Ladies of Intrigue by Michelle Griep – Book Review

Ladies of Intrigue by Michelle Griep

Published by Barbour Publishing February 01, 2019

Genre: Mystery, Romance, Christian

Pages: 283

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

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Publisher’s Description

The Gentleman Smuggler’s Lady
Cornish Coast, 1815
When a prim and proper governess returns to England from abroad, she expects to comfort her dying father—not fall in love with a smuggler. Will Helen Fletcher keep Isaac Seaton’s unusual secret?

The Doctor’s Woman (A Carol Award Winner!)
Dakota Territory, 1862
Emmy Nelson, daughter of a missionary doctor, and Dr. James Clark, city doctor aspiring to teach, find themselves working side by side at Fort Snelling during the Dakota Uprising. That is when the real clash of ideals begins.

A House of Secrets
St. Paul, Minnesota, 1890
Ladies Aide Chairman, Amanda Carston resolves to clean up St. Paul’s ramshackle housing, starting with the worst of the worst: a “haunted” house that’s secretly owned by her beau—a home that’s his only means of helping brothel girls escape from the hands of the city’s most infamous madam.

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Story Notes

Michelle Griep offers her readers three novellas that span the 19th century and include lovely settings for all three stories that will have readers wishing each story was just a bit longer.

I was interested to see how this book would be, given the inclusion of three short stories within the covers. I’m pleased to say that I really enjoyed each book separately but wished they were each slightly longer, mainly to get more background information for the characters. I would definitely say that the first story, The Gentleman Smuggler’s Lady, was my favorite given it setting and subject. Helen Fletcher has come to the Cornish coast to spend time with her ailing father. But a feud between a young business man and his former employer lead to the boarding of the vessel that brings her to Cornwall. Little realizing that the handsome smuggler is her father’s benefactor, Helen is shocked when she finds out just who Isaac Seaton really is. Struggling to reconcile the two sides of this man, Helen determines not to lose her heart unless Isaac proves his reasons for smuggling are not for selfish gain. Isaac is challenged by this kind but feisty young woman’s words and faith. He will have to determine if his smuggling reasons still matter or if there is a better way to help others out. I love the British Isles and stories set there always seem to be well done. And while it was a bit hard at first to connect with the characters, I loved the action and adventure throughout the story. And the spiritual side of things was nicely done without feeling forced or annoying. The second story was really good too, with its setting in the Dakota territory. Emmy Nelson has served Fort Snelling and the surrounding communities alongside her missionary doctor father for many years, albeit without formal training as a nurse. Her more natural methods which include some Indian medicine cause a clash between her and the new doctor at the fort. But despite a bad initial meeting, Dr James Clark recognizes Emmy’s skill and her heart to help others. Requesting that she remain at the fort as his aide means spending more time with her, and leads to a good friendship and possibly more. But James will have to decide if he still wants to return to the city or if God has called him to a greater purpose than he ever dreamed. And Emmy will have the chance to fulfill her dream of ministering to the physical and spiritual needs of those in the Dakota Territory. I enjoyed this story and felt it was the most complete of the three, even though it wasn’t my favorite one. The dialogue was good and the pacing of the story was excellent. I also liked how both main characters learned lessons and grew spiritually in a realistic manner. The third story was my least favorite because it felt the most incomplete. Amanda Carston is trying to earn respect from her friends and her father and so sets out to make a difference in the lives of the poverty stricken. Knowing there are many in the city who cannot afford to educate their children, Amanda hopes to turn a dilapidated former mansion into a school for the poor. The only problem is that she cannot discover the deed holder nor can she find anyone else who knows. Joseph Blake is Amanda’s longtime friend, new beau and the secret owner of the ramshackle mansion Amanda wants to buy. Joseph works alongside a minister to help “soiled doves” escape their terrible line of work and the mansion is key to helping these women. Hoping to find a way to shut down the largest brothel in St. Paul, Joseph keeps his secret until doing so puts Amanda in danger from an evil man. Working together will require trust and forgiveness that both Joseph and Amanda must discover for the other. So, the plot is good but the actual telling of it just seemed too rushed for my taste. I did like the outcome and the characters but would have like a little more page time for the story to play out. The spiritual side of this story was also a little lacking and could have used a bit more bite. Overall, I enjoyed these stories and will certainly recommend them to others. I’m very pleased that Ms. Griep improved her writing as compared to her last book. I’m looking forward to the next work that Ms. Griep releases.

I received this E-book free of charge from Barbour Publishing via NetGalley in exchange for a fair and honest review. I will receive no fiscal compensation from either company for this review and the opinions expressed herein are entirely my own.

Brunch at Bittersweet Cafe by Carla Laureano – Book Review

Brunch at Bittersweet Cafe by Carla Laureano

Published by Tyndale House Publishers February 05, 2019

Genre: Drama, Romance, Christian

Pages: 338

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

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Publisher’s Description

Baker and pastry chef Melody Johansson has always believed in finding the positive in every situation, but seven years after she moved to Denver, she can’t deny that she’s stuck in a rut. One relationship after another has ended in disaster, and her classical French training is being wasted on her night job in a mediocre chain bakery. Then the charming and handsome private pilot Justin Keller lands on the doorstep of her workplace in a snowstorm, and Melody feels like it’s a sign that her luck is finally turning around.

Justin is intrigued by the lively bohemian baker, but the last thing he’s looking for is a relationship. His own romantic failures have proven that the demands of his job are incompatible with meaningful connections, and he’s already pledged his life savings to a new business venture across the country―an island air charter in Florida with his sister and brother-in-law.

