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The Gold in These Hills

Joanne Bischof. Thomas Nelson, $16.99 trade paper (336p) ISBN 978-0-7852-4135-5

In this impressive historical romance, Bischof (Sons of Blackbird Mountain) connects people a century apart in a former gold rush town. In 1902, Juniper Cohen is a young mother trying to survive in the ghost town of Kenworthy, Calif., following the collapse of the gold mining industry. Her husband, John, has been missing for months after having left to search for gold. Though some presume John is dead, Juniper continues to write him letters, recounting the desolation of her life and the struggles of those who remain. Months later, she’s shocked to learn John is awaiting trial for “salting” gold mines—exploding a gold nugget in a mine shaft to create a shower of gold flecks and the illusion of profitability. Meanwhile, in present-day Kenworthy, Johnny, a young father going through a divorce, buys a dilapidated house and discovers in it a box containing John’s diaries. With the help of a genealogical researcher, Johnny learns more about the history of the town alongside John’s story, notably his shame for his misdeeds and desire to create a better life for Juniper. Faith elements are subtle, with the narrative being driven by the circumstances leading to the town’s downfall. Inspirational readers who enjoy time-slip historicals will love this. (Aug.)

Reviewed on 06/25/2021 | Details & Permalink

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Provenance

Carla Laureano. Tyndale House, $25.99 (432p) ISBN 978-1-4964-4591-9

Laureano (The Saturday Night Supper Club) explores the trauma of parental abandonment in her gratifying latest. Interior designer Kendall Green, who grew up in foster care after her mother abandoned her when she was five, has always kept a distance from others. When Kendall inherits land from a grandmother she never knew in tiny Jasper Lake, Colo., she moves there and meets handsome town mayor Gabriel Brandt. Gabriel, who also grew up feeling abandoned by a father who spent more time with his second wife and other children, is trying to prevent a real estate developer from gobbling up Jasper Lake properties and changing the face of the town. The pair work together to thwart the developer, as well as to resolve their issues with childhood trauma and faith, eventually building trust in one another through a deepening relationship with God. As a romance develops, Laureano goes deep on the architecture, renovation, design, and preservation of the historic town. Filled with colorful characters and glowing descriptions of the landscape, Laureano’s slow-burning romance has atmosphere to burn. Fans of Rachel Hauck should take a look. Agent: Steve Laube, Steve Laube Agency. (Aug.)

Reviewed on 06/25/2021 | Details & Permalink

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Crossed Lines

Jennifer Delamere. Bethany House, $15.99 trade paper (384p) ISBN 978-0-76423-493-4

Delamere delivers a charming adaptation of the Cyrano de Bergerac story in the enjoyable second installment to her Love Along the Wires series (after Line by Line). In 1881 London, Mitchell Harris, his best friend Christopher Newman, and Emma Sutton all work at the Central Telegraph Office. Both men are enamored of Emma, and when it becomes clear Emma is interested in Christopher, Mitchell agrees to help him woo her. Mitchell, who has a prosthetic foot, figures she wouldn’t be interested in him anyway, but his romantic way with words helps Christopher win Emma’s heart via love letters. As Christopher struggles to keep up the facade in person, Mitchell and Emma become good friends, and after Emma develops feelings for Mitchell, she turns to God for direction. But when she discovers the truth about their ploy, will she be able to forgive the deception and have a future with the man she truly loves? Mitchell and Christopher’s friendship offers plenty of insightful conversations about the nature of authenticity and humorous moments of misunderstanding as they try to win Emma over. This delightful romance will appeal to fans of Julie Klassen. (Aug.)

