Category: #ThrowbackThursday

#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:

Website | Facebook | Twitter

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!

As for her safety, God already knew when the end of her days would be.

#ThrowbackThursday | Book Review | Where We Belong by Lynn Austin

It’s Throwback Thursday! Today I’m resharing my review of Where We Belong by Lynn Austin, one of my favourite novels from one of my favourite Christian historical fiction authors.
The Adventure of a Lifetime for Two Indomitable Socialite Sisters

In the city of Chicago in 1892, the rules for Victorian women are strict, their roles limited. But sisters Rebecca and Flora Hawes are not typical Victorian ladies. Their love of adventure and their desire to use their God-given talents has brought them to the Sinai Desert–and into a sandstorm.

Accompanied by Soren Petersen, their somber young butler, and Kate Rafferty, a street urchin who is learning to be their ladies’ maid, the two women are on a quest to find an important biblical manuscript. As the journey becomes more dangerous and uncertain, the four travelers sift through memories of their past, recalling the events that shaped them and the circumstances that brought them to this time and place.

Where We Belong by Lynn Austin

Where We Belong starts in 1890, in the Sinai Desert, with forty-five year-old Rebecca Hawes traveling to St Catherine’s Monastery to search for ancient copies of the Bible. It’s a start that hooked me immediately, both because of the historical setting, and because of the age of the heroine—it’s refreshing to read a novel where the heroine is out of her twenties.

I was also intrigued because I could relate to Rebecca’s thoughts about the desolate nature of the Sinai between Cairo and St Catherines. Her journey took seven days by camel. In comparison, mine took seven hours by minibus, but that was quite long enough to feel for the stubborn Israelites, condemned to spend forty years in the heat and dust.

But then Where We Belong left the Sinai in 1890, and travelled back to 1860 Chicago—and I wasn’t impressed. It was still Rebecca’s story, but now Rebecca was a pampered teenager in the days before the Civil War (which I knew was coming, even though she didn’t). Fortunately, it soon became apparent that Rebecca was no ordinary Victorian-era teenager, and nor was her sister, Flora.

The novel followed Rebecca and Flora from their teenage years in Chicago through to showing why they are travelling to the Sinai in 1890 with only a couple of young servants for protection. The most fascinating thing is that Rebecca and Flora are based on real-life adventurers, Agnes and Margaret Smith, born in Scotland in 1843.

This explains one of the strengths of the novel—the feeling of historical authenticity that can only be gained by extensive research (and then leaving out most of the detail of that research). The other strength was related, and that was the Christian element. Rebecca and Flora (like the real-life Agnes and Margaret) were women of deep faith. They were intelligent women who had the strength of character to choose to follow God, not society, and who had endless compassion for the poor.

Lynn Austin has yet to write a novel I haven’t enjoyed, but I do think this is her best yet. Recommended for Christian historical fiction fans, especially those who enjoy authors such as Elizabeth Camden and Jody Hedlund.

I’m a history fan, and I loved it from the first line to the last. (I don’t think I stopped in between). Even better, a recent article from the Smithsonian shows new manuscripts are still being discovered at St Catherine’s:

Lost Languages Discovered in One of the World’s Oldest Continuously Run Libraries

Isn’t that cool?

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

About Lynn Austin

Lynn AustinFor many years, Lynn Austin nurtured a desire to write but frequent travels and the demands of her growing family postponed her career. When her husband’s work took Lynn to Bogota, Colombia, for two years, she used the B.A. she’d earned at Southern Connecticut State University to become a teacher. After returning to the U.S., the Austins moved to Anderson, Indiana, Thunder Bay, Ontario, and later to Winnipeg, Manitoba.

It was during the long Canadian winters at home with her children that Lynn made progress on her dream to write, carving out a few hours of writing time each day while her children napped. Lynn credits her early experience of learning to write amid the chaos of family life for her ability to be a productive writer while making sure her family remains her top priority.

Along with reading, two of Lynn’s lifelong passions are history and archaeology. She and her son traveled to Israel during the summer of 1989 to take part in an archaeological dig at the ancient city of Timnah. Lynn resigned from teaching to write full-time in 1992. Since then she has published 24 novels.

Find Lynn Austin online at:

Website | Facebook | Pinterest | Twitter

Find Where We Belong online:

Amazon US | Amazon UK | Amazon AU | ChristianBook | Goodreads

Read the introduction to Where We Belong below:

Click here to find Where We Belong and other great Christian fiction in my Amazon store!

