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Nicole Deese’s Before I Called You Mine

Before I Called You Mine by [Nicole Deese]

Lauren Bailey may be a romantic at heart, but after a decade of matchmaking schemes gone wrong, there’s only one match she’s committed to now–the one that will make her a mother. Lauren is a dedicated first-grade teacher in Idaho, and her love for children has led her to the path of international adoption. To satisfy her adoption agency’s requirements, she gladly agreed to remain single for the foreseeable future; however, just as her long wait comes to an end, Lauren is blindsided by a complication she never saw coming: Joshua Avery.

Joshua may be a substitute teacher by day, but Lauren finds his passion for creating educational technology as fascinating as his antics in the classroom. Though she does her best to downplay the undeniable connection between them, his relentless pursuit of her heart puts her commitment to stay unattached to the test and causes her once-firm conviction to waver.

With an impossible decision looming, Lauren might very well find herself choosing between the two deepest desires of her heart . . . even if saying yes to one means letting go of the other.

Review

I’ve read a number of Nicole Deese novels and even though the premise of this book did not quite draw me in, because of how much I’ve enjoyed her other books, I requested it anyway. My thoughts:

What I liked

Adoption. I don’t know much about the process of adopting a child, but I thought the author did a good job of describing all that’s involved including the ups and downs and all of the emotions that a potential parent deals with. It’s obviously not an easy avenue to go down and I like that the author did not shy away from that.

Family drama. I love romance, but I also love reading about the dynamics of family. Lauren’s decision to adopt is one that brings a lot of things to the surface between her and her mom and her sister. I thought the way everything unfolded felt natural and organic.

Spiritually, the book deals with trusting God, particularly when you don’t understand why things are happening the way that they are.

What I didn’t like

The reason I wasn’t crazy about the premise of this book was because I felt like a focused conversation could solve everyone’s problems. But, I was hoping that I was wrong and that there would be something else happening that would drive the story.  I was not wrong. I understood Lauren and where she was coming from. I just did not understand why she just didn’t lay everything out on the table from the get-go. Since I felt like one conversation would have wiped out half of the plot, it didn’t quite work for me.

Romantic scale: 7.5

Overall, I was not a huge fan of this book. There wasn’t enough of a story to really draw me in.

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

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Becky Wade’s Stay With Me

Stay with Me (Misty River Romance, A Book #1) by [Becky Wade]

A mysterious letter alluding to a secret in her parents’ past brings Genevieve Woodward back to her Blue Ridge Mountains hometown, but she’s also in need of a break from a high-profile career that has left her dangerously burned out and concealing a powerful secret of her own. When she wakes inside an unfamiliar cottage to find the confused owner staring down at her, she can no longer ignore the fact that she needs help.

Sam Turner has embraced his sorrow and his identity as an outsider. The solitary, disciplined life he lives on his historic farm is the life he’s chosen for himself. The last thing he wants is to rent his cottage to a woman as troubled as she is talkative. Yet, he can’t force himself to turn her away right when she needs him most.

As Genevieve researches her family’s history and her and Sam’s emotions deepen, they will have to let go of the facades and loneliness they’ve clung to and allow light to illuminate every hidden truth.

Review

I am a huge Becky Wade fan mostly  because she is one of those rare contemporary Christian romance novelists who can craft a good romance story without contriving something silly. My thoughts:

What I liked

Genevieve’s secret. It’s a good one. And it’s one I’ve never encountered in a Christian novel before. I thought the author handled it perfectly. To the right people, it wasn’t a secret so there was no deception story-line going on here…and yet, the fact that certain people know, doesn’t make the book any less stressful at moments. Kudos to Wade for tackling an issue I think a lot of people have heard of or encountered at some point.

The back story. Genevieve has quite the backstory that is being told alongside the present. I could be wrong, but I think at least two people in the back story are going to get their own book. It took a minute to draw me in because I wasn’t sure of the point, but as I slowly got to know all the characters, I really liked where the road was leading.

