Book Review: My Unexpected Hope

My Unexpected Hope – Tammy L. Gray – Waterfall Press – Published 23 June 2017

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Synopsis

After a year of grieving her divorce and living a life permanently stuck on pause, Laila Richardson is finally ready to have her own happy ending. Then a listing for a quaint cottage in another town answers her prayers for a fresh beginning—one that will bring her closer to her new boyfriend, Ben. Unfortunately, in her small town of Fairfield, Georgia, letting go of the past is virtually impossible. No one wants to see her move on, including the man who destroyed her heart to begin with.

Chad Richardson has spent years in misery but finally has his life on somewhat stable ground. When he learns his ex-wife is dating, he knows it’s time to go back and fight for the life he abandoned. Bolstered by his newfound sobriety, Chad has every intention of winning back the woman he loves, even if that means facing old demons that are waiting for him to fail.

Passions run deep as two souls searching for a second chance find the courage to let go of old patterns. Can they recognize that their dreams are still possible, even when forged from a broken past?

My thoughts

My Unexpected Hope is a realistic and enjoyable Christian contemporary novel. Strong characters and tough life situations combine in this story of love, broken marriages, second chances, addiction and recovery, and faith.

Laila is trying to put her life together and move on from her past. She is planing to move and has a new and wonderful boyfriend – embracing anything that puts her far from the small town of Fairfield where she has lived all her life and the hurt of her broken marriage. Chad Richardson knew that this was his last chance to get sober and stay sober. When he learns that Laila is starting to move on he knows it is time to return home and try to save his marriage. But his return home does not go as smoothly as he plans and he will have to give everything he has to start over and convince Laila he is a new man.

My Unexpected Hope is the companion novel to My Hope Next Door. They have crossover storylines but can both be read as standalone novels. I really enjoyed My Hope Next Door, and My Unexpected Hope brings the same mix of relateable, realistic, and flawed characters who are desperate to overcome their mistakes and create a new life for themselves.

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Book Review: Right Where We Belong

Right Where We Belong – Deborah Raney, Melissa Tagg, Courtney Walsh – Published 17 April 2017

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Synopsis

Whether in a quaint home bakery in Langhorne, Missouri, a cozy boho coffee shop in Maple Valley, Iowa, or a charming lakeside cottage in Sweethaven, Michigan, love grows best in small towns just like this!

My thoughts

Deborah Raney – Love is found when a baker orders her regular supplies online but finds a new and attractive delivery man on her doorstep. Deciding to have a bit of fun, she increases her orders in the hope of sparking something.

Melissa Tagg – Megan is now considered a resident of Maple Valley, she’s a mother and owner of a thriving coffee shop, but sometimes she still fears her past – particularly her young daughter’s father. When she meets Eric, director of the home for men trying to rebuild their lives, she can’t help feeling drawn to him. But his work brings him close to Megan’s past and stirs her fears.

Courtney Walsh – Eleanor is the historic director for her small town of Sweethaven. But the unveiling of her ancestor’s time capsule – an event she has been planning for years – calls into doubt her own family history. As she works with Jason Holloway to untangle the mystery of their families’ history she risks falling in love with the town bad boy -who may be a far better man than she ever dreamed possible.
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Book Review: The Two Of Us

The Two of Us – Victoria Bylin – Bethany House Publishers – Published 8 August 2017

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Synopsis

After two broken engagements, nurse practitioner Mia Robinson is done with dating. From now on, she only trusts herself and God, and she’s focused on her eighteen-year-old sister, Lucy, and caring for patients. Just as she applies to work for an international aid organization, a phone call from Lucy, who’s pregnant and running off to marry her twenty-one-year-old boyfriend, throws a wrench into all of Mia’s plans.

