Category: Book Review

It is in tackling the new and the scary that we become who we are meant to be.

Book Review | A Desperate Hope by Elizabeth Camden

Alex Duval has the dubious honour of being mayor of a town that’s about to disappear.

New York needs water, which means New York needs a reservoir. That new reservoir will flood Alex’s town in the near future. Sure, the State Water Board is offering compensation, but that doesn’t change the fact that two hundred years of family and town history will soon be buried at the bottom of a lake.

So Alex is less than impressed when a team arrives to survey the land and assess the buildings for compensation. He’s even less impressed when he realises the accountant who will determine how much the government will pay for each house is his first love, Eloise, who he hasn’t heard from in ten years despite his efforts.

Eloise isn’t exactly happy to be in town either, especially when she realises Alex is still there. She has no desire to be party to the destruction of this town, but it’s her job. Yet as she gets to know the town—and the townspeople—she wants things to be different.

Elizabeth Camden’s novels never fail to impress me, and A Desperate Hope is no exception.

As with her earlier novels, it combines complex characters with an intricate plot that incorporates an intriguing aspect of history, and a suspense element. This series has focussed on one of the major challenges of industrialisation: water.

The first book looked at some of the innovations in indoor plumbing. You might not think of plumbing as fascinating, but Elizabeth Camden turned it into a riveting read. Another looked at the importance of clean water, and the scientific battle between filtration and chemical treatment. Both were a combination of good fiction with intriguing historical detail, and a woman in a non-traditional occupation.

A Desperate Hope is the same. There is a problem, but solving that problem is going to take some innovative engineering thinking … and I don’t want to say more, because that would be a spoiler.

I recommend A Desperate Hope to all historical fiction fans, whether they’ve read the earlier books in the series (A Dangerous Legacy and A Daring Venture) or not.

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

About Elizabeth Camden

Elizabeth Camden is a research librarian at a small college in central Florida. Her novels have won the coveted RITA and Christy Awards. She has published several articles for academic publications and is the author of four nonfiction history books. Her ongoing fascination with history and love of literature have led her to write inspirational fiction. Elizabeth lives with her husband near Orlando, Florida.

Find Elizabeth Camden online at:

Website | Facebook

About A Desperate Hope

Eloise Drake’s prim demeanor hides the turbulent past she’s finally put behind her–or so she thinks. A mathematical genius, she’s now a successful accountant for the largest engineering project in 1908 New York. But to her dismay, her new position puts her back in the path of the man responsible for her deepest heartbreak.

Alex Duval is the mayor of a town about to be wiped off the map. The state plans to flood the entire valley where his town sits in order to build a new reservoir, and Alex is stunned to discover the woman he once loved on the team charged with the demolition. With his world crumbling around him, Alex devises a risky plan to save his town–but he needs Eloise’s help to succeed.

Alex is determined to win back the woman he thought he’d lost forever, but even their combined ingenuity may not be enough to overcome the odds against them before it’s too late.

You can find A Desperate Hope online at:

Amazon | ChristianBook | Goodreads

You can read the introduction to A Desperate Hope at:

A lot of people don't like progress, specifically the idea of women being in charge and creating their own success.

Book Review | An Agent for Belle by Nerys Leigh

Isabelle Wood has left home to avoid being forced to marry.

Instead, she’s joined the Pinkerton Detective Agency as one of their new wave of female agents. But the letter offering her employment missed out one vital detail: that she will be required to enter into a marriage of convenience as part of her first training assignment.

(Yes, this is pretty far-fetched, but it does illustrate something I’ve recently realised about good fiction: if you’re going to ask your reader to buy into some far-fetched idea or coincidence, introduce it in Chapter One. Or on page one. Because then anyone who can’t buy into the idea will stop reading. Those of us who think it sounds like fun will keep reading and forgive the unbelievable set-up.)

Belle’s new husband is equally unenthusiastic about the idea. His idea of a good marriage is one he’s not part of.

Anyway, Belle and Val (yes, the hero is Valentine) are sent to Cheyenne to save a burlesque show from being sabotaged. But they’ll have to work undercover, which means Belle gets a job as a dancer (complete with what she considers to be an inappropriate costume), while Val hires on as a stage hand (which involves more manual work than he’s used to).

An Agent for Belle was a quick and enjoyable read.

I especially enjoyed the sassy and witty dialogue, and the scenes where Belle gets one up on Val. He has occasional male chauvinist tendencies (he’s a man of his time—the 1870s), but Belle wastes no time in putting him in his place and demonstrating that she does have an aptitude for investigative work … among other things.

It was fun to watch two people who were actively against marriage fall for each other, especially given how reluctant they were to admit it. It’s also a story of women ahead of their time, from Belle the Pinkerton agent to Maria, who is a savvy businesswoman who just happens to manage and lead a troupe of burlesque dancers.

Overall, the story has a great mix of romance and suspense, all pitched against an intriguing yet fun concept, and with lots of great lines. Recommended for fans of historical westerns.

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

About Nerys Leigh

Nerys LeighNerys Leigh writes thoroughly romantic Christian historical love stories. She loves heroes who are strong but sweet and heroines who are willing to fight for the life they want.

She’s from the UK, which you would think puts her in a unique position to not write about mail order brides in the American west, but the old adage of writing what you know has never appealed to her. She has an actual American read each book before publishing to make sure she hasn’t gone all English on it.

No One’s Bride is the first in the Escape to the West series which tells the stories of a group of women willing to travel across America to find happiness, and the men determined to win their hearts.

You can find Nerys Leigh online at:

Website | Facebook

About An Agent for Belle

Marriage is the last thing Belle wants, but she’ll have to get married to avoid it.

