Thursday, November 14, 2019

More Than a Pretty Face by Karen Witemeyer #BookReview


More Than a Pretty Face by Karen Witemeyer #BookReview

This review will focus on “More Than a Pretty Face” by Karen Witemeyer from the Serving Up Love Collection by Tracie Peterson, Karen Witemeyer, Regina Jennings, and Jen Turano.

I will try to come back and add a line or two for the other novellas as I read them. 

https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07PZX4RJ7

When Karen announced on her Posse Facebook group that Bethany House Publishers would be releasing a novella collection about Harvey Girls, I knew I didn’t want to miss it.

I loved watching the Harvey Girls movie with Judy Garland when I was a child and remember reading several adventurous stories about these young ladies clad in black and white. In school, I loved studying about Fred Harvey and the beginning of standardized hospitality houses. 

Another one of my recent favorite reads about a Harvey Girl is A Bride Sews with Love by Erica Vetsch, set during the time of the First World War.





*I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher and have provided my honest opinion in the review below. :)




The Setting:

Because the time of Harvey Houses spans several decades, with establishments throughout the West, these novellas take place in four time different time periods and locations: San Marcial, NM, 1929 – Gainesville, TX, 1902 – Emporia, KS, 1989 – Grand Canyon, AZ, 1908.


The Characters:

If you read Karen Witemeyer’s More Than Words Can Say, you will have already met the heroine, Rosalind. I enjoyed reading about the life she built for herself after she left Abby and Zach and headed west. I believe we also met the leading man, Caleb Durrington, in that novel, too, but it’s been a while, and my short-term memory isn’t the best. Caleb’s father built a legacy as a cattleman, but Caleb has followed his own calling as a western lawyer. This novella also offers a supportive cast of lovable characters, including a French chef!

The Plot:

Caleb is learning to forge his own path and make his own decisions out from under the pressure of his loving, but overbearing mother, who knows precisely the type of woman he should marry that would complement the godly reputation he has made for himself. He, on the other hand, has his sights set on Rosalind, who was assigned to the Harvey House close to her home, despite running from a mistake in her past for the last several years (readers of MTWCS will remember what this is).

The Romance:

I enjoyed how this novella made more of hero and heroine’s compatibility in personality, intelligence, and faith than simple physical attraction. Though I appreciated that the novella doesn’t completely leave out the latter, which I think lent a realistic aspect to the story. Given the plot and tones of the novella, this focus on the inner person feels appropriate. I did feel there was a lack of description for the characters other than eye color and her naturally curly blond hair. Although, with novellas, wordcount has to be considered and I understand if some descriptions were left out in favor of character development.

The Spiritual Thread:

The subjects dealt with in this novella revolve around forgiveness and moving into a future that is not defined by another person’s opinion but by God’s calling on a person’s life. These truths are portrayed with grace and easily translated into our modern world.


Book Chat: 

I’ve already started reading Tracie Peterson’s novella in the collection and it is very good. I can’t wait to read the other authors, too, as they never fail to delight.

Buy & Sample Links: You can buy a copy here or read a sample here.


This Book Pairs Well With:

Candy corn and hot cocoa. Yes. I'm still munching candy corn in November. 1/2 off candy sales! (I love the pumpkin shaped candy corn pieces! How about you?)


A Note From Natalie: 

Thank you for reading my reviews! I write them just for you. <3 


Tell me in the comments:
  • What other Christian fiction have you read or seen that features Harvey Girls?
  • How did you first learn about Harvey Girls? Do you remember how old you were? 
  • What are aspect are you most curious about reading in this collection?

Monday, November 4, 2019

Christian Fiction Releasing This Month - November 2019 #ACFW

November 2019 New Releases


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

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


Contemporary Romance:


Royally Yours by Betsy St. Amant, Ashley Clark, Liz Johnson, and Melissa Tagg -- Tinsel, Vermont is known for its no-paparazzi policy and Christmas decorations that are fit for a queen. This holiday season, join four royals on a stroll through town square as they each find their Christmas wishes for a happily-ever-after...tiaras optional. (Contemporary Romance, Independently Published)



Restoring Christmas by Julie Arduini -- A young woman overcome by grief teams up with a special education teacher to bring joy to the community through a Christmas-themed tourist attraction. (Contemporary Romance from Surrendered Scribe Media)



Valerie's Verdict by Hallee Bridgeman -- Broken and battered, Valerie comes home and finds a lifetime of love waiting for her. (Contemporary Romance, Independently Published)