Jake Tanner may have recovered from the physical injuries he sustained on the job as a police officer, but his heart has yet to heal from losing his former partner in the tragedy. He’s poured himself into starting a camp for the sons of fallen officers and mentoring Sam, the adult son of his deceased partner, who’s asked him to be his best man at his wedding.
Mia is expecting a mess when she arrives to sort out the situation with Lucy, but she wasn’t expecting Jake. And Jake, who can’t help envying Sam and Lucy, doubts he’ll ever experience their happiness for himself. But maybe Jake’s courage and Mia’s caring spirit are just what they need to bring them a lifetime of healing and a forever kind of love. . . .

My thoughts

With The Two Of Us Victoria Bylin has created a delightful novel that perfectly captures the tumultuous emotions of falling in love, following your dreams, and making the very hard choice between those dreams. This is a story of love, family, and human fragility.

Mia is on the cusp of fulfilling her dreams – well, her plan B dream, that is. She is about to interview for a leadership position with Mission Medical, which will enable her to travel, help people in need, and use her nursing skills, putting her far away from the heartbreak of a second broken engagement and her dreams of a family of her own. But her baby sister’s sudden pregnancy announcement and impromptu wedding, has Mia worried. When the opportunity to move to Echo Falls to be near her sister and increase her chance of success in her upcoming interview arises, Mia takes it – even if it also puts her nearer to Jake Tanner. The handsome former detective has his own dreams to help people, particularly teens of police officers who have lost their lives in the face of duty. Mia’s entrance into Jake’s life offers him the chance to follow his other dream – love and a family, but Mia is scared of risking her heart again.

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Book Review: On Love’s Gentle Shore

On Love’s Gentle Shore – Liz Johnson – Prince Edward Island Dreams #3 – Revell – Published 4 July 2017

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Synopsis

When Natalie O’Ryan returns to Prince Edward Island to plan her wedding, she runs into her childhood best friend–and discovers that the love she’s been looking for is right where she left it.

Fifteen years after she left Prince Edward Island, Natalie O’Ryan had no plans to return. But when her fiancé, music producer Russell Jacobs, books their wedding in her hometown and schedules a summer at Rose’s Red Door Inn, she sets out to put the finishing touches on the perfect wedding. But she can’t possibly prepare for a run-in with Justin Kane–the best friend she left behind all those years ago after promising to stay.

Justin’s never forgotten Natalie or the music career he always dreamed of pursuing. He’d been prepared to follow her off the island until his dad died and he was left to run the family dairy farm. He’s done the best he can with the life that was thrust upon him–but with Natalie back in the picture, he begins to realize just how much joy he’s been missing.

After Natalie’s reception venue falls through, she must scramble to find an alternative, and the only option seems to be a barn on Justin’s property. As they work together to get the dilapidated building ready for the party, Natalie and Justin discover the groundwork for forgiveness–and that there may be more than an old friendship between them.

My thoughts

What fun to return to the shores of Prince Edward Island. This series has continued to delight, and the third book, On Love’s Gentle Shore, share the same mix of love story and characters who yearn to find a place to call home.

For Natalie, returning home to Prince Edward Island only brings back the childhood trauma that she tried to outrun years ago. But her fiancé, music producer Russell Jacobs, decides that PEI is the perfect place to hold their wedding. Before Natalie knows it, she is back home neck deep in wedding preparations and face to face with old memories and people she would rather have never seen again. And then there is Justin. Her childhood best friend, he was her everything until she ran and he never followed. Thrown together with Justin, Natalie will have to face her past if she wants to follow her heart in the future.

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Book Review: A Broken Kind of Beautiful

A Broken Kind of Beautiful – Katie Ganshert – WaterBrook – Published 15 April 2014

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Synopsis

Fashion is a fickle industry, a frightening fact for twenty-four year old model Ivy Clark. Ten years in and she’s learned a sacred truth—appearance is everything. Nobody cares about her broken past as long as she looks beautiful for the camera. This is the only life Ivy knows—so when it starts to unravel, she’ll do anything to hold on. Even if that means moving to the quaint island town of Greenbrier, South Carolina, to be the new face of her stepmother’s bridal wear line—an irony too rich for words, since Ivy is far from the pure bride in white.

