Category: Book Review

Quote from Athens Ambuscade by Kristen Joy Wilks: I closed my eyes and thought of kittens frolicking with butterflies under a rainbow. All the good and fluffy things God had made.

#ThrowbackThursday | Athens Ambuscade by Kristen Joy Wilks

It’s Throwback Thursday, and I’m resharing a review which originally posted at International Christian Fiction Writers.

I requested Athens Ambuscade for review for two reasons:

  1. It obviously featured Athens, Greece, which makes it perfect for a post at International Christian Fiction Writers. Also, I enjoy reading novels in different settings.
  2. I’ve never heard of “ambuscade” before, so I had to find out what it meant (it’s an antiquated term for ‘ambush’ for those who are interested).

But then I read the book description and wasn’t so sure …

What happens when a strapped-for-cash bridal designer needs a stuffed animal…and fast? Up-and-coming bridal designer, Jacqueline Gianakos must fly a Montana taxidermist to Greece in order to stuff her Grandmother’s cat. If Chrysanthemum isn’t preserved within two days’ time, Jacqueline will lose the home that was her childhood sanctuary. But will she survive the next 48 hours when the taxidermist ignores her pointed request and then shows up wearing flannel?

This sounded a little weird. And perhaps it was. But it worked.

Jacqueline is in Athens dealing with the estate of her recently deceased grandmother. Ya-Ya left what could have been a to-do list in the envelope with her will, and the lawyer decrees that Jacqueline must complete all the tasks on the list before she can inherit the house. This would seem ridiculous and unbelievable, but the writing and the setting makes it seem almost logical.

Anyway, Jacqueline (never Jackie and definitely not Jack) is a lady with Plans. She has emptied the attic, cleaned the gutters, built a tasteful orange tree house (if that’s not a contradiction in terms then I don’t know what is), and baked a watermelon pie (I have no idea how you bake a pie from a fruit that is basically water).

Now she has to get that nice taxidermist from Montana to stuff her grandmother’s dead cat.

He’s arrived in Athens, and they’ve got two days to stuff the cat and show the lawyer. Shouldn’t be difficult …

Jacqueline and Shane collect the cat from cold storage (it’s been dead three years, and Ya-Ya wasn’t crazy enough to keep it in her own freezer. Yes, this is a good time for crazy cat lady jokes). Then their troubles begin as thugs in black vans want to steal the cat. Yes, you read that right. It’s the “ambuscade” promised in the title.

What follows is a fast-paced cat chase through the streets and sights of Athens, including a visit to the Parthenon, the Gate of Athena, the Monastiraki Flea Market, and the Cave of Aglauros. It’s also funny, in a laugh-out-loud kind of way, not a how-stupid-is-this-woman kind of way.

Jacqueline is a little strange (I guess she takes after Ya-Ya).

As I said, Jacqueline is a lady with Plans. She has plans and lists and is perhaps a little over the top. For example, when she arranges to meet Shane, the taxidermist, in an Athenian cafe, she doesn’t tell him what she’ll be wearing. She tells him the width of her belt, and the three shades of eyeshadow. I try to be organised, but Jacqueline takes planning and organisation to a whole new level.

Athens Ambuscade is a quick read, both because of the fast pace and because it is relatively short. But it packed a lot of punch: lots of great lines:

And:
It also had a strong Christian theme, with Jacqueline learning a definite lesson about the nature of God (a lesson that had nothing to do with kittens or rainbows or fluffy things). And the location … Wilks did a great job with the location:

So much color. A swipe of robin’s egg blue across the Mediterranean sky, ancient white marble, and the flush of green growth clinging to the mountain. God seemed to create His most glorious splendors in hard to reach places.

Some books are set in exotic locations, but you read them and get the feeling they could have been set anywhere—the setting comes a distant third behind the plot and characters. Athens Ambuscade is different. It almost felt as though the setting were a character, and I loved that—although I am glad my own short visit to Athens wasn’t nearly as exciting as Jacqueline and Shane’s.

