A Baxter Family Christmas by Karen Kingsbury – Book Review

A Baxter Family  By  Karen Kingsbury

Published By  Howard Books   October 25, 2016

Genres:   Women’s Fiction/General Fiction

Pages:  272

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

____________________________________________________________________

Publishers Description

Two years have passed since the terrible car accident that took the life of John Baxter’s daughter, Erin, her husband and three of their four daughters. Prompted by grief, and missing his daughter, John has invited a stranger for Christmas Eve dinner—Kendra Bryant, the transplant recipient who now has Erin’s heart.

In light of their father’s idea, Ashley and her brother Luke don’t think it’s right. They want to protect their ten-year-old niece, Amy—the only surviving member of the accident. But John is determined and believes meeting this woman is something his deceased daughter would want.

At the same time, Maddie West, the eighteen-year-old daughter of Brooke Baxter West, is praying for meaning this Christmas. Could she find it in a newfound friendship with a boy she never expected to see again? Maddie believes in miracles, especially at Christmastime, but this is a stretch even she can’t imagine.

Meanwhile, Kendra Bryant has been struggling these past few years to find purpose in the tragedy that gave her a second chance. She believes the invitation to see the Baxters and witness their unwavering faith in God can instill peace and happiness back into her life.

Heartwarming and touching, filled with love and redemption, A Baxter Family Christmas brings together two families in the aftermath of loss and in the midst of an unfolding love story, all with the help of one very special child.

_____________________________________________________________________

Story Notes

Karen Kingsbury’s latest book in the Baxter Family Saga is one that should not be missed. True to Baxter style there is a dilemma that must be solved, but this time its one that could keep the family apart at Christmas if they can’t find a solution soon.

I am convinced that Karen Kingsbury likes nothing better than to make me cry happy tears – that or she holds stock in Puffs and Kleenex tissues. Whichever way it is let me say this: If you are looking for a book to challenge your faith this is it! I have faithfully read all of Ms. Kingsbury’s books and, like many others I’m sure, I feel like the Baxters and the Flannigans are some long lost family I didn’t know I had but love to learn more about them. Although still a little upset with the conclusion of the Bailey Flannigan series, I went into this story so excited to see who would be Ms. Kingsbury’s latest character of choice. The main story of whether the Baxter’s should meet the recipient of their daughter/sister’s (Erin) heart for Christmas challenged me in a good way. I really had to consider if, given the tragic loss of a family member, would I seek to meet this person like John  or, like Ashley, would I decide this stranger had no place at my family’s Christmas gathering. I would love to say that I would be like John but there is a very honest part of me that might still feel a bit like Ashley, not sure if this meeting is either right or necessary. But I was so glad to see that Ms. Kingsbury found the best solution for everyone in that Erin’s daughter Amy told Ashley she wished to meet the person who had her mommy’s heart. Ashley’s fear for Amy’s pain and her own pain over the loss of Erin dissolved completely and she finally found the peace and healing she had needed since Erin’s death. What a wonderful way for Ms. Kingsbury to bring everyone together – through the love and curiosity of a child. The sub-story included in this book was that of Maddie West, John’s grandaughter who is dealing with guilt and shaky faith. Maddie has decided if her sister Hayley can’t do or experience something then she won’t either, even the possibility of love. After all, its Maddie’s fault that Hayley is handicapped anyways since she didn’t watch her sister close enough and Hayley almost died. Ms. Kingsbury created in Maddie a character so like many of us  – needing God to show us He is there and has good plans for us. And Ms. Kingsbury was very careful to explain through Maddie’s mom as well as Connor Flannigan that the guilt she carries is from herself and not from God. God was not looking to punish her and has many good things for Maddie to experience that may be different from that which Hayley will experience. And through all of this Ms. Kingsbury wove the true story of Christmas: that Jesus came to the earth to forgive and save mankind in His Mercy.

I will certainly be recommending this book to others and am planning to purchase copies of this book for myself and others this Christmas.

I received this e-book from Howard Books via NetGalley in exchange for a fair and honest review. I will receive no fiscal compensation from either company for this review.

Advertisements

Rise and Shine by Sandra D. Bricker – Book Review

Rise and Shine  By  Sandra D. Bricker

Published By  River North/Moody Publishers   May 1, 2014

Genres:  Romance

Pages:  284

Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

_____________________________________________________________________

Publisher’s Description

Shannon Malone wakes from a coma ten years after a diving accident to find that nothing in her previous life is the same. Waking up to the news that she’s thirty years old would have been daunting enough . . . but she also learns that her young groom, Edmund Ridgeway, recently lost his battle with cancer.

Shannon’s elderly aunts flit through her life, trying to save her from Millicent, Edmund’s evil sister, as she tries to bar Shannon from any claim on the Ridgeway fortune. Shannon’s gorgeous doctor, Daniel Petros, becomes Shannon’s tour guide into a whole new world of madness, where reality television has taken over the planet and everyone’s life appears to revolve around a tiny screen on their cellphones!

Can Shannon navigate to a happy ending, even when her heart keeps asking, “Why, God?”