The mystery. It was really fascinating because in some ways, you didn’t see it coming. I thought the story did a good job of untangling things to get where it got.

The romance. Becky Wade knows how to write a romance. And she knows how to write these silent heroes who will do anything for the women they fall in love with. This book is no different.

Spiritually, the novel deals with grace and what that looks like and how  you can’t earn it.

What I didn’t like

I will admit it took me a few more chapters than usual to get invested in this book. But once I was in, I was in.

Romantic scale: 9

Overall, I really enjoyed this book and I’m very nervous about the second one! But I’m still going to read it anyway!

**I received a copy from BethanyHouse via Netgalley. My opinion was not affected in any way.**

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Rob Currie’s Hunger Winter

Hunger Winter: A World War II Novel by [Rob Currie]

Review

Even though this book doesn’t fit the genre I usually read (i.e., romance) I still wanted to read this book as I love historical fiction and I love to learn about times and places I may not be as familiar with. My thoughts:

What I liked

The Dutch. I don’t know a whole lot about the Dutch and their experiences with occupation during World War II, but through Dirk’s eyes, the reader is taken on quite the journey across the country.

Spiritually, the novel shows characters praying and deals with why you would believe in God when bad things happen.

What I didn’t like

Dirk. But only because there was nothing very specific about Dirk. He could have been any boy who cared about his little sister. I didn’t know his likes or his dislikes. I didn’t know who his friends were and who his enemies were (other than the obvious). Because his experience did not come off as unique, I failed to connect with him as a reader. Furthermore, for a boy who was living where he was living, in the times in which he lived, his failure (even his younger sister’s failure) to be prepared for the situation he found himself in was…odd.

Portrayal of Nazis. There is a character in this book who gets captured by the Nazis and taken in for questioning. In the book, the Nazis play a series of psychological games with this person. I have serious doubts that this was a thing that happened. Especially at the end of the War when the Germans were much more focused on their own survival. I could, of course, be wrong, but it is my understanding that they killed people in the resistance and moved on. Also, there was this odd scene towards the end of the book where there’s a standoff between a Nazi and some of the main characters…and while I realize that this book is marketed towards children, it painted the Nazi as almost ridiculous. Nazis were not ridiculous (as in, not silly) or they would not have succeeded as much as they did. The ending felt Disney-esque when it should have been absolutely terrifying.

Overall, I wasn’t truly a fan of this book. Unfortunately, the characters did not quite come to life for me.

** I received a copy through Tyndale via Netgalley. My opinion was not affected in any way.”

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Michelle Griep’s The House at the End of the Moor

The House at the End of the Moor by [Michelle Griep]

Opera star Maggie Lee escapes her opulent lifestyle when threatened by a powerful politician who aims to ruin her life. She runs off to the wilds of the moors to live in anonymity. All that changes the day she discovers a half-dead man near her house. Escaped convict Oliver Ward is on the run to prove his innocence, until he gets hurt and is taken in by Maggie. He discovers some jewels in her possession—the very same jewels that got him convicted. Together they hatch a plan to return the jewels, clearing Oliver’s name and hopefully maintaining Maggie’s anonymity.

Review

I’ve read books by Michelle Griep that I have enjoyed before and I’m a huge regency novelist fan. With those two things combined. I definitely wanted to read this book. My thoughts:

What I liked

Maggie’s prose. In regards to Maggie, this book starts off very gothic–and I love gothic novels. In typical gothic fashion, the setting is just as important as the characters themselves. And the Moors does not disappoint. The Moors are so beautifully described that it becomes almost a character in and of itself. Unfortunately, the book only takes place in the Moors for a short time (I was sad when we let the Moors). But there’s an eeriness in the beginning that was luring to me as a reader because you have the mute maid, the secrets of the past, the woman in hiding. It was really set up nicely for an intriguing tale.

The mystery duo. I did like the way that Maggie is dealing with one piece of the mystery and Oliver is dealing with a separate piece, and even though they’re such strange pieces, it all comes together in one solid nucleus.

