Monday, October 11, 2021

Reviewer's Bookshelf: "Provenance" by Carla Laureano


Book Summary (Amazon): Los Angeles interior designer and former foster kid Kendall Green is in high demand, both for her impeccable eye and for her uncanny ability to uncover the provenance of any piece. But for all her success, skyrocketing costs have put her California home and her business in jeopardy. Then an unexpected inheritance provides a timely solution: a grandmother she never knew has left her a group of historic properties in a tiny Colorado town on the edge of ruin.

To young, untried mayor Gabriel Brandt, Jasper Lake is more than another small town—it’s the place that saved his life. Now, seeing the town slowly wither and die, he’s desperate to restore it to its former glory. Unfortunately, his vision is at odds with a local developer who wants to see the town razed and rebuilt as a summer resort. He’s sure that he can enlist the granddaughter of one of its most prominent former citizens to his cause—until he meets Kendall and realizes that not only does she know nothing of her own history, she has no interest in reviving a place that once abandoned her.

In order to save his beloved town, Gabe must first help Kendall unravel the truth of her own provenance—and Kendall must learn that in order to embrace the future, sometimes you have to start with the past.

My thoughts...The architectural details in the cover of this book are what first caught my eye. I love that there are blueprints snuck into the skyline, which go so well with the storyline. I was also intrigued by the summary and I'm a fan of Carla Laureano, so I was excited about this new contemporary novel. Set in the quaint Colorado town of Jasper Lake, the first half of the book was a lot of ground work. Setting up the dilemma, introducing the characters (Kendall and Gabe), and some backstory made the initial pace a little slow for me. I didn't want to give up, because I knew that in the end, I would most likely finish very satisfied. And I did! By about the middle of the book, the pace began to speed up, the plot thickened, and I appreciated the growth in both Kendall and Gabe. In true form, Laureano offered a more realistic piece of fiction. It's one of the things I love most about her writing. Her characters have real questions, real struggles, and she doesn't shy away from posing these things in a faith context. One of the themes of this book is about understanding your worth, which was beautifully written. I believe that this will appeal to readers with or without a faith background. There is a clear faith message presented, so I would consider this novel to be Christian fiction. I finished this final page with these thoughts: life can be hard, unfair, and messy, but God can redeem it. He can transform us, with all of our scars, into something of worth and beauty. It's a message I needed to be reminded of. 

**I received a free copy of this book from the publisher via Netgalley, and was happy to share my honest opinions.** 

Monday, September 13, 2021

Reviewer's Bookshelf: "The Gold in These Hills" by Joanne Bischof


Book Summary (Goodreads): Two second-chance love stories, hope across the centuries, and the legacy that binds them together.

Upon arriving at Kenworthy, California, mail-order-bride Juniper Cohen was met by the pounding of the gold mine, the rowdiness of its prospectors, and her greatest surprise of all: the love of the kind man who awaited her. But when the mine proves empty of profit, and when Juniper’s husband vanishes, doubt and discouragement are as prevalent as the pioneers fleeing this dwindling boomtown.

As winter blows in, Juniper pens a series of letters to her husband but fears she is waiting on a ghost—or worse, an outlaw. Carving out survival for her and her young daughter in a ghost town requires trusting in the kindness of a few remaining souls, including the one who can unlock the mystery of her husband’s disappearance.

A century later, trying to escape the heartache of his failed marriage, Johnny Sutherland throws himself into raising his child and restoring a hundred-year-old abandoned farmhouse in California’s San Jacinto Mountains. While exploring its secrets he uncovers the letters Juniper wrote to her Dearest John and is moved by the handwritten accounts that bear his name. Having learned that truth and courage go hand in hand, Johnny dares to love again, and armed with lessons from the past, a modern-day romance unfolds in the very same mountains that once held a love story that touched history.

My thoughts...There are rare moments when I read a book and it affects me deeply. Enough to cause a few tears to come as I not only get lost in the story, but feel a deep personal connection. "The Gold in These Hills" was one of those stories. This book was filled with tenderness and heartache that I've felt in my own life, written with a level of descriptive language that painted word pictures on the pages. The loss of a loved one and how it changes you. The tenderness of friendship that brings comfort through the loss. The stench of betrayal and how trust is hard won after being hurt so deeply, yet God can patiently wash the layers of dirt and grime of it away over time, bringing restoration. Embracing humility in some of the most difficult of situations. The love that is found through community. All of these things are what I took away when I finished the final page. I knew I would love this book before I started, having certain expectations based on the author, title, and summary...but this was so much more than I imagined. There's a plaque I've had my eye on for months that says, "There is gold in every piece of your story." This is the perfect summary for this book. I would highly recommend it. Bravo, Joanne Bischof!

