Monday, June 12, 2017

With You Always (By: Jodi Hedlund)

With You Always

By: Jodi Hedlund

With You Always is the first book of the Orphan Train Series. There is also a prequel novella, An Awakened Heart.

Storyline
This story starts off in New York City during the 1850's. Elise Neumann is the oldest of three girls, and after losing their parents, she is left with taking care of her family. When a financial crisis hits and jobs are scarce, Elise knows she must do whatever necessary to provide. She hears the New York Children's Aid Society is offering jobs for ladies in the Midwest. Hesitant to leave her sisters, she takes a position knowing this might be their last hope.

Thornton Quincy, son of one of the wealthiest families in New York, is on a mission. His father has offered a challenge to his twin sons, in light of his declining health, to see who will inherit the family business. He requires them to do accomplish two objectives within six months: they must each build a successful town along the Illinois Central Railroad, and they must get married. Thornton didn't factor Elise into his plans but as they get to know one another, she challenges him and he must decide whether to fight to win or fight for what is right!

Depth
One piece of historical knowledge the reader will gain is getting a vivid picture of what life was like for women and orphans during this time period in New York; not pretty. Dangers, separation from family and poverty abound for them, and each of Elise's sisters feel the pain with different circumstances.

Elise and Thornton both feel inadequate. For Elise, this means continuing to fail at fulfilling her dying mother's last wish - and realizing she cannot do it on her own. Thornton continually feels as though he doesn't measure up to his twin brother. He desires to make his dad proud and longs to hear him declare it before he passes away. Both characters battle insecurities and worth, but in time take on different perspectives.

Faith
After living through many painful experiences, Elise has pushed God away - feeling as if He has abandoned them. She comes to learn that she was the one who walked away. Bad things will happen in life and we all will face trials, however, God promises to walk through them with by our side and will never leave us. Elise and Thornton both experience God's faithfulness. We always appreciate how well Jody weaves faith into her stories!

Love Story
Thornton and Elise have a very up and down relationship. Thornton is practically engaged to a lady back in New York that would be a perfect fit for him, according to society. His head knows it; but he cannot get his heart to believe it. Elise and Thornton battle feelings of wanting the other, yet are plagued with wondering if it could ever work. We experience many sweet and tender moments with these two! Will it last? Or will they give in to what is expected and let their hearts suffer?

Overall
This book was a little slow at times but overall it was enjoyable and we look forward to reading more in the series.


Find it on Amazon: With You Always

Note: We were given this book free in exchange for our honest review.

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Sweetbriar Cottage (By: Denise Hunter)

Sweetbriar Cottage

By: Denise Hunter


Storyline
Josephine Dupree runs a hair salon, and tries to ignore the whispers behind her back about her reputation. From an abusive childhood to being used as an adult, her years have mostly been isolated, lonely and full of bad choices. Except for one time in her life - when she was married to Noah Mitchell. He actually made her feel lovely on the inside and perhaps worthy of real love. Life was good and hopeful - until that all fell apart as well.

Noah Mitchell has purchased a farm up in the mountains and rarely comes down to town. Too many memories, especially when he passes Josephine's hair salon. But when he learns from the IRS about a mistake in their divorce paperwork, and the two of them are actually still married, he has no choice but to face her again. In an attempt to correct the problem, the two get stranded together in the worst snowstorm of the decade. Neither of them wants to face the problems of the past - but they must if they are to move forward.

Depth
Josephine has some pretty awful things in her background that have shaped who she is today. Her flirtatious demeanor is the only way she knows how to protect herself. Noah never really bothered to find out about her past while they were married, but if they are to reach a place of forgiveness and understanding he must face the ugly truths. Issues of child abuse, betrayal, forgiveness and worth are dealt with.

Faith
Noah has a strong faith in the Lord and lives like it. But he has a lot to learn about extending God's forgiveness to others; he frequently prays about it and allows God to speak to his heart. On the other hand, Josephine keeps her distance from God because she figures He couldn't possibly care about someone like her. As she faces her past throughout this book, she realizes that God has been right there waiting for her the entire time.

Although it's clear Josephine makes her peace with God, these two chicks wish we would have been able to read more insight into her "coming to Jesus" moment!

