Review: "When I Come Home Again" by Jennifer Rodewald

I’m happy to be sharing a review today for Jennifer Rodewald’s new novel, When I Come Home Again, the first book in her new “Big Prairie” series!

About the Book

When a family crisis calls him back to Big Prairie, will Craig Erikson be able to work through past mistakes and the tragedy that had sent him searching for a new place to call home?

Brenna Blaum had been sure of three things in her life—her brother, her running, and her dad’s star receiver. But in a matter of a year’s time, everything she’d counted on fell apart, leaving her devastated. Seven years later, she’s stable again. She has a supportive boyfriend, fulfilling career, and close friends. She keeps her past heartache where it belongs—in her rearview mirror. Until the man who broke her heart finds his way back to Big Prairie.

Craig Erikson had it all—popularity, success, and the love of his high school coach’s daughter. But after a year of mistakes that ended in a tragic accident, he’d left Big Prairie—the place he’d thought to always call home—hoping that without his antagonizing presence, Brenna would be able to heal. Now his mother desperately needs him, as do two young boys in her care. Craig has little choice but to return for good.

Unsure that she can forgive him, Brenna does her best to avoid him. Irritated that she ignores him as if they’d never meant anything to each other, Craig becomes determined not to allow it.

Life in a small town forces their interaction, making them confront their unresolved issues and igniting emotions that have smoldered for seven years. As Craig and Brenna are pushed together, can they endure the hard places still littering their lives? If so, is it possible to find their way back to love and home again?

Goodreads | Amazon

Review

Insightful wisdom about grief: “You move forward, but you do not move on. You do not get over it. You do not just forget the people  you have loved because things have changed.”

-When I Come Home Again by Jennifer Rodewald

When I Come Home Again has all the charm of a small midwest town, much like its setting of “Big Prairie”, Nebraska. With a beloved cast of characters and homecoming theme, it also explores a VERY emotionally impactful romance balanced with slight humor. One thing I always enjoy about Jennifer Rodewald’s novels is that her stories have this resonance and complexity — and they aren’t afraid to deal with the “whys” and hard things in life, too.

This story has a unique POV voice that tells from 3rd person (as most novels) but functions sometimes as a 1st person narrative with direct thoughts and feelings of the hero and heroine. This allows for a more intimate view of their emotions and personalities, which works really well for the reader to understand the characters. It makes Brenna likable from the very beginning, and Craig someone to root for.

I didn’t expect the history of Brenna and Craig’s relationship to be so heartbreakingly bittersweet, but it is appropriately so and allows for some deep issues to be brought to light — thought provoking things for the reader, to. The emotional progression of both Brenna and Craig felt very real and authentic: a slow transition from pain to hope, the processing of grief and anger, and the way regrets can lead to bitterness or to repentance.

At the same time, this story is filled with the HOPE of second chances, the joy of friendships, and the opportunity for God to use seemingly insurmountable things for good and His glory. This masterful story is one I will revisit and see more layers and depth to, I’m sure. I’m looking forward to more Big Prairie stories from Jennifer!

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

Review: "Above the Fold" by Rachel Scott McDaniel

Above the Fold happens to be the first book I finished reading in 2020 & it’s set in the “roaring” 1920s! 🙂

About the Book

After losing the love of her life to a big city journalism job, Elissa Tillman pours herself into the suffragette movement and her secretarial work helping keep her father’s Pittsburgh newspaper afloat.

Cole Parker returns to the steel city with the phantom failures of his past nipping his heels. All he asks of the future is a second chance with the woman he once spurned.

The murder of a millionaire offers the perfect chance for Elissa to prove to her father and the world that she’s a serious journalist. But there’s a catch—she has to compete for the story. Against none other than Cole Parker, the very man who shattered her heart.

