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The Happy Camper

Melody Carlson. Revell, $15.99 trade paper (352p) ISBN 978-0-8007-3723-8

Carlson (Christmas in Winter Hill) delivers a light romance in this cute inspirational. Inconsiderate and unpunctual Brandon Kranze has made Dillon Michaels wait one too many times. After she ends their relationship, she asks God for help and leaves her job in Colorado Springs to head home to Oregon to care for her grandfather. There she finds her newly single mother has moved into Dillon’s old room, leaving Dillon to sleep on the couch. When Dillon’s grandfather gives her an old trailer on his property, she loves it and quickly gets to work fixing it up. It doesn’t hurt that doing so gives her a reason to see Jordan Atwood, the handsome owner of the local hardware store who also happens to own a vintage trailer. She’s eager to get to know him better, but someone else is competing for Jordan’s affections. Brandon also shows up, determined to win back Dillon’s heart. Dillon, through it all, relies on God’s strength to see her through. Memorable characters and a satisfying inspirational core make this one a winner. (Mar.)

Reviewed on 12/20/2019 | Details & Permalink

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If for Any Reason

Courtney Walsh. Tyndale, $14.99 trade paper (416p) ISBN 978-1-4964-3439-5

Second chances and new discoveries abound in this lovely tale from Walsh (Things Left Unsaid) featuring a nostalgic romance set against the backdrop of Nantucket. Despite a measure of fame found as a child star years ago, 30-year-old actor Emily Ackerman is a lost soul with only a stack of letters written by her late mother to lean on for guidance. Following the spectacular flop of a theater project that was her passion, Emily flees to the beach house her grandfather left her on Nantucket with the goal of renovating and selling it as quickly as possible. By chance, she reunites with Hollis, the next-door neighbor of her youthful summers. Hollis has his own trials—his professional baseball career has ended and his estranged preteen daughter is spending the summer with him. The two embark on a relationship, discover more about themselves and the people who love them, and develop a trust in God’s plan. Particularly poignant are the words from Emily’s mother, which, when combined with Emily’s powerful love for the theater and Hollis’s slowly growing relationship with his daughter, create a heartfelt testament to faith and the human condition. Readers of Irene Hannon will love this. (Feb.)

Reviewed on 12/20/2019 | Details & Permalink

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Two Steps Forward

Suzanne Woods Fisher. Revell, $15.99 trade paper (320p) ISBN 978-0-8007-2753-6

Fisher wraps up the Deacon’s Family series (following Stitches in Time) with this twist on the typical Amish tale, returning to Stoney Ridge, Pa., for an unlikely relationship built on a love for horses. Jimmy Fisher returns home to Stoney Ridge broke and homeless after four years away, where he meets widow Sylvie Schrock King and her stunning Arabian horse at the local store. Sylvie, struggling to stay afloat and realize her dreams for Rising Star Farm, hires Jimmy despite him being the son of her neighbor and nemesis Edith Fisher Lapp. Jimmy works wonders, getting rid of the endless junk Sylvie’s husband left her and her son, Joey, and shows Sylvie a kind side that she didn’t expect. Woven into this tale of two people overcoming fear and their own past hurts is the work of Izzy Schrock, who helps orphaned babies. In a town with few options for the poor, Izzy’s own troubled past inspires her to help the “fatherless” by leading the charge to install a baby box at the fire station. Themes of abandonment, commitment, forgiveness, and helping the helpless weave through this fitting series denouement. Fisher’s fans and newcomers to Amish fiction will be overjoyed with this heartwarming tale. Agent: Joyce Hart, Hartline Literary Agency. (Feb.)

