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Sarah Sundin’s The Sea Before Us

The Sea Before Us (Sunrise at Normandy Book #1) by [Sundin, Sarah]

In 1944, American naval officer Lt. Wyatt Paxton arrives in London to prepare for the Allied invasion of France. He works closely with Dorothy Fairfax, a ÒWrenÓ in the Women’s Royal Naval Service. Dorothy pieces together reconnaissance photographs with thousands of holiday snapshots of France–including those of her own family’s summer home–in order to create accurate maps of Normandy. Maps that Wyatt will turn into naval bombardment plans.

As the two spend concentrated time together in the pressure cooker of war, their deepening friendship threatens to turn to love. Dorothy must resist its pull. Her bereaved father depends on her, and her heart already belongs to another man. Wyatt too has much to lose. The closer he gets to Dorothy, the more he fears his efforts to win the war will destroy everything she has ever loved.

The tense days leading up to the monumental D-Day landing blaze to life under Sarah Sundin’s practiced pen with this powerful new series.

Review

Sarah Sundin is an auto-buy author for me. I love the way she approaches WWII in such different ways and her complex characters. My thoughts:

What I liked:

Wyatt. Almost from the beginning of the book he becomes a character that I am rooting for. He is your quintessential nice guy…often to his own fault. He’s got this interesting back story with his brothers that gets fleshed out as the book goes along. It really serves to lay a foundation that I’m interested in seeing the series  being built upon.

Dorothy. She’s a bit hard to like at first. Although her desire for a certain guy is explained, I was still confused why she liked the guy she did. Her desire for this guy almost made her weak at moments, but she does redeem herself.

Complex characters. Sundin has a way of making her main hero and heroine have a particular struggle that they must overcome throughout the novel. While that is addressed here, it is not in the same way as her other books. So kudos to the author!

Romance. Wyatt and Dorothy have a relationship that is built on friendship and honesty. I loved every moment of it. They don’t lie to each other and they do everything they can to respect the other.

Historically, Sundin reveals a part of D-Day that’s not often discussed. If you’re interested in this part of history, you will learn much.

Spiritually, the characters pray and seek God. Dorothy learns what real love looks like and Wyatt learns how to forgive himself.  Both learn to take steps of faith.

What I didn’t like

It’s possible to get lost in some of the WWII details, but I really enjoyed this book. Also, on a personal note, some of the language used seemed a bit corny, but that is probably how they talked in the 1940s.

Romantic Scale: 8

Overall, a very good book. I found myself  reading well into the night. I’m looking forward to the rest of the series!

**I received a copy from Revell. My opinion was not affected in anyway.**

 

 

 

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Roseanna M White’s A Song Unheard

A Song Unheard (Shadows Over England Book #2) by [White, Roseanna M.]

Willa Forsythe is both a violin prodigy and top-notch thief, which makes her the perfect choice for a crucial task at the outset of World War I–to steal a cypher from a famous violinist currently in Wales.

Lukas De Wilde has enjoyed the life of fame he’s won–until now, when being recognized nearly gets him killed. Everyone wants the key to his father’s work as a cryptologist. And Lukas fears that his mother and sister, who have vanished in the wake of the German invasion of Belgium, will pay the price. The only light he finds is meeting the intriguing Willa Forsythe.

But danger presses in from every side, and Willa knows what Lukas doesn’t–that she must betray him and find that cypher, or her own family will pay the price as surely as his has.

Review

Roseanna M. White is one of my favorite authors. Only she can write a book with deception as part of the blurb and still have me read it. She has taught me trust her. My thoughts:

What I liked:

 

One thing that Ms. White did well in this novel (and does well generally) is to create such dynamic characters. Not only are they complex, but Willa and Lukas manage to play off of each other in such interesting ways. There is Willa who is very straight forward and to the point…even as she has to hide parts of herself for her mission. And then there is Lukas who appears to be straightforward on the surface, but is obviously hiding something below. Willa is both sensitive and worldly. Lukas is both sensitive and worldly. And yet they are sensitive and worldly in such very different ways.

There are actually two storylines in this book. Generally speaking I do not like two storylines, but the second story was so fascinating that I enjoyed every page of it and found myself thoroughly engrossed.

Obviously, there’s deception here, but once again, White handles it so beautifully!

Romantically, I love how Willa and Lukas come together. It feels very organic even though they are such different people.

