Thursday, March 26, 2015

Review on From the Start by Melissa Tagg

From the Start, the first in Melissa Tagg's new series called the Walker Family is a delightful read that I know that fans of her other books will definitely enjoy. This story takes place in small town Maple Valley in Iowa
where former Big time quarterback Colton Greene and struggling romance screenplay writer Kate Walker both wind up to help out after a tornado wrecks havoc on the town. For Kate, it's her home town and she's going home to help family, but for poor Colton it is helping out a college friend's family who he has great respect for and to help him get his mind of his now "very over"( because of a shoulder/knee injury) NFL career. During the course of their time together Colton realizes that Kate would be the perfect person to write his autobiography that his agent was nagging for him to get done and so they are thrown together and a friendship/relationship starts developing between the two.

What is lovely about Melissa Tagg's writing is that within the context of a romance novel, she manages to give you two characters that have their own issues and things they are going through and need to reconcile during the course of the story, sometimes they are things that are processed together, but sometimes they need to deal with their own "stuff" individually before they are able to come together. I like that. It isn't your classic 2 perfect people coming together and poof everything is...perfect. This makes for more multi-dimensional characters and interesting reading. (In fact I found myself looking for every possible opportunity to read this book as it was on my kindle app!) 

Colton is a very likable character, especially as you see him transition out of his former" always in the spotlight" persona into a person who truly does find his purpose in life and how his very difficult past comes to play in that. It was definitely a stand up and cheer kind of moment at the end as he truly sees how the bad in his life could be used for good in other's lives. Kate had her own journey to take as well as she tries to live up to everything that her mother had done before her as well as heal her heart from a disastrous previous relationship . However, she learns along the way that God has a different plan for all of us...and it's ok if it looks a little different that what we originally thought.  

I will say that it's hard not to fall in love with the little town of Maple Valley as well as all of it's inhabitants. Kate has 3 Walker siblings, so it will be fun to see where Melissa Tagg takes this series as we see other storylines unfold. I think she has set things up very well for future storylines and books. I know that I will definitely be visiting Maple Valley again to see what the Walker Family is up to.  

4 stars

I was given a digital copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. All opinions expressed are my own.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Review on Mist of Midnight by Sandra Byrd

“Um, I forgot”- isn’t this a response that mom’s constantly hear from their darling cherubs who perhaps didn’t complete their list of chores?  Well I have to say, after reading Sandra Byrd’s captivating Gothic Romance novel Mist of Midnight, that was my response- “Um, I forgot how much I love a great Gothic Romance novel!, especially when penned by the hugely talented Sandra Byrd who weaves the historical parts of the novel  into the story seamlessly . It just adds to the enjoyment for the reader and lends some authenticity to the time period of the story. (Read the author’s notes in the back of the book- so fascinating!)

   Mist of Midnight hits that perfect balance in the story  between , that sort of dark Gothic mystery  where things “go bump in the night” and a delightful romance that springs up between the two characters.  We have the lovely Rebecca Ravenshaw, a child of missionaries who lost her whole family overseas in India to both illness as well as the Rebellion that took place there.  She is now tired and heartbroken and is coming home to England to take up residence in her family’s estate Headbourne House in Hampshire England. One slight problem is that she discovers that there was an impostor who had come to Headbourne House just previous to her, posing as “Rebecca Ravenshaw” and claiming her inheritance as well as her home. She then died under suspicious circumstances. So when she, the real Rebecca Ravenshaw, shows up, the town is skeptical ,as many haven’t seen her since she was a little girl. In residence in Headbourne House, is the very handsome Captain Luke Whitfield who is a distant relative next in line to inherit Headbourne House with the supposed death of Rebecca Ravenshaw. Luke is everything that the perfect gothic hero needs to be, as he is completely swoonworthy, but has that edge to him where you wonder exactly what his secrets might be- (think Mr Rochester in Jane Eyre)- is he a good romantic hero or is he going to murder you in your sleep?  This keeps Rebecca, and the reader, off balance throughout the story right till the end as the mystery of what happened at Headbourne House with the impostor comes to light.

  Also in all good gothic tales the residence, or House, is almost  always like a character unto itself  within the story as there is usually some mystery within the house and Mist of Midnight does not disappoint in that respect either with mysterious messages showing up on the walls and rooms that are locked up where Rebecca cannot enter,  letters hidden in the attic, etc.  Sandra Byrd knows her stuff and I was completely engaged in this story from the beginning until the end (which was delightful by the way.)  I would never give away an ending, but I will say that there was an especially endearing little twist that I was not expecting at the end that I thought was very charming and fun to read. 

All in all, a really wonderful read and I was delighted to see that the author just mentioned via social media that she had finished the second book in this series and all I can say is – “sign me up, I’m in “ and this time, there will be no forgetting how much I loved this book and how I am thoroughly anticipating the next one!

5 stars

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.  All opinions expressed are my own.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Review on Captured by Love

Captured by love, Jody Hedlund’s latest offering was once again a well done, and seemless historical fiction novel that I have come to expect from her writing. I thought that this particular novel did a wonderful job with the historical element and the British occupation of Michilimackinac Island (what we know as Mackinac Isnalnd) in 1814. All of the true to life landmarks and situations that she wove into the story are explained in the back of the book and her “author’s notes” at the end are always my favorite part as I realize the artistry that Jody uses to bring her historical fiction a ring of truth. As a historical fiction reader, I truly enjoy that.

But onto the characters- the lovely Angelique with a hard past, an unfaithful mother whose decisions and choices always make her question if she is just like her mother? Her cruel step –father fosters these doubts as he makes sure she is clothed in such a way that no one pays her much mind – plain and everything buttoned up. She lives in constant fear that he will sell her off in marriage to the highest bidder as he had done with her sister. However, Angelique has given her pledge of marriage to a kind friend since childhood Jean, who has since left the Island to go and fight for the Americans. There’s just one problem, she has never really loved Jean in a romantic way, that was more reserved for his older brother Pierre who is a bit more of a rogue. Pierre is that “bad boy turning good” type of character who has been out on the fur trading circuit and lived a bit large. He is that cheeky sort and he is delightfully confident in himself , still falls a bit over his own pride, but a very loveable character overall. Having left the Island long ago to pursue his Fur trading, he is returning to check in on his mother and runs into Angelique. When he left her, she was a young girl, but returning home shows him that she was become a most beautiful grown up woman. Angelique attracts him not just for her beauty and red curls, but the fact that she has been taking care of his mother, who in his absence has gone blind and made things around his childhood farm difficult to keep up with.

There are many difficulties for Angelique and Pierre- Angelique’s pledge and duty to Jean, her love for staying on the Island and Pierre’s love for fur trading which would take him far away from Angelique and the Island. Many hurdles to jump over for this couple, make the story unique and interesting. They both in their own way learn to lay down their wants and desires and seek out God’s plan for their future. It was such an interesting contrast as one had to lay down selfishness and the other trying to do things out of duty- a fun story for sure. And as mentioned above- the historical aspect was interesting and played into the story seamlessly. This one is full of romance for sure so for those in for a great historical Christian fiction romance, I think you will really love it.

4 stars

This book was given to me by the publishers in exchange for an honest review. All opinions expressed are my own.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Review on Prelude for a Lord by Camille Elliot

Admittedly, I am a fan of “all things Jane”- Jane Austen, Jane Eyre and yes ,even Jane Erstwhile from Austenland. And so to see another wonderful “Regency era” novel called Prelude for a Lord by Camille Elliot, arrive on the scene , well let’s just say it very much pleases my Austen-like sensibilities. 

We meet 28 year old Alethea Sutherton, our heroine and a virtual spinster in this time frame, as she is unmarried and absolutely not wishing to be, which of course makes her an unconventional character from the get-go. Instead Alethea’s dreams are to be a master at the violin and move to Italy where she might study under true masters without ridicule. The violin of course was not seen as an instrument fit for women to play as it was considered unladylike, because an elbow might be seen and that in Regency England is a bit scandalous. Enter in Lord Dommick and his quartet who is down one player due to the war, , also a violin player and of the opinion that women should not be playing the violin…until he actually hears Alethea play. And even, Lord Dommick or “Bay” as his friends call him can see the depth of her talent. One element that adds to her playing is the unique and beautiful sound of her violin. It turns out that there is a mystery surrounding this violin as someone wants to steal it and works very hard to do so. As this puts Alethea and her family in harms way, Bay steps in to help protect her and a relationship starts to form. 

There are many things to this story that I really enjoyed, obviously the conflict of the two main characters and the things they have to do to overcome to even begin a relationship. Bay is a man that is working so hard to hide secrets as he struggles with some post traumatic stress from his time in the war and fights to keep control in all situations. Because of times where he couldn’t, a former fiancĂ© dubbed him the “Mad Baron” and he has been fighting that stigma and trying to do everything he could to right his family’s standing in society especially for his sister’s sake so that she would have a chance to marry well. Alethea on the other hand has all but given up caring what those around her think of her and only wants to escape to Italy where she can pursue her musical dreams. And so Bay ,who thinks he will never marry because of his secrets and Alethea .who has no idea of ever marrying and is only biding her time until she can leave for Italy , somewhow make an unlikely couple.

I thought this story was very well executed and had all the elements that I love in a good Regency novel plus a little bit more. In the Regency novels that I have enjoyed, it usually centers around a strong female character who is making the best of her situation which is usually not an optimal one for her based on the time frame and the fact that she is a woman. But through her strength of character, she is able to pull through. We definitely see that in the character of Alethea . Besides Alethea, Camille Elliot manages to give us other really interesting characters with some good depth to them, witty dialogue, and a lot of excitement and mystery surrounding the violin thrown in for good measure. I really enjoyed how both characters seemed to really help and compliment each other just by being who they were. And so I would recommend this one to those “fans of all things Jane” like myself. It was a lovely read!

I was given a complimentary copy of this novel by the publisher in exchange for an honest review. All opinions expressed are my own.

5 stars

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Review on The Family of Jesus by Karen Kingsbury

The Family of Jesus by Karen Kingsbury offers a brand new idea- the idea of Biblical Christian fiction paired up with a bible study section to bring together a brand new experience for her readers. This concept is a good one I think, as I know personally when I read good Biblical fiction, it sends me running to my Bible to see if what the writer’s imagination has come up with is “plausible” in terms of matching up with what the Bible says about that particular person in the scripture. This is exactly what Karen Kingsbury set out to do by using Bible scholars to help her in terms of running these stories by them to see if they could be possible. And so, while we do get a look at the relatives of Jesus in a brand new way with the lovely help of Karen Kingsbury, it is refreshing then to spend some time at the back of the book as she provides 5 days of actual study into the character that she wrote about. And in the end, just as she hoped by taking this journey in learning about the “family of Jesus”, it helps you to love Jesus that much more.

The book opens with the story of Joseph, described as the protective stepfather and what his journey might have been like, his relationship with Mary, etc. We then move to Zechariah, the knowing Uncle, John the Baptist, the chosen cousin, Elizabeth, the faithful aunt, James, the doubting brother and of course ends, with Mary, the loving Mother. In usual Karen Kingsbury style, the reader can’t help but engage with the characters and be moved as you witness the great love shown in the relationships such as in Mary and Joseph’s relationship at the onset in hearing that Mary is pregnant.  You see great faith in the impossible in Elizabeth’s life and heart as the impossible came to pass and great sacrifice in the life of John the Baptist as his whole life was preparing for Jesus and then dying as well. And as a mother, my heart was moved, of course, by Mary’s story, a mother just wanting to save her son, but helpless to do so. Love, sacrifice, and faith and of course the tears were flowing- grab your Kleenex box as you fully engage with this story.  I greatly enjoyed the journey.

As always when you are reading something like this where there is a fictional component, it’s wise to keep the two separate in terms of what we know scripturally versus what can be possible. But I think the beauty and value in this is remembering that they were real people with real emotions, struggles and joys and heartbreak. In taking this journey, it helps to bring these character’s alive in a new and precious way. I am glad that I took this journey and hope that you take it as well, and fully engage in both parts- the story section on the character as well as the bible study section as it makes for a very moving experience and one that makes you dig into these character’s lives through the Bible as well.


4 stars.

I was given a complimentary copy of this book through the publisher in exchange for an honest review. All opinions expressed are my own.


Sunday, June 29, 2014

Review on A Broken Kind of Beautiful

Ok, I’ll admit it. I’m that person that …occasionally…..runs a little late.  When arriving at parties it’s socially acceptable to be “fashionable late”, which I often am. However sometimes you might miss the best part of the party if you are too late. I have to say that I’m “late” in joining the party on those who have read and enjoyed A Broken Kind of Beautiful by Katie Ganshert, and after reading this book, I feel like wow- I wish I would have read this one earlier it’s filled with great characters, an interesting storyline and so much- “wow, that’s so true” dialogue.  So now that I am fashionably late to discovering this book, it does not diminish it’s enjoyment or impact for me, this was a good one.

The characters are as the book title suggest Broken and Beautiful- Ivy, an aging out supermodel - mind you she’s about to hit the old age of 25- is a heroine unlike most you find in this genre, but there is something about her that you just really care about what happens to her. Her back story is a bit heartbreaking as the novel opens and she is at her estranged father’s funeral. She is a young woman who just never quite felt loved and so with her beautiful outside she would seek it out in all the wrong places leading to relationships that meant nothing. Her walls were way up and no one ever really knew the real Ivy. In a last fitch effort to try and revive her career, her agent and uncle, get’s her a shoot with her Stepmother Marilyn who happens to own a lovely little Bridal shop in Greenbrier South Carolina called Something New, which is a far cry from her usual stomping grounds in New York City.  She is desperate though and out of work ,so off she goes to this job with her walls of armor up high and strong against anyone trying to get in.  Next, we meet Davis Knight a former up and coming fashion photographer who had all the makings of skyrocketing to the top of the fashion industry, but left  his big job in New York because of an accident to his sister that has filled him with guilt and a feeling that he should never pick up a camera again. However ,he does serve as the fashion photographer for Ivy’s shoot as the proceeds are going to go to directly help his sister with an art program for her at a local college.  He rediscovers his love for photography and his amazing talent shows through his work producing the best pictures Ivy has ever taken.   In all of this a relationship starts to brew between the two, although not in the normal way that Ivy is used to having with a man. 

There are so many aspects to this novel that I absolutely loved- the power of forgiveness being one and the idea that God’s forgiveness covers it all and all guilt can be laid down right at the foot of the cross. The pacing to this novel was flawless as we see the character of Ivy develop and grow- her journey from the beginning of the book to the end was one that pulled the reader in and by the end the tears were a flowing.  I also loved the fact that the “hero” of the book had his issues to sort through as well.  In a manner of speaking, “Miss Abandoned “meets “Mr Guilt-ridden” and because of who God is in their lives, they can find the love and the forgiveness they need through God to heal.  And for those of you that are “fashionably late” like me to discovering this book- I truly hope that you will enjoy this as much as I did. This one goes on the favorites shelf and I look forward to reading more great books like this one from Katie Ganshert.

5 stars

I was graciously given a complimentary copy of this book by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.  All opinions expressed are my own.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Review on Pride, Prejudice and Cheese Grits

Pride, Prejudice and Cheese Grits truly is a delightful contemporary Jane Austen romp type of story which follows loosely the storyline of Pride and Prejudice while also throwing in the delightful charm of the south, thus where the cheese grits fit it. The novel opens ,as any good Pride and Prejudice based novel should, with a scene where the main character , in this case Shelby Roswell, a Civil War historian and professor, crossing swords with a visiting professor named Ransom Fielding, who also happens to be the one who gave her  book a scathing and damaging review. As she enters his classroom and creates quite a stir, she also leaves quite an impression on Ransom. I can’t possibly give you the details here as I wouldn’t want to spoil it for you, but I will say that in Elizabeth Bennett fashion she dresses him down a bit and had me the reader laughing out loud.  Poor Mr. Darcy, uh…Mr Fielding.

With that rough start the two main characters aren’t very fond of each other at first, and with Shelby ,working hard to earn her tenure at her small college named Midlands located in Mississippi is finding that her college’s administration have determined it quite an accomplishment to have landed the prestigious Ransom Fielding straight from Yale to come in for a guest professorship and will basically move heaven and earth to keep him happy.  When the two of them do not get along, they make it very clear that they will come down on Ransome’s side  of any argument, which means she may be kissing her long sought after tenure” Goodbye”.  But just as Darcy against his will becomes taken with Elizabeth, so does Ransom with Shelby.  Despite her many social “faux pas’, he somehow falls for her.  I found Ransom’s backstory to be touching as he is recovering from losing his wife and so he is leaving his Ivy league Academia to come to this small college near his hometown to recover a bit and ends up meeting Shelby and so his journey to seek out peace and quiet is a bit sidelined as she is anything but that .

For true Jane Austen fans, this isn’t an exact replication of  the story Pride and Prejudice in a contemporary setting, as certain characters are morphed into one- e.g- the Mr Collins and Mr, Wickham character become one to make up the “bad guy” of the story,  and there isn’t a whole lot of emphasis on Shelby’s siblings and their stories, but as I was engaged in this story, it didn't matter to me as I enjoyed this storyline and where the author took these characters. The character of Shelby certainly had plenty of “Elizabeth Bennett” spunk as well as a bit more thrown in for good measure as her mouth so often got her into trouble whenever she was in social situations- very cringe-worthy at times- but I have to say that just led me to really loving the character of Shelby even more.  Just as in Pride and Prejudice, Shelby and Ransom butt heads a lot initially and their pride and their prejudice keep them from each other, but as the story unfolds and they understand where each other are coming from, their relationship  starts to develop.

This was an enjoyable read for me and I am so happy to see that there is a series here with Emma, Mr Knightley and Chili Slaw dogs on deck. If it follows the same vein as Pride,Prejudice and Cheese Grits, then it will definitely be a winner.  Pride, Prejudice and Cheese Grits delivers, faith love and fun all rolled up into one great book with some good old fashion Southern charm thrown in as well. 

4 stars

I was provided a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. All opinions expressed are my own.