Friday, July 31, 2015

Where Treasure Hides

By Kelly Bridgewater

Description (From Amazon):

From Amazon
Artist Alison Schuyler spends her time working in her family’s renowned art gallery, determined to avoid the curse that has followed the Schuyler clan from the Netherlands to America and back again. She’s certain that true love will only lead to tragedy―that is, until a chance meeting at Waterloo station brings Ian Devlin into her life. Drawn to the bold and compassionate British Army captain, Alison begins to question her fear of love as World War II breaks out, separating the two and drawing each into their own battles. While Ian fights for freedom on the battlefield, Alison works with the Dutch Underground to find a safe haven for Jewish children and priceless pieces of art alike. But safety is a luxury war does not allow. As time, war, and human will struggle to keep them apart, will Alison and Ian have the faith to fight for their love, or is it their fate to be separated forever?

My Review:

I have lately been on a binge reading historical romances set during World War II. I love everything by Sarah Sundin, Cara Putnam, Liz Tolsma, and others. When I saw the beautiful cover for Johnnie Alexander’s new book, Where Treasure Hides, I knew I had to get a copy and read it. Alexander’s novel fits right into the genre with the budding romance, the historical timeframe, and the conflict ripped from the pages of history.

The first thing that stands out to me is the setting and Alexander’s research into World War II era. Alexander did a good job at inviting the readers into the story right at the cusp of war, then trails the story through the entire process, and ending a year after the war. Even though she covers a lot of time, the story does move quite rapidly along, not fully allowing me to grasp the horror of the situation. Alexander mentions a couple of times that Jews were being taken away, but she never strays enough to cover what was going on. The story is written with dueling plotlines: first, Alison, then Ian. As the plot is told from a variety of narrators, when a certain character speaks, the dialogue fits their behavior, and the prose mimics their movements.

As for the main characters of Alison Schuyler and Ian Devlin, Alexander breathes life into them, making them memorable. Alison inherited the love of art and drawing from her father. Alexander does a great job at showing how all encompassing the viewpoint of an artist’s perspective of the world is. We view the world through different lenses and ideas for new projects appear all the time. Alison is a determined and brave woman who misses her father and mother terribly and eludes capture a number of times. As for Ian, he is a strong and heroic man who seeks out the preyed on weak and helps take them to safety without any concern of what would happen to him.

Right from the first page, Alexander introduces the romance tension and the conflict. For my taste, Ian and Alison claiming to have given their heart away at the first encounter was way too rushed. I would have liked to see it take longer to advance. I shook my head in disbelief a number of times in the early chapters. Like I mentioned early, the story doesn’t really focus on the horrible incidents occurring during World War II, so the tension revolved around Alison’s and Ian’s struggle to be together and save Alison’s family legacy with the paintings. There was really no questionable content with the violence that occurred during World War II. A pretty tame novel.

This completely original and predictable story, Where Treasure Hides, will definitely appeal to fans of Liz Tolsma and Cathy Gohlke’s book, Saving Amelie. It has the similar feel, even though Tolsma and Gohlke are more visual in their display of the horror taking place around the characters. The book was a quick read that I enjoyed, but not going to be listed as one of my favorite World War II novels. Where Treasure Hides really did not touch on the topic of God, so non-fans of CBA books could enjoy the fast moving plot.

In short, Johnnie Alexander’s unique story Where Treasure Hides features likeable characters even though the romance was much too unbelievable for me and all of the tension occurred between Ian and Alison. Not too much focus on the World War II events happening in the subplot. 

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

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Irene Hannon: Hope Harbor

By Kelly Bridgewater

From Amazon
Back Cover Copy:

Tracy Campbell never wanted to leave Hope Harbor, Oregon, or the idyllic three-generation cranberry farm where she grew up. But life--and love--altered her plans. When tragedy strikes and changes her plans yet again, she finds herself back in her hometown with a floundering farm to run and a heartbreaking secret. Romance is not on her agenda. Nor is it on Michael Hunter's. The visitor from Chicago has daunting secrets of his own. But when Tracy recruits him to help save a struggling charitable organization, the winds of change begin to sweep through Hope Harbor, bringing healing, hope, and love to countless lives--including their own.

My Thoughts:

Irene Hannon is one of my favorite romantic suspense authors. I knew she has written a number of books for the Love Inspired line and has two full length contemporary novels that I have enjoyed immensely. So when I heard she wrote a new contemporary romance novel, I couldn’t wait to get my hand on a copy.

