Sunday, April 21, 2013

Review of "The Icecutter's Daughter"

Rating: 3 Stars
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Review: Tracie Peterson seems to be synonymous with historical Christian fiction, and "The Icecutter's Daughter" offers a pleasant blend of history, faith, and romance. The last Peterson novels that I read were  those in the "Yukon Quest" and "Belles of Lowell" series. "The Icecutter's Daughter" did not leave as strong of an impression, but it was a pleasant weekend read.  I enjoyed learning about ice harvesting and furniture making in the late 1800s.  Peterson constructs an authentic historical scene that exposes readers to less well-known facets of history. Daily responsibilities and challenges for families involved in the furniture and ice industries came to life in the plot. Multiple references to Merrill's delectable strudels, made me wish I could jump into the pages for a sample.   
While I enjoyed the setting of "The Icecutter's Daughter," I never felt fully engaged in the plot or the characters.  Peterson uses the characters to convey themes of faith, forgiveness, and being true to oneself. The characters are likeable, with the exception of two misguided characters who stir up some trouble and bring some interest to the story line.  My emotional connection to Merrill and Ruirk as individuals and as a couple did not fully develop.  Some sections relied mainly on conversations between characters, which made the flow choppy at times and ultimately left me detached. I did not find the story to be overly surprising or gripping; it was quick and easy read but did not leave a lasting impression.  
"The Icecutter's Daughter" is the first installment in the "Land of Shining Water" series, which will include "The Quarryman's Bride" and "The Miner's Lady." The synopses sound promising, and readers will likely find satisfaction in the historical love stories that define Tracie Peterson's fiction novels.
I received a complimentary e-copy of this novel from NetGalley, courtesy of Baker Publishing Group. 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: As the lone female in a houseful of men, Merrill Krause dedicates her life to caring for her family and their business, as her dying mother asked. Besides, it suits her; she's never felt like she fits what most people expect in a girl--she'd rather work with her father’s horses and assist with the ice harvest. And though she’s been mostly content up to this point, a part of her wonders if there will ever be anyone who will notice her amid the bevy of brothers determined to protect her from any possible suitors.
When Rurik Jorgenson arrives in their small Minnesota town to join his uncle's carpentry business, he soon crosses paths with Merrill. But unlike other men, who are often frightened away by her older brothers, Rurik isn't intimidated by them or by Merrill's strength and lack of femininity. The attraction between them begins to build...until Rurik's former fiance shows up with wild claims that bring serious consequences to Rurik.
Can Rurik and Merrill learn to trust God--and each other--when scandal threatens their newfound love?

Friday, April 19, 2013

Review of "The Heiress of Winterwood" by Sarah Ladd

Rating: 4 Stars
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Review: "The Heiress of Winterwood" is a promising beginning to Sarah Ladd's new series "Whispers on the Moors."  As a fan of period British dramas, this novel satiated my hunger for a elegant English love story, especially in the absence of Downton Abbey. There are hints of Austenesque qualities in Ladd's writing that surface throughout the pages.  The novel is a fairly fast read with elements of predictability and unpredictability in the plot.  The first half of the plot is as refined and placid as the stately scene on the front cover, but dark clouds soon surface and make way for a storm of danger.  
Amelia finds herself in a unique situation, especially for a woman in 1814. She is not only the future heiress to a grand estate, but she is also the adopted mother for an infant.  Most shockingly, she proposes to a stranger while promised to another gentleman.  This premise, while probably not completely realistic, adds interest and unpredictability to the novel. Amelia's actions at the beginning of the book set the stage for the forthcoming events.  As the motives of certain characters come into question and the shades of Winterwood are darkened by crime, suspense excites the otherwise sedate plot.  
Captain Graham Sterling is a proper British hero, definitely worthy of a Regency era novel.  He is the ideal compliment to Amelia, and combined with baby Lucy, they are an endearing trio. I hoped for more development in the love between Graham and Amelia.  Circumstances throw the unconventional family together. Initially, the interaction between Graham and Amelia is driven by necessity, and it slowly transforms into something deeper. While I support the growing relationship, I did not feel fully engaged in the feelings between the two characters. I remain more touched by the love between Amelia and Lucy.  Hopefully the future novels in the series will allow readers back into the lives of Amelia, Graham, and Lucy. 
"The Heiress of Winterwood" is a commendable novel with an appealing English flair.  The journey to Darbury, England and the stately manor of Winterwood will not leave readers who are looking for a British escape disappointed.

Purchase a copy:

I received a complimentary copy of this book from Thomas Nelson and LitFuse through their book review programs. 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:  Darbury, England, 1814

Amelia Barrett gave her word. Keeping it could cost her everything.

Amelia Barrett, heiress to an estate nestled in the English moors, defies family expectations and promises to raise her dying friend's baby. She'll risk everything to keep her word-even to the point of proposing to the child's father-a sea captain she's never met.
When the child vanishes with little more than an ominous ransom note hinting at her whereabouts, Amelia and Graham are driven to test the boundaries of their love for this little one.
-Amelia's detailed plans would normally see her through any trial, but now, desperate and shaken, she's forced to examine her soul and face her one weakness: pride.
Graham's strength and self-control have served him well and earned him much respect, but chasing perfection has kept him a prisoner of his own discipline. And away from the family he has sworn to love and protect.
Both must learn to have faith and relinquish control so they can embrace the future ahead of them. 
Meet Sarah: Sarah E. Ladd has more than ten years of marketing experience. She is a graduate of Ball State University and holds degrees in public relations and marketing. Heiress of Winterwood was the recipient of the 2011 Genesis Award for historical romance. Sarah lives in Indiana with her amazing husband, sweet daughter, and spunky Golden Retriever. Find out more about Sarah at

Monday, April 15, 2013

Review of "Love at Any Cost" by Julie Lessman

Rating: 3.5 Stars
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Review: Fans of Christian romance will likely find much to love within the pages of Julie Lessman's newest release, "Love at Any Cost."  Lessman is a gifted author, who portrays her characters and settings in vivid detail. Based on the reviews I have read of Lessman's other novels, I expected a focus on love, family, faith, and history.  As the first novel in the "Heart of San Francisco" series, "Love at Any Cost" introduces readers to the McClare family and sets the scene for upcoming books.  The family dynamic is well-established, and at the end of the first novel, readers will feel closely connected to the entire family, including the household staff. 

