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.

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Book Review + Giveaway: “Love’s Silver Lining” by Julie Lessman

loves-silver-lining-tour

Travel with me to the Old West — Virginia City, NV, to be exact — while we talk about a romantic adventure from author Julie Lessman, Love’s Silver Lining, the first book in her new “Silver Lining Ranch” series. (Once again, Julie tackles another genre…. and does is SO WELL!) Before you go, be sure to enter the GIVEAWAY by commenting on this post!

About the Book

Love's Silver Lining

Series: Silver Lining Ranch

Genre:  Christian, Historical, Romance

Publisher: Indie

Desperate to escape an arranged marriage to a womanizer, twenty-two-year-old Maggie Mullaney flees New York for Virginia City, Nevada with her Aunt Liberty, two spunky suffragists intent on bettering the lives of women. Fresh out of nursing school, Maggie hopes to devote herself to serving others rather than just one man, a goal quickly affirmed when she encounters Blaze Donovan, a womanizing cowboy who both riles and rouses her pulse. But when Aunt Liberty’s parents’ house burns down, she and Maggie are coerced into staying at the ranch of Liberty’s ex-husband, Finn McShane, who just happens to be the uncle of the cocky cowboy Maggie had hoped to avoid.

If there’s one thing twenty-nine-year-old Blaze Donovan can’t abide, it’s respectable women who spout piety and prayer, so when he butts heads with perky Maggie Mullaney at St. Mary Louise Hospital, he wants to stay as far away from her as he possibly can. Unfortunately, she now lives in the bedroom next to his in his uncle’s ranch house, a revolting development that sends Blaze to The Ponderosa Saloon more than usual. But when Maggie interferes in Blaze’s life by converting his favorite “disrespectable” girl, Blaze is determined to make her pay. Only problem is—the price HE has to pay may be a little too steep for his heart.

NOTE: This book is a sweet inspirational with a bit of a higher level of romantic passion. (*Courtney’s note: I would say this book isn’t any different than other Julie Lessman books — readers know how she writes “passion with a purpose”.*)

GOODREADS | AMAZON

About the Authorjulie-turquoise-in-chair_orig

Julie Lessman is an award-winning author whose tagline of “Passion With a Purpose” underscores her intense passion for both God and romance. A lover of all things Irish, she enjoys writing close-knit Irish family sagas that evolve into 3-D love stories: the hero, the heroine, and the God that brings them together.

Author of The Daughters of Boston, Winds of Change, Heart of San Francisco, and Isle of Hope series, Julie was American Christian Fiction Writers 2009 Debut Author of the Year and has garnered over 18 Romance Writers of America and other awards. Voted #1 Romance Author in Family Fiction magazine’s 2012 and 2011 Readers Choice Awards, Julie’s novels also made Family Fiction magazine’s Best of 2015, Best of 2014, and “Essential Christian Romance Authors” 2017, as well as Booklist’s 2010 Top 10 Inspirational Fiction and Borders Best Fiction. Her independent novel A Light in the Window was an International Digital Awards winner, a 2013 Readers’ Crown Award winner, and a 2013 Book Buyers Best Award winner. Julie has also written a self-help workbook for writers entitled Romance-ology 101: Writing Romantic Tension for the Sweet and Inspirational Markets. Contact Julie through her website and read excerpts from each of her books at http://www.julielessman.com.

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Review

Love’s Silver Lining is a fun western romance with entertaining matches of wits and a strong thread of faith. It’s Bonanza-meets-McLintock with its familial-cast and clashing romantic couples, complete with two that strongly remind me of John Wayne and Maureen O’Hara with his determination and her fiery temper!

In Julie’s signature romance style, this story follows two different couples as they navigate their shared histories, pride, stubbornness, and attraction. While Blaze and Maggie’s relationship has rivalry and plenty of spark, my most favorite parts of the story involve the other prominent couple, Finn and Liberty, whom you can meet in the prequel novella, For Love of Liberty. The importance of faith (especially a shared faith within a marriage), and many facets of trust are naturally incorporated into the story, along with encouraging scriptures.

From its wild west setting to its suffragists, train rides, and kisses, Love’s Silver Lining is just the right sort of western for romance lovers that offers a smile and an encouraging message. I’m excited to see where the next book in the series takes these characters! (And I hope there will be more of Finn and Liberty’s sparring!)

Thank you to the author and SLB tours for a review copy. This is my honest review.

Giveaway

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Comment on this blog post for a chance to win an e-copy of Love’s Silver Lining! Share a favorite book, western, what you’re reading now, ANYTHING!

Giveaway is open Internationally and will end at 11:59 on 7/7/18.

