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The Rebel Bride

Shannon McNear. Barbour, $12.99 trade paper (256p) ISBN 978-1-64-352240-1

McNear’s poignant second book in the multiauthor Daughters of the Mayflower series (after The Cumberland Bride) centers on an industrious nurse working near Chattanooga, Tenn., during the Civil War. After homes are conscripted for the care of wounded prisoners of war, Josh Wheeler, an injured Union soldier, is brought to Pearl McFarland’s farm. Pearl finds nursing the seriously ill and maimed enemy soldiers to be a daunting task, made even more formidable by limited food and medical supplies. To add to Pearl’s load, her widowed father has delusional spells; her three older brothers are presumed dead, and her younger brother, Clem, often disappears. Pearl receives assistance from Portius, a free black man who outwardly supports the Rebel cause, and Lydia, her brother’s common-law wife, forming a formidable medical unit. As Josh heals, he tries to help the trio of caregivers and soon becomes enamored by Pearl’s compassion and faith. In the midst of death and destruction, the pair question whether love can bridge the gap between North and South, or if their divided loyalties will keep them forever apart. McNear does a fine job of depicting the uneasiness of those who begin to comprehend the true nature of their lost cause, adding an emotional dimension to this hope-filled tale. Agent: Tamela Hancock Murray, The Steve Laube Agency (Dec.)

Reviewed on 10/25/2019 | Details & Permalink

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The Bridge to Belle Island

Julie Klassen. Bethany House, $15.99 trade paper (400p) ISBN 978-0-76-421819-4

A lawyer and the prime suspect in a murder investigation come to trust one another in this gratifying romance from Klassen (The Tutor’s Daughter) set in 19th-century London. Benjamin Booker is a promising young lawyer, until his reputation in the eyes of his partners is bruised by an untrustworthy woman he unsuccessfully defended in court against charges of bigamy. Afraid that he hurt his firm’s reputation (along with his own), he is pleased when his mentor and firm partner, Robert Hardy, sends him to Belle Island to investigate Isabelle Wilder in connection with the murder of a retired firm partner, believing the police are botching the investigation. Ben thinks Isabelle had reason to kill her uncle Percy, who was trustee for her estate, but he discovers that Isabelle is not the only one with motive for killing the miserly old man. As Ben gets to know Isabelle, he becomes convinced of her innocence, but, afraid to be deceived by a beautiful woman yet again, Ben continues searching for the truth, even if it means discovering the woman he is beginning to care for may not be all she seems. With its subtle faith elements, Klassen’s evocative romance will appeal to fans of Jody Hedlund. Agent: Wendy Lawton, Books & Such. (Dec.)

Reviewed on 10/25/2019 | Details & Permalink

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Abraham

Jennifer Beckstrand. Kensington, $7.99 mass market (304p) ISBN 978-1-4201-4772-8

The second, moving title of Beckstrand’s Petersheim Brothers series (following Andrew) features nine-year-old mischievous Amish twins Alfie and Benji, who are determined to marry off their older brothers. The pair brainstorm ways to get shy Abraham to fall in love with their pretty, popular neighbor, Emma, and when the twins discover a stray dog, they come up with a scheme to set up the older pair—since Emma raises chickens and Abraham wants to become an Amish veterinarian. Emma finds what she assumes is evidence that the boys’ adopted dog has been raiding her chicken coop, and Abraham agrees to discipline the twins. From this incident, he and Emma form a friendship based on their shared love of animals. However, Emma’s potential interest in other suitors and Abraham’s lack of confidence threaten their blossoming relationship. It’s not ruining anything to say that all ends well as Emma and Abraham realize their true feelings for each other and grow in personal character. This is an endearing romance that fans of Wanda Brunstetter will love. (Dec.)

Reviewed on 10/25/2019 | Details & Permalink

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The Major’s Daughter

Regina Jennings. Bethany House, $15.99 trade paper (336p) ISBN 978-0-7642-1895-8

Jennings (The Lieutenant’s Bargain) returns to 1889 Oklahoma Territory in this excellent third installment to the Fort Reno series. When President Harrison signs an order opening up 3,000 square miles of prairie to homesteaders, 21-year-old Caroline Adams is determined to get her own piece of land. Frisco Smith, a roguish frontiersman turned lawyer, has his own plans and has already divvied up plots in a town he plans to settle. After Caroline stakes her claim near Frisco’s proposed site, she discovers that the land already has a garden and a house. Frisco, who was a “boomer” working this plot of land, is unable to legally contest Caroline’s claim. He instead and goes to work defending settlers’ rights, but remains determined to get Caroline to switch claims. As the pair spend more time together trying to settle the ownership claim, Frisco falls in love with more than Caroline’s land. Caroline, meanwhile, seeks the solace of God’s word as she struggles with loneliness on the prairie and with trying to resolve things with Frisco. Fans of Tracie Peterson will enjoy Jennings’s fine romance that mines the adventure and challenges of life in the Old West. (Dec.)

