Categories: Romantic Suspense / Christian Fiction / FBI Crime Solving Novel / Clean Romance Publisher: Tyndale House Pub Date: September 7, 2021 Pages: 432 pages
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Fifteen years ago, Shelby Pearce confessed to murdering her brother-in-law and was sent to prison. Now she’s out on parole and looking for a fresh start in the small town of Valleysburg, Texas. But starting over won’t be easy for an ex-con.
FBI Special Agent Denton McClure was a rookie fresh out of Quantico when he was first assigned the Pearce case. He’s always believed Shelby embezzled five hundred thousand dollars from her brother-in-law’s account. So he’s going undercover to befriend Shelby, track down the missing money, and finally crack this case.
But as Denton gets closer to Shelby, he begins to have a trace of doubt about her guilt. Someone has Shelby in their crosshairs. It’s up to Denton to stop them before they silence Shelby—and the truth—forever.
PRAISE FOR TRACE OF DOUBT :
“Filled with high stakes, high emotion, and high intrigue.” – LYNN H. BLACKBURN, award-winning author of UNKNOWN THREAT and ONE FINAL BREATH
“Trace of Doubt is a suspense reader’s best friend. From page one until the end, the action is intense and the storyline keeps you guessing.” – EVA MARIE EVERSON, bestselling author of FIVE BRIDES and DUST
“DiAnn Mills serves up a perfect blend of action, grit, and heart. . . Trace of Doubt takes romantic suspense to a whole new level.” – JAMES R. HANNIBAL, award-winning author of THE PARIS BETRAYAL
“Well-researched . . . with some surprising twists along the way. In Trace of Doubt, Mills weaves together a tale of faith, intrigue, and suspense that her fans are sure to enjoy.” – STEVEN JAMES, award-winning author of SYNAPSE and EVERY WICKED MAN
DiAnn Mills is a bestselling author who believes her readers should expect an adventure. She is a storyteller and creates action-packed, suspense-filled novels to thrill readers. Her titles have appeared on the CBA and ECPA bestseller lists; won two Christy Awards; and been finalists for the RITA, Daphne Du Maurier, Inspirational Readers’ Choice, and Carol award contests.
DiAnn is a founding board member of the American Christian Fiction Writers, a member of Advanced Writers and Speakers Association, Mystery Writers of America, Sisters in Crime, and International Thriller Writers. She is the director of the Blue Ridge Mountain Christian Writers Conference, Mountainside Retreats: Marketing, Speakers, Nonfiction and Novelist with social media specialist Edie Melson where she continues her passion for helping other writers be successful. She speaks to various groups and teaches writing workshops around the country.
He’s a cop trying to stop a serial bomber. And she’ll stop at nothing to clear her own name.
When a deadly bomb goes off during a climate change debate, librarian and event coordinator Jackie Santoro becomes the prime suspect. Her motive, according to Detective Avery Wick: to avenge the suicide of her prominent father, who was accused of crimes by a city councilman attending the event.
Though Avery has doubts about Jackie’s guilt, he can’t exonerate her even after an extremist group takes responsibility for the bombing and continues to attack San Antonio’s treasured public spaces.
As Jackie tries to hold her shattered family together, she has no choice but to proceed with plans for the Caterina Ball, the library system’s biggest annual fundraiser. But she also fears the event provides the perfect opportunity for the bomber to strike again.
Despite their mistrust, Jackie and Avery join forces to unmask the truth—before the death toll mounts even higher.
Bestseller Kelly Irvin is back with a nail-biting romantic suspense where nothing is certain until the very last page.
PRAISE FOR HER EVERY MOVE:
“A gripping story that will have you on the edge of your seat until ‘The End.’”—Patricia Bradley, author of The Logan Point Series, Memphis Cold Case Novels, Natchez Trace Parkway Rangers series
“Explosive, tender, and races all the way through!”—Jennifer Graeser Dornbush, author, screenwriter, and forensic specialist
From its explosive opening scene to its dramatic climax, Kelly Irvin’s Her Every Move is one high-octane read. A ripped-from-the-headlines plot, a well-described familiar setting, a broad array of hot-button issues, and a large diverse cast made this book remarkably current and incredibly realistic.