Tour Stops

July 2-Locks, Hooks and Books
July 3-The Power of Words | The Green Mockingbird
July 4-Reading Is My SuperPower | Faithfully Bookish
July 5-Book by Book | Why Not? Because I Said So!
July 6-cherylbbookblog
July 7-Mindy,  reviewer​

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Review: “Long Time Gone” by Mary Connealy

Today’s blog post is all about author Mary Connealy’s recent western release from Bethany Hour Publishers, Long Time Gone, book # 2 in “The Cimmaron Legacy” series. In this story, Mary’s characteristic dry humor is coupled with family drama, plenty of western action, and a romance.

About the Book
The Boden clan thought their troubles were over with the death of a dangerous enemy. But with new evidence on Cole’s shooting, Justin can’t deny that the plot to take their ranch was bigger than one man. While the doctor and his distractingly pretty assistant help Cole, Justin has to uncover the trail of a decades-old secret as danger closes in.

Review

Long Time Gone by Mary ConnealyThe saga of the Bodens continues as they try to dispel threats to their livelihood and search out an informant among their ranch hands. While enough detail is included to make it stand on its own, I think a reader would enjoy this story more if it were read in sequence to know the background of the characters. The second son, Justin Boden, is the main character of this story. His attitude is understandably that of a middle child: out to prove himself to his family as a leader. This proves to be quite comical as he’s up against his older brother, Cole, in a few situations. He’s completely endearing because his tough exterior conceals a caring heart that just wants to take care of his family.

While the focus is on the Bodens and Justin much of the time, Angie Dupree, the love interest and the doctor’s “pretty assistant”, was another perspective shared throughout the book. I though her character and persona were important and the most dynamic emotionally. As she was revealed to have more “grit” than I first thought, I was cheering her on. Her journey is one of learning to find strength in independence while simultaneously realizing it’s a privilege to accept someone’s protection and care.

This is a thoroughly enjoyable western rom-com. The action-packed nature of Long Time Gone keeps the pages turning quickly as these characters learn important lessons of love and faith in the middle of the whirlwind drama. While most things are tidied up by the end, lingering questions as to the source of the family’s “threat” remain… which just means we’ll get to have more fun with the next book of the series!

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

Check out my review of book 1 in the series:

No Way Up

Book Review: “No Way Up” by Mary Connealy

Some days I feel like I could have lived in Victorian England and taken afternoon tea with dainty sandwiches. But most days, I think I could have lived in the old west on a ranch, riding horses in the mountains. Since I live in modern times (and I’m extremely thankful for electricity and indoor plumbing), I’ll have to settle for watching or reading westerns instead.

No Way UpWhen I’m in need of such a reading fix, Mary Connealy is a go-to author for action, romance, and humor in realistic AND historically accurate western settings. Her most recent novel, No Way Up, delivered on all counts. Read on for my review.

About the BookWhen Cimarron ranch patriarch Chance Boden is caught in an avalanche, the quick actions of hired hand Heath Kincaid save him. Badly injured, Chance demands that his will be read and its conditions be enforced immediately.

Without anyone else to serve as a witness, Heath is pressed into reading the will. If Justin, Sadie, and Cole Boden don’t live and work at home for the entire year, the ranch will go to their low-down cousin Mike.

Then Heath discovers the avalanche was a murder attempt, and more danger might follow. Deeply involved with the family, Heath’s desire to protect Sadie goes far beyond friendship. The danger keeps them close together, and their feelings grow until being apart is the last thing on their minds.

Find the book on Goodreads | Amazon | Mary’s Website

Review

Mary sets up her characters’ vivid personalities so well that you can imagine their expressions and reactions when scenes of rapid conversation come around. Her writing style is witty and humorous while never silly. It comes across in her storytelling and delivery so the characters can maintain a necessary seriousness in their dialogue.

Heath Kincaid might be familiar to fans of Mary’s previous series, the “Kincaid Brides” series. He’s the littlest brother of the family who possesses the trademark strength, independence, and stubbornness of that clan. He misses his brothers more than he realizes, and time with Sadie’s own brothers is good for him. The dynamic with Heath and between the brothers, Cole and Justin, was very fun! They challenged each other, both in a badgering and encouraging manner.

Sadie learned more about her family through these adventures. She was reminded of the importance of her relationships with her brothers, and the legacy of love her parents wanted her to value. She was a fierce character who knew herself well. She knew when to behave as a proper female should, AND when to fight against convention (like scaling a mountain in pants or defending her family with rocks. Yes, rocks.).

The geography of the Boden ranch and surrounding land plays a big part in the story. It was fascinating to learn a little bit of the history linking the native Pueblo people to the terrain. (Random personal note: since I’ve seen a tiny bit of this area of New Mexico, it was even more interesting.)

