Author Archives: Janet Sketchley

About Janet Sketchley

Janet Sketchley is an Atlantic Canadian writer whose Redemption’s Edge Christian suspense novels have each been finalists in The Word Awards. She's also the author of the devotional collection, A Year of Tenacity. Janet blogs about faith and books. She loves Jesus and her family, and enjoys reading, worship music, and tea. Fans of Christian suspense are invited to join her writing journey through her monthly newsletter: bit.ly/JanetSketchleyNews.

Review: All That it Takes, by K.L. Ditmars

All That it Takes, by K.L. Ditmars (Shoaling Waters Press, 2021)

High tension from page one until the end. Even when Julia slows down to breathe and recover, author K.L. Ditmars has created frightening enough enemies that you feel them looming just off the page ready to overpower her.

When Julia’s husband is murdered in front of her, she only knows one safe place to run—to a homeless man living in the forest behind their home. The man, Charlie, is ex-military, carrying his own trauma from serving during the Rwandan genocide. And he’s not exactly homeless, or resourceless.

The human trafficking ring responsible for Julia’s husband’s death considers her a loose end—to be eliminated. She doesn’t dare approach the police, because the killers framed her for the murder. Threaded among Julia’s defensive plans and strategic actions and eventual investigation, we see glimpses of her enemies’ ruthlessness.

There’s a lot to like about this book: vibrant settings, courage, human kindness. And an Irish Wolfhound named Aengus. There’s also truth: about the ongoing scourge of human trafficking in Canada and the United States.

There’s also a strong thread of faith. Charlie combats his residual PTSD through prayer, finding comfort that God is with him in the darkness. His words point Julia toward trusting God and finding the help and strength she needs. Nothing is preachy, just a natural outflow of their time together.

Best thing I’m taking from this novel: “All is in Your hands.” This is Charlie’s prayer, which Julia takes for her own. It’s a simple enough prayer that any of us can add it into our lives.

This is the second Christian suspense novel I’ve read this year that includes profanity, and it’s a trend I don’t like to see. As with the faith talk, it seems to fit naturally in the dialogue, but I wouldn’t miss it if it weren’t there. If that’s a deal-breaker for you, be warned. If not, All That it Takes is a gripping read.

It’s one of those novels where the characters and their struggle stayed with me when I wasn’t reading. Favourite line:

Charlie… let the silence after her revelation sit between them like a cup of coffee needing to cool. [Chapter 10, ebook page 88]

All That it Takes is book 1 in the Where Can I Go? series. The sequel, coming later in 2021, will carry on Julia’s quest for justice. For more about Canadian author K.L. Ditmars, visit klditmarswriter.com. You can also read an interview she did with me here: interview-k-l-ditmars-canadian-author.

[Review copy from my personal library.]

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Review: Tranquility Falls, by Davis Bunn

Tranquility Falls, by Davis Bunn (Kensington Books, 2020)

Daniel Riffkin has been sober for four years, carefully managing his life and limiting contact to his dog, a few close friends, and his AA meetings.

Now he finds himself sharing his home in Miramar Bay, California, with his teenage niece. And developing concern for Stella, a single mother who’s afraid she’s being framed for missing funds at her work. And hosting his best friends’ teen daughter to give them some breathing space.

Before he became a successful newscaster, Daniel trained in forensic accounting. He has the skills to help Stella. But as they begin to care for one another, can he risk failing her?

This is a feel-good, life-affirming, second-chance novel that speaks hope. As a Christian reader, I’d have loved to see it written to trace Daniel’s faith journey and how that impacts his changes and growth. However, the book is written for a general-market audience. Likely more readers will find it this way, and I hope it’s widely-read.

If you have an addict in your life (even yourself) or someone carrying deep regrets, Tranquility Falls offers a glimpse of hope that recovery and healing are possible. The author interviewed many people so he could portray Daniel’s struggles in a real and relatable way. In his closing acknowledgements, he writes, “This story is dedicated to everyone who taught me so much and granted me new reasons to hope.”

Addiction is only part of the story. There’s also identity, betrayal, grief, crime, Hollywood, legal drama, and beautiful scenery. And romance.

I really like Daniel. He’s honest in his struggles and he’s present in his conversations. Instead of serving easy answers, he knows he doesn’t have any. So he listens. Asks open-ended questions like he’s encountered in his years of counselling and recovery. Supports his friends with total attention.

Favourite lines:

Mornings like this, it was hard to believe the summer heat would ever arrive, as if the world told fables no one believed anymore… A San Francisco-style light drifted in gentle waves with the mist, a feather-like whisper of a world that remained just out of reach. [Chapter 10, page 2]

Readers familiar with the Miramar Bay series will recognize some characters from previous books, always a pleasant treat.

As well as crafting sweet, Hallmark-movie-like stories like these, internationally-bestselling author Davis Bunn also writes thrillers. And as Thomas Locke he writes science fiction and fantasy. For more about the author and his work, visit kensingtonbooks.com/pages/davis-bunn-books and tlocke.com.

[Review copy from the public library.]

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Is It Trust or Denial? (Guest Post)

Pink tulips with text "Trust v Denial"
Image by Ralf Kunze from Pixabay
Image by Ralf Kunze from Pixabay

Is It Trust or Denial?

by Steph Beth Nickel

Do people who always seem at peace with whatever life may throw at them drive you crazy?

