Category Archives: Rated B+

Review: If Not for You by Debbie Macomber

Title: If Not for You by Debbie Macomber
New Beginnings Series Book Three
Publisher: Ballantine Books
Genre: Contemporary, Romance
Length: 386 pages
Book Rating: B+

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley


#1 New York Times bestselling author Debbie Macomber has written an emotionally stirring novel that shows how sometimes a choice can seem wrong even though it’s absolutely right.

If not for her loving but controlling parents, Beth Prudhomme might never have taken charge of her life and moved from her native Chicago to Portland, Oregon, where she’s reconnected with her spirited Aunt Sunshine and found a job as a high school music teacher. If not for her friend Nichole, Beth would never have met Sam Carney, although first impressions have left Beth with serious doubts. Sam is everything Beth is not—and her parents’ worst nightmare: a tattooed auto mechanic who’s rough around the edges. Reserved and smart as a whip, Beth isn’t exactly Sam’s usual beer-drinking, pool-playing type of woman, either.

But if not for an awkward setup one evening, Beth might never have left early and been involved in a car crash. And if not for Sam—who witnessed the terrifying ordeal, rushed to her aid, and stayed with her until help arrived—Beth might have been all alone, or worse. Yet as events play out, Sam feels compelled to check on Beth almost daily at the hospital—even bringing his guitar to play songs to lift her spirits. Soon their unlikely friendship evolves into an intense attraction that surprises them both.

Before long, Beth’s strong-willed mother, Ellie, blows into town spouting harsh opinions, especially about Sam, and reopening old wounds with Sunshine. When shocking secrets from Sam’s past are revealed, Beth struggles to reconcile her feelings. But when Beth goes a step too far, she risks losing the man and the life she’s come to love.


If Not for You by Debbie Macomber is a delightfully charming novel of new beginnings, healing and love. Although this latest installment is the third in the wonderfully heartwarming New Beginnings series, it can be read as a standalone.

Beth Prudhomme is fighting hard to reclaim her life from her overbearing mother and relocating to Portland, OR and a new job as a high school music teacher is a great start to her new life.  She is very hesitant to accept her friend Nichole’s invitation to meet her and her husband’s friend, Sam Carney, but Beth’s Aunt Sunshine convinces her to stretch her wings a little further.  Unfortunately, the introduction is as uncomfortable as she feared and although Sam is a nice enough man, she knows the rough around the edges mechanic is not the man for her.  Which makes it all the more surprising when Sam proves to be Beth’s biggest comfort and source of support after she is involved in a serious car accident the same night as their blind date.

Sam is just as wary as Beth when his friend Rocco invites him to dinner to meet Beth.  After having his heart broken years earlier, he does not have any interest in relationships or love.  He has no interest in seeing her again but after witnessing the horrible collision, Sam just cannot seem to stay away from Beth’s bedside.

Despite their inauspicious first meeting and their mutual conviction they have nothing in common, Sam and Beth are both amazed by how much they enjoy each other’s company during Beth’s rehabilitation from the car accident.  They each look forward to spending time together and they are astonished by how easily conversation flows between them. Beth and Sam’s relationship runs deeper than friendship but given Sam’s aversion to dating, they do not discuss or think too deeply about what comes next for them.

In spite of the ease in which Sam and Beth fall into a relationship, not everything is roses and sunshine between them.   Beth is still struggling to overcome her need to please her mother and avoidance of these issues only takes her so far in resolving their strained relationship.  Beth also makes a mistake when she refuses to stand up to her domineering mother.  Her mom is also quite insulting when she meets face to face with Sam, but fortunately, he does not allow her disparaging comments and haughty attitude affect their relationship.  Instead, Sam’s doubts and insecurities lead him to make an ill-thought out decision that has the potential to backfire on him.  Beth is also guilty of putting together well-intentioned schemes that sometimes end with painful consequences for the people she loves the most.

If Not for You by Debbie Macomber is a sweet, clean romance that is the perfect example of the old adage, “don’t judge a book by its cover”. Despite the odds being against the very proper music teacher and the blue-collar mechanic, Beth and Sam are a surprisingly well-suited couple with plenty of chemistry. This lovely addition to the uplifting New Beginnings series is a mostly conflict-free love story with a great cast of characters, a couple of heartfelt reconciliations and a touching conclusion.

