Review: Can’t Help Falling – Kara Isaac

Kara Isaac. Can’t Help Falling. New York, NY: Howard Books, 2016.

Periodically, I have the absolute pleasure of trying out a new author based on a very early copy of their upcoming release.  For Kara Issac’s October release of Can’t Help Falling, I actually read the book in early July!  I am very excited to share my review of this excellent book with all of you. :)

Can’t Help Falling follows the story of Emelia Mason as she arrives in Oxford, England.  Emelia hopes to find a new start and a second chance after her previous career as a tabloid reporter led to catastrophe.  To make amends, Emelia has given up the glitz and glamor for an underpaid position as an events coordinator for a small British charity.  However, her nerdy obsession with Narnia lands her at the unexpected feet of Peter Carlisle, a former Olympic hopeful with his own need for redemption.  Together, Emelia and Peter find themselves continually crossing paths and encountering Narnia-esque moments of serendipity that just may lead them to the greater truths they need to overcome their pasts.

Ms. Issac offers a delightful tale filled with whimsy and hard-hitting truths about faith and life.  Fans of C.S. Lewis and Narnia will find themselves appreciating her literary connections, along with a quirky set of characters and plotlines.

Overall, I was absolutely thrilled with Can’t Help Falling!  Melissa Tagg and several other notable Christian authors highly recommended Ms. Issac’s earlier work, Close to You, but I have not yet had the chance to read it.  Based on the quality of Can’t Help Falling, Ms. Isaac’s debut novel has definitely been added to my must-read list.  Ms. Isaac brings a fascinating literary angle to her novels, reminiscent of the work of Katherine Reay.  I found myself completely drawn in by her storylines and character development.  So often, authors attempt to portray flawed or intelligent characters, but never entirely succeed.  Ms. Isaac manages to defy expectations, as she builds an international cast of scholarly and professional characters, including some first introduced in Close to You.  Based on the caliber of Can’t Help Falling, I am eager to see Ms. Isaac’s future work and her further growth as an author.

Fans of Ms. Isaac’s previous release, Close to You, will definitely want to read Can’t Help Falling.  Additionally, readers who enjoy the quirky characters and plotlines of Melissa Tagg should highly consider trying Ms. Isaac’s novels.  Likewise, fans of Katherine Reay’s literary-inspired Christian fiction will want to take a look at these fun novels.  Readers who are interested in Narnia and C.S. Lewis may also want to read this book, although (I can attest) a deep knowledge of these subjects is not required to thoroughly enjoy this novel.

Special thanks to NetGalley and Howard Books for the advanced copy of Can’t Help Falling!

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Review: The Wedding Shop – Rachel Hauck

Rachel Hauck. The Wedding Shop. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2016.

The logistics of running a blog are certainly comical at times.  After several delays and rescheduling last week’s post, I am finally able to share my review of Rachel Hauck’s newest release, The Wedding Shop.

In The Wedding Shop, Haley Morgan moves back to her hometown of Heart’s Bend, Tennessee, after a devastating breakup that resulted in her leaving California and a career in the Air Force.  With the prospect of graduate school in her future, Haley is looking for a new purpose for her life.  A historic building in Heart’s Bend is on the brink of demolition before Haley decides to save and restore the old Wedding Shop.  In the 1930s, Cora Scott found great delight in inheriting and managing her aunt’s wedding shop, even as she made the local brides’ dreams come true in the years of the Great Depression.  However, she always sought love of her own, even as she looked past the one man who could make her dreams come true.  In this compelling story of love and dreams, The Wedding Shop follows the stories of both women and their shared love for a wedding shop in small-town Tennessee.

Fans of Ms. Hauck’s The Wedding Dress and The Wedding Chapel will be delighted with this newest release.  The Wedding Shop continues to intertwine the stories of past and present, even as they prove the universal truths of Christian love and marriage across time.

Overall, I really enjoyed reading The Wedding Shop.  Ms. Hauck brings her signature writing style to this novel, even while introducing a new set of characters.  Those who have previously read The Wedding Chapel will be thrilled to see Ms. Hauck return to the town of Heart’s Bend, while also referencing characters from a variety of her books and series.  Personally, I found The Wedding Chapel to be my favorite of the three novels.  However, The Wedding Shop offers an intriguing and unique plot that will be a hit with a broad audience of readers.  Ms. Hauck also continues her tradition of including flawed Christian characters who must overcome their pasts and rely on faith for their future.

Readers who have previously enjoyed Ms. Hauck’s novels, especially The Wedding Chapel and The Wedding Dress, will be absolutely thrilled with The Wedding Shop.  Likewise, fans of contemporary Christian fiction, especially by authors such as Susan May Warren, will also want to read this book.

Fans of Rachel Hauck should also keep an eye out for her next release, A Royal Christmas Wedding, which releases on October 18th!  This newest book fits within her Royal Wedding series.

Special thanks to BookLook Bloggers for the advanced copy of The Wedding Shop!

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Review: A Lady Unrivaled – Roseanna M. White

Roseanna M. White. A Lady Unrivaled. Minneapolis, MN: Bethany House Publishers, 2016.

The last few months have been filled with a long list of excellent books that complete multi-year series from some very impressive authors in the Christian fiction genre.  Roseanna M. White completes her Ladies of the Manor series with A Lady Unrivaled, before beginning a new series next year.

In the third and final book of Roseanna M. White’s Ladies of the Manor series, A Lady Unrivaled follows the wandering adventures of Lady Ella Myerston.  As the younger sister and close friend of characters introduced in The Lost Heiress and The Reluctant Duchess, Ella finds herself sheltered from the dramatic events surrounding jewels known as the Tiger Eyes.  However, she finds herself at the center of the action, as the danger soon turns her direction. Fortunately, Lord Cayton has had a change of heart after losing his wife, resulting in a kinder man that the person Ella first met years before.  Together, Lady Ella and Lord Cayton must solve the mystery of the Tiger Eyes, in order to finally put the danger behind themselves and their families.

Ms. White offers a riveting conclusion to her Ladies of the Manor series.  Fans of the series will be thrilled to see the full cast of characters return to finally resolve the dramatic episode involving the Tiger Eyes.

Overall, I rather enjoyed reading A Lady Unrivaled.  In comparison to The Reluctant Duchess, I thought that the third novel in the series returned to the style of The Lost Heiress, with a stronger and more approachable set of main characters.  The interplay between Lord Cayton and Lady Ella is relatively light and enjoyable, even against the backdrop of far darker events.  Personally, The Lost Heiress remains my favorite novel in the series, as its characters and general plot are the most unique of the three books.  A Lady Unrivaled benefitted from revisiting several aspects of the characters’ pasts, including their connections to more exotic European countries, which made for some of the more interesting components of the story.  With the end of the Ladies of the Manor series, I am curious to see how Ms. White continues to develop her writing and imagine an entirely new set of characters for her future novels.

Fans of Ms. White and the Ladies of the Manor series will definitely want to read A Lady Unrivaled.  Likewise, readers who enjoy Christian historical fiction and novels of focused on the British aristocracy during the early 20th century will also find A Lady Unrivaled to be a worthwhile read.

Special thanks to NetGalley and Bethany House Publishers for an advanced copy of A Lady Unrivaled!

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Review: The Domino Effect – Davis Bunn

Davis Bunn. The Domino Effect. Minneapolis, MN: Bethany House Publishers, 2016.

Davis Bunn’s books are always eclectic, if for no other reason than that they come in so many different forms and categories.  I first discovered him as an author of historical fiction before also finding his suspense; fantasy/science fiction; and contemporary finance, legal, and military books.

Mr. Bunn’s most recent novel, The Domino Effect, follows Esther Larsen, a risk analyst who pieces together the possibility of a serious market crash, even worse than the events of 2008.  However, the bank where she works may be at the center of the ticking financial bomb, as its own investments depend upon global panic.  In a race against the clock, Esther and her allies rush to warn the public, who are surprisingly supportive of her work and desperate for a solution.  When the alarms sound, Esther will be put the ultimate test against corporate greed to save the world from complete financial ruin.

The Domino Effect has been praised for Mr. Bunn’s grasp of real-world financial situations within a gripping fictional scenario.  Fans of his financial and suspense novels will find Mr. Bunn’s experience in the business world to shine through this story.

Overall, I was left with mixed feelings about The Domino Effect.  As I have mentioned in previous reviews, I always enjoy “smart” fiction that requires more than a bit of knowledge and thinking to really enjoy.  Bunn delivers with The Domino Effect, as in many of his other books, with complex characters, unique situations, and extensive research.  However, I also agree with many of the reviews and endorsements of the novel that Mr. Bunn’s line between fiction and reality felt somewhat fuzzy.  While the concept of the storyline is very interesting, certain aspects of the novel were highly technical and I can see some readers wondering what happens to the actual characters and storyline in those sections.  Although I was able to finish the novel in record time, I cannot necessarily say that I was “entertained” by the book, as it is much more serious in tone than many other examples of Christian suspense.  In a time when such serious financial situations are a distinct possibility, I am more likely to reach for a lighter read by this author, rather than a financial thriller.

Fans of Mr. Bunn’s other financial thrillers will likely enjoy The Domino Effect.  Readers who are more familiar with his other works related to contemporary finance, legal, and military characters may also find this to be an interesting read.  Personally, I would only recommend this book to readers who enjoy a more serious tone to their Christian suspense novels.

Special thanks to NetGalley and Bethany House Publishers for the advanced copy of Domino Effect!

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Review: A Heart Most Certain – Melissa Jagears

Melissa Jagears. A Heart Most Certain. Minneapolis, MN: Bethany House Publishers, 2016.

Every once in a while, I decide to try a new author to feature on the blog.  Thanks to NetGalley, I received an early copy of A Heart Most Certain by Melissa Jagears.

The first novel in a new series by Ms. Jagears, A Heart Most Certain follows Lydia King and her attempts at Christian charity on behalf of the Teaville Moral Society.  Lydia is being courted by one of the community’s foremost lawyers.  However, his mother reigns over the moral society and insists that Lydia proves her worth for her son’s political future by raising a substantial donation from the town’s resident curmudgeon.  Unfortunately, Nicholas Lowe has other ideas of how to conduct his charity, flying in the face of the women’s good intentions.  In an effort to obtain the donation, Lydia agrees to a bargain with Nicholas, which soon lands both of them in questionable circumstances as they seek to help the community’s most needy residents.

Ms. Jagears brings a light and enjoyable style to what would otherwise be a serious topic.  The story’s characters are well-rounded and flawed, while the plot drives home a satisfying moral theme relevant to today’s Christians.

Overall, I really enjoyed reading A Heart Most Certain.  Having not previously read Ms. Jagears’ other novels, I found her setting and some aspects of her characters to be surprisingly similar to other classics of the Christian historical fiction genre, set in the quaint towns of the American (or Canadian, in some cases) western or Midwestern regions.  However, she brings a somewhat comedic style to moments of her story that interplay well with other themes that contribute a more serious tone.  As someone familiar with modern-day fundraising and charitable efforts, I could not help but laugh at Lydia’s continual pitches for Nicholas’ donation.  His response and ultimate philanthropic efforts show incredible insights by Ms. Jagears into the incredible challenge of doing “good work” and the balance between diverse perspectives of helping the less fortunate, especially as part of one’s Christian walk.  After reading A Heart Most Certain, I am excited to see where Ms. Jagears continues to take the Teaville Moral Society series.

Fans of Ms. Jagears’ previous books will definitely want to read A Heart Most Certain.  Readers who enjoy more classical stories in the Christian historical fiction genre, by such authors as Janette Oke and Tracie Peterson, will also greatly enjoy this book.  The novel’s style and pacing were quite similar to other examples of the genre, with a unique set of topics and character traits that set it apart from many other similar books.

Special thanks to NetGalley and Bethany House Publishers for the advanced copy of A Heart Most Certain!

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