Review: “Long Time Gone” by Mary Connealy

Today’s blog post is all about author Mary Connealy’s recent western release from Bethany Hour Publishers, Long Time Gone, book # 2 in “The Cimmaron Legacy” series. In this story, Mary’s characteristic dry humor is coupled with family drama, plenty of western action, and a romance.

About the Book
The Boden clan thought their troubles were over with the death of a dangerous enemy. But with new evidence on Cole’s shooting, Justin can’t deny that the plot to take their ranch was bigger than one man. While the doctor and his distractingly pretty assistant help Cole, Justin has to uncover the trail of a decades-old secret as danger closes in.

Review

Long Time Gone by Mary ConnealyThe saga of the Bodens continues as they try to dispel threats to their livelihood and search out an informant among their ranch hands. While enough detail is included to make it stand on its own, I think a reader would enjoy this story more if it were read in sequence to know the background of the characters. The second son, Justin Boden, is the main character of this story. His attitude is understandably that of a middle child: out to prove himself to his family as a leader. This proves to be quite comical as he’s up against his older brother, Cole, in a few situations. He’s completely endearing because his tough exterior conceals a caring heart that just wants to take care of his family.

While the focus is on the Bodens and Justin much of the time, Angie Dupree, the love interest and the doctor’s “pretty assistant”, was another perspective shared throughout the book. I though her character and persona were important and the most dynamic emotionally. As she was revealed to have more “grit” than I first thought, I was cheering her on. Her journey is one of learning to find strength in independence while simultaneously realizing it’s a privilege to accept someone’s protection and care.

This is a thoroughly enjoyable western rom-com. The action-packed nature of Long Time Gone keeps the pages turning quickly as these characters learn important lessons of love and faith in the middle of the whirlwind drama. While most things are tidied up by the end, lingering questions as to the source of the family’s “threat” remain… which just means we’ll get to have more fun with the next book of the series!

Thank you to Bethany House Publishers for the complimentary review copy of this novel. This is my honest review.

Check out my review of book 1 in the series:

No Way Up

Book Review: “Still Life” by Dani Pettrey

img_20170225_193923_755.jpgThis review is all about book #2 in Dani Pettrey’s “Chesapeake Valor” series, Still Life. It is a contemporary romantic suspense story continuing to focus on a group of crime-solving and law enforcement friends in the Baltimore area. This time, we get to witness crime scene investigator Parker Mitchell and professional photographer Avery Tate as they are thrown back together to solve a potential crime and confront their growing mutual attraction.

About the Book

Work hits too close to home for crime scene photographer Avery Tate when her best friend disappears. The only lead is a chilling photo of her–apparently dead. As Avery, her boss Parker, and his friends dig into the case, she’s forced to confront her feelings for Parker when they come face-to-face with a dangerous criminal.

Review

This novel is another GREAT work of romantic suspense from Dani. It’s action-packed and suspenseful, in the page-turning kind of way, the perfect blend of crime drama and slight thriller with a hint of romance.

still-lifeBook 1, Cold Shot, introduced us to this group of best friends with various accomplishments and roles in law enforcement, from FBI to forensics to homicide detectives. We glimpsed the working relationship between Parker and Avery in Cold Shot, and Still Life picks up a little after they have separated ways professionally. Circumstances out of their control force them to work together again to find Avery’s missing childhood friend. Confronting old acquaintances, however, causes Avery to begin a revealing journey back into a past she regrets — and fears will come between hers and Parker’s friendship with permanent ripples.

There are many things to love about Still Life, but my favorite thing is the relationship dynamic between Parker and Avery. The way both of them gradually realize the depths of connection they share; the way Parker is a very strong character (with quite the Irish brogue 🙂 ) but not above vulnerability; they way they are each encouraging and protective of the other, in different ways; and the way Avery is relatable and assertive. Most importantly, the story of forgiveness that unfolds a little at a time is a demonstration of how God can redeem your past and show you His unconditional love through the people close to you.

While the focus of this story is Parker and Avery, another criminal incident takes place that draws the whole group into the investigation. This adds even more suspense to the plot and sets up a few things to come in the next book, I think. Through this, we get to know the personalities of the next “couple” the series will focus on (Declan and Tanner). Also, a plot thread that will seemingly continue through the series, dealing with the group’s missing friend Luke, is developed further and is proving quite interesting.  I’m ready for more of this crew already!

