Winning Miss Winthrop by Carolyn Miller – Book Review

Winning Miss Winthrop by Carolyn  Miller

Published by Kregel Publications March 27, 2018

Genre: Regency Romance, Christian

Pages: 305

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

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Publisher’s Description

Years ago, the man who stole Catherine Winthrop’s heart rejected her—and she’s never recovered from the grief. Now tragedy has brought him back into her life. This time it isn’t her heart he’s taking, it’s her home and her family’s good name.

Jonathan Carlew’s serious demeanor and connection to trade, not to mention the rumors surrounding his birth, have kept him from being a favorite of the ladies, or their parents. Now, suddenly landed and titled, he finds himself with plenty of prospects. But his demanding society responsibilities keep pressing him into service to the one woman who captured his heart long ago—and then ran off with it.

These two broken hearts must decide whether their painful past and bitter present will be all they can share, or if forgiveness can provide a path to freedom for the future.

Set in the sumptuous salons of Bath, Regency England’s royal breeding ground for gossip, Winning Miss Winthrop is the first volume in the Regency Brides: A Promise of Hope series. Fans of the wholesome and richly drawn first series won’t want to miss this new set of characters—or appearances by their old favorites.

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Story Notes

Carolyn Miller delivers a new Regency era story to her fans with this first volume in her Promise of Hope series that carries the essence of Jane Austen while telling a story that is fresh and delightful.

Oh Regency era how we love to read about you! I know of very few true readers who don’t find the Regency era of time to be fascinating in every way, shape and form. There were so many discoveries made, medical practices introduced and fashions created that still linger to this day that I believe it is one of the most influential times in history. It is also the most often written about time period and given that authors can find it difficult to write a new story that will appeal to their readers. I have found that Ms. Miller seems to lack this trouble as she brings new stories out with quiet regularity that spark the imagination and make me wish I were headed to the Pump rooms of Bath to be entertained by a famous singer or participate in a dance. Ms. Miller’s latest story is no exception as she took the simple plot of two people whose love was torn apart by misunderstanding and creates a well developed story that takes the plot far beyond simple. Catherine Winthrop has lost her beloved father and with him the home she has always known. Her mother has fallen into an exaggerated depression and has left poor Catherine the responsibility of dealing with all arrangements to be made – the hardest of which will be the move out of their home. She is hoping to make her escape before the new Lord Winthrop makes an appearance but it seems that is not to be. To make matters worse, the new Lord Winthrop is none other than Jonathan Carlew, the man who shattered her heart and has become the object of her deepest loathing. Jonathan has always had trouble finding social acceptance given his birth and close connections to trade. Lacking the pedigree deemed worthy of invitations from the best families in the area, Jonathan has made it his life’s work to do the very best with what he has and charm his way into the good graces of those who could help him succeed in his endeavors. Years before, when he met Catherine Winthrop, he lost his heart completely and was determined to marry her, no matter that everyone said they didn’t suit. But when Catherine’s father convinces him that she was only faking her love to have a good time and a constant escort until she found someone more suitable, Jonathan breaks off their relationship and goes to India to improve his business acumen. Never knowing why Jonathan left her and smarting keenly over his refusal to even acknowledge her letters, Catherine determined to never give her heart so willingly again. But years have passed and Jonathan has been named heir to the baronetcy of Winthrop, putting him squarely in her world once again. The story that follows is one in which I found myself wishing I could have participated. The hurt and bitterness that both Catherine and Jonathan still carry perpetuates the misunderstanding between them, making for both sad and hilarious happenings. Their attempts to keep from meeting or speaking to each other are entertaining to say the least and they are both so stubborn they cannot imagine that they may have been mistaken all those years ago. But as circumstances continue to decline for Catherine and her mother once they have moved from the manor house, they will have no choice but to relocate to Bath, introducing a whole new set of problems. As they are now in very reduced circumstances, many of society’s doors will now be closed to them without good friends to make it otherwise. Catherine finds solace in the company of her friend Lavinia, Lady Hawksbury, who refuses to allow her friend to become a hermit and gains invitations to the best of parties. But Catherine is not ready to find a new beau and accepts the kind escort of General Whitby, a much older gentleman who is one of her aunt’s closest friends. His presence ensures she is well looked after and even gives rise to the idea that she is once again a desirable marriage partner. Jonathan and his family, arrive in Bath some time after Catherine’s departure from Gloucestershire, and the rumors swirling around about Catherine and the General take Jonathan by surprise. Although he is currently expected to make a match with the wealthy Miss Beauchamp, he finds himself more than a bit jealous of Catherine’s new “conquest”. Hoping to prove he is over his former love, Jonathan will go out of his way to look happy to all around him. The problem is, the more he tries, the more miserable he becomes. But vicious rumors will soon be spoken that will require Jonathan to decide if he will forgive his mistaken idea of Catherine’s antipathy and go after the love he has looked for all along. Catherine will have to find courage in herself to fight for what she wants in life and not let others dictate who she is and who she can love. Together they will find love they are seeking and the forgiveness they didn’t know they needed. This story had so many moving pieces it was hard at times to keep them all straight. But as the story went on, Ms. Miller carefully dissected each piece of information and ensured all questions were answered. It was interesting to see how the character of each person was grown as they worked through the circumstances they were handed. There was much bitterness and resentment that stemmed from a misunderstanding that had to be addressed before forgiveness could be extended. How very like Jonathan and Catherine we all are, often forgetting to question whether what is said about someone is actually true or just fits someone’s narrative. Trust is a precious treasure that should be valued and treated with respect. Often, we find ourselves questioning our trust in someone just because of what someone else says about them – never pausing to question the motives of the person speaking. Ms. Miller explored this idea as well as the concept of hateful speech to show that words have power if we give them such and we must be careful not to let others make our decisions for us. Ms.Miller’s quiet way of weaving the love of God and His forgiveness of our mistakes into her story was also very well done. I love when a story has characters whose relationship with God has matured enough that they include open and realistic prayer in their though processes. I find my connection with them is better than those who lack such a relationship and I often find myself asking if I am guilty of doing what that character has realized they’ve done. I will most certainly be recommending this book to others as well as the entire series. I am hoping to read the next stories very soon as they are already listed for pre-order. Serena and Henry’s story looks to be a hilarious story that is not to be missed.

