Category Archives: Romance

The Governess of Highland Hall by Carrie Turansky

The Governess of Highland Hall cover artTitle: The Governess of Highland Hall

Author: Carrie Turansky

Publisher: WaterBrook Multnomah

Book Description:

Worlds lie between the marketplaces of India and the halls of a magnificent country estate like Highland Hall. Will Julia be able to find her place when a governess is neither upstairs family nor downstairs help?

Missionary Julia Foster loves working alongside her parents, ministering and caring for young girls in India. But when the family must return to England due to illness, she readily accepts the burden for her parents’ financial support. Taking on a job at Highland Hall as governess, she quickly finds that teaching her four privileged, ill-mannered charges at a grand estate is more challenging than expected, and she isn’t sure what to make of the estate’s preoccupied master, Sir William Ramsey.

Widowed and left to care for his two young children and his deceased cousin Randolph’s two teenage girls, William is consumed with saving the estate from the financial ruin. The last thing he needs is any distraction coming from the kindhearted-yet-determined governess who seems to be quietly transforming his household with her persuasive personality, vibrant prayer life, and strong faith.

While both are tending past wounds and guarding fragile secrets, Julia and William are determined to do what it takes to save their families—common ground that proves fertile for unexpected feelings. But will William choose Julia’s steadfast heart and faith over the wealth and power he needs to secure Highland Hall’s future?

Review:

Julia Foster has spent the last twelve years in India, working with her missionary parents. Due to her father’s illness, she and her family have returned to England. Now Julia must work to support her parents. She becomes the governess at Highland Hall, despite her new employer’s reservations. Sir William Ramsey is desperate for a good governess for his two young children and his teenaged cousins, as well as a way to save the large estate he inherited. Although he finds a good governess, albeit a rather young one, he still can’t seem to find a way to raise enough money to save Highland Hall. When a young American heiress enters the picture, she offers the money he needs for the estate, but is he willing to forsake love and marry just to save Highland Hall?

From the start, Julia was a rather perfect character. Even in her flaws she showed perfection. She has a habit of speaking her mind rather bluntly at times, but she instantly regrets speaking so plainly when she would have been better off thinking a little longer before saying anything. Her pious nature, while admirable, becomes somewhat grating after a while. So does the fact that she instantly becomes the favorite person of nearly every major character and appears to be something of a superhero in that others often comment that they don’t know what they would do without her and that things are ever so much better now that she’s there. While this could be believable, when it happens a week into the people knowing her, it’s a little overblown.

Then there’s William, baronet and master of Highland Hall. His main concern throughout most of the book is money and how he is going to raise enough to pay the ridiculously high death duties for inheriting the estate. His other big concern is how society will view him and his family and whether he can maintain Highland Hall so he will be acceptable to the upper class. While his money woes make sense, it doesn’t make sense that a man so concerned with appearances would share his financial difficulties with so many people, including his newly hired governess and the overbearing aunt of his two young cousins, a woman he can’t stand.

The rest of the characters are a mixed bag, ranging from lovely yet timid to downright unbearable. The housekeeper in particular is a character I kept hoping would get fired. William’s sister Sarah could have benefitted from her own book, but her story did play a significant role in this one.

Between William’s constant worry about finances and appearances, Julia’s extreme piety mixed with a longing to return to India, and all the drama of the servants, it’s a wonder anything ever got resolved. The story dragged on with the same concerns repeated over and over and the same general nasty attitudes shown time and again until I wondered if the story would ever end. Even when the big conflict appeared, it only served to strengthen the concerns and attitudes already shown.

The message of faith and trusting God is a strong one. At times, it felt as though I was being preached to, but at other times the characters’ faith felt genuine. Honestly, I preferred the head gardener’s quiet faith to Julia’s in-your-face version, but just as in real life, each person has their own way of living out their love for the Lord.

It is a well-written historical novel that does an excellent job of depicting the time period and the struggles faced by many families, as well as the occasional strife between servants and family. If you enjoy novels set in the time just before World War I, you may enjoy this one. Unfortunately, as much as I love Downton Abbey and stories of a similar vein, this just was not the book for me.

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Filed under Christian, Fiction, Historical, Romance, Series, WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group

Shattered by Dani Pettrey

Shattered cover artTitle: Shattered (Alaskan Courage Book 2)

Author: Dani Pettrey

Publisher: Bethany House

Book Description:

When her prodigal brother Reef’s return to Yancey, Alaska, is shattered by his arrest for murder, Piper McKenna is determined to protect him.

Deputy Landon Grainger loves the McKennas like family, but he’s also sworn to find the truth. And he knows those closest to you have the power to deceive you the most. With his sheriff pushing for a quick conviction, some unexpected leads complicate the investigation, and pursuing the truth puts Landon’s career in jeopardy.

When Piper launches her own investigation, Landon realizes he must protect her from herself–and whatever complications await as the two follow clues deep into Canada’s rugged backcountry. Not only does their long friendship seem to be turning into something more, but this dangerous case is becoming deadlier with each step.

Review:

Certain her brother is innocent of killing a snowboarder, despite the town’s belief to the contrary, Piper McKenna hunts for the real murderer. Her search infuriates her older brother’s best friend Landon Grainger, who happens to be a member of the town’s law enforcement. As more clues surface that Piper’s brother may be as innocent as she claims, she and Landon must find a way to work together to unravel the increasingly murky mystery surrounding the murder without becoming victims themselves.

From the very first page, Pettrey draws the readers into the suspense and drama surrounding the murder and the search to find the killer. The suspense carries throughout the book and is intertwined with traditional elements of a romance novel as Landon and Piper try to solve the mystery of their own feelings while looking for a murderer. Watching the characters follow their hearts and stumble along, all the while trying to find or cling to faith in God and each other, gave the story a sense of realism that some novels lack. No one is perfect and life is full of challenges and heartache, something this book shows beautifully.

I haven’t read the first book in this series yet, but the story was easy to follow without prior knowledge of the McKenna family or the events in the previous book. At first the sheer number of characters was a bit overwhelming, but I quickly became acquainted with them and was easily able to keep track of who they were and how they were connected to each other. Many of the McKenna siblings, as well as Landon, seemed to feel the need to always be in charge, which created stumbling blocks when they needed to work together, but I was impressed with the growth shown by all of the characters by the end of the story.

Overall, this is an amazing book that I found difficult to put down. The way the author balanced the suspense and the romance while setting up for the next book in the series impressed me and left me wanting to read more of her work. If you’re a fan of romantic suspense novels, you’ll love this book.

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Against the Tide by Elizabeth Camden

Against the Tide cover artTitle: Against the Tide

Author: Elizabeth Camden

Publisher: Bethany House

Book Description:

After a childhood rampant with uncertainty, Lydia Pallas has carved out a perfect life for herself. She spends her days within sight of the bustling Boston Harbor, where her skill with languages has landed her an enviable position as a translator for the U.S. Navy.

Lydia’s talents bring her to the attention of Alexander Banebridge, a mysterious man in need of a translator. Driven by a campaign to end the opium trade, Bane is coolly analytical and relentless in his quest. He cannot afford to fall for Lydia and must fight the bittersweet love growing between them.

When Bane’s enemies gain the upper hand, he is forced to turn to Lydia for help. Determined to prove her worth, Lydia soon discovers that carrying out Bane’s mission will test her wits and her courage to the very limits.

When forces conspire against them from without and within, can their love survive?

Review:

Set in Boston in the early 1890s, Against the Tide deals with the problems of opium smuggling, the use of opium in popular cure-alls, and the difficulties facing women in need of employment. The story is told in a manner that makes it easy to relate to the characters and the challenges they face. Ms. Camden’s vibrant writing draws the reader into the story and brings the characters to life. Although I loved the book and the characters, at times it felt like I was reading a contemporary story set at the end of the nineteenth century. The book didn’t have the historical feel that I’m used to in historical novels, but that was a minor issue that didn’t really affect my enjoyment of the story. The characters and the plot, as well as Ms. Camden’s vivid writing style, made it easy to get lost in the pages of this book.

If you enjoy novels with tumultuous romance, danger, and faith, I recommend reading Against the Tide. Be prepared to stay up late because if you’re like me, once you start reading you’ll find the book impossible to put down.

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Filed under Bethany House Publishers, Christian, Fiction, Historical, Mystery/Suspense, Romance

The Trouble With Charlie by Catherine Bennett

The Trouble With Charlie cover artTitle: The Trouble with Charlie

Author: Catherine Bennett

Publisher: Astraea Press

Book Description:

Love. Desire. A psycho bent on revenge. But can Charlie Reynolds recognize the most dangerous of the three?

Since being out on her own at eighteen, Charlotte “Charlie” Reynolds is a street-smart “good” girl who hides her desire for love and security behind her feisty and independent personality. She just never expected a more noxious hero than wealthy, self-consumed Evan Gardner, the CEO and founder of Valley Tech., a successful software company in Los Angeles. From the moment Evan rescues her from an apparent random attack, their attraction for each other bubbles just below the surface of all-out passion.

Review:

Charlie Reynolds is a woman from the poor side of town. Evan Gardner lives in an exclusive neighborhood and owns a software company. They meet when Charlie is attacked during her usual morning run through Evan’s neighborhood. After learning about her circumstances, he offers her a job as au pair for his eight-year-old daughter, Abigail. Charlie realizes it’s an offer she can’t refuse. What follows is an unlikely, reluctant romance between two stubborn hearts. Can Evan and Charlie overcome their prejudices and past hurts in order to make a relationship work?

Although touted as a romantic suspense, The Trouble With Charlie seems more like a romance with some suspense. There are a few incidents that endanger Charlie, but the fear and apprehension each causes is soon lost in the tempestuous relationship between Charlie and Evan. The development of that relationship is an adventure in itself, and poor versus rich prejudices rear their heads quite often. The advice and opinions of friends on both sides only serve to fan the flames of conflict between Evan and Charlie in a way that is vaguely reminiscent of the movie Pretty in Pink.

Despite the on again, off again  progress made by both Evan and Charlie toward letting go of preconceived notions and accepting their attraction to each other, two of the main driving forces that consistently bring them together are anger and frustration. Nearly every argument ends in a kiss and/or a realization of how much they care about each other—a realization both tend to keep to themselves instead of sharing and easing the angst between them.

One character, however, experiences consistent growth—Evan’s daughter, Abigail. The child thrives under Charlie’s care, and Abigail’s relationship with her father steadily improves. Abigail is also a unifying factor in Evan and Charlie’s relationship since both love her and want the best for her.

If you are a fan of tumultuous romance with just enough suspense to make you wonder who the villain could be, I recommend The Trouble With Charlie.

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Filed under Astraea Press, Fiction, Mystery/Suspense, Romance

The Picture by Stephanie Taylor

The Picture cover artTitle: The Picture

Author: Stephanie Taylor

Publisher: Astraea Press

Book Description:

Sophie lives her life as a hospice nurse running from her past and over-compensating for her sins. She wants nothing more than to help others the way someone once helped her. But she never expected to get so attached to one of her patients.

Nicholas is suddenly looking for more meaning in his life than money, fast women and flashing lights. Life as a rocker has left him empty.  Only Emily filled the gaping hole in his heart and with her death, his soul is broken into pieces.

When two lives collide, Sophie and Nicholas know they’ll never be the same.  Together, they try to figure out a message Emily has left behind.  Can they succeed before the realities of life tear them apart?

Review:

Nicholas and Sophie are two hurting, weary people brought together by a shared love for a little girl who lost her battle with cancer. The explosive chemistry between them and the potent sexual tension alternately draws them together and threatens to push them apart. They must both learn to let go of the past and embrace the future, but are they willing to risk their hearts?

This book is packed with emotion and takes the reader on a roller-coaster ride of joy, grief, anger, love, and everything in between. From the very start, Ms. Taylor takes the reader on a journey of healing and discovery, never once shying away from the difficulties involved in such a trip. If you’re looking for a lighthearted romance that never goes deeper than the surface, this isn’t it. The Picture digs deep, faces difficult subjects, and realistically portrays the ups and downs of overcoming past hurts to begin a new relationship. Ms. Taylor’s vivid writing style will pull you into the story and have you laughing and crying right along with Sophie and Nicholas. I highly recommend this book to anyone who loves clean romances that pull at your heartstrings.

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Serpent of Moses by Don Hoesel

Serpent of Moses cover artTitle: Serpent of Moses

Author: Don Hoesel

Publisher: Bethany House

Book Description:

Moses built and lifted up the brass serpent, healing the afflicted Israelites of snakebites.

King Hezekiah called the serpent Nehushtan. Long thought destroyed, it’s been buried for millennia, secreted under the region’s shifting sands.

Now the Israeli government wants it back and they will stop at nothing to get their hands on it. Yet they’re not the only ones who covet the Nehushtan.

Archaeologist Jack Hawthorne travels to Libya intent on recovering the sacred object, but one does not cross the Mossad and expect to walk away without a fight. Jack and his friends must find the priceless “snake of brass upon a pole” before those who are also hunting it find them… and silence them forever.

Review:

Archaeologist Jack Hawthorne is on a quest to find the Nehushtan, the brass serpent staff of Moses. Unfortunately, he’s not the only one who wants it. Mercenaries, the Mossad, simple villagers…everyone seems to want to lay claim to this biblical relic that has rested undisturbed in Libya for centuries. When it’s brought to light, however, Jack finds himself in a world of danger and relying on friends scattered around the world.

Fraught with danger and adventure, Serpent of Moses is an action-packed novel with a hint of romance, a few lessons in biblical history, and plenty of intrigue. From London to Libya and beyond, the characters hop from one country to the next without a second thought, despite the danger the journey places them in. It’s only after men with guns appear that anyone considers the risk to their lives, and by then it’s too late to do anything but continue on and pray God wants them to live through the next step.

Although presented as a stand-alone novel, there are many references to Jack Hawthorne’s past expeditions. In particular, one that took him and his girlfriend Esperanza Habilla to Australia and ended badly. Enough details are finally given in the book for the reader to realize that expedition must be the subject of a previous book by Don Hoesel. Without reading that book first, however, the reader is left wondering what they missed when the story is repeatedly referenced in Serpent of Moses. There’s also the little matter of the characters frequently “intuiting” what others are thinking, as well as several instances of head-hopping (skipping from one character’s thoughts to another’s and back). These things were distracting, along with the feeling of being an outside observer rather than a participant in the story.

Serpent of Moses has an interesting plot and more twists and turns than strictly necessary for an exciting story, but the author managed to tie everything together well while connecting this book to a previous one. The few instances where the wrong location is mentioned in reference to an event in the story can be overlooked without too much trouble.

If you like suspenseful books with adventure, danger, and a bit of archaeology, Serpent of Moses could be the right book for you.

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His Chosen Bride by Sherry Gloag

His Chosen Bride cover artTitle: His Chosen Bride

Author: Sherry Gloag

Publisher: Astraea Press

Book Description:

Prince Henri Gasquet is happy to let his father, the king, choose his bride for him, until he meets Monica Latimer.

Monica Latimer is not prepared to risk letting any man close enough to learn about her Gift. A gift that normally has men running for the hills when they find out about it.

What will happen when both mindsets are challenged?

Review:

Henri Gasquet is forced to take a holiday from his duties as heir to the throne. Far from pleased with suddenly having nothing to do, he visits his brother and sister-in-law in Scotland. The one redeeming part of the trip—and one of the most frustrating—is the appearance of Monica Latimer, the woman he hasn’t been able to forget since the day he first met her. Can he win over Monica’s heart and accept her special gift? Can Monica learn to trust Henri and break through the royal wall he’s built around his heart?

This is a short contemporary romance filled with contention between the hero and heroine. Although portrayed as being unable to resist each other, they rarely have a conversation that ends without an argument or hurt feelings. Yet there is still an undeniable attraction that keeps the reader hoping they’ll look past their fears and see how much they care for each other. The fact that they have trouble keeping their hands off each other also shows the developing romance.

While this book was an enjoyable read, some scenes felt cut short. This was disappointing, but didn’t detract from the strength of the romance between Henri and Monica. I also would have liked to see some of the events that were mentioned but never shown. The sweet ending makes up for some of this and put a smile on my face. All in all, His Chosen Bride was an enjoyable read.

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