Review: Change of Heart – Courtney Walsh

Courtney Walsh. Change of Heart. Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, 2016.

Cover: Change of Heart

With Valentine’s Day just behind us, the heart-shaped decorations and pink confections are gradually disappearing. For the second year in a row, I am spending this time with one of Courtney Walsh’s heart-themed novels.

In Change of Heart, Ms. Walsh picks up where she left off with the residents of Loves Park, Colorado, in Paper Hearts. Evelyn Brandt joined the town’s famous Valentine Volunteers and other civically-minded groups to please her husband, a state senator. However, her life and marriage rapidly fall apart when he is arrested for embezzlement and his other character flaws soon come to light. Evelyn soon finds herself relying on the assistance of an old friend, Trevor Whitney, who also happens to have hidden her husband’s indiscretions from her for years. With the help of the women of the Valentine Volunteers, Evelyn begins to piece her life together once again, rediscovering her dreams and artistic abilities that once captured Trevor’s heart.

Ms. Walsh brings together an intertwined cast of characters reminiscent of small-town life. Loves Park shines as the setting of this novel, while Trevor’s family farm offers a unique addition to the backdrop of her works.

Overall, I was surprisingly pleased by Change of Heart. In my original review of Paper Hearts, I found the storyline to be rather corny and the pacing to be somewhat uneven. In comparison, Change of Heart reveals Ms. Walsh’s significant growth as a writer. The novel displays an intriguing and well-thought-out plot that displays the evolution and development of her characters. Additionally, I found the inclusion of the Valentine Volunteers to be more selective, which actually made them into a more unique and stronger device within the novel. While I was somewhat hesitant to read this novel after my disappointment with Paper Hearts, I am very glad to have given Ms. Walsh a second chance. Change of Heart will offer readers a new perspective on Ms. Walsh’s writing. As a result of this improvement and the absorbing storyline of Change of Heart, I look forward to reading Ms. Walsh’s forthcoming books.

Readers who enjoyed Paper Hearts and Ms. Walsh’s stories will definitely want to read Change of Heart. Additionally, fans of contemporary Christian romance will also want to try this novel. While I compared Ms. Walsh’s previous novel to a relatively-slow and simple Hallmark film, this book offers a more complex and well-developed story that readers will definitely enjoy

Special thanks to Tyndale House Publishers for an advanced copy of Change of Heart!

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Amazon – Change of Heart (Paper Hearts)

Review: From Bags to Riches – Sandra Bricker

Sandra Bricker. From Bags to Riches. Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press, 2016.

Winter lingers here at the Books and Biscuits Blog. While the weather has been pretty cold outside, I’ve been enjoying more heartwarming Christian fiction from the comfort of home. :)

Sandra Bricker has delighted her readers with the Jessie Stanton series, including both On a Ring and a Prayer and Be My Valentino. Jessie’s story continues in From Bags to Riches, the final volume of the trilogy. While Jessie has found tremendous success with her clothing rental store, Adornments, she struggles to overcome her past. With the finalization of her “divorce,” Jessie has the opportunity to live the life that she wants, with the support of a wonderful group of friends and the new love of her life, Danny. However, her heart remains in Louisiana with her precious Grampy, the man who loved and raised her through it all. As he faces cancer, Jessie must make difficult choices that may further her career or allow her to spend more time with the one man who has always supported her ambitions. In the end, she must also discover for herself the One who loves her most of all before she finds the love she has been seeking all along.

Overall, I was thrilled to finally read the end of Jessie’s story in From Bags to Riches. Ms. Bricker has emerged as one of my must-read authors and the Jessie Stanton series is no exception. She continues to utilize her light-hearted writing style and engaging characters to tell a wonderful story of hope, sacrifice, and love. While much of the series focuses on Jessie’s career, this novel offers readers the chance to understand Jessie on a much more personal level. I originally anticipated that I would be laughing out loud through the book, as has been the case with the rest of the series. Instead, I found myself literally crying at the touching moments between the characters, which is quite the accomplishment for a non-crier like me. Fans of the Jessie Stanton will be very pleased with the resolution of the series and will be left wanting more of Ms. Bricker’s excellent writing in the future.

Fans of Ms. Bricker, especially the Jessie Stanton series, will definitely want to read From Bags to Riches. In addition to fans of Ms. Bricker’s humorous fiction, readers who appreciate a heartwarming story of family, personal growth, and faith will also enjoy this book. Together with the other novels of the series, From Bags to Riches offers a relatively fast-paced read that will make for a wonderful vacation read for anyone looking for a great set of highly-entertaining books.

Special thanks to NetGalley and Abingdon Press for the complimentary copy of From Bags to Riches!

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Amazon – From Bags to Riches: A Jessie Stanton Novel – Book 3

Review: The Secret to Hummingbird Cake – Celeste Fletcher McHale

Celeste Fletcher McHale. The Secret to Hummingbird Cake. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 2016.

I regularly ship off a pile of books to various groups, libraries, and family members. Today, I’ll be sending an extra fun stack of books that I’ve already featured on the blog to some of my family in Canada. With the long winters we enjoy here in the north, books are a great source of entertainment and joy, in spite of the weather outside. :)

Celeste Fletcher McHale debuts her writing talents in The Secret of Hummingbird Cake. A purely-Southern tale, the novel follows the adventures of three best friends: Carrigan, Ella Rae, and Laine. Having grown up together in a small town, they know everything about one another. Together, Carrigan and her two friends have taken on every adventure, encouraged one another in their marriages and relationships, and been through every life event right alongside each other. However, life brings unexpected news for one friend, forcing all three to pull together in a way they have never experienced before. Along the way, they discover the mysterious secret ingredient for hummingbird cake and their once-in-a-lifetime friendship.

Ms. McHale weaves an incredible tale of love, friendship, and faith in her debut novel. Readers will find themselves shedding tears of joy and sadness, as they feel drawn into a sweet Southern town and Ms. McHale’s remarkably well-written characters.

Overall, I was very impressed with The Secret to Hummingbird Cake. While I’m not typically the person drawn to chick-lit novels that focus on a close-knit group of friends, I ended up reading this novel from back to front in one sitting. Ms. McHale offers incredible insight into women’s personalities and relationships with one another, accessing the full range of human emotion in a way few authors ever accomplish. She presents a conversational style in her writing that will draw in readers and keep them immersed in a compelling cast of characters, who seem to leap off the page in their realism. I found myself particularly awe-struck by Ms. McHale’s ability to communicate her characters’ maturing experiences with love and loss, as these topics seem nearly impossible to articulate in even real-life situations. After reading The Secret to Hummingbird Cake, I am very eager to read Ms. McHale’s writing in the future.

Fans of contemporary Christian fiction, particularly focusing on friendship and character-driven storylines, will definitely want to read The Secret to Hummingbird Cake. Likewise, those who enjoy other examples of Southern fiction in the Christian fiction market should definitely try Ms. McHale’s work. The novel contains some language not regularly found in Christian fiction. However, the quality of Ms. McHale’s writing and character development are well worth the read.

Special thanks to BookLook Bloggers for the advanced copy of The Secret to Hummingbird Cake!

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Amazon – The Secret to Hummingbird Cake

Review: The Mountain Midwife – Laurie Alice Eakes

Laurie Alice Eakes. The Mountain Midwife. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2015.

If you missed last Wednesday’s Facebook post, the Books and Biscuits Blog is officially one year old! That’s a big deal for this little blog. Before jumping into this week’s post, I wanted to thank everyone who has made it possible to make it this far, including the authors and publishers who provide so many of the books that we review every week. :) Ok, back to our regularly-scheduled review. ;)

Inspired by the families of her historical fiction novels, Laurie Alice Eakes’ The Mountain Midwife tells the story of one of their modern-day descendants and her quest to continue the family’s legacy as midwives. Ashley Tolliver gave up her dream to become a doctor and have her own family to carry on her grandmother’s role as midwife in the Appalachian community her family has called home for generations. Years later, she finally has the opportunity to pursue her medical dreams, as long as she can find someone to take over her midwife practice for the years she will be away. However, everything seems to be working against her, as the women of her community continue to depend on Ashley’s special kind of care for the needs of themselves and their families. When an unexpected patient arrives at Ashley’s door, she would never expect the course of events that will lead her to the one man who can make her reconsider her future and open her heart.

Ms. Eakes spins a fascinating tale set in the farthest reaches of Appalachia. The Mountain Midwife offers romance, mystery, and suspense, a bit of everything for readers in search of compelling Christian fiction.

Overall, I was fairly impressed with The Mountain Midwife. Initially, I was somewhat reluctant to read the novel. The back-cover summary offers a somewhat confusing impression of the book, emphasizing the mystery/suspense aspects of Ashley’s search for her mysterious patient and Hunter McDermott’s quest for his birth mother. However, I would argue that the majority of the book actually focuses on Ashley’s midwife practice and the many women and families that she helps within her community. The mysteries noted in the summary come across as relatively minor aspects of the novel, particularly in comparison to the intriguing human-interest story of Ashley herself and her practice. While I was initially hesitant to read this book, I believe that it makes for a strong addition to the contemporary Christian fiction genre. Additionally, I would be very interested to see if Ms. Eakes plans to continue the direction of this book within her future novels, as I could see them being quite unique and sought after within the market.

Fans of contemporary Christian fiction should definitely consider reading The Mountain Midwife. Consistent with other examples of the genre, Ms. Eakes heavily concentrates on a character-driven storyline with a moderate to slow pace. However, her grasp of the novel’s setting and details makes for an absorbing story with a much-appreciated focus on Christian themes and issues.

Special thanks to The Fiction Guild for the promotional copy of The Mountain Midwife!

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Amazon – The Mountain Midwife