I recommend Athens Ambuscade for those who enjoy romantic comedy from authors such as Kara Isaac, and those looking for a Christian novel equivalent of My Big Fat Greek Wedding.

Thanks to Pelican Books and NetGalley for providing a free ebook for review.

About Kristen Joy Wilks

Author Photo: Kristen Joy Wilks

Kristen Joy Wilks lives in the beautiful woods of the Cascade mountains with her camp director husband, three fierce sons, and a large and slobbery Newfoundland dog. She spent her misguided youth falling in love with Commander Spock via Star Trek reruns, being suspended upside down over a homemade pit filled with gardener snakes, and stampeding herds of elk while on horseback. Now most of her adventures consist of preventing her hubby from filling another wall of their dining room with board games, thwarting her 3 boys’ efforts to sneak their pet chickens onto their bunk beds whenever she turns her back to fold laundry, and trying not to trip over the random teenagers that swarm her house to play all those board games. Kristen can be found tucked under a tattered quilt in an overstuffed chair at 4:00am writing a wide variety of dramatic tales.

Find Kristen Joy Wilks online at:

Website | Facebook

Read the introduction to Athens Ambuscade below:

Quote from More than Gold: He couldn't be set in his ways yet. He was only thirty-four. He didn't plan on being set in his ways for at least another ten years.

Book Review | More Than Gold (Escape to the West #6) by Nerys Leigh

Gabriel Silversmith is the gold miner we first met in The Truth About Love, where his mail order bride left him for another man. Not that we blamed her—Gabriel is rough around the edges, to put it politely.

Now he’s married to Grace Myers, and married life isn’t exactly going as planned.

Grace has opinions of her own and isn’t afraid to express them. And she’s refined … perhaps too refined for a gold miner living in a one-room shack with no running water. Will Grace stay, or will this be another disaster?

Grace chose to become a mail order bride to get away from her jealous and selfish stepmother.

She’d thought anything would be better than marrying Felicia’s choice for her, the ancient Mr Howard who has hair growing out both ears. Gabriel is younger and probably more attractive … if she can get him to shave off that awful beard and stop chewing the tobacco that makes him smell like an outhouse.

I have to admit that while I wanted Gabriel to get his happy-ever-after after the way Jo treated him, I also see Grace’s point. She’s a lady, and Gabriel is certainly not a gentleman. Or an angel. And is he really a successful gold miner? If so, wouldn’t he live somewhere nicer that a one-room shack?
But Grace and Gabriel are both determined to make the marriage work, and that’s a great starting point for an enjoyable marriage of convenience story with a touch of suspense.

The first five books in Nerys Leigh’s Escape to the West series can be read in any order, because they all take place simultaneously. More than Gold is the exception—it’s best to read The Truth About Love first, because that covers some of Gabriel’s history, and shows why Grace arrives alone, after the other brides.

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 relaxing and generally enjoying the view at:

 Website | Facebook

About More Than Gold

Does “second time lucky” apply to mail order brides?

Let’s just say that Gabriel’s first attempt at marriage didn’t go well. But his new bride, Grace, she has curves he can’t keep his eyes from, and he’s determined this time will be different. Until he ends up sleeping in the barn.

Why are women so difficult to figure out? All he wants is someone to cook, clean, and warm his bed. But Grace wants more. She wants respect and someone to care about her. She wants love.

So now Gabriel has to learn how to court his wife just so he can sleep in his own bed again. As for falling in love, though, he just isn’t the type.

But he’s been wrong before.

You can find More Than Gold online at:

Amazon US | Amazon AU | Goodreads

You can read the introduction to More Than Gold below:

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

#Throwback Thursday | A Defense of Honor (Haven Manor #1) by Kristi Ann Hunter

It’s Throwback Thursday! Today I’m resharing my review of A Defense of Honor by Kristi Ann Hunter, which first appeared at International Christian Fiction Writers. The Christmas Heirloom novella collection started with a Haven Manor story, and the second official book in the series releases next week.
The Honourable Katherine FitzGilbert (I’m sorry, but the title is British, so it should be Honourable not Honorable) is now known as Mama Kit. She shepherds a group of not-quite-orphans in a forgotten house in the country. Her anonymity and remote seclusion are her weapons, the way she protects those in her charge.
Graham, Viscount Wharton, is bored … at least, until he notices a beautiful lady in green at a ball, a lady he then rescues before she disappears. He has no idea how to find her again, as he doesn’t even know her name. So he’s more than a little surprised to come across her in an out-of-the-way almost-abandoned manor house near the small market town of Marlborough.