When Isabelle Wood answers a newspaper advertisement for female Pinkerton detectives, it seems the perfect way to avoid her parents’ desire for her to wed… until she discovers she has to marry her training agent for the duration of her first case.

It would be easier if her temporary husband, Valentine Stevens, wasn’t so ridiculously charming and attractive. But all they have to do is stop whoever is sabotaging a burlesque show in Cheyenne, and then she can go back to being happily unattached. Surely she can resist temptation for that long.

But with criminals on the loose, the glamorous lead actress taking an interest in Val, and a hefty dose of stage fright, Belle’s first case is going to be far from easy.

Find An Agent for Belle online at:

Amazon US | Amazon AU | ChristianBook | Koorong

Read the introduction to An Agent for Belle below:

Quote from The Making of Mrs Hale by Carolyn Miller: Unforgiveness is a poison that shrivels the heart. It means a person cannot truly live in the present as they're always thinking about the past.

#ThrowbackThursday | The Making of Mrs Hale by Carolyn Miller

It’s Throwback Thursday! Today I’m resharing my review of The Making of Mrs Hale, the final book in Carolyn Miller’s Regency Brides: A Promise of Hope series (and my personal favourite in that series). Even better, the first book in her new series releases this week: A Hero for Miss Hatherleigh. I’m looking forward to reading it soon!
This review previously appeared at Australasian Christian Writers.

We first met Julia Hale in Winning Miss Winthrop, when Julia ran away to Gretna Green to marry Thomas Hale in defiance of her family’s wishes.

But, as the old saying goes, “Marry in haste; repent at leisure.”

Julia is left destitute after her husband disappears. Six months later, she has sold everything she can and has no choice but to return to her friends and family in London and ask for help. They are pleased to welcome her home, believing she is either an abandoned wife or (possibly) a widow. They are less pleased when Thomas Hale returns home …

This means The Making of Mrs Hale follows one of the lesser-used romance tropes: a married couple falling in love. Or perhaps they are rediscovering their love, as Julia clearly still has feelings towards Thomas and vice versa. But Julia has to fight to keep what she has—a marriage to a man she loves.

There is also an exciting suspense thread. Thomas is concerned his ending up in a Spanish prison may not have been an accident. This threatens him, Julia, and their attempts to rebuild their relationship while surrounded by disapproving family members.

I have always been a big Regency romance fan, and Carolyn Miller has established herself as a leading author in the Christian Regency genre. Her research is spot on, yet never gets in the way of the story (I wish this was universal, but I find there are more authors who think they can write authentic Regency than actually can).

In contrast, Carolyn Miller consistently comes up with realistic yet detailed plots.

She fills her novels with realistic, complex characters facing issues that are true to the historic period, yet resonate with modern readers. Her novels are also definitely (and perhaps defiantly) Christian. They’re not just “clean”. Her characters are forced to evaluate themselves and their relationship with God, which is a refreshing contrast to a lot of the fiction being published by CBA publishers. Overall, I recommend Carolyn Miller and The Making of Miss Hale to anyone looking for genuine Christian Regency fiction.

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

About Carolyn Miller

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

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

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

Find Carolyn Miller online at:

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About The Making of Mrs Hale

Marry in haste, repent in leisure—Mrs. Hale is about to find out how painful that repentance can truly be.

Julia Hale ran off to be married in Gretna Green, following romance instead of common sense. But her tale isn’t turning into a happily ever after. Her new husband is gone and she doesn’t know where—or if he’s ever coming back. Julia has no option but to head home to the family she betrayed by eloping and to hope they’ll forgive her. Especially now that she might be carrying a baby from her brief marriage.

Carolyn Miller’s clean and wholesome Regency romances continue with The Making of Mrs. Hale, following familiar characters as they learn how restoration can occur by finding hope and healing through a deep relationship with God. Full of rich historical details and witty banter, this series continues to draw in fans of Jane Austen, Sarah Ladd, and Julie Klassen.

You can find The Making of Mrs Hale online at:

Amazon | ChristianBook | Goodreads | Koorong

Read the introduction to The Making of Mrs Hale below:

Click here to find The Making of Mrs Hale and other great books in my Amazon shop!

Circumstances aren't ours to control. It is only faith, belief in what cannot be fully known or understood, that truly saves.

Book Review | Convergence by Ginny Yttrup

It’s been a while since I’ve read a Ginny Yttrup book and her previous books were all straight women’s fiction, so it was a surprise to pick up Convergence and find it’s suspense. A good surprise, mind you!

Convergence opens with an unnamed woman taking her first tandem skydive. Except someone is watching …

The story then flips to January 2017, as Denilyn Rossi is heading to work—she’s the department chair of psychology at Pacific Covenant University in California. Deni is also a published author, although the success of her first book destroyed her marriage. She’s now been asked to write a second book

It’s not clear whether Chapter One is before or after the Prologue, which is kind of the point—the timeline skips forward and back, back and forward, until it all converges in the present (hence the title). We then skip eight years back in time, to 2009. We don’t know why, but we already know this is significant. The we’re back in 2017, but in the head of another character—Adelia Sanchez. And on it goes.

Convergence is a story that unwinds and reveals layers and secrets as you read.

It breaks several of the rules of writing (don’t start with a prologue is just the first). But the whole plot—and the secrets—are unravelled in such a way they pulled me right in. What is the significance of January 9th? What happened eight years ago? How did Deni get that scar on her head? Why is her friend and colleague, Ryan, so worried about her?

I don’t want to say too much more because *spoilers*.