Reading is a gift … Reading gives me joy, takes me places I’ve never been, and I learn things. What person wouldn’t want that gift?”
The San Antonio setting, my former residence and the last city I visited before the world shut down, first attracted me to this book. The heroine Jackie’s job as librarian and event planner further solidified my interest. But it was the fast-paced, action-packed, emotional storyline that kept me reading until the end.
The themes of familial love, lifelong friendships, social responsibility, faith amidst adversity, and complicated romance always appeal to me and they’re thoroughly explored in this book. Jackie’s strength while faced with unjust accusations of doing unspeakable crimes made her a sympathetic heroine. Avery’s steadfast performance of his duties despite developing conflicting personal feelings about the prime suspect Jackie and dealing with an unstable possible suspect in his best friend had me rooting for him.
My favorite character, however, is San Antonio itself. The culture, architecture, beauty, and history of this multiethnic city really came alive in the book.
We’re all guilty of believing we have plenty of time.”
For the most part, the book engaged my attention except in a couple of aspects. First is the excess of political issues raised. There’s climate change, domestic terrorism, racial profiling, gun control, budgetary constraints, etcetera. There could have been more focus on fewer causes for more impact.
Next is the weakness of the emotional ramifications after the reveal of the villain. There should have been long-term consequences for the people left behind and changes in policies, especially concerning public safety.
Lastly, the romance part needed more attention than it got. Jackie and Avery’s initial meeting was especially lacking in establishing their attraction. The ending was good but I wish there was more of the same sweetness in their journey to getting their happy-ever-after.
Huge thanks to Lone Star Lit and Thomas Nelson for the opportunity to review this book.
Bestseller Kelly Irvin is the author of 28 books, including romantic suspense and Amish romance. Publishers Weekly called Closer Than She Knows “a briskly written thriller.” The Library Journal said of her novel Tell Her No Lies, “a complex web with enough twists and turns to keep even the savviest romantic suspense readers guessing until the end.” The two-time ACFW Carol Award finalist worked as a newspaper reporter for six years on the Texas-Mexico border. Those experiences fuel her romantic suspense novels set in Texas. A retired public relations professional, Kelly now writes fiction full-time. She lives with her husband professional photographer Tim Irvin in San Antonio. They have two children, three grandchildren, and two ornery cats.
Categories: Historical Fiction / Action Adventure / Western
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All the Cowboys Ain’t Gone is the rollicking adventure story of Lincoln Smith, a young Texan living at the beginning of the twentieth century, who thinks of himself as the last true cowboy. He longs for the days of the Old West, when men like his father, a famous Texas Ranger, lived by the chivalric code. Lincoln finds himself hopelessly out of time and place in the fast-changing United States of the new century. When he gets his heart broken by a sweetheart who doesn’t appreciate his anachronistic tendencies, he does what any sensible young romantic would do: he joins the French Foreign Legion.
On his way to an ancient and exotic country at the edge of the Sahara, Lincoln encounters a number of curious characters and strange adventures, from a desert hermit who can slow up time to a battle with a crocodile cult that worships the god of death. He meets them all with his own charming brand of courage and resourcefulness.
Utterly entertaining, All The Cowboys Ain’t Gone had me laughing out loud with the characters’ antics and catching my breath with the non-stop action from beginning to end. I can see this made into a movie in the same vein as Indiana Jones and The Mummy.
Having a twelve-year-old son, I found myself taking to Lincoln right away. The opening scenes with his mother admonishing him for his language and supervising his lessons really resonated with me. The great start hooked me into this book that’s in a genre I don’t normally read.
Mr. Jacobson certainly has a flair for storytelling that’s playful and engaging. While I thought the events that happen to Lincoln from Texas to New Hampshire, Florida to New York, France to Algeria, and finally to the fictional Mur highly improbable, I still found myself engrossed in his adventures and delighted with his narrow escapes. It’s a tall tale befitting its Texas origins and I had absolutely no problem with that.
I enjoyed meeting the new characters Lincoln encountered, especially Jake and Johnny, Amanda, the Three from Camarón Legionnaires named after Alexandre Dumas’s The Three Musketeers, and Omar. I even enjoyed the villains even though they’re campy and absolutely ridiculous. It’s all part of the charm of the book.
