Tag Archives: romance

Review: Leopard’s Heart, by Kimberly A. Rogers

Leopard's Heart, by Kimberly A. RogersLeopard’s Heart, by Kimberly A. Rogers (2015)

In this Earth-based present-day urban fantasy, three species co-exist: Humans, Elves, and Therians. There are also assorted nasties held back by a mysterious barrier.

Humans know about the Elves, but they don’t know about the Therians, who work incognito for their protection. Therians are shape-shifters with three forms: humanoid, animal, and half-beast. Each Therian is born into one beast family and has only one beast form.

If this intrigues you and you haven’t read the prequel, Tiger’s Paw, don’t read any farther because there’s a spoiler to the prequel below. I highly recommend reading the prequel so you’ll be oriented in this complex world before starting book one, Leopard’s Heart.

I found Tiger’s Paw a bit of a hard read, partially because it’s from the point of view of General Baran (the tiger) and he’s, as the impudent leopard he’s assigned to work with says, “Tall, Dark, and oh-so-Serious.” The major difficulty in reading was simply absorbing the way the story world works: the hierarchies and relationships among the different species of beasts, and how they work unseen among the humans.

Now, if you’re still here, prepare to learn something about how Tiger’s Paw ends.

Raina (the leopard on the cover of Leopard’s Heart) is in an arranged marriage to Baran. Raina’s also half-Elven, exposing her to prejudice and attacks from those who want to keep the Therian race pure.

The novel is about the two of them working together to thwart a plot to expose the Therian race to the Humans. A subversive element among the Therians, the Fringe, is behind this and is also stirring up hate crimes against half-Elven Therians.

Among the unfamiliar circumstances, though, we find two strong and likeable characters in an arranged marriage: a classic romance situation that we’re comfortable with. We may not be able to relate to shape-shifters, but we can relate to hearts. And to danger and the need to stop the villains.

The story is mostly told in the first person, from either Raina’s or Baran’s point of view. I wish the chapters opened with the narrating character’s name, for easier reading, but it only took a few paragraphs to find out each time.

Leopard’s Heart is a compelling read, clean fiction with a Christian theme (the Therian Way is a code of honour based on faith in Yeshua). It’s violent in places, with more fighting and blood than I’m used to, but nothing is gratuitous. Still, by the end I was a little battle-weary.

I won a copy of Leopard’s Heart in a giveaway, and bought Tiger’s Paw so I could start at the beginning. I like Raina and Baran, and I’m glad to have come this far with them in the series.

Kimberley A. Rogers is a fantasy author and Masters in Religious Education student. For more about the author and her books, visit her website, So You Want to Write Christian Fantasy?

Guest Post: Connecting in a Dusty, Used Book Store, by Jennifer Slattery

Connecting in a Dusty, Used Book Store

by Jennifer Slattery

Jennifer SlatteryMy husband and I are newly empty nesters, and that’s been an adjustment. Actually, considering he, our daughter, and I are all introverts who largely stay to ourselves, I’ve been surprised at what an adjustment this new phase has been. There’s just something about having those you love around, right? Whether they say a word or not? Needless to say, our daughter’s recent absence has been felt.

Man, do I miss her! But I try not to push, not to guilt her into seeing me, because I truly want her to launch from our nest and embrace her new life at college. So, when I learned her schedule would be relatively light one Thursday a few weeks ago, I sent her a text.

Me: Want to meet for lunch?

She proceeded to tell me her schedule. We could meet before or after a couple of her classes, but she’d have to be back by 4.

Honestly, I would’ve been pleased with thirty minutes, or even a quick phone call, so I was more than thrilled with the chunk of time she offered. But I still wanted to give her an out, just in case.

So I shot her another text: Are you sure you have time? I don’t want to make you feel stressed.

(College can be crazy tough, and I certainly don’t want to be an additional stresser!)

My heart swelled at her response: Nah.

That’s young adult talk for, “I want to see you.”

At least that’s how I chose to interpret it.