As first meetings go, Kit and Graham’s first meeting is definitely memorable. So is their second.

But it’s when they meet in Marlborough that things get interesting. Graham is trying to locate his best friend’s missing sister, and he realises Kit must know where she is. But Kit has spent the last twelve years protecting women and hiding their illegitimate children, and she’s not about to stop for some random Lord who finds her secret home. No matter how attractive he is.
And the end … I’m not going to give spoilers, but I am already looking forward to the next book in the series.

A Defense of Honor is the first full-length novel in Kristi Ann Hunter’s new Haven Manor series, but it’s not the first book. There is a prequel novella, A Search for Refuge, which is available as a free ebook. It’s not necessary to read A Search for Refuge first, although I did, and I can assure you it will provide needed backstory to A Defense of Honor. It’s also an excellent story on its own.

Recommended for all Regency romance fans, because it’s close to perfect. And Kristi Ann Hunter is a wonderful witty writer.

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

About 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:

Website | Facebook | Instagram | Pinterest | Twitter

About A Defense of Honor

When Katherine “Kit” FitzGilbert turned her back on London society more than a decade ago, she determined never to set foot in a ballroom again. But when business takes her to London and she’s forced to run for her life, she stumbles upon not only a glamorous ballroom but also Graham, Lord Wharton. What should have been a chance encounter becomes much more as Graham embarks on a search for his friend’s missing sister and is convinced Kit knows more about the girl than she’s telling.

After meeting Graham, Kit finds herself wishing things could have been different for the first time in her life, but what she wants can’t matter. Long ago, she dedicated herself to helping women escape the same scorn that drove her from London and raising the innocent children caught in the crossfire. And as much as she desperately wishes to tell Graham everything, revealing the truth isn’t worth putting him and everyone she loves in danger.

You can find A Defense of Honor online at:

Amazon | ChristianBook | Goodreads | Koorong

You can read the introduction to A Defense of Honor below:

Click here to find A Defense of Honor and other great Christian fiction at my Amazon shop!

Book Review | Enchanting Nicholette

Nicholette Everstone was widowed on her wedding day, two years ago. Now she’s back in Boston, and has been introduced to Mr Cal Hawthorne. They have something in common—Cal has also lost a spouse, and now he’s interested in Nicholette.

This was not my favourite of the Everstone Chronicles. I think that’s because neither Nicholette nor Cal are Everstones, and while I know Nicholette has been mentioned in earlier books (and Cal probably has as well), I don’t remember either of them.

It’s a perfectly nice romance. The writing is solid, the sense of time and place is excellent, and I’m always a fan of novels written in the third person. But I didn’t engage with Nicholette the way I’ve engaged with some of the other Everstone brides.

This could be because she didn’t seem to have any major obstacles to overcome. She is well out of mourning for her husband, and there is nothing stopping her developing relationship with Cal Hawthorne—especially as her parents are in favour of her marrying again, as long as it is for love.

Overall, fans of the Everstone Chronicles will enjoy Enchanting Nicholette. It is a standalone romance, but there are a lot of characters from the previous novels, and the relationships can easily become confusing. I’d recommend anyone who hasn’t read the earlier books start the series at the beginning, with The Hesitant Heiress.

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

#ThrowbackThursday | Death at Thornburn Hall by Julianna Deering

It’s Throwback Thursday! Today I’m resharing my review of Death at Thornburn Hall, which originally appeared at International Christian Fiction Writers.

