Review: In a Foreign Land, by Janice L. Dick

In a Foreign Land, by Janice L. DickIn a Foreign Land, by Janice L. Dick (Tansy & Thistle Press, 2017)

Fifteen years after Luise Martens and her family escaped from Russia to China, the past catches up with them. Soon they must flee again, from a terrible enemy they thought they’d left behind.

The novel opens in 1945, and it’s a sequel to Other Side of the River. If you haven’t read that book, you may want to do so first. It’s not necessary for comprehension, but it adds a level of depth to understanding these characters’ lives and struggles.

Book one was Luise’s story as a young woman. Book two is partly her story, but partly the story of her son, Danny. It’s interesting to watch the dynamics between the son facing trials for the first time and the mother who has endured similar times.

I always appreciate Janice Dick’s historical fiction, for its richness of character and setting and for what it teaches me about the Russian Mennonites and their struggle to live as pacifists, trusting God’s care in the middle of dangerous times. As Luise says, “Sometimes living for a cause is more difficult than dying for it.” [Kindle location 412]

Luise’s faith has grown stronger through her suffering, but Danny can’t embrace a God who could allow so much to be taken from him.

In a Foreign Land is an inspiring tale of courage, danger, family, and love, set against a backdrop of international conflict and an oppressive regime. The novel is based on a true story.

The In Search of Freedom series will conclude with book 3, Far Side of the Sea. For more about the author and her books, visit janicedick.wordpress.com.

[Review copy from my personal library.]

Review: Ready to Fumble, by Christy Barritt

Ready to Fumble, by Christy BarrittReady to Fumble, by Christy Barritt (River Heights, 2017)

She’s a TV star who played a detective, but Joey Darling thinks of herself as the character’s klutzy opposite. Now her career is in ruins, and she’s fled Hollywood for the Outer Banks of North Carolina to search for her father.

Joey’s afraid to trust the local police, who may have been involved in his disappearance, but she doesn’t have many clues to follow. As if that weren’t enough challenge for this non-detective, a strange woman asks her to find her missing fiancé.

On the plus side, she’s a method actor who took some self-defense and investigative training. She actually has a PI license, just not for this state.

On the minus side, someone is recreating one of her TV episodes, and Joey doesn’t remember the ending but it might involve death: even her own, if she can’t pull off an escape like her alter ego.

The story is told in first person, and after Joey introduces herself, she asks:

Confused? Just keep reading. Please. Because maybe you can make sense of this mess I’ve made.

With an invitation like that, who won’t read on?

Christy Barritt kicks off her Worst Detective Ever mystery series with her signature snappy humour and upbeat delivery. This isn’t all a surface read, though. Joey has a lot of hurt and self-doubt from her abusive ex, and the two men who attract her more than she’ll admit each have layers of complexity that leave us wondering who they really are.

Plot, characters, and setting all work for me, and I’ll happily continue reading when the next book comes out. Here’s hoping I can keep up: she’s releasing “episodes” monthly. Just like Joey’s TV show. What I like about this is that each one is a full novel. Although the overall mystery of the missing dad spans individual books, Ready to Fumble is a complete story in its own right.

[Review copy from my personal library.]

New Releases in Christian Fiction (February 2017)

February 2017 New Releases from members of American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW):

More in-depth descriptions of these books can be found on the ACFW Fiction Finder website.

Biblical:
redeeming-graceRedeeming Grace by Jill Eileen Smith — When famine visits Bethlehem, Boaz holds out hope for rain while his relative Elimelech moves his wife Naomi and their sons to Moab. For a while, it appears the Lord is blessing Elimelech’s family, and his sons marry two lovely Moabite women. But calamities strike, one after another, leaving Naomi alone in a foreign land with only her childless daughters-in-law for comfort. When news reaches Naomi that the famine in Bethlehem has lifted, only Ruth will hazard the journey to her mother-in-law’s homeland. Destitute and downhearted, Naomi resigns herself to a life of bitter poverty, but Ruth holds out hope for a better future. And Boaz may be the one God has chosen to provide it. (Biblical from Revell – A Division of Baker Publishing Group)

Biblical Romance:
building-benjaminBuilding Benjamin by Barbara M. Britton — Naomi desires to dance well enough to catch the eye of a wealthy landowner. Her father needs a substantial bride price due to the deaths of her brothers at the hands of the tribe of Benjamin. But when Benjamites raid the Ephraimite feast and capture young girls, Naomi is bound and carried from her home by Eliab, a troubled shepherd who needs a wife. As Naomi awaits rescue, she finds Eliab has a strong faith in God and a just reason for abducting her. A reason that affects all the tribes of Israel. The future of the tribe of Benjamin hangs in the balance, but if Naomi follows her heart and stays with Eliab to rebuild his lineage, she must forfeit her family and become a traitor to her own tribe. (Biblical Romance from Harbourlight Books [Pelican])