I received this E-book free of charge from Kregel Publications 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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The Pirate Bride by Kathleen Y’Barbo – Book Review

The Pirate Bride by Kathleen Y’Barbo

Published by Barbour Publishing/Barbour Books April 01, 2018

Genre: Historical Fiction, Christian, Romance

Pages: 257

Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

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Publisher’s Description

Can a former privateer and a determined heiress find lost treasure in 1725?
A brand new series for fans of all things related to history, romance, adventure, faith, and family trees.

Pasts Collide in New Orleans when a Treasure Goes Missing
The last time New Orleans attorney Jean-Luc Valmont saw Maribel Cordoba, a Spanish nobleman’s daughter, she was an eleven-year-old orphan perched in the riggings of his privateering vessel proving herself as the best lookout on his crew. Until the day his infamy caught up with them all and innocent lives were lost. Unsure why he survived but vowing to make something of the chance he was given, Jean-Luc has buried his past life so deep that no living person will ever find it—until a very much alive and very grown up Maribel Cordoba arrives on his doorstep and threatens all he now holds dear.

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Story Notes

Kathleen Y’Barbo (what a fun last name!) presents her readers with a wonderful adventure through the era of privateering in which two people will discover that the greatest treasures in life are not gold and rare jewels.

I am a big fan of all things pirate. One of my all time favorite rides at Disneyworld is Pirates of the Carribean and when the first movie based on the ride was released, was one of the first to go see it, as well as the next three.  So how perfect it was for me to be offered a book entitled “The Pirate Bride” for review? I’ll tell you – I was beyond excited and read it through in almost one sitting! I know that real “pirates” were not great heroes and rescuers but it was still fun to imagine what it would have been like to have lived in that time and with those circumstances. Ms. Y’Barbo created a wonderful story that will make readers want to join a privateering crew tomorrow. She begins her story with a young lady named Maribel who is traveling with her father, Antonio Cordoba, to Havana where he is to be the new Consul General for Spain. Maribel is grieving the recent deaths of her mother and grandfather and traveling with a man who has been her father in name only. With little to occupy her time as her father will not let her wander the ship, Maribel spends much time rereading her favorite book The Notorious Seafaring Pyrates and Their Exploits. Young and adventurous, Maribel would like nothing better than for their ship to be overtaken by pirates and herself be allowed to join their crew. Several weeks into their trip her wishes will come true but not in the way she imagined. Captain Jean Beaumont (aka Jean Luc Valmont) and his crew overtake the Cordoba’s ship with one goal in mind: vengeance for the lives of their family members Antonio Cordoba has taken. But when the smoke clears and all those on board are subdued, Captain Beaumont is confronted by a determined little Spaniard who will not take no for an answer. Jean Luc knows it is not safe for a young woman to be part of a privateering crew and attempts to place her in a secure home – with little success. Maribel has no intention of missing out on what she sees as the greatest adventure of her life and she will do whatever it takes to keep her place on board. And given her quick memorization of ship types and her exceptional vision, Jean Luc will place her in the safest place he can on board – the eagle’s nest lookout. It is while she is manning her post one night that Maribel will be crashed from her post into the sea by a cannonball from a French military ship, separating her from the captain and crew for many years. She is found after the ship is overtaken by two crewmen who managed to escape and will take her to the convent on the Isla de Santa Maria for safe keeping. As the years pass, Maribel will grow and learn much at the convent, but she will never forget her captain, Jean Luc. When the ship was overtaken, Jean Luc is gravely injured and barely survives the trip to New Orleans. Taken to his parent’s home, he will spend many months recuperating his strength and planning his future. He is heartsick over the idea that little Maribel might have been killed in the attack and has determined never to forget her name and face.  When she is suddenly thrust back into his life when her’s is once again in danger, Jean Luc will have to be careful or he will lose his heart to this grown up version of his favorite crew member. Maribel is determined to stay with Jean Luc no matter the cost to herself and as she spends more time with him, she will see that her childhood hero worship has slowly turned to love for a man who would give all to keep those he loves safe from harm. It will take all their love and courage to face their enemies and come through the trials with their faith intact. Ms. Y’Barbo’s created such detailed characters for her story that her readers will feel they are on board a ship and part of the conversations. Maribel’s incessant chatter when she is nervous and Jean Luc’s exasperation with her will ensure many good laughs throughout the pages. I loved the sacrificial way in which Jean Luc took care of Maribel. He would do anything to keep her safe, even risking his own life and livelihood. She in turn was able to help him realize that revenge for past wrongs will never satisfy the resentment that is carried. We must give all hurts to God and let Him take care of those who do wrong. Maribel as well will find that forgiveness is the only way to let go of the past and keep her heart from becoming bitter. There wasn’t an amazingly deep plot to this story but I found it had just enough suspense and drama to keep me interested. Its nice to read a story that flows well but doesn’t require you to think about each thing that happens to understand the conclusion. The only thing that made me a bit confused was the rushed way that Jean Luc’s life was described between when he was injured and when he found Maribel again. It was too much information given to really tell that part of the story well so I wish Ms. Y’Barbo had given that time a bit more description. But the rest of the story was very well done and for that reason I will be highly recommending this book to others. I’m also looking forward to her next story as it has been offered to me for review in a couple of months. Here’s hoping the next book will be as wonderful as this one!

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.

