Mini Review: “The Reunion” by Amy Matayo

Today I’m sharing a little review of the last book in Amy Matayo’s “Love in Chaos” series. This fourth story, short enough to consider it a novella, revisits the family and couples we know from previous books.

The “Love in Chaos” series 1-3: The Waves | The Aftermath | The Last Shot

About the Book

It’s been quite the year for the Hayes/Gamble family, but now things are looking up. When you’ve survived a tornado, a concert shooting, and being stranded on a deserted island, what else can possibly go wrong? After all, isn’t that the rule—three strikes, and you’re out?

That should totally be the rule.

Dillon Hayes has dreamed of her wedding day since childhood. Now, after months of planning, the chapel is booked, the invitations are sent, and the dress is ready and waiting. In only a few days’ time, Dillon will become Mrs. Liam Gamble in front of God, Tennessee, and everyone she loves.

But when a rare blizzard dumps piles of snow on Nashville and the entire southern region three days before the wedding, all that planning goes up in, well…snow. Businesses close. Flights are grounded. Roads are nearly impassible. Even the chapel now has a gaping hole in the middle of the roof and a giant mound of white powder blocking the aisle.

Dillon can feel her dreams dying one by one…and there’s nothing she can do to stop it. A year filled with one mishap after another can wear a person down. But what Dillon soon discovers is this: the death of one dream isn’t necessarily the end.

Sometimes it can lead to an even better beginning.

Goodreads | Amazon

Review

The Reunion wraps up these characters’ happily-ever-afters in an imperfect-yet-perfect way. While unexpected things happen (and will continue!), they don’t have to end there. Positive and happy and good can come of seemingly bad circumstances (like snowstorms and changes of venue). I think this is a timely reminder for this month especially.

I am delighted the world gets to revisit all 6 main characters of Amy Matayo’s series, along with their POVs and snarky humor, in this little novella. It’s a glimpse of their life-directions and it’s HOPEFUL. Plus it’s a chance to see just what formal wear Dillon makes Teddy wear at her wedding! 😉

Thank you to the author for the review copy. This is my honest review.

Series Review: "Sunrise at Normandy" by Sarah Sundin

I LOVE to learn about history through story! Sarah Sundin’s WWII “Sunrise at Normandy” series explores what life in the US and England was like for citizens in each branch of the US armed forces and for those in the Red Cross, Women’s Royal Navel Service, and on the home front employed on and off base.

You can read the synopsis and learn more about each book in this series on Goodreads.

Series Review

The “Sunrise at Normandy” series follows the stories of the three Paxton brothers, each serving in a different branch (Navy, Air Force, Army) and fighting in the Battle of Normandy. Their familial circumstances are estranged because of events at the beginning of the series. Because of this, each participates in events leading up to D-Day independently and experiences unique opportunities for romantic relationships AND for growing into forgiveness and reconciliation.

The Sea Before Us delves into just what it means to be held in God’s hand during one of the most tumultuous times in modern history (and one of the most interesting to me): WWII Europe just before and during D-Day. Sundin’s writing style flows naturally and relates the depth of the characters with ease. I thought the characters wonderfully likable and easy to root for, although Dorothy annoyed me a few times with her propensity to overlook a certain someone’s roguish nature. Thankfully, the strong and steady personality of Wyatt is a bright beacon for Dorothy as she grows during the story.

The Sky Above Us is a fantastic WWII story that’s even better if you’ve read book 1!. 😉 I enjoyed that several characters are based on actual historical people — the research shines through in that aspect. Subtle faith themes and parallels to the Biblical story of Jacob and Esau deepen the characters’ arcs and add to the complexity of the plot. The romance unfolds naturally amidst all of the WWII happenings to be sensible and sweet. I think this is my favorite of the three!

The Land Beneath Us is the perfect conclusion to the series. This approach to a group of stories, all three on a similar timeline with the stories of the brothers overlapping, is unique and expertly woven by Sarah Sundin. I really appreciate the bits of real history included in this story, especially concerning the Army’s training and preparedness, and the way all the characters show true growth and maturity as a result of their experiences and relationships. Leah, especially, grows into her role as a woman through this. Another thing I really liked about each of these stories is how they parallel and draw influence from prominent Biblical persons, this one referencing Joseph and Leah.

