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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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Murder at Mile Marker 18

Denise Jaden. Denise Jaden, $3 e-book (152p) ASIN B08HJ43717

Jaden (Mystery of the Holiday Hustle) kicks off her Mallory Beck Cozy Culinary Capers series with this entertaining introduction to Mallory Beck. Mallory has barely left the house in the eight months since her mystery novelist husband, Cooper, was killed in a fire. Her first trip back to church ends with her volunteering to bring a casserole to the Montrose family, whose patriarch was recently killed in a car accident. After meeting the family, Mallory becomes obsessed with solving the mystery of Dan Montrose’s supposed hit-and-run car accident that left almost no physical traces on the road. Helping her are the victim’s 15-year-old daughter, Amber; police officer Alex Martinez, Mallory’s middle school crush; and Cooper’s cat, Hunch, who loves a good mystery. Together they sniff out clues, and Mallory slowly comes out of her self-imposed shell as the trio narrow down the suspects, who include a twitchy lawyer, Dan’s son, the Montrose housekeeper, and a friend of the family. Surprising twists and the sweet romance between Mallory and Officer Martinez will keep readers engaged until the open-ended finale. This cozy mystery blends cooking, cats, and sleuthing to great effect. (Self-published)

Reviewed on 04/23/2021 | Details & Permalink

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No Journey Too Far

Carrie Turansky. Multnomah, $15 trade paper (368p) ISBN 978-0-52565-295-3

Turansky continues her chronicle of the McAllister family in this excellent outing. Previously, in No Ocean Too Wide, seven-year-old Grace McAllister travelled from her native England to Canada as part of the British Home Children relocation plan after her family was unable to care for her. Ten years later, in 1919, Grace’s affluent adoptive family wants her to deny her past so that she might marry well. But Grace is determined to search for her birth family. Little does she know that her family never stopped looking for her. Grace’s older brother, Garth, returns to Britain after serving in WWI, but is eager to reunite with his Canadian sweetheart, Emma Lafferty, whom he met in Canada while serving out his own Home Children indentured contract. After a letter from Grace makes it to the McAllisters, Garth travels to see her—but Grace’s adoptive father accuses Garth of fraud and kicks him out. After praying for courage, Grace runs away with Garth in the hope of being reunited with her birth family, but before they can go to England, they must find Emma, who has been falsely accused of murder, and help her clear her name. Pinpoint historical details and determined characters set this installment apart. Fans of Jody Hedlund will love this. (June)

Reviewed on 04/23/2021 | Details & Permalink

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Jewel of the Nile

Tessa Afshar. Tyndale, $25.99 (400p) ISBN 978-1-4964-2875-2

Afshar’s excellent latest (after Daughter of Rome) follows a young mixed-race woman in the first century CE as she embarks on a quest to find a father she thought long dead. Chariline is the granddaughter of a Roman official; her father is a Cushite who defied his queen in order to marry her mother. After Chariline’s mother died in childbirth, her heritage and the color of her skin marked her an outsider in both the Kingdom of Cush and the Roman Empire. After overhearing her grandfather say her father works at a Cush palace, Chariline becomes determined to find him after nearly two decades. With little to go on, she surreptitiously gains access to the palace—a move that puts her life in danger. Then Chariline’s grandmother gives her a box that belonged to her mother, and messages hidden inside it suggest a woman in Rome may hold the answers she seeks. To get to Rome, Chariline stows away on a merchant ship where, after being discovered, she must depend on merchant Theo’s assistance if she wants to reach her destination and find out who her father is. However, Chariline soon discovers that the more she learns, the more questions arise. Exquisite plotting and outstanding historical details set this apart. Afshar’s fans will be overjoyed with this tale of love lost and found. (June)

Reviewed on 04/09/2021 | Details & Permalink

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This Time Around: Three Sweet Romances

Denise Hunter, Melissa Ferguson, Kathleen Fuller. Thomas Nelson, $16.99 trade paper (320p) ISBN 978-0-7852-4876-7

Hunter (Autumn Skies), Ferguson (The Cul-de-Sac War), and Fuller (The Farmer’s Bride) deliver enjoyable novellas that showcase love in unexpected circumstances. In Hunter’s “A Summer Detour,” Allie Adams offers to drive her grandparents’ newly restored 1957 Chevy to their home as a surprise gift for their 50th wedding anniversary. However, after realizing that she is unable to operate the manual transmission, she is left with little choice but to ask her ex-boyfriend Luke for assistance. Forced together, they confess their mistakes and admit they never stopped loving each other. In Ferguson’s “Pining for You,” Theo Watkins, the wealthy owner of Evergreen Farms, runs into his ex-girlfriend, Skye, at the home of her father, the farm’s caretaker, after 14 years apart. As Skye struggles to cover her father’s debts, Theo realizes love is more important than money and they rekindle their relationship. In Fuller’s delightful “He Loves Me, He Loves Me Not,” Sophie, a 35-year-old single florist, is afraid of being hurt by love and determined not to date handsome, divorced high school teacher Joe. After a date with a vapid lawyer, Sophie faces her fears of commitment and plunges in deep with Joe. Joe, meanwhile, must overcome a heartbreak to find a second chance at love. These soothing romances nicely capture the giddy feelings of new love. (July)

Reviewed on 04/09/2021 | Details & Permalink

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On the Cliffs of Foxglove Manor

