Book Review: The Crushing Depths

The Crushing Depths – Dani Pettrey – Coastal Guardians #2  Bethany House Publishers – Published 30 June 2020

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Synopsis

When an accident claims the life of an oil-rig worker, Coast Guard Investigators Rissi Dawson and Mason Rogers are flown to the scene thirty-eight miles from shore. Tensions aboard the rig are high, and the death has everyone on edge. Environmental activists are threatening to do whatever it takes to stop the “plague on the environment” from continuing its work. Meanwhile, rumors are circulating on board about an ancient curse lurking in the depths below.

Mounting evidence shows the death might not have been an accident. Was the man killed by one of the activists or, more frighteningly, a member of his own crew? Rissi and Mason have to sort through not only numerous suspects, but also their own haunted pasts and their attraction to each other.

Just as the case seems about to break open, worse news arrives: a tropical storm has turned their way. Now they’re cut off from any rescue–right where the killer wants them.

My thoughts

The Crushing Depths is the second book in the Coastal Guardian series. This series follows a team of Coast Guard Investigators as they seek justice. Action, tension, mystery and romance create a compelling story.

A death on an oil rig seems like an unfortunate accident, but Coast Guard are called to investigate the details of what happened. Investigators Rissi and Mason are flown to the rig, but their helicopter crashes on its way. Both investigators are fortunate to survive and even more determined to find out what is going on. Their investigation leads them to consider the rising tension between the rig crew and a group of environmental protestors and rumours of a curse that has the men on edge.

Book two in this Coastal Guardians series follows Rissi Dawson and Mason Rogers. Rissi and Mason were childhood friends. They both resided in a children’s home, following the breakdown of their own families. They both suffered horrific trauma and abuse in that children’s home. They were each the other’s support system. They were separated and only found each other recently. Working together gives them a chance to reconnect, but it is quickly clear to both of them that their past ties them together and their feelings run far deeper than friendship. Alongside their deepening feelings, both Mason and Rissi must face the hurts of their past. Flashbacks give the reader some insight into the trauma they faced. It gives a solid background to their romance and justifies why their feelings deepen so quickly.

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Book Review: The Heart of a Hero

The Heart of a Hero – Susan May Warren – Global Search and Rescue #2 – Revell – Published 2 June 2020

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Synopsis

Rescuing Aria Sinclair is just what former SEAL Jake Silver needs in order to redeem his past mistakes. Keeping her distance from Jake is what Aria needs to protect her heart. As a hurricane turns paradise into peril, they must save themselves and others in this story of second chances and survival–and the cost of both.

My thoughts

Heart of a Hero is the second book in the Global Search and Rescue series. This book has one disaster after another, as the characters are pushed to their limits (again) and face the truth behind God’s sovereignty, accepting forgiveness and maybe even a romantic future.

We met Aria and Jake in book one of the series as they climbed, fell off and then were rescued off Mt Denali. Now, Aria has been forced to take a vacation by her boss, this time in Florida, and she’s pointedly ignoring what happened between her and Jake. Jake wants nothing more than to chase Aria down and convince her they could be together, but he’s not sure she should want him, especially knowing the secrets and bodies his past hides. When a category 5 hurricane bears down on Florida, Jake jumps on a plane to go and help Aria, but they will have to rescue each other many times over before the storm is done.

I think I’ve said in a review before that I love reading Susan May Warren’s books but I am rather glad I’m not one of her characters. They seem to have to face an endless stream of disasters where everything that could go wrong does. But it doesn’t feel overly dramatised. It kind of feels like real life at the moment. And if anyone could survive a tropical storm and everything that follows, it would be Jake (former SEAL and genuine good guy) and Aria (doctor, trauma and heart specialist). But the events of this book push them both to the edge and they have no choice but to rely on each other and God.

