Mini Review: “Conductor of Light” by Rachel McMillan (FREE ebook!)

Today’s mini review features a short installment from Rachel McMillan in the Herringford and Watts Mysteries series. Conductor of Light is a FREE ebook-only short story which falls into the series as # 2.5 (after A Lesson in Love and Murder).
conductor-of-lightThis is classic Jem & Merinda, Ray & Jasper shenanigans. All centered around theatre– and obviously touting Rachel’s own love for that storytelling medium. If you’re not familiar with this lovable group of characters, you should know that the ladies are a female embodiment of Sherlock Holmes & Watson while the men are classic gentlemen reporter and police detective, respectively — all against a backdrop of early 1900s Toronto with its ever-changing environment. This story was another treat and glimpse “behind the curtain” of the characters as they work together to solve a little mystery. It just made me more excited for things to come in the conclusion of the series this year. (Especially a particular romance I hope will FINALLY work out. Rachel, you-know-who.)

snatch this story for FREE on Amazon

More about the story:

Toronto, 1912
A seemingly forgettable evening of second-rate vaudeville entertainment proves lethal when Constable Jasper Forth and reporter Ray DeLuca witness the onstage death of the actor Stephano. Was this the performance of a lifetime or merely opening night of the next intriguing case for Jem DeLuca and Merinda Herringford?

Hiding from Toronto’s dreaded Morality Squad in the back alleyway of the theater, Jem and Merinda encounter a mysterious musician who steps out of the shadows to tell them a murder has occurred inside.

Jasper and Ray join the detective duo backstage and begin to interview the rest of the troupe, a veritable casting call of possible suspects, every one of them with more motives than talent. Can Jem and Merinda foil this plot before a fatal encore ensues?

This Herringford and Watts adventure in four acts will keep you on the edge of your seat until the final curtain closes on yet another enthralling whodunit.

Series Review: Montana Fire by Susan May Warren

Unless you’re totally new around here, you have probably heard of my love of author Susan May Warren. When I heard she was independently releasing 1 ebook a MONTH this summer in a new romantic suspense trilogy, I was super excited! This new “Montana Fire” series is a prequel series, of sorts, to an upcoming series with Revell Publishers (the “Wild Montana Skies” series).

I have since read all 3 of these. They are quick reads, each one a little over 200 pages. Hence, this post with snippets of my opinion on all 3. For time’s sake, I have not included the plot synopsis of each book, but if you click each book cover it will take you to the Goodreads page for more info on each one.

This series is full of action and drama, like a hang-on-to-your-seat (or parachute, if you will), thrill ride from start to end. In the middle of the chaos, moments of slightly sizzling romance (while always remaining classy), deep emotion, and strong messages of faith unfold.

The setting and career featured are unique — the Cabinet Mountains near Glacier National Park in Montana, and a team of forest firefighters and smoke jumpers. (Yes, they jump out of planes into fires.) Definitely a new-to-me perspective, and profession unexplored in the genre to my knowledge. Susan has done her research and offers an eye-opening look at the danger and sacrifice of forest firefighters.

Just when you think the perilous situations these smoke jumpers get in can’t get more complicated, they do. Since I’ve read all 3 of these I feel like I actually survived a river rescue, aggressive grizzly attack, skydiving AND plane crashes, not to mention numerous forest fires and arson threats.

I referenced book 1 in that one Instagram #bookphotochallenge assignment pairing a book and song lyrics. I now say that NEEDTOBREATHE’s Hard Love could be a theme song for this whole series.

 

#1 Where There’s Smoke

~smoke jumpers Jed Ransom and Kate Burns~

“Complex” doesn’t begin to describe the tangle of history between Jed and Kate. It was established off page and opens this story with action and tension, with ties to fire and a mutual history, both deeply respectful of Jock Burns (Kate’s dad).

Susan works references to fire and parachuting all over the place, and it works so well! Like this quote: “He wasn’t sure how he’d gone from standing at the edge of her world to an all-out dive into what he’d been quietly longing for his entire life, but he wasn’t going to look up, see a possible tear in his canopy.” (from chapter 7)

Main theme/lesson: Learning to cling to faith, that God is always to sustain you.

 

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(click book cover for the Goodreads page)

#2 Playing With Fire

~smoke jumper Conner Young and artist Liza Beaumont~

Let me note here that Susan has been clever and insightful with her “heated” titles of this series, tying in with the theme and hinting at the drama and action of each.

This is my favorite of the series. For a few crazy pages, I thought I might be ok with the idea of skydiving (you’ll know what I mean when you meet Conner and read that scene). Thankfully, I’ve since had a reality check and can say I won’t plan on jumping out of a perfectly good plane unless my life depends on it.

Conner and Liza have a shared history, as well, which is briefly but thoroughly covered in the first few chapters. Fans of the Christiansen family series will be a happily familiar with the setting of their initial meeting, at a fire in Minnesota.

