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.

Friday, December 16, 2016

Pursuing Gold by Cynthia L Simmons

With his father dead and his business partner incapacitated, Peter Chandler inherits the leadership of a bank in economic crisis.
With only a newly-minted college degree and little experience, Peter joins his partner’s daughter, Mary Beth Roper, in a struggle to keep C&R Bank afloat while the Civil War rages around Chattanooga. Political pressure for unsecured loans of gold to the government stirs up trouble as tempers and prices rise. Their problems multiply when Mary Beth discovers counterfeit money with Peter’s forged signature. Can they find the forger before the bank fails? The two friends must pursue gold on behalf of their business, as they learn to pursue their heavenly Father to find hope and peace.

Pursuing Gold by Cynthia L Simmons was an interesting read and had a good mixture of romance, suspense, and mystery. The chapters were very short and the book as a whole was a quick read, but the tone and style made the novel very slow paced at the same time. I had trouble getting involved in the storyline at times due to this combination of features. Peter and Mary Beth were well developed characters, but I had trouble connecting with them and their relationship seemed forced at times. However, the book did seem to be well researched, and it was interesting to experience different aspects of the Civil War, such as banking and Tennessee politics, than your typical Civil War novel.

Overall, I found this novel to be an easy read, and once I was able to get engaged in the story, it was also an interesting historical read as well.

I received this book from Litfuse Blogging Group in exchange for an honest review.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Experiencing God through His Names by Sheryl Giesbrecht

What’s in a name? 

Names are more than groups of letters that represent a person or identify objects. Names are powerful. A person’s character and destiny can be influenced by his or her name. God’s attributes and personality support His unique and distinct names. If we comprehend the meanings of His titles, we can know God more intimately. In Experiencing God Through His Names, Sheryl Giesbrecht walks with you on an exciting journey to discover and absorb the truth about God’s character. In the next 31 days, God wants you to get to know Him. Are you ready?

 Experiencing God Through His Names is a wonderful journey into the beauty and variety of God's names and what can happen we begin to behold the awesome nature of who God is. I love how this book comes with an insightful bookmark that describes the difference aspects of our identity in Christ on one side, with Scriptural references that back up each statement. And then on the other side, it contrasts Satan's lies about our identity with Biblical truths about who God sees when He looks at us. It was such an awesome reminder of who God is and who we really are in Him. The book itself is split into 31 days, and each day explores a different name of God. Sheryl usually begins the day with a short, often personal story that relates to the attribute being discussed. She then describes the name of God and then looks at Scriptures that illustrate the specific name. Finally, she ends with a prayer praising God for his character and what it means to her. Overall, I found this devotional to be moving and convicting as I thought about the different names of God and how that should affect how I view God and my relationship with Him.

I received this book for reviewing purposes from Litfuse Publicity.

Sheryl Giesbrecht has written three books, hundreds of articles, blogs, and columns. A nationally syndicated radio host, Sheryl is a sought after inspirational speaker who facilitates leadership training for thousands internationally.

Saturday, August 6, 2016

An Elegant Facade by Kristi Ann Hunter

Lady Georgina Hawthorne has worked tirelessly to seal her place as the Incomparable for her debut season. At her first London ball, she hopes to snag the attention of an earl.

With money and business connections, but without impeccable bloodlines, Colin McCrae is invited everywhere but accepted nowhere. When he first encounters the fashionable Lady Georgina, he's irritated by his attraction to a woman who concerns herself only with status and appearance.

