Friday, December 15, 2017

"Holding the Fort" by Regina Jennings

Holding the Fort (Fort Reno #1)When dance hall singer Louisa Bell loses her job, she decides it's time to check up on her reckless brother at Fort Reno, but when she arrives, she's mistaken for the governess Major Daniel Adams has been waiting for. His two daughters are growing up faster than he'd like, and he needs a refined womanly presence to take them in hand. Miss Bell is hardly what he was expecting, and there's definitely something about her that doesn't ring true--but there's something about her that won't let him send her packing, either. Louisa hadn't intended to masquerade as a governess, especially with her lack of education, but it's employment and allows her to keep an eye on her brother. How hard can it be faking an upstanding governess for a few days? Or weeks? Or months?

I really enjoyed the story (though I had some small initial hesitation, even having loved the author's previous works--nothing good ever comes from lying about who you are). But it's delightfully funny, it's sweetly romantic, and it's a marvelous example of grace--everything I've come to expect from the author, while at the same time tackling a difficult subject.

Anytime the main character is masquerading as someone they're not, no matter how innocently begun, you know trouble is coming. The truth will out. Louisa certainly should have told Daniel the truth right away, but I like how the author treated it (it wasn't nearly as painful as I feared it would be). Daniel deserves some credit for that--he's a man of grace, who suspects she's not all that she seems. He knows she has secrets, but while he doesn't know what those secrets are, he has observed enough of her character and heart to love her regardless. Between his grace, his authority, and an unexpected reckless streak, he's a supremely attractive hero.

It was fun to recognize a smidgen of the history included in the story; I didn't know a thing about Fort Reno, but I am familiar with General Sheridan and have read enough about the Indian Wars and frontier forts to recognize commonalities across the board (not always things to be proud of . . . but history cannot be changed at this point). I can't wait for more stories about the fort--I hope to hear more about Louisa's brother and the learned lieutenant.

Thank you Bethany House and NetGalley for the free e-book. I was not required to write a positive review, and all opinions are my own.

Fort Reno
1. Holding the Fort

Monday, December 11, 2017

A Mary Connealy Series Guide

If you've read a few of Mary Connealy's books, you may feel like you've missed some backstory, or maybe a name seems really familiar . . .well, it's probably true, on both accounts. Though each of her series can stand alone, there are a lot of connections and cross references, where characters occasionally travel from one trilogy to the next. So with the conclusion of another trilogy, I thought it a great time to compile a guide to reading her series, for my benefit, as well as yours.

Each collection of related series is listed in chronological order (as best as I can make it), with any connected novellas that I know of inserted in order as well. Important characters - particularly those who are related or connected to characters in other books - are listed, so if you see multiple people with the same last name, even if in different series, you can bet they're related.

Lassoed in Texas Trilogy (Lassoed in Texas, #1-3) Montana Marriages Trilogy (Montana Marriages, #1-3) Sophie's Daughters Trilogy (Sophie's Daughters, #1-3)
Lassoed in Texas - Montana Marriages - Sophie's Daughters Connections

Lassoed in Texas
1. Petticoat Ranch ~ Sophie (Edwards), Clay McClellan
2. Calico Canyon ~ Grace (Calhoun), Daniel Reeves
3. Gingham Mountain ~ Hannah (Cartwright), Grant Cooper

Montana Marriages
1. Montana Rose ~ Cassie (Griffin), Red Dawson
2. The Husband Tree ~ Belle (Tanner), Silas Harden
3. Wildflower Bride ~ Abby (Linscott), Wade Sawyer

Sophie's Daughters
1. Doctor in Petticoats ~ Beth (McClellan)
2. Wrangler in Petticoats ~ Sally (McClellan)
3. Sharpshooter in Petticoats ~ Mandy (McClellan), Tom Linscott, Mark Reeves, Emma Tanner-Harden, plus cameos of most of the above mentioned people in the three series

"Sophie's Other Daughter" (published in Hope for the Holidays Historical Collection of e-novellas, reprinted in The Calico and Cowboys Romance Collection) ~ Laura (McClellan), Ike Reeves

"Texas Tea" (published in With This Spark Historical Collection of e-novellas, reprinted in The Calico and Cowboys Romance Collection) ~ Libby (Cooper), Luke Reeves

"A Bride Rides Herd" (originally published in The 12 Brides of Summer, reprinted in The Calico and Cowboys Romance Collection) ~ Betsy Tanner-Harden, Matt Reeves

"Sweetwater Bride" (originally published in Lassoed by Marriage novella collection, reprinted in The Calico and Cowboys Romance Collection) ~ Tanner Harden.

"His Surprise Family" (originally published in Spring Into Love Collection of e-novellas, reprinted in The Calico and Cowboys Romance Collection) ~ Silas Harden, jr.

"Hope for Christmas" (published in Hope for the Holidays Contemporary Collection of e-novellas, reprinted in The Calico and Cowboys Romance Collection) ~ to quote the author: "Tanner Harden the IV (or maybe V or VI) a contemporary great-great-great-however many great grandchild of Belle and Silas Harden"

***(The novellas are in order as close to chronologically as I can figure, and they are all about descendants of the aforementioned heroes and heroines)

Out of Control (Kincaid Brides, #1) 35481363 No Way Up (The Cimarron Legacy, #1)
Kincaid Brides - Trouble in Texas - Cimarron Legacy connections

Prequel: "Closer than Brothers: Surviving Andersonville" (published in With This Kiss Historical Collection of e-novellas) ~ Luke Stone, Dare Riker, Vince Yates, Jonas Cahill, Big John Conroy, Seth Kincaid, Callie Stone

Kincaid Brides
1. Out of Control ~ Rafe Kincaid
2. In Too Deep ~ Ethan Kincaid, Audra (Halsey)
3. Over the Edge ~ Seth Kincaid, Callie (Stone)

Trouble in Texas
1. Swept Away ~ Luke Stone
2. Fired Up ~ Dare Riker
3. Stuck Together ~ Vince Yates, Tina (Cahill), Jonas Cahill, Missy (Yates)

"Runaway Bride" (novella published in With This Ring?) ~ Big John Conroy, Carrie (Halsey)

Cimarron Legacy
0.5 "The Boden Birthright" ~ Chance Boden, Veronica (Chastain) (free novella prequel)
1. No Way Up ~ Heath Kincaid, Sadie Boden
2. Long Time Gone ~ Justin Boden, Angie (DuPree)
3. Too Far Down ~ Cole Boden, Melanie (Blake)