The past has absolutely nothing to do with the future God has in store.

#ThrowbackThursday | The Secret Life of Sarah Hollenbeck by Bethany Turner

It’s ThrowbackThursday! Today I’m resharing my review of The Secret Life of Sarah Hollenbeck, the debut novel from Bethany Turner. This was one of my top recommendations for 2017. Have you read it?

About The Secret Life of Sarah Hollenbeck

Becoming a Christian is the best and worst thing that has ever happened to Sarah Hollenbeck. Best because, well, that’s obvious. Worst because, up to this point, she’s made her very comfortable living as a well-known, bestselling author of steamy romance novels that would leave the members of her new church blushing. Now Sarah is trying to reconcile her past with the future she’s chosen. She’s still under contract with her publisher and on the hook with her enormous fan base for the kind of book she’s not sure she can write anymore. She’s beginning to think that the church might frown on her tithing on royalties from a “scandalous” book. And the fact that she’s falling in love with her pastor doesn’t make things any easier.
With a powerful voice, penetrating insight, and plenty of wit, Bethany Turner explodes onto the scene with a debut that isn’t afraid to deal with the thorny realities of living the Christian life.

Find The Secret Life of Sarah Hollenbeck online at:

Amazon US | Amazon UK | Amazon AU

ChristianBook | Goodreads

My Review: Wow! Wow! Wow!

I read a lot of books each year—some good, some great—but few that I want to read again. The Secret Life of Sarah Hollenbeck is one.

Sarah McDermott divorces her high school sweetheart-husband after he cheats on her, and goes back to being Sarah Hollenbeck. Only she has no idea who Sarah Hollenbeck is, because she’s been the trophy wife for so long. She joins a book club, writes bad poetry, quits book club, and writes a naughty novel under the pen name of Raine de Bourgh. The novel goes immediately to the top of all the bestseller charts, as do the two sequels (because, donchaknow, that’s what happens to all debut novelists? Not).

And then Sarah Hollenbeck becomes a Christian. She says:

This book could be a detailed story of how my best friend led me to the Lord. It’s a good story … but that isn’t the story I need to tell. This is the story of my feeble attempts to make sense of my life.

Sarah realises she can’t write naughty novels any more. Instead, she joins her one remaining friend at church, where she immediately develops an inappropriate crush on the first guy she meets. Who happens to be the pastor. The married pastor. With a daughter. Oops.

I was picturing myself in his arms and imagining how his lips would feel on mine. And then I remembered that I was in church and that I had become a Christ-follower on Monday.

Fortunately for Sarah, the pastor turns out not to be married but widowed (fortunately for Sarah. Ben is somewhat taken aback at the thought of dating the notorious Raine de Bourgh, but he copes (lol). It’s interesting to watch their relationship unfold, because Ben’s first marriage was everything Sarah’s wasn’t.

Sarah decides to write Christian fiction, so reads some of what’s on sale:

The books I read didn’t feel realistic. At least, they weren’t my reality. Then again, my reality was messed up, so maybe I wasn’t the best judge.

I’ve had a lot of conversations along the same lines—too much Christian fiction doesn’t feel realistic (I’m not counting the suspense genre here. I’m perfectly happy for my reality not to include dead bodies and stalkers, and I’ll trust those authors are presenting their information accurately).

Sarah goes on to make another point that’s recently come up in my reading and freelance editing (yes, I’m a freelance fiction editor specialising in Christian romance): how the women in the books don’t seem to feel desire or temptation. Yes, I’d noticed that as well. In fact, I’ve read Christian romances where the hero and heroine had all the romantic attraction of siblings (that has even more of a yuck factor than a sex scene). I don’t want lots of hot-and-heavy in Christian fiction, but there needs to be some sexual attraction. Otherwise it’s not realistic.

I loved the humor.

There’s a scene where Sarah shares some poetry with her book club. Most are politely complimentary. One woman is not:

What’s with the subjects? It’s like you just flipped through the yellow pages until something jumped out at you. What’s next? Exterminators?
I looked at the papers in my hands and sheepishly shuffled “Insecticide Nuclear Winter” to the bottom of the stack.

