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Tamera Alexander’s To Wager her Heart

To Wager Her Heart (A Belle Meade Plantation Novel Book 3) by [Alexander, Tamera]

Sylas Rutledge, the new owner of the Northeast Line Railroad, invests everything he has into this venture, partly for the sake of the challenge. But mostly to clear his father’s name. One man holds the key to Sy’s success–General William Giles Harding of Nashville’s Belle Meade Plantation. But Harding is champagne and thoroughbreds, and Sy Rutledge is beer and bullocks.
Seeking justice . . . 
Sy needs someone to help him maneuver his way through Nashville’s society, and when he meets Alexandra Jamison, he quickly decides he’s found his tutor. Only, he soon discovers that the very train accident his father is blamed for causing is what killed Alexandra Jamison’s fiancé–and has shattered her world.
Struggling to restore honor . . . 
   
Spurning an arranged marriage by her father, Alexandra instead pursues her passion for teaching at Fisk University, the first freedmen’s university in the United States. But family–and Nashville society–do not approve, and she soon finds herself cast out from both.
Through connections with the Harding family, Alexandra and Sy become unlikely allies. And despite her first impressions, Alexandra gradually finds herself coming to respect, and even care for this man. But how can she, when her heart is still spoken for? And when Sy’s roguish qualities and adventuresome spirit smack more of recklessness than responsibility and honor?
Sylas Rutledge will risk everything to win over the woman he loves. What he doesn’t count on is having to wager her heart to do it.
Review
Tamera Alexander is an auto-buy author for me because I love the way she combines history with romance. My thoughts:
What I liked:
Sylas. From the moment he steps on the page he quickly becomes one of the most interesting characters of the novel. I love how he kind of fits that Old Western mold and at the same time breaks it. Whenever he was on the page I knew something interesting was going to happen.
Alexandra. I will admit that while I liked her character, it took me a while to really like her. However, by the end of the book I found myself completely in her corner.
Historical research. Alexander has a lot of historical events and people in this book. The author clearly does her research. Every historical aspect felt fully researched and learned from the way that the school for black Americans was run to the way that the main characters interacted with ‘real’ historical figures.
Mystery. There’s a bit of a mystery here, but interestingly enough, Alexander resolves it in a way that I hadn’t quite expected. Nevertheless it worked, because it felt real.
Spiritually, the characters learn to trust God even when the situation looks and feels hard.
What I didn’t like
I did feel like Sy and Alexandra were separated more than I would have liked.  One of the best things about an Alexander romance is that she does the friendship romance so well. It was done well here, but the characters did spend a lot of time a part.
Also, it kind of felt like Alexander had a list of historical events that she wanted to hit and she hit them…but it felt like a bit much at times. Sy and Alexandra met this famous person, they were a part of this famous event, they saw this historical event happen. I realize a lot was happening historically at that time, but I felt like all the things they were a part of took away from the story a bit.
Romantic scale: 8
Overall, while not my favorite Alexander book, a very satisfying read.
**I received a copy from Netgalley. My opinion was not affected in anyway.**
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Mini-Reviews

My Unexpected Hope by [Gray, Tammy L.]

After a year of grieving her divorce and living a life permanently stuck on pause, Laila Richardson is finally ready to have her own happy ending. Then a listing for a quaint cottage in another town answers her prayers for a fresh beginning—one that will bring her closer to her new boyfriend, Ben. Unfortunately, in her small town of Fairfield, Georgia, letting go of the past is virtually impossible. No one wants to see her move on, including the man who destroyed her heart to begin with.

Chad Richardson has spent years in misery but finally has his life on somewhat stable ground. When he learns his ex-wife is dating, he knows it’s time to go back and fight for the life he abandoned. Bolstered by his newfound sobriety, Chad has every intention of winning back the woman he loves, even if that means facing old demons that are waiting for him to fail.

Passions run deep as two souls searching for a second chance find the courage to let go of old patterns. Can they recognize that their dreams are still possible, even when forged from a broken past?

