©picture by scribbles (Marye McKenney)

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

A Simple Vow

Edith hears noises outside her home and goes outside to hear two men arguing in loud voices over who was the father of twin babies in one man's buggy. Edith does what any reasonable woman does, she goes outside and grabs the babies who are crying and berates the men for acting like little boys. One of the men is Will, once her sister's fiance, and the other is Asa, a man accused by Will's late wife of being the father of the babies. The problem is that Asa has never met Will's wife, and Will is too distraught in his own grief to think logically. In the meantime, Will wants Edith to take the twins and take care of them until he finds a more permanent solution. Asa is taken by Edith and wants to know her better. Thus begins the Amish story of A Simple Vow by Charlotte Hubbard.

Things I wish about this book:
Edith's father is secretive, autocratic, and dictatorial. I wish Charlotte had revealed what he was hiding, how he changed into a happier man by the end of the book, and truly what his objection was to Edith taking in the twins.

Asa's twin brother made some boneheaded decisions, played dirty with Asa, and generally created havoc in his wake, yet he was never called to confess his sins to the church. I understand this is a comman practice to call the recalcitrant back into fellowship within the Amish Church. He did, however, make restitution for his misdeeds.

Things I love about this book:

Edith and her sisters are incredibly lovable characters. Each one has her own talent and it shines within the plot of the story. The use of several characters from previous books in the series is seamless and flawless. The way the Amish work together to help each other out is shown as a shining example of loving others as Jesus loves us.

Charlotte has researched her subject well and works many of the Amish practices into her novels so that the reader learns something, finds encouragement, and is lifted spiritually as the book is being read.

Five Stars, Two Thumbs Up, and the most darling twins you ever did see.

My thanks to Kensington Publishing for allowing me to read and review this book.

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Two for the Price of One

I've enjoyed Tracie Peterson's books for a long time, and I was thrilled when this one came up on my reading list. I was ready for a change of pace and I got it with a slice of a second book. Not a bad deal, if I do say so myself.

Jessica was born in Windridge, but her birth caused the death of her mother. Her father, unable to cope with a baby and losing his beloved wife, sent Jessica to his wife's Aunt Harriet in New York. After Aunt Harriet, Jessica's husband, and Jessica's father all passed away, Jessica came home to Windridge with her infant son, Ryan. Buck and Kate were still there, but an addition to the staff had been made--Devon Carter. He had been running the ranch for several years and wanted to continue--to the point of bringing it back to the profitable ranch it had been.

Jessica had truly never been the recipient of honest love by any of her relatives, and kept her defenses on the offense. She resented Devon's interference into Ryan's life and his headstrong way of wanting to run the ranch.

This is a quick read that is quite satisfying. One thing that I truly appreciate about this book is how Tracie wove God's influence on Jessica into the story. Jessica comes across as a woman who truly wants to live as God directs her through the Bible. She is at times a shrew and at times the most humble character, but each time her shrewishness came out, she responded with the desire for forgiveness only God gives.

Five Stars

The other novel in this book is Lucy's Quilt by Joyce Livingston, and the story is similar in some respects to The House on Windridge, but where Jessica humbled herself, Juliette took a while to make that transition.

Jessica has a son, Ryan
Juliette has a son, Andrew

Jessica and Juliette both can have a sharp tongue and use their sharp tongues on the men in their lives.

Where the stories differ is in how the women get married--Jessica is well and truly in love, while Juliette marries Stone Piper out of convenience for both of them.

Windridge is definitely the better story in this book, I would only give Lucy's quilt three stars. This averages out to Four stars for the whole book.

My thanks to Barbour Books for allowing me to read and review this book.

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Sarah's Surrender

Sarah was raised in a bordello, but ran away from her father with one of his girls and moved in with a woman who was soon to become like an older sister. While living with Lara, she became acquainted with one of the ranch hands, Luke. Luke has fallen in love with Sarah, but she's sure that there's something else out there for her to do. She finds that there is going to be a land lottery and decides to put her name in for it. Luke also puts his name in for the lottery. After they move, Luke is still trying to get Sarah to recognize that he does love her and he wants her to marry him.

I've read some of Vickie McDonough's books and found them to be satisfyingly readable. I found this one a bit lackluster, and had to give it up before I finished it. It's good enough for three stars, but I can't go much higher than that. I feel sure this is a matter of taste and it is just me, and not Vickie's writing abilities. Not every book by my favorite authors is going to send me tripping the lights fantastic. Sarah's Surrender had me surrendering a bit early.

