Monday, September 9, 2019

The Noble Guardian by Michelle Griep #BookReview


Book Description

Life couldn’t be better for Abigail Gilbert—but it’s been a long time in coming. Having lived with a family who hated her, it’s finally her time for love. Abby sets off on a journey across England to marry one of the most prestigious gentlemen in the land—until highwaymen upset her plans and threaten her life.
 Horse patrol captain Samuel Thatcher arrives just in time to save Abby. But she’s simply another victim in a job he’s come to despise. Tired of the dark side of humanity, he intends to buy land and retire.
 Abby pleads with him to escort her for the rest of her journey. He refuses—until she offers him something he desperately needs to achieve his goal. . .money. Delivering her safely will give him more than enough to buy property.
 So begins an impossible trek for the cynical lawman and the proper lady. Each will be indelibly changed by the time they reach her betrothed, if they don’t kill one another first—or fall in love.



My Thoughts

The Why:
Samuel Thatcher's character seized my curiosity when he was first introduced in this series about the "Bow Street Runners," a group of men who have been called London's first professional police force. Thatcher is a quiet one, and the quiet ones intrigue me. His story reveals much simmering beneath the surface.

The Main Characters:
Samuel and Abby are a well-matched leading lady and man. Their strengths bring the other's weaknesses to light, while they challenge one another to become stronger. Abby is a sweet, Cinderella-type character with underlying mettle. She is highly naive to the world and quite the optimist, while Samuel is jaded, world-weary from his wartime in India, and a pessimist without much hope. Baby Emma, the young ward they are charged with delivering to a relative, is simply precious. She charms the reader on every page she graces.

The Faith Element:
Both characters learn to look to God for hope when all seems lost. And the story gives them plenty of occasions to lean on this hope. The hero's unwavering faith in God is refreshing and gives his character a multifaceted depth that shows all Christians need encouragement and reminders of hope. We're all susceptible to the weight of this life, no matter how strong our faith. The heroine goes from a knowledge of God to a dependent love for God and multiple times shares the message of Christ's sacrifice, even though characters sometimes mock her beliefs.

The Romance:
I like the way these characters come to care for each other by recognizing dearly held values played out in the other's actions, whether wielding courage in the face of death, caring for the helpless, or showing generosity. Besides mutual love for baby Emma, Samuel's quiet integrity and Abby's courageous and candid ways draw them to one another. A word to sensitive readers: one kiss between the hero and heroine, when she is days from marrying another man, grows a bit fierce.

The Stakes:
Life and death stakes carry the reader all the way up until around the 3/4 mark, when the focus turns to matters of the heart. I wondered if the fiance might be revealed as the true mastermind behind the earlier villains, which would have carried the stakes even higher until the ending. At this point, the story and characters I'd loved so far grew rather stagey for me, the heroine's motives cloudy. And although the story resolution didn't fully result from the character journey-struggles, I was happy to see Samuel receive a good ending after all he'd been through.

Overall Impression:
Love the characters, the setting, description, beautiful language, and the theme of hope. This is a satisfying glimpse into the character of Samuel Thatcher, whom we meet earlier in the series. I recommend reading the series in order, though it's not necessary. This story transports the reader to a living, breathing 1700s England full of intrigue and danger and love while giving us a deeper look into the lives of men who paved the way for the modern police force.

***I received a complimentary copy of this book. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

Thursday, September 5, 2019

The Dating Charade by Melissa Ferguson #BookReview


Book Description

Just when you think you’ve met your match . . . the charade begins.
Cassie Everson is an expert at escaping bad first dates. And, after years of meeting, greeting, and running from the men who try to woo her, Cassie is almost ready to retire her hopes for a husband—and children—altogether.
But fate has other plans, and Cassie’s online dating profile catches the eye of firefighter Jett Bentley. In Jett’s memory, Cassie Everson is the unreachable girl-of-legend from their high school days. Nervously, he messages her, setting off a chain of events that forces a reluctant Cassie back into the dating game.
No one is more surprised than Cassie when her first date with Jett is a knockout. But when they both go home and find three children dropped in their laps—each—they independently decide to do the right and mature thing: hide the kids from each other while sorting it all out. What could go wrong?


My Thoughts:

Melissa Ferguson's homegrown humor is splashed all over this powder-fresh tale. You can't read this story without smiling...a lot. The fireman hero and the first-date-weary heroine, who works at a nonprofit organization for at-risk teens, are perfectly matched--and mismatched. Their verbal sparring magnetizes the reader to the page. Their parenting mishaps will have you wiping hot tears between chuckles.

Cassie and Jett are two relatable people, struggling to resolve their differences and make sense of this crazy modern dating world--and this crazy modern life where tots and teens alike are thrown about hither and yon, the kids' drug-enslaved parents either abandoning them or using them as a meal ticket. You and I both know of so many cases like this--it's not just fictional conflict, it's real life. And Melissa Ferguson has crafted characters to live this story that feel just as real.

