Category Archives: Christian

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

Review: Abiding Mercy by Ruth Reid

Title: Abiding Mercy by Ruth Reid
Amish Mercies Book One
Publisher: Thomas Nelson
Genre: Contemporary, Amish, Christian, Romance
Length: 352 pages
Book Rating: B

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley

Summary:

Faith faces an impossible situation: Should she do the right thing and bring heartache to nearly everyone she knows or deny her true self and always wonder . . . what if?

Sixteen-year-old Faith has worked full-time in her parents’ restaurant since she finished eighth grade. She loves her Amish community—and the romantic attentions of her longtime friend, Gideon.

When her sister seems to be getting too friendly with Englischers, and her parents are in a buggy accident, Faith wants to escape into her dream of joining the church and getting married.

But then a local newspaper runs a story about a child named Adriana who was kidnapped fifteen years earlier, and everything Faith has held true comes into question.

Suddenly the community Faith has known her whole life seems unreal. Can she even trust her own family? And how will she ever find home again if she no longer belongs in the world she knows best?

Review:

In Abiding Mercy, Ruth Reid combines elements of mystery, faith, romance and the tiniest hint of the supernatural into an engrossing novel. This first installment in the Amish Mercies series will leave readers eagerly awaiting future installments.

Unlike other Amish teenagers her age, Faith Pinkham has no interest in Rumspringa and she is already taking classes to prepare for her upcoming baptism. She enjoys working in her family’s restaurant but her already busy life becomes quite hectic due to her sister Olivia’s frequent absences and their parents recent buggy accident. Her good friend Gideon Rohrer quickly steps in to lend a hand both in the restaurant and on their farm. Faith’s feelings for Gideon run deeper than friendship but their relationship is complicated by his history with Olivia. With Olivia’s involvement the Englisch world deepening, dare Faith hope for a future with Gideon?

Faith is wonderful, giving person who is confident of her place in the world. Despite her frustrations with Olivia’s behavior, she never loses her temper or lashes out at her. She instead prays for her sister while at the same time remaining hopeful they will repair their strained relationship.  Faith is also quite conflicted by her growing closeness to Gideon due to her loyalty to Olivia.  But is Faith’s devotion to her sister misplaced?

Unbeknownst to Faith, her world is about to collide with someone from the Englisch world as the fifteen year anniversary of a kidnapped toddler draws near. Roslyn Colepepper has never given up hoping her daughter Adriana will be found and she convinces authorities to re-examine the unsolved case. Will an age enhanced picture and extensive media coverage aid Roslyn in her search for her missing daughter? And what, if any, connection is there between Faith, Roslyn and a mysterious red-haired stranger?

With a gentle undercurrent of faith, Abiding Mercyis a heartwarming story that fans of Amish fiction are sure to love. Ruth Reid deftly weaves the various story arcs into an emotionally compelling novel that is impossible to put down.  The Amish Mercies series is off to a wonderful beginning with this utterly captivating first installment.

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Filed under Abiding Mercy, Amish, Amish Mercies Series, Blog Tour, Christian, Contemporary, Rated B, Romance, Ruth Reid, Thomas Nelson Publishing

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.

1 Comment

Filed under Christian, Contemporary, Denise Hunter, Rated B+, Review, Sweetbriar Cottage, Thomas Nelson Publishing, Women's Fiction

Review: Peace in the Valley by Ruth Logan Herne

Title: Peace in the Valley by Ruth Logan Herne
Double S Ranch Series Book Three
Publisher: Multnomah
Genre: Contemporary, Christian, Romance
Length: 352 pages
Book Rating: B+

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through Blogging for Vooks

Summary:

In spite of their differences, Trey Walker Stafford knows he owes his life to cowboy and legendary rancher Sam Stafford—the uncle who rescued him after his parents’ death. Trey had left the Double S Ranch to pursue music against Sam’s wishes, but returns to central Washington when he learns he’s the best match for a procedure that could save Sam’s life. Although Trey’s found country music fame and success, he’s also endured the tragic loss of his wife. He croons about love, but struggles with a yawning emptiness he can’t explain.

Overwhelmed by a growing list of challenges, but mistrustful of Stafford men, single mother Lucy Carlton reluctantly accepts Trey’s help to revive her crumbling farm when Sam instructs him to repay the overdue debt to her family.

As the two grow closer, Trey slowly begins to open his heart to this beautiful woman and strives to let go of the grief he’s held for years. Lucy has a complicated history of her own. Can Trey accept her as she is, learn to forgive the past, and find the elusive peace he’s sought for so long?

Review:

Peace in the Valley is an absolutely spellbinding novel of grace, forgiveness and trust. Although this latest release is the third installment in Ruth Logan Herne’s divine Double S Ranch series, it can easily be read as a standalone.

Trey Walker Stafford can never repay his uncle and adoptive father Sam Stafford for providing him with a loving home following his parents’ deaths from a drug overdose when he was three years old. Despite his love and respect for Sam, he could not give up his dream of becoming a musician and he now makes his home in TN. In spite of their past differences, Trey is more than willing to put his life and career on hold after discovering he is the closest match for Sam’s much needed liver transplant. Although there are risks involved with the live donor procedure, Trey knows the operation is his father’s best chance at survival. He also cannot turn down Sam’s request to help him make amends for the damage he caused on their neighbor Lucy Carlton’s farm. Trey is quite charmed by Lucy and her four children, but will learning the secrets from Lucy’s long ago past destroy their chance at happiness?

Through all of life’s tragedies and successes, Trey’s faith has remained constant. After the very public loss of his wife years earlier, he ignored the negative publicity and gossip surrounding him and worked hard to keep his career on track. However, the circumstances of her death shook Trey’s confidence that people can truly leave their pasts behind and he remains very wary and cautious about whom he trusts.

