Reviews

Along a Storied Trail by Ann H. Gabhart

Kentucky packhorse librarian Tansy Calhoun doesn’t mind the rough trails and long hours as she serves her Appalachian mountain community during the Great Depression. Yet she longs to find love like the heroines in her books. When a charming writer comes to town, she thinks she might have found it–or is the perfect man actually closer than she thinks?

Perdita Sweet has called these mountains home for so long she’s nearly as rocky as the soil around her small cabin. Long ago she thought she could love, but when the object of her affection up and married someone else, she stopped giving too much of herself away to others.

As is so often the case, it’s easier to see what’s best for others than to see what’s best for oneself, and Perdita knows who Tansy should choose. But why would anyone listen to the romantic advice of an old spinster?

Author Ann Gabhart, an excellent storyteller, can always be relied on to tell a tale that captures the reader from the first word. Along a Storied Trail is no exception to this expectation.

I loved reading and learning about Kentucky packhorse librarians. I think that would have been a fun job to have. Tansy Calhoun loves it, as she enjoys taking the written word to people who may not be able to get a book any other way. I enjoyed getting to know Tansy and her heart for others. But she isn’t the only great character in this book. It’s chock full of them! Perdita is spicy and longs for family. Caleb is a wonderful hero as he takes care of others so well. I loved them all!

The history woven through the story adds meat to it. Along with packhorse librarians we learn about the Civilian Conservation Corps as well as the Writer’s Project. All in a delightfully told narrative. I highly recommend it!

I received a complimentary copy of this book but was not required to leave a review.

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Amish Friend’s Healthy Options Cookbook by Wanda Brunstetter

Loaded with dozens of Amish recipes for the health conscious.

New, from New York Times bestselling author of Amish fiction, Wanda E. Brunstetter, is valuable cookbook that offers healthy recipe options.

Everyone wants to feel healthy, right? Food can be one of our best medicines, and many Amish are known for seeking ways for health to begin in the kitchen. Brand new, from New York Times bestselling author of Amish fiction, Wanda E. Brunstetter, is a helpful cookbook from Amish and Mennonite cooks who offer healthy recipe options. Over 200 recipes are divided into traditional categories from main dishes and sides to desserts and snacks with labels for gluten free, dairy free, sugar free, etc. Also included are health tips and remedies. Encased in a lay-flat binding and presented in full color, home cooks of all ages will be eager to add this cookbook to their collections.

I found this cookbook to be full of interesting recipes that I look forward to trying. Some will require me to buy a few healthy ingredients I don’t have in the house, but they are used in small amounts and can be used in many recipes.

I like how the book is laid out not only in chapters by subject but then labeled dairy free, gluten free, nut free, etc. These labels are in different colors, making it very easy to recognize for use. So helpful for those of us who need to watch for different dietary needs. I will say I raised an eyebrow at the Home Remedies section. While some I can see as plausible, and even a few I use, others call for ingredients I would never use and border on dangerous. But it was still interesting to read.

If you enjoy cookbooks, and want one that is different then most, then I recommend you give this one a try.

Murder at Madison Square Garden by Linda Shenton Matchett

The dream of a lifetime becomes a nightmare.

Photojournalist Theodora “Teddy” Schafer’s career has hit the skids thanks to rumors of plagiarism. With any luck, a photo spread with Charles Lindbergh at the America First Rally will salvage her reputation. After an attempted assassination of Lindbergh leaves another man dead, Teddy is left holding the gun. Literally. Can she prove her innocence before the police lock her up for a murder she didn’t commit?

Private Investigator Ric Bogart wants nothing to do with women after his wife cleaned out their bank account and left him for another man, but he can’t ignore the feeling he’s supposed to help the scrappy, female reporter who is arrested for murder at the America First rally. Can he believe her claims of innocence and find the real killer without letting Teddy steal his heart?

Author Linda Shenton Matchett brings us another suspenseful story with Murder at Madison Square. Matchett has clearly done her research with this time period. She has captured it well, and it shows with her song and movie choices, along with description of clothing and scene settings. She really does transport you back to the 1930s.

The characters are well developed and again, appropriate for the time period. Using the slang of the day, they drew me into the story. Ric and Teddy dance around a relationship in a way that sometimes made me chuckle, other times exasperated me. Both great responses.

