Christian book market and mainstream readers alike page-turning stories of love and hope, upholding traditional values and featuring trustworthy characters,” says DiTiberio.

What I have to say is YAY! It is about time there was more VALUE works of worded art out there for consumption! Their mission statement just about sums it up... it's almost too good to be true!

Mission Statement:
Avon Inspire is Avon's line of inspirational women's fiction that features that which matters most: family, community, faith, and love. Encompassing contemporary romance, chick lit, romantic suspense, and historicals, these captivating stories engage the heart and refresh the spirit. In summer 2007, Avon Inspire will debut with two enchanting, uplifting novels. See the official press release here.

I now realize that one of my previous posts was in fact also published by Avon Inspire. In that case, also look at Defiant Heart and Distant Heart by Tracey Bateman. Other Avon Inspire books that look neat and are being put on my to-read list as soon as this is posted are Blessed Assurance by Lyn Cote, The Trophy Wives Club by Kristin Billerbeck, and Wedding Bell Blues by Linda Windsor.

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