Monday, February 29, 2016

Mike Nappa: Annabel Lee

By Kelly Bridgewater

Description from Amazon:

Fourteen miles east of Peachtree, Alabama, a secret is hidden. That secret's name is Annabel Lee Truckson, and even she doesn't know why her mysterious uncle has stowed her deep underground in a military-style bunker. He's left her with a few German words, a barely-controlled guard dog, and a single command: "Don't open that door for anybody, you got it? Not even me."

Above ground, a former Army sniper called The Mute and an enigmatic "Dr. Smith" know about the girl. As the race begins to find her, the tension builds. Who wants to set her free? Why does the other want to keep her captive forever? Who will reach her first?

Private investigators Trudi Coffey and Samuel Hill need to piece together the clues and stay alive long enough to retrieve the girl--before it's too late.

From Amazon
My Thoughts:

I really love a great suspense or thriller book that has lots of action and non-stop heart thumping trouble for the characters. I believe every good suspense or thriller book will carry an interesting plot with characters on the run from something bad, whether psychological, physical, or spiritual. I want to be running away with the characters as they run for their life or try to solve the mystery. Mike Nappa’s book Annabel Lee really did not do this for me.

The plot was boring and did not keep my attention at all. I couldn’t wait for the book to be over. The story is told from about four different characters perspectives. At the beginning of the book, I was confused as to what was even going on. Why was Annabel being forced into a room underground? Why was her caretaker dead? Would anyone even find her? Those questions were meant to be answered, but it takes 300 pages for Nappa to even allow me to understand why she was down in the tunnel with this horrible dog. Why couldn’t Nappa show me, maybe through the journal that Annabel finds, the reasoning she was down there?

The characters were not truly developed either. I didn’t care what happened to any of them. They appeared to be stick figures running through the pages of the story. They really had no personality. Trudi and Samuel were divorced because of issues in their marriage, but they weren’t flushed out as characters either. Mute, rightly named, wanted to solve what happened to the girl, but he had a hard time solving the case when he couldn’t talk.

Nappa’s writing is his greatest strength. He knows how to show a story through the right amount of dialogue and prose and have the characters actually speak or think in a way that is appropriate for them. Nappa does a good job at allowing me to completely see the setting in my imagination.

Not really suspenseful enough, Mike Nappa’s Annabel Lee has a lackluster plot, which I wouldn’t even put in the suspense genre and characters with any distinguishing personalities. I wouldn’t recommend fans of suspense pick this book up.

My Rating: 2 out of 5 stars

Purchase Annabel Lee

Friday, February 26, 2016

Sandra Orchard: A Fool and His Monet

By Kelly Bridgewater

Description (From Amazon):

Serena Jones has a passion for recovering lost and stolen art--one that's surpassed only by her zeal to uncover the truth about the art thief who murdered her grandfather. She's joined the FBI Art Crime Team with the secret hope that one of her cases will lead to his killer. Now, despite her mother's pleas to do something safer--like get married--Serena's learning how to go undercover to catch thieves and black market traders.

When a local museum discovers an irreplaceable Monet missing, Jones leaps into action. The clues point in different directions, and her boss orders her to cease investigating her most promising suspect. But determined to solve the case and perhaps discover another clue in her grandfather's murder, she pushes ahead, regardless of the danger.

With spunk, humor, and plenty of heart-stopping moments, Sandra Orchard gives readers an exciting string of cases to crack and a character they'll love to watch solve them.

From Amazon
My Review:

I have read a number of Sandra Orchard’s Love Inspired Suspense and enjoyed them, so when she started to write longer novels for Revell, I itched to read them. She does a good job at creating characters that I enjoyed spending a long time with. Her newest book A Fool and His Monet didn’t really hit the mark for me.

First, there were moments in the story that didn’t make any sense. For instance, Serena was in a situation where she was in a faceoff with Stan, a brother of a suspect, and Matt, a fellow police officer, and they followed her to her apartment. She parked around back. Orchard allowed another man to checking out her house, so he got jumped by Tanner, her teacher. Orchard ended the chapter and moved on without showing me what happened with Stan and Matt who were waiting in the front of her apartment building. I was upset that Orchard didn’t finish that train of thought.

I really didn’t like the plot. Serena spent a lot of time doing things like traveling to the shady part of East St. Louis, but because she believed her FBI badge would stop the bad guys from harming her, Serena went anyways. If this was reality, Serena’s badge would mean nothing to the bad guys, so it was realistic. Yes, being an avid mystery reader, I wanted to know who did it, but the story didn’t move along fast enough. At times, the story dragged, and I wanted to put the novel down.

As for the character of Serena, Orchard made her to irresistible for the male species. For the majority of the book, men were falling over Serena, wanting to date her, but she wanted to find her grandfather’s killer and do her job, so she really didn’t pay much attention to the multitude of men falling at her feet. Orchard should have left the men population to two or three then it would have been more believable for me, but the story is told in Serena’s perspective, so maybe she just thinks every male wants her.

