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Thursday, April 30, 2015

Lynette Eason: No Place to Hide

By Kelly Bridgewater

From Amazon
Back Cover Copy:

It's not every day you see your childhood friend and one-time crush on national news. Jackie Sellers just wishes it were under different circumstances. She can't believe that Ian Lockwood is wanted in connection with a terrorist plot, and she's determined to find him and help him clear his name. But she's not the only one looking. The FBI wants him captured. The bad guys want him dead. Ian just wants to stay alive long enough to save thousands of innocent lives.

Lynette Eason throws readers right into the action from page one, propelling them along a dangerous road and asking the provocative question of how far we'd be willing to go if we were up against a wall.

My Thoughts:

Lynette Eason is one of my favorite romantic suspense author. Every time she has another book coming out, either from Revell or Love Inspired Suspense, I purchase the book and devour the story within hours. I even met Lynette Eason once at a writing conference. Such a nice lady. So approachable. As for No Place to Hide, it fulfills my expectations for a top-notch ride of a chase with no end in sight.

As we all know, characters make or break a story. The characters of Jackie Sellers and Ian Lockwood grab my attention from the first scene where Jackie is breaking into Ian’s house. The story takes off with a car chase through town and keeps moving, tightening the noose around the character’s neck as they sink faster and faster, hoping for a resolution. Ian is an intelligent God-fearing man with a background in Tae Kwon Do, which he uses a lot to be Jackie’s knight-in-shining armor. As for Jackie, she doubts God because she believes he abandoned her. While there is not mention of any change for Ian, Jackie finally rests her trust in God. The discussion of God felt natural and not preachy. Just like the popular saying, “there are no atheists in a foxhole.” Jackie relies on God when she is in trouble and finally sees God’s hand in her life. The characters brought depth to such a spine-tingling problem.

Eason’s writing proves why she is still a best-selling suspense writer. She uses the correct amount of prose and dialogue to show the backstory and allows the readers to follow the flow of the high conflict moments without getting lost. The dialogue matches the personality of Ian and Jackie, allowing me to feel like I am sitting in the car or hotel room, running for my life. The unique setting of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade feels realistic and important to accomplishing the terrorist act on American soil. It is creative and well-researched. This story could be labeled a thriller because of the terrorism element, but I still enjoyed it.

A good story must have tension, and a romantic suspense must have two types of tension. Romance and external conflict. The conflict threatening Jackie and Ian’s life is a number of external events that allows Jackie to find solace in God. The story jumps right into a conflicting moment, propelling the rest of the story into action. The tension moves at a great pace just like I want a romantic suspense to do. It is a page-turner, and I could not put the book down. On the other hand, the romantic tension is not really the forefront of the story’s dilemma, which is how I like romantic suspense. As a reader, I knew Ian and Jackie had a past, and it is hinted at a couple of times, but it did not distract Ian and Jackie from running for their lives and using their vast knowledge to save themselves and others. Conflict, either romantic, internal, or external, is essential to any good story. 

As always, Eason’s No Place To Hide concludes another great series. This story is for any age. I would allow my ten-year-old niece to read this book. Nothing is really inappropriate or scary for her to imagine. I would recommend everything Eason writes to anyone who enjoys mysteries, thrillers, suspense, or romantic suspense. This book proves why she is at the top of her game.

Always thrilling, romantic suspense author Lynette Eason finished her Hidden Identity trilogy with a harrowing defeat against terrorism while sparking a renewed interest in first love and reminding the reader to lean on God through the difficulties life throws at us.

I received a complimentary copy of No Place to Hide from Revell Publishing and the opinions stated are all my own.


My Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Janice Thompson: Every Bride Needs A Groom



By Kelly Bridgewater

Back Cover Copy:

Small-town girl Katie Fisher is planning her wedding. Sure, her boyfriend hasn't managed to pop the question just yet, but that doesn't mean she shouldn't enter a contest in Texas Bride magazine to win the dress of her dreams, right? But when her boyfriend breaks up with her and takes a job in another town--the very same day Katie wins her dream dress--her world is turned upside down. Should she claim her prize? And will the hunky former pro-basketball player who runs the swanky Dallas bridal shop--yeah, you read that right--catch on to her humiliation if she does?

