Sunday, March 24, 2013

Review of "Adoring Addie" by Leslie Gould

Rating: 3.5 Stars
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Review: Leslie Gould improved my opinion of Amish Fiction last year with "Courting Cate." She gives a fresh spin to both Amish fiction and Shakespeare's famous works by combining the two in her "Courtships of Lancaster County" series.  "Adoring Addie" is inspired by the classic story of Romeo and Juliet.  Because the plot is built around such a well-known tale, it is predictable overall. I enjoyed "Adoring Addie," but not quite as much as "Courting Cate," which is based on "The Taming of the Shrew," a story-line unfamiliar to me.  Knowing the path that a story is going to take spoils the surprise of what will happen next.  Addie and Jonathan fall in love early in the novel.  The love-at-first-sight scenario disappoints me as a reader, but Addie and Jonathan's struggle to bring harmony between their families helped me to overlook my "pet peeve."

Gould's characterization of the Amish differentiates both "Adoring Addie" and "Courting Cate" from other Amish novels that I have read in the past.  Her characters face real-life problems, without their lives seeming overly quaint or overly oppressive.  Details as small as Addie preparing taco salads for dinner make Gould's characters seem less disconnected from mainstream culture.  Gould strikes a balance between the charm of Amish life and reality that Amish face problems similar to the rest of modern society.

"Adoring Addie" is a pleasurable romance, adapted from "Romeo and Juliet," minus the tragic ending.  The main characters and their hardships are well-developed to create a story of love, forgiveness, and truth.  Gould adds dimension with her secondary plots, particularly with Addie's brother, Timothy. There seems to be definite potential for a future novel based on Timothy. While I didn't fully adore "Adoring Addie," I definitely plan to read the future books in the "Courtships of Lancaster County" series.

I received a complimentary e-copy of this novel from Netgalley, courtesy of Bethany House.  I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions expressed above are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.

Summary: Not Since Romeo and Juliet Has a Couple Faced Odds This Long

The Cramers and Mosiers have been angry with each other for as long as anyone can remember. Things had cooled to a simmer...until Addie Cramer and Jonathan Mosier fell head over heels for each other. Now old tensions are renewed, and Addie's parents insist she marry stolid and uninspiring Phillip Eicher.

Distraught at a future apart, the two decide their best hope is to reconcile the two families...but that means digging into the past to see what tore them apart. Will their love be enough to keep them together or will long-held secrets ruin their chance at happiness?

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Review of "Firefly Island" by Lisa Wingate

Rating: 4.5 Stars
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Review: Small towns, love, humor, a touch of mystery; they are the components that I have come to associate with Lisa Wingate’s novels.  “Firefly Island” delivers each element in an absorbing novel set in the small town of Moses Lake, Texas.  Wingate’s portrayal of small towns with a collection of interesting residents never fails to charm me.  In her latest novel, readers see Moses Lake through the perspective of Mallory, a self-professed city girl. 

My interest was piqued from the first page and remained captured through each chapter. The novel begins with Mallory’s reflections on the past year of her life as she writes a news story for CNN.  It is clear that something significant happened, and the questions build as Mallory relays her story of a whirlwind marriage and life on an isolated ranch with its fair share of history and mystery.  “Firefly Island” is told solely from Mallory’s perspective.  Wingate masterfully conveys Mallory’s doubts, fears, struggles, and personal growth.  The range of emotions is wide and deep, but I related to each of them.  Mallory’s emotions remind me of what I might feel if I found myself in a situation similar to hers.  I connected with Mallory as I shared her questions about the motives of other characters and the potentially dark secrets surrounding the ranch.  

Mallory's growth as a mother provide some of the most touching scenes. The love story that exists between Mallory and Daniel takes a back seat to the bond of love that builds between Mallory and Nick. After spending over 300 pages completely absorbed in "Firefly Island," I was a bit let down by the conclusion.  Although each issue is resolved and the mysteries are answered, I felt that the ending was too quick. The last scene fast forwards to Mallory's CNN interview and her recollection of how the mystery of Jack West was finally uncovered.  

"Firefly Island" is my favorite of Lisa Wingate's novels set in Moses Lake, Texas. Some characters from the previous books make appearances and add to the small-town charm.  I highly recommend "Firefly Island" to new and past "visitors" to Moses Lake. 

I received a complimentary copy of this book from LitFuse through their book review program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions expressed above are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.

Summary from Bethany House:  Mallory Hale's life quickly veers off course when she falls hopelessly in love. After a whirlwind romance, Mallory finds herself leaving the bustle and action of Capitol Hill for the remote town of Moses Lake, Texas--with husband, stepson, and a U-Haul in tow.

