Tag: Iola Goulton

Quote: Do I believe miracles can happen? Sure. But we have to step aside and let them.

#ThrowbackThursday | Where Hope Begins by Catherine West

It’s Throwback Thursday! Today I’m resharing my review of Where Hope Begins, a powerful novel by women’s fiction queen Catherine West. If you’re looking for a Christian novel that goes deep into a broken marriage, I recommend Where Hope Begins.

About Where Hope Begins

Sometimes we’re allowed to glimpse the beauty within the brokenness . . .

Savannah Barrington has always found solace at her parents’ lake house in the Berkshires, and it’s the place that she runs to when her husband of over twenty years leaves her. Though her world is shaken, and the future uncertain, she finds hope through an old woman’s wisdom, a little girl’s laughter, and a man who’s willing to risk his own heart to prove to Savannah that she is worthy of love.

But soon Savannah is given a challenge she can’t run away from: Forgiving the unforgivable. Amidst the ancient gardens and musty bookstores of the small town she’s sought refuge in, she must reconcile with the grief that haunts her, the God pursuing her, and the wounds of the past that might be healed after all.

Where Hope Begins is the story of grace in the midst of brokenness, pointing us to the miracles that await when we look beyond our own expectations.

My Thoughts

Savannah’s husband of twenty years is leaving her for the other woman. Now the house is empty—their three children are at boarding school, college, and in a grave. Broken, Savannah goes to stay in her parent’s holiday home, where she meets the neighbours: an old woman, her nephew, and his daughter.

A daughter who is the spitting image of Savannah’s dead daughter.

Yes, Where Hope Begins has lots of angst. As the story progresses we find out more about how Shelby died, about how Savannah is convinced Shelby’s death was her fault, and convinced husband Kevin blames her, even though he says he doesn’t. We also see how this tragedy shaped their marriage, and paved the way for it’s destruction.

At the lake house, we see Savannah’s developing relationship with Brock, the bestselling author who is her new next-door neighbour. Her very attractive next-door neighbour. Why not? Her husband has left her for another woman and wants a divorce. That presents Savannah with a dilemma … and us as the reader. We’re convinced we don’t like Kevin, but does that justify Savannah’s growing relationship with Brock?

The intricacies of the relationships are compounded by Savannah’s Christian faith, a faith her husband supposedly shared. As Christians, we have clear views on adultery, but when is a marriage over? When is the wronged spouse allowed to move on?

Where Hope Begins is an intelligent, thought-provoking, and emotional read in a situation where there are lots of hard questions and no right answers.

The writing is excellent, as I’ve come to expect from Catherine West. The characters are well-developed, the plot complex but not convoluted, and the Christian elements threaded through but not overwhelming. Oh, and I cried. It’s been a long time since a novel made me cry.

Recommended for anyone looking for Christian fiction that addresses some of the hard issues of life.

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

About Catherine West

Author Photo: Catherine WestCatherine West writes stories of hope and healing from her island home in Bermuda. When she’s not at the computer working on her next story, you can find her taking her Border Collie for long walks or reading books by her favorite authors. She and her husband have two grown children and one beautiful granddaughter. Catherine is the winner of the 2015 Grace Award (Bridge of Faith) and the Romance Writers of America’s Faith, Hope & Love Reader’s Choice Award (The Things We Knew).

You can find Catherine West online at:

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Find Where Hope Begins online at:

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You can read the introduction to Where Hope Begins below:

Quote from Shadows of Hope: He wasn't an adulterous man, not really. Not in the ways that mattered.

#ThrowbackThursday | Shadows of Hope by Georgiana Daniels

It’s Throwback Thursday! Today I’m resharing my review of Shadows of Hope by Georgiana Daniels. This novel impressed me because it felt real—real characters making real mistakes, leaving them with real problems and no easy answers. I’d never describe the ending as happy, because there is no way to have a happy ending to this dilemma without killing off some characters (which writers often do, but which can feel like cheating as I read).

