Category Archives: Christian

Review: You’re Gonna Love Me by Robin Lee Hatcher

Title: You’re Gonna Love Me by Robin Lee Hatcher
Publisher: Thomas Nelson
Genre: Contemporary, Christian, Romance
Length: 320 pages
Book Rating: B+

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley

Summary:

Who knew fate could twist a tragedy into a second chance at love?

Samantha Winters lives her life the way a good accountant should—measured, deliberate, and safe. After watching her father die in a tragic skiing accident, she decided never to allow risk into her life again. But she didn’t count on falling for Nick Chastain, who embodies everything she doesn’t want in her safely constructed world.

Against Samantha’s warnings, Nick plans a dangerous kayaking trip over spring break. Furious that he’s so careless with his life, she ends their fledgling relationship with harsh words.

Two years later, Samantha is desperately in need of a change. When she learns her grandmother has had an accident and is in need of a caretaker, Samantha quickly packs her bags and heads to Thunder Creek, Idaho. But nothing could prepare her for the surprise awaiting her in her grandmother’s hospital room . . . Nick.

With the charming backdrop of small-town friends, beloved cousins, and a whole church congregation rooting for them, can they set aside the disastrous ending of their first try at love? Has Nick changed enough to meet Samantha in the middle—and can she realize that a risk in love might be worth taking?

Review:

You’re Gonna Love Me by Robin Lee Hatcher is a charming second chance at love Christian romance which is set in the delightful small town of Thunder Creek, ID.

Samantha Winters is risk-averse to the point it affects her personal and professional relationships. Even though she is passed over time and again for promotions, she remains in a stagnant job with a boss she dislikes. In her personal life, Samantha’s fears lead her to end her eight month relationship with outdoorsman and adventure seeker Nick Chastain.  When her beloved grandmother, Ruth Johnson, is injured in a fall and needs some assistance with day to day tasks, Samantha does not hesitate to take a leave of absence from work to care for her. What she does not expect is to immediately cross paths with Nick, whom she has not heard from since their painful break up two years earlier.  She is stunned by how drastically different he is from the man she once dated, but can Samantha trust that Nick will not revert back to his daredevil ways?

Samantha avoids confrontation at all cost and runs away instead of facing problems. She has worked for the same company and boss for several years and despite her unhappiness at how her boss treats her, she refuses to look for another job since she does not like change.  However, spending time with Ruth, Samantha begins to question some of her decisions but will she be willing to walk away from the comfortable (and somewhat boring) life she has created for herself?

Nick has undergone dramatic changes since he last saw Samantha and he is refreshingly honest about how selfish  he was during their relationship.  While these significant alterations in his life might not have been of his choosing, Nick readily admits he is a much better person than he was when he dated Samantha. He is quick to take responsibility for how his actions affected their relationship in the past and he is not shy about discussing the reasons his life has changed so radically. Nick has also undergone a considerable amount of spiritual growth in the intervening years and he is now quite devout.

In spite of Nick’s assertions these changes in his lifestyle are permanent, Samantha is doubtful he can resist his adventurous spirit.  Despite her reservations, she is willing to give him a second chance, but she is also quick to doubt him when she misconstrues his actions in emergency situations. Samantha’s propensity to run away from problems also causes trouble between them because her first instinct is to shut down instead of discussing the issues between them. Will Samantha finally deal with her deep-seated fears or is her second chance at love with Nick doomed to fail?

With a strong element of faith, You’re Gonna Love Me is a heartwarming novel of forgiveness, reconciliation and love.  Nick and Samantha are wonderfully developed, likable characters that readers will find it easy to root for. Their romance moves at a slow but realistic pace as they try to work through the issues that ended their relationship in the past. Since Nick’s life changes occurred during their separation, the story focuses mainly on Samantha’s character growth. Robin Lee Hatcher has created  a warm and inviting community in the small town of Thunder Creek and readers will enjoy revisiting characters from previous works. A heartfelt romance that fans of the genre will enjoy.