Just believe me when I say this is an excellent novel, one with unexpected twists and turns and surprises (and it’s hard to surprise me). The plot is complex without being convoluted, the characters are believable, and the writing is top notch. All in all, it’s a great suspense read.

You know how sometimes when you finish a novel it’s so good that you want to muse on it for a few days rather than starting another book? This is one of those novels. Recommended.

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

About Ginny Yttrup

Ginny YttrupGinny L. Yttrup is the award-winning author of Words, Lost and Found, Invisible, Flames, and Home which released April 1, 2017. She writes contemporary women’s fiction and enjoys exploring the issues everyday women face. Publishers Weekly dubbed Ginny’s work “as inspiring as it is entertaining.” When not writing, Ginny coaches writers, critiques manuscripts, and makes vintage-style jewelry for her Esty shop, Storied Jewelry. She loves dining with friends, hanging out with her adult sons, or spending a day in her pajamas reading a great novel. Ginny lives in northern California with Bear, The Entitled Pomeranian.

You can find Ginny Yttrup online at:

Website | Facebook | Instagram | Twitter

About Convergence:

A psychologist paralyzed by fear. A mother propelled by love. A stalker bent on destruction.

Psychology professor Dr. Denilyn Rossi contends that the past is either a shadow that haunts us or a force that propels us. The choice is ours, she tells her students. What she doesn’t tell them is that her own past is a shadow she can’t seem to shake. Fear has immobilized her and is taking a costly toll.

Adelia Sanchez, however, has embraced Dr. Rossi’s teaching. She is ready to confront fear and render it powerless—using the trauma of her past to propel her to entrap the man who stalked and brutally attacked her.

As Denilyn’s past and Adelia’s present converge at the Kaweah River, a dangerous man bent on destruction threatens them both. Will he uncover the secret Deni and Adelia have fought so hard to protect?

Find Convergence online at:

Amazon US | Amazon AU | ChristianReads | Goodreads | Koorong

 

#ThrowbackThursday | Missing Isaac by Valerie Fraser Luesse

It’s Throwback Thursday, and today I’m sharing my January 2018 review of Missing Isaac by Valerie Fraser Luesse. It was an outstanding debut novel from this Southern author, and I’m looking forward to reading and reviewing her second novel, Almost Home, which releases this week.

Valerie Fraser Luesse’s writing style runs counter to some modern conventions.

She uses dialect and non-standard spelling. There are unnecessary adverbs and repetition. The dialgoue tags are often clunky. The point of view is often distant, and slips into omniscient at times.

Yet Missing Isaac works despite these “errors”. Or perhaps because of them.

When Pete’s father dies in a farm accident, Pete’s relationship with Isaac is the one thing that keeps him going. It didn’t matter that Isaac was only a field hand, or that he was black—even in 1960’s Alabama.

But when Isaac disappears, leaving only his truck, no one seems much inclined to find out what happened. Except Pete.

Missing Isaac doesn’t fall neatly into any one genre. It’s part mystery, as Pete tries to find the truth of what happened to Isaac. It’s part family saga, as Pete grows up, and part romance, as he meets Dovey. And it’s part historical fiction, in that it’s a story set in a time far removed from ours, in terms of culture and attitude, if not years.

The writing is strong, with a unique and lyrical style, and a lot of home truths. This line struck me as particularly relevant:

Quote from Missing Isaac

It’s Dovey talking to Pete—the privileged white boy/man who doesn’t understand his privilege because it’s all he’s ever known. It could equally be talking to those in the modern world who don’t understand why #MeToo or #BlackLivesMatter are newsworthy.

Missing Isaac is a strong debut novel, with a solid story driven by strong characters and set in a time of great social change. Recommended.

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

About Valerie Fraser Luesse

Valerie Fraser Luesse is an award-winning magazine writer best known for her feature stories and essays in Southern Living, where she is currently a senior travel editor. Her work has been anthologized in the audio collection Southern Voices and in A Glimpse of Heaven, an essay collection featuring works by C. S. Lewis, Randy Alcorn, John Wesley, and others.

As a freelance writer and editor, she was the lead writer for Southern Living 50 Years: A Celebration of People, Places, and Culture. Specializing in stories about unique pockets of Southern culture, Luesse has published major pieces on the Gulf Coast, the Mississippi Delta, Louisiana’s Acadian Prairie, and the Outer Banks of North Carolina. Her editorial section on Hurricane Katrina recovery in Mississippi and Louisiana won the 2009 Writer of the Year award from the Southeast Tourism Society.

Luesse earned her bachelor’s degree in English at Auburn University in Auburn, Alabama, and her master’s degree in English at Baylor University in Waco, Texas. She grew up in Harpersville, Alabama, a rural community in Shelby County, and now lives in Birmingham.

About Missing Isaac

There was another South in the 1960s, one far removed from the marches and bombings and turmoil in the streets that were broadcast on the evening news. It was a place of inner turmoil, where ordinary people struggled to right themselves on a social landscape that was dramatically shifting beneath their feet. This is the world of Valerie Fraser Luesse’s stunning debut, Missing Isaac.

It is 1965 when black field hand Isaac Reynolds goes missing from the tiny, unassuming town of Glory, Alabama. The townspeople’s reactions range from concern to indifference, but one boy will stop at nothing to find out what happened to his unlikely friend. White, wealthy, and fatherless, young Pete McLean has nothing to gain and everything to lose in his relentless search for Isaac.

In the process, he will discover much more than he bargained for. Before it’s all over, Pete–and the people he loves most–will have to blur the hard lines of race, class, and religion. And what they discover about themselves may change some of them forever.

