This hopeless romantic set her alarm block for an ungodly hour to watch a “commoner” marry a prince, so Rachel Hauck’s modern day royal romance was a perfect fit for my reading list. All of the quintessential elements of a fairytale were present with Rachel’s sassy and cute southern tweaks: a damsel in distress, a charming and chivalrous prince, attraction at first sight, grandiose wooing, and the requisite happily ever after. But Rachel Hauck does not write frivolous stories-a reader can always expect a strong moral and faith element that provoke and incite self-examination. In the midst of the humour and courting is Susanna and Nate’s surrender of their hyper focused life plan in favour of the unparalleled wonder of God’s provision and blessing for their lives. With comforting predicability that hits all the right sweet spots, Once Upon a Prince is a thoroughly enjoyable read to unwind at the end of the day.
In her newest novel, Deeanne Gist takes readers on a sensorial tour of the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair and all of its many wonders. No building was left unexplored or corridor investigated. Such a rich landscape requires characters that are complex and equally intriguing, and on this Deeanne does not disappoint. Cullen and Della are delightfully entertaining with their quirky idiosyncrasies and earnest attempts to resist the mounting attraction between them, compounded by their reactions to situational dilemmas during their excursions around the fair. Layered in to the adventure is a story of profound lose and sacrifice that is tantalizingly disclosed as each chapter is probed and perused. Although Della is an enchanting heroine, it is Cullen’s past and struggles over the future that grip readers and has us championing his success and personal victory. With a unique storyline and thrilling setting, It Happened at the Fair is another hard earned plume in Mrs Gist’s hat.
Roses Have Thorns draws readers behind the beguiling veneer of Tudor prestige tor reveal the labyrinthine intrigue and scandal lurking in the shadowy halls of the Elizabethan court. Accurately portraying how a courtiers life was defined by their proximity to the formidable Elizabeth and being wholly dedicated to her at the expense of their personal lives, Helena is no exception to the struggle between self and Crown. She gives witness to the combustible relationship between the Queen, Robert Dudley and the political pariahs vying for supremacy and adoration while seeking after the longings of her own heart, namely an enduring love .
Spanning decades, Roses Have Thorns keeps readers continually engaged, but I do wish the pacing was slower to cover less time but with more situational resolution. Sandra Byrd succeeds at recreating the grandiose setting wrought with tension and deception without letting it overpower character development or plot. With a series like Ladies in Waiting available, who needs licentious miniseries like "The Tudors", with all of its historical inaccuracies and lewd dramatization. Instead, Roses Have Thorns offers a fictional heroine breathing new life in to history with poignancy and reverence. Rating: 8.5/10
To fulfill the dying wish of her dearest friend and secure the custody of Lucy-the daughter of her heart-Amelia must marry before her twenty-fourth birthday to receive her lavish inheritance of Winterwood Manor an all her holdings. Extricating herself from a betrothal to a manipulative opportunist, she proposes a marriage of convenience to widower Captain Graham Sterling, Lucy’s father. This sets in to motion a disintegration of family trust and sense of belonging as Amelia is rejected by her only living relations. She vacillates between certainty and suspicion regarding Graham’s motivations to marry her, an ostensible stranger. Her devotion to Lucy is admirable and she is an endearingly spirited heroine.
Graham is resolute to reject Amelia’s proposition until he suddenly has a change of heart when confronted by the true character of her fiance. Initially he believes that recanting on his pledge to remain single is all for Lucy’s sake of security and love while he is at sea, but he is quick to identify the more than platonic feelings for Amelia warring against his sensible nature. A war hero and gentleman to his core, he cannot retain his honour or pride by leaving Amelia in the perils of her current situation which she selflessly endured for his family’s benefit.
The Heiress of Winterwood won the American Christian Fiction Writer’s 2011 Genesis Award for historical romance. Sarah Ladd deftly employs the rhetoric of the Regency era while maintaing a flow of dialogue that is natural and layered. Her integration of period details is executed with precision, enough to establish the setting but not to overwhelm with description. The synopsis alludes to a suspenseful overtone, but the highlighted plot does not appear until the last third of the book. This is no fault of the author but it does affect the pacing of the book, especially since what readers expect to happen does not come to fruition until the romantic tension between the leads is nearly ratified.
The interactions between Amelia and Graham are limited, with few scenes not withstanding, to the confines of societal propriety. While they later spend more time in each other’s company, there is a certain depth missing from their relationship to make love wholly believable–deep affection, yes, but not quite love. I was hoping for a more conclusive ending as some critical ends were left untied but this leads me to hope that there will be a sequel.
