Monday, August 14, 2017

Lynette Eason's "Chasing Secrets"

Chasing Secrets #4  -     By: Lynette Eason
In the final Elite Guardians book, bodyguard Haley Callaghan finds herself in danger on multiple fronts--from the local gangbanger who beats on a kid she's taken under her wing to the murderer who assassinated her family 25 years ago in Ireland. Detective Steven Rothwell takes it upon himself to back her up, but can they keep ahead of the bullets, bombs, and bad guys that never seem to quit?

Haley is just as tough as the other members of her team, if not more so, since she spends most of the book wounded yet not taken down. There's a lot going on with the story, between Haley's past, her bodyguard job, and her personal life helping kids, not to mention Steven's past and his current case that has no apparent connection with Haley's problems. With all that happening, the story certainly moves quickly, and as I have come to expect from Eason, it's non-stop action.

It definitely wasn't my favorite of the series--it didn't have the novelty I felt in the first book (the introduction to the women bodyguards), nor the out-of-the-box plot of the third. However, I think a good part of my lower level of enjoyment was a result of distractingly enticing non-reading activities, and the slightly less unique plot couldn't compete. I will say, the romance progressed fairly realistically compared to other suspense books, and there were some good thoughts on forgiveness.

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

Elite Guardians
1. Always Watching
2. Without Warning
3. Moving Target
4. Chasing Secrets

Friday, August 11, 2017

"To Wager Her Heart" by Tamera Alexander

To Wager Her Heart (Belle Meade Plantation, #3)One year ago, two trains crashed outside of Nashville, killing over a hundred people. Silas Rutledge, new owner of the Northeast Line Railroad, comes to Nashville to put in a bid to develop a new rail line into Belle Meade Plantation, but the competition is stiff, especially for an outsider from Colorado. He needs help breaking into the Southern Gentlemen's circle, and Alexandra Jamison, daughter of one of Nashville's oldest families, is the key. Alexandra, in pursuing her dream to teach at the freedmen's school, is cast out from her own family and must provide for herself, so she agrees to help, in spite of her reservations--chief of which was having lost her fiance in the trash crash his father was blamed for. However, she finds herself learning to respect him. But in Nashville's post-war society, can they find the justice they seek?

One thing you can count on in Tamera Alexander's stories is a deep appreciation for--and attention to--historical detail. From the Fisk University (a freedmen's school) and its internationally renowned Jubilee Singers to hymn-writer Philip Bliss to the prevailing prejudices of the time, the story is rich with historical detail. While each book in the series is perfectly stand-alone, they also fit well together, dealing more pointedly with the prejudice in Reconstruction-era Nashville, while tying them in with the historic Belle Meade Plantation.

Alexandra grows a lot during the story, both learning to find her own way and overcoming deep-seated fears and grief. Like Alexandra, I found my initial opinions of Si changing. Not that I ever disliked him, but I was impressed by how willing he was to ask for help when he was clearly a strong, self-made man. The romance is sweet, gentle, and believable as they grow into friendship and slowly evolve into romance, each helping the other pursue their dreams.

Overall, it was an enthralling and inspiring story, in classic Tamera Alexander-fashion.

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

Belle Meade Plantation (contains some cross-over characters/connections to Belmont)
1. To Whisper Her Name2. To Win Her Favor 
2.5 "To Mend a Dream" (part of the novella collection Among the Fair Magnolias)
3. To Wager Her Heart

Belmont Mansion (contains some cross-over characters/connections to Belle Meade)
1. A Lasting Impression
2. A Beauty So Rare
3. A Note Yet Unsung

Carnton Mansion  (contains some cross-over characters/connections to Belle Meade and Belmont)
0.5: "Christmas at Carnton" (novella, October 2017)

Monday, August 7, 2017

Hillary Manton Lodge's "Jane of Austin" - a story of sense and sensibility and tea

When a new landlord takes over and remnants of their father's business scandal force the three Woodward sisters out of their home and San Francisco tea shop, they find themselves landing in Austin of all places. Jane is having a hard enough time finding anything to like about Texas, with their inability to find a new location for their tea shop and her baby sister unhappy about leaving her friends, but her older sister Celia hurting from a break-up--and refusing to talk for the first time in their lives--is the worst. But then, they have an encounter with a heroic and chivalric Texan, and Jane just might have found one thing to like about the state . . .