C and J connected through a dating site. He's hiding three kids from her, she's hiding three kids from him. They're trying to squeeze a date or two in between diaper changes, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and macaroni, and the occasional rare-but-victorious private shower and bathroom break. I like Jett's integrity and Cassie's big heart, and their mutual competitive streak. I also like that both characters are over thirty and still single for the first time with no horrible skeletons in their closets (we do exist!) as well as the fact the heroine is a few years older than the hero. There is a lot of shaming and name-calling about this sort of situation, even in Christian circles, so this was refreshing to see Cassie's story written with a kind pen. While I would like to have seen more dates and more serious heart-level communication between the hero and heroine before the marriage proposal, I thought their relationship was portrayed with a good balance of sweetness and struggles to work through, overall off to a good start.

The children in the story could have crawled into this book from off the lap of any unsuspecting real life parent. Their antics are so outrageous, but so believable if you've ever spent any time supervising children. And the senior-citizen sisters? I loved them so much, I'd like to get my hands on the audio version sometime so I can listen with my sister. The type of humor in this book is what I've been waiting for. At the same time, the pavement-meets-shoe-rubber truths that bind this story together hit home. From now on, I'll be keeping a sharp eye out (Who invented that dangerous-sounding metaphor anyway?) for whatever this author writes.


***I received a complimentary copy of this book. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

Tuesday, September 3, 2019

September 2019 Fiction Release #ACFW

September 2019 New Releases

More in-depth descriptions of these books can be found on the ACFW Fiction Finder website.

Contemporary Romance:
Reunited in the Rockies by Mindy Obenhaus -- For widow Kayla Bradshaw, restoring a historic Colorado hotel means a better life for her and her soon-to-arrive baby. But she needs construction help from Jude Stephens, the love she lost through a misunderstanding. Working with Kayla, the police officer finds himself forgiving her—and longing to rebuild her shattered confidence. But can they trust each other enough to forge a future together? (Contemporary Romance from Love Inspired [Harlequin])



A Man to Trust by Carrie Turansky -- After years spent helping manage her family's Christian bookstore, it's time for Adrie Chandler to give her own dream of playing her flute with a symphony orchestra a chance. But can she really trust the beloved shop to new manager Ross Peterson? The man is too handsome, too charming....and too much a reminder of another dream Adrie had to let go of - marriage. Yet Ross surprises her by knowing a thing or two about making sacrifices. Suddenly, Adrie is questioning what she really wants. And whether the dreams she once thought unlikely are within reach after all. (Contemporary Romance from Flowing Stream Books)

Fall Flip by Denise Weimer -- The tragic death of Shelby Dodson's husband--her partner in a successful Home Network house flipping business--stole love, status, and career. Now a bungalow redesign thrusts Shelby into the company of a new contractor. Scott Matthews remembers high-and-mighty Shelby from high school, and her prissy, contemporary style goes against his down-to-earth grain. When the house reveals a mystery, will its dark secrets--and their own mistakes--cost them a second chance at love? (Contemporary Romance from Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas)

Listening to Love by Beth Wiseman -- Lucas is Amish. Natalie’s Englisch. They are best friends—and friends only. Despite what the gossips say. Besides, they couldn’t be together even if they wanted to be. Lucas would never leave the Amish faith, and Natalie is pursuing a degree in veterinary medicine. But when a terrifying accident happens, Natalie and Lucas are forced to confront their true feelings and decide if they can stay true to themselves and each other. (Contemporary Romance from HarperCollins Christian Publishing)

General Contemporary:
The Christmas Portrait by Phyllis Clark Nichols -- A family facing their first holiday season without Mama finds a way to celebrate Christmas. (General Contemporary from Gilead Publishing)

Historical:
Memories of Glass by Melanie Dobson -- 1942. As war rips through the heart of Holland, childhood friends Josie van Rees and Eliese Linden partner with a few daring citizens to rescue Eliese’s son and hundreds of other Jewish children who await deportation in a converted theater in Amsterdam. But amid their resistance work, Josie and Eliese’s dangerous secrets could derail their friendship and their entire mission. When the enemy finds these women, only one will escape. Seventy-five years later, Ava Drake begins to suspect that her great-grandfather William Kingston was not the World War II hero he claimed to be. Her work as director of the prestigious Kingston Family Foundation leads her to Landon West’s Ugandan coffee plantation, and Ava and Landon soon discover a connection between their families. As Landon’s great-grandmother shares the broken pieces of her story, Ava must confront the greatest loss in her own life?and powerful members of the Kingston family who will do anything to keep the truth buried. (Historical from Tyndale Publishing)

Historical Romance:
Treasured Christmas Brides by Amanda Cabot, Rebecca Germany, Cathy Marie Hake, Colleen L. Reece, MaryLu Tyndall, and Michelle Ule -- Six historical Christmas romances prove life’s most priceless gifts come not in the form of polished gold or silver—but from the vast riches of a loving heart. (Historical Romance from Barbour Publishing)

