Between Two Shores


Catherine Duval is the daughter of a French father and Mohawk mother. Her Indian name is Stands-Apart, for she has always tried to straddle both worlds. Now in 1759, in the middle of what we know now as the French and Indian War, Catherine must take a side - and her actions may change the fate of a nation.


Near Montreal, Catherine and her father run a trading post. Because of Catherine’s connections she often uses Mohawk traders to smuggle goods into and out of New England, an advantage not shared by many around them. People are starving all throughout New France as the war has taken away all the able-bodied men.


The return of Samuel Crane, now a ransomed British captive but formerly Catherine’s fiance, drastically changes things. Samuel insists he has information that can turn the tides of the war, though he needs Catherine’s help in getting to Quebec, and she may not be willing to give it. Choosing to help Samuel would mean potentially losing everything if she is caught and branded a traitor, but at the same time it might actually help her country if they can bring an end to the conflict.


This book is as deep and wide as the St. Lawrence river, which the story often revolves around. To tell you much about the plot would give away the secrets locked within. Jocelyn Green always presents the reality of historical life - the tragedies may outnumber the triumphs by far, but there is still joy to be found. There’s no fluff here, and the story itself takes a while to launch due to backstory needing to be covered, yet within the pages a lot of beauty can be found as characters draw strength from the Creator God while facing incredible hardship.


My favorite quote from the book came from Chapter 30. Catherine has been asked who she is now after all that has transpired in the previous pages. She responds: “[We’re] two people trying to bring order from chaos, yet held steadfast by a God who loved us before we loved Him.” I don’t know about you, but as someone who is currently going through some uncertain waters, there’s great peace in knowing we are held by God’s love.


I received my copy of the book from the publisher. All thoughts in this review are my own.

 A Light on the Hill


In recent years I’ve heard great things about Connilyn Cossette’s Biblical fiction, and she was on my list of authors I hoped to try in 2019. I was thrilled to pick up this first book in her Cities of Refuge series, and it did not disappoint.


Our story opens with Moriyah, an Israelite woman who lives a fairly solitary life due to an event in the past having left her face with a horrible scar. Moriyah wears a veil whenever she is in public and mostly keeps to herself. Now that her father is getting older he has decided it’s time to find a husband for Moriyah, and she will need to be brave and vulnerable in building the relationship.


Things quickly become complicated when she meets the man who has agreed to the betrothal, and furthermore when an accident claims the lives of two young boys.


This book’s setting is fascinating. Not just the focus on the Cities of Refuge, but the look at how things might have been for Israel under the leadership of Joshua as the tribes went in to conquer the Promised Land. This book is post-Jericho but before the Israelites were fully settled in Canaan.


Although this was the first book in a new series, it frequently referenced people and events from Cossette’s previous series. I did not have trouble following along, but I feel it might be even more enjoyable if you have read her Out From Egypt books. Overall I’d recommend this for anyone who enjoys Biblical fiction, and look forward to reading more from this author myself.

 

Today's Top Ten Tuesday prompt is "Books I Loved With Fewer Than 2,000 Ratings On Goodreads." Ooh, good one! I took a peek through my favorites shelf and found a few that I thoroughly enjoy and have recommended many times, but still I don't hear a lot of buzz about. Maybe you'll want to look some of them up for yourself!


The Evidence  "The Evidence" and the whole Mars Hill Classified series by Austin Boyd
As a science fiction fan, I was hooked from the moment I heard about these faith-based thrillers written by a spacecraft engineer and NASA astronaut finalist. Terrorist attacks, mission disasters, and the first colony on Mars are all things this series explores, and I'm a fan!


Awakening  "Awakening" by Tracy Higley
As I said in
my review, this book is part contemporary, part historical, and part speculative, with a dash of allegory thrown in, too. Imagine if you can't remember your own history but are obsessed with ancient culture - and then get the chance to trot the globe looking for artifacts! Will you uncover your own past on the journey? Very intriguing.