Review

I’ve been looking forward to this book since I read the first one. It’s not often you get a second chance romance like this one. Second chance romances rarely make sense to me, but this one did. Gray is able to convey the cost of addiction and what an addict’s life looks like so well (not that I know, but this felt real). I knew Gray would make me fall for Chad (even though I didn’t like him too much in the first book) and she did. Laila was awesome as well. I was worried about her dating someone else, but it somehow manages to work here. I loved seeing Katie again and learning about how she was doing. Spiritually, the novel was a bit vague at times. Laila goes to church and it’s clear God is important to her, but I wasn’t so sure about Chad right off. I will admit that there were moments were it felt like it was dragging a bit, but overall a very good read. I would read anything Tammy Gray writes.

The Whys Have It by [Matayo, Amy]

Chart topping pop musician Cory Minor has it all—fame, money, more women at his disposal than time to spend on them. He’s living the life most American men only dream of. Until an ordinary concert in Springfield threatens to destroy everything he’s worked for.
As he and his band leave the arena for his next show, Cory’s tour bus crashes into two teenage girls, killing one girl instantly and leaving the other barely clinging to life. Lawsuits are threatened, tabloids are talking, and Cory’s idyllic world falls apart. But what no one knows is that this scene is all too familiar. Because this isn’t the first accident Cory has caused. This isn’t the first time he’s destroyed someone else’s life to save his own.
It’s just the first time he’s had to face it head on.
Small town girl Samantha Dalton has no one—no mother, no father, and now no sister. She’s lost everything in a world that celebrates excess. So when Cory Minor shows up at her doorstep offering money and apologies, she turns him away too. You can’t lose what you don’t have, and she can’t take another letdown, especially not from someone who has managed to rip away all she had left. Samantha has been fine on her own for years, she’ll be fine now too.
At least that’s what she tells herself.
But Cory won’t leave. He’s persistent in the worst possible way.
Will Cory’s determination to make things right pay off in the end, or will Sam keep pushing him away until there’s nothing left to fight for? How can two people learn to rely on each other when life keeps hurting them both?

Review

Amy Matayo is a fantastic author…but this book didn’t work for me. I loved the concept of a rock star and a regular person getting together. However, the book was really sad. There was a lot of death and mourning going on. Understandably of course, but it didn’t a happy book make. We had Sam who had lost everyone in her family and Cory who was really self-absorbed. Half the time Sam was cheering him up and trying to make life great for him. It just…kind of…bothered me. I did not care about Cory’s past or his problems. I was more concerned about Sam. I think Cory would have made a great hero like ten years from now when he matured. But as it stood, he just didn’t work for me. I would not marry that guy or advise anyone else to do so. There were too many times I wanted to say ‘dude, handle your business’. This one is probably more a clean romance than a Christian romance.

Engaged in Trouble (An Enchanted Events Mystery Book 1) by [Jones, Jenny B.]

Paisley Sutton shot to stardom as a teenage rock sensation, but ten years later that star has fizzled out, just like her bank account. When she unexpectedly inherits her aunt’s wedding planning business, Paisley leaves the glamour of Los Angeles for a charming small town in Arkansas. Thinking she’ll arrive in Sugar Creek and liquidate the moldly property, Paisley’s shocked to find Enchanted Events has experienced a major makeover and is now the place for brides. She’s got two months to keep Enchanted Events afloat if she wants to sell and rekindle her music career with the profits.

Paisley’s tossed into a world of vows and venues, but her most difficult challenge comes in the form of one demanding bride. When this Bridezilla’s found facedown in her cake, all fingers point to Paisley as the prime murder suspect. And she does not look good in prison orange.

This former pop princess will need the help of her gun-toting, ex-CIA grandmother and her handsome neighbor, Beau Hudson, to unravel the mystery and clear her good name. As she and her unruly posse dig into Bridezilla’s life, she discovers the woman had a long list of enemies. The closer Paisley gets to the truth, the more her own life is in danger.

Love is in the air this wedding season, but before Paisley can help the ladies of Sugar Creek say, “I do,” she’s got to unveil a killer. Or find herself the next target.

Review

You can’t really go wrong with a Jenny B. Jones novel. Especially if you want something happy and uplifting. Somehow she is able to discuss serious topics in a light-hearted way…sometimes too light-hearted. I did feel like the snark went a bit overboard at times, but overall I really loved Paisley and the idea of Paisley. The romance is cute, the mystery will keep your attention, the secondary characters become almost like family.  I do think I would have liked to know more about Beau. It’s not my favorite Jones book (hello Save the Date), but overall very cute. I will be reading the next one in this series. This probably falls in the category of more of a clean romance than a christian romance.

