Tag: Iola Goulton

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

Book Review | Things Left Unsaid by Courtney Walsh

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

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 Her father is withdrawn.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

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

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

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

The novel really comes into itself in the final quarter.

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

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

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

About the Author

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

Find Courtney Walsh online at …

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About Things Left Unsaid

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

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

But Lyndie isn’t the only one with secrets.

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

Find Things Left Unsaid online at:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

About the Authors

Kristi Ann Hunter

Author photo: Kristi Ann Hunter

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

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

You can find Kristi Ann Hunter online at:

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About Karen Witemeyer

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

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

Find Karen Witemeyer online at:

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About Sarah Loudin Thomas

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

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

Find Sarah Loudin Thomas online at:

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About Becky Wade

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

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

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

You can find Becky Wade online at:

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About The Christmas Heirloom

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

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

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

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

Find The Christmas Heirloom online at:

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Read the introduction to The Christmas Heirloom below:

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

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:

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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:

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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.

FInd Elizabeth Byler Younts online at:

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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.

Find The Solace of Water online at:

Amazon | ChristianBook | Goodreads | Koorong

Read the introduction to The Solace of Water below:

Click here to find The Solace of Water and other great Christian fiction in my Amazon shop!

Book Review | Hidden Among the Stars by Melanie Dobson

Wow.

Hidden Among the Stars is a powerful dual timeline story—definitely one of the best books I’ve read this year.

The past story begins in Austria in 1938, just after Adolf Hitler has annexed the country.

Anyone who knows anything of twentieth century history suspects this isn’t going to end well. Max is the only son of a well-off Vienna banker. Luzi is the Jewish violinist he loves, and Annika is the daughter of a family servant … who loves Max.

The present story is that of Calisandra Anne Randall.

Callie is the half-owner of a children’s bookstore in small-town Ohio. The bookstore has been Callie’s refuge since she was a child. Now she’s making it a place where the next generation of children meet and come to love some of her favourite fictional characters.

Callie sells both new and secondhand books, and often finds things hidden in the books she sells. But Bambi is different. It’s not just the photograph hidden inside the book that captures her attention. It’s the German words written between the lines of the book. Callie’s attempts to find the story behind the book lead her to Austria and a mystery that’s almost eighty years old.

There were so many things that impressed me about Hidden in the Stars.

The way the two plot lines intertwined and intersected. The characters. The writing. The excellent historical research. The faith aspect. It all adds up to a lot more than the cover promised. And I was equally invested in the past and present stories, which is rare. (Yes, I’m one of those readers who usually wants to skip forward and read only half the story.)

Quote from Hidden Among the Stars: My story is the same as any other in that no one owns it except me. And it’s filled with threads of achievements and regrets.

The writing was excellent. My writer/editor self I was especially impressed by the way the author combined first person present tense for the contemporary story with third person past tense for the historical story. Mixing first and third person is not a technique for beginners. Mixing present and past tense is even more impressive. That Melanie Dobson managed to do both seamlessly is outstanding writing.

The historical research never overwhelmed the story. It was good to read a novel set in Austria rather than the more traditional Germany. And it was wonderful to read a story that didn’t have any obvious historical inaccuracies yet managed to share new information. (The author’s note at the end explained a couple of things I’d wondered about.)

I was also impressed by the way the Christian elements were woven into the plot.

The first half had very few religious references—Jewish or Christian. The second half brought out many truths about the nature of God, and the nature of good and evil. Unfortunately, World War II taught us a lot about evil … if we care to learn.

Recommended for fans of dual timeline stories with a hint of romance from authors like Kristy Cambron, Heidi Chiavaroli, and Cathy Gohlke.

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

About Melanie Dobson

Author photo - Melanie DobsonWriting fiction is Melanie Dobson’s excuse to explore abandoned houses, travel to unique places, and spend hours reading old books and journals. The award-winning author of twenty novels, Melanie enjoys stitching together both time-slip and historical stories including Catching the Wind, Enchanted Isle, Beneath a Golden Veil, and the Legacy of Love novels.

Chateau of Secrets received a Carol Award for historical fiction, Catching the Wind’s audiobook won the 2018 Audie for Inspirational Novel, and The Black Cloister was ForeWord’s Book of the Year for Religious Fiction. Her next time-slip novel, Hidden Among the Stars, comes out in September.

Melanie and her husband, Jon, have two daughters. After moving numerous times with Jon’s work, the Dobson family has finally settled near Portland, Oregon, and they love to travel and hike in both the mountains and the cliffs above the Pacific. When Melanie isn’t writing, she enjoys exploring ghost towns and dusty back roads, dancing, and reading stories with her girls.

