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Make You Feel My Love

Robin Lee Hatcher. Thomas Nelson, $16.99 trade paper (320p) ISBN 978-0-7852-4140-9

In Hatcher’s plodding latest (after How Sweet It Is), two people with painful pasts help each other recover. Chelsea Spencer arrives in a small Idaho town to help her injured aunt, Rosemary, take care of her antiques shop. She’s also fleeing an abusive and controlling ex-boyfriend, whose treatment of her recalls abuse by her controlling father. Her only comfort is praying for answers about how to move forward. Meanwhile, actor Liam Chandler is settling into a cabin on the edge of town, grappling with the death of his brother, and questioning God’s plan for him. When the two meet and a mutual attraction grows, Chelsea is hesitant to get involved. But after Chelsea finds a violin belonging to one of Liam’s ancestors, the two begin working together to learn about the Chandler family’s history in the area. They unearth the story of Cora, the owner of the violin who fled to the town in the late 1800s to escape her controlling father and his demand for Cora to marry a strategically selected wealthy suitor. Unfortunately, segments hopscotching between Chelsea, Liam, Cora, another of Liam’s ancestors, and Liam’s journal make for confusing reading. Liam and Chelsea’s relationships with their faith and each other are the narrative’s heart, meanwhile, but the many ruminations bog down the plot. Fans of contemporary inspirationals will be disappointed. (July)

Reviewed on 05/21/2021 | Details & Permalink

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The Barrister and the Letter of Marque

Todd M. Johnson. Bethany House, $15.99 trade paper (384p) ISBN 978-0-7642-1236-9

Johnson debuts with a tense story of powerful interests teaming up to thwart a legal challenge in Georgian-era England. Barrister William Snopes, a seasoned advocate for the underprivileged of London, takes on the case of Captain Harold Tuttle and his cousin, Lady Madeleine Jameson, who employed the captain to pilfer the cargo of French ships in the Indian Sea under the legal protection of a letter of marque. But with the letter missing, Tuttle is arrested for piracy when he arrives in London, and his goods are seized. As those close to the monarchy push to convict him, Tuttle faces the gallows unless Snopes can prove his innocence. Snopes and Madeleine work to delay the trial while trying to convince witnesses to testify to a conspiracy to steal the letter of marque that reaches to the highest echelons of power. Johnson steeps his story in legal maneuvering, layers of intrigue, midnight chases, and even a hint of romance. While faith elements are subtle, this enthralling novel will appeal to fans of both legal thrillers and historical inspirationals. (Aug.)

Reviewed on 05/21/2021 | Details & Permalink

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The Chase

Lisa Harris. Revell, $15.99 trade paper (320p) ISBN 978-0-8007-3731-3

The adrenaline-fueled second installment of Harris’s U.S. Marshals series (after Escape) centers on a series of Seattle bank robberies. It’s deputy U.S. marshal Madison James’s first day back at work after recovering from being shot, and she’s assigned a case with her partner Jonas Quinn to investigate a group of bank robbers. The only clues they have are a partial fingerprint and eyewitness accounts. When Madison and Jonas respond to a bank robbery in progress, the suspects create a diversion and lose themselves in a crowd of bank hostages. But Madison and Jonas pick up their trail and follow the suspects from one hostage situation to another as they keep miraculously slipping away. When someone breaks into Madison’s home, she is thrust back into the trauma of being shot and the unsolved murder of her husband. As Madison and Jonas pursue the suspects, they admit their growing attraction to each other and must decide whether to risk their partnership for the chance of love. While faith elements are light, this whirlwind fast-paced chase will please fans of Terri Blackstock. (July)

Reviewed on 05/21/2021 | Details & Permalink

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An Amish Schoolroom: Three Stories

Amy Clipston, Kathleen Fuller, and Shelley Shepard Gray. Zondervan, $15.99 trade paper (336p) ISBN 978-0-3103-6582-2

