Tuesday, March 21, 2017

The Elusive Miss Ellison by Carolyn Miller

 Handsome appearance counts for naught unless matched by good character and actions.
That's the firm opinion of not-so-meek minister's daughter Lavinia Ellison. So even though all the other villagers of St. Hampton Heath are swooning over the newly returned seventh Earl of Hawkesbury, she is not impressed. If a man won't take his responsibilities seriously and help those who are supposed to be able to depend on him, he deserves no respect from her. In Lavinia's pretty, gray eyes, Nicholas Stamford is just as arrogant and reckless as his brother-who stole the most important person in Livvie's world.
Nicholas is weighed down by his own guilt and responsibility, by the pain his careless brother caused, and by the legacy of war he's just left. This quick visit home to St. Hampton Heath will be just long enough to ease a small part of that burden. Asking him to bother with the lives of the villagers when there's already a bailiff on the job is simply too much to expect.
That is, until the hoydenish, intelligent, and very opinionated Miss Ellison challenges him to see past his pain and pride. With her angelic voice in his head, he may even be beginning to care. But his isn't the only heart that needs to change.
These two lonely hearts may each have something the other needs. But with society's opposition, ancestral obligations, and a shocking family secret, there may be too many obstacles in their way.
The Elusive Miss Ellison was a phenomenal novel that I devoured in one sitting. The plot was well written and moved at the perfect pace to allow me to embed myself in the story without getting bogged down in details or feeling bored. The story line included elements of mystery, romance, and a little suspense, and had many important themes such as the importance of forgiveness, mercy, and not being too quick to judge others and their circumstances. I liked both Nicholas and Lavinia, and I enjoyed how their characters clashed and completely misjudged one another due to what they assumed and their past experiences. I thought both characters (and other minor characters) were well developed and had many strengths and weaknesses. I enjoyed watching both main characters grow more mature and seeing Nicholas' change of heart toward God as the story progressed. I liked how the author wove the ending of the story together and brought out some interesting secrets from both characters' families. Overall, I highly recommend this novel, and I cannot wait to read more of Carolyn Miller's works.
I received this novel for free from Litfuse Publicity Group in exchange for an honest review.
Learn more and read other reviews at: http://litfusegroup.com/author/CMiller
About the author:

Carolyn Miller lives in New South Wales, Australia, with her husband and four children. A longtime lover of Regency romance, Carolyn's novels have won a number of RWA and ACFW contests. She is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers and Australasian Christian Writers.

Monday, February 27, 2017

Door to Freedom by Jana Kelley

 What happens when persecution hits close to home?

In the dusty, Islamic country of Sudan, Mia, who is raising her family in a Muslim country, has learned to boldly share her faith. Rania, the daughter of a wealthy Sudanese Arab, seeks to find the reason for her sister's sudden disappearance. Mia holds some of the answers, but both women quickly discover they must each walk through their own doors to freedom, the freedom that only comes when you trust God's sovereignty more than man-made security.
 Door to Freedom by Jana Kelley is the sequel to Side by Side, and it further delves into the differing lives of the American Christians and the Muslim Sudanese. This book picks up almost two years after the first, and the time the reader experiences more of the persecution of Christians still seen in Muslim countries today. Mia and Michael have both matured as believers and as missionaries, and as the their door of witnessing opportunity continues to be opened, they also experience increased persecution and warnings from Muslims and other Christians alike. I enjoyed seeing how the two had matured and how they continued to trust God and His plan for them even in the midst of threats of tribulation. I loved how Scripture was interspersed throughout and how much Mia and Michael relied on God's Word and prayer. It was a great reminder to me how important staying immersed in the Word and prayer is to both a personal relationship with God and having an effective ministry. Mia also showed the power of God when she was able to forgive a fellow believer who was chastising them for sharing the Gospel so boldly. It was convicting to me to think about how we as believers can unwittingly hinder the spread of the Gospel sometimes when we do not trust and surrender to God. 

Another aspect of the storyline is Rania, the younger sister of Halimah (from Side by Side), who finds out for herself who Jesus is and her response. I liked seeing how she learned more about Isa (Jesus) and in turn had to make a difficult decision about what was more important -her family or her new faith. It was interesting to see the role of women in a Sudanese Muslim household and the traditions held by their culture and faith. 

Overall, I enjoyed this novel. While the writing style and characterization were simplistic and predictable at times, I found the story's cultural background and settings to be eye-opening and the Scriptural references to be convicting. I could tell that these elements were based on real life events from the author's experiences, and it added a layer of reality to the story that made it very compelling. After reading about some of the struggles that many Christians face while living in Muslim countries, especially when they face persecution, I was further convicted to spend time in prayer for those who are undergoing these scenarios now. I received this novel from Litfuse Publicity Group in exchange for an honest review.

Author of the captivating novel Side by Side, Jana Kelley is a Texan who hardly ever lives in Texas. Raised in Southeast Asia, Jana developed a love for cross-cultural living early in life. Her love for writing came soon after. Jana returned to Texas to attend East Texas Baptist University. She and her husband married a month after she graduated, and by their second anniversary, they were living in a remote African town. After 13 years living in Africa and the Middle East, Jana, her husband, and their three boys moved to Southeast Asia where they currently live.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

The Innkeeper of Ivy Hill by Julie Klassen

The lifeblood of the Wiltshire village of Ivy Hill is its coaching inn, The Bell. But when the innkeeper dies suddenly, his genteel wife, Jane Bell, becomes the reluctant owner. Jane has no notion of how to run a business. However, with the town's livelihood at stake and a large loan due, she must find a way to bring new life to the inn.

