Tuesday, March 8, 2016

On Lone Star Trail

“Everything I’m doing here in Texas feels good, but I know it’s temporary. I’m not sure what I’ll do when I leave.” Unbidden, the image of herself holding a baby in her arms flitted through Gillian’s mind. Where had that come from? Surely it wasn’t because she knew that was the one sure way to gain Dad’s approval. Nor could it be because of the dreams she’d had of herself and TJ sharing tender moments. There was only one logical explanation: she had been spending so much time with Kate.

Book: On Lone Star Trail by Amanda Cabot, Revell Publishers, 2016

Genre: Romance
Target Audience: Adult Women
Subjects: Identity, Loss, God’s Will, Faith
Summary: They’re both lost. Direction was clear, things were good, then suddenly everything fell apart and so did they. TJ lost his faith and his direction with the death of his wife. Gillan lost her ability to pursue her career or please her dad in an accident with a motorcyclist. Now they are both stuck at Rainbow’s End Resort picking up the pieces of their shattered lives and hoping to find answers to the question “What next?”.
Notes: On Lone Star Trail is the third in the Texas Crossroads series – books about characters who visit or live at Rainbow’s End Resort and find romance with someone else while there. This book features two characters trying to pick up the broken fragments left of their previous lives. Opportunities to put others first by building a senior center for the town’s elderly or providing activities and entertainment for the teenagers in the nearby trailer park start to provide some answers for both characters, but until TJ will come back to the God he abandoned at his wife’s death and Gillan can focus her life on pleasing her Heavenly Father instead of her earthly one, they can’t find real answers, no matter what they pursue.
Spiritual Content Recommendation Scale: 4.5/5
Reviewer: J:-)mi

John 10:27-29 – My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand.
Thank you to the publishers for providing me with a free review copy of this book in exchange for my honest opinion.

The Red Door Inn

Pain throbbed at her temples, and she closed her eyes against the building pressure. Which was better? Used in Boston? Or unwanted on Prince Edward Island, the home of L. M. Montgomery, the place where her childhood dreams had always begun? At least here she was free to leave, to find another place to hide until that ache in her heart began to ease. She began to take a tiny step away, but stopped with her foot still six inches off the ground.

Book: The Red Door Inn by Liz Johnson, Revell Publishers, 2016

Genre: Realistic Fiction/Romance
Target Audience: Adult Women
Subjects: Abuse, Relationship with Parents, Hope, Fear
Summary: She may be twenty-eight years old but she’s still a runaway. At least that’s how her father will see it. Things were never great between her and her father but overhearing one conversation sealed the deal: she had to get away. Her father wasn’t looking to help her recover from her traumatic experience. He was looking to capitalize on it. After all, a good old fashioned blackmail can go a long ways in making a fortune. The trouble is that if Marie wants to truly get away, she needs to leave behind any hints of where she is and that means not accessing her bank account or revealing who she is. And she’s still experiencing panic attacks regularly.
That’s where Jack finds her. Hunched up in fear with not enough money to even take the ferry over to the island. No plans for her survival, just a faint dream that maybe going to the one place she’s always wanted to go will somehow provide the answer she needs.
But God has a hand in this and Jack asks just the right question and soon Marie has a job, a place to live and a handsome man who is as hurt and fearful as she is. Neither Seth nor Marie are looking for a romance, just a way to survive one day at a time. But neither Jack nor God are done with Marie and Seth.
Notes: The Red Door Inn is the first in the Prince Edward Island Dreams series. This book shows two characters who have experienced terrible situations in a relationship thrown together, working for the same goal: to help an old man who has treated them like a father and took them in when they had nowhere else to go. The spiritual element is very themed around trust. Marie rejects God because He is compared to a father and her father was far from loving. Seth is not willing to trust a woman again since the last one betrayed him. Both have to come to a point of trusting God before they can consider trusting each other.
Spiritual Content Recommendation Scale: 4/5
Reviewer: J:-)mi

Psalm 6:2 – Have mercy on me, LORD, for I am faint; heal me, LORD, for my bones are in agony.

Thank you to the publishers for providing me with a free review copy of this book in exchange for my honest opinion.

