Category: Book Review

Quote from On Magnolia Lane by Denise Hunter

Book Review | On Magnolia Lane (Blue Ridge Romance #3) by Denise Hunter

On Magnolia Lane is the third book in Denise Hunter’s Blue Ridge Romance series. Or maybe the fourth—Sweetbriar Cottage isn’t officially part of the series, but is set in the same small town and features several of the same characters. Yes, the novels can be read as standalone stories, but this is definitely Daisy and Jack’s story and you don’t have to read the earlier books to enjoy it. But I know readers who prefer to read a series in order will want to start with Sweetbriar Cottage (which is still my favourite).

I found the beginning of On Magnolia Lane was somewhat slow.

It took me a while to get into On Magnolia Lane. This could be because I had high expectations (thanks, Sweetbriar Cottage). But I didn’t need to worry, despite the could-be-predictable set-up. This story was as strong as any in the series even though a couple of plot points ran the risk of being cliché.

Daisy runs the family florist business and helps out at Hope House, a home for teenage girls. When Hope House loses its roof in a storm, Daisy is given the task of organising a fundraiser for the house. She can’t do it alone … but help comes from unexpected places.

Pastor Jack has been secretly in love with Daisy for two years.

He thought it was a secret, but his friends know and they sign him up for the online dating app Daisy is using. The two begin a friendship, except she doesn’t know TJ is Jack. So when will Jack tell her the truth?

There were a couple of areas I was less certain about. Jack was a pastor and Daisy a member of his congregation. She’s apparently been going to Jack for counselling for a couple of years (although I never was exactly clear what she was being counselled about, and whether it was appropriate for a single male pastor to be counselling a single female congregation member without supervision, even if the office door was always open).

But the novel wasn’t really a “Christian” novel in the way, say, Sweetbriar Cottage was. Several scenes took place in the church, but the focus seemed to be more on the outward appearance of faith than inward belief.

That contrast was actually a feature of the book, as it came through in the subplot about Daisy’s father—the town mayor who insisted his daughter always act the part. Daisy finds something that challenges her perception of her father, and has to reconcile her memories of him with the lies. Because she doesn’t like lies. Jack helps her work through her issues, which is kind of ironic … And, of course, we’re always waiting for the big reveal, where Daisy finds out what we’ve known all along. How will she react?

Overall, this was a contemporary romance with solid characters, plenty of layers, and unexpected depths. Recommended for contemporary Christian romance fans.

Thanks to Thomas Nelson and NetGalley for providing a free ebook for review.

About Denise Hunter

Denise HunterDenise Hunter is the internationally published bestselling author of more than 30 books, including “The Convenient Groom” and “A December Bride” which have been made into Hallmark movies. She has appeared on the The 700 club and won awards such as The Holt Medallion Award, The Carol Award, The Reader’s Choice Award, The Foreword Book of the Year Award, and is a RITA finalist.

Denise writes heartwarming, small-town love stories. Her readers enjoy the vicarious thrill of falling in love and the promise of a happily-ever-after sigh as they savor the final pages of her books.

In 1996, inspired by the death of her grandfather, Denise began her first book, writing while her children napped. Two years later it was published, and she’s been writing ever since. Her husband says he inspires all her romantic stories, but Denise insists a good imagination helps too!

When Denise isn’t orchestrating love lives on the written page, she enjoys traveling with her family, drinking good coffee, and playing drums. Denise makes her home in Indiana where she and her husband raised three boys and are currently enjoying an empty nest.

Find Denise Hunter online at:

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About On Magnolia Lane

Falling in love with Daisy was easy for Jack. But finding the courage to tell her becomes problematic when his secret feelings lead to even bigger complications.

After two years of counseling sessions with Daisy Pendleton, Pastor Jack McReady has earned a permanent spot in her life as a spiritual leader—and nothing more. Jack would never risk losing her trust by exposing the depths of his heart, but he’s hopelessly in love with her.

Daisy loves her southern small-town life and her job at her family-run flower shop, but she doesn’t have the thing she longs for most: someone to share it with. Her recent foray into online dating has been a disaster—until she meets TJ.

Jack could kill his friend Noah for using his initials and some indistinct photos to set up a profile on the dating app Daisy is using. But when he’s finally afforded the opportunity to show her a different side of himself, he’s sucked into the plan before he has time for second thoughts.

Online, Daisy shares some of her greatest fears with TJ, but in person, Jack and Daisy are spending more time together. When a devastating family secret surfaces, Daisy knows that only her trusted friend and counselor can bring her comfort. Jack wants nothing more than to be both men for Daisy, but revealing his secret will prove to be the ultimate test of Daisy’s grace.

Find On Magnolia Lane online at:

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Quote from A Heart Most Certain: One day society will not condemn a man or woman for a past choice and instead discern and judge the heart.

#ThrowbackThursday | A Heart Most Certain by Melissa Jagears

It’s Throwback Thursday! Today I’m resharing my review of A Heart Most Certain by Melissa Jagears, first in the Teaville Moral Society series. Melissa has just released the first book in her new series, Romancing the Bride, and I’ll be highlighting that tomorrow in my First Line Friday post.

