Lin Su Simmons has raised her fourteen-year-old son alone, without the input of a partner or family, and she’s content to keep it that way. She’s weatLin Su Simmons has raised her fourteen-year-old son alone, without the input of a partner or family, and she’s content to keep it that way. She’s weathered Charlie’s health problems and struggles in finding work and accommodation, but they’re finally in a place that feels stable. Lin Su has acquired a position as a private nurse for an elderly woman who has ALS, and to her surprise, Winnie’s family is eager to spend extra time with Lin Su and Charlie. Given that their home isn’t in the nicest location, she’s happy for Charlie to spend his days hanging out on the beach in Thunder Point, and he seems to be getting on well with the locals. Maybe a little too well with some of them...
Blake Smiley has finally decided to put down roots, and has purchased a home in Thunder Point. A professional triathlete, the location seems perfect for training, as well as resting between competitions. The neighbours are all incredibly welcoming, including a lanky teenage boy who appears to have learned everything there is to know about Blake and his competition history. Seeing that Charlie is still suffering from the effects of his childhood illness, Blake is keen to help him with some light workouts, but Charlie’s mother is adamant that neither of them needs his help. The more Blake gets to know the Simmons family, the more apparent it becomes that Charlie is struggling under his mother’s rules, and determined to break out of her grip and live life his own way. Can Blake get involved without upsetting their relationship, and somehow gain Lin Su’s trust?
It took a while for Thunder Point to feel like a real town, the kind that I would happily move into and enjoy hanging out with the locals, but it’s finally starting to be just as appealing as Virgin River. I just didn’t connect very well with some of the first characters that were introduced in this series (Sarah and Cooper in particular) but Grace and Troy are possibly my favourite couple so far, which is probably why I enjoyed this book, in spite of its flaws. It was fun to revisit Grace and her mother, Winnie, through the eyes of Lin Su and Charlie.
I felt like this book properly encapsulated the modern family—it doesn’t have to be full of people related by blood, or even those who have known each other for decades. This family included a recently married couple with a baby on the way, a previously estranged mother, an old Russian ice-skating coach, and a nurse and her teenage son. Throw Blake Smiley into the mix, and this makes it a family I’d definitely like to spend time with. None of them are perfect or without flaws, but together they provide a wonderful support network that can weather any storm. This is the feeling I had about the crowd at Jack’s Bar in Virgin River, and while Robyn Carr tried to replicate this atmosphere at Cooper’s in Thunder Point, she’s captured it way more accurately through the people who hang out at Grace’s house. Robyn Carr, if you’re reading this, we want to see more of Grace’s family in future books!
Charlie is by far my favourite character in this book. I adored his friendship with Winnie, and it didn’t feel at all weird that he befriended an elderly woman. Having spent most of his life sick and unable to participate in typical fun childhood activities, he understands Winnie’s failing health and finds activities for her to engage in. It was cute that they were constantly researching things on the internet together and learning about new subjects. People are always complaining about how technology is ruining out lives, but technology ends up connecting Winnie and Charlie and furthering their education. I don’t see anything wrong with that! While I didn’t really connect with Charlie’s desire to train with Blake (not exactly an athlete over here, although I do a lot of walking while babywearing, which definitely counts as a workout!) I enjoyed the sections about his search for his mother’s family, and his struggle to understand why she’d hidden so much of their family history for him. Since a lot of the characters in Robyn Carr’s novels have massive extended families living close by, I appreciated that she featured someone from the opposite end of the spectrum.
I haven’t said anything about the romance yet, and mostly that’s because the romance takes a long time to develop. Personally, I didn’t mind that—I enjoyed reading about Charlie and catching up with Grace’s family. I don’t just read Robyn Carr’s novels for the romance, and I always appreciate the sub-plots, especially when they involve teenagers or my favourite recurring characters. While I appreciated Lin Su’s trust issues and her battle to overcome them, her relationship with Blake just wasn’t all that interesting. He doesn’t really have any hurdles to overcome, and mostly just waits for Lin Su to come to him. Maybe if Blake had had more struggles I would have appreciated their story more, but as it is, their relationship develops very slowly (not always a bad thing) and then blows up in the last few chapters, only to have everything resolved ridiculously fast right at the end. And I mean everything—not just the romance between Blake and Lin Su, but also Lin Su’s past family troubles. Seriously, I love a Happily Ever After like every romance reader, but this was a bit much, especially given how hesitant Lin Su had been about Blake. Personally, I would rather have seen some of those scenes crop up in a future book.
Wildest Dreams isn’t the strongest novel in the Thunder Point series, but it has some fantastic moments, and Charlie is definitely one of my favourite characters. After a rough start I’m thoroughly enjoying this series, and eagerly anticipating where Robyn Carr takes these characters next.
