My Heart Belongs on Mackinac Island by Carrie Fancett Pagels – Book Review

My Heart Belongs on Mackinac Island by Carrie Fancett Pagels

Published by Barbour Publishing/Barbour Books July 01, 2017

Genre: Romance,  Christian

Pages: 256

Rating: 2 out of 5 stars

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Publisher’s Description

Although the Winds of Mackinac Inn has been in her mother’s family for generations, Maude Welling’s father refuses to let her run it without the guidance of a husband. So she seeks to prove her worth and independence by working incognito as a maid at the Grand Hotel.

Undercover journalist Ben Steffans, posing as a wealthy industrialist, pursues a story about impoverished men chasing heiresses at the famed hotel.  While undercover, he becomes attracted to an intriguing maid. By an act of heroism Ben endears himself to the closed-mouthed islanders—including Maude—and he digs deep for his story.

But when scandal threatens, will the growing love between Maude and Ben be scuttled when truths are revealed?

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Story Notes

Carrie Fancett Pagels newest venture into the Gilded Age may leave readers a bit lost and a lot bored with a complicated plot that falls short of being a great story.

I’m not a fan of taking someone’s hard work and bashing it to pieces but for the sake of others who might happen upon this book I will try to tell what is so dis-likable about this story. This story begins with a standard sort of plot – girl is not seen by her father as having the ability to do the job she desires to do so she sets out to prove him wrong; and a young man is trying to make a name for himself in the news reporting world and seeks a scandal tell all that will give him the break he desires. To this Ms. Pagels added mysterious happenings with the girl’s uncle, love lost by both main characters, and a little boy who wants to run as far and as fast as he can to get away from his families troubles. This is a great plot that has many opportunities for an author to create such a wonderful story of love, trust, forgiveness and peace and although I believe this was Ms. Pagels goal, there was so much frivolous content that I found myself setting the book aside multiple times so I could read other, more interesting stories. Maude is both a strong and weak character, lacking backbone in some passages and making a great stands in others. Likewise, Ben has fits and spurts where he is a strong character and others that follow in which he lacks the “yumph” needed to do what is right or necessary. It is this and many other like reasons, such as uber complicated family situations,  that I found this book hard to finish and, honestly, was glad to have finished. I would not have wanted either of these characters for friends or I might have done them both physical harm over their lack of intelligence or gumption. My favorite character was Ada Fox, a subcharacter who would have been much better used as the main character to give the story its needed strong heroine. Her practical and honest way of thinking and speaking made the story bearable to read and made me wish Ms. Pagels had written more about her instead. So I will not be recommending this book to others nor will I be adding a hard copy to my shelves as I cannot do either in good conscience. Perhaps Ms. Pagels will do better with her next foray into the world of fiction – I pray it will be so as this was most unfortunate.

I received this E-book free of charge from Barbour Publishing/Barbour Books via NetGalley in exchange for a fair and honest review. I will receive no fiscal compensation from either company for this review.

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Crisis Shot by Janice Cantore – Book Review

Crisis Shot by Janice Cantore

Published by Tyndale House Publishers September 05, 2017

Genre: Mystery/Suspense, Christian

Pages: 432

Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

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Publisher’s Description

Tess O’Rourke dreams of becoming the first female chief of police in Long Beach, California. As commander of the East Division, she is well on her way . . . until the night she responds to an officer-needs-assistance call and fatally shoots an unarmed teenager. Despite being cleared of wrongdoing by a grand jury, Tess is so hounded by the public that she takes a job in Oregon to escape the bad press.

Winning over the residents of Rogue’s Hollow might be more difficult than adjusting to her new role as police chief in the small, backwater town. Especially when her closest friend, the pastor’s wife, goes missing and the woman’s cousin is found shot. Tess finds an ally in sheriff’s deputy Steve Logan, but as they track down Rogue’s Hollow’s first murderer, she worries that she’s breaking one of her rules and getting too close to him.

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Story Notes

Janice Cantore begins her new In the Line of Duty series with a relevant and carefully developed story that shows that this series is one that is certainly not to be missed.

Janice Cantore is a retired Long Beach Police officer who has created a wonderful second career as a police/crime author. I have enjoyed reading her Pacific Coast Justice Series and was excited to see she has begun another – using the city in which she served for over 20 years as the beginning backdrop for the series. This fictional account of a fatal police necessitated shooting shows a real truth that is often buried by the media outbursts for supposed police brutality: that there is more than one victim in a necessitated shooting. Tess O’Rourke is a Commander on the Long Beach Police force who responds to a call for help from a fellow officer – a call that will totally change her life. Tess finds her fellow officer on the ground with three young black men standing over him, one of which tries to grab the downed officers gun, leaving Tess with no choice to shoot the young man in an effort to defend herself. With no witnesses besides herself (the other two young men fled at the sight of her), Tess finds herself caught in the whirlwind of negative press, headed by a blogger named Hector Connor-Ruiz who has a great dislike for the police. And although she is cleared by both evidence and a grand jury inquiry, Connor-Ruiz keeps the public crying out for Tess’s badge for the supposed wrongful death. Finding she has no other choice, Tess sends out applications for a position on another force. She is offered the Chief of Police in the Oregon town of Rogues Hollow and decides this will give her a chance to get away from the bad press and, further give her her long dreamed of position as Chief of Police – even if it is in a small town. But Tess will have to fight small town prejudices and her own staff to prove that she is there to do her job to the best of her abilities no matter how she was painted by the press in Long Beach. She does find one ally in Sheriff’s Deputy Steve Logan who is willing to give Tess a chance to do the job right. And when Rogue’s Hollow is shocked by the first murder and suspicious disappearance in recent history, Tess will need all the help she can get. With the mayor breathing down her neck for progress, the local businessmen scoffing at her ability to solve the case, and Tess’s personal connection to the case there are multiple reasons to solve this case quickly. Tess’s other new allies in Rogue’s Hollow are Pastor Oliver Macpherson and his wife, Anna, both of whom have welcomed Tess and are seeking to share their faith with her. And it will be Anna who mysteriously disappears, followed by the discovery of the murder of her cousin, Glen, a former drug dealer/user, that make this case personal and high priority for Tess. Tess will find that there are many secrets to be found, even in this small town, and that crime will eventually effect everyone. But her determination to see this case through, find Anna, and arrest those responsible for the crimes will gain her the support she needs from the town that was reluctant to welcome her in. There were many threads in this book that Ms. Cantore had to be careful not to allow to be lost in the tangle of the story’s web and she handled that pressure well. I could tell fairly quickly that this book was written by someone with a good working knowledge of police procedure and that gave the book an edge that others might lack. I can honestly say that this book presented a different way of telling a story, not one that was bad, merely different in the fact that Ms. Cantore did not sort out all the details of Tess’s life and faith with this first book. I find that approach refreshing and more real than others that try to tie everything up nicely before the last page. People are not going to come to faith in Christ just because someone tells them about Him once; rather it takes time for them to lay aside all their hurt and assumptions so they can honestly open their hearts to His love and mercy. And people who have been burned badly by love before do not immediately jump into a new relationship with the first person they feel attraction to; rather they need time to discover if they can trust that person with their friendship and then move to something deeper if there is common interest. So Ms. Cantore set up her series in a wonderful and honest way that I believe will make it a success. She crafted a well developed story with lots of mystery and suspense and kept the door open for the story to flow well into the next. I am very excited to see where this series will go and how Tess will find a way to be “at home” in Rogues Hollow. I will most certainly recommend this book to others and am pleased to add the copy I was provided with to my bookshelves.

