The Lady and the Lionheart by Joanne Bischof ~ a review


Two worlds collide when the circus comes to Victorian-era Virginia.

Raised amid the fame and mystique of the Big Top, Charlie Lionheart holds the audience in the palm of his hand. But while his act captivates thousands, it’s away from the spotlight where his true heart lies. Here he humbly cares for his pride of lions as if they were his brothers, a skill of bravery and strength that has prepared him for his most challenging feat yet—freeing an orphaned infant from the dark bondage of a sideshow. A trade so costly, it requires his life in exchange for hers, leaving him tarnished by the price of that choice.

As the circus tents are raised on the outskirts of Roanoke, nurse Ella Beckley arrives to tend to this Gypsy girl. All under the watchful eye of a guardian who not only bears a striking resemblance to the child, but who protects the baby with a love that wraps around Ella’s own tragic past, awakening a hope that goodness may yet reign. When their forbidden friendship deepens, Charlie dares to ask for her heart, bringing her behind the curtain of his secret world to reveal the sacrifice that gave hope to one little girl—boldly showing Ella that while her tattered faith is deeply scarred, the only marks that need be permanent are his own.

~ My Review ~

I. Am. Speechless.

It is not often that I give a book five stars. Yet every word within these pages makes it worth such a rating. Upon finishing I closed my kindle and simply sat for a while, with my head in my hands, tears in my eyes, and a sweet ache in my heart. It isn’t your typical light-and-fluffy romance novel. This book is powerful, with a depth that makes it stand out vibrantly among the many, many stories that cross my path. I laughed and cried,  groaned in frustration and cheered with joy, through each obstacle Charlie and Ella faced.

Behind the Cover for The Lady and the Lionheart:

One of the greatest things about this book (as with her others) is that it is an emotional roller coaster ride–without a fast-paced, action-packed story line. Each character simply reached out and wrapped themselves around my heart. I couldn’t help but be moved by the ups and downs of Charlie, Ella, Holland, and all the other dear characters I’ve grown to love.

It’s not just about the circus life, lions, nursing, or even a love story. It’s about the healing, redemption, and grace that can only come through God.  L&L was compelling, leaving me wanting more every time I finished a chapter. I lost  quite a bit of sleep in my eagerness to find out what would happen next. And then that epilogue…oh, be still my heart. Joanne Bischof KNOWS how to end a book.

If I had to describe Joanne’s writing in one word, it would be cadence. Because everything she writes has a gentle, natural ebb-and-flow of emotional conflict. The stories roll along in a way that invites you to pull up a chair, settle in with a mason jar of lemonade, and just visit with delightful, albeit fictitious, friends. Joanne doesn’t just write down heart-warming stories; she pours her heart out for us to read on ink and paper–especially with this, her latest and finest work thus far.

So five stars for The Lady and the Lionheart. And a hearty Brava to you, Joanne. *doffs top hat*

~ About the Author ~

Married to her first sweetheart, Joanne Bischof lives in the mountains of Southern California where she keeps busy making messes with their homeschooled children. When she’s not weaving Appalachian romance, she’s blogging about faith, writing, and the adventures of country living that bring her stories to life.

You can find Joanne on:

Facebook // Twitter // Pinterest // YouTube // Her Blog


Find this book on:

 Amazon // Goodreads // Barnes&Noble


Be Still My Soul // Though My Heart is Torn // My Hope is Found // This Quiet Sky

One Word 2016

One Word 2016 | Everyday Encouragement

A few years ago, I started the tradition of picking  one word to ‘define’ my year. Or rather, asking God to give me a word to study in the year to come. This word is meant to  help guide my  devotions, helping me grow as a follower of Christ and helping me to learn more about  God. It’s a teaching/learning thing, and it’s challenging and convicting

In 2014, my word was FAITHFUL. (you can read more on this word here.) By the end of the year I thought I’d failed God in learning about  and practicing this word, but God hadn’t failed me. He was…faithful. And I saw His faithfulness in new ways every day that year. Through it all, He was faithful with love and forgiveness.

For 2015, God gave me the word HOPE.  At first I thought maybe He would give me a potential spouse in the ‘here’s-some-hope-for-your-future’ kind of way. And maybe He did, but the young man hasn’t stepped forward yet. I don’t know. What I do know is….a lot of things seemed to go wrong in my life in 2015. Almost to the point where I overlooked the good and forgot to appreciate the beautiful, like new and lasting friendships forged.  And as I was crying out to God about how unfair it was for Him to give hope to some and not to me this year, He ever so gently reminded me that through all of this, I have the Hope–certainty–of eternal life with Him. I have the Hope–certainty–that He is with me always, no matter what happens in my life. And maybe, just maybe, He allowed all those things to go wrong in my life so that I would find my Hope–certainty–and security in Him alone.

So as 2016 approached, I once again prayed and asked God to give me a word for the new year.  The very next day, I heard the song Thrive by Casting Crowns.  After that there was no doubt: 2016’s word would be THRIVE.

This year’s verse is John 10:10-

The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.

And this year’s goal? To develop a stronger prayer life, possibly inspired by War Room 🙂

This year is fresh and new like the snow outside my window. I don’t know what this year holds, but I know Who holds this year…and my life…in Hi hands.




Merry Christmas!


Never been a huge Francesca Batistelli fan, but I heard this song a few weeks ago on the radio and it was too good not to share 🙂

Also, I found this picture on facebook last night  and in it’s simplicity, it describes why we celebrate Christmas.

(click picture to go to source)


And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth. John 1:14

Merry Christmas!

Cookie Cutter ~ a guest post

Cookie Cutter { guest post } | Everyday Encouragements

Hi all! This is post was written by my wonderful cousin Kristina. I loved her perspective and style. She really hits her point home using  storybook-type analogy. A great reminder, especially to singles, during the Christmas season. Enjoy!


Not as long ago as you would think, in a quaint village with cobblestone streets stood a bakery. Light from within glowed from the kitchen, filled with warmth from all the baking done earlier in the day.

Clanks and clinks echoed from within the bakery mingling with faint humming as the baker went about preparing to make his sugar cookie recipe. He assembled the ingredients, readied the oven, prepared his tools, and in they went; butter, sugar, eggs, vanilla—all in the mixing bowl, stirred together by the strong, skilled hands of the Master Baker. Once combined, the baker placed the dough onto a floured, thick wooden countertop to be rolled out. Gently flattening the mass of dough with his hands, he proceeded to dust his rolling pin with flour. Then he rolled—pushing and pressing, pulling and stretching—until the dough, while of no recognizable shape, became smooth and even, ready to be cut.

Setting his rolling pin aside, the Master Baker reached for his bucket of hand-made cookie cutters. The metal clinked as he moved the bucket to the countertop. Now the Master Baker was never one to use a cookie cutter twice in one batch of sugar cookies and never decorated two cookies the same. Each one of his cookies was one of a kind.

And so the cookie cutting began. He carefully positioned the cutters of all different shapes and sizes then pressed to make the cut. Removing all the dough that was not cookie he set aside and moved the newly cut shapes onto a cookie sheet and into the oven. While the first batch baked, he continued to cut out cookies placing them on cookie sheets. The first batch having fully baked, the Master Baker moved the cookies from the oven to the cooling rack, replacing the first batch with the second in the oven, then returning to cookie cutting.

While working he heard a small, quiet voice.

“Why am I not fully baked yet?” came the voice.

The baker looked to see one of his sugar cookies longingly gazing over to the cooling rack.

“Why, it’s not time for you yet,” calmly answered the baker with a grin.

“But those cookies look so much better. They’re perfect inside and out, and I’m . . . squishy,” the cookie responded with embarrassment and shame.

With a warm smile and chuckle the baker answered, “I have a very specific plan and design for each of my cookies. No two of my cookies can be compared, for each has a different design. Each in a unique, unrepeatable way shows my skills and abilities. For why are cookies made but to glorify their baker?

The cookie turned her gaze back to the Master Baker to see a loving smile, and contentedly smiled back laying down on the cookie sheet.

Seeing the cookies were done, the baker removed the second batch from the oven to the cooling racks and moved the third batch to the oven. The sugar cookie was excited for the changes of scenery, though the heat became oppressive.

The Baker going about preparing the cookies for decorations heard the same small voice crying out from the oven. Pausing his work he went over and listened.

“I’m here. I’m listening,” answered the Baker bending down.

“Please make it stop! It’s too much,” cried the sugar cookie.

“I understand it’s hard, but it will only last a little while longer.”

“But I want it to stop now!”

“But if I stop it, you won’t be able to become better.”

“How could this possibly make me better?! It’s so oppressive.”

“That’s left up to you, you can be better or you can be bitter, but you need to trust my plan for you that this is not wasted or that I will leave you in longer or take you out sooner than you need to be. This is all a part of making you the cookie I want you to be.”

The sugar cookie reluctantly calmed down, and though uncomfortable rested comfortably in the baker’s plan.

The baker seeing it was time for the last batch of sugar cookies to come out of the oven, slid the cookies out and walked them over to the cooling racks where they were carefully placed.

He continued his work on icing and decorating the first batch of sugar cookies. One by one with steady hands and great detail, the Master Baker iced and decorated. Finishing up the last few of the final batch, he heard a familiar little voice just off to the side of him. Smiling, he turned his head in acknowledgement.

“Those other cookies are so beautiful with their colorful designs and glossy icing that perfectly forms their perfect shape. While my icing is all runny and it makes my shape look worse. I’m just one big mistake.”

“I have a very specific plan and design for each of my cookies. You are no mistake. No two of my cookies can be compared, for each has a different design. Each in a unique, unrepeatable way shows my skills and abilities. For why are cookies made but to glorify their baker? And as for the runny icing you need only to be patient so it can set up, but I am able to fix what has gotten out of place if you’ll let me.”

The Master Baker drawing on his extensive knowledge and wisdom, with steady hands cleaned up the edges where the icing had run.

Finishing the decorations and clearing the counters, the Master Baker gathered together bags and ribbon for the cookies to be packaged in. Two by two he placed the sugar cookies in a bag and tied a bow around the tops. After completing a basketful of cookie packages, and starting on his next, he got a glimpse of his sugar cookie gazing off toward the baskets.

“Is something the matter?” asked the Baker as he set down his work.

“They look so complete. I feel like only half a cookie,”

Turning his head in disagreement, “Ah, that cannot be, because I distinctly made you whole.

For it is not another cookie that gives a cookie its worth, but the Baker. And it is not another cookie that makes a cookie, but the Baker.

“I have a very specific plan and design for each of my cookies. No two of my cookies can be compared, for each has a different design. Each in a unique, unrepeatable way shows my skills and abilities. For why are cookies made but to glorify their baker?