The events that followed were absolutely precious. I parked outside her dorm, and, upon her suggestion, the two of us walked toward Lincoln’s historic Haymarket so she could show me a used bookstore, one of two she’d found.

Jennifer Slattery and her daughter, in the used book store

And had we ended there, the entire day would’ve been awesome. Because there’s just something about books, right? Especially about going to a bookstore with the child you remember reading to, all those years ago, and perusing shelves filled with books from printed during that period of time.

It was our special connection, and a memory I won’t soon forget. The rest of our day was great, filled with getting lost, laughing, talking, and, of course, eating, but that bookstore was the highlight, and not just because it was cute and quaint and homey, but because through it, I was reminded of a special connection my daughter and I shared, one we’ve shared since before she could talk, and that’s our love for stories.

If you’re reading this blog, I’m assuming there’s a good chance you’re a book lover. Do you have any memorable bookstore moments you can share, maybe of going to the bookstore with your parents or taking your child or grandchild to one and spending a lazy afternoon flipping through crisp pages? Share your memories with us in the comments below!

~~~

Jennifer Slattery writes soul-stirring fiction for New Hope Publishers, a publishing house passionate about bringing God’s healing grace and truth to the hopeless. She also writes for Crosswalk.com, Internet Café Devotions, and the group blog, Faith-filled Friends. When not writing, Jennifer loves going on mall dates with her adult daughter and coffee dates with her hilariously fun husband.

Visit with Jennifer online at JenniferSlatteryLivesOutLoud.com and connect with her on Facebook.

Intertwined, by Jennifer Slattery

Abandoned by her husband for another woman, Tammy Kuhn, an organ procurement coordinator often finds herself in tense and bitter moments. After an altercation with a doctor, she is fighting to keep her job and her sanity when one late night she encounters her old flame Nick. She walks right into his moment of facing an unthinkable tragedy. Because they both have learned to find eternal purposes in every event and encounter, it doesn’t take long to discover that their lives are intertwined but the ICU is no place for romance… or is it? Could this be where life begins again?

Intertwined, part of New Hope Publisher’s contemporary fiction line, is a great reminder of how God can turn our greatest tragedies and failures into beautiful acts of love and grace. Readers will fall in love with the realistic characters and enjoy the combination of depth, heart-felt emotion and humor that makes Jennifer’s novels so appealing. Readers will be inspired to find God in every moment and encounter in their own lives!

Buy it:

Review: I Always Cry at Weddings, by Sara Goff

I Always Cry at Weddings, by Sara GoffI Always Cry at Weddings, by Sara Goff (WhiteFire Publishing, 2015)

What if your dream wedding was fast approaching – and you suddenly realized it was a huge mistake?

Ava breaks her engagement and gets stuck with an enormous bill. The stress affects her performance at work, and her only supporter, her mother, is fighting cancer. Ava was with Josh for five years. How will she even begin to look for true love?

Desperation prompts some risky choices, and Ava has some narrow escapes. She’s drifted a long way from God, although she’s trying to find her way back to faith.

Set in the whirl of New York City, I Always Cry at Weddings is the story of one woman’s attempts to find out who she really is, and to follow her dreams even when it looks like her life is falling apart.

This is Christian fiction that reads much like a clean mainstream novel. The faith element is sprinkled in small doses, and Ava is clearly a seeker, not an example of mature Christianity. She feels like a real person, and while I sometimes had trouble understanding her actions, I was definitely rooting for a happy ending.

I Always Cry at Weddings is a skilfully crafted novel with an appealing voice. Author Sara Goff is the founder of Lift the Lid, an organization which supports underprivileged schools and encourages young people to exercise their creative expression through writing.

[Review copy provided by the author.]

Review: Dreamlander, by K.M. Weiland

Dreamlander, by K.M. WeilandDreamlander, by K.M. Weiland (PenForASword, 2012)

Dreams weren’t supposed to be able to kill you. But this one was sure trying its best. [Kindle location 91]

What if… when you fell asleep, your dreams were real in another world?

