Friday, July 30, 2021

THE NATURE OF SMALL BIRDS by Susie Finkbeiner, Reviewed by Winnie Thomas

“Turns out that the nature of small birds is to fly. It’s no different for our kids.”

Susie Finkbeiner is one of my favorite authors. I always love the insights about life that she brings out. Her novels are thought-provoking and brilliantly written. This one really resonated with me. It’s a story of life, family, love, and belonging. It’s a story of caring and compassion during everyday life. It’s a story of hope and letting go.

Told by three separate family members in three different time periods, it took me a little while to get used to the shifts in perspective and thought processes. Once I got used to it, I could follow it well, and it was intriguing to see the perceptions of these different characters as they grew and the relationships shifted and changed. With many poignant and heart-wrenching moments, it kept my emotions and feelings changing through the chapters.

“It’s the nature of small birds to sing their little hearts out. And it’s the nature of God to hear them.”

Finkbeiner is a master at creating realistic, relatable characters and placing them in compelling situations and interesting settings. I thoroughly enjoyed this book, and I’m looking forward to what she comes up with next.
*I voluntarily reviewed a complimentary copy from Revell through NetGalley. All opinions are my own.

BackCover Blurb:
In 1975, three thousand children were airlifted out of Saigon to be adopted into Western homes. When Mindy, one of those children, announces her plans to return to Vietnam to find her birth mother, her loving adopted family is suddenly thrown back to the events surrounding her unconventional arrival in their lives.

Though her father supports Mindy's desire to meet her family of origin, he struggles privately with an unsettling fear that he'll lose the daughter he's poured his heart into. Mindy's mother undergoes the emotional rollercoaster inherent in the adoption of a child from a war-torn country, discovering the joy hidden amid the difficulties. And Mindy's sister helps her sort through relics that whisper of the effect the trauma of war has had on their family--but also speak of the beauty of overcoming.

Told through three strong voices in three compelling timelines, The Nature of Small Birds is a hopeful story that explores the meaning of family far beyond genetic code.

Revell Publishing, July 2021 
Available in digital ebook, paperback, and hardcover:

WAVES OF DOUBT by Nancy Mehl and Shaen Layle, Reviewed by Paula Shreckhise

Amateur sleuth Priscilla Grant has her hands full when eccentric Virginia Lawrence disappears after cancelling her lecture at the local historical museum. Certain valuable artifacts are also missing. If that were not enough, she and cousin Trudy discover that items have gone missing from a local cemetery. Trudy helps search for Virginia and her Pink Caddy, but she is busy with a local production of a new play.

This was an engaging story of a local mystery on Martha’s Vineyard. Woven into it was a real, historical, quirky character of Nancy Luce, the Chicken Lady and lore surrounding her. Add in some nagging doubts about Priscilla and her beau Gerald as well as Trudy and husband Don and you have a tale that fits anywhere.

I enjoyed the local flavor and the dogs who played an integral part. Makes me want to check out more of this mystery series from Guideposts. 
*I received a complimentary copy of this book from the author. I was not required to give a favorable review. All opinions are my own. I give this 4 stars and a light faith thread. 

BackCover Blurb:
Virginia is a scholar of the Vineyard history as well as a recluse. The island is abuzz when she books a library lecture with a local eccentric. The evening of the event Virginia is a no show. The valuable museum artifacts in her possession are also missing. As Priscilla delves into Virginia's mystery another puzzle emerges involving a cemetery.

Available through Guideposts Publishing, Jan 2019, and Hardcover for purchase at Amazon

Thursday, July 29, 2021

BRIDGE OF GOLD by Kimberley Woodhouse, Reviewed by Rebecca Maney

" . . . . they weren't just dealing with an excavation. Now he was pretty sure they were dealing with murder."

When dive experts Kayla Richardson and Steven Michaels happen upon an underwater mystery while working on a restoration project for the city of San Francisco, they never imagined being tangled up in unsolved murders . . . for not one, but two victims . . . . from totally different eras. What secret was the ship, "The Lucky Martha" still holding onto? And why were others so adamant about keeping them from making a full discovery?

Years earlier, another young diver happened upon a ship buried underneath the waters of San Francisco Bay. At that time, Luke Moreau was a member of the construction team for the south tower of what is now known through-out the world as the Golden Gate Bridge. When his underwater discovery began to threaten all that he held dear, Luke made a decision that affected the lives of several generations.

Enjoy the riveting history written between these pages, for what was under the sea changed everything on the surface for four young Americans, whose fears for their future were overcome by diving deep into the past.

"Fear is not of the Lord, child. He is almighty God and has His angels watching over you." 

*I purchased a copy and was under no obligation to provide a positive review.

BackCover Blurb:
Repairs on the Golden Gate Bridge Uncover a Century-Old Murder

Walk through Doors to the Past via a new series of historical stories of romance and adventure.

Underwater archaeologist Kayla Richardson is called to the Golden Gate Bridge where repairs to one of the towers uncovers two human remains from the late 1800s and the 1930s. The head of the bridge restoration is Steven Michaels, who dives with Kayla, and a friendship develops between them. But as the investigation heats up and gold is found that dates back to the gold rush, more complications come into play that threaten them both. Could clues leading to a Gold Rush era mystery that was first discovered during the building of the bridge still ignite an obsession worth killing for?

Barbour Publishing, July 2021
Available in digital ebook and paperback:
Buy Bridge of Gold at Amazon
Buy Bridge of Gold at
Buy Bridge of Gold at Baker Book House



Tuesday, July 27, 2021

LETHAL COVER-UP by Darlene Turner, Reviewed by Kim #ReleaseDay

As soon as I saw the cover of Lethal Cover-Up by Darlene Turner, I knew wanted to read this story to find out what was happening on this idyllic looking street on what looks like a perfect fall night! And let me tell you, I was not disappointed with the answer!

