Review: The Austen Escape – Katherine Reay

Katherine Reay. The Austen Escape. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 2017.

Lately, I’ve been watching my fair share of British television, whether in the form of recent releases or some older productions that have been from years past.  Some of the most amusing have involved putting modern-day people in historical situations, as they rarely have the basic knowledge to make it through a historical day.  Ms. Reay’s most recent novel takes a look at a very similar situation, with hysterical results. :)

Ms. Reay’s newest novel, The Austen Escape, features the friendship of Mary Davies and Isabel Dwyer.  Mary has her life together with a great job as an engineer at a start-up with excellent prospects.  Through her job, she has met a handsome consultant, who has turned into a trusted friend and possibly more.  However, Isabel soon cuts in on Mary’s life, when she springs a two-week trip to England as an emergency that could further strain or fix their friendship.  Isabel depends on the trip as an essential piece of her dissertation research on recreating Jane Austen’s literature, leaving Mary to cram in reading of all of Austen’s works.  Without Isabel’s scholarly knowledge of Austen’s world, Mary is left floundering through the early days of living on an historic estate with period-costumed guests.  When Isabel loses her memory and believes that she really lives in Austen’s Regency era, Mary must save the day with the help of the rest of the manor’s guests and a few surprise assistants from home.

The Austen Escape proves Ms. Reay’s brilliance at interweaving classic literature with modern-day situational humor.  Fans of PBS’s historical dramas and reality shows will find themselves eagerly delving into this delightful novel.

Overall, I really enjoyed reading The Austen Escape!  This novel stands out as my personal favorite novel by Ms. Reay, as she brings a wonderful sense of humor to this story.  Additionally, her characters offer a very different cast from her other books, as well as those found in similar works in the genre of contemporary Christian fiction and literary-inspired novels.  Mary and Isabel serve as just the beginning of a highly-layered cast of characters, with their own faults and accomplishments shown to great effect in this story of misunderstandings, escape, and second chances.  While other storylines in books and television shows have explored the concept of modern-day people living in a Regency Era or Austen-inspired environment, Ms. Reay’s rendition offers a new level of humor and wit to this unique setting.  Particularly, the novel’s contrasting of Mary and her engineering mind in a world of manners and social occasions offers great moments that readers will find absolutely charming.

Fans of Ms. Reay’s previous novels will definitely want to read The Austen Escape.  Likewise, readers who enjoy literature-inspired contemporary fiction or Christian fiction will find this book to be well worth tracking down.

Special thanks to NetGalley and Thomas Nelson for the advanced copy of The Austen Escape!

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Review: Close to You – Kara Isaac

Kara Isaac. Close to You. New York, NY: Howard Books, 2016.

I had the opportunity to read Kara Isaac’s latest release, Can’t Help Falling, as an advanced copy from the publisher.  If you’ve already read my review, you probably figured out that I thought it was quite brilliant and absolutely hilarious!  With a little help from my local library, I finally had the chance to read her debut novel, Close to You. :)

Allison Shire’s life as an academic fell apart the day that her husband’s wife walked into the middle of her lecture.  With a Ph.D. in English, Allison has left the university world and run home to piece together her life again, becoming a guide for luxury tours of New Zealand.  On one of her last tours, Allison’s group includes Jackson Gregory, a failed businessman with his own share of relationship challenges.  After his girlfriend ran off with his trade secrets and his biggest competition, Jackson is desperate to please his wealthy great-uncle on a zany trip to New Zealand, even if it means three weeks of Tolkien references that he does not understand.  Together, Allison and Jackson discover the true meaning of second chances and seeing through one another to their true selves, against some of the craziest odds ever conceived in fiction or real life.

Ms. Isaac brings the fantastic landscape of New Zealand to life in her debut novel, Close to You.  Fans of Tolkien and the latest film series will be absolutely thrilled with Ms. Isaac’s depiction of his literary works and the behind-the-scenes life of those who call the film sets home.

Overall, I was absolutely delighted with Close to You!  Melissa Tagg, Becky Wade, and several other notable Christian authors highly recommended this novel.  With the added benefit of having read Ms. Isaac’s sophomore work, Can’t Help Falling, I was eager to see what she would do with a story set in her native New Zealand.  She certainly did not disappoint!  With an incredible eye for detail and comedic timing, Ms. Isaac offers a fun and fascinating tale filled with excellent and complex characters.   Additionally, she presents a unique and engaging storyline that will keep readers absolutely riveted.

Fans of Ms. Isaac’s most recent release, Can’t Help Falling, will definitely want to read Close to You.  Additionally, readers who enjoy the light and funny style of Christian novels by Melissa Tagg and Becky Wade 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 Ms. Isaac’s novels.  Readers who are interested in Tolkien may also want to read this book, although (I can attest) a deep knowledge of these subjects are not required to thoroughly enjoy this novel.

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Review: Twilight at Blueberry Barrens – Colleen Coble

Colleen Coble. Twilight at Blueberry Barrens. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 2016.

After reading Colleen Coble’s Mermaid Moon, I was curious to see how she continued the Sunset Cove series.  Fortunately, I was able to access an early copy of Twilight at Blueberry Barrens well in advance of its September release.

As the third novel in Ms. Coble’s Sunset Cove series, Twilight at Blueberry Barrens follows the story of Kate Mason, a regular character from the previous two books.  Kate finds herself with a failed blueberry crop, forcing her to find alternative income.  Fortunately, Drake Newham has come to town after the death of his brother and sister-in-law, needing to rent Kate’s cottage and utilize her incredible skills caring for his two nieces.  When strange events start intruding on Kate’s home and Drake’s cottage, they must work together to stop the threat to both of their families.

Twilight at Blueberry Barrens builds on the previous books of the Sunset Cove, finally telling the story of Clare Dellamare’s twin sister, Kate.  Ms. Coble utilizes her signature style of romantic suspense to bring the town of Colly Shoals, Maine, to life.

Overall, I thought that Twilight at Blueberry Barrens remained true to the style of the other books in Ms. Coble’s Sunset Cove series.  Most of the series has been relatively enjoyable to read.  However, I found this particular novel to be somewhat unbelievable, due to the sheer density of “suspense” events and number of characters who were all threatening Kate and Drake’s families.  In general, Ms. Coble’s contemporary works are admittedly slower and darker than many of the other books that I read.  Regardless, she remains one of the most popular writers in the Christian romantic suspense genre.  This is in large part due to her well-developed storylines and broad cast of characters that make for generally intriguing novels.  Likewise, her ability to build compelling and inter-related novels makes her a fan favorite among Christian fiction readers.

Fans of Ms. Coble’s other works, particularly those in the Sunset Cove series, will definitely want to read Twilight at Blueberry Barrens.  Readers who typically enjoy Christian fiction with romantic and (significant) suspense elements will also find this novel to be a worthwhile read.  As a result of the genre of this book, the story has a darker tone than other contemporary Christian fiction works by such authors as Denise Hunter and Rachel Hauck.

Special thanks to Thomas Nelson and NetGalley for an advanced copy of Twilight at Blueberry Barrens!

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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!

Find your own promotional copy of Ms. Warren’s latest e-novella at: http://www.susanmaywarren.com/get-your-copy-of-if-ever-i-would-leave-you/

[1] http://www.susanmaywarren.com/get-your-copy-of-if-ever-i-would-leave-you/.