A Heart Most Certain shows Melissa Jagears to be a fresh voice in historical romance (even if the title does sound more Siri Mitchell).

Everything about A Heart Most Certain impressed me.

The writing was excellent, there was a clear and challenging Christian message, the plot was solid with plenty of twists and turns, and just enough predictability (hey, this is romance! There are some aspects we want to be predictable).

And both lead characters were excellent—an intelligent heroine who wasn’t afraid to ask hard questions, and a truly heroic hero (okay, he might have been a bit too perfect. But that’s the closest I can get to a criticism about A Heart Most Certain).

Lydia and Nicholas are both excellent characters—complete opposites, so of course we know they are both going to have to change their views. The setting was portrayed well, both in terms of time and place—and reinforced why I’m glad I live now, not then. It’s also an example of how historical fiction can shine a light into some of our more modern social problems. We can be thankful for the truth of Nicolas’s words in the quote above.

We might not treat “sinners” in the same judgmental way as Mrs Light’s Teaville Ladies Moral Society does, but we still have to guard against turning our faith into a religion of rules. Melissa Jagears is to be commended for not shying away from difficult subjects like prostitution, but showing a proper Christian response to the problem.

Recommended for fans of Francine Rivers, Karen Witemeyer, and Dawn Crandall.

Thanks to Bethany House and NetGalley for providing a free book for review.

About Melissa Jagears

Author Photo: Melissa JagearsI stay home with my kids, and though that’s PLENTY to do, I added homeschooling and writing to my schedule too!

My husband and I have been married since 2001 and have a daughter and two sons. I’m a former high school ESL teacher and an avid book reader. If you don’t believe me, come peruse the 16 bookshelves in my house. The only reason I don’t have more is because my husband is convinced he can hear the house’s foundation groaning.

He only claims one of those bookshelves which is full of how-to manuals because he loves blacksmithing, knife smithing, traditional archery, hunting, etc. Generally whatever a mountain man does, he’s done or wants to do. He and his one lonely bookshelf often come in handy for research.

My daughter is also an avid reader who owns the book shelf chair, is a lover of famous art, and wants to be a fashion designer. My middle son builds and creates all day long, his creations are mostly knives and swords since he wants to be a knifesmith like his daddy. And my youngest is the quietest of the bunch. At the moment, he self-identifies as a cat. A black one. He answers in meows.

A pronunciation lesson for the curious: Jagears sounds like /Jag – ers/, like Mick Jagger with an S.

You can find Melissa Jagears online at:

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About A Heart Most Certain

A Fresh Voice in Historical Romance!

Lydia King knows what it’s like to be in need, so when she joins the Teaville Moral Society, she genuinely hopes to help the town’s poor. But with her father’s debts increasing by the day and her mother growing sicker by the week, she wonders how long it will be until she ends up in the poor house herself. Her best chance at a financially secure future is to impress the politician courting her, and it certainly doesn’t hurt that the moral society’s president is her suitor’s mother. Her first task as a moral society member–to obtain a donation from Nicholas Lowe, the wealthiest man in town–should be easy . . . except he flat-out refuses.

Despite appearances, Nicholas wants to help others but prefers to do it his own way, keeping his charity private. When Lydia proves persistent, they agree to a bargain, though Nicholas has a few surprises up his sleeve. Neither foresee the harrowing complications that will arise from working together. When town secrets are brought to light, this unlikely pair must decide where their beliefs–and hearts–truly align.

You can find A Heart Most Certain online at:

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You can read the introduction to A Heart Most Certain below:

And click here to check out A Heart Most Certain and other great Christian fiction in my Amazon shop!

Quote from Things Left Unsaid: She'd written the story of Cassie's death a dozen different ways, but she still wasn't clear on what had actually happened that night.

Book Review | Things Left Unsaid by Courtney Walsh

When Cassie Jacobs drowned, she left behind a lot of messed-up people blaming themselves for her death.

Ten years later, people are pretending they’ve moved on. Cassie’s mother has organised a memorial party. Her father is withdrawn. Her brother owns an adventure tourism business. One of Cassie’s best friends getting married. Another is on the verge of a career breakthrough … if only she can open herself up to feeling emotion again.

Things Left Unsaid is one of those novels with a slow build. We’re introduced to each of the characters and their somewhat petty present-day problems (many of which are caused by the interfering Nora, Elle’s future mother-in-law). But as the plot develops and we get to know each of the characters, we start seeing beyond the petty and into their hearts as Walsh takes us into the hidden places and we see the hurts and where they’ve come from.

And that’s neither petty nor pretty. But it is powerful. And it’s worth reading.

But, as I said, the novel has a slow build. The first quarter feels almost confusing as it changes point of view often: Lyndie, Elle, Karen, Tucker. The story settles into itself in the next quarter, but it still feels like it’s lacking something. It’s lacking emotion, but that’s deliberate: all the characters are holding back emotionally, and that comes through in the writing.

