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Book Review: Tell Me You Love Me Anthology

Hey readers! It’s been a little while. I hope you all are doing well!

In today’s post, we get to discuss the Tell Me You Love Me Anthology which was recently published by author Grace A. Johnson.

So let’s jump straight into the review! We’ll start with the cover and blurb:

Tell Me You Love Me

Tell Me You Love Me – a timeless collection of stories that truly understand the meaning of “I love you”.

Twelve young Christian authors have come together, alongside romance novelist Grace A. Johnson and editor Issabelle Perry to show our world of depravity and cheap imitations of romance what love really means: faith, hope, and sacrifice.

These stories range from contemporary YA to historical to fantasy, and tell diverse, unique love stories that compel, captivate, and warm readers’ hearts with their sweet and authentic nature.

Featuring work from Michaela Bush, Saraina Whitney, Karynn Heckler, Margaret Copeland, Lucia Molano, Sarah Lawton, Brooklyn O’Brennan, Mackenzie Hendricks, H.S. Kylian, Lydia M. Jupp, Katherine Perry, and Amelia Cabot, the Tell Me You Love Me anthology is the collaboration of talented and inspirational young writers you’ve been waiting for!

Now I’m going to review each of the separate stories in this anthology so you all can get a feel for what the book is like, and my opinions on the plots, characters, and other story elements.

Always – by Michaela Bush

Blurb: Commit treason or abandon the girl he has loved from childhood? Regardless of Demir’s choice, both lead to paths of peril. Will his decision be worth the cost?

Overall Thoughts: I really enjoyed this story! The overall elements of suspense and romance were so heartwarming! The story pulled me right in from the beginning, making it the perfect story to introduce at the beginning of the anthology.

Things I Liked the Most:

  • Demir’s intense love for Aaiyana, and his whole-hearted willingness to sacrifice anything for her. I think sacrifice is a large part of loving someone, as Jesus showed when he sacrificed himself to save us from our sin. Always reflects Jesus’ sacrifice perfectly.
  • The action! A lot of romance only limits itself to the relationship between the hero and the heroine, nothing else. But Always also added other elements: a man’s duty to his country versus his duty to do what’s right; a woman’s struggle to believe she’s worth it even when her own father doesn’t seem to love her. This all is separated from the romance, while also tying it in perfectly.

Author Bio: Michaela Bush is a Christian author, editor, and entrepreneur. She graduated Magna Cum Laude in 2019 from Clarion University of Pennsylvania, where she earned a B.A. in English and a minor in Psychology. She has enjoyed writing from an early age, and mostly writes Christian fantasy and romance. When she isn’t working or creating her next story, she enjoys spending time with her family, horseback riding, playing violin, and spending time at church. She is also a crazy cat lady and enjoys various arts and crafts. Connect with her at tangledupinwriting.com.

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Until You Call Me Yours – by Mackenzie Hendricks

Blurb: Saige Hawthrone has had a crush on her best friend since they were young but she’ll never admit it to him. She’s done her best to trust in God’s timing but it’s hard… very hard when the only person she has had eyes for doesn’t see her the way she sees him. When her secret crush is revealed to Weston, their relationship seems to be broken at their argument. And then they are thrust into the hardest trial of their lives and they must come together and trust in God, despite the pain. Until You Call Me Yours is a short story about waiting for God’s timing and coming together to face the fiery trials the Lord uses to test our faith. 

Overall Thoughts: This was another very enjoyable story! It was definitely more set in today’s modern world (versus a medieval setting or a past setting), and I enjoyed that. I also love how it’s written in first person, and present tense.

Things I Liked the Most:

  • The realistic elements–I think this story resonated the most with me out of all the stories in the anthology, mostly because it perfectly fit some of the things that I’ve gone through in my short lifetime, or that I’ve seen people my age going through.
  • The emotions! I literally cried halfway through the story. I can’t say why because of spoilers, but let’s just say it was a very emotional, heart-wrenching moment.

Author Bio: Mackenzie Hendricks is a young author who lives in the dry desert of Arizona. She has loved reading and writing since she was little and firmly believes that stories can change the world. She is a student at the Author Conservatory, where she is learning to turn her passion for beautiful words into a career. On top of writing and reading good books, she also enjoys baking muffins, watching K-dramas (or Hallmark movies), and listening to K-Pop. Through contemporary and magical realism stories, Mackenzie hopes to impact the world with words that glorify and honor her Lord. 