Review title provided by Harlequin MIRA and Little Bird Publicity....more
With her brother fighting in France, Grace Mabry is determined to do her part for the Great War effort, even though her constant efforts to display heWith her brother fighting in France, Grace Mabry is determined to do her part for the Great War effort, even though her constant efforts to display her patriotism are met by disapproval from her father—most recently in particular, sneaking into a masquerade ball to hand out white feathers to upper class conscientous objectors. Since baling hay seems safer and less scandalous than any of Grace's other suggestions on how she could support their country, Grace and her maid are soon sent to a Kent to bale hay for the Women's Forage Corps. There Grace is introduced to a group of hardworking women—who are understandably sceptical of Grace's farm skills—as well as the mysterious masked Lord Roxwood, on whose property they are based.
Lord Roxwood has little interest in the WFC volunteers who are working on his land, until one of them lets a litter of pigs ruin his rose garden and and stumbles upon him on one of the rare occasions that he's unmasked. Recently blinded and significantly scarred as the result of an accident, Jack is struggling to come to terms with his new appearance, especially given his fiancee's less than appreciative reaction to it. Grace Mabry quickly becomes a welcome distraction from the responsibilites of his future and his work for the government, but he can't help but shake the feeling that Grace's presence in his life is more than coincidental. Have they met before? How did she come to work for the WFC on his property? And does she have ties to his accident?
As Grace and Jack's relationship draws them closer together, the harder it will be for them to trust each other when Jack's suspicions are brought to light. Can they ever trust each other again?
I adored Kate Breslin's debut novel and have been tentatively awaiting Not By Sight. Isn't that the way with a second novel—you're excited to read it, but worried that it might be overshadowed by its predecessor? Stumbling across the synopsis for Not By Sight a couple of months ago, I was pleased to learn that Kate wasn't sticking to the WWII setting from her first novel. As much as I loved For Such a Time, I'm glad that the focus of this novel is entirely different, forcing me to concentrate on the story at hand rather than comparing the two books. If you're looking for another For Such a Time, you'll probably be disappointed. If you're interested in a WWI novel with a focus away from the trenches, a fiesty but niave suffragette, and a bit of espionage, you're in for a treat!
If you read my review of The Hourglass Factory, you'll know that I love reading about the suffragette movement. While this book doesn't delve too deep into the movement itself, it fuels a lot of Grace's ideology. Grace is far from your model feminist, and at times her beliefs are heartfelt but incredibly flawed. To begin with, I felt frustrated by Grace's attempts to help her fellow WFC workers. She had an answer to all of their problems, but often this answer was just a pat on the back and an encouragement that, when the suffrage movement had won, women would be free to do anything they wished. But as the story developed, I realised that there was a reason why Grace's behaviour was like that of an incredibly naive fairy godmother. She's supposed to be young and idealistic. At times, her open-mindedness and optimistim are beneficial to others—like Jack, who is scared that no woman can look at him after his accident, and appreciates Grace's unusual outlook on life. At others times, Grace offers help but doesn't have enough understanding to truly follow through with her aid. I appreciated this flawed side of her. She has a lot to learn—especially about those who haven't come from such a fortunate background as hers. If Grace irritates you to begin with, please stick with her—her journey does make her a lot more likable.
Another reviewer likened Grace and Jack's relationship to that of Beauty and the Beast, and I quite liked this comparison. A large part of their relationship revolves around Grace driving Jack all over the English countryside and describing to him the scenes that they witness. This seems gimmicky, but given Jack's blindness and Grace's desire to be a novelist, it makes sense, and there are some really sweet scenes between them. Jack challenges Grace's creativity, and she confronts some of his misconceptions about his appearance and how others perceive him. They rile each other up a lot, but seem to make a good match. I enjoyed the way in which their relationship developed, as well as the beautiful descriptions of the countryside surrounding Kent. Given that Jack is technically engaged to another woman at the start of the novel, I felt a little uneasy about the idea of him falling for Grace, but most of their relationship is very innocent, and the author approaches this issue very well.
While there are many things I like about Britain, I would never call myself patriotic. As such, I was a little wary about this aspect of Grace's character. There are some wartime romances that have rubbed me the wrong way because of their in-your-face patriotism and blind support of the war, which often skims over the darker, grimier aspects of warfare. Not By Sight, thankfully, was not one of these novels. While Grace initially exerts blind patroitism and commitment to Britain's part in the war, her time in the WFC slowly causes her to reconsider her attitude. Witnessing men who, like her brother, have fought in France and returned with broken bodies and spirits, Grace realises that war is about more than inspiring words and a hearty spirit—and that she may have misjudged the men whom she handed her white feathers to. The message of this novel is neither pro- or anti-war, simply truthful about the damage and loss of life that occurs in any war.
The espionage mentioned on the back cover of this book intrigued me, but it was often overshadowed by the romance between Grace and Jack. The details about Jack's job as a spy definitely became more prominent towards the end of the novel, but by then I already had my suspicions about a secondary character, and they turned out to be right (although I hadn't been sure about their motivations). If you're thinking of reading this book because of the espionage storyline, I wouldn't particularly recommend it. The details about this part of the war are interesting, but they don't take up a lot of the book, and several of the events at the end of the novel felt very contrived and rushed. I'm not sure if this is because I was reading an ARC, but I felt that too many things came together in too short a period of time. Given the wartime setting, the Happily Ever After was a little bit too perfect.