This story is more than an action-packed, adventurous western with a sweet romance, it’s a story of the importance of family and the strength of that bond. It emphasizes God’s provision and recognizes His ultimate power over the plan of our lives. Needless to say, I can’t wait to see what’s in story for this Boden clan in the next book!

Thank you to Bethany House Publishers for the complimentary review copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

 

Bonus note: the prequel e-novella to this series, The Boden Birthright, is FREE right now on Kindle! It was a great story on its own, AND it set up the backstory of the Bodens very well.

Review: “With This Ring?” Novella Collection

Sometimes you just need a lighter story with a happy ending. That’s just what I found with Bethany House’s recent novella collection With This Ring?: A Novella Collection of Proposals Gone Awry by authors Karen Witemeyer, Regina Jennings, Mary Connealy, and Melissa Jagears. And with these authors in the western romantic comedy genre, you’re pretty much guaranteed to finish reading with a contented smile and happy feeling.

About the BookWith This RingHumorous Historical Romance Novella
Collection Offers Love and Laughs

Four top historical romance novelists team up in this new collection to offer stories of love and romance with a twist of humor. In Karen Witemeyer’s “The Husband Maneuver,” Marietta Hawkins decides to grab the reins when the ranch foreman she loves seems to be leaving forever. Regina Jennings offers “Her Dearly Unintended,” where friends stranded by a rising river pretend to be newlyweds when a dangerous stranger arrives.

Mary Connealy’s “Runaway Bride” finds a Texas ranger getting more than he expected when he rescues a young woman fleeing a dangerous arranged marriage. And Melissa Jagears’ “Engaging the Competition” finds a young woman forced to assist the man she’s often sparred with after an accident leaves him helpless. Each tale is a fun blend of history and romance that will delight readers.

Review

The Husband Maneuver by Karen Witemeyer

This story was such fun! It’s been a while since I’ve ready anything by Karen, so this was a pleasant reminder of her humorous and skillful style. I liked that the main characters already had a history together. Daniel had his reason for not acting on his feelings for Etta, and once it was revealed, you would agree it was a very honorable reason! Which made me like him even more. This was one of my top 2 favorites in the collection!

Her Dearly Unintended by Regina Jennings

This was a western situation comedy with a bit of depth. Full of layers of legitimate, believable misunderstandings concerning both friendship and love, it told a coming-of-age (and maturity) story. With sass! I particularly liked the setting in the Missouri Ozarks because it is quite close to home for me!

Runaway Bride by Mary Connealy

This one is my other favorite from this collection. Hilarious at times, it has Mary’s signature humor (if you’re a fan of Connealy, I promise you’ll like it). I loved seeing familiar characters from the Trouble in TX and Kincaid Brides series, though new readers might be a little overwhelmed from 1 of the short passages introducing them! My favorite part was how John and Carrie’s relationship progressed. Their almost instant chemistry and subsequent fast-moving relationship was still believable. And, their mutual shyness-then-love story was so sweetly told by Mary. I only wish this one was a little longer because I could’ve read more about these crazy characters and their friends!

Engaging the Competition by Melissa Jagears

This was overall a cute story with an unexpected and pleasant take on the genre — especially with the reversal of roles for the male and female lead. She was the rancher and tough cowgirl and he was the studious school teacher. The hero has the unique impediment of extremely poor eyesight. I was anxious to see where Melissa would take that from the story setup. It proved to be an effective plot device that propelled the characters together and taught a lesson in “being enough”: your pride shouldn’t cause you to prove yourself to others if it, in turn, belittles them.

Thank you to Bethany House Publishers for providing a complimentary review copy in exchange for my honest review.

Review: “Stuck Together” by Mary Connealy

Sometimes it’s good to read a story that is funny and endearing with realistic characters. Stuck Together by Mary Connealy is one like that. It’s her third and final book in the “Trouble in Texas” series, though it could be read as a standalone story, too. (For my review of “Fired Up” in this same series, click here)

18469501Synopsis from Goodreads: Tina Cahill, newly arrived from the East, is determined to get the saloon in Broken Wheel, Texas, closed for good. To that end, she pickets outside the place every afternoon. Unfortunately, so far no one has paid any attention.

Vince Yates earned the nickname “Invincible Vince” because of his reputation for letting absolutely nothing stop him. Not his tyrant of a father. Nor the injuries he suffered in the Civil War. Nor the fact that he is Broken Wheel’s only attorney and sheriff yet has no law degree.

