Wednesday, July 27, 2016

"A Lesson in Love and Murder" by Rachel McMillan

In the second Herringford&Watts novel, anarchists threaten Toronto with exploding street cars. When a Mounty arrives looking for his cousin, he hires Merinda and Jem to help find him--before his explosive talent can be put to further use. As the girls track the anarchists, they follow them to Chicago, where it's up to them to save the presidential candidate Theodore Roosevelt from assassination.
#2: A Lesson in Love & Murder   -     By: Rachel McMillan
I've enjoyed the world-building McMillan has been working on, with the corruption and infamous morality squad of her version of Toronto. In this novel in particular, I enjoyed the love triangle around Merinda; it was fun to see her thrown for a loop for a change. And I liked that amidst the lighthearted feel of the novel, there were some serious moments of inescapable consequences--moments that I would expect to impact the characters in books to come.

It's quite fast-paced; almost too fast at times, as it abruptly leaps from scene to scene. The mystery was not very mysterious, and it feels like there is less focus on Merinda and Jem, what with the perspectives of Ray, Jasper, and Benny frequently taking the stage. Though it was entertaining, I definitely enjoyed the first book more.

Thank you Harvest House and NetGalley for providing an e-copy to review. I was not required to make the review positive, and all opinions are my own.

Herringford & Watts Mysteries
1. The Bachelor Girl's Guide to Murder
1.25-ish: "A Singular and Whimsical Problem" (novella taking place in Dec 1910, during the events of Bachelor Girl, but a separate case only briefly mentioned)
1.5:  "Of Dubious and Questionable Memory" (novella)
2. A Lesson in Love and Murder
2.5: "Conductor of Light" (short story)
3. The White Feather Murders

Friday, July 22, 2016

Christine Johnson's "Honor Redeemed"

Honor Redeemed (Keys of Promise Book #2): A Novel - eBookWhen Prosperity Jones's fiance was stationed two years ago in Key West, she expected to wait patiently for his return in eight years, but with her parents now gone, she decides to join him in the Florida Keys instead. However, her arrival is not the joyous reunion she expects: her beloved David has married another. With no money to return up north, Prosperity must find a way to survive on the island. A kindly doctor offers his friendship and maybe more, but Prosperity still struggles with uprooting David from her heart.

From the description on the back of the book, I assumed that David, Prosperity's fiance, would be an inconsiderate cad at best, but I was pleasantly surprised to discover he's a victim of a marriage trap instead. It turned my expectations for the story completely on end--the kindly doctor is no longer the obvious choice for her hand; instead, there's the possibility of her old love prevailing . . .

Given the obvious impediments toward romance between Prosperity and David, I like that they have such a strong history together, both in love and commitment. And at the same time, she's building a meaningful relationship with Clayton; though less conventional given the age gap, I could see it working out under the correct circumstances.

But when it came down to it, David was by far my favorite character. He is the personification of honor, though even he struggles with doing the honorable thing when it is repulsive (especially in their time and culture). But he's still willing to do it!

Thank you Revell for providing a free book to review; I was not required to make the review positive, and all opinions are my own.

Keys of Promise:
1. Love's Rescue
2. Honor Redeemed
3. Freedom's Price

Monday, July 18, 2016

Lisa Harris's "Missing" - non-stop action

#2: Missing  -     By: Lisa Harris
In the second of the Nikki Boyd Files, Nikki gets mixed up in a murder investigation when the owners of a house with two dead bodies in it are discovered missing. The case grows even more complicated when it leads to her friend Tyler's boat, where another body is found. Nikki's job is to find the missing homeowners, not solve the murder. But when the murderer seems intent on tying up all loose ends--including Nikki herself--she might not have much choice in the matter if she wants to survive.

The story starts off at an explosive pace and keeps on running all the way to the end with non-stop action. Murder, abduction, hostages, hit men--the story has it all.Maybe a little too much to be completely believable, but it's highly entertaining nonetheless.

I am enjoying the serial feel of the books, following Nikki Boyd in her missing persons cases, the cold-case mystery of her sister's abduction, and gradual progress with her personal life. There's still a long way to go, especially regarding her sister's case and her own romance, but it's good to see progress in those areas in addition to the satisfaction of a case now solved. I look forward to the next in the series!

Thank you Revell for providing an e-book to review; I was not required to make the review positive, and all opinions are my own.

