Tag: Book Review

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 Her father is withdrawn.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:

Amazon | ChristianBook | Goodreads

Click here to find Things Left Unsaid and other great Christian fiction at my Amazon shop!

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:

Website | Facebook

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:

Amazon | ChristianBook | Goodreads | Koorong

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 | 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

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:

Quote from Life After: We worship a God who might not give us the miracle,but He will always give us the comfort.

Book Review | Life After by Katie Ganshert

A year ago, Autumn Manning was the sole survivor of a train crash that killed twenty-two people in Chicago. She still hasn’t recovered. She has nightmares. She hasn’t returned to work. She can barely leave her apartment—except to tend the graves of the twenty-two victims. She’s alive, but not living.

Psychologist and marriage counsellor Paul Elliott lost his wife in the crash. Life has gone on, propelled by the need to raise his two children. It’s not easy, especially as his daughter is twelve and acting out. Then Reese disappears, and Paul finds her in the last place he’d expect: Autumn Manning’s apartment.

Autumn and Paul begin an awkward friendship that begins with Reese but builds as circumstances bring them together. They both still need to heal, and the irony is that they heal through each other, and through a project inspired by Reese.

Life After is strong in every way.

An intriguing concept. A solid plot. Flawed and realistic characters. Excellent writing. A strong Christian message, but without being overwhelming. The story hints at secrets and lies, then reveals them at exactly the right time for maximum impact.

I definitely recommend Life After for readers looking for deeper Christian women’s fiction.

Thanks to WaterBrook and NetGalley for providing a free ebook for review.

About Katie Ganshert

Katie GanshertAward-winning author, Katie Ganshert, graduated from the University of Wisconsin in Madison with a degree in education, and worked as a fifth grade teacher for several years before staying home to write full-time. She was born and raised in the Midwest, where she lives with her family. When she’s not busy penning novels or spending time with her people, she enjoys drinking coffee with friends, reading great literature, and eating copious amounts of dark chocolate.

Find Katie Ganshert online at:

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About Life After

It could have been me.

Snow whirls around an elevated train platform in Chicago. A distracted woman boards the train, takes her seat, and moments later a fiery explosion rips through the frigid air, tearing the car apart in a horrific attack on the city’s transit system. One life is spared. Twenty-two are lost.

A year later, Autumn Manning can’t remember the day of the bombing and she is tormented by grief—by guilt. Twelve months of the question constantly echoing. Why? Why? Why? Searching for answers, she haunts the lives of the victims, unable to rest.

Paul Elliott lost his wife in the train bombing and wants to let the dead rest in peace, undisturbed and unable to cause more pain for his loved ones. He wants normalcy for his twelve-year-old daughter and young son, to see them move beyond the heartbreak. But when the Elliotts and Autumn are unexpectedly forced together, he fears she’ll bring more wreckage in her wake.

In Life After, Katie Ganshert’s most complex and unforgettable novel yet, the stirring prose and authentic characters pose questions of truth, goodness, and ultimate purpose in this emotionally resonant tale.

Find Life After online at:

Amazon | ChristianBook | Goodreads | Koorong

Read the introduction to Life After below:

Click here to find Life After and other great Christian fiction at my Amazon shop!

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:

Quote from The Solace of Water: I thought she was pretty brave and stupid to lie to me—but it made me see her like she a real person and not some perfect Christian who never sinned.

Book Review | The Solace of Water by Elizabeth Byler Younts

The Solace of Water is not your run-of-the-mill Christian fiction.

It’s set in 1956, in the small town of Sinking Creek, Pennsylvania. The writing is excellent, with strong and original character voices. The story is told in first person from the point of view of three main characters: Emma, Delilah, and Sparrow. Each hides secrets and pain. No, this isn’t an easy read (and there should be a trigger warning for self-harm).

Emma is Amish, and has lived in Sinking Creek her entire life. She gives the outward appearance of being a submissive Amish wife, but she’s hiding secrets—her own, and her husband’s. Delilah and her family have recently moved to Sinking Creek from Montgomery, Alabama, but she finds moving doesn’t take away her troubles. Sparrow is Delilah’s daughter. Sparrow knows Delilah blames her for her brother’s death, and knows there is nothing she can do to change that.

Delilah was a difficult character to empathise with.

Sure, she’s grieving the loss of her four-year-old son, but she’s an adult. She shouldn’t blame her daughter, even if her daughter was supposed to be watching the younger children. This provides plenty of conflict between Delilah and Sparrow, and is the impetus behind both Delilah and Sparrow’s developing relationship with Emma.

Emma has her own secrets.

A drunk for a husband, a rebel for a son, and a marriage fractured by hurt. She’s intrigued by this new family in town who worship in such a different way to her, and she’s puzzled at Delilah’s reluctance to befriend her.

I think Sparrow was my favourite character.

She’s the victim, the character who has had little control over the situation she finds herself in. Now she’s struggling to be in control. She is intrigued by Emma and her son, who treat her as equals. But this is 1950s America and segregation is real, whether the physical signs are there or not.

The Solace of Water is a fascinating exploration of racial differences and prejudice set in the early years of the Civil Rights struggle. It emphasises how we’re often afraid of “different”. It shows how it’s important to understand and work through our differences—especially with other Christians.

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

About Elizabeth Byler Younts

Elizabeth Byler YountsElizabeth Byler Younts writes women’s fiction for Harper Collins/Thomas Nelson. She is a member of the American Christian Fiction Writers. She gained a worldwide audience through her first book Seasons: A Real Story of an Amish Girl and is a RITA nominated writer. She is also the author of The Promise of Sunrise series. She has consulted on Amish lifestyle and the Pennsylvania Dutch dialect for two award-winning television shows. Elizabeth lives in Central Pennsylvania with her husband, two daughters, and a cockapoo named Fable.

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About The Solace of Water

In a time of grief and heartache, an unlikely friendship provides strength and solace.

After leaving her son’s grave behind in Montgomery, Alabama, Delilah Evans has little faith that moving to her husband’s hometown in Pennsylvania will bring a fresh start. Enveloped by grief and doubt, the last thing Delilah imagines is becoming friends with her reclusive Amish neighbor, Emma Mullet—yet the secrets that keep Emma isolated from her own community bond her to Delilah in delicate and unexpected ways.

Delilah’s eldest daughter, Sparrow, bears the brunt of her mother’s pain, never allowed for a moment to forget she is responsible for her brother’s death. When tensions at home become unbearable for her, she seeks peace at Emma’s house and becomes the daughter Emma has always wanted. Sparrow, however, is hiding secrets of her own—secrets that could devastate them all.

With the white, black, and Amish communities of Sinking Creek at their most divided, there seems to be little hope for reconciliation. But long-buried hurts have their way of surfacing, and Delilah and Emma find themselves facing their own self-deceptions. Together they must learn how to face the future through the healing power of forgiveness.

Eminently relevant to the beauty and struggle in America today, The Solace of Water offers a glimpse into the turbulent 1950s and reminds us that friendship rises above religion, race, and custom—and has the power to transform a broken heart.

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#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:

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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?

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#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!”

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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?

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Read the introduction to The Governess of Highland Hall below:

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