I recently connected with author Jennifer Lynn Cary on Instagram. Jennifer had asked me to review one of her latest books, Relentless Joy and I gladly accepted.
Second Lieutenant James Salem’s heart melts with the first glimpse and sound from singer, Valerie Beauregard, at the officers’ club at Fort Bragg, North Carolina in 1928. He falls in love and pursues Valerie but finds out that she’s a minor with a controlling uncle as a parent figure. Jimmy tells himself to be content with friendship with Val, but his heart yearns for her. However, their paths divide when Val and her Uncle skip town.
After four years, Jimmy spies Val on a ballroom dance floor, but she denies that she knows him. In the midst of taking a special assignment for the army on the Anacostia Flats, Jimmy and his friend, Ernie, see the need from army vets, protesting the army’s neglect. Val and her uncle are caught up in the dispute. Her uncle passes unexpectedly, and she’s left alone with little hope and no future.
But Jimmy comes to the rescue, professing his love for Val once more. Will Val accept his proposal, or will the loss of her one link with family be too much for her? Will Val and Jimmy make a life together and discover what joy truly is?
In a new town with folks she barely knows, Val grows in her faith and becomes grateful for the bonds she establishes there. She keeps a secret from Jimmy for good reason but ends up regretting that decision. Can Jimmy look beyond her negligence, seeing Val’s heart and how much she loves him?
Fans of strongly messaged, Christian historical fiction will enjoy this heartwarming story of love, faith, and family. Cary does an excellent job of casting real characters, who could easily walk off the pages of the book. Told with skill, the story of Relentless Joy will bless you as you read Val and Jimmy’s romance and faith discovery.
MY INTERVIEW WITH JENNIFER:
When did you start writing?
I’ve always enjoyed writing. I typed my first story on my mother’s typewriter while in the third grade. But back in the 90s I returned to college to finish my teaching degree.
Ten years later, I felt God tap me on the shoulder and remind me I needed to write something if I was ever going to have a book signing. That produced my first novel, which ended up with a vanity press. I finally got the rights back and rewrote it, plus added a sequel but then they ended up on my closet shelf.
In January 2018 when Ken Burns released his documentary on Viet Nam. I remembered so much, and it got in my head. So the next time I prayed, God told me I didn’t need to reinvent the wheel. He brought to mind the documentary and my current Bible study in the book of Ruth. I suddenly saw it all come together. That became Relentless Heart which I completed that November.
About that time, I reconnected with a former critique partner who’d gone on to edit for Zondervan before starting her own company. She came for a visit in June of 2019 and we came up with a plan. We’d start with revising those books on the shelf and I would write a third to make the trilogy—The Crockett Chronicles. Then we’d launch Relentless Heart. I’ve been writing almost daily since.
What prompted you to pursue publication?
I felt God’s call to do that. He gives me the stories, it’s the way I share His gift. It’s never been about the money though I’m not going to reject payment. But the first reason is to share His stories.
What do you love most about writing?
Somewhere in each book there are moments when I write something that’s not in my plans. I have no idea why, but I put it in. Then later, I need something and there it is. For instance, in my book The Traveling Prayer Shawl that releases next March, there’s a scene where I needed a reason for someone to speak with my main character. So I had her cousin drop her Visa card and this guy returns it. One thing leads to another and she sticks the card in her pocket.
A few scenes later, she needs to find help for her cousin. She finds the card in her pocket, reminds her of that guy and she takes a chance and calls him. I hadn’t planned to make the person who found the card a reoccurring character, but now I had a reason to pull him into the story and he became important. All because I had a supporting character drop her Visa. That’s the stuff I love, the surprises.
Your novel, Relentless Joy, is partly set on military bases. Do you have a special connection to the military?
Not directly. But I have a great source. One of my best friends is married to a retired officer and her son is retired military. I can run questions past them, and they’ve been good about helping. The husband was stationed in North Carolina and explained how the air base was so close. He also gave me the idea for the paper they wrote that brought Jimmy and Ernie to DC.