Shadows of Hope is not the feel-good romance novel I usually read and review.

Instead, it’s a thoroughly modern novel where messed-up characters have to wade the confusing waters of consequences, and there is no trite or easy answer with no convenient divorces or deaths.

Marissa is forty, infertile, and wants a baby—a want made worse by working in a pregnancy resource centre, and being married to a man she suspects of wandering. Kaitlyn is the barista at Marissa’s favourite coffee shop, a twenty-six year-old college student who is secretly dating one of her professors. Colin is a biology professor who breaks off his illicit relationship as he finds out he’s up for tenure. Now if only she’d stop trying to contact him …

Kaitlyn discovers she’s pregnant, but Colin has broken it off and she can’t tell him. She does tell Marissa, not realising she’s Colin’s wife. But we know, and that one small secret drives much of the tension. When will Marissa find out? What will she do when she does? How will she cope in the meantime?

 

The writing was excellent.

The author delves into the emotions of three people who’ve all made mistakes in their relationships, mistakes which mean there is no easy answer, no possible ending that will satisfy everyone. The story wasn’t predictable, and I liked that because it felt authentic in a way a feel-good romance ending would have felt contrived and false.

The spiritual aspects were also interesting: Marissa and Kaitlyn were both raised as Christians, but both fell away from the church. Marissa got more involved in church after she married, but Colin never did (which caused some friction). Interesting …

Recommended for those who enjoy contemporary Christian fiction that deals with the real-life issues that don’t have easy answers.

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

About Georgiana Daniels

Author Photo: Georgiana DanielsAs a Christian author and homeschooling mom, my life is random and often chaotic—but abundantly blessed! I’m the wife of a super-charged husband and the mother of three high-energy daughters, and as such I’ve become a master at spinning plates—until they crash and I remember how much I need God’s grace. The journey is filled with both good times and extraordinary challenges, and now I’d like to peel back the curtain and share some of it with you!

Whether you’re a reader who desires fiction where the characters’ lives are challenged in unimaginable ways, or you’re a writer who needs a little encouragement—I have a heart for you!

My hope is that you’ll be inspired and motivated. Motivated to love more and live bigger no matter what’s happening. Because I get it…I know that life doesn’t always turn out the way we plan. But we can trust there’s a bigger plan at work!

Come along and join me for real life…real hope…real fiction.

You can find Georgiana Daniels online at:

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About Shadows of Hope

A story of hope in the aftermath of inconceivable betrayal and broken dreams
What if. . .

. . .you struggled with infertility but unknowingly befriended your husband’s pregnant mistress?

What if. . .

. . .the woman you were seeing behind your wife’s back gets pregnant, threatening your job and marriage?

What if. . .

. . .your boyfriend never told you he was married and you discover you’re pregnant?

Crisis pregnancy worker Marissa Moreau suspects her husband is cheating, but little does she know how close to home her husband’s infidelity hits. College student Kaitlyn Farrows is floundering after a relationship with her professor leaves her pregnant. Soon she lands a job and a support system at the local pregnancy resource center and things seem to be turning around. But when Marissa and Kaitlyn become friends, neither one knows they share a connection—Colin, Marissa’s husband and Kaitlyn’s former professor. When their private lives collide, the two women must face the ultimate test of their faith and choose how to move forward as they live in the shadows of hope.

You can find Shadows of Hope online at:

Amazon | ChristianBook | Goodreads | Koorong

You can read the introduction to Shadows of Hope below:

Quote from The Saturday Night Supper Club

#ThrowbackThursday | The Saturday Night Supper Club by Carla Laureano

It’s Throwback Thursday! Today I’m resharing my review of The Saturday Night Supper Club by Carla Laureano. The sequel, Brunch at the Bittersweet Cafe, releases this week, and I’m looking forward to reading it soon.