Drew and Madeline Fathering are back. They are visiting Drew’s distant relatives, Lord and Lady Rainsby of Thornburn Hall, and planning to watch the Open at Muirfield, Edinburgh. They are not the only guests—there is also a married couple, and a Russian artiste seeking his muse.

Death at Thornburn Hall is the sixth book in the Drew Fathering series. Each book is a standalone murder mystery, which means you don’t have to read the earlier books first (although there are some plot threads that trail though the series). It follows the pattern established in the first book, Rules of Murder.

  • Drew arrives somewhere (Thornburn Hall, in this instance).
  • There is a death (sometimes there is more than one).
  • Drew investigates.
  • The local police force don’t appreciate Drew’s efforts.
  • Drew solves the crime with help from Nick and Madeline.

It has almost has a Scooby-Doo feel, albeit in a different time and place, and without the inevitable, “and I would have gotten away with it, if it wasn’t for you meddling kids.” Yes, there is humour in here:

There is plenty of witty banter between Drew, a member of the British aristocracy,  Madeline, his American wife, and Nick Dennison, Drew’s best friend and the son of the Fathering Hall butler (a friendship that continues to raise eyebrows).

And Carrie is back: Madeline’s American best friend, who Nick would like to persuade to stay forever … However, Carrie is not stupid. She’s realised the same thing the rest of us have realised:

Drew Fathering attracts murder. Murder attracts risk and danger.

But that’s the fun! Well, that’s the fun for me, as a reader. Carrie doesn’t see it quite the same way …

The writing is excellent, as usual. There is a cast of characters ranging from mysterious to suspicious. Some things are not what they seem, and there are plenty of genuine clues scattered among the red herrings. The ending is satisfying on several levels (well, satisfying to the core characters. The murderer, as usual, is less than satisfied with being caught by Drew).

I love this series because it is so British. It reminds me of driving through the English countryside, of camping in Scotland under the shadow of Ben Nevis, of taking the train to Edinburgh and disembarking at Waverley Station.

The Drew Fathering mysteries are an echo of England in days gone by.

They remind me of childhood favourites such as The Famous Five, and Swallows and Amazons, and of Agatha Christie, Ngaio Marsh, Georgette Heyer, and other 1930’s murder mystery writers.

But it’s also an echo of the England I lived in … because I’ve visited many of the places Drew and Madeline visit—Winchester, Beaulieu, Edinburgh. The beauty of England is that it is old, and a modern visitor can see many of the same sights as Drew and Madeline see.

Death at Thornburn Hall by Julianna Deering is an enjoyable murder mystery that's a reminder of England in days gone by #ChristianFiction #MustRead Click To Tweet

Thanks to Bethany House and NetGalley for providing a free ebook for review. You can find out more about Julianna Deering at her website, and

About Julianna Deering

Author Photo: Julianna Deering

Julianna Deering (also writing as DeAnna Julie Dodson) has always been an avid reader and a lover of storytelling, whether on the page, the screen or the stage. This, along with her keen interest in history and her Christian faith, shows in her tales of love, forgiveness, and triumph over adversity. A fifth-generation Texan, she makes her home north of Dallas with three spoiled cats and, when not writing, spends her free time quilting, cross stitching and watching NHL hockey. Her series of Drew Farthering mysteries set in 1930s England debuted from Bethany House with Rules of Murder (2013).

Find Julianna Deering online at:

Website | Facebook | Twitter

About Death at Thornburn Hall

The Fartherings’ Scottish Holiday Takes a Dark Turn

Drew Farthering arrives in idyllic Scotland for the 1935 British Open at Muirfield hoping for a relaxing holiday, but he soon finds a mystery on his hands. Lord Rainsby, his host at Thorburn Hall, fears his business partner may be embezzling and asks Drew to quietly investigate. Before Drew can uncover anything, Rainsby is killed in a suspicious riding accident.

Thorburn Hall is filled with guests, and as Drew continues to dig, he realizes that each might have had a motive to put Raisnby out of the way. Together with Madeline and Nick, he must sort through shady business dealings, international intrigue, and family tensions to find a killer who always seems to be one step ahead.

