Friday, August 5, 2016

The Hesitant Heiress by Dawn Crandall

The Hesitant Heiress
The Everstone Chronicles, Book 1
Whitaker House
ISBN-13: 9781629112299

After being unjustly expelled from the Boston Conservatory of Music, Amaryllis Brigham sees her dreams of founding a music academy disappearing before her very eyes. Now the only way to achieve her goal comes with high stakes for someone set on avoiding men as much as possible: marry within the year to inherit her grandmother’s fortune. Amaryllis reluctantly takes part in her aunt’s society, intent on getting to the west coast on her own… and without a husband.

Despite her own misgivings, she soon finds herself falling in love with the most unlikely of men, Nathan Everstone, whose father not only had a part in her expulsion, but whose ominous presence has haunted her dreams for a decade since her mother’s tragic death. Nathan turns out to be much more than he seems and everything she never knew she wanted. But just as everything Amaryllis has recently hoped for comes to fruition, it all falls apart when she finds that the real culprit who has been “managing her life” isn’t who she thought at all.

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My Review: I have said it before, and I’ll say it again: It’s rare to find an author who can write in the first person point of view well and keep my attention. I don’t know why, but I find it hard to read a one sided story. That being said, Dawn Crandall is a master! I was totally absorbed in Amaryllis’ and Nathan’s affairs from beginning to end. Dawn Crandall does an excellent job of giving enough dialogue and expressions of the characters that Amaryllis is involved with that it’s not at all one sided (well, it is, but I didn’t feel that it was!)

While I could have wished for more interaction between Nathan and Amaryllis before discovering their love for one another, I was not disappointed in the relationship trials they had to endure. Amaryllis’ character is full of contradictions: she is strong, yet vulnerable; happy, yet experiences deep sadness; trusting, yet not easily. In effect, I LOVED HER. She behaved exactly as one would expect, based on her circumstances and what’s she had to endure in her life. Watching Nathan through Amaryllis’ eyes gave me quite a good notion of his character, and watching him fight for her was so romantic!

Amaryllis’ biggest problem in her life is trust. Based on all she’s had to endure, she finds the motives of people… really people in general hard to trust. She doesn’t take people into her confidence easily. The message of the story centers on Amaryllis learning to trust God, and in effect, trust the plans and people He has for her. It’s a beautiful message woven masterfully into a beautiful story.

Overall, I highly enjoyed this wonderful story and can’t wait to read more in the Everstone Chronicles.

*I received a complimentary copy of this book from the author in exchange for my honest review, which I have given.*

A graduate of Taylor University with a degree in Christian Education, and a former bookseller at Barnes & Noble, Dawn Crandall didn’t begin writing until 2010 when her husband found out about her long-buried dream of writing a book. Without a doubt about someday becoming published, he let her quit her job in 2010 in order to focus on writing The Hesitant Heiress. It didn’t take her long to realize that writing books was what she was made to do. Dawn is represented by Joyce Hart of Hartline Literary. Apart from writing books, Dawn is also a first-time mom to a precious little boy (born March 2014) and also serves with her husband in a pre-marriage mentor program at their local church in Fort Wayne, Indiana. Dawn is a member of the American Christian Fiction Writers, secretary for the Indiana ACFW Chapter (Hoosier Ink), and associate member of the Great Lakes ACFW Chapter. The Everstone Chronicles is Dawn’s first series with Whitaker House. All three books composing the series were semifinalists in ACFW’s prestigious Genesis Writing Contest, the third book going on to become a finalist in 2013.

Learn more about Dawn Crandall:

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

If My Husband Would Change, I'd Be Happy by Rhonda Stoppe

When I first saw this book, I was intrigued by the title. It caught my attention because I know I've made that statement before, either to my husband or to myself. So, I thought "why not?" Let me tell you how happy I am that I picked up this book. Rhonda Stoppe is an excellent author. Her conversational tone throughout the book made me feel at ease, even during the topics that pricked at my consciousness. I felt like I was sitting down with my girlfriends for a nice chat every time I picked up this book.

