Review: Unwrapping Hope, by Sandra Ardoin

Book cover: Unwrapping Hope, A  Widow's Might Novella, by Sandra Ardoin

Unwrapping Hope, by Sandra Ardoin (Corner Room Books, 2019)

In the fall of 1986, Phoebe Crain supports her mother and her 5-year-old daughter on her scant earnings as a small-town piano tutor. It’s a long way from the concert stage, but it lets her hide from a past that’s left her bitter.

Spence Newland the Third, owner of the local department store, represents everything she’s come to despise and distrust—or does he? Her daughter, Maura, discovers his kindness.

In this historical romance, Phoebe and Spence each have past hurts that threaten to keep them from discovering a future that would bring young Maura the father she’s been wishing for.

Unwrapping Hope is a prequel novella that leads into Sandra Ardoin’s Widow’s Might series. The Widow’s Might circle is a group of widows in the town who, whether rich or poor, meet for support and to knit scarves etc for the nearby orphanage.

The author does an excellent job of setting the scene and the atmosphere, and I found the historical details interesting. I don’t think of this specifically as a Christmas story, but it does run through fall and finish on Christmas Eve. So while it can be enjoyed any time of year there might be an extra resonance in the season leading up to Christmas.

Favourite lines:

At the same time, she would eat the crow she already smelled cooking. [Kindle location 257]

Years ago Phoebe had seen a similar look in the mirror. If she could go back in time, she would shatter the glass. [Kindle location 378]

Verbenia was the durable thread that kept the emotions of each member of the [Widow’s Might] circle from unraveling. [Kindle location 412] 

Enduring Dreams, the next book in the Widow’s Might series, releases in 2020. For more about historical romance author Sandra Ardoin and her books, visit sandraardoin.com.

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

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Print Giveaway, Interview, Review Option, and a Price Drop

Book cover: Hidden Secrets

There’s a print book giveaway this month for Hidden Secrets. Unfortunately, it’s only available in continental US and Canada, but if that works for you, check it out at The Suspense Zone. There are a few other suspense giveaways at the same link, for continental US residents only. [Giveaways end October 31, 2019]

And Susan Sleeman from The Suspense Zone also interviewed me. You can check out that conversation here.

If, by chance, you’re a NetGalley reviewer or if you know someone who is and who enjoys mystery/suspense, Hidden Secrets is available there during the month of October. Link: NetGalley. I’m really excited about this chance to get the book in front of some new-to-me reviewers.

Also, I’d be remiss if I didn’t tell you I’ve dropped the price of the ebook version of Unknown Enemy to 99 cents USD ($1.32 CAD and the equivalent worldwide). It’s available for Kindle, Kobo, Nook, and Apple, so please let your mystery/suspense-reading friends know! International buy link: Unknown Enemy.

Text: "A young woman with a traumatic past... A lonely widow... And a prowler who's up to no good. $0.99 for Kindle, Kobo, Nook and iBooks. #Christiansuspense #books2read.com/unknownenemy

Review: The Red Journal, by Deb Elkink

Book cover: The Red Journal, by Deb Elkink

The Red Journal, by Deb Elkink (The Mosaic Collective, 2019)

At 50, Libby has lived with her grandmother since childhood and is mourning Gram’s recent death. Her lifelong dream is to own her own home, away from the tenement where she’s been raised. She also longs to recreate Gram’s signature soup recipe—perhaps in hopes of restoring the sense of home Gram provided.

Her friend, Sibyl, is about 10 years younger and likes to think she’s found her security in spirituality and sensuality. Sibyl is convinced she knows what Libby needs while having no understanding of her friend’s grief.

Paige is a young woman working at the Laird Mansion Museum in the next state, pushing to finish her research paper before her baby arrives. She’s obsessed with finding a more personal side to the now-deceased MDM Laird and with clearing his name of hints of scandal.

The Red Journal is a carefully-imagined novel for the literary, even scholarly, reader who likes to chew over a novel and tease out its depths. Libby and Sibyl are each searching for sacred spaces in their own ways, and the heart of MDM Laird’s manor is another sacred space.

The story begins with Libby and Sibyl en route to visit the Laird Museum, and alternates this present with the recent past leading up to the journey. I would have found it an easier read in a linear timeline. Movement between multiple timelines is often done, and I’m not sure why it didn’t work for me here. It might be the short distance back in time, or the short duration of the “present” museum tour itself. Breaking the tour into sections may highlight the journey to the heart of the manor, and I’ve seen other readers commenting on enjoying the “dance” between timelines.