What Colin doesn't know is that Georgina's desperate social aspirations are driven by the shameful secret she harbors. Association with Colin McCrae is not part of Georgina's plan, but as their paths continue to cross, they both must decide if the realization of their dreams is worth the sacrifices they must make.
This novel was an excellent read. It is the second novel in the Hawthorne House series, and it actually starts about halfway through the first novel, a Noble Masquerade, only from Georgeanna's perspective. It was really interesting to see her from her own point of view, especially since she puts on a completely different front with the rest of her family. So having read the first novel, I was quite surprised to see her actual character. The plot of An Elegant Facade was entertaining and thought provoking as Georgeanna had to work through what it meant to love someone, to actually be a lady, and what it means to follow after God. I really enjoyed seeing her relationship with Collin grow from hatred to indifference to confusion to something more. Collin was also an excellent character that I already appreciated from the first novel, and I enjoyed watching his interactions both with the characters from the first novel in this book and from Georgeanna. Overall, I really enjoyed the new take on the first novel, plus the continuation into Georgeanna's own story, and I liked watching both her and Collin's growth throughout the story.

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

Friday, August 5, 2016

Delilah by Angela Hunt

Life is not easy in Philistia, especially not for a woman and child alone. When beautiful, wounded Delilah finds herself begging for food to survive, she resolves that she will find a way to defeat all the men who have taken advantage of her. She will overcome the roadblocks life has set before her, and she will find riches and victory for herself.

When she meets a legendary man called Samson, she senses that in him lies the means for her victory. By winning, seducing, and betraying the hero of the Hebrews, she will attain a position of national prominence. After all, she is beautiful, she is charming, and she is smart. No man, not even a supernaturally gifted strongman, can best her in a war of wits.
Delilah by Angela Hunt was a fascinating look into the story of Samson from the perspective of Delilah. Instead of Delilah being portrayed as basically a witch out to destroy Samson, instead we see a woman who has suffered much and is just as confused and sinful as the rest of us apart from God. The storyline is told in third person, but it alternates between Delilah and Samson's perspective. The plot holds pretty true to the biblical story, but I enjoyed how the author wove the back story of Delilah: her past, her thoughts, and her changes in character. I have always wondered about what kind of person Delilah was to be so conniving and manipulative, but after reading this perspective of how her life might have been like, I was able to understand her possible point of view and how she was just trying to live and survive. I thought the author's portrayal of Samson was very believable, and I love how Samson's servant was really probably an angel or the Holy Spirit sent to guide Samson. I liked how both characters were flawed but yet at the end both received some measure of forgiveness, redemption and hope in a future, unflawed Savior.

I would highly recommend this novel, and I received this novel from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

When Death Draws Near by Carrie Stuart Parks

Death has always been part of Gwen Marcey’s job. But when faced with her own mortality, everything takes on a different hue.

Forensic artist Gwen Marcey takes a temporary case in Pikeville, KY to attempt to draw a serial rapist. However, as soon as she arrives on the scene she finds that no one wants her there and that this latest victim has mysteriously left town just like all the others. Instead, the sheriff grudgingly takes her help in sketching an unidentified body that had been killed by a rattler. What she discovers is that this the latest in many snake deaths and that they all seem to be related to a Pentecostal serpent handling church. Since serpent handling is illegal in Kentucky, this church has gone underground, and the city's leading politician gives Gwen a hefty reward to go undercover and find out who is behind the church and these deaths. What Gwen quickly discovers is that multiple persons seem to be trying to kill her and that there might be more to both the serial rapist and the serpent related deaths than she thought. As the death count rises and as her teenage daughter joins her, Gwen is in a race against time to save both herself and her daughter from the unknown evil threatening to take over Pikeville. 

When Death Draws Near is suspenseful and well written novel that is brimming with mystery, danger, and even a little romance. This a Gwen Marcey novel, but it can be read as a standalone novel. I thought the plot line was interesting and contained enough twists and unexpected developments to keep me glued to the pages. I liked how there were multiple people what could have been behind the disappearances and deaths and that the reader was left in the dark with only slight glimpses until the very end. I also thought the author's take on the Pentecostal church was interesting and thought provoking, even though I did not agree with the church's literal interpretation of parts of the Bible. I also thought that while God and Jesus were mentioned, it was often from an extremist point of view or when Gwen was trying to bargain with God instead of a more biblical representation. I think that Gwen's end turning point to God should have been more about redemption and less about trying to bargain her way out of a struggle. However, in the end, Gwen did seem to turn to God less for what He could do for her and more because of who He is. 