(Psst, that’s a rhetorical question. You don’t have to share your answer. Maybe not so rhetorical actually … since you probably should answer it for yourself.)

Let me transport you back in time three decades or so. When I was a brand new mom, my family and I moved to a new city.

There were members in our new church home who were going through what I then considered unimaginable hardships, including one family whose young son had succumbed to cancer. As the mother of a two-and-a-half-month-old baby boy, I couldn’t imagine why God would bless a family with a child and then take that child away.

Oh, I could recite the cliches! But I didn’t know any of them to be true—not deep down in my heart.

As time went by and I got to know some of these people better, I realized they weren’t just spouting platitudes but actually trusted that God knew what was best—even when their situation was difficult and heartbreaking.

Trust, especially trust in the God of All Comfort (2 Corinthians 1:3), is a remarkable and precious thing.

But what we think is trust can actually be denial, a squashing of our feelings, doubts, and fears.

This summer, my second son is getting married. Because of COVID, it’s highly unlikely that we’ll be able to attend the ceremony. (He and his bride-to-be live two provinces away.)

I’ve braced myself for this pretty much since Joshua informed me that he and Ericka had set a date. Still, it was more with a sense of fatalism than acceptance that I dealt with the reality of the situation.

And then, one day, I decided to be completely honest with myself. While I may have locked away my emotions, it didn’t mean they weren’t there. It didn’t mean that, if I gave them permission, the tears wouldn’t fall. It didn’t mean that I was truly accepting that God knows best in this, and every, circumstance.

COVID has taken many lives, and my heart goes out to everyone who has lost a loved one or is facing an ongoing battle with this horrific virus.

But, as we all know, COVID has struck a fatal blow in other areas as well—job security, relationships, our peace of mind, and on and on and on.

There’s no denying it.

And yet, there is light in the darkness, hope in the despair, trust in the denial.

But the way to find real peace is not by denying the struggles we face—physical, emotional, and spiritual.

We don’t need to cling to platitudes or cliches.

We don’t need to deny how we feel—or that we’ve locked away our emotions.

We don’t need to paste on a happy face and pretend we’re a-okay.

But if we want to come to the place of authentic trust, we must press in and get to know the God of All Comfort better than we ever have before.

That’s what I plan to do. How about you?

Steph Beth Nickel
Steph Beth Nickel

Steph Beth Nickel is an editor, writer, and birth doula. If you would like more information about her services, you can contact her at nurtureandinspire@gmail.com; join her Facebook group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/2725853534313738; or visit her website-in-progress: nurtureandinspire.com.

New Releases in Christian Fiction (April 2021)

April 2021 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:


Bookshop by the Sea by Denise Hunter — It’s finally time for Sophie Lawson to follow her own pursuits. Brother Seth has a new job, and sister Jenna is set to marry her college beau in Piper’s Cove. But the destination wedding reunites Sophie with best man Aiden Maddox, her high school sweetheart who left her without a backward glance. When an advancing hurricane strands Aiden in Piper’s Cove after the wedding, he finds the hotels booked to capacity and has to ask Sophie to put him up until the storm passes. As the two ride out the weather, old feelings rise to the surface. The delay also leaves Sophie with mere days to get her bookshop up and running. Can she trust Aiden to stick around? And will he find the courage to risk his heart? (Contemporary Romance from HarperCollins Christian Publishing (Thomas Nelson and Zondervan))

 


Surviving Carmelita by Susan Miura — When Josie Caruso accidentally kills her best friend’s young daughter, she runs to the Florida Keys, unaware that a trailer park pastor, a battered horse, a pregnant teen, and a mysterious beachcomber might set her on the path toward inconceivable hope and redemption. (Contemporary Womens Fiction from Crossriver Media Group)


The Amish Teacher’s Wish by Tracey Lyons — She wants her own happily-ever-after… As an Amish bachelor repairs her school… can she heal his heart? With the school damaged during a storm, teacher Sadie Fischer needs Levi Byler’s help repairing it. Levi has one condition—he won’t become a part of her search for a husband. He’s been hurt before, and love and marriage aren’t part of his plans. But Sadie might just be the perfect woman to mend his heart…and convince him forever isn’t just for fairy tales. (Romance from Love Inspired (Harlequin))

 


General Contemporary:


Where Grace Appears by Heidi Chiavaroli — A contemporary twist on the well-loved classic, Little Women, readers will fall in love with the Martin family—Maggie, Josie, Lizzie, Bronson, Amie, and their mother Hannah—each trying to find their own way in the world and each discovering that love, home, and hope are closer than they appear. (General Contemporary from Hope Creek Publishers)

 


Second Helpings
by Linda Wood Rondeau — Can her marriage be saved? Today is Jocelyn Johnson’s forty-fifth birthday. Unhappy with her marriage of twenty-two years, she has planned a noonday tryst with her talk-show cohost. A phone call from her college daughter, a peek into her teenaged son’s journal, a sick preschooler, a Goth daughter’s identity crisis, a middle-school son’s prank, and her husband’s inflamed suspicions, not only interfere with her hopeful birthday plans but throw her family into more chaos than a circus on steroids. (General Contemporary from Elk Lake Publishing)


Every Window Filled with Light
by Shelia W. Stovall — Librarian Emma Baker, a young and childless widow, believes her dream to build a family is over. It’s been two years since a student accidentally stabbed Emma’s husband to death, and her grief has stifled any interest in romance—until she meets Pastor Luke Davis. But when Emma learns Luke is counseling her husband’s killer fresh out of jail, her temper gets in the way.

