Friday, October 9, 2009

Book Review of "By Love or By Sea", by Rachel Rager

Today it's my honor to finish off the book blog tour for By Love or By Sea by Rachel Rager. Stick around to read my interview with Rachel following my review and learn how you can win a copy of this sweet romance!

Back cover blurb for By Love or By Sea

Alice Lind Frank never forgot the boy she loved when she was just six years old, even after he was lost at sea. Now as a young woman, Alice has found happiness in living and working with her grandparents, and in the affections of Clarence Hielott, the wealthy shipyard owner who intends to make Alice his bride.
When a ragged sailor appears in town, Alice is reminded of the young boy who once held her heart. Upon learning that the sailor is in fact her childhood love, Caleb, she finds herself falling for him again.
But Clarence refuses to let this ghost from the past destroy his plans for the future. He exposes the secrets of Caleb’s past, and Alice realizes that the boy she once knew is now a man with a dark history. Soon Caleb and Clarence are locked in a fierce competition for Alice’s heart.

As a reader who is always interested in the “setting” of a story, I felt a bit muddled at first in By Love or By Sea, as I couldn’t quite pinpoint where the story was taking place. While it had a feel of a “historical”, rather than a “contemporary” romance, I admit I found myself stumbling a bit until I realized that Ms Rager has placed her story in a fantasy kingdom with enough roots to anchor it in a sense of reality, while yet brushing the story with the feeling of a fairytale romance. Once I found my bearings, I was able to sit back and enjoy the story.

The heroine, Alice, is a spunky but tender-hearted girl who always looks for the best in others. Her relationship with the elderly, embittered Betsy Winters challenges both her patience and preconceptions. How this relationship eventually impacts Alice’s romance with the love of her youth, Caleb, the reader will have to discover for herself.

Alice’s desire to see the best in others is challenged as the secrets of Caleb’s past begin to be revealed. Can she forgive the past hurts he’s caused her? And after all Caleb has been through, is there any “good” left in him for Alice to find?

My favorite line from By Love or By Sea: The sensation [Caleb’s] kiss evoked within Alice caused her knees to buckle, and she melted against his body like honey on a hot biscuit.

By Love or By Sea by Rachel Rager is a sweet, tender romance sure to be enjoyed by die-hard romantics everywhere.

I had the privilege to ask Rachel a few questions about herself and her writing. I hope you enjoy the exchange that follows.

JDP: What was your personal writing process for By Love or By Sea? Did you outline the story before you wrote it, or did you let the characters decide where they wanted to take the story?

Rachel: ~ By Love or By Sea was the third story I wrote. The first two stories were rough and I don’t know if they’ll ever surface in printed form. But Caleb is a young boy of six in the first story so I really had a long time to get to know him. I probably thought about this book about a year before it made its way onto paper. And though I’ve done outlines before, this one never had one. I just let the characters take me on their journey.

JDP: Your story takes place in a world that feels like a mix of historical "reality" and "fantasy". At one point you mention China and Great Britain, yet the "kingdom" where your story is set is clearly neither of these two places. How would you describe the "kingdom" in which your characters live? How do you envision their world?

Rachel: ~ The setting of my story is purely fictional. If I had to actually state a location on a map, I’d say it was somewhere between the Netherlands and Belgium. Originally Belgium was a part of the Netherlands but they rebelled and in 1830 or so, gaining their independence. In my mind, this kingdom is simply a small section of the land in between. Neither here nor there. Obviously I took some liberties. Since this kingdom exists in my mind, the weather obeys my every desire! (evil chuckle)

JDP: Thank you, Rachel! I was so curious about this. I'll have to re-read By Love or By Sea picturing this mythical kingdom on a mythical map! Did you do any research for the piracy angle of your story? If so, do you have any research sources that you would suggest to other authors? (I'm always interested in how authors research their stories. :-) )

Rachel: ~ I honestly knew nothing about ships when I started and only knew of pirates from what I’d seen in movies. (I live a sheltered life.) So I had to do quite a bit of research for this book. I don’t have as many resources in Casper as I’d like, so I spent quite a bit of time on-line. But I also spent quite a bit of time at my local library. I checked out whatever I thought might help and learned everything I could. I didn’t use an eighth of the material I found and a lot of it that made it into the book was cut. But I feel that the knowledge I gained was absolutely essential.

JDP: Was there something in particular that inspired you to write By Love or By Sea?

Rachel: ~ I was honestly writing my second book and was in the shower one day when I came up with the idea for By Love or By Sea. I wrote down some notes and when I was done with the one I was working on, I began By Love or By Sea. It wasn’t until I was partway done that I decided to use piracy. Of course, then I sat in front of the computer every day for an entire month trying to figure out a way to solve the problem I’d created! Again, the research came into play!

I guess I should fess up to one little secret. Caleb Newman was inspired by my little brother. Though my brother is quite different than Caleb, he has a similar build and attitude. My brother once dropped a plant in his bedroomroom, spilling soil all over the carpet while he was talking on the phone to a girl he didn’t particularly care for. And, not wanting my mother to hang him for making a mess on the carpet, but not knowing how to get off the phone with the girl, he decided to vacuum up the mess while on the phone! That made me laugh so hard and it just felt like something Caleb would do (if he lived in today’s world!) So, there you have it!