Ultimately, I did really enjoy Not By Sight. The romance was endearing, the subject of the WFC was intriguing, and I appreciated the friendships that Grace formed and the character growth she experienced. My biggest issue is probably the speed at which events occurred towards the end of the novel, which caused several of them to feel contrived or a little too perfect. I'm not too disappointed, but it keeps this novel from finding a place among my favourites. I do appreciate that Kate Breslin chose to explore some lesser known aspects of Britain's war efforts, and that she chose such a wonderfully flawed heroine to explore them with. Not By Sight is certainly a unique novel, and I hope other readers enjoy its beauty as much as I did.
Charlotte Dolinsky had a difficult childhood, but her relationship with her brother has provided some security over the years. She was skeptical whenCharlotte Dolinsky had a difficult childhood, but her relationship with her brother has provided some security over the years. She was skeptical when he wrote to tell her that he had fallen in love with an Amish woman, but her life is turned truly upside down when she receives word that her brother has unexpectly passed away. When her letters to her brother's girlfriend provide little in the way of answers, Charlotte sets off for Lancaster County determined to uncover the truth about her brother's death. Having done some research about the Amish and picked up some suitable second-hand clothing, she's convinced that she can fit into the community and do some digging without anyone discovering who she really is. Charlotte hasn't been in Lancaster more than a day before she learns that there's more to being Amish than putting on a bonnet and not using electricty. And, against all efforts to the contrary, she's finding that she actually likes her brother's girlfriend, Hannah. The more time she spends with Hannah's family, the more she understands why Ethan felt comfortable here. In fact, she's starting to think that it might not be so crazy to open her own heart up to God, especially when she begins seeing signs that remind of her Ethan and provide her with an overwhelming sense of peace. But this peace might not last so long if Hannah and her family uncover Charlotte's true identity. Even if the Amish are known for their spirit of forgiveness, will they understand why Charlotte chose to deceive them?
Back in 2011 a friend leant me Beth Wiseman's debut novel, Plain Perfect, and I fell in love. I sped through Beth's novels as quickly as I could, fitting them in around university deadlines and reviewing commitments. Perhaps it's because I read so many of them in quick succession, but it feels like it's been ages since Beth released a new Amish novel. A quick look at GoodReads informed me that it's actually only been two years, but it felt like forever! As much as I enjoy Beth's contemporary novels, I've missed her Amish ones. I love the way that she depicts her characters dealing with real life issues, devoid of romanticism or over-simplification. Her characters might ride in buggies and use propane refrigerators, but sometimes I can relate to them even more than characters in contemporary novels.
Have I built this book up too much? Are you going to be disappointed after all this hype? I hope not! Honestly, I was a little worried that I wouldn't enjoy this book as much as I did the Daughters of the Promise series. Several of those books are among my favourite Amish novels, and sadly it's often the case that an author's later books don't contain the same originality. Thankfully, this wasn't the case with Her Brother's Keeper. Beth didn't try to replicate her first series of books, and I'm grateful for that. I'm glad she chose to write about a different community, with an entirely new premise.
How believable is it that an English girl can trick her way into an Amish community? Well, as this book proves, it's not very realistic at all. I had my doubts about how Beth could pull this plot off, and I was glad to discover that a large part of the story focused on Charlotte discovering that she wasn't going to have an easy time of fooling Hannah's family into believeing that she was really Amish. From the moment she stepped into their home, the lies began trickling off her tongue. It was humorous and fascinating to watch Hannah attempt to assimilate herself into the family, and make excuses for the things she didn't understand. Some of the lies were a little more ridiculous than others, but I'll put their acceptance down to the Amish's naturally trusting nature.
As long-time fans of Beth will know, she doesn't shy away from sensitive subject matter. We learn early on that Charlotte and Ethan both experienced emotional abuse at the hands of their parents and foster carers, abuse that may have contributed to Ethan's mental health problems. There are even some difficult and poignant discussions about whether suicide is viewed as a sin, and if someone will go to Heaven if their mental health problems led to their death. While Beth doesn't offer any specific theological answers to the questions that are posed, I appreciated the sensitive way in which the characters discussed these issues, and the conclusions they eventually came to.
I really enjoyed watching Hannah and Charlotte's friendship develop, and witnessing them navigate the obstacles placed in the way of their relationship.Much like Charlotte, Hannah has trust issues, particularly when it comes to disclosing details of her relationship with Ethan, and her doubts and worries about why their relationship ended the way it did. Both girls were beautifully honest and flawed, and it was encouraging to have two protaginists so realistically portrayed. Bonnet or not, I'm sure most readers will be able to relate to one of the girls, or maybe even both of them.
I'm torn when it comes to the spiritual aspect of the novel. While I loved the idea of God speaking to Charlotte through an image in the clouds, the development of Charlotte's faith seemed rather sudden given that she didn't seem to have much of a spiritual background (aside from her friendship with Ryan). I kind of wished the development of Charlotte's faith had been more gradual, with more doubts. It seemed like it took a massive jump when she saw the picture in the sky, and I'm not sure how realistic this is for someone who previously had so little faith and refused to trust anyone.
