Review: “A Girl’s Guide to the Outback” by Jessica Kate

Today I’m sharing about a cute and charming romcom by Aussie author Jessica Kate. Read on for my experience with her version of the “Outback”…

About the Book

Romance author Jessica Kate explores the hilariously thin line between love and hate in her heartwarming new novel.

Samuel Payton is a passionate youth pastor in Virginia, but beneath the surface, Sam’s still recovering from a failed business. His coworker—start-up expert Kimberly Foster—is brilliant, fearless, and capable, but her mother’s rejection from a young age till now has left her defensive and longing for a family. Two people have never been more at odds—or more attracted to one another. And every day at work, the sparks are flying.

When Kimberly’s ambitious plans for Sam’s ministry butt up against his risk-averse nature, Sam decides that obligations to family trump his work for the church. He quits the ministry and flies home to Australia to help his family save their struggling farm—much to Kimberly’s chagrin. As Kimberly’s grand plans flounder, she is forced to face the truth: that no one can replace Sam. To what lengths will she go to get him back?

Goodreads | Amazon

Review

A Girl’s Guide to the Outback is a humorous “armchair adventure” romance that simultaneously initiates the reader (and heroine Kimberly) in Aussie culture AND shares a story of belonging and purpose. Sam and Kimberly also have All. The. Sparks. and chemistry in their love/hate-romantic relationship. It was just so FUN to see their banter and friendship transforming.

Jessica Kate’s sense of humor shines through in her writing. (If you follow her on any of her social media platforms or podcast, you will find this to be true!) The witty humor and all the pop culture things are interspersed with a serious message of courage and faith. Courage to take risks in many ways, like whether to be vulnerable to heartache or love or to trust God to carry you through your failures. These lessons come along naturally with the story as Kim, Sam, and Jules work (and play) together, argue once or twenty times, and find out what happiness looks like on the other side of trials.

As a reader, I can see Kate’s passion for her culture clearly shining through. Jessica Kate has infused this story with her own personal farm upbringing and Aussie terminology. The charm of rural life — and dedication — it takes to run a farm, are an important part of this story. Australia becomes a setting-as-a-character by the end, making me feel like I’ve visited the outback myself (minus the poisonous snakes and drought conditions, of course).

While Jessica Kate is busy writing her next story for me to devour, I’ll be over here trying to find ways to work the term “fair dinkhum” into my everyday vocabulary!

Thank you to the publisher for the review copy of this novel. 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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Review: “The Printed Letter Bookshop” by Katherine Reay

Reay book stack

I’m sharing a review of Katherine Reay’s latest standalone novel, The Printed Letter Bookshop. This novel leans towards character-driven women’s fiction with a gorgeous nod to books and faith and even looks at the roles of women in family, career, and relationships of all kinds. Simply put, is a novel for #booknerds.

Bonus fun: this book has been showing up on all kinds of online bookish lists, like this “8 of the Best Books About Books” list at Book Riot, Goodreads, and more! This makes me happy!

About the Book

Love, friendship, and family find a home at the Printed Letter Bookshop

One of Madeline Cullen’s happiest childhood memories is of working with her Aunt Maddie in the quaint and cozy Printed Letter Bookshop. But by the time Madeline inherits the shop nearly twenty years later, family troubles and her own bitter losses have hardened Madeline’s heart toward her once-treasured aunt—and the now struggling bookshop left in her care.

While Madeline intends to sell the shop as quickly as possible, the Printed Letter’s two employees have other ideas. Reeling from a recent divorce, Janet finds sanctuary within the books and within the decadent window displays she creates. Claire, though quieter than the acerbic Janet, feels equally drawn to the daily rhythms of the shop and its loyal clientele, finding a renewed purpose within its walls. When Madeline’s professional life takes an unexpected turn, and when a handsome gardener upends all her preconceived notions, she questions her plans and her heart. She begins to envision a new path for herself and for her aunt’s beloved shop—provided the women’s best combined efforts are not too little, too late.

The Printed Letter Bookshop is a captivating story of good books, a testament to the beauty of new beginnings, and a sweet reminder of the power of friendship.

