What Follows After by Dan Walsh

One fall day in the early 1960’s, young Colt and Timmy Harrison devise a plan to run away from their separated parents to their favorite aunt and uncle’s house.  They hope their drastic act can restore their parents’ relationship and create a happy family once again.  But when Timmy is abducted from a diner a few hours into their journey, Colt suddenly discovers that doing things on his own was not wise.  His parents, Scott and Gina, must work together to find their lost son, and in the process, learn to forgive each other and repair their relationship.  What Follows After is an easy read and moves at a fast pace, allowing the reader to flip the pages quickly to discover if little Timmy will be safely found.  However, the tone of the novel is almost condescending, introducing cliché comments as means to preach ideals necessary to maintain a perfect marriage.  In addition, the topic of a scared little boy locked in a dark place is difficult to read, especially since this situation endures almost the entire novel.  It is a relief to finally read a happy ending of a restored family who learned to value each other despite difficult circumstances.  However, this novel leaves the reader dissatisfied and is only average at best.

I received a copy of this book from Revell Publishing in exchange for an honest review.

Sincerely Yours by Jane Kirkpatrick, Amanda Cabot, Laurie Alice Eakes, and Ann Shorey

Sincerely Yours is a novella collection of four short stories in which four young women find their lives changed after receiving a letter signed with the valediction, “sincerely yours.”  This common theme ties the four stories together nicely, despite the very different time periods and plots.  The new paths of each woman entail exciting adventures among rivers, drawing rooms, inns, and hospitals and will perhaps even lead to everlasting love.

Moonlight Promise by Laurie Alice Eakes

Camilla Renfrew responds to a letter from a friend who offers protection after a false accusation leaves her running from the law.  She finds herself drawn to the mysterious captain of a steamboat bound for her destination.  The setting of the first story is interesting and the dangers involved for both characters make the plot exciting.  However, the flow of this novella is a little choppy and forced, pushing the characters toward each other in an awkward fashion.  Although not uncommon for a novella, the ending was a bit too neat and unrealistic.

Lessons in Love by Ann Shorey

Marigold Montgomery Bentley uses her initials when writing articles for a popular magazine, causing everyone to assume she is a man.  However, when the editor writes her a letter asking to meet, M. M. Bentley finds herself desperately trying to continue the rouse to save her writing career.  This is the most well-written and enjoyable of the four novellas.  The characters are likable and the plot is entertaining even as it gives its readers a glimpse into women’s roles in the late nineteenth century.  As is the case with most novellas, the romance is quick and tidy, but the inward strength of the characters and their complimentary life goals makes their love believable and sweet.

One Little Word by Amanda Cabot

Lorraine Caldwell receives a letter from her brother for the first time in several years and the note of pleading in his tone causes her to join him at the remote and beautiful Lilac Inn.  Instead of spending a short time with her brother as intended, Lorraine instead discovers she is attracted to the mystifying carousel carver and thus extends her stay as she discerns what matters most in life.  This particular novella is fascinating as it details the unique process of creating a carousel.  The descriptions allow the reader to visualize the beautiful colors and hard work involved in the creation of the carousel.  The love between the characters develops quickly and the ending is rather unrealistic in its neatness, but the short story is enjoyable.

A Saving Grace by Jane Kirkpatrick

Grace Hathaway travels to save her friend from a remote and mysterious hospital after the woman’s young daughter sends a letter begging Grace for help.  Upon her arrival, Grace discovers the hospital promises rapid healing but instead only serves to harm the patients; she thus seeks the help of a doctor who has a secret of his own.  Although this novella at first seems mysterious and exciting, it quickly becomes almost creepy as Grace discovers the horrible practices used to “cure” the patients.  The plot is not enjoyable and the horrifying conditions and physiological mind games of the hospital do not create a pleasant scene for romance.  This short story could stand alone as the tone was so different from the lighthearted and sweet storylines of the first three novellas. (This author is offering a giveaway! See the details here: http://janeswordsofencouragement.blogspot.com/)


I received a copy of this book from Revell Publishing in exchange for an honest review.

Announcing A Beauty So Rare by Tamera Alexander!

