Category: Books

Book Review: A Beautiful Disguise

About the Book:

In Edwardian London, not all that glitters is gold as a lady and an intelligence officer’s secret mission take them from the city’s dazzling ballrooms to its covert intelligence offices.

Sir Merritt Livingstone has spent a decade serving the monarch in the field, but when pneumonia lands him behind a desk in the War Office Intelligence Division just as they’re creating a new secret intelligence branch, he’s intent on showing his worth. He suspects an aristocrat of leaking information to Germany as tensions mount between the two countries, but he needs someone to help him prove it, so he turns to The Imposters, Ltd. No one knows who they are, but their results are beyond compare.

Left with an estate on the brink of bankruptcy after their father’s death, Lady Marigold Fairfax and her brother open a private investigation firm for the elite to spy on the elite. Dubbed The Imposters, Ltd., their anonymous group soon becomes the go-to for the crème of society who want answers delivered surreptitiously. But the many secrets Marigold learns about her peers pale in comparison to her shock when she and her brother are hired to investigate her best friend’s father as a potential traitor.

Lady Marigold is determined to discover the truth for her friend’s sake, and she’s more determined still to keep her heart from getting involved with this enigmatic new client . . . who can’t possibly be as noble as he seems.

My Thoughts:

There is a reason Roseanna White is one of my favorite authors. Every book she releases is intriguing, well written and multi-faceted.

I enjoyed the glimpse into The Imposters, why and how they came about and the genius that allowed them to use their unique talents for the good of their own household and for society as a whole.

The scenario that the author presented of the birth of the UK’s intelligence service was also interesting and compelling.

The way all the threads wove together created a fascinating tale.

I recommend the book to you and look forward to the next book in the series.

I received a free digital copy of this book with the expectation that I would write a review with my honest opinion.

Book Review: The Starlet Spy

About the Book:

Hollywood Star Turns Spy

In 1943, Movie producer Henrik Zoltan approaches Amelie Blake under the guise of offering the Hollywood star a leading part in his upcoming film, but he has a more meaningful role in mind. Amelie’s homeland of Sweden declared neutrality in the war, but Stockholm has become the ‘Casablanca of the North.’ When top-secret atomic research goes missing in Sweden, the Allied forces scramble to recover the files before they fall into Nazi hands.

The United States Office of Strategic Services (OSS) needs someone who’s subtle enough to spy on the Swedish elite without triggering suspicion. Who better than the “all beauty, no brains” Scandinavian starlet? Fluent in three languages and possessing a brilliant memory, Amelie loathes being labeled witless but uses the misconception as her disguise. She’s tasked with searching for the crucial files, but Finn Ristaffason keeps getting in her way. Is the charming shipping magnate after the missing research? Or does he have other reasons for showing up at her every turn?

With the Gestapo on her heels, Amelie must rely on her smarts in addition to her acting skills to survive a world of deadly spies and counterspies.

My Thoughts:

This was the first book that I have read by Rachel Scott McDaniel and I was pleased to find it a balance of mystery and character growth. The author did an excellent job of helping me to enter into the world of 1940’s Hollywood, using the misconceptions about the leading lady to develop a surprisingly poignant story of both main characters. It was a fairly fluid and light read despite the wartime setting and danger that infiltrated the mystery. I’ll happily add McDaniel to my list of authors to watch for future titles.

I received a free digital galley of this book and in return am sharing with you my honest opinion.

Book Review: The Spacious Path

About the Book:

A simple invitation into a life ordered around listening and love

As we live through cycles of change and disruption, our familiar pathways crumble and we find ourselves in fragmented relationships with God, others, and our own souls. We are not the first to experience this disorientation: When Jesus offered the stunning invitation to come to him to learn how to work from a place of rest, he was talking to people weighed down by ill-fitting political, economic, and religious systems. And his life and ministry offer a glimpse of a better way.

For centuries a practice called the Rule of Life—built around rhythms of prayer, work, study, hospitality, and rest—has provided a loving pathway for anyone who desires to live out the whole gospel. More than a historic primer on an ancient practice, an aspirational overview of spiritual life, or a personal inventory focused on habits, The Spacious Path offers companionship through personal narrative, meaningful reflection, and guided prayer for readers to return to as often as needed.

Rediscover an ancient Christian practice to reorient your life around the unforced rhythms of Jesus, not by adding another ill-fitting system but by walking freely and lightly on the pathways of listening and love in the way of Jesus.