While a lot of the topics addressed in this book I haven't experienced in this stage in my marriage (2 years in September!), I will definitely read this book and refer to it again throughout our marriage. The wisdom I've gleaned from it's pages is immeasurable. I could have little orange sticky note tabs all over the book, but I tried to contain myself! Here are a few of the points that really stuck out to me:

"The key to having an all-out love for your husband lies in how well you love God." (pg. 16)
"The first insight into building a love that lasts is to take your focus off of how much you want to be loved by your husband." (Now, I'll admit, I had to really let that soak before I could appreciate it's truth - pg. 39)
"When you are selfishly devoted to yourself rather than to God and others - in this case, your husband - you will resist giving of yourself to him selflessly." (pg. 111)
"When you commit to seeking first His kingdom and His righteousness, you will find contentment and peace in your marriage--and life." (pg. 136)
"It is not enough to merely read the Bible and pray for a marriage free from conflict." (pg. 143)
Lastly, the prayer for her husband she wrote on page 187 is a beautiful model prayer that I wouldn't hesitate to say over my hubby regularly.

Overall, whether you're in your first years or in the thick of your marriage, it's never too early or too late to read this fantastic book.
*I received a complimentary copy from the author through the Litfuse blogging program in exchange for my honest review.*

Landing page:

About the book: 

If My Husband Would Change, I'd Be Happy: And Other Myths Wives Believe (Harvest House, August 2015)

Like most brides on their wedding day, you no doubt were filled with love for your husband and the hope of a happy life together.

But perhaps today, as the realities of life together have settled in, those happy expectations are going unfulfilled. And it's tempting to think, "If only my husband would change, I'd be happy."

That myth is but one of many that Rhonda Stoppe dispels in her easy-to-read exploration of what it takes to experience a truly happy marriage. In the process, she addresses such important topics as

-understanding your husband's need for your unconditional respect
-rekindling the love that drew you to your husband in the first place
-refusing to believe the lie that you'd be happier married to someone else
-learning to be content in the midst of financial struggles
-thinking about sex from a biblical worldview
If you desire to rekindle the love and hope you felt on your wedding day, this book will go a long way toward making that dream come true.
Contains discussion questions and personal reflections at the end of each chapter.

Purchase a copy:
About the author:

Rhonda Stoppe is the No Regrets Woman. She is an author and speaker dedicated to helping women live life with no regrets. With more than 20 years' experience as a mom, mentor, and pastor's wife, Rhonda's wisdom and experience helps women discover significance in God and His specific purpose for their lives, connect biblical principles to everyday decisions, develop a loving marriage that others dream about, and influence the next generation by raising children with integrity.

Saturday, July 16, 2016

A Flight of Arrows | Review & Giveaway

A Flight of Arrows

The Pathfinders #2
WaterBrook Press (Penguin Random House)
April 19, 2016
ISBN-10: 1601427344
ISBN-13: 978-1601427342

Hearts are divided.
Loyalties will be tested.
The fates of two families hang in the balance.

Twenty years ago, during the devastating fall of Fort William Henry in 1757, a young Redcoat named Reginald Aubrey stole a new-born boy--the lighter-skinned of Oneida twins--and raised him as his own.

No one connected to Reginald escaped unscathed from this crime. Not his adopted daughter Anna. Not Stone Thrower, the Native American father determined to get his son back. Not Two Hawks, William's twin brother separated since birth, living in the shadow of his absence and hoping to build a future with Anna. Nor Lydia, who longs for Reginald to be free from his self-imposed emotional prison and embrace God's forgiveness--and her love.

Now William, whose identity has been shattered after discovering the truth of his birth, hides in the ranks of an increasingly aggressive British army. The Redcoats prepare to attack frontier New York, and the Continentals, aided by Two Hawks and the Oneida warriors, rally to defend it. As the Revolutionary War penetrates the Mohawk Valley, two families separated by culture but united by love and faith must find a way to reclaim the son marching toward them in the ranks of their enemies.

Read the first chapter.
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My Review: If any of you follow me on Goodreads, you know that it normally does not take me long to read a good book (2-3 days). There were several reasons it was hard for me to read this book, none of which had ANYTHING to do with the book itself. A Flight of Arrows is powerful, compelling, and intense. The story is heart-wrenching and had me in its grips from beginning to end. This is not a story for the faint of heart or those of you looking for a fun, light-hearted read.

Lori does an excellent job of describing the war between the British and Americans. She describes the scenery, emotions, and battles in vivid detail (without being too graphic). She also excels in keeping us informed on what is going on both with the menfolk and womenfolk involved in the story, even though they are not together for most of it. This story invokes a powerful feeling of the fear, anxiety, and anger present during the Revolutionary War.

The characters made the story. Lydia, Anna Catherine, Two Hawks, William, Stone Thrower, Reginald and Good Voice come together in an amazing way, and you can see the work of the Lord in each of their lives. The heartache, joys, disappointments, fear, and anger each character feels is gripping and raw and powerful. My heart swelled with emotion for each blow these characters took, and cried in joy with each moment of happiness they were rewarded with. Lori made the characters come to life in my mind with each page.

