Lisa Carter’s Vines of Entanglement

A tangled web of lies characterizes the life Laura Mabry has built for herself and her son after the tragic death of her husband. But Laura’s carefully constructed world slides off its axis when she stumbles upon the body of a young college student on the recreational trails of Raleigh’s Greenway. What’s worse, Detective Jon Locklear is Laura’s worst nightmare…and her dream come true. Jon has spent years trying to forget Laura. Past experience has taught him that he can’t trust her, but old habits—like old loves—die hard. When the killer turns his attention on Laura, Jon may be the only one who can save her. Truth and murder lurk just around the corner for Laura. Can she find the courage to face her deepest fears and unravel the lies of her past before she and her son become the Greenway Killer’s next victims.

Review

I enjoy Lisa Carter’s books for a variety of reasons and I am always excited to get my hands on a new one. Here’s why:

What I liked:

Diversity. I love, love, love that Ms. Carter always has an American Indian as one of her main characters and then she has Latinos and blacks as their friends. I kid you not, Christian fiction, is, unfortunately, very homogeneous. It is just so great to see other races represented and I just love learning more about the American Indian culture. And this book is no exception as we learn about the Lumbee tribe.

This book has one of the tropes that almost every author in my February interview said they hated. I don’t hate this trope-if done right (which for me means that things are not all revealed at the end but revealed sooner). And so, even though I internally rolled my eyes at the situation, I was still caught up in it.

Jon. He’s a great detective and a great man. I loved the scenes he was in and found him to be a trustworthy narrator as he trusted God throughout the book.

The mystery. The book is appropriately named Vines, because there are a couple of family secrets that impact this novel and I loved unraveling every single one.

Spiritually, there is a great theme of grace and mercy and how God’s mercies are new every morning.

What I didn’t like:

Laura. This girl was so selfish. Every decision she made was about her, protecting her, making her feel secure. She swore up and down she loved her son, but I wasn’t terribly convinced because she made little to no sacrifices on his behalf. I will say that she changes, and by the end of the novel becomes more likeable, but she was a bit of a mess.

Romantic Scale: 8

Overall, such a fun book to read. I literally had a hard time putting it down. Laura’s personality would keep the book from receiving “5 stars”, but otherwise another good one!

**I received this book from Netgalley. My opinion was not affected in any way.**

Christian Books That Are Free (Or Very Cheap)!

Looking for a new author? Don’t want to pay much more than a dime? Some of these authors I have read and some of them I haven’t read, but that doesn’t mean you can’t!

Book 1 of the Christian romance series, Those Karlsson Boys, Waiting for Rachel introduces readers to the Karlsson family and their stories of family, faith & love.

Damian Karlsson, the oldest of Those Karlsson Boys, has decided it’s time to settle down and start a family. Rachel Perkins has captured his attention, but she won’t even give him a chance to romance her. It seems to Damian she feels something for him, but still she resists. Damian is determined to find out why.

Though she is attracted to Damian and even finds his pursuit of her flattering, Rachel is equally determined to keep her secrets close to her heart. Betrayed in the past by men she’s loved, she isn’t prepared to take that risk again. But when her secrets are forced out in the open, will Rachel discover that forgiveness and trust are worth the risk when it leads to love?

This inspirational story of faith and romance will warm and encourage your heart.

When Cora Kensington learns she is the illegitimate daughter of a copper king, her life changes forever. Even as she explores Europe with her new family, she discovers that the most valuable journey is within. The first book in the Grand Tour series takes you from the farms of Montana through England and France on an adventure of forgiveness, spiritual awakening, and self-discovery.

Bianca Marshal is holding out for the perfect husband. Finding a man that meets the requirements of her “must-have” list in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains has proven impossible. Bianca’s mama insists that there’s no such thing as a perfect true love, and that Bianca’s ideal man is pure fiction. On the eve of
her twenty-fifth birthday, Bianca discovers a devastating statistic: her chance of marrying is now only eighteen percent. Unwilling to accept spinsterhood, Bianca enters an essay contest that propels her into a whirlwind search for her soulmate. Via the opulence of London and the mysteries of the Holy Land, Bianca’s true love will be revealed, but not without a heavy price.

In 1650s England, a young Puritan maiden is on a mission to save the baby of her newly widowed preacher–whether her assistance is wanted or not. Always ready to help those in need, Elizabeth ignores John’s protests of her aid. She’s even willing to risk her lone marriage prospect to help the little family.

Yet Elizabeth’s new role as nanny takes a dangerous turn when John’s boldness from the pulpit makes him a target of political and religious leaders. As the preacher’s enemies become desperate to silence him, they draw Elizabeth into a deadly web of deception. Finding herself in more danger than she ever bargained for, she’s more determined than ever to save the child–and man–she’s come to love.

An unexpected inheritance. An unknown future. An unending love.

Determined to tame her younger brother’s rebellious streak, McKenna Ashford accepts her cousin’s invitation to move west, and to begin again. But she quickly discovers that life in Copper Creek, Colorado, is far from what she expected. Shouldering burdens beyond her years, McKenna tries to be the parent Robert needs, instead of the older sister he resents. But an “untimely inheritance” challenges her resolve at every turn, while also offering a second chance to restore her sense of trust–and perhaps even her heart.

U.S. Marshal Wyatt Caradon is dedicated to bringing fugitives to justice, yet years of living on the trail have taken their toll. When his path intersects with that of McKenna, he comes face-to-face with a past he never wanted to relive–and the one woman who can help him find the future he’s been longing for.

As McKenna struggles to let go of her independence and Wyatt considers opening his heart again, they discover an inheritance beyond imagination. But it will come at a price.

Having read the Jody Hedlund, Tamera Alexander, Lisa T. Bergren, I recommend those, but I’ve heard good things about the others!

Monday Musings…Locations

Location, though understated, is often key to a great novel. And I’m not exactly talking city-wise (though for me personally, bonus points to writers who write about Chicago!). I’m being a bit more general. For instance, do you prefer the city or the country? Farm or ranch? Beach or cabin in the woods? Each and every location will usually make you think of something, whether good or bad. Here are a few locations I enjoy reading about:

1. City: I live in a city. I know what it takes to live in a city (trains, long commutes, weather problems). I can usually relate to a character who lives in a city.

2. Beach: There aren’t too many books that take place where there is a beach (though I can think of a few). But I know the beach. I’ve been to the beach. I love the beach.

3. Farms: Mostly because historical novels have farms and I love me some history.

4. American South: but only if they address actual social problems.

5. Made up worlds: I love, love, love fantasy. I particularly love fantasy novels that have rules and regulations of their own. There’s nothing more strange to me than when an author creates a new world that feels like Earth.

6. College towns: because I went to college, I know what that’s about.

Locations I do not enjoy reading about:

1. Ranches: Sorry. Inevitably, horses come up. I like horses. Occasionally I will go horseback riding. But I don’t understand the love between a person and a horse. And while I don’t mind a cowboy film or two, as heroes, they generally don’t have much of an appeal to me… (there are, of course, exceptions to this rule).

2. Cabins in the woods: hunting? camping? Uh uh no ma’am. All I can think about are bugs.

3. American South: when they don’t address social problems.

4. Made up worlds: Sometimes fantasy novels can have too many rules and strange things and I’m just lost.

5. Small towns: Ok, to be perfectly honest, I do like small towns, but there are quite a few books that have me shaking my head thinking I don’t get you!

6. Amish. That is all.

And so, after compiling my list, the biggest reason why I enjoy certain locations is because I can relate to them. I know them. They are familiar to me. What about you? What locations do you enjoy? Or don’t enjoy?

Feature Friday…What I’m Looking forward To

So it has been one of those weeks….I rarely talk about my day job here, but I’m an attorney and I was on trial this week which means long nights and little sleep and very very very little reading. And so today I decided to feature a book I’m looking forward to because the author is simply one of my favorites…ever.

Former Marine Jake Porter has far deeper scars than the one that marks his face. He struggles with symptoms of PTSD, lives a solitary life, and avoids relationships.

When Lyndie James, Jake’s childhood best friend, lands back in Holley, Texas, Jake cautiously hires her to exercise his Thoroughbreds. Lyndie is tender-hearted, fiercely determined, and afraid of nothing, just like she was as a child. Jake pairs her with Silver Leaf, a horse full of promise but lacking in results, hoping she can solve the mystery of the stallion’s reluctance to run.

Though Jake and Lyndie have grown into very different adults, the bond that existed during their childhood still ties them together. Against Jake’s will, Lyndie’s sparkling, optimistic personality begins to tear down the walls he’s built around his heart. A glimmer of the hope he’d thought he’d lost returns, but fears and regrets still plague him. Will Jake ever be able to love Lyndie like she deserves, or is his heart too shattered to mend?

Seriously, Becky writes the best heroes. If you haven’t read her before, you are missing out!

Vannetta Chapman’s Hidden

Home is where our story begins …

DANA JACOBS would rather forget the night of tragedy and violence that marred her childhood. She is now supervisor in charge of the Department of Homeland Security in Taos, New Mexico. Her team is prepared to handle any threat—biological, chemical, conventional, cyber, even nuclear. BENJAMIN MARSHALL is newly assigned to Dana’s office. Straight from a six year military deployment, he is not what Dana wants or needs.

Ben knows God has a reason for putting him in this place at this time—to help Dana. When a local school is threatened, they open a case which leads them on a chase through the Enchanted Circle and Carson National Forest, pursuing a man filled with a bitterness Dana can understand. But her anger is different. It’s justified, it remains hidden inside, and it hurts no one.

Can Dana face her own mortality? And when she does, can she truly understand what it means to forgive and to be forgiven?

Review

I randomly came across this book while flipping through my recommendations on Amazon and occasionally I like to read a good mystery so I decided to give it a try even though I could tell from the premise that this was one of those prickly women, good men combinations. That said, I really enjoyed it. Here’s why:

What I liked:

Ben. Ben makes this book. He’s ex-military but he’s so light hearted and he loves God and as soon as he sees Dana he’s just completely infatuated with her. It’s almost like that seen from the Disney movie Aladdin, when Aladdin sees Princess Jasmine for the first time. Sigh. He spends the whole book pursuing her and it is just too cute. And more than that, Dana (though she is still prickly) actually responds to his overtures.

Dana. She has walls, but I love that her walls are not so high that it’s not until the last chapter that they come down. Though she regularly claims to be annoyed with Ben, she also willingly spends time with him. And so, unlike most romance novels that have this premise, I had faith in them and their relationship. They still managed to get to know each other and actually fall in love.

The mystery. As someone who is not exactly a mystery lover (or too mysteryed out-here’s looking at you Nancy Drew), I have a tendency to read mysteries for character development as opposed to plot. But, I found myself super involved in this mystery. I wanted to know who done it and how and why.

Spiritually, there is this beautiful theme that God is with you. He is always with you. It’s a lesson that Ben knows and Dana has to learn.

What I didn’t like:

The only thing I didn’t like was when Dana would push Ben away. I was thinking come on girl, you know you want to marry this dude.

Romantic scale: 8

Overall, I really enjoyed this book, far, far more than I expected to. It may be a mystery, but it’s also a light read and I definitely recommend it!

Monday Musings…The Rise of Indie Books

I have recently fallen for Indie books. Based off of my reading list from Goodreads, I read more Indie novels than regularly published novels. It is amazing, the difference a few years make. Honestly, a few years ago I would never touch an indie book (or write one for that matter) and now, they are mostly what I read. Why? This is why:

1. Indie books have no limitations. Having read novels in the Christian publishing world since I was a little girl, I detected a bit of a pattern. Every book was different, but every book fundamentally the same. And I know this because often times my relatives would ask me for a book that was Christian but different, and the only author I could really recommend to them was Francine Rivers (I mean, you just never know what’s going to happen in her books).

2. Spice. I have found indie books to be more romantic. When my cousins wanted a book to read, I knew what they were asking. They wanted the spice of a secular romance tendered with the foundation of Christ and while Christian novels may have the foundation, they often lack spice. So I love that when I read an Indie novel sometimes I don’t know what I’m getting, but I do know that so long as it’s Christian I can trust it will be alright.

3. Sink or swim. Indie books have to sink or swim based off the reviews of the masses. Regularly published novels often get, what I consider to be, false praise from other published authors that leave me thinking, really, you liked this book? Published novels will often have beautiful covers, loads of advertising and nothing substantial between the pages. That’s not to say that Indie books don’t sometimes get inflated reviews, but since they make their bread and butter on reviews, I trust those reviews more than any advertising a company can do.

4. Unique. I really kind of like NA novels. I really kind of can’t stand secular NA novels. Let’s be honest, there are like no regularly published Christian NA novels, but Indie has opened the door for some really awesome ones. I can’t tell you how many times I will read a secular NA/YA novel and discover the author claims to be a believer and I think to myself now if only the Christian publishing world would open up to these kinds of books (assuming the author would make the foundation Christ of course!).

5. Location. I love that not all Indie books take place in small town America. Indie books take place all over the world and even in made up worlds.

I just think that if you had to guess who read Christian romance novels based off of what the publishers are producing, you would think they were older, southern, women who live on lots of land in small towns where everyone knows everyone and everyone looks the same. So thank God for indie which has opened the door to new worlds. Do you like Indie books? Why or why not?

Sigmund Brouwer’s Nowhere to Hide

William King and Blake Watt have just settled into their senior year of high school when they receive a call for help–the authorities need to use their computer skills to track down a father who has failed to make child-support payments. The invitation to become cyber bounty hunters is so tempting, they don’t stop to ask why they were chosen for this assignment.

As they learn more about the man they are searching for, they discover the true nature of their mission–to help the founder of a Seattle-based software company prove that he is innocent of a much different charge. But the scariest things they learn are why they were chosen and why they were supposed to remain in the background.

You’ll love following the surprising twists and turns in this fast-paced young-adult thriller from a gifted storyteller who has nearly three million books in print

Review

As I’ve stated previously on my blog, I love Sigmund Brouwer, particularly for his children’s books. Here’s my thoughts on hi YA novel:

What I liked:

After reading the first chapter of this book, I did realize that this was a sequel, but with the exception of a just a few comments, I did not feel that I needed the first book to understand who people were and how they functioned in this series.

King. The main character’s name is William King (called King) and like most of Brouwer’s characters, he is incredibly smart and resourceful and extremely likeable. King is suffering from PTSD (from the first novel), but still has to pull it together to help out the rest of his crew.

The crew. I really enjoyed the characters of MJ and Blake. They added a lot of humor and fun to a book that really dealt with serious CIA issues. MJ, was of course, both annoying and fun. I found that their personalities were really fleshed out well.

Spiritually, the novel is light on things, but it brings up the topic of when is it okay to lie. At what point does God think lying is okay (i.e. Nazis) and at what point shouldn’t you partake in it. Deep stuff.

What I didn’t like:

I found it a bit cliche that these kids are so brilliant that the CIA needs them, but then again the CIA wouldn’t need them if they weren’t so brilliant.

The ending. How the mystery wrapped up was so random to me that it was almost jarring. I was like wait, what?

Romantic scale: 0

Overall, a fun mystery with charismatic characters.

Cover Love

A marriage of convenience.
She is in love with someone else.
He has no wish to love again.
What could possibly go wrong?
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
In the aftermath of the American Revolution a destitute young woman agrees to a marriage of convenience and becomes Mistress of Tall Acre. But when secrets from her husband’s past are revealed, loyalties and ties are torn asunder.
Sophie Dupont, daughter of a portrait painter, assists her father in his studio, keeping her own artwork out of sight. She often walks the cliffside path along the north Devon coast, popular with artists and poets. It’s where she met the handsome Wesley Overtree, the first man to tell her she’s beautiful.

Captain Stephen Overtree is accustomed to taking on his brother’s neglected duties. Home on leave, he’s sent to find Wesley. Knowing his brother rented a cottage from a fellow painter, he travels to Devonshire and meets Miss Dupont, the painter’s daughter. He’s startled to recognize her from a miniature portrait he carries with him–one of Wesley’s discarded works. But his happiness plummets when he realizes Wesley has left her with child and sailed away to Italy in search of a new muse.

Wanting to do something worthwhile with his life, Stephen proposes to Sophie. He does not offer love, or even a future together, but he can save her from scandal. If he dies in battle, as he believes he will, she’ll be a respectable widow with the protection of his family.

Desperate for a way to escape her predicament, Sophie agrees to marry a stranger and travel to his family’s estate. But at Overtree Hall, her problems are just beginning. Will she regret marrying Captain Overtree when a repentant Wesley returns? Or will she find herself torn between the father of her child and her growing affection for the husband she barely knows?

A volunteer for the newly established Weather Bureau, Sophie van Riijn needs access to the highest spot in her village to report the most accurate readings. Fascinated by Dierenpark, an abandoned mansion high atop a windswept cliff in the Hudson River Valley, Sophie knows no better option despite a lack of permission from the absent owners.

The first Vandermark to return to the area in sixty years, Quentin intends to put an end to the shadowy rumors about the property that has brought nothing but trouble upon his family. Ready to tear down the mansion, he is furious to discover a local woman has been trespassing on his land.

Instantly at odds, Quentin and Sophie find common ground when she is the only one who can reach his troubled son. There’s a light within Sophie that Quentin has never known, and a small spark of the hope that left him years ago begins to grow. But when the secrets of Dierenpark and the Vandermark family history are no longer content to stay in the past, will tragedy triumph or can their tenuous hope prevail?

TBA
A couple arranged marriages, the story of Martin Luther and his wife Katharina, a little bit of the gothic genre…fun times! Anyone catch your fancy?

Monday Musings…saved heroes vs saved heroines

Being a reader who reads tons of Christian romance novels, I have realized that there are certain things I like in my Christian novels…one of them being having my heroine as a believer. It’s nice if the hero is a believer, but if I only one of them is a believer, I like for it to be my heroine. Now there can be a couple of reasons for this:

1) Most heroines get on my nerves. They just do. They can be vapid or silly or headstrong or stubborn and if they’re saved that usually adds a system of checks and balances. Without Jesus, they just drive me nuts. And let’s not even begin to talk about the saved guy who diligently pursues the unsaved reckless woman. I think because I’m still single that scenario really bothers me. I. Just. Can’t.

2) I have subconsciously allowed for boys to be boys. It is entirely possible that I can put up with unsaved men longer because society tells me that it’s okay for men to be foolish sometimes and for women to not be foolish. This is possible.

3) We are usually in the heroine’s head and I just plain like having a narrator I can rely upon and a saved narrator is (usually) a reliable narrator.

And so I ask you, do you prefer for your hero to be saved or your heroine? And why?

Interview with Tammy L Gray

Thank you so much for willing to be interviewed!

1. What would you say inspired Mercy’s Fight?

Matt started as a secondary character in Splintered Oak (the third book in my Winsor series). When I told his story, I felt this deep longing that he needed his own happy ending. Matt still is my favorite hero I’ve ever written. So, as soon as I finished that book, I immediately started writing Mercy’s Fight. His character was so vivid in my mind that it was easy to find the right heroine and story for him.

2. Of all the books you have written, do you have a favorite? Or one that challenged you the most as a writer?

Each book I’ve written has things I love about it. Shattered Rose was my first book and very truthful to my own struggles, so that one will always hold a special place in my heart. Mercy’s Fight is my favorite storyline in that I really loved all the characters and the uniqueness of the plot. As for the most challenging, I would say my new YA novel that is currently unpublished. It took me the longest of any book to write and I had such a time of writing growth during that book that I can truly say I found my voice as a author. I hope to get that book out to all of you soon!

3. When writing NA fiction, what about the genre, would you say, makes it different from others?

NA is a beautiful period in a person’s life. He/She is often away from their parents for the first time and they truly discover who they are. There are new people and temptations and usually many mistakes are made. My own college experience shaped who I ended up becoming. But the very thing I love about this genre is what makes it flawed. So often the answer portrayed in these books is that a woman finds herself through sex or obsession with a man. I cannot express what a lie that is. Self-worth/value can only come from within and personally, I believe it only can come from God. So, I try to write stories that show the struggles of that season of life, but also expose the truth.

4. What authors would you say have influenced your writing?

My dear friend, Nicole Deese, has been a total inspiration to me. I wrote my first couple of books in a vacuum, and once I met her, she really challenged me to take my writing to a new level—to make every word matter and every sentence count. She also writes NA from a Christian worldview and has been a constant encouragement to stay true to our quest to bring honesty and truth to that genre.

5. Can you tell us what you’re working on next?

I have lots of projects going on right now! My next release will be a summer novella romance series that I’m writing with three other fabulous authors. It will release June 10th, so mark your calendars! I will also be starting a new 10 episode Kindle serial in August. Every month, a new episode will be released. I super excited about this project because I have centered the serial around five friends who have grown apart, but are challenged to mend those relationships with each other. And of course, there will be lots of romance!

Things are happening all the time, so be sure to sign up for my newsletter at tlgray.com or check out my page on Facebook.com/tlgraybooks. I’m also on twitter @tlgraybooks. Can’t wait to meet all of you!

Be sure and check out my review here. This book is only one of my favorites…ever…