Review: “Rescue Me” by Susan May Warren

Today I want to share my thoughts on Susan May Warren’s latest release, Rescue Me, book #2 in her new-ish “Montana Rescue” series. (click here for my review of book 1). I enjoy everything Susan writes, so my review *might* get a little lengthy. This particular story is one part tense action in the wilderness, one part a tentative romance, and one part a story of forgiveness.

About the Book

When Deputy Sam Brooks commits to something, nothing can sway him–not just on the job as liaison between the Mercy Falls sheriff’s department and PEAK Rescue, but in his private life. Rescue Me by Susan May Warren.jpgHe’s the one who stuck around to take care of his mother after his father’s accidental death. And he’s the one–perhaps the only one–who believes Sierra Rose is the perfect girl for him. Safe, practical, and organized, she’s nothing like her hippie, impulsive, bleeding heart sister, Willow.

Willow, however, has been in love with Sam Brooks for as long as she can remember. But she wants her sister to have a happy ending. Besides, Willow has other things to focus on–namely, nabbing the job as youth pastor for her small-town church. Best thing for her to do is to purge Sam from her heart.

Neither can predict the events that will bring them together in a fight for their lives in the forbidding wilderness of Glacier National Park. Stranded, injured, and with the winter weather closing in, Sam and Willow will have to work together to save a crew of terrified teenagers. As they fight to survive, they might just discover a new hope for love.

Review

Susan’s talent lies in depicting characters “right where they are” in life, with all their flaws and shortcomings. She does this with such care it reveals what they can be through another’s eyes or through the healing grace of God. This realness makes them instantly relatable, making the reader empathize and even gain perspective from their experiences. (I know they are fictional, OK. But that’s the power of story.) Especially when it is a plausible story like this one. Sam and Willow, and the secondary storyline with his brother, Pete, are likable and relatable, even when they are wrong in their assumptions or reflex decisions that have consequences later in the story.

Another element I always appreciate about Susan’s storytelling is the way she weaves the book title into the story in a unique way, often with multiple meanings. This time, Rescue Me works out as being briefly flirtatious (at least I thought that one internal dialogue of Willow’s was amusing!), a literal need for rescue, and a steadfast prayer and lesson of rescue from the One who offers hope.

In the middle of the drama and peril, a lesson of forgiveness and reconciliation is told through these characters’ lives. As Sam sets aside his independence and realizes the limits of his humanity, he sees the God of rescue and hope reaching out for him. Similarly, Willow and Pete learn lessons of rescue and hope in their own ways, all realizing their faith is sure even when their sight is uncertain.

The romance of the story is sweetly told, unfolding gently in the turmoil of action and more than a few dangerous life situations. Sam and Willow begin to find a belonging and complementary friendship that surprises them — and makes the reader cheer them on — because their opposite personalities encourage one another to be better persons.

Also, I want to mention the beginnings of another romance we glimpse in this story between secondary characters promises more drama and a good story to continue. Coupled with the cliffhanger related to a mystery that I think will continue through the series, Rescue Me has the right amount of finality for the reader to be satisfied for now and hopeful of the untold stories to come. Thankfully, book #3 (A Matter of Trust) is set to release in July!

I voluntarily reviewed a purchased copy of this book.

Cover Reveal: “Just the Way You Are” by Pepper Basham

Hey ya’ll! It’s time for another post! Today author Pepper Basham is revealing the cover of her upcoming independent contemporary romance: Just the Way You Are, book 1 in a new series titled “Pleasant Gap Romance”. It promises to be great fun (as always with Pepper), pairing a single mom from the Appalachians with an English actor. On a fun side note, Pepper has coined an awesome term for this blending of Appalachian and British culture: Britallachian!

Without further ado, here’s the cover!

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Isn’t it adorable?! I love the choice of colors for the text, AND the couple’s obvious happiness hints at the humor to be found in the pages.

And, if you’re interested in the story, here’s the back cover design:

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You can learn more about this upcoming release by visiting the links below.