Historically, you learn so much. It’s a different aspect of WWI that I didn’t know much about and White is able to teach me without making me feel like I was learning.

Spiritually, the novel deals with trust and what it looks like to be a new creature in Christ.

What I didn’t like

Pretty much loved every word!

Romantic scale: 8.9

Overall, loved this book! If you haven’t read it yet, what are you waiting for?

**I received a copy from Netgalley. My opinion was not affected in anyway.**

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Jaime Jo Wright’s The House on Foster Hill

The House on Foster Hill by [Wright, Jaime Jo]

Kaine Prescott is no stranger to death. When her husband died two years ago, her pleas for further investigation into his suspicious death fell on deaf ears. In desperate need of a fresh start, Kaine purchases an old house sight unseen in her grandfather’s Wisconsin hometown. But one look at the eerie, abandoned house immediately leaves her questioning her rash decision. And when the house’s dark history comes back with a vengeance, Kaine is forced to face the terrifying realization she has nowhere left to hide.

A century earlier, the house on Foster Hill holds nothing but painful memories for Ivy Thorpe. When an unidentified woman is found dead on the property, Ivy is compelled to discover her identity. Ivy’s search leads her into dangerous waters and, even as she works together with a man from her past, can she unravel the mystery before any other lives–including her own–are lost?

Review

I requested this book because I love gothic novels. I have read tons and tons of them (Rebecca by Du Maurier being of course the standard). I had never heard of a Christian gothic novel and thought this could be fun. My thoughts:

What I liked

The author does hit the gothic notes. I was worried the book wouldn’t. Never fear. You have the creepy house that’s a character unto itself. You have the narrators whose mindset you can’t quite trust. You have the strange town and townspeople. And then there are all the gothic effects: dark and stormy nights, unseen danger in the shadows, centuries old mysteries.

Two stories. I’m not always a fan of two stories, but I thought it worked nicely here (even though this is not a typical gothic feature). You have Ivy’s story which is playing out the old mystery at the same time that Kaine is trying to solve that mystery along with a new one. I thought the balance between both stories was nicely done. I also really liked the tie between what was happening then and what was happening now. It added a touch of modernity to the gothic novel that really worked nicely.

Spiritually, the novel deals with believing and trusting God’s promises even when it is difficult. Faith in God gives you hope.

What I Didn’t Like

Gothic novels almost need to start with a light touch of the eerie and crescendo toward the end…otherwise it’s too melodramatic all the time. This book crossed into the line of too melodramatic. Kaine, the main character, arrives at the property already half-scared out of her mind. Everything was scary all the time to the point where almost nothing was. I appreciated the gothic notes, it just got to be a bit ham-fisted (a female character named Kaine?…I guess…).

I also didn’t think the Why questions were answered well. They were answered, but I was so skeptical the entire time I was reading the book. When I finished it I was still like why did this happen or why did that happen.

(Spoiler Warning) Why did the hero after meeting Kaine for five minutes drop everything he was doing and put her first? Why did the hero not have a life? Why did the hero have exactly the skills Kaine needed? Why did Kaine, having PTSD problems, decide to buy a house with a creepy background in the middle of nowhere? Why were people randomly helpful? Why didn’t Kaine leave the creepy house and come back when she was in a better mindset? Why did Ivy and Joel become so invested in this mystery to the point where they put their lives at risk? Because these why questions weren’t answered very well (we were just supposed to accept it), I found myself not the least bit invested in any of the characters. For me the book dragged a bit and I found myself skimming.

Romantic scale: 5.5

Overall, not bad, but it also didn’t quite draw me in.

**I received a copy from BethanyHouse. My opinion was not affected in anyway.**

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Laura Frantz’s The Lacemaker

The Lacemaker by [Frantz, Laura]

When colonial Williamsburg explodes like a powder keg on the eve of the American Revolution, Lady Elisabeth “Liberty” Lawson is abandoned by her fiancé and suspected of being a spy for the hated British. No one comes to her aid save the Patriot Noble Rynallt, a man with formidable enemies of his own. Liberty is left with a terrible choice. Will the Virginia belle turned lacemaker side with the radical revolutionaries, or stay true to her English roots? And at what cost?

Historical romance favorite Laura Frantz is back with a suspenseful story of love, betrayal, and new beginnings. With her meticulous eye for detail and her knack for creating living, breathing characters, Frantz continues to enchant historical fiction readers who long to feel they are a part of the story.