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Filed under Ballantine Books, Contemporary, Debbie Macomber, If Not for You, New Beginnings Series, Rated B+, Review, Romance

Review: The Cutaway by Christina Kovac

Title: The Cutaway by Christina Kovac
Publisher: Atria / 37 Ink
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery, Suspense
Length: 320 pages
Book Rating: B+

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley


The Newsroom meets Gone Girl.” —Cosmopolitan

The Cutaway draws you into the tangled world of corruption and cover-up as a young television producer investigates the disappearance of a beautiful Georgetown lawyer in this stunning psychological thriller, perfect for fans of Paula Hawkins and Gillian Flynn.

When brilliant TV news producer Virginia Knightly receives a disturbing “MISSING” notice on her desk related to the disappearance of a beautiful young attorney, she can’t seem to shake the image from her head. Despite skepticism from her colleagues, Knightly suspects this ambitious young lawyer may be at the heart of something far more sinister, especially since she was last seen leaving an upscale restaurant after a domestic dispute. Yet, as the only woman of power at her station, Knightly quickly finds herself investigating on her own.

Risking her career, her life, and perhaps even her own sanity, Knightly dives deep into the dark underbelly of Washington, DC business and politics in an investigation that will drag her mercilessly through the inextricable webs of corruption that bind the press, the police, and politics in our nation’s capital.

Harkening to dark thrillers such as Gone Girl, Luckiest Girl Alive, and Big Little Lies, The Cutaway is a striking debut that will haunt you long after you reach the last page.


With a clever plot and a resourceful lead protagonist, Christina Kovac’s debut mystery The Cutaway is a riveting mystery about a missing woman.

Missing person notices come across TV news producer Virginia Knightly’s desk on a fairly regular basis, but she is  soon obsessed with the case of Evelyn Carney.  An up and coming lawyer, Evelyn appears to have vanished into thin air after a rather tempestuous dinner with her war hero husband, Peter.  With her newly estranged husband’s alibi immediately clearing him of suspicion, the investigation is quickly stalled.  Virginia is a little puzzled to discover her ex-boyfriend Michael Ledger, who is now the commander of the Criminal Division, is involved in the case, but she pushes aside her curiosity in order  to utilize him as source.  With the help of Evelyn’s co-worker, Paige Linden, Virginia quickly discovers Assistant US Attorney Ian Chase is a “person of interest” in Evelyn’s disappearance. However, after uncovering some irregularities and inconsistencies in the investigation, Virginia is uncertain whom she can trust as she continues delving into what happened to Evelyn.

Virginia is a talented journalist with an uncanny ability to remember images from photographs and news stories and she knows right away that she has seen Evelyn in a cutaway from a news story.  She is right in the middle of trying to locate the footage when the somewhat smarmy news director Nick Mellay begins throwing his weight around and handing out pink slips.  Smarting from her temporary demotion, Virginia throws herself into uncovering as much information about the missing lawyer as possible.

Although she wants to stay as far away from Michael as possible, Virginia is too smart not to make use of a valuable resource, so she shoves down her misgivings and pays him a visit.  Trying to keep her personal feelings out of their renewed professional relationship, she is soon trading information and favors for insider details about the case.  While Virginia finds working alongside Michael a distasteful prospect, she views him as a trusted source even though she knows he is not being completely forthcoming about certain aspects of the investigation.

After some of her leads dry up, Virginia turns to Paige for assistance.  Despite the attorney’s reluctance to go on the record, she does provide some very valuable insight and information about Evelyn’s professional and personal lives. Some of the details Virginia gleans from Paige corroborates other facts she has unearthed while some elements of their discussions point her in new directions.

However, the one fact that seems to be irrefutable from both of Virginia’s sources is that Evelyn was personally involved with Ian Chase.  She is also aware that Ian is refusing to talk to the police, but she is hoping he will be willing to talk to grant her an interview.  Virginia is quite tenacious and rather inventive in her attempts to talk to Ian but he is firmly refusing to go on the record. When the police investigation into his role in Evelyn’s disappearance heats up, readers will enjoy the exciting peek into the process in which journalists obtain footage for their broadcast.

