Book Review: Bookshop of Secrets

About the Book:

A collection of lost books holds the clues to her family’s legacyand her future.

Hope Sparrow has mastered the art of outrunning her tragic past, learning never to stay anywhere too long and never to allow anyone control over her life again. Coming to Wanishin Falls in search of her family’s history already feels too risky. But somewhere in the towering stacks of this dusty old bookshop are the books that hold Hope’s last ties to her late mother—and to a rumored family treasure that could help her start over.

Only, the bookshop is in shambles, and the elderly owner is in the beginning stages of dementia and can’t remember where the books lie. To find the last links to the loved ones she’s lost, Hope must stay and accept help from the townsfolk to locate the treasured volumes. Each secret she uncovers brings her closer to understanding where she came from. But the longer she stays in the quaint town, the more people find their way into the cracks in her heart. And letting them in may be the greatest risk of all…

My Thoughts:

The book was well written, but it wasn’t at all what I was expecting. The “tragic past” mentioned isn’t just something that has been outrun, but it plays a front and center role to Hope’s story. Then you add in Ronan and his own tragic past and it becomes clear that the secrets aren’t the fun to discover kind, but the hard to survive kind.

Weaving through themes of trafficking, family feuds, dementia, old grudges and the fight to rebuild a life the story slowly builds at first and then picks up the pace and intensity.

For all the hard themes, the book is clean and not overly descriptive of sensitive content, which I appreciated. The literary ties the author includes throughout are very well done and engaging to any bibliophile. As I’m a big fan of choosing the right book for the right time I’d describe this as an intense and layered kind of read rather than a light, Sunday afternoon type of novel.

I received a free digital galley of this book for review.

Book Review: A Seaside Wonder

About the Book:

In one evening, Indi’s world falls apart. Enter the shy professor her family mistakes for her fiancé . . . make that ex-fiancé.

Professor Philip West never wanted to return to Maine . . . or his grandfather’s miserable old house. But after his mother’s death, he’s now the guardian of a teenage half sister who doesn’t want anything to do with him. He longs to help her heal, but he’s exhausted and numb, desperate for relief of his own. Maybe that’s why he’s so easily distracted when he happens upon the little shop with an intriguing owner—one who happens to share a name with someone from his grandfather’s mysterious past.

More than a decade has passed since Indi Muir made the heartbreaking decision she’s never recovered from—though she’s certainly tried. She has a full life running her shop and creating the artsy pieces that fill its shelves. If she can just stay busy, she’ll keep her hurt and regret at bay. But when her ex-fiancé returns to Muir Harbor, he brings news that shatters her carefully built walls. Things only get worse when lurking danger comes calling at her childhood home.

The one bright spot amid Indi’s turmoil is the shy stranger who wandered into her shop months ago and his moody but lovable sister. As she confronts her past and the mysterious threat facing her family, she’s intent on helping Philip win over his sister. He just might win over Indi, too, if they can overcome old secrets and wounds, outrun rising peril . . . and take a chance on love.

My Thoughts:

You’ll want to start by reading the first book in the series: Autumn by the Sea. (Which is an excellent book). You could probably follow the story-line starting with the second book, but why miss out?

Melissa Tagg is an engaging writer. She made the story and the characters come alive. Even though the book entered into the pain of the past it never felt overly heavy as Tagg wove threads of hope throughout.

I like mysteries that aren’t related to murder and that was one of the draws of this series for me personally. Who doesn’t like a good treasure hunt, or a mystery of a long lost love, or the search for a missing granddaughter? And even though there were some shifts in this book that took the mystery into slightly darker territory I did still enjoy the twists and turns that it added to the plot.

The book leaves you with more than enough resolution to be satisfied, but leaves the mystery waiting to be solved in some further novel.

Overall, this is a good read about a beautiful and messy cobbled together family with a bit of faith and a hint of mystery set in the delightful context of a small town in Maine. I’m looking forward to the next book in the series.

