Saturday, September 25, 2021

A MIDNIGHT DANCE by Joanna Davidson Politano, Reviewed by Winnie Thomas

Joanna Davidson Politano is a masterful storyteller, and one of my favorite historical fiction authors. Her newest novel, A Midnight Dance, is an intricately woven tapestry of history, romance, mystery, and inspiration set in London in 1833 and populated with colorful, interesting, multi-layered characters. It’s also a fascinating look at the theatre culture at that time. The heroine, Ella Blythe, is talented and focused, but plagued with feelings of not being good enough. I loved seeing her journey as she let herself be tutored by Jack Dorian.

“The only way you’ll go far is to leap big. You may fly or you may fall, but either way, everyone will be looking at you.”
Although Jack is known as the dance company flirt, his true character is revealed as the story progresses, and he’s definitely a fitting hero. Many twists, turns, and surprises swirl through this tale as it winds its way to the inspirational and emotional end. This is a beautiful story of personal and spiritual growth. 4.5 stars
*I voluntarily reviewed a complimentary copy from Revell. All opinions are my own. 

BackCover Blurb:
All theater romances are tragedies. Ella Blythe knows this. Still, she cannot help but hope her own story may turn out different than most--and certainly different than the tragic story of the Ghost of Craven Street Theater. Yet as she struggles to maintain her tenuous place in the ever-shrinking ballet company, win the attentions of principal dancer Philippe, and avoid company flirt Jack, Ella cannot deny the uncanny feeling that her life is mirroring that of the dead ballerina.

Is she dancing ever closer to the edge of her own tragic end? Or will the secrets that are about to come to light offer release from the past?

Mystery and romance make the perfect dance partners in this evocative story from fan-favorite Joanna Davidson Politano.

Revell Publishing, September 2021
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Thursday, September 23, 2021

UNDER THE BAYOU MOON by Valerie Fraser Luesse, Reviewed by Rebecca Maney

"I think I'd rather just find somebody I could be quiet with".

Adjusting to her new life in the tiny town of Bernadette, Louisiana, Ellie Field is full of anticipation; she's the new school teacher, and already the locals are filling her head with all sorts of reasons why their children have continually despised going to school. Primarily, the state superintendent has determined that the Cajun language and culture should be sacrificed to progression; Ellie begs to differ.

One of the first people Ellie meets is an enigmatic young fisherman, Raphe Broussard, whose kindness and selflessness has extended out into his community as well as inward towards his young orphaned nephew Remy, who lives with Raphe. As Ellie masters the challenges of teaching multiple grades, Raphe and Remy help her become more and more comfortable in her remote surroundings. But all is not as beautiful as the moonlight on the bayou; danger and greed lurk in the shadows of the tall swamp grasses, along with a well kept secret that hides beneath local lore . . .  the tales of a white alligator are not just a figment of a storyteller's imagination. 

Brimming with Louisiana culture and mystique, this story does have some minor hiccups. Scene changes and time lapses are bumpy and unpredictable, but fortunately the characters rise to every occasion, searing their sense of benevolent community spirit towards each and every family, regardless of race, religion or economic standing, into your conscience. Is there a difference between happiness and contentment? Perhaps, Raphe and Ellie have found the answer to that question.

"Ellie heard - for the first time in her life - the sound of pure contentment, flowing over her like creek water on smooth rocks. And she knew without a doubt that she could listen to it forever."
*I received a copy of this book from the publisher. The opinions stated above are entirely my own. 3.5 stars

See Paula's Review!

BackCover Blurb:
Restless with the familiarity of her Alabama home, Ellie Fields accepts a teaching job in a tiny Louisiana town deep in bayou country. Though rightfully suspicious of outsiders, who have threatened both their language and their culture, most of the people in tiny Bernadette, Louisiana, come to appreciate the young and idealistic schoolteacher as a boon to the town. She's soon teaching just about everyone--and coming up against opposition from both the school board and a politician with ulterior motives.

Acclimating to a whole new world, Ellie meets a lonely but intriguing Cajun fisherman named Raphe who introduces her to the legendary white alligator that haunts these waters. Raphe and Ellie have barely found their way to each other when a huge bounty is offered for the elusive gator, bringing about a shocking turn of events that will test their love and their will to right a terrible wrong.

A master of the Southern novel, Valerie Fraser Luesse invites you to enter the sultry swamps of Louisiana in a story that illuminates the struggle for the heart and soul of the bayou.
Revell Publishing, August 3, 2021
Available in digital ebook, paperback, hardcover, and audiobook:

Wednesday, September 22, 2021

THE RESTORING HERITAGE series by Tari Faris, Reviewed by Paula Shreckhise

Book #1 in the Series: YOU BELONG WITH ME

This debut novel had so many great elements. I love when a main character wants to preserve history in a small town.

Hannah loves the historic buildings in her town and wants to save them from being torn down for a strip mall. She has great ideas and friends and family rally behind her. But can she pull off the requirements for a contest from a national magazine and win the prize money to begin to rehab her beloved Heritage, Michigan?

As a former foster child, Luke feels that he has never fit in but there are surprises in store that he could not have imagined.

