“Safe in His Arms” by Colleen Coble

 
 
Sometimes it takes a stranger to see you as you really are.
Born and raised on sprawling Texas land, Margaret O’Brien prides herself on her competence as a rancher. But her father believes she’s made for more than just dawn-to-dusk work. He wants her to have the love of a good man, to raise children, to build a life. But Margaret gave up such dreams years ago. She’s convinced no man would have her, that the ranch is her life now.
So when Margaret’s father hires Daniel Cutler as a new foreman, she’s frustrated and suspicious. Then an overheard conversation links him with a gang of bank robbers, and she’s downright worried. Daniel swears he’s not involved, but Margaret’s not convinced. She knows the man still has secrets. But would a criminal be so kind and talk so convincingly of his faith? As a series of tragic “accidents” threatens all she holds dear, Margaret must decide what to trust: her own ears, her best judgment . . . or what her heart keeps telling her. 
 
There is much more to Safe in His Arms than meets the eye – just like there’s more to Margaret O’Brien than most people see.  Coble masterfully portrays how one woman can be torn between visible reality and what her heart instincts are telling her, but there’s much more to this story.  Coble adds layer after layer of emotional complications to the plot, fueling the fire with many twists  and turns.  The issues are true to life and paint feelings into every paragraph.  
 
Most of us make assumptions based on how other people look, at least to some degree, but O’Brien receives these more than most.  What makes this worse is that she has taken these negative assumptions to heart and now believes them.  We say that beauty is irrelevant, but in reality we all want to be attractive in some way.  O’Brien’s shunned femininity for practicality’s sake, in the hopes of pleasing her father, but as she develops her relationship with Daniel Cutler she begins to see herself in a new light.  The lessons that O’Brien learns are ones that are valuable for us all.
 
Safe in His Arms is full of these deep lessons all wrapped up in the guise of a calico-wearing western.  The suspense builds with each eavesdropped conversation and compliment from Cutler, while Margaret’s kind friends lend helping hands and wisdom.  
 
I think that this would make a perfect book club selection.  I would love to talk about it with a group of friends preferably over something chocolate-y.  I love the leading ladies that Coble has created for the first two books in this series.  I can’t wait to make a new friend in the next.
 
If you’d like to read other reviews on this tour, click here.  To make your purchase now and receive Safe in His Arms in the mail, click here.
 
 
Best-selling author Colleen Coble’s novels have won or finaled in awards ranging from the Best Books of Indiana, ACFW Book of the Year, RWA’s RITA, the Holt Medallion, the Daphne du Maurier, National Readers’ Choice, and the Booksellers Best. She has nearly 2 million books in print and writes romantic mysteries because she loves to see justice prevail. Colleen is CEO of American Christian Fiction Writers and is a member of Romance Writers of America. She lives with her husband Dave in Indiana.
Find out more about Colleen at http://www.colleencoble.com/.
 
I received a free copy of Safe in His Arms from LitFuse Publicity in exchange for an honest review.

“Rosemary Cottage” by Colleen Coble

Amy came to Rosemary Cottage to grieve, to heal, maybe even find love. But there’s a deadly undertow of secrets around Hope Island . . .

The charming Rosemary Cottage on the beach offers Amy Lange respite she needs to mourn her brother, Ben. She’s even thinking of moving her midwife practice to the Outer Banks community. It’s always been a refuge for her and her family. She also wants to investigate Ben’s disappearance at sea. Everyone blames a surfing accident, but Amy has reason to wonder.

Coast Guard officer Curtis Ireland has lost a sibling too. His sister, Gina, was run down by a boat, leaving him to raise her infant daughter. If anyone knew who little Raine’s father was, Curtis could lose his beloved niece. Yet he can’t help being drawn to Hope Beach’s new midwife, Amy. He even agrees to help her investigate what happened to both Ben and Gina.

Can two grieving people with secrets find healing on beautiful Hope Island? Or will their quest for truth set them at odds with each other . . . and with those who will go to any length to keep hidden things hidden?


You’ll have an inkling of who should fall in love with whom from the very first chapter of this book – but they won’t.  Better yet, you’ll fall in like with them, and you’ll keep turning those pages because you want good things for them – and they’re not readily forthcoming.  You won’t get bored, though, because you won’t be able to predict all the twists and turns in this story, which is what master storyteller Colleen Coble planned all along.

