Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Reviewer's Bookshelf: At Love's Bidding by Regina Jennings

Books Summary (Amazon): After helping her grandfather at their Boston auction house, Miranda Wimplegate discovers she's accidentally sold a powerful family's prized portrait to an anonymous bidder. Desperate to appease the people who could ruin them forever, they track it to the Missouri Ozarks and make an outlandish offer to buy the local auction house and all its holdings before the painting can move again. 

Upon crossing the country, however, Miranda and her grandfather discover their new auction house doesn't deal in fine antiques, but in livestock. And its frustratingly handsome manager, Wyatt Ballentine, is annoyed to discover his fussy new bosses don't know a thing about the business he's single-handedly kept afloat. Faced with more heads of cattle than they can count--but no mysterious painting--Miranda and Wyatt form an unlikely but charged partnership to try and prevent a bad situation from getting worse.

My thoughts...At Love's Bidding was a fun read, with characters that were easy to like and a good plot. Each character had a few different sides to their character, which also gave the story more depth. 
Miranda was a girl that struggled with fear: fear of conflict and lack of safety. She was sheltered most of her life, so she was protected from her fears.  Her willingness to step out of her comfort zone into a new place with her grandfather made me like her. The aspect of her character I didn't love as much was her somewhat spoiled nature, which led to her looking down on others at times, particularly Wyatt.This conflicted with the compassion she showed towards the poor street children she helped in her town. It did help her not to be a "too good to be true" kind of heroine, though. Wyatt was raised as a rugged type, who worked with cattle and livestock. Wyatt also had another side to him as well, which you learn more about as the novel goes on.  Wyatt struggled with some stubbornness as well, but between him and Miranda, he was my favorite ; ).  

While this novel read very easily, had some great romantic moments (just wait for a great line concerning some rhubarb pie...loved it!), and had some pretty good conflict, I found it quite predictable. I'm not a big stickler about predictability, because many novels like this have a similar plot line, but before I even got halfway through I pretty much knew what was going to happen.  That kind of took some of the excitement out of the story.

Overall, I would say that this novel covers some new territory with having the heroine work at an auction house, which made it interesting.  I would recommend it for fans of Regina Jennings and those who enjoy a light Christian fiction historical romance.

**I received a free copy of this book from the publisher, Bethany House, in exchange for an honest review.**

Monday, December 7, 2015

Reviewer's Bookshelf: Until the Dawn by Elizabeth Camden

Book summary (Goodreads): A volunteer for the newly established Weather Bureau, Sophie van Riijn needs access to the highest spot in her village to report the most accurate readings. Fascinated by Dierenpark, an abandoned mansion high atop a windswept cliff in the Hudson River Valley, Sophie knows no better option despite a lack of permission from the absent owners.

The first Vandermark to return to the area in sixty years, Quentin intends to put an end to the shadowy rumors about the property that has brought nothing but trouble upon his family. Ready to tear down the mansion, he is furious to discover a local woman has been trespassing on his land.

Instantly at odds, Quentin and Sophie find common ground when she is the only one who can reach his troubled son. There's a light within Sophie that Quentin has never known, and a small spark of the hope that left him years ago begins to grow. But when the secrets of Dierenpark and the Vandermark family history are no longer content to stay in the past, will tragedy triumph or can their tenuous hope prevail?

My thoughts...Before I read Until the Dawn, I read the prequel novella, Toward the Sunrise, that is actually a free ebook.  I typically don't love novellas, but I LOVE Elizabeth Camden so I read it.  It really helped lead into Until the Dawn and helped me understand Sophie's story a little better, as well as the story of the Vandermarks.  

I have to confess a little bias towards Elizabeth Camden.  I love her ability to tell a story.  There are often elements of mystery, her characters have a great backstory that adds a lot to the plot, and history is woven throughout her novels.  These elements and more are present in Until the Dawn.  

While Sophie isn't my favorite of Camden's leading ladies, I can appreciate that not all of her heroines are serious and intense.  Sophie represents life and light in this story, even though she struggles with hardships she's had in the past.  I loved how her ability to cook was part of the story as well.  The descriptions of her food were mouth-watering. The mysterious aspect of this story centers around the history of the Vandermarks, the generational sins that have affected them over many years, and the beauty of redemption. The clash of light and life vs darkness and death were a big theme throughout the novel.  

For me, this is another beautifully written novel by Elizabeth Camden.  I would definitely recommend it!

**I received a free copy of this novel from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.**

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Reviewer's Bookshelf: The Painter's Daughter by Julie Klassen

Book Summary (Goodreads): Sophie Dupont, daughter of a portrait painter, assists her father in his studio, keeping her own artwork out of sight. She often walks the cliffside path along the north Devon coast, popular with artists and poets. It's where she met the handsome Wesley Overtree, the first man to tell her she's beautiful.

Captain Stephen Overtree is accustomed to taking on his brother's neglected duties. Home on leave, he's sent to find Wesley. Knowing his brother rented a cottage from a fellow painter, he travels to Devonshire and meets Miss Dupont, the painter's daughter. He's startled to recognize her from a miniature portrait he carries with him--one of Wesley's discarded works. But his happiness plummets when he realizes Wesley has left her with child and sailed away to Italy in search of a new muse.

Wanting to do something worthwhile with his life, Stephen proposes to Sophie. He does not offer love, or even a future together, but he can save her from scandal. If he dies in battle, as he believes he will, she'll be a respectable widow with the protection of his family.

Desperate for a way to escape her predicament, Sophie agrees to marry a stranger and travel to his family's estate. But at Overtree Hall, her problems are just beginning. Will she regret marrying Captain Overtree when a repentant Wesley returns? Or will she find herself torn between the father of her child and her growing affection for the husband she barely knows?

My thoughts....I went into this book a little skeptical.  Was it your typical story or would it have that "spark"?  Let me tell you....
I loved it!

The romantic tension in this novel was fantastic!  Wesley Overtree is the guy you think you're going to hate.  Prideful, self-absorbed....but there is a point in the novel when you see some redeeming qualities that help you understand why Sophie was drawn to him.  Sophie herself was a heroine that you really wanted the best for.  Even though she made mistakes, her vulnerability made her not only believable, but a character that I hoped could know what true love really was .  And last, but not least, Stephen Overtree.  He's so driven by duty and honor, and at times can be a little frustrating, but he has a soft side as well.  Quite the love triangle!  

This is my new favorite Julie Klassen book!  There was a little bit of everything...romance for sure, mystery, tension, intense drama...and it goes on. A story very well woven together with characters I liked, even with their flaws.  It was a story that showed that even when we make mistakes, there can be redemption.  Here's a book trailer that you might enjoy as well:

**I received a free copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley for an honest review, which I gave.**