**Disclaimer: I received a complimentary copy of this novel from the publisher via Netgalley in order to give my honest opinion, which I did.**

Sunday, September 12, 2021

Reviewer's Bookshelf: "A Man With a Past" by Mary Connealy


Book Summary (Amazon): Falcon Hunt awakens without a past, or at least not one he can recall. He's got brothers he can't remember, and he's interested in the prettiest woman in the area, Cheyenne. Only trouble is, a few flashes of memory make Falcon wonder if he's already married. He can't imagine abandoning a wife. But his pa did just that--twice. When Falcon claims his inheritance in the West, Cheyenne is cut out of the ranch she was raised on, leaving her bitter and angry. And then Falcon kisses her, adding confusion and attraction to the mix.

Soon it's clear someone is gunning for the Hunt brothers. When one of his brothers is shot, Falcon and Cheyenne set out to find who attacked him. They encounter rustled cattle, traitorous cowhands, a missing woman, and outlaws that take all their savvy to overcome. As love grows between these two independent people, Falcon must piece together his past if they're to have any chance at a future. 

My thoughts...To get a full grasp of the plot of this book, I would highly recommend the first book in the series, "Braced for Love". As you can see, the book covers fit together nicely to make one image, and the stories fit together in a similar way. "A Man With a Past" backtracks to the beginning of Falcon's story, before "Braced for Love" begins. You see the different parts that the two stories intersect, but this focuses primarily on Falcon and Cheyenne. I loved the way that this was written. Different inner thoughts and experiences that weren't revealed previously were now clearer and cleverly written. Towards the end of the book, the story moves forward, joining the plot of the previous novel and all of the characters move forward together. The stage is also set for book three, which was given in little hints and moments, just enough to make me curious about what will happen next (and I definitely plan to read book 3!). Mary Connealy is a long time favorite of mine because I love the way she writes her characters. Bad guys are bad and the good guys (and gals) are tough and spirited. Throw in some plot twists and I am here for all of it! I was definitely entertained. I will say that there have been previous novels of Connealy's that the romance was clean...but the tension was sizzling. I like the sizzle. This didn't quite have that, but was still a pleasant campfire level romance, and I like that, too. This book met my expectations and I look forward to reading more! 

*Disclaimer: I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for my honest opinion, which I gave.*

Monday, June 28, 2021

Reviewer's Bookshelf: "The Heart's Charge" by Karen Witemeyer


Book Summary (Amazon): Members of Hanger's Horsemen, Mark Wallace and Jonah Brooks arrive in Llano County, Texas, to deliver a steed, never expecting they'd deliver a baby as well. Left with an infant to care for, they head to a nearby foundling home, where Mark encounters the woman he'd nearly married a decade ago.

After failing at love, Katherine Palmer dedicated her life to caring for children, teaming up with Eliza Southerland to start Harmony House. From mixed ancestry, illegitimate, and female, Eliza understands the pain of not fitting society's mold. Yet those are the very attributes that lead her to minister to outcast children. The taciturn Jonah intrigues her with his courage and kindness, but there are secrets behind his eyes--ghosts from wars past and others still being waged.

However, when a handful of urchin children from the area go missing, a pair of Horsemen are exactly what the women need. Working together to find the children, will these two couples find love as well?

My thoughts...Another fantastic western from Karen Witemeyer! This book was unique in that there were two couples featured in the novel. While sometimes one romantic interest can take the spotlight, in this case I felt that equal amount of time was given to both couples. Both were likeable and well developed. I also liked the racial diversity within the main characters. It wasn't the focus of the book, but some aspects of the prejudices these characters were subjected to were addressed. These issues were presented in a mild and respectful way. 

In this series, the members of Hangar's Horsemen are a group of men that banded together to fight injustice. Even though the group has begun pursuing some other things, they can still depend on each other to come when needed. You still see that band of brothers in this book, as tension builds and help is needed. It created some action packed scenes that made a real page-turner. I loved the role that children played in the book as well. They made for some sweet and tough characters that added a lot to the story.

I am looking forward to the next book in the series and would definitely recommend starting with book one! 

