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.

My Vertical Neighborhood, by Lynda MacGibbon

My Vertical Neighborhood, by Lynda MacGibbon (InterVarsity Press, 2021)

“When I asked God why I ought to love my neighbors, he sent them, one by one, to answer the question.” [Chapter 17, page 6 in chapter]

Subtitled “How Strangers Became a Community,” My Vertical Neighborhood is a memoir of one Christian’s quest to build friendships and discover practical ways to love the others around her. Instead of diving into activities in her new church, the author wanted to connect with her literal neighbours.

Not surprisingly, the other residents in her Toronto high-rise weren’t overly receptive at first. It took time, prayer, persistence, and God’s provision of a friend to move into the same building and share the efforts. Perhaps also not surprisingly, the relationships began to grow over food.

This isn’t a “neighbourhood evangelism” book. It’s a memoir of intentional relationship-building and developing not just friendship but love among the diverse inhabitants of the building.

Key quote:

“Jesus says loving God, self, and neighbor is foundational to everything else. If we don’t understand and practice these conjoined commandments, it will be harder to obey the rest.” [Chapter 2, page 5 in chapter]

I found the book to be an interesting read. And while I don’t feel any sense of call to push myself as far out of my comfort zone as the author did, I’m pleased that it’s left me more aware of the need to intentionally take the opportunities that come my way. We can all learn to listen more, ask better questions, and take time with the people around us.

I can’t end this review without a shout-out to the cover. Where most encounters revolved around food, aren’t the vertical images of dinner plates and elevator buttons brilliant?

Canadian author Lynda MacGibbon is a former journalist, now working with InterVarsity Christian Fellowship. For more about the author and her work, visit lyndamacgibbon.com.

[Digital review copy from the public library. This book is available to borrow through Hoopla Digital.]

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Review: A Siege of Bitterns, by Steve Burrows

A Siege of Bitterns, by Steve Burrows (Dundurn Press, 2014)

It’s always a treat to find a new series I like, and when the books are from a Canadian author it feels like an extra bonus. Enter the Birder Murder Mystery series, recommended to me by a birder friend some time ago.

Inspector Domenic Lejeune is too good at his job. So he sticks with policing when he’d rather be hiking across marsh and cliff in search of rare birds. A Canadian serving in the UK police force, he can at least enjoy the location of his new posting. Norfolk is prime birding country.

He only has to overcome the distrust of his fellow officers while solving a high-profile murder case. On the plus side, the deceased was an avid birder. Minus side: the birding community doesn’t trust him any more than his new co-workers do.

Nicely plotted, with a broad cast of characters and complications, A Siege of Bitterns is a satisfying read. It’s one of those omniscient point of view books that drops into multiple heads in the same scene, which always confuses me a bit. Maybe because of the omniscience, it feels like more of a thinking, or puzzle, sort of story instead of a heart one. My brain appreciated that. I’ll definitely be reading more in the series. 

Favourite line:

It was meant to be a smile, but Maik got some sense of the last sight a swimmer might see when a Great White Shark approached. [page 81]

Book 1 in the Birder Murder Mystery series, A Siege of Bitterns received the 2015 Arthur Ellis Award for Best First Novel. You can find Canadian author Steve Burrows here: abirdermurder.com.

[Review copy from the public library. I read the print version, but the digital version is available to libraries through Hoopla Digital.]

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New Releases in Christian Fiction (July 2021)

July 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.


General Contemporary:



Rocky Mountain Restoration by Lisa J. Flickinger — Josephine Thorebourne doesn’t deserve happiness. Not after the mess she’s made. Mid-voyage, on the steamship Jameson, she learns of the tragic loss of her family’s money. Money she stole with the hopes of turning a profit. What should be a delightful voyage up the Canadian coast turns into a journey of regret. Josephine seeks the solace of the man she loves, only to find out he’s an imposter. Left with no other choice, she must return to her home town of Stony Creek and face the anger of those she’s betrayed. Owen Kelly was given the opportunity of a lifetime to steward on the SS Jameson. The work meant he could escape his difficult upbringing along the wharves of Chicago. When his heart falls for the woman in cabin eight, Owen must decide if he will continue his work on the ship or follow the love of his life to her Rocky Mountain home. (Historical Romance from Wild Heart Books)

 

Rescuing Her Heart by Cindy Ervin Huff — On visitation rounds as a lay preacher, the last thing rancher Jed Holt expects is to be shot at from the barn next to a burned-down homestead. But the soot-covered woman hiding inside needs protecting, and Jed is the man to do it whether she likes it or not. Delilah James’s nightmares began when she came to Kansas as a mail-order bride. Her husband was nothing like his letters. Now that he is dead, she can’t shake his abuse from her heart. Trusting men tops her never-again list, and taking a job on the Holt ranch as a housekeeper is a means to save money and bring her parents west. But her attraction to the compassionate former chaplain both angers and confuses her. Jed has his own nightmares from a POW camp and understands Delilah better than she knows. Can two broken people form a forever bond? (Historical Romance from Iron Stream Media)

 