Find Death at Thornburn Hall online at:

Amazon | ChristianBook | Goodreads | Koorong

Read the introduction to Death at Thornburn Hall below:

Quote from Mind Games by Nancy Mehl: Those who know God should be the ones to confront the darkness, to chase evil. We have the weapons. Those who don't know Him have only themselves.

Mind Games (Kaely Quinn Profiler #1) by Nancy Mehl

Jessica Oliphant is the daughter of a convicted serial killer. Now thirty-four, she’s FBI profiler Kaely Quinn, dedicated to solving murder cases, especially serial killer cases. Her unorthodox methods have earned her supporters, opponents, and the attention of the wrong kind of people—like a persistent journalist. And a serial killer.

Kaely becomes part of the next investigation when the journalist receives an anonymous poem signalling a series of murders, and ending in Kaely’s apparent suicide. The first body is discovered soon after the note is delivered. Now the race is on to identify the killer before Kaely—or anyone close to her—dies.

Mind Games is an apt title for a great thriller.

We know from the get-go that the killer is playing games with Kaely. The challenge is to work out who … I identified several possible suspects (one of whom was later murdered, so I was 100% wrong on that one!).

Kaely is an intriguing heroine. She’s intelligent and likeable, and with a strong Christian faith. But she’s also a damaged woman who suffers nightmares and finds it impossible to allow anyone to get close to her. She’s estranged from her family, both respected and reviled at work as an object of curious fascination.

The other characters are also strong—they have to be, because Kaley is such a strong character. Noah and Kaley had some interesting conversations about faith. Yes, Mind Games is definitely Christian fiction, as there is a strong faith thread and some insightful lines about the nature of faith, and the nature of evil.

This is the first of the Kaely Quinn Profiler series.

I’ve read several of Nancy Mehl’s earlier novels, but this is her best yet. I’ll be looking forward to reading more about Kaely, Noah, and their colleagues. Recommended for fans of Christian thrillers from authors like Terri Blackstock and Carrie Stuart Parks.

Mind Games by @NancyMehl is an excellent Christian thriller. Recommended! #ChristianFiction #MustRead Click To Tweet

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

About Nancy Mehl

Author photo: Nancy MehlNancy Mehl lives in Missouri, with her husband Norman, and her very active puggle, Watson. She’s authored thirty books and is currently at work on a new FBI suspense series for Bethany House Publishing.

All of Nancy’s novels have an added touch – something for your spirit as well as your soul. “I welcome the opportunity to share my faith through my writing,” Nancy says. “It’s a part of me and of everything I think or do. God is number one in my life. I wouldn’t be writing at all if I didn’t believe that this is what He’s called me to do. I hope everyone who reads my books will walk away with the most important message I can give them: God is good, and He loves you more than you can imagine. He has a good plan especially for your life, and there is nothing you can’t overcome with His help.”

You can find Nancy Mehl online at:

Website | Suspense Sisters | Facebook

About Mind Games

Kaely Quinn’s talents as an FBI behavior analyst are impossible to ignore, no matter how unorthodox her methods. But when a reporter outs her as the daughter of an infamous serial killer, she’s demoted to field agent and transferred to St. Louis.

When the same reporter who ruined her career claims to have received an anonymous poem predicting a string of murders, ending with Kaely’s, the reporter’s ulterior motives bring his claim into question. But when a body is found that fits the poem’s predictions, the threat is undeniable, and the FBI sends Special Agent Noah Hunter to St. Louis.

Initially resentful of the assignment, Noah is surprised at how quickly his respect for Kaely grows, despite her oddities. But with a brazen serial killer who breaks all the normal patterns on the loose, Noah and Kaely are tested to their limits to catch the murderer before anyone else–including Kaely herself–is killed.

You can find Mind Games online at:

Amazon US | Amazon AU | ChristianBook | Goodreads | Koorong

You can read the introduction to Mind Games below:

And don’t forget to click here and check out Mind Games and other great Christian fiction in my Amazon store!

Quote from Justice by Emily Conrad: Whatever kind of dream or vision you saw, it didn't result from some accounting error in the miracle department of heaven.