The Innkeeper’s Daughter by Michelle Griep – Book Review

The Innkeeper’s Daughter by Michelle Griep

Published by Shiloh Run Press/Barbour Publishing  March 01, 2018

Genre: Mystery, Romance, Christian

Pages: 321

Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

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Publisher’s Description

A London officer goes undercover to expose a plot against the Crown

Dover, England, 1808: Officer Alexander Moore goes undercover as a gambling gentleman to expose a high-stakes plot against the king—and he’s a master of disguise, for Johanna Langley believes him to be quite the rogue. . .until she can no longer fight against his unrelenting charm.

All Johanna wants is to keep the family inn afloat, but when the rent and the hearth payment are due at the same time, where will she find the extra funds? If she doesn’t come up with the money, there will be nowhere to go other than the workhouse—where she’ll be separated from her ailing mother and ten-year-old brother.

Alex desperately wants to help Johanna, especially when she confides in him, but his mission—finding and bringing to justice a traitor to the crown—must come first, or they could all end up dead.

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Story Notes

Michelle Griep brings to her readers another excellent book that will make you feel you are the one on the case and just might make you wish you lived in the Regency Era.

This book was a delight to read, from the mystery that needed solving to the character’s ways of speaking, I had a really good time reading this story. I’m relatively new to Michelle Griep’s writings but I have greatly enjoyed reading her works. She has a way of weaving sarcasm into a story that keeps it freshly hilarious without coming across as mean or derogatory. I also like the way she introduces and plays out her plot – each detail is carefully crafted so the reader can really connect with the story. Ms. Griep begins this story with the Langley family who is struggling to keep their lodging inn home in the face of crippling debt. Johanna, her mother and her brother, Thomas are working hard to find boarders enough to make their payments but as travel to the village of Dover is somewhat limited given the time of year, this has proved difficult. And the one current lodger they have, Lucius Nutbrown, hasn’t paid his rent in two weeks. Determined to make their payments, Johanna begins to look for odd jobs to do around town. Enter Alexander Morton, incognito Bow Street Runner(although they preferred to be called officers), who has arrived in Dover to discover a traitor to the Crown who is selling secrets to the Napoleonic French. His presence at the Langley’s Blue Hedge Inn is a bit odd given the large amount of money he seems to possess but Johanna is not going to send him away. And, as it turns out, this will be a very good thing as Alex is able to help her out of more than one scrape during his stay. But Alex is not there just to help out his temporary landlady, he has a very serious job to do – one that will put many lives in danger if he does not succeed. Ingratiating himself to the local gentry is his first task and given his card sharp abilities that earned him a job as a Runner, he will find this an easier task than expected. Many of the titled landowners of the area enjoy all forms of gambling but the exclusive faro games are reserved for only the best players. It is this that allows Alex to initiate his investigation into the family of Viscount Lord Coburn. Alex will have few allies in his quest and should he fail he will be disavowed, but he is determined to serve his country and brings its enemies to justice. If only he wasn’t so distracted by his unexpected attraction to Johanna Langley. Johanna is also struggling with her own attraction to the mysterious Alex. A helpful and kind lodger he certainly is but why is he so secretive about his business in Dover. He claims to be a wine purchaser but there is little evidence of his work given there is no famous wine to be found in Dover that hasn’t been imported. But as time goes on and Alex finds himself in tough spots more often than not, he will have to turn to Johanna to help him reach those who can assist in his quest. And while Johanna knows there is much Alex hasn’t told her, she cannot help but do all he asks, even when it means leaving him in jail. The culmination of this story is literally explosive and action packed as Alex works to bring down the traitors and rescue Johanna. And at the end of all things, both Alex and Johanna will finally realize that who and what they have been looking for their whole lives has been right there in front of them all this time. As I said before, I loved reading this story. There were moments where there was little action happening but it didn’t feel like it slowed the story, rather it seemed to give one a chance to catch one’s breath before plunging into the next dilemma. I loved the way the story seemed to weave itself slowly outward to include a wonderful variety of characters that carried the story along. One of Ms. Griep’s lesser characters, Lucius Nutbrown, started out as a most annoying character to me but he became central to the story given his gullible nature. And I believe his constant use of his puppet to talk to others was his way of being more brave than he believed himself to be alone. It was an interesting way to portray a person with limited mental capacity and as the story went along, I began to feel sorry for Nutbrown as it seemed he couldn’t help but be taken advantage of by everyone. I was pleased with Ms. Griep’s way of having her characters constantly turn to God for help through situations in which they were overwhelmed. And as they also looked to Him for the everyday happenings this was an excellent way for them to behave. And while several were praying for rescue from a desperate situation, they still found ways to praise and thank God for what they had in spite of their circumstances. In this I was able to connect better with the characters as I have experienced some of the same circumstances. I will most certainly be recommending this book to others and will add this to my “To Purchase” list for the future. I also hope that Thatcher from this story will be getting his own book soon as I think he will be excellent as a hero for his heroine – but she will have to be one determined lady to capture his heart. Please, Ms. Griep, write his story soon!

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

A Chance at Forever by Melissa Jagears – Book Review

A Chance at Forever by Melissa Jagears

Published by Bethany House Publishers March 06, 2018

Genre: Christian, Drama, Romance

Pages: 222

Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

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Publisher’s Description

In early 1900s Kansas, Mercy McClain, determined to protect Teaville’s children from the bullying she experienced as a child, finds fulfillment working at the local orphanage and serving on the school board. When Aaron Firebrook, the classmate who bothered her more than any other, petitions the board for a teaching position, she’s dead set against him getting the job.

Aaron knows he deserves every bit of Mercy’s mistrust, but he’s returned to his hometown a changed man and is seeking to earn forgiveness of those he wronged. He doesn’t expect Mercy to like him, but surely he can prove he now has the best interests of the children at heart.

Will resentment and old wounds hold them back, or can Mercy and Aaron put the past behind them in time to face the unexpected threats to everything they’re working for?

