Sunday, April 4, 2021

Reviewer's Bookshelf: "Braced for Love" by Mary Connealy

Book Summary (Amazon): Left with little back in Missouri, Kevin Hunt takes his younger siblings on a journey to Wyoming when he receives news that he's inheriting part of a ranch. The catch is that the ranch is also being given to a half brother he never knew existed. Turns out, Kevin's supposedly dead father led a secret and scandalous life.

But danger seems to track Kevin along the way, and he wonders if his half brother, Wyatt, is behind the attacks. Finally arriving at the ranch, everyone is at each other's throats and the only one willing to stand in between is Winona Hawkins, a nearby schoolmarm.

Despite being a long-time friend to Wyatt, Winona can't help but be drawn to the earnest, kind Kevin--and that puts her in the cross hairs of somebody's dangerous plot. Will they all be able to put aside their differences long enough to keep anyone from getting truly hurt?

My thoughts...First thought...I loved this book! I've read so many of Mary's books and "Braced for Love" made me reminisce about some of my favorites of hers from the past. This book had many of those familiar elements, but still had a fresh storyline and characters. Sassy, strong females that spoke their minds. Tough, but still had softness and femininity. And the men. They're tough and courageous, willing to fight whatever stands in their way to do what's right. Mysterious baddies that make life really hard for the heroes and heroines. The characterization is great in this book! Now for another element that I love in Mary Connealy's books....I don't have to wait for some great action, yet it doesn't stop the rise in tension. To clarify, her books typically start with a bang. Some high action, high energy event that immediately gets the blood pumping and pages turning. Some books that start out like this often slow down in the pace, then have to work to build the tension back up (and regain the reader's attention), This book continues to build without slowing down. I'm kind of impatient for the slow burn romance and appreciate well-written instant connections. It doesn't work for every storyline, but it works here. Can't wait to read the next book in the series!

 **I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in order to share my honest opinion, which I did.**

Sunday, March 14, 2021

Reviewer's Bookshelf: "Dearest Josephine" by Caroline George

Book Summary (Amazon): Love arrives at the most unexpected time . . . 

1821: Elias Roch has ghastly luck with women. He met Josephine De Clare once and penned dozens of letters hoping to find her again.

2021: Josie De Clare has questionable taste in boyfriends. The last one nearly ruined her friendship with her best friend.

Now, in the wake of her father's death, Josie finds Elias's letters. Suddenly she's falling in love with a guy who lived two hundred years ago. And star-crossed doesn't even begin to cover it . . . 

My thoughts... The cover of this book instantly caught my attention, so I decided to take a chance on a new-to-me author, Caroline George. The book summary grabbed my attention as well, and even though it wasn't my typical reading genre, I went for it. What I didn't realize was that the format of the book is a series of letters, texts, emails, and even excerpts from the fictional hero's novel. It had the potential to be confusing had the author not labeled each transition (thank you!), but Elias' reality vs the story told through his novel could get confusing. I enjoyed both Elias and Josie's characters, as they were both searching for love. Not just any kind of love, but the kind of love that is unconditional, accepting the flaws and quirks of one another. Throughout the novel I was drawn in by the way the two main characters complemented each other, but I had no idea what was going to happen or how things would work out. The unpredictability was great for the tension of the novel. I did find the ending very satisfying (there was closure...yay!), however, I was still left with questions. I'm still trying to decide if I'm ok with that or Overall, I enjoyed Caroline George's style of writing with the mix of humor, mystery, and clean romance. I look forward to reading more of her work!

**I received a free copy of this novel from the publisher via NetGalley in order to share my honest opinions, which I did.**


Sunday, March 7, 2021

Reviewer's Bookshelf: "Court of Swans" by Melanie Dickerson


Book Summary (Amazon): Where there is wealth and power, there’s always someone willing to do anything to take it.

England, 1381: Delia’s idyllic life as daughter of an earl is shattered when her father dies and his wife accuses Delia’s seven brothers of treason and murder. The youngest is only ten years old, but this doesn’t stop the guards from hauling them off to the Tower of London. There they await a grim fate, as child-king Richard II is executing anyone who poses a threat to his throne. Delia is their only hope for pardon and freedom.

Sir Geoffrey did not expect his first assignment as captain of the guard to be the arrest of boys so young. He dutifully imprisons the brothers, but he can’t ignore the sense, rooted in personal experience, that injustice and treachery are at work.

Determined to rescue her brothers, Delia secures a position as a seamstress for the queen. Her quest is all but impossible as the executions continue. Sir Geoffrey offers to be her ally, but should she trust him in a court where everyone has an agenda?