_____________________________________________________________________

Story Notes

Oh, how fun it is to read modern re-tellings of favorite classic stories! There are many re-tellings of Sleeping Beauty out there to enjoy but this is the first I’ve read that kept the essentials and still had its own meaningful story to tell. Ms. Bricker succeeded in bringing me to both out-loud laughter and tears as I watched her Shannon journey this road to recovery. Having the story focus after “sleeping beauty” woke up was a new idea to me and one I found perfect for a more modern telling. Ms. Bricker carefully and skillfully handled the death of Shannon’s husband, Edmund, while she was in the coma and provided excellent friends and relatives to help her heal physically and emotionally. I loved that Ms. Bricker had a hero in the making with Daniel Petros,  Shannon’s doctor throughout her coma who had become best friends with Edmund before he died. Daniel’s promises to Edmund in regards to Shannon were the initial way that Daniel spent time with Shannon but the duties quickly became less a chore and more of a special time. And Daniel’s joy and willingness to help Shannon navigate her new world  was fun to read. Her amazement at the technology available with cell phones, tablets (“menu – thingys”) and television had me laughing aloud many times. Ms. Bricker also gave Shannon a “new identity” when she awoke – one that would allow her to find a purpose and way to serve others. Shannon was so lost when she awoke that she quickly became afraid of how she would manage to find a job in a field she hadn’t worked in for 10 years. Ms. Bricker provided one for her in cooking – something the old Shannon never liked or attempted beyond freezer meals. I really liked that Ms. Bricker also gave her an opportunity to use her new found gifts to serve others in that she would provide meal service for families at the Draper care center she had lived in as well as serving free meals outside local homeless shelters. And Shannon’s desire to help others was a catalyst for Daniel to explore ways for him to give back as well. But their romance was by far the best part of this book. Both Shannon and Daniel have their reasons for holding back from a relationship but both have a desire for more than friendship. Daniel had slowly fallen in love with Shannon from the time he became her main caregiver after Edmund’s death. And his love only becomes stronger as he gets to know Shannon as she recovers. But he is afraid she is still in love with Edmund, as to her it has only been a few weeks since she got married, in spite of the 10-year coma. Daniel also finds further confirmation to repress his feelings when he speaks with Shannon’s therapist who tells him his interest may confuse Shannon. Shannon on the other hand is finding out that as much as she apparently loved Edmund in the past, she can’t quite remember him and their relationship. She is determined to move on with her life and while she’s at it she will have to decide if she still trusts God to take care of her – despite all the time and love she has lost. Ms. Bricker’s resolution of their relationship was pretty good – but I liked Shannon’s reconciliation with God best. Her rediscovery of her faith was raw and real and I could almost feel her desire for Him to become the only One on whom should place her dependence and trust. And this faith would be what sustains her through her heart troubles. I couldn’t give this book the 5 stars I wanted to in the beginning because I just felt the end of the book was too sudden. Shannon and Daniel had finally admitted their feelings for each other but Daniel is leaving for a 3 month stint in Africa as a missionary doctor.Ms. Bricker didn’t have anything afterwards abut his return or where they go from there. I would have preferred a more complete ending instead of one that left the future to the imagination of the reader – I always have problems with books that do that. But I will say that there was so much about this book I loved that I will definitely be keeping this one around to re-read. One of the funnies I loved in the book came from her Aunt Mary: Each time Shannon remembered a person, a skill or a memory she would quietly exclaim “Yipee!” I love that Ms. Bricker gave Shannon such a quiet but steady cheerleader to help her heal and recover memories enough to help her be confident in her future. I will certainly be recommending this book to others and might purchase copies for friends or family for Christmas. This book definitely goes on the keep and re-read shelf.

I received this book from River North/Moody Publishers in exchange for a fair and honest review. I will receive no fiscal compensation from either company for this review.

Christmas at Dove Creek by Scarlett Dunn – Book Review

Christmas at Dove Creek  By  Scarlett Dunn

Published By  Kensington Books   October 25, 2016

Genres:  Christian Romance

Pages:  352

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

____________________________________________________________________

Publisher’s Description

With snow on the prairie and the stars heralding new hope, it’s the season for the lost to find their way home—and love to unite solitary hearts…

She rides like an angel and she’s a crack shot. And Lily Starr is determined to shepherd a helpless group of outcasts from Missouri to Wyoming by Christmas—including a pregnant woman whose blessed event is drawing near. So encountering handsome Thorpe Turlow along the dangerous trail is a welcome unexpected gift, for he’s as formidable as he is reserved. Besides, understanding this gentle, secretly wounded man is another challenge Lily isn’t about to resist…

After the heartbreak he’s found, Thorpe just wants to retreat to his peaceful Dove Creek ranch. But he’s never met anyone as resourceful and straightforward as Lily. Somehow, she’s reigniting his faith and giving him the courage to trust again. And if they survive the arduous trip ahead, he’ll do whatever it takes to give her a lifetime of joy and love…

____________________________________________________________________

Story Notes

Scarlett Dunn’s story of a miss-matched group of travelers seeking to make the journey from Missouri to Wyoming headed by the fearless Lily Starr is one of thrilling adventure but left this reader a little disappointed.