Thank you to Revell publishers for the review copy of each title. These are my honest thoughts and reviews.

Review: “Chasing the White Lion” by James R. Hannibal

This review is of a super fun action and suspense story: Chasing the White Lion by James R. Hannibal. Though I’m glad I didn’t experience the dangers CIA agent Talia Inger and her team face in this story, I did enjoy googling all of the locations around the globe for a visual — and now I want to visit Prague!

About the Book

Young CIA officer Talia Inger has reconciled with the man who assassinated her father, but that doesn’t mean she wants him hovering over her every move and unearthing the painful past she’s trying to put behind her. Still, she’ll need him–and the help of his star grifter, Valkyrie–if she hopes to infiltrate the Jungle, the first ever crowdsourced crime syndicate, to rescue a group of kidnapped refugee children.

But as Talia and her elite team of thieves con their way into the heart of the Jungle, inching ever closer to syndicate boss the White Lion, she’ll run right up against the ragged edge of her family’s dark past. In this game of cat and mouse, it’s win . . . or die. And in times like that, it’s always good to have someone watching your back.

Former tactical deception officer and stealth pilot James Hannibal takes you deep undercover into the criminal underworld where everyone has an angle and no one escapes unscathed. 

Goodreads | Amazon

Review

Reading Chasing the White Lion is more fun than watching an action movie — and I do LOVE action movies! If the crew of Ocean’s 11 were working with Mission: Impossible and the CIA, it might look something like what the globe-trotting Talia Inger and her team accomplish.

More than the high-tech, cybercrime-stopping fun, though, these characters share nerdy humor and a deeper story of purpose. While Talia learns to depend and trust those God has placed in her life as a ragtag “family”, ties between these team members grow stronger and more secrets are revealed. I highly recommend reading the first book, The Gryphon Heist, to appreciate the full background of this story and the personalities of each character.

Veteran James R. Hannibal has penned an extraordinarily fun story that simultaneously draws attention to the global opportunities of giving and caring for the “least of these” around us. Chasing the White Lion incorporates the organization Compassion International deftly into its plot and shines such a light on children and human trafficking concerns. For more info, go check out James’ website post about how each book purchased is supporting Compassion.

I highly recommend this book to any fans of action, suspense, or ensemble-cast heist stories with a thread of faith. I hope many more adventures are in story for Talia and company!

Thank you to Revell Reads for the review copy. This is my honest review.

Book Review & Blog Tour: “Promised” by Leah Garriott

Margaret Brinton keeps her promises, and the one she is most determined to keep is the promise to protect her heart.

Warwickshire, England, 1812

Fooled by love once before, Margaret vows never to be played the fool again. To keep her vow, she attends a notorious matchmaking party intent on securing the perfect marital match: a union of convenience to someone who could never affect her heart. She discovers a man who exceeds all her hopes in the handsome and obliging rake Mr. Northam.

There’s only one problem. His meddling cousin, Lord Williams, won’t leave Margaret alone. Condescending and high-handed, Lord Williams lectures and insults her. When she refuses to give heed to his counsel, he single-handedly ruins Margaret’s chances for making a good match—to his cousin or anyone else. With no reason to remain at the party, Margaret returns home to discover her father has promised her hand in marriage—to Lord Williams.

Under no condition will Margaret consent to marrying such an odious man. Yet as Lord Williams inserts himself into her everyday life, interrupting her family games and following her on morning walks, winning the good opinion of her siblings and proving himself intelligent and even kind, Margaret is forced to realize that Lord Williams is exactly the type of man she’d hoped to marry before she’d learned how much love hurt. When paths diverge and her time with Lord Williams ends, Margaret is faced with her ultimate choice: keep the promises that protect her or break free of them for one more chance at love. Either way, she fears her heart will lose.

Find Promised on: AMAZON | BARNES & NOBLE | BOOK DEPOSITORY | INDIEBOUND | AUDIBLE | GOODREADS | BOOKBUB

Review

Promised is a LOVELY escape to England with a swoony romance! This story has all the fun elements one can expect from a Regency story since Jane Austen set the standard. More than witty characters, though, and a search for a convenient love match, Promised features a sensible and intelligent romance whose main couple is matched in humor, intelligence, AND love.