My Review:

When you think of a novel dealing with weddings, Janice Thompson’s name comes to the forefront of my mind. She has written a number of novels, featuring the wedding industry and all the struggles involved with a comedic flair. I have only read one other book by Janice Thompson, but something about the cover on the book from Every Bride Needs a Groom grabbed my attention. Maybe it is the pretty model in the beautiful wedding dress, modeling it in front of the mirror.

Anyways, Every Bride Needs a Groom is a unique and totally unpredictable story. From the moment, I met Katie I knew something had to be different about her. She enjoys her small town Fairfield, Texas and enjoys working in her father’s hardware store. But after winning the wedding dress and cover on the Texas Bride magazine, she travels to the big city and changes her status in life. I didn’t see the story as a typical romance; it was nicely handled. I enjoy romances where the hero and heroine take awhile to fall in love, and Thompson did just that in Every Bride Needs a Groom.

The setting of the bridal shop in Dallas, Texas appeared to be realistic. From the tulle and lace, wrapped around the various mannequins in the bridal shop, I never once doubted Thompson description about the shop. I haven’t been in a bridal shop in fourteen years, so I take Thompson at her word, but from what I remember, and what the television shows portray, it rang true.

Katie Fisher and Brady James were not the normal pairing. What I mean is that Katie Fisher actually enjoys the small town living where she grew up and was prepared to marry her small town boyfriend, so she enters this contest. But what would happen, he breaks up with her just after she finds out she won the dress and cover. Katie is innocent, sweet, and wants the best for her family. On the other hand, Brady, a professional basketball player on leave, honors his mother by offering to take control of her bridal shop while she fulfills her dream in Paris. Brady is sweet, caring, and truly a noble man who honors his commitments to God, family, and his career.

Overall, Janice Thompson’s Every Bride Needs a Groom is a unique wedding story with characters that will attach themselves to your heart and not let go. I truly enjoyed this story and anxiously wait for the next volume in the continuing saga of Katie and Brady.

I received a complimentary copy of Every Bride Needs a Groom from Revell Publishing and all the opinions stated are my own.


Janice Thompson
From Thompson's Amazon's Author Page
Janice Thompson’s Writing Bio:

Inspirational author Janice Thompson also writes under the name Janice Hanna. She got her start in the industry writing screenplays and musical comedies for the stage. Janice has published over 100 books for the Christian market, crossing genre lines to write cozy mysteries, historicals, romances, nonfiction books, devotionals, children's books and more. In addition, she enjoys editing, ghost-writing, public speaking, and mentoring young writers. She was thrilled to be named the 2010 Barbour/Heartsong Author of the Year, with three books on the top ten list for that house. Janice is active in her local writing group, where she regularly teaches on the craft of writing. Her online course, "Becoming a Successful Freelance Writer" (www.freelancewritingcourses.com) has been helpful to many who want to earn a living with their writing. Janice is passionate about her faith and does all she can to share the joy of the Lord with others, which is why she particularly enjoys writing. She lives in Spring, Texas, where she leads a rich life with her family, a host of writing friends, and two mischievous dachshunds.

Where to connect with Janice Thompson:
Facebook

Where to purchase Every Bride Needs a Groom:
Your Local Favorite Bookstore

What aspect of a contemporary romance novel with a bride on the cover draws your attention?

Monday, April 27, 2015

Steven James: Fury

By Kelly Bridgewater

From Amazon
Back Cover Copy:

The disturbing visions that helped Daniel Byers solve a deadly mystery have finally quieted, and the sixteen-year-old basketball star is looking forward to things settling back to normal. But when his father mysteriously disappears, Daniel realizes that the key to finding his dad rests in deciphering his chilling hallucinations.
Soon, long-buried secrets begin to surface, revealing clues that could help him locate his father. But as the past collides with the present and reality begins to blur around him, Daniel faces a race against time to save his dad before it’s too late.

My Thoughts:

Steven James is my all-time favorite writer. I was first introduced to him when I was wandering the library aisles and needed something to read. I knew the majority of the Christian publishing company names, so I was browsing the spines. I came across The Rook. It was printed by Revell, and the book was pretty thick. I slid it out and read the synopsis on the back. Sounded good. I took it home and devoured it in one day. Looking on-line, I saw there was two more out and another one about to come out. I rushed back to the library and checked out the other two and read them in the next two days. With James’ second Young Adult novel, Fury, I am still not disappointed in his writing.