JDP: I hope the girl on the phone took the hint! On your website, you say that your favorite book that you've ever written is The Tiger, Unleashed. Would you like to share a little bit about that book with us and tell us why you love it so?

Rachel: ~ The Tiger, Unleashed is a book I finished right after By Love or By Sea. And I’m not sure what I love so much about it, but it is one of my favorites! (Maybe I fell in love with the hero!) The year is 1878 and Adella Barnes has lived a relatively normal life in her little sun-scorched California town. The daughter of the mayor, she struggles with the image people expect of her and how to deal with her betrothal to a man of her father’s choosing. When she meets a dark stranger, Blake Stanley, Adella’s need for adventure is fueled by his mysterious existence. Even when his past criminal record is revealed, she longs for the safety she feels when he is near. Discovering that he was accused of killing her brother, her faith in his innocence wavers. Still, her heart speaks to her of a love that can only be born in the heavens and she decides that she will always love him, regardless of his past. To save her love, Adella must prove Blake’s innocence before the real criminal discovers the truth about Blake and kills them both.

Intriguing, right? Something about this book just makes me want to curl up in front of the fire and loose myself in this world!

JDP: Intriguing, indeed! It sounds like a story full of wonderful conflict and tension! What's your next writing project?

Rachel: ~ I am currently working on a story and the title has yet to be determined but right now my husband calls it A Dress to the Heart. Yes, there’s a play on words and I kind of like it. But this book has been renamed so many times I can’t decide what I like best or at all.

Summary of A Dress to the Heart: Ivy Lewis is both provider and nurturer for her seven younger siblings. Plain and poor, she works as an apprentice to a seamstress, yearning for scholastic knowledge and finding her true love. Her social standing places her as an outcast among many, namely the arrogant Eleanora Key, who can’t seem to torture Ivy enough. And like Miss Key, Ivy has her eye set on Lord Sterling Bennett; the contrast lying in that Ivy can never hope to capture his attention, let alone aspire to gain his admiration.

When she meets a mysterious man on the road, Mr. Alan, her entire world shifts. She is no longer invisible to the world. Amid trying to care for her ill mother and her siblings, she finds herself kidnapped, courted by two wealthy men, and demoralized by Eleanora Key. Through it all, she learns her worth as a woman and the importance of maintaining the values she’s always believed in. But she must discover the secrets of Mr. Alan before it is too late.

JDP: Oooo, I love the mystery angle! Can't wait to read this one, Rachel. Thank you so much for taking time to chat with us today.

Rachel: ~ Thanks for having me, Joyce. This was fun!

You can read more about Rachel Rager on her website and blog. Copies of By Love or By Sea can be purchased on and

For a chance to win a copy of By Love or By Sea, become of follower of Rachel's blog or leave a comment on any or all of the reviews on her blog tour listed below. Each comment will be counted as an entry in her drawing, so the more reviews you comment on, the more chances you have to win!

September 28 - Jaimey Grant
September 29 - Kaylee Baldwin
September 30 - Cindy Beck
October 1 - Kim Thompson
October 2 - Alison Palmer
October 3 - JoAnn Arnolds
October 5 - Rebecca Talley
October 6 - Anna Arnett
October 7 - Heather Justensen
October 8 - Rachelle Christensen


Becki said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Becki said...

What a great way to end the blog tour!! I really enjoyed the review and the interview. I think it is great that Rachel is getting such good advice and tips from authors along the way too. I really think I would enjoy this book!
tbkress1 at msn dot com

Aubrey said...

Great interview! I am very interested in reading this book and I would LOVE to win a copy.

DanielleThorne said...

Good luck, Rachel. I've enjoyed following you on your blog tour. Wishing you many sales--

Anonymous said...

Grerat review of "By Land Or By Sea", Joyce, and an interesting interview with the author, Rachel.

Both questions and answers grabbed my attention and I'm looking forward to winning this contest so I can read the book!

Barbara B

Larry Hammersley said...

Great interview, Joyce and Rachel your remark about not knowing about ships and very little about pirates reminds me of the advice in the recent writers conference I attended. They said, "write what you don't know, instead of what you know." I thought that interesting advice and you apparently did very well in your research from the interview. Larry

E.A. West said...

Wonderful interview, ladies! Your books sound so interesting, Rachel.

Rachel Harlin said...

Thanks for doing this, Joyce! This was a lot of fun! And I laughed when I read the title of the blog! "By Land or By Sea" instead of "By Love or By Sea." I didn't choose the title and so it makes me laugh! I hope you had a good time with this too! Thanks again!

Joyce DiPastena said...

Oops! Sorry about that, Rachel! I went back and fixed it. Better late than never. :-}

Elizabeth Morgan said...

I love how there is a girl as the main character. They so often come second to the boys. Alice seem like a headstrong girl.

Miss Mae said...

Really interesting review and interview. :) And I'm getting curious about those forthcoming stories too! :)

Good luck with sales, Rachel! :)

Martha Eskuchen said...

Good review and interview! I like how you picked a favorite line! This book and her others sound interesting!

Rachelle Christensen said...

Fun review and interview! I wish Rachel lots of luck. :)