Against their better judgment, Melody and Justin find themselves drawn together by their unconventional career choices and shared love of adventure. But when an unexpected windfall provides Melody with the chance to open her dream bakery-café in Denver with her best friend, chef Rachel Bishop, she’s faced with an impossible choice: stay and put down roots with the people and place she’s come to call home . . . or give it all up for the man she loves.

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Story Notes

Carla Laureano invites her readers back to Denver, CO to enjoy a look at the life of a bored baker just bursting to make a change that will bring her joy in her work, and life, once again.

I’ve been excited for this book’s release since I finished the last page of the first in the series Saturday Night Supper Club. And when the chance came to not only read the book but also help get the word out about its upcoming release, I was ecstatic! How fun to join with an author and her team to share the delights of a good book with others. One of the best parts of this series is the incredible food that is created by some of the main characters – its enough to make one dust off their favorite cookbooks and buy out the baking aisle. But there is more than food beneath the surface of these books, and its this more that will have readers cheering for the success of both work and love in the lives of these three friends. This installment’s focus is Melody Johansson, classically trained french baker, daughter of a famous country singer and quite possibly one of the worst judges of men ever. Her several past relationships were a big bust and she has decided to lock away her heart until she figures out how to not give over her entire self in a relationship. So, she buries herself in her work, though it is not the work she would prefer to be doing. Baking industrial/pre-made breads and pastries brings neither joy or inspiration to her artistic soul but it does pay the bills. Her dream of a french-style bakery of her own seems to be years away, so she contents herself at the moment by creating her favorite desserts and breads at home and posting photos alongside her favorite literary works. But life is about to take a big swing in the positive direction for Melody when a handsome pilot knocks on the bakery door. Unsure of him at first, but instantly attracted, Melody tells herself that he will be out of her life before she can blink and therefore is off limits. But God has a way of bringing us what we need when we least expect it. Justin Keller is a charter pilot working for one of the biggest personal plane companies in the country. While his schedule isn’t ideal, he doesn’t fly commercial planes and mostly enjoys the locations where his work takes him. And he has the hope of building or buying a charter company of his own alongside his family sometime in the future. A chance encounter with a sweet and spicy baker has Justin taking a good look at his life and his priorities. What makes Melody so open to taking a chance? As they both get to know each other better, opportunities for the fulfillment of their dreams also come into their lives. But those fulfilled dreams seem to be destroying any chance for a lasting relationship – something both Melody and Justin were secretly anticipating. They will have to decide what is the most important in their lives and what they are willing to sacrifice to make it happen. Those decisions will bring them face-to-face with the God who loves them and wants the best for them, if only they will listen. There was so much to like about this book, from the real struggles of the characters to the spiritual journeys that each went on. I also really loved how the food described or created helped bring a depth to the story as it fit well with what was happening. Just as Melody went from working in a bakery dependent on pre-made items to her own bakery creating handmade personal creations, she also moved from wallowing in her past to living for her future. And Justin moved from trust in himself and his abilities to trust in a God who only wanted to give him everything his heart desired. The secondary characters also brought in humor and helped teach lessons in a quiet but steady way. My only issue with the book was the way Melody’s friends turned on her because of Justin – man! they were spiteful and mean. And then to have Rachel completely snap over Melody forgetting about a contractor appointment was so very harsh. Perhaps Melody deserved it if she has been flaky before, but I feel like there should have been more of an explanation for that given it kinda came out of left field. I know its really important to keep appointments but Rachel’s reaction was so over the top it was a bit disappointing to read about her, given she is supposed to be a Christian. And the further fact that neither Rachel or Ana really apologized was a bit annoying too. Not sure why that was allowed but I digress. The rest of the book was really good and I enjoyed the conclusion of the story immensely. As it should, everyone got what they needed and far more than they thought they deserved. I’m really excited to see how Ms. Laureano will play out the story of Ana in her next book. She will be an excellent character to focus on given her personality and perfectionist tendencies.

I received this E-Book free of charge from Carla Laureano via BookFunnel in exchange for a fair and honest review. I will receive no fiscal compensation for this review and the opinions expressed herein are entirely my own.

The Alamo Bride by Kathleen Y’Barbo – Book Review

The Alamo Bride by Kathleen Y’Barbo

Published by Barbour Publishing February 01, 2019

Genre: Historical Fiction, Romance

Pages: 250

Rating : 1 out of 5 stars

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Publisher’s Description

Will Ellis Lose All at the Alamo?
Ellis Dumont finds a man in New Orleans Grey unconscious on Dumont property in 1836. As his fevers rage, the man mutters strange things about treasures and war. Either Claiborne Gentry has lost his mind or he’s a spy for the American president—or worse, for the Mexican enemy that threatens their very lives. With the men of her family away, Ellis must stand courageous and decide who she can trust. Will she put her selfish wants ahead of the future of the republic or travel with Clay to Mission San Jose to help end the war?

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Kathleen Y’Barbo brings to the “Daughters of the Mayflower” series a story that is based in the time of the Battle for the Alamo that unfortunately lacks a cohesiveness to make the story good.