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His Freedom Over Mine – by Amelia Cabot

Blurb: She never could distinctly remember what freedom truly was.

Ever since Annemarie Müller was a little girl, all she’d known was horror, war, and the consequences of war. But after she met Rudolph, her world began to change. And once they had grown up and gotten married, changes sprang up into their lives like the first green plants of spring inching their way through the soil. One of those sprouts of change was a blazing hope to escape East Berlin into that ever-coveted freedom called West Berlin, a home that had once been theirs.

What they didn’t expect to sprout overnight was the Berlin Wall–the wall that could forever bar them from their only chance at having freedom. 

Overall Thoughts: His Freedom Over Mine was so inspiring, and I loved the personalities of the characters so much! It was really suspenseful, and I don’t think I came across any scenes that were too slow. I also love Amelia Cabot’s writing style; if you want to read another one of her short stories, she won last year’s Pen & Ink Short Story Contest! You can check out her story here.

Things I Liked the Most:

  • Again, the theme of self-sacrifice, just as I noticed in Always by Michaela Bush.
  • The children. I love it when stories (especially romance stories) include children, as it makes it so much more realistic! Children are a big part of the world today, and including them in a story just makes it even more relatable. Sometimes child characters are hard to add into a short story (especially a romance, where the main focus is on the hero and heroine), but I think Amelia did a wonderful job!

Author Bio: Amelia Cabot is a sinner saved by grace through faith in Christ Jesus, homeschooler, and Christian fiction/poetry writer who has embraced the world of writing since she was six. She can typically be found in the corner of the living room at her desk, mostly due to the fact that she lives in an apartment and doesn’t use her room half of the time. Although she hasn’t published her own novels, she has dabbled in writing contests, with the Tell Me You Love Me anthology as the first official work she has been published in. When she’s not writing, she’s mentally correcting improper grammar (and punctuation, and capitalization, and spelling), uncovering the enigmas of the piano and violin, singing, comprehending Spanish, or daydreaming about her characters and their never-ending predicaments.

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Forever Loved – by Lydia M. Jupp

Blurb: Forsaken, Unloved, and Alone.

Those were three words that Charity Reynolds knew all too well. When a war threatens to take away her last hope of being loved, will a chance meeting help her understand a new kind of love, one that will last forever?

Overall Thoughts: I thought this story was super well-done, and the plot was unique! The characters were definitely my favorite part. 😉

Things I Liked the Most:

  • The realistic portrayal of a woman’s emotions. I don’t know about all the other ladies here, but I could definitely relate to Charity’s reactions to everything that happened in the story. That’s how Forever Loved resonated so well with me!
  • The characters actually made mistakes. Every human makes mistakes. That means every book character should be able to make some mistakes too. The characters in Forever Loved were amazingly portrayed–none of them were perfect, but the light shone through at the end.

Author Bio: Lydia M. Jupp is a born-again Christian who desires to show others the love of Jesus Christ in spirit, word, and script. She lives enveloped in the beautiful farmland, forests, and lakes of South Eastern Ontario, with her loving parents and six younger siblings. When she’s not writing, you can find her playing her instruments, working on her family’s farm, or running around with her siblings; but whether writing or not, you will always find her singing praises to the Lord. Her short story, Forever Loved in the Tell Me You Love Me Anthology, is her first publication. She hopes to write more stories (and possibly some novels) about her Saviour’s amazing grace. You can connect with Lydia on Goodreads and Pinterest.

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Love is the Little Things – by Brooklyn O’Brennan

Blurb: Reece Larkson loves her simple small-town life inWestbrook, Wisconsin; but her life isn’t perfect, even when she thinks it ought to be. Sleepless nights bring about the doubt she wishes would leave her alone, but Reece knows she can’t escape her thoughts.

Levi Hills has been her best friend since forever, but he’s started paying Reece more attention, which leaves her confused. When he whispers those three unexpected words in her ear one night, Reece finds herself questioning what love even is.

As she searches for answers, Reece also yearns for the courage to open herself up. But what will Levi think if she tells him her darkest secret? And what will it mean to her when she learns of his own well-kept secret?

Overall Thoughts: This was a great story, and I loved Brooklyn O’Brennan’s prose! The story was so well-written and thought out. The characters were great, and the plot was definitely relatable!

Things I Liked the Most:

  • Family relationships. I love how the main characters’ families were friends, and how the main characters had good relationships with their families. I think that’s so special. <3
  • The fact that the phrase “tell me you love me” was included. I think that just adds a special touch to the story, reflecting the theme of the anthology.