And she (Sarah Hollenbeck? Bethany Turner? Both?) has great taste in actors:

Can you believe I couldn’t even get Martin Freeman to give me Benedict Cumberbatch’s phone number?

Yeah. I’ve got to read this again.

Recommended for fans of contemporary romance with humour, from authors such as Kara Isaac, Beth Troy, Becky Wade, and Melissa Tagg.

Thanks to Baker Publishing and NetGalley for providing a free ebook for review.

About Bethany Turner

Bethany TurnerBethany Turner has been writing since the second grade, when she won her first writing award for her essay explaining why, if she could have lunch with any person throughout history, she would choose John Stamos. Do-gooders all around her chose Reagan, Thatcher and Gorbachev, but it was Bethany’s ode to Uncle Jesse which walked away with the prize. More than 25 years later, her writing is still infused with pop culture and off-the-beaten-track ideas.

Bethany is a born and bred Kentucky girl who relocated to Colorado in 2001, three years after meeting the love of her life in a chat room, back before anyone knew that wasn’t always a good idea. Thankfully, it worked out in this case, and she and her husband are the proud parents of two boys. In 2014 Bethany walked away from her career as a bank vice president to step out in faith as a writer. Since then, God has not only opened doors in the publishing world, but has also called her to full-time ministry serving on a church staff. She is an innovative systems administrator for a rural church that is passionate about reaching the unchurched.

Find Bethany Turner online at:

Website | BookBub | FacebookInstagram | Pinterest | Twitter

Read the introduction to The Secret Life of Sarah Hollenbeck below:

#Throwback Thursday | Book Review | Medical Judgement by Richard Mabry

It’s Throwback Thursday! Today I’m resharing my review of Medical Judgement by Richard Mabry … partly as a reminder that I need to read and review his latest release, Guarded Prognosis! This review first appeared at Iola’s Christian Reads in June 2016.

Quality Medical Thriller

Medical Judgement is a standalone medical thriller, but the focus is definitely on the thriller side rather than the medical (which is good news for all those who turn away from the gory parts on TV shows like House).

Dr Sarah Gordon has recently lost her husband and daughter in a car accident, and is having trouble getting past the grief. She’s woken one night by smoke in the house–someone has lit a pile of oily rags in her garage. It’s more annoying than dangerous, but it’s the start of a chain of events: someone is after her.

As with all good thrillers, we get an early insight into the mind of the perpetrator so we know what he’s planning while Sarah–his intended victim–doesn’t. What we don’t know is his identity, which means the tension ramps up every time a new male character is introduced and we ask if this is the whacko. Sarah is an excellent character, weak at first but who gradually grows stronger as she decides she’s going to get past her grief and not let this guy win.

There are some excellent supporting characters as well: Bill Larson, the recovering alchoholic detective with a broken marriage. Kyle Andrews, a friend of Sarah’s husband who seems to want to get a little too close to Sarah. Steve Farber, Sarah’s pastor and another recovering alcoholic.

And the plot made sense (thankfully. The last Richard Mabry novel I read left me feeling confused as to the identity and motive of the perpetrator), and I enjoyed the subtle Christian themes woven into the story.

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

About Richard Mabry

I’m a retired physician who, in addition to writing, is a husband and grandfather, plays (and enjoys) golf, and does the hundred-and-one other things that retired people do.

I got into non-medical writing after the death of my first wife with my book, THE TENDER SCAR: LIFE AFTER THE DEATH OF A SPOUSE. I’m gratified that it continues to help those who have lost a loved one.

Now I’m writing what I call “medical suspense with heart.” My novels have been finalists for the ACFW Carol Award, Romantic Times’ Best Inspirational Novel and their Reviewer’s Choice Award, have won the Selah award, and been named by Christian Retailing as the best in the mystery/suspense/thriller category. My latest novel is CARDIAC EVENT, which has been given a 4 1/2 star rating and a “Top Pick” by Romantic Times. I’ve also published three novellas, the latest one DOCTOR’S DILEMMA.

You can find Dr Richard Mabry online at:

Website | Facebook | Twitter

About Medical Judgement

Someone is after Dr. Sarah Gordon. They’ve stalked her and set a fire at her home. Trying to recover from the traumatic deaths of her husband and infant daughter is tough enough, but she has no idea what will come next. Her late husband’s best friend and a recovering alcoholic detective are trying to solve the mystery before it’s too late, but both appear to be vying for her affection as well. Sarah finds herself in constant fear as the process plays out.

