Paul emphasized the importance of praise in several of his letters to the churches. And especially praise mingled with prayer. In the book of Philippians, he speaks of the peace that comes as a result of praying and praising God in all things.
In the Old Testament, there are some amazing passages about praising God, including more than one battle that was fought entirely through the medium of praise.
We don’t necessarily fight in wars against human enemies with weapons in that way but do face battles every day that can also be fought most effectively through the power of praise. Depression. Loneliness. Frustration. Anger. The list could go on ad infinitum. Each enemy we fight against is most effectively overcome by faith through praise and the power of prayer.
The Last Summer
by Brandy Bruce
Published by Bling! Romance
Publication Date June 7, 2017
Genres: Christian Fiction, Clean Romance
Setting: Texas Contemporary
Main Character Ages: 25-34
Written for: Adults
Twenty-something Sara Witherspoon is part of a unique circle of seven friends who move in and out of each other s lives like family. When her best friend (and the guy she secretly loves) begins dating another girl in the group, the perfect circle of friendship begins to change and splinter.
I received a complimentary copy of this book. This gift did not influence my opinion or review.
Sara’s mother had a beautiful photo with Psalm 113:3 on it hanging on the wall. When asked about it, she told how this verse reminds her to always praise the Lord no matter what – that He has everything under control. This verse was woven throughout The Last Summer in such a way that was encouraging and so hopeful.
Sara was pretty much incredible, yet flawed. She was so devastated when her best friend Luke started dating Debra because she had been hiding a crush on him for years. Yet she showed wisdom and maturity when she responded by stepping back from him to be sure she didn’t come between them. Not many women could do that, especially not as graciously as she did.
Sara’s anguish came across so tenderly. I was very moved and close to tears. I was also very hopeful that things would work out well and loved the way she clung to her faith and prayed through her pain and continued to show such kindness to Debra (except that one time when she said something she regretted.)
With lives intertwined in such a special bond, the seven friends’ relationship made me just a little jealous! The way they did life together and stood by each other through thick and thin… Wow! There was so much to like about each of them. I can’t wait to read more about them in the next novel that comes out.
Preview of The Last Summer
10 Behind-the-Scenes Facts
about The Last Summer’s Texas Setting
- The museum’s Pink-Floyd-laser-light-show date that Sara goes on was inspired by one of my first dates with my husband! He planned the whole date and we went to the Spaghetti Warehouse (which was also a place my parents went to when they were dating) and then the laser light show at the very same museum. Best. Date. Ever.
- Bodegas, the restaurant near the museum where Sara and her friend Wendy like to eat, is a real restaurant very near the Houston Museum of Natural Science.
- I wrote the scene about the gas station barbeque because there’s truly a gas station in Texas that serves amazing barbeque. (There are probably hundreds actually!) The food in Texas can’t be beat.
- Sara and her girlfriends go eat doughnuts at Shipley’s. Shipley’s is my favorite doughnut chain in Texas. I am still devastated that there are no Shipley’s in Colorado. For the longest time, no one I knew in Colorado had ever even heard of kolaches! What in the world. I grew up eating sausage kolaches and chocolate-iced doughnuts at Shipley’s Donuts, and every time I’m in Texas, finding a Shipley’s is a must.
- The Lake Shore Woods lake house was inspired by a real lake house out in East Texas. My best friend and I stayed there for a weekend years ago and I remember loving how woodsy and beautiful the area was, and thinking that I was going use that setting in a book too.
- Sara goes shopping in The Woodlands at a place called Market Street and it’s an area I love to go to whenever I’m back in town—lots of fun restaurants and shops and a movie theater.
- There’s a scene where the gang are all hanging out in Hermann hospital waiting room and one of the characters, Debra, brings in several sacks of Whataburger meals. Which is Texas to a T.
- I mention Dickens’ on the Strand at Christmastime in the book. This is a real festival in Galveston, Texas, held in late November/early December. It’s a Charles Dickens-esque Christmas celebration with people in costumes and a parade and carolers and street vendors. My grandmother was the one who first told me about it. She and her best girlfriends loved to go to Dickens’ on the Strand together.
- When describing Sara’s parents’ house in the affluent Willow Heights area, I mention the azalea bushes by the back deck. This stemmed from the trail of azaleas in Houston’s River Oaks section. It’s a beautiful area with stately homes and during azalea season, you can drive through and see what they call the trail of azaleas. My dad used to drive us through River Oaks when I was a little girl.
