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Nancy Mehl’s Gathering Shadows


Wynter Evans is a promising young reporter for a television station in St. Louis, but even a bright future doesn’t take away her pain over the disappearance of her brother nine years ago. So when she stumbles across a photograph of a boy with an eerie resemblance to him, she can’t pass up the chance to track him down. With research for work as her cover, she sets out with one of the station’s photogs for the place where the picture was taken: the town of Sanctuary.

Almost as soon as she arrives, she meets the town’s handsome young mayor, Rueben King, and together they begin to uncover long held secrets that could tear the small town apart and change everything Wynter thought she knew about her life. As the truth of her family’s past hides in the shadows, it’s clear someone will stop at nothing to keep the answers she’s searching for hidden forever–even if the cost is Wynter’s very life.


To be perfectly honest, straight up mysteries are not my thing. I was never an Agatha Christie lover (though for a while I was stuck on the old Nancy Drews). I am more about character development, and so I usually avoid books that look like “mysteries”, which is why I am just now getting around to reading a novel by Nancy Mehl. My thoughts:

What I liked:

There was plenty of character development. Yes, there is obviously a mystery, but the book focused just as much on Wynter and who she was as it did on solving the mystery of what happened to Ryan.

The suspense. Sanctuary was a creepy town to me. I was sufficiently nervous for Wynter throughout the book. Probably too nervous.*

The mystery. It was creative and unique which I think can be hard to do.

Spiritually, I liked watching Wynter (and Zac) get to know Jesus again. And more importantly, I like that they acted on their faith.

What I didn’t like:

*The romance. The town (and townspeople) managed to be so off-kilter to me, that I didn’t trust anyone from that town (Amish, Mennonite, Pastor, whatever) and especially not the guy Wynter fell for. Almost the entire book I kept waiting for him to turn around and try to kill her. Needless to say, I was not buying the romance at all. In fact, I wanted Wynter to fall for this other guy who she knew. That, would have been original. I think the problem here for me, is that you can’t really be a serious follower of Christ and protective of secrets to the point where you try to keep people away. I questioned whether everyone who claimed they were a believer really was one. The town could not be both a Sanctuary and unwelcoming in my opinion.

One thing about the mystery bothered me. In cases where you think you might be related to someone else, you discreetly take some of their hair and do a DNA test. That will save you lots of time.

Overall, very fun and suspenseful.

Romantic scale: 4 or 5 (not because there wasn’t any; I just wasn’t feeling it)

**I received this novel from BethanyHouse. My opinion was not affected in any way.**

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Sally John’s Between Us Girls


Welcome to Casa de Vida—eleven quaint bungalows located three blocks from the Pacific Ocean in tiny Seaside Village, California. Owner Liv McAlister never advertises vacancies beyond a small hand-lettered sign out front, preferring to trust that God will send the right tenant at just the right time. And He always does.

Meet Jasmyn Albright—she’s had more than her share of bad breaks lately, beginning with the tornado that demolished her farmhouse. Emotionally fragile and feeling utterly alone, Jasmyn heads west, hoping to outrun her heartbreak. And she doesn’t stop until she notices a small sign that reads “Vacancy.” Before she’s quite aware of how it all happened, Jasmyn finds herself the newest tenant at Casa de Vida. She hardly dares to hope that her fortunes might be about to change…but of course when God is at work, anything can happen, and new beginnings are one of His specialties.

Sometimes among strangers, family happens. And sometimes, when we least expect it, romance is a welcome guest.


When I first saw the cover of this novel, I will admit that it looked boring, but I’ve read Sally John before and she’s a wonderful author. So glad I gave this book a chance!

What I liked:

It’s engaging. This novel is probably what is considered “women’s fiction” as it is more focused on relationships and friendships, particularly between women. And usually, that’s kind of boring to me. But, I found all the main characters (and there is quite a few) to be interesting. It wasn’t hard to turn the pages.

The unique cast. There are a lot of people in this book: Sam, Jasmyn, Keagan, Beau, Liv, etc., but not only was I not lost, I really enjoyed reading from everyone’s point of view. They also managed to have strong personalities that shown through. At no point did I get confused about who I was reading. And I hope that this is a series, because I would like to find out more about some of the other secondary characters.

Spiritually, I like the relationship Liv has with God and how her relationship with God influences every person around her. It’s an all-consuming relationship that is lived out each day in the way she interacts with others. I liked how because of her, Jasmyn and Sam began to desire to know God more. And also, that God can use something bad that happens and make it for our good.

What I didn’t like:

This is a personal preference thing: the romance wasn’t the focus and in fact it was a small part of the novel. But, you have two people in the novel who fall for people who are natural loners and I kind of wanted more as to why they changed. It just happened to quickly for me.

The novel does have it’s slow moments, but the writing is fantastic.

Overall, a very nice read, particularly for the beach.

Romantic Scale: 7

**I received this novel from Netgalley. My opinion was not affected in anyway.**

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Lori Benton’s The Pursuit of Tamsen Littlejohn


In an act of brave defiance, Tamsen Littlejohn escapes the life her harsh stepfather has forced upon her. Forsaking security and an arranged marriage, she enlists frontiersman Jesse Bird to guide her to the Watauga settlement in western North Carolina. But shedding her old life doesn’t come without cost. As the two cross a vast mountain wilderness, Tamsen faces hardships that test the limits of her faith and endurance. 
Convinced that Tamsen has been kidnapped, wealthy suitor Ambrose Kincaid follows after her, in company with her equally determined stepfather. With trouble in pursuit, Tamsen and Jesse find themselves thrust into the conflict of a divided community of Overmountain settlers. The State of Franklin has been declared, but many remain loyal to North Carolina. With one life left behind and chaos on the horizon, Tamsen struggles to adapt to a life for which she was never prepared. But could this challenging frontier life be what her soul has longed for, what God has been leading her toward? As pursuit draws ever nearer, will her faith see her through the greatest danger of all—loving a man who has risked everything for her?


After reading Ms. Benton’s first novel, I knew I had to get my hands on this one. Here’s why:

What I liked:

The ratio to historical facts and storytelling is perfect. At no point does the author stop the narrative to explain some history. Instead the state issues, slavery, different clothes that people wore, American Indian concerns, are seamlessly interwoven into the story so that I learn much without realizing I am being taught.

The premise. It was very Last of the Mohicans except they were running from white men as opposed to Indians. The book will keep you on your toes and at the same time allow you to experience such a lovely romance.

The romance. It was slow, and yet smoldering. Tamsen has to learn to depend on Jesse, and Jesse, who has never really been around women, has to learn what they’re like. LOVED watching them together.

Tamsen. She’s a wonderful heroine, who was raised well off and must now learn how to survive.

And Jesse who is a delightful mix of innocence and warrior-ness.

The mystery. Who is Jesse? Better read it to find out.

The secondary characters (Cade), even the bad ones, are very rich and fleshed out.

What I didn’t like about this book?

It ended.

Overall, a wonderful novel, that sucked me in from page one and I didn’t want it to end.

Romantic Scale: 9.2


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C. E. Laureano’s Oath of Brotherhood‏

In a kingdom where the Old Ways hold fast and a man’s worth lies entirely in his skill with the sword, Conor Mac Nir is a scholar, a musician, and a follower of the forbidden Balian faith: problematic for any man, but disastrous for the son of the king.

When Conor is sent as a hostage to a neighboring kingdom, he never expects to fall in love with the rival king’s sister, Aine. Nor does he suspect his gift with the harp (and Aine’s ability to heal) touches on the realm of magic. Then his clan begins a campaign to eliminate all Balians from the isle of Seare, putting his newfound home in peril and entangling him in a plot for control of the island that has been unfolding since long before his birth.

Only by committing himself to an ancient warrior brotherhood can Conor discover the part he’s meant to play in Seare’s future. But is he willing to sacrifice everything—even the woman he loves—to follow the path his God has laid before him?
With fantasy novels, I’ve noticed that they can be either really good or very bad….and this one was really good. The world that Ms. Laureano is both unique and familiar and her storyline rich. My thoughts:
What I liked:
The story world. Half the time I felt like I was in Scotland, and the other time I knew I was in a world of Laureano’s own making. And yet, I didn’t feel like I lost anything by having that Scottish feel. In fact, I found the similarity comforting. With fantasy novels there is always that risk of getting lost in the details and skimming, but I never felt that way about this world. But, I also loved the elements that were uniquely her own. Like most novels in this genre there’s a bit of a coming of age and lots of prophecy, but it just adds to the tension of the novel as a whole.
The romance. Romances can suffer sometimes in fantasy novels because the focus is usually on the main character developing. Not so much with this one. The romance was beautifully interwoven in the pages. While there may have been an instant connection, there was also plenty of time for their friendship to grow. And thus, when they were separated, I had the utmost faith, they would be together again…and I wanted it so bad!
Conor is a fabulous narrator. You really connect with his emotions and how he must deal with the situations around him. I will admit that there are certain elements that are “familiar” to this kind of novel, but it’s done in a unique enough way that I am sure you will enjoy reading it.
Aine was a fantastic heroine. She was strong and independent and yet she worked within the confines of her society. I love that she matches Conor and that while she needs him, there are plenty of times when he needs her.
There is a time when Aine and Conor go there separate ways, and usually I do not like when the hero and heroine split up. I usually flip pages quickly in an effort to get them back together sooner, but I found myself to be highly entertained even though they were separated. They still had stories to tell apart from each other.
Some of the secondary characters were pretty amazing. Eoghan I’ve got my eye on you.
Spiritually, its a bit of a journey, but Conor learns to trust God even when things look like they haven’t worked out, and Aine’s steadfast faith is like a breath of fresh air.

 What I didn’t like:
I liked everything about this novel. As previously noted, some elements have been “done” before, but good writing will allow you to experience them anew all over again.
Romantic Scale: 8.5
Overall, very good. Very satisfying. Loved the ending! And counting down the days until I get book two!
**I received this novel from Netgalley. My opinion was not affected in any way.**

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Monday Musings….Does it Matter What They Look Like?

I am one of those people who generally does not like faces on the covers on my books. Sometimes, I do. But more often than not, I would rather not because no offense, but usually on the covers, the people seem a little weird looking. They are an odd mix of cartoonish and just not what I pictured in my head. And yet, I like when authors post pics of people who inspired their characters. Strange? Yes. What about you? Do you like to picture the characters in your head without any reference? Do you picture the person on the cover? Or the person the author used to inspire the character?

Posted in Contemporary, Fantasy/Sci-Fi, Personal

Feature Friday…Sarah Witenhafer

At the beginning of the year I wrote a post about diversity in Christian books Here

One of the comments by Deborah recommended the author Sarah Witenhafer to me. And I’m so glad she did!

Let me just tell you, this series goes out to all the paranormal romance lovers out there. I will say it’s a bit edgy (though all within the confines of Christianity) and has some mild language, but you cannot deny the message of the gospel. For me, the series starts off a bit predictable, but it has this great mystery in it and characters that pull you in…and it’s addictive. So, if you find that you love secular paranormals, give this one a chance. You won’t be disappointed!


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Victoria Bylin’s Until I Found You‏

Finding each other was only the beginning . . .

When Kate Darby swerves off a mountain road to avoid hitting a California condor, she ends up trapped in her car, teetering on the edge of a cliff. Terrified, she breathes a prayer that changes her life.

It’s Nick Sheridan who comes to Kate’s rescue. Nick is handsome and confident, and he seems to develop a habit of rescuing her, but Kate is in town only until her grandmother recuperates from a stroke. She’s not planning to get involved with one of the locals.

Nick is a reformed veteran of life in the fast lane, a new Christian, and a travel writer. When he sees a car dangling on the edge of a cliff, the daredevil in him jumps into action. He doesn’t expect to be swept off his feet by the car’s occupant. He’s made a vow–no dating for a year–but keeping that vow is going to be a lot more difficult now that he’s met Kate Darby. . . .

