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Til I Want No More

Robin W. Pearson. Tyndale, $25.99 (464p) ISBN 978-1-4964-5057-9

Pearson (A Long Time Comin’) delivers a satisfying tale of one woman’s secrets returning to haunt her. Maxine Owens is preparing for her wedding to Theodore Charles when she decides it’s time for her to come clean about a secret she’s been keeping from Theodore and his family: Maxine’s 13-year-old adopted sister, Celeste, is actually her daughter. Maxine, who was 17 and unprepared for motherhood, gave up rights to Celeste, and even Celeste still believes Maxine is her sister. As Maxine debates how and when to tell Theodore, her ex-husband, JD, comes back to town to help with his mother’s illness and to connect with the daughter he never met. When Maxine and Theodore meet with Maxine’s pastor and his wife for their premarital counseling sessions, Maxine is reminded that she is not condemned for her past and her faith plays a vital role in her healing. As Maxine comes to feel her “sins are... only a hair’s breadth” away, her desire to confront her past intensifies and tension rises between Maxine and the people who know her secrets and those who don’t. Pearson’s excellent characters and plotting capture the complexity and beauty of family, the difficulty of rectifying mistakes, and the healing that comes from honesty. Pearson rises to another level with this excellent story. (Feb.)

Reviewed on 12/11/2020 | Details & Permalink

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When Twilight Breaks

Sarah Sundin. Revell, $15.99 trade paper (384p) ISBN 978-0-8007-3636-1

In this gripping inspirational, Sundin (Sunrise at Normandy) takes an affecting look at the rise of the Nazi Party and Jewish persecution in Germany through the eyes of an American journalist. In 1938 Munich, Evelyn Brand, a foreign correspondent with the American News Service, struggles in her male-dominated field and constantly challenges bureau chief George Norwood, who heavily edits her work. George asks his friend, Peter Lang, a PhD candidate teaching in Germany, to arrange benign interviews with his German college students. Peter believes Hitler has been good for the German people and its economy, a view devout Evelyn finds abhorrent. When Nazis begin attacking Jewish synagogues and Jewish businesses are boycotted, Peter’s outlook changes, as does his relationship with Evelyn. Using his contacts within the Nazi Party, Peter infiltrates meetings to gather information for Evelyn to report on. As they conspire to expose Hitler’s misdeeds, their lives are placed in jeopardy, and their plans to escape the country are thwarted. Sundin combines suspense and romance to great effect, leaving readers guessing the fate of Evelyn and Peter to the final pages. Inspirational fans who like high-octane action will enjoy this thrilling story. (Feb.)

Reviewed on 12/04/2020 | Details & Permalink

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The Orchard House

Heidi Chiavoroli. Tyndale, $15.99 trade paper (432p) ISBN 978-1-49643-473-9

Chiavoroli (Tea Chest) delights with this homage to Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women, featuring a time-slip narrative of two women connected across centuries. In 1995, 13-year-old foster child Taylor is adopted by the family of her best friend, Victoria Bennett. Both are aspiring writers, and pursue their calling at the Jo March Writing Camp at Orchard House. But a competitiveness among the two also takes root. Several years later, Taylor walks in on her boyfriend and Victoria kissing and, in a fit of rage, she packs up and hits the road. In 1863, Louisa May Alcott asks her friend Johanna Suhre to come to Orchard House and care for her parents while she travels to Europe. Devout Johanna believes God has led her to the Alcotts and falls in love with their neighbor, Nathan Bancroft, but her happily ever after disintegrates soon after their wedding, as Nathan’s drunken abusiveness comes out. Jumping to 2019, Victoria implores the now bestselling author Taylor to come home to reconcile with their ill mother. In the process, she and Victoria stumble onto Johanna’s poetry, which may hold lessons for their own lives. Chiavoroli easily slips between narratives and includes many subtle literary references that will please close readers. Fans of Alcott who also enjoy inspirationals will love this. (Feb.)

Reviewed on 12/11/2020 | Details & Permalink

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Faith’s Mountain Home

Misty M. Beller. Bethany, $14.99 trade paper (304p) ISBN 978-0-76423-348-7

Set in 1867, the third installment of Beller’s Hearts in Montana series (Love’s Mountain Quest) follows kidnapping survivor Laura Hannon as she tries to move on with her life. In the small town of Settler’s Fort, Laura, who began working for the local doctor during her convalescence, is caring for the wounded Aaron Long. Aaron is one of her kidnappers, and Laura accidentally shot him in the leg in the previous installment. Aaron’s twin brother, Nate, a former bandit and a newly converted Christian who was against his gang’s decision to kidnap Laura, has the peace of knowing God has forgiven him for his sins and is working hard to pay off his debts and care for Aaron. Nate has also been infatuated with Laura since first seeing her. As they spend more time together, his feelings deepen, but Nate thinks Laura deserves better than a former outlaw like him. While stealing away together, Nate and Laura discover a cavern where a wounded Native American man and his granddaughter have sought shelter. Nate and Laura do what they can to help the pair, but after Nate discovers the cave is being used to store stolen goods, all four of their lives may be in danger. While the convoluted plotting makes previous installments necessary reading, fans of the series will love this romantic mountain saga. (Jan.)

Reviewed on 11/20/2020 | Details & Permalink

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Tidewater Bride

Laura Frantz. Revell, $16.99 trade paper (416p) ISBN 978-0-8007-3496-1

Frantz (An Uncommon Woman) weaves suspense and romance beautifully in this enjoyable inspirational historical. In 1634 in the Virginia Colony, Selah Hopewell helps guide the women coming from England who have been recruited to marry men in the colonies. Her friend Xander Renick is one of the wealthiest tobacco lords in Virginia, and is married to Mattachanna, the Powhatan chief’s daughter. Xander and Mattachanna, along with their two-year old son, Oceanus, travel to Xander’s native Scotland. While there, Mattachanna dies of illness, and, deeming Oceanus too frail to make the journey back, Xander returns alone. As feelings develop between the widower and fiercely independent Selah, Oceanus, now four years old, returns in the care of a marriage-eligible nanny. However, Oceanus’s status as the grandson of the Powhatan chief makes him a target for deception, sabotage, and kidnapping as the political situation between the settlers and tribe becomes more tumultuous. As one tragedy leads to another, love and faith are tested all around. With its well-rounded characters and tense frontier conflicts, Frantz’s entertaining romance will be a hit with her fans. (Jan.)

Reviewed on 11/20/2020 | Details & Permalink

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A Beautiful Mess

Brenda S. Anderson. Vivant Run, $12.99 trade paper (298p) ISBN 978-1-9516-6400-8

Anderson (Pieces of Granite) delivers an impactful story about the power of faith within flawed, complicated people. Erin Belden’s daughter, Michaela, is spending the weekend with Erin’s ex-husband, Corey, as well as his new wife and their daughter, Clara. However, a car accident kills Corey and his wife. Michaela is unscathed, and Erin soon learns