Tamera Alexander’s novels never disappoint, and her exciting new novel, A Beauty So Rare, is no exception.  This book is to be released in late April, but you can find an excerpt and video from Bethany House Publishers below.  Do not miss the second stand alone novel in her Belmont Mansion series!


Pink is not what Eleanor Braddock ordered, but maybe it would soften the tempered steel of a woman who came through a war–and still had one to fight.

Plain, practical Eleanor Braddock knows she will never marry, but with a dying soldier’s last whisper, she believes her life can still have meaning and determines to find his widow. Impoverished and struggling to care for her ailing father, Eleanor arrives at Belmont Mansion, home of her aunt, Adelicia Acklen, the richest woman in America–and possibly the most demanding, as well. Adelicia insists on finding her niece a husband, but a simple act of kindness leads Eleanor down a far different path–building a home for destitute widows and fatherless children from the Civil War. While Eleanor knows her own heart, she also knows her aunt will never approve of this endeavor.

Archduke Marcus Gottfried has come to Nashville from Austria in search of a life he determines, instead of one determined for him. Hiding his royal heritage, Marcus longs to combine his passion for nature with his expertise in architecture, but his plans to incorporate natural beauty into the design of the widows’ and children’s home run contrary to Eleanor’s wishes. As work on the home draws them closer together, Marcus and Eleanor find common ground–and a love neither of them expects. But Marcus is not the man Adelicia has chosen for Eleanor, and even if he were, someone who knows his secrets is about to reveal them all.


Bethany House YouTube Promotional Video

Where Courage Calls by Janette Oke and Laurel Oke Logan

In Where Courage Calls, Beth Thatcher leaves behind a comfortable life to move to a remote mining town in order to become a school teacher.  Coal Valley is rustic and Beth finds herself initially missing the conveniences of home, especially when a mishap leaves her without her carefully packed trunks.  However, as Beth settles into the small town, she is soon moved by the plights of her students.  Her gentle heart motivates her to provide for her students in new ways, to strive to eradicate prejudices between the miners and the town, and to integrate herself into their simple lifestyle.  The first half of the book moves slowly and other readers may also struggle to continue the story.  Unrealistically, Beth has almost no flaws, despite this adventure being completely outside of her comfort zone.  The second half of the novel does introduce a bit of mystery and suspense, but the little romance is forced and the story concludes with the reader desiring more.  It is a simple read with a predictable plot and the lack of depth causes the reader to feel disconnected and unsatisfied.  However, the main characters are sweet natured, and Christian messages are woven throughout to provide additional truths for the reader’s enjoyment.  This candid review is not meant to discourage readers who wish to enjoy a simple tale, or who may be admirers of Ms. Oke’s work, but the much too tidy storyline and shallow plot left this particular reader craving some realistic depth.

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

The Dancing Master by Julie Klassen

An aptly named novel, The Dancing Master narrates the lives of several individuals influenced by dance and dancing masters.  Julia Midwinter, a headstrong young woman seeking answers to her past, finds herself drawn to the handsome London dancing master, Alec Valcourt, who has moved to small, remote Beaworthy in order to escape his own secret history and start over.  However, the presiding matriarch of the village and Julia’s mother, Lady Amelia, has forbidden any form of dance in the village, a result of her undisclosed and painful past.  As Julia and Alec struggle to bring life back to solemn Beaworthy, they both discover the beauty of grace and love in restoring relationships.  Ms. Klassen is a wonderful writer and uses fascinating bits of history to make her story come to life; the epigraphs before each chapter are especially creative and significant.  The language of her characters and the images of the scenes allow the reader to be transported back to the nineteenth century.  Ms. Klassen does not simply insert words unnecessarily, but instead includes meaningful conversations and descriptions that truly contribute to the story.  She only reveals the many secrets in the novel at opportune times, leaving the reader eagerly flipping pages to discover more.  Her characters have realistic flaws, but through lessons of forgiveness and grace, they learn to grow from their pasts and improve their relationships with each other and with God.  Long-admirers of Ms. Klassen who have devotedly followed her from her first exceptional novel, Lady of Milkweed Manor, will not be disappointed with yet another well-written historical gem.  This novel and its author are both highly recommended.

