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Rachel Fordham’s The Hope of Azure Springs

The Hope of Azure Springs by [Fordham, Rachel]

Seven years ago, orphaned and alone, Em finally arrived at a new home in Iowa after riding the orphan train. But secrets from her past haunt her, and her new life in the Western wilderness is a rough one. When her guardian is shot and killed, Em, now nineteen, finally has the chance to search for her long-lost sister, but she won’t be able to do it alone.

For Azure Springs Sheriff Caleb Reynolds, securing justice for the waifish and injured Em is just part of his job. He’s determined to solve every case put before him in order to impress his parents and make a name for himself. Caleb expects to succeed. What he doesn’t expect is the hold this strange young woman will have on his heart.

Debut author Rachel Fordham invites historical romance readers to the charming town of Azure Springs, Iowa, where the people care deeply for one another and, sometimes, even fall in love.

Review

This book was so cute! Obviously, Fordham is a new author to me (this is her first book) and I will readily admit that for me most western romance novels with sheriffs and women in danger seem a bit cliché. My expectations are always low for these types of books because for some reason they seem all the same (trust me, I cut my Christian reading teeth on these kinds of book). However, this book reminded me that good storytelling is good storytelling no matter what trope you’re using.

What I liked

Em. It always helps if you like the heroine. Em is strong, kind, and thoughtful and even though she is in danger for a good portion of the book, she never does anything that makes her a silly heroine–in other words, she doesn’t try to defy good sense. She also has a fascinating back story that the author does a lovely job of unraveling very slowly, only giving you a piece here and a piece there.

Sheriff Caleb Reynolds. The thing I found most interesting about Caleb was also his back story and the reason as to why he became sheriff in the first place. I thought the author did a lovely job creating his character so that he was complex and not just a western caricature.

The romance. It was the best kind of romance based on friendship and the culmination of two people spending time with each other and getting to know one another. Also, it addressed, almost subtly, what romance truly is.

The suspense. There are (kind of) two different suspense elements here coming from the obvious villain and then coming from Em’s past. I thought both were handled well and in such a way that Em and the Sheriff shined.

Spiritually, most of the main characters are believers and spend time praying and seeking God.

What I didn’t like

There was nothing that stuck out! I think it comes down to what you expect.

Romantic scale: 7.5

Overall, a very cute, light and fluffy read…sort of. There are serious topics addressed here that the author touches upon, but there was always a very hopeful note there that left the reader feeling satisfied.

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Julie Klassen’s The Bride of Ivy Green

The Bride of Ivy Green (Tales from Ivy Hill Book #3) by [Klassen, Julie]

Much has happened in idyllic Ivy Hill in recent months, and while several villagers have found new love and purpose, questions remain–and a few dearly held dreams have yet to be fulfilled.

Jane Bell is torn. Gabriel Locke is back and has made his intentions clear. But Jane is reluctant to give up her inn and destine another man to a childless marriage. Then someone she never expected to see again returns to Ivy Hill. . . .

Mercy Grove has lost her school and is resigned to life as a spinster, especially as the man she admires seems out of reach. Should she uproot herself from Ivy Cottage to become a governess for a former pupil? Her decision will change more lives than her own.

A secretive new dressmaker arrives in the village, but the ladies soon suspect she isn’t who she claims to be. Will they oust the imposter, or help rescue her from a dangerous predicament?

In the meantime, everyone expects Miss Brockwell to marry a titled gentleman, even though her heart is drawn to another. While the people of Ivy Hill anticipate one wedding, an unexpected bride may surprise them all.

Don’t miss this romantic, stirring conclusion to Tales from Ivy Hill.

Review

I always enjoy Julie Klassen’s novels. They are always filled with complex, layered characters and a historical setting that comes alive. Also, since this is the third book in the series, I was very much looking forward to visiting with my old friends. My thoughts:

What I liked

Jane’s back! Jane was my favorite character in the series and we saw less of her in the second book (and less of Gabriel). It was good to be with her again. The way the last book ended, I was worried that there would be unnecessary drama between Jane and Gabriel, but everything worked out perfectly. Klassen gives Jane some new problems to deal with, but all of them were interesting and I found myself totally invested in how things would work out.