I’m going to be a little harsh with this review – there were just some things in this story that did not agree with me. Its not often that I get this picky about these things but I would have really loved this book if they didn’t throw me off. First, no offense to anyone with this name, but the name Thorpe just does not a romantic name make. I am used to authors putting unusual names in books but this was not a good fit in my opinion. It puts me in mind of a hulking bully type man who uses his fists more than his brain and this is not ideal when starting a romance. How many people can imagine sighing “Oh, Thorpe…” without immediately bursting out into laughter?……that would not be me. Second, I know Ms. Dunn was intending to show that everyone makes mistakes but I was not okay that she had Lily be so completely fine with Thorpe’s affair with his ex-fiance. I would not be one to hold past mistakes against someone but Thorpe didn’t really show any true remorse for what happened, just thought it was a waste of time to regret it – and Lily just accepted this with no problem. Perhaps this fictional character is better than I but I would have liked it better if she had pointed him to God to seek true forgiveness. Further, I never felt that Thorpe was ever really shown as a Christian. If this is supposed to be a Christian Romance I expect the main characters in the story to be, or at some point in the story become, just that – Christians. Ms Dunn tells of his attending church and going to see the pastor to ask him to marry Thorpe and Lily but there was very little to indicate his spiritual state. Third, I found some of the phrases and thoughts that Ms Dunn wrote for Thorpe in relation to Lily to be a little to risque for this type of book. Having a character tell another that he “wanted her” rather than saying he loved her, writing that two characters were exhausted after their wedding night, and that a character “couldn’t keep his hands off his new bride” is just too crude and descriptive for my liking. I would have loved for Ms. Dunn to preserve more of the specialness of the deep relationship married couples share by not having her readers imagination sparked by these phrases. Fourth, I did not like the way that whiskey flowed pretty freely throughout the book. It was like it was expected of every man to want to drink whenever they sat down for conversation. I’m not going to tell people whether or not they should drink but I do think Thorpe’s familiarity with drink is what led him to attempt to seduce Lily one night at his ranch. Again, not in keeping with a “Christian” book. And finally, I found it a little odd that this book was called “Christmas at Dove Creek” but the majority of the book took place in the Fall and only the last 50 pages were at Christmas and at Dove Creek Ranch. Perhaps Ms. Dunn should have chosen a more appropriate title.

There were many things that I did like in this book, however, and I wanted to share some of them as well. I found Lily’s kindness to all who crossed her path to be really great. She was non-judgemental towards everyone no matter their treatment of her or their past mistakes. Ms. Dunn created a very lovely Christ-like character in her and she is why I finished the story.  I also was intrigued by the relationship that Lily had with the wolf Blue who had become her companion and defender. It is unusual for a wolf to want to remain with humans rather than fend for itself and I liked how Ms. Dunn had Blue be the one Lily depended on until Thorpe came along to take his place. I also liked how Blue was the one to find and return Lily’s grandfather to her. Her grandfather’s story of having and caring for a wolf of his own when he was a boy came full-circle in Blue’s devotion to Lily. The adventurous parts of this book were very well written and the best part of the story I thought. Each confrontation and chase was appropriately descriptive and thrilling and I was glad to see that Ms. Dunn allowed her heroine to have equal skill in defending others as did the hero. Its not often that an author chooses to make her heroine skilled in weaponry and I was glad to see Ms. Dunn take this risk that paid off in her writing. Lastly, I really liked Lily’s true faith and willingness to share God’s love with others. Lily wanted everyone to know they were loved and cared about no matter their mistakes and she was never pushy in her sharing of her beliefs. Ms. Dunn showed how Christians should treat others through Lily and it reminded me to be kind and caring when I speak with others of my beliefs. But, although these are some of the redeeming qualities in this book, I would be hesitant to recommend it to others without telling them of my issues with the story. I will have to consider whether or not to purchase this book for my shelves in the future.

I received this E-book from Kensington Books via NetGalley in exchange for a fair and honest review. I will receive no fiscal compensation from either company for this review.

Wild Montana Skies by Susan May Warren – Book Review

Wild Montana Skies by Susan May Warren

Published by Revell Publishing  October 18, 2016

Genre: Romance

Pages: 352

Rating: 5 out of 5

_______________________________________________________________

Publishers Description:

Search and rescue pilot Kacey Fairing is home on leave in Mercy Falls, Montana, twelve years after she joined the military to escape the mistakes of her past. With a job waiting for her as the new lead pilot of Peak Rescue in Glacier National Park, Kacey hopes to reconnect with the now-teenage daughter she sees only between deployments. What she doesn’t realize is that someone else is also back in town.

Ben King has been building his country music career since the day Kacey shut him out of her life. Now all of that’s on hold when his injured father calls him home to help run Peak Rescue until he’s fully recovered. It doesn’t take long, though, to discover his father’s ulterior motives as Kacey Fairing walks into the house and back into his heart.

