Mini Review: “Count Me In” by Mikal Dawn

Welcome to my mini review for Count Me In by Mikal Dawn, her writing debut AND the first book in the indie-released “Emerald City Romance” series. I anticipate that it’s the first of many wonderful stories to come from Mikal.

About the Book

Count Me INAllegra Spencer has been living a careful life. Her safe job as an accountant is bookended by going to church and the gym. Okay, sometimes the gym. Fine. She goes to church. And the coffee shop. She avoids risk at all cost, preferring to stay safe in her cozy condo. Until her accounting firm goes belly up and she’s out of a job. 

Tyler Hawk had a glorious career as a star NFL tight end. He retired on a high note and now lives a second dream of owning his own business and leading others on extreme outdoor adventures. But he needs help19
with his books—and his heart. When Allegra takes the job, sparks fly. 

It’s a case of safety zone versus danger zone, and in their minds, never the two shall meet.

 

Review

Count Me In is a rom-com with adventure and heart. It is delightfully funny and sweet. I loved the banter, attraction, and dynamic between Tyler and Allegra. The sense of humor in this novel is unique to its author (Mikal 🙂 ), complete with a vocabulary and obsession with caffeine that’s enchanting and candid. But it’s the heart-story underneath that whispers of fears and motives and dreams that truly makes Allegra and Tyler memorable. Their journey to love and “letting go” is full of humorous (and clumsy) moments, real-life adventures (I might want to go paragliding now), and real-world struggles as they finally come to terms with the joy God has in store for them on the most unexpected path.

For fans of: Melissa Tagg, Pepper Basham’s rom-coms, and Susan May Warren’s adrenaline-filled adventures.

 

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Review: “How to Catch a Prince” by Rachel Hauck

“It’s not easy to catch a prince, even harder to keep one.”- Corina Del Rey in How to Catch a Prince

Those words, uttered by the main character in Rachel Hauck’s latest novel in the “Royal Weddings” series, perfectly set up the story of wealthy socialite Corina Del Rey and Prince Stephen of Brighton kingdom. This book is a wonderful modern fairy tale whose message is this: love is a choice, and requires selfless sacrifice.

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How to Catch a Prince by Rachel Hauck Click to visit Rachel’s website!

I’m so happy to be a part of Rachel Hauck’s team for reviewing this recent release! Without further ado, here’s a summary of the book and my thoughts.

Book Summary: Prince Stephen came to America to escape responsibility. But what he found complicates his life more than ever.

Corina Del Rey is happy with her life in Melbourne, Florida. She spends her days engrossed in her career as a journalist and has her sights set on climbing the corporate ladder if for no other reason, to distract herself from her dissolving family. But when she is confronted with the past she fought so hard to put behind her, she struggles to make sense of her future.

Prince Stephen of Brighton Kingdom has moved on since the tragic death of his buddies in Afghanistan. A star professional rugby player, he has no intention of looking over his shoulder at what could’ve been.

But when a notice arrives in the mail requiring his and his wife’s appearance before the courts to dissolve their marriage, he must deal with the questions rumbling around in his heart. He thought his marriage had been annulled long ago, but his memories of Corina Del Rey remain close. Does he still love her? Can he even find her? Above all, can he tell her the truth about that fateful night in Afghanistan seven years ago? If he does, he might really lose her forever.

This book has a rare premise – the hero and heroine are already married at the start of the story. The challenge to the characters comes when this is unexpectedly discovered (that they are still secretly married), and they are faced with a possible annulment and external circumstances that reunite them publicly.

Corina’s family has not been the same since her twin brother was killed during war time. Still searching for the truth of what happened, she corners Stephen to help her learn the truth. What she doesn’t know, however, is that Stephen knows more than he’s saying about the events that killed her brother and caused Stephen to run from their marriage. Stephen is still running from the past and has stopped trusting God.

Both of these characters undergo transformations as a result of their experiences and the call of God through this story. Rachel Hauck has used beautiful and endearing secondary characters to speak wisdom to the characters and show them what life lived for God looks like (sometimes it’s intimidating, requiring the faith to step out in love, or requiring a selfless attitude).