Gold Rush Bride Caroline by Linda Shenton Matchett — Scarred in a childhood accident, Caroline Vogel has yet to find a man willing to marry her, so she heads to the Pike’s Peak goldfields to pan enough ore to become a woman of means. When she and the handsome assistant trail boss hit it off, she begins to hope her future may not be spent alone. Then she catches wind of dark secrets from the man’s past, and she’s not sure what or who to believe. Orphaned as a teenager, Oliver Llewellyn stole to survive, then used his skills for the army during the war. Nowadays, he applies his knowledge to catch dangerous thieves for the Pinkerton Agency, so guarding a young woman during a wagon train journey should be easy. But he didn’t count on the fact she’d angered a man bent on revenge. He also didn’t count on losing his heart. (Historical Romance from Shortwave Press)

 

Hollywood is Not Home by Annmarie M. Roberts — Would you trade fame for privacy? Movie star Maggie Malone has a glamorous lifestyle with everything money can buy―except privacy. Hounded by the paparazzi and ridiculed for her faith, Maggie secretly struggles with severe anxiety and loneliness. All she desires is to be herself–southern girl by birth, ranch lover by heart. When an anonymous benefactor invites Maggie to participate in a secret project, will her hopelessness find a new direction? Or will she become another celebrity travesty? What if she discovers Hollywood is not Home? Her faith, family, love, and future hang in the balance . (General Romance from Ambassador International)

 

The Scarlet Pen by Jennifer Uhlarik — Enjoy a tale of true but forgotten history of an 19th Century serial killer whose silver-tongued ways almost trap a young woman into a nightmarish marriage. In 1876, Emma Draycott is charmed into a quick engagement with childhood friend Stephen Dee Richards after reconnecting with him at a church event in Mount Pleasant, Ohio. But within the week, Stephen leaves to “make his fame and fortune.” The heartbroken Emma gives him a special pen to write to her, and he does with tales of grand adventures. Secret Service agent Clay Timmons arrives in Mount Pleasant to track purchases made with fake currency. Every trail leads back to Stephen—and therefore, Emma. Can he convince the naïve woman she is engaged to a charlatan who is being linked a string of deaths in Nebraska? (Historical Romance from Barbour Publishing)

General Historical:


If it Rains by Jennifer L. Wright — It’s 1935 in Oklahoma, and lives are determined by the dust. Fourteen-year-old Kathryn Baile, a spitfire born with a severe clubfoot, is coming of age in desperate times. Once her beloved older sister marries, Kathryn’s only comfort comes in the well-worn pages of her favorite book, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. Then Kathryn’s father decides to relocate to Indianapolis, and only the promise of a surgery to finally make her “normal” convinces Kathryn to leave Oklahoma behind. But disaster strikes along the way, and Kathryn must rely on her grit and the ragged companions she meets on the road if she is to complete her journey.
Back in Boise City, Melissa Baile Mayfield is the newest member of the wealthiest family in all of Cimarron County. In spite of her poor, rural upbringing, Melissa has just married the town’s most eligible bachelor and is determined to be everything her husband―and her new social class―expects her to be. But as the drought tightens its grip, Henry’s true colors are revealed. Melissa covers her bruises with expensive new makeup and struggles to reconcile her affluent life with that of her starving neighbors. Haunted by the injustice and broken by Henry’s refusal to help, Melissa secretly defies her husband, risking her life to follow God’s leading. (General Historical from Tyndale House)


Romance Contemporary:



Make You Feel My Love by Robin Lee Hatcher — In 1895, Cora Anderson jumps on a cross-country train to escape New York society and her domineering father. She leaves with only some spare clothing, jewelry that once belonged to her grandmother, her cherished violin, and hopes for an uncertain future. The tiny town of Chickadee Creek is idyllic and welcoming, but it’s only a matter of time before Cora’s new friends discover the secrets of her past. More than a hundred years later, Chelsea Spencer is fleeing a dangerous situation of her own when her great aunt’s antique shop in Chickadee Creek becomes the perfect haven. At the same time, up-and-coming Hollywood star Liam Chandler has returned to the town of his ancestors to grieve some painful family losses and ponder the direction of his career. (Contemporary Romance from HarperCollins Christian Publishing (Thomas Nelson and Zondervan))

 

A Future to Fight For by Mindy Obenhaus — Widow Paisley Wainwright’s so close to taking her Texas event-planning business to the next level by turning Renwick Castle into a wedding venue. Only one thing stands in the way: her longtime rival, Crockett Devereaux, who wants the building to become a museum. When the building’s owners insist they collaborate to implement both plans, can Paisley and Crockett put their differences aside…and fight for their dreams together? (Contemporary Romance from Love Inspired (Harlequin))

 

The Cowgirl’s Sacrifice by Tina Radcliffe — Needing time to heal after a rodeo injury, Kate Rainbolt heads to her family ranch to accept the foreman job her brothers offered her months ago. But the position’s already been filled by her ex-boyfriend, Jess McNally, and the only open job reports to him. With Jess as her temporary boss—and turning into something more—might he finally convince Kate to put down roots? (Contemporary Romance from Love Inspired (Harlequin))

 