Find Missing Isaac online at:

Amazon | ChristianBook | Goodreads | Koorong 

Read the introduction to Missing Isaac below:

Click here to find Missing Isaac and other great Christian fiction at my Amazon store!

New Releases in Christian Fiction

New Releases in Christian Fiction | March 2019

It’s March (already!), which means it’s time for the new releases from American Christian Fiction Writers. More in-depth descriptions of these books can be found on the ACFW Fiction Finder website.

Children’s Fiction

The Case of the Missing Firehouse Dog by Daphne Self — Majesty, the firehouse dog, is missing. Willie and Jax are on the case to discover who is the dognapping culprit. Could it be their neighbor, Mr. Applebee? Or maybe it is Ms. Thornton? Join the Pintail Duo, Wilhelmina van der Coup and Jackson Barnaby, as they follow the clues to rescue Majesty in The Case of the Missing Firehouse Dog. (Children’s from Ambassador International)

Contemporary Romance

When He Found Me by Victoria Bylin — With his career and faith in tatters, a disillusioned baseball player falls for an optimistic single mom secretly battling cervical cancer. (Contemporary Romance, Independently Published)

I’ve read this one already, and will be reviewing it soon. Recommended for those looking for contemporary Christian romance with a realistic edge.

His Secret Daughter by Lisa Carter — He just found out he’s a father… But is he ready to be a dad? When veteran Jake McAbee learns he has a daughter, he’s determined to raise the adorable toddler. But Maisie’s foster mom, Callie Jackson, insists Jake stay at her orchard until he’s prepared for fatherhood. While Jake and Maisie bond, the trio begins to feel like family. Could the best home for Maisie be the one Jake and Callie create together? (Contemporary Romance from Love Inspired [Harlequin])

Finding Love on Whidbey Island, Washington by Annette M. Irby — Liberty Winfield lives with loss every day. She’d rather leave her history behind her, but when faced with moving back to her hometown, the past becomes unavoidable. She takes a job at the florist shop owned by her ex-boyfriend’s family from a decade ago. Now he’s unavoidable. Clay Garrison knows the pain of ruing his mistakes. Most of his regrets center around Liberty. If he could undo his poor choices, he would. Liberty is back. He has one more chance to make things right. She doesn’t believe anyone could love her unconditionally, so he sets out to prove her wrong. He must also try to right the biggest wrong of their past, knowing that in doing so, he could lose her forever. (Contemporary Romance from Mountain Brook Ink)

Her Colorado Cowboy by Mindy Obenhaus — Lily Davis agrees to take her children riding…despite her fear of horses. But now widowed cowboy Noah Stephens is determined to help her get comfortable in the saddle. And, at her children’s insistence, Lily finds herself promoting his rodeo school. As Noah and Lily work together, will Noah continue to shield his heart…or can they discover a love that conquers both their fears? (Contemporary Romance from Love Inspired [Harlequin])

Her Last Chance Cowboy by Tina Radcliffe — When pregnant single mother Hannah Vincent shows up professing to be the half sister of the Maxwells of Big Heart Ranch, horse trainer Tripp Walker is wary. Wounded before, he doesn’t trust easily. If only Hannah and her feisty five-year-old daughter weren’t so impossible to resist. Now, despite his doubts, joining this little family is quickly becoming the cautious cowboy’s greatest wish. (Contemporary Romance, Independently Published)

Buried Mountain Secrets by Terri Reed — Desperate to find her missing teenage brother, Maya Gallo ventures into the Colorado Rockies expecting rough terrain–not deadly treasure hunters. But when she’s caught in their crosshairs, rudely handsome mounted patrolman Alex Trevino come to her aid. The deputy sheriff knows what these bandits are capable of, so getting Maya–and her brother–home safely may be his hardest mission yet. (Contemporary Romance from Love Inspired [Harlequin])

Mystery

Like a Tree by Danny & Wanda Pelfrey — The movie making industry spreading across Georgia has finally made its way to the little foothill village of Adairsville. Bookseller and police chaplain Davis Morgan along with a young female clerk discover the body of a member of the movie company on a historic site at the foot of a large oak tree. Davis despite his promise to his wife cannot resist investigating the mystery. He and his young friend, policeman Charley Nelson, quietly dig into the case even though it is officially under the jurisdiction of the county sheriff. There is no shortage of suspects: the mysterious red headed man, sister of the victim, the fiancée and others. During the investigation an already troubled Charley is framed for a drug crime, and Davis receives word that an old enemy is on his way to Georgia after escaping from prison to make good a threat against him. Late one afternoon it comes to an astounding conclusion beneath the same sprawling oak where it all started. (Cozy Mystery from CrossLink)

General Fiction

Within This Circle by Deborah Raney — After a tumultuous courtship, John and Julia Brighton have a second chance at happiness! With tragedy behind them and their children grown, they’re looking forward to a new and promising era in their lives. Only, such a promise is never guaranteed. And life can change in a moment. The Brightons’ lives are turned upside down when John’s daughter Jana abandons her husband, Mark, and three-year-old daughter. John and Julia reach out to young Ellie, to give the young couple time to heal, but how can they help this child, so confused and longing for Mommy? And how much sorrow and stress can both fledgling marriages endure? (General Contemporary from Raney Day Press)

Grace & Lavender by Heather Norman Smith — Recently retired Colleen Hill is always busy, constantly on a quest to make life more interesting. When the ladies’ group at her church partners with the local children’s home, Colleen jumps in as usual, volunteering to share her passion for cooking with a troubled teenager named Grace. Colleen must balance the new project with her pursuit of becoming a contestant on a television game show, along with all the other ideas her brain continually spins out. Colleen’s daughter Melody is quite different. She lives a calm, simple life and is content with who she is. That is, until an unexpected opportunity to work with Grace, too, pushes her to reevaluate life and dare to take on bigger dreams. The path starts with a newly-found interest in soap-making and leads her to responsibilities she didn’t even know she wanted. (General Contemporary from Ambassador International)