As well-written as each scene is, the novel felt long to me. I don’t think we needed as much of Libby’s soup-making and apartment-packing, Sibyl’s travels, or even as much depth in Paige’s research. I wonder, in fact, if the story needed Sibyl’s point of view at all. Possibly any key information in her scenes could have been introduced through Libby’s observations. As with a good soup, condensing could have strengthened the flavour, and readers would have still been able to observe two women’s very different searches for sacred space.

The novel also includes journal excerpts, perhaps to give readers extra clues to tease out the full story before Libby discovers it herself.

Sibyl’s point of view scenes often share rich memories of exotic travels, which will appeal to readers who love to travel (and armchair travellers). Her mashup of various spiritual beliefs shows its hollowness but might still sound appealing enough to lead seekers astray.

On the other side of belief, MDM Laird’s Bible-based faith has a few mentions and there’s some reference to God as “Father” near the end. The faith thread has enough hints for people who know their Bibles—even MDM’s name, Moses David Melchizidek—but biblical literacy is not a given for most mainstream readers.

I appreciated the chance to read about 40- and 50-year-old protagonists, as well as the (fictional) historical character MDM Laird’s exemplary relationships with the Native Americans he invited to dwell on his estate. His focus on keeping their families together was a refreshing counterpart to the true-life travesties imposed by both American and Canadian governments.

Deb Elkink is a skilled, award-winning author who writes at a deeper level than I can easily plumb. I’ve had to work harder than I like to figure this one out, and I’m not sure I have it yet. I think the concentric layout of the Laird Mansion Museum estate somehow connects with the choice of narrative structure, circling back upon itself.

The Red Journal has a strong sense of place, in the unfolding history of the land around the manor and in Sibyl’s vividly-rendered exotic travelogues, which feel like the author has visited in person. Although the characters sometimes frustrated me, I appreciated the ending.

Deb Elkink has also written The Third Grace (a novel) and Roots and Branches: The Symbolism of the Tree in the Imagination of G.K. Chesterton (nonfiction). For more about the author and her work, visit debelkink.com.

[Review copy from my personal library.]

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New Releases in Christian Fiction (October 2019)

October 2019 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 Fiction:

 

Lioness: Mahlah’s Journey by Barbara M. Britton — To keep her orphaned sisters together, Mahlah must seek what has never been granted to girls, an inheritance of God’s Promised Land. (Biblical from Harbourlight Books [Pelican])

 


Contemporary Romance:


 

Hiding from Christmas by Alice K. Arenz — No matter how hard she tries, Maddie Kelley can’t seem to fit in at Ornamental, a company founded by her great grandfather and his best friend. Now, after yet another screw-up, she’s been sent into the “enemy’s” camp—two hours away from home for the next two months. A punishment or a blessing? Her life is turned upside down when the mundane turns unexpected, and she finally discovers where her heart truly lies. (Contemporary Romance from Forget Me Not Romances [Winged Publications])

Practically Married by Karin Beery — Ashley Johnson moved to northern Michigan to finally meet her fiancé face-to-face, but she arrived in time to attend his funeral. With no home back in Ohio, she decides to stay in what would have been their house, except his cousin Russ lives there too, and Russ has never heard of Ashley. To complicate matters, her fiancé accidentally willed her the family farm house. Eager to please everyone and desperate to disappoint no one, she proposes a marriage of convenience that could solve her and Russ’ problems, if they can get past her aunt, his sisters, and an ex-girlfriend. (Contemporary Romance from Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas)

Once Upon a Christmas by Andrea Boyd, Mikal Dawn, Toni Shiloh, Angela Ruth Strong, and Jaycee Weaver — Embrace the magic of the Christmas season with these contemporary twists on timeless tales. Upon a Dream: A rare sleeping disorder keeps Talia from performing, but when Philip recognizes her gift, he’ll do whatever it takes to see her onstage. Claim My Heart: Li Na and Colin Wen face off in a Mulan-esque courtroom battle where the real win might be losing their hearts. A Snow White Christmas: Sheltered heiress Amala White flees her conniving stepmother’s plans and finds refuge with a handsome orchard owner and his seven quirky uncles. Christmas Ella: Reality TV meets Cinderella story when a location director is swept off her feet by a rising star. A Splash of Love: Las Vegas glitz meets Land of Enchantment culture in A Splash of Love, a modern twist on the Little Mermaid. (Contemporary Romance, Independently Published)