Clipston (The Bake Shop), Fuller (Treasuring Emma), and Gray (An Amish Surprise) deliver three wholesome romances about Amish teachers. In Clipston’s “A Class for Laurel,” Laurel Weaver travels from Pennsylvania to a small community in Colorado to become a schoolteacher. She rents a cottage and meets the owners’ handsome son, Glen. As the two develop a friendship, their mutual attraction grows, much to the consternation of Glen’s family, who fear he will leave home. Fuller’s “A Lesson on Love” centers on 35-year-old Priscilla, who returns to her Amish roots to become a teacher after failing to make it as a country singer in Nashville. She meets Micah, a man 10 years her junior who also loves music. They must confront feelings about their age difference as well as opinions of community members if they are to find their way together. In Gray’s “Wendy’s Twenty Reasons,” perfectionist Wendy Schwartz tries her best to manage a schoolroom of rowdy children while struggling to live up to her predecessor’s reputation. She also falls for Lewis, the son of the family with whom she is renting a room, and must open up to find love. This sweet anthology will charm Amish fiction fans. (Aug.)

Reviewed on 05/21/2021 | Details & Permalink

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If It Rains

Jennifer L. Wright. Tyndale, $25.99 (368p) ISBN 978-1-4964-5684-7

Wright’s lovely debut centers on two sisters in Dust Bowl–era Oklahoma. In 1935, Melissa and Kathryn Baile break their close bond when Melissa marries into the wealthiest family in Boise City. Melissa immediately regrets her decision upon realizing her husband’s expectation is to blend into her new station and sever ties with her family and former life of poverty. To cope, Melissa relies on prayer. Meanwhile, 14-year-old Kathryn, born with a clubfoot, reluctantly heads to Indianapolis with her father and stepmother, who has convinced Kathryn that her surgeon father will be able to repair the disability. After a dust storm separates all three, Kathryn relies on help from a few vagabonds as she tries to find her family. While Kathryn can come off as obnoxious, and the actions the outwardly pious Melissa takes to get revenge on her husband will frustrate some readers, the circumstances the Baile sisters face provide fertile ground for reflections on questioning one’s faith. In the end, belief in God sees both sisters through difficult decisions to find their way back together. Wright’s adept depiction of the times capture the grit of the Dust Bowl. Fans of Tracie Peterson should check this out. (July)

Reviewed on 05/14/2021 | Details & Permalink

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Forever My Own

Tracie Peterson. Bethany, $15.99 trade paper (336p) ISBN 978-0-76423-237-4

Prodigal sons learn valuable lessons in the pleasing second installment of Peterson’s Ladies of the Lake series (after Destined for You). It’s 1871 and 20-something Swedish immigrant Kristin Hallberg is visiting her grandmother, Lena Segerson, for the first time in many years. Eleven years before, Kristin’s older brother, Domar, had been shunned from their Swedish village and left for America, but his ship sank. Only faith helped Kristin survive the grief. So when Domar shows up at Lena’s house, Kristin is shocked to learn he’s alive and that he let his family back home think he was dead. Now, he begs Kristin to keep his secret as well. Meanwhile, Domar’s best friend, Iliam Farstad, has a difficult relationship with his father, Habram, who is in love with Lena. Kristin is determined to help Domar fix his relationship with their family as well as help Iliam forgive his father, though Iliam, even if he’s fond of Kristin, does not appreciate her meddling. Only by trusting in God, acknowledging the truth, and offering forgiveness will these intertwined families be able to heal old wounds and move forward. This feel-good story will delight fans of faith-filled historical romance. (July)

Reviewed on 05/07/2021 | Details & Permalink

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The Weight of Memory

Shawn Smucker. Revell, $15.99 trade paper (368p) ISBN 978-0-8007-3531-9

Smucker (These Nameless Things) again infuses a magical realist narrative with inspirational themes in his ponderous latest. After 58 year-old Paul Elias notices a lump behind his ear, he receives a terminal diagnosis of brain cancer and is given three months to live. Now that Paul’s addict son has disappeared, his biggest decision and fear is determining who to ask to care for his 11-year-old granddaughter, Pearl, a child whose hyperactive imagination might be more than just a child creating imaginary worlds. It’s Pearl who first introduces Paul to the ghostlike silver-haired woman “who needs my help to find something,” she says, after the woman draws a map of Paul’s hometown for Pearl during school. Paul decides to return to Nysa, his hometown, which triggers memories of the death of his wife, who had also seen the same silver-haired woman as Pearl. Paul and Pearl meet up with Tom, another friend from 40 years before who has also seen the mysterious woman. In a whirlwind climax, Pearl discovers what the woman (who calls herself Death283) seeks: a confession from long ago and a miracle. Smucker’s characters believably shield themselves from traumatic past events, making for a resonant allegory about forgiveness and faith. Fans of James Rubart will want to take a look. (July)