Sullivan Crisp
  The Sullivan Crisp novels by Nancy Rue & Stephen Arterburn
Throughout this series, Christian therapist Sullivan Crisp helps various people with situations in their own lives while working through his own on the side. I really liked the depiction of the counseling relationship and the different methods that were used to help his clients overcome the inner turmoil they were facing.


Love Comes Calling  "Loves Comes Calling" by Siri Mitchell
Socialite Ellis Eton feels like she's a perpetual disappointment and wants to run away and pursue her dream of becoming an actress. To help out a friend in an emergency, she agrees to take over her identity for a few days and pose as a telephone operator - and of course her first day on the job she overhears a murder plot! Ellis reminded me of Amelia Bedelia and the story was laugh-out-loud funny while also containing a page-turning mystery and a sweet romance.


Just As I Am  "Just As I Am" by Virginia Smith
Mayla Strong was as surprised as everyone else that she ended up at the altar one Sunday morning. Now that she's given her life to Jesus, this purple-haired young woman wants to learn all she can and become active in her church. She puts her pastor on speed-dial and deals with helpful and not-so-helpful members of the congregation as she attempts to grow in her faith. 


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Valentine's Day is right around the corner! What a great time to share with you some of my favorite couples that I have met through the pages of books. Maybe you'll want to meet them, too! 😊


With Every Letter Mellie & Tom from "With Every Letter" by Sarah Sundin
"With Every Letter" is a "You've Got Mail" story set during WWII. Mellie is a flight nurse and Tom is an engineer. Both have reasons for wanting to remain anonymous, even as their hearts grow closer and closer through their letters.

Reluctant Duchess Rowena & Brice from "The Reluctant Duchess" by Roseanna M. White
Horrible circumstances force Rowena's father to trick Brice into marrying his daughter, yet Brice feels that God may be calling him to love this wounded Scottish lass. Much faith and trust are required as danger follows them into their new relationship.

One Enchanted Noel Leigh & Seb from "One Enchanted Noel" by Melissa Tagg
A single mom daring to dream of bigger things in her future, and a cowboy who can't quite measure up to his past. I love all the couples in the
Enchanted collection, but there's something special about these two!

When You Look At Me Julia & Henry from "When You Look At Me" by Pepper Basham
I only read this book recently, but I fell deeply in love with this couple! Their sweet attraction, their gentleness, their introversion, the very difficult things each of them had faced. There's a depth of beauty that spoke to me.

For The Record Betsy & Joel from "For The Record" by Regina Jennings
She needs a hero for the stories she's writing, and borrowing traits from the new deputy seems harmless enough. He'll never have to know, right? Oh, but he has more reasons than she could guess for trying to keep his location a secret. Many fun tangles of misunderstanding between these two!

Flabbergasted Allie & Jay from "Flabbergasted" by Ray Blackston
He's never known faith like he sees in this South American missionary who is home on furlough. His questions will lead him to Jesus and on many adventures that he never saw coming.

North and South Margaret Hale & John Thornton from "North and South" by Elizabeth Gaskell
I couldn't make this list without at least one classic literature reference! I love the strength and determination of both of these characters. Their passion, loyalty, and heart for others, though first seemingly at odds, make them a truly wonderful match once they learn to appreciate the other. The
BBC miniseries is one of my favorite movies of all time!


Fin
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Mallory and Connor Duncan are nearing their first year anniversary - and it may be their only one if Connor goes through with his intentions to separate. He carries a 50/50 chance of developing the condition that took his brother's life and has crippled his father. Although he let himself fall in love, Connor realizes now he doesn't want Mallory to face the trials of a caretaker. He's seen the toll it has taken on his mother.