Playing The Part

As he watched the back of her skirt vanish from sight, Bram suddenly realized that the woman who’d just been absolutely thrilled to win a two-line part in a local play was, without a doubt, the real Lucetta Plum, and… she was absolutely nothing like he’d imagined her to be. She wasn’t possessed of a delicate or whimsical nature, wasn’t fragile in the least, and…
He found her absolutely fascinating.

Book: Playing The Part by Jen Turano, Bethany House Publishers, 2016

Genre: Romantic Comedy
Target Audience: Adult Women
Subjects: Faith, Identity, Truth
Summary: Again? How many times must Lucetta pretend to be a helpless female who swoons at every little thing? Playing the part is what keeps her career going though, so she does it. At least until the night her stepfather shows up and announce he has sold her in a card game. Never the mind the fact that he has absolutely no authority over her whatsoever. The man he lost the game of cards to has always been a huge fan of Lucetta, to the point of being willing to commit criminal activities to get to her. The only way to escape him is to either get married to someone (not an option as far as Lucetta is concerned) or disappear for a time. Her benefactor and elderly friend, Abigail assists in the disappearing, finding the perfect place to hide: her grandson’s estate… her unmarried grandson. Bram is quite willing to go along with his grandmother’s schemes. After all, he too needs to ward off admirers – single woman and their mothers who consider themselves huge fans of his money. Besides, he has admired Lucetta from a distance for many years, fancying himself rather fond of her. Except for, well, this woman is far from the helpless damsel in distress he imagined her to be. She’s independent and confident and capable. And she thinks he’s possibly a little insane and therefore has no intention whatsoever of marrying him. He’s playing a part but she refuses to do so. It would seem they are at a stalemate until one of them gives in.
Notes: This is the third and final book in the A Class of Their Own series, concluding the stories of the three friends that Abigail took under her wing and attempted to find husbands for. This is the story of Lucetta. Now that Harriet and Millie are married, Abigail has turned her matchmaking eye to Lucetta, with Lucetta responding with every bit as much horror as Harriet and Millie. As usual the story is filled with random craziness that will either have you laughing loudly or rolling your eyes at the ridiculousness of it – depending on your personality. This one involves a goat, a cannon, a wart, a staff made up of former criminals and a whole group of rich husband hungry women. The spiritual element is seen in Lucetta playing the role of being a faithful Christian when in reality, her walk with good is very weak. She has long been mad that God let her father, the one parent who cared about her, die and left her the responsibility of caring for her more foolish mother. It’s not until she has an encounter with her mother again and start to speak the truth that she realizes how much she has shoved God out due to her anger. The spiritual elements aren’t the focus on the story – the romance and comedy are the huge focus, but there are elements woven here and there throughout the book.
Spiritual Content Recommendation Scale: 3.5/5
Reviewer: J:-)mi

John 3:20-21 - Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed. But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God.

Thank you to the publishers for providing me with a free review copy of this book in exchange for my honest opinion.

The Fragment

I understand. You want to know if I am ready to commit. And the answer is, that is what I want. More than anything.”
“Even without knowing what is behind my question?”
“I have known you all my life. My father and mother trust you. As do I.”
“Very well.” He pulled the pocket watch from his vest, flicked open the gold case, snapped it shut, then gripped her elbow as he steered her around. “In that case, we must change course. There is not a moment to lose.”
“Where are we going?”
“To the center of Paris fashion. The Rue Cambon.” He lifted his cane to hail a passing horse-drawn taxi. “We have precisely three hours to transform you into an American princess.”