James proves why he is a great storyteller. He captures my attention from the first word and doesn’t let go. I anxiously turn the page, wrapped up in the blanket of the story, waiting to find out what happens next. James is a master at throwing his character under the bus with twists and occurrences that I didn’t see coming. Fury is no expectation.

James’s main heroes are characters who are rememberable. Fury is told in the third-person point of view, so I felt like I was running alongside David, trying to keep up and figure out what happened to his father. With Patrick Bowers, Jevin Banks, and David Byers, James strives to create realistic, flawed, and intelligent characters who I can relate to.

Just as conflict and characters are important, the author’s writing must be exceptional to keep me focused. James has a skill at describing places that seem normal to me, but he shows me what he wants me to focus on to draw attention to the decaying of a building or the sleek lines of a research lab. He captives my imagination, sparking the surroundings to take over my home and place me in the center of a field, glancing toward the dilapidated barn and the shell of the house. Along those lines, he shows the weather, making me feel the cold and stillness of winter. James is great at using short sentences to grab my attention, begging me to turn to the next page. The dialogue and prose from David sound like a sixteen-year-old boy. Never once doubted his age.

Another writing aspect that I notice James does is find some really unknown aspect of science and throws it in mostly every book. He did it in the Patrick Bowers and Jevin Banks series too. In Fury, James introduces me to the idea of chronobiology, which is making someone experience hundreds of years in less time. I always learn something new while reading his books.

Fury is a completely original and unpredictable book because I had no idea who the villain was. As James dragged out the final scene, allowing me to see who the villain was, I wanted to flip the pages faster to find out who it was. When he/she walked onto the page, I gasped. Didn’t see that coming. This book will appeal to fans of Steven James’s writing, from the Patrick Bowers series (LOVE them) to Jevin Banks to Blur, the first book in this Young Adult series. I read the entire book in four hours, could not put it down. Another hit for Steven James.

A word of caution for there are a number of violent occurrences when David flashes out, such as a demon, worms burrowing into the skin, and an incident with a hand in a garbage disposal. I would allow my teenager to read this book, but that’s just me.

For the spiritual element, the discussion of God and demons come up in a conversation between two sixteen year olds. It is natural and sounds like the curiosity of two teenagers, trying to figure out how the world and faith collide. Not preachy.

As with all Steven James’s novels, there are plenty of chills and a hint of mystery that will keep readers glued to the page. While the blurs that are taunting David are creepy, readers will not be left without hope or moments of glee. But be prepared for an ending that will leave the readers wishing the third book was at hand.

I received a complimentary copy of Fury from Skyscape Publishing and the opinions stated are all my own.  


My Rating:  5 out of 5 stars

Friday, April 24, 2015

Why are Most Book Endings the Same?



By Kelly Bridgewater

For the past two weeks, I have discussed opening lines and ways to strengthen that saggy middle, but today, I have a question. Why do most books have the same cliché ending?

Funny question, isn’t it? Something I have been thinking about for a while.
Every contemporary romance, historical romance, historical, romantic suspense, and mystery does it. Does what? You might be asking.

The ultimate question: Why have the same ending? You know, the ones I’m talking about. The wedding or the proposal at the end of the book. The mystery solved and the bad guy taken to prison while the hero and heroine look lovingly into each other’s eyes, promising to be there for each other until the end of time.

But . . .

When you watch television, majority of televisions shows do not sum up their entire series by the end of an episode. They prolong the big fight or the bad guy until the end of the twenty-two episode series. By doing this, the creators, writers, and producers are tempting the viewers to come back week after week, panting for what happened with the cliff hanger the week before.

One of my favorite shows that did this was Buffy, the Vampire Slayer. Ever season, Buffy and her friends had to fight some ultimate evil like the Master, Angel, the Mayor, Glory, Adam, or the Priest, but every episode ended with Buffy being farther from defeating her enemy. It made me anxious to come back and see what happens next week.

 But books are not that way. They sum up the mystery by the end of each volume. Even if the book is part of a series. Fantasy is the exception because I have seen them end the story with the hero and heroine on the run while the reader has to wait for the next book to find out what happens next. Some examples are: The Lord of the Rings by J. R. R. Tolkien, The Song of the Seare by C. E. Laureano, The Staff and the Sword by Patrick Carr, and The Storm Siren Trilogy by Mary Weber.

One of my favorite authors, Steven James, breaks this mold too. In each of his Patrick Bowers’ books, he creates a conflict and solves it by the story’s end, but there is an overarching mystery that haunts every single book. Waiting a whole year for another one of the installments drove me nuts. I wanted to know what happened now.

Here is a quick example:  In Knight (which is one of James’s best book in my opinion), Bowers solved the mystery that was the driving force of Knight, but James taunted his readers by dangling a mystery to lead to the next book. Read the last couple of lines in the book: “Sunlight spilled and sprayed around him. Wet screams echoed through the tunnel. And the Knight began to tell a brand-new story to the curious, waiting world” (492). As a reader, I thought the mystery was solved, but James drags me in and begs to return to The Bishop. After finishing Checkmate last December (which is a great ride by the way), I finally found out who the Knight truly was. It only took four more books to find the answer.

As for my own three-part series, I am tempting to accomplish the same thing. I’m creating a story where the individual mystery appears to be solved, but by the time the reader opens the next book, they were wrong. I know it is different, but I think it will be neat if I can pass it off.

Would you read a story that is not neatly finished by the first book? What do you like about books or movies where nothing is left unsaid?

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Christy Barritt: Gone By Dark

By Kelly Bridgewater

From Amazon
Back Cover Copy:

Charity White can’t forget the horrific crime that happened ten years ago when she and her best friend, Andrea, spontaneously cut through the woods on their way home from high school. In the middle of their trek, a man abducted Andrea, who hasn’t been seen since.

Since that fateful day, Charity has tried to outrun the memories and guilt of that one hasty decision. What if she and her friend hadn’t taken that shortcut? Why wasn’t Charity taken instead of Andrea? And why weren’t the police ever able to track down the bad guy?

When Charity receives a mysterious letter that promises answers, she decides to face her worst nightmare. She returns home to North Carolina in search of closure and a touch of the peace that has eluded her for the past decade. With the help of her new neighbor, Police Officer Joshua Haven, Charity begins to track down mysterious clues. They soon discover that they must work together or both of them will be swallowed by the looming darkness.

My Thoughts:

I’m a huge Christy Barritt fan. Even though, currently, she is self-published and writes for Amazon’s Publishing company and for Love Inspired Suspense, I have read every single one of her books. I have reviewed most of them. When I found out late in 2014 that she was writing another book in her Carolina Moon series, I was excited. Anything Barritt writes captures my attention and doesn’t let go. Gone By Dark fits the bill.

I really enjoyed spending time with Joshua Haven and Charity White. While I believe majority of mysteries feature a strong hero and heroine, Barritt does a good job at creating strong, yet flawed characters who grip the heart. Joshua Haven, the hero, is a cop who moves to Herford, North Carolina. I enjoy how Barritt created Haven as the type of hero who would give up his life for someone he loved. Haven made me smile. As for Charity White, the heroine, she had an undeniable fear of failure, but a person with character and substance to the extent where she spent her adult life helping people. The transformation of Charity from the character she was in the beginning till the end is remarkable and admirable.

Barritt’s writing captures my attention from the first chapter. One of Barritt’s strength is her dialogue. She uses the correct language to distinguish between each individual character while using the prose to allow me to understand Charity’s fear, struggles, and thoughts as she deals with her missing friend, Andrea. The action begins in the prologue with the kidnapping of Andrea, and then the story unfolds, quite rapidly, clue by clue, drawing me in as I tried to solve the mystery. Barritt does a good job at capturing the small town feel, and I could feel the sweltering heat of the August sun while traipsing through the thickness of the trees where light breaks through. I felt like I was in North Carolina.

Typical to a romantic mystery, Barritt entwines the romantic and external tensions. The romantic tension begins with the first encounter between Joshua and Charity and lingers at every prospect of an encounter. It develops nice and slow as the couple spends more time together. On the opposite hand, the external tension keeps drawing tighter and tighter as the couple come close to solving the mystery. I didn’t figure out who the bad guy was.

Gone by Dark is an original and unpredictable mystery with no questionable content. It fits the amount of violence of a cozy mystery. Nothing too drastic or shock-worthy. Any age group could read this book. I enjoy a mystery that has the characters questioning their faith, and Barritt’s book is no exception. Her spiritual elements are not preachy. In Gone By Dark, Charity moves in with a mature believer who questions and places doubt in Charity’s mind. Not forceful. Normal for a conversation.

Christy Barritt does a good job at creating a tightly-woven action mystery that draws me in and keeps me glued to the page. Gone By Dark is another Barritt mystery where I finished the book in one day. I will definitely keep recommending her book to other fans of mysteries.

I received a complimentary copy of Gone by Dark by Christy Barritt and the opinions stated are all my own.


My Rating:  5 out of 5 stars 

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Melissa Tagg: From the Start



By Kelly Bridgewater

Back Cover Copy:

Kate Walker used to believe in true love and happily ever after. While her own love life may have left her brokenhearted, it hasn't kept her from churning out made-for-TV romance movie screenplays...until a major career slump and a longing to do something meaningful send her running back to her hometown of Maple Valley.

Permanently sidelined by an injury, former NFL quarterback Colton Greene is temporarily hiding out in a friend's hometown to avoid the media and the reminders of all he's lost. Maple Valley seems like the perfect place to learn how to adjust to normal life. The only trouble is he's never really done normal before.

While Kate plays things safe and Colton is all about big risks and grand gestures, they both get what it's like to desperately need direction in life. An unexpected project gives them both a chance to jumpstart their new lives, but old wounds and new dreams are hard to ignore. Starting over wasn't part of the plan, but could it be the best thing that's ever happened to them?

My Review:

I have read Melissa Tagg’s entire collection of contemporary romance books. I met her for the first time at the 2013 ACFW conference when her first book, Made to Last, came out. Many writers walked around, wearing buttons promoting her debut book, so I was intrigued. When I went home, I downloaded the book to my Kindle and read it. It was well-written.

But her newest release, From the Start, is a story that takes place in fictional town, Maple Valley. Tagg does a great job at describing the small town, from the descriptions of the downtown businesses to the bridges surrounding the community. I really felt like I was roaming through Maple Valley, drinking coffee at the Megan’s coffee shop and eating lunch at Seth’s The Red Door restaurant.

The characters of Kate Walker and Colton Greene shined in their personal love story. Being a writer myself, Kate’s personal struggle with trying to write something from the heart struck a chord with me. I empathized with Kate and really prayed she would finally find something that would help her return to her love of writing. As for the hero, former NFL quarterback Colton Greene, I really liked him. He is the type of hero every girl dreams of coming to share their lives with. Colton went out of his way to help anyone in Maple Valley, even though he didn’t have to. Colton tried to figure the way into Kate’s heart, including her love of romance movies and writing. He made me sigh a number of times with his ability to show his love for Kate.

As for the romantic tension, Tagg does a good job at allowing Kate and Colton to show their playful side and serious side with one another. I enjoy how their relationship didn’t jump right into the romance side on the first encounter. It took a while to develop, dragging me along for the joy ride.

Overall, Melissa Tagg’s From the Start reminded me a lot of an episode of Gilmore Girls with its comedic moments and gentle romance. The hero, Colton Greene, is swoon-worthy and made me wish he was a real guy. (Doesn’t help that the model for the cover is gorgeous.) Anyone who is fan of Becky Wade, Beth K. Vogt, or Susan May Warren's contemporary romance will love this enduring love story.

I received a complimentary copy from Melissa Tagg and the opinions stated are all my own.

Melissa Tagg’s Bio:

Melissa Tagg, author of Made to Last and Here to Stay, is a former reporter and total Iowa girl. In addition to her homeless ministry day job, she is also the marketing/events coordinator for My Book Therapy, a craft and coaching community for writers. When she’s not writing, she can be found hanging out with the coolest family ever, watching old movies, and daydreaming about her next book. She’s passionate about humor, grace, and happy endings. Melissa blogs regularly and loves connecting with readers at www.melissatagg.com.

From Melissa Tagg
Where to connect with Melissa:

Where to purchase From the Start:
Your favorite local bookstore

What is your favorite aspect about contemporary romance books?