I received this book free of charge from Tyndale House Publishers in exchange for a fair and honest review. I will receive no fiscal compensation from Tyndale House for this review.

12 Days at Bleakly Manor by Michelle Griep – Book Review

12 Days at Bleakly Manor by Michelle Griep

Published by Barbour Publishing/Shiloh Run Press September 01, 2017

Genre: Mystery, Drama, Romance

Pages: 192

Rating: 5 out of 5

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Publisher’s Description

England, 1851: When Clara Chapman receives an intriguing invitation to spend Christmas at an English manor home, she is hesitant yet feels compelled to attend—for if she remains the duration of the twelve-day celebration, she is promised a sum of one thousand pounds.

But is she walking into danger? It appears so, especially when she comes face to face with one of the other guests—her former fiancé, Benjamin Lane.

Imprisoned unjustly, Ben wants revenge on whoever stole his honor. When he’s given the chance to gain his freedom, he jumps at it—and is faced with the anger of the woman he stood up at the altar. Brought together under mysterious circumstances, Clara and Ben discover that what they’ve been striving for isn’t what ultimately matters.

What matters most is what Christmas is all about . . . love.

Pour a cup of tea and settle in for Book 1 of the Once Upon a Dickens Christmas series–a page-turning Victorian-era holiday tale–by Michelle Griep, a reader and critic favorite.

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Story Notes

Michelle Griep’s newest series will bring delight to her readers as she shares fictional accounts of Charles Dicken’s famed books, beginning with 12 Days at Bleakly Manor – inspired from the oft-overlooked classic Bleak House.

A great fan of Charles Dickens and the Victorian Era, I have both read and watched every book and BBC Drama created from Mr. Dicken’s stories. How exciting for me to discover that Michelle Griep was writing a series based on some of my favorite books/dramas! Bleak House is a truly wonderful story that is frequently overlooked given the popularity of “A Christmas Carol”, “Oliver Twist” and “A Tale of Two Cities” but next to “Little Dorrit” it remains my all-time favorite Dickens story. Ms. Griep offers a fictionalized account (based on the true story) of how Charles Dickens came to write “Bleak House” that was so good it earned a rarely given 5 star rating from me. Clara Chapman has spent the last year grieving both the loss of her family fortune and the fiance she believes stole the fortune and her heart. Receiving a mysterious note that offers her 500 pounds in return for staying at Bleakly Manor during the 12 Days of Christmas, Clara grasps quickly the opportunity to help herself and her aunt stay in their home. Benjamin Lane has been in gaol for over a year with no trial, no explanation, and is facing transportation for embezzling funds from two shipping companies including Clara’s family’s company. Two weeks before his ship departs he is sent a note offering him the chance at freedom and exoneration if he will spend 12 days at Bleakly Manor. Desperate to right the wrongs done to him, Benjamin agrees and is taken there immediately. But when Clara and Benjamin come face to face, will they believe the truth of what happened or is everything beyond forgiveness? Joining Clara and Benjamin at Bleakly Manor are 6 others who have been offered something they desire in exchange for remaining at the house during the full 12 Days. But with mysterious happenings occurring more often as the days pass by, the number of persons willing to remain begins to dwindle quickly. Ms. Griep did an excellent job of capturing the essence of Mr. Dickens characters. I loved her way of identifying them through their characteristics even as she gave each person an alternate name. I had fun recalling the story through new eyes and a new perspective – one that had less tragedy at the end but a perfect ending that would have made Mr. Dickens proud. His infamous way of always ensuring that everyone in his stories got “exactly what he or she deserved” is what makes me love his stories so. And Ms. Griep carried that theme well and added in a wonderful new love story that will leave her readers cheering and most satisfied. Ms. Griep also included the element of faith in her story and this served to make the story even better in my opinion. The two main characters both had to learn the incredible lessons of forgiveness and trust and further that love is willing to sacrifice one’s personal desires so that the loved one can be given what they need. This was a really wonderful story that had me looking forward to the holiday season that is fast approaching and encouraged me to be careful of prejudices and generous with kindness. I will definitely be recommending this story to others and will also purchase a hard copy at my earliest convenience. I look forward to the next books in the series, hoping they will be as delightful as this one.