Reviewed on 12/20/2019 | Details & Permalink

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Isaiah’s Legacy

Mesu Andrews. WaterBrook, $16.99 trade paper (400p) ISBN 978-0-7352-9188-1

Christy Award–winner Andrews takes on the story of Judah’s King Manasseh in the enthralling second entry in her Novel of Prophets and Kings series (following Isaiah’s Daughter). Manasseh, known as the wickedest king in Judah’s history, is son of Hezekiah, Judah’s most righteous king. Told in part through the eyes of Hephzibah, Manasseh’s mother, and Meshullemeth, his wife, the life of Manasseh is one of pagan idol worship, deceit, and betrayal. At the age of five, Manasseh exhibits behaviors related to autism—obsession with a spinning toy, deep reticence studded with outbursts—and is named co-regent with his father. As he ages, Meshullemeth, who he becomes betrothed to, is used as a pawn by her evil Assyrian-influenced uncle to get close to Manasseh and draw him away from Yahweh. The plan works, with Manasseh allowing idol worship and child sacrifice after he becomes king. However, the redemption prophesied by Isaiah, Hephzibah’s father, eventually occurs when Manasseh returns to Yahweh. Andrews handles the evils of these Old Testament tales with care, never avoiding the original stories, but also making clear the motives of Manasseh. Christian readers interested in the stories of the Old Testament will want to check out this exciting tale. (Feb.)

Reviewed on 12/20/2019 | Details & Permalink

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The Land Beneath Us

Sarah Sundin. Revell, $15.99 trade paper (384p) ISBN 978-0-8007-2799-4

Sudin (Through Waters Deep) crafts an unusual love story in the third installment of the Sunrise at Normandy series. In Camp Forrest, Tenn., just before D-Day, Pvt. Clay Paxton trains with the Army Rangers and is driven by a recurring dream of his death on the battlefield. Betrayed by his two half-brothers, who stole his savings, he believes dying in combat could give meaning to his life. He meets and takes a liking to courteous Leah Jones, who works at a nearby orphanage library, is an orphan herself, and was abandoned by her uncaring adoptive family. When Clay saves Leah’s life during an attempted rape, their bond deepens, and they decide to marry before Clay heads to Europe. As Clay fights and Leah convalesces, their relationship strengthens through letters, and they realize God’s plan may not have been what they were expecting. Clay and Leah are the embodiment of courage and fortitude as they find hope in faith, selflessness, and forgiveness. This ruminative, slow-burning romance is Sundin’s best yet. (Feb.)

Reviewed on 12/20/2019 | Details & Permalink

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More Than We Remember

Christina Suzann Nelson. Bethany House, $15.99 trade paper (352p) ISBN 978-0-7642-3538-2

The lives of three women living in the small town of West Crow, Ore., intersect in the aftermath of a fatal car accident in this delicately crafted tale from Nelson (Swimming in the Deep End). After Addison Killbourn’s husband, Caleb, is badly injured and hospitalized in a car accident in which a woman is killed and Caleb appears to be at fault, it’s Deputy Emilia Cruz’s job to investigate. Emilia, meanwhile, is haunted by a fire that nearly killed her firefighter husband, leaving him distant from her and her teen daughter. Addison’s neighbor Brianne, a therapist, jumps in to help with the care of Addison’s three children in the wake of the accident—despite her own struggles with the death of a client and loneliness. Told in the distinct voices of each woman, the tapestries of their lives are presented in a deliberate and sensitive manner. Readers will find the characters’ struggles—parenting teenagers, dealing with substance abuse, and chronic medical conditions, among them— are rendered realistically, and their faith is subtle but provides an unshakable foundation. This is an excellent tale of how community and faith help people through difficult times. Agent: Cynthia Ruchti, Books & Such Literary. (Feb.)

Reviewed on 12/14/2019 | Details & Permalink

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Veiled in Smoke

Jocelyn Green. Bethany House, $15.99 trade paper (416p) ISBN 978-0-7642-3330-2

Christy Award–winner Green (Between Two Shores) sets this tumultuous, affecting tale against the backdrop of the Great Chicago Fire of 1871. Meg Townsend’s father, Stephen, hasn’t been the same since he was released from a prison camp during the Civil War. He patrols their roof, determined to protect his family from dangers that only exist in his mind. Hiram Sloane is Stephen’s only friend, who also acts as a benevolent uncle to Meg and her sister, Sylvie. When the fire strikes, the family’s home and bookstore are destroyed, Meg’s hands get badly burned, and Hiram is found murdered and Stephen is charged with the crime. Meg is devastated when her father is committed to an asylum, where he is diagnosed with “Soldier’s Heart” (today known as PTSD). Soon Meg enlists the help of Chicago Tribune reporter Nate Pierce to help her discover the truth about her father’s involvement in Hiram’s murder. Meanwhile, Sylvie develops feelings for Hiram’s grandnephew Jasper Davenport, who shows the suddenly homeless sisters nothing but kindness. As Nate and Meg become closer and Jasper appears to be hiding a dark past, Green engagingly weaves subtle faith elements into the mystery and romance. Fans of Lisa Wingate will enjoy this. (Jan.)

