Saturday, June 22, 2019

The Pages of Her Life by James L. Rubart

The Pages of Her Life

I love reading books set in the PNW. Such a beautiful place. 

Here’s the summary of Jim Rubart's latest book, The Pages of Her Life:

How do you stand up for yourself when it means losing everything?

Allison Moore is making it. Barely. The Seattle architecture firm she started with her best friend is struggling, but at least they’re free from the games played by the corporate world. She’s gotten over her divorce. And while her dad’s recent passing is tough, their relationship had never been easy.

Then the bomb drops. Her dad was living a secret life and left her mom in massive debt.

As Allison scrambles to help her mom find a way out, she’s given a journal, anonymously, during a visit to her favorite coffee shop. The pressure to rescue her mom mounts, and Allison pours her fears and heartache into the journal.

But then the unexplainable happens. The words in the journal, her words, begin to disappear. And new ones fill the empty spaces—words that force her to look at everything she knows about herself in a new light.

Ignoring those words could cost her everything . . . but so could embracing them.

Here’s my review:

The story started out a little slow. But knowing Jim’s work, I trusted he was laying a foundation for a strong story. He was. 

The main theme was standing up for one’s self, written from a female point of view. (We’ll get to POV in a bit. 😊) I loved this topic for fiction because readers follow a character trying to discern who’s on her side and where she needs to set boundaries. So often, we’re taught to comply, but the further we go in life, the more we realize we need to set boundaries and be as objective as possible as we test everything. We shouldn't be afraid to deeply inspect the motives of those around us. We tend to ignore warnings just to “keep the peace.” That pattern will lead to trouble, eventually, in my experience. 

The antagonist isn’t one you’d expect, and isn’t that so fitting? Those who “talk the talk” do not always have a changed heart. Neither do they want the best for those around them. The story will challenge preconceptions on several fronts, and I liked this aspect. I kept asking myself, “What is the author trying to say?” This thoughtful approach to Jim's books is needed, and I think this is partly what makes his work so popular. You are an active participant in the ride, like with The Shack. Constantly asking yourself what you believe, how you’d react to the situations, wondering about the author's message, trying to solve the dilemmas all while asking yourself moral questions. Those elements are hallmarks of this genre.

There may be minor spoilers in the next paragraph. Read with caution:

Let’s talk about POV. The author’s note reads something like: If you liked the female POV, thank my wife. If you didn’t, blame me. Overall, I thought the female POV was very strong. (Thanks, Darci!) But there was one rather large flaw. (Sorry, Jim.) A woman is very concerned for her personal safety—always. Early in the story, the protagonist heads off on a jog up a solitary mountain trail (love the setting!) and doesn’t bring a dog or a weapon. (We think; we aren’t told she carries self-protection until much later.) By the descriptions, I pictured the author running the same route, sharing his experienceenjoying the solitude, the challenge, the beauty. Not worrying about being assaulted because he was running alone. That’s not how women think. Women cannot presume safety anywhere, especially not on an uninhabited trail on a mountainside with no security and plenty of seclusion. She wouldn't close her eyes for ten minutes while on the mountaintop. She wouldn’t chase a male through the woods, not even for answers, and she’d want a shower after returning, not a mug of hot tea. 

One of my favorite aspects of this novel was the call to write in a journal. I have totes filled with journals dating back decades. I loved the premise of God answering the main character!

The protagonist was rather weak much of the time. This was probably due to the need to draw a contrast and build the character change arc. Still, she frustrated me at times. Open your eyes! Be discerning and assertive! There are other areas where she is strong, which is true of most of us—strengths and weaknesses, not always in balance. She goes after her dreams. She makes tough decisionsleaving the known for the unknown. I rooted for her to have victory in all the areas of her life, while analyzing my own life.

I highly recommend this book, especially if you like to really think about your current read.

Thursday, May 23, 2019

Selah Award Winner!

Finding Love on Bainbridge Island, Washington -- Selah Award winner!

Great news, friends! My book, Finding Love on Bainbridge Island, Washington, won a Selah Award in the contemporary romance category! What an honor and a thrill!

Have you read this book yet? This is the second of the Washington Island Romance series, all three of which are out now.

Here's more information on the Bainbridge novel:

Neither of them is ready for a relationship, but love may not give them an out.