Goodreads | Amazon

Review

The Printed Letter Bookshop is part philosophical view of human nature and part love letter to books and stories, all expressed on a journey of three unlikely friends steeped in grace. Katherine Reay is a reader and clearly knows her craft. The love of books is prominent in all of her stories, coupled with a storytelling style that reveals just enough of a complex situation and each character’s plight bit by bit, drawing the reader in to their stories and hearts.

With The Printed Letter Bookshop, three lives intersect because of the legacy of another woman. This legacy impacts them in unforeseen ways, all living through and learning the about life’s challenges, the pain that sometimes accompanies love, how to grow and forgive, and even the joys and laughter found in unlikely kinship.

One of the best parts of this story is the slowly unfurling love story that’s magnetic and unlike anything from Reay thus far. The romance is less prominent in this than her typical style but still integral to the story. When Madeline and a certain someone are in the same scene, it sparkles. Along with the “new” romance of Madeline’s, I appreciate how Claire and Janet’s POVs explore different stages of romance, even complacency and loss, through a lens of relationship and love.

This is truly a book to lose yourself in and yet find the wonder of story again. With nods and references to countless stories (and a lovely reading list at the back!), I found myself adding to my to-be-read list every few chapters. If you’re a return Reay reader, you might spot a few references to her other fictional characters in the pages!

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

Review: “Murder in the City of Liberty” by Rachel McMillan

Hamish in Italy! He visited the country of his “heritage” with me.

How many words are too many words for a book review!? Because I have a LOT to say about Rachel McMillan’s latest historical novel, Murder in the City of Liberty. I always have a lot to say about Rachel’s stories 😉 I highly recommend reading the previous book in this series (Murder at the Flamingo) for the best reading experience!

About the Book

Hamish DeLuca and Regina “Reggie” Van Buren have a new case–and this one brings the war in Europe dangerously close to home.

Determined to make a life for herself, Regina “Reggie” Van Buren bid goodbye to fine china and the man her parents expected her to marry and escaped to Boston. What she never expected to discover was that an unknown talent for sleuthing would develop into a business partnership with the handsome, yet shy, Hamish DeLuca.

Their latest case arrives when Errol Parker, the leading base stealer in the Boston farm leagues, hires Hamish and Reggie to investigate what the Boston police shove off as a series of harmless pranks. Errol believes these are hate crimes linked to the outbreak of war in Europe, and he’s afraid for his life. Hamish and Reggie quickly find themselves in the midst of an escalating series of crimes that seem to link Boston to Hamish’s hometown of Toronto.

When an act of violence hits too close to home, Hamish is driven to a decision that may sever him from Reggie forever . . . even more than her engagement to wealthy architect Vaughan Vanderlaan.

Goodreads | Amazon

Review

Murder in the City of Liberty whisks you away on a mystery and adventure that’s really about the characters and friendships. Loyalty, romance, relationships and their ties to the past, grace, and social justice are all themes displayed in an immersive setting of Boston with its cobblestones and steeples. I feel like I could map Boston from the descriptions Hamish and Nate give!

Rachel McMillan writes stories for the romantic at heart. I’m not referring to “love stories”, though a hefty dose of starry eyes, dancing, and the delights of attraction are all found in the pages of this story. I’m referring to the slight idealist slant of her stories with characters to root for and eventual happy endings. A balance of realism is always present, too, portrayed through the realities of the era and their parallels to today’s social and cultural challenges. HOPE is always present.

I ❤ Reggie’s comebacks!

You probably know I’m here for the romance. Especially this slow-building, delicious connection and camaraderie between Hamish and Reggie. I thought I wanted Reggie to have an “Aha!” moment, but I was wrong. What Rachel gives readers is a gradual recognition where Reggie’s concerned, the sparks finally making sense with just how intertwined Hamish is with her daily life and happiness. And with her “journal of independence”. It is perfect!