Contemporary Romance:
grace-and-the-rancherGrace and the Rancher by Mary Alford — Can a runaway singer and a makeshift rancher, thrust together by circumstance and held together by the common thread of loss and a love of music, find hope and a happily-ever-after under the stars of Delaney Mountain? (Contemporary Romance from White Rose Publishing [Pelican])

capturing-beauty Capturing Beauty by Brenda S. Anderson — Photographer Haven Carlysle is a changed man. He returns to Duluth to capture the North Shore’s beauty … and to recapture the love of his son. But that means making amends with his ex-girlfriend too. Enter Callie Beaumont. All her life, Callie has longed to work outdoors soaking up God-breathed beauty, and the opportunity is finally on the horizon. But being the liaison between the handsome photographer and his son has thrown her dreams, and her heart, into chaos. Can Haven capture her heart when she won’t let him capture her image? And will his poor choices cost Callie her dream job and him the love of his son? (Contemporary Romance, Independently Published)

the-lawman's -secret-sonThe Lawman’s Secret Son by Lorraine Beatty — Suddenly a Father Police officer Seth Montgomery knows all about order—but his world is thrown into chaos when he learns he has a five-year-old son. With little Jack suddenly in his care, Seth turns to neighbor Carrie Fletcher for help. Given her checkered past, Carrie prefers to keep to herself, but there’s no denying she cares for the boy—and her feelings for charming Seth are rapidly developing, too. When someone from Carrie’s past shows up threatening to jeopardize the life she’s worked so hard to build, Carrie will have to fight for her future with the new family she’s found…or risk losing everything. (Contemporary Romance from Love Inspired [Harlequin])

maybe-it's-youMaybe It’s You by Candace Calvert — Micah Prescott’s goal is to improve the Hope hospital image, but his role as a volunteer crisis responder is closer to his heart. The selfless work helps fill a void in his life left by family tragedy. So does a tentative new relationship with the compassionate, beautiful, and elusive ER nurse, Sloane Ferrell. Then a string of brutal crimes makes headlines, summons responders . . . and exposes disturbing details of Sloane’s past. Can hope spring from crisis? (Contemporary Romance from Tyndale House)

a-second-chanceA Second Chance by Alexis Goring — Newly single food critic and newspaper reporter Traci Hightower is done with dating. After the man of her dreams left her at the altar on their wedding day and ran off with her “best friend,” Traci resigned herself to being a bachelorette for life. Marc Roberts is a political reporter who is known as Mr. Nice Guy, the one who always finishes last. But his widowed sister Gina Braxton appreciates his compassion and kindness, since she’s raising her two kids alone. With God’s guidance and the help of Gina’s matchmaking skills honed by her career as a bestselling romance novelist, Traci and Marc find hope for their broken hearts. (Contemporary Romance from Forget Me Not Romances)

the-amish-wandererThe Amish Wanderer by Laura V. Hilton — After her daed, the bishop, is admitted to a mental hospital after hurting their small Amish community, Bethany Weiss is ready to get away from Jamesport, MO—and away from God. Silas Beiler, dogged by a rough childhood and a family who blames him for each new disaster, is hitchhiking toward Pennsylvania in hopes of stability. He sleeps in barns where he can and works for food when possible. When Bethany spies a man asleep in the hayloft, she first fears the return of an unwelcome suitor. But when it is Silas who turns and speaks, the memories flood back: a happy summer six years ago, full of lemonade, long walks, and budding courtship. Can their old love overcome both this new pain and the hurt and rejection of their past? (Contemporary Romance from Whitaker House)

avalancheAvalanche by Gayla K. Hiss — Set in the North Cascades National Park of Washington State, Avalanche is the inspirational story of one man set on revenge and the woman who risks everything to help him find the fugitive who killed his partner. (Contemporary Romance from Mountain Brook Ink)