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

Reviewer's Bookshelf: "Plot Twist" by Bethany Turner


Book Summary (Amazon): An aspiring screenwriter has a chance encounter with an actor who could be the man of her dreams. Over the next 10 years, she’ll write the story...but will he end up being the star?

February 4, 2003, promises to be a typical day for Olivia Ross - a greeting card writer whose passion project is a screenplay of her own. But after she and a handsome actor have a magical meet-cute in a coffee shop, they make a spontaneous pact: in 10 years, after they’ve found the success they’re just sure they’re going to achieve, they’ll return to the coffeehouse to partner up and make a film together. The only problem? Olivia neglected to get the stranger’s name. But she doesn’t forget his face - or the date.

For the next ten years, every February 4 is marked with coincidences and ironies for Olivia. As men come and go and return to her life, she continues to write, but still wonders about the guy from the coffee shop - the nameless actor she’s almost certain has turned out to be Hamish MacDougal, now a famous A-lister and Hollywood leading man.

But a lot can happen in 10 years, and while waiting for the curtain to rise on her fate, the true story of Olivia’s life is being written - and if she’s not careful, she’ll completely miss the real-life romantic comedy playing out right before her eyes.

My thoughts...Last year I read my first Bethany Turner book, "Hadley Beckett's Next Dish." I loved it! I then began to devour all of Bethany's books. I enjoyed them all. So I saw this book cover (which I love) and decided to get a copy as quickly as possible. This book is not quite what I expected.

Lines in the book that summarize it better than I could (I don't think these are really spoilers, but just a heads up that it does reveal things):

"He sighed, and I could smell the peach from my nambypamby tea on his breath. 'I guess I wish I knew how to convince you that you're as worthy of love and romance as anyone else.'"

 "Turns out Fiona Mitchell and I were actually the loves of each other's lives." (this is not a reference to any homosexuality)

The book summary read to me like a fun romance/romantic interlude that builds over the course of ten years. What it read as was year after year of Olivia's martyrdom and often unhealthy friendship with her best friend, Fiona, and even her other best friend, Liam. It wasn't really funny to me, and I honestly felt kind of sad as I read it. Year after year, until she's 40 years old, Olivia shows how unworthy she feels of anything good, has conflicts with those she's closest to, sacrifices her happiness for Fiona's, all while Fiona is out there living her best life. Fiona doesn't mind doing whatever she wants to, because she knows that Olivia will be right there. I was waiting for the plot twist. When it happened, I was confused. The romantic aspects throughout the book were sabotaged by Olivia's insecurities, so when true romance presented itself, I almost couldn't believe it. 

I rarely write a negative review because I know that authors pour their heart into their books. I respect that. I will say that this book did make me feel things, even if they weren't the things I necessarily wanted to feel, so I give the author credit for that. I will continue to ready Bethany's books, and will probably go back and reread some of her previous ones, but this book just wasn't my cup of tea.

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

Reviewer's Bookshelf: "The Letter Keeper" by Charles Martin


Book Summary (Goodreads): Combining heart-wrenching emotion with edge-of-your-seat tension, Charles Martin explores the true power of sacrificial love.

He shows up when all hope is lost.

Murphy Shepherd has made a career of finding those no one else could—survivors of human trafficking. His life’s mission is helping others find freedom.

But then the nightmare strikes too close to home .

When his new wife, her daughter, and two other teenage girls are stolen, Murphy is left questioning all he has thought to be true. With more dead ends than leads, he has no idea how to find those he loves.

After everything is stripped away, love is what remains.

Hope feels lost, but Murphy is willing to expend his last breath trying to bring them home.

My thoughts...Before you start this book, set aside about two days to do nothing but read because you won't want to put this book down. This has basically been the case with every Charles Martin book I've read, but I absolutely love this series. It's not because it gives me the warm fuzzies or makes me smile, but instead it makes me think. It affects me deep in my heart and mind. I feel so invested in Murphy Shepherd because the story is told completely from his point of view, so the reader is able to dive deep into his thoughts and feelings. I love this hero. He's a mix of a Jason Bourne/Jack Reacher type, but with a heart of faith and love. He's a protector, not only in the process of rescuing those trapped in human trafficking, but after their rescue. 

This book, like the previous one, looks at Murphy's past and how it impacts his present. In the first book it focused a lot on his relationship with his first wife. This book explores that some more, but answers a lot of questions about his relationship with his mentor and how Murphy came to be who he is. The present intersects as this past connection impacts those he loves in the here and now. 