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Story Notes

Melissa Jagears’ third installment of the Teaville Moral Society brings of story of pain, regret, forgiveness and love for two people who never expected blessings to come from their hurtful past.

This was a lovely book that had many lessons to teach, the most important being forgiveness and letting go of resentment. We all carry hurts from our past that rise up at the oddest moments to try and cripple our Christian walk and Mercy McClain is no different. Born without a right hand, Mercy has known her fair share of taunting and hurtful statements. But her greatest tormentor was a childhood school bully named George Firebrook, who took the greatest pleasure in making Mercy cry from the words he spoke, yelled and even whispered to her every day. A tragic blessing moved Mercy beyond George’s reach at the end of the year, but now as an adult Mercy is using her past to help the orphans who are in her care. But the past always comes back to find you, and Mercy’s will come in the form of a school teacher application by G. Aaron Firebrook. (George) Aaron Firebrook is returning to Teaville years after his troubled childhood to try to right his many wrongs. Praying he will get the chance to plead forgiveness from those he hurt most deeply, Aaron interviews with the school board of Teaville as a Math teacher to support him as he seeks out those from his past. But he never dreamed that his favorite bully victim would be on the board, which almost certainly guarantees that he will not be given the position. Until a final decision is made, however, he must seek out another job and hopefully convince Mercy McClain to forgive him, even if she never becomes his friend. Angry and feeling hurt all over again at the reappearance of Aaron in her life, Mercy is hard pressed to give him the benefit of the doubt or accept his words of regret. How can someone who was so terribly mean, and quite good at it, really have become a better person who now cares for others? But Aaron knows his ultimate forgiveness comes from God and he will do whatever it takes to prove he is a new man in the Lord. He will take a short term job as the gardener at the orphanage and offers to help the director with a troubled teen boy named Jimmy who’s bent towards trouble rivals that of Aaron as a child. As Mercy watches Aaron’s unrelenting care for Jimmy and another boy named Owen, she will see a much different person than she knew before. But it will take time and a deep searching of her heart before she is willing to accept his apologies and offer the forgiveness he seeks. And, wonder of wonders, she will also discover that love can be found in the most unlikely of people. What she has been hoping and praying for her entire life will be hers if only she has the courage to reach out for it. And Aaron will finally come to realize that he is worthy of love because God has made him so, not because of the things he does. As he spends time with Mercy, his desire for her to love him back will drive him to find ways to show his affection for her – even standing up to others who are as hurtful and mean as he used to be. It is his love for her that finally breaks through her long held shield of pain to the loving forgiveness both of them have needed since they were children. The plot and development of this story were fairly good and I enjoyed reading it. I was a little lost in certain parts of the book as I had not read the first two books in this series and there seemed to be references to earlier happenings. My only issue with this book was the ending, which felt a little too well boxed. There were many questions still to be answered at the end of the book and the Epilogue attempted to cover them but it just felt too rushed. I would have preferred a better development of what happened to Jimmy after he was released from jail as well as a little more story about Owen. Other than this the book was good and I would love to read more from this author. Her examination and treatment of resentment, bitterness and forgiveness were very good and I was pleased with how she developed them well throughout the story. I hope to be able to find the first two books of this series soon so I can clarify my questions from reading this book. I will recommend this book/series to others and hope they will enjoy it as well as I.

One Note: the photo on the front of the book is a little weird as Aaron is supposed to be a big man while Mercy is supposed to be a rather small woman . This shows them as almost the same height and build – they should have used more realistic models.

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.

The Saturday Night Supper Club by Carla Laureano – Book Review

The Saturday Night Supper Club by Carla Laureano

Published by Tyndale House Publishers

Genre: Christian, Romance

Pages: 295

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

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Publisher’s Description

Denver chef Rachel Bishop has accomplished everything she’s dreamed and some things she never dared hope, like winning a James Beard Award and heading up her own fine-dining restaurant. But when a targeted smear campaign causes her to be pushed out of the business by her partners, she vows to do whatever it takes to get her life back . . . even if that means joining forces with the man who inadvertently set the disaster in motion.

Essayist Alex Kanin never imagined his pointed editorial would go viral. Ironically, his attempt to highlight the pitfalls of online criticism has the opposite effect: it revives his own flagging career by destroying that of a perfect stranger. Plagued by guilt-fueled writer’s block, Alex vows to do whatever he can to repair the damage. He just doesn’t expect his interest in the beautiful chef to turn personal.

Alex agrees to help rebuild Rachel’s tarnished image by offering his connections and his home to host an exclusive pop-up dinner party targeted to Denver’s most influential citizens: the Saturday Night Supper Club. As they work together to make the project a success, Rachel begins to realize Alex is not the unfeeling opportunist she once thought he was, and that perhaps there’s life—and love—outside the pressure-cooker of her chosen career. But can she give up her lifelong goals without losing her identity as well?

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Story Notes

Carla Laureano brings a fun story to life in the Mile High City that will leave your mouth watering for the amazing food being made and just maybe falling a bit in love with the art of cooking.