My thoughts...I've read all of Melanie Dickerson's books, and each time there are aspects that I really enjoy. I always try to keep in mind what the audience is for each book, as most of hers are written for young adults. This is the first book in a new series, but still follows along the line of several of her previous novels, which are fairy tale retellings. I have personally never read the fairy tale this novel is based on, but it didn't really take away from the experience of it. 

One of the parts of this novel I really enjoyed was the love Delia and her brothers had for one another. Delia never stopped trying to do whatever she could to help her brothers, whether it was taking a menial job as an embroiderer, knitting sweaters for them to be warm, and much more. Her sacrificial love was the heart of this book. I also enjoyed the build up of tension as the plot intensified. There was also a light amount of romantic tension that was appropriate for a clean read/YA novel. The only thing I wished for in the storyline was more explanation of the events leading up to the accusation and arrest of Delia's brothers. I struggled to connect with the actions of Delia's stepmother and how that would lead to such a severe punishment for knights and nobles in service to the king. 

I'm looking forward to sharing this with my teenage daughter, as she thoroughly enjoys Melanie Dickerson's books. I am interested to see how the rest of this series will continue.

**I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in order to share my honest opinions, which I did.**

Sunday, February 28, 2021

Reviewer's Bookshelf: "The Thief of Blackfriar's Lane" by Michelle Griep


Book Summary (Amazon): Constable Jackson Forge intends to make the world safer, or at least the streets of Victorian London. But that’s Kit Turner’s domain, a swindler who runs a crew that acquires money the old-fashioned way—conning the rich to give to the poor. When a local cab driver goes missing, Jackson is tasked with finding the man, and the only way to do that is by enlisting Kit’s help. If Jackson doesn’t find the cabby, he’ll be fired. If Kit doesn’t help Jackson, he’ll arrest her for thievery. Yet neither of them realize those are the least of their problems.

My thoughts...Time for me to gush about Michelle Griep’s newest book, The Thief of Blackfriars Lane 🤎. At first I wasn’t really sold on Jackson Forge, as he seemed too straight laced and a little boring. Then enters Kit Turner, who instantly won me over with her street smarts and winsome persona. Kit and Jackson become a great crime solving pair in a story that had some fun twists and turns. I loved the mild suspense and moments of romantic tension. I've never been disappointed when reading something by Michelle Griep, and would definitely recommend this 1800s Victorian Christian fiction novel  🔍 .
*Thanks to the publisher via Netgalley for a complimentary copy of this book. All opinions expressed are my own.*

Sunday, February 7, 2021

Reviewer's Bookshelf: Dreams of Savannah by Roseanna M. White


Book Summary (Amazon): Cordelia Owens can weave a hopeful dream around anything and is well used to winning the hearts of everyone in Savannah with her whimsy. Even when she receives word that her sweetheart has been lost during a raid on a Yankee vessel, she clings to hope and comes up with many a romantic tale of his eventual homecoming to reassure his mother and sister.

But Phineas Dunn finds nothing redemptive in the first horrors of war. Struggling for months to make it home alive, he returns to Savannah injured and cynical, and all too sure that he is not the hero Cordelia seems determined to make him. Matters of black and white don't seem so simple anymore to Phin, and despite her best efforts, Delia's smiles can't erase all the complications in his life. And when Fort Pulaski falls and the future wavers, they both must decide where the dreams of a new America will take them, and if they will go together.

My thoughts...I chose to read/review this book because I'm a native Georgian and absolutely love the city of Savannah. The novel felt kind of Gone with the Wind-esque, with Cordelia being a bit dramatic like Scarlet O'hara. Just like Scarlet, Delia has to grow up as the horrors of the Civil War become a reality. While I appreciated Delia's character growth and was moved by some moments she had with other characters, I struggled with connecting with her. She seemed so out of touch with reality and lost in her fictional world, that I had trouble rooting for her. With the hero, Phin, I liked that he was grounded and strong. He faced a life-threatening injury and experienced a physical and spiritual transformation through it. This book also addresses the evils of slavery in several ways. It could just be the climate of our nation right now, but these aspects were particularly hard to read. I know this was the reality in Georgia in the 1800s, but there is part of this prejudice and evil that rings true today. I didn't particularly enjoy it in a pleasure/escape read. Overall, this wasn't the book I was expecting to read, but that was my fault. I should've read the summary better. I would still characterize Roseanna M. White's writing as stellar, as she knows how to evoke emotion in the reader. There was a build up of tension, which I appreciated. Readers of Civil War historical fiction would probably enjoy this book, but it has a different tone than her previous Code Breakers series. 