Meanwhile, Emma discovers twelve-year-old Harley, abandoned by her drug-addict mother, hiding in the library, and takes the girl in as her foster mom. Then a young mother is made homeless by an apartment fire, and Emma opens her home again. One person and one prayer at a time, Emma begins to discover hope. (General Contemporary from Elk Lake Publishing)

 


General Historical:


The Storm Breaks Forth
by Terri Wangard — World War I rages in Europe, and now the United States joins in. Peter Bloch heads to France with the Wisconsin National Guard, but his wife Maren is the one under attack. She’s German born, and anti-German hysteria is running high.
Simple suggestions for coping with wartime measures lead Maren into an active role in the community, but her service doesn’t help deflect suspicion from her. Zealous patriots target her with a vengeance.
Peter caught the eye of a major who seems intent on using him as a spy. He’s been fortunate to avoid injury so far, but these activities are likely to get him killed. (General Historical, Independently Published)

 

 


Historical Romance:


Biltmore Girl by Dawn Klinge — New York City, 1968. Elka Hansen, a former teen cover girl, is done with modeling. Now she’s a hostess for the Palm Court restaurant in the beautiful Biltmore Hotel. As she sees it, Elka’s other job is to watch out for her younger sister, Colleen, an idealistic but reckless college student at Barnard.
With her sister, Elka attends her first civil-rights protest, and there, she runs into Jacob Lewis, a co-worker from the Biltmore. He’s a student at Columbia University and a friend of Colleen’s. Jacob becomes an unexpected ally when rescuing her sister from trouble becomes more than Elka can handle independently. Out of this turmoil, a romance grows between Jacob and Elka, but can it last? (Historical Romance, Independently Published)

 


Bent Tree Bride by Denise Weimer — Susanna Moore can’t get him out of her mind—the learned lieutenant who delivered the commission from Andrew Jackson making her father colonel of the Cherokee Regiment. But the next time she sees Lieutenant Sam Hicks, he’s leading a string of prisoners into a frontier fort, and he’s wearing the garb of a Cherokee scout rather than the suit of a white gentleman. As both Susanna’s father and Sam’s commanding officer, Colonel Moore couldn’t have made his directive to stay away from his daughter clearer to Sam. He wants a better match for Susanna—like the stuffy doctor who escorted her to Creek Territory. Then a suspected spy forces Moore to rely on Sam for military intelligence and Susanna’s protection, making it impossible for either to guard their heart. (Historical Romance from Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas)


Rekindling Trust by Sandra Ardoin — Abandonment. Betrayal. Injustice. Two broken hearts given a second chance to mend. Widow Edythe Westin yearns for a peaceful home and independence from her controlling father. The goal seems within reach until her rebellious young son is suspected of arson and assault. With nowhere else to turn, she defies her father and appeals for help from the only man she ever loved—the man who once deserted her when she needed him most. (Historical Romance, Independently Published)

 


Mystery:


Spring Betrayal by Sally Jo Pitts — It was supposed to be a routine investigation—catch the cheatin’ spouse of a client. And the perks weren’t bad either—set up shop at a luxury resort. So yes, Robert Grey and Jane Carson from Grey Investigations are on the job. But when they discover the suspect is a princess wrongfully accused of abdicating and her companion dies under suspicious circumstances, the investigators find themselves in the middle of a Caribbean conspiracy to overthrow a monarchy. Suddenly Jane must take the place of the princess to secure the throne of an island nation. Can Grey Investigations untangle a royal mess before a revolution overtakes paradise? (Mystery/Crime from Winged Publications)

 


Blue Plate Special
by Susan Page Davis — Campbell McBride drives to her father’s house in Murray, Kentucky, dreading telling him she’s lost her job as an English professor. Her father, Bill McBride, isn’t there or at his office in town. His brash young employee, Nick Emerson, says Bill hasn’t come in this morning, but he did call the night before with news that he had a new case. When her dad doesn’t show up by late afternoon, Campbell and Nick decide to follow up on a phone number he’d jotted on a memo sheet. They learn who last spoke to her father, but they also find a dead body. The next day, Campbell files a missing persons report. When Bill’s car is found, locked and empty in a secluded spot, she and Nick must get past their differences and work together to find him. (Mystery from Scrivenings Press LLC)

 


Speculative Fiction:


Traitor: Tales of the Mystics, Book 2
by Laurie Lucking — Princess Penelope has finally found a way to redeem her past mistakes-if only it didn’t require betraying her new fiancé. She has been the object of gossip and ridicule ever since she returned home in disgrace following her failed engagement to the Crown Prince of Imperia. When her father offers a new start in a country far across the sea, she has no choice but to accept. Even if it means another betrothal, this time to a total stranger. (Speculative Fiction/Romantic Fantasy from Love2ReadLove2Write Publishing)