The Yes Dare by Kathleen Y’Barbo — After spending most of her adult life as a football wife and mother to twin sons, fashionista Coco Sutton is learning how to be single and fabulous. Emphasis on Fabulous. The sports trophies, memorabilia, and heavy masculine wood furniture in the home she used to share with Ryan have been banished to the attic, and her home is now a cozy haven of plush candle-scented comfort. She’s got big plans that include owning a boutique or maybe an art gallery, but she never planned to take on the biggest challenge of her life: staying single. Then her best friend gives her a copy of a book called The Yes Dare, and all her plans are turned upside down. (Contemporary Romance from White Glove Publishing)


Romantic Suspense/Thriller:



Her Sanctuary, His Heart by Michelle Dykman — Five years ago, Braelyn Kane’s daughter died. Her marriage imploded, and Forest Hill became Braelyn’s sanctuary. She’s praying for her new life to start, but she doesn’t know where to find it. (Romantic Suspense/Thriller from Ambassador International)

 

Lethal Cover-Up by Darlene L. Turner — Some secrets are dangerous…But uncovering the truth could be deadly. Border patrol officer Madison Steele knows her sister Leah’s fatal car crash was no accident. Someone’s willing to kill to cover up a pharmaceutical company’s deadly crime of distributing tainted drugs. Now they are after Madison to tie off loose ends. But with her high school sweetheart, Canadian police constable Tucker Reed, at her side, can Madison expose the company’s deadly plan before she becomes the next victim? (Romantic Suspense/Thriller from Love Inspired (Harlequin))

 


Speculative Fiction/Fantasy:



Journey to ChiYah by Kimberly Russell — JADE PEPPERDINE HAS A PROBLEM: Her life is crumbling beneath the weight of the past, events of the present, and fears for her future. Things need to change, but she doesn’t know where to start. Answers come in the form of an unexpected opportunity when Jade finds herself stuck in a mythical land. She meets Mayor Dudley, who insinuates she is emotionally broken and in need of repair … a fact she’d just as soon ignore. He offers to help her get home if she is willing to face her issues through a process of restoration. Frightened and skeptical yet out of options, Jade grudgingly agrees. And soon figures out that change is a journey, not a destination. (Speculative Fiction/Fantasy, Independently Published)


Western:



A Man with a Past by Mary Connealy — Falcon Hunt awakens without a past, or at least not one he can recall. He’s got brothers he can’t remember, and he’s interested in the prettiest woman in the area, Cheyenne. Only trouble is, a few flashes of memory make Falcon wonder if he’s already married. He can’t imagine abandoning a wife. But his pa did just that–twice. When Falcon claims his inheritance in the West, Cheyenne is cut out of the ranch she was raised on, leaving her bitter and angry. And then Falcon kisses her, adding confusion and attraction to the mix. Soon it’s clear someone is gunning for the Hunt brothers. When one of his brothers is shot, Falcon and Cheyenne set out to find who attacked him. They encounter rustled cattle, traitorous cowhands, a missing woman, and outlaws that take all their savvy to overcome. Ajs love grows between these two independent people, Falcon must piece together his past if they’re to have any chance at a future. (Western from Bethany House (Baker) Publishing)


Young Adult:

 

You, Me and the Stars by Michelle Dykman — He thinks she’s shallow, she thinks he’s a nerd. What happens when they are forced to work together?
(Young Adult from Ambassador International)



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


An Unexpected Legacy
by Amy R. Anguish, Smoothies brought them together but would the past tear them apart? (Romantic Suspense) 
 
Where Hope Begins by Heidi Chiavaroli, This is Book 2 in The Orchard House Bed and Breakfast Series, a contemporary twist on the well-loved classic, Little Women. (General Contemporary) 
 

Discovering Emily
by Carlene Havel, How can Emily rebuild her life after her husband deserts her? (Contemporary Romance) 
 

The Father He Deserves
by Lisa Jordan, A determined dad. A wary mother. Making amends is never easy… Injured in a kayaking accident, champion Evan Holland returns home to train rescue dogs. But his unexpected partner is the woman he left behind, Natalie Bishop. And she has a secret: a son Evan never knew he had. Now Evan must prove he can be a real father. But earning Natalie’s trust back will take hope, forgiveness—and risking everything on forever… (Contemporary Romance) 
 

Amish Country Threats
by Dana R. Lynn, Her brother was murdered. Will she be next? (Romantic Suspense/Thriller) 
 

Secrets in September
by Doreen McAvoy, Will was looking forward to eighth grade. Will he even make it past September? (Middle Grade) 
 

It’s Mystery…Birds
by Janetta Fudge Messmer, Follow the Early Birds, plus one, on an RV journey where snooping around leads them to more than clues. It may even include a little matchmaking amid criminal activity. (Mystery)
 

Trapped in a Hot Air Balloon
by Mark Wainwright, When angry siblings find themselves trapped and terrified in a runaway hot air balloon, their situation spirals out of control, forcing them to confront their fears in order to survive the crash landing. (Young Adult)

 

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Review: Psalms 365, volume 1, by David Kitz

Psalms 365: Develop a Life of  Worship and Prayer, volume 1, by David Kitz (Elk Lake Publishing, 2020)

With Psalms 365, author and storyteller David Kitz provides short, practical, and personal daily devotions from the beloved Book of Psalms. I’ve found it to be a valuable addition to my day.

