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Playing by Heart

Playing by Heart

4.5 36
by Anne Mateer

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"Mateer's turn-of-the-century story is full of characters who will touch your heart."—RT Book Reviews

Lula Bowman has finally achieved her dream: a teaching position and a scholarship to continue her college education in mathematics. But then a shocking phone call from her sister, Jewel, changes everything.

With a


"Mateer's turn-of-the-century story is full of characters who will touch your heart."—RT Book Reviews

Lula Bowman has finally achieved her dream: a teaching position and a scholarship to continue her college education in mathematics. But then a shocking phone call from her sister, Jewel, changes everything.

With a heavy heart, Lula returns to her Oklahoma hometown to do right by her sister, but the only teaching job available in Dunn is combination music instructor/basketball coach. Lula doesn't even consider those real subjects!

Determined to prove herself, Lula commits to covering the job for the rest of the school year. Reluctantly, she turns to the boys' coach, Chet, to learn the newfangled game of basketball. Chet is handsome and single, but Lula has no plans to fall for a local boy. She's returning to college and her scholarship as soon as she gets Jewel back on her feet.

However, the more time she spends around Jewel's family, the girls' basketball team, music classes, and Chet, the more Lula comes to realize what she's given up in her single-minded pursuit of degree after degree. God is working on her heart, and her future is starting to look a lot different than she'd expected.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Mateer (Wings of a Dream) takes readers back to Dunn, Oklahoma, and waxes poetical about a time filled with hope, fear, and charm. As World War I rages overseas, Lula Bowman leaves behind a prestigious and burgeoning career in academia to return home and assume care of her newly widowed sister, Jewel, and Jewel’s four children. Cognizant of her new role as the family’s chief breadwinner, Lula accepts a high school teaching position that comes with a little something extra—responsibility for coaching the ladies basketball team—a sport about which she knows nothing. With the help of the handsome men’s basketball coach, Chet Vaughn, Lula falls in love of the sport and rediscovers things long since forgotten about herself. Filled with warmth and faith, this tale of perseverance and grace serves as a reminder of a more innocent time where, despite life’s difficulties, strength was derived from the joys (and amusements) found in a small, close-knit community. (Sept.)

Product Details

Baker Publishing Group
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
5.50(w) x 8.40(h) x 0.50(d)

Read an Excerpt

Playing by Heart

By Anne Mateer

Bethany House

Copyright © 2014 D'Ann Mateer
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-7642-1065-5



"Mr.—" I glanced down at my seating chart, heart drumming in my ears. My third week in front of a college classroom filled with male students. Three weeks of looking past their disdain. Three weeks holding my ground by sheer force of will.

I could do this. For myself. For my father.

"Mr. Graham, could you please tell us about the concept of linear combination?"

Mr. Graham stretched out his legs and glanced at his classmates on either side. His lips twisted into a smirk as he twirled his pencil through his fingers. "I could explain it, but are you certain you grasp its complexities?"

I sucked in a breath, my back snapping as straight as a loblolly pine, my cheeks stinging hot. Not a new slur, to be sure, but no student had yet dared be insolent to my face.

The air in the classroom stilled, anticipation hanging as heavy as a chartreuse sky over the Oklahoma plains in springtime. My body tensed, waiting to see if others would add their opinions. I didn't know how to answer. I'd worked hard to get to this place, harder than I'd ever worked in my life. I couldn't crumble now.

I pressed a hand to my churning stomach. The committee had chosen me, Miss Lula Bowman, as the recipient of the Donally Mathematics Award. I received tuition to pursue my graduate degree as well as a stipend for teaching a first-year mathematics course. I'd weathered stronger gales than Mr. Graham to reach this place.

Arching my eyebrows, I tried to peer down my nose at the boy-man, wishing I had a pair of spectacles to complete the look. "I'm perfectly capable of understanding it, thank you. Let's hope you have the same capacity."

Mr. Graham's disdain didn't slacken. Instead, his mouth curved into a slow smile as his eyes raked down the length of me. "You aren't so bad looking, Miss Bowman. Couldn't you find a man that would have you?"

My lungs expanded as far as my corset would allow, hands fisting and loosening with each angry breath. I pulled up to my full height—wishing it were more than five feet two inches—and tipped my chin toward the ceiling, hoping to add a bit more stature. "I don't know why you are attending college, Mr. Graham, but I assume the others are here to learn. If you impede that process, I will take up your behavior with the dean. Are we clear?"

But even as the words left my mouth, I trembled, knowing I had no real recourse. To admit I couldn't manage the class would be the same as admitting failure. No, I had to handle Mr. Graham on my own, using the same granite resolve I had with my older brothers and sisters when they'd insisted college was a waste of time and money.

"I will thank you to respect my position as a scholar even if you can't reconcile it with my gender, Mr. Graham. Women are capable of more accomplishments than a pretty song on the piano or a tasty meal to fill your belly. You'd do well to remember that."

* * *

The pine table, littered with scribbled pages and mathematics journals, wavered. The pencil dropped from my fingers, rolled off the edge, and clattered to the floor. I rubbed my eyes and sucked in the still, hot air of an Indian summer, temperatures far too warm for the last week of September. I reached for a book and fanned it in front of my face as I considered once more my latest calculations, the ones that refused to be solved.

A line of moisture rolled down the back of my neck, plastering an escaped strand of hair to my skin. I set it free, then blew out a long breath, attempting to make my own bit of breeze.

I groaned into the silence, replaying my altercation with Mr. Graham earlier in the day. He'd been quiet during the rest of the class, but I suspected he'd continue to be trouble, and he knew I knew it.

My elbows thumped to the table. I cradled my head in my hands and stared again at the equation that mocked me while voices buzzed through the hallway. A door closed in the distance. The clacking of shoes against the wooden floor grew louder. I sat up straight. The door opened.

