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When Mountains Sing

Stacy Monson. His Image, $12.99 trade paper (422p) ISBN 978-1-73239-902-0

Monson (Shattered Image) weaves together a story of identity and ambition in this moving inspirational. Journalist Mikayla Gordon is 30 years old when she faints at work and learns she has a hole in her heart, a genetic condition that no one in her immediate family shares. Mikayla doesn’t want to let her medical issue interfere with her career, but is unable to ignore a problem that could prove fatal. Through a DNA test, she learns that the man she thought was her father isn’t. To find answers, she speaks with her mother and learns her father could be in Colorado. After accepting a job working with a youth camp in the Rocky Mountains, she meets Dawson, a wilderness camp leader, who helps Mikayla come to terms with what she has learned about her family and herself. Mikayla also discovers Dawson might be the perfect person to help her track down her elusive father. Though some of the conflict driving Mikayla’s development feels overwrought, and her religious concerns over her parents’ mutual infidelity feels heavy-handed, Mikayla’s faith and dedication to her career make her a believable, lovable heroine. Lovers of the outdoors will particularly enjoy this contemporary faith-based romance. (Self-published)

Reviewed on 02/07/2020 | Details & Permalink

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The Kidnapping of Cody Moss

Sara L. Foust. Silver Lining Literary Services, $12.99 trade paper (288p) ISBN 978-1-73290-471-2

Foust (the Love, Faith, and Hope series) launches a new series with this delightful tale chronicling the coming together of the Smokey Mountain Investigative Team. Police officer Annalise Baker is offered a spot on the team but hesitates to accept the position over concerns about her husband, Dave, and the effects it would have on their marriage. But as a new case arrives, Annalise sees that Dave is withdrawing from her and decides to take the opportunity. Zach Leebow is excited about working on the team, particularly when he hears his old friend, Annalise, will be joining. After Annalise answers a call about a gun hidden in a child’s wagon and Zach finds a body on the shore of a river, everyone is on pins and needles, fearing a murderer is on the loose. Then a child is kidnapped, and Annalise and Zach, finding clues that whoever committed the murder is holding a captive, realize the kidnapper might tie everything together. Foust balances the reality of first responder jobs with faith concerns as characters grapple with the idea that God can be in control of such traumatic events. Dave’s sudden jealousy of Annalise’s relationship with Zach also leaves her in believable, complicated scenarios that force her to make difficult choices. Readers of Ronie Kendig will relish this pulse-quickening series opener. (Self-published)

Reviewed on 02/07/2020 | Details & Permalink

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The House at the End of the Moor

Michelle Griep. Shiloh Run, $14.99 trade paper (320p) ISBN 978-1-64352-342-2

This nuanced if clunky tale of redemption and grace from Griep (The Noble Guardian), set in 1861 England, thrills with its gothic atmosphere. Opera singer Maggie Dosett, attempting to live an anonymous life, has made a home for herself and two servants in a small house in Lydford, a place where all three can feel safe, after a politician threatened to ruin her reputation, claiming she had broken a contract. That safety only lasts until Oliver Ward, recently escaped from Dartmoor Prison, makes his appearance in dire need of aid. Oliver and Maggie soon learn they are connected upon realizing that the same politician searching for Maggie had framed Oliver for a robbery he didn’t commit. Believing there is a deeper conspiracy than she realized, Maggie works to help Oliver clear his name in order to finally find freedom for herself, and all the while they both try to live by their faith. Griep’s plot is rewardingly intricate, but it has an unfortunate tendency to get bogged down by excessive detail and jarring shifts in tense and voice. Readers who can stick through the bumpy parts will find plenty to enjoy. (Apr.)