Each reading points to a psalm, drawing on a key verse for the day’s focus. There’s a conversational-style reflection on the passage and a prayer of response. Then to encourage readers to deepen a lifestyle of worship and prayer each devotional concludes with a question to think about and to perhaps take into personal conversation with God.

Anyone familiar with the psalms knows that some are songs of worship, some of lament, others of repentance or even anger. Not always easy topics to draw an inspirational message from! David Kitz mines treasure from each one.

Volume 1 of Psalms 365 begins at Psalm 1 and goes to the end of Psalm 51. Volume 2 is also available, covering the next section, and volume 3 is still to come.

Excerpts from the Psalms 365 series can be found on the author’s blog, I Love the Psalms. On the blog he includes photos, which aren’t part of the books. Award-winning author David Kitz is also a Bible dramatist, conference speaker, and ordained minister. For more about him and his books, visit davidkitz.ca.

[Review copy provided by the author. My opinions are my own.]

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Review: Crisis Shot, by Janice Cantore

Crisis Shot, by Janice Cantore (Tyndale, 2017)

Tess O’Rourke has a single goal: to rise through the Long Beach police ranks to captain in honour of her father, a cop killed in the line of duty. But when she shoots an unarmed young offender to protect another officer, a police-hating blogger turns public sentiment against her to the point that her presence on the force endangers her fellow officers.

Tess takes the one job she can find, chief of a small station in Oregon. As she struggles to gain the locals’ trust and build connections with her subordinates, she’s faced with the disappearance of one of the few friends she’s made in this new town.

Crisis Shot has satisfying characters and conflicts, a complicated plot, and twists I didn’t see coming. I thought we could have done with less back story (the first eight chapters, “Part 1,” which show what happened in Long Beach and her struggle to stay, could have been referred to off-page as back story and provided separately to fans wanting more).

What I liked most was the spiritual tension between Tess and the local pastor. Oliver and his wife, Anna, have faced personal and congregational pain over the years. He trusts God, even when he doesn’t understand. Tess gave up on God years ago because she can’t understand why He would allow her father to be killed. Yet when Oliver faces heartbreak, Tess has words of hope from her own life. As this series progresses, it’ll be interesting to see how these two grow in friendship.

Favourite line:

“The tension there was thicker than a hard copy of the California penal code.” [Kindle edition, page 40]

In a time when the news is filled with situations where certain police officers have conducted themselves with prejudice, brutality, and corruption, this book is a vital reminder that most law enforcement officers are dedicated men and women of integrity who regularly put their lives in harm’s way to protect the vulnerable.

Crisis Shot is book 1 in The Line of Duty series, followed by book 2, Lethal Target. Author Janice Cantore has a background in law enforcement, giving a depth of authenticity to her fictional officers’ interactions and issues. For more about the author and her work, visit janicecantore.com.

[Review copy from my personal library.]

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It’s Not About the Money (Guest Post)

It’s Not About the Money

by Steph Beth Nickel

Guest Marguerite Croft shares so much wisdom on Episode 127 of the Write Now podcast (link here: WNP 127). One of the things that stood out most to me was her advice to “have a hobby.” She believes if we write only to monetize our ideas that we’ll have lost some of what it means just to write for the sake of writing.

Disclaimer: I complete several copywriting assignments each months to help pay the bills, some I find incredibly interesting; others, not so much. I also have numerous ideas for books 1) I’d like to write or 2) I’ve begun. One day I hope those books will earn an income as well. Writing for money is not a bad thing—not at all. But sometimes, it’s great just to put pen to paper or fingers to keyboard (or speech to text) just because we want to.

So, today, let’s explore some ways we can write simply for the joy of it. (Warning: Not all the following suggestions will give you “the warm fuzzies.”)

Have a “horrible” idea you want to explore?

Give yourself permission to see where the idea takes you. No one else ever has to read it. But who knows? Maybe it will turn into something you can’t wait to share.

Been thinking about trying your hand at a form of writing or genre you’ve never delved into before?

Go for it! Despite the fact that it’s difficult to discover who first came up with the idea that there are three distinct facets of a creative’s personality, when I heard Marguerite Croft mention the Dreamer, the Writer (or Maker), and the Editor, it resonated with me. We have to give the Dreamer permission to make even the craziest suggestions. Some of them we may want to pursue—even if it means exploring a form of writing we’ve never tried before.

Go with the flow!

Julia Cameron encourages everyone to take up pen and paper (NOT keyboard and computer) every morning and let three pages of whatever comes to mind flow from their pen. She calls these Morning Pages. It’s like clearing the dam. No judgments allowed! The Editor is definitely not permitted in the room at this point.

Similarly, you may freewrite based on a writing prompt—or anything else that inspires you and gets the creative juices flowing. You simply follow your stream of consciousness. (See what I mean about going with the flow?)

Pour Out Your Heart

Although similar quotes have been attributed to a number of different sources, back in 1949, journalist Red Smith was quoted as saying writing wasn’t hard because “you simply sit down at the typewriter, open your veins, and bleed.”