This book, along with The Water Keeper, are two of my favorite books. I can't recommend them enough. After I read both I had to take a step back and just process all that happened. I really want to go back and read them again. Both have plot twists and turns that I didn't fully understand until the end. For me, that equals well written fiction.

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

Saturday, June 26, 2021

Reviewer's Bookshelf: "Castle of Refuge" by Melanie Dickerson


Book Summary (Amazon)In this Ugly Duckling retelling, New York Times best-selling author Melanie Dickerson brilliantly crafts a high-stakes, encouraging tale about the power of love.

Ever since she was a child, Audrey wanted her life to be extraordinary. But as the daughter of a viscount born in late 14th-century England, the only thing expected of her was to marry - until an act of malice by her sister, Maris, four years ago damaged her face and her prospects. Though Maris was sent away, 20-year-old Audrey is still suffering the scars of her sister’s cruelty. When her father announces his plans to marry off his damaged daughter and bring Maris home, Audrey decides to flee in search of her true destiny.

However, life outside her home is dangerous, and she soon finds herself attacked, sick, and in desperate need of help. She is taken in at Dericott Castle to be nursed back to health. While there, she decides to keep her identity a secret and work as a servant in the castle. But she doesn’t count on falling in love with the young and handsome Lord Dericott, who lost his arm several months earlier and bears scars of his own.

Meanwhile, Edwin - Lord Dericott - is curious about the new, well-educated servant’s identity. All he knows is that he’s quickly becoming smitten with her. When the man Audrey’s father wanted her to marry comes looking for her, she and Edwin must make life-changing decisions about what to believe and whether or not love is truly worth trusting.

My thoughts...This is the second book in the Dericott series by Melanie Dickerson. While you could read it as a stand alone book, the first book offers some helpful background information. I really enjoyed this story and the journey that the main characters went on. Both Edwin and Audrey have suffered physical and emotional wounds, which have scarred them in more ways than one. Both have issues of mistrust and insecurity. While Edwin's wounds occurred in book one while he was defending his family, Audrey's occurred as a result of the cruelty and neglect of hers. That aspect is especially challenging to read and may need some discussion with sensitive/younger readers. I did appreciate that both characters persevered despite their struggles. Melanie expertly provided the contrast of very difficult situations that could lead to hatred and bitterness with choosing a path of love and forgiveness. She did this while still showing that forgiving someone doesn't mean you allow them to continue to abuse you. This is a relevant lesson for young adult readers (and really all readers), even as the book is set in the Middle Ages. Above all, this story shows that trusting in God, even when circumstances seem hopeless, gives us the courage to continue on. 

I would definitely recommend this series to Young Adult and older readers.

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

Wednesday, June 9, 2021

Reviewer's Bookshelf: "Come Back to Me" by Jody Hedlund

Book Summary (Goodreads): The ultimate cure that could heal any disease? Crazy.

That's exactly what research scientist Marian Creighton has always believed about her father's quest, even if it does stem from a desire to save her sister Ellen from the genetic disease that stole their mother from them. But when her father falls into a coma after drinking a vial of holy water believed to contain traces of residue from the Tree of Life, Marian must question all of her assumptions. He's left behind tantalizing clues that suggest he's crossed back in time. Insane. Until Marian tests his theories and finds herself in the Middle Ages during a dangerous peasant uprising.

William Durham, a valiant knight comes to Marian's rescue and offers her protection . . . as his wife. The longer Marian stays in the past, the more she cares about William. Can she ever find her father and make it back to the present to heal her sister? And when the time comes to leave, will she want to?

My thoughts...The first question in my mind when I pick up a time travel book is: Will I buy into this? By this, I mean the premise of how the fictional characters will travel back/forth in time. Back to the Future was such a fun movie because in a relatively short time, I believed a DeLorean could be turned into a time machine. In fact, I could practically recite how the flux capacitor worked by the third movie. So, back to Jody's book. I know this is a new venture for her into time travel, but I was already a fan so I was rooting for this book before I even started.

The first part of the book is setting up the details regarding how time travel could take place, and is supported by several different events. Marian's father has left clues and information. People are out to get Marian in present day to try to steal the information she has. Mixed into all of that are few mysterious encounters Marian has with the past. Jody does a great job building up the intensity in the book from the start, with some mild suspense and romantic tension. The second part of the book is what is taking place as Marian travels in time. This is where Jody's skills at writing romantic encounters really come out. I loved that even in the moments set in the past, there is still an active connection with Marian's present day. It keeps the plot moving and doesn't just pause while Marion is living life in the Middle Ages. 