With Mercy Falls in a state of emergency due to flash floods, Kacey and Ben are forced to work together to save lives. But when floodwaters turn personal, can they put aside the past to save their future?

_______________________________________________________________

Story Notes

Susan May Warren’s first book in the Montana Rescue Series is an excellent foray into the world of Search and Rescue (SAR). Well-written and well-paced, this story will keep you engaged throughout and might even make you consider your own relationships in light of the honesty this book proclaims.

This series is not Ms Warren’s first venture into SAR and its workings. I have loved reading her past series and was looking forward to this new series based in small-town Montana. And this book was all I hoped for and even held some wonderful reminders of God’s love in the face of our mistakes. I was very pleased that Ms Warren drops the reader right into the story in the perfect place between past and present – in the aftermath of a major flood that has the town of Mercy Falls reeling from the disaster. Kacey Fairing is back home after an extremely trying tour in Afghanistan and has taken leave for the summer to deal with PTSD in the hope that she will be able to return to the army afterward. She will work the summer with PEAK rescue, flying the rescue chopper on SAR missions and recoveries. Country superstar Benjamin King is back in Mercy Falls on a mission to convince his father to move to Nashville where he can help him recover after a helicopter crash that left his dad with two broken hips. Having been betrayed by his co-star Hollie Montgomery, Ben is looking forward to the summer off to regroup and decide how to recover his music career. Both Ben and Kacey have no idea the other is in town and when they find out they will be working together at PEAK they will have to decide if they will let the past  define the future and keep them apart once again. I found Ms. Warren’s characters in this story to be very well developed and true to real life. She allowed her characters to experience all their emotions on the page and this helps the reader develop an connection with them. Honesty, truth, and sacrificial love were the main themes in this book and each of the characters in the story held true to this – even the supporting characters. I really enjoyed the way Ms. Warren allowed Ben and Kacey the opportunity to discover that although their motives for keeping their silence  with each other in the past were good, being honest would have saved both of them pain and the separation of ten years. I was glad to see that Ms. Warren attacked the heart of their problems – they needed to look to God to see what he would have them do and further learn that He is the only one who will always love them and be there for them. I loved two quotes from this story so very much: ” Don’t let your mistakes tell you that God is not for you, that he won’t help you fix them” and ” Having faith is the bravest thing we can do. It is the unwavering confidence that God love us. That although we can’t see the road ahead, we can see God”. These are excellent reminders of where our faith and dependence needs to rest – on and in God. I also liked that Kacey’s father was honest with both Ben and Kacey when they asked him why he told Ben that Kacey did not want to see him anymore when they were seventeen – he truly wanted both of them to have the best life possible and he lied so they would be able to move on with going after their life’s dreams. It was almost frustrating to see the many obstacles that Ms. Warren put in front of her main characters but as the story went , I realized that each problem they faced offered a chance to trust the other and to believe that they would always love each other no matter what stood in the way. I was most pleased to see how Ms. Warren handled the idea of Audrey, Ben and Kacey’s daughter that Ben believed had been adopted. Ben’s intense desire to know and be a part of his daughter’s life was wonderful to see and would lead to him learning the meaning of love – that real love requires sacrifices that will make life better for someone else. Ms. Warren allowed Kacey to be kind and encourage Ben to get to know their daughter while still being careful not to reveal their relationship until he made a decision about where he would live, Montana or Tennesee. She had the real fear of any mother – if her daughter came to love and know Ben would she be hurt if he decided to go back to Nashville?  The solution of these relationships was one of Ms. Warren’s best ; Ben and Kacey learn to trust God and each other and find love enough to bring them together with Audrey to become a family strong in God’s love and forgiveness. It was also interesting to read more into two of the supporting characters lives that began in the prequel “If Ever I Would Leave You” – Ian Shaw and Sierra Rose. Ian is still hurting over the death of his wife and the disappearance of his niece Esme three years before. Sierra is Ian’s assistant who has been with him through everything over the years and she wishes he would see her as someone who could help him move on from his pain. Ian is struggling with the idea that he is falling in love with Sierra but not sure if she feels anything more for him than friendship. And when their relationship is tested with a revelation that Ian sees as betrayal, Ian will have to decide if he can put aside his ego enough to forgive Sierra for her omission of information three years ago. I cannot wait to see how Ms. Warren will conclude Ian and Sierra’s story in the next books in this series – I will most definitely be looking for them soon. I will also recommend this very good book to others and be purchasing a physical copy for my own shelves.

I received this book from Revell Publishing via NetGalley in exchange for a fair and honest review. I will receive no fiscal compensation from either company for this review.