The page is an amazing place to work through your thoughts and feelings. You can be 100 percent honest—and sometimes surprise yourself by digging down and discovering those deep waters (to keep the analogy going).

Talk to Yourself. Talk to God.

I refer to my journaling as “rambling until I stumble across truth,” but that’s just one form of journaling. There are countless ways to journal. Free form. Gratitude journaling. Prayer journaling. And on and on and on. For the most part, this is a very private form of expressing ourselves. Some people even leave instructions that their journals be either buried with them or burned after they pass away. Now, that’s private!

What writing have you done recently “just because”?

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: Under the Cloud, by Violet Nesdoly

Under the Cloud, by Violet Nesdoly (SparrowSong Press, 2020)

What would it be like to be a young girl growing to womanhood in ancient Israel during the wilderness years? With the excitement of the Exodus behind you and the Promised Land not as immediate as everyone had hoped?

Under the Cloud is Zamri’s story. Instead of dreaming of marriage, Zamri longs to become a leader like Moses’ sister, Miriam. She is, however, a daughter in a time when parents are to be obeyed—even when they arrange their daughter’s marriage.

Follow Zamri from girlhood to middle age, and see how she discovers herself able to lead in a very different way than she’d hoped as a child.

I confess when I think of the biblical account Israel’s liberation from Egypt and trek to the Promised Land I don’t have much sympathy—or patience—with their continued doubt. After all, they had the visible Presence of God with them, by day and by night. They saw the Red Sea part, after witnessing all the plagues in Egypt. Yet they grumbled, they disobeyed, and an entire generation ended up dying in the wilderness because of it.

Reading this novel helped me understand some of the fears and influences that make it believable that this rescued people would behave as they did. The faithful knew it wasn’t right, but there would have been many who were still sorting out what it meant to belong exclusively to this One True God.

Under the Cloud is the sequel to Destiny’s Hands, which told the story of Bezalel, a gifted craftsman commissioned by God to craft the holy Tent of Meeting. Zamri is his younger sister. The ending of book two leaves room for a third instalment.

As well as writing biblical fiction, Violet Nesdoly is a poet, artist, and book reviewer. For more about the author and her work, visit violetnesdoly.com.

[Review copy from my personal library.]

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Review: Poison Bay, by Belinda Pollard

Poison Bay, by Belinda Pollard (Small Blue Dog Publishing, 2014)

Ten years after their high school graduation—and the public suicide of one of their number—a group of friends reunite for a gruelling hike through the wilds of New Zealand. But at least one of them has an ulterior motive.

It may be that none of them will survive.

Magnificent setting, complex characters, plot twists: this is a book that’s hard to put down. The landscape is fantastic—and deadly.

While Callie and Jack try to figure out what’s really happening and to get their friends to safety, readers also see one of the parents and the local police chief as they try to mount a search and rescue campaign.

Favourite lines:

“Lightning sheeted overhead every few seconds, its flash freeze-framing the water in yet another brutal contortion.” [Kindle edition, page 36]

“The white-capped peak loomed far overhead on the right, a stream of snow flicking off its top like a flyaway fringe.” [Kindle edition, page 252]

This is Christian fiction with a very subtle faith thread. Jack is the only character with a personal faith, and he’s very honest about the struggle he has with wrong attitudes toward some of the others. [I want to leave that vague to avoid spoilers.]

Poison Bay is book 1 in the Wild Crimes series, to be followed by Venom Reef. For more about author-editor-speaker Belinda Pollard, visit belindapollard.com.

[Review copy from my personal library.]

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Review: Grace Beneath the Frost, by Christine Dillon

Grace Beneath the Frost, by Christine Dillon (Links in the Chain Press, 2021)

Christine Dillon’s Grace series began with Esther, a young Australian woman who received a cancer diagnosis that devastated her faith, her family, and her future. Through the course of that novel, Grace in Strange Disguise, Esther discovered a deeper faith that sustained her through her cancer journey.

Dr. Paul Webster was her cancer specialist, and despite her repeated challenges to consider faith he kept aloof. I had a secret hope that one day we’d be able to read his story, and now it’s available.

Meet the cancer surgeon who lost his wife and family in the climb to success, who never knew his father, and who allowed a patient named Esther to get under his guard and into his heart despite his strict rules to the contrary.

Watch him start a “sceptics club” to read the Gospel of Luke so he can say he’s honoured Esther’s request. Watch him try to navigate the world of parenting his teens. Enjoy a bit of breathtaking Australian scenery along the way, including the Snowy Mountains and Great Barrier Reef.

Fans of the Grace series know it’s not a spoiler to expect Paul to find his way to faith. That’s what these books are about for the main character. What I appreciated in this one was being able to follow him in his stumbling attempts to learn to pray. They encouraged my own prayers and suggested a few new approaches I may incorporate.

Grace Beneath the Frost is book 5 in the Grace series, but it takes place chronologically between books 2 and 3. From the ending of this book, I take hope that there may be a Grace 6 in the works.

If you’re new to the series you can easily start here with book 5, although it does have spoilers for books 1 and 2. Each novel is available independently, and there is also an ebook box set collection of books 1-3. Discussion guides for each book are available on the author’s website.

