Today, I have New York Times, USA Today, Publishers Weekly, and Amazon best-selling international author Lin Stepp in the interview chair. We’re discussing her latest series release The Edisto Trilogy, a Christian contemporary romance. Be sure to check out my reviews of books one and two. I’ll be reviewing book three on June seventeenth. Don’t forget to enter the Rafflecopter giveaway.
Lin: The first novel was Claire Avery’s story, about a young mother with two small girls who loses her husband unexpectedly. As a minister’s wife, living in the church manse, a move has to be made and many other changes have to occur in Claire’s life. Her brother-in-law encourages her to come to his beach house at Edisto for a time to grieve a little and think out her plans for the future. Since it is at Edisto that Claire discovers ways to move on after sorrow and discovers her own unique talents while there, the title CLAIRE AT EDISTO seemed perfect.
2. Who designed your book covers?
Lin: My daughter is a gifted graphics designer as well as a Media Librarian in North Carolina. She often designs many of the book covers for Mountain Hill Press. Katherine beautifully designed all three of the Edisto book covers using photos my husband and I took while visiting and vacationing at Edisto. Readers have loved them.
3. If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?
Lin: No, not one thing. I just reread EDISTO SONG to be ready to talk about it easily at our book launch and book events coming up … and I got totally caught up in the story, eagerly turning the pages and forgetting I’d authored the book myself!
4. Did you learn anything during the writing of your recent book?
Lin: Because I always do so much research for all my book titles I always learn tons of new things, many bits and pieces of research finding their way into the storyline. For example, I had to study extensively about the life of a concert pianist for EDISTO SONG and about running an antique store. We visited and walked all over Beaufort, South Carolina, so I could more accurately write the book scenes set there … and we went back to Edisto Beach and explored more places for new scenes at the beach. All my books have elements of suspense … and for some ongoing criminal elements in this story I had to do an extensive amount of research on that specific type of crime to make the story realistic. I also learned a great deal about the art of matchmaking while working on this book, a practice still very common in Asian countries like Japan.
5. If your book was made into a film, who would you like to play the lead?
Lin: I am not very knowledgeable about film stars as I go to few movies anymore and seldom watch television. I work long hours, and usually when I have extra time I read versus watching television or movies. However, both the main characters in EDISTO SONG are blond … so perhaps a star like Reese Witherspooon might be a good choice to play Suki and possibly Bradley James to play Andrew.
6. Anything specific you want to tell your readers?
Lin: Writing beach set books versus mountain books in the Smokies was a departure from my usual book setting … but I’m pleased to tell you that the first book in the Edisto Trilogy CLAIRE AT EDISTO won the 2019 Best Book of the Year Award in Fiction: Romance in American Book Fest’s huge annual contest with over 2000 entries from large and small publishers all over the U.S. We were thrilled with the honor.
7. How did you come up with the name of each book?
Lin: I wanted the place name “Edisto” to be in each book title in the series, first CLAIRE AT EDISTO and then RETURN TO EDISTO … And since the main character in the third book is a concert pianist EDISTO SONG was a perfect title for the third book. As you read EDISTO SONG you’ll see even more reasons why this title fit the book beautifully.
8. What is your favourite part of the book and why?
Lin: I love the unique way that the two main characters “got together” in this book. When you read it you’ll see exactly why.
9. If you could spend time with a character from your book who would it be? And what would you do during that day?
Lin: An unexpected side character Eito Masako charmed his way into my heart in EDISTO SONG. An older, well-mannered and well-educated Japanese gentleman, Eito had moved from Japan when widowed to live with his daughter and her husband in New York. In Japan he had worked in counseling and also as a nakodo, a professional matchmaker. He has made one-hundred and ten successful matches and believes strongly in the art and gift of matchmaking. …I was fascinated to learn of the prevalence of matchmaking in countries like Japan. Eito was so charming and he quickly stole my heart. I’d love to spend a day letting him tell me about all those successful matches he made in Japan and how he knew exactly how to perfectly pair so many couples.