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

An Elegant Solution by Paul Robertson

This historical, suspenseful novel set in the early eighteenth century details the story of a young math prodigy caught in a complex conflict between some of the most prestigious mathematical minds of the millennium.  The University in Basel in Europe is a place of great intellect, deceit, secrets, mysteries, and cunning ploys and is run by intelligent and powerful men determined to change the course of history.  Paul Robertson does a remarkable job of researching the historical details, studying the complex mathematical problems, and investigating the rich setting to provide the reader with an excellent backdrop for a complicated story of murder, jealousy, power, and conflict.  His writing is poetic and full of metaphors and similes that keep the reader guessing the intent of each character and the course of the plot.  In addition, the mathematical and philosophical questions of this time period are complex and intriguing and speak to the talent of the author in crafting the intricate story.  This tale is full of mythological, literary, and Biblical references and requires the reader to pay attention to the smallest details in order to fully appreciate the story.  Its profound themes and mysterious plot create a novel that is admired and recommended.

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

Return to Me by Lynn Austin

Return to Me brings to life the Biblical books of Ezra, Nehemiah, and Zechariah to dramatically recount the return of God’s chosen people to their homeland and ultimately to Himself.  It chronicles the spiritual growth of Zechariah, the prophet through whom God chooses to communicate as His people return from exile in Babylon to their promised homeland in Jerusalem.   Lynn Austin does a remarkable job of remaining true to the Old Testament while intertwining fictional narratives that allow the reader to be transported to a different time as God’s people slowly return to Him and began to look forward to a coming Messiah.  The story flows effortlessly and includes dramatic details that easily engage the reader and provide an account of what life may have been like for God’s chosen race during this time.  The story narrates God’s love for His people despite their sins and the Jews’ deepening love for the Almighty while also causing the reader to again realize the depth of God’s love, forgiveness, and redemption.  A highly recommended historical novel.

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

Two Testaments by Elizabeth Musser

The intriguing and intertwining story of the unique characters introduced in Two Crosses by Elizabeth Musser continues in the second historical novel, Two Testaments.  The growing tension in Algeria immediately before the end of the Algerian War for Independence leads to danger for the charming American and his new French and Algerian friends.  They struggle to assist refugees from the wrath of a crazed man desperate for revenge and slip them from a country torn apart from war to a county where they may be safe but not welcomed.  The red-haired love he left in France battles jealousy and worry as she helps the orphans and aids the aging nun in protecting those running from the horror of war.  A frightened boy subjected to the life of an assassin at a tender age finds an unlikely friend in a brave, little girl.  And two young mothers struggle to survive as they desperately wait for news of their loves fighting in another place.  Each of these characters must learn to trust God and wait for His perfect timing in order to find the peace they so greatly desire.  Their stories interweave in a creative tapestry crafted by a talented author.  This historical novel proves that although hardships in life can cause one to question God’s presence and power, He never fails to protect His people.  The story continues in Two Destinies.

Rebellious Heart by Jody Hedlund

Rebellious Heart is full of historical details chronicling the political tensions between the British and colonials just before the onset of the Revolutionary War.  According to the author’s notes, the two main characters are based on John and Abigail Adams and Jody Hedlund does a wonderful job creating a love story amidst the social and political unrest.  Susanna Smith, a strong and intelligent lady for whom a greater education is denied, has compassion for the less fortunate and this admirable quality takes her into uncharted waters.  Her assistance to a young, indentured servant leads her into danger and causes her to begin to question societal rules and laws that she had previously willingly accepted.   Benjamin Ross, a poor country lawyer who struggles with his place in society, is drawn to Susanna’s spirit but finds himself battling with his own beliefs and values as he aids her in her cause.  The development of each person’s character is artfully told through mystery and adventure; both must learn to look to what God desires for His people and fight injustice and pride to fulfill His greater plan.  Not all the details were predictable and kept the reader turning the pages to discover if good would triumph evil and justice would reign in the end.  A very thoughtful and detailed plot combined with an excellent writing style and a beautiful romance creates a remarkable story.  This historical fiction novel is highly recommended.

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