Review

Laura Frantz is an auto-buy author for me. She is a truly talented historian and storyteller. My thoughts:

What I liked:

History. Frantz always wields the sword of history so well. Every aspect of her book is expertly researched from the beginnings of the American Revolution down to the clothes each person wore. Without feeling like I was in a history class, I learned about lace-making, class issues, the Patriots, the Tories, spying, various historical figures that were real, etc. Not once did it feel overwhelming. Instead, I felt like I had a front row seat in a historical moment in time.

Liberty. Liberty becomes a real person almost right away. You learn her hopes and fears and what makes her tick. She’s a fully developed, complex character. And yet, still one that the reader can trust.

The hero. You can’t find anyone much better than the hero. I did wish he had moved faster in regards to some things, but he was a man of strong character and kindness…a typical Frantz hero.

The romance. The romance develops out of a friendship that can be found amongst the pages. There’s nothing rushed here and nothing complicated.

Spiritually, the main characters pray, seek God, and learn to trust Him in hard times.

What I Didn’t Like

This is not necessarily a plot driven novel (though it has a plot!). It’s a character driven novel. That means that sometimes it felt a bit slow.

Romantic scale: 8.5

Overall, a lovely novel as usual by Laura Frantz. If you’ve enjoyed her other novels this one is not to be missed!

**I received a copy from Revell. My opinion was not affected in anyway.**

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Krista Phillips’ The Engagement Plot

The Engagement Plot by [Phillips, Krista]

Six months ago, William stole Hanna’s heart and shattered it in front of millions of people on a reality TV dating show. And now the big-wig CEO is back on Hanna’s home turf in Minnesota and wants her to forgive him? Fat chance of that. But life is swirling around faster than snow in a blizzard, and despite her objections, teaming up with William seems like the only option to rescue her reputation.

William has never regretted anything more than the day he gave that ill-fated interview for the reality show, The Price of Love. But while he can’t change the past, he’s determined to fix the future. He just needs to convince Hanna to forgive him—and pretend to be engaged with him. Simple, right?

When the media erupts with even worse accusations, teaming up and pretending to be engaged seems to be the only way to salvage their reputations.  Despite the media frenzy that swirls around them, an attraction neither of them can fight off begins to surface. Could this love run deeper than a scandal, or will old wounds tear them apart once and for all?  When all seems lost, it’s only with help from above that Hanna and Will may find their happily-ever-after.

Review

I’ve read a book by Krista Phillips that I enjoyed (Sandwich with a Side of Romance) and I was just in the mood for something lighthearted so I picked this book up. My thoughts:

What I liked

The plot. This is a second chance romance, but I found the premise to be so creative. It’s not just about whether a boy and girl can fall in love again but…were they ever really in love in the first place? Also, everyone has heard of shows like The Bachelor even if you don’t watch it so it was really neat to have that added factor to it.

Hanna. I found Hanna to be very relatable. She has to grapple with dealing with her reputation as a Christian (which is a bit in tatters thanks to Will), forgiveness, deception, her feelings for Will, etc. I found many of her reactions and feelings rang true.

It was very lighthearted and warm and very contemporary. Sometimes you need a fun escape and that is what this book provided.

Spiritually, the novel deals with the themes of grace and forgiveness and what that really looks like.

What I didn’t Like

The hero. Will was so shady for most of the book it was hard for me, as a reader to really trust him…even though I knew as a romance reader all would work out. In my opinion, he was just a bit too into himself and even though Hanna had fallen in love with him on the show, I wasn’t entirely sure why she fell in love with him the second time. It just took too long for him to change.

Too long. It’s rare that I complain that a book is too long, but the story should have ended much sooner. I found myself really skimming towards the end.

I doubted greatly that the paparazzi finds reality stars to be that fascinating. I could be wrong but Hanna and Will were followed everywhere and discussed constantly as though they were actual movie stars. I found it a bit hard to believe people would be that invested in them.

Romantic Scale: 7

Overall a very light, cute and fluffy romance.

**I received a copy from Netgalley. My opinion was not affected in anyway.**

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Julie Klassen’s The Ladies of Ivy College

The Ladies of Ivy Cottage (Tales from Ivy Hill Book #2) by [Klassen, Julie]

Return to Ivy Hill in The Ladies of Ivy Cottage as friendships deepen, romances blossom, and mysteries unfold.