Within the romantic aspect of the story, the truth of how Reggie is changing and realizing her path in life is magnificent. I really like how she reconciles her past with her identity, embracing how her choices were not in vain but a part of herself, part of what makes her tick and what determines the life she is meant to choose.

Let’s talk about two of the secondary characters: Nate and Luca. They couldn’t be more different, but both have a deep and meaningful connection with Hamish. Both are catalysts for Hamish’s growth. I have liked Nate from the very beginning, but this story makes him one of my very favorite secondary characters who gets to steal the scene more than once! I appreciated the way he reminds Hamish that patience is required for change. And I liked how a particular thing surprised Nate near the end 🙂

And Luca. He brings the theme of loyalty to the forefront. It’s funny how he shapes, defines, even dictates the progression of the story yet he’s hardly “present” on the page. Only a strongly written character can have that kind of presence through a story, to be both likable and disruptive at the same time.

The brave thing Rachel McMillan is doing with these characters is shining a light on mental illness and bringing awareness through the HERO of the story. In this second book, we often see Hamish through the lens of his closest circle, showing both their familiarity with him and the grace they extend as they embrace each other’s imperfections. The maturing in this is twofold: growing Hamish as a person and McMillan’s story style and presentation developing alongside.

I could go on and on about this story, how it incorporates current events of its era, how it handles prejudice and war, how it shows the fallacy and strength of human nature. Wit, baseball, cannolis, smart banter, nods to classic films, end-of-the-world-kisses, and blue eyes are just the icing on top of this one-of-a-kind adventure that I’m sure to love even more upon rereading!

Review of book 1: Murder at the Flamingo

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

Review: “The Secrets of Paper and Ink” by Lindsay Harrel

What’s better than books? Books with bookish characters, of course!

The Secrets of Paper and Ink by Linsday Harrel fits this description wonderfully. From the bookish nature of one of the heroines, Sophia, to the delightful English village & bookstore setting, this novel encapsulates important themes within a charming environment to deliver its message of healing with care.

About the Book

Lindsay Harrel presents a powerful story of healing, forgiveness, and finding the courage to write your own story.

A year after the death of her abusive fiancé, domestic violence counselor Sophia Barrett finds returning to work too painful. She escapes to Cornwall, England–a place she’s learned to love through the words of her favorite author–and finds a place to stay with the requirement that she help out in the bookstore underneath the room she’s renting. Given her love of all things literary, it seems like the perfect place to find peace.

Ginny Rose is an American living in Cornwall, sure that if she saves the bookstore she co-owns with her husband then she can save her marriage as well. Fighting to keep the first place she feels like she belongs, she brainstorms with her brother-in-law, William, and Sophia to try to keep the charming bookstore afloat.

Two hundred years before, governess Emily Fairfax knew two things for certain: she wanted to be a published author, and she was in love with her childhood best friend. But he was a wealthy heir and well out of her league. Sophia discovers Emily’s journals, and she and William embark on a mission to find out more about this mysterious and determined woman, all the while getting closer to each other as they get closer to the truth.

The lives of the three women intertwine as each learns the power she has over the story of her life.

Goodreads | Amazon

Review

The Secrets of Paper and Ink is a delightful women’s fiction novel with a literary bent, historical threads, a little romance, and a message of identity. The main characters, 3 women whose stories span a century, have unique situations on the surface, but all are searching for identity in something or someone. And the setting!!!!! I really, really want to visit Cornwall now. Specifically, the ocean or coastline there. 😉

Sophia and Ginny, in the present timeline, alternate points of view with an intriguing Emily, the historical heroine whose “first person” journal entries intersect and intertwine with theirs. I found the earlier time period was just as captivating and interesting as the present. I would love to see more from Lindsay Harrel with a historical setting!

From being surrounded by books to the nods to literature and a bookworm Sophia (and William!!!), Harrel uses the theme of story to further connect the characters and express life as an ever-growing experience; life as a unique story that is in the process of the telling. And, whose Author is all-knowing even when trials come on the next “page”.