Historical Romance

The Erie Canal Brides Collection by Johnnie Alexander, Lauralee Bliss, Ramona K. Cecil, Rita Gerlach, Sherri Wilson Johnson, Rose Allen McCauley, Christina Miller — Completed in 1825, the Erie Canal connected the Great Lakes to the Hudson River, and soon other states like Ohio created canals linking Lake Erie to the Ohio River. Suddenly the Midwest was open to migration, the harvesting of resources, and even tourism. Join seven couples who live through the rise of the canals and the problems the waterways brought to each community, including land grabs, disease, tourists, racism, and competition. Can these couples hang on to their faith and develop love during times of intense change? (Historical Romance from Barbour Publishing)

This Daring Journey by Misty M. Beller — The only hope to keep her newborn baby alive is to reach the safety of her Indian people… This mountain man is the last person she should trust to get her there. (Historical Romance, Independently Published)

The Far Side of the Sea by Kate Breslin — In spring of 1918, Lieutenant Colin Mabry, a British soldier working with MI8 after suffering injuries at the front, receives an unexpected message by carrier pigeon: it is an urgent summons from Jewel Reyer, the woman he once loved and who saved his life—a woman he believed to be dead. Leaving Britain’s shores to return into war-torn France, he hopes his reunion with her will ease his guilt and this mission restore the courage he lost on the battlefield. Colin is stunned when he arrives in Paris to discover the message came not from Jewel, but from a stranger who claims to be her half sister, Johanna. Johanna works at a dovecote for French Army Intelligence; having found Jewel’s diary, she believes her sister is alive and in the custody of a German agent. With spies everywhere, Colin is at first skeptical of Johanna, but as they travel across France and Spain, a tentative trust begins to grow between them. When their pursuit leads them straight into the midst of a treacherous plot, however, that trust is at stake, as danger and deception turn their search for answers into a battle for their lives. (Historical Romance from Bethany House [Baker])

A Tender Hope by Amanda Cabot — As far as Thea Michener is concerned, it’s time for a change. Her husband murdered and her much-anticipated baby stillborn, there is nothing left for her in Ladreville. Having accepted a position as Cimarron Creek’s midwife, she has no intention of remarrying and trying for another child. So when a handsome Texas Ranger appears on her doorstep with an abandoned baby, Thea isn’t sure her heart can take it. Ranger Jackson Guthrie isn’t concerned only with the baby’s welfare. He’s been looking for Thea, convinced that her late husband was part of the gang that killed his brother. But it soon becomes clear that the situation is far more complicated than he anticipated — and that he’ll need Thea’s help if he’s ever to find the justice he seeks. (Historical Romance from Revell – A Division of Baker Publishing Group)

The Unexpected Champion by Mary Connealy — City dweller John McCall never expected to be out in the High Sierras of 1868 on a wild-goose chase to find the Chiltons’ supposedly lost grandson. But now that he’s out here, things have gotten even more complicated, mostly due to wildcat Penny Scott. She’s not like any woman he’s ever met–comfortable in the woods, with a horse, and with a gun. When Penny and John are taken against their will by a shadowy figure looking for evidence they don’t have, both realize they’ve stumbled into something dangerous and complicated. With their friends and family desperately searching for them, Penny and John must make a daring escape. When they emerge back into the real world, they are confronted with a kidnapper who just won’t stop. They must bring a powerful, ruthless man to justice, even as this city man and country woman fight a very inconvenient attraction to each other. (Historical Romance from Bethany House [Baker])

To Win Her Heart by Candee Fick — Despite Emma Richards’ fanciful dreams growing up in the shadow of King Arthur’s castle and the manor on the cliff, the orphan is now trapped inland serving her wealthy cousins with no hope for her own future. Sir Grayson Wentworth spent his years at Cambridge dreaming of the Cornwall coast and wishing he could return to the happy days of his youth. Called home to his father’s deathbed, the young baron soon learns he has inherited a title, a neglected estate, and a betrothal agreement he knew nothing about. When the new Lord Danvers travels to execute the last matters of his father’s will, he finds himself promised to one woman and falling for another. Can he keep his vow to find a wife and win her heart? Or will honor be sacrificed in the name of love? (Historical Romance, Independently Published)

The White City by Grace Hitchcock — While attending the Chicago World’s Fair in 1893, Winnifred Wylde believes she witnessed a woman being kidnapped. She tries to convince her father, an inspector with the Chicago police, to look into reports of mysterious disappearances around the White City. Inspector Wylde tries to dismiss her claims as exaggeration of an overactive imagination, but he eventually concedes to letting her go undercover as secretary to the man in question—if she takes her pistol for protection and Ian Thorpe, a policeman, for bodyguard. Will she be able to expose H. H. Holmes’s illicit activity, or will Winnifred become his next victim? (Historical Romance from Barbour Publishing)

I keep seeing this cover, and now I’ve read the description I definitely want to read it!