the-doctor's-texas-babyThe Doctor’s Texas Baby by Deb Kastner — When Carolina Mason shows up in Haven, Texas, after a three-year absence, no one is more surprised than town veterinarian Wyatt Harrow. Especially when he sees Carolina’s two-year-old son, Matty. Their son. How could she have kept his child a secret? Carolina doesn’t deny the boy is his. She thought she was doing what was best for everyone when she left, but she realizes she was wrong. Though Wyatt is eager to make up for lost time with Matty, Carolina’s not so sure that extends to her. Can these former sweethearts navigate their complicated past to make a family for their son? (Contemporary Romance from Love Inspired [Harlequin])

spring-raineSpring Raine by Delia Latham — A last-minute decision sends a young woman to a seaside community and lodging at Paradise Pines…where life takes a whole new path. (Contemporary Romance from White Rose Publishing [Pelican])

finding-joyFinding Joy by Melanie D. Snitker — A horrific accident changed everything for Parker Wilson. He returns to his family’s ranch, the scars on his face a daily reminder of all he’s lost, yet his mom still insists he needs to stop hiding and live his life again. The beautiful new employee she hires is the last thing he needs, and he’ll do whatever it takes to make the girl quit and regain the peace and quiet he prefers. Only deep desperation could force Chelsea Blake to work on a cattle ranch. But if she’s going to avoid her parents’ judgment when they arrive in three weeks, she must turn the temporary job into a permanent one. Between dodging mud, feeding longhorn cattle, and dealing with a handsome boss who keeps giving her the cold shoulder, staying gainfully employed is proving to be a challenge. Chelsea may not be cut out for ranch life, but her determination to succeed is stronger than Parker’s efforts at forcing her to leave. Surprisingly alike, will the two set aside their disapproval to find immeasurable joy? (Contemporary Romance, Independently Published)

General Fiction:
the-secret-heartThe Secret Heart by Marie Wells Coutu — After a whirlwind romance, beautiful Shawna Moore marries Hunter Wilson, the governor of Tennessee. Now, she wonders if the governor ever loved her or only hoped to avoid a scandal. In this modern re-imagining of the biblical story of Bathsheba and King David, an investigative reporter is asking questions–the wedding took place only six weeks following the death of Shawna’s first husband in Iraq. If he discovers the truth about Shawna’s baby, Hunter’s chances for reelection, as well as Shawna’s reputation, will be ruined. But keeping their secret is destroying their marriage. Will Hunter’s choice mean the end of his political career or his family? (General Fiction from Write Integrity Press)

home-at-lastHome at Last by Deborah Raney — All her life, Shayla Michaels, owner of the Coffee’s On bakery, has felt as if she straddled two worlds. Her mother’s white family labeled her African American father with names Shayla didn’t repeat in polite–well, in any company. Her father’s family disapproved as well, though they eventually embraced Shayla as their own. After the death of her mother, and her brother Jerry’s incarceration, life has left Shayla’s father bitter, her niece, Portia, an orphan, and Shayla responsible for them all. She knows God loves them all, but why couldn’t people accept each other for what was on the inside? For their hearts? Everything changes one icy morning when Portia runs into the street and Link Whitman nearly hits her with his pickup. Soon he is falling in love with Shayla. Can they overcome society’s view of their differences and find true love? (General Fiction from Abingdon Press)

baggage-claimBaggage Claim by Cathe Swanson — When Ben Taylor, widower and single dad, gets caught up in a dangerous insurance fraud network, he has to learn to take a stand for right – and make a leap of faith: can he trust his nanny – who isn’t quite what she appears to be – and his newly-discovered biological father to hide and protect his four young children? (General Fiction, Independently Published)

Historical Romance:
the-matchmaker-brides-collectionThe Matchmaker Brides Collection by Diana Lesire Brandmeyer, Amanda Cabot, Lisa Carter, Ramona K. Cecil, Lynn A. Coleman, Susanne Dietze, Kim Vogel Sawyer, Connie Stevens and Liz Tolsma — Meet nine women of the late 1800s who have found themselves in the role of matchmaker. They think they have mastered the art of recognizing romantic potential in others, but when it comes to their own lives they have been unlucky in love. In small communities from Tennessee to Colorado, Wyoming to Indiana, love unexpectedly enters the women’s lives with men they never imagined marrying. But what will it take to get these ladies to say “I do”? (Historical Romance from Barbour Publishing)