Reviewed on 06/25/2021 | Details & Permalink

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Love and the Silver Lining

Tammy L. Gray. Bethany House, $15.99 trade paper (368p) ISBN 978-0-7642-3591-7

This lovely second installment of Gray’s State of Grace series (after Love and a Little White Lie) continues the story of longtime friends Darcy, Bryson, and Cameron. Darcy is reeling from the abrupt cancelation of a yearlong mission trip. With no apartment or job, she accepts Bryson’s offer to live with his half sister, Zoe. However, Bryson has ulterior motives in keeping her from rooming with Cameron—and it’s obvious to everyone except Darcy that both men hold flames for her. Meanwhile, Darcy helps out an elderly friend of Bryson who needs to find homes for his late wife’s rescue dogs, and works on dealing with her frustrations—with the canceled trip, her divorced parents, and a God who seems to have abandoned her. When she and Bryson begin dating, it’s only a matter of time before Darcy must choose between her relationship with Bryson and her friendship with Cameron. In a surprising turn, Bryson and Darcy’s relationship is marked by a sexual attraction that’s often unseen in inspirational fiction. Gray delivers a beautiful illustration of the power found in the courage to forgive and move on despite disappointment and regret. Those who enjoy contemporary inspirational romances should take a look. (Aug.)

Reviewed on 06/25/2021 | Details & Permalink

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The Nature of Small Birds

Susie Finkbeiner. Revell, $15.99 trade paper (368p) ISBN 978-0-8007-3935-5

In this enjoyable inspirational, Finkbeiner (All Manner of Things) chronicles the travails of an American family and the efforts of their adopted daughter to understand her early life. In 1975, Linda Matthews’s marriage to Bruce includes struggles with a controlling mother-in-law, money, and infertility while trying to have a second child. They end up adopting a five-year-old Vietnamese girl through Operation Babylift, and soon find themselves teaching Minh (Mindy) English, comforting her fears, and addressing racial prejudice in her school. Jumping to 1988, their eldest daughter, Sonny, prepares for college as the family welcomes a third, unexpected child, and Mindy, now in her teens, begins wondering about her Vietnamese heritage. In the final section, set in 2013, the aging Bruce and Linda support their adult children and commit to aiding in Mindy’s search for her biological family. While faith elements are subtle, Finkbeiner strikes a nice balance between exploring the long-term changes to the Matthews clan and the minor dramas of each family member. Readers who enjoy the work of Karen Kingsbury will want to take a look. (July)

Reviewed on 06/18/2021 | Details & Permalink

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Under the Bayou Moon

Valerie Frasier Luesse. Revell, $15.99 trade paper (352p) ISBN 978-0-8007-3751-1

Luesse (Missing Isaac) charms with this excellent post-WWII love story set in the bayous of Atchafalaya Basin. Cajun Raphe Broussard is raising his nephew Remy on his own when Ellie Fields, the town’s new schoolteacher, arrives from Alabama. Unlike previous teachers, who all wanted to beat the French language out of students, she endears herself to the children and the town with her respect and hard work. She also catches Raphe’s eye. But trouble is stirring as a powerful oil company sets its sights on what could be a fortune in oil buried beneath the town. Luesse’s multifaceted, lyrical tale dazzles with larger-than-life villains searching for a big payday, a mythical albino alligator, a mysterious “esprit Blanc” that allegedly roams the swamps, and a lovable cast. Faith themes are organic and subtle, and the sweet romance between Raphe and Ellie unfolds nicely against the backdrop of Ellie’s introduction to the community. Readers who enjoy Southern romances will love this. (Aug.)

Reviewed on 06/11/2021 | Details & Permalink

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An Unexpected Amish Courtship

Rachel J. Good. Zebra, $8.99 mass market (352p) ISBN 978-1-4201-5038-4

This disappointing Amish romance from Good (His Unexpected Amish Twins) centers on a woman finding unexpected love. After the death of 19-year-old Sovilla Mast’s father, she is sent to live with her Englischer aunt, Wilma. Once Sovilla arrives, stern and demanding Wilma forces her to work at a farmers market. There, Sovilla meets Isaac—an identical twin from a large family who doesn’t speak because he has a severe stutter. The two develop a friendship as they learn more about each other’s burdens. Isaac’s brothers, Sovilla’s cousins, and aunt Wilma all prove to be remarkably cruel, and the level of verbal abuse and meanness described can be overpowering. The characters tend toward the simplistic and their motivations are often questionable, as when Sovilla is shockingly quick to forgive Wilma. The one-note secondary characters don’t do the narrative any favors, either. The romance between Sovilla and Isaac, which unfolds sweetly under the pressure of their families, is the only ray of light. Fans of Amish romances can pass on this one. (Aug.)