Reviewed on 05/07/2021 | Details & Permalink

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The Amish Quiltmaker’s Unruly In-Law

Jennifer Beckstrand. Zebra, $8.99 mass market (352p) ISBN 978-1-4201-5201-2

Beckstrand continues her Colorado Amish series (after The Amish Quiltmaker’s Unexpected Baby) with this enjoyable rumspringa romance. Twenty-two year-old Ben Kiem, known in his Amish community for mischief and chain smoking, is far from an obvious match for sensible if judgmental 19 year-old Linda Eicher, who spends her time hiking and skiing with her Englisch friends. When Ben injures himself hitching water skis to the back of a buggy, his sister-in-law, Esther, sends Ben to spend time with Linda as payment for stitching him up in hopes that being around a responsible person will shape him up. Linda sees past Ben’s self-hating sabotage to his caring, nature-loving heart—even if Ben is unwilling to see his own virtues or to believe that he is worthy of love. Humor infuses the story, especially in interactions with elderly hypochondriac Cathy, who sets herself up as both matchmaker and chaperone, and in small touches like Ben’s repeated destruction of his hats while acting out. A gentle sense of belief in God’s plan is inherent in the goings-on, but religious themes remain subtle. Beckstrand’s fans will enjoy this playful story. (July)

Reviewed on 05/07/2021 | Details & Permalink

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Along a Storied Trail

Ann H. Gabhart. Revell, $15.99 trade paper (368p) ISBN 978-0-8007-3721-4

Gabhart (An Appalachian Summer) introduces two strong women who persevere without the help of men in 1930s Appalachia. As a packhorse librarian, Tansy Calhoun delivers books, magazines, and newspapers to townsfolk living across the rugged terrain of the Appalachian Mountains. When Damien Felding arrives as part of the Federal Writers’ Project, Tansy and Damien strike up a friendship, and Tansy begins to wonder if she’s met the hero of her own love story. Caleb Barton has been in love with Tansy since they were young—despite the fact everyone thinks he had his heart set on Tansy’s now-married sister. As Caleb tries to muster up the courage to tell Tansy how he really feels, he fears he may have missed the opportunity. Tansy’s elderly cousin, Perdita Sweet, who believes she lost her one chance at happiness when the man she loved chose someone else, is skeptical of newcomer Damien and doesn’t want to see Tansy make the same mistake. But meddling doesn’t always work, and Tansy must to her own conclusions. While the faith elements are subtle, Gabhart’s skillful use of period details and the Appalachian landscape lend plenty of atmosphere to accompany the lessons of hope, compassion, and fortitude amid hardship. This is her best historical inspirational yet. (June)

Reviewed on 04/30/2021 | Details & Permalink

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Rescuing Her Heart

Cindy Ervin Huff. Smitten Historical Fiction, $14.99 trade paper (296p) ISBN 978-1-6452-6319-7

Post-traumatic stress is at the center of Huff’s moving latest (after Secrets & Charades), an inspirational romance set in 1870s Kansas. Jed Holt owns the Single Cross Ranch along with his twin brother, Lonnie, and lives there with Lonnie’s pregnant wife, Genny, and three young daughters. Jed, a former army chaplain, was abused as a prisoner of war during the Civil War, and Lonnie’s face was disfigured in a fire that killed their mother. After Jed learns that town drunk Lemont James killed himself after setting fire to his own house, he finds Lemont’s widow, Delilah, cowering in the barn. Though Delilah is terrified of men after suffering abuse at the hands of her husband, she accepts Jed’s invitation to live with his family and help Genny with keeping the house. All of the characters in this redemptive tale struggle to deal with the horrors of their pasts, rely on God for healing, and find forgiveness for themselves as well as others. The romance that slowly unfolds between Jed and Delilah, meanwhile, is marked by a raw emotionality that rings true to life. Those who enjoy Tracie Peterson’s historical romances should take a look. (July)

Reviewed on 04/23/2021 | Details & Permalink

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