I’ve watched many friends and acquaintances go through the trials and tribulations of breast cancer and treatment. But reading Barbara Britton’s Christmas at Whispering Creek was the first time I’d read about it in fiction, through the survivor’s point of view.
Barbara can write about this authentically, because she has lived it. She brings her firsthand experience with breast cancer to the page through fictional protagonist Samantha. Read this and you’ll have a better idea of the daily ins and outs of a cancer survivor.
All Samantha Williams wants to do is to use her teaching degree to instruct a classroom of second graders. But, after a breast cancer diagnosis at the age of twenty-three, and failed reconstruction surgery, Sam finds herself without a job and temporarily living with her parents. This isn’ t the life Sam expected. When a family friend dies and leaves Sam a house and land in Whispering Creek, Tennessee, Sam must decide if leaving Wisconsin for Southern living is in her lesson plans.
Nashville native, Cole Donoven, left his family’ s electrical business to write country music. When Cole’ s song-writing partner and girlfriend dumps him for a country music star, Cole abandons Nashville to hole up in Whispering Creek and compose one more song. The last thing Cole expects to find in the sleepy small town is a deceased friend, estate squabbles, and a Northern beauty. Will the chaos in Whispering Creek help create a bestselling song for Cole and possibly help him find a life-long collaborator?
The print edition will release on December 1.
Life throws a curve ball at Samantha when she is diagnosed with breast cancer at such a young age. But the curve balls keep coming. After a dear family friend dies, Wisconsin girl finds herself in Tennessee with an inherited house and a cranky next door neighbor.
Meanwhile, Cole is dodging curve balls of his own. Trying to, anyhow. Part of his maneuvers involve attempting to prove himself to his critical father and brother to secure his place in the family.
Both Sam and Cole are reeling from painful breakups. It’s all the more complicated for Sam who now wears a prosthetic breast. Can any worthwhile guy overlook a missing body part to see, appreciate, and embrace the real Sam? Experience has taught her no.
This story gives glimpses into the life of a cancer survivor, and what that entails in everyday living. Things I’d never thought of before. My heart went out to Sam and her struggles, but also to Cole. I attribute that to the author’s skill in creating three-dimensional, multi-faceted characters that live and breathe on the page. Cole and Sam are likable and relatable. You can’t help but root for them. I particularly enjoyed their bantering.
One caveat. I wanted to see more tension with Cole wrestling through his thoughts regarding Sam’s condition once he discovered it. Regardless, this sweet story is just right for a Christmastime romance. If you like stories with a strong faith element (and lots of prayers), you’ll find it here.
The story is enhanced by the author’s personal experience with cancer. Be sure to read her notes afterward.
Join me for some Q & A with author Barbara Britton.
Questions about Christmas at Whispering Creek
Besides Until June, you’ve focused on novels of Biblical fiction. What was your inspiration for writing a contemporary romance? What’s your personal connection to the setting and situation of Christmas at Whispering Creek?
Barbara: I’m a breast cancer survivor. Over the last few years, I have received phone calls from friends who had the same diagnosis. Everyone knows someone (personally or in the news) who has been affected by breast cancer.
I decided to write about a young woman who was a breast cancer survivor. I thought Samantha might be too young at twenty-three-years-old, but sadly younger women are receiving breast cancer diagnoses. I would have written a biblical story, but it would have been difficult to have a cancer storyline in Bible Times.
Whispering Creek is a fictional town. I made up a small town in a rural area and chose Tennessee as the state. My husband and I pastored in a small town in Illinois where farming was prevalent.
How similar are you and Samantha personality-wise? How is her breast cancer experience both similar to and different from yours?
Barbara: I would like to think Samantha and I are similar. She is a teacher and loves children. I enjoy teaching children, especially if the curriculum involves the Bible. You will see some children’s lessons in the book.
Samantha and I have lost breasts to cancer. I have lost both of mine, though Samantha has lost a single breast. The verses in Philippians that encouraged Samantha and Cole are the same ones I read frequently while battling cancer. I was much older when I received my cancer diagnosis, and I was married for over thirty years. Being a young, unmarried woman would add life challenges.
The reader can contrast and compare our stories as I placed my personal journey in the back of the book.
How did you develop the characters of your heroine Samantha and hero Cole?
Barbara: Magazine advertisements are wonderful for getting an impression of a character. I use perfume advertisements and television personalities to craft my characters. Each character will have their unique traits.
With Samantha, I thought about her midwestern roots and her teaching background to bring her personality to life. Cole has a southern flare and likes candy or food that has a sizzle. Cole plays country music, so I watched videos of country music stars and pieced his looks together. I have lived all over the United States and have seen the regional differences. I used that experience for creating my characters.
If you and Samantha were going to have lunch together, where would you go and what would she ask you?
Barbara: We would go to Culver’s for fried cheese curds and a burger. We’d both order iced tea. I hadn’t tasted iced tea until I moved to Texas for college. Now, I drink it all the time.
Sam would ask me how I navigate the world as a breast-free woman. I would tell her to remember that she is a child of God and that she is a beautiful creation. Sometimes you have to laugh at the challenges of life and remember that Christians will have glorified bodies in heaven. Everyone’s body is aging, and we never know what may change the way we look. We need to stand on the rock of Jesus when dealing with storm damage.
Do you see your audience as breast cancer survivors or women in general? How do you want this novel to resonate with your readers?
Barbara: Women of all ages will enjoy this novel. Believe me, you will laugh in this story. Sam’s friend Emma keeps things lighthearted and real.
I hope women take their health seriously and that this story will remind them to do monthly breast checks and to schedule their yearly mammography. I pray they will see themselves as beautiful children of God—uniquely and wonderfully made. God loved each of us so much that he sent His Son to die on a cross for our sins and conquer death so we may have eternal life. Our eternal life starts now.
Will you be returning to Biblical fiction or sticking with contemporary romance for a while?
Barbara: Good question! I am working on a sequel to Christmas at Whispering Creek which will keep me in the contemporary romance genre. I do have Bible characters nagging me, so you should see another biblical story.
Back to Laura . . . On a similar note . . .
If you like southern historical fiction, you might enjoy my recently re-launched novel All That Is Hidden, Set near North Carolina’s Smoky Mountains in 1968 (not far from Barbara’s Tennessee setting), the story spotlights the bond of family and the connections of a tight-knit community. Northern exploitation threatens as a father’s hidden past catches up to him and tests family ties. Learn more and watch the trailer here.
In June, I was named a semifinalist in Serious Writer’s Book of the Decade contest for All That Is Hidden. Additionally, in August, All That Is Hidden became the winner of the Artisan Book Reviews Book Excellence Award.
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Barbara Britton bio:
Barbara M. Britton lives in Southeast, Wisconsin. She writes Christian Fiction from Bible Times to present day. Her Tribes of Israel series brings little-known Bible characters to light. She also authored a WWI Historical set in Alaska. Her Christmas story, Christmas at Whispering Creek, will be here for Christmas 2022. Barbara has a nutrition degree from Baylor University but loves to dip healthy strawberries in chocolate.
Join me next time for a visit with author Naomi Craig.
Meanwhile, have you read any books by Barbara Britton? Do you enjoy Christmas fiction? Answer in the comments below.