Monday, October 31, 2016

The Silent Songbird

As a ward of King Richard II, Evangeline leads a privileged, but lonely, life inside the walls of Berkhamsted Castle.  When the king announces her betrothal to Lord Shiveley-- a much older man with a dangerous past-- Evangeline decides to escape from the only home she knows and begin a new life.  Known far and wide for her beautiful singing voice, Evangeline pretends to be mute in order to protect her identity.  On her journey, she comes under the protection of Wesley LeWyse, the young and handsome son of Lord LeWyse.  As Evangeline adjusts to life as a commoner, though, it becomes obvious to Wesley that she must be more than she seems.  Will Wesley be able to forgive Evangeline's deception, and can he keep her safe from Lord Shiveley?  

With her typically masterful style, Melanie Dickerson retells the story of the Little Mermaid in The Silent Songbird.  As usual, Dickerson's creative way of blending medieval history with classic fairy tales makes for an entertaining story.  While Wesley is a compelling and believable romantic lead, Evangeline is a bit too naive for my taste.  I assume her simplicity is meant to be charming, but ends up rather annoying instead.  The story itself is well constructed, but Evangeline's insipidness is a distraction.  Though I often have to struggle through the awkward dialogue in Dickerson's novels, the loveliness and romance of her storytelling always brings me back for more.  The Silent Songbird is no exception.

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

Monday, October 24, 2016

Where Two Hearts Meet

The Red Door Inn's executive chef-- Caden Holt-- only truly feels confident and content in her well-stocked kitchen.  When a journalist comes to stay for the summer, though, Caden's boss asks her to show him the wonders of Prince Edward Island in an attempt to solve the inn's financial troubles.  Reporter Adam Jacobs has come to stay at the Red Door for a forced sabbatical after a particularly rough assignment in the Middle East.  As Caden and Adam's friendship grows, will Caden's insecurities take over when she learns Adam isn't the travel reporter she thought he was?  

Liz Johnson tells a lovely story of self-realization and forgiveness in Where Two Hearts Meet.  The breathtaking backdrop adds a bit of magic to an entertaining-- if not remarkable-- love story.  I personally found Adam's journey more compelling than Caden's.  While I can empathize with her insecurities, I had a difficult time understanding how the entire town seems to enjoy belittling her very existence.  Though it may not be an epic, compelling page-turner, Where Two Hearts Meet does what it intends to: tell a satisfying and entertaining contemporary love story.  

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

Monday, October 17, 2016

This Road We Traveled

When her son convinces the entire extended family to leave their Missouri homes and claim land in the Oregon territory, Tabby Brown must decide if she has the strength and stamina to travel in a covered wagon across the country.  Though her son tries to discourage her, Tabby finances her own wagon with her brother-in-law and sets out on a new and dangerous adventure.  

In This Road We Traveled, Jane Kirkpatrick tells the true story of Tabitha Moffat Brown, often called the "Mother of Oregon."  Kirkpatrick's character development in this latest work of historical fiction is nothing less than masterful.  The strengths and flaws of each character make them absolutely real, and their decisions absolutely believable.  The historical details involved in a cross-country journey in the 1840s were fascinating, and engaging.  Each sub-plot was as engaging as Tabby's, and I found myself unable to stop reading until I knew the fate of the Brown/Pringle party.  As a whole, the book is nearly perfect, but the romantic in my would have enjoyed more developed love stories.  

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

Monday, October 10, 2016

From This Day Forward

Nurse Deborah McCallister has loved her childhood friend Toby Valders for years, but has grown impatient with his inability to commit to any sort of relationship.  When a charming new addition arrives in their small town of Blessing and shows an avid and genuine interest in Deborah, will the competition for her heart finally spur Toby into action?  Amidst the confusion, Deborah decides to attend a month-long course in Chicago and use that time to gain some clarity.  But which suitor will be waiting to claim her heart upon Deborah's return, Toby or Anton?  

While I've long been a fan of Lauraine Snelling and her compelling tales of Norwegian immigrants in the American Midwest, I struggled to truly enjoy From This Day Forward.   While Deborah, Toby, and Anton's love triangle snagged my interest from the start, it only constituted perhaps only one fourth of the entire novel.  

In this series conclusion, it's as if Snelling felt the need to give every single resident of Blessing a storyline of some sort.  Even having read many of the other books in the series, I simply didn't have the mental or emotional energy to care about any of the many tangental plot lines.  I found myself skimming chapter after chapter about construction meetings, hospital policies, and potluck lunches until I came upon any mention of the supposed main characters.  I still have faith in Snelling's beautiful storytelling, but this particular effort was wasted on me.  

I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.  

Monday, October 3, 2016

Waves of Mercy

As one of the first Dutch settlers of Holland, Michigan, Geesje de Jonge reluctantly sits down to write her memoirs for the town's 50th anniversary.  As she relives the loves, losses, trials, and blessings of her long life, her story resonates with her young neighbor and longtime friend, Derk.  When Derk befriends 23-year-old Anna Nicholson-- a guest at the nearby Hotel Ottowa Resort-- they soon find that all three of their lives are more connected than anyone could have imagined.  

I do not exaggerate in asserting that Lynn Austin's Waves of Mercy is one of the best novels I've read in years.  Austin has a true talent for plumbing the very depths of the human soul.  So often heroines in Christian fiction far too easily choose the right path every time.  Geesje's story, however, is striking in its utter honesty and authenticity.  Her fear in the face of trouble and choosing to follow her own selfish will both lead to heart-wrenching consequences.  But God, as only He can, weaves everything together to achieve His perfect plan.  This story of perseverance, forgiveness, and true love is not to be missed.  My only complaint is that the story ended at all.  

I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.