This story is told in first person POV, a rare and tricky thing in the historical genre. Leah Garriott manages this well, though there were a few times I struggled to like the heroine, Margaret, or understand some of her reasoning. She does exhibit growth, though, and I like the way she finally makes some conscious decisions and chooses to extend forgiveness to a certain character in the end.

The colorful cast of characters, likened to an Austen cast (again), is a fun treat! I particularly liked Mr. Lundall and his humorous role — and the way he figures unexpectedly in showing Margaret a few things about herself. Margaret’s siblings, too, have a playful and sweet dynamic. The best relationship, though, is between Margaret and Lord Williams. Any time they share a scene together, the tension is palpable. From a love/hate stance to tentative respect to understanding, I enjoyed seeing their relationship grow.

The Regency era setting brings to light Margaret’s socially expected role in life versus the way she is trying to shield herself with her own choices. Through some subterfuge, connections over music, a “Pemberley” moment, and lovely banter with the hero, Margaret begins to find hope for her future, even if it is unexpected. I will look forward to whatever historical novel Leah writes next — and I hope we get a future glimpse of these characters again!

Thank you to the publisher for the review copy. This is my honest review.

EARLY PRAISE:

“Promising Regency-set debut. Vivid period details and the hero’s grand romantic efforts will please fans of historical romance.”—Publishers Weekly

“Debut -author Garriott’s smooth prose and character-driven story will enthrall readers looking for sweet historicals with Austenesque plots.”—Library Journal

“Garriott’s impressive debut distinguishes itself with its expertly evoked Regency setting, a cast of realistically flawed yet eminently relatable characters, and a sweetly satisfying love story. Teen fans of Austen-era love stories will fall hard for this impeccably crafted romance.”—Booklist

“Promised is a sweet regency romance and one that I recommend to all of you romance fans, especially those of you that enjoy stories inspired by Jane Austen.”—The Book Diva’s Reads

“…a fun, entertaining, and perfect addition to the Proper Romance collection.”—The Readathon

“With an Austen-like focus on minute emotional detail and some amusing secondary characters, Garriott’s gentle novel promises a treat for Regency fans who like their characters well-bred, their interiors comfortable, and the romance no racier than the hero turning up in a wet shirt.”—Historical Novel Society

Though she earned degrees in math and statistics, Leah Garriott lives for a good love story. She’s resided in Hawaii and Italy, walked the countryside of England, and owns every mainstream movie version of Pride and Prejudice. She’s currently living her own happily ever after in Utah with her husband and three kids. Leah is represented by Sharon Pelletier at Dystel, Goderich, and Bourret.

WEBSITE | FACEBOOK | TWITTER | INSTAGRAM | GOODREADS

ABOUT THE BLOG TOUR

Debut novelist Leah Garriott tours the blogosphere February 17 through March 15, 2020 to share her new historical romance, Promised. Forty popular book bloggers specializing in historical romance, inspirational fiction, and Austenesque fiction will feature guest blogs, interviews, exclusive excerpts, and book reviews of this acclaimed Regency romance novel.

2/17 My Jane Austen Book Club (Guest Blog) | Austenprose—A Jane Austen Blog (Review)

2/18 Katie’s Clean Book Collection (Review) | Wishful Endings (Interview)

2/19 RelzReviewz (Character Spotlight)

2/20 Encouraging Words from the Tea Queen (Spotlight)

2/21 The Lit Bitch (Excerpt)

2/22 The Debutante Ball (Interview)

2/23 Adventure. Romance. Suspense (Review)

2/24 A Bookish Way of Life (Review) | Austenesque Reviews (Guest Blog) | Half Agony, Half Hope (Review)

2/25 Frolic Media (Excerpt)

2/26 Heidi Reads (Guest Blog) | The Caffeinated Bibliophile (Interview)

2/27 Wishful Endings (Review)

2/28 Lu Reviews Books (Review)

2/29 KJ’s Book Nook (Review)

3/1  My Vices and Weaknesses (Excerpt)

3/2 Bringing Up Books (Review) | Christian Chick’s Thoughts (Review) | For Where Your Treasure Is (Interview)

