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Roseanna M. White’s The Number of Love

The Number of Love (The Codebreakers Book #1) by [White, Roseanna M.]

Three years into the Great War, England’s greatest asset is their intelligence network–field agents risking their lives to gather information, and codebreakers able to crack every German telegram. Margot De Wilde thrives in the environment of the secretive Room 40, where she spends her days deciphering intercepted messages. But when her world is turned upside down by an unexpected loss, for the first time in her life numbers aren’t enough.

Drake Elton returns wounded from the field, followed by an enemy who just won’t give up. He’s smitten quickly by the intelligent Margot, but how can he convince a girl who lives entirely in her mind that sometimes life’s answers lie in the heart?

Amid biological warfare, encrypted letters, and a German spy who wants to destroy not just them but others they love, Margot and Drake will have to work together to save themselves from the very secrets that brought them together.

Review

I love Roseanna M. White’s writing. I think she is especially talented at writing romance, so of course I had to read this one! My thoughts:

What I liked

Margot. Margot almost stole the show in A Song Unheard. I was so excited that she got her own book! What I liked about Margot was this: she stayed the same. The same girl who was brilliant and a bit odd in the previous novel is the same girl in this book. She’s got her own mind, her own plans, and that makes for a very fascinating character when you know her life is about to be shaken up. She’s not perfect, but she’s completely intriguing.

The courtship. Obviously with such a forceful personality, you need a different kind of romance. The way Drake chooses to pursue Margot was quite lovely. It was quirky and fun, and very perceptive.

Friendship. I really enjoyed Margot’s friendship with Dot. The two girls each kind of have their own social failings, but they manage to balance each other out in all the ways that matter. Watching two socially awkward people navigate a friendship was fascinating.

History. My knowledge of WWI is very limited. Kudos to White for tackling a somewhat untouched field in fiction. It’s quite clear White had done her research and you learn a lot about the spy tactics of the time.

Spiritually, the novel deals with truly knowing God, the importance of prayer, and faith vs feeling. I liked the way Margot knew God, it was different and just pinpointed how a person’s relationship with God is so often, very unique.

What I didn’t like

This is just a quibble, but I wanted a bit more out of the romance…I understood why Drake was initially fascinated with Margot, but I was not entirely sold as to why he remained that way. Their courtship was unusual (which I loved), but I wanted a bit more.

Another small quibble…several times Margot puts down other women because they think and act differently than her. It was her greatest sign of immaturity. And while she does get called on it, I’m not sure she ever truly understands that just because a girl likes fashion and makeup (or whatever) doesn’t make her any less valuable as a human being.

The mystery. I’m sorry, but it failed to hold my attention. This was one book where I was like forget the plot, let’s jump to character development. If there were ever a test on the mystery of this book, I would fail.

Romantic scale: 7

Overall, a good book. It being White’s book, I think my expectations were higher??? But still very good.

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

 

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Lori Benton’s The King’s Mercy

The King's Mercy: A Novel by [Benton, Lori]

When captured rebel Scotsman Alex MacKinnon is granted the king’s mercy–exile to the Colony of North Carolina–he’s indentured to Englishman Edmund Carey as a blacksmith. Against his will Alex is drawn into the struggles of Carey’s slaves–and those of his stepdaughter, Joanna Carey. A mistress with a servant’s heart, Joanna is expected to wed her father’s overseer, Phineas Reeves, but finds herself drawn instead to the new blacksmith. As their unlikely relationship deepens, successive tragedies strike the Careys. When blame falls unfairly upon Alex he flees to the distant mountains where he encounters Reverend Pauling, itinerate preacher and friend of the Careys, now a prisoner of the Cherokees. Haunted by his abandoning of Joanna, Alex tries to settle into life with the Cherokees, until circumstances thwart yet another attempt to forge his freedom and he’s faced with the choice that’s long hounded him: continue down his rebellious path or embrace the faith of a man like Pauling, whose freedom in Christ no man can steal. But the price of such mercy is total surrender, and perhaps Alex’s very life.

Review

I’m a huge fan of Lori Benton (even if I quibbled a bit…ok so a lot with her last book). I love the way she combines history and storytelling and complex characters to create a layered novel. My thoughts:

What I liked

Alex. He’s a man of conviction and honor. He’s handed a pretty rough deal from the beginning of the book and my heart immediately went out to him. I found him completely fascinating and I enjoyed being in his head…even when he made mistakes.

Joanna. She’s a bit naive and tad bit passive at moments, but she still managed to come across as a heroine who cared (which I actually think can be difficult when your main character lives on a slave plantation). She’s a perfect foil to Alex who at times tries very hard not to care.

Plot-wise, a lot happens in this book. There is constantly something new so that the story never quite slows down.

The romance was something I found to be very sweet and one that made sense even with the class differences between the main characters.

Historically, it was lovely. You learn a lot about the Scottish rebellion against England, about indentured servitude in America, about slavery and the American Indians. At no point, did I feel like Benton entered lecture-mode. Everything she shows the reader, she does with a deft hand.

Secondary characters. Benton created richly layered characters who had their own stories and their own dreams. Alex and Joanna are not the only interesting characters in the book that I wanted to spend time with. Typically, I am not a fan of the main characters being apart in a novel, but in this one, I didn’t mind so much because of the other stories being told alongside theirs (for the most part).

Spiritually, I caught on to the story the author was telling two seconds before I read the Author Note, but once I realized where she was going, I was able to appreciate the story she was telling. There is a big theme of forgiveness here…and surrendering.

What I didn’t like

The “bad guy” is very obvious in a lot of different ways. I kept waiting for some kind of twist, but there isn’t one.

As the blurb states, Alex goes to live with the Cherokees at some point in the narrative. I will admit that after a while, I began to skim this part. There was a lot going on there and at times it didn’t feel relevant to the narrative (like I get what was going on there…character arc and development, etc., etc., but I was ready to move past it).

    This is a more personal problem I had and that is this: while I get the comparison Benton was trying to make between being an indentured servant and a slave, they are not the same thing. At all. Indentured servants came to the table with a history behind them that gave them certain skills and mindsets that a slave didn’t have (especially if they were born into it), a specific deadline, and the ability to put their servanthood days behind them. That is not how slavery functioned in America, so you can miss me with that comparison. Yes, their time was not their own, but seven lousy years is better than a lifetime and broken families. I found myself rolling my eyes a bit at Alex. His life was rough, and he felt the ties of service keenly as he didn’t ask for it, but he wasn’t a slave. That is all.

Romantic scale: 8

Overall, I enjoyed this book (it did feel very similar to Laura Frantz’s An Unbound Heart which also came out this year though they are very different books). Lori Benton is quite the storyteller and she weaves together facts and fiction so well that I think I will always read her books even if I don’t love every single one of them. She’s a gifted writer and I can’t wait for the next Lori Benton novel!

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

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Karen Witemeyer’s More Than Words Can Say

More Than Words Can Say (A Patchwork Family Novel Book #2) by [Witemeyer, Karen]

After fulfilling a pledge to a dying friend, Zacharias Hamilton is finally free. No family entanglements. No disappointing those around him. Just the quiet bachelor existence he’s always craved. Until fate snatches his freedom away when the baker of his favorite breakfast bun is railroaded by the city council. Despite not wanting to get involved, he can’t turn a blind eye to her predicament . . . or her adorable dimples.

Abigail Kemp needs a man’s name on her bakery’s deed. A marriage of convenience seems the best solution . . . if it involves a man she can control. That person definitely isn’t the stoic lumberman who oozes silent confidence whenever he enters her shop. Control Zacharias Hamilton? She can’t even control her pulse when she’s around him.
When vows are spoken, Abigail’s troubles should be over. Yet threats to the bakery worsen, and darker dangers hound her sister. Can she put ever more trust in Zach without losing her dreams of independence?

Review

Whenever Karen Witemeyer has a new book out, I grab it. And I was super excited about this one because Zach was my favorite character in the first book of this series. My thoughts:

What I liked

Good writing. In spite of the simple premise of the book, it was unputdownable. I read it in hours. Immediately, we’re introduced to Abigail’s problem and her possible solution. You would think that what with everything explained right away that there wouldn’t be much of a story to tell. But you would be wrong. I thoroughly enjoyed watching Zach and Abby learn each other and learn to deal with each other’s problems and concerns.

Theme of family. The whole series is about patchwork families (duh), but I loved that when Zach married Abigail, he made her sister his. And her sister has quite an issue to deal with.

The romance. Anyone who reads my reviews knows I love romances based on friendship. Witemeyer presents us a lovely one. Zach and Abby really take the time to get to know each other. Even though they both have a history, it is fortunately not used as a weapon to wield against one another. Instead, they learn and grow and they work together.

Spiritually, the novel deals with putting your trust in God rather than in yourself or in things…and what that in effect looks like.

What I didn’t like

The only thing that I didn’t like was that Zach kind of didn’t feel like Zach from the first book. He’s still firm and strong, but he lacked that gunslinger-feel from the first book. I get it, he was turning over a new leaf, but I loved the roughness of Zach in the first book and I wish some of it had carried to the second one. The if-you-look-at-me-wrong-I-might-just-shoot-you aura he had. He’s a lot sweeter in this book.

Romantic scale: 7.5

Overall, so cute. I really enjoyed this book and if you want to read a lighthearted western romance, than this is the one for you.

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

 

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Jody Hedlund’s Searching For You

Searching for You (Orphan Train Book #3) by [Hedlund, Jody]

Despite years on the run, Sophie Neumann is determined to care for two young children. She won’t abandon them the way she thinks her older sisters abandoned her. But times are growing desperate, and when she falls in with the wrong crowd and witnesses a crime, she realizes fleeing 1850s New York is her only option.

Disappearing with her two young charges into a group of orphans heading west by train, Sophie hopes to find safety and a happy life. When the train stops in Illinois for the first placement of orphans, Sophie faces the most difficult choice of her life.

Reinhold Weiss has finally purchased his own small farm. With mounting debts, a harvest to bring in, and past scars that haunt him, he’s in no position to give his heart away . . . but can he say no when his long-lost friend shows up on a nearby train pleading for his help?

Review

Jody Hedlund has written some really lovely books, but every now and then, I run into one I’m not a huge fan of. And for me, that was the second book in this series…which is why I delayed reading the last book. My thoughts:

What I liked

Reinhold. I loved him from the first book. I’ve wanted him to get his happy ending so badly. He’s a very complex hero for a romance novel because he’s not rich and he’s not charming and life rarely ever seems to go his way. And yet, he still manages to wheedle into the reader’s heart. I found him to be a hero that was trustworthy and likeable.

Well-written. The book does manage to pull you in and get you involved with the characters. I found it to be very well-written–from the historical aspect of city life in that time to the well-developed secondary characters. Some of those characters were really fascinating and I found myself wanting to read a book about one in particular.

Spiritually, the novel deals with the concept of grace and how we don’t get what we deserve.

What I didn’t like

Everything happened too fast. We are told that Sophie’s presence makes things better for Reinhold, but we don’t really get to see that. And while I knew she was physically attracted to Reinhold, I wasn’t sure what she really liked about him as a person. Her sudden love for him seemed like it was based on the fact that they had known each other as children and thus felt safe with him. I was a bit confused.

Also, if you look past the surface, Sophie. First off, the way she deals with the two children in her care confused me. For years, at her own expense, she kept those children close. And then she makes a sudden decision that didn’t jive with her personality at all. I understood why she made her decision. I didn’t understand why she didn’t take more care in making said decision. And then there was her refusal to contact her sisters. It was just beyond selfish to me. Her whole behavior towards them really made no sense. Any of her sisters’ successes or failures were somehow made all about Sophie and so Sophie just came off as strangely selfish, needy, and entitled.

Romantic scale: 8

Overall, it was a very quick read. Almost, too quick, but still enjoyable.

 

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Becky Wade’s Sweet on You

Britt Bradford and Zander Ford have been the best of friends since they met thirteen years ago. Unbeknown to Britt, Zander has been in love with her for just as long.

Independent and adventurous Britt channels her talent into creating chocolates at her hometown shop. Zander is a bestselling author who’s spent the past 18 months traveling the world. He’s achieved a great deal but still lacks the only thing that ever truly mattered to him–Britt’s heart.

When Zander’s uncle dies of mysterious causes, he returns to Merryweather, Washington, to investigate, and Britt is immediately there to help. Although this throws them into close proximity, both understand that an attempt at romance could jeopardize their once-in-a-lifetime friendship. But while Britt is determined to resist any change in their relationship, Zander finds it increasingly difficult to keep his feelings hidden.

As they work together to uncover his uncle’s tangled past, will the truth of what lies between them also, finally, come to light?

Review

Becky Wade is one of my all time favorite authors because she writes some of the purest romance novels in the christian market. I mean sometimes you just want a romance…and she always delivers. That said, I was simultaneously looking forward to reading this book and dreading it. My thoughts:

What I liked

Zander. He was why I was dreading reading this book. I did not want to read about a man who was desperately in love with a woman who walked all over him…and…well…more on that later. But Wade hands down writes the swooniest heroes. They say the best things and they act in the best ways when the fall in love. I kept reading and thinking that men are not like this…but wouldn’t it be nice if they were.

Overall, I liked Britt. It’s always difficult to love a heroine who has a wonderful hero who is madly in love with her while she stands there and acts clueless (though she doesn’t walk all over him!). Honestly, I truly felt Zander’s frustration with her half the time. That said, Wade did a lovely job of showing Britt and Zander’s relationship and the progression thereof.  Britt has her reasons for such a delayed response to Zander and they actually make sense.

The mystery. In each book, Wade introduces a small mystery. The mystery in this one was by far the best. I was intrigued from the get-go. You have this man who said he was one thing when he was really another, you have these Ocean’s 11 heists, missing art paintings…it was a lot of fun.

Spiritually, this novel deals with how God is faithful when we’re faithless and what letting go and trusting Him really looks like. I will say that often the characters acted in real immature ways for people who had known God for a while (constantly and consistently lying to each other), but they do acknowledge that they are/were spiritually immature.

What I Didn’t Like

To a certain degree, Zander and Britt’s relationship felt oddly circular. It kind of felt like when they disagreed, they were really arguing about the same thing in a different way.  In that way, some of the tension felt a bit contrived. Sometimes I wanted to shake them both and just be like say what you mean and mean what you say.

Romantic Scale: 9

Overall, I will admit that this wasn’t my favorite in the series (first book was) but like any Becky Wade novel, it was a quick read with some lovely moments in it. Looking forward to her next series!

**I received a copy from Bethany House through Netgalley. My opinon was not affected in anyway.**

 

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Elizabeth Goddard’s Never Let Go

Never Let Go (Uncommon Justice Book #1) by [Goddard, Elizabeth]

As a forensic genealogist, Willow Anderson is following in her late grandfather’s footsteps in her quest for answers about a baby abducted from the hospital more than twenty years ago. The case may be cold, but things are about to heat up when someone makes an attempt on her life to keep her from discovering the truth.

Ex-FBI agent–and Willow’s ex-flame–Austin McKade readily offers his help to protect the woman he never should have let get away. Together they’ll follow where the clues lead them, even if it means Austin must face the past he’s spent much of his life trying to forget. And even if it puts Willow’s tender heart at risk.

In this fast-paced and emotional page-turner, bestselling author Elizabeth Goddard keeps the stakes high, the romantic tension sparking, and the outcome uncertain until the very end.

Review

This was my first book by Elizabeth Goddard. I just so happened to be in the mood for a good old-fashioned mystery, so I decided to give her a try. So glad I did!

What I liked

Willow and Austin. They were very uncomplicated characters. Willow is hurting and quite frankly, being hunted, but she’s very strong and resilient. She was going to solve this case with or without Austin. And yet, if Austin was willing to help, she wasn’t going to be so stubborn as to resist it.  Austin has a lot going on mentally, but I enjoyed going on the journey with him of letting it all go. Romantically, I think the best thing about them is the fact that they already dated and broke up. They already know the other person’s flaws. It just made the romance so much easier because instead of running from their issues, they were very honest and forthright with each other (though it takes a bit of time to get there).