Back to my initial question: Will I buy into this? Oh yes. I will. And I LOVED it! There are still some unanswered questions, but there was also closure. So I'm left wanting more, but not frustrated that I didn't get enough. That is a great place to be! I would highly recommend this book!

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


Saturday, May 29, 2021

Reviewer's Bookshelf: "Let It Be Me" by Becky Wade


Book Summary (Amazon)The one woman he wants is the one he cannot have.

Former foster kid Sebastian Grant has leveraged his intelligence and hard work to become a pediatric heart surgeon. But not even his career success can erase the void he's tried so hard to fill. Then he meets high school teacher Leah Montgomery and his fast-spinning world comes to a sudden stop. He falls hard, only to make a devastating discovery--Leah is the woman his best friend set his heart on months before.

Leah's a math prodigy who's only ever had one big dream--to earn her PhD. Raising her little brother put that dream on hold. Now that her brother will soon be college bound, she's not going to let anything stand in her way. Especially romance . . . which is far less dependable than algebra.

When Leah receives surprising results from the DNA test she submitted to a genealogy site, she solicits Sebastian's help. Together, they comb through hospital records to uncover the secrets of her history. The more powerfully they're drawn to each other, the more strongly Sebastian must resist, and the more Leah must admit that some things in life--like love--can't be explained with numbers.

My thoughts... This is the second book in the Misty River series, set in the north GA mountains. As a native Georgian, I will say that this is not necessarily a "southern" book (no thick accents or a lot of southern culture as a part of the story), just a story set in the Atlanta/north of Atlanta area. There is some appreciated diversity in the characters, as Sebastian's best friend and family is African American. I wanted a little more distinction as I have personally experienced a unique warmth and culture from the African American community, but I also thought it was good that the characters meshed together so well.

 A big theme in this book is abandonment. Both Sebastian and Leah have had to live a lot of their lives independent of the love and support of immediate family, and both had traumatic experiences that led to their abandonment. Sebastian did have a surrogate family with his best friend, Ben, and his loyalty to them is powerful. This creates the initial tension in the discovery that he and Ben share a mutual attraction to Leah. Both characters have also tried, to great extremes, to fill the voids in their lives that their abandonment has caused. This adds to the tension as both Ben and Leah's lives are turned around through their relationship with each other and as Leah learns of her DNA results. I liked that Ben takes a risk to follow his heart in pursuing Leah. He doesn't always know how to do that, but he knows from the first moment that he saw her that he wanted to try. Ben was an easy character to enjoy in this story. Handsome, smart, driven, romantic....and the list goes on! I struggled a little to connect with Leah's character at first. She was forced at a young age, due to the selfishness of others who should've protected her, to become an adult. It drastically affected her and the choices she makes, which for me, were sometimes hard to relate to. I did appreciate the journey that both she and Sebastian's characters went on, as well as the detail that was put into creating their story. 

I'm a forever Becky Wade fan, and I haven't read one yet that I didn't love or appreciate. I'm looking forward to the next book in this 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, May 9, 2021

Reviewer's Bookshelf: "All That Really Matters" by Nicole Deese


Book Summary...Molly McKenzie's bright personality and on-trend fashion and beauty advice have earned her an impressive social media following, as well as a shiny monthly paycheck. When her manager-turned-boyfriend tells her of an upcoming audition to host a makeover show for America's underprivileged youth, all her dreams finally seem to be coming true. There's just one catch: she has little experience interacting with people in need.
To gain an edge on her competitors, she applies to volunteer at a transitional program for aged-out foster kids during summer, only the program's director, Silas Whittaker, doesn't find her as charming as her followers do. But since forfeiting a goal has never been her style, Molly's only option is to accept the terms Silas lays out and submit to his rules--even the most ridiculous ones pertaining to social media.  

Soon as the residents of the home become more than a means to pad her career resume, and Silas becomes more than an obstacle on her path to fame, her once-narrow focus expands to include the deep needs of those she's serving... and perhaps the ones she's neglected inside herself as well. It took years to build her platform, but only one summer to discover what really matters most.