The novel really comes into itself in the final quarter.

Secrets are acknowledged, things once left unsaid are said, and the emotion arrives like a roller coaster on that final downward swoop. Things Left Unsaid definitely hits all the right spots for a contemporary Christian romance with a side of real life.

Recommended for fans of authors like Robin Lee Hatcher, Denise Hunter, Kara Isaac, Amy Matayo, and Becky Wade.

Thanks to Waterfall Press and NetGalley for providing a free ebook for review.

About the Author

Courtney WalshCourtney Walsh is a novelist, artist, theater director, and playwright. Change of Heart is her fifth novel and is set in the same town as Paper Hearts. Her debut novel, A Sweethaven Summer, hit the New York Times and USA Today e-book bestseller lists and was a Carol Award finalist in the debut author category. She has written two additional books in the Sweethaven series, as well as two craft books and several full-length musicals. Courtney lives in Illinois where she and her husband own a performing and visual arts studio. They have three children.

Find Courtney Walsh online at …

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About Things Left Unsaid

An emotional novel of family, friendship and forgiveness from Courtney Walsh, the New York Times bestselling author of Hometown Girl.

Lyndie St. James is thrilled that her best friend, Elle, is getting married but unprepared for the emotional storm of the wedding week and returning to her childhood summer home of Sweethaven. The idyllic cottage community harbors some of her best—and worst—memories. It’s not only the tragic death of her childhood friend Cassie that has haunted her for ten years, it’s the other secrets she’s buried that have kept her from moving on.

But Lyndie isn’t the only one with secrets.

Cassie’s mother, father and brother, still struggling with the loss, have been drifting further and further apart. And Elle herself, the last to see Cassie alive, carries an impossible burden of guilt. Now reunited, each of them has a choice: to reveal the truths of that night or continue to live in its shadow. That means embarking on a personal journey of the heart—to escape the darkness and all its regrets and to finally come to terms with the past and, especially, with each other.

Find Things Left Unsaid online at:

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Quote from Miss Serena's Secret by Carolyn Miller

#Throwback Thursday | Book Review | Miss Serena’s Secret by Carolyn Miller

It’s Throwback Thursday! Today I’m sharing my review of Miss Serena’s Secret, the second book in the Regency Brides: A Promise of Hope series by Carolyn Miller. The final book in the trilogy, The Making of Mrs Hale, is due out this month, and I definitely want to read it!

This review previously appeared at International Christian Fiction Writers.

The title is a little misleading.

Miss Serena actually has several secrets. These combine to persuade her that she will never marry. She will especially not marry a man like her father, a gambler who lost their fortune at the tables. So she is not impressed when she meets gambler and womaniser Lord Henry Carmichael.

This is a sweet and slow love story. It’s not the romance novel where we meet the hero and heroine and wham bam they’re together. Instead, both characters have plenty of time to get to know each other and to change—to mature into people who are able to fall in love and contemplate marriage.

Miss Serena is an artist, and her art plays a key part in the novel. I’m no painter, but I loved the painting references—the colours, the techniques, and the little upset at the Royal Academy’s Summer Exhibition.

Regency romance has had a resurgence of popularity in recent years, but many of the general market novels have a lot of sex and not much Christian faith—which seems at odds with the period. So it’s good to see more Regency romance coming out of the Christian market, from authors such as Julie Klaassen, Kristi Ann Hunter, and now Carolyn Miller.

Miss Serena’s Secret is Carolyn Miller’s fifth novel, and the second in her Regency Brides: A Promise of Hope series. If you’ve read the others, you’ll enjoy catching up with some of the characters from the previous stories. If you haven’t, don’t worry: this is a standalone novel.

Recommended for Regency romance fans.

Thanks to Kregel Publications and NetGalley for providing a free ebook for review.

About Carolyn Miller

Carolyn MillerCarolyn Miller lives in the beautiful Southern Highlands of New South Wales, Australia. She is married, with four gorgeous children, who all love to read (and write!).

A longtime lover of Regency romance, Carolyn’s novels have won a number of Romance Writers of American (RWA) and American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW) contests. She is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers and Australasian Christian Writers. Her favourite authors are classics like Jane Austen (of course!), Georgette Heyer, and Agatha Christie, but she also enjoys contemporary authors like Susan May Warren and Becky Wade.

Her stories are fun and witty, yet also deal with real issues, such as dealing with forgiveness, the nature of really loving versus ‘true love’, and other challenges we all face at different times.

Find Carolyn Miller online at:

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About Miss Serena’s Secret

How can a wounded young woman ever trust a too-flirtatious earl with her heart?

With devastating scars in her past, Serena Winthrop is sure no man can be trusted—especially not a man like the too-smooth Viscount Carmichael. His reputation as a flirt and a gambler is everything she despises. And the young artist makes sure that this disreputable heir to an earldom knows of her deep disapproval whenever they encounter one another.

Henry, Lord Carmichael, is perfectly aware of his charms. He’s gambled with plenty of ladies’ hearts as easily as he has with their husbands’ money. But lately he’s wondered if there’s more to life—and if his actions might prove unworthy of an admirable wife such as his friends have found.