Reviewed on 10/25/2019 | Details & Permalink

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The Piper’s Pursuit

Melanie Dickerson. Thomas Nelson, $18.99 trade paper (320p) ISBN 978-0-7852-2814-1

Christy Award–winner Dickerson (The Merchant’s Daughter) reimagines the Pied Piper story in this excellent installment to her Hagenheim series, set in 1424 in the German region of the Holy Roman Empire. Katerina, a fiercely private and emotionally guarded warrior-maiden, is determined to protect her townspeople from the evildoings of her stepfather, the town mayor. When the children of the town start going missing and are presumed to be victims of the Beast of Hamlin, the mayor offers Katerina’s hand in marriage to anyone who can kill the beast. Katerina, determined to escape from her stepfather, vows to kill the beast herself. She meets handsome but arrogant Steffan, one of the sons of the Duke of Hagenheim, who is intent on winning the prize The two become reluctant partners in their quest, and, along the way, they realize their shared values and learn to trust each other. Both discover that freedom lies in forgiving themselves and in renouncing pride and surrendering control to God. Biblical themes will resonate with Christian readers, and discussion questions that will be of great use to book clubs are also included. Dickerson brings together faith, historical nuance, and a poignant romance to make a strong saga. (Nov.)

Reviewed on 10/18/2019 | Details & Permalink

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Echoes Among the Stones

Jaime Jo Wright. Bethany House, $15.99 trade paper (384p) ISBN 978-0-7642-3388-3

A decades-old murder case brings together a grandmother and granddaughter in this excellent inspirational mystery from Wright (The House on Foster Hill). Imogene Grayson discovered her sister, Hazel, murdered in their attic in 1946 and has devoted her life to finding justice. Seventy years later, and no closer to knowing the truth, Imogene is a grumpy nonagenarian who’s never gotten over the loss of her beloved sister. Imogene’s granddaughter, Aggie Dunkirk, receives a letter from Imogene requesting a visit while she recovers from a broken hip. Grudgingly, Aggie complies, only to discover that Imogene has lied about her broken hip to gain Aggie’s sympathy, there is a skeleton in her backyard, and she has a disturbing dollhouse that appears to be a recreation of a murder scene. In sections set in the mid-century, Imogene begins her investigation which quickly goes cold. In sections set in the present, Aggie takes a job restoring a flooded cemetery with handsome archaeologist Collin O’Shaughnessy. Together they discover secrets among the graves, along with roses with messages written on the petals. They soon realize someone wants them to stay away from the grave of Hazel Grayson, and when Aggie makes the connection to her grandmother, she dives fully into solving the mystery of Hazel’s murder. Wright eloquently weaves in Imogene’s faith and belief in redemption, and the prose easily jumps between the two eras as Aggie gets closer to the truth. Fans of Terri Blackstock will love this. Agent: Janet Kobobel, Books & Such (Dec.)

Reviewed on 10/11/2019 | Details & Permalink

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The Dating Charade

Melissa Ferguson. Thomas Nelson, $15.99 trade paper (336p) ISBN 978-0-7852-3100-4

Ferguson’s delightful debut follows a first date that turns quickly into a childcare quagmire. After yet another date with a man who forgot to mention he was married, 33-year-old Cassie Everson gives up on dating and focuses on her work at Girl Haven, a center for disadvantaged teen girls. Firefighter Jett Bentley has had a crush on Cassie since high school. After Cassie’s best friend, Bree, goes into Cassie’s dating app to set up a date with Jett, Cassie doesn’t even give Jett a chance. Undeterred, Bree and Jett conspire to create a surprise that hard-to-please Cassie can’t help loving. But after the dreamy date, both their nights take a sudden turn. Cassie has to intervene when one of her Haven girls, Star, along with Star’s two sisters, is threatened with being taken into foster care. Meanwhile, Jett is surprised when his sister, Trina, shows up with her twins and a new baby—and then disappears. Since both Jett and Cassie had told each other they weren’t ready to take care of children, each resorts, in a somewhat confusing plot twist, to shenanigans and misdirection to hide the fact that they are caring for children. While light on faith elements for inspirational fiction, Ferguson’s humorous and chaotic tale will please rom-com fans. (Dec.)