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Filed under Christian, Contemporary, Rated B+, Review, Robin Lee Hatcher, Romance, Thomas Nelson Publishing, You're Gonna Love Me

Review: Blue Ridge Sunrise by Denise Hunter

Title: Blue Ridge Sunrise by Denise Hunter
Blue Ridge Series Book One
Publisher: Thomas Nelson Publishing
Genre: Contemporary, Christian, Romance
Length: 336 pages
Book Rating: B

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley

Summary:

Former free spirit Zoe Collins swore she’d never again set foot in Copper Creek or speak to the man who broke her heart. But return she must when her beloved Granny dies, leaving the family legacy to Zoe—a peach orchard nestled at the base of the Blue Ridge Mountains.

When Zoe returns home with her daughter and boyfriend Kyle, she finds that she’s the only person in town who doesn’t expect her to give up the life she’s established far away from Copper Creek. Everyone believes she was born to run the orchard, but how can she make it her home after so many years?

Cruz Huntley never quite got over his first love, Zoe Collins, the little sister of his best friend Brady. Not when she cheated on him during their “break,” not when she took off to parts unknown with good-for-nothing Kyle Jenkins, and not even now—five years later.

As life-changing decisions and a history with Cruz hang over Zoe’s head, tensions rise between her and Kyle. Even as she comes to terms with the shifting relationships in her life, Zoe still isn’t sure if she can remain in Copper Creek with her new responsibilities . . . and her first love.

Review:

Blue Ridge Sunrise by Denise Hunter is a heartwarming novel with an underlying theme of second chances. With more than just a second chance at love romance, this first installment in the Blue Ridge series is also a lovely story of new beginnings and healing.

Five years ago, Zoe Collins and Cruz Huntley’s relationship ended due to lack of communication, immaturity, insecurities and family disapproval. Zoe impetuously fled town with Kyle in order to pursue her dreams of becoming a musician. Cruz remained in town where he repaired his friendship with Zoe’s brother Brady while trying to get over losing his first love. Now, five years and many, many regrets later, Zoe returns for her beloved grandmother’s funeral and finds the courage to leave Kyle who has become increasingly controlling. Zoe also knows she needs to reveal the secret she has been keeping from Cruz but will it destroy any chance she has at possibly reconciling with the man who still holds her heart?

Zoe is one of the those characters readers might find difficult to like. When she was young she comes across as more impetuous and immature than “free spirited”. It is also difficult to forgive her choice to not tell Cruz the truth before she runs off with Kyle. Despite not being particularly likable, it is all too easy to understand how easy it was for her to allow Kyle to manipulate and control her.  After finally breaking free from her abusive relationship, Zoe initially remains a little timid and unsure but she gradually regains her self-confidence and sass.  Despite these changes, she is a little slow to own up to her terrible choice regarding keeping quiet about a MAJOR decision she made before leaving town, and Zoe is forced to deal with the consequences once Cruz stumbles onto the truth.

While Zoe is impetuous and a little thoughtless, Cruz is steadfast and loyal.  He reluctantly agreed to keep their relationship under wraps in the past and wtheir romance was discovered, her family’s reaction fed into his doubts and insecurities.  Zoe did not help the situation by her rash decisions and it was rather easy for external forces to take advantage of his uncertainties. In the intervening years, Cruz conquered his demons with the help of Zoe’s grandmother and his insecurities and lack of self-esteem are now a thing of the past.  Cruz still harbors feelings for Zoe, but once he stumbles onto her secret, will he forgive her for her lie of omission?

With a slight element of suspense and a gentle undercurrent of faith,  Blue Ridge Sunrise is an engaging romance with endearing characters. While Zoe does not always make the best choices, she does undergo believable growth throughout the story. Cruz has already come to terms with his emotional baggage but he must decide whether or not to absolve Zoe for not being honest with him. Although it takes a backseat to Zoe’s struggles to move past her mistakes, their renewed romance is quite sweet. Despite some of the predictable elements of the storyline, this first installment in Denise Hunter’s Blue Ridge series is an enjoyable read with interesting characters that readers will relate to.

