Still Life by Dani Pettrey – Book Review

Still Life  by  Dani Pettrey

Published By Bethany House Publishers    January  31, 2017

Genres:  Mystery and Suspense, Christian

Pages:  352

Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

___________________________________________________________________________________________________

Publisher’s Description

Blacklisted in the photography business over a controversial shot, Avery Tate answered an ad for a crime scene photographer. She expected to be laughed at, but crime scene analyst Parker Mitchell hired her outright–and changed her life. But six months ago, when her feelings for Parker became too strong, she left his employ to sort out her heart.

Now, for the first time, Avery is facing the world that rejected her to attend the gallery opening of a photography exhibit and support her best friend, who modeled for the show. But the only image of her friend is a chilling photo of her posing as if dead–and the photographer insists he didn’t take the shot. Worse, her friend can’t be found. She immediately calls Parker for help. As Avery, Parker, and his friends in law enforcement dig into the mystery, they find themselves face-to-face with a relentless and deadly threat.

__________________________________________________________________________________________________

Story Notes

Dani Pettrey brings to chilling light the drama of a crime-scene photographer and the realization of her greatest fear – working on a case involving her friend and her past.

Dani Pettrey’s second book in the Chesapeake Valor series will help to cement her as one of the best new writers featuring the world of criminal investigations. I have always enjoyed reading these types of books but have really come to appreciate authors who think outside the expected and focus on those who are often overlooked at a crime scene – CSU techs, anthropologists, and, in the case of this story, crime scene photographers. I had grown rather attached to Ms. Pettrey’s characters through her first book in the series, Cold Shot, and was glad to see this second book offered for review. Ms. Pettrey brings a unique style to her series, choosing to allow multiple characters beyond the two primaries to have a point of view in the story. This allows readers to better connect with everyone in the story and I, for one, was drawn into the action faster and felt like I was walking alongside them through the story scenes. Ms. Pettrey has adopted an essential element for her writing that I am always glad to see when I read a book – that of making her characters relatable and real by giving them life-like backstories and tragedies that have shaped them into the characters they are now. All of the male characters in the series have grown up as best friends until the murder of Griffin McCray’s sister Jenna threatens to separate them. Add to that the disappearance of Luke and the remaining three friends are struggling to work through blame while also working crime scenes together. Parker Mitchell was in love with Jenna for years and when she was kidnapped, tortured and killed on her way to meet him one night, he takes all the blame on himself. Guilt still burns deep inside and colors his view of love – keeping him from developing deeper relationships with any of the women he has dated in the years since. Parker carries a deep seeded fear that anyone else he might love will be taken from him too. But when he begins to feel attraction to his new crime photographer, Avery Tate, he will have to decide if he can let go of fear enough to fall in love. Avery Tate carries many secrets from her childhood – secrets that she knows she should move past but just cannot seem to let go of yet. Having found forgiveness and acceptance in Christ, she has moved beyond her broken past and become a successful photographer. When her career is derailed by a photograph that exposed a corrupt political official’s crimes, she finds herself blackballed by the photographic community of Baltimore. Hired by Parker Mitchell as a crime photographer was an answer to prayer and she has enjoyed the work and getting to know Parker. But his guilt over Jenna keeps them from exploring a deeper relationship, causing her to seek work elsewhere. However, when Avery find herself in the middle of a missing person’s case involving her former best friend, she calls on Parker, Griffin and the others for help to discover if the incredibly real looking “death” picture of her friend is an actual picture of her demise. What follows is a case so creepy in details and facts that it will leave readers with desire to double check the locks on their doors at night. Ms. Pettrey did an excellent job of keeping the reader engaged not only in the crime solving aspects of the story but the criminal aspects of  it as well by giving short conversations and thoughts of the person(s) committing the crime. She gave just enough clues to keep me thinking I had discovered the culprit but then would throw in a twist that made me realize I was wrong. Add to this the multiple self-seeking characters Ms. Pettrey included and I was thinking “man, I hope all these selfish jerks get what they deserve!” And, thankfully, most of them did. But Ms. Pettrey kept a couple of them out of consequences – to use later on in the series, I’m thinking. Ms. Pettrey also added wonderful elements of faith to her story, showing a journey that would help both Parker and Avery move passed their tragic pasts into a incredible future filled with love and forgiveness. The sub story of Declan and Taylor was a good touch too, setting the scene very well for the next book the the series. I am excited to see where this series will go next and how everything will be worked out between the rest of the friends/investigators. I will most certainly recommend not only this book but the series to my friends and family; this is one they will not want to miss out on. Well done, Dani Pettrey!!

