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.**