Find Melanie Dobson online at:

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About Hidden Among the Stars

The year is 1938, and as Hitler’s troops sweep into Vienna, Austrian Max Dornbach promises to help his Jewish friends hide their most valuable possessions from the Nazis, smuggling them to his family’s summer estate near the picturesque village of Hallstatt. He enlists the help of Annika Knopf, his childhood friend and the caretaker’s daughter, who is eager to help the man she’s loved her entire life.

But when Max also brings Luzia Weiss, a young Jewish woman, to hide at the castle, it complicates Annika’s feelings and puts their entire plan—even their very lives—in jeopardy. Especially when the Nazis come to scour the estate and find both Luzia and the treasure gone.

Eighty years later, Callie Randall is mostly content with her quiet life, running a bookstore with her sister and reaching out into the world through her blog. Then she finds a cryptic list in an old edition of Bambithat connects her to Annika’s story . . . and maybe to the long-buried story of a dear friend. As she digs into the past, Callie must risk venturing outside the safe world she’s built for a chance at answers, adventure, and maybe even new love.

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Read the introduction to Hidden Among the Stars below:

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Have you read any of Melanie Dobson’s novels? What did you think?

Quote from Formula of Deception: He was the most strikingly handsome man she had ever seen. The only flaw on him was the wedding ring on his finger.

Book Review | Formula of Deception by Carrie Stuart Parks

I thought Formula of Deception was another story in the Gwen Marcey series, so was initially surprised when I realised it’s a standalone novel with all new characters. This perception wasn’t helped by the pages of praise for the Gwen Marcey series at the beginning of the book. It also wasn’t a romance, despite my quote above!

Anyway, it took me a little longer to get in to Formula of Deception, because I kept waiting for Gwen to show up. Spoiler: she doesn’t, because the book isn’t about her.

Formula of Deception begins on April Fool’s Day on a small island of the coast of Alaska as an earthquake then tsunami hit. It then moves to the present day, where Murphy Andersen has got a job as a police artist on Kodiak Island, Alaska. She’s drawing a decades-old murder scene, based on the memories of a dying priest.

Murphy was a fascinating character.

There is obviously some unknown trauma in her history, and this unfolds gradually as the plot progresses, as her personal story collides with the story of the dead bodies … and there are soon more dead bodies. A murderer is on the loose … but is this related to the priest’s memories, Murphy’s own personal history, or something else?

Murphy is hiding details about her personal history from her police colleagues, and it’s not always easy to find the truth in her words, thoughts, and actions. This makes the book a challenge, but is also a strength, as it highlights the tension and the suspense. And there is plenty of suspense.

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

About Carrie Stuart Parks

Carrie Stuart ParksCarrie Stuart Parks is a Christy finalist as well as a Carol award-winning author. She has won numerous awards for her fine art as well. An internationally known forensic artist, she travels with her husband, Rick, across the US and Canada teaching courses in forensic art to law enforcement professionals. The author/illustrator of numerous books on drawing and painting, Carrie continues to create dramatic watercolors from her studio in the mountains of Idaho.

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About Formula of Deception

An artist hiding from an escaped killer uncovers one of World War II’s most dangerous secrets—a secret that desperate men will do anything to keep hidden.

After the murder of her twin sister, Murphy Anderson changed her name and appearance and moved to Kodiak, Alaska, to avoid the press and publicity. But when local authorities discover she’s an artist and request her help in drawing a dying man’s memories, she unintentionally ends up in the limelight again—and back in the killer’s crosshairs.

The deathbed confessions of an Alaskan hunter have Murphy drawing the five bodies he discovered on remote Ruuwaq Island ten years ago. But what investigators find has them mystified. Evidence suggests that the bodies were deliberately destroyed, and what they uncover in an abandoned Quonset hut from World War II only brings more questions.

As one by one the investigators who were at the hut die, Murphy knows there is something much darker at stake. What happened on this island during the war? And who is willing to kill to keep its secrets buried?

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Read the introduction to Formula of Deception below:

Read my review of Portrait of Vengeance by Carrie Stuart Parks

Read my review of When Death Draws Near by Carrie Stuart Parks

Quote from Darkwater Secrets by Robin Caroll: Just because someone doesn't believe something doesn't make it less real.

Book Review | Darkwater Secrets by Robin Caroll

Adelaide Fontaine is the General Manager of the Darkwater Inn in New Orleans, but she might not be for much longer. Not if her boss has his way. She is—unknowingly—being pursued by two men: Beau, a police officer and longtime family friend, and Dimitri, the son of the hotel’s owner, who wants to be a chef rather than follow the management path his father has laid out for him.

