Saturday, March 21, 2020

The House at the End of the Moor by Michelle Griep #BookReview

Review: The House at the End of the Moor by Michelle Griep

Book Description:

Opera star Maggie Lee escapes her opulent lifestyle when threatened by a powerful politician who aims to ruin her life. She runs off to the wilds of the moors to live in anonymity. All that changes the day she discovers a half-dead man near her house. Escaped convict Oliver Ward is on the run to prove his innocence, until he gets hurt and is taken in by Maggie. He discovers some jewels in her possession—the very same jewels that got him convicted. Together they hatch a plan to return the jewels, clearing Oliver’s name and hopefully maintaining Maggie’s anonymity.

My Thoughts:

The relationship arc between Oliver and his father, as well as the redemption thread throughout, sets this story apart. I enjoyed seeing the mending of hearts and souls, the hope that underscores the whole book. Also, the themes of mercy, justice, and redemption are woven nicely into each character's arc. 

Narrative Style:

I enjoyed the heroine's first person, present tense narrative, even though I usually prefer second person, past tense. I thought this was a creative approach and though I struggled reading her portions as quickly as the others at first, by the end of book, the flow became familiar.

Historical Aspects:

Michelle Griep's historical details are transportive and woven seamlessly into the story. Her historical notes at the end of the book are fascinating.

Faith Thread:

The spiritual aspect is constant, well thought out, and permeates all aspects of the story. In some places, the information felt dumped or wedged in, so a little smoothing of the sentences/thoughts/gestures surrounding the spiritual mentions might have helped. Overall the theme is portrayed well and supported by all the main characters.

Romance Thread:

The romance between the hero and heroine felt natural, except maybe one line of the hero's introspection during the midpoint where he thinks of her in terms of love, which seemed too early based on what he knew about her (see pacing notes below about sharing backstory). Their relationship is built on shared values and admiration, and I think Oliver's grand gestures at the end of the story were particularly sweet. Maggie's boldness to encourage Oliver in his spiritual change arc shines a light on the deeper issues in the novel and moves him to address his relationship with his father, while Oliver's persistence in kindness and restraint where she is concerned endear him to her and the reader. The understated mention of Maggie's calling the barrister "father"  at the end was touching as well.

Pacing & Character Motivations:

Maggie's motivation for meeting with her manager around the 70% mark was a little hard for me to believe. I could more easily see her motivated by a fear for her father's safety, rather than fear of being followed by the man she was going alone to meet. Also, it seemed the guardians at that meeting, having witnessed her manager's actions, would have taken legal action immediately, and I was left wondering why they didn't. 

The hero/heroine's backstories are kept secret until 65% or after, when they might have helped with believability if they had shared those histories with one another or the reader at the 50% mark or earlier. Sometimes I see this in novels--and have done this myself--when the motivations themselves aren't overly strong, so the author leaves the reader to imagine much worse until the last possible moment. Maggie's paralyzing fear of Ambrose from across the room before she is supposed to sing was hard to believe as well. She isn't afraid to meet her manager alone even though she's felt the brunt of his cruelty, but she freezes across a crowded room at the sight of Ambrose, who propositioned her, but never physically hurt her or her father. 

The hero's dressing as a footman for a disguise might have come across more believably if Maggie had helped him with stage makeup, but as is, the outcome of that scene was easily foreseeable.

Overall Impression:

The reader in me delighted in Barrow's arc, and I'm hoping to see him in another book or two. The set up definitely allows for subsequent stories, maybe even featuring the lost Marquis. The story is interesting on the whole, but feels like the polishing stage was rushed. The book might have benefited from a few astute beta readers with an eye for smoothing dialogue, strengthening motivations, and rounding out characters. Michelle Griep holds a deep knowledge of English Regency culture, and I look forward to reading more from her.

Quotes from the Book:

"True justice starts with repentance. How can we ask God to show justice in the world while willfully nursing our own hidden prejudices, selfishness, lusts, greed...our own broken relationships?"

"I'd say there is much hope for you both, for God yet softens the hardest of hearts."

"Wonderful scents take me back years. The somewhat greasy smell of ink. The slight mustiness of dust collecting on the highest shelves. The unique aroma of old books that comforts like a gentle spring rain, as ancient as time itself."

"The written word taught me I was not alone, that hardship comes to all, and connected me to the heroes and heroines who conquered those hardships, ultimately giving me courage. Indeed. Books are light and air."

Enter to win the book on Goodreads, where the author is giving away 100 copies! 
Ends March 24 at 12:00 a.m.

*I received a copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley and have provided my honest opinion.

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

Like Flames in the Night by Connilyn Cossette ~ Book Reviewed

Book Review: Like Flames in the Night by Connilyn Cossette

Stay tuned at the end of this post, where I'm giving away an e-book title from Connilyn's backlist! Check the details at the end!

Book Description

Strong-willed Tirzah wants to join her people in driving the enemy from the land of Israel and undergoes training for a secret mission inside the stronghold of Shechem. But soon after she has infiltrated the ruthless Aramean commander's kitchen, she makes a reckless decision that puts her and her allies in grave danger.
Fresh off the battlefield, Liyam returns home to discover his beloved daughter is dead. After his vow to hunt down her killer leads to months of fruitless pursuit, his last hope is in a family connection that comes with strings attached. Strings that force him to pose as a mercenary and rescue an infuriating woman who refuses to leave her mission uncompleted.
When an opportunity to pave a path to a Hebrew victory arises, can Tirzah convince Liyam to fight alongside her in the refuge city of her birth? Or will Liyam's thirst for vengeance outweigh his duty to his people, his God, and the woman he's come to love?

My Review

In her latest novel, Connilyn Cossette unfolds a vivid, inspiring journey not easily forgotten.

The Setting

Set in a time when God’s Chosen People had surrendered to idol worship, and subsequent oppression under Aramean rule, Like Flames in the Night follows two spies whose mission is to infiltrate the house of the commander who controls the Aramean army. These Arameans had enslaved and killed many of the Hebrews in their own land, but it’s up to the main characters to sew the seeds of faith once more, encourage the people to rise up in faith, overthrow the enemy, and retake the inheritance promised them by Yahweh.

The Characters

We sympathize with the hero and heroine from the beginning due to their painful pasts. Liyam, a redheaded, half-Canaanite, half-Hebrew warrior sets out for revenge against the Moabite trader who killed his daughter. Tirzah, daughter of the fiercest trainer of spies in Israel’s army, is now widowed and grieving miscarried pregnancies, searching for self-worth in her quest to turn the tide in the fight for her nation’s survival. Connilyn seamlessly weaves in characters from previous books as well, updating the reader on different families introduced throughout the series. I loved getting to see these old friends and their continued commitment to the growth they experienced in their own stories.

The Plot

The first plot point hinges on a controversial, and admittedly disturbing step for Liyam’s character, one he defends while still entrenched in his flaws, but which never seems to incur serious consequences. Otherwise, I enjoyed the twists and turns of this story. I love when a book surprises me with plot twists. Some developments I saw coming. Others, I didn’t. And that made me smile, because I know this is a difficult thing authors work hard for, and Connilyn makes it look so easy and smooth. With each new switchback, my heart pounded in hopes the characters would overcome, or at least survive, the challenge. I tend to bite my lip when the stakes are high in a book I'm reading and...let’s just say after reading this book, I don’t think I’ll need a lip exfoliator for a long time. 😉

The Romance

Though Liyam and Tirzah’s first meeting is not without its challenges, these two skilled spies are well matched, both hearts brimming with courage while running from deeply buried pain. Their flaws hinder their mission and their growing relationship as he clings to his need for revenge and she to her need to prove her worth. On the other hand, Liyam challenges Tirzah to have faith and make wise choices while she encourages him to smile again, to live in light of the blessings God has given him.

The Spiritual Thread

Above the gripping plots, unique characterization, sweet love stories, and complex character webs, the spiritual content of Connilyn’s books is what draws me back time and again. I found myself connecting to both Liyam and Tirzah in their faith-journeys from revenge to forgiveness, from insecurity to identity, from latent unbelief to fearless, conquering faith. I loved the through-line of challenging God’s people to rise up in faith and live out what they claim to believe, throwing off complacency, fear, and idolatry to engage in the spiritual fight under the banner of the Almighty.

Other Books In the Series

Book Related News

I am excited about Connilyn's newest story, To Dwell Among Cedars, the first in her The Covenant House series. 



The first title in this series, A Light on the Hill, is on sale for $0.99 cents through the end of March 2020!



I'm giving away an e-copy of BOOK 2 in this series, Shelter of the Most High (pictured above), which can be read as a stand-alone story. Read my review for BOOK 2 HERE

TO ENTER: Comment with your email address (email at address dot com) and the titles of some recent Biblical or Historical fiction you've really enjoyed. 

Tuesday, March 10, 2020

March 2020 New Releases in Christian Fiction from #ACFW

March 2020 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:

Love & Liberty by Elsie Davis -- A New Hampshire firefighter and an Audubon Society member go head to head when his work involving controlled forest fires threatens a rumored eagle nest. (Contemporary Romance from Sweet Promise Press)

Formula for a Perfect Life by Christy Hayes -- College senior Kayla Cummings’ dreams are crushed by an unplanned pregnancy after a one-night stand with her secret crush. When she confronts the baby’s father, Ben Strickland, his destined life spins out of control. With the clock ticking and decisions to make, Ben and Kayla embark on a journey where falling in love might be the biggest surprise of all. (Contemporary Romance, Independently Published )

Hill Country Redemption by Shannon Taylor Vannatter -- When Rance Shepherd takes a job stocking cattle for a local rodeo, he’s shocked that his new client is his ex-sweetheart, Larae Collins. Now he’s determined to prove to the single mother that he isn’t the restless cowboy she remembers. But when he discovers her little girl is his, they both must forgive past mistakes for a second shot at a future together. (Contemporary Romance from Love Inspired [Harlequin])

Spring Splash by Denise Weimer -- An injured college swimmer volunteers to help with a Special Olympics swim team as a part of her sports marketing practicum and butts heads with the team’s handsome but stubborn coach. (Contemporary Romance from Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas)


Selah's Stolen Dream by Susan Count -- Thirteen-year-old Selah’s perfect life unravels when her beloved horse is stolen. Then ten-year-old Emma buys the dream of a lifetime at a horse auction. When she learns the horse was stolen, even removing her hearing aid won’t drown out the voice telling her to make it right.But two girls can’t divide the horse they both adore. So will life surprise them with an answered prayer? (Middle Grade from Hastings Creations Group)


Sorrento Girl by Dawn Klinge -- It’s 1938, and Ann Brooks has big dreams of her new life as a Seattle College coed. She’s left the old-fashioned ways of her small country town behind to pursue higher education and a teaching career. But not everyone is ready for change. Society still preaches that a woman’s place is in the home. Some refuse to see Ann as an equal deserving of an education — let alone a career — and Ann's friends think school is simply a springboard to pursue a marriage of wealth and convenience. When Ann meets Paul, an aspiring journalist with strong ideas of his own, she learns an unexpected lesson in courage and discovers what it really means to live her dreams. Will Ann give up everything she thought she wanted for love? Or can she have it all? (Historical, Independently Published)

The Blue Cloak by Shannon McNear -- Based on real events beginning in 1797 — Rachel Taylor lives a rather mundane existence at the way station her family runs along the Wilderness Road in Tennessee. She attends her friend’s wedding only to watch it dissolve in horror has the groom, Wiley Harpe, and his cousin become murderers on the run, who drag their families along. Declaring a “war on all humanity,” the Harpes won’t be stopped, and Ben Langford is on their trail to see if his own cousin was one of their latest victims. How many will die before peace can return to the frontier? (Historical from Barbour Publishing)

