Friday, June 23, 2017

Karen Witemeyer's "Heart on the Line" - a romance over the wire

Heart on the Line (Ladies of Harper’s Station, #2)After her father is killed before her eyes, Grace Mallory goes into hiding in the women's colony, Harper's Station, where she continues her job as a telegrapher. Over the months, she strikes up a friendship over the wire with Amos Bledsoe, another telegrapher 150 miles down the line. When a warning comes through that her father's killer has found her, Amos--who has been trying to gather the courage to meet her in person--overhears and takes off for Harper's Station to protect her, even if his stature is less than that of the typical hero. It's up to two telegraphers, a marshal, a Pinkerton agent, and a town full of women to bring a killer to justice.

I'm pretty sure it's because of Karen Witemeyer that several years ago I read the nearly forgotten classic Wired Love, a witty novel not unlike Jane Austen's writing, which became part of the inspiration for this story. The romance over the wire is surprisingly similar to today's relationships begun online--where one must simply take the other at their word they're who they say they are. I love the idea of a secret language between Grace and Amos--being telegraphers, they can communicate whatever they want while no one else can understand their tapping.

I have to say, I adored Amos. Being married to a geek myself--one without the impressive physique so common in fictional heroes--I loved seeing someone more like my husband save the day with his brains and win the heart of fair lady. Amos is well aware of all his physical shortcomings, but he doesn't let them rule him, even when in subtle competition with the Adonis-like Pinkerton agent. It's funny how someone can seem plain and unappealing at first impression, yet the more one gets to know the person, the better looking and more appealing they become.

I love how in this adventure, everyone gets a chance to take part in saving the day--sure, the brawny marshal and Pinkerton have a hand in it, but both Grace and Amos--neither a candidate for Most Likely to Save The Day--have a crucial role in bringing the bad guys to justice. Over all, it's a charming romance and adventure, with both humor and heart.

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

Image from Inspired by Life and Fiction blog--Karen Witemeyer
Ladies of Harper's Station
1. No Other Will Do
1.5: "Worth the Wait" - found in the All My Tomorrows novella collection (September 2017)
2. Heart on the Line
2.5 "The Love Knot" - found in the Hearts Entwined novella collection (January 2018) 

Monday, June 19, 2017

"The Captain's Daughter" by Jennifer Delamere - Backstage of Gilbert and Sullivan

The Captain's Daughter (London Beginnings #1)When circumstances leave her penniless and alone in London, Rosalyn Bernay takes refuge as a dresser behind the scenes of Gilbert and Sullivan's long-running HMS Pinfore. Army sergeant Nate Moran has been filling in backstage until his brother is back on his feet, but he yearns to be back with the regiment. He recognizes Rosalyn's naivety and offers her a friendly hand. The two have potential to become more than friends, but he is leaving for India soon, and her heart has been captured by the theatre. Will their dreams pull them in opposite directions?

With a new author (to me, anyway), I'm never sure exactly what to expect, but I enjoyed this book. Rosalyn is fairly naive, yet resourceful--which comes in handy when her naivety gets her into trouble. Nate is a kind, gentle hero, still battling his own demons, yet a quiet, protective presence. It's both entertaining and faith-filled.

The theatre plays a major role in the story, and the people that make it up are neither wholly selfish nor whitewashed to perfection--just people, both good and bad, and often a bit of both. While some practices have changed with technology, it's funny how much hasn't changed behind the scenes. It was interesting to read about the background of Gilbert and Sullivan's productions, including the secrecy revolving around Pirates of Penzance and the tactics used to keep the rights to their own productions from being pirated.

Not everything is wholly wrapped up, but nothing major is missed; there are two more books to come, at which point I imagine more will be addressed. I look forward to learning more about Rosalyn's sisters, Julia and Cara!

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

London Beginnings
1. The Captain's Daughter
2. The Heart's Appeal (March 2018)

For those who love Gilbert and Sullivan, I'd also recommend Murder at the Mikado, a 1930's murder mystery revolving around the title production.

Friday, June 16, 2017

"Freedom's Price" by Christine Johnson

Freedom's Price (Keys of Promise #3)When her family's estate in England is entailed away, Catherine Haynes sets sail for her mother's estranged family in Louisiana. During an unexpected detour in Key West, she makes friends with a captain and wrecker, Tom Worthington, who escorts her the rest the of the way to Louisiana. However, the family plantation has fallen into neglect, and there are dangerous secrets hidden in the bayou.

Suspense and romance follow along on a journey from England to Key West to Louisiana. This is the most action-packed book of the series, with adventure on both land and sea, both natural disaster and man-made. It stands nicely on its own, with characters from the previous books only having minor supporting roles.

Catherine is the epitome of the fiery red-head. She's quite headstrong and proud; she's also incredibly gutsy to waltz into her estranged relations' plantation and expect to be instantly one of the family, complete with the authority inherent with the position. While her moxie can come in handy, it's also a definite flaw when it comes to common sense and her safety. I spent the latter half of the book shaking my head at her fool stubbornness--it's clear which way the wind is blowing, and she walks right into it.

While I enjoyed the increase of danger, I didn't feel the emotional tug of the previous book.

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

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

Monday, June 12, 2017

Kate Breslin's "High as the Heavens" - WWI Espionage

High As the HeavensBritish nurse Eve Marche, trapped in occupied Belgium, works in the hospital by day and for the Belgian resistance by night. En route to a clandestine meeting, she watches an Ally plane go down right in front of her and is shocked to discover she recognizes the downed pilot. Simon Forrester is taken to the hospital as a prisoner of war, where he could be shot as a spy at any time. Eve knows she has to get him out of Belgium, but time is running short, and there may be a double agent in their midst . . .

While there are many novels that take place during WWII, there are a lot fewer about WWI, so it was a pleasure to read about the Great War for a change, and in occupied Belgium, no less. There are definitely similarities between the wars, so it was nice that the author included hints of period detail, such as corsets (which went out of fashion not long after the war) to keep the reader grounded.

I love it when the author includes a historical note to let the reader know what was real, and it was gratifying to learn that both Eve and Simon's experiences were based off those of several historical figures. I can't imagine the terror of crossing borders, with the fences and trenches strung up all over, checkpoints on all the roads, and people always watching and spying. I appreciated that the author didn't paint all Allies as good and all Central Powers figures as bad, but that they were all human--with the choice to do good or bad, regardless of their side of the war. Eve may have been staunchly on the side of the Allies, but her desire to save every soldier that comes into her hospital is a fine example for others around her, painting all soldiers as people and not enemies.