Main theme/lesson: Explores the meaning and implications of promises — that actions can speak as a promise even when words fail. That a promise is a display of hope.

 

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(click book cover for the Goodreads page)

#3 Burnin’ For You

~smoke jumper Reuben Marshall and bomber pilot Gilly Priest~

This story is the one where we *finally* get Reuben and Gilly’s story, an attraction that has been hinted in the previous books. They learn a lesson in teamwork and trust when their team’s lives depend on their abilities to battle the elements and find help (and all of this while realizing their chemistry and fighting an arsonist.)

One important line was delivered by Gilly’s sister, and if I may paraphrase, she encouraged Gilly to not letting her fears determine or failures dictate her choices or limit her potential.

The arc of a mystery arsonist is finally solved in this one. It was well threaded through the 3 different stories — I didn’t suspect who it was at all!

Main theme/lesson: Trusting God to handle your life is the only way to have true peace. And, illustrating how God waits for us to choose Him, seek Him.

 

Review: Told You Twice by Kristen Heitzmann

Review: Told You Twice by Kristen Heitzmann

Author Kristen Heitzmann has penned another compelling story of redemption with elements of romance, suspense, and her signature subtle humor with her latest indie release, Told You Twice (“Told You” series #2). She again tackles gritty subjects with class and a refreshing straightforwardness. I think she has found a niche in addressing plot elements not commonly found in the mainstream Christian fiction market in a way that serves as an outreach to mainstream readers (Bravo, Kristen!).

Read my review of Told You So by clicking here!

About the Book

Told You Twice by Kristen HeitzmannFrom the lights of Broadway to the streets of Hell’s Kitchen, winning her heart might cost him everything

Alexis Murphy is done messing with the wrong kinds of men. She could not be happier planning a personalized Grace Evangeline wedding with her fiancé, Jeffrey, who is so…right for her. Or is he?

Stage star and spokesmodel, Bo Corrigan, could be the ultimate disruption. Alexis—Exi—is caught by his talent and sexual magnetism. Yet under the glow, she senses trouble, not only danger from Bo’s past mistakes, but something inside tearing him apart.

From the moment Bo sees Exi, he knows she’s special, but not only that—she’s real. Unlike the theater scene he’s been immersed in, she sees the man he is and won’t stop until she’s reached inside and brought that person from despair to life … if only they have time. With violent forces against them, can they get beyond the damage to love that heals and restores?

Find this book on Amazon | Goodreads | Kristen’s Website

Review

Once more, Kristen has penned a story that goes beyond its classification as a contemporary romance/suspense and instead delves deep into the heart of its characters in a realistic way. With brilliant dialogue and subtle humor, this layered story exposes

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My favorite quote from the book! Bo really needed to hear this bit of wisdom at the time.

everyone’s desperate needs of acceptance and forgiveness.

Exi, for instance, has such a genuine soul. She initially lacks a certain confidence and really needs someone to believe in her, though. While Bo undergoes the most dynamic transformation (and what a journey of healing it is!!!), Exi’s quiet and subtle growth over the course of the story stood out to me as a testament to her character.

It’s hard to talk about Bo’s character with no spoilers! So I’ll be careful. 🙂 I’ll just say that he has long believed a lie about himself and his perspective on life needed a major overhaul. It is neat to see how Exi’s personality draws out the real person inside Bo, the one hurting over loss and trying to hide behind his celebrity. Through the combined influence of Exi, Grace, and a few other unexpected characters, he gradually begins to see life through a lens of forgiveness. His eyes are opened in the most unlikely way when the people around him start to break through his walls.

The message of healing this story tells is at times heartbreaking and beautiful. The simplicity of redemption found in its pages is communicated best with this quote:

“…love, trust, forgiveness, and faith can fill the shadows with light and hope.” –Told You Twice, chapter 20, by Kristen Heitzmann

On another note, huge fans of book 1 (ahem, like me), will be happy to see Grace and Devin back and still the same! They are still sparring, flirting, and complimenting each other’s personalities. I was so happy to “spend time” with them as secondary characters and to see that they are important to Bo and Exi in different ways. And that they are still growing, still in love, and still learning lessons on what it means to live out their faith in this crazy world.

 

Thank you to the publisher for a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for my honest review. All opinions expressed are my own.

 

Mini Review: “Of Dubious and Questionable Memory” novella by Rachel McMillan

This little novella by Rachel McMillan, book number 1.5 in her Herringford and Watts Mysteries series, deserves a mini review! So, read on for my thoughts.

