Category Archives: Inspirational

Review: The View from Rainshadow Bay by Colleen Coble

Title: The View from Rainshadow Bay by Colleen Coble
Lavender Tides Series Book One
Publisher: Thomas Nelson Publishing
Genre: Contemporary, Inspirational, Romantic Suspense
Length: 352 pages
Book Rating: B

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley

Summary:

After her husband, Jack, dies in a climbing incident, Shauna has only her five-year-old son and her helicopter charter business to live for. Every day is a struggle to make ends meet and she lives in constant fear of losing even more than she already has.

When her business partner is murdered, his final words convince Shauna that she’s in danger too. But where can she turn? Zach Bannister was her husband’s best friend and is the person she blames for his death. She’s barely spoken to him since. But right now he seems her only hope for protecting her son.

Zach is only too happy to assuage his guilt over Jack’s death by helping Shauna any way he can. But there are secrets involved dating back to Shauna’s childhood that more than one person would prefer to stay hidden.

In The View from Rainshadow Bay, suspense, danger, and a longing to love again ignite amid the gorgeous lavender fields of Washington State.

Review:

The first exciting installment in the Lavender Tides series, The View from Rainshadow Bay by Colleen Coble is a fast-paced and intriguing mystery with elements of romance and faith.

Although it has been a year since Shauna McDade lost her beloved husband, Jack, she blames his best friend, Zach Bannister, for the climbing accident that claimed his life. Struggling to make ends meets, Shauna has been learning aerial photography from her close friend and father figure Clarence Glennon who has been separated from his wife Lucy since their only child, Darla, died from a drug overdose.  When Clarence then Lucy die under suspicious circumstances, Zach and Shauna do not think local sheriff Everett Bruchell is taking their concerns seriously so they begin their own investigation. Fearing for Shauna and her five year old son Alex’s safety, Zach convinces them to stay with him while they attempt to figure out what is happening to the people they care about.

Shauna is no stranger to tragedy and she has suffered several heartrending losses in her life. Her father is an alcoholic so she finds support from her friends. Her mother in law Marilyn has been a rock since Jack’s death and like Shauna, she also blames Zach for his loss. Extremely reluctant to accept his help since she cannot forgive him for what she perceives as his role in Jack’s accident, Shauna’s common sense prevails when they uncover very troubling information that whatever Clarence was looking into might somehow be linked to her mother who died when Shauna was a child.

An adrenaline junkie, Zach feels incredibly guilty over his self perceived role in Jack’s death. Despite his close friend’s tragic loss, he still continues to seek out pulse-pounding adventures. However, when he and Shauna begin spending time together, he comes to a new understanding of the reasons for his risky behavior. Genuinely worried about Shauna and Alex’s safety, he is greatly relieved when she agrees to stay with him. Looking over the contents of a box Clarence wanted Lucy to have, Zach and Shauna are certain these items are somehow connected to both their friends’ shocking deaths.

Zach and Shauna’s investigation into what Clarence was researching before his murder have surprising ties to her childhood and two other deaths. Some of the details they uncover are quite puzzling and virtually impossible to understand. What is the significance of a photo that Clarence apparently took during one of his flights? How did a necklace that belonged to Shauna’s mother end up in Clarence’s possession? Why is Shauna’s father so reluctant to answer herquestions? And most importantly, do the earlier deaths have any connection to most recent murders of Clarence and Lucy?

The View from Rainshadow Bay is an engaging and captivating romantic suspense novel. Shauna is a sympathetic and likable lead character who gradually comes to terms with her husband’s loss over the course of the story. Zach is quite charming and his guilt over Jack’s death is understandable but misplaced.  Zach and Shauna’s investigation into the Clarence and Lucy’s death is interesting but the Sheriff’s reluctance to take their concerns seriously is rather frustrating. The spiritual aspect is understated with Colleen Coble skillfully weaving the characters’ faith into the storyline in way that feels completely natural. While most of the various story arcs are fully resolved there is one question that will hopefully be answered in a future installment of the Lavender Tides series.