Nikki Boyd Files
1. Vendetta
2. Missing
3. Pursued
4. Vanishing Point

Friday, July 15, 2016

"An Elegant Facade" by Kristi Ann Hunter - both delightful and powerful

#2: An Elegant Facade   -     By: Kristi Ann Hunter
In the second Hawthorne House novel, Lady Georgina Hawthorne is determined to take London by storm and marry quickly and well. No mere Mr., especially the annoying Mr. Colin McCrae, has a chance. And for Colin's part, he has no desire to pursue a high-minded, empty-headed girl like Georgina, even if he were remotely close to her in rank. But as circumstances continually throw them together, he discovers there might be more hidden beneath that lovely facade than anyone--even her own family--realizes is there. But will Georgina ever have the courage to show them?

I was surprised to discover the first half of the book overlaps the first book in the series, though from Georgina and Colin's perspectives, instead of Miranda and Ryland's. I enjoyed getting their perspective on events, but it took a little of the surprise and mystery away, as I pretty much knew what was going to happen throughout the first half. However, the latter half of the story more than made up for it--by the end, I was once again basking in the charm and delight of a story well told and impressed by the way the author worked such a powerful message so seamlessly into the tale.

Up to the latter half of the story I'd have said I have very little in common with Georgina, but once I realized it was simply fear of vulnerability driving her, I could not ignore that glaring similarity between us. It's amazing (yet completely understandable) what lengths she will go to to avoid opening herself to scorn and shame, even among the people she loves. And then when she decides to be vulnerable, how very, very hard it is to go through with it. It's so much easier to fall back on old habits and avoid opening up. The reality is that life is so much better when we've shared our vulnerabilities with people who love us, but it's still so hard to take that step. Yep, I really understand that motivation.

Like the book before it, An Elegant Facade is the perfect blend of humor and heart, both emotionally and spiritually satisfying. I can't wait for the next in the series!

Thank you Bethany House for providing a free book to review; I was not required to make the review positive, and all opinions are my own.

Hawthorne House
0.5 "A Lady of Esteem" - a free novella introduction to the Hawthornes and friends!
1. A Noble Masquerade
2. An Elegant Facade
3. An Uncommon Courtship 
4. An Inconvenient Beauty

Monday, July 11, 2016

Mary Connealy's "No Way Up" - a fun western adventure

#1: No Way Up  -     By: Mary Connealy
In the first full-length Cimarron Legacy novel, Heath Kincaid just barely saves his boss's life in a rock slide. Fearing his end may be approaching more swiftly than he'd anticipated, the man puts his will into action, forcing all three of his children to reside and work on the ranch together for a year, or the whole thing will go to a despised distant relation. Heath isn't too keen on having to inform the three siblings, especially when it means the boss's pretty daughter Sadie will only ever look at him as the bearer of bad news. When Heath discovers the rock slide may have been set as a trap, he finds himself working alongside the siblings to save the ranch, and quite possibly his own future.

When I read the free novella prequel to this book, I had suspected that not all was wrapped up. My instincts did not fail me! The mystery of grandfather Chastain's murder has become relevant again, roughly thirty years later. AND, it appears, it is just the start of trouble besetting the Cimarron Ranch--to be continued throughout the series!

I enjoyed the return of Heath Kincaid (from Over the Edge), the youngest Kincaid brother. It was fun to discover his story, and see the impact of struggles he's had from his tough youth, even amongst older and loving brothers. And ah, the sibling dynamic. That's half of what made it so fun--Sadie and her brothers squabbling and pushing each other's buttons (proving the reason why many siblings get along better when they do NOT live together), but then banding together as a solid front against anyone who would threaten their family.

As I am not terribly familiar with New Mexico, I enjoyed this taste of the state and some of the ancient and mysterious history behind it--both the relatively recent back-and-forth ownership with Mexico, and the ancient Puebloan habitation, seen mainly in ruins. Connealy gives a taste of the next book to come, introducing us to Angie DuPree and Justin's points of view, while dangling just enough of Angie's history to set the hook for book number 2.

Thank you Bethany House and NetGalley for providing an e-book to review; I was not required to make the review positive, and all opinions are my own.

Cimarron Legacy
0.5. "The Boden Birthright" (free e-novella prequel)
1. No Way Up
2. Long Time Gone
3. Too Far Down

Kincaid Brides
0.5: "Closer than Brothers: Surviving Andersonville" (a related prequel)
1. Out of Control
2. In Too Deep
3. Over the Edge

"The Tangled Ties the Bind" (novella in Hearts Entwined)

Friday, July 8, 2016

"The Boden Birthright" by Mary Connealy - setup for the series to come

Cover ArtTrying to save his son from his grasping in-laws (and the crime of velvet and lace clothes on a little boy), widower Chance Boden heads west. Though he has the resources to set up his own ranch, he agrees to work as a hired hand for a wealthy rancher while learning the land . . . and in the meantime, gets to know the rancher's daughter, who has fallen head over heels for his son. When trouble comes courting his boss, will he agree to the man's proposed solution?