Thankful for the Cowboy by Mary Connealy -- Hero Tom MacKinnon rides up driving a wagon with a second wagon trailing him. He and his sister want to be hired to build windmills. They’ll ask for very little money and, in exchange heroine, Lauren Drummond, newly widowed mother of four nearly grown sons, will help them learn to survive in the Sandhills of Nebraska. What to grow, what to hunt, how to build a sod house.
Tom’s windmills will save her ranch. Lauren needs three windmills on this drought year or her growing herd of cattle is going to die of thirst. She agrees to teach him the ways of the Sandhills, and to give him fifteen head of cattle. She’s not ready to think of another man. But Tom changes her mind. His little sister and one of her sons find love together before Tom and Lauren do. (Historical Romance, Independently Published)

The Return of the King’s Ranger by Angela K. Couch -- The war is over…for everyone but him. The war for American freedom is over, and the British have gone back to England. Not knowing what has become of his family since he was forced into the Continental Army nine years earlier, Myles Cunningham wants to go home as well. He returns to the Mohawk Valley with the understanding that he is believed to have been shot for deserting—fiction that might be made real if anyone recognizes him as the son of a Tory and a King's Ranger. Everything is wonderful in the growing community along the Mohawk River, except Nora Reid is still alone. With her brother happily settled and both her younger sisters starting families of their own, Nora feels the weight of her twenty-four years. A long walk leads her to the overgrown rubble of the Cunningham homestead where a bearded stranger begins to awaken feelings she'd lost hope of ever experiencing. With secrets abounding—including whether Myles even cares for her—Nora must determine what she is ready to give up and how far she will go to secure his affections. She begins to break through his defenses, but Myles can't risk staying. Not if he loves her. (Historical Romance from White Rose Publishing [Pelican])

Christmas Next Door by Susan Page Davis and Vickie McDonough -- Visit an Old West Texas town where a mysterious benefactor leaves gifts each Christmas, but also where four pairs of neighbors battle over hearsay, secrets, and mysteries. (Historical Romance from Barbour Publishing)

Under Moonlit Skies by Cynthia Roemer -- Esther meets Stewart, her brother-in-law’s ranch hand, when helping her sister recover from childbirth. Any interest she may have in the cowboy is hopeless, since she must return home to Cincinnati and the man her overbearing mother intends her to wed. till reeling from a hurtful relationship, Stew is reluctant to open his heart to Esther. But when he faces a life-threatening injury with Esther tending him, their bond deepens. Heartbroken when she leaves, he sets out after her and inadvertently stumbles across an illegal slave-trade operation, the knowledge of which puts him, as well as Esther and her family, in jeopardy. (Historical Romance from Mantle Rock Publishing)

Mail-Order Misfire by Davalynn Spencer -- Preacher Bern Stidham is a peacemaker—when he’s not carrying one on his hip. His little girl wants a helper for her widowed father and a mama for herself, so she writes for a mail-order bride. Without telling him. Recently widowed dressmaker Etta Collier is a half-step ahead of the banker who carries a lustful eye for her as well as the note on her home. When her pastor encourages her to answer an unusual letter from a little girl, hope opens an unexpected door. Running from one man’s lecherous pursuit into the home of another she knows nothing about, Etta may have to risk everything to ease a little girl’s loneliness and find a second chance at love. (Historical Romance, Independently Published)

The Witness Tree by Denise Weimer -- Past betrayal has turned John Kliest’s passion to his work as a builder and surveyor in the Moravian town of Salem, North Carolina. Now, to satisfy the elders’ edict and fulfill his mission in Cherokee Territory, he needs a bride. But the one woman qualified to record the Cherokee language longs for a future with his younger brother. Clarissa Vogler’s dream of a life with Daniel Kliest is shattered when she is chosen by lot to marry his older brother and venture into the uncharted frontier. Can she learn to love this stoic man who is now her husband? Her survival hinges on being able to trust him—but they both harbor secrets. (Historical Romance from Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas)

Romantic Suspense:
Don't Give Up On Me by Jodi Artzberger -- When Cragge Automotive Group's heiress, Amanda Cragge is left for dead, the only man she's ever loved finds her. As the threats continue, will she accept help from the man who left her eight years ago without explanation? When Ryker Scott returns to Otter Bay, he is brought face to face with his past. He thought he could handle coming back but he might have been wrong. As a trained Army Ranger, he's going to have to use his skills if he wants to keep the only woman he's ever loved alive.
Will their past become their future or will their futures be destroyed forever?(Romantic Suspense, Independently Published)

Breaking Point by Marji Laine -- Ever since her father’s death, Alynne Stone has had a series of strange “accidents.” Police Lieutenant Jason Danvers believes her father was murdered. He tries to connect the attempts on Alynne’s life, but things just don’t add up. Even in a small town, the mere rumor of treasure can change lives, end friendships...maybe even kill? Still dealing with the pain of his own wife's death, he can’t allow an innocent woman’s life to be snuffed out on his watch. Especially one who shines as bright as Alynne. (Romantic Suspense, Write Integrity Press)

Fatal Strike by DiAnn Mills -- FBI Agents Leah Riesel and Jon Colbert team up to track down a killer on the loose in Galveston, targeting law enforcement officials and using a fatal injection of snake venom to take them down. (Romantic Suspense, Tyndale House)