 

 


Thriller/Suspense:


Long Shadows
by Cathe Swanson — Mona Vickers isn’t running. Not hiding. She and the girls are just keeping a low profile until she’s done with school and gets a good job. She doesn’t need charity, especially not from Roy Strough and the Unity Plenkiss Community Center, either. But when the past catches up with her, she needs to decide who she can trust. (Romantic Suspense, Independently Published)

 


Present Danger by Elizabeth Goddard — Former FBI Special Agent Jack Tanner is working as a detective in Montana when he comes across a body in the national forest during a search and rescue mission. He’s committed to finding the killer, even if it means working alongside his old flame, US Forest Service Special Agent Terra Connors. When Terra discovers that the murder victim had ties to a powerful and dangerous trafficker of archaeological artifacts, the investigation takes a deadly turn–one that hits too close to home. As Terra fears she lacks the courage to face what comes next, Jack is more determined than ever to protect her. But he’s failed her before. And if he fails this time, it will cost them far more than just their hearts.
(Romantic Suspense from Revell – A Division of Baker Publishing Group)


Fifty Days by Katie Vorreiter — Three days ago, Maggie Lehman’s beloved mentor and friend, Jarrett Adams, was murdered on live television. Grief stricken, Maggie traverses a Washington DC under curfew, but when she arrives at the morgue, the body is missing—and her presence is recorded on the security video. As dawn breaks over the city, Maggie encounters Jarrett on the street—and he’s very much alive. Either she’s gone mad—again—or Jarrett really is back. While the US loses its grip on democracy, government thugs eager to contain what Maggie knows hound her every step, and the good intentions of a man from her past only tighten the noose. The powerless and bewildered Maggie seeks Jarrett and the return to how things were, but finds she must give up what she wants most to gain what she can hardly imagine. (Supernatural Suspense from Elk Lake Publishing)


Shielding the Amish Witness
by Mary Alford — Seeking refuge in Amish country puts everyone she loves in danger. On the run after discovering her brother-in-law was behind her husband’s murder, Faith Cooper can think of only one safe place—her Amish grandmother’s home. But when danger follows Faith to the quiet Amish community, her childhood friend Eli Shetler is her only protection. And their survival depends on outlasting a relentless killer…one who has nothing left to lose. (Thriller/Suspense/Romance from Love Inspired (Harlequin))

Plus check out these recent additions to Fiction Finder published within the past month:

 

 

The Vanishing at Loxby Manor by Abigail Wilson, After five years abroad, Charity Halliwell finally returns to Loxby Manor, the home of dear friends—and her lost love. When her friend, Seline, disappears the very night of her arrival, Charity is determined to uncover the truth. (Historical Mystery)

 

 

Dreams Rekindled by Amanda Cabot, But before romance can bloom, Dorothy and Brandon must work together to discover who’s determined to divide the town and destroy Brandon’s livelihood. (Historical Romance)

 

 

Amish Midwives by Amy Clipson, Shelley Shepherd Gray, and Kelly Long, From bestselling authors of Amish Fiction come three sweet stories about new life, hope, and romance. (Amish Romance)

 

 

Hunt for Grace by Andrew Huff, First he left the CIA. Then he left pastoral ministry. Now John Cross has been imprisoned in one of Great Britain’s most infamous prisons. Has he reached the end of his rope? Or is this another move in a dangerous spy game? (Thriller/Suspense)

 

 

Right Cross by Andrew Huff, Heart-pounding action meets spiritual choices in this thrilling finale to John Cross’s saga. (Thriller/Suspense)

 

 

Smashing the Friend Zone: Natasha by Barbara James, She had no idea what he was feeling. (Romance/Contemporary)

 

 

Reconciled from Heartache by Cindy M. Amos, Aley Halstead laterals out of a harassment situation at work, but peril soon follows her relocation, leaving rookie rancher Hake Warren her only hope for a last-minute rescue. (Romance/Contemporary)

 

 

Inheritance by Colleen K. Snyder, Three hundred MILLION dollars. Your inheritance. Buy anything you want, go anywhere you want, do anything you want. All yours. Except… (Thriller/Suspense)

 

 

Sword of Trust by DebbieLynn Costello, The stakes are high, secrets prevail, and treason is just a kiss away. (Historical Romance)

 

 

Love and Joy by Elsie Davis, Can these two put their differences aside long enough to discover what’s really important? (Contemporary Romance)

 

 

Secondhand Sunsets by Gail Kittleson, The day’s warmth still hovered, and with it, a sense that all was well. The sky flamed for several more minutes. This beauty and my love for you are one. She hugged the message close. “Perhaps, after all, I am loved.” (Historical Romance)

 

 

The Egyptian Princess: A Story of Hagar by KD Holmberg, Torn between the silent gods of Egypt and the powerful presence that surrounds Sarai, Hagar’s world falls apart around her. She must acknowledge the terrible price of truth, and decide for herself who she will serve. (General Historical)

 

 

Dandelion Floofums by Kristen Joy Wilks, A bold chicken must save her human from kidnappers and rogue forest creatures! (Children’s/Middle-grade/Chapter Books)

 

 