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Filed under Colleen Coble, Contemporary, Inspirational, Lavender Tides Series, Rated B, Review, Romantic Suspense, The View from Rainshadow Bay, Thomas Nelson Publishing

Review: Imperfect Justice by Cara Putman

Title: Imperfect Justice by Cara Putman
Hidden Justice Series Book Two
Publisher: Thomas Nelson Publishing
Genre: Contemporary, Inspirational, Romance, Suspense, Mystery
Length: 352 pages
Book Rating: B

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley

Summary:

The police say the woman was a murderer. Emilie Wesley knows they can’t be talking about her client . . .  can they?

To the world it seems obvious: Kaylene Adams killed her daughter and then was shot by police. Attorney Emilie Wesley knows a different story: Kaylene would never hurt anyone and was looking for a way out of a controlling, abusive relationship. Her death shakes Emilie’s belief that she can make a difference for women in violent marriages. Self-doubt plagues her as she struggles to continue her work in the wake of the tragedy.

Reid Billings thought he knew his sister—right up until he learned how she died. He discovers a letter from Kaylene begging him to fight for custody of her daughters if anything should happen to her. No attorney in her right mind would support an uncle instead of the father in a custody case, but Kaylene’s letter claims Emilie Wesley will help him.

Thrown together in the race to save Kaylene’s surviving daughter, Emily and Reid pursue the constantly evasive truth. If they can hang on to hope together, can they save a young girl—and find a future for themselves in the process?

Review:

Imperfect Justice by Cara Putman is an intriguing legal mystery with a gentle undercurrent of faith. This second installment in the Hidden Justice series easily stands on its own.

Emilie Wesley is a lawyer who is employed at a foundation that helps women escape from abusive relationships. She is worried when her client, Kaylene Adams, does not show up for a court appearance for an order of protection but nothing can prepare her for the reason Kaylene missed their appointment. Emilie is absolutely stunned by the news Kaylene is dead and authorities suspect she shot both her daughters, killing one and critically wounding the other,  before turning the gun on herself. Emilie knows Kaylene would never do anything to harm her children so she is very eager to help when her client’s younger brother, Reid Billings, requests her help in gaining custody of his niece, Kinley.

Emilie is quite shaken and she has a bit of a career crisis in the aftermath of Kaylene’s death. She is having difficulty concentrating as she tries to figure out whether or not she might have overlooked crucial information in her former client’s case. Her friends are aware of her distress and they quickly rally around her and offer unsolicited advice about her career. Adding to her worries is Emilie’s fear that her stalker is back but she  is having difficulty getting anyone to take her concerns seriously.

In the aftermath of his sister’s death,  Reid feels incredibly guilty that he let his professional aspirations prevent him from spending more time with her and her family. Stunned by his brother-in-law Robert’s demand that he stay away from him and Kinley, Reid cannot help but fear for his niece’s safety. After stumbling onto a worrying letter written to him by Kaylene, he ramps up his efforts to gain custody of Kinley. He immediately requests Emilie’s help since she has intimate knowledge of what was going on in his sister’s life.

Emilie and Reid are well aware that gaining custody of Kinley is a long shot, but fearing what will happen if she remains with Robert, they immediately begin investigating the shootings.  They leave no stone unturned as they question neighbors and Reid’s oldest niece’s friends. Reid uncovers information that supports Emilie’s assertion that Kaylene was planning to escape her marriage with her daughters but they have yet to find definitive proof that Robert was abusing her. Will they find the evidence they need before Kinley is released from the hospital into her father’s care?

The romantic element of the storyline is somewhat understated but there is no mistaking the attraction between Emilie and Reid. Emilie is also very aware that she must take care not to blur the lines between her professional and personal lives. However, Reid and Emilie do enjoy a few sweetly romantic dates during their investigation.

Imperfect Justice is a even but somewhat slow placed legal mystery. The characters are interesting  and well-developed but the storyline is a little busy due to multiple story arcs. The domestic violence aspect of the plot is realistically and sensitively depicted. Cara Putnam brings the novel to a somewhat exciting and satisfactory conclusion.  Old and new fans will enjoy this latest addition to the Hidden Justice series.

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Filed under Cara Putnam, Contemporary, Hidden Justice Series, Imperfect Justice, Inspirational, Mystery, Rated B, Review, Romance, Suspense, Thomas Nelson Publishing

Review: Any Dream Will Do by Debbie Macomber

Title: Any Dream Will Do by Debbie Macomber
Publisher: Ballantine Books
Genre: Contemporary, Romance, Inspirational
Length: 336 pages
Book Rating: B+

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley

Summary:

Beloved bestselling author Debbie Macomber returns with a powerful standalone novel about a woman forced to start her life anew, embarking on the most courageous journey of all—to a place where she learns what love and trust really mean.