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.

Advertisements

A Note Yet Unsung by Tamera Alexandra – Book Review

A Note Yet Unsung  by  Tamera Alexander

Published By  Bethany House Publishers   January  31, 2017

Genres: Historical, Romance, Christian

Pages:  432

Rating: 4.5 out of 5

__________________________________________________________________

Publisher’s Description

A master violinist trained in Vienna, Rebekah Carrington manages to wheedle her way into an audition with the new maestro at the Nashville Philharmonic. But women are “far too fragile and frail” for the rigors of an orchestra, and Rebekah’s hopes are swiftly dashed when the conductor–determined to leave his mark on the world of classical music–bows to public opinion. To make matters worse, Adelicia Cheatham, mistress of Belmont Mansion and Rebekah’s new employer, agrees with him.

Nationally acclaimed conductor Nathaniel Tate Whitcomb is Nashville’s youngest orchestra leader. And despite a reluctant muse and a strange buzzing and recurring pain in his head, he must finish composing his symphony before the grand opening of the city’s new symphony hall. Even more pressing, he must finish it for the one who first inspired his love of music–his dying father. As Tate’s ailment worsens, he knows Rebekah can help him finish his symphony. But how can he win back her trust when he’s robbed her of her dream?

As music moves us to tears yet makes our hearts soar, A Note Yet Unsung captures the splendor of classical music at a time when women’s hard-won strides in cultural issues changed not only world history–but the hearts of men.

__________________________________________________________________

Tamera Alexander’s final story in the Belmont Mansion Series brings the world of classical music and composing to readers to share the beauty and pain that often goes into creating a true “Masterpiece”.

Tamera Alexander is an author that often brings stories of the Victorian era into delightful light that both entertains and challenges her readers. Not content with simply sharing a “good” or “wonderful” story, Ms. Alexander invites her readers to examine the situations and problems that face her characters and, as in my own case, challenge oft-held assumptions or beliefs. The Belmont series is one that I had come across last year and enjoyed the first in the series but had not be able to continue with until being offered this book for review. I have loved Ms. Alexander’s style of writing and depth of characters in other stories she has written and was intrigued to see how she would navigate the world of classical music. Like a number of children  growing up, I took piano lessons and although playing never became a passion for me, I do love to listen to those who have true talent with this and other instruments. As is often said “Music brings people together in a way that ignores all lines of race, gender, belief or creed”, and Ms. Alexander will show this truth most clearly in her excellent story. Her main female character, Rebekah Carrington is a woman that everyone can relate to in some way. She is possessed of great skill in playing not only the piano, but the violin and oboe as well – a skill that is not valued as it should be for the simple fact that she is a woman. Long held societal beliefs when it comes to the acceptable roles that proper women can hold has kept her passion and talent from being heard by the world and she is determined to break that mold, for herself and those who will come after her. But to do that she will have to convince Maestro Whitcomb that she should be allowed to join the Nashville Philharmonic Orchestra. But the Maestro is dependent on the opinions of his supporters for his livelihood and is unwilling to allow Rebekah to join the orchestra, in spite of being most impressed with her talent. When the opportunity presents itself for Rebekah to work as Maestro Whitcomb’s assistant to help him complete his symphony, she will take the job -albeit reluctantly – hoping to prove to him she has what it takes to be acknowledged in “men only” world of classical music. Maestro Nathaniel “Tate” Whitcomb possesses great talent for a man so young – he is not yet 35. He has spent many months composing his own symphony but upon being plagued by crippling headaches and ringing ears he has become blocked in finishing the work that he believes God made him to do. Tate is afraid of what these headaches will mean for his future in music but is determined to complete his symphony – even if he has to beg Rebekah to work with him. Together Tate and Rebekah will create a piece of music unlike any that has been heard in the world of classical music – a symphony that will appeal to everyone, no matter their standing in society. Ms. Alexander will use Tate and Rebekah to break societal norms in several ways that I applaud, from showing that a person’s background does NOT define their talent or future, to showing that a person’s gender should not decide their inclusion or exclusion in an opportunity when they show incredible talent and passion for the task. And it will be the the fleshing out of these breaks that make Ms. Alexander’s book one of my all-time favorites. The grace and acceptance that she has Rebekah maintain throughout the story, while still feeling anger and disappointment, made me think back and question my reactions to disappointments I’ve experienced. And Rebekan’s steadfast faith that God would bring beauty from the ashes of her relationship with her mother and stepfather was thought provoking to say the least. I questioned whether I would have had the humility to accept what God gives or allows and use it to fuel the passions and gifts He also gave me. Tate, likewise found his faith challenged when he received the news of his  impending deafness – why would God give him such talents if he will soon be unable to use them? And how will he be able to honor his family heritage of music if he is unable to finish the symphony he is writing to applaud his father’s legacy.  Humility and grace were the two main themes I saw woven throughout this incredible story and know that I have learned much through what Ms. Alexander has written. And to be reminded again that a person’s acceptance by others should not be determined by where they are from or their level of education was an excellent way for Ms. Alexander to bring all of the characters in her story together at the end. She chose a wonderful topic to close her series and I will most certainly be adding a copy of this story to my own shelves. I will also pass it along to my friends and family highly recommended, and look forward to her next works with anticipation.