You won’t care that you can’t figure it out, because you’ll keep thinking that you have.  You’ll be able to piece a few bits of information together, sure that you’re on the right trail, only to have another mudslide come along and wipe out half of your supposition.  You’ll have to start all over again with the new information that the sliding mud uncovered, but that’s okay – you’ll be excited again to be on the trail of the answer.

With each page turned, your heart will become just a bit more attached to Hope Beach and its occupants.  With each patient of Amy’s you’ll pray for a safe delivery and for Curtis to come home after another daring sea rescue.  You’ll want Raine to be safe and for Heather’s motives to come to light and for someone to tell the lovebirds to get with it already and see the Cupid flying about overhead.

You’ll want to – but you can’t.  

They’re only characters in a book.

Only you forgot that.

It’s that good.

Click here to read other reviews on this bloggy hop or here to purchase your own copy now.

 
Best-selling author Colleen Coble’s novels have won or finaled in awards ranging from the Best Books of Indiana, ACFW Book of the Year, RWA’s RITA, the Holt Medallion, the Daphne du Maurier, National Readers’ Choice, and the Booksellers Best. She has nearly 2 million books in print and writes romantic mysteries because she loves to see justice prevail. Colleen is CEO of American Christian Fiction Writers and is a member of Romance Writers of America. She lives with her husband Dave in Indiana.

Learn more about Colleen: http://colleencoble.com/
 
I received a free copy of Rosemary Cottage from LitFuse Publicity in exchange for an honest review.

“River’s Call” by Melody Carlson

River's Call
Newlywed Anna Larsen is finally living her dream – when her college student daughter Lauren becomes pregnant.  Lauren marries and begins to raise her daughter Sarah while living with her husband and paternal grandmother.  Though only a few hours’ from Anna, Lauren becomes distant and remote.  Anna develops a special bond with Sarah, however, during a rare summer visit, and it is strengthened during annual summer visits – until Lauren comes home in tears and Sarah subsequently disappears.  As Anna grows her riverside inn on inherited family land, can she become the strong matriarch of her family and support her lost family?
 
Honestly, I might have put this book down soon after beginning if it weren’t for my commitment to this review; the characters’ drama unfolded slowly at first, and I found it difficult to develop a personal connection to them – perhaps because this is the second in the series, and I have not read the first.
 
I kept reading, however, and it wasn’t long until I couldn’t wait to see how Anna would hold her family together.  I admire her strength, her conviction, her dedication to her family and her Native American roots.  Anna had a close relationship with her grandmother in her younger years, which I could identify with – I spent lots of time with my great-grandparents, learning the ways of their childhood, when I was a child myself.
 
But as much as I loved Anna, I couldn’t stand Lauren.  She was selfish, self-centered, a disengaged mother, and I spent much of the book wanting to reach through the pages and shake her.  That type of self-absorption completely disgusts me, and I couldn’t imagine having Anna’s patience in dealing with her.  A desire to learn her trade secrets made me read faster, as did sorrow for Sarah.  I hoped that she wouldn’t fall through the cracks of her unusual family and run into trouble.  
 
So by the time I finished the book, staying up too late to finish it, I was in love with the characters and fascinated by the plot.  Carlson wrote an epic story on a simple scale, and its sweetness despite hardship is inspiring.  
 
If you’re looking for hardcore suspense or action, then this may not be the book for you.  However, if you’re a fan of angst and drama, of epic works and seeing how decisions follow families through the ages, how culture and trends can play into family decisions, you shouldn’t miss River’s Call.
 
There is a third book in the Inn at Shining Waters series.  I can’t wait to read it – and I’m definitely tracking down the first one.  
 

I received a free copy of River’s Call from Glass Road in exchange for an honest review.

“The Return of Cassandra Todd” by Darrel Nelson

The Return of Cassandra Todd  -     
        By: Darrel Nelson


Cassandra Todd—part of the popular crowd and friends with those who taunted him in high school—re-enters Turner Caldwell’s life unexpectedly. With her son in tow, she begs for his help in eluding her abusive husband. Entangled in the dangerous situation, Turner is forced to rely on every survival skill he learned back at a youth camp. But will it be enough?

The premise of this book is fascinating.  Frog-turned-prince stumbles across the girl on whom he once had a secret crush, a girl who was friends with all of the most popular kids in high school.  The same popular kids who tormented him both cruelly and endlessly.  Now she’s the helpless one and he has the power to choose whether to help her – or not.  Only this time, the consequences aren’t only humiliation, but life and death.  Would you help a person in this position?  It’s easy to say that yes, we would help anyone who is in grave danger, but what about someone who once helped to make your own life miserable?  What about if helping meant putting your own life on the line?

The setting was exquisite.  As a former camp counselor and director, I love being outside, and Nelson painted beautiful pictures of nature in this book.  The descriptions of the Colorado forests were made even more majestic by the simplicity of Turner’s usual motel home.  From extreme survival skills to cave camp-outs and man-killing mudslides, you’ll want to become a scout after reading Cassandra Todd.

The suspense level is riveting.  You won’t be able to predict a single move in Cassandra Todd.  You’ll continually readjust your assumption, being sure that you know what’s going on, but you’ll have misjudged it each time.  The obvious assumption is never right, and that’s both rare and exciting.  The Return of Cassandra Todd is both fascinating and totally unpredictable.

Few books can claim that they have it all, but The Return of Cassandra Todd does:  danger, suspense, spiritual lessons, life choices, romance, and adventure.  It won’t matter which one of these is your favorite; Cassandra Todd will reel you in.

I received a free copy of The Return of Cassandra Todd from Glass Road Media & Management in exchange for an honest review.

“Return to Me” by Lynn Austin

Return To Me

After decades of exile, the prophesies are coming true–King Cyrus has declared the Jews may return to Jerusalem. Iddo, a priest, is sure this is a sign of God’s renewed favor. For too long they’ve remained in Babylon, and many, including Iddo’s sons, are losing the faith that sets them apart. And so only a few choose to leave everything to return–return to their home and their God.

Nothing about their journey to the Promised Land is easy. As hardships mount, even the faithful, like Iddo’s beloved wife, Dinah, question the sacrifice of following God’s leading. Zechariah, Iddo’s oldest grandson, feels torn between his grandfather’s ancient beliefs and the family they left behind. But one life-changing encounter with the Holy One gives him insight that will change Zechariah–and history–forever.
Better than any book I’ve ever read, Return to Me answers the question, “What was it like to live then?”   Austin describes the fear, reservations, and confusion felt by the Israelites as they leave Babylon after a 70-year exile and return to Jerusalem to rebuild the Temple.  Never have I thought that the Israelites might have any doubt about leaving the city of their long enslavement, nor that they might compare this prison term to the time they spent in Egypt, but Austin sets up a scenario where both happen – and makes it completely realistic and understandable.  The temptations to intermarry with neighboring clans, worship pagan gods, and bend God’s rules become clear and logical from the standpoint of these characters.  While a fictionalized version, it makes sense to think about how and why these Israelites behaved as they did, and this explanation helps to understand their choices.
When I turned the first page of this book, I thought I’d get to read about Daniel, which made me sit up straight and read faster.  I’m fascinated with the way that Daniel refused to change a thing about his faith practices with God in spite of the scary situations all around him.
Reading about Iddo and Zechariah might have been even better, though.
I love the way that scripture is carried throughout the story.  I love how Austin’s research is evident as she takes what we know and fills in the gaps to create a plausible story of love, temptation, forgiveness, and redemption.
Zechariah’s story is inspiring.  As a priest, he would have studied the scriptures and known them well – but I never thought much about that before.  How did they study?  Who taught them?  How did they learn?  The memorization implied in the book is impressive – and makes me want to sit down and get to work.  
It is always hard to get to the end of a good book and know that I must leave the characters for a while.  It has been a long time since I have been this sad to turn the last page, however.  While we know the ultimate end to the Israelite story, I am enthralled at the details brought to life within these pages – and I can’t wait until the sequel is released.
Lynn Austin
Bestselling author Lynn Austin has sold more than one million copies of her books worldwide. She is an eight-time Christy Award winner for her historical novels, as well as a popular speaker at retreats and conventions. Lynn and her husband have raised three children and live near Chicago.
I received a free copy of Return to Me from LitFuse Publicity in exchange for an honest review.

“Resurrect” by David Stephens

Book 1 in the ResurrectTrilogy.


Preventing his burning fighter from crashing into a neighborhood, Navy Commander Josh Logan ejects … too late.
Critically injured, he’s offered a new life and mission exploit highly classified military technology to stop a global cataclysm. The price? He’ll be dead to everyone he knows.
He wakes in a city hospital with a genetically enhanced body and no identity. With the help of his brilliant, Neuro ICU nurse, and guided by nothing but a voice, he must infiltrate the military-industrial complex to develop the world’s most powerful weapon … to protect humanity? 
 
Did you ever wonder what would happen if Dee Henderson wrote sci fi?  I’m pretty sure you’d get a book that would read a lot like Resurrect.  Technical but with deadline drama, Stephens writes an action-packed thriller, and that’s exactly why I liked it.  I’m not a huge fan of the technical stuff, and I admit that when a paragraph moved in that direction my eyes began to skim, but the suspense more than makes up for that.
 
This isn’t your average Cliffhanger, though, and Josh Logan isn’t Stallone.  With a totally new body and a mysterious voice that only he can hear to guide him through this mission, there’s definitely an element of the Twilight Zone in this story.  As it progresses, however, the story takes on a more prophetic and less out there tone.
 
That was important to me.  I like a good sci fi book, but the best authors make their premise sound so close to reality that it seems their premise just might come true, and that’s what Stephens has done here.  It becomes totally believable that a scientist might be resurrected from the dead to save our planet from a collision with a giant comet, and that he could do so with virtually no resources.  The way in which Stephens makes this happen, combined with his obvious technical expertise and flowing writing style, makes for a thrilling journey through these pages – one that you won’t want to end.
 
You can purchase your own copy of Resurrect here – and if you do so today, you’ll be entered to win a Kindle and a chance to be on the set of this movie!
 
 
A Navy fighter pilot with hundreds of aircraft carrier landings, Commander David E Stevens holds degrees from Cornell and the University of Michigan with graduate work in astrophysics. He test piloted new fighters and received an aviation patent. With a Top Secret clearance, Dave served as Strike Operations Officer for the Persian Gulf during Desert Storm and led classified defense programs. He’s traveled to over two dozen countries.

 

Find out more about David E. at http://www.resurrecttrilogy.com/.
 
I received a free copy of Resurrect from LitFuse Publicity in exchange for an honest review.

“Remembering You” by Tricia Goyer

TV producer Ava Ellington can’t ignore her grandfather’s last wish:  to accompany him to Europe for a tour of World War II battle sites.  Uninterested in his old wartime memories but desperate for a good story to save her career, Ava agrees to go.  The arrival of her first love, who just happens to be an old war buddy’s grandson, further complicates the trip as travel plans go awry and old war mysteries demand attention after 60 long years.  Can Ava find closure in the past that will give her hope for the future?

I have always loved history, and the World War II era has fascinated me for years.  I’ve read everything I can find about this era, which is why this book drew me – and why it kept me turning page after page.  Goyer’s approach to this book is very different from most of those out there; she doesn’t dwell on the Nazi atrocities, though they are mentioned, and she doesn’t linger on how hard it was for civilians during the war.  Instead, Goyer’s historical aspect is written from the perspective of an military man who has struggled with his wartime experiences throughout his entire life – and who sees all of those involved as other people, just like himself.  Void of the hatred often contained in books about World War II, this story resurrects wartime memories of veterans and puts them in perspective.

Goyer’s main character Ava adds drama to the plot.  You can’t help but like her sincerity, yet her self-centered, shallow outlook made me wish for more – and Goyer delivers.  Ava grows spiritually and emotionally throughout this book, and many of her struggles (as well as her grandfather’s) make you wonder: how would I handle this situation?

Though much of this book deals with weighty issues, it is at heart a love story – a story of love between a man and a woman, between grandfather and granddaughter, between soldiers and victims, between God and His people.

This would be a great introduction to World War II history for those who want to learn more, as well as a reminder for the rest of us of the extent that others have suffered – both as war victims and soldiers – for freedom and equality.  The stories of these soldiers should not be lost, and Goyer should be commended for her work in preserving them.

To read an excerpt, watch a video, and more, visit here.

I received a free copy of Remembering You in exchange for an honest review.

“The Reason” by William Sirls

 
A storm decimates a large cross outside a local church.  A young oncologist works with a beloved patient who doesn’t respond to treatment, and his young mother fights to have faith in what she can’t see.  Meanwhile, the so-called construction worker who miraculously restored the cross has a hand in many unexplainable events throughout town.  Could there be more to him than meets the eye?  If so, does that mean that there is a Creator behind this life we try to control?
 
Sirls writes an exciting and suspenseful story showing what can happen when our mustard seed-sized faith encounters the One who makes it grow.  Both fantastical and possible, this story will both stretch your faith and make you reaffirm your belief in a powerful, loving God.
 
As a kid I always thought that the amazing stories of the Bible were history accounts – stories of things that God did long ago but didn’t do anymore.  At the same time, I was fascinated with the stories of angels in my great-grandmother’s Guideposts magazines.  A few years ago I realized that God still does amazing things every day – we just don’t always recognize them as such.
 
That’s why I like this story.  It’s like reading one of those amazing stories of angels saving the day, only this one is fictional.  Reading it made me think about what I believe in terms of angels and prophets, about Jesus on earth, about miracles and heaven and hell.  
 
It’s important that we know what we believe about these things – both the what and the why.  The Reason makes you think about all of these things in a realistic and thoughtful way, all the while turning page after page to find each player’s outcome.  I couldn’t put this one down.
 
I received a free copy of The Reason from BookSneeze in exchange for an honest review.

“Ray of Light” by Shelley Shepard Gray

Bestselling author Shelley Shepard Gray brings inspirational romance to life in this sweet tale of love in the Amish community, Ray of Light, the second installment of her Days of Redemption series.


Roman Keim just wants a break from the family drama at his snowy Ohio home when he heads to an Amish snowbird community in Florida. There he meets Amanda Yoder and her daughter Regina who soon are warming his heart. But will Roman return to Ohio or will he stay and help the young widow embrace a second chance at love?
The author of the series Sisters of the Heart and Seasons of Sugarcreek, Shelley Shepard Gray delivers an honest, tender love story in Ray of Light, featuring the challenges of faith, family, and romance.
 
Shelley Shepard Gray has penned another winner. I love her books for the reality of the characters, and Ray of Light is no exception.  Most of the events of this book could happen to anyone; they are real, ordinary problems that any of us could have – except Gray’s characters are Amish, adding another layer of interest to an already fascinating story.
 
When my truck-driving grandfather retired, he bought a van and set himself up as an Amish taxi driver.  He spent his days driving people around, from work to errands to home, and had loads of friends and stories to match.  He once drove some Amish to Florida to stay in an ‘Amish resort’ there, and I’ve been interested in the idea ever since.
 
That’s how Gray opens this story – with Amish from the North on vacation in sunny Florida, and while no special resort is mentioned, the idea is intriguing.  The Keim family is from a much more progressive sect than the Amish I grew up near, but reading about work schedules and vacation dreams and love triangles reminds me that they are people just like us.  With foreign missionaries, multiple family weddings, cross-country vacations, rehab, and dark family secrets, they’re certainly busier than my family!
 
Ray of Light is the second in this series, but while I haven’t read it, it was not difficult to pick up on the characters or the past that was disclosed in the first book.  That doesn’t stop me from wanting to read it, however; I think reading the books in the wrong order actually makes me want to read that first one even more, and the same is true for the third.  I can’t wait to find out what happens to them!
 
I hope you can type like lightening, Mrs. Gray, because I can’t wait to read the next installment of the Keim’s lives.
 
You can see other reviews from this bloggy hop here, or click here to purchase your own copy now.
 
Shelley Shepard Gray is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of the “Sisters of the Heart”, “Seasons of Sugarcreek”, “Secrets of Crittenden County”, and Families of Honor series. She lives in southern Ohio, where she writes full-time, bakes too much, and can often be found walking her dachshunds on her town’s bike trail.
 
 
I received a free copy of Ray of Light from LitFuse Publicity in exchange for an honest review.

“The Promises She Keeps” by Erin Healy

Promise, a young singer trying to make her mark on the world before succumbing to a terminal genetic disease, actively pursues her singing and modeling career – and isn’t sure how she continues to survive the freak accidents that suddenly follow her.  Porta, an aging sorceress hears about these accidents and decides that Promise holds the key to immortality for which she’s spent a lifetime searching.  Chase, an autistic artist, suddenly changes his routine and reaches out to strangers, bringing a new understanding of life and love to everyone who knows him.

I couldn’t decide at the beginning of this book who I wanted to cheer for.  Most stories have a clear hero and a clear villian, but several times these characters got a bit murky.  The reasons for some of their actions are unknown  at first, and I started to be a bit disappointed in this character or that one – until I realized that each one was only ‘human.’  The interrelationships between the cast of characters becomes more and more clear throughout the story, as do the themes of love and what eternal life really means.  This book is in no way preachy but shows simply how to live out one’s faith – how to internalize what you believe until it just oozes naturally out your pores.

The Christian faith is not based on sunshine and roses, and Healy shows that while we live in a dark and fallen world, and may even dive pretty deeply into the nasty parts of this world, we don’t have to stay there.  Redemption and love belong to everyone who chooses to accept them  – and I love the way that Healy shares this message through Chase and Promise.  If you’re looking for a story that will stretch your imagination and yet bring home a sound message, this is the book for you.

I received a free copy of this book from Thomas Nelson’s Booksneeze program in exchange for an unbiased review.