My Thoughts:

I rarely write reviews before I have finished a book, but this is one of those times. I am enjoying this book far too much to rush through it for the sake of a timely review.

I value the benefits of a rule of life and I love the author’s ability to invite you beyond the modern, negative connotations of the word “rule,” into its proper historical understanding as a motif, a pattern or a rhythm. The entire book is an invitation filled with grace and goodness.

I’ve read a number of books on spiritual practices and the idea of a rule of life. This one is, so far, the most gracious and engaging one I’ve ever read. I’d absolutely recommend it as a starting point for people who want to grow and thrive in their spiritual life, but don’t know what the path to that desire looks like. I’d also recommend it to those who have already spent years walking a path toward spiritual thriving as I’m finding it still has invitations for me to embrace.

I received a digital, pre-release copy of this book with the understanding that I’d provide my honest opinion. I’ve added A Spacious Path to my list of “purchase next” books, because I want to have a hard copy on my shelf.

Book Review: Fairest of Heart

About the Book:

Once upon a time in Texas . . .

Beauty has been nothing but a curse to Penelope Snow. When she becomes a personal maid for a famous actress whose troupe is leaving Chicago to tour the West, she hides her figure beneath shapeless dresses and keeps her head down. But she still manages to attract the wrong attention, leaving her prospects in tatters–and her jealous mistress plotting her demise.

After his brother lost his life over a woman, Texas Ranger Titus Kingsley has learned to expect the worst from women and is rarely disappointed. So when a young lady found in suspicious circumstances takes up residence with the seven old drovers living at his grandfather’s ranch, Titus is determined to keep a close eye on her.

With a promotion hanging in the balance, Titus is assigned to investigate a robbery case tied to Penelope’s acting troupe, and all evidence points to Penelope’s guilt. But Titus might just be convinced that the fairest woman of all has a heart as pure as her last name . . . if only he can prove it.

My Thoughts:

A fresh Texas take on an old fairy tale.

Penelope is the classic genuine and innocent beauty, but the author draws upon a depth that the fairy tale often lacks. It is Penny’s relationship to the Lord, her dependence on the truth of Scripture, her genuine love and humility and her expectation that the Lord is at work that outshines even her physical beauty.

Titus is both skeptic and hero – the Texas ranger with a big heart, out to serve, protect and bring justice – and the man with a drive and perspective that arises from his own wounds and guarded expectations.

The villain is entirely self focused and the evil is real.

The story is satisfying.

I received a free digital copy of this novel with the expectation that I would leave an honest review.

Book Review: Rocky Mountain Rendezvous

About the Book:

In 1837, Juniper Collins and her sisters are shocked by their father’s deathbed request for them to return a special set of beads to a Piegan Blackfoot woman he credits with saving his life during his travels West. Together, the sisters set out for the trapper rendezvous to find the woman, but their mission turns more daunting when they come upon the mass of men and lodges spread out in the Green River Valley.

Riley Turner came West to find peace and quiet and live off the land, but when four unprotected women arrive at the rendezvous, he feels compelled to help them and is more fascinated by Juniper than any other woman he’s known.

As their search brings only empty leads and dead ends, the sisters must decide whether to return East or stay in the mountains to continue looking–and that’s if the mystery woman is even still alive. Is the risk to honor their father’s last request worth the danger they find at every turn?

My Thoughts:

Though Misty Beller has many books to her name I’d yet to read one. It’s always nice to come across an author that you aren’t familiar with and discover you enjoy their writing.

The Rendezvous, where all the trappers and many native Americans tribal people went to gather supplies, and the actions of the wagon train master, set the stage for immediate tension. You can’t help but appreciate Riley, whose heart is to protect.

The sisters seem far more naive than I would have expected for four women who set off across America on their own, but their confrontation with reality opened the door to their path of growth and development.

The twists and turns of this novel kept me engaged. The intersection of cultures was also well developed. I appreciated even the small ways that healthy perspectives were contrasted to unhealthy ones (as in the assumption about whether natives were at the heart of the crimes, or not).

While some of the plot direction followed predictable tracks, I found myself immersed in the story and I look forward to the next book in the series and the continuation of the journey to return the beads. In the meantime I’ve already picked up some other novels by Beller to explore.

I was given a free, digital copy of this book with the expectation that I would leave an honest review of my opinion.

Book Review: In This Moment

About the Book:

Maggie inherited a gift from her time-crossing parents that allows her to live three separate lives in 1861, 1941, and 2001. Each night, she goes to sleep in one time period and wakes up in another. Until she turns twenty-one, when she will have to forfeit two of those lives–and everyone she knows in them–forever.