Shay Benson adored her younger brother, Caden, and that got her into trouble. When he owed money, Shay realized she would do anything to help him avoid the men who were threatening him, and she crossed lines she never should have crossed. Now, determined to start fresh, she finds herself in search of a place to stay and wanders into a church to escape from the cold.

Pastor Drew Douglas adored his wife. But when he lost her, it was all he could do to focus on his two beautiful kids, and his flock came in a distant third. Now, as he too is thinking about a fresh start, he walks through his sanctuary and finds Shay sitting in a pew.

The pair strike up a friendship—Drew helps Shay get back on her feet, and she reignites his sense of purpose—that, over time, turns into something deeper, something soulful, spiritual, and possibly romantic. Even Drew’s two children are taken with this woman who has brought light back into their lives. Perhaps most important, Shay learns to trust again as she, in turn, proves herself trustworthy to her adopted community.

But Caden’s return to town and a disastrous secret threaten to undo the life Shay has tried so hard to rebuild. It will take the utmost courage and faith if she and Drew hope to find healing and open their hearts to a brighter future.

Review:

Any Dream Will Do by Debbie Macomber is an uplifting novel of redemption, second chances and love. This substantive story also includes an element of faith that is not just spiritual since a major part of the storyline centers around the belief that people can and will prevail as they attempt to turn their lives around after making disastrous life choices.

Drew Douglas is the pastor of a Seattle Church but after the death of his beloved wife Katie three years earlier, he is still struggling with lingering grief and a loss of faith. His surprise meeting with Shay Benson changes his life, but initially, not in a romantic sense. In helping her, he finds his way back to the friends and mentors he gradually allowed to slip out of his life after Katie’s death. As he becomes more engaged in life, Drew finally recognizes that he is battling more than just grief and a crisis of faith. Once he begins to emerge from the darkness that has shrouded him, Drew finds a renewed purpose and joy in his ministry. He occasionally sees Shay during this year of recovery and once both of their lives are back on track, the two form a surprising friendship that gradually deepens into love.

A dysfunctional and abusive childhood set Shay on a self-destructive path at a young age. Her poor choices also affected her brother Caden after she introduces him to her drug dealing and addicted boyfriend. On the brink of leaving er past behind, Shay’s loyalty to Caden and her guilt over involving him in her ill-fated choices results in a terrible decision that culminates with severe consequences for her. Three years later, Shay is once again presented with an opportunity to make a better life for herself, but can she bring herself to believe she is worthy of this second chance?

The friendship between Shay and Drew is quite sweet but there are quite a few obstacles they both must overcome before exploring the unexpected romance that springs up between them. Shay is constantly striving to quiet the little voice in her head that tries to convince her she does not deserve a better life.She is incredibly kindhearted and never hesitates to welcome those less fortunate into her life and her heart. While she is at first skeptical of letting God into her life, a newfound faith finally becomes an integral part of Shay’s life.

Drew is initially somewhat hesitant to bring Shay into both his and his children’s lives but he cannot deny he is drawn to her. Several people in his congregation question his judgment and he draws upon Scripture to gently, yet pointedly, make his case for welcoming her into their fold. A few issues crop up along the way that seem to indicate he might have made a precipitous decision to trust Shay but Drew’s faith in her does not waver. However, when a situation spirals out of control, will Drew be forced to decide between his church and Shay?

Any Dream Will Do is a truly inspiring novel that will resonate with anyone who has ever struggled to turn their life around. The romance between Shay and Drew is quite touching, but their relationship is secondary to the growth of the characters. &Shay’s journey is compelling and her emotions, regrets and doubts are realistically depicted. Drew’s struggle to regain his lost faith and overcome the loss of his wife are portrayed with stark honesty. The storyline also touches on social problems such as homelessness and addiction in a forthright and sensitive manner. This newest release by Debbie Macomber is a captivating story of hope, love and faith that will linger in readers’ hearts and minds long after the last page is turned.

