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Julie Klassen’s The Bridge to Belle Island

The Bridge to Belle Island by [Klassen, Julie]

After a humiliating mistake, lawyer Benjamin Booker resolves to never again trust a beautiful woman. When an old friend is killed, the senior partner isn’t satisfied with Bow Street’s efforts and asks Benjamin to investigate. Eager to leave London for a while, Benjamin agrees. Evidence takes him to a remote island on the Thames, a world unto itself, shrouded in mist and mystery. Soon he finds himself falling for the main suspect–a woman who claims not to have left the island in ten years. But should he trust her?

On Belle Island, Isabelle feels safe and leads a productive life, but fear keeps her trapped there. When Mr. Booker arrives with news of her trustee’s murder in London, Isabelle is stunned. She has not left the island, yet she has a recurring dream about the man’s death. Or is it a memory? She had been furious with him, but she never intended . . . this.

When a second person dies and evidence shockingly points to her, Isabelle doesn’t know who to trust: the attractive lawyer or the admirer and friends who assemble on the island, each with grudges against the victim. Can she even trust her own mind? While they search for the truth, secrets come to light and danger comes calling.


There’s something about Julie Klassen’s novels that reminds me of a good episode of a period piece on television. I always enjoy being swept away to 19th century England with one of her books. My thoughts:

What I liked

The mystery. I really enjoyed the process of the investigation in this novel. It is a classic who-done-it. The murder victim is one of those unlikeable people where everyone and their mama might have killed him. It was so much fun trying out different theories in my mind and just watching everything unravel slowly.

No deception. Benjamin Booker goes to Belle Island to investigate a mystery and low and behold, he manages to solve it without lying or deceiving anyone. There’s a certain honor about Benjamin that shines through in the narrative making him a trustworthy character–even when he feels like he can’t trust himself.

Romance. Because of the honesty of Benjamin Booker, nothing about the romance was off here. And not only his honesty. Isabelle has more than one opportunity to make things complicated and she chooses not to. The main characters were able to build a romance off of trust and friendship and more than that, work together instead of apart, to solve the mystery.

Spiritually, the characters pray and learn to rely on God especially when it comes to anxiety and fears.

What I didn’t like

In the author’s desire I think, to have a wide net of potential killers, she does create a cast and a history that feels a bit clunky at times.

I think that some readers could find this novel to be a bit slow in parts. The mystery really takes its time and you get to know not only the characters but Belle Island. Really, every Julie Klassen novel I’ve ever read, because they’re heavy on character development, are not as fast-paced as many other novels. Her books take place in a slower time period and thus her characters tend to move at a slower pace. It has to be your cup of tea.

Romantic scale: 7.5

Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed it. I found it to be entertaining and fun and very well written. I read it in a day.

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

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Dani Pettrey’s Killing Tide

When one Coast Guard officer is found dead and another goes missing, Coast Guard Investigative Service special agent Finn Walker faces his most dangerous crime yet. His only clues are what little evidence remains aboard the dead officer’s boat, and the direction the clues point to will test Finn and the Guard to their limits.

When investigative reporter–and Finn’s boss’s sister–Gabby Rowley arrives, her unrelenting questions complicate an already volatile situation. Now that she’s back, the tug on Finn’s heart is strong, but with the risks she’s taking for her next big story, he fears she might not live through it.

Thrown together by the heinous crime, Finn and Gabby can’t ignore the sparks or judgments flying between them. But will they be able to see past their preconceptions long enough to track down an elusive killer, or will they become his next mark?


Dani Pettrey has written some of my favorite contemporary mysteries so of course I had to pick up her new one. My thoughts:

What I liked

The use of the Coastguard. Pettrey does her research. I’ve never given much thought to the U.S. Coastguard so it was fascinating to me, as a reader, to learn what all their job entails. I realize this is a novel, but it was very much high action, lots of water, and plenty of nefarious criminals.

Mysteries. There is more than one mystery in this novel and all of them are very layered and complex. They are quite the balls of thread to unravel and you can tell that the author takes her time to craft them. Things also happen very quick. Reading one of Pettrey’s novels is often like watching an episode of NCIS.

