Review: The Captain’s Daughter – Jennifer Delamere

Jennifer Delamere. The Captain’s Daughter. Minneapolis, MN: Bethany House Publishers, 2017.

When reading a new book, it’s always fun to discover a surprising detail in the plot or setting that truly sets the story apart from others.  These details can make or break a novel, or at least completely captivate the right reader, who shares the author’s fascination with that topic.

The Captain’s Daughter is the first novel in the London Beginnings series by Jennifer Delamere.  Rosalyn Bernay grew up in a British orphanage before becoming the companion of a wealthy woman.  However, Rosalyn must flee her situation when the woman’s new husband accuses her of stealing priceless family items.  Stranded in London without her luggage, Rosalyn fortunately lands a job at a theater featuring Gilbert and Sullivan’s most recent comic opera.  Along the way, she encounters Nate Moran, a wounded veteran who splits his time between his own job at a local stable and working backstage at the theater to maintain his injured brother’s position.  Nate insists that his time in London is only temporary, as he plans to return to his military career in India, once his own battle wounds heal.  Together, Nate and Rosalyn navigate the ever-dramatic life of the theater, even as they discover new possibilities for their lives and careers.

Ms. Delamere brings a new voice to Christian historical fiction, building on an ever-expanding number of recently-released historical novels set in Britain.  Fans of stories set in the Victorian era will be thrilled to read this tale of life in Gilbert and Sullivan’s theater.

Overall, I quite enjoyed reading The Captain’s Daughter.  In general, Ms. Delamere develops a plotline that feels surprisingly different from many other recent historical novels set in Britain.  Her focus on Gilbert and Sullivan’s theater and the behind-the-scenes moments featuring their productions are a true highlight of this work.  Additionally, readers looking for pleasant Christian historical fiction will find that many of the characters remain true to the nature of the genre, although they may not be overly complex and developed.  Without providing any spoilers, I would have liked to see a stronger ending to the novel, as it felt somewhat truncated and underdeveloped in comparison to the rest of the story.  As this is the first novel in the London Beginnings series, I am curious to see how Ms. Delamere continues this set of novels and which characters she chooses to develop further.

Fans of Christian historical fiction works set in Victorian Britain may find The Captain’s Daughter to be well worth reading.  Additionally, readers with an interest in Gilbert and Sullivan’s comic operas may find particular enjoyment in this novel.

Special thanks to NetGalley and Bethany House Publishers for the advanced copy of The Captain’s Daughter!

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Review: Threads of Suspicion – Dee Henderson

Dee Henderson. Threads of Suspicion: An Evie Blackwell Cold Case. Minneapolis, MN: Bethany House Publishers, 2017.

Hope you all had a wonderful Memorial Day weekend!  I’m happy to return with our regularly-scheduled book review this week, featuring Dee Henderson’s latest release.

Ms. Henderson follows her acclaimed Traces of Guilt novel with Threads of Suspicion, which continues the tales of the cold cases of Evie Blackwell of the Illinois State PoliceBased on Evie’s previous successes as a cold case investigator, the governor has appointed her to the new statewide Missing Persons Task Force.  Evie and the team are under pressure to produce results in these cases, even as they face tremendous odds and communities that are suspicious that these murders can ever be solved.  Along with her new partner, David Marshal, Evie arrives in suburban Chicago to solve two of these cases, one involving a missing college student and the other focused on a skilled private investigator.  When the two cases collide, Evie and David must use all of their knowledge and abilities to finally bring resolution to both local mysteries.

Filled with moments of suspense and faith, Threads of Suspicion marks the return of Evie Blackwell and Ms. Henderson’s world of crime-fighting and mystery-solving characters.  Fans of Traces of Guilt and Ms. Henderson’s other novels will be thrilled to see more high-stakes suspense from this acclaimed Christian author.