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

Review + Book Tour: “Daughters of Northern Shores” by Joanne Bischof

On Tour with Prism Book Tours

About the Book

Daughters of Northern Shores (Blackbird Mountain #2) By Joanne Bischof

Christian Historical Romance from Thomas Nelson publishers

“The Norgaard brothers and their families will steal your heart.” —Catherine West, author of Where Hope Begins

Heartache and regret, boldness and sacrifice. What will restoration cost the beloved Norgaard family?

Aven Norgaard understands courage. Orphaned within an Irish workhouse, then widowed at just nineteen, she voyaged to America where she was wooed and wed by Thor Norgaard, a Deaf man in rural Appalachia. That the Lord saw her along the winding journey and that Aven now carries Thor’s child are blessings beyond measure. Yet while Thor holds her heart, it is his younger brother and rival who haunts her memories. Haakon—whose selfish choices shattered her trust in him.

Having fled the farm after trying to take Aven as his own, Haakon sails on the North Atlantic ice trade where his soul is plagued with regrets that distance cannot heal. Not even the beautiful Norwegian woman he’s pursued can ease the torment. When the winds bear him home after four years away, Haakon finds the family on the brink of tragedy. A decades-old feud with the neighboring farm has wrenched them into the fiercest confrontation on Blackbird Mountain since the Civil War. Haakon’s cunning and strength hold the power to seal many fates, including Thor’s which is already at stake through a grave illness brought to him as the first prick of warfare.

Now Haakon faces the hardest choice of his life. One that shapes a battlefield where pride must be broken enough to be restored, and where a prodigal son may finally know the healing peace of surrender and the boundless gift of forgiveness. And when it comes to the woman he left behind in Norway, he just might discover that while his heart belongs to a daughter of the north, she’s been awaiting him on shores more distant than the land he’s fighting for.

From Christy Award–winning author Joanne Bischof comes Daughters of Northern Shores: the highly anticipated sequel to her moving novel Sons of Blackbird Mountain.

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Review

I have come to expect a story from the pen of Joanne Bischof to be one that slices straight to the heart with its truth and tenderness. Daughters of Northern Shores is no exception. With its return of beloved characters and a message of trust at its center, it is one I will cherish upon recalling (and REREADING!).

With a balance of poignancy and vivid life, the story unfolds as one tentatively hopeful yet confronting pain, broken trust, trials, and jealousies of life. The rift left unsettled at the end of Sons of Blackbird Mountain is brought to light with Haakon’s wanderings and, eventually, steps to mend it. And oh, what a heart-trial that is!!! His prodigal journey is aided with wisdom from beloved women and the hesitant restoration of his brotherly relationships.

While Haakon seeks his place on Blackbird Mountain, Thor and Aven contend with fears and joys of their own. Again, Joanne Bischof handles subjects such as Thor’s Deafness, prejudice, and even childbirth with a delicate and reverent approach, honest when necessary and revelatory in manner with others. Reading this story is like witnessing the lives of the Norgaard family, being a part of their sorrows and sharing in their hope – most importantly, their trust in a Savior to see them through even the hardest of battles.

Daughters of Northern shores is a novel to treasure and one to make you think of the impact just one person can have. It is an encouraging story that reminds the reader to hope when there is no clear path ahead. And, to hold family and friends dear, always extending grace.

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

Other Books in the Series:

Sons of Blackbird Mountain (Blackbird Mountain #1) by Joanne Bischof

From the bestselling award-winning author of The Lady and the Lionheart

“Beloved author Joanne Bischof doesn’t disappoint with her latest beautifully written, heartrending tale . . . a quick favorite for historical romance readers.” —Elizabeth Byler Younts, author of The Solace of Water

A Tale of Family, Brotherhood, and the Healing Power of Love

After the tragic death of her husband, Aven Norgaard is beckoned to give up her life in Norway to become a housekeeper in the rugged hills of Nineteenth-Century Appalachia. Upon arrival, she finds herself in the home of her late husband’s cousins—three brothers who make a living by brewing hard cider on their three-hundred acre farm. Yet even as a stranger in a foreign land, Aven has hope to build a new life in this tight-knit family.