Thank you to Bethany House Publishers and Netgalley for the review copy. This is my honest review.

Book Review: “No Way Up” by Mary Connealy

Some days I feel like I could have lived in Victorian England and taken afternoon tea with dainty sandwiches. But most days, I think I could have lived in the old west on a ranch, riding horses in the mountains. Since I live in modern times (and I’m extremely thankful for electricity and indoor plumbing), I’ll have to settle for watching or reading westerns instead.

No Way UpWhen I’m in need of such a reading fix, Mary Connealy is a go-to author for action, romance, and humor in realistic AND historically accurate western settings. Her most recent novel, No Way Up, delivered on all counts. Read on for my review.

About the BookWhen Cimarron ranch patriarch Chance Boden is caught in an avalanche, the quick actions of hired hand Heath Kincaid save him. Badly injured, Chance demands that his will be read and its conditions be enforced immediately.

Without anyone else to serve as a witness, Heath is pressed into reading the will. If Justin, Sadie, and Cole Boden don’t live and work at home for the entire year, the ranch will go to their low-down cousin Mike.

Then Heath discovers the avalanche was a murder attempt, and more danger might follow. Deeply involved with the family, Heath’s desire to protect Sadie goes far beyond friendship. The danger keeps them close together, and their feelings grow until being apart is the last thing on their minds.

Find the book on Goodreads | Amazon | Mary’s Website

Review

Mary sets up her characters’ vivid personalities so well that you can imagine their expressions and reactions when scenes of rapid conversation come around. Her writing style is witty and humorous while never silly. It comes across in her storytelling and delivery so the characters can maintain a necessary seriousness in their dialogue.

Heath Kincaid might be familiar to fans of Mary’s previous series, the “Kincaid Brides” series. He’s the littlest brother of the family who possesses the trademark strength, independence, and stubbornness of that clan. He misses his brothers more than he realizes, and time with Sadie’s own brothers is good for him. The dynamic with Heath and between the brothers, Cole and Justin, was very fun! They challenged each other, both in a badgering and encouraging manner.

Sadie learned more about her family through these adventures. She was reminded of the importance of her relationships with her brothers, and the legacy of love her parents wanted her to value. She was a fierce character who knew herself well. She knew when to behave as a proper female should, AND when to fight against convention (like scaling a mountain in pants or defending her family with rocks. Yes, rocks.).

The geography of the Boden ranch and surrounding land plays a big part in the story. It was fascinating to learn a little bit of the history linking the native Pueblo people to the terrain. (Random personal note: since I’ve seen a tiny bit of this area of New Mexico, it was even more interesting.)

This story is more than an action-packed, adventurous western with a sweet romance, it’s a story of the importance of family and the strength of that bond. It emphasizes God’s provision and recognizes His ultimate power over the plan of our lives. Needless to say, I can’t wait to see what’s in story for this Boden clan in the next book!

Thank you to Bethany House Publishers for the complimentary review copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

 

Bonus note: the prequel e-novella to this series, The Boden Birthright, is FREE right now on Kindle! It was a great story on its own, AND it set up the backstory of the Bodens very well.

Review: “Like Never Before” by Melissa Tagg

Author Melissa Tagg can always be relied upon to deliver a story that is equal parts charming, heartwarming, and real. With her latest release, Like Never Before, she continues the Walker Family series in the same fashion with a few new people to love.

About the Book

Maple Valley became Amelia Bentley’s haven after her heart and her dreams of a family were shattered. But her new life as a newspaper editor is shaken when the small-town paper is in danger of closing. Her one hope: A lead on an intriguing story that just might impress the new publisher…if only she new who he was.

After his biggest campaign success yet, widowed speechwriter Logan Walker now has the chance of a lifetime–a spot on a presidential campaign. But his plans are interrupted when he finds out he’s inherited his hometown newspaper. He travels home intent on selling the paper and spending some much-needed time with his young daughter before making the leap into national politics.

But instead of a quick sale and peaceful break from his hectic career, Logan finds himself helping Amelia chase her story. She’s scrappy, but wounded. He’s dependable, but lost. They may butt heads more than expected, but a series of leads on Maple Valley’s quirky unsolved mystery is just the start of the sparks that fly in the office and in their hearts.

Review

While this story is super sweet & fun (with a very swoon-worthy hero, I might add), it’s not just warm and cozy — it’s an emotional story of two people’s journey toward something new God is working in their lives. The element of faith propels the story to a new depth. I especially enjoyed the bits of wisdom and encouragement offered to Amelia and Logan from the most unexpected people.