The Highest of Hopes by Susan Anne Mason — After her beloved grandfather’s death, Emmaline Moore is shocked to discover that her “deceased” father is actually living in Canada. Having no other family, Emma decides she must find him, and so embarks on a journey across the ocean, accompanied by her best friend, Jonathan. Unfortunately, Randall Moore and his well-to-do family aren’t thrilled by her arrival, fearing her sudden appearance will hinder his chance at becoming mayor of Toronto in 1919. Despite everything, Emma remains determined to earn their affection. Jonathan Rowe has secretly loved Emma for years and hopes that during their trip he can win her heart. Concerned that Randall might reject her, Jonathan is ready to console Emma and bring her home. When she informs him that she has no intention of returning to England, Jonathan begins to despair. Can he convince Emma to find value within herself rather than seeking it from a virtual stranger? And will she ever come to see that Jonathan is her true home? (Historical Romance from Bethany House [Baker])

Katelyn’s Choice by Susan G Mathis — Katelyn Kavanagh serves the famous George Pullman and President Grant in the enchanting Thousand Islands. Yet the transition proves anything but easy when she falls in love and can’t tame her gossiping tongue. (Historical Romance from Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas)

A Hero for Miss Hatherleigh by Carolyn Miller — Can a very proper young lady of noble birth find love with a mysterious, fossil-hunting scientist in the smuggler-plagued coasts of Devon, England? (Historical Romance from Kregel Publications)

I love Carolyn Miller’s Regency romances, so I’m looking forward to reading this. And it’s another beautiful cover!

Sand Creek Serenade by Jennifer Uhlarik — Dr. Sadie Hoppner is called upon to nurse the gunshot wound of Cheyenne brave Five Kills after tensions erupt between the braves and the soldiers at Fort Lyon. Even as Sadie and Five Kills form an unlikely bond, danger threatens the fragile treaty that ensures peace for both their people…and their hearts. (Historical Romance from Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas)

What’s on your to-read pile for March?

People are missing out on life not because they can't achieve their dreams, but because they're forced to live someone else's.

Book Review | The Baggage Handler by David Rawlings

The Baggage Handler is a curious story. It’s short, and covers a timespan of mere hours. It’s more like three intertwined (longish) short stories than a typical novel.

But don’t let that fool you into thinking it’s shallow. It’s not.

The story centres around three passengers who each pick up the wrong suitcase after a flight. Chaos naturally ensues, as they each have items in their luggage they need for the day. Each contacts the airline, and is directed to return to the airport.

There they meet with the Baggage Handler, and find it’s not simply a case of swapping luggage. They each have baggage, and are challenged to deal with it rather than continue carrying it. Each of the three has unique baggage, but also baggage we can all relate to, so it’s interesting to read their reactions.

The Baggage Handler puts a modern twist on well-known allegories, relating ancient yet relevant truths. The writing style is similar to authors such as James L Rubart or Billy Coffey. Rawlings is a strong writer and has woven some deep life and spiritual truths into three universal stories.

The Baggage Handler is a strong debut novel and would make a great book club read.

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

About David Rawlings

David RawlingsDavid Rawlings is an Australian author, and a sports-mad father-of-three who loves humor and a clever turn-of-phrase.

Over a 25-year career he has put words on the page to put food on the table, developing from sports journalism and copywriting to corporate communication.

Now in fiction, he entices readers to look deeper into life with stories that combine the everyday with a sense of the speculative, addressing the fundamental questions we all face. That starts with his debut novel – The Baggage Handler – a contemporary story that explores one question: What baggage are you carrying?

Find David Rawlings online at:

Website | Facebook | Instagram | Twitter

About The Baggage Handler

When three people take the wrong suitcase from baggage claim, their lives change forever.

A hothead businessman coming to the city for a showdown meeting to save his job.

A mother of three hoping to survive the days at her sister’s house before her niece’s wedding.

And a young artist pursuing his father’s dream so he can keep his own alive.

When David, Gillian, and Michael each take the wrong suitcase from baggage claim, the airline directs them to retrieve their bags at a mysterious facility in a deserted part of the city. There they meet the enigmatic Baggage Handler, who shows them there is more in their baggage than what they have packed, and carrying it with them is slowing them down in ways they can’t imagine. And they must deal with it before they can leave.

In this modern-day parable about the burdens that weigh us down, David Rawlings issues an inspiring invitation to lighten the load.

Find The Baggage Handler online at:

Amazon US | Amazon AU | ChristianBook | Goodreads | Koorong

Book Review | Sons of Blackbird Mountain by Joanne Bischof

Aven was born in Ireland, married from the workhouse, widowed in Norway, and has now arrived in Blackbird Mountain, Virginia, to the only family she has left—even though it’s a distant link. She to find Aunt Dorothe is dead and “the boys”—Dorothea’s beloved nephews—are full grown men. Jorgan, the oldest, is betrothed. Thor, the middle brother, is Deaf. And Haakon, the youngest is full of fun. These are the three Sons of Blackbird Mountain.

The brothers invite Aven to stay—although she doesn’t have many options. She wonders if she’s made the right decision after the family receives a late-night visit from the neighbours. It appears the Klan don’t like Thor’s habit of hiring Negroes, even if they are the hardest workers. Despite the neighbours, Aven is becoming attached to the family, and especially to Thor.

One of the most interesting aspects of Sons of Blackbird Mountain was the character of Thor.

Thor has been Deaf since birth. He reads lips, and communicates through American Sign Language (ASL), and through writing notes. It’s fascinating to read this insight into Deaf life and culture in a time gone by. Thor is interesting for another reason: he’s in charge of the family cidery, brewing beverages that keep the family in fine style.

And he’s an alcoholic.

That’s an issue for Aven, because her late husband was an alcoholic, and it killed him. She’s initially afraid of Thor, but soon learns to trust him. But not completely. Not while he’s dependent on alcohol.