I thought the characters, particularly Gwen, were interesting and fairly well developed. Most of the characters remained fairly flat with little development, only secrets. However, Gwen was a more rounded character who did experience growth during the story. I thought the other minor characters added to the suspense of the story if not necessarily to its depth. The little romantic aspect of the story was intriguing, but seemed a little contrived and forced due to the speed of its development. However, at the end of the story it slowed down and looked to be an interesting development for future Gwen Marcey novels. Overall, I really enjoyed this novel and its plot line was both suspenseful and thought provoking. 

I received this novel from Litfuse Publicity Group in exchange for an honest review. 

Saturday, June 25, 2016

The Ghost Rebellion by Pip Ballantine and Tee Morris

This fifth installment to the Ministry Peculiar Occurrences series lived to my expectations and even surpassed it some instances. In the aftermath left by the Maestro's dastardly plans for Queen Victoria and England, we see the Ministry struggling to put the pieces back together and rebuild their ranks. Agents Books and Braun are as dashing a pair as ever, with even more sparks flying between them as they delve into a deeper and more meaningful relationship while trying to simultaneously hunt down the terrible Dr. Jekyll-Hyde. Meanwhile, while Books and Braun find themselves on a mission in India, Agents Hill and Campbell are once again paired up and sent off into the bitter cold of Russia to find a secret ingredient that might save Queen Victoria's life. Hill and Campbell find more than they bargained for as they begin to unravel the latest scheme by the House of Usher and its new master.

Meanwhile, back in India, Books and Braun meet an unexpectedly familiar agent who may not be as innocent as they are led to believe. In addition, they discover disturbing technology that can transport Indian rebels from one spot to another without physical transportation, but that has an unfortunate side effect -it creates ghosts. Braun and Books must race against the clock to discover those behind this technology and how to stop it, without losing their lives or their very souls. Sophia del Morte also shows up again, but in some very surprising ways, and we learn just a little bit more about her history even during the midst of tragedy.

I liked how the Ghost Rebellion had two separate plotlines that ran simultaneously but that were more linked than I originally thought. I enjoyed watching Campbell and Hill learn to work together in a more seamless fashion and how Bruce Campbell began to change from his selfish past ways. Braun and Book also had some serious issues to work through as they found out more about Book's past and as they discovered what was happening in India. It was interesting how the authors wove in aspects of the prejudices seen in British India during those times towards both women and the natives. I liked how the main characters had to work through both these situations and their own growing feelings toward one another. There were also small snippets thrown in about Dr. Jekyll, changes in the House of Usher, and Miss. Del Morte that added to the suspense of the story and began setting the stage for the next book. Overall I really enjoyed this novel, and I cannot wait to see what our daring duo get into in future novels.

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

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Playing the Part by Jen Turano

Lucetta Plum is an actress on the rise in New York City, but must abandon her starring role when a fan's interest turns threatening. Lucetta's widowed friend, Abigail Hart, seizes the opportunity to meddle in Lucetta's life and promptly whisks her away to safety at her eligible grandson's estate.

At first glance, Bram Haverstein appears to be a gentleman of means--albeit an eccentric one--but a mysterious career and a secret fascination with a certain actress mean there's much more to him than society knows.

While Lucetta has no interest in Abigail's matchmaking machinations, she can't ignore the strange things going on in Bram's house and the secrets he hides. As the hijinks and hilarity that Bram, Lucetta, and their friends are swept into take a more dangerous turn, can they accept who they are behind the parts they play in time to save the day?