An Unexpected Family by June Foster -- Grant Elliot leaves his father's veterinarian dynasty and overambitious twin brother to practice in the small town of Homedale, California. When local baker Kate Klein brings her ailing dog into the office, Grants's intrigued by the lab's gorgeous owner. He wants to get to know her but can't reveal his origins. What would she think if she knew his father's clinics cater only to the wealthy who spoil and pamper their pets instead of practicing genuine medicine? Kate Kline inherits Aunt Ella's Bake Shop when her aunt passes away and must make a success of the failing business or lose her father's respect. Now California Plastics, her major account, has moved their plant to Sacramento. She's faced with the possibility of closure and won't accept Grant's offer to bail her out. She doesn't need a man's help. (Contemporary Romance from Forget Me Not Romances [Winged Publications])



All is Bright by Chautona Havig, Toni Shiloh, Cathe Swanson, and Kari Trumbo -- Four of your favorite contemporary romance authors join festive forces to bring you the fourth-annual Christmas Lights Collection. (Contemporary Romance, Independently Published)



Simply Smitten by Kimberly Rose Johnson -- Business brought them together but will betrayal pull them apart? Michael Pierce co-owns a start-up software development company. They are well on their way to success when Michael discovers something that changes everything. Can the beautiful economist he hired fix the mess, or are they doomed to bankruptcy? Hailey is under a lot of pressure at work. Not the least of which comes directly from her new boss. She’s dreamed of being a successful businesswoman, but now her heart wants more. Can she have love and a career, or will she have to choose? (Contemporary Romance, Independently Published)



By All Appearances by Dawn Kinzer -- An attractive special events planner from a wealthy family and a disfigured musician find their lives entangled when he is hired as a caretaker on her family’s estate. (Contemporary Romance from Mountainview Publishing)



Courting the Amish Nanny by Carrie Lighte -- Embarrassed by an unrequited crush, Amish maedel Sadie Dienner needs a vacation from her life in Pennsylvania—and from romance. Until Christmas, she’s working in Maine as a nanny to Amish widower Levi Swarey’s twins. But Levi is frustratingly overprotective and they just can’t see eye to eye on anything. And the worst part? Sadie can’t seem to stop herself from losing her heart… (Contemporary Romance from Love Inspired [Harlequin])

General Contemporary/Women’s Fiction:


Meant For Her by Joy Avery Melville -- Kidnapped, raped, brutally beaten, and left for dead, Candi Reynolds becomes a prisoner of fear. Faced also with the impact of the unexpected break-up with her fiancĂ©, and an unwanted pregnancy resulting from the attacks, she believes God has forsaken her. Choosing to move back to the Michigan horse farm owned by her older brother, Dr. Cam Reynolds, Candi goes into seclusion. Dr. Patrick (Mack) MacKevon, long-time friend of Cam’s, watches from the sidelines at the farm where his horses are stabled, while Candi struggles to regain a sense of normalcy. His own big-brother tendencies develop into a much deeper emotion over the months he prays for her. Is it possible for Candi to put all of the pain and trauma behind her and renew her former relationship with the Lord? Will she allow her heart to open enough to discover authentic love, while making decisions of victory on her personal journey to joy? (General Contemporary, Independently Published)



When I Close My Eyes by Elizabeth Musser -- A bestselling author, her daughter, and the perpetrator of her assassination attempt are brought together in a story about complicated choices, mental illness, forgiveness and grace. Set against the flaming hills of North Carolina and the peaceful shores of the Mediterranean Sea, When I Close My Eyes tells the story of two families, struggling with dysfunction and finding that love is stronger than death. (Contemporary from Bethany House [Baker])



A Beautiful Mess by Brenda S. Anderson -- A single mother becomes guardian of her ex-husband's love child. (Women’s Fiction, Independently Published)

Historical:

Wounded Heart by Colleen Hall -- Orphaned Della Hughes chafes at her strict Victorian upbringing and goes west with her uncle's family in order to find adventure and freedom. (Historical from Anaiah Press)



Misleading Miss Verity by Carolyn Miller -- What happens when the hoydenish youngest daughter of the Viscount Aynsley is spirited off to Scotland and meets a kindhearted gardener of the mysterious Laird of Dungally? (Historical from Kregel Publications)



The Silk Merchant of Sychar by Cindy Williams -- One woman, five husbands and a weary rabbi at the well who knows 'everything she ever did.' From the olive groves of Samaria to the bloodied sand of a Roman stadium to the exquisite silks brought from the East, The Silk Merchant of Sychar weaves color into the biblical account of the woman at the well. (Historical from Rhiza Press)

Historical Romance:


The Highlanders by J’nell Cieselski, Janet S. Grunst, Jennifer Lamont Leo, and Naomi Musch -- Never underestimate the heart of a Highlander in these four romantic novellas set across two centuries from 1715 to 1915. (Historical Romance from Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas)