The Cutaway  is a very intriguing mystery that has plenty of interesting twists and turns. Christina Kovac utilizes a few red herrings and misdirects in an attempt to obscure the perpetrator’s identity and motive for the crime.  Savvy readers will most likely pick up on a few details that will provide them with a suspect almost right away but the motive for Evelyn’s disappearance will remain elusive. Chock full of suspense, this fast-paced and riveting mystery culminates with a rather surprising conclusion.  Hopefully this is just the first of many investigations starring the very intrepid and immensely appealing Virginia Knightly.

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Filed under Atria / 37 Ink, Christina Kovac, Contemporary, Mystery, Rated B+, Review, Suspense, The Cutaway

Review: Find Me by J.S. Monroe

Title: Find Me by J.S. Monroe
Publisher: MIRA
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery, Suspense
Length: 400 pages
Book Rating: B+

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley


A sighting of a woman who supposedly died years ago sparks a desperate search for the truth in this breakout suspense thriller, perfect for readers of The Good Girl and The Widow

Sometimes we choose to see only what we want. Sometimes what we see changes the way we look at everything… 

Jarlath “Jar” Costello’s girlfriend, Rosa, committed suicide when they were both students at Cambridge, and Jar has thought about her every day since. It’s been five years, yet Jar is still obsessed with the idea that Rosa, the one true love of his life, is alive. He’s tormented by disturbingly real sightings of her—experiences the psychologist treating him describes as “post-bereavement hallucinations.”

When Rosa’s aunt uncovers an encrypted file on her laptop that she believes is Rosa’s diary, she gives Jar the hard drive, sending him on a frantic quest to unlock the mysterious document and finally make sense of the suspicious circumstances surrounding Rosa’s suicide. But the deeper he digs, the more confused he becomes as he is pressed into a dark underworld where nothing is as it seems and no one can be trusted. When a startling discovery convinces him more than ever that these are not just hallucinations—that Rosa really is alive—Jar is thrust into the heart of a larger intrigue that may finally shed some light on Rosa’s death…even as it dangerously threatens his own life.


With plenty of suspense and unexpected twists and turns, Find Me by J.S. Monroe is a spectacular yet chilling psychological thriller.

Jarlath “Jar” Costello lost his girlfriend, Rosa Sandhoe, to suicide five years earlier.  However, due to the fact her body was never recovered, he is convinced she is still alive.  His life has gone steadily downhill as he works a job that he hates, drinks to excess and ends up having meaningless one night stands.  Jar is also continuing to experience “post-bereavement hallucination” where he sees Rosa in a variety of different locations and situations.  After Rosa’s Aunt Amy stumbles onto a what is believed to be her niece’s computer diary, Jar discovers grows more convinced Rosa is still alive and he intensifies his search for her with the help of his friend, Carl.

Although their relationship had barely started when Rosa vanished, there is never any doubt she and Jar were deeply in love.  It is not until Jar begins reading the diary entries that he realizes how deeply she was still grieving the death of her father but Jar still does not believe she was suicidal.  With each diary entry he reads, Jar becomes aware there was a lot going on in Rosa’s life that she kept hidden from him.  He is also more certain than before that she is still alive and in fact, some of this newly discovered information helps explain some of the odd events that have been happening to him recently.  Although Jar learns valuable details about what might have happened to Rosa, he has no idea how he will find her.

Broken into two parts with chapters alternating between Jar’s perspective and a hodgepodge of diary entries, there is an incredible sense of urgency as Jar uncovers the truth about Rosa. The diary entries are non-sequential since they are decrypted in random order but each chapter is clearly marked with the correct date so they are easy to follow. Initially, Jar appears to an unreliable narrator who is seemingly paranoid since he certain that someone is following him. However, as part one comes to a close, there is little doubt that Jar is on the right track about Rosa.

The pacing of part two is even more frantic as Jar’s investigation intensifies and the diary entries are now written from two characters’ perspectives.  The truth about Rosa’s disappearance is still a little murky, but the details that begin to emerge are completely horrifying.  Jar makes an absolutely shocking discovery that he first finds impossible to believe.  Will he find irrefutable proof to prove that his suspicions are, in fact, correct?