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Tessa Afshar’s Bread of Angels

Bread of Angels by [Afshar, Tessa]

Purple. The foundation of an influential trade in a Roman world dominated by men. One woman rises up to take the reins of success in an incredible journey of courage, grit, and friendship. And along the way, she changes the world.

But before she was Lydia, the seller of purple, she was simply a merchant’s daughter who loved three things: her father, her ancestral home, and making dye. Then unbearable betrayal robs her of nearly everything.

With only her father’s secret formulas left, Lydia flees to Philippi and struggles to establish her business on her own. Determination and serendipitous acquaintances—along with her father’s precious dye—help her become one of the city’s preeminent merchants. But fear lingers in every shadow, until Lydia meets the apostle Paul and hears his message of hope, becoming his first European convert. Still, Lydia can’t outrun her secrets forever, and when past and present collide, she must either stand firm and trust in her fledgling faith or succumb to the fear that has ruled her life.

Review

I’ve always enjoyed Tessa Afshar’s novels…which is saying a lot for me because I don’t generally enjoy Biblical fiction. I was super excited about this week. My thoughts:

What I liked:

Lydia. We first met Lydia in Land of Silence. It’s only for a minute, but we learn that purple fabric is her thing. I really liked Lydia. She’s caring, she’s loyal, she works hard, and she’s very smart. She goes through some tough times and even though it causes her to have doubts, it doesn’t cause her to give up. She’s also really fascinating. There is a romance, but it doesn’t appear until much later in the book. This managed to be one of those rare books where the romance was not needed. Lydia’s life was interesting all on it’s own. She was a character the reader could trust.

The story. There is not a ton of information known about Lydia in the Bible, thus Afshar creates a story for her. I loved it. Lydia became very real. We don’t know if she faced these kinds of struggles, but I felt like Afshar did a lot of research into how a woman at that time could become a successful business owner and even why she might not have a huge family. This story is based off a real person, but Afshar’s narrative really makes her come alive.

Secondary characters. There are quite a few secondary characters, but each one is rich and has his or her own back story. I liked the way they managed to come in and come out of Lydia’s life, making small but important influences on her.

Spiritually, Lydia is introduced to God through her Jewish friend and later comes to meet Jesus. Readers get to follow Lydia as she learns to pray and trust God and really learn who Jesus is.

What I didn’t like

Biblical incorporation. First, let me say that I didn’t have a problem with the way stories from the Bible were added into this novel. However, towards the end it didn’t feel as organic as I would have liked. It kind of felt like certain bullet-points had to be hit and so I kind of found myself skimming the parts of the story that were familiar to me as a Bible-reader.

The romance. I usually love Afshar’s romance, but this one didn’t quite work for me. The guy was fabulous. Lydia was fabulous. But again, since it comes up so late in the story it felt like the author felt compelled to have a romance and put one in there. I just wasn’t invested and I didn’t care if Lydia married or not.

Romantic scale: 7

Overall, a very good story and I look forward to reading more!

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

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Roseanna M. White’s A Name Unknown

A Name Unknown (Shadows Over England Book #1) by [White, Roseanna M.]

Rosemary Gresham has no family beyond the band of former urchins that helped her survive as a girl in the mean streets of London. Grown now, they concentrate on stealing high-value items and have learned how to blend into upper-class society. But when Rosemary must determine whether a certain wealthy gentleman is loyal to Britain or to Germany, she is in for the challenge of a lifetime. How does one steal a family’s history, their very name?

Peter Holstein, given his family’s German blood, writes his popular series of adventure novels under a pen name. With European politics boiling and his own neighbors suspicious of him, Peter debates whether it might be best to change his name for good. When Rosemary shows up at his door pretending to be a historian and offering to help him trace his family history, his question might be answered.

But as the two work together and Rosemary sees his gracious reaction to his neighbors’ scornful attacks, she wonders if her assignment is going down the wrong path. Is it too late to help him prove that he’s more than his name?

Review

I love Roseanna M. White’s books. She’s one of those rare authors I have found that I can trust. In fact, I always recommend her books because they have a genuine plot. The plot is never based on a secret that could be solved with one conversation. That said, I read what this book was about and was not thrilled. Then I reminded myself that I trusted Ms. White…so glad I did.