As the threats on her life continue to escalate, so do the questions: Who is doing this? Why are they after her? And with her only help being unreliable suitors in competition with each other, whom can she really trust?

Find Medical Judgement online at:

Amazon | ChristianBook | Goodreads | Koorong

Read the introduction to Medical Judgement below:

Click here to check out Medical Judgement and more great Christian fiction at my Amazon shop!

#ThrowbackThursday | The Governess of Highland Hall by Carrie Turansky

For fans of Downton Abbey (isn’t that everyone?)

Illness has forced the Foster family to return to England from their missionary school and orphanage in India. Julia gains employment at Highland House, the home of Sir William Ramsay, as governess to his children, Andrew and Millicent, and to his teenage cousins and wards, Katharine and Penelope.

Sir William is looking for a governess who won’t mind staying in the country, because he has only recently inherited Highland Hall, and the death duties are placing a lot of financial pressure on him. Julia hasn’t told him she plans on returning to India with her family as soon as her father is well again, and as she spends more time at Highland Hall, getting to know Sir William and his family, she has to rethink her future plans.

The story and characters captured my attention from the start.

I like an intelligent heroine who isn’t afraid to have her own opinions, so I liked Julia. William was a man with many troubles, but made a fitting hero. I liked the romantic subplot featuring Sarah, William’s sister, and I liked the Christian aspect of the story—Julia, especially, has a strong Christian faith (she’s partly modelled on Amy Carmichael, a real-life missionary to India).

The novel combines elements of classic British fiction like Jane Eyre with the Edwardian era, made fashionable by the TV series Downton Abbey. I’m a huge fan of Downton Abbey and fiction set in England, and it always bugs me when I’m pulled out of the story by silly factual errors, or by English characters using American vocabulary (like fall or pavement). Carrie Turansky contacted me to ask if I’d read her draft to find any such errors. I was pleased to help, and can only hope I found them all!

The Governess of Highland Hall is the first of a trilogy. Recommended.

About Carrie Turansky

Carrie TuranskyBestselling Inspirational Romance Author Carrie Turansky writes historical and contemporary novels and novellas set in England and the US. She has won the ACFW Carol Award, the Holt Medallion, and the International Digital Award. Readers say her stories are: “Heartwarming and inspiring! I couldn’t put it down!” . . . “Touching love story. It captured me from the first page! Rich characters, beautifully written” . . . “My new favorite author!”

Find Carrie Turansky online at:

Website | Facebook | Goodreads | Instagram | Pinterest | Twitter

About The Governess of Highland Hall

Worlds lie between the marketplaces of India and the halls of a magnificent country estate like Highland Hall. Will Julia be able to find her place when a governess is neither upstairs family nor downstairs help?

Missionary Julia Foster loves working alongside her parents, ministering and caring for young girls in India. But when the family must return to England due to illness, she readily accepts the burden for her parents’ financial support. Taking on a job at Highland Hall as governess, she quickly finds that teaching her four privileged, ill-mannered charges at a grand estate is more challenging than expected, and she isn’t sure what to make of the estate’s preoccupied master, Sir William Ramsey.

Widowed and left to care for his two young children and his deceased cousin Randolph’s two teenage girls, William is consumed with saving the estate from the financial ruin. The last thing he needs is any distraction coming from the kindhearted-yet-determined governess who seems to be quietly transforming his household with her persuasive personality, vibrant prayer life, and strong faith.

While both are tending past wounds and guarding fragile secrets, Julia and William are determined to do what it takes to save their families—common ground that proves fertile for unexpected feelings. But will William choose Julia’s steadfast heart and faith over the wealth and power he needs to secure Highland Hall’s future?

Find The Governess of Highland Hall online at:

Amazon | ChristianBook | Goodreads | Koorong

Read the introduction to The Governess of Highland Hall below:

Click here to find The Governess of Highland Hall and other great Christian fiction in my Amazon shop!

#ThrowbackThursday | After the Thaw by Therese Heckenkamp

It’s Throwback Thursday! Today I’m sharing my review of After the Thaw by Therese Heckenkamp, which originally appeared at Suspense Sisters Reviews.

After the Thaw is the sequel to Frozen Footprints—which I hadn’t read, and I certainly didn’t feel I was missing information. There were several flashbacks early in the story, which did make the start feel a little jerky in places. However, they did provide me with plenty of opportunity to catch up on what I’d missed without becoming an overwhelming rehash of what went before.