If only her tenuous future didn’t rest in the hands of Davis Knight, her mysterious new photographer. Not only did he walk away from the kind of success Ivy longs for to work maintenance at a local church, he treats her differently than any man ever has. Somehow, Davis sees through the façade she works so hard to maintain. He, along with a cast of other characters, challenges everything Ivy has come to believe about beauty and worth. Is it possible that God sees her—a woman stained and broken by the world—yet wants her still?

My thoughts

I put this book on my to-read list some time ago but never had the occasion to pick it up. Now, after reading the magnificence that is Life After, I knew I needed to get my hands on all of Katie Ganshert’s books. For some reason, I thought A Broken Kind of Beautiful wouldn’t be as good as Life After. Maybe something to do with a review that said Life After was her best book yet. I would disagree. I don’t think A Broken Kind of Beautiful is better than Life After, just more of the same extremely powerful, amazingly wonderful writing. There is something that is awesome about Katie’s writing that makes these books an absolute pleasure to read.

Ivy has never known love. Not from the father who ignored her existence. Not from the mother who was trapped by alcohol and drugs. Certainly not from her uncle who only values Ivy for the money she can make him. And not from the fashion industry that used and idolised her beauty but which is all too quick to overlook her for the newer and younger models. Her last shot as saving her career sees her forced back to the Southern town of Greenbrier to participate in her stepmother’s bridal shop promotions. Returning to the town forces Ivy to relive all her past and present hurts, but it might also force her to see the people who care for her and who see beyond the broken and hurting spirit and beautiful face.

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Book Review: Just Look Up

Just Look Up – Courtney Walsh – Tyndale House – Published 4 July 2017

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Synopsis

After tirelessly climbing the ranks of her Chicago-based interior design firm, Lane Kelley is about to land her dream promotion when devastating news about her brother draws her back home–a quaint tourist town full of memories she’d just as soon forget. With her cell phone and laptop always within reach, Lane aims to check on her brother while staying focused on work–something her eclectic family doesn’t understand.

Ryan Brooks never expected to settle down in Harbor Pointe, Michigan, but after his final tour of duty, it was the only place that felt like home. Now knee-deep in a renovation project that could boost tourism for the struggling town, he is thrilled to see Lane, the girl he secretly once loved, even if the circumstances of her homecoming aren’t ideal.

Their reunion gets off to a rocky start, however, when Ryan can’t find a trace of the girl he once knew in the woman she is today. As he slowly chips away at the walls Lane has built, secrets from his past collide with a terrible truth even he is reluctant to believe. Facing a crossroads that could define his future with Lane and jeopardize his relationship with the surrogate family he’s found in the Kelleys, Ryan hopes Lane can see that maybe what really matters has been right in front of her all along–if only she’d just look up.

My thoughts

Just Look Up is an enthralling contemporary novel, with a very relatable message of discovering one’s self worth and beauty. I was wonderfully content to settle within the pages of this story and surround myself with the vibrant characters.

Lane Kelley left her home town of Harbor Pointe and never looked back. She surrounds herself with work and is content to let that dictate her life – work can’t hurt her like a relationship or family could. But a family accident drags Lane back home, risking a promotion and subjecting her to the shame of the past that she was so eager to escape. Ryan Brooks found solace in Harbor Pointe. To him, it is a refuge away from the trauma of war and his childhood. But the accident that nearly claims both his and his friend’s life brings up his past, as does Lane returning home. He hopes that he can show Lane that she is worth far more than her work life and that in taking the time to slow down she might find contentment and be willing to risk her heart again.

I am so glad I read this novel. I didn’t overly enjoy Paper Hearts, the only other book I have previously read by this author, and I was a little reluctant to take the risk on this, her latest release. But I am so glad I did read it because it was so worth it. Just Look Up was simply wonderful. The characters and settings, both Lane’s busy work of Chicago and the small-town Harbor Pointe, leapt off the page.

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Book Review: Life After

Life After – Katie Ganshert – Waterbrook – Published 18 April 2017

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Synopsis

It could have been me.

Snow whirls around an elevated train platform in Chicago. A distracted woman boards the train, takes her seat, and moments later a fiery explosion rips through the frigid air, tearing the car apart in a horrific attack on the city’s transit system. One life is spared. Twenty-two are lost.

A year later, Autumn Manning can’t remember the day of the bombing and she is tormented by grief—by guilt. Twelve months of the question constantly echoing. Why? Why? Why? Searching for answers, she haunts the lives of the victims, unable to rest.

Paul Elliott lost his wife in the train bombing and wants to let the dead rest in peace, undisturbed and unable to cause more pain for his loved ones. He wants normalcy for his twelve-year-old daughter and young son, to see them move beyond the heartbreak. But when the Elliotts and Autumn are unexpectedly forced together, he fears she’ll bring more wreckage in her wake.

My thoughts

Confession: I’ve never read a book by Katie Ganshert before. Now, I am asking myself why? WHY NOT? Exaggerated forehead smack, Tate style. So I picked up Life After because it sounded really good and my Goodreads friends were giving it great reviews. And now I have learned my lesson and I will definitely be reading more of Katie Ganshert’s books. Life After is a beautiful, incredible book. Moving, sad, and uplifting. It digs deep, faces some really hard questions and packages it all up in a story that is incredibly enjoyable to read.

Autumn Manning was the sole survivor in a tragic attack that killed twenty-two others. Twenty-two lives that she obsesses and worries over each night. Twenty-two unfinished stories. When Reese Elliott, the daughter of one of those twenty-two people, reaches out to Autumn, their lives become entangled, forcing hidden truths into the light and maybe even starting a new future for Autumn and the Elliott family. Continue reading

Book Review: What Hope Remembers

What Hope Remembers – Johnnie Alexander – Misty Willow #3 – Revell – Published 2 May 2017

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Synopsis

When Amy Somers loses her job as a lobbyist, she moves to Misty Willow, well aware that she’s crossing bridges she’d burned years before. With all the mistakes she’s made and the uncaring things she’s done–even to her own family–she can hardly believe that happiness will find her, especially when Gabe Kendall, her first crush and her first kiss, rides back into her life atop a buckskin mare.

A former Marine, Gabe is at loose ends after serving a prison sentence for being in the wrong place at the wrong time. He sees beyond Amy’s hard exterior to the girl he once knew and loved, and he longs to see her open her heart. Yet with his vision clouded by shame for his past and fears about the future, he finds it difficult to see the path ahead.

But the memory of that long-ago kiss just may have the power to reignite a romance that brings out the best in both of them.

My thoughts

To say I was excited to read this book would be a massive understatement. I have loved both books in the Misty Willow series so far and the books just keep getting better, so I knew What Hope Remembers was going to be awesome. I was right – it is certainly a beautiful story. Amy and Gabe are characters who both have so many issues to overcome and their story of reconnection is founded in the sweet love of their adolescence.

Gabe has returned to his Aunt’s farm after many years away, first deployed overseas and then in prison. The farm is now rundown and vastly different from that of his childhood memories. But his aunt’s love remains the same and the community is far more welcoming than he ever dreamed. But the biggest surprise comes when he learns that Amy, his first love and the woman who has always held a place in his heart, has also returned to Misty Willow. Amy has decided to leave her old life behind. She is ashamed of who she has become and yet doesn’t know what to do to turn her life around. Rebuilding the relationships with her brother and cousin and their wives seems a good place to start. As Amy and Gabe reconnect they have many secrets and fears to face, while an outside threat attempts to keep them from rekindling their childhood romance.

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Book Review: Sweetbriar Cottage

Sweetbriar Cottage – Denise Hunter – Thomas Nelson – Published 13 June 2017

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Synopsis

When Noah and Josephine Mitchell discover their divorce was never actually finalized, their lives are turned upside down.

Following his divorce, Noah gave up his dream job, settling at a remote horse ranch in the Blue Ridge Mountains of northern Georgia, putting much-needed distance between himself and the former love of his life. But then Noah gets a letter from the IRS claiming he and Josephine are still married. When he confronts Josephine for the first time in months, they discover that she missed the final step in filing the paperwork and they are, in fact, still married.

Josephine is no happier about the news than Noah. Maybe the failed marriage—and okay, the botched divorce—was her fault, but her heart was shattered right alongside his, more than he would ever believe. The sooner they put this marriage behind them, the better for both of their sakes.

But when Josephine delivers the final paperwork to his ranch, the two become stranded in his cottage during the worst spring snowstorm in a decade. Being trapped with Josephine is a test of Noah’s endurance. He wrestles with resentment and an unmistakable pull to his wife—still beautiful, still brave, and still more intriguing than any woman he’s ever known.

As they find themselves confronted with each other and their shared past, old wounds surface and tempers flare. But when they are forced out into the storm, they must rely on each other in a way they never have before. Josephine finally opens up about her tragic past, and Noah realizes she’s never been loved unconditionally by anyone—including him. Will Noah accept the challenge to pursue Josephine’s heart? And can she finally find the courage to trust Noah?

My thoughts

Sweetbriar Cottage is a delightful contemporary romance, one that tugs on your heart and encourages you to take a chance and rediscover the healing power of love.

When Noah Mitchell discovers that his divorce with Josephine was never finalised, to say he is shocked might be an understatement. After the marriage ended, he gave up his job and retreated into the mountain, away from town and reminders of what happened and what he lost. Now, though, he and Josephine must reconnect if they want the divorce to be filed. Josephine is just as shaken as Noah when she learns of the news and sets out to smooth the process as much as she can, after all she feels the end of the marriage was her fault. But a sudden and dangerous storm leaves her stranded at his ranch and when they are forced to confront the wild weather, they also discover that confronting their past just might lead to healing for them both.

Sweetbriar Cottage is a standalone novel. It is written from both Noah and Josephine’s perspective during present day, but includes a number of chapter flashbacks to both the beginning of Noah and Josephine’s courtship and Josephine’s past. And that’s when this novel really digs its heels in and gets serious about the topics of faith, mistakes, and forgiveness.

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Book Review: Sandpiper Cove

Sandpiper Cove – Irene Hannon – Hope Harbor #3 – Revell – Published 4 April 2017

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Synopsis

Hope Harbor police chief Lexie Graham has plenty on her plate raising her son alone and dealing with a sudden rash of petty theft and vandalism in her coastal Oregon hometown. As a result, she has zero time for extracurricular activities–including romance. Ex-con Adam Stone isn’t looking for love either–but how ironic is it that the first woman to catch his eye is a police chief? Yet wishing for things that can never be is foolish.

Nevertheless, when Lexie enlists Adam’s help to keep a young man from falling into a life of crime, sparks begin to fly. And as they work together, it soon becomes apparent that God may have a different–and better–future planned for them than either could imagine.

My thoughts

Throughout this series I have fallen more and more in love with Hope Harbor, its residents, and the love, joy, and peace that can be found within its town borders. Sandpiper Cove compounds that love in a book that is utterly charming – a story of second chances, helping hands, the support of a community, and, of course, romance.

Sandpiper Cove is the third book in the Hope Harbor series and tells the story of Lexie Graham, Hope Harbor’s police chief, and Adam Stone. Readers will have first met Adam (or Stone, as he is more commonly known) in Sea Rose Lane. Ex-con, construction worker, stray-dog rescuer, he is a mix of bad boy and kind soul. Lexi has been married before and had her heart broken by her husband’s sudden death. Now she is content to raise her young son, Matt, and protect the people of Hope Harbor. But when Adam is targeted by vandals, Lexi starts to get to know him, and a glimpse beneath his hardened exterior shows a man who is kind, gentle, and giving, and for whom it just may be worth risking her heart again.

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