Despite their strained relationship, Jane turns to her resentful mother-in-law, Thora, for help. Formerly mistress of The Bell, Thora is struggling to find her place in the world. As she and Jane work together, they form a measure of trust, and Thora's wounded heart begins to heal. When she encounters two men from her past, she sees them--and her future--in a different light.

With pressure mounting from the bank, Jane employs innovative methods to turn the inn around, and puzzles over the intentions of several men who seem to have a vested interest in the place. Will her efforts be enough to save The Bell? And will Thora embrace the possibility of a second chance at love?

The Innkeeper of Ivy Hill by Julie Klassen was a fascinating novel of a young woman who inherited a struggling inn after the death of her husband and had no idea how to run it. I liked the setting of the small village and the inner workings of the inn and everyone worked together to try to improve it. I thought the plot moved at a slow but steady pace, and it contained a couple different romance storylines that ran simultaneously. I liked how this story was really about Thora's change of heart/attitude while Jane's story is just beginning and will continue as the series goes on. Rachel and other minor characters also had chapters dedicated to what was happening in their lives, which I also think is setting the stage for the rest of the series. While I liked seeing what was happening in the entire village, it did cause the story to drag out a little bit, especially when there was only resolution to Thora's story and not the other ones. However, I am interested to see how the story of this village to continues to unfold in the following novels. 

The Illusionist's Apprentice by Kristy Cambron

Thursday, December 22, 2016

For the Record by Regina Jennings

Betsy Huckabee might be a small-town girl, but she has big-city dreams. Writing for her uncle's newspaper will never lead to independence, and the bigger newspapers don't seem interested in the Hart County news. Trying a new approach, Betsy pens a romanticized serial for the ladies' pages, and the new deputy provides the perfect inspiration for her submissions. She'd be horrified if he read her breathless descriptions of him, but these articles are for a newspaper far away. No one in Pine Gap will ever know.

Deputy Joel Puckett didn't want to leave Texas, but this job in tiny Pine Gap is his only shot at keeping his badge. With masked marauders riding every night, his skills and patience are tested, but even more challenging is the sassy journalist lady chasing him.

For the Record by Regina Jennings was an intriguing and sweet read that included a well written mixture of romance, disappointment, mystery, and intrigue. The plot line was well developed, entertaining, and had me unable to put the book down. This book is the third in the Ozark Mountain Romance series, but it can be read alone as the other book characters are only briefly mentioned in this novel. However, having already read the other two novels, I was excited to see Betsy get her own novel. I really like her character, and I was both entertained by her whimsical nature and her vivid imagination and saddened with her when her choices caused her problems later on. I also liked Joel Puckett, and I enjoyed seeing Betsy and Joel learn and grow from their mistakes. I thought the mystery in the novel was suspenseful, and I liked seeing how the community came together in the end. Overall I highly enjoyed this novel, and I hope it is not the last of this series!

I received this novel from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Finding Margo by Jen Turano

International pop star Margo Hartman could use a night off. A grueling tour and overbearing entourage have sent her over the edge. It’s time for this diva to disappear. And who would think to look for the superstar in a small town in Ohio?

Sheriff’s deputy Brock Moore is undercover as well. He knows Margo isn’t who she appears to be, but her uncanny resemblance to a local Amish woman is raising all sorts of questions. . .the kinds that make her a target for a killer.

Is finding Margo the solution to Brock’s problems or just the beginning…?
Finding Margo was a sweet and entertaining read that I devoured in a day. I have read all of Jen Turano's novels, but this was the first one I read that was set in modern times. It was a murder mystery of sorts, and it definitely contained many twists and turns. The characters were interesting and had both serious and hilarious moments. However, I felt that Jen Turano's almost quirky and amusing style that I enjoy immensely is better suited for her previous novel settings. It seemed a little forced at times and detracted a little from the storyline in the modern setting. Also the romance was a little more rushed than in her previous books which made the relationship seem less realistic. Overall though, I liked the tie-in with the Amish community, and the murder mystery/abduction element was interesting as well. While it was just not my favorite Jen Turano novel, I look forward to reading the next couple of novels in this new series.

I received this novel from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Monday, December 19, 2016

An Uncommon Courtship

When her mother's ill-conceived marriage trap goes awry, Lady Adelaide Bell unwittingly finds herself bound to a stranger who ignores her. Lord Trent Hawthorne, who had grand plans to marry for love, is even less pleased with the match. Can they set aside their first impressions before any chance of love is lost?
An Uncommon Courtship was a sweet and entertaining novel about Trent Hawthorne and his new wife Adelaide. Their marriage was forced upon them by circumstances, but they both learn how to treat the other with respect and eventually with love as well. I enjoyed seeing how Trent's brother and other godly, male friends came along side him and helped him to understand what it means to be a godly husband while at the same time Adelaide is learning from his sisters and mother how to be a godly wife. I loved the awkward situations between Trent and his brother, and I also enjoyed seeing how Adelaide and Trent acclimated to each other's eccentricities. Overall, I highly enjoyed the storyline and characters in this novel and how they link back to the previous Hawthorne novels.