This story has everything I look for in a romantic suspense story. The first sentence pulls you in, the pacing is perfect, it is filled with action, suspense, twists and turns, and surprising outcomes! There’s also a great second chance romance. I really liked Tucker and Madison together. At first, I thought Madi may be a bit too prickly, but thankfully I was wrong. The faith thread was woven throughout and added a great touch to the story.
Darlene Turner is definitely an author I will recommend. I’m looking forward to reading her next story!
*I received a complimentary copy of this book. All opinions are my own. The faith thread is medium. 
BackCover Blurb:
Some secrets are dangerous…

But uncovering the truth could be deadly.

Border patrol officer Madison Steele knows her sister Leah’s fatal car crash was no accident. Someone’s willing to kill to cover up a pharmaceutical company’s deadly crime of distributing tainted drugs. Now they are after Madison to tie off loose ends. But with her high school sweetheart, Canadian police constable Tucker Reed, at her side, can Madison expose the company’s deadly plan before she becomes the next victim?

From Love Inspired Suspense: Courage. Danger. Faith. July 2021
Available in digital ebook and paperback:
Buy Lethal Cover-Up at Amazon
Buy Lethal Cover-Up at

THE COWGIRL'S SACRIFICE by Tina Radcliffe, Reviewed by Nicole and Winnie

It’s been such fun to revisit Rebel Ranch and the Rainbolt siblings again in the last book of the Hearts of Oklahoma series by one of my favorite authors, Tina Radcliffe. I’ve loved every book in this series and have fallen in love with all the people of Rebel, Oklahoma. The Cowgirl’s Sacrifice is Kate Rainbolt’s story, and what a fantastic tale it is. Kate is independent, courageous, feisty, and needing to heal from some injuries she sustained as a rodeo clown. She heads for Rebel Ranch to recuperate and reassess her job situation but finds that the position as ranch foreman her brothers offered her months earlier has been filled by Jess McNalley, her ex-boyfriend of ten years earlier.

I enjoyed meeting Kate and Jess and seeing their relationship begin to blossom again. Jess is a wonderful hero, and just the man to complement Kate’s personality. What fun it was to have the other Rainbolt siblings and their spouses show up in this story and see what they’ve been up to. As always, there’s lots of action, some drama, romance, and a thread of inspiration to tie everything together and create a delightful, charming read. I can’t wait to see what Tina Radcliffe has for us next.
* 4.5 stars. I voluntarily reviewed a complimentary copy from the publisher and author. All opinions are my own.


The Cowgirl’s Sacrifice, the final book in Tina Radcliffe’s Hearts of Oklahoma series, is a definite winner. Tina Radcliffe is my favorite Love Inspired romance author, and I am never disappointed with her heartwarming western stories with close knit families that tug at the readers’ heartstrings.

Kate Rainbolt, the younger independent sister with purple tipped hair and a career in the rodeo circuit, was a delight to read with her spunky personality. Her reactions to her injuries sustained in the rodeo were realistic and well written. Kate’s ex-boyfriend Jess McNally was a perfect complement to her in this wonderful tale of second chances and discovering God’s unconditional love. It is bittersweet to see this series end, but I can’t wait to see what Tina Radcliffe has in store for her readers next!
*I received a complimentary copy of this book from the author/publisher and was not required to write a positive review. All opinions expressed are mine. 

See Kim's and Trixi's Reviews!

 BackCover Blurb:
This cowgirl has wandered back home…

Will she choose her past or her future?

Needing time to heal after a rodeo injury, Kate Rainbolt heads to her family ranch to accept the foreman job her brothers offered her months ago. But the position’s already been filled by her ex-boyfriend, Jess McNally, and the only open job reports to him. With Jess as her temporary boss—and turning into something more—might he finally convince Kate to put down roots?

From Love Inspired: Uplifting stories of faith, forgiveness and hope.

Hearts of Oklahoma

Book 1: Finding the Road Home
Book 2: Ready to Trust
Book 3: His Holiday Prayer
Book 4: The Cowgirl's Sacrifice

Love Inspired, July 2021
Available in digital ebook, paperback, and mass-market paperback:
Buy The Cowgirl's Sacrifice at Amazon
Buy The Cowgirl's Sacrifice at


MISSING IN THE DESERT by Dana Mentink, Reviewed by Kim #ReleaseDay

I always know when I start a Dana Mentink story that I’m in for a suspenseful read that will keep me turning the pages long into the night. She is one of those authors where you just keep saying “one more chapter” until you’ve turned the last page.
Levi and Mara’s story is so good! It takes place in Death Valley, which is really interesting. It starts with a bang - literally- and never lets up. It kept me riveted to the pages the entire time.
Mara’s missing sister and the clues that were being dropped kept me guessing throughout the story. Was she dead? Alive? Who has her? Why? I accused pretty much everyone in the story of everything! I was so surprised with the way the story played out! It was excellent and unexpected.
If you’re looking for a quick suspenseful read with a nice romance, this is the story for you! I can’t wait for the next story in this series!
*I received a complimentary copy of this book. All opinions are my own. The faith thread is light. 

BackCover Blurb:
Five years ago, her sister disappeared…
Now someone is coming for her.

Who would believe that Mara Castillo's sister—missing and presumed dead—suddenly sent a one-word text? Now Mara wants answers, even if it means stepping into a killer's sights with her brother's best friend, rancher Levi Duke, as her only protection. But with someone who has everything to lose after her, uncovering a long-buried secret could save her life…or claim it.

From Love Inspired Suspense: Courage. Danger. Faith.

Desert Justice Series:
Book 1: Framed in Death Valley
Book 2: Missing in the Desert

Available in digital ebook and paperback:
Love Inspired Fiction, July 2021


THE COWGIRL' S SACRIFICE by Tina Radcliffe, Reviewed by Trixi and Kim #ReleaseDay

“The past had brought her here, and it was time to start living the life the Lord had put in front of her. Yes, it was time. Time to put down roots and call Rebel Ranch home.”

