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Nicole Deese’s A New Shade of Summer

A New Shade of Summer (Love in Lenox) by [Deese, Nicole]

As an artist, Callie Quinn relies on inspiration to guide her wandering soul. This summer she accepts a short-term muralist job in her sister’s charming town to spend some much-needed time with her family. After meeting her nephew’s friend, Brandon, she’s eager to draw out his untapped artistic talents—however, it’s the boy’s straitlaced single father who could use a little color in his life.

Davis Carter may be the town’s favorite animal whisperer, but his experience is limited when it comes to understanding his preteen’s rebellious behavior. Desperate for a breakthrough, he follows the lead of a free spirit who claims to know the way into his son’s closed-off world. Soon, Davis isn’t the only one caught up in the hope of a new beginning.

Just as Callie considers trading her unattached existence for a life rich with promise and permanence, an unexpected visit from the past threatens to send her packing once again. Davis and Callie must learn to surrender their fears so they can find a love that will outlast the summer.

Review

5 Reasons You Should Read This Book

1. Contemporary romance done well. Quite frankly, Christian fiction authors don’t do contemporary romance well because they have a tendency to invent reasons (and they’re usually not believable) as to why a couple can’t be together. Deese is one of the rare few contemporary christian authors who can come up with a solid plot and a good romance.

2. Personality conflicts. Sometimes I think that the best romances are when the H/h are different and are still drawn to each other. I loved that Davis is a rule-follower and Callie is a free spirit. It always made me excited to see how they would each react to the other’s ideas and plans.

3. Kid. Normally I don’t like books with children. However, if utilized well can add a fun and interesting dynamic to the story. Brandon is a fascinating kid. I found myself as invested in him as I did in the main characters.

4. Romance. Because romance. I saw where the book was going almost from the first page. I was a little concerned with how Deese would play the situation out, but she managed to bring it together in such a way that even though it did follow the formula it felt new.

5. Well written & good theme (yes, I’m slipping a sixth point in). I meant to read one chapter. I read the whole book in hours. The theme was along the lines of you are not your past. Don’t let the history decide your future.

In other words, if you haven’t read this book, do!

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2017 Christy Awards

Image result for 2017 christy awards

Last night I saw the list for the 2017 Christy Awards Finalists…and I was annoyed. Not by the authors who made the list. The authors who made the list are very good writers and well deserving of the accolades, I’m sure. I’ve read a few books on the list. Once upon a time I would have read them all, but you see, lately I’ve taken a bit of a giant step backwards from Christian fiction. Maybe you can tell in the fact that I once I used to blog three times a week, and now I blog three, maybe four times a month. I used to interview authors. That rarely happens now. I used to do giveaways….and that has gone the way of the birds.

You see what happened was, after almost ten years of immersing myself in almost solely Christian novels, as a young Christian black female, I got tired. I got tired of reading only white authors, reading about historical events through only white eyes, and hearing about only white people problems. To be honest, after a while it all felt monotonous.

And I just don’t understand how this can be. Would someone please explain to me why the only fiction authors mainstream publishers sign with are white? Don’t get me wrong there is always one maybe two minority authors (this would currently be Tessa Afshar, she is phenomenal and deserves to be read) on the roster at a time. But where white authors can stand the test of time, most minority authors cannot.

After all these years of attending ACFW conferences, reading Christian fiction writing blogs, following Christian authors on twitter on Facebook, I have deduced three things of which one must be true:

  1. Minority Christian authors are not good writers;
  2. Minority Christian authors are just not interested in being published by mainstream Christian publishers;
  3. Christian publishers aren’t interested in minority writers.

I have a prediction. My prediction is that if Christian fiction continues on the path it is going, which is writing to only a specific group of people, it will slowly dry up. Because let’s face it folks, there are a ton of minorities in America and around the world, and if they are anything like me, after a few years, reading about white people through the eyes of  only white people will only be so exciting for so long. Christian fiction is ignoring a huge demographic and certainly not attempting to reach others.

Am I bitter about this? To be honest? Yes. And you might be too if you realized that it was 2017…that you’ve been reading Christian fiction for at least 13 years and still, still there are so few minority Christian published authors. I don’t have children. But let’s say I have a daughter down the road and she loves historical romance just as much as me, if I don’t want her to read secular romance (and I won’t) I’ll have to steer her to Christian romance and after reading Christian historical romance for some time, she will realize that she’s only ever depicted as a friendly slave or a deeply spiritual servant.

Nevertheless, I will continue to read some Christian fiction. I like Christian fiction. I like reading books with hope and purpose and there are some really good authors out there. At the end of the day, the important thing is the story, and I do acknowledge that. It is just that sometimes the mainstream Christian fiction publishing world feels like a 1960s general store that just took down its ‘whites only’ sign. Now I can go in, now I can walk around; the people may even be friendly and encouraging. But, the reality of the matter is that I’m not welcome there.

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Lori Benton’s Many Sparrows

Many Sparrows: A Novel by [Benton, Lori]

Either she and her children would emerge from that wilderness together, or none of them would…

In 1774, the Ohio-Kentucky frontier pulses with rising tension and brutal conflicts as Colonists push westward and encroach upon Native American territories. The young Inglesby family is making the perilous journey west when an accident sends Philip back to Redstone Fort for help, forcing him to leave his pregnant wife Clare and their four-year old son Jacob on a remote mountain trail.
When Philip does not return and Jacob disappears from the wagon under the cover of darkness, Clare awakens the next morning to find herself utterly alone, in labor and wondering how she can to recover her son…especially when her second child is moments away from being born.

Clare will face the greatest fight of her life, as she struggles to reclaim her son from the Shawnee Indians now holding him captive. But with the battle lines sharply drawn, Jacob’s life might not be the only one at stake. When frontiersman Jeremiah Ring comes to her aid, can the stranger convince Clare that recovering her son will require the very thing her anguished heart is unwilling to do—be still, wait and let God fight this battle for them?

Review

Lori Benton is an author who I always read. I don’t always like the direction she takes her stories in, but there is no doubt she is phenomenal writer and worth reading. Because I was not in love with her last book I kind of put this one off. But I’ve read it now and I’m glad I did. My thoughts:

What I liked:

The plot. This book was intense and very stressful…especially in the beginning. I realize that might be a turn-off to some people, but for me I was hooked immediately. I was completely drawn in and found myself so concerned about all of the characters involved.

Jeremiah Ring. Man I love a good hero and Jeremiah was an excellent one. He’s lived amongst the Shawnee and the Virginians. He’s got a past. He’s a man of faith. He’s a man of his word. He’s got honor and he’s kind. When he makes mistakes, he owns them. He was a character I could trust.

Secondary characters. There are two characters in this book that come out of The Pursuit of Tamsen LittleJohn. I loved how they connected to this story and even how the author quietly placed them into the story. It made me want to go back and read the other book. Aside from these characters, the author was very successful in helping me see things from two points of view and to really like all the characters she introduced.

Diversity. Always a plus.

History. There is no doubt that Benton did her research and she wielded it well. There were times when she had to summarize situations for the reader, but it all worked for the benefit of the story told.

Spiritually, characters pray and seek God. I would say the theme is knowing that God is God and He is good and sovereign even in the tough times.

What I didn’t like

Clare. So, here is where things get tricky. Initially, I was completely in Clare’s camp. She is strong and she is purposeful and she lets nothing deter her. I love me a strong heroine. The author managed to beautifully write a heroine who was strong without having her step out of her timeline. But then she started doing things that made her flirt with the TSTL line (Too Stupid to Live). I get that it was to show that her faith in God was weak and that she needed to learn to put her trust in him, but it also made her a character I couldn’t trust. And let me clarify…it wasn’t her mistakes that bothered me, it was how she acted after she made those mistakes that made me look at Clare askance. Why can’t heroines be both strong and wise?

Romance. I have no doubts Jeremiah Ring loved Clare. I have great doubts that Clare loved Jeremiah Ring. A good romance, in my opinion, is a giving and taking relationship. Both the hero and heroine should give and take from the other. In this book, Jeremiah was the only one doing the giving while Clare took, took, and took some more. He did so much for her and she acted as though it were her due. It made for a lopsided romance and one that made me doubt the sincerity of Clare’s affections for Jeremiah. I think she cared for him, I also think she would have cared for any man who was willing to do all she wanted. Jeremiah didn’t come across as special to her.

Romance scale: 8

Overall, I enjoyed this book. I didn’t want to put it down. Although I had some problems with this novel, it was so good that I still recommend you read it anyway!

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Ann H Gabhart’s These Healing Hills

These Healing Hills by [Gabhart, Ann H.]

Francine Howard has her life all mapped out until the soldier she planned to marry at WWII’s end writes to tell her he’s in love with a woman in England. Devastated, Francine seeks a fresh start in the Appalachian Mountains, training to be a nurse midwife for the Frontier Nursing Service.

Deeply affected by the horrors he witnessed at war, Ben Locke has never thought further ahead than making it home to Kentucky. His future shrouded in as much mist as his beloved mountains, he’s at a loss when it comes to envisioning what’s next for his life.

When Francine’s and Ben’s paths intersect, it’s immediately clear that they are from different worlds and value different things. But love has a way of healing old wounds . . . and revealing tantalizing new possibilities.

Review

It has been a while but I have read Ann H. Gabhart’s novels before. The reason that I grabbed this one was because: a) she’s a solid writer and b) probably ever since I watched and read Christy as a girl, I’ve always been fascinated by the city girl who goes to work with the people in the mountains and hills of West Virignia/Kentucky. So, basically it was the plot that caught my eye. My thoughts:

What I liked:

Francine. Immediately, almost from the first page, she became a heroine that I could connect with. She’s living in a day and time when most women her age are married and certainly don’t have professions, but there she is, a nurse. Life hasn’t gone exactly the way she has planned and so she has to make new plans…in the mountains. Her kindness and thoughtfulness and even the way she got lost all the time really made her a character that was endearing.