Wonderful!

If you ask readers what plot points or ideas they don’t like in novels, there is always one that comes up: the impossibly good-looking hero or heroine. Others dislike too-rich heroes. Or writers. Or all of the above. I confess: I’m one of them. I especially don’t like the impossibly handsome rich writer (except for Richard Castle, but we all know he’s a joke).

The Saturday Night Supper Club has all these things (except for Richard Castle.) Despite that, it’s a great read—almost perfect contemporary Christian romance. It’s also a lesson in the power of the media—especially social media—to work for good and for evil.

And the food … I wanted it all. Well, except the chard. And the fennel. It was a weed where I grew up, and we were all told not to eat it.

Anyway, about the book …

Rachel Bishop is the darling of the Denver casual fine dining scene until a misplaced comment to the wrong person goes viral. Writer Alex Kanin unintentionally started the whole media firestorm, but doesn’t realise the full extent of the repercussions until he tries to apologise to Rachel, and finds his article has cost Rachel her job.

Yes, he’s the impossibly handsome writer whose debut memoir jumped to the top of all the right bestseller lists. He’s also rich, thanks to a couple of timely investments, and grew up in a well-off immigrant family. In contrast, Rachel left home without graduating high school, and has risen to the top of her profession through hard work and determination.

The Saturday Night Supper Club is the story of how Alex and Rachel work together to try and resurrect her career.

It’s a romance, so you know how that goes. It also has a solid Christian thread, in that both Rachel and Alex are Christians, and each has lessons to learn about the nature of God. But it’s not preachy, which is great.

Overall, The Saturday Night Supper Club is a great contemporary Christian romance, with wonderful characters, and wonderful food. I do hope there are a couple of sequels in the works!

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

About Carla Laureano

Carla LaureanoCarla Laureano is the RITA® Award-winning author of contemporary inspirational romance and Celtic fantasy (as C.E. Laureano). A graduate of Pepperdine University, she worked as a sales and marketing executive for nearly a decade before leaving corporate life behind to write fiction full-time. She currently lives in Denver with her husband and two sons, where she writes during the day and cooks things at night.

You can find Carla Laureano online at:

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About The Saturday Night Supper Club

Denver chef Rachel Bishop has accomplished everything she’s dreamed and some things she never dared hope, like winning a James Beard Award and heading up her own fine-dining restaurant. But when a targeted smear campaign causes her to be pushed out of the business by her partners, she vows to do whatever it takes to get her life back . . . even if that means joining forces with the man who inadvertently set the disaster in motion.

Essayist Alex Kanin never imagined his pointed editorial would go viral. Ironically, his attempt to highlight the pitfalls of online criticism has the opposite effect: it revives his own flagging career by destroying that of a perfect stranger. Plagued by guilt-fueled writer’s block, Alex vows to do whatever he can to repair the damage. He just doesn’t expect his interest in the beautiful chef to turn personal.

Alex agrees to help rebuild Rachel’s tarnished image by offering his connections and his home to host an exclusive pop-up dinner party targeted to Denver’s most influential citizens: the Saturday Night Supper Club. As they work together to make the project a success, Rachel begins to realize Alex is not the unfeeling opportunist she once thought he was, and that perhaps there’s life—and love—outside the pressure-cooker of her chosen career. But can she give up her lifelong goals without losing her identity as well?

You can find The Saturday Night Supper Club online at:

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You can read the introduction to The Saturday Night Supper Club Below:

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#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:

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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:

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Read the introduction to Death at Thornburn Hall below:

Quote from Who I Am With You: "A good neighbor might have taken over a plate of fresh-baked chocolate-chip cookies. But Jessica had forgotten how to be a good neighbor."

Book Review | Who I Am With You by Robin Lee Hatcher

I was expecting this to be a contemporary romance, because all the other Robin Lee Hatcher novels I’ve read have been contemporary romances. So I was surprised when I started reading and found it’s a dual timeline story. Yes, the book description says this, but I guess I saw “Robin Lee Hatcher” and didn’t read the the book description properly. I knew I’d enjoy it.