Thriller:
The Gryphon Heist by James R. Hannibal -- Talia Inger is a rookie CIA case officer assigned not to the Moscow desk as she had hoped but to the forgotten backwaters of Eastern Europe--a department only known as "Other." When she is tasked with helping a young, charming Moldovan executive secure his designs for a revolutionary defense technology, she figures she'll be back in DC within a few days. But that's before she knows where the designs are stored--and who's after them. With her shady civilian partner, Adam Tyler, Talia takes a deep dive into a world where only criminal minds and unlikely strategies will keep the Gryphon, a high-altitude data vault, hovering in the mesosphere. Even Tyler is more than he seems, and Talia begins to wonder: Is he helping her? Or using her access to CIA resources to pull off an epic heist for his own dark purposes? (Techno-thriller from Revell – A Division of Baker Publishing Group)

*All authors whose books are included on the ACFW New Releases list attest that their book meets CBA standards for clean, Christian content. The  posting of this list on the Sweet South Blog is not a review or an endorsement of any book on the list.

Saturday, August 3, 2019

Until the Mountains Fall by Connilyn Cossette #Reviewed


Book Description:

Recently widowed, Rivkah refuses to submit to the Torah law compelling her to marry her husband's brother and instead flees Kedesh, hoping to use her talents as a scribe to support herself. Without the protections of her father, Kedesh's head priest, and the safety of the city of refuge, Rivkah soon discovers that the cost of recklessness is her own freedom.

Malakhi has secretly loved Rivkah for years, but he never imagined his older brother's death would mean wedding her himself. After her disappearance, he throws himself into the ongoing fight against the Canaanites instead of dwelling on all he has lost. But with impending war looming over Israel, Rivkah's father comes to Malakhi with an impossible request.

As the enemies that Rivkah and Malakhi face from without and within Israel grow more threatening each day, is it too late for the restoration their wounded souls seek?


My thoughts:

In Until the Mountains Fall, Connilyn Cossette gives us a fresh look at the account of the prodigal son, only in her book, the prodigal is a woman.

We journey with Rivkah as she discovers a world outside the one that chafed her as a young woman and follow Malakhi as he matures from an impetuous teen and betrothed groom into a wise, battle-scarred warrior. Their love story is beautiful, Malakhi's heart for her an example of Christ's love for us, but just as beautiful is the love Rivkah's father carries for her as he never gives up hope that she will return to him.

The characterization is jaw-dropping, and the prose so poetic, the reader can't help but be transported with each page. There are many twists and turns in the plot, each one ratcheting up the stakes and keeping the story tension above the boiling point.
This is the book I'd been waiting for all year. It's been a while since a story took me so far and demanded so much of me, leaving my perspectives changed--or at least giving me a broader perspective on things I already believed to be true. I'm going to have a hard time doing the book justice with this review. Having started at the beginning of the series, re-reading the first and second titles straight through to the newest, there are no words for some of the emotions provoked by this story.

Thrilled to revisit familiar characters from previous books, I'm amazed at just how interconnected these characters really are, going all the way back into the Out From Egypt Series. (Is there a chart of family trees, please!) It's been some time since I've enjoyed a series as much as I have these books.

One of my favorite quotes from the book gives us a glimpse into the character Rivkah:
"The dance of ink over finely woven fibers became an act of worship, a connection to the Creator of language himself, especially when the words of a new song spilled from my heart onto a sheet of papyrus."


Check out the Pinterest board for the book. Amazing stuff there!






 *I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher and have stated my honest opinion in this voluntary review. 

August 2019 Fiction Releases from #ACFW

August 2019 New Releases

More in-depth descriptions of these books can be found on the ACFW Fiction Finder website.

Contemporary Romance:


The Butterfly Recluse by Therese Heckenkamp -- Lila finds solace in her sheltered world by raising butterflies and surrounding herself with their gentle beauty. They’re all she needs—until a motorcycle-riding stranger roars up her driveway, invading her safe haven, throwing her life off-kilter, and forcing her to question everything. What exactly is he after, and what is he not telling her? In one intense night of desperation and revelation, Lila must confront her darkest fears—and hopefully discover that with faith and courage, shattered dreams can be restored, damaged hearts can love again, and broken wings can heal . . . maybe even fly. (Contemporary Romance from Ivory Tower Press)



A Glitter of Gold by Liz Johnson -- Anne Norris moved to Savannah, Georgia, for a fresh start. Now her pirate-tour business is flagging and paying the rent requires more than wishful thinking. When she discovers evidence of a shipwreck off the coast of Tybee Island, she knows it could be just the boon she needs to stay afloat. She takes her findings to local museum director Carter Hale for confirmation, but things do not go as planned. Carter is fascinated with the wreck, the discovery of which could open the door to his dream job at a prestigious museum. But convincing Anne to help him fill in the missing pieces of the puzzle is no easy task. And working with Carter means that Anne will have to do the one thing she swore she'd never do again: trust a man. (Contemporary Romance from Revell-A Division of Baker Publishing Group)



Hometown Healing by Jennifer Slattery -- She’s home again, but not for long… Unless this cowboy recaptures her heart Returning home with a baby in tow, Paige Cordell’s determined her stay is only temporary. But to earn enough money to leave, she needs a job—and her only option is working at her first love’s dinner theater. With attraction once again unfurling between her and Jed Gilbertson, can the man who once broke her heart convince her to stay for good? (Contemporary Romance from Love Inspired [Harlequin])

