The Christmas Blessing

PrintAuthor: Melody Carlson

Publisher: Revell

Release Date: September 5, 2017

Rating: 4 Stars

Reviewer: Jennifer S. Roman

Melody Carlson continues her feel-good, sweet stories with the Christmas Blessing.  Amelia Richards decides to go see her seven week old baby’s grandparents in Montana for Christmas.  She is hoping they will accept her and her son despite the fact that she was not yet married to her baby’s father, James, who was killed in the War.  A series of mishaps befalls her on her journey from San Francisco to Montana, and she arrives just in time to spend Thanksgiving in a run-down motel.  She and Jimmy both develop a cold, and with her money and luck run out, she decides to visit the family sooner than originally anticipated.  Word on the street is that James’ father is a doctor and salt-of-the-earth kind of guy, while his mother is a strict, cold woman who would fire a volunteer from the Red Cross for not folding bandages properly.  Desperate and broke, she decides to leave baby Jimmy in the manger that is part of the family’s outdoor Nativity scene.  She just hopes that James’ parents will take in Jimmy and find him a good home and that Amelia can move on with her life.

True to Melody Carlson novels, this one is full of gut-wrenching decisions and heartfelt moments.  Even the coldest person has a good heart inside; it just takes some digging to get there.  This novel is no different.  Amelia is down on her luck and it seems to get worse with each passing day, and she is sure that the only way to give her baby a better life is to give him up.  Stung from the loss of a son, James’ mother shuts down and doesn’t want anything to do with anyone until the baby shows up in the manger.  A baby appearing in a manger during the Christmas season is a sure sign from God, in her opinion, and this may be what she needs to move on.  Of course complications arise and make for interesting reading.

***Spoiler Alert***

I have to say, however, that I was disappointed by the ending.  Things came together a little too quickly and suddenly for my tastes.  I was not upset that James ended up being saved and returned to his hometown, but I was surprised that everything wrapped up neatly afterwards.  Considering that he and Amelia knew each other for just a few days, and then he was held captive as a POW, I was confused as to how they would marry so quickly once reunited.  Then again, I am a skeptic pragmatist, so I don’t usually fall for quick happy endings.  For those of you who do, I am sure you will be pleasantly pleased with the ending.

There is some violence in the book (in a form of POW torture), and there entire book is based on a child being born out of wedlock.  Even this is pretty tame in today’s world, so The Christmas Blessing does not have much objectionable in it.  Adults and mature teens should enjoy it for its sweet story and interesting characters.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher.  The views and opinions expressed within are my own.

The Secret Life of Sarah Hollenbeck

Sarah HollenbeckAuthor: Bethany Turner

Publisher: Revell

Release Date: October 3, 2017

Rating: 4 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

Nothing like a fun romantic comedy for a fall read!

Sarah Hollenbeck has fallen from society’s grace. Having been stuck in a loveless marriage to a wealthy businessmen wasn’t too bad until she caught him in the act with another woman.  Now that she is divorced, she finds herself with nothing.  No friends, no job, and no resources.  Desperate for something, she joins a book club and decides to write poetry, which she finds is not her forte.  However, when she ventures into writing steamy romance novels where she pours her past lackluster love life into the words, she finds that not only is she good, she makes other women long for her books as well.  She is so good in fact, that she is able to land a trilogy book deal.  Everything is going great for her new life and then she finds that she has been lacking the one thing that makes her life even more meaningful: a true relationship with Christ.  Now she is in a dilemma.  She has a deadline for her next installment of steamy romance but feels that this writing is no longer the course she could take.  Couple that with she is falling for her new pastor makes for a fun and entertaining read.

This was a fun, quick, and witty read. Told from a first person view of the main character, the reader has a real chance to get to know her personally and quickly find that she is very flawed, which makes her seem more human.  I really enjoyed the relationships that she developed and getting to see how they played out as well as how she was her own worst enemy in keeping some of those relationships.  I have had some of the same thoughts she has and it was good to see that the author was likely drawing on personal experience on her main character.  A great fall book to have in your to-read pile!

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher. The views and opinions expressed within are my own.

Dangerous Illusions

Dangerous Illusions

Author: Irene Hannon

Series: Men of Valor #1

Publisher: Revell

Release Date: October 3, 2017

Rating: 5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

Irene Hannon is back with a new series that will have readers questioning each character and their intentions until the very end, making for an exciting and downright good read.

Trish Bailey has had a rough few years. Her job is demanding, she is taking care of her ailing mother, and now she is having trouble remembering things. When her mother dies of a mistake in her medication, Trish finds herself under police scrutiny. She starts to question if she made a mistake or really is having memory issues. Detective Colin Flynn is called to investigate and the more he looks into things the more they don’t add up. The more he searches for answers the more evil he sees around this case that is touching him more than he thought possible. As Colin continues to discover what really happened to Trish and her mother, Trish finds herself in a precarious position as her feelings for Colin grow, along with the danger to her own life.

Dangerous Illusions is the start of a new series for Irene Hannon and I can’t wait to see where she goes with these characters. I loved the way she weaved the mystery of the memory issues with Trish and how it made her question everything. The suspense played out well throughout until the very end where the romance aspect took over. Everything with the characters flowed naturally, even the relationships. Even though Trish is dealing with the memory issues, she never comes across as a weak character. She is willing to do whatever she has to in order to find the truth and set things right. I don’t want to spoil anything but there was a nice little twist with one of the characters that worked really well with the story. I thought I had it figured out at one point but was pleased with the way it played out.

I have enjoyed Hannon’s writing for a while now and am pleased to say that this book continues my enjoyment with her writing. This was a very enjoyable read that makes me eager for the next in the series. All fans of Irene Hannon will want to check out Dangerous Illusions, I highly recommend it.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher. The views and opinions expressed within are my own.

The Crooked Path

The Crooked Path Author: Irma Joubert

Publisher: Thomas Nelson

Release Date: November 7,  2017

Rating: 5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

Another fantastic, yet emotionally gripping story set in South Africa during World War II and beyond.

Lettie Louw is the daughter of one of the town’s only physicians. As such, she was also friends with the daughter of one of the only lawyers in town as well.  Sure she had other friends too, but as they grow older, she realizes that she doesn’t have their hair or their figures.  Even so, she has always had a crush on her friend Klara’s brother De Wet.  However, one night she says another friend Annabel and De Wet kissing and resolves that she will not succumb to her emotions and throws herself into her studies.  Upon graduating with a medical degree like her father’s, she returns home to join his practice and live her life her way.

Marco Romanelli is the a scholar who has no interest in politics, until he meets Rachael Rosenweiz. Italy in the late 1930s has suddenly become a fearful place for all Jews, including Rachael and her family.  As Hitler spreads his hatred across Europe, Mussolini is right behind him.  Marco realizes that he must find a safe place for Rachael and her family, but all the borders to safety are closing, so they must head into the mountains.  But winters in Northern Italy can be just as severe as a concentration camp and Marco endures much more than he can handle or bear.  Eventually his health becomes severe and he decides to relocate to South Africa where his brother Antonio has gone.  While there, he meets a young doctor that begins to change his perspective on life.

As always, this book in an incredible excerpt of historical fiction from a time period that I love in an area that I’m beginning to feel like I understand more with each Joubert novel that I have read. What made this even more enjoyable were the intertwining characters between this book and Child of the River.  It was such a treat getting to see the other side of conversations that happened in the other book with a fresh perspective to give even more life to several of the characters, both good and bad.  I also enjoyed that part of the book actually continued the story of Child of the River as it played out even further.

I must warn you, this book is very emotionally taxing. If dealing with lost loves wasn’t enough, now she has brought childhood polio into the mix, making it even more difficult.  Even so, I would read this book another twenty times because it is just that good.  The way she balances historical advances and events with the characters is simply wonderful.  I cannot get enough of her writing.  My synopsis are pretty generic, but once you’ve read it, I’m sure you will see why I wanted you to read this book in the first place.

Highly recommended for historical fiction lovers and to those who just love a good book!

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher. The views and opinions expressed within are my own.

Blind Spot

Blind SpotAuthor: Dani Pettrey

Series: Chesapeake Valor #3

Publisher: Bethany House

Release Date: October 3, 2017

Rating: 4.5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

When reading a Dani Pettrey book ,you know what you are going to get: a thrilling suspense story with a romance that is destined to take place. Blind Spot is spot in keeping with the formula that Pettrey’s fans have come to love.

When FBI Agent Declan Gray is caught up in a case that has him hunting terrorists, he isn’t sure what his next step should be. He knows something horrible is about to come. His investigation leads him to Tanner Shaw and the immigrant community she has been working with.  Tanner is now with the FBI as a crisis counselor and knows she is bound to butt heads with Declan.  Even though they fight and have trouble getting along, there is a spark between the two of them that can’t be denied.  They have to set their personal feelings aside and focus on the looming terrorist attack and try and save the thousands of lives that could be affected by what is to come.

While this is the third book I the Chesapeake Valor series, it can easily be read on its own. It might be helpful if you have read the first two before starting this one for some background on a few of the characters but isn’t fully necessary.  The relationship between Declan and Tanner develops quickly from them butting heads to seeing an obvious attraction.  I like the way they came together but felt at times a few things were forced, Declan tended to call her “Honey” far too often and far too soon in the relationship.   I have seen that in a lot of books recently. If a relationship is going to develop it needs to happen naturally and without terms of endearment when they aren’t warranted.  That is one of my only issues I had while reading.  The writing is tight with the tension at the right places and the story leaving the ending open just enough to leave the readers thirsting for more with the next book to come.  I recommend this book for readers that enjoy a good Christian romance with just the right amount of suspense sprinkled in throughout to keep the story flowing at nice pace.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher. The views and opinions expressed within are my own.

Justice Buried

Justice Buried.jpgAuthor: Patricia Bradley

Series: Memphis Cold Case #2

Publisher: Revell

Release Date: September 5, 2017

Rating: 5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

A fast-paced romantic suspense with a tough female lead and a mystery brought back from the grave makes for a combination that can’t be missed!

Kelsey Allen has decided to start her own security business. In an effort to prove herself, she has been scaling buildings and entering through windows to show local businesses the vulnerabilities they have and how she can improve their security.  When the Pink Palace Museum calls asking her to test their security after they have several important artifacts disappear, she poses as a conservator and sets to work.  Her investigation quickly turns from looking into the disappearances of artifacts to finding a murderer.  Kelsey suddenly finds herself in more danger and knows she needs help. Brad Hollister is a detective she has known for years and when he is put in her path Kelsey finds that she herself is vulnerable of falling for Brad, hard and fast.

With the second book in the Memphis cold case series, Patricia Bradley has crafted a tight fast paced story that will leave readers guessing as to who the killer is and what their possible motive could be. The relationships that developed were very natural and played out well.  Kelsey is shown to be fearless and on top of everything she faces, even when she finds herself in a bad spot without any foreseeable way out. The only issue I had was at the very ending, I don’t want to give away anything but the last few pages and the way the relationship between two characters progressed was not at all reasonable for me. I enjoy books with a strong female lead and Kelsey was a great one to add to my list of favorite female characters. The relationship between her and Brad was enjoyable to watch play out. I liked how there was another woman in his life and he had to decide what to do, which wasn’t made out to be an easy decision either. Other than the one problem at the very end the book, it was very enjoyable and I will recommend it to readers that enjoy a good clean suspense read with a mystery that is deep and not will keep them guessing until the very end.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher. The views and opinions expressed within are my own.

These Healing Hills

These Healing hillsAuthor: Ann H. Gabhart

Publisher: Revell

Release Date: September 5, 2017

Rating: 4 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

Delightful, historical romance at it’s best.

Francine Howard has a plan for her life. She is promised to a young soldier off to fight in the second great war.  But things have a way of changing when least expected, especially when she receives a letter saying that he has falling in love with someone else in Europe and plans to remain there.  Reeling from this shock, Francine must figure out what to do with her life now.  She decides to move to the Appalachian Mountains in Kentucky and join the Frontier Nursing Service.  And as always, plans change when she meets another young soldier home from the horrors of war.

I love Ann Gabhart’s cozy mystery series, but have never tried one of her historical novels. So, I got the chance and gave it a try.  Her descriptive settings brings the beauty of the Kentucky Hills to life.  I have read several books set in the Appalachians during this time frame, but this one by far takes me there the best.  I also really enjoyed the history that Gabhart brought for the Frontier Nursing Service.  I hadn’t read about this before and as with any great historical fiction novel, I found myself researching as much as I could about it as I read along.  Terrific read for lovers of historical fiction and those looking to give it a try.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher. The views and opinions expressed within are my own.