Spiritually, the characters pray, realize the importance of accepting God’s grace, and learn to rely on him.

What I didn’t like

Gabby. I’ve never met a female journalist in person. I have, however, met several of them within the confines of fiction. Based off of novels, here is what I have learned about female journalists, they are: abrasive, self-centered, deceptive, they will put themselves and others in danger if it means getting the story, and they don’t care what relationships they have to sacrifice to make things happen. If you can’t tell, I don’t like female main characters who are journalists. I had high hopes Gabby would be different. She wasn’t. I understand that her main goal in the novel was to recognize her own faults. But I was completely turned off by her behavior almost immediately and was therefore unable to connect.

Too much going on. Dani Pettrey almost always starts her novels in medias res. The reader is just dropped there right in the middle of things and relationships. But this one was too much too fast. I read the first three chapters and wondered if I was reading the first book in a series. I had to stop and check Amazon to see if I had missed something. There was so much action and so little character development. This may have worked if the story stayed purely from Gabby and Finn’s point of view. But it didn’t. There were so many characters and I didn’t know who they were (like I knew their names, but not their personalities). I like to see friendships form and relationships develop. Without any kind of background, I found myself largely not caring whose point of view I was reading  cause it all felt the same and I was definitely skimming towards the end.

Romantic scale: 7

Overall, not my favorite book by the author. This may be a personal thing, however. I’m a much more character-driven reader than plot-driven and the little character I got was unfortunately, largely unappealing.

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


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Tari Faris’s You Belong With Me

You Belong with Me (Restoring Heritage Book #1) by [Faris, Tari]

Realtor Hannah Thornton has many talents. Unfortunately, selling houses in the town where her family name is practically poison isn’t one of them. When a business tycoon determines to raze historic homes in the small town of Heritage, Michigan, and replace them with a strip mall, Hannah resolves to stop him. She sets about helping Heritage win a restoration grant that will put the town back on the map–and hopefully finally repay the financial debt Hannah’s mother caused the town. But at first no one supports her efforts–not even her best friend, Luke.

Luke Johnson may have grown up in Heritage, but as a foster kid he never truly felt as if he belonged. Now he has a chance to score a job as assistant fire chief and earn his place in the town. But when the interview process and Hannah’s restoration project start unearthing things from his past, Luke must decide if belonging is worth the pain of being honest about who he is–and who he was.


I’m always very hesitant to try new authors but the combination of contemporary romance and possible “best friend romance” made the decision for me. My thoughts:

What I liked

Two romances. Usually when I read a romance and learn that there is actually a second one, I am disappointed. Typically, one romance is more interesting than the other and I’m always irritated the second one is there. However, I found that to not be the case here. The dynamics between both couples was fascinating. Also, both of the romances already had a foundation before the book started. Sometimes that can be a bit off-putting because I like to see the characters fall in love on the page, but that worked really well here. To a degree they were falling in love almost a second time. I found the main romance and the secondary romance to be well thought out and well written and that leads me to the….

Characters. The characters made this book. This book is not complex, the plot is not a page-turner, so it relied heavily on having interesting characters. Luke and Hannah and even the secondary characters are all very well-developed. They have flaws and they have strengths. They have interests and they have dislikes. I’ll be honest, there was one character who was rather irritating and yet so well explained that I understood why they were the way they were and why they made the decisions they did. Because of that, I could not dislike them. Further, at least in regards to the secondary characters, they were so well-crafted that it felt like the author had created an abundance of potential stories in this small town. I found pretty much every character fascinating.

Mystery. So it’s not really a mystery, but there is a lot of suspense regarding Luke and his past and the truth turned out to be something very surprising. I enjoyed the twist that took.

 Spiritually, there is a theme of when you have nothing, that’s an opportunity for God to step in and do something and to just trust Him with the ugly times in life.

