Review: Sweetbriar Cottage – Denise Hunter

Denise Hunter. Sweetbriar Cottage. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 2017.

Some authors are known for writing series, while others consistently write stand-alone novels.  Over the last year, a few authors have tried to attempt writing the opposite of their normal, with surprisingly positive results.

Acclaimed contemporary Christian fiction author, Denise Hunter, developed Sweetbriar Cottage as a stand-alone novel.  The story concentrates on the relationship of Noah and Josephine Mitchell, a young couple who unexpectedly discover that the paperwork for their divorce was never finalized by the judge.  In the midst of trying to rectify the final paperwork, Josephine finds herself stranded at Noah’s mountainside horse ranch in a historic blizzard.  After avoiding one another for months, Noah and Josephine are faced with an extended period of time in each other’s company.  When an emergency arises on the ranch, they must both head out into the storm, where they face nature’s wrath and risk their survival trying to return to the ranch.  In the midst of the storm, Josephine finally admits her painful history and the tragedy that eventually led to their divorce.  When faced with the real possibility of death, both must decide whether to love and forgive or finally give up on their relationship altogether.

In this story of unconditional love and forgiveness, Ms. Hunter writes a gripping tale of Josephine and Noah’s relationship.  Set in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Georgia, Sweetbriar Cottage offers an intense winter story with a Southern spin.

Overall, I appreciated the chance to read Sweetbriar Cottage.  While I’m not typically a huge fan of stories focused on broken marriages, Ms. Hunter’s books are of a consistently high caliber to try reading.  Using a series of flashback scenes throughout the novel, Ms. Hunter expertly intersperses the intense winter survival story with past moments of Josephine and Noah’s history.  Readers will find Josephine’s story to be particularly heartbreaking and intense, especially within a work of Christian fiction.  However, Josephine’s tragic past provides a significant and compelling springboard for Ms. Hunter to develop the rest of her plotline.   While some readers may not be comfortable with elements of this story, many will see the worth of this story as one of ultimate love and redemption.

Fans of Ms. Hunter’s past works will definitely want to read Sweetbriar Cottage.  While elements of this story may seem familiar to readers, Ms. Hunter’s storytelling ability shines through and illustrates why she may be one of only a limited number of authors capable of tackling this challenging story.

Ms. Hunter will kick off a new series with Blue Ridge Sunrise in November 2017!

Special thanks to NetGalley and Thomas Nelson for the advanced copy of Sweetbriar Cottage!

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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: 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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Amazon – True to You

Review: The One True Love of Alice-Ann – Eva Marie Everson

Eva Marie Everson. The One True Love of Alice-Ann. Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, 2017.

On a very rainy, early spring day, it’s always nice to curl up with another great Christian fiction novel.  While my grandmother, aunt, and mum initially started me in on these types of stories, I now find myself in the fascinating role of regularly recommending novels to them.  Fortunately, there always seems to be more great stories being released that I know they will enjoy.

Eva Marie Everson releases her newest novel, The One True Love of Alice-Ann, this month.  While the novel takes place primarily during the early part of World War II, Alice-Ann’s story begins in the days just before the war.  As a budding sixteen-year-old, Alice-Ann has a crush on her older brother’s friend and plans to share her feelings with him at her birthday party.  However, the events at Pearl Harbor devastate the people of her small Georgia town, even as they send the young men of the area to the nearest enlistment office.  Desperate to share her feelings with Mack, Alice-Ann promises to write him until he returns, in spite of him not sharing any mutual feelings.  After years of correspondence, Mack’s letters suddenly end without warning, causing Alice-Ann to wonder about the true state of their relationship.  Meanwhile, the war has already taken its toll on the local families, including another of her brother’s friends, Carlton.  Alice-Ann finds her spare time taken up helping Carlton to recover from his war wounds, even as it forces her to face the realities of adulthood in a time of war.  Ultimately, Alice-Ann must choose between her dreams of one man and the reality of another, all in hopes of finally wearing her aunt’s wedding dress for the man she loves.

Ms. Everson writes a compelling story of emerging adulthood in a time of war.  Alice-Ann’s story will capture the hearts of readers who enjoy character-driven novels set during the World War II era.

Overall, I surprisingly enjoyed reading The One True Love of Alice-Ann.  While I have had mixed reactions to some of Ms. Everson’s previous work, I found this novel to be exceptionally well written, with even pacing and character development throughout.  She does a great job of showing the influence of the World War II period on a small Georgia town and the surrounding rural areas, through the inclusion of fascinating historical detail derived from her family’s past and additional research.  Additionally, the novel maintains a significant focus on Alice-Ann and the people in her life, offering a compelling narrative that many readers will enjoy without overly graphic descriptions of the war itself.  Based on Ms. Everson’s themes, writing style, and accessible pacing of the novel, I would highly recommend this story to those who appreciate captivating historical Christian fiction.

Fans of Ms. Everson’s previous works will definitely want to read The One True Love of Alice-Ann.  Additionally, readers who enjoy character-driven stories of the American homefront during World War II will also find this novel to be well worth reading.

Special thanks to NetGalley and Tyndale House for the advanced copy of The One True Love of Alice-Ann!

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Amazon – The One True Love of Alice-Ann

Review: To the Farthest Shores – Elizabeth Camden

Elizabeth Camden. To the Farthest Shores. Minneapolis, MN: Bethany House Publishers, 2017.

I’m particularly excited to share this week’s review, as it has been a long time in coming.  Due to a series of delays, my copy of Elizabeth Camden’s most recent novel just arrived, even though it was supposed to release in February.  Fortunately, I’m a fast reader and the Blog had an available slot this week to feature this excellent book!

Ms. Camden’s novels regularly feature a wide variety of historical settings and locations across the United States.  Her most recent book takes readers to the coast of California in the years bridging the turn of the twentieth century.  Jenny Bennett works as a nurse at Presidio Army Base, where she happens to meet an intriguing naval officer in the months prior to the Spanish-American War.  However, Lieutenant Ryan Gallagher’s illness set back his secret mission for the U.S. government and he must once again leave the country, in spite of his feelings for Jenny.  Without an explanation for Ryan’s departure, Jenny continues her nursing career for another six years before rumors of his return accompany his arrival on the base.  Ryan’s homecoming to the United States follows six years of regrets and heartache, even as it places a continuing military mission at risk.  While Ryan has a plan for the overseas mission to succeed, he will have to convince Jenny to assist him and finally admit the truth behind his abrupt departure so many years ago.

Ms. Camden once again brings her award-winning research and writing skills to this story of forgiveness and second chances.  To the Farthest Shores will delight readers with a new cast of fascinating characters that could only be created by the brilliant mind of Ms. Camden.

Overall, I really enjoyed reading To the Farthest Shores.  While most of Ms. Camden’s previous works have taken place on the eastern coast of the United States, this novel’s California-based setting presents a marked contrast to her other books.  However, fans of her other work will find themselves right at home with this new cast of characters, as Ms. Camden continues to build stories around unique and intelligent individuals who seem to step out of the pages of history.  This novel’s focus on early attempts at international military intelligence, as well as the scientific study of pearls, presents fascinating historical subject matter for consideration, even beyond the scope of the book’s plotline.  In comparison to Ms. Camden’s last couple of novels, I found this story to have a slightly slower pace and more serious tone.  However, To the Farthest Shores fit well within the overall canon of her work, as a captivating example of Christian historical fiction.

Fans of Ms. Camden will absolutely want to read To the Farthest Shores.  Likewise, readers who enjoy expertly-researched historical fiction, even beyond the scope of Christian fiction, will definitely want to explore this novel.

Ms. Camden will release her next novel, A Dangerous Legacy, in October of 2017!

Special thanks to Bethany House Publishers for the advanced copy of To the Farthest Shores!

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Amazon – To the Farthest Shores