Monday, March 28, 2011

A Cowboy's Touch by Denise Hunter

First of all, this story pairs up two of my favorite things: my favorite author and cowboys. *grin* Let's begin with the summary of this Women of Faith novel:

Abigail is just in Moose Creek, Montana for the summer to temporarily care for her great aunt. But a tender-hearted cowboy beckons her to stay.

Abigail Jones intends to spend just one summer in middle-of-nowhere Montana with her Aunt Lucy. Time away from her job is just what Abigail needs to reassess her life. The slow pace has her breathing deeply for the first time in years. And the majestic scenery encourages her to get reacquainted with herself . . . and God.

What she didn't count on was the handsome widowed cowboy who owns the ranch where her aunt lives. When the rancher loses his daughter's nanny, Abigail decides to lend a hand for the summer.

Wade Ryan can't help being attracted to Abigail. But he's given up everything to protect his daughter, and he's not about to risk it all on a pretty face.

Under Abigail's care, Wade's home and daughter thrive. And with Wade's touch, Abigail's heart feels at home at last. But Abigail knows this elusive rancher is hiding something. Will her own secrets separate her from the cowboy who finally captured her heart?

And now, my review:

Our widower hero has a policy—don’t touch, especially where women are concerned. And there are plenty of single women in town who would love to dance with him or get close. He even holds himself back from relating with his daughter. Until our heroine steps into his life. She’ll nanny for him, point out his daughter’s needs, and then test his policy. In order to protect his daughter, our hero resists a relationship with the heroine—which is quite difficult—and he’ll be especially regretful when he learns her secret.

Romance readers will love this story. I liked how the author zeroed in on relationships more than ranching, but she gave the touch of realism to the story through her depiction of ranch life. The characters seemed real, relatable, and likable.

The other satisfying element of this story was the focus on redemption and how we cannot redeem ourselves. Both characters fought demons of self-doubt paired with regrets, both were trying to atone for their own mistakes. The heroine in the story calls herself the Truthseeker, but she's avoiding Jesus, the Truth. Loved how Denise tied this element in by glorifying and pointing toward Him.

I also loved the way the author wrapped up the story. Looking forward to the next book in this

This Thomas Nelson novel releases April 1, 2011.

Highly recommended.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Rugged and Relentless by Kelly Eileen Hake

What's not to love about a title like that? (*smile*) Let's begin with the summary of this new Barbour release:

Roll into Hope Falls, Colorado, where three women are seeking mates to help them establish a sawmill. Evelyn Thompson never dreamed their husbands-for-hire ad would bring so many bachelors to their tiny town. How will she ever figure out which feller to choose? Jacob Granger, a logger-turned-bounty hunter, is hot on the trail of his brother’s killer. When a clue leads him to Hope Falls, he has no choice but to pretend to court Miss Thompson while waiting for the killer to show his hand. Will Jacob’s unexpected adoration of this sweet cook prompt him to speak vows before getting vengeance?

And now, my review:

Kelly uses clever chapter beginnings which echo chapter endings. She employs unusual vocabulary words. I was glad to be reading on my Kindle where I could look things up. (*grin*) The romantic elements were strong (when the story focused on them) as was her plot. This author’s sense of humor came through with some laugh-out-loud moments, helping make this an enjoyable read.

However, the ensemble cast was overwhelming. I felt like I’d missed book one (this is book one) with all the characters she introduced, many with their own POVs. The middle of the story almost lost me. There was a noticeable lack of relational elements. There was a lack of romantic development throughout. And one serious disappointment—there was a lot of build up to a certain romantic element and then it was mentioned in hindsight.

Overall, I felt there could have been more romance in the story, either between the injured, bedridden man and his fiancée, or the hero and heroine. Perhaps now that the author has introduced her ensemble cast and set the stage, the following books in this series can get to the business of relationships sooner and delve more deeply. Since this is a romance, I'd like to see more focus on romance.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Bathsheba by Jill Eileen Smith

I’ve read the other books in The Wives of King David series and knew I couldn’t pass this one up.