I received this ebook free of charge from Barbour Publishing/Shiloah Run Press via NetGalley in exchange for a fair and honest review. I will receive no fiscal compensation from either company for this review.

Worship: The Reason We Were Created by A.W. Tozer – Book Review

Worship: The Reason We Were Created by A. W. Tozer

Published by Moody Publishers August 01, 2017

Genre: Devotional, Christian

Pages: 135

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

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Publisher’s Description

Few subjects invigorated A. W. Tozer like the topic of worship. He saw it—like the church has traditionally—as the sole reason for which creation exists.

Worship: The Reason We Were Created features collections from the beloved spiritual writer on this important topic. The church’s current worship is emaciated; its thoughts of God are too low. Here is a compilation to raise those thoughts high once more, and provoke the church to true, spiritual worship.

Topics include:

  • The act and object of worship
  • The Presence of God
  • Worship throughout the week
  • Feelings and emotion in worship
  • Man as a worshipping creature

If it’s true that we are made to worship God, that it is the sole reason that we exist, that we are most alive when we live for His glory, then reading Worship is more than time well spent. It is time invested in the very foundation of your life.

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Story Notes

A. W. Tozer’s examination and explanation of true Worship before the Lord God will have readers coming to their knees, seeking to fulfill the purpose for which God made us – to Worship Him.

As I am the granddaughter of a pastor, granddaughter and daughter of church deacons and other church leaders I have often heard Mr. Tozer quoted and revered as a great teacher of the Word but had never had the opportunity to study any of his works before being offered this book for review. I greatly looked forward to this study as we had recently covered this topic in church and was eager to learn more. Mr. Tozer carefully and precisely explains what true worship is and isn’t and what is required of the believer that desires to experience it. He begins with what has happened to our worship, both personally and corporately as believers, talking of how worship has become more like a box to check and only to be done on Sunday mornings. I was convicted most certainly when he reminded me that we are to be continually worshiping God, through our every action and word, thereby bringing glory and praise to God in everything. And what joy to be reminded that God allows us to worship Him just as the Seraphim before the throne of God. Yes, God is approachable, Tozer shares, but He is not our buddy or pal. Rather He is Almighty God, Creator of Heaven and Earth and all that is in it, Worship Thou Him! In the 135 pages of these collected teachings Mr. Tozer destroys any false ideas of worship before God and help readers understand just how great and majestic is the Lord God. I took one chapter a day and focused on it during my daily devotional time and this was some of the best time I have spent with the Lord. I laughed, cried, prayed and worshiped in a deeper way and have found that the effects of those special days are long-lasting and close at hand in my mind. I have grown closer to the Lord in my time with Him since and am seeking to worship in everything I say and do. Mr. Tozer does not pull punches and those who read this book with a seeking heart will find new and better ways to come before the Lord and make their life one of worship before the King of Kings. It was bittersweet for me to finish this study as I was learning and growing with each passing day of study. I am looking forward to reading the other collections Moody has put together of Mr. Tozer’s teachings, praying they will also help me strengthen my daily walk with the Lord. Most certainly I will recommend this book to others and pray they will find as much learning and renewal as I did.

I received this book free of charge from Moody Publishers in exchange for a fair and honest review. I will receive no fiscal compensation from Moody Publishers for this review.

An Inconvenient Beauty by Kristi Ann Hunter – Book Review

An Inconvenient Beauty by Kristi Ann Hunter

Published by Bethany House Publishers September 05, 2017

Genre: Romance, Drama, Christian

Pages: 384

Rating: 4.5 out of 5

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Publisher’s Description

Griffith, Duke of Riverton, likes order, logic, and control, and he naturally applies this rational approach to his search for a bride. He’s certain Miss Frederica St. Claire is the perfect wife for him, but while Frederica is strangely elusive, he can’t seem to stop running into her stunningly beautiful cousin, Miss Isabella Breckenridge.

Isabella should be enjoying her society debut, but with her family in difficult circumstances, her uncle will only help them if she’ll use her beauty to assist him in his political aims. Already uncomfortable with this agreement, the more she comes to know Griffith, the more she wishes to be free of her unfortunate obligation.

Will Griffith and Isabella be able to set aside their pride and face their fears in time to find their own happily-ever-after?

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Story Notes

Kristi Ann Hunter’s much anticipated final story in her Hawthorne House series brings laughter, love and a challenge to readers to decide if the characters involved made the best choices for their situations.

