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The Last Way Home

Liz Johnson. Revell, $15.99 trade paper (352p) ISBN 978-0-8007-3738-2

The uplifting second entry in Johnson’s Prince Edward Island Shores series (after Beyond the Tides) follows a prodigal son as he tries to make amends with his family. Eli Ross returns to Victoria, Canada, after his 11-year stint in the NHL ends in scandal. He wants to make up for losing touch with his mother and brothers, but the consequences of the shady dealings that got him ousted from the league follow him home. Violet Donaghy, the protégé of Eli’s mother and a partner in her pottery shop, remains wary of Eli because of the anguish he caused his mother, though Violet carries secrets of her own that close her off from others. After an electrical fire nearly destroys the pottery shop, Violet reluctantly agrees to let Eli help rebuild and sell the remaining inventory to cover repair bills. As the two grow closer, they confide in each other and realize that God is “not afraid of your jagged edges.” The secrets that Eli and Violet carry lead to deeply affecting moments of confession and heartache, and the chemistry between the couple makes this hard to put down. This testament to the power of family and God’s forgiveness will have readers eager to see what Johnson does next. (Aug.)

Reviewed on 06/10/2022 | Details & Permalink

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Off the Chain

Janice Thompson. Barbour, $14.99 trade paper (256p) ISBN 978-1-63609-313-0

Thompson (Mismatched in Texas) kicks off the Gone to the Dogs series with a fun, lighthearted cozy. Veterinary technician Marigold Evans has long dreamed of opening a rescue dog shelter, so when she happens upon a puppy in a drainage pipe, she takes it as a sign from God that she should keep pursuing her dream. Meanwhile, someone vandalizes the veterinarian’s office she works at. Suspects abound, including a coworker’s ex-boyfriend, a woman suing the practice over the death of her dog, a disgruntled out-of-work veterinarian, and the cantankerous accountant who works next door. As Marigold investigates and rules out suspects, she realizes that she may have feelings for Parker, a fellow vet tech who’s always willing to lend Marigold a hand when she responds to calls about dogs in need. This feel-good story balances mystery and romance with a humorous touch and a cast of endearing characters. Dog lovers will find this a treat. (July)

Reviewed on 06/10/2022 | Details & Permalink

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Crossfire

Lynette Eason. Revell, $16.99 trade paper (320p) ISBN 978-0-8007-3735-1

The hair-raising second installment of Eason’s Extreme Measures series (after Life Flight) pits a hostage negotiator against an unhinged killer. After three assailants take a Charlotte, N.C., courtroom captive, FBI negotiator Julianna Jameson saves the hostages with the help of Clay Fox, a former Army Ranger whose sister, Reese, was among the hostages and sent him intel from inside the building. Julianna takes a liking to Clay, and they go out for a meal with Reese and Julianna’s teenage sister, Dottie, after the incident. A week later, a copycat holds up a bank and asks for Julianna by name to lead negotiations, causing Julianna to suspect the culprit might be a figure from her past. The perpetrator escapes, but not before killing several hostages, leading Julianna and Clay on a cat-and-mouse chase that compels Julianna to lean on her faith and lands Dottie in the killer’s crosshairs. In between the action, Julianna discusses her views on God with Clay and helps him to rediscover his Christian faith, which he has doubted since he mistakenly killed a fellow U.S. soldier while posted in Afghanistan. Expertly plotted and relentlessly paced, the narrative drives home its message that “God is there to get us through whatever we have to face.” This high-octane thriller keeps up the momentum through the final page. (Aug.)

Reviewed on 06/10/2022 | Details & Permalink

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Love Blooms in Morning Star

Charlotte Hubbard. Zebra, $8.99 mass market (368p) ISBN 978-1-4201-5184-8

The satisfying fourth entry in Hubbard’s Maidels of Morning Star series (after Christmas Comes to Morning Star) follows a mother compelled to reckon with her past after her daughter gets engaged. Jo Fussner, a young Amish woman, is thrilled when Michael Wengerd proposes to her, but her mother, Drusilla, remains bitterly opposed, haunted by the abuse she suffered from her late husband, Joe, and fearful that Jo will have to endure a similarly grueling marriage. Michael’s widowed father, Nelson, has taken a liking to Drusilla despite her coldness toward him, and he prays for God to help him find the right words to assuage her anxieties about Jo’s relationship with Michael. Meanwhile, the community’s leadership questions whether married women should be allowed to continue working at the Amish marketplace that Jo helped establish. Jo announces that she’s still single and intends to continue leading the market, causing Michael to think she no longer wants him and imperiling their future together, as well as Nelson’s relationship with Drusilla. Readers will be bewildered by the insinuation during a pivotal scene that it’s Drusilla’s “attitude or expectations that need adjusting” regarding Joe forcing himself on her, souring an otherwise heartening portrait of overcoming trauma with faith. Overall, Amish inspirational fans will enjoy this story of forgiveness and new beginnings. (Aug.)

Reviewed on 06/10/2022 | Details & Permalink

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Love and the Dream Come True

Tammy L. Gray. Bethany House, $15.99 trade paper (384p) ISBN 978-0-7642-3593-1

The endearing third entry in Gray’s State of Grace series (after Love and the Silver Lining) follows a struggling musician as he rediscovers his faith and falls for a childhood acquaintance. Rock singer Cameron Lee, plagued by panic attacks and writer’s block, returns to his Texas hometown for his sister Cassie’s wedding. There, he reconnects with Cassie’s friend Lexie Walters, a superfan of his, and finds himself drawn to her irrepressible positivity. Meanwhile, Cameron discovers that his band’s most famous song—written by his former bandmate, Bryson, who quit before the group found success and married Cameron’s crush Darcy—is an ode to the man who introduced Bryson to Christ, not a love song for Darcy, as Cameron had long assumed. He also learns what true love feels like while falling for Lexie and realizes he had only loved Darcy as a friend. These twin revelations clear Cameron’s mental block and lead him back to his music and faith. Cameron and Lexie’s chemistry is palpable, and readers will root for their happily ever after. This tender tale hits all the right notes. (Aug.)

Reviewed on 05/20/2022 | Details & Permalink

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Deception

Patricia Bradley. Revell, $15.99 trade paper (400p) ISBN 978-0-8007-3576-0

A woman’s life is turned upside down after she comes face-to-face with her look-alike in the electrifying fourth installment of Bradley’s Natchez Trace Park Rangers series (after Crosshairs). National Park Service Ranger Madison Thorn, searching for a fresh start after killing her double-crossing partner/boyfriend in self-defense, travels to Natchez, Miss., to look into a possible theft and kickback scheme. While there, she runs into her childhood nemesis Clayton Bradshaw, now a law enforcement ranger, when he pulls her over for speeding. Later, Madison visits her grandfather who lives nearby, but he acts distant and strange during dinner. After Madison’s colleague calls her with the news that Clayton brought an unconscious woman who looks exactly like her to the hospital with a gunshot wound, she goes to the hospital to check this out. Once there, she receives another call saying her grandfather has been shot and is in critical condition. As Madison and Clayton team up to figure out the identities of Madison’s doppelgänger and her grandfather’s shooter, Clayton starts to suspect that Madison might be the woman he’s been asking God for. Clayton’s message of forgiveness rooted in God’s mercy adds poignancy, especially his conversations with Madison about forgiving her ex-partner’s betrayal. The enthralling blend of romance and suspense will resonate with inspirational fans. Agent: Julie Gwinn, Seymour Agency. (Aug.)

Reviewed on 05/20/2022 | Details & Permalink

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Edge of Dusk

Colleen Coble. Thomas Nelson, $18.99 trade paperback (352p) ISBN 978-0-7852-5370-9

A law enforcement ranger investigates a cold case and searches for her kidnapped sister in this exciting series launch from Coble (A Stranger’s Game). Annie Pederson was nine years old when her younger sister Laura was kidnapped from the pier on Tremolo Island, Mich. Twenty-four years later, Annie works as a ranger and runs the Tremolo Marina and Cabin Resort, but in her spare time she continues to search for Laura. When Annie learns that her ex-fiancé, Jon Dunstan, has come back to town to care for his ailing father, she and Jon cautiously rekindle their romance. Then Annie discovers the bodies of two women who vanished nine years ago stashed in an old cabin on her property. Jon was the last person known to have seen the women before they disappeared and the recovery of their corpses stirs up old suspicions against him. Annie, convinced of Jon’s innocence, joins forces with him to investigate the murders, all while heeding signs from God to make peace with Laura’s disappearance. Coble expertly balances mounting tension from the murder investigation with the romantic tension between Annie and Jon. This fresh, addictive mystery delivers thrills, compassion, and hope. Agent: Karen Solem, Spencerhill Assoc. (July)