I do want to thank Shiloh Run Press for allowing me to read and review this book.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Spiders, Scorpions, and Snakes, Oh MY

Colleen Coble writes romances with a bit of suspense, most of the time, but this time, it's all romance. To Love a Stranger seems so familiar but yet, I couldn't remember reading it.

Bessie grew up in Boston in a "society family," but her younger sister, Lorene, wants to get married and their parents have said not until Bessie gets married first. Lorene has written letters to Jasper Mendenhall using Bessie's name, posing as a mail order bride. Lorene even married Jasper by proxie, also posing as Bessie. When Bessie gets to Wyoming to meet Jasper, he's angry and disappointed that the bride he got was not the bride he expected. Bessie was apprehensive because within three days of her arrival, they were moving to Arizona. On the way, Bessie finds a Navajo baby whose mother has died, so Bessie adopts her with Jasper's approval. After moving into their home, Bessie is bitten by a snake and one of Jasper's men takes care of her. When Bessie has Jasper help her move a chest, a nest of black widow spiders comes out and Bessie and Jasper take care of them with a broom and a shoe.

There are many funny scenes in this narrative, and many heart-wrenching scenes, but all of them together make this book worth reading.

This is a short novel, but the characters are quite developed; the plot moves at a steady pace; and the spiders, scorpions, and snakes make the story more interesting. This is a strong five star book, two thumbs up, and NO spiders, scorpions, or snakes.

Thomas Nelson provided the galley I was allowed to read and review.

Monday, May 23, 2016

Someone Like You

Hi! My name is Ladybug and I am going to be your guide today at Caliente Springs Resort. You'll see it in a way you never thought you would and in a way that the owners really don't approve. I am a goat and I belong to Ginger Travers, but no one really owns me. I am my own woman and I will plow over anyone in my way. I don't like being penned in and I don't like being roped up. I am fairly stubborn by my own admission.

Let me introduce you to the staff at Caliente Springs:

First, Zeke is the General Manager and is usually the one who hears the complaints when I get out. He's also the one who usually rounds me up when I get out. He's okay for a human, but he's not very tasty to me.

Next, Julia has been hired as a temporary fill-in for Irene who has to take time off for surgery. Julia and Zeke knew each other in college but their lives were vastly different then. Julia has a young son now and he takes the lion's share of her attention. The first time Julia and I met was especially memorable for her when I butted her into next week. Oh, yeah, Julia has been hired to be a wedding planner for Ginger's "honorary daughter," Tiffany. I helped to make that wedding pretty memorable too.

George Travers is Ginger's twin brother and together they own Caliente Springs. He doesn't care too much for me one way or the other, but he has a faith in God that just won't quit. Ginger wants to sell the resort, George wants to hold out and see if Zeke can turn things around.

It's all pretty interesting to see how Zeke and Julia get along, how Julia's mom falls for George, and how Julia's ex tries to stir things up.

I guess I should make mention of Julia's ex, his name is Hunter, and he is a bully of the first order. He gives me a run for the money in the stubbornness area. He's rather narcissistic and quite abusive to Julia and their son. Zeke would like nothing more than to give Hunter a punch in the nose, but he holds back.

I've got to say that Victoria Bylin was pretty nice giving me such a great role in her book. She loves her characters, and she can describe the scenery in a way that makes you think you are right there. You need to read Someone Like You, because I'M in it. Five Stars, Two Thumbs Up, and a goat to float in a boat.

My thanks to Bethany House Publishers for allowing me to read and review this book.

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Courage is. . .

Barbour Books puts out collections of novellas that are just the ticket to fill a random hour or two when you don't have the time or inclination to take on a whole novel. Every now and again I need to lighten up my reading with a less-than-serious story, and the Courageous Brides Collection fills that bill to a T. There are nine stories by vetted authors that take the readers back in history and enjoy a few moments of light reading.

Most of the stories are great, there was only one that was too silly for me to finish. I really enjoyed the "Encumbered Bride" story, where Mae had the responsibility of her younger siblings and her younger cousins. She felt sure no one would want to take on nine children at various ages and her fight to keep her land from a nefarious thief. When her brothers find a cowboy who had been injured while on his way to their ranch to look at horses, she works with all of the children to bring him back to full health. What she doesn't count on is that he would fall in love with her, and that she would fall in love with him.

This is a solid four star collection.

Barbour Books provided the galley I read in exchange for my honest review. My thanks to them.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Move Over, Mountains

In a continuation of Millie's story from Into the Free, Julie Cantrell brings a whole new set of characters to life and further develops Bump and Millie. When Mountains Move opens with Bump and Millie's wedding and follows them as they move to Colorado to work a ranch for Cauy Tucker. The most surprising event when they get to the ranch is to find it beyond dilapidated and in need of so much repair to make it habitable, Bump and Millie have to camp in the barn for a bit before they can live in the house. Bump also has to fix the fences, set the barn to rights, and get everything ready for the horses to arrive.