Professor Clayton's white head appeared first, and then the rest of the rumpled man emerged. The corners of my mouth pulled upward in amusement. Ever since Mrs. Clayton's passing two years ago, the professor didn't seem to notice the niceties of life, only the unflinching surety of numbers.

"Ah, Miss Bowman. I'd hoped to find you here." He switched a clutch of papers from one arm to the other as he surveyed the jumble of materials in front of me. I reached across the table and cleared a corner. He let his burden slap to the surface, then riffled through the top few pages until he pulled one free from the stack. His deep blue eyes brightened. "And how is the first female recipient of the Donally Mathematics Award faring this day?"

The male students of our college don't think a female intellect suitable to the rigors of mathematics. But I couldn't tell Professor Clayton that.

"Quite well, thank you, sir."

One white eyebrow quirked. "I've heard something to the contrary, my dear." He waited a moment. I didn't confirm or deny it. Only held his gaze until he sighed. "But then I knew I could count on you to prove the Donally committee wasn't mistaken in their choice."

"Yes, sir," I whispered, staring at the table, at the page with the unfinished equation. After six years of alternating work and college classes, I could finally do both at the same time, in the same place, thanks to the award. I refused to let swaggering young men of eighteen or nineteen ruin all I'd earned.

Professor Clayton peered at the paper in front of me. "Trouble with that one?"

I nodded, shame spreading heat into my cheeks.

"Work the problem again, Miss Bowman. You almost have the correct answer." He crossed the room to his desk.

I twisted in my chair. "But how can I fix it when I can't figure out where I've gone wrong?"

He blinked at me as if I'd asked him a question about the latest fashions, not mathematics. I started to repeat myself, but his hand rose to stop my words. "When all else fails, start again at the beginning." He returned to shuffling papers.

I stared at the page, at the scrawled numbers that refused to cooperate. Could Mr. Graham be right? What if I didn't have it in me to understand?

No. If I gave in, if I quit, I'd prove my daddy's belief in me wrong. And prove the naysayers right. The ones who said "Fruity Lu" Bowman would never amount to more than a flibbertigibbet, a pretty little hummingbird who could never alight on one thing for more than a moment.

My jaw tightened. I would not return to that reputation. Ever. I would finish what I'd started, no matter how difficult the task. Picking up my pencil from the floor, I flipped the paper over and copied the equation once more. Daddy and Professor Clayton believed in my ability to succeed in academia, so I did, too.

A grueling twenty minutes later, I handed my page to Professor Clayton. He grinned, set it aside.

Outwardly, I stood unfazed, fingers loosely clasped, but inside I rejoiced.

"Go on with you now," Professor Clayton said gently, jerking his head toward the door. "We've both plenty to do again tomorrow."

I glanced at the clock on the wall. Nearly five. Mrs. McInnish would scold if I came late to the supper table once more this week. I gathered a mathematics journal with my textbooks before darting to the door. Then I stopped. Turned. Professor Clayton's head bent low, drawing his neat script closer to his aging eyes. I scurried back and planted a kiss on his cheek.

He looked up, eyes wide with surprise, then returned to his work. Out on the dusty street, I no longer noticed the oppressive heat. Professor Clayton's approval had turned the world as fresh and new as spring.

* * *

"Miss Bowman? That you?" The lilt of a Scottish accent carried through the screen door as I raced up the steps.

"It is, Mrs. Mclnnish. I'll wash up and be right there!" I swooped up the stairs to my room, tossed my books on the bed, and splashed warm water over my face and neck before straightening the collar of my plain shirtwaist. The looking glass revealed a messy topknot, but I had no time to set my hair to rights. Back down the stairs I ran. I slid into my chair at the dining table just as Mrs. McInnish swept through the kitchen door with a bowl of green beans. I glanced at the three other boarders as I spread my napkin in my lap.

Mrs. McInnish said a blessing, and we all began to spoon food onto our plates. Conversation bubbled like soup on a hot stove: Miss Thompson regaling us with stories about her music students, Miss Readdy complaining about the girl she'd hired to help at the millinery, and Miss Frank giggling over the romantic gestures of her latest beau. I forked food into my mouth and kept silent. I'd learned quickly that none of these girls were interested in the world of mathematics.

My room at Mrs. McInnish's served its purpose, but not in the company it afforded. Long ago I'd decided I had no time for young women engaged in less than serious pursuits. Which meant, of course, that I had few female friends. Or friends of any gender, for that matter. I dabbed at the corner of my mouth with my napkin, anxious to be away from the table and engrossed again in mathematical theories and practical problems. Numbers remained constant in a way other things did not.

The telephone rang. Mrs. McInnish frowned and hopped up from her seat, wondering aloud who would interrupt supper. A moment later, she returned. "Someone wanting to speak with you, Miss Bowman."

All eyes turned to me. My stomach sank toward the floor. "Are you certain they asked for me?"

"Certain as the day is long. Hurry up now. Susie said the call's come through from Dunn. That's to the west, isn't it?"

Dunn, Oklahoma. My heart flopped in my chest and my legs turned to lead.

I hadn't heard from my family in months. Only my sister Jewel's occasional newsy letters filled the gap created when Daddy's stroke left him unable to write. And come to think of it, I hadn't had one of those letters since late August. My breath caught in my chest. Had something happened to Daddy?

Mrs. McInnish pulled at my chair. I forced myself to stand, to jerk my way into the kitchen, where the telephone box hung on the wall. I pressed the receiver to my ear and spoke into the mouthpiece protruding like a nose beneath the two bells that looked like eyes. "This is Miss Bowman."

"Lula." My name came as quiet as a breath across the line. "Lula, I need you."

"Jewel? Is that you?"

The rhythm of crying. My fingers gripped the earpiece more tightly. "What is it, Jewel?"

"Davy's gone."

My whole body tensed. Davy? Her husband?

"What do you mean, gone?"

She hiccuped a sob. "The funeral's Saturday."

