Tag Archives: contemporary romance

Reading Road Trip — Illinois

25 Sep

I have only been to Illinois once, and that trip was just to Chicago. And while we had a great time, I know there is much more to Illinois than the Windy City! Big cities, farms, and rich natural resources, not to mention a Great Lake and the Mississippi River, make Illinois a very diverse state. The Land of Lincoln became the 21st state in the early 1800s and has since grown to economic importance.

My reading road trip list also reflects the diversity of the state and includes several genres. I hope you find one to transport you to Illinois!

 

 

 

Reading Road Trip — Illinois!

With You Always by Jody Hedlund (Orphan Train series, book 1)

When a financial crisis in 1850s New York leaves three orphaned sisters nearly destitute, the oldest, Elise Neumann, knows she must take action. She’s had experience as a seamstress, and the New York Children’s Aid Society has established a special service: placing out seamstresses and trade girls. Even though Elise doesn’t want to leave her sisters for a job in Illinois, she realizes this may be their last chance.

The son of one of New York City’s wealthiest entrepreneurs, Thornton Quincy faces a dilemma. His father is dying, and in order to decide which of his sons will inherit everything, he is requiring them to do two things in six months: build a sustainable town along the Illinois Central Railroad, and get married. Thornton is tired of standing in his twin brother’s shadow and is determined to win his father’s challenge. He doesn’t plan on meeting a feisty young woman on his way west, though.

Finding Anna by Christine Schaub

A powerful historical drama based on the story behind the hymn ‘It Is Well With My Soul.’ “Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say; It is well, it is well with my soul….” How can a man who has lost so much write such words? After suffering enormous losses in the Chicago fire of 1871, and terrific strain in his marriage afterward, Horatio Spafford plans a European holiday with his wife and four little girls. But before they can board the SS Ville du Havre in New York, Spafford receives a telegram that will delay his crossing and change his life forever. When tragedy brings him to his knees, Spafford writes a poem on the back of a telegram — words that have become a hymn of hope for millions facing sorrow.

It Happened at The Fair by Deeanne Gist

Gambling everything — including the family farm — Cullen McNamara travels to the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair with his most recent invention. But the noise in the fair’s Machinery Hall makes it impossible to communicate with potential buyers. In an act of desperation, he hires Della Wentworth, a teacher of the deaf, to tutor him in the art of lip-reading.

The young teacher is reluctant to participate, and Cullen has trouble keeping his mind on his lessons while intently watching her lips. Like the newly invented Ferris wheel, he is caught in a whirl between his girl back home, his dreams as an inventor, and his unexpected attraction to his new tutor. Can he keep his feet on the ground, or will he be carried away?

The White City by Grace Hitchcock

While attending the Chicago World’s Fair in 1893, Winnifred Wylde believes she witnessed a woman being kidnapped. She tries to convince her father, an inspector with the Chicago police, to look into reports of mysterious disappearances around the White City. Inspector Wylde tries to dismiss her claims as exaggeration of an overactive imagination, but he eventually concedes to letting her go undercover as secretary to the man in question—if she takes her pistol for protection and Jude Thorpe, a policeman, for bodyguard.

Threads of Suspicion by Dee Henderson

Evie Blackwell’s reputation as a top investigator for the Illinois State Police has landed her an appointment to the governor’s new Missing Persons Task Force. This elite investigative team is launched with plenty of public fanfare. The governor has made this initiative a high priority, so they will have to produce results–and quickly.

Evie and her new partner, David Marshal, are assigned to a pair of unrelated cases in suburban Chicago, and while both involve persons now missing for several years, the cases couldn’t be more different. While Evie opens old wounds in a close-knit neighborhood to find a missing college student, David searches for a private investigator working for a high-powered client.

With a deep conviction that “justice for all” truly matters, Evie and David are unrelenting in their search for the truth. But Evie must also find answers to the questions that lie just beneath the surface in her personal life.

Trial And Tribulations by Rachel Dylan

High-powered attorney Olivia Murray faces the biggest test of her career when she is assigned to represent Astral Tech, a New Age tech company, in a lawsuit filed by its biggest competitor. While Olivia is accustomed to hard fights in the courtroom, she arrives in Windy Ridge and discovers there is much more to this case than the legal claims–forces of darkness are at work.
Windy Ridge quickly turns from quiet Chicago suburb to spiritual battleground, and Olivia must rely on her faith to defend against legal and spiritual attacks. Although they are enemies in the courtroom, Olivia finds a friend and unlikely ally in opposing counsel, Grant Baxter. 
Once a skeptic about faith, he ultimately comes to her aid when she needs it most. The battle between evil forces heats up in and out of the courtroom, pushing Olivia to the breaking point. Will she be able to help good triumph over evil, or will the town of Windy Ridge be torn apart?