Find Me by J.S. Monroe is an utterly engrossing mystery that is part crime drama and part spy novel.  With unspeakable acts of violence committed by a thoroughly sick and twisted individual, there is a high degree of suspense as Jar uncovers the grisly  truth about what happened to Rosa.  This high octane novel moves at breakneck speed and has no shortage of breathtaking twists, turns and stunning revelations.  All in all, it is an incredibly well-written mystery with an original storyline that tackles some fascinating yet very dark subject matter.

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Filed under Contemporary, Find Me, Harlequin, JS Monroe, Mira, Mystery, Rated B+, Review, Suspense

Review: The Loving Husband by Christobel Kent

Title: The Loving Husband by Christobel Kent
Publisher: Sarah Crichton Books
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery, Suspense
Length: 416 pages
Book Rating: B+

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley


“Be careful, Fran,” the man said quietly. “About what you think you know.”

In a dilapidated farmhouse out in the vast waterlogged plains of the English Fenlands, Fran awakes groggily to her baby’s cries one February night and finds the bed empty beside her. Her husband, Nathan, is gone.

Moving uneasily through the drafty rooms, searching for her husband, Fran soon makes a devastating discovery that upends her marriage and any semblance of safety. As she tries desperately to make sense of what happened to Nathan, Fran is forced to delve dangerously into the undercurrents of his claustrophobic hometown and question how well she knew him in the first place. Fran, increasingly isolated, grows paranoid—but Nathan isn’t the only one hiding something. Though she can’t tell a soul, Fran is shielding a damning secret of her own: a hazy, dreamlike memory from the night of Nathan’s disappearance that might be the key to it all.

From the bestselling author of The Crooked House comes an utterly gripping psychological thriller spanning the traditions of Daphne du Maurier and S. J. Watson. Christobel Kent’s The Loving Husband is spooky and skillfully written, dragging readers deep into the unsettling world of the Fens and into a marriage of half-truths and past lives, where no one can be trusted—especially not your spouse.


The Loving Husband by Christobel Kent is a suspenseful murder  mystery set  in a rural village in Great Britain.

Fran Hall lives with her husband Nathan and their two young children, four year old Emme and 3 month old Ben on a rundown farm close to where Nathan grew up.  Since their move from London, Fran has become increasingly isolated as Nathan controls just about every aspect of their life.  Awakening to discover Nathan missing from their bed, she makes a horrifying discovery when she finds his lifeless body in a ditch on their property. The investigators assigned to her case, DS Doug Gerard and DC Ed Carswell, are convinced Fran knows more than she is telling but does this mean she is a killer?

Fran was never overly thrilled with the move from London, but it seems like the best way to put her mistakes behind her.  The farmhouse is isolated and somewhat dilapidated, but she is trying to make the best of the situation for her family’s sake.  While Nathan has a thriving business that takes him away from home quite frequently and an active social life, Fran’s days revolve around her children and keeping the peace with her husband.  It is not until Nathan is murdered that the inconsistencies in his life become more apparent and Fran is somewhat surprised to discover she does not much at all about the man she has shared her life with more than five years.

While DS Gerard  and DS Carswell are initially solicitous when dealing with Fran, it does not take long for her to realize they are not on her side.  She is not exactly forthcoming with all of the details of the night Nathan was murdered but under the circumstances, her hesitance is understandable.  The only person involved in the investigation that she feels comfortable with is Family Liaison Officer DC Ali Compton.  However, Fran is unsure she can completely trust Ali so she continues to maintain her silence about some of the events that occurred the night of Nathan’s murder.

Fran is horribly confused about the information that is uncovered during the investigation . As she reflects back on her relationship with Nathan, she begins to realize how  isolated she has become.  She also starts to recognize how much of herself she has given up over the years in order to keep Nathan happy.  Fran is dismayed by her inability to answer basic questions about her husband’s business dealings or who he socializes with in his downtime.  With every new clue that emerges, she cannot help but wonder about Nathan’s  motivation for marrying her but the reason for his actions eludes Fran.

