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Don’t Give Up on Me

Jodi Artzberger. Jodi Artzberger, $11.99 trade paper (228p) ISBN 978-1-68830-709-4

Former lovers reunite under dangerous circumstances in Artzberger’s enjoyable debut. When Amanda Cragge regains consciousness after being attacked, the first thing she sees is Ryker Scott, the police detective who left her eight years before. Though Amanda wants nothing to do with Ryker, she has no choice but to trust him as they work together to catch her assailant. Ryker faces his fear of rejection and relies on his faith as he seeks Amanda’s forgiveness for destroying their relationship by disappearing with no explanation. As more attempts are made on Amanda’s life, Ryker’s determination to protect her leads him to realize time is too precious to waste on fears of his own deficiencies. As he opens up to Amanda, she has a change of heart, and their love is rekindled as each finds new confidence after accepting God’s love. While the narrative suffers from slow pacing and outlandish twists, Christian readers will appreciate the many biblical references throughout. Those who enjoy the work of Susan May Warren will want to take a look. (Self-published)

Reviewed on 08/21/2020 | Details & Permalink

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The Love Note

Joanna Davidson Politano. Revell, $15.99 trade paper (400p) ISBN 978-0-8007-3689-7

Politano (Lady Jayne Disappears) returns with a lovely Victorian saga of love lost and found. In 1859 England, Willa Duvall mourns the death of her mother as she studies medicine alongside her famous physician father. One day, she discovers a love letter wedged in a desk that had been a gift to her father from a grateful former patient who came from nearby Crestwicke Manor. When a nursing position at Crestwicke opens up, Willa accepts the job in hopes of reuniting the letter’s writer with its intended recipient. While Willa cares for her new patient, Golda, the lady of the manor, she works to find the author and identify the recipient, who is only addressed as “dear one.” However, the letter keeps getting misplaced—only to be found by various members of the household, who each believe the passionate sentiments are meant secretly for them. The letter has far-reaching consequences among the staff, and it emerges as a metaphor for God’s love toward “all his children.” Wholesome characters pining for true love and winsome twists keep the mystery unresolved until the very end. Fans of Victorian inspirationals will love this charming effort. (Oct.)

Reviewed on 08/21/2020 | Details & Permalink

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The Names of the Stars

Ann Tatlock. Iron Stream, $15.99 trade paper (304p) ISBN 978-1-56309-422-4

Tatlock (Once Beyond a Time) offers an entertaining, fanciful portrayal of a woman yearning for stardom. In 1918, 13-year-old Annalise Rycroft works the Midwestern vaudeville circuit with her mother and uncles. Annalise has a breathtaking singing voice, but she has hiccups whenever she is on stage. She is also haunted by a dream in which a baby disappears from her arms. Then, while she’s suffering from the Spanish flu, characters from her favorite book, A Christmas Carol, visit her and reveal the missing baby to be her brother, Henry, who was sent as an infant to an asylum after being deemed an “idiot”—an accusation her mother denies. After she recovers, Annalise’s hiccups recede and her star begins to rise; she puts all thoughts of Henry behind her. Then, in 1932, Annalise, now a successful singer, is visited by her long-estranged father, who seeks forgiveness and confirms the existence and abandonment of Henry. When an onstage disaster and a medical emergency lead Annalise to reevaluate her life, she is finally ready to make amends with God for the brother her family gave away. While faith elements are subtle, the inventive plotting and dreamlike sequences contain moments of inspiration. Readers who enjoy Kristy Cambron’s inspirational mysteries should check this out. (Oct.)