Deadly Heartbreak by Marissa Shrock, Georgia discovers a limerick scrawled on the wall of her kitchen that dares her to solve a mystery designed specifically for her. A mystery that promises to be quite deadly. For her. For Cal. And for anyone who gets in the murderer’s way. (Cozy Mystery)

 

 

Amish Country Murder by Mary Alford, An Amish woman targeted by a serial killer is the only living witness… (Thriller/Suspense/Romantic)

 

 

The Secret of the 14th Room by Rebecca Hemlock, You don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone. Or until someone wants to kill you for it. (Thriller/Suspense/Romantic)

 

 

Both Sides of the Border by Terry Overton, Two women, half a world apart, will have their lives changed for ever when a series of tragedies cause the Texas-Mexico border to vanish. (General/Contemporary)

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Review: Spilled Milk, by Heather Day Gilbert (Barks & Beans 4)

Spilled Milk, by Heather Day Gilbert (WoodHaven Press, 2021)

A feel-good cozy mystery!

The Barks & Beans Café—small-town Lewisville’s place to gather for fantastic coffee and the chance to mingle with (and perhaps adopt) lovable dogs from the nearby animal shelter.

In the middle of plans for the café’s one-year anniversary, Macy Hatfield’s brother and business partner, Bo, is called away for “one last duty” for his former drug enforcement boss.

Macy can handle this on her own, right? Her loyal staff members, and her friend Summer from the animal shelter, are on board to help.

Except her best barista is suddenly a murder suspect. And her ex-husband slithers into town. And Bo’s cat is a nightmare houseguest.

Readers familiar with the series know Macy has a helping heart. She has to support Kylie and clear her name despite the girl’s distant attitude. And despite the rebellious younger sister Kylie is supporting.

If you’re new to the series you can start here, but it’d be more fun to start at the beginning with No Filter. Each story is self-contained, although there’s a long-term plot thread as well as developing relationships.

I like the characters—human and animal—and the light-hearted vibe even though the body count is rising. This is a mystery I could read at bedtime, be fully engaged in the story, and not risk bad dreams. I don’t know if “feel-good mystery” is a genre, but the label fits for this one. I was smiling when I finished.  

The Barks & Beans novels are clean, mainstream cozy mysteries set in small-town West Virginia. Spilled Milk is book four. Up next will be Trouble Brewing.

Author Heather Day Gilbert writes cozy mysteries, romantic suspense, and Viking historicals. Check out her website for more information: heatherdaygilbert.com.

[Review copy provided by the publisher. I was not required to write a review, and my opinions are my own.]

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Review: Chasing Angels, by Karin Kaufman

Chasing Angels, by Karin Kaufman (2020)

Layered characters, vivid descriptions, twists and surprises, and solid Biblical truth in a spiritual warfare novel with some fully criminal humans as well. This book satisfied me as a reader and as a writer. Karin Kaufman started this new series off with a winner.

Teagan Doyle is chasing angels, desperate to find hope. Instead, she and her boss/mentor John Bergland (Berg) find demons. Sometimes. Often their paranormal investigations turn up wobbly pipes and other natural explanations for the things that freak out their clients.

But not this time. Their current case involves a former church whose new owners want to renovate into a bed and breakfast. Renovations have turned up a body walled up in the basement. The owners report flickering electricity, cold drafts, moving objects… and not one natural cause in sight.

Teagan and Berg don’t believe in ghosts and refuse to work with mediums or spiritists. They believe the God of the Bible. And in angels, both holy and fallen.

Part of what makes this book shine is their unlikely but perfect pairing. Teagan’s past is a string of unhappy endings, including washing out of police academy, infertility, and a cheating ex-husband. Berg is in his seventies, a retired minister, his movement restricted by severe arthritis.

The way Teagan describes Berg is how I feel about them both:

“I caught his past and his personality in snippets, quilting them together over time to form my idea of who he was.” [Kindle location 465]

Other favourite lines:

“If you cash in your chips because you think God can’t use a sinner, you don’t know your Bible.” [Kindle location 2870]

“You get to ask forgiveness for your serious lapse in judgement, believe God when he says he forgives, and then move on and do your job.” [Kindle location 2876]

Told from Teagan’s point of view, the writing is taut with a bit of a noir feel. I like the mix of human and supernatural villains, and I didn’t find it too scary (I did stick to reading during daylight!).

Despite being Christian fiction, the book has some minor profanity. If that’s an issue for you, be warned going in. I found it jarring but not enough to put me off the story. This is one series I hope to follow to the end.

Chasing Angels is book 1 in the Teagan Doyle Mystery Series. Book 2, Call of Chaos, will pick up right on its heels.

Karin Kaufman writes in a wide spectrum of fiction, from intense novels like this and the Anna Denning series to lighter-hearted cozy mysteries like the Juniper Grove series and Smithwell Fairies series to the Geraldine Woolkins children’s books. For more about the author and her work, visit karinkaufman.com.

[Review copy from my personal library.]

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Review: Crazy About Maisie, by Janice L. Dick

Crazy About Maisie, by Janice L. Dick (Tansy & Thistle Press, 2021)

Happenstance… a small town off the beaten path, where second chances are free for all. Many who find their way through the covered bridge from the highway surprise themselves by deciding to stay.