I spent most of this book alternating between wanting to finish the story and wanting to go try my hand at cooking the dishes described. I love to cook and love to try out fresh new ideas and this book gave some real inspiration for my future dishes. But there was so much more to this book than just the food being made and it is this that I will share here. The story begins in the kitchen, naturally, of the Denver high end restaurant Paisley, where Rachel Bishop is the executive chef. Winning the prestigious James Beard Award has made her one of the top chefs in the country but Rachel would rather be part owner of Paisley than run the kitchen of a top restaurant in a more major city. She has all she ever wanted and more and is loving the fast paced race of getting everything made and plated for her customers each day. Enter the article of one Alex Kanin, who wrote to show the damage someone can do with social media and its followers. He left out specific names but still implied enough to ensure Rachel was one of the main characters of his focus. Add to this a disastrous cut-and-pasting-together of an impromptu interview Rachel gives when she is accosted by a reporter outside her restaurant and Rachel’s name quickly becomes mud with everyone online. Losing not only her reputation but her partnership in the restaurant, Rachel will now have make her way in a world that employs based on reputation and experience – one she just lost and the other doesn’t seem to be important anymore. Alex never imagined that his article would go viral and cause the exact kind of damage he was railing against. Realizing he has cost Rachel everything about her career, Alex approaches her with an apology and a proposition to help her regain what she lost. And so, the Saturday Night Supper Club was born! Using their combined skills Alex and Rachel will create a unique experience that not only inspires praise but will help Rachel become the most requested chef in Denver once again. Along the way, each of them will learn more about themselves and what exactly they are holding most dear. Trust and friendship that start out grudgingly given become more readily offered and even lead to a deeper relationship than either of them dreamed they could ever have. It is the understanding that both of them, while coming from broken homes, have much to offer the world and others just by doing what they were called by God to do. And further they will see that although fame and money are nice to have, there is joy and contentment to be found in embracing who you were created to be. I loved the story that was developed in these pages. There were real fears, real struggles and real situations that anyone could be facing every day and it made for a good connection with the characters portrayed. How many of us hope and pray that who we are is acceptable to those around us? And how many of us are afraid to be who we really are because its not like those who seem to have it all? Ms. Laureano quietly eliminates those questions with Alex’s very empowering statement ” If God had wanted you to be anything other than who and what you are, He would have made you that way.” In her careful and kind way, Ms. Laureano tackles head on the thoughts that we need to measure up to anything other than God’s expectations of us – and even when we don’t, there is grace and mercy to catch us when we fall. This is the kind of book that when you read it, you hope it will become a movie at some point. I would really love it if it became a Hallmark movie, because then it would stay true to the writing and have a chance to really shine. And in spite of the predictability that seems to hover over every Hallmark movie, this story would be fresh, new and have enough surprises to keep it from being seen the same as others. I’m also hoping this is the beginning of a series as hinted at on the cover with the writing “a supper club novel”. I would love to see where Ms Laureano would take Rachel’s friends, Alex’s sister and his best friend Bryan. There is some great potential for stories with the fun characters she has already created in this book. I will most certainly recommend this book to others and am looking forward to Ms. Laureano’s future works.

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

Keturah by Lisa T. Bergren – Book Review

Keturah by Lisa T. Bergren

Published by Bethany House Publishers February 06, 2018

Genre: Christian, Romance

Pages: 348

Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

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Publisher’s Description

In 1773 England, Lady Keturah Banning Tomlinson and her sisters find themselves the heiresses of their father’s estates and know they have one option: Go to the West Indies to save what is left of their heritage.

Although it flies against all the conventions for women of the time, they’re determined to make their own way in the world. But once they arrive in the Caribbean, proper gender roles are the least of their concerns. On the infamous island of Nevis, the sisters discover the legacy of the legendary sugar barons has vastly declined–and that’s just the start of what their eyes are opened to in this unfamiliar world.

Keturah never intends to put herself at the mercy of a man again, but every man on the island seems to be trying to win her hand and, with it, the ownership of her plantation. She could desperately use an ally, but even an unexpected reunion with a childhood friend leaves her questioning his motives.

Set on keeping her family together and saving her father’s plantation, can Keturah ever surrender her stubbornness and guarded heart to God and find the healing and love awaiting her?

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Story Notes

Lisa T. Bergren delivers a new series to her readers that will show them the hard life that was to be found on the isles of the West Indies. The first book brings an adventure that begins a little slow but ramps up to a very good story indeed.

I have been reading books by Ms. Bergren for many years and have loved her versatility. This new series she is embarking on covers a time and place that many have never experienced or considered. The Sugar Barons of England gained their wealth on the islands of St Christopher (St. Kitts), Nevis and Jamaica with sugar cane plantations that covered the island’s every square inch. Most preferred to be absentee owners but some lived full time on the islands to ensure theirs was the best crop. So begins the story of the Banning sisters, Keturah, Verity and Selah, who have just been informed of their father’s demise on Nevis from fever. Reeling with grief, the sisters have just been handed management of their father’s holdings in England and the island of Nevis. Shocked at the lack of produce and profits shown in the account books, the sisters must find a way to make their plantation turn a profit if they are to have money to live. Keturah, a recent widow, carries the scars of her disastrous marriage and has determined never to let a man be in charge of her again. She sees a chance for a new start for herself and her sisters and sets about to prepare for the journey to Nevis – however ill-advised it seems to others. Before leaving, Keturah comes face to face with her old friend and secret crush, Gray Covington, whose fumbled attempts to offer help on the journey cause Keturah to sharply refuse and determine to make it alone. Gray is also going to work his recently acquired plantation and in spite of his bungled offer of help, he really does want to ensure Keturah is safe and successful. He has also carried a secret crush for Keturah since they were children but has never spoken of it as her father arranged a marriage before Gray could speak his mind. The ensuing ship-board journey will bring new experiences and new awareness between Keturah and Gray, who both refuse to act on their attraction as they both believe they will not suit anymore. But upon landing at Nevis, Keturah and Gray will have to decide if they will let the past rest and move to a new type of friendship – with the chance at something more if they have the courage to reach for it. And it will take all the courage, determination and faith they have to make a good life on Nevis as they face the harsh climate and even harsher neighbors. This story really turned out to be very good after I got past the first half. It seemed Ms. Bergren strung out the beginning of the plot beyond necessity and I was somewhat afraid the story would never gain momentum. After the characters made it aboard the ship however, the storyline moved much faster and flowed much smoother. It was interesting to see the way marital abuse was viewed and overlooked in the 1700s. Ms. Bergren did not have it be considered okay but did show that there was little that could be done as women were not viewed as much more than a man’s property during that time. So to have her main character move beyond that tragedy, flout convention and seek to make a life for herself and her sisters was a wonderful idea, in my opinion. Keturah did have to learn that there are some things you cannot do alone and you must ask for help when necessary. It does not make one weak to ask for help, it makes one wise to be able to know one’s limits. And when she finally opened her heart back up to God and His provision, Keturah was able to find peace, strength and endurance she never had before. She was also able to forgive those who had hurt her deeply and move on to a better life and true love. Gray, also carried much from his past that he was not proud of and wished to redeem that time by making a successful life in Nevis. Having found the forgiveness he sought in God, Gray is now hoping to prove his worth and, perhaps, give assistance and friendship to the Banning sisters, even if Keturah will not give him anything beyond polite disinterest. He will finally gain a chance to show his devotion to Keturah when her home and family are threatened by those who wish her to fail. The love he offers will be the final element Keturah needs to completely heal her broken heart and seek love again. The sacrificial love that Ms. Bergren had her characters offer was an excellent example of the love that Christ demonstrated on the cross. Both of her main characters demostrate that real love is shown by how much one is willing to do for others ahead of oneself. And it will be this love that will carry them through the toughest times they face on their journey to a new life. I will recommend this book to others as a good start to a series that I believe will be very good as it goes on. I was not overly impressed with the beginning but enjoyed the last half of the book immensely. I will be very curious to see where Ms. Bergren takes the series as there are many directions in which this could go. My hope is that since she has the proverbial ball rolling the next books will flow much better and faster.