A native Texan and 5th generation native Houstonian, I always enjoy stories based in my home state and especially in areas I’ve visited. And although I have been a bit bored with the stories that have been added to this series lately, I decided to give it another shot, hoping for a good story once again. But the best thing I can say about this story is that the places it referenced were fun to read about. My family vacations in the Fort Velasco/Quintana area each summer and I loved reading about how those names were chosen and the original plan for which the area was designed. But when it came to the story and the characters, I felt no real connection or emotion for them. Rather, I just wanted the story to end so I could find another book to read. Its not that the plot was particularly bad, it was just poorly fleshed out and scattered in its telling. The story began with a young soldier named Claiborne Gentry arriving in New Orleans on a mission for President Jackson. Things do not go as he planned and thus require him to seek out the treasure of his family to ensure that a monetary need is met for the safety of all those fighting the Mexican forces under Santa Anna. But passage is not freely given to unknown individuals wishing to go to Texas. So Clay joins the infamous Greys to make his way safely into the Texas borders. But his mission is stopped by several bullets and an unintentional blow to the head that leaves Clay with critical injuries and total amnesia. Young healer, Ellis Dumont, finds the unconscious Clay and brings him to the family home. Unsure of his loyalties or mission, both Ellis and her grandfather are wary of the handsome soldier, but Ellis’s mother determines to do what she can for him regardless. They are awaiting news of Ellis’s father and brother who are presumed missing in battle and wish to help any who might bring them home. As Ellis takes her turn watching over this stranger, she finds herself drawn to him. His incoherent ramblings lead her to believe he is either very dangerous or very necessary to the cause for Texas freedom. Until she learns different, Ellis determines to keep quiet of what she hears, making notes for the future. Clay eventually comes awake but cannot remember his name or purpose. Hoping his memory will return soon, Clay accepts the Dumont’s offer to remain with them until he heals. But danger is coming soon unless Clay can help stop it and it will require everything he has to complete the mission he was assigned. Ellis finds herself learning much of Clay during his stay and when given the chance to find her missing brother, she accepts his offer to travel with him to Mission Alamo. Upon arrival, they find themselves pulled in opposite directions as they fulfill their purposes, but a time is coming soon when they will have to decide if they want to have a life together or apart. See! A great plot with plenty of material to work into a great story. Why it isn’t, I haven’t a clue. The first two thirds of the story went along at an almost snail pace, bringing in random facts about the Dumont family or their past. There were long discussions about Clay’s memory that could have been shortened dramatically if Ellis had helped him along with his memories. That made me so mad! Why she refused to tell him what he had said in delirium was just wrong!! Its not her place to decide what Clay knows or does. I realize she wanted to protect her family but she should have helped him remember then helped him see her side if need be. Ellis isn’t God and she should have told him what he said when he was sick. That for sure made me not like Ellis and care little if she succeeded with Clay. And once she told him, the rest of the story flew by with so much time passage and little explanation of what was happening. It was irritating to basically speed read through several months of time that could have been expanded to make the rest of the story better. There was a mild attempt at teaching trust through the characters but I didn’t believe their “come to Jesus” moment at all. And there is no way that there will be a good relationship between Clay and Ellis given her complete distrust of him and all her secret keeping. I will not recommend this book to others as there are much better stories to be had. I’m glad I didn’t pay for this one as I would have certainly wanted a refund. There is one more book in the series that I will at least attempt to read, but I am approaching it with extreme wariness.

I received this E-book free of charge from Barbour Publishing via NetGalley in exchange for a fair and honest review. I will receive no fiscal compensation for this review and the opinions expressed herein are entirely my own.

A Bound Heart by Laura Frantz – Book Review

A Bound Heart by Laura Frantz

Published by Revell Publishing January 01, 2019

Genre: Historical Fiction, Romance, Christian

Pages: 244

Rating: 2 out of 5 stars

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Publisher’s Description

Though Magnus MacLeish and Lark MacDougall grew up on the same castle grounds, Magnus is now laird of the great house and the Isle of Kerrera. Lark is but the keeper of his bees and the woman he is hoping will provide a tincture that might help his ailing wife conceive and bear him an heir. But when his wife dies suddenly, Magnus and Lark find themselves caught up in a whirlwind of accusations, expelled from their beloved island, and sold as indentured servants across the Atlantic. Yet even when all hope seems dashed against the rocky coastline of the Virginia colony, it may be that in this New World the two of them could make a new beginning–together.

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Story Notes

Laura Frantz presents her readers with a story that has a very good plot but becomes a bit scattered in the fleshing out of the plot.

I love stories that take place on the British Isles – there is a certain romance to the area that makes it a perfect setting. And as this story takes place on the isle of Kerrera, I was excited to read Laura Frantz latest release. It began pretty well by building the story and the background but as the story went on it seemed like there were many insertions of information that explained thoughts or happenings that were not very well written. It was like Ms. Frantz was writing her story and then thought of something she wanted to explain further and just tossed in an explanation in random places. She began her story with Lark MacDougall, a stillroom keeper who was in charge of the medicinal garden and the bee skeps at Kerrera Castle. Her heart is attracted to Captain Rory MacPherson, a smuggler who is doing his best to bring much needed supplies to the island. But his reckless behavior and lack of commitment to one girl make Lark wary of possible relationship. Going about her work fills Lark’s days with contentment and purpose, even if it means the constant reminder of what might have been. Laird of the castle, Magnus MacLeish is a former beau of Lark, one she had once hoped to marry. But in recent years Magnus married the wealthy daughter of a Glasgow man, although she has not been able to provide him with an heir. Heartsick over the six losses of babies, Magnus and Isla are growing further apart in their relationship as their desperation grows. A vain attempt by Isla to increase fertility brings tragedy and sets into motion a future of uncertainly and loss for Magnus and Lark. She is accused of causing the death of Isla through herbal remedies and he is accused of treason for his chosen mode of dress in public. The handed down sentence for each is transportation and indentured service in the Americas. Struggling to keep faith in the midst of continued hardship, Lark and Magnus are drawn closer together with every happening. The love they both thought lost forever, blooms again, and this time its stronger for all its struggles. Now if they can only survive “the seasoning” of their new homes and the miles of separation before they can be together forever. As one can see, this is a wonderful plot, with plenty of twists and turns to ensure situations do not become boring or repetitive. But the actually writing of the story was too scattered for my liking. The plot would go along very well and then there would be what I call a “rabbit trail” that was added to try to explain a character’s thoughts or actions. I believe it would have been better to have a “flashback” type instance rather than a quick insertion of information. Or perhaps, mix it up to include both uses of explanation. I also did not care for the rushed feeling of the plot in the latter half of the story. It seemed like Ms. Frantz was in a hurry to finish the story and eliminated characters or problems in the most expedient way, regardless of its affect on the story. I would also have liked to see a bit more of a look at the future for Mangus and Lark. Ms. Frantz just left them looking towards the future and with Lark still doubting the wisdom of Mangus’s decisions. I would have expected this type of ending had it been the first in a series, but there is no indication that this is the case. I did enjoy the history and the experiences that were described throughout the story. Scotland has incredible history to learn and it was interesting to read of their way of dealing with the laws/orders that came from England. And although I have read other stories about indentured service participants, I enjoyed seeing how that process happened from start to finish, rather that just reading of what happened after arrival in America. So while this is not my most favorite book of late, I did enjoy the overall story. Hopefully, Ms. Frantz will take a little more time with the next story and ensure it is better constructed.