General Contemporary/Women's Fiction:


Grace in Deep Waters by Christine Dillon -- William Macdonald is at the pinnacle of his career. Pastor of a growing megachurch and host of a successful national radio programme. Clever and respected, he’s a man with everything, including a secret. His wife has left him and he can’t risk anyone finding out. Blanche Macdonald is struggling. Her once rock-solid marriage is showing cracks. She promised to love her husband for better or for worse, but does loving always mean staying? Blanche desires to put God first. Not William. Not her daughter. Not herself. When is a marriage over? When do you stand and fight? (Women’s Fiction, Independently Published)



When Mountains Sing by Stacy Monson -- Mikayla Gordon loves nothing more than sleeping under the stars, reeling in the “big one,” and long hikes in the wilderness. A medical crisis reveals a 30-year-old secret that turns everything she’s known and believed upside down, unraveling her dreams and her identity. In search of answers, she follows a trail from Minnesota to Colorado and discovers more unwelcome secrets even as she falls in love with the majestic beauty of the Rocky Mountains, and a wilderness camp leader who shares the greatest secret of all. Knowing her life can never go back to what it was, she must make decisions that will impact far more than just her future. (Contemporary from His Image Publications)



All In by L. K. Simonds -- Cami Taylor: a blackjack dealer, a bestselling author, and a fraud. Cami's boyfriend, Joel, loves her in spite of her flaws. He wants to marry her, buy a house on Long Island, and raise a family--a life that's a million miles from Cami's idea of happiness. Her therapist suggests compromise and trust, but Cami bolts like a deer. She breaks off the relationship and launches on a new quest for happiness, not knowing that a nasty surprise waits around the corner. What follows is a fight to the death. Who will be the one left standing? (Contemporary from Morgan James Fiction)

Historical:


Finding Lady Enderly by Joanna Davidson Politano -- A rag girl accepts an invitation to become the lady she's always dreamed of being, but some dreams turn out to be nightmares. (Historical from Revel - A Division of Baker Publishing Group)

Historical Romance:


Lady and the Lawman by Crystal L. Barnes, Vickie McDonough, Annette OHare, and Kathleen Y'Barbo -- Four historic stories of lawmen and the ladies who love them. (Historical Romance from Barbour Publishing)



The Farmer’s Daughter by Mary Davis, Kelly Eileen Hake, Tracie J. Peterson, Jill Stengl, and Susan May Warren -- Enjoy five historical novels by some of Christian fiction’s bestselling authors. Meet daughters of prairie farms from Montana south to Kansas who find love in the midst of turbulent life changes. Marty’s nieces are kidnapped. Rosalind’s town is overrun by a railroad company. Amy’s jealousy comes between her and her twin. Beulah’s answer is needed to a marriage proposal. Lilly’s choice puts her at odd with her neighbors. Into each of their lives rides a man who may only make their situations worse. (Historical Romance from Barbour Publishing)



The Cowboys by Sandra Merville Hart, Cindy Ervin Huff, Jennifer Uhlarik, and Linda W. Yezak -- Taming the West--one heart at a time. Healing Heart: A physically scarred cowboy finds solace with a ranch girl who is hiding from her past. Becoming Brave: A cattle drover wants to get his boss’s heard safely through Indian Territory...as soon he figures out why a bloodstained woman is holding a gun on him. Trails End: Waiting for his boss’s cattle to sell, a cowboy takes a kitchen job at a restaurant where the beautiful and prickly owner adds spice to his workday. Loving a Harvey Girl: To improve the local preacher’s opinion of career women, a Harvey Girl makes it her mission to redeem a wayward cowboy, but finds herself longing for a husband, hearth, and home. (Historical Romance from Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas)



Lost in the Storm by Tamera Lynn Kraft -- Lavena, a journalist during the Civil War, wants to become a war correspondent. She finally gets her chance, but there's a catch. She has to get an interview from a war hero who has refused to tell his story to every other journalist, and she has to accomplish this impossible task in a month or she'll lose her job. Captain Cage, the war hero, has a secret that will destroy his military career and reputation. Now, a new journalist wants him to reveal what he's been hiding. He’d prefer to ignore her, but from the moment she came into camp, he can't get her out of his mind. Leading up to the turbulent Battles for the city of Chattanooga, will Lavena and Cage find the courage to love and forgive, or will they be swept away by their past mistakes that don't want to stay buried? (Historical Romance from Mt Zion Ridge Press)



Love's Allegiance by Linda Shenton Matchett -- Inspired by the biblical love story of Rebekkah and Isaac, Love’s Allegiance explores the struggles and sacrifices of those whose beliefs were at odds with a world at war. (Historical Romance from Shortwave Press)



