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Tamera Alexander’s To Win Her Favor

A gifted rider in a world where ladies never race, Maggie Linden is determined that her horse will become a champion. But the one man who could help her has vowed to stay away from thoroughbred racing forever.
 
An Irishman far from home, Cullen McGrath left a once prosperous life in England because of a horse racing scandal that nearly ruined him. He’s come to Nashville for a fresh start, hoping to buy land and begin farming, all while determined to stay as far away from thoroughbred racing as possible. But starting over proves harder than he’d wagered, especially when Maggie Linden’s father makes him an offer he shouldn’t accept yet cannot possibly refuse.

Maggie is certain that her mare, Bourbon Belle, can take the top purse in the inaugural Peyton Stakes, the richest race ever run in America. Maggie only needs the chance to prove it. To give her that chance–and to save Linden Downs from being sold to the highest bidder–Maggie’s father, aging, yet wily as ever, makes a barter. His agreement includes one tiny, troublesome detail–Maggie must marry a man she’s never met. A man she never would have chosen for herself.

Review

I love Tamera Alexander’s novels. She’s just an absolutely fantastic author. But lately I felt like her past three novels were quite similar. I was worried that this one would be equally so. It was not and I fell just a little bit more in love with her books. Here’s why:

What I liked:

She’s stays true to the times. All of her characters are characters of their time and places. This often makes Maggie, (her heroine) slightly frustrating, but you can’t get mad at her. She’s a result of the circumstances of her time.

Cullen. I loved him from the first page. He’s an Irish man living in a place and time where it’s quite unpopular to be so. And yet, he doesn’t let that dictate to him how he is going to live his life.

The romance. I loved it. I hope its not spoilery to say that this novel is a marriage of convenience novel, but one of the best ones I’ve ever read. I feel like you really got a good look at marriage and how they worked together to make things work and still fell in love. Things got a little steamy for the CBA market and I loved every minute of it.

Social issues. Ms. Alexander tackles the social issue of prejudice head on. And she does it in such a way that’s believable and understandable on both sides of the coin.

Spiritually, the novel wrestles serious topics: trusting a God that often allows bad things to happen, being bold in a time where boldness might get you punished, not allowing fear to dictate your future. Great themes.

What I didn’t like:

I’m not terribly fond of people who hold secrets and Maggie and Cullen both hold secrets, but I will say that lack of communication does not end up really being a problem in this book.

Romantic scale: 9.5

Overall, I loved this book. Quite honestly, I want to pick it up and read it again.

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Monday Musings…May Cover Love

I would be remiss if I didn’t showcase some of the awesome books coming out this month and there are quite a few! Here’s some that stick out in my mind:

Former Marine Jake Porter has far deeper scars than the one that marks his face. He struggles with symptoms of PTSD, lives a solitary life, and avoids relationships.

When Lyndie James, Jake’s childhood best friend, lands back in Holley, Texas, Jake cautiously hires her to exercise his Thoroughbreds. Lyndie is tender-hearted, fiercely determined, and afraid of nothing, just like she was as a child. Jake pairs her with Silver Leaf, a horse full of promise but lacking in results, hoping she can solve the mystery of the stallion’s reluctance to run.

Though Jake and Lyndie have grown into very different adults, the bond that existed during their childhood still ties them together. Against Jake’s will, Lyndie’s sparkling, optimistic personality begins to tear down the walls he’s built around his heart. A glimmer of the hope he’d thought he’d lost returns, but fears and regrets still plague him. Will Jake ever be able to love Lyndie like she deserves, or is his heart too shattered to mend?

A beautiful maiden who poaches to feed the poor.

A handsome forester on a mission to catch her.

Danger and love are about to unite in Thornbeck Forest.

The margrave owns the finest hunting grounds for miles around—and who teaches children to read, but by night this young beauty has become the secret lifeline to the poorest of the poor.

For Jorgen Hartman, the margrave’s forester, tracking down a poacher is a duty he is all too willing to perform. Jorgen inherited his post from the man who raised him . . . a man who was murdered at the hands of a poacher.

When Jorgen and Odette meet at the Midsummer festival and share a connection during a dance, neither has any idea that they are already adversaries.

The one man she wants is bound by duty to capture her; the one woman he loves is his cunning target . . . What becomes of a forester who protects a notorious poacher? What becomes of a poacher when she is finally discovered?

Special Forces operator Salvatore “Falcon” Russo vowed to never again speak to or trust Lieutenant Cassandra Walker after a tragedy four years ago. But as Raptor closes in on the cyber terrorists responsible for killing two of their own, Sal must put his life—and the lives of his teammates—in her hands. Despite his anger, Cassie is ill-prepared for his resistance and the fallout when she must protect the one asset who can end the attacks. As allies become enemies and hostiles become unlikely partners, Raptor fights for its very existence.

A gifted rider in a world where ladies never race, Maggie Linden is determined that her horse will become a champion. But the one man who could help her has vowed to stay away from thoroughbred racing forever.
 
An Irishman far from home, Cullen McGrath left a once prosperous life in England because of a horse racing scandal that nearly ruined him. He’s come to Nashville for a fresh start, hoping to buy land and begin farming, all while determined to stay as far away from thoroughbred racing as possible. But starting over proves harder than he’d wagered, especially when Maggie Linden’s father makes him an offer he shouldn’t accept yet cannot possibly refuse.

Maggie is certain that her mare, Bourbon Belle, can take the top purse in the inaugural Peyton Stakes, the richest race ever run in America. Maggie only needs the chance to prove it. To give her that chance–and to save Linden Downs from being sold to the highest bidder–Maggie’s father, aging, yet wily as ever, makes a barter. His agreement includes one tiny, troublesome detail–Maggie must marry a man she’s never met. A man she never would have chosen for herself.

Shannon Wilde is the middle sister–and the one who loves animals. She’s established her own homestead and is raising sheep for their wool. Things are going fine…until Shannon gets swept over a cliff by Matthew Tucker!

Tucker seizes every opportunity to get away from civilization, but one particular walk in the woods ends with him sprinting away from an angry grizzly and plunging into a raging river, accidentally taking Shannon Wilde with him. Their adventure in the wilderness results in the solitary mountain man finding himself hitched to a young woman with a passel of relatives, a homestead, and a flock of sheep to care for.

As Tucker and Shannon learn to live with each other, strange things begin to happen on Shannon’s land. Someone clearly wants to drive her off, but whoever it is apparently didn’t count on Tucker. Trying to scare Matthew Tucker just makes him mad–and trying to hurt the woman he’s falling in love with sets off something even he never expected.

A teacher on the run. A bounty hunter in pursuit. Can two enemies learn to trust each other before they both lose what they hold most dear?

Stone Hammond is the best tracker in Texas. He never comes home empty-handed. So when a wealthy railroad investor hires him to find his abducted granddaughter, Stone eagerly accepts.

Charlotte Atherton, former headmistress of Sullivan’s Academy for Exceptional Youths, will do anything to keep her charges safe, especially the orphaned girl entrusted to her care. Charlotte promised Lily’s mother she’d keep the girl away from her unscrupulous grandfather, and nothing will stop Charlotte from fulfilling that pledge. Not even the handsome bounty hunter with surprisingly honest eyes who comes looking for them.

When Miss Atherton produces documentation that shows her to be Lily’s legal guardian, Stone must reevaluate everything he’s been led to believe. Is she villain or victim?

Then a new danger forces Charlotte to trust the man sent to destroy her. Stone vows to protect what he once sought to tear apart. Besides, he’s ready to start a new pursuit: winning Charlotte’s heart.

1865
Windmill Point, Michigan

Can She Forgive the Hurting Man Who Costs Her the Role She Loves?

After her father’s death, Caroline Taylor has grown confident running the Windmill Point Lighthouse. But in 1865 Michigan, women aren’t supposed to have such roles, so it’s only a matter of time before the lighthouse inspector appoints a new keeper–even though Caroline has nowhere else to go and no other job available to her.

Ryan Chambers is a Civil War veteran still haunted by the horrors of battle. He’s secured the position of lighthouse keeper mostly for the isolation–the chance to hide from his past is appealing. He’s not expecting the current keeper to be a feisty and beautiful woman who’s angry with him for taking her job and for his inability to properly run the light. When his failings endanger others, he and Caroline realize he’s in no shape to run the lighthouse, but he’s unwilling to let anyone close enough to help. Caroline feels drawn to this wounded soul, but with both of them relying on that single position, can they look past their loss to a future filled with hope…and possibly love?

May is going to be a busy month!

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Becky Wade’s A Love Like Ours

Former Marine Jake Porter has far deeper scars than the one that marks his face. He struggles with symptoms of PTSD, lives a solitary life, and avoids relationships.

When Lyndie James, Jake’s childhood best friend, lands back in Holley, Texas, Jake cautiously hires her to exercise his Thoroughbreds. Lyndie is tender-hearted, fiercely determined, and afraid of nothing, just like she was as a child. Jake pairs her with Silver Leaf, a horse full of promise but lacking in results, hoping she can solve the mystery of the stallion’s reluctance to run.

Though Jake and Lyndie have grown into very different adults, the bond that existed during their childhood still ties them together. Against Jake’s will, Lyndie’s sparkling, optimistic personality begins to tear down the walls he’s built around his heart. A glimmer of the hope he’d thought he’d lost returns, but fears and regrets still plague him. Will Jake ever be able to love Lyndie like she deserves, or is his heart too shattered to mend?

Review

Becky Wade is one of my top five favorite contemporary romance authors. Here’s why:

What I liked:

Ironically enough, the setting. I’ve said it before and I’ll probably say it again: horses do nothing for me. Why anyone would on purpose live on a ranch is confusing to me. Which means, that rarely do I get excited when I see that horses and ranches and things of that nature are the setting for a book. But, Ms. Wade approaches it a bit differently by making Lyndie a jockey. A female jockey? How cool is that? I was sold.

The characters. This is the third book in a series. I loved seeing all the old familiar faces: Bo, Meg, Ty, etc., but Amber (who was in the first book) also gets screen time and I just loved Amber. She read to so true to me. I love that she gets the idea that she and Lyndie should go on three dates and then proceeds to go to these weird singles meetings that resulted in activities (and people) that, as a single woman, I found to be both humorous and slightly horrifying. But even though Amber was not the main heroine, I was so happy that she got her happy ending. She deserved it.

The romance. First you have Lyndie, who comes across as generally happy and excited about life and God. And then you have Jake, who was introduced to us in the first couple of books and is fairly depressed, struggles with PTSD, and on a mental road to nowwhere. I love that Jake and Lyndie have a shared past of friendship, but I particularly love the way that Jake loves Lyndie. It’s not through words, its almost all action. Ms. Wade writes the best heroes.

Spiritually, the theme of the novel is grace and it rests on the fact that God is good….all the time. Loved it.

What I didn’t like:

(spoilery).Missionary dating. Lyndie definitely starts dating Jake fully aware that he’s not committed to the things of God and then prays that she won’t fall in love. Well, for one that’s not logical and two, did that mean that it would be okay for him to fall in love with her? This bothered me so much that I put the book down for a minute. BUT, it actually fails to be a problem so go figure.

Romance Scale: 9.5

Overall, this book is well worth reading, very romantic, and many times hilarious.

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

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Piper Huguley’s The Preacher’s Promise

“If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of thine hand, O king.”—Daniel 3:17

1866 – Oberlin, Ohio
Devastated by her father’s death days after her triumphant graduation from Oberlin College, Amanda Stewart is all alone in the world. Her father’s unscrupulous business partner offers her an indecent proposal to earn a living. Instead, to fulfill a promise she made to her father, she resolves to start a school to educate and uplift their race. Sorting through her father’s papers, she discovers he had carried on a mysterious correspondence with a plantation in Milford, Georgia. She determines to start her teaching work with the formerly enslaved. However, when she arrives, the mayor tells her to leave. There’s no where for her to go.

Virgil Smithson, Milford’s mayor, blacksmith and sometimes preacher man with a gift for fiery oratory, doesn’t want anything to do with a snobby schoolteacher from up North. On top of everything else, the schoolteacher lady has a will hard enough to match the iron he forges. He must organize his fellow formerly enslaved citizens into a new town and raise his young daughter alone. Still, his troubled past haunts him. He cannot forget the promise he made to his daughter’s mother as she died—that their child would learn to read and write. If only he didn’t have secrets that the new schoolteacher seems determined to uncover.