the-reluctant-guardianThe Viscount’s Proposal by Melanie Dickerson — Leorah Langdon has no patience for Regency society’s shallow hypocrisy and unnecessary rules, especially for women. She’s determined to defy convention by marrying for grand passion instead of settling for a loveless union like her parents–or wedding a stuffy, pompous gentleman like Edward, the Viscount Withinghall. But when a chance meeting in the countryside leads to Leorah and Withinghall being discovered in his overturned carriage–alone and after dark–the ensuing gossip may force them together.Withinghall has his reasons for clinging to propriety and he certainly has no time for a reckless hoyden like Miss Langdon. But soon the two discover that Withinghall’s coach “accident” was no such thing: the vehicle was sabotaged. Strong-willed Leorah and duty-driven Withinghall will have to work together if they have any hope of saving her reputation, his political career–and his life. (Historical Romance from Waterfall Press)

the-reluctant-guardianThe Reluctant Guardian by Susanne Dietze — When Gemma Lyfeld inadvertently interrupts a dangerous smuggling operation in her English village, she’s rescued by a mysterious Scottish spy. Now with criminals after her and her hopes for an expected marriage proposal recently dashed, she will make her society debut in London. But not without the man tasked with protecting her… Covert government agent Tavin Knox must keep Gemma safe from the criminals who think she can identify them—a mission he never wanted. But as he escorts her and her rascally nephews around London, the lovely English lass proves braver than he ever imagined. Suddenly, the spy who works alone has one Season to become the family man he never dreamed he’d be. (Historical Romance from Love Inspired [Harlequin])

shine-like-the-dawnShine like the Dawn by Carrie Turansky — In a quiet corner of northern Edwardian England, Margaret Lounsbury diligently works in her grandmother’s millinery shop, making hats and caring for her young sister. Several years earlier, a terrible event reshaped their family, shattering an idyllic life and their future prospects. An even which…might not have been an accident. When Nathaniel Harcourt returns from his time in the Royal Navy and inherits his father’s vast estate, Morningside Manor, he also assumes partial control of his father’s engineering company and the duty of repaying an old debt to the Lounsbury family. But years of separation between Nate and Maggie have taken a toll and Maggie struggles to trust her old friend. Will the search for the truth about her parents’ death draw the two friends closer or leave them both with broken hearts? (Historical Romance from Waterbrook Multnomah)

the-bounty-hunter's-babyThe Bounty Hunter’s Baby by Erica Vetsch — Bounty hunter Thomas Beaufort has no problem handling outlaws, but when he’s left with a criminal’s baby to care for, he’s in over his head. And the only person he can think of to ask for help is Esther Jensen, the woman whose heart he broke when he left town. But can he convince her to put aside the past until he tracks down the baby’s outlaw father? Esther is ready to run Thomas off her Texas ranch–until she spies the abandoned newborn in his arms. Soon, working together to care for the precious babe stirs old hopes of a family. With trouble heading to their door, they could overcome it together–if she’ll entrust her wary heart to this sweet, second-chance family… (Historical Romance from Love Inspired [Harlequin])

Thriller/Suspense:
raging-stormRaging Storm by Vannetta Chapman — When a massive solar flare wiped out all modern technology across the globe, the small town of Abney, Texas, was thrown into chaos. Shelby Sparks and her diabetic teenage son, Carter, have found refuge, but Shelby knows Carter can’t survive without insulin–and Shelby will risk her life traveling to Austin to make sure he gets it. Shelby’s best friend and high school sweetheart, Max Berkman, won’t let her make the journey alone. Together, they reach the capital–only to discover that Austin has turned into an urban nightmare on the brink of anarchy. Now the only thing more uncertain than finding what they need is the hope of making it out of the city alive. (Thriller/Suspense from Harvest House Publishers)

Speculative:
long-time-goneTime Search by Danele J. Rotharmel — While the TEMCO staff searches for clues to unravel the mystery of his real name, their enemy is lurking in the shadows searching for his targets–it’s anyone’s guess whose search will be completed first! (Speculative/Time Travel Fiction from Prism Book Group)

Western Romance:
long-time-goneLong Time Gone by Mary Connealy — Rancher Justin Boden is normally an unshakable and rugged man, but with his brother, Cole, shot and in mortal danger, even a tough man faces doubts. And it doesn’t help that Angie DuPree, the assistant to the doctor trying to save Cole, is as distracting a woman as Justin ever laid eyes on. With her and the doc’s timely skills, Cole looks to be on the mend, and Justin and the rest of the Bodens can turn their attention back to the dangers facing them. It’s clear now that everything that’s occurred is part of a much bigger plot that could date back to a decades-old secret. Can they uncover all the pieces before danger closes in on them, or is the threat to the ranch even bigger than any of the Bodens could imagine? (Western Romance from Bethany House [Baker])

Romantic Suspense ebook sale

Haven’t read this one yet? Now’s your chance.