Like Never Before by Melissa TaggThis book is just so endearing! I loved so many things about it, let me just list them for you:

  • the town — picturesque and clannish, just what a small town should be
  • the Walker clan — especially catching up with Kate and Colton, Seth and Ava.
  • Logan — particularly his penchant to take care of everyone around him, especially little Charlie
  • Amelia — her obsession with winter and love of history and books
  • the janitor’s closet — No, that’s not a typo. Melissa can make a scene in a interesting and unforgettable
  • the subtle historical mystery — and fun bits of investigative journalism Amelia and Logan participate in concerning said mystery
  • classic movie references –they make this movie lover happy!
  • mostly the reminder that God waits with open arms

Logan and Amelia experience a renewal of faith. I love how real these characters are, with all their flaws and quirks and dreams and failings, they still persevere through the next step, the next choice — even when the destination is fuzzy. It’s a lesson to live in the now. In the happiness of s’mores made with candy bars. In the precious moments shared with the laughter of a child.

The ending is unexpected yet perfect. Not what I would have guessed as the reader, but it’s just one more way this story offers proof that God is never predictable but always in control. I’m ready for the next book already! Bring on book 3, Beckett’s story!

Thank you to Bethany House Publishers and Netgalley for the complimentary copy of the book in exchange for my honest review.

Visit my review of book 1, From The Start here.

 

Mini Review: “Captured by Love” by Jody Hedlund

It’s been a while since I read this as a shortlist judge for the INSPYs last year, but I want to share a brief review of it because it is a solid story from Jody Hedlund.

About the BookCaptured by Love by Jody HedlundIt is 1814 and the British have taken hold of Mackinac Island and its fort, forcing American residents to swear an oath of loyalty to the British crown in order to retain their land. Pierre Durant is a voyageur–a fur trader who left his family home to find freedom and adventure. He’s been gone five years and when he returns, his family’s farm is at the mercy of the British invaders.

Torn between the life he’s grown used to and guilt over leaving his brother and mother, he’s drawn back into the loyalist fight against the British–and into a relationship with Angelique Mackenzie, a beautiful local girl who’s been befriended by the daughter of the British commander. As tensions mount and the threat of violence increases, both Angelique and Pierre must decide where their loyalties rest, how far they will go to find freedom, and how much they will risk to find love.

Review Jody has written another great story with themes of honor and sacrifice. With meticulous attention to historical details woven into the lives of these characters, I thought it a fresh take on a historical romance. The setting provides an interesting background for the characters’ stories to unfold — while far removed from the Revolutionary War, tensions and an impending (and new-to-me) conflict brings new problems and complications. And, plenty of emotional conflict with bright characters who exhibit selflessness and the power of love.

Thank you to Bethany House Publishers for the review copy.

Review: “With This Ring?” Novella Collection

Sometimes you just need a lighter story with a happy ending. That’s just what I found with Bethany House’s recent novella collection With This Ring?: A Novella Collection of Proposals Gone Awry by authors Karen Witemeyer, Regina Jennings, Mary Connealy, and Melissa Jagears. And with these authors in the western romantic comedy genre, you’re pretty much guaranteed to finish reading with a contented smile and happy feeling.

About the BookWith This RingHumorous Historical Romance Novella
Collection Offers Love and Laughs

Four top historical romance novelists team up in this new collection to offer stories of love and romance with a twist of humor. In Karen Witemeyer’s “The Husband Maneuver,” Marietta Hawkins decides to grab the reins when the ranch foreman she loves seems to be leaving forever. Regina Jennings offers “Her Dearly Unintended,” where friends stranded by a rising river pretend to be newlyweds when a dangerous stranger arrives.

Mary Connealy’s “Runaway Bride” finds a Texas ranger getting more than he expected when he rescues a young woman fleeing a dangerous arranged marriage. And Melissa Jagears’ “Engaging the Competition” finds a young woman forced to assist the man she’s often sparred with after an accident leaves him helpless. Each tale is a fun blend of history and romance that will delight readers.

Review

The Husband Maneuver by Karen Witemeyer

This story was such fun! It’s been a while since I’ve ready anything by Karen, so this was a pleasant reminder of her humorous and skillful style. I liked that the main characters already had a history together. Daniel had his reason for not acting on his feelings for Etta, and once it was revealed, you would agree it was a very honorable reason! Which made me like him even more. This was one of my top 2 favorites in the collection!