But Vince is about to face his biggest challenge yet: his past has just caught up with him. His father, mother, and the sister he didn’t know he had show up in Broken Wheel without warning. His father is still a schemer. His mother is suffering signs of dementia. And his surprise sister immediately falls for one of Vince’s best friends. Vince has a lot of people to take care of, and Tina doesn’t approve of how he’s handling any of them. But with almost all the other men in town married off, Vince finds himself stuck with feisty Tina over and over again. Of course, Tina is the prettiest woman he’s ever seen, so if he could just get her to give up her causes, he might go ahead and propose. But he’s got one more surprise coming his way: Tina’s picketing at the saloon has revealed a dark secret that could put everyone Vince loves in danger.

Vince Yates finds himself in circumstances out of his control – he’s not used to being helpless. He’s an in-charge type, ready to lead and get through any situation – including corralling Tina as she pickets and badgers citizens who frequent the saloon (but really, he’s just trying to protect her). This results in some very comical mishaps.

Vince must rely on his friends when his father, mother, and unknown sister show up in Broken Wheel. To further complicate things, Vince is the temporary sheriff who has to track down an unknown menace, keep prisoners from escaping jail, and keep an eye on his addled mother.

Tina is feisty, independent, and able to take care of herself. Underneath a tough façade, though, she feels unloved because of her family history. She was orphaned when young, raised by her cold aunt, and now feels like a burden to her brother, Jonas. When she and Vince are attracted to each other, each has his and her reasons for not wanting to have a relationship. His, because he doesn’t want to end up like his mother or father, and hers, because she still feels unlovable.

God has other plans, however, as He shows them the beauty of His provision, second chances, and the power and strength of friendship. I thoroughly enjoyed this latest from Mary Connealy!

 

Connect with Mary Connealy at her website, on Facebook, or Twitter.

Note: Thank you to Bethany House for the complimentary copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Book Review: “Claiming Mariah” by Pam Hillman

Claiming Mariah (Tyndale House Publishers) by Pam Hillman has all the exciting elements of a great western: ranching, cattle rustling, stubborn cowboys, independent women, betrayal, misunderstanding, and romance. Set against the backdrop of a small town in Wyoming Territory, Claiming Mariah follows the story of Mariah Malone as she copes with the legacy her father has left her – one of a failing ranch and dependent loved ones.
"Claiming Mariah" by Pam Hillman

One spring day, brothers Slade and Buck Donovan ride up to announce that they are the rightful owners of Mariah’s cattle ranch.  They produce a deed and claim that her deceased father, Seth Malone, cheated their father out of a fortune from a gold mine. He proceeded to shoot their pa, run away, and to buy the ranch where Mariah grew up.  The Donovans claim that their father survived but never overcame a severe drinking problem, causing Slade, the oldest of the Donovan children, to take responsibility for his brother, sisters, and mother at a very young age. This has left Slade with a distrusting and slightly bitter attitude toward the Malones.

Mariah reluctantly signs over the ranch to the Donovans while keeping the unpleasant news about her father’s theft a secret to the town. She agrees to stay on in the ranch house with her grandmother to cook and clean until the rest of the Donovan family arrives.  Slade discovers that the ranch has lost money since Seth Malone died. Unknown to him, a group of cattle rustlers have taken advantage of unsuspecting Mariah. In addition, Mariah is faced with a tolerable – though possessive – suitor, Frederick Cooper, who insists on marrying her. She is reluctant to do so, partially due to her eventual departure from the ranch to go live in Philadelphia to be near her sister. Through all of these circumstances, Slade and Mariah are drawn together by a subtle attraction.

Hillman’s style is smooth and fluid, drawing the reader in to the story from the beginning. The reader is privilege to both Slade and Mariah’s perspective. This amplifies the tension between them and enlightens the reader to suspicions of cattle rustling activity. The setting communicates a snapshot of small town life in the western frontier, complete with a loving, welcoming community and friendly neighbors.

The novel explores the themes of forgiveness and the mercy of God. It also models human nature’s stubborn tendencies to hold grudges and reluctantly forgive. Through the course of the novel, the characters see that God truly cares for each of His children. Slade Donovan had hardened his heart toward God as his own father became more neglectful. He begins to change his mind, however, as the people around him prove trustworthy and model the love of Christ. Both Mariah and Slade see that God sometimes brings people through difficult times to increase their dependence on Him, for He is always trustworthy.

Pam Hillman has authored a compelling novel depicting the struggles and successes of frontier life during the late 1800s. The characters are very realistic, with unique faults and endearing traits. While the novel is mainly a drama and love story, Pam successfully weaves a thread of faith and forgiveness throughout, making it a tale of encouragement and triumph.

My favorite quote from the book: “God doesn’t keep us from trouble; He keeps us through it” –Claiming Mariah by Pam Hillman

eBook version available now, print version releases 2/1/14

Thank you to the publisher for providing a copy of this novel in exchange for my honest review.