River to Redemption

River to RedemptionAuthor: Ann H. Gabhart

Publisher: Revell

Release Date: July 3, 2018

Rating: 4.5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

A story not only redemption but also of the courage and spirit it takes to do what you know is right even when you are alone in your thinking.

Adria Starr is on her own after her family dies in the cholera epidemic of 1833. She is found by a slave named Louis who is more faithful than anyone else in his position would ever be.  He has had plenty of opportunities to leave and find his freedom while his masters fled the epidemic and left him in charge of things.  Instead of running, Louis decided to stay around and help tend to the sick and bury the dead.  Twelve years go by and he is about to be sold and all his loyalty seems to matter to no one, except Adria who has never forgotten what he did for her and so many others.  Adria has always abhorred slavery and wants to try and buy Louis his freedom.  Being in Kentucky, she doesn’t have many that think like her but doesn’t let that stop her from following her heart and doing what she knows is right, no matter the cost.

Reading about this topic can be difficult, especially knowing that it is based on a true story. The story itself had several characters that stood out for me.  First was Adria showing what she stood for and refused to back down.  Then Louis, he is just a character that you can’t help but like.  And of course Matilda, even though she wasn’t in the story as much as some of the other characters she still made a big impact.  With these characters being able to touch the heart and the story being based on true events, readers will have a hard time not connecting and being fully immersed in every page.  I loved the way Gabhart made these connections and let the story flow.  This was different from her past novels I have read, but still a very enjoyable read.  I recommend this to fans of Gabhart and readers that enjoy historical fiction with a little romance.

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

Catching Christmas

Catching ChristmasAuthor: Terri Blackstock

Publisher: Thomas Nelson

Release Date: October 9, 2018

Rating: 5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

A fun romance ride and just perfect for those getting ready for the Hallmark Christmas movie season.

Sydney Batson is trying her hardest to be a good granddaughter and take care of her ailing grandmother while also trying not to lose her job at her law firm. In desperate need of help to get her grandmother to the doctor at the same time she is due in court Sydney, calls for a cab to take her to the clinic. She knows she should be the one to go but if she loses her job she won’t be able to take care of either of them. Cab driver Finn Parrish is trying to make up for lost money after being robbed and when a call comes to pick up a woman and take her to a doctor’s appointment he reluctantly goes. Miss Callie is a hard reminder of his mother who he feels he let down in her last days and now every time he gets a call he can’t refuse to help. Even when Miss Callie doesn’t remember to pay him, Finn is there for her as she goes around running Christmas errands and looking for a date for her granddaughter. Finn is trying to do all he can to help Miss Callie fulfill her Christmas wish of doing something nice for the only family she has left. When he meets Sydney, he realizes he might just be getting a Christmas gift he never expected.

For me, when I read Terri Blackstock I know I am going to get a good romantic suspense. With her first Christmas novel, Blackstock takes readers on an adventure with these three characters that is sure to put a smile on your face and warmth in your heart.  I loved the way this story played out. Finn had just the right amount of grumpiness in him to make him reluctant to want to help but enough goodness in him to overpower and be there when he was needed. Sydney isn’t so driven by her career that she doesn’t care about her family, she just is in a position that makes it hard to be in two places at once. The characters meshed so well with each other in not only dialogue but also narrative sections, which can become a part that drags in the story if not done correctly.  Each paragraph brought out more interesting aspects of the characters and more enjoyment in the story.  It was fun to see Blackstock stretch her writing while keeping the story flowing without the suspense aspect. There was still plenty of tension to drive the story along, it was just presented in a different way. I recommend this to readers that love a great Hallmark Christmas movie and want to read a story that will play out like the movie while reading. And of course, all fans of Blackstock’s work will enjoy this as well.

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

Burden of Proof

Burden of ProofAuthor: DiAnn Mills

Series: FBI Rapid Response #1

Publisher: Tyndale

Release Date: October 9, 2018

Rating: 5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

DiAnn Mills has been a top suspense writer for years, but this may be her best work yet.

April Ramos has been a negotiator with the FBI for years and it is work she is proud to do, but it also takes a toll on her. When she isn’t able to talk a man out of committing suicide, she feels maybe she isn’t doing what she is meant to do. With no time to process what she is been through, a woman shoves a crying baby into her arms and runs off. A man claiming to be the child’s father takes April and the baby at gunpoint making her put her skills to use once again. Jason, the baby’s father, tells April a story of how he is being framed for murder and his child was kidnapped. The more April learns about what is happening in this little town, the more she believes everything Jason is telling her and discovers just how deep the sinister connections run. April has to determine if helping Jason is worth risking her career and possibly her life.

