Monday, December 11, 2017

Judah's Wife

Having grown up with an abusive father, Leah sees her marriage to Judah Maccabaeus as a means of escape.  Determined to please her strong, yet gentle, husband, Leah works hard and eventually finds a level of peace, safety, and contentment outside of her father's home and the walls of Jerusalem.  Just as she begins to trust that God has delivered her from a marriage like her mother's, however, Judah's devout family becomes embroiled in a rebellion against Antiochus IV.  Leah struggles to rationalize the need for violence against their oppressors and even fellow Jews who have turned away from the Law.  How can she love a man who leads a violent revolt?  Why did God choose her, of all people, to be the wife of a commander?  

Angela Hunt brings to life yet another fascinating piece of history in Judah's Wife.  Much as she did in  Egypt's Sister-- the first in her Silent Years series-- Hunt uses the historical fiction genre to tell stories about people and places most modern Christians know very little about.  Hunt's portrayal of the Maccabean revolt from an insider's perspective was masterfully accomplished.  Leah's inner struggle to come to terms with God's will in her life and for His people, as well as her own journey to understand the nature of real love were equally beautiful.  While the love story between Judah and Leah was more satisfying than the virtually non-existent one in Egypt's Sister, I still could have done with more.  I realize that history-- rather than romance-- play the larger role in Hunt's works, but the amount of time Leah and Judah actually spend content in their marriage was short, and a bit rushed.  While I understand their importance, and appreciate the historical accuracy involved, I also admittedly grew tired of-- and even resorted to skimming through-- the many, many battle scenes depicted in the novel.  Overall, I enjoyed Hunt's latest, and look forward to future additions to the Silent Years collection.  

 I received a free copy from the publisher.  No review, positive or otherwise, was required—all opinions are my own.  

Monday, December 4, 2017

The Heart of an Agent

Ready to retire from her dangerous life as a Pinkerton spy, Lily Handland decides to settle down in a small town in the Adirondacks.  Unsure how to make a living in her new life, Lily decides to invest in a failing great camp owned by widower Owen Murphy.  Distraught after the death of his wife, Owen has let their once-renowned great camp fall apart.  Facing the loss of his home and livelihood, Owen accept's Lily's offer to co-own and re-open the camp, but isn't quite ready for all the changes she proposes.  Full of energy and new ideas, Lily eventually brings joy and life back to the camp and to Owen as well.  Will Lilly's past-life come back to haunt her new one?  Will Owen truly be able to risk his heart again?  

Tracy J. Lyons takes readers back to the Adirondacks in her second installment of her Adirondak Pinkertons series.  Though I have not read Lyons's first book in the series, I was still able to understand and enjoy The Heart of an Agent.  The story was more than a bit predictable, and has been told countless times before.  The interesting setting in the Adirondack Mountains of the 1890s, though, brought an interesting uniqueness, however.  The traditional "get a failing business up and running again" storyline-- while predictable-- is also always reliably satisfying.  The climax of the story is a bit frustrating in that the reader knows what will eventually happen, and is simply waiting for the characters to come to their senses.  Overall, I enjoyed the novel and managed to learn a bit of history, too!  

 I received a free copy from the publisher.  No review, positive or otherwise, was required—all opinions are my own.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Holding the Fort

When she loses her job as a dance-hall singer, Louisa Bell sets out to Fort Reno to check on her wayward brother, who has recently been in some trouble with his commanding officer-- Daniel Adams.  Between his two growing daughters, rowdy soldiers, an overbearing mother-in-law, and an entire fort to run, Major Adams finally decides he needs some help, and sends for a mature, religious governess to watch his daughters.  Louisa meets the governess on the way to the fort, and agrees to help deliver the necessary books to the Major when the governess decides the Western climate doesn't agree with her.  Mistaken as the governess, Louisa plays along with charade in an attempt to stay at the fort and contact her brother.  Will Louisa's acting skills convince the Adam's family that she belongs in their home, or will her unconventional methods lead them to the truth of her deception?

As usual, Regina Jennings tells an truly fascinating and entertaining love story in Holding the Fort.  Full of interesting historical details about life on an Army fort in the wild West, Jennings's latest novel was captivating from start to finish.  Louisa's character is fun, imperfect, and a refreshing break from the typical romantic novel.  Daniel is equal parts dashing military officer, devoted-- albeit exhausted-- father, and believable romantic lead.  The end of the novel was particularly satisfying in its lack of predictability.

 I received a free copy from the publisher.  No review, positive or otherwise, was required—all opinions are my own.

The Ladies of Ivy Cottage

In a return to the idyllic Ivy Hill, several leading ladies must make important decisions that will impact their futures in The Ladies of Ivy Cottage.  Rachel Ashford has recently moved into Ivy Cottage with the two Miss Groves after her father's death-- and the scandal surrounding it-- leave her virtually penniless.  While struggling to support herself, Rachel is often tempted to marry the man who inherited her father's estate, but will her heart allow her to do so?  Mercy Grove finds fulfillment in managing the girls' school in her home, but will her parents desire to see her finally married steal her home from her?  Down the road, Jane Bell is confidently and expertly running her coaching in and finally feels ready put aside the grief of losing her husband.  

