While Love Stirs by Lorna Seilstad

Charlotte Gregory is a recent graduate of Fannie Farmer’s School of Cookery and is determined to use her education in creating appetizing, fresh, nutritious food to run her own kitchen.  When she learns that women in 1910 Minnesota are not welcome in most kitchens, she enters a competition with a gas stove company to further her recognition.  The gas company offers her a position traveling and lecturing on the advantages to a gas stove in the home.  Charlotte finds herself drawn to the sweet tempered Lewis Mathias who acts as a performer for her lectures.  However, still determined to make a difference, Charlotte approaches Dr. Joel Brooks, a young hospital superintendent she meets during her sister’s stay.  Dr. Brooks considers Charlotte’s ideas about using healthier—and more expensive—hospitals meals with fine china and flowered presentations to be completely impractical.  As the two are forced to work together to raise money for the hospital, they find that their stubbornness in fact reveals a spark of attraction.  But soon Charlotte must choose to whom her heart belongs – to quiet but predicable Lewis or obstinate but handsome Joel.

While Love Stirs is a breezy, simple read.  The plot moves quickly and while it can be read easily, it is also quite rushed at times.  Charlotte is a strong female, independent and determined to fight for what she believes is right.  Joel is frustrating in his inability to see the positive points of Charlotte’s arguments and does not encourage affection from the reader.  The novel is very dramatic.  Every slightly inconvenient event is turned into a significant problem; however, the issue is resolved so quickly the reader feels disconnected and left behind.  The “fighting” between Charlotte and Joel is especially forced.  Nevertheless, the overall themes of the book are enjoyable.  Charlotte’s cooking creations sound delightful and her desire to help others through her cooking is admirable.  The author’s knowledge of various history subjects is commendable and interesting to read.  Overall, the novel is recommended.

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

One More Last Chance by Cathleen Armstrong

Sarah Cooley moves home to Last Chance, New Mexico, after college to teach at the local elementary school and be closer to her family.  She likes the small town because of its predictability and resistance to change.  After struggling with a relationship in which her boyfriend wanted to adjust everything about her, Sarah is ready for the lazy and almost boring pace of Last Chance.  But Chris Reed, the new owner of the diner in town, wants nothing more than to shake things up in Sarah’s small town.  He desires to put Last Chance as a destination spot on the map and thinks a transformation is just what is needed to draw people to his restaurant.  When his niece comes for an extended visit, however, he discovers that change may be where he least expects it.  As he finds himself spending more time with Sarah, he encourages her to realize that change must be just the thing needed for both of them.

One More Last Chance is a light read, the pages breezing by with stories of traditions and transformations.  The characters are mostly likable and simplistic; although Sarah seems judgmental, arrogant, and rude at first, she somewhat redeems herself with her love for her students and teaching.  Chris is gentle and patient in his care for his niece and becomes a good friend to Sarah.  The novel is short and would have been a better read if there had been more descriptions of the scenes to help the reader more fully envision all that Last Chance had to offer.  Many of the dialogues and events in the book feel rushed and hurried, which makes it a little hard to connect with the characters.  However, the overall themes and plot of the novel are enjoyable and it is recommended for those looking for a contemporary, easy read.

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

Fatal Exchange by Lisa Harris

In a sudden turn of events, Emily Hunt’s relatively quiet life as a schoolteacher is turned upside down.  Although she comes from a family of cops, she deliberately avoids anything that has to do with drug cartels, murder, or danger.  When those very things are brought to her classroom one morning, she needs to draw on all her inner courage and learn to depend on none other than Mason Taylor, the man accused of being involved in her brother’s murder.   Mason knows Emily is struggling to trust him, but he also recognizes that she cares for her students.  When one of the students becomes involved with a drug cartel, Mason turns to Emily for help.  Neither of them suspect what will happen next nor how dangerous their involvement will suddenly become.  They must rely on each other to solve the mystery of events before it is too late.

Fatal Exchange is a fast-paced, exciting novel.  Almost the entire story takes place during one action-packed day and just when one danger begins to fade, another one is ready to cause more turmoil.  Ms. Harris’s characters are relatively complex and the hint of romance introduced provides a nice balance to the evils lurking among the pages.  Some of the ending plot points felt rushed and disjointed, which detracted from the earlier flow of the novel.  Although this story could stand alone, reading the entire series gives a better understanding of each of the characters.  A short introduction to one particular individual at the end suggests that the next novel will also be worth reading.  Overall, the book is a thrilling, romantic novel recommend for lovers of contemporary suspense.

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

One Perfect Spring by Irene Hannon

Claire Summers works hard to balance her job as an elementary school teacher and her role as a single mother to her eleven year old daughter, Haley.  With her free time, she does handyman jobs around their crumbling house to save money.  After a bad marriage, she has sworn off men for a while… until her daughter writes a letter to a local philanthropic businessman and changes everything.  Keith Watson spends longs hours in the office working for his kind boss, which leaves little time for social activities.  When Keith stumbles upon Haley’s letter asking for help locating the son her neighbor gave up for adoption years ago, he dismisses it as childish fantasy.  But his boss has other ideas and pushes Keith to take on this task.  As Keith reluctantly digs into the past, he realizes he has his own demons to face.  Claire and Keith find their lives intertwining one spring in ways they never expected, as one little girl’s kindhearted request touches several lives and leads to surprising endings.

This contemporary romance novel has predictable parts, but Irene Hannon also includes unexpected plot twists that keep the story interesting.  The characters are all struggling with varying issues, whether it is regret for past mistakes, lingering and debilitating sickness, buried pain and abuse, or forgiveness for others’ wrongs, which allow parts of the novel to be realistic and identifiable.  Ms. Hannon does a nice job of intertwining the stories of the various characters, allowing each to find healing through their interactions with each other.  The book elicits both smiles and emotional reactions, allowing the reader to enjoy a novel that is not surface-based but has deeper concepts and communications.  The writing style is simple but the book flows well and is easy to read.  Overall, it is an enjoyable story, although some of the histories of the characters have much too convenient similarities and at times, the plot slows a bit.  Nevertheless, this novel is a good contemporary story and is recommended for those who wish to read an interesting romance.

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

The Pelican Bride by Beth White

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French-born Genevieve Gaillain and her sister Aimee board the Pelican as mail order brides in 1704, to escape persecution in France and find new life in the New World.  Both have promised to marry a Canadian, but upon reaching their destination, they find the scrawny, rustic men are much different than their imaginings.  The settlement is primitive, at best, and both struggle to carve out a home in this wilderness.  Genevieve wishes for peace to worship in her own way, but when she falls in love with the mysterious Tristan Lanier, a man who has made enemies of the Crown, peace may be further off than she envisioned.  And the secret she harbors may hurt others as well as destroy the very colony itself.  Tristan works to keep the colony safe from nearby tensions with the British, Spanish, and Native Americans even as he and Genevieve realize the enemy may be within their own walls.

The Pelican Bride reads at a fast pace, the tale bursting with mystery and suspense over the motives and actions of each character.  The intricate plot is full of fascinating historical detail and the setting and time period of the story is interesting, especially since it is a less commonly written era.  There are many character names to process, however, so the reader must pay close attention in order to not be lost along the way.  Overall, the novel contains realistic scenarios that include people struggling to carve out a home and life in the vast New World among the political and religious dangers lurking in the shadows.  Genevieve’s sister is frustrating in her selfishness, but the lessons learned by all create a relatively good ending to the story.  On the whole, the novel is exciting and a worthy read.

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

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.