There are two romances that run into obstacles but with introspection and learning to seek God for the answers, disappointments are averted.

“When we hold the broken pieces of our lives too close, they will cut us up inside.”

“When you’ve got nothing left, that’s when you see how real your faith is. Faithh with everything you want is easy. But faith when everything goes wrong? That’s when God alone has to be enough.”

The characters have a lot to learn but they see that God can take broken pieces and make something beautiful.

A feel good story in my favorite setting, a small historic town.
* I won this book in a Just Reads Tour contest in October, 2020. All opinions are my own.*5 stars and a strong faith thread 
Book#2 in the Series: UNTIL I MET YOU

I loved going back to Heritage, reading about the next two couples to find romance and seeing where Otis the hippo lands this time.

This reminded me of the Prodigal Son. But we also see the Prodigal Brother. With multiple points of view, this is a story of reconciliation and love re-kindled.

Pastor Nate has been redeemed but still holds on to his past. It takes a friend to remind him:”You aren’t called to have the answers. You were called to point to the One who has the answers.”

This is a tight knit community, where everyone knows just about everything, so reputations are on display. I liked how Ms. Faris portrayed the characters as having flaws but after some stubbornness, they learned to let God lead.”When I push God away, He doesn’t force Himself on me. And when I look for Him, He tends to find me.”
The romance is palpable and I loved the gestures by Austin to win Libby. He took her on a surprise date to see the local Carnegie Libraries. She was trying to collect selfies of them. The back and forth with the baggie of change was very funny. Olivia, trying for a newspaper job agrees to do an article on dating. That whole scenario was a hoot, as Nate tries not to be offended or left out.

Great series so far. I’m looking forward to reading the next book.
*I won this book from Just Reads tour in October 2020. All opinions are my own.*
5stars and a strong faith thread.

BOOK #3 in the series: SINCE YOU'VE BEEN GONE

Welcome back to Heritage, Michigan, one of my favorite fictional places. Small town flavor where some things are not private but where most everyone rallies to support you. Two more couples take center stage.

Leah and Jon are coming back to town, Jon to take over the family business and Leah to resurrect the legacy her grandfather left behind. They team up to open a unique store that sells items Made In Michigan, hoping to make Heritage proud.

Colby, famous for his Christian music, is in retreat mode after some career trouble. Madison, the redeemed bad girl, is making a fresh start and rehabbing her childhood home.

Ms. Faris brings her characters to life with messy choices and complicated situations. But they come through struggles with faith and realistic solutions. There is angst, humor and touching romance.

And as always, the mystery of wandering Otis, the huge metal hippo town mascot.

“Love is letting someone in and trusting them even though they have the potential to break your heart.

“Failure can be a good thing, but you have to learn from it and fail forward. Let the failure push you on to something greater.”

Not only is this a story about restoring a town, but it is a story of restoring lives and keeping the heritage of families alive.

If you love romance, struggles, spiritual growth and happy endings, you will love this series.
*I received a complimentary copy of this book from Revell Reads program. I was not required to give a favorable review. All opinions are my own.* 5 stars and a strong faith thread. 
Find the single books or series in digital ebook, paperback, and audiobook...

Visit Tari's Amazon page for more information


Tuesday, September 21, 2021

CROSSED LINES by Jennifer Delamere, Reviewed by Winnie Thomas

I always enjoy Jennifer Delamere’s books, so I was excited to read Crossed Lines, the second book in her Love Along the Wires series. With a setting in London in 1881 and a cast of colorful, realistic, and endearing characters, this book brought to life the world of the telegraph office. I enjoyed learning more about this little slice of history while enjoying a charming romance.

“God has a way of know our needs and providing for them, even before we know what they are. You must trust in His timing.”

Emma Sutton is a cheerful, likeable telegraph operator who is longing for marriage and her own home. Mitchell is an engaging, hard-working, and enamored of Emma. When his friend Christopher falls for Emma, also, he agrees to help Christopher. I enjoyed seeing how this love triangle played out. The author has penned a delightful, well-written story, and I’m excited to see what she has in store for Rose in the next book of the series.
*I voluntarily reviewed a complimentary copy from Bethany House. All opinions are my own.

See Paula's Review!

BackCover Blurb:
When romance finally blossoms in her life, will it grow in the right direction?

Emma Sutton knows she should be satisfied with her life. She has a position at London's Central Telegraph Office, and behind her rented rooms is a small plot where she can indulge her passion for gardening. But ever since she was orphaned as a child, she has longed for a family of her own and the stability and consistency it provides. Her deepest wish appears realized when a handsome engineer is thrown into her orbit and sends her a thrilling love note.

Mitchell Harris's sharp wit and facility with a pen have enabled him to thrive despite serious obstacles. That the woman of his dreams works just two floors above his should make life perfect. But a childhood accident has left Mitchell convinced he'll never draw a woman's affection, especially from someone like Emma. When his best friend--who once saved his life--falls in love with Emma too and asks for help writing her love letters, Mitchell must choose between desire and loyalty. 

Bethany House Publishers, August, 2021
Available in digital ebook, paperback, hardcover, and audiobook:

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