Love Story
Noah and Josephine have some serious chemistry! They have never stopped loving each other, even after the divorce and it's obvious right away when they come face to face again. Although the heat is turned up on these two, Noah is sure to still treat their relationship right and keeps purity at the forefront of his actions. These two have a lot to work through, and author Denise masterfully writes the complex intricacies of such a relationship.

Overall
This book was very, very good and came close to being a five star in our book! The one thing we wished for, however, was seeing more of a spiritual "come to Jesus" moment for Josephine. Although it is clear she makes her peace with her past and with God, we aren't given a front row seat to her conversion. Bummer! However, the rest of the book had all the right elements to make this a must read for those who love a good story of redemption and forgiveness.


Find it on Amazon: Sweetbriar Cottage

Note: We were given this book free in exchange for our honest review.

Friday, April 21, 2017

True to You (By: Becky Wade)

True to You

By: Becky Wade

True to You is the first book in the Bradford Sisters Romance Series. Becky is one of our long-time favorite authors; we love her writing and were eager to dive into her new series!

But, before you begin, it is a good idea to read the prequel: Then Came You. While not essential to this new series, it provides very helpful background.

Storyline
In the story, we find three Bradford sisters; Willow the oldest, Nora in the middle and finally Britt, the youngest.

Nora has struggled to find her place in this world. 
Willow is a model and turns heads wherever she goes. 
Britt, the youngest, is incredibly talented. 

As a result, Nora long ago decided she would be the smart one! Becoming a geologist and historical village owner, she fills her home with books, books and more books. Three years ago, she was left heartbroken and now is content living in her fictional world, a world much safer than what the real world has to offer.

John Lawson, former Navy Seal, has all the qualities of a strong and focused man. But he's been dealt a blow from his doctor that has left him shaken. Learning he has an inherited condition - but having been adopted - he now must seek out his birth mom to learn any information he can.

John is convinced Nora can offer him the assistance he needs to find his birth mom, so the two of them start the search and find themselves in each others company quite often. Nora is enamored by this striking man whom she can only dream of dating - far better to stay focused on her fictional characters as they won't break her heart! Besides, he has a girlfriend. John and Nora are extreme opposites, but they may both soon see that opposites do indeed attract.


Depth
This particular story of Becky's seems to take the reader on a roller coaster ride of emotions. The book actually starts off at a slower pace, picks up with excitement, slows down again and then ends with a pop! Becky deals with some heavy issues that both characters have had to deal with in the past, are still dealing with presently and will likely continue to deal with in the future. She also adds lighthearted, funny moments to the story as well.

Faith
Throughout the book we see that God is part of both characters' lives. However, near the end of the book, they both come to rely heavily upon who they are in Christ. They must rely on their faith and trust God is who he says he is. His plans may not always make sense, but ultimately it is best when we surrender our lives fully to Him. 

Love Story
Sometimes we find it hard to root for our two main characters to fall in love when one is already dating someone else. As the story begins, John is dating Allie and we really did not want to see sparks fly between him and Nora just yet. However, Becky dealt with this issue quite remarkably and realistically. Yes, John started to feel something for Nora but then felt very guilty for feeling so. He didn't race to break up with Allie, yet he gave it time to see what his heart longed for. Once these two are free to have feelings for each other (sorry for the spoiler) we were happy to cheer them on. They have some speed bumps to overcome and we enjoyed the theme that Becky presented: The past can be hard, and the future unsure, but all we have now is the present to fully live in!

Overall
This book took us on a journey of peaks and valleys. It was not our favorite book of Becky's, but we enjoyed getting to know all three sisters and are eager to read more about Britt and Willow's stories in future books.


Find it on Amazon: True to You

Note: We were given this book free in exchange for our honest review.

Monday, April 10, 2017

Murder is No Accident (by: A.H. Gabhart)

Murder is No Accident

By: A.H. Gabhart

Storyline
New-to-us author A.H. Gabhart takes us to a little town called Hidden Springs, where the Sheriff's office keeps busy handing out parking tickets, working the school crosswalks and assuring little old ladies they are safe. 

But lately this charming town and it's crew of characters have been faced with several murders - and Deputy Sheriff Michael Keane is on the case. 