Reviewed on 12/14/2019 | Details & Permalink

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Hannah’s Courage

Molly Jebber. Zebra, $7.99 mass market (336p) ISBN 978-1-4201-4487-1

Jebber pleases with this endearing tale about the simmering romantic tensions between two childhood friends, the final installment to her Amish Charm Bakery series (following Ellie’s Redemption). In 1913, Hannah Lapp and Timothy Barkman, both around 20 years old, have grown up as neighbors in small Charm, Ohio, and have strong romantic feelings for each other, but neither has found a way to speak up. When Charlene Shelter moves next door to Timothy, her interest and eagerness in pursuing him throws Hannah and Timothy’s quiet courtship into disarray—as well as Hannah’s visits to the Barkmans’ house to tutor Timothy’s younger brother, who has special needs after being kicked in the head by a horse as a boy. As Timothy weighs his options, he remains hesitant to rush into a relationship and is skeptical about Charlene’s interest. Hannah, feeling she has waited too long, whips up her favorite recipes for Timothy and does her best to vocalize her feelings for him—something against her disposition and Amish upbringing. Hannah’s free-speaking co-workers at the bakery, Ellie and Magdelena, as well as other recurring characters who pop in to guide and encourage Hannah and Timothy, will please fans of the series. This diverting finale works as a standalone and should win Jebber new fans. (Feb.)

Reviewed on 12/06/2019 | Details & Permalink

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A Long Time Comin’

Robin W. Pearson. Tyndale, $25.99 (432p) ISBN 978-1-4964-4188-1

Pearson’s excellent debut explores forgiveness and the burden of secrets. When Evelyn finds out she’s pregnant, she tries to stick it out with her husband, Kevin, instead of entertaining her fantasies of leaving him. After Kevin goes abroad for work, Evelyn finds out that her grandmother, Granny B, is dying from leukemia. Evelyn and her mother decide to make sure that Granny B is getting the best treatment possible, but Evelyn soon discovers that it’s hard to change the ways of someone who is not afraid of dying. Evelyn decides to stick around as Granny B receives treatment, and while there, they sift through a box of old letters, uncovering facets of their history as well as long-buried secrets. Through sharing experiences and their views on faith and forgiveness, both women begin to see each other in a different light. Evelyn continues to throw Granny B’s life and routine into upheaval as she becomes determined to reconnect Granny B with her children, whom she rarely sees, but reconnecting means that Granny B will have to confront her past mistakes. In turn, helping Granny B repair her relationships and come to terms with the past gives Evelyn the strength to work on her own family. Pearson’s saga is enjoyable and uncomfortable, but also funny and persistent in the way that only family can be. (Jan.)

Reviewed on 12/06/2019 | Details & Permalink

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Collison of Lies

Tom Threadgill. Revell, $15.99 trade paper (400p) ISBN 978-0-8007-3650-7

Threadgill (the Jeremy Winter series) delivers the suspenseful, twisting tale of a San Antonio detective’s search for a missing boy. Property crimes detective Amara Alvarez, eager to move up the career ladder, meets a grieving mother who claims to have received a text message from her son who died in a school bus accident three years ago. When another parent of one of the children who died in the accident receives a note on her windshield, Alvarez believes there must be a connection. After the man Alvarez sees leaving the note on security footage turns up dead, she enlists the help of the medical examiner and the homicide department. The case turns on its head when, after looking into records regarding the children’s remains, they realize the school bus accident may have been a cover-up and the children could be still alive. Suddenly it’s a race against time as Alvarez scrambles to find out whom she can trust (even within the police department) as she searches for answers to what happened. Her sleuthing leads to the uncovering of a deep conspiracy connected to research into the nature of the soul, and potentially the location of the children, as well. Excellent pacing and surprising twists will keep readers guessing and engaged until the end. This is Threadgill’s most intricate, propulsive novel yet. (Feb.)

Reviewed on 12/06/2019 | Details & Permalink

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