Playing the Part is the third book in the A Class of Their Own series by Jen Turano, and it flows in wonderfully with the other two novels in the series. After Millie and Harriet find love, Lucetta alone is left for Abigail to contemplate matchmaking. And when Lucetta's life and freedom is threatened, Abigail brings her to Bram, her grandson's, house. The interactions between Bram, Lucetta, and their friends, relatives, and Bram's household staff are hilarious and engaging. The plot line is well written and filled with moments of comedy, suspense, danger, and of course romance. The whole book is very lighthearted and even the moments of danger are obviously not life threatening. However, the main characters did have their moments of serious reflection on their own and with one another as they began to understand their own failings and their misconceptions about one another. There are several great moments throughout the book where Lucetta and Bram are both completely taken by surprise when they learn the other one's secrets.

Overall, I really enjoyed this book. Parts were predictable, and the romance between Bram and Lucetta seemed unreal at times, but as a whole it was a lighthearted yet still contemplative novel that kept me glued to the pages with its comedy and storyline. I received this novel from Litfuse Publicity Group in exchange for an honest review.

Monday, February 15, 2016

Game Over: The MindWar Trilogy Book 3 by Andrew Klavan

This time, there’s no escape from The Realm.
The MindWar Realm is a computerized world created by a deranged terrorist named Kurodar. Built through a link between Kurodar’s mind and a network of supercomputers, The Realm is a pathway through which the madman can project himself into any computer system on the planet.
Twice before, Rick Dial has entered the Realm as a Mind Warrior and come back alive. But now, something has gone terribly wrong. A connection has formed in Rick’s brain that sends him hurtling into The Realm without his consent—and brings the Realm’s monsters into the Real World.
As Kurodar works to turn Rick’s brain to his own purposes, Rick’s waking and sleeping life is ravaged by terrors he never imagined.
Rick knows he has no choice but to face The Realm’s final and most powerful protector. But can Rick destroy MindWar without destroying himself and the people he loves?

Game Over by Andrew Klavan was a decent young adult novel, interesting and exciting but not my favorite by any means. I have enjoyed the overall plot idea of this trilogy, but it definitely has not been Klavan's best work. The writing seems very choppy and undeveloped, and the characters' emotions and thoughts are blatantly laid before the reader instead of allowing them to uncover them slowly as they read. As far as the storyline goes, I thought Game Over was better than Book 2 and about the same as the first one. It was a very easy book to skim due to the underdeveloped writing style, and I finished it in an hour. I did think that this book provided a very good conclusion for the book, but I still struggle to agree with Klavan's theology points, something I have had issues with in his other novels too. Overall, if you have read the other two books in this series and liked them, definitely read this one as well. If you did not like the others, don't expect a big difference in this book.

I received this from BookLook Bloggers in exchange for an honest review. 

If I Run by Terri Blackstock

Casey knows the truth. But it won’t set her free.
Casey Cox’s DNA is all over the crime scene. There’s no use talking to police; they have failed her abysmally before. She has to flee before she’s arrested . . . or worse. The truth doesn’t matter anymore.
But what is the truth? That’s the question haunting Dylan Roberts, the war-weary veteran hired to find Casey. PTSD has marked him damaged goods, but bringing Casey back can redeem him. Though the crime scene seems to tell the whole story, details of the murder aren’t adding up. Casey Cox doesn’t fit the profile of a killer. But are Dylan’s skewed perceptions keeping him from being objective? If she isn’t guilty, why did she run?
Unraveling her past and the evidence that condemns her will take more time than he has, but as Dylan’s damaged soul intersects with hers, he is faced with two choices. The girl who occupies his every thought is a psychopathic killer . . . or a selfless hero. And the truth could be the most deadly weapon yet.

If I Run was one of my favorite novels by Terri Blackstock that I have read so far. The story pulled you in from the very beginning and held your attention until the cliffhanger at the end. I was drawn into Casey's dilemma and her race to stay safe from an unknown killer. The plot was filled with danger, suspense, mystery, but still a touch of hope, love, and trust in God. I liked both of the main characters, Casey and Dylan. I was very impressed by Casey's determination and street smarts as she attempted to stay off the police's radar. I was intrigued as I learned more about her character and her desire to both learn more about her father's death and still help the hurting people that she encountered while on the run. She did not start out as a believer, but it was inspiring to see how her views and thoughts changed as she met Miss Lucy and began to understand how even suffering and hurt might have a purpose. Dylan was also a complex character, though not as much of the book focused on him. He was a believer, but he was still struggling to understand suffering as well as the truth about Casey. I appreciated his open mind as he fought to uncover what really happened, despite the negative attitude of the officers he encountered. Overall, I highly enjoyed If I Run, and its lightning fast ending has me waiting in anticipation for the next novel. 