An intriguing debut from a promising new voice in Regency era fiction.
That Serena Chase is a fellow blogger has compounded my joy over the success on her debut. It is evident through her lilting prose and exquisite description that writing was not a whim for Serena–no, she is a legitimate author through and through. I remember when she first came on board Edgy Inspirational Romance and I thought “Dang, girl’s got some writing skills! What a great sense of humour.” That has definitely translated over to her professional fiction work, just magnified and refined.
The Ryn is the perfect coalescence of fairy tale, allegory, fantasy and adventure. With thematic depth that is emotive and relevant (I shed a few tears during a pseudo-baptism/anointing scene), The Ryn will appeal to a wide demographic of readers. The enthralling action of flights towards freedom kept me riveted from beginning to enhanced by E’veria’s charming populace and setting. When an author can create a world so foreign from our own and make readers believe that they are actually there and assimilate to all the supernatural nuances of this fictional land, that is a marker of writing genius. Bear men? No problem. People who can see your thoughts? But, of course. Storytellers who breathe their tales into living? Yes please! Creepy ancient villains with possessed beards? Ahhh!!!
Rynnaia is a captivating heroine who endears herself to readers immediately with her spirited personality and humbling emotional vulnerability. When Serena astutely altered the point of view in the second half the story to first person, Rynnaia’s voice became deeply embedded in to my psyche and heart. As for Julien…well suffice to say that every romance would benefit from such a stunning and honourable hero. Sworn by oath to protect Rynnaia to his dying breath, Julie’s commitment to her goes beyond chivalric duty and is motivated by a selfless love.
A sensational debut and I hope this series is eventually released in hard copy so I can shelve them beside the likes of Lisa Bergren’s River of Time series. Stay tuned for my review of Book 2, The Remedy.
There is a perennial unwritten rule in inspiration historical romance: If there is a handsome rich bachelor that your parents want you to marry but your poor best friend is waiting in the wings to profess his long unrequited love, the latter always takes the prize. Book descriptions do irrevocable damage to plot tension when there is no effort made to conceal the final result from readers. It is all in the wording and has become the status quo in all such storylines. Thankfully, Regina Jennings throws readers a few curves to detract predictions from the inevitable trajectory of the love triangle and this helps to keep the reader invested.
Regina’s characters (most notably Bailey) and the flow of writing punctuated by humorous intervals are the saving graces to what could otherwise fall into a formulaic story. Molly is a heroine who took a few chapters to endear herself to me, but she won me over after the first quarter when it became obvious that her simpering and whimpering were a direct result of her manipulative and emotionally detached parents. To a certain degree, she is a product of her environment. Torn between expectation and destiny, Molly is on a journey of self-discovery and faith awakening that is both heartwarming and entertaining. Bailey’s struggle between honour and desire admits readers in to the depths of his heart, easily making him the champion for Molly’s affections. Lovers of Sixty Acres and a Bride will not be disappointed and will appreciate the reprisal of certain characters.
Grave Consequences is the compelling companion to Glamourous Illusions and parallels its predecessor with a riveting plot, intriguing characters and palpable suspense that will satisfy even the most captious historical romance readers. With a group of personalities that are redeeming themselves for their cavalier and pretentious behaviours in the first instalment, Cora continues her sojourn across Europe's most renowned destinations and coveted estates. She is still learning to navigate the labyrinthine of upper society with dignity and grace but has now become more acclimatized to her new birthright, if not accepting of it. Her pragmatic views on life are slowly being relinquished in favour of adventure and discovery. William and Pierre continue to relentlessly peruse Cora, yet in two different but equally appealing, manners; one is observent and reverent, the other grandiose and fervent. Lisa Bergren does not tip her hand towards one suitor or the other until the plot and character development necessitate a resolution, resulting in much anticipation. Capitalizing on the high drama at the end of Glamourous Illusions, Lisa continues the suspenseful subplot of danger and intrigue in equal balance to all the other elements. This is a series for which I have every confidence will continue to thrill even with a third book.
**Disclosure: Book provided by Litfuse for review consideration**(less)
For a reader there is nothing as satisfying as opening a new book to page 1 and having the first lines jump of the page and hit you between the eyes. The opening paragraphs of Lisa Wingate's book had me launching for my pencil to underline (yes, I'm one of those people) and commit the phrases to memory. Thus began my first foray into Lisa's writing and what I discovered is a writer who knows how to captivate with sensory description versus literal description. I felt my way through the first few chapters, intrigued by both the characters and the rhythm of the story. Lisa's subtle humour and the nebulous mystery surrounding Jack West enticed me to prevail with the story when my interest began to wane midway and I am happy that I saw it through to the exciting resolution. The charming and precocious inhabitants of Moses Lake were the perfect mirror to Mallory's ingenuity and resilience. Her adorable stepson Nick stole many scenes but was not outdone by his dreamboat scientist father who dotes on both his wife and child. A satisfying read that has encouraged me to explore the other novels in this series.