I really liked the romance and thoroughly enjoyed the surprise of the first meeting. I can't imagine the pain that either Eve or Simon went through thinking the other one dead, not to mention the fear of not knowing what happened to family.

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

Related novels:
Not By Sight

Friday, June 9, 2017

"The One True Love of Alice-Ann" by Eva Marie Everson

The One True Love of Alice-AnnOn the eve of her 16th birthday, Alice-Ann plans to tell her brother's best friend Mack of her love for him, but the bombing of Pearl Harbor disrupts her plans. With the country headed to war and Mack enlisting, Alice-Ann extracts a promise from him to write--and hopefully over their correspondence they'll both fall in love. When Mack's letters inexplicably cease, Alice-Ann is waiting for the worst. During the days of unknowing, her best friend's brother Carlton is shipped home, gravely injured, and Alice-Ann agrees to visit and read to him during his long recovery. Carlton becomes an unexpected friend, and as their friendship turns to something more, Alice-Ann will have to decide who her one true love truly is.

Set on the homefront in WWII, it depicts the the hardships of those at home--the anxiety of waiting to hear from loved ones, the devastation to the whole town at a death. I could just hear the southern Georgia drawl in the dialogue, and the author brings the sweltering southern setting to life.

Sweet and gentle, the story takes its time. I wasn't surprised by the direction it takes, or any of the twists, but it didn't detract from my enjoyment. It's less a romance and more a coming-of-age story. Oddly, there were moments that reminded me strongly of Gone With the Wind, and it wasn't just the Georgia setting and background of war. For all that both physically and personality-wise Alice-Ann is the direct opposite of Scarlett O'Hara, there were several moments in their respective romances that paralleled each other. I suppose in large part it's because both girls have some growing up to do to learn the difference between infatuation and love. They each have their "Ashley, I love you" moment, and the moment they have to choose who they truly love.

And as Aunt Bess says, "You can't choose who you fall in love with, but you can choose who you marry." Thankfully Alice-Ann has Aunt Bess for advice (Scarlett surely could have used her!)

Monday, June 5, 2017

"The Road to Paradise" by Karen Barnett - A Vintage National Parks Novel

Margie Lane, avid naturalist, convinces her father to procure her a position at Mount Rainier National Park, but the head park ranger Ford Brannon isn't thrilled to have a book-smart socialite with no survival skills tagging along all summer. When Margie's former fiance decides to develop the park, making plans to turn it into a tourist playground instead of the pristine wilderness preserve it was meant to be, it's up to Margie and Ford to stop him.

While I have been to several national parks out west, Mount Rainier is not one of them (though I've seen the peak from Victoria, BC). The book certainly makes me want to go out and visit! I got a kick out of Margie, since she can quote scientific names and seems to love wildflowers as much as I do--maybe even more. And we both have a habit of watching what's growing near our feet when out hiking rather than keeping an eye on what's ahead.

It's an entertaining read, particularly if you are environmentally inclined, or love the old poets, like Emerson. The romance is sweet and the 1920's setting fresh, with some inspiring thoughts on God's hand in nature. The villain was a touch over-the-top, but that just means one can despise him without pity or guilt. I look forward to more Vintage National Parks novels!

(And for the record, this is not a mystery; I kind of thought it might be, based on the cover, but it is not--more a historical romance.)

I received a free book from Blogging for Books; I was not required to write a positive review, and all opinions are my own.

Vintage National  Parks
1. The Road to Paradise


Friday, June 2, 2017

June 2017 Christian Fiction releases!

Here are some upcoming June titles!

Historical:
Freedom's Price (Keys of Promise #3) With You Always (Orphan Train, #1) The Captain's Daughter (London Beginnings #1)
Freedom's Price by Christine Johnson (Revell); Keys of Promise, book 3

Without a future in England, a woman sails to America to find her mother's family, only to find her family gone and their plantation in disrepair.


With You Always by Jody Hedlund (Bethany House); Orphan Train, book 1

Desperate for work, a young immigrant woman takes an orphan train to find a position in the burgeoning towns out west.


The Captain's Daughter by Jennifer Delamere (Bethany House); London Beginnings, book 1

Two stagehands meet briefly working backstage on Gilbert & Sullivan's HMS Pinafore, but when he play is done will their dreams pull them in different directions?


Heart on the Line (Ladies of Harper’s Station, #2) High As the Heavens Sweetbriar Cottage
Heart on the Line by Karen Witemeyer (Bethany House); Ladies of Harper's Station, book 2

Two telegraphers strike up a friendship over the telegraph line, but when he intercepts a wire with a threat against her, it's up to him to rescue--and finally meet--the woman he's falling in love with.


High as the Heavens by Kate Breslin (Bethany House)

A WWI spy, nurse by day and waitress by night, helps rescue a downed RFC pilot in German-occupied Brussels, but getting him out of the country safely is another matter entirely.


Contemporary:
Sweetbriar Cottage by Denise Hunter (Thomas Nelson)

When a tax issue makes it clear a couple's divorce was never finalized, they have to meet up to straighten the mess out, but between a storm and car problems, they end up spending more than just a few minutes together signing papers. 

Monday, May 29, 2017

Nancy Mehl's "Dark Deception" - a twisty, complex suspense

Dark Deception (Defenders of Justice #2)Kate O'Brien watched a serial killer murder her sister and nearly died at his hands too. Because of her testimony, the man was put in jail, and Kate went into witness protection. When evidence appears that hints that the killer was framed, the man who killed her sister is released from prison and set up for a new trial. Deputy Marshall Tony DeLuca, who was with Kate years ago at the earlier trial, comes to fetch her, but a call from his boss makes him stay put with her until the case is straightened out. However, even in the sheltered resort where Kate has been living, danger is lurking . . .

If you want a twisty suspense designed to keep you off-kilter, this is it. Sure, if you read enough mystery/suspense, it's easy to pick up on clues so that the book is not completely one surprise after another, but it's definitely complex enough that I have trouble believing anyone could peg the entire mystery. Complex can often mean confusing, but the author does a good job of rehashing things in an orderly manner in the end so that it all makes sense.

The romance is definitely secondary to the suspense plot--just a tad to sweeten the story. I actually really enjoyed the secondary points of view this time (normally I prefer just the main characters, especially if the book is a romance, but as I said, the romance is far from the focus of the book). It reminds me of a cop show, where other members of the team are working their different angles to fill in the details and aid the characters at the center of the action. On that subject, this book would make a great thriller movie.