While Mallory keeps busy working with at-risk youth, she can't figure out how to save her at-risk marriage. She's willing to do whatever it takes to prove to Connor that she wants to stay with him. When "whatever it takes" turns out to be a 3-week road trip in a micro camper, with the whole thing being filmed for Connor's business... well, that's a lot. Especially when his business associate's 11-year-old nephew has to come along for the ride. Can they pretend for the camera and survive in close quarters for so long?

As Connor, Mallory, and Judah travel the back roads of America, the experiences they share and the people they meet will challenge their perceptions of life. This trip will definitely change things, for better or worse.

This was a bit of a tough read. I got a little frustrated with layers of Connor and Mallory's conversation, constantly talking about the separation even when they weren't talking about it. The plot also seemed contrived in parts. There were lots of things I did enjoy, and there were twists that I did not see coming, it just was slow going at times. Cynthia Ruchti is a special storyteller who will always catch my attention!

 
I love to read, and I'm always looking for the next story. Sometimes, however, things come up that prevent me from reading a book when it first comes out. Maybe I'm not affiliated with the publisher or the subject isn't as appealing as the next one in line. Here are three selections from 2018 which I've only heard good things about, but they've yet to make it into my hands.

Becoming Mrs. Lewis "Becoming Mrs. Lewis" by Patti Callahan
Somehow in my many years of reading I've never read anything by C.S. Lewis. This story of Joy Davidman and her journey to love with the famous British author sounds intriguing, but I've yet to feel it's a must-read for me.


Hidden Among The Stars "Hidden Among The Stars" by Melanie Dobson
This cover is beautiful and the author is renowned, and though they can be tough to read, I generally enjoy novels set during WWII. Time-slip novels don't always do it for me, though. I do hope to read this one eventually!


Susan May Warren books "Storm Front" and the Montana Rescue series by Susan May Warren
I have enjoyed being on Susan May Warren's e-mail list for years, and I have benefited from her works on the craft of writing. However, adventure stories do not naturally call out to me. Maybe someday I'll check these out!



Find more Top Ten Tuesday posts at That Artsy Reader Girl.
 Atoning for Ashes


On the Cornwall coast in Regency England, Josie Chadwick wants nothing more than a peaceful life where her family is happy and in harmony. When bad decisions by her father and sister force Josie to consider a marriage of convenience in order to preserve their social standing, she hopes for the best. Her new husband has a troubled past that haunts him, making the beginning of their marriage very difficult indeed. Secrets abound and danger seems to lurk in every corner, denying Josie the peace she desires.

The level of drama in this book is off the charts. I lost count of the number of secret marriages, disowned offspring, and illegitimate children that were found within these pages. I did feel that some of the turns of plot were hard to follow in a rational manner, such as Josie having never once met the man who lived on a neighboring estate and had for a year been openly courting her sister. Even if she had never seen him around town, she and her sister were close and lived together, so surely she would have met him during their courtship.

One thing I would caution other readers about is the fact that this book contains more violence than I expected. The relationship between Josie and her new husband is quite contentious, and I actually had to stop reading the book for a while after an attempted marital rape. That really bothered me, as I have dear friends and family members who have suffered in abusive marriages, and I'm not sure this is the right kind of conflict to drive the message that the author wanted to bring to the story. There are also other instances of sexual violence in the book, so if that is triggering for you, please be aware this is one you might need to skip.

Kaitlin Covel is a very expressive author who has a lot to offer with her stories. If anything, I would encourage her to develop a subtlety to her writing, as I believe that would only increase the impact her words have on the page. If you missed my recent interview with her, please click here to read it. 

I received an advance reading copy of the book from the author. All opinions in this review are my own.
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Kaitlin Covel's debut novel Atoning For Ashes comes out next month. Intrigued by this Regency story set in Cornwall, I've been making my way through an Advance Reader's Copy. Be watching for my review soon! Kaitlin has agreed to drop by today and answer some questions for the blog.

Welcome, Kaitlin! I've enjoyed getting to know you as we get ready for the release of your book. 😊

Q: When did you first know your writing was more than just a hobby?