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Book Review: At Love’s Command

At Love’s Command – Karen Witemeyer – Hanger’s Horsemen #1 – Bethany House Publishers – Published 2 June 2020

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Synopsis

Ex-cavalry officer Matthew Hanger leads a band of mercenaries who defend the innocent, but when a rustler’s bullet leaves one of them at death’s door, they seek out help from Dr. Josephine Burkett. When Josephine’s brother is abducted and she is caught in the crossfire, Matthew may have to sacrifice everything–even his team–to save her.

My thoughts

Every time I read a Karen Witemeyer book I am surprised all over again at how much I love her writing style, characters and the romance that just leaps off the page. Either I’ve got a bad memory or every book she writes just gets better and better.

I was a little worried by the first chapter. Would the heroes of the book be made heroic at the expense of Native Americans and a white-washed history? I need not have worried. Horrified by the events and massacre he and his men are commanded to be involved in, Matthew Hanger and his three men leave the cavalry and create Hanger’s Horsemen. They are hired guns, working to arrest criminals and help those needing protection from gangs and bad guys. During one such job, one of Matt’s men is injured and he races to find the nearest doctor. He is surprised to find Dr Jo is actually Dr Josephine Burkett. Josephine is a good doctor and striving to prove that women make excellent health practitioners. When Jo’s brother is taken captive and held for ransom, she turns to Matt and his men for help.

As always, the love story Karen Witemeyer has penned comes to life off the page. It’s romantic, and the chemistry between Josephine and Matt is off the charts. But there is also a shared understanding between them. Even though there isn’t a lot of time for them to connect between pulling bullets out of shoulders and riding after the gang who hold her brother hostage, Josephine and Matt do get some time to share their past hurts, something the other can relate to, and a shared respect for each other. There is also lots of time for kisses, which I am pleased to report.

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Book Review: Carolina Breeze

Carolina Breeze – Denise Hunter – Bluebell Inn Romance #2 – Thomas Nelson – Published 19 May 2020

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Synopsis

Rising Hollywood star Mia Emerson is looking for a safe place to land in the wake of a public breakup and scandal, and she finds it in the lake town of Bluebell, North Carolina—the location of her canceled honeymoon. She wants nothing more than to hide and wait for the tabloids to die down.

Soon after her arrival at the Bluebell Inn, Mia meets Levi Bennett, who runs the inn along with his two younger sisters. Drawn to one another from the start, Mia trusts Levi to keep her location from the press, and Levi confides in Mia about the financial state of the inn—a secret he’s been keeping from his sisters.

When Mia and Levi discover an old journal that hints at a rare diamond necklace hidden in the inn, they set off on a treasure hunt to find the long-lost heirloom. What they don’t expect to surface are feelings they thought were safely locked away. Mia and Levi must decide if falling in love again is too big a risk—or if it will uncover a treasure of its own instead.

My thoughts

Carolina Breeze is another utterly charming book by Denise Hunter. This is the second book in the Bluebird Inn series and I think it is one of my all time favourites of Denise Hunter’s series. Delightful, heartfelt, very romantic, and with just a touch of historical mystery.

Carolina Breeze continues the story of the Bennett siblings. Levi and his two sisters, Molly (who featured in book 1) and Grace are bringing to life their late parents’ dream to restore their home into an inn. But it hasn’t been easy. Their latest guest has the whole inn booked for a honeymoon. But it doesn’t take the three siblings long to discovery Mia Emerson is a Hollywood star and she is hiding out at the Bluebird Inn after her marriage fell through and a colleague dragged her into a scandal that threatens her career. As Levi works to provide Mia with everything she could need during her stay, he is drawn to her hurt and vulnerability. Together, Mia and Levi challenge themselves to find Mia’s ancestor’s long lost diamond necklace, rumoured to be hidden at the Inn. But Levi has so many worries, he’s not sure he can take on more responsibility and Mia’s life is set to catch up with her.

I love the Bennett family. Love how they argue and annoy each other, but also how they are there for each other despite all that. While we got to know Levi a little in Molly’s story, it was very much through her eyes, so it was great to see him through another lens in Carolina Breeze. He is trying so hard to keep the inn afloat and protect his sisters, even if that’s the last thing they want. I thought he might keel over due to a heart attack or something in the novel, he is so stressed. Mia is wonderful for him. She helps him to relax, to enjoy the moments and gives him other things to think about. Levi is equally good for Mia, giving her security and someone to really listen to her.