I also had an uncle who served in Viet Nam and was a translator. He read through Relentless Heart and checked for correctness too.
One of your main characters, Valerie, meets Cole Porter. Why did you choose to include this iconic man of music in your book?
First, my dad was born in Peru, Indiana so I grew up knowing that Cole Porter was from there. Daddy was proud of that. Music was always important in our home and I even got to be in a Cole Porter musical in high school.
But my last trip to Indiana, we took a spin around Peru with my cousin and she pointed out Cole Porter’s mother’s house. It had been a museum but is now in need of repair (or was on my last visit). It was an easy way to thank the man for the songs and though I have no proof he was actually in Peru at that time in my story, it was quite logical as he was known to do that sort of thing.
My grandmother’s aunt and uncle were also musicians in Peru and lived close to Mrs. Porter who was famous for her garden parties. It not only could’ve happened, but my relatives might have played at one or two.
What would you like readers to take away from Relentless Joy?
This year has been so difficult, but God never told us we’d be without problems. Jesus even said in this world we would have difficulties. But then He gave us hope. When our hope is in Him, we have joy no matter what is going on around us. Relentless joy isn’t dependent on our situation; it is there for us no matter the situation. That’s what I hope readers will take away.
What are your two most favorite fiction books, contemporary and classic?
- My first is actually a series—the classic. I can read The Chronicles of Narnia over and over. I love the characters, the adventure, the deep truths, the writing.
- The second is a more recent book (contemporary) and this is the variable of the group (next year it could be different). I fell in love with A Fall of Marigolds by Susan Meissner. I read that and decided I want to write like her when I grow up
Tell us about your newly released, Christmas novella.
I’m so glad you asked. Silver Bell Christmas is Melanie’s story. Melanie (a.k.a. Mil in Relentless Heart) is the Naomi figure from the book of Ruth. Though she is in all three of the previous Relentless books, I felt like she had more healing to do. Having lost a child, I know it takes time, and things can nail you out of the blue.
But as the story take place, she figures she’s had two years to heal so why was she still vulnerable to getting blindsided with phrases or photos or events? I’d also wanted to do a Christmas novella and it seemed like a perfect blend. In this book Melanie really does learn about living again and has another chance at love. But does she want it? After twenty-five years of marriage to a good man, why try for more?
And Ben Carpenter, who we first meet in Wedding Bell Blues, has been alone for a long time. He’s not looking either. But there’s something about that Melanie Wheaten. I had fun writing from a more mature POV and I think you’ll enjoy not only seeing how sparks can still fly, but how the whole Relentless Series is wrapped up, including an epilogue with 2068 future president, David Joshua Salem, and the tenacious journalist Natalia Alaniz.
What are you currently writing?
I am furiously writing (4000 words per day) the third book of my new trilogy—The Weather Girls. Do you remember the songs from the 60s—”Sunny,” “Stormy,” and “Windy?” Well, I turned them into sisters, set it in 1970 and gave it a bit of a romcom flavor.
My goal is to release Sunny in May of next year followed by Stormy in July and Windy in September. I’m having a blast with the words and fashions and music. Each book begins with a prologue where their father holds them while looking out the window at the weather. That’s his inspiration for naming each girl. Oh, and their last name is Day. Yup, Sunny Day, Stormy Day, and Windy Day.
So when they all end up returning home to Gramma’s about the same time and start a new business, it only makes sense to call it The Weather Girls Wedding Shoppe and Venue. This has been so fun. I’m hoping that if I enjoy it this much, the readers will too.
List several titles that you carry or adjectives, describing yourself.
Child of God, Wife, Mother, Granmma (Mimi), author, and Retired Teacher.
Thanks so much, Jenny!
Thanks so much, Jennifer for being a guest author on my blog. It was my pleasure to host you. I wish you all the best with your books and your upcoming weather series! I hope I can host you again in the future.
Thank you, followers and subscribers, for reading! If you enjoy Christian fiction, I know you will love Jennifer’s books.