Month: April 2016

Book Review: The Goodbye Bride by Denise Hunter

We all have bad days, but none of mine have been like Lucy Lovett’s bad day: waking up in a strange diner with no idea how she got there, wearing a wedding dress she doesn’t remember buying, and wearing white shoes she remembers not buying because they were so expensive.

Now, that’s a bad day.

Zac Callahan’s bad day starts when he gets a telephone call from ex-fiance Lucy Lovett, the woman who ran out on him with no explaination seven months ago, just weeks before their wedding. Now she wants to pick up their relationship where it left off, because she has no memory of the last seven months. No memory of dumping Zac.

There is something about amnesia stories which intrigues me, and The Goodbye Bride was certainly intriging. Why had Lucy left Zac? How had she got herself engaged to someone else so quickly? And why was she in the diner in her wedding dress, when surely she should have been actually getting married?

It takes a while, but we eventually discover the answers to all these questions as we watch the exquisitely awkward dance between Lucy and Zac: Lucy, whose most recent memory is being head over heels in love with Zac, and Zac, who has spent the last seven months trying to get over Lucy.

The Goodbye Bride is a romance, but it’s also a story of rediscovery and of healing, as one character explains:

“Our reactions don’t always seem rational, but they make perfect sense in light of our experiences.”

As we discover more of Lucy’s past, her actions and reactions do make sense, but will it be too late for her and Zac?

The Goodbye Bride is the second book in Denise Hunter’s Summer Harbor series.

I read the first, Falling Like Snowflakes, thought it was excellent, especially the way it set up the whole series. I had hoped this second book would be Riley’s story . . . now I’m hoping the next book, Just a Kiss will be.

Thanks to Thomas Nelson and NetGalley for providing a free ebook for review. This review previously appeared at Australasian Christian Writers.

What Are You Reading?

My picks of the top Christian fiction for April 2016

What Christian fiction have you been reading over the last month? And what are you planning to read in May? Here are my top Christian fiction picks for April 2016, and a quick look at some of the books I’m planning to read and review in May.

Top Christian fiction April 2016

The best novels I’ve read over the last month were:

Close to You by Kara Isaac (click here to read my review. My extremely biased because it’s set in New Zealand review)

On the Edge by Theresa Santy (click here to read my review)

Sit Stay Love by Dana Mentink (click here to read my review)

Like Never Before by Melissa Tagg (click here to read my review)

I’m looking forward to my May reads: I’ve got Dressed for Death, the latest in Julianna Deering’s 1930’s-era detective series (a must-read for fans of Agatha Christie), Someone Like You by Victoria Bylin (one of my new favourite authors), and Her One and Only (contemporary Christian romance from Becky Wade).

What were the best novels you read in April? And what are you planning to read in May?

Book Review: The Bridesmaid’s Hero by Narelle Atkins

Amazon Description

Serena Blaxland’s job at her parents’ B&B in Snowgum Creek, Australia, is only temporary. Sparks fly when hire car driver Harry Westmore saves the beautiful pastry chef from disrupting her sister’s wedding day, but the opportunity of a lifetime threatens to push them apart. Can Harry and Serena’s love and faith overcome the obstacles in their path?

My Review

Okay, I’m slow. I’d wondered why Bridesmaid’s Hero was part of a box set was called Love Blossoms. There was the obvious: that each of the seven stories had a flower or garden theme. But I’ve only just realised that it’s also around spring blossoms, because was published as the Northern Hemisphere was coming into spring. Duh. It’s high summer here. Spring is almost a year away.

Anyway . . .

The Bridesmaid’s Hero is a standalone story which is part of a series (although after reading it, you might just want to check out more in the series).

It was a fun Aussie story featuring two characters who have to decide if their attraction and common faith is enough to overcome the obstacles in their way. I did have to question the sanity and intelligence of one of the characters: surely no normal person would call a snake ‘pretty’! (However, it did provide the hero with an early opportunity to be a hero.

It’s a short story, but a fun easy read for a bright summer day (or a long winter night).

Thanks to Narelle Atkins for providing a free ebook for review. Disclosure: I edited Bridesmaid’s Hero, so there might be a slight element of bias in my review . . . This review previously appeared at Iola’s Christian Reads.

Remembering ANZAC Day

Next Monday, 25 April, is ANZAC Day.

It’s the day New Zealanders and Australians join together to commemorate all those who served in wars, conflicts and peacekeeping operations. Other countries have similar days of remembrance: the US have Memorial Day and Veteran’s Day, while the UK has Remembrance Day and Remembrance Sunday.

ANZAC Day is an important day for us. It’s a public holiday, and only essential services are allowed to be open. There are heavy fines for businesses who open on the morning of ANZAC Day: as a nation, we want everyone to be able to attend a commemoration service. No, not everyone does, but they can. ANZAC Day is also observed in Canada and many Pacific Island countries.

Australia and New Zealand chose this day specifically to commemorate the ill-fated Gallipoli campaign, which began at dawn on 25 April 1915, when the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps—the ANZACs—landed on the Gallipoli Peninsula in Turkey. It was the first major battle either country had been involved in which led to major casualties, and forged our identities as nations.

As I’ve done for the last five or six years, I will be awake, showered and dressed long before dawn. I’ll attend the Dawn Service in the grounds of the local Returned Services Association (RSA), wearing the green and black uniform of the local Brass Band, sitting front and centre and playing my tenor horn.