When Serena’s guardian asks his best friend to protect his young ward, Henry promises to be on his best behavior and not woo her. But the more he learns of her, the more he realizes she might be his best reason for changing his character.

Then the lady’s art leads her to London infamy. Now Henry must choose between the life mapped out for him as the earl apparent and the love of his life. And Serena’s secret may mean the end of his titled family line.

You can find Miss Serena’s Secret online at:

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You can read the introduction to Miss Serena’s Secret below:

And you can click here to find Miss Serena’s Secret and other great Christian fiction recommendations in my Amazon store!

Quote from A Shot at Love by Sarah Loudin Thomas, featured in Christmas Heirloom

Book Review | The Christmas Heirloom: Four Holiday Novellas of Love through Generations

This is a fun novella collection from four popular authors, each writing in the genre they are known for. The stories are linked several ways—they are linked to each other as the heroines are gifted and then pass down a family heirloom, and each has a Christmas scene (enough to make it marketable as a Christmas collection, but not so Christmassy that it felt odd to read in October). Some of the stories are also linked to other stories from that individual author. Clever, and fun!

As is typical for novellas, the stories are quick and relatively fast-paced, but each is a complete and satisfying story.

Legacy of Love by Kristi Ann Hunter is loosely linked to her current Haven Manor series.

The heroine, Sarah Gooding, was raised at Haven Manor and has no idea who her parents are. She’s working as the companion to the Dowager Countess of Densbury and is secretly in love with Lady Densbury’s grandson, Mr Everard. Or perhaps that’s not-so-secretly …

The story is written in Hunter’s trademark fun style, with subtle humour that builds character and reduces tension rather than crossing over to the ridiculous. Despite the short length, Legacy of Love manages to pack quite the emotional punch—I can’t remember the last time I cried over a novel, let alone a novella.

Gift of the Heart by Karen Witemeyer introduces widow Ruth Fullbright and her daughter, Naomi.

Ruth has come to the resort town of Hope Springs to take a job as cook at the Homespun Cafe. But Ruth has no money to pay the deposit or advance rent on the only place in town she can afford, so she asks the owner if he’ll accept a broach, a family heirloom, as security. He does … especially because he’s curioius about and attracted to the small town’s new resident.

This is a feel-good romance, exactly what I expect from Karen Witemeyer. There are great characters, Christian themes, and plenty of subtle humour.

(As an aside, Hope Springs seems to be a popular name for fictional towns—I’ve just started Who I Am With You by Robin Jones Gunn, which also features a heroine living in Hope Springs. I guess Christian authors like the symbolism.)

A Shot at Love by Sarah Loudin Thomas features an unusual heroine.

She’s a crack shot who carves rifle butts and wants to own her own gunsmithing store one day. When Hank visits town for work, Fleeta soon finds he’s the only person she’s met—male or female—who can give her some competition for her shooting. But will he be content to settle a shooting, or will he want more?

This was the story I didn’t enjoy as much as the others. I haven’t read anything by Sarah Loudin Thomas before, so that could be because I was still trying to get used to her style. It could also be because I’m not a gun person, so the idea of anyone wanting to be a gunsmith is outside my experience.

However, that’s a statement of preference. There was nothing wrong with the story, the characters, or the writing. I just found it harder to related to Fleeta, which made it difficult to engage with the story.

The final story, Because of You by Becky Wade, is set in the present day.

It’s part of the Bradford Sisters Romance series, but it’s not about one of the Bradford sisters. Instead, it’s about Maddie Winslow, who works for one of the sisters.

Because of You is a classic friends-to-something-else plot, as Maddie is in love with her (dead) best friend’s husband. When they are assigned to be partners in the church Christmas project, they are forced to spend time alone together, and that changes things …

All in all, this was a fun novella collection centered around a family heirloom—a valuable brooch. If (like me) you already know and enjoy one or more of these authors, then the collection is a great way to be introduced to the others.

Thanks to Bethany House and NetGalley for providing a free ebook for review.

About the Authors

Kristi Ann Hunter

Author photo: Kristi Ann Hunter

Kristi is the RITA® award winning author of Regency romance novels from a Christian worldview. Her titles include A Noble Masquerade, An Elegant Façade, and An Uncommon Courtship. Beyond writing, she is also speaker, teaching classes in writing as well as Biblical and spiritual topics. She has spoken to writers’ groups, schools, and young women’s groups at churches.

When she is not writing or interacting with her readers, Kristi spends time with her family and her church. A graduate of Georgia Tech with a computer science degree, she can also be found fiddling with her computer in her free time. A born lover of stories she is also an avid reader. From very young she dreamed of sharing her own stories with others and praises God daily that she gets to live that dream today.

You can find Kristi Ann Hunter online at:

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About Karen Witemeyer

Author Photo: Karen WitemeyerFor those who love to smile as they read, bestselling author Karen Witemeyer offers warm-hearted historical romances with a flair of humor, feisty heroines, and swoon-worthy Texas heroes. A transplant from California, Karen came to Texas for college, met a cowboy disguised as a computer nerd, married him, and never left the state that had become home.

Winner of the HOLT Medallion, ACFW Carol Award, Inspirational Reader’s Choice Award, National Reader’s Choice Award, and a finalist for both the RITA and Christy Awards, Karen is a firm believer in the power of happy endings. . . and ice cream. She also loves to reward her readers. Every month she gives away two inspirational historical novels to someone from her newsletter list and offers substantial bonus content on her website.

Find Karen Witemeyer online at:

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About Sarah Loudin Thomas

Author Photo - Sarah Loudin ThomasSarah Loudin Thomas grew up on a 100-acre farm in French Creek, WV, the seventh generation to live there. Her Christian fiction is set in West Virginia and celebrates the people, the land, and the heritage of Appalachia. Sarah is represented by Wendy Lawton of Books & Such Literary Agency.

Sarah and her husband Jim live in the mountains of Western North Carolina with Thistle–the canine equivalent to a personal trainer pushing them to hike, run, and throw sticks. Sarah is active in her local church and enjoys cooking and–you guessed it–reading.

Find Sarah Loudin Thomas online at:

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About Becky Wade

Author Photo Becky WadeBecky is the Carol and Christy award winning author of heartwarming, humorous, and swoon-worthy contemporary inspirational romances.

During her childhood in California, Becky frequently produced homemade plays starring her sisters, friends, and cousins. These plays almost always featured a heroine, a prince, and a love story with a happy ending. She’s been a fan of all things romantic ever since.

These days, you’ll find Becky in Dallas, Texas failing to keep up with her housework, trying her best in yoga class, carting her three kids around town, watching TV with her Cavalier spaniel on her lap, hunched over her computer writing, or eating chocolate.

You can find Becky Wade online at:

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About The Christmas Heirloom

In Kristi Ann Hunter’s “Legacy of Love,” Sarah Gooding never suspected returning a brooch to an elderly woman would lead to a job . . . and introduce her to the woman’s grandson, a man far above her station.

In Karen Witemeyer’s “Gift of the Heart,” widow Ruth Albright uses the family brooch as collateral for a loan from the local banker. But the more she comes to know the man behind the stern businessman, the more she hopes for a second chance at love.

In Sarah Loudin Thomas’s “A Shot at Love,” Fleeta Brady’s rough-and-tumble childhood means she prefers hunting to more feminine activities. She never expected her family’s brooch might be how a fellow hunter turns her attention from competition to romance.

In Becky Wade’s “Because of You,” Maddie Winslow has spent years in love with a man whose heart was already spoken for. When a church Christmas project brings them together and she stumbles upon an old family brooch, might it finally be her turn for love?

Find The Christmas Heirloom online at:

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Read the introduction to The Christmas Heirloom below:

Click here to find this and other great Christian fiction at my Amazon shop.

Just Look Up

#ThrowbackThursday | Book Review | Just Look Up by Courtney Walsh

It’s Throwback Thursday! Today I’m resharing Just Look Up by Courtney Walsh. This was the first Courtney Walsh novel I read, but I think I’ve gone on to read all the rest! In fact, you can click here to read my review of Just Let Go.

After tirelessly climbing the ranks of her Chicago-based interior design firm, Lane Kelley is about to land her dream promotion when devastating news about her brother draws her back home—a quaint tourist town full of memories she’d just as soon forget. With her cell phone and laptop always within reach, Lane aims to check on her brother while staying focused on work—something her eclectic family doesn’t understand.

Ryan Brooks never expected to settle down in Harbor Pointe, Michigan, but after his final tour of duty, it was the only place that felt like home. Now knee-deep in a renovation project that could boost tourism for the struggling town, he is thrilled to see Lane, the girl he secretly once loved, even if the circumstances of her homecoming aren’t ideal.

Their reunion gets off to a rocky start, however, when Ryan can’t find a trace of the girl he once knew in the woman she is today. As he slowly chips away at the walls Lane has built, secrets from his past collide with a terrible truth even he is reluctant to believe. Facing a crossroads that could define his future with Lane and jeopardize his relationship with the surrogate family he’s found in the Kelleys, Ryan hopes Lane can see that maybe what really matters has been right in front of her all along—if only she’d just look up.

My Review

I requested a review copy of Just Look Up because I’d heard so many good things about it. Surely it couldn’t possibly measure up?

It did.

Lane is an interior designer up for a big promotion at work when her mother calls to say her brother is on life support following a motorcycle accident. She returns home, but is immediately thrown into conflict with everyone in her family (except perhaps her father, who only gets about two lines in the whole novel). The reasons behind this conflict are gradually revealed as the novel progresses

Ryan was also in the motorcycle accident, but escaped with minor injuries. He’s from a bad background, but he’s made something of himself—with the help of the Kelley family, who were surrogate parents for him and his sister throughout his teenage years. He’s always had feelings for Lane, but never felt good enough for her. Now he meets the adult Lane, he realises she has issues, and he might be able to help.