I'd like to think that just because a novel is related to Jane Austen's work, I wouldn't automatically pick it up--but that has yet to be proved. Perhaps I might have been able to resist, but there is that huge focus on tea and baking . . . and I love tea. So there it is.

Lodge takes a different tack from the average Jane Austen knockoff with the focus on Sense and Sensibility (as opposed to the more popular Pride and Prejudice). And it works really well; there's no Austen references in the text, but the story is undeniably a modernized Sense and Sensibility. I'm more of an Elinor than a Maryann, so I identified with the personality of Lodge's Celia more so than Jane, but Jane proved a bit more pragmatic than Austen's Maryann (even with her heightened 'sensibility'), and I enjoyed her sense of humor (not to mention all her baking and tea-making, though I cannot understand her love of chamomile).

I have to admit, one of the big draws to this book was that I knew it would have recipes in it--and one of my favorite recipes (a Moroccan tagine with couscous) came from another of the author's books. These look equally delicious. Other than a brief mention of seminary in the last chapters, there is absolutely no faith element, regarding which I was a little surprised and disappointed (especially considering the publisher), but on the other hand, the story is clean and entertaining. It is my favorite book by Lodge to date.

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

Friday, August 4, 2017

August 2017 New Christian Fiction

New releases coming out in August 2017:

Many Sparrows The Promise of Breeze Hill (Natchez Trace) Chasing Secrets (Elite Guardians, #4)
Many Sparrows by Lori Benton (Waterbrook)

When a settler's son is captured by Shawnee, she will do anything to get him back, even follow him in enemy territory herself.

The Promise of Breeze Hill by Pam Hillman (Tyndale) - Natchez Trace, book 1

After his indenture is purchased by a colonial plantation owner's daughter, a carpenter discovers that someone has his eye on the plantation and is willing to do anything to acquire it.

Chasing Secrets by Lynette Eason (Revell) - Elite Guardians, book 4

A body guard finds herself in danger when a case from 25 years ago is reopened.

Monday, July 31, 2017

"Dear Mr. Knightley" by Katherine Reay - a modern "Daddy Long Legs"

Dear Mr. Knightley
After growing up in the foster care system, Samantha Moore finds safety in books but can't seem relate to other people for her life. When yet another disappointment lands her back where she started--a group home--she decides to go to grad school after all. An anonymous benefactor agrees to sponsor Sam, provided she study journalism and write frequent updates. So Sam begins attending grad school, certain that the courses will be a breeze and she can fake the human interaction. But she learns that nothing is that easy . . . With her anonymous Mr. Knightley as her confidante, she chronicles the ups and downs of her journey toward healing.

There are a lot of contrasts in this book; it's both an ode to the classics and a very modern read, with tough, real-world problems. There's humor, but also a lot of pain. Both self-realization and lying to oneself. Hope and despair (though hope triumphs).

I can't speak for how accurate this story is in portraying an adult who grew up in the foster care system--the closest I've come is one friend who was adopted as a baby, but she has never had cause to doubt her parents' love. Regardless, the story resonates--the feelings of abandonment, the walls put up to shelter one from more hurt and disappointment. If this is even remotely close to what some foster kids experience, it's powerful and painful. I can understand why Sam would retreat from real life into fiction when things hit too close to home. To my limited experience, the author portrayed this really well.

Another thing she did well--the author knows her classics! Not just Austen and the Brontes, but also Dumas and Dickens and Shakespeare and others. I consider myself decently versed in the classics, but there's no way I could keep up the quote wars (though at least I recognized many of the Austen quotes). It was fun how she was able to incorporate them so easily, using them both as a guide for polite behavior and a weapon.

In some ways it's a coming of age novel (which is fitting, being based on the classic Daddy Long Legs), though Sam is a bit older of a protagonist than usual. It's definitely a moving tale, and one to make you think.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Karen Witemeyer's "Head in the Clouds" - an old one, but a good one

Head in the CloudsAdelaide Proctor resigns her stable post as a schoolteacher to follow her heart--and ends up getting crushed when the man she pursued turns out to be married. With no job to go back to, she answers an ad for a governess for an English sheep-herder's daughter out in the wilds of Texas. Adelaide's resume isn't the one Gideon Wescott would have chosen for his adopted daughter, but the way she draws out the traumatized child cinches the deal for him. When little Isabella's uncle comes to claim her and her inheritance, Gideon and Adelaide must work together to protect her.