Davy Wyatt, always so full of life and laughter, dead? How could it be?

"I need you, Lula. The kids need you. Please come home."

Fear rose in my throat, threatening to choke me. All my life, I'd been in the way. The littlest sister. The baby. And yet it was Jewel who took me in when Mama passed, who helped me afford that first year of college. In spite of her infernal matchmaking schemes, I knew she loved me. And now she needed me. She needed me. "Of course I'll come."

"Tomorrow?" She sounded so frail, so fragile.

I swallowed hard, praying for strength. "Tonight."

"Thank you." The line went silent, at least until Susie, the operator, squawked in my ear. I hung up, stumbled into the dining room, and fell back into my chair.

"What is it?" Miss Frank leaned closer, her face as pale as mine felt.

"My sister's husband has died. I have to go to her." New strength surged through my limbs. I rose. "I have to catch the train. Tonight."

Questions followed me up the stairs, but I had no answers. I brushed aside my satchel, filled a suitcase with a few clothes, then scrawled a quick note to Professor Clayton, telling him I'd return by the beginning of next week. I knew he'd understand. I only hoped the college administration would be as obliging.


Excerpted from Playing by Heart by Anne Mateer. Copyright © 2014 D'Ann Mateer. Excerpted by permission of Bethany House.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Meet the Author

Anne Mateer has a passion for history and historical fiction, and her vacations often revolve around research trips in different parts of the country. She and her husband live near Dallas, Texas, and are the parents of three young adults. Learn more at Anne's website and blog at www.annemateer.com.