Blurb: Standing in grief and shock at the grave of her young husband, Claire Avery wonders what she and her young daughters will do now. They live in the church parsonage they need to vacate. She hasn’t worked since her marriage twelve years ago. Old issues and complications hinder relationships with her family. Struggling for answers, Claire accepts her brother-in-law’s offer to stay at his beach house at Edisto to give her a season to heal and think. But even the peace and beauty of the coastal island bring new problems along with unexpected joys as Claire seeks to find her way.
Parker Avery always promised his brother Charles he would look after Claire if anything happened to him. Charles stood by him three years ago when his wife Ann died and Parker is determined now to be a help to Claire and the girls. As time passes, instead of feeling like a hero, he feels like a heel instead as he realizes he’s developing feelings for his own brother’s widow. To make things worse, he watches with pain and jealousy as Miles Lawrence waltzes into Claire’s life. What can he expect though? It hardly seems right that Claire, even after a season of mourning, would ever fall in love with her own brother-in-law.
Parker expected to stay a night at Claire’s for Charles’s funeral, two at most, and then to head back to his antiques store in Beaufort. With the weather now warming in early May, the tourists were beginning to arrive in greater numbers along the South Carolina coast and Parker hated to leave his staff to cover the store without him for too long. However, the situation with Claire needed more thought.
He’d assumed Claire had more viable options available for her future. …Parker knew Conrad Hampton, Claire’s father, was a wealthy and powerful man from old money. Knowing that and remembering the size of their home, he had assumed Claire could move back there for a season with the girls and that her family would support her as she adjusted to Charles’s death, moved through her grief, and settled in to what a psychologist friend of his called “a new normal.” Now after listening in on the conversation between Claire’s mother and sisters he wasn’t so sure.
I had a chance to read an excerpt and I loved the author’s voice. I also enjoyed the blurb, so I decided to read and review the book.
Although for the book tour, Claire at Edisto was marketed as Christian Romance, there wasn’t much Christianity in the book. Just a few mentions now and then. I also likened the book more to women’s fiction, because the romance is minimal. This novel, instead, is about Claire and only Claire, with romantic elements.
The book follows Claire’s life after the loss of her pastor husband Charles. The scene-stealer for this book is Claire’s character arc. She is a quiet woman, always bowing to the needs of others, especially her overbearing, wealthy family. Claire doesn’t even see this flaw until one of her suitors points out the flaw to her.
First off, I really liked Claire. I think most women can relate to her. She has many responsibilities since she has two children to love and care for, who are also suffering the loss of Charles. She also has people forever telling her what’s best for her.
In regards to the two suitors, I liked both. I was a bit bummed one was painted almost villain-like because this man could have been more than that. Parker, on the other hand, was the consummate hero, also suffering loss since his wife died of cancer, and he’s a widower at the start of the novel.
The setting of Edisto is painted wonderfully. It’s an island community (think of Martha’s Vineyard) where everyone knows one another. Usually, I’m not a fan of the friends and neighbours forcing their way into a novel with too much advice, but for this novel, it worked, and it worked beautifully. This surprised me. It turned out to be one of my favourite elements of the book.
There are also a lot of scenes with the children I enjoyed. They were painted with real personalities that showed their true characters. Well done, author.
The book has much heart to hearts as Claire struggles to come into her own. There are also a few surprising twists.
This is a wonderful read set in 1985 full of community, hints of romance, and a woman’s struggle to rebuild after the death of her husband. I recommend this sweet romance. It’s like sitting with a box of chocolates, snacking away on a rainy Sunday afternoon.
Return to Edisto Island in the rich, Lowcountry story of a young woman’s difficult decision to run from threat and danger, changing the course of her well-ordered life and, in turn, the life of the young man who loved and lost her.