I have been reading DiAnn Mills for years and there is something different about her most recent work, Buden of Proof. Her writing has changed, the way she delivers the story and the tension throughout is all so much better than ever.  April instantly connected with me and her desire to help others made her a protagonist for everyone to connect with. The way that Mills was able to weave the complex story together and make each character and their actions relevant to the overall story was excellent writing and something that will set her apart from the many story tellers out there.  It was not only the character connections that I enjoyed but also the extra tension throughout the story, especially the end. In her previous books, I found the ending very predictable but not here.  This story surprised me up until the very last pages. Readers will enjoy not only the page turning action but also the heart of the story.  April is struggling with her faith and even with everything Jason has gone through he tries to stay strong and help April come closer to God. I don’t know what has changed for Mills to make her writing so much better but I hope she keeps it up. I recommend this book for anyone looking an amazing read with a heart to the story and characters to connect with.

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

Lady of a Thousand Treasures

ladyAuthor: Sandra Byrd

Series: Victorian Ladies #1

Publisher: Tyndale

Release Date: October 9, 2018

Rating: 4.5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

Fabulous Victorian era novel showing a strong woman!

As the daughter and niece of the Sheffield Brothers, well know evaluators of antiquities, Eleanor has become quite adept at differentiating a fake from the real thing. If only she could have done that with Harry Lydney, the man who broke her heart.  With the sudden passing of her father and the decline of her uncle’s mind, Eleanor finds herself with the potential of losing the firm that she loves since a woman is not allowed to run the business alone.  When Harry’s father, Baron Lydney, a longtime client of Sheffield brothers passes, Eleanor is named the trustee of his antique collection.  She must now decide whether to have the artifacts donated to a museum or allow them to pass down to Harry.  If she donates them, she will build credit with potential collectors that could revive Sheffield Brothers.  But Harry also claims that he still loves her and tries to show her that he is worthy of the collection.  How will Eleanor decide this time?

Typically I’m not a huge fan of Victorian era fiction, but the synopsis for this one intrigued me. I’m glad that I gave it a try.  The historic setting that Byrd provided brought the whole novel to life for me.  I also really enjoyed getting to see a strong female character that wasn’t fully entranced with romance through the whole book.  Eleanor was very intelligent and it showed throughout.  Faith was also a great element in this book.  I can’t wait to see what the next installment brings.

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

The Silver Shoes

The Silver ShoesAuthor: Jill G. Hall

Publisher: She Writes Press

Release Date: June 19, 2018

Rating: 4.5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

So much fun getting to know these women and watch them achieve fulfillment in their lives.

Anne McFarland is in the middle of a cross country romance. Her boyfriend Sergio lives in New York City and she loves visiting the him and the city too, but she is currently residing in San Francisco.  While on a trip to visit Sergio, Anne stumbles into a vintage antique shop and finds a pair of old shoes that must have a story attached to them.  As an artists, these shoes give her an inspiration and she buys them.  She soon finds clues that leads Anne on a mission to uncover the shoes original owner.

In 1929, Clair Deveraux is a sheltered socialite that wants more out of life than to just be a pretty face for a future husband. She wants to go to university, but her father just wants to marry her off to someone who is twice her age for her financial well being.  While looking for some items in Macy’s, she befriends a young store clerk named Winnie who leads Clair on an adventure to a speakeasy and to discovering a new era of music that can’t keep her body still.  But when Clair’s father suddenly loses all their wealth in the stock market crash, she finds herself wrapped up in this new world in an effort to save her family.

This was a really fun story to relate to two different women in different eras. Both woman had different circumstances, yet were looking for fulfillment in life and each woman was able to find it.  The past/present crossover storyline seems to be really picking up popularity with several readers.  I have found that typically the reader relates to one character more than the other, which I think was more the case with Anne for me.  There was more similarities that I could identify with based on her life, but I still enjoyed both stories.  I enjoyed getting to know both woman as the author made it very easy to be able to do that.  The writing was clean and the storyline was fantastic.  I recommend this book to people who enjoy contemporary crossover romances and women’s fiction.