Facing ones past is never easy for any of us. There are always regrets and things we wished we would have done differently. Kate's been one of those people who never really put roots down anywhere & the ever changing rodeo life has been her passion. That is until a serious injury sidelines her and has her running back home to Rebel Ranch. Now she not only has to face her three older brothers, but Jess McNally, her ex-boyfriend of ten years ago. Maybe this is exactly where God wants her to be so she can heal both physically and spiritually. Because running away from her problems hasn’t worked out so well for her!

“I thought I'd be falling down and getting up and rodeoing forever. That's pretty silly, right? Thirty years old, and I'm back to wondering what I want to be when I grow up. ~Kate pg. 108”

I really enjoyed getting to know Kate. She's the elusive rebel younger sister who I've only gotten a glance or two of over this book series. I've wondered what kept her in the background and Tina did an excellent job of telling her background story. She's what I would call a prodigal daughter, an independent, strong-willed, no-nonsense kind of gal. When she comes face-to-face with Jess, there are things that come to light and a deeper understanding of what makes Kate who she is. I love a classic reunion or second-chance romance story, so this was a real treat for me to watch both Jess and Kate work through their past relationship to give love another chance.

“We both had a lot of mud to slog through to get where we are. I'm thinking it's time we both give as much time to our future as we have given to our past. ~Jess pg. 213”

I'm sad to leave the Rainbolts behind, but what a perfect ending to this fabulous series! Each sibling had a lot to learn in each book and journeying with them through it was a real treat. I hope you love Kate as much as I did; she's a real fire-cracker but has a sweet heart beating beneath that tough exterior! I also hope you love this story of second-chances, both in life and love, the value of strong family ties, and going back to the basics of old fashioned faith in trusting God to guide your life even when you can't see what the future holds.
*I received a complimentary copy from the author and was not obligated to leave a favorable review. All opinions expressed here are mine. *

Tina Radcliffe writes the best families! I love the Rainbolts, like do they need another sibling? And, I seriously love Rebel, OK! Can I just move there right now?

I have really been looking forward to Kate’s story. After reading the last book in the series, I was hoping Finn would be the male main character, but, I’m happy to say that Jess was an absolutely fine replacement! I loved his character! Kate was a tad prickly, but I loved them as a couple. They complimented each other perfectly!

I am so sad that this series is over. I’m gonna miss these characters. I’m also gonna miss Willard and his Willard-isms! What a great secondary character he is!

I can’t wait to read whatever Tina Radcliffe writes next! Hopefully, we might get to read Finn and Nicole’s story next!
*I received a complimentary copy of this book. All opinions are my own.

See Winnie's and Nicole's Reviews:

BackCover Blurb:
This cowgirl has wandered back home…

Will she choose her past or her future?

Needing time to heal after a rodeo injury, Kate Rainbolt heads to her family ranch to accept the foreman job her brothers offered her months ago. But the position’s already been filled by her ex-boyfriend, Jess McNally, and the only open job reports to him. With Jess as her temporary boss—and turning into something more—might he finally convince Kate to put down roots?

From Love Inspired: Uplifting stories of faith, forgiveness and hope.

Hearts of Oklahoma

Book 1: Finding the Road Home
Book 2: Ready to Trust
Book 3: His Holiday Prayer
Book 4: The Cowgirl's Sacrifice

Love Inspired, July 2021
Available in digital ebook, paperback, and mass-market paperback:
Buy The Cowgirl's Sacrifice at Amazon
Buy The Cowgirl's Sacrifice at

Saturday, July 24, 2021

BETWEEN THE WILD BRANCHES by Connilyn Cossette, Reviewed by Winnie Thomas

I usually don’t read much Biblical fiction, but I make an exception for books by Connilyn Cossette, one of my favorite Christian fiction authors. Her impeccable research, richly drawn settings, and colorful, realistic, and multi-layered characters make history come alive. She’s such a masterful author, and I greatly admire the creativity and expertise in her writing.

After following Lukio as a child in the first book in the Covenant House duology, To Dwell Among Cedars, I was so excited to read the rest of his story in the conclusion, Between the Wild Branches, and what a stunning conclusion it is! At times gritty and brutal, and at other times tender and heart-touching, this tale takes the reader from Ashdod, a stronghold of the Philistines to Kiryat-Yearim, the residence of Hebrews.

Lukio has been a famous Philistine for the past ten years and has amassed riches and a name for himself by becoming a fighter. He’s also spent that time trying to forget the painful memories of his early life and his time with the Hebrews who once adopted him. Despite his hardened appearance and reputation, he opens his heart to some who are downtrodden and in peril. When Shoshana, his friend from his days with the Hebrews reenters his life, they both find themselves in trouble.

This is an unforgettable tale of redemption, forgiveness, courage, and God’s divine intervention. It’s also a story of the power of family love, whether by birth or adoption. It’s headed straight for my keeper shelf and onto my list of top reads for the year. I’m looking forward to more fantastic books by this author.
*I voluntarily reviewed a complimentary copy from Bethany House Publishers and NetGalley. All opinions are my own.

BackCover Blurb:
Ten years ago Lukio fled Kiryat-Yearim, where he'd been adopted by the Levite family who guarded the Ark of the Covenant. Feeling betrayed by everyone, he returned to his birthplace in Philistia to become a famous fighter. Now the champion of Ashdod, Lukio has achieved every goal with the help of his ruthless cousin. But just as he is set to claim the biggest prize of all, the daughter of the king, his past collides with his present in the form of Shoshana.

After a heartbreaking end to her secret friendship with Lukio, Shoshana thought to never see the boy with the dual-colored eyes and the troubled soul again. But when she is captured in a Philistine raid and enslaved
in Ashdod, she is surprised to find that the brutal fighter known as Demon-Eyes is Lukio himself.

With explosive secrets and unbreakable vows standing between them, finding a way to freedom for both may cost them everything.

Bethany House Publishers, July 6, 2021
Available in digital ebook, paperback, hardcover, and audiobook:
Buy Between the Wild Branches at Amazon
Buy Between the Wild Branches at
Buy Between the Wild Branches at Baker Book House

Friday, July 23, 2021

A MAN WITH A PAST by Mary Connealy, Reviewed by Paula and Winnie

*Family was an interesting business.*

Falcon Hunt is a man with a past. The trouble comes when he is injured and cannot remember that past. He needs to catch up with those memories before the bad guys catch up to him.