Now, the reason I had such a hard time reading this book is because of the message. It hit home FOR REAL Y’ALL. Each of these characters had to make choices that would affect the rest of their lives, for the better or worse. The paths we walk are not always clear, as each character comes to realize, but if we ask the Lord for guidance in earnest, He will direct our paths. Two Hawks says it best, “Life is a blessing, but it is also a testing. Take the one as you do the other and trust Him who allows all.

Overall, I absolutely LOVED this powerful, emotionally challenging story. I cannot wait to read more from the Pathfinders series.

*I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher through the Blogging for Books program in exchange for my honest review, which I have given.*

Lori Benton was raised east of the Appalachian Mountains, surrounded by early American history going back three hundred years. Her novels transport readers to the eighteenth century, where she brings to life the Colonial and early Federal periods of American history. When she isn’t writing, reading, or researching, Lori enjoys exploring the Oregon wilderness with her husband. She is the author of Burning Sky, recipient of three Christy Awards, and The Pursuit of Tamsen Littlejohn.

I have a copy of this amazing story to give away! To enter, comment on this post: Have you read Lori Benton's books? If so, which is your favorite? 

Giveaway will end SATURDAY, JULY 23 at MIDNIGHT (EST).
*Blogging for Books provided me with two copies of A Flight of Arrows in exchange for my honest review. They are not affiliated with this giveaway.*

Saturday, July 2, 2016

No Other Will Do by Karen Witemeyer

No Other Will Do
A Ladies of Harper Station Novel
Bethany House, June 2016
ISBN-13: 9780764212819

Men are optional. That's the credo Emma Chandler's suffragette aunts preached and why she started a successful women's colony in Harper's Station, Texas. But when an unknown assailant tries repeatedly to drive them out, Emma admits they might need a man after all. A man who can fight--and she knows just the one.

Malachi Shaw finally earned the respect he craved by becoming an explosives expert for the railroad. Yet when Emma's plea arrives, he bolts to Harper's Station to repay the girl who once saved his life. Only she's not a girl any longer. She's a woman with a mind of her own and a smile that makes a man imagine a future he doesn't deserve.

As the danger intensifies, old feelings grow and deepen, but Emma and Mal will need more than love to survive.

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Read an excerpt.

My Review: Karen Witemeyer writes another engaging, romantically fantastic story! I loved it from beginning to end. It will pull at your heart strings; make you laugh, and keep you hooked until the very end. I love the idea of “women’s colony,” and I fell in love with all the women at Harper’s Station. The spunk and determination they showed in the face of danger and conflict made for some exciting moments.

Emma Chandler is a woman that I would love to meet. Her compassion for others (especially women in need), enthusiasm for whatever she does, and her humble faith makes her an engaging and unique woman. I also loved the fact that even though she sided with the Women’s Suffrage movement, she still saw the value of men, especially Malachi Shaw. Malachi Shaw is a man with many hurts haunting him. It causes him to hold people at arm’s length, only creating surface relationships with the people he encounters. I can understand that and empathize. I loved watching their relationship grow. Even after ten years, you could feel the connection they had coming through the pages. Karen Witemeyer provides a host of side characters, and gives just information about them to intrigue without encroaching on the main story.

I loved the message Mrs. Witemeyer wove expertly into this story. Psalm 18 says that the Lord is our rock and our strength. Both Emma and Mal learn, through the trials they are face that all they need to do is cry out to Him and he will deliver them. Watching them struggle to trust God with their problems is something we can all relate to.

Overall, I find this story enchanting. I absolutely loved it and I hope Mrs. Witemeyer will write more stories about the ladies at Harper’s Station.

*I received a complimentary copy of this book through the Bethany House blogging program in exchange for my honest review which I have given.*

Christy Award finalist and winner the ACFW Carol Award, HOLT Medallion, and Inspirational Reader's Choice Award, CBA bestselling author Karen Witemeyer writes Christian historical romance for Bethany House, believing the world needs more happily-ever-afters. She is an avid cross-stitcher and makes her home in Abilene, TX with her husband and three children.

Monday, June 20, 2016

The Goodbye Bride by Denise Hunter

The Goodbye Bride

A Summer Harbor Novel, Book 2
Thomas Nelson Publishers, 3/2016
ISBN-13: 9780718023737

She only remembers loving him. But he can’t forget the way she left.