So Sons of Blackbird Mountain has plenty of conflict, and plenty of issues for the characters to deal with. It’s a gripping read with fascinating and original characters, and plenty of emotion. The writing is strong, although Bischof does have this weird habit of using odd sentence fragments—something I love in contemporary fiction, but which feels out of place in a historical novel. But that’s a minor niggle in an otherwise strong novel.

Overall, I recommend Sons of Blackbird Mountain for historical fiction lovers, especially those who like reading about small mountain communities.

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

About Joanne Bischof

Joanne Bischof is an ACFW Carol Award and ECPA Christy Award-winning author. She writes deeply layered fiction that tugs at the heartstrings. She was honored to receive the San Diego Christian Writers Guild Novel of the Year Award in 2014 and in 2015 was named Author of the Year by the Mount Hermon conference.

Joanne’s 2016 novel, The Lady and the Lionheart, received an extraordinary 5 Star TOP PICK! from RT Book Reviews, among other critical acclaim. She lives in the mountains of Southern California with her three children.

You can find Joanne Bischof online at:

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About Sons of Blackbird Mountain

A Tale of Family, Brotherhood, and the Healing Power of Love

After the tragic death of her husband, Aven Norgaard is beckoned to give up her life in Norway to become a housekeeper in the rugged hills of nineteenth-century Appalachia. Upon arrival, she finds herself in the home of her late husband’s cousins—three brothers who make a living by brewing hard cider on their three-hundred-acre farm. Yet even as a stranger in a foreign land, Aven has hope to build a new life in this tight-knit family.

But her unassuming beauty disrupts the bond between the brothers. The youngest two both desire her hand, and Aven is caught in the middle, unsure where—and whether—to offer her affection. While Haakon is bold and passionate, it is Thor who casts the greatest spell upon her. Though Deaf, mute, and dependent on hard drink to cope with his silent pain, Thor possesses a sobering strength.

As autumn ushers in the apple harvest, the rift between Thor and Haakon deepens and Aven faces a choice that risks hearts. Will two brothers’ longing for her quiet spirit tear apart a family? Can she find a tender belonging in this remote, rugged, and unfamiliar world?

A haunting tale of struggle and redemption, Sons of Blackbird Mountain is a portrait of grace in a world where the broken may find new life through the healing mercy of love.

Find Sons of Blackbird Mountain online at:

Amazon US | Amazon AU | ChristianBook | Goodreads | Koorong

Read the introduction to Sons of Blackbird Mountain below:

Quote from The Secrets of Paper and Ink: This girl had a story worth telling—and so did Sophia. It was worth telling. It was.

Book Review | The Secrets of Paper and Ink by Lindsay Harrel

The Secrets of Paper and Ink is the story of three women: Sophia Barrett, a women’s counselor from Phoenix, Arizona; Ginny Rose, bookshop owner from Port Willis, Cornwall; and Emily Fairfax, governess and lady’s companion in Victorian England.

Sophia returns to work after a three-month enforced sabbatical following a mental breakdown—the result of her conflicted feelings over the death of her fiance a year ago … her abusive fiance. She lasts less than an hour before her past intrudes again and she runs away. This time she makes a spur-of-the-moment decision to visit Cornwall, once home to her favourite dead novelist.

Owning a bookshop in a remote Cornish village isn’t Ginny’s dream—it’s her husband’s dream. But he’s currently off “finding himself” in London, leaving Ginny with a failing business and no other means of support. She could go back to America and back to her parents, but that would mean being back under her mother’s control.

Emily’s story comes to us through a journal Sophia discovers in the back of Ginny’s shop. She’s the impoverished daughter of the town’s drunken parson, now supporting herself as a governess while secretly writing a journal, a novel, and letters to her forbidden beloved.

It’s good to see Christian fiction that deals with the hard areas in life.

The Secrets of Paper and Ink features a therapist who’s a victim of domestic violence, a separated Christian woman, and an impoverished gentlewoman. All are in difficult situations, partly a result of their own bad decisions but more a result of the decisions of the men they depended on.

The Secrets of Paper and Ink is a powerful story of love and loss and loving again.

The writing is excellent, and I loved the way the author wove the Victorian story into the contemporary. The main theme is of three women forced to discover their identities as individuals rather than as daughter, fiance, or wife. It’s a challenge many modern women still face—finding our purpose in God rather than in man.

It’s a strong message that’s presented well.

The novel isn’t preachy at all—in fact, you could give this to a non-Christian friend and they probably wouldn’t even guess it’s from a Christian publisher. At the same time, it’s true to real life and true to the Bible. Sin is present, but so are the consequences. And the end message is most definitely Christian: that we are defined by Whose we are. It doesn’t matter where we’ve been or what mistakes we’ve made along the way. What matters is that we can find our peace in God.

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

About Lindsay Harrel

Linsay Harrel, author of the Heart Between UsLindsay Harrel is a lifelong book nerd with a B.A. in journalism and M.A. in English. She lives in Arizona with her young family and two golden retrievers in serious need of training. Lindsay has held a variety of jobs, including curriculum editor for two universities, medical and business writer, and copywriter for a digital marketing agency. Now she juggles stay-at-home mommyhood with working freelance jobs, teaching college English courses online, and—of course—writing novels.

When she actually has time to do other things, she loves to sing, read, and sip passion iced teas from Starbucks. She loves to watch God work in ordinary lives to create something extraordinary, and she writes to bring hope to those who may have lost it along the way.

You can find Lindsay Harrel online at:

Website | Facebook | Instagram | Pinterest | Twitter

About The Secrets of Paper and Ink

Brought together by a charming bookstore in England, three women fight to defy expectations, dream new dreams, and welcome love into their lives.

