Review: “The Red Ribbon” by Pepper Basham

I’m happy to be sharing a review today of a book by one of my very favorite authors: The Red Ribbon by Pepper Basham. It is part of an ongoing “True Colors” series by publisher Barbour Books, featuring a different author for each standalone novel centered on a true story of American crime blended with a romance.

About the Book

An Appalachian Feud Blows Up in 1912

Step into True Colors — a new series of Historical Stories of Romance and American Crime

In Carroll County, a corn shucking is the social event of the season, until a mischievous kiss leads to one of the biggest tragedies in Virginia history. Ava Burcham isn’t your typical Blue Ridge Mountain girl. She has a bad habit of courtin’ trouble, and her curiosity has opened a rift in the middle of a feud between politicians and would-be outlaws, the Allen family. Ava’s tenacious desire to find a story worth reporting may land her and her best friend, Jeremiah Sutphin, into more trouble than either of them planned.

​The end result? The Hillsville Courthouse Massacre of 1912.

Goodreads | Amazon

Review

Endearing characters (with a wonderfully sweet romance) are witness to real-life historical events The Red Ribbon, a brisk-paced, suspenseful look at history and culture in early 1900s Appalachia. Author Pepper Basham is her element with this enthralling tale, crafting a sweet interpretation of her signature romance skillfully blended with the drama of the year and customs of the mountain folk.

Basham has established herself with previous stories of historical romance with a dramatic flair and sweet contemporary romcoms. With The Red Ribbon, she proves her mettle in another facet of the genre, with a bit of romantic suspense! Basham carefully threads a story centered on her fictional couple but filled with real-life figures. Her patient research and heritage of story combines with her characters to paint a tale that’s both compelling and a beacon for belonging, yet still leaving the right amount of questions as to the truths and instigators of the real events.

One of my favorite things about this story is seeing the Ava through the Jeremiah’s eyes. Her feistiness and ever-capable personality are the perfect compliment to his quiet and steady ways. He recognizes this, and champions her heart for storytelling in the sweetest ways. She, in turn, realizes the blessing and place of “home” he wants to provide in her life. Beginning-of-chapter quotes from “family members” of both hero and heroine are another aspect that makes me smile and adds a hint of humor and wisdom to the story.

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

Review: “Knox” by Susan May Warren (Montana Marshalls #1)

It’s been quiet lately in my little corner of the blogging world, but it is NOT for lack of good books! I have been reading some great stories and will be sharing more about them soon.

One novel I finished this week was the first in Susan May Warren’s new independently-published series: The “Montana Marshalls” series. Knox kicks off the family saga with a ‘gallop’ straight into action and drama with more stories to come.

About the Book

He’s not looking for trouble…

Montana rancher Knox Marshall’s danger years are behind him. A former bull-rider, he now runs the Marshall family ranch, raising champion bucking bulls for the National Professional Bullrider’s Expo (NBR-X). Wealth and success are his, but life is stable, expected, and…ordinary.  But he wants more from life… 

But trouble is looking for her…

Kelsey Jones just wants a safe life, a family, a home. Onstage, the beautiful rising star of the Yankee Belles becomes the person she longs to be – vivacious and confident – burying the brokenness she carries from a violent assault. Becoming NBR-X’s next country act is key to outrunning her past and achieving the success and security she craves. 

When trouble finds them both…

Knox and Kelsey’s paths collide when an explosion at an NBR-X event traps them in the rubble and leaves them reeling. Kelsey’s crippling nightmares return, but for Knox, an obsession to find the bomber is ignited. 

What will it cost him to protect her? 

When Kelsey’s past threatens Knox’s family, he’ll have to choose between saving the Marshall legacy or becoming the protector he’s always longed to be. 

Goodreads | Amazon

Review

Equal parts family drama, modern western, and romantic suspense, the first installment in Susan’s new Marshall Family series, Knox, sets the bar and the excitement level high for the rest of the series to come!

Susan May Warren always manages to perfectly balance story, character development, and strong themes all in a fast-paced package. In this case, action, ranching, and life as a rising country band combine with the steadiness of Knox and the strength of Kelsey; likable and supportive (in a friendship and brotherhood way) secondary characters; and themes of compassion and the steadfastness of God’s love.