Goodreads | Amazon

Review

Above the Fold is a fun and romantic debut from author Rachel Scott McDaniel! It has everything one would want in a 1920s tale: snappy dialogue, a thrilling mystery to investigate, a competition between rival formerly-romantically-entangled reporters, swoony romance, and deeply expressed themes of forgiveness, unconditional love, and a heavenly Father who never forsakes.

Reading a historical novel like this with simultaneous fun and light banter backed by some serious themes is a rare treat! Elissa and Cole come to life on the page as they spar (a la His Girl Friday) while some serious sparks fly! I appreciated the ways the reality of women’s changing independence and roles in the workforce in this era were depicted and kindly handled by most of the male figures in the story (we have to have a few villains, you know). Cole, especially, understands Elissa in the sweetest way and just wants her to realize it.

I was impressed with many aspects of this story, but one in particular I loved was the way it depicted 1920s Pittsburgh with its busy streets, industry, battles with Prohibition and speakeasies, and the exciting and daring life of those in the news business. Vivid depiction of setting is something that seems to come naturally to Rachel’s pen.

Thank you to Just Read Tours for the review copy of this novel. This is my honest review.

Best of 2019: (General) Historical Fiction

Welcome to my annual “best-of” celebration! Like last year, I’m separating the categories of my yearly best-of lists over a few days. It’s going to take me a few days to talk about all the stories I loved in 2019!

I have exceeded my reading goals for 2019 according to my Goodreads reading challenge! If you’d like to see all of my 5-star reads and extensive reviews, just check out my completed Goodreads challenge or browse my blog archives. Each day leading up to New Year’s Day you’ll get a new post about my 2019 favorites:

  1. Best of 2019: Novellas & Audiobooks
  2. Best of 2019: Contemporary Fiction
  3. Best of 2019: (General) Historical Fiction
  4. Best of 2019: (Inspirational) Historical Fiction
  5. Best of 2019: Film & TV
  6. Best of 2019: Happy New Year #OnTheBlog

The rules: because sometimes I need to keep things brief, I’m choosing to share 3 things that describe each of these stories along with a link to Goodreads and my review.

Today I’m featuring some general market historical fiction I read and LOVED, including a classic! Funny thing: I just realized all but the classic on this list are mostly or partly set in the UK! Must be my inner Anglophile showing up. Annnd, I see that I can call this the list author Rachel McMillan recommended to me 😉

Best of 2019: (General) Historical Fiction

Bear No Malice by Clarissa Harwood | Review

Grace. Unconditional love. Romance.

The Anatomist’s Wife by Anna Lee Huber | Review

Cleverly complex. Atmospheric. Courage.

A Modest Independence by Mimi Matthews | Review

Adventure. Resilience. Friendship.

The Work of Art by Mimi Matthews | Review

The dogs! Security. Marriage of convenience ❤ .

The Blue Castle by L. M. Montgomery

The cabin. Barney Snaith. Sneezing.

Miss Milton Speaks Her Mind by Carla Kelly | Review

Family secrets. Wisdom. Forgiveness.

Best of 2019: Contemporary Fiction

Welcome to my annual “best-of” celebration! Like last year, I’m separating the categories of my yearly best-of lists over a few days. It’s going to take me a few days to talk about all the stories I loved in 2019!

I have exceeded my reading goals for 2019 according to my Goodreads reading challenge! If you’d like to see all of my 5-star reads and extensive reviews, just check out my completed Goodreads challenge or browse my blog archives. Each day leading up to New Year’s Day you’ll get a new post about my 2019 favorites:

  1. Best of 2019: Novellas & Audiobooks
  2. Best of 2019: Contemporary Fiction
  3. Best of 2019: (General) Historical Fiction
  4. Best of 2019: (Inspirational) Historical Fiction
  5. Best of 2019: Film & TV
  6. Best of 2019: Happy New Year #OnTheBlog

The rules: because sometimes I need to keep things brief, I’m choosing to share 3 things that describe each of these stories along with a link to Goodreads and my review.

Today is all about contemporary fiction! On my list you’ll find light hearted contemporary romance, women’s fiction, a thriller, and a bit of a mystery, and some more serious drama.

Best of 2019: Contemporary Fiction

A Match for Emma by Pepper Basham | Review

Friendship. Trust. Appalachian humor.

After the Rain by Brandy Bruce | Review

Growing. Emotional complexity. Unconditional love.

Storm Rising by Ronie Kendig | Review

Adrenaline. Brotherhood. Globe-trotting spy stuff.

Brunch at Bittersweet Café by Carla Laureano | Review

Heart-friendship. Foodie environment. Hope.

The Waves by Amy Matayo | Review

Romantic chemistry. Sarcasm. Contrast of hope and loss.

How the Light Gets In by Jolina Petersheim | Review

Surrender. Emotional twists. Compelling retelling of Ruth.

The Printed Letter Bookshop by Katherine Reay | Review

Story for booknerds. Faith. Magnetic romance.

Wooing Cadie McCaffrey by Bethany Turner | Review

Resonating candor. Authentic faith. Classic movies.

Sweet On You by Becky Wade | Review

Sweet – the chocolate & romance. Mystery to solve. Wonderful family dynamics.

Just One Kiss by Courtney Walsh | Review

Rekindled love. Small town charm. The “whys”.

Bookish "12 Days of Christmas" Tag

Last week, my friend Rissi over at Finding Wonderland shared this book tag that’s wholly appropriate for the season: it’s all about a classic Christmas song + books! I’m joining in the fun… (click the book titles to go to my reviews)

Photo by Gary Spears on Pexels.com

ON THE FIRST DAY OF CHRISTMAS, MY TRUE LOVE SENT TO ME: A PARTRIDGE IN A PEAR TREE. The partridge stood alone in the pear tree. What is your favorite stand alone?

How about 4 favorites from the past 4 years? 2016 – The Lady and the Lionheart by Joanne Bischof, 2017 – Jane of Austin by Hillary Manton Lodge, 2018 – The Lacemaker by Laura Frantz, 2019 – How the Light Gets In by Jolina Petersheim

ON THE SECOND DAY OF CHRISTMAS, MY TRUE LOVE SENT TO ME: TWO TURTLE DOVES. Love is in the air! Who is your one true pairing?

I have so many favorite couples! One of them is Rosemary Gresham and Peter Holstein from Roseanna M. White’s A Name Unknown. The way they connect, especially through the written word is just…. *sigh*

ON THE THIRD DAY OF CHRISTMAS, MY TRUE LOVE SENT TO ME: THREE FRENCH HENS. In the spirit of threes, what is the best trilogy you have read?

Without hesitation, the Price of Privilege trilogy by Jessica Dotta! It is Christian historical PERFECTION.

ON THE FOURTH DAY OF CHRISTMAS, MY TRUE LOVE SENT TO ME: FOUR CALLING BIRDS. Since series usually consist of four or more books, what is your favorite series?

In keeping with one that’s at least 4 books, I’ll have to go with Susan May Warren’s “Montana Rescue” series.

ON THE FIFTH DAY OF CHRISTMAS, MY TRUE LOVE SENT TO ME: FIVE GOLDEN RINGS. One ring to rule them all! Who is your Favorite Villain/Antagonist?

Oooh, since I’ve already mentioned the Price of Privilege trilogy, I will pick another! Kristen Heitzmann writes some fabulously mysterious villains (and their POVs) in her romantic suspense books. Her antagonist in her older novel, The Edge of Recall, is particularly creepy.

ON THE SIXTH DAY OF CHRISTMAS, MY TRUE LOVE SENT TO ME: SIX GEESE A LAYING. Creation is a beautiful thing. What is your favorite world/world-building?

Hmm. Sara Ella’s YA Unblemished trilogy comes to mind with its places that are unique plays-on-words reminiscent of NYC and fairytales.

ON THE SEVENTH DAY OF CHRISTMAS, MY TRUE LOVE SENT TO ME: SEVEN SWANS A SWIMMING. Who needs seven swans when all it takes is one good animal sidekick? Who’s your favorite animal sidekick?

If we’re talking about an animal taking a very active/essential role in a story, Vvolt of Ronie Kendig’s “Tox Files” series is one cool dog!

ON THE EIGHTH DAY OF CHRISTMAS, MY TRUE LOVE SENT TO ME: EIGHT MAIDS A MILKING. Milk is so 18th century. Which book or series takes beverages/food to a whole new level?

Now we’re talking my love language: books & food! Some I adore include Lizzy and Jane by Katherine Reay, With No Reservations by Laurie Tomlinson, Five Days in Skye AND the “Supper Club” series by Carla Laureano, or anything by Hillary Manton Lodge.

ON THE NINTH DAY OF CHRISTMAS MY TRUE LOVE SENT TO ME: NINE LADIES DANCING. Dancing is just one skill of a Lady! Who is your favorite kickbutt female lead?

Oh, Tzivia Khalon. definitely. (Thirst of Steel by Ronie Kendig)

ON THE TENTH DAY OF CHRISTMAS MY TRUE LOVE SENT TO ME: TEN LORDS A LEAPING. How about your favorite leading lad?

So. Many. Options. I’m going to go with Sebastian Gage from Anna Lee Huber’s Lady Darby mystery series because he’s my most recent major book crush. Then there’s Jonathan Noble (A Match for Emma), Jesse Bird (The Pursuit of Tamsen Littlejohn), Morgan Spencer (The Breath of Dawn), Justin Thornhill (The Matrimonial Advertisement). How much time do we have 😉 ?

ON THE ELEVENTH DAY OF CHRISTMAS MY TRUE LOVE SENT TO ME: ELEVEN PIPES PIPING. What is your favorite book or bookish thing with musical influence? (It can be about music, reference music a lot etc.)

I love this kind of book! All of these feature musicians: After the Rain by Brandy Bruce, The Hesitant Heiress by Dawn Crandall, Rose in Three Quarter Time by Rachel McMillan, When You Look at Me by Pepper Basham

ON THE TWELFTH DAY OF CHRISTMAS MY TRUE LOVE SENT TO ME: 12 DRUMMERS DRUMMING. What’s your favorite book ending?

The kind that leaves me with a happy sigh AND/OR something thought-provoking. Recent books that have left me thinking about them for weeks after are The Curse of Misty Wayfair by Jaime Jo Wright and Becoming Mrs. Lewis by Patti Callahan.

Tag Creator: Lizzie Loves Books

How would you answer these prompts? If you join in the tag, let me know in the comments!

Review: “The Perfect Christmas” by Bell Renshaw

It’s been a bit since I read this little novella, but I never got around to sharing my review! TODAY is the day, ya’ll!

About the Book

Will the perfect Christmas be enough to convince Beau that a life with Ansley could be equally perfect?

Born and raised in Winter, Montana, Beau Bradley can’t imagine life anywhere else. During the holiday season his coffee shop, Mountain Grounds, is as busy as ever and now that his girlfriend is back in town, things finally seem to be lining up—until he gets a call that could change it all.

Ansley Strauss is back in Winter after a nine-month art intensive in Canada and she’s ready to celebrate the Christmas season in the tried and true Winter-style. There’s only one problem: her boyfriend lacks Christmas spirit. Her solution? Make this Christmas perfect to remind Beau just how special this time of year is.

Set on a course for ultimate Christmas joy, Ansley and Beau find that life doesn’t always work out the way they hope it will. Beau faces the reality that plans can’t account for everything and Ansley will have to come to the realization that no matter how perfect things are, it’s the imperfections in life that make it worth living.

It’s another Christmas in Winter, Montana where the coffee is always hot and the mistletoe beckons lovers to share a kiss.

Goodreads | Amazon

My review of the first “Winter” novella, One Christmas in Winter

Review

With The Perfect Christmas, readers return to the picturesque setting of “Winter”, Montana for another cute novella.