Chris is a Gifted, one of very few who can cross the boundary between our world and the other. Each Gifted is brought to the other world to help in time of need, although the nature of that help isn’t immediately apparent.

We first meet Chris in present-day Chicago, where he’s a journalist afraid of commitment, avoiding his down-and-out father and basically drifting through life. Lately he’s been having strange dreams, and when he falls asleep and catapults into the Kingdom of Lael, all he wants to do is go home and make the dreams stop.

Princess Allara Katadin of Lael is a Searcher. Her role is to locate a Gifted when he or she crosses over, and to help the Gifted acclimatize and fulfill his or her role as that becomes clear. She was a child when her first Gifted arrived, and that episode of her life was a failure. A second Gifted in the same Searcher’s lifetime is practically unheard-of, and it’s the last thing Allara wants.

Lael is a mediaeval-type kingdom, with horses and swords. They do have guns, powered by hydraulics, and cable-cars which connect distant towns. They’re also under threat from a neighbouring country and from a dissenting faction within their own.

The world has different plant and animal life than Earth, including two other bipedal species and a guardian-angel type of being called the Garowai, a wise, mythic-looking creature who only tells Allara as much as she needs to know.

The world-building is thorough and intriguing, different enough to be fun but not deliberately strange to keep readers off balance. The characters and culture are richly-developed and relatable. This is another of those stories I didn’t want to see end. Happily, it’s a long one.

My favourite line:

Chris’s breath, trapped in the back of his throat, seeped free. [Kindle location 2709]

The narrative slips between Lael, where Chris, who doesn’t believe in second chances, desperately needs a way to right the wrong he does in the beginning – and stop a war – and Chicago, where he’s trying to evade a hit-man. Between the two worlds, Chris may gain the wisdom needed to make his life count.

Dreamlander is a satisfying novel, the sort that leaves me mulling it over for a while before I can open another book. K.M. Weiland has two other novels, Behold the Dawn (historical) and A Man Called Outlaw (western), as well as a collection of resources for writers. She has a page on her website with extras and bonus features for Dreamlander, and her Helping Writers Become Authors site has a wealth of writing resources.

[Review copy from my personal library.]

Review: Secretly Yours, by Valerie Comer

Secretly Yours, by Valerie ComerSecretly Yours, by Valerie Comer (GreenWords Media, 2014)

Who doesn’t love a secret admirer story? When chef Lindsey Solberg returns to the small town of Riverbend, BC, she’s shocked to recognize the youth pastor of her sister’s church. The way Nick Harrison behaved in high school, church was the last place she’d expect to see him.

No way will Lindsey risk Nick hurting her again. What’s a guy to do but send anonymous gifts and try to win her trust?

Secretly Yours is a Valentine’s Day novella, and the shorter length is perfect for an afternoon’s read. Author Valerie Comer always adds more than the romance. In this story (the first of a series to be set in Riverbend) we see Lindsey’s step-father as a morose, deflated kind of man. Dynamics in the household are not good—that’s why Lindsey returned, to act as a buffer for her younger sister. I suspect we’ll see some changes and growth in these characters as the series progresses.

What I most appreciated about Secretly Yours was watching Lindsey’s discovery of God’s love as personal. It’s a tricky balance, to know He loves each individual as if he/she were special. As Lindsey says in the story, we can think of Jesus’ death to save us something for everyone—which of course it was—without realizing how personal it was for each soul.

Valerie Comer is a prolific Canadian author of romance (plus one fantasy novel). She’s most known for her Farm Fresh Romance series. This new Riverbend series is set in Canada, which is a treat for readers like me. For more about the author and her books, visit valeriecomer.com.

[Review copy from my personal library.]

Review: Veiled at Midnight, by Christine Lindsay

Veiled at Midnight, by Christine LindsayVeiled at Midnight, by Christine Lindsay (WhiteFire Publishing, 2014)

Veiled at Midnight is a strong conclusion to Christine Lindsay’s Twilight of the British Raj series. If you haven’t read the previous two books, you can jump in here and understand everything, but Cam’s and Miriam’s back-stories do contain spoilers for the other books. And it’s a series well worth reading in its entirety.