As if that wasn’t complicated enough, life is about to get more complicated when a body is discovered in one of the hotel’s rooms … and the body has links to Adelaide’s hidden past.

Adelaide, Beau, and Dimitri are all great characters (and I usually loathe the love triangle plot).

There is plenty of action, plenty of secrets, and plenty of clues to consider as I wondered who-dun-it. What’s most interesting is that finding the culprit wasn’t the end of the story—it was almost as though the murder were the vehicle to explore some deeper personal issues …

There are elements of romance, suspense, mystery, plenty of secrets and even a little voodoo. Yes, voodoo in a Christian novel. As one of the characters says, the Bible wouldn’t need to warn us against demons and evil if they didn’t exist. All in all, an excellent novel, and I’m definitely looking forward to the sequel.

Thanks to Gilead Publishing for providing a free ebook for review.

About Robin Caroll

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

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

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

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About Darkwater Secrets

A murder investigation uncovers sordid secrets and haunting mistakes

The Darkwater Inn stands tall and proud in the French Quarter, the hub of New Orleans. Bourbon Street is bustling, and General Manager Adelaide Fountaine has her hands full with a hotel at capacity. She, along with everyone else, is shocked when a body is found: a hotel guest stabbed with a kitchen knife.

Detective Beau Savoie, Adelaide’s childhood friend, is on the case. As Beau digs into the victim’s past, he unearths a shocking connection between Adelaide and the murdered guest. Beau is hurt that his friend—the woman he’s quietly loved for years—kept the truth from him. To make matters worse, the stress of the investigation has sent Adelaide right into the comforting arms of her coworker Dimitri. But Beau can’t press Adelaide too hard . . . he’s keeping secrets of his own.

Can Adelaide and Beau afford to hide from the truth with a killer on the loose?

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Read the introduction to Darkwater Secrets below:

From Lone Witness by Rachel Dylan: Guilty. That's the only possible verdict.

Book Review | Lone Witness (Atlanta Justice #2) by Rachel Dylan

Sophie Dawson is a prosecutor in the White Collar Crime Unit, working on financial fraud cases. It should be less dangerous than criminal prosecutions, and it is … until she witnesses a robbery that leaves two people dead, and identifies the perpetrator as the brother of one of the city’s gang leaders. And she’s the lone witness.

I really enjoyed Deadly Proof, the first book in Rachel Dylan’s Atlanta Justice series.

But I didn’t enjoy Lone Witness as much. I enjoyed the legal aspect from Sophie’s viewpoint, but did find the number of point of view characters distracting as it wasn’t obvious why I was seeing their side of the story.

And I wasn’t altogether convinced by the romance subplot—it all felt a little too contrived, rather than reading like a natural development. It wasn’t bad. It just wasn’t the standard I’d expected after reading Deadly Proof. I think that was partly the fault of the dialogue, which seemed a little too formal, too wooden, for characters who were supposed to be falling in love.

The legal thriller/suspense element to Lone Witness was well done.

The suspense is enhanced as the reader soon understands what Sophie and Cooper don’t know: that Sophie had two separate sets of enemies … and that the attacks on her life weren’t coming from where she and Cooper thought. There was a neat twist at the end of the story that I didn’t see coming, so that was well done.

I also enjoyed the legal aspects, which showcased the author’s own legal experience in Grisham-worthy courtroom scenes. Overall, I’m sure legal suspense fans will enjoy Lone Witness.

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

About Rachel Dylan

Author Photo - Rachel Dylan

Rachel Dylan was a litigator in one of the nation’s most elite law firms for over eight years and now works as an attorney at one of the Big Three automobile manufacturers. She is the author of four Love Inspired Suspense novels and lives in Michigan with her husband.

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About Lone Witness

Prosecutor Sophie Dawson’s first job in the White Collar division of the Fulton County D.A.’s office is to build a case against a local bank employee who may be cheating clients. But when circumstances beyond her control leave her as the only witness to a double homicide involving a vengeful gang, her world is turned upside down.

Former Atlanta police officer turned private security guard Cooper Knight is hired to ensure that Sophie is kept safe. But as threats escalate, they don’t know who they can trust.

Sophie is determined not to back down, but her bank case gets more complicated by the day, and the gang will stop at nothing to keep her from testifying. Sophie wants to take a stand for what’s right–but can Cooper, who is determined not to be distracted by their growing attraction, keep her safe so that she can finish her pursuit for justice?

You can find Lone Witness online at:

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Read the introduction to Lone Witness below: