“The Doctor’s Lady” by Jody Hedlund

 

Called to be a missionary in the far-away land of India, Priscilla White eagerly awaited her first appointment.  Dr. Eli Ernest had spent a year exploring the wilds of Oregon, meeting the native Nez Perce and establishing support for the first Christian mission in the area.  Both were devastated ed when their backers refused to send them to the mission field unmarried.  With few choices and their calls urgent on their hearts, they quickly marry and set off overland for Oregon.  Yet faced with a rigorous six-month journey never before faced by a white woman, will their vision of a mission … their marriage … will they survive?

As a huge fan of the old Oregon Trail computer game and women’s history in the American West altogether, I devoured this book.  I couldn’t wait to find out what would happen around the next bend in the trail!

Periodically I would wonder just how realistic it was to marry someone after only a few brief discussions and travel across a continent to begin something new, yet I realize in that time women were forced to do just that.  Still, I was shocked when I read the author’s note at the end and found that this book was based upon the very true story of Marcus and Narcissa Whitman!  Not only did Hedlund’s characters seem real, but they were.  Their trials, tribulations, and victories were true, and yet I never felt as if I was reading from a history text.

I loved Hedlund’s tapestry of fiction, truth, and history.  I can’t wait to read more!

I received a free copy of this book from Bethany House in exchange for an honest review.

“Distortion” by Terri Blackstock


Juliet Cole’s life has been dismantled by the murder of her husband. She doesn’t know who—or what—to trust when everything she has believed to be true about her marriage has been a lie.

A husband’s lies can have deadly consequences.
When Juliet Cole’s husband of fifteen years is murdered before her eyes, she thinks it was a random shooting. Devastated and traumatized, she answers hours of questioning, then returns home to break the tragic news to her boys. But a threatening voicemail takes this from a random shooting to a planned, deliberate attack.
Juliet realizes that she and her children are in danger too, unless she meets the killers’ demands. But as she and her sisters untangle the clues, her husband’s dark secrets come to light. The more she learns, the more of her life is dismantled. Was her husband an innocent victim or a hardened criminal?
 
Location may make a real estate deal, but the details make or break a book – and they totally make DistortionAs I read this book, I could see Juliet Cole.  I could see her wrinkles and determination and mom shoes.  I could see just how devastated was and then how determined she became.I could see the difference in appearance and attitudes between Juliet and another woman character, and those differences in the physical put the emotional differences in the spotlight.
 
The basic premise has been done before, I must admit:  husband dies, woman finds out secret life and must determine how to handle it.  It’s not that new.  The twist is that not only is there a secret life, but that the killers played a big part in that secret life and they’re now after the wife and kids.  That twist adds a huge amount of suspense to the story and likeability to Juliet.  She’s not just a victimized, naive wife – she’s a mama bear  protecting her family at any cost, and it’s that angle that Blackstock wrote so well.
 
Juliet’s family had tragic stories, as well, which appear to have been told in other books.  Blackstock filled in the basics, but I would’ve loved a bit more information about them – not so much because I couldn’t figure out what was going on, but just because it was interesting.  
 
I haven’t met a Blackstock book yet that I haven’t liked, and Distortion is no exception.  It’s fast-paced, suspenseful, and full of mysterious drama.  This was definitely my kind of mystery.
 
Pre-order a copy for just $4.99 on Kindle, Nook, iTunes, or the eBook version on CBD until March 10th.


Readother reviews on this bloggy hop here or purchase your own copy now.

 

 

 
 
 
 
Terri Blackstock has sold over six million books worldwide and is a New York Times bestselling author. She is the award-winning author of Intervention, Vicious Cycle, and Downfall, as well as such series as Cape Refuge, Newpointe 911, the SunCoast Chronicles, Restoration, and Moonlighters.
 
Learn more about Terri at: http://terriblackstockbooks.com
 
I received a free copy of Distortion from LitFuse Publicity in exchange for an honest review.

“Deadly Disclosures” Review

Win the Complete Dinah Harris Trilogy Here!

Have you ever been contacted by an author directly?  I haven’t been – until a few months ago when Australian author Julie Cave wrote to me about her new trilogy, a series of books featuring Dinah Harris, FBI detective.  She offered me a set of books to keep and one to giveaway in exchange for a review.

Now, realize that at this point I was nearly bouncing out of my chair with excitement over hearing from a real, live author. (Actually, I may have bounced around the living room a few times – let’s be honest.)  I was worried about the subject, though – a mystery/suspense book sounded right right up my alley, but one about apologetics?  I didn’t know much about that subject, and just how exciting could it be?  Since that’s a topic that I’ve been wanting to learn more about, I decided to go for it – and I’m so glad I did.

Here’s why:

Dinah Harris is a down-and-out FBI agent who’s survived a family tragedy – barely.  Once a rising star in the Bureau, she now struggles to get through each workday until she can drown in her favorite wine.  When her former partner pushes buttons and removes her from her day-to-day teaching job and gets her reinstated to agent status, can she keep it together to find the missing Secretary of the Smithsonian?


I love real characters.  You know the kind I mean – the kind with the sort of flaws that we’ve struggled with personally, the kind that the guy down the street has or that we see in the carpool line at school.  Dinah Harris is such a character.

Following a huge personal tragedy, she falls into a deep depression and tries to numb the pain with alcohol – which only adds an alcoholic’s problems to her original ones.  It doesn’t help that she’s been demoted to a teacher at the FBI academy and lost her dream position of star agent.

The story opens as her partner returns, having gotten permission for her to work the case of the missing Smithsonian secretary, and you can feel Dinah’s pain as you read.  Knowing that she was once totally different than she is now, you can’t help but cheer her on through this rare second chance.  As she makes mistake after mistake and you learn more of her story, you just want to hand her a box of tissues and give her a big hug.


If Deadly Disclosures were only the story of Dinah Harris solving a high-profile case, it would be a good one.  What makes it even better is the other side of it – the shady political deals happening behind the scenes.  While I’m about as political as a slug, I found this fascinating, mainly because I learned so much from this part of the story.

Thomas Whitfield, the Secretary of the Smithsonian, was a devout evolutionist – until the day he became a Christian.  With Whitfield interested in Creationism before he disappeared, Dinah finds herself in a no-holds-barred search for the truth – as bodies begin to appear and her own downward spiral continues.

I feared that a story where the author had a distinct desire to teach something would be preachy, but Deadly Disclosures is anything but.  With politicians and heads of organizations interviewed throughout the book, the information is shared at just the right pace for a newbie to understand, and, better yet, both sides of the issue are explained.

Cave uses natural dialogue and the twists and turns of the case to educate the reader about creationism.  It is clear that she stands on a distinct side of this issue, but scientific information is shared to support all premises.  Both sides of the issues are very well explained and inherent to the story, making it come across as a really well-researched suspense novel.

Now, with that technical stuff out of the way, this is a really awesome start to a great trilogy.  It’s fast-paced, action-packed, and a dramatic mystery that makes you feel for the main character even as you try to solve the mystery before she does.  (I liked it so much that I read the whole series in two days.  I can’t wait for Cave’s next book!)

What could be better?

I received a free copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review.

“Dancing with Fireflies” by Denise Hunter

Creative and complicated, Jade McKinley felt like a weed in a rose garden growing up in Chapel Springs. When she left, she thought she’d never look back. But now, pregnant, alone, and broke, she has no other choice but to return.

The mayor of Chapel Springs, Daniel Dawson, has been an honorary member of the McKinley family for years. While his own home life was almost non-existent, Daniel fit right into the boisterous McKinley family. He’s loved Jade for years, but she always saw him as a big brother. Now that she’s back, his feelings are stronger than ever.
As Jade attempts to settle in, nothing feels right. God seems far away, she’s hiding secrets from her family, and she’s strangely attracted to the man who’s always called her “squirt.” Finding her way home may prove more difficult than she imagined.
 
 I’ve got a new favorite Denise Hunter book.  
 
On the surface, this doesn’t sound like a perky book.  Jade is trying to overcome some pretty heavy wounds, and Daniel’s family isn’t exactly a picnic, either.  Trying to forge a romantic relationship where there has been a strong friendship, however, is the best kind of basis for love, and Jade and Daniel do much to help each other.
 
It’s those strong feelings that pave the way for a sweet, strong story.  Hunter doesn’t focus on the pain of the past but the strength of the present to reach for future’s hope.  It’s the acknowledgement of the pain that lends credence to the growth of the character and of the storyline, and therein lies the very best part of the story: the stretching of maturity, the sacrifice of love, and the melding of individuals into a couple – and a family.
 
Stories of healing and hope are among my favorites, but when the characters don’t just survive the trauma but grow through it, that’s the very best scenario ever – because in real life, isn’t that exactly what Jesus asks of us?
 
Click here to read other bloggy reviews or here to purchase your own copy now.
 
Denise Hunter is an internationally published best-selling author. Her books have won The Holt Medallion Award, The Reader’s Choice Award, The Foreword Book of the Year Award, and was a RITA finalist. In 1996, inspired by the death of her grandfather, Denise began her first book, writing while her children napped. Two years later it was published, and she’s been writing ever since. Her husband says he inspires all of her romantic stories, but Denise insists a good imagination helps, too. When Denise isn’t writing, she’s busy raising three heroes-in-the-making with her husband.

 
Learn more about Denise at: http://www.denisehunterbooks.com
 
I received a free copy of Dancing with Fireflies in exchange for an honest review.

“The Dancing Master” by Julie Klassen

 

 

 Finding himself the man of the family, London dancing master Alec Valcourt moves his mother and sister to remote Devonshire, hoping to start over. But he is stunned to learn the village matriarch has prohibited all dancing, for reasons buried deep in her past.


Alec finds an unlikely ally in the matriarch’s daughter. Though he’s initially wary of Julia Midwinter’s reckless flirtation, he comes to realize her bold exterior disguises a vulnerable soul—and hidden sorrows of her own.

Julia is quickly attracted to the handsome dancing master—a man her mother would never approve of—but she cannot imagine why Mr. Valcourt would leave London, or why he evades questions about his past. With Alec’s help, can Julia uncover old secrets and restore life to her somber village . . . and to her mother’s tattered heart?

Filled with mystery and romance, The Dancing Master brings to life the intriguing profession of those who taught essential social graces for ladies and gentlemen hoping to make a “good match” in Regency England.

 
I have loved every Julie Klassen book to this date, which is why I was disappointed when the beginning of this one didn’t hold my attention.  There is mystery and drama from the very first page, so I’m not sure of the problem.  Was it the headache I was fighting?  Possibly, but after the initial swirl of suspense, the action slowed to a dribble while we became acquainted with each character and their story.
 
By the middle of the book, however, I was enthralled.  By this point you knew that there was far more to each character than meets the eye, and I couldn’t wait to figure out who did what.  I was cheering for Alec and his family and was flying through the pages to find out how this crazy situation would reach resolution.
 
Unlike most of my favorite books, I didn’t love Julia.  I thought I would, at first, but her manipulative ways didn’t endear her to me.  I’m not sure that I wouldn’t behave differently if put into the same situation, but, still … there you go.  Her maturation at the very end of the book helped, and I was definitely fascinated with her situation. 
 
It was the strength and determination of the other characters that made this book for me, character-wise, and the suspenseful way that Klassen played out the twenty-year-old mystery.  She completely nailed it in this one.  I’ve never seen an author delicately pluck mysterious threads in a way quite like this before – one that masterfully shows the hidden backstory of several major characters and of the area overall in distinct, slow, suspenseful ways.  
 
So while I enjoyed this story, and the suspense even more, Klassen revealed herself to be the true master here:  The Mystery Master.
 
Read other reviews in this bloggy hop here or purchase your own copy now.
 
 
 
Julie Klassen loves all things Jane—Jane Eyre and Jane Austen. A graduate of the University of Illinois, Julie worked in publishing for sixteen years and now writes full time. She is a three-time Christy Award winner and a 2010 Midwest Book Award winner for Genre Fiction. Julie and her husband have two sons and live in a suburb of St. Paul, Minnesota.

Learn more about Julie at: http://julieklassen.com
 

I received a free copy of The Dancing Master from LitFuse Publicity in exchange for an honest review. 

“Damascus Countdown” by Joel C. Rosenberg


If you only read one book this year – or perhaps one series – it should be this one.

Described as a ‘geopolitical thriller,’ I never would have picked up a Rosenberg book on my own.  I’m about as political as a daisy, and trying to figure out the truth from all of the he saids/she saids that are popular in politics these days are way beyond me.

But then a friend lent me Rosenberg’s first series, and I couldn’t put it down.

This one is just as, or perhaps more, relevent to world events than the first that I read.

We often hear people speculating about what might happen when Jesus returns, but Rosenberg takes a different tack in this series:  What might happen if the Muslims believe that their end-time prophecies are being fulfilled?

Many Muslims believe that this fulfillment is imminent, and they are actively working to push towards that day – to be prepared for what they consider to be a holy war against Israel and the US when the Twelfth Imam returns.

This is the story of Damascus Countdown.  A fast-paced, around-the-world story of a lone CIA agent hidden inside Iran trying to locate and neutralize nuclear warheads at all costs – before they could be used to neutralize Israel or the US.

I’ve had Damascus Countdown on my bookshelf for a few weeks now, and I can’t get the plot out of my head – in large part, because it could be playing out in the Middle East right now.  With Iran working frantically to go nuclear, with Israel trying to keep the US as a strong ally, with many wanting the US to do more to stop Iran’s nuclear efforts, this book is straight out of today’s headlines.

David Shirazi, the main character, is kind, determined, and brilliant.  He doesn’t want to be violent but is totally committed to stopping the kind of nuclear war that he is positive is coming – and this smart intensity makes him a fascinating character.  It doesn’t hurt that he has a kind, praying love interest back in the States, either.  The love angle softens the sharp edges of the story and adds a softness that would be missing otherwise.

Despite Shirazi’s perfection as a lead character, the reader can never be totally sure that he will survive through the plot.  He is, of course, an American spy in Iran, with bombs and gunfights exploding on nearly every page – and Rosenberg keeps you in suspense in every single chapter.  Generally one is sure that the main character will survive the story victorious, but Rosenberg writes his plots as he sees them, not as we do, and he does not provide this certainty.  This makes Damascus Countdown a suspenseful thriller on every single level.

You shouldn’t miss this book – it’s a must-read – but you should also be prepared with some chocolate and a day off, because neither will you be able to put it down.  It has some heft to it, so clear your schedule and get reading.  This one is demanding your attention now.

I received a free copy of Damascus Countdown from Tyndale House in exchange for an honest review.

“The Crossing” by Serita Jakes

Cheerleader Claudia King refuses to leave her teacher and friend when she’s shot aboard the athletic bus following Friday night’s football game.  Her boyfriend Casio Hightower is also shot in the altercation, but unlike Ms. Remington, he survives – though their relationship does not.  Ten years later both have moved on – Claudia is married with a child, and Casio is dating seriously – but neither have forgotten their experience on board the bus.  When Claudia’s lawyer husband decides to reopen the case, can he and Casio find the elusive killer – before anyone else dies?

I have very mixed feelings about this book.  The characters are not the cardboard Christian type – they’re real and flawed and confused, much like any other human on this planet.  For that reason, I was enthralled by the mystery in this story and couldn’t wait to solve the case.  I cheered Claudia for taking steps toward her healing even as I mourned the way she was often hurting those who loved her most.  I wanted to like Casio as I could see great potential in him, but his flaws made him difficult to like.  Ultimately, I would have liked to see more of Claudia’s husband Victor as he seemed to have the best handle on what was happening.  Without him, this would have been just another mystery – but his faithful influence made all the difference.

As much as I liked the authenticity of the characters, I disliked the ending.  A sudden twist at the end kept me from predicting the ending entirely, but the conclusion came abruptly, and even though all loose ends were wrapped up, I felt at odds when the book ended.  The major issues that kept Claudia suffering from PTSD for a decade seemed gone too quickly, and with faith issues on the peripheral of the main characters’ vision for much of the book, the resolution just seemed too fast.

Ultimately, this book explored trauma and our reactions to it in several different ways.  Many books pull you in and make you feel as if you’ve experienced what the characters have – and so you can see yourself taking similar actions if you’re ever in that kind of situation.  Not so with this story – I felt as if this was more of a “what not to do” than “here’s how you do it.”

I thoroughly enjoyed Jakes’ writing style and am interested in reading more of her work for the realistic characters – but this story is not one I’ll read over and over due to the negative feeling I was left with.

I received a free copy of this book from Waterbrook Multnomah in exchange for an honest review.

“The Corruptible” by Mark Mynheir

Ray Quinn, PI, wants a client different from the usual enraged, cheating husband type – until he gets one.  After being hired to find Logan Ramsey, former cop and current alcoholic and thief, complications arise from a sudden murder, a dishonest employer and his romance-minded secretary.  Staying on top of the twists and turns in the case challenges Quinn’s physical strength as he recovers from a serious shooting and self-medicates with a bit too much Jim Beam.  What is Quinn’s employer hiding, and what did Ramsey have up his sleeve?  Of the many people who wanted Ramsey dead, can Quinn find the real murderer – before they find him?

Mynheir has written a classic detective novel.  His experience in police and undercover work shines through, making the inner workings of the story realistic and believable.  Ray Quinn sounds like a PI from an old black-and-white movie with modern technological trappings, and despite his flaws, one can’t help but cheer him on.

My favorite part of this book is the perspective.  The stereotypical view of an ex-cop is of a hardcore, no-holds-barred, tough guy image; and while Quinn is extremely cynical and somewhat down, he retains hope that he can make a difference in the world.  Mynheir writes without extensive bar-hopping (some Jim Beam being the exception), swearing, or casual sex, making this the cleanest, yet completely realistic and believable, detective story I’ve ever read.  Quinn’s focus on the job – not what some consider to be the ‘perks’ –  make him an old-world style hero.

The second book in the Ray Quinn series, Mynheir weaves the relevant information from the first book into the story seamlessly; however, this one was so good that I’m definitely going to find a copy of the first to read – and I’ll be on the lookout for the next one.

Want to read an excerpt of The Corruptible?  Check it out here.

I received a free copy of this book from the Blogging for Books program in exchange for an honest review.

“Courting Cate” by Leslie Gould

 
 
In Paradise, Pennsylvania, Cate Miller is known more for her sharp tongue and fiery temper than her striking appearance. Her sweet and flirty sister, Betsy, on the other hand, seems to have attracted most of the bachelors in Lancaster County!
But the sisters’ wealthy father has made one hard-and-fast rule: older Cate must marry first, before younger Betsy can even start courting. Unfortunately, untamable Cate has driven away every suitor-until Pete Treger comes to town, that is.
Prodded by the men of the area, Pete turns his attention to winning Cate’s hand. But is his interest true or is there a scheme at play?

Book 1 in The Courtships of Lancaster County series. 
 
Courting Cate is an provocative, Amish twist on Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew, and it was every bit as forceful as I imagine the original to be.  I must admit, I was frustrated by the beginning of the story because it seemed obvious that Cate’s prickly attitude was a result of pain and fear, not a mean spirit, and her father’s edict and sister’s decision to take advantage of Cate’s love for her seemed too much – and then I kept reading.
 
Reading this story went from frustrating to difficult – because Gould wrote it that well.  She painted Cate into an impossible situation and turns the mirror back on the reader, and I didn’t like what I saw.  Would I have reacted with Cate’s prickliness in the beginning?  For sure.  Would I have reacted as Cate did during her most difficult time in New YorK?  Could I have treated the immature Betsy as Cate did later in the story?  That’s a tough one.  While Gould follows the basic Shakespearean story, she adds her own faith-filled twists and turns that up both the suspense and emotional factor.  
 
I may have been a prickly reader in the beginning, but it wasn’t long before I refused to put Courting Cate down. The transformation from Shakespeare to Lancaster Amish is a fascinating one – and Gould does it with exceptional grace.  Each modern element keeps you guessing while the basic plot line causes the reader to bleed a little more for Cate.  
 
This is definitely not your average Amish story.
 
I can’t wait for the next one.
 
To purchase your own copy of Courting Cate, visit here.
 
 
Leslie Gould is the co-author, with Mindy Starns Clark, of the #1 bestselling The Amish Midwife andThe Amish Nanny. She is also the author of numerous novels, including Garden of Dreams, Beyond the Blue (winner of the Romantic Times Reviewers’ Choice for Best Inspirational Novel, 2006), and Scrap Everything. She holds an MFA in creative writing from Portland State University and has taught fiction writing at Multnomah University as an adjunct professor. She resides with her husband and four children in Portland, Oregon. 
 
Learn more at www.lesliegould.com.
 
I received a free copy of Courting Cate from LitFuse Publicity in exchange for an honest review.

“The Courier of Caswell Hall” by Melanie Dobson

 

As the British and Continental armies wage war in 1781, the daughter of a wealthy Virginia plantation owner feels conflict raging in her own heart. Lydia Caswell comes from a family of staunch Loyalists, but she cares only about peace. Her friend Sarah Hammond, however, longs to join the fight. Both women’s families have already been divided by a costly war that sets father against son and neighbor against neighbor; a war that makes it impossible to guess who can be trusted.

One snowy night Lydia discovers a wounded man on the riverbank near Caswell Hall, and her decision to save him will change her life. Nathan introduces her to a secret network of spies, couriers, disguises, and coded messages—a network that may be the Patriots’ only hope for winning the war. When British officers take over Caswell Hall and wreak havoc on neighboring plantations, Lydia will have to choose between loyalty and freedom; between her family’s protection and her own heart’s desires.

As both armies gather near Williamsburg for a pivotal battle, both Lydia and Sarah must decide how high a price they are willing to pay to help the men they love.

Part of the American Tapestries™ series: Each standalone novel in this line sets a heart-stirring love story against the backdrop of an epic moment in American history. This is the fifth book in the series.


This is the best historical fiction I’ve read since the last time I’ve read a Melanie Dobson novel.  There’s just something about this author who is able to transport me completely to whatever time and place she chooses.  Her unique perspective helps to set her books apart from others; The Courier of Caswell Hall focuses on the many roles women played in the Revolutionary War – and I don’t mean from inside their kitchens, either.

I loved Lydia’s story.  I can’t imagine just how scary it must have been, knowing that to choose a side and lose, all principles aside, could mean the loss of your family’s security and social standing – things which mean little eternally but which can mean a great deal as you live through their loss.  I feel as if I can relate just a tiny bit more now for having read this story.

Lydia’s wasn’t the only fascinating one here, however.  I’ve always been interested in the role of women in early American wars since reading about Deborah Sampson as a kid, and Dobson included many such stories discreetly throughout this book.  It is fascinating to know that there were women, people who society completely ignored militarily, who felt so strong as to step out in courageous ways to fight for their country.

The Courier of Caswell Hall has found its way onto my bookshelf.  My children will be reading this when they’re older and studying the Revolution – not only to put themselves into the position of choosing which side to take, but also to use as a research starter – to take the details of this story and go find which ones are true.

I’d like to know that myself.

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

 
 
Melanie Dobson is the author of twelve novels; her writing has received numerous accolades including two Carol Awards. Melanie worked in public relations for fifteen years before she began writing fiction full-time. Born and raised in the Midwest, she now resides with her husband and two daughters in Oregon.
 
Connect with Melanie at: http://melaniedobson.com
 
I received a free copy of this book from LitFuse Publicity in exchange for an honest review.