Lincoln is easy to root for. At times naïve, he nevertheless has a core of honor and loyalty which makes him perfect for the French Foreign Legion. By the end of the book, he has absolutely learned the lesson his mother taught him when he was a boy:
… though things aren’t the way you’d prefer, there are still going to be plenty of adventures; they’re just going to be different. You’re just going to have to use your imagination to find them.”
Thanks to Lone Star Lit and Blackstone Publishing for providing me with a copy of this absolute romp of a book to review.
Though John J. Jacobson didn’t join the French Foreign Legion after being jilted by a girlfriend, or over his displeasure of missing the last great cattle drive, he has, borrowing Churchill’s phrase, lived a rather variegated life. He was born in Nevada, grew up in the West, surfed big waves in Hawaii, circled the world thrice, survived the sixties and seventies, corporate America, and grad school. Among other degrees he has an MA in Renaissance literature from Claremont Graduate University.
Categories: Christian Historical Fiction/ Romance/ Stand-Alone Publisher: Revell Date of Publication: March 2, 2021 Pages: 352
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He’s bound and determined to find peace . . . but she’s about to stir things up. Dorothy Clark dreams of writing something that will challenge people as much as Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin seems to have. But in 1850s Mesquite Springs, there are few opportunities for writers–until newspaperman Brandon Holloway arrives, that is. Brandon Holloway has seen firsthand the disastrous effects of challenging others. He has no intention of repeating that mistake. Instead of following his dreams, he’s committed to making a new–and completely uncontroversial–start in the Hill Country. As Dorothy’s involvement in the fledgling newspaper grows from convenient to essential, the same change seems to be happening in Brandon’s heart. But before romance can bloom, Dorothy and Brandon must work together to discover who’s determined to divide the town and destroy Brandon’s livelihood.
A Mixtape of Big ’80s Style, High School Angst, and a Classic Jane Austen Tale
It’s 1984 and after moving to Northenfield, Texas, with her family, Elyse Nebbit faces the challenge of finding her place in a new school, one dominated by social status and Friday night football. When Elyse’s effortlessly beautiful older sister Jayne starts dating golden boy Charlie Bingley, Elyse finds herself curious about Charlie’s popular and brooding best friend, Billy Fitz. Elyse’s body insecurities eventually complicate her relationship with Billy, leaving Jayne and Elyse’s exceedingly blunt friend, Lottie, to step in and help Elyse accept herself for who she is, pant size and all.
PRAISE FOR PUDGE AND PREJUDICE:
Written with wit and considerable insight into the highs and lows of first love, this coming-of-age twist on the Jane Austen classic had me laughing out loud, singing ‘80s lyrics in my head, and cheering on the brilliant, yet self-deprecating heroine. Pudge & Prejudice is a joy to read from beginning to end! —Lorie Langdon, author of Olivia Twist and the Disney Villains series
Allison Pittman will have readers laughing (and singing) on every page of this delightfully tenderhearted novel for all ages…[She] crafts a particularly savvy character who learns that beauty really is soul-deep…. —Julie Cantrell, New York Times and USA TODAY bestselling author of Perennials
I can’t remember the last time I loved a book as much as I love this one. It’s an instant classic I will return to time after time. —Bethany Turner, Award-Winning Author of The Secret Life of Sarah Hollenbeck
Y’all must allow me to tell you how ardently I admire and love Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice and now this delightful Texas-located, ’80s-set adaptation of it. A.K. Pittman gave a unique spin to the beloved classic while staying true to its timeless themes. She managed to make Pudge & Prejudice relatable to this Gen-Xer who grew up over 8,000 miles away from where the book is located.
Like Elyse, I was in high school in the mid-’80s and a transferee from another place. Plenty of elements in the book, especially the music, evoked nostalgia. I was reminiscing the entire time I was reading it. The wit and fluidity of Ms. Pittman’s writing had me smiling and even misty-eyed at the end.
I was something to be overcome. Like, a stunt girlfriend. A dare to himself.