Overall, I was quite excited to finally have the chance to read Threads of Suspicion.  Ms. Henderson’s suspense novels are consistently among my favorites of the genre.  In general, the Evie Blackwell Cold Case novels have been nice, as they continue to build upon the world of characters featured in Ms. Henderson’s previous novels, especially those released by Bethany House.  As I have really enjoyed those main characters, I appreciate their periodic reappearances in these most recent books.  However, the character of Evie Blackwell sometimes comes across as being somewhat one-dimensional in comparison to the other characters in this novel, as well as those found in Ms. Henderson’s other published stories.  Threads of Suspicion features Evie’s case-solving abilities and the cases themselves, but does not include as much content focused on Evie’s relationship with the rest of the task force and other people of interest.  Instead, the strongest relationships and personal interactions exist between the other characters, leaving Evie to appear less interesting and well-rounded than her partner and more minor characters.  For fans of Ms. Henderson’s work, Threads of Suspicion functions as a continuation of the author’s high-caliber storytelling abilities in the suspense genre, independent of one’s attachment to the characters themselves.

Fans of Ms. Henderson’s work, especially Traces of Guilt, should definitely read Threads of Suspicion.  Additionally, readers who enjoy Christian suspense novels will find Ms. Henderson’s novels to be well-worth checking out in the near future.

Special thanks to Bethany House Publishers for the advanced copy of Threads of Suspicion!

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Review: True to You – Becky Wade

Becky Wade. True to You: A Bradford Sisters Romance. Minneapolis, MN: Bethany House Publishers, 2017.

Last week, I featured Becky Wade’s prequel novella, Then Came You, on the Books and Biscuits Blog.  Typically Ms. Wade only releases one full-length novel a year, which is always a highlight of the warmer months.  Her newest book, True to You, actually releases today and is definitely worth reading!

True to You focuses on Nora Bradford, the middle sister of a legendary and talented trio of sisters.  As the resident genealogist and director of the local historical village, Nora has created a life for herself surrounded by books, history, and the occasional fictional hero.  Nora avoids heartbreak after a serious relationship years ago went awry, until the day that a former Navy SEAL walks into her life.  John Lawson has made a name for himself as a security expert, but needs Nora’s help to find out the truth about his birth mother and an inherited health condition that may undermine his entire career.  Together, this unlikely duo discover that they may not be quite as different as they once thought, as they bond over shared tragedy, faith, and the pursuit of truth against all odds.

Fans of Ms. Wade will be absolutely thrilled with True to You and the beginning of the Bradford Sisters series.  Set in the Pacific Northwest, this book offers a technicolor view of a very different setting from those featured in Ms. Wade’s past stories.

Overall, I really enjoyed reading True to You!  For readers of Ms. Wade’s works, I would highly recommend starting with Then Came You, which serves as the novella prequel for the Bradford Sisters series.  The novella provides additional backstory that will help readers to understand the history of the Bradford family and the unique relationship between Nora and her sisters, while also introducing Ms. Wade’s style of using additional forms of correspondence (emails, texts, phone calls, etc.) to further her story.  In True to You, Ms. Wade uses these relatively unorthodox components to a lesser extent, as the correspondence builds upon a more standard storytelling structure, rather than functioning on its own.  As an overall story, True to You is equally as strong as Ms. Wade’s previous novels and series, which is particularly impressive for the first book in a new series.  Readers will definitely enjoy meeting the Bradford sisters in this book and will be left wanting far more of their stories in Ms. Wade’s future novels.

Fans of Ms. Wade’s previous novels and other stories will definitely want to read True to You, especially if they enjoyed Then Came You: A Bradford Sisters Novella.  Likewise, readers who enjoy light-hearted contemporary Christian fiction by such authors as Melissa Tagg and Susan May Warren will also find this novel and Ms. Wade’s other works to be well worth checking out.

Special thanks to NetGalley and Bethany House Publishers for an advanced copy of True to You!

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Review: The Illusionist’s Apprentice – Kristy Cambron

Kristy Cambron. The Illusionist’s Apprentice. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 2017.

Sometimes reviewing books comes with its own set of hazards.  Publishers release books on their own schedules, which means they are not necessarily evenly distributed throughout the year.  At the moment, I’m already reading and writing reviews for upcoming months, while waiting for books to arrive that release this week!  Fortunately, Kristy Cambron’s upcoming release arrived several days ago and I enjoyed every moment of this edge-of-your-seat historical mystery.

The Illusionist’s Apprentice follows the story of Wren Lockhart, a former apprentice to Harry Houdini who has made a name for herself on the vaudeville stage.  Together, Wren and Houdini successfully discredited magicians and spiritualists who misled the public with the promise of returning lost loved ones from the grave.  After Houdini’s death, one disgraced performer dares to regain the stage with the promise of returning a man to life.  However, the illusion’s tragic results quickly leads to an investigation by the burgeoning Boston division of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.  The two agents in charge of the case turn to Wren as an expert illusionist capable of determining the truth behind the deadly vaudeville act.  However, the FBI’s investigation leads the agents to discover the true depth of illusionists’ secrets, especially those held by Wren to separate her glamorous stage life from the truth of her past.

Interweaving scenes from Wren’s past and present life, The Illusionist’s Apprentice will captivate readers with fascinating details of the Jazz Age and vaudeville life.  Ms. Cambron brings a rich vibrancy to her characters, while stepping into the arena of Christian suspense and mystery in her most recent novel.

Overall, I really enjoyed reading The Illusionist’s Apprentice!  Ms. Cambron continues to show remarkable growth in her writing from novel to novel, with The Illusionist’s Apprentice placing itself firmly at the forefront of her work.  The book offers a riveting depiction of American vaudeville life during the early part of the twentieth century, particularly in light of Harry Houdini and his fellow illusionists’ work capturing the public’s imagination through live performances.  While Houdini makes few actual appearances in the novel, the story reflects his influence on his chosen profession as a mentor and trendsetter.  Ms. Cambron’s choice to focus on Houdini’s work in debunking spiritualism and séance activity was particularly fascinating, especially when set against the public’s grief from the massive losses of World War I and the Spanish Flu.  At its heart, The Illusionist’s Apprentice ultimately focuses on the balance of truth and illusion in Wren’s life, even as she remains true to her faith.  The faith-based element of the story was relatively surprising and appreciated, although not necessarily overt, as Ms. Cambron’s other Christian novels have been known for their historical detail over the strength of their Christian themes. As an example of Christian suspense/mystery novels, The Illusionist’s Apprentice may be slightly spooky (there is a graveyard scene) for some readers.  However, it remains true to the relatively clean and accessible nature of Christian fiction.

Fans of Ms. Cambron’s previous historical novels, especially The Ringmaster’s Wife, will definitely want to read The Illusionist’s Apprentice.  Likewise, readers who enjoy Christian historical fiction set in the early twentieth century will also find this book to be well worth reading.

Special thanks to BookLook Bloggers and Thomas Nelson for the advanced copy of The Illusionist’s Apprentice!

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Review: Another Day, Another Dali – Sandra Orchard

Sandra Orchard. Another Day, Another Dali. Grand Rapids, MI: Revell, 2016.

The weather has been particularly cold and blustery this week.  Fortunately, I finally tracked down another great Christian book from my local library.  It was actually released in October of last year, but I’m just now getting around to reading and reviewing it.

Sandra Orchard returns to her Serena Jones Mystery series with her most recent novel, Another Day, Another Dali.  Special Agent Serena Jones serves on the FBI Art Crime team.  However, a surprising amount of her work originates from her family’s connections in the city.  As a favor to her grandmother, Serena delves into the mystery of her neighbor’s missing Dali painting and the forgery that was left behind.  She soon discovers that the case coincides with other forgeries throughout the area, as well as the investigation surrounding her grandfather’s murder years before.  Facing an increasing number of suspicious threats on her life, Serena must quickly crack the case before more art and lives are lost.

Ms. Orchard offers a riveting mystery filled with spunky characters and high-action investigations.  Another Day, Another Dali will delight readers of great Christian fiction, especially in the mystery/suspense genre.

Overall, I really enjoyed reading Another Day, Another Dali.  Although I have not (yet) read the first book in Ms. Orchard’s Serena Jones Mystery series (A Fool and His Monet), Another Day, Another Dali was incredibly accessible and easy to follow.  While some mystery and suspense novels can seem overly dark, even among those released by Christian publishers, this novel remained very light and enjoyable to read.  Likewise, many of the characters offered a fun and quirky contrast to the high-stakes action of Serena’s FBI investigation.  Ms. Orchard’s style reminded me of Rene Gutteridge’s highly-entertaining Occupational Hazards series, while integrating great references to the world of art crimes and the FBI.  After reading this novel, I am looking forward to tracking down the first book of the series, as well as finding the third novel in the series (Over Maya Dead Body) when it releases in July 2017.

Fans of Ms. Orchard’s other works will be absolutely delighted with the continuation of her most recent series in Another Day, Another Dali.  Likewise, readers who enjoy light-hearted Christian mystery novels will also want to read this book.

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