Author Bio: Brooklyn O’Brennan has a passion for writing stories that show both the real and beautiful aspects of life and she yearns for her stories to tell what she can’t say out loud. Brooklyn is a quiet introvert currently living in Wisconsin with her big family and an abundance of squirrels; her favorite being the one she named Kirk. In addition to writing, her hobbies are reading, crafting, and re-watching all her favorite movies and TV shows. When she isn’t daydreaming inevitable torture for her characters, or speeding through a book, Brooklyn is procrastinating, hanging out with her family, or being a nut with her friends.

The Day That Tragedy Strikes – by Margaret Copeland

Blurb: It’s Christmas 1941. Nancy Smith, who is a nurse at St. Paul’s Hospital, worries over her fiance, James McCallen, who is serving in the Navy at the base in Hawaii. She waits day in and day out for him to come home, but nothing ever comes from him in the mail. Her faith in God is being tested and pushed, but she never wavers and never gives up hope on him, especially during Christmas time. She trusts that the Lord will give her what she needs, until there is a tragic accident at Pearl Harbor. Will Nancy ever see James again or will she be stuck wondering what has happened to him when the day that tragedy strikes?

Overall Thoughts: This was such an emotional, heart-wrenching story, that I literally almost cried. The start of this story was so sad, but the end was filled with joy. I won’t say too much because I don’t want to spoil it, but I did really like this story.

Things I Liked the Most:

  • 1 Corinthians 13 says that “love is patient”. I think The Day That Tragedy Strikes really shows that theme in the story, and I think it’s super valuable.
  • The historical aspect. I really enjoyed reading a historical fiction romance!

Author Bio: Maggie Copeland is a college student from Southern VA and a follower of Christ. She enjoys writing feel-good stories that reflect the love of the Father. When she is not reading or studying, she enjoys watching classic movie musicals (maybe White Christmas in May), plotting new story lines, or finding new ways to make her characters diverse.

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As Beautiful as the Stars – by Karynn Heckler

Blurb: Haseena was a reject; marked as a freak by the vitiligo that colors her skin and left to survive on her own in this cruel world. While she tries her best to remain unseen, every Choosing Ceremony forces her to face mockery and rejection all over again. This is her last one before she ages out. Though she’s ready for it to be over, her rebellious heart still desires to be loved.

Prince Amro has more than just his own fate to worry about. He has a whole kingdom resting on his shoulders and only one Ceremony left to find himself a bride. Now he’s traveled much farther than ever before, hoping America might offer him the chance to find the one he’s spent so long searching for.

As worlds collide, two young hearts are left to question what true love and beauty really mean.

Overall Thoughts: To be honest, this may be my favorite story out of the anthology. I really liked the creativity of the “Choosing Ceremony”, and I thought the themes were really good, especially for young teen girls like me.

Things I Liked the Most:

  • As I mentioned before, I really liked the creativity of this story. This is not just some overdone, cliched romance. It was full of twists and turns, sadness and hope, hardship and joy. And I think Karynn did a wonderful job of portraying all these things.
  • Haseena’s strong faith. I loved how Haseena’s prayers felt very natural, and how God was a huge part of this story.

Author Bio: Karynn Heckler is a seventeen-year-old writer who hails from Texas. She started writing back in December of 2019 as a hobby to pass the time but now it has developed into a passion. Her vision for her writing is to pen clean stories that glorify God and deliver impactful messages. Her works are infused with love and a heart for unity. She tries to make each story she writes spread a little more light and hope in this world.

When she isn’t exploring a fictional world, you might find her working on graphic designs, listening to music, or spending time with her family. All most likely with her quirky dog Leonitus snoozing nearby. She believes strongly that age doesn’t limit your ability to impact the world and start pursuing your dreams. She lives by the motto “Do Hard Things” and encourages other teens to step out of their comfort zones and start seizing the day.

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He Wanted My Heart – by Katherine Perry

Blurb: A rude and arrogant man from Clarissa’s past has shown up asking for her hand in marriage. Her initial denial doesn’t work as Greyson tries to win her favor. Through the next several weeks, she begins to see a side of him she never thought existed. Could it be he’s had a change of heart, or does he have some ulterior motive? And what of her own changing feelings?

Overall Thoughts: This was an excellent story; I loved Clarissa’s stubbornness, as that is awkwardly relatable. Again, the themes in this story were pure gold.