Book: The Fragment by Davis Bunn, Franciscan Media, 2016

Genre: Mystery, Historical Fiction
Target Audience: Adults
Subjects: Loss, WWI, Prayer
Summary: Life has taken a turn for the dull. Muriel feels as though she is trapped in her local village, unable to achieve anything with her life. The war has brought some home, destroyed some, and left some in a state of waiting for their life to take off. When an old friend of her parents makes her an offer to join him in Paris, she eagerly accepts. Before long she senses there is more than what she sees and pushes to know the rest of it. Once she has gained the secrets the senator holds, her life is no longer waiting to take off. More is happening than she can keep up with! Intrigue, danger, romance, and a faith more real than she has ever imagined are now what her life is made up of.
Notes: This book contains an interesting element that has strong ties to Catholicism. The big focus in this book is discovering religious artifacts, particularly a piece of the actual cross Jesus died on. The claim is that the actual wood was taken and treasured by some of Jesus’ disciples and has been passed down through the centuries and is now available for viewing by those with special connections. Nothing in the Bible implies that people of this time cherished artifacts in this way or took down and saved actual pieces of wood from the cross, but the theory holds in the Catholic Church today. In the story, Muriel’s faith is strengthened greatly from viewing the piece of wood, although a huge part of that is a dream she has, not just taking pictures of a piece of wood. The character’s faith does seem to be in Jesus Himself rather than an object, not turning it quite into an idol. She prays, studies her Bible daily and seeks to let her relationship with Christ impact those around her as well.
There is another interesting element in the story – a character is presented who can’t recover from the loss he experienced during the war. Instead of turning to prayer and seeking healing from his hurt and pain, he cherishes it and lets it define him. Muriel is warned to be cautious in her interactions due to this, advice that is proved wise as the story plays out.
Spiritual Content Recommendation Scale: 3.5/5
Reviewer: J:-)mi

1 Corinthians 1:18 – For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.

Thank you to the author for providing me with a free review copy of this book in exchange for my honest opinion.

A Season To Wed

A Season To Wed by Cindy Kirk, Rachel Hauck, and Cheryl Wyatt, Zondervan Publishers, 2015

A Season To Wed is a collection of 3 novellas about winter love stories.

"I confirmed this morning with the county recorder’s office that even if the license and certificate aren’t sent in, the marriage is still legal."
John collapsed back against the sofa. Hope was his wife? Indescribable joy rushed through him. He’d prayed for a second chance. For the opportunity to show her he could be the husband she deserved. Now, through a bureaucratic loophole and God’s providence he’d received that chance.
“You’re probably as upset as I am,” he heard Hope say.
Sensing this wasn’t the time to tell her how thrilled he was, he forced a grave expression. “This is quite a surprise.”

Story: Love At Mistletoe Inn by Cindy Kirk
Summary: She’s horrified, he’s thrilled. She wants an annulment. He wants to make that impossible.  Ten years ago instead of going to their high school prom, John and Hope snuck off and got married.  Right after the ceremony she panicked and backed out. They were assured that they could pretend the marriage never happened. The paperwork wouldn’t be filed and they wouldn’t legally be married. Except, they are. John is back in town and wants to make their marriage work. Hope is terrified that their relationship will turn out like her parents’ and wants out. Only one of them can get what they want... unless they can change each other’s mind.
Notes:  The spiritual issue dealt with in this story is trust in God and therefore, trust in each other. Hope doesn’t trust God to be big enough to deal with their issues. Her aunt asks if she has prayed and Hope says “I’ve prayed so much I’m sure God is sick of hearing my voice.” Then her aunt challenges her to forget her own agenda and just be still and listen for God’s direction.
Spiritual Content Recommendation Scale: 3/5

Making things – women – beautiful was her calling, her duty, in life. She channeled every ounce of her heart and soul into her work because the truth was, she could never do it for herself.

 Story:  A Brush With Love by Rachel Hauck
Summary: Burned once, permanently shy describes Ginger perfectly. Her body still carries the scars from a burn that occurred in her youth and those burns define who she is. But when Tom Wells, her first crush, returns to town, not just for the wedding of his friend, but to settle, she is horrified. He seems determined to seek her out and befriend her. One rejection was enough though. He disappeared in the night instead of taking her to the high school dance and she is confident her scars are too repulsive for him anyway. He won’t give up until Ginger knows how beautiful she is to him and to the God he serves.
Notes: A Brush With Love tells the story of an extremely talented beautician who devotes her life to making others beautiful, but refuses to believe she herself could be beautiful. She won’t accept the love of God or the love of a man because of the lies she believes about herself. It takes the steady, determined persistence of Tom to convince her she is loved and that those looking at her through the eyes of love find her to be beautiful.
Spiritual Content Recommendation Scale: 5/5

“Why are you doing this?”
“Honest truth? I’m not sure.”
Her lips pursed. “Guilt maybe?”
“Or maybe just because it’s the right thing to do and I spent too much of my life doing the wrong thing.” He held her gaze with enough gravity to hopefully begin convcing her that he’d changed.