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Book Review: On A Coastal Breeze

On A Coastal Breeze – Suzanne Woods Fisher – Three Sisters Island #2 – Revell – Published 5 May 2020

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Synopsis

Everything happens for a reason, Maddie Grayson believes. But her motto gets sorely tested when the new minister parachutes into town and offers her a chance to change what happens next.

My thoughts

On A Coastal Breeze returns readers to the Three Sisters Island and the Grayson family. This second book in the series picks up where book one left off and continues the story with a new romance.

Cam and Seth are a couple, but waiting to plan their wedding and tell Cooper the truth about his parentage while Cam buries herself in the writing of grants to fund a power source for the island. Paul, the father of the three girls is unsure he has made the right decision in becoming a camp owner. Blaine has returned home from her first semesters of culinary school, but she is carrying a dark secret. And Maddie has started her own family counselling practice. But just as she gets her first clients, the island is graced with their new pastor and he is no less than the boy who tormented her right the way through kindergarten until she last saw him after senior prom. She is surprised to see him and the way the townspeople rally around him. Maybe he’s changed, but Maddie is sure they share too much history to kindle a friendship or explore what she might have felt for him before he broke her heart.

I loved that this book, this series, while featuring each of the Grayson sisters, really continues the whole family’s story. Maddie is the feature sister of this novel, as is her relationship with Rick, the new pastor. But it’s clear, that despite the way we left Cam and Seth in book one, that they don’t get an automatic happily ever after.

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Book Review: Stay With Me

Stay With Me – Becky Wade – A Misty River Romance #1 – Bethany House Publishers – Published 5 May 2020

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Synopsis

When acclaimed Bible study author Genevieve Woodward receives an anonymous letter referencing her parents’ past, she returns to her hometown in the Blue Ridge Mountains to chase down her family’s secret. However, it’s Genevieve’s own secret that catches up to her when Sam Turner, owner of a historic farm, uncovers the source of shame she’s worked so hard to hide.

Sam has embraced his sorrow, his isolation, and his identity as an outsider. He’s spent years carving out both career success and peace of mind. The last thing he wants is to rent the cottage on his property to a woman whose struggles stir his worst failure back to life. Yet can he bear to turn her away right when she needs him most?

My thoughts

Stay With Me is the first book in a new series by Becky Wade. As always, Becky Wade captures flawed characters in relatable situations and combines that with powerful messages of family, love and faith.

Genevieve is a popular and very successful bible study writer and speaker. But after an accident last year and a stressful schedule and deadlines, she found herself turning to prescription pain medication. When, after setting off for her parents’ house, she wakes to find herself in an empty guest cottage being regarded by the owner with some concern, she decides she finally has to kick her habit and get clean. She asks Sam, owner of the cottage, if she can rent the cottage from him as a place to hide while going through withdrawal and recovery. Sam has his own reasons for wanting to stay far away from the confusing woman he found asleep in his guest house, but he also feels a strong responsibility to help her.

I loved that this book considers a very serious topic of drug addiction. As Genevieve struggles to both admit she has a problem and faces the battle of overcoming her addiction, the very real possibility of how easy it is to fall into a prescription drug problem and the very serious fallouts are considered. But, more than that, the motivations behind Gen’s addiction are also regarded, both with understanding and grace. As a bible study presenter, Gen feels conflict over her addiction, her role as a speaker and her desire to keep everything under wraps.

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Book Review: The Joy of Falling

The Joy of Falling – Lindsay Harrel – Thomas Nelson -Published 14 April 2020

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Synopsis

It has been fifteen months since Eva and Angela lost their thrill-seeking husbands in a scuba diving accident. Both women are trying to navigate their way through the grief, but neither one is making much progress. Angela is barely making ends meet, angry at her husband for leaving her to raise three children on her own. Meanwhile, Eva is stuck, unable to move forward after losing the love of her life and her source of inspiration.