Reviewed on 02/07/2020 | Details & Permalink

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The Joy of Falling

Lindsay Harrel. Revell, $15.99 trade paper (336p) ISBN 978-0-7852-3000-7

Harrel (The Secrets of Paper and Ink) delves into pain and grief in this fine inspirational. Sisters-in-law Eva and Angela Jamison both lost their adventurous husbands in a scuba diving accident. Now, the two women are left to mourn their loss and rebuild their lives. Childless Eva was left “richer than God” by entrepreneur Brent, while Angela is forced to give up homeschooling her three children and work two jobs to support her family after the loss of Wes. Eva feels like she has lost all the color in her life; Angela is living on rage and refuses to talk about her pain. When Eva discovers that Brent and Wes had planned on competing in an ultramarathon in New Zealand with their friend Marc, she convinces Marc and reluctant Angela that the three of them should take on the challenge. As the months of training go by, Eva and Angela are forced to confront their loss, their future, and their relationship with God. They also must sort out feelings they are developing for new men in their lives. Harrel’s honest portrayal of two women struggling with grief, healing, and moving forward with their lives will appeal to any fan of inspirational fiction. (Apr.)

Reviewed on 01/31/2020 | Details & Permalink

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Amish Picnic

Amy Clipston, Kelly Irvin, Kathleen Fuller, and Vannetta Chapman. Zondervan, $15.99 trade paper (400p) ISBN 978-0-3103-5788-9

Four bestselling authors of Amish fiction deliver stories of finding love in the Plain community in this sweet set of romances. Clipston’s “Baskets of Sunshine” centers on Kevin Weaver, who has been postponing courtship until he feels financially stable. An attraction to Phoebe Kurtz complicates Kevin’s plans, especially since he works for Phoebe’s father. Esther Marie Shrock, the heroine of Irvin’s “Candlelight Sweethearts,” works at the local grocery store owned by Jasper Cotter’s parents. Though maligned due to a stutter, Esther Marie shows competence and people skills that clear-speaking Jasper often lacks. When Jasper’s father falls ill, the two work together and gain more than just mutual respect. Fuller’s tale, “Reeling in Love,” focuses on best friends and fishing buddies Nina Stoll and Ira Yoder as they decide whether a potential romance is worth the risk of their friendship. Chapman adds a touch of intrigue with “Picnics and Prospects,” in which Faith Troyer and David Lapp, having failed to connect on a date years ago, find a decades-old package of letters. Solving the mystery associated with the missives may bring them into a relationship of their own. Amish fiction fans will love this. (Mar.)

Reviewed on 01/31/2020 | Details & Permalink

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Secrets of My Heart

Tracie Peterson. Bethany House, $15.99 trade paper (320p) ISBN 978-0-7642-3225-1

Childhood friends reconnect during sad circumstances in the consuming launch of Peterson’s Willamette Brides series (following her Brookstone Brides series). In 1879 Portland, Ore., newly widowed Nancy Pritchard mourns the death of her husband, Albert, though her loveless marriage made her husband a stranger to her. Rumors begin to spread that Albert was murdered, and evidence is found suggesting Albert was involved in illegally selling guns and liquor; Nancy can’t help wondering what other kinds of business her husband was involved in. When lawyer Seth Carpenter, Nancy’s childhood friend, comes to town to investigate Albert’s illegal dealings, he gets reacquainted with Nancy and develops feelings for her. As Seth continues to investigate, he discovers more secrets about Albert, and after Nancy’s life is threatened, Seth desperately tries to keep her safe. Meanwhile, Nancy’s angry at God for her baby brother’s death 15 years ago—but letting go of her bitterness could finally allow Nancy to feel the love she had been missing. This is a beautiful story of redemption. (Mar.)

Reviewed on 01/24/2020 | Details & Permalink

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Loving Jenna

Amy Lillard. Kensington, $7.99 mass market (304p) ISBN 978-1-4201-4956-2

The lovely ninth installment of Lillard’s Wells Landing series (after Marrying Jonah) set in the Amish community of Wells Landing, Okla., centers on the budding romance between two unlikely heroes. Jenna and Buddy are both seen as “less than” by their community due to their cognitive slowness. Jenna’s mother and grandmother have just arrived in town wanting a fresh start after the death of Jenna’s father. Jenna longs to make friends, but because she suffered a traumatic brain injury as a child, her mother forbids any act of independence. Twenty-year-old Jenna meets Buddy at church and learns that he has Down’s syndrome. The two quickly form a friendship and connect over their shared challenges. When their relationship takes a romantic turn, their families try to keep them apart, but their courage in pursuing love and independence changes what their families think they are capable of. Lillard does an excellent job of depicting with accuracy and compassion the difficulties faced by those with mental disabilities. This affecting tale will surely inspire. (Mar.)