Hometown Girl by Courtney Walsh

Beth Whitaker isn’t supposed to be a small-town girl. She’s always dreamed of leaving Willow Grove, Illinois, for the big city, but she feels trapped, struggling to make up for a mistake that’s haunted her for years. Just when Beth is finally ready to break free, her sister impulsively buys a beloved but run-down farm on the outskirts of town, and she begs Beth to help with the restoration. Reluctantly, Beth agrees to help — and puts her own dreams on hold once again.

Drew Barlow hasn’t been back to Fairwind Farm since he was a boy, and he’s spent all these years trying to outrun the pain of a past he thought he buried long ago. When he learns that the owner has passed away, his heart knows it’s finally time to do the right thing. Returning to Willow Grove, Drew revisits the old farm, where he attempts to piece together his memories and the puzzle of the crime he witnessed so long ago.

Both on a journey to find peace, Beth and Drew are surprised when they begin to experience a restoration of their own. But when long-buried secrets break through the soil and the truth unfurls, will it threaten their budding relationship — and the very future of the farm?

Printed Letter Book Shop by Katherine Reay

One of Madeline Cullen’s happiest childhood memories is of working with her Aunt Maddie in the quaint and cozy Printed Letter Bookshop. But by the time Madeline inherits the shop nearly twenty years later, family troubles and her own bitter losses have hardened Madeline’s heart toward her once-treasured aunt—and the now struggling bookshop left in her care.

While Madeline intends to sell the shop as quickly as possible, the Printed Letter’s two employees have other ideas. Reeling from a recent divorce, Janet finds sanctuary within the books and within the decadent window displays she creates. Claire, though quieter than the acerbic Janet, feels equally drawn to the daily rhythms of the shop and its loyal clientele, finding a renewed purpose within its walls.

When Madeline’s professional life falls apart, and a handsome gardener upends all her preconceived notions, she questions her plans and her heart. Has she been too quick to dismiss her aunt’s beloved shop? And even if she has, the women’s best combined efforts may be too little, too late.

 

2019 Christy Award Finalists

19 Sep

Here are the finalists for the 2019 Christy Awards. A top honor in Christian fiction, you can be sure of an excellent read when choosing one of these books. Congrats to all the talented authors!

 

Contemporary Romance

Brunch at Bittersweet Cafe by Carla Laureano

Falling for You by Becky Wade

Wait for Me by Susan May Warren

 

First Novel

The Baggage Handler by David Rawlings

Engraved on The Heart by Tara Johnson

The Plum Blooms in Winter by Linda Thompson

 

General Fiction

No One Ever Asked by Katie Ganshert

Send Down The Rain by Charles Martin

We Hope for Better Things by Erin Bartels

 

 

Historical

A Rumored Fortune by Joanna Davidson Politano

Of Fire And Lions by Mesu Andrews

The Seamstress by Allison Pitman

Shelter of The Most High by Connilyn Cossette

 

Historical Romance

A Defense of Honor by Kristi Ann Hunter

Becoming Mrs. Lewis by Patti Callahan

With This Pledge by Tamera Alexander

 

Mystery/Suspense/Thriller

Called to Protect by Lynette Eason

Every Wicked Man by Steven James

Mind Games by Nancy Mehl

 

 

Short Form

A Shot at Love by Sarah Loudin Thomas

Catching Christmas by Terri Blackstock

Falling for Grace by Janet Ferguson

Legacy of Love by Kristi Ann Hunter

 

Visionary

Mark of The Raven by Morgan L. Busse

Shivering World by Kathy Tyers

The Story Peddler by Lindsay A. Franklin

The Wounded Shadow by Patrick W. Carr

 

Young Adult

The Crescent Stone by Matt Mikalatos

Fawkes by Nadine Brandes

The Warrior Maiden by Melanie Dickerson

 

 

Book Review: The Hearts We Mend

21 Mar

UnknownPlanning and Post-It notes are the epitome of Evie’s life. But when she meets Jack, her life gets more than a little complicated.

Thirteen years ago, Evie’s firefighter husband was killed in the line of duty, leaving her to raise their young son, Cody, alone. Now, Cody is marrying the love of his life, and as he packs up his belongings, the house feels as empty as Evie’s heart. But for all her planning and mad organizational skills, Evie could never have anticipated the dramatic shift her life is about to make.