As a counselor, Sophia Barrett is trained to help people cope with their burdens. But when she meets a new patient whose troubles mirror her own, she realizes she hasn’t dealt with the pain of her recent past. After making a snap decision to get away for the summer, Sophia moves overseas to an apartment above a charming bookstore in Cornwall, England. She is hopeful she will find peace there surrounded by her favorite thing: great literature.

Bookstore owner Ginny Rose is desperate to save her business without asking for help from a husband who’s decided to take a break from their marriage. Ginny never imagined she’d be solely responsible for keeping afloat her husband’s dream, but the unexpected friendship with her new renter has her feeling more optimistic. Between the two of them—and Ginny’s brother-in-law, William—the bookstore might stand a chance.

Then Sophia finds a notebook in the bookstore that contains journal entries from Emily Fairfax, a governess who lived in Cornwall more than 150 years ago. Sophia learns that Emily harbored a secret passion for becoming an authoress—as well as a deep love for her childhood friend, Edward, whose station she dared not dream to touch.

Eager to know more of Emily’s story, Sophia goes on a quest—dragging Ginny and William with her—to discover the heart of the woman behind the beautiful entries. Soon Ginny’s need to save the bookstore becomes more than a way to save her marriage, and Sophia finds new purpose of her own. Together they find that sometimes both heartache and hope can reach across the centuries.

You can find The Secrets of Paper and Ink online at:

Amazon US | Amazon AU | ChristianBook | Goodreads | Koorong

And don’t forget to click here to check out my Amazon shop for my top picks in Christian fiction!

Quote from The Heart Between Us: God chose to spare your life. Don't waste it by not really living.

#ThrowbackThursday | The Heart Between Us by Lindsay Harrel

It’s Throwback Thursday, and today I’m featuring The Heart Between Us by Lindsay Harrel, one of my favourite books of 2018. Her next book releases next week: Secrets of Paper and Ink. I’m looking forward to reading it!

Thirty-two year old Megan Jacobs has spent most of her life wrapped in proverbial cotton wool, the result of a diagnosis of hypertropic cardiomyopathy. She spend much of her teenage years in hospital, watching National Geographic and the Travel Channel and daydreaming of a life travelling the world as a freelance journalist with her best friend and fellow heart patient, Caleb.

She received her heart transplant a year ago, but never followed her dreams despite Caleb—a successful freelance photographer—offering her an opportunity in London. Instead, she’s still stuck in her same old job and same old routines.

That changes following a meeting with her donor family.

Eighteen-year-old Amanda had everything to live for, as shown in her diary. It contains her 25-point bucket list, a list which inspires Megan to chase Amanda’s dreams even if she doesn’t have the courage to face her own.

Crystal is Megan’s identical twin. Except she’s always been healthy, and is now married to Brian, a firefighter, and working in her dream job as an up-and-coming architect in New York. She’s in line for a promotion, but her marriage is suffering, and her relationship with her twin is non-existent. So they’re off to visit five continents in five weeks, and hopefully rediscover their relationship, and themselves.

The Heart Between Us is excellent, both as armchair travel and as a novel that examines twin sisters, their ambitions, dreams, and relationships, and the way we sometimes make dumb choices because they are the safe choices,and how life doesn’t always work out as planned.

The writing was excellent, and I especially liked the way there were no easy answers. Both Megan and Crystal had to work through their problems, and both had to learn to turn to God. A great novel about the power of choices. Recommended.

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

About Lindsay Harrel

Linsay Harrel, author of the Heart Between UsLindsay Harrel is a lifelong book nerd with a B.A. in journalism and M.A. in English. She lives in Arizona with her young family and two golden retrievers in serious need of training. Lindsay has held a variety of jobs, including curriculum editor for two universities, medical and business writer, and copywriter for a digital marketing agency. Now she juggles stay-at-home mommyhood with working freelance jobs, teaching college English courses online, and—of course—writing novels.

When she actually has time to do other things, she loves to sing, read, and sip passion iced teas from Starbucks. She loves to watch God work in ordinary lives to create something extraordinary, and she writes to bring hope to those who may have lost it along the way.

You can find Lindsay Harrel online at:

Website | Facebook | Instagram | Pinterest | Twitter

About The Heart Between Us

Megan Jacobs always wished for a different heart. Her entire childhood was spent in and out of hospitals, sitting on the sidelines while her twin sister Crystal played all the sports, got all the guys, and had all the fun. But even a heart transplant three years ago wasn’t enough to propel Megan’s life forward. She’s still working as a library aide in her small Minnesota hometown and living with her parents, dreaming of the adventure she plans to take “once she’s well enough.” Meanwhile, her sister is a successful architect with a handsome husband and the perfect life—or so Megan thinks.

When her heart donor’s parents give Megan their teenage daughter’s journal—complete with an unfulfilled bucket list—Megan connects with the girl she meets between the pages and is inspired to venture out and check off each item. Caleb—a friend from her years in and out of the hospital—reenters her life and pushes her to find the courage to take the leap and begin her journey. She’s thrown for a loop when Crystal offers to join her for reasons of her own, but she welcomes the company and the opportunity to mend their tenuous relationship.

As Megan and Crystal check items off the bucket list, Megan fights the fears that have been instilled in her after a lifetime of illness. She must choose between safety and adventure and learn to embrace the heart she’s been given so that she can finally share it with the people she loves most.

You can find The Heart Between Us online at:

Amazon | ChristianBook | Goodreads | Koorong

You can read the introduction to The Heart Between Us below:

Click here to find The Heart Between Us and other great Christian fiction in my Amazon shop!