In 1861, Maggie is the daughter of a senator at the outbreak of the Civil War, navigating a capital full of Southern spies and wounded soldiers. In 1941, she is a navy nurse, grappling with her knowledge of the future when she joins a hospital ship going to Pearl Harbor. And in 2001, she’s a brilliant young medical student, fulfilling her dream of becoming a surgeon.

While Maggie has sworn off romance until she makes her final choice, an intriguing man tugs at her heart in each era, only complicating the impossible decision she must make, which looms ever closer. With so much on the line, how can Maggie choose just one life to keep and the rest to lose?

My Thoughts:

In This Moment is the second book in a series. It can be read as a stand alone. Some of the lessons on life in multiple streams of time are set up in book one, which is called When The Day Comes, but the author gives you enough information that you can start with In This Moment.

I will say right off the bat that this series is not for the sensitive reader and it is not a light, feel-good type of time travel book. I found book one to be more than I expected, with some traumatic situations, (including abuse by a husband) that made it very difficult to read. Book two was less traumatic, but still not an easy read, which you can probably guess by the years the main character inhabits.

That said, if you can read past the intensity of the scenarios, the book is well written and the creativity of the author is evident in the way she tells the story and explains the impact of time and life experience on Maggie’s story. The intersection of choice and circumstance is developed, as it is how we live and what we choose, no matter what is happening around us, that is the true defining factor of our lives.

In This Moment will appeal to history buffs and those who resonate with the challenge of living well in the midst of hard times and difficult choices.

I received a free digital copy of In This Moment to read with the expectation that I would post an honest review of my thoughts.

Book Review: The Swindler’s Daughter

About the Book:

A surprise inheritance. A cache of family secrets. A choice that will change her life forever.

Lillian Doyle has lived her entire high-society life with her widowed mother, believing her father died long ago. But when news arrives that her estranged father only recently passed away–in jail–Lillian is startled to find that the man has left a business and all of his possessions to her, making her a rather unusual heiress.

When she goes to take possession of her father’s house in a backwoods Georgia town, the dilapidated structure is already occupied by another woman who claims it was promised to her son, Jonah. In her attempts to untangle the mess, Lillian will discover not only a family she never knew she had but a family business that is more than meets the eye–and has put a target on her back.

To discover the truth and take hold of the independence she’s always dreamed of, she’ll have to make friends with adversaries and strangers–especially Jonah, the dusty and unrefined cowboy who has secret aspirations of his own.

My Thoughts:

The Swindler’s Daughter was the first book that I have read by Stephenia McGee and I enjoyed the story and its themes. The way that Lillian developed in character and wrestled with the unexpected was real, honest and insightful. The obstacles that were presented, from her first run-in with Jonah to her concerns about whether the town law enforcement could be trusted, set the stage for character growth and Lillian rose to the challenge.

I enjoyed the development of how dreams grow and adapt and become something more than we ever thought they could become, alongside the challenge of opening a heart to love and setting boundaries against harm and injustice.

I’ll look forward to reading more from McGee.

I received a free digital copy of The Swindler’s Daughter with the expectation that I would leave an honest review.

Book Review: Wyoming Wild

About the Book:

Wyoming Territory, 1876

Hearts collide when a sheriff’s daughter asks a hardened US Marshal to join her fight for justice and rid a small town of her corrupt father.

US Marshal John “Hawk” Hawking is one of the most respected lawmen in the West—a fair but firm man of principle and decisive action—so when a telegram arrives from the small town of Sand Creek warning him of a death threat against him, he immediately begins an investigation.

Posing as a farmer, Hawk heads to Sand Creek, a town ruled by a violent and corrupt sheriff who uses his position to menace, exploit, and tax the townspeople to the point of starvation. Only one person is trying to stop him—Liesl, the sheriff’s own daughter. When she meets the self-assured and attractive new farmer, John, she hopes he might help her in her long and lonely fight for justice.

John is completely unfazed by Sheriff Hodges’s attempts at intimidation, and Liesl is quickly swept up by Hawk’s courage and integrity. Just as quickly, Hawk finds himself falling for Liesl’s strength and bravery, as well as her grace and beauty.

When Liesl discovers that John is not who he claims to be, she feels betrayed. Despite her lingering distrust of Hawk, Liesl agrees to work with him to enact a dangerous plan that will put the criminals away forever. Liesl must put her life, and her heart, in the hands of this lawman if she has any hope of saving her family and her town. 