Add to Goodreads

Preorder from Amazon | Pepper’s Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram

Top Ten Tuesday: 10 Favorite Jane Austen-Esque Romances

Happy Valentine’s Day!!!! What better way to celebrate the day than with a blog post all about classic love stories??? Today I’m tweaking a Top Ten Tuesday topic to fit JANE AUSTEN-like stories. Read on for more awesomeness.

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It’s another Top Ten Tuesday, hosted by  The Broke and the Bookish.

The official topic this week is “Top Ten Favorite Romance Tropes/Types”. I’m bending this a little for a list of favorite Jane Austen-Esque romances, whether they be inspired or adapted from Austen’s works or have similar elements as her well-loved classics.

10 Favorite Austen-Esque Romances

Influenced and inspired by Austen’s heroines

Dear Mr. KnightleyLizzy and Jane by Katherine Reay1. Dear Mr. Knightley by Katherine Reay

2. Lizzy & Jane by Katherine Reay

Both of these novels by Reay are influenced by Jane’s characters in general. And, they each pay homage to her stories (as well as other classics) in their own way. Dear Mr. Knightley features a fresh epistolary take on a romance and a coming-of-age story. Lizzy & Jane weaves a tale of sisters, their struggles, and a fitting chance at love (with some Persuasion-like moments <3).

Pride & Prejudice-like banter between heroine and hero

271385783. Told You So by Kristen Heitzmann

If ever there was a contemporary story to rival the tension, misconceptions, witty dialogue, and ardent love story of Elizabeth and Darcy, Told You So would be it. You need to meet Devin and Grace.

love-lace-and-minor-alterations-by-v-joy-palmer4. Love, Lace, and Minor Alterations by V. Joy Palmer

Similar in many ways to Pride & Prejudice, Love, Lace, and Minor Alterations is a light story with humor and wit fitting for its Austen similarities (and some sarcasm thrown in for good measure). The protagonists of this story contend with their own pride in several ways to overcome shortcomings and find happily-ever-after.

With Every Breath5. With Every Breath by Elizabeth Camden

The push-and-pull of rivalry and opposite personalities is brightly displayed in With Every Breath. And what a frustratingly fun historical romance/drama it is!

 

A “Regency Era” setting

_240_360_Book.1051.cover6. The Headmistress of Rosemere by Sarah E. Ladd

1816 England. Winter on the moors. Secrets. A spinster finding love. Inheritances, gambling debts, and a girls’ school. What more could you want in a novel?

the-tutors-daughter7. The Tutor’s Daughter by Julie Klassen

A bit of mystery and romance combine in this story set in Cornwall, England. (Random BBC Period Drama fangirl moment: for a location visual, watch “Poldark”!!!!!)

Like Northanger Abbey

The Covered Deep8. The Covered Deep by Brandy Vallance

Bianca is the Victorian Era equivalent of Catherine Morland. Combine her fascination with gothic literature and heros with her propensity for dramatics, and her learning journey paralells Austen’s heroine in many ways. And I think Paul’s gentlemanly, wise manner complements Bianca just as Henry Tilney does Catherine.

Like Emma

The Thorn Bearer9. The Thorn Bearer by Pepper D. Basham

I say this story is like Emma because the romance blooms from a strong foundation of friendship. The joy of it all is watching the characters grow and change for the better through the story, partially because of their friendship; much like Knightley encourages Emma to be a better version of herself. And the romance!! 🙂

Ensemble-like, influential cast

HesitantHeiress10. The Hesitant Heiress by Dawn Crandall

While there are many reasons to love Dawn Crandall’s historical romances, one reason I enjoyed The Hesitant Heiress was its cast of characters. The broad personalities featured are always interesting and influential to the story. I think having the lens of a singular POV (the heroine’s, Amaryllis) adds dramatic suspense to the story and slants the view of all of the characters in a way similar to Austen’s understanding interpretation of family, friends, and even “villain” personalities.