I received this E-book free of charge from Revell Publishing via NetGalley in exchange for a fair and honest review. I will receive no fiscal compensation for this review and the opinions expressed herein are entirely my own.

The Curse of Misty Wayfair by Jaime Jo Wright – Book Review

The Curse of Misty Wayfair by Jaime Jo Wright

Published by Bethany House Publishers January 22, 2019

Genre: Mystery/Suspense, Drama, Christian

Pages: 242

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

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Publisher’s Description

Left at an orphanage as a child, Thea Reed vowed to find her mother someday. Now grown, her search takes her to Pleasant Valley, Wisconsin, in 1908. When clues lead her to a mental asylum, Thea uses her experience as a post-mortem photographer to gain access and assist groundskeeper Simeon Coyle in photographing the patients and uncovering the secrets within. However, she never expected her personal quest would reawaken the legend of Misty Wayfair, a murdered woman who allegedly haunts the area and whose appearance portends death. 

A century later, Heidi Lane receives a troubling letter from her mother–who is battling dementia–compelling her to travel to Pleasant Valley for answers to her own questions of identity. When she catches sight of a ghostly woman who haunts the asylum ruins in the woods, the long-standing story of Misty Wayfair returns–and with it, Heidi’s fear for her own life.

As two women across time seek answers about their identities and heritage, can they overcome the threat of the mysterious curse that has them inextricably intertwined?

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Story Notes

Jaime Jo Wright offers readers another dual time story that no one will be able to put down until they read the last word.

Jaime Jo Wright has fast become my favorite new suspense author with her complex stories that delve deep into the lives of some very interesting, albeit fictional, characters. She takes the time to properly set the scenes in each time period and includes just enough details or revelations in each chapter to ensure that you read on into the next one. Although dual time periods have not been a top choice of mine before now, I am truly enjoying Ms. Wright’s stories much more than others I’ve read. She begins her latest story in 1908 with a young woman in search of her family history. Thea Reed was left at an orphanage as a child by a mother she barely remembers and has never found again. Returning to the area of Pleasant Valley, Wisconsin where her mother was supposedly last seen, Thea begins her search. But funding her stay requires her to use her post-mortem photography skills at a shop in town. The death of a young woman in town brings Thea into contact with the Coyles, a family who’s history is shrouded in rumors of death and betrayal. Working alongside Simeon Coyle will allow Thea access to the mental asylum near town that her mother had some connection to, though she still doesn’t understand how. The search brings on danger and a revelation of who Thea’s mother really was and why she was in such a terrible place. In present day Pleasant Valley, Heidi Lane has returned to her hometown after receiving a strange letter from her mother. Given that her mother has advancing dementia, Heidi finds the cryptic message a draw she cannot avoid. But coming back to Pleasant Valley is not on her list of things she ever wanted to do. With her father a pastor and her mother the church secretary, Heidi always felt that she could never measure up or keep up with all the rules. Her much older sister Vicki seemed to be the perfect child and never in trouble. Somewhere along the line, Heidi decided that since she couldn’t seem to meet their demands, she would quit trying. Since leaving Pleasant Valley, she has sought her own way of life, finding some contentment in the fact that her life is her own, even if her faith is a little lacking. Returning has brought back all the unpleasant memories and the distance between Heidi and Vicki seems colder and more pronounced. Searching out the answers to her mother’s letter clues brings Heidi into the lives of the Crawford family, a mostly welcoming family in town. Rhett Crawford seems to be reserving judgement about Heidi, cautious for the sake of his Autistic sister. However, his willingness to help Heidi search out answers gives them both a chance to know each other better. But the more Heidi finds out, the more secrets are revealed, until the last answers will only come if everyone is honest about the past. Along the way Heidi will also discover a God who loves her and made her just the way she is, with no long list of requirements to meet before acceptance is offered. I don’t want to give away any of the really important parts of the story as it is written so much better than I could tell. Ms Wright has a gift that she is using to share the love of God with others and it is wonderful to see. The incredible tension she includes in her stories is so well-crafted that I found myself unknowingly holding my breath. And there was no way I could put the book down until I had finished the last page. Her spiritual lessons are woven so naturally into the story that if they had been left out it would have felt incomplete. I love when authors portray genuine faith as a journey that we are all on and one that no one completes until they get to Heaven. I will definitely be adding a physical copy of this book to my shelves and highly recommending it to others. I am also very much looking forward to the next story coming soon from Ms. Wright.