Spiritually, there are some interesting ideas of justice and how it relates to forgiveness and how you can’t really have one without the other.

What I Didn’t Like

Oliver. He was a very, very whiny hero. Don’t get me wrong, life had treated him rough. But he read like a little boy throwing a tantrum instead of a man making the most out of a situation. If he was a little bit funny, it could have worked. But he was not funny.

Suspension of Disbelief. When it came to Oliver Ward, I understand what the author was trying to do. That said, I’ve read so many regency novels that I could not suspend my disbelief that a man with his background and his “voice” would have been imprisoned in the first place—at least not without some big to-do.

On the Run. Oliver and Maggie are really horrible at being on the run. Sometimes, with the mistakes they made, it felt like they wanted to be caught.

The villain. There is a specific villain in this book who made no sense to me whatsoever. The author tried to explain the villain’s motivation to be the way he was, but it just read weird to me.

Romantic scale: 6.5

Overall, if you can suspend your disbelief, you might enjoy this book. There’s action, adventure, mystery, and romance. But for me, there were so many odd things that kept pulling me out of the story that I never fully immersed myself in it and I didn’t enjoy it as much as I would have liked.

**I received a copy from Barbour Publishing via Netgalley. My opinion was not affected in any way.**

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Joanne Bischof’s The Lady and the Lionheart

The Lady and the Lionheart by [Bischof, Joanne]

Virginia, 1890

Raised amid the fame and mystique of the Big Top, Charlie Lionheart holds the audience in the palm of his hand. But while his act captivates thousands, it’s away from the spotlight where his true heart lies. Here he humbly cares for his pride of lions as if they were his brothers, a skill of bravery and strength that has prepared him for his most challenging feat yet—freeing an orphaned infant from the dark bondage of a sideshow. A trade so costly, it requires his life in exchange for hers, leaving him tarnished by the price of that choice.

As the circus tents are raised on the outskirts of Roanoke, nurse Ella Beckley arrives to tend to this Gypsy girl. All under the watchful eye of a guardian who not only bears a striking resemblance to the child, but who protects the baby with a love that wraps around Ella’s own tragic past, awakening a hope that goodness may yet reign. When their forbidden friendship deepens, Charlie dares to ask for her heart, bringing her behind the curtain of his secret world to reveal the sacrifice that gave hope to one little girl—boldly showing Ella that while her tattered faith is deeply scarred, the only marks that need be permanent are his own.

Review

This book has been on my radar for a while now since it won a lot of awards when it came out. I will admit that the circus background was a bit off-putting to me, so in spite of the fact that I had this book, I put off reading it for a while. My thoughts:

What I liked

Setting. I cannot pin down the reason as to why the circus as a background was not initially exciting to me, but it wasn’t. With that said, I really enjoyed being at the circus in this book. Our heroine, Ella, is not any more familiar with the circus than I was, so I liked being exposed to the workings of the circus and seeing it all through her eyes. The author really brings to life the animals, the people, the costumes, the excitement, and even some of the magic of the circus. She also brings forth some of the dark elements of the circus—especially circuses in the 19th century which appear to have been largely unregulated.

Charlie Lionhart. Truly his name fits his character. Charlie is very lionhearted in so many ways. For one, he’s remarkably attached to the lions in the circus. For two, when he loves, he loves big. He includes everybody and he holds nothing back. Charlie was also trustworthy hero because he was a sacrificing hero. There was very little he did in the book for the purpose of just pleasing himself. Honestly, he carried the story. Charlie Lionhart was so fascinating that I found myself reading to find out more about him. That said, he was a little odd. I liked him, I appreciated him, but…if he was real person he probably would have drove me crazy. Kudos to the author for making such a vibrant character.

Beauty and the Beast. Beauty and the Beast is my favorite fairytale of all times and I knew before reading this book that there were elements of it in this story. While not completely consistent with the theme of Beauty and the Beast, it was close enough that I could appreciate what the author was doing. She managed to put her own spin on a familiar tale in a new way.