To keep THE PREACHER’S PROMISE, Amanda and Virgil must put aside their enmity, unite for the sake of a newly-created community in a troubling age, and do things they never imagined. In the aftermath of the flood that was the Civil War, God set his bow upon the earth to show love and understanding for humankind. To reflect God’s promise, these combatants must put aside their differences and come together–somehow.

Review

I stumbled across this book due to the wonders of Twitter. And since I love, love, love to read diverse books, so glad I did. My thoughts:

What I liked:

The time period. The novel takes place in 1866 which is strange time in America for black Americans. Not all black Americans were ex-slaves at that time as Amanda embodies. Amanda represents the lives of blacks who had been free for generations and went to college and generally speaking, lived like the majority. And then’s there’s Virgil, who was a slave for most of his life. I loved the way the author was able to show the difference in their lifestyles and their way of thinking when they came across various challenges.

Virgil. He was my favorite character in the book. I loved everything about him. I loved that he bought himself out of slavery and rose above his situation. And yet still had to deal with the fact that there was slavery. He’s a mayor of his community and looked up to even though he is still very much learning what freedom for ex slaves means now.

Romance. The romance surprised me a bit but in a good way. Amanda and Virgil have nothing in common except that they have the same color of skin. Watching them being forced to interact was very entertaining.

Spiritually, the novel has a beautiful theme of forgiveness and how if you don’t forgive, you create a prison of your own.

What I didn’t like:

Amanda makes a decision about 80% into the novel that I didn’t care for, but it only last for about a chapter.

Romantic Scale: 8

Overall, I am so glad I stumbled across this novel. It’s so different than what is usually out there and I look forward to reading more books by Piper Huguley.

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Steven James’ Fury

The disturbing visions that helped Daniel Byers solve a deadly mystery have finally quieted, and the sixteen-year-old basketball star is looking forward to things settling back to normal. But when his father mysteriously disappears, Daniel realizes that the key to finding his dad rests in deciphering his chilling hallucinations.

Soon, long-buried secrets begin to surface, revealing clues that could help him locate his father. But as the past collides with the present and reality begins to blur around him, Daniel faces a race against time to save his dad before it’s too late.

Filled with pulse-pounding suspense, Fury continues the thrilling young adult Blur Trilogy from bestselling author Steven James.

Review

Once upon a time, I devoured mysteries (I’m looking at you Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys). Then I got tired of mysteries. But there is one author I buy for his mysteries no matter what: Steven James. So naturally I picked up Fury (which is YA). But I would almost argue that this book is more or less Christian horror (yes, that’s right, you heard me). My thoughts:

What I liked

The horror part. Oh my goodness did this book have me jumpy. My sister opened my bedroom door and I almost threw something at her. This book ranks high on the creepy factor. And I loved every moment of it. Dead people? yes. Hallucinations? Yes. Unreliable narrator? Yes.

Daniel. Poor Daniel. He is simultaneously smart and crazy. He is completely unreliable as a narrator because he’s never sure what is real and what is not real. While this was introduced in the first novel, it was really taken to the extreme in this novel. I completely admired his friends for staying with him…even though they came across as often not trusting a word he said. I know what you’re thinking, how does this work for a main character? It just does. And it plays with your mind too.

The mystery. I love mysteries that pull on the past and reference the future. Thinking about the book a day later, though, I’m still not entirely sure what the old mystery had to do with the new mystery. But. That in no way detracts from the fun. Dead girl from 80 years ago, creepy lighthouses where people committed suicide, homicidal sleep-walking. Yes.

Spiritually, Daniel begins asking questions about demons and their influence on people. His girlfriend, who is a believer (why is she dating an unbeliever???), assures him that God’s power is stronger than any demonic influence.

What I didn’t like

The only thing that had me shaking my head was just how smart Daniel’s friends were. I can deal with Daniel being smart. Anomalies are one thing. But I have a teenage sister and I know her teenage friends….and while I won’t say that they’re not smart, I will say that they are interested in “teenage” things and not research and…stuff….

Romantic scale: 5 (Dan has a gf)

Overall, I had so much fun with this book! It’s not often I read books that give me the creeps, but I so enjoyed the suspense of this one and I had to know what had happened!