And I did.

In the present story, Jessica Morgan is an artist who is expecting her dead husband’s baby while still recovering from his death, and the death of their daughter. Jessica has shut herself away from friends and life, but that changes when Ridley Chesterfield moves in next door. Ridley and his adopted stray dog challenge Jessica to come out of her shell.

I enjoyed watching Jessica grow past her grief and open up to live and love. However, if I had a criticism of Who I Am With You, it would be that she recovered from the lost of her daughter more quickly than seemed natural given the way she was portrayed at the beginning of the story. But I loved the way Ridley was able to bring Jessica out of her shell and back to church even while he was dealing with his own personal crisis.

In the past story, Andrew and Helen Henning are starting their perfect married life when Andrew loses his job. In the early weeks of what becomes the Great Depression. I didn’t enjoy the past story as much (hey, I’m a contemporary romance fan and the Great Depression is, well, somewhat depressing).

But the past story was compelling, and it set the scene for this contemporary story, and the next. And while I liked Ridley as a romance hero who faced internal and external challenges, his were minor in comparison to Andrew’s challenges. Overall, Who I Am With you is a great story filled with spiritual truth … and a couple of pointed comments on the current political climate.

Recommended for fans of dual timeline stories with a heart of faith.

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

About Robin Lee Hatcher

Robin Lee HatcherBest-selling novelist Robin Lee Hatcher is known for her heartwarming and emotionally charged stories of faith, courage, and love. Winner of the Christy, the RITA, the Carol, the Inspirational Reader’s Choice, and many other industry awards, Robin is also a recipient of Lifetime Achievement Awards from both Romance Writers of America and American Christian Fiction Writers. She is the author of 75+ novels and novellas with over five million copies in print.

Robin enjoys being with her family, spending time in the beautiful Idaho outdoors, reading books that make her cry, and watching romantic movies. Her main hobby (when time allows) is knitting, and she has a special love for making prayer shawls. A mother and grandmother, Robin and her husband make their home on the outskirts of Boise, sharing it with Poppet, the high-maintenance Papillon, and Princess Pinky, the DC (demon cat).

Find Robin online at:

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About Who I Am With You

For these two broken hearts, the first step toward love will be a huge leap of faith.

Jessica Mason isn’t looking for love when she meets Ridley Chesterfield. Instead she is still reeling from the tragic, unexpected loss of her husband and daughter—and awaiting the arrival of her unborn child. Harboring the secret of her husband’s betrayal, her pain is deeper than anyone knows.

Ridley Chesterfield is hiding out in Hope Springs, Idaho, avoiding a political scandal and the barrage of false media headlines that have tarnished his good name. The last thing Ridley wants is a relationship—but when fate leads Ridley to form a friendship with his reclusive and pregnant neighbor, he wonders if this small-town hideout might be more of a long-term destination.

When Jessica begins to read her great-grandfather’s Bible, she finds a connection with a man she never knew. Somehow the verses he marked and the words he wrote in the margins open her heart to healing. And as Ridley and Jessica help each other forgive the people who have wronged them, they must decide if the past will define them or if they will choose to love again.

Who I Am With You weaves together a modern-day romance with Jessica’s great-grandfather’s story from the 1930s, reminding us that some truths can cross generations and that faith has the power to transform families forever.

Find Who I Am With You online at:

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First Line Friday

First Line Friday | Week 70 | The Line Between by Tosca Lee

It’s First Line Friday! That means it’s time to pick up the nearest book and quote the first line. Today I’m sharing from The Line Between by Tosca Lee:

First line from The Line Between by Tosca Lee: Conventional wisdom dictates that that's an insurmountable divide—an entire dimension of eternity and space—between Heaven and Hell. I can tell you it's closer to a foot and a half.