The Twin Bargain by Lisa Carter — A mutually beneficial temporary arrangement…But can they keep it strictly professional? Nursing student Amber Fleming couldn’t be more stunned when ex-marine Ethan Green makes an offer: he’ll babysit her twin girls if she cares for his injured grandmother. Amber knows it’s temporary. Ethan isn’t one for roots—or their hometown. But his steadfast caring has her wanting more than friendship. And with help from Amber’s mischievous twins, can they risk becoming a forever family? (Contemporary Romance from Love Inspired [Harlequin])

The Amish Christmas Matchmaker by Vannetta Chapman — With her wedding business thriving, Annie Kauffmann could never leave her beloved Amish community. So when handsome Amish cowboy Levi Lapp tries to convince her father to move the family to Texas, she must put a stop to it. If Annie finds Levi a wife, he might forget his dream of moving…but can she keep from falling for him herself? (Amish Romance from Love Inspired [Harlequin])

Sara’s Gift by Kimberly Rose Johnson — Christmas is the season of giving, but Sara isn’t sure she is up to the task. Playing secret angel in high school was fun, and now, years later, Sara has the opportunity to do it once more on a bigger scale. She enlists the help of Gabe, her long-time best friend, to come up with a deserving recipient. But something is off with Gabe—he’s more attentive than usual.
The Christmas season has put Gabe in a reflective mood. His evaluation of his life has left him lonely and wanting more. But can his heart have its desire? That’s up to Sara. Can these two long-time best friends navigate their changing relationship, or will the romance Grinch steal their Christmas joy? (Contemporary Romance, Independently Published)

Their Christmas Prayer by Myra Johnson — Searching for a new start, Pastor Shaun O’Grady can’t wait for his next foreign missionary assignment…until he begins working with Brooke Willoughby on the church’s Christmas outreach program. Even as they clash over program specifics, Shaun and Brooke are drawn to each other. Now Shaun’s not sure where he belongs: overseas for his ministry, or at home by Brooke’s side… (Contemporary Romance from Love Inspired [Harlequin])

Her Amish Holiday Suitor by Carrie Lighte — Lucy Knepp has no time for heartbreaker Nick Burkholder…until a pretend courtship means she can finish her embroidery for a Christmas fund-raiser in peace. Nick’s arrangement with the too-reserved Lucy is the perfect cover while he repairs the cabin his brother damaged. But once Nick sees how vibrant Lucy really is, can he prove himself—and show their love is for all seasons? (Amish Romance from Love Inspired [Harlequin])

 


General/Contemporary:

 

Chasing Dreams by Deborah Raney — Reconsidering her dream of law school, Joanna Chandler finds promise in a possible wedding planning career—especially when she meets wedding DJ Lukas Blaine. But there’s more to Luke than meets the eye. The angry young boy he’s been mentoring has lost his mother and become Luke’s ward. How can Luke possibly find the time to start a new relationship or saddle someone else with a wounded child? He may have to let go of the woman of his dreams–and crush her dreams at the same time. (General/Contemporary from Kregel Publications)

 


Historical Romance:

 

Unwrapping Hope by Sandra Ardoin — When Phoebe receives a handcrafted cigar box by mistake, her desperation to give her daughter something special for Christmas drives her to suggest a trade with Spence Newland, a man she views as no more principled than her daughter’s late father. But the more time she spends with the department store heir, the more Phoebe struggles to keep up her guard against him. Spence believes the cigar box will help him gain a reclusive investor’s financial support for his proposed five-and-ten-cent stores. Yet he hesitates to bargain with a widow who mistrusts him for no apparent reason…until he meets a charming little girl at the train station who awaits the arrival of a prince. Will a betrayal in Phoebe’s past and Spence’s unraveling business plans derail their hope for happiness and keep a child’s fairy tale from coming true? (Historical Romance from Corner Room Books)

Hope’s Highest Mountain by Misty M. Beller — Ingrid Chastain travels readily with her father to deliver vaccines to a mining town in the Montana Territory. But after a tragic accident leaves her alone and injured, Ingrid finds rescue in the form of a mysterious mountain man who tends her wounds. Micah Bradley gave up his own medical career after unintentionally bringing home the smallpox disease that killed his wife and daughter. With Ingrid dead set on trekking through the mountains to deliver the medicine as soon as she’s well enough, he has no choice but to accompany her through the treacherous, snow-covered Rocky Mountains. The risk-laden journey ahead will change their lives more than they could have known. (Historical Romance from Bethany House [Baker])