One of my favorite parts is actually in the afterword the author was talking about how discouraged she had been by all the suffering and pain in the world in the midst of God's beautiful creation.

And in her devotions she read Isaiah 42:1-4 [insert: which happened to be the chapter I was reading this week]: "Behold my servant in whom I uphold; my chosen one in whom My soul delights. I have put My Spirit in Him, He will bring forth justice to the nations. He will not cry out or raise His voice, nor make His voice heard in the street. A bruised reed He will not break and a dimly burning wick He will not extinguish; He will faithfully bring forth justice. He will not be disheartened or crushed until He has established justice in the earth.

She said, "Knowing that Jesus will not be disheartened or crushed, that He won't feel the need to shout in the streets or rail against anything, that He will bring forth justice in the twinkle of the eye, encourages me. Things look grim, but God is in control.
Sometimes terrible things happen in our culture. Logic seems upside down, and the masses march in step to the drumbeat of political correctness.
Out job is to stand up for our beliefs and cling to them no matter what, and wait for our redemption.
Jesus will not let us down."

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

Friday, January 22, 2016

The Lost Heiress by Roseanna M. White

Brook Eden has never known where she truly belongs. Though raised in the palace of Monaco, she’s British by birth and was brought to the Grimaldis under suspicious circumstances as a babe. When Brook’s friend Justin uncovers the fact that Brook is likely a missing heiress from Yorkshire, Brook leaves the sun of the Mediterranean to travel to the moors of the North Sea to the estate of her supposed family.
The mystery of her mother’s death haunts her, and though her father is quick to accept her, the rest of the family and the servants of Whitby Park are not. Only when Brook’s life is threatened do they draw close—but their loyalty may come too late to save Brook from the same threat that led to tragedy for her mother.

The Lost Heiress is the first in Roseanna White's Lady of the Manor series, and it follows Brook as she leaves all she has known in Monaco to a family she has never met in England. I really enjoyed this novel. The plot was quick paced and well written, and it was filled with danger, romance, suspense, and tragedy. The characters were well developed, and I enjoyed watching Brooke get to know and to interact with her family as well as the servants. The villain was appropriately evil, though I did wonder how they did not figure out beforehand how much of a problem he was. The reader got an inside look into his character and intentions that the characters did not have. Brooke and Justin were an interesting couple; having been friends since childhood, they had to work out how to be more than that while at the same time both dealing with different, difficult circumstances. I also liked Brooke's cousins and one of the other Duke who will have a main role in the second novel of this series. Overall, I highly enjoyed this novel, and I look forward to The Reluctant Duchess when it comes out soon!

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

Thursday, January 21, 2016

The Painter's Daughter by Julie Klassen

Sophie Dupont, daughter of a portrait painter, assists her father in his studio, keeping her own artwork out of sight. She often walks the cliffside path along the north Devon coast, popular with artists and poets. It's where she met the handsome Wesley Overtree, the first man to tell her she's beautiful.

Captain Stephen Overtree is accustomed to taking on his brother's neglected duties. Home on leave, he's sent to find Wesley. Knowing his brother rented a cottage from a fellow painter, he travels to Devonshire and meets Miss Dupont, the painter's daughter. He's startled to recognize her from a miniature portrait he carries with him--one of Wesley's discarded works. But his happiness plummets when he realizes Wesley has left her with child and sailed away to Italy in search of a new muse.

Wanting to do something worthwhile with his life, Stephen proposes to Sophie. He does not offer love, or even a future together, but he can save her from scandal. If he dies in battle, as he believes he will, she'll be a respectable widow with the protection of his family.