The Loving Husband is a suspense-laden domestic mystery that moves at a moderately fast pace.  Christobel Kent cleverly keeps the killer’s identity and motive for the crime a closely guarded secret with brilliantly plotted twists and turns and a few well-paced red herrings.  The novel comes to quite a stunning conclusion that is virtually impossible to predict.  An absolutely riveting mystery that fans of the genre do not want to miss.

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Filed under Christobel Kent, Contemporary, Mystery, Rated B+, Review, Sarah Crichton Books, Suspense, The Loving Husband

Review: One by One by Sarah Cain

Title: One by One by Sarah Cain
Danny Ryan Thriller Series Book Two
Publisher: Crooked Lane Books
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery
Length: 336 pages
Book Rating: B+

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley


Philadelphia journalist Danny Ryan is finally getting his life together. Two and a half years after losing his family, he’s moved to a new house, started working again, and even began getting close to fellow reporter Alex Burton. Then an old high school acquaintance, Greg Moss, shows up asking for help. He’s been getting threatening text messages, and he’s not the only one. Other members of Danny’s high school class have gotten the same messages, and now they’re dead. And then Greg becomes the next victim.

Between shady political connections and crooked land deals in his real estate business, Greg had plenty to hide, but it might have been an incident from his youth that led to his death. Now Danny finds himself drawn down the dark corridors of his own life as he tries to put together the lost memories from one fateful high school party all those years ago.

But when Danny receives a text of his own, it’s a race to find the truth before the killer, much like his own past, can catch up to him in One by One, the electrifying follow-up to Sarah Cain’s The 8th Circle.


In this second outing in Sarah Cain’s Danny Ryan Thriller series, One by One, journalist Danny Ryan is once again embroiled in a complex murder investigation.

The novel opens with old high school acquaintance, Greg Moss, asking Danny to look into some ominous text messages he has been receiving. The request is immediately complicated by Greg’s revelation that several of his old high buddies also received threatening texts before they were murdered.  When Greg is then murdered, Danny’s suspicions are raised by the lead detective on the case, Ted Eliot, and Danny, along with fellow journalist, Alex Burton, decide to do a little digging around. They quickly uncover Greg’s ties with a development firm, Cromoca Partners, which is linked to Danny’s ex-father-in-law Senator Robert Harlan and Congressman George Crossman. However, after Danny begins receiving mysterious texts, he cannot help but wonder if the murders in the present are somehow connected to the parties that Greg hosted back in high school.  With assistance from both Alex and his detective brother Kevin, Danny tries to fit the pieces of the puzzle together before he becomes the killer’s next victim.

There have been a few changes in Danny’s life since readers met him in The 8th Circle.  He is now a freelance journalist and he has moved into a new house.  Since he is now living in the same neighborhood as ex-coworker Alex, he has become close to her and her husband, Sam.  His relationship with Kevin is still a work in progress, but they are closer than they were in the past.  Danny is still struggling with the loss of his wife and son but he is not as depressed as he has been.

Danny begins his investigation working off the idea that Greg’s murder, along with the earlier deaths of his football buddies, are somehow linked to the past.  When an attempt is made on the life of one of the people he interviews who knew Greg in high school and is still in touch with him in the present, Danny remains unsure what a possible motive for the murders.  When another person from high school he interviews meets an untimely death, Danny knows he is on the right track but when his former classmates are less than forthcoming with him, his investigation hits a dead end.

Although he is not assigned to the case, Kevin does an little off the books digging around into Ted Eliot’s background.  While his relationship with Danny might be a little strained, he does take his brother seriously when he notices a few inconsistencies with the detective.  Uncovering some rather interesting information about Ted, Kevin is still struggling to figure out if there is more to his story than he is telling.

Alex learns some troubling information about the Cromoca Partners latest business ventures but she is stonewalled when she tries to dig a little deeper.  She is also a little curious about the long ago death of another classmate of Danny’s and at first, her request for an interview is turned down.  Alex is excited when the person reconsiders but is she making a mistake not talking to Danny before she sets out for the meeting?

One by One is another pulse-pounding installment in the Danny Ryan Thriller series.  The investigation is compelling and Sarah Cain brings it to a close with an adrenaline-filled, action packed denouement.  The novel ends on a very intriguing note and readers will be anxious to see what Danny decides to do with the curious information he has received. A riveting mystery that fans of the genre do not want to miss!