Aiming for Love by Mary Connealy — Josephine Nordegren is one of three sisters who grew up nearly wild in southwestern Colorado. She has the archery skills of Robin Hood and the curiosity of the Little Mermaid, fascinated by but locked away from the forbidden outside world–a world she’s been raised to believe killed her parents. When David Warden, a rancher, brings in a herd much too close to the girls’ secret home, her older sister especially is frightened, but Jo is too interested to stay away. David’s parents follow soon on his heels, escaping bandits at their ranch. David’s father is wounded and needs shelter. Josephine and her sisters have the only cabin on the mountain. Do they risk stepping into the world to help those in need? Or do they remain separated but safe in the peaks of Hope Mountain? (Historical Romance from Bethany House [Baker])

Lessons on Love by Susanne Dietze, Rita Gerlach, Kathleen L. Maher, and Carrie Fancett Pagels — Step back into the classroom alongside four new teachers who face unexpected tests. In 1840 New York, Gilda’s religious beliefs are challenged. In 1870 Kansas, Mary helps ostracized immigrant children. In 1894 Michigan, Jesse discovers an unlikely friendship. And in 1904 Virginia, Margaret wants to make controversial changes. Will these tests teach the teachers about faith and love? (Historical Romance from Barbour Publishing)

 


Mystery:

 

The Silver Lode by Suzanne J Bratcher — A dying child and a seventy-year-old cold case draw historian Paul Russell and antiques expert Marty Greenlaw into a desperate search for the silver lode, a rich deposit of silver and gold one person considers worth murdering to keep. (Mystery from Mantle Rock Publishing)

 


Romantic Suspense:

 

Deadly Commitment by Kathy Harris — When Danielle Kemp walks out of her downtown Nashville condominium, she gets the eerie feeling that someone is watching her. She’s convinced that the homeless man outside her building is stalking her. But after learning the real identity of the intimidating stranger, she faces something even more threatening?the truth about her fiancé. (Romantic Suspense from New Hope Publishing)

Cold Pursuit by Gayla K. Hiss — A December tour of Yellowstone National Park sounded like the perfect escape from Faith Chandler’s problems at home—until she discovers her tour guide is her jilted childhood sweetheart, Jake Mitchell. (Romantic Suspense from Mountain Brook Ink)

Legacy Restored by Robin Patchen — She’s a new Christian working to take down an art thief and murderer. He’s a grieving artist who refuses to let another woman die needlessly. When their desires clash, will it lead to hostility… or fireworks? (Romantic Suspense, Independently Published)

 


Young Adult:


 

Heart of a Royal by Hannah Currie — Brought to the palace as a newborn, the royal life bestowed upon Mackenna Sparrow was never meant to last forever. With Princess Alina engaged to be married, Mackenna’s presence as companion is no longer required and, like it or not, she must return to the birthright which should have been hers – that of a commoner. But not everyone at the palace wants her gone. When the truths she’s based her life on start crumbling as fast as her future, will she find the courage to trust, both herself and the prince she’s fallen in love with? (Young Adult from WhiteFire Publishing)

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Review: Going Back Cold, by Kelley Rose Waller

Book cover: Going Back Cold, by Kelley Rose Waller

Going Back Cold, by Kelley Rose Waller (Versive Press, 2019)

On the one hand, Going Back Cold is a science fiction novel about a small group of scientists based in Antarctica experimenting with faster-than-light technology. But it’s also an exploration of the different ways people grieve.

In year one of the four-year research and development project, Dr. Jane Whyse discovers she’s pregnant with her second child. After the baby girl is stillborn, Jane, her husband Dr. Lucas Whyse, and their young son Sebastian continue work on the project. Both committed Christians, Jane and Lucas find their faith shaken. Lucas is working through his grief, but Jane appears trapped in her anger. Her research soon becomes her obsession.

The science is intriguing (I can’t say I understood it, but I expect that in science fiction). The observation of a small group of people interacting in a closed environment is interesting, too. The Whyses’ grief is instructive for those who haven’t experienced a significant loss—and I expect it’s affirming for those who have. And the ethical dilemma Jane’s obsession unleashes could come from near-future headlines.

Negatives: This is Christian fiction, and I was surprised to find the occasional mild profanity, as well as some crude comments. (Yes, I know some Christians swear, but it always catches me off-guard in real life and in books.)  

Positives: There are some delightfully geeky references, and Jane and Lucas are transparently honest with God about their grief.

Favourite lines:

Jane was determined to have her family cake and eat the career, too. [On bringing their young son with them to the research base. Kindle location 268]

Good luck seeing God in me. I’m broken and failing when I try to rebuild. There aren’t words for where I am, none that make sense anyway. But I believe it. I will believe it. And I trust You. God, it hurts, but I trust. I will believe. [Lucas’s personal log. Kindle location 1941]

Kelley Rose Waller has also written The Senator’s Youngest Daughter. For more about the author and her work, visit kelleyrosewaller.com.