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Filed under Blue Ridge Series, Blue Ridge Sunrise, Christian, Contemporary, Denise Hunter, Rated B, Review, Romance, Thomas Nelson Publishing

Review: Beneath Copper Falls by Colleen Coble

Title: Beneath Copper Falls by Colleen Coble
Rock Harbor Series Book Six
Publisher: Thomas Nelson
Genre: Contemporary, Christian, Mystery, Suspense, Romance
Length: 334 pages
Book Rating: B

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley</span

Summary:

Dana has already learned that love isn’t safe . . . but could it be different in Rock Harbor?

As a 911 dispatcher, Dana Newell takes pride in being calm in tough circumstances. In addition to her emotionally-charged career, she’s faced enough emergencies in her own life. She recently escaped her abusive fiancé to move to tranquil Rock Harbor where she hopes life will be more peaceful.

But the idyllic town hides more danger and secrets than it first appeared. Dana is continually drawn to her new friend Boone, who has scars inside and out. Then she answers a call at her job only to hear a friend’s desperate screams on the other end. Soon the pain in her past collides with the mysteries of her new home—and threatens to keep her from the future she’s always wanted.

Review:

Beneath Copper Falls by Colleen Coble features two very intriguing mysteries.  Although this newest release is the sixth installment in the Rock Harbor series, it can easily be read as a standalone.

After Dana Newell’s fiancé turns violent, she decides to move back to Rock Harbor where she has family and friends to support her.  However, her ex, Garret Waterman, quickly tracks her down and begins threatening her. A murder also strikes close to home when her friend, Allyson Hegney is killed in an eerily similar manner as her cousin, Renee, whose case is still open.  Determined to try to uncover the killer’s identity, Dana joins forces Allyson’s cousin and Renee’s brother, Boone Carter, to investigate the deaths. Is it just a coincidence that Allyson is murdered right around the same time as Garret arrives in town? This is just of the angles that Dana and Boone are looking at as they begin looking into the unsolved murders.

Eager to put her failed relationship behind her, Dana is grateful to her brother Chris for offering to let her live with him in his newly renovated home when she moves back to Rock Harbor.  Dana comes across as a little naive due to a couple of questionable decisions she has made regarding Garret. She is also quite loyal and while this is an admirable quality, when combined with her naivety, she is a little slow to realize that not everyone is as truthful and honest as she is. Dana is a personable woman whose desire to help others is her best trait as is her warm and compassionate nature.

Boone has built a successful business and he is well regarded in the community. He despairs his sister’s killer will ever be found and although three years have passed since her death, Boone still reaches out to the detective on her case on a regular basis. When Allyson is murdered in Rock Harbor, he quickly hones in on the similarities to his sister’s death. Due to circumstances of the end of his previous relationship, Boone is quite leery of becoming involved with Dana despite his growing feelings for her.

The relationship between Boone and Dana is sweet but not without a few obstacles for this lovely couple to overcome. Boone’s situation presents a valuable lesson in the importance of character over looks.  Despite how badly Dana misjudged Garret, she is still willing to take a chance on love and it is quite refreshing to see that she refuses to let her  previous experience prevent her from exploring the possibility of a new relationship with Boone.

Although it is fairly easy to guess the murderer’s identity fairly early in the story, Beneath Copper Falls is still an engrossing mystery.  Dana and Boone are appealing characters and their romance is an absolute joy to watch unfold.  With some unexpected twists and unanticipated turns,  Colleen Coble  brings the novel to a very action-packed, exciting conclusion. A nice addition to the Rock Harbor series that old and new fans will enjoy.

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Filed under Beneath Copper Falls, Christian, Colleen Coble, Contemporary, Mystery, Rated B, Review, Rock Harbor Series, Suspense, Thomas Nelson Publishing

Review: Bringing Maggie Home by Kim Vogel Sawyer

Title: Bringing Maggie Home by Kim Vogel Sawyer
Publisher: WaterBrook
Genre: Contemporary, Christian, Women’s Fiction
Length: 353 pages
Book Rating: C+

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through Blogging for Books

Summary:

Decades of Loss, an Unsolved Mystery,
and a Rift Spanning Three Generations

Hazel DeFord is a woman haunted by her past. While berry picking in a blackberry thicket in 1943, ten-year old Hazel momentarily turns her back on her three-year old sister Maggie and the young girl disappears.