In Maisie McDonald’s case, twelve years after she found a haven in Happenstance her past is trying to catch up with her. Not one but two suspicious strangers seem to be trying to link her to her former life in Seattle. And just when she needs him most, her husband is away for work.

Crazy About Maisie is book 2 in the Happenstance Chronicles series, gentle cozy mysteries without dead bodies. Readers familiar with book 1, The Road to Happenstance, will be happy to see the main cast again: the Misses Emmaline and Grayce at the Happenstance Hotel, Matt Sadler (who rode into town in book 1), Bear the mechanic, and more.

Cranky Morris Craddock is back, too, and it’s a treat to see his interactions with Matt and with newcomer Julia Freemont—ostensibly in town to renovate a disused shop into a new bistro. 

Happenstance is a town I’d love to visit, especially once the bistro’s up and running. The tea and baked goods sound amazing.

These are contemporary novels set in a small town that feels a bit out of step with our time… gentler, somehow, and a bit slower paced. There’s a touch of whimsy in the effect it has on visitors, and in the uncanny awareness the hotel’s cook, Johanna, has concerning when different people need a certain type of comfort food.

There’s a delightful hand-drawn map of town in the beginning of the book, and interspersed with the story are brief snippets from various longer-term residents telling how they arrived to stay.

Author Janice L. Dick also writes Russian Mennonite historical fiction. Historical or contemporary, her work includes a thread of faith that gives her characters hope. For more about the author, visit janicedick.com.

[I received a complimentary advance reader copy from the author with no obligation to review, and have also bought an official copy for my personal library.]

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Proceed with Caution (Guest Post)

Proceed with Caution

by Steph Beth Nickel

The Old Normal

Are you ready to get back to the Old Normal?

COVID vaccines are being rolled out. Hopeful would-be travellers are booking airline tickets. Restaurants are opening for in-person dining.

While there will be continued restrictions for some time, we’re all ready to return to pre-COVID schedules … Or are we?

Ready for the New New Normal?

Truth be told, when the first lockdown happened, I was more than happy to set aside many of my obligations. (Of course, like most people, I didn’t know how long “the New Normal” was going to last.)

And here we are, twelve months in, and I have a confession to make. I will not be quick to fill up my schedule, at least not with what was on it before.

What are you looking forward to most? What is something you will not be adding to your schedule even when it is again an option?

A Year in Review

Instead of working in the church office, I’m now spending my days editing and writing from home. (Shh, don’t tell, but I’m also listening to podcasts, reading, and watching some TV shows as well.)

Because others have stepped up to take on the responsibilities in the sound room at church, even though we’re allowed to meet in person, I find it hard to motivate myself to get back into the routine of attending weekly services. Yes, I know it’s important. Yes, I know watching the live-stream isn’t the same. Yes, I know I’ll get back into the rhythm. However, we’re in a time of transition in our congregation, and things aren’t as they once were.

What changes have you weathered this past year? What’s something you found particularly challenging? What’s something you actually enjoyed?

Joys and Challenges of 2021

A year ago, I would sit on my couch, overcome with how surreal it all was. I would spend minimal time in Walmart—because that was where a panic attack threatened to set in, something that had never happened to me before. I lost touch with many people, people I could have contacted via Facebook, email, or phone.

And now …

I’m proceeding with caution.

While I’ve made some reservations (hotel and car rentals) for the summer in hopes of attending my son’s wedding in Saskatchewan, I haven’t purchased the airline tickets yet. Will they allow us to travel if we haven’t had both shots? Will our son and his wife be able to come from Scotland? (At this point, it doesn’t look like it.) Should we just postpone our plans until next summer, when we can all travel together, and watch the wedding via Zoom?)

I’m taking precautions while spending time with friends (and I did go to church this past weekend). This makes me aware just how much I need in-person connectedness. To a large extend, I had supressed my need for this kind of fellowship. After spending three hours chatting with a young friend over lunch, I realized how much of my joie de vivre had been lying dormant. (This “extrovert on steroids” can only remain alone for so long.)

Now that spring has arrived and things are looking up, I’m better able to shake off the physical and emotional exhaustion and actually look forward to my days, most of them anyway.

What joys and challenges are you facing?

Most Importantly

While we’re all ready to say goodbye to COVID-19, we can’t forget that we’ve learned some important lessons during the past year.

It’s important to be considerate of and patient with others, especially those who don’t see things as we do.

It’s difficult to be confined with others for prolonged periods of time—even those we love dearly.

“Re-entry” also has its fair share of challenges.

The mental and emotional ramifications of the pandemic have been as drastic as the physical ones—for many, even more drastic.

Scrolling social media often does more harm than good.

As restrictions begin to ease, I encourage you to proceed with caution. Remember the lessons you’ve learned over the past year. And extend grace to others—and to yourself.

Steph Beth Nickel
Steph Beth Nickel

Steph Beth Nickel is an editor, writer, and birth doula. If you would like more information about her services, you can contact her at nurtureandinspire@gmail.com; join her Facebook group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/2725853534313738; or visit her website-in-progress: nurtureandinspire.com.