Just Look Up was a great title that worked on many levels.

There was the obvious, that we have to look up to see the world around us, to live. Lane spent much of time looking down at her phone that she missed what was going on around her. And the more subtle, the way Lane consciously or subconsciously looked down on herself.

It seemed to me that looking down was a habit formed early in her teenage years, where she looked down because of her low self-esteem. I could relate to this—and I suspect many grown women can, especially those of us who were bookish teenagers who were never part of the ‘cool’ crowd.

To me, Just Look Up showed the lie that many of us believe in our teenage years.

The lie that we don’t fit in because aren’t good enough. Lane was different to the others in her family—lactose intolerant in a family that made and sold cheese for a living, unattractive and unpopular (or so she thought) in a family that were attractive and popular.

What especially hurt for Lane was that her family perpetuated the lie through their ‘harmless’ name calling (‘Pudge’ is not term of endearment. Ever). The result, I think, was a teenager and adult who never understood how precious she was to God, because she never felt she was precious to her family.

Overall, Just Look Up is a story about how achieving our dreams might not be everything we thought it might be, but the answer might have been in front of us all along.

Recommended.

Thanks to Tyndale Books and NetGalley for providing a free ebook for review.

 

About the Author

Courtney WalshCourtney Walsh is a novelist, artist, theater director, and playwright. Change of Heart is her fifth novel and is set in the same town as Paper Hearts. Her debut novel, A Sweethaven Summer, hit the New York Times and USA Today e-book bestseller lists and was a Carol Award finalist in the debut author category. She has written two additional books in the Sweethaven series, as well as two craft books and several full-length musicals. Courtney lives in Illinois where she and her husband own a performing and visual arts studio. They have three children.

Find Courtney Walsh online at …

Website | Facebook | Instagram | Pinterest | Twitter | Goodreads

Click below to buy Just Look Up:

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You can read the introduction to Just Look Up below:

Click here to find Just Look Up and other great Christian fiction in my Amazon shop!

Book Review | Stratagem by Robin Caroll

Grayson Thibodeaux’s divorce from Anna Belle didn’t go well … which unfortunately makes him the prime suspect when she’s murdered in a game he designed. It doesn’t help that he’s friends with one of the investigating officers, because it’s the other one who is sure he is guilty. Which means he has to find the real culprit.

Stratagem is a murder mystery with a unique concept. Grayson is a psychologist who is the co-owner of a business which designs “games” as training, teambuilding, or recruitment exercises. As readers, we’re sure Grayson isn’t the culprit and that the detective is picking on him, but the facts do add up. Grayson has no alibi. He has motive, means, and opportunity.

But if Grayson didn’t murder Anna Belle, who did? And why?

I recently read and reviewed Darkwater Inn by Robin Caroll. Stratagem is a standalone novel that’s not related to the Darkwater series, although it’s still set in New Orleans and the Darkwater does make a cameo appearance. While Darkwater Inn had romantic aspects, Stratagem is purely a murder mystery with no romance … but it’s so good I didn’t notice (hey, I’m a romance reader. This is important).

As I said, it’s a unique concept, and that’s always a good start.

The characters were excellent, the plot was original with plenty of twists, and there was a definite Christian thread. All in all, the best kind of Christian suspense.

Thanks to Shiloh Run Press and NetGalley for providing a free ebook for review.

About Stratagem

A High-Stakes Simulation Adventure Leaves Grayson Thibodeaux the Prime Suspect. . .for Murder

Deep in the gritty underbelly of New Orleans, psychologist Grayson Thibodeaux loses everything when his wife leaves him to climb her company’s corporate ladder. He buries himself in his job of creating mind-bending adventure games for businesses as team-building explorations. When his ex-wife’s company hires Grayson’s to create an elaborate game, he doesn’t see how things can get worse. Until she dies during the course of the game he created…making him the prime suspect for murder.

Find Strategem online at:

Amazon | ChristianBookKoorong

About Robin Caroll

Robin Caroll grew up in Louisiana with her nose in a book. She still has the complete Trixie Belden series, and her love for mysteries and suspense has only increased with her age. Robin’s passion has always been to tell stories to entertain others and come alongside them on their faith journey—aspects Robin weaves into each of her published novels.

Best-selling author of thirty-plus novels, ROBIN CAROLL writes Southern stories of mystery and suspense, with a hint of romance to entertain readers. Her books have been recognized in several awards, including the Carol Award, HOLT Medallion, Daphne du Maurier, RT Reviewer’s Choice Award, and more.

When she isn’t writing, Robin spends quality time with her husband of nearly three decades, her three beautiful daughters and two handsome grandsons, and their character-filled pets at home in the South. Robin serves the writing community as Executive/Conference Director for ACFW.

Find Robin Caroll online at:

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Book Review | Delayed Justice (Hidden Justice #3) by Cara Putman

Delayed Justice is the third novel in Cara Putman’s Justice series, following Beyond Justice and Imperfect Justice. I thought Beyond Justice was excellent, but Delayed Justice is even better.