My thoughts...I've seen Nicole Deese's name pop up as a contemporary Christian author, but this is the first book of hers that I've read. The summary sounded interesting, and I've found that I'm gravitating more toward contemporary Christian fiction lately, so I branched out. SO glad I did! I loved this book! As it is written from both Molly and Silas' points of view, you get a well-rounded perspective. Molly was such a likeable, fun character. She had her flaws, which made her relatable. Silas also had all of the great characteristics of an attractive hero. Physically and more. Both characters showed growth through the story, which in this genre includes spiritual growth. The way Molly was able to see past her own struggles and open her eyes to the needs of others was beautiful, and Silas was there supporting her journey while going on his own. The theme of forgiveness was central to the story, which is so relevant for today's readers. I would definitely recommend this book and I personally look forward to reading more of Nicole's work!

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

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.**

Sunday, January 10, 2021

Reviewer's Bookshelf: "A Cowboy For Keeps" by Jody Hedlund


Book Summary (Amazon): Greta Nilsson's trip west to save her ailing little sister, Astrid, could not have gone more wrong. First, bandits hold up her stagecoach, stealing all her money. Then, upon arriving in Fairplay, Colorado, she learns the man she was betrothed to as a mail-order bride has died. Homeless, penniless, and jobless, Greta and her sister are worse off than when they started.

Wyatt McQuaid is struggling to get his new ranch up and running and is in town to purchase cattle when the mayor proposes the most unlikely of bargains. He'll invest in a herd of cattle for Wyatt's ranch if Wyatt agrees to help the town become more respectable by marrying and starting a family. And the mayor, who has promised to try to help Greta, has just the candidate in mind for Wyatt to marry.

My thoughts...I was SUPER excited to see that Jody Hedlund was writing a western novel. I love the rugged setting and the resilient characters, who face so many hardships but keep pressing on. Greta and Wyatt both show these traits in different ways. Greta will do practically anything to help her sister, Astrid, to find relief from consumption. At times, her stubbornness on this issue can be a little off-putting, but it does contribute to the plot and tension in the story. Astrid is a bit spoiled due to her illness (which sometimes annoyed me as well), but she also had some heartfelt moments that I enjoyed. Wyatt is a handsome rancher who agrees to step in as Greta's mail order husband when the other man is assumed dead, but he isn't doing it completely out of the goodness of his heart. This aspect of the story also adds to the plot. Each time I post a review of a Jody Hedlund book, I always mention the romantic tension...because she is the queen of clean romance! She has a way of directing the characters to some fantastic moments that really drive the story. 

Overall, I enjoyed the book and would like to read the next book or books in the series. What I hope to see is some pre-epilogue resolution of all of that tension : ). I'm totally good with a fade to black...but please don't leave me hanging, Jody! :D 

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

Monday, January 4, 2021

Reviewer's Bookshelf: "Tidewater Bride" by Laura Frantz


Book Summary (Amazon): Selah Hopewell seems to be the only woman in the Virginia colony who has no wish to wed. True, there are too many men and far too few women in James Towne. But Selah already has her hands full assisting her father in the family's shop. And now she is in charge of an incoming ship of tobacco brides who must be looked after as they sort through their many suitors.

Xander Renick is perhaps the most eligible tobacco lord in the settlement. His lands are vast, his crops are prized, and his position as a mediator between the colonists and the powerful Powhatan nation surrounding them makes him indispensable. But Xander is already wedded to his business and still grieves the loss of his wife, daughter of the Powhatan chief.

Can two fiercely independent people find happiness and fulfillment on their own? Or will they discover that what they've been missing in life has been right in front of them all along?

My thoughts...Two independent people making their way in a wild, untamed land. They've survived near starvation, Indian raids and attacks, and demonstrated the fierce determination it takes to thrive. Laura Frantz weaves a vivid tale of these two, Selah and Xander, and the way their lives, and the lives of their families, intertwine in seventeenth century Virginia. I don't really know how Laura Frantz does it, but when you read one of her books it's like you've stepped right into the pages, listening to the sounds of life in whatever time period she chooses to take you. Not only will you hear the sounds, but you'll smell, touch, and taste all that she's a feast for the senses. The historical accuracy is also unlike any other author I've read. Then set in the middle of all of that goodness is a compelling story with tension, both physical and emotional. Survival always hangs in the balance, whether it be the success of Xander's tobacco crop, Seleh's father's trading company, good relationships with neighboring Indian tribes, or any number of things. The tension builds as Selah and Xander's relationship shifts, and various plot twists occur. 

    This is one of my new favorite books by Frantz. When I think back on the journey I took through this novel, all I can think about is how much I enjoyed it (and couldn't go to sleep one night because I HAD to finish). I highly recommend "Tidewater Bride."

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