Kaitlin Covel A: The library was my favorite place as a child. I would haul my overflowing bookbags out of the library each month and devour as many titles as I could after school every day. That was the beginning of my publishing dream when I started to envision my own novel on the library’s bookshelf. It wasn’t until I was 12 though that the dream began to take shape. My creative writing assignment developed into my first efforts at a novel. I realized then that writing was a part of me, and I haven’t stopped writing novels since. Writing is my biggest source of expression, and if I did not write often part of me would wither away.


Q: Your novel is based in Cornwall, England. What inspired you to choose this setting?

A: I love the sea, and I’ve always dreamed of having a house on the coast. I’ve grown up in Maine, and some of my favorite memories include ocean trips. After I read Julie Klassen’s novel, The Tutor’s Daughter, I knew the Regency novel I was plotting had to be based in Cornwall, England. Winston Graham’s Poldark series was set only several decades prior to my novel, and it was one of my favorite research resources to familiarize myself with Cornish culture and history.


Q: I love Julie's work and Poldark, too! A consistent theme in Atoning for Ashes is unconditional love. Why did you choose this theme?

 

A: God’s identity is love, but I think we tend to see His love through the lens with which we have been loved by other human beings. It is only when we break free from this warped perception that we can begin to fully comprehend the unconditional nature of His love for us. His love is not contingent upon our successes and failures. Both my hero and heroine are freed by the knowledge that our identity in His sight is Beloved.


Q: Does Atoning for Ashes have a theme verse?

A: Yes, it is Romans 8:38-39: “For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”


Q: What inspired the characters of Josie and Charles?

A: One of my favorite novels of all time is The Scarlet Pimpernel. I’ll never fail to be touched by the ending after Percy’s and Marguerite’s history of unrequited love. I freely admit that my tall, handsome blonde hero is inspired in part by Sir Percy Blakeney. My heroine Josie, however, I would say is the culmination of every woman, both fictional and real, that I have ever admired.


Q: If your readers only could gain one thing from reading Atoning for Ashes, what would you want it to be?

A: That everyone has ashes in their life...the ashes of broken dreams and scarred pasts. We serve a God whose love has redemptive power. He calls all of his children Beloved. He wants to atone for our ashes, even if they are the result of our mistakes, and redeem our future. Our God pursues the broken with arms of healing. All we have to do is stop running away. If we seek His face, He is faithful to heal our brokenness.


Q: What is your ultimate goal to achieve in your career as an author?

A: The ultimate goal in all of my writing is to glorify my Savior. My heart’s desire is that my writing would serve as a channel for His love to flow through and reach many hearts. Jesus Christ desires to have a personal relationship with each and every one of us. If just one person was inspired to have this personal relationship with Him or walk closer with Him because of my writing, I would be eternally grateful.

Thank you for visiting with us today, Kaitlin!

Be sure to visit Kaitlin's website, and click here if you are interested in pre-ordering Atoning for Ashes.

 
 

I follow a lot of authors, but I always welcome the opportunity to try a new one in hopes of finding another favorite. Here are some who have caught my attention but so far their books have slipped through the cracks when making reading selections. Maybe this list will spur me to be more serious about them in 2019!


Tessa Afshar  Tessa Afshar

Tessa writes Biblical fiction with a unique perspective, having lived in the Middle East herself. I
 have heard only good things about her writing!

Connilyn Cossette
Connilyn also writes Biblical fiction, and I'm especially interested in her Cities of Refuge series, as that's a topic that has always fascinated me.

Michelle Ule  Michelle Ule
Michelle is a biographer as well as an author of historical novels. I recently won her latest book in a giveaway and look forward to reading it in the near future.

Melanie Dobson

I'm really not sure how I've never read Melanie Dobson, as she writes in several different genres, all of which I
 read! I have several of her books on my Kindle.

Jennifer A. Davids  Jennifer A. Davids
Jennifer and I have a mutual friend who recommend
 this Victorian novel to me. I trust my friend and I love the Victorian era - this one is on my 2019 list for sure!