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

Defenders of Justice
1. Fatal Frost
2. Dark Deception
3. Blind Betrayal (April 2018)

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

"A Light in the Window" by Julie Lessman

A Light in the Window: An Irish Christmas Love StoryBefore the six O'Connor children experienced their trials of heartache on the way to love, their parents went through it first. Marceline Murphy is determined to fall in love with a man as in love with God as she is. But when she is hired as the director of the church's Christmas fund-raising play, she finds herself pursued by two men, neither of which meet that qualification. She can't help the stirrings for her childhood crush, Sam O'Rourke, who has become a womanizing rogue since falling in with the wild Patrick O'Connor, but even Patrick manages to become a friend - someone whose spiritual welfare she cares about. However, the boys' rivalry over her drives a wedge between the two close friends. Can a rogue ever change his ways? And if he does, which will she choose?

For whatever reason, I was under the impression that this was a novella. Well, for once my wish came true: the novella turned out to be a full-length novel after all! Maybe it's not as long as the author's other novels, but it is quite a respectable length all the same.

Having read most of the O'Connor saga, I knew how the story had to end, but this was a case of the journey being greater than the destination. I could definitely understand the pull of Sam and his family, but I couldn't help but feel for Patrick. I recognized aspects of Marcy's daughters in both her personality and appearance, though some more than others.

I really liked the premise of the play, or rather, the old Irish custom the play is based on: placing a candle in the window on Christmas Eve to welcome the Holy Family. Many people see the light in the window, but only a few accept the welcome and enter; just as many see the Holy Spirit shining in the believers, but few accept the Spirit's invitation. It would be a beautiful play for anyone to put on for Christmas!

As I am coming to recognize in Lessman's novels, there is a strong thread of passion in her writing - passion for both romance and God, hope and redemption. I'm really glad she went back to write Marcy's story!

O'Connor Family Saga:

A Light in the Window

Daughters of Boston
1. A Passion Most Pure
2. A Passion Redeemed
3. A Passion Denied

Winds of Change
1. A Hope Undaunted
2. A Heart Revealed
3. A Love Surrendered

Friday, May 19, 2017

Denise Hunter's "Sweetbriar Cottage" -- full of tough subjects, but powerful

Sweetbriar CottageWhen a letter from the IRS informs Noah Mitchell that his and Josephine's divorce was never finalized, the man is more than a little irate. Josephine willingly accepts the blame for their failed marriage, and the botched divorce too--once Noah comes storming in to inform her about it. In an effort to keep the peace and make things as easy possible for Noah, she drives up the mountain to deliver him the new divorce papers--saving him a trip--but doesn't count on the weather changing before she can drive back down. Hit by an unexpected snowstorm, Josie and Noah are trapped together and forced to confront their past. But is it too little too late for their marriage?

There's a lot of hard stuff in this story. Abuse, infidelity, divorce--all handled tactfully, but in such a way there's no mistaking what happened. It makes the heart ache, knowing that there are many girls who could claim Josie's story as their own. But on the flip side, there's so much good too--forgiveness, redemption, reconciliation, hope. And some serious discussion on unconditional love and whether it's really expected--or possible--in a marriage. It's a hard story, but it's a powerful one too. The author sure doesn't take the easy way out. All together, it adds up to buckets of tears.

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.

Monday, May 15, 2017

"A Love So True" by Melissa Jagears

A Love So True (Teaville Moral Society #2)David Kingsman arrives in Teaville to prove his business merit to his father, but he finds himself distracted by Evelyn Wisely, a pastor's daughter with a heart for orphans and prostitutes. He agrees to help Evelyn with her mission to move prostitutes out of the red light district, but it becomes more complicated than he bargained for--not only for the mission, but also his business and his relationship with Evelyn. Can they overcome the obstacles in their way?

This is book written for the characters--lots of character development going on. David was by far my favorite. He is completely charming without being manipulative (the polar opposite of his dad), and he even has sense! No foot-in-mouth disease with this hero! Evelyn is more stand-offish and harder to understand, though she is undoubtedly compassionate and passionate about aiding the orphans and prostitutes in town. However, once she finally reveals her reasons for avoiding relationships, her actions make a lot more sense.

There are bits of humor sprinkled in--pretty necessary when dealing with heavy topics like prostitution and disease. Jagears treats the subjects with compassion but also realism--not everyone wants to be saved, and not everyone who wants to be saved can be saved. Sometimes the victories feel depressingly small, but there is always room for hope. Maybe it's because the process of reformation is so slow, but in spite of Evelyn's extreme busyness between the orphanage and the moral society, I came away feeling like not a lot actually happened.

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

Teaville Moral Society
0.5: "Engaging the Competition" (Prequel novella from With This Ring? novella collection)
1. A Heart Most Certain
2. A Love So True

Friday, May 12, 2017

Becky Wade's "True to You" - both fun and thought-provoking

True to You (Bradford Sisters Romance #1)Of the three Bradford sisters, Nora might be the plain one, but she's also the smart one, making her living as as a genealogist and the owner of a historical village. When former Navy SEAL John Lawson is diagnosed with an inherited condition, he needs the help of a genealogist to find his birth parents. With Nora's research skills, they begin digging into his background, but will the answers they find be what John was looking for?

I was definitely not expecting the turn the story takes! There are moments that are fun, light, and cute (everything I look forward to in a novel by Becky Wade), and others that are significantly more serious, sometimes dark, and definitely thought-provoking. She strikes an excellent balance between the two. There are some really good scenes delving into identity, both in stripping away the identity one builds up for oneself and the identity created for us in Christ.

The story fits really well with what my bible study has been focusing on--Ephesians 3:20-21. It showcases God's ability to do exceedingly and abundantly above and beyond what one asks and thinks--not necessarily what would be easiest or the most fun, but by what is far and away the best: not just for individuals, or as a couple, but all the lives the situation touches. Kingdom advancement!

I love the little text messages and emails and letters that appear at the end of the chapters; they provide fun hints at things to come, but they also become increasingly poignant, offering glimpses into the hearts of people who are being impacted by Nora and John. They also fit really well with the style of the prequel, which provides a deeper look into the Bradford girls' family background. I loved how Nora and John endeavor to keep their relationship honorable (in spite of significant early-on obstacles), and the relationship between the three sisters is great. I can't wait for Willow and Britt's stories!