 

~bonus: 3 upcoming releases~

second-impressionsSecond Impressions by Pepper Basham, releasing March 2017

This novella promises to deliver a modern Austen-Esque story in setting (Bath, England), humor, and romance. It releases as part of a novella collection titled Love at First Laugh and in July as a standalone. I’m excited to see how Pepper tackles modern England (and just what a bonnet has to do with it all 🙂 )!

jane-of-austinJane of Austin: A Novel of Sweet Tea and Sensibility by Hillary Manton Lodge, releasing June 13th

This is a modern adaptation of Sense & Sensibility set in the south. I’m already in love with the artsy cover. AND Hillary is writing it, so I know there will be recipes (!!!!). I can’t wait!

 

the-austen-escapeThe Austen Escape by Katherine Reay, releasing November 2017

Reay’s literary-infused stories are always awesome (see above gushing). This one will be Austen and a best friends’ TRIP! Plus, the cover is adorable.

 

 

Your turn!!! Have you read any of these on my list? What are your favorite Jane Austen-Esque romances??? Or what are your favorite romance types???

 

Review: “Paper Hearts” by Courtney Walsh

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What better way to celebrate the week of Valentine’s than with a little review of a book that’s romance-y and cute with genuineness and heart behind it (and on it)? I thought so. I’m talking about a book that’s been on my radar and TBR shelf for way too long: Paper Hearts by Courtney Walsh.

About the Book

Abigail Pressman would never have guessed that love notes penned on paper hearts by an anonymous couple could restore her belief in love. As a business owner in a quaint town at the base of the Rockies, she’s poured everything into dreams of expansion . . . and resisting the matchmaking efforts of the Valentine Volunteers, who gather in her store to continue Loves Park’s tradition of stamping mail with the city’s romantic postmark.

When Abigail is unwillingly drafted into the Volunteers, she encounters the paper hearts, a distraction that couldn’t come at a worse time. A hard-to-read doctor has become Abigail’s new landlord, and he’s threatening to end her lease to expand his practice.

As she fights a growing attraction to this handsome man crushing her dreams, Abigail is inspired to string the hearts in her store, sparking a citywide infatuation with the artsy trend. But when a new batch of hearts reaches the Volunteers, it appears something tragic has happened to the couple. Will uncovering their story confirm Abigail’s doubts about love, or could it rescue her dreams . . . and her heart?

Review

This book is adorable. When I first heard about it, it was aptly compared to You’ve Got Mail, so I picked up a copy. It totally reflects that relationship predicament and has a small element like the show Signed, Sealed, Delivered’s dead letter office (if you can imagine it as a mismatched group of lady matchmakers – the Valentine Volunteers). But it’s deeper than a light rom-com. It’s a story of forgiveness, dreams, and love.

Paper Hearts has all the ingredients for an ideal inspirational contemporary romance: a quaint setting, meddling neighbor types, an “are-we-professional-enemies-or-am-I-attracted-to-you” relationship, a single dad trying to reinvent himself, a young woman’s journey to settle into a new dream, a sweet and meaningful romance, and themes of unconditional love and forgiveness.

I appreciate the way Courtney builds the backstory of Abigail and Jacob (the new doctor/landlord) slowly. The reader sees both characters react to the present and in turn learns a little more about their pasts and major events influencing them. As I got to “know them” better, I was rooting for them to share their insecurities and secrets with one another because I knew they had much in common AND because I was dying to know the whole story behind a certain secret.

The real “paper heart” portion of the story happens a little ways in, but it is worth the wait. Like the endearing cast of characters and charming small town setting, the romantic tradition of the hearts will pull at your hear and remind you to never take your loved ones for granted.

Review: “The Mark of the King” by Jocelyn Green

It’s no secret around here I am somewhat of a history buff. Lately, I’ve been enthralled with American frontier-era fiction because it’s often supported by meticulous research and historical accuracy (yay for dedicated authors!). I always love learning something new about this era, especially when it involves a setting I’ve not previously read. One of the latest books I’ve enjoyed in this category is a new standalone novel by Jocelyn Green: The Mark of the King, a vivid historical drama with hints of romance. Its setting is 1720s New Orleans, Louisiana, — the French frontier in America at a tumultuous time of survival before the French and Indian War.