The use of first-person point-of-view to tell the story fits perfectly. I cannot imagine it told any other way. Being inside Elyse’s head gave me a deep sense of connection with her. The way she processed her feelings for Billy was really affecting. If Mr. Darcy hadn’t been one of my most favorite Book Boyfriends already, he’d be one after getting to know Billy Fitz in this book.
The characterizations are spot-on with some modifications to fit the revised setting and time period. Elyse’s prejudices against Billy were amplified by her own insecurities about her weight. Billy’s pride was reinforced by the adulation of the entire town because of his football prowess. All authentic additions to the story. Lottie’s belittling of Collin, however, may have been too much. It nearly renders her character unlikable. Jayne and Charlie are pretty close to the original. So are Caroline and Gage (Wickham). There’s a slight change in this version’s Lydia which I like.
Next to Bridget Jones’s Diary, Pudge & Prejudice is now on my Top Two favorite adaptations of Pride & Prejudice. Like the original, it is incredibly quotable. Here are some of my favorite lines from the book:
Somehow, since that first day of school–maybe since that first day of ever–I belonged to myself, and I was finding more than a few bits to embrace.
I don’t know when, exactly–when you started to mean more to me. My mind woke up in the middle of liking you.
Thanks to Lone Star Lit and Wander for giving me the opportunity to review this book. I highly recommend it for all fans of Jane Austen and of sweet romance.
Allison Pittman is an award-winning author of thirteen novels, including the Christy-nominated Sister Wife series and the critically acclaimed The Seamstress. An enthusiast for all of the writing world, Allison holds active leadership in her local American Christian Fiction Writers chapter, and she heads up a thriving critique group in the San Antonio area. When not writing, Allison teaches middle school English, working as a conduit to introduce her students to new, fresh literature. You can follow her around on Instagram or Twitter and keep up with her writing news on her Allison Pittman Author Facebook page. Here you’ll learn what’s going on with new books, next books, and day-to-day life with Allison and her husband, Mikey. You’ll also get a peek at Snax, the world’s worst dog.
From the award-winning author of Comfort Plans and Comfort Songs comes a story of two rising stars blitzed by social media. Lacy Cavanaugh and single-dad Rudy Delgardo live a hundred miles apart but meet in the worst possible way. Working at a weekly paper and creating social media for area businesses helps Lacy connect with locals who open her mind to a perspective beyond Instagram. In launching a food-and-wine festival to support Comfort’s new event center, she discovers surprising skills bubbling over, much like the food she’s attempting to cook.
Rudy, on the brink of his restaurant’s takeover, struggles to improve time management so he can create a better relationship with his daughter. Distracted by Lacy and her invitation to the festival, he’s tempted by her beauty, wit, and courage, but as a chef, he rarely gets to enjoy life outside the kitchen. Enemies, illness, and exes add unwelcome spice to the dish they’re concocting—one that will teeter with misunderstanding until the very end.
Will Lacy and Rudy embrace their second chances and discover the perfect seasonings of family, resilience, and grace to create a handwritten recipe of love that will stand the test of time?
Relevant and current, Comfort Foods is a feast of a read. Gobble it up in one sitting or savor for several days, you’ll end up satisfied either way.
When I saw the opportunity to review this book, I jumped at the chance. Food and romance are two of my favorite things. As I said when I requested it, foodie romance is my jam, pun fully intended.
Comfort Foods lives up to my expectations. Lacy and Rudy’s story, taking place in two locations (Comfort and Austin), is rich and filling. Lacy’s journey of self-discovery after her fall from grace is especially fascinating and touching. Her scenes with Frank Bachman, the publisher of the newspaper she works for, provide moments of both laughter and tears. In doing service for her sister and for others in the community, Lacy finds her worth beyond the superficial beauty and fashion she was previously famous for. Rudy’s grappling with too many pots on the stove–his restaurant Stella, his daughter Luna, and his attraction to Lacy–is realistic in today’s world and highly relatable. His bewilderment in his search for balance amid man-made obstacles is endearing and admirable.
But life is more than a shiny ball. It has edges, holes, and deep caves. Make a choice on where you feel most grounded.
Ms. Fish created fully-fleshed-out characters that are sympathetic and likable and oh-so-real with their all-too-human failings. I love that she included multicultural characters that’s reflective of the society at present. She spun a tale filled with humor, angst, insider knowledge of the restaurant and publishing businesses, and the weighty concern of human trafficking. The themes of found family and close-knit community are ones I often seek out and are entrenched in this book and in this series. And then, there’s the food. There’s enough to make a reader’s mouth water and head to the kitchen to recreate the dishes mentioned in the book.
Food is a necessary element of living, and there is real beauty in the process of preparing it and serving people who appreciate the effort.
I enjoyed the slow burn of Lacy and Rudy’s romance from their awkward first couple of meetings to cooking together, to the impromptu bridal photo shoot, and to their eventual happy ever after. I wish though that they have more scenes together and that they communicated more frequently, and collaborated on resolving their issues. Rudy’s declaration at the end seems too quick for a relationship that’s not fully developed because of so much distance.
Love is a recipe worth every effort.
As always, huge thanks to Kimberly Fish and to Lone Star Literary Life for the copy of the book to review.
Author Kimberly Fish resides in Longview, Texas, and enjoys writing contemporary fiction set in the Hill Country. During the seven years she lived in San Antonio, wandering in and around Comfort, Texas, provided endless space for her imagination to develop stories of women discovering their grit. She studied the small Texas town that had seemingly dug its heels into the limestone and refused modern development and thought that was fertile ground for stories about women remodeling their lives. It made a juxtaposition of place and purpose that was hard to ignore. Plus, anything that takes intentional effort has a much higher value than the things that come easily—Comfort personifies this, and the novels remind readers that anything worth having is worth the work.
Comfort Foods is the third full-length novel in the set, Fiction from the Texas Hill Country, and follows behind the award-winning novels Comfort Plans and Comfort Songs. A novella, Emeralds Mark the Spot, is available as a free eBook download to subscribers of the incredibly sporadic newsletter at kimberlyfish.com and is the original story from which all other Comfort novels grew.
ONCE UPON A MAIL ORDER BRIDE Outlaw Mail Order Brides, #4 by
Categories: Western / Historical Romance
Publisher: Sourcebooks Casablanca
Date of Publication: November 24, 2020
Number of Pages: 352 pages
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Accused of crimes he didn’t commit, ex-preacher Ridge Steele is forced to give up everything he knew and make his home with outlaws. Desperate for someone to confide in, he strikes up correspondence with mail-order bride Adeline Jancy, finding in her the open heart he’s been searching for. Upon her arrival, Ridge discovers Addie only communicates through the written word, but he knows a little of what trauma can do to a person and vows to stand by her side.
Addie is eager to start a new life with the kind ex-preacher and the little boy she’s stolen away from her father―a zealot priest of a terrorized flock. As her small family settles into life at Hope’s Crossing, she even begins to find the voice, and confidence, she’d lost so long ago.
But danger is not far behind, and her father will not be denied. While Addie desperately fights the man who destroyed her childhood, a determined Ridge races to the rescue. The star-crossed lovers will need more than prayers to survive this final challenge…and find their way back to each other again.
PRAISE FOR ONCE UPON A MAIL ORDER BRIDE:
“An awesome culmination to a great western romance series!”
~ Fresh Fiction
“Broday concludes the Outlaw Mail Order Bride series with a sizzling finale that features a tantalizingly slow build to intimate trust that catapults into adrenaline packed ardor.” ~Booklist
What a thoroughly satisfying conclusion to an action-packed and love-filled series! I’ve read and reviewed all of the Outlaw Mail Order Brides books these past two years and I can honestly say I’m going to miss the extraordinary citizens of Hope’s Crossing.
Ms. Broday has created some amazing characters in these books. These outlaws and their mail-order brides are not your typical heroes and heroines in romance. They’re ex-convicts, fugitives, thieves. They have blood on their hands. Yet, readers can’t help but root for them to have a fresh start, find love, build a family, belong to a community. They’re fighters, survivors, exemplifying the best of the old West. Even as I say goodbye to Clay and Tally, Jack and Nora, Tait and Melanie, and Ridge and Addie, I have hope that I’ll see them — and characters just like them — in future books by Ms. Broday.