Reviewed on 06/11/2021 | Details & Permalink

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To Write a Wrong

Jen Turano. Bethany, $15.99 trade paper (352p) ISBN 978-0-76423-532-0

In Turano’s enjoyable second installment of the Bleecker Street Inquiry Agency series (after To Steal a Heart) a private investigator falls for a client. In 1887 New York City, Daphne Beekman, a successful mystery novelist who writes under a pen name, moonlights as an inquiry agent. Herman Henderson, another famous mystery author, requests her services after someone tries to run him over. While attempting to keep her nom de plume secret, Daphne and several of her associates go undercover to Herman’s house posing as a secretary and travel staff. Between the young woman Herman has rejected, authors jealous of Herman’s success, and disgruntled house employees, suspects are everywhere. Mayhem abounds, and when Daphne’s secret is revealed, her status as a mystery writer becomes her new cover for visiting Herman. Meanwhile, romance blossoms between Herman and Daphne, but the case must be solved for them to find happiness. Turano nicely blends the intensity of the investigation with the percolation of romance and Daphne’s prayers for the courage she eventually finds. Fans of faith-driven mysteries and romantic comedies will delight in this entertaining whodunit. (Aug.)

Reviewed on 06/11/2021 | Details & Permalink

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Woman in Shadow

Carrie Stuart Park. Thomas Nelson, $16.99 trade paper (336p) ISBN 978-0-7852-3984-0

This enjoyable thriller from Park (Relative Silence) finds a sleuth investigating a string of accidents at a luxury resort. Forensic linguist Darby Graham, who is still recovering from a crisis of faith after a traumatic case involving a serial killer, has been sent to Mule Shoe Ranch in Idaho to investigate a series of strange incidents as the final step in her process of rehabilitation. Sheriff’s deputy Bram White, meanwhile, is looking into a series of fires at Mule Shoe. When he’s called to put down two dogs, Darby intervenes and takes in the dogs, in the process learning about the disappearance of their owner, Shadow Woman. Questionable events ensue: an art room is trashed; some sardines are left suspiciously near the resort’s outdoor classroom, which draws the attention of a bear; a resort guest fatally falls onto a pitchfork. To figure out what’s going on both at the ranch and with the arsons, Bram and Darby team up and Darby, using her skills as a forensic linguist, helps Bram with the cryptic notes left by the arsonists. When it becomes clear all the nefarious goings-on are connected, Darby and Bram believe they’ve found a much vaster conspiracy. Darby’s trauma and slow journey back to faith as she learns to trust those around her adds depth to complement the fast-paced action. Park’s fans will love this tense inspirational. (July)

Reviewed on 06/04/2021 | Details & Permalink

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Beyond the Tides

Liz Johnson. Revell, $15.99 trade paper (336p) ISBN 978-0-8007-3737-5

Johnson (A Sparkle of Silver) kicks off her Prince Edward Island Shores series with this heartwarming romance centered on a schoolteacher’s efforts to keep her father’s lobster business afloat. Meg Whitaker’s father, Walt, decides he needs to sell the family business in order to have the time and resources to properly care for his dying wife, who is suffering from a mysterious illness. Meg is horrified when Walt decides to sell to her arch-nemesis, Oliver Ross, who ruined her science fair project in high school and destroyed her hopes of getting into an Ivy League college. Even though Meg never had an interest in lobster fishing, she proposes Walt sell it to her instead. But Walt requires Meg and Oliver to work together for the summer and, at season’s end, he’ll determine who will get the company. Over the ensuing months, Meg and Oliver develop an unlikely friendship as they learn more about each other, find forgiveness, and fall in love. While faith themes are subtle, Meg and Oliver’s attraction rings true, and the ending is especially clever. Johnson’s fans will eagerly anticipate the next installment of this promising series. (Aug.)

Reviewed on 06/04/2021 | Details & Permalink

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