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

Bradford Sisters Romances
0.5: "Then Came You"
1. True to You

Monday, May 8, 2017

"A Heart Revealed" by Julie Lessman - a tender story of healing, restoration, and love

Cover ArtIn the ten years since leaving her abusive husband and home country, Emma Malloy has built a life full of purpose and greater friendship than she could have imagined. But when she finds herself falling for her best friend's brother, Sean O'Connor, fear and shame threaten to destroy her. Will she ever be free to marry the man she loves?

Oh, I knew there would be some tough times in this book; how can there not be when Emma is separated from--but still married to--an abusive drunk? And still, I hurt for Emma and Sean so much! However, considering that Emma is not free, I thought the romance was very well done. For the most part, they are simply incredibly good friends that continue to grow closer and closer. And then when they discover they care more for each other than they had realized, they take pains not to push into adultery. And I wondered the whole novel how the "Rory issue" would be resolved so they could be together!

I revise my earlier opinion and state now that this is my favorite of the O'Connor novels so far. Sean has long been a favorite of the O'Connors - kind, tender, hard-working. I love his reserve and care, even if he has struggles buried under his friendly facade. And Emma, so scarred inside and out, is such a beautiful person. Even though she is sweet and genuine and apt to give too much of herself, she isn't a complete pushover anymore; she has learned to act with authority and to stand up for herself and others. In some ways it amazes me she is such good friends with Charity, and in other ways it's no surprise at all; they make quite the complementary pair.

This book ties in most with A Passion Redeemed and A Hope Undaunted, with a strong secondary focus on the sisters Charity and Katie. Thus we get to see the ups and downs of their marriages too; a strong reminder that even though the wedding is over, every couple still needs to work on and safeguard their marriage. 

As usual, there is a very strong spiritual thread to the novel, with lots of truth printed in the pages. You can't deny the author's love of the Savior!

O'Connor Family Saga:

A Light in the Window

Daughters of Boston
1. A Passion Most Pure
2. A Passion Redeemed
3. A Passion Denied

Winds of Change
1. A Hope Undaunted
2. A Heart Revealed
3. A Love Surrendered

Friday, May 5, 2017

Connilyn Cossette's "Wings of the Wind" - a new look at the journey to the Promised Land

Wings of the Wind (Out from Egypt #3)In the final Out from Egypt book, Alannah, a Canaanite woman, fully intends to sacrifice herself on the battlefield taking revenge against the Hebrews that slew her family. However, she wakes up only to have been rescued by a Hebrew and offered the protection of his name. Tobiah had no intention of marrying the woman he found among the dead, but it was the best--and most lawful--way to keep her safe. But will she choose to stay with him, in a completely foreign culture, or return to Canaan?

One thing to be said for this series, the books really make you think. I don't know how many times I've read the account of the Hebrews' journey through the wilderness and the battle of Jericho, yet the author has brought out details that I've normally glossed over without realizing their full implications. The basis for the story is a law on the treatment of captive women and the full implications of it in the current Canaanite culture--a culture that had no respect for women. Looking at how God has continually cherished and provided for women from the very beginning, I don't see how anyone can label God sexist. People, yes; but God, no.

The story went in a different direction than I was expecting, which turned out to be a most pleasant surprise. Even when things were looking bleak, there was always hope--for Yahweh to come through, for Alannah and Tobiah's relationship, and for survival in a hostile land. I'm a bit of a stickler for sticking to biblical fact, so the connection to Rahab . . . doesn't bother me, per say, but doesn't sit wholly comfortably either. But as the author points out, Rahab's willingness shelter the Hebrew spies and trust their God must have stemmed from somewhere, and this is one possible explanation. And if nothing else, the author certainly tells it with flair--I can't complain about that!

Adventure, romance, and an abiding faith make for both and entertaining and powerful read.

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.

Out from Egypt
1. Counted with the Stars
2. Shadow of the Storm
3. Wings of the Wind

Monday, May 1, 2017

May 2017 Christian Fiction Releases!

New releases for May 2017:

Historical:
Wings of the Wind (Out from Egypt #3) A Stranger at Fellsworth (Treasures of Surrey, #3) A Love So True (Teaville Moral Society #2)
Wings of the Wind by Connilyn Cossette (Bethany House); Out from Egypt, book 3

After a Canaanite woman's family is killed by the Hebrews, she disguises herself to fight on the battlefield, never expecting to survive--or the fate that awaits her.


A Stranger at Fellsworth by Sarah E. Ladd (Thomas Nelson); Treasures of Surrey, book 3

Fleeing her controlling brother, a young woman takes refuge with her estranged uncle, only to have trouble follow her.


A Love So True by Melissa Jagears (Bethany House); Teaville Moral Society, book 2

A young woman with a heart for the town's orphans attracts the attention of a businessman in town, but as he lends support to her cause, complications piles up.

True to You (Bradford Sisters Romance #1)

Contemporary:

True to You by Becky Wade (Bethany House); Bradford Sisters, book 1.

A genealogist who likes to hide from the present ends up helping a former Navy SEAL trace his family history, never dreaming how working together will change their future.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Jen Turano's "Behind the Scenes" - high jinks and hilarity

Behind the Scenes (Apart from the Crowd, #1)
In the midst of Alva Vanderbilt's society event of the century, Miss Permilia Griswold, a wallflower, has no plans but to take notes for her secret job as Miss Quill, a society columnist. However, little at the ball goes right for her, and in the course of helping a friend, she overhears a death threat against the highly eligible Asher Rutherford. When Asher doesn't take the threat seriously, Permilia takes matters into her own hands to keep him safe.

You know it's a good book when people come asking why you're laughing. Mostly it's the author's turn of phrase and ability to stick characters in crazy situations (the dumbwaiter scene is great), but this time the historical fancy dress ball of Alva Vanderbilt was sufficiently bizarre as to provide details full of humor on their own. Like costumes made with taxidermied cat heads and tails, or battery operated electric lights in the dress (in 1883, when electrical safety was not quite as much a thing).

I'm always so glad that the author uses recurring characters (or gives them their own book)--be they main characters or supporting, Turano excels at writing quirky, lovable characters. Permilia is fun, especially after getting a taste of her personality in "At Your Request," but I can't wait to read more about Gertrude and her highly suspect employer, Miss Davenport, in the next book.

vanderbiltball
Mora. Miss Kate Fearing Strong
(later Mrs. Arthur Welman). 1883.
Museum of the City of New York.
F2012.58.1460.
If you're in need of a laugh, look no farther. The book doesn't take itself too seriously, but it's not without heart.

