Wednesday, January 27, 2021

Wildflower Road by Janine Rosche

Wildflower Road by Janine Rosche

Madison River Romance series; book two I recommend you read book one first, but you won’t be lost if you don’t. Book one is called This Wandering Heart. You can read my review for book one here.

Let’s begin with the summary for Wildflower Road:

A young widow is tempted to love again after her heartbreaking loss in this new Madison River Romance.

After her husband's tragic death, Ryann Marie Ashcroft's only remaining dream is to save her family's struggling mountain resort. And the last person she wants to rely on is a brooding stranger with secrets of his own.

Nicknamed America's rock-and-roll pastor, Shane Olson arrives in Montana after a viral video destroys his marriage, his ministry, and his reputation. Working side by side on the banks of the Madison River, he and Ryann get a second chance at love. But not everyone wants to see their happily ever after.

And now, my review:

After reading This Wandering Heart, I was curious about this character. She was the hero’s sister, and she made interesting choices in book one. So, getting to read her story and learn more about her motives helped satisfy my curiosity.

Ryann is a complex character. She’s a young widow (see summary) and has suffered a lot. We saw a bit of that in book one. But here we learn the whole story. I appreciated the author’s note explaining that this book deals with “sensitive issues including harassment, depression, and suicide.” As a reader who is sensitive to content, this was fair warning that I would likely be skimming some scenes, and I did. I felt the author handled these subjects well, and again, the author letter at the beginning of the story helped prepare me. I’d say the story is well worth reading, but only if those issues will not cause more harm for the reader.

Shane, the story’s hero, is also complex. He’s a former pastor who is hiding from his past. But he’s honorable and noble, gentle and kind. I loved this pastoring aspect to his character every time we got to explore it on the page with other characters. In fact, there wasn’t quite enough of this aspect for me.

After reading book one, I delighted to find Janine’s trademark prose and description style in book two. She writes insightfully, using her descriptions to take us into the character’s experience in profound ways. Like this excerpt from page 147 when the hero finally opens up to the heroine:

“She wouldn’t dare move. Not even breathe. This moment had the fragility of winter’s first blanket of ice atop the lake. One misstep and they’d both fall through.”

Grace is one of the book’s themes. I loved exploring this. A pastor should understand grace, and yet Shane struggles with this. He’s in agreement with shame and condemnation at the beginning of the story. It was enjoyable watching God woo Shane back to Himself and into freedom. The author again includes God speaking within the narrative. Yay!

Another positive ingredient is the friendships in this story and how Ryann’s community surrounds her, and eventually Shane as well. Ryann’s fiercely protective and hasn’t learned to trust God to protect her family and friends. She has a martyr’s mentality, but without wisdom it’s a messiah complex that is detrimental and even dangerous.

Another of Janine’s skills is dropping breadcrumbs without leaving readers feeling too lost or worse, frustrated. She also includes humor, so readers won’t feel the story line is too heavy.

Overall, a very good read. I can’t wait to dive into book three.

Sunday, January 17, 2021

This Wandering Heart by Janine Rosche


This Wandering Heart by Janine Rosche

Madison River Romance series: Book One

A fellow reader recommended this book to me. So glad my library had it in e-book format.

Let’s begin with the summary:

In the first entry in the Madison River Romance series, Keira Knudsen gets the traveling opportunity of a lifetime, but when she reunites with her first love, Robbie, she learns that even a wandering heart needs a home....

No one in the quaint town of West Yellowstone, Montana, knows that unassuming geography teacher Keira Knudsen moonlights as sensational travel blogger Kat Wanderfull. No one, that is, except for her first love, Robbie Matthews, who has just discovered the woman he is falling for online is the same one that broke his heart five years ago.

But Robbie has another problem: the mother of his daughter, Anabelle, has resurfaced after a three-year absence determined to rip Anabelle away from him. Robbie needs a steady paycheck for a chance at custody, and now, on the eve of a grand adventure that could give Keira a chance to flee her old, troubled life once and for all, she is in need of assistance.

With so much broken trust between them, Keira and Robbie must keep an arms-length away to make this partnership work. But the more time they spend together, exploring majestic places and sharing new experiences, the closer they get—until their secrets and dreams threaten to cost them everything.

And now, my review:

Oh, I loved this book! I haven’t read this author before (that I recall). We have a travel blogger who serves as a product influencer. A very interesting, trendy career. Loved that. She’s nomadic and troubled by her past. But she's also looking for a good relationship.

The hero is a great single father to his young daughter. This aspect was so well written. He sacrificed and protected, and their interactions were adorable. 

I loved that this was a reunion romance. These two were once in love. They share a pen pal relationship, which I really enjoyed. 

The author’s prose and descriptions helped immersed me in the story. I felt I was in the locations Kat Wanderfull visited. 

Here’s an example of the author's prose: “…before finding his eyes, which still lingered on her mouth. A dreamy expression flickered across his face. If she had to guess, he found his way to the same memory, but he set up a picnic there.” (page 43)

Or this: “Just like that, a portion of her fortress crumbled. And Keira had no immediate plans to rebuild.” (page 84)

These two had fun banter! Their jobs force them together, leading to some great romantic tension. From what I could find this isn’t a Christian publisher, but the story is “clean” or wholesome. (You won’t find nudity, profanity, or sex scenes.)

My favorite part of this book, on top of all the other things I loved about it, was the way the author included God in the story. She added a touch here and there. Two-way dialogue, God directing the imperfect characters. So good! 

The book deals with some heavier material, but it’s not overly so. I found a ton to love about it and looked forward to reading opportunities throughout the day. I could barely put it down to tackle life stuff.

The overall feel is that of hope as light comes into the circumstances. A great story. A great romance. Imperfect characters who grow and find hope. Excellent prose. I loved it. 

Looking forward to checking out the next books in this series.

Highly recommended!

Tuesday, December 15, 2020

The Holiday Husband by Jenny B. Jones


The Holiday Husband by Jenny B. Jones

The third romantic comedy in Jenny B. Jones' Sugar Creek Novel series.

Let's begin with the summary:

Annie made a holiday wish to be reunited with the one who got away.

She should’ve been more specific...

Museum curator Annie Bristow has spent years regretting a marriage proposal she turned down from her college sweetheart. When a fateful ride on a holiday train gives Annie the opportunity to make it right, she wishes for a do-over. She wants to go back and say yes to her one true love. Who better than a twinkly-eyed Mrs. Claus to make it happen? What could possibly go wrong?

Getting a second chance at love should’ve been a dream come true. But when Annie wakes up married to the wrong ex-boyfriend, she’ll have to pretend to be Mrs. Holden Thomas until the holiday train returns on Christmas Day. She’s determined to find a way to reunite with the right true love, but obstacles keep foiling her efforts. Like Holden being frustratingly handsome and unexpectedly charming. This quiet man holds onto a painful past of his own, and Annie finds herself drawn to the life Holden has built. But falling for him is so not part of the plan...

The countdown is on, and love is at stake. When Christmas morning arrives, will Annie return to her old life? Or say ‘I do” to the one man she never wished for?

And now, my review:

Oh, what a fun and funny story! I loved it. I needed a light read this year of all years, and this one delivered in spades, as they say. I loved that it was first-person narrative.

So many laugh-out-loud moments! We could all use more of those.

I loved the setup of this one—amnesia/time travel/wish fulfillment. The author handles that unusual fantasy element very well here. And the fact that the “one who got away” isn’t her target is hilarious. I liked the mother-daughter relationship, the hero’s patience, and the fact they both need to overcome some things. Their banter is delicious! Jenny has a crazy good knack for that.

While I read the e-book, I highlighted a few passages of Jenny’s descriptions, as well as some metaphors. And all the LOL moments. Just now, preparing this review, I reread one and laughed once more.

This is the third book in her Sugar Creek Novel series, but I wasn’t lost starting with this book.

I did find an instance of taking the Lord’s name in vain, so again we’re not talking Christian fiction per se. But it was a clean read. My routine for writing reviews is to check over my highlights and notes. This one has a million of them. Very enjoyable!

Thursday, December 10, 2020

A Castaway in Cornwall by Julie Klassen

A Castaway in Cornwall

Engaging and lovely cover, don't you think?

Let’s begin with the summary:

Set adrift on the tides of fate by the deaths of her parents and left wanting answers, Laura Callaway now lives with her uncle and his disapproving wife in North Cornwall. There she feels like a castaway, always viewed as an outsider even as she yearns to belong.

While wreckers search for valuables along the windswept Cornwall coast—known for its many shipwrecks but few survivors—Laura searches for clues to the lives lost so she can write letters to next of kin and return keepsakes to rightful owners. When a man is washed ashore after a wreck, Laura acts quickly to protect him from a local smuggler determined to destroy him.

As Laura and a neighbor care for the survivor, they discover he has curious wounds and, although he speaks in careful, educated English, his accent seems odd. Other clues wash ashore, and Laura soon realizes he is not who he seems to be. Despite the evidence against him, the mysterious man might provide her only chance to discover the truth about her parents' fate. With danger pursuing them from every side, and an unexpected attraction growing between them, will Laura ever find the answers she seeks?

And now, my review:

I was so excited that my library could provide an ebook copy a couple of days after this book’s release. They also offered a sample of the audio book. I listened and loved the narrator’s British accent and reading pace; she engaged my imagination. If you can find the book in audio, I recommend it. I chose the ebook version so I could see the spellings of unfamiliar locations in the British Isles as well as other word choices.

The beach setting is enjoyable, while hidden rocks and sheer cliffs cause multiple wrecks, bringing an underlying sense of tension and risk. With those layered elements, along with our heroine’s home life being tense at times, we find a sailor washed up on shore, unconscious and mysterious. I was hooked right away.

I liked the heroine’s courage, even when faced with the story’s villain. She bravely sets out to rescue and nurse the hero. Once he’s conscious again, he’s got secrets, and he doesn’t know whom to trust. I liked that he was honorable toward her and noble in his motives and decisions.

You’ll find historical accounts of kingdom conflicts, which showed strong research. I confess at times the story lost my interest. We had a strong launch in the novel, but unfortunately, it didn’t hold my curiosity past the 50 percent mark. I expected more of a romantic hook, but in its absence, I moved on to the next book in my TBR pile.

If you love rich retellings of history, set in fiction, you’ll enjoy this book.   

Tuesday, December 1, 2020

A Sugar Creek Christmas by Jenny B. Jones

A Sugar Creek Christmas by Jenny B. Jones

I so enjoyed another book in this series, The Holiday Husband, that I decided to read this one.

Let’s begin with the summary:

Sometimes all love needs is a second chance.

Morning television show darling Emma Sutton has just been fired. The only way to get her job back is to find a holiday story to warm the coldest heart. So when her hometown of Sugar Creek, Arkansas, needs a Christmas event planner, Emma moves back, sure her story lies in the town’s desire to become a tourist’s holiday wonderland. The plan is perfect—until Emma meets her new boss.

Charming, handsome Noah Kincaid isn’t just Sugar Creek’s newest mayor. He’s also Emma’s ex-fiancĂ©. Ten years ago Emma left Noah her ring and a goodbye note, but it’s haunted her ever since. The last thing Noah wants to do is work with the woman who broke his heart, but Emma’s desperate to prove to him that her bah-humbug ways won’t interfere with her work. Emma finds it’s more than the mistletoe drawing her back to Noah. Whatever they had is clearly not over, but Noah’s kisses can’t protect Emma from a past that won’t leave her alone. As the snow falls and the trees glisten, love will come to Sugar Creek. But will it come in time to make all of Emma’s Christmas dreams come true? Enjoy this sweet, heart-warming Christmas story, book one in the series.

And now, my review:

This series isn’t made up of Christian romances, per se, but they’re marked as clean reads. After reading The Holiday Husband, I didn’t expect the worldly language I found in this novella. It’s not profanity, but it was jarring. There was at least one use of God’s name in vain, and mention of body parts that took the focus off the clean romance and redirected readers into a less noble place.

That said there were plenty of laugh-out-loud moments. And overall, I enjoyed the story. The heroine needs a career-saving story, which forces her to work with her hometown’s new mayor—her ex. I liked that she had to face her past and needed to focus on what was really important. You’ll find themes of forgiveness and second-chances.

The story's setup felt rather like an expected Hallmark plot. But the romance sizzled between the heroine and hero.

My favorite part? The humor. I marked several spots that, even reading them now, make me laugh. The author also painted some beautiful descriptions. She has a knack for humor like few authors I've read.

If you’re looking for a light, funny holiday-themed read, this one will deliver. Check out The Holiday Husband for sure! 

Friday, November 27, 2020

The Gentleman and the Thief by Sarah M. Eden


The Gentleman and the Thief

I enjoyed book one in the Dread Penny Society series. You can find my review here

Let’s begin with the summary:

A gentleman scribes penny dreadful novels by night and falls in love with a woman who is a music teacher by day—and a thief at night.

London, 1865

From the moment Hollis Darby meets Ana Newport, he’s smitten. Even though he’s from a wealthy, established family and she isn’t, he wishes he could have a life with her by his side. But Hollis has a secret: the deep coffers that have kept his family afloat for generations are bare, so he supports himself by writing penny dreadfuls under a pseudonym. If not for the income from his novels, he would be broke.

Ana Newport also has a secret. Though she once had a place in society thanks to her father’s successful business, bankruptcy and scandal reduced his fortune to nothing more than a crumbling town house. So Ana teaches music during the day, and at night she assumes the identity of the “Phantom Fox.” She breaks into the homes of the wealthy to reclaim trinkets and treasures she feels were unjustly stolen from her family when they were struggling.

When Hollis’s brother needs to hire a music tutor for his daughter, Hollis recommends Ana, giving him a chance to spend time with her. Ana needs the income and is eager for the opportunity to get to know the enigmatic gentleman. What neither of them expects is how difficult it will be to keep their respective secrets from each other.

When a spree of robberies rocks the city, Ana and Hollis join forces to solve the crimes, discovering that working together deepens the affection between them. After all, who better to save the day than a gentleman and a thief?

And now, my review:

I liked revisiting familiar characters and returning to London in the 1800s. We follow the members of the DPS (Dread Penny Society) as they rescue and protect street urchins through a network of spies. I love this heroic aspect, which lends hope amidst a backdrop of dank London streets.

The main characters are often writers of “penny dreadful,” stories mainly for children with daring heroes and mysteries or even ghosts/zombies, etc. I admit I’ve skimmed or skipped these aspects at times. There are hidden elements if you want to read them, but I haven’t felt I’ve missed out by skimming.

It’s impressive to me that the author includes these stories in her narrative while also carrying out the main story of the novel as the penny dreadful excerpts are themselves detailed and layered.

Our heroine is multi-layered as well. She’s committing crime for noble reasons, and no one suspects her. This aspect really hooks readers.

The chemistry between the hero and heroine was delightful. Sarah is one of my favorite authors of historical fiction. I love her sense of humor and how she includes it on the page.

I do recommend reading these novels in order. The first is The Lady and the Highwayman. The Gentleman and the Thief is the second book in the Dread Penny Society series.

Monday, November 16, 2020

A Match Made at Christmas by Courtney Walsh

A Match Made at Christmas by Courtney Walsh

Just look at that yummy cover! 

Okay, let’s check out the summary:

Hayes McGuire never believed the stories about a famous Nantucket matchmaker until she ropes him into taking over her duties while she's off the island for Christmas.

So he enlists the help of the one person he can trust with this crazy scheme—his best friend, Prudence. Armed with a series of rules, a book of success stories and the promise of Christmas magic, the pair of old friends sets out to make a Christmas match.

Little do they know that magic doesn’t discriminate, and they soon find their years of friendship deepening into something more. Will Pru and Hayes ignore the electricity in the air between them, or will there be more than one match made at Christmas?

A Match Made at Christmas is a stand-alone holiday novella.

And now, my review:

Loved the setup with this one—a male matchmaker! Ha! The characters are fun and quirky, and this stand-alone novella was the perfect, light read during the holidays. It reads fast, yet I savored it while highlighting a lot of passages. 

These two have to team up as he hasn't a clue how to be a matchmaker. He's hoping she'll help. What a fun way to force them to have to spend a lot of time together with a romantic goal.

Oh, I love a good pining story. The heroine pines for the hero, but he doesn’t seem to know it. Meanwhile, we get to spend time in his POV, which is a benefit of this story’s third-person, dual POV narrative. He projects a certain persona that isn’t quite honest. I loved seeing his vulnerable side, and watching his character grow. Wanting to discover his secret was one element that kept me reading. It wasn’t too heavy.

There were several moments of delicious banter, romance, and delightful humor.

I loved this story and will definitely track down more of Courtney’s books.

Highly recommended!