As with the other books in the series, it’s a legal thriller addressing one of the big issues of today: in this case, child sex abuse. That means it’s not an easy read. It’s not explicit, but survivors or sensitive readers might prefer to skip this one.

Twenty-eight-year-old attorney and public defender Jaime Nichols is filing charges of sexual abuse against her uncle, Dane. Unfortunately, Dane Nichols is up for promotion to US Army general, and he’s not well pleased with the charges.

Jaime faces multiple challenges: her natural fear of repercussions, both personal and professional. And her natural wariness around her new neighbour, a military man like her uncle. But the handsome neighbour also gives her the opportunity to help another victim, and she does have the support of her legal eagle friends.

It’s a challenging story, written with sensitivity towards Jaime and other victims. We have to believe women (and men) when they come forward with these stories. Sure, there are people who make them up, but these are far outnumber by those who never dare come forward.

Recommended for fans of legal thrillers from authors like John Grisham or Rachel Dylan.

Thanks to Thomas Nelson and NetGalley for providing a free ebook for review.

About Cara Putman

Cara PutmanAs a preteen Cara Putman watched lawyers change legislative opinions at an important legislative hearing in Nebraska. At that time, she wondered if she became an attorney if people would give her words the same weight. An honors graduate of the University of Nebraska Lincoln, George Mason University School of Law and Krannert School of Management at Purdue University, Cara has turned her passion for words into award-winning stories that capture readers. Her legal experience makes its way into her stories where strong women confront real challenges.

The award-winning author of more than 25 titles, Cara writes legal thrillers, WWII romances, and romantic suspense because she believes that no matter what happens hope is there, waiting for us to reach for it.

When she’s not writing, Cara is an over-educated attorney who lectures in law and communications at the Krannert School of Management at Purdue University and homeschools her children. She and her family live in Indiana, the land of seasons.

You can find Cara Putman online at:

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About Delayed Justice

She had long given up the desire to be loved. Now she only needed to be heard.

Jaime Nichols went to law school to find the voice she never had as a child, and her determination to protect girls and women in the path of harm drives her in ways both spoken and unspoken. As Jaime, now a criminal defense attorney, prepares to press charges against someone who wronged her long ago, she must face not only her demons but also the unimaginable forces that protect the powerful man who tore her childhood apart.

Chandler Bolton, a retired veteran, is tasked with helping a young victim who must testify in court—and along with his therapy dog, Aslan, he’s up for the task. When he first meets Jaime, all brains, beauty, and brashness, he can’t help but be intrigued. As Chandler works to break through the wall Jaime has built around herself, the two of them discover that they may have more to offer one another than they ever could have guessed—and that together, they may be able to help this endangered child.

This thrilling installment of the Hidden Justice series explores the healing power of resolution and the weight of words given voice. And as Jaime pursues delayed justice of her own, she unearths eternal truths that will change the course of her life.

You can find Delayed Justice online at:

Amazon | ChristianBook | Goodreads | Koorong

#ThrowbackThursday | Book Review | Kept by Sally Bradley

It’s Throwback Thursday! Today I’m resharing my review of Kept, the debut novel from Sally Bradley.

I first saw Kept reviewed by Rel Mollet of Relz Reviews. Like me, Rel is tired of reading Christian novels which have the same feel as every other Christian novel. We’re looking for something real, something different, but something which still affirms our Christian faith. Rel raved about Kept, and while I bought it immediately, it’s taken me a while to get around to reading it. I kept (ha ha) hearing good things about it from people whose opinions I respected, and I started to wonder … could it really be that good? Or was I setting myself up for disappointment?

Well, it really is that good.

Kept isn’t perfect. There was one amusing typo (a segue is a change of topic in conversation; the two-wheeled ride-on has the same pronunciation, but it’s a Segway. Silly name, if you ask me). There was one scene from the point of view of a minor character that didn’t seem to add anything to the plot (and in hindsight, could have been eliminated), and there were a couple of minor plot points that didn’t make sense (maybe they’ll make more sense on the re-read). And there were times when I would have liked to better understand what was going on inside Dillan’s head. He plain didn’t make sense at times. Of course, he’s a man, so that could explain things.

Those details aside, Kept clocks up a number of achievements that rate highly with me.

Sally Bradley has managed something completely original—a story about a kept woman, a euphemism for a high-class prostitute—yet it’s unashamedly a Christian novel, a story of forgiveness and redemption that reminded me of Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers. The writing is excellent, and manages to cover some gritty ground without ever spelling out the ugly details.

Sally Bradley has created a cast of likeable characters who feel true to live, even in their failings. Dillan, at “six foot thirteen”, is a complete klutz, which perhaps forces him to cultivate a friendship with Miska even when he’d rather avoid her. His brother, Garrett, is a loveable lawyer with a past he’s still trying to get over.

Miska is complex.