Sweeping Historical Fiction Set at the Edge of the Continent

the-mark-of-the-king-by-jocelyn-greenAfter being imprisoned and branded for the death of her client, twenty-five-year-old midwife Julianne Chevalier trades her life sentence for exile to the fledgling 1720s French colony of Louisiana, where she hopes to be reunited with her brother, serving there as a soldier. To make the journey, though, women must be married, and Julianne is forced to wed a fellow convict.

When they arrive in New Orleans, there is no news of Benjamin, Julianne’s brother, and searching for answers proves dangerous. What is behind the mystery, and does military officer Marc-Paul Girard know more than he is letting on?

With her dreams of a new life shattered, Julianne must find her way in this dangerous, rugged land, despite never being able to escape the king’s mark on her shoulder that brands her a criminal beyond redemption.

Review

This book explores such a unique and new-to-me setting! The writing style is wonderfully descriptive of the wilds of Louisiana and the Mississippi while also connecting the reader with the deep emotions of Julianne and a few other key characters. I confess, there were a few tears shed over this story, both over moments of tragic pain and beautiful grace. This is my first ever story by Jocelyn Green, but I know it won’t be the last!

Scars, not just those of Julianne, but physical and emotional scars of the hero and others, bring them together in grace, in purpose, to bear one another’s trials, to fight for the thread of hope they hold. I can’t help but bring my thoughts full circle to the way Jesus’ scars are meant to bring us together. United by His nail-scarred hands, He offers us freedom with those scars as we seek to bring Him glory.

Amidst the twists and turns of this story, and fascinating look at life in a new world, a poignant romance blossoms. In contrast to other books in the genre, this romance is more purposeful than sweetly unexpected, which makes it all the more impactful and one to “root for”. It has to battle the elements and traitorous environment, but it promises survival and comfort through the heartache these characters face.  To say any more about this aspect would give away key plot surprises, so I won’t do that to you! Just know that all of it together brightly shines an overarching message of grace.

I voluntarily reviewed a purchased copy of this book. This review is my honest opinion.

Review: “Because You’re Mine” by Colleen Coble

Colleen Coble has always delivered interesting and thrilling romantic suspense stories both in contemporary and historical contexts. Her latest release, Because You’re Mine, was one I was instantly drawn to because of the striking cover. (Sometimes you just have to judge a book by its cover/author). Read on for my thoughts on this one!

About the Book

because-youre-mine

Alanna has been plagued by tragedy. So it should come as no surprise that in the beauty that surrounds Charleston, all is not as it seems.

When her husband is killed by a car bomb while their band is on tour in Charleston, Alanna doesn’t know where to turn. Her father-in-law is threatening to take custody of the baby she carries, but the one thing she knows for sure is that she can’t lose the last piece of Liam she has left.

Their manager offers her a marriage of convenience to gain her U.S. citizenship and allow her to escape her father-in-law’s control. It seems like the perfect solution . . . but her doubts begin almost as soon as she arrives at Barry’s family home, a decaying mansion surrounded by swamp.

To make matters worse, Liam’s best friend survived the car bomb. She’s never really liked Jesse and now she can’t seem to get away from him. When he takes Liam’s place in their band, it’s almost more than she can bear.

But then things start happening. Things that could easily cost Alanna her life—or the life of her unborn child. Are they merely coincidences? Or is there something much more sinister at work?

Review

Because You’re Mine is a decent story with a very unique premise, but it’s not my favorite story from Colleen. I think it has even more potential than what I saw fleshed out on the page. Colleen’s writing style is her typical easy-to-read, flowing style. My qualms had more to do with some of the situations the characters put themselves in. Part of it was not as believable due to one particular person’s blindness towards some of the obvious red flags. However, I did enjoy the bit of Irish culture and folklore explored juxtaposed to the southern Charleston setting.

Interestingly, a prominent plot twist is made known to the observant reader far in advance of the characters in the story. This worked well to build a little anticipation and momentum, but (again!) I think it would have been more surprising if the secret were delayed a little longer. Even though I think this story could have been improved a little more, I still enjoyed the “journey” and was happy with the ending that answered most questions I had along the way.

Thank you to Thomas Nelson and BookLook Bloggers for the complimentary ebook review copy. This review is my honest opinion.

Review: “Unblemished” by Sara Ella

I would consider myself an occasional YA (or young adult) reader, enjoying the lighter side this genre can present or a rare “popular” series (in the dystopian sub-genre). I’m also a fan of fairytale-esque stories, whether they be retellings or stories with underlying themes similar to happily-ever-after adventures. When I read raving reviews for Booktuber and author Sara Ella’s debut, Unblemished, and heard it was a combination of a fantasy-fairytale adventure with a modern twist, I was eager to experience this story world for myself. Especially when a review opportunity presented itself. What I discovered surpassed my expectations, sweeping me away in Eliyana’s journey of discovery and her newfound world of mystery.

About the Book

Eliyana has always recoiled from her own reflection in the mirror. But what if that were only one Reflection—one world? What if another world existed where her blemish could become her strength?

Unblemished.jpgEliyana is used to the shadows. With a hideous birthmark covering half her face, she just hopes to graduate high school unscathed. That is, until Joshua hops a fence and changes her perspective. No one, aside from her mother, has ever treated her as normal. Maybe even beautiful. Because of Joshua, Eliyana finally begins to believe she could be loved.

But one night her mother doesn’t come home, and that’s when everything gets weird.

Now Joshua is her new, and rather reluctant, legal Guardian. Add a hooded stalker and a Central Park battle to the mix and you’ve gone from weird to otherworldly.

Eliyana soon finds herself in a world much larger and more complicated than she’s ever known. A world enslaved by a powerful and vile man. And Eliyana holds the answer to defeating him. How can an ordinary girl, a blemished girl, become a savior when she can’t even save herself?

Review

My first thought when I finished this book was WOW. I’m still stunned by the genius of this story and all its complexity. One of the many things that stood out to me was the way the setting was established throughout. At first, it is an authentic and real feeling New York City. As the story picks up pace, the “reflection world” is a place of clever design, utilizing urban elements of NYC and an enchanted-forest-world, if you will, to create a vast backdrop for all the scenes.

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I wish you all could see the hard copy of this book! It has a beautiful, pearl-like paper finish that just makes the purple “pop”.

Another thing I really loved was the symbolism of sacrifice and a good vs evil, dark vs light element. As the secrets of the power figures in the reflection world are revealed –and then, PLOT TWIST! — revealed a little more, a battle for every heart’s allegiance is clearly at the center. Though completely a fantasy story, it mirrors a spiritual battle and a grand design that allows for free will and the sacrifice of a savior figure. I noticed and appreciated subtle threads of Biblical truths (though not expressly said) which would make this story a great conversation starter and topic of God’s divine plan of redemption.

This story employs a bit of a love triangle, not usually my favorite device. BUT, it works very well because it builds more complexity into the story. Forces outside of El and the two leading love interest figures influence and manipulate the situation, too. The story wouldn’t be as cleverly complicated without the triangle because it raises deep questions of purpose and destiny. And, it left me with plenty of lingering questions and theories concerning the next book in the series! (If you’ve read the book, I’m #TeamKy. Let me know your choice in the comments!)

Unblemished is a story of beauty and brave actions, emphasizing that life is not about the surface, but the heart. Add to this message a plethora of pop culture and music references, a bit of sarcasm on Eliyana’s part, two opposite and fascinating possible love interests, controlling figures and mystery surrounding this new world, plus a few surprises and major plot twists, and you have a great start to promising series.

Thank you to Thomas Nelson Fiction Guild for the complimentary review copy. This review is my honest opinion.

To learn more about author Sara Ella, visit her WEBSITE.

What is your favorite YA novel? Or favorite fantasy? I’d love to hear your thoughts and recommendations! (And, if you’ve read this book, I’m ready to discuss!)