Tattooed, rough-around-the-edges Jack raises quite a few eyebrows in the tight-knit community of Banister Falls. Where Evie’s life is stream-lined, Jack’s approach to living is moment-by-moment. But as Evie gets drawn into Jack’s world—a world that isn’t as safe or predictable as the one she’s worked so hard to create—he challenges her to open her eyes to the problems outside the walls of the church.

Jack doesn’t make Evie feel comfortable, but he definitely makes her feel something. Something she hasn’t felt since Max passed away—or, maybe ever. Because even though Jack isn’t anything like her late husband, he just might be everything she needs.

23bcf105-f0bd-429a-a802-899162af68c8Kathryn Springer is a USA Today bestselling author. She grew up in northern Wisconsin, where her parents published a weekly newspaper. As a child she spent many hours sitting at her mother’s typewriter, plunking out stories, and credits her parents for instilling in her a love of books — which eventually turned into a desire to tell stories of her own. Kathryn has written nineteen books with close to two million copies sold. She lives with her husband and three children in Marinette, Wisconsin.

 

My Impressions:

The Hearts We Mend is the second book in Kathryn Springer’s Bannister Falls series. I loved, loved, loved The Dandelion Field and knew from that moment that I would read anything Springer has to offer. I said in that review that I need a romance with real life situations, real life emotions and real life hopes and dreams. The Hearts We Mend delivers that again, plus a hunky main character that is truly swoon-worthy! So if you are looking for a romance with heart and soul, make sure to put The Hearts We Mend on your list!

Evie Bannister dedicated her life to making sure her son Cody’s dreams would come true. Following her firefighter husband’s tragic death years before, Evie focused on Cody and the women’s ministry she leads. That is enough for her, or so she thought before Cody embarks on his own adventures and Jack Vale enters her life. Suddenly Evie is confronted with the fact that her life is not being truly lived.

As far as the romantic aspects of The Hearts We Mend are involved, this book has it all. A hero that is both strong and tender and a heroine who longs for more from life and love. There is instant chemistry between Jack and Evie — a reaction from these two seemingly opposite personalities that will have readers sighing with satisfaction. But The Hearts We Mend doesn’t just touch the heart, it touches the soul. These characters love God and the people who are put in their paths. Jack is not just tender and gentle and loving with Evie, but with the curmudgeon that lives upstairs,  the menacingly rough youth that lives in the neighborhood and the lonely and isolated that surround him. What a great example of a romantic character — one that loves God first and naturally extends that love. Jack is by far the best romantic hero I have read in a long, long time. Real life issues are explored in The Hearts We Mend and as with life, not everything is tied up in a pretty package. Real life is messy and can hurt, and this novel shows the reality of poor choices and the impact they have even on innocent lives, making this book perfect for book clubs. The novel is written in a third person, omniscient style that lets the reader in on the hurts, hopes and dreams of its characters. I welcomed it’s casual and sometimes light-hearted style.

All in all The Hearts We Mend is a winner! Yes it is a romance, but so much more. I am looking forward to more in Springer’s series. Will that tough policeman and pixie-ish social worker be featured in book 3? I sure hope so!

Highly Recommended.

Audience: adults.

Great for book clubs.

To purchase this book, click HERE.

(Thanks to Zondervan and LitFuse for a review ARC. All opinions expressed are mine alone.)

Giveaway!

Celebrate the release of The Hearts We Mend with Kathryn and enter to win two of her books by signing up for her newsletter on her website. The winner will be announced March 23 via Kathryn’s newsletter.

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Book Review: The Splendor of Ordinary Days

14 Oct

51ugY0ljHdL._SX333_BO1,204,203,200_The pastoral charm of small-town Watervalley, Tennesse, can be deceptive, as young Dr. Luke Bradford discovers when he’s caught in the fallout of a decades-old conflict . . . 

After a rocky start as Watervalley’s only doctor, Luke Bradford has decided to stay in town, honoring the three-year commitment he made to pay off his medical school debts. But even as his friendships with the quirky townsfolk deepen, and he pursues a romance with lovely schoolteacher Christine Chambers, several military veterans’ emotional wounds trigger anger and unrest in Watervalley.

At the center of the clash is the curmudgeonly publisher of the local newspaper, Luther Whitmore. Luther grew up in Watervalley, but he returned from combat in Vietnam a changed man. He fenced in beautiful Moon Lake, posting “Keep Out” notices at the beloved spot, and provokes the townspeople with his incendiary newspaper.