Michelle Griep
Speaking of eras that I
 love, Michelle writes a lot of Regency fiction. As a Jane Austen fan, that's a big draw for me! She also comes highly recommended by other authors of that genre.

Jessica Kate  Jessica Kate
Jessica's debut novel comes out this summer. She's an Aussie and I
 enjoy her on the
Story Nerds podcast. We've had some fun chats discussing topics they have covered over there.

Jaime Jo Wright
I keep hearing more and more about Jaime Jo Wright, and she is friends with some of my favorite author pals. Even though I
 rarely read suspense, I feel like I would not regret checking out her stories.

Joanna Davidson Politano  Joanna Davidson Politano
As I said last week, I meant to read "Lady Jayne Disappears" in 2018. It definitely must happen this year!

S.D. Smith

I've heard a lot about S.D. Smith's middle grade fantasy novels, and they sound quite intriguing. I enjoy a well-done fantasy story every now and then, and this one is highly recommended.


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It's a perpetual problem readers face, isn't it? How to read all the books we want when there are so many wonderful ones out there. Here are ten that I'd planned to read last year, because I own all of them in paperback or e-book, but somehow other stories always got in the way.


Ivanhoe  "Ivanhoe" by Sir Walter Scott
I've wanted to read this classic for a long time, so at the beginning of 2018 I
 set it as one of my reading goals. However, I waited until late in the year to start it and the language was just too Old English. It will languish unread on my Kindle for a while longer.

"Anne of Green Gables" by Lucy Maud Montgomery
While I've read Anne Shirley's story several times, I
 wanted to go through it with my reading group in the fall. Unfortunately life happened and they did read and discuss it, but I fell behind and was not able to devote time to this story.

Courtney Walsh  Anything written by Courtney Walsh
I've read some of Courtney's stories and enjoyed them, and then when I
 met Courtney in person in April 2018 I knew I needed to read more. I collected several throughout the year, but somehow never got around to them. I've already remedied this in 2019, though!

The last few Culper Ring Books by Roseanna M. White
I'm intrigued by the setting and I
 enjoyed the first couple stories, but I never got around to finishing the series.

Sons of Blackbird Mountain  "Sons of Blackbird Mountain" by Joanne Bischof
I know, I know - it's Joanne Bischof and it's going to be amazing! I will be fitting this one in as I can.

"The Mayflower Bride" by Kimberley Woodhouse
The idea for this series - stories of women spanning America's history all written by different authors - is one I'm excited about and hope to have the chance to read soon.

Hawthorne House novels  The "Hawthorne House" series by Kristi Ann Hunter
I love Regency fiction and I've liked the two novellas by Kristi Ann Hunter that I've read in the past. I'm sure I'll enjoy the full-length stories, too!

"The Regency Spies of London" series by Melanie Dickerson
Melanie Dickerson is one of my favorites, and again, I love Regency stories, so I'm somewhat disappointed I've never yet gotten around to these!

Lady Jayne Disappears  "Lady Jayne Disappears" by Joanna Davidson Politano
This debut novel won widespread recognition and some awards, and I really want to see what everyone is talking about. Suspense is not my preferred genre, but I enjoy a good one every now and then.

Anything written by Carol Moncado
Carol is in my local ACFW group and I've picked up a number of her stories. This is another case where she does not write my preferred genre, but I want to support her in her writing.


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 Things Left Unsaid


They were once teenage friends together. Now back in each other's presence for the first time in ten years, the carefully guarded secrets of the past threaten to rise to the surface and destroy their fragile attempts at reconnecting.

Elle never wanted to go back to her hometown and face her demons, but her fiance's family insisted that a destination wedding at the place where they first met would be romantic. In fact, her fiance's family is insisting on a lot of things that Elle wishes they would leave alone. She desperately wants to marry Travis, but she fears if the truth about her ever becomes known he and his affluent family will drop her like a hot potato.

Tucker spent years chasing everything he thought might make him happy - specifically women, thrilling adventures, and alcohol. Awash with guilt and emptiness, he eventually found Jesus, and even though he feels unworthy he seeks to serve Him faithfully. Still, returning to the place of his sister's tragic death and facing his old friends feels like it might be more than he can handle. 

Lyndie is a successful but emotionally unavailable songwriter. She really wishes she had said no when Elle asked her to be her maid of honor, especially since the wedding falls on the same week as the ten-year anniversary of Tucker's sister's death. Her carefully guarded heart is in danger of being exposed unless she doubles down on her facade.

Each harboring guilt and shame, these three return to the site of their best memories and deepest regrets. I thought Courtney Walsh did a great job bringing each character to life, drawing a complex and hopeful story out of this web of secrets. Some of the things the characters are harboring are fairly easy to guess, but others caught me by surprise when they were revealed. Truth and hope and forgiveness are waiting to shine through - but only after the bravery of speaking the things that have been left unsaid in their lives. 
Where the Fire Falls
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Olivia Rutherford has done everything in her power to shed the past and her old identity. She's changed her hair, her style, and her name. She has assumed a socialite persona and is trying to move in the right circles to allow her art career to take off. No one must ever truly get to know her. Her hard work might be beginning to pay off, but then she's commissioned to capture artwork for the one place she believes she must wholeheartedly avoid: Yosemite National Park.

Despite her protestations, her manager Frank insists that this Yosemite gig will set her on a fast track towards success and fame. While all Olivia really wants is to find a way to provide for the needs of herself and her teenage sisters, she feels like she has no choice but to follow through on the opportunity.

Having spent nearly three years trying to recover from the gossip that forced him to leave the ministry, Clark Johnson loves his work as a trail guide. He might not have a congregation, but he still communes with God every day through His beautiful creation. When he's tasked with escorting an artist who looks like nothing more than a shallow flapper and a small entourage of her friends, Clark realizes he's going to need all his faith and plenty of patience to put up with the citified group.

As we all know, the past often refuses to stay buried, especially if you're treading on familiar paths. Olivia comes to recognize the call of real beauty, real authenticity as she explores the grandeur of Yosemite. She's never been in more danger of being exposed, and quickly realizes that more than financial harm may come her way if her secret becomes known.

I enjoyed everything about this book. It's set in 1929 at a beautiful location, so it's got all the right points for this reader. I loved Clark's sustaining faith despite his own questions, and Olivia's strength in the midst of her brokenness had me cheering for her right away. This book has compelling characters, a fair amount of action, and a mystery that will keep you guessing. I'd recommend it for all historical fiction fans.

Check out the video below for a view of the natural Firefall at Yosemite, or click here if you're interested in purchasing this book.


Christian Fiction:


Pepper Basham  Pepper Basham - I read two of her quirky Appalachian contemporary stories, but would also love to check out her historical fiction sometime.

Morgan L. Busse - The first of her Ravenwood Saga books was intriguing. She also writes steampunk!

Lindsay Harrel - If you're looking for something new in the thought-provoking contemporary category, be sure to check out her stories.

Rachel McMillan - Historical mysteries with unique characters seem to be Rachel's forte.

Sarah Loudin Thomas - I came across her novella in The Heirloom collection and would definitely be interested in reading more from her.


Non-Fiction:

Almost Already Jonathan Tony - Humorous real talk about real life issues.

Joy Beth Smith - Singleness is no one's favorite topic, but she hits a home run with her debut book.


Classics:

Lovelace Maud Hart Lovelace - I know, I know! How is it possible that someone who loves early 20th century literature had never read Maud Hart Lovelace until 2018? We are definitely going to be remedying that.

Eleanor Porter - Similar to Lovelace, somehow I had missed Porter's works when I was growing up.

