Turtles in the Road

TurtlesAuthors: Rhonda Rhea and Kaley Rhea

Publisher: Bold Vision Books

Release Date: April 21, 2017

Rating: 5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

A wonderfully enticing story that I couldn’t devour fast enough. Readers will truly fall in love with these characters and the trials they go through to find out who they are and what God has in store for them that is so much better than they would have ever imagined.

Piper Cope thought she had her life figured out. She felt certain God had called her to be a pastor’s wife. When her fiancé breaks off their engagement, she is left uncertain of her future. She packs her car and leaves to go live with her sister, another complicated relationship in her life, while she sorts out what her future holds. While driving on the rainy roads, she swerves to miss a turtle in the road and ends up in the ditch with a broken car stuck in a little unknown town. With her car in the shop and not a lot of money, she ends up at the little bed and breakfast in town and working at the community center. She quickly falls for the little town but doesn’t want to get her heart broken again. The community center director decides to take a chance giving Piper a job and helping her out in her time of need but doesn’t expect to have feelings for her grow as quickly as they do. Will Piper find what she has been looking for or find herself at another dead end and more confused than ever?

Rhonda Rhea and her daughter Kaley Rhea have written one delightful read that I devoured in a single day. This may be one of the most enjoyable Christian Romance books I have ever read. The best thing about this story for me was the fact that nothing felt rushed, the characters acted out exactly as I felt they should, the romance was not rushed in the slightest and I found myself picturing exactly what was happening as I jumped into the pages head first. The writing style is unique and hit the spot; when I say this was funny I mean it was actually funny where it was supposed to be funny and for the right reasons. Most of the times when a book is said to be funny it is because a character has certain quirks that make it funny but here it was situations and the characters jut being flat out hilarious. I loved everything about Piper from the way she ended up swerving to miss the turtle to the very end (I don’t want to spoil the end, but I guarantee you will be smiling). Readers that enjoy a fun clean romance with a good message will absolutely adore Turtles in the Road. This will be on my best of list for sure!

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

The Song of the Jade Lily

Jade lilyAuthor: Kristy Manning

Publisher: William Morrow

Release Date: May 14, 2019

Rating: 5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

A brilliant piece of literary work that showcases the Japanese occupation of Shanghai during World War II.

Romy and her family are Jews living in Vienna during the 1930s.  On the night of Kristallnacht, her family realizes that they must flee the country to save their lives, but only she and her parents are able to secure passage on a ship from Italy to Shanghai, known as Paris of the East.  Upon arrival, Romy quickly realizes that Shanghai is very different from anywhere she has ever been.  It is overcrowded with people and separated into many different sections including French, British, and Japanese.  She soon meets another young woman here age named Li Ho.  They form a strong friendship over the next two years, but after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, the Japanese occupy Shanghai and begin to rid the area of any anti-Japanese sentiment.  Will this friendship stand the test of a war-torn country?

Jumping ahead several years to 2016, Alexandra Cohen is a very successful commodities trader in London.  But after a bad breakup and learning her grandfather is dying, she quickly returns to Melbourne, Australia.  Alexandra has always been different being part Chinese but has never really known the true story of her birth mother.  Her parents died when she was young, and her grandparents always change the subject when she brings it up.  After her grandfather passes, Alexandra receives an opportunity to work in Shanghai.  She takes it with hopes that maybe she can finally uncover the truth about the adoption of her mother and find her true family.

This has been a great year for historical novels that uncover rarely known facts about World War II.  This book was no exception as I had little knowledge of Jewish refugees living in Shanghai.  I thoroughly appreciated all the research that the author put into this book to bring this era of history to light and how she weaved it into such an intricate story.  The character development of Alexandra throughout the book was fantastic as well.  She grew from being insecure into someone who can seize the moment and get what she wants from life.  There is some very raw emotion throughout the book. There were parts that brought me to tears because of what Romy experienced.  I imagine other readers will feel the same way.

This book really focuses on the power of secrets and the damage that they can do to a family over time.  However, there is also a theme of redemption in the later part of the book.  I enjoyed that the author shared that even when families have secrets, they are not as secret as one might think.

There is very little foul language in the book; however, there are some implied sex scenes that will not be appropriate for younger readers.  I recommend this book for readers who love time slip novels exploring World War II and for people who just need a good story!

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

Living Lies

Living lies

Author: Natalie Walters

Series: Harbored Secrets #1

Publisher: Revell

Release Date: May 21, 2019

Rating: 5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

Great debut series for the romantic suspense market!

 When Lane Kent returns to her home town of Walton, Georgia after the death of her husband, she needs to find hope to want to stay alive. Her five-year-old son is with her and she wants to live for him but the depression she has had for years is getting dangerously close to overtaking her. Her father is running for congress and under the watchful eyes of everyone in town. Lane feels the pressure of those watchful eyes causing her world to close in on her. Things get even harder when Lane stumbles upon a dead body in the woods. She is working with the newest deputy in town, Charlie Lynch, to figure out the truth behind the murder and if her own life is worth living after all she has seen and been through.

 For her debut novel, Natalie Walters has crafted a story that will keep readers glued to the edge of their seats waiting until the final page to see how things will turn out. I wasn’t sure what to expect from this novel, with it being the first by Walters, but I am pleased to say that I will be greatly looking forward to whatever comes next. The characters, especially Lane, were so well written that I had no trouble rooting for her to succeed and find a way out of the darkness within. The tension in each scene is brought to the surface by the way readers will fall in love with the characters. The way that Charlie develops the bond with Lane’s son and becomes involved in his life and not just Lane shows he is the perfect fit for their little broken family. One of the most interesting aspects of the book for me was the dynamic between Lane and the rest of her family. The problems she has been dealing with for years come full circle showing a great character arc. The flow of the story was well done, and I felt it was just the right length with little fluff to take away from the story. Romantic suspense in the Christian market has a lot of really great authors and can be hard to compete with but Walters had found her own unique voice and style of writing here that will please readers.  I will gladly pick up the next in the series as soon as I can and can’t wait to see what happens next with these characters. I recommend this book to readers that enjoy a good romantic suspense novel and are fans of Lynnette Eason, Diann Mills, and even Irene Hannon are going to want to pick this one up.

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

 

On a Summer Tide

summer tideAuthor: Suzanne Woods Fisher

Series: Three Sisters Island #1

Publisher: Revell

Release Date: April 30, 2019

Reviewer: Jennifer S. Roman

Even close families can grow apart during the best of circumstances, and in the case of the Grayson family, it happened during one of the worst times of their lives.  Sisters Camden, Blaine, and Maddie Grayson were close despite their varying personalities, but after the tragic death of their mother, they seemed to grow apart.  Cam adopted her best friend’s son upon her friend’s death and put her business acumen to work in a high-stress job.  Maddie immersed herself in her social work studies, but became distant and unattached from anyone else.  Blaine went to community college but couldn’t decide on a major, so after several years without earning a degree, the school asked her to sit out so she could make some plans about her life.  They all thought their dad was taking things well until he told them out of the blue that he had sold their family home and bought a small island off the coast of Maine.  Thinking he was out of his mind and had gotten in way over his head, the girls take some time off and spend it with him, helping to get the former camp where he and their mother met back into working order.

While there, the Grayson family meets up with some friendly locals, while others are downright hostile.  Some welcome the chance to reinvigorate the island, but some are clearly against it.  As the story progresses and more characters show their true colors, we learn why they have such a problem with change.  Along the way, the sisters each do some soul searching and changing themselves as they finally acknowledge their denial to their mother’s death.

Suzanne Woods Fisher is generally known for her Amish fiction, but in it she always shows the humanity of the characters while they solve some kind of personal conflict.  This story is not about the Amish culture, but it does still stick to the same formula of having complex characters deal with a tough situation.  In this case, it takes until the end of the book to reveal why the mother’s death is such a huge impact on everyone’s life.

I tend to enjoy Suzanne Woods Fisher’s books for her likeable characters and interestingly complex situations.  This book definitely fit the bill, and I was immersed as soon as I picked it up.  It’s a quick and easy read, but the situations definitely stick with the reader long after being done.  I am still dreaming of owning my own island off the coast of Maine because of her ability to bring things to life and make them real.  Having a family member randomly buy such an island is not that common, but the family dynamics and conflicts definitely are, and even in such an idyllic setting, they show how difficult yet beautiful life can be.

The characters were all interesting, and except for the “villains,” likeable.  The scenery is described in such vivid detail that I felt as though I were there.  All in all, I really enjoyed this story and look forward to more in the series.

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

 

The Refuge

The refugeAuthor: Ann H. Gabhart

Publisher: Revell

Release Date: April 30, 2019

Rating: 5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

A historical romance showing how hard it can be to not only survive, but also find and make a lasting connection with the right someone in the hardest of times. 

Darcie and Walter Goodwin only want to survive the cholera epidemic ravaging the country.  The only way they see to survive is to join the Shakers who seem to have a way of steering clear of the disease. This is not meant to be a permanent stay, being with the Shakers means they can’t be together as man and wife, this community doesn’t believe in marriage. When Walter is killed in a boating accident and Darcie is left by herself to raise the child she finds growing inside of her, she is left with a difficult decision: does she stay and know that she and her baby will grow and have what they need or leave and find happiness and keep her family together?

I have always been a fan of Ann. H. Gabhart’s romantic suspense writing and wanted to see how the historical romance would compare.  Normally I am much more of a fan of suspense but have to say The Refuge was an enjoyable read with characters that made me feel for what they were going through and cheer for their small victories.  I thought that Gabhart did a very nice job showing the difficulties these characters went through with the illnesses ravaging the country and the lack of modern technology and medicines we have today to help with such matters. When you have to spend your time just being about to provide to live there doesn’t leave much time to find love. Men and women being together is more of a convenience of what each can do for the other instead of finding a true love and having to fight to be together. One thing about it though, marriage was not taken as lightly as it is today with the divorce rate so high, back then if you got married it was till death do you part. I liked the way that was mentioned so many times, it is something you must work at and not just throw away when you feel like it. Each of these characters had a responsibility and work they had to keep up with to keep the community running, it showed a great work ethic on their parts and is something that is lacking in today’s society. I think fans of historical romance will really enjoy this read.

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

Driftwood Bay

Driftwood bayAuthor: Irene Hannon

Series: Hope Harbor #5

Publisher: Revell

Release Date: April 2, 2019

Rating: 5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

The newest installment in the Hope Harbor series brings the best romance yet with characters readers will quickly fall in love with and want to cheer on to the happiest of endings.

Hope Harbor seems to attract the right people at just the right time in their life. When Jeannette Mason needs a new start after losing everyone she has every loved, she retreats to Hope Harbor to start a new life with no intention of getting close to anyone. She feels that if she cuts herself off from everyone, she will keep herself from getting hurt again. Her plan works fine until Dr. Logan West shows up in town with his niece. He never thought he would become a father before he got married, but when his brother died overseas and his mom passes away, he becomes the sole guardian of a little girl he comes to love dearly. Both Jeannette and Logan find themselves in the middle of the town;s effort to help a Syrian family that has fled persecution and come to Hope Harbor. In the midst of helping others, Logan and Jeanette find what they least expected, love for those around them.

I was pleasantly surprised how much I enjoyed Driftwood Bay. I have always enjoyed Irene Hannon’s writing but am usually not as interested in romance as I prefer a little more action. For some reason, this story resonated with me.  I’m not sure if it was the interaction between Logan and Jeannette or the interaction between Logan and his niece. There was something about the way he did all he could to help an innocent child thrown into his life when he least expects it. There is love in his heart that he must let out to take care of her and even let anyone else in. Jeannette has a hard time trusting anyone and it isn’t until near the end that we find out her story and why she likes to keep everyone at arm’s length. I wish that would have been introduced a little sooner, so I could have felt more connected to her without wondering why she refuses to let anyone get close. Other than that, I thought the story flowed great and the characters were written in a way that really made me want to see them succeed. I loved the way Hannon wrote in the Syrian family, I would like to see them develop more in the next book. I love how each book in the series feels like a brand-new start and doesn’t have to be read with the others in the series to be enjoyable. I recommend this to fans of Hannon and those that enjoy a good romantic read.

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

Justice Delivered

Justice deliveredAuthor: Patricia Bradley

Series: Memphis Cold Case #4

Publisher: Revell

Release Date: April 2, 2019

Rating: 5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

Patricia Bradley delivers one of her absolute best! Fans will not want to miss out on this installment of the Memphis Cold Case series. 

After years of being a victim of sex trafficking, Carly Smith has made her way out and is trying got find a new life for herself. Trusting others come isn’t something that she is ready to do just yet, and no matter how hard she tries to leave her past behind her it continues to haunt her. She knows she should have gone to the police when she first got away, but she fears if she goes to the police they won’t believe her or worse, might just send her back to the people who held her captive. When she finally feels comfortable to reach out to her family and reconnects with her sister, she thinks all is well until her sister ends up dead and her niece is kidnapped. Carly must face her fears and come forward with what she knows to save her family. When all else fails. she takes matters into her own hands and goes after the kidnappers herself.

There was something about this story that really drew me in more than any others in the series so far. The topic can be sensitive but unfortunately it is currently something we must deal with.  Patricia Bradley did an outstanding job of tackling a hard subject in an engaging and entertaining way for readers. Carly is strong through all she must endure and is able to use that to help others, especially her family when the time comes. Her fear of going to others for help is understandable after all she has been through and had others turn on her when she thought she could really trust them. I really enjoyed the way the relationship between her and Maggie played out. Almost all the secondary characters brought the story onto a whole new level, the story brought in aspects from the whole series and it was great to see the way the different characters interacted together.  For fans of the series, I highly recommend diving deep into Justice Delivered and savoring the story. If you haven’t ever read anything by Patricia Bradley, I strongly recommend reading this one, even if you haven’t read the others in the series it will be ok to start here. Each book can essentially be read as a stand-alone if it needs to be or enjoyed as a whole series.

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

Far Side of the Sea

Far side of the seaAuthor: Kate Breslin

Publisher: Bethany House

Release Date: March 5, 2019

Rating: 5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

A tale of war, pride, romance, and deceit told by the pen of a master.

Lt. Colin Mabry has had a tough go of his service in World War I.  After losing his hand in combat, he took some time away at a family farm before returning to duty.  Now stationed only a stone’s throw across the water to Paris, he is constantly reminded of the horrors of war when he hears the bombs.  As a code breaker, he deciphers messages all day long.  One day he comes across a message that is addressed to him.  A letter asking him to remember his promise and to meet at a café in Paris followed by the salutations of JR.  This could only be Jewel Reyer, the woman who saved his life and he promised to return for and gets permission to undertake this personal mission to Paris.

However, Colin is surprised to meet another young woman that is not Jewel, but rather her self-proclaimed sister Johanna.  She found Jewel’s diary and believes that she is being held against her will by a German officer.  After convincing Colin to help, they set out to find Jewel and bring her to safety.  As their trust within one another grows, so do their feelings toward each other.  But as they will discover, not everything is as it seems.  The danger they are heading into is not only treacherous but filled with espionage.  Can they really trust each other’s intentions and find Jewel safely?

Kate Breslin has a way of weaving readers into her stories so that they are not just observing the story but living it out.  I felt that I was right there with the characters for the entire journey.  I could feel what was unfolding and at times felt just a surprised at what the main characters uncovered.  Colin was flawed not just physically, but also with his pride.  This kept a tension between he and Johanna through much of the story.  Johanna was a broken person based on her past and always longed for a father figure.  She looked for the best in people and it wasn’t hard for her to find it in Colin.  This made the romance much more believable as it played out naturally instead of forced.

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

Courting Mr. Emerson

Courting

Author: Melody Carlson

Publisher: Revell

Release Date: March 5, 2019

Reviewer: Jennifer S. Roman

Courting Mr. Emerson is a sweet romance that follows the usual love story formula, but instead of young characters, the protagonists are mature and ready for the second stage of life.  Stodgy Mr. Emerson is an English teacher at the local high school.  He follows routine and doesn’t have a car because he can walk to wherever he needs to go.  He uses a typewriter and listens to vinyl records.  Never married, he is content in his solitude in his small bungalow and avoids having to talk to the neighbors.  He is not mean; he just likes his own company and prefers order.  Realizing he has had enough, he accepts an early buyout and plans on retiring at the quickly-approaching end of the school year.

Willow, on the other hand, is a free spirit artist who owns an art gallery in town.  She meets Mr. Emerson when she requests a college letter of referral for her grandson, whom she has raised since infancy.  She is outgoing, lively, and a bit of a hippie.  She is also widowed and lonely.  Neither she nor Mr. Emerson see themselves as friends, let alone anything more, because they are so different, but of course life has an interesting way of working out sometimes.

In addition to stirring up a romance between the unlikely pair, both people deal with some issues severely affecting their lives.  Willow’s grandson is graduating high school, and his absent band groupie mother, Josie, comes to see him at Willow’s invitation.  Willow hopes to reconcile with Josie while establishing a relationship between Josie and the son she doesn’t know.  Considering that Collin doesn’t want a relationship with Josie, Willow knows she is facing an uphill battle.  George Emerson doesn’t even know he is facing any issues.  He is happy to live a retiree’s quiet life, until he realizes he isn’t.  He was raised by his grandparents after his parents died, and after his brother died in Vietnam, he is truly alone.  He loses his college sweetheart to a car accident and never finds anyone to love again.  He is an atheist because he believes that no god would give one person so much pain.  Willow, a true believer and spiritual person, helps George to see that maybe there is more to life than routine and solitude.

While I liked the general format of the story, I did have a problem with some of the characters.  Willow does seem to be a bit overwhelming, and I found it hard to like her.  Even though Mr. Emerson is surrounded by hundreds of teens every school day, he seems to be way out of touch with what is happening around him.  It is one thing not to participate in current activities, but to be unaware of them given his situation, seems to be unrealistic.  How everything falls into place for both of them by the end also seems to be a bit unrealistic, but given that is the nature of romance stories, it may be a bit more acceptable.

I did enjoy the book with some misgivings, and I believe that romance readers will enjoy the book as well.  It is tame as far as romances go, and there is nothing objectionable as far as theme or language is concerned.  Willow is a spiritual character, and as such does tend to push religion a bit.  All things concerned, Melody Carlson and romance fans will enjoy this book if taken at face value.

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

Knox

KnoxAuthor: Susan May Warren

Series: Montana Marshall

Publisher: Stonewater Books

Release Date: March 12, 2019

Rating: 5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

Fans of Susan May Warren will not want to miss the beginning of the Montana Marshall series. This is by far the best I have read by her and am aching for the next installment!

After his father died, Knox Marshall knew he must settle down and run the family ranch. His dreams of becoming a professional bull rider put on hold so he can raise champion bulls for the National Professional Bull rider’s Expo. He has a good life on the ranch but starts to wonder if the best has already happened for him until he meets Kelsey Jones. Kelsey has a hard past, her parents were murdered, and she was beaten and left for dead when she was fourteen. Now she puts her past trials into her life as a country singer. No matter how far she goes though she can’t outrun her past to find the safe and secure future for which she longs. When she meets Knox Marshall, everything she has ever known is thrown out the window. With an exploding relationship and more danger around them than either could anticipate, this might be a recipe for disaster or the perfect romance in the making.

Susan May Warren is one of the very best romantic suspense writers on the market. Her Montana Rescue series is still one of my very favorite and as hard as it is for me to say this, I think Knox and the Montana Marshall series might just be even better. I absolutely loved the way she tied in characters from the Montana Rescue series flawlessly into this storyline. I can just see more of those characters popping up in future books in this new series. Tying the two series together in that way could be risky but now with Warren at the helm, she weaved storylines together that other writers wouldn’t dream of being able to make flow. It will be easy for readers to fall for Knox, as well as the other Marshall men, within the first few pages of reading. Knox is everything a cowboy heartthrob should be, and I loved reading about him. The chemistry between him and Kelsey was steaming off the page. Regardless of how much Kelsey wanted to steer clear of any romance, there was no getting past what her heart wanted. Her story line is one of my favorites. I was drawn in by her history and what she went through and how it affected her in the present that everything else flowed and kept me intrigued. I don’t want to spoil the story, but readers will be walking away from this wanting to throw the book at the wall (in a good way) and pacing the hall until they can get their hands on the next in the series. All I can say is if the rest in the series are half as good as the first, readers will have a new favorite author without a doubt. I recommend this book to fans of Susan May Warren and those that may not have read anything by her but love western romantic suspense.

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