Living with the two Miss Groves in Ivy Cottage, impoverished gentlewoman Rachel Ashford is determined to earn her own livelihood . . . somehow. When the village women encourage her to open a subscription library with the many books she has inherited or acquired through donations, Rachel discovers two mysteries hidden among them. A man who once broke her heart helps her search for clues, but will both find more than they bargained for?

Rachel’s friend and hostess, Mercy Grove, has given up thoughts of suitors and fills her days managing her girls’ school. So when several men take an interest in Ivy Cottage, she assumes pretty Miss Ashford is the cause. Exactly what–or who–has captured each man’s attention? The truth may surprise them all.

Meanwhile, life has improved at the coaching inn and Jane Bell is ready to put grief behind her. Now if only the man she misses would return–but where is he?

As the women of Ivy Hill search for answers about the past and hope for the future, might they find love along the way?

Review

I am a huge fan of Julie Klassen. No one does nineteenth century drama quite like her. I mean, she really makes her characters real. At any rate, I was very excited to get my hands on this novel as I really enjoyed the first novel and there were so many loose threads. My thoughts:

What I liked

The series. I read that the author wanted to write a series in a similar vein to the show Cranford. I think she succeeded. If this was a TV show, I would love it. The story is rich and layered and complex. There’s a history in this town with positive and negative relations. Like an onion, every layer is slowly peeled back. Some characters you will like, others you will dislike, but you cannot deny that you will feel like you know them well.

Rachel. I will admit that my first reaction to having Rachel as the main narrator was one of slight disappointment. I really liked being in Jane Bell’s head. However, Rachel grew on me and I found her to be just as interesting as Jane. Like Jane she is changing class and learning all that that encompasses. She also finds herself at the center of a small mystery and unraveling it forces her (and others) to confront some ugly truths.

Mercy. I found her to be so relatable even though I’m clearly not in her shoes. She’s very independent for her day and time and yet still desires a family and a home. The things she goes through in an effort to get them are at times, heartbreaking. I have a suspicion she might be the focus of book three.

 What I didn’t Like

The guy Rachel ends up with was so passive. He kept waiting for her to signal that she wanted him as though he didn’t live in a society where men had most of the power when it came to romantic relations.

There wasn’t enough Gabriel and Jane.

Also I am not terribly fond of the direction a certain someone’s story line is headed in and I hope the matter is resolved quickly in book 3.

Romantic Scale: 7.8

Overall, a very good sequel and I’m looking forward to the next one!

** I received a copy from Netgalley. My opinion was not affected in anyway.**

 

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Irene Hannon’s Dangerous Illusions

Dangerous Illusions (Code of Honor Book #1) by [Hannon, Irene]

Trish Bailey is on overload trying to deal with a demanding job, an ailing mother, and a healing heart. When a series of unsettling memory lapses leads to a tragic death–and puts Trish under police scrutiny–her world is once again thrown into turmoil.

Detective Colin Flynn isn’t certain what to think of the facts he uncovers during his investigation. Did Trish simply make a terrible mistake or is there more to the case than meets the eye? As he searches for answers, disturbing information begins to emerge–and if the forces at work are as evil as he suspects, the situation isn’t just dangerous . . . it’s deadly.

Bestselling and award-winning author Irene Hannon captures readers with a mind-bending story that will have them doubling back to retrace their steps–and figure out what they missed!

Review

Irene Hannon writes very solid suspense novels and this one is no different. My thoughts:

What I liked

The mystery/suspense. Hannon always sets up a lovely mystery (not quite a mystery since you know who the bad guy is). Right away you’re immersed into a who-done-it situation/ how-did-they-do-it situation. The way the characters work out what’s happening is always realistic and on point. Kudos to Hannon for not creating dumbed down characters. Her setups are complex and fascinating. Also, even though you know who the bad guy is, there are still a lot of little mysteries that, when solved, are a bit shocking.

Well-written. I found this novel to be typical Hannon–very well written. I only planned to read some of the book when I first opened it, but read far more. It’s an easy read.

Spiritually, the characters believe in God and pray.

What I didn’t like

I think I just have to accept that Hannon writes the same heroine and hero in each novel. Her mysteries are all different, but the people solving them are all the same…in spite of the fact that they usually have different back stories. It’s so bad, that my mom (who loves Hannon) and I spent ten minutes on Amazon trying to figure out if we had met these characters already.

Romantic Scale: 7

Overall a very solid and dependable Irene Hannon novel. You won’t be disappointed.

**I received a copy from Revell. My opinion was not affected in anyway.**