I received a free digital copy of this book in exchange for my honest opinion.

Book Review: The Bachelor and the Bride

About the Book:

Dr. Barnabus Milligan has always felt called to help people, whether that means setting a broken bone or rescuing the impoverished women of London from their desperate lives on the streets as part of his work with the Dread Penny Society.

Three years ago, he helped rescue Gemma Kincaid by marrying her in secret to protect her from her family, notorious grave robbers who were intent on keeping her working in the trade.

But their unconventional relationship is nearly over before it begins when, six months after they exchange vows, Gemma realizes her love for Barnabus is unrequited. To protect her heart, she leaves, telling Barnabus to contact her if his feelings for her ever grow beyond a sense of duty.

When Gemma finally receives a letter from Barnabus, inviting her to return home, she hopes to find a true connection between them. But she quickly learns that he only wants her help to foil the Kincaids, who have been terrorizing the boroughs of London, eager to gain both money and power.

Heartbroken once more, Gemma agrees to help, but she warns Barnabus that she will not stay for long, and once she goes, he’ll never see her again.

Yet as the couple follow the clues that seem to connect the Kincaids to the Mastiff, the leader of London’s underground criminal network, Gemma and Barnabus both realize they might make a better match than either of them suspected. Perhaps the marriage that had once saved Gemma’s life, might prove the means of saving Barnabus—and his lonely heart—as well.

But before the once-confirmed bachelor can properly court his secret bride, they’ll need to evade the dangerous forces that are drawing ever closer to the hopeful lovers and the entire Dread Penny Society itself.

My Thoughts

I love the premise of the Dread Penny Society, which we are introduced to in the novel: The Lady and the Highwayman.

This is a series of stories within stories. Following a group of authors who write “Penny Dreadfuls” and have formed a secret society to help the poor and oppressed, Sarah Eden tells tales of romance and social justice, while including the actual penny dreadful stories as diverting, and enlightening, story inclusions.

And this series keeps getting better and better. I love how we get to bounce between the story that is unfolding and the Penny Dreadfuls that the novelists within the book are writing, as well as how cleverly the two parallel stories tie to together.

Gemma and Barnabus as engaging characters and you will find yourself rooting for them as their story twists and turns and makes you wonder how it will all turn out.

I recommend this book, but I’ll also say you will probably enjoy it more if you start at the beginning of the series.

I received a free digital galley of this story and am offering my honest opinion in return.

Book Review: The Bride of Blackfriars Lane

About the Book:

The Continuing Adventure of Jackson and Kit!
 
Detective Jackson Forge can hardly wait to marry the street-sly swindler who’s turned his life upside down. Kit Turner is equally excited to wed the handsome detective, and what better way to show her love than providing him with a gift any man of the law would love? She determines to bring to justice the men who years ago maimed his brother—despite Jackson’s warning to leave the past in the past. As she digs into the mystery of what happened, she unwittingly tumbles into her own history and endangers her future happiness with Jackson.

My Thoughts:

I always enjoy Michelle Griep’s novels. They are multi-layered with rich characters and imaginative plots. The Bride of Blackfriar’s Lane is the second in a series. You’ll want to read The Thief of Blackfriar’s Lane first. (See my review at http://landofmysojourn.net/blog/?p=18761)

This is the continued story of Jackson and Kit. I appreciated how Griep moved us deeper into their relationship, exposing all those little beliefs that trip us up as we seek deeper intimacy and connection. And she did it in the midst of another riveting, kept me up way too late at night, page turning tale of intrigue and adventure.

I thoroughly enjoyed this novel and recommend it to you.

I received a free digital copy of this book in exchange for my honest opinion.

Book Review: Resilient: Restoring Your Weary Soul in these Turbulent Times

About the Book:

The human soul has a built-in yearning for joy and beauty and all good things. But that craving for life has taken a real beating in the last few years. Join New York Times bestselling author John Eldredge as he gives you the tools you need to follow Jesus’ path of supernatural resilience so you can reclaim your joy, strengthen your heart, and thrive through the storm.

Between false promises of ease and comfort on one side and the sheer trauma of global disease and disasters on the other, people today are facing a shortage of peace, happiness, and strength. In Resilient, Eldredge reveals a path toward genuine recovery and resilience through Jesus himself.

Drawing on wisdom from Scripture and Christian tradition, and illustrated throughout with powerful, true stories of grit and survival, Resilient will help you:

  • Recover from the trauma of the COVID-19 pandemic
  • Tap into the river of life that God promises his people
  • Learn to be patient with yourself–genuine recovery from spiritual and emotional trauma takes time and intentionality
  • Create a plan to foster resilience in your day-to-day life
  • Discover deep wells of freedom and strength through Christ who lives within us

Thriving requires a resilient soul. This book will help you find the resilience you long for when the world has gone mad–and discover in Jesus himself the strength that prevails.

My Thoughts:

Resilient builds on the thoughts introduced in Get Your Life Back. (See my review here: http://landofmysojourn.net/blog/?p=18644). You don’t have to read them both, but I certainly found it helpful.

I got the digital version of Resilient from the publisher, bought the hard copy and downloaded the audio book. I first listened to a chapter and then I read it. I take in some things better visually and some things better through listening. I’ve been digging into the idea of resilience this year and I didn’t want to just read this book, I wanted to deeply study and apply anything helpful. And this was a very helpful book.

Those of you who regularly read my reviews will know that I deeply appreciate Eldredge’s voice and that he has been influential in my own spiritual growth. So it may surprise you to know that I had to fight my way through the first part of this book. Not because of the content, but because of the language that framed it. Maybe more than ever I am feeling the dissonance of living in a culture outside of the American mindset. I could see the reality of the things he referred to, but I had to first say, “Oh, people think the end times will actually look like a zombie apocalypse?” before I could dig into the truth of what he was discussing. And that underlying truth was really beneficial! So I’d just say if the terms he uses to frame things seem odd, if the way that he presents something doesn’t immediately spark a connection, just keep reading and look for the heart of what he is saying. I’d also recommend praying over your reading. One thing the enemy of your soul doesn’t want is you engaging with something that can help move you toward renewal and restoration.

One thing in particular that I greatly appreciated in the content was John’s insistence at getting to the heart of the matter. He gave several of his own beliefs about end times and prophecies and yet he kept coming back to the fact that how exactly it plays out doesn’t really matter, but understanding that Scripture tells us that there are things that ARE playing out is the key.

The thoughts on desolation and renewal have been invaluable to me. The teaching on worry, anxiety and reclaiming both our minds and emotions is significant. I can’t imagine anyone reading this book and putting it into practice wouldn’t be transformed in some way.

There is a free 30 day module (two sessions: one morning and one evening) in the Pause App that you can work through as you read through this book. If you haven’t tried the free Pause App yet I recommend it to everyone! I started using it in 2020 and it’s a wonderful resource.

As I said, I’m digging into resilience. I’m reading all kinds of things on the subject. I’m listening to podcasts. I’m diving into the dynamics of belief, truth and spiritual warfare. And one thing that I’ll offer here in miniature (read the book for more) is that across the board, every resource I’m investigating leads me back to renewing our love for Jesus: remembering who He is, what He has done and letting the goodness of His character lead us back to a heart of surrendered worship. If you want to start today to renew your resilience then start with renewing your love for and intimacy with Jesus.

Bottom line: I bought the book and I received a free digital copy. And I highly recommend it.

As always, I am not required to give a positive review, but an honest one.

Book Review: A Home for the Cowboy

About the Book:

She’s a believer in lost causes.

He just hopes she can believe in him.

Morgan Westcott is watching her dream slip away. Burned in love and with no family left to lean on, she is trying to build an equine therapy program from scratch in her little hometown. But help is hard to come by, funding is running low, and the writing is on the wall.