Spiritually, the novel deals with forgiveness and sacrificial love (i.e. the love of Jesus) and really portrays the two in lovely ways.

What I didn’t like

Ella. Let me just say that for the most part, she was a very good heroine encompassing all of the positive traits: kind, thoughtful, loving, etc., but she would have these moments where she made everything about her. Quite a few times, I wanted to give the girl a good shake and be like this moment, this event, is not about you.

Romantic scale: 8

Overall, I enjoyed this book. It was different, but in a good way.

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Sarah Sundin’s The Land Beneath Us

The Land Beneath Us (Sunrise at Normandy Book #3) by [Sundin, Sarah]

In 1943, Private Clay Paxton trains hard with the US Army Rangers at Camp Forrest, Tennessee, determined to do his best in the upcoming Allied invasion of France. With his future stolen by his brothers’ betrayal, Clay has only one thing to live for–fulfilling the recurring dream of his death.

Leah Jones works as a librarian at Camp Forrest, longing to rise above her orphanage upbringing and belong to the community, even as she uses her spare time to search for her real family–the baby sisters she was separated from so long ago.

After Clay saves Leah’s life from a brutal attack, he saves her virtue with a marriage of convenience. When he ships out to train in England for D-day, their letters bind them together over the distance. But can a love strong enough to overcome death grow between them before Clay’s recurring dream comes true?

Review

This book was definitely one of my most highly anticipated reads of this year. My thoughts:

What I liked

Clay. I’ve been looking forward to meeting Clay since the first book in this series. I was definitely curious about his mindset considering what we learned about him in the previous books from his brothers. Clay does not disappoint. He’s clearly battling what forgiveness looks like while getting past his own hurts. I love that the author doesn’t shy away from how he would have felt as a person of mixed race. Much of Clay’s storyline takes time to knit together the loose threads between him and his brothers and I thought it was done well.

Leah. Leah’s overall personality was unique. She was not one to let bad circumstances dictate her future. I’m not going to say I always related to her, but because she felt very fleshed out, I did understand where she was coming from. She was a very upbeat, resilient, and a kind heroine.

Marriage of Convenience. I love a romance that starts with a marriage. Clay and Leah have different reasons for getting married, but ultimately they want the best for each other. The fact that they are married to each other for most of the book adds a fun layer.

Spiritually, the novel deals with forgiveness and what that really looks like. Further, it deals with trusting God in difficult times.

What I didn’t like

The romance. Let me start off by saying that when Clay and Leah were together, it was lovely. I enjoyed seeing them interact. The problem was, it felt like much of their romance happened offscreen. When they were in the same place at the same time, often we, the reader, would learn that they had done this or that, but were not able to see it. Then, Clay goes to war and while we see a few of their letters to each other, again, most of the interesting tidbits seemed to occur in letters we weren’t shown. I understood the romance, I just would have liked to see it played out a bit more.

Leah’s circumstances. Leah and Clay each have something they are dealing with outside of each other. For me personally, the “thing” Leah is dealing with was sort of…boring. I understood her search and her love for her real family, but the issues she had with the community around her failed to draw me in.

Also, I must admit that the war itself didn’t quite draw me in. I love war fiction, but watching Clay go through training was boring (he trained a lot). I found myself skimming those parts. And then, when Clay was at war, there was an element of removal there. He was so focused on a particular goal that mentally, it was almost like he wasn’t at one of the most dangerous battles ever fought. I imagine that being on the ground for D-Day was traumatic, goal-oriented or not, but Clay didn’t seem to be largely affected by the sights and smells going on around him–and that felt really odd to me.

Romantic scale: 6

Overall, I will admit to some slight disappointment. I love how much time the author took to resolve the issues presented from the start of the series, but it felt like Clay and Leah’s romance took a bit of a hit because of it. Still, love Sarah Sundin and I’m looking forward to what is coming next!