But then Eva gets a life-changing phone call. Before Brent and Wes died, they had signed up for a race of a lifetime—an ultra-marathon in beautiful New Zealand. Eva begs Angela to run the race with her in their husbands’ place, and Angela finally agrees, hoping to finally understand her husband’s choices.

Training is exhausting, and the race is even more demanding. Their journey grows more complicated by the presence of two men—Marc is Brent’s best friend who is running the race with Eva and Angela, and Simon King is a writer who is covering their inspiring story. With every step, Eva and Angela must ask themselves questions that they haven’t had the courage to ask before. As the women literally put one foot in front of the other, they wonder: Is it possible to find their way forward in hope?

My thoughts

In the Joy of Falling, Lindsay Harrel has penned a beautiful story about the many faces of grief and about the journey of continuing to move forward and find joy again in life and relationships. This is equally a story about family as it is about individual growth. It is also a romance story, with two romances. At all times, it remains heartwarming and considerate.

Eva and Angela don’t have much in comment except that they both lost their husbands, brothers, in a scuba diving accident. Now, fifteen months on, Eva still has no creative drive or any desire to return to her work as a florist. She spends her time volunteering at the Heart Center and trying to honour her husband’s memory. Angela has three children and two jobs, so she has no time to mourn the husband she lost, nor much energy to confront the feelings of anger and abandonment she feels about his death. When Eva receives a phone call about an ultra-marathon the two brothers were going to complete with their best-friend, Eva convinces Angela to complete the marathon with her.

Set against the breathtaking backdrop of New Zealand and paced with the training Eva and Angela must complete, this is an easy book to fall into and enjoy. For all its beauty, it’s not hard to pick up on the grief, anger and range of emotions the characters are dealing with as they face the loss of husband, son, father and best-friend. Alongside Eva and Angela are their mother-in-law, Angela’s children and Marc, the brothers’ best friend who joins Eva and Angela in entering the marathon. Each form an important piece of the story. Each are feeling different emotions as they process (or ignore) their grief. This book is honest and doesn’t shy away from the very real emotions the characters are facing. Nor does it prevent this being a happy and heartwarming story.

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Book Review: Silent Shadows

Silent Shadows – Natalie Walters – Harbored Secrets #3 – Revell – Published 31 March 2020

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Synopsis

Pecca Gallegos moved to the tiny town of Walton, Georgia, to protect her son and escape the dangerous lifestyle that once defined her. When a series of strange circumstances evolve into threats, Pecca finds herself confiding in an unlikely ally–her stubborn patient.

Army veteran Colton Crawford is desperate to recover from the undiagnosed disorder that is ruining his life, and his instincts are on high alert when threats against his nurse and her son force him to take action. But Colton’s involvement only ramps up the danger when he uncovers a family secret revealing that whoever is after Pecca is closer–and more deadly–than they realized.

My thoughts

Silent Shadows is the third book in the Harbored Secrets series. While the books do have a few character crossovers, each of the three books can be read as complete stories in and of themselves. Silent Shadows is a thrilling tale about mistakes, gangs, wounded military heroes, and, of course, delicious romance.

Pecca would do anything to protect her son. Maceo has already faced so many challenges in his life, so she is determined to protect him from the gang violence of his father’s world. Pecca thought she was pretty safe in the small town of Walton, working as a nurse in the Home for Heroes, but when a serious of threats continue to target her and Maceo, she will need to rely on her newest patient, Colton, an Army Captain suffering from a muscle disorder, to keep them safe. But their physically safety might come at the risk of Pecca’s heart and dreams of the future.

There are some wonderful elements to this book. I particularly enjoyed young Maceo who dreams of being like the other kids and being able to play football, despite his prosthetic leg. He idolises Colton, who does such a wonderful job of encouraging Maceo and helping him to see himself for his full worth and not the bits he lacks. This book has a wonderful family vibe, from little kids football games, and after school play dates and all the troubles of kids in school.