I had a much easier time falling in love with this second installment of Julie Klassen's Tales from Ivy Hill series than I did the first.  Rachel and Mercy are both worthy protagonists, and Thora and Jane Bell grew more appealing in this novel than they did in the last.  While I adored Rachel, I was never particularly fond of her love interest, Sir Timothy.  Inconstant and overly obsessed with his family's reputation, Timothy simply didn't live up to Klassen's typical male-leads.  As a result, the ending was less than satisfying in that I felt Rachel could somehow do better.  While still not my favorite of Klassen's books, The Ladies of Ivy Cottage has me anxiously awaiting the next installment in the series.  The conclusion of both Jane's and Mercy's stories have the potential to be lovely indeed.

 I received a free copy from the publisher.  No review, positive or otherwise, was required—all opinions are my own.

Monday, November 6, 2017

The Calico and Cowboys Romance Collection

Mary Connealy tells eight entertaining love stories in this newest novella collection.  The six novellas  that revisit families from Connealy's previous series were decidedly my favorite.

A Bride Rides Herd, His Surprise Family, Sophie's Other Daughter, The Sweetwater Bride, Texas Tea, and Hope for Christmas will delight fans of the Harden, McClellan and Reeves families.  While I enjoyed The Advent Bride and Homestead on the Range, they were certainly less engaging and almost unnecessary additions to the otherwise excellent collection.  Someone unfamiliar with Connealy's previous books would likely not enjoy these stories as an avid fan would, however.  I sometimes find Connealy's   character development a bit too obvious and heavy-handed, but this is strikingly less distracting in the novella genre.  In fact, many of my favorite of Connealy's works have been novellas, rather than her full-length novels.  I could not put this book down, and foresee reading it many times over.

 I received a free copy from the publisher.  No review, positive or otherwise, was required—all opinions are my own.

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

The Engagement Plot

When William betrayed Hanna's trust on national television months ago, she retreated to her farm in Minnesota to avoid the accusations and media attention that followed her appearance on a reality dating show.  While not ready to forgive William, Hanna agrees to his plan to fake an engagement in an attempt to save her reputation and his career.  Will Hanna be able to protect her heart against the charming CEO a second time?  Can Will earn Hanna's forgiveness once an for all, and admit that his feeling for her might be genuine?  When both of their worlds come crashing down, will they choose to trust and depend on one another, or go their separate ways?

Kristina Phillips tells a timely and entertaining story in The Engagement Plot.  I will openly admit to The Bachelor having often been a guilty pleasure for me, so was immediately intrigued by the premise.  Phillips brings up a number of excellent themes given today's media-obsessed culture.  How much should we care about what other people think?  How much does God require us to forgive?  Is deception ever justified?  Can we ever rebuild trust once it has been lost?  The plot itself, while obviously a bit predictable, was fun and moved along quickly.  I like both Hanna and William, and found them compelling romantic leads.  The conclusion, however, was a bit abrupt and unsatisfying.  I would have appreciated one more chapter or an epilogue to cement the overall happy ending.

 I received a free copy from the publisher.  No review, positive or otherwise, was required—all opinions are my own.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

A Dangerous Engagement

With her small dowry, Felicity Mayson begins to despair of ever making a good match.  When her aunt, Lady Blackstone, sends her an invitation to a house party and introduces her to the charming and affluent Oliver Ratley, Felicity begins to believe she may have finally found a man who does not mind her lack of fortune.  She accepts Ratley's abrupt proposal only to discover the alarming purpose of the house party and its guests.  Rather than a country getaway, Lady Blackstone has convened a meeting of a radical group of men and women bent on a violent overthrow of the British government.

Government agent Phillip McDowell has infiltrated the group, and soon discovers Felicity's dangerous position.  In order to gather necessary evidence against the group, Phillip convinces Felicity to continue her engagement with Ratley.  Will they each be capable of playing this dangerous game without any of the guests discovering their true intentions?  Will Felicity be forced into a hasty marriage to a terrifying revolutionary?  Will the respect and admiration Phillip and Felicity develop for one another ever have a chance to grow amid such intrigue?

Melanie Dickerson takes readers of a thrilling adventure in A Dangerous Engagement.  This was my first experience with Dickerson's Regency Spies of London series, and I found that the strengths and weaknesses in her various medieval series have followed her to this one.  Her historical descriptions and overall storytelling is, once again, excellent.  Character development?  Still flawed.  As always, I admire her male characters, and continually wonder what they see in the female love interest.  While Felicity manages to be function as a spy in a dangerous situation, she still makes stupid decisions (that of course require her to be rescued) and often faints.  Why can't one of Dickerson's female leads be strong and independent for once?  My inner feminist wants more to cheer for.  Overall, though, Dickerson's latest is a fun, entertaining story with a satisfying conclusion.

 I received a free copy from the publisher.  No review, positive or otherwise, was required—all opinions are my own.