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 and the opinions expressed herein are entirely my own.

Under the Midnight Sun by Tracie Peterson & Kimberly Woodhouse – Book Review

Under the Midnight Sun by Tracie Peterson & Kimberly Woodhouse

Published by Bethany House Publishers January 01, 2019

Genre: Historical Fiction, Christian Romance

Pages: 192

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

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Publisher’s Description

Tayler Hale is ahead of her time as one of the first women naturalists. She has always loved adventure and the great outdoors, and her remote job location also helps keep her away from the clutches of the man to whom she once made a foolish promise. It seems she must keep running, however, and in secret, her boss from Yellowstone arranges for a new job . . . in Alaska.

The popular Curry Hotel continues to thrive in 1929 as more visitors come to Alaska and venture into the massive national park surrounding Denali. Recent graduate Thomas Smith has returned to the hotel and the people he considers family. But when a woman naturalist comes to fill the open position and he must work with her, everything becomes complicated. 

The summer brings unexpected guests and trouble to Curry. With his reputation at stake, will Thomas be able to protect Tayler from the danger that follows?

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Story Notes

Tracie Peterson and Kimberly Woodhouse come together to offer the third book in their Heart of Alaska series that includes intrigue, adventure, love and a few lessons in forgiveness.

I’ve been reading Tracie Peterson books for about 20 years and have always found them to be really lovely books. And pairing her with other authors usually makes the stories even better. This book fell into the category of a well-written book but while I did enjoy the story line I just couldn’t connect with the characters. They didn’t really come alive for me and that made me sad, given their location and stories to be told. However, others may find that this book is perfect for them and enjoy it much more. Ms. Peterson and Ms. Woodhouse begin their story with a little prologue that gives important backstory to the main characters. Thirteen year old Taylor Hale is on one last summer trip with her father and brother before her brother heads off to college. She is glad to be included but sad to be the one soon left behind at home. Her love for nature in all its wonder is profound and she hopes to one day study it in more detail at a university. For now, however, she will have to be content with what she can learn on her own. She has long admired her brother’s best friend, Emerson, and is surprised when he seeks her out alone during their trip. After declaring himself in love with Tayler, Emerson asks her for a promise to wait for him until they are older and he has finished school. Not knowing any better, Tayler agrees, secretly hoping she will fall in love with him as well. Her promise gives her a brighter outlook on the coming future. Thomas Smith is an orphan looking for a job that will help him earn something to eat. A bit small in build but with a heart filled with determination, the thirteen year old promises himself to do whatever he must to earn his keep. A job working for railroad as an errand/waterboy is welcomely offered to him, and he sets out to make his way in the world. Fast Forward ten years and Tayler is a much wiser and determined young woman. She has achieved her goal of a degree in Botany and has recently been working summers at Yellowstone National Park as a guide and teacher. But with the death of her father and the more demanding ways of her mother, Tayler is unsure of what the future holds. Summoned multiple times a day to converse with her mother about her future, Tayler is most frustrated and ready to leave home. At one time she had hoped to be married to Emerson but his philandering ways had quickly removed any regard or respect she ever held for him. But there are things at work that Tayler doesn’t know and if she is to make her own life as she wishes, she will have to make some difficult decisions. Those decisions will take her to Curry, Alaska in pursuit of a job offering for a new guide and naturalist at a lodge near McKinley National Park. Now if she can only convince the other guides to accept her and her knowledge, she will be most content. Thomas Smith has just graduated from the Alaska Agricultural College and School of Mines with a degree in Geology and is thrilled to return to his home in Curry. He is looking forward to working as a guide for McKinley National Park alongside his adopted family and friends. Discovering that one of the older guides has decided to retire, Thomas recommends requesting a new guide be hired so that the tours and excursions offered will be able to increase. Little does he know that his request will bring the one person guaranteed to make him question his request. Both Thomas and Tayler will have to find ways to work together and accept each others knowledge if they are to both feel at home in Curry. And when some guests begin making things hard for the two of them, they will have to set aside their differences to make sure everyone retains their good name. But Tayler will have more trouble coming when Emerson makes an appearance in Curry, determined to convince her to return to New York to marry him as she had promised years ago. The challenges Thomas and Taylor will face separately and together will bring them into a closer relationship than either of them anticipated, and even give them a chance at forever love. As one can tell, this story has all the wonderful elements that make for a good book. And while I loved parts of it, I just couldn’t find a connection with the characters. It’s hard to write a review that gives credence to the good work of an author while also saying you did not enjoy it. I will say that the lessons of faith and trust that were being taught here were well done and seemed very fitting in their context. And that everyone got what they needed or deserved was a good addition to the story as well. So, I will leave further opinions to other readers to discover if they find more enjoyment in this book than I. Personally, I don’t think this one will go on my “re-read” shelf at all. Hopefully future works by these two authors will be a better read for me.

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 and the opinions expressed herein are entirely my own.

Code of Valor by Lynette Eason – Book Review

Code of Valor by Lynette Eason

Published by Revell Publishers January 01, 2019

Genre: Mystery/Thriller, Crime Drama, Christian

Pages: 176

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

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Publisher’s Description

What Detective Brady St. John really needs is a relaxing vacation. Unfortunately, just as the sun is setting on his second day at a friend’s cabin on Lake Henley, he hears a scream and races to rescue a woman from her would-be killer. When the killer escapes only to return to finish the job, Brady vows to utilize all of his many resources to keep her safe–and catch those who would see her dead.

Financial crimes investigator Emily Chastain doesn’t trust many people. And even though she let the detective who saved her life in on a few pertinent facts about why she was being attacked, there are some things you just don’t share with a stranger. Little does she suspect that the secret she is keeping just might get them both killed.