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Book Review: Before I Called You Mine

Before I Called You Mine – Nicole Deese – Bethany House Publishers – Published 31 March 2020

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Synopsis

Lauren Bailey may be a romantic at heart, but after a decade of matchmaking schemes gone wrong, there’s only one match she’s committed to now–the one that will make her a mother. Lauren is a dedicated first grade teacher in Idaho, and her love for children has led her to the path of international adoption. To satisfy her adoption agency’s requirements, she gladly agreed to remain single for the foreseeable future; however, just as her long wait comes to an end, Lauren is blindsided by a complication she never saw coming: Joshua Avery.

Joshua may be a substitute teacher by day, but Lauren finds his passion for creating educational technology as fascinating as his antics in the classroom. Though she does her best to downplay the undeniable connection between them, his relentless pursuit of her heart puts her commitment to stay unattached to the test and causes her once-firm conviction to waver.

With an impossible decision looming, Lauren might very well find herself choosing between the two deepest desires of her heart . . . even if saying yes to one means letting go of the other.

My thoughts

What a heartwarming story about international adoption and God’s timing. Before I Called You Mine will delight and entrance Christian romance readers. It’s a thoroughly enjoyable book that is at times uplifting as it is bittersweet.

Lauren longs to be a mother. She has been waiting for her international adoption application to go through for over a year. She has closed the door on dating and marriage, knowing she must remain single for her adoption options to be finalised. But just when a possible adoption match finally appears, she meets Joshua – a substitute teacher at her school, a tech whiz and son of the man who started her teaching career. He is funny, kind and she can’t help but be drawn to him. But if she follows her heart with Joshua, she will loose her chance to adopt a child who needs her.

This book it utterly beautiful. It is bittersweet. Just when one of Lauren’s greatest desires seems set to come true the other is taken from her. There is no right answer and we readers are easily drawn into Lauren’s dilemma.

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Book Review: The Happy Camper

The Happy Camper – Melody Carlson – Revell – Published 3 March 2020

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Synopsis

Home is the place to heal, right? At least, that’s what Dillon Michaels is hoping as she leaves her disappointing career and nonstarter love life behind to help her grieving and aging grandfather on his small Oregon farm. The only problem? Her eccentric mother beat her there and has taken over Dillon’s old room. After a few nights sleeping on a sagging sofa, Dillon is ready to give up, until she receives an unlikely gift–her grandfather’s run-down vintage camp trailer, which she quickly resolves to restore with the help of Jordan Atwood, the handsome owner of the local hardware store.

But just when things are finally beginning to run smoothly, Dillon’s noncommittal ex-boyfriend shows up with roses . . . and a ring.

My thoughts

This is the second book I have read by Melody Carlson and I have now decided that her writing style is just not for me. As such, this review – as always – is an honest breakdown of my response to the book, but I realise that many people who do enjoy Carlson’s writing won’t find fault with the same issues I did. If this sort of thing is your style, then I am sure will enjoy what is a simple story of coming home, and falling in love.

Dillon leaves her boyfriend and her job on the same day. She is tired of hanging around waiting for Brandon to make her his number one priority and tired of catering to the whims of her boss. A phone call from her mother inspires her to return home to her grandfather’s farm. She doesn’t expect her eccentric mother to be there, and is a little upset when she is relegated to the lumpy couch. When her grandfather gives Dillon a run-down vintage camper trailer, Dillon puts her efforts into restoring it, and quite enjoys visiting the local hardware store to see the handsome, maybe-available owner, Jordan. When her boyfriend arrives in town begging for her to give him another chance, Dillon will have to choose between her old life and her new one.

The Happy Campers is a sweet and simple story. I enjoyed the parts where Dillon throws herself into renovating her camper van. She enjoys discovering new techniques, quite a bit of retail therapy and putting the finishing touches on her new home. Everything comes easy to her and for her (except maybe backing the van itself), so this part of the story doesn’t present any complications for the story.

I also really liked Dillon’s grandfather. He is a hard worker, very kind and understanding to both Dillon and her mother and has plenty of wisdom and all the right answers to share. Dillon is lucky to have his support.

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