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

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.

Related novels:
Blue Ridge Romance1. Blue Ridge Sunrise
2. Honeysuckle Dreams
3. On Magnolia Lane (Nov 2018)

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
2.5: "Tied and True" (novella from Hearts Entwined collection)
3. A Chance at Forever

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
2. Falling for 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

Related series:
Cities of Refuge
1. A Light on the Hill
2. Shelter of the Most High (October 2018)

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.