Cam was a young child in book 1, Shadowed in Silk, and Miriam is his younger sister. Now adults, he’s in the army and she’s a teacher. The year is 1946; the place, India. These are the final days of British rule, but instead of happiness over the coming independence, the country is fracturing from within.

Because Cam and Miriam grew up in India, very involved in the work of a local mission for orphans, they feel more Indian than British. The idea of repatriating to England unsettles them. Cam’s war experiences add to his struggle, which he tries to drown in alcohol.

In a time of strict views on social status, dare Cam marry his childhood sweetheart, Dassah – an Indian? Can he live without her? And will Miriam be able to choose between a dashing British soldier and her career? Or can she hold onto both?

The siblings’ personal lives play out against the exotic background of India, during an increasingly turbulent time.

In some ways this was a difficult book to read. Author Christine Lindsay does a very good job of conveying the horror of the riots and fighting without becoming too graphic. With the current behaviour of ISIS and other religious terrorist groups, this historical novel feels uncomfortably current.

Yet against a background laced with tragedy, the novel weaves stories of hope. Another contemporary issue addressed in its pages is alcoholism. This is a Christian novel, and the author is clear in her message that only God can break the grip of this addiction. As we see, that doesn’t mean it’s easy for Cam. What it means is that it’s too hard for Cam – without God.

Favourite lines:

She’d been a striking woman, but it seemed as if someone had taken a charcoal drawing of her face and smudged it downward. [Kindle location 1716]

The rails leading out of the Amritsar station caught the last vestiges of setting sun and quivered in two molten lines of steel. [Kindle location 2110]

How could one’s heart sing and crack at the same time? [Kindle location 2252]

Eshana’s rebuke left welts on the raw patch that used to be Cam’s self-respect. [Kindle location 2326]

Christine Lindsay writes novels to give hope and to strengthen faith. As such, she doesn’t shy away from difficult issues but allows readers to walk through those places with her characters. As well as the Twilight of the British Raj series, Christine has written a contemporary romance, Londonderry Dreaming.

[Review copy provided by the author.]

Catherine West, Author of Yesterday’s Tomorrow

Catherine West

Catherine West writes stories that connect with readers’ imaginations and with their hearts. Her novel, Yesterday’s Tomorrow, released in 2011 from OakTara Press, and she’s re-releasing it now as an independent author.

Because I loved the story, and because I’m also a newly independent author re-releasing a traditionally-published book, I asked Cathy if we could chat.

Janet: Welcome, Cathy, and thanks for taking time to join us. Congratulations on this second edition of Yesterday’s Tomorrow. Fantastic new cover, which we’ll talk about in a bit. For now, tell us about the story itself.

Cathy: Vietnam, 1967.

Independent, career-driven journalist Kristin Taylor wants two things: to honor her father’s memory by becoming an award-winning overseas correspondent and to keep tabs on her only brother, Teddy, who signed up for the war against their mother’s wishes. Brilliant photographer Luke Maddox, silent and brooding, exudes mystery. Kristin is convinced he’s hiding something.

Willing to risk it all for what they believe in, Kristin and Luke engage in their own tumultuous battle until, in an unexpected twist, they’re forced to work together. Ambushed by love, they must decide whether or not to set aside their own private agendas for the hope of tomorrow that has captured their hearts.

Janet: Yesterday’s Tomorrow is written from a Christian worldview, yet it’s gritty and real. Not the sweet sort of story many associate with the genre. I’m glad there’s room for stories like this. What’s the takeaway it offers to readers?

Cathy: I think readers can really take as much or as little from this story as they wish. The main theme that runs throughout is forgiveness. Both Luke and Kristin make life-changing mistakes they must come to terms with and grieve in their own way, but to truly move past those dark moments they must learn to forgive themselves and each other. I also like the theme of redemption that is ever present. God truly can take any situation and redeem it for good, sometimes when we least expect it.

Janet: Since it’s set during the Vietnam War, you didn’t have to update to match current technology, but did you make any changes for this edition?