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

The Masterpiece by Francine Rivers – Book Review

The Masterpiece by Francine Rivers

Published by Tyndale House Publishers February 06, 2018

Genre: Christian, Romance

Pages: 400

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

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Publisher’s Description

New York Times bestselling author Francine Rivers returns to her romance roots with this unexpected and redemptive love story, a probing tale that reminds us that mercy can shape even the most broken among us into an imperfect yet stunning masterpiece.

A successful LA artist, Roman Velasco appears to have everything he could possibly want―money, women, fame. Only Grace Moore, his reluctant, newly hired personal assistant, knows how little he truly has. The demons of Roman’s past seem to echo through the halls of his empty mansion and out across his breathtaking Topanga Canyon view. But Grace doesn’t know how her boss secretly wrestles with those demons: by tagging buildings as the Bird, a notorious but unidentified graffiti artist―an alter ego that could destroy his career and land him in prison.

Like Roman, Grace is wrestling with ghosts and secrets of her own. After a disastrous marriage threw her life completely off course, she vowed never to let love steal her dreams again. But as she gets to know the enigmatic man behind the reputation, it’s as if the jagged pieces of both of their pasts slowly begin to fit together . . . until something so unexpected happens that it changes the course of their relationship―and both their lives―forever.

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Story Notes

Francine Rivers brings her readers a beautiful story of God’s redemption and learning to be who He created you to be.

As far as I’m concerned, this is definitely the Book of the Year 2018. This tragically beautiful story of broken people finding mercy and hope covers all the emotional and literary bases completely. I was so enjoying the book I both anticipated and loathed reaching the last page and the story’s resolution. And when I did finish, it was to praise God for such a deeply touching book that reminded me that He has plans for even the most self-destructive humans. Ms. Rivers begins her story with Roman Velasco, a highly sought after master painter who moonlights as the graffiti artist The Bird. Coming from a childhood racked with pain, loss and crime, Roman has re-invented himself into an art celebrity while still holding onto the vestiges of his past. His thirst for adrenaline is quenched by his nighttime adventures but each venture brings him closer to being caught by police – which could bring the end of his illustrious career. But nothing else answers his soul’s call for the next rush, that is until he meets Grace. Grace Moore is a young mother trying to make a life for her five month old son Samuel. It’s been nearly two years since her devastating divorce ripped apart her life and she’s trying to put it all back together with the mercy of God. The temp agency that Grace works for offers her a job as personal assistant to the famous Roman Velasco, with the warning that he has chased off multiple assistants with his rough demeanor. But the money she will earn will help her towards getting her own apartment and going back to college. Her first day will find her almost quitting until Roman reluctantly agrees to her terms to call her “Ms. Moore” and to not swear at her. But Roman soon learns that Grace is everything he never knew he needed and more. She’s efficient, quiet, helpful and doesn’t take his outbursts kindly – exactly the kind of person he needs in his life. But her two weeks is up all too quickly and Grace is ready to move on to a job that allows her more time with her son(whom she has not mentioned to Roman). Knowing he needs Grace to stay if he is going to get any work done, Roman offers his guest house as a solution for her long commute. Wary of what this would mean for her, Grace is careful to lay out her requirements if she is to accept his offer – agreeing only after her friends approve the arrangement. And so begins a tumultuous story that will take Roman and Grace to literal Hell and back, as they both seek fulfillment in life. Each of them will have to discover the love and grace that Jesus offers to cover the sins of the past, though Roman will find his journey one of frustrating loss and cleansing pain. As they grow closer together through their work, heartache is sure to follow, given their polar opposite beliefs. But from heartache and loss, God can create something beautiful and new if He is asked. I am hard pressed to include more of the story as I don’t want to spoil it for others. Ms. Rivers created such excellent characters that readers who really dive in may feel deeply the pain, both literal and emotional, that Grace and Roman experience. You will laugh, cry, get angry and smile broadly as you embark on this journey of redemption and love. Roman and Grace could be anyone and everyone and I found myself identifying with both at different points during the story.  I could not find one thing to criticize about this book other than I didn’t want it to end. It is an true pleasure to find a story that includes all the best elements of writing and none of the worst. I will certainly highly recommend this book to others and share it with family and friends as well. Thank you Ms. Rivers for giving me a book I could truly enjoy from first page to last. I applaud your ability to convey all levels of emotion without including unnecessary language or sexual content. I am very much looking forward to Ms. Rivers next works and hope they will be available soon.

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 Publishers for this review.