Thank you Bethany House for providing a 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

Friday, April 21, 2017

"A Stranger at Fellsworth" by Sarah E. Ladd

A Stranger at Fellsworth (Treasures of Surrey, #3)Fleeing her controlling brother's plans for her life, Annabelle Thorley imposes on the kindness of a stranger, Owen Locke, to escort her to her estranged uncle in Surrey, with whom she takes refuge. For the first time in her life Annabelle has to work for a living, and it is a rude awakening. With a small daughter at the school, Owen finds himself spending more and more time with the woman he rescued, and with a shot at purchasing neighboring land, he finally feels reason to hope. But the peace they've found is tenuous--there are poachers in the woods, strange doings at the school, and Annabelle's brother and his cronies could descend at any minute to shatter their hopes for the future.

The story was over really quickly, and I'm still trying to decide if I'd have liked it drawn out and developed more (as there were things I would have enjoyed expansion on), or if the fast-paced plot makes it more appealing. Even by the end, I'm not sure that Annabelle is actually prepared for her life in reduced circumstances, and that is the biggest thing that should have been more strongly addressed.

I enjoyed Owen's position as a gamekeeper--it's something new and different. Annabelle and her maid's relationship went in a different direction than I was expecting, which kept things interesting as well. I wouldn't have minded a little more time with her uncle--he is a different fellow, and some of the things he lets slip about his sister (Annabelle's mother) and his tough love practices are quite interesting.

It wasn't a story that held me riveted at all times, but neither did I feel like I had to work to get through it. It's pretty fast-paced.

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.

Treasures of Surrey

Monday, April 17, 2017

"The White Feather Murders" by Rachel McMillan

The White Feather Murders (Herringford and Watts Mysteries #3)With Great Britain preparing to enter the Great War against Germany, Canada is in an uproar, and unrest towards immigrants abounds. As Toronto institutes policies against the immigrant population, including Jem's husband Ray Deluca, a murderer begins targeting members of a club that focuses on integrating the recent immigrants into society. Can Merinda and Jem find the murderer before becoming targets themselves?

The final Herringford & Watts mystery is as humorous as the others as Merinda and Jem once more work to keep Toronto safe.

The author does a good job of making Ray and Jem's marriage realistic--just because they're married with a child doesn't mean they have everything figured out. I don't like to see conflict in marriage, which dimmed my enjoyment a trifle, but to give credit where it's due, their struggle to balance careers and family is portrayed realistically and is still plenty relevant today.

For all the fear-mongering over the impending war, the story is light and entertaining. I don't think it's a shining example of the ladies' detective work, as they have a tendency to jump to conclusions with little support for their theories. I was enjoyed learning who the villain was, but disappointed with the ladies for running after the person without a plan or backup. Not that either was really necessary--once again, the villain gives up the upper hand to run their mouth and Reveal All. Truly clever villains are so few and far between.

Thank you Harvest House and NetGalley for providing a free e-book to review. I was not required to write a positive review, 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, April 14, 2017

Becky Wade's "Then Came You" - a unique novella

Then Came You (Bradford Sisters Romance #0.5)In the prequel to Becky Wade's upcoming series, Garner Bradford has just become a single father to an infant girl. With a shattered heart, a family company to consume him, and a child he doesn't know what to do with, he feels lost and broken. Meanwhile, career girl Kathleen Burke settles for a job at Bradford Shipping, waiting for her dream job to open up in New York, yet several years later, she's still stuck in Washington. The main perk is her boss, Garner Bradford, whose tragic life and beautiful eyes may have captured her heart. But with his past and her future goals, will they have anything beyond the present?

The story is pieced together from journal entries, phone messages and conversations, and letters, some sent, others not, making for a unique way of telling the story. I loved that just their words were able to bring out the personalities of all the characters, not just of Garner and Kathleen, and they (especially's Kathleen's letters and messages) conveyed a lot of humor. While the epistolary approach is not one I'd care to read all the time, it is perfect for this story, and it completely captured my attention.

Garner's story, though, was surprisingly moving for a short novella. He makes mistakes, does things that aren't okay by Christian standards. But through his journal entries, he shows a lot of growth and maturation.

It took me a while to figure out how the story precisely ties in to (or rather, sets up) the upcoming series, as I didn't notice any dates early on. But by the end I figured it out, and I'd love to see how Garner's story will affect the three girls in the upcoming books. I'm really looking forward to book one!

Bradford Sisters
0.5: "Then Came You"
1. True to You 

Monday, April 10, 2017

"Pursued" by Lisa Harris

Pursued #3   -     By: Lisa Harris
Missing Persons Investigator Nikki Boyd is on a plane that crashes upon landing at the airport. In the aftermath of the wreck, Nikki can't find the woman who'd been seated next to her, and no one can remember if--or will admit that--she was ever there. When information comes to light that she was being flown in as a key witness to a grand jury trial, Nikki suspects that the woman is fleeing from trouble--unless she's at the heart of it.

The first 48 hours are the most critical.

With the entire book taking place in little over 48 hours, it is comprised of non-stop action and danger. After all that Nikki goes through in the first 24 hours (never mind the second), it's amazing she can function at all. I just can't believe, after all the physical and psychological trauma she goes through, that her superiors would allow her to remain on the case, not with the FBI and the rest of the missing persons task force on the case. Even if she is great at her job, she's not the only one able to do it. While it keeps things moving, I feel like it would have had more impact if not quite so many (and so varied) life-threatening disasters befell her.

The personal news Nikki receives after the crash is one more vicious blow, but it at least adds a poignant note to the story and pushes her to be vulnerable with her almost-boyfriend Tyler--something she is not accustomed to being in her everyday life of law enforcement.

Thank you Revell for providing a free 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 (Nov 2017)

Friday, April 7, 2017

"To the Farthest Shores" by Elizabeth Camden

To the Farthest Shores  -     By: Elizabeth Camden
Thanks to his unusual upbringing and language skills, Lt. Ryan Gallagher was chosen for a secret overseas mission that destroyed his reputation and broke his beloved Jenny Bennett's heart. When Ryan returns six years later, Jenny is unprepared to deal with the emotions of his return, and due to the secrecy of the mission, Ryan can't share why he left her. Now he believes he may have found the solution to his situation, which would put him back in the States for good, but it means bringing Jenny and her nursing skills in to help. But will she be willing to face the heartache of working with him?

I have to say, the book didn't go in the direction I'd expected from reading the back blurb (which, by the way, accurately describes the book--I just interpreted it incorrectly). There was less suspense than I'd anticipated, but it was balanced by interesting subject matter. I greatly enjoy learning about different cultures, and the Japanese aspect is an interesting twist. Camden never fails to bring out in depth new and interesting topics--especially cultures--in her books.