But her unassuming beauty disrupts the bond between the brothers. The youngest two both desire her hand, and Aven is caught in the middle, unsure where—and whether—to offer her affection. While Haakon is bold and passionate, it is Thor who casts the greatest spell upon her. Though Deaf, mute, and dependent on hard drink to cope with his silent pain, Thor possesses a sobering strength.

As autumn ushers in the apple harvest, the rift between Thor and Haakon deepens and Aven faces a choice that risks hearts. Will two brothers’ longing for her quiet spirit tear apart a family? Can she find a tender belonging in this remote, rugged, and unfamiliar world?

A haunting tale of struggle and redemption, Sons of Blackbird Mountain is a portrait of grace in a world where the broken may find new life through the healing mercy of love.

Praise for Sons of Blackbird Mountain:

“Sons of Blackbird Mountain is a quiet gem of a historical romance. Refreshingly real and honest in its depiction of flawed but lovable individuals, it introduces characters readers will want to meet again.” – CBA Market

“. . . the novel provides an interesting glimpse of the time period and some complex social issues among neighbors in an area still recovering from the Civil War.” – Historical Novels Review

“VERDICT Christy- and Carol Award-winning author Bischof (The Lady and the Lionheart) creates endearing characters and a heartwarming story line in this unforgettable novel about the power of family, love, and the true meaning of home. Fans of Kristy Cambron, Julie Klassen, and Susan Meissner will love this one.” – Library Journal

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About the Author


Picture courtesy of https://joannebischof.com.

Joanne Bischof is an ACFW Carol Award and ECPA Christy Award-winning author. She writes deeply layered fiction that tugs at the heartstrings. She was honored to receive the San Diego Christian Writers Guild Novel of the Year Award in 2014 and in 2015 was named Author of the Year by the Mount Hermon conference. Joanne’s 2016 novel, The Lady and the Lionheart, received an extraordinary 5 Star TOP PICK! from RT Book Reviews, among other critical acclaim. She lives in the mountains of Southern California with her three children.

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Review: “In the Shadow of Croft Towers” by Abigail Wilson

I am always excited about finding new authors to love. Debut author Abigail Wilson is one I am extremely happy to have discovered — she is a gracious person and a wonderful storyteller! Her debut, In the Shadow of Croft Towers, recently released from Thomas Nelson. It is an exciting historical mystery and romance, complete with spies, a grand country estate, questions of inheritance, and a likable heroine.

About the Book

From debut author Abigail Wilson comes a mysterious Regency tale of secrets and spies, love and treachery.

Orphaned Sybil Delafield jumps at the opportunity for a position at the mysterious Croft Towers. She believes she was hired to act as companion to a dying woman, but a highway robbery and a hostile welcome from the Chalcroft family cause her to wonder if she was actually hired to help someone spy for France.

An unsolved murder adds intrigue to this already secretive family, and Sybil recognizes Mrs. Chalcroft’s handsome grandson as one of the infamous highwaymen who robbed her. Sybil must determine if this man’s charming smile and earnest eyes speak the truth or if he is simply using her like others in the house. Everyone seems to have something to hide, and Sybil must decide who to trust while also coming to terms with the truth about her own past.

Goodreads | Amazon

Review

In the Shadow of Croft Towers is an engrossing escape to the countryside of Regency England. With a web of mystery (and highwaymen!), Sybil Delafield navigates the secrets of the inhabitants of a grand estate, all the while searching for her own answers. The rare first person POV enhances the swirling secrets and makes Sybil’s character endearing. The mystery itself is a brilliant web with some elements that kept me guessing until the very end, and a couple I saw coming — but nonetheless, I enjoyed the reactions of the characters as they discovered the true answers and reasons for certain characters’ behavior. The hero of the story, Mr. Sinclair, is as dashing, chivalrous, and witty as one could hope for — and a smart match to Sybil, treating her as an equal yet being wonderfully protective when the situation required.

This is a debut novel worthy of your time, especially if you are a fan of historical romance and mystery. I look forward to the next book in the series, Midnight on the River Grey, and anything else Ms. Wilson plans to write!

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