Lake Season by Denise Hunter – Likeable characters, in a lovely town with a blend of mystery and romance. I didn’t want this story to end.

I love a good mystery and when it’s tied to a little romance that’s a book I’ll want to read.  That’s why I was excited to read Denise Hunter’s newest book Lake Season (A Bluebell Inn Romance).

Molly, Levi and Grace Bennett are siblings whose parents had died in a tragic accident a year ago.  Grace is 18 years old and set upon staying in Bluebell.  But it will take the commitment of all three of them to fulfill their parent’s dream and turn their home into a bed and breakfast inn.  Ten months later, their inn is about to open when their first unofficial guest Adam Bradford walks in.  Little do they know but under their roof is the famous author, who writes under the pen name Nathaniel Quinn, whose work Molly loves.  Adam is in town to do a little research to help him get inspired so he can write his next bestseller.  Adam is quite taken with Molly whom he considers his muse and he gets distracted when he tries to help Molly find the writer and recipient of a letter that’s been lost for 57 years.

That’s the background of Lake Season, which is set in the lovely lakeside town of Bluebell, North Carolina.  My favorite character was Adam, he was kind and caring.  He was rather shy and had some insecurities you wouldn’t expect for an accomplished writer.  Molly was sweet, unpretentious, passionate and caring.  She even cared about people she never knew.  But she knew the importance of the letter she had in her possession and wanted to get it into the hands of the people it belonged to.  I appreciated the caring and commitment that Levi, Molly, and Grace had for one another, a self-sacrificing love.  I especially liked the relationship between Adam and Molly.  They got to know each other and their attraction more than skin deep.  I enjoyed the unfolding mystery of who Lizzie and Ben were and what had happened to them all those years ago.

Lake Season was a story that I didn’t want to end, so I took my time reading and savoring this story.  When I finished, I felt a little sad leaving behind the characters I had come to care about.  The characters were very likable and the town seemed inviting and like a place I would like to visit.  I loved the blend of mystery and romance.  Denise Hunter is on the shortlist of writers whose work I want to read.  When I was reading Lake Season, I thought this would be a perfect Hallmark Channel movie.

I wish there had been more of the character’s faith included in the story, I think it would have been a richer story.  I appreciated that the novel was clean in content and language.

If you like a blend of romance and mystery be sure to read Lake Season by Denise Hunter.

I would like to thank Thomas Nelson Publishers and NetGalley for the opportunity to read a complimentary copy of Lake Season and the opinions expressed are entirely my own.

 

Dark Ambitions by Irene Hannon – Character Development Is Missing

Irene Hannon is one of my favorite writers.  I’ve loved her books that I’ve read, the characters and the Christian faith that’s been a part of the storylines.  That’s why I was excited to read her newest book Dark Ambitions.

Unfortunately, I thought Dark Ambitions was not as good as her other books.  I’ve read the two other books in the Code of Honor series and liked them.  What was different about Dark Ambitions?  I found the character development was not too deep in this novel, the characters were rather flat and one dimensional.

From the beginning of this book, the focus was on the physical attraction between Rick Jordan and Heather Shields dominated this book.  So much so that it took away from the character development of the main characters.  Rick, who has a heroic background as a former Army Night Stalker and runs a camp for foster children, seemed like a superficial jerk with his unkind judgmental opinion of the receptionist Nikki.  If you took away one thing from this book, you knew that Rick and Heather were physically attracted to one another because of the numerous references to looks and their physical attraction.

In most of Irene’s books, I find some likable relatable characters.  In Dark Ambitions, not so much.  Maybe Heather’s dad.  As a reader, I want to have characters I like and care about, but that was missing in this book.

A great deal of research went into getting the technical details right.  The storyline of Dark Ambitions has some possibilities of making a good story.  Where it fell short for me was the character development.  Also, I missed having faith and God being a part of the character’s personal lives.  While there was action in the story, there wasn’t a lot of suspense, nor twists and turns.

While this book seemed to be a one-off, I do look forward to reading more of Irene Hannon’s books in the future.

I would like to thank Revell Books and NetGalley for the opportunity to read Irene Hannon’s newest book Dark Ambitions.  I was provided with a complimentary copy of the book and was under no obligation to give a favorable review.

Glory Road by Lauren K. Denton – Wonderful, lovely, I didn’t want the story to end!