Review: Dangerous Deceptions: A Christian Romantic Suspense Boxed Set Collection

Dangerous Deceptions: A Christian Romantic Suspense Boxed Set Collection (Various Authors)

This box set was a limited-time opportunity, but I believe the authors have now individually released their books. I’ll give you a list of all the titles and authors, and then share about my top picks.

The eight novels in this collection are:

  • Lethal Outbreak: Lisa Harris & Lynne Gentry
  • Collision Course: Elizabeth Goddard
  • Glimmer in the Darkness: Robin Patchen
  • Expired Plot: Lisa Phillips
  • Ice: Lynnette Bonner
  • Never A Traitor: Jan Thompson
  • Ben in Love: Luana Ehrlich
  • Liar Like Her: D.L. Wood

My top picks, in order of appearance:

Lethal Outbreak, by Lisa Harris & Lynne Gentry. I’d like to read the rest of this series, and Ghost Heart is already on my tablet. Interesting timing, reading about a potential global pandemic during COVID-19. I enjoyed the fast-paced international action.

Collision Course: Elizabeth Goddard. Art thefts, organized crime, and family secrets. It was interesting to read a main character with a traumatic brain injury and I enjoyed the teamwork between strong protagonists who needed to work together.

Ice: Lynnette Bonner. Beautiful setting. I read more for the suspense than the romance, but this hero gets bonus points for cooking a cheeseburger and fries as comfort food for the heroine. Some elements of this story had me nervous that it would get too intense, but it didn’t. Glad I kept reading.

Liar Like Her: D.L. Wood. A new-to-me author, and I really liked her voice. Favourite line: “What’s true about your past doesn’t have to be the truth of your future.”

I appreciated how each story’s “note from the author” at the end includes a teaser for the next story.

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New Releases in Christian Fiction (March 2021)

March 2021 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:


Miriam’s Song by Jill Eileen Smith — In her eventful lifetime, Miriam was many things to many people: protective older sister, song leader, prophetess, leper. But between the highs and the lows, she was a girl who dreamed of freedom, a woman who longed for love, a leader who made mistakes, and a friend who valued connection. (Biblical from Revell – A Division of Baker Publishing Group)

 

 

Contemporary Romance:


Amish Midwives by Amy Clipston — From bestselling authors of Amish Fiction come three sweet stories about new life, hope, and romance. (Contemporary Romance from HarperCollins Christian Publishing)

 

A Brother’s Promise by Mindy Obenhaus — He didn’t realize he wanted a family… Until he suddenly became a single dad. After his sister’s death, rancher Mick Ashford’s determined to ensure his orphaned niece, Sadie, feels at home. And accepting guidance from Christa Slocum is his first step. But just as Christa and Sadie begin to settle into Mick’s heart, Sadie’s paternal grandparents sue for custody. Now Mick must fight to keep them together…or risk losing the makeshift family he’s come to love. (Contemporary Romance from Love Inspired/Harlequin)

 

General Contemporary:


Facing the Dawn by Cynthia Ruchti — While her humanitarian husband Liam has been digging wells in Africa, Mara Jacobs has been struggling. She knows she’s supposed to feel a warm glow that her husband is nine time zones away, caring for widows and orphans. But the reality is that she is exhausted, working a demanding yet unrewarding job, trying to manage their three detention-prone kids, failing at her to-repair list, and fading like a garment left too long in the sun. (General Contemporary from Revell – A Division of Baker Publishing Group)

 

 

Historical:


A Tapestry of Light by Kimberly Duffy — Ottilie Russell is adrift between two cultures, British and Indian, belonging to both and neither. In order to support her little brother, Thaddeus, and her grandmother, she relies upon her skills in beetle-wing embroidery that have been passed down to her through generations of Indian women. When a stranger appears with the news that Thaddeus is now Baron Sunderson and must travel to England to take his place as a nobleman, Ottilie is shattered by the secrets that come to light. (General Historical from Bethany House)

 

The Rose Keeper by Jennifer Lamont Leo — July 1944. Chicago nurse Clara Janacek has spent her whole life taking care of other people. Grumpy yet loveable, all she wants now is to live out her life in peace, tending her roses and protecting her heart. But beneath the gruff exterior lies a story, and when new neighbors move in and shake up her quiet world, Clara must grapple with long-buried realities. (General Historical, Independently Published)

In the Dead of the Night by JP Robinson — Leila is forced back into the shadows when the leader of a German spy ring kidnaps her child, jeopardizing Europe’s fragile bid for peace. (General Historical from Logos Publications)

 


Historical Romance:


Dreams Rekindled by Amanda Cabot — Though she hopes for a quiet, uncomplicated life for herself, Dorothy Clark wants nothing more than to stir others up. Specifically, she dreams of writing something that will challenge people as much as Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin seems to have. But in 1850s Mesquite Springs, there are few opportunities for writers — until newspaperman Brandon Holloway arrives, that is. (Historical Romance from Revell – A Division of Baker Publishing Group)

 

Sing in the Sunlight by Kathleen Denly — Richard Stevens isn’t who he thinks he is. Neither is the woman who now claims his last name. Disfiguring scars stole Clarinda Humphrey’s singing career, her home, and her family, but she refuses to let her appearance steal her future. While attending The Young Ladies Seminary in 1858 Benicia, California, she finds a man who promises to love and cherish her. Instead he betrays her, leaving her with child, and Clarinda must take drastic measures to ensure her child doesn’t suffer for her foolishness. (Historical Romance from Wild Heart Books)