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

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How God Guides Writers—and Other People Too (Guest Post)

Questions: who? how? what? when?where? why?
Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

How God Guides Writers—and Other People Too

by Steph Beth Nickel

What should I write?

Books, articles, blog posts …

Genre fiction, instructive nonfiction, memoir …

Poetry, Instagram stories, 280-character tweets …

At the risk of sounding cliché, the possibilities really are endless.

How should I pursue publication?

Should I look for an agent and try to get a traditional deal?

Should I self-publish my work?

Should I do both and become a hybrid author?

If I choose to self-publish, what will I do myself?

Format my manuscript? Create a book cover? Edit my book?

And if we’re Christian, we likely want to be certain that we’re fulfilling God’s call on our life—and going about it as He would want us to. But how can we know that we’re following the path He has set out for us?

Writer or not, there are a number of ways to do so—and they’re not as mysterious as we may think.

Study God’s Word.

The Scriptures are the Lord’s primary means of communicating with us. It’s important to become familiar with what they say and what they mean in context.

In God’s Word we find specific instructions and principles that apply to every area of life.

Seek to obey His commands and directives.

Are we seeking, in God’s strength, to walk in obedience to Him? As we do, He sheds light on the path before us and enables us to take the next step on the journey.

Spend time in prayer.

Sometimes, it’s as we pray for guidance that He gives it. At other times, it’s as we’re praying for others that the Lord nudges us in the direction He wants us to take.

Seek godly counsel.

Wise counsellors may be members of our family or fellow members of our church. They may be friends, neighbours, or even those we’ve developed relationships with online.

Wise counsel, direction that honours the Lord, points us in the right direction—even if it’s not what we want to hear.

And we can rest assured that it will never contradict the clear commands in God’s Word.

Use your talents and abilities as you have opportunity.

While we are responsible to develop them, God gave us our talents and abilities. They are often a good indicator of the route we should pursue.

Pursue that passion that just won’t go away.

We can’t do everything we’d like to do in this life. (Ask me how I know this. <grin>)

Still, if there is a God-honouring passion that never leaves us, no matter what our circumstances and season of life, it’s likely something the Lord wants us to investigate—and possibly, pursue.

Persevere.

I recently heard that there are writers who give up because the words just aren’t flowing. These individuals figure if God wants them to write, He will give them the words and it will be easy.

Any of us who have written anything from a Facebook status to a full-length novel know there are times it’s far from easy. The right words seem as elusive as the bat my hubby can’t find in our house (but that’s another story).

Still, the Scriptures have much to say about perseverance. And if God has put it on your heart to write, I encourage you to persevere. Develop your skills. And continue to seek Him for guidance and direction.

Tweetables

Wise counsel, direction that honours the Lord, points us in the right direction—even if it’s not what we want to hear. (click to tweet)

If there is a God-honouring passion that never leaves us, it’s likely something the Lord wants us to investigate. (click to tweet)

Any of us who have written anything from a Facebook status to a full-length novel know there are times it’s far from easy. (click to tweet)

Steph Beth Nickel
Steph Beth Nickel

Steph Beth Nickel is a communicator who seeks to Nurture and Inspire in her many eclectic endeavours: editing, writing, podcasting, etc. Steph coauthored Paralympian Deb Willows’s memoir, Living Beyond My Circumstances. Steph and Deb are working on a follow-up, tentatively titled Keep Looking Up. Steph is also a regular contributor to HopeStreamRadio. You can connect with her on Facebook or via email.

Review: Belinda Blake and the Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing, by Heather Day Gilbert

Belinda Blake and the Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing, by Heather Day Gilbert (Lyrical Press, 2019)

You might think that after pet-sitting a ball python, Belinda Blake can handle anything, but she’s not too sure about wolves. Yes, it’s a rehabilitation sanctuary, and yes, they seem friendly, but they’re still wild animals. With sharp teeth.

When someone is found dead and bloody in one of the wolf pens, common sense tells her to bail on her contract and take the consequences. But the wolf preserve is short-staffed and she doesn’t want to let the owner down.

Once she begins to suspect someone staged the “wolf attack” to shut down the preserve, she’s determined to stay.

I’m enjoying this series for the mysteries, but also for the characters. Belinda is a computer gamer and book-lover, transplanted from a rural environment into a wealthy neighbourhood. Jonas, one of her friends from home, looks promising as a love interest, although her landlord’s absent son caught her attention in book one. And Red, the chauffeur/bodyguard on the estate where she rents a carriage house, is an interesting background character.

