Tuesday, October 30, 2012

The Seeker

by Ann Gabhart

Revell Publishers

Charlotte Vance is a southern belle that has everything she ever wanted. Money, position, a beautiful plantation full of servants, and a fiance that fulfills all her dreams. But that loving fiance lets her down when instead of marrying her, he joins the Shaker community. As if that wasn't bad enough, her politician father brings home a wife young enough to be Charlotte's sister, and that is more than she can bear. Frustrated by how her life is spinning out of control, she follows her fiance to the Shaker village to try to win him back. With the Civil War at it's beginning, Charlotte feels she is safe at Harmony Hill with the strange Shakers. But when a newspaper artist's correspondence keep her from fully committing to the Believers' way, she is torn between the safety and peace of "hands to work" and "hearts to God". Will she ever find her way?

The Civil War background of this story is a hard one to cover. So much can be said for the battles fought brother against brother, yet Gabhart condenses everything perfectly to get the main story across to us. It is the perfect blend of story line, characters, morality, and the natural curiosity that arrests us all in a life we do not know and may never understand. While the United Society of Believers in Christ's Second Appearing seem to be strange to us, they are a real people from the past. The recognition they receive in this Shaker series by Gabhart (despite the allowances she gave for the sake of fiction novels) is a tribute to the people that once were right here in our nation's history.

Friday, October 26, 2012

The Believer

by Ann Gabhart

Revell Publishers

Elizabeth Duncan has run out of options. With her last living parent gone, two siblings to care for, and no where to live, she turns to the last hope that remains. Remembering the Shaker village in the next county that her father told them stories about, she packs up her brother and sister and presents herself and siblings at Harmony Hill. Despite the strange beliefs that swirl around them, she is relieved that the Shakers provide a roof over their heads in exchange for the labor of their hands. Even though they are provided for, Elizabeth finds herself attracted to a young Believer named Ethan. He is beginning to see her as more than a sister, and Elizabeth fears she will be asked to leave the village in order to keep him from sin. Will she be able to leave her siblings behind forever? Or will Ethan bring himself to acknowledge the love growing in his heart?

This was quite the tender love story, despite the oxymoron of a Shaker romance. Ethan was quite naive to anything and everything in the world, but curious, just like every normal child who knows nothing of the outside. Having grown up in the Shaker village keeps him from experiencing life as he should have, and he is very childlike even as a young adult. A good story line and an entertaining plot. I enjoyed everything about this book, and I really fell in love with all of the well written characters. I give it six stars.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

The Outsider

by Ann Gabhart

Revell Publishers

Since she can remember, Gabrielle Hope has had the unique ability to see visions that warn of things to come. So when she and her mother, Martha join the Shaker community on Harmony Hill in 1807, her visions are embraced as a gift from Mother Ann. But when her gift enables her to see an event that comes to pass, a doctor must be brought from the outside world to the one where the Believers strive to be separate in order to save a life. Suddenly, everything Gabrielle knows to be good, pure, and true is in question. Will she be able to turn her back on her brothers and sisters that she has found in the Shakers, or will the pull of the world tear her from the peace and celibacy she has promised to live?

This was quite the contradiction in a novel; a Shaker romance? Oh, but it is. In this unique, strange world the members of the community take a vow of celibacy, which clearly means that no children are ever born into the faith. Living a simple life of peace and harmony, using their hands for work, and giving their hearts to God is the foundation of the way they live. Despite the strangeness of these "shaking Quakers", Gabhart weaves a story unlike any other. You will be captivated by every emotion and situation the characters find themselves in, and spellbound by every word as I was. I highly recommend you buy the whole series, because having to wait for the next book is going to be impossible.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Missing Mabel

by Nancy Mehl

Barbour Publishing

The funeral home Hilde Higgins works for as a hairdresser is not in the habit of switching or loosing bodies. But when that's exactly what happens, Hilde promptly confronts the funeral home director and is accused of stealing the personal property of the deceased. Desperate to save her reputation and solve the mystery of the missing Mabel, she embarks on a journey to find the truth. Will an old beau be able to help her save her career? Or will the doer slip through the cracks?

This book was enjoyable from the very first page. Hilde has an unfortunate name, and the worst of luck when it comes to life - and love. Between her struggle with her interest in Adam, the "crazy" old man she tries to befriend, the strange happenings at the boardinghouse where she lives, and the chain of events that plague the funeral home, Hilde has her work cut out for her. It was a captivating mystery that kept me turning pages despite the predictable outcome.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Nipped in the Bud

by Susan Sleeman

Barbour Publishers

Paige Turner is a landscaper that is thrilled to land a contract fixing up the park for the upcoming Pickle Fest in Serendipity, Oregon. But when she finds the mayor dead in a pile of her mulch in the park, she becomes the primary suspect in his murder. Her friends hire lawyer Adam Hayes to keep her out of jail and aid her in solving the case before it's too late. With no alibi, Paige sees no way out out except to find the killer herself. Is it the pharmacist who has something to hide about their former mayor? Or is it the librarian with a secret in her past? Or does the wife have any reason to make herself a widow?

This mystery was quite the amusing one, what with the name of Paige Turner and the Pickle Festival. I was quite bemused with the opening paragraph in each chapter, and the news station Paige gives gardening advice on is always getting the strangest callers. At first, I couldn't seem to get into the story. The beginning paragraphs confused me more than interested me, and the story felt as if it was moving slow as molasses. But somewhere before the half-way mark, it finally captured my attention and kept me all the way to the end. A good read, and a good mystery.  

Thursday, October 18, 2012

The Camera Never Lies

by Elizabeth Goddard

Barbour Publishers

Polly Perkins is a photographer with a bad habit of hiding behind her camera and living life through it's optical image. Invited by her best friend, Rene, to the Oregon coast to photograph her long-awaited wedding; Polly finds herself tracking down a murderer instead when a body falls out of her mother's closet. Desperately seeking to absolve her mother of any guilt in the murder, she takes pictures to help solve the murder. Will Polly find the truth in time? Or will all the preparations for the wedding and searching for clues keep her from finding the killer before someone else gets hurt?

This novel in particular was indeed somewhat of a mystery for me, because there were enough suspects to keep me guessing the whole time. It was a fun ride, and I have to admit it was a very enjoyable read. I enjoyed the usual array of colorful characters that we've been getting from this lighthearted mystery series, and somehow I keep getting attached to the people I "meet" in these novels. A great read for a lazy Sunday afternoon between church services.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

May Cooler Heads Prevail

by Teri Dunnegan

Barbour Publishing

Dixie Tanner is from the little town of Kenna Springs, and as a psychologist, she takes pride in knowing she's made a name and good life for herself. That is, until her uncle gives her a call. Recruiting Dixie by taking her shocked silence as acceptance, her uncle talks her into coming home to help solve a murder. Reluctantly, she agrees to help absolve her aunt Connie of murdering her ex-fiance from forty years ago. But when she arrives she finds her relatives have taken things into their own hands. Will they find the murderer before the sheriff finds out what they are all up to? Or will the killer come for anyone who discovers the truth?

The characters in this book are not only charming and endearing, they are hilarious in every sort of way one can possibly imagine. I couldn't help but fall in love with the Tanner family, even in the short time I got to "know" them. While I dearly wish we could all read more books by this author, she has passed from this world to the next. This will, and shall remain, my favorite mystery novel that has just the right touch of everything.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

The Perfect Match

by Janice Hanna

Barbour Publishing

Annie Peterson is the average nosy town sleuth when the local matchmaker's building goes up in flames. Naturally, she can't stay out of it, so she begins a hunt to find the arsonist. Is Opal, the elderly widow that runs the service the culprit? Is it the disgruntled newspaper editor that married his "unfortunate match"? Is it the investigator that her son is seemingly enamored of? Or perhaps a client that has never found her perfect match? Will Annie and her friends find the arsonist before another fire breaks out and her son falls in love with the wrong woman?

This was a humorous mystery with all the right elements in it to make it fun and interesting. Annie kept me laughing with all her shenanigans, as well as her best friend, Shelia, who endeavored to be a sleuth like Annie. The best element of the story is reading about Annie's misadventures when she opens up her home to a menagerie of animals and the resulting disasters that happen as a result. A fun mystery that actually kept me guessing.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Through Every Storm

by Sharlene MacLaren

Whitaker House Publishers

Jeff and Maddie Bowman have lost the one thing they loved the most and held dear in this mortal life - their child. It seems as if all is lost to them; their life, their marriage, and their hope. Estranged from the guilt they harbor over Emma's death, and punishing themselves for the past, they are headed to a divorce faster than a crashing airplane. When it seems as everything is lost, a precocious boy enters their life. Will Jeff and Maddie be able to restore what is lost to them? Or did Emma's death forever cripple their ability to love again?

I was quite sad that I read this book so quickly. The characters became endearing even in so short a time, and little Timmy was definitely my favorite. The crisis this couple went through wasn't easy, and even though I hoped it would work out in the end, I couldn't help but hold my breath as the story unfolded. There were moments of tension, of joy, of pain, of tenderness, of sorrow, and so many emotions all rolled into one. A highly recommended book even if you cannot personally relate to the subject matter. I promise you're going to love it.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Courting Emma

by Sharlene MacLaren

Whitaker House Publishers

Emma Browning is the owner of the only boardinghouse in Little Hickman Creek, Kentucky, and has been the proprietor for ten years. She plays housekeeper to several rowdy, uncouth characters, but lets no one past the tough exterior of a hardened facade. After enduring years of endless abuse from her father, Ezra she has been careful to ward off anyone and anything that tries to get past the impenetrable armor that stands guard of her heart. Will she ever let anyone in?

A new boarder shows up at her door in the form of the preacher, Jonathan Atkins. Will she be able to see past what she believes is his ministerial obligations and believe someone can love her? Or will Ezra's abuse forever scar her from being able to love?

This story was a first for me on the subject matter of child abuse. The setting in a prairie town in Kentucky just made me more willing to crack this book open and give it a go. One thing I'd like to note about this last book in the Little Hickman Creek Trilogy is that the characters are breathed life and seeped in realism because of their pasts. Reality dictates that everyone has a past - and more often than not, it is not a bed of roses. MacLaren brings this truth to fruition in this novel, and it is masterfully done. I even learned a thing or two....but then you'll just have to read the book.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Sarah, My Beloved

by Sharlene MacLaren

Whitaker House Publishers

Sarah comes to Hickman Creek to be a mail-order bride, but when she arrives, Ben Broughton informs her he is in love with another, and offers to pay her way back to Boston. But Sarah refuses, insisting she was sent to Kentucky from God, for a purpose. Determined to overcome the obstacles that repeatedly present themselves, she puts her best foot forward and waits for God to direct her steps. She doesn't have long to wait.

Rocky Callahan was married once, with a fine son, but for reasons he doesn't care to understand, they were taken away. As if that weren't enough, his widowed sister dies, leaving behind two children that have no where else to go. Though unwillingly, Rocky takes the children in, disgruntled with his responsibility from the first day they arrived on the stage with the mail-order bride, Sarah. Drowning in self pity and despair, Rocky asks Sarah for a marriage of convenience, simply wanting a help for his dire straights. Sarah accepts, wanting to accept the will of God even when she cannot even begin to understand. Will their marriage in "name only" remain just that? Or will Sarah's unending faith and constant devotion win Rocky's hard heart and restore his faith in the Father?

So far, this is my favorite book in the Little Hickman Creek series. Sarah shows remarkable devotion to a man and family she owes nothing to, and quickly assimilates to the hard life of living in the country. As a refined, pampered city girl, I was surprised how she took to it like duck to water, with nary a complaint. Even though Rocky has become cynical and depressed, Sarah has a way of touching even the hardest person with her love and trust in God. I admire how MacLaren puts forth characters that are so easy to love, and very hard to forget.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Loving Liza Jane

by Sharlene MacLaren

Whitaker House Publishers

Eliza Jane Merriwether is excited about her new job as a schoolteacher in Little Hickman Creek, Kentucky. But when she first rides into the tiny, dirty town, she can't help but second guess her decision to relocate. Firmly believing that God wants her there, the little firecracker warms the heart of even the hardest citizen.

Benjamin Broughton is a widower raising two daughters alone, and not doing so well at it, to his thinking. He feels he's failing at raising his girls, and the thought that if he only had a wife to help him comes to mind daily. When the new schoolteacher moves in to his grandfather's house on his property, he keeps an eye on her - simply being a good neighbor. But when his feelings for her become more than neighborly, will the mail order bride he ordered take obligatory precedence in his emotions, or will Liza be the future Mrs. Broughton?

Liza showed remarkable gumption when she learned the town ran off three teachers in as many years, but she stuck to her guns, and her faith even when it seemed like coming, (and staying) seemed like the worst decision possible. The characters really stick with you, and makes you want to know more about each one of them. A very interesting story that kept my interest from the first page. 

Friday, October 5, 2012

Finally a Bride

by Vickie McDonough

Barbour Publishing

Carly Payton returns to Lookout, Texas after being gone for a decade. In prison for much of that time, she is a changed woman that knows she is forgiven. Garrett Corbett is still single after all that time, and he is seeking an upstanding, virtuous woman for a wife. Knowing what he wants, yet attracted to Carly even before he realized who she was, he struggles to forgive her past. Will they be able to admit their growing interest in each other, or will Carly's ex-con past be the stumbling block that keeps them apart forever?