Every Frenchman Has One by Olivia de Havilland – Book Review

Every Frenchman Has One  By  Olivia de Havilland

Published By  Crown Archetype   June 28, 2016

Genres:  Autobiography

Pages:  144

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

____________________________________________________________________

Publisher’s Description

Back in print for the first time in decades—and featuring a new interview with the author, in celebration of her centennial birthday—the delectable escapades of Hollywood legend Olivia de Havilland, who fell in love with a Frenchman—and then became a Parisian

In 1953, Olivia de Havilland—already an Academy Award-winning actress for her roles in To Each His Own and The Heiress—became the heroine of her own real-life love affair. She married a Frenchman, moved to Paris, and planted her standard on the Left Bank of the River Seine. It has been fluttering on both Left and Right Banks with considerable joy and gaiety from that moment on.

Still, her transition from Hollywood celebrity to parisienne was anything but easy. And in Every Frenchman Has One, her skirmishes with French customs, French maids, French salesladies, French holidays, French law, French doctors, and above all, the French language, are here set forth in a delightful and amusing memoir of her early years in the “City of Light.”

Paraphrasing Caesar, Ms. de Havilland says, “I came. I saw. I was conquered.”

_____________________________________________________________________

Story Notes

Olivia de Havilland’s self-deprecating book is a delight to read from cover to cover. Her “escapades” with French culture and customs will make you laugh continually and will have you sharing the funniest parts with whomever is in the immediate vicinity.

What fun this little book was! The title intrigued me when I saw it and given that Ms Havilland is one of my favorite actresses I requested this book instantly. Her quirky and sarcastic view of everything she experienced in France made this book one of the best autobiographies I’ve ever read. Ms. Havilland’s recounting of her battles with builders, painters, electricians and others like them were hilarious – I shook my head many times at the imagined insults the workers thought she was using while she was just trying to make them do their jobs. I especially enjoyed reading her account of what every Frenchman has – a liver – and that he or she must care for it carefully to ensure proper health. How interesting to read all that the French believed goes into healing and shrinking the liver to the proper size and function. Even more fun was to read about the way the French had no problem with men going to the bathroom in public but were appalled if a woman asked for or left the table to use the facilities. And Ms Havillands’s description of going to Alexandre’s salon to have her hair done had me laughing out loud at the the stereo-typically French way things were done at her appointments. It was a joy to read this book in which the author poked fun at herself and her assumptions and standards she brought with her into a new country. Like many others, Ms. de Havilland thought she knew what words and phrases meant but found out that nuances and intents are very different in each culture. There are many other fun and entertaining adventures in this book and I encourage readers to read this gem if they are looking for a light-hearted read. I will most certainly recommend this book to others and will be purchasing copies for my relatives who love all things French. My copy will be read many more times I’m sure!

This book was provided to me at no cost from Crown Archetype via Blogging for Books in exchanged for a fair and honest review. I will receive no fiscal compensation from either company for this review.

A Royal Christmas Wedding by Rachel Hauck – Book Review

A Royal Christmas Wedding  By  Rachel Hauck

Published By  Zondervan Publishing   October 18, 2016

Genres: Romance

Pages:  240

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

____________________________________________________________________

Publisher’s Description

Without Warning by Lynette Eason – Book Review

Without Warning  By  Lynette Eason

Published By  Revell Publishing/Baker Publishing Group   August 02, 2016

Genres:   Romance, Mystery

Pages:  352

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

__________________________________________________________________

Publisher’s Description

Taut Writing and Breakneck Pacing That Will Keep Readers Up All Night

Katie Singleton, a partner with the Elite Guardians Protection Agency, stumbles upon her next assignment quite by accident. Spotting blue lights at a familiar restaurant, she stops to investigate, only to discover that owner Daniel Matthews has become the target of someone who will go to any lengths to put him out of business.

Daniel might be concerned, but he’s not convinced that a bodyguard–and a female one at that–is necessary. A new attack and his niece’s urgings are enough to make him reconsider. He and Katie must figure out who’s behind the intimidation and threats–before a would-be killer strikes again.

Witty dialogue and a simmering attraction will have readers flying through this tension-laced thriller. Eason exercises complete control of her readers’ emotions as they race through the pages to discover the truth.

__________________________________________________________________

Story Notes

Lynette Eason’s latest installment of the Elite Guardians series is a race against time to keep one man and his niece safe from a killer who is willing to take out anyone who stands in their way.