My Thoughts:

First, you should know that this book actually follows on the heels of The Sheriffs of Savage Wells and Healing Hearts. I had read both books, but it had been years and I struggled to remember some of the connections.

Second, the old west town of Savage Wells is a departure from the bulk of Sarah Eden’s books. I must say that I don’t love them the way that I love her other series. They are good entertainment. I’m just not sure that I think they are the best of her writing.

So, on to the book itself.

Leisel is a strong character who is exercises incredible courage to take care of others and stand for what is right. Her character is layered and believable. Hawk is also a multi-faceted character who is challenged to do a hard job in the face of potential personal loss. I was engaged in the story and there were several clever turns that left you wondering who to trust. All in all it was a good read, especially if you like tales of the old west.

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

Book Review: The Last Chance Cowboy

About the Book:

With danger drawing ever closer, their only hope of saving their futures lies in each other.

As a midwife, Catherine Remington is successful in bringing new life into the world, but she’s failed one too many times in finding true love. When she’s accused of a murder she didn’t commit, she’s forced to flee to Colorado to honor a patient’s dying wish by delivering a newborn infant to his father.

The repentant prodigal Dylan McQuaid is finally back in Fairplay. As sheriff, he’s doing his best to prove to the town he’s a changed man and worthy of their trust. When a woman shows up with an infant son he didn’t know he had, Dylan is left with only complicated choices on what to do next.

Having grown attached to Dylan’s son, Catherine doesn’t want to part ways with the infant, but what she doesn’t bargain for is how easily she’ll fall for the charming sheriff, or how quickly the past will catch up with her and put their love and lives in danger.

My Thoughts:

In this story of mistaken identity and second chances we journey alongside Dylan and Catherine as they try to navigate the unprecedented situation in which they find themselves. Last Chance Cowboy was an easy read that doesn’t shy away from the consequences of the choices we make, but invites us to hope in redemption and new beginnings.

This is the fifth book in the Colorado Cowboys series.

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

Book Review: The Maid of Ballymacool

About the Book:

Brianna Kelly was abandoned at Ballymacool House and Boarding School as an infant. She has worked there since she was a wee girl and will likely die there. Despite a sense that she was made for something more, Brianna feels powerless to change her situation, so she consoles herself by exploring the Ballymacool grounds, looking for hidden treasures to add to the secret trove beneath the floorboards of her room.

When Michael Wray, the son of local gentry, is sent to Ballymacool to deal with his unruly cousin, he finds himself drawn to Brianna, immediately and inescapably. There is something about her that feels so . . . familiar. When Brianna finds a piece of silver in the woods, she commits to learning its origins, with the help of Michael. What they discover may change everything.

Fan favorite Jennifer Deibel invites you back to the Emerald Isle in the 1930s for this fresh take on the Cinderella story, complete with a tantalizing mystery, a budding romance, and a chance at redemption.

My Thoughts:

I feel I need to divide my thoughts into two sections.

First, I liked the book and the cover is stunning. The story was well thought through and the characters were engaging. Brianna was filled with joy and faith, but also struggled with disappointment, loss and how to trust in the midst of betrayal. Michael was privileged, while also being down to earth and concerned about oppression, injustice and appropriate use of power. The author looked beyond circumstances and behaviors to the things that were underneath. There was a genuine thread of how choosing faith, faithfulness and forgiveness stand in opposition to how revenge, bitterness and pride play out in a life. All in all it was an engaging and, ultimately, heart-warming tale.

I did struggle with the injustice presented and the abuse described, as I was meant to. There was much in this novel that was heavy, even when it was an ultimately satisfying story.

Second, I struggled with the author’s choices in writing a historical fiction set in an actual place while changing the history of that place. With historical fiction I have no issues at all with filling in the gaps with imagination. However, re-writing the occupation of the house by the IRA to become a decimation of its inhabitants by the British left me uneasy. I would have wished the author would have chosen a fictional name for the house and family rather than building the story of an actual location on an alternate history. The story of the silver tray was fascinating and it was an intriguing inclusion in the story, so I can see why she would have wanted to keep that connection to Ballymacool. Just because it didn’t sit right with me doesn’t make it wrong and the author explains her changes in the postscript. Still, it would have been my preference to use alternate place and family names for an alternate history.

All in all I can recommend the book to you as a tale of faith and hope fulfilled.

I received a free digital copy of this novel with the understanding that I would share my honest opinion with my readers.