Cowboy Christmas (Wild West Weddings #1)Tried and True (Wild at Heart, #1) The Accidental Guardian (High Sierra Sweethearts #1)
Wild West Weddings (unrelated to other series thus far)
1. Cowboy Christmas ~ Elijah Walker, Annette (Talbot)
2. Deep Trouble ~ Gabe Lasley, Shannon (Dysart)

Wild At Heart (unrelated to other series thus far)
1. Tried & True ~ Kylie (Wilde), Aaron Masterson
2. Now & Forever ~ Shannon (Wilde), Matthew Tucker
3. Fire and Ice ~ Bailey (Wilde), Gage Coulter

High Sierra Sweethearts (unrelated to other series thus far)
1. The Accidental Guardian ~ Trace Riley, Deborah (Harkness)
The Calico and Cowboys Romance Collection: Love Is a Lighthearted Adventure in Eight Novellas from the Old West

Lone Tree, Nebraska Novellas
"The Advent Bride" (originally published in The Twelve Brides of Christmas, reprinted in The Calico and Cowboys Romance Collection)

"Homestead on the Range" (originally published in The Homestead Brides Collection, reprinted in The Calico and Cowboys Romance Collection)

Friday, December 8, 2017

Mary Connealy's "Calico and Cowboys Romance Collection"

The Calico and Cowboys Romance Collection: Love Is a Lighthearted Adventure in Eight Novellas from the Old WestAt last, a good selection of Mary Connealy's novellas are under one cover, so when I want to reread the Lassoed in Texas--Montana Marriages--Sophie's Daughters series, I can find all the subsequent novellas without digging through stacks of volumes (or worse, trying to find them in Kindle copies). All had been published elsewhere originally, so a few of these I've already read, but there were some that were new to me that I enjoyed finally getting to read.

"The Advent Bride" is one that isn't actually connected to any of the author's novels (that I can tell), but it's a sweet story about a teacher finding a way to reach her student--and the student's father--with a puzzle box. You know those kids who can't sit still and make trouble rather than do their work, but you know that it's all a plea for love and attention? Where you know somewhere is a simple key for unlocking the sweet and clever and attentive child you know they can be, if only you can find it? That is Simon. And since I've known a couple Simon's, I could really appreciate this story. "Homestead on the Range" takes place near the same town of Lone Tree, Nebraska as "The Advent Bride," so while they don't have the close connections of the other stories, they do share a setting.

"Sophie's Other Daughter" might just be my favorite, being about the last McClellan girl and the rambunctious Reeves family. Grace and Daniel, as well as Sophie and Clay, all have a larger role in this one than the other related novellas, and it's fun to see them again, especially now that Grace has her girl. It does not surprise me in the least to read about Luke Reeves's success in "Texas Tea"--he always was the wily one. However, I'm glad to see he's far from heartless, and that Libby Cooper can find love!

"A Bride Rides Herd" was a fun addition to the stories about the Reeves and Harden families (with cameos of certain friends and relations from the other books and stories). I loved the humor of this one, as the three small children appear to be trying to kill themselves at every turn, while their two babysitters have the supposedly simple task of keeping them alive. There is a video game based on this precise concept.

Tanner's story in "The Sweetwater Bride" was creative and fun, and quite fitting for the Harden family. I loved the old longhorn bull. Considering how disastrous mail order bride schemes could go, Si really doesn't end up too badly off in "His Surprise Family," though I understand his disappointment and lack of trust, considering his bride's significant lie of omission.

"Hope for Christmas" has pretty much everything to love about one of Connealy's stories--the humor, the cowboys, the strong family ties--but in an updated, modern setting. Modern legalities add a fun (well, fun but also frustrating, given the ease of abuse of the law,) twist to the story. It's quite fitting to the Harden family.

One thing I would have preferred--I wish they were printed in chronological order. It's clear that Sophie's Other Daughter comes first, followed by Texas Tea,  A Bride Rides Herd, The Sweetwater Bride, His Surprise Family, and [definitely last] Hope for Christmas. And of course, The Advent Bride and Homestead on the Range go together, so I'd have preferred them next to each other at either the beginning or end, while instead they were all mixed up.

Thank you Barbour and NetGalley for a free ARC. I was not required to write a positive review, and all opinions are my own.

Related novels (all which come before these short stories, and thus highly recommended reading):

Lassoed in Texas
1. Petticoat Ranch
2. Calico Canyon
3. Gingham Mountain

Montana Marriages
1. Montana Rose
2. The Husband Tree
3. Wildflower Bride

Sophie's Daughters
1. Doctor in Petticoats
2. Wrangler in Petticoats
3. Sharpshooter in Petticoats

Monday, December 4, 2017

"The House on Foster Hill" by Jaime Jo Wright - dual timelines with dual suspense

The House on Foster HillWhen her husband died two years earlier, Kaine Prescott's pleas to have the suspicious death investigated further came to nothing. In an effort to start a new life, she buys a house across the country sight-unseen--and regrets it the moment she sets eyes on the eerie, long-abandoned house. It doesn't take long before she learns snippets of the house's dark history--a history that comes to haunt her. A century earlier, a young woman is found dead on the property, and Ivy Thorpe, daughter of the town doctor and medical examiner, seems to be the only one who cares who the woman was. With the help of a man from her past, she begins investigating the woman's death, but will it mean her own?

Dual timelines can really be hit or miss with me, especially if one timeline is noticeably slower or less interesting than the other. However, this one is really well done. With how complex the story is and how interwoven the plots are, I can't imagine being the author and charting it all out, but it's perfectly balanced, with equally intense story lines. And unlike some other dual timeline books, the two timelines in this one have not just the same setting, but the same tone--somewhat dark and ominous--which helps the story flow. Others I've read have been rather jolting when switching from one timeline to the other, but these fit together really well.

I'm glad that there wasn't a specific timeline that I liked significantly more than the other; both women had their issues, but both were easy to root for. Ivy is a very nontraditional heroine, being somewhat obsessed with--not so much death, as the lives that the dead had lived. She helps her father with postmortems without cringing, a highly unusual activity for a girl in 1900, and that alone makes her stand out. Kaine was easier to relate to, being a modern woman near my age. But more importantly, her profession, her passion, the thing that makes her herself--her ability to help women out of cycles of abuse--is turned on its head when she finds herself in the same position as those she's helped. She recognizes it, and intellectually she knows all the steps, yet she isn't able to fix herself. While I've never known abuse like that, there have been times when I intellectually know all the right steps to get out of my problem yet can't seem to implement them without outside help--an opportunity for God to reveal His strength through my weakness.

Given the subject matter, this is a fairly dark book, especially for Christian fiction, yet it is surprisingly faith-filled, and it offers significant hope even in the most horrific of circumstances. I really enjoyed it; it's fast-paced, intense, full of suspense, and takes a number of surprising turns.