Life is 10 percent made up of what happens to you. Everything else is how well you cope with the events. Don’t waste time being bitter. A mistake is not a life sentence. We learn, we grow, and we move on—hopefully as better people.
I’ve been waiting for Ridge’s story since Saving The Mail Order Bride and Once Upon a Mail Order Bride did not disappoint. This preacher-turned-outlaw’s back story is as fascinating as any of the others before him. So is Adeline’s. Their story consists of breathtaking action and slow fall into love. They not only try to escape from bounty hunters and vindictive fathers, but also from natural disasters. Ms. Broday spent a good bit of time having Ridge and Addie adjust to each other, gain each other’s trust, and develop their attraction to make their growing love believable. I’m happy that there’s neither instalove nor excessive push-and-pull.
There were updates on previous couples and storylines were tied up neatly, including those of minor characters and new people introduced to the community. A few of them might not have been necessary and could have been cut to tighten the story even more. While I didn’t agree with some of Ridge and Addie’s decisions and wasn’t entirely convinced with the about-face of some of the characters, I still really enjoyed this series-ender and recommend these books and other titles in Linda Broday’s backlist to lovers of historical western romance.
Huge thanks to Lone Star Lit and Ms. Broday for providing me with copies of these books I’m proud to display in my personal library.
I’m a New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of thirty historical western romance novels and short stories. I reside in the Texas Panhandle on land the American Indian and early cowboys once roamed, and at times if the breeze is just right, I can hear their voices whispering in the wind. Texas’s rich history is one reason I set all my stories here where cowboys still remain caretakers of the land. I’m inspired every day by their immense dedication and love for the wide-open spaces. I combine those men with the love of family in all my stories and hope to continue to give readers books that entertain and fulfill.
The Lone Star State doesn’t have to be lonely during Christmas time!
Legendary author Jodi Thomas headlines a new holiday-themed Western historical romance collection featuring three Texas-set stories of romance and adventure.
The Civil War is over, Christmas is coming—and it’s time for three rugged cowboys to hang-up their spurs and settle down. These authors combine their talents and excel at creating atmosphere and complex characters which infuse these stories with Texas history and evoke the grandeur of a bygone era and the indomitable pioneer spirit of the region.
Prepare to be swept off your feet by these heroic cowboys who will stop at nothing to make sure this Christmas is one to remember. Ideal for gift giving, The Cowboy Who Saved Christmas will be the fan-favorite collection of romance for the 2020 Christmas season!
PRAISE FOR THE COWBOY WHO SAVED CHRISTMAS:
“FATHER GOOSE is a warm, entertaining story, with Trapper and Emery starting with nothing, yet finding love and hoping for a future.” — Rose from Roses Are Blue
“It was a pitch-perfect reading experience that left my heart bursting with joy. This story has become an instant classic in my holiday reading canon.” — PJ Ausdenmore from The Romance Dish
“I love an anthology at this busy time of the year because I can read a complete story in a short time–this book hit the mark.”
Jodi Thomas is a New York Times bestselling author and fifth-generation Texan who sets many of her award-winning stories in her home state, where her grandmother was born in a covered wagon. A multi-RITA Award winner and member of the prestigious Romance Writers of America Hall of Fame, she’s written over 50 novels with millions of copies in print. Her most recent releases are The Little Tea Shop on Main and the first book in her new Honey Creek series, Breakfast at the Honey Creek Café, which is out now.
KAREN WITEMEYER, REGINA JENNINGS, AMANDA DYKES, and NICOLE DEESE
Genre: Christian / Romance / Anthology Publisher: Bethany House Date of Publication: October 13, 2020 Number of Pages: 400
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In this Texas-sized romance novella collection, courting couples, decades apart, leave a permanent mark of their love by carving their initials into the same oak’s bark.
Regina Jennings: “Broken Limbs, Mended Hearts” When a young man from her past returns and upends their small town with a new invention, schoolteacher Bella Eden is reminded of the heartbreak she suffered years ago under the old oak tree. When her job is on the line, can she trust the man who disrupted her life to help her fight for a brighter future?
