Monday, May 25, 2015

The Thorn Bearer by Pepper Basham

The Thorn Bearer by Pepper Basham
I first met Pepper at an American Christian Fiction Writers’ conference several years ago. She has such a cheerful disposition and was warm and open as we greeted each other. Since then, I’ve learned her story of finding her agent, Julie Gwinn—such a great story! Soon after she signed with Julie, we (Pepper’s FB friends) learned of her contract for this book: The Thorn Bearer. Then, she kept us up to date on the cover and the release date. I was thrilled to read it for review.

Let’s begin with the summary:

From the decks of the ill-fated Lusitania to the smoke-filled trenches of France, Ashleigh must choose between the forgiveness of her past, life in the present, and a Savior who can rescue her from them all. When her fiancĂ© leaves her eight months before their wedding, the unexpected blow ignites a battalion of insecurities stemming from her father's intimate betrayal. Her worst fears are confirmed—who could ever love a soiled woman? In an attempt to escape the shame and disappointment of her past, Ashleigh boards the ill-fated Lusitania to cross the war-torn waters of Europe. Much to her dismay, she isn't traveling alone. Sam Miller is always making up for his best friend's mistakes. Determined to help Ashleigh, he offers his compassion and protection as she ventures across a perilous sea. With the faint hope of renewing his lost love for Ashleigh's sister, Sam never expects to find the woman of his dreams in his best friend's former fiancĂ© and his own childhood companion. As they travel across the Atlantic, neither is prepared for the life-altering and heart-breaking journey of their friendship. When the truth of Ashleigh’s past explodes in the middle of war and Sam rejects her, Ashleigh must decide if God is enough or if the double weight of her betrayal and past will crush her life forever.

And now, my review:

What a story! Pepper is a fantastic story-teller. I was hooked from the beginning through to near the end of this story. 

Sam is a strong character—likable, fallible, heroic. I enjoyed watching him fall for our heroine. Our heroine is strong and resilient. Her childhood was full of trials, but we don’t camp there. In fact, we don’t begin the story there and only visit the past a few times via memory.

One of the themes in this story was forgiveness. For our hero, forgiveness for someone who was alive and who had changed. For our heroine, forgiveness for someone whom she hadn’t watched change before the person left her life. Either way, they each faced the choice to forgive or not. That is a relatable theme, which I felt Pepper handled with wisdom and without trite answers. 

There were multiple typos in this story, which distracted me as I read since I’m trained to catch them. But the story was strong despite them. Also, the book made a switch near the last portion where the story turned to too much kissing and dragged out the ending a bit too long. I ended up skimming that part.

Overall, this is a great debut novel from a strong writer! I’m looking forward to more from this author.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

A Love Like Ours by Becky Wade

A Love Like Ours

 Review of A Love Like Ours by Becky Wade

I enjoy Becky’s writing, every book. She has a distinctive voice in Christian fiction. But I’m getting ahead of myself. 

Let’s begin the summary:

Former Marine Jake Porter has far deeper scars than the one that marks his face. He struggles with symptoms of PTSD, lives a solitary life, and avoids relationships.

When Lyndie James, Jake's childhood best friend, lands back in Holley, Texas, Jake cautiously hires her to exercise his Thoroughbreds. Lyndie is tender-hearted, fiercely determined, and afraid of nothing, just like she was as a child. Jake pairs her with Silver Leaf, a horse full of promise but lacking in results, hoping she can solve the mystery of the stallion's reluctance to run.

Though Jake and Lyndie have grown into very different adults, the bond that existed during their childhood still ties them together. Against Jake's will, Lyndie's sparkling, optimistic personality begins to tear down the walls he's built around his heart. A glimmer of the hope he'd thought he'd lost returns, but fears and regrets still plague him. Will Jake ever be able to love Lyndie like she deserves, or is his heart too shattered to mend?

And here’s my review:

First, that cover! Depicts the heroine perfectly—her spunk. Shows that the book isn’t all dread and suffering (which you might get from the summary). Oh, no. This book is yummy. Also, the cover depicts the hero hiding his face behind his Stetson. Yup, that’s our scarred hero.

Jake seemed so real. He had genuine issues—PTSD—and real scars. The author showed us a realistic story line that I believe opens her audience up to both men and military personnel (instead of the usual women of a certain age bracket). Some of the proceeds from the book have gone to support veterans through the Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund—a heroic gesture in itself.

The author handled “the event” (which led to the hero’s PTSD) very well, in my opinion. I avoid stories with gore or extreme violence, but I felt Becky’s depiction, though realistic, was tastefully done. We only visited this event a few times.

Against his will, Jake—once a tender young man—is presented with an opportunity to employ his childhood best friend and crush, with his horses. But he’d rather protect her—from him, from injury with the horses. And he’d rather guard himself from her optimism, her faith, hope. Such rich characterization. I was totally immersed in the story and found myself reading any chance I got.

Becky’s sense of humor and sarcasm, comes through the characters and narrative. Loved that.

A big part of this story is the symbolism of a horse character—Silver Leaf. This horse will not race for just anybody. He’s strong, handsome, and he needs special handling—like our wounded hero. He needs someone to believe in him, like Jake does.

The heroine’s faith, her family’s faith, is a life-line. And this family lives what they know.

Hope, healing, choosing life—these are some of the themes in this story. I could relate with Jake, and I could relate with Lyndie. And I rooted for their relationship.

There were a lot of POV (point-of-view) characters, which at first was confusing, but less so as the story progressed. I enjoyed watching the secondary characters romances progress. There were also some POV missteps in the ARC (advanced reader copy) I read. But I could overlook them for the sake of this fantastic story.

Highly recommended!