Lucy is devoted to her children and she works hard to make ends meet while also finding time to give back to those in need. She has made a few missteps in her life but she learned from her mistakes and has no intention of repeating them. Although Lucy has made peace with her past, she is quite guarded and very careful about who she trusts. She speaks honestly and openly about checkered past and she is the always willing to give people a second chance.

Trey and Lucy both share a deep faith, but their pasts make it very difficult for them trust one another. Trey is initially open to a relationship with Lucy, but he is reluctant to make promises he might not be able to keep. Once he becomes aware of Lucy’s history, Trey tries to distance himself from his growing feelings for her. Lucy’s experiences with her deceased husband naturally make her wary about becoming involved with another musician. She is also worried the unsubstantiated rumors about Trey might be true. Lucy is fiercely protective of her independence and she is quick to think the worst of Trey when he ineptly expresses some concern about an offer she is considering. Will Trey and Lucy’s respective baggage prevent them from risking their hearts?

With no shortage of valuable life lessons, Peace in the Valley is an emotionally compelling Christian romance that old and new fans of the Double S Ranch series are going to love. Trey and Lucy are vibrantly developed with imperfections, strengths and weaknesses that are very easy to relate to. Lucy and Trey’s unexpected friendship provides a firm foundation for their slow-growing romance. Ruth Logan Herne beautifully incorporates relevant scripture into the storyline in a realistic manner that will resonate with anyone who has ever struggled to let go of past hurts and mistakes in order to find peace, lasting happiness and ultimately, love.

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Filed under Christian, Contemporary, Double S Ranch Series, Multnomah Books, Peace in the Valley, Rated B+, Review, Romance, Ruth Logan Herne

Review: Life After by Katie Ganshert

Title: Life After by Katie Ganshert
Publisher: WaterBrook
Genre: Contemporary, Inspirational, Women’s Fiction
Length: 354 pages
Book Rating: B+

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through Blogging for Books

Summary:

It could have been me.

Snow whirls around an elevated train platform in Chicago. A distracted woman boards the train, takes her seat, and moments later a fiery explosion rips through the frigid air, tearing the car apart in a horrific attack on the city’s transit system. One life is spared. Twenty-two are lost.

A year later, Autumn Manning can’t remember the day of the bombing and she is tormented by grief—by guilt. Twelve months of the question constantly echoing. Why? Why? Why? Searching for answers, she haunts the lives of the victims, unable to rest.

Paul Elliott lost his wife in the train bombing and wants to let the dead rest in peace, undisturbed and unable to cause more pain for his loved ones. He wants normalcy for his twelve-year-old daughter and young son, to see them move beyond the heartbreak. But when the Elliotts and Autumn are unexpectedly forced together, he fears she’ll bring more wreckage in her wake.

In Life After, Katie Ganshert’s most complex and unforgettable novel yet, the stirring prose and authentic characters pose questions of truth, goodness, and ultimate purpose in this emotionally resonant tale.

Review:

Life After by Katie Ganshert is a poignant yet ultimately uplifting novel of healing and new beginnings.

One year after surviving a train bombing that took the lives of the other twenty-two passengers on board,  Autumn Manning is struggling with survivor’s guilt and post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Unable to face taking public transportation, she now works from home only leaving her apartment when absolutely necessary. Despite being unable to remember the bombing or the events of the fateful day, Autumn suffers from horrible nightmares. Obsessed with trying to understand why her life was spared, her life eventually intersects with the family of one of the bombing victims.

While Autumn cannot let the tragedy go as she searches for answers, marriage counselor Paul Elliott’s wife Vivian died in the attack and he wants nothing more than leave the past in the past. However, his twelve year old daughter Reese is haunted by her mother’s death and she has turned to Autumn for help in coping with her loss. With Autumn and the Elliot family bound by tragedy, is there any way they can help each other heal the wounds from the heartbreaking events from that fateful day?

Autumn positively radiates pain and sorrow as she tries to make sense of why she lived when so many others lost their lives in a senseless act of violence. Hampered by her inability to remember the events of the day, she also cannot make sense of her complicated feelings toward her now ex-fiancé Seth Ryker. She is now facing serious financial repercussions from her decision to quit her lucrative career after she physically recovered from the wounds she sustained in the bombing. The recent one year anniversary of the deadly attack is an unexpected emotional setback and she finally gives in to her family’s pleas to seek professional assistance. Autumn is stunned when Reese suddenly shows up on her doorstep, but it is coming face to face with Paul that deeply affects her.

Paul is hoping the one year anniversary of the bombing will finally be the turning point in his family’s grieving process. He is growing increasingly concerned as Reese’s behavior begins to deteriorate. His once loving daughter has turned into a stranger as she lashes out at him and her little brother Tate. But it is not until she runs away then begins shutting him out that Paul becomes truly worried about her. He has compelling reasons to try to put the death of his wife behind him but is his desire to move forward harming his daughter? Is Paul being unreasonable after he implores Autumn to stay away from his family?

Life After is a deeply affecting novel that is quite thought-provoking. The characters are beautifully developed with realistic imperfections and strengths that make them easy to relate to. There is a spiritual aspect to the storyline but it is quite understated and perfectly complements the other elements of the plot. Katie Ganshert broaches difficult subject matter in a sensitive manner and the topics will resonate with anyone who has ever questioned God’s plans. This emotionally compelling novel delves into some tough issues without becoming overly dark or depressing and is ultimately quite gratifying. It is an absolutely heartwarming journey of healing that will linger in readers’ hearts and minds long after the last page is turned.

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Filed under Christian, Contemporary, Inspirational, Katie Ganshert, Life After, Rated B+, Review, WaterBrook Press