Leo Tolstoy - I skipped his ambitious titles and went for one of his short stories, but I'll gladly take the reading credit.


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Tailor-Made Bride


Hannah Richards has dreamed of the day she could open her own dress shop. She arrives in Coventry, TX, with great joy and anticipation. She'll have to live frugally until she's accepted in the community, but she is ready to to give it a go.

The last thing Coventry needs, according to one J.T. Tucker, is a newcomer selling fancy goods that will entice women to discontentment and a desire to live above their means. Having watched his mother leave his father for a wealthier man, J.T. wants to avoid that kind of heartbreak and humiliation for other families. He has nothing against Miss Richards, and in fact he can't quite match his preconceived prejudices with her open manner and the way she can make friends with anyone, but he has every objection to her chosen profession.

The community is slow to do business with a newcomer, but Hannah is determined to win them over. She develops a close friendship with J.T.'s sister Cordelia, which frustrates the liveryman even more. She can't figure him out - he's helpful and conscientious but they also seem to fall into an argument each time they meet.

Soon it becomes clear that someone with more nefarious motives wants Hannah out of town. Can she keep herself safe and find acceptance in the community even with all the challenges?

I enjoyed the interplay between the two main characters a lot, their differing viewpoints offering a lot of room to explore the issue of enjoying everyday beauty versus being strictly practical in all things. Both Hannah and J.T. have a lot of strengths, including a dedicated faith and shows itself in the way they live their lives. This was an excellent debut novel for Karen Witemeyer in 2010, and I'm glad I had the chance to go back and read it here in 2019!
 Bride For Keeps


Everett Cline has tried this mail-order bride thing more times than he cares to admit. Each time something happens that prevents the women from actually marrying him, and he's done. No matter how much it would help to have a wife as he continues establishing his Kansas homestead, he's not going to go that route again. When a good friend goes behind his back and orders one for him, Everett must decide if he's going to give it a shot or pass on her the way the other women have always passed on him.

Fleeing bad memories and the ache of an assault, beautiful Julia Lockwood hopes to find a fresh start in Kansas. Because of her family's medical history and her own personal experiences, she hopes she can find a man who will agree to a marriage in name only. She catches plenty of attention when she arrives in town, but the one man who seems most disinterested is the only one she came that great distance to meet.

Both Everett and Julia try to hide the things they are most ashamed of from their past, but things that have happened to us have a way of butting into the present until we take the time to deal with them. 

I appreciated that both of these characters are dealing with a great deal of shame, but the way they failed at basic communication really bothered me. Also the way Everett became rather obsessed with developing the physical side of their relationship despite their agreement made me uncomfortable - that's the kind of behavior that sends up red flags. There's not a whole lot of action in this novel aside from the unnecessary tension of two people who won't talk to each other, so it was rather disappointing on many levels. I'm willing to give this author another try, but as someone for whom communication is a really big deal, the lack of it is really grating to me.

 When You Look At Me


I've noticed that my favorite contemporary stories tend to have characters with great pain in their lives. Perhaps a few secrets hidden off to the side, too. I believe it's because they call out to me in the pain I have known, in the heartbreak and loss and things you can't just say out loud in front of everyone. In stories like this, it's the vulnerability and the hope that dares to shine through that gives me joy and leaves my heart feeling stronger for having spent time with these fictional people.

"It's the ones with the bruises and scars that have the most amazing potential for greatness."
Seven months previously Julia was the victim of date rape and is now preparing for the arrival of a baby who was the result of the attack. Her friends have mostly retreated, unsure of how to relate to Julia as a single mom and even doubting her claims on the baby's parentage. Thankfully she has a large and loving family to support her, and she keeps her days full with running her bakery and getting her great-aunt's home ready to sell.

"...Sometimes God uses what we least expect to bring us what we need the most."
Henry traveled to Appalachia to hear local flavor as he prepares to compose the score for an upcoming movie. This quiet British fellow is rather knocked off his feet by the loud and friendly country folk he meets - as well as the kind and gentle pregnant woman from whom he is renting a room. While his high society mother has always chided Henry for being an introvert, when he's around Julia they find deep ways to communicate, including through their shared love of music.