The story picks up after a time apart in a dating relationship between Beau and Ansley. While they have their share of communication problems (some of the plot problems centered on this issue), they try to resume a more understanding relationship in the midst of a busy holiday schedule.

The Christmas-y things in this story are the cutest! The Christmas tree picking, molasses cookie mamas, peppermint mocha lattes (the coffee! SO FUN), the cabin in the snow and more. All of them made this story an escape into a wonderland with two characters that have real-life problems and depth.

I really liked the little themes of this novella: finding a place/purpose/happiness, living life to the fullest every day, TAKING RISK and fighting for something of worth, being honest and sometimes spontaneous.

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

Review + Blog Tour: “The Dating Charade” by Melissa Ferguson

On Tour with Prism Book Tours

About the Book

The Dating Charade by Melissa Ferguson

Contemporary Romance, Christian

Available in: paperback, audiobook & ebook, 336 Pages

Release date: 12/3/19 by Thomas Nelson

Just when you think you’ve met your match . . . the charade begins.

Cassie Everson is an expert at escaping bad first dates. And, after years of meeting, greeting, and running from the men who try to woo her, Cassie is almost ready to retire her hopes for a husband—and children—altogether.

But fate has other plans, and Cassie’s online dating profile catches the eye of firefighter Jett Bentley. In Jett’s memory, Cassie Everson is the unreachable girl-of-legend from their high school days. Nervously, he messages her, setting off a chain of events that forces a reluctant Cassie back into the dating game.

No one is more surprised than Cassie when her first date with Jett is a knockout. But when they both go home and find three children dropped in their laps—each—they independently decide to do the right and mature thing: hide the kids from each other while sorting it all out. What could go wrong?

Melissa Ferguson’s hilarious and warmhearted debut reminds us that love can come in very small packages—and that sometimes our best-laid plans aren’t nearly as rewarding and fun as the surprises that come our way.

Goodreads | Amazon

Review

From laugh out loud moments to more emotional and serious layers, The Dating Charade has appeal far beyond its cute cover and promising synopsis. Fans of Melissa Tagg and Bethany Turner, take note! The plot reminded me of the classic “Yours, Mine, and Ours” (the Lucille Ball + Fonda version) in the very best way!

I am a fan of romantic comedies, whether in movie, TV, or book form. Rarely, though, am I spurred to laughing out loud while reading. With this novel, I had at minimum 5 instances where I snickered or laughed out loud. One time, I was hoping my coworkers wouldn’t think I was crazy! 😉 I love how Melissa Ferguson has taken the most mundane things and used them for humor in situations I could relate to. Her witty writing style made the pages fly by. In particular, I LOLed at certain scenes that involved a toddler and a gallon of milk, church nursery workers, screening content of children’s books, and the hero’s propensity to be “clumsy” when necessary.

In addition to the humor and fun characters (can Sunny be the hero of a novel someday, pretty please?), relevant issues and themes are an integral part of Cassie and Jett’s character journeys. From motivations, dreams, relationship expectations, to the sacrifice of parenting, all are part of the fabric of the story. These point to an important message of the priority of family and how love and happily-ever-afters might not end up how one plans. In fact, they might involve sleepless nights with a newborn, messy hair, and endless vats of macaroni and cheese.

With just one novel to her name (she has a novella I’m wanting to read!), Melissa Ferguson has found her way onto my must-read author list. I eagerly look forward to whatever she pens next!

Thank you to Prism Book Tours for the review copy. This is my honest review.

About the Author

Melissa Ferguson is an adjunct professor for Bible and religion at King University. She lives in the charming town of Bristol, Tennessee, with her husband, twin toddlers, and baby girl. She used to have hobbies like running and backpacking the Appalachian Trail outside her door. Now her hobbies include admiring the Appalachian Trail out her minivan window while singing “The Itsy Bitsy Spider” en route to the library.

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