*I received a free copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in order to share my honest opinion, which I did.*

Sunday, January 31, 2021

Reviewer's Bookshelf: Colors of Truth by Tamera Alexander


Book Summary (Amazon): In a town battered and bruised by war, one woman embarks upon an impossible search--and one man must face the past in the very place that almost destroyed him.

Tennessee, 1866. According to the last letter Irish immigrant Catriona O'Toole received from her twin brother, Ryan, he was being dispatched to Franklin, Tennessee, where--as a conscripted Confederate soldier--he likely endured the bloody Battle of Franklin that claimed the lives of thousands. Catriona leaves behind the lush green of their Irish homeland in search of him, with nothing to her name except the sum of cash Ryan sent to their family. Now the sole provider for her seven-year-old spitfire sister, Nora, Catriona hopes to reunite the siblings--the only surviving members of their devastated family.

Wade Cunningham is a former Federal soldier who now works for the newly formed United States Secret Service and is trying to uncover counterfeiting rings in the postwar South. In order to infiltrate their sophisticated enterprise, he must pose as a former Confederate in Franklin--a town where counterfeit greenbacks run rampant. When Wade meets Catriona, he is immediately intrigued by her and the little redheaded scamp in her care--but what he doesn't anticipate is that the cash in Catriona's possession is some of the most convincing counterfeit money he's ever seen. Soon the object of Wade's affection is also the suspect in a major crime--one he's expected to prosecute.

My thoughts.... Another brilliant novel from Tamera Alexander! Her heart for Tennessee and its local history shines through once again. The story of Catriona O'Toole, her family, and Wade Cunningham are intertwined with the real-life stories of the Battle of Franklin and those who lived at Carnton plantation. I love the way that each character, whether fictional or not, fits together perfectly into the story. The attention to detail is another strength in Alexander's writing. As she described the sight of the fields of poorly buried soldiers who died in battle, it evoked in me the same feelings the characters had. I visited Carnton a few years ago and I can imagine that area along with several other scenes in the story as the author brought history to life. Even Catriona's sister, Nora, brought out feelings of frustration in me as I read about her antics as well as how Catriona responded to her. While that could be a turn-off for some, it truly is a testament to the writer's abilities to bring out those emotions in the reader. As a reader, I'm always looking for the build up of tension, especially romantic tension. I enjoy history, but I want the love story! This book has those encounters between the hero and heroine that I was hoping for without being graphic (clean romance). This book would also be categorized as Christian fiction, so there are also clear representations of the Christian faith throughout the story. I'm looking forward to Tamera Alexander's next novel!

*I received a complimentary copy of this novel from NetGalley in order to give an honest review, which I did.**

Monday, January 18, 2021

Reviewer's Bookshelf: "Faith's Mountain Home" by Misty M. Beller


Book Summary (Amazon): Nate Long has always watched over his identical twin brother, Aaron, even when it put him on the wrong side of the law. When Aaron is wounded in a shootout, the brothers are taken to Settler's Fort to recover. As Nate works to make reparations for their past, he marvels at the nursing Aaron receives under the care of a woman with all the reason in the world to resent him.

Laura Hannon knows what it is to start over, and she knows Nate's newfound faith is real. What she can't look past is how far he allowed himself to be led astray by his brother's weaknesses.

As a fledgling trust grows between Nate and Laura, they stumble upon a mysterious cave in the mountains that may not be as uninhabited as it seems. While working together to unravel the secrets surrounding the cave, will the new lives they seek for themselves include love, or does too much stand between them?

My thoughts..."Faith's Mountain Home" is the third book in this series by Misty M. Beller, but each could be read as a stand-alone novel. This novel didn't have quite the same level of tension that I enjoyed in the first book in the series. There was a friends to romance trope, made more interesting by the fact that the leading man, Nate, played a part in the heroine, Laura's, kidnapping in a previous book in the series. By the time you get to this book, though, any point of contention between them really isn't there. It's a sweet story of the two of them helping each other through various trials, and Nate's perseverance in making amends for his past wrongs and becoming a man of honor. The cave they discover was interesting at the beginning of the novel, but became more commonplace as the story continued. There was a bit of action and some nice romantic moments (clean) added in, which were good but didn't have quite the build up that made them elicit all the feels that the first book did for me. Overall, a pleasant Christian fiction read.

**I was given a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in order to share my honest opinions, which I did.**