Get the ebook of Secrets and Lies for only 99 cents until February 9.

Schedule Change

Things have been different here on my blog lately, and it’s time to redefine the schedule. On Tuesdays, you may find a book review. On Fridays, another post or guest post. Some weeks there may be a gap, if I don’t have anything particular I’d like to share.

Almost nine years ago, I started posting weekly devotionals, and every week God showed me something that I could share, usually something I needed for myself as well. Sometimes it didn’t come until Tuesday evening for a Wednesday morning post, but it always came. (Except for the one week when He sent me back to a previous post I needed to re-read, so I re-posted that.)

It reached the point where I didn’t stress if nothing had appeared yet, because He always provided. That’s how I knew the devotionals were something He wanted me to write, and I committed to share them every week as long as He gave them.

When nothing came even by bedtime on a Tuesday not long ago, I thought, okay, this is a new stretch. Maybe first thing in the morning. I like to schedule my posts ahead of time, but perhaps the lesson was in flexibility.

Wednesday morning’s reading and prayer time brought nothing: no insight to share, no stress, just a surreal sense of… nothing.

My prayer for these posts has always been, “Lord, let me hear what You say. Don’t let me make anything up.” So there was no devotional post that day. Nor has there been one since.

Not that He’s stopped teaching me, but there’s been nothing to share here. It feels like that door has closed, and I’m okay with that. Surprised, but okay.

Is this an end of a season, or a hiatus? I guess we’ll find out in time. For now, I’m grateful for the privilege to have been part of what He was doing in this way, and I’m grateful to those who’ve occasionally let me know how He used something I said in their lives. Those are the reward moments for a writer.

Thanks for taking this journey with me. I’m still writing, working on my first Green Dory Inn Mystery, and there’s a nonfiction project in the works, too.

Devotional-wise, God will continue blessing and teaching and challenging you through other voices. His love, mercy, and saving power is greater than we can imagine.

If you haven’t yet discovered them, here are my three favourite devotional resources:

I can’t pass up the opportunity to share one last song. There are so many to choose from, but let’s go out with one that celebrates God’s character and His tenacity: “God Undefeatable,” from Todd Agnew.

The Grass is Always Greener—or is It? (Guest Post)

The Grass is Always Greener—or is It?

By Steph Beth Nickel

I had an epiphany recently.

I would have said, by and large, I was content—happy even. But then I took a closer look at my dreams and aspirations.

"The grass isn't always greener."

Work Life

I serve as church administrator. The hours are good. I have every Friday off. I enjoy interacting with the other staff members and those who call or pop into the office.

But part of me would enjoy earning enough money from writing that I wouldn’t need to work outside the home. Odd … because I’m an extrovert.

Ministry Life

I am involved with the Awana program at church. I love the kids and enjoy sharing the truths of Scripture with them.

But I would like to help develop a more active ladies’ ministry. Plus, I’d love to have the opportunity to once again speak to ladies’ groups at other churches and at workshops, seminars, and conferences. Years ago I spoke fairly regularly.

Writing Life

Most of my writing opportunities are in the area of nonfiction. And I’m honoured to be a contributor to HopeStreamRadio and to be working on a follow-up to Paralympian Deb Willows’s memoir, Living Beyond My Circumstances.

But I have tried my hand at fiction and have gotten some great comments. The fact that I love to read novels is likely why I would like to write short stories, if not full-length fiction. Plus, I have an idea for a series I’d love to develop.

Spiritual Life

Having dreams and aspirations isn’t a bad thing, but it can get in the way of obeying Colossians 3:23, which says, “Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men” (ESV).

Whatever you do …

So whether I’m creating the bulletin, cleaning toilets (as co-custodian with my hubby, I do that too), or hitting the best-seller list (not really a dream of mine, but you get the picture), I ought to be doing it for God’s glory. [Tweet this: Do each task in a way that honours God.]

While both women’s and children’s ministry are important, for now, I’m involved with children. Not only should I do it “for the Lord,” I must remember that I can be instrumental in pointing boys and girls to Jesus and that’s an incredible privilege (Matthew 19:14).

I have a number of writing and editing projects on the go. In order to fulfill these responsibilities, I must buckle down and focus. I must also, more regularly, give thanks for these opportunities. I have this moment; the next isn’t guaranteed. If I am to write fiction, I will—someday.

How about you? Do you consider the different aspects of your life and wish they were different?

Just remember … the grass isn’t always greener [tweet this].

