Review: A Matter of Trust – Susan May Warren

Susan May Warren. A Matter of Trust. Grand Rapids, MI: Revell, 2017.

Happy Fourth of July!  With the holiday landing on a Tuesday this year, the Books and Biscuits Blog is featuring an excellent new novel about some of America’s local heroes, search and rescue.

A Matter of Trust serves as the third novel of Ms. Warren’s acclaimed Montana Rescue series.  Gage Watson fills an integral role in the PEAK Rescue team, while also specializing in mountain rescues for the local ski resorts.  However, his career once revolved around his talents as a champion backcountry snowboarder before a tragic accident and a devastating lawsuit forced him to rebuild his life in a different direction.  Years ago, Ella Blair thought she might have a future with Gage, having bonded over a shared love of snowboarding.  However, her friend’s accidental death led to her involvement as one of the attorneys in the case against Gage ended their relationship for good.  Ella now holds the evidence that could have saved Gage’s reputation and career.  She reluctantly returns to Gage’s life, in order to save her brother when he attempts a nearly impossible trek through Glacier National Park.   Together, Ella and Gage must figure out how to trust one another to pull off a nearly impossible rescue attempt in the face of blizzards, avalanches, and deadly terrain.

Ms. Warren returns to her Montana Rescue series and the PEAK Rescue team in A Matter of Trust.  Filled with fascinating details of competitive snowboarding and mountain rescues, fans of the series will be fascinated with the continuation of the team’s story.

Overall, I really enjoyed reading A Matter of Trust.  The entire Montana Rescue series builds around the PEAK Rescue team, developing the characters and their stories across multiple volumes.  In addition to Gage and Ella’s story, the novel continues to add to the backstories of the other characters, while building up a storyline that Ms. Warren indicates with be continued in the final novel of the series.  A Matter of Trust stands apart from the other novels of the series based on its focus on Gage as a former competitive snowboarder and his work on the ski patrol and related rescues.  As someone generally unfamiliar with the sport of backcountry snowboarding, I found Ms. Warren’s detailed descriptions of Gage’s work to be unexpectedly fascinating, yet easy to follow.  Additionally, I enjoyed seeing the development of Ella’s character, as she offered new insights into Gage’s background and fills a vital role in the general storyline of the series.  Based on the buildup of the story across the series, I am excited to read the conclusion in the upcoming release, Troubled Waters.

Fans of Ms. Warren’s previous work, especially the other books of the Montana Rescue series, will definitely want to read this novel.  Additionally, readers who enjoy books focused on winter sports and contemporary Christian fiction may also find this novel to be worthwhile.

Ms. Warren releases the fourth book of the Montana Rescue series, Troubled Waters, in January 2018!

Special thanks to NetGalley and Revell for the advanced copy of A Matter of Trust!

Looking for this book? Support the Books and Biscuits blog, while shopping at:
Amazon – A Matter of Trust

Review: The Sweet Smell of Magnolias and Memories – Celeste Fletcher McHale

Celeste Fletcher McHale. The Sweet Smell of Magnolias and Memories. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 2017.

Celeste Fletcher McHale’s The Secret of Hummingbird Cake was one of the most surprising and unique debut works that I reviewed last year.  In sharing it with several family members, they were incredibly impressed with the overall story and characters.  When I had the chance to preview an advanced reader’s copy of Ms. McHale’s upcoming release, I jumped at the opportunity.  After finishing the book in record time, I can honestly say that the novel is well worth the read!

Stranded on a rooftop during a devastating Mississippi flood, Jacey becomes attached to her fellow survivors, a poor mother, her four sons, and a man named Colin.  Over the course of three days, Jacey and Colin formed an indescribable bond forged by their life-and-death situation.  When a chance at rescue separates Jacey and Colin, they promise one another that they will reunite, only to have their contact information and Jacey’s memory wiped away in a tragic accident in the flood waters.  A year later, Jacey and Colin are unexpectedly reunited at a friend’s wedding.  Jacey’s faulty memory, triggered by her tragic accident, begins to return after talking with Colin and reestablishing their relationship in the normalcy of their real lives.  However, the flood waters were not the only complication that Colin and Jacey encountered in the years prior.  To move forward, each must have faith to overcome their previous challenges and fears, even if it means setting aside the relationship that they each have sought to relocate after the flood.

Ms. McHale shows herself to be a resonant voice in Southern fiction, writing in a style that reaches beyond traditional Christian fiction and into the real world challenges of everyday people.  The Sweet Smell of Magnolias and Memories will leave readers wanting far more of Ms. McHale’s stories.

Overall, I was absolutely thrilled with The Sweet Smell of Magnolias and Memories!  After reading Ms. McHale’s debut novel, The Secret of Hummingbird Cake, I was left unsure as to whether she could ever write another story of equal caliber.  In The Sweet Smell of Magnolias and Memories, she shows herself to be an incredible (and surprisingly consistent) storyteller.  The novel features complex and compelling characters faced with incredible, yet realistic, challenges, leaving the reader reflecting on the story long after it ends.  While some aspects of the novel may fall outside of the norm for Christian contemporary fiction, Ms. McHale’s story offers a fresh and genuine tale that will resonate with a Christian audience.  Additionally, the storyline, including the characters’ faults and challenges, will also ring true for a general readership.  In this purely Southern tale, Ms. McHale offers an insightful look at the true meaning of redemption and second chances, whether for a family, marriage, friendship, or romantic relationship.

Fans of Ms. McHale and The Secret of Hummingbird Cake will definitely want to read The Sweet Smell of Magnolias and Memories.  Likewise, readers who enjoy Southern-inspired Christian fiction will also want to check out this novel.  Ms. McHale writes for a broad audience, with moderate to fast pacing of her story.  Some readers may dislike some of the novel’s language and actions of the characters, which may impact the age-appropriateness of this story.  However, the novel is well worth the read for those who can appreciate the overall plotline and the characters’ redemption, in spite of their imperfections.

Special thanks to the author (Celeste Fletcher McHale) and BookLook Bloggers for the advanced copy of The Sweet Smell of Magnolias and Memories!

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Amazon – The Sweet Smell of Magnolias and Memories

Review: Behind the Scenes – Jen Turano

Jen Turano. Behind the Scenes. Minneapolis, MN: Bethany House Publishers, 2017.

Some of my favorite and most compelling moments of reading Christian fiction have come in the form of humorous stories and characters.  Jen Turano’s novels are always an enjoyable blend of history and comedy that transport her reader to another time and place, in spite of their circumstances.

In Behind the Scenes, Ms. Turano builds upon a set of characters first introduced in her e-novella, At Your Request.  As the first full-length novel in the Apart from the Crowd series, Behind the Scenes follows the non-traditional social wallflower, Permilia Griswold.  Growing up travelling through American mines with her businessman father, Permilia finds that she shares his mind for business, in spite of her step-mother’s determined efforts to launch her into proper society.  Instead, Permilia has found a role for herself as “Miss Quill,” an accomplished society columnist for one of the New York newspapers.  During one particularly eventful society event, Permilia overhears a threat on the life of Asher Rutherford, one of New York’s most reputable gentlemen and a successful department store owner.  Out of necessity, they form an unlikely partnership to discover the source of the threat, even as they find an unexpected source of acceptance and future possibilities in one another.

Ms. Turano creates a compelling set of characters and situations that will have her readers crying out for more incredible and humorous tales.  Behind the Scenes offers a fascinating introduction to a great new historical series.

Overall, I really enjoyed reading Behind the Scenes!  Ms. Turano’s characters are surprisingly varied, even as they feel comfortable and familiar within their historical setting.  I especially enjoyed seeing how Ms. Turano built upon these characters and others first introduced in her novella, At Your Request, while offering a few sneak peaks at those that will continue to play a part in her forthcoming novels.   While some sections of the novel felt unevenly paced, as a significant portion of the story is spent at a single social event, Ms. Turano uses this structure to introduce many of the novel’s significant characters and events.  By the end of the novel, readers will be left highly satisfied with a fun and fascinating tale that breaks the mold of romantic fiction set in New York high society.

Fans of Ms. Turano’s previous historical Christian novels and novellas will definitely want to read At Your Request.  Likewise, readers who enjoy historical Christian fiction with a relatively light and humorous style will also want to check out At Your Request and the other stories in Ms. Turano’s Apart from the Crowd series.  The next novel in the series, Out of the Ordinary, will release in November 2017!

Special thanks to NetGalley and Bethany House Publishing for the advanced copy of Behind the Scenes!

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Amazon – Behind the Scenes

Review: The Angels’ Share – James Markert

James Markert. The Angels’ Share. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 2017.

Periodically, a book’s central topic is so utterly unique that I enjoy trying a new author, style, or type of story than I normally read.  With the help of some Christian publishers, I have the opportunity to explore such novels more often than before I started blogging and reviewing books.

James Markert’s latest release, The Angels’ Share, follows the story of William McFee and his family after the end of Prohibition.  Before alcohol became illegal, the family earned their livelihood from the Old Sam Bourbon distillery, under the management of William’s father, Barley.  However, the entire town of Twisted Tree faced a rapid decline without the distillery in operation.  The town buries its indigent residents in the potter’s field next to the distillery and one drifter’s burial soon draws great attention to the area and the McFees, in particular.  Barley McFee begins to fear for the family’s safety, as journalists begin to investigate the miracles of the “Potter’s Field Christ” and the truth behind the elder McFee’s activities during Prohibition.  As William fights to restart the distillery, he soon finds himself searching for the real story behind the family’s tragic past and looking for a way forward for all of them.

Mr. Markert brings a new voice to Southern-inspired fiction, telling the story of Kentucky’s post-Prohibition history and its bourbon distilleries.  Fans of American historical fiction will appreciate Mr. Markert’s perspective and research.

Overall, I was left with mixed feelings toward Mr. Markert’s novel.  He creates a relatively unique set of characters that naturally fit within the setting and era of his story.  Likewise, he develops a fascinating sense of place throughout the novel that will draw in his readers, particularly those with an interest in the history of Kentucky’s bourbon distilleries.  However, I found the actual plotline to be disjointed and lacking resolution, as several subplots appeared in the story without any further development. The Angels’ Share contained stylistic elements and a plotline more commonly found in commercial historical fiction, rather than novels released by Christian publishers.  Additionally, some of the themes, events, and language may not be appropriate to the general audience who typically read Christian fiction. From a storyline perspective, I thought that Mr. Markert offered some intriguing historical perspective and details told through the eyes of his characters, especially William McFee.  However, the “Potter’s Field Christ” plotline would have benefitted from further editing and tighter writing, as the purpose of this storyline (especially in a work of Christian fiction) will likely confuse many readers.  I would have preferred to see this concept developed with a closer eye toward Christian themes, rather than “the mystery of miracles,” as described on the back cover of the book.

Fans of commercial historical fiction may find The Angels’ Share to be a worthwhile read.  Those who enjoy Christian historical fiction, especially focused during the Great Depression or based in the American South, may also find this to be worth exploring.  While most Christian fiction may be accessible to a general audience (teens, adults, etc.), this novel would have a PG-13 or R rating in a movie format, due to content and language.  Additionally, the “Christian” themes are few and far between, as Biblical references are oftentimes taken outside of their proper context and some reviewers have pointed to elements of this book as being “supernatural” or “cult-like,” rather than Christian, in nature.

Special thanks to Thomas Nelson and The Fiction Guild for the advanced copy of The Angels’ Share!

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Amazon – The Angels’ Share

Review: Where Two Hearts Meet – Liz Johnson

Liz Johnson. Where Two Hearts Meet. Grand Rapids, MI: Revell, 2016.

After reading dozens of books over the last year, I still can’t decide if I enjoy the beginning of a series or the continuation of one more.  This week’s review features the second novel in a series first introduced in March of this year.  In this case, I can honestly say that I prefer the sequel to the first book in the set. :)

Ms. Johnson continues her Prince Edward Island Dreams series with Where Two Hearts Meet.  Following the events of The Red Door Inn, Caden Holt thrives as the executive chef of Seth and Marie Sloane’s inn on Prince Edward Island.  However, the Inn faces financial challenges without the necessary marketing to bring in new visitors.  Fortunately, a travel writer arrives on the Inn’s doorstep!  Marie insists that Caden show off the Island to their newest guest, in spite of Caden’s hesitancy to leave the safe world of her kitchen.  Adam Jacobs left behind his position as a journalist after his international story led to tragic results.  On a sabbatical, Adam needs the calm atmosphere of Prince Edward Island to regain perspective and hopefully rediscover his passion for writing.  In a case of mistaken identity, Adam finds himself as the subject of Caden and Marie’s marketing pitch for the Island, even as he finds the atmosphere of Caden’s kitchen to be the most effective form of recuperation.  Together, Adam and Caden must overcome their fears to find a way to save the Red Door Inn.

Where Two Hearts Meet offers a heartwarming continuation of Ms. Johnson’s Prince Edward Island Dreams.  In the novel, Ms. Johnson comes into her own as an author of contemporary Christian fiction.

Overall, I quite enjoyed Where Two Hearts Meet.  While The Red Door Inn made for pleasant reading, I never completely lost myself in the characters.  In comparison, Where Two Hearts Meet was a much more interesting story, with a more compelling plotline and better pacing that will keep readers fascinated.  Ms. Johnson benefits from having established much of her setting and quite a few characters in her earlier novel.  However, this book offers a story and characters that are strong enough to stand alone.  The setting on Prince Edward Island also comes into its own in this novel, as the food, culture, and location are featured heavily based on the travel writing and foodie emphasis of the characters and story.  After reading a brief preview of the next novel in Ms. Johnson’s series, I look forward to continuing to review her future books!

Readers who enjoy relatively light contemporary Christian fiction will enjoy Where Two Hearts Meet, especially if they appreciated Ms. Johnson’s previous novel, The Red Door Inn.  Also, fans of Christian fiction that takes place in Canadian or seaside settings will also want to read this series.  With the novel’s PEI connection, fans of L.M. Montgomery may find this series to be worthwhile.  However, the modern-day PEI and Ms. Johnson’s writing style are significantly different from Ms. Montgomery’s tales.

Ms Johnson will release the next novel in the Prince Edward Island Dreams series in the summer of 2017!

Special thanks to Revell Reads Blog Tour for the advanced copy of Where Two Hearts Meet!

Looking for this book? Support the Books and Biscuits blog, while shopping at:
Amazon – Where Two Hearts Meet