I was absolutely thrilled to be given the opportunity to read and review this book by one of my favorite authors. And let me just say: Lynette Eason does not disappoint with her latest Elite Guardians story. Former ATF Agent Katie Singleton is one of Elite Guardian, Inc.’s best body guards. Although she carries tragedy from the past, Katie never lets it get in the way of doing her job. And her friendship with Riley Matthews will pull her into a case that will keep her guessing at every turn who is responsible for the attacks on Riley and her uncle, Daniel. Daniel Matthews, former Marine and current owner of the restaurant chain A Taste of Yesterday, is startled to find the body of a recently fired employee hanging in the basement of one of his restaurants. To add insult to injury, someone has also set fire to another A Taste of Yesterday location. He cannot imagine who would want to hurt him or do damage to his property but he will not stand by and wait for another attack. And when it becomes clear the killer is willing to hurt anyone close to Daniel, he goes on the offensive and hires Katie  and the other Elite Guardians to watch over he and Riley. Ms. Eason grabbed my attention and imagination from the first page and as I read further, I could see clearer and clearer in my mind how it was all being played out . She created an excellent mystery and although there were clues and sections of the book that revealed the thoughts of the killer, she made sure to keep the reader searching each page for the clue that would reveal the identity of the guilty person. I was pleased to see that Ms. Eason made Katie, Daniel, and Riley very real and relatable. I, personally, would love to work alongside the Elite Guardians and work towards keeping people safe on a daily basis. I really loved that she gave her heroine, Katie, a personal tragedy that would make her more careful in her job and would create a way for Katie to connect with Daniel. Daniel reacted as I would have given an attack on my person or those I love. And Ms. Eason had him go further and use the military training he learned in the Marines/CID to help Katie and the other guardians find and stop the killer from hurting anyone else. Riley is Ms. Eason’s wonderful balance to Daniel’s tough-guy exterior, showing a easy love and trust for those around her. Having lost her parents to a drunk driver 18 months before, she has turned to God and sought comfort in His promises of life eternal. Riley carries a very real fear that Daniel will also be taken from her if the killer is not found soon, but she chooses to believe that God will watch over him and Katie in their search. Additionally, the love that grows between Katie and Daniel will build the family that Riley longs to have again. Ms. Eason did not focus only on the main characters of her story, but allowed the secondary characters of Quinn, Olivia, and Madeline to provide sounding boards and snappy quips for Katie, Daniel and Riley. It is always a pleasure to read a well developed story and I cannot describe how glad I was to see this follow Ms. Eason’s history of good mystery writing.

The only issue I had with this book was that the formatting was a little off – often running two characters thoughts or points of view together. As it was an ARC, it is my understanding that this small problem was fixed before final release. And although it was slightly distracting to change characters so abruptly, this did not affect my overall impression of this delightfully exciting book.

I will most definitely be recommending this book to others and will be purchasing a physical copy of the book for my personal shelves. I cannot wait for the next book to come out next year!

This E-book was provided to me at no cost from Revell Publishing/Baker Publishing Group via NetGalley in exchange for a fair and honest review. I will receive no fiscal compensation for this review.

Kissing Father Christmas by Robin Jones Gunn – Book Review

Kissing Father Christmas  By  Robin Jones Gunn

Published By  Faithwords/Centerstreet   October 04, 2016

Genres:    Romance

Pages:  159

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

____________________________________________________________________

Publisher’s Description

Bestselling and award-winning author Robin Jones Gunn returns to the cozy English village of Carlton Heath, with a winter romance to melt your heart.

A year-and-a-half ago, Anna flew from Minnesota to Carlton Heath to attend the wedding of her cousin, Ian, to an American woman named Miranda. The beautiful event ended with Anna receiving an unexpected, unforgettable kiss from groomsman Peter. Now Anna is delighted to be invited back for Christmas with her family, dreams of romance dancing in her head. But when she finally sees him again, Peter insists his only interest in Anna is as a friend. Anna is hurt, and becomes even more confused when Peter takes her on a romantic tour of London. Is Anna’s heart misleading her, or is there a reason Peter is denying what he feels?

_____________________________________________________________________

Story Notes

Robin Jones Gunn’s third return to the village of Carlton Heath brings a wonderful Christmas story of love, grace and forgiveness to life in a beautiful way.

Having read the first two books in this wonderfully idyllic series I was eager to return to the MacGregor/Whitcombe families of Carlton Heath. Ms. Gunn did not fail to draw me back in immediately with a pleasantly paced plot that exploded with over-the-top Christmas celebrations and family gatherings. Given that I have a large family that celebrates all holidays with as much food and fun as we can pack in, I had such fun reading about another family who did the same. The love and joy that flowed out of each person was almost tangible and I began to dread the end of the story. I could almost taste the sweet goodies and delicious “nibbles” that were being made. I am also now going to go in search of a “Lion Bar” to find out if the taste is a magical as everyone in this story says. But even with all this fun I think the best element I found in this story was in the lives of Peter and Anna who were central to the plot. Anna and Peter had made a romantic connection on her previous trip to Carlton Heath and Anna is thrilled to be back near Peter. His reception of her is less than she hoped and when he asks to simply remain friends, Anna’s heart takes a hurtful blow. She is positive he likes her but cannot see why he holds back. Anna determines to honor Peter’s request but cannot still the piece of her heart that cries out for his love. When Peter finally reveals the reasons for his reluctance, Anna will have chance to show him he is worth the grace and love that God offers to those who will ask. I truly enjoyed reading this story of Peter and Anna and loved how Ms Gunn intentionally intertwined the concepts of truth, grace and peace. Ms. Gunn allowed Anna to first realize and accept that God offers peace if we allow Him to work things out so that she could in turn share that with Peter. And Peter would further learn that secrets are the enemy of peace – they must be shared in truth and accepted so that one can be at peace with the happenings of one’s life. I was so glad to see that Ms. Gunn gave her characters full voice in their struggles and solutions. By showing each step of their redemption process I was able to empathize fully with all that was taking place in the pages of this book. I hope there will be many more stories that Ms Gunn will be writing about Carlton Heath. I am absolutely recommending these books to others and will be purchasing copies of all this series for my personal library in the very new future. What a happy beginning to my Christmas Season reads!