Jenna-Shea Brown considers herself a broken therapist. Years ago, she witnessed something that caused PTSD. She can’t let her boss or her patients know about her battle. Who would want to trust her to help them, when she can’t help herself? She’s finally able to find a fresh start in her family’s beach cabin, but the renovations aren’t complete. Her parents have hired her ex-boyfriend to finalize them, but his negligence led to her being in the wrong place at the wrong time all those years ago.

Liam Barrett is trying to prove he’s nothing like his deadbeat dad. He’s working hard, yet still failing. Adrenaline and adventure offer him a diversion, but maybe he can’t escape his genes. He’d like to make things right with Shea, but he’s unsure if she’ll forgive him. Meanwhile, he’s challenged to forgive his father. He’s also worried about Shea and all these episodes she won’t explain. Now that they’re back in close proximity, he’s falling for her again. But can anything heal the past? 
 


Here's what one reviewer said:  "Love, love, love this story and the characters!!! I cheered for them and cried for them. Great story!" ~ Melissa Henderson, reviewer

This is a stand-alone novel with themes of forgiveness, father-son relationships, second chances, and supporting a friend through a tough time. Because some of the elements may be heavy, I included a quirky character named Matilda. She's Liam's great-aunt and she has experience in the theater, so she uses accents and has trained her pet bird to do the same. Many readers have said she's their favorite character in the book. :) 

Check out more reviews, along with the print or e-book copy, here. Available at BN.com, CBD.com, and Amazon. Happy reading!

Monday, April 22, 2019

Daughters of the Northern Shore by Joanne Bischof

Daughters of the Northern Shore by Joanne Bischof




This is book two in the Blackbird Mountain series. I loved book one. Read my review here

Let’s begin with the summary:

Aven Norgaard understands courage. Orphaned within an Irish workhouse, then widowed at just nineteen, she voyaged to America where she was wooed and wed by Thor Norgaard, a Deaf man in rural Appalachia. That the Lord saw her along the winding journey and that Aven now carries Thor’s child are blessings beyond measure. Yet while Thor holds her heart, it is his younger brother and rival who haunts her memories. Haakon—whose selfish choices shattered her trust in him.

Having fled the Norgaard orchard after trying to take Aven as his own, Haakon sails on the North Atlantic ice trade, where his soul is plagued with regrets that distance cannot heal. Not even the beautiful Norwegian woman he’s pursued can ease the torment. When the winds bear him home after four years away, Haakon finds the family on the brink of tragedy. A decades-old feud with the neighboring farm has wrenched them into the fiercest confrontation on Blackbird Mountain since the Civil War. Haakon’s cunning and strength hold the power to seal many fates, including Thor’s—which is already imperiled due to a grave illness brought to him at the first prick of warfare.

Now Haakon faces the hardest choice of his life. One that shapes a battlefield where pride must be broken enough to be restored, and where a prodigal son may finally know the healing peace of surrender and the boundless gift of forgiveness. And when it comes to the woman he left behind in Norway, he just might discover that while his heart belongs to a daughter of the north, she’s been awaiting him on shores more distant than the land he’s fighting for.

And now, my review:

This book picks up close to where book one, Sons of Blackbird Mountain, left off. I recommend you read book one first, though there is a lot of recap. (This slowed the plot of book two down. That’s a tough balance, and it’s difficult to know if readers will be confused or bored.) We get to catch up with Thor and his brothers. Once again, the author does a great job of bringing us into a Deaf (her capitalization preference) person’s world. I really enjoy reading about this element in a main character’s life. It’s rare in CBA fiction.

I like Joanne’s writing voice. Her historicals are rich with research and strong prose. She’s a wordsmith. One element I noticed this time that I didn’t in book one is the POV is distant. With all that lovely prose, I didn’t feel the characters’ emotions, most of the time. Their emotions are described, but not presented in a way that helps readers feel. I also found redundancies and stalled ruminations that didn’t advance the plot. 

This story is Aven’s, definitely, but it’s also Haaken’s. We follow this youngest brother throughout the book. He’s a wounded soul and therefore we’re engaged in his story, but at the same time there were believability issues. Without a redemption moment near the beginning of the story, we see him changing. The arc wasn’t believable without that element, and I always felt like something was missing for his characterization. Without a God-encounter near the story’s opening, it’s hard to believe he can be a deeply changed man—from lustful to redeemed and made new, walking in ongoing repentance (i.e. not returning to lust) though he’s back in his target’s life.