While there is some romance in Her Brother's Keeper, it doesn't take centre stage, and I was thankful for this. As much as I love a good romance novel, I appreciated the opportunity to read about the relationship between Charlotte and her brother, and then Charlotte and Hannah. There are so many important relationships that aren't romantic, and the depiction of Charlotte and Hannah's budding friendship was particularly touching, especially as they helped each other overcome their personal burdens.
Honestly, I could probably think of even more things I loved about this book. Contrary to what the synopsis might suggest, this novel is not a contrived comedy of errors about an English woman pretending to be Amish. It's a touching, heart-breaking story of two women who loved a man in very different ways, and are struggling to come to terms with his untimely death. I highly recommend Her Brother's Keeper to readers who prefer their Amish fiction to be challenging yet encouraging, full of flawed characters, and completely unputdownable. ...more
Ginger Dysart came to Thunder Point unwillingly, compelled by her mourning and grief-stricken parents to try to make a fresh start in a new location.Ginger Dysart came to Thunder Point unwillingly, compelled by her mourning and grief-stricken parents to try to make a fresh start in a new location. Her aunt welcomed her with open arms, helping her to find her feet again after a bitter divorce and the unexpected loss of her only child. While she might have found a job she enjoys and made new friends, Ginger is not looking for love again—ever. So when Matt Lacoumette drunkenly hits on her at a friend’s wedding, it’s understandable that Ginger takes offence and knocks him to the floor. It’s also understandable that she’s unimpressed when Matt visits Thunder Point to apologise for his actions. Pushed by her aunt to take Matt up on his offer of dinner, Ginger is suspired to find that Matt isn’t as bad as she initially thought.
Matt has done some embarrassing things since his marriage failed, but attempting to grope a guest at his sister’s wedding is possibly the worst. He barely remembers Ginger, but he’s determined to make amends for his behaviour. His explanation—that the wedding reminded him too much of his own, causing him to drown his sorrows in alcohol—strikes a chord with Ginger, who admits that she’s also recently divorced. Although neither of them wants to dwell on past mistakes, he’s comforted to know that they actually have something in common. Ginger feels like a kindred spirit, and Matt finds himself coming up with reasons to visit his sister in Thunder Point—in spite of her urgings to stay away from Ginger. Ginger, too, is vehement that she isn’t looking for a new relationship. But should they let their failed first marriages get in the way of a new beginning?
While I wasn’t completely hooked on the Thunder Point series to begin with, the last three books have been absolutely outstanding. Ginger was introduced in the last book, One Wish, and I was pleased to discover that I wouldn’t have to wait long for her story to be told. Both her and Matt have very emotional back stories, and although I don’t want to discourage anyone from reading this book, I will warn that it does deal with the issue of child loss through SIDS. If this is an issue that’s close to your heart, this book may be difficult to read. Although I don’t have any personal experience of this subject, I did feel that it was approached very well. As always with Robyn Carr, she gets to the heart of her issues and makes you truly understand the pain her characters have experienced.
On the surface, Ginger’s issues are pretty typical—she married someone she was utterly besotted with, but who wasn’t truly committed to their relationship, and they ended up getting divorced when he refused to be a responsible husband and father. She returned to her parents’ home to raise her child. Ginger’s story gets a lot more complicated when her baby dies unexpectedly in his sleep. At the point at which she arrives in Thunder Point, Ginger has been in mourning for eight months and unable to feel motivated to do anything with her life. At the beginning of A New Hope, she’s found a job she enjoys and made some new friends, but she’s still extremely cautious. She might be comfortable where she is, but that doesn’t mean that she’s ready to risk getting emotionally involved with someone again. And, more importantly, she can’t imagine ever having another child in case she’s forced to go through the pain of losing another baby. Honestly, I don’t think I’d feel any differently if I were in Ginger’s position. She’s a brave woman, and I could understand the barriers she put around herself.
While Ginger’s backstory was introduced in the last book, Matt’s took a while to emerge. We quickly learn that he and his wife got divorced within a year of their marriage, and the explanation that’s given is that their lifestyles couldn’t mesh together—he is a farmer who works farmer’s hours, she’s an aspiring model who wants to party every night. It’s hinted that there’s another reason behind the divorce, but it took a long time to be revealed. I liked Matt, I won’t lie about that. At times I felt like he pursued Ginger a little too hard, especially considering her background and her insistence that she didn’t want to date anyone. I got frustrated with him towards the end of the book, but when his “secret” was finally revealed, it made him a whole lot more sympathetic. I won’t spoil this secret for potential readers, but I appreciated that we got to see how truly broken Matt was by his wife’s deception, and the way in which he worked through it. Unlike Ginger who let her grief take over her life, Matt had bottled his up and turned it into rage. It was interesting to see the two sides of grief portrayed, and as someone who isn’t a big fan of the macho alpha hero, I definitely enjoyed seeing a guy getting in touch with his emotions.