The Brightest Hope by Naomi Musch -- Five years after the Great War, Holly Allen is a well-adjusted war widow with a knack for running the family press. She’s over the days of waiting for a white knight to ride in and sweep her away from her cares. Besides, if Hugh Phelps is a knight, he's certainly a black one—with his prison record, personal demons, and the ghosts of war that haunt him. When Holly hires Hugh, despite her reservations, it isn’t long before she sees the man he could really be, and as Hugh finds his niche at Allen’s Printing, he finds his lady boss equally appealing. Despite the attraction, however, Holly won’t let herself fall for a faithless man, and Hugh isn’t on gracious terms with God. Then, just when new beginnings seem possible, old heartaches from the war come calling. Now it might only be in letting go of everything dear that they both discover what real love is. (Historical Romance, Independently Published)



Annabelle’s Joy by Betty Thomason Owens -- She's waited too long. When Tom proposed last year, Annabelle wasn't ready to open her heart to another man. Pain still held a thin crust around it. Time has healed her heart, but with a new woman in town, one who clearly has her sights set on Tom, does it matter if Annabelle's heart is ready to love again? Folks in town are keeping a close eye on their pharmacist, hoping to be the first to hear the good news. He’s been courting the widow Cross for nigh on two years now. Annabelle Cross better wake up and put her dancing shoes on. Mr. Tom is prime real estate. (Historical Romance from Write Integrity Press)

Mystery/Cozy Mystery:


Hidden Secrets by Janet Sketchley -- When an online vendetta against the Green Dory Inn escalates to physical threats, a cryptic message about a tunnel points to the property’s original owner, a notorious Prohibition-era sea captain rumoured to have left hidden wealth. (Mystery, Independently Published)



Murder at Rendsburg Resort by C. L. Wells -- Trapped in a remote resort with a killer on the loose, the body count piling up, and no one else to save them, mystery writer Jill Pemberton must help find the killer before they claim their next victim. (Cozy Mystery, Independently Published)

Romantic Suspense:


Two Steps Forward by Luana Ehrlich -- When CIA operative Titus Ray has an unexpected encounter with a Jihadi terrorist while he and Nikki are on their honeymoon in Morocco, he assumes it’s a coincidence, but when they travel to Israel for the second half of their honeymoon and encounter him again, he takes action, which takes him to Baghdad to prevent the assassination of a high-profile government official. (Romantic Suspense, Independently Published)



Edge of Truth by Kimberly Rose Johnson -- The DEA sends two of its best agents, Kara Nelson and Jeff Clark, to Central Oregon, to shut down a major drug ring. Kara and Jeff usually work alone, but Operation Trail Ride throws them undercover together in a way neither of them expected. A notorious Miami drug lord wants Kara dead. Can these agents pull off the greatest acting job of their lives—and manage the sparks flying between them? Or will they die trying? (Romantic Suspense, Independently Published)

Speculative:


Redemption by Jacques R. Pye -- Sterling Newman and Armena Sandal face death as they struggle to help the Alesandrans and the Kirilleans combat a force seeking the destruction of both worlds. (Speculative, Independently Published)

Young Adult:


Shards of Light by Susan Miura -- Sometimes the pieces of a shattered dream can transform into something extraordinary. (Young Adult from Vinspire Publishing)


*All authors whose books are included on the ACFW New Releases list attest that their book meets CBA standards for clean, Christian content. The posting of this list on the Sweet South Blog is not a review or an endorsement of any book on the list.

Tuesday, July 2, 2019

More Than Words Can Say by Karen Witemeyer #Review #SurpriseBookGiveaway




Book Description:

After fulfilling a pledge to a dying friend, Zacharias Hamilton is finally free. No family entanglements. No disappointing those around him. Just the quiet bachelor existence he's always craved. Until fate snatches his freedom away when the baker of his favorite breakfast bun is railroaded by the city council. Despite not wanting to get involved, he can't turn a blind eye to her predicament . . . or her adorable dimples. Abigail Kemp needs a man's name on her bakery's deed. A marriage of convenience seems the best solution . . . if it involves a man she can control. That person definitely isn't the stoic lumberman who oozes silent confidence whenever he enters her shop. Control Zacharias Hamilton? She can't even control her pulse when she's around him. When vows are spoken, Abigail's troubles should be over. Yet threats to the bakery worsen, and darker dangers hound her sister. Can she put ever more trust in Zach without losing her dreams of independence?


The Main Characters:

After viewing the cover, more than one person asked me if this was an Amish book. It is not. But the heroine, Abigail, is a successful baker and businesswoman, who is fighting to save her bakery while some unknown person seems to be planning her downfall. With Abigail and Zacharias, a lumberman and son of a famous Mississippi River gambler, Karen brings us a unique story full of hope, humor, sweet moments, and lessons learned. The food-lover in me enjoyed all the bakery references and metaphors--and the fact that Abigail isn't your run-of-the-mill "thin and delicate" heroine. The story of Zacharias, the quietest Hamilton and the last to wed, tugs at the heartstrings, especially of readers who know his backstory from page one.