Bestselling and award-winning author Lynette Eason sends readers on a race for the truth in this heart-stopping story of risk, regret, and redemption.

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Story Notes

Lynette Eason dives (pun intended) back into the Blue Justice series with a focus on Detective Brady St. John and his quest help a victim fight back, find a murderer and, maybe find his way back to the God he used to trust.

Wow, did this book ever pack a punch! It started with action almost immediately and the fear gripping the victim was palpable. Lynette Eason has a way of making her stories very realistic without going into the unnecessary gore that other authors use for shock factor. And her main characters are the “good guys”, with enough flaws to make them charmingly human and likable. This story begins with a glimpse into the minds and conversations of some very bad people – those willing to kill to keep a secret. As they argue over price and leverage, the plans for the deaths of innocent people are concocted and swiftly put into place. And two young women seeking the truth will find more than just money is the price for services rendered. Emily Chastain is a financial crimes investigator who has stumbled onto criminal accounts that are staying under the radar. The appearance of a former boyfriend known for his questionable connections first alerts her to the accounts existence. Her best friend, Heather Gilstrap, is an investigative reporter trying to make a name for herself. When the two discuss the supposed criminal activity they determine to find out what is going on by themselves, until tragedy strikes and leaves Emily fighting for her life after she was dropped into a lake with her hands tied. Detective Brady St. John was enjoying (sort of) a break from the hustle of his job at a friend’s cabin on the lake. Witnessing the attempted murder of a woman was not on his list of plans for the weekend, but he cannot stop being a cop. Rushing to the rescue, Brady pulls the woman to shore and takes her inside to get her warm. Wanting to know what happened but also aware she will be wary of everyone just now, Brady slowly asks questions to try to piece what happened together. But Emily’s explanation is quickly interrupted by the arrival of more adversaries. Escaping the house is no small miracle and a cold trek through the woods to find another nearby cabin becomes the hope of getting help. Emily’s injuries keep her from going with Brady to a second cabin when the first doesn’t have a landline available. But he returns just in time to prevent a third attempt on Emily’s life. As Brady and Emily delve into the criminal activity she and Heather had been investigating, they will uncover a network of people willing to do anything and use anyone to keep what they have and possibly gain more money in the process. But to ensure the safety of everyone involved will require both Brady and Emily to be honest and share secrets they hoped no one else would ever know. And if they stand a chance at having a real relationship they will have to trust each other and God with their deepest hurts and betrayals. I loved every page of this book. Ms. Eason created great characters that were emotionally and spiritually broken, but who found strength to defend the innocent. Emily carries deep scars from her past and is still struggling to find acceptance from others. Fractured family relationships contribute to her struggle but with Brady she is slowly learning that its okay to not be just like anyone else. Brady has become apathetic towards God and bitter against love. His struggle to let anyone close again is hard held and will require stronger love than he has ever know, both from God and Emily. The lessons they will both learn as they work through all the clues are many and I found myself looking to see if I needed to learn any of them. The well-flowing plot left no place for empty conversations or thoughts and this made the book stand out from others in the same genre. Ms. Eason carries the themes of love, forgiveness and family throughout this series but gives each story its own way of looking at and playing these themes out. I cannot wait to see where she will take this series and whom will be her next focus. Very well done!!

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 for this review from either company and the opinions expressed herein are entirely my own.

The Power of Music by Michael L. Brown – Book Review

The Power of Music by Michael L. Brown

Published by Charisma House January 08, 2019

Genre: Christian Living

Pages: 212

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

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Publisher’s Description

Music can either Connect You to God or Drive You to the Devil.

It is time for Christians to recover the full potential of anointed music—in our assemblies and in society, in our services and on the streets, in studios and in schools. Today’s Jesus revolution may only succeed with the help of Holy Spirit–inspired music and an encounter with God.

After reading this book, you will never again listen to a song the same. Discover how you can use music to release the sounds of heaven and change the world.

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Story Notes

Dr. Michael L. Brown brings to readers an intense study of how music is important to the mind, body and soul.