When Janine and Cauy arrive to see the condition of the ranch, they bring Oka, Millie's grandmother. Nothing gets by Oka and truly nothing surprises her. It is a neighbor, though, who alerts Millie to her enceinte condition, a neighbor who makes plays for Bump, leans on him, takes him away from Millie at any opportunity. A neighbor who is, to put it mildly, a piece of work.

Millie reacts with predictable jealousy, but Oka is the voice of reason and keeps Millie from over-doing her reaction. Oka is one character I dearly love--she puts her hand to any job that needs doing, she loves her family deeply, and she loves to cook. She shares her faith and her heritage as a Choctaw. One of the most important things Oka shares is that the Choctaw have several names--the birth name, the family name, and then the secret name that is never revealed to another soul.

It is through the trials of her pregnancy, the trials of keeping secrets from Bump, and the trials of unexpected guests that Millie finds her secret name--one she will never tell, and one will never be taken from her.

While I gave the pre-quel to this book only four stars, I give this one five stars, two thumbs up, and a secret name that no one will ever take from you.

My thanks to Thomas Nelson for allowing me to read and review this book. My only obligation was to share my honest opinion.

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Into the Free

I wasn't sure I was going to be able to force myself to read through this book. It seemed disjointed and confusing, but the more I got into it,
the more sense it made.

Jack is an abusive, alcoholic rodeo cowboy who comes home periodically to beat up Millie's mother, Marie. He can't stand that she numbs her pain through her addiction of morphine.

Marie would rather escape her world than deal with it. There are days she can function, but most of the time, she escapes into sleep through her morphine and often she has Millie dose her up.

Millie is a young girl who wants something more than what she has. She knows her life is not normal, but she doesn't know what normal is. There's Sloth, next door, who looks out for her and loves her like his own, but he's old and getting frailer by the day.

River lives among the Travelers and falls for Millie, but after the events of the year she when she turns seventeen, he is just a little too late for her affections.

Dianna Miller is a nurse at the hospital where Millie's dad is taken after a bad bull-riding accident. When Jack dies, and Millie's mom is taken to East Hospital for the mentally ill, Dianna takes Millie in, not knowing that her husband had once been engaged to Marie. Of course, Dianna's friends are all too willing to fill Dianna in on his previous romances. Afterwards, Dianna never treats Millie the same.

These are the major players in Julie Cantrell's novel, Into the Free. Beginning in the Great Depression and carrying through to Worl War II era, Into the Free lets Millie tell her story in her own way, and also lets the reader feel every emotion, every tear, and every triumph Millie has in her little town.

While it took me a bit of time to get into the plot of the book, the plot quickly took up speed and compelled me to keep reading all the way through to the end. I wish I could give this book five stars, but the slow start prevents me from doing so. Four strong stars.

My thanks to Thomas Nelson for allowing me to read and review this book.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Magnolia Duchess

In the South, there is a time-honored tradition of "coming-out" parties for debutants. It's an occasion for dressing up, seeking an escort, and going to a ball, after a time of learning manners, refined dining, and dancing. But, this tradition came long after the era of this book. Instead we have a pageant of tough women, fighting men, and two countries at war.

But in any pageant, there are prize winners, so I will list the prizes won in this particular novel by Beth White.

The most outstanding assessment by another character in the book: Desi Palomar tells Charlie Kincaid that Fiona has not gotten the hang of sitting around and swooning.

The most protective action by a sibling: Fiona's brother, Judah, sees that she's disguised herself and attached herself to the cavalry as the horse wrangler. He takes her to the mansion of his friends who keep her all but under lock and key.

The most trouble gone through to have the bride of his dreams: Charlie Kincaid washes up on the shore near Navy Cove, Alabama, with amnesia; recovers; goes back to his ship; is traded in a prisoner exchange for Fiona's brother, Sullivan; fights in several battles in the War of 1812; resigns his commission (except his commanding officer won't allow him to leave); charged, tried, and found guilty of desertion.

The most adventures had by a woman in love: Fiona trains horses to sell to the Cavalry, disguises herself as a boy to become the Cavalry's horse wrangler, and nurses wounded military men at a mansion owned by her brother's friends.

As this pageantry scrolls by while the book is being read, it is evident that this whole book is a winner, not just a compilation of random characters. This is worth Five Stars, Two Thumbs Up, and a well trained horse to respond to your every whistle.

My thanks to Revell for allowing me to read and review this book.