I was thrilled to encounter cameos and mentions of some favorite characters from Susan’s previous series, some of which I know I still need to read! Also, the references to music, TV westerns, and pop culture (hello, Kevin Costner and Bodyguard) were wonderfully incorporated into the story and just plain fun.

Oh, and since Susan’s stories are all wonderfully connected and layered, the next book is set up well. With the way THIS ONE ENDS, I need Tate’s story NOW!

Thanks to Relz Author Support for the review copy. This is my honest review.

Review: “Wait For Me” by Susan May Warren – Montana Rescue #6

The “Montana Rescue” series:

  • Approximately 16 main characters
  • 6 novels and 1 novella
  • A story that spans 5 years
  • 3 continents
  • Crazy yet realistic events like a car wreck, avalanche, hurricane, tornadoes, wildfires, deserted tropical islands, and generally crazy people

ONE EPIC ADVENTURE

About the Book

Pete Brooks can’t believe he’s waited an entire year for Jess Tagg to return to Montana, only to have her break his heart by getting engaged to her ex-fiancé. Worse, a series of mistakes on the job have cost lives, and Pete isn’t sure he wants to continue to work in Search and Rescue. Maybe if he can just get over Jess, he can figure out how to move forward. 

EMT Jess Tagg has returned to Montana to finally give her heart to Pete, but it seems he’s no longer interested. When a terrible fight between them sparks an impulsive decision, she finds herself crashed on the side of a highway along with Esme Shaw. And just when she thinks things couldn’t get any worse, she and Esme are taken captive and into the untamed Montana wilderness—with murderous intent. 

Now Pete and the other PEAK Rescue Team members are in a race against time, the elements, and the actions of a vengeful man. Pete will have to use everything he’s learned to find Jess and Esme—and pray that his past mistakes don’t cost him the life of the woman he can’t stop loving.

Goodreads | Amazon

Review

Wait for Me is the ultimate conclusion to one of the best romantic adventure series I’ve ever read! With the highest stakes and the much-anticipated climax of the series (both with the action/suspense plot and the romance), I read this as fast as possible because I had no clue what would happen next! The surprises were great. The romance perfectly developed and SWOONY. This story made my best-of-2018 list for good reason!

I was hooked from the very beginning. While Ty just might be my favorite hero of the series, Pete is who I was most invested in and I really wanted to see him get his happily ever after — especially after all the ups and downs he has experienced. Pete is such a tough guy but he wears his heart on his sleeve. Susan does her magic with words when it comes to his character development — he’s had the most growth and really exhibits the impact grace can have on a heart. (And wow, I had some tears when it came to a certain scene near the end and a memory of his dad.)

Now, let’s talk about Jess Tagg for a minute. She was both intriguing and frustrating through this whole series. In this novel, we finally get her real history and story. And it’s relatable. Raw. Her actions and choices, though frustrating at times, made sense. I could even, maybe, understand why she was conflicted over Pete. I really appreciated how she had to find herself and grow a little more, all in the middle of some really tense suspense situations.

Wait for Me is one of those stories I didn’t want to end, because that meant saying goodbye to a beloved cast of characters. But I was smiling when I finished the last page because the series is concluded in a perfect way, with the future of the characters full of hope.

Side note: Wait for Me shares a location (a surprising one, which I loved the whole aspect of!) with one in another favorite romantic suspense novel, The Breath of Dawn by Kristen Heitzmann. I won’t spoil anything about either, but I have to say Pete Brooks gives Morgan Spencer a run for his money in a certain setting. If you’ve read both novels, I want to know your thoughts!!

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

First Line Fridays # 20: “The Cost of Betrayal” Novella Collection

It’s time for a new edition of First Line Fridays hosted by the Hoarding Books blog!

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Happy weekend! Today’s First Line Friday feature is an almost-released (new as of next Tuesday) novella collection by three well-known authors: The Cost of Betrayal romantic suspense novella collection by Dee Henderson, Dani Pettrey, and Lynette Eason. This is a TBR title for me, one I think I will enjoy because I’m a fan of Dani and Lynette. I don’t think I’ve read anything be Dee just yet, but her books are highly read in the genre. Read on to see THREE first lines and share yours in the comments!