Reviewed on 08/21/2020 | Details & Permalink

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Backlash

Rachel Dylan. Bethany, $15.99 trade paper (320p) ISBN 978-0-7642-3431-6

Dylan continues her Capital Intrigue series (after End Game) with this inspiring tale of a second-chance romance. CIA agent Layla Karam has just returned home to Virginia after partnering with the DEA in Honduras to take down the local Mejia cartel when she is alerted by fellow agent Cass Ruiz that the Mejias are out for revenge. When Layla’s boss sidelines her and she becomes the subject of an inspector general investigation, she realizes that the cartel are not the only ones after her. Hunter McCoy, a private investigator and Layla’s former boyfriend, gets pulled in by the DEA to investigate the team that went on the Honduras operation, to suss out a possible mole and to look into some missing money. Layla is hesitant to work with Hunter, but investigating and fighting to stay alive, the two become close once again, and Layla’s strong faith in God allows Hunter to work through his own doubts about who and how to trust. While the plotting often strains credulity, the neat ending will satisfy inspirational readers. Those who enjoy Dee Henderson’s faith-based thrillers should take a look. (Oct.)

Reviewed on 08/07/2020 | Details & Permalink

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The Red Ribbon

Pepper Basham. Barbour, $12.99 trade paper (256p) ISBN 978-1-64352-649-2

Basham (My Heart Belongs in the Blue Ridge) interweaves romance, adventure, and history in this enjoyable tale set against the backdrop of the Hillsville, Va., Courthouse Massacre of 1912. Nineteen year-old Ava Burcham dreams of writing about important things, but is only allowed to write about sewing for the local newspaper. Nevertheless, she spends her time snooping around Hillsville investigating the rampant illegal moonshining that led to the death of her father. Jeremiah Sutphin has been Ava’s best friend since childhood and dreams of marrying her. While Ava begins to see Jeremiah in a new light as he helps her investigations, she was raised by a mentally ill mother and worries she might also possess her same afflictions. Devout Jeremiah assures Ava that someday she’ll see herself as God and Jeremiah see her—and that he’ll be waiting. But tensions rise when the two help friends caught in the middle of a moonshining feud leave town, making them a mark for the outlaws. The stakes are high as the story moves toward the climactic shoot-out heavily foreshadowed throughout the narrative. Though the plotting is predictable, this is an exciting mix of love and adventure. Readers of Colleen Coble should take a look. (Oct.)

Reviewed on 08/07/2020 | Details & Permalink

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The Shepherd’s Wife

Angela Hunt. Bethany, $15.99 trade paper (384p) ISBN 978-0-7642-3385-2

Hunt turns to the family of Jesus for this excellent second in her Jerusalem Road series (after Daughter of Cana), based on real women who met Jesus. Pheodora, the youngest of Yeshua’s sisters, has always struggled with feeling inadequate next to her beautiful, wealthier sister, Damaris, who is married to a rich merchant’s son. But Pheodora loves her husband, Chiram, a shepherd often gone to care for the flocks near their Bethlehem home. When Chiram is thrown into debtor’s prison unexpectedly, Pheodora returns to her childhood home in Nazareth to live with her four brothers and care for two goats Chiram had purchased and bred to increase their fortunes. Damaris and her husband, a soon-to-be-Pharisee, refuse to repay Chiram’s debt to get him out of prison, making Pheodora wonder if Chiram’s imprisonment had something to do with them. Pheodora’s story is set against the backdrop of the spiritual emergence of her oldest brother, Yeshua, who travels Israel preaching, gathering followers, and angering the Jewish leadership; his eventual death, Chiram’s imprisonment, and Pheodora’s fortunes are all determined by the whims of the powerful Pharisees. But Yeshua’s resurrection could change everyone’s lives. Hunt’s marvelous tale will appeal to any theologically minded fan of Christian historicals. (Oct.)

Reviewed on 08/07/2020 | Details & Permalink

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Point of Danger

Irene Hannon. Revell, $16.99 trade paper (384p) ISBN 978-0-8007-3617-0

Hannon (Sea Rose Lane) introduces readers to sisters Eve, Cate, and Grace Reilly in this middling first installment of her Triple Threat trilogy. Eve, a conservative radio talk-show host, becomes a target due to her controversial viewpoints. First, a fake bomb containing a sinister note is left on the doorstep of her home. She then receives a disturbing on-air call from someone with private information from one of Eve’s past relationships. Commitment-phobic detective Brent Lange works to track down the suspect before the threats to silence Eve are realized. While unable to deny his growing attraction to Eve, his efforts to avoid a relationship only make Eve more curious. As threats escalate and suspects multiply, Brent realizes that life is too short not to grasp the opportunity for true love. Unfortunately, Hannon’s tale is uncharacteristically heavy on romance and light on action. Much of the narrative is spent using Eve’s radio platform to push a conservative political agenda, and spiritual elements feel grafted onto Eve to paint her as having ideal moral values. Hannon’s heavy-handed tale will disappoint fans accustomed to her action-filled romantic thrillers. (Oct.)