This was the first Karen Witemeyer book I ever read, which pretty much sealed her as one of my favorite authors. A blend of humor and heart, both sweet and inspiring with a touch of suspense, the story (even after some four or five read-throughs) never ceases to disappoint.

I like how the author puts a different, more biblical spin on the phrase "head in the clouds"--while the term can refer to Adelaide with her dreams of love and happy endings, she's also got her eye on the sky to watch for a cloud pointing the way, just as the Israelites did when following God in the desert.

I love the characters (except for the bad guys; they're perfectly despicable). The story itself is particularly well-told, leaving one happily satisfied on all accounts. It's one of my favorites!

Friday, July 21, 2017

Jane Orcutt's "All the Tea in China" - a lively and non-traditional Regency romance

All the Tea in ChinaFun-loving Isabella Goodrich has never quite fit the mold of a proper, young Englishwoman, and when she realizes she has been put firmly on the shelf, she makes a radical decision. Having just had an encounter with the less fortunate and seen a new possibility for her future, she jumps a ship to China to become a missionary. However, the missionary she joins, Phineas Snowe, is proving to be hardly what he seems, and he is intent on putting her back on the next ship to England. Will her impulsive decision be her ruin? Or does God have a plan for her beyond that of the average Englishwoman?

This is the second time I've read the book, and it still greatly entertained me. It's definitely not one's average Regency romance, since it takes place primarily at sea on the voyage to China, and many of the popular social situations of the Regency era do not apply on an ocean voyage. Isabella is hardly the average Regency heroine, being not only scholarly but also athletically inclined, and actually desirous of marriage (whereas so many bluestocking spinsters tend to be in denial). For that matter, our hero is far from the suitable, traditional Englishman one comes to expect in the genre.

It's a lively, light-hearted book that nevertheless touches on some serious subjects, such as prejudice and loving those who persecute you, but in a gentle, compassionate way, not sermonizing. And I like the romance, how it kind of creeps up on Isabella and suddenly we see her perspective shift.

I wish the author had lived to write more Rollicking Romances.

Monday, July 17, 2017

"A Name Unknown" by Roseanna M. White - spectacular story on the eve of WWI

A Name Unknown (Shadows Over England #1)Rosemary Gresham, a thief with no family but a ragtag group of former street urchins, is hired to steal proof that a certain gentleman is loyal to Germany instead of Britain. Reclusive, stuttering Peter Holstein knows that war is coming, and anyone of German descent--especially him, with access to the king's ear--is suspect. Proof of his family's loyalty would go far to clearing his name, but his home is filled with three generations' worth of papers and books, and no one is willing to take on his chaotic, overflowing library. When Rosemary shows up at his door willing to take on the job, he's thankful to leave her to it and get back to his most closely-guarded secret--writing his next novel under the pseudonym Branok Hollow. But as anti-German sentiment rises and Rosemary digs into his past, will what she finds exonerate him--or condemn him?

There is a lot to love about this book, not the least of which is the unpredictability. With a professional thief for a heroine, it's really a toss-up what might happen. Rosemary ended up a lot more bold than I was expecting--not in a I-don't-need-anyone's-help kind of way (though she is remarkably self-sufficient, except for remembering to eat), but in a speak-her-mind-to-anyone and feel-perfectly-comfortable-plopping-down-in-the-local-pub-and-boldly-making-friends kind of way.

It had what I consider the best kind of romance--where two people overcome barriers first to become friends, and from there advance to a romance. Peter really is a sweetheart; Rosemary pegs him perfectly when she loses her temper defending him. I could understand being peeved at his one-track mind and habit of shutting out the entire world, though. He's a great sweetheart of a hero.

Having studied modern wars some, I enjoyed being able to keep up with the politics of this story as the powder keg that was Europe grows ever closer to exploding into war. It was fascinating to get a more personal view of the relational politics--how all the close familial relations between the major powers factored into it--and how the author makes the British royal family into real people, not just aloof state figureheads. I wouldn't call it particularly suspenseful, but it was a fascinating and spectacular book. I can't wait for the next one! Highly recommended!