- As you can probably tell, I love Texas. I was born in Houston and lived there, then Conroe, Texas, and then Porter—both on the outskirts of the city—until I went away to college in Virginia. All of my extended family still live there and whenever I step off the plane and feel the humidity and heat of Texas—and see all the belt buckles and cowboy hats and T-shirts that say, “Most likely to Secede”—I know I’m home again. The places in the book that I didn’t create, such as the museum district and The Woodlands and San Jacinto, are all real places that I’ve touched and experienced. And from the sweet tea the girls drink to the tomato plants Addison grows, these little details come from real-life in Texas.
Everybody Loves Jason
by Brandy Bruce
I’ve had people ask about the inspiration behind the characters in The Last Summer and while I love talking about the group of friends, truth be told, they came to me so long ago that it’s hard to remember the original inspiration! Almost all seven friends came to me at once. The book was always meant to be a story about friendship. Every member of the group is essential. But over time, as I reworked and rewrote the story, the characters became more developed, and I can definitely see some glimpses of who and what inspired the people they became.
I’ve said before that the image of Sara in my mind looks a lot like my sister, who happens to be named Sara! My sister is elegant and introspective and great at design. I think I put some of my own characteristics into her as well (mainly my love for Diet Dr Pepper and tacos). So, in some ways, Sara’s character is a bit of a blend of me and my sister. Jason is another one who is clearly defined for me. I have a cousin named Jason, who happens to have tattoos and dark hair and he’s Hispanic (so am I!) and he’s funny and delightful.
I’ll be honest, I’m pretty sure Luke was heavily influenced by an early Brad Pitt (think Legends of the Fall, A River Runs Through It, and Oceans 11). Not a bad place to start, if you ask me! As time went on, Luke started to look a lot like Chris Hemsworth to me (aka Thor). Everett’s character, while not really a member of the group, also came to me almost from the beginning and was essential, of course. As I worked through his character, in my mind he started to look a lot like Henry Cavill (also known as Superman).
To me, all the characters bring to the table something that adds to who they are as a group. The insecurity and yet elegance of Sara; the sweetness and levelheadedness of Addison; the Southern sarcasm and loyalty of Lily; the swagger and flirtatiousness of Jason; the easygoing, along-for-the-ride person who is Sam; and the calm, dedicated, a-bit-hard-to-read (intriguing) Luke. Then you add in the charm and boyishness of Everett, and you’ve got a story.
One thing I found to be unexpected and great was that as we were going through the editing process, I had two lovely girls as my editors. When I’d read their comments, I kept seeing “Team Jason!” or “Team Everett here!” or “Team Luke!”, which I thought was hilarious. I loved how invested they were. I honestly think I saw “Team Jason!” the most. And when feedback started rolling in from other authors who read the book for endorsements, I started hearing again how much people enjoyed Jason. He seemed to be a favorite among the group. He’s a favorite of mine too.
I mainly just love the idea of a group of friends who love each other like family. That sense of community—that you always have people who will show up for you. In The Last Summer, that perfect circle of friendship gets a bit fractured, and I think that’s a mirror of real life too. Friendships change over time and as people move into different seasons of life. I think lots of people have certain groups of people during specific times in life. You’ve got your college friends, then young marrieds or maybe work colleagues, then often, you find yourself looking for fellow moms and dads to be friends with. Church groups, neighbors, friends at work—it helps to have community to lean on and help each other. But people change, sometimes they move away, and sometimes friends just drift apart. All of that is normal and part of life. Sometimes this can hurt more than others, and I explore a little of that in The Last Summer. The beauty of friendship and the push and pull of life changing.
One thing I think a lot of readers don’t know about is the Pinterest board I created for the book. I love Pinterest boards for writers. It’s a great place to gather photos that help you visualize your characters or settings. My Pinterest board is where I gathered photos of actors who look like my characters, quotes, images of lake houses that are what I envision for the book, and pictures from the book launch gathering. So hop over and take a look and get to know these characters even better! (See below for the links to the board and some of the pictures)
The follow-up novel releases in early February next year, so now is the perfect time to read The Last Summer!
Brandy Bruce’s The Last Summer Pinterest Board
(click here to go directly to the board on Pinterest)
Giveaway package includes the following: summer swag (beach towl, flip flops, sunglasses, bookmark, and candy) & winner’s choice of a print or e-copy of the book.
Giveaway open to US residents only and ends 11:59pm MT on July 21st.
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