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.

 

 

Behind The Scenes by Jen Turano – Book Review

Behind the Scenes  by  Jen Turano

Published By  Bethany House Publishers   April  04, 2017

Genres:  Christian

Pages:  352

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

____________________________________________________________________

Publisher’s Description

Miss Permilia Griswold may have been given the opportunity of a debut into New York high society, but no one warned her she wasn’t guaranteed to “take.” After spending the last six years banished to the wallflower section of the ballroom, she’s finally putting her status on the fringes of society to good use by penning anonymous society gossip columns under the pseudonym “Miss Quill.”

Mr. Asher Rutherford has managed to maintain his status as a reputable gentleman of society despite opening his own department store. While pretending it’s simply a lark to fill his time, he has quite legitimate reasons for needing to make his store the most successful in the country. When Permilia overhears a threat against the estimable Mr. Rutherford, she’s determined to find and warn the man. Disgruntled at a first meeting that goes quite poorly and results in Asher not believing her, she decides to take matters into her own hands, never realizing she’ll end up at risk as well.

As Asher and Permilia are forced to work together and spend time away from the spotlight of society, perhaps there’s more going on behind the scenes than they ever could have anticipated. . . .

____________________________________________________________________

Story Notes

Jen Turano’s latest foray into the world of 1880’s New York Society takes a different point of view that will enthrall and entertain readers immensely.