Of Dubious and Questionable Memory (Herringford and Watts Mysteries #1.5)Of Dubious and Questionable Memory by Rachel McMillan

Yet again, a fun and cozy little mystery from Rachel McMillan. Classic Jem & Merinda antics. Sweet Ray. A chicken, motorized bicycles, & a trip to the US!!!! Specifically, Concord and Orchard House, with a nod to Little Women and other notable historical figures. Fans of mystery, history, or the previous books in this series will love this little glimpse into what’s going on with the Herringford and Watts girls.

My review of other in the series:

A Singular & Whimsical Problem (Herringford and Watts Mysteries #.5)

The Bachelor Girl’s Guide to Murder (Herringford and Watts Mysterys #1)

 

 

Mini Review: “A Singular & Whimsical Problem” by Rachel McMillan

Today’s mini review is of a recent novella, A Singular & Whimsical Problem, a prequel to the upcoming “Herringford & Watts Mysteries” series by Rachel McMillan.

A Singular & Whimsical Problem by Rachel McMillan

If I had to choose 1 word to describe this novella, it would be endearing. 

More words: witty, intriguing, humorous, sweet. Yet still serious and emotional with depth to the characters. This was a fun glimpse of the characters in the upcoming series by Rachel. Yet make no mistake, this was not just an introduction to this world, but a great little mystery all its own. I can’t wait for more from these Herringford and Watts girls!

 

More about the novella: Christmas, 1910. Merinda Herringford and Jem Watts would be enjoying the season a lot more if they weren’t forced to do their own laundry and cooking. Just as they are adapting to their trusty housekeeper’s ill-timed vacation, they are confronted by the strangest mystery they’ve encountered since they started their private investigation firm.

In this bonus e-only novella, what begins as the search for a missing cat leads to a rabble-rousing suffragette and the disappearance of several young women from St. Jerome’s Reformatory for Incorrigible Females. From the women’s courts of City Hall to Toronto’s seedy docks and into the cold heart of the underground shipping industry, this will be the most exciting Christmas the girls have had yet…if they can stay alive long enough to enjoy it

Check out Rachel’s website for more info, her blog, or connect on social media (Twitter or Facebook).

“The Hesitant Heiress” Blog Tour: REVIEW + Interview & Giveaways

I’m so happy to be participating in author Dawn Crandall’s blog tour for her debut novel, The Hesitant Heiress (The first in “The Everstone Chronicles” series)! I’m posting a review, an interview with Dawn, and giveaway information today. Dawn has provided ONE ebook copy of The Hesitant Heiress she’s giving away to one of my visitors, in addition to the weekly and grand prize associated with the tour (more on that in a bit). Dawn’s having a 6 week long Blog Tour, with many giveaways and extras (see the complete schedule here).CAMDEN ENDORSEMENT

SynopsisAfter being unjustly expelled from the Boston Conservatory of Music, Amaryllis Brigham sees her dreams of founding a music academy disappearing before her very eyes. Now the only way to achieve her goal comes with high stakes for someone set on avoiding men as much as possible: marry within the year to inherit her grandmother’s fortune. Amaryllis reluctantly takes part in her aunt’s society, intent on getting to the west coast on her own… and without a husband.

Despite her own misgivings, she soon finds herself falling in love with the most unlikely of men, Nathan Everstone, whose father not only had a part in her expulsion, but whose ominous presence has haunted her dreams for a decade since her mother’s tragic death. Nathan turns out to be much more than he seems and everything she never knew she wanted. But just as everything Amaryllis has recently hoped for comes to fruition, it all falls apart when she finds that the real culprit who has been “managing her life” isn’t who she thought at all.

HesitantHeiress
My thoughts: I loved the mystery and suspense of this story! Dawn has penned a very intriguing historical romance, skillfully maintaining suspense through the whole story. Throughout it, you’re given tidbits of Amaryllis’s history that have shaped her character.  Also, Dawn keeps you guessing about the romance – will Amaryllis end up with Nathan, the man she’s falling in love with, or with another friend who would make a most convenient match?

Amaryllis is a complex character, very independent and intelligent. She is trying to find her way in a society too stuffy for her, yet not willing to sacrifice her own happiness for money. She feels as though she’s not had any control over some of her past life events, and this has borne a deep longing for consistency in her life. I enjoyed the fact that she wants to use her God-given musical talents to help others.

I thought the cast of characters was reminiscent of an Austen story, with several friends, family, and acquaintances having an active role in Amaryllis’s story. This was a nice element, because in some stories the cast can be small and restrained, when in reality, some of us have many people directly involved with our daily lives.

I also enjoyed the late 1800’s New England setting of Boston and coastal Maine, complete with elaborate mansions, parties, and visits to the ocean.

Faith in God was a prominent feature of the story, and the characters learned and grew as a result of God’s leading. One thing in particular I noticed was the theme of love – God’s love is given to us freely, even when we don’t deserve it or feel undeserving ourselves. We sometimes find God’s love in unexpected places, like in a new friendship, the support of our family, or in romantic love.

Guess what??? You can click the picture below to read the first chapter of The Hesitant Heiress for free!FREE CHAPTER ONE

INTERVIEW:

What inspired you to write this book?

I’ve always wanted to write a book! It was always one of those things that my heart thrilled at the thought of! I wanted to tell a captivating story about a heroine who struggled through feelings of not being good enough. I guess I was inspired by my own life, because I often struggle with that myself. What I wanted most of all, through the process of writing the book, was to have fun.

What spiritual message or theme do you want to communicate to readers with this story?IMG_3368 (683x1024)

That God does indeed know what He’s doing, and that He even works through our fumbling about as we’re trying to make sense of things.

What was most challenging about writing a story set in this time period?

Honestly, I didn’t feel like there was much of a challenge in writing a story set in 1890! I live history so much–I just wanted to be there, sort of like in the movie “Somewhere in Time”… (that probably dates me, but oh well!). However, when I tried my hand at writing a contemporary romance (from first person, of course), that is when I realized how much more difficult it is to write historicals! Writing a story set in the time in which I live was so much easier!! But I won’t stop writing historicals. I just seem to have more in common with characters from a hundred years ago compared to characters based in today’s world.

Just for fun:

Do you have any hobbies?

My hobby used to be writing. And reading. I guess I’m pretty boring, because those were the two things I liked best before having my son in March! Now it seems my biggest hobby is taking care of him… which I love! He’s such a good baby! God knew I would need a content baby while working at launching this debut series from Whitaker House— all of which will be released before his first birthday!

If you could live in any other time period in history, which would it be and why?

I would totally choose my 1890s. Yes, they are already mine! I’ve been living there for a few years now, actually. 🙂 I’ve had to, to be completely immersed in the world I wrote from. I love the dresses, the buildings, the simplicity, the way people had to interact with each other. Everyone moved in such smaller circles back then–I think I would have fit in rather well.

 Thank you, Dawn, for answering my questions! It’s always so fun to get to know an author better 🙂

Dawn and Rhett{About Dawn Crandall}

A graduate of Taylor University with a degree in Christian Education, and a former bookseller at Barnes & Noble, Dawn Crandall didn’t begin writing until 2010 when her husband found out about her long-buried dream of writing a book. Without a doubt about someday becoming traditionally published, he encouraged her to quit working in order to focus on writing The Hesitant Heiress. It didn’t take her long to realize that writing books was what she was made to do. Dawn is represented by Joyce Hart of Hartline Literary.

Apart from writing books, Dawn is also a first-time mom to a precious little boy (born March 2014) and also serves with her husband in a pre-marriage mentor program at their local church in Fort Wayne, Indiana.

Dawn is a member of the American Christian Fiction Writers, secretary for the Indiana ACFW Chapter (Hoosier Ink), and associate member of the Great Lakes ACFW Chapter.

The Everstone Chronicles is Dawn’s first series with Whitaker House. All three books composing the series were semifinalists in ACFW’s prestigious Genesis Writing Contest, the third book going on to become a finalist in 2013.

CONNECT WITH DAWN

Facebook: facebook.com/DawnCrandallWritesFirst

Book Review Blog: APassionforPages.blogspot.com

GoodReads: www.goodreads.com/dawn_crandall

Pinterest: www.pinterest.com/dawnwritesfirst

Email: dawncrandallwritesfirst@gmail.com

Twitter: @dawnwritesfirst

Amazon: www.amazon.com/Dawn-Crandall

Without further ado, to enter ALL GIVEAWAYS associated with this blog tour:

Comment on THIS POST, answering the question “What is your favorite historical era?”, including an email address to contact you. That’s it. You’ll be entered for everything (details below).

The details:

Giveaway on THIS blog:

Dawn has graciously provided an ebook copy of The Hesitant Heiress for me to giveaway to one person who comments on this post {answering the question above, including your email address}. Winner will be contacted by email on August 11.

Blog Tour Giveaway:

Dawn is giving away a prize pack every weekend for the six weeks of the blog tour, and then one larger prize pack at the end. Each of YOU who comments on my post {answering the question above, including your email address} will be entered into the drawing for this week, and then also for the end of the tour Grand Prize–all of which will be announced on Dawn’s author blog (www.dawncrandall.blogspot.com).

THE FIVE WEEKLY PRIZE PACKS: a $10 Amazon Gift Card, an eBook of The Hesitant Heiress, a mug with all three book covers and a moleskin journal.

THE GRAND PRIZE (at the end of week six): a Kindle Fire, a $10 Amazon Gift Card, an eBook of The Hesitant Heiress, a mug with all three book covers and a moleskin journal.

 Thank you, Dawn [and Whitaker House Books], for providing an ARC for me to review during the blog tour, and for agreeing to the interview!

So, what’s your favorite historical era?  [comment to enter!!!]