The plot. I really liked the idea of forensic genealogy. It presents a totally different way of approaching mysteries. Even learning how their work is done was fascinating. On top of that, this story not only had a major mystery that needed to be solved, it had a mystery within a mystery, and secrets within secrets. It made for a quick read and a solid page-turner.

Relationships. In the second half of the book, Austin has to reconcile with his past and I actually found the dynamics of his family to be as interesting as the romance. I’m definitely curious about the third brother.

Wyoming. I’ve never been there. I’m not sure what it looks like, but the author really makes the area come to life. In some scenes, it almost becomes a character.

Spiritually, both characters believed in God and prayed often.

What I didn’t like

The case that Willow and Austin are solving is a cold case. Supposedly, it was so difficult to crack, the FBI couldn’t do it and neither could any other private investigators. However, once you realize how all the pieces come into play, I’m not sure the case was all that difficult…

All in all, several things were played up as very serious (and they were serious, but…) or very difficult, but once you found out what was happening, it was a bit underwhelming.

Romantic scale: 7

Overall, a very good, fun to read book. I’m looking forward to the rest in the series!

**I received a copy from Revell. My opinion is my own.**

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Carla Laureano’ s The Saturday Night Supper Club

The Saturday Night Supper Club by [Laureano, Carla]

Denver chef Rachel Bishop has accomplished everything she’s dreamed and some things she never dared hope, like winning a James Beard Award and heading up her own fine-dining restaurant. But when a targeted smear campaign causes her to be pushed out of the business by her partners, she vows to do whatever it takes to get her life back . . . even if that means joining forces with the man who inadvertently set the disaster in motion.

Essayist Alex Kanin never imagined his pointed editorial would go viral. Ironically, his attempt to highlight the pitfalls of online criticism has the opposite effect: it revives his own flagging career by destroying that of a perfect stranger. Plagued by guilt-fueled writer’s block, Alex vows to do whatever he can to repair the damage. He just doesn’t expect his interest in the beautiful chef to turn personal.

Alex agrees to help rebuild Rachel’s tarnished image by offering his connections and his home to host an exclusive pop-up dinner party targeted to Denver’s most influential citizens: the Saturday Night Supper Club. As they work together to make the project a success, Rachel begins to realize Alex is not the unfeeling opportunist she once thought he was, and that perhaps there’s life—and love—outside the pressure-cooker of her chosen career. But can she give up her lifelong goals without losing her identity as well?

Review

I’m definitely late to the table with this one, but when I stumbled across it and realized it was about food, chefs, Christian, and contemporary, I had to read it. My thoughts:

What I liked

The food and chef world. I love food and I love cooking channels, food documentaries, visiting James Beard Award winning restaurants and eating at Michelin starred restaurants and I really felt like Laureano managed to capture that atmosphere so nicely on the pages. There are so many wonderful descriptions of food that’s also contrasted with the long hours and the importance of reputations, etc. I really felt like the author did a good job of bringing all of it to life.

Contemporary romance. I liked Rachel and Alex. They both have an interesting background, and Rachel is career driven while Alex is more people-driven. I will admit that I’m not typically a fan of career-driven protagonists, but Rachel made sense. Even when she’s prickly, she’s relatable. Alex and Rachel had their moments of clashing, and even a slight misunderstanding (mentioned below). However, they always worked through it. Their story doesn’t rest on miscommunication, but instead on how important it is to trust.

Spiritually, both characters discuss their faith and how it has defined them. I will admit that it seemed more a characteristic than a lifestyle, but *shrugs*.

What I didn’t like

It does follow the traditional journey of having the couple “split” around the 75-80% mark of the book over something that seemed a bit…unneeded.

It’s a bit slower, especially since it’s more character driven than plot driven. I wasn’t necessarily racing to get through this book, but still every moment was enjoyable.

Overall, a very cute story. I’ve already purchased the next one!