I have to admit, I really liked Finn; maybe not as much in the beginning, but he grew on me. Ryan was a great guy--dense as all get-out, though sweet--but Finn has the harder road to travel and the most growth. He comes mighty close to upstaging Ryan. I would nominate him for best supporting (though not always supportive) character. And as much as I liked him, I also appreciated his decidedly non-romantic relationship with Jenny. They're fun to watch together because of their professional relationship, though I'd say it comes closer to friendship by the end.

There wasn't as much of a spiritual thread in this book as in others, though there is a lot about working through forgiveness--both of others and of self.

For the record, I will gladly take a book about Finn. Can't resist a good spy.

Thank you Bethany House for providing a free book. No review, positive or otherwise, was required, and all opinions are my own.

Since it came up, here are some of Camden's other multicultural novels:
Romanian - The Rose of Winslow Street
Greek - Against the Tide
Polish - Into the Whirlwind
Dutch - Until the Dawn

Monday, April 3, 2017

April 2017 Christian Fiction Releases!

April promises some interesting reads--from romantic comedy to suspense, WWII to legal thriller.

Historical:
Behind the Scenes by Jen Turano (Bethany House);  Apart from the Crowd, book 1

Thanks to her secret job as a notorious gossip columnist, a society wallflower overhears a threat to one of New York's finest bachelors, so she takes it upon herself to warn the man.


A Secret Courage by Tricia Goyer (Harvest House); London Chronicles, book 1

A WWII photograph analyst working for British cryptography finds herself falling for an artist, but the man is far more than he seems.

Behind the Scenes (Apart from the Crowd, #1) A Secret Courage (The London Chronicles #1) Pursued (Nikki Boyd Files #3)
Beyond Justice (Hidden Justice #1)
Suspense:
Pursued by Lisa Harris (Revell); Nikki Boyd, book 3

Nikki Boyd's flight is routine until it crash lands at the airport. The dust clears only to reveal the woman next to her has vanished, and no one will admit that she ever existed.


Beyond Justice by Cara Putman (Thomas Nelson); Hidden Justice, book 1

In this legal thriller, a young attorney is given the case that could make or break her career--but could breaking it be the intention of her law firm?

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Sarah Sundin's "When Tides Turn" - a spectacular series finale

When Tides Turn (Waves of Freedom, #3)Gorgeous Quintessa Beaumont is tired of being valued for nothing but her looks, and, determining to do her part in the war, joins the newly established WAVES. Lieutenant Dan Avery, married to the navy, has no desire to be distracted by a beautiful woman like Tess--they're only trouble. All he wants is to get back to sea the moment his desk duty is up. But when Tess is assigned to his office and he really gets to know the woman beneath the beautiful facade, his well-laid plans start to steer off course . . .

Though it seems impossible given how much I loved the first book in the series, I just might like When Tides Turn a smidgen more. Both are spectacular. Once again, Sundin takes us deep into the historical details of the war, with fun and engaging characters to guide us. After a recent weekend playing the boardgame Axis and Allies, I found the battles more interesting than usual, and I was picturing the movements of the various ships and u-boats on the giant world map as I read.

Dan is the best--he's stoic, stubborn, and a workaholic (definitely a work in progress), but I love his subtle humor and that honorable streak that his conscience won't let him deny. He grows so much over the course of the story, though I loved him from the get-go. Tess, too, is a great character; she's fun without being flighty, sensitive yet sensible. Whether plain or stunning, it's a rare woman who doesn't struggle with feelings of worth, and beautiful Tess is no different. They make a very complementary pair, and it plays out well in everything they do, even in sketching drawings.

There was a lot of food for thought in this book. I loved the analogy of Sabbath rest as a form of tithe. In tithing, one keeps 90% of one's income and gives the Lord 10%, and it is an exercise in trusting the Lord. In the story, Tess says, "It's the same with time. God gives us a week and says, 'Work hard on six days, give me one day for your worship and rest, and trust me to meet your needs out of those six days.' Choosing to rest is an exercise in trust." (location 3375). In fact, the story has a lot of good points about the importance of a day of rest, and in our busy American culture, I think they're more relevant than ever before. Sundin doesn't stop with just the Sabbath, but takes the story further into trusting God even when there seems to be no hope.

A wonderful finale to the series! 5 stars!

Thank you Revell and NetGalley for providing a free e-book. No review, positive or otherwise, was required, and all opinions are my own.

Waves of Freedom
1. Through Waters Deep
2. Anchor in the Storm
3. When Tides Turn

Friday, March 24, 2017

Karen Witemeyer's "Worth the Wait"

Worth the Wait (Ladies of Harper's Station): A Ladies of Harper's Station Novella - eBook  -     By: Karen Witemeyer
Shopkeeper for women's colony in Texas, Tori Adams is working on expanding her business to bring in more income for the ladies whose goods she is selling. This means going against her preferences and accepting the help of a man--Ben Porter--to drive her freight from farm to farm. Ben knows when a critter--be it animal or human--has been abused, and brave, beautiful Tori shows all the signs. Will this new partnership be the opportunity he has been looking for to win her heart?

"Worth the Wait" has Witemeyer's characteristic blend of humor and heart, and if anything, they're more intensified in this short novella. There were some pretty funny moments involving a little boy and appropriate terminology regarding bodily functions. For a novella, it addresses some pretty intense subjects, but at the same time, there's some intense healing happening too. While I always prefer the longer books, this still makes a nice interlude between novels--don't have to wait as long for the next book, and it provides another fun opportunity to learn more about the ladies of Harper's Station!

Ladies of Harper's Station
1. No Other Will Do
1.5: "Worth the Wait"
2. Heart on the Line
2.5 "The Love Knot" - found in the Hearts Entwined novella collection (January 2018)

Monday, March 20, 2017

"A Secret Courage" by Tricia Goyer--spies and counterspies

A Secret Courage (The London Chronicles #1)Emma Hanson, a photograph interpreter working for British intelligence, is doing her part to end the war as quickly as possible so that no more boys get killed, like her brother the year before. A seemingly chance encounter with an engaging stranger at a London bookstore, though, proves to be a distraction for the otherwise work-obsessed WAC. Will Fleming's job--running a spy ring and flushing out other spies--leaves little room for personal entanglements, but Emma catches his eye, and she is the in he needs to infiltrate her place of employment. But will the secrets they hold for their country be too much for a relationship?