This story has been on my much awaited to-read list since I was given the first two for Christmas last year. Ms. Hunter has a way of bringing her stories to life so that her readers can relish the elegance of the time period but also relate to the situations in which the characters find themselves. She adds excellent dialogue that is witty and sharp and gives much needed moments of levity when the drama or danger becomes overwhelming. I have laughed, cried and held my breath throughout the first three stories and was so very excited to see how Ms. Hunter was going to tell Griffith’s story. And Ms. Hunter did what she always does – made me love this story more than the last. Griffith, Duke of Riverton, is the last marriage hold-out of the Hawthorne family. Not that he hasn’t had his hands full in the past few years, ensuring that all his siblings found spouses that would love them and the Lord wholeheartedly. But as he is the Duke, he knows that he must marry and produce an heir to carry on his family’s legacy. The problem is that choosing a wife of his social class while in society is very difficult given that most people do not show their true selves to their peers. So Griffith sets about choosing his wife in the same way he does everything else – logically and precisely. Much to the consternation of his family, he chooses a lady who is of steady character but with little care for what standing she has in society. But, unbeknownst to him, Frederica St. Claire is still in love with soldier Arthur Saunderson who was, until recently, presumed dead in battle. In an effort to spend time with Arthur without her father finding out, Frederica enlists the help of her cousin Isabella Brekenridge to distract the duke from his courting pursuit. Isabella reluctantly agrees to help as long as it doesn’t interfere with her purpose in her extended visit with her cousin – to help her uncle gain enough support for the Apothecary Bill in the House of Lords. Ever since Isabella’s aunt and cousin died due to medical ineptitude, her uncle, Lord Percy Pontebrook is singlemindedly focused on the passage of an Apothecary Bill that would require those who diagnose, treat or medically attend patients be certified as having certain levels of knowledge in order to practice. As the voting on this bill is to be considered very soon, Lord Pontebrook has offered Isabella the deed he holds to her family’s farm in exchange for her help in getting influential Lords to vote for the bill. Isabella is not pleased with what her uncle would have her do but cannot abide the thought that her family could lose their home if she refuses. So she agrees to use the beauty she was blessed with to become the most sought after debutante of the London Season, giving Lord Pontebrook the opportunity to convince influential Lords of the merits of approving the bill. Into all this mess comes Griffith, wishing to court Frederica but forced into spending time with Isabella as her cousin often finds other places to be when he calls. And as much as Griffith determines that he will never choose a wife that other men would view appreciatively, he finds himself strangely attracted to Isabella and her unique way of viewing the world. When both Griffith’s siblings and friends point out that Isabella is the perfect wife for him with her beauty and ease of navigating society, he reluctantly acknowledges they are right and seeks to make her his wife. His mother further points out that Griffith is in love with Isabella and his reluctance turns to happy determination. But Isabella has already decided to return home and marry someone in her village after she has earned the deed to her home; she refuses to let her uncle dictate any future demands to any Peer she might marry in London. Griffith will have to discover her secret and a solution to Isabella’s dilemma if he stands any chance of convincing her of his love and ability to care for her and her family. And what he finds will have all readers cheering and hoping for the perfect ending to this wonderful story. Ms. Hunter added in the perfect amount of hilarious conversation between the Hawthorne siblings and their spouses as they help Griffith earn Isabella’s love. The blunt and logical way they explain how he should and does feel to Griffith left me laughing out loud and wishing I could have sisters like his. I have loved the frank way in which all the characters in this series have challenged each others faith and this story was no different. Griffith is so very determined to be in control of every aspect of his life that he has a hard time understanding and accepting that love turns one’s life upside down in wonderful ways. God often uses the person He has for us to date/marry to make us examine and rethink our understanding of life and often helps us deepen our faith as we fall in love. Ms. Hunter uses her characters to convey very clearly that one’s life will not be the best it can be if one does not let God work in and through them. She also shares the joy that is to be found when two people work together to love each other and those around them who are hurting. I am sad to say goodbye to this series but am excited to see what Ms. Hunter will be writing next. I have already purchased hard copies of this series for my own shelves and am often recommending it to my friends and family. Hope Ms. Hunter will have something new out soon!

I received this book/e-book from Bethany House Publishers in exchange for a fair and honest review. I will receive no fiscal compensation from this company for this review.

Bygone Christmas Brides – by Ginny Aiken, Carla Gade, Pamela Griffin, Tamela Hancock Murray, Jill Stengl, Gina Welborn – Book Review

Bygone Christmas Brides by Ginny Aiken, Carla Gade, Pamela Griffin, Tamela Hancock Murray, Jill Stengl and Gina Welborn

Published by Barbour Publishing Inc. September 01, 2017

Genre: Holiday, Romance, Christian

Pages: 400

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

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Publisher’s Description

Light a candle in the window and sit down to a slice of fruitcake as you delight in six 19th Century romances that welcome love at Christmastide. Many traditions held dear today have their roots in the British Isles and have been practiced for over a hundred years. In these six delightful historical stories, romance is nurtured amidst baking Scottish shortbread and English mince pies, burning the yule log, and hanging kissing boughs. But each couple is also plagued by worries of the day. As Christmastide draws to a close, will faith and love endure for future celebrations?

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Story Notes

Each of these wonderful Christmas-time stories had lessons to learn and love to share as as well as fairly good plots and dialogue.

As a great Christmastime lover, I am always thrilled to read stories that are centered around my favorite holiday of the year. The celebrations, traditions, music and most importantly, the food are the kind only had/made once a year and I love every moment! Given this great love, I was so very pleased to be offered this book to read as I begin to think about what my plans will be for the upcoming holiday season. This review will be a little different than most I post as the type of book is of a different style than usual. Since it is 6 stories in one book this could potentially make for an extremely long review if I were to write on each as I like to do with all books. However, to save both your and my sanity I will offer my favorite or non-favorite parts of each story to give you a glimpse of the stories contained in this delightful holiday-themed read:

Lost and Found – Ginny Aiken

This story contained my favorite lesson learned – overcoming long-held fear and trusting God. Rhiannon has lived many years with her aunt after the death of her mother and younger brother. She is content with her life and hopes one day to marry and have children. But she has determined that she will NOT marry anyone who is connected with any type of underground mining. Watching so many in her home village mourn those killed in mine collapses, Rhiannon has decided she cannot risk that pain. Rhiannon’s father owns a coal mine and her childhood sweetheart Trefor is managing it for him as he recovers from influenza and gout. Although she is still attracted to Trefor, Rhiannon cannot allow her feelings to grow as she cannot handle the fear of Trefor being killed in the mine. But God has much to teach both Rhiannon and Trefor about trust and love and He will use both a mine collapse and carriage accident to bring them to a place of accepting that trust in Him in the only way to live life to the fullest. Ms. Aiken did well with this short story, showing her trademark sassiness in her female characters and witty sarcasm in her male characters. It was enjoyable to read and I look forward to her next works with enthusiasm.