For those who did read Frozen Footprints, After the Thaw starts over three years later, after Clay has finished his prison sentence. Charlene is now a librarian, and almost engaged to firefighter Ben Jorgensen. She’s escaped from her grandfather’s influence and hasn’t seen Clay in years. But she still has a letter to deliver to him, from his dead mother.

The story starts with a bang (no, I’m not going to tell you what that is, even though it sets the scene and pace for the entire novel), and it doesn’t let up. She’s approached by a strange man with an uncomfortable reminder of her earlier kidnapping. Then she’s arrested for possessing drugs … which makes no sense. And events continue to get stranger and stranger until she doesn’t know where to turn. Although she knows where not to turn: her grandfather.

It’s an excellent story, full of twists and turns which kept me guessing right until the end (especially the Ben/Clay love triangle—I always enjoy a little romance in my suspense). The writing was excellent, and the characters well-developed and realistic.

One thing which is unusual about After the Thaw is that the characters are Roman Catholic. Most Christian fiction shies away from mentioning specific denominations, preferring merely to identify the characters as Christian. (The exception is Amish romance, which seems to dominate the shelves of Christian bookstores to a degree that is far out of proportion with their actual numbers or their influence on world history.) It was refreshing to see an actual denomination … especially one which more often appears to represent the antagonist or the fool.

Overall, I thought After the Thaw was excellent, and recommend it to all Christian suspense fans.

Thanks to Therese Heckenkamp for providing a free ebook for review.

About Therese Heckenkamp

Therese HeckenkampBorn in Australia but raised in the USA as a homeschooled student, Therese Heckenkamp has been writing stories since before she could spell. At age 18, she completed the first draft of her first published novel. Therese is now the author of three Christian suspense novels: Past Suspicion, Frozen Footprints, and After the Thaw.

Past Suspicion and Frozen Footprints have both reached #1 Bestseller in various Amazon Kindle categories, including Religious Drama, Religious Mystery, and Inspirational Religious Fiction.

A busy wife and mother of four, Therese fits in writing whenever she can manage (and sometimes when she can’t). A member of American Christian Fiction Writers, she looks forward to writing many more novels in the future. Her newest release, After the Thaw (the long-awaited sequel to Frozen Footprints), is a 2016 Readers’ Favorite Bronze Medal Winner in Christian Fiction.

Find Therese Heckenkamp online at:

Website | Facebook | Twitter

About After the Thaw

Some wounds heal. Others leave scars.

Four years ago, Charlene Perigard survived a brutal kidnapping. Now at twenty-two, she’s put that trauma behind her for a promising future with handsome firefighter Ben Jorgensen. But when new trauma strikes, a new nightmare begins.

Sinister threats, a midnight attack, and a deathbed promise drive Charlene to the little town of Creekside, where she encounters a man from her past whom she has long struggled to forget: Clay Morrow–ex-convict and brother of her kidnapper. He’s also the man who once helped save her life.

Despite the odds, Charlene and Clay forge a tentative friendship, unaware of a brooding, mounting danger that seeks to destroy them both. Charlene’s wounded heart must choose between her fiancé and the man whose past is more scarred than her own. But in choosing, she may just lose everything.

Find After the Thaw online at:

Amazon | Goodreads

Read the introduction to After the Thaw below:

Have you read Frozen Footprints or After the Thaw? What did you think?

The Space Between Words 2

Throwback Thursday | The Space Between Words by Michele Phoenix

It’s Throwback Thursday! Today I’m resharing my review of The Space Between Words by Michele Phoenix, an amazing dual timeline novel set in France in 1695 and 2015. Have you read it?

About The Space Between Words

“There were seconds, when I woke, when the world felt unshrouded. Then memory returned.”

When Jessica regains consciousness in a French hospital on the day after the Paris attacks, all she can think of is fleeing the site of the horror she survived. But Patrick, the steadfast friend who hasn’t left her side, urges her to reconsider her decision. Worn down by his insistence, she reluctantly agrees to follow through with the trip they’d planned before the tragedy.

“The pages found you,” Patrick whispered.

“Now you need to figure out what they’re trying to say.”