For the literary and theme-inclined, there are some interesting correlations between Belinda’s story and the novel her long-distance book club is discussing. The Great Gatsby is not a book I know well, so I missed some of the effect.

Favourite lines:

“…it was beyond me how I would feed raw eat to wolves without looking like an oversized, tasty morsel myself.” [Kindle location 260]

And when one of the other characters laments the need to lean so much on others, Belinda observes:

“Sometimes leaning is the only way to stay upright.” [Kindle location 1566]

Definitely recommended for cozy mystery fans!

Heather Day Gilbert is an award-winning author of Viking historical fiction and contemporary suspense as well as the Belinda Blake, Exotic Pet Sitter cozy mystery series. Belinda Blake and the Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing is book 2 in the series. For more about the author, visit heatherdaygilbert.com.

[Review copy provided by NetGalley and Kensington Books. Opinions are my own.]

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Review: Up From the Sea, by Amanda Dykes

Book cover: Up From the Sea, by Amanda Dykes

Up From the Sea, by Amanda Dykes (Bethany House, 2019)

After I read Whose Waves These Are, I went looking for more fiction from Amanda Dykes and was excited to find two free ebook novellas.

One of those is Up From the Sea, a prequel novella for Whose Waves These Are. Reading it later let me enjoy recognizing details significant to the novel, which features the next generation. It also made me want to go back and read the novel again with this deeper understanding of the past.

Savannah Mae Thorpe was born and raised in Georgia, but after her parents’ deaths in 1925 the young woman returns to her mother’s family in coastal Maine. She doesn’t fit in with her aunt and uncle’s ways, nor with her cousins, although Cousin Mary used to be a good friend.

A local legend from the 1700s captures her imagination with a wild hope to save her inheritance. Local lumberjack Alastair Bliss agrees to help, but Savannah’s quest sounds more like a fairy tale than reality.

Favourite lines:

Lord, you created the dark just as you created the light. Help me find life there, and not fear. [Chapter 3]

“She was imagination itself.” It felt good to speak of her [Savannah’s mother] with laughter, to feel the jagged edges of grief gentled with fond memory. [Chapter 7]

Vague light seeped in through a window whose wavy glass dripped with time. [Chapter 7]

Amanda Dykes’ tag line is “spinning stories, gathering grace.” As well as the historical fiction Up From the Sea and Whose Waves These Are, she’s written the novella, Bespoke: A Tiny Christmas Tale, and one of the stories in The Message in a Bottle Romance Collection. For more about the author and her work, visit amandadykes.com.

[Review copy from my personal library.]

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New Releases in Christian Fiction (September 2019)

September 2019 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:

Reunited in the Rockies by Mindy Obenhaus — For widow Kayla Bradshaw, restoring a historic Colorado hotel means a better life for her and her soon-to-arrive baby. But she needs construction help from Jude Stephens, the love she lost through a misunderstanding. Working with Kayla, the police officer finds himself forgiving her—and longing to rebuild her shattered confidence. But can they trust each other enough to forge a future together? (Contemporary Romance from Love Inspired [Harlequin])

A Man to Trust by Carrie Turansky — After years spent helping manage her family’s Christian bookstore, it’s time for Adrie Chandler to give her own dream of playing her flute with a symphony orchestra a chance. But can she really trust the beloved shop to new manager Ross Peterson? The man is too handsome, too charming….and too much a reminder of another dream Adrie had to let go of – marriage. Yet Ross surprises her by knowing a thing or two about making sacrifices. Suddenly, Adrie is questioning what she really wants. And whether the dreams she once thought unlikely are within reach after all. (Contemporary Romance from Flowing Stream Books)

Fall Flip by Denise Weimer — The tragic death of Shelby Dodson’s husband–her partner in a successful Home Network house flipping business–stole love, status, and career. Now a bungalow redesign thrusts Shelby into the company of a new contractor. Scott Matthews remembers high-and-mighty Shelby from high school, and her prissy, contemporary style goes against his down-to-earth grain. When the house reveals a mystery, will its dark secrets–and their own mistakes–cost them a second chance at love? (Contemporary Romance from Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas)

Listening to Love by Beth Wiseman — Lucas is Amish. Natalie’s Englisch. They are best friends—and friends only. Despite what the gossips say. Besides, they couldn’t be together even if they wanted to be. Lucas would never leave the Amish faith, and Natalie is pursuing a degree in veterinary medicine. But when a terrifying accident happens, Natalie and Lucas are forced to confront their true feelings and decide if they can stay true to themselves and each other. (Contemporary Romance from HarperCollins Christian Publishing)