Thank you Bethany House and NetGalley for the free e-book. I was not required to write a positive review, and all opinions are my own.

Friday, December 1, 2017

December 2017 Christian Fiction Releases

The year is wrapping up with some fascinating stories, from a legal suspense to a historical romantic comedy, from a period drama to a dual timeline suspense.

The Ladies of Ivy Cottage (Tales from Ivy Hill, #2) Holding the Fort (Fort Reno #1) The Calico and Cowboys Romance Collection: Love Is a Lighthearted Adventure in Eight Novellas from the Old West
The Ladies of Ivy Cottage by Julie Klassen (Bethany House); Tales from Ivy Hill, book 2

In the continuing mini-series-esque story of the Regency-era village of Ivy Hill, the ladies of Ivy Cottage are seeking answers about the past and learning to find hope for the future.

Holding the Fort by Regina Jennings (Bethany House); Fort Reno, book 1

When a dance hall singer arrives at Fort Reno to visit her brother, she's mistaken for the governess the commandant was anticipating for his daughters. How hard could it be to teach the girls proper lady-like behavior?

The Calico and Cowboys Romance Collection by Mary Connealy (Barbour)

At last, a collection has been made of Mary Connealy's  many novellas, most of which are about the descendants of the characters in her Lassoed in Texas and Montana Marriages series.

The House on Foster Hill by Jaime Jo Wright (Bethany House)

This dual timeline suspense tells the story of a house's previous owner--and the murder that happened on the property--and the current owner who is now experiencing the fallout of the house's past.

Imperfect Justice by Cara Putman (Thomas Nelson); Hidden Justice, book 2

When her client dies while supposedly trying to murder her own family, an attorney seeks the truth to save her client's remaining daughter from a potentially deadly home situation.

Monday, November 27, 2017

Cara Putman's "Imperfect Justice" - advocating for the helpless

Imperfect Justice (Hidden Justice #2)Attorney Emilie Wesley is waiting at the courthouse to help get her client out of an abusive situation at home, when word comes in that she reputedly shot her two daughters and herself, with only the youngest surviving in critical condition. Emilie is sure that her client couldn't have done such a thing, not when she was so close to getting out--and the woman's brother, Reid Billings agrees. They look into the case, hoping to prove differently and grant the girl's custody to Reid, but there is precious little evidence to help them. Can they find justice for the dead woman and protect her daughter from the girl's father?

This legal suspense is very different from the first book in the series, focusing on a totally different aspect of law, yet they share the same love of justice and desire to fight for those who can't fight for themselves. In this case Emilie works with women trapped in abusive situations, and you can feel the author's heart for these women in her writing, as well as the toll these cases take on the advocate--not all end happily.

Emilie and Reid make a cute couple. To me, Reid's financial business was a little boring, but I'm really not into finances. However, I did feel that the characters were well-developed, with their professions, interests, and groups of friends, and even if Reid's work isn't my thing, it fit with his character and proved he has a significant life outside of his interactions with Emilie.

I've been enjoying this group of supportive, young lady attorneys. It's nice to read about women who, though they could be rivals, choose to build each other up instead. I'm hoping the next book will be about Caroline!

Thank you Thomas Nelson and NetGalley for a free e-book. I was not required to write a positive review, and all opinions are my own.

Hidden Justice
1. Beyond Justice
2. Imperfect Justice
3. Delayed Justice (2018)

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Splickety SPARK: Picture Perfect

For those who love to read and have no time (or who love to write and enjoy a challenge), I've discovered a wonderful publication called Splickety, a magazine devoted to flash fiction (stories of 500-1,000 words, or roughly one page). There are three different imprints--Havok (sci-fi and fantasy), Spark (romance), and the original Splickety (adventure, mystery, suspense, etc). Each issue is on a theme, and November 2017's is comprised of stories revolving around romance within the arts, titled Picture Perfect.

Each edition features a popular published author (often those who publish Christian fiction), one story by an editor of the magazine, and the rest are written by anyone who has the courage to submit. This month features a story by Kristi Ann Hunter (author of the wonderful Hawthorne House series), and one by yours truly--my fifth story published with Splickety.

The blurb:
Art touches us. It speaks to the human spirit and inspires us to greater things. And what’s greater than love? In November’s Spark Magazine, you’ll find romance at the museum, ballet, and library. Sparks fly between a crystal maker and an apprentice. Opera reunites a musician with his lost love. And make sure you check out feature author Kristi Ann Hunter’s historical story about a clumsy woman and the painter she dreams of. Whether you’re looking for the beauty in color, joy in dance, or truth in music, you’re sure to find it in this Picture Perfect issue.

My story, "Song to the Moon," is strongly tied to Dvorak's opera Rusalka, specifically the Rusalka's aria, "Song to the Moon," where she is asking the moon to tell the prince of her love. My tale, though, is more about the actress who portrays the Rusalka and her love among the musicians than the opera itself. I've included the inspiration for the story--"Song to the Moon" performed by Renee Fleming (with English subtitles).

I'd encourage you to check Splickety out, whether for love of reading or love of writing (or, regarding this episode, a love of the fine arts). Some stories are lighthearted, others serious--a quick and entertaining assortment.

Hard copy & digital:

Kindle edition:

Friday, November 17, 2017

Jen Turano's "Out of the Ordinary" - funnier than ever

Out of the Ordinary (Apart From the Crowd #2)Gertrude Cadwalader's job is to keep her employer happy--she's a paid companion, after all. That means wearing Mrs. Davenport's extremely creative fashions in public--not for the easily humiliated--and occasionally returning a pilfered item that somehow ended up in her light-fingered employer's possession. Harrison Sinclair has long admired Gertrude's practicality and spunk, and when his own mother accuses her of thievery, he leaps to her defense. Through outlandish escapades and grand romantic gestures, he hopes to turn their friendship into something more.

I love the quirky characters that Turano comes up with. Not just the main characters, but all those meddling little old ladies, the spunky sisters, the friends who are only trying to help (with comically disastrous results). I knew Mrs. Davenport had to have some kind of backstory to her kleptomania, but I didn't expect anything so tender. I'm glad she sees restoration too.

The romance is sweet, the cast delightful, but best of all is the author's sense of humor. Which leads me to . . .

The List of Romantic Gestures. I laughed so hard. I tried explaining to my husband what was going on (seeing as he was looking at me with concern while I appeared to be having a fit on the other end of the couch), but I could hardly get the words out. Every time I looked back at the page I started laughing again. When I finally got it under control, I turned the page to the next scene--and it started all over again. Brilliant.

If you love the old, clean romantic comedies, or humor akin to The Importance of Being Earnest, then this is the book for you. Though I do recommend reading the prequel and Behind the Scenes first for the deepest enjoyment of this quirky series.

