Starving Hearts by Janine Mendenhall

Posted by on Aug 25, 2017 | 4 comments

Starving Hearts by Janine Mendenhall

Starving Hearts has achieved the amazing honor of being both a Carol and Selah Award Finalist as a debut novel for author Janine Mendenhall. I know you’ll enjoy meeting this historical romance fanatic who teaches school by day and writes at night. Janine is giving away one free print copy of her book, so leave a comment and sign in on the Rafflecopter at the bottom! 



Fabulous Fridays

Starving Hearts

Welcome, Janine! You lead a very busy life! Please tell us a little about your family and background.

Doesn’t your life just drive you crazy sometimes? I mean traffic, crowding, and the constant nag of everything from social media to whatever mayhem is on the news?

I’m originally from a family of elementary school teachers who lived and worked in the Los Angeles, California area so my life could be hectic.  In fact, some people say I’m a crazy because I became a full-time high school English teacher and mother of four children while living in Los Angeles. (We adopted a fifth child once we moved to the eastern side of the country, too.)

Now that I’m in North Carolina, I feel like I’ve arrived at the calmest place this side of heaven. At least there’s a lot less traffic and far fewer people. And for the first time ever, I get to be a stay at home mom!

Of course, my youngest son is 14 ½ years old and is going into tenth grade, so the at home mom thing is different than what one usually thinks about that role, but it’s great for me because I get to write. My older children range from 19 to 23, and I hear wedding bells and two college graduations for next summer, so things are bound to change.

Congratulations on being named both a Carol and Selah Finalist for your debut novel, Starving Hearts! When did you first discover you were a writer? Share something about your journey to publication with us.

Not only is Starving Hearts, the first book of the Triangular Trade Trilogy, a Selah finalist, but it is also Carol Award Finalist which is amazing! Whoever thought a debut author’s first book could achieve this position?

At this point, however, I must give credit where it is due. Without God’s help, I would not be able to do anything let alone write a book or a series like this.

As far as my writing journey? I still have the first story I ever wrote in my tenth grade English class. Someday, I might even share it, but I never really thought of myself as a novelist. Writing was a hobby I squeezed in between sewing all the Halloween costumes, grading student essays, and making birthday cakes that looked like volcanoes or penguins. (If you ask my kids, they might say there wasn’t too much of a difference between those.)

Once my kids got past those fun and busy stages and after we moved to North Carolina, I decided I wanted to write a book. An English teacher should know how to write, right?

Popular fiction is a lot different than writing an essay, though. So to learn how to do it, I started attending writers’ conferences and reading up on the craft. Now, approximately seven years later, I’m writing books. And readers like them. What a blessing!

Starving Hearts meme

What do your English students think of having a published author as a teacher?

My students want to know when the movies are coming out, and I promise them they could be extras if that ever happened. Who knows, though? God will do what He as He pleases.

Tell us something about your flash fiction writing.

While some of these stories can be very dark, I enjoy writing flash fiction that gives hope, just like my books.

These short stories are only about 700 to 1,000 words, and they get right into the action without much attention to setting or background. I started writing them for Splickety Love and Prime, an online magazine, as a way of getting my name out there. Writing them also helped me develop my craft.

When you sign up for my newsletter/blog posts at, you receive “Music to His Heart,” the very first glimpse of the story behind Starving Hearts.

I’m also writing a whole collection as a gift for my street team and anyone else who really likes my work and wants to help spread the word. They will be flashes of the prequel and backstory for Starving Hearts.

How did you first come up with the idea for Starving Hearts?

The story behind Starving Hearts isn’t pretty. In fact, it used to wake me up at night. Have you ever had any nightmares like that? How did you feel trying to get back into life’s routine the next day?

Anyway, after quite a few sleepless nights, I decided I’d write down the dream. I even promised to include it in a book someday, if only I could get it out of my head.

If you’ve read Starving Hearts, you’ll spot my nightmare in the subplot about the slave trade. It appears when you’re onboard the Terona with Peter as he’s struggling through the hurricane.

If you haven’t, all I can say is—much to my horror—my dream made it seem like I was on the ship watching the horrendous abuse of some defenseless slave. The scene doesn’t last too long and the story ends well, but for the sake of historical authenticity—be warned.

Interestingly enough as I wrote the scene, I began to wonder how that stuff got imprinted on my mind. I didn’t remember studying too much of it in school, at least not in such painfully vivid detail.

Then it struck me.

When I was a child, my parents forbade me from watching the film of Alex Haley’s Roots. However, I used to sneak out of bed and catch a few minutes while hiding in the kitchen and watching through the food pass-through. And they never caught me.

Maybe those images were stamped in my mind way back then.

Needless to say, as both an English teacher and an author, I’m careful with plagiarism, so I went back and watched Roots and Queen, its sequel, to confirm that I hadn’t accidentally copied them.

But there weren’t any scenes like the one I had in my head.

The question kept haunting me, though. Where had I viewed or experienced those images?

Toward the end of the editing process, I made another concerted effort to present my worry about copyright issues to the Lord and prayed for Him to show me how I came to have such a terrible dream.

Thankfully, He revealed the source, which I had forgotten about, and sure enough, I found what had been locked in my memory when I studied it again.

I made adjustments to Starving Hearts to prevent copyright problems, of course. Now the scene is buried in the heart Annette and Peter’s story instead of in my head.

Introduce us briefly to the main characters in Starving Hearts, and tell us how much of yourself you write into your characters.