3/3 Heidi Reads (Review) | So Little Time…So Much to Read (Excerpt)

3/4 Romance Junkies (Guest Blog) | Gwendalyn’s Books (Review)

3/5 Laura’s Reviews (Review)

3/6 Scuffed Slippers Wormy Books (Spotlight)

3/7 Fiction Aficionado (Review)

3/8 The Christian Fiction Girl (Review)

3/9 Austenesque Reviews (Review)

3/10 Bookfoolery (Review) | From Pemberley to Milton (Review)

3/11 Faithfully Bookish (Interview)

3/12 Impressions in Ink (Review)

3/13 Robin Loves Reading (Review) | The Green Mockingbird (Review)

3/14 Inkwell Inspirations (Review)

3/15 The Calico Critic (Excerpt) | Bookworm Nation (Guest Blog)

Review: “If For Any Reason” by Courtney Walsh

I’m sharing a review today of a book by one of my favorite must-read authors! This time, Courtney Walsh is kicking off her Nantucket Love Story series with If For Any Reason, a contemporary romance with slight threads of what I consider “women’s fiction”, exploring deep themes of belonging alongside a charming love story.

About the Book

Emily Ackerman has traveled the world, her constant compass and companion a book of letters her mother left for her when she died. With no father in the picture, her mom’s advice has been her only true north. But when professional failure leads Emily back to Nantucket to renovate and sell the family cottage she inherited, she wonders if her mom left advice to cover this . . . especially when her grandmother arrives to “supervise.” And especially when her heart becomes entangled with Hollis McGuire, the boy next door-turned-baseball star who’s back on the island after a career-ending injury.

As sparks fly between her and Hollis, Emily is drawn to island life, even as she uncovers shocking secrets about the tragic accident that led to her mother’s death. With her world turned upside down, Emily must choose between allowing the voices from her past to guide her future or forging her own path forward.

Goodreads | Amazon

Review

If For Any Reason is a story of belonging and changing dreams told through a romance and friendship in the ideal setting of Nantucket. Themes of grace and honesty permeate the world Emily and Hollis find themselves in — literally and figuratively. As they deal with some hard things life has thrown at them, they must find the grace to work out their faith and relationship with God while a tentative connection grows between them.

Courtney Walsh excels at writing stories that blend one part women’s fiction with two parts romance and charm! She manages to include deep themes with endearing characters that stir empathy and thought in the heart of a reader. This story is another prime example, with the spark-laden friendship between Emily and Hollis developing naturally. And, Courtney takes a delicate situation and portrays it with compassion and grace, yet still depicts it appropriately with its consequences and fallout.

The romance between Hollis and Emily feels so realistic. They are simply captivated by each other, but it’s not a superficial connection — both characters are mature, both are intentional in their friendship, even if it scares them to be so vulnerable. I especially like one of the decisions Hollis makes (insert heart eyes HERE) at a moment when Emily needs space for clarity.

This review would not be complete without a paragraph devoted to Hollis’s daugther, Jolie, AKA JoJo. This girl steals every scene she’s in! She has so much spunk and acts exactly her age. I liked that she has a voice and an opinion that matters to the adults around her. It’s great to see a bright character like her add such pivotal value to a story.

One more thing I really enjoyed about this story was its inclusion of letters and a few short flashback scenes. These fill in some blanks of the deeper themes and relate things like grief, family, and the resounding impact of choices in a wonderful story device.

I’m looking forward to more stories in this series set on Nantucket, a place I have just added to my must-visit travel list!

Thanks to Tyndale for the review copy. This is my honest review.

Review: “Always You” by Jennifer Rodewald

Author Jennifer Rodewald’s new novel, Always You, is a part of “The Potter’s House” novel series by various authors. It’s a shorter novel at just under 200 pages, one that can be read over a couple of days (if your schedule is like my kind of crazy). It’s a contemporary romance not to be missed, especially if you like the friends-to-more trope!

About the Book

They made a pact of friendship. Love was not supposed to be part of the deal.

Lauren is desperate to escape the massive shadow of her father’s and sister’s political careers.

Matt is running from the biggest disappointment of his life.