To learn about author Christine Dillon and her writing, both fiction and nonfiction, visit storytellerchristine.com.

[Review copy from my personal library.]

New Releases in Christian Fiction (June 2021)

June 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:

 

A Chance for the Newcomer by Lisa Carter — She’s stirring things up…A big-city chef. A small-town single dad. And matchmakers with marriage in mind… Chef Kara Lockwood didn’t think changing a small-town diner’s menu would cause a boycott, but the locals sure do love their apple pie—especially fire chief Will MacKenzie. Kara’s not sure she and the single father can ever learn to live peacefully as neighbors. But even as they clash over pastries, local matchmakers and Will’s little boy are determined to bring their stubborn hearts together. (Contemporary Romance from Love Inspired (Harlequin))

His Secret Daughter by Laurie Larsen — She had the perfect life all on her own …Alyssa Stark works hard to make her life’s dreams come true … all on her own. She built her reputation as New York City’s top advertising executive, client by client. And when her ill-advised marriage didn’t work out, she knew she had to make her dream of becoming a mother happen by untraditional means. Now, she and her eight-year-old daughter Caroline are living the dream life in the Big Apple. He’d lost everything that meant anything until he made a discovery …Grant Fontaine is the widowed president of his father-in-law’s electronics company. Since the tragic death of his pregnant wife a decade ago, he’s become a high achieving businessman, but a social hermit. Several years ago, his lonely life took on new meaning when he discovered that the donation he’d made to a reproductive clinic long ago had sired a child. Through the services of a discreet private eye unafraid to push legal limits, he identifies his “daughter,” Caroline, and her mother, Alyssa. Could it be time to reveal his secret? (Contemporary Romance, Independently Published)

Always a Wedding Planner by Davalynn Spencer, R.L. Ashely, LeeAnn Betts, Toni Shiloh — Love Is Only Business for 4 Wedding Planners Discover how keeping secrets from each other threatens four women’s friendships, wedding business, and their own ability to find love in Loveland, Colorado. Business partners Felicity Anderson, the cake baker; Kiki Bell, the seamstress; Cassie Blackthorn, the coordinator; and Chef Saffron Delarosa are best of friends in a town that is a romantic wedding destination for many couples—who work together at Weddings by Design to make every bride’s special day perfect. Could each falling into their own romance be the key to working out their differences and learning to trust each other—and God—with their futures? (Contemporary Romance from Barbour Publishing)

Matched Hearts by Cathe Swanson — She’s looking for a “Plus One” for her parents’ anniversary party. He’s looking for “Happily Ever After.” When a matchmaking agency pairs them up, is it a computer error or a match made in heaven? Eleanor Nielson always wanted to follow in her distinguished parents’ footsteps, becoming a teacher and living a life of selfless community service – until she tried it. Now, she’s run away to find herself and decide what she wants to do with the rest of her life, but she can’t skip her parents’ anniversary party, and she needs a date. Can a matchmaking agency find her a fake boyfriend who will impress her parents? Mechanical engineer David Reid has his life all planned out, and he’s ready for the next phase: a loving wife who will share his faith and work at his side when he becomes a pastor. But a good woman is hard to find, so like any good engineer, David turns the project over to experts: an online matchmaking agency. The pretty, blond teacher with denim blue eyes seems like a match made in heaven. Or is she too good to be true? (Contemporary Romance, Independently Published)

Plot Twist by Bethany Turner — February 4, 2003, is just another day for Olivia Ross—a greeting card writer whose passion project is a screenplay of her own. After she and a handsome, struggling actor have a near-magic encounter in a coffee shop, they make a spontaneous pact: in ten years, after they’ve found the success they’re just sure they’re going to achieve, they’ll return to the coffeehouse to partner up and make a film together. The only problem? Olivia neglected to get the stranger’s name. But she doesn’t forget the date. For the next ten years, every February 4, Olivia has an exceptional day, full of coincidences and ironies. As men come and go and return to her life, and as she continues to write her screenplay, she still wonders about the guy from the coffee shop—the nameless actor she’s almost certain was Hamish MacDougal, now a famous member of the Hollywood elite. But a lot can happen in ten years, and while waiting for the curtain to rise on her fate, the true story of Olivia’s life is being written—and if she’s not careful, she’ll completely miss the epic romance playing out right before her eyes. (Contemporary Romance from HarperCollins Christian Publishing (Thomas Nelson and Zondervan))

 


Historical:

 

More Than Honor by Carol Ashby — Devotion to duty and dogged determination make Tribune Titianus the most feared investigator of the Urban Cohort. Honor drives him to hunt down anyone who breaks Roman law, but it becomes personal when Lenaeus, his old tutor, is murdered in his own classroom. Why kill a respected teacher of the noble sons of Rome, a man who has nothing worth stealing and no known enemies? Had he learned something too dangerous to let him live? Pompeia was only a girl when Titianus studied with Father before her family became Christians. She and her brother Kaeso can’t move their school from the house where their father was killed. But what if the one who killed Father comes to kill again? Kaeso’s friend Septimus insists they spend nights at his father’s well-guarded home. But danger lurks there as well. As Titianus hunts for the murderer, will he discover their secret faith and arrest them as enemies of the Empire? (Historical from Cerrillo Press)