What I didn’t like

It is a universal truth that in a contemporary novel, there must be a deception. I was not a fan of all the secrets. All these people are supposed to be such good friends and yet they don’t trust each other at all. But I will say that it didn’t sink the book because, for the most part, each person in the couple kept the same kind of secret from each other. There wasn’t the perfect guy and the deceptive girl. They were both deceptive and that actually worked because I could be angry at both of them equally. At any rate, the fallout was handled well.

Romantic scale: 8

Overall, I really enjoyed this book. It was exactly what I thought it would be: a very cute romance.

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

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Mary Jane Hathaway’s Murder at the Mayan Temple

Murder at the Mayan Temple (A Christian Cozy Mystery) (Starling and Swift Book 1) by [Hathaway, Mary Jane]

Kitty Swift travels around the sunny Yucatan peninsula assisting luxury cruise ship groups as an interpreter for the deaf. After a disastrous broken engagement, she’s perfectly content to spend her days with her service dog, Chica, and a motley crew of wealthy vacationers. Her life revolves around playing Bingo, enjoying the chocolate fountain, and passing along the occasional complaint about the quality of the bed sheets. On a cruise ship the food is good, the music is lively, and everyone is friendly.

Life is quiet, just as it should be… until murder arrives in the night.

At the top of a Mayan pyramid in the humid jungle, one of her tour group is found sacrificed to the gods. A clue left at the scene makes it clear this is a deeply personal act of revenge― and the killer may have another victim in his sights.

As the entire tour group is brought in for questioning, Kitty and Chica find themselves in a race against time. A hurricane is bearing down on the city, the cruise ship is set to depart, and they’re sequestered in an embassy house with a vicious murderer.

The only person standing in her way is an enigmatic attaché to the American embassy who doesn’t take kindly to all her questions― especially about himself.

Should Kitty be on guard against the mysterious detective, or are they birds of a feather in search of a killer?


I’ve enjoyed several of Mary Jane Hathaway’s novels before so I decided to pick up the first book in her Starling and Swift series. My thoughts:

What I Liked

Diversity. I love that the main character works as an interpreter for the deaf. In fact, most of the characters in this book are deaf. Without being told, you learn a lot about the purpose and value of service dogs, the deaf community, and different causes that lead to deafness. It was just very nice to be introduced to a different world for a different group of people. It also adds an interesting twist to a mystery novel.

Mystery. The book is advertised as a cozy mystery and it is exactly that. The mystery isn’t complicated, it’s not over the top. It’s a basic who-done-it and there’s a lot of fun trying to solve it.

Kitty Swift and Chica. I will say, that I am not an animal person (sad, but true) and I was not initially interested in a book that had a dog on the cover (I know, I know). I figured if the dog is on the cover, it’s going to have a main role and while the dog did have a main role, it totally worked for the narrative that was being told. So, if you’re like me, never fear, the dog has a purpose here. Also, I really liked Kitty Swift. She’s kind and giving, and yet she has a past and secrets that I think will be slowly unraveled over time.

Romance. This is one of those series (and I haven’t finished it) that appears to introduce the couple in the first book and take them slowly through the rest of the series. So, the best kind of romance because it’s one based on friendship and shared interests.

Spiritually, the main character prays and seeks God.

What I Didn’t Like

The mystery. Honestly, the only thing that made me roll my eyes was how the bad guy/gal was revealed. They straight up confessed in spite of the fact that Kitty really didn’t have any evidence. It made the novel feel a bit less serious.

Romantic scale: 6

Overall, a very nice, cozy mystery to read.


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Siri Mitchell’s State of Lies

State of Lies by [Mitchell, Siri]

The secrets of those closest to us can be the most dangerous of all.

Months after her husband, Sean, is killed by a hit-and-run driver, physicist Georgie Brennan discovers he lied to her about where he had been going that day. A cryptic notebook, a missing computer, and strange noises under her house soon have her questioning everything she thought she knew.

With her job hanging by a thread, her son struggling to cope with his father’s death, and her four-star general father up for confirmation as the next secretary of defense, Georgie quickly finds herself tangled in a web of political intrigue that has no clear agenda and dozens of likely villains.