How many of us have longed to join the popular people and be included in the fashionable set everyone else seems to be looking to for advice? Jen Turano takes this question on in her latest book about New York society – but focuses instead on those who would have been considered the “fringe holders” rather than the “forerunners”. And this focus will allow her to delve deeper into those who are a very-real-but-unacknowledged part of society – the merchants that clothe and accessorize society, and the wallflowers that know all of its well kept secrets . Jen Turano is one of my favorite writers, given her excellent phrasing and sharp-witted dialogue, and her latest book met then surpassed my expectations. She has her characters be those who think and act outside the box seemingly assigned them which always makes for fun adventures and conversations crackling with sarcasm and laughter. Ms. Turano presents her readers with a wonderfully smart and confident character named Permilia Griswold – a 6th year debutante who is firmly situated the the “wallflower” category of society. This condition suits Permilia fine as she is more interested in her career as a society news writer than in finding a husband. And this career also allows her to be the main benefactor of a school for girls that works to find them genteel jobs well away from the factories and workhouses where they are usually employed. It will be at one of the biggest parties of the season that Permilia will stumble across her best story yet, although it will be one she will not be free to submit for printing – a death plot against Mr. Asher Rutherford. Asher is Ms. Turano’s chosen hero for this story and he is one of her best yet. His well-established family’s wealth has become non-existent and, in an effort to save face in society, Asher has opened a department store under the guise of a new hobby. The irony of it being one of the most visited fashion stores outside of the House of Worth makes things all the better for Asher. And his latest endeavor to open a tea room on the top floor of his store will, unintentionally, make him the target of a very nasty death plot. Having been on the receiving end of Permilia’s confusing sense of logic and ideas before Asher is loath to accept her telling of a plot she overheard involving his demise. But when several attempts are made on his life, often while his is with friends, Asher begins to see that someone means him real harm. What follows will be a hilarious romp through the streets and homes of New York, ending with a conclusion that all readers will find most satisfying indeed. Ms. Turano’s way of looking at circumstances through the eyes of her characters is one that I find most enjoyable. She makes both Permilia and Asher so very real in her writing that one almost feels like they are actually walking alongside them as they go about their lives. I laughed so much at her description of Permilia’s mistaken belief that the “Go-As-You-Please” quadrille meant that the dancers involved dance however they wished rather than following known steps. And the many escapades Permilia and her friend Gertrude find themselves in as they go about trying to keep Asher safe almost brought me to tears in their hilarity – as did the accompanying explanations. And Ms. Turano does not leave all the best lines to the main characters either. Rather, she has some really wonderful sub-characters included that help the main characters (and readers too!) see the whole truth, instead of what is plainly seen. I also find the way in which Ms. Turano includes faith in her stories to be one of the best – faith is as much a part of her character’s lives as breathing but they are not fanatical in the sharing of their faith. And Ms. Turano always make sure that her characters find a challenge put to their faith within the story so that they are continually on a journey to grow closer to God. Additionally, I liked very much that she kept the identity of the intended murderer secret until the last few pages. She gave just enough clues to keep the reader guessing but never enough that one could figure it out well before the end of the story. And the fleshing out of the ending was very good – one that allows Ms. Turano the freedom to either leave the story as a single novel or turn it into a series, which I know she intends to do. I will most certainly recommend this book to my friends and family and will be purchasing a copy of this book for my shelves. Ms. Turano continues of offer excellent stories with well-developed characters and sparkling dialogue that will keep all readers highly engaged and entertained. I’m very much looking forward to her next story in this Apart From The Crowd series.

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.

An Uncommon Courtship by Kristi Ann Hunter – Book Review

An Uncommon Courtship  by  Kristi Ann Hunter

Published By  Bethany House Publishers   January  03, 2017

Genres: Romance, Christian

Pages:  352

Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

__________________________________________________________________

Publisher’s Description

Life for Lady Adelaide Bell was easier if she hid in her older sister’s shadow–which worked until her sister got married. Even with the pressure of her socially ambitious mother, the last thing she expected was a marriage of convenience to save her previously spotless reputation.

Lord Trent Hawthorne couldn’t be happier that he is not the duke in the family. He’s free to manage his small estate and take his time discovering the life he wants to lead, which includes grand plans of wooing and falling in love with the woman of his choice. When he finds himself honor bound to marry a woman he doesn’t know, his dream of a marriage like his parents’ seems lost forever.

Already starting their marriage on shaky ground, can Adelaide and Trent’s relationship survive the pressures of London society?

__________________________________________________________________

Story Notes

Kristi Ann Hunter proves she’s “up to the mark” on writing regency romance with her latest story in the Hawthorne House series.