The story is a unique mix of cult religion and near-future dystopia.

What’s the book nearest you, and what’s the first line?

About The Line Between

In this frighteningly believable thriller from New York Times bestselling author Tosca Lee, an extinct disease re-emerges from the melting Alaskan permafrost to cause madness in its victims. For recent apocalyptic cult escapee Wynter Roth, it’s the end she’d always been told was coming.

When Wynter Roth is turned out of New Earth, a self-contained doomsday cult on the American prairie, she emerges into a world poised on the brink of madness as a mysterious outbreak of rapid early onset dementia spreads across the nation.

As Wynter struggles to start over in a world she’s been taught to regard as evil, she finds herself face-to-face with the apocalypse she’s feared all her life—until the night her sister shows up at her doorstep with a set of medical samples. That night, Wynter learns there’s something far more sinister at play and that these samples are key to understanding the disease.

Now, as the power grid fails and the nation descends into chaos, Wynter must find a way to get the samples to a lab in Colorado. Uncertain who to trust, she takes up with former military man Chase Miller, who has his own reasons for wanting to get close to the samples in her possession, and to Wynter herself.

Filled with action, conspiracy, romance, and questions of whom—and what—to believe, The Line Between is a high-octane story of survival and love in a world on the brink of madness.

You can find The Line Between online at:

Amazon | ChristianBook | Goodreads

Click the button to check out what my fabulous fellow FirstLineFriday bloggers are sharing today:

You can then click the link which will take you to the master page of all this week’s #FirstLineFriday posts.

And you can click here to check out my previous FirstLineFriday posts.

Share your first line in the comments, and happy reading!

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#ThrowbackThursday | Integrate by Adele Jones

It’s Throwback Thursday! Today I’m resharing by review of Integrate, the first book in a near-future YA science trilogy from Australian author Adele Jones. This review first appeared at Iola’s Christian Reads.

Fast-paced YA Suspense with a GMO twist

Blaine Colton isn’t the average seventeen-year-old boy. He spent the first fourteen years of his life in a wheelchair until Professor Ramer’s experimental gene therapy turned him into a normal Australian teen. But now he’s back at the Advance Research Institute, under the care of Dr Melissa Hartfield, and something’s not quite right …

Blaine isn’t sure what’s happening, but he knows he needs to escape the Institute, and keep out of the clutches of Dr Hartfield and her cronies. And he needs to get more pills, so he seeks help from his former next-door neighbour, Sophie Faraday. But Dr Hartfield has already contacted Sophie, who now doesn’t know who’s telling the truth: Blaine, or the doctor?

Integrate is a fast-paced psychological thriller set in Brisbane, Australia. The plot is excellent, with enough science to keep it interesting, but not so much that it dissolves into technobabble. I liked the way all the little bits tied up at the end, yet still leaves room for a sequel (I’d like to see more of Blaine, Sophie and Jett).

Blaine is mature for his age, having come through the disabilities he faced in childhood with a strong sense of self, and no desire to return to the person he used to be. He’s fighting for his life in a different way, and has to persuade Sophie and others that he’s not violent or deranged—a difficult task when he’s only partway through his cure and his physical health is failing.

The other characters are good as well. They all feel like real people, with a mixture of good and bad points. They make mistakes, judge things incorrectly, and get frustrating. Annoying, but just like real people in real life. All in all, Integrate is a good read. Recommended.

Thanks to Rhiza Press for providing a free ebook for review.

About Adele Jones

Author Photo - Adele Jones

I’m an Australian author who writes young adult and historical novels, poetry and short fiction, and inspirational non-fiction works. My first YA techno-thriller novel ‘Integrate’ was awarded the 2013 CALEB Prize for unpublished manuscript.

My writing explores issues of social justice, humanity, spirituality, natural beauty and meaning in life’s journey, drawing on inspiration from my family, faith, friends, music and science.