Lucy Lovett can’t remember the last seven months of her life. She doesn’t remember leaving her fiancĂ© Zac Callahan weeks before their wedding or moving to Portland, Maine. And she sure doesn’t remember getting engaged to another man. All she remembers is loving Zac more than life itself.

Zac was just beginning to get his life back on track after Lucy left him with no explanation. And now she’s back—vulnerable, homeless, and still in love with him. Has he been given a second chance with the only woman who stirs his passion and haunts his dreams?

Lucy knows she must unlock those missing months and discover why she threw everything away. And Zac knows that if he follows his heart he’ll win back the love of his life—but if Lucy’s memory returns, his would-be bride might say goodbye forever.

Read an Excerpt.
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Read my reviews of the other books in the Summer Harbor series.

My review: When I first picked this book up, I had the same thought some of you probably did: I really hope this isn’t a book about a flight female who can’t make up her mind! BOY, I couldn’t have been more wrong. Can you imagine losing 7 months of your life *just like that*! Denise Hunter captures your attention from the very beginning and creates a compelling story.

I enjoyed being back in Summer Harbor with Beau, Eden, and Aunt Trudy. I really enjoyed getting to know Zac more, as well. I was immediately drawn to his vulnerability where Lucy is concerned and his quiet strength of character. Lucy’s concussion and memory loss make her an extremely vulnerable character. I was worried that because of her fear of her memory never returning, she would be whiney and that would make me not like her. I was pleasantly surprised! Lucy, though her fear and vulnerability were a big part of her story, was a strong and feisty woman! I loved how the author brought them together and gave us glimpses of their pasts, which made me appreciate their present.

The message of the story is simple, yet strong. God never promised our lives would be easy. Both Zac and Lucy have to work through their troubles to embrace their second chance. As Eden points out to Lucy, ”Life will always have troubles. It’s what shapes and molds us and makes us into the people He wants us to be.” I could also relate to Lucy’s struggle with her past. It’s hard to let go of something that hurt you so deeply. She didn’t realize how it was affecting her until God brought it to light.

Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed this story of second chances at love, letting go of the past, and embracing the troubles God brings us as he shapes us into what He wants us to be.

*I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher through the BookLook blogging program in exchange for my honest review.*

Denise Hunter is the internationally published bestselling author of more than 20 books, including Dancing with Fireflies and The Convenient Groom. She has won The Holt Medallion Award, The Reader's Choice Award, The Foreword Book of the Year Award, and is a RITA finalist.

Denise writes heartwarming, small-town love stories. Her readers enjoy the experience of falling in love vicariously through her characters and can expect a happily-ever-after sigh as they close the pages of her books.

In 1996, inspired by the death of her grandfather, Denise began her first book, writing while her children napped. Two years later it was published, and she's been writing ever since. Her husband says he inspires all her romantic stories, but Denise insists a good imagination helps too!

When Denise isn't orchestrating love lives on the written page, she enjoys traveling with her family, drinking coffee, and playing drums. Denise makes her home in Indiana where she and her husband will soon be facing an empty nest.

Monday, June 13, 2016

Dawn at Emberwilde by Sarah E. Ladd

Dawn at Emberwilde
A Treasures of Surrey Novel, Book 2
(Thomas Nelson, May 2016)

Isabel Creston never dared to dream that love could be hers. Now, at the edge of a forest filled with dark secrets, she faces a fateful choice between love and duty.

For as long as she can remember, beautiful and free-spirited Isabel has strained against the rules and rigidity of the Fellsworth School in the rolling English countryside. No longer a student, Isabel set her sights on a steady role as a teacher at the school, a safe yet stifling establishment that would enable her to care for her younger sister Lizzie, who was left in her care after her father's death.

The unexpected arrival of a stranger with news of unknown relatives turns Isabel's small, predictable world upside down, sweeping her and her young charge into a labyrinth of intrigue and hidden motives.

At her new family's invitation, Isabel and Lizzie relocate to Emberwilde, a sprawling estate adjacent to a vast, mysterious wood rife with rumors and ominous folklore---along with whispers of something far more sinister. Perhaps even more startling, two handsome men begin pursuing Isabel, forcing her to learn the delicate dance between attraction, the intricate rules of courtship, and the hopes of her heart.

At Emberwilde Isabel will discover that the key to unlocking the mystery of her past may also open the door to her future and security. But first she must find it---in the depths of Emberwilde Forest.

Purchase a copy:
Litfuse Landing Page
Read my review of The Curiosity Keeper, book 1 in the Treasures of Surrey series.