In book two of Brothers in Arms, the excitement is ramped up by dangerous men who want to take over the Hunt ranch and the women who live there. Sinister happenings try to undermine the search for the truth behind Clovis Hunt and the will he saddled his sons with. At first estranged, the brothers are getting to know each other. They band together to go after a common foe.

Ms. Connealy has gathered interesting characters to a ranch in Wyoming and has given them complex connections. The men are capable and stable, the woman strong and opinionated. They all have a solid faith.

My favorite character this time around is Cheyenne. She is hurt by her stepfather’s last will and testament but she stubbornly carries on. She is attracted to Falcon but he can’t remember if he’s married or not: “She wanted to ask him what had come to him. And she wanted to clobber him if he remembered a wife and six kids. Worse if he remembered three wives and six kids.”

Falcon didn’t relish this mismatch family: Well, you’re neck deep in family now, Falcon. You couldn’t be lonely if you wanted to be.”

This book showcases all things cowboy and the author’s famous wit. Very enjoyable. Can’t wait for book three.

*I received a complimentary copy of this book from Bethany House on behalf of the author. I was not required to give a favorable review. All opinions are my own.” I give this 5 stars and a solid faith thread

I can always count on Mary Connealy to create colorful, relatable, and endearing characters, plunk them down in interesting settings, embroil them in crazy situations, and then proceed to carefully and humorously get them out again. Her Brothers in Arms series is a wild ride, and the newest book, A Man with a Past, had me chuckling, giggling, and laughing out loud. Falcon Hunt definitely has a past, but can’t remember it. Cheyenne is courageous, determined, and downright dangerous when she’s crossed. She’s also mad as a hornet that Falcon and his half-brothers have inherited a ranch that should be hers. Throw these two together and fireworks happen!

“I like the idea of having a family, but I’d’ve preferred a less troublesome one. One where I get shot and drowned less often.”

With lots of suspense, intrigue, action, and a dash of romance, there’s plenty to love about this book and this family. Mary Connealy is one of my favorite authors. I adore her sense of humor and fun. I’m looking forward to the next book in this series.

*I voluntarily reviewed a complimentary copy from Bethany House Publishers and NetGalley. All opinions are my own. 4.5 stars.

BackCover Blurb:

Falcon Hunt awakens without a past, or at least not one he can recall. He's got brothers he can't remember, and he's interested in the prettiest woman in the area, Cheyenne. Only trouble is, a few flashes of memory make Falcon wonder if he's already married. He can't imagine abandoning a wife. But his pa did just that--twice. When Falcon claims his inheritance in the West, Cheyenne is cut out of the ranch she was raised on, leaving her bitter and angry. And then Falcon kisses her, adding confusion and attraction to the mix.

Soon it's clear someone is gunning for the Hunt brothers. When one of his brothers is shot, Falcon and Cheyenne set out to find who attacked him. They encounter rustled cattle, traitorous cowhands, a missing woman, and outlaws that take all their savvy to overcome. As love grows between these two independent people, Falcon must piece together his past if they're to have any chance at a future. 
Bethany House Publishing, July 2021
Available in digital ebook, paperback, hardcover, and audiobook:

Wednesday, July 21, 2021

SECRETS SHE KNEW by D. L. Wood, Reviewed by Kim

Secrets She Knew is the first story I’ve read by D. L. Wood. I will definitely be reading more from this author! 


This story is a cold case mystery which has haunted our main character, Dani, since she found a high school classmate that had been murdered.

The start of this story was a tad slower than I was expecting, but it really set the mood and explained why Dani couldn’t let this supposedly solved case go. Once the story picked up, wow! As usual, I accused everyone of everything, but boy was I shocked at how it all played out! 

I can’t wait to read more of D. L. Wood’s stories!

*I purchased this story and was under no obligation to provide a positive review. It is a clean read. 

BackCover Blurb:
Boston police detective Dani Lake reads returning to her small hometown of Skye, Alabama, for her ten-year high school reunion--and not just for the normal reasons.

At only fifteen, Dani tragically discovered the body of her murdered classmate, setting in motion the process that led to the unjust conviction of her dear friend and an unshakable burden of guilt she carries to this day. So when new evidence surfaces during her trip home which suggests the truth Dani’s always suspected, she embarks on a mission to expose the real killer, aided by Skye detective Chris Newton--who happens to be the man Dani’s best friend is dying to set her up with, and also the only person who believes her.

But when Dani pushes too hard, someone pushes back, endangering Dani and those closest to her as she unearths secrets deeper and darker than she ever expected to learn—secrets that may bring the truth to light, if they don’t get her killed first.

A Secrets and Lies Suspense Novel.
Thrilling, clean suspense and mystery laced with romance and faith.
Silverglass Press, March 2020
Available in digital ebook and paperback:

Monday, July 19, 2021

WOMAN IN SHADOW by Carrie Stuart Parks, #Tour hosted by Paula Shreckhise with #Review

Woman in Shadow

by Carrie Stuart Parks

July 12-23, 2021 Tour


Woman in Shadow by Carrie Stuart Parks

Carrie Stuart Parks combines her expertise as a forensic artist with her ability to craft a gripping story in this page-turning web of light and shadow.

A woman off the grid.

Darby Graham thinks she's on a much-needed vacation in remote Idaho to relax. But before she even arrives at the ranch, an earthquake strikes—her first clue that something is amiss. Then when a cabin on the edge of town is engulfed in flames and problems at the ranch escalate, Darby finds herself immersed in a chilling mystery.

A town on fire.

A serial arsonist sends taunting letters to the press after each fire. As a forensic linguist, this is Darby’s area of expertise . . . but the scars it’s caused her also the reason she’s trying to escape from her life.

A growing darkness.

As the shadows continue to move in, the pieces of the town around her come into sharper focus. Can she trust the one man who sees her clearly?

Praise for Woman in Shadow:

“Unique, witty, and hilarious, Carrie's voice shines throughout Woman in Shadow. The perfect mix of intrigue, mystery and danger, this is most definitely a book for my keeper shelf.”
Dani Pettrey, bestselling author of the Coastal Guardians series

Book Details:

Genre: Mystery/Suspense
Published by: Thomas Nelson
Publication Date: July 13th 2021
Number of Pages: 336
ISBN: 0785239847 (ISBN13: 9780785239840)
Series: Woman in Shadow is not a part of a series.
Purchase Links: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads

Read an excerpt:

Chapter 1

Targhee Falls, Idaho

“Why are those dogs barking?” I pointed across the wooden picnic table toward two obviously upset canines yelping nearby.

A man staring at a clipboard didn’t look up. “They’re dogs. That’s what they do. Are you Darby Graham?”


The man checked something on his clipboard. “Good. You’re all here.” He had to speak up to be heard over the commotion.

Before I could ask about the dogs again, he turned and strolled toward the nearby general store.

Although the man seemed unmoved by the dogs’ distress, the other people seated around me on Adirondack chairs or at picnic tables had stopped speaking to each other and were staring. The dogs—a black Lab cross with hound-length ears, and a huge Great Dane mix—both had their tails tucked between their legs and were howling.

The picnic table trembled.

I lifted my hands off the rough pine surface but could still feel the movement under my body. A flock of birds burst from the treetops. Pinecones dropped to the ground from the towering ponderosas.


I was seated near the general store, just below a plate-glass window. The glass rippled, then rattled.

Heart thudding, I dove under the table. The ground rolled under me like ocean waves. A low rumbling was followed by car alarms going off from the parking lot on the other side of the store.

The black Lab flew under the table and landed in my lap. I wrapped my arms around the quivering dog, feeling the prominent bones of her spine and rib cage. “It’s okay there, girl. You’re safe. Your big buddy isn’t so scared—”

The second quaking dog joined us, his large body pressing against my back.

The earthquake ended.

“All over.” I reached around and scratched the Dane’s chest, feeling more bones. Didn’t anyone ever feed these dogs?

Both dogs seemed content to stay put, but the weight of the Lab—even though she was too thin—was still more than my leg was used to and it was rapidly going to sleep. “Come on, sweet girl, time to get up,” I whispered.

Both dogs took the hint.

On the other hand, here under the table seemed a nice place to stay. Tucked into the shadows, I didn’t need to worry about anyone staring at me. I had room to stretch out and could smell the cut grass. I’d be prepared should another earthquake come. And my assignment was to maintain a low profile. Sitting on the ground under a table seemed to be as low profile as I could get.

Two legs appeared next to me. “Miss Graham?”

Flapperdoodle. Mr. Clipboard found me.

I crawled between the bench and table, sliding onto the seat, then glanced around. Several other people had taken similar action. Only Clipboard had noticed my reluctance to leave my hiding place.

One by one, the car alarms stopped. The slight breeze stirred the fragrance of fallen pine needles.

Mr. Clipboard stared at me for a moment, then turned toward the others. He was holding a number of fabric bags imprinted with Mule Shoe Ranch. “Don’t be worried, folks. The town of Targhee Falls is less than fifteen miles from Yellowstone. The national park routinely has between one and three thousand quakes a year—”

“Excuse me, but I’ve heard most of those quakes aren’t noticeable,” a gray-haired woman in a denim shirt said.

“Obviously some are.” The man gave her a rueful half smile and started handing out the bags after checking the attached name tags. “I’m Sam, owner of the general store over there.” He nodded toward the building featuring a two-story false front and wooden sidewalk. The peeling sign said Sam’s Mercantile. “I provide Mule Shoe with transportation, supplies, and assistance during team-building exercises. Inside these bags you’ll find a great deal of information about your stay at the ranch. The owner, Roy Zaring, wanted you to have these while you’re waiting for your transportation—”

“When will that be?” asked a handsome teen with flawless olive skin and a thick lock of black hair. “I’m not getting any cell service here.” He held up his phone. An impeccably dressed man and woman sitting at the same table gave each other sideways glances.

Sam finished handing out the bags, turned, and looked at the youth. “Those your folks?” His gaze flickered to the two people sitting with the young man.


“And I’m guessing your mom? Dad? Both? Told you they were here to take a team-building—”

“Watercolor workshop.”

“A five-day art class in the wilds of Idaho, right?”


“Son, the Mule Shoe Dude Ranch is a primitive facility. No Wi-Fi. No cell reception. No television, radio . . . no electricity. You’ll have a cabin with a fireplace, a composting toilet, and a lantern at night.”

The color drained from the young man’s face. “What?” he whispered.

“That reminds me,” Sam said. “I’ll collect your cell phones and will keep them here and charged for when you return.”

I reached into my purse, took out my phone, and placed it on the table for Sam to collect. Whose brilliant idea was it to send me on assignment to a primitive facility when they know I need my computer and electricity? And five days with all these strangers? I wouldn’t even need to unpack.

“Don’t worry.” An attractive older woman sitting on a wooden Adirondack chair grinned at the boy. “There’s plenty of hot water for showers, courtesy of the natural geothermal environment. The water’s gravity fed and the food is world-class.” She looked around at all of us. “I’ve had an interest in the Mule Shoe and was here last summer, although I have to admit, I prefer to visit this time of year. Late September is perfect. You all are going to love it.”

The young man’s lips compressed into a thin line, and he seemed loath to let go of his cell. Sam kept tugging the phone until the youth relinquished it. “But what is there to do?” he asked no one in particular.

“Most of us are here for the art lessons.” Denim Shirt reached into her bag, pulled out a piece of paper, and held it up. “Listen.” She read from it. “‘You’ll find trail rides, fishing, canoeing, gold panning, mineral collecting, archery, photography, hiking, campfires, swimming—’”

“That’s what I mean.” The young man ran his hand through his hair. “There’s nothing to do.”