Desperate for a way to escape her predicament, Sophie agrees to marry a stranger and travel to his family's estate. But at Overtree Hall, her problems are just beginning. Will she regret marrying Captain Overtree when a repentant Wesley returns? Or will she find herself torn between the father of her child and her growing affection for the husband she barely knows?

The Painter's Daughter by Julie Klassen was a poignant novel that illustrates the danger of a certain type of man and how God can redeem even the most broken of circumstances. I thought this novel was very well written with a wonderful combination of suspense, betrayal, danger, and a dash of romance. At times I thought the story wandered a little, but overall, I was pulled deep into the story, and I wanted for Sophie and Stephen to find a way to make it work out. The characters were by far the best part of the novel. They were realistic and well rounded, each with their own combination of strengths and weaknesses. The story was in third person, but it alternated between Stephen, Wesley, and Sophie's point of view.

Wesley was the (almost) sympathetic villian of the story. I thought that he correctly demonstrated the fallenness of man and took to the extreme how we all are apart from a relationship with God. He did experience growth as a character, but he tried to do it on his own apart from seeking completely after God, so in the end, it was a failure. Sophie was my favorite. Despite her initial sins, she did turn back to God, and she grew as a young woman as she learned to trust in God and to be trustworthy. I did think God could have been included a little bit more to explain the growth in her character. Stephen was a good character, but I did sometimes think that there could have been more time spent on his development. He did change as his feelings for Sophie grew, and I did appreciate his strength of will and moral character, however.

The other minor characters were also well written, and some of them also experienced growth throughout the story, though again, it seemed to be without a reliance on God. Overall, I enjoyed the complexity of this story and the way that the different characters and plotlines all worked together. However, I did wish that the successful growth in many of the characters was more clearly shown to be through God instead of individual's strength of will.

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

Among the Fair Magnolias: Four Southern Love Stories

Four Southern women are at a turning point in history . . . and in their own hearts.

To Mend a Dream by Tamera Alexander
The Civil War cost Savannah Darby everything-her family and her home. When Aidan Bedford, an attorney from Boston, buys the Darby estate, he hires Savannah to redecorate. Can she find a mysterious treasure before her job is finished?
An Outlaw's Heart by Shelley Gray
When Russell Stark returns to Fort Worth, he's determined to begin a new life. But when he arrives at his mother's homestead, he discovers that she is very ill and the woman he loved is still as beautiful and sweet as he remembered. With time running out, Russell must come to terms with both his future and his past.
A Heart So True by Dorothy Love
Abigail knows all too well what is expected of her: to marry her distant cousin Charles and take her place in society. But her heart belongs to another. A terrible incident forces Abby to choose between love and duty.
Love Beyond Limits by Elizabeth Musser
Emily has a secret: She's in love with one of the freedmen on her family's plantation. Meanwhile, another man declares his love for her. Emily realizes some things are not as they seem and secrets must be kept in order to keep those she loves safe.

All four of these novellas were very well written and kept me enthralled the entire time. I felt like all four showed different aspects of life after the Civil War and reflected how lives were changed in the war's aftermath. I enjoyed the relationships that were developed in each of the novellas, and I thought that all were well done, especially considering the brevity of a novella. A Heart So True is set in the same community as Dorothy Love's Hickory Ridge Romance and includes familiar characters from that series. I enjoyed watching Abigail learn to stand up for her feelings and choose the right path for her life instead of what was expected.
An Outlaw's Heart is heart wrenching and sweet as Russell and his old flame learn how to move past the past and find love together again.
Love Beyond Limits is a startling look into what it means to stand up for what is right and to face the racial prejudices that existed following the Civil War.
I also really liked To Mend a Dream, though I did think that the relationship was the most rushed in this novel. However, I liked how the two main characters interacted together and their eventual trust in one another as they discovered one another's secrets. Overall, I really enjoyed all four of these novellas, and I look to reading more novels by these four authors.