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Playing by Heart 4.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 36 reviews.
loriweller1 More than 1 year ago
Playing by Heart is an amazing historical romance. It  describes family life, loss and grief, and females in higher education back in WWI era. It also describes basketball back at that time. I enjoyed the back and forth conversations between the two primary characters. It was lively, fun, romantic and very real to life. I look forward to continuing to read this author's works. I reeived this book from the Book Club Network in exchange for my honest opinion.
J_Augustine More than 1 year ago
A wonderful historical! I've been reading quite a few books from new-to-me authors lately and Playing By Heart is one of them. I've heard a lot of great things about Anne Mateer's book and I'm glad to say that they were all true. I absolutely loved the duel perspectives Anne Mateer used in this book. Events and situations are seen from both Lula's and Chet's viewpoints. After the first few pages the switches were easy to follow and in my opinion made a big difference in how far I was immersed into the lives of the main characters. I think what really tugged at me in this story was the way that Lula and Chet dealt with the, at times, unreasonable and painful expectations from family. Sometimes the people that hurt us the most are those we are closest to, they are also the people that we most fear disappointing. The other thing that caught me was how God's plans and our plans are often not quite the same. He takes us in directions we never expected but where we are truly Supposed to be. As a person who isn't into sports but loves history I really liked learning about the early years and trials of girls basketball. Set against the backdrop of WWI made it even more interesting. A detailed, fun, and thoughtful historical novel. Playing By Heart was my first Anne Mateer book but, believe me, it won't be my last. (I received a copy of this book from the Publisher in exchange for my review. All opinions are my own.)
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is deeply Christian and very family-oriented. I loved how the main characters interacted and came to care for each other for deep personal reasons. It's always pleasant to read tales where the love is not founded solely on physical attractions.
SylviaM More than 1 year ago
Silent films with fast-moving, cheerful characters; phonographs; and old cars pass through my mind when I think of PLAYING BY HEART. Anne Mateer has given us a treasure to enjoy in this novel. Set during WWI in a small Oklahoma town, PLAYING BY HEART, tells us the stories of Lula and Chet. Ordinary individuals who each gave their dreams to God in order to follow His plan by helping and instructing others. Lula starts the novel as a serious, graduate student teaching mathematics at a university. Upon the sudden death of her brother-in-law, God asks her to move to a new town to help her sister and family. Lula loves math and doesn’t want to quit her job or studies. She begrudgingly accepts the only teaching job available in her new town- a high school music teacher. To her shock she is also assigned the position as girls’ basketball coach! Lula doesn’t know a thing about the sport! As a heroine, Lula comes across with a little bit of a split personality. Throughout the novel, she keeps informing us that she used to be cheerful and playful; like a butterfly, flitting from one thing to another with only shallow thoughts. Now Lula’s very determined and serious about life and her job. I couldn’t quite reconcile those two very different behaviors in one person. I believe one can learn self-discipline and apply oneself, but one’s personality is not going to drastically switch. Lula’s friendships seem to revolve around her nephews, nieces, sister, and Chet. She doesn’t have much of a social life. Teaching and practicing the piano for church take a lot of her spare time. Even these appear to be done out of duty rather than love and enjoyment. Lula can be a little stiff at times, but warms up eventually. As I kept reading, the author eventually gave an explanation for Lula’s actions and approach to life, love, and family. I understand her better after knowing her full story, but only partly agree with her reason. Chet is a kind, ordinary gentleman. He’s handsome, but not a flirt. As a hero, he’s more serious and gets several opportunities to assist the heroine. I liked how he took on a father/friend role to Lula’s nephew after the death of the boy’s father. Chet also is a great friend and mentor to the boys on the basketball team he coaches. I love the way he brings Lula out and is her friend, as well, as her love interest. He is forgiving and patient with her and his mother. Even though Chet has his own mountains in life, he lets God help him over them. The themes in PLAYING BY HEART are faith, family, music, and basketball. I like how the hero and heroine had family members they regularly associated with. The bumps within their family life were natural difficulties without being dramatic or over the top. On the subject of faith I appreciated that both Chet and Lula would pray throughout the book. They turned to God when they realized what they were doing in their own strength wasn’t working. Each of their relationships with the Lord got subtly stronger by the end of the book. Basketball is a sport in which I have no interest whatsoever. I wasn’t certain if I would enjoy that aspect of the novel. The details of the practices and actual game got a little boring at times and went over my head. I do appreciate Anne Mateer for including these details because they enhance her book subject. If you are a reader who loves basketball you won’t find these details and game scenes tedious. You will be right there with the characters and love it. I did cheer for the teams in their victories and was able to feel the game spirit even without understanding the sport. The talent of Anne Mateer shines through in the weaving of little period details throughout her work. These gems make the reader feel a part of that particular decade. I loved all the song lyrics, phonograph playing, and the informative, (if somewhat humorous to the 21st century eyes), list of rules for female teachers of that day. It was a normal way of life for those people. I appreciated that the author made the characters accept it and didn’t give them modern views outside of their time period. Anne Mateer’s books are always on my to-read list. I love her research, historical nuggets, and interesting characters. PLAYING BY HEART isn’t my favorite of Anne’s novels, but it certainly made for and enjoyable reading experience and has found a spot on my keeper shelf.
Heather06 More than 1 year ago
I so loved this book. My heart cried for Lula who just wanted to belong and missed her mother so very much even after all the years of losing her. Her brothers and sisters didn't understand her at all and didn't even seem to want to try. In fact, they just didn't seem to want her around except when they needed something that they weren't willing to give up the time for. They even called her Fruity Lu. Another thing that was hard was that the school board made the rules for only women - no going out with men, no dyeing hair (really!). This didn't pertain to the men at all and when Lula was found in a situation with another teacher, she was the only one who lost her job. Definitely not fair. Lula shows how very strong she is by embracing every thing that is thrown at her and doing it with grace and dignity. She may not have wanted to do what she had to do but she stepped up. I had to admire her for that. She also did it without much complaining and I can say that there are times when I can certainly complain about doing things that don't interest me or that don't benefit me. I received a copy of this book from THe Book Club Network for my honest review.
Robbi44 More than 1 year ago
