Friday, April 26, 2013

"Swept Away" by Mary Connealy

Swept AwayIf there is one thing Mary Connealy does well, it's a romantic comedy.  Clean, exciting, and just plain fun, her novels can beat your average chick flick film any day. 

Just as her Lassoed in Texas, Montana Marriages, and Sophie's Daughters trilogies were all connected, now her new series Trouble in Texas follows the Kincaid Brides trilogy.  Luke Stone, the brother of Over the Edge's heroine Callie, is planning to start something akin to the next civil war when he heads home to reclaim his ranch from a land-grabbing murderer who killed his father.  On the way home, he encounters the half-dead Ruthy MacNeil who had just taken a trip downriver from her wagon train during a flash flood.  Since the nearest civilization outside of Broken Wheel, Texas (if you can call an Indian Territory town containing a whole three women civilization), is a couple days ride away, he brings her home with him and she buys into his fight for his ranch, along with some old friends of his from the War Between States. 

Luke certainly have their struggles with vengeance toward Flint Greer, and his friend Dare, a secondary voice in the novel, has some trouble reigning in his hate toward the wicked wife-beater.  No matter the temptation, though, these are good men trying to act within the boundaries of the law.  Judging by the men introduced, I believe we can expect them to be the leads in the subsequent novels. 

Of all Connealy's "romantic comedies with cowboys," Swept Away most fully embodies the spirit of a good old-fashioned Western, complete with a good old-fashioned, Wild West shootout in the suddenly deserted town.  This novel reads like a film, but no movie could capture Connealy's witty narration that typifies her books and makes them such a pleasure to read.

Highly recommended for all lovers of westerns and comedies!

Trouble in Texas
Prequel: "Closer than Brothers: Surviving Andersonville" (novella)
1. Swept Away
2. Fired Up
3. Stuck Together

"Runaway Bride" (follows Trouble in Texas and Kincaid Brides series; from the novella collection With This Ring?)

"The Tangled Ties that Bind" (follows Trouble in Texas and Kincaid Brides series; from the novella collection Hearts Entwined)

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Deep and thought-provoking, Regina Jennings' excellend novel, "Love in the Balance"

Love in the Balance, Ladies of Caldwell County Series #2   -     
        By: Regina Jennings
In her sequel to Sixty Acres and a Bride, Regina Jennings writes a thought-provoking novel of much greater depth than the publisher's description leads one to expect.  Molly Lovelace is not a twittering, empty-headed flirt unable to decide which suitor she likes better, but nor is she a calculating gold-digger fighting to control her attraction to a penniless, handsome cowboy; no, she is a conflicted young woman who is trying to balance honoring her parents and following her heart.  She knows precisely who she wants to marry, but when he doesn't come through, she follows her parents' wishes instead, which essentially leads to her ruin.

Make no mistake, Molly makes her own share of poor decisions.  What she does to appease her family is not always right or wise and hurts others besides herself - she could choose a more honest route.  However, she does not deserve the censure of the town for the results of her choice, let alone her own parents' scorn when she followed their wishes in the first place.  In spite of their faults, Molly loves her parents and wishes to please them. On the other side of the scale, Bailey, the man she loves, has none of the characteristics her parents are looking for in a husband for their only daughter. How does one find the balance?

Bailey also has his share of problems that compound Molly's. For one, he takes and quits any number of jobs, never settling, while he knows Molly is waiting on him to have a real income before marriage. She does not require him to be rich, but as a woman who knows money and excels at accounting, she knows that a steady income is necessary.  Because of his struggle with lust, Molly's reputation, which would otherwise have upheld against scrutiny, instead suffers fatally.  Had he behaved honorably from the get-go, who knows how their story would have been different?  Their relationship is an accurate representation of couples still today - as with Bailey, many young Christian men want to behave honorably with the women they love, but they still struggle with temptation; Bailey's error, like that of many in the face of temptation, is the failure to flee the moment it arises. 

There was so much growth in the book - both main characters mature and learn from their mistakes, but without losing their personalities and changing unbelievably. While I was not always happy with their choices, I liked both of the characters, and I feel that Molly really got the short end of the stick a number of times - she was not solely responsible for her problems. Jennings did an excellent job with the characters and twists to the plot.

Love in the Balance begs the question, "when conflicted, how do we find the balance honoring our parents and our own hearts?"  Only God holds the answer, but thankfully we can seek advice from those God has given us - wise friends, mentors, pastors, and, of course, Himself. 

Five out of five stars.  I received a free copy from Bethany House in exchange for my honest review, which I am not obligated to make positive.  All opinions expressed are my own.

Ladies of Caldwell County
Sixty Acres and a Bride
Love in the Balance
Caught in the Middle