Cathy: I worked with freelance editor Mick Silva, on this edition. Outside of one big change, the real magic was in the telling of the story, tightening tension, polishing the prose, and making the plot even more intriguing and motives more believable. I think at the end of it we have an even better offering. I hope readers will agree.

Janet: Do you have a favourite character in Yesterday’s Tomorrow?

Cathy: Ah. Of course. Luke Maddox will forever hold a place in my heart no matter how many books I write. He’s the type of guy you love to hate at the beginning, but by the first half of the book you realize just how wonderful he is and you can’t wait for Kristin to finally wake up and see that too. 🙂
Yesterday's Tomorrow, by Catherine West

Janet: The original cover was striking, but I think the new one is more so. And I like how it reflects both the war and the romance elements. What goes into designing a great cover?

Cathy: I love this cover so much. Dineen Miller did an amazing job! She had read the story, so she knew what I was looking for right off the bat. While still giving some hint of the era and the war backdrop, we really wanted to play up the romance, and I think the images we finally agreed on do that very well.

Janet: When did you decide to get your publication rights back and go indie? Was it a long process?

Cathy: It usually takes about six months for the process to be completed. My agent and I made the decision back in January.

Janet: There’s a lot for an independent author to learn, but more and more people are choosing this route. Do you have a few favourite resources to share?

Cathy: I don’t have a whole lot of experience going this route yet. I’ve joined a few Indie author groups on Facebook and I’m learning a lot from the folks there. I’m reading a lot of books on self-publishing and marketing, but I don’t know enough to make any recommendations yet.

Janet: What’s the most exciting thing for you as an indie author?

Cathy: I like having control over my books, I guess. It’s all so new that I’m not really sure yet. 🙂 It’s nice to know that if I want to do a free or 99 cent day offering, I can do that.

Janet: What’s the biggest challenge?

Cathy: I was fortunate to be able to work with my agency Books & Such, on this Indie venture, so they dealt with Amazon and all the formatting etc… I imagine that would be very difficult and I was glad not to have to do that! The biggest challenge, I think, will be marketing and making sure the book gets the best exposure. But that’s the same with traditional publishing as well.

Janet: Do you have any advice for beginning writers, especially those considering the independent route?

Cathy: Independent publishing is a viable option nowadays, but you really want to make sure you’re putting your best work out there. I highly recommend working with a freelance editor on any project, even something you’re planning to submit to an agent or publisher. It’s really hard to pick up mistakes, grammar or spelling, when you’ve read something over a hundred times! And objective, professional eye – an editor with experience – is worth the investment. There are many to choose from so ask around, get recommendations from authors you trust, and really make sure that you find someone you believe you can work well with, especially if you want a substantive edit rather than just a line edit.

Janet: Are you planning to re-release your second novel, Hidden in the Heart, as well?

Cathy: Yes, that is in process.

Janet: What other projects do you have in the works?

Cathy: I have four completed novels making the rounds at the moment, so we’ll see what comes next with those.

Janet: Life is more than writing. Tell us something you appreciate about living in Bermuda.

Cathy: I love the beauty of this island. The sparkling blue waters, pink sands, green hedges and colourful flowers everywhere, no matter the time of the year. I’m not a city person nor do I enjoy winter, so island living suits me fine. There’s also a slower place here, which I like. Nobody’s ever really in a hurry.

Janet: Are you a morning person or a night owl?

Cathy: Hmm. Neither really. I used to be a night owl, I worked well after midnight and still got up and functioned fine the next morning. Not so much anymore. I like to be in bed by 11pm at the latest. I’m definitely not a morning person though. I need my coffee and a couple hours silence before I’m ready to interact with the world.

Janet: What’s your favourite food?

Cathy: I would say chocolate pudding cake, but it’s a migraine trigger for me, so I have to stay away from it. Chilled lobster with hot garlic butter sauce is definitely up there on the list!