Book Review | Justice by Emily Conrad

I almost didn’t choose to read Justice. I loved the evocative mid-twentieth century feeling portrayed by the cover—the retro streetlight, the 1950s hairdo and plain black dress, but I didn’t want to have to deal with how 1950s small-town America would deal with an unplanned pregnancy as the result of a rape.

Imagine my surprise when I realised the story is set in the present day, complete with wifi and mobile phones. That’s not bad. I prefer contemporary romance, and I figured that would put a more understanding spin on Brooklyn as she “wrestles with questions about what her pregnancy means”.

But we didn’t see Brooklyn wrestle about the hard things: how to recover from rape, what her pregnancy means, or how to keep following the God who allowed all this. The challenges of her personal journey were glossed over to the point of almost being ignored. Sure, they would have been hard scenes to read and even harder to write, but I think Justice missed an opportunity to speak to Christian survivors of sexual assault (including #ChurchToo).

I guess the old saying is true: don’t judge a book by the cover.

This isn’t a novel set in 1950’s small-town America, and the female on the cover isn’t the main character. Sure, her background and actions provide the motivation, but this is not Brooklyn’s story (although she is a great example of forgiveness, and the power of God to heal).

Instead, we focus on Jake and his search for justice.

But he’s not looking for justice for Brooklyn. He owns a coffee shop and has inadvertently started a war with the bookshop owner across the road. Now Jake wants justice for what the bookshop owner has done. Priorities, please?

This really annoyed me until Brooklyn called him out on it and I realised the novel wasn’t about her at all. It was about Jake. I’m not sure if I’d have read Justice if I’d had realised it was a contemporary romance about a man whose inappropriate quest for justice (aka revenge) leads him away from all he holds dear.

I wasn’t sure what to think about Justice.

It was definitely Jake’s story, and that made it hard. I found myself liking Jake less and less as the novel progressed. The Jake of the early chapters was a strong Christian, encouraging those around him with lines like:

Quote from Justice by Emily Conrad: You've got to believe redemption is possible for you, too. You've been redeemed. Even from this.

 

But Jake’s need for revenge for Brooklyn and for the unknown troublemakers attacking his business gave me the impression of a small god, a god who needed Jake’s help to make things go right. Of course, Jake learns God is God, a big God who doesn’t need Jake’s help. But the business subplot detracted from the novel I was expecting—a novel about God’s everlasting love, His healing hand in times of personal difficulty.

Justice fails as a romance novel.

Why? Because Jake and Brooklyn’s relationship wasn’t the central focus. Nor is it a great example of women’s fiction, because it glosses over Brooklyn’s issues to focus on Jake and his #FirstWorldProblems. Some readers will be thankful Brooklyn’s rape and recovery are glossed over, while others will be frustrated by the lost opportunity to minister to women who have been through similar troubles.

Justice also didn’t work as a suspense novel, at least not for me. I felt Jake jumped to conclusions regarding the identity of the evildoer, and it seemed a little too convenient when he ended up being right. My issue was that the evildoer’s motives seemed weak. They were later explained, but I wasn’t convinced.

Having said that, Justice did work on many levels.

The characterisation was convincing, as evidenced by my dislike of Jake. The Christian elements were particularly strong—Justice is definitely Christian fiction, a strong examination of some of the big dichotomies of faith: justice vs. mercy, and faith vs. works.

It’s a novel about Christians who mess up, but who are forgiven and redeemed. It’s also a novel of miracles—one of the few I’ve read where the miracles were believable (I’ve blogged about the use of miracles in Christian fiction: click here to check out that post and let me know what you think!)

Overall, Justice was a solid first novel which may appeal to readers looking for something a little outside the Christian romance/women’s fiction norm. Just don’t expect a romance.

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

About Emily Conrad

Author Photo - Emily Conrad

Emily Conrad writes Christian fiction. She lives in Wisconsin with her husband and two 60+ pound rescue dogs. Some of her favorite things (other than Jesus and writing, of course) are coffee, walks, and road trips to the mountains.