Need to Know by Karen Cleveland – Book Review

Need to Know by Karen Cleveland

Published by Ballentine Books/Random House January 23, 2018

Genre: Mystery/Suspense, Thriller

Pages: 219

Rating 4.5 out of 5 stars

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Publisher’s Description

NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • Perfect husband. Perfect father. Perfect liar?

“Terrific.”—John Grisham
“Superb.”—Lee Child
“Breathtaking, heart-pounding.”—Louise Penny
“A fast-paced, relentlessly gripping read.”—Chris Pavone

In pursuit of a Russian sleeper cell on American soil, CIA analyst Vivian Miller uncovers a dangerous secret that will threaten her job, her family—and her life. On track for a much-needed promotion, she’s developed a system for identifying Russian agents, seemingly normal people living in plain sight.

After accessing the computer of a potential Russian operative, Vivian stumbles on a secret dossier of deep-cover agents within America’s borders. A few clicks later, everything that matters to her—her job, her husband, even her four children—is threatened.‎

Vivian has vowed to defend her country against all enemies, foreign and domestic. But now she’s facing impossible choices. Torn between loyalty and betrayal, allegiance and treason, love and suspicion, who can she trust?

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Story Notes

Karen Cleveland jumps into the world of writing and lands on two solid feet with her debut novel. With superb writing that keeps you guessing, characters that are completely relatable and a mystery just begging to be solved, Ms. Cleveland leaves her readers in no doubt that she will be in this field for years to come.

I probably shouldn’t have tried to read this excellent book when I was fighting a severe cold but it was so good that I powered through and hope I didn’t overlook anything. When I looked the book information up after I finished I was surprised to realize this was Ms. Cleveland’s first book! It was so good I thought she must have written others before. I have certainly added her to my list of “must read” authors for any future works and can’t wait to see what she brings out next. With all the kerfuffle over Russia and its involvement in US politics lately, I was interested in reading books with ties to that oft mentioned country. Lo and Behold, I was offered this book a couple weeks ago and latched on with a tight grip. Ms. Cleveland carefully crafted a book that everyone could relate to – and given how many people work in government offices these days, this may be someone’s reality. Vivian is a CIA analyst who has worked for several years to develop a system to detect Russian sleeper agents that live “normal” American lives. Knowing she is on the verge of the biggest breakthrough of her career, Vivian is thrilled to discover that her system has uncovered local agents and handlers that may soon be activated. Only trouble is, when she finally accesses the files pertaining to the sleeper agents, she will find the man she has loved and been married to for 10 years is one of them. Unable to process what she is seeing and afraid to confront her husband Matt with the truth right before her eyes, Vivian will have to decide what matters most: her job or her family. She has heard of others that had to turn in friends or friends of friends, but how can she destroy her family and the lives they’ve built together? Carefully beginning the necessary conversation with Matt, Vivian is deeply shaken to find that she was targeted by the Russians 11 years ago when they first met. Vivian was working on a less important CIA target and the Russians needed someone on the inside who was unaware of their manipulation. Matt ( or Alexander Lenkov) was recruited in Russia at 15 to come to the US as a student who would be able to surreptitiously integrate into the American way of life and target those who could give Russia the information they needed. It was his job to push Vivian to apply for the Russian analysis job that was soon to be available at the CIA. Never realizing that his covert activities would become harder to continue when he fell in love with his target, Matt is in the impossible position of wanting to protect his family and serve his homeland. Vivian cannot fathom turning Matt in, so they search for ways to keep what they know secret. But the Russians and the CIA are not in the business of keeping families together and it will take all their intellectual know-how to prevent either side from tearing them apart. There was so much to love about this book, from the thriller passages when you held your breath to see if Vivian would get caught, to the sacrificial love that Vivian and Matt have for each other and their children, it will certainly be one I recommend to others highly. There was no unnecessary language outside of a couple “O my Gods” and other than a brief reference to Vivian and Matt sleeping together after a date, there was no other sexual references. That automatically raises my opinion of an author when they can write with no crutch of language or sex. Ms. Cleveland was also able to convey the heartfelt desire of her characters to keep their good and quiet everyday life. Although that was not the original intent, Matt and Vivian have a good marriage that has nothing to do with their jobs, rather it is based on their devotion to each other. Their fight to protect their family is a recurring theme that all readers will applaud. To be able to write about the mundane as well as the thrilling with the same adeptness is a skill that not usually seen in a first time author but Ms. Cleveland, it seems, has this skill in spades. It was the moments of everyday life that let me identify with Vivian and helped me “walk alongside” her in this wonderful story. Would that more people would be honestly torn to make a decision that could destroy their marriage or family rather than viewing everything as disposable. I can hardly wait to see where Ms. Cleveland will take this series next and I know it will be good. I will definitely be looking for her future works with anticipation and hope her next book will be out soon. I will highly recommend this book to others and hope to get a hard copy of the book for my shelves soon. Well done, Ms. Cleveland and welcome to the big leagues!!

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

Betrayed by Lillian Duncan – Book Review

Betrayed by Lillian Duncan

Published by Pelican Book Group January 10, 2014

Genre: Mystery/Thrillers, Christian

Pages: 276

Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

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Publisher’s Description

The Witness Protection Program claims it can keep anyone safe if only the person follows the rules… so Maria follows the rules. Every rule. She gives up everything’her friends, her family, her past, even her name’to ensure her daughter has a future. Reborn as Veronica Minor, Maria struggles to build a new life amid the beauty of her flower shop in the sleepy little town of Sunberry, Ohio. A life where her daughter can have a happy normal childhood. A life where her daughter will never know that her father was a monster. When a child disappears, Veronica prays it has nothing to do with her past, but what if she’s wrong? Not knowing whom to trust, she trusts no one… and that’s her first mistake, because the nightmare isn’t over’her dead husband just called from the grave.

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Story Notes

Lillian Duncan brings to her readers a mystery and romance that was good but could have used more pages to really develop it into a more complicated storyline.