Roll Back the Clouds by Terri Wangard -- Sailing on the Lusitania is a dream-come-true for Rosaleen and Geoff Bonnard, but their journey turns into a nightmare. Will they ever find their joy again? (Historical, Independently Published)

Historical Romance:

The Heart's Stronghold by Amanda Barratt, Angie Dicken, Gabrielle Meyer, and Kimberley Woodhouse -- Join four brave women making their mark on history at Colonial forts. Faced with tragedy and distrust they will fight to bring civility, family, and love to the frontier. (Historical Romance from Barbour Publishing)

Hope in the Mountain River by Misty M. Beller -- This epic journey is not at all what she expected. Joel Vargas can’t believe he’s lost his older brother in the wilds of the Rocky Mountains after surviving their harrowing voyage across the Atlantic. And he can’t shake the feeling that Adam—his only living relative—is in dire trouble. No matter what the cost, he and his band of friends won’t stop until Adam is found. He’s not sure if two Indian women they meet on the way will be a help or hindrance. After the devastating loss of her daughter and husband to a sickness that swept through their Nez Perce camp, Elan is desperate to find an escape from her grief. As she and her friend journey through the mountains toward the great river, a band of white men is the last thing she expects to find, especially as winter blows in full force. When the dangers increase, accomplishing Joel’s mission becomes the only hope for all their survival. If the elements don’t consume them, Elan has a feeling life will never be the same for any of them. (Historical Romance, Independently Published)

Out of the Embers by Amanda Cabot -- Ten years after her parents were killed, Evelyn Radcliffe is once more homeless. The orphanage that was her refuge and later her workplace has burned to the ground, and only she and a young orphan girl have escaped. Convinced this must be related to her parents' murders, Evelyn flees with the girl to Mesquite Springs in the Texas Hill Country and finds refuge in the home of Wyatt Clark, a talented horse rancher whose plans don't include a family of his own. At first, Evelyn is a distraction. But when it becomes clear that trouble has followed her to Mesquite Springs, she becomes a full-blown disruption. Can Wyatt keep her safe from the man who wants her dead? And will his own plans become collateral damage? (Historical Romance from Revell - A Division of Baker Publishing Group)

Woman of Sunlight by Mary Connealy -- From a remote Colorado mountain to the bustle of Chicago. Ilsa finds herself married and dragged into rushing wagons and horses, high rise buildings and a ruthless killer who's followed them across a country. (Western from Bethany House [Baker])

The Merchant's Yield by Lorri Dudley -- A debutant finds herself in a compromising situation with a Leeward Islander, which lands her in a marriage of inconvenience with the man who then carries her across the Atlantic to his home. When he learns of her weak constitution and believes she can’t survive the hardships of island life, she sets out to prove him wrong. (Historical Romance from Wild Heart Books)

A Love Not Forgotten by Linda Shenton Matchett -- Allison White should be thrilled about her upcoming wedding. The problem? She’s still in love with her fiancé, Chaz, who was declared dead after being shot down over Germany in 1944. Can she put the past behind her and settle down to married life with the kindhearted man who loves her? It’s been two years since Charles “Chaz” Powell was shot down over enemy territory. The war is officially over, but not for him. He has amnesia as a result of injuries sustained in the crash, and the only clue to his identity is a love letter with no return address. Will he ever regain his memories and discover who he is, or will he have to forge a new life with no connections to the past? (Historical Romance by Shortwave Press)

Romantic Suspense:

Killer Harvest by Tanya Stowe -- Can she stop a deadly crop virus from ending up in the wrong hands? Biologist and single mom Sassa Nilsson just witnessed her mentor’s brutal murder by environmental extremists. Now she’s the last link to a deadly pathogen they plan on unleashing—and their number one target! But can handsome border patrol agent Jared De Luca shield Sassa and her baby long enough to find a cure…before the entire world faces the unthinkable consequences? (Romantic Suspense from Love Inspired [Harlequin])