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

Apart from the Crowd
0.5: "At Your Request"
1. Behind the Scenes
2. Out of the Ordinary
3. Caught by Surprise

Monday, November 13, 2017

Julianna Deering's "Death at Thorburn Hall" - perfect end to the series

Death at Thorburn Hall (Drew Farthering Mystery #6)Drew and Madeline Farthering are vacationing up in Scotland for the British Opener when their host--a man who invited Drew for the purpose of investigating his business partner--dies in an accident. Or was it an accident? Of course, Drew can't keep his nose out of the investigation, especially when it becomes clear it was murder. But how do German spies, gigolo golf caddies, and phony Russian thieves all tie together?

This was the perfect final book to the series, where all those little things--like Nick and Carrie's relationship and a certain mystery I had completely forgotten about--are finally resolved. I loved the sense of the international scene in this one--not so much the golfing (a very minor part of the story, anyway), but how people are keeping an eye on eastern Europe and the new regime growing in Germany, and how it is a controversial topic and growing point of concern. The clock is noticeably ticking down toward WWII.

I really appreciate how the author portrays Drew and Madeline's relationship. They got married three books ago, and yet somehow the adventure hasn't ended! Plus they're still cute and romantic, even after several years of marriage (the climbing up to the window scene was adorable and funny). Like all married couples, they've had to work through issues, but they've also found their rhythm and now they get to help Nick and Carrie work through their issues, having experienced much the same things themselves.

This was a case where I really had no good guess on the murderer. Now that it's solved, I can see why Drew was a confused as I was; it was a sneaky trick on the author's part. I heartily approve. Complex, yet the clues were really all there, if I had only recognized them as such.

If I'm wrong about this being the last Drew Farthering mystery, then I won't be disappointed.

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

Drew Farthering Mysteries
1. Rules of Murder
2. Death by the Book
3. Murder at the Mikado
4. Dressed for Death
5. Murder on the Moor
6. Death at Thorburn Hall

Friday, November 10, 2017

Lisa Harris's "Vanishing Point"

Vanishing Point (Nikki Boyd Files #4)
Garrett Addison's first week on the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation leads him to the murder scene of a teenage girl--the third victim in a string of disappearances with one thing in common: a Polaroid picture found at the crime scene. With FBI agent Jordan Lambert, his old flame from the police academy, he begins a decade-long investigation into the serial killer dubbed the Angel Abductor. When no leads turn up and more girls go missing, can they keep up their hope of ever catching the killer?

Now I understand why this book is labeled a Nikki Boyd novel as opposed to one of the Nikki Boyd Files. Rather than being another of Nikki's cases, this is the story of the ultimate case--the Angel Abductor and murderer, starting with its beginnings, working through the disappearance of Nikki's sister, and ending in the present day when the case is ultimately solved. As such, the focus is on the main investigators of the case--Jordan and Garrett--rather than Nikki herself, though she takes active part in the latter days of the investigation.

Because the case is strung out over so many years, the book reads a bit differently than the average suspense. It's still fast-paced--really, quite a feat for something that is essentially a cold case--but one can feel the frustration and hopelessness as yet another girl is abducted and murdered, with no leads to follow until the next victim is chosen. Like the case, Jordan and Garrett's romance starts and stops--starts and stops--and ultimately doesn't go anywhere until the end either, when in this situation, a bit of impetus and some communication might have gone a long way. I didn't feel that either of them wanted it enough to take a risk or make the sacrifice to make it work (neither hot nor cold, but lukewarm . . . )

I did enjoy the book, since it filled in all the details and provided closure on the big, unsolved case of the Nikki Boyd Files. It wasn't my favorite, but it definitely has an important place in the series.

Thank you Revell and NetGalley for the free e-book. I was not required to write a positive review, and all opinions are my own.

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

Monday, November 6, 2017

Lynn Austin's "Where We Belong"

Where We BelongRebecca and Flora Hawes, brought up by a somewhat eccentric father, both long to find their place in life, even when the roles for Victorian women are extremely limited. In spite of the dictates of society, the girls have a love of travel, history, and adventure that sends them to Europe, Egypt, and the Holy Land. Thirty years after their first foreign adventure, they find themselves, their starchy young butler Soren Petersen, and their fiery maid Kate in a desert sandstorm, dependent on a sheikh with possible alternate motives for helping them. As their journey becomes more uncertain, they each sift through their memories that led them to this desert.

I definitely wouldn't call it a fast-paced novel; the vast majority of the story is told in flashbacks (thankfully all done chronologically, except for when it jumps back to the present), so it reads more like a memoir, with Rebecca being the main focus, but Flora and, to a lesser extant, Soren and Kate having their share of memories. There's no real sense of urgency to the plot, and as such I had no problem putting the book down to go do other things.

The history behind the story was fascinating--two adventurous women really did go off on their own to travel the Holy Land and discovered a palimpsest of the bible, written hundreds of years before. Knowing that it was loosely based off history made the story more interesting. I've always taken it for granted that the bible is proven true and unchanged since forever, but this book reminded me that there was a time--not so very long ago--in which ancient scrolls and codices that prove the authenticity of the bible had not yet been discovered by the modern world.

The story is littered with spiritual references, and it's good to see the sisters relying on God, whatever the adventure they find themselves in. Each of the four characters is searching for the place where they belong, though the place may not be where modern society deems it should. I wish there had been a little more spark to the story, but it wasn't bad by any means. Just long and rather slow.

Thank you Bethany house and NetGalley for a free e-book. I was not required to write a positive review, and all opinions are my own.

Friday, November 3, 2017

November Christian Fiction releases

November's new releases offer humor, mystery, suspense, contemporary romance, and women's fiction--a nice variety!
Out of the Ordinary (Apart From the Crowd #2) Death at Thorburn Hall (Drew Farthering Mystery #6) Vanishing Point (Nikki Boyd Files #4)
Out of the Ordinary by Jen Turano (Bethany House) - Apart from the Crowd, book 2

When a paid companion gets caught returning an item her light-fingered employer stole, she becomes involved with tracking down a true thief that has been preying on society.

Murder at Thorburn Hall by Julianna Deering (Bethany House) - Drew Farthering Mysteries, book 6

Drew Farthering arrives at the 1935 British Open in Scotland to investigate an embezzler--only to discover him dead the next morning.

Vanishing Point by Lisa Harris (Revell) - Nikki Boyd, book 4

A police detective and an FBI agent team up together to find and stop a serial killer--but what if everything they've assumed true about the killer is false?