Let’s begin with the summary:

Bathsheba is a woman who longs for love. With her devout husband away fighting the king's wars for many months at a time, discontent and loneliness dog her steps--and make it frighteningly easy to succumb to King David's charm and attention. Though she immediately regrets her involvement with the powerful king, the pieces are set in motion that will destroy everything she holds dear. Can she find forgiveness at the feet of the Almighty? Or has her sin separated her from God--and David--forever?

With a historian's sharp eye for detail and a novelist's creative spirit, Jill Eileen Smith brings to life the passionate and emotional story of David's most famous--and infamous--wife. Smith uses her gentle hand to draw out the humanity in her characters, allowing readers to see themselves in the three-dimensional lives and minds of people who are often viewed in starkly moralistic terms. You will never read the story of David and Bathsheba in the same way again.

And now, my review:

There are many ways to approach the infamous story of David’s adulterous affair with Bathsheba and how he then plotted to kill her husband so he could marry her when it was discovered she was pregnant. Jill Eileen Smith’s approach was wise, tasteful, tactful. Readers who are familiar with the biblical account will anticipate the plot’s destination, but with remorse. We’ve come to care for the characters this much. You’ll want Uriah to live, for his marriage to Bathsheba to continue so they can work out their problems. Smith is especially adept at showing the possible motivations of the biblical characters. You’ll see and consider how her imaginative retelling could fit the story. I appreciated how she filled in the gaps, making the characters human. She has obviously done her research. She helped me consider new angles on the old story, making sense of how things possibly played out.

Overall, through the entire series, Smith displays an amazing understanding of the heart of David, his bearing and his wisdom. Through gifted storytelling, she makes him breathe on the page. The Bible stories come to life, teaching more about biblical times and the various settings. Smith’s biblical fiction is not to be missed. She has set a new standard in this genre.

Highly recommended.

Available March 2011 at your favorite bookseller from Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

The Girl in the Gatehouse by Julie Klassen

Do you like Jane Austen novels? What lover of romance can resist, right? If so, get ready for a treat with this regency.

Back cover copy:

Miss Mariah Aubrey, banished after a scandal, hides herself away in a long-abandoned gatehouse on the far edge of a distant relative's estate. There, she supports herself and her loyal servant the only way she knows how--by writing novels in secret. Captain Matthew Bryant, returning to England successful and wealthy after the Napoleonic wars, leases an impressive estate from a cash-poor nobleman, determined to show the society beauty who once rejected him what a colossal mistake she made. When he discovers an old gatehouse on the property, he is immediately intrigued by its striking young inhabitant and sets out to uncover her identity, and her past. But the more he learns about her, the more he realizes he must distance himself. Falling in love with an outcast would ruin his well-laid plans. The old gatehouse holds secrets of its own. Can Mariah and Captain Bryant uncover them before the cunning heir to the estate buries them forever?

And now, my review:

Klassen weaves an intriguing story with a few surprises for readers. You get a taste of regency living as told through the eyes of an “authoress.” Loved that, but rather than this element simply being an occupation for the heroine, her career is woven intricately into the plot (and therefore more satisfyingly). As a writer, I enjoyed this.

Two of the themes which stand out are forgiveness and grace. The heroine has committed a nearly unforgivable sin, especially for her time. She’s been sent away to live with her attendant/governess. She writes under a pen name so she won’t further anger her father. Then, she meets a man who may be her future mate, but secrets aren’t a good way to begin a relationship, as she’ll eventually find out.

The romantic aspects of the story were enjoyable, as was the inclusion of dramas and tales. But where Klassen excels is in her ensemble cast. I came to care about all of her characters, who were all very unique and memorable.

This was the first book I’ve read by Julie, but it won’t be the last. Very enjoyable.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

New Christian Fiction Releases: March, 2011

This list was compiled by ACFW. More in-depth descriptions of these books can be found on the ACFW FictionFinder website.

1. A Bond Never Broken by Judith Miller -- A Historical from Bethany House. For many years, Ilsa Redlich has helped her parents run a hotel in South Amana, but as the United States enters the Great War, she can feel her world changing.

2. A Cowboy's Touch by Denise Hunter -- Romance from Thomas Nelson. Will the secrets Abigail Jones brought with her to Moose Creek, Montana separate her from Wade Ryan, the cowboy who finally captured her heart? (Watch for a review her on Net's Book Notes.)