The Romance:

I enjoyed watching these characters learn how to communicate with each other and work through hard times together. The use of love languages brought interesting facets to their relationship, and the heroine's insecurities about her body type and the circumstances of the marriage underscore the attraction with realistic conflict. I liked how Zacharias initiated open communication in their marriage from the start, leading the way to a clearer understanding between them. Prior to their wedding, they discussed everything except their compatibility in matters of faith, which serves as the main conflict in their marriage for the second half of the story. I come from a different background than either of these characters, but seems that's the first thing I would have settled when considering marriage, no matter the circumstances. Overall, Zacharias' quiet protectiveness and Abigail's supportive encouragement turn this marriage of convenience into a love match where both want to honor the other and the Lord, which makes for a great story if you ask me.


The Pace:

The book keeps a pull-you-along pace and was hard to put down once I started reading. I love how Karen gives introspection and character insight without slowing the story too much.


The Faith Element:

With her husband's gentle leadership, Abigail grows from a place of insecurity into a woman who can focus on joyfully helping others, even while facing hard times of her own. She learns to appreciate Zach, even with all his gruff ways. Zacharias has to come to the place where he sees his sin as God sees it, no excuses, and learns to put family responsibility above his own quest for footloose "freedom." As a whole, I enjoyed the way these threads wrapped up and brought cohesion to the story.


Favorite Quotes:

"Perhaps he felt a touch of gratitude too for the fact that they had each other, for better or worse. They might be facing the worse right now, but the fact that they could lean on each other in the midst of it moved it into the better category."

"Helping a woman make biscuits should not make a fellow this happy. But when the woman was the fellow's wife, and she smiled at him as if he were the noblest hero of her acquaintance--well, it couldn't be helped."

"Tremors hit, quaking her hard enough for him to feel them. He wrapped his arms around her and bent his face close to hers. He might not understand what was going on in her head, but a mighty squall was battering her hull, and if he couldn't figure out how to shelter her from it, he aimed to be her anchor until it passed."

"'I had a long talk with my husband last night," Abigail explained, "and he made me realize that I have to choose which voices to believe. I can believe the ones that tell me I'm not good enough or brave enough or pretty enough and let them skew my perception of events, or I can push aside that clamor and seek out the voice that tells me I am fearfully and wonderfully made.'"

"'I've chosen fear over faith more times than I can count,' she admitted. 'And every time I did, I ended up with regrets.'"


The More Factor:

I've heard tell that Abigail's sister, Rosalind, will be featured in her own story, a Harvey House tale in the upcoming novella collection, Serving Up Love (Bethany House Publishers, November 2019). Can't wait to read her story, More than Just a Pretty Face.
Comment Fodder:
  • More Than Words Can Say is a marriage of convenience story. What are some of your favorite books with this trope? 
  • What is your favorite thing about marriage of convenience stories? 
  • Have you ever read Karen's books before?

 
GIVEAWAY:
I love the mystery factor in marriage of convenience stories. With core values established, all the things that are yet to be discovered about the other person's personality, likes, dislikes, habits, skills, and talents, are often surprising and so interesting as they come out in the story. In the spirit of that mystery component, I'm hosting a surprise book giveaway, the story will be Christian romance, not necessarily marriage-of-convenience, but will definitely include a love story. For U.S. readers, I'm offering a paperback. For international readers (please specify in comments), I'm offering a Kindle e-book. Giveaway Ends July 22, 2019.


To enter:
  1. Comment on this blog post with an answer to one of the above questions and your email address in a spam-deterrent format (address at server dot com). 
  2. Two extra entry points if you become (or are) a subscriber to Karen's e-newsletter and my e-newsletter. Say so in the comments to get the points.

*I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher and have stated my honest opinion in this voluntary review.

July 2019 Fiction Releases #ACFW

July 2019 New Releases

More in-depth descriptions of these books can be found on the ACFW Fiction Finder website.

Contemporary Romance:


Hometown Hope by Laurel Blount -- In the three years since her mother’s death, widower Hoyt Bradley’s daughter, Jess, hasn’t spoken—until she suddenly begs him to save her favorite bookstore from closing. Hoyt is desperate to hear his daughter’s voice again, but he and the bookstore’s pretty owner, Anna Delaney, share a less-than-friendly past. Working together is complicated enough…but can they avoid falling in love? (Contemporary Romance from Love Inspired [Harlequin])



A Heart Surrendered by Joy K. Massenburge -- Since her teens, pastor’s daughter Sharonda Peterson devoted her life to church service and solitude after the one night she gave Carl Ray Everhart everything. Sobered by a near-death experience, prodigal Carl returns home from an acting and singing career to serve as the worship leader at Sheronda’s church, and she finds that it takes every ounce of her resolve to resist his pursuits … not to mention memories that threaten to overturn the delicate balance she’s created. Can she finally surrender the one thing she’s tried all these years to protect: her heart? (Contemporary Romance from Harambee Press [Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas])



Starting Anew by Melanie D. Snitker -- He's afraid to trust. She has a secret that could change everything between them. Will they let go of their fear, or allow it to rob them of their chance at happiness? (Contemporary Romance, Independently Published)


Historical:


Underestimating Miss Cecilia by Carolyn Miller -- Can shy, sweet Cecilia overcome her family's prejudice to see a future with the recently returned prodigal son from next door? (Historical from Kregel Publications)