Blurb: It was a long trip back to Edisto Island, South Carolina, and the beach house that shaped so much of Mary Helen Avery’s early life. Now her mind flashed between anger and hurt over the difficult situation she’d left behind at the job she loved. Was she doing the right thing to leave? Should she have stayed to fight? She hoped at the quiet, beloved island she knew so well, she’d find the answers she needed and peace from all this turmoil.
J.T.’s heart took a familiar lurch when he saw the car with New Jersey plates parked at the Avery’s beach house. Even after ten years, the memory of Mary Helen Avery still tormented him. Finding her on the porch weeping lit old fires he thought long dead. Was he a fool to hope for something more between them with all their problems of the past? Probably so, but if she stayed long enough, he’d find one more chance to try.
Scenes from the past week seeped into her mind and Mary Helen let the tears stream down her face again. She wasn’t the crying type, like Suki, but the events of the week and the strain of it, coupled with Kizzy Helton’s words seemed to open up a huge pocket of grief inside her. She let herself sob as emotions swamped her, knowing the release probably good for her, while hating herself for giving in to tears.
“I can’t remember the last time I saw you cry,” a voice from the doorway said.
Immediately recognizing the voice, Mary Helen hated to even open her eyes. She knew who it was. “Go away, J.T. I don’t feel like company.”
“Looks like you might need some though.”
She heard the screen door shut and his steps walk across the porch. Opening one eye a little, she saw him drop into a chair beside hers.
“I really don’t want to talk to you right now.”
“Give it up, Mary Helen. I’m not leaving.”
Claire’s children have grown up, and this book is all about Mary Helen, the feisty, take-no-crap, stubborn, and speaks-her-mind child from Claire at Edisto. First off, don’t let Mary Helen’s spunk turn you off, because she’s a strong woman, but she’s got a soft inner core where many hurts and wounds can be found. By far, she is one of my fave heroines that I’ve come across in contemporary Christian romance.
I really enjoyed Mary Helen’s character arc. She’s a driven woman who’s let her faith sit on the backburner while she’s climbed the corporate career ladder after leaving behind Edisto and her high school sweetheart J.T. after she caught him kissing Mary Helen’s biggest rival Gracie.
Mary Helen is a sympathetic character, having lost her father when she was only nine years old. She thought she’d found that figure in Miles, a man who’d dated Claire, but the man turned out to be a womanizing liar. This has scarred Mary Helen, who is very mistrustful of the opposite sex now.
When Mary Helen’s boss makes sexual advances toward her after she’s promoted, she quits her job and flees to Edisto to think her future through. This is a very shocking and terrible trauma for Mary Helen to have to endure, and further cements her outlook on the male persuasion. I felt very bad for her. Part of me hoped she’d speak up, but Mary Helen handles the horrific situation with what she feels is the best solution for her.
J.T. has no intentions of ever leaving Edisto. He’s cemented in the community. After Mary Helen dumped him, he’s dated and pursued his own career but his life seems at a standstill. He’s kind of existing, even though he’s done his best to try to get on with his life. There is one problem. Gracie is also back, having divorced her husband, and while back, J.T. dared to date the woman who caused so many problems between J.T. and Mary Helen.
I must say, I really enjoyed the setup the author gave to push this book forward. It’s like an avalanche roaring down the mountain, and the plot keeps spinning and spinning. I loved the pacing. I found Claire at Edisto a bit on the slow side, but Return to Edisto never lets you stop to truly catch your breath. There is always something happening.
The lovely neighbours are back again. As always, the author did a great job bringing the community together without straying from the true plot of the story. I appreciate it when authors don’t get sidetracked and fall too much in love with their secondary characters. I also appreciated the author only brought in Claire and Parker when the plot called for it. Well done.
There is also a mystery that’s very disturbing. I will admit the sub-plot with the turtles and dogs bothered me. I wasn’t expecting to read about the horrific situation happening and could have done without it. There wasn’t a true reason for this sub-plot to exist (did not advance the character arc, did not advance the plot, etc.), and I wish the author would have stayed away from this.