I was a little lost at times when characters made plans without letting the reader in on them. Without deep POV, we had the disadvantage of distance. Keeping some secrets is fine. That may keep us reading. But leaving us in the dark for whole chapters can be frustrating.

Overall, I enjoyed this book, which kept me returning to read more. Once finished, I missed the setting and the characters. At the end of the story, the author sets up book three. I can’t wait!

Disclaimer: I received a complimentary copy of this book from Thomas Nelson through NetGalley. Opinions expressed in this review are my own.

Tuesday, April 2, 2019

The Memory House by Rachel Hauck

The Memory House

I enjoy Rachel’s original approach to her novels. Let’s take a look at her latest one. 

The summary: 

Embracing the future means remembering the past . . . 

When Beck Holiday lost her father in the North Tower on 9/11, she also lost her memories of him. Eighteen years later, she’s a tough New York City cop burdened with a damaging secret, suspended for misconduct, and struggling to get her life in order. Meanwhile a mysterious letter arrives informing her she’s inherited a house along Florida’s northern coast, and what she discovers there will change her life forever. Matters of the heart only become more complicated when she runs into handsome Bruno Endicott, a driven sports agent who fondly recalls the connection they shared as teenagers. But Beck doesn’t remember that either. 

Decades earlier, widow Everleigh Applegate lives a steady, uneventful life with her widowed mother after a tornado ripped through Waco, Texas, and destroyed her new, young married life. When she runs into old high school friend Don Callahan, she begins to yearn for change. Yet no matter how much she longs to love again, she is hindered by a secret she can never share. 

Fifty years separate the women but through the power of love and miracle of faith, they each find healing in a beautiful Victorian known affectionately as the Memory House. 

And now, my review: 

The hero’s world is all about football, and the author knew the ins and outs of sports agenting activities and lingo. Great research. 

The heroine is a cop with a complication. Sometimes she came across like an officer, sometimes she didn’t. 

As usual with Rachel’s novels, we have the time slip element, which I love. And it’s always fun to find Jesus in the story. Her descriptions of prayer and God’s presence are delicious and so relatable. I’m glad she includes them! It’s rare to see that element in fiction. 

One of the themes that captured my attention was that of enjoying gifts we feel unworthy of. Such a humbling activity—receiving. Another theme was the advice to “stop believing in the words of broken, wounded” people. The main theme, though, is memory. Memories lost. Memories desired. Making them. Living with them. Righting them. Readers will look at their own memories in a new way. 

I recommend this out-of-the-box story.

Tuesday, March 5, 2019

Fun News!

Finding Love on Whidbey Island: New Release

So many fun things are happening this month, and I know we're only five days in! First, on March 1, the third book in my Washington Island Romance series released! It's called Finding Love on Whidbey Island, Washington, and is a stand-alone, meaning if you haven't read the others in the series, no worries. You won't be lost. Here's a bit more about the story: 


Could what drove them apart be what draws them back together?

Liberty Winfield lives with loss every day. She’d rather leave her history behind her, but when faced with moving back to her hometown, the past becomes unavoidable. She takes a job at the florist shop owned by her ex-boyfriend’s family from a decade ago. Now he’s unavoidable.

Clay Garrison knows the pain of ruing his mistakes. Most of his regrets center around Liberty. If he could undo his poor choices, he would. Liberty is back. He has one more chance to make things right. She doesn’t believe anyone could love her unconditionally, so he sets out to prove her wrong. He must also try to right the biggest wrong of their past, knowing that in doing so, he could lose her forever.

Will addressing the past together help them find love?

 

More news:

Finding Love on Bainbridge Island is a Selah Finalist for 2019
 
Then, as that book released, same day, I received word that my novel, Finding Love on Bainbridge Island, Washington, was a finalist in the Selah Contest! How thrilling! I love this book about father-son estrangement and overcoming the past. You'll find a sweet romantic thread as well. Here's a bit more about that book: 



Neither of them is ready for a relationship, but love may not give them an out.