If you enjoy a good mystery with clean romance and a Christian theme, then I highly recommend this book.

Ruth by Caryl McAdoo

The Lord works in mysterious ways.

Fleeing heartache, shame, and betrayal, Ruth finds all her plans thwarted until the untimely death of a goat that gives her hope! Hired as a wet-nurse for Logan’s motherless son, she rejects his marriage-of-convenience proposal, hoping to find true love at the trail’s end. Going West (in what was later called the Great Migration of 1842) satisfies the widower’s wanderlust, and even though she turns him down, he determines to prove his love is true. Come along on this infamous journey of love and adventure.

Book 8 in the Prairie Roses Collection is a standalone so if you’re like me and haven’t read the first seven in the series no worries. Just jump in.

This delightful story about a wet nurse takes place during the push west. I enjoyed the bits of history that author Caryl McAdoo put in it. It definitely rounds out the story well. The characters are flawed and likeable, just like all of us. While they work through their issues together, we see God’s hand on them as they find forgiveness and grow into a sweet romance.

While this is a clean novel, McAdoo doesn’t skirt around the challenges of improper relationships, a sassy teenager, and real life on the trail. This includes a woman nursing two babies and the teen who “becomes a woman.” But it is well written and if you enjoy Christian historical fiction I can recommend Ruth.

I received a complimentary copy of this book but was not required to leave a review.

No Journey Too Far by Carrie Turansky

A family long divided, a mysterious trunk, and a desperate journey across the ocean—all in the name of love. The epic saga of the McAlisters continues in this riveting sequel to No Ocean Too Wide.

In 1909, Grace McAlister set sail for Canada as one of the thousands of British Home Children taken from their families and their homeland. Though she is fortunate enough to be adopted by wealthy parents, the secrets of her past are kept hidden for ten years until someone from her long-buried childhood arrives on her doorstep. With this new connection to her birth family, will she be brave enough to leave her sheltered life in Toronto and uncover the truth?

After enduring hardship as an indentured British Home Child, Garth McAlister left Canada to serve in World War I. His sweetheart, Emma Lafferty, promised to wait for his return, but after three long years apart, her letters suddenly stopped. When Garth arrives home from the war to unexpected news, he is determined to return to Canada once more on a daunting mission to find the two women he refuses to abandon—his long-lost sister and his mysteriously missing sweetheart.

No Journey Too Far can be read as a stand alone, however it will make more sense and be more enjoyable if you read No Ocean Too Wide first. I enjoyed revisiting the McAlister family and seeing where life has taken them.

Author Carrie Turansky’s book was well researched and I continued to learn more about the British Home Children yet in no way is it just dry facts. It breaks my heart to know what so many children went through yet it was interesting. I enjoy the way Turansky weaves history into her story. With strong characters who don’t let life defeat them, the search for those who were lost reminded me of God not giving up on those who have wandered.

If you enjoy historical fiction, this compelling story contains something for everyone. Strong family ties, mystery, hardship, faith, prejudism, and romance. I highly recommend it! 

I received a complimentary copy of this book but was not required to leave a review.

Always a Wedding Planner by RL Ashley, Leann Betts, Toni Shiloh, Davlyn Spencer

Love Is Only Business for 4 Wedding Planners

Discover how keeping secrets from each other threatens four women’s friendships, wedding business, and own ability to find love in Loveland, Colorado.

Business partners Felicity Anderson, the cake baker; Kiki Bell, the seamstress; Cassie Blackthorn, the coordinator; and Chef Saffron Fare are best of friends in a town that is a romantic wedding destination for many couples—who work together at Weddings by Design to make every bride’s special day perfect. Could each falling into their own romance be the key to working out their differences and learning to trust each other—and God—with their futures?

This compilation of novellas is fun, warm, and a great summer read.

Each story has strong characters who are overcoming obstacles that life throws at them. Friends with warm relationships who support each other make these stories heartwarming. I loved the sense of community in each one of these.

I enjoyed the concept of friends working together, each with their speciality. Of course we find romance in each story because what’s a wedding anthology without romance? I enjoyed a couple stories more than others but all in all it’s a really cute and I recommend it for those who enjoy contemporary romance.

I received a complimentary copy of this book but was not required to leave a review.

Purchase here

The Amish Quilt Maker’s Unruly In-law by Jennifer Beckstrand

Moving to a new Amish settlement in small-town Colorado was a brave new start for independent-minded quiltmaker Esther Kiem. But helping her reckless relative will really put her special matchmaking skills to the test . . .

Mischievous and rebellious, young Ben Kiem is making the wrong kind of name for himself throughout the town of Byler. And even though his sister-in-law, Esther, somehow coaxes him into keeping company with sensible Linda Eicher, Ben can’t see anything they have in common. Or that he could ever be good enough for someone like her. But Linda’s down-to-earth nature and unexpected understanding have Ben trying his best to be better, no matter how challenging . . .

Linda couldn’t be more surprised when Ben turns out to be caring and helpful, despite his rowdy pranks and bad-news friends. And falling in love with him suddenly seems just right. But when a heartbreaking misunderstanding comes between them, both she and Ben must risk enough to trust, stitch the pieces back together—and dare a forever precious happiness.

This is an Amish version of Good Girl Loves Bad Boy. But is Ben really bad? I have an opinion but you’ll need to read it yourself to find out.

Author Jennifer Beckstrand is really good at writing strong, likeable characters who are quirky. Ben is quirky. Linda is quirky. Their English driver, Cathy, is really quirky. This book contains a lot of humor as both main characters find their way to acceptance and love. Even the secondary characters search to find acceptance.

While this story made me laugh at times, I got really irritated with Ben. It was hard to remember that he was in his 20s when he acted like a 12 year old. I would have preferred to have him written a bit more maturely, even as he struggled to find his way. I think Beckstrand did him a disservice to write his character so childish. It made it difficult to accept him falling in love. But if you enjoy Amish fiction, give it a try. It’s a good story about accepting others.

I received a complimentary copy of this book but was not required to leave a review.

A Lady in Attendance by Rachel Fordham

Five years in a New York state reformatory have left a blemish on Hazel’s real name. So when she takes a job as Doctor Gilbert Watts’s lady in attendance in 1898, she does so under an alias. In the presence of her quiet and pious employer, Hazel finds more than an income. She finds a friend and a hope that if she can set her tarnished past in order, she might have a future after all.

As Gilbert becomes accustomed to the pleasant chatter of his new dental assistant, he can’t help but sense something secretive about her. Perhaps there is more to this woman than meets the eye. Can the questions that loom between them ever be answered? Or will the deeds of days gone by forever rob the future of its possibilities?

Rachel Fordham pens a tender tale of a soft-spoken man, a hardened woman, and the friends that stand by them as they work toward a common purpose–to expunge the record of someone society deemed beyond saving–and perhaps find love along the way.

Such a gently written book, reminiscent of the author Grace Livingston Hill. The characters are well developed with human traits and human emotions. If you don’t fall in love with Gilbert then you don’t know what a real hero is.

The growth in the main characters was enjoyable to see, especially as they worked through forgiving those who wronged them. Hazel is determined and a bit sassy. Gilbert is quiet. Dealing with the pain of false accusations as well as extreme personality differences, they make a great team. I also enjoyed the secondary characters and their development. I’m hoping we see more of them, especially Ina and Duncan.

With mystery and intrigue, sweet romance, and a great plot I highly recommend this Christian historical romance.

I received a complimentary copy of this book but was not required to leave a review.

Purchase here.

Bridge of Gold by Kimberely Woodhouse

Repairs on the Golden Gate Bridge Uncover a Century-Old Murder

Walk through Doors to the Past via a new series of historical stories of romance and adventure.

Underwater archaeologist Kayla Richardson is called to the Golden Gate Bridge where repairs to one of the towers uncovers two human remains from the late 1800s and the 1930s. The head of the bridge restoration is Steven Michaels, who dives with Kayla, and a friendship develops between them. But as the investigation heats up and gold is found that dates back to the gold rush, more complications come into play that threaten them both. Could clues leading to a Gold Rush era mystery that was first discovered during the building of the bridge still ignite an obsession worth killing for?

Author Kimberely Woodhouse did a great job with this split-time story. Her attention to detail, historic information, and strong characters make this a riveting story. Along the way I learned a lot about sunken ships and diving.

With mystery and intrigue throughout, Bridge of Gold definitely keeps the reader’s attention. The tie between past and present is so well written that you don’t feel bounced back and forth, but you feel the tension and the puzzle. Add a clean romance and there’s something for everyone. I highly recommend it!

I received a complimentary copy of this book but was not required to leave a review.

Purchase here.

Once Upon a Summer by Toni Shiloh, Andrea Boyd, Teresa Tysinger, Jaycee Weaver

Embrace the enchantment of summer with these contemporary twists on timeless tales.

A New Beginning — Who is she? Acacia Martin raised by an impostor mom serving a prison sentence for her sins, or Jasmine Callahan abducted at birth from a family she’s yet to meet? Luckily, she has Drake to help her untangle the mess that is her life. Will he ensnare her he art in the process?

An Ever After Summer — The employees of In a Bind are terrified of Jean-Luc Thibodeaux, so Bellamy Larson hops on a plane to France to deal with the beastly client. Yet once she arrives, she’s convinced he merely needs a friend. Then her heart begins to want ever after, not just one summer.

Gwen and the Three Dates — Life isn’t a romantic movie, but Gwen Lochs is determined to find her leading man. When she joins a cheesy dating site, Gwen agrees to just three dates. Can Ben Smith watch his best friend and soulmate find someone else? A romantic comedy about searching for that just-right love.

Unkissable — Reality diva Charlotte Lavigne’s on-camera meltdown reminds former teen-TV prince Jaime Reyes exactly why he left Hollywood ten years ago. A chance encounter leads to a bargain that transforms them both. When it’s time to face her past, will their rediscovered love be strong enough to build a future together?

Let these four sweet contemporary Christian romances take you away this summer.

Oh what fun this set of novellas are! Twists on well known fairy tales, the authors have done a good job of keeping the familiar tone of each one, while placing the reader in a modern setting. I loved the imagination that was shown through the writing.

If you enjoy Christian contemporary romance, great summer reading, and anything by these authors, then Once Upon a Summer is perfect for you.

I received a complimentary copy of this book but was not required to leave a review. 

The Jam and Jelly Nook by Amy Clipston

In the final installment of Amy Clipston’s bestselling Amish Marketplace series, a young widow struggling to raise her son dreams of one more chance at love.

Since her husband died seven years ago, Leanna Wengerd has done her best—tending to her son, Chester, and running her Jam and Jelly Nook at the Amish market. Though she enjoys seeing her cousins and customers at the marketplace, she wishes she could find more time for her rebellious teenage boy.

When Chester gets into trouble for trespassing, he winds up at the police station with his friend Maggie, who was riding with him to a youth group gathering. Leanna comes to the police station to fetch Chester and happens to meet Emory, Maggie’s father. Emory is also a widower, raising Maggie alone—and both he and Leanna have similar burdens and problems.

Over time Emory and Leanna become closer friends, discovering how much they have in common. As single parents, they struggle with the limits of what they can provide for their children and feel somewhat responsible for what happened to their respective spouses. The two eventually realize they have feelings for each other—but when they try to date, their children resist. Will God pave a way for them to build a family together, or will hurdles block the path to a second chance at happiness?

I have really enjoyed author Amy Clipston’s Amish Marketplace series, and highly recommend it if you enjoy Amish fiction. You can read this as a standalone but I think it will be a better read if you read the other books first. The main characters weave in and out of all of them, which I really liked.

In this final book of the series, we see Emory and Leanna becoming friends as they have single parenting in common. They have been written as strong characters who face life’s challenges through faith in God. This is done in a very organic way, nothing preachy. Give it a read. You’ll be glad you did.

I received a complimentary copy of this book but was not required to leave a review.

Purchase here.

Summertime Lilies by LM Karen

A sweet and sentimental contemporary Christian romance with a uniquely witty voice. 

There are three things you should know about Brittany Masters: 

1. She’s a single mom and a nurse manager at the local cancer clinic 

2. She has big plans for a quiet summer 

3. She’s convinced that fudge pops are the answer to almost all of life’s most important questions 

A new neighbor, Matt, making friends with her son while simultaneously pursuing a relationship with her blows plans for a predictable summer right out of the water. A chance meeting at the cancer clinic where she works renews a connection with an old friend and gives her the perspective she’s been missing. From quiet nights on her front porch swing in Matt’s company to long talks in the clinic with her old/new friend, Brittany’s summer is anything but routine.

Let me start with the not so positive aspects of this book so we can move on. I really struggled with Brittany’s inner dialogue about her hot neighbor, with and without a shirt. I get this is a romance but in the beginning of this book it was way too much. HOWEVER I hung in there and I’m glad I did. I read the book in one day because after that it kept my attention. 

This isn’t simply a feel good story. Author LM Karen writes a true to life storyline where everything isn’t all lollipops and rainbows. Brittany had dealt with pain in her life and continues to. But the situations are written with grace and truth. Karen doesn’t skirt around the challenges but faces them head on.

I enjoyed the humor. In fact, that was my favorite part. Matt had some crazy one liners that caused me to laugh out loud. And what a great guy. Caring for the neighbors who need someone, this character was well developed and so likeable. And what an adorable little boy! His character rounds out the story well.

Summertime Lilies is contemporary Christian fiction but the only Christian aspect is praying before meals and attending church. I would have liked to see a bit more. However it is still a good book and if you enjoy contemporary fiction then please do give it a read. I did enjoy the author’s unique, sometimes quirky, writing style, and for her first book she did well. I’m looking forward to book 2 in the series.

I received a complimentary copy of this book but was not required to leave a review.

When You Believe by Belle Calhoune

PREQUEL: How Maggie and Alec Donahue met and fell in love.

Maggie Kilcannon is living with relatives in Breeze Point, Cape Cod after leaving her native land of Ireland. Having tragically lost her parents in a plane crash, Maggie is weary about loving anyone, lest she emerge broken-hearted once again. When she meets handsome Alec Donahue, a soldier on leave, she falls head over heels in love with him. But can she learn to live with the uncertainty of losing him in the line of duty?

Alec Donahue has always wanted to proudly serve his country as a soldier for the United States of America. He’s kept his eyes on the prize until he meets the beautiful and spirited Maggie while on leave. Maggie doesn’t believe in loving someone who might leave her, even though Alec wants to offer her a lifetime as her soul mate. Can Alec make Maggie believe in happily ever after?

A sweet story, I read it in a day because it kept me interested. As a prequel to the Seven Brides Seven Brothers series, it has piqued my interest so it’s on to the first book in the series.

This story lays the groundwork for the Donahue family. It was interesting to see how Maggie and Alec met, how they worked through their struggles, and how they dreamed together for the future.

The characters were well developed and enjoyable. The family dynamics were heartwarming, the romance clean. I look forward to more of this family.

The Silver Shadow (True Colors Book 11) by Liz Tolsma

Fiction Based on Strange, But True, History

True, riveting stories of American criminal activity are explored through a unique stories of historical romantic suspense. Collect them all and be inspired by the hope that always finds its way even in the darkest of times.

Denver of 1900 is still a dangerous place to be following the silver crash of 1893. And of out of the dark comes a shadow intent on harming women. Ambitious young Denver newspaper reporter Polly Blythe is searching for the big story that’s going to launch her career. On Friday evening, August 24, 1900, she gets her break when two women are cracked over the head within a two-minute walk of each other. But policeman Edwin Timmer thwarts Polly’s ideas of a serial criminal. . .until the shadowy figure strikes again. Will the reporter and the policeman team up to find the culprit before he strikes too close for comfort?

Author Liz Tolsma has written another compelling true crime story. (Although it’s number 11 in the series, they are all standalones.) Based on a true crime that happened in 1900, this one was a bit easier for me to read. Although there were many moments of suspense, it wasn’t as gruesome as some others in the series.

Strong characters, both Polly and Edwin were determined in their own ways. I really liked both of them. Tolsma wrote them in such a way that they were life-like as they faced life’s challenges. I found myself often wondering how I would have handled things. The secondary characters were also well written and likeable. Well, a couple of them were foolish but that you have to have characters like that so you have a true representation of life.

Tolsma had so little history to go on that I believe she did a really good job with this “could have been” story. And a clean romance thrown into the mix added good tension to the story. I recommend it!