This early nineteen hundreds inspirational story sends a strong message that a person’s plan for his or her life, although seemingly right and good, may not provide lasting fulfillment. Lula Bowman, a mathematics teacher, saw her life planned out with an advanced scholarship and higher education professorship as her main focus for success. This was a worthy goal as women were not usually afforded such an opportunity at that time in history. However, when her sister’s husband is suddenly killed, leaving his wife with four young children, pregnant with the fifth, and no monetary income, Lula is forced to put her life on hold and provide financial assistance for her sister and nieces and nephews in order to survive. This meant moving back to the small town she came from, giving up the scholarship as well as her career, and becoming a music teacher and girls’ basketball coach. She didn’t even know what basketball was all about! It was truly outside her realm. The principal suggested that Lula learn the game and how to coach a team from the boys’ basketball coach, Chet Vaughn. This presented an entirely new set of questions and emotions for both of them. Chet also was struggling with the plan for his life. Added to the daily struggles was World War I and the effect it had on everyone. The author adds several other characters and circumstances to prove that no matter what is happening in and around each person, God is there and wants to provide peace and direction in everything. The characters are as real people are throughout any time in history and their reactions to their circumstances are very believable. I enjoyed following the progress of these characters in their struggles and highly recommend this book as an encouraging story of finding God’s way. I received this free book from Book Club Network in exchange for my honest opinion.
MitziAB More than 1 year ago
5 stars ***** out of five Historical Fiction The title and the cover intrigued me .... The first thing I thought of was, this must be a story about playing music without the help of the music notes. What a delight to find it was so much more than that. Of course, after reading the note from the author at the end of the novel, it gained another depth. When I pick up a novel written by Anne Mateer, I know that beyond being entertained, I will find a kernel of truth to take away with me, and likely learn abit of what it was like to live in another time, in this case, the turn of the century, when basketball is in its early stages. So early, in fact, that Fruity Lu (an unfortunate nickname Lula Bowman is remembered by) had hardly heard of. Told with vivid imagery, I winced at times, chuckled at other times, but always felt connected with the characters. Check it out, no matter if you love sports or not, because after all, this is not a sports novel. Thank you to Tim at Graf-Martin Communications Group and Bethany House a division of Baker Publishing House for the opportunity to read this amazing novel. I received this book free of charge in exchange for an honest review. A positive critique was not required. The opinions are my own.  I apologize for not posting this sooner. I wrote the review right after reading it, but somehow missed posting.
ARS8 More than 1 year ago
Playing by Heart was a thought provoking read by new to me author Anne Mateer. Taking place during World War I in a small town in Oklahoma, we have two characters that are making some tough decisions. Both our hero and heroine are doing what they can do to put their family’s needs before their wants, even while watching their dreams die. I enjoyed watching the tender romance grow and even a bit of the history of basketball. It was interesting to read how women teachers had much stricter rules enforced upon them than the men did. This story alternates from both characters point of view, and I liked really getting to know both of them. This was a well- crafted story and my favorite part was the message. The title says it all and is very fitting. And to quote one of the characters, “…the subject of my work wasn’t as important as the act of doing it well…” I thank The Book Club Network, Inc. (TBCN) for my review copy. The opinions are my own and I look forward to more of Anne Mateers books.
LizR1990 More than 1 year ago
Anne Mateer is an author I have yet to read but, Playing by Heart has convinced me to pick up copies of her remaining novels. She weaves together romance, humor and even a bit of basketball history in a book that had me flipping page after page. Lula Bowman has spent years trying to do away with the stigma of “Fruity Lu,” a name and reputation she earned in high school. She swore off boys, music, games and all things frivolous in order to pursue a degree in mathematics, still considered a man’s field. However, after disaster strikes her family, she puts her goals on hold to return home and help her sister get back on her feet. She never expected a position as a dual music teacher and girls’ basketball coach, as well as a handsome math teacher, would make her question everything she thought she wanted in her life. I think my favorite character of this novel was, by far, Chet. He always made an effort to be caring and kind to his mother, although she never made it easy for him, and he truly cared about Blaze and the boys on his basketball team as well as J.C. Lula was also a character I enjoyed reading about. She was smart and resourceful as well as selfless, giving up on her own dreams to help Jewel. I enjoyed how Lula and Chet were drawn to each other without being overly romantic and thought the author neatly avoided the dreaded insta-love, instead using small actions and kindnesses to bring the two together. I enjoyed the story a look forward to the author’s next release! ***I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own***
beemama More than 1 year ago
Playing by Heart By Anne Mateer Publ: Bethany House   c. 2014 Setting:  Dunn, OK    1917 Lula Bowman has known for years what she wanted.  She wants to be the first woman PhD in the state of Oklahoma.  She has worked hard to reach that goal.  She is teaching mathematics at the University while going to school for her masters degree after receiving the Donally Award in Mathematics.  She is working to achieve the goal she and her father feel is her calling even at the cost of friendships and family peace. Now she is being asked to give up all she has worked for to come home and help her sister Jewel after Jewel’s husband died very unexpectedly.  Not only is she asked to help her sister manage her family, but she is asked to help out financially.  In order to do that she takes the job of teaching music in the local high school and coaching the girls’ basketball team.  This creates two major stresses for Lula: 1) she has not used her musical talents since her mother died several years ago, and 2) she doesn’t know a thing about basketball.  She is trapped as this is the only job available in town. Chet Vaughn is the mathematics teacher for the high school and tahe boys’ basketball coach.  He has stayed home from fighting in the Great War to care for his mother after his brother Clay is drafted. He is committed to helping the students in his classes and on his team.  He is used to trying to avoid the single female teachers at the high school so he really doesn’t know quite how to handle Miss Bowman when she won’t even let him help her with her basketball team.   Both Lula and Chet have some issues within their families that they must deal with before they can move on into the things that God has for them.  Both of them want to do what the Lord wants, but they are having trouble aligning the future as they see it and as they feel God wants for them.  This book takes a look at the trials and joys of rural life in this country during the last of the Great War.  It deals with the reality of those who were left on the homefront.  It shows the difference that following the path the Lord has for you as opposed to following what you think He wants for you. I recommend this book for anyone who enjoys historical fiction and stories of a faith grown stronger.  It is a delightful book. I received this book through The Book Club Network for my unbiased review.
grammy57 More than 1 year ago
I really enjoyed this book. It is written from the views of the two main characters. It switches back and forth, with a header so you don't get confused. It was a different type of read, but enjoyable none the less. The characters were well defined and fit well within the era that the book was written. Just enough background was given to keep you in the time period without being overbearing. I would recommend this book. It was truly a good Christian read with sound Biblical doctrine and not just fluff without being preachy. It just let you know these people tried to live what they believe and the conflicts that arise in every life. I did not like the ending. Even though there was a epilogue, it didn't fully end the story in my opinion. I received this book in return for my honest opinion.
Deal_Sharing_Aunt More than 1 year ago
"Playing by Heart" is another  novel written by Anne Meteer. This author has written some other books and this is my favorite, Lula has to give up all she worked for because a family member needs her help. From the moment she arrives in her hometown her life is changed forever. This book is set in the time period where women did not go to college but got a man instead. Lula wanted more, she needs to fight for herself every step of the way. The decision is has she been wrong all along and missed what really is important? I give this book a 4/5. I was given this book for the purpose of a review via The Book Club Network Inc., and all opinions are my own.