Overall, I have mixed feelings about "Love at Any Cost." I struggled to get interested in the book at the beginning, with the emphasis on physical looks and attraction.  The focus continued throughout the novel, and  the importance of outward appearance was ultimately a put-off for me.  By the end of the novel, I was tired of hearing about roguish "pretty-boys". Perhaps readers are meant to find Jamie McKenna's charms irresistible, but his attitude and view of women left something to be desired. He begins as a cocky fortune-hunter, determined to force his charms on Cassie.  He is quite persistent with his affections, constantly flirting and  stealing kisses. If only he tried to win Cassie's heart through his character rather than his vanity, I may have been more smitten.  I always find a deeper love more rewarding than one that forms its base on physical desires. Thankfully, Jamie undergoes a transformation to balance the two sides of his personality- rogue versus devoted son and brother. 

Lessman touches on the poor living conditions on San Francisco's Barbary Coast. I hoped "Love at Any Cost" would delve into a topic that has so much potential for extra depth. Instead, the plot centered around romance between the characters.  I suspect upcoming novels will reveal more about the Barbary Coast and the McClares' work to improve the area.   

While "Love at Any Cost" left something to be desired for me, I have no doubt that many readers will lose themselves within its pages. Anyone who enjoys simmering, but clean romance will find an abundance of potentially swoon-worthy moments in Julie Lessman's latest novel. 

“Available April 15, 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: The Gilded Age is brought to life in the new Heart of San Francisco Series.  Fans of bestselling author, Julie Lessman, will join her on a journey to the West Coast for romance, passion, and surprising revelations found in Love at Any Cost.

Jilted by a fortune hunter, cowgirl Cassidy McClare is a spunky Texas oil heiress without a fortune who would just as soon hogtie a man as look at him. Hoping a summer visit with her wealthy cousins in San Francisco will help her forget her heartache, Cassidy travels west. But no sooner is she settled in beautiful California than Jamie McKenna, a handsome pauper looking to marry well, captures her heart. When Jamie discovers the woman he loves is poorer than he is, Cassidy finds herself cheated by love a second time. Will Jamie discover that money can't buy love after all? And can Cassidy ever learn to fully trust her heart to a man?

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Review of "Are You Gonna Kiss Me or Not?" by Thompson Square with Travis Thrasher

Rating: 3.5 Stars
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Review: As a country music fan, I was immediately intrigued by a novel based off of the hit song "Are You Gonna Kiss Me or Not?"  Thompson Square and Travis Thrasher collaborate to bring the catchy hit song to life.  The song "Are You Gonna Kiss Me or Not?" is catchy and uptempo, but the novel offers more depth and drama with the classic elements of a country song: love and heartbreak.

Daniel and Casey's love story takes a long and winding road to fruition.  After their initial high school and college relationship, Daniel and Casey's path diverge but continue to intersect through music.  Their bond is undeniable, but their choices pull them apart for years and lead them to heartache.  Daniel's dependence on Casey becomes heartbreaking midway the novel.  Present day finds him in his mid-thirties with mostly unfulfilled dreams; dreams that he doesn't believe he can achieve without Casey.  It is sad to watch Daniel stall his life while Casey moves on, even though satisfaction remains elusive for her as well.  At times, I had difficulty connecting to either character. The last few chapters switched to first-person perspective, which I enjoyed more than the third person.  The plot relies heavily on the emotional journeys of Daniel and Casey.  As a reader, emotions resonate with me more when told in first-person.

Thompson Square lends an authentic country and creative flair to the novel, with unique chapter titles and verses of original songs to begin certain chapters. I enjoyed the beginning and ending portions of "Are You Gonna Kiss Me or Not?" The novel comes full circle in a sweet closing scene, and wraps up nicely in the epilogue clearly inspired by verses of the song.  The next time I hear "Are You Gonna Kiss Me or Not?" on the radio, I will listen to it with a backstory that makes it more than just a catchy tune. 

I received a complimentary e-copy of this novel from NetGalley, courtesy of Howard Books. 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: A novel about the long, winding journey to love for a pair of struggling songwriters, based on the hit song “Are You Gonna Kiss Me or Not?”, from platinum-selling country music duo Thompson Square.

Daniel and Casey were an unlikely couple back in high school, when they came together to write the music for a school function. Struggling against their differences, they dated during college, but their relationship never seemed quite right. Yet despite their personal conflict, as songwriters they had undeniable chemistry—and two hit songs. Eventually they went their own ways, both trying to make it in the music world and find true love.
Years later, both Daniel and Casey are at rock bottom, dealing with divorce and still trying to find success. But when they connect again as old friends, they realize that what they needed was right in front of them all along: each other.
From Thompson Square, a married twosome who know a little something about what it’s like to overcome the years of struggle in the music business while finding love and happiness, Are You Gonna Kiss Me or Not? is a charming and humorous love story about coming of age, knowing where you belong, and finding the perfect person to share life with.

Watch the Video Here.


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