Book Review: Fire & Ice by Mary Connealy

Fire & Ice
by Mary Connealy
Rating: 4/5
Book 3 of the Wild at Heart Series
Bethany House – Fiction | Christian | Historical Romance

Bailey Wilde is the last of the Wilde sisters to stick around in the West. She is also one of the best (and smartest) ranchers in the area. Ever since she served in the Civil War, she’s disguised herself as a young man and worked hard to be the son her father wanted and loved. Her only real competition is Gage Coulter, who is trying to gain back access to his canyon of 5,000 acres of grass for his cattle. Ever since he found out that Mr. Bailey Wilde had set up a homestead at the entrance to his canyon, he’s been trying to find a way to buy the land or barter a deal to trespass through her land to give his cattle access. He’s determined and will get his way, despite any warning gunshots that Wilde shoots his way.

When Gage finally figures out the truth about Miss Bailey Wilde, he continues to try to barter a deal with her, but she refuses. When Gage shows her his plans to force another opening to the canyon, Bailey gives up. She will have to find another place for her herd to graze. She is disappointed but still determined to make this work.

After a long and lonely winter, Bailey is overjoyed to see Gage, despite the circumstances. She is shocked when he proposes marriage, in order to fool his mother, who is coming to visit him. In her loneliness, she decides to marry Gage in exchange for the rights to the canyon and her homestead. Can Bailey and Gage find a way to make this marriage work? Can they learn to trust and respect each other’s skills? Can they learn to let go of their pasts and see the promising future that’s before them?

Ending this novel was bittersweet. I didn’t want the series to end. I’ve enjoyed all three books in the Wild at Heart series and I can’t wait to see what else Mary Connealy comes up with next. She is incredibly talented at creating characters that are flawed and lovable and frustrating and endearing! I love all of the humor and faith she infuses into her stories. She pulls me right into the historical setting and I’m not content until I find out what exactly happens to the main characters.

Although you could read this book by itself, I would recommend reading the other two books first just to be more familiar with some of the other characters. I recommend this book to anyone who loves a great historical romance with comedy!

I received this book for free from the publisher and NetGalley but was not required to give a positive review.

Book Review: In Firefly Valley by Amanda Cabot

In Firefly Valley
by Amanda Cabot
Rating: 4/5
Book 2 in the Texas Crossroads series
Revell – Fiction | Contemporary Fiction

After losing her job, Marisa St. George returns to her hometown of Dupree, Texas, where she has accepted a business manager position at the newly renovated Rainbow’s End resort. The resort is about to have its grand opening, but they already have one mysterious guest, Blake Kendall, a friend of the owner’s.

Blake is in need of some rest and relaxation, since he’s tried everything to get over his writer’s block. His trip to Dupree could be just what he needs to feel inspired again. As a successful author, he’s kept his identity a secret by using a pseudonym. He believes his stories are just entertaining and nothing more; however, Marisa unknowingly hates his books and how his main character glorifies smoking and especially drinking. The attraction between Marisa and Blake is practically electric, but will Blake’s secret drive them apart? Can Marisa learn to forgive and forget the past?

Amanda Cabot really knows how to create characters that I want to root for and get to know. In this second installment in the Texas Crossroads series, I got to reconnect with the characters from the previous book, At Bluebonnet Lake, and find out what’s been happening. I was immediately thrown into this small Texas town with its quirky but lovable characters and nuances. The characters have to deal with real life situations that make them so relatable. She expertly weaves faith throughout the story in a way that makes me want to read more!

I recommend this book to anyone who enjoys light, fun, contemporary romances.

I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Book Review: Anna’s Crossing by Suzanne Woods Fisher

Anna’s Crossing
by Suzanne Woods Fisher
Rating: 4/5
An Amish Beginnings Novel #1
Revell – Fiction | Historical Romance

As an Amish community sets off for the New World in 1737 to find a place free from religious persecution, Anna König has to go along because she is the only one who knows English. She has heard all of the horror stories surrounding voyages across the Atlantic, along with the challenges in the New World. She is set on returning home if she survives.