 Blue Ridge Sunrise (Blue Ridge Romance #1) The Austen Escape
Blue Ridge Sunrise by Denise Hunter (Thomas Nelson) - Blue Ridge Romance, book 1

When the inheritance of her grandma's peach farm brings Zoe back to the town she never wanted to return to--and her first love whom she hoped never to see again--Zoe is trapped between everyone's expectations of staying to run the farm and the life she has built elsewhere.

The Austen Escape by Katherine Reay (Thomas Nelson)

At her best friend's insistence, Mary participates in a Jane Austen-themed vacation, only to have her friend regress into believing she truly is in Regency England--and while trying to bring her out of, Mary discovers that their lives have intersected in far more ways that she had ever known.

Monday, October 30, 2017

"A Dangerous Legacy" by Elizabeth Camden -- a thrilling historical

A Dangerous Legacy (Empire State, #1)Lucy Drake's position as a telegrapher has been vital in a 40-year legal battle that started with her grandfather and his brother and has continued down the generations. However, what she's doing isn't strictly legal, and when Sir Colin Beckworth, who manages their professional rivals just downstairs, catches her, they agree to help each other out. Putting aside the rivalry of their news agencies and the differences in their respective cultures, they find themselves enjoying each other far more than expected, but their pursuit of her family's stolen inheritance leads them down a dangerous path, both personally, and for the country.

One thing that has always impressed me is Camden's use of unusual professions, and when a character has a profession, it is important. It isn't just something she assigns to round them out as a character, it's integral to the plot, and it's integral to their person. Lucy as a telegrapher? Her skills are vital and stemming from a love of being connected with the world. Her brother Nick as a plumber, working in the city's underground? There's way more a plumber can do than you'd expect. Colin as a penniless aristocrat with a love of news and homing pigeons? It's what gives them an edge.

I love Camden's ability to surprise me. Several things that I'd expected, based on what would be worst-case scenario in my mind, didn't happen--instead, they led to a twist that I loved, where Lucy and Colin and Nick have an opportunity to be smart, not just brave. I wish I could tell you the brilliant things that happen, but it would spoil the plot. Suffice to say, I loved it all the twists this suspense has taken. And extra points for mature, intelligent heroes who apply to the law for help and use their heads!

While I have always enjoyed Elizabeth Camden's books, this one ranks up there with my favorites--The Rose of Winslow Street and Against the Tide (to which I would liken this one to in terms of the feel of the suspense and intelligence-gathering). The faith element might be minor, but it doesn't mean Colin and Lucy are without considerable growth. It's a great story, and I'm excited to see Nick will have his story continued in A Daring Venture (summer 2018).

Thank you Bethany house and NetGalley for a free e-book. I was not required to write a positive review, and all opinions are my own.

Empire State
1. A Dangerous Legacy
2. A Daring Venture ( June 2018)

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Mary Connealy's "Too Far Down" - the conclusion to the Cimarron Legacy

Too Far Down (The Cimarron Legacy, #3)In the final Cimarron Legacy book, we finally find out who is trying to steal the Bodens' ranch and destroy their family . . . but not before an explosion goes off at the Boden mine, where Cole is in charge. Cole has always been divided over his love for Boston and his love for New Mexico, and he has to admit there's a some significant things keeping him here--his family, the mine, and, well, just maybe their old friend and playmate, Melanie Blake, who can ride, shoot, and hogtie just as well as any man in the territory, and who seems intent on helping him track down the perpetrator of the explosion. But in the end, if they all survive and meet the stipulations of their not-yet-deceased father's will, what will he choose?

As usual, Mary Connealy starts off with a bang--though literally this time, not just figuratively. Poor Cole Boden just can't catch a break, between the healing gunshot wound in a previous book, to now dynamite explosions and cave-ins. I probably should have reread the whole series so I could be all caught up again with the plot--the villain really has been playing a long game to take control of the CR, and while I recalled most of it, I'd have made the connections faster if I'd reread. The books in this series are a lot more connected than has been typical in the author's series, which is fitting, given the family legacy theme. I definitely recommend starting reading with book 1. Strike that--the prequel. I'm going to enjoy rereading the series, especially now that I can pick up on hints I might not have noticed before!

I wouldn't have minded if Chase had made plans to take Mel out East for just a vacation or honeymoon, so she could experience that side of him--it really is a part of him. Though I must say he makes the correct decision in choosing his permanent residence. That is without question.

Once again, I loved how Connealy ties back in characters from other series - it's quite a pleasure to see a certain crazy man again, participating in (or causing?) the funniest part of the book. I think I'll have to go back and reread the entire 3 connected series (Kincaid Brides, Trouble in Texas, and Cimarron Legacy).

Thank you Bethany House and NetGalley for a free e-book. I was not required to write a positive review, and all opinions are my own.

Kincaid Brides--Trouble in Texas--Cimarron Legacy connected series:

Prequel: "Closer than Brothers: Surviving Andersonville" (published in With This Kiss Historical Collection of e-novellas)

Kincaid Brides
1. Out of Control
2. In Too Deep 
3. Over the Edge

Trouble in Texas
1. Swept Away 
2. Fired Up
3. Stuck Together

"Runaway Bride" (novella published in With This Ring?)

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

Friday, October 20, 2017

Dani Pettrey's "Blind Spot" - the plot thickens . . .

Blind Spot (Chesapeake Valor, #3)FBI Agent Declan Grey knows a terrorist attack is coming, but it isn't until he is temporarily partnered with crisis counselor Tanner Shaw that he finally gains a solid lead. Tanner and Declan have butted heads since first being introduced, but now working in close proximity, the tension is producing sparks. With the clock running down to figure out the terrorists' plans, and someone out to kill them both, will they ever get the chance to act on their feelings?

My earlier speculation that this series would be best read all together is proven correct--I'm really wishing July 2018 was a lot closer right now. It's not a true cliffhanger, but let's just say the next book can't come soon enough! The books all tie in together a lot more than most series in the genre, so I highly recommend reading them in order.

At first I wasn't too sure what to think of two entirely unrelated cases going on at once in the story, but given how much we've already invested in the characters in the series, I decided it's a good call. Griff and Finley, Parker and Avery, and now the upcoming Luke and Kate are all as equally important to the series as Declan and Tanner, though in this book Declan and Tanner take the forefront, as the others each do in their respective books. It's more like a tv show this way, with the main couple having the more important of the two investigations, and the supporting cast following their own, with each occasionally getting help from the other. It means we can keep tabs on all the characters who have come to mean so much in the series. The terrorist plot makes the other investigation seem--not trite, but of significantly less importance. Yet on the other hand, I felt that that investigation is much more personal to the group than a potential terrorist attack.