From the first reading of Jane Austen’s “Persuation” I have been a great fan of the regency period. And with her Hawthorne House series, Ms. Hunter is quickly becoming one of my most favorite authors writing of this time period. The first two stories in this series made me laugh and cry for the characters and I was so excited to find this third book available for review( a prequel novella comes before the first book but is not full length). And I was not disappointed at all – Ms. Hunter created a tasteful and biblical way of looking at a marriage that did not come from love but from circumstances. Ms. Hunter chose to focus this third story on Trent Hawthorne, younger brother of Griffith, Duke of Riverton, and after finding him such a solid and funny character from the two past books I was glad to see her choice. And Ms. Hunter also took on the somewhat difficult task of showing how a couple might make a marriage together when their match came from necessity rather than love. After Trent Hawthorne and Adelaide Crampton found themselves trapped overnight in a crumbling tower, Trent does the only honorable thing  – requesting for Adelaide’s hand in marriage. That they were trapped there because of Trent’s failed attempt to rescue Adelaide makes Trent all the more determined to repair Adelaide’s reputation. What follows is a wonderful story of love that grows when a couple is determined to make it work and let God be the center of their marriage. I truly enjoyed reading this story of Ms. Hunter’s, not only for the romance that she brings in such a lovely way but for the challenges to one’s faith that she includes. Ms. Hunter created wonderful main characters supported by interesting, funny, and Godly sub-characters that will leave readers considering how they would have handled the situations presented. Trent Hawthorne  was unready for marriage and quite resents the fact that it came upon him without love or the timing he thought would be better. But as he knows that is not in keeping with the ways of God, he determines to “court” his wife in order to give them a chance to fall in love. And to do this he believes its best to move out of their home until they both wish to live as a married couple. The problem is he didn’t ask Adelaide her opinion or consent, not realizing she would consider it presumptuous and rather embarrassing – given Trent isn’t very discrete in his courting efforts. Trent also didn’t count on his staff being upset with his avoidance of his new wife; several of them outright berating his cowardice and lack of care. Not knowing what else to do, he sets out to win his wife’s affections by giving her the Season in London she was denied before now. Ms. Hunter’s Adelaide is everything Trent needs in a wife, if only she had the confidence and knowledge of society she was never taught by her mother. Having been so focused on getting her oldest daughter Helena the best match possible, Lady Crampton neglected to spend any time teaching the same to her younger daughter. This has left Adelaide with a well-developed brain from all the reading she has done but with little skills to apply to her new social position. She also has a tendency to become disheveled in small ways every day – though she isn’t always sure how it happens. It will be for these traits that Trent begins to develop true affection for her, finding her fresh and different way of looking at the world deeply endearing. But there is still the matter of discretion in their situation so neither will be embarrassed by Trent’s courting of his wife. Enter Trent’s sisters and mother – all of whom are thrilled that Trent has taken such a lovely and sweet wife and are shocked at his blatant disregard for her new position in society. Oh, how I laughed at how quickly and decisively Lady Blackstone and her daughters set this to rights. Their quick wit and teaching would provide Adelaide with the confidence she will need to take her place in society and to take on her mother. And Trent, upon learning of the scheming ways of Lady Compton, will make it his greatest mission to protect and defend his wife against her spitefulness. As they progress in their love, Trent and Adelaide will decide to consummate their marriage – with what they view as disastrous results. I so appreciated the careful and tasteful way in which Ms. Hunter  took on this issue. There was nothing overly descriptive in the way Ms. Hunter told of their night together, leaving it with Trent carrying his wife into their room. And even the next day when Trent tried to ask a married friend for advice for why everything didn’t go as he thought it should, Ms. Hunter took care to keep everything very clean. I was glad to see she did not shy away from this as others have, rather she brought to light the awkwardness that a virgin couple faces when they first come together. And when things did not go as expected, Ms. Hunter had Trent and Adelaide turn to those around them that would give them the best advice – that marriage and all its inclusions takes work and time to get right. Their family and friends were kind and helpful – pointing out that everything in marriage goes better when there is love bringing you together. So they both began, not without mistakes, seeking out the good of each other and finding ways to build love by doing for each other. And Ms. Hunter had this serve them well as a couple when they began to be tested in their relationship. Lady Crampton still hopes to use Adelaide’s marriage into the Duke of Riverton’s family to help Helena rise in societal position and will do whatever necessary to make that happen. When her plans for making Trent jealous enough to do whatever Adelaide wants is uncovered, Lady Crampton finds out that Trent and his family are not people one would care to be at odds with. They have all come to know and love the newest member of their family and will not allow her to be bullied – giving her the confidence to place limitations on her mother’s future presence and influence. And her confidence will, in turn, allow her to encourage Trent to use his God-given talents that he had hidden away so long, bringing them even closer together. I know that Ms. Hunter will have another book in this series as she would not leave such a great character as Griffith Hawthorne without his only tale of love, but I feel that Ms. Hunter has done exceptionally well with this story. It challenged and entertained me and I enjoyed considering what I would do if placed in these circumstances. I have no doubt I would have reacted much the same as Trent, but I pray I would have also tempered my resentment with grace as Adelaide did and be assured that God would not have given me the situation if he had not prepared me and provided support to carry me through. Ms. Hunter reminds her readers in a gentle and fun way that God does not always do what we expect but He always does what is best for His children. I cannot wait to read however many more books Ms. Hunter will include in this series and any others she will choose to write. I will most certainly share this book and the rest of the series with my friend and family and recommend them most highly. Well done, indeed!

I received this 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.