Only one thing is clear: someone wants her dead too. And the more she digs for the truth, the fewer people she can trust.

Not her friends.

Not her parents.

Maybe not even herself.


This was a highly entertaining book. I had problems with it (see below), but for someone who is in the midst of a serious book slump, I finished it, and I must give it props. I am a huge fan of Siri Mitchell’s contemporary novels. My thoughts:

What I liked

Georgie. Mitchell writes fairly unique heroines. They’re always a bit odd (usually serious introverts) and that’s why I like them. Georgie is smart, straight forward, and very focused. She manages to come off as real from her experiences with grief, her day to day actions, and raising her son. I like that Georgie was not one of those silly heroines who pushes forward ahead without thought or care of the danger she might put herself or her family in. She’s very conscious of the choices that she makes and how it might affect her.

The mystery. There were so many twists and turns with this one. I thoroughly enjoyed it. I never knew from one second to the next what was going to happen. Kudos to the author for the amount of research she must have put in. I never once felt like she didn’t know what she was talking about (and there are some seriously heavy topics).

The romance. I was hesitant to pick this one up only because I wanted a cute romance too and well the premise doesn’t exactly lend itself to that. However, you get a lot of meet-cute moments between Georgie and her deceased husband, and a fairly interesting portrayal of marriage. Let’s just say my romance heart was satisfied.

Spiritually, I’ll be honest, not sure why this is considered Christian fiction per se. I believe the characters mention praying once…it was ‘clean’ though.

What I didn’t like

I had a couple of problems with this book, the first being that with all the twists and turns, the ending was still too big of a surprise. It would have worked better if there had been a few more breadcrumbs leading up to the conclusion. I was fine with the ‘bad guy’, I just had difficulty buying the way everything went down.

While investigating, Georgie begins to suspect that someone who is close to her may have done wrong, I found it very strange that never once did she think they were innocent, or possibly setup. She was so driven on the truth, that her relationship didn’t come into play at all. Like not at all. Let me just say that I liked that she was focused on the truth, I just didn’t understand why none of it affected her emotionally.

Georgie is not alone in trying to solve this mystery. I did, however, find it odd that her partner didn’t seem as invested in solving the mystery as much as she was when they had the most to lose. Georgie was all in. I didn’t get the same vibe from her partner.

Lastly, the details did get a bit overwhelming. Not going to lie, I skimmed many paragraphs.

Romantic scale: 7

Overall, while problematic, highly entertaining and I would still read the next Siri Mitchell book.



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Rachel Fordham’s Yours Truly, Thomas

Yours Truly, Thomas by [Fordham, Rachel]

For three years, Penny Ercanbeck has been opening other people’s mail. Dead ends are a reality for clerks at the Dead Letter Office. Still she dreams of something more–a bit of intrigue, a taste of romance, or at least a touch less loneliness. When a letter from a brokenhearted man to his one true love falls into her hands, Penny seizes this chance to do something heroic. It becomes her mission to place this lost letter into the hands of its intended recipient.

Thomas left his former life with no intention of ending up in Azure Springs, Iowa. He certainly didn’t expect a happy ending after what he had done. All he wanted to do was run and never look back. In a moment of desperation, he began to write, never really expecting a reply.

When Penny’s undertaking leads her to the intriguing man who touched her soul with his words, everything grows more complicated. She wants to find the rightful owner of the letter and yet she finds herself caring–perhaps too much–for the one who wrote it.


I really enjoyed Rachel Fordham’s debut book. She really brings a fresh voice to the small-town romance genre. My thoughts:

What I liked

It was different. I have to give Fordham credit for doing something unique. This novel is part epistolary, part mystery, part western. It’s a lot going on without feeling like a lot is going on.

Romance. Fordham actually presents more than one romance to show that romantic love can come in many different ways and forms…even with Penny. Penny had one way that she was looking for love, but her romance came to fruition a bit differently than she thought.

Mystery. There is one mystery that’s a bit obvious, but then there was a twist in the book that I didn’t see coming.

