Monday, March 27, 2017

Long Time Gone

With his father recuperating in Denver, and his brother recovering from a recent gunshot wound, Justin Boden finds himself not only running his family's ranch, but trying to solve a decades-old mystery.  Who is this powerful enemy that will seemingly never give up until the Bodens have lost their land?  

Angie DuPree is finally learning to express herself and make up her own mind after having been completely managed by a manipulative mother and hurtful husband for most of her life.  When she comes to stay at the Boden's ranch to help care for Justin's brother, can she trust herself to keep her own identity as she and Justin spend more and more time together?  Despite all the chaos of his life, Justin can't manage keep Angie off of his mind.  Will he decide that she's safer by his side, or out of his life completely? 

In Long Time Gone Mary Connealy takes readers on yet another entertaining adventure in the Wild West.  Perhaps I'm just partial to the New Mexican setting, but the Cimarron Legacy series seems to be one of Connealy's best so far.  Her character development continues to evolve and improve with each attempt.  While I definitely enjoyed this second installment in the series, it doesn't stand well on its own.  If I hadn't read No Way Up, there's no way I would have been able to follow the plot of Long Time Gone.  Having read the previous installment so many months ago, I still had trouble jumping right back in to the story.  Connealy's latest effort is definitely worth reading... just make sure to brush up on Boden family history first!  

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

Monday, March 20, 2017

To the Farthest Shores

Army nurse Jenny Bennet is determined to focus on her work and never risk letting someone break her heart like Ryan Gallagher did.  Six years after the intriguing naval officer told her in a letter not to ever expect him to come back for her, Jenny is shocked to find him once again at the Presidio army base, and with a young half-Japanese daughter in tow.  

Ryan desperately wants to rebuild his life in the US with his daughter after years of a dangerous, clandestine assignment in Japan.  All his hopes depend on training a young playboy to replace him... and on Jenny's forgiveness.  When Ryan decides to include Jenny in his new mission and bring her into his life once more, can she learn to trust him again?  Or will Ryan's attempts to protect Jenny just drive her further away?  

In To the Farthest Shores, Elizabeth Camden takes readers on a truly gut-wrenching adventure.  As usual, Camden masterfully combines intriguing historical detail with expertly-crafted characters to bring an epic story to life.  Camden paints her two main characters so clearly, that the reader perfectly understands why they make the decisions they do.  Just as I lamented in From this Moment, however, I just couldn't accept Ryan Gallagher as a swoon-worthy romantic lead.  Perhaps I identified a bit too much with Jenny's plight, but I just couldn't quite bring myself to forgive Ryan as thoroughly as she did.  I'm not sure he could really have loved Jenny as much as he claimed, while still making the decisions he did throughout most of the novel.  I'm not convinced he suffered quite enough.  In Camden's defense, though, not many fictional characters can get me quite so riled up, or instigate the level of soul-searching that Ryan and Jenny did.  While I'm still not sure if Ryan ultimately understands or deserves Jenny, I can't deny that To the Farthest Shores is an excellent piece of romantic fiction.

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

Monday, March 13, 2017

Redeeming Grace

Elimelech decides to move his wife and two sons to Moab when famine strikes his land in Bethlehem.  While his family seems to flourish at first, Elimelech and his sons seem to accept the ways of the Moabites more and more the longer they live away from their own people.  When he and both of his sons die in a foreign land, his wife Naomi finds herself virtually penniless and with only two childless, foreign daughters-in-law to show for the 10 years spent in Moab.  When Naomi decides to return home to Bethlehem, her daughter-in-law Ruth decides to also leave Moab and its ways behind her, and embrace Naomi's people and their God.  

After the years of famine, Boaz's land is finally producing bountiful harvests again, but after the sudden death of his beloved wife, he can't seem to see past his own grief and doubting.  When his relative Naomi returns with the lovely Ruth, will Boaz finally accept the blessings God has chosen to give him?  

With her typical talent, Jill Eileen Smith exquisitely tells the Biblical story of Ruth, Boaz, and Naomi in Redeeming Grace.  As with most of Smith's novels, the reader already knows the end of the story, but Smith's additions of fascinating historical detail and beautiful story-telling make them anything but boring.  I thoroughly enjoyed this glimpse into the tribe of Judah during the time of the Judges.  While I knew there would have to be some heartache involved, the overall feeling of the story was much less depressing than Land of Silence.  Rather than waiting for calamity throughout the entire novel, the reader gets to look forward to blessings and happy endings.  This beautiful story of redemption and faith shouldn't be missed.  

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

Monday, March 6, 2017

The Vicar's Daughter

As the youngest of six daughters, Cassie Wilton has anxiously waited for years to enter society and find the perfect husband.  Due to her father's edict that only one of his daughters will ever be out at once, Cassie despairs that her shy and anxiety-ridden elder sister, Lenora, will ever find a match.  When Lenora enters her third season, Cassie decides that Lenora will never succeed without some help.

When Lenora has a chance encounter with Evan Glenside-- a kind clerk from London who has recently become his wealthy uncle's heir-- Cassie is convinced he is the perfect husband for her timid sister.  In an attempt to help the romance along, Cassie begins writing letters to Evan under Lenora's name.  As she learns more about Evan, however, Cassie finds herself falling in love with Evan herself.  When Evan begins to court Lenora in earnest-- believing her to be the author of the letters he holds dear-- will Cassie's deception ruin everything?

Josi S. Kilpack takes readers on a truly lovely journey in The Vicar's Daughter.  While the premise of this novel has certainly been told before, Kilpack's character development makes the story unique and compelling.  Even secondary characters like Evan's uncle and Cassie's parents have complex backstories that perfectly explain their thoughts and actions.  Evan's and Lenora's journeys to self-assurance and security are certainly fascinating, but Cassie's arc is truly excellent.  From a selfish and conniving debutante-to-be, to a truly contrite, humble, and mature young woman, Kilpack does an admirable job in creating a real and believable protagonist.  For much of the book, I honestly wasn't sure whom I wanted Evan to choose in the end.  I thoroughly enjoyed this opportunity to delve into and explore the complicated subjects of family, trust, loyalty, truth, and forgiveness.

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