Other than that quibble, this is a lovely read. The author stays focused on the romance, on Claire’s character arc, some well-deserved growth for J.T., and a great ending. I will admit I found J.T. a bit gullible when it came to Gracie, but then again, men like that do exist, so I gave the author a pass with this plot point and characterization.
I recommend you give Return to Edisto a read. It’s a wonderful book, one I very much enjoyed.
In EDISTO SONG a young woman, at the pinnacle of success, is forced to reexamine her dreams as she finds her life as a concert pianist not what she envisioned and those her life is entwined with far from what she believed of them.
Blurb: Sarah Katherine Avery, becoming internationally known as a young concert pianist of great promise, finds herself at a difficult moment in her career-home in New York, getting ready for a concert with the New York Philharmonic Orchestra but feverish and ill. After pushing on for weeks through illness, her neighbor and friend encourages her to talk to her agent about taking a break for healing after this concert. Worn and disillusioned, Sarah heads over to the concert hall to talk to Jonah but the shock of what she encounters at that meeting spirals her life in a new direction.
Andrew Cavanaugh has traveled to New York from Beaufort to be a support to his boss’s daughter, Sarah Katherine Avery-Suki to him-for her concert performance. A friend of Suki’s since childhood years at Edisto, and always a supporter of her gift and her music, Andrew is shocked when Suki collapses on stage. He learns as he sits with her at the hospital that her life holds unhappiness none of them knew of but her answers for how to resolve her current problems threaten to send his well-ordered life right out the window.
Andrew smiled as he saw her come out on stage to enthusiastic applause, dressed in a floating white dress with the red cummerbund and shoes she’d become known for, her fair hair shining like a halo in the stage lights. Seeing her move closer to the piano, he leaned forward, suddenly not smiling anymore. Something was wrong. She’d almost stumbled and her smile looked plastic, her face as white as a sheet. …
Would she be all right? he wondered. Should he do something? Ever since Suki had been a little girl, Andrew had always felt tuned in to her in a way not many were. He could feel her moods, her love for her music. He’d been her support through the years as her gift had grown, along with her family and her teachers like Morgan Dillon.
Suki sat down on the piano bench, shaking her head slightly as if dizzy. Not everyone would have noticed, but Andrew did. She took a moment a little too long to adjust her dress and her seat. Acting awkward in her movements, when usually so poised. When she put her hands toward the piano to prepare to play, … he saw her head shift oddly, her hands drop from the piano, her body seem to go limp, and then she fell over toward the orchestra, sliding off the piano bench in a faint.
Lin Stepp is a New York Times, USA Today, Publishers Weekly, and Amazon best-selling international author, A native Tennessean, businesswoman, and former faculty member at Tusculum College, Lin has twenty-one published books, including her beloved Smoky Mountain and Mountain Home novels, all set in different Tennessee and North Carolina locations, a novella in one of Kensington’s Christmas anthologies, and three novels in her Edisto Trilogy, set on the South Carolina coast: Claire at Edisto (2019), Return to Edisto (2020) and Edisto Song (2021). Lin and her husband J.L. also write regional guidebooks, including a Smoky Mountain hiking guide, and two state parks guidebooks for Tennessee and South Carolina. Stepp’s latest novels set around the Smoky Mountains are Downsizing (2021) centered near Gatlinburg and Happy Valley (2020) set near Townsend. Lin’s title Claire At Edisto was the 2019 Best Books Award Winner in Fiction: Romance, sponsored by American Book Fest, her novel Welcome Back a finalist in the 2017 Selah Awards, and Lin and her husband’s guidebook Discovering Tennessee State Parks a 2019 Best Books Award Finalist in Nonfiction: Travel Guides with American Book Fest.
Lin enjoys speaking for events, festivals, libraries, and book clubs, reading, hiking, exploring out of doors, and keeping up with her readers on Facebook, Twitter, and through her monthly blog and newsletter which you will find on her website at: http://www.linstepp.com
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