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)

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)

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.