Almost seventy years later, the mystery remains unsolved and the secret guilt Hazel carries has alienated her from her daughter Diane, who can’t understand her mother’s overprotectiveness and near paranoia. While Diane resents her mother’s inexplicable eccentricities, her daughter Meghan—a cold case agent—cherishes her grandmother’s lavish attention and affection.

When a traffic accident forces Meghan to take a six-week leave-of-absence to recover, all three generations of DeFord women find themselves unexpectedly under the same roof. Meghan knows she will have to act as a mediator between the two headstrong and contentious women. But when they uncover Hazel’s painful secret, will Meghan also be able to use her investigative prowess to solve the family mystery and help both women recover all that’s been lost?

Review:

Bringing Maggie Home by Kim Vogel Sawyer is a bittersweet novel of healing for three generations of mothers and daughters.

In rural Arkansas in 1943, Hazel DeFord’s younger sister Maggie vanishes while the two girls are picking blackberries. This one event defines Hazel’s life to the extent that her only daughter, Diane, seethes with resentment over her mother’s over protectiveness.  In turn, Diane’s relationship with her daughter, Meghan, is also affected as Diane’s attempts not to be anything like Hazel take her to the other end of the parenting spectrum. When these three women end up under the same roof while Meghan recovers from a car accident, can the fractures in these relationships be repaired?

Despite Diane’s somewhat aloof mothering, Meghan is a warm, caring and quite well adjusted young woman. She absolutely adores her grandmother and her fondest childhood memories revolve around her summer visits with Hazel. In recent years, she has not spent as much time with Hazel as she would like, so Meghan is eagerly looking forward to convalescing from her accident with her grandmother. Needless to say, the last person she expects to see upon her arrival at Hazel’s house is Diane. Which begs the question: why is Diane here?

Well, the answer to that question definitely paints Diane in a very unflattering light. Her anger and bitterness toward Hazel  have not abated despite the passage of time and she snipes and snaps at her mother at every turn. Diane is a downright unpleasant character whose attitude is absolutely ridiculous since she is now an adult and should seriously have let go of her resentment YEARS ago. Her jealousy over Hazel and Meghan’s close relationship quickly grows tiresome as does her inability to feel any type of empathy for her mother’s loss.

Should Hazel have attempted to explain to Diane why she was so worried about her daughter’s safety? Of course. But in all honesty, she has a valid, albeit slightly skewed, reason for not revealing this traumatic secret. Hazel’s actions stem from love and fear and although it is perfectly understandable that Diane would chafe at her mother’s long ago restrictions, her present day reaction is over the top and completely out of proportion now she is a middle aged adult.

The mystery about what happened to young Maggie is quite interesting.  Although it is fairly easy to guess what happened to her, Meghan and her partner Sean’s investigation into the long ago disappearance is fascinating.  While their chances at uncovering the truth are slim due to the passage of time, no matter how tenuous, they pursue every lead they uncover.

With a strong undercurrent of faith, Bringing Maggie Home is heartwarming novel of redemption and forgiveness.  Although it is difficult to like Diane, Meghan and Hazel are enjoyable characters who share warm and loving relationship.  Maggie’s story arc is quite fascinating and the investigation into her disappearance is quite engrossing.  The various storylines are completely wrapped up by the novel’s conclusion and readers will love Kim Vogel Sawyer’s sweet epilogue.

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Filed under Bringing Maggie Home, Christian, Contemporary, Kim Vogel Sawyer, Rated C+, Review, WaterBrook Press, Women's Fiction

Review: Sweetbriar Cottage by Denise Hunter

Title: Sweetbriar Cottage by Denise Hunter
Publisher: Thomas Nelson
Genre: Contemporary, Christian, Women’s Fiction
Length: 320 pages
Book Rating: B+

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley

Summary:

When Noah and Josephine Mitchell discover their divorce was never actually finalized, their lives are turned upside down.

Following his divorce, Noah gave up his dream job, settling at a remote horse ranch in the Blue Ridge Mountains of northern Georgia, putting much-needed distance between himself and the former love of his life. But then Noah gets a letter from the IRS claiming he and Josephine are still married. When he confronts Josephine for the first time in months, they discover that she missed the final step in filing the paperwork and they are, in fact, still married.