During a stop at a country flea market, Jessica finds a faded document concealed in an antique. As new friends help her to translate the archaic French, they uncover the story of Adeline Baillard, a young woman who lived centuries before—her faith condemned, her life endangered, her community decimated by the Huguenot persecution.

“I write for our descendants, for those who will not understand the cost of our survival.”

Determined to learn the Baillard family’s fate, Jessica retraces their flight from France to England, spurred on by a need she doesn’t understand.

Could this stranger who lived three hundred years before hold the key to Jessica’s survival?

Find The Space Between Words online at:

Amazon | ChristianBook | Goodreads | Koorong

My Review

The Space Between Words starts in Gatingy, France, with Adeline Baillard as the narrator.

It’s 1695, the time of the persecution of the Huguenots, those Protestants who refused the King’s orders to convert to Catholicism. The story then skips forward to 2015, to a first-person account from thirty-four year-old Jessica. Jessica is living in Paris with her friends Patrick and Vonda.

They are about to leave Paris to go touring around Southern France. First, they decide to celebrate with one last night of fun. Vonda suggests a concert at the Bataclan nightclub.

On 14 November 2015, the night of the real-life massacre.

I read The Space Between Words in June 2017, in the week after the London Bridge attack and the benefit concert for the victims of the Manchester attack. That brought home all the more the horror and confusion of the Bataclan bloodbath.

I don’t’ want to say any more about the plot because *spoilers*.

Instead I’ll say this is Jessica’s story. It’s about searching for what has been lost. About finding hope in the midst of  loss. It’s also a story of struggle and courage and faith, especially Adeline’s faith and that of her fellow Huguenots. It’s inspiring.

The story has a strong spiritual thread. This is mostly in the past words of Adeline Baillard, but also in the present conversations between Jessica and her companions. It’s not a “traditional” Christian novel in that the main characters aren’t Christians

But there is a definite faith journey.

 

It reminds me of The Writing Desk by Rachel Hauck, The Long Highway Home by Elizabeth Musser, and The Five Times I Met Myself by James L Rubart. The writing was strong, and the story unpredictable (in a good way).

I recommend The Space Between Words for those looking for a novel with depth.

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

About Michele Phoenix

Author Photo: Michele PhoenixBorn in France to a Canadian father and an American mother, Michèle is a consultant, writer and speaker with an international perspective. She taught for 20 years at Black Forest Academy (Germany) before launching her own venture advocating for Third Culture Kids. Michèle travels globally to consult and teach on topics related to this unique people group. She loves good conversations, mischievous students, French pastry, and paths to healing.

Find Michele Phoenix online at:

Website | Facebook | Twitter

Read the introduction to The Space Between Words below:

#ThrowbackThursday | The Boy in the Hoodie by Catriona McKeown

It’s Throwback Thursday! Today I’m sharing my review of The Boy in the Hoodie, the 2016 debut novel from Australian author Catriona McKeown. This review previously appeared at Australasian Christian Writers.

The Boy in the Hoodie was the winner of the 2016 Omega Writers CALEB Prize for an unpublished manuscript. It was a well-deserved win, because it’s a great coming of age novel about making mistakes, paying the price, and becoming a better person through the experience.

I enjoyed everything about The Boy in the Hoodie. Aussie setting, strong characters, solid plot, and excellent writing with enough humour to offset the often-serious nature of the story. Like this line, where Kat is wishing she could leave her current high school and go to a private school:

Quote from The Boy in the Hoodie by Catriona McKeown

Well, I thought it was funny.

The set-up could have come across as contrived, but it didn’t. I think this was because the story was told in first person from Kat’s point of view, so we could see both why she lied for her friends, and what she thought about it. It was also interesting watching her get to know the boy in the hoodie and find out more about what the adults thought about her misdemeanor.

The boy was also an interesting character, and first person worked well in that I (as the reader) didn’t know any more about him than Kat did, and got to know him as she did—for better and for worse.

I almost read The Boy in the Hoodie in one sitting—yes, it was that good. The ‘almost’ is because the tension got too much towards the end, so I had to take a break. I definitely recommend The Boy in the Hoodie for young adult and not-so-young adult readers.

Any chance of a sequel? I see Paige had issues and I want to know more …

About Catriona McKeown

Catriona McKeown lives on the Fraser Coast in Queensland, Australia, with her husband of 20+ years and three daughters.

