Review: Dawn at Emberwilde – Sarah Ladd

Sarah E. Ladd. Dawn at Emberwilde. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 2016.

If you regularly read the Books and Biscuits Blog’s Facebook posts, you may have noticed an interesting and oddly hilarious conversation with acclaimed author Kristy Cambron.  Several weeks ago, we both ended up reading Sarah Ladd’s newest release, Dawn at Emberwilde, at 3am.  While I’m not typically the person to stay up late reading, I find that great Christian fiction is incredibly relaxing and the perfect solution to a poor night’s rest.

Sarah Ladd builds on her previous Regency-era novels to bring her readers Dawn at Emberwilde.  Isabel has lost all of her family, with the exception of her much-younger half-sister, Lizzie.  Together, they have made a place for themselves at the Fellsworth School, where they both are in training to become teachers and governesses.  An unexpected visitor brings news of relatives who have been looking for Isabel for years.  With that announcement, Isabel and Lizzie quickly start their journey to Emberwilde, where Isabel’s aunt, uncle, and cousin await their arrival.  Isabel finds herself in an entirely different world.  Although her mother once lived in such privileged circumstances, Isabel discovers the transition from the schedule and hard work of Fellsworth School to have ill-prepared her for life as a lady of society.  Fortunately, she soon makes several friends who help her to navigate her circumstances, even as mysterious events in the Emberwilde forests threaten the family’s safety and future.

Ms. Ladd continues the Treasures of Surrey series in Dawn at Emberwilde, first started in her earlier novel, The Curiosity Keeper.  The beautiful cover of this book will cause almost anyone to take an initial look at this exciting example of Regency-era Christian fiction.

Overall, I quite enjoyed reading Dawn at Emberwilde.  Initially, I was hesitant to pick up the book, as I did not have any luck getting started with one or two of Ms. Ladd’s earliest books in the Regency genre.  However, I found this novel to be a quite pleasant read, as has been the case with several other Christian fiction books lately.  The overall storyline of the novel is not incredibly complicated or unique, but it will appeal to readers as another example of ever-enjoyable, entertaining, and clean fiction from the HarperCollins publishing group.  If anything, I would have liked to see further development of the Christian aspects of the storyline, even as Dawn at Emberwilde had at least some Christian elements, which is more than can be found in quite a few other novels released by HarperCollins in the last several years.  After reading this book, I will very likely go searching for The Curiosity Keeper to see how Ms. Ladd develops a series and to prepare for next year’s release, A Stranger at Fellsworth.

Fans of Ms. Ladd’s previous works, including The Curiosity Keeper, will definitely want to read Dawn at Emberwilde.  Readers of the Regency era and British settings in Christian fiction will also find the novel to be a worthwhile read.  Some readers may find the book to be rather similar to other storylines from and inspired by the period. However, Ms. Ladd’s approachable writing style make the novel a pleasant and worthwhile read.

Ms. Ladd’s next novel, A Stranger at Fellsworth, will be released in Spring 2017!

Special thanks to Thomas Nelson and the Fiction Guild for a promotional copy of Dawn at Emberwilde!

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Review: Traces of Guilt – Dee Henderson

Dee Henderson. Traces of Guilt: An Evie Blackwell Cold Case. Minneapolis, MN: Bethany House Publishers, 2016.

This May has been filled with a particularly excellent group of books.  If you regularly keep track of the Books and Biscuits Blog, you have already seen historical, romance, and contemporary genres represented this month.  Dee Henderson’s latest release also adds a touch of mystery and suspense to this month’s featured books.

Illinois State Police Detective Evie Blackwell arrives in Carin, Illinois, for a working vacation.  As a potential member of the state’s new task force focused on solving previously unsolved cases, she has her eye on several crimes that have left local enforcement officers completely stumped.  Carin County sheriff Gabriel Thane soon finds himself with an ambitious detective ready to dive into the community’s past, even as families of victims are hoping to finally receive resolution on cases that have shaken their hometowns.  With the help of Gabriel and his brothers, Evie soon discovers that several missing person cases may be intertwined as new evidence surfaces from unexpected places.

Ms. Henderson returns with this captivating novel that introduces an entirely new cast of characters, while also featuring a few old friends from her previous books.  One can only hope that Traces of Guilt serves as only the first of many stories featuring Evie Blackwell and her incredible detective skills.

Overall, I very much enjoyed reading Traces of Guilt.  Ms. Henderson consistently produces some of the best Christian suspense novels in the genre and this novel is no exception.  While her previous works have primarily taken place in and around Chicago, Traces of Guilt offers a more rural setting.  Likewise, Evie Blackwell’s focus on cold cases presents a different type of story for Ms. Henderson’s fans, even as it continues to build upon characters and themes that have become essential elements of her previous works.  In contrast to Ms. Henderson’s most recent novels, Traces of Guilt also follows a larger cast of characters and relationships, which are designed in such a way that they require a multi-book series to fully develop.  Based on the fact that the novel’s cover page features the phrase “An Evie Blackwell Cold Case,” as well as the general story arch of the novel, readers are definitely left with the impression that Ms. Henderson will continue to build upon Evie’s character and many of the other characters introduced in this novel.  Based on the excellent quality of Traces of Guilt, I eagerly await Ms. Henderson’s next work regardless.

Fans of Ms. Henderson’s previous works, especially those published by Bethany House over the last several years, will definitely want to read Traces of Guilt.  Likewise, fans of Christian suspense and romance genres should add this novel to their must-read piles.  Ms. Henderson offers an intriguing and well-developed suspense storyline, while presenting a relatively clean (read: not gory or crude) and realistic depiction of her characters’ work on cold case investigations.  Additionally, she consistently presents Christian-oriented elements and clean language that her readers particularly appreciate.

Special thanks to NetGalley and Bethany House Publishers for the promotional copy of Traces of Guilt!

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Review: Every Bride Has Her Day – Janice Thompson

Janice Thompson. Every Bride Has Her Day. Grand Rapids, MI: Revell, 2016.

The weather is finally starting to look somewhat like spring around here, even with this weekend’s snow.  May seems to be the unofficial start of “wedding season” and we’re celebrating with Janice Thompson’s newest release. :)

Every Bride Has Her Day picks up where Every Girl Gets Confused left off, finishing Janice Thompson’s Brides with Style series.  Katie Fisher finally received the proposal of her dreams and she cannot wait to plan her wedding and future life with her basketball star fiancé, Brady James.  However, she must first overcome the enthusiastic contribution of wedding ideas from her colleagues at Cosmopolitan Bridal, as well as her small-town family.  In the midst of her own wedding plans, Katie must also help other Texas brides plan their own perfect day, while navigating family expectations and conflicting visions at every turn.  In the months of wedding planning, Katie and Brady must also traverse an unexpectedly busy calendar of other people’s weddings, as one couple after another seem to be engaged and married in quick succession.  To make their own day a success, they must depend on God to help overcome one of the most unexpected roadblocks to their own perfect day, a chaotic falling out in Katie’s hometown.  Will the details fall in place for Katie to finally have the wedding of her dreams?

Janice Thompson wraps up another one of her great series this spring with the release of Every Bride Has Her Day.  This fun-filled novel offers more of Ms. Thompson’s humorous style and fun-filled cast of characters introduced earlier in the Brides with Style series.

Overall, I enjoyed reading Every Bride Has Her Day.  Ms. Thompson provides a worthwhile ending to the Brides with Style series, while wrapping up the many character storylines she developed throughout the novels.  Personally, I found the first book of this series to be incredibly unique and entertaining.  In comparison, Every Bride Has Her Day never quite reached that level of entertainment, as the sheer number of weddings and coupling off of characters started to weigh down the story.  I thought Ms. Thompson’s Weddings by Bella series was much stronger from the beginning to end, while still focusing on the same set of characters throughout the set of novels.  Regardless, I very much looking forward to seeing what fun and compelling series Ms. Thompson will create next!

Fans of Ms. Thompson’s work, especially the other books in the Brides with Style series, will definitely want to read Every Bride Has Her Day.  Readers who enjoy works by Sandra Bricker and similarly humorous Christian fiction authors may also want to add Ms. Thompson’s series to their list of must-read books.

Special thanks to Revell Reads Blog Tour and NetGalley for the advanced copy of Every Bride Has Her Day!

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Review: Summer of Dreams – Elizabeth Camden

Elizabeth Camden. Summer of Dreams: A From This Moment Novella. Minneapolis, MN: Bethany House Publishers, 2016. Ebook.

Next month, Elizabeth Camden will be releasing From This Moment, which sounds like another tremendous novel from this acclaimed author.  As a result, I was very excited to hear that she was going to release a prequel in the form of an e-novella this month!

Summer of Dreams introduces some of the lead characters for Ms. Camden’s upcoming novel, From This Moment.  Evelyn White has never spent more than six months in any one home.  She has spent her childhood living in the guest rooms of a wide assortment of family members as her father travels the country in his role as the general in charge of the Army’s Corps of Engineers.  For one glorious summer, she finally spends several months in her father’s home, under the supervision of her admittedly idiosyncratic cousin, Romulus.  Together, they build an exceedingly complex greenhouse, but they lack the necessary technical skills to fully achieve their vision.  Fortunately, one of the local West Point cadets is assigned to their project.  Clyde Baxter has an incredible mind for engineering feats, particularly in cutting-edge electrical technology.  He has a promising career ahead of him, as long as he can stay out of trouble for long enough to complete his training.  Their summer together offers each one an unparalleled opportunity to explore their dreams, even while Clyde and Evelyn find an unexpected bond with one another.  When the summer ends and real life challenges come their way, each must choose to accept their fate or have faith and forge a new path.

Ms. Camden returns with a unique tale that will captivate her readers.  Summer of Dreams brings the excitement of late-nineteenth century technology to life, alongside the mesmerizing backdrop of the famed West Point Academy.

Overall, Summer of Dreams once again captured my attention as one of Ms. Camden’s excellent stories.  The novella offers a fascinating introduction to a new cast of characters, as well as a different setting than many of her past books.  Readers who enjoyed Siri Mitchell’s recent novel, Flirtation Walk, will appreciate the intriguing comparison with Ms. Camden’s depiction of West Point Academy nearly three decades later.  I was very interested to see how both Ms. Mitchell and Ms. Camden focused on the Academy’s engineering emphasis, rather than a pure military role.  Within Summer of Dreams, Ms. Camden also presents an extended excerpt of From This Moment, revealing some of the fascinating cross-over moments that feature both Evelyn and Romulus White nearly ten years after the events of Summer of Dreams.  However, the novella serves as a strong stand-alone story that is equally enjoyable with or without the accompanying (and forthcoming) novel.

Fans of Elizabeth Camden will definitely want to read Summer of Dreams.  Likewise, readers interested in Christian historical fiction, particularly focused on scientific and engineering topics, will find this to be an interesting story.  Additionally, fans of Ms. Mitchell’s Flirtation Walk and other military-focused stories will find Summer of Dreams to be a worthwhile read.

P.S. Summer of Dreams is currently available for free on Amazon.  Just click on the link below!

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Review: Anchor in the Storm – Sarah Sundin

Sarah Sundin. Anchor in the Storm. Grand Rapids, MI: Revell, 2016.

There are only a few authors that I can almost guarantee will release a 5-star worthy book every year, with Sarah Sundin among that esteemed group.  I am very excited to be featuring Ms. Sundin’s newest release, Anchor in the Storm, on the Books and Biscuits Blog this week.

Anchor in the Storm follows Lillian Avery as she moves to Boston from small-town Ohio to serve as a pharmacist, fulfilling her long-time dream of working in her chosen field.  Lillian’s brother, Jim, and his best friend, Arch Vandenberg, regularly spend their shore leave with Lillian and her roommates, building on the friendships developed in Through Waters Deep.  In the early months of World War II, Jim and Arch serve as officers on a Navy destroyer as part of the military’s effort to stop German U-boats from sinking military and civilian ships in the Atlantic.  However, Arch soon finds that the battles at sea are interconnected with Lillian’s role on shore, as his men are becoming addicted to prescription drugs intended to calm their nerves.  Soon, Arch and Lillian are one another’s Holmes and Watson as they search for the mastermind behind the drug ring that stretches from Boston’s pharmacies to the Naval ships in the Atlantic.  When the stakes are high, they must learn to trust one another and the One who serves as their ultimate anchor in the storm.

Anchor in the Storm perfectly interconnects with the other stories in the Waves of Freedom series, offering further insight and development of a great cast of characters.  The Avery family present realistic, yet stalwart Christian characters who will capture the hearts of Ms. Sundin’s fans.

Overall, I continue to be impressed by Ms. Sundin’s ability to write incredible tales of World War II life.  Consistent with the rest of the Waves of Freedom series, Anchor in the Storm presents a mystery/suspense component that brings high-stakes drama to Ms. Sundin’s classic historical romance plotlines.  However, she manages to interweave this drama with an expertly-written and heart-warming story with fascinating characters that feel entirely realistic to the time period.  Fans of the Waves of Freedom series will also enjoy seeing more of Jim Avery and Mary Stirling, as well as their group of friends that served as such a compelling part of Through Waters Deep.  Fortunately, Ms. Sundin already plans to continue the story of this cast of characters in the series’ next book, When Tides Turn.

Fans of Ms. Sundin’s other novels, especially the Waves of Freedom series, will definitely want to read Anchor in the Storm.  Likewise, readers who enjoy World War II-inspired Christian fiction will also want to try this excellent series.  Ms. Sundin brings an approachable style to her works, while offering a well-researched view of the period.  However, fans of Ms. Sundin will attest that her ability to write incredibly realistic and well-rounded characters are ultimately the reason that they return to her books time and time again.

The third novel in Ms. Sundin’s Waves of Freedom series, When Tides Turn, will arrive in Spring of 2017!

Special thanks to the Revell Reads Blog Tour program for the advanced copy of Anchor in the Storm!

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