The Charming Nancy‘s ship’s carpenter, Bairn, is weary to be taking on more passengers made up of “Peculiars”. He would much rather have more cargo than passengers overloading his ship. Although he’s built bunks in the lower deck for their guests, he is convinced that something bad will happen on the voyage.

When Bairn and Anna meet, he can’t stop thinking about her. She is different and mesmerizing. She is all wrong for him and his lifestyle, but he can’t stop finding ways to interact with her. Even after he is warned to stop associating with her, he can’t seem to help himself especially when Anna starts seeking him out. Will Bairn be able to help Anna when she needs it most? Can Anna help Bairn find his faith? Will the ship make it safely to the New World? What surprises await Bairn and Anna as they fall in love?

I’ve only read one other book by the author, but I really enjoyed reading about Anna and her journey. I was not familiar with the struggles that the Amish went through when they immigrated to the New World, but I was impressed with all the author researched in order to write such great historical fiction. There’s a special place in my heart for Amish fiction and I really liked the intricate story. Her characters are so endearing and I absolutely adored the different relationships in the story.

I recommend this book for any fans of Amish romance and historical fiction.

I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Book Review: A May Bride by Meg Mosely

A May Bride
by Meg Mosely
Rating: 4/5
A Year of Weddings Novella
Zondervan – Fiction/Romance

Meet Ellie Martin, a witness to a “guerrilla wedding” in which she meets her would-be prince, Gray Whitby. As a new real estate agent in the ATL area, she still hasn’t found the time to meet her groom, even though she’s been setting aside money for her wedding since she was 18. After secretly admiring Gray at the local coffee shop, she finally meets him at the impromptu wedding. When she doesn’t call him, Gray tracks her down and asks her out. Thus a romance is born. Ellie is swept off her feet in a matter of months before she realizes she’s found “the One”. Ellie is sure that her drama queen sister (who’s planning her wedding) and her uber-conservative, Christian mother will get in the way of the relationship. Ellie’s mother is afraid one of her two daughters will end up pregnant before they say, “I do.” She is super strict about their relationships and tries to control their lives. Can Ellie find a way to patch up her relationship with her mother? Will Gray and Ellie find a way to make their relationship work when Ellie’s family issues arise? Will such a whirlwind romance spell heartbreak for Ellie and her wedding fund?

I am now a fan of Meg Mosely because this novella did not disappoint. From the beginning, I was caught up in Ellie’s world and smitten by the handsome and charming Gray. Obviously, since this story is a novella, everything had to move fast. Ellie’s character had a lot of baggage she needed to work through, which I’m not sure the author had enough time to develop. Ellie’s mother’s transformation happens a little too quickly, but I appreciate the effort. Her mother was probably my least favorite character portraying a Christian who can’t forgive herself – one who has let her bitterness and shame affect how she treats and sees her daughters. I am a big fan of redemption, but the story length doesn’t lend itself to a fully developed transformation. Gray and Ellie’s chemistry fizzles halfway through the story but I still had to keep reading to discover how it ended. All in all, an easy, fun, light read for the summer!

I recommend this book to anyone who likes contemporary romance.

I received this book for free from NetGalley in exchange for a review.

Book Review: With Every Breath by Elizabeth Camden

With Every Breath
by Elizabeth Camden
Rating: 4/5
Bethany House – Fiction/Historical

After Trevor McDonough beats her in a competition to get a college scholarship, Kate Livingston spends years working her way up the ranks in the government in D.C. to help support her family’s boarding house. When she’s offered a job working with a research doctor from Harvard, she jumps at the chance until she realizes who the doctor is. For some reason, Trevor has changed his last name and offered her a job as his assistant. Trevor is trying to find a cure for tuberculosis and needs her help.

When Kate agrees to their partnership, she tries to discover why Trevor is the way he is, why he changed his last name, and what secrets he’s keeping. Along the way, Kate develops feelings for Trevor despite her loyalty to her late husband and high school sweetheart. Has Kate fallen in love with a man she barely knows? Can Trevor find a cure for tuberculosis before he loses everything? Will his past mistakes put Kate in danger?

I don’t believe I’ve ever read a book by Elizabeth Camden, but I definitely enjoyed her writing style. Her writing transported me into the late 19th century and painted a picture of what life was like for a woman like Kate. I honestly wasn’t too interested in the first 1/3 of the book, but I kept reading hoping the story got better and it did. As someone who majored in biology and is on her way to medical school, I was really interested in the history of tuberculosis and its treatment. I really appreciated all of the research that went into the book. Everything was fairly believable. The characters were well developed and relatable for the most part.

I highly recommend this book to anyone who loves historical fiction.

I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for a review.

Book Review: A Bouquet of Love by Janice Thompson

A Bouquet of Love
By Janice Thompson
Rating: 4/5
Book 4 of Weddings by Design series
Revell – Fiction / Contemporary Romance

After her large Greek family moved from Santa Cruz, California to Galveston, Texas, to open up another restaurant, Cassia Pappas lands her dream job in a flower shop owned by the Rossi family, her family restaurant’s competition. Being part of the family restaurant has always been a part of her life, but Cassia’s love for flowers and floral design has her excited to go to work. Meeting a Greek Adonis named Alex Rigas doesn’t hurt either. Since Alex’s family grows and supplies the flowers for the shop, he and Cassia are constantly thrown together, and they cannot deny the attraction to each other. Will her overbearing and controlling father find out about her friendships with the Rossis? Can she help her father see the truth about how similar they all are?

I’ve been a fan of Janice Thompson for a while and this story did not disappoint. I loved the floral design angle because I grew up wanting to work with flowers. I loved all the fun and quirky characters. The characters are endearing and hilarious. I loved getting to catch up other characters from her previous books too. She’s created such a fun world and even makes me want to go visit Texas – a place this California girl has never been. I also enjoyed the Judy Garland thread throughout the story – such a refreshing perspective. As I read the book, I thought the story read like a movie – after reading that Thompson is a screenwriter, my reaction made a lot of sense.

I definitely recommend this book to those who love romantic comedies like My Big Fat Greek Wedding and love to smile/laugh their way through books.

I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for a review.

Book Review: The Pursuit of Tamsen Littlejohn by Lori Benton

The Pursuit of Tamsen Littlejohn
by Lori Benton
Rating: 4/5
WaterBrook Press – Religion/Fiction/Historical

Horrified after witnessing her mother’s murder, Tamsen Littlejohn flees the life she’s known and the controlling stepfather who is forcing her to marry a man she does not love. She pleads with a local frontiersman, Jesse Bird, to help guide her far away across the mountain wilderness to escape her sorrows. After growing up with the Shawnee and being adopted by Cade, Jesse Bird is a man who walks the line between the white man and the local Indians. He is well-equipped to guide Tamsen, but can he protect his own heart from falling for the beautiful girl who is out of his league?

Meanwhile, Tamsen’s stepfather and would-be fiance suspect that she has been kidnapped and will stop at nothing to find her. The search leads them all over the mountains and smack dab in the middle of a conflict between the State of Franklin and North Carolina. Will Tamsen survive the trek and the wilderness living she is unaccustomed to? What will happen when Tamsen’s stepfather and fiance catch up to her? Will the murderer of Tamsen’s mother come to justice? Can love survive so many lies and betrayal?

I don’t believe I’ve ever read a book by Lori Benton, but I thoroughly enjoyed this one. I was very impressed with the beautiful and well-described historical setting (especially during a time period I was unfamiliar with). The reader becomes fully immersed in the setting and different cultures. I also enjoyed the character development and the fun, interwoven paths that were only revealed at the end. The text is rich with history and made me remember why I enjoy historical fiction so much.

Definitely recommend this book to any lovers of Christian Historical Fiction.

I received this book for free from Blogging for Books but was not required to give a positive review.