Marisol by Elva Cobb Martin -- Alone and with child, Marisol Valentin flees Spain after murdering the nobleman who molested her. She is sold as an indentured servant at the Charles Town Harbor, but her ship is captured at sea by privateer Captain Ethan Becket, once a Charles Town minister, who is grieving his deceased wife. Ethan decides Marisol’s elegant manners make her a perfect governess for his young son. But when he sets out on a quest to find his captured sister, said to be in Cartagena, little does he expect his new Spanish governess to stow away on his ship with her six-month-old child. Her offer of help to free his sister, however, is too tempting to pass up. As is her beauty and strength of character—until he learns she is a wanted murderess. Once their paths intertwine on a journey filled with danger, intrigue, and romance, only love and the grace of God can overcome their pasts and ignite a new beginning. (Historical Romance from Wild Heart Books)



In Black and White by MaryAnn Diorio -- When graduate student Tori Pendola and Jebuni Kalitsi, a Ghanaian exchange student and heir to his tribe's chieftaincy, fall deeply in love, they must face not only their own inner demons of rejection and guilt but also the demons of societal hatred bent on destroying their relationship. Will their love survive the cruel and bitter attacks against them? (Historical Romance from TopNotch Press)



Serving Up Love by Regina Jennings, Tracie Peterson, Jen Turano, and Karen Witemeyer -- On the Menu for These Ladies? Adventure, Independence, and a Big Serving of Romance! A storied part of American history, Harvey Houses offered women a unique chance to gain independence and see amazing parts of this great country. (Historical Romance from Bethany House [Baker] Publishing)



While the Rain Whispered by Kim Williams -- Clara Williams has a good life, but she would walk away from it if she could. She longs for adventure greater than both the confines her rural Texas town and the people she loves have to offer. Clara is certain the stories she writes for children contain more adventure than her reality. She cannot reconcile the internal frustration with her faith. When opportunity presents itself at last, Clara is faced with a choice between the life she’s known and the life she longs to know, and the men who each belong in one but not the other. (Historical Romance, Independently Published)

Mystery/Thriller/Suspense:


Pocket Change by Debbie Archer -- When Publisher's Clearing House winner, Mary Clare Casteel, decides to help rejuvenate her dying town, she has no idea she'll end up solving not one but two mysterious deaths. (Cozy Mystery from Mantle Rock Publishing)



Dead Wrong by Vannetta Chapman -- When Agatha Lapp’s brother and sister-in-law are tragically killed in a buggy accident, Agatha relocates to the new Amish community in Hunt Texas, nestled in the Texas Hill Country. She’s there to make a success of her brother’s dream--an Amish B&B. Agatha is friendly, efficient, and capable. She's also a fifty-five year old widow who has learned to be independent. When she discovers Russell Dixon’s lifeless body in Cabin 3, she runs next door where retired detective Tony Vargas lives. The police determine that her guest died of natural causes, but as Agatha and Tony put together the events of the previous two days they become convinced that the police are Dead Wrong. (Cozy Mystery, Independently Published)



A Cross to Kill by Andrew Huff -- John Cross is a small-town pastor, bent on leading his flock to follow God's calling. He's not the sort of man one would expect to have a checkered past. But the truth is that the man behind the pulpit preaching to his sheep was once a wolf--an assassin for the CIA. When John decided to follow Christ, he put that work behind him, determined to do penance for all the lives he took. He vowed never to kill again. Now someone wants the peaceful pastor to pay for his sins with his own life. And when a terrorist out for revenge walks into the church, John's secrets are laid bare. Can he keep his vow--even when the people he loves are in mortal danger? Will his congregation and the brave woman he's learning to care for be caught in the cross fire? In the end, John's life may be the only sacrifice he has left to offer. . . (Thriller/Suspense from Kregel Publications)



The Sleuth's Conundrum by Kimberly Rose Johnson -- Danger lurks and suspicions abound when a librarian, her young assistant, and a local reporter try to solve the mysteries of both a dead woman and an abandoned child. (Cozy Mystery from Mountain Brook Ink)



Deadly Harmony by Marissa Shrock -- Georgia Rae Winston’s romance has broken up. But that’s the least of her problems. Georgia and Detective Cal Perkins are through. Fine. Maybe it’s an opportunity to give charmer Hamlet Miller a chance. But there’s no time for romance when Georgia hosts her stepsister and her roommate, Quincy, during a college chorale tour—and Quincy steals Georgia’s car and disappears. When her car turns up in a cemetery with a cryptic note lying on the front seat, Georgia decides to take action. As Georgia and her stepsister dig into the mystery, they uncover Quincy’s tumultuous past. A past that points to a frightening present. They dig deeper and discover a web of deception they’re determined to untangle, if they can stay alive long enough to bring the truth to light. (Cozy Mystery, Independently Published)

