Book Review: Dreams Rekindled by Amanda Cabot

Dreams Rekindled
by Amanda Cabot
Book 2 in the Mesquite Springs series
Rating: 4.5/5

Wow. I forgot how much I loved Amanda Cabot’s stories. She knows how to weave a heartfelt romance with a dash of mystery and suspense and is not afraid to address psychological trauma from her characters’ past. This is book two in the Mesquite Springs series, and I now must go back to book one to find out what happened (this book can be read as a standalone).

After Dorothy Clark read Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin, she knew she wanted to write something like that. She wanted to make an impact and change the world with her written words. How would she ever get that opportunity in small town Mesquite Springs? When Brandon Holloway arrives in town to start a newspaper, she secretly hopes that the dashing young gentleman is willing to give her a chance to write. While both parties excel at the written word, the couple both struggle with their own past tragedies but are determined to discover who is stirring up trouble and spreading rumors. Can they expose the truth and find a way to save the town they both love before it’s too late? Will the past repeat itself if they aren’t too careful?

“With this second novel in the Mesquite Springs series, bestselling author Amanda Cabot invites you to discover the healing power of truth.” – Book description

I really enjoyed that this story was more than just a light rom-com read. It’s so much more. Dealing with trauma from the past is not something every author can write about. Cabot addresses real issues that can haunt people but she also leaves room for healing and forgiveness that can only come from God. She weaves redemption into her stories, which is something I really appreciate as a Christian.

My favorite character is Nutmeg, Dorothy’s dog, and I even loved her part in the story. Dogs can definitely be therapeutic for those with past trauma.

Highly recommend this Christian historical romance with a dash of mystery and suspense from Amanda Cabot. As a fan of her previous books, you will not be disappointed.

My thanks to the publisher and NetGalley for providing me with an ARC of the book. All opinions expressed here are entirely my own. No positive review was expected and no compensation received.

Book Review: Active Defense by Lynette Eason

Active Defense
by Lynette Eason
Book 3 in the Danger Never Sleeps series
Rating: 4.5/5

Who doesn’t enjoy a good romantic suspense novel? As a long-time fan, I was excited to get back into the world with some familiar characters and get to know them better. This story can definitely be read as a standalone novel (I somehow skipped reading book 2, but I did read book 1), but I recommend starting from the beginning to get the full effect. I, myself, need to go back and read book 2. You will not regret it.

Heather Fontaine is dealing with PTSD after her service in Afghanistan as a field surgeon. She thinks someone is stalking her, and she is on edge all the time. After she finally shares her fears with her friends, she arrives home to find her house is not quite the way she left it. Fleeing and trying to disappear to protect her friends from an unknown adversary prove to be difficult when Travis Walker, owner of his own security firm, is able to find her and save her. Who is watching her? Who just tried to kill her? She has so many questions and not enough answers. Can Travis and her friends help Heather uncover what is going on? Will Heather’s emotional baggage and traumatic past keep her from pursuing a relationship with the seemingly perfect Travis? Can Travis really protect Heather and keep her safe?

As a medical student, I always love reading stories (even fictional ones) about doctors in the field. Heather’s past is what has shaped her character and is part of what drives her passion to help others. I loved the part where Heather explained how she turned out the way she did despite poor role models — she just did the opposite of what she saw her father do. I definitely cried some tears and felt my adrenaline pumping at different points in the story. Heather’s relationship with Travis was a bit rushed, but it may have been developed more in book 2. Their relationship was not as obvious in the beginning of the story. The big reveal at the end was something I did not see coming until the author made it clear, which is always impressive since I’m constantly guessing throughout the story. Faith is gently woven into the story – definitely not in a preachy way.

Highly recommend this Christian romantic suspense novel that will keep you reading till the end with action, intrigue and a lot of heart.

My thanks to the publisher for providing me with an ARC of the book. All opinions expressed here are entirely my own. No positive review was expected and no compensation received.

Book Review: The Key to Love by Betsy St. Amant

The Key to Love
by Betsy St. Amant
Rating: 4/5
Release date: October 13, 2020

I’ve haven’t read many books by Betsy St. Amant, but I did enjoy her contribution to A Year of Weddings so I was excited to have the opportunity to read this gem. I was not disappointed and the author doesn’t skimp on the story which pleasantly surprised me. Although I will say, by reading the title, I was hoping for music inspired theme but alas, the “key” has nothing to do with music but with locks and keys.