Find Adele Jones online at:

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About Integrate

Blaine Colton had been handed a genetic death sentence until revolutionary gene therapy changed his life. Living a relatively normal existence, he is called to an unscheduled post-treatment appointment just weeks before his eighteenth birthday.

Informed that his life saving procedure was never approved, he is held against his will for his status as an apparent illegal GMO. Subjected to constant testing, refused contact with his parents and deprived of life sustaining medication, Blaine begins to suspect that something is wrong. Wanting answers, he escapes the Institute and ambitious Chief Scientist, Dr Melissa Hartfield.

Now a fugitive with a failing body, Blaine must find Professor Ramer, the developer of his therapy. But the Professor has vanished and time is running out. Fast.

You can find Integrate online at:

Amazon US | Amazon UK | Amazon AU | Goodreads

I wasn't always a liar ...

#ThrowbackThursday | Perennials by Julie Cantrell

It’s #Throwback Thursday. Today I’m bringing you my review of Perennials, by award-winning author Julie Cantrell. This review previously appeared at Australasian Christian Writers. Click here to check out the discussion.

Perennials: Inspirational Women’s Fiction for the Eat, Pray, Love Generation

PerennialsI don’t usually read reviews before reading a book I’ve asked to review, because I don’t want to be influenced (in contrast, I do read reviews before buying a book. Call me weird, but I find it easier to ignore a book’s faults if I know them before I start reading page one).

Anyway, if the review I read was accurate, this book had a lot of faults. The chief fault appeared to be that it was from a Christian publisher, yet was not Christian fiction.

Well, sold.

Okay, not sold. But I requested a review copy from NetGalley, because I wanted to find out for myself.

The writing was brilliant.

Julie Cantrell has a gift with words, with emotion. The plot was generally strong. I thought the plot device used to get Eva home to her family was contrived almost to the point of being unbelievable, but the writing was outstanding and the characterisation was solid enough that I was prepared to let a less-than-believable plot point pass.

Perennials is the story of a middle-aged professional woman who learns the hard way success isn’t defined by your salary or your job title (or your ability to life a Pinterest-worthy life), but by being true to yourself. She also learns that we can’t judge and resent others for their Pinterest-perfect lives, because we don’t know what they’re hiding.

These are powerful lessons.

Eva, the main character, wasn’t the most likeable person to begin with. She has a chip on her shoulder the size of a small planet, and even at forty-five years of age, it’s never occurred to her that her outlook on life and on her family (especially on her family) is anything but right. Being home again forces her to review and rethink some of her perceptions. The more I saw of her in her home town, the more I was able to sympathise and empathise with her situation.

Overall, I’d classify this as an inspirational women’s fiction version of Just Look Up by Courtney Walsh. Perennials definitely doesn’t fit in the narrow echo chamber of Christian fiction. If it was a romance, I’d say it was angling for a RITA nomination for Romance with Religious or Spiritual Elements. It had plenty of spiritual elements—but most of them weren’t Christian:

Namaste. The light in me sees the light in you.
The ancestors have a lot to teach us.
Kachina Woman, Hera, Kuan Yin, Mary. Whoever she is, she is timeless and omnipotent, representing all things feminine and calming and wise.

Definitely not Christian—and that last quote is in direct contradiction to the Gospel of John, which makes clear that Jesus is the way. Not one of many. Yet there were also lines like this:

Love keeps no record of wrongs.

And:

Jesus experienced the worst. Betrayed by someone he trusted, destroyed by the people he loved. Public shame, humiliation … but despite it all, he chose to love.

No, Perennials doesn’t fit into the shiny bucket that is CBA fiction.

If you’re looking for a typical Christian fiction novel, then I wouldn’t recommend Perennials. But if you’re looking for something that doesn’t fit the Christian norm—perhaps as a gift for a non-Christian friend who appreciates good writing and enjoys books such as Eat, Pray, Love—then Perennials may be a good option.