As believers in Jesus, may we commit Colossians 3:23 to memory and seek to live it out.

 

(Scroll down to share your comment.)

Steph Beth Nickel

Steph Beth Nickel
(Photo by Stephen G. Woo Photography)

Stephanie (Steph Beth) Nickel is an award-winning co-author, a freelance editor and writer, a labour doula, and a former personal trainer. She also loves to speak, teach, and take slice-of-life photos. She would love to connect with you on Facebook or Twitter, on her website or blog.

Review: Grace for the Good Girl, by Emily P. Freeman

Grace for the Good Girl, by Emily P. FreemanGrace for the Good Girl, by Emily P. Freeman (Revell, 2011)

This is a book for all the women whose honest desire to be good sets up impossible expectations and leads to hiding behind facades and fearing to be found out. Anxiety grows, and we struggle in our own strength instead of learning to rely on God. Hence the subtitle: “Letting Go of the Try-Hard Life.”

The author says, “Somewhere along the way, I got the message that salvation is by faith alone but anything after that is faith plus my hard work and sweet disposition” (page 13). Many of us fall into that trap, and Grace for the Good Girl can help us reset.

One of my favourite lines is about giving ourselves “permission to sit down on the inside and live like I have a God who knows what He’s doing” (page 65).

The book is in three sections: the hiding (in which we find out how we’re not alone in this after all), the finding, and the freedom of being found. It ends with a small group leader’s guide for an eight-week study.

Emily P. Freeman writes with transparency and candour about her own struggles, and shares the stories of other “recovering good girls.” The book is easy to read and encouraging. It points us back to relying on the character and grace of God, and to learning to live by faith instead of by feeling. It addresses core issues like anxiety, identity, emotions, and self-reliance, and while you likely won’t recognize yourself on every page, don’t be surprised to relate to at least a few of the stories.

The “try-hard life” is exhausting. Grace for the Good Girl points to freedom. Emily P. Freeman has also written A Million Little Ways and Simply Tuesday: Small-Moment Living in a Fast-Moving World. For more about the author and her ministry, visit emilypfreeman.com.

[Review copy from my personal library.]

Review: Go, Ivy, Go! by Lorena McCourtney

Go, Ivy, Go! by Lorena McCourtneyGo, Ivy, Go!, by Lorena McCourtney (Rogue Ridge Press, 2015)

Ivy Malone has been on the run from the Braxton family for years, but they haven’t tried to kill her recently. Maybe it’s safe to go home. Her boyfriend disagrees, but once Ivy gets an idea in her head, there’s no stopping her.

If you’re not familiar with Ivy, she’s a self-described “LOL” (little old lady). In the first book in the series, aptly titled Invisible, Ivy discovered that most people don’t notice elderly people – which came in very handy when she decided to solve a murder.

Ivy is down-to-earth, brave, and funny. She’s not terribly tech-savvy, but she has friends who can help when needed. She has a kind heart, and her faith is a quiet but important part of who she is.

I’ve enjoyed this series, and am glad this book came along to wrap it up. There was a long gap after the previous instalment. And now readers can look forward to a new series, The Mac ‘n Ivy Mysteries.

If you’ve loved the series, grab this final book. If it’s new to you, start with Invisible. Or jump in here, and catch up on the previous stories later.

Lorena McCourtney has also written the Cate Kincaid Files, Andi McConnell Mysteries, and the Julesburg Mysteries, all mystery-suspense stories.

[Review copy from my personal library.]

New Releases in Christian Fiction (January 2017)

January 2017 New Releases from members of American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW):

More in-depth descriptions of these books can be found on the ACFW Fiction Finder website.

Contemporary Romance:

Romance Grows in Arcadia Valley by Valerie Comer, Mary Jane Hathaway, Elizabeth Maddrey, Danica Favorite, Lee Tobin McClain and Annalisa Daughety — Is love possible for a makeshift mom and a handsome widower? What about a bed and breakfast owner and the farmer next door? A curvy jilted bride and a mysterious, handsome chef? Then there’s the real estate consultant and the grandson of her elderly client; a high-powered lawyer and a woman farmer, and a formerly engaged couple. Can love make a difference in their lives? Exploring food, friends, and family in Arcadia Valley, each of these novellas kicks off a three-book series, intertwined with the works of the other authors. This collection is only the beginning of your adventure! (Contemporary Romance, Independently Published)