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

 

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Laura Frantz’s An Uncommon Woman

An Uncommon Woman by [Frantz, Laura]

Unflinching and plainspoken, Tessa Swan is not your typical 18th-century woman. Born and bred on the western Virginia frontier along with her five brothers, she is a force to be reckoned with.

Quiet and courageous, Clay Tygart is not your typical 18th-century man. Raised by Lenape Indians, he returns a hero from the French and Indian War to the fort that bears his name, bringing with him Tessa’s long-lost friend, Keturah, a redeemed Indian captive like himself.

Determined to avoid any romantic entanglements as fort commander, Clay remains aloof whenever he encounters the lovely Tessa. But when she is taken captive by the tribe Clay left, his hand–and heart–are forced, leading to one very private and one very public reckoning.

Intense, evocative, and laced with intricate historical details that bring the past to life, An Uncommon Woman will transport you to the picturesque and dangerous western Virginia mountains of 1770.

Review

Laura Frantz is one of my favorite authors because of her attention to historical details and her finely crafted romances. My thoughts:

What I liked

Time period/location. Whenever I read a novel by Frantz, I truly feel transported to whatever time or location she is writing.  It is the attention to the very smallest of details like food and dress that truly bring the time period to life. This book is no different. Between Clay and Keturah, I felt completely immersed in the frontier.

Keturah. Keturah is an uncommon woman (per the title) for her time. She’s bold and while she’s not completely unafraid, she doesn’t let fear hinder her, but she’s not the delicate woman of the 18th century. Because of where she lives, she cannot afford to be. And yet, she never drifts into becoming a 21st century woman…which has a tendency to happen when authors write women who are a bit ahead of their times. She’s a bit more forward, but she still plays by 18th century rules. Also, let’s not forget the backdrop of Indian raids, the British, Americans trying to move into land that’s not theirs….there is a lot of tension in this book that Keturah has to navigate. I would be lying if I didn’t say I was expecting trouble around every corner.

Clay. I liked Clay. Clay’s past has made him into almost two people. He may be white, but he has spent a large part of his youth with the Lenape. It was interesting to see him view situations through both lenses. He’s easily a character that you trust and like.

The plot. This book is definitely more character focused than plot driven. There are a lot of dynamics here as people grapple with life on the frontier. Even though the novel doesn’t have that fast-paced, TV vibe, something is always happening in this book to keep you turning the pages.

The romance. It wasn’t complicated. I enjoyed watching Clay and Keturah dance around each other. I thought it felt realistic to who they were.

Spiritually, the characters pray and learn to trust God.

What I didn’t like

To a degree, Frantz has played with the issues raised in this time period before: Native Americans vs. whites, the American push into the West, white captives and the aftermath thereof. But she does it so well. It’s like looking at the same picture through a different lense. So, I said that to say that if her other novels were not your jam, you might be a bit bored with this one, but if you enjoy being pulled into this part of history, you’ll love it.

The blurb on the back of the book. Let’s just say that it had me looking for something that was a small part of the book.

Also, the ending felt a bit rushed.

Romantic scale: 8

Overall, it was lovely. I thoroughly enjoyed this book and didn’t want to put it down.

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

 

 

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Elizabeth Camden’s Christmas at Whitefriars

Christmas at Whitefriars: A Novella by [Camden, Elizabeth]

Mary Beckwith lives in a magnificent English castle during the twilight years of the gilded age. With the help of an American millionaire, she has succeeded in renovating her beloved Whitefriars castle into a splendid estate just in time for Christmas.

From across the ocean, millionaire Everett Wooten has spent a fortune propping up Whitefriars to add modern conveniences and rebuild crumbling old walls. Even though he’s never met Mary, they have enjoyed a lively business correspondence over the nine years they have been working toward a renovation. Now he has finally come to see Mary and the castle in person, but nothing is as he was led to believe.