*review copy provided by Litfuse Publicity**(less)
Rosie Worth is no more. She has thrown off the emotional shackles keeping her hostage to a past of brokenness and sacrifice in favour of seeing her name in lights on a marquee. This is the life she thought she longed for and was destined to fulfill...so what is this aching emptiness that plagues her soul in the stillness? At the pinnacle of a promising career, Rosie, now Roxy, loses her foothold with the resounding and devastating crash of Wall Street. The damage to her career and personal life is irrevocable and she is thrown at the mercy of man who has, unbeknownst to Rosie, been shadowing her past bidding his time to claim her heart. Rolfe is the most intriguing and alluring male lead of this series and if ever a fictional character could make a girl swoon, Rolfe would be up for the job.
A master of historical ambience and accuracy, Susan draws readers deep in to the setting with her deft articulation. But for all the glory of the era-romanticism surrounding Hollywood's Golden Age and heroism of World War II-it is the emotional breadth of Rosie's self-actualization and restoration that shines the brightest. Even her most self-indulgent and selfish moments, the broken woman within cries out to readers for empathy of which is impossible to deny her. I championed her through to the end hoping that she would finally seize hold of the joy she so desperately sought and find the peace that God so willingly has to offer.
Delightfully unpredictable and complex, Duchess is an infinitely satisfying read. I am distraught (borrowing from the melodrama of Hollywood's starlets) that this series has reached a conclusion. The Daughters of Fortune is one (if not the) finest series that Susan May Warren has written, of course not to minimize the excellence of her other stories. A highly recommended read, although I do suggest reading Heiress and Baroness first for contextual clarity.
From page one, Gina Holmes reached in to my chest and gripped my heart in a vise-like grip. To say that this story moved me would be a gross understatement. Like Penny, I was ensnared by Trent's manipulation and was equally petrified of his Jekyll and Hyde transformations. I commend Gina for not turning him in to the quintessential evil villain; instead she showed us the portrait of a flawed man--a product of his fragmented childhood--who is slave to alcoholism and anger. His fleeting moments of endearment had me clinging to the chance of a "happily ever after," but, alas, my understanding of that concept was reformed with the shocking conclusion of this story.
Penny's journey though abuse was never simplified or trivialized. Their is nothing simple about abusive relationships; they are as complex and convoluted as the people in them. Gina essentially performed an autopsy of this marriage to show readers the various levels of disease and the seeds of dysfunction. Like a slow moving cancer, Penny's identity, freedom, and joy were leeched out of her life and replaced with a hopeless and seemingly meaningless existence. The first person narrative that reads as a memoir was perfectly executed and allowed readers to understand the mind of a victim. It is so easy for us on the outside to say "Just run and leave," but Penny's voice revealed the nuanced isolation and attachment to her abuser that I never before fully understood.
Whilst I can not call this a story that I loved (because who can love human suffering?), I can call it a story that I respect and cherish for they way that it spoke to me so profoundly. Penny could be any woman that I pass on the street or greet in the supermarket. She is a master of disguise who has perfected the art of shielding the world from her hurts. Oh that God would open our eyes to see the broken as He did with Fatimah and Callie Mae, two women who exuded Christ's love in the most unconventional yet necessary way! Amidst the destruction Penny finds the beauty of a new life, purpose and hope through God's never failing love and strength.
Take a bow Gina Holmes. Brava!
**Disclosure: advanced reader's copy provided by author for review consideration**(less)
If you are looking for a theological analysis of Daughter of Jerusalem, this review is not it. I have expressed my reservations about taking liberties with biblical accounts and truth in the past (coincidentally discussing another of Joan Wolf's novels) and do not wish to regurgitate my views it yet another review. On the topic of theology and historical accuracy I will only say this: Is it impossible that Mary Magdalene and Mary, sister of Lazarus, were the same person? No. Is it likely? No. Was it necessary to merge the two personas to form a more impacting character? No. Each woman (as I personally believe, based on my biblical interpretation, that they are two different women) is powerful in their own right with a unique purpose and voice. Such a controversial synthesis compromises the integrity and theme of their stories.
The tone and dialogue did not suit the period nor the setting of the story; in fact, at times it felt almost pedestrian in its accounts of interactions with Jesus, listing his miracles and ministry like a citation of accomplishments. Sentence structure was uniformly simplistic and resulted in a choppy flow. Even though the story is recounted through first person narrative, I never felt like I was inside Mary's character. The approach was much more one of a show and tell versus feeling through and with the character. Albeit not a biblically reliable tome, Daughter of Jerusalem does have some virtues. Where it deviates historically it compensates with a universally understood message of forgiveness and redemption.
One reason why I continuously come back to biblical fiction-in spite of the risk that I may not agree with the direction the author takes- is that it encourages me to take a different approach in my personal bible reading. The historian in me loves the investigative nature my devotions take and it feels like I am looking at the scripture with a fresh pair of eyes and renewed sense of purpose. Regardless of how I may feel about the execution of the story, I can never fault an author for pushing me to dig deeper and become engaged with the Bible as a living text. It is a reminder that we can not rely on others to tell us what the Bible says and means-we have to discover it for ourselves in the personal way it was intended.
2 Timothy 3:16-17: 16All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, 17 so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.
**Disclosure: Review copy provided by publisher via NetGalley**(less)
Cathy Bryant continues to prove that she is a strong voice in the Christian self-published world. Her third instalment in the Miller's Creek series is unique to its two predecessors and can be read independently from them without a loss of experience. With strong elements of mystery and suspense and a romantic sublot, The Way of Grace will endear itself to a wide range of readers. Grace's character, although initially naive to my point of view, grappled with issues of forgiveness, justice and loyalty with authenticity and introspection. The complex relationships of family, friends and community are put to test as Grace tries to consolidate her ambitions with her destiny. The pacing lost some of its momentum in the middle, but Bryant throws readers an unexpected curveball in the last quarter that revives and reengages through to the end. She avoids saccharine overtones of a forced romantic ending in favour of leaving readers with a realistic and satisfying conclusion that is perfectly reflective of Grace's situation.
**Disclosure: ARC provided by author for review consideration**(less)
Kristen Heitzmann has the refined talent for examining the human condition through provocative and complex fiction. She takes her characters to the darkest depths so that the brilliant light of hope and healing can shine in all their divine glory. Morgan and Quinn are hiding from the shadows of their past in the depth of the Rocky Mountains were they hope the fingers of danger will not reach them. Both are breathing but neither is living, until their paths cross serendipitously and their destiny's become irrevocably intertwined. With the threat of a sociopathic villain--who is cloaked in evil and disillusionment--lurking around the corner, Morgan and Quinn are forced to sacrifice their personal exiles and risk their hearts one last time.
Breath of Dawn is an exhilarating thriller deliciously flavoured with romance and supported by a weaving storyline. The breadth of emotion and authenticity that is breathed in to these characters is finely balanced with entertainment of a captivating suspense. Many have tried but few pen suspense as well as Kristen Heitzmann. Her writing envelops a reader and allows them to enter the story from various perspectives so that they are fully immersed and invested in the outcome. Rating: 9/10
**Disclosure: Review copy provided by Litfuse Publicity**(less)
How far would you run, what risks would you take to protect the ones you love? Could you restart your life and live in duplicity with danger constantly lurking in the shadows? This is the life that Annalise Decker has chosen--to seek anonymity from a relentless predator bent on vengeance in the picturesque small town of Deep Haven. You Don't Know Me is a gripping novel that entices readers with sinister suspense, restorative romance and fragile family dynamics.
With three defined plot lines, You Don't Know Me is a novel that breeches the generational divide by following three generations of Decker women and navigating through their web of half-truths, intentional omissions, and calculated lies. In spite of the extreme circumstances of Annalise's exile, this story and these characters felt authentic. Many mother's (especially sports enthusiasts) will identify with Annalise's daily sacrifice and devotion to see her family succeed and her community prosper. The Decker family may seem to the residents of Deep Haven as the ideal family but Susan pulls back the curtains to reveal their inner workings, introducing readers to a family hanging on to the edges of pretence and denial.
Susan May Warren has proven again that she can seamlessly navigate between historical and contemporary fiction and consistently produce riveting characters and stories.
**Disclosure: Review copy provided by Litfuse Publicity**(less)
The last installment in the Big Sky Romance series, The Trouble With Cowboys is about the drastic lengths wounded hearts go to to avoid repeat heartbreak. Annie and Dylan have erected walls around their hearts because they can not risk loving again. Annie's protects herself with her judgemental notions that cowboys will just as soon leave you as they will love you and Dylan's (PG rated) philandering reinforces all of her prejudices. Dylan never settles on one girl long enough to get anything involved beyond his smooth as molasses words and frisky thoughts. To complicate matters, Sierra, Annie's younger flighty sister, selfishly takes advantage of her sister's vow to care for her while simultaneously defying her for that very reason.
Several plot elements seemed implausible and too coincidental. Even though Annie and Dylan's excuse to be together is her lovelorn column, much of their discussion of the letters is skimmed over which blocks readers from more insight into their budding relationship. Dylan was not particularly insightful in the letter solutions and the response excerpts were fairly generic, not serving much purpose aside from foreshadowing what readers already know what was to come. The chemistry between Annie and Dylan is combustible and their few vulnerable moments will draw readers with the tenderness and care they have for each other.
While not my favourite of this series, The Trouble With Cowboys is a satisfying conclusion that Denise Hunter and modern western fans will find an enjoyable read. Rating: 7/10
**Review copy provided by Litfuse Publicity**(less)
Katherine Osborne’s life appears to be coming apart at the seems. Her fateful marriage and the untimely death of her husband bring the return of her domineering and manipulative parents who had abandoned her after she defied them and married against their wishes. She is facing financial destitution but pride and obligation prohibit her from selling her orchards to her brother-in-law. Katherine seizes the opportunity to buy her orchard time by agreeing to visit her parents at their cabin (read: resort) in the Adirondack Mountains in exchange for a loan from her prestigious father. But no loan comes without strings and her parents use her indebtedness to strong arm her in to what they think is her rightful place. To complicate issues, her childhood best friend (who suffers from unrequited love) is at hand to confuse her heart and make her yearn for things she had resolved never to pursue, namely a loving marriage and children. Initially Katherine comes across as an incredibly resilient and independent woman who has endured painful trials with dignity, but once she arrives at her parents lair she becomes surprisingly fickle. One minute she is confident and resolute to her convictions and the next she is buckling to her parent’s demands with the slightest threat they make against her beloved orchard. Her vacillating between two men-one for whom she only has platonic feelings and the other whom she loves-became frustrating and tiring since her actions are often in contradiction to her inner dialogue. Nevertheless, the romantic storyline between Andrew and Katherine is sweetened by nostalgia and genuine affection. The storyline leads readers through various twists that ultimately result in a satisfying resolution. Cara Lynn James providers readers with another sweet period romance that many will find an enjoyable read. Rating: 7/10 **Disclosure: Reader copy provided by Thomas Nelson for review consideration** (less)
The second book in the Bridal Veil Island series, To Love and To Cherish is a stand alone book that follows the life of the social elite and their servants who spent their winters in the exclusive resort community in Georgia.
Melinda is a presumptuous and, at-times, high handed heroine who is distressed that her beau has not seized his many opportunities to propose to her and save her from the menial life as a lady's maid. She did not endear herself to me except when she demonstrated brave resolve to face the hurricane devastated coastline to ensure that her love was safe. That was short lived as she quickly berated him for not offering marriage so she could remain on the island as his helpmate. Melinda can not be faulted for all the relationships shortcomings; for all of his sweet words, Evan is quite dense and does not make Melina a priority unless his schedule and plans allow.
The plot took an unexpected and mediocrely executed twist in the last couple of chapters. It was unneeded attempt at suspense and intrigue that did not fit the flow of the story and was far too rushed to be credible. The one element that resonated with me throughout this novel and gently tapped at my insatiable wanderlust was the beauty of the Georgia coastline. The profile of historical resort living was well researched and gave readers a real sense of both the physical and social environment.
For those looking for a quick and easy historical read with elements of romance and suspense.
**Disclosure: Book has been provided courtesy of Baker Publishing Group and Graf-Martin Communications, Inc. Available at your favourite bookseller from Bethany House, a division of Baker Publishing Group**(less)
The second installment in the Wild West Wind series picks up immediately where the first left off so there is a smooth transition. As I found with the first instalment, the pacing was very slow and revolves around the daily ins-and-outs of ranch living. There is a general lack of tension or conflict that propels the story forward. The romantic storyline doesn't become a real page contender until the last couple of chapters and ends of a lukewarm cliffhanger. This prolonged coming of age story will endear itself to traditional inspirational fiction lovers looking for books similar to Janette Oke's style. Rating: 5/10
**Disclosure: Book has been provided courtesy of Baker Publishing Group and Graf-Martin Communications, Inc. Available at your favourite bookseller from Bethany House, a division of Baker Publishing Group**(less)