Review: If Ever I Would Leave You – Susan May Warren

Susan May Warren. If Ever I Would Leave You. SDG Publishing, 2016. Ebook.

If you really enjoy Christian fiction, I would highly recommend following your favorite authors on Facebook or through their websites.  Periodically, they will announce releases of promotional copies of their books, including free e-novellas.  Susan May Warren recently announced her release of a e-novella kicking off her newest series.

Ms. Warren released If Ever I Would Leave You as a prequel e-novella to introduce her Montana Rescue series.  Billionaire Ian Shaw appears to have his life together, with some significant help by his assistant, Sierra.  However, his past continues to push him toward adventurous hobbies, meant to distract him from a life of regrets and pain.  Ian’s niece, Esme, has become the focus of his time and attention, even as she hides the truth about her boyfriend from the only father figure in her life.  Sierra finds herself in the middle of a web of the family’s secrets, even as she hopes to hide her own feelings for Ian.  When Esme disappears in Glacier National Park, Ian and Sierra must set aside their own regrets to pull together a team capable of finding two lost teenagers in the Montana wilderness.

Ms. Warren brings her award-winning flair to this new series.  Set in the Glacier National Park and the surrounding area, If Ever I Would Leave You takes readers to an exciting setting filled with larger-than-life characters.

Overall, I really enjoyed If Ever I Would Leave You.  As an e-novella, the story is relatively short, but also quite accessible to the average reader.  The story introduces a wide variety of characters that I assume will become increasingly relevant throughout the Montana Rescue series.  However, the story leaves readers hanging, as they must wait for Wild Montana Skies to finally understand the future role of the PEAK Search and Rescue unit, the team initially built by Ian to find his niece.  Additionally, other aspects of the story are apparently central to the entire series, rather than being solved within the short length of the novella.

Fans of Ms. Warren’s other series will definitely want to read If Ever I Would Leave You.  As Ms. Warren described, “I like to think of [the Montana Rescue series] as the best of my series – the ‘family’ element of the Christiansen series, the small town of Deep Haven, the epic adventure of Team Hope, and of course, the get ‘er done cowboy feel of the Noble Legacy.”[1]  Having read the prequel for the series, I could not describe it better myself. :)

Special thanks to Susan May Warren for a promotional copy of If Ever I Would Leave You!

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Review: The Witnesses – Robert Whitlow

Robert Whitlow. The Witnesses. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 2016.

Periodically, I like to explore different subgenres within the Christian fiction genre.  While I’m not likely to try reading fantasy, I have enjoyed the suspense and legal drama stories that sometimes appear among the contemporary fiction category released by various Christian publishers.

Robert Whitlow’s latest release, The Witnesses, follows Parker House as he makes his mark as the newest lawyer in a small North Carolina law firm.  As he attempts to navigate the politics of the office and his small town, Parker also begins to discover a surprising ability to see the future.  Parker’s grandfather, Frank, has struggled with the repercussions of this same gift over the course of his lifetime, particularly as a result of his wartime experiences in the German army.  Together, Parker and Frank must discover the true source of their gift and overcome those who seek to use it for evil.

Mr. Whitlow presents an intriguing legal drama that seamlessly integrates Christian themes and multiple time periods.  Fans of both contemporary and historical fiction will find themselves fascinated by this unique work of Christian fiction.

Overall, I rather enjoyed reading The Witnesses.  Typically, most of my experiences reading Christian suspense novels with a legal emphasis have been those written by Don Brown.  However, I found that Mr. Whitlow offered a detailed, yet approachable, story focused around legal characters and a small-town law office.  The Witnesses stands out from among similar works due to its focus on the interplay between young lawyer, Parker, and his elderly grandfather, as they share a unique ability to see into the future.  While Parker uses it within a legal setting, his grandfather was forced to use it during World War II, resulting in the story switching between the two time periods on a regular basis.  I actually enjoyed the grandfather’s flashbacks as much or more than the contemporary plotline involving Parker.  The weakest aspect of the storyline was a result of the long build-up to the main action near the end of the book.  After that much story development, I am hoping to see Mr. Whitlow utilize this book as the first part of a multi-book series focused around these characters, in order to more fully use the characters and plot elements that he created.

Fans of Mr. Whitlow’s previous works will definitely want to read The Witnesses.  Likewise, readers who enjoy contemporary Christian suspense with a strong legal emphasis will also enjoy this novel.  The Witnesses is 400 pages in length with a relatively moderate pacing and approachable writing style.  However, some readers may find the legal terminology to be a challenge to overcome, even as much of the story focuses on character development that occurs far outside the scope of the law office or courtroom.

Special thanks to BookLook Bloggers and Thomas Nelson for the advanced copy of The Witnesses!

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Review: The Loyal Heart – Shelley Shepard Gray

Shelley Shepard Gray. The Loyal Heart. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2016.

As a much-appreciated surprise, I received The Loyal Heart several months early, during a week that I really needed a great read to take my mind off of other things.  Trying a new book is exciting enough, but I can’t help but feel incredibly blessed with this particular piece of provision exactly when I needed it most. :)

Shelley Shepard Gray begins her newest series, A Lone Star Hero’s Love Story, with The Loyal Heart.  Near the end of the Civil War, a group of Confederate officers make a vow to look after one another.  After the death of Lt. Phillip Markham, his fellow officer Robert Truax is determined to fulfil his promise by checking in on Mrs. Miranda Markham.  Unfortunately, a cruel rumor has taken over the town of Galveston, Texas, claiming that Phillip was a traitor to the Confederacy.  In order to survive, Miranda has turned the family’s home into a boarding house, even as it opens her up to further scrutiny by the townsfolk.  Robert offers Miranda the assistance that she desperately needs to regain the will to live, while also helping her to discover the source of the rumors and threats.  Robert turns to his former military comrades to help in a battle for Miranda’s reputation and future, even as he finds himself yearning for a life that has always been out of reach in his former circumstances.

Ms. Gray offers a heart-warming story of redemption and hope in the midst of incredible life challenges.  The Loyal Heart starts off what has the potential to be an exciting new series in the genre.

Overall, I found myself completely caught up in the story of The Loyal Heart.  While Ms. Gray remains a relatively new author in my collection, I think she has done a masterful job with this novel.  Based on the fascinating characters and their development throughout the story, I am very eager to see how she continues this series.  The strong connection between the men of Robert and Phillip’s Confederate unit is particularly fascinating and they have incredible potential to serve as vital characters in Ms. Gray’s future novels.  The Loyal Heart also offers a rather unique take on the post-Civil War period, even as it retains elements that will feel comfortable and familiar to readers who regularly read the genre and other books that focus on the mid-nineteenth century.

Fans of Ms. Gray’s historical novels will definitely want to read The Loyal Heart.  Having only read her Chicago World’s Fair Mystery series, I actually enjoyed this novel even more and thought that it was a stronger book overall.  The themes and style of The Loyal Heart also have the potential to be appealing to a much broader audience than Ms. Gray’s more suspense-driven series.  Personally, I would be very comfortable recommending this book to my mother and grandmother, who both appreciate solid storylines, interesting characters, and an accessible writing style.

Special thanks to NetGalley and Zondervan the advanced copy of The Loyal Heart!

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Review: An Elegant Facade – Kristi Ann Hunter

Kristi Ann Hunter. An Elegant Façade. Minneapolis, MN: Bethany House Publishers, 2016.

After a crazy week, I was absolutely thrilled to curl up with a good book!  Kristi Hunter’s newest release, An Elegant Façade came through my NetGalley account and I absolutely could not wait to read it.  To top it off, the book arrived over two months before its formal release, making it a particularly exciting read. :)

In An Elegant Façade, Lady Georgina Hawthorne is thrilled to make her debut into society.  She has spent the last three years determined to prepare herself for any eventuality during the Season, as long as she captures the attention of one of the most powerful and titled men in the land.  Unfortunately, Georgina continuously encounters Colin McCrae, a wealthy gentleman without a distinguished family or title.  As a mutual friend of the Hawthorne family, Colin finds himself meeting Georgina everywhere he goes.  Her constant concern with her future status and social appearances drives him to distraction, especially when Colin has the chance to see the real Georgina behind her well-developed façade.  In the end, Georgina must choose between keeping up appearances or finding the truth that will allow her to finally be herself.

Ms. Hunter continues the Hawthorne Family series with this delightful tale of Georgina’s London Season.  Capturing the Regency era, An Elegant Façade will be a must-read story for Ms. Hunter’s fans this summer.

Overall, I quite enjoyed reading An Elegant Façade.  Ms. Hunter expertly draws in her readers into the fascinating world of Regency-era England, while capturing their loyalty with compelling characters.  An Elegant Façade builds upon the other stories in the Hawthorne Family series.  However, the story depends on some overlap with the earlier timeframe of A Noble Masquerade.  While this plot device makes sense within the storyline, I found the intersecting aspects of the novel to be some of the weaker sections of the story.  Beyond those sections, An Elegant Façade comes into its own, as the characters and plot escalate in intensity and interest.  Fortunately, Ms. Hunter uses an approachable writing style that makes this particular storyline work well within the overall series.

Readers who enjoy Regency-era fiction will definitely want to read Ms. Hunter’s stories, including An Elegant Façade.  While An Elegant Facade can easily function as an independent novel, readers who appreciate Ms. Hunter’s style and characters will also want to read the other books in the Hawthorne House series.  Fans of Julie Klassen and Lori Wick will also find Ms. Hunter’s novels to be a worthwhile read.

Special thanks to NetGalley and Bethany House Publishers for the advanced copy of A Noble Masquerade!

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