Traces by Denise Weimer -- When a failed romance and a $500,000 prize lure Kate Carson into participating in the reality TV show, Traces, the least she expects is to pick her partner. After all, she's the PR spokeswoman of the company that derived a thirteen-lens, rotating camera from military use and installed it atop Atlanta's tallest skyscraper. But she never would have chosen to evade techno hunters for twenty days with "G.I. Joe." Stoic, ex-military Alex Mitchell is the sort of man she always vowed to avoid, while the shadows of Alex's past cause him to spurn emotional involvement. When Kate's insider knowledge makes her a target of someone more threatening than game show hunters, Alex offers her only hope to reveal the dark plans of proponents of The Eye. (Romantic Suspense from Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas)

Song in the Dark by Jessica White -- After graduating from Juilliard, harpist Jenna Fields returns home to Albany to escape her manipulative ex and prove to her controlling mother that she can orchestrate her own life. Homicide detective Dean Blackburn spends his days seeking justice for the dead. But darkness taints everything, including him. When his three Dobermans lead him to Jenna playing in the park, he tries to resist the beautiful musician and focus on his cases. At least until he witnesses Jenna’s ex attempt to blackmail her and learns she’s being stalked, just like one of his homicide victims. When her world crumbles beneath her feet, and Dean learns she has her own dark secrets, he helps Jenna see that the key to escaping her mother's gilded cage is already in her hands. (Romantic Suspense from Mantle Rock Publishing)

Secrets She Knew by D.L. Wood -- Boston police detective Dani Lake dreads returning to her small hometown of Skye, Alabama, for her ten-year high school reunion--and not just for the normal reasons. At only fifteen, Dani tragically discovered the body of her murdered classmate, setting in motion the process that led to the unjust conviction of her dear friend and an unshakable burden of guilt she carries to this day. So when new evidence surfaces during her trip home which suggests the truth Dani’s always suspected, she embarks on a mission to expose the real killer, aided by Skye detective Chris Newton--who happens to be the man Dani’s best friend is dying to set her up with, and also the only person who believes her. But when Dani pushes too hard, someone pushes back, endangering Dani and those closest to her as she unearths secrets deeper and darker than she ever expected to learn—secrets that may bring the truth to light, if they don’t get her killed first. (Romantic Suspense, Independently Published)


Chasing the White Lion by James R. Hannibal -- Rookie spy Talia Inger goes deep undercover in the world's first crowdsourced crime syndicate to unveil a monster and rescue kidnapped refugee children. (Techno-thriller from Revell - A Division of Baker Publishing Group)

Kings Falling by Ronie Kendig -- Leif Metcalfe and his team, dubbed Reaper, need to recover the stolen, ancient Book of the Wars if they hope to stop the Armageddon Coalition and their pursuit of global economic control. But their attention has been diverted by a prophecy in the book that foretells of formidable guardians who will decimate the enemies of ArC. While Iskra Todorova uses her connections in the covert underworld to hunt down the Book of the Wars, Leif and Reaper attempt to neutralize these agents but quickly find themselves outmaneuvered and outgunned. The more Reaper tries to stop the guardians, the more failure becomes a familiar, antagonistic foe. Friendships are fractured, and the team battles to hold it together long enough to defeat ArC. But as this millennia-old conspiracy creeps closer and closer to home, the implications could tear Leif and the team apart. (Military Suspense from Bethany House [Baker])

Plus check out these recent additions to Fiction Finder published within the past month:

Love & Hope by Elsie Davis, Contemporary Romance
Bite the Dust by Jackie Layton, Cozy Mystery
Jordan's Arrow by Allen Steadham, Speculative
The Letters by C. Kevin Thompson, Suspense