3. A Gentleman's Homecoming by Ruth Axtell Morren -- A Historical Romance from Love Inspired (formerly Steeple Hill). It's been six years since Luke Travis has seen his native England...and his son, Sam. But his hopes for a joyful reunion are shattered when he learns that Sam wants nothing to do with him. There's one ray of hope--Luke's former sister-in-law, Bobbie Gardner.

4. A Heart Most Worthy by Siri Mitchell -- A Historical from Bethany House. Three beauties each long to break free of their obligations and embrace the American dream--and their chance for love. But the ways of the heart are difficult to discern at times.

5. Among the Magnoilias by Diane Ashley and Aaron McCarver -- A Historical from Barbour Heartsong Presents. In spite of the love she sees between her parents, Abigail LeGrand is determined never to marry. Nathan Pierce is desperate to hide his past. Will Abigail and Nathan accept each other's love and respect, or will they stubbornly cling to the fears that threaten to keep them apart?

6. Bathsheba: A Novel; The Wives of King David Series, Book 3 by Jill Eileen Smith -- General Fiction from Revell. Will one night of unbridled passion destroy everything Bathsheba holds dear? Can she find forgiveness at the feet of the Almighty? Or has her sin separated her from God—and David—forever? (Watch for a review here on Net's Book Notes.)

7. Blood Ransom by Lisa Harris -- A Thriller/Suspense from Zondervan. Deep in the heart of Africa, two American lives are about to change forever.

8. Code of Justice by Liz Johnson -- A Thriller/Suspense from Love Inspired (formerly Steeple Hill). Heather Sloan is willing to risk her life to find her sister's killer—but her code of justice could cost her the chance to win Jeremy Latham's love.

9. Face of Danger by Valerie Hansen -- Mystery from Love Inspired (formerly Steeple Hill). Giving murder victims a face is forensic artist Paige Bryant's speciality. She can always put the pieces together. But her work turns dangerous when Texas Ranger Cade Jarvis brings her a special project related to the notorious Lions of Texas gang.

10. In The Shadow of Evil by Robin Caroll -- A Thriller/Suspense from B & H Publishing. Amidst the layers of unethical practices, supply shortages, and excess murders, a top Louisiana homicide detective loses his heart to a charitable contractor while uncovering a secret about his tragic past.

11. Jersey Brides by Laurie Alice Eakes -- A Romance from Barbour. Riches Become the catalyst for love in New Jersey. Issues of wealth and status have three nineteenth-century women tied in knots.

12. Love Amid the Ashes by Mesu Andrews -- General Fiction from Revell. When scandal and murder rock Dinah’s life, the daughter of the great patriarch Jacob is sent away to Job’s household. After Job’s own world comes crashing down, Dinah finds herself drawn to this great man brought low. What will she risk to fight for his survival?

13. Secret Place by Leslie J. Sherrod -- General Fiction from Urban Christian (Kensington). When desperation leads to homicide, can healing, freedom - and faith - be found?

14. Springtime of the Spirit by Maureen Lang -- A Historical from Tyndale House. The winter of an unjust war is over. A springtime of the spirit awaits.

15. Surrender the Night by MaryLu Tyndall -- Romance from Barbour. A timid American farm girl at the mercy of the enemy. . . A wounded British sailor driven into hiding. . . Both are about to change the course of history forever.

16. The Artist's Grandmother by Robin Bayne -- General Fiction from White Rose. When Megan bids on her grandfather's painting, the last thing she expects is to be outbid by Michael Kirk, her first love.

17. The Map Across Time; Book 2, Gates of Heaven Series by C. S. Lakin -- Fantasy from AMG-Living Ink Books. An epic fairy tale that shows how God uses the simple, weak, inconsequential of the world to accomplish his great purposes.

18. The Proper Wife by Winnie Griggs -- A Historical from Love Inspired (formerly Steeple Hill). Eli Reynolds knows what he wants in a wife, and the flighty Texas girl couldn't be further from the mark.

19. Yesterday's Tomorrow by Catherine West -- Romance from Oak Tara. Set in the backdrop of the Vietnam War, Kristin Taylor and Luke Maddox must decide if they’re willing to set aside selfish ambition for the love that seems to have ambushed them and captured their hearts.