As Luke struggles to understand Luther’s past, and restore harmony in Watervalley, an unforeseen crisis shatters a relationship he values dearly. Suddenly Luke must answer life’s toughest questions about service, courage, love, and sacrifice.

41z++Pnv3nL._UX250_After growing up in rural Tennessee, Jeff High attained degrees in literature and nursing. He is a three time winner, in poetry and fiction, of an annual writing contest held by Vanderbilt Medical Center. He lived in Nashville for many years, and throughout the country as a travel nurse, before returning to his original hometown, near where he now works as an operating room RN in cardiac surgery.

 

My Impressions:

The Splendor of Ordinary Days is reminiscent of Jan Karon’s Mitford series with its rural Tennessee setting and slightly quirky characters. Yet this third book in the Watervalley series has a bit of an edge to it — characters face complex challenges and troubles. Told through the first person voice of outsider and town doctor, Luke Bradford, Jeff High’s novel is a good pick for those looking for a small town getaway with heart.

Luke Bradford has settled into his role as the only doctor in the rural community of Watervalley. Although his dreams of becoming a researcher have been put on the back burner, his relationships with townspeople and his girlfriend have become an important part of his life. Old and new friends have come to make Watervalley feel like home.

Small town life is at the center of The Splendor of Ordinary Days. Although part of a series, I found this novel easy to get into. Life is real in Watervalley and many of its citizens struggle with past hurts and resentments. Characters deal with PTSD, alcoholism, and infertility. I particularly liked that the author built much of the story around the challenges of our nation’s veterans — past and present. For those who choose only books from the Christian genre, this book may not be for you. There is mild profanity throughout and no central spiritual message. But if you are looking for a well-written novel dealing with the realities of life in a small town setting, check this one out.

Audience: adults.

To purchase this book, click HERE.

(Thanks to the author and LitFuse for a review copy. All opinions expressed are mine alone.)

Book Review: Emma, Mr. Knightley and Chili-Slaw Dogs

23 Dec

777520Caroline Ashley is a journalist on the rise at The Washington Post until the sudden death of her father brings her back to Thorny Hollow to care for her mentally fragile mother and their aging antebellum home. The only respite from the eternal rotation of bridge club meetings and garden parties is her longtime friend, Brooks Elliott. A professor of journalism, Brooks is the voice of sanity and reason in the land of pink lemonade and triple layer coconut cakes. But when she meets a fascinating, charismatic young man on the cusp of a brand new industry, she ignores Brooks’s misgivings and throws herself into the project.

Brooks struggles to reconcile his parents’ very bitter marriage with his father’s devastating grief at the recent loss of his wife. Caroline is the only bright spot in the emotional wreckage of his family life. She’s a friend and he’s perfectly happy to keep her safely in that category. Marriage isn’t for men like Brooks and they both know it… until a handsome newcomer wins her heart. Brooks discovers Caroline is much more than a friend, and always has been, but is it too late to win her back?

Featuring a colorful cast of southern belles, Civil War re-enactors, and good Christian women with spunk to spare, Emma, Mr. Knightley, and Chili-Slaw Dogs brings the modern American South to light in a way only a contemporary Jane Austen could have imagined.

 

mary-jane-hathaway-452869125Mary Jane Hathaway is the pen name of an inspirational fiction writer. She homeschools her six children and lives in the small town of Milton-Freewater, Oregon.

 

My Impressions:

Emma, Mr. Knightley, and Chili-Slaw Dogs is a contemporary re-imagining of Jane Austen’s Emma. It is not a strict re-interpretation, but takes the basic story and sets it in the Deep South amid the insular society of a small town. This actually works. I can think of no better contemporary setting for Highbridge than a nosy, everyone-knows-your-business, stuck-in-the-past small Southern town. Although it is a quick read with romance front and center, I don’t think this will be a perfect fit for strict Jane Austen fans. There are too many deviations from the original. But it should appeal to those who like a good contemporary romance and who enjoy the movie adaptations of Jane Austen. And while this was not my favorite Jane Austen knock-off, I will probably read the other books in the series.

(I purchased this book for my Kindle. All opinions expressed are mine alone.)

To purchase this book, click on the image below.

Book Review: A Bouquet of Love

18 Aug

721552Cassia Pappas has found herself in a nearly impossible situation. She wants to spend her time immersed in her new job at a Galveston Island floral shop, arranging blooms and brightening occasions with her lovely creations. But her huge Greek family–especially her father–has other ideas. They’ve all relocated to Galveston to open up a new family restaurant location on the Strand–directly across the street from the Rossis’ popular pizza place–and they want Cassia’s full participation.