Tis the Season – Carla Gade

This was a really nice story that would have also done well as a longer novel. I loved the quick dialogue and the characters were good enough I wished there was more space for Ms. Gade to delve deeper into their thoughts and emotions. Annaliese is the daughter of the Schooley’s Mountain Springs Resort summer doctor who also has a practice in New York City. She much prefers the Mountain area and hopes to convince her father to settle there one day soon. As she travels down the mountainside to take donations to a local church, the horses are spooked and almost send her and the wagon over the edge of the mountain road. Stephan Yost, the resort carpenter rushes to help Annaliese and manages to keep all of them safe and in one piece. There is instant attraction between the two but Stephan carries a secret from his past that keeps him from seeking anything but friendship from Annaliese. God will teach both Stephan and Annaliese about forgiveness and acceptance as they walk through the situations that come upon them and the secret that Stephan is finally brave enough to admit. I’ve not read Ms. Gade before but will perhaps look for other books she has written soon, this book was well done.

I Saw Three Ships – Pamela Griffin

This story was my absolute favorite out of all in this whole book. From the well-described scenery of the Scottish Highlands, to the wonderful Scottish brogue used by the characters and the snappy dialogue between the characters. I enjoyed the plot of the story as well – one in which the hero ran away from the heroine to hide a terrible secret. Malcolm left for University three years ago with no goodbye for Rachel, who had given him her heart and love. Angry and heartbroken that he would dismiss her so completely given their longstanding relationship, Rachel has determined to put him out of her mind and out of her heart forever. But her determination will be challenged when her father tells her Malcolm has requested that she become the needed companion to his mother who has been heartsick following her husband’s death. What could God and her father be thinking to urge her to go to Malcolm’s home? Malcolm hides a terrible secret in his heart and he knows its revelation will ensure Rachel hates him forever. But he still loves her and prays that he will have the courage to tell her and seek forgiveness so he can make her his wife. He will have to battle her anger, his brother and his inability to forgive himself if he is to have any hope of showing Rachel the depth of his love for her. Ms. Griffin uses her short story to show the importance of honesty and forgiveness – showing that living a lie or with great bitterness causes life to be miserable and lonely. Her writing is excellent as always and the sharp wit she like to include came out in the fiery arguments between Malcolm and Rachel. I am most hopeful she will have more writings out very soon.

 

Colleen of Erin – Tamela Hancock Murray

This would have to be my least favorite story, although it did contain an important lesson about giving generously. I did not particularly care for the characters in the story nor the story itself but I did like the concept that Ms. Murray was trying to teach. Finn is a shop owner who has worked hard in his life to earn enough to build a shop and keep it in the greatest state possible. He is a kind person who loves his work and serving his customers. However, he is very stingy with compliments he feels haven’t been earned and with giving to those who are without. Colleen Sullivan is the daughter of one of the wealthiest men in the country but has made it her mission in life to see to the needs of those less fortunate than herself. She is very involved in the local orphanage and often makes purchases from Finn’s store for needed clothing or a child’s birthday present. She admires Finn’s drive to do well in his store venture but cannot understand his lack of compassion and generosity. But as Finn spends more time with Colleen and sees how her life of encouragement leads those around her to work harder, share with others and take care of those around them, he will see that God is calling him to a life of giving too. And as an additional blessing, he also earns Colleen’s love. So while the plot of the story teaches a good lesson, my description of it is much easier to understand than the actual written story. The characters were meant to be both strong and smart but both came across as rather wimpy and non-confrontational. There was much that could have been done to improve them and perhaps Ms. Murray would have been able to do so if this had been a full length story rather than a short one. Having read other stories by Ms. Murray I know her writing is usually much better and I’m hoping this was just a “one-off” for her.

 

A Right Proper Christmas – Jill Stengl

This story was another good one with the lesson of following God’s will as its center. Ms. Stengl will use her heroine to show that love is not based on the size of the bank account one has or home one lives in, rather it is based on finding the one true love God has for you and trusting that He will care for you wherever He calls you. Charlotte has always believed that she will marry Clive (a terrible name in my opinion), oldest son of the richest man in town. Regardless of his arrogant and rude ways, Charlotte believes he will be kinder once he has someone to round out his rough edges. But God has better plans for her than she has previously dreamed. Dan Jackson is a former soldier from the Crimean War who is seeking a new life after leaving the army. He has become ill as he traveled in the sharp winter wind and snow and stumbles upon Charlotte’s father’s church as a place to get out of the cold and rest before continuing his journey. Finding shelter and a place to heal in rectory, Dan finds himself longing for the home life he sees while staying with the parson’s family. Dan has felt the call of the Lord to preach and as he recovers he shares this calling with the parson, seeking learning and wisdom that he knows is necessary before he can become a pastor. God will use Dan to show Charlotte that life is about more than having all the nicest things, its about sharing love between two people and taking God’s message of love to those who are lost. Ms. Stengl kept her story well paced with plenty of good dialogue and challenges to the reader’s faith. I’ve read other of her writings before and was pleased to see that she still writes very well, even when the story is shorter than her usual works.

 

Mercy Mild – Gina Welborn

This story was a bit odd and I never really got into the point of it. I believe that Ms. Welborn was attempting to teach that we can choose how we love and care for others; that our ways of caring are not solely based on how we were raised. And while I think this is an important lesson to learn, I was very disappointed in how Ms. Welborn went about conveying it. I felt like I was thrown into the story with it already halfway told and couldn’t quite catch up with everything before it ended. She did use some fairly good dialogue but it was so oddly placed that it made the story flow in a disjointed sort of way. The story tells of a small town sheriff who has brought 5 orphans to live with families in his town. Zeke is hoping to place the orphans with their families fairly quickly and move on to courting widowed Marianne if she is willing to accept his suit. This plan goes well until he is unable to find one of the girl’s family before Christmas. Needing a place for the little girl until he can locate their home, Zeke requests that Marianne take the child into her home. Marianne has never wanted children and is surprised by Zeke’s request. It isn’t that she dislikes them entirely but feels herself completely unqualified to care for a child given her abysmal upbringing under abusive parents. Her first husband Henry was the first person to value her and show her love, teaching Marianne that love is giving and encouraging and not withheld out of spite or anger. God will use the little girl and Zeke to show Marianne that she is capable of loving and caring for others if she will allow God to love them through her. So, yes, this story had very good lessons to learn but I was just so thrown off with the way it was laid out that I had a hard time connecting with the story. Perhaps, like Ms. Murray’s story above, this was just an unfortunately bad writing that is not a true reflection of Ms. Welborn’s abilities.