Ben. I liked him right away as well, even though I had a tiny problem with him (see below). He cares about his family and works hard. He is grappling with almost two identities: the boy raised in the mountains and the returned vet who has now seen the world. Which person should he be?

The romance. It was cute and light. I will be honest and say I wished there had been a bit more meat here. But what saves it is that Ben and Francine don’t fall into each others arms right away. They take their time. They get to know each other. They count the cost of being together. It’s not a hate-to-love trope, but there is a lot of hesitance there that I thought worked nicely. In the end, the idea of a romance between a city girl and a country-mountain boy worked.

The secondary characters. I thought the author did a lovely job of teasing out new characters that Francine encountered so that it wasn’t overwhelming. Ben’s family became important to me as a reader and so did other townspeople.

Spiritually, characters pray and seek God’s direction and often meditate on God’s Word for some wisdom.

What I didn’t like:

This is not a bad book. However, I think it could have been even better if there had been more details about Francine’s midwifery and more details about what it was really like up in those hills. Stuff is mentioned, it’s hinted at, but I would have liked to see Francine grapple with it more as a city girl. Although I could tell the author didn’t necessarily want to glamorize the mountain life (because she did present the not so good things), it felt at times glamorized (the people were kinder, more spiritual, giving, etc.).

Ben. Ben is wonderful hero. The only problem is that he felt so different from his family and neighbors. If I hadn’t been told he was from the area I would never have really guessed. He certainly dealt with his share of mountain problems, but he didn’t feel mountain. I don’t know, maybe that was that point and I”m making a mountain out of a molehill.

Romantic scale: 8

Overall, a lovely book. Everything I didn’t like was me being nitpicky. A lot of threads seemed to be rather loose in this book and if the author writes a sequel I will be reading it.

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

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Kristi Ann Hunter’s An Inconvenient Beauty

An Inconvenient Beauty (Hawthorne House Book #4) by [Hunter, Kristi Ann]

Griffith, Duke of Riverton, likes order, logic, and control, and he naturally applies this rational approach to his search for a bride. He’s certain Miss Frederica St. Claire is the perfect wife for him, but while Frederica is strangely elusive, he can’t seem to stop running into her stunningly beautiful cousin, Miss Isabella Breckenridge.

Isabella should be enjoying her society debut, but with her family in difficult circumstances, her uncle will only help them if she’ll use her beauty to assist him in his political aims. Already uncomfortable with this agreement, the more she comes to know Griffith, the more she wishes to be free of her unfortunate obligation.

Will Griffith and Isabella be able to set aside their pride and face their fears in time to find their own happily-ever-after?

Review

Having read the other books in this series, I became a fan of Kristi Ann Hunter. First, because I love regency novels; second, because she wasn’t super predictable; and third because she fashioned together a group of family and friends that made me want to read more. I was so looking forward to Griffith’s story. And while this story make work for some people, for me it was incredibly disappointing. My thoughts:

What worked

Griffith. I have liked Griffith from his first introduction. I only liked him more in this book. You learn what makes him tick and why he makes the decisions that he makes. Even though he was the hero of the book, I found myself completely identifying with him and his problems. I love that he thinks things through, that if he didn’t know the answer he sought out guidance, and that he was a planner. I was so excited to see him fall in love!

The idea of Isabella. Griffith needed a woman who he least expected. In theory, Isabella could have been that woman.

Secondary characters. I loved Griffith’s whole family. Sometimes series can get annoying if they reach too much into previous books, but every moment with Griffith’s family felt right…and they added a lot of humor to the novel.

Spiritually, the characters pray and seek God for guidance and wisdom.

What didn’t work

Isabella. I’m not sure where to begin, but here goes: Isabella is in London for the season because she is, essentially, being blackmailed by her uncle. When you learn why, if you’re anything like me, you will say that is completely ridiculous. I didn’t buy it. I’ve read so many regency novels and I’ve never heard of a situation like this. It made no sense to me. I was mad confused for a third of the book because I kept expecting something else to be the problem. To that fact, I think Isabella was confused. It made for a story that I just didn’t buy and thus I was not committed as a reader.

Secrets. Then, Isabella could have, of course, solved all of her problems by confiding her situation to the right people. Does she do this? No, because then the book would have been over. Thus, Isabella became an unlikeable character to me. It felt like she was dragging out a situation that could have been resolved in minutes. Towards the end of the book I found myself agreeing with her and saying ‘no, you don’t deserve the duke.’

Predictable. I liked this author for her unpredictability. But once I realized that Isabella was going to keep her secrets no matter what, I knew exactly how the novel was going to play out.

Romance. I just wish that Isabella and Griffith could have worked together instead of working on the same problem from different angles. It would have made their romance seem more concrete. Instead, they spend most of the novel with this problem between them that didn’t have to be there. From a romance perspective, not a lot of romance is happening when people are trying to solve a problem. Instead you get a whole lot of running away and scenes that don’t make sense.

Romantic scale: 7

Overall, some people will read this book and really like it. Unfortunately, I was not one of them.

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