Josephine is no happier about the news than Noah. Maybe the failed marriage–and okay, the botched divorce–was her fault, but her heart was shattered right alongside his, more than he would ever believe. The sooner they put this marriage behind them, the better for both of their sakes.

But when Josephine delivers the final paperwork to his ranch, the two become stranded in his cottage during the worst spring snowstorm in a decade. Being trapped with Josephine is a test of Noah’s endurance. He wrestles with resentment and an unmistakable pull to his wife–still beautiful, still brave, and still more intriguing than any woman he’s ever known.

As they find themselves confronted with each other and their shared past, old wounds surface and tempers flare. But when they are forced out into the storm, they must rely on each other in a way they never have before. Josephine finally opens up about her tragic past, and Noah realizes she’s never been loved unconditionally by anyone–including him. Will Noah accept the challenge to pursue Josephine’s heart? And can she finally find the courage to trust Noah?

Review:

With a gentle undercurrent of faith, Sweetbriar Cottage by Denise Hunter is an emotional second chance at love romance.

Noah Mitchell is stunned, dismayed and angry to learn that his divorce from his wife, Josephine, was never finalized.  The discovery stirs up all of his unresolved feelings about the demise of his marriage. Readily accepting responsibility for both the divorce and the paperwork mix-up, Josephine wants to fix the mistake as soon as possible. When an unexpected situation forces Noah and Josephine to spend time together, will they take advantage of this opportunity to heal the wounds from their past?

When Noah and Josephine first meet, neither of them is looking for a relationship.  Noah is well-adjusted with a loving family and although Josephine is new to town, she has a bit of a reputation.  Noah does not give any credence to this gossip and over the next several months, the two enjoy several sweet dates. Although his family and friends try to convince him to wait, he and Josephine marry after a bit of whirlwind courtship and there is no reason to doubt their love for one another.  While Noah does not know much about his new wife’s past, they are very happy together which is why he is so shocked when Josephine betrays him.  Devastated, Noah refuses to discuss what happened and immediately files for divorce.

Fast forward eighteen months and Noah is living on an isolated ranch where he raises horses. Josephine is still living in town but the two have managed to stay out of each other’s way since they split up. Their unexpected reunion is fraught with tension, hurt and anger. Unbeknownst to Noah, Josephine has taken steps to understand how her painful and unresolved past was still influencing her actions after she moved to town and throughout their marriage. Noah remains deeply conflicted over why their marriage ended, but is he finally ready to discuss the events that precipitated their divorce? And if he can understand what motivated Josephine’s behavior, will he, at long last, find it within his heart to forgive her? Although they make considerable progress working through their unresolved issues, is it possible for Noah and Josephine to truly leave their past behind and heal their fractured relationship?

Sweetbriar Cottage is a deeply moving story that deals with some very difficult subject matter. Denise Hunter deftly explores these complex topics with sensitivity and she never downplays the lasting effects of childhood abuse.Noah and Josephine are multi-faceted characters whose flaws, weaknesses and insecurities are easy to relate to. The storyline is richly developed with complicated and all too realistic issues that are addressed in a forthright and delicate manner. The resolution of Noah and Josephine’s problems is believable and readers will love the novel’s heartwarming conclusion.

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Filed under Christian, Contemporary, Denise Hunter, Rated B+, Review, Romance, Sweetbriar Cottage, Thomas Nelson Publishing

Review: To Wager Her Heart by Tamera Alexander

Title: To Wager Her Heart by Tamera Alexander
Belle Meade Plantation Series Book Three
Publisher: Zondervan
Genre: Historical, Christian, Romance
Length: 384 pages
Book Rating: B+

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley

Summary:

With fates bound by a shared tragedy, a reformed gambler from the Colorado Territory and a Southern Belle bent on breaking free from society’s expectations must work together to achieve their dreams – provided the truth doesn’t tear them apart first.

Seeking justice . . . 