Jaime Jo Wright. Bethany House, $15.99 trade paper (368p) ISBN 978-0-7642-3390-6

Wright (Echoes Among the Stones) captivates with this eerie story of lost Civil War gold and a haunted manor. In 1885, Adria Fontaine is sent to Foxglove Manor, a massive estate overlooking Lake Superior that's owned by her father's business partner, to recover after a suicide attempt; secretly she plans to help her father recover stolen gold he hid there during the war. In the present, Kailey Gibson returns to Foxglove Manor as a nurse's aide hoping to confront and move past the trauma of her brief kidnapping during a family vacation at the manor when she was a child. Upon their arrivals, both Adria and Kailey are pulled in by the eerie feeling that pervades Foxglove Manor and the story of Lucy, the ghost that purportedly haunts it, and discover the manor's connection to the Confederacy. When Adria's father threatens her with permanent institutionalization, Adria ramps up her search effort, and, in the present, a local girl is briefly kidnapped in a manner mirroring Kailey's own childhood experience, prompting Kailey to try to unlock the memories she had chosen to forget. Both must work with the manor's staff to figure out what the ghosts of Foxglove Manor want, and finally put them to rest. While spiritual elements are subtle, Wright's fans will be thrilled with this haunting tale. (June)

Reviewed on 04/09/2021 | Details & Permalink

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Chasing Shadows

Lynn Austin. Tyndale, $26.99 (416p) ISBN 978-1-49643-734-1

Christy Award winner Austin (If I Were You) shines in this excellent tale of three women who struggle to survive WWII in the Netherlands. Lena de Vries and her two young daughters are keeping the family farm going while her husband and son are away at war. In addition to protecting her family, she also cares for the refugees she's hiding from the Nazis. Lena's oldest daughter, Ans, moved to Leiden shortly before the war, eager to leave behind her rural life and her faith. After the fighting begins, she joins the Resistance, putting her on the opposing side of her boyfriend, Erik—a Dutch police officer now working for the Nazis—and leading her to discover she needs her faith more than ever. Miriam Jacobs is a Jewish woman on the run from the Nazis. As a young wife and mother, she leaves everyone she knows behind in hopes of keeping her baby alive. As the three women work to evade and break the Nazi grip on the Netherlands, Austin skillfully portrays the dangers they face as they struggle to survive. This is a must-read for fans of WWII inspirationals. (June)

Reviewed on 04/09/2021 | Details & Permalink

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Librarian of Saint-Malo

Mario Escobar, trans. from the Spanish by Gretchen Abernathy. Thomas Nelson, $26.99 (384p) ISBN 978-0-78523-991-8

In Escobar’s gripping latest (after Remember Me), a young woman risks everything to save a library in Saint-Malo, France, during WWII. Librarian Jocelyn marries police sergeant Antoine Ferrec on Sept. 1, 1939, the same day the Germans invade Poland to begin WWII. The story is told via Jocelyn’s letters to famous writer Marcel Zola, whom she hopes will preserve her experiences during the war after Antoine leaves her alone to organize the assistance of refugees in the library. After the Nazi occupation begins, Jocelyn is forced to house Adolf Bauman, a demanding and lecherous Nazi officer, in her apartment, and soon she learns the Germans plan to destroy many of the books in the library. Meanwhile, another German officer, Hermann von Choltiz, whose mission is to safeguard the heritage of occupied countries, becomes Jocelyn’s protector, saving her from Bauman’s advances and the books from destruction. While Jocelyn’s sole purpose is to preserve the books, she also must pray for a better future, as many loved ones are killed and lives will need to be rebuilt. This is a powerful portrait of a woman fighting to preserve knowledge in a crumbling world. (June)

Reviewed on 04/02/2021 | Details & Permalink

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To Find Her Place

Susan Anne Mason. Bethany House, $15.99 trade paper (368p) ISBN 978-0-7642-3520-7

Mason (Haven for her Heart) delivers a soothing WWII romance about the competing interests and desires of two administrators who try to help troubled children. Jane Linder, despite the complexities of caring for her ailing mother, worrying about an enlisted brother, and keeping the secret that her missing husband divorced her for infertility, is doing the best job she can as acting director of the Toronto Children’s Aid Society. The organization’s board, meanwhile, has hired Garrett Wilder to investigate some financial irregularities. Garrett, whose grenade shrapnel injuries make working for his family farm impossible, is set on taking Jane’s job. But once Jane and Garrett begin working together, they bond over a sincere desire to help the children in their care. Though they open up to one another, each struggles with their self-perceived inadequacies as a potential partner; meanwhile, a hard-to-place, epileptic child takes up much of their attention while winning both of their hearts. Mason captures the strange family dynamics of wartime and paints a rich picture of the social challenges of the era. Fans of Tracie Peterson should take a look. (June)

Reviewed on 04/02/2021 | Details & Permalink

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Bridge of Gold

Kimberley Woodhouse. Barbour, $12.99 trade paper (256p) ISBN 978-1-64352-957-8

Woodhouse’s enjoyable latest mystery (after The Express Bride) centers on the discovery of a shipwreck under the Golden Gate Bridge. In the present, Steven Michaels is doing restoration work on the bridge when he finds gold nuggets in the water and discovers a sunken ship. Underwater researcher Kayla Richardson is called in to excavate the ship, which she believes to be the Lucky Martha, a gold rush–era ship that sunk along with all its riches. But as the excavation continues, she and Steven discover a skeleton wrapped in heavy chains. Jump back to 1933, when Luke Moreau is looking to build a life in San Francisco and takes a job working on the construction of the Golden Gate Bridge. Luke also finds a gold nugget and gets glimpse of a sunken ship—information that might cost him his life at the hands of a group of gold hunters. As Kayla and Steven dig up records and uncover the group who believe the gold is rightfully theirs (and might still be looking for it), death threats come in and could potentially derail the research. They both rely on their faith and growing affection to overcome the turmoil and discover the truth. Fans of inspirational time swaps will love this. (June)

Reviewed on 04/02/2021 | Details & Permalink

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