Jenna-Shea Brown considers herself a broken therapist. Years ago, she witnessed something that caused PTSD. She can’t let her boss or her patients know about her battle. Who would want to trust her to help them, when she can’t help herself? She’s finally able to find a fresh start in her family’s beach cabin, but the renovations aren’t complete. Her parents have hired her ex-boyfriend to finalize them, but his negligence led to her being in the wrong place at the wrong time all those years ago.

Liam Barrett is trying to prove he’s nothing like his deadbeat dad. He’s working hard, yet still failing. Adrenaline and adventure offer him a diversion, but maybe he can’t escape his genes. He’d like to make things right with Shea, but he’s unsure if she’ll forgive him. Meanwhile, he’s challenged to forgive his father. He’s also worried about Shea and all these episodes she won’t explain. Now that they’re back in close proximity, he’s falling for her again. But can anything heal the past?

More news:


Washington Island Series

Then, we put my Friday Harbor novel up for free for a few days to celebrate the release of my Whidbey novel. (Is anyone getting dizzy yet?) Here's more info and a link to the whole series. Right now (as of this posting), you can pick up the whole series in e-book format for around $8.00 USD. 


Grab your free copy today before the sale ends! Here's more about the book:

Finding Love in Friday Harbor, Washington

Will keeping his promise lead to another broken heart—or help them find love again?

Professor Mikaela Rhoades has a plan: she’ll encourage her students’ marine biology research through an exclusive program while helping an old family friend’s whale touring business stay afloat. The challenge is the tour captain is her first love and ex-fiancĂ©. Mikaela longs to help his family in the wake of his father’s death, but she’s keeping secrets. She’ll have to face her past and overcome her concerns about the future to make it through the summer. 

Captain Hunter Cahill has taken over the family touring business after his father’s death. Unfortunately, he’s drowning in grief and debt. He’s hoping the incoming stodgy professor will help resurrect the failing business, but he’s not prepared when that professor turns out to be Mikaela, his former fiancĂ©e. To make matters more difficult, he’d promised his father to pursue her if she ever returned to the island single. The more time they spend together, the easier it is to keep that promise, though she still plans to leave at the end of the season. How much will it cost him to spend the summer romancing Mikaela?


Finding Love in Friday Harbor, Washington free for a limited time

More news:

Meanwhile, the I Choose You boxed set is still on sale for $0.99 (99 cents) for seven full-length novels! My Friday Harbor novel is included. Chances are you'll meet new authors by picking up this set, and you can't beat that value. All contemporary Christian romance fiction. Check it out!



I Choose You: boxed set

I hope you get a chance to check out all this great fiction and happy reading!

Monday, February 11, 2019

I Choose You: the Boxed Set

I Choose You
Seven of Mountain Brook Ink's contemporary Christian romance authors have come together to give you the first books in their series! My Finding Love in Friday Harbor, Washington, novel is included. You get all seven for 99 cents! You can't beat that! 

If you'd like to help out, we're looking for reviews, even if you've only read one or two of the novels. Please leave your review at: https://amzn.to/2DkPLAc. Thank you! Happy reading!

Here are more details: 

Finding Love in Eureka, California by Angela Ruth Strong

Raised in a family of adopted siblings, Genevieve works to keep her family together. If she isn’t good enough to keep her parents from giving her up then no way she’ll be enough to have a lasting relationship.

Matt’s life is easy until he starts hanging out with Genevieve more than his girlfriend. He tells himself he’s intrigued by Gen’s quirkiness, but nobody makes him smile the way she does. Can Matt give up his plan and Gen risk her heart?



The Broken Trail by Christa MacDonald

Katherine takes a job in smalltown Maine to break away from the toll of secrets she’s buried. With evidence of shady dealings on her job, there’s nothing relaxing about it. Maybe it would be easier if she wasn’t so distracted by Captain MacAlister.

Mac has enough to deal with from poachers to drug crime. But when he meets Katherine, he’s drawn in by her intelligence and strength, despite getting burned by her quick temper. If only their scars didn’t threaten to tear them apart. Two wary hearts must soften to have any hope of making it down the broken trail to love.
 



An Anchor on Her Heart by Patricia Lee

McKenna, abandoned by her husband for his work, is left alone to raise their autistic child. When circumstances drive a wedge in their marriage and Dane chooses to escape, how long can she be strong? Can she remain faithful to her marriage vows when tempted by the friendship of an unlikely stranger? 