Find Emily Conrad online at:

Website | Facebook | Instagram | Twitter

About Justice

Jake thought he was meant to marry Brooklyn, but now she’s pregnant, and he had nothing to do with it. As Brooklyn wrestles with questions about what her pregnancy means and how it will affect her relationship with Jake, she can’t bring herself to tell him the truth.

To make matters worse, if the man who owns the bookstore across from Jake’s coffee shop, has anything to do with it, the baby will ruin them both.

Can Jake and Brooklyn overcome the obstacles thrown in their path, and finally find the truth in God’s love and in each other?

You can find Justice online at:

Amazon | ChristianBook | Goodreads

You can read the introduction to Justice below:

Book Review | The Unblemished Series by Sara Ella

I’m not a big fantasy reader, and this trilogy reminded me why. I requested a review copy of Unbreakable, the final book in the trilogy, on the strength of the fabulous cover and the intriguing book description. The publisher sent me all three books, because this is one series you definitely need to read in order.

Unblemished

Unblemished was definitely my favourite book of the series. It had issues: too much interior monologue, some weird writing (more than compensated for by some brilliant writing), an annoying habit of having three consecutive one-word sentences. So. Very. Annoying.

Again. Again. Again.

But I liked the main character.

I liked her voice—I knew I was reading YA and I haven’t been YA for many years, so I was able to move past some of her annoying teenager-isms. I liked the concept of the orphan who discovers everything she knew about life was wrong, that people weren’t who they seemed, and even the world she lived in (modern New York) was one of seven dimensions.

Yes, the world building was a little confusing at times. Yes, the writing was occasionally annoying. Yes, the author has skewered in every possible YA fantasy trope, every possible pop culture reference.

But underneath, it was the age-old battle between good and evil (accompanied by the age-old love triangle), and it worked.

Enough that I read the next book …

Unraveling

I’ve read reviews of Unblemished where the reader loved loved loved it. I’ve no doubt those readers will also love Unraveling. Unfortunately, I thought Unraveling unraveled what had been a solid premise.

While Unblemished was clearly El’s story (or Em’s story, depending on whether you’re #TeamJoshua or #TeamKy), Unraveling has three point of view characters: El, Joshua, and Ky. I found this confusing, as all three stories were told in the first person, and their voices weren’t sufficiently different. I continually had to backtrack to the beginning of the chapter to work out which character’s head I was in. And that disrupts the flow of the story.

Don’t get me wrong: I love stories told in first person (it was one of the strengths of Unblemished). And I love stories told from multiple points of view (although I’m less keen on love triangles). But the three first person points of view in Unraveling weren’t sufficiently different for it to work for me.

Unraveling also had all the same issues as Unblemished: endless cliches, endless plot tropes and endless pop culture references. They started feeling tired, as though more effort was being put into being Hip and Relevant than delivering a great story.

Overall, Unraveling wasn’t awful, but it wasn’t my idea of a good read. But it’s the second book in a trilogy, and my experience is the second book is often the weakest. By the end I was still interested in reading the final book, if only to discover whether#TeamJoshua or #TeamKy prevails.

Unbreakable

So I thought Unblemished was solid and Unraveling was average. But I often find the second book in a trilogy is the weakest, so I wasn’t going to not read Unbreakable, the final book in the series, simply because I didn’t enjoy Unraveling.

My mistake. This is the series that proves the rule: the one where I thought the final book was the weakest.

There were two reasons for this.

First, where Unblemished had one point of view character and Unraveling had three, Unbreakable had five. Five. Unblemished engaged me with a single story, and every additional viewpoint diluted that main story. It didn’t help that I couldn’t tell most of the viewpoint characters apart. They all sounded too much the same to me.

My other issue with Unbreakable was the plot. It was too convoluted. Not complex: I can deal with a complex plot. But convoluted, in that the plot seemed to go in circles rather than moving forward. The result was I lost interest. The romance thread had been present since Unblemished, so it was pretty obvious this wasn’t going to have a Divergent-type ending, and it didn’t.