 

So while there were both good and not so good stories included in this collection, I did really enjoy reading this book. I’m looking forward to trying a couple of the recipes that were included at the end of each story and hope that they will be a fun addition to the upcoming Christmas season. I will be recommending this book to others as I think it will be a fun and enjoyable way to kick off the “Most Wonderful Time of the Year”.

 

I received this E-Book from Barbour Publishing, Inc. via NetGalley in exchange for a fair and honest review. I will receive no fiscal compensation from either company for this review.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Deadly Proof by Rachel Dylan – Book Review

Deadly Proof by Rachel Dylan

Published by Bethany House Publishers September 05, 2017

Genre: Mystery and Thrillers, Christian

Pages: 174

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

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Publisher’s Description

In the biggest case of her career, attorney Kate Sullivan is tapped as lead counsel to take on Mason Pharmaceutical because of a corporate cover-up related to its newest drug. After a whistleblower dies, Kate knows the stakes are much higher than her other lawsuits.

Former Army Ranger turned private investigator Landon James is still haunted by mistakes made while serving overseas. Trying to forget the past, he is hired by Kate to look into the whistleblower’s allegation and soon suspects that the company may be engaging in a dangerous game for profit. He also soon finds himself falling for this passionate and earnest young lawyer.

Determined not to make the same mistakes, he’s intent on keeping Kate safe, but as the case deepens, it appears someone is willing to risk everything–even murder–to keep the case from going to trial.

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Story Notes

Rachel Dylan’s new mystery series will have readers holding their breath and biting their nails as they fly through the pages trying to find out what will be the conclusion to this thriller.

After receiving Rachel Dylan’s novella Incriminating Evidence for Christmas from a family member, I was hooked on her writing style. And when Deadly Proof was offered to me for review I was really excited to read it. Ms. Dylan has a way of writing that not only brings you alongside her characters, she makes you feel you ARE the character – this is your life. For this reason I’m attaching a warning to other readers: Do not start this book before bed or you will not end up sleeping until you finish! It was honestly that well written and developed. I don’t give 5 stars easily so when I find a book that meets my strict criteria I will most certainly tell others about it. Ms. Dylan begins her story with a Big Pharma case that is in the beginning stages of litigation and waiting for the assignment of plaintiff lawyers/lead counsel. Mason Pharmaceutical Corporation has been accused by a multitude of persons and estates as willfully producing a migraine headache relieving drug called Celix that causes brain tumors. Kate Sullivan is a partner at the Warren McGee law firm and is on the short list for the lead counsel position for the executive plaintiffs representing the victims of Celix and MPC. Although she is aware of the importance of this case for her career, she is more focused on getting justice for the victims and their families. But when an MPC informant is killed after sharing information with Kate about the case, Kate realizes there is more going on than just a cover up of harmful side effects. She hires PI Landon James to help her sort out all the possible data she’s been given and to provide security if needed. As Kate begins to delve deeper into the case, more and more suspicious documents are concealed and only by an order from the judge does Kate have a chance to uncover them all. Opposing counsel for MPC is Kate’s friend from law school Ethan Black, who works for the same firm Kate did before changing to plaintiff law. Ethan is confident that MPC did not release Celix knowing the harmful side effects and believes that he can win the litigation in favor of MPC. But as the case continues to unfold, Ethan will start questioning whether he’s been kept in the dark about the goings-on at MPC. Kate finds herself the target of several personal attacks and attempts to sabotage her case, leaving her with no other choice than to allow Landon to create a constant level of security. Knowing she is in the right and there is a major amount of cover up happening within MPC, Kate seeks to find a link between the main drug Celix and another MPC drug Acreda (a drug that treats brain tumors), set to be released soon. When she is anonymously sent copies of emails between MPCs head scientists showing a direct link between Celix and Acreda, she is determined to show in court that MPC knowingly released Celix with the brain tumor side effects so that they could then release Acreda to treat the tumors, making money both times. But someone at MPC is just as determined as Kate to keep that information under wraps, going so far as to intimidate, murder and kidnap. Its up to Kate and Landon to find out who is behind all this evil before someone else gets hurt. I can’t in good conscience reveal the outcome of the book as I want others to experience this wonderful story for themselves. I loved that Ms. Dylan uses real, everyday issues that people struggle with to make her characters relatable. Kate has issues with confidence and trust that she keeps hidden well behind her “court face” and will have to realize that she will need help in this fight for justice if she is to win. Landon has much in his past that has hardened his heart and devastated his faith; and it will be Kate’s careful, persistent pushing that will cause him to seek God and His will again. Together they will both learn that trusting God for the best outcome and safety is the only way to live. And they will also learn that love doesn’t wait for life to be neat and tidy, it comes in the tough times when you can see what really matters in life. I am most certainly going to purchase a hard copy of this book for my shelves and for my friends, it will a great gift for those I know that enjoy a good, solid case and characters. I’m also going to be looking for Ms. Dylan’s past writings to catch up on as well as looking forward to future installments of this series. Well done, Ms. Dylan! Keep up the excellent work.

I received this E-book free of charge from Bethany House Publishers via NetGalley in exchange for a fair and honest review. I will receive no fiscal compensation from either company for this review.

Chasing Secrets by Lynette Eason – Book Review

Chasing Secrets by Lynette Eason

Published by Revell Publishing August 01, 2017

Genre: Mystery/Suspense, Christian

Pages: 336

Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

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Publisher’s Description

Elite Guardians bodyguard Haley Callaghan may be in South Carolina, but when a photo leads investigators in West Ireland to open a twenty-five-year-old cold case, her life is suddenly in danger. Haley knows how to take care of herself; after all, she’s made a career out of taking care of others. But after an uncomfortably close call, Detective Steven Rothwell takes it upon himself to stay with her–and the young client she has taken under her wing. A protector at heart, he’s not about to let Haley fight this battle alone.