Julia's heart has been badly wounded, she carries haunting memories that make her hesitate at even the thought of a relationship, and she is dealing with the challenges of single motherhood. It doesn't seem like the right time to become romantically involved, yet there's something about Henry that draws her. Could God bring something beautiful out of the shattered pieces of her heart?

I loved how gently this novel dealt with several different heart-wrenching issues. Things like going to counseling were portrayed in a positive light. There is a whole cast of colorful side characters, but it's the soft hues of gentleness emanating from Julia and Henry that truly light up the story. This novel is a gem and proves that the best things in life are never easy, but God makes a way through rough paths, even if the destination is not what we ever expected.

Running along the deep emotional themes is a historic mystery in need of solving, and the most adorable meet cute I've ever read. There's lots to love here!
I recently read three stories from this novella collection, being on a western kick to end 2018, and thought I'd share my thoughts with you.

Witemeyer


"A Cowboy Unmatched" by Karen Witemeyer
Neill Archer left his home two years ago on a quest to prove himself. Now he's almost ready to return, but his trip is delayed when he is hired by an anonymous benefactor to repair the roof of a widow's house. He isn't prepared when the widow is young, very pregnant, part Comanche, and in a heated long-standing battle that may be more than she can win without his help.


Jennings


"An Unforeseen Match" by Regina Jennings

Grace O'Malley's world is disappearing - literally. With blindness encroaching, Grace has had to give up teaching and is trying to settle into the cabin that has been provided for her. Things sure would be easier if she didn't have to live by herself. When a passing cowboy agrees to help with a few things around the cabin, the two find they share a lot in common - including some surprising things that may drive them apart.


Connealy

"Meeting Her Match" by Mary Connealy
Life keeps jerking the rug out from under schoolmarm Hannah Taylor's feet. Hannah has taken great pride in being a discreet behind-the-scenes matchmaker, but now that she's in such a vulnerable place herself, the women of the town turn the tables and try to make sure Hannah is taken care of by someone who has long loved her from afar.
 Historical fiction is my favorite genre, so which books claimed favorite of the favorite status?

Daring Venture

A Daring Venture by Elizabeth Camden

In 1908 there are not many female biochemists, and none are catching more attention than Dr. Rosalind Werner as she seeks to prove that chlorine is safe for water treatment. You'll never read a more suspenseful or romantic book on eradicating waterborne diseases!


More Than Meets the Eye

More Than Meets The Eye by Karen Witemeyer

Logan Fowler is bent on getting revenge, until he meets gentle Evangeline Hamilton, whose mismatched eyes have made her a social outcast. How could he destroy her brother when he wants to protect this sweet young woman?


An Hour Unspent

An Hour Unspent by Roseanna M. White

Barclay Pearce is a fiercely loyal older brother and a reformed thief now working to help the British government during World War I. He's not going to let anything stop him from doing what he thinks is right... even if the woman he loves walks away from him.
Find out more thoughts on any of these stories by clicking on their titles.

No One Ever Asked


No One Ever Asked by Katie Ganshert

Loosely based on real-life events, this story deals with a lot of deep and thought-provoking issues, including some that are often swept under the rug. School districts merge and tensions of every kind run high in the lives of three different women.


Who I Am With You


Who I Am With You by Robin Lee Hatcher

It's tempting to hide from the past when it is full of pain. Pregnant widow Jessica doesn't want anyone to know that before he died her husband was about to leave her, and Ridley is fresh off a political scandal. Poignant and captivating.


Falling For You

Falling For You by Becky Wade

There's one person Willow Bradford never wanted to see again, and that's the man who is now back in her life. While she carefully maintains a perfect exterior, it may be time to face the things she has kept so deeply buried.

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