Review: The Scent of Water, by Elizabeth Goudge

Book cover with a home's windows and door visible among pink flowers.

The Scent of Water, by Elizabeth Goudge (ebook version: Hendrickson Publishing Marketing, 2011; original print edition copyright 1963)

Why would practical, sensible Mary Lindsay leave a satisfying job in London and move to a country village to live in a house she inherited from a relative she’d met only once as a child? She doesn’t know, but it feels like the right decision.

The inheritance brings back memories: of that one meeting with her father’s cousin, also named Mary Lindsay. Of the instant connection with the house and then with the unusual Cousin Mary. Of the lady’s treasured collection of “little things” – miniatures that delighted them both.

The move triggers other memories: of her fiancé John who died before their wedding. In some unknown way, she hopes to understand him better now – and also to get to know Cousin Mary through the journals she finds in the house.

The characters, both living in the village and as found in the journals, are portrayed with an honest compassion, not glossing over their flaws or hiding their emotional struggles. Cousin Mary endured bouts of mental illness. A prayer, shared with her by a fellow sufferer, is the one thing that stuck with me through the probably 40 years since I first read the story:

“My dear,” he said, “love, your God, is a trinity. There are three necessary prayers and they have three words each. They are these, ‘Lord have mercy. Thee I adore. Into Thy hands.’ ” [chapter 5]

That covers most things, doesn’t it?

Two other favourite lines, one evocative and one amusing:

“…what I seek is the goodness of God that waters the dry places.” [chapter 5, Cousin Mary in her journal]

“He has a two-track mind, which is more than most of us have, but the tracks are narrow.” [chapter 10]

One caution: this book was originally published in the early 1960s and refers (positively) to North American First Nations and Romany peoples using terms that are now considered offensive.  

Causing offence would never be the author’s intent. This is a novel that embraces readers, drawing us in like the welcoming door that invited the child Mary into the house. It offers charming descriptions of settings both in nature and in the houses, gentle conversation, and people allowed to make the wrong choices in the hope they’ll find some good in themselves.

Elizabeth Goudge was a beloved British writer. I appreciated her books many years ago and am delighted to find some of them now in digital form when I’d assumed they’d be out of print and gone. The Scent of Water was the one I remembered most fondly by title, due to the prayer which strengthened me through some difficult days.

For more about the author, visit the Elizabeth Goudge Society website.

[Review copy from the public library via the Hoopla Digital app.]

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New Releases in Christian Fiction (May 2024)

May 2024 New Releases

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

Contemporary Romance:

A Cameo for a Cowgirl by Carolyn Miller — Welcome to Three Creek Ranch, home of the James family for over a hundred years, complete with its own Western movie set. Franklin James might be a famous pro hockey player, but just because he’s Cassie’s older brother doesn’t mean she wants to step into the limelight. She’s too busy helping her dad run the ranch and managing the ranch’s movie set, and negotiating with the giant egos of movie stars like Harrison Woods, who’s supposed to be filming the new TV series of As The Heart Draws. And while his TV hero character might be hugely popular, Harrison’s real character is anything but noble. Cassie is convinced he’s hiding something, and she’s determined to make sure it doesn’t reflect badly on Three Creek Ranch. Can she remind him what being a true hero is all about? (Contemporary Romance, Independently Published [ACFW QIP])

The Farmer Takes a Wife by Candice Sue Patterson — Librarian Gemma Breckenridge hates the spotlight. She’s content in her small town, living alone with books for company and caring for her once famous sister, Cammie, who’s now suffering from a degenerative brain disease. But Cammie’s care is expensive, and when the grant Gemma was counting on is denied, she’s forced to take desperate measures and applies to be a contestant on a reality television show where a wealthy farmer is looking for a love connection. What better place to keep her sister’s identity incognito than a thousand-acre farm in the middle of nowhere, South Dakota? Colby Graham will do anything to save his almost bankrupt farm, even if it means that all of primetime will think he’s incapable of finding a wife on his own. The sponsorships alone should carry his business out of the red, and royalties from the producer will help to keep it there. But choosing a bride from among eight gorgeous strangers is tougher than Colby bargained for. Especially when the one woman he wants isn’t a contestant. With a cast of vivid characters, join the crew in this witty romance filled with drama, heartache, elimination challenges, and fancy luggage full of secrets. Amid the beautiful setting of the Midwest, this tale unravels the tightly bound threads of sacrificial love. (Contemporary Romance, Independently Published [ACFW QIP])

Her Son’s Faithful Companion by Jill Weatherholt — Former barrel racer Caitlyn Calloway wants her son with epilepsy to have everything—even if it means selling her family home. Problem is, the place is in disrepair. Her former crush, service dog trainer Logan Beckett, offers to help. But letting Logan and his dogs into their lives makes the past almost impossible to leave behind…especially when it opens the door to love. (Contemporary Romance from Love Inspired [Harlequin])

Love Overboard by Shannon Sue Dunlap — A snort-laughing, cruise ship romance takes readers into topsy-turvy waters. When a group of four quirky friends retire on a never-ending round of cruises, their attire consists of more than floral shirts and gaudy skirts. Armed with walkie-talkies and battle plans, these relationship experts–who’ve dubbed themselves the “Shippers”–target hostess Lacey Anderson and director Jonathan King in their romantic schemes. But the young couple refuses to cooperate. They’ve been on the “love boat” together before, and it went down in flames. Boss matchmaker Emily Windsor has orchestrated multiple romantic successes, and these two upstarts certainly won’t get the best of her. The chemistry between Lacey and Jonathan is obvious, but the couple rebuffs every outlandish plot and “coincidental” meeting, forcing the matchmakers to chart a new course to true love–all while inadvertently thwarting drug smugglers threatening to ruin their floating home on the ocean. This laugh-out-loud rom-com features loveable characters, over-the-top situations reminiscent of 1950s sitcoms, and a dash of mystery. The toe-curling romance will push the reader overboard and all in with Shannon Dunlap’s new series. (Romance from Kregel Publications)

Muskoka Promise by Carolyn Miller — All Anna Morely has wanted since she was a child is to feel loved. All Tom Woodmore has wanted is to uphold the law without fear or favor. When a traffic incident brings these two opposites together, sparks fly. But Anna’s wealthy family has certain social expectations that a humble police officer doesn’t exactly meet. And after the death of his fiancée, Tom has his own challenges in learning to risk his heart again. And then there is the matter of whether Anna will ever reconcile with her too-persistent friends… Join Anna and Tom as they discover the path to real love holds unexpected joys and trials, and that God’s promises can always be relied on – including in beautiful Muskoka. (Contemporary Romance, Independently Published [ACFW QIP])

Romance in the Land Down Under by Narelle Atkins — Three sweet and clean Christian contemporary romance novellas that will warm your heart and inspire you to explore the beauty of Australia. Perfect beach reads for lazy summer days. (Contemporary Romance, Independently Published [ACFW QIP])

A Run at Love by Toni Shiloh — As a Black woman in a field with little diversity, Piper McKinney is determined to make her mark on the horse-racing world. Raised on a Thoroughbred farm in Kentucky, Piper’s dream is for her horse to win the prestigious Kentucky Derby. With the help of her best friend and trainer, Tucker Hale, she gains national attention but must grapple with the complications that arise when a journalist delves into her past as a transracial adoptee. In an effort to win Piper’s heart, Tucker formulates a plan to train Piper’s horse to victory, hoping to prove himself to her, her parents, and his own self-doubts. Then a shocking scandal hits the media, implicating both Piper and her parents, and she and Tucker will have to survive the onslaught to find their way to the winner’s circle–and each other. (Contemporary Romance from Bethany House [Baker Publishing Group])

General Contemporary and Women’s Fiction:

An Amish Healing by Beth Wiseman — Ada Glick enjoys her role as resident veterinarian in her small Amish community. Even though true love hasn’t found her yet, Ada occupies her time by caring for her neighbors’ fur-babies after receiving informal training from a veterinarian in town. When an injured dog shows up unexpectedly on her front porch, Ada tends to him with the care she’s always given to animals in need. During the time she cares for the dog, Ada becomes attached to her furry new friend. Ollie—as she names him—doesn’t have a collar and isn’t well enough to travel, however she knows she must take him to be checked for an identification chip. Is there an owner who is missing him? Jeremiah Huyard has suffered a terrible loss. His family is grieving the deaths of two loved ones, a tragedy that has Jeremiah roiling in grief. When he sets eyes on the beautiful Ada at his relatives’ funerals, he is unexpectedly distracted, but he is also sure he will never see her again. (General Contemporary, Independently Published [ACFW QIP])

Just Another Home by Kimberly Banet — Sixteen-year-old Sam Keller has lived in foster homes and group homes most of his life and has long ago given up on the dream of a stable, forever family. Adults have always let him down and so has God, and he has no use for either. John and Abbie Grayson are a respected, successful couple in their fifties with two grown children. They live in their dream home in Franklin, TN, an idyllic suburb of Nashville, where John is a successful college basketball coach, and Abbie works part-time at their local church. But Abbie feels something is missing from her life and convinces John they should become foster parents. Their worlds collide when Sam is placed in the Grayson home for a few days. Days turn into months, and Sam thrives with the Graysons and allows himself to dream of a forever family, while John and Abbie realize the teen has found his way into their hearts. As the Graysons begin to investigate the possibility of adopting Sam, an evil agenda emerges, and a secret past is revealed. Nothing short of a miracle can save Sam from a harrowing ordeal and keep the Grayson family together. (General Contemporary from Scrivenings Press)


Historical Romance:

Healing of the Heart by Heidi Gray McGill — Step into the bustling streets of post-Civil War Philadelphia, where cultural injustice and class disparity run rampant. Amidst this chaos, Thomas, an aspiring doctor from the wilds of Missouri, struggles to find his place in a society to which he is unaccustomed. But when he meets debutante Emmaline Whitaker, she teaches him more than the social graces – she holds the key to his future. Only it is the independent, fun-loving Theodora Morse who holds his attention. As Thomas navigates the complexities of high society, he must also confront his inner turmoil. When devastating news comes from home, Thomas is forced to use his waning faith to determine the desire of his heart. Will Thomas stand by his convictions and fight against the malaise of those around him, or will he choose the safety and comfort of his new life? (Historical Romance, Independently Published [ACFW QIP])

Heart of Integrity by Edwina Kiernan — Ifor Morgan and his father have traveled far from their home in Wales to settle in the small mining town of Lone Pine, California—driven by a need to escape the shame and sorrow of his brother’s fatal scandal. Susan Kelly is starting over, too. Miles from her home in Ireland, she’s determined to build a life for herself in Lone Pine that doesn’t involve any of the deception she was caught up in back home. As Ifor and Susan forge a cautious connection, people from Susan’s past show up in town, entangling her in a fresh web of illegal activity. And when a devastating earthquake throws the town into a state of upheaval, secrets soon shake those least expecting to uncover them. (Historical Romance from Moliant Publishing)

Pressed Together by Kim Garee — Falling for a detective post WW2 at a pier amusement park sounds romantic … unless a childhood sweetheart’s life is being threatened, and keeping him hidden from that detective might mean saving his life! (Historical Romance from Mt. Zion Press)

Sheltered by the Doctor by Danielle Grandinetti Mindy Zahn can’t understand why her parents deserted the family farm, leaving her mute younger sister in her care. Until her mother’s cryptic warning to keep her sister safe becomes a life-threatening task. Searching for that elusive something to ease his weary heart, Dr. Nick Matrone is drawn to the cheery Mindy. He would never presume to bring such a sweet woman into his beleaguered past, so friendship is all he can offer. Except, he doesn’t expect needing to save her life. As the danger grows, they both must battle through physical and emotional wounds to have a hope of their counterfeit relationship becoming true.. (Historical Romance from Hearth Spot Press)

The Song of Sourwood Mountain by Ann H Gabhart — Though the twentieth century dawned with such promise, it is just 1910 when Mira Dean’s hopes of being a wife and mother are dashed to pieces. Her fiancé is dead from tuberculosis and Mira must resign herself to being a spinster schoolteacher. But then Gordon Covington shows up and the doors that once seemed shut forever begin to open—even if only a crack. No longer the boy she knew from school, Gordon is now a preacher who is full of surprises. First, he asks Mira to come to Sourwood in eastern Kentucky to teach at his mission school. Second, he asks her to marry him. Just like that. Though the prospect of stepping onto a new path is scary, Mira takes a leap of faith and lands in a life she never imagined. In this place filled with its own special challenges, the people she serves just might end up becoming the family she always yearned for. (Historical Romance from Revell, a Division of Baker Publishing Group)

Tangled Promises by Lynn U. Watson — Clara Reinhold’s father publicly pledges her hand to Georg Wolff. His character and arrogance match the stench of his odious cigars, but his lineage offers a suitable alliance for the station of a baron’s daughter. A charades clue years earlier turned friendship into a promise of forbidden marriage between Clara and family carriage driver, Daniel Becker. If she refuses Georg and follows her heart, her father disowns her and she loses everything—her loving family, dear friends, and the only home she’s known. As a tangled web of scandal and deceit unwinds, hidden motives and illicit activities emerge among an unsuspecting ring of players changing everything but nobility’s rules. How will justice be served? How will Clara and Daniel overcome obstacles to claim a future beyond that of a charade?? (Historical Romance from Celebrate Lit Publishing)

Texas Forsaken by Sherry Shindelar — Seven years ago, Maggie Logan (Eyes-Like-Sky) lost everything she knew when a raid on a wagon train tore her from her family. As the memories of her past faded to nothing more than vague shadows, Maggie adapted, marrying a Comanche warrior, having a baby, and rebuilding her life. But in one terrible battle, the U.S. Cavalry destroys that life and she is taken captive again, this time by those who call themselves her people. Forced into a world she wants nothing to do with, Eyes-Like-Sky’s only hope at protecting her child may be an engagement to the man who killed her husband. Enrolled in West Point to escape his overbearing father, Captain Garret Ramsey finds himself assigned to the Texas frontier, witnessing the brutal Indian War in which both sides commit atrocities. Plagued by guilt for his own role, Garret seeks redemption by taking responsibility for the woman he widowed and her baby. Though he is determined to do whatever it takes to protect them, is he willing to risk everything for a woman whose heart is buried in a grave? (Historical Romance from Wild Heart Books)

To Catch a Coronet by Grace Hitchcock — Muriel Beau, country baker turned heiress, can’t stop instigating outrage. She discards two arranged engagements, then further antagonizes Kent society by publicly proposing to a baron at a ball. His rejection leaves her with no choice but to flee to the city and to secure a coronet so splendid that her peers will forget her debacles. The glitter of the London courts convinces Muriel that it’s possible to find the future she dreams of, until she finds herself entangled in yet another escapade–one that may cost her more than her crumbling reputation. After years of serving as a privateer under an assumed name, Captain Erik Draycott, heir to Draycott Castle and soon to assume his uncle’s title of Earl, returns to his London home to find it in disrepair thanks to his longtime nemesis. A staunch bachelor intent on returning to his ship, the captain is shocked when his mentor encourages him to take a wife. But while his alleged pauper status causes the potential London brides to turn their noses up at him, the ladies of Kent have no such qualms and are eager to fill his coffers with their fathers’ wealth. Caught in a whirlwind of high society and high seas, Muriel and Erik navigate a risky undertaking that threatens their futures and creating stakes that soar above the masts of Erik’s ship. Will Muriel’s bold charm and Erik’s daring bravery be enough to outsmart the scandal and secure a future as glittering as the crown Muriel seeks? (Historical Romance from Kregel Publications)

Treasure and Trouble by Betty Woods Eugenia Hampton wants to be loved for who she, not what she has. Her parents intend to see her married and cared for, but she’s determined not to be a mere parlor decoration to show off some man’s achievements. She wants a love match or no match. Paul Stuart is tired of clashing with people over his abolitionist views. Especially with his father, the overseer for Eugenia’s father. He’s saving money to move from Tennessee and buy a farm in Illinois where he can live in peace with people who accept his ideas. Paul rescues Eugenia after her horse throws her. They form a secret, forbidden friendship based on their common family problems. Neither expects their relationship to grow into love. When Eugenia’s father selects a non-Christian man for her husband, she must choose between her known, comfortable life of luxury or a lifetime of love with Paul where little else will be certain. (Historical Romance from Scrivenings Press)

When Hope Sank by Denise Weimer — The Civil War has taken everything from Lily Livingston—her parents, her twin brother, her home. Now she works at her uncle’s inn and keeps her head down. Speaking up for her beliefs proved too costly in a part of Arkansas split by conflicting loyalties and overrun by spies and bushwhackers. Emaciated in body but resilient in spirit, Lieutenant Cade Palmer is crowded onto the Sultana with other paroled Andersonville and Cahaba POWs for the journey north. But a fiery explosion on April 27, 1886, rends the steamer and empties two thousand men into the frigid Mississippi River. Recovering from wounds that might end his career as a surgeon but clinging to his faith, Cade threatens both Lily’s defenses and her heart. How can she tell him she might’ve prevented the tragedy if only she’d reported a suspected saboteur’s claims? And when the man returns to town and encoded messages pass through the hotel, will Lily follow her convictions to prevent another tragedy? (Historical Romance from Barbour Publishing)

With Each Tomorrow by Kimberley Woodhouse and Tracie Peterson — As the formation of Glacier National Park takes Eleanor Briggs and her conservationist father on a journey west to advocate for public lands, her heart carries the weight of a painful past. Since the death of her mother, she has spent her life traveling the country with her father and helping him with his work, but now he’s considering settling down and writing a book–and she’s not sure what that means for her future. Carter Brunswick faces trials of his own when the Great Northern Railway’s departure threatens his family’s livelihood and the entire town of Kalispell. In the visiting conservationist’s daughter, Ellie, he finds a spirited woman who challenges his convictions in ways he never anticipated, and his own dreams for the future begin to change. When tensions over the railroad’s departure boil over, Ellie and Carter are drawn together on a daring journey that tests the depths of their feelings and their faith in God. (Historical Romance from Bethany House [Baker Publishing Group])

Romantic Suspense:

Finding You by Robin Patchen — When antiquities professor Bryan Wright is tasked with discovering why a band of terrorists might target a museum in Munich, he teams up with the museum’s attractive exhibit designer to study their ancient artifacts. Something in this collection holds special value to the terrorists, and Bryan must figure out which item and why—before enemies get their hands on it. An American living in Munich, Sophie Chapman wouldn’t have expected to be attracted to a musty old antiquities professor—but this guy is neither musty nor old. Even so, she’s not ready for a new boyfriend, considering she hasn’t figured out how to get rid of the old one. When her apartment is broken into, she has bigger worries than the ex who won’t leave her alone. The seemingly random break-in is anything but. Terrorists are closing in, and their plot will destroy more than the romance growing between Bryan and Sophie. It’ll destroy everything they hold dear. (Romantic Suspense, Independently Published [ACFW QIP])

Hunting Justice by Sami A. Abrams and Lynette Eason — Ex-detective and current Elite Guardian Noelle Burton survived a horrifying attack by a serial killer as a child. Now, determined to put the scars of her past behind her, she’s intent on helping the Elite Guardians set up shop in her hometown of Savannah, Georgia. More, she’s wondering if her friendship with Dr. Jonah Harris, an ex-ER doctor turned medical examiner, might be more. But he has his own demons to fight—namely guilt over the death of his wife. So, maybe not. Meanwhile, Jonah can’t ignore the growing desire he feels for Noelle. If only he knew he wasn’t going to destroy their friendship… And then, tragedy strikes—the sudden death of a colleague rocks his world, and Jonah knows that there’s more to the incident than meets the eye. In fact, he may have been the intended target. Now he needs Noelle…not just as a friend, but as a protector. Noelle will have to protect Jonah, while not letting their friendship spark into something more, and Jonah will have to unravel the threat that stalks him. When they stumble upon the chilling possibility of a serial killer lurking in the shadows, all Noelle’s nightmares come back to life. Noelle and Jonah race against time to expose the truth and capture the killer…and when their friendship becomes something deeper, it’s clear they have everything to lose. (Romantic Suspense from Sunrise Publishing)

Secondary Target by Angela Carlisle — After the brutal murder of her mother and brother twelve years ago, Corina Roberts built a new life in Kentucky. But when strange things begin to happen, she is thrust into a perilous game of life and death. With nowhere else to turn, her best hope of survival depends on her ex-boyfriend, army veteran Bryce Jessup. Recently returned from service, Bryce has every intention of staying away from Corina, but when threats close in around her, he isn’t willing to leave her safety to chance. As their search for answers uncovers lethal secrets her detective father kept hidden, Bryce and Corina must untangle the mystery of the merciless killer intent on terrorizing and eliminating Corina’s family before it’s too late. (Romantic Suspense from Bethany House [Baker Publishing Group])

Shielding the Innocent Target by Terri Reed — After witnessing her boss’s murder, Paige Walsh must trust Deputy US Marshal Lucas Cavendish to bring her to safety. But when a notorious assassin targets her and her son, Lucas’s short-term assignment turns into a dangerous cross-country mission. For Paige to identify her boss’s killer, Lucas must get the family into witness protection. Except the hit man knows their every move…and trusting the wrong person could get them killed. (Romantic Suspense from Love Inspired [Harlequin])

Speculative Fiction:

Lady of Basilikas by Ronie Kendig — Under attack from without and within, Jherako teeters on the brink. Vaanvorn Thundred, suddenly in possession of a throne he never expected to inherit, will do anything to pull his kingdom from the edge, even if it means striking a marriage bargain with the formidable Faa’Cris. But a skycrawler opens Vorn’s eyes to realities outside his world, and his limits are tested. Lady Valiriana has one goal when she is sent out from Deversoria: prove this Jherakan king, the one his people call the Errant, unworthy of an alliance with any Faa’Cris. When she exchanges her freedom for that of another, Valiriana finds herself under house arrest—in the king’s house. Determined to take advantage of her proximity, she delves into the depths of the king’s character. What she finds turns her mission on its head. Vorn must decide: break a planet-wide Accord, risking his throne and life, or leave his country—his planet—vulnerable to threats far bigger than he ever imagined. And Valiriana grapples with unpalatable truths as she discovers the king is anything but errant, while her heart, on the other hand, is a different story (Speculative Fiction from Enclave Publishing)

Historical Mystery:

Show Me Deceit by Ellen E Withers — Take a walk back in time with Liesl, Nicole, and Detective Kurt Hunter to solve a contemporary death that may be related to the discovery of bones from the Civil War era. Can Liesl and Kurt work to solve these mysteries and set aside their hard feelings about their former romance? (Historical Mystery from Scrivening Press)

 

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

These Tangled Threads by Sarah Loudin Thomas — Set in the shadow of Biltmore Estate, a poignant tale of friendship, restoration, and second chances. (Historical General)

The Heart Leads West by Joanna Deputy — The Heart Leads West is a story of resilience and trust in the face of upheaval and danger. Unexpected provision and new relationships prove God’s faithfulness even when tragedy threatens to destroy the new future Eliza has worked so hard to secure. (Historical General)

The Bride’s Dilemma by Susan Page Davis — In 1883, Eve Martin arrives in Cheyenne, Wyoming to learn that the man she came to marry is in jail, accused of a violent murder. Should she get on the next eastbound train, or has God brought her here to help save Caleb Blair’s life? (Historical Romance)

Caragin Farm by Renee Hodges — With the Caragin family, we see true faith lived out in authentic – flawed and beautiful – characters as they respond to petulant teenagers, outrage culture, long-buried secrets, past sin, and unexpected life changes with the grace that only God can provide. (General Contemporary)

Ruthie by Sharon Srock — Young love – separated by war in 1970. Separated by life after the war. Reunited 45-years-later. Can they take a chance that love will find them one more time? (Contemporary Romance)

The Rejected Mail Order Bride by Greta Picklesimer — Rose Henderson is running from an ill-fated marriage up north. Can the southern gentleman and self-proclaimed bachelor, Harl Adams, help her find a fresh start without losing his heart to the enticing red-head? (Historical Romance)

Wrestle the Stars by Susan Lyttek — The portal and dinosaur that call Ne-tel are not on land, but on the sea. How can he rescue them when he cannot wrestle the stars? (Speculative Fiction/High Fantasy)

Three Impossible Tasks by Susan Lyttek — With the new ability to create portals, Subja’s scientists unleash vicious and ravenous beasts on the population of Telba. Bern, Garth, Ne-tel are each given separate tasks to complete on their own. Bern must convince Telantia to emerge from the safety of the city and fight for the citizens of Telba. Garth must take technology from Subja’s fortress.Ne-tel must travel to the Gold Coast to raise an army. All three must succeed if Telba is to have hope for a future, but even Prophet Nevv says these tasks are impossible. (Speculative Fiction/High Fantasy)

Sum of All Expectation by Susan Lyttek — Garth, Bern, and Ne-tel are looking for a savior, the prophesied one who will come to free Telba from the grip of the evil one. But in the first world, Garth and Nellie are being tortured, while Ne-tel and Ally have been captured and forced to work as slaves. Bern’s group of refugees battle evil and the elements. Is Telba doomed by the choices of its people? They will need aid that’s greater than the sum of all expectation. (Speculative Fiction/High Fantasy)

Outside Space and Time by Susan Lyttek — The Portal Watchers are separated… Trapped in first world, Garth is given a surprising aid which will assist him upon his return to Telba, while Bern and the Telantian army advance on Subja’s city. And on the Gold Coast Ne-tel leads a meager regiment against the ravenous beasts that have decimated the region. (Speculative Fiction/High Fantasy)

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Review: The Camera Never Lies, by David Rawlings

The Camera Never Lies, by David Rawlings (Thomas Nelson, 2019)

A successful marriage counselor whose own relationships are in turmoil—and who can’t write the sequel to his bestselling self-help book. His wife, trapped in a job selling questionable pharmaceuticals to help pay their hefty mortgage. Their 14-year-old daughter, withdrawing and exhibiting warning signs.

And an old camera that takes pictures of what’s unseen.

Inheriting his grandfather’s prized camera leads Daniel into experiences where truth becomes visible. He meets Simon, the unusual proprietor of the camera shop that suddenly opened near Daniel’s work. And he has to hide the photos Simon develops for him… because if anyone saw some of those images, his career—and his family—would be shattered.

The Camera Never Lies is a clean, heartwarming story with supernatural overtones, perfect for readers who love Davis Bunn’s Miramar Bay series (although without the new-romance plot thread). With its human drama and themes of trust and truth, I think it’d make an engaging movie.

Favourite lines:

…you’re thinking you had a good reason for doing what you did. At the time, you probably did, but the consequences of today don’t always respect the actions of yesterday. [hardcover pages 197-198, Simon speaking to Daniel]

Daniel held fate in his hands. It deserved to be tempted. [hardcover page 211]

This is Australian author David Rawlings’ second novel. Here’s a link to my review of his debut, The Baggage Handler. For more about the author and his work, visit davidrawlings.com.au.

[Review copy from the public library.]

Review: Crafting Deception, by Barbara Emodi

Crafting Deception, by Barbara Emodi (C&T Publishing, 2023)

“Help me.” The words, spoken to Valerie Rankin as a man she trusts is arrested for murder, leave her wanting to help without knowing how. Circumstantial evidence and a criminal past make Rankin’s General Store employee Duck MacDonald the prime suspect in a murder.

In the small fictional town of Gasper’s Cove, on Nova Scotia’s Atlantic Coast, everybody knows everybody’s secrets… or so they think. Yet past generations’ rumrunning and other illegal acts have influenced the present. Suddenly it seems to Val that strangers and friends alike are on the search for hidden treasure. And nobody’s concerned about clearing Duck’s name.

Author Barbara Emodi has a keen sense of descriptive details that bring the town and its characters to life. As an example, chapter 12’s scene at a fundraiser with “church-basement, made-by-the-women’s auxiliary sandwiches” will have Atlantic Canadians of a certain age nodding and remembering. She also includes a fair sprinkling of humour.

Protagonist Val is a sewing instructor and an empty-nest single mother. Her way of solving a mystery is to jump to a series of wild (and wrong) conclusions, embarrass herself by insisting the police should act on what she says, be proven wrong, and try again. Until she accidentally stops the killer and solves the case. She’s persistent, determined, and she genuinely cares for the people in her community.

She’s also a character I need to take in small doses. By hyper-focusing on her current stress or idea, she misses social cues and responds inappropriately. Like the brisk brush-off to a date invitation from a man she likes. Or like dashing off to confront her son in person when he sends a text asking for a bit of space.

Book 1 in the series is Crafting for Murder. As well as her Gasper’s Cove mysteries, Barbara Emodi has written instructional books on sewing. To learn about the author and her work, visit babsemodi.com.

[Review copy from the public library.]

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Creating White Space (Guest Post)

Open day planner with red ribbon marker and fountain pen.
Image by Sophie Janotta from Pixabay

Creating White Space

by Steph Beth Nickel

How do you feel when you open a book and see a solid page of text with virtually no white space?

More importantly…

How do you feel when you open your schedule and see virtually no white space?

Do you feel overwhelmed just thinking about it?

What can you do to overcome the overwhelm and avoid burnout?

Here are eight suggestions:

  1. As a Christian, prayer is always the best place to begin.
  2. Divide your To-Do List into three categories. The three I use are Yes!, Maybe, and Would Be Nice. Be careful how many things you list in your Yes! column. I would highly recommend adding Downtime (in ink) to your Yes! column every day. Go for a walk. Read a book. Listen to a podcast. Don’t let things you’ve always wanted to do end up in the Would Be Nice column week after week.
  3. Take a look at your Procrastination List. Offload any of the responsibilities you can’t realistically accomplish in the near future. Add (and complete) at least one remaining item to each week’s schedule until the list is cleared. When I cross something off my Procrastination List, it feels as rewarding as crossing ten things off my everyday list and energizes me to get back to the day-to-day.
  4. When creating your To-Do List, be honest about your strengths and weaknesses. For example, if you have the luxury of creating your own schedule and you have more energy in the morning, complete the tasks that require extra energy and brain power before lunch whenever possible.
  5. Remember that no is not a bad word. We’ve all been in situations when someone asked us to do something that would only take an hour or two, but it felt like the proverbial straw that would break the camel’s back. It’s okay to decline. I know this is true, but I’m still learning to apply said truth.
  6. When asked to take on a responsibility that you would really like to accept, ask yourself what you can remove from your schedule instead of trying to shoehorn in the new task.
  7. Make use of the Auto Responder on your email and let people know that you will be incommunicado when you’re on vacation. Resist the temptation to check in. True Confession: While I love making IRL (in real life) connections, my phone has become this extravert’s connection to the outside world, and I have to be extremely disciplined when it comes to setting it aside.
  8. As you get older, it will likely become evident that you can’t accomplish everything you dream of. While this can be discouraging, it can also help us determine our highest priorities and create a To-Do List that mainly includes those things we would regret not accomplishing. For example, those dishes really can wait until morning. Playing a game with your family, meeting an old friend for coffee, or sitting down to work on that book you want to publish are likely more important.

Create white space in your schedule—and guard it diligently.

Take it from someone who, for the most part, loves to spin “all the plates”…

Sometimes it’s best to tuck the majority of those plates in the cupboard—at least for now.


Photo credit: Jaime Mellor Photography

Steph Beth Nickel is a freelance editor and writer and an author. If you would like more information about her services, you can contact her at stephbethnickelediting@gmail.com.

You’re invited to visit her website: http://stephbethnickeleditor.com/.

You can join her Editing Tips Facebook group here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/418423519384351.

Review: A Tiding of Magpies, by Steve Burrows

Greyscale book cover featuring two black and white birds in flight.

A Tiding of Magpies, by Steve Burrows (Dundurn Press, 2018)

This time, DCI Dominic Jejeune (a Canadian working in England) and his team work to solve a local murder while he’s involved in an investigative review of the high profile case that launched his career. Jejeune is not the only one with regrets about that case… or with a suspicion all might not have been as it seemed.

I’m really enjoying the Birder Murder Mystery series. Each book has a strong sense of place, engaging characters with depth, clever turns of phrase, and complex crimes. The characters and plots keep me thinking about them when I’m not reading.

I’m not a birder (although I do like birds) but it’s interesting to see how they keep finding their way into the books. Also interesting are the environmental and social threads that appear.

A Tiding of Magpies is Book 5 in a series I’d heartily recommend you start from the beginning (A Siege of Bitterns). Or you could dive into this one and then go back to the start.

It’s rare for me to find a longer series that I feel committed to finishing, but this is one of them. Clean and not gory, brutal, or creepy. No risk of nightmares or vicarious trauma. Just good reads mostly set in the British countryside. I’m trying to ration them so I don’t finish too quickly. Thank you, Steve Burrows!

For more about the author and his work, visit steveburrows.org.

[Review copy from the public library.]

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Review: Renaissance, by Susan Fish

book cover: huge tree, stone wall, golden grass, blue sky

Renaissance, by Susan Fish (Raven, 2023)

First things first: this cover, on the paperback held in my hand, is absolutely gorgeous. The golden light (especially on the grass), the huge tree, the stone wall and clouds. It speaks rest to me, and warmth.

The story also brings rest. Evocative prose draws us into Liz’s struggles and into the beautiful Italian setting. If you haven’t (yet) experienced any mid-life reshapings of your identity, you’ve likely felt the hurt of being left out, misunderstood, or betrayed.

This is literary women’s fiction with an almost languid feel to it… never boring, just slowly and gently inviting readers in.

It’s a story of self-discovery, family, and forgiveness, with a thread of faith—wrapped up in a virtual tour of Florence, Italy. My only caution is there are a few pages of profanity near the end, catching both Liz and the reader off-guard. I understand why Liz surprises herself by lashing out in this way, and how she finds it entirely appropriate to the situation, but it jarred my peace and could be a deal-breaker for some.

Favourite line:

His words fell into a deep place in me, like olive oil finding every hole in a piece of bread, saturating it.

[page 57; context: Italian gardener was talking about pruning olive trees, while Liz sees a meaning for her own life from his words.]

For more about Canadian author and editor Susan Fish and her other books, visit her website. You can also see my reviews of two of her other books: Seeker of Stars and Ithaca.

[Review copy from the public library.]

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New Releases in Christian Fiction (April 2024)

April 2024 New Releases

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

Contemporary Romance:

Love in Tandem by Becca Kinzer — She’s perfectly content leading a quiet life in her small hometown. He’s an adventurer with unquenchable wanderlust. The two couldn’t be any more opposite if they tried. But a tandem bicycle and a 500-mile road trip just might change all that. (Contemporary Romance from Tyndale House)

Playing For Keeps by Deborah Raney — The love story of Art and Maddie continues in Playing for Keeps. But their fledgling marriage faces challenges when expectations collide. When Maddie is offered a chance to take a research trip to Paris, it appears a short separation might help them both figure out what happily-ever-after looks like for them. Yet even the beautiful City of Lights is lonely without the man she loves with all her heart. (Contemporary Romance, Independently Published [ACFW QIP])

Safe Haven Ranch by Louise M Gouge — It should be easy for widow Olivia Ortiz to despise Will Mattson, the man keeping her from buying the ranchland she needs for herself and her daughter, Emily. But when Emily becomes instant friends with Will’s nephew, Jemmy, Olivia and Will find themselves growing closer as well. And as Olivia’s feelings for the handsome cowboy shift, competing for the property could be the start of something more… (Contemporary Romance from Love Inspired [Harlequin])

General Contemporary and Women’s Fiction:

Cookies & Eggnog from Welcombe Bay by Kate Darroch — The prequel to the first novel in the Sweets By the Sea series, “Thanksgiving in Welcombe Bay.” In this Christmas novella we learn that Lily met her former husband Gary on her 18th birthday, and we see how Gary establishes his ascendancy over her. We watch God’s love operating in her life through the actions of her grandparents and her vicar’s wife, and learn why that ultimately leads Lily to a moment of truth when she must seek to reclaim her wavering faith. (General Contemporary, Independently Published [Ad Astra Press, Inc.])

Always Think of Me by Lori Keesey — Tyrus Cal, TC for short, had no plans to leave his party boy life, but when he met Ginny at an outdoor music festival, he fell. Hard. When their budding relationship ends abruptly, TC moves on, assuming he won’t get a second chance with the captivating Ginny. But then he does. Just not in the way he expected. (General Contemporary, Mascot Books)

Why the Mountains Stand by Ashlyn McKayla Ohm — When skating coach Addisyn Miles becomes responsible for Kenzie, a turbulent new student, she’s blindsided by the girl’s troubling link to her own past. But when Kenzie rediscovers a local legend, more is at stake than either of them realized. Now, Addisyn must choose between allowing the secrets to destroy them both…or finally finding the purpose behind their shared pain. (Contemporary, Independently Published [ACFW QIP])


General Historical:

Secrets of the Wildflowers by Sarah Talbert — After a tragic event involving the sacrifice of her brother, Miu escapes the stifling gods and patriarchal norms of ancient Ur, embarking on a transformative quest for freedom, like wildflowers in bloom; she grapples with control issues and learns to trust in Abraham’s personal god, Yahweh, finding a community where she can live as she was created to be. (General Historical, Eternal Threads Publishing)


Historical Romance:

Earning the Mountain Man’s Trust by Misty M Beller — Naomi Wyatt has finally given up on the man who once promised to love her for the rest of his life—then disappeared with no way to contact him. She’s now a single mother with a beautiful baby girl to provide for. When Jonah Coulter asks for her hand in marriage, she knows she would be hard-pressed to find a better husband and father. But when her first love rides onto the ranch property saying he’d been searching for her for months, her heart is shredded once again. Before she has time to catch her breath though, a new threat appears on the horizon. This time she has far more at stake than her heart, and only a Divine hand can turn this disaster for their good. (Historical Romance, Independently Published [ACFW QIP])

The Sleuth of Blackfriars Lane by Michelle Griep — As co-owner of The Blackfriars Lane Enquiry Agency, Kit Forge fearlessly takes on a missing child case, only to find herself and her husband, Chief Inspector Jackson Forge, risking everything to save their own baby from the dangerous criminals involved. (Historical Romance from Barbour Publishing)

A Spring at The Greenbrier by Sandra Merville Hart — Marilla has resigned herself to spinsterhood in order to help care for her sister but more than that obstacle stands in the way of courting the wealthy brother of her sister’s best friend. (Historical Romance from Wild Heart Books)

Dreams for Courage by Shanna Hatfield — When a private investigator’s trail leads her to an aloof rancher, will love give them the courage they need to face his past and dream of a future together? (Historical Romance from Wholesome Hearts Publishing)

Even in Death by Rebecca Hemlock — Private Detective Trix Fredson wants her husband’s murder solved, and the couple responsible live in her old home. Her husband’s best friend, Ted Mcallister pulled some strings to get Trix the job at the detective agency. He promised to help her solve Ron’s murder, which would be difficult. But how can he do that and keep himself from revealing his true feelings for her? That was going to be even harder. (Historical Romance from Bluecap Publishing)

Mystery/Suspense/Thriller:

The Garden Girls by Jessica R Patch — On a remote Outer Banks island, a serial killer collects his prized specimens. And to stop him, an FBI agent must confront his own twisted past. (Contemporary Psychological Suspense Thriller from Love Inspired [Harlequin])

Romantic Suspense:

Lethal Danger by Jerusha Agen — This K-9 team is trained to eliminate threats. This threat could eliminate them. (Romantic Suspense, Independently Published [ACFW QIP])

 

One Good Time by Luana Ehrlich — CIA covert operative Titus Ray is asked to do the unthinkable and allow a terrorist to enter the country illegally in order to stop an attack on the U. S., but as he tracks the terrorist to his destination, he suffers a devastating loss that threatens to derail the mission. (Romantic Suspense, Independently Published [ACFW QIP])

Grave Consequences by Elle E. Kay — Cate Garrison is working as a wildlife biologist for the Pennsylvania Game Commission and crosses paths with a mysterious park ranger whose dangerous past has caught up with him. (Romantic Suspense, Independently Published [ACFW QIP])

 

Yukon Wilderness Evidence by Darlene L. Turner — When skeletal remains are uncovered in the Yukon forest, forensic botanist Keeley Ash is called to the crime scene—and ends up abducted. She never expects her ex, paramedic Brett Ryerson, to come to her rescue, or her gathered evidence to be linked to a cold case. And when their son—who Brett never knew existed—is kidnapped, they’ll stop at nothing to save him and outrun the hunters determined to silence Keeley. (Romantic Suspense from Love Inspired [Harlequin])

Speculative Fiction:

Never Forget the Truth by F.D. Adkins — When the forces of darkness masquerade in the light, is your sword sharpened in TRUTH and wielded to fight? (Speculative Fiction, Independently Published [ACFW QIP])

 

Split-Time:

Braving Strange Waters by Sarah Hanks — Stella Lindy is supposed to be soaking up the sunshine with her bridesmaids on a bachelorette cruise to Hawaii. But when she hits the wrong button on the elevator, the glamorous luxury of the modern ship is replaced with the Missouri River steamboat Arabia filled with strangers—and a mysterious doctor informs her it is 1856. Communicating through an antique mailbox, her friends on the cruise try to guide her back home before the steamboat sinks, but Stella finds herself caught in a tangled web between pro-slavery Border Ruffians and anti-slavery Jayhawkers. Standing up for what’s right in the face of peril and uncertainty might mean never making it home. (General/Split-Time, Independently Published [SonFlower Books])

Young Adult:

Protector by Megan Schaulis — Nanotech, royal romance, and biblical themes combine in this YA dystopian retelling of Esther—perfect for fans of The Selection or The Hunger Games. (Young Adult from WhiteCrown Publishing)

 

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

Deep Trouble by Mary Connealy — When an aimless wanderer and fearless female determined to find a city of gold are forced to work together and set out to find the treasure, trouble is hot on their trail. (Historical (Western) Romance)

His Unexpected Grandchild by Myra Johnson — This toddler will steal his heart…Just in time to open it… (Contemporary Romance)

An Unlikely Arrangement by Cindy Patterson — Abigail stands to lose all if Garrett Barringer sees past her physical beauty and uncovers the ugliness of her imperfect past. Will Abigail continue on the condemned path she’s fashioned for herself, or trust that God wants a future for her she never believed possible? (Historical Romance)

Phooey Kerflooey by Kristen Joy Wilks — Through a raucous tornado of personal growth, the boys and Phooey work together to save the day. But when the dust (and squirrel poo) settles, can they convince Dad and Mom to let them keep their puppy princess? (Middle-grade Chapter book)

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Stepping Back (Guest Post)

Pink blossoms on a tree, in front of a white house.
Photo credit: Steph Beth Nickel

Stepping Back

by Steph Beth Nickel

Good Friday … the perfect day to step back from the everyday.

Not simply a day off work, but a day to focus once again on what the Lord did for us approximately 2,000 years ago.

As Christians, this reality is the basis for all we believe. For all we do. At least it should be.

While attending a Good Friday service and fellowshipping at a church potluck may be on our agenda, more importantly, this is the perfect day to practice some less common Christian disciplines. Not that potlucks are a Christian discipline, but you know what I mean.

It’s a perfect day to explore silence.

Excuse me for a few moments while I “preach” to myself.

Between my To-Do lists, social media, audiobooks, podcasts, TV shows, etc., etc., etc., I rarely experience silence / stillness of any kind. And most of that is my own doing.

Today, I may do one or more of the following. Perhaps you’d like to do the same.

1. Set aside my To-Do lists. Those everyday tasks can wait.

2. Go for a walk on my own and listen to the sounds of creation. No earbuds allowed.

3. Take my camera along on my walk and snap pics of the beauty all around me, evidence of God’s creativity and so many other aspects of His character.

4. Ramble until I stumble upon truth in my journal. I haven’t done this in a very long time.

5. Meditate on God’s Word by leaning back, opening the One-Minute Pause app, closing my eyes, and drinking in the recorded truths.

6. Read a chapter in Emily P. Freeman’s How to Walk into a Room and listen to one or more corresponding blessings available on the Quiet Collection app.

7. Memorize one of more Bible verses that pertain to this pivotal weekend.

8. Fill our home with praise and worship music. Thank you, Prime Music.

Which of these inspire you to step back from your everyday?

Which ideas would you add to the list?


Photo credit: Jaime Mellor Photography

Steph Beth Nickel is a freelance editor and writer and an author. If you would like more information about her services, you can contact her at stephbethnickelediting@gmail.com.

You’re invited to visit her website: http://stephbethnickeleditor.com/.

You can join her Editing Tips Facebook group here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/418423519384351.

Review: The Elisha Code and the Coming Revival, by David Kitz and Dr. Ed Hird

Book cover with lightning striking a burning bush.

The Elisha Code and the Coming Revival, by David Kitz and Dr. Ed Hird (Word Alive Press, 2023)

If John the Baptist fulfilled the role of the Old Testament prophet Elijah, was there a corresponding prophet Elisha to follow him with a double blessing of power? The authors of The Elisha Code and the Coming Revival point to Jesus as a type of second Elisha—not in the sense of denying His deity, but as continuing and building on John’s call to repentance and allegiance to a new Kingdom.

They are very clear in affirming that Jesus is indeed the Son of God. Their call is for readers to be “Rediscovering Jesus’ Blueprint for Renewal” and to follow in His way.

The opening chapters of the book trace a number of parallel miracles between Elisha and Jesus (those of Jesus being greater). I’m familiar with comparisons between Jesus and Moses, and Jesus and Joshua, but this connection with Elisha was new to me.

The book also delves into past spiritual awakenings, outpourings, and renewals. For Christians praying for revival, it echoes that longing and points us to inspect our own hearts: are there aspects needing repentance and to come (back?) under the Kingdom authority of Christ?

Despite possible first impressions of the title and cover, this is no trendy, hype-driven “new” revelation. The truth it contains may well be a catalyst, but as the natural result of considering Jesus and His work.

In fact, the introduction explains, “To fulfill its divine mission, the church of the twenty-first century does not need to discover new and different truths for this current age. It needs to return to and rediscover lived truths taught by Jesus and the apostles of the first century church, and put into practice by leading men and women of God down through the ages” [Introduction, page 3 Kobo version].

The book’s premise is that the key to revival is the “return to a Holy Spirit-powered church growth” [chapter 18, page 4 Kobo version]. As readers accept the challenge to seek God and be found by Him, and to prepare their own hearts for what He may be about to do, may we see results in keeping with the truth of the Gospel.

David Kitz is an award-winning author and Bible dramatist. Dr. Ed Hird is a writer and speaker and former pastor. Each is an ordained minister in his respective denomination. This is their first book collaboration.

[Review copy from my personal library.]

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