The setting of this story in a fictitious Brighton Kingdom is picturesque, modern, and realistic at the same time. It is most definitely a modern fairy tale, with a few mysterious – maybe “magical”? – characters. These characters instead have a hinted Divine origin and purpose, with an unearthly knowledge of the past and Corina and Stephen’s current circumstances. I thought they were a clever way to encourage Corina.

At the heart of this story is a wonderful message of a relationship centered on Christ. With His sacrifice, He makes us worthy of love, gives us value beyond our abilities. In so many ways, Rachel weaves Corina’s and Stephen’s past together to teach them lessons of sacrifice, worth, and forgiveness.

One more thing I loved about these characters is that they realized they were royal or famous by the world’s standards, but they were still called to serve and love others through their positions.

I’m so glad I was able to read this last book in the series! It stands alone, though, as a complete story. (Confession: I’ve not read the other two in the series yet, but I can’t wait to!) A big thank-you to Rachel for inviting me to be on her team! I’ll leave you with one more quote from the book:

“Your worth is not determined by who you are or what you do, even what you don’t do. It’s determined by the work of your Savior.” – Archbishop Caldwell in How to Catch a Prince

Thank you to Rachel Hauck and to Zondervan for the ebook copy in exchange for my honest review.

Review: Always on My Mind by Susan May Warren

Today I get to share my review of Susan May Warren’s latest book in the “Christiansen Family” series: Always on My Mind. It continues the stories of Casper Christiansen and the woman he is still in love with, Raina Beaumont. While it stands alone as a complete story, reading the previous book in the series provides additional background information on the characters. I have a lot to say about this one, so read on!

(Susan’s having a book club chat online TONIGHT! Join the event on her Facebook page.)

always on my mindCasper, recently jaded from an unsuccessful archeological treasure hunt in Roatán, returns to his hometown of Deep Haven after another rejection from Raina. He is seeking peace and a way to prove himself to his family, having been the classic “middle child”, always trying to fix everyone else’s situations but still searching for his own place to belong. However, Raina is still constantly on his mind.

Raina has never had many people to rely on. Grace Christiansen, Casper’s sister, has taken her in and encouraged her as she’s dealt with an unexpected pregnancy. After she decides to give the baby up for adoption to someone more prepared for motherhood, she is left with feelings of failure and unworthiness. The true identity of her baby’s father complicates her relationship with the Christiansens – especially Casper. While trying to escape and recover, she finds herself house sitting back in Deep Haven. Her biggest challenge comes when her job puts her in the path of Casper, a man she can’t seem to move beyond.

Warren uses antique letters and mementos to impart wisdom and guidance to the characters, with a story from the past that parallels life events of the main characters. Casper’s work at the local historical society and Raina’s job with an antique store lead them to exploring an estate of a local resident together. As they are brought together by various circumstances, themes of forgiveness and sacrificial love play out in the decisions they make.

Warren’s characters face realistic problems and struggles through this story. As the characters grow, one lesson they learn is that some people are placed in others’ lives in order to be a light for Christ. Sometimes, no matter how much a person wants to fix a situation, he or she must step back and allow God to work through them in an unexpected way to change another’s heart.

A small side story takes place along with Casper’s. His older brother, Darek, is dealing with his responsibilities managing the family resort and wrestling with being enough as a husband and father. A returning reader would likely think it good to catch up with these characters. Touching on Darek’s life again is a reminder that people’s stories are never finished. They are not through growing and being molded by Christ, even after they find a “happily ever after”.

One faithful trait of Susan’s stories is her message and tie in with the story of Christ’s redemption. She beautifully illustrates through her characters’ lives the sacrifice of Jesus, His relentless pursuit of mankind, and His ready forgiveness and love. God’s love is not showered on people because of their accomplishments, but because of grace shown to them in brokenness.

A sincere thanks to Tyndale House publishers and Family Fiction for obtaining an ARC copy for my honest review. This review will also appear on Family Fiction’s website at http://www.familyfiction.com/bookreviews/.