VicG More than 1 year ago
Anne Mateer in her new book, “Playing By Heart” published by Bethany House  brings us into the life of Lula Bowman. From the back cover:  Lula Bowman has finally achieved her dream: a teaching position and a scholarship to continue her college education in mathematics. But then a shocking phone call from her sister, Jewel, changes everything. With a heavy heart, Lula returns to her Oklahoma hometown to do right by her sister, but the only teaching job available in Dunn is combination music instructor/basketball coach. Lula doesn’t even consider those real subjects! Determined to prove herself, Lula commits to covering the job for the rest of the school year. Reluctantly, she turns to the boys’ coach, Chet, to learn the newfangled game of basketball. Chet is handsome and single, but Lula has no plans to fall for a local boy. She’s returning to college and her scholarship as soon as she gets Jewel back on her feet. However, the more time she spends around Jewel’s family, the girls’ basketball team, music classes, and Chet, the more Lula comes to realize what she’s given up in her single-minded pursuit of degree after degree. God is working on her heart, and her future is starting to look a lot different than she’d expected. Basketball, Mathematics and Piano Music teaching, what a combination. How do you make such sever adjustments in your life? This is not what Lula signed up for she had a scholarship and a teaching position. Now all she can get is a basketball coach assignment, and she knows nothing about basketball, and music instructor. She needs help and turns to Chet. And that is how it begins. It is simply amazing how Lula and Chet interact all through the book as their relationship begins to grow. It is also great fun to watch how Lula slips into her new roles and begins to shine in them. I liked the characters and I liked the book, what more can you ask? Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Bethany House Publishers.   I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”
eLynda More than 1 year ago
In Anne Mateer’s Playing by Heart, it is a time of war in America and that in itself brings changes.  But when Lula Bowman’s sister loses her husband unexpectedly, the global scene is not uppermost in her mind—her own life is upended as she drops everything to help Jewel during this trying time.  Her original plan is to stay a week or so, then return to school where she is a graduate student, unusual for a woman during World War I.  But as Lula has been learning the hard way, her plans have a way of not working out the way she thought they would.  Honestly, I spent the first half of this book not liking Lula very much.  She seemed selfish and overly concerned with what everyone else thought of her, specifically, trying to overcome her reputation from high school.  She was so desperate to prove herself changed that she disregarded the feelings and wishes of those around her many times, just to demonstrate she was not the same woman she once was.  I had little patience with her. About midway through the book, however, we come to understand why she is so intent on proving her altered character.  I had more sympathy with her from that point on because I was viewing everything she did from that lens.  It made me glad that other characters did not give up on her, even though I had been tempted to do just that, and she grew on me as the book drew to a close.  I loved that she came to realize her life did not have to revolve around who she had been in the past or on others’ perceptions of her in the present. One of the best parts of this novel is the strong thread throughout that how others perceive things may not always be the truth of any given situation.  There is Lula, of course, and our hero Chet also experiences judgment from others, including his own mother, because of his remaining in town rather than enlisting to fight in Europe like so many others.  His reasons are profound and show us the courage and strength it takes to stand for what you believe in, even when the world seems against you, and maybe even when it’s not what you want for yourself in that particular case.   Anne Mateer’s writing style is enjoyable and I loved the tidbits of everyday life that are sprinkled throughout the novel, including the newness of automobiles, expectations for female teachers, and the details of basketball, which was a new sport at the time.  I found it very interesting as she delineated the differences in play between men and women so that the women would not physically over-exert themselves.  I have not read too many books set in this time period but I did not feel lost in her descriptions or overwhelmed by them, either.   Overall, I enjoyed this book and will look for others written by this author in the future.  Thanks to Bethany House, who provided a complimentary copy of this book through The Book Club Network in exchange for this honest review.
Karen02KD More than 1 year ago
The time is WWI in the United States. Women have not yet received the right to vote, but some are making advances in the field of education and jobs. One such person is Lula Bowman. She has just finished her Bachelor’s degree in Mathematics and, upon receipt of a coveted academic prize, is in pursuit of her graduate degree. She teaches a class as the university and is well on her way to overcoming her hated nickname of “Fruity Lu”. She has proven that she can be taken seriously. Just when all seems to be going her way, she is summoned home to help with the tragic circumstances of her sister’s life. She cannot abandon the sister who has been her best supporter. She must now take a job as, of all things, a music teacher/girls’ basketball coach. She feels very much out of her element. As she begins to hear whispers of “Fruity Lu” Lula fears that her past has come back to haunt her. Chet loves to teach math and coach basketball. The only thing he loves more is the young people he is privileged to work with. He is one of the few young men who are left in town, not serving in the armed services overseas. This is a fact that his very embittered mother will not let him forget. As Lula and Chet come to meet and work with each other, sparks fly. But also, needs are met, including those of their needy families. This is a charming story. I have read many books about WWI, but never one set in that time period that included information about the early days of basketball. The reader really starts routing for a successful finish for both Lula and Chet. A very interesting read. I received this from The Book Club Network in exchange for my honest opinion
Anne_Baxter_Campbell More than 1 year ago
Anne Mateer is an accomplished author with a proven track record, and this wonderful romance is further proof that this woman can write! Lula Bowman is a young woman with a vision of fulfilling her disabled father's dream: to have one of his children get a PhD. After graduating from college, she'd won the prestigious Donally Mathematics Award, and with it the chance to continue her education. At last, a chance to dump the hated nickname earned as a young girl of "Fruity Lu." And then the ax dropped on her plans. Her sister Jewel's young husband suddenly dies, leaving her with three children, pregnant, and without means of support. The other siblings determine only one who can help her is Fruity Lu. Chet Vaughn has a number of challenges himself. He is certain God wants him to stay with his mother rather than follow his brother into the military and fight in the Great War. His mother considers him a coward, unwilling to fight, just like his father who ran away from his military duties in the previous war. He's a math teacher and the boy's basketball coach at the local high school. Currently, they play at the town hall. He fights verbal battles with the local farmer who doesn't want his son Blaze to play basketball, and he has to convince the local school board to build a decent gymnasium for the team. You know what's going to happen: College-minded girl meets basketball coach. But how do they get past the hurdles you know will be there? 
tmurrell2 More than 1 year ago