I was pleasantly surprised with Tanner in this book; my impression of her from the earlier books was that she is a crusader for whom the cause is more important than common sense. However, she proved a lot more sensible in this book, not to mention competent. She still has a big heart for helping refugees and the downtrodden, but she doesn't let it consume her at the expense of friendships, love, or survival. She and Declan really do make a good couple, with a lot more in common than I first thought (including their faith).

I enjoyed the non-stop action of this book, and I can't wait for the next!

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

Chesapeake Valor
1. Cold Shot
2. Still Life
3. Blind Spot
4. Dead Drift (July 2018)

Monday, October 16, 2017

"Lady Jayne Disappears" by Joanna Davidson Politano - an enchanting story

Lady Jayne DisappearsBrought to her aunt's home along with her father's other personal effects after his death in a debtor's prison, Aurelie finds herself in household surrounded by small-minded relatives who greet her with apathy at best, with the exception of the one other houseguest, Silas Rotherham, who finds her conversation intriguing. With no other outlet but her writing, Aurelie decides to finish her father's serial novel about her mother--written under a the pen name, Nathaniel Droll. As her father was wont to do, she begins writing more of her secretive relations into the serial, and it doesn't take long for them to notice the similarities between the stories and their lives. Can she keep the identity of her pen name a secret as she searches for the ending--both the fictional one and the true one--to her mother's story?

The cover drew me in first, then the description heightened my interest--but the story is what enchanted me. It's different--more Dickens than Austen, Gothic yet faith-filled, and not without humor.

I loved Aurelie's simple, unshakable faith; there are a lot of things about both her life and her family's history that she has to learn, but God's faithfulness is not one of them. I especially loved her prayer, "God, give me exactly what I would ask for if I knew everything you know." She has the wisdom to ask for the best.

My opinion of Aurelie's aunt definitely changed by the end of the book; I could respect her decisions, hard as they clearly were for her--no matter how much you love someone and want to save them from themselves, at some point that beloved person has to accept the consequences of their choices.

I loved the ending; maybe I shouldn't have been surprised by it, but the story was sufficiently enchanting that I wasn't thinking ahead, just enjoying the moment. But I look forward to rereading it to see all those hints I missed!

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

Friday, October 13, 2017

Denise Hunter's "Blue Ridge Sunrise"

Blue Ridge Sunrise (Blue Ridge Romance #1)Coming back to Georgia for the first time in five years, Zoe discovers that she's inherited her grandmother's peach farm. Everyone in her hometown expects her to stay and run it, while her boyfriend Kyle expects her to sell it and return to their singing career in Nashville with him. But Granny's farm was the one place she's always been happy, even if it also holds memories of her first love, Cruz Huntley--and her broken heart. As tension ramps up between her and her boyfriend--as well as Cruz--will Zoe regain the courage to choose for herself what's best?

During the story we get a fairly long flashback sequence of Zoe and Cruz's relationship, including the answer to the fairly big question of how Zoe ended up with Kyle instead. I definitely liked Zoe's adult self better than her irresponsible teenage self, though I didn't ever really connect with her--maybe it was too many personality changes (between the beginning, the flashback, and the end). Who I really liked was her best friend Hope--I'm glad to see the next book will feature her! She makes a great best friend, and I look forward to learning more of her story. And, for that matter, I really liked Zoe's brother (particularly as a great candidate for Hope).

While this isn't a thriller, there is some suspense towards the end. Apparently I psyched myself out (probably from reading too many actual suspense novels) into thinking that the obvious villain couldn't possibly be behind the arson; I had another perpetrator all picked out, motive determined and everything--but it turns out that I far, far overthought things.

There wasn't much of a faith message in this book, especially not compared to certain others by the author, though the characters (especially their poorer choices) felt realistic to today's society. It definitely was not my favorite of Hunter's novels, but still a solid romance.

Thank you Thomas Nelson and NetGalley for a free e-book. I was not required to write a positive review, and all opinions are my own.

Blue Ridge Romance
1. Blue Ridge Sunrise
2. Honeysuckle Dreams (May 2018)

Related novel:
Sweetbriar Cottage

Monday, October 9, 2017

Todd Johnson's "Fatal Trust" and "The Deposit Slip" - two great legal suspense stories

I've gotten into the habit of reviewing books so much that I almost feel guilty if I don't write at least a little blurb on my impressions. So here are my quick thoughts on a couple legal suspenses I just read--both taking place in Minnesota, for a change.

Fatal TrustFatal Trust by Todd Johnson ~ about a young attorney asked to distribute a several million dollar trust that grows more suspicious by the day, and might somehow be tied to Minnesota's greatest--and unsolved--art heist.

I enjoyed this legal suspense set in the Twin Cities--it was fun that I recognized a number of the places and neighborhoods mentioned, and even better, it offers one possible answer to Minnesota's greatest art heist. The author does a good job sucking the reader in, and just like Ian, we don't know just what we're getting into . . . until we're in too deep to stop. I'll have to read some of this author's earlier novels!

As a note, while there is a hint of romance, it is far more focused on the mystery and suspense; I wouldn't call it a romantic suspense, so if that's what you're looking for, be forewarned.

The Deposit SlipThe Deposit Slip by Todd Johnson ~ about an old deposit slip found for over 10 million dollars that the bank claims to have no record of, yet there are just enough inconsistencies to suspect there's something to the claim.

This is the third legal suspense I've read in about a month, and I'm getting a much better picture of how lawsuits work. I'd hope I'd never get involved in a case like this one, though--how do you prove something exists when the proof was wiped out years ago? Of course, any time people are involved, no cover-up can be completely guaranteed.

I enjoyed watching Jared and his crew do the impossible, and while I knew it had to work out in the end, it looked oh-so-grim for a while. It certainly kept me on the edge of my seat! A great legal suspense!

Friday, October 6, 2017

"The Secret Life of Sarah Hollenbeck" - full of both humor and real-life issues

The Secret Life of Sarah HollenbeckWhen Sarah Hollenbeck--a.k.a. erotic romance novelist Raine de Bourgh--comes to Christ, she's determined to live a life more fitting with with her new convictions. But just because she has new convictions doesn't mean it's easy to leave behind the world, especially when she's still contracted for one more book--and her publisher and fans have some decided expectations from steamy Raine de Bourgh. Also, it didn't occur to her that the church might take issue with her tithing royalties from her notably scandalous novels . . . and then there's the fact she's falling in love with her pastor while still figuring out how to be a christian woman in a secular society.

I wouldn't call the entire book laughing-out-loud funny, because there's way too many thought-provoking and seriously moving moments throughout the story, but there were moments I laughed so hard tears were leaking out of my eyes. And moments when my eyes were leaking for entirely different reasons.