As individual characters, Ginger and Matt are fantastic. They have dozens of flaws, screwed up backgrounds—ultimately, they’re real people. Although I did feel like Matt was a bit pushy at times, the beginning of their relationship was pretty innocent. As boring as it might seem, they spent a lot of time just talking on the phone, or hanging out on Matt’s family farm. Some of Robyn Carr’s characters leap into bed pretty quickly, so it was a nice change to have such an innocent beginning to their relationship. I do feel a bit torn about how quickly things moved from talking on the phone to being in a relationship. Given how much Ginger insisted she wasn’t ready to date, she changed her mind very quickly. They go from insisting they don’t want to date, to planning their future together in a matter of a couple of months. For other couples in this series, the speed at which the relationship developed might make sense, but I felt that given their background, it was all a bit quick. A bit more hesitancy, or perhaps not having everything tied up neatly in a bow at the end of the book, might have made more sense. (Hint to writers: you don’t need to have your characters planning a wedding by the end of the final chapter, especially if your book is in a series. It’s cool—we’ll still be happy for the hero and heroine).
Maybe it’s just because I loved the last three books so much, but A New Hope didn’t completely wow me. I did really enjoy it, and I felt that Robyn Carr expertly dealt with some really tough issues, but the romance isn’t one of my favourites in the Thunder Point series. As always, I loved catching up with characters from previous books, and I’m looking forward to Lin Su’s story in Wildest Dreams. Even if I don’t fall in love with every book, I know that Robyn Carr’s stories make fantastic comfort reads, especially on warm summer days.
Disclaimer: This is a mainstream novel and contains scenes of a sexual nature and some profane language.
Review title provided by Harlequin MIRA and Little Bird Publicity....more
Long before her father’s unexpected death, Caroline Tyler had taken on most of the responsibilities required for operating the Windmill Point LighthouLong before her father’s unexpected death, Caroline Tyler had taken on most of the responsibilities required for operating the Windmill Point Lighthouse. While other young women—including her own sister Tessa—might prefer looking after a home and tending to children, Caroline has grown to love the lighthouse where she grew up. She can’t imagine living anywhere else, or doing any other kind of job—until the lighthouse inspector arrives to inform her that she is no longer allowed to remain at the lighthouse and that a man—a veteran returning from the Civil War—is going to replace her. Allowing her and her siblings to stay in the lighthouse after her father’s death was apparently a polite courtesy, and now Caroline is faced with only a week to find somewhere new for them to live, and a new job. But if she isn’t allowed to work in a lighthouse—an occupation she is trained to do—who else will offer her employment? Will she be forced to marry simply to put a roof over the heads of her siblings?
Although Ryan Chambers applied for a job as a lighthouse keeper, he didn’t expect to be given the position. Not only is his hand crippled from the Battle of Gettysburg, but his knowledge of lighthouses is limited to what he has learned from his sister, whose husband is also a keeper. In fact, he isn’t sure if he’s the right man for this job at all. The only way he can numb the pain of the lingering shrapnel damage and rid the nightmares of war from his mind is to take opium pills and drink whisky—both of which put him into such a stupor that he might not awaken in time to attend to the lamp in the lighthouse. He longs for a second chance, and an opportunity to earn money to make amends for some of his mistakes during the war, but he isn't sure if this is the right place for him.
Ryan doesn’t expect the previous keeper to still be residing at Windmill Point when he arrives, and he’s confused as to why he’s been offered the job when Caroline seems entirely capable—especially considering that she has four siblings to support, one of whom is ill and bedridden. He and Caroline strike a deal, where her family can remain at the Point while she teaches him all there is to know about tending the light. Although Caroline talks of moving her family and finding a new job, Ryan can see how much she loves the lighthouse. Surely this is the job she was born to do? But when strange accidents begin occurring around the Point, Ryan wonders if some of the locals don’t agree with Caroline continuing to operate the lighthouse. Who is trying to scare Caroline away, and why? Can Ryan convince Caroline to stay, or will the threats—and Ryan’s nightmares—scare her away?
I read the first Beacons of Hope novel at the start of this year and absolutely fell in love with it. While Hearts Made Whole made its way on to my wishlist, I did worry that it might not live up to its predecessor. Thankfully, my worries were unfounded. While the two novels did have a similar premise—a man and woman thrown together under unexpected circumstances—Ryan and Caroline didn’t rush into their relationship or marry in haste. As much as I love a good marriage of convenience story, I enjoyed how Ryan and Caroline’s relationship developed, how they got to know each other while operating the lighthouse and spending time with Caroline’s family.
That said, this is not your sweet, fluffy romance where the characters always have a chaperone and never touch each other. There is chemistry between these two right from the start, and it’s clear that they’re almost instantly attracted to each other. I love the way that Jody Hedlund writes about passion and romance. I can’t think a lot of authors who write for the Christian market who portray relationships the way Jody does. Ryan and Caroline are attracted to each other, and embrace this attraction early on in their relationship, but they aren’t overcome with passion. There’s discussion of consent and respecting each other, and when they find themselves locked in a cellar together they continue this attitude of respect and self-control. I’m tired of reading books where characters (particularly male ones) can’t control themselves when they’re alone with someone of the opposite sex. Ryan is falling in love with Caroline and very attracted to her, but he’s a true gentleman, not an animal, and he knows how to control his desires and respect a woman. What more could you ask for in a romantic hero?