In this third installment of the Hidden Springs Mystery books, a woman slips and falls down a set of stairs in an old Victorian home, and her death is ruled an accident. But several questions remained unanswered leaving Michael investigating for a deeper story - especially since another woman died in the same manner, in the same house, many years ago.

Depth
For anyone who enjoys the puzzle of mysteries, but doesn't care for intense, disturbing or creepy scenes, this book is for you! Although it deals with murder, it is written very tactfully and lightheartedly. The sweet and colorful characters are original and deal with issues such as unemployment, alcoholism and family.

Faith
You won't find any real life changing conversions among the characters in these books, but most of them do attend church, have faith in God, and pray to Him when in tough situations.

Love Story
Michael has been in love with his childhood friend Alex for as long as he can remember. And he thinks she probably feels the same way. But they both want different things in life - is either of them willing to sacrifice their own dreams in order to get married and stay together forever? Michael and Alex have some real soul searching to do and share some sweet moments together.

Overall
This author and series is new to us, and these books are a good, enjoyable read. They are lighthearted and enchanting. This town and its characters are fun and we look forward to continuing on with them in future books. If you are looking for an entertaining read, and a good mystery that won't make you afraid to turn out the lights at night, this series is for you!


Find it on Amazon: Murder is No Accident

Note: We were given this book free in exchange for our honest review.

Friday, March 17, 2017

When Tides Turn (By: Sarah Sundin)

When Tides Turn

By: Sarah Sundin

Storyline

This is the third and final book in the Waves of Freedom Series, and we finally had the chance to get the story on two characters introduced earlier! We wondered how author Sarah was going to craft the story of these two polar opposites?

Quintessa, or Tess, is known for her beauty and bubbly character; but she's tired of not being taken seriously. So she is determined to make a difference and do her part to help the war effort where she can. When she hears the Navy is implementing a WAVES program for women, she immediately enlists. But never did she imagine she would be placed in the Anti-Submarine Unit in Boston where Dan Avery, her off-limits and secret crush, works! He is determined and serious and gives his all to work. He has no time for distractions, especially from Tess. She is definitely not part of his plan or will ever be - or so he thinks.

The storyline follows much of what is taking place during the war and, like the previous books, also adds a mystery that the heroine quickly involves herself in.


Depth
Dan is set on staying the course; but must it always strictly point north, like his trusty compass? Or will he learn that, at times, you can take some twists and turns and still get back to facing north? Could the right person, even a woman, help add depth, encouragement and joy to his journey? 

We enjoyed reading and discovering the answers to these questions. Overall the book is fairly lighthearted when reading about World War II. If you enjoy history during this time period, you will truly enjoy the work Sarah has put into this novel.

Faith
All of the characters, new and old, make it a point to go to church weekly together. We also see our two main characters growing in their walks with the Lord throughout the book, primarily Dan, as he learns a lot about resting and observing the Sabbath. Both characters grow in their reliance upon the Lord's ways and timing and learn to trust in His plans.

Love Story
We cheered Tess on during this book as she has had a hard time with significant others in the past. She longs to be loved by Dan but knows he will never allow that; so she tries to convince her heart to be content with friendship. As these two interact with one another on a more consistent basis sparks start flying and we read on in hopes of a happy ending!

Overall
Overall this was an enjoyable read. Like mentioned above, if you are fond of this particular time period, you would most likely give it a higher rating. But for us, we found quite a few parts not fast enough to keep our good attention. However, author Sarah is a very talented writer and overall we feel it was a good wrap up to the series.


Find it on Amazon: When Tides Turn

Note: We were given this book free in exchange for our honest review.

Friday, February 17, 2017

Still Life (By: Dani Pettrey)

Still Life

By: Dani Pettrey

Storyline

After being blacklisted by the art community of Baltimore, Avery Tate - a professional photographer - has been working as a crime scene photographer with crime scene analyst, Parker Mitchell. They are quickly attracted to one another, but there's a problem: Parker is still in love with and loyal to his old girlfriend who was murdered a number of years ago. So rather than be continually faced with what will never happen, Avery quits and moves on.

But when she discovers her childhood friend Skylar is missing after having been photographed for an art gallery showing, she suspects foul play. She knows of no one better to help her solve the mystery than Parker - and the two set out to find Skylar.