What I liked

Rosemary. I wasn’t sure if I would like a heroine who starts off the book as a thief with an intent to deceive, but, believe it or not, her reasons are sound. In fact, she’s almost too much of a do-gooder. I liked that she was not much afraid of anyone or anything, and she was one of those rare heroines who managed to speak her mind without sounding like a modern day heroine.

Peter. He was adorable. Again, I am a huge fan of the non-traditional hero. Peter is non-traditional. He has a stutter and so he’s not much of a speaker. He’s very gentle. And yet, there’s a strength and confidence to him that makes him an attractive hero. He knows who he is and isn’t try to prove it to anyone (not counting trying to prove his innocence).

Romance. They become friends first. The romance part of their relationship catches both of them off guard and to me, that’s the best kind of romance.

Plot. Again, White is able to handle the deception issue very well. There are even hints of suspense throughout the novel that has you a bit worried for Peter and Rosemary

Secondary characters. Rosemary has a huge family (which I believe the rest of the series will focus on). Somehow I managed to not only not get them confused, but to really care about them. Peter has a best friend and a whole town of people who know of him and none of it felt overwhelming. These people slowly become dear to Rosemary and to the reader as well.

Spiritually, Rosemary learns that God does love her and that even though bad things happen, that doesn’t mean that God isn’t there and isn’t listening.

What I didn’t like

I do wish that the deception plot was resolved sooner than it was. Nevertheless, once all was out, I did like the way in which it was handled.

Romantic Scale: 8

Overall, a very good start to a lovely series. I’m very much looking forward to the next one!

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

 

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Karen Witemeyer’s Heart on the Line

Heart on the Line (Ladies of Harper's Station Book #2) by [Witemeyer, Karen]

Grace Mallory is tired of running, of hiding. But when an old friend sends an after-hours telegraph transmission warning Grace that the man who has hunted her for nearly a year has discovered her location, she fears she has no choice. She can’t let the villain she believes responsible for her father’s death release his wrath in Harper’s Station, the town that has sheltered her and blessed her with the dearest friends she’s ever known.

Amos Bledsoe prefers bicycles to horses and private conversations over the telegraph wire to social gatherings with young ladies who see him as nothing more than an oddity. His telegraph companion, the mysterious Miss G, listens eagerly to his ramblings every night and delights him with tales all her own. For months, their friendship–dare he believe, courtship?–has fed his hope that he has finally found the woman God intended for him. Yet when he takes the next step to meet her in person, he discovers her life is in peril, and Amos must decide if he can shed the cocoon of his quiet nature to become the hero Grace requires.

Review

Karen Witemeyer is an auto-buy author for me. I just love her tales. My thoughts:

What I liked

Amos. I loved, loved, loved him. I’m a huge fan of heroes who aren’t the “norm” and I really liked that even though Amos lived in Texas in a time of horses and gun-slinging, he rode bicycles and didn’t carry a gun. I liked that he was sensitive. I liked that he fell for Grace over a telegram. And he’s also really funny.

Grace. She was smart and sweet. She has a problem that immediately makes me feel her. I love how she tries to protect everyone even as she acknowledges the strengths of others.

The romance. Grace and Amos fall for each other over the telegraph. It’s so cute. It somehow manages to come across like online dating in the 1800s. It takes them a moment to find their footing in person, but Amos is quietly persistent. Theirs is a romance based on friendship…which is the best kind.

Secondary characters. Everyone in this town feels like family. I like that each woman comes alive on the page and that can be a hard thing when there are so many characters. But, there’s also the cutest secondary romance that had me almost excited as the main romance.

Spiritually, the characters pray, trust God, and some, learn that God does love them.

What I didn’t like

I enjoyed everything about this book. It was very cute and definitely original. I think some might feel like it was a bit slow in parts because it’s definitely a character driven novel, but it didn’t bother me.

Romance scale: 8.5

Overall, I really enjoyed this book. This is such a fun series to read. I recommend it.

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

 

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Catherine Finger’s Anchored by Death

A Dead Body, A Cryptic Clue—Will Jo Oliver Solve the Riddle in Time? Police Chief Jo Oliver needed a little time to herself. But when her escape to Wisconsin turns deadly, she teams up with FBI agent Nick Vitarello, hoping to catch the Bow Tie Killer. Their romantic past and complicated present leads them into uncharted territory as they match wits with a psychopath bent on destroying everything they hold dear.