Everyone has a favorite song. One that brings you joy, memories, excitement, etc.; we all have one. Music is such a prevalent part of our society that even waiting on hold requires music to be played to entertain us. We are beings created with the ability to appreciate and celebrate music and use it to either enrich or escape from our lives. We use it as a way to paint a picture of what is good, wonderful and pleasing in our lives or to illustrate what is wrong or needs to be changed. Music has started and supported revolutions for years and it has given voice to people who otherwise were not being heard. These are some of the main points of Dr. Brown’s interesting book on music in our society. I enjoyed reading this walk through history and how music was able to shape events. How easily we forget the battle cry of historical events, but almost never the songs those times produced. I learned a long time ago that music was important in my own life. As a child, I would have trouble with math concepts and my mom purchased tapes to help me learn. I learned my multiplication and division tables to rap music and still recall those songs when I am faced with a numbers problem. Certain songs became the embodiment of my life at times and gave me an outlet for anger, pain, joy or celebration. This is the same for others, according to Dr. Brown, and has even set the tone for societal and historical events. People can find unity in music that no other medium allows. But a tool this powerful should be used with caution. As the above description says “Music can either connect you to God or drive you to the Devil”. I agree with Dr. Brown as I see the divergence of music better now that I am an adult. The most popular songs on radio or social media today are definitely driving (or hurtling) people in the direction of the Devil and his purposes. What used to be only intimated by a song is now blatantly and explicitly belted out. I am thankful that there has been an abundance of good Christian music that has been released in the past 10 years and I’m hopeful that others will soon follow. I also agree with Dr. Brown that we need more songs that get to the heart of people’s problems with the same directness that popular music exhibits. And even though I am a consumer of music rather than a publisher or writer, I do think it is my job as a Christian to help promote and spread the message of Hope that is so desperately needed in our world. As a children’s choir teacher, I am so pleased to see the uplifting and incredible songs that the children at our church are learning. Hillsong’s “Who You Say I Am” sounds even more amazing when sung by exuberant little voices yell-singing out “….I’m a child of God! Yes, I am!” This is the incredible truth that needs to be heard by so many hurting, broken people and this is what Dr. Brown is illustrating in his book. What if instead of pre-teen and teenagers knowing every disgusting lyric to Ariana Grande’s or Taylor Swift’s latest hit, they had Chris Tomin’s “Jesus” or Kari Jobe’s “I Am Not Alone” memorized? What if teen and young adults looking for a rap or rock outlet found that in Kirk Franklin, Toby Mac, Capital Kings, Skillet, Kutless, or Thousand Foot Crutch? It would revolutionize the society we live into a more positive and God-fearing outlook. Music is powerful in its multitudinous abilities and we have to be very careful which forms we allow into our homes, minds and lives. Dr. Brown’s research of this topic was wonderful and while sometimes a bit beyond my understanding because of generation gap, I did learn a lot about the effects of music in the 60s, 70s and 80s. The themes have carried far beyond those times and have become ingrained into many people’s thought processes today. I also liked his little additional stories entitled “Vignettes” that ended the chapters and gave further context or understanding. They made the chapter a little more personal and I identified with several of them. I will certainly recommend this book to others as I think more people need to understand the deep impact music does and can have on our lives.

I received an ARC of this book from Charisma House in exchange for a fair and honest review. I will receive no fiscal compensation from Charisma House for this review and the opinions expressed herein are entirely my own.

Flights of Fancy by Jen Turano – Book Review

Flights of Fancy by Jen Turano

Published by Bethany House Publishers January 01, 2019

Genre: Historical Fiction, Romance

Pages: 368

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

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Publisher’s Description

Miss Isadora Delafield may be an heiress, but her life is far from carefree. When her mother begins pressuring her to marry an elderly and uncouth duke, she escapes from the high society world she’s always known and finds herself to be an unlikely candidate for a housekeeper position in rural Pennsylvania.

Mr. Ian MacKenzie is known for his savvy business sense and has built his reputation and fortune completely on his own merits. But when his adopted parents are in need of a new housekeeper and Isadora is thrown into his path, he’s unexpectedly charmed by her unconventional manner.

Neither Isadora nor Ian expected to find the other so intriguing, but when mysterious incidents on the farm and the truth of Isadora’s secret threaten those they love, they’ll have to set aside everything they thought they wanted for a chance at happy-ever-after.

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Story Notes

Jen Turano begins a new series taking place during the Guilded Age with a story that includes a good dose of humor, a lesson in serving others and a cast of very memorable characters.

Jen Turano allows tells lovely stories with enough zip in the dialogue to keep the story from being predictable. She also teaches important Biblical lessons through the misadventures of her main characters that will have readers considering personal beliefs and ideas. Ms. Turano sets off once again to bring her signature style to the Gilded Age with a new series about American Heiresses in search of their happily ever after. Isadora Delafield is a very eligible young woman enjoying the delights of society when her life is interrupted by her mother’s meddling. Hoping to gain a good social position for her daughter, Mrs. Delafield has made arrangements for Isadora to be courted by the Duke of Montrose. However, the condescending attitude of the Duke quickly puts Isadora off and she begins to make plans to avoid this connection. Finding no other recourse, Isadora requests help from the family butler, Mr. Godkin, to make her escape from New York. His contacts give him news that there is a housekeeping position available in Canonsburg, Pennsylvania at a family farm. Taking care to disguise her person, Isadora sets off for Canonsburg, armed with references and determination. But as Isadora has done practically no housework, no cooking and absolutely no dressing of herself in her entire life, she will find this new adventure a bit harder that she imagined. Her new boss, Ian Mackenzie is suspicious of her lack of abilities, given the references she carries, but has no choice but to keep “Izzy” since no one else is willing to do the job. As Izzy and Ian begin to navigate their new positions, they will find that there is more to each other than first believed. And their efforts to protect and care for Ian’s family will bring them together in spite of their differences. When suspicious happenings begin to occur more frequently and point towards Ian’s Uncle Amos as the culprit, they will find a hard situation on their hands. Ian knows that while his uncle might be losing his memory, he is not a mean or hurtful person. Izzy too, has seen that Amos is kind and helpful in spite of his absentmindedness. Solving this mystery will take all their smarts to ponder out and find the real person responsible. And when New York comes to find Izzy, she will have more than enough people on her side to keep her safe. She just might also find love with the man who’s heart is as big as his chest (haha). Ms. Turano’s story took me back to a time when things were simpler but not always better. The issues of labor laws and working hours were hotly contested and often resulted in violence between parties. I was pleased to see her main characters take a stand for those without a voice and seek for better situations for everyone involved. Additionally, while the lot of women has greatly improved in more recent years, by the grace of God, at the time of this book’s plot, there was still much out of their control. I fully believe that God gave both men and women roles that they can succeed in and has given some the ability to succeed in roles not typically held. This does not make either one better if they fall outside of traditional roles, but shows that God has a mind not limited to our standards or strictures. Ms. Turano gives voice to these women who wanted to be viewed as a person first, then as a woman. To those who wanted to opportunity to discuss and learn from others who might have differing opinions. But she does this in a gracious way that ensures that the message is not ignored because of harsh packaging. I love Ms. Turano’s way of wrapping spiritual lessons in the cloak of humor to show readers how to see mistaken ideas or beliefs, confess and correct them, and move on to serving God in the best way possible. Gentle correction is so much nicer for everyone and, often, brings better results. My only issues with this story were lack of pizzazz throughout the story and the overcrowded ending. I think the lack of pizzazz comes because of the setting of the story but I missed the glamour that Ms. Turano usually employees in her stories. Perhaps she will return to this fun inclusion with the next story. I also was a bit annoyed with the ending. I know that his family is important to Ian but the inclusion of them with his declaration of love made that scene a bit shallow. Otherwise I found this book to be great fun. I’m hopeful that the next book in the series will just as fun with a bit more glitz.