Book Review: A Broken Kind of Beautiful by Katie Ganshert

A Broken Kind of Beautiful
by Katie Ganshert
Rating: 5/5
WaterBrook Press – Fiction|Christian|Romance

For twenty-four-year-old Ivy Clark, life as a supermodel has a shelf life. Her ten years in the biz has shown her that she is nothing more than a shell. When she returns to Greenbrier, South Carolina, for her father’s funeral, she is filled with conflicting and frustrating thoughts. The illegitimate child of her father’s mistress, Ivy has never felt wanted and loved by her father. On top of this tragedy, Ivy is facing the end of her career. Too many young faces are stealing the spotlight from her. When her uncle (her agent) convinces her to do a bridal magazine spread for her stepmother, Marilyn, who designs wedding gowns, she is desperate, yet hesitant to stay in Greenbrier. Marilyn’s nephew, Davis Knight, will be the photographer, and Ivy is uncertain whether or not he is up to the challenge. Tortured by his past, Davis Knight knows all about the world of fashion photography. Having given up his passion in photography, he is reluctant to jump back in, even to help his beloved aunt and benefit his blind sister, Sara. Davis has a gift of seeing more than what’s on the outside; Ivy cannot seem to use her usual seduction tricks on him. Can Ivy find love and redemption in the small town of Greenbrier? Can Davis forgive himself for his past mistakes? Can Ivy and Davis find a way to work together and possibly more?

I found out about author Katie Ganshert on Facebook and was curious to read one of her books. When I found her recent book available on Blogging for Books, I immediately signed up to read it. This story is only her third book. I literally read the book in 4 hours (midnight-4am). I could not and would not put it down. This book is simply one of the best Christian romances I have ever read, and I have read MANY books. The beautifully woven story of faith and redemption is so heart-wrenching and perfectly written. The reader falls in love with the characters and their journeys to redemption. The plot keeps moving along – not too slow or fast. My only concern was that the story ends a little abruptly for my taste. It was a somewhat satisfying end, but the short epilogue was not enough for me. That is how much I enjoyed the book. I just want to thank the author for writing such a powerful story of God’s redeeming love and forgiveness. I was so moved by the story of God’s faithfulness and love, even when we don’t deserve it.

I highly recommend this story for anyone who loves Christian romance. Warning: you may need tissues.

I received this book from the Blogging for Books program in exchange for this review.

Book Review: Silenced by Dani Pettrey, Rating: 4/5

Silenced by Dani Pettrey
Book Four of Alaskan Courage Series
Release Date: May 6, 2014
Rating: 4/5
Bethany House – Romantic Suspense

As the expert rock climber in her family, Kayden McKenna is used to taking care of herself and is determined to not have to rely on anyone else if she can help it. After losing both of her parents, she doesn’t want to ever suffer the same heartbreak. After finding the dead body of a fellow climber, something is off. She suspects that someone tampered with his chalk, but that would mean murder. Will her expertise help figure out what happened or is the situation even more dangerous than suspected? When the local sheriff (her soon-to-be brother-in-law) assigns family friend and former detective, Jake Westin, to be his next deputy to investigate, the two of them are in for a dangerous ride. Ever since Jake’s past was revealed, Kayden has treated him differently. For Jake, he’s been in love with Kayden for a long time. He will always remember and love the wife and unborn daughter he lost, but his heart and life are Kayden. Too bad she doesn’t even know his feelings, but he knows that Kayden is still grieving the death of her parents, especially her mother’s battle with rheumatoid arthritis. Can he keep her safe without his past getting in the way? Can Kayden open up her heart and let Jake in?

I was so excited to continue reading this series by Dani Pettrey! After finding the first three books at my local library, I had to get the next one as soon as possible! I was NOT disappointed. I loved getting to know Kayden and Jake’s characters more; however, I didn’t think that the characters were as well developed as the other books with the McKenna siblings. I loved that the book was almost like watching an episode of Castle – I do love a good procedural TV show with great chemistry between the main characters. I felt like there was less of a religious/inspirational thread through this story than her other books, which is not necessarily a bad thing, but it was different than what I was used to.

I absolutely could not put the book down – read it in a few hours. The pacing was good and kept my attention. My only critique (and the reason for a 4 rating instead of 5) is the near ending and actual ending were a little confusing – without spoiling anything – I still have some questions regarding the ending but it was still very satisfying. I look forward to the next book about the last brother, Reef.

I definitely recommend this book to anyone who likes a good, clean, romantic suspenseful story.

I received this book for free from Bethany House and NetGalley but was not required to give a positive review.

If you’d like to check out my other Dani Pettrey review of Book Three, Stranded, click here.