I received a complimentary copy of this book but was not required to leave a review.

At Lighthouse Point by Suzanne Woods Fisher

Blaine Grayson returns to Three Sisters Island with a grand plan–to take Camp Kicking Moose to the next level. Her dream starts to unravel when she discovers Moose Manor’s kitchen has been badly remodeled by her sister, Cam, who doesn’t know how to cook. Added to that blow is the cold shoulder given by her best friend, Artie Lotosky, now a doctor to the unbridged Maine islands.

As old wounds are opened, Blaine starts to wonder if she made a mistake by coming home. Little by little, she must let go of one dream to discover a new one, opening her heart to a purpose and a future she had never imagined. 

Bestselling author Suzanne Woods Fisher invites you back to the coast of Maine for a story that reminds you to release what doesn’t matter and cling to what does: faith, family, and friendships.

Book three in the Three Sisters Island series, I loved this story. It’s a page turner. So much fun to return to the island and see what’s going on with the Grayson family and Camp Kicking Moose.

While there are many characters in the story, it’s easy to follow each one. I love the characters and the way that the author builds their personalities. They have depth and a realness that makes it enjoyable to read.

So many different life events are happening, along with the emotions but always with hope and love. If you enjoy contemporary Christian fiction I recommend the entire series.

I received a complimentary copy of this book but was not required to leave a review.

Purchase here

The Elnora Monet by Rachel Skatvold

Islanders call him the Elnora Monet.

Is that island speak for “pompous, arrogant jerk?”

When Carly Mulligan volunteered to make house calls on Elnora, she never imagined treating the richest cat on the islands. What other feline has his own wing in a mansion like the Belshaw Estate?

After a wrong turn in the mansion, Carly stumbles across a secret room—one filled with incredible paintings. Perhaps there’s something more to the man than she first thought.

Most people envy Jean-Luc Belshaw’s position. The heir to a lucrative business and family fortune, he should have everything he could dream of.

But Luc dreams of days past. Days when he traveled the world with his wife and painted the breathings of his soul disappeared with Angeline’s passing. Faith and inspiration gone, he wonders if returning to France to take his place in his father’s business is the right thing to do.

Carly has a few relational demons of her own, and she’s reluctant to trust him, but Luc’s paintings draw her in even as his story touches a long-empty place in her heart.

Only God can transform two broken pasts into a work of art.

The Elnora Monet continues the Elnora Island romances of the Independence Islands Series featuring five islands, six authors, and a boatload of happily-ever-afters.

The Independence Islands Series: beach reads aren’t just for summer anymore.

I wasn’t sure what I was expecting with this story, but I really enjoyed it. Author Rachel Skatvold did a good job with this trope of rich guy meets poor working girl. It wasn’t your typical tale, as a female veterinarian meets a poor rich cat that needs some attention. Of course there’s more to it than that but I won’t give it away.

Fun, quirky, bored, melancholy, the main characters run the gamut of emotions on their search toward happiness. A sweet story, if you enjoy contemporary romance I recommend it!

I received a complimentary copy of this book but was not required to leave a review.

Avoiding Marriage by Karin Beery

Two years ago, Jessica Miller made a mess of her already confusing life. Now, she’s back in Boyne Heights, and she’s determined to fix her reputation. She can’t seem to avoid the past that haunts her, but that’s the joy of small-town life—word spreads and people remember. Intent on her mission, however, she faces her past head-on, taking a job with her ex-boyfriend while avoiding her grandmother’s attempts to find her a new one.

I really enjoyed this book! Author Karin Beery writes a story that may seem a bit far fetched at first but it works. Jessica wants to start over. Ashley knows how to help her with that. But Ashley is the wife and Jessica the ex-girlfriend. I love Ashley’s practical and caring side, Jess’s spunk, and “the husband’s” confusion. Throw in a meddling granny and you have a lot of fun.

While Avoiding Marriage is light hearted there is depth to it as some of the characters struggle with life issues. It’s not depressing at all, just has true to life situations..

A quick read, I highly recommend it if you enjoy contemporary novels with light romance. I would recommend reading Practically Married first. It’s also a really good book and introduces us to many of the characters in Avoiding Marriage.

I received a complimentary copy of this book but was not required to leave a review.

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