Karen Witemeyer: “Inn for a Surprise” Determined to keep love alive for others, Phoebe Woodward builds an inn that caters to couples. When her father sends a property manager to help make it a success, she finds her whimsical vision thwarted by his stodgy practicality. Finding the right blend of romance and reality is a challenge, and her spinster heart may be in for a surprise.
Amanda Dykes: “From Roots to Sky” WWII airman Luke Hampstead found comfort in letters from the sister of a lost compatriot. When he visits Texas to thank her, he discovers her constructing a project with surprising ties to his letters . . . and that she herself is even more surprising. While a promising opportunity awaits him elsewhere, will what they’ve shared be enough to give their future flight?
Nicole Deese: “Heartwood” Abby Brookshire’s world is turned upside down when the historic tree she’s strived to preserve as the head groundskeeper at the Kissing Tree Inn is put in danger of removal. Making matters worse, the only way to protect its legacy is to partner with the man she’s been ignoring since he left town years ago. Will she have the courage to move on from the past and start a new beginning?
With its four delightful, heartwarming, and romantic novellas, The Kissing Tree is one of my favorite books of 2020. Easily in the Top 20 of the 160 titles I’ve read so far.
Four excellent stories of love spanning generations. Three historical, one contemporary. One special tree at the center of them all. Related storylines, seamless integration of elements from one story to the next, cohesive execution. Each time I finished a story, I’d say it was my favorite. In the end, I couldn’t pick one. I choose all four.
Broken Limbs, Mended Heart by Regina Jennings tells the story of how the stately live oak in Oak Springs, Texas became The Kissing Tree through Bella Eden and Adam Fisher. The pairing of schoolteacher and modern farmer is something I don’t read often and I’m long past the point of being able to relate to characters in their early 20s, but this sweet story appealed to me because Ms. Jennings created a lovely tale of young dreams being fulfilled and of a community coming together to welcome an innovation after initial skepticism.
Inn For a Surprise by Karen Witemeyer had me laughing with the rivalry between romantic innkeeper-wannabe Phoebe Woodward and practical self-made businessman Barnabas Ackerly. I love their conversations and the way their contest showed them how well they complement each other’s styles. Opposites do attract and with parental matchmaking at work, these two have their happily-ever-after. Barnabas’ nicknames for the inn are some of the highlights of this story. I also like the cameo of Bella and Adam from the first story to establish continuity.
Phoebe’s line really resonated with me: “I refuse to settle for anything other than soul-stirring, fully reciprocated love.”
From Roots to Sky by Amanda Dykes is both light and deep. I always have a soft spot for military romance and this story of pilot Luke Hampstead and Hannah Garland, the woman he’s been corresponding with, induced me to both laughter and tears. Hannah’s vibrant personality matched Luke’s quiet steadfastness perfectly. As in the previous story, I love it when the couple works together to achieve a common goal. This time, on building the cottage inspired by Danny’s letters and Luke’s drawings from Europe.
Heartwood by Nicole Deese gutted me. The only contemporary story of the collection, this second-chance romance between Abby Brookshire and Griffin Malone is the most relatable to me. Like Abby, I too lost my father to illness and that letter she wrote him had me bawling. While tears-inducing, this story managed to also have light moments and it ends the series on the right note. That of hope and strength in community and love.
This is one of my favorite quotes- “When things feel completely out of my control, my options become very simple: I can either tighten my grip and hang on no matter how much that hold might hurt myself or others, or I can open my fist and trust in a process much bigger than myself … and let go.”
The stories have an awesome sense of place. I actually looked up “Oak Springs, Texas” and “The Kissing Tree, Texas” on the internet with the intention of visiting them when it’s safe to travel once more. Alas, they’re only in the imagination of four talented authors.
Thanks to Lone Star Lit and Bethany House for giving me an early copy to review this wonderful book.
Regina Jennings is a graduate of Oklahoma Baptist University, with a degree in English and a minor in history. She’s the winner of the National Readers’ Choice Award, a two-time Golden Quill finalist, and a finalist for the Oklahoma Book of the Year Award. Regina has worked at the Mustang News and at First Baptist Church of Mustang, along with time at the Oklahoma National Stockyards and various livestock shows. She lives outside of Oklahoma City with her husband and four children.