Spiritually, the characters pray, deal with grief, and how to attain peace.

What I didn’t like

This book started slow. I’m not sure why, but it took quite some time before I found myself invested. But, the thing that got me, was that the heroine makes a decision that I think was supposed to be kind of romantic but came off to me as creepy and stalkerish. I had serious second-hand embarrassment that made me put the book down. I know I was supposed to suspend disbelief but I couldn’t.

Lastly, (and this is bit a of a pet peeve), I will never understand what authors are trying to say when they glorify these small towns and vilify big cities. I cannot tell you how many times I was told just how great Azure Springs was and how awful Alexandria, VA/Washington DC was (which is funny because coming from Chicago, those cities seem rather small townish to me).

Romantic scale: 7

Overall, if you’re looking for a cute romance, than this is for you. It just wasn’t my cup of tea.

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


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Elizabeth Camden’s The Spice King

The Spice King (Hope and Glory Book #1) by [Camden, Elizabeth]

Gray Delacroix has dedicated his life to building his very successful global spice empire, but it has come at a cost. Resolved to salvage his family before it spirals out of control, he returns to his ancestral home to save his brother and sister before it’s too late.

As a junior botanist for the Smithsonian, Annabelle Larkin has been charged with the impossible task of gaining access to the notoriously private Delacroix plant collection. If she fails, she will be out of a job and the family farm in Kansas will go under. She has no idea that in gaining entrance to the Delacroix world, she will unwittingly step into a web of dangerous political intrigue far beyond her experience.

Unable to deny her attraction to the reclusive business tycoon, Annabelle will be forced to choose between her heart and loyalty to her country. Can Gray and Annabelle find a way through the storm of scandal without destroying the family Gray is fighting to save?


I will admit that this book didn’t sound all that interesting to me, but I trust Elizabeth Camden to tell me a good story. My thoughts:

What I liked

Gray Delacroix. Camden writes some of the best heroes and it’s because none of them are cookie cutter. Gray is brilliant and wealthy, and yet largely vulnerable. In spite of everything that he has, there is a large amount of aloneness that he constantly experiences. I felt for him the entire book. He’s not perfect (none of Camden’s heroes ever are). He’s very opinionated and oftentimes wrong, but he had a code of ethic that I respected.

Then there is Annabelle. She is a typical Camden heroine: smart, has a specific (scientific) niche, and is living right on the edge of cutting new technology of her times. As a reader, I always learn so much from Camden’s heroines. I found Annabelle to be a good foil to Gray. She’s very excited about life, eager to help, and there’s a kindness that just oozes out of her.

Historical facts. Camden has a gift for taking an issue that America has since resolved and shining a light on it at the peak of when it was not solved. I learned so much without feeling like I was being taught a lesson about the spice trade, food labels, the Department of Agriculture, the Smithsonian, and even the Civil War.

Secondary characters. I am hoping, so hoping, that the rest of the series involves Gray’s siblings. What an interesting dynamic duo. At first, they seem very silly and almost superficial, but by the end of the book, there is such depth there. And such mystery.

The political intrigue. At first, I didn’t care too much about the details, but then the book takes quite the turn. I feel like the mystery here is going to continue in the next book (I hope it continues in the next book).

Spiritually, characters pray and read the Bible. Annabelle specifically relies on God during tough times.

What I didn’t like

Okay. This book deploys my least favorite trope in it: deception. It was almost painful to read (why can’t people just work together?). However, the thing that saved it, the thing that made me keep turning the pages (other than the fact that I had agreed to read this book for review) was that the deception did not play out in the usual deception-timeline (i.e. the big reveal is at the 70-75% mark and it’s always revealed by someone who is not the main character). Still, the character doing the deceiving (no matter how good a reason or excuse) always looks bad in my book. I’m not sure they redeemed themselves so much as they were forgiven. It affected the romance a bit…duh…and that’s my favorite part.

Romantic scale: 7

Overall, in spite of my quibbles with this book, I read it in one day and I could not believe it was over when it concluded. I’m very much looking forward to the next one!

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