Romantic Suspense:


One Day Gone by Luana Ehrlich -- Mylas Grey, the chief investigator for Senator Davis Allen, enlists the help of a beautiful photographer when he returns to his hometown to investigate the disappearance of Lizzie Allen, the senator’s missing daughter. (Romantic Suspense, Independently Published)



Dangerous Christmas Memories by Sarah Hamaker -- Hiding in witness protection is the only option for Priscilla Anderson after witnessing a murder. Then Lucas Langsdale shows up claiming to be her husband right when a hit man finds her. With partial amnesia, she has no memory of her marriage or the killer’s identity. Yet she will have to put her faith in Luc if they both want to live to see another day. (Romantic Suspense from Love Inspired [Harlequin])

Speculative:


What If? by Roger E. Bruner -- Three teens join forces with Holyland’s outgoing president to prevent the inevitable election of a man who’s determined to wipe out the remnant of New America’s few remaining Christians. (Speculative, Independently Published)


Tuesday, October 8, 2019

Wedding Score by Amanda Tero #BookReview #ACFWAuthor

Wedding Score by Amanda Tero #BookReview #ACFWAuthor

I recently read Wedding Score by Amanda Tero and loved this story. If you want a read that will help you in practical ways on the daily, whether you're single or not, pick up this story. You'll be glad you did.


Book Description:


Most girls dream of their wedding days. Except me. I’m too busy practicing piano and being the live soundtrack for everyone else’s weddings to think about my own. I’ve survived most of my twenties with harmonious chords and pleasant days.


So why is it that now, at twenty-seven, a discordant feeling presents itself? Is there a solid solution to loneliness when there is absolutely no potential husband on the horizon?




My Thoughts:

Single women will relate to Stephanie as she navigates a world full of reminders that she is getting older and still unmarried. Between her friends and cousins who are traveling their own road to marriage and her work as a wedding pianist and music teacher of toddlers for a Christian school, she's constantly bombarded with reasons to dream about changing her relationship status. But longings unfulfilled can easily open the door to ungratefulness and discontentment. Throughout the story, Steph learns to take her longings to Jesus and in turn finds she can bless others with the lessons she learns there.
I loved the musical references, the banter between the characters, and the realistic look at situations we as singles find ourselves in. In The Wedding Score, Amanda Tero takes a practical look at available solutions to the questions we often ask ourselves.
If you or a friend want to read a story about a single woman, written by a single woman for single women, pick up this book and be encouraged that you are never truly alone.

*I received a complimentary copy of this book from the author and have willingly provided my honest opinion in this review.

Recommended Books for Singles:

I don't often hear of book recommendations for singles. I've had to search the internet for the ones I've read. So I thought I'd provide a few recommendations here. 

  • Get Lost by Dannah Gresh. This one challenges a girl to fall more deeply in love with God and let Him handle all the what-ifs.
  • Praying for Your Future Husband by Robin Jones Gunn and Tricia Goyer. This one turns that prayer list around and challenges the girl to allow her singleness to grow into a better woman of God.
  • Also, I'm currently reading Love Defined by sisters Kristen Clark & Bethany Baird (now she's Bethany Beal, but she wrote her chapters as a single girl). It has a lot of practical tips, and I'm enjoying it so far.

Share, Share, Share!

If you are as excited as I am about a fiction book about a single woman by a single woman for single women, here are a few images you can share!








Let's Chat:

What are some embarrassing things people have said to you because you were single?
What are some ways you have seen others help singles feel loved and included in social situations?
What Bible verses have helped you when you struggle with discontentment?
Would you like to mention any (fiction or nonfiction) recommended books for singles?

Wednesday, October 2, 2019

Living Lies by Natalie Walters #BookReview #ACFWAuthor

Living Lies by Natalie Walters #BookReview #ACFWAuthor



Description:

In the little town of Walton, Georgia, everybody knows your name--but no one knows your secret. At least that's what Lane Kent is counting on when she returns to her hometown with her five-year-old son. Dangerously depressed after the death of her husband, Lane is looking for hope. What she finds instead is a dead body.

Lane must work with Walton's newest deputy, Charlie Lynch, to uncover the truth behind the murder. But when that truth hits too close to home, she'll have to decide if saving the life of another is worth the cost of revealing her darkest secret.