Restoring Love by Jennifer Slattery — Mitch, a contractor and house-flipper, is restoring a beautiful old house in an idyllic Midwestern neighborhood. Angela, a woman filled with regrets and recently transplanted to his area, is anything but idyllic. As Mitch struggles to keep his business afloat, and Angela works to correct the mistakes of her past, these two unlikely friends discover they have something unexpected in common–a young mom fighting to give her children a better life after her husband’s incarceration. While both Mitch and Angela are drawn to help this young mother survive, they also find themselves drawn to each other. Will a lifetime of regrets hold them back from redemption and true love? (Contemporary Romance from New Hope Publishers)

Historical Mystery:

Murder on the Moor by Julianna Deering — Drew and Madeline Farthering visit the Yorkshire moor to catch a killer and solve a mystery that involves an old feud, a new rivalry and a huge, spectral hound that may or may not be a harbinger of death. (Historical Mystery from Bethany House [Baker])

Historical Romance:

A Note Yet Unsung by Tamera Alexander — A master violinist trained in Vienna, Rebekah Carrington manages to get an audition at the newly-formed Nashville Philharmonic. But the conductor–determined to leave his mark on the world of classical music–bows to public opinion. Women are “far too fragile and frail” for the rigors of an orchestra, he says, and Rebekah’s hopes are swiftly dashed. Nathaniel Tate Whitcomb is Nashville’s new orchestra leader. And despite a reluctant muse–and a strange buzzing and recurring pain in his head–he must finish composing his symphony before the new opera hall opens. But far more pressing, he must finish it for his dying father, who inspired his love of music. Then Tate’s ailment worsens. Rebekah can help him finish his symphony. But how do you win back a woman’s trust when you’ve robbed her of her dream? (Historical Romance from Bethany House [Baker])

The American Heiress Brides Collection by Lisa Carter, Mary Eileen Davis, Susanne Dietze, Anita Mae Draper, Patty Smith Hall, Cynthia Hickey, Lisa Karon Richardson, Lynette Sowell and Kimberley Woodhouse — Meet nine young women in America between 1880 and 1911 who have been blessed by fortunes made in gold, silver, industry, ranching, and banking. But when it comes to love, each woman struggles to find true love within a society where “first comes money, second comes marriage.” What kind of man can they trust with their greatest treasure—their hearts? (Historical Romance from Barbour Publishing)

Two Suitors for Anna by Molly Jebber — In 1903 Ohio, a young Amish woman must choose between the life she has long planned for with her beloved Noah Schwartz, and a new, very different future… But Noah has a surprise for Anna: once they’re married, he wants them to travel and live in other communities. Anna, who loves her home and her job at the quilt shop, is distraught when he takes her hesitation as rejection—and leaves. Daniel Bontrager’s arrival adds to Anna’s confusion. Since taking over his late brother’s farm, the handsome roofer has offered friendship and gentle attentions. Yet the pull of first love is strong and deep, especially when Noah returns. Through each revelation, Anna must search her faith for guidance, knowing she is choosing not just a husband, but a life to nurture and to share… (Historical Romance from Kensington)

My Heart Belongs in Fort Bliss, Texas by Erica Vetsch — Journey to Fort Bliss, Texas, where a battle of emotions versus ideals is about to be waged. When a high-steppin’ eastern fashion artist, Priscilla Hutchens, swoops down on the fort to gain custody of her twin niece and nephew she is met with resistance by their uncle, post surgeon Major Elliot Ryder, who thinks he knows what is best for them. Who will win the battle? Or will a truce be called for the sake of love and family? (Historical Romance from Barbour Publishing)

Romantic Suspense:

Dead Run by Jodie Bailey — Kristin James’s morning run turns deadly when she’s attacked by a stranger who’s after something her deceased soldier brother stole overseas. Her neighbor Sergeant First Class Lucas Murphy steps in to help her and won’t let her brush the attack under the rug. He’ll do everything he can to keep Kristin alive, but he can’t tell her that he’s under orders to investigate her link to her brother’s misdeeds. Kristin has no idea what the bad guy is after and doesn’t want to believe that her brother wasn’t on the straight and narrow. But as evidence against him piles up, can they catch the criminals without becoming the next casualties? (Romantic Suspense from Love Inspired [Harlequin])

Justice Delayed by Patricia Bradley — It’s been eighteen years since TV crime reporter Andi Hollister’s sister was murdered. The confessed killer is behind bars, and the execution date is looming. But when a letter surfaces stating that the condemned killer didn’t actually do it, Detective Will Kincaide of the Memphis Cold Case Unit will stop at nothing to help Andi get to the bottom of it. After all, the person who confessed to the crime is Will’s cousin. They have less than a week to find the real killer before the wrong person is executed. But much can be accomplished in one week–including uncovering police corruption, running for your life, and falling in love. (Romantic Suspense from Revell [Baker])