Saturday, May 7, 2016

The Loyal Heart

The first book I read by Shelley Shepard Gray I absolutely loved. It was riveting, compelling, and so very hard to put down. It follows (at least with my logic) that I'd pick up another book by her and try reading something else from her pen.

The Loyal Heart takes place after the end of the Civil War on Galveston Island in Texas. Miranda Markham's husband died of gangrene near the end of the war in a Union prison for Confederate soldiers. Someone has accused her husband of being a traitor to the south and is blackmailing her to force her out of her mansion. Unbeknownst to her, her husband extracted promises from some of his inmate cohorts that they would see to it that his wife would always be all right. Robert Truax is the first who came to stay in her mansion turned boarding house and found out what the trouble was. He makes it his mission to get to the bottom of the threats and solve the mystery behind the threatening letters and the cold shoulder Miranda receives every time she goes to town. Eventually all of the men her husband solicited the promises from show up at the mansion and solve the mystery.

This book moved along quite slowly for me and was not quite as compelling as the other book I read by Shelley. I will not give up on Shelley as a potential author because there was quite a bit to recommend this book. The setting was absolutely wonderful, some of the minor characters were quite lovable and others were quite the opposite and it was fun not to like them. While it wasn't my favorite, it still gets four solid stars.

My thanks to Zondervan who provided the galley I read in exchange for my honest opinion.

Friday, May 6, 2016

Go On and Kiss the Bride

There are three novellas in this collection and all three stories revolve around a kiss that sends rockets flaring into the sky. But all three stories reminded me of a song sung by two sweet, young ladies.

In the first novella of this olio, the formula for romance novels is already in play. Ashton broke up with Jenna during the wedding rehearsal, but now his sister wants Jenna to photograph her wedding and he has to come and make nice to Jenna to get her to agree to the job. He'd really like to rekindle the relationship, but Jenna isn't feeling the love, YET. Picture Perfect Love by Melissa McClone

Grant needs Skye to teach him to dance for his best friend's wedding, but the dancing lessons interfere with his working hours, so he has to schedule his lessons privately. What Skye does for Grant is to help him find the music within his heart. I Hope You Dance by Robin Lee Hatcher

Mac needs that one story to make her big break as a reporter, and her boss wants her to cover Hollis Channing's wedding (one that is supposed to be secret). Hollis is not Mac's favorite person, in fact, Hollis went out of her way to humiliate Mac at every turn. When Mac goes next door to get pictures of the wedding venue, she runs into Hollis' brother, Ethan, who has moved back to town to take over the medical practice. One fly in the whole ointment is Ethan's and Hollis' mother, who wants to have her finger in every little pot she can. It's a lot for Mac to overcome the old Hollis, the new Hollis, and the high school crush she had on Ethan, and she still has to write a story for the newspaper. Love on a Deadline by Kathryn Springer.

These three stories are easy to read, entertaining, and not at all formulaic. Five Stars, Two Thumbs Up, and a kiss that will buckle your knees.

My thanks to Zondervan for allowing me to read and review this book.

Sarah, Sarah, Sarah!

Sarah Sundin writes World War II romantic fiction and does it quite well. I have loved every book she's written and gobbled them up as soon as they are issued. I made it a point to grab her newest book, An Anchor in the Storm, and get it in my TBR list. While I was away on a trip to see my husband get a national award for the work he does, the book came up next to read. I was excited, I was anticipating a great read, and I was ready to get down to business.

Lillian Avery is Jim Avery's sister and she is heading from Ohio to Boston to work in a pharmacy as one of the few female pharmacists in the nation. Jim's friend, Archer Vandenberg, is a bit over the top for Lillian, but his charm wins her over, especially as they have a common mystery to follow. The problem that Lillian sees is an inordinate number of prescriptions for phenobarbital being issued. Her boss says it's normal and encourages her to fill them and let it go. Arch is seeing a number of seamen falling prey to addiction to phenobarbital and knows there is a source on the ship and wants to find it and plug the hole.

The romance between Lillian and Archer plays as much of a part in the book as does the mystery of the drug ring. What Sarah did in this book that I found totally unnecessary is to use "the formula" for a romance novel.
the romance novel formula: boy meets girl
boy falls in love with girl
boy loses girl
boy gets girl back
Everyone lives happily ever after.

Lillian sees herself as "less than" because she lost her leg in an accident as a child. Archer is leary of women because he thinks they only want his money. Their romance falls apart as he tries to test her true motives. It's not until he is wounded in carrying out his duties do they find themselves together again.

That being said, this book is truly enjoyable, with a solid four stars.

Revell Books provided the galley I read in exchange for my honest opinion, and for that I thank them.