What impresses me most about the book is the very honest feel to it--you have a woman who is lost and unloved, who is trying to find herself again. After some crazy detours, she eventually finds God and is needing to reconcile her new life with the choices and consequences of her past that won't just go away. She is just learning how to be a Christian, including things that so many of us grew up with, like basic bible stories, and tithing, and all the "rules" that "good Christians" have had drilled into them from birth. Her transformation is genuine, which leads to--in spite of her comparative ignorance--convictions that she chooses to follow. But that doesn't mean that living the pure life she wants to live is remotely easy, and almost immediately she encounters blatant Pharisaical attitudes in the church. And the fact is, in real life it's really hard to avoid the temptations of the flesh, and the church is full of broken, imperfect people who need Jesus as much as you do.

I think everyone can find something in Sarah to relate to--whether it's the fear of opening oneself up to friendship or love and risk being hurt again, or the temptations of a wordly lifestyle that doesn't want to let go, or the disillusionment of following one's convictions only to be blasted by the people who should agree with your choices, or just the insecurities almost every woman faces when in a relationship. But just as easily, I think people can relate to her self-deprecating humor and ability to laugh at herself. It's the perfect balance between humor and gritty, real-life issues. 5 stars!

As a side note, I would love to read Piper's story--she's the best kind of best friend!

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

For a musical-style trailer for the book, I highly recommend watching the video, "What's a Girl to Do?" by Easton Toles--it captures Sarah Hollenbeck's dilemma perfectly!

Monday, October 2, 2017

New October Christian Fiction releases

Lots of new releases this October, in historical, contemporary romance, and suspense. I can't wait to read them all!

Christmas at Carnton (Carnton #0.5) Too Far Down (The Cimarron Legacy, #3) Lady Jayne Disappears
Christmas at Carnton by Tamera Alexander (Thomas Nelson); Carton, book 0.5 (novella)

In the midst of war, an expecting widow facing eviction finds work with a wounded soldier at one of Franklin, Tennessee's estates.

Too Far Down by Mary Connealy (Bethany House); Cimarron Legacy, book 3

An explosion at the family mine brings the eldest son--a Harvard graduate--home, but will it be the cowgirl friend from childhood that keeps him there?

Lady Jayne Disappears by Joanna Davidson Politano (Revell)

When her penniless father dies, a young woman takes over his pen name and serial while trying to discover the mystery of mother's disappearance.

A Dangerous Legacy Where We Belong The Secret Life of Sarah Hollenbeck
A Dangerous Legacy by Elizabeth Camden (Bethany House); Empire State, book 1

A new arrival threatens a telegrapher's position, but when she discovers his shocking secret, she agrees to help him--if he helps her find her family's stolen inheritance. But there's a lot more going on behind the scenes than either could ever predict . . .

Where We Belong by Lynn Austin (Bethany House)

Accompanied by their butler and a street urchin, a pair of atypical Victorian sisters set out on an adventure to the Holy Land to find an important biblical manuscript.

Contemporary Romance:
The Secret Life of Sarah Hollenbeck by Bethany Turner (Revell)

When a writer of steamy romances meets the Lord (and a handsome pastor), what should she do with her new convictions when they don't align with her publishing contract?

Blind Spot (Chesapeake Valor, #3) Dangerous Illusions (Code of Honor #1)
Blind Spot by Dani Pettrey (Bethany House); Chesapeake Valor, book 3

An FBI agent and crisis counselor come across evidence of a terrorist cell and are in a race to stop them before the "wrath descends."

Dangerous Illusions by Irene Hannon (Revell); Code of Honor, book 1

When a series of memory lapses leads to a tragic death, a woman lands under police scrutiny--but is there more to the case than meets the eye?

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Irene Hannon's "Dangerous Illusions" - a diabolically clever twist

Dangerous Illusions (Code of Honor #1)When Trish Bailey's mother dies from what looks like could be a pill overdose--possibly due to Trish's memory lapses--Trish falls under police scrutiny. Detective Colin Flynn's gut says she's innocent of deliberate wrongdoing, but as time goes on, strange inconsistencies begin adding up to something more sinister than Trish and Colin could have possibly guessed.

For me, Irene Hannon's villains are the highlight of her suspense novels, and this might be her cleverest twist yet on a villain--a twist that I did not see coming. There's very little I can say about our most clever and diabolical villain without spoiling the brilliance for everyone else, so suffice to say, he's good and supremely well-developed. The author is brilliant for creating him.

The backcover copy of the book describes it as "a mind-bending story that will have [the reader] doubling back to retrace their steps--and figure out what they missed!" While I would normally consider this exaggeration, in this case it was actually true for me. And everything I retraced made total sense.

Based on the story, I'm assuming the next two books of the series will follow Colin's close friends from their childhood Treehouse Gang, who are--contrary to patterns in previous series--not all in law enforcement. I'm definitely interested to see where their stories go!

Thank you Revell and NetGalley for a free e-book; I was not required to write a positive review, and all opinions are my own.

Code of Honor
1. Dangerous Illusions

Friday, September 22, 2017

"A Dangerous Engagement" by Melanie Dickerson

A Dangerous Engagement (The Regency Spies of London, #3)When Felicity Mayson receives an invitation to a country house party, she is instantly paired with a pleasant young man who doesn't mind her lack of dowry. In a whirlwind romance, she accepts his proposal--and then learns her fiance is a leader of an insurrectionist group intent on leading a revolution in England. Phillip McDowell is undercover with the group gathering evidence against them, and he convinces Felicity to continue masquerading as the man's fiancee rather than break it off. But can they find proof--and get it out--before they get caught?

Felicity is definitely in over her head, playing a very dangerous game, but at least she's constantly turning to the Lord for help. To be honest, she's not a good spy, and she's an even worse coquette, trying to string her fiance along without letting him take more than she wants to give. It's amazing she isn't called out long before, but at least she shows gumption in her spying.

I have trouble believing these particular insurrectionists could stage a mass uprising against the government; they just don't strike me as particularly effective or committed revolutionaries if they spend their evenings getting drunk and fighting with each other. I would think that if they were truly devoted (or desperate for change), they would be more apt to exercise self-control. Outside of Lady Blackstone, they seem rather . . . inept. She and Ratley are the only members of the group with any kind of personality.

The story is not too deep, but it's fast-paced and full of suspense.

Thank you Waterfall and NetGalley for a free e-book. I was not required to write a positive review, and all opinions are my own.