This E-book was provided to me at no cost by Faithwords/Centerstreet via NetGalley in exchange for a fair and honest review. I will receive no fiscal compensation from either company for this review.

Love’s Story by Dianne Christner – Book Review

Love’s Story  By  Dianne Christner

Published By  Barbour Publishing/Barbour Books   October 01, 2016

Genres:   Christian, Romance

Pages:  320

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

__________________________________________________________________

Publisher’s Description

Rediscover this classic romance from bestselling author Dianne Christner. Take the journey with Meredith Mears from New York City to a primitive town in the redwood forests of northern California. As a female journalist for McClures Magazine in 1899, Meredith has something to prove with her big story on forest conservation. But when her research leads her to logger Thatcher Talbot—a man with something to hide—will she be forced to choose between her story and her heart? Also included is a bonus historical romance from author Kristin Billerbeck.

___________________________________________________________________

Story Notes

This re-release of Dianne Christner’s wonderful adventure to the Redwood forests of California was a true pleasure to read. The adventure begins in the first sentence and doesn’t stop until the last word – twisting and turning through the difficult paths of trust and the healing power of God’s love.

Meredith Storm Mears is a reporter for McClure magazine – one of few women in America who has attained that position. She recently read several articles by John Muir and heard him speak on the new idea of forest conservancy – an idea that is relatively unheard of in the woods of the West. Meredith requests the opportunity to travel to California to research the logging camps and those who run them. Shocked to learn the life expectancy of a newly employed logger is about 7 years, Meredith is further determined to tell people in the East of the men who “are out to tame the untamable by raw muscle power and tough determination”. Her quest will lead her straight into the path of Thatcher Talbot, a man determined to lose himself in his new work as a Redwood logger at Buckner’s Stand. Meredith is not sure why Thatcher is so against her writing stories about the logging camps but she quickly sends a telegram to her boss to find out what Thatcher is hiding. Thatcher has come to California in search of honest work that doesn’t profit from others loss – a search that is in direct opposition to his father’s way of doing business. His father’s demands had become so burdensome and against his Christian values that Thatcher seeks to find solace in fair pay for a job well done. These reasons and others will be what will both bring Meredith and Thatcher together and, if they aren’t careful, could tear them apart. Ms. Christner’s characters were so wonderfully human it was great fun to read of their  (mis) adventures and sparring dialogue. I loved that both Meredith and Thatcher held such strong faith and convictions in spite of coming from difficult families. Ms. Christner allowed each of them to be tested in their faith and the growth each experienced was a good reminder to me – do I seek to do things to please myself and others or do I seek to serve God in my efforts. In Meredith, Ms. Christner also tackled the difficult task of one’s placing complete trust in God so that one can then trust those around them. I appreciated the fact that Ms. Christner chronicled the entirety of Meredith’s journey to trust both God and Thatcher – it gave an authenticity to the concepts being presented and kept the story from being shallow and unremarkable. And Ms. Christner’s secondary characters Jonah Shaw, Amelia Cooper and Beatrice Bloomfield provide excellent conversations with the main characters that create further depth to Meredith and Thatcher as well as provide some funny side stories.  I was also pleased to see that Ms. Christner included references to John Muir, Gifford Pinchot and the conservation/preservation ideas that they espoused. I recently visited Muir Woods, home of the Pinchot Redwood, and it was neat to read this story that took place close to the areas I had toured. What a joy to see that the somewhat unpopular ideas of a few men led to the preservation of a species of tree that would most certainly be extinct given how completely logging companies stripped the land. I will be certain to recommend this book to others and will also be looking for more of Ms. Christner’s works in the near future.

There was a bonus story included by Kristin Billerbeck entitled “Strong as the Redwood”. I already own this book and am happy to write that it is one I have read multiple times. This story is well placed with “Love’s Story” as Ms. Billerbeck gives another perspective of life in the logging camp – one of a young school teacher. There are many challenges for Rachel Phillips as she begins her quest to teach the children of Searsville but none so great as town gossip. And this gossip is what will bring her and Chase Dylan together to fight for themselves and their friends. Combating the jealous and self-righteous matrons of Searsville will not be an easy task but one that will give Rachel the chance to test her faith in God for providence and support. Ms. Billerbeck has composed an excellent story and I truly enjoyed revisiting this book again.

This E-book was provided to me at no cost by 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 Captive Heart by Michelle Griep ~ Book Review

The Captive Heart  By Michelle Griep

(Note – The cover illustration pictured is pending approval and may not match final copy)

Published By Barbour Publishing, Inc./ Shiloh Run Press   October 1, 2016

Genres:  Christian, Romance

Pages:  320

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

_____________________________________________________________________

Proper English governess Eleanor Morgan flees to the colonies to escape the wrath of a brute of an employer. When the Charles Town family she’s to work for never arrives to collect her from the dock, she is forced to settle for the only reputable choice remaining to her—marriage to a man she’s never met. Trapper and tracker Samuel Heath is a hardened survivor used to getting his own way by brain or by brawn, and he’s determined to find a mother for his young daughter. But finding a wife proves to be impossible. No upstanding woman wants to marry a murderer.