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

Shadows Over London
1. A Name Unknown
2. A Song Unheard (January 2018)
3. An Hour Unspent (Fall, 2018)

Friday, July 14, 2017

"A Matter of Trust" by Susan May Warren - suspenseful adventure

A Matter of Trust (Montana Rescue, #3)In the third Montana Rescue novel, state senator and former lawyer Ella Blair chases her irresponsible younger brother to Glacier Park, where he takes off on a dangerous snowboarding trip with a storm rolling in. Only one person has the skill to go after him--former professional snowboarder Gage Watson, whose life was ruined by a lawsuit Ella had a part in. In spite of hard feelings, Gage knows Ella's skill on the slopes and allows her to come along track down her brother. But can they find him before the storm hits--or before he hurts himself?

I enjoy the occasional survivalist-type book, and chasing two amateur snowboarders down a massive, dangerous mountain--with the hopes of finding them before they kill themselves--definitely qualifies. I have not particularly enjoyed my experiences skiing, but the sport is much more enjoyable when experienced through a book.

Over all, it's a very well-balanced book, with intense, suspenseful adventure, romance, and spiritual themes of grace and forgiveness. I definitely recommend reading the other books in the series first, since there are a fair number of characters and complicated relationships, plus a series-long case that has yet to be solved.

Being as the next book doesn't come out for nearly six months, I'm not particularly thrilled with the way this book ended (with quite the teaser of an epilogue). However, it promises another exciting adventure to come! Perhaps the unclosed case will at last be solved . . .

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

Montana Rescue
1. Wild Montana Skies
2. Rescue Me
3. A Matter of Trust
4. Troubled Waters (January 2018)

Monday, July 10, 2017

Sandra Orchard's "Over Maya Dead Body" -- fun mystery, quirky characters

Over Maya Dead Body (Serena Jones Mystery #3)Serena Jones is off on vacation with her nosy, intrusive family, when they stumble across a dead body and the distinct possibility of an antiquities smuggling ring. Serena is determined to help on the case, but after an attempt on her life, next thing she knows both the men in her life--her FBI coworker Tanner and her mysterious apartment building superintendent Nate--arrive on the island to help her out. If the case hadn't been complicated enough before, the two guys butting heads form a mighty distraction--and at the rate things are going, a distraction might just get her killed.

Wow, I was afraid this book was going to leave me hanging--it was getting right down to the wire when certain...[cough]...things I've been waiting on since Book the First were resolved. Both Nate and Tanner are great guys--if a little frustrating on occasion for needing to show the other up--and both make terrific heroes. The decision between them has been a long time in coming! And I think I'm satisfied with the result (though I confess I may have waffled back and forth a few dozen times during the series).

We finally get to find out more about Nate's past (and the past of a certain other character of whom I had been growing suspicious), which was quite satisfying. I love how Serena's quirky family plays such a large role in the series, especially nosy, old Great-Aunt Martha, and how she's become more of a side-kick to Serena than a liability. Well, mostly. There's no one who can find trouble like Aunt Martha, though Serena certainly takes after her in that regard. I love the stories more for the characters than for the cases they investigate.

I do recommend reading books one and two first--while not altogether necessary, there are a number of references to them in this book, plus they're plain fun. While this appears to be the final novel in the series, there's certainly room for more Serena Jones mysteries; I'd love it if the series were continued! While I enjoy the genre, I don't keep many mystery/suspense novels, but these are a permanent fixture on my shelf!

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

Serena Jones Mysteries
1. A Fool and His Monet
2. Another Day, Another Dali
3. Over Maya Dead Body

Friday, July 7, 2017

"The Promise of Breeze Hill" by Pam Hillman - Colonial Mississippi

The Promise of Breeze Hill (Natchez Trace)In the Natchez market, Isabella Bartholomew purchases carpenter Connor O'Shea's indenture, with the stipulation she will pay for his brothers' passage from from Ireland. However, her home of Breeze Hill is barely solvent after a series of misfortunes that may or may not be sabotage. With the assumption Isabella will inherit, suitors are clamoring for her hand, but the one man she'd consider--Connor--will have nothing to do with her, having been burned by a landowner's daughter before. Can he set aside his feelings to keep Isabella and her family safe?

It was interesting to learn a bit more about the South at a time we hardly ever study--after the American Revolution, when it left British hands and became controlled by Spain (but before Napoleon took control and sold it to America). Even then there were contentions over slavery, and it was particularly interesting to learn about the white slavery that the British had perpetrated. Highwaymen and disreputable folk abounded in the relatively recently-settled territory, leaving room for adventure.