Story: Serving Up A Sweetheart by Cheryl Wyatt
Summary: High School Bully turned admirer? It sure seems that’s who Colin is. He can still remember the terror and betrayal in her eyes that day he and his friends took it on themselves to pick on Meadow. He’s changed though. So has she. He likes who he sees and finds himself helping her for more reasons than just to make up for the past. Before long, he’s hanging around because there’s no place he would rather be than with her. For Meadow though, forgiveness is one thing, total trust is quite another.
Notes:  The spiritual element theme running through this story is forgiveness. Meadow has a very hard time forgiving and trusting again. She has to have a friend point out where she is choosing unforgiveness in a situation where someone is actually choosing to try to earn her forgiveness.
Spiritual Content Recommendation Scale:  3/5

Thank you to the Celebrate Lit for providing me with a free review copy of A Season To Wed in exchange for my honest opinion.

About the Authors

Rachel Hauck Bio:
Rachel Hauck is a USA Today Bestselling author. Her book, The Wedding Dress, was named Inspirational Novel of the Year by Romantic Times and was a RITA finalist. Her book Once Upon A Prince was a Christy Award finalist.
Rachel lives in central Florida with her husband and two pets and writes from her ivory tower. Visit her online at rachelhauck.com, Facebook: rachelhauck, and Twitter: @RachelHauck.
Cindy Kirk Bio:
Cindy Kirk sold her first book in 1999 as a result of a contest win which garnered a critique of the entire manuscript. She’s been writing—and selling—ever since. Cindy has been a Booksellers’ Best Award Winner, a finalist for the National Readers’ Choice Awards and a Publishers Weekly best seller. Cindy has served on the Board of Directors of the Romance Writers of America (RWA) since 2007. In November 2014, she began serving as President of the 10,000+ member organization. She’s a frequent speaker at not only the national RWA conferences, but large regional writing conferences. She has also presented at smaller retreats and conferences across the country. She lives on an acreage in Nebraska with her high school sweetheart husband of too-many-years-to-count and their three “boys” (a shih tzu, a blue heeler and a dorkie). Their daughter lives close by with her wonderful husband and their two little girls. Cindy invites you to check out her websitewww.cindykirk.com. Twitter: @CindyKirkAuthor
Cheryl Wyatt Bio:
Cheryl Wyatt writes romance with virtue. She’s a USA Today bestselling author and has earned RT Top Picks, spots #1 and #4 on her debut publisher’s Top 10 Most-Blogged-About-Books list, Romantic Times Reviewers Choice Award, Gayle Wilson Award of Excellence final, and other awards. Cheryl loves readers! Join her newsletter at www.CherylWyatt.com. Facebook: CherylWyattAuthor Twitter: @cherylwyatt


To celebrate the A Season To Wed Celebration Tour, Rachel Hauck is giving away a Kindle Fire! Click to enter https://promosimple.com/ps/953c

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ASweet Misfortune

How do you know my name?” She tapped her foot in the dirt. “And what do you want from me?” Her eyes snapped in anger. I demand to know your name and why you’ve kidnapped me!”
“I choose to call it a rescue. My name is John McIntyre and I own this ranch. Your brother, Preston wrote and asked me to rescue you from the Wild Horse to protect you from that unscrupulous lifestyle.”
Her head thrust upward in surprise. “Preston? You’ve heard from Preston?” It was almost a whisper. For a moment her face softened and she seemed to forget her anger at him.
“Yes. Now will you please come inside and we’ll have supper and talk?” He was pleading with her, which was against his nature. What had he gotten himself mixed up with?