Reviewed on 08/07/2020 | Details & Permalink

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A Haven for Her Heart

Susan Anne Mason. Bethany, $15.99 trade paper (368p) ISBN 978-0-7642-3519-1

Mason (A Most Noble Heir) bases her moving first installment of the Redemption’s Light series on a real-life women’s reformatory. In 1940s Toronto, 20 year-old Olivia Rosetti’s father disowns her and turns her over to the authorities after he discovers she is pregnant out of wedlock. She is charged with the crime of “being incorrigible” and sent to the Mercer Reformatory for Unmarried Women. There she and the other women are victims of horrendous physical abuse and their babies are placed for adoption upon birth. After Olivia is released, she meets the elderly Ruth, whose story is similar to her own. As Olivia struggles with shame and guilt, Ruth helps her discover the redemptive love of God. Together, they open Bennington’s Place, a maternity home where they can care for other unmarried women and their children who would otherwise face imprisonment at a reformatory. In their quest for public support, Olivia meets Darius, a widowed father of a young daughter. Through Darius’s love, Olivia’s emotional wounds are finally able to heal; she accepts forgiveness for herself and discovers that she is worthy of love. This gripping, emotional tale will appeal to readers of Julie Klassen. (Oct.)

Reviewed on 07/31/2020 | Details & Permalink

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Nine

Rachelle Dekker. Revell, $17.99 trade paper (352p) ISBN 978-08007-3-596-8

Dekker (coauthor of The Girl Behind the Red Rope) explores identity in this entertaining story of a woman with no memory. Zoe Johnson is working her shift at the diner in tiny Sherman, Tex., when she meets Lucy, who can’t remember anything except that she must get to Corpus Christi and find someone named Summer Wallace. Against her better judgment, Zoe decides to help. When FBI agents catch up with them and question Zoe when Lucy is away, she realizes she may be in over her head—but she’s not willing to abandon Lucy. As they race to find Summer and retrieve Lucy’s memories, the two develop a deep bond and also discover Lucy has superhuman strength and endurance. Then FBI agent Tom Seeley finds Zoe and gains her trust by explaining Lucy has been genetically engineered for “perfection” and insisting he has come to help, and an awkward romance strikes up. Unfortunately, the romance subplot feels grafted on and distracts from the tense mystery of Lucy’s purpose and larger questions about whether identity is based on genetic programming or on the choices one makes. Fans of Ted Dekker will be happy to see his daughter carrying on the family tradition. (Sept.)

Reviewed on 07/24/2020 | Details & Permalink

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The Stone Wall

Beverly Lewis. Bethany, $26.99 (384p) ISBN 978-0-7642-3327-2

Bestseller Lewis (Child of Mine) returns with a resplendent tale of love, loss, and faith within the Amish community of Lancaster, Pa. Twenty-something Anna, after from a breakup, moves in with her mother’s cousin Sadie for a change of pace despite her parents’ disapproval and her own concerns about leaving her ailing grandmother, Eliza, who has Alzheimer’s. Unlike Anna’s mother’s family, who are of the more modern Beachy Amish, Sadie and her side of the family are Old Order. Soon, Anna is presented with two suitors—Mart, who comes from a sect similar to Anna’s, or Gabe, an Old Order widower with a troubled young daughter. As her bonds with Gabe and his daughter strengthen, Anna ponders the differences between the Amish communities, learns stories about her grandmother being caught between two Amish sects 70 years before, and discovers that many paths lead to the same God. The redemptive union of Gabe and Anna is all the more poignant set alongside Eliza’s fleeting memories of losing the man she loved because of the same insular divides. Lewis’s fans are in for a treat. (Sept.)

Reviewed on 07/24/2020 | Details & Permalink

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