The Dream Weaver’s Bride: Asenath’s Story by Janelle Hovde — As the daughter of the high priest of On, Asenath has a solid vision of her future. Her education with the royal scribe is a luxury not usually afforded to women, and even though she is betrothed to the pharaoh’s half-brother, she has dreams of something more. But everything changes when the pharaoh has troubling nightmares that only a prisoner named Joseph can interpret. Suddenly, Asenath finds herself married to this foreigner, who demands that no god but his own be worshipped in his house. Despite her fears, Asenath is touched by Joseph’s kindness and humility, even as he steps into his newfound power. Can Asenath trust the God of Joseph and forsake her old deities? Can she learn to love this stranger from another land, a stranger with scars from a painful past? As a famine sweeps across Egypt and the surrounding lands, Asenath and Joseph find themselves face-to-face with the men who caused Joseph’s suffering. Can Asenath embrace the power of El Shaddai and help her husband forgive? (Historical from Guideposts Publications)

 


Historical Romance:



Faith in the Mountain Valley by Misty M. Beller — After eleven years spent looking for the girl who stole his heart, Jean-Jacques Baptiste-better known as French to his friends-is tempted to give up. Until the day he spotted the flaxen-haired stranger traveling the wooded path with Blackfoot Indians. He never imagined he’d find his childhood friend masquerading as a man in this Rocky Mountain wilderness, hundreds of miles from the Canadian town where he last saw her. No matter her reasons, he can’t let her go this time. From a USA Today bestselling author comes another epic journey through breathless landscapes and adventure so intense, lives will never be the same. (Historical Romance, Independently Published)

The Captain’s Quest by Lorri Dudley — Pricilla Middleton only attended the Lemoore house party to keep her friend out of trouble. Now, her only chance to keep from becoming a gossip column headline is to sneak aboard her brother’s ship and pretend she’d been visiting him instead of taking part in the debacle. Before she can speak to her brother, the ship sets sail, and the man in charge is not at all who she expects. Captain Tobias Prescott, son of an infamous war hero, has been assigned on a critical mission to deploy warships in St. Kitts for battle in New Orleans. Unfortunately, his orders require him to assume command of a friend’s ship, and he must weigh anchor the instant the former captain is escorted down the gangplank. When they reach open waters, the last thing he expects is to find a woman hiding in the captain’s cabin, yet his mission is too urgent to return her to England. (Historical Romance from Wild Heart Books)

Along a Storied Trail by Ann H. Gabhart — Kentucky packhorse librarian Tansy Calhoun doesn’t mind the rough trails and long hours as she serves her Appalachian mountain community during the Great Depression. Yet she longs to find love like the heroines in the books she loves. When a charming writer comes to town, she thinks she might have found it—or is the perfect man actually closer than she thinks? Perdita Sweet has called these mountains home for so long that she’s nearly as rocky as the soil around her small cabin. Long ago she thought she could love, but when the object of her affection up and married someone else, she stopped giving too much of herself away to others. As is so often the case, it’s easier to see what’s best for others than to see what’s best for oneself. Perdita knows who Tansy should choose, but why would anyone listen to the romantic advice of an old spinster? (Historical Romance from Revell – A Division of Baker Publishing Group)

To Find Her Place by Susan Anne Mason — In the midst of WWII, Jane Linder, a childless divorcée, puts all her energy into her career at the Toronto Children’s Aid Society. As acting directress, Jane hopes to be awarded the position permanently so she can continue making a difference in the lives of troubled children. Garrett Wilder has been hired to overhaul operations at the Children’s Aid Society. He hopes to impress the board members with his findings and earn the vacant director’s position. A war injury ended his dream of taking over his parents’ farm, but with the security of the director’s job, he’d be able to contribute financially and help save the family business. As Garrett works closely with Jane, he comes to admire her tenacity and her dedication to the children. Just as feelings begin to blossom between them, her ex-husband returns from overseas with an unexpected proposition that could fulfill Jane’s deepest desires. With the odds stacked against them, can Garrett and Jane navigate the obstacles to their relationship and find lasting love? (Historical Romance from Bethany House (Baker) Publishing)

A Bride for Keegan by Linda Shenton Matchett — Fiona Quigley’s parents came to America for a better life, but illness and the Civil War took them from her. Now, she’s barely scraping by as a seamstress to Boston’s elite. A chance for a new start arises in the form of being a mail-order bride, but to her dismay she must marry the man by proxy. Once they’re wed, there will be no turning back. After being jailed one too many times for protesting against the Unionists in Ireland, Keegan O’Rourke heads for America—land of the free. He takes advantage of the Homestead Act to create a farm in his new country, but he has no one to share his success, so he advertises for a mail-order bride. They wed by proxy, but after she arrives, he discovers his Irish lass hails from the northern reaches of the Emerald Isle – the very area he fled. (Historical Romance from Shortwave Press)