My Review: This story put me in mind of Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen. It has a Gothic feel to it, with talk of ghosts, fairies, and a "haunted" forest. Sarah E. Ladd writes an intriguing story, with a plot that is ripe with surprises. I wanted to visit Emberwilde in all it's grandeur and the Emberwilde Forest (a.k.a. the Black Wood Forest) in all it's haunting beauty.

I love Isabel Creston. She does her best to remain true to herself, even with all the changes and expectations her family places on her. I admired her ability to, in the end, do what's right. Colin Galloway is now one of my favorite male heroes. His ability to accept his birthright and fit in with those from all classes is unmatched. He is honorable, good, and handsome. With a cast full of overbearing characters like Mrs. Ellison and Mr. Bradford, and characters that just like to keep the peace, such as Constance Ellison, Colin helps Isabel hold on to herself.

The message of the story, as the title would imply, is about God's mercies being new every morning. As Isabel's friend Mary reminds her, "We do not find ourselves in new situations by accident. Oh, no! Remember, with each dawn seek guidance, and with each night give gratitude." Isabel learns to turn to God each morning for guidance and give gratitude for the things He has done for her by facing the trials that her family imposes on her.

Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed this story. It was an exciting change of pace from what I had been reading and I look forward to reading more from this wonderful author.

*I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher through the Litfuse blogging program in exchange for my honest review*

Sarah E. Ladd received the 2011 Genesis Award in historical romance for The Heiress of Winterwood. She is a graduate of Ball State University and has more than ten years of marketing experience. Sarah lives in Indiana with her amazing husband, sweet daughter, and spunky Golden Retriever.

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Cold Shot by Dani Pettrey

Cold Shot
Chesapeake Valor, Book 1
Bethany House, Jan 2016
ISBN: 9780764211973

Four Best Friends. And Then One Went Missing . . .

In college, Griffin McCray and his three best friends had their lives planned out. Griffin and Luke Gallagher would join the Baltimore Police Department, Declan Grey would head to the FBI, and Parker Mitchell would study to become a crime scene analyst. But then Luke vanished before graduation and their world--and friendships--crumbled.

Now years later, Griffin has left the police and his friendships behind. Still trying to forget a case that went bad when he was a SWAT team sniper, he's living a quiet life as a park ranger at Gettysburg. Quiet until skeletal remains are uncovered near Little Round Top--and they aren't Civil War-era.

Griffin just wants the case to go away, but charming forensic anthropologist Finley Scott discovers evidence pointing to the work of an expert sniper. When FBI agent Declan Grey steps in to take over the case, past and present collide. Griffin soon realizes he'll need to confront some of the darkest days of his life if he--and those he cares about--are going to escape a downward spiral of crime, danger, and murder.

Read an excerpt.
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My Review: I am absolutely, irrevocably in love with this series and this is only the first book! I can't believe I have to wait until 2017 for the next one! While the epilogue wrapped up Griffin and Finley's story quite nicely, I was shocked at the revelation Kate threw at us at the end. Dani Pettrey shines once again in her masterful descriptions and plot lines. Suspense abounds along with a lot of faith and romance in this exciting story.

I felt at home in the Chesapeake area with Finley, Griffin, Declan, Parker, Avery, and Kate. I loved Finley. She is strong in an understated way. She is smart and sassy. She dealt admirably with parts of her past, but as we all do, had to work really hard to really let go. Griffin is also a strong character in an understated way. His accomplishments make him shine, yet he doesn't allow them to give him a big head. I would have liked to see more sparring between the two characters. Their interactions before their feelings were revealed amused me. Griffin's past with Parker, Declan, and Kate made for an intersting side story, and I can't wait to see their relationships continue to heal.

Both characters grapple with coming to terms with their past. They both endured ugly, hard things. But they both had to realize that "God brings beauty and light to the darkest places" and that He can bring "beauty out of brokenness." Once they both accepted this realization, they could fully embrace what God brought to them: each other.

Overall, I am hooked on this series already. I am eagerly anticipating the release of book 2. Dani Pettrey writes another nail-biting, edge of your seat romantic suspense with a deep message.

Dani Pettrey is a wife, homeschooling mom and author. She feels blessed to write inspirational romantic suspense because it incorporates so many things she loves–the thrill of adventure, nail-biting suspense, the deepening of one’s faith and plenty of romance. She’s a huge fan of dark chocolate, is always in search of the best iced mocha and her dream is to one day own a little cottage on a remote stretch of beach. She and her husband reside in Maryland with their two teenage daughters.