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.*