I had a hard time caring for Connor as much as I felt like I should, especially at first--he's neither particularly nice nor respectful to Isabella, thanks to previous bad experiences with a woman, and he gives a lot of mixed signals. To be fair, his actions are generally kind and considerate, but his attitude grated on me. I did like Isabella, and kind of wanted to see her put Connor in his place. Occasionally she does something extremely foolish, but at least it's with good intentions. I really liked Isabella's family and servants--who seemed like family anyway, especially the kids. The estate feels like a real tight-knit community, and I really enjoyed how the author brought out that feeling of closeness.

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

Monday, July 3, 2017

July 2017 Christian Fiction Releases

Some titles coming out this July--from historical suspense to mystery to outdoor adventure!

A Name Unknown (Shadows Over England #1) Over Maya Dead Body (Serena Jones Mystery #3) A Matter of Trust (Montana Rescue, #3)
A Name Unknown by Roseanna M. White (Bethany House); Shadows Over England, book 1

On the eve of WWI, a thief who has taught herself how to blend in with England's upper crust is sent to find out where a wealthy gentleman's loyalties lie--with Britain or Germany?

Over Maya Dead Body by Sandra Orchard (Revell); Serena Jones Mysteries, book 3

FBI Agent Serena Jones is just joining her family on a vacation to Martha's Vineyard, hoping to get some R&R, but crime waits for no one--next thing she knows, she's caught up in an antiquities smuggling case and in over her head.

A Matter of Trust by Susan May Warren (Revell); Montana Rescue, book 3

A PEAK Rescue worker and former snowboard champion is forced to confront the woman who betrayed him when her brother goes missing in Glacier National Park and she insists on joining the search party.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

"The Invisible Library" by Genevieve Cogman - fun fantasy world-building

Irene and her assistant Kai, professional spies for the Library, have been sent to an alternate-reality London to retrieve a particularly dangerous book. Unfortunately, by the time they arrive, the book has already been stolen. Irene and Kai are in a race against London's underground factions to find the book, and in a chaos-infested reality where supernatural creatures and magic run rampant, the task looks near impossible. But if they don't retrieve that book, the nature of reality itself might not survive . . .

A bit of mix between The Librarians tv series and Jasper Fforde's Thursday Next books, The Invisible Library is another fun play on the concept of a library storing not merely books, but artifacts that could alter reality. One thing different about this one is that it subtly questions the morality of both the Library and librarians who work there--while it's all that Irene has ever known and an entity she loves and believes in, there is definitely some question of corruption and room for less than altruistic motives within, especially with its hints of political maneuvering. I'm interested to see how that plays out in future books.

Since the premise of the series is that there are hundreds--perhaps thousands or even millions--of alternate realities, which can be magical, technical, or varying mixtures of each, there is a ton of room for creativity. This book was a fun dip into steampunk, with a war between the technical and magical balancing each other out (and neither side particularly innocent or good).

Our heroine Irene is a little stiff and cold, though to be fair, she rarely works with anyone, generally being assigned solitary retrieval missions. I'm really hoping she loosens up in the following books, especially now that she's accustomed to--even appreciative of--Kai's friendship. Who, for the record, I liked quite well. It was fun to see his true nature poking through more and more as events progressed.

There was one short scene that really didn't fit with the rest of the story (a brief discussion on sex when they'd known each other all of one day), and it didn't mesh with either personality. It felt more like an unnecessary attempt to make the story less Young Adult. It doesn't fit, especially at this stage of the series, and it did absolutely nothing for the plot. One could pretty much rip that one page out of the book and be just fine (other than living with the frustration of knowing there's a missing page).

There's definitely a lot of loose ends and backstory yet to be fleshed out, but as it is a series, I'm hopeful that my expectations will be met in future books. I thoroughly enjoyed the book, with it's interesting concepts of alternate realities and the vast room it has for creativity.

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.

The Invisible Library
1. The Invisible Library
2. The Masked City
3. The Burning Page
4. The Lost Plot

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!

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.

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:

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)


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.

Mora. Miss Kate Fearing Strong
(later Mrs. Arthur Welman). 1883.
Museum of the City of New York.
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.

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)
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?