At first she comes across as the sweet girl-next-door—until we begin to get to know a bit more about her, and realise she’s caught up in the oldest profession, and telling herself the biggest lie: that he’ll leave his wife for her. One day. It’s never exactly explained how she became a kept woman, but we see enough of her background to realise it’s a logical progression, and that she feels no qualms for taking the men in her life for everything she can get. After all, that’s all men have ever done to her.

Miska’s scenes showed how good the writing was, because I was completely engaged in her character. She’s an intelligent woman who does dumb, DUMB, things when it comes to me, and there were times I wanted to give her a good shake. Dillan and Garrett were similar, and even at the end I was thinking that Dillan needs to get over himself, while Garrett just needs to get his head examined. They were frustrating, but in a good way—like a teenage daughter.

Their actions might be annoying, but you love them anyway.

Yes, that pretty much sums up Kept. Recommended for those who want something real in their Christian fiction.

About Sally Bradley

Author Photo Sally Bradley

Sally Bradley writes big-city fiction with real issues and real hope.

A Chicagoan since age five, Sally has been fascinated by all things Chicago (except for the crime, politics, and traffic) for almost as long. She now lives in the Kansas City area with her family, but they get back to Chicago from time to time for important things, like good pizza and a White Sox game.

A freelance fiction editor and former president of her local writing chapter, Sally has won a handful of awards for Kept and another work-in-progress.

You can find Sally Bradley online at:

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About Kept

Life has taught Miska Tomlinson that there are no honorable men. Her womanizing brothers, her absentee father, and Mark, the married baseball player who claims to love her—all have proven undependable. But Miska has life under control. She runs her editing business from her luxury condo, stays fit with daily jogs along Chicago’s lakefront, and in her free time blogs anonymously about life as a kept woman.

Enter new neighbor Dillan Foster. Between his unexpected friendship and her father’s sudden reappearance, Miska loses control of her orderly life. Her relationship with Mark deteriorates, and Miska can’t help comparing him to Dillan. His religious views are so foreign, yet the way he treats her is something she’s longed for. But Dillan discovers exactly who she is and what she has done. Too late she finds herself longing for a man who is determined to never look her way again.

When her blog receives unexpected national press, Miska realizes her anonymity was an illusion. Caught in a scandal about to break across the nation, Miska wonders if the God Dillan talks about would bother with a woman like her—a woman who’s gone too far and done too much.

You can find Kept online at:

Amazon | Goodreads

You can read the introduction to Kept below:

Click here to find Kept and other great Christian fiction in my Amazon shop!

Book Review | Lethal Legacy by Carol J Post

Lethal Legacy opens with Andrea Wheaton experiencing a home invasion at the family holiday home, which she’s visiting following the death of both parents in a car accident. It soon becomes apparent that the evildoers are looking for something … and they’ll be back.

Bryce Caldwell, next-door neighbour and high-school sweetheart finds her, and her trashed house. It soon becomes apparent that Andi’s father had some secrets, which raises an obvious question: was the car wreck which killed him and Andi’s mother an accident or something more sinister?

Andi is sure it was no accident, which means she needs to find out the why—no matter how painful that might be for her personally. But she’s not expecting other people to be searching around the property as well, to the point where she might be in danger.

Lethal Legacy is published by Love Inspired Suspense, which means it’s an almost-perfect blend of romance and suspense (well, assuming you’re a romantic suspense fan like I am). It’s also a quick read, with all the focus on Andi and Bryce as they try to stay safe … and explore their feelings for each other.

Yes, I’m a big romantic suspense fan, and Lethal Legacy ticked all the genre boxes, as well as strong writing (no less than I’d expect from Carol J Post), page-turning action, and a Christian thread that enhanced the story without being preachy. Recommended for romantic suspense fans.

Thanks to the author for providing a free ebook for review.

About Carol J Post

Carol J PostFrom medical secretary to court reporter to property manager to owner of a special events decorating company, Carol’s resume reads as if she doesn’t know what she wants to be when she grows up. But one thing that has remained constant through the years is her love for writing. She currently pens fun and fast-paced inspirational romance and romantic suspense stories. Her books have been nominated for a RITA® award and an RT Reviewers’ Choice Best Book Award.

Carol lives in sunshiny Central Florida with her husband, who is her own real-life hero, and writes her stories under the shade of the huge oaks in her yard. Besides writing, she works alongside her music minister husband singing and playing the piano. She enjoys sailing, hiking, camping—almost anything outdoors. Her two grown daughters and grandkids live too far away for her liking, so she now pours all that nurturing into taking care of a fat and sassy black cat and a highly spoiled dachshund.

You can find Carol J Post online at:

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About Lethal Legacy

Someone wants her family secrets buried.
He’s her only chance to survive

Andrea Wheaton thought her parents’ tragic deaths were accidental – until she’s attacked during a burglary at their home. Now she’s also being targeted. Her ex–sweetheart Sheriff Deputy Bryce Caldwell insists on protecting her, though she refuses to trust him again.

But with a killer closing in, can she and Bryce uncover her family’s secrets before it’s too late for them both?

Find Lethal Legacy online at:

Amazon | ChristianBook | Goodreads | Koorong

You can read the introduction to Lethal Legacy below: