Wednesday, March 04, 2015

Melissa Jagears's A Bride in Store ~ Reviewed

By Melissa Jagears
Published by Bethany House
Date: September, 2014
356 pages
ISBN: 978-0764211690


Impatient to meet her intended groom and help him grow his general store, mail-order bride Eliza Cantrell sets out on her travels a week early. But her plan goes sadly awry when her train is held up by robbers who steal her dowry and Axel, her groom-to-be, isn't even in town when she finally arrives.

Axel's business partner, William Stanton, has no head for business and would much rather be a doctor. When his friend's mail-order bride arrives in town with no money and no groom in sight, he feels responsible and lets her help around the store--where she quickly proves she's much more adept at business than he ever will be.

The sparks that fly between Will and Eliza as they work together in close quarters are hard to ignore, but Eliza is meant for Axel and a future with the store, while Will is biding his time until he can afford medical school. However, their troubles are far from over when Axel finally returns, and soon both Will and Eliza must decide what they're willing to sacrifice to chase their dreams--or if God has a new dream in store for them both.


I’ve often heard other Christian fiction addicts talk about how they long to read about authentic, flawed characters. We want to know they struggle, that they have weaknesses and faults, and even sin on occasion. Yet, I’ve begun to wonder if there’s an unspoken line regarding what flaws are acceptable. More than that, I wonder if we—or perhaps I should say, I—truly do want to read about characters that struggle with the same things that we do. Fear, insecurities, perhaps the occasional stubbornness--those are appropriate flaws, it seems. But what happens when a character displays a great deal of selfishness? 

Like gold digging selfishness? 

These were the questions I found myself pondering as I read Melissa Jagears A Bride in Store. To be honest, at first I didn’t like the heroine or the story. Though Eliza had many character traits I admire, such as determination, intelligence, perseverance, and inner strength, her continual desire to look out for herself really bothered me. She ultimately parceled herself off as a mail order bride in order to help run a store. Perhaps this was common in her era. I know mail-order brides were, but I’d prefer to read about one who chose such a situation out of desperate need or perhaps to help her orphaned sister. 

And yet, I kept reading. Because Melissa Jagears writes well, and she crafted a plot that, for the most part, intrigued me. Enough that I finished the novel, which says a lot considering the large number of books I have on my shelves. About 100 pages into A Bride in Store, I was glad I persevered. And I began to rethink my initial judgments of Eliza, not because her initial acts were any less selfish but rather, my own acts of selfishness sprang to mind, reminding me of all of our need for grace. 

So, although at first sweet and spunky Eliza caused me to grit my teeth on more than one occasion, the story—a mail order bride, a train robbery, a major unexpected plot twist, and an intriguing small town community—drew me in. In the end, I found Eliza’s journey satisfying. 

I also liked how Melissa Jagears surprised me. I don’t want to spoil the story, but I will say, the hero in this novel turned things upside down, adding a bit of intrigue and mystery. I also really liked William Stanton, the doctor with a tender, perhaps too tender, heart for others. He and Eliza were thought-provoking contrasts, for sure! And they both had realistic flaws, resulting in authentic and dynamic characters. 

All in all, though Eliza irritated me on numerous occasions, I must applaud Ms. Jagears for her courage in presenting a character—Eliza—who is probably more like each of us than we’d care to admit. 

If you enjoy characters who, perhaps, are more like our neighbors than our church buddies and historical romance, you should give a Bride in Store a try. If you do pick it up, I encourage you to stick with it—stick with Eliza. She just might pleasantly surprise you.  
Reviewed by: Jennifer Slattery 

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Melody Carlson's The Dating Games #3

The Dating Games #3: Double Date
by Melody Carlson
Series: The Dating Games (Book 3)
Paperback: 240 pages
Publisher: Revell (January 20, 2015)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0800721292


The girls of the DG have found that through the club, both their friendships and their dating savvy have grown. But all that is about to be put to the test. Despite their promises of secrecy, word has somehow gotten out, and new girls want to join the club. The reaction in the DG is mixed, but with the Christmas Ball coming up, they need to pull together to organize their double dates. The trouble is, how can they get guys interested in a dance that's become increasingly unpopular?

Cassidy, Devon, Abby, Bryn, and Emma are quickly becoming teen favorites as they navigate the crazy world of dating. As always, Melody Carlson subtly delivers great advice wrapped up tight in a package of fun and friendship.


I've read quite a few of Melody Carlson's novels. They never fail to be entertaining and most of the time I take away something tho think about. 

Even though my teen years are a bit behind me I'm confident most teen or preteen girls can find plenty of pertinent drama in this novel. Warning to the parental units who want fully inspirational and Amish innocent reading material in their girls' libraries, this novel travels a little more along the worldly road. 

The drama is plentiful. Carlson has covered issues that are problematic in the Christian young lady's world. One teen crosses common sense lines, another is hungry for attention and makes a couple choices that set her up for some serious pain. Mean girls cause some angst and more than one of the members of the DG face an identity crisis. Areas such as judging and appropriate behavior and clothing are covered. Relationships between the girls and the boys they like adds even more drama as the girls try to find their way in high school. 

Well written and thought provoking and any girl who is intrigued by the idea of dating might pick up a life lesson or two.  

Of note, I've not read any of the other books in the series and felt like I was able to figure out the girls and their relationships pretty easily. 

Reviewed by: Kelly Klepfer

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Allison Pittman's All for A Sister ~ Reviewed

Allison Pittman
Paperback: 368 pages
Publisher: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. (June 20, 2014)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1414366825

In Hollywood during the Roaring Twenties, Celeste DuFrane has it all. Her father’s work with color movie film opens doors that lead to the stardom she’s always aspired to. But after losing her mother, she discovers that half the estate has been left to a woman accused of killing Celeste’s baby sister before Celeste was even born.

Dana Lundgren arrives on the steps of the DuFrane mansion having spent most of her life imprisoned for a crime that never happened. After accusing her of murder so many years ago, why did Marguerite DuFrane leave her a sizeable inheritance? 

As Celeste and Dana learn each other’s stories, they come up with more questions than answers. Then a surprising discovery begins to fill in the missing pieces: Marguerite DuFrane’s written confession, penned shortly before her death. Uncovering the treachery and deceit that changed the course of countless lives—most of all, their own—the two women find more than they ever dreamed of.


All For A Sister takes place during the roaring 20's and follows the journey of two young women. Celeste DuFrane is a young, beautiful, upcoming actress who's father has paved the way for her in Hollywood. After both of her parents pass away, she receives news that she is to share the estate with Dana Lundgren, a woman who has been imprisoned for 20 years for supposedly killing Celeste's baby sister, before Celeste was born. The two are thrown together due to the terms of the will, and develop an affection for each other. The book jumps back and forth between the current time, Celeste's childhood, Dana's childhood, and Mary DuFrane's (mother of Celeste) confession of what really happened and why Dana was imprisoned for most of her life.

I LOVED this story. The fact that it kept jumping back and forth between time periods didn't confuse me at all, as each chapter was clear about what it was speaking about. I had a hard time putting it down, because as I read each chapter, it kept me wanting to read more to find out what was going to happen next. I've read all three stories in Ms. Pittman's Roaring 20's series, and this one was by far my favorite. I really did have a hard time putting it down, and highly recommend it!

Reviewed by: Sarah Meyers

Friday, February 20, 2015

Myra Johnson's Whisper Goodbye ~ Reviewed

Whisper Goodbye: Till We Meet Again - Book 2
Myra Johnson
File Size: 8345 KB
Print Length: 338 pages
Page Numbers Source ISBN: 1426753667
Publisher: Abingdon Press (April 15, 2014)
Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
Language: English


Crippled both physically and emotionally by his war injuries, First Lt. Gilbert Ballard struggles to find himself again in civilian life. After breaking his engagement to Annemarie Kendall, he has found solace in the arms of Mary McClarney, a spunky Irish immigrant nurse he met at the Army and Navy Hospital in Hot Springs, Arkansas. Yet Mary's love for Gilbert goes unreturned.

If it's not Gilbert's insane jealousy over his former fiancée's new marriage, it's his addiction to pain killers and gambling that thwarts Gil's own happiness. Worse, Gilbert's mother, Evelyn, continually reminds him of what he lost when he pushed Annemarie away. Under Evelyn's critical eye, Mary fights to believe in her worth, wondering if she will ever be enough.

As Mary longs for the day when Gilbert will finally let go of the past and learn to love her as she loves him, she realizes that the only way to open Gilbert's heart is to whisper her goodbyes . . . and pray God will bring them back together.


Whisper Goodbye tells us about Mary McClarney, a young Irish nurse who works at an Army and Navy hospital in Ho Springs, Arkansas during World War II and First Lt. Gilbert Ballard, who has been crippled, both physically and emotionally by his war injuries. The two meet in the hospital, where Gilbert is Mary's patient, and, not surprisingly, they end up developing feelings for each other. However, due to Gilbert's past, Mary has a difficult time trusting him, while Gilbert has a hard time telling Mary his true feelings.

I did enjoy this story. I enjoy reading about the 1940's. That whole era is fascinating to me. I really sympathized with Gilbert. Having come back from the war and losing a leg, among the other things he was dealing with, would have been hard. He was fortunate to have Mary there for him, through some very difficult times, but had a hard time letting himself fully care for her. It was nice to see both Mary and Gilbert open up and deal with their past in order to move forward with their future.

Reviewed by: Sarah Meyers

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Jennifer Slattery's When Dawn Breaks ~ Reviewed

When Dawn Breaks
Jennifer Slattery
Paperback: 320 pages
Publisher: New Hope Publishers (December 17, 2014)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1596694238

As the hurricane forces Jacqueline to evacuate, her need for purpose and restitution forces her to head north to her estranged and embittered daughter and into the arms of a handsome new friend. Dealing with his own issues, Jacqueline isn’t sure if he will be the one she can lean on during the difficult days ahead. And then there are the three orphans to consider, especially Gavin. Must she relinquish her chance at having love again in order to be restored?


This story hit fairly close to home. I am a foster grandma to three little ones. One of the main story lines in When Dawn Breaks involves Gavin, a too young boy who is forced to take care of siblings and his unstable mom. Slattery captured some serious authentic depth in his situation and responses.  

Since it's been just a few short months since I finished Beyond I Do, Slattery's first novel, I couldn't help comparing the two. Though Beyond I Do has great elements and tells a good story, I noticed that When Dawn Breaks felt like an organic story. Not flawlessly told because that's nearly impossible, but with more author confidence and less author intrusion. 

Slattery's books pack a lot of plot. She deftly walks through mine fields with characters who grow and change and become better people all the while keeping details straight. The subject matter tackled includes parent child relationships, dysfunctional relationships, overcoming or choosing to remain a victim, substance abuse, shame, adultery, death, making difficult choices, grieving and starting over. 

This novel has a broad readership pool. Since it's fiction that adds quite a bit of godly truth and wisdom it goes beyond an escapist read. However, the spiritual elements aren't heavy handed. Anyone dealing with any of those difficult situations or struggles could benefit from feeling a little less alone in this big world, or find a little ray of hope within it's pages.

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

Reviewed by: Kelly Klepfer

Monday, February 16, 2015

Lynette Sowell's A Season of Change ~ Reviewed

Lynette Sowell
Series: Seasons in Pinecraft (Book 1)
Paperback: 320 pages
Publisher: Abingdon Press (May 20, 2014)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1426753551

Can a past filled with loss lead to a new season of life? Stranded at a Sarasota hospital at the bedside of his ailing daughter, Amish widower Jacob Miller is wary of his unfamiliar surroundings—including the strange curiosity of Englischer Natalie Bennett. Natalie, an aerial silks artist whose career in the circus ended before it began, has just uncovered a secret her mother kept hidden for years. Her mom—or rather, mamm—was once Amish. A hundred questions suddenly surface. Why did Natalie’s mother keep this secret for so long? Does Natalie still have Amish relatives? How can she learn more about her heritage? Can Jacob trust Natalie’s piqued interest in his family and their simple ways, or will their clashing cultures thwart their hopes for finding the love of a family?


A Season of Change tells us about Jacob Miller, an Amish widower with two young children, and Natalie Bennett, a former circus performer how now teaches acrobatics to young children. Jacob, who is from Ohio, is visiting his grandparents with his two children in Sarasota, Florida. While there, an accident occurs in which his daughter, Rebecca, is hit by a car and ends up in the hospital with a broken leg. While in the hospital, Natalie, who visits children dressed as Bubbles the clown, visits the family. Through a series of events, they keeps seeing each other, and not surprisingly, an attachment begins to form, not only with Natalie and the children, but with Natalie and Jacob. Though their feelings for each other grow, they are faced with the challenge of how a relationship might work. Even though Natalie is a Christian, she has no desire to become Amish, while Jacob could never leave his faith for love.
This was a really good story. I liked that the Amish folk in Sarasota weren't as legalistic as some. And I really liked how the author blended the Amish and English cultures. The story really kept me interested, as I was anxious to see how Natalie and Jacob's relationship would progress. I really didn't know how it was going to happen until the end, because I couldn't see either of the compromising. I was really happy with the ending. 

Reviewed by: Sarah Meyers

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Courtney Walsh’s Paper Hearts ~ Reviewed

Courtney Walsh
Series: Paper Hearts
Paperback: 416 pages
Publisher: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. (December 18, 2014)
Language: English


Abigail Pressman would never have guessed that love notes penned on paper hearts by an anonymous couple could restore her belief in love. As a business owner in a quaint town at the base of the Rockies, she’s poured everything into dreams of expansion . . . and resisting the matchmaking efforts of the Valentine Volunteers, who gather in her store to continue Loves Park’s tradition of stamping mail with the city’s romantic postmark.

When Abigail is unwillingly drafted into the Volunteers, she encounters the paper hearts, a distraction that couldn’t come at a worse time. A hard-to-read doctor has become Abigail’s new landlord, and he’s threatening to end her lease to expand his practice.

As she fights a growing attraction to this handsome man crushing her dreams, Abigail is inspired to string the hearts in her store, sparking a citywide infatuation with the artsy trend. But when a new batch of hearts reaches the Volunteers, it appears something tragic has happened to the couple. Will uncovering their story confirm Abigail’s doubts about love, or could it rescue her dreams . . . and her heart?


Walsh has written a satisfying romantic tale that contains elements of several romantic comedy movies that I've enjoyed. The basic plot includes a newcomer who enters a small Colorado community with the intention of opening a medical practice. Great idea. He's got a few challenges and needs a fresh start. And Loves Park could use a good doctor. So far win, win.

Unfortunately, the location he chooses was right next door to Abigail's Book Nook. And Abigail had plans for that space, big plans that would secure her future, honor her family and feed her soul. As the story unfolds, Jacob not only buys the building, but there is immediate discussion on the future demise of the Book Nook. Jacob needs the space for his practice and he owns the building and his business manager is not about to back down, especially to someone like Abigail.

Abigail is further thrown into a panic when she's targeted by the town's Valentine Volunteers as their next member, and possible unwilling poster woman for their sideline of fixing up the single lonely hearts in town. Can Abigail save her father's book store? What will become of her if she can't? And does real love even exist anyway? With more questions than answers, Abigail begins to look for the truth and assess her heart’s desires.

Jacob is fighting his own battles. And they are challenging ones. Can he get over his broken heart and rebuild a life for him and his little girl? When a secret that involves him comes to light, and a woman he cares about is not who she seemed will he run back to the big city or stay and try to build a different life?

Well written and charming. A great cozy escapist read for the cold winter months.

Reviewed by: Kelly Klepfer