I received this E-book free of charge from Bethany House Publisher’s via NetGalley in exchange for a fair and honest review. I will receive no fiscal compensation from either company for this review and the opinions expressed herein are entirely my own.

The Bride of Ivy Green by Julie Klassen – Book Review

The Bride of Ivy Green by Julie Klassen

Published by Bethany House Publishers December 04, 2018

Genre: Historical Fiction, Romance, Christian

Pages: 279

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

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Publisher’s Description

Much has happened in idyllic Ivy Hill in recent months, and while several villagers have found new love and purpose, questions remain–and a few dearly held dreams have yet to be fulfilled.

Jane Bell is torn. Gabriel Locke is back and has made his intentions clear. But Jane is reluctant to give up her inn and destine another man to a childless marriage. Then someone she never expected to see again returns to Ivy Hill. . . . 

Mercy Grove has lost her school and is resigned to life as a spinster, especially as the man she admires seems out of reach. Should she uproot herself from Ivy Cottage to become a governess for a former pupil? Her decision will change more lives than her own.

A secretive new dressmaker arrives in the village, but the ladies soon suspect she isn’t who she claims to be. Will they oust the imposter, or help rescue her from a dangerous predicament?

In the meantime, everyone expects Miss Brockwell to marry a titled gentleman, even though her heart is drawn to another. While the people of Ivy Hill anticipate one wedding, an unexpected bride may surprise them all.

Don’t miss this romantic, stirring conclusion to Tales from Ivy Hill.

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Story Notes

I was hoping to start off 2019 with a great review but apparently that isn’t to be the case. I love the author of this series and have read all her works. She has rarely disappointed me with her writing but this story is, unfortunately, one of those times. Ms. Klassen has been writing about a group of ladies who reside in an English Village called Ivy Hill and thus far, the stories have been well written, good paced and enjoyable. But this conclusion story, while fairly well written seems to drag on forever before anything happens. I understand setting up tension and anticipation for readers but this was just a ridiculous amount. Ms. Klassen picked up the story where it was left off in Ladies of Ivy Cottage, with Mercy waiting for the arrival of her brother and his wife at Ivy Cottage. Having dissolved her school and made the house ready, she is hopeful of still finding a home in the house she has called home for several years. But her hopes are quickly dashed within the first few days, given her sister-in-law’s snobbish ways and superior bent. Finding a new situation quickly becomes Mercy’s priority and there are several to consider. She was hopeful of finding love at last with Joseph Kingsley, but thus far has gotten little more than a few kind words or conversations with him. When Mercy is offered the chance to become governess to a former beloved pupil, her slight hesitation becomes ready acceptance in view of the advantages it would give her. And her new position will put her right in the middle of a real chance at love, perhaps from more than one man. Mercy’s friend, Jane Bell, is contemplating her place and life. She has been the manager of her coaching inn ever since the passing of her husband and truly enjoys her work. But long-lost love Gabriel Locke, has declared his love for Jane and the desire for her to be his partner in work as well as life. He has purchased and renovated a nearby farm and intends to establish a reputable horse breeding business. Jane loves Gabriel but is not sure she is ready to place her heart on the line again after going through so much hurt when Patrick died. An accident forces Jane to reevaluate her heart and mind and really decide what is most important in her life. Victorine has come to Ivy Hill as a seamstress of purported French connections. She is determined to make a real go of her shop within three months and, hopefully, make a living for herself as well. But while Ivy Hill is a nice quiet village, there are few that will need the goods she will offer. The chance to make a wedding gown for a local miss of higher connections will test Victorine’s meddle as she is not exactly the well practiced seamstress she is emulating. And when her past comes riding into town, she will have to determine whether to tell the truth and risk her new position or keep quiet and fail alone. The final character of note in this story is a young woman named Justina Brockwell who is expected to marry well to keep up family connections. But her heart belongs to Nicholas Ashford, a man of little connections to the thinking of her parents. In an effort to please them, Justina consents to an engagement to Sir Cyril but quickly finds herself miserable rather than happy with her decision. Will she give up the chance for true love or put a stop to everything before it gets out of hand; that is her foremost decision. With all these wonderful parts and pieces of a story, one would think this book would be filled with excitement and intrigue. But while there were moments of each, every victory for each character was quickly overshadowed with failures. At one point I actually said, “Oh, come on! Get going already!” to the book, before remembering its an inanimate object (real smart.) I love the characters but it just seemed like the whole book was drug out until it met some page requirement before it all ended happily for everyone. Truly, it could have been managed very well in about 125-150 pages at the most and everyone would have been happier. I’m glad I got to read the ending of the series and that everyone was happy in the end. I loved that love found those most deserving and those who were hurtful got what they deserved too. I’m hopeful that Ms. Klassen’s next works will be more exciting and better paced as I have come to expect from her. I will recommend this book to others as a finisher to the series but with the warning that it can be a bit boring in places.

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 and the opinions expressed herein are entirely my own.