Review

I’m always up for a romantic suspense novel and so I decided to give a new author a chance! My thoughts:

What I liked

The characters. This is not a super long book, yet the author somehow managed to introduce all of these different characters and flesh them out. By the time I finished the book, even though it wasn’t the first one in the series, I really felt like I had a finger on everyone’s personality. I didn’t get confused and I wasn’t overwhelmed.

Relationship focused. I will admit that I like my romantic suspense to be more relationship focused (doesn’t have to be romantic relationship) than mystery focused and we get that here. A little too much, but it was definitely more my cup of tea.

The romance. Alas this is book three, so I didn’t see the romance develop, but that actually didn’t bother me. I enjoyed watching Jo and her guy together. I will be honest and say that because it was the third book, at times I didn’t get why there was any hesitation on Jo’s part. But Jo and her guy together made the book shine. I really like when couples can respect and work together.

Spiritually, Jo is learning what it means to trust the Holy Spirit and I loved how several times throughout the book, she stops what she is doing and prays and seeks guidance.

What I didn’t like:

The mystery. It’s not so much that I didn’t like it. It’s that Jo seemed less concerned about the mystery and more focused on personal relationships…unless the mystery got in the way. And thus, I as the reader was less focused on the mystery unless it reared it’s head. I was never worried about Jo or concerned it wouldn’t be solved. And then, it was solved rather early on and so I wasn’t focused on who-done-it (though it takes them a minute to catch the guy). It kind of felt like Jo’s job got in the way of the story…

Crime-solving Jo. Again, this is not necessarily something I disliked, but Jo was portrayed as this awesome detective, and yet she continually needed rescuing and technically, she didn’t really solve the mystery. And let’s not address all the men who were in love with her. This might be because I jumped into the middle of the series, but I really wanted to see her get things done so-to-speak.

Romantic scale: 7

Overall, a very cute series. If you like romantic suspense, check this one out!

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

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Connilyn Cossette’s Wings of the Wind

Wings of the Wind (Out From Egypt Book #3) by [Cossette, Connilyn]

Alanah, a Canaanite, is no stranger to fighting and survival. When her family is killed in battle with the Hebrews, she disguises herself and sneaks onto the battlefield to avenge her family. The one thing she never counted on was surviving.

Tobiah, a Hebrew warrior, is shocked to find an unconscious, wounded woman among the Canaanite casualties. Compelled to bring her to a Hebrew healer back at their camp, he is soon confronted with a truth he can’t ignore: the only way to protect this enemy is to marry her.

Unused to being weak and vulnerable, Alanah submits to the marriage–for now. As she comes to know and respect Tobiah and his people, however, she begins to second-guess her plans of escape. But when her past has painfully unanticipated consequences, the tentative peace she’s found with Tobiah, the Hebrews, and Yahweh is shaken to the core. Can Alanah’s fierce heart and strength withstand the ensuing threats to her life and all she’s come to love?

Review

I’ve been enjoying the Out From Egypt Series…so naturally I had to read the last one in the series. My thoughts:

What I liked:

The premise. Once again Cossette is able to take something from the Bible that was kind of vague and make it real. In this case, she deals with marriage between an Israelite and a captive woman. I thought she showed really well how this would come about as well as the dynamics such a relationship would have on the community.

Tobiah. He’s a sweetheart. I almost immediately connected to him as a character. He has faced some rough times, but he doesn’t let it control him.

Secondary characters. Several characters from the first two books are in this book. It was like catching glimpses of old friends. I found myself still worried about them.

Spiritually, the novel deals with love and forgiveness and what that looks like.

What I didn’t like:

Alanah. She was hard for me to connect to. She was too independent for a woman of her day. I could understand her lack of desire to marry an Israelite. I could not understand her lack of desire to marry and have a home. I’m not saying every woman wants that, but her reasons for not wanting them felt a bit too modern to me.

It did feel like Cossette tried to throw in every event the Israelites experienced. I’m not saying she was wrong Biblically speaking, but it felt like a bit too much.

Also, again the romance didn’t quite work for me. I enjoy watching characters fall in love, but in this series it just kind of happens; it’s less about how the couple gets together and more about the ramifications of their relationship and how that relationship would have worked in that day in age.

Romantic scale: 7

Overall, this wasn’t my favorite in the series. Nevertheless, this is not a series you want to miss out on!

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