General Contemporary:
The Christmas Portrait by Phyllis Clark Nichols — A family facing their first holiday season without Mama finds a way to celebrate Christmas. (General Contemporary from Gilead Publishing)


Historical:
Memories of Glass by Melanie Dobson — 1942. As war rips through the heart of Holland, childhood friends Josie van Rees and Eliese Linden partner with a few daring citizens to rescue Eliese’s son and hundreds of other Jewish children who await deportation in a converted theater in Amsterdam. But amid their resistance work, Josie and Eliese’s dangerous secrets could derail their friendship and their entire mission. When the enemy finds these women, only one will escape. Seventy-five years later, Ava Drake begins to suspect that her great-grandfather William Kingston was not the World War II hero he claimed to be. Her work as director of the prestigious Kingston Family Foundation leads her to Landon West’s Ugandan coffee plantation, and Ava and Landon soon discover a connection between their families. As Landon’s great-grandmother shares the broken pieces of her story, Ava must confront the greatest loss in her own life?and powerful members of the Kingston family who will do anything to keep the truth buried. (Historical from Tyndale Publishing)


Historical Romance:

Treasured Christmas Brides by Amanda Cabot, Rebecca Germany, Cathy Marie Hake, Colleen L. Reece, MaryLu Tyndall, and Michelle Ule — Six historical Christmas romances prove life’s most priceless gifts come not in the form of polished gold or silver—but from the vast riches of a loving heart. (Historical Romance from Barbour Publishing)

Thankful for the Cowboy by Mary Connealy — Hero Tom MacKinnon rides up driving a wagon with a second wagon trailing him. He and his sister want to be hired to build windmills. They’ll ask for very little money and, in exchange heroine, Lauren Drummond, newly widowed mother of four nearly grown sons, will help them learn to survive in the Sandhills of Nebraska. What to grow, what to hunt, how to build a sod house.
Tom’s windmills will save her ranch. Lauren needs three windmills on this drought year or her growing herd of cattle is going to die of thirst. She agrees to teach him the ways of the Sandhills, and to give him fifteen head of cattle. She’s not ready to think of another man. But Tom changes her mind. His little sister and one of her sons find love together before Tom and Lauren do. (Historical Romance, Independently Published)

The Return of the King’s Ranger by Angela K. Couch — The war is over…for everyone but him. The war for American freedom is over, and the British have gone back to England. Not knowing what has become of his family since he was forced into the Continental Army nine years earlier, Myles Cunningham wants to go home as well. He returns to the Mohawk Valley with the understanding that he is believed to have been shot for deserting—fiction that might be made real if anyone recognizes him as the son of a Tory and a King’s Ranger. Everything is wonderful in the growing community along the Mohawk River, except Nora Reid is still alone. With her brother happily settled and both her younger sisters starting families of their own, Nora feels the weight of her twenty-four years. A long walk leads her to the overgrown rubble of the Cunningham homestead where a bearded stranger begins to awaken feelings she’d lost hope of ever experiencing. With secrets abounding—including whether Myles even cares for her—Nora must determine what she is ready to give up and how far she will go to secure his affections. She begins to break through his defenses, but Myles can’t risk staying. Not if he loves her. (Historical Romance from White Rose Publishing [Pelican])

Christmas Next Door by Susan Page Davis and Vickie McDonough — Visit an Old West Texas town where a mysterious benefactor leaves gifts each Christmas, but also where four pairs of neighbors battle over hearsay, secrets, and mysteries. (Historical Romance from Barbour Publishing)

Under Moonlit Skies by Cynthia Roemer — Esther meets Stewart, her brother-in-law’s ranch hand, when helping her sister recover from childbirth. Any interest she may have in the cowboy is hopeless, since she must return home to Cincinnati and the man her overbearing mother intends her to wed. till reeling from a hurtful relationship, Stew is reluctant to open his heart to Esther. But when he faces a life-threatening injury with Esther tending him, their bond deepens. Heartbroken when she leaves, he sets out after her and inadvertently stumbles across an illegal slave-trade operation, the knowledge of which puts him, as well as Esther and her family, in jeopardy. (Historical Romance from Mantle Rock Publishing)

Mail-Order Misfire by Davalynn Spencer — Preacher Bern Stidham is a peacemaker—when he’s not carrying one on his hip. His little girl wants a helper for her widowed father and a mama for herself, so she writes for a mail-order bride. Without telling him. Recently widowed dressmaker Etta Collier is a half-step ahead of the banker who carries a lustful eye for her as well as the note on her home. When her pastor encourages her to answer an unusual letter from a little girl, hope opens an unexpected door. Running from one man’s lecherous pursuit into the home of another she knows nothing about, Etta may have to risk everything to ease a little girl’s loneliness and find a second chance at love. (Historical Romance, Independently Published)