Cody Haskins finally has his dream job. He’s risen to become one of the top cow horse trainers in the nation, and now he’s riding for the famous Walker Ranch Brand—the family that took him in when he was a kid. But he’s got a hole in his heart, a chip on his shoulder, and a hankering for the one thing that’s always slipped through his fingers.

When Cody and Morgan team up to save a lost cause, it’s more than horses that get a fresh start. Trust and respect begin to grow, but old wounds are slow to heal. Will the disappointments of their pasts keep repeating themselves? Or can two people who never belonged anywhere else find a home together?

My Thoughts:

This is the first time I’ve read a book by Tess Thornton.

The writing style was engaging and the character development was very well done. I could identify with both Cody and Morgan.

I picked up the book mainly because of the setting. (I still love cow horses!) So maybe it was that this book isn’t my normal genre, but I found the story itself a bit flat. It started by introducing the characters through their own personal traumatic experiences and then it walked through the development of their relationship to each other. Trauma and connection were the sole drivers of the story. This made for beautiful main-character development, but I have to admit I would have liked the narrative to have been a bit broader. I’m not going to read the rest of the series.

All in all it was a well told story. If you want a focused, character driven romance and don’t mind wading through some trauma in the midst of it, then this book might be just what you are looking for.

I received a free digital copy in exchange for my honest opinion.

Book Review: Worthy of Legend

About the Book:

1906

After a summer of successful pirate-treasure hunting, Lady Emily Scofield and her friends must hide the unprecedented discoveries they’ve made, thanks to the betrayal of her own family. Horrified by her brother, who will stop at nothing to prove himself to their greedy father, Emily is forced to take a stand against her family–even if it means being cut off entirely.

Bram Sinclair, Earl of Telford, is fascinated with tales of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table–an interest he’s kept mostly hidden for the last decade. But when a diary is unearthed on the islands that could lead to a secret artifact, Bram is the only one able to piece the legends together.

As Bram and Emily seek out the whereabouts of the hidden artifact, they must dodge her family and a team of archaeologists. In a race against time, it is up to them to decide what makes a hero worthy of legend. Is it fighting valiantly to claim the treasure . . . or sacrificing everything in the name of selfless love?

My Thoughts:

Worthy of Legend is the third book in the Secrets of the Isles series. You must read book one, The Nature of a Lady, and book two, To Treasure an Heiress, before you read this novel to really get follow the complete arc of the story.

I always enjoy Roseanna White’s novels, but this series was very much my favorite. The introduction of humorous characters like Sheridan and the addition of a treasure hunt were gems within the midst of beautiful writing, excellent character development, themes of growth, transformation, love and forgiveness set within the delightful community of the Isles of Scilly.

I highly recommend this series.

I received a free digital galley of this book in exchange for my honest opinion.

Book Review: The Heart of the Mountains

About the Book:

To escape a forced marriage, Cora Taylor travels from England to the Blue Ridge Mountains in search of her brother, who is working as a teacher in a mission school. She hopes to find a place where her nursing skills and independent ideas will be accepted and appreciated, but nothing prepares her for the wild mixture of isolation, community, brokenness, and hope within these mountains…or in the person of Jeb McAdams.
 
Returning from the devastation of World War 1 emotionally damaged, Jeb McAdams struggles against the rampant mountain alcoholism to soothe his nightmares. It’s easy to hide within the mountains, or it was, before Cora Taylor arrived. Now, she seems to show up at every turn, bringing her modern ideas, curiosity, and beautiful eyes with her.
 
Bound by their shared war history, the pair develop an unlikely friendship, which unexpectedly hints to something more. But when Cora’s desire to help the women of the mountains crosses an unspoken line, will Jeb be able to protect this feisty flatlander from the wrath of the mountain men or will he end up losing much more than his heart? 

My Thoughts:

This is book two in the My Heart Belongs in the Blue Ridge series. Book One is called Laurel’s Dream and you do need to read it first. Laurel’s Dream introduces you to the setting and all the characters, which The Heart of the Mountains builds upon.