I loved learning about the intelligence work that went into the war. I had no idea that the Allies sent planes over Germany purely to photograph the land, while a host of intelligencers were sitting back home interpreting each bit of camouflage and shadow that the photos revealed. I can't imagine how difficult it would be not to let things slip--not even to coworkers! If I were in Emma's shoes, I'm not sure if I could stand the pressure, especially when falling in love with someone who has no part in the work. I enjoyed watching Emma's spiritual growth; we all need God's work in our lives--even  pretty put-together people like Emma.

Figuring out exactly what Will's role is was a little confusing. Would he be a triple agent? He has a cover as a British artist as he runs a German spy ring that he set up as a British agent for the purpose of controlling the information that gets sent to Germany. A British spy pretending to be a German spy pretending to be an innocent Brit. It's a smart way to control the flow of information, not to mention being able to keep tabs on the German spies in place. Better the enemy you know than the one you don't! But it is a concept that's a little hard to wrap one's head around.

As much as I didn't like it, I also appreciated the consequences of Emma's choices. However, I feel like the story ended a little prematurely--not that things weren't basically resolved, but it felt very abrupt. I wouldn't have minded an epilogue or something just to know that things for sure turn out all right--there's still another year of war to survive, after all. However, it was an enjoyable story.

Thank you Harvest House and NetGalley for providing a free e-book to review. All opinions are my own.

Friday, March 17, 2017

Cara Putman's "Beyond Justice" - an exciting legal thriller

Beyond Justice (Hidden Justice #1)After yet another brilliant win in the courtroom, Hayden McCarthy is handed the case that could make or break her law career. But nothing is adding up about this case, and the partners of the law firm are acting erratically at best over it. With some creative help from her roommate and Emilie's distracting cousin Andrew, she keeps the case alive. But someone out there wants this case shut down, and they're not above violence to do it.

I always enjoy learning something new in a book, though in this case, it was how little I actually know and understand about lawyers. I definitely didn't understand all the terms for parts of the legal process, but it didn't really dampen my enjoyment of the novel; it was clear when things were going well for Hayden and when they weren't. When she was pushing for a particular meeting, I rooted for her, and when she was being stonewalled, I felt her frustration. So even if you don't understand legalese, it's a good story.

I liked how the author brings social justice to the forefront, raising awareness about illegal immigration, but in aspects of it that I've never thought of before--namely, the juveniles who cross the border and get caught. What happens to kids who are caught? How are they treated? How are they reconnected with their families? Do the children receive justice? Though many of these questions aren't answered, it's a big step that they are even being asked.

The prequel novella didn't thrill me, but the author nailed this book. The suspense, investigative work, and various threats to both Hayden and Andrew, as well as friendships and romance, are all woven skillfully together in a story that's hard to put down. This perfectly fit the bill of the legal thriller I was looking for.

Thank you Thomas Nelson and NetGalley for providing a free e-book. No review, positive or otherwise, was required, and all opinions are my own.

Hidden Justice
0.5: Dying for Love
1. Beyond Justice
2. Imperfect Justice (2018)

Monday, March 13, 2017

"A Stolen Heart" by Amanda Cabot - a sweet Texas romance

A Stolen Heart  -     By: Amanda Cabot
Lydia Crawford arrives in Texas to marry her fiance, only to discover him missing and the man's pregnant wife frantic with worry. Dreams crushed, she has nothing to return to in New York, so she stays in Cimarron Creek--a small town where not everyone has moved past the Civil War, though it has been over for fifteen years. Thankfully, Sheriff Travis Whitfield is intent on making her welcome, placing her under the generous wing of his great aunt. Will Lydia, a Yankee, find a place here in the South?

For the most part it's a gentle love story, as Lydia learns how to get past the disappointment of a broken heart and move on. I especially liked her relationship with Opal and the lessons she learned by befriending her; it takes even more character than dealing with certain prejudiced people who haven't got past the Civil War [cough cough, Travis's dad].

Aunt Bertha is a dear--one of those great characters who steals the show from the principal leads. I really liked the supporting cast in general, especially Catherine and Opal (and Bertha, of course). I'm pleased to see it looks like book two will be about Catherine. And even though he's largely a gruff old curmudgeon, Travis's dad cracked me up in his constant reference of Lydia as the "Cursed Enemy." Pretty big title for a girl who was barely born at the start of the war.

There is some mystery and danger, keeping Travis hopping in his role as sheriff. I was pleased to have figured out the villain, though I was disappointed that the person has a villain-reveals-all moment. So many villains in stories would have a decent chance at succeeding if they just kept their mouths shut.

Thank you Revell for providing a free book. No review, positive or otherwise, was required, and all opinions are my own.

Cimarron Creek
1. A Stolen Heart
2. (coming Winter 2018)

Friday, March 10, 2017

"A Lady in Disguise" by Sandra Byrd - a Gothic suspense

A Lady in Disguise (Daughters of Hampshire, #3)In this Gothic suspense, Gillian Young, a seamstress and costumer for Drury Lane, is disturbed when, shortly following her father's funeral, word comes out that he was corrupt policeman. Not wanting to believe the allegations that even his friends on the force are convinced of, she begins investigating his death on her own. However, each step she takes seems to bring more threats and danger to not only herself, but the girls she has hired as apprentice seamstresses. Who can she trust? A dashing viscount, who may have ulterior motives regarding her property, or an old friend on the force, whose father appears to be a threat himself?

I generally consider myself fairly well educated in history and period detail, but I learned a surprising amount about Victorian England in this book, from missions, to children's theatre, to Victorian era human trafficking. It's all woven together in a delightfully menacing plot.

Gillian is a strong heroine. Having done costuming and taken in commissions myself, I really enjoyed that she is not only a seamstress, but an independent business woman, not dependent on anyone (save occasional employers). Thanks to her profession (and, to a degree, her heritage) she is able to travel some between classes, though she herself is rooted in the middle class. I can't imagine the devastation as it feels like the world is conspiring to take everything away from her, yet she remains strong and compassionate throughout.

I enjoyed the allusions to classic literature and fairy tales; it was a fun change to see Little Women take a prominent place in the story. Over all, it was an enjoyable suspense.

Thank you Howard Books and NetGalley for providing a free e-book. No review, positive or otherwise, was required, and all opinions are my own.

