Closer Than She Knows by Kelly Irvin – Interesting storyline, characters and setting. Christian faith was portrayed rather worldly.

I became acquainted with author Kelly Irvin’s writing through her Amish themed books and was excited to read her newest book Closer Than She Knows.

Closer Than She Knows is about Teagan O’Rourke, a court reporter in San Antonio, Texas.  She comes from a family that works in law enforcement.  Teagan’s life is about to unravel as people around her are being targeted by some sicko and she finds herself at the center of an investigation.  Why are these innocent people being targeted?  How are they all connected?  What can she do to stop this before another innocent life is taken?

One of the things I like about Kelly’s writing is how she portrays relationships with family, friends, and co-workers.  I especially like the O’Rourke family, Teagan, her father Dillon and step-family Billy, Gracie, and Leyla.  My favorite character was her friend Max who seemed like a real gem, and her friends Julie and Evelyn.  They were a tight-knit group that cared for one another and were there for each other.

I found Teagan’s job as a court reporter fascinating and learned a few details about that job.  Kelly does a great job describing the setting in the San Antonio downtown area and neighborhood where historic homes were being rehabbed.  It seems inviting and picturesque.  The story is very suspenseful and will keep you guessing until the end.

This book is written by a Christian author and the Christian faith is part of the story.  The best example of that was Max, a man redeemed and dependent upon the Lord each day.  He was gracious and caring.  I found Teagan’s faith to be immature and nominal.  When talking about her reluctance to having children her explanation seemed very secular and lacking faith.  She seemed to care more about the environment than lost souls and sin.  At one-point, Teagan describes herself in very politically correct terms and does not mention that she is a Christian.  Her understanding of the death penalty was not in keeping with what God has declared in the Bible.  Teagan and Max’s physical attraction could have been portrayed a little less worldly.

If you are a fan of Kelly Irvin’s novels or like mystery, intrigue, and trying to solve a whodunit, you may like Kelly’s newest book Closer Thank She Knows.

I would like to thank Thomas Nelson Publishers and NetGalley for the opportunity to read Closer Thank She Knows by Kelly Irvin.  I was under no obligation to give a favorable review.

 

A Long Bridge Home by Kelly Irvin – Interesting Likable Characters and Storyline, But Has Some Wrong Theology

Kelly Irvin has quickly become one of my favorite Christian fiction writers.  Until I started reading her novels, I hadn’t read too many Amish theme books.  I was excited at the opportunity to read Kelly’s newest book A Long Bridge Home, the second book in the Amish of Big Sky Country, which takes place during the same timeframe as the first book, Mountains of Grace.  Wildfires are burning in the mountains near the community of West Kootenai, Montana.

Christine and the Mast family evacuate but do not intend to return to West Kootenai.  Her mother and father have decided it’s time for their family to return to Kansas where her father’s parents live and need help in their older years.  Christine is desperate to stay because of her special friend Andy Lambright.  While they are not engaged, they’ve talked about marriage and seem to be heading in that direction.  Andy is evacuating too, but he’s returning to his family’s home so he can deal with some unfinished business.  Andy and Christine persuade her parents to let her stay a little bit closer in St. Ignatius, Montana.

Christine will be staying with family, but she will be experiencing a whole new world than what she’s used to.  Andy returns home and finds old wounds still haven’t healed and the best remedy is forgiveness, even though he was one who was wronged.  Will his lack of honesty drive Christine away?  Will Christine remain faithful to her special friend?  Or will she be lured away by the excitement of her new friend Raymond Old Fox and a culture that is foreign to her?

I really liked the characters in A Long Bridge Home.  My favorite was Andy, he was an honest and vulnerable and was growing and maturing.  I liked Christine but found her secrecy about her relationship with Raymond betrayed her conscience.  Raymond Old Fox was an interesting character and I liked him.  I wondered what attracted him to pursue a friendship with Christine.  I found it interesting to learn about the Native Indian history and culture and to see some of the similarities to the Amish culture and the contrasts.

Where I ran into some discomfort with this book was how Christine wrestled with the differences in her Christian faith and spirituality from Raymond’s Native Indian culture.  It is interesting to learn of other cultures and what they believe but, as a Christian, we cannot forget that the Bible is the plumbline of truth and of right and wrong, heaven and hell, sin, rebellion, truth, righteousness, forgiveness, repentance, and salvation through Jesus Christ alone.

Christine hesitated to share her faith, in part, because of the mistreatment of Raymond’s Native Indian ancestors at the hands of people who said they were Christians.

I tried to let Christine wrestle through what she was learning and how that differed from what she knew of the Bible.  I struggled with her trying to see her Christian faith and Raymond’s spirituality as equivalent.  Christine seemed to think that Raymond’s belief in a Creator was the same as her belief in the God of the Bible.  At one point she said, “He’s your God too.”  I wanted to tell Christine, “No He’s not…not at this point.”  But I did appreciate that Christine wanted to pray for Raymond and she felt the need to tell him about Jesus Christ even though that was not done in her Amish culture.  I appreciated Andy’s trust in Christine and his more mature understanding of the differences between the Amish and Indian religious beliefs.

Christine had some wrong theology and I highlighted a number of statements and made many notes.  I tried to let the character wrestle with her thoughts and theological understanding.  Ideally, I would like to have wrong theology corrected in the novel, perhaps by another character or by a character’s growing understanding.

Is the right theology important in a fiction novel by a Christian author?  Yes, because that book may influence a reader for right or wrong.

There was much that I liked about A Long Bridge Home, the characters and storyline.  But I struggled with some of the wrong theology the main character expressed.

I would like to thank Zondervan Publishers and NetGalley for the opportunity to read A Long Bridge Home by Kelly Irvin.  I was under no obligation to give a favorable review.

 

Mountains of Grace by Kelly Irvin – Mixed feeling but worth hanging in for the themes of grace and forgiveness

I had never read Kelly Irvin’s books until about a year ago.  After reading one of her Amish themed books I loved how she developed the characters and how they grew and changed through the story.  That’s why I was eager to read Kelly’s newest book Mountains of Grace.

Mountains of Grace is different from the other Amish themed books that Kelly Irvin has written.  This novel is set in NW Montana in a community called West Kootenai.  I never knew that there were Amish communities in Montana.  From Mountains of Grace I got the impression that this Amish community, though they lived separate and different lives than the English people, the community seemed to be more closely allied with their English neighbors.

I have some mixed feelings about this book.  It wasn’t until about halfway through that something changed and captured my interest.

I struggled with the two main characters, Mercy, a 22-year-old single Amish school teacher, and Juliette Knowles, her English friend and neighbor.  The two young women couldn’t be any different from one another.  Mercy seemed quite immature especially in the scene when they were fleeing their homes because of a fast-approaching wildfire.  Mercy’s response and that of her younger siblings seemed childish and didn’t demonstrate that they comprehended the seriousness of the situation.  Juliette, on the other hand, seemed to be a vapid, shallow, mouthy gal who wanted attention and would flirt with any male who came nearby.  I didn’t like either Mercy or Juliette.

It wasn’t until about halfway through this book I found someone I liked, Spencer, who was a smoke jumper that was injured at the beginning of the book.  It was his interaction with Mercy that made me pause.  Something about Spencer was honest and he took a liking to Mercy.  It was interesting how their very different characters interacted with one another.

There were a lot of characters to keep track of in this book, family, friends, and neighbors of Mercy and Juliette.  I liked Tim, the man who was in love with Juliette.  Why he like her I didn’t understand because Juliette was such a pill.  I appreciated his integrity and his willingness to obey God’s command that he should not be unequally yoked with an unbeliever.  There some good examples of strong Christian faith.  I loved some of the prayers offered by different characters.

I had a hard time imagining Mercy as a school teacher because of her immaturity and poor decisions that resulted in her being disciplined by the Amish elders.  While it wasn’t made known, I wondered who it was that told on Mercy.  What I did like about Mercy was her boldness and desire to befriend Spencer who was so different the Amish men she knew.

I liked the themes of forgiveness that were lived out by several characters, like Angie, Spencer, Tim.  While it may not be easy, God does command us as believers to forgive those who have hurt and wronged us.

I never fully came to appreciate Juliette.  Her character was very off-putting.  I was glad that she finally disclosed what had happened to her and what caused her to turn from being a nice young lady to someone who was not so nice.  I appreciated that she was a good friend to Mercy and even tried to protect her.

I’m glad I read this book to the end.  It contains some good examples of forgiveness and mercy and God’s abundant mercy towards us as sinners.  It also showed the importance of communicating with one another, even when it’s hard.  It was almost like there were two lines of stories with the Amish and the English characters and a lot going on with multiple characters.

Would I recommend this Mountains of Grace, yes, especially if you are a Kelly Irvin fan or like Amish-themed novels.  It was interesting to learn about the men that put their lives on the line to help protect life and property and put out wildfires in treacherous terrain.

I would like to thank Zondervan Publishers and NetGalley for providing a complimentary copy of Mountains of Grace by Kelly Irvin.  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.

 

With Winter’s First Frost – Kelly Irvin –Relatable, Insightful and Memorable

Kelly Irvin is an author whose work is relatively new to me.  With Winter’s First Frost is the fourth book in the Every Amish Season Novels and I absolutely loved this book.

Laura Kauffman was one of my favorite characters, the kind of woman you would love to have as a mother or grandmother.  I could relate to her physical aches and pains that come with getting older, understood the grief she felt even after being a widow for so many years and appreciated her willing, loving and helpful spirit to so many of her family and friends.  I came to appreciate, understand and care about Zechariah Stutzman through Laura’s eyes.  He wasn’t just a difficult cranky old man.  He was funny and intelligent and a man who grieved the loss of his beloved wife.  Because of Parkinson’s his body wasn’t cooperating with him and it made daily life difficult, so much so that this family tried to protect him and even seemed to treat him like a child.  Was he just a burden to his family now or was he still useful?  Dare these older people think about or ever hope to find love again so late in life?

A part of the story I found interesting was Laura’s two great-granddaughters, Tamara and Hannah.  Both were facing critical decisions in their young lives that would impact their futures.  Not to get off track, but I wondered how the Amish could biblically justify banning a member of their community when the person genuinely repented of their sin and sought forgiveness.  I found the way that the older parents were treated somewhat bothersome.  I appreciate that the Amish care for their elderly family members, but in this story, it seemed as if they were treated in a manner like you would a child, instead of respected intelligent adult.

Kelly is gifted writer and is able to weave a story and capture, in a very relatable way, what characters are thinking and feeling in their season of life.  I could understand the memories, fears, sorrow, hopes and desires that these characters expressed.  Kelly is very insightful in bringing these characters to life and they are very memorable, I found myself thinking about them even when I wasn’t reading the book.  She paints a picture of the Amish community with her words that is beautiful, interesting and intriguing.

I’ve not read too many Amish themed books, but I love Kelly Irvin’s writing and I highly recommend With Winter’s First Frost.  It’s a beautiful story with rich, loveable and relatable characters in a season of life that many of us may face.

I would like to thank BookLook and Zondervan for the opportunity to read With Winter’s First Frost by Kelly Irvin in exchange for an honest review.  I was under no obligation to give a favorable review.