Mercy is also back! She wormed her way into my heart in the last book and it was great to be in her head again. While I do think her romance was more complicated than it had to be, I enjoyed the journey of seeing where Mercy ends up.

As always, it was a joy to run into the secondary characters who have been throughout the series and to meet some new ones. This was very much a story of what life might have been like in a small English village.

Spiritually, the novel deals a lot with trusting God, especially when things look bad or go from bad to worse.

What I didn’t like

Because there were several points of views, some characters were more interesting than others and at times, I found myself skimming so I could get back to a character I liked.

Overall, I very much enjoyed this series and read it much faster than anticipated. If this had been a TV show, I would have absolutely loved it.

 I received a complimentary copy of this book from BethanyHouse through NetGalley. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

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Robert Whitlow’s Chosen People

Chosen People by [Whitlow, Robert]

During a terrorist attack near the Western Wall in Jerusalem, a courageous mother sacrifices her life to save her four-year-old daughter, leaving behind a grieving husband and a motherless child.

Hana Abboud, a Christian Arab Israeli lawyer trained at Hebrew University, typically uses her language skills to represent international clients for an Atlanta law firm. When her boss is contacted by Jakob Brodsky, a young Jewish lawyer pursuing a lawsuit on behalf of the woman’s family under the US Anti-Terrorism laws, he calls on Hana’s expertise to take point on the case. After careful prayer, she joins forces with Jakob, and they quickly realize the need to bring in a third member for their team, an Arab investigator named Daud Hasan, based in Israel.

To unravel the case, this team of investigators travels from the streets of Atlanta to the alleys of Jerusalem, a world where hidden motives thrive, the risk of death is real, and the search for truth has many faces. What they uncover will forever change their understanding of justice, heritage, and what it means to be chosen for a greater purpose.

Review

I always look forward to a release from Robert Whitlow. I know I can count on a book that has a solid legal foundation, a fascinating plot, and an author who spends time with God. This book was no different. My thoughts:

What I liked

The topic. Specifically, the international legal aspect of it. Kudos to Whitlow for stepping out of America. You’ve got Hana who is Arab but grew up in Israel and now lives in America and Jacob who has a Russian background and is Jewish who also lives in America. At some point they both make it to Israel. And yet, at no time, did the story Whitlow was telling feel overwhelming. You would think with Arabs and Jews, Israel and Palestine, terrorists and lawsuits, America and Israel that you would easily get lost in the details. You don’t. Whitlow handles it all very smoothly.

The characters. Each one is well-defined, from a restaurant owner to Hana, the main character. Whitlow really takes the time to flesh out every character on the page. No one is a caricature. I was especially drawn to Hana. She’s intelligent and bold and yet still somehow very much reflects that modest middle east upbringing. She’s not perfect, but she always has a reason for doing what she does. I was also very fond of Jacob. In spite of his Russian-Jewish background, there’s something very All-American about him…which makes him easy to like.

Romance. Though the romance is light, I like the way it was handled. There are a few surprises here!

As always, the legal nature of the case. As a lawyer, I don’t need my legal thrillers to be exact, but they have to be logical. With Whitlow, I never doubt that he knows his stuff.

Descriptions. At one point (or two) Israel is visited in the novel. Whitlow describes everything, from the sites to the food to the language to the people. I am almost certain the man has spent time there. Israel comes to life on the pages.

A different look. I’m pretty sure everyone who has lived long enough has an opinion about the Israeli-Palestine conflict. By making his main character an Arab Christian, Whitlow presents a very different look at the Middle East Conflict and it’s one worth learning about.

Spiritually, I love the way Whitlow always emphasizes the importance of prayer and dreams.

What I didn’t like

There were, at times, too many details and not necessarily about the case. This book had almost flash points of something really interesting happening and then low points where a character’s day is described in nuanced detail. There were quite a few moments where scenes felt drawn out. I often found myself skimming so I could get to the action.

Overall, if Whitlow is your kind of author, don’t miss out on this book! You learn so much and will enjoy it while you do.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from Thomas Nelson through NetGalley. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.