Daughters of Hampshire
1. Mist of Midnight
2. Bride of a Distant Isle
3. A Lady in Disguise

Monday, March 6, 2017

Mary Connealy's "Long Time Gone" - the saga continues

Long Time GoneWhen Justin Boden's brother gets shot during an assault on their family over a decades-old secret, they call in the doctor, who brings along a pretty city girl to assist him. Though the threat continues on the Boden family, Justin can't help his attraction to the delicate Angie Dupree, and with as much time as she's spending there nursing his brother back to health, she's caught up in their family's problems too. Can Justin protect her from the danger coming their way? And will they be able to figure out who's out to steal their ranch from under them?

I'd forgotten some of what had happened in the first book of the series, and it was helpful to go back and skim some to refresh my memory. Being as the entire series is focused on a single family and an assault against their ranch, these books are pretty closely tied together, and I'd recommend reading the previous books first.

I really enjoy the family dynamics in this series; the siblings really act like siblings, squabbles and all. There's a definite brotherly rivalry between Justin and Cole, with comments about how one of Justin's favorite activities includes punching his big brother, yet there's definitely strong love too. With such an extensive history of squabbles, they tend to fall back on their old habits of annoying each other to express that love rather than a sudden sentimentality. I get it--there are just some siblings you can't get too sentimental with, or they'll assume something is really wrong, and it's easier to fall back on old habits than to change too fast.

I really liked how the author took Angie--a proper, obedient, quiet, city girl--and proved that anyone, when faced with danger, can be brave. And just because one is trapped in unfamiliar surroundings doesn't mean that one has to be helpless. Angie may not know much about the New Mexican wilderness or defending herself, but she makes good use of common sense, and that goes a long way. She's the kind of heroine I like best--the kind that balances femininity with intelligence and bravery, who's willing to both help and accept help.

As usual, lots of humor and fun writing. I look forward to the conclusion to the series!

Thank you Bethany House and NetGalley for providing a free e-book. No review, positive or otherwise, was required, 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 (October 2017)

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

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

March 2017 Christian Fiction releases!

Lots of releases for March 2017!
Long Time Gone (The Cimarron Legacy, #2) A Stolen Heart (Cimarron Creek Trilogy #1) To the Farthest Shores
Historical:
Long Time Gone by Mary Connealy (Bethany House); Cimarron Legacy, book 2

The Boden family fights to keep their ranch after a decades-old secret comes to light.


A Stolen Heart by Amanda Cabot (Revell); Cimarron Creek, book 1

When a Yankee woman heads south to meet her fiance in Texas, she discovers not only intense prejudice, but also that her fiance has disappeared--and left behind a pregnant wife.


To the Farthest Shores by Elizabeth Camden (Bethany House)

After leaving his fiancee six years earlier, a naval officer returns needing her help--but he can't tell her anything about where he'd gone, lest it endanger the mission he is still carrying out.


The Illusionist's Apprentice by Kristy Cambron (Thomas Nelson)

Teaming up with the FBI, an eccentric illusionist works to prove the innocence of a charlatan mystic who has been accused of murder.


When Tides Turn by Sarah Sundin (Revell); Waves of Freedom, book 3

When a WAVE discovers a possible spy ring on shore, she turns to a friend's brother, a Navy lieutenant, for help.


The Illusionist's Apprentice When Tides Turn (Waves of Freedom, #3) Murder Is No Accident (Hidden Springs Mystery #3) 
Contemporary Mystery:

Murder is No Accident by Ann H Gabhart (Revell); Hidden Springs Mysteries, book 3

At first glance, a dead body in an abandoned Victorian mansion looks like the result of an accident, but clues are pointing in another direction.

Friday, February 24, 2017

Lynette Eason's "Moving Target" - like The Most Dangerous Game

Moving Target #3   -     By: Lynette Eason
In the third of the Elite Guardian novels, bodyguard Maddy McKaye and Detective Quinn Holcombe are abducted shortly before Quinn's birthday party and wake up on an island, where their host takes pleasure in hunting the most dangerous game--humans. Can they outwit the killer and catch him before he catches up with them?

While it cannot be said I remember every book I've ever read, there is one chilling short story from high school that I'll never forget: "The Most Dangerous Game," by Richard Connell. Moving Target takes the basic concept of that story and brings it into the modern era, but in a twisted game rigged against the prey.

I kind of wish the time on the island had lasted longer--survivalist stories are always so thrilling. However, the suspense holds throughout the story; that's one thing that I can always depend on in an Eason book--non-stop action and suspense. I do wish Maddy had been a bit wiser in some of her choices a couple times in the book; given her background in law enforcement, I would have expected a more sensible course of action, especially when her gut is warning her that something is off. In her place, I'd have been paranoid and suspicious of everyone with ties to the case.

Both Maddy and Quinn are dealing with baggage (similar enough that I wanted to bash their heads together a couple times--clear case of the pot and kettle), but it's nice to see them make progress throughout the book and develop a greater understanding of God. They aren't my favorite couple of the series, but when the chips are down, they work well together.

Thank you Revell and NetGalley for providing a free e-book. No review, positive or otherwise, was required, and all opinions are my own.

Elite Guardians
1. Always Watching
2. Without Warning
3. Moving Target
4. Chasing Secrets (Aug 2017)

Monday, February 20, 2017

"A Note Yet Unsung" by Tamera Alexander

A Note Yet Unsung (Belmont Mansion, #3)Rebekah Carrington returns to Nashville after a decade in Vienna needing employment, and auditions for a position in the upcoming Nashville Philharmonic. Rejected by Maestro Tate Whitcomb purely on the grounds of her gender, she follows another lead to Belmont Mansion, where the formidable Adelicia Acklen hires her to work with her children. However, even though he denied her a position in the orchestra, Tate needs an assistant who can help him complete his symphony, and Rebekah has all the qualifications. But will she be willing to help him after he ruined her dreams?

If the author doesn't know much about music, you wouldn't know it to read this book. It's a tribute to both the masters--such as Beethoven and Mozart--and to early American music, particularly hymns and spirituals. Tate reminds me of famous American composers Aaron Copeland and the Gershwin brothers, who mixed elements of both kinds of music in their masterpieces.

I enjoyed meeting Tate's family; they add an unexpected dimension to Tate's character. However, I do wish Rebekah's family situation had been expanded more, since it's purely the reason she has to seek employment and lodging outside her home (bringing about the entire story).

The book stands perfectly on its own, though there are cameos of characters from former books. Over all, though, it's a rich story in the author's classic fashion.

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

Belle Meade Plantation (contains some cross-over characters/connections to Belmont)
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 (Aug 2017)