Reviewed on 10/11/2019 | Details & Permalink

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Remember Me: A Novella about Finding Our Way to the Cross

Sharon Garlough Brown. IVP, $20 (144p) ISBN 978-0-8308-4670-2

Brown follows up Shades of Light with this pleasing novella that continues the story of Wren Crawford and Kit Rhodes, who first met at New Hope Retreat Center in rural Michigan. Wren is still overcoming depression and grief after the death of her friend Casey. She gets help from Kit, director of New Hope, who has been a comfort throughout Wren’s recovery. But as Kit helps Wren, Kit’s own emotional wounds reopen, though she’d thought they were long since dealt with. Through a series of faith-filled letters to Wren, Kit reflects on her past, including a difficult divorce and the quick remarriage of her ex-husband. Wren, meanwhile, works through her grief and finds some happiness in the paintings she makes for New Hope’s Journey to the Cross prayer walk. Through Kit’s letters and Wren’s paintings—rendered in colorful prints by artist Elizabeth Ivy Hawkins—the characters’ quiet battles to overcome trauma become outlets for opening themselves to God’s love. Brown’s stirring tale also comes with a Journey to the Cross reflection guide, making this perfect for Christians who appreciate stories that dive deeply into scripture. (Dec.)

Reviewed on 10/11/2019 | Details & Permalink

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Hearts Set Free

Jess Lederman. Azure Star, $14.95 trade paper (398p) ISBN 978-0-9986-0301-8

Lederman’s powerful debut interlaces three stories that span nearly a century and are tied together by a church of outcasts in Las Vegas. Luke Noongwook and his mother, Yura, leave the Alaskan territory in 1925 to search for Luke’s father, who left his family for a beautiful woman that Yura vows to kill. Earlier, during the height of WWI, boxer and bible school dropout David Gold struggles with deep questions about God and about what God wants of him. After a bout, he is recruited by a prostitute to be the head pastor of the Church of the Heart Set Free in Las Vegas. In that position he preaches to a diverse cast of repentant sinners and, years later, meets Luke and Yura and offers to teach them about God. In 2011, television producer Tim Faber and his lover, Joan Reed, head to Las Vegas to interview the elderly Luke for a story. Tim puts his faith in science rather than God, but his search for pleasure in sin city leaves him questioning matters of the soul. Meanwhile, Joan rediscovers the faith of her youth after speaking with Luke. While it can be a challenge to keep track of the many supporting characters, Lederman smoothly weds each of the three plotlines through the Church of the Heart Set Free. Readers of inspirational fiction will love this moving story that affirms the power of God’s mercy. (Self-published.)

Reviewed on 10/11/2019 | Details & Permalink

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The More the Merrier: An Amish Christmas Romance

Linda Byler. Good Books, $14.99 trade paper (208p) ISBN 978-1-680994704

Byler (Home is Where the Heart Is) once again relies on her Amish heritage to bring rural Pennsylvania to life in this fine love story. Annie Miller is an Amish widow raising eight children during the Great Depression. The family sells their milk and eggs and lives on mush and coffee soup because Annie is too proud to ask the church for help. Then their barn catches fire and Daniel Beiler, who happens to be passing by on his buggy, notices the smoke and comes to the rescue. Afterward, Beiler, an amish widower, returns to his six children, and, unable to get Annie out of his mind, he boldly writes her and asks to begin a relationship. After months of indecision, Annie finally agrees. The chemistry develops quickly, and Daniel and Annie marry; however, combining their households is not as easy as simply moving into Daniel’s much larger farm. Ever hopeful, Annie is convinced things will get better and works to integrate the large, eclectic family filled with contrasting personalities. Byler spends a great deal of time describing tasks and less on character development, often leaving readers in the dark as to why her characters act as they do. This quiet romance moves swiftly to a resolution and will appeal to fans of Wanda Brunstetter. (Nov.)

Reviewed on 09/27/2019 | Details & Permalink

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