Lula lost her mother when she was young. So when her father finally pays attention to her she soaks up his words. His dream for his youngest daughter is for her to be the first female with a PhD. So Lula changes her flighty personality and goes after her degree in mathematics. When her older sister loses her husband, Lula heads home to help her out temporarily. There she learns that her father's dreams might not be what God has in mind for her. It's not exactly what she wants to hear. I really enjoyed this book. The emotions and conflicts that the characters displayed were very real and relatable. I felt the author pulled from what people during this time period might have been dealing with and wrapped her story around it. This plot had romance, drama, and faith. I'm not a fan of basketball or math, but despite this I enjoyed the story and will definitely read more by this author in the future. I received this book free of charge from Book Club Network in exchange for my honest review.
WonderousReviews More than 1 year ago
I really enjoyed the setting and characters in this book. I haven't read many books set during the time period of this war, and this time of change. The different perspectives of Lula (I like that name) and Chet were well done and I was glad it switched perspectives because it added more layers to the book. Lula was determined to prove her nickname of Fruity Lu wrong. It drove her nuts, and she would get to frustrated and determined to finish what she set out to do - and that would be to get her doctorate to make her father proud. Then life happened and her plans had to take a detour. While she wasn't happy at first, she did the right thing, and I admire her for that. She was determined to help her family! Can both math and music be her thing, or is there only room in her life for one? It was kind of funny to see her trying to teach girls basketball though, especially at first! Chett was a good guy. He wanted adventure, he wanted to fight like his brother, but instead he stayed behind to take care of his mother. The dynamics of their relationship were great to read about and learn from. Both Lula and Chett had more in common than they thought they did. For one, their love for their families. Also, not only their attraction to each other, but also their hope and helpfulness towards their students. Those students taught them something too! I hope to be a teacher someday, and I hope that I'll be as dedicated to my students as they are, and make a difference in their lives. Then there's the matter of basketball! Can it really draw them together though? The matters of faith in this book were also great, as they tried to trust God to control and plan their lives for them through thick and thin. Life doesn't have to be logical all the time Lula, there room for "frivolities" such as music too! I received a free copy of this book in exchange of an honest review. All thoughts and opinions are solely my own.
BookJunkie15 More than 1 year ago
This is Anne Mateer's fourth book and the first book I have read from the author. This book is about a young woman named Lula Bowman who puts college on hold to  help out her sister. After her sister Jewel's family suffers a terrible tragedy she gets a job at the local school to support them, but the only subjects available to teach at the school are music and basketball! Not her ideal subjects whatsoever, especially basketball. Since she knows nothing about the newfangled game she turns to the boys head coach Chet Vaughn for help. The history and information about the game of basketball back when it first started was very interesting and I enjoyed it very much. I adored Lula's walk back to her faith, watching her become stronger and trusting God once again fully with her life. One of my favorite quotes from her would be this one, "On Christ the solid rock I stand, all other ground is sinking sand. That rock would hold me firm, even if everything else my heart desired washed away with the storm." (Lula Bowman, page 305) As the story progressed she realized that she was trying to please others with her life and trying to earn acceptance rather than being herself and being who God wanted her to be, Chet learned this as well, which is why Lula and Chet understood each other so much. Her journey was beautiful and has something I believe we could all learn from.  Though the book was very encouraging and faith filled (which I loved) I did have some things that I didn't care for as much. The main characters didn't really start to get to know each other until around chapter twenty, which I thought was a bit much, it seemed for the most part just based on physical attraction until said chapter when they finally started to get better acquainted.  I felt they would start to get closer and become good friends then  other  things would happen to separate them.  It wasn't annoying I must say but I would have rather seen them get to know each other a bit quicker even though I know why the author postponed it. Also, the secondary characters did get on my nerves a bit, not Jewel (the one she was staying with) but the other brothers and sisters whom degraded Lula a lot. Their rudeness certainly wasn't appealing, thankfully they weren't in a lot of the book. I also thought the book ended a bit quickly, I would have liked more detail of their life in the epilogue. My last thing that I wanted to address, this book is in first person. I understand some people may not mind this or they may even enjoy first person but it wasn't for me so much. But those last couple are personal preferences.  I personally give this book 3.5 stars. I did enjoy this book a lot and I found it strengthened my faith by the end and I loved the main characters. I do recommend this book if you enjoy good, clean and encouraging, historical romances! I received this book from The Book Club Network Inc for my honest review, which I have given. I was not required to write a positive review and have not been compensated for it in any way. All opinions expressed are mine. 
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This simple and sweet story quickly draws you into its cozy little world, where love and basketball and academics all collide. You never know what life is gonna throw at you and that’s certainly the case for Lula Bowman. Just when she thinks she has everything figured out, surprising circumstances and obligations change, leaving her – and the readers – to hang on for the ride. This book grew the characters very naturally and they came away better, stronger people because of the trials they endured. Who doesn’t love an underdog? While Lula is battling family obligations and old reputations to prove herself as a responsible and reliable adult, Chet is trying to balance everyone else’s expectations of him against his own dreams for the future. Love and loss, forgiveness and regret, are just some of the topics touched on throughout the story. The pace did seem to slow at a few points, I’ll admit, and the setting didn’t always grab me like I wanted it to. The theme seemed at times a little simple, but it still delivered a satisfying read. Honestly, what kept me flipping the pages more than anything was Chet and Lula’s forbidden friendship/relationship. I loved following these two along as they tried so hard to deny their attraction to one another. And I liked their hearts for the kids they taught at school as well. From the start, I appreciated the writer’s voice and enjoyed her way with words. The book is full of heart and beautiful new beginnings. And just when I thought the story was wrapping up, a surprising twist caught me off guard. Watch for it and enjoy! This review is my honest opinion. Thanks to the author and publisher for my copy.
CandiceSuePatterson More than 1 year ago
We all have dreams. Our parents have dreams for us. God has a plan for our lives. But what if all of these things don’t coincide? Do we choose to please others, please God, or please ourselves? Lula Bowman’s mother wanted her to pursue music. But when her mother dies, Lula feels lost and chooses to please her father by achieving his dream of her becoming the first Oklahoma female to obtain a Ph.D. Not only is she a talented pianist, but Lula discovers she’s a brilliant mathematician as well. Determined to shed her former image of “Fruity Lu,” she throws herself into her studies, wins the Donally Mathematics Award to further her education, and works as a college professor while she finishes her schooling. A breath away from achieving her Ph.D., Lula’s sister, Jewel, calls to tell Lula she’s lost her husband to a freak accident and needs her to come back home. Being the only unmarried sibling without any “responsibilities,” Lula’s brothers and sisters decide Lula’s the only one capable of moving in with Jewel and her five children. As much as Lula wants to help her family, her education is at risk. Reluctantly, she leaves her college teaching position to accept the opening for a music teacher/girls’ basketball coach in Dunn. She’s determined to help Jewel get back on her feet so she can earn her degree. But when the handsome mathematics teacher and boys’ basketball coach, Chet Vaughn, makes Lula question the motive of her dreams, will she seek God's plan for her life and discover what she’s always wanted? Or will she continue to please others and follow the dreams of her dying father? Playing by Heart is my favorite book by Anne Mateer. Written in first person, the character’s voices are strong and engaging. I love stories with tough, independent women and Lula hit the mark. Though I’m not normally a sports fan, this story had me wanting to attend a local basketball game. The plot was beautifully crafted and kept me turning the pages. A lovely story of self-discovery and learning to seek God’s plan for our lives versus following the plans others have for us.