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Filed under Any Dream Will Do, Ballantine Books, Contemporary, Debbie Macomber, Inspirational, Rated B+, Review, Romance

Review: His Guilt by Shelley Shepard Gray

Title: His Guilt by Shelley Shepard Gray
The Amish of Hart County Series Book Two
Publisher: Avon Inspire
Genre: Contemporary, Inspirational, Amish, Romance
Length: 304 pages
Book Rating: B+

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through Edelweiss

Summary:

New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Shelley Shepard Gray delivers the next novel in her Amish of Hart County series—a suspenseful tale of an Amish man who will risk all to protect the woman he loves.

Mark Fisher has returned home to Hart County, determined to put the past behind him. Two years ago, after being wrongly accused of assault, he left the Amish community, though never forgot his home. When the one person who had helped him through his rough times asks for help, Mark returns. But it is pretty Waneta Cain who makes him want to stay…

Neeta is one of the few people in Hart County who doesn’t believe Mark is guilty of hurting anyone. However, his worldliness and tough exterior do make her uneasy. As she begins to see the real man behind all the gossip and prejudice, she wonders if he is the man for her.

Just when Mark starts to believe a new life is possible, a close friend of Neeta’s is attacked. Once again, everyone in the community seems to believe he is guilty.  But what hurts most is Neeta’s sudden wariness around him. When another woman is hurt, a woman who is close to both Neeta and himself, Mark fears he knows the real culprit. And time is running out. Will Mark be able to find him before Neeta becomes his next victim?

Review:

In His Guilt, Shelley Shepard Gray’s insightful storyline about the effects of gossip and judgmental attitudes will give readers a lot to think about. Although this latest thought-provoking release is the second installment in the The Amish of Hart County series, it can easily be read as a standalone.

Two years earlier, Mark Fisher was questioned by the Sheriff about a brutal assault on a young woman in the community. He was ultimately cleared of any involvement in the case and he moved away soon after. He has recently returned to Hart County in order to work with Henry Lehman, the one person who has always supported and believed in him. His co-worker, Waneta “Neeta” Cain is initially a little anxious in his presence, but once she gets to know Mark, will she realize everyone’s fears about him are unfounded?

Although they grew up in the same Amish community, Mark and Neeta’s life experiences are very different.Mark’s childhood was extremely dysfunctional and his parents were abusive and neglected both him and his younger brother Calvin. Unlike Mark, Neeta’s parents were nothing but loving and the three of them are still quite close. As an adult, she remains devoted to them but will their relationship withstand their quick judgment against Mark?

When another young woman in the community is attacked, Mark is once again indicted in the court of public opinion. However, gifted preacher Eli delivers a powerful sermon about the dangers of gossip and judging others, but will his flock take his lessons to heart? Fortunately there are some members who are willing to admit they are wrong but when the Sheriff fails to make an arrest and the perpetrator strikes again, will Mark be able to prove his innocence?

His Guilt is a heartwarming romance with a hard-hitting storyline that is not typically found in Amish fiction.Shelley Shepard Gray broaches difficult subject matter with sensitivity and deftly highlights the fact that not even peaceful, religious communities are exempt from violence, child abuse and malicious gossip. Mark carries a terrible burden as he tries to overcome his dysfunctional past and he struggles to feel worthy of the unconditional love and support of the people in his life. Despite her strong conviction in her faith, Neeta must face her own shortcomings as the events unfold within the close-knit community. This latest addition to The Amish of Hart County series is a beautifully delivered lesson in forgiveness that also carries a timely reminder to avoid gossip and harsh judgment of others.

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Filed under Amish, Avon Inspire, Contemporary, His Guilt, Inspirational, Rated B+, Review, Romance, Shelley Shepard Gray, The Amish of Hart County Series

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

Review: Almost Like Being in Love by Beth K. Vogt

Title: Almost Like Being in Love by Beth K. Vogt
Destination Wedding Series Book Two
Publisher: Howard Books
Genre: Contemporary, Inspirational, Romance
Length: 384 pages
Book Rating: B+

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley

Summary:

From the author of Somebody Like You, a RITA finalist, and one of Publishers Weekly’s top ten books of 2014, comes the story of a woman who has everything for a perfect wedding—except the groom!