Undercover Protector by Elizabeth Goddard — Undercover at a tiger sanctuary, Special Agent Grayson Wilde is convinced the owner’s involved in a wildlife trafficking ring–until someone tries to kill her. Gemma’s determined to rebuild the tiger oasis she lost when her family died, but someone wants her out of the way, and she’s starting to wonder if her parents’ and uncle’s deaths were really accidental. Grayson says he’ll do anything to protect Gemma, but she can’t shake the feeling that her alluring new volunteer might not be all that he seems. With a vicious criminal closing in, though, she has to trust Grayson…because she won’t survive without him. (Romantic Suspense from Love Inspired [Harlequin])

Buried Memories by Carol J. Post — A soldier hero suffering from PTSD and a young woman struggling to overcome a traumatic childhood fight for their lives and find healing together. (Romantic Suspense from Love Inspired [Harlequin])

Still Life by Dani Pettrey — Blacklisted in the photography business over a controversial shot, Avery Tate answered an ad for a crime scene photographer. She expected to be laughed at, but crime scene analyst Parker Mitchell hired her outright–and changed her life. But six months ago, when her feelings for Parker became too strong, she left his employ to sort out her heart. Now, for the first time, Avery is facing the world that rejected her to attend the gallery opening of a photography exhibit and support her best friend, who modeled for the show. But the only image of her friend is a chilling photo of her posing as if dead–and the photographer insists he didn’t take the shot. Worse, her friend can’t be found. She immediately calls Parker for help. As Avery, Parker, and his friends in law enforcement dig into the mystery, they find themselves face-to-face with a relentless and deadly threat. (Romantic Suspense from Bethany House [Baker])

Supernatural Thriller:

Fatal Accusation by Rachel Dylan — Attorney Olivia Murray hopes her life in Windy Ridge will get back to normal after a hard-fought trial. But she soon finds out that the forces of evil have not given up. An embezzling scandal rocks the community church to its core. The New Age groups are ready to declare victory when a high-profile prosecutor files criminal charges against the local pastor. However, Olivia is not willing to give up on the community she’s come to love. She takes on the defense pro bono knowing it could destroy her career, but it’s a case she is called to defend. The battle will be fierce, but she’s not fighting it alone. Her friend and fellow attorney Grant Baxter is by her side. Olivia must use all the tools in her arsenal to combat those who seek to destroy the believers in the community. If Olivia can’t prove the pastor’s innocence, more than her career is on the line. The entire community of Windy Ridge could fall to the forces of darkness. (Supernatural Thriller, Independently Published)

Picks from 2016

Goodreads tells me I’ve read 103 books in 2016. And that’s not counting Bible reading. Here are the books (and music) that I’ve most enjoyed this year. Some were produced in 2016, some previously. Pop a note into the comments with your own favourites?

My top picks from 2016:

Christian living: The Menopause Guide, by Danna Demetre, RN.

Contemporary novel: The Things We Knew, by Catherine West.

Favourites revisited: Ice Station Zebra, by Alistair MacLean, and the Blackcollar series: Blackcollar, The Backlash Mission, and Blackcollar: The Judas Solution, by Timothy Zahn.

Historical novel: Forest Child, by Heather Day Gilbert.

How-to: Scrivener for Dummies, by Gwen Hernandez.

Mystery novels: A Fool and His Monet, by Sandra Orchard, A Great Reckoning, by Louise Penny, and Go, Ivy, Go! by Lorena McCourtney.

Series of the year: The Michelli Family series by Kristen Heitzmann: Secrets, Unforgotten, and Echoes.

Speculative novels: The Shattered Vigil, by Patrick W. Carr, The Bands of Mourning, by Brandon Sanderson, and Mistborn: Secret History, by Brandon Sanderson.

Thriller: The Domino Effect, by Davis Bunn.

Science Fiction novel: 2016 was not a good science fiction year for me. A few 4-stars, but nothing to make my year-end list. Better things in store for 2017!

Writing how-to: 5 Secrets of Story Structure, by K.M. Weiland.

New-to-me musical artists of the year: Lauren Daigle, Travis Ryan, and Vertical Church Band.

Janet's 2016 Goodreads stats

If you’re bored, click the image and Goodreads will display the book covers.

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