Book: ASweet Misfortune by Maggie Brendan, Revell Publishers, 2016

Genre: Historical Fiction, Romance
Target Audience: Adult Women
Subjects: Loss, Romance, Pride
Summary: She’s going to win back the family ranch and she’s willing to pay whatever price it costs to do so. Even if that means dancing in the saloons. Her brother may not be much for communication but he has no intention of letting that happen. So rather than write her back or come home, he simply sends his friend over to deal with the situation, which John does in a rather effective manner. He simply picks her up and tosses her over his shoulder carrying her right off the stage. The problems come when John starts finding himself attracted to Rachel. Rachel has multiple reasons to dislike him, the largest being not the kidnapping but the possessing of her family’s land with refusal to give it back unless she and her brother pay more than they could afford. Rachel won’t admit it but she’s starting to become attracted to John as well, but knows there are multiple reasons he wouldn’t want her, not the least of which is the young girl nearby who is determined to be the one to gain him. Finding love is one thing, admitting it is quite another!
Notes: A Sweet Misfortune is the second in the Virtues and Vices of The Old West series. In this book both characters are finding it hard to face and accept truth. They prefer their own made-up reality. Rachel wants to believe she can keep her virtue and yet make enough money to buy back the family ranch. John wants to believe he can become the biggest rancher around without it affecting any of his relationships. Both have to wrestle with letting God have their desires and accepting that His desire for them may not mean getting what they want. The spiritual elements aren’t the main focus on this story but they are there, especially at the climax when each character faces a moment of humbling themselves before God and admitting the truth.
Spiritual Content Recommendation Scale: 3/5
Reviewer: J:-)mi

James 4:7-10 - Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Grieve, mourn and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.

The Hearts We Mend

A smile bloomed in Evie’s eyes, and Jack felt that strange tug again. The one that occurred whenever he caught a glimpse of the current flowing underneath her tranquil surface. It drew him. Made him want to get to know her better.

But that meant Evie would get to know him better too.

Jack could only imagine what her reaction would be if she found out how closely the apartment resembled his life at the moment. Not really a work in progress though. More like a construction zone. A little loud, a little messy, and a whole lot of unpredictable.

It would be better – safer – if Evie stayed where she belonged.

And something told Jack it would be safer for him too.

“So you put your life on hold and moved here too>”

“I don’t look at it that way.” Jack smiled at the thought. “My life isn’t on hold – I’m just living it here. Moment by moment. But sometimes you have to decide what’s going to cost you more. The risk or the regret. I’ve read the pamphlets. I realize I can’t fight my brother’s battles for him. I just had to show him that he’s worth fighting for.”

Book: The Hearts We Mend by Kathryn Springer. Zondervan Publishers, 2016

Genre: Realistic Fiction, Romance

Target Audience: Adult Women

Subjects: Love, Sacrifice, Drugs, Alcohol, Loss

Summary: Have you ever dared to dream big? To imagine God would use you to accomplish something huge, to be a part of changing lives, to join in a grand adventure?

Evie didn’t. Her life was tame. Safe. She knew what to expect and when to expect it. Until the day her well-behaved, godly, mature teenage son announced he had gotten his girlfriend pregnant and was going to marry her and be a father to their child. Her calm life exploded into chaos at that moment. Just as she thought she had accepted it and gotten acclimated to the new normal, she walked into church to find the old reliable janitor gone and in his place a handsome man with a burden for an entire neighborhood on his shoulders. God keeps shoving her into Jack’s life and she finds she hasn’t been living at all. She put her life and her heart on pause the moment her husband died thirteen years ago. A drug addict, a high school drop out, a hopeless widow, a colicky baby, an abandoned child and the man who serves them all are used by God to start bringing her back to life again, slowly but surely. Before she knows it, Evie is dreaming big dreams of being a part of all of this. Jack isn’t sure he wants to let Evie in though. Her picture-perfect upbringing and marriage will never allow her to accept him and all the baggage he carries. But maybe God is big enough to join two hearts to share the same passion, bringing healing to both at the same time.

Notes: The Hearts We Mend is the second in the Banister Falls series. Last year, when #1 – The Dandelion Field released, I had to give it credit for being one of the absolute best books of the entire year. When I picked up #2, I feared I would be disappointed – how could any book live up to the expectations I had built up for it after reading #1? It did not disappoint! It was equally beautiful. When you see old Bert crying with glowing eyes telling Evie that God has given her more than she can hold – more good things, when you see Dan and Ryan and the others show up to help Jack with the apartment, when you hear that Jack has made an arrangement with the landlord to do more free repairs to the building in exchange for putting in more washing machines and dryers that will add convenience to the list of the young mom, when Jack sees a desire in Evie that no one else saw, when Evie tells him he is a hero… all those moments make you sigh in delight. Things are good, very good. The hero and heroine are letting God lead them and in following His direction, accomplishing beautiful things.

I highly recommend this book!

Spiritual Content Recommendation Scale: 5/5

Reviewer: J:-)mi

Ephesians 2:10 – For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

Thank you to the publishers for providing me with a free review copy of this book in exchange for my honest opinion. I greatly enjoyed it!