I enjoyed both books, but I especially enjoyed this book. The shared desire to overcome, to live a life worth living and the aspect of creating something beautiful in a broken world were themes that I could relate to. I loved Cora’s sense of adventure and determination. I appreciated her willingness to jump right in and her humility to learn. I also appreciated Jeb’s heart of sacrifice and gentleness of character. The setting was described so that you could feel the realities of the culture of the Blueridge mountains.

Though there were some very serious themes and heartbreaking situations the book never felt too heavy. I hope there will be more to the series.

I received a free digital copy of this book in exchange for my honest opinion.

Book Review: To Tame A Cowboy

About the Book:

Brody McQuaid is a broken man, and he knows it. While his body survived the war, his soul did not. Besides loving his little niece, his only sense of purpose comes from saving the wild horses that roam South Park. Ranchers in the area have taken to killing the horses, which are competing with their cattle to feed on the open grass.

Savannah Marshall is a veterinarian on her family’s Colorado ranch. She longs to keep her father happy following the tragic death of her older brother, including marrying a man of his choosing. But days before her wedding, she gets cold feet and disappears to South Park. As she learns more about the destruction of the horses, she joins Brody in an attempt to save the wild creatures. But when Savannah’s family and the resentments of the area cattlemen catch up with them both, Brody and Savannah will have to tame their fears if they’ve any hope to let love run free.

My Thoughts:

This is the third book in the Colorado Cowboys series and it would help if you read the first two books before this one, though you could probably jump in here if you want to.

Stories of redemption and self discovery are always some of my favorites so I enjoyed Brody and Savannah’s story as Brody began to find a reason to live after the war and Savannah discovered more and more of her own heart and desires. (I’d recommend anyone with war/battle/prison PTSD skip this book, because though the war descriptions were carefully written they were there and the loss and trauma Brody experienced is described).

Also, I have to say that there was a lot of flaunting of propriety that I’m not sure was true to the time period, even in Colorado, and physical attraction and desire played heavily in the story, even if the author kept it PG.

Since the author ended the book with a final chapter about another character entirely, I assume there is another book to come. And I’ll likely read it too.

This series is fairly easy reading with a moderate amount of tension and a bit of happily ever after.

I received a free digital galley of this book in exchange for my honest opinion.

Book Review: In Honor’s Defense

About the Book:

Luke Davenport has been fighting all his life–for respect, for country, and for those unable to fight for themselves. But now that his Horsemen brothers are domesticated, he’s left alone to battle the wildness within. When an opportunity arises to take a job on his own, tracking down a group of rustlers, he jumps at the chance.

Damaris Baxter has mastered the art of invisibility. Plain and quiet, she hides in books and needlework, content to be overlooked. Until her brother dies suddenly, leaving her custody of her nephew. She moves to Texas to care for Nathaniel, determined to create the family for herself that she never thought she’d have and to give him the family he desperately needs.

When Nate finds himself knee-deep in trouble, Luke’s attempt to protect him leaves Damaris feeling indebted to the Horseman. But suspicions grow regarding the mysterious death of Damaris’s brother. And the more questions they ask, the more danger appears, threatening the family Luke may be unable to live without.

My Thoughts:

In this third book in the Hanger’s Horsemen series Witemeyer again draws us into a story of justice and belonging. While the Horsemen will always be brothers, life had moved on and the belonging that Luke found on the road with his brothers is now a thing of the past. In contrast, Damaris has never really been seen, never really belonged.

Both characters jump at a chance to pursue something that might bring some meaning and new direction to their lives, but they find that maybe God has something even greater in store for them then what they dreamed.

The mystery elements of this novel were well developed and the motivations of the villain were believable. The characters were engaging and the overall pace of the novel was well done. I enjoyed “In Honor’s Defense” and would recommend it.

I received a free digital galley of this book in exchange for my honest opinion.