The Witness Tree by Denise Weimer — Past betrayal has turned John Kliest’s passion to his work as a builder and surveyor in the Moravian town of Salem, North Carolina. Now, to satisfy the elders’ edict and fulfill his mission in Cherokee Territory, he needs a bride. But the one woman qualified to record the Cherokee language longs for a future with his younger brother. Clarissa Vogler’s dream of a life with Daniel Kliest is shattered when she is chosen by lot to marry his older brother and venture into the uncharted frontier. Can she learn to love this stoic man who is now her husband? Her survival hinges on being able to trust him—but they both harbor secrets. (Historical Romance from Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas)


Romantic Suspense:

Don’t Give Up On Me by Jodi Artzberger — When Cragge Automotive Group’s heiress, Amanda Cragge is left for dead, the only man she’s ever loved finds her. As the threats continue, will she accept help from the man who left her eight years ago without explanation? When Ryker Scott returns to Otter Bay, he is brought face to face with his past. He thought he could handle coming back but he might have been wrong. As a trained Army Ranger, he’s going to have to use his skills if he wants to keep the only woman he’s ever loved alive.
Will their past become their future or will their futures be destroyed forever?(Romantic Suspense, Independently Published)

Breaking Point by Marji Laine — Ever since her father’s death, Alynne Stone has had a series of strange “accidents.” Police Lieutenant Jason Danvers believes her father was murdered. He tries to connect the attempts on Alynne’s life, but things just don’t add up. Even in a small town, the mere rumor of treasure can change lives, end friendships…maybe even kill? Still dealing with the pain of his own wife’s death, he can’t allow an innocent woman’s life to be snuffed out on his watch. Especially one who shines as bright as Alynne. (Romantic Suspense, Write Integrity Press)

Fatal Strike by DiAnn Mills — FBI Agents Leah Riesel and Jon Colbert team up to track down a killer on the loose in Galveston, targeting law enforcement officials and using a fatal injection of snake venom to take them down. (Romantic Suspense, Tyndale House)


Thriller:

The Gryphon Heist by James R. Hannibal — Talia Inger is a rookie CIA case officer assigned not to the Moscow desk as she had hoped but to the forgotten backwaters of Eastern Europe–a department only known as “Other.” When she is tasked with helping a young, charming Moldovan executive secure his designs for a revolutionary defense technology, she figures she’ll be back in DC within a few days. But that’s before she knows where the designs are stored–and who’s after them. With her shady civilian partner, Adam Tyler, Talia takes a deep dive into a world where only criminal minds and unlikely strategies will keep the Gryphon, a high-altitude data vault, hovering in the mesosphere. Even Tyler is more than he seems, and Talia begins to wonder: Is he helping her? Or using her access to CIA resources to pull off an epic heist for his own dark purposes? (Techno-thriller from Revell – A Division of Baker Publishing Group)

Review: As the Light Fades, by Catherine West

Bookk cover: As the Light Fades, a novel by Catherine West

As the Light Fades, by Catherine West (2019)

There are so many positives about this novel.

Catherine West writes with skill and compassion, tackling hard issues with honesty and sensitivity and enough humour that this is not a hard read. She gives us real characters to care about, flawed people who are doing their best and fear it may not be enough.

Her voice is true, whether writing from the late-twenties/early-thirties central characters of Liz and Matthew, 15-year-old Mia, or the elderly Drake.

And Drake… how many novels include a character with Alzheimer’s in a positive light? Drake’s voice opens the novel, and it hooked me from the beginning. This isn’t a victim, but a man navigating a hopeless situation with grim humour. He may be losing his memory, but his will is strong. And despite his limitations, he can still make a difference.

Readers who enjoy stories about family relationships, gentle love stories, and finding healing for past hurts will love this book.

Favourite line:

I see a restlessness in her eyes today, churning like a stormy sea. Like she’s carrying something too heavy but doesn’t have a place to put it down. [Kindle location 3791]

As the Light Fades is a clean contemporary read with a subtle faith thread and a theme of forgiveness and grace. Set on the US tourist haven of Nantucket, it features the Carlisle family readers first met in The Things We Knew.

You don’t have to have read the previous novel, although I highly recommend them both.

Catherine West writes contemporary women’s fiction about hard times and hope. For more about the author and her work, visit catherinejwest.com.

[Review copy provided through NetGalley. My opinions are my own.]

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