Regency Spies of London
1. A Spy's Devotion
2. A Viscount's Proposal
3. A Dangerous Engagement

Monday, September 18, 2017

Tamera Alexander's "Christmas at Carnton" - novella introduction to a new series

Christmas at Carnton (Carnton #0.5)Pregnant and recently widowed, Aletta Prescott is struggling to make ends meet. With eviction looming and her hopes of a cooking job dashed, she is afraid for the future. However, the acquaintanceship of a wounded soldier offers her a different opportunity of employment, as well as a surprising friendship. Jake Winston would give anything to get back to the army and his sharp-shooting, but the head injury he sustained when shot has affected his vision, and he fears losing not only his greatest skill, but his very identity. However, working with Aletta proves a better assignment than he expected. But with her having already lost one love in the war, and him raring to go back, can there be a hope of more than friendship?

I enjoyed this introduction to the Carton Estate. I love how the characters have multiple--and somewhat surprising--skills, with stereotypes being turned on their heads: Aletta is a mother and respectable cook, but she also has a talent for (and enjoyment of) carpentry. Jake is a sharp-shooter, but he is also a decent handyman and an artist (and proves to have a way with words). Both of them have real struggles as a result of the war, but I especially can't imagine being in Aletta's position, having one child and another on the way, no job, facing eviction, and no time to grieve the loss of her husband.

Tamera Alexander excels at weaving historical details into her books, and this novella--short as it is--is no exception. I'm looking forward to the upcoming novels and seeing exactly what role the Carnton estate played in the Civil War; the author hints that it saw its own share of action.

Thank you Thomas Nelson and NetGalley for providing a free e-book. I was not required to write a positive review, and all opinions are my own.

Related Nashville Novels (contain some cross-over characters/connections to Carnton):

Belmont Mansion
1. A Lasting Impression
2. A Beauty So Rare
3. A Note Yet Unsung

Belle Meade Plantation
1. To Whisper Her Name
2. To Win Her Favor
2.5 "To Mend a Dream" (part of the novella collection Among the Fair Magnolias)
3. To Wager Her Heart

Friday, September 15, 2017

"An Inconvenient Beauty" by Kristi Ann Hunter - a fun end to the series

An Inconvenient Beauty (Hawthorne House, #4)In the final Hawthorne House novel, Griffin Hawthorne, Duke of Riverton has decided it's time to take a wife, and after a year of study and research has found the perfect women. Unfortunately, the woman proves elusive, abandoning him frequently in the company of her cousin, Isabella Breckenridge. Isabella is participating in the London season for only one reason--helping her uncle in exchange for the funds to save the family farm. Even if Griffith were interested with her--which he's not, as he's pursuing her cousin--catching the eye of a duke will not help her cause, since such a rank would scare off the plethora of suitors she needs to accomplish her goals. But while Griffith and Isabella are busy trying not to attract each other, somehow they've slipped into a friendship . . . a friendship that threatens to become something more.

As sad as I am to have reached the end of the Hawthorne House novels, I have to say the series ended in a highly satisfactory manner. Griffith (he-who-is-always-in-control) definitely meets his match in Isabella--not that she deliberately tests his control, but that she is so far out of the running for a bride that she worms her way under his shell before either of them realize what's happening.

I enjoyed that plain, boring Fredrika--Bella's cousin--is not actually a boring person; she might be sedate and not the best conversationalist in public situations, but with Bella she's lively and fun. I could see her being a good match for Griffith or any man, if she weren't in love with someone else. The antics that the girls go through to help Fredrika avoid Griffith and sneak time with her true love were really funny. I laughed out loud several times throughout the book, generally because of them (though Griffith's ladder incident cracked me up too). And of course, helping her cousin leaves Isabella more time with the one man she doesn't want to pursue her--making for more good scenes.

I enjoyed the bits of history added into the story (which the author points out in the note at the end), and I feel like I finally have a glimmer of what the British House of Lords vs. House of Commons is; Griffith might be the first British aristocrat in a book I've read to actually physically do anything with politics in the course of the story (even if it isn't a big part of the book). The message in the book is simple yet good--trust in the Lord, not your own power. Oddly (yet somehow frequently-true-to-life), it's the powerless Isabella rather than the powerful Griffith who needs to learn it.

Thank you Bethany House for providing a free book. I was not required to write a positive review, 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, September 11, 2017

Lori Benton's "Many Sparrows" - a piercing a story

When her husband leaves for help following their wagon crash and her son is captured by the Shawnee, Clare Inglesby is left alone and in labor with her second child, desperate to recover her son, but without a means forward. Frontiersman Jeremiah Ring comes to her aid, but his connections among the Shawnee make it more complicated than before--the woman who has adopted Clare's son is his own grieving sister. With the Shawnee village on Rain Crow's side, and war threatening to explode on the frontier, will Clare ever get her son back?

There is always so much to love about Lori Benton's books--from the real, human characters, to the fascinating backbone of history, to the piercing message we can take away from reading them.

I cannot imagine the pain either Clare nor Rain Crow experiences over little Jacob/Many Sparrows--for Clare, the kidnapping of her son. For Rain Crow, the joy of an adoption destroyed as the birth mother suddenly appears to take her child back. Right away I wanted to make peace between the two women so they can both be happy, but I know it isn't that simple. At times I was frustrated with Clare for her single mindedness about taking Jacob back to civilization, even after she gets to know the Shawnee, but when I stop and think--who wouldn't do everything she could to rescue her child?

Being caught between worlds on multiple fronts, Jeremiah is a wonderful source of balance. He's been through fire and knows now how to truly put his trust in the Lord. It doesn't mean life is easy for him--especially when caught between his sister and the woman he promised to help--but his faith is a wonderful example for us. He is a spectacular example of a godly man--the best kind of hero.

Seeing the Shawnee perspective on Dunmore's War reminds me how it takes both sides to start a war--and how many missed opportunities for peace there always are. Though the real life characters Logan, Cornstalk, and Nonhelema have primarily background roles in the story, their words and actions are moving; Logan's because his years of peace with the whites was shattered when the rest of his family was ambushed and massacred; Cornstalk and Nonhelema's because they advocated for peace and knew exactly what war--especially losing the war--would cost, yet they were willing to lead their people into battle anyway (and then make them face the consequences of their choices).

Perhaps the thing I love most about Lori Benton's stories is how so many lives affect others--one bad decision can devastate a whole family or more, yet healing and reconciliation can be brought around not just to include those immediately involved, but also to enfold others. It's beautifully reflective of God's hand in our lives, where He is at work in a far greater and more complex way than we can possibly imagine.

I highly recommend reading The Pursuit of Tamsen Littlejohn immediately after this, since it is the story of a couple of the secondary characters in this book (young Wildcat when he is all grown up).

Thank you Blogging for Books for providing a free book. I was not required to write a positive review, and all opinions are my own.

Related novels:
The Pursuit of Tamsen Littlejohn