Sylas Rutledge, the new owner of the Northeast Line Railroad, invests everything he has into this venture, partly for the sake of the challenge. But mostly to clear his father’s name. One man holds the key to Sy’s success–General William Giles Harding of Nashville’s Belle Meade Plantation. But Harding is champagne and thoroughbreds, and Sy Rutledge is beer and bullocks.

Sy needs someone to help him maneuver his way through Nashville’s society, and when he meets Alexandra Jamison, he quickly decides he’s found his tutor. Only, he soon discovers that the very train accident his father is blamed for causing is what killed Alexandra Jamison’s fiancé–and has shattered her world.

Struggling to restore honor . . . 

Spurning an arranged marriage by her father, Alexandra instead pursues her passion for teaching at Fisk University, the first freedmen’s university in the United States. But family–and Nashville society–do not approve, and she soon finds herself cast out from both.

Through connections with the Harding family, Alexandra and Sy become unlikely allies. And despite her first impressions, Alexandra gradually finds herself coming to respect, and even care for this man. But how can she, when her heart is still spoken for? And when Sy’s roguish qualities and adventuresome spirit smack more of recklessness than responsibility and honor?

Sylas Rutledge will risk everything to win over the woman he loves. What he doesn’t count on is having to wager her heart to do it.

Set against the real history of Nashville’s Belle Meade Plantation and the original Fisk University Jubilee Singers ensemble, To Wager Her Heart is a stirring love story about seeking justice and restoring honor at a time in American history when both were tenuous and hard-won.

Review:

Featuring real life people, events and places, To Wager Her Heart by Tamera Alexander is an absolutely delightful Christian romance that is rich in historical details. Although this latest release is the third installment in the Belle Meade Plantation series, it can easily be read as a standalone.

One year following the tragic death of her fiancé David Thompson, twenty-five year old Alexandra Jamison’s father is attempting to force her into an arranged marriage to a much older man of his choosing. After declining the marriage proposal, she leaves the family home to pursue her vocation as a teacher of freemen and women at Fisk University.  Penniless,  Alexandra agrees to help Colorado railroad owner Sylas “Sy” Rutledge navigate the sometimes tricky rules of Southern business  negotiations.  Her relationship with Sy is somewhat complicated due to his unexpected ties to the train accident that took her fiancé’s life. Needless to say, Alexandra is a little taken aback when her opinion and feelings for Sy begin to evolve as they become better acquainted. As she becomes more emotionally entangled with Sy, will Alexandra allow the past ruin her chance at happiness?

Alexandra is a little ahead of her time as she finds herself in the midst of attempting to right the social injustices of the time period. Her sympathies lie with the freedmen and women who finally have the opportunity to receive the education they have been long been denied. On occasion, Alexandra comes face to face with her judgments and  perceptions of the people she is trying to help.  She is quick to admit to her failings with grace and humility when necessary.

Sy is no stranger to hard work since he is a self-made man from extremely humble beginnings. He truly believes in equality for all and he is more than willing to fight for his principals no matter the personal cost to himself.  Sy is immediately smitten with Alexandra but he very wisely consents to the stipulations she puts forth when she agrees to help him with his business dealings.  Sy is also incredibly loyal to the people in his life and his quest to clear his father’s name is quite admirable.

The historical elements of the storyline are quite enlightening and these details greatly enrich the unfolding story. Race relations are still quite tense and workers greatly resent the influx of freedmen into the work force. Alexendra is stunned by the backlash she and her family endure in the aftermath of her noble decision to work at Fisk University. Her experiences traveling with the Jubilee Singers are quite enlightening as she witnesses firsthand the difficulties the freedmen and women must endure in both the North and the South.

With a gentle undercurrent of faith, To Wager Her Heart is an endearing historical romance that old and new fans of the Belle Meade Plantation series are going to love.  Tamera Alexander’s incorporation of true life events, people and locations greatly enhance an already substantial storyline.  The relationship between Sy and Alexandra gradually transitions from slightly adversarial to genuine friendship and eventually, love.  A truly engaging novel with lovable characters, a realistic plot and a sweet romance that readers of historical fiction do not want to miss.

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Filed under Belle Meade Plantation Series, Christian, Rated B+, Review, Romance, Tamera Alexander, To Wager Her Heart, Zondervan