In a sweeping plot that takes them into long-buried memories–and the depths of the heart–Haley and Steven will have to solve the mystery of Haley’s past while dodging bullets, bombs, and bad guys who just won’t quit.

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Story Notes

Lynette Eason brings her fourth installment of the Elite Guardians to her readers complete with an explosive (literally) past, and hail of bullets and love made strong through adversity.

Lynette Eason’s ability to bring a story to life with thrilling danger scenes and smart dialogue that draws you into the story completely is what had made and kept me a fan of hers for over 10 years. It really takes a good writer to create fresh and relevant stories that also stand the test of time. I have found that her stories written in the early 2000s are still very good given she doesn’t spend so much time on the technology of the time (outside of helping the case along), but focuses instead on the crime committed and the individuals involved. This latest addition to the Elite Guardians is no exception to her excellent writing and I was so excited that it was offered to me to review. Haley Callaghan has been a good minor character in the past three books about the Guardians, giving snappy responses and tough grit when required. But I was glad to get to read her story – one that has only been hinted at in the first three books. Haley is content with her life, her work, her singleness, and her past but she’s been having dreams lately that seem more memory than sleep fiction. And she’s being followed by a man who takes off every time she tries to confront him. Who or what could possibly be interested in her enough to track her movements? And to top it off, a teen named Zeke in the neighborhood she’s working as a mentor tries to rob her for money for his brother’s medicine. Could her life be any more complicated? Actually, it can, as Ms. Eason introduces Haley to Ian Burke, the grandfather she didn’t know she had, and a whole family with more secrets than she could imagine. Haley will have to wade through all the information and history that comes screaming her way to discover if this family and her inheritance is worth all the danger that it’s bringing to her and her friends. Steven Rothwell (great name choice Ms. Eason) is a newly transferred detective for the Columbia, SC Police Department who is seeking answers to the homicide he and his partner Quinn Holcombe were assigned. Steven has returned to his hometown to help his mother care for his father who’s cancer is not getting better with treatment. But the past tragedy of his brother’s murder makes returning home a wash of unwanted memories for Steven and he’s glad to have work to focus on instead. His world will collide with Haley’s when he and Quinn answer a call for help for “shots fired” near their crime scene. Feeling instant attraction for the tough redhead, Steven makes it his own personal responsibility to find out why someone wants to follow and possibly kill her. Together they will have to sort out which danger comes from whomever in her past that wants her dead and what has been added due to her protection case for Zeke and his family. This is just the sort of complicated spider web I love reading and trying to solve before the end of the book. Ms. Eason gives the findings of the cases involved just as they are discovered by her characters, never giving away the culprit or motive until the last few pages, making my figuring out the truth early all but impossible. I love that her main characters faith in God is so completely woven throughout the story, making their journeys through the presented crises a journey to deepened faith as well. It becomes a challenge for the reader, too, to decide if they would have taken the same path or if there might have been a better one. I also really enjoy her careful use of police terms, ensuring that any and all used are correct and applicable to the situation. Its always a pleasure to read a story in which the author has obviously invested time in the research as well as in the story itself. There is usually a measure of romance added to Ms. Eason’s stories and this book is no exception. The growing attraction between Haley and Steven offers an opportunity for Ms. Eason to make the danger more real to her readers and to help them connect with her characters. If a book makes you frustrated, angry, sad or afraid to any great degree it is always a win for me. Ms. Eason describes the fear of her characters just as if it was her herself and evokes empathy for them when they are deciding whether to take a chance on real friendship or love. Ms. Eason has covered the four main partners of the Elite Guardians but I hope she also will tell Olivia’s brother Charlie’s (he’s funny in the other books) and Bree, Quinn’s former partner, story as I think they have a lot in their past that would make for a good  book. Plus there are some new recruits that were just added to the Guardians and I know Ms. Eason can create an amazing story for them. Here’s hoping the next one comes out soon…..I’ve definitely got feelers out for its appearance. I’m also planning to by hard copies of this series for myself and a couple others for Christmas as I think more people should experience these excellent reads.

I received this E-book free of charge from Revell Publishers via NetGalley in exchange for a fair and honest review. I will receive no fiscal compensation from either company for this review.

Whispers of the Wind by Francis Devine – Book Review

Whispers of the Wind by Francis Devine

Published by Barbour Publishing  July 01, 2017

Genre: Christian, Romance

Pages: 170

Rating: 2 out of 5 stars

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Publisher’s Description

Enjoy two historical romances from author Frances Devine set in Georgia at the Cecilia Quincy School for the Deaf. Abigail James is unprepared for the challenges of her new teaching job or the resistance of the staff to new techniques. Will Dr. Trent Quincy, the school’s owner, accept her ideas or resist the pull of his heart? Also includes the bonus sequel, The Scent of Magnolia, about a teacher who is determined not to fall for the father of her favorite pupil.

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Story Notes

I wanted to like this book so much! The description given by the publisher was interesting and one that I’ve not often seen used which was a nice change for reading. But I had issue with the fleshing out of the story. Given that the story is relatively short so as to allow equal space for the second story in the book (another short story by Ms. Devine), I expected it to be a bit fragmented. I did not expect it to be so jumpy so as to make the book feel both rushed and boring all at the same time. There were passages in the book, like the measles epidemic and the tornado, that were filled with action and lots of good dialogue. But others were added that dragged on the story and make it seem to never end. I loved the ideas of a good and growing school for deaf children that Ms. Devine was endeavoring to share in her story but it seems that it was written quickly and then published without good review. I also enjoyed reading of Lily, the little blind girl with the sunshine attitude. But I just couldn’t get to like the rest of the book and the main characters. Both Abigail and Trent had a lot of potential and could have been really good characters to teach lessons through, but Ms. Devine seemed to shy away from them actually learning anything. The problems they encounter are so minor and have such easy conclusions there is little that allows the reader to connect with them. Abigail and Trent further seemed to be a bit lackluster in their faith, not really looking to God for decisions to be made or any type of spiritual growth. I much prefer characters in a story to be on a journey that will take the reader along and challenge them either in their faith or just life in general. I hope Ms. Devine will return to the drawing board before she turns in another book and will develop a book that will allow her to stretch her “writer’s wings” just a bit more that she has thus far attempted. I will not be recommending this book for others to read as I found it hard to finish myself and would not wish others to have the same trouble.