Things I Liked the Most:

  • The fact that a suitable marriage isn’t portrayed as a bad thing. In a lot of romance books, the heroine’s family wants her to marry a certain guy just because of his status, and the heroine doesn’t love the guy, she loves someone else. I like how this story flipped that trope around and made it so that the man her family wanted her to marry was actually the one she could learn to love, too.
  • Again, family relationships. I like how this story highlighted good relationships with family, families that share things with each other, rely on each other for help, and show love to each other even when it’s hard.

Author Bio: Katherine Perry finds her identity in Christ and hopes to show people the love of Jesus. She is the co-founder of the blog, Teen Writers’ Nook, and the co-editor of the Teen Writers’ Nook Imagine anthology. Her short story, “Talented Mers Competition,” was featured in the Level Up anthology put together by Owl Hollow Press and Teen Author Boot Camp. She enjoys writing in a variety of genres, creatively challenging herself, and dancing to her heart’s content.

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Old Time Devotion – by Lucia Molano

Blurb: Gabriel Dawton, the newest resident of the Tranquility Retirement complex, is doing his very best to ignore the fact that being seventy-three does in fact make you an old man; but when he meets Evangeline Jones, a retired gospel-singer trying to accept that any chance of a love life disappeared with her youth, he begins to wonder if being a life-long bachelor really is God’s plan for his life. And while Evangeline longs to believe that their relationship will work out, she starts to doubt. After all, who gets married at seventy-one?

Overall Thoughts: This story was so fun!! I don’t know if I’ve ever read another romance story about old couples, so it was super unique and enjoyable! I found myself laughing at parts, because Gabriel reminded me so much of my own grandpa.

Things I Liked the Most:

  • The fact that the story was about an older couple, and how romance can blossom even at that age. I don’t think I’ve ever read a romance story about older people, and this one was really enjoyable!
  • The humor! I literally laughed out loud for this story.

Author Bio: Lucia (or Lulu, whichever you prefer) has always loved stories, though it took her a while to realise that her insatiable hunger for printed pages and that stack of half-filled notebooks were signs that she was meant to be a writer. Now, over three years and many, many words later, she can’t imagine doing anything different.

Lulu writes because she believes in the power of the light that stories can shed in the dark places of the world, and how they can help us understand ourselves, our fellow creatures, and our Heavenly Father. She loves setting stories in her home nation of Great Britain, especially in her beloved west country, as well as exploring other places, worlds and times through her books. When she isn’t caught up in a flurry of inspiration – revelling in that God-given thrill when the words begin to flow from her fingertips – or daydreaming about her characters, you can find her wandering and wondering in the countryside, avidly discussing period dramas and fantasy classics with her friends and family, or scrambling up walls at her favourite climbing gym.

Till Death Do Us Part – by Sarah Lawton

Blurb: Jonathan Graham has been waiting to marry his dearest friend and fiancee since the day he met her. Carlissa Briggs was diagnosed with leukemia at age sixteen but knows that God has a plan for her life. When Carlissa is rushed to the hospital in critical condition and told she only has a little while to live, will Jonathan have the strength to stand by her? And will he ever truly understand what it means to trust God and to be thankful in everything? Till Death Do Us Part is a heartwrenching short story about true love and the meaning of thankfulness.

Overall Thoughts: This was yet another very emotional story for me, and it was really good! Till Death Do Us Part also included the phrase “tell me you love me”, which I appreciate.

Things I Liked the Most:

  • Jon’s perserverance! He kept praying and trusting in God, even when things were hard. That was so inspiring to me!

Author Bio: Sarah Lawton is a teenage Christian romance authoress, total bookworm, and blogger. She lives in a big house in southern Ontario with her parents and seven younger siblings. She has always had an interest in reading and writing, and is currently working on many stories and novels. Her short story, Till Death Do Us Part in the Tell Me You Love Me anthology is her first published work. She is happily a homeschooler, food lover, big sister, and piano teacher. She is a born-again believer in Jesus Christ, and is always willing to talk about her faith. You can find Sarah blogging away at sarahgracelawton.wordpress.com.

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For Better or for Worse – by H.S. Kylian

Blurb: To those who don’t know better, nothing appears remarkable about Will & Susie Gray’s life. They have a roof over their heads, a stable job, and three energetic children to raise.

Yet his experience in Vietnam has never stopped haunting Will, causing Susie to worry for his state of mind. Though he reassures her he’s fine, Will knows he’s not. The nightmares have come back, stealing the sleep he craves. To make matters worse, he fears he’s starting to forget important details about his life.