Reviewed on 05/20/2022 | Details & Permalink

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Fields of Fire

Ryan Steck. Tyndale House, $25.99 (416p) ISBN 978-1-4964-6286-2

A former Marine investigates the death of his adoptive father in Steck’s strong debut. While on a joyride in California, Marine raider Matthew Redd stops to help a woman with a flat tire and they go back to her place. The next thing he remembers, a day has passed and he’s getting arrested for allegedly leaking information about a mission in Mexico that led to the death of his entire team. After accepting a dishonorable discharge, he receives a voice mail from his adoptive father, J.B., about needing help back in Montana, but when Redd arrives he discovers J.B. has died under suspicious circumstances. As Redd investigates, he comes under pressure to sell J.B.’s property to his neighbor Wyatt Gage, a tech-billionaire’s son, but Redd refuses and Gage’s tactics become increasingly violent. A visit from Redd’s biological father, an FBI agent, helps Redd see that J.B.’s death might be related to the mission that killed Redd’s team, suggesting a greater threat than he had imagined. Meanwhile, Redd reconnects with an old flame whose father, a minister, quietly steers Redd toward the path to God. The suave yet vulnerable lead and propulsive narrative will keep readers hooked. This is an auspicious start for Steck. (Aug.)

Reviewed on 05/06/2022 | Details & Permalink

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The Deadly Shallows

Dani Pettrey. Bethany House, $15.99 trade paper (400p) ISBN 978-0-7642-3086-8

Two Coast Guard members struggle with their feelings for each other as they track down the mastermind behind a deadly attack on their base in the pulse-pounding third entry in Pettrey’s Coastal Guardians series (after The Crushing Depths). After assailants open fire on a Coast Guard graduation ceremony, wounded agent Noah Rowley turns his hospital room into a command center as he uses his God-given “instinct for solving crimes” to investigate the shooting. He has feelings for flight medic Brooke Kesler, but before he gets the chance to tell her, the attackers’ comrades kidnap Brooke to make sure she doesn’t share any incriminating information she may have learned while treating the sole shooter to survive the attack. Noah prays for her safe return and she escapes, but it’s not long before her abductors come back to finish what they started. Meanwhile, the investigation turns up clues that suggest the shooting may have been a cover-up for a far more nefarious scheme. Pettrey masterfully balances Noah and Brooke’s burgeoning relationship with the unraveling of the tightly plotted mystery. Fans of Lynette Eason and DiAnn Mills will enjoy this. Agent: Janet Kobobel Grant, Books & Such Literary Agency. (July)

Reviewed on 05/06/2022 | Details & Permalink

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Heirlooms

Sandra Byrd. Tyndale House, $25.99 (480p) ISBN 978-1-4964-2687-1

Four women discover that family comes in many forms in this gorgeous saga from Byrd (Lady of a Thousand Treasures). In 1958, Helen Devries, the widow of a Navy lieutenant, receives an unexpected call from Choi Eunhee, who says her recently deceased husband had been good friends with Helen’s husband and that she’s fallen on hard times, facing prejudice surrounding the spread of the “Asian flu.” Helen impulsively invites Eunhee to move in with her and they become fast friends, sharing secrets, traditions, and dreams as they restore Helen’s farmhouse, plant a garden, and prepare for the arrival of Eunhee’s baby. When tragedy strikes, they lean on their Christian faith to help them endure. In the present day, Helen nears death and asks her granddaughter, Cassidy Quinn, to sort through her belongings with Grace Kim, Cassidy’s best friend and Eunhee’s granddaughter. They discover a chest in the attic containing clues to their grandmothers’ past, revealing secrets that have remained hidden for decades. Lush and vivid prose brings the setting to life (“The white-petaled daisies and their cousins, fainting gerberas, competed in the midsummer beauty pageant for the nearby bachelor’s buttons’ affections”), and Helen and Eunhee’s friendship will melt hearts. This is a gem. (July)

Reviewed on 05/06/2022 | Details & Permalink

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