It sets up the series nicely, clearly setting up the Boden birthright, which is bound to be a feature of the books to come.

I was actually a little surprised by this novella--namely, the relative lack of shooting involved (relative, mind you--there's still shooting, just less than normal for a Connealy story). I'm not sure what to make of it. In all other respects it pretty well fits her style: humor, romance, the feel of the Old West (or at least, the classic Old West of film and fiction).

The end left me a little uncertain. Sure, things are basically wrapped up, but it seems a little passive for a Connealy story . . . I'm not convinced some of this won't come back to haunt the kids in the future. There ARE three books to come, after all.

Cimarron Legacy
0.5: "The Boden Birthright"
1. No Way Up
2. Long Time Gone
3. Too Far Down

Kincaid Brides
0.5: "Closer than Brothers: Surviving Andersonville" (a related prequel)
1. Out of Control
2. In Too Deep
3. Over the Edge 

Monday, July 4, 2016

"My Sister's Prayer" by Mindy Starns Clark and Leslie Gould

#2: My Sister's Prayer  -     By: Mindy Starns Clark, Leslie Gould
In the second Cousins of the Dove novel, a time-split between modern-day Virginia and the colonial era, Maddie Talbot agrees to take on her sister's care after a drug-induced car accident. She knows the job won't be easy, not with a recovering addict in her tiny apartment, but investigating a mystery from their childhood and reading some letters written by an ancestor give both her and her sister a focus and encouragement. In the letters, Celeste Talbot runs away after her fiance, a British soldier, to the New World where she hopes to be made his wife. Instead, she discovers her ill sister on the same boat, and another man--NOT her fiance--buys her indenture. Who can she trust to help her protect her sister? Her fiance? Or the kind carpenter who sailed beside them?

I would highly recommend reading the first book in the series before this one; though the historical tale is basically stand-alone, the modern mystery storyline is developed across the series, and each book builds on the previous. Granted, even the historical tales are based on the same family line, so it's nice to follow the generations.

The two stories tie well together, but they aren't the same story set in two different time periods. Though there are echoes of Celeste's story in the modern Maddie's tale--namely, an elder sister watching out for her younger, less disciplined sister, and a few similarities in the romance department--they both were intriguing in their own way. I enjoyed the focus on indentured servitude in the colonial side, though Celeste could be frustratingly impulsive in her choices.

I really like the modern story that is being continued through the books--from the childhood discovery of a murder to it's successful solving? Okay, we're not that far yet. Hopefully, that will be the case, though. It's interesting to see the bond between the four cousins, the manifestations of the trauma each of them endured at a young age, and the slow process of healing. I liked how Maddie was already working on toning down her perfectionism at the start of the book, and the progress she makes throughout. I thought the authors did a good job with her relationship with Nicole and aiding her in overcoming addiction. Even knowing exactly what needs to be done, watching her sister's evasions of the truth, wanting to be easier on her, and maintaining a good relationship are all still really (and realistically) hard on Maddie.

Thank you Harvest House and NetGalley for providing an e-book for review; I was not required to make the review positive, and all opinions are my own.

Cousins of the Dove:
1. My Brother's Crown
2. My Sister's Prayer

Friday, July 1, 2016

NEW Christian Fiction for July 2016

Here are the upcoming releases for July 2016!

An Elegant Fa├žade Honor Redeemed No Way Up
An Elegant Facade by Kristi Ann Hunter (Bethany House); Hawthorne House, book 2

To hide a shame from her past, a debutante plans to marry high and well, but the man she is drawn to is not titled, and he's coming powerfully close to discovering her secret.

Honor Redeemed by Christine Johnson (Revell); Keys of Promise, book 2

When a destitute young woman travels to Key West to join her beloved, she arrives to find him married to someone else.

No Way Up by Mary Connealy (Bethany House); Cimarron Legacy, book 1

When the hired hand saves his boss's life, he also gets roped into saving the ranch. Perhaps this will give him a chance with the boss's daughter . . . assuming he doesn't get killed in the process.

Missing by Lisa Harris (Revell); Nikki Boyd Files, book 2

Investigator Nikki Boyd gets called in on a double double missing persons case, only to get drawn into a mystery of drugs and murder.