Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Five Miles South of Peculiar by Angela Hunt

If these three sisters don’t change direction, they’ll end up where they’re going.

Darlene Caldwell has spent a lifetime tending Sycamores, an estate located five miles south of a small town called Peculiar. She raised a family in the spacious home that was her grandfather’s legacy, and she enjoys being a pillar of the community. Sycamores is the kingdom where she reigns as queen . . . until her limelight-stealing twin sister unexpectedly returns.

Carlene Caldwell, veteran of the Broadway stage, is devastated when she realizes that an unsuccessful throat surgery has spelled the end of her musical career. Searching for a new purpose in life, she retreats to Sycamores, her childhood home. She may not be able to sing, but she hopes to use her knowledge and experience to fashion a new life in Peculiar, the little town she left behind.

Haunted by a tragic romance, Magnolia Caldwell is the youngest of the Caldwell girls. Nolie has never wanted to live anywhere but Sycamores. She spends her days caring for her dogs and the magnificent gardens she’s created on the estate, but when she meets a man haunted by his own tragedy, she must find the courage to either deny her heart or cut the apron strings that tie her to a dear and familiar place.

Can these sisters discover who they are meant to be when life takes an unforeseen detour? In a season of destiny, three unique women reunite and take unexpected journeys of the heart.

My Review:
Every time Angela Hunt publishes a new novel, I look forward to reading it. She never disappoints, but some titles, like this one, are like cream that rises to the top!

The plot revolves around three sisters--each quite different, and yet, each one linked together. These unique family members get so upset with one another that they go months without speaking. Some interesting men add to the mix. Why, there's even two dogs--Lucy and Ricky Ricardo!--who play a big part. Set in a small town in the South, where everyone knows everything about anyone, family loyalty becomes strained.

I found it difficult to put the book down.

Reading Group Guide and recipes included.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

The Matchmakers of Butternut Creek by Jane Myers Perrine

A traumatic experience as a college freshman has left Gussie Milton "once bitten, twice shy." Although she'd like a relationship, she's frightened, so she's thrown herself into caring for her aging parents, her photography business, and her church.

In the eyes of Miss Birdie and her friend Mercedes, aka "the Widows," Gussie would make their young pastor the perfect wife. And though the attraction proves mutual, first Gussie's past and then the pastor's hopes for the future threaten to keep them apart.

Can the Widows' meddling be the catalyst that changes the couple's lives forever?

My Review:
Pastor Adam Jordan, an unsuccessful-at-love single pastor of a small country church in Texas, struggles with a group known as "The Widows," who set about finding him the perfect bride. To further complicate matters, the one chosen to be the pastor's bride, Gussie Milton, shows a reluctance to being touched. There are some humorous scenes as the lovebirds are pushed [ahem] gently maneuvered together.

Although this novel reminds me of Jan Karons' Mitford series with Father Tim, the writing is a bit more uneven. Perhaps this is because I had an uncorrected proof to read. Hopefully, further editing will make a difference.

Reading Group Guide included.

Thank you to Sarah Reck at Hachette Book Group and FaithWords for my copy.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

All Things New by Lynn Austin

New Historical Novel from 7-Time Christy Award Winner!

In the aftermath of the Civil War, Josephine Weatherly and her mother, Eugenia, struggle to pick up the pieces of their lives when they return to their Virginia plantation. But the bitter realities of life after the war cannot be denied: their home and land are but shells of their previous grandeur; death has claimed her father and brother; and her remaining brother, Daniel, has returned home bitter and broken. The privileged childhood Josephine enjoyed now seems like a long-ago dream. And the God who failed to answer any of her prayers during the war is lost to her as well.

Josephine soon realizes that life is now a matter of daily survival--and recognizes that Lizzie, as one of the few remaining servants, is the one she must rely on to teach her all she needs to know. Josephine's mother, too, vows to rebuild White Oak...but a bitter hatred fuels her.

With skill and emotion, Lynn Austin brings to life the difficult years of the Reconstruction era by interweaving the stories of three women--daughter, mother, and freed slave--in a riveting tale.

My Review:
Once again, Lynn Austin has captured my attention with a compelling story! I must admit that I get an extra jolt of excitement when I hold a new Lynn Austin title in my hands. I've never been disappointed in any of her novels. I want to immediately begin reading; yet, I want to go about it slowly so as to better lengthen the pleasure. When I turn the final page, I sigh with contentment. This is a book that I can easily recommend!

What wonderful complex characters! Three women try to adjust at the end of the Civil War. One, Eugenia Weatherly, the lady of a once-grand plantation, determined to regain her former lifestyle; two, her daughter, Josephine, a practical woman, caught between the rules of the South and present day trials; and three, Lizzie, a former slave, who struggles to understand how to help her family survive with this new freedom. As I read, I found myself sympathetic to each.

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.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Full Disclosure by Dee Henderson

Ann Silver is a cop's cop. As the Midwest Homicide Investigator, she is called in to help local law enforcement on the worst of cases, looking for answers to murder. Hers is one of the region's most trusted investigative positions.

Paul Falcon is the FBI's top murder cop in the Midwest. If the victim carried a federal badge or had a security clearance, odds are good Paul and his team see the case file or work the murder.

Their lives intersect when Ann arrives to pass a case off her desk and onto his. A car wreck and a suspicious death offer a lead on a hired shooter he is tracking. Paul isn't expecting to meet someone, the kind that goes on the personal side of the ledger, but Ann Silver has his attention.

The better he gets to know her, the more Paul realizes her job barely scratches the surface of who she is. She knows spies and soldiers and U.S. Marshals, and has written books about them. She is friends with the former Vice President. People with good reason to be cautious about who they let into their lives deeply trust her. Paul wonders just what secrets Ann is keeping, until she shows him the John Doe Killer case file, and he starts to realize just who this lady he is falling in love with really is...

My Review:
I found this book hard to get into at first, but I pressed on. Perhaps part of the problem is that I received an ARC copy rather than a finished product. It seemed a bit choppy.

Both of the lead characters, Paul Falcon and Ann Silver are rather flat without flaws. They are sharp problem solvers at the top of their fields. Everyone admires them. When characters are too perfect, it is difficult for readers to connect.

Paul and Ann's romance moves slowly and is told with Skyte-type internet visits. For instance, most evenings, Paul connects to Ann as she writes her book. After greeting each other, to avoid interrupting her work,  he just watches his monitor--for hours at a time. One evening, he watches as she naps on the couch! That smacks of stalking, I think! Somehow Ann is not turned off by his observing. I feel that the plot unnecessarily drags during these times.

Both Paul and Ann are Christian, but only once is grace offered before a meal. They don't seem to attend church. However, they both think about and/or talk to God on a daily basis. There is one serious discussion about their future together, and it is during this conversation that their faith shines. It's interesting to see how well they work on compromises.

The solution to the murder-puzzle will surprise most readers. Fans of Dee Henderson will also enjoy reading a bit about the O'Malleys, characters from earlier Henderson novels.

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.