Can I say that an author is one of my favorites after reading only one of her books, Hurricane Season?  Maybe not, but I was excited at the opportunity to read Lauren K. Denton’s newest book Glory Road.

I absolutely loved this book!  Lauren has a way of writing and helping you to see the beauty in the everyday ordinary life.  From the people to the places and the beauty of creation.

Glory Road takes place in Alabama and tells the story of Jessie who is a single mom, her 14-year-old daughter Evan and her Mom Gus.  Following her divorce, Jessie moved back home to Perry where she grew up.  Her home is next door to her Mother’s house and right next door to her garden shop the Twig on an old dirt road.  It’s summertime and Evan will be starting in high school come September.  Gus seems to be having some episodes of confusion and forgetfulness and Jessie is worried that it may be something serious.  Jessie is content with her life the way it is and she’s not looking to make changes or room for romance.  But sometimes God brings people and changes into our lives when we don’t feel ready.

What did I love about Glory Road?  I loved the characters, especially Jessie and her relationship with her daughter Evan and Mom Gus and their love, kindness and caring for one another.  I loved the relationships between Jessie and Ben and Jessie and Sumner.  I loved the relationship between Evan and Nick who takes after his father Ben.  Lauren has a way of writing that is almost poetic or lyrical.  She captures the character’s thoughts and feelings in a thought-provoking way that caused me to reflect on my own life.  She also paints lovely word pictures of the places, indoors and outdoors, that helps the reader to imagine what it looks like.  She does that without being too wordy or letting words get in the way of the reader’s imagination.  I really enjoyed the quotes on gardening at the beginning of each chapter.

On a more serious note, as someone whose parent had Alzheimer’s I appreciated the way Gus’ life and experiences were handled.  It helped me to see how scary it must be for the person experiencing forgetfulness and for the family who sees it and are unsure on how to handle it.  That part of the story rang a little too close to home.

There’s only one mention of God in the book, other than two phrases that use the name of God.  Even though God, Christianity, and faith were not specifically mentioned I had the feeling that faith undergirded the character’s lives.  I would like to have seen elements of faith as part of the storyline but greatly appreciated a clean novel.

I absolutely loved Glory Road by Lauren K. Denton.  It’s a wonderful, lovely book that leaves you wanting the story to continue on.  Lauren is on my short list of writers that when they write a new book, I want to be sure to read it.

I would like to thank Thomas Nelson Publishers and BookLook for the opportunity the read Glory Road by Lauren K. Denton in exchange for an honest review.  I was under no obligation to give a favorable review.

Over the Line by Kelly Irvin – Mixed Reaction

Over the Line is Kelly Irvin’s newest book in the romantic suspense genre.  I recently discovered Kelly’s writing when I read two of her recent Amish themed books and fell in love with her writing.  That’s why I was excited to read her newest book.

Over the Line is an action-packed novel that seems like it could have been taken from today’s headline news.  Chef and restaurateur, Gabriella Benoit is locking up her restaurant late at night and is met by a stranger who was carrying a gun and calling her name.  As he clutches his chest and falls to the ground he says “Jake” but dies before he can say anything more about Gabby’s brother.  She’d never imagined she’d need help from her former fiancé Eli Cavazos to find her missing brother or find herself in the middle of an illegal gun smuggling ring at the border.  How is she going to protect her sister and family from some very desperate and dangerous men?  Just who are the good guys and who are the bad ones?

I had a mixed reaction to Over the Line.  I appreciate that it’s clean and not filled with sexual immorality or filthy language.  There is some Christian faith included in the book and I thought it was better and more genuine towards the end of the book.  I liked Eli’s mother and her openness and transparency and how different characters dealt with the issue of forgiveness.  I especially liked the character Deacon, he was a nice surprise.  As you get to know him you can see he’s a decent sincere person and Natalie was very likeable too.

But over-all, I feel like the action was center stage and eclipsed the characters.  Some of the prayers or mentions of God and faith seemed like they were out of place or just thrown in, instead of a natural overflow of the character’s thinking or feelings.  Some of the character’s actions didn’t make a lot of sense, like Deacon trespassing or Gabby confronting a police officer she suspected was corrupt because she was overcome with emotion instead of using reason and logic.  That didn’t make sense coming from a person who was a former district attorney.  The scene where Gabriella and Natalie crashed the van doesn’t seem realistic because the dialogue goes on and on when the bad guys are coming their way with big guns.  I wasn’t overly fond of the main character Gabriella.