I tugged out the same brochure. Welcome, honored guests. We look forward to serving you during your stay with us. Your experiences here will be unforgettable for all the right reasons! You should bring to Mule Shoe your mindset for success.

Yeah, right. I’d like to set my mind on getting in, getting done, and getting home. “Sam, you mentioned transportation . . .”

“Horse and wagon.”

I was afraid of that. “Do you have a regular timetable?”

This time Sam actually focused on me. “No. The horse and wagon are available on an as-needed basis, mostly to transport new groups and supplies.”

From bad to worse. I was stuck. Now would be a good time to find a bathroom. Riding a bumpy, horse-drawn wagon would be uncomfortable enough without a full bladder. Besides, if I left now, no one would notice my slight limp. I normally wanted to be invisible, to disappear into a crowd. When Scott Thomas, my counselor, told me not to stand out, to blend in, he didn’t have to say it twice. Your final assignment before leaving us here in Clan Firinn is to check out Mule Shoe Ranch. We’ve heard rumblings that something’s not right. You’ll be registered as a guest. I’ll tell you more once you get there.

I was irritated at being sent out like this with no idea of what was expected. I now know why. Had I known I wouldn’t be able to use my computer programs or the internet, I would have put my foot down. I was fortunate to have a good memory for words.

I’d heard through the Clan Firinn grapevine that those getting ready to leave—“graduate” as they called it—would have a project that would test their progress toward wholeness. I figured they’d find out soon enough that I wasn’t ready to leave.

I rose, picked up my purse, and made my way to the general store. A cowbell jangled as I entered. “‘I got a fever,’” I muttered. “‘And the only prescription is more cowbell.’” The line made me smile. Why worry about earthquakes, lack of electricity, and the inability to do my work when the world needed more cowbell?

“What?” A young, freckle-faced woman with a smear of dirt on her nose stopped replacing items on the shelf.

“Iconic Saturday Night Live line—more cowbell?”


“Never mind.” The interior had old oak floors, a tin ceiling, and a long counter with a glass display case. The sun through the window spotlighted twirling dust motes. Various cans still littered the floor, courtesy of the earthquake.

“Just let me know if ya need something.”

“Powder room?”



“I think we’re sold out.”

“John? Head? Loo? Restroom?”

“Toilet?” She nodded to her right.

Fortunately, the primitive conditions did not include the store bathroom. Returning to the store, I picked up a can of soup that had rolled near me. “Do you know anything about those two dogs?” I handed her the can.

“Why are ya asking?” The woman placed it on the shelf.

“They just seem thin, that’s all.”

“Yeah, well.” She adjusted the display. “Sam’s been feeding ’em, but that’s gonna stop.”

My neck tingled. “I don’t understand.” I gave her a steady gaze.

She paused her work and looked around. We were alone in the store, but she dropped her voice to just above a whisper. “He’s just waitin’ for all of you to leave to the ranch.”

The tingling grew to an itch. My years of training as a forensic linguist kicked in, even though I was rusty. I grew very still and waited, listening for more clues in her language.

She gave up straightening the cans. “It’s like this: The dogs were owned by an old lady. I bet she was, like, at least forty.”

“Positively ancient. One foot in the grave.” I gave her a slight smile.

“Right. Her name was Shadow Woman. That’s what everyone called her. Well, that’s the nice name anyway. She was, like, a hermit, but a pretty good artist.” She jerked her thumb at a drawing on the wall behind the cash register.

Were owned, was. Past tense. I widened my smile to encourage her. “Why did everyone call her Shadow Woman?”

The clerk gnawed on a hangnail for a moment. “I guess ’cause she was weird, ya know, like she lived in the shadows. Creepy. Always showed up here at the store at dusk or when it was dark. Sam said she could sneak right up next to you in the shadows and you’d never see her. And her face was weird.”

“Weird how?”

“Like, really weird.”

“Ah, that clarifies it. Where did she come from?”

“Sam said she ran away from a group home near Smelterville.”

“I can’t imagine why.”

“Right, you know? No one wanted her. Anyway, she owned Holly—that’s the Lab mix—and Maverick, the Anna-toolian sheepdog.”

“Anatolian? From Anatolia in Asia Minor?”

“Yeah, that’s what I said.”

“Of course. I thought the big dog was half Great Dane, half mastiff.”

“Nope. Sam looked it up. Anna-whatevers are super-expensive livestock guard dogs from Turkey or France, I forget which.”

“They are such similar countries,” I murmured.

“Right. So anyway, Sam was surprised that Shadow Woman had one.”

Sam looked it up. Looking for value? Surprised that Shadow Woman had one. Not just a hermit but poor? Broke? “I see.” I leaned slightly against the shelving unit. “You mentioned Shadow . . .”

“Right. Um . . . so Shadow Woman came to town like once a month with her mule, like I said, always after sunset, and bought stuff, like Spam. She’d usually pay her bill about every other month. The dogs always came with her. Six months ago, you know, she stopped coming.”

“Let me guess. She owed Sam a lot of money.”

“Right. Boy-howdy was he steamed about it. Then he, you know, got a check and note from the old woman to pay her bill, but the check bounced higher than a buckin’ bronco.”

“Did anyone follow up, call the police?”

“Not right away ’cause the dogs moved in, first Holly, then Maverick. So, you know, Sam started to feed them. And . . . I think someone changed his mind on what to do with the dogs.”

Cluster of you knows. Sensitive topic. I kept my gaze on her and nodded again.

She glanced down and plucked a piece of lint from her sleeve. “Sam always said he’d get his pound of flesh from her, whatever that means.”

“I’m sure it originated in Turkey or France.”

“Right. Foreign-like. Um . . . Sam finally got close enough to Maverick to see he’d been spayed.”



“Never mind.” A neutered dog was of zero value, and Sam stopped feeding them. I made an effort to unclench my hands. “How have the dogs survived?”

“You know, folks around town feel sorry for them . . .”

The cowbell jangled.

The clerk straightened and glanced in that direction. Her cheeks flamed and her tongue flickered out to moisten her lips.

I turned.

A sheriff’s deputy charged to the bathroom, disappeared for a few moments, then reappeared and sauntered toward us, replacing fallen items on the shelves. His ordinary brown hair was the only average thing about him. He was otherwise a walking modern-day Adonis, his face chiseled by a master carver. He finally looked up and smiled at the clerk, exposing more teeth than the Osmond family, and seemed to enjoy her reaction to his arrival.

My hand automatically reached to fluff my hair. I stopped and squared my oversized glasses instead.

He looked at me, his eyes widening. “Hello there. I’m Bram White.”


“Leaving,” the clerk said. “Goin’ to Mule Shoe. She’s a guest.”

“Darby Graham.” I glanced at his holstered pistol, then out the window at the two dogs lying under a tree. Check bounced. Sam’s been feeding ’em, but that’s gonna stop. Pound of flesh.

Deputy Bram glanced at his watch.

My neck was crawling with reasons to scratch it.

“Can I get you a Coke or somethin’?” she asked me. “It shouldn’t be long.” The clerk moved toward an ancient cooler. “I’d bet the wagon got slowed down by the earthquake.”

The two dogs began barking.

“See? I told ya. Betcha that’s the wagon now.” The clerk moved toward the front of the store, brushing past Bram. “Excuse me,” she said. At the window, she glanced out, then looked at the officer. “Yep. The wagon’s here.” Without taking her eyes from Bram, she said to me, “You can go now.”

Sam stuck his head in the door. “Miss Graham? Time to leave.” He spotted Bram and gave the man a quick nod.

I gave in and scratched my neck. This was none of my business. No need to get involved. No reason to draw attention to myself. Low profile. Right. I straightened. “I think I’ll wait here. Catch the next wagon.” The words came out without my thinking, but they seemed right.

Sam moved into the store. “I’m sorry, Miss Graham, there won’t be a next wagon. It’s quite a distance to the ranch and it’s getting late. You’ll need to leave now.” He wiped his hands on his slacks, glanced at the clerk, then at the deputy.

The itch was now a full-scale conviction. “Your clerk here—”

“Julia?” Sam glared at the clerk.

“Was telling me about Shadow Woman. And her dogs.”

Bram folded his arms.

Sam opened the door behind him and waved for me to exit. “Miss Graham, I really see that as none of your business.”

Go now. Run. You have nothing to offer. Well . . . almost nothing. I slowly walked over to the counter. “I know Shadow Woman’s check bounced. How much money did she owe you? And how much to cover all the dog food?” I opened my purse.

“How many times have I warned you to keep your piehole shut!” Sam said to Julia.

“I didn’t say nothin’!” Julia crossed her arms. “She figured it out on her own.”

Sam closed the door and approached me, both hands held out as if to show goodwill. “I don’t know what it is that you figured out, Miss Graham, but—”

“Please don’t try lying to me, Sam.” I pulled out my checkbook. “You figured the Anatolian dog would pay Shadow Woman’s bill, but when you saw he was neutered, he had no more value to you. The minute I leave, you’re going to have Deputy White here shoot both dogs. Your pound of flesh.” I stared into his eyes. “I intend to stop you.”


Excerpt from Woman in Shadow by Carrie Stuart Parks. Copyright 2021 by Carrie Stuart Parks. Reproduced with permission from Thomas Nelson. All rights reserved.



Author Bio:

Carrie Stuart Parks

Carrie Stuart Parks is a Christy, multiple Carol, and Inspy Award–winning author. She was a 2019 finalist in the Daphne du Maurier Award for excellence in mainstream mystery/suspense and has won numerous awards for her fine art as well. An internationally known forensic artist, she travels with her husband, Rick, across the US and Canada teaching courses in forensic art to law-enforcement professionals. The author/illustrator of numerous books on drawing and painting, Carrie continues to create dramatic watercolors from her studio in the mountains of Idaho.

Catch Up With Carrie:
BookBub - @CarrieStuartParks
Instagram - @CarrieStuartParks
Facebook - @CarrieStuartParksAuthor

Or Join the Conversation on Twitter - #CarrieStuartParks



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Wow! Great story!


I do not know why I have waited so long to read this unique author! I really loved reading this fascinating book.

Earthquakes, landslides, stampedes, a killer on the loose in a remote area. So much going on but this is a very well plotted story.

Mule Shoe Resort is isolated for a reason. To get away from electronic devices and find peace albeit at a steep price tag. This story is packed with interesting characters and the author keeps you guessing as to who the killer is and why the resort has been having *accidents*.

Darby Graham is sent to Mule Shoe to de-stress and heal after a horrific incident. Deputy Sheriff Bram White shows up to put down two abandoned dogs belonging to the Shadow Woman. Darby rescues the dogs and forms quite the attachment to them. She is curious about this Shadow Woman but Darby has shadows of her own.

When suspicious things keep happening, Darby and Bram join forces to try to put the puzzle pieces together. When she has doubts, she relies on a verse she has memorized.”Be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” And God gives her the strength.

The story is not without humor as Darby shows acerbic wit through it all. “Who would have figured my two dogs were cruise directors for a guilt trip? “

I will definitely be seeking out this authors backlist soon.
*I received a complimentary copy of this book from Thomas Nelson Publishers through Partners In Crime Tours. I was not required to give a favorable review. All opinions are my own.*

I give this 5 stars with an underlying faith thread.

BURIED EVIDENCE by Kellie VanHorn, #Giveaway #Interview and Reviewed by Trixi Oberembt

!Book giveaway! (Print or eBook choice)
Welcome readers, and Kellie for an interview!

Author Kellie VanHorn

TRIXI: First of all, I'm curious to know how the story idea of Buried Evidence came about?

KELLIE: The crime element in Buried Evidence was inspired by a true disappearance, which hit close enough to home that writing this book was surprisingly challenging. Club cycling was pretty popular at the large midwestern university I attended, and I got involved my senior year. The year after I graduated, a student disappeared while out riding her bike alone on one of the many country roads I’d traversed just the year before. Her bike was found dumped on the side of the road a couple of days later, but there was no trace of her. I knew her older brother—not well, but enough to make her disappearance that much more personal. They still hadn’t found her when I moved away the following year.

I checked back on the case a few years ago. Some hunters had stumbled across her remains three years after her disappearance, as confirmed by dental records. At first, the authorities believed she’d been accidentally struck by a vehicle and her body dumped when the driver panicked. Later, witnesses came forward and a different man was convicted of shooting her, apparently because he was angry his girlfriend had broken up with him. He was sentenced to 65 years in prison.

With the book, I wanted both to process this kind of traumatic disappearance and explore its impact on the characters, but at the same time alter the real events enough to create a story that would appeal to Love Inspired Suspense readers. Laney and Ryan’s occupations and history fell naturally into place once I had the story concept.

TRIXI: Laney Hamilton is a forensic anthropologist, which I find fascinating, by the way! What kind of research did you do to make this as authentic as possible?

KELLIE: I had a lot of fun researching and writing Laney’s occupation as a forensic anthropologist, especially because I got to dust off my college degrees. I studied biology as an undergrad and went on to earn a Master’s in anthropology, specializing in nautical archaeology. Though the forensics angle was new, the concepts of how to set up a dig, how to handle what you’re digging up, and how to analyze what you find are very similar to what an archaeologist or field anthropologist does. To learn more about how police handle evidence, I sat in on a fascinating talk at the last Romance Writers of America conference I attended. I also turned to the internet to better understand how forensic anthropologists identify remains (the key is the teeth!) and how much they can learn from the bones. Thankfully it’s such a popular field, there’s a lot of material out there for anyone who’s interested.

TRIXI: How did you come up with Laney and Ryan as your characters? Did they change any as you wrote this book?

KELLIE: Many of my characters take a while to fully develop in my mind, but Laney and Ryan more or less popped into existence full-fledged. Almost as soon as I had the plot concept down, I knew they needed to be a forensic anthropologist and a cop, and I knew I wanted to make their connection to Jenna (the missing girl) as close as possible. Since they both knew her in the past, it only made sense they’d know each other, and the reunion romance was born.

At their cores, neither of them changed much as I wrote, but I did go back during editing to try to make Laney’s motivations clearer. Early feedback from my critique partners showed they were having a harder time connecting with her than Ryan. She’s so unhappy, almost bitter, about coming back to her hometown in the beginning, and very reluctant even to see him again. All that negative emotion is hard to connect with if you don’t understand why the character feels that way, so during edits I had to work in more of her backstory to help make her more sympathetic.

TRIXI: Ultimately, what do you want readers to get out of your books?

KELLIE: Great question! My hope with all my books is simple—that the love of Christ will shine through my words to offer hope and encouragement to my readers. I put my characters through some pretty horrible situations, and like us, they have the choice to walk through their trials in faith or to wrestle with God. The road isn’t easy and sometimes they do both, but at the end they walk away stronger in their faith and better for trusting Him. It’s my hope that when we face trials, we too will trust the Lord and experience the blessing of His presence in the midst of hardship.

TRIXI: Lastly, what do you have in the works? I'm definitely looking forward to any future books you write :-)

KELLIE: Right now I’m working on what I hope will be a new set of books for Love Inspired Suspense set in national parks. If you’ve read my first book, Fatal Flashback, you know the story took place in Big Bend National Park in Texas. I love writing wilderness settings, as they’re perfect for torturing characters (for their own good, of course) and come with so many built-in possibilities for adventure in a suspense story. My current project is set in North Cascades National Park and involves a park ranger hero who has to help a future aerotech CEO heroine escape the bad guys chasing her when her plane crashes on a glacier. It’s been a lot of fun so far and has me itching to do some hiking! Just not with the armed hit men after me… 😉

Thank you so much for having me here today! I love hearing from readers, so feel free to visit me at or my author Facebook page (@authorkellievanhorn) and get in touch!

“Can unearthed bones solve a ten-year-old cold case?”

This certainly had my attention when I read the back blurb about Laney Hamilton being a forensic anthropologist and solving not only a cold case, but quite possibly that of her long-missing best friend Jenna. Talk about ramping up the tension! I love cold case files and have watched many TV series based on real cases so this story definitely kept me glued. To add to an already tense plot, Laney works with ex-boyfriend police sergeant Ryan Mitchell, who also happens to be Jenna's brother, to solve the case and catch a possible serial killer.

The story ticked all the boxes for a good suspense and the ending was a shocker! I love it when an author can keep all the puzzle pieces scattered until the very end and then bring it to a fast-paced adrenaline-fueled conclusion. VanHorn had me on my toes the entire time wondering what was going to happen next. She even added a creepy psychological angle that made my skin crawl and sent shivers down my spine....all in the name of a good suspense, of course!

I also liked seeing Laney and Ryan work through their past history to find common ground again and have a second chance at love. The fact that they gave their heart to the Lord years ago and worked hard to rely on Him in everything encouraged me in my own faith walk. They both had great loss when Jenna disappeared, but eventually found peace and was able to forgive. I liked seeing them work together to solve the cold-case crime and catch the killer; I think they made for a great team.

I highly recommend this to any reader of suspense and second-chance romance lovers! I think you'll find this packed full of what makes for a great book to keep you guessing and riveted to the pages!

*I received a complimentary early reader copy from the author and was under no obligation to leave a favorable review. All opinions expressed here are my own. *

BackCover Blurb: 
Can unearthed bones solve a ten-year-old cold case?

Returning home isn’t easy for forensic anthropologist Laney Hamilton, especially when it means examining bones that could belong to her long-missing best friend—the sister of the man she once loved. But now someone wants Laney dead, and her ex-boyfriend, police sergeant Ryan Mitchell, must shield her. As the predator stalks them, can Laney and Ryan finally uncover the tragic truth about their past?
Love Inspired Suspense July 2021
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