All Susie wants is for her husband to be okay. All Will wants is for the nightmares to go away, to have the ability to once more rest peacefully at night.

Overall Thoughts: I really liked this story! I honestly don’t have a ton of thoughts about it, other than that it was a great story and really enjoyable to read!

Things I Liked the Most:

  • H.S. Kylian’s writing style. The story was super immersive and exciting to read!
  • Again, the family setting. That’s one thing I appreciated about this entire anthology; none of the authors were afraid to use family themes in their stories.

Author Bio: H.S. Kylian (a.k.a Hannah) has been in love with writing since she was nine, really got into it at thirteen, and discovered the gem of story structure at eighteen. When she’s not writing, she’s daydreaming about writing while doing other things like knitting/reading/photography/studying theology and apologetics, or playing board games and watching movies/TV shows with her family. She lives with her family and a couple of cats and dogs in the beautiful PNW.

Author Links:

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To Be Loved – by Saraina Whitney

Blurb: A young noblewoman’s recklessness cost someone his life.

Stricken with regret and shame, Evangeline has fled her home city in disgrace, rejected both by the family she loves and even, she fears, by God. She’s desperate to start a new life all alone, separated even from Reed, the private investigator who stole her heart years ago. But he’s just as desperate not to let her face this nightmare on her own. How can his most relentless efforts ever convince her that she is still wanted?

Overall Thoughts: I also loved the themes in this story, and the dialogue was definitely the best part! Everything flowed together smoothly and it turned out to be a beautiful story! This is another one of my favorites in the anthology.

Things I Liked the Most:

  • The dialogue! Nothing felt stiff; it all flowed perfectly and felt natural.
  • Evangeline’s backstory. For me, it can be hard to incorporate a good backstory into a short story, because you have a limited amount of words to use and it’s hard to work it in. But I think Saraina did a wonderful job of writing a good backstory and incorporating little bits of it throughout the story.

Author Bio: Saraina Whitney is a passionate Christian writer who has a weakness for poignant stories with hints of true hope. She lives in the windy Illinois countryside with her family of fourteen. Known as the quietest of them all (except when she’s singing), she loves observing people and sharing inside jokes about movies with her siblings. She often spends her free time editing what she just wrote, rereading her favorite scenes from books, learning about Myers-Briggs personality types, or playing piano pieces from epic soundtracks. Her short story To Be Loved in the Tell Me You Love Me anthology is her first publication. Connect with her at www.sarainawhitney.wordpress.com.

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I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publishers. I was not required to provide a positive review. All opinions expressed are mine alone.

To Conclude…

In case you can’t tell, I really love this anthology! I would highly recommend it to romance-lovers ages 12 and up. We need more clean Christian stories like this in the world!

If you would like to purchase Tell Me You Love Me anthology, you can buy it on Amazon. I definitely recommend checking it out!

In the meantime, keep your eyes peeled for a post this Wednesday about my upcoming book release… I can’t wait!

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11 responses to “Book Review: Tell Me You Love Me Anthology”

  1. H.S. Kylian Avatar

    How on earth did I miss this post?? Thank you so much for your sweet review, Annabelle!!

    1. Annabelle Avatar
      Annabelle

      Of course! 🙂

  2. Grandma Patty Avatar
    Grandma Patty

    Great job Annabelle! Your reviews were very inspiring and well written!

    Love, Love

    1. Annabelle Avatar
      Annabelle

      Thanks! <3

  3. Ava Coulter Avatar

    Lovely review, Annabelle!!!

    1. Annabelle Avatar
      Annabelle

      Thanks, Ava!

  4. Grace A. Johnson Avatar

    AH! What a fantabulous review!!! Thank you SO much for reading and reviewing TMYLM, Annabelle! <3

    1. Annabelle Avatar
      Annabelle

      You’re welcome, Grace! It was totally worth it!

      1. Grace A. Johnson Avatar

        ❤️❤️❤️

  5. Saraina Whitney Avatar

    Eeeeee, I love the way you reviewed this, Annabelle!!! I’m SO glad you enjoyed the anthology, and thank you for your wonderful review of To Be Loved!!! (*whispers* Lol, the backstory actually WAS hard to incorporate, so I’m relieved all that editing and re-working paid off! )

    1. Annabelle Avatar
      Annabelle

      Thanks, Saraina!! Yeah, you did a great job!

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