As I was reading this book, I kept thinking this must be the second book in a series because there was a lot of back-story between Gabriella and Eli and what had happened in Natalie’s life previously.  I was surprised to find out that this wasn’t the second book.  Some of the background information and questions I had were answered later in the book.

I would recommend Over the Line to someone who likes Kelly Irvin’s writing, with a note that it’s much different than her Amish themed books.  Also, for those who enjoy Christian suspense novels.  Over the Line will be available June 11, 2019.

I would like to thank Thomas Nelson Publishers and NetGalley for the opportunity to read Over the Line by Kelly Irvin in exchange for an honest review.  I was under no obligation to give a favorable review.

 

The Memory House by Rachel Hauck – Makes characters and their world come to life

I love finding authors whose work is new to me and when they are good it’s like finding a treasure trove.  The Memory House is the first book I’ve read by Rachel Hauck and I very much enjoyed it.

What does NYPD Sergeant, Beck Holiday, have in common with the lovely bride, Everleigh Applegate, from Waco Texas in the 1950’s?  How will their lives intersect?  Can wounds that were suffered and emotional scars be healed?  Or is life as they know it over?  Will hope one day return?  Will there be another chance for happiness?  Can you rebuild a friendship with a friend who doesn’t remember the past?  Will the men in their lives, Bruno Endicott and Don Callahan, persevere in winning their hearts?  Will they find what it takes to overcome their career challenges?

What I liked best about this book were the characters, and though their lives were very different from one another, their lives shared some common themes.  I found the characters and their struggles very relatable.  It was interesting learning about the career of a sports agent.  I also enjoyed learning a little bit of Texas history.

I confess at first, I found Beck Holiday kind of hard to understand and like.  She rubbed me the wrong way with her crummy attitude and lack of communication.  But over time, as more about her character’s background was revealed I came to understand and even like her.  I found myself frustrated with Everleigh and her inability or unwillingness to make changes and get her life back.  I almost felt suffocated by the grief she wallowed in, but then I realized that perhaps the character felt suffocated too.

I wish that some of the main characters had a strong Christian faith and that it had been woven into the storyline.  Some of the background characters were Christians and I especially appreciated Gaynor and her display of grace and forgiveness.

Overall, I liked The Memory House and recommend it.  Author Rachel Hauck has a way of drawing a reader into the lives of her characters and making their world come alive.  I think it must be challenging for an author to write about two timelines and two sets of characters.  But Rachel did a wonderful job and it was easy to switch back and forth between the timelines.  The Memory House is a place I would like to visit.

I would like to thank Thomas Nelson Publishers and Audra Jennings for the opportunity to read The Memory House in exchange for an honest review.  I was under no obligation to give a favorable review.

 

Here’s some information about author Rachel Hauck:

Rachel Hauck is an award winning, New York Times, USA Today and Wall Street Journal bestselling author.

Her book The Wedding Dress was named Inspirational Novel of the Year by Romantic Times Book Reviews. She is a double RITA finalist, and a Christy and Carol Award Winner.

Her book, Once Upon A Prince, first in the Royal Wedding Series, was filmed for an Original Hallmark movie.

Rachel has been awarded the prestigious Career Achievement Award for her body of original work by Romantic Times Book Reviews.

A member of the Executive Board for American Christian Fiction Writers, she teaches workshops and leads worship at the annual conference. She is a past Mentor of The Year.

At home, she’s a wife, writer, worship leader and works out at the gym semi-enthusiastically.

A graduate of Ohio State University (Go Bucks!) with a degree in Journalism, she’s a former sorority girl and a devoted Ohio State football fan. Her bucket list is to stand on the sidelines with Ryan Day.

She lives in sunny central Florida with her husband and ornery cat.

For more information, visit www.rachelhauck.com, Facebook (@rachelhauck), Twitter (@RachelHauck) and Instagram (@rachelhauck)

 

If you would like to read The Memory House by Rachel Hauck enter the Rafflecopter Giveaway:

 

 

The Sky Above Us by Sarah Sundin – Memorable…A Real Gem!

When I find an author whose books I like, I want to read all of them.  That’s why I was excited to find author Sarah Sundin’s newest book The Sky Above Us, which is the second book in her Sunrise at Normandy Series.

The story of the Paxton family continues in The Sky Above Us as we are introduced to the middle brother, Lt. Alder Paxton.  He is making his way to England where he will be stationed with American Air Force in 1943, as they join the battle to prepare for D-Day.  Though he is trying to leave his past behind him, it has a way of catching up.  What are the chances that 5,000 miles from home Alder will see his estranged brothers Wyatt and Clay?  Onboard ship, Alder will meet the lovely Violet Lindstrom who is with the American Red Cross.  She has her sights set on serving as a missionary one day, in a faraway land.  Little did she know that the Lord would open her eyes to a different mission field that would resonate with her heart’s longing and desires.

I absolutely loved, loved, loved this book.  Not only did I like the setting, WWII in England as D-Day approached, but also the characters and how they fit into a pivotal time in our history.  Sarah must have done a lot of research to make the dogfights and battles seem so realistic and easy to visualize.  In reading The Sky Above Us, I got a taste of what the people who lived through that era may have experienced.

Prior to reading this book, I didn’t know much about the history of the American Red Cross and their roll in helping servicemen as they served abroad.  Those women who served were hardworking and brave and they too put their lives on the line.

As much as I was intrigued and fascinated with the setting and characters, I loved and learned from some of the themes in the book.  Forgiveness was looked at from many different angles.  Compassion, mercy, humility, obedience, friendship, self-righteousness, repentance and God’s calling were some of the other themes.

I very much liked Adler and Violet, but my favorite character was Nick Westin.  He was a wonderful friend, mentor, brother in Christ, father and husband.  I’d love to see a book about this character.  He was memorable and very dear.

Not only did I love The Sky Above Us by Sarah Sundin, but I learned from it.  It gave me a deeper appreciation for the greatest generation and what they did to save our Country and the Western world from Nazism.  This is a book I will read again and would definitely give it as a gift.  I took my time reading this book and I didn’t want it to end.  It was so enjoyable to read it at the end of each day.  Though it’s part of a series, it works well as a stand-alone book.

I would like to thank NetGalley and Revell Publishing Group for the opportunity to read The Sky Above Us by Sarah Sundin in exchange for an honest review.  I was under no obligation to give a favorable review.

 

On Magnolia Lane by Denise Hunter – If you like a good love story, time to step away for little while and read.

On Magnolia Lane is the first book that I’ve read by author by Denise Hunter and I really enjoyed it.  This is the third book in the Blue Ridge Romance Series.  Though it’s part of a series, it’s good as a standalone book.

The story is about Jack McReady who happens to be the local Pastor.  One of his congregants is Daisy Pendleton and she’s been meeting with Jack for counseling over a couple of years now.  He’s pretty much head over heals in love with Daisy and she is oblivious.  Will she ever be able to see Jack as something more than her Pastor?  Will Jack ever be bold enough to ask Daisy out on a date?  Or will this romance need a little help from their friends?

I really liked the characters in this book.  They weren’t perfect, but they were kind, descent and caring people that I’d like to spend time with.  The story takes place in the small town of Copper Creak, Georgia and after reading this book I wish it really existed because I’d like to visit.

One of my favorite characters was the mystery woman Julia.  I found myself drawn into her quest and appreciated how understanding and gracious she was.  I liked the friendship that developed between Daisy and Julia.

Denise’s style of writing is very inviting.  She has a way of helping the reader to visualize the places and people, but without being too wordy.  She leaves room for imagination.  I thought Denise was insightful in bringing out what was going on within the characters, their insecurities and wounds from the past that haven’t quite healed, that still impacted relationships.

I really enjoyed On Magnolia Lane.  I appreciated that the Christian faith was included in the character’s lives and that it was a clean novel and free from filthy language and sexual immorality.  There are some details about a character’s past that comes out, but the sinful choices were not glorified or made light of.

In today’s world, where every where you turn there’s more bad news, it’s really nice to be able to step away for a little while, into small town with a little romance.  If you like a good love story, be sure to read On Magnolia Lane by Denise Hunter.  I look forward to reading more of Denise’s novels.

I would like to thank BookLook and Thomas Nelson Publishers for the opportunity to ready On Magnolia Lane in exchange for an honest review.  I was under no obligation to give a favorable review.