_____________________________________________________________________

Story Notes

Michelle Griep brings her latest book to life with excellent writing and a story that hits the ground running from page one. This story of forgiveness, danger, trust and a journey to find love that was never expected, engaged me fully and made me want to read it again after just finishing the last page.

English Governess Eleanor Morgan is sailing to the colonies to get beyond the long reach of her attacker and former employer, the Duke of Brougham. Having been robbed of both coin and references early on in her journey, Eleanor arrives in the new land with only the clothes on her back and no way to prevent her being sold to Mr. Beebright to become wife to Samuel Heath. Her outrage quickly gives way to fear that she might not survive in this wild land where there is so much solitude and danger at every turn. Ms. Griep created a superb character in Eleanor, who shows most vividly the fears that anyone in a new situation might face – fear of rejection, fear of what will be asked of them, and fear of being unloved. Eleanor’s fear of rejection stems from her father’s neglect growing up and his anger that she would not allow him to prostitute her for payment to his creditors; and as she develops feelings for Samuel she only hears the words of her father in her mind telling her “You’ll never aspire to anything higher than a trollop, girl”. These words will prove to be one of many hurdles Samuel  will have to overcome to  win the love of his Red Bird. He must also contend with the hateful words that Angus McDivitt whispers to Eleanor whenever near and the rumors of murder that still follow him a year after his first wife’s death.  In Eleanor, Ms Griep also addresses the fear of what might be asked of someone in a new place. When she arrives at her new home with Samuel and his toddler daughter Grace, Eleanor is shocked at the small size and lack of comfort. With little furniture and only one bed, Eleanor cannot imagine how she will make this sad space into a proper home for Grace to grow up in. Samuel has married her in name only and asks that she care for and educate Grace in the ways of manners and decorum, often leaving her alone for days at a time as he works as a tracker for the British officers in town. Having so little at her disposal in the way of knowledge of rustic living, Eleanor often feels discouraged and out of sorts and I love how Ms Griep allows her to work through each problem she faces within the pages of the story. I was pulled further and further into the story as the pages past and could almost hear the roar of the bear Eleanor, and later Samuel, faced and feel the heat of the fire that sweeps through the woods in the later part of the book. Further, Ms Griep used Eleanor’s last fear of being unloved in her life to show the importance of trusting God for true acceptance and the ability to love others fully. By seeing that true love means care and provision instead of forced compliance of demands and that one must forgive themselves in order to forgive others, Eleanor is able to accept the love that God, Samuel and Grace offer. And in Samuel’s case Eleanor is able to reach out a hand of healing and love that Samuel has not experienced since his mother died. Samuel also battles with his own demons of past mistakes which have left him scarred outwardly and inwardly. I really loved how Ms Griep used Eleanor to show Samuel that the rumors spread about him are not the truth of what happened from an eye-witness, rather they are the spiteful mutterings of those who would pass judgement without pausing to learn the facts. Samuel’s learning to forgive himself and what real love looks like was one of my favorite parts of this story. He had so much guilt and rage built up over the circumstances of his wife’s last days and death that he couldn’t see how anyone could love him as the man he is. Ms Griep uses these two flawed characters to demonstrate the healing power of forgiveness and the incredible joy and peace that comes from following as God leads.

There were two other things I really enjoyed in this story – the inclusion of real history and the words and phrases of the Cherokee language. The Revolutionary War is one of my favorite periods of American history to study and I applaud the way Ms. Griep included so many historical facts in her story. Having Samuel be the grandson of The Beloved Man – Attakulakula – was an excellent way to ensure that he would be part of the village meetings when the treaties were discussed between the British and Native Americans in the Cherokee village of Keowee. And by having him be part Cherokee, Samuel was able to show the dilemma that many in the colonies faced – which side to choose when faced with war. I also was pleased to see the inclusion of words and phrases of the Cherokee people. Samuel calls Eleanor both “Tatsu’hwa” which means Red Bird and “Uwoduhi Atsiyehi”  meaning Beautiful Wife in Cherokee and has adopted the name of “Ya-nu” which means Bear after saving his friend Inoli from a bear attack. There are many other phrases and words included and it was fun for me to sound those out while reading.  It is a different and courageous tool to use other languages in telling a story and Ms Griep does this in such a way that the Cherokee language adds to the story rather than interrupts it . Her inclusion of the Cherokee language also shows her dedication to making the story as real and close to history as a fictional story can get. I look forward to reading more from this author and will most definitely be putting this story on my list of books to purchase and to recommend.

This E-book was provided to me by Barbour Publishing, Inc./Shiloh Run Press through NetGalley in exchange for a fair and honest review. I will receive no fiscal compensation from either company for this review.