Mary and Everett try to find a way forward, but red-blooded American entrepreneurship doesn’t always mingle with blue-blooded English tradition. Can a Manhattan business tycoon and an English lady come to an accord, or will their joint venture in Whitefriars result in heartbreak for them both?

Review

I’m a big fan of Elizabeth Camden and I’ve read the other books in this series, of course I had to read the novella!

What I liked

Characters. This book may have been a novella, but at no point did I feel like I didn’t know the characters. Some of it is helped by the fact that half the cast in the novella are characters from previous books, but some of it is because Camden doesn’t write caricatures. I’ve said it before and I’ll probably say it again: Camden writes the most fascinating heroes. They’re never cookie cutter and I appreciate that she takes the time to really flesh out who they are, flaws and all. She managed to make me curious about Everett long before he appeared on the pages. Everett has one of those personalities that makes social interactions a bit difficult for him, but at the same time, he doesn’t let his personal hang-ups keep him from going after exactly what he wants. Like Everett, Mary too is very well described in the book and Camden always writes smart, knowledgeable heroines. While Mary may not be particularly relatable, you definitely walk away from the story knowing exactly who she is. Unlike Everett, Mary doesn’t have difficulties with interacting with different ones, but she does have a particular psychological issue that she too has to deal with. Except that Mary has let it run her life more than Everett. Watching two people who are the same sides of a flipped coin fall in love was lovely.

Location. Location is a big deal in this book. Through Whitefriars, you see the history of Mary’s family and her world, but also the limitations. There’s definitely a clash of old world/new world that Camden is exploring here and it really shows in the castle. Whitefriars itself almost becomes a character in the novella as the characters learn more about it, explore it, and what on earth to do with it.

Spiritually, the characters pray and have to trust God.

What I didn’t like

The only problem with this book—and  I’m not sure it’s a problem per se—but I feel like with a novella you either go after plot or you go after characterization. There is typically very little space to do both. Here, Camden seemed to go after characterization more so than plot. This is not a page turner. You’re not on the edge of your seat. But it is a lovely romance between two unusual individuals that will draw you in and make you want to read more.

Romantic scale: 8

Overall, for a person like me who generally avoids novellas, I’m glad I read it!

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Roseanna M. White’s On Wings of Devotion

On Wings of Devotion (The Codebreakers Book #2) by [White, Roseanna M.]

All of England thinks Phillip Camden a monster–a man who deliberately caused the deaths of his squadron. But as nurse Arabelle Denler watches the so-dubbed “Black Heart” every day, she sees something far different: a hurting man desperate for mercy. And when their paths twist together and he declares himself her new protector, she realizes she has her own role to play in his healing.

Phillip Camden would have preferred to die that day with his squadron rather than be recruited to the Admiralty’s codebreaking division. The threats he receives daily are no great surprise and, in his opinion, well deserved. What comes as a shock is the reborn desire to truly live that Arabelle inspires in him.

But when an old acquaintance shows up and seems set on using him in a plot that has the codebreakers of Room 40 in a frenzy, new affections are put to the test.

Review

Roseanna M. White is one of my favorite authors, so of course I requested her new book. My thoughts:

What I liked

The premise. I’m going to be honest. I was not especially excited about reading about Phillip. But, it’s Ms. White, so I decided to get the book anyway. And I’m so glad I did. It’s been a long time since I’ve enjoyed a book as much as this one. And the thing that I loved, was that the book never went in the direction that I expected. Almost every single time I thought I knew where this book was going, it would venture off into a completely different direction. Kudos to the author for keeping me on my toes! While this book does have suspenseful elements and a mystery, it was actually the personal life events in the story that really moved it along. I was invested in the story all the way.

Arabelle Denler. It’s been a long time since I so related to a heroine. And I’m not saying that Arabelle and I are in any way alike. It’s just that she became so real, that her pain was my pain and her joy my joy. Arabelle is lady of grace and wisdom and kindness. And she is not afraid to confront the truth. That is not to say that she doesn’t have flaws—she does. But they made sense and they were a part of her without being her.

Phillip. I thought Phillip would be dark and depressing the whole book. But he isn’t. He’s funny and charming even as he’s trying to cope with some pretty weighty moments in his past. But he was so well-developed that I found myself rereading different passages with him in it.

Romance. This book definitely had my favorite kind of romance: one built on a solid foundation of friendship. There is an honesty and openness and such a lack of deceit in their story that I could really root for them.

Historically, the novel takes place during World War I. White introduces a particularly fascinating facet of the war that I had never considered: diving.

Spiritually, the characters pray for themselves and for one another. There are some really lovely moments about facing one’s past and a message of salvation that I thought was presented well. I always find White’s books to be very encouraging.

What I didn’t like

Truthfully, I could have cared less about the villain in this book. The villain did not detract from the story. I was just so invested in Arabelle and Phillip that I didn’t care about the “bad guy”.

Personal note: I’m not typically a fan of one of the elements introduced into the romance here. I’m not going to say what it is as it would be a major spoiler. However, the author did make it work.

Romantic Scale: 9.5

Overall, I loved this book. I can’t wait for the next one.

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

 

 

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Julie Klassen’s The Bridge to Belle Island

The Bridge to Belle Island by [Klassen, Julie]

After a humiliating mistake, lawyer Benjamin Booker resolves to never again trust a beautiful woman. When an old friend is killed, the senior partner isn’t satisfied with Bow Street’s efforts and asks Benjamin to investigate. Eager to leave London for a while, Benjamin agrees. Evidence takes him to a remote island on the Thames, a world unto itself, shrouded in mist and mystery. Soon he finds himself falling for the main suspect–a woman who claims not to have left the island in ten years. But should he trust her?

On Belle Island, Isabelle feels safe and leads a productive life, but fear keeps her trapped there. When Mr. Booker arrives with news of her trustee’s murder in London, Isabelle is stunned. She has not left the island, yet she has a recurring dream about the man’s death. Or is it a memory? She had been furious with him, but she never intended . . . this.

When a second person dies and evidence shockingly points to her, Isabelle doesn’t know who to trust: the attractive lawyer or the admirer and friends who assemble on the island, each with grudges against the victim. Can she even trust her own mind? While they search for the truth, secrets come to light and danger comes calling.

Review

There’s something about Julie Klassen’s novels that reminds me of a good episode of a period piece on television. I always enjoy being swept away to 19th century England with one of her books. My thoughts:

What I liked

The mystery. I really enjoyed the process of the investigation in this novel. It is a classic who-done-it. The murder victim is one of those unlikeable people where everyone and their mama might have killed him. It was so much fun trying out different theories in my mind and just watching everything unravel slowly.

No deception. Benjamin Booker goes to Belle Island to investigate a mystery and low and behold, he manages to solve it without lying or deceiving anyone. There’s a certain honor about Benjamin that shines through in the narrative making him a trustworthy character–even when he feels like he can’t trust himself.

Romance. Because of the honesty of Benjamin Booker, nothing about the romance was off here. And not only his honesty. Isabelle has more than one opportunity to make things complicated and she chooses not to. The main characters were able to build a romance off of trust and friendship and more than that, work together instead of apart, to solve the mystery.

Spiritually, the characters pray and learn to rely on God especially when it comes to anxiety and fears.

What I didn’t like

In the author’s desire I think, to have a wide net of potential killers, she does create a cast and a history that feels a bit clunky at times.

I think that some readers could find this novel to be a bit slow in parts. The mystery really takes its time and you get to know not only the characters but Belle Island. Really, every Julie Klassen novel I’ve ever read, because they’re heavy on character development, are not as fast-paced as many other novels. Her books take place in a slower time period and thus her characters tend to move at a slower pace. It has to be your cup of tea.

Romantic scale: 7.5

Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed it. I found it to be entertaining and fun and very well written. I read it in a day.

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