I thought the ending was a let-down, and that’s even with El/Em ending up with the “right guy” (there is always the 50:50 chance in a love triangle that the heroine will pick the “wrong” guy, like in Twilight or the Bailey Flannigan series).

Overall

I saw weaknesses in Unblemished, but the unique plot and voice kept me engaged, and had me keen to read the sequels. Unbreakable was the opposite. The weaknesses from Unblemished were still there, but I found it impossible to stay engaged. I finished the book, but I think I skimmed most of the second half as I’d simply lost the plot, and lost the desire to care about what happened to any of the characters.

Overall, this series reminded me why I rarely read fantasy. Now, please excuse me while I head back to my genre comfort zones of romance, romantic suspense, and women’s fiction.

Thanks to Thomas Nelson and NetGalley for providing the full series of ebooks for review.

Have you read any of the books in this series? What did you think?

Quote from Burden of Proof: No relationship lasts when it begins with danger and supercharged emotions.

Book Review | Burden of Proof by DiAnn Mills

About Burden of Proof

Reeling from a negotiation gone wrong, FBI Special Agent April Ramos is caught off guard when a frazzled young woman shoves a crying baby into her arms, then disappears. Worry for the child’s safety quickly turns to fear when a man claiming to be the girl’s father abducts them at gunpoint. April puts her hostage negotiation skills to use to learn more about who she’s dealing with: Jason Snyder, a fugitive accused of murder.

As Jason spins a tall tale about being framed for the killing of his business partner, April must sort through his claims to find the truth. A truth that becomes all the more evident after April overhears a conversation between Jason and the local sheriff and realizes something more sinister may be happening in their small town of Sweet Briar, Texas. But aligning herself with a known fugitive to uncover the burden of proof could cost April her job . . . or worse, her life and the lives of other innocent people.

Find Burden of Proof online at:

Amazon | ChristianBook | Goodreads | Koorong

Underwhelmed

I’ve read and enjoyed many of Diann Mills’s romantic suspense novels, but Burden of Proof is not my favourite. The writing wasn’t as smooth as I expected, but that wasn’t my main issue.

My biggest problem was I had trouble relating to the main characters.

I think this was because we were first introduced to Jason Snyder as he kidnapped FBI negotiator April Ramos. This leaves reader-me with a problem: is Jason a good guy or an evildoer? He’s trying to persuade us he’s a good guy, but good guys don’t evade arrest. Good guys don’t kidnap and threaten FBI agents. And good guys are also known for lying, so his protests didn’t convince me.

It also seemed odd that April seemed to trust Jason almost right away. I didn’t buy it. Then there are hints she’s attracted to him—not unusual given this is romantic suspense, but it still left me wondering if Agent April was thinking with her FBI agent brain, or was she suffering from a touch of Stockholm Syndrome?

The result is I spent too much of the first half of the novel second-guessing was-he-or-wasn’t-he to actually get into the story and enjoy it. The character dynamics were clearer in the second half, but it was too late for me. I already hadn’t connected with Jason, and had my doubts about April.

As for the actual evildoer … it was all a bit obvious. There was no mystery, not enough suspense, and one of the minor characters nicely summed up my problems with the romance plot in one line:

No relationship lasts when it begins with danger and supercharged emotions.

All in all, I was underwhelmed by Burden of Proof.

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

About DiAnn Mills

Author Photo: DiAnn MIllsDiAnn Mills is a bestselling author who believes her readers should expect an adventure. She combines unforgettable characters with unpredictable plots to create action-packed, suspense-filled novels.

Her titles have appeared on the CBA and ECPA bestseller lists; won two Christy Awards; and been finalists for the RITA, Daphne du Maurier, Inspirational Reader’s Choice, and Carol Award contests. Firewall, the first book in her Houston: FBI series, was listed by Library Journal as one of the best Christian fiction books of 2014.

DiAnn has been termed a coffee snob and roasts her own coffee beans. She’s an avid reader, loves to cook, and believes her grandchildren are the smartest kids in the universe.

Find DiAnn Mills online at:

Website

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