Jacqueline "Jack" Davis is all grown up, and not the slightest interested in men. Determined to make her name as a reporter, she will do anything to get the breaking news. When the temporary preacher, Noah Jeffers, rides in town, she can't help but feel she's known him all her life. Struggling her growing interest in Noah, and her decision to be a reporter in Dallas; she is completely unprepared when his biggest secret may come too late in time to save her heart from falling in love with him. Will the truth set Noah free, or has his biggest shame and secret become his undoing?

This is definitely my favorite book in the Texas Boardinghouse Trilogy. Jack is always sticking her nose where it doesn't belong, and Noah is forever trying to redeem himself for his unsavory past. The chemistry between Noah and Jack is undeniable, and it was a breathless experience reading how their story unfolded. Garrett was just about as stubborn as I expected, but of course, his end was completely predictable. It was an exciting, yet thought-provoking journey and there is not a dull moment within these pages.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Second Chance Brides

by Vickie McDonough

Barbour Publishing

Leah Bennett and Shannon O'Neil are stuck in Lookout, Texas with neither husbands or a place to call home. Ordered completely by accident by the two Corbett brothers trying to find a mail-order bride for their cousin and marshal, Luke Davis, the rascally brothers are ordered to pay the girls' room and board.

After the Corbett brothers host a social for young folks in the surrounding counties, the leftover brides have a daunting challenge ahead. Leah meets someone she could very well fall in love with. But will Dan's unexpected surprise following his brother's death be too much for her to handle?

Shannon is employed to keep the books by the Corbett brothers, being much too stubborn to live off of their forced generosity. But Mark Corbett is a hard man to work for, and she a shy, timid woman. Will Mark ever find happiness after his tainted past? Or will his attempts at protecting Shannon and his reputation ruin any chance the two of them have to be together?

As usual, Mark and Garrett come up with what they think is a solution to their problems - this time in the form of a young people's social. Thinking that the social will marry off the two girls and effectively getting then off their hands, they royally mess things up - again. No matter how much of a headache these two are, I have to admit that they are some very epic brothers. I love every shenanigan they pull, and the results are more entertaining than I might want to admit. If you want a story that will beg to be read again and again, then Second Chance Brides is for you .

Monday, October 1, 2012

The Anonymous Bride

by Vickie McDonough

Barbour Publishing

When Luke Davis returns as the marshal to his hometown of Lookout, Texas, he is taken completely by surprise by what he finds. Rachel Hamilton, almost his bride over a decade ago, is now a widow, with a spirited, spunky ten year old daughter, Jack. Luke refuses to forgive Rachel for her marriage to his friend James, and he makes the mistake of telling his cousins that he might marry if the right woman came along. Trying to help him out, his cousins order a trio of mail order brides to give him some variety to pick a wife from.

After a string of unfortunate mishaps and misunderstandings, Luke is finally ready to pick a wife. Will he be able to put the hurts of his past with Rachel aside and forgive her - or will one of the three mail order brides be "the one" for him?

I went to great lengths to get my hand on this book; despite it's recent publication date it went out of print a couple months ago. It was completely worth every penny I spent. This book was everything I'd hoped it would be, and more. The story line was engaging, and I enjoyed every character - even the bad ones. The time and the place was key to the charm of the story, but the best part of the plot was just reading every detail as it unfolded. I will be re-reading this book many times in the coming years.


by Mel Odum

Tyndale House Publishers

Sergeant Lance Corporal Bekah Shaw is a dedicated mother and reservist Marine, trying to make a better life for herself and her son, Travis. When her team is activated to Somalia, she leaves her son behind to put everything she holds dear on the line for the sake of her country.

Rageh Daud has lost everybody and everything that means anything to him. Seeking revenge for the deaths of his family, Daud sweeps the desert killing anyone who stands in his way. Against his instincts, he becomes attached to an orphan boy that reminds him of his son. And when the boy's safety crosses the American military's path, both sides come together to do the unthinkable to achieve their mission.

Mel Odum takes us to the hot country of Somalia, where the day to day lives of our military becomes a reality. You can see the world through their eyes and feel everything they feel. You root for each one to succeed, even though they are constantly at odds. This book is full of action, a well written plot, with original, interesting characters that kept me turning pages. I thoroughly enjoyed this book, and will recommend it to everyone I know.

A copy of this book was provided by Tyndale House Publishers for free in exchange for an honest review.