September 13, 2017

An Inconvenient Beauty

An Inconvenient Beauty is like a graceful dance—elegant, engaging, and enchanting. This story made my stomach flutter and my heart beat faster. Definitely a five-star read. One of my favorites this year.

Firstly, (have I ever used that word before?) Ms. Hunter creates dynamic characters! Miss Isabella Breckenridge and her cousin, Miss Frederica (Freddie) St. Claire, are easy to connect with and sympathize with. They are dissimilar in many ways, but are alike in their depth and appeal. They aren’t the typical society debutantes who revel in compliments and long for status and distinction. Isabella and Freddie view and interact with the world around them in distinct ways, but they share a beauty deep inside them where profound compassion, empathy, love, and faith dwell.

I have to say, though, no matter how drawn I am to Isabella and Freddie, Duke Griffith Hawthorne is the beau-of-the-ball and the stealer-of-the-show! (for me, anyway.)  When Griff (I like to believe he swoons when I call him that) steps onto the floor, the other characters become part of the ballroom scenery. (Okay, so I’m being overly dramatic.) But seriously, he is big, and tall, and (I’m showing my age with the next adjective) dreamy. As you can see, I tend to get carried away when a hero of a story exceeds my expectations. (And that doesn’t happen as often as you might think.)

Okay, since there is a ‘firstly’, for the sake of consistency, I’m including a secondly and a thirdly.

Secondly, Ms. Hunter has blended history into this story, giving it an authentic feel and realistic flow. I have only slight knowledge of the Regency era, but this story took me on a journey there and gave me a satisfying taste of it.

Thirdly, An Inconvenient Beauty doesn’t contain any drags, as I like to call them. No sludge to slog through. No wearisome pages. The story begins with a gentle rhythm, builds into a stimulating tempo with just the perfect amount of twists and twirls to make the pages turn and your heart leap, then ends in a swirl of satisfying emotion.

I love Christian fiction. I love historical fiction. These two genres are expertly wrapped together with themes of acceptance, forgiveness, and unspeakable love. What a gift!

5 Stars

Cover: Love
Title: Love
Publisher: Bethany House
Pages: 386
First Lines (Chapter 1): While the limits of human ability prevented Griffith, Duke of Riverton, from being everything to everyone who depended on him for their livelihoods, he’d always assumed there was no limit to what he would do for his family. His mother’s current request was more than stretching those limits. “No.”

I received a complimentary copy from the publisher and NetGalley.

September 9, 2017

The Two of Us

Oh, what a beautiful story—so much depth. It contains characters that are easy to sympathize with, intricate workings of faith, and that unspeakable kind of love that makes a story extra-special.

I can easily relate to the main character, Mia. I experienced many of the same things in my youth—losing my mother of cancer and raising my sister who’s 10 years younger than me. Because of this, I sunk deep into her shoes and understood her doubts, fears, and responsibilities.

But there is an entire cast of fabulous characters in this story and I grew to love each and every one (even one who was difficult to love.) The story expresses love of family, that special love between lovers, and the love of God. It’s even more than a love story though. It deals with disabilities, Alzheimer’s, therapy dogs, community, and following the plan that God has for us.

The Two of Us is soul piercing, heart stirring, and deeply satisfying. I didn’t want this story to end.

I. Love. This. Book. One of my favorite reads this year! Ms. Bylin is a great storyteller and now on my must-read list.

5 Stars

Cover: Love
Title: Love
Publisher: Bethany House
Pages: 352
Pace: Steady/Fast
First Line: Mia Robinson couldn’t take her eyes off the man in a cowboy hat working a claw-machine game, the kind where a child—or a boyfriend or father—put in a dollar and tried to grab a toy in thirty seconds or less.

I received a complimentary copy from the publisher and NetGalley.

September 6, 2017

An Amish Christmas Love

An Amish Christmas Love is a collection of four Christmas novellas. Each delightful tale shares its own special type of love. The Amish language is not overdone, and doesn’t take away from the flow. Each novella includes a short glossary of terms for a handful of words that might not be easily understood, and a group of discussion questions at the end.

Winter Kisses, by Beth Wiseman, is a good but predictable story of three women in Lancaster county: twenty-year-old Naomi, her mother, Barbara, and her grandmother, Ruth. With Christmas approaching, they each receive their own unique gifts. I wish the author had chosen a different name for either Naomi or Ruth. I found it difficult to remember who was who due to the Bible story of Ruth. (In the Scriptures, Naomi is Ruth’s mother-in-law.) Other than this slight distraction, the story was touching and satisfying.

The Christmas Cat, by Amy Clipston, is such a sweet story! Emma is a widow of six-months and her first Christmas without her husband feels lonely. When a stray orange tabby and some kind church friends visit her on Christmas Eve, she relives memories and receives unexpected blessings. A heart-warming read that made me smile.

Snow Angels, by Kelly Irvin, is the next story in the collection. It shows a more complicated love. There are many paths to love, but the most important is following God’s plan for us. Molly is a smart, kind, and devoted character who was easy to sympathize for and root for. Snow Angels is a dear story about loving, forgiving, and the importance of faith and family.

Home for Christmas, by Ruth Reid, is the longest of the four stories and is a lovely way to end the book. The characters have so much depth, and the plain life of the Amish makes you take a look at what it is you hold dearest. Ellie, new to town, is learning about her family history and herself. She is entertaining, well intentioned, and a lonely Englischer. Ezra, a widower with a young daughter, is kind, neighborly, and Amish. In true storybook fashion—opposites attract, whether they want to or not, With themes of belonging, acceptance, forgiveness, and home, this story will leave you with a satisfied smile.

I love holiday stories that express themes of love, second chances, and unexpected gifts. Each story holds a special charm and shares the true spirit of Christmas. Many thanks to BookLook and NetGalley for my complimentary copy.

5 Stars!

Cover: Love
Title: Love
Publisher: Thomas Nelson
Pages: 400
Pace: Fast
ISBN: 978- 0529118707

September 3, 2017

My Heart Belongs in the Shenandoah Valley

I’ve really been enjoying all the books in the My Heart Belongs series. The stories are written by various authors, evoke many emotions, are easy to sink into, and are fast reads.

My Heart Belongs in the Shenandoah Valley: Lily’s Dilemma takes place during the 1800s (as do the others in the series.) It is a neatly crafted story, dealing with life’s challenges, unexpected romance, and making consequential choices.

Lily Laughlin’s world is turned upside down when she discovers what her father’s wagering ends up costing her. She finds herself in quite a dilemma (as the title suggests) shortly after Captain Mac spies her bathing in a creek. Her entire life begins washing away before her eyes. Her future is at stake and she ultimately has to choose between financial security and the refuge of love.

The author’s writing style is smooth and the imagery she creates is vivid. The historical ‘feel’ is palpable, and there isn’t a single element of the story that drags. I love an inspiring, easy read that makes me wish the story could continue.

4 Stars

Cover: Okay
Title: Like
Pages: 256
Series: My Heart Belongs In series
Publisher: Barbour Books
First Line: “So what do you think, Cap’n?”

I received a complimentary copy of this book from Barbour Publishing and was under no obligation to post a review.