Janet: Sounds good to me! Thanks so much for visiting today, Cathy, and all the best with your new ventures. I hope many new readers discover and appreciate your fiction.

===

Yesterday’s Tomorrow, second edition, is now available in ebook and print formats through your favourite retailers. (The first edition is still available too, with the original cover, so be sure you get the new one.) There have been a few changes for this new edition, but the basic story is the same. You can read my review of the first edition here. I look forward to reading the new version soon.

Review: Princess Ever After, by Rachel Hauck

cover art: Princess Ever After, by Rachel HauckPrincess Ever After, by Rachel Hauck (Zondervan, 2014)

Reggie (Regina) Beswick is finally living her own life. Still in her 20’s, she has walked away from a successful accounting position to do what she’s always wanted: restore antique cars. She and her partner, Al, are good at it, too.

Enter Tanner Burkholdt, emissary from Hessenberg (a fictional island duchy in the North Sea, with mixed British and German heritage), claiming Reggie is their long-lost princess—and the duchy’s one chance to regain independence. Suddenly Grandma Alice’s half-forgotten princess fairy tale takes on a new meaning.

Princess Ever After gives the expected look into the culture shock an American citizen would experience in the role of royalty. Reggie discovers that her education, her experience in the world of finance, and her business skills have prepared her for a role far greater than she dreamed—or than she wanted.

She could abdicate, but whatever she does, Reggie will be a princess. Ever after. Even if her political opponent succeeds in deposing her—and arresting her as an enemy of the state.

Regina and Tanner are strong characters. She’s straightforward, confident, and once she decides to accept this new role, determined to give it everything she has. Tanner looks like he has it all together, but he can’t forgive himself for his past. Do they dare fall in love in the middle of Hessenberg’s political crisis?

To me, the conflicts raised by Mark in the US and Seamus in Hessenberg fell short of their opening setup. What if Mark went after Reggie to press his case? What if Seamus had actually believed he was helping his country instead of just helping himself?

Toward the story’s end, Regina and Tanner experience the sort of Divine intervention that can happen in real life, but I confess I find disappointing in anything other than fantasy fiction. It’s not a huge part of the story, but readers who object to this sort of thing can consider themselves warned 🙂

That being said, there’s much to like in this novel, and it’s an engaging read. Regina learns the difference between intellectual faith and stepping out in faith, and Tanner learns a healthier way to live.

My favourite lines:

Reggie loved Mondays. They were like mini New Years four times a month. A chance for a fresh start… (p. 116)

I’d never looked at Mondays that way. Think I’ll start! And what about this:

Tanner: “God disciplines a man, or the man disciplines himself. I chose the latter.”

Reggie: “Too bad … because God would’ve been kinder, more generous, and definitely more loving.” (p. 279)

Rachel Hauck is a RITA finalist and a multi-published, award-winning author. She’s a regular contributor to the My Book Therapy blog and was named American Christian Fiction Writers’ Mentor of the Year for 2013. Visit the Princess Ever After page at the author’s site for more about this book (#2 in the Royal Wedding series) and to read a sample chapter. I think you’ll like Reggie.

[A review copy was received from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. I was in no way compensated for this review.]

Review: Sandwich, With a Side of Romance

Sandwich, With a Side of Romance, by Krista PhillipsSandwich, With a Side of Romance, by Krista Phillips (Abingdon Press, 2012)

Maddie arrives in the town of Sandwich with a single, burning goal: to set up a stable home so she can get her younger brother out of foster care. Problem one: she loses her job on the first day. Problem two: she wasn’t a model child during her own foster care days, and the couple who have Kyle right now want to keep him.

She’s desperate enough to confront the man who cost her the job and convince him to hire her. Her new boss, Reuben, is irritable and has a jealous girlfriend, but Maddie’s out of options. She has a lot of attitude of her own, but behind his impatience Reuben feels sorry for her. He can’t fire her—especially when it seems her administrative skills might just save his sanity.