The Curator’s Daughter by Melanie Dobson — 1940. Hanna Tillich cherishes her work as an archaeologist for the Third Reich, searching for the Holy Grail and other artifacts to bolster evidence of a master Aryan race. But when she is reassigned to work as a museum curator in Nuremberg, then forced to marry an SS officer and adopt a young girl, Hanna begins to see behind the Nazi facade. A prayer labyrinth becomes a storehouse for Hanna’s secrets, but as she comes to love Lilly as her own daughter, she fears that what she’s hiding―and what she begins to uncover―could put them both in mortal danger. (Historical Romance from Tyndale House)

My Dear MISS DUPRÉ by Grace Hitchcock — Willow Dupré never thought she would have to marry, but with her father’s unexpected retirement from running the prosperous Dupré sugar refinery, plans changed. The shareholders are unwilling to allow a female to take over the company without a man at her side, so her parents devise a plan—find Willow a spokesman king in order for her to become queen of the empire. Willow is presented with thirty potential suitors from the families of New York society’s elite group called the Four Hundred. She has six months to court the group and is expected to eliminate men each month to narrow her beaus. (Historical Romance from Bethany House)

Rayne’s Redemption by Linda Shenton Matchett — Will she have to lose her identity to find true love? Twin sisters Rayne and Jessica Dalton have been swapping places their whole lives, so when Jessica dies on the eve of heading west to become a mail-order bride, Rayne decides to fill her sister’s shoes. The challenge will be faking Jessica’s faith in God. Can Rayne fool her prospective groom without losing her heart…or her soul? (Historical Romance from Shortwave Press)

Romantic Suspense/Thriller:

Unknown Threat by Lynn H. Blackburn — US Secret Service Special Agent Luke Powell is lucky to be alive. Three of his fellow agents have died in unusual circumstances in the past ten weeks. Luke is devastated by the loss of his friends and colleagues, and his inability to locate the killer feels like a personal failure. He and his team are experts at shielding others, but now the protectors are in need of protection. (Romantic Suspense from Revell – A Division of Baker Publishing Group)

Hours to Kill by Susan Sleeman — Just as Homeland Security Agent Addison Leigh reaches the pinnacle of her cyber investigation into a firearms smuggling ring, she’s attacked and left for dead. Her estranged husband, ICE Agent Mack Jordan, is notified that she’s at the hospital in a coma. He may have let his past military trauma ruin their short marriage, but she never gave up on their relationship, and he remains her next of kin. hen a second attempt to take her life is made, it’s clear something very sinister is going on, and Mack and Addison are in for the ride of their lives. (Romantic Suspense from Bethany House)

Abducted in Alaska by Darlene L. Turner — Saving a boy who has escaped his captors puts Canadian border patrol officer Hannah Morgan right into the path of a ruthless child-smuggling ring. Now with help from police constable Layke Jackson, she must keep the child safe. But can they rescue the other abducted children and bring down the gang…all while protecting a little boy and keeping themselves alive? (Romantic Suspense from Love Inspired/Harlequin)

 


Western:


Braced for Love by Mary Connealy — Left with little back in Missouri, Kevin Hunt takes his younger siblings on a journey to Wyoming when he receives news that he’s inheriting part of a ranch. The catch is that the ranch is also being given to a half-brother he never knew existed. Turns out, Kevin’s supposedly dead father led a secret and scandalous life. (Western from Bethany House)

 

Plus check out these recent additions to Fiction Finder published within the past month:

Seasons of Love by Joan Deppa, The beautiful, western Upper Peninsula of Michigan, with snow covered hills in the winter; Lake Superior, as well as inland lakes and numerous waterfalls in the summer; and colorful leaves in Autumn, are the setting for three couples who discover new adventures and enjoy the nature that surrounds them. (Contemporary Romance)

Medicine, Murder and Small Town Scandal by KC Hart, When the meanest man in Skeeterville drops dead at his mailbox, no one suspects foul play until Katy Cross stumbles across a skeleton from his past… literally. (Cozy Mystery)

Hunt for Grace by Tammy F. Kirty, Can two people find peace in the present when faced daily with their pasts? (Historical Romance)

Kate’s Quest by Seralynn Lewis, Sparks fly in this opposites attract journey when a my way or the highway soldier collides with a determined woman on a mission to find her family. (Contemporary Romance)

Starstruck in Willow Falls by Pat Nichols, Heartwarming, emotionally charged saga of a small Southern town’s struggle for survival and two women’s challenge to balance family and career. (General Contemporary)

Matched Hearts by Cathe Swanson, She’s looking for one date. He’s looking for “Happily Ever After.” Is it a computer error or a match made in heaven? (Contemporary Romance)

A Texas Bond by Shannon Taylor Vannatter, Learning he’s an uncle shocks Ross Lyles—but after years of handling his brother’s bombshells, at least this surprise is a blessing. A pair of five-year-old blessings Ross is determined to meet, if he can convince their aunt to give him a chance. (Contemporary Romance)

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