Book Review: Driftwood Bay

Driftwood Bay – Irene Hannon- Hope Harbor #5 – Revell – Published 2 April 2019

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Synopsis

After tragedy upends her world, Jeannette Mason retreats to the tiny Oregon seaside town of Hope Harbor to create a new life. Vowing to avoid emotional attachments, she focuses on running her lavender farm and tea-room–until a new neighbor with a destructive dog and a forlorn little girl invades her turf. But she needn’t worry. Dr. Logan West is too busy coping with an unexpected family, a radical lifestyle change, and an unruly pup to have any interest in his aloof and disagreeable neighbor.

Yet when both Jeanette and Logan find themselves pulled into the life of a tattered Christian family fleeing persecution in war-torn Syria, might they discover that love sometimes comes calling when it’s least expected?

My thoughts

Driftwood Bay returns readers to Hope Harbor, where faith and romance, friendship and community come together to give hope and new beginnings.

Jeanette likes the privacy her little lavender farm and tea rooms in Hope Harbor give her. She is good at shutting out the world and she likes it that way. When Logan West and his niece, along with their boisterous beagle, move next door they, along with the new refugee family in town, threaten the walls Jeanette has built around her heart. Will she let them in and risk her heart again, or will fear keep her from the chance of love and new friends.

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Book Review: The Unexpected Champion

The Unexpected Champion – Mary Connealy – High Sierra Sweethearts #3 – Bethany House – Published 5 March 2019

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Synopsis

City dweller John McCall never expected to be out in the High Sierras of 1868 on a wild-goose chase to find the Chiltons’ supposedly lost grandson. But now that he’s out here, things have gotten even more complicated, mostly due to wildcat Penny Scott. She’s not like any woman he’s ever met–comfortable in the woods, with a horse, and with a gun.

When Penny and John are taken against their will by a shadowy figure looking for evidence they don’t have, both realize they’ve stumbled into something dangerous and complicated. With their friends and family desperately searching for them, Penny and John must make a daring escape.

When they emerge back into the real world, they are confronted with a kidnapper who just won’t stop. They must bring a powerful, ruthless man to justice, even as this city man and country woman fight a very inconvenient attraction to each other.

My thoughts

The Unexpected Champion is the third book in the High Sierra Sweethearts series and it concludes this trilogy with fast-paced action, mystery, kidnapping, wilderness survival, sleuthing, disguises and -of course- romance.

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Book Review: Daughters of Northern Shores

Daughters of Northern Shores – Joanne Bischof – Blackbird Mountain #2 – Thomas Nelson – Published 12 March 2019

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Synopsis

Aven Norgaard understands courage. Orphaned within an Irish workhouse, then widowed at just nineteen, she voyaged to America where she was wooed and wed by Thor Norgaard, a Deaf man in rural Appalachia. That the Lord saw her along the winding journey and that Aven now carries Thor’s child are blessings beyond measure. Yet while Thor holds her heart, it is his younger brother and rival who haunts her memories. Haakon—whose selfish choices shattered her trust in him.

Having fled the farm after trying to take Aven as his own, Haakon sails on the North Atlantic ice trade where his soul is plagued with regrets that distance cannot heal. Not even the beautiful Norwegian woman he’s pursued can ease the torment. When the winds bear him home after four years away, Haakon finds the family on the brink of tragedy. A decades-old feud with the neighboring farm has wrenched them into the fiercest confrontation on Blackbird Mountain since the Civil War. Haakon’s cunning and strength hold the power to seal many fates, including Thor’s which is already at stake through a grave illness brought to him as the first prick of warfare.

Now Haakon faces the hardest choice of his life. One that shapes a battlefield where pride must be broken enough to be restored, and where a prodigal son may finally know the healing peace of surrender and the boundless gift of forgiveness. And when it comes to the woman he left behind in Norway, he just might discover that while his heart belongs to a daughter of the north, she’s been awaiting him on shores more distant than the land he’s fighting for.

My thoughts

It was such a pleasure to return to the Norgaard family in Daughters of Northern Shores, the second book of the Sons of Blackbird Mountain series. I fell in love with Thor, Haakon and Jorgan, their close friends and the women they love in that first book. My heart had also broken a little with the tearing of both friendship, trust and brotherly bonds, so it was with relief that I could continue this wonderful story, return to this little group – some now married, others with children and more on the way – and all with healing, justice and a future to live out.

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Book Review: Searching For You

Searching For You – Jody Hedlund – Orphan Train #3 – Bethany House Publishers – 4 December 2018

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Synopsis

Despite years on the run, Sophie Neumann is determined to care for two young children. She won’t abandon them the way she thinks her older sisters abandoned her. But times are growing desperate, and when she falls in with the wrong crowd and witnesses a crime, she realizes fleeing 1850s New York is her only option.