The Cost of Betrayal

First Lines:

Betrayal by Dee Henderson

Ann Falcon eased toward the front of the crowd.

Deadly Isle by Dani Pettrey

He waited, lurking against the buoy’s cold, rusty body, awaiting her.

Code of Ethics by Lynette Eason

“Get him to surgery, ASAP! OR number four.”

 

Your turn! Find the book closest to you and share your first line in the comments! Then, head over to Hoarding Books for the linky and visit other FLF posts!

First Line Fridays # 19: “When Fall Fades”

It’s time for a new edition of First Line Fridays hosted by the Hoarding Books blog!

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It’s a special edition of First Line Fridays, featuring a book from an author you haven’t read yet! It was actually a bit of a challenge to pick a TBR book from a new-to-me-author because there are SO MANY books out there I want to read from authors I love or have recently discovered! (I’m seeing this as a really good thing.)

I picked When Fall Fades by Amy Leigh Simpson. It sounds like my cup of tea: romantic suspense. And, the reviews and praise I’ve been hearing from author and reader friends convinced me I need to read the whole series!

When Fall Fades

First Lines:

Chapter 1

This can’t be good. Pulling up to the scene and slipping behind his FBI agent mask, or rather an expression as impenetrable as Kevlar, Archer Hayes removed himself from his Suburban and set to the task at hand.

Your turn! Find the book closest to you and share your first line in the comments! Then, head over to Hoarding Books for the linky and visit other FLF posts!

Book Review: “Dead Drift” by Dani Pettrey

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Today I’m getting to share my review of Dead Drift by Dani Pettrey — the whirlwind conclusion to the “Chesapeake Valor” series! This is the last book in a series following a special group of friends who happen to work in law enforcement at different investigative capacities. Though this book could be read alone, I highly recommend reading the series in order to get the most out of the character arcs and story events.

Book 1: Cold Shot | Book 2: Still Life | Book 3: Blind Spot

About the Book

Dead DriftPrivate Investigator Kate Maxwell never stopped loving Luke Gallagher after he disappeared. Now he’s back, and together they must unravel a twisting thread of secrets, lies, and betrayal while on the brink of a biological disaster that will shake America to its core. Will they and their love survive, or will Luke and Kate become the terrorist’s next target?

Goodreads | Amazon

Review

Dead Drift is romantic suspense at its best. All I have to say: FINALLY! I was highly anticipating this story, largely due to the investment I had in these characters and mystery after three previous books. This final installment was everything I wanted it to be: pulse-pounding ACTION, puzzles to solve, situations to escape, friendships that bring all the emotion and a romantic relationship built on history and attraction.

Readers of the whole series will be happy with the occasional perspectives of earlier lead characters and TWO serious plot lines — one involving a terrorist threat and Luke and another seeking to resolve a murder mystery important to Griffin. My favorite parts of this series, other than seeing the dynamic of this team, were the long-awaiting wrap up of ongoing plot threads and the romance between Luke and Katie. For Luke to not have been “on the scene” much in previous books, I still instantly liked him because of the way the rest of the team considered him. He had a LOT to go through in this story, seeking forgiveness being a big part of it, but his integrity and determination proved admirable — and the story was all the better for it.

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

Review: “Blind Spot” by Dani Pettrey (Chesapeake Valor #3)

Review: “Blind Spot” by Dani Pettrey (Chesapeake Valor #3)

Blind Spot by Dani Pettrey is the latest installment in the “Chesapeake Valor” series following a law enforcement friend-group as they solve crimes, deepen friendships, and find romance along the way. This is romantic suspense at its best, with mysteries, ACTION, and plenty of surprising twists!

About the Book

Blind SpotFBI agent Declan Grey is in the chase of his life–but isn’t sure exactly what he’s chasing after. Threatened by a terrorist that “the wrath is coming,” Grey fears something horrible is about to be unleashed on American soil. When his investigation leads him to a closed immigrant community, he turns to Tanner Shaw to help him. She’s sought justice for refugees and the hurting around the world, and if there’s anyone who can help him, it’s Tanner.