Reviewed on 01/24/2020 | Details & Permalink

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Starfish Pier: A Hope Harbor Novel

Irene Hannon. Revell, $15.99 trade paper (352p) ISBN 978-0-8007-3614-9

Hannon (the Code of Honor series) revisits Hope Harbor, Ore., in this affecting inspirational, the sixth in the Hope Harbor series. Charley is still serving his wonderful fish tacos with a side of advice, but the crux of the story centers on new residents. Holly Miller, who suffers from spina bifida, has come to Hope Harbor to exert her independence from her overprotective parents. Steven Roark has relocated to the tiny town to shore up a relationship with his brother, trading his military career for that of a charter boat captain. While sparks fly between Holly and Steven, the two quickly find themselves with opposing views of what the town should do with a 19th-century cannon that recently washed ashore, clashing over how to remember one’s past while acknowledging the horrors of war. Holly also becomes concerned for a neighbor when she discovers he has moved to Oregon to take advantage of its assisted suicide law; and Steven supports his alcoholic brother who doesn’t want to admit he has a problem. With its nicely interwoven faith elements, Hannon’s multifaceted return to Hope Harbor focuses on how forgiving oneself is as important for healing as forgiveness from others. Series fans will be overjoyed by this complex, stirring tale. (Mar.)

Reviewed on 01/24/2020 | Details & Permalink

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Out of the Embers

Amanda Cabot. Revell, $15.99 trade paper (336p) ISBN 978-0-8007-3535-7

Cabot (A Tender Hope) transports readers to 1850s Texas in the enjoyable first installment to her Mesquite Springs series. Evelyn Radcliffe has felt the eerie sensation of someone watching her ever since her parents were murdered 10 years ago. When the orphanage 22-year-old Evelyn has called home is destroyed by arson, she takes the only other survivor, a six-year old girl named Polly, and they end up in Mesquite Springs. Rancher Wyatt Clark finds Evelyn and Polly hiding from a storm and welcomes them to stay with him, his mother, and sister. Evelyn soon becomes a vital part of the town; she opens a restaurant and develops a reputation for her excellent cooking. She also catches the eye of several of the town’s bachelors. Wyatt plans to host a horse sale to raise money in order to be able to leave the town behind for life in the big city, but his feelings for Evelyn may force him to stay. Little does he know that inviting other ranchers and horse racers to his ranch will put Evelyn and Polly in great danger. Evelyn trusts in God’s promise to bring good out of the embers of the orphanage fire and keep her and Polly safe. The series is off to a strong start. (Mar.)

Reviewed on 01/24/2020 | Details & Permalink

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The Time of Jacob’s Trouble

Donna VanLiere. Harvest House, $15.99 trade paper (304p) ISBN 978-0-7369-7875-0

VanLiere (The Christmas Secret) provides a moving, fast-paced account of the end times. Physical therapist Emma Grady is just arriving for a long day of work when a client disappears right in front of her. Meanwhile, Elliott Hirsch is at a funeral when graves are opened and people—both living and dead—disappear; and Dr. Zerah Adler witnesses others in his office disappear. Across the globe people are disappearing, ushering in chaos and confusion. As cities collapse and governments scramble to explain and rebuild, Elliott and Zerah both feel called to spread the Gospel, and Emma connects with friends and others who now believe the disappearances are part of God’s prophecy to prepare for hard days ahead—and the budding of new faith. At the end of this well-crafted dystopian saga, VanLiere includes an epilogue as a blueprint of where these prophecies can be found in the Bible and a deeper study of what the verses mean. Filled with heavy warning but hope, this speculative tale of the realization of prophecy will please readers who enjoy James Rubart. (Mar.)

Reviewed on 01/24/2020 | Details & Permalink

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