​She is passionate about issues of social justice and often writes with such ideals in mind. Her current studies are in Inclusive Education; she is passionate about education that allows every child to reach their full potential and has a particular heart for gifted children as well as those with autism.

​She holds a Bachelor of Arts and a Graduate Diploma of Teaching. Catriona has completed a writing course at The Writers’ Studio and continues to study the art of writing as time affords her.

Catriona hails from country Victoria, lived a short stint in Western Australia, and has now settled on Queensland as her home state.

Find Catriona McKeown online at:

Website | Facebook

About The Boy in the Hoodie

One girl. One boy. And a friendship that could save them both. Good-girl Kat knew drinking alcohol at school would have serious consequences. But to protect her friend from being expelled, Kat lands herself a term’s worth of detentions. Inside the detention room, she meets a strange boy who obsessively draws dark pictures and covers his head with a grey hoodie. Little does she know, the hoodie hides a dark past … An unlikely friendship forms between Kat and the boy in the hoodie. When she discovers a sinister truth he’s been hiding, she somehow feels compelled to help him—but at what cost? And how much is she willing to risk in order to keep him safe? The Boy in the Hoodie is a real, unforgettable story about past scars and how the ones we love can sometimes heal them.

Find The Boy in the Hoodie online at:

Amazon | Goodreads | Koorong

Read the introduction to The Boy in the Hoodie below:

#ThrowbackThursday | Pointe and Shoot by Alison Stone

It’s Throwback Thursday! Today I’m sharing my review of Pointe and Shoot by Alison Stone. This review originally appeared at Suspense Sisters Reviews (which has now been retired).

Pointe and Shoot is a great title, and one that had me hooked from the opening line.

I knew something bad was going to happen. Sure enough, it did.

Everyone thinks Miss Melinda’s death is an unfortunate accident, but her boss, Jayne, isn’t so sure. But no one wants to listen when she says she believes Miss Melinda was lured onto the dark lakeside road. Not the police chief, not her policeman brothers, and not even Danny, her dead brother’s patrol partner.

This is where it got clever. Most of the novel is written in third person from Jayne’s point of view. But some chapters were written in first person, from the point of view of the unknown assailant.

So the reader knows it was murder. Kind of …

I thought the use of first person here was inspired, because it meant we knew nothing about the assailant, not even their gender. Clever!

Miss Natalie, the owner of the ballet school and Jayne’s mother, has Alzheimer’s. It’s a horrible affliction, and I was impressed with the sensitive way it was portrayed, and with Jayne’s unfailing patience with her mother—on her good days, and her not-so-good days. I did, however, have less charitable thoughts towards Jayne’s brothers for some of their attitudes …

There were a few annoying writing niggles—overuse of words like “noticed” (I always figure if I notice a word, it’s been used enough that I notice the word over the writing). And I would have liked a little more of the developing romance between Jayne and Danny—it did feel like this got left behind in the suspense plot. Hey, I like my romantic suspense to have plenty of romance as well as plenty of suspense!

But don’t let that put you off. Pointe and Shoot was an excellent suspense (with romantic overtones), set in a ballet school run by a non-ballerina who once wanted to be a police officer. And which ended with a tantalizing hint that this might be the first book in a series. If so, I’ll be back for more.

About Alison Stone

Author Photo: Alison StoneAlison Stone discovered her love of writing after leaving a corporate engineering job to raise four children.

Constantly battling the siren call of social media, Alison blocks the Internet and hides her smartphone in order to write fast-paced books filled with suspense and romance

Married for almost twenty-five years, Alison lives in Western New York, where the summers are gorgeous and the winters are perfect for curling up with a book—or writing one.

Find Alison Stone online at:

Website | Facebook | Twitter

About Pointe and Shoot

Jayne Murphy has always put family first. That’s why she abandoned her dream of joining the police force to run her ailing mother’s dance studio.

When one of the studio’s most talented instructors dies in a car crash, Jayne isn’t convinced it was just an accident. Relentlessly pursuing her hunch, she teams up with Officer Danny Nolan, the best friend and partner of her brother Patrick, who died in the line of duty. Haunted by Patrick’s death, Danny has begun to question whether he should still be a cop at all.

