Better than Fiction by April W. Gardner, Michelle Massaro – Book Review, Preview

Posted October 9, 2019 by Phyllis Helton in Blog Tours, Book Reviews, Giveaways, Guest Post /

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Better than Fiction by April W. Gardner, Michelle Massaro - Book Review, Preview

“Do you ever think about me?”

Those are probably the ugliest words I have ever heard in my life!!

After an acquaintance from work found a new job, every so often he would send me text messages. Nothing major. Nothing often. Nothing that seemed off. He said he was bored at his new job. I didn’t think much about it and would sometimes reply. It was all innocent. Right?

Apparently, I was wrong.

When I got that text message, “do you ever think about me?”, it made me sick to my stomach. I think I shot back a text telling him he needed to talk to a pastor to which the reply was “I had to ask, right?”

Um. No?!!


That was when I blocked his number.

I didn’t know that my innocent replies had him thinking about me in inappropriate ways.

But I won’t text a man like that again, no matter how good a friend. No direct messages on social media. Nothing that isn’t open and available for my husband to view.

Because I don’t want to ever, ever be tempted to reply in the affirmative. Don’t ever want things to move beyond friendship. Although I have friends who are men, they are only casual friends and I won’t let things go beyond that, no matter how much I like them. Because it is such a slippery slope and I don’t want to go down it.


Better than Fiction by April W. Gardner, Michelle Massaro – Book Review, Preview

Better than Fiction

by April W. Gardner, Michelle Massaro

Published by Plaited Press
Publication Date April 4, 2016
Genres: Christian Fiction, Clean Romance, Historical Fiction
Setting: California Contemporary, Progressive Era – US – 1890s – 1920s
Written for: Adults
Pages: 334


Imagining him was harmless...until it wasn't.

Romance novelist Meghan Townsend’s marriage is slipping, and no amount of prayer seems to help. She aims to recapture her husband’s waning attention by getting in shape and finds escape by crafting her own fictional love story. Taking inspiration for the hero from a new friend—the attractive, spiritual, and attentive Curtis Jameson—she pours her yearnings onto the page, and craves the kind of pulse-pounding romance found in her book, Racing Hearts...

In 1916 Corona, California, motorcars are all the rage, and racing them is what Meghan’s hero, Russell Keegan, does best. But when his competition vandalizes his car, the only mechanic available is a greasy woman in a man’s overalls.

After a racing accident claimed her father’s life, Winifred became the sole breadwinner for her family. She is disdained as a female mechanic, but her daddy's trade is all she has left. Can she swallow her hatred of the races and take up Russell's offer of big bucks to fix his car, or will she lose everything to mounting debt?

Under Meghan's skillful pen, these two embark on a thrilling, adventurous romance. But she finds that writing those love scenes with Curtis’s face in mind takes her heart places it shouldn’t go. Will she realize in time that real life can be better than fiction?

About Better than Fiction

Better than Fiction is a unique, fun blend of Christian women's fiction and turn-of-the 20th century historical romance. It has given two best writer buddies an excuse to work together, laugh together, create together. It’s given them an opportunity to spotlight the colorful town of Corona, California in this lighthearted romance, while sharing their burden for the woman tempted by infidelity or struggling with an affair of the heart.

I received a complimentary copy of this book. This gift did not influence my opinion or review.

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What a wonderful story!

I love the insertion of the historical story within the story. They both tugged at my heart, though for different reasons.

Meg broke my heart for the pain she endured as her husband pushed her away. Flirting with him, treating him to his favorite everything. Nothing seemed to help. He continued to work later and later, and then there were the phone calls she overheard parts of. . .

As she attempted to make things right by finally losing weight she had gained, the new friend she found in her trainer and the advice from her best friend “it doesn’t hurt to look” had her modeling her hero after her new trainer – and her daughter’s Sunday School teacher!

How miserable it is for us when we seek to have the people in our lives fill the needs that only God can fill! When we look to anyone to give us our sense of value or to protect us from everything, or any other desire, we set them up to fail. Only God can be everything we need all the time! This message was brought home so clearly and beautifully.

While there was a subtle admonition to married women not to seek solace in friendships with other men, this was not a preachy story, nor did it sound like it was written to push this point. Quite the opposite. It was fascinating, filled with emotional turmoil, deep sadness, hope, and powerful spiritual lessons.

Racing Hearts, Meg’s novel, was such a fantastic story itself. Going back to 1916, Corona, California, it tells the story of Winnie and Russell and the Corona Road Race. It’s kind of crazy that I had never even heard of that, having grown up on the other side of the foothills from Corona! There was so much to love about this story. The woman mechanic who is Russell’s only hope for getting his Bearcat repaired for the race. The unknown Jefe who was sending his thugs to collect the debt left by Winnie’s absent brother.

Whether you prefer contemporary or historical Christian fiction, Better than Fiction is a must-read!

More from April and Michelle

April and Michelle get a lot of questions about how exactly co-authors write a book. Who writes which part? Did you have any trouble, any conflict? Valid questions! But in the case of Better than Fiction, it was no trouble at all, and neither author can remember a single heated disagreement. In part, because they’d been critique partners for eons and were already working together seamlessly.

It also helped that the story is made up of two intertwining novellas. Each author had her own blank canvas to color on with the other looking on and offering feedback. The most enjoyable part of the process was the challenge of making sure the events in the life of Michelle’s contemporary character (an author) influenced the characters’ decisions in April’s historical plot.

Why intertwining stories? The idea behind it was to show what it’s like to live in the mind of a writer, how her real life makes its way into her stories. The theme of emotional affairs was a good fit, as it is often all too easy for women—even Christian woman—to be drawn to another man and justify it as harmless friendship rather than admit she is looking to this person to fill a need that only God and her husband are meant to fill.

They decided to set the story against the backdrop of Michelle’s hometown of Corona, California in 1916 and the real-life Corona Road Race that took place in April of that year. It was the third race and, due to tragedy, the last.

From concept to “The End,” it took a span of about four years for Michelle and April to publish Better than Fiction, and as far as teamwork goes, it went off without a hitch. April was able to fly from her home in Georgia to stay with Michelle’s family and do research, and later, Michelle flew to Georgia for a concentrated writing weekend. The two had an amazingly fun time writing and working together.

Another question the authors get…will there be a sequel? Only time will tell.

Blog Stops

Book Reviews From an Avid Reader, October 9

Among the Reads, October 9

Genesis 5020, October 10

Through the Fire Blogs, October 11

Betti Mace, October 11

Artistic Nobody, October 12

Adventures of a Travelers Wife, October 12

Truth and Grace Homeschool Academy, October 13

Happily Managing a Household of Boys, October 13

Library Lady’s Kid Lit, October 14

For Him and My Family, October 15

Remembrancy, October 15

Abba’s Prayer Warrior Princess, October 16

Maureen’s Musings, October 16

Godly Book Reviews, October 17

Moments, October 17

Babbling Becky L’s Book Impressions, October 18

Bigreadersite, October 18

Texas Book-aholic, October 19

For The Love of Books, October 19

janicesbookreviews, October 20

Debbie’s Dusty Deliberations, October 20

A Reader’s Brain, October 21

Inklings and notions , October 22

Simple Harvest Reads, October 22


To celebrate their tour, April and Michelle are giving away the grand prize bundle of a $20 Amazon gift card, themed mug and bookmarks, and handmade throw pillow that says, “Books, my happy place”!!

Be sure to comment on the blog stops for nine extra entries into the giveaway! Click the link below to enter.


About April W. Gardner

April W Gardner writes Christian historical romance with a focus on our southeastern Native tribes. She is a copyeditor, military wife, and mother of two who lives in South Texas. In no particular order, April dreams of owning a horse, learning a third language, and visiting all the national parks.

About Michelle Massaro

MICHELLE MASSARO writes contemporary fiction soaked in grace.She makes her home in Southern California with her husband of over two decades and their four children. She’s dabbled in homeschooling, teaching Creation Science, and leading worship. When she isn’t tinkering with words, Michelle enjoys old Rogers and Hammerstein movies, making kefir, and Sudoku. A new lipstick and a good French roast always make her happy.

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11 responses to “Better than Fiction by April W. Gardner, Michelle Massaro – Book Review, Preview

  1. Phyllis, what a wonderful post! Thank you both for having us here today and for sharing your personal experience. It is SO slippery, isn’t it? Oh, and your shareables are awesome!!

    ~ Michelle

  2. You’ve outdone yourself, Phyllis! Your blog is beautiful as is your review of Better than Fiction. Your story at the beginning–wow. It happens every day, and both men and women have to be on their guard at all times. Thank you for having Michelle and me here today. Honored!

  3. Alicia Haney

    This sounds like a very good read and a good page turner! I really like the cover, it is Awesome!! I loved reading the book description , and oh , yes, I believe it happens more than not unfortunately! Thank you so much for sharing this post about this awesome book! Thank you ladies for writing such a very good sounding book. I would love to read this book.

    • Alicia, thank you for commenting. Yes, it does happen a lot. We need to be on guard! I am oh-so-glad to hear you like the cover so much. Thank you! Good luck in the drawing! <3

  4. Vivian Furbay

    Wondering if the story she comes up with helps heal her ailing marriage.