Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Blog Tour: Barefoot Summer by Denise Hunter

Barefoot Summer by Denise Hunter

Welcome to the Barefoot Summer book tour! From the get-go, I have to admit, Denise Hunter is one of my favorite authors. I was thrilled to read this first book in the Chapel Springs series. See the end of the post for information about a contest!

Let’s begin with the summary:

Madison’s heart has been closed for years. But one summer can change everything.

In the years since her twin brother’s drowning, Madison McKinley has struggled to put it behind her. Despite the support of her close-knit family and her gratifying job as a veterinarian in their riverside town, the loss still haunts her.

To find closure, Madison sets out to fulfill her brother’s dream of winning the town’s annual regatta. But first she has to learn to sail, and fast.

Beckett O’Reilly knows Madison is out of his league, but someone neglected to tell his heart. Now she needs his help—and he’ll give it, because he owes her far more than she’ll ever know.

Madison will do anything—even work with the infamous Beckett O’Reilly—to reach her goal. And as much as she’d like to deny it, the chemistry between them is electrifying. As summer wanes, her feelings for him grow and a fledgling faith takes root in her heart.

But Beckett harbors a secret that will test the limits of their new love. Can their romance survive summer’s challenges? And will achieving her brother’s dream give Madison the peace she desperately seeks?

And now, my review:

Madison has a fear of water, yet she’s compelled to learn to sail so she can win the annual regatta and somehow make up for the loss of her brother. Enter Beckett—sailor and expert swimmer. Well, strong enough to teach her, anyway. The perfect balance of (her) need and (his) skills to draw these two together for a summer of truly getting to know each other.

This story’s setting let us spend lots of time on the water, which I loved. That, and learning more about sailing.
And we had some relatable issues—regret, toxic shame, risk, fears. I’ve seen a bit of Denise’s treatment of toxic shame before (in Surrender Bay), and I loved that she dealt with it here. Poor Beckett really believes he isn’t worth much and doesn’t deserve Maddie’s love. The author also tackled tough issues like alcoholism, nightmares, and death, without skirting around them. This made the story more realistic and helped highlight her redemptive message.
Each character had to grow up and stand up for the right thing—to find their inner heroism. They had to face their fears and scrounge up courage, sometimes doing something afraid, rather than not doing it at all. I liked the hero’s nobility, how he protected Maddy’s sister’s feelings. And I liked Maddy’s courage and heroism in facing down her fears.
I was surprised by the path of this story, expecting certain events to happen in different places, but the story didn’t suffer for the placement. And by ordering things as she did, the author was able to tie up more loose ends.
As always, Denise is an expert when it comes to romance. Genre readers will eat this romance up. Her prose and characterization shine, making for an even more enjoyable experience.
Highly recommended! I’m watching anxiously for book two in this series: Dancing with Fireflies, due out in April, 2014.

(print)            (e-book)  

~~~~~ CONTEST INFO!~~~~

Denise Hunter is celebrating her new Chapel Springs Romance series with a Summer Fun Giveaway. The first book, Barefoot Summer, is already a favorite with readers. “Hold-your-breath romance, heartache, and laugh-out-loud moments. It’s more than a good read. It’s a delight.” -- Lisa T. Bergren
Summer: it’s all about sunny skies, star-gazing, swimming, spending time with loved ones, and living as if a small part of the weight of the world has been lifted off your shoulders.

Get ready for some serious summer fun with Denise’s 12-Day Summer Sun giveaway. From June 10-21, keep your computer near as you head to the lake or your friend’s barbecue because Denise will be giving away a summer essential each day!

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Once Upon a Prince by Rachel Hauck

Once Upon a Prince by Rachel Hauck

This title kicks off Rachel Hauck’s new Royal Wedding series. 

Let’s begin with the summary:

Susanna Truitt never dreamed of a great romance or being treated like a princess---just to marry the man she has loved for twelve years. But life isn't going according to plan. When her high-school-sweetheart-turned-Marine-officer breaks up instead of proposing, Susanna scrambles to rebuild her life.

The last thing Prince Nathaniel expects to find on his American holiday to St. Simons Island is the queen of his heart. A prince has duties, and his family's tense political situation has chosen his bride for him. When Prince Nathaniel comes to Susanna's aid under the fabled Lover's Oak, he is blindsided by love.

Their lives are worlds apart. He's a royal prince. She's an ordinary girl. But everything changes when Susanna receives an invitation to Nathaniel's coronation.

It's the ultimate choice: His kingdom or her heart? God's will or their own?

And now, my review:

I love Rachel’s way with modern-day fairy tales. Such delicious fun to follow a prince and a would-be princess on their adventures.

The story is split into three parts, which I enjoyed in that it broke out of the romantic genre formula. She threw in some great twists and turns and the story never lagged.

True to Rachel’s previous few books, I loved the odd character of Aurora and her special gift of wise words and even shoes to our heroine. This quirky, yet prophetic character, will capture readers’ imaginations.

Loved all the royal references and how our two main characters were noble and willing to be self-sacrificing, as royals should be—gracious and servant-hearted.

Our heroine has a hard time opening her heart. She’s hiding. At first it frustrated me that Susanna (whose name means Lily, by the wayan image used for the maiden in the Song of Songs) wouldn’t confess her true feelings. But aren’t we like that with God, holding back? Hiding? Unable to trust and give ourselves fully over to His love? All of Rachel’s references to our bridal relationship with God are always something I look forward to in her books. Plus, her prose rocks!

The best theme in the story, though, was that of surrender to God. Like us, Susanna avoids surrender. Yet, surrender will bring freedom (a little-known secret of God’s mysterious kingdom) and it leads to finding our destinies. We surrender to God, and He gives us the desires our hearts because He’s that good. That was the life-changing message in this storythat of praying with Susanna, "I got nothing. You can have all of me, God." 

A great read! I highly recommend this modern fairy tale. It’ll remind you of a recent movie, but satisfy Christian readers with the deeper aspect of God’s love for us. 

(e-book)      (print version)