Winning an all-expenses paid Colorado destination wedding might seem like a dream come true for some people—but Caron Hollister and her boyfriend Alex Madison aren’t even engaged. How is she supposed to tell him she’s won their wedding and honeymoon when he hasn’t asked her to marry him? Being “perfect for one another” seems like the absolute best reason to get married. But what if their supposedly faultless relationship is merely a safe place to protect his secrets and a way to keep their families happy? After quitting her job, Caron accepts her best friend’s offer to visit Colorado. She needs to catch her breath. Who knows, maybe visiting the destination wedding site will make a future with Alex seem like a reality.

Kade Webster just landed the biggest deal of his life with his company, Webster Select Realty, participating in the Colorado Springs Tour of Homes. He never imagined he would run into the woman who broke his heart—Caron Hollister—right when his career is taking off. Seeing her again, Kade can’t help but wonder why Caron walked away from him years ago, leaving him with no explanation. When Kade learns his home stager won’t be able to help with the Tour of Homes, he vaults past all the reasons he should stay away from Caron, and offers her a temporary job helping him on the project. This time, their relationship is purely business.

Spending time with Kade has Caron questioning everything. The man intrigues her—at times infuriates her—and reminds her of what she lost. Has she been settling for what everyone expects of her? Just because others believe she and Alex are an ideal couple, does that mean they should get married? And how can Caron say “I do” to one man when she’s wondering “what if?” about another?

Review:

Almost Like Being in Love, the second installment in Beth K. Vogt’s delightful Destination Wedding series, is a heartfelt story of change, forgiveness and ultimately, love.

Caron Hollister’s hard work and long hours have resulted in a successful career as a realtor in her father’s firm.  She and family friend Alex Madison have been dating for two years and while he has not officially popped the question, it is understood they will someday marry.  After her father makes a shocking business decision that crushes her dream of becoming a full partner in his company, she knows it is time to sever their business relationship.  Uncertain what she wants to do next, she decides to visit her best friend Margot in Colorado where Caron unexpectedly runs into her ex-boyfriend Kade Hollister.  After she returns to Florida, she is surprised by Alex’s reaction when she tells him she won a prize for destination wedding in Telluride and their once conflict free relationship begins to feel a little off balance.  A surprising temporary job offer from Kade sounds like the perfect solution to her suddenly complicated life but will working with Kade resurrect the love she once had for the ex-Army Ranger?

After a few missteps as a teenager, Caron became a dutiful daughter who wanted nothing more than to gain her father’s approval.  She tailored her extracurricular activities to please him and even as an adult, her decisions continue to reflect her need to make him happy. After she quits her job at his realty company, Caron is hurt by Alex’s lack of support which leaves her questioning their relationship.  With both her professional and personal life in turmoil, she eagerly accepts Kade’s temporary job offer but spending time with him adds to her confusion. A surprising job offer seems to be the answer to her prayers, but will Caron find the validation she has been searching for?

On the surface, Alex seems to have a perfect life.  He works for his dad and he is so easygoing that nothing seems to bother him.  However, a long ago tragedy forever altered his family and he feels helplessly trapped by his father’s expectations and the family’s long held secrets.

Kade is also scarred by events that transpired in his childhood and he has residual abandonment issues that were reinforced after his relationship with Caron ended.  With no real explanation for the break up, his feelings for her remain conflicted but it does not take long for him to realize he still loves her.  Although Kade would like nothing more than to reunite with Caron, he has no choice but to accept her decision to Florida when her job with him comes to an end.

With a gentle undercurrent of faith, Almost Like Being in Love is a heartwarming novel that deals with realistic issues that readers can easily relate to.  Caron’s indecisiveness and need for parental approval is a little frustrating but it is extremely gratifying once she begins to make decisions based on what is best for her.  Alex’s struggles with his family are heartbreaking but he finally seeks the help he needs to break free from his unhealthy relationship with his family.  Kade must decide whether or not to go after what he wants regardless of the risk to his heart.  A reflective story about love, forgiveness and  new beginnings, this newest addition to Beth K. Vogt’s Destination Wedding series can easily be read as a standalone.

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Filed under Almos Like Being in Love, Beth Vogt, Christian, Contemporary, Destination Wedding Series, Howard Books, Inspirational, Rated B+, Review, Romance