The story idea is original and unpredictable. I didn’t see the ending coming or who the bad guy was. I even found the bad guy totally unbelievable because the bad person didn’t show some of the psychological issues until the end of the novel. Orchard should have shown some hints of the issues to make it more believable for me.

Not one of my favorite mystery books, Sandra Orchard created a lackluster plot with an inflated heroine who believed all men wanted her. While the mystery was different, Orchard lost me in places as her story led me places and then changed to something else. If you enjoy cozy mysteries like Lorena McCourtney and Christy Barritt, then this is a book you might want to try.  

I received a complimentary cop of A Fool and His Monet from Revell Publishing and the opinions stated are all my own. 

My Rating: 3 out of 5 Stars

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Liz Johnson: The Red Door Inn

By Kelly Bridgewater

Description (From Amazon):

Marie Carrington is running from a host of bad memories. Broke and desperate, she's hoping to find safety and sanctuary on Prince Edward Island, where she reluctantly agrees to help decorate a renovated bed-and-breakfast before it opens for prime tourist season.

Seth Sloane didn't move three thousand miles to work on his uncle's B&B so he could babysit a woman with a taste for expensive antiques and a bewildering habit of jumping every time he brushes past her. He came to help restore the old Victorian--and to forget about the fiancée who broke his heart.

The only thing Marie and Seth agree on is that getting the Red Door Inn ready to open in just three months will take everything they've got. Can these two wounded souls find hope, healing, and perhaps a bit of romance on this beautiful island?

From Amazon
My Thoughts:

I’m not a big fan of contemporary romance novels. There are a few authors that I do read like Melissa Tagg, Susan May Warren, Beth K. Vogt, and Becky Wade, but other than that, I really don’t lean don’t this genre. Too boring. No action. After reading Liz Johnson’s The Red Door Inn, I, personally, will stick with her suspense novels. They are more to my taste. 

The characters, Seth and Marie, both have issues from their past that they have to work through, so they have a hard time trusting someone else, which is typical of a contemporary romance novel. Two characters that disagree from the beginning but learn to grown and put their differences aside. A complete predictable and unoriginal novel. Marie kept having these panic attacks that Johnson kept alluding to, but she never came right out and explained why Marie kept fainting all the time. Seth, however, mentioned that his banking account was wiped out by a past girlfriend, so he has a hard time wanting to jump into trusting another woman.

As for the plot, it dragged.There were a couple chapters of watching Marie, Seth, and Jack, the elder man who owns the Red Door Inn paint a number of rooms in the old Victorian. I really had a hard time staying focused on the story. Even though most fans of contemporary romance might find this story interesting and well written, the plot really didn't do anything for this major fan of suspense novels.

While the plot and characters did nothing for me, Johnson’s writing is great. I really felt like I was there. She showed the setting and never made me doubt once that I was roaming an island out in the Atlantic Ocean. Johnson creates a good balance between the dialogue and prose. I really enjoyed her writing style, even though I knew exactly how the story would end. 

Not to my taste, Liz Johnson’s The Red Door Inn is a typical contemporary romance novel set in St. Edward. Fans of  Melissa Tagg, Becky Wade, Beth K. Vogt and other contemporary romance writers will enjoy this novel and enjoy being taken away on the story where two unlikely people find love in each other after not trusting someone for a long time. 

I received a complimentary copy of The Red Door Inn from Revell Publishing and the opinions stated are all my own.

My Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Purchase The Red Door Inn

Friday, February 19, 2016

Terri Blackstock: If I Run

By Kelly Bridgewater

Description (From Amazon):

Casey knows the truth.
But it won’t set her free.
Casey Cox’s DNA is all over the crime scene. There’s no use talking to police; they have failed her abysmally before. She has to flee before she’s arrested . . . or worse. The truth doesn’t matter anymore.
But what is the truth? That’s the question haunting Dylan Roberts, the war-weary veteran hired to find Casey. PTSD has marked him damaged goods, but bringing Casey back can redeem him. Though the crime scene seems to tell the whole story, details of the murder aren’t adding up. Casey Cox doesn’t fit the profile of a killer. But are Dylan’s skewed perceptions keeping him from being objective? If she isn’t guilty, why did she run?
Unraveling her past and the evidence that condemns her will take more time than he has, but as Dylan’s damaged soul intersects with hers, he is faced with two choices. The girl who occupies his every thought is a psychopathic killer . . . or a selfless hero. And the truth could be the most deadly weapon yet.

From Amazon
My Review:

I’m a huge fan of Terri Blackstock’s writing. She always creates suspense or mysteries that relate to something that is happening in the news today. I don’t think she does it on purpose that is just the way the story happens to fall. Blackstock always grabs my attention with her thrilling plotlines, diverse characters, and great writing, and If I Run is no expectation.

If I Run starts out completely in Casey Cox’s perspective for a while, and I kept wondering why I was following this girl as she ran from home after she showed us the blood on her shoes. I knew Blackstock wouldn’t lead me down a certain path unless there was a good reason for it, so I stuck with it. Boy, am I glad that I did.

The action picks up and doesn’t let go. While I flip through the pages, anxious to learn what is going to happen to Casey as she travels from Oklahoma to Atlanta and further south, I didn’t want to put the story down and have to return to it. I wanted to see if Casey would get caught and spill the beans about what actually happen or would she go to jail for a crime she didn’t commit. If I Run is a true suspense since there is no romance between Casey and Dylan. They only meet for about ten minutes near the end of the book, which excited me.

Casey, the ultimate heroine, doesn’t believe the crime forces conclusion about her father’s suicide from twelve years earlier. On the hunt for the truth, she involves her reporter friend Brent, who ends up dead. While on the run, she runs into Lucy who has a granddaughter who has been missing for two years. This haunts Casey. Even though she is on the run, she stops and tries to solve this case because she feels a connection to Lucy, the elderly grandmother she never had. Blackstock includes a duel narrator in Dylan who used to be in the army but investigated army crimes. He is on the hunt for Casey to bring her home to question her on the death of Brent, his childhood friend, but as the story progresses, he starts to wonder if Casey is innocent or a great faker.

The idea for If I Run is completely original and unpredictable because usually in most mystery novels I have read, I have gotten the story from the person who has been kidnapped or Casey would have actually done the deed. But Blackstock switches what I expected and made me watch Casey and Dylan as they tried to piece together the truth. Blackstock even allows Casey to be a smart heroine who knows how to throw the police off her trail. The ending was left as a cliff-hanger, which irritated me, but deep inside, I jumped for joy. I always wanted a mystery or suspense book that didn’t completely give away all its secrets in the first book. Blackstock is begging for me to return to the second book and find out what will happen to Casey.

Always thrilling, Terri Blackstock created a complete original with a cliffhanger ending that had me mad and happy at the same time with her latest novel If I Run. I really can’t wait to see what happens to Casey and Dylan.

I received a complimentary copy of If I Run from Zondervan Publishing and the opinions stated are my own. 

My Rating:  4 out of 5 Stars

Purchase If I Run


Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Candace Calvert: Step by Step

By Kelly Bridgewater

Description (From Amazon):

Three years after a tragic accident left her a widow, ER nurse Taylor Cabot is determined to move on, checking off one item after another on her survival list. Her relationship with a handsome plastic surgeon even gives her hope for the last point―“fall in love again.” At least until crisis chaplain Seth Donovan steps back into her life, reawakening unanswered questions about her husband’s death.

While in San Diego to train community volunteers, Seth hopes to learn why Taylor is backing away from the crisis team and from their friendship. But nothing prepares him for the feelings that arise when he sees Taylor again . . . and sees her moving on with another man.

When a community crisis hits home and puts lives at risk, emotions run high and buried truths are unearthed. Will hope make the survival list?

From Amazon
My Review:    

Candace Calvert’s book Step By Step gave me an emotional rollercoaster. I just lost my father this past Halloween, and I still can’t imagine moving out without him. He was my biggest fan and supporter, so when Calvert allowed Taylor Cabot to grieve and show how she was moving on after the death of her husband Greg, I totally understood what she was going through.  Even though the story is three years after her husband’s death while my father just passed three and a half months ago. Calvert created characters that were completely related to anyone who has lost someone important.

The action on the page centered on Taylor who is working her way through a number of steps to move on with her grief. Taylor is determined to eat healthier and walk more while going through Greg, her late husband’s belongings. Calvert tugged at my heart with the aspect of Hooper, Greg and Taylor’s older golden retriever who was fighting cancer. I also have a golden retriever who is my only daughter and eight years old. If she goes anytime now, I will probably fall apart. This story didn’t have the non-stop action that I enjoy seeing in a story, but it really gripped me and kept me turning the pages because I wanted to see how Taylor would move on.

As for the romance between Taylor Cabot and Seth Donovan, I think it slowly grew. It didn’t appear to be too rushed like some romances I have read in the past. Seth was a genuine hero because he waited for three years while Taylor moved to San Diego and tried to date other men. He never gave up on Taylor. He kept praying for her and waited on her to make the first move. I really liked Seth. I hope to see him come back in later novels.

Calvert proves that she has worked for many years in the medical field because of her knowledge of the procedures and all the medical terminology. I am a huge fan of the television series ER, so some of the words just rolled off my tongue when I read it because I have heard it mentioned a number of times. I never once doubted Calvert’s words. It sounded completely genuine and right on target.

Emotionally draining, Candace Calvert’s Step by Step kept my attention as I watched Taylor struggle with how to continue on living without her husband while the romance felt realistic and moving.

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

My Rating:  4.5 out of 5 Stars

Purchase Step by Step

Q and A with Candace Calvert about Step by Step

1. This is the second installment in your latest trilogy, the Crisis Team series. What is the background on this series? 

The Crisis Team series, set in my native California, offers exciting medical scenarios within the fictional Hope medical system, and features the selfless and compassionate work of volunteer community chaplains—true heroes.

2. How do you expect this series to resonate with your audience? What are you most excited for your readers to experience through reading these novels?

 I have found, almost universally, that most of my readers weren’t aware of the vital work done by crisis responders (chaplains). It’s an honor to feature these dedicated volunteers and puts an intriguing new slant on my exciting and highly emotional medical fiction. I also think it adds to the element of hope for my readers, to know that these teams are “out there” in real life.

3. Crisis teams are becoming increasingly vital and active in the world today. How would you describe their role, and how can we learn more?

Crisis responders are volunteers from all walks of life, trained to assist survivors of tragedy, whether it be from a major disaster (weather related catastrophes, fires, bombings, mass shootings, etc.) or of a more personal nature like the sudden death of a loved one from a heart attack, accident, suicide, homicide, sudden infant death, or other unexpected cause. These volunteers work alongside other rescue personnel (fire, police, rescue) offering support, a compassionate ear, and resources to folks trying to cope in the wake of an incident that will forever change their lives. Crisis responders have been referred to as “emotional paramedics,” and I think that says it well. In creating my stories, I’m grateful for the assistance of U.S. Crisis Care. Here is a link: U.S. Crisis Care

4. As a former ER nurse who has had crisis chaplain training, what has been your most rewarding or memorable experience in the field? 

In my role as a CISM (Critical Incident Stress Management) peer counselor, I was part of team that ministered to fellow medical team members affected by work-related tragedy. We responded to (and conducted debriefings for) hospital staff after situations involving infant and child death, mass casualties, personal assaults, and accidental death (or suicide) of fellow team members. As often seen in my stories, medical (rescue, fire, law enforcement, and chaplaincy) workers are not immune to the heartbreak of tragedy. The clichĂ© of a self-protective, indifferent, “professionally distant” service provider couldn’t be further from the truth. We cry, too.

5. What was your inspiration for this particular book and the main characters, Taylor and Seth?

Nurse Taylor Cabot and Chaplain Seth Donovan were secondary characters, friends and volunteer team mates, in By Your Side. In this new story readers have the opportunity to learn more about them and follow their heart tugging journey. The setting is beautiful San Diego, California where, in opening scene, a small plane crashes onto the beach. The continuing story offers exciting medical drama, an in depth look a crisis chaplaincy, warm humor, romance . . . and a few tears (Kleenex advised).

6. What lessons or truths will your readers find in the pages of this novel?

The unifying message in Step by Step is one of forgiveness and healing, by allowing God’s loving plan to guide the way instead of stubbornly insisting on personal control.

7. As an author, what did you particularly enjoy about crafting this story?

Readers have come to expect animals in my stories, and in Step by Step the relationship between Taylor and her aging Golden Retriever, Hooper, was particularly poignant for me. I also got a kick out of showing Taylor’s (controlling) tendency toward checklists, calorie counting, and tracking her exercise by logging every “step”—I have a Fitbit bracelet, too!

8. What are some of the unique challenges of writing contemporary romance in a medical setting?

I think the challenge of the medical aspect is to provide realistic (and accurate) medical detail without talking over the heads of readers, but not talking down to them either. Because of the popularity of medical TV drama and the opportunity for people to “Google” their way into medical jargon, symptomology, and treatment adjuncts, readers are far more savvy these days. I try my best to sort of parachute my readers into the medical scenes, allowing them feel as if they are part of the team. As far as the romance aspect goes, while it’s true that team mates working in life-and-death situations often develop strong (and sometimes romantic) bonds, I can guarantee there is no TV-type trysts going on in hospital storage rooms!

9. Have you received any feedback from your fans on the Crisis Team series? How are they responding? 

The response (I’m grateful) has been very positive; readers love these compassionate crisis responders. And, of course, I’m so honored that Booklist chose this series’ first story, By Your Side, as a Top 10 Inspirational Book of 2015.

10. What is the best advice or encouragement you have received either personally or professionally?

I would have to say the best advice I’ve received both professionally and personally is also a tenet of crisis chaplaincy: to simply listen. We all (especially service providers) have a great need to “do and fix.” And certainly talk, advise . . . sometimes lecture. One of the biggest blessings, gifts, we can give another person is to listen, really hear them. It also speaks, of course, to one of my favorite verses: Psalm 46:10 “. . . Be still, and know that I am God . . . ”

11. What are you most proud of in your writing career?

I’m not sure “proud” is the word, but I think I’m most pleased (still pinching myself) that readers say my stories have touched their hearts, encouraged them at a time of despair-- even changed their lives. It’s powerful, humbling, amazing. I’m definitely proud of my publishing team—Tyndale House is beyond awesome.

12. What are some future projects you’re working on?

At this moment, I’m preparing for the redline edits on Maybe It’s You, the third Crisis Team story, scheduled for release in early 2017.

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Amanda G. Stevens: Far and Near

By Kelly Bridgewater

Home is not easy to find. Marcus, Lee, Austin, and Violet are starting over. Texas is supposed to be their sanctuary. But the Constabulary isn't ready to relinquish their worst offenders, legal jurisdiction or not. They've sent agents in undercover, and Marcus is the assigned target of one who has personal reasons to bring him back dead or alive. Marcus and Lee are ready to be whole again, to secure a home here-together. 
But wholeness and home might not mean what they thought. Stopping the Constabulary hunters will require more than Marcus knows how to give, and God is about to use him again in a way he doesn't expect. Enemies, emotions, the past, the future-everything must be faced in the quest for a true haven.

From Amazon
My Thoughts:

The Haven Seekers by Amanda G. Stevens is a wonderful dystopia series that makes me think about a time when the American government will make the Bible illegal to read and have. The government already wants to brainwash our children, so I wouldn’t be surprised if they try to take the Bible away from every American citizen. But until that day actually comes, Stevens creates a fantasy world that co-exists in our world. I have really enjoyed Seek and Hide, Found and Lost, and Take and Give. There was plenty of action and citizens running for their lives whether they believed in the Bible or not.

In her conclusion to the series, Far and Near, the story focuses more on PTSD and the affect it has on basically every person in the character from Marcus, Violet, and Lee. All of them have issues in their past that have changed their view on their current situation in Texas.  I saw how the remembrance of a horrible event came on in an instant with just a nudge of an event. It gave me more sympathy of the people who come back from the wars and have a huge deal time with normal everyday activities.

While the past three stories dealt more with the character running from the law and trying to free other Christians, Far and Near really doesn’t deal with that much. Yes, there is moments were Marcus is running from one of his captors who tortured him. But all the characters are in Texas, which is a safe haven from the government, so they aren’t really threaten much. The plot did feel much slower, but I wanted to see the ending, so I kept flipping through the pages. I wanted to find a satisfactory ending to a standoff with the Constabulary government, but Stevens didn’t go that way. The ending left me wanting more.

The final book in the Haven Seekers series by Amanda G. Stevens Far and Near felt less exciting the previous three but does show the affect of PTSD on people and the ending left something more to be desired.

I received a complimentary copy of Far and Near from David C. Cook Publishing and the opinions stated are all my own.

My Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

Purchase Far and Near

Friday, February 12, 2016

Meghan Carver + GIVEAWAY Winner!

By Kelly Bridgewater

* Winner of the physical copy of Under Duress is mentioned at the bottom of this blog post. Thank you for everyone who entered and created some noise for Meghan's book on social media. I know she appreciated it.

From Meghan
Criminals are trying to kidnap attorney Samantha Callahan's adopted daughter, Lily—and she has no idea why. So when bullets start flying, Samantha and Lily speed off in her car…and crash right into help. Ex-cop Reid Palmer is shocked when former law school classmate Samantha rear-ends his car and then climbs in with her daughter and begs him to drive. Now they are on the run, and Reid will do anything to protect them and figure out why kidnappers are after Lily. As they struggle to evade capture, Reid begins to realize that Samantha is more to him than just a woman in trouble. But with the enemies closing in and their motives finally revealed, will Reid be able to make sure justice is served?

My Thoughts:

My friend, Meghan Carver, had published her first book with the Love Inspired Suspense book line. I have read a number of these short books, so I know what to accept. I accept that a couple that will meet within the first chapter, overcome some struggles, and fall in love by the end of the book. Carver's book, Under Duress, accomplishes just that. 

The tension starts on the first page and doesn't let go really at all. From the first encounter with Samatha, I saw her chasing through the streets of Heartland Hills, racing to save her about to be daughter, Lilly. Luckily, she arrives just in time. For the rest of the book, Carver does not let up on the tension. There is a number of car chases and a bullet wound. Just like I like my suspense books. Non-stop action. 

In most of the Love Inspired Suspense books I have read, I always feel that the romance is too rushed. I know this is what the Harlequin books want, but I could do with a longer courtship. But following the rules of the publication, Carver makes her romance come to life between Samatha and Reid. They get their happily-ever-after.

I really enjoyed the background and job of Samantha. I, however, wished there would have been more of this type of information in the overall plot. Maybe Carver can continue Samantha and Reid's story, so we see more of their interaction. I would definitely like that. 

In conclusion, Meghan Carver's debut novel, Under Duress, will satisfy readers of the short novels Love Inspired Suspense. I can't wait to see what else Meghan creates. 

My Rating:  4 out of 5 stars

Purchase Under Duress

From Meghan
Meghan Carver's Bio:

By sixth grade, Meghan Carver knew she wanted to write. After earning a degree in English from Millikin University, she detoured to law school, earning a Juris Doctorate from Indiana University. She then worked in immigration law and taught Comp 101 at the local college. Now, she homeschools her six children with her college professor husband. When she isn’t writing, homeschooling, or planning the family’s next travel adventure, she is active in her church, sews for her kidlets, and reads.

Where to connect with Meghan:
Goodreads: Meghan Carver
Facebook: Meghan Carver

Okay, now for the moment you have all been waiting for. . .

The winner of the physical copy of Meghan Carver's Under Duress is TINA!!! Please email me or message me on Facebook, so I can get your email address and mail you your copy of Under Duress ASAP.

***If the winner doesn't claim it within 24 hours, I will pick another winner, so stay tuned.***


Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Melanie Dickerson: A Spy's Devotion

By Kelly Bridgewater

Description (From Amazon):

In England’s Regency era, manners and elegance reign in public life—but behind closed doors treason and deception thrive. Nicholas Langdon is no stranger to reserved civility or bloody barbarity. After suffering a battlefield injury, the wealthy, well-connected British officer returns home to heal—and to fulfill a dying soldier’s last wish by delivering his coded diary.
At the home of the Wilherns, one of England’s most powerful families, Langdon attends a lavish ball where he meets their beautiful and intelligent ward, Julia Grey. Determined to maintain propriety, he keeps his distance—until the diary is stolen and all clues lead to Julia’s guardian. As Langdon traces an evil plot that could be the nation’s undoing, he grows ever more intrigued by the lovely young woman. And when Julia realizes that England—and the man she is falling in love with—need her help, she finds herself caught in the fray. Will the two succumb to their attraction while fighting to save their country?

From Amazon

My Review: 

I have really enjoyed all of Melanie Dickerson’s Young Adult fairy tales stories. I love reading her take on stories that I have grown up and watched the Disney versions of. I really enjoyed how Dickerson placed all the stories interacting in setting and family members. I couldn't wait to try my hand at another Dickerson's novel. 

When I picked up the book, the first fifty percent of the novel had Julia and Nicholas going to ball after ball after ball, wandering who they were going to marry. Julia tried to arrange the good match for her cousin Phoebe without worrying about her own happiness. This reminded me of Emma by Jane Austen. If you haven’t read Emma, but seen Clueless with Alicia Silverstone, then you have the general idea of Emma.

The character's personality stuck out to me the most. Julia is a selfless woman who puts her own desires on hold, but she is strong in knowing what she wants. Brave enough to turn down a marriage match that her uncle wants her to make, but Julia hears rumors that he is bad with money and flirts all the time. Similarly, Nick is selfless is helping out the orphans and women who have been turned away by society. He is brave enough to hunt down the traitor’s and turn them into the government.

The mystery part, being a huge suspense and thrill reader, did not capture my attention. In the first part of the book, Nick does find the diary but doesn’t worry about it for quite a while. Only when he needs help from Julia does the mystery come to the forefront of the novel. After that, the novel picks up pace and ends quite nicely.

Dickerson does a good job at allowing me to truly see into and understand the character’s feelings. As Julia is debating whether or not to tell her cousin, Phoebe about a love match, I debated the occasion with her. Along with Dickerson allowing me to understand the feelings, she does a great job at keeping an even balance between the prose and dialogue. The setting was crisp and allowed me to see the world of Julia and Nick.

Fans of Jane Austen will rejoice for Melanie Dickerson’s A Spy Devotion because of its throwback to the famous writer’s style and concepts even though the mystery did not carry me through the novel. Fans of Jane Austen, Julie Klassen, and Dawn Crandall will love this book. I still anxiously wait for Dickerson’s fairy tales novels.

Side note: I really love the cover!

I received a complimentary copy of A Spy’s Devotion from Waterfall Press and the opinions stated are all my own.

My Rating:  4 out of 5 Stars


Sunday, February 7, 2016

Susan May Warren: You're the One That I Want

By Kelly Bridgewater

Description (From Amazon):

Owen Christiansen has been in a downward spiral since an injury ended his NHL career. But a job on an Alaskan crabbing boat offers a fresh start . . . maybe even a shot at romance with Elise “Scotty” McFlynn, the captain’s daughter.

Used to being one of the guys, to never relying on anyone, Scotty doesn’t believe in happily ever after—especially with someone like Owen. Her instinct is confirmed when Casper Christiansen arrives to drag his prodigal brother home, bringing with him a truckload of family drama—and even worse, the news that Casper is wanted for questioning in connection to a crime back in Minnesota.

But Owen is more than the sum of his mistakes, a truth both he and Scotty discover when she escorts both brothers to Deep Haven as part of her new job on the Anchorage police force. Thrust into an unfamiliar world of family, faith, and fresh starts, Scotty begins to see potential for a happy ending . . . if she’s brave enough to embrace it.
From Amazon

My Review:

Personally, I have loved everything Susan May Warren writes. She definitely knows how to capture her audience attention and drag them right into the story and allows them to suffer and rejoice right along with the characters. I have read every Christiansen family novel and novellas, which I have come to enjoy. Warren gave me what I expected from You’re the One That I Want, but this book did not hit it out of the park for me.

I have wanted to see Owen’s return to his family and his faith since he has always been running around, causing trouble in the background of all his sibling’s stories. I was glad to see that Owen would have a story to tell. I have come to love and enjoy spending time with all six of the Christiansen children, including their parents, John and Ingrid. Their stories encourage me as a mother of three boys. Anything my children do; they can seek God’s grace and return.

The ultimate theme in You’re The One That I Want is forgiveness and sacrifice. How much would someone actually do for you not to forgive them? Would you give up something you really feel nothing toward to allow someone else to seek what they want? Both ideas hit home for me, and I loved how Warren made me ponder them as I followed Owen and Chase on their journey.

As for the character of Scotty, Owen’s love interest, I really didn’t know if I liked her or not. She was not a girly girl, whom I can totally relate to, but I don’t think Scotty knew what she really wanted out of life. I think she needed to spend more time in self-discovery before she started a full blown relationship with Owen. Just because Owen started to explore his emotions for her didn’t mean that Scotty should have the same feelings.

Most of Warren’s plots keep me riveted to the page, but this novel did not. It took me a long time to finish the book. Even with this, I still enjoy Warren’s writing style. I really enjoy Warren’s description and how she drags me into the setting and made me feel like I was part of the Christiansen family, begging to join in the fight to save Chase.

Finally telling Owen’s prodigal return, Susan May Warren concludes her Christiansen family with great detail that I have come to respect and admire, but I had a hard time staying with the plot and the heroine wasn’t one that captured my imagination. No matter my tiny issues, I anxiously wait for another book by Susan May Warren. She is one of my favorite authors.

I received a complimentary copy of You’re the One that I Want from Tyndale Publishers and the opinions stated are all my own.

My Rating:  3.5 out of 5 Stars

Friday, February 5, 2016

Meghan Carver + Giveaway

By Kelly Bridgewater

I met Meghan at the 2013 ACFW conference in Indianapolis. We have met every year at the Indiana Chapter meetings of the ACFW. We have so much in common, like we LOVE snow and suspense books. Meghan is such a sweet lady, and I'm really glad to call her my friend. So of course, when she announced on Facebook that she signed a book with Love Inspired Suspense, I jumped for joy along with her. I couldn't wait to have her come on my blog and share her writing journey with everyone. Plus, I had to give away a copy of her book (that I bought). Anything to support my writer friends :).

Thank you for stopping by, Meghan. I'm really glad to have you here!!

About Meghan . . .

From Meghan
By sixth grade, Meghan Carver knew she wanted to write. After earning a degree in English from Millikin University, she detoured to law school, earning a Juris Doctorate from Indiana University. She then worked in immigration law and taught Comp 101 at the local college. Now, she homeschools her six children with her college professor husband. When she isn’t writing, homeschooling, or planning the family’s next travel adventure, she is active in her church, sews for her kidlets, and reads.

Where to connect with Meghan . . .

Goodreads: Meghan Carver
Facebook: Meghan Carver

Author Interview:
Meghan Carver

1.)    Tell us a little bit about yourself:  How did you start writing?  What has kept you writing?

I fell in love with writing in the sixth grade during an all-school essay-writing exercise. Perhaps, at first, I just loved the scratch of the pencil across the paper and the fact that the paper was stapled into a cute little Blue Book. (Who remembers those? J) But I also loved being able to express myself in a thoughtful way. Then, a few days later, a teacher handed it back to me with an encouraging comment written in red, and I was hooked.
2.)    What draws you into contemporary romance stories?

Definitely the characters. I love to find characters with whom I can identify, and a quirk or two or unique circumstances also help my interest.
3.)    My latest story can be described by these 5 adjectives . . .

I asked my 16yo this question, since she's one of my biggest supporters and always the first to read a new story, assuming she can wrestle it away from the 14yo. Her adjective choices are exciting, entertaining, amusing (in some spots), creative, encouraging.
4.)    Where did the idea for this novel come from?

From Meghan
By education, I'm an attorney, so I like to have characters who are attorneys. A lot of lawyer jokes are funny because they're sadly true, but lawyers can be terrific, God-fearing and God-serving people, too. I wanted to write a lawyer character who had had difficulty in the past but was still focused on God's will. I ended up with two such characters! The particular type of practice was not difficult to nail down. I didn't want a divorce attorney or a bankruptcy attorney or a defense lawyer. I'm adopted, so I immediately thought of adoption law, and I loved the idea of an adoption lawyer adopting a child.
 5.)    What is one take-away from your book that you hope readers identify with?

God gives second chances. His mercies are new every morning!
6.)    Is there any up-coming projects? What are they?

Of course there are upcoming projects! J Watch my blog or social media for announcements. 
7.)    What books are on your shelf or er-eader right now?

I decided this year to participate in a reading challenge, and I posted about it on my blog. [] I read about fifty books a year, although I'm always trying to add in more. (A pitiful amount compared to our host, Kelly! That girl can read!) Most books I decide as I go, but there are always Love Inspired books in the hopper. I also have queued up To Kill a Mockingbird, Jenny and the Cat Club (a children's classic recommended by my 10yo), and a bunch of novella collections.
Thank you so much for being my guest today, Meghan! I loved getting to know you better and can't wait to read Under Duress. Readers, if you haven't read any of any Love Inspired Suspense novels, you're missing out. They are GREAT books that will appeal to adults and young adults. I have LOVED every single one that I have read. 

Okay, my reader friends, don't miss this opportunity to get your own copy of Under Duress. I am generously offering a copy of Under Duress to one person (limited to U.S. residents only). To enter: just leave a comment, and share this link on social media for more chances to win with my name in the comments, so I can count the shares and put your name more than once in the drawing. The contest runs until Thursday,February 11th at noon. I will pick a winner on Thursday, February 11th and announce it here on the blog Friday, February 12th along with my review of Meghan's book. :)

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Dani Pettrey: Cold Shot

By Kelly Bridgewater

Description (From Amazon):

In college, Griffin McCray and his four best friends had their lives planned out. Griffin and Luke Gallagher would join the Baltimore PD. Declan Gray would head to the FBI and Parker Mitchell would go on to graduate school as a crime scene analyst. But then Luke vanished before graduation and their world--and friendships--crumbled.

Now Griffin is a park ranger at Gettysburg, having left life as a SWAT-team sniper when a case went bad. The job is mostly quiet--until the day he captures two relic hunters uncovering skeletal remains near Little Round Top. Griffin just wants the case to go away, but charming forensic anthropologist Finley Scott determines that the body is modern--a young social justice lawyer missing since spring--and all evidence points to the work of an expert sniper. When FBI agent Declan Gray takes over the case, past and present collide. Griffin soon realizes he'll need to confront some of the darkest days of his life if he--and those he cares about--are going to escape a downward spiral of murder that crosses continents.

From Amazon
My Review:

I really enjoyed Dani Pettrey’s Alaskan Courage series and couldn’t wait to read her Chesapeake Valor series. I like my romantic suspense books to have great characters who will repeat in future novels, so I can see how they’re doing, but I like the suspense to be the main focus, not the romance. Pettrey does a good job at creating a story that had me on the chase right alongside the characters who wanted to solve the identity of the dead body.

As I mentioned earlier, characters can make or break a novel for me. If I don’t empathize with the characters pretty quickly in the novel, then I may put the book down. Griffin McCray, a Park Ranger, is a strong hero who wants to help Finley Scott, a forensic anthropologist, solve the case of the dead body found in the shallow grave. Finley and Griffin both have dark moments in their past that they are afraid to share with each other, but eventually they do share. A word of warning, there are moments when all of Griffin’s friends from high school come on the scene, and I get confused. Who is what? What are their jobs? What are their relationships to each other? I would have to go back and read it again, but slower to understand the connection. Way too many characters to keep track of.

The action. This is what I read a story for. I liked to be taken on a journey and see if I can figure out who did the deed before the author reveals it at the ninety percent point in the story. Usually, I’m pretty good at figuring out who did it. In this story, I was confused as the moment played out on who the bad guy was and the motivation behind his actions. Maybe I need to go back and read it again. As for the pace of the story, it does have Griffin, Finley, and the numerous other characters asking questions of people who are connected with the victim. It moved pretty rapidly, and I enjoyed the story. Even the romance was rolled back, just like I enjoy.

Chesapeake Bay is the setting of the story. Pettrey did show me where I was when something was important, but for the most part, this story could have happened on the Gulf Coast or in California. Pettrey didn’t spend a lot of time cementing the reader to the setting. I’m not saying this is a bad thing. I still enjoyed the story, but her description ability is not like Julie Klassen’s who really welcomes me into her settings.

Much anticipated, Dani Pettrey’s beginning to her new Chesapeake Valor series Cold Shot is an exciting ride with a hero and a heroine that I can’t wait to see more of. I can’t wait to read Book two when it is available.

I received a complimentary copy of Cold Shot from Bethany House Publishers and the opinions stated are all my own.

My Rating:  3.5 out of 5 Stars

Purchase Cold Shot