This list of characters is quite lengthy, but the romance occurs between Miss Annette Chetwynd, who doubts God’s existence, and Mr. Peter Adsley, a devout many of faith who wants to become a pastor. Is that a good start? Of course, Starving Hearts is not a romance strictly speaking. It’s historical, but there’s a great spark between these two. And imagine the conflict between a pastor and a non-believing girl he loves!

Then there’s Sir Steven Likebridge, the villain. He is a wretched man who will stop a nothing to get what he wants. Some readers like him the best because he’s such an interesting blend of wickedness and painful loss. He is also the main character of Never Past Hope, the second book in the series, so I have to say I love him too. Spending the day with him would be very interesting, especially if we went to a masked ball together. (My husband, who is a beta reader for me, approves this statement.)

I could continue describing the rest of the very human characters, but it would take quite a while so I’ll leave you with this little tidbit about who I am as a writer.

I break rules, especially the traditional point of view rules.

Instead of writing from only Peter’s or Annette’s view, I let all my lead characters (and some minor one) tell you the story from their own perspectives.

Between that and the wealth of dialogue, Starving Hearts is likely to be very different compared to other Christian historicals and romances you’ve read. It will most definitely have twists and create suspense, too.

I credit Steven James, award-winning Christian crime/thriller author, with being my writing mentor, so it’s to be expected. And to be quite frank, all of my characters have bit of me in them because I want them and their struggles to be relevant to us today.

What was involved in researching Starving Hearts?

Research: let me think about that.

Janine Mendenhall period costume The back cover of my book reads, “. . . Most nights she reads, writes, and watches movies like Pride and Prejudice and claims she Janine Mendenhall's childrenis researching her next book,” which is not too far from the truth, except I don’t watch period drama every night.

They help describe what Peter and Annette see as if you are right beside them. Movies let us hear the ballroom music and the touch the silken dresses while savoring the golden haze of candlelight that softens her cheek while causing shadows to dance across the fresco ceilings.

Do you know what I mean? Those things are all so elegant and romantic, too perfect for a history book.

I’ve devoted many hours to studying the slave trade; the triangular trade route from England to Africa to Jamaica and back, and everything from the floor plan of a Georgian country house to what was on the menu for breakfast during that era.

I even found the date a nameless slave ship left from my exact port in Africa and landed in Jamaica.  I’ve named it the Terona in Starving Hearts, and I counted the days it took to get across the Atlantic Ocean to Falmouth, Jamaica.

Some authors don’t enjoy the research part of writing, but it’s all part of the fun for me.

(As you can see, not only Janine, but her children get into the act!)

How do you see the importance of Christian romance novels?

Christian historical novels and romances are another great way to share the Gospel about Jesus Christ! Nothing else I have to say is of much value. He is the Cure for all our ills, and all glory goes to Him. Therefore, in a world as dark as ours, we need to share His Light in as many places as possible. And what better place than in a Georgian Era novel? There were Christians in the time too.

When I wrote Starving Hearts, I asked that God would take it wherever and to whomever He chose. It is His work, not mine, and I stand by that same prayer for all my books. I write for His glory, and I pray He uses all Christian books for His purposes.

Please share a favorite excerpt from Starving Hearts. 

Since the beginning is the best place to start, here’s a sneak peek at the first five or so chapters.

Amazon Link:

Book Blurb:

Since her assault, Miss Annette Chetwynd has been plagued by nightmares and worries about an arranged marriage. But she yearns to find her anonymous rescuer. Unfortunately, her health and intellect prevent it. Both repel suitors and cause Annette to doubt God’s existence, at least until He answers her prayers in an unusual way…

Mr. Peter Adsley is joining the clergy, and he desires a godly wife by his side. After a failed attempt to obtain one, he engages in a clandestine meeting with the bewitching young woman who keeps crossing his path. But she is so unsettling.

Destined for disappointments, Peter and Annette both endure disgraceful situations. Will Peter’s faith sustain him through overwhelming setbacks? Can Annette overcome her doubts? Or will their starving hearts yield to the machinations of a mad man?

About the author:

Janine Mendenhall author I love losing myself somewhere in time with Downton Abbey, Pride and Prejudice or a number of other classics like Jane Eyre and Redeeming Love. I cry over most things Nicholas Sparks (because they usually end sadly) and Amazing Grace, both the movie and the hymn, because they lead to the Ultimate happily ever after.

Ball gowns, Jane Austen, and historical social issues–like the slave trade and arranged marriage–fascinate me. I especially love the struggles that happen when opposites attract and a leading man and his heroine adventure into issues of faith.

After thirty-eight years of living in Los Angeles, I’ve landed in western NC where I’m amazed by colored trees, four seasons, and the awesome opportunity to write.

When I’m not grading papers, writing, or researching, I help my husband and our two golden retrievers manage our five children and two lap cats.

Connect with Janine:


Book Trailer:

Facebook Author Page:





Starving Hearts:

Starving Hearts cover

a Rafflecopter giveaway


  1. This is a new-to-me author, and I would love to win a copy of her book. It sounds like a very good read. Thanks for the chance. ????

  2. Excellent interview! I loved reading Janine’s insights as an author and educator. As a teacher myself, I give her credit for giving all of her energy in the classroom and then being able to come home and write. Keep it up, Janine, and congratulations on your awards–impressive!

  3. I’m interested in learning more about this pastor and the girl he loves because she’s a non-believer.

  4. It sounds like an interesting book and I would love to read it!

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This

Did you enjoy this?

If so, please help spread the happiness! Share this post with your friends!

%d bloggers like this: