“Murder in Disguise” by Donn Taylor

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Official verdict: Suicide. But why would that vigorous department chairman kill himself? To avoid disgrace? Those rumored ventures on the dark side? Some other secret life? Visiting professor Preston Barclay wonders. But his questions bring no answers, only anonymous threats. He has enough problems already, proving himself on a strange campus while radical faculty do all they can to undermine him. Worse yet, that sexy siren assigned as his assistant complicates his courtship of the beautiful Mara Thorn.

While Press keeps asking questions, Mara’s research reveals a cancer of criminal activity that permeates the community and even the campus itself. The more Press questions, the more dangerous the threats against him become, and the more determined he grows to clear his friend’s name.

But can Press and Mara’s stumbling efforts prevail against the entrenched forces of the police, the campus radicals, and an unseen but powerful criminal organization that increasingly puts their lives in danger?

Donn Taylor
 
Preston Barclay is a bumbling, yet exciting protagonist who will keep you turning page after page as he tries not to solve his friend’s murder.  When he becomes the target of strange attacks and even stranger conversations with other professors, Preston stumbles upon clue after clue and begins to put the mystery together.
 
Preston is not your typical main character.  He’s a little more advanced in age, for one thing, and is quite quirky.  Having lost his musician wife a few years before, he hears music as a soundtrack to his life.  He seems to be quite addicted to ham sandwiches and coffee.  Press is also loyal and smart.  He’s observant and dedicated to his friends, as well as being a strong person of faith.  He’s a neat main character, and I enjoyed reading about him.  
 
It was unusual, too, the way that Preston was clearly not  trying to solve a mystery, and yet developments kept coming.  This, along with some of Preston’s idiosyncrasies, makes the story especially entertaining.  The mood of Murder in Disguise is not as scary as other mystery-suspense stories that I’ve read, but I really liked the bits of humor scattered throughout.  I’ll definitely read more of Donn Taylor.
 
I received a free copy of Murder in Disguise from LitFuse Publicity.  All opinions are my own.
 

“Where We Belong” by Lynn Austin

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In the city of Chicago in 1892, the rules for Victorian women are strict, their roles limited. But sisters Rebecca and Flora Hawes are not typical Victorian ladies. Their love of adventure and their desire to use their God-given talents has brought them to the Sinai Desert–and into a sandstorm.

Accompanied by Soren Petersen, their somber young butler, and Kate Rafferty, a street urchin who is learning to be their ladies’ maid, the two women are on a quest to find an important biblical manuscript. As the journey becomes more dangerous and uncertain, the four travelers sift through memories of their past, recalling the events that shaped them and the circumstances that brought them to this time and place.

 
Lynn Austin
 
I want to be just like the Hawes sisters when I grow up!  They’re the neatest people.  I love the way that they don’t let themselves be defined by Victorian standards and how they stand up for what they feel is right, no matter the repercussions.  From clothing choices to how they spend their time, Flora and Rebecca do exactly what they feel God is leading them to do.
 
I love their refrain: God knows the hour of our end, so there’s no need to worry”  (That’s my summary of it, not an exact quote.)  I’m horrible about worrying and seeing trouble around every corner, so I loved hearing this motto throughout the story.  Having it come up whenever trouble was in sight was a great way to remember what is really important.
 
The sisters were fascinating main characters.  I loved the history embedded in the story, but their pluck and sense of adventure was by far my favorite part.  I loved their willingness – no, their determination – to head out on an adventure, whether it was down the street or overseas.  That’s exactly the kind of person I want to be!  
 
Austin wrote the perfect ending for the sisters.  Their life does not give them the neat-and-tidy ending they wanted, but it does fit the plot of the story and the character of the women.  I enjoyed seeing it play out and couldn’t wait to find out what happened – although I didn’t want it to end!
 
I was shocked when I turned the last page and found out that the Hawes sisters were based on real women.  Who knew?  I’ve never heard of the real people before, but I definitely want to learn more about them now.  They sound like super interesting people, and I love that Austin took a piece of truth and built such fascinating characters around real women.
 
I haven’t read an Austin book yet that is less than wonderful, but they seem each to get better by turn.  Where We Belong is my favorite Austin offering yet.
 
I received a free copy of  Where We Belong from the author.  All opinions are my own.

“Rescued Hearts” by Hope Toler Dougherty

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Children’s clothing designer Mary Wade Kimball’s soft spot for animals leads to a hostage situation when she spots a briar- entangled kitten in front of an abandoned house. Beaten, bound, and gagged by the two thugs inside, Mary Wade loses hope for escape when a third villain returns with supplies.

Discovering the kidnapped woman ratchets the complications for undercover agent Brett Davis. Weighing the difference of ruining his three months’ investigation against the woman’s safety, Brett forsakes his mission and helps her escape, the bent-on-revenge brutes following behind.

When Mary Wade’s safety is threatened once more, Brett rescues her again. This time, her personal safety isn’t the only thing in jeopardy. Her heart is endangered as well.

 
Rescued Hearts
 
 Dougherty packs the plot of Rescued Hearts full of action from the very first page to the last!  When I read that the main character was a clothing designer, I somehow figured the story would be mostly sweet romance, but while that element is there, Rescued Hearts is much, much more.
 
That action starts off at the very beginning and rises throughout.  It never feels scary, which I appreciate, but Mary Wade finds herself in some really tough situations.  I enjoyed Brett’s changing roles and the way that his experience and job adds to the action, both physical and emotional.
 
Both kinds of action are there.  Dougherty uses lots of physical action to advance the plot, but there’s a lot of emotional and spiritual drama going on, too.  Mary Wade and Brett both have spiritual lessons to learn, and they are very relatable.  
 
I love the way that Dougherty describes Mary Wade without using words.  She uses incidents and story sketches to show the reader who her characters really are, and I love that skill.  Bringing the past into the present in small bits and pieces throughout the story ups the suspense factor and is another talent of this author.
 
I love mystery and suspense stories, and Rescued Hearts ranks right up there with Colleen Coble or Teri Blackstock.  I can’t wait for the next one!
 
I received a free copy of this book from LitFuse Publicity.  All opinions are my own.

“Blind Spot” by Dani Pettrey

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FBI agent Declan Grey is in the chase of his life–but isn’t sure exactly what he’s chasing after. Threatened by a terrorist that “the wrath is coming,” Grey fears something horrible is about to be unleashed on American soil. When his investigation leads him to a closed immigrant community, he turns to Tanner Shaw to help him. She’s sought justice for refugees and the hurting around the world, and if there’s anyone who can help him, it’s Tanner.

Tanner Shaw has joined the FBI as a crisis counselor . . . meaning she now has more opportunity to butt heads with Declan. But that tension also includes a spark she can’t deny, and she’s pretty sure Declan feels the same. But before anything can develop between them, they discover evidence of a terror cell–and soon are in a race against the clock to stop the coming “wrath” that could cost thousands their lives.

Dani Pettrey
Don’t start Blind Spot unless you have at least four free hours, because once you pick it up, you won’t put it down until you’ve turned the last page!  Pettrey has outdone herself in this latest book in the Chesapeake Valor series.
 
Pettrey ups the game by introducing a heretofore-unknown character, and his actions not only move the plot along, but kick it out of the park.  Blind Spot has the absolute best cliffhanger ending.  I’ve never heard more readers asking impatiently for the release date of the next book, and I am right there with them!  (The next book will release in July, in case you’re wondering.  I’ve already made a note on my calendar.)  
 
I love the way that the various plots throughout the books begin to come together in Blind Spot.  Background characters take a bigger role as the stakes get higher with each plot.  Revisiting the main characters from the previous two books feels … friendly?  reassuring? as if you’re catching up with an old friend, and I love that part of this series – that you can see older characters’ plots and lives advance.
 
After turning the last page, I stewed for a day or so, frustrated at having to wait so.  very. long. for the next installment in the story, and then I handed the book to my husband, who had read the first two.  He’s not generally a reader, and the kids usually yell, “Whoa!  Daddy’s reading!” whenever he does pick up a book, so you know that it’s a rarity in this house of bibliophiles.  After starting Blind Spot, though, we didn’t really see him for about three days after that – until he had finished the book.  
 
If suspense stories are your cup of tea, this is definitely a book you need to have on your shelf.
 
I received a free copy of this book to review.   All opinions are my own.
 
There’s a great giveaway associated with this Blind Spot!  Check it out here.

“Many Sparrows” by Lori Benton

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In 1774, the Ohio-Kentucky frontier pulses with rising tension and brutal conflicts as Colonists push westward and encroach upon Native American territories. The young Inglesby family is making the perilous journey west when an accident sends Philip back to Redstone Fort for help, forcing him to leave his pregnant wife Clare and their four-year old son Jacob on a remote mountain trail.

When Philip does not return and Jacob disappears from the wagon under the cover of darkness, Clare awakens the next morning to find herself utterly alone, in labor and wondering how she can to recover her son…especially when her second child is moments away from being born.

Clare will face the greatest fight of her life, as she struggles to reclaim her son from the Shawnee Indians now holding him captive. But with the battle lines sharply drawn, Jacob’s life might not be the only one at stake. When frontiersman Jeremiah Ring comes to her aid, can the stranger convince Clare that recovering her son will require the very thing her anguished heart is unwilling to do: be still, wait and let God fight this battle for them?

Lori Benton
 
Lori Benton had me hooked from the very first page of Many Sparrows!  The suspense and action in this story is bar none, and it’s incredibly dramatic, too.  Normally, it would be the very kind of book that I can’t put down, except …
 
Lori Benton wrote this story in an incredibly realistic way.  I typically sail through stories, my nose firmly engrossed at the edge of the page, while I fly through it to find out what happens next.  I couldn’t do that with this story, however; it was too realistic.  Benton brings Clare’s feelings and problems and pain to aching reality, and I found that I needed a break periodically to separate myself from it.  Not that I wanted to stop reading, because I couldn’t wait to find out what would happen next, but because I could feel Clare’s pain all-too strongly.  The breaks helped provide some needed distance and helped me to absorb the story fully.
 
The intense drama doesn’t detract from the story, however, as evidenced from the way I bounced on my seat through the beginning of the story – for an unusual reason, I suppose.  The Chief Logan of the story settled at one point in my home county back in Pennsylvania – and many local things are named for him.  I’d not heard his whole story before, however, and encountering it in this book was fascinating.  Being face-to-face with Mingoes and Logans, the original ones, was quite fascinating, and I found myself wishing I could mail the book off to my great-grandmother for another one of our by-mail book clubs.  She would’ve loved meeting local history in the pages of such a famous book, and I would have loved sharing it with her.
 
My local connection aside, Benton knew her setting and brought that to life, too.  Between land descriptions, drama, and Jem’s story slowly coming to light, there were many things to keep the pages turning, and one didn’t always know what might be coming in the next chapter.  Despite what you might want to happen, Benton kept surprising me.  I love when authors can do that.
 
Benton definitely created a new fan with Many Sparrows.  I can’t wait to read more!
 
I received a free book from LitFuse Publicity.  All opinions are my own.

“Bringing Maggie Home” by Kim Vogel Sawyer

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Decades of Loss, an Unsolved Mystery,

and a Rift Spanning Three Generations

Bringing Maggie Home is my favorite Sawyer book yet!  I absolutely love the way that Sawyer blends the stories of all three generations of DeFord women.  

I thoroughly enjoyed Meghan.  She adds a bit of Nancy Drew to the cast of characters and ups the mystery factor.  As a diehard lover of all things mysterious, this aspect of the story was right up my alley.

Hazel reminded me of my own grandmother.  Hazel is spunky and adventurous and proper only on the surface.  While she’s definitely more prim than Nana, she stared down adventure when the time came, and I want to be her someday.

Sawyer wrote Bringing Maggie Home as a story within a story.  This type of writing can be complicated and confusing if not done well, but Sawyer nails it.  It’s easy to keep each time frame straight.  My biggest problem was that I was always so caught up in each saga that I was never ready to leave any given time frame when they changed.  My desire to learn what happened next kept the pages turning until the very last one.

If you’re a fan of Sawyer’s books, general mystery novels, or just want a good read, pick up Bringing Maggie Home.

I received a free copy of Bringing Maggie Home from LitFuse Publicity.  All opinions are my own.

 

“The Pretender: A Blackguard in Disguise” by Ta’Mara Hanscom

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South Dakota: 1975. Eighteen-year-olds could order 3.2 beers in a bar and loaded guns were kept under the counter. Frankie Valli sang My Eyes Adored You, and American soldiers returning from Vietnam struggled with their new reality.

It’s within this tumultuous season of American history that Tillie Caselli meets Noah Hansen, and they are never the same again. Their lives were mysteriously intertwined and had been for many years, yet they had no idea.
 

There’s a new Danielle Steele in training.  Ta’Mara Hanscom‘s first book in the Caselli series has all the makings of a Steele favorite:  loveable characters, deep romance, and drama that spans years.

I spent much of this book cheering on Tillie and Noah.  They’ve made big mistakes, but they were also trying hard to make things right, and they were yearning for good things – except the book ended before I got the resolution I wanted.

That’s the biggest problem I had with The Pretender – I didn’t want the soap-opera cliffhanger but a happy ending, and there really isn’t one here. At least, it’s not the one I hoped for.  Maybe it’s coming in one of the future books, because there are more on the way, and I’ll want to read them to find out about that ending.

Those two characters were, by far, my favorite part.  At times events were a little too black and white, and sometimes monologues launched that were a bit preachy, albeit well-intentioned.  I would have liked to have seen those parts smoothed out.

As it was, despite those issues, I couldn’t help cheering for Noah and Tillie.  I enjoyed their families, their characters, and their general likeability.

I also want to know more about Marquette and Tara – I can tell there’s something brewing on the horizon for them.

I hope the sequel will be out soon – these cliffhanger endings are hard on readers! – but if sweeping sagas are your cup of tea, you’ll love The Pretender.

Despite just meeting each other, Tillie and Noah’s lives have been mysteriously intertwined for many years in Ta’Mara Hanscom’s The Pretender. From the moment they met, Tillie and Noah wanted to spend the rest of their lives together, but a deliberate omission will keep them apart-and that same omission will be responsible for the escape of a murderer, and a bride’s deception.

Join Ta’Mara in celebrating the release of the second printing and new covers by entering to win her $75 prize basket giveaway!

 

One grand prize winner will receive:

  • A copy of The Pretender
  • A $75 Amazon gift card
  • A decorative box containing measuring cups, ten recipes from the book, a potholder, a kitchen towel, pepper and salt grinders, kitchen utensils, and an olive oil dispenser
 

Enter today by clicking the icon below, but hurry! The giveaway ends on October 11. The winner will be announced October 12 on the Litfuse blog.

I received a free copy of this book from LitFuse Publicity.  All opinions are my own.

“Rule of Law” by Randy Singer

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What did the president know? And when did she know it?

For the members of SEAL Team Six, it was a rare mission ordered by the president, monitored in real time from the Situation Room. The Houthi rebels in Yemen had captured an American journalist and a member of the Saudi royal family. Their executions were scheduled for Easter Sunday. The SEAL team would break them out.But when the mission results in spectacular failure, the finger-pointing goes all the way to the top.

Did the president play political games with the lives of U.S. service members?

Paige Chambers, a determined young lawyer, has a very personal reason for wanting to know the answer. The case she files will polarize the nation and test the resiliency of the Constitution. The stakes are huge, the alliances shaky, and she will be left to wonder if the saying on the Supreme Court building still holds true.

Equal justice under law.

It makes a nice motto. But will it work when one of the most powerful people on the planet is also a defendant?

Randy Singer

I’ve not read many of Randy Singer’s novels, but after reading Rule of Law this weekend, that’s about to change!  Rule of Law weighs in at a hefty 480 pages, but I flew through it in a single day – I couldn’t put it down!  It’s like the best of Joel C. Rosenberg and Dee Henderson and NCIS all rolled into one.

Singer caught me up in the romance of the story at the very beginning.  Patrick was a chivalrous leading man, and I couldn’t wait to learn more about him – except that then the story took a crazy turn, and we left Dee Henderson and moved into NCIS, all forensics and research and mystery.  After a while, though, as resolution neared, with me still cheering on Paige and Kristen, we moved into Rosenberg territory, as Middle Eastern culture and tradition and faithful double agents came into play.  There was no part of the story where I felt lost, confused, or bored; instead, I couldn’t wait to find out what happened next, and even when I thought I knew, I found myself surprised on the next page.

I’m not a political person, but Singer made me understand and care about the issues within this book, and he wrote it in such a way that it was both suspenseful and exciting.

If you read any new suspense novel at all this fall, make it Rule of Law!

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

I received a free copy from Litfuse Publicity.  All opinions are my own.

“Gathering the Threads” by Cindy Woodsmall

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Finally back in the Old Order Amish world she loves,
Will Ariana’s new perspectives draw her family closer together—
or completely rip them apart?

After months away in the Englisch world, Ariana Brenneman is overjoyed to be in the Old Order Amish home where she was raised. Yet her excitement is mixed with an unexpected apprehension as she reconciles all she’s learned from her biological parents with the uncompromising teachings of her Plain community. Although her childhood friend, ex-Amish Quill Schlabach, hopes to help her navigate her new role amongst her people, Ariana’s Daed doesn’t understand why his sweet daughter is suddenly questioning his authority. What will happen if she sows seeds of unrest and rebellion in the entire family? 
 
Meanwhile, Skylar Nash has finally found her place among the large Brenneman family, but Ariana’s arrival threatens to unravel Skylar’s new identity—and her sobriety. Both Ariana and Skylar must discover the true cords that bind a family and community together and grasp tight the One who holds their authentic identities close to His heart.

Cindy Woodsmall

Cindy Woodsmall writes the most dramatic and hard-hitting Amish fiction ever, and Gathering the Threads is no different!  This conclusion to the Amish of Summer Grove series is a real page-turner.

I don’t know how Woodsmall thinks of the situations in which she puts her characters, but they are most unique.  She writes so realistically that you’ll examine the issues right along with Skylar and Ariana, and many of those same issues are just as relevant to the Englisch as they are to the Amish.

Some of those issues were particularly hard to read about.  For instance, while nobody’s perfect, it isn’t easy to read about some of the issues occurring in Ariana’s church; however, I did enjoy Woodsmall’s conclusion to those issues and the spiritual depth that she brought to the table in this storyline.

You’ll need it, because nothing about this book is light-hearted; there are weighty faith and relationship issues here, but it’s so realistically written that you’ll be completely caught up in it. 

If you like Amish fiction, don’t just buy this book, though; you’ll want to pick up all three, and start reading immediately.  They’re that good.

I received a free copy of this book.  All opinions are my own.

“A Name Unknown” by Roseanna M. White

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Rosemary Gresham has no family beyond the band of former urchins that helped her survive as a girl in the mean streets of London. Grown now, they concentrate on stealing high-value items and have learned how to blend into upper-class society. But when Rosemary must determine whether a certain wealthy gentleman is loyal to Britain or to Germany, she is in for the challenge of a lifetime. How does one steal a family’s history, their very name?

Peter Holstein, given his family’s German blood, writes his popular series of adventure novels under a pen name. With European politics boiling and his own neighbors suspicious of him, Peter debates whether it might be best to change his name for good. When Rosemary shows up at his door pretending to be a historian and offering to help him trace his family history, his question might be answered.

But as the two work together and Rosemary sees his gracious reaction to his neighbors’ scornful attacks, she wonders if her assignment is going down the wrong path. Is it too late to help him prove that he’s more than his name?

Roseanna M. White

Wow!  Roseanna M. White’s newest book A Name Unknown is a book like no other.  I love historical fiction, and White has reached new heights of excitement and suspense in this story. It’s not just a story of love in the midst of war, although it is – but it’s about political loyalties, chosen professions, the role of faith in our lives, and how money affects our integrity and place in society.

I love those unique angles.  I’ve never before heard of internment camps for Germans living in England when World War I was declared, but that reality plays a large role in this story.  The fact that popular fiction writers were asked to put certain themes into their work during this time does, too – and who knew?

A Name Unknown contains deep theological themes, too.  White writes about redemption and forgiveness, but also about the importance of prayer and the way that we share our personal faith.  I enjoyed the way that she made Peter’s faith real and alive and natural so that just overflowed out of him onto everything around.  Isn’t that a great example of how we should internalize our faith, as well?

White has written a story that’s exciting and suspenseful – enough for me to speed through it in a single afternoon – but that’s clean enough to share with my tween daughter.  She’s going to love it, too – and I love that I can share it with her.

If you’re a fan of historical fiction at all, put A Name Unknown on your TBR list now.

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

 
Roseanna M. White pens her novels beneath her Betsy Ross flag, with her Jane Austen action figure watching over her. When not writing fiction, she’s homeschooling her two children, editing and designing, and pretending her house will clean itself. Roseanna is the author of over a dozen historical novels and novellas, ranging from biblical fiction to American-set romances to her British series. Spies and war and mayhem always seem to make their way into her novels . . . to offset her real life, which is blessedly boring. She passes said boring life with her husband and kids in the beautiful mountains of eastern West Virginia.
Find out more about Roseanna M. at http://www.roseannamwhite.com.
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I received a free copy of this book from LitFuse Publicity.  All opinions are my own.