Also weaved in is a story about a mysterious ship of refugees that arrives in a Baltimore with illegal activities on board. And the question still remains - whatever happened to the gang's friend Luke, who disappeared without a trace seven years ago?

While the plot lines were exciting and very well written, a few places felt choppy and several things were left unexplained. It took us quite awhile to really get into the book. As in the first book, sometimes the many characters and their places in the plots felt confusing and chaotic.


Depth
Avery grew up labeled "trailer trash," and still has a hard time believing she isn't in that life anymore. Unfortunately, this case places her right back in the heart of her childhood. She feels responsible for Skylar's wild lifestyle since she introduced her to it in the first place, and fears that she may have died without ever having changed, like Avery had.

Faith
Faith is this book's strongest quality! Parker and Avery both have a strong faith in God. Parker continually reminds those around him that they can lean on and rely on the Lord. He encourages Avery that she is a new creation in Christ and Jesus has redeemed her from her past. Many characters pray for guidance and live clean lives, pleasing to God in purity and speech.

Love Story
Anyone who loved Dani Pettrey's Alaskan Courage series may be a bit disappointed in this series' romance. Although a genuine and respectable love story is certainly written, the emotions were hard for us to connect with. Parker and Avery have to overcome a few realistic obstacles before they can be together but even then, it didn't feel as though the romantic tension had built enough for us to be terribly excited about them as a couple.

Overall
This is the second book in Dani Pettrey's Chesapeake Valor series and some themes were continued from book one and will continue through the series, which we love! Unfortunately, some parts of the book were disappointing to us and left us a little confused. However, the faith was strong and the general storyline was extremely entertaining. We look forward to the next book in the series, where we can continue to explore the mystery that surrounds the entire series - what ever became of their missing friend Luke.


Find it on Amazon: Still Life

Note: We were given this book free in exchange for our honest review.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

A Note Yet Unsung (By: Tamera Alexander)

A Note Yet Unsung

By: Tamera Alexander

Storyline
Rebekah Carrington is a master violinist and dreams of playing in an orchestra. Unfortunately in the 19th century, it was thought that women were too fragile to attempt such a feat - no matter how talented they may be. Forced to return home to Nashville after having spent the last 10 years in Vienna, she must settle for simply being an assistant to the orchestra leader, rather than showcasing her real talent. Nathaniel Tate Whitcomb is the Nashville Philharmonic's youngest maestro and needs Rebekah's help writing a symphony - before his own secrets threaten to destroy everything he has worked so hard for.

Classic to author Tamera's usual style, this book grabs you right from the beginning and glides along like gentle rolling, green hills, a satisfying and pleasurable journey for the reader. She adds just the right amount of plot, activity and excitement to keep the reader hooked!

Despite the wonderful storyline, we felt the end came a little too quickly, with some loose ends not fully explained, and without a couple satisfactory conclusions.


Depth
Both Rebekah and Tate have secrets they wish to keep hidden for fear of rejection by others. Issues of loss, grief, relationships with families (especially parents), health problems and going back to one's roots are explored. And as are usual in Tamera's stories, the historical reality of racism and slavery are faced head on, with tact and grace.

Faith
Rebekah caught her faith as a child from the older slaves she loved, as they taught her hymns on the violin. Now that she is an adult and on her own, she often goes back to these hymns and accompanying Bible verses to guide her and help her through rough times. Tate was raised with faith and is beginning to realize how important the role of it in his life should be. Going back to his roots reignites his faith and he allows God to lead him down the unknown path in front of him.

Love Story
Tate and Rebecca definitely hit it off on the wrong foot which adds for some romantic tension! But as their walls come down and they understand each other more, a tender and genuine love develops between them. Especially sweet in their love story is the side of Tate no one knows about that Rebekah becomes involved in.

Overall
These two chicks have come to expect a lot from Tamera - complex plots weaved expertly together, well developed and realistic characters and a deep faith we can relate to. And sure enough, A Note Yet Unsung did not disappoint! This was the final installment of the Belmont Mansion Series and it was by far our favorite.


Find it on Amazon: A Note Yet Unsung

Note: We were given this book free in exchange for our honest review.