Perhaps Perennials does present Jesus as an option to be considered rather than as the answer. But in doing that, it may attract readers who wouldn’t ever pick up a ‘Christian’ novel. And if those readers are true to themselves, they will consider Jesus. And I believe we need more books written by Christians for a general market audience, books that address real-world problems and present Jesus as an option.

As Perennials does.

What do you think?

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

About Julie Cantrell

Julie CantrellNew York Times and USA TODAY bestselling author, Julie Cantrell is known for writing inspirational novels that explore the hard truths women typically keep secret. While she delves into emotional issues, she does so with a compassionate and open heart, always bringing readers through to a hopeful path for peace, empathy, and healing.

A speech-language pathologist and literacy advocate, Julie was honored to receive the 2012 Mississippi Arts Commission Literary Fellowship. She also received the 2016 Mary Elizabeth Nelson Fellowship at Rivendell Writer’s Colony, which is awarded to a writer who encourages spiritual growth, healing, and care through his or her work.

Julie and her two children now live in Oxford, Mississippi where they spent six years operating Valley House Farm, a sustainable organic farmstead, before moving into a new adventure.

You can find Julie Cantrell online at:

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About Perennials

When two estranged sisters reunite for their parents’ 50th anniversary, a family tragedy brings unexpected lessons of hope and healing amid the flowers of their mother’s perennial garden.
Eva—known to all as Lovey—grew up safe and secure in Oxford, MS, surrounded by a rich literary history and her mother’s stunning flower gardens. But a shed fire, and the injuries that it caused, seemed to change everything . . . especially when her older sister, Bitsy, blamed Lovey for the irreparable damage.
Bitsy became the cheerleader. The homecoming queen. The perfect Southern belle who could do no wrong. All the while, Lovey served as the family scapegoat, always bearing the brunt when Bitsy threw blame her way.
At eighteen, suffocating in her sister’s shadow, Lovey turned down a marriage proposal and fled to Arizona—a place as far from Mississippi as she could find.
In time, she became a successful advertising executive and a weekend yoga instructor, carving a satisfying life for herself, free from Bitsy’s vicious lies. But now that she’s turning 45, Lovey is feeling more alone than ever and questioning the choices that have led her here.
When she gets a call from her father insisting that she come home three weeks early for her parents’ 50th anniversary, Lovey is at wits’ end. She’s about to close the biggest contract of her career, and there’s a lot on the line. But despite the risks, her father’s words, “Family First,” draw her right back to the red-dirt roads of Mississippi.
Lovey is welcomed home by a secret project—a memory garden her father has planned as an anniversary surprise for her mother. As she helps create this sacred space, Lovey begins to rediscover her roots, learning to live perennially in spite of life’s many trials and tragedies.
Years ago, Lovey chose to leave her family and the South far behind. But now that she’s returned, she’s realizing things at home were not always what they seemed.

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

Book Review | Things Left Unsaid by Courtney Walsh

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

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

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

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

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

The novel really comes into itself in the final quarter.

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

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

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

About the Author

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

Find Courtney Walsh online at …

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About Things Left Unsaid

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

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

But Lyndie isn’t the only one with secrets.

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

Find Things Left Unsaid online at:

Amazon | ChristianBook | Goodreads

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

About the Authors

Kristi Ann Hunter

Author photo: Kristi Ann Hunter

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

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

You can find Kristi Ann Hunter online at:

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About Karen Witemeyer

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

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

Find Karen Witemeyer online at:

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About Sarah Loudin Thomas

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

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

Find Sarah Loudin Thomas online at:

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About Becky Wade

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

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

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

You can find Becky Wade online at:

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About The Christmas Heirloom

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

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

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

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

Find The Christmas Heirloom online at:

Amazon | ChristianBook | Goodreads | Koorong

Read the introduction to The Christmas Heirloom below:

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