I received this novel for free from Book Look Bloggers in exchange for an honest review. 

Luther and Katharina by Jody Hedlund

In the 16th century, nun Katharina von Bora’s fate fell no further than the Abbey. Until she read the writings of Martin Luther.

His sweeping Catholic church reformation—condemning a cloistered life and promoting the goodness of marriage—awakened her desire for everything she’d been forbidden. Including Martin Luther himself.

Despite the fact that the attraction and tension between them is undeniable, Luther holds fast to his convictions and remains isolated, refusing to risk anyone’s life but his own. And Katharina longs for love, but is strong-willed. She clings proudly to her class distinction, pining for nobility over the heart of a reformer. They couldn’t be more different.

But as the world comes tumbling down around them, and with Luther’s threatened life a constant strain, these unlikely allies forge an unexpected bond of understanding, support and love.

Jody Hedlund weaves a fascinating and compelling story of the relationship between Luther and Katharina in this novel. The plot line moves at a slow but still interesting pace, and it includes moments of danger, suspense, romance, and heartbreak. The story is told in third person, but it alternates between Luther and Katharina's perspective so that the reader has an idea of how each is feeling during the changing circumstances. The characters of this novel were fairly well developed. Luther and Katharina spend most of the novel at odds with one another even as they deny the attraction they feel in exchange for cutting words and angry tones. I thought that it seemed a little drawn out and unrealistic at times, and the other minor characters did not add that much to the story. However, I enjoyed watching both Katharina and Luther grow as individuals and as a team. They both learned how to yield and to respect one another. Overall, I enjoyed this book even though its style is very different than many of Jody Hedlund's other novels.

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

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

At Love's Bidding by Regina Jennings

Book info

She sells priceless antiques. He sells livestock by the pound. Is he really the man to make a bid for her heart?

After helping her grandfather at their Boston auction house, Miranda Wimplegate discovers she's accidentally sold a powerful family's prized portrait to an anonymous bidder. Desperate to appease the people who could ruin them forever, they track it to the Missouri Ozarks and make an outlandish offer to buy the local auction house and all its holdings before the painting can move again.

Upon crossing the country, however, Miranda and her grandfather discover their new auction house doesn't deal in fine antiques, but in livestock. And its frustratingly handsome manager, Wyatt Ballentine, is annoyed to discover his fussy new bosses don't know a thing about the business he's single-handedly kept afloat. Faced with more heads of cattle than they can count---but no mysterious painting---Miranda and Wyatt form an unlikely but charged partnership to try and prevent a bad situation from getting worse.

At Love's Bidding by Regina Jennings was an amusing, entertaining novel that featured the exploits of one Miranda Wimplegate and her disastrous run in with a Wyatt Ballentine. The story line of this novel is fun and relatively quick paced and is filled with danger, comic relief, suspense, and, of course, romance. There are times that the story jumps to unbelievable heights, but overall, it is well written and highly intriguing. The characters are fairly complex and certainly interesting as Miranda and Wyatt are from very different backgrounds, and Miranda's grandfather is a whole other situation by himself. I do think that the relationship that begins between Miranda and Wyatt feels a little rushed, but I do like how it plays out in the end. The other minor characters each add their own flavor to the story, especially the people that are located in the small town where Wyatt lives. Overall, I really enjoyed this novel by Regina Jennings, and I would highly recommend it to any reader who loves a fun romance that still contains a good splash of truth and suspense.

I received this book from Litfuse in exchange for an honest review.

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About the author:

Regina Jennings is a graduate of Oklahoma Baptist University with a degree in English and a history minor. She is the author of A Most Inconvenient Marriage, Sixty Acres and a Bride, and Caught in the Middle, and contributed a novella to A Match Made in Texas. Regina has worked at the Mustang News and First Baptist Church of Mustang, along with time at the Oklahoma National Stockyards and various livestock shows. She now lives outside Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, with her husband and four children.

Connect with Regina: website, Twitter, Facebook