Her Dearly Unintended by Regina Jennings

This was a western situation comedy with a bit of depth. Full of layers of legitimate, believable misunderstandings concerning both friendship and love, it told a coming-of-age (and maturity) story. With sass! I particularly liked the setting in the Missouri Ozarks because it is quite close to home for me!

Runaway Bride by Mary Connealy

This one is my other favorite from this collection. Hilarious at times, it has Mary’s signature humor (if you’re a fan of Connealy, I promise you’ll like it). I loved seeing familiar characters from the Trouble in TX and Kincaid Brides series, though new readers might be a little overwhelmed from 1 of the short passages introducing them! My favorite part was how John and Carrie’s relationship progressed. Their almost instant chemistry and subsequent fast-moving relationship was still believable. And, their mutual shyness-then-love story was so sweetly told by Mary. I only wish this one was a little longer because I could’ve read more about these crazy characters and their friends!

Engaging the Competition by Melissa Jagears

This was overall a cute story with an unexpected and pleasant take on the genre — especially with the reversal of roles for the male and female lead. She was the rancher and tough cowgirl and he was the studious school teacher. The hero has the unique impediment of extremely poor eyesight. I was anxious to see where Melissa would take that from the story setup. It proved to be an effective plot device that propelled the characters together and taught a lesson in “being enough”: your pride shouldn’t cause you to prove yourself to others if it, in turn, belittles them.

Thank you to Bethany House Publishers for providing a complimentary review copy in exchange for my honest review.

Review: “From the Start” by Melissa Tagg

Author Melissa Tagg is my new BFF, she just doesn’t know it yet. Humor, family, caffeine, and classic movies – that’s what we have in common :). Her stories combine characters whose personalities jump off the page and make you laugh out loud while at the same time traversing the ups and downs of their journeys.

Her latest book, the first in a new (woohoo!) series, is From the Start — a story of Kate Walker and Colton Greene as they unexpectedly find themselves in small-town Iowa after trying circumstances force them to take a step back from their normal lives."From the Start" by Melissa Tagg.

Here’s a plot summary: Kate Walker used to believe in true love and happily ever after. While her own love life may have left her brokenhearted, it hasn’t kept her from churning out made-for-TV romance movie screenplays…until a major career slump and a longing to do something meaningful send her running back to her hometown of Maple Valley.

Permanently sidelined by an injury, former NFL quarterback Colton Greene is temporarily hiding out in a friend’s hometown to avoid the media and the reminders of all he’s lost. Maple Valley seems like the perfect place to learn how to adjust to normal life. The only trouble is he’s never really done normal before.

While Kate plays things safe and Colton is all about big risks and grand gestures, they both get what it’s like to desperately need direction in life. An unexpected project gives them both a chance to jumpstart their new lives, but old wounds and new dreams are hard to ignore. Starting over wasn’t part of the plan, but could it be the best thing that’s ever happened to them?

 

Kate Walker is very easy to relate to. She is independent and cares enormously for her family, while still remaining afraid of failure in love and her career. When she meets Colton Greene, also needing a new direction in life, they discover together that moving forward in life might require letting go of their own plans and trusting God for their futures.

I absolutely LOVE the classic movie and old Hollywood references in this book! Also, the small-town setting is portrayed in a realistic yet picturesque way. Can we just take a road trip to Maple Valley already?!

Melissa knows how to pen comical situations! I did find myself laughing mildly at some of Kate and Colton’s antics. And what a first meeting scene for them! You’ll just have to read it to find out how hilarious it is! (Have I used too may exclamation points in this review already? I don’t think so!)

Really though, there is a serious thread and a real transformation these characters go through. God doesn’t plan the same way we plan our lives – or even our daily circumstances. I say “way to go” to Melissa for clearly listening to God’s direction as she penned this story. The lessons these characters learn were an encouraging reminder for me personally, that we don’t need to micromanage every aspect of our lives because God is in control.

It was really awesome to see Melissa’s personality – and even her personal writing journey (see her blog) – shine through in Kate’s character. I can’t wait to see what’s next for the Walker clan!

*There is a free ebook prequel to this series, Three Little Words, available now! Let me say, it is really cute and a sweet introduction to Maple Valley!*

Thanks a million to Bethany House for the complimentary review copy in exchange for my honest review.