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Filed under Contemporary, Crooked Lane Books, Danny Ryan Thriller Series, Mystery, One by One, Rated B+, Review, Sarah Cain

Review: Written in Love by Kathleen Fuller

Title: Written in Love by Kathleen Fuller
Amish Letters Series Book One
Publisher: Thomas Nelson
Genre: Contemporary, Christian (Amish), Romance
Length: 320 pages
Book Rating: B+

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley


When a postal error creates pen pals of two young Amish people, can they put behind their past mistakes to see the bright future God has written for them?

Jalon Chupp has a past he isn’t proud to claim. He’s worked hard to overcome his youthful mistakes, and he has recommitted himself to his faith. When he receives a sweet note included in a piece of misdirected mail, he can’t help but write back. Soon, the letters he receives from Phoebe are the highlights of his days, and with a hopeful heart, he suggests they meet in person.

Phoebe, too, looks forward to every single one of Jalon’s letters. Living with her overbearing aunt, Phoebe doesn’t have too much to look forward to. But when Jalon suggests they meet, she panics—although she has shared some of the deepest longings of her heart with him, she hasn’t been entirely truthful about her past. But when Jalon shows up at her aunt’s doorstep, everything is revealed. And she can only pray he’ll forgive her for holding back the truth.

In order to reach beyond the errors of their pasts, both Phoebe and Jalon must put their faith in something—or Someone—bigger than either of them could pen.


The first installment in the Amish Letters series, Written in Love by Kathleen Fuller is a sweet inspirational novel of redemption, grace and love.

A misdirected letter sets the stage for a surprising friendship between Phoebe Bontrager and Jalon Chupp.  For Phoebe, letters from Jalon are one of the very few bright spots in her life. Living with her stern, judgmental great aunt, she must follow a strict set of rules and there is little joy to her days. Surprisingly, exchanging letters with Phoebe is a life-altering experience for Jalon and his future is looking very bright. Although Jalon and Phoebe feel as if they have gotten to know one another through their letters,  neither of them have revealed their deepest, darkest secrets.  Will their fledgling relationship survive when they finally meet face to face?

The oldest of eleven children, Phoebe went through a rebellious period and turned her back on her faith and her family.  Now in her early twenties, she has finally settled down and she has come to terms with her past.  With plenty of regrets over some of her decisions,  Phoebe does not have any choice except to live with her unyielding Aunt Bertha.  The situation is less than ideal which is why she eagerly awaits Jalon’s letters.  Things are already tense between them when her aunt forces Phoebe to end her correspondence with Jalon.

Jalon made some very poor decisions when he was younger, but he has worked hard to overcome put his mistakes behind him.  His faith is now strong and he has a good job that pays well.  Jalon and his sister Leanna decided to remain on the family farm after his parents decided to move. An unexpected opportunity comes his way just as he is realizing his feelings for Phoebe run deeper than friendship which leads him to make an impetuous decision about his future.  Jalon wonders if he made the right choice when Phoebe fails to reply to his last letter, but his concern for her well-being outweighs his doubts and he decides to pay her a visit.

Their first meeting immediately exposes Phoebe’s biggest secret and although things are rather awkward, Jalon has no qualms about rescuing her from the dreadful situation.  Phoebe is grateful for his assistance but Jalon remains distant from her. The easy rapport from their letters is long gone and neither of them is willing to bridge the gap between them.  Phoebe finally breaks the silence but Jalon’s unwillingness to confide in her when he is dealt a blow threatens to derail the progress they have been making.  Just when it appears their relationship is finally on solid ground, a family emergency threatens to destroy their chance at happiness.

Written in Love by Kathleen Fuller is not the typical Amish romance.  Jalon and Phoebe are flawed characters who have made serious missteps in their lives and both harbor many regrets for the pain their actions have caused to their families and their communities.  Redemption, grace and faith are strong components of this wonderful romance and readers will love joining  Jalon and Phoebe on their journey of healing.  An absolutely outstanding beginning to the Amish Letters series that will fans eagerly anticipating the next release.

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Filed under Amish Letters Series, Christian, Contemporary, Kathleen Fuller, Rated B+, Review, Romance, Thomas Nelson Publishing, Written in Love