Sandwich, With a Side of Romance is an inspirational romance with appealing, complex characters. Maddie comes from a troubled past and wants nothing to do with men. Reuben is coasting in a long-term relationship, and his restaurant business takes up all his time. Still, they each sense an attraction they need to fight.

Maddie is a new Christian and her conversations with God are blunt, direct and often funny. She’s open to learn more, and her intentions are good, but will that be enough to help her gain custody of her brother?

Author Krista Phillips blogs at One Woman’s Dream: finding joy in life’s journey, and you can learn more about her there. Sandwich, With a Side of Romance is her first novel, and I hope we’ll see more from her soon. I snagged the Kindle edition when it was on a free promotion, but the regular Kindle price is $9.99 (Amazon.ca). I can’t recommend paying that much for an e-book unless it’s one you really, super want to read, especially since the trade paperback is only $12.05 (Amazon.ca).

[Review copy from my personal library.]

Review: Raspberries and Vinegar, by Valerie Comer

Raspberries and Vinegar cover artRaspberries and Vinegar, by Valerie Comer (Choose NOW Publishing, 2013)

What happens when three 20-something single Christian women buy a farm in northern Idaho and set out to demonstrate their beliefs about sustainable living?

The farm is called Green Acres, but unlike Lisa from the classic TV show, Jo Shaw and her friends Claire and Sierra have done their research and are up to the task.

Mostly up to the task. There’s the small matter of a mouse infestation in their temporary dwelling, but Jo’s sure they can handle it.

She’s not so sure she can handle their attractive neighbour, Zach. He’s only home to care for his parents’ farm until his father’s health improves, and he can’t wait to get back to the city. The girls see all the pluses of rural living, but he sees only minuses. They eat ethically-sourced food; he’ll hit the drive-thru any chance he gets. Jo doesn’t think she stands a chance with him anyway, against her friend Sierra’s charms.

Jo, at 25, is only beginning to see the world’s not as black and white as she thinks. And she knows her subject so thoroughly, she forgets the average person doesn’t share her knowledge. When she remembers, she tries to fully educate the person on the spot.

Author Valerie Comer does a great job making Jo a likable character instead of the opinionated shrew she could have been. Jo’s just like any of us: passionate about something that matters to her. And like us, she sometimes reacts first and regrets later. She’s a vulnerable character, despite her spunk.

As a boy, Zach loved the farm but hated the low income level. He’s a newly-qualified veterinarian, looking for a lucrative city post with civilized hours and no cows. Somewhere along the way, his faith has been pushed to the side. Coming home may get him thinking about it again.

Something about these characters connected with me. Maybe it’s Jo’s second-guessing herself, or how she’s so quick to compare herself to others (always to her loss). Maybe it’s Zach’s trying to be an honourable man in his own strength. Maybe it’s both of them, carrying loads they were never intended to shoulder alone.

Like Zach, I don’t know much about “walking gently on the earth,” and I found lots to think about in this book. The information flows organically (couldn’t resist that pun) as the story unfolds, and it doesn’t stop the forward motion of the plot.

The novel’s humour offsets Jo’s serious nature, and there are some heart-tugging moments too. This is a longer romance than you’d see from Love Inspired, so the author had more room to explore her characters and readers can get to know them on a deeper level. Definitely a plus, in my view.

My favourite line (said to Jo by Zach’s grandmother):

“God loves your zeal, I’m sure, but He wants your heart.” [Kindle Location 3528]

Jo does love God, but—like many of us—she has a few control issues. So does Zach, for that matter, and one of the novel’s threads is how they’re each confronted with the need to let go of control and let God be God.

Canadian author Valerie Comer is quietly passionate about food, faith and fiction. Raspberries and Vinegar is the first in a three-novel farm lit series called “A Farm Fresh Romance.” She also has a geo-caching romance novella in the collection, Rainbow’s End. For more, visit Valerie Comer’s website. Or click to read a sample from Raspberries and Vinegar.

This week only, buy a print copy of Raspberries and Vinegar and get bonus material:

Book blast details: Raspberries and Vinegar

[Review copy provided by the author.]