Bri Duval is a classic romantic at heart thanks to the beautiful love story her parents demonstrated for her before they tragically passed away. She is a talented baker of Parisian treats at the struggling, local bakery, The Pastry Puff, in Story, Kansas. Her beloved mother taught her everything she knew except for her secret ingredient for the macarons, so Bri is constantly trying to perfect the recipe. Even though Paris’ famous lovelock bridge was taken down, Bri has created her own lovelock wall at her bakery and decides to film the shop’s successful love stories. The video goes viral, and Trek Magazine wants to do a feature on the bakery shop. Gerard Fortier is the man sent to write the article, and he and Bri do not hit it off right away. With a little bit of Elizabeth and Darcy first impressions vibes, the two just don’t seem to get along and only seem to push each other’s buttons. Gerard is a man who doesn’t ever want to put down roots but instead travels the world in search of his next article. He does, however, desire to be promoted so he can write on topics that really matter, so he’s determined to complete this sappy article despite his opinions on love. As Gerard begins to get to know Bri, obstacles to the bakery’s success keep getting in the way. Can Gerard and Bri find a way to come together and find real love?

I really enjoyed the story and loved how it didn’t seem rushed. So many times watching Hallmark movies, I’m always yelling at the screen that the couple have only known each other for a few days. lol. I appreciate the slow burn and snark that occurs between the couple. I appreciate that the concept of what romance and love is is explored. The small town vibes were charming and made me want to go visit (especially since I’m so close to Kansas). My mouth was constantly watering at the desserts, and I was googling where I could find some petit fours and macarons. The struggling bakery also gave me “You’ve Got Mail” vibes, which made me smile.

Highly recommend if you enjoy romantic comedies set in a small town.

My thanks to the publisher and NetGalley for providing me with an ARC of the book. All opinions expressed here are entirely my own. No positive review was expected and no compensation received.

Purchase your copy here.

Book Review: The Christmas Swap by Melody Carlson

The Christmas Swap
by Melody Carlson
Rating: 4/5

I’ve been a fan of Melody Carlson for a while and I absolutely devoured this story. It was beautifully written with lots of humor and romance. This lighthearted and charming Christmas story was just what I wanted to escape for a few hours.

Emma Daley finds herself in the Colorado Rockies to celebrate a white Christmas with her friend’s family who decided to do a house swap for the holidays. Instead of hot Arizona, Emma gets to see snow for the first time for Christmas. She is a part-time substitute teacher and struggling singer-songwriter who is not interested in getting involved with her friend’s brother or his friend. After arriving at the house, Emma meets West who says he’s the caretaker of the house but he’s really the owner of the house and award-winning songwriter, TW Prescott. He offers to teach her to ski and the rest is history. Sparks fly and shenanigans ensue to make a perfect holiday story come to life.

This story definitely reads like it could be a Hallmark holiday movie, so if you love those, then you will love this story. It’s not super deep but it has heart and is a quick chairlift view into a Christmas romance where two souls find each other. I found myself rooting for Emma and West. I really wanted the book to be a movie so I could hear both of them sing and play together. Haha. I enjoyed the setting and am now eager to start skiing again. Maybe. 😉 

Although the timeline is short (like almost every Hallmark movie) the romance doesn’t feel too rushed. As a musician myself, I understand the connection that occurs between creatives, so the short timeline actually didn’t bother me as much. Fun times in a Christmas setting. 

I definitely recommend this book if you’re looking for a cute, clean Christmas romance.

My thanks to the publisher for providing me with an ARC of the book. All opinions expressed here are entirely my own. No positive review was expected and no compensation received.

Book Review: The Heart of a Hero by Susan May Warren

The Heart of a Hero
by Susan May Warren
Book 2 in the Global Search and Rescue series
Rating: 5/5

So I definitely lost some sleep over this amazing ride! I love how Susan May Warren keeps outdoing herself. This is the second book in the series and I highly recommend reading the first but it’s not necessary to enjoy this thrilling adventure. While her first book dealt with blizzards in Alaska, this one deals with hurricanes in Key West. We continue getting to know the main characters after she introduced them in the first book, The Way of the Brave.

“Funny that when skies were clear, he was the storm. But in the middle of the storm…He was the calm.”

As a former sniper and Navy SEAL, Jake Silver was born to help people, and being a part of Jones Inc rescue team was only the next logical step. After helping save Dr. Aria Sinclair and her friends in Alaska, Jake knows that he and Aria have formed a connection that he can’t get away from. He shared things about his past with her that no one else knows, and she shared things with him that only made him want to protect her more. Too bad she doesn’t seem to want anything to do with him. Why does she seem to be running away from a relationship with him?

While Aria can admit that she and Jake have a connection after the traumatic events in Alaska, she is not that girl in real life. On vacation was different. She could be more adventurous like her twin sister, Kia, used to be, but when she returns back home, she has to be back to skilled pediatric heart surgeon with everything under control. There’s no room in her life for Jake and the risk he has on her heart. After a difficult patient loss, Aria’s boss sends her to a medical conference for some R and R. However, things get cut short when she finds herself stuck in Key West when category 4 Hurricane Lucy hits. A misdirected text also brings Jake to her rescue but can she find it in her heart to give their relationship a chance? Can these two heroes find a way to heal from their pasts and find their true identities?

The author has such an authentic way of incorporating her faith into her stories and I love how she is not afraid to deal with hard issues regarding PTSD and all that entails. Her writing always feels so genuine and well-researched. Her characters have their strengths and weaknesses that seem to only draw the readers into their world. The action and suspense force the reader to keep going until they reach the end.

Warning: The author also has a substory with characters from her next book who are part of the rescue team, but that story arc ends on a bit of a cliffhanger.

All in all, I couldn’t put the book down and I highly recommend reading this action-packed suspense thriller with romance and a message about forgiving yourself. I also recommend reading the first book in the series before to get the full effect.

My thanks to the author, publisher, and NetGalley for providing me with an ARC of the book. All opinions expressed here are entirely my own. No positive review was expected and no compensation received.

Book Review: Hadley Beckett’s Next Dish by Bethany Turner

Hadley Beckett’s Next Dish
by Bethany Turner
Rating: 4.5/5

How have I never heard of this author before?!! She is unreal! Her writing hits you right in the feels and she tackles emotions like no one I’ve ever read before. I could not put this book down (or stop listening to the audiobook which was really well done). Her main characters are so well written and developed. 

Maxwell Cavanagh is a celebrity chef who knows he’s the best with nine Michelin stars and has the top-rated cooking show “To the Max” and is about to win a competition against Hadley Beckett, the Southern host of “At Home with Hadley”. When Max loses it when Hadley beats him, everything changes. While Max enters rehab, Hadley and her show become the top-rated show and she gets offered her dream of being featured on “Renowned”! Unfortunately, this dream comes with having to deal with Chef Max as a partner. As the two explore what it means to forgive and learn to trust each other to be able to work together, can they see past the celebrity personas and find love?

I laughed. I cried. I couldn’t stop reading (or listening). The message about forgiveness and second chances and dealing with the past and your identity is so authentic and ridiculously relatable. I’ve never read so many truths in a fictional book. I will definitely be reading more from Bethany Turner. She has a way with words that acknowledges and validates the character’s feelings but also gives them a way to move on and find healing. I am blown away by the author’s characters and her ability to incorporate faith and truth into real-life situations.

I highly recommend for those that enjoy contemporary Christian romance with humor with the ability to address life’s harder subjects. (I’d also check out the audiobook too!)

My thanks to the author and Revell for providing me with an ARC of the book. All opinions expressed here are entirely my own. No positive review was expected and no compensation received.

Book Review: Star of Persia by Jill Eileen Smith

Star of Persia: Esther’s Story
by Jill Eileen Smith
Rating: 4/5

Who doesn’t love the story of Esther? Who hasn’t read a retelling of this epic story from the Bible? I was curious how the author would put her own spin on the story and was super impressed! 

Meet the king of Persia, Xerxes, who is planning a war and has all of his officials and leaders celebrating for the week. Tricked into exiling his favorite queen, Xerxes is feeling even more inadequate at being a king. After selecting the young and beautiful Esther to be his new queen, he finds himself still distrusting all those around him. He doesn’t know who to trust except maybe Esther. As much as he finds himself falling more and more in love with Esther, the duties of his kingdom pull him away from their love. Esther must also face challenges of her own and risk her life to save those she loves.

The author thoroughly researched the historical record and compared it with the biblical record to weave a brilliant story that never fails to encourage and inspire. The author introduces some historical figures who are not in the biblical account but they provide hidden agendas and motivations for why certain familiar characters act the way they did. I loved getting a different perspective on Vashti and hearing her story in the beginning is definitely different than the account I grew up learning in Sunday school. The main characters have more layers and their backstories really drive them in their decision-making. I loved the author’s notes at the end regarding “Sometimes our God works in silence.” Though God’s name is not mentioned in the biblical account, “His handiwork is visible on every page.” So good!

I highly recommend this retelling of the story of Esther, especially for those who think they know what happened.

My thanks to Revell and NetGalley for an ARC of the book. All opinions expressed here are entirely my own. No positive review was expected and no compensation received.