Tanner Shaw has joined the FBI as a crisis counselor . . . meaning she now has more opportunity to butt heads with Declan. But that tension also includes a spark she can’t deny, and she’s pretty sure Declan feels the same. But before anything can develop between them, they discover evidence of a terror cell–and soon are in a race against the clock to stop the coming “wrath” that could cost thousands their lives.

Review

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The series thus far…

Blind Spot continues the mystery of the Chesapeake Valor series, heightening the suspense and deepening the layers of secrets along the way. I think this series is best read in order because it carries forward an ongoing mystery that has to do with a friend and missing person, AND because it continues a terrorism/human trafficking story line that started in book 2.

I am continually impressed with Dani Pettrey’s ability to present a tangled puzzle of clues and hints and solve it a little at a time through the eyes of the characters. With edge-of-your-seat action, this is one book I didn’t want to put down for long! This book has two main threads of riveting mysteries, having Declan and Tanner focus on the terrorism storyline and familiar characters from the previous books (Griffin, Finley, Parker, and Avery) investigating an embezzling scheme that takes a few surprising twists.

While the intertwining investigations are fascinating, I was just as riveted with the puzzle that is Declan and Tanner’s relationship. Having previously “met” these two in the series, finally seeing their perspectives and growing mutual attraction firsthand was a treat. Amidst the action of this story, a wonderful relationship dynamic unfolds between these two as they learn from each other and reveal the secrets of their past (in particular, something I did NOT see coming from Tanner!). This romance, much like the personal faith thread of these characters, is naturally portrayed and serves as an anchor point in all of the drama and motion of the story.

One more thing I’ve really loved about this series as a whole is the differing roles/perspectives each main character has played in “investigating”: in Cold Shot, a park-ranger-turned-detective and a forensic anthropoligist; in Still Life, a crime scene analyst and a photographer; and now, book 3, an FBI agent and FBI crisis counselor.  I CANNOT WAIT for book 4, Dead Drift….like I need it now. I have a feeling it will be quite the interesting “Jason Bourne-esque” 🙂 thrill ride!

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

 

 

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.

Review: “Because You’re Mine” by Colleen Coble

Colleen Coble has always delivered interesting and thrilling romantic suspense stories both in contemporary and historical contexts. Her latest release, Because You’re Mine, was one I was instantly drawn to because of the striking cover. (Sometimes you just have to judge a book by its cover/author). Read on for my thoughts on this one!

About the Book

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Alanna has been plagued by tragedy. So it should come as no surprise that in the beauty that surrounds Charleston, all is not as it seems.

When her husband is killed by a car bomb while their band is on tour in Charleston, Alanna doesn’t know where to turn. Her father-in-law is threatening to take custody of the baby she carries, but the one thing she knows for sure is that she can’t lose the last piece of Liam she has left.

Their manager offers her a marriage of convenience to gain her U.S. citizenship and allow her to escape her father-in-law’s control. It seems like the perfect solution . . . but her doubts begin almost as soon as she arrives at Barry’s family home, a decaying mansion surrounded by swamp.

To make matters worse, Liam’s best friend survived the car bomb. She’s never really liked Jesse and now she can’t seem to get away from him. When he takes Liam’s place in their band, it’s almost more than she can bear.

But then things start happening. Things that could easily cost Alanna her life—or the life of her unborn child. Are they merely coincidences? Or is there something much more sinister at work?

Review

Because You’re Mine is a decent story with a very unique premise, but it’s not my favorite story from Colleen. I think it has even more potential than what I saw fleshed out on the page. Colleen’s writing style is her typical easy-to-read, flowing style. My qualms had more to do with some of the situations the characters put themselves in. Part of it was not as believable due to one particular person’s blindness towards some of the obvious red flags. However, I did enjoy the bit of Irish culture and folklore explored juxtaposed to the southern Charleston setting.

Interestingly, a prominent plot twist is made known to the observant reader far in advance of the characters in the story. This worked well to build a little anticipation and momentum, but (again!) I think it would have been more surprising if the secret were delayed a little longer. Even though I think this story could have been improved a little more, I still enjoyed the “journey” and was happy with the ending that answered most questions I had along the way.

Thank you to Thomas Nelson and BookLook Bloggers for the complimentary ebook review copy. This review is my honest opinion.

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.