After a messy meeting in a snowbound airport, they launch a new friendship, founded on a mutual love for the Lord and an agreement of respect. They find themselves working together at the Lake Shore Resort, thankful to have each other as they each carve out a fresh start. But as the winter season wears on, and through a few interesting predicaments, one begins to feel more, and the other…well. Maybe neither knows what they really want. Already wounded from the things they’ve left behind, Matt and Lauren wrestle with what comes next. Afraid to move forward. Not wanting to go back.

Each must face a dilemma that only the hand of the Potter can smooth into a hopeful, promising future. Can they surrender past hurts, as well as their future hopes and plans and trust the good intentions of the God they both love?

Goodreads | Amazon

Review

Always You by Jennifer Rodewald is a memorable contemporary romance that begins with one of the funniest meet cutes (ever!) and grows into a sweet friendship-to-more story.

With moments of wonder at the splendor of creation (hello Lake Tahoe setting!) and the ups and downs of a daily walk of faith, Matt and Lauren find deeper purpose in their lives and understanding with each other. I like how the friendship is developed so naturally, as is the reality of a daily surrender to God’s will. Both Matt and Lauren learn some hard lessons on their own through this new season, but find a sweet assurance in their relationship with refreshing honesty and humor.

This story is on the lighter side compared to some of Jennifer’s novels, yet just as impactful and skillfully written. I’m looking forward to more FUN with the Murphy brothers (hopefully Jackson!).

Thank you to the publisher for the review copy. This is my honest review.

Review: “Veiled in Smoke” by Jocelyn Green

Today I’m featuring one of my favorite kinds of stories: one filled with true history! While the characters and plot are fiction, Veiled in Smoke by Jocelyn Green features so many accurate historical details of Chicago and life in the 1870s in the shadow of the Civil War. If you want to take a trip back in time, pick up this book…

About the Book

Meg and Sylvie Townsend manage the family bookshop and care for their father, Stephen, a veteran still suffering in mind and spirit from his time as a POW during the Civil War. But when the Great Fire sweeps through Chicago’s business district, they lose much more than just their store.

The sisters become separated from their father, and after Meg burns her hands in an attempt to save a family heirloom, they make a harrowing escape from the flames with the help of Chicago Tribune reporter Nate Pierce. Once the smoke clears away, they reunite with Stephen, only to learn soon after that their family friend not only died during the fire–he was murdered. Even more shocking, Stephen is charged with the crime and committed to the Cook County Insane Asylum.

Though homeless, injured, and suddenly unemployed, Meg must not only gather the pieces of her shattered life, but prove her father’s innocence before the asylum truly drives him mad.

Goodreads | Amazon

Review

Veiled in Smoke is a richly detailed story of sisters, family, love, and trust. Set during a fascinating time — featuring the Great Fire of Chicago in 1871 and the reconstruction period after the Civil War — it features a city and a family making sense of their lives in the aftermath of loss and destruction.

The many complexities of this novel are revealed at a steady pace along with the development and growth of characters. Meg, Sylvie, Nate, and Stephen share chapter points-of-view and convey the tension and emotions of events well – especially during the fire evacuation. From the dynamic of sisters to a love of literature, the trauma and aftermath of Andersonville prison, a couple new friendships and hints of romance, the way all of these elements work together is a feat in itself. This combined with a subtle mystery and suspense thread makes for a wonderful work of historical fiction.

A slight romantic element is there, too. While it is slowly explored from roots of friendship between the characters, it feels organic to the setting. Now I can talk about Nate! He is SUCH a likable gentleman. His character really shines a light on the theme of sharing everyday life with loved ones, with all its burdens and joys.

Author Jocelyn Green depicts history in a relatable way that always shines a light on unique or lesser-known aspects of the world. In a sense, this gives the past a voice, even in fiction. I’ve enjoyed each and every novel of hers I’ve read (3 to go!). Veiled in Smoke is just as enthralling and enjoyable. Its themes of second chances, trust in God’s unchanging nature, and the strength of love come to life along with the bustling city of Chicago as a backdrop. I am looking forward to the next book in this series — especially catching up with these characters and their bookstore!

Thank you to the publisher for the review copy. This is my honest review.