Debut novelist Natalie Walters pulls you to the edge of your seat on the first page and keeps you there until the last in this riveting story that will have you believing no one is defined by their past.

My Review:


To give you a hint of my opinion on this story… After reading, I mailed a thank you note to Natalie for writing the book. She and I met at the American Christian Fiction Writers conference in Dallas in 2015 and her genuine, friendly personality struck me right away. We ate barbecue with a group of authors at a mom & pop diner in Grapevine, Texas, then at the next year’s conference in Nashville took some a moment to talk about this story idea when, if I remember correctly, she was still seeking an agent. I have one of the worst memories of anyone I know (sad), but I think I remember we prayed together about the appointments we had coming up. When she told me her story dealt with the subject of depression, I started praying for her and her work, because I knew the space in my heart, and no doubt many others’, waiting for a story that would minister on that level.

Not only did Living Lies entertain and capture me as a reader, it ministered to me and actually comforted me (Not sure I’ve ever said that about a suspense book!). Like the characters in this novel, I have friends and loved ones who choose daily to be overcomers in their battle with depression, so for me reading this book was absolutely refreshing. Knowing someone else “gets” how depression doesn’t magically go away after a few weeks of counseling sessions, but also that there is hope available every day, had me wanting to come back and see more of these characters down the road. The story also reminded me of practical ways I can encourage my people who suffer from chronic depression and let them know what incredible value they add to my life. The message in this story is so needed in the Christian community, where often depression is labeled as a spiritual weakness or a subject avoided completely.

The Plot:

The suspense thread had me racing through the pages, not to mention the fascinating way the author spotlights parallels between effects of chronic depression, emotional struggles of current armed forces, then the plight of Vietnam veterans who still suffer from the memories they carry and the treatment they’ve received.

The Setting:

Small-town investigative dynamics in this story are skillfully portrayed and interesting to read. The way the police chief treats Lane as if she were his own precious daughter, and the whole come-over-for-a-bowl-of-peach-cobbler relationship Charlie has with his aunt, had me settling into the story world like a comfortable blanket. But not too comfortable, because the mossy forests surrounding this Georgia town hold deadly secrets…and bodies!

The Characters:

Each character Natalie has crafted is unique and sparkles against the backdrop of the story. Christian fiction has now given me two reasons for the name Charlie to ignite a smile. Charlie Lionheart by Joanne Bischof and Charlie Lynch by Natalie Walters! I also have to mention Lane Kent’s name will stir a herd of butterflies for readers who are still shipping Lois & Clark from the 80-year-old Superman fandom. :) 

Charlie and Lane… the hero and heroine in this novel both gave me much to relate to. Lane’s five-year-old son, Noah—adorable! Charlie’s interactions with the boy and his patience, faithfulness, and reliability toward Lane and her family really makes him a stand-out hero. I liked Lane’s character and the glimpse into her “perfect” political childhood. One review I came across seemed impatient with the character Lane’s inability to snap out of her condition, but I’d like to encourage readers to remember that everyone’s encounter with depression is different. There may be similarities in every case, but each person’s experience is also as unique as their thumbprint. This story reminded me that when we think our friend or loved one should “be over this already,” what they really need from us is to know we’re not going anywhere, we're walking this road with them, we’ll help however we can, and they are more precious to us than anything in the world. Finally, here is a realistic book that portrays depression wrapped in hope.

The Romance:

How do I put into words? Here I’ll have to employ an acronym coined by Beth Erin at Faithfully Bookish: #swoof which stands for Squeezing Words Out Of Feelings. I sigh and tilt my head a little, smiling and trying to pinpoint a summary of Charlie and Lane’s relationship. She’s grieving the death of her husband two years passed, for which she blames herself. Having witnessed his share of encounters with PTSD and other emotional struggles left in the wake of combat, Charlie instantly senses a kinship with Lane and wants to offer her a lifeline. Where she is fearful, he is available to her. Where she’s unsure, he’s steady. He won’t let her disappear into her doubts about the relationship without knowing one hundred percent where he stands and how he feels about her. This, I think, is one of my favorite traits in a fictional hero. One who takes the risk, offers his attention, presence, and protection in a way that is so like Christ. (These men do exist outside of fictional books, ladies. I’ve seen them, though they are rare and usually taken. Ha!)

E-book Deal:

At the time of this post, the book is on sale for $1.99! What? Amazing! Grab your copy here:


Let's chat:

  • How many other Christian fiction books can you think of that deal with depression and emotional issues?
  • Have you ever found a book that tackled an issue close to your heart? What was the book?
  • Did you know Natalie Walters lives in Hawaii? What is the first thing you think of when you hear of Hawaii?