Disappearing with her two young charges into a group of orphans heading west by train, Sophie hopes to find safety and a happy life. When the train stops in Illinois for the first placement of orphans, Sophie faces the most difficult choice of her life.

Reinhold Weiss has finally purchased his own small farm. With mounting debts, a harvest to bring in, and past scars that haunt him, he’s in no position to give his heart away . . . but can he say no when his long-lost friend shows up on a nearby train pleading for his help?

My thoughts

Searching For You is the third book in the delightful Orphan Train series. This historical Christian series is absolutely delightful, combing heartfelt stories of challenges overcome with the love and bond of sisters, as well as amazing (swoon-worthy) romance.

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Book Review: Together Forever

Together Forever – Jody Hedlund – Orphan Train #2 – Bethany House Publishers – Published 1 May 2018

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Synopsis

Determined to find her lost younger sister, Marianne Neumann takes a job as a placing agent with the Children’s Aid Society in 1858 New York. She not only hopes to offer children a better life, but prays she’ll be able to discover whether Sophie ended up leaving the city on an orphan train so they can finally be reunited.

Andrew Brady, her fellow agent on her first placing-out trip, is a former schoolteacher who has an easy way with children, firm but tender and friendly. Underneath his charm and handsome looks, though, seems to linger a grief that won’t go away–and a secret from his past that he keeps hidden.

As the two team up, placing orphans in the small railroad towns of Illinois, they find themselves growing ever closer . . . until a shocking tragedy threatens to upend all their work and change one of their lives forever.

My thoughts

Together Forever is the second book in the Orphan Train series. It picks up where book one left off, but this time telling the story of the second-eldest Neumann sister, Marianne. Marianne grieves the loss of her younger sister, who ran away. Marianne blames herself and is determined to do everything she can to find Sophie. Marianne joins the Children’s Aid Society as a placing agent on the Orphan trains, hoping to use their records to find Sophie. On her first journey, Marianne is drawn to her fellow agent, outgoing and charming Drew Brady. But with a romance forbidden between agents and with each of them with a past that is holding them captive, any future between them seems unlikely.

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Book Review: With You Always

With You Always – Jody Hedlund – Orphan Train #1 – Bethany House – Published 6 June 2017

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Synopsis

One of the many immigrants struggling to survive in 1850s New York, Elise Neumann knows she must take action to care for her younger sisters. She finds a glimmer of hope when the New York Children’s Aid Society starts sending skilled workers to burgeoning towns out west. But the promise of the society’s orphan trains is not all that it seems.

Born into elite New York society, Thornton Quincy possesses everything except the ability to step out from his brother’s shadow. When their ailing father puts forth a unique challenge to determine who will inherit his railroad-building empire, Thornton finally sees his chance. The conditions to win? Be the first to build a sustainable community along the Illinois Central Railroad and find a suitable wife.

Thrown together against all odds, Elise and Thornton couldn’t be from more different worlds. The spark that ignites between them is undeniable, but how can they let it grow when that means forfeiting everything they’ve been working toward?

My thoughts

I was fortunate to have the opportunity to read all three books in the Orphan Train series all together (one benefit of waiting for an entire series to be published before starting book one). And I am so glad that I could, because as soon as I started the first book in the series I knew I wanted more of this charming family facing such difficulties. More of swoon-worthy romance. More challenges overcome through faith, love and community. As soon as I finished each book I eagerly picked up the next. While each of the three titles in the Orphan Train series could be read as a standalone, I believe that it is much better to read them as a series, better to understand the depth of each of the characters, their relationships and their journeys, separate at times and yet each interconnected.

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Book Review: All Made Up

All Made Up – Kara Isaac – Bellbird Press – Published 28 September 2018

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Synopsis

Everyone thinks Katriona McLeod is living the dream. Her professional career as a make up artist sees her traveling the world working with the stars and she’s got no shortage of men wanting her affection. Only problem is she’s never gotten over Caleb Murphy, the one guy she’s ever loved. When she accepts a job on the latest looking-for-love reality TV show, Falling for the Farmer, she discovers to her horror that Caleb is the leading man and she’s cast as one of his harem. But she hides a secret that means that even if she wanted a second chance with the guy who broke her heart she could never have it.

Caleb Murphy couldn’t care less about C-Class celebrity fame or reality TV and he certainly doesn’t believe it could lead him to love. The one thing he does care about is fulfilling his mother’s last wish. Kat’s presence on the show seems to offer up a solution that will make both the network and his mother happy. It might have been almost ten years since they split but he knows he can trust her with his plan. Just as long as he doesn’t fall in love all over again with the woman who will never stay.

My thoughts

I wasn’t sure about reading this book. On one hand I absolutely love Kara Isaac’s books and writing style, so I knew I was sure to love this book. But on the other hand the premise was centred around a finding love reality tv show. No shame to people who like those shows but they are really not my thing. So, with a little trepidation I started All Made Up. And I’m so glad I did. I was captured from the very first page. I have loved Kat since she first appeared in Isaac’s debut Close To You. Strong and determined, Kat is simply lots of fun to be around. But in All Made Up we finally learn that there is so much more to her, so much more to her story, so much heartache. I loved this chance to get to know her and for her to finally get a chance to tell her story and, hopefully, get a happy ending. And that reality TV setting? Well, when your two main characters are reluctant participants, a lot of fun is made at the expense of the other contestants and the drama of the show itself, and there is an endless reel of mishaps and hilarity, the show and the situation it puts Kat and Caleb in is just another facet of All Made Up that is so fantastic and loveable.

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Book Review: The Secrets of Paper and Ink

The Secrets of Paper and Ink – Lindsay Harrel – Thomas Nelson – Published 26 February 2019

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Synopsis

A year after the death of her abusive fiancé, domestic violence counselor Sophia Barrett finds returning to work too painful. She escapes to Cornwall, England–a place she’s learned to love through the words of her favorite author–and finds a place to stay with the requirement that she help out in the bookstore underneath the room she’s renting. Given her love of all things literary, it seems like the perfect place to find peace.

Ginny Rose is an American living in Cornwall, sure that if she saves the bookstore she co-owns with her husband then she can save her marriage as well. Fighting to keep the first place she feels like she belongs, she brainstorms with her brother-in-law, William, and Sophia to try to keep the charming bookstore afloat.

Two hundred years before, governess Emily Fairfax knew two things for certain: she wanted to be a published author, and she was in love with her childhood best friend. But he was a wealthy heir and well out of her league. Sophia discovers Emily’s journals, and she and William embark on a mission to find out more about this mysterious and determined woman, all the while getting closer to each other as they get closer to the truth.

My thoughts

The Secrets of Paper and Ink is a charming story, combing the stories of three very strong women as they face the challenges of love, family, heartbreak, and following their dreams.

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Book Review: One Thing I Know

One Thing I Know – Kara Isaac – Howard Books – Published 12 February 2019

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Synopsis

Rachel Somers is America’s #1 relationship coach—America just doesn’t know it. Rachel writes the books, but her Aunt Donna plays the face of the operation. Afraid of their secret being exposed, Rachel has no choice but to keep up the charade or lose the big money required to care for her father.

Lucas Grant is a star of late night radio and set on achieving his dream of syndication. When a big-time producer calls, it looks like his hard work is about to pay off. But the offer comes with a catch—the producer is convinced Dr. Donna is not what she seems and he wants Lucas to discover her secret. To do that, he needs to win over her tight-lipped assistant who holds the key to his success and—he begins to suspect—his heart. Can love find a way through the lies that force them apart?

My thoughts

In One Thing I Know author Kara Isaac once again combines flawed, realistic and loveable character with seamless writing, humour, friendship and messages of faith, hope and forgiveness. I found One Thing I Know to be utterly delightful and a pleasure to read.

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Book Review: Never Let Go

Never Let Go – Elizabeth Goddard – Uncommon Justice #1 – Revell – Published 5 February 2019

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Synopsis

As a forensic genealogist, Willow Anderson is following in her late grandfather’s footsteps in her quest for answers about a baby abducted from the hospital more than twenty years ago. The case may be cold, but things are about to heat up when someone makes an attempt on her life to keep her from discovering the truth.

Ex-FBI agent–and Willow’s ex-flame–Austin McKade readily offers his help to protect the woman he never should have let get away. Together they’ll follow where the clues lead them, even if it means Austin must face the past he’s spent much of his life trying to forget. And even if it puts Willow’s tender heart at risk.

My thoughts

Never Let Go is the first book in a new inspirational suspense series by new-to-me author Elizabeth Goddard. While the synopsis for Never Let Go was intriguing and the prologue had me hooked, I sadly lost interest in this story as it progressed. Introspection heavy, the characters spend a lot of time thinking and then rethinking things, making it hard for me to stay focused on the story. While I am sure some readers will love this book with its mix of tension, second-chance love story, and complex mystery, it wasn’t a book that held my attention.

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