On Sugar Hill by Ane Mulligan — She traded Sugar Hill for Vaudeville. Now she’s back. The day Cora Fitzgerald turned sixteen, she fled Sugar Hill for the bright lights of Vaudeville, leaving behind her senator-father’s verbal abuse. But just as her career takes off, she’s summoned back home. And everything changes. The stock market crashes. The senator is dead. Her mother is delusional, and her mute Aunt Clara pens novels that have people talking. Then there’s Boone Robertson, who never knew she was alive back in high school, but now manages to be around whenever she needs help. Will the people of her past keep her from a brilliant future?
(Historical Romance from Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas)

No Journey Too Far by Carrie Turansky — In 1909, Grace McAlister set sail for Canada as one of the thousands of British Home Children taken from their families and their homeland. Though she is fortunate enough to be adopted by wealthy parents, the secrets of her past are kept hidden for ten years until someone from her long-buried childhood arrives on her doorstep. With this new connection to her birth family, will she be brave enough to leave her sheltered life in Toronto and uncover the truth? After enduring hardship as an indentured British Home Child, Garth McAlister left Canada to serve in World War I. His sweetheart, Emma Lafferty, promised to wait for his return, but after three long years apart, her letters suddenly stopped. When Garth arrives home from the war to unexpected news, he is determined to return to Canada once more on a daunting mission to find the two women he refuses to abandon—his long-lost sister and his mysteriously missing sweetheart. (Historical Romance from Waterbrook/Multnomah (Random House))

A Life Redeemed by Olivia Rae — Upon Queen Elizabeth’s order, Audrey Hayes travels to the borderlands of Scotland to learn where the fierce Laird Armstrong’s loyalties lie. Is he aligned with his mother’s English roots in support of the queen, or does he hold with the beliefs of his father, who wishes to see Mary of Scots on the English throne? The fate of Audrey’s family rests on her success in finding the answer. After losing his lands in a wager and being betrayed by his kin, Gavin Armstrong entered a loveless marriage to obtain the funds to buy back his family home, Warring Tower. Now a widower, struggling against countless border wars, he is on the verge of losing his home and lands again. With few resources, he reluctantly makes another risky wager, one he cannot hope to win without trusting the secretive Audrey Hayes, a woman he suspects is an English spy. (Historical Romance from HopeKnight Press)

 


Speculative/Science Fiction:

 

The Chase by Bradley Caffee — in the Chase. Be the hero. Or die trying. The chaos and anarchy following the Great Collapse nearly brought the world to its knees until the unchanging Law brought order and peace. Generations later, the twelve alliances of the World Coalition come together once a year to allow their best and brightest young people to compete in the Chase. The prize? A chance to pass exactly one new law. The son of two former Chase runners, Willis Thomson is the top trainee in the Western Alliance. With the expectations of the world and his heritage driving him, he leads his elite Red Team as they prepare for his moment to become a coveted law-changer. Perryn Davis, the new leader of the Blue Team, struggles to survive as she competes as one of the designated losers. She knows that losing means genetic recoding, a process that cannot go on indefinitely, and longs to age out of the program before it kills her. When a mysterious new racer with knowledge of the outside shows up at their orbiting training center, the natural order of the Western Alliance trainees is upended. In a world where too much knowledge is dangerous, Willis and Perryn find themselves in a race to save their lives and uncover the hidden underbelly of the peaceful World Coalition. (Speculative/Science Fiction from Mountain Brook Fire)

 


Thriller/Suspense/Romance:

 

Cold Case Trail by Sharee Stover — Following the clues could be the last thing they do… Temporarily working in the cold case division was supposed to mean less danger for state trooper Trey Jackson and his injured K-9 partner, Magnum—until they thwart an abduction. Now he must protect profiler Justine Stark, even as she blames him for her friend’s death ten years ago. Can he right past wrongs by finally solving the murder…and making sure Justine lives to find closure? (Thriller/Suspense/Romantic from Love Inspired (Harlequin))

 


Young Adult:

 

Aslan: Running Joy by Kristin Kaldahl — For fourteen-year-old Krissy, her new life maxim is pretty sad: First choices out. Second choices in. It’s been that way since dialysis left her disabled. Her limitations went from none to a ton, and now they stand in the way of her dream―to compete in dog agility with her runty sheltie pup, Aslan. (Young Adult from CrossLink Publishing)

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

Love & Adventure by Elise Davis, What do baseball and true love have in common besides a diamond? Is that a trick question? (Contemporary)
 
Miracle in Milan by MaryAnn Diorio, When a young, female auditor discovers evidence that the man she loves is an embezzler, she must choose between ruining herself or ruining him. (Thriller/Suspense/Romantic)
 
Finding Home by Candee Fick, Two hearts longing for home. (Contemporary Romance)
 
Love Found in Cranberry Cover by June Foster, Can Blake and Gracie learn who’s behind the danger that threatens them? Will a small-town girl and big-city boy find a life together? (Thriller/Suspense/Romantic)
 
A Night Divine by Dawn Kinzer, One chilly December night, a tragedy connects Camryn and Trace, and the devastating experience spurs her into volunteering with his team. But as Christmas Eve approaches and the two grow closer, secrets have the potential to break someone’s heart. (Contemporary Romance)
 
Let It Be Me by Becky Wade, The one woman he wants is the one he cannot have.
(Contemporary Romance)

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