I received this E-book free of charge from Barbour Publishing via Net Galley in exchange for a fair and honest review. I will receive no fiscal compensation from either company for this review.

Whispering Pines ~ The Langtry Sisters by Scarlett Dunn – Book Review

Whispering Pines ~ The Langtry Sisters by Scarlett Dunn

Published by Kensington Books/Zebra Publishers July 25, 2017

Genre: Romance, Christian

Pages: 398

Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

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Publisher’s Description

In Scarlett Dunn’s heartfelt inspirational series, three sisters return home to beautiful, enigmatic Whispering Pines, Colorado, and discover the men who’ll claim their love . . .

As a young girl, Rose Langtry feared her gruff, handsome rancher neighbor. Coming back to Colorado after five years, she’s outraged to find Morgan LeMasters ready to hang her brother for rustling and theft. But when the resulting skirmish leaves her injured, Morgan’s tender care turns her unease to unexpected closeness . . . and admiration.

Stopping Frankie Langtry and his gang has long been Morgan’s priority, yet he can’t resist Rose’s pleas for mercy. As brave and spirited as she is soft-hearted, Rose needs support to keep her family farm from going under, and a marriage of convenience will provide it. Morgan hardly dares admit, even to himself, his longing for a deeper, truer union. But her brother’s grudge is bringing danger back to Whispering Pines, and it’ll take forgiveness, courage—and a bond built on faith—to create a family and a future together . . .

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Story Notes

Scarlett Dunn’s first story in her new Langtry Sisters series is a great adventure in love and forgiveness.

Having read the description and an earlier novella by Miss Dunn, I was excited to read this adventure story. I loved the plot she presented and the theme of forgiveness that was woven throughout the entire book – both of which made me wish for such a growing romance in my life. Ms. Dunn begins her delightful story with a tragic necessity – the hanging of cattle rustlers – that is interrupted by the arrival of a stagecoach. Morgan LeMasters has been seeking these particular thieves for months especially since one of them is responsible for the near death of the Sioux healer, Joseph Longbow. He is not happy that they turn out to be Frankie Langtry, the grandson of his neighbor, and some drifters looking for easy money, but neither can he allow their crimes to go unpunished. However, before he can carry out the sentence on the deserving thieves, Frankie’s little sister Rose arrives on the scene on the stagecoach, fresh from school back East. Horrified that anyone could think her brother capable of such a crime, Rose demands that Morgan allow the accused men to stand trial before the circuit judge. Not wanting to make Rose watch her brother hang, Morgan agrees, albeit very reluctantly. As they make their way back to Whispering Pines, the axle on the stagecoach breaks and all the occupants are toss end over end until they stop at the bottom of the hill. Taking advantage of the chaos, Frankie grabs a gun and threatens to kill his unconscious sister unless Morgan lets him and his men go. Seeing no other choice, Morgan agrees, angry that Frankie would even consider harming Rose. After Frankie escapes, Morgan, his men, Rose and the rest of the passengers are stranded with only enough horses for two to ride. Sending two of the men to town for help and more horses, Morgan volunteers to wait with the others and help the injured bandage themselves with what’s on hand. Rose, it turns out has the worst injuries -all her ribs are broken – and needs the most care. She will have to decide if Morgan is the honorable man her grandmother always said he was or the cruel, hard man that Frankie told her he is. Now, with this start to a plot, how could anyone not turn out a good story? And to all this add the danger of Morgan going after Frankie’s gang, Rose’s other brother Stevie slacking in his work at the farm and getting into trouble, Frankie vowing to do all he can to take everything Morgan has before he kills him and Rose trying to be the negotiator for them all and Ms. Dunn has a great story with enough chilling adventure and romance for any avid reader. I loved how she showed that each person has to find the courage to fight for true justice in the face of desire for revenge; because we cannot call ourselves Christians if we seek vengeance that belongs to the Lord. Ms. Dunn also had each of her characters make an choice at some point in the story as to whether they would forgive those who had wronged them or go on wallowing in bitterness and hate. It made the story so much more than just another adventure/romance that anyone else could write. I further enjoyed her ability to let Rose grow up throughout the story. Rose came into the story totally naive to what her brothers were capable of and refused to listen to anyone speak against them. It was sad to read that she had to lose faith in them to see that God was the one she should have put her trust in; however it will be this journey of faith that Ms. Dunn will use to bring Rose to Morgan to find love. I loved everything about Morgan in this story – he was a man willing to trust God for his future, willing to protect Rose and others from Frankie, and willing to admit when he was wrong to seek vengeance for Frankie’s deeds. Ms. Dunn uses him to show Rose that love puts others needs and desires ahead of oneself and that trust should be given to those who have earned it. For Morgan, Rose becomes the love he never thought he would find – a love that will teach him that mercy, grace and forgiveness are the only way to be truly free of the bitterness he carries. I can hardly wait for the next book in this series and I’m hoping it will be as good or better than this first one. Ms. Dunn has definitely found a fan in me and I look forward to more from her in the near future. I will certainly recommend this book to others and will definitely be purchasing a few copies as Christmas presents.

I received this E-book free of charge from Kensington Books/Zebra Publishers via NetGalley in exchange for a fair and honest review. I will receive no fiscal compensation from either of these companies for this review.