Voted #1 Reader’s Favorite Christian Romance Author of 2019 by Family Fiction Magazine, bestselling author Karen Witemeyer offers warmhearted historical romance with a flair for humor, feisty heroines, and swoon-worthy Texas heroes. She makes her home in Abilene, Texas, with her husband and three children.
Amanda Dykes is a drinker of tea, dweller of redemption, and spinner of hope-filled tales who spends most days chasing wonder and words with her family. She’s a former English teacher and the author of Whose Waves These Are, a Booklist 2019 Top Ten Romance debut, as well as three novellas.
Nicole Deese’s eight humorous, heartfelt, and hope-filled novels include the 2017 Carol Award-winning A Season to Love. Her 2018 release, A New Shade of Summer, was a finalist in the RITA Awards, Carol Awards, and INSPY Awards. Both of these books are from her bestselling Love in Lenox series. When she’s not working on her next contemporary romance, she can usually be found reading one by a window overlooking the inspiring beauty of the Pacific Northwest. She lives in small-town Idaho with her happily-ever-after hubby, two rambunctious sons, and princess daughter with the heart of a warrior.
Publisher: Parliament House Press Publication date: 29 September 2020 Genres: New Adult, Fantasy, Folklore
When Marcella Leones relocates her family of aswang vampires from the Philippines to Portland, Oregon, she raises her grandchildren under strict rules so humans will not expose them. Her only wish is to give them a peaceful life, far away from the hunters and the Filipino government that attempted to exterminate them.
Before she dies, she passes on the power to her eldest grandchild, Percival. He vows to uphold the rules set forth by Leones, allowing his family to roam freely without notice. After all, they are aswangs.
However, when the aswang covenant is broken, the murder rate in Portland rises drastically. Who is behind the murders? And who is behind the broken covenant? Along with sensie Penelope Jane, Percival must find the truth.
It’s then they discover that there are other breeds of aswangs—werebeasts, witches, ghouls, and viscera—who have been residing in Portland for years.
Based on Filipino folklore (aswang), “Vampires of Portlandia” is a fantastical tale of different monsters coexisting in the weirdest city in America.
Jason Tanamor is the critically acclaimed author of the novels “Anonymous” and “Drama Dolls.” His new novel “Vampires of Portlandia” is a NA urban fantasy about Filipino folklore – aswang. His writings have appeared in more than 250 publications. He’s interviewed personalities such as Billy Corgan (Smashing Pumpkins), Pete Rose, and Dane Cook, and has covered U.S. President Barack Obama. Tanamor currently lives and works in the Portland, Oregon area.
This book has an intriguing premise that excited me when I first heard about it. The aswang supernatural creatures have been staples of Filipino folklore for ages and a story of them being present here in the US is an endeavor I like to support.
In Vampires of Portlandia, a family of vampires settles in Portland after a narrow escape from being killed by an hunter and a manananggal (viscera) in the Philippines. Ten years later, the head vampire Marcella Leones is dying and has to pass on the power to her eldest grandson Percival. A huge problem is that aside from some rules she imposed on her four grandchildren, Marcella never told them anything about their powers and responsibilities. Nothing about the existence of other aswang beings (werebeasts, witches, ghouls, viscera), nothing about the covenant that governs their behavior, and nothing about their kind being the supposed leader. So when other creatures are preying on the homeless and one of his siblings breaks the covenant, Percival is overwhelmed with no recourse other than to surrender the amulet that gives him his power and ultimately, sacrifice his life.
I don’t know how many more revisions the book underwent after I received it, but it was severely unpolished and could have gone through more developmental and copy editing. The world building was inadequate, the device of breaking the fourth wall should have been deleted, the nouns used to refer to the same person were confusing, some of the information about the Philippines were incorrect, the plot holes were too numerous, and the characters needed more fleshing out.
I wish I liked it better, but I can only give it three stars. I appreciate the effort to bring the Filipino culture into the American publishing mainstream. The book was easy to read with its use of simple language and it’s also quite diverse with the inclusion of multiethnic characters and LGBTQ romantic subplot.
I received an Advanced Reader’s Copy of this book from the publisher and Caffeine Book Tours as part of my participation in their tour.