Benaiah: Might Man of God by PH Thompson -- A novel of Biblical, historical fiction about Benaiah, one of King David's mighty men, examining the premise: What happens when the king's most obedient soldier is issued a wicked command? (Historical/Biblical from Word Alive Press)


Historical Romance:



Waltz with Destiny by Catherine Ulrich Brakefield -- When the men and women of World War II marched off to war, they didn't know what lay ahead. All they knew was that upon their young and inexperienced shoulders rested the plight of the free world. (Historical Romance from CrossRiver Media Group)




Thimbles and Threads by Mary Davis, Grace Hitchcock, Suzanne Norquist, and Liz Tolsma -- Enjoy four historical romances that celebrate the arts of sewing and quilting. When Tilly, a schoolteacher; Alice, a bridal shop owner; Sarah, a seamstress; and Melissa, a rag doll designer, put needle and thread to fabric, will their talents lead to the surprising gift of love? (Historical Romance from Barbour Publishing)





Refiner's Fire by J.M. Hochstetler --
Will the promise their hearts cling to finally find joyful fulfillment, or will war’s refining fire separate them forever? (Historical Romance from Sheaf House Publishers)





Where Dandelions Bloom by Tara Johnson -- To escape an arranged marriage, Cassie Kendrick enlists in the Union army as a man, taking the name Thomas Turner. On the battlefields of the Civil War, keeping her identity a secret is only the beginning of her problems, especially after she meets Gabriel Avery, a handsome young photographer. Anxious to make his mark on the world and to erase past guilt, Gabriel works with renowned photographer Matthew Brady to capture images from the front lines of the war. As Gabriel forges friendships along the way, he wonders what the courageous, unpredictable Thomas Turner is hiding. Battling betrayal, their own personal demons, and a country torn apart by war, can Cassie and Gabriel forgive themselves and trust their futures to the God who births hope and healing in the darkest places? (Historical Romance from Bethany House [Baker])




The Express Bride by Kimberly Woodhouse -- Jacqueline Rivers manages a Pony Express station in 1860 Utah territory after her father’s death. There are daily stresses placed on her in this unconventional role—and now a government official is asking her to sniff out counterfeiters. When Elijah Johnson passes through on the stage while on an exhausting quest to find his boss’s heir, he doesn’t want to leave the beguiling station manager. In fact, he may never leave when caught in the crossfire of the territory’s criminal activities. Can she remain strong when secrets of the past and present are finally unearthed? (Historical Romance from Barbour Publishing)


Romantic Suspense:


Legacy Rejected by Robin Patchen -- She's not giving up her home, no matter what threats come against her. Realtor Ginny Lamont's family has abandoned her, leaving her with nothing but a warning that she’s in danger. But Ginny's built a home in New Hampshire. After a childhood of nomadic living, she’s not running again, certainly not because of some nameless, baseless threat. Real estate developer Kade Powers is thrilled to go out with Nutfield’s beautiful new real estate agent. But the prowler they surprise after their first date offers a glimpse into Ginny's past and the legacy of lies her parents left her with. She brings a mystery, one he’s determined to help her solve. With Kade’s help, Ginny searches for the truth of her parents’ criminal activity while her enemies close in. When mobsters show up in her quaint New England town, will she find a way to bring them down, or will she lose the home—and the man—she’s come to love? (Romantic Suspense, Independently Published)


Suspense:


Storm Rising by Ronie Kendig -- Mentioned in the pages of the Old Testament but lost to history, the Book of the Wars has resurfaced, and its pages hold secrets--and dangers--never before seen on earth. Tasked with capturing the ancient text, former Navy SEAL Leif Metcalfe is once more given command of his own team. But their best efforts are ruined when a notorious Bulgarian operative known as Viorica snatches the volume right out from under them. Iskra "Viorica" Todorova is determined to use the book to secure the thing that matters most--freedom. But a series of strange storms erupts around the globe, and the coming dangers foretold in the text threaten crops, lives, and entire nations. Though both are haunted by secrets of their past and neither trusts the other, Leif and Iskra must form an uneasy alliance to thwart impending disaster. However, the truth hidden in centuries-old words could unleash a storm of their own destruction. (Suspense from Bethany House [Baker])


Speculative:


The Story Raider by Lindsay A. Franklin -- Deceiving an empire is a treacherous game. Tanwen and the Corsyth weavers race to collect the strands of an ancient cure that might save Gryfelle. But Tanwen has a secret--Gryfelle isn't the only one afflicted by the weaver's curse. As Queen Braith struggles to assert her rule, a new arrival throws her tenuous claim to the Tirian throne into question. Braith's heart is turned upside down, and she's not sure she can trust anyone--least of all herself. The puppet master behind Gareth's rise to power has designs on Tanwen and the story weavers, and will stop at nothing to reclaim the throne. A plot to incite the angry peasants of Tir takes shape, and those dearest to Tanwen will be caught in the crossfire. As the fight for Tir consumes the realm, no one can remain innocent. (Speculative from Enclave Publishing)

*All authors whose books are included on the ACFW New Releases list attest that their book meets CBA standards for clean, Christian content. The posting of this list on the Sweet South Blog is not a review or an endorsement of any book on the list.