When I was offered this book for review, I was intrigued with the plot description presented. As I began to read the book, I really enjoyed the content and the mystery involved, but I would have like it better if it had been given more page time. The story began well with a good plot involving an abused widow named Maria who is in the WitSec program of the US Marshals. She and her daughter, Layla, are in hiding from her deceased husband’s violent associates who were upset with his business practices. Determined to keep her daughter safe, Maria does everything she is told and gives up everything from her former life. She has been making a good life in Sunberry, Ohio over the past months and has just started to feel comfortable with her new friends and neighbors when Layla’s best friend Emily disappears. The disappearance is eerily similar to when her husband took Layla, but everyone has assured her that he is dead. Add to this the phone call she receives from a man claiming to be her dead husband, who also claims to have taken Emily to exchange for Layla. Fearing she has been lied to and desperate to ensure she never loses Layla again, Maria hits the road with no set destination other than away from Sunberry. But Maria soon remembers that she has no reason to hide and that there are many who will protect her if she only asks. Returning to Sunberry, she turns to her new friends and the lead investigator for Emily’s disappearance. Working through the mystery of her husbands death and Emily’s kidnapping helps Maria see that not everyone is willing to be bought. But she will have to rely on her deep faith in God and the love of a good man to help her move beyond the nightmares of her past. The context and the subject of this story were very good and it had a lot of potential to really be a great mystery. Unfortunately for me, Ms. Duncan did not give herself enough page time to really flesh out the story and characters. I loved what I learned about each character she presented but felt a little robbed at how quickly everything wrapped up. I would have loved for her to have gone into more detail about Maria’s past and also about her multiple moves while in WitSec. I believe this book is connected to another Ms. Duncan wrote later so perhaps there are more answers to be found there. And as this seems to be one of her earliest books I will give her another chance to prove her writing skills as I believe she has a lot of potential as a mystery writer. I look forward to finding other books she has written to see if she is striving to perfect her craft. I will recommend this book to others but will let them know the ending is rather abrupt and a bit annoying in that respect. I’m not giving up on Ms. Duncan yet but hope she has better to offer readers in her more recent writings

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

Home With You by Shirlee McCoy – Book Review

Home with You by Shirlee McCoy

Published by Zebra/Kensington Books February 27, 2018

Genre: Drama, Romance

Pages: 200

Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

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Publisher’s Description

The Bradshaw brothers never dreamed they’d return to their hometown. But tragedy has brought them back together in Benevolence, Washington, where they’re finding generosity, surprising revelations—and unexpected love . . . 

Sullivan Bradshaw is in way over his head. A car crash killed his brother, Matthias, and critically injured his sister-in-law. It’s Sullivan’s turn to care for the couple’s six children and the ancestral farm, but the die-hard bachelor and art professor is hardly family-man material. What he needs is the perfect nanny-miracle worker-saint. What he gets is pretty Rumer Truehart, a free spirit who will change everything he ever thought he wanted . . .
 
Rumer learned the hard way that nothing is for sure, much less forever. And she certainly  understands why Sullivan’s unhappy childhood makes him a strictly no-commitments kind of guy. But she can’t help being drawn to this thoughtful, gentle man. And when trouble strikes, she’s determined to win his trust—and show him love can be a promise for keeps.

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Story Notes

This was a pretty cute story that illustrated how real life goes on after a tragedy happens. Life is messy every day and when the pieces of a person’s world falls apart it becomes all the more messy and chaotic. Rumer Truehart has come home to care for her ailing aunt and discovers there is little money to spare after all the medical bills and the recent necessary updates to the house. Knowing it’s up to her to find a job to help pay the upcoming bills, Rumer finds an ad requesting a housekeeper/nanny for a family near her aunt’s horse ranch. Applying in person seems ideal but Rumer will have to make a careful decision once she sees the craziness of the Bradshaw household. With six adopted children from age 12 to 2 years, Sullivan Bradshaw is hard put to be the stand in parent for his brother and sister in law. As bachelor with little interaction or experience with anyone younger than himself, Sullivan is desperate to find someone to help him manage the multiple schedules and keep everyone fed and clothed. Rumer is not quite what he expected when he had discussed a housekeeper/nanny with his other brothers but she seems to know just what each child needs and even makes them smile. And the fact that she is also quite pretty helps his decision immensely. Rumer is reluctant to agree as she is not certain she can be all that the children need, which in all honesty is their mother. But as Sunday Bradshaw remains in a coma, there is little Rumer can do outside of agreeing to help Sullivan keep everyone under control. Together they will have to learn how to care for the children and not lose their minds. And with children who love to push every last button they will find that their days will be filled with amazing laughter and oceans of tears. Along the way they might even find themselves discovering the true love they were looking for all their lives is working right beside them. Shirlee McCoy has been a favorite author of mine for several years. I have enjoyed reading multiple mystery/suspense stories of hers as well as some romances. I was a bit shocked with this story to find the inclusion of so much language – and it was completely unnecessary to the plot to include it. Yes, it makes the story a little more “edgy” I guess if you include that but I would have preferred the writing she usually provides which is excellent. For this reason, I could only give the book 3.5 stars when I really wanted to give it 4.5 based on the actual plot. Ms. McCoy wrote a heartbreaking and heart healing story that showed the raw and real pain that a family endures when tragedy strikes. Children especially take death hard and will lash out if not given a chance to grieve properly. They have to find a new balance for their new way of life and sometimes that means they will push the boundaries and break all the rules to find where they can comfortably come to rest. Ms. McCoy shared every emotion and did it with humor that made me laugh out loud. I truly enjoyed the book and the lessons to be shared. I am hopeful Ms. McCoy will bring out another book soon and will leave the unnecessary language out so I can recommend it to more people. As this one is I will be adding a warning to go along with this book as I don’t believe it will be enjoyed by everyone. Please bring back your other stories and better writing so I can share it with others!!

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