As Jayne digs deeper, suspects emerge, including the victim’s clingy ex-boyfriend and a jealous foe from the cutthroat dance world. Her evolving insights into the case rekindle Jayne’s passion for police work. Danny, too, feels a renewed sense of purpose…and a definite attraction to his unofficial partner, which seems to be mutual. Now, if Jayne can only keep herself out of harm’s way, she and Danny both might get a second chance—with their careers and each other.

Find Pointe and Shoot online at:

Amazon | Goodreads

Read the introduction to Pointe and Shoot below:

Papa doesn't need buildings and potlucks and crowds. He just needs us and our ability to love on him.

#Throwback Thursday | Broken Like Glass by EJ McCay

It’s Throwback Thursday! Today I’m resharing my review of Broken Like Glass by EJ McCay. This review was originally posted in May 2017.

There are not many novels that manage to grip me from the very first line, but this was one:

“Lillian. Lillian? Can you hear me, Lillian?” My therapist’s voice grates on my. I’d say like nails on a chalkboard, but that wouldn’t accurately describe just how much I hate her voice.

By the end of the first page, we know Lillian is in court-ordered therapy. By the end of the second page, we know why:

“Help me understand why you stabbed your dad with a knife in the middle of the grocery store, and then went home and smashed everything.”
“Some people deserve a little knifing every once in a while and his furniture was a hundred years past vintage. I’d say I did him a favor.”

So Lillian is stuck in her home town for six months until she can explain why … which isn’t so easy. As the novel progresses, we see more and more glimpses of Lillian’s broken past as she opens herself up to her teenage crush, to her therapist, and to Jesus—who she refers to as Papa. The title implies we’re going to see a broken person, and we do, but we also strength and character.

Lillian is a strong main character.

Some people won’t be able to related to the writing—first person present tense—but I thought it was the perfect choice. It gave us an insight into Lillian, and the present tense gave the story the necessary sense of immediacy.

Reading a first person story narrated by a character who has secrets and hides them from the reader can be frustrating. I always feel that if the character knows the truth about a matter, the reader should know that truth as well. And that’s why I think first person worked so well in Broken Like Glass, because Lillian didn’t know. Her secrets were so deep, she hid them from herself.

Broken Like Glass combined some of the freshest writing I’ve read in ages. The use of first person present tense was inspired. The plot was layered, complex, and never predictable (the couple of minor plot points I almost predicted were minor in comparison to the major twists I ever saw coming).

But the true triumph of Broken Like Glass is Lilly’s relationship with Papa, something her therapist, Chrissy, sees as Lilly’s strength:

“But this relationship you have. It’s so … tangible. I want that.”
“Then have it.”
Chrissy looks at me funny. “But how? How did you do it?”
“I clung to the only thing I could. He’s all I had. He’s all I ever had … my only friend was Papa.”

Lilly is the perfect embodiment of the Christian faith as a relationship with Jesus.

The scenes where Papa talks and Lilly listens remind me of God speaking in The Atonement Child by Francine Rivers. The themes and writing reminded me of Christa Allen and Varina Denman and Amy Matayo, and other newer writers in Christian fiction. But the most important thing is that Broken Like Glass makes me want to know Papa in the way Lilly does. And shouldn’t that be the aim of Christian fiction?

Recommended.

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

About EJ McCay

EJ McCay grew up in Charleston, South Carolina and currently resides in Lubbock, Texas. She lives with her husband, two girls, and four cats.

Writing wasn’t always her dream. That came about when she was in her mid-twenties. Since then, it’s become more than a passion, it’s become part of what makes her tick. She writes in multiple genres from YA to Adult Romance.

When not writing, she’s a nerd-herding lover of Chuck, and enjoyer of good coffee. Some of her favorite books include Ender’s Game, The Percy Jackson Series, and the Alex Van Helsing trilogy–just to mention a few.

Find EJ McCay online at:

Website | Facebook | Twitter

About Broken Like Glass

How is Papa supposed to set me free when I don’t even know what I need to be freed from?

Lillian Louis James tried to live a good life but her father had a knack for bringing out the worst in her. When a quick weekend visit with him turned violent she found herself on the wrong end of the law. Stuck in the small town she would rather forget Lillian was forced to attend therapy and try to figure out where it all went wrong. Her high school crush showing up on the scene didn’t help either as unresolved feelings bubbled to the surface. Will Lillian let Jesus heal her broken past before her chance at love is gone?

Find Broken Like Glass online at:

Amazon | Goodreads

Read the introduction to Broken Like Glass below: