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Romancing Nadine

Amy Lillard. Zebra, $7.99 (320p) ISBN 978-1-4201-4958-6

Lillard continues her Wells Landing series with this tender 10th installment (following Loving Jenna). Sixty-four-year-old Nadine Burkhardt, who has been widowed twice, has just moved with her daughter-in-law and disabled adult granddaughter to the small Amish community of Wells Landing for a new start. One day in church, she notices a man with bright blue eyes staring at her and cannot stop wondering about him. She learns that he is Amos Fisher, a bachelor about her age who recently moved back to town. Amos falls in love with Nadine the moment he sees her and believes God has brought them together. However, convincing her is easier said than done—Nadine reacts angrily to Amos’s attentions and announces she is uninterested in finding love again—and Amos starts to question his relationship with God. But despite Nadine’s protestations, Amos keeps asking her out, and she begins to enjoys Amos’s company, finally agreeing to be his friend. When Amos’s health becomes a concern, Nadine must face her fears of commitment as she questions her true feelings for Amos. Lillard’s rich descriptions of Amish life and endearing portrayal of Amos’s courtship will please any fan of Amish fiction. Series fans are in for a treat. (Aug.)

Reviewed on 07/10/2020 | Details & Permalink

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The Haunting at Bonaventure Circus

Jaime Jo Wright. Bethany, $15.99 trade paper (352p) ISBN 978-0-76423-389-0

Wright’s entertaining latest (after Echoes Among the Stones) centers on two unsolved murders. In 1909, baby Pippa Ridley, born with a deformed leg, was left on the doorstep of her circus owner parents. Now, 19-year-old Pippa is receiving secret messages from someone who calls himself “The Watchman” and claims to know the origins of her birth and the course of her future. In the present day, Chandler Faulk, who has recently been diagnosed with an autoimmune disorder and feels abandoned by God, is busy renovating a train depot and learns it is the site of the 1928 murder of Patty Luchent, a circus worker and prostitute. Chandler becomes friends with her landlord, Denny, and his nephew, Hank, who both want to clear the name of Denny’s grandfather, who went to prison for Patty’s murder, as well as solve their own mystery—that of a family member who disappeared 40 years before. In 1928, Pippa develops feelings for Jake Chapman, who is also on a mission to find the Watchman, who claims to have murdered Jake’s sister. While Pippa maintains that the Watchman couldn’t be dangerous, the investigations across time reveal someone (or something) is determined to keep them all from the truth. Wright briads the storylines nicely, building to a jaw-dropping conclusion. Readers of Colleen Coble will love this. (Sept.)

Reviewed on 07/10/2020 | Details & Permalink

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Mountain Laurel

Lori Benton. Tyndale, $25.99 (450p) ISBN 978-1-4964-4431-8

Benton’s elegant and haunting latest (after Many Sparrows) centers on a forbidden late 18th century love affair. In 1793, Boston-raised Ian Cameron and his friend Thomas leave for Ian’s home of Mountain Laurel, N.C., in hopes that Ian’s woodworking skills will be enough for him to become heir to his uncle’s plantation. There Ian meets Seona, a slave who has a secret passion for drawing, even though doing so is forbidden on the plantation. Ian, who is uneasy at the idea of becoming a slave owner, invites Seona to design some of his woodwork. Their collaboration leads to mutual attraction and a secret engagement, though they are both worried about being caught. When Thomas offers Seona a chance to escape, Ian’s drastic reaction impacts the lives of every person, free and enslaved, on the plantation. Torn between society’s expectations and his heart’s desires, Ian attempts to find peace by diving deeper into his faith. Benton’s bracing tale depicting the brutality of slavery and the power of faith to heal will appeal to fans of Laura Frantz. (Sept.)

Reviewed on 07/10/2020 | Details & Permalink

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An Ivy Hill Christmas

Julie Klassen. Bethany House, $15.99 trade paper (224p) ISBN 978-0-76423-380-7

Klassen (The Bride of Ivy Green) returns to Ivy Hill, England, for this charming stand-alone Christmas romance. Richard Brockwell, a self-centered writer who lives alone in 1822 London, dreads going home to Brockwell Court for Christmas. Returning means facing a past Richard would rather forget, but what the confirmed bachelor doesn’t plan on when he arrives is falling for the lovely Arabella Awdry. Arabella knows of Richard’s rakish reputation and, having sworn off marriage in order to dedicate herself to charitable pursuits, rejects him. Richard’s normally tough exterior and heart soften, as he advocates for an orphaned apprentice who is suffering abuse and helps two widows whose home is in disrepair. But even as Richard thinks of others and make amends for his past, he struggles to believe that God loves him. Arabella, meanwhile, notices the changes in Richard and begins to have feelings for him—even though she is determined to continue with her own life plans. But Christmastime interventions from above work to place the two together. This feel-good tale of love and redemption will delight Klassen’s fans and new readers alike. Agent: Wendy Lawton, Books & Such. (Sept.)

Reviewed on 07/10/2020 | Details & Permalink

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Under the Tulip Tree

Michelle Shocklee. Tyndale, $15.99 trade paper (400p) ISBN 978-1-4964-4607-7

Shocklee (The Women of Rose Hill) grapples with the legacy of slavery in this rousing yet uneven inspirational romance. Sixteen-year-old Rena Leland’s comfortable life as the daughter of a prominent banker in Nashville is uprooted by the stock market crash of 1929. Seven years later, with her father suffering from alcoholism and her mother toiling in a sewing shop, Rena accepts a job with Roosevelt’s Federal Writers Project. She’s assigned to interview and transcribe the stories of former slaves, and her first encounter is with 101-year-old Frankie Washington, a resident of Hell’s Half Acre, one of Nashville’s poorest neighborhoods. The narrative switches between the 1930s and Frankie’s account of her life in 1842, when she endured horrendous acts of cruelty and dehumanization. Rena and Frankie form a strong bond that spans generational, racial, and socioeconomic divides until a twist of fate (or, as Frankie would view it, divine intervention) tests their friendship after Rena learns their two families may be intimately connected. While Rena’s evolution is inspiring, Frankie’s heart-wrenching sections feature an awkward balance of introspection and colloquialisms that often distracts from the narrative. Shocklee elevates the redemptive power of remorse and the grace of forgiveness in this moving saga. (Sept.)

Reviewed on 07/10/2020 | Details & Permalink

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A Life Once Dreamed

Rachel Fordham. Revell, $15.99 trade paper (336p) ISBN 978-0-800-73539-5

Fordham (Yours Truly, Thomas) delivers another winning inspirational romance in this lavishly detailed tale set in the Wild West. In 1880, 24-year-old Aggie Pratt builds a life as a schoolteacher in the town of Penance, within the Dakota Territory, after fleeing her well-to-do family in Buffalo, N.Y., six years earlier, when she learned she is actually the illegitimate child of her mother’s sister and was adopted by her parents. Despite being ill-prepared for life on the frontier, Aggie grows into a strong, independent woman. Then a new doctor comes to Penance, and it turns out he is James Harris, Aggie’s childhood friend and lifelong love whose interest in marrying Aggie inspired her parents’ confession. Upon his arrival, Aggie’s friends try their hands at matchmaking, and Aggie’s inner turmoil slowly fades as James defies expectations by accepting her. Their shared faith and the friendships they develop become the loving community Aggie worried she would never find. This sweet tale of frontier romance will appeal to fans of Tracie Peterson. (Aug.)

Reviewed on 06/26/2020 | Details & Permalink

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Vying for the Viscount

Kristi Ann Hunter. Bethany, $15.99 trade paper (352p) ISBN 978-0-76423-637-2

Hunter (A Pursuit of Home) centers this delightful Regency romance on a woman’s search for a husband. Bianca Snowley never worried about finding a man, but when her father decides it is time to marry her off to the horse-abusing Theophilus Mead, she sets out to find a more compatible match. Lord Hudson Stildon is the new viscount in town. Raised in India, he has come to England to claim his title and the Hawksworth estate. While his faith in God is thin, Hudson wants to believe his prayers will help him in this new challenge. Bianca, who has long ridden the horses at Hawksworth, believes Hudson could be the answer to her prayers. After they become friends at the stables, Hudson recruits Bianca to help him understand English society and the rules of courtship, as he plans to woo Lady Rebecca, whose father’s prize horse he plans to breed with his mare. In exchange, Hudson offers to help Bianca find a husband of her own. But the dream match just might be staring them in the face. Hunter’s sweet tale nicely weds Regency society intrigue, struggles of faith, and a romance kindled through mutual love of horses. This is sure to entertain any inspirational reader. (Aug.)

Reviewed on 06/19/2020 | Details & Permalink

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A Dazzle of Diamonds

Liz Johnson. Revell, $15.99 trade paper (352p) ISBN 978-0-8007-2942-4

Johnson continues her Georgia Coast romance series with this humorous third installment (after Glitter of Gold), a friends-to-lovers tale about an event planner and an unlikely candidate for sheriff. Penelope Hunter is forced to confront her past and possibly lose a potential client, Emmaline Adams, when she finds out her ex-fiancé, Winston St. Cloud, is Emmaline’s future husband. Penelope also receives a phone call from socialite Anabelle Haywood, who threatens to move her annual fund-raising event because of Penelope’s friendship with Tucker Westbrook, Penelope’s childhood best friend and a current candidate for sheriff. Mrs. Haywood recently received a letter detailing the Westbrook family’s alleged history of thievery and connection to a century-old conspiracy about missing treasure. In an attempt to improve Tucker’s image as he runs for sheriff, and to convince Winston that Penelope has moved on, Penelope and Tucker decide to not correct Emmaline’s assumption that they’re dating. Things go comically awry as Penelope and Tucker try to resist their feelings for one another while attempting to disprove the allegations made against Tucker by finding the treasure. In the end, both turn to God for help, who may have different plans than they envisioned. Romance and intrigue combine wonderfully in this enjoyable inspirational. (Aug.)

Reviewed on 06/19/2020 | Details & Permalink

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Piecing It All Together

Leslie Gould. Bethany, $15.99 trade paper (368p) ISBN 978-0-7642-3522-1

In the charming but underdeveloped first installment to the Plain Patterns series, Gould (Courting Cate) pairs the story of Savannah Mast, the child of a farmer who left the Amish faith years ago, as she is reintroduced to Amish life with that of a pioneer woman. Savannah’s only exposure to the Plain way of life was summer visits to her grandmother in Nappanee, Ind., when she was younger. But when Savannah’s fiancé calls off their wedding, Savannah retreats to her grandmother’s home. Soon after she arrives, a young Amish girl disappears, and Savannah’s childhood friend, Tommy Miller, becomes the prime suspect. A sheriff with a vendetta and no clear evidence seems set on convicting Tommy, and Savannah quietly tries to help Tommy clear his name. While attending a quilting bee with her grandmother, Savannah strikes up a conversation with the store’s proprietor and learns the story of Emma, an early Amish pioneer. Gould flips back and forth between Savannah and Emma’s narratives, but the connection between them is thin. While Savannah and Tommy’s quest to solve the disappearance gets the most focus, Emma’s story is more engaging, revealing much of Indiana’s early years of Indian resettlement and Amish movement into the Midwest. While Gould’s uneven execution mars the intriguing set-up, this wholesome time-swap tale will appeal to readers of Beverly Lewis. (Aug.)

Reviewed on 06/19/2020 | Details & Permalink

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Minutes to Die

Susan Sleeman. Bethany, $15.99 trade paper (384p) ISBN 978-0-7642-3396-8

Sleeman’s enjoyable second installment to her Homeland Heroes series (after Seconds to Live) features another tense relationship between federal agents. When FBI Agent Kiley Dawson takes the lead in investigating the murder of her informant, she learns a terrorist—who is somehow connected to the case—plans to strike. As she races across the country to track down leads and identify players involved in the nefarious mission, she grudgingly joins forces with ICE Agent Evan Bowers, whose mistake in a previous operation caused the death of Kiley’s partner. Evan has discovered foreign operatives carrying bomb-making technology have recently entered the U.S., and as Evan and Kiley work to stop the pending attack, Evan challenges Kiley to deal with the blame she attributes to him. Through their partnership, Kiley rediscovers her faith and the forgiveness that comes after laying down one’s fear. While the action scenes and dialogue are sharp, the breakneck pace and large cast will leave some readers in the lurch. Inspirational fans who enjoy action should check out this blistering tale. (Aug.)

Reviewed on 06/19/2020 | Details & Permalink

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