Monday, May 14, 2012

My Stubborn Heart by Becky Wade

Kate Donovan is burned out on work, worn down by her dating relationships, and in need of an adventure. When her grandmother asks her to accompany her to Redbud, Pennsylvania, to restore the grand old house she grew up in, Kate jumps at the chance.

Upon her arrival in Redbud, Kate meets Matt Jarreau, the man hired to renovate the house. Kate can't help being attracted to him, drawn by both his good looks and something else she can't quite put her finger on. He's clearly wounded--hiding from people, from God, and from his past. Yet Kate sets her stubborn heart on bringing him out of the dark and back into the light . . . whether he likes it or not.

When the stilted, uncomfortable interactions between Kate and Matt slowly shift into something more, is God finally answering the longing of her heart? Or will Kate be required to give up more than she ever dreamed?

My Review:
I enjoyed this contemporary Christian romance, all the way through its predictable ending. Some twists keep the pages turning.

The setting is a small town: Redbud, Pennsylvania. The protagonist, a social worker named Kate, takes a three-month leave, to help her grandmother restore their families' grand old house. Thirty-one-year old Kate has been unlucky in love; she is single.

Matt serves as the second half of this romantic duo. He's a good looking guy. Several times he is called a "Hottie." He even owns a Lamborghini Murcielago! This hunk, a former super hockey star in the NHL, now a widow, grieves the death of his wife by quitting the sport and becoming hermit-like. His construction work allows him to work alone. However, Kate, follows Matt throughout the house as he makes repairs. She stubbornly tries to strike up conversations. Even though the author describes Kate as an Audrey Hepburn look-alike, Kate knows that she is "out of Matt's league." She reminds herself over and over that she and Matt could be "just friends."

Other characters consist of a group of spunky seniors, used to insert humor. Velma is one example. She dictates how Morty must change before she accepts a date with him. I can't say more without ruining it for you. Antique treasures are discovered and the reader learns a bit about them.

There are two places where I strongly disagree with word choice; both times I actually stopped reading and reread to make certain the words were really there. I don't know why better word choices were not used; it would have improved the book. Another questionable item for a Christian novel is that Friday nights are Poker nights, where gambling takes place.

Discussion questions are included.

Thank you to Bonnie at Christian Fiction Blog Alliance and Bethany House Publishers for my copy.

If you would like to read the first chapter, click here.

If you would like to buy a copy, click here.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

The Pursuit of Lucy Banning by Olivia Newport

Lucy Banning may live on the exclusive Prairie Avenue among Chicago's rich and famous, but her heart lies elsewhere. Expected to marry an up-and-coming banker from a respected family, Lucy fears she will be forced to abandon her charity work--and the classes she is secretly taking at the newly opened University of Chicago. When she meets an unconventional young architect who is working on plans for the upcoming 1893 World's Fair, Lucy imagines a life lived on her own terms. Can she break away from her family's expectations? And will she ever be loved for who she truly is?

Readers will love being swept away into a world of mansions, secrets, and romance as they follow Lucy through the streets of the Windy City during one of the most exciting times in the city's history. From opulent upper-class homes to the well-worn rooms of an orphanage, Olivia Newport breathes life and romance into the pages of history--and everyone is invited.

My Review:
Okay, all together now; let's sing: ♪ I Love Lucy ♬. The title character, Lucy Banning, is polite, intelligent, pretty, kind hearted, and mannerly. Why, she's close to perfect and therefore, lovable and deserving of our song. And that is the major flaw in this otherwise interesting historical work of fiction. The characters are rather flat.

Nonetheless, the book is enjoyable. The setting of Chicago preparing for the World's Fair allows the reader to appreciate how different times were.

Thank you to Donna Hausler at Baker Publishing for my copy. Available May 2012 at your favorite bookseller from Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Travelers Rest by Ann Tatlock

A YOUNG WOMAN determined to honor her commitment . . .

AN INJURED SOLDIER convinced life is no longer worth living . . .

A RETIRED DOCTOR certain it's too late to be forgiven . . .

Jane Morrow has a dilemma. She's engaged to Seth Ballantine, a member of the National Guard's 30th Heavy Brigade Combat Team, and he's returned from Iraq severely wounded. Jane hasn't seen him for nearly a year, and with trepidation, she heads to the VA hospital in Asheville, North Carolina, where he is being treated.

Seth isn't happy to see her. He'd asked her not to come. He wants to end the relationship. But Jane loves him, and despite his injury, she's determined to convince him that they can have a life together. Her faith has never been strong, yet she hopes God will answer her prayers and tell her what to do.

Travelers Rest takes readers on a journey through pain and tragedy to a place of hope and redemption.

My Review:
What a dilemma! Jane Morrow, the protagonist, engaged to a victim of the Iraq war finds herself in the middle of a complex problem. Seth Ballantine, once an able-bodied man, but now a quadraplegic, decides that the only solution is for Jane to stay away; after all, he is no longer the man she knew. Stay away or remain at Seth's side?

The character of Jane is compelling; despite Seth's efforts to discourage her, she plugs away, hoping somehow it will all work out. Jane questions her future life with Seth and wavers. She wishes that somehow she could be confident in her choice.

The storyline is believable and unfortunately, quite timely. Even though the topic is depressing, the plot is not. Props to Ann Tatlock for keeping the balance.

One character provides an ongoing theme: “Life’s gearshift’s got no reverse, so you have to just keep moving forward.” Readers watch as Jane moves forward. This is a book that will challenge the reader to think about life's choices.

Thank you to Bonnie at Christian Fiction Blog Alliance and Bethany House Publishers for my copy.

If you would like to read the first chapter, click here.

If you would like to buy a copy, click here.