BrittanyMc More than 1 year ago
Playing by Heart was beautifully written and an interesting storyline. The point of view took a little bit of time to get used to. Each chapter alternated between Chet and Lula and was told from their perspectives, as if they were talking to the reader. I thought the author did a great job of making me feel like I was back in time, during World War I, in a small Oklahoma town. It did take me a little while to figure out that it was the WWI time period and not WWII. Overall, I have to admit that I really struggled while reading this book. It was not with the writing, which, like I said was beautifully done. It was with the characters. But, not the main characters. I really liked Chet and Lula and felt for them in the various ways they struggled. My problem was with their family members. I know that there needs to be tension in a book that the characters are struggling against, but the way that Chet and Lula’s family members treated them just made me very mad. Over and over again, I would get so frustrated that I had to close the book and calm down! Although I personally struggled with this story, I think there are many, many people who are going to love this book. It has quite a bit of charm and a unique way that it is told. (3.5 stars) I received a complimentary copy of this book from Bethany House in exchange for an honest review, which I have given.
CEW88 More than 1 year ago
Playing by Heart by Anne Mateer was one of the best books I have read in a long time! She did an exceptional job at bringing her characters to life. Lula was so real and her feelings and actions were life like and real. Anyone could easily relate with her. Not just adults relate to her, but I believe teenagers would relate with Lula and her past experiences very well. I loved how Mateer brought in music, teaching, and coaching. I am a teacher so of course I appreciated the love of teaching flowing through the book. Lula reminded me of myself in terms of going to college and reaching for a goal/dream. And I have too learned that dreams can change or be tweaked to God’s dreams, not ours! Learning some of the history of basketball was exciting. It was interesting to read how Lula learned about something she had never before seen played. Chet was another character that every reader, I am sure, will fall in love with. He was real and had a strong faith in God. God’s love in his life was reflected and people around him could see that! Lula, J.C., and Blaze especially. Even though Chet had some difficulties and disappointments in life, he still stood on that solid foundation of God’s love and power. Yes, he made a hasty decision after he received news about his brother and his father, but we all live in the flesh and sometimes that flesh takes over and we push spiritual things aside, though we shouldn’t. If we were all perfect, even the characters in the books, then what fun would it be to read such a book. Chet was a real character with real problems and real feelings just like Lula. I liked how Lula’s family was a part of the book. It wasn’t just about her and Chet, but about their families too. What I liked most about this Anne Mateer book was that I got to read both sides of the story…Lula and Chet. In past books, she has only given us one perspective, which I have enjoyed because it is different than what most other historical fiction authors do. However, having two different perspectives made the book even more engaging and exciting. And it was kind of like two stories were going on and coming together. Chet had his own life situations and so did Lula. Bringing in Jewel and her story mixed with Bo, Clay, J.C., Brian, Bitsy, Nannie and Blaze. I like when authors bring in different characters to help compliment the main characters! Anne Mateer did an exceptional job on this book!!! It was her best yet and I know I say that every time she comes out with a new book ¿! But I would recommend this book to anyone who wants a story that will touch hearts, engage you not only in the entertainment of reading but reading about characters that touch the Master’s garment and feels what you may be feeling at this time in your life!! This book was given to me by Bethany House Publishers for my honest review. This is review is entirely my own opinion.
DKStevens119 More than 1 year ago
When Lula gets a call to come home to help her sister, she is expected to give up her dreams of continuing college  & the scholarship she won.  Lula's brother-in-law dies from blood poisoning leaving Lula's sister Jewel alone with 4 children  & one on the way.  Lula is the logical choice of all the siblings to step up & help.  Lula comes back & takes a job at the high school teaching music & basketball.  Knowing nothing about basketball or even having seen a game, she gets help from the boys basketball coach. Then it's a story that will lead you in one direction, then another with ups & downs right up  to the end.  I enjoyed seeing into these characters lives & where their faith took them. I was gifted this book  through Goodreads First Reads.
Lane_Hill_House More than 1 year ago
Tuesday, September 16, 2014 ~* Playing by Heart *~ by Anne Mateer, © 2014 Lula Bowman's world changes as she leaves the university behind to come home to help her newly widowed sister, Jewel Wyatt, and her five, soon six children. More is changing than she would suspect. Applying for a job at the high school, Lula finds she is not able to exchange places with the math teacher, as she'd hoped, but is hired as the music teacher and the girls' basketball coach ~ although she has never seen a game played. The switch between horse and buggy and Tin Lizzie creates other new beginnings in Dunn, Oklahoma, her hometown. Tutoring students in math becomes a doorway to learning about basketball. She arranges to have the math/boys' basketball coach, Chet Vaughn, give her pointers in the game. I like how the camaraderie begins with the high school students in being a help to each other. Respect is earned as Lula continues ahead and doesn't falter in her newly-acquired teaching skills. Her love of music pulls her through as she realizes the giftings she has been given that fulfill her and others ~ especially a silent listener who scoots out before being recognized. Music of the soul. Chet finds his worth isn't in what he does or doesn't do, but in who he is. His character overrides any doubts he might have. His integrity bears repeating as he encourages a student in his last year of high school to look to the future and not his circumstances to determine his outcome. I like how the ending served both he and his family in coming together in a new way without judgment. Chet's gentle spirit shapes the heart-healing of Jewel Wyatt's ten-year-old son, JC, as he overcomes the loss of his father; a coming alongside to bear him up as Chet identifies with his own earlier needs. I especially would commend the owner of the livery stables in allowing JC to continue to come and tend the horses; a giving that helped with his mourning. The story brings together forgiveness and healing, as going forward requires tenacity and forthrightness. Lula has left behind her teaching at the university and her scholarship in math to attend to the needs of her sister; a self-giving and sacrifice that turns out to be a betterment all around. Reliving moments of her growing up and the stigma others projected about her, Lula continues to be better than any drawback could be by not focusing on the past but enriching her life and those around her in the present. I would recommend this novel for high school students as an encouragement to grow in their relationship with their peers and looking to what can be as they trust the Lord's path for them. An excellent story of hope and grace. Anne Mateer is a three-time Genesis Contest finalist who has long had a passion for history and historical fiction. She and her husband live near Dallas, Texas, and are the parents of three young adults. Visit author Anne Mateer's website for more information; Twitter and Facebook. ***Thank you to author Anne Mateer for this review copy of her novel, Playing by Heart. This review was written in my own words. No other compensation was received.***