The Dawn Service is special.

We arrive while it’s still dark and watching the sun rise as the music plays and prayers are intoned. I’m always impressed by the number of families with children. Some wear medals that used to adorn the chest of their father, grandfather or perhaps great-grandfather. They wear these medals with pride, in memory of men they may never have met, men who have become legends for their service and sacrifice.

Also present are the legends themselves, men who fought in France, Crete, North Africa, Korea, Vietnam, the Falklands, Afghanistan. These men wear the medals they earned facing enemy fire under what were often horrific conditions.

There are no longer any veterans of Gallipoli with us, but we still meet at dawn on 25 April to remember and honour the men who served in that disastrous campaign. And we meet to honour those who served in subsequent wars in the Army, Navy, and Air Force, as well as those who served in the merchant navy to keep the home nations supplied and fed, and who were just at risk of being torpedoed or bombed as their army and navy counterparts.

The veterans and visitors sing as we play the God Save the Queen, the national anthems of Australia and New Zealand, and a hymn. I will be able to hear a pin drop when Peter, our lead cornet player, stands to play the Last Post, as we pay silent tribute to those who fought and died for freedom.

After the Dawn Service and a hot breakfast at the RSA, we’ll head to the civil service at the city’s official war memorial, Memorial Park. This service starts with a march, led by shuffling veterans who have fortified themselves at the RSA bar, followed by the cadet forces marching proudly, then groups such as the Boy Scouts and Girl Guides.

A group of Army, Navy and Air cadets will form the honour guard, standing to attention throughout the service. The choir will lead the congregation in singing hymns and the National Anthem. The band will play quietly as wreaths are laid by representatives from local community groups. An Army chaplain will pray for the fallen. Peter will play the Last Post again—still poignant, although not as spine-chilling as in the pre-dawn light of the Dawn Service. A student representative from one of the local high schools will read the famous poem, In Flanders Fields.

Everyone will be silent, as befits such a solemn occasion.

Another student, perhaps the Head Girl of one of the local high schools, will deliver a speech about what ANZAC Day means to her. She’ll be wearing the formal school uniform: tie, jacket, and stockings. She might mention a family connection to one or both World Wars, or possibly a later conflict. She will talk about freedom from oppression, and about innocent young men who travelled far from home and made the ultimate sacrifice, their lives in exchange for our freedom. She might even quote the Bible: For greater love has no man than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.

But her polished speech will miss the most important sacrifice: the sacrifice Jesus made on the cross for your sins and for mine. She will miss the end of the story of sacrifice: the victory Jesus gained through the resurrection. ANZAC Day without Jesus is like Good Friday without Easter Sunday.

It’s only half the story.

ANZAC Day is important. It’s a time to come together as a community and remember those who have gone before, those who gave their lives that we might live. But it’s more than a commemoration of sacrifice.

It’s the story of victory.

Lest we forget.

Book Review: Turnabout’s Fair Play by Kaye Dacus

As I am not an American, I had never heard of author (Mary) Flannery O’Connor, for whom the heroine of this novel is named (to the heroine’s continued annoyance). Apparently, O’Connor is a famous American author whose works are frequently studied by high school and college students. There, so I learnt something from reading a Christian romance novel!

Flannery MacNeill is a 30-something Christian fiction editor for a small publisher in Tennessee. She is feeling somewhat depressed because one of her best friends is about to get married, the other is engaged, and she is afraid that they will both have personality changes and no longer want to maintain the relationship once they marry. However, her friends would like to introduce her to some nice young men. Just as long as they don’t suggest Jamie O’Connor, the wedding usher and a gorgeous, overconfident Sports Marketing executive…

Jamie O’Connor is up for promotion to Sports Marketing Director at the Nashville advertising agency where he works – or so he thinks. A shock announcement forces him to rethink his career and his life, and he realises that fitting in with the boys at work may have meant that he has moved away from the person he really is, like the friends he used to have and the secret he is at pains to hide… Meanwhile, the grandmother who raised him is trying to marry him off, and that Flannery MacNeill seems like a good candidate, particularly when she is accompanied by her extremely attractive grandfather…

I really enjoyed Turnabout’s Fair Play – so much so that I read it twice, back-to-back.

I liked the interaction and friendly banter between the hero and heroine, I liked the way the hero and heroine had so much in common, I liked the way their ‘secrets’ came out as a natural part of the relationship so there was no dreading ‘big misunderstanding, I liked the way that their faith was woven into the plot without making a big deal about it, and I liked the way that the story did not just revolve around the hero and heroine, but had a very satisfying secondary romance as well as some real relationships with friends and family (good and not-so-good).

Only one thing was missing – the recipe for the Parmesan Smashed Red Potatoes that Jamie loved. I can live without the accompanying corned beef and cabbage, but those potatoes sounded good!

Although Turnabout’s Fair Play is the third in The Matchmakers series (following Love Remains and The Art of Romance), it can easily be read as a standalone novel.

Kaye Dacus was nominated for the 2010 Christy Award (Contemporary Romance) for her novel, Stand-in Groom .  This is now on my Wish List, and I look forward to reading Dacus’s backlist (including the first two in The Matchmakers series).  The 2010 Christy Award was actually won by Diann Mills for Breach of Trust, which I have previously mentioned as one of my favourite novels – so to come second behind Mills is no mean feat!

Thanks to Barbour and NetGalley for providing a free ebook for review. This review was previously published at Iola’s Christian Reads.