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

The Light Before Day

Light Before DayAuthor: Suzanne Woods Fisher

Series: Nantucket Legacy #3

Publisher: Revell

Release Date: October 2, 2018

Reviewer: Jennifer S. Roman

The third book of the Nantucket Legacy series finds Ren and Daphne Macy setting off on the Endeavour for their own adventures on the high seas before they are too old to enjoy it.  The twins, Henry and Hitty, are young adults.  Hitty teaches at the Cent school, while Henry is at a loss what to do.  He has just returned from a voyage himself, and realizes he does not want to spend his life on the sea.  Their plans, or lack thereof, come to a halt when a solicitor, Benjamin Foulger, comes to town with news.  The twins are the sole heirs to their grandmother Lillian’s estate, but it comes with several provisions.  The first phase is the inheritance of the Grand House, along with some properties and stocks, and the second phase is the remainder of her vast wealth.  The conditions require Hitty and Henry to keep all monies on the island; they must remain in good standing with the Friends (Quakers); and they must marry someone in good standing of the faith within six years.  Together, the twins come up with solutions to benefit the island without being under their grandmother’s thumb; however, the marrying part may prove to be more of a challenge.  Hitty’s heart is set on Isaac Barnard, an eccentric inventor and widower, who doesn’t seem to be aware of her existence; Henry loves Anna Gardner, but her goals of abolitionism and integration don’t leave her much time for love.

So much happens in this book that is based on a true tidbit or fact, so readers learn about the early history of Nantucket while enjoying a good story.  The colorful characters that we have come to know from previous books in the series have their own sub-plots, which give the book depth and interest.  As usual, at the end of each chapter was an excerpt from Great Mary’s journal, as it is handed down to the next generation throughout the books.  Even more history and words of wisdom are shared throughout these journal entries.  There is no one main storyline in this book, which is a bit different from the others.  I was not as fond of this style of storytelling, but the overall message was worth the bit of disappointment.

The characters develop as the books carry on, and the historical significance keeps interest while educating.  This third (and I believe final) installment is a great wrap up of the previous generations’ influence on the most recent one, with the current generation adding its personal touch.  I thoroughly enjoyed the overall story and its message of seeing the light in everyone and in the future, even when things look bleak.  I highly recommend this book for mature teens and adult readers.

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

Rise of the Mystics

Rise of the MysticsAuthor: Ted Dekker

Series: Beyond the Circle #2

Publisher: Revell

Release Date: October 2, 2018

Rating: 5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

Fans of Dekker and the Circle series will not want to miss this this follow-up installment that holds true to all that fans have come to expect from this exceptional writer.

It has been many years since the death of Thomas Hunter, but he is still remembered in our world and the world he still lives in. No one has gone between the worlds like he did until now.  Rachelle Matthews has somehow found a way into that other world just as Thomas Hunter did.  In this world, she learned she was the 49th mystic and is on a mission to find the five ancient seals before they can be destroyed by her enemies.  Having already found the first three seals, she now searches for the final two.  If she fails in her quest, the world will be plunged into darkness.  She is going up against a dark force, Vlad Smith, who has her locked in a dungeon and is about to turn both worlds upside down.  If she can find the Realm of Mystics and the final two seals without losing everything, she just might save both worlds.

If you are a fan of the circle series then this is one you will not want to miss. The 49th Mystic and Rise of the Mystics are a great pair to add to the circle series. I’ve always thought there was so much more story to tell from that series and am glad to see Dekker bringing fans beyond the circle.  It took me a little while to get through this book because you have to follow so closely to everything that is happening.  Dekker’s books have to be slowly absorbed and savored.  It’s not like fast food, it’s more like a five course meal that every bite is better than the last.  Each chapter brings about a part of the story fans will think back on to previous books and it will bring a smile to their face remembering all of the aspects of the circle they might have forgotten.  I don’t want to give anything away, but one part with Thomas Hunter will have fans cheering with delight.  Rachelle is still finding her strength and learning from those around her, just as we should follow the guidance of those that God puts in our lives.  To me this is a much better closeout to the series than Green, what we all thought was the final book in the series.  I’m sure Dekker could find a way to bring more from the story if he so chooses, but for me this was satisfactory and left me with a feeling of closure with all of the characters.  I recommend this book to fans of the circle series.  If you are new to reading Ted Dekker, this is not the one to start with as you will not have even a fraction of what you need to understand what is happening here.  For readers that are intrigued by the premise of Rise of the Mystics I recommend reading the circle series and then diving into The 49th Mystic and Rise of the Mystics, you won’t be disappointed!

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