Rudy Taylor, who senses McKenna's loneliness, struggles to keep his concern for the young woman pure. Will McKenna’s faith in God and Rudy’s commitment to his Lord keep their relationship simple until McKenna's husband one day returns?



A Love to Treasure by Kimberly Rose Johnson

Nicole’s Grandmother’s final wish lands Nicole in a mysterious scavenger hunt. She finds a fellow sleuth in handsome police officer, Mark Stone. Mark is hoping for a quiet summer in Sunriver as he considers his future in law enforcement.


To complicate matters, Nicole is in danger, and Mark knows his growing feelings for her could cloud his judgment. Will their differing career goals be the end of their summer romance—or just the beginning of forever after? 



Finding Love in Friday Harbor, Washington by Annette M. Irby

Professor Mikaela Rhoads wants to help an old friend’s whale touring business stay afloat. The challenge? The tour captain is her first love and ex-fiancĂ©, Hunter Cahill. Mikaela longs to help, but she’s keeping secrets. She’ll have to face her past to make it through the summer.

Hunter has taken over the family touring business. He’s drowning in debt and hoping the incoming professor will resurrect the business, but he’s not prepared when it turns out to be his former fiancĂ©e. How much will it cost him to spend the summer romancing Mikaela?

 

Runaway Romance by Miralee Ferrell

Ann Stanway had it all—a reality show and a sparkling future. Until that life no longer existed. She flees L.A., lands in Kentucky at an Amish inn, and realizes what was missing--peace, friendship and a man who accepts her for who she is--or who he thinks she is.

Hunter is intrigued by the woman staying at the inn. Annie is secretive and won’t open up. He’s been burned by a woman before. His interest in Ann grows, and the attraction is mutual—Dare he risk his heart, when he’s sure Ann is keeping secrets? Or will Ann run again?


Come Next Winter by Deborah Dulworth and Linda Hanna

When tragedy hits, Carol struggles to forge a new life. She finds a friend in her cousin Millie as she puts the pieces of her shattered life back together.

Frank, a local pastor, is everything she would look for in a spouse. If she were looking. But she discovers that Millie has set her hopes on becoming the pastor’s wife. Aunt Penny’s outrageous attempts to ensure that Millie wins Frank’s heart might destroy any chance she has at a happy future. Can love find a way to break through?

Tuesday, February 5, 2019

A Love Most Worthy by Sandra Ardoin


A Love Most Worthy

 
Today’s novella includes interesting elements, like the setting of Seattle and then Alaska, and the topic of mail-order brides, with a twist.

Let’s begin with the summary:

She didn’t know which was colder, an Arctic winter or her new husband’s heart.

Hallie Russell believes life should be lived to the fullest. For that reason, she sails to the gold rush town of Nome, Alaska, to take her cousin’s place as the mail-order bride of a respected shopkeeper. But when her aloof husband’s wedding-night announcement rocks her plans for their marriage, Hallie sees her desire for a family to call her own vanish as quickly as the dreams of hopeful miners.

Tragedy led Rance Preston to regret his rowdy ways and open a general store for the miners in Nome. He’s content in his bachelorhood, but his two orphaned nephews deserve a proper and serious-minded mother. Duped once by a vivacious female, he’s determined to never again let his heart overrule his head…until the high spirits of his new bride threaten his resolve.


When a misunderstanding comes to light, will they allow the gale force winds of insecurity to destroy what they each need most?

And now, my review:

Sandra’s prose is top-notch. The story kept me engaged and I was hooked, waiting to see how things worked out. She understands how to weave a strong story and never let the plot drag. I did notice some of the emotions and reactions were overstated, given some of the situations, and I had a hard time connecting to the emotions because they sometimes seemed exaggerated. Still, I found strong storytelling and wordsmithing throughout. The story reads very fast.

The hero has been betrayed in the past, and part of his healing involves forgiveness. The heroine longs for a family of her own and to belong. She’ll need to find her place in the chilly north. 

I liked the sense of hope and adventure in the story. The heroine is strong. Her insecurities only add to her layers. She’s likable, and I rooted for her. The hero believes he’s being noble, and in many ways he is, which makes him sympathetic as well. 

I recommend this well-written novella.