To make matters worse, as Cassia is trying to develop a strong professional relationship with Galveston’s premier wedding coordinator, Bella Neeley, her own father is intent on stealing all of the Rossi family’s faithful customers. Not exactly the best way to get into Bella’s good graces!

Still, at least Alex, that hot delivery guy from the nursery, is always hanging around the flower shop . . .

Janice3-227x300Janice Thompson got her start in the industry writing screenplays and musical comedies for the stage. Janice has published over eighty books for the Christian market, crossing genre lines to write cozy mysteries, historicals, romances, nonfiction books, devotionals, children’s books and more. In addition, she enjoys editing, ghost-writing, public speaking, and mentoring young writers. Janice currently serves as Vice-President of CAN (Christian Authors Network) and was named the 2008 Mentor of the year for ACFW (American Christian Fiction Writers). She was thrilled to be named the 2010 Barbour/Heartsong Author of the Year, with three books on the top ten list for that house. Janice is active in her local writing group, where she regularly teaches on the craft of writing. Her online course, “Becoming a Successful Freelance Writer” (www.freelancewritingcourses.com) has been helpful to many who want to earn a living with their writing. Janice is passionate about her faith and does all she can to share the joy of the Lord with others, which is why she particularly enjoys writing. She lives in Spring, Texas, where she leads a rich life with her family, a host of writing friends, and two mischievous dachshunds. She does her best to keep the Lord at the center of it all. Janice Thompson also writes under the name Janice Hanna.

My Impressions:

My Big Fat Greek Wedding meets Romeo and Juliet with a healthy mix of Texas twang and sweet tea — that’s what you get in the latest offering in the Weddings by Design series by Janice Thompson. A Bouquet of Love is a light and funny romance set in the very Southern and Texan Galveston Island. Filled with familiar characters, A Bouquet of Love introduces the Pappas family into the Rossi family mix.

Cassia Pappas is the oldest daughter in a very traditional Greek family. Having moved his family to Galveston from California, Cassia’s father, Babbas, expects all of the family to join him in making his restaurant, Super-Gyros, the most popular place on the island. But his tight grip on the family causes problems in new friendships, a budding romance and those trying to find God’s plans for their lives. The rivalry between the Rossis who own the pizza place, Parma John’s, escalates until drastic measures have to be taken.

A Bouquet of Love is first and foremost a romance. Thompson adds her trademark humor into the mix providing for some silly and sweet scenes. And it was the romance I liked. I am not sure if it was because I had not read the previous books in the series, but I had a hard time keeping an interest in the rest of the story. I kept thinking I was missing something — more information, more detail, more backstory. But if you are a fan of this series, I think you will enjoy A Bouquet of Love. It got a lot of great reviews on Amazon, so make sure to check it out.

Audience: Older teens and Adults.

(Thanks to Revell for a review copy of this book. All opinions expressed are mine alone.)

To purchase this book, click on the image below.

Book Review: Weddings And Wasabi

3 Oct

After finally graduating with a culinary degree, Jennifer Lim is pressured by her family to work at her control-freak aunty’s restaurant. But after a family dispute, Jenn is determined to no longer be a doormat and instead starts her own catering company. Her search for a wine merchant brings John into her life -a tall, dark, handsome biker in form-fitting black leather, who’s Hispanic to boot. It would be wonderfully wild to snag a man like that!

Shy engineer Edward tentatively tries out his birthday present from his winery-owner uncle – a Harley-Davidson complete with the trimmings. Jennifer seems attracted to the rough, aggressive image, but it isn’t his real self. Is she latching onto him just to spite her horrified family? And if this spark between them is real, will showing her the true guy underneath put it out? And what’s with the goat in the backyard?

My Impressions:

Camy Tang has written a fun, witty contemporary romance novel that will keep the reader entertained.  Weddings and Wasabi features the extended Sakai family, a Japanese-Chinese American family with one foot in the modern world and one foot in the traditional world.  Jenn has always been the good girl; the compliant daughter and niece.  But when she sees what her family really thinks and expects from her, she begins a course of independence that causes the Aunties to take the offensive to get her back in line.  Jenn’s foray into independence is supported by her cousins and her mother.  And with that support she steps out in faith — getting a new outlook and a new romance.  I enjoyed Tang’s funny look at traditional Asian family life and the struggle to achieve one’s own identity.

Recommended.

For more information about Weddings and Wasabi, click HERE.

(I received Weddings and Wasabi as part of the First Wild Card Tour.  All opinions expressed are mine alone.)