Hannon is great at creating characters that are life-like and memorable. They stick with me after I’m finishing reading the book. Hannon allows Tracy and Michael to literally run into each other within the first couple of pages of the book, allowing a lasting impression to change both their lives for the better. In Hope Harbor, Tracy is a determined young lady, willing to help her aunt and uncle who took her in after her parent’s untimely death. She works selfishly long hours at the cranberry farm and volunteers to help others in the small sea-side community of Hope Harbor. The hero, Michael Hunter, is a person who is fleeing from his non-profit work in Chicago, hoping to free himself from the guilt over his wife’s death. He volunteers to help others even the elderly lady who is his temporary landlord.

The theme of moving on and learning to accept what God has in store for the future is important for everyone to learn. It is a hard lesson, yes, but something we need to grasp on to and trust God with both hands.

I enjoyed getting to roam the small town of Hope Harbor and see how a number of lives are affected and changed through the course of the novel. Hannon knows how to create a story that rips at the heart of the reader and keeps them thinking about the plot long after I they close the book. I loved traveling down the beach and having fish tacos from the little stand where most of the locals visit.

Always enjoyable, Irene Hannon’s latest book, Hope Harbor does exactly that. Bring Hope to the characters that populate the pages and interact with each other. The story has just the right amount of romance, sprinkled with tension and real world dilemmas. I would recommend this book to fans of Irene Hannon’s romantic suspense or fans of contemporary romance like Melissa Tagg, Susan May Warren, or Beth K. Vogt.

I received a complimentary copy of Irene Hannon’s Hope Harbor from Revell Publishing through Netgalley and the opinions stated are all my own.

Irene Hannon’s Writing Bio:

Irene Hannon is the best-selling author of more than 35 novels. Her books have been honored with the coveted RITA Award from Romance Writers of America, the HOLT Medallion, the Reviewer's Choice Award from Romantic Times BOOKreviews magazine and the Daphne du Maurier Award for mystery/suspense. Irene and her husband make their home in Missouri, USA.

Irene Hannon
From Irene Hannon's Amazon Author Page
Where to connect with Irene Hannon:

Where to purchase Hope Harbor:
Your Local Favorite Bookstore

What do you prefer: Irene Hannon’s romantic suspense or her contemporary romance? Why?

Friday, July 24, 2015

What Arthur Conan Doyle Means to Me

By Kelly Bridgewater

This is my fourth month talking about certain writers and what they have meant to me as a writer. First, C.S. Lewis, in January, J. R. R. Tolkien in February, and J. K. Rowling in March. Now for April, I plan to talk about the most popular father of the detective novel. No, he didn’t write the first detective novel. That was Edgar Allan Poe. Yes, the man who wrote “The Raven” and “The Tell-Tale Heart” penned the first detective novel with the creation of “The Murders of the Rue Morgue.”

But Arthur Conan Doyle introduced the most popular detective to the world. Every classic cartoon has done an episode where someone is Sherlock Holmes and Watson. It is funny to think about how popular Sherlock Holmes is today while Arthur Conan Doyle did not want to be famous for writing the detective. He wanted his other work to be more widely read and known. I bet you didn’t know he wrote a couple others works of writing, did you? He did. They weren’t as well-written, I promise you that.

Sherlock Holmes.

Everyone in England swears by him and loves him, even though Arthur Conan Doyle is from Scotland, not England.  I was introduced to Sherlock Holmes when I was in college. To escape the boring story of The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald during a literary theory class to complete my undergraduate studies in English, I devoured The Complete Sherlock Holmes. It was more my taste. Adventure. Mystery. Non-stop action.

I still return to Sherlock Holmes once a year when I read my favorite books. I watched and loved the latest Sherlock Holmes movies featuring Robert Downey Jr. and Jude Law. I’m fascinated by the great storytelling of the BBC Sherlock produced by Mark Gatiss. He has done a great job capturing the essence of Sherlock in the twenty-first century with text messages and similar technology like Watson keeping a blog to record his adventures.

Arthur Conan Doyle taught me that adventure is important to a great story that captures the readers’ attention for generations to come. A great story can surpass the changing time and move into the classics if the story is well-written. Doyle gave the world a gift of a classic detective named Sherlock Holmes who helped cement my love of Adventure, mystery, thrillers, and suspense in books and movies. Because of this, I’m not the type of girl who likes sappy, romance books or movies. Give me an action packed movie or book, and I’m there.

Any though most people have heard of Sherlock Holmes, have you, personally, sat down and read his books? What was your idea of a great book? Romance. Adventure. Fantasy. Mystery. Classics. Why?

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Laura McNeil: Center of Gravity

By Kelly Bridgewater

From Amazon
Back Cover Copy:

The truth could cost her everything.
Her whole life, Ava Carson has been sure of one thing: she doesn’t measure up to her mother’s expectations. So when Mitchell Carson sweeps into her life with his adorable son, the ready-made family seems like a dream come true. In the blink of an eye, she’s married, has a new baby, and life is wonderful.
Or is it?
When her picture-perfect marriage begins unraveling at the seams, Ava convinces herself she can fix it. It's temporary. It’s the stress. It’s Mitchell’s tragic history of loss.
If only Ava could believe her own excuses.
Mitchell is no longer the charming, thoughtful man she married. He grows more controlling by the day, revealing a violent jealous streak. His behavior is recklessly erratic, and the unanswered questions about his past now hint at something far more sinister than Ava can stomach. Before she can fit the pieces together, Mitchell files for divorce and demands full custody of their boys.
Fueled by fierce love for her children and aided by Graham Thomas, a new attorney in town —Ava takes matters into her own hands, digging deep into the past. But will finding the truth be enough to beat Mitchell at his own game?
My Review:

Center of Gravity is Laura McNeil’s debut novel. It is categorized as a contemporary women’s fiction piece. The story reminded me a lot of The Sound and Fury by William Faulkner. For those who haven’t read Faulkner’s masterpiece, what I meant is by how the novel is structured. Faulkner and McNeil divided their book up into sections with headings of whom the person speaking. So everyone character has a voice and, as the reader, I can understand the struggles and pains the individual characters go through.

McNeil’s novel has a number of different character’s point of view, such as Ava, the wife, Mitchell, the husband, Jack, the eight-year-old son, and Graham, Ava’s lawyer. I really enjoyed how McNeil told the story because I empathized with Ava, but then I watched the struggle inside Jack and Mitchell as they roam the pages of the story. I was never lost or confused during the changing of the characters.

As for the conflict, it was riveting. I kept flipping the pages, wanting to return to the story because I needed to know what would happen to Mitchell and Ava’s marriage. What would happen to Jack and Sam, their children? The story gripped me from the first chapter and kept my attention the whole time. The plot has been seen on late night news, but I never imagined being this close to the individuals and watching their personal struggles.

I really can’t wait to see what comes next from Laura McNeil. This book was a great introduction to her writing.

I received a complimentary copy of Center of Gravity from Thomas Nelson through Netgalley and the opinions stated are all my own.

Laura McNeil’s Writing Bio:

After six years behind the anchor desk at two CBS affiliates, Laura moved to the Alabama Gulf Coast to raise her family. 

Laura's debut novel with HarperCollins (Thomas Nelson), Center of Gravity, set in Mobile, Ala., will be published in July of 2015. Her writing awards include those from William Faulkner-Wisdom Creative Writing Competition, Writer's Digest, RWA, and the Eric Hoffer competition. Her accolades in broadcasting include awards from the Associated Press, including Best News Anchor and Best Specialized Reporter.

She holds a master's degree in journalism from The Ohio State University and is currently pursuing her MFA in creative writing from New England College.

Laura McNeill
From Amazon's Author Page
Where to connect with Laura McNeil:
Laura McNeil’s Personal Website

Where to purchase Center of Gravity:

Your local Favorite bookstore

Friday, July 17, 2015

Julie Klassen: Lady Maybe

By Kelly Bridgewater

From Amazon
Back Cover Copy:

One final cry…“God almighty, help us!” and suddenly her world shifted violently, until a blinding collision scattered her mind and shook her bones. Then, the pain. The freezing water. And as all sensation drifted away, a hand reached for hers, before all faded into darkness…

Now she has awakened as though from some strange, suffocating dream in a warm and welcoming room she has never seen before, and tended to by kind, unfamiliar faces. But not all has been swept away. She recalls fragments of the accident. She remembers a baby. And a ring on her finger reminds her of a lie.

But most of all, there is a secret. And in this house of strangers she can trust no one but herself to keep it.

My Review:

Lady Maybe is my second complete novel by Julie Klassen. Klassen actually approached me and asked if I wanted to review this book. Of course, I agreed. Klassen is the leader in Regency fiction because of her lifelike characters, comforting settings, and swoon worthy plots.

The pace and flow of the novel was spot on. The scenes flowed effortlessly with the romance and the intrigue weaved and flowed as both threads continued to build nicely, and the ending matched a Regency romance. Two people thrown together in the most unusual way, building lies off each other as the story progressed. The idea has been done before, but Klassen does a great job at intertwining the past with the present that it worked really well. With the flashbacks to the past, Sir John Mayfield and the Lady attraction and relationship bumped along the way, but it provided plenty of sparks and moments of suspense to appease all romance fans.

The writing was tight and grammatically sound. All of the internal monologues proved the internal struggle between The Lady and John. I really felt the struggle of the Lady who only desired to keep up the charade to provide for her newborn son, Danny. Most mothers would empathize with her for preservation for Danny. As for the dialogue, the conservation swirled around the Lady as much as me, keeping my attention focused on the action. The central conflict swirls around the Lady as she keeps up the charade and wondering how the truth will affect her in the end.

Klassen is at the top of her game in her detailed research. She really understands and allows the Regency period to come alive, at least for me. I really feel I am walking the hallowed halls of Clifton House and feeling springtime on my skin. Klassen learns the names of the different carriages, and who would be driving them. She also learns the name of the different pieces of jewelry and clothing. All of it invites me into the world, even if it is for a little while.

Since this book is published by a secular company, the romance has been kicked up a notch more than most of Klassen’s previous books published by Bethany House. For mature audiences, be aware there is a detailed “before” marriage night scene between two unmarried people. This might be too descriptive for younger audiences. In the same vein, the spirituality aspect that is popular in Bethany House’s books is tamed back a lot. The Lady prays in times of need, but no conversation scenes or anything I would expect from Klassen.

As for the romantic tension, it is between John and the Lady. John feels unwanted by woman, even though he is athletic, smart, and a gentleman. On the other hand, the Lady is a clergy’s daughter with little to no money, but sweet, timid, and gentle, attracting the attention of all those who meet her. For a while, the romantic tension features three different men all wanting the Lady’s attention. As for the ending, I felt cheapened. She made a decision of what three men she wanted to live with, but I didn’t feel it was justified. I wished she would have chosen another guy.

True to a Regency novel, Julie Klassen’s Lady Maybe is an engrossing tale of telling the truth the first time no matter the consequences. I believe fans of her previous stories will be in love with this book as much as her past novels.

Julie Klassen's Writing Bio:

 Julie Klassen loves all things Jane--Jane Eyre and Jane Austen. She worked in publishing for sixteen years and now writes full time. Three of her novels have won the Christy Award for Historical Romance. Her book, The Silent Governess, was also a finalist in the Minnesota Book Awards, ForeWord Reviews Book of the Year Awards, and Romance Writers of America's RITA Awards. Julie is a graduate of the University of Illinois. She and her husband have two sons and live near St. Paul, Minnesota.

Where to connect with Julie Klassen: 
Author Julie Klassen
From Julie Klassen's Facebook Page

Where to purchase Lady Maybe:
Your Local Favorite Bookstore

How many of Julie Klassen's books have you read? What is your favorite one? Why?

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Sherlock Holmes Devotional Review

By Kelly Bridgewater

From Amazon
Back Cover Copy:

After a century, Sherlock Holmes mysteries still fascinate readers—and this devotional will delight them with spiritual truths drawn from the pages of the classic detective stories. A Sherlock Holmes Devotional contains 60 entries drawn from the characters, stories, and events of the classic detective stories of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. From 221b Baker Street to Reichenbach Falls, from Irene Adler to the evil Dr. Moriarty, from the pipe to the violin, this book investigates the spiritual truths we can discern from this enigmatic fictional character—a brusque, stubborn, and arrogant man who also shows honor, trust, and self-sacrificing friendship

My Review:

I LOVE Sherlock Holmes. As a major fan of Doyle’s popular detective, I couldn’t wait to read this devotional when I saw it come across the Barbour Publishing website. I love the BBC Sherlock and the dual movies featuring Robert Downey Jr. I look forward to cute shirts, posters, and figurines all with the iconic Sherlock Holmes hat and pipe.

Devotionals, in my opinion, draw a connection between either an event or a story, in this case, a Sherlock Holmes story idea, and tie it to a Scripture piece or truth in the Bible. Priebe does exactly that. In the beginning of each chapter, she includes a quote from one of Doyle’s writings. This is followed by a reminder or a short synopsis of the Doyle’s example that Priebe wants to bring to the forefront of the reader’s mind. Finally, she draws the connection to the Bible and how we, as Christians, are supposed to live our life. To end it all, she sums up the chapter with a couple of Bible verses to tie it up nicely.

Priebe is a mother and an editor who works for Jerry B. Jenkins and has one other book published entitled: Trust, Hope, Pray: Encouragement for the Task of Waiting. Recently, she has been contracted to write her first young adult novel.

I truly enjoyed being reminded of some of Doyle’s stories. It was nostalgic and brought a smile to my face. I enjoyed the different chapters and how they handled different aspects of a believer’s faith and walk with God.

However, I was confused a number of times with trying to find the connection between the Doyle’s writings and the Bible verses. I didn’t understand the parallel. I had to return to the beginning of the chapter and reread, still scratching my head in confusion.

In short, Trisha Priebe’s A Sherlock Holmes Devotional will bring a smile to loyal and obsessed fans of Doyle’s famous detective but drawing the association between the Bible and Holmes had me thinking twice.

I received a complimentary copy of Trisha Priebe’s A Sherlock Holmes Devotional: Uncovering the Mysteries of God from Barbour Publishing through Netgalley and the opinions stated are all my own.

Where to purchase A Sherlock Holmes Devotional:
Your Local Favorite Bookstore

How many Sherlock Holmes books have you read? What is your favorite part of the popular detective?