I was a little cautious about Ryan’s character initially. Tortured heroes often go one of two ways in romance novels—they need the heroine to “fix” them, or they’re not allowed to fall in love with the heroine until they’ve overcome all of their problems. Either way, they have to be perfect before they can live happily ever after. This wasn’t the case for Ryan. To put it short, when he meets Caroline he’s a crippled opium addict who has a drinking problem and is haunted by his past mistakes during the war. Surprisingly (even to me) Caroline doesn’t judge him, push him away or try to make him leave the lighthouse when she discovers the ways he manages his pain. She tries to help him, but she does so incredibly gently, and not once does she push Ryan to give up his crutches. She waits until he’s ready, and supports him fully. I was incredibly touched by the way Ryan’s addictions were dealt with. Obviously this would be an entirely different situation if Ryan’s addictions were harming anyone but himself (especially if he were a danger to Caroline’s younger siblings), but given the circumstances, this situation was dealt with carefully and without judgement. The depiction of Ryan’s struggle to give up his pain medication and learn what he could achieve without it was incredibly sympathetic. Although Ryan has to fight his demons and make amends for his past mistakes, he still isn’t entirely perfect at the end of the novel. He can’t get back the fingers that he lost in the war, and he will always have to be careful around alcohol because of his addiction—and Caroline understands this and embraces this as part of their relationship.
There's another fantastic relationship in this novel: that of Caroline and her lighthouse. Obviously, lighthouse keeping isn’t for everyone (in fact, her sister Tessa abhors it), but Caroline has clearly fallen in love with the occupation. That she should be forbidden from doing what she loves because she is female is infuriating, and I appreciated the way that Jody worked this angle into the story. Caroline’s fight to do the work she loves and support her family is one that many women in this period faced, and I understood how tempted she was to marry for convenience in order to protect her younger siblings. How many other women entered loveless—and possibly abusive—marriages because they had no male family members to support them? I also appreciated Caroline’s friend Esther, who used her husband’s political position to lobby for women’s rights, and other causes that were close to her heart.
Hearts Made Whole contained several elements that made it the perfect romance for me—a relationship full of passion (and plenty of consent and respect!), a perfectly imperfect hero, and a small victory for women’s rights. I haven’t even had time to talk about the suspense, or the tumultuous relationship between Caroline and her sister—so you’ll probably just have to read this book for yourself! In short, Jody Hedlund is quickly becoming one of my favourite historical romance authors, and I hope that Tessa’s story is the next one in the Beacons of Hope series. ...more
Clare Wilson has given her husband numerous second chances over the years. She's forgiven his many affairs in the hope that keeping3.5 out of 5 stars.
Clare Wilson has given her husband numerous second chances over the years. She's forgiven his many affairs in the hope that keeping her marriage intact is the best thing for their teenage son. But when she's in a near-fatal car accident following a run-in with her husband and another woman, she decides that she's had enough. Her brush with death convinces her to make a clean break from her philandering husband. Clare has a long road to recovery ahead of her—both in her personal life and her physical therapy—and she's prepared for this. What she isn't expecting is the cute police officer who witnessed her accident to keep checking up on her. Is he simply doing his duty, or do his calls mean something more? More importantly, is Clare ready for another relationship? Between finding a job to support herself, negotiating her divorce and trying to reconcile her son with his absentee father, Clare isn't sure that she should be getting involved with another man right now...even if it is awfully difficult to avoid Officer Sam's advances. When she is ready to date, will it be Sam she chooses, or someone from her past...perhaps the one who has haunted her all these years?
I didn't used to read a lot of contemporary romances, but I decided to pick up one of Robyn Carr's Virgin River novels a couple of years ago and she got me hooked—both on her writing, and contemporary love stories. Never Too Late is a little different from the novels Robyn's fans may be used to, and the writing style makes it clear that this is one of her earlier books (the 2015 reissue being almost ten years old). Nevertheless, it contains some of the elements that Robyn's fans are fond of—small towns, strong bonds between family members, sizzling romance, and plenty of second chances.
Clare's story is one that a lot of readers will be able to relate to, or at leasy sympathise with. It's not easy to restart your life on your own, after being married for over fifteen years. Clare has been a housewife and stay-at-home mother for the majority of her adult life, and now she has to navigate the world of work all over again, as an almost forty-year-old rookie. And after so many years out of the working world, Clare discovers that although she trained to be a teacher, it's no longer a job she enjoys. It was encouraging to watch Clare try to figure out her new niche in life, where her talents and interests could best be put to use. Although her situation isn't ideal, Clare offers hope to other men and women who may find their worlds' similarly turned upside-down. Divorce isn't the end of the world, especially when you have the support of your friends and family to hold you up.
Clare's sisters play a large part in this novel, and they even have their own sort-of sub-plots. I say “sort-of” because the way that Maggie and Sarah's stories wove into the main plot didn't always flow terribly well. We hear a little about Maggie's marital problems at the start of the book, and then it takes ages for her story to be picked up again. Maggie is growing frustrated with her husband's inattention and the lack of romance in her life, and the antics of her teenage daughters are causing her additional stress, but her story takes up so little page-time that it almost felt like it didn't need to be there at all. It either needed to be more detailed, or taken out altogether, as the little we did hear about Maggie's troubles almost trivialised them.
Sarah doesn't get a lot of attention at the start of the book, other than the constant reminders that she dresses in plain, frumpy clothes and spends all of her time on her art. After a while, I got a bit tired of these comments. Finally, Sarah gets more page-time when she spots a guy who catches her attention. She gets a complete makeover and devotes all her free time to getting this guy to pay attention to her, almost to the point of stalking him. While I don't have any problems with women making the first move in a relationship (in fact, more women should do it!), Sarah turning her world upside down for this guy seemed a bit ridiculous given that she'd met him twice and barely spoken to him. It was a little too “love at first sight” for me. I understood that Sarah being interested in this guy was a big deal because she'd been reclusive and blocked out the world for so long, but she did seem a little stalkerish. I'm glad that she found her happy ending, but the story didn't entirely work for me.
I'm hesitant to class this as a romance novel. While each of the sisters has their own romance, it isn't always the focal point of the story. A lot of Clare's sections focused on her getting her new life in order, and while she is persued by Officer Sam for a while, he isn't the love of her life. While other reviewers have complained that half the book focused on Sam when Clare wasn't actually in love with him, I actually appreciated the way Clare's story worked out. How many of us have dated people (sometimes for a significant amount of time) only to realise that they're the not the one we want to spend the rest of our lives with? Clare spends a lot of time talking to and hanging out with Sam, but she knows after a couple of dates that he's far more serious about the relationship than she is. It takes courage to admit that a relationship isn't working, and given that Clare had been stuck in a failing marriage for so long, it made sense that she was cautious about dating. I kind of figured, based on Clare's backstory, that she might end up with someone from her past. While I don't want to spoil the ending for anyone, I will admit that I wished more of the book had focused on Clare reconnecting with her lost love. We got some nice scenes, but not nearly enough for my liking.
This definitely isn't my favourite of Robyn Carr's novels, but it is an easy read and an encouraging tale of second chances. Whether you're married, single or starting over, Never Too Late reminds readers that hope is still out there, sometimes lurking in the most unexpected places.
Disclaimer: This is a general market romance and contains scenes of sexual nature, and occasional strong language.
Review title provided by Little Bird Publicity....more
Anna Konig has no desire to leave the small community she grew up in to travel to the New World, but since she's one of the few church members who canAnna Konig has no desire to leave the small community she grew up in to travel to the New World, but since she's one of the few church members who can speak English, she has little choice but to accompany those who are taking the trecherous journey across the sea to America. Initially Anna hopes that the journey will be short, and that she can quickly return to Europe via another ship, but just getting onboard a boat is difficult enough. Anna attempts to navigate the intricacies of purchasing passage for all the members of their party, ensuring that they have enough food and water for the voyage, and determining how best to transport all of their belongings. The only English-speaking member of the group, Anna quickly learns that her people are dubbed “Peculiars”, and while not terribly well-respected, they are welcome onboard most ships providing that they can pay for the journey. Anna's group aren't the only Peculiars making this trip, and the majority of the passengers onboard the Charming Nancy are from similar communities.
Bairn, the Scottish carpenter of the Charming Nancy, has no desire to mingle with the Peculiars from the Lower Deck, but one young boy keeps getting into trouble with the sailors. Bairn is forced to confront the one English-speaker out of the group to address the issues about Felix, and in doing so, quickly learns about the difficulties the passengers are facing—overcrowded and leaky sleeping quarters, an inability to properly launder clothes, and unbearable smells. All Bairn wants to do is make enough money to have a ship of his own one day, but he's drawn towards Anna and the peaceful nature of her people. As their journey to the New World stretches on and the passengers face sickness and are forced to make sacrifices, Bairn is challenged by the actions of the Peculiars. Does his future really lie at sea, or somewhere new? Is he drawn to Anna by mere human attraction, or because she reminds of someone from his hazy, forgotten childhood?
I've long been a fan of Amish fiction, and I'm always interested when an author finds a way to bring something new to the genre. I've enjoyed Suzanne Woods Fisher's more traditional Amish novels, but I haven't been able to keep up with all of her recent releases. Too many books, too little time, right? When I heard that she was writing a novel about some of the first Amish settlers to travel to the New World, and one that featured a Scottish character, I knew I had to make the time to read it. I love learning about the history of the Anabaptists, but I haven't read that many books set in the early eighteenth century, or ones that cover the original settlers. And of course, I have to see how well any author depicts her Scottish characters!
Even if you're not a history geek, you're sure to be entertained by the descriptions of life onboard a ship in 1737. I didn't know a lot about sea travel during this period, but Suzanne quickly made me feel as if I was on the Charming Nancy along with Anna and Bairn. The journey to the New World wasn't pleasant or easy, as Suzanne herself details in her Author's Note. I quickly determined that the decision to leave Europe wasn't one made lightly, given how easy it was to succumb to disease, and how many ships arrived in America with significantly less passengers than they had when they departed. Although ships tried to stock as much food and water as necessary, there were often unexpected delays due to unpredictable weather. These people were brave, and I don't know if I would have been on that boat if I'd had the choice. I could relate to Anna's desire to stay at home with her grandparents, with everything that was familiar to her.
Having read Suzanne's Author's Note, I've learned that it's probably unrealistic that so many members of Anna's party arrived in the New World. Statistically, not so many would have survived the journey, with many succumbing to illnesses due to the unsanitary and cramped living conditions. Although I sympathise with Suzanne's explanation that it's difficult to write a hopeful novel when sticking to the facts of such a difficult situation, the historian in me knows that this book isn't entirely accurate, and that the realities of life onboard such a ship in this time period were neatened up for the sake of making the story easier to read for the more sensitive readers. There are a lot of fantastic historical details in this book, but the fact is, far more people would have died. It's not a nice fact, or a pretty one, but it's true. If you're a die-hard historian, you might not be able to get past this.
Initially I wasn't sure why Suzanne chose to tell parts of the story from Felix's point of view, but it quickly became apparent that he provided insight that Anna and Bairn couldn't. While Bairn struggled with his feelings of uneasiness towards the Peculiars, and Anna tried to overcome seasickness and help her fellow passengers, Felix explored the ship and introduced the reader to the realities of life onboard a ship. He also provided a little humour and light relief, which offset some of the less savoury aspects of the journey. By the end of the book, I was sad to say goodbye to Felix.
Bairn and Anna's relationship didn't strike me as particularly unusual in the world of romance, but that doens't mean that it wasn't sweet. Felix kept pushing them together, and Anna's outspokenness and stubborness gave a reasonable explanation for why Anna was determined to keep communicating with Bairn, even if he was an outsider and disapproved of by her community. Anna isn't your typical, shy Amish girl, which I appreciated. Having to be the spokesperson for her community, it wouldn't have made sense for her to be reserved.
I don't want to give too much away about Bairn, but I will say that there is a twist relating to a secret about Bairn's past. I guessed the twist about halfway through the book, based on a simple comment from one of the other characters. I'm not sure if other readers would also have picked up on this clue (I had watched a lot of Castle episodes that week while my little one was ill, so maybe I was just in the right mindset!) Sicne I figured out the twist, it felt a little bit predictable, but not too much. I was happy for Bairn once he revealed his secret and was able to resolve his problems.
While Anna's Crossing isn't quite as dark as some might expect, given the subject matter, it is rich in historical detail and contains a heartwarming and hopeful story of a turbulent time in Anabaptist history. Perhaps it may even convinced some hardcore Historical fans to dip into the Amish genre from time to time. I'll certainly be looking forward to the next volume in the Amish Beginnings series....more
I've read four Kristan Higgins novels so far this year, and I don't think I've rated any of them less than 4.5 out of 5. While this one was quite diffI've read four Kristan Higgins novels so far this year, and I don't think I've rated any of them less than 4.5 out of 5. While this one was quite different from her Blue Heron series, it still had Kristan's trademark humour, quirky family relationships and a heroine who continually finds herself in embarrassing moments.
Some people seem to have disliked the first-person perspective of this novel, particularly as it provides very little insight into the hero's thoughts and feelings. Personally, I thought of this book more of a chick-lit novel than a contemporary romance, and for that reason I didn't mind that the book was told entirely from Maggie's point of view. Although the romance between her and Malone is important, a large part of the story focuses on her personal journey--dealing with her perpetual singleness, her dependency on her sister and the local priest, figuring out her relationship with her mother, learning to take pride in her business, etc. Her relationship with Malone wasn't necessarily tacked on at the end, but he also wasn't the only source of her happiness. I don't read a lot of chick-lit any more, but I really enjoyed this book. However, if you're wanting a standard romance, this might not be for you.
Given that this is one of Kristan's earlier novels, I didn't have such high expectations as I do for her more recent books, and for a while I was convinced that I'd figured out two big twists in the story. As it turns out, I was completely and utterly wrong, so the red herrings in this book were fantastic! There was one thing that I suspected towards the end, but that was only after I ruled out all the other options. This book definitely wasn't predictable, and I fell into some of the same traps as Maggie with my suspicions.
I didn't completely and utterly love this book, and if I had to pin-point one thing that occasionally bugged me, it's probably that it didn't always seem entirely realistic for Maggie to end up in so many embarrassing situations. I think this is a common trope in Kristan's books, but in this one it felt a little overdone at times, especially with some of the blind dates or situations with the priest. It isn't a major flaw, however.
While some people have complained about Malone being too silent for much of the book, I don't think I minded this too much. I guess I kind of like the strong, silent type of hero, who waits patiently for the right moment to show how he cares for the heroine, rather than a pushy guy who won't shut up. Malone's quiet personality made certain situations and moments all the more special simply because I could see he was making a special effort for Maggie. If you want a pushy alpha male, he's definitely not the hero for you, but I came to appreciate Malone.
My library has the second book in this series, and it looks like I picked up the third book for 59p on Kindle a few months ago, so I'll definitely be looking forward to revisiting Gideon's Cove. While this book had a different style from Kristan's newer books, it was still fantastically written and of a very similar quality. Highly recommended! 4.5*...more