This was my first introduction to Victoria Bylin and as Contemporary Christian Romance novels appear to be going through a revival, I knew I had to read it. Without further ado:
What I liked:
Nick. He’s just a really great hero. He has this past, but he also has this great future ahead of him. Everything he does really seems to honor the Lord and those around him. He was reliable and trustworthy as a narrator. I enjoyed getting to know him.
The premise. It’s a bit overdone where you have the big city gal “forced” to come back to the small town and she falls in love with it. But, I really felt like Ms. Bylin didn’t quite handle it the same way as other authors. Kate never really hated the small town, she just had a lot of job opportunities outside of the small town and so it wasn’t necessarily the main focus.
Nick and Kate deal with some real struggles in their relationship that I think only contemporary novels can really address, and it’s a nice change. I also liked that even though there was mutual attraction, their romance was based on friendship.
Spiritually, I thought Ms. Bylin does a beautiful job of showing what it looks like to rely on God vs. a person. Kate really puts Nick on this pedestal, which I thought was very realistic (he’s that kind of guy), but she still has to learn what it is to have a relationship with God.
What I didn’t like:
Kate. She was kind of afraid of everything. And while I could see why she was falling for Nick, I had no clue what he saw in her.
This book had some peaks…but it also had some valleys. I always complain about authors who create problems, but this is one novel that could have used…something.
Overall, a very sweet romance, if a bit slow.
Romantic Scale: 7.9
**I received this novel from Netgalley. My opinion was not affected in anyway.**

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Melissa Tagg’s Here to Stay


After playing nomad for five years, Blake Hunziker has finally had enough of adventure. Not sure what reception he’ll get from everyone back in Whisper Shore, he’s stunned at not only a warm welcome from his hometown but also a job offer. The job is his if he can successfully pull off the annual Christmas Festival. If only he knew the first thing about coordinating events…

If there’s one thing Autumn Kingsley knows, it’s Whisper Shore. For years, she’s been stuck running her family’s inn when all she wants is to see the world. Now she has a visit scheduled from a potential investor who could take over the inn, as well as a dream job offer in Paris. But with just two weeks to whip the inn into shape, her chance at escape is a long shot.

The Hunzikers and the Kingsleys may not get along, but Blake knows Autumn’s the only one who can help him. She agrees to a trade–she’ll help with the Festival and he’ll help with inn repairs. But what was meant to be a simple deal quickly becomes much more than that when the guy who’s done running away joins forces with the girl who can’t wait to leave.


I had the pleasure of reading the first book in this series, and being introduced to Blake. Blake was pretty unique in the first novel, so I was glad for the chance to get into his head. And it was worth it! Here’s what I thought:

What I liked:

Blake. He has such a rich back story that encompasses who he is. I found myself just wanting to know more about him. I liked him, I liked the way he thought, and I liked the way he reacted in different situations.

Blake’s family. I loved the way they just supported him. So often we read about parents who fail to be understanding and loving, and I was glad that Blake had the support that he needed.

Autumn. She was a heroine who was really likeable. Some crazy things happened at her inn and she was handling it. I really liked that she had a dream and did what she could to make it happen even as circumstances got in the way.

The romance. It was a friendship based romance and I enjoyed when Blake and Autumn were on the same page of the book. There was a nice simplicity to their romance that made the novel just fun to read.

Spiritually, Blake has to learn to forgive himself and one theme that stuck out in my mind is that God loves you just as you are.

What I didn’t like:

It’s not so much what I didn’t like, but what I noticed. We are told a lot about the problems between the Kingsley and Hunzikers and while there was some tension there, I failed to be really concerned about it like I think the author wanted me to.

Overall, very cute and in my opinion better than the first novel.

Romantic Scale: 8.5

**I received this novel from Netgalley. My opinion was not affected in anyway.**

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Monday Musings….Robin Jones Gunn’s Forever With You

Do I have any Christy and Todd fans out there? Because if I do, have you seen this?

I fell in love with Christy & Todd approximately six years ago. I bought the YA novels for my younger sister, but I decided to read one to make sure it was on the up and up before I gave it to her. Welllllllll, I ended up reading the whole series, plus the college years, and a spin-off as well.  Christy & Todd are such an interesting couple, and I”m more than a little excited to know that there story has not ended. I do believe it releases June 10th!