A sweet, mishap-filled journey into marriage, motherhood, and ranch living ensues, and Mallory is filled with both the wonderment of love and the insecurities of change. But what she can't shake is the unease she feels around her husband's new boss, Jack West. Jack's presence--and his mysterious past--set her on edge, and when hints of a scandal emerge, Mallory finds herself seeking answers . . . and comes to realize that the middle-of-nowhere home she wasn't sure she wanted is the very place she'll risk everything to save.

Link to buy the book:       
Meet Lisa:  Lisa Wingate is a popular inspirational speaker, magazine columnist, and national bestselling author of several books, including Tending RosesTalk of the TownBlue Moon Bay, and Larkspur Cove, which won the 2011 Carol Award for Women's Fiction. Lisa and her family live in central Texas. 

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Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Review of "A Noble Groom" by Jody Hedlund

Rating: 4.5 Stars
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Review: Fairy tales have been the theme of several books that I have read recently.  Jody Hedlund's newest novel, "A Noble Groom," is built around the dream of a fairy-tale style love, but delves much deeper. Like in her other novels, Hedlund immerses readers in a historical setting.  The blend of fact and fiction lends a realism and poignancy that make Hedlund's books memorable.  "A Noble Groom" offers readers a glimpse into the immigrant community in Michigan during the 1880s.  The plot touches on social, economic, and environmental issues, to create a realistic picture of life during that time period.  At the center is a touching romance that ties in themes of love, truth, strength, and forgiveness.

Annalisa's plight as a woman and single mother in her small German community is both insightful and inspiring.  The oppression of women in Annalisa's culture is heartbreaking and painful, but makes her fight to create a better life for her daughters more heroic.  Annalisa is a sweet, yet strong heroine, deserving of a completely noble groom to fulfill her dreams.  Enter Carl Richards, a noble man in disguise, seeking refuge in America.  From the beginning, it is evident that Carl's presence will eventually bring heartache if his true identity is revealed.  His haughty views of  "peasants" when he arrives in Annalisa's community is frustrating  and annoying.  Hedlund develops and softens his character throughout the novel, and he becomes the definition of "noble."  The love between Annalisa and Carl is sweet and well-developed and is the impetus for personal growth in both characters.  An unhurried, meaningful love story is always more satisfying from beginning to end than one that is rushed.

An element of danger and an unsolved murder adds another dimension to the story.  They come together in the end to create tense closing scenes, but also uncover truth and forgiveness.  One of the major historical events at the end is one that I have read about in another book, but Hedlund's portrayal offers a unique perspective that ties in seamlessly with the overall plot. I have a few lingering questions about what happened to some of the background characters after this pivotal event, but there are no doubts about the outcomes for the main characters.

"A Noble Groom" is another finely crafted historical novel by Jody Hedlund.  Each of her novels is distinct and well-developed, which is exactly why I always look forward to her next release. "A Noble Groom" offers history, romance, faith, charming main characters, hardships, and triumphs...all the qualities that make a book a worthwhile read.

I received a complimentary e-copy of this novel from Netgalley, courtesy of Bethany House.  I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions expressed above are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising

Summary from Bethany House: Michigan, 1880 - Annalisa Werner's hope for a fairy tale love is over. Her husband failed her in every way and now his death has left her with few options to save the family farm. She needs a plentiful harvest. That, and a husband to help bring it in. Someone strong, dependable. That’ll be enough. A marriage for love...that's something she's given up on. So her father sends a letter to his brother in the Old Country, asking him to find Annalisa a groom.
Then a man appears: Carl Richards, from their home country of Germany and a former schoolteacher--or so he says. He's looking for work and will serve on the farm until her husband arrives.
With time running out, she accepts his help, but there's more to this man than he's admitting. He's also gentle, kind, charming--unlike any man she's ever known. But even as Carl is shining light into the darkness of her heart, she knows her true groom may arrive any day.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Review of "Grave Consequences" by Lisa T. Bergren

Rating: 4.5 Stars
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Review: I have been looking forward to Lisa T. Bergren's second installment of the Grand Tour series since reading "Glamorous Illusions" last year.  Danger makes an appearance at the conclusion of "Glamorous Illusions" and continues to thread through "Grave Consequences," often lurking in the shadows of European landmarks.  The sense of impending attack upon the travelling party lends a suspenseful edge to the plot otherwise defined by romance and European history.  New characters also add intrigue as Cora attempts to ascertain their motives. Meanwhile, Cora must also contend with matters of the heart and determine her place in the Kensington family.  The romantic suspense is often stronger than the mystery of who is targeting the Kensington traveling party. 

Bergren established a love triangle between Cora, Will, and the wealthy Frenchman, Pierre, in "Glamorous Illusions."  Because the story is told from the perspectives of both Cora and Will, it is easy to relate to their feelings as well as their internal debate about whether or not to act on those feelings.  Will and Pierre both have their charms as potential suitors, but I consistently hope for a union between Will and Cora.  Of course, circumstances and family prevent an easy match, and increase the interest for readers.  I want happy endings for all three characters, but it seems that at least one heart is destined to be broken by the end of the series.

On the surface, Cora's story is like a fairy tale.  She is a farm-girl-turned-heiress on the trip of a lifetime, dressing, dining, and traveling in splendor.  Her new-found wealth creates hardships for Cora that are evident in "Glamorous Illusions" and "Grave Consequences."  The chapters told from Cora's first person perspective provide insight into her inner doubts and attempt to reconcile both sides - Diehl and Kensington.  Bergren adds emotional depth to the plot through Cora, and creates a realistic character.

Historical depth is also an appealing aspect of "Grave Consequences."  Bergren takes readers on a grand tour of Europe through her descriptions.  The sites, tastes, and sounds of France, Switzerland, Austria, and Italy come to life on the pages. These are all places I dream of visiting, and combining them with a historical setting make them even more appealing. I can't wait for the tour to continue in Book 3, "Glittering Promises."  

I received a complimentary copy of this book from LitFuse through their book review program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions expressed above are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.

Buy the Book:    

Summary: The Powerful, Epic Romance Continues, Book 2 in Lisa T. Begren's Grand Tour series

For Cora Kensington, the journey of a lifetime takes unexpected twists. And her future-her very life-depends on the decisions she'll make at each crossroad. As her European tour with her newfound family takes her through Austria, France, and Italy, an unseen enemy trails close behind. Meanwhile, a forbidden love continues to claim her heart, putting everyone's plans in danger.

And as Cora stays one step ahead of it all, what might need the most protection is her own heart, torn between the dramatic pursuit of a dashing Frenchman and a man who has been quietly staking claim to her affections all along. Love has dangers all its own. She must escape the bonds of the past and discover the faith to make the right choices, as each one has grave consequences. 

Meet Lisa: Lisa T. Bergren is the award-winning author of over thirty-five books, with more than 2 million copies sold. A former publishing executive, Lisa now divides her time between writing, editing, parenting three children with her husband, Tim, and dreaming of her next trip to Italy. She lives in Colorado Springs. 

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Review of "Moonlight Masquerade" by Ruth Axtell

Rating: 4 Stars
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Review: Mystery, intrigue, and Regency Era romance all come to life in Ruth Axtell's latest release, "Moonlight Masquerade." The plot calls to mind both Jane Austen and "Downton Abbey." Axtell has crafted a story resplendent in period detail to satisfy the appetites of fans of Regency England.  There is the drama of unfulfilled romance and the danger of espionage to pull readers into the plot. Axtell's descriptions of Regency England, France, and French emigres are strong and developed, painting a realistic backdrop for the story.

The suspense of a budding, but forbidden romance between Lady Celine Wexham and Rees Phillips propels the plot as much as the political intrigue.  Axtell creates tangible tension between the two characters, but also communicates their mutual affection through their actions and awareness of one another.

I thought the political aspect of the novel might be a bit dry, but Axtell conveys the background of the political climate in 1813 England and France clearly, without overwhelming the plot with detail. I enjoyed seeing both sides of the conflict through the eyes of Celine and Rees.  They are a shining example of compromise, despite their opposing views and loyalties. Their covert activities contribute moments of tension, but the danger remains relatively mild.  In retrospect, I would have liked a little more suspense during the potentially dangerous situations.

“Available March 2013 at your favorite bookseller from Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group.”

I received a complimentary copy of this novel from Revell.  I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions expressed above are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising

Summary from Revell: In this new Regency Romance, Ruth Axtell deftly creates a world where black and white burst into a confusion of colors and no one is who they seem.  Axtell’s expert storytelling and attention to historical detail bring the Regency era alive with  intrigue and romance.

Lady Celine Wexham seems the model British subject. French by birth but enjoying life in 1813 as a widowed English countess, she is in the unique position of being able to help those in need--or to spy for the notorious Napoleon Bonaparte. When Rees Phillips of the British Foreign Office is sent to pose as the countess's butler and discover where her true loyalties lie, he is confident he will uncover the truth. But the longer he is in her fashionable townhouse in London's West End, the more his staunch loyalty to the Crown begins to waver as he falls under Lady Wexham's spell. 


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