The Thorn Bearer - Review & Interview with Pepper D. Basham [Blog Tour & Giveaway]

I first "met" Pepper D. Basham on the Seekerville writing blog, so it's neat to see her go from aspiring to published author!  When fellow librarian, Sydney from Singing Librarian Books announced this blog tour, I knew I had to apply to be a reviewer.  Don't forget to enter the giveaway at the end of this post for a chance to win The Thorn Bearer!

Series: Penned in Time
Genre: Fiction, Historical, Romance, Christian
Published: May 7, 2015 by Vinspire Publishing, LLC
Number of pages: 362

Other books in the series:
The Thorn Keeper (Book 2 coming February 2016)
The Thorn Healer (Book 3 coming TBD)

About the Book:
When Ashleigh Dougall’s fiancĂ© leaves her eight months before their wedding, the unexpected blow ignites a battalion of insecurities stemming from her father’s intimate betrayal. In an attempt to escape her shame, Ashleigh boards the ill-fated Lusitania to cross the war-torn waters of Europe. Much to her dismay, she isn’t traveling alone.

Sam Miller is always making up for his best friend’s mistakes. Determined to help his childhood friend, Ashleigh, he offers his compassion and companionship as she ventures across a perilous sea. With the faint hope of renewing his lost love for Ashleigh’s sister, Sam never expects to find the woman of his dreams in the love of his childhood friend. Neither are prepared for the life-altering and heart-breaking journey of their friendship.

Pepper D. Basham's debut novel has arrived at the perfect time.  Thanks to the television series, Downton Abbey, there's been so much more interest in World War I and the early 20th century.  Published exactly 100 years after the sinking of the Lusitania, The Thorn Bearer blends real-life events with unique characters, plot twists, and drama that would make Julie Lessman proud!
Believe me, I'm not exaggerating!  The tension between Ashleigh and her sister Catherine reminded me of Lessman's O'Connor sisters.  If you can get me to feel very ... strongly ... about your characters (and then get me to like a character I hated), then in my book, you've got great characterization skills.  The only criticism I have is that the climax conflict between the two romantic leads could have easily been solved if they'd bothered to clarify and not assume (so many assumptions!) but that type of conflict is normal in a romance novel, so while it did annoy me, it's also proof that by then I was invested: I cared about these characters!

Though seeing names like "Ashleigh" or "Jessica" seemed a bit too modern for the age of the characters (who would have been born before the turn of the 20th century), other historical details of daily life helped me immerse myself in the novel.  And the metamorphosis and growth of other side characters made me wish I was able to get in on The Thorn Keeper's blog tour!  I'll certainly be following Pepper D. Basham's future work  If you like to read stories with strong interpersonal conflict (drama!) and tension that leads to satisfying endings (or are just suffering Downton Abbey withdrawal), Basham's novels might be a good choice!

Be sure to keep reading for an exclusive interview with Pepper below!

[Disclosure: I received a copy of this book as a participant of Singing Librarian Books' blog tour for review purposes.]

Pepper Basham is an award-winning author who writes romance peppered with grace and humor. She currently resides in the lovely mountains of Asheville, NC where she is the mom of 5 great kids, speech-pathologist to about fifty more, lover of chocolate, jazz, and Jesus, and proud AlleyCat over at a group writing blog, The Writer’s Alley.

Her debut historical romance novel, The Thorn Bearer, released in May 2015, with the second arriving in February 2016. Her first contemporary romance debuts in spring 2016.

Connect with Pepper through her website:, Facebook, Twitter, PinterestGoodreads, or Amazon Author Page.

Congrats on your publishing debut, Pepper!  What inspired you to write this novel?
Several things converged to inspire this novel. I'd already gotten the idea of a heroine who suffered from the dark betrayal of sexual abuse, but other than that - I was kind of flailing around in the water of story creating until.... I discovered a book at yard sale about the ill-fated Lusitania. For some reason, the turmoil of that ship's last voyage and the inner turmoil of my heroine bound together to create this book. :-)
I appreciated the internal struggle Ashleigh faced due to her past abuse; dealing with something like that is never clear-cut, so it felt more authentic ... I love yard sales, so the fact that "your find" was also a story idea made me smile!

Historicals generally have some research involved in their creation. What is the most interesting thing you learned while researching for this novel?

Most things about the lesser-known Lusitania, were interesting. Alfred Vanderbilt, cousin to the Vanderbilts of Asheville, NC who built the Biltmore House, died during the sinking.
Can you talk about the book cover design process for you as an author? How much input did you have into the final design (if any)?
Well, I filled out a 'cover information sheet' in the beginning with info like what 'colors' I imagined for this book, important aspects that might be noteworthy to include visually, what the characters looked like, etc. Once the cover draft came, it was so lovely there were very few suggestions I had.

I'm in love with Ashleigh's gown on the cover ... I think it's especially well designed for an "indie publisher" --they did a great job!  Since I had an "Art" question, I should ask a "Librarian" question ... LOL. Why should people read fiction? Why do you write fiction?
God loves story. It's pretty evident in the fact that he placed His Word in print so it could transform the lives of His kids, but within that He uses story to tell truths, communicate comfort, and inspire his people. Though the Bible is not fiction, Jesus used parables to share Big truths in everyday ways. I think fiction does that for us. We are created as beings with imaginations, who naturally reach out to touch other people's lives. Stories are a wonderful medium to combine both - and that's why I write. I believe God's called me to use stories to touch lives and show His grace. 
Well said!  Thanks so much for taking the time to answer my questions, Pepper! To learn more about Pepper's life as an author, check out this short video:

Virtual brownie points for making to the end of this post!  Please feel free to visit some of the other awesome book bloggers on this tour:
January 30--Fictionally 

Do you have a favorite novel set during the early 20th century?  Want to congratulate Pepper on her debut?  Feel free to comment below!
The Thorn Bearer - Review & Interview with Pepper D. Basham [Blog Tour & Giveaway] The Thorn Bearer - Review & Interview with Pepper D. Basham [Blog Tour & Giveaway] Reviewed by The Artist Librarian on 1/28/2016 10:11:00 PM Rating: 5


  1. Jen,
    Thank you for that great review and for featuring my debut Your points are well taken and I'm really curious to see how you compare book 2 to book 1 :-)

    I actually did research on the name Ashleigh before using it because it seemed 'modern' to me too, but then I realized it was an old name for a resilient tree...and somehow that fit my characters struggle very well. Um.... Sad to say, I didn't research Jessica's as much but now I think I might ;)
    Thanks for your kind words and I'm so glad this story touched your heart!!
    Seekerville rocks!

    1. I'm jumping in here with a random comment: have you been to the baby name wizard website? It shows the history and popularity of a name over time. I think it would be pretty handy researching names!

    2. Woohoo! Thanks for the info, Courtney. ANY helpful hints I can learn I'm all for them!

    3. I never really memorized it, but I was really into anthroponomastics (i.e. name meanings) as a teen, so that's probably why it bothered me. You're right though, the spelling of "Ashleigh" isn't modern, but I don't think it would have been used for girls until a bit later (according to one source, it didn't gain mainstream popularity as a female name until the mid 20th century). But I love the name meaning --it does fit perfectly for Ashleigh. Jessica could possibly work for the time period (maybe a bit early) but for a little girl. I think the 1920s was when people really started utilizing that name, though most people credit Shakespeare for creating it. I viewed the names as being that perhaps their parents were ahead of the trends, so it didn't totally detract from the novel ... If everyone had ambiguously modern sounding names, that'd be a different story. ;-) My favorite baby name website is --it gives about a paragraph of background and origin info ... But it's good to cross check with several sources, since the info can vary from time to time. Thanks for stopping by! :) @Courtney - great site suggestion!

    4. Love these great links!! Thanks, Jen!! And I love talking with people who have particular knowledge of things.

  2. Btw, which costume was your favorite to wear ;-) I love costumes!!

    1. Ooh, tough choice! Astrid from How to Train Your Dragon 2 or Twilight Sparkle from My Little Pony --I get recognized the most by kids in those and it's fun to see their expressions. :-)

    2. And I am very well aware of who both of those characters are! We are big fans of both of those animated features in this house ;-)

  3. Yes, we can compare this to the O'Connor sisters on so many levels: the sisters, the tension, the drama, and the swoony romance! To me, that's a very good thing.

    I do know what you mean about the assumption thing, but I think it worked well because there was a legitimate misunderstanding. Great review and interview!

    1. Very funny coincidence here. The Thorn Bearer was written 8 years ago, well before I ever inhaled a Julie Lessman novel. Kind of funny that we both had the same tension in mind.
      Also another interesting behind-the-scenes bit - in the first two versions of TTB, Catherine wasn't redeemed. It wasn't until the third rewrite that I got to a point in the story and felt the inner urge (Holy Spirit?? ;-) saying "I want her too."
      Love writing with God!

    2. Ok, that just gave me chills. Isn't that just like God to remind us He wants everyone to see redemption! I can't wait to read TTK soon!

      Yes, that is a neat coincidence! And "inhaled" is a good term for her novels :) Now I'm curious, which of hers is YOUR favorite?

  4. very tough question, Courtney. I love APMP but I think I enjoyed A Passion Denied the best of the Daughter's of Boston. I'm pretty sure Katie's story was my fav of the folloup series ;-)

    And I'm looking forward to hearing what you think about Catherine's transformation in book 2 :-) She was SUCH a joy to write!!

    1. Ah, how neat! Great minds think alike, I suppose ... I'm actually really eager to see Catherine's story played out --and I really didn't like her for the majority of the book! Pepper got me to care and sympathize with a character I didn't really have positive feelings about ... Authors are magic. :-P So glad you went with that route. A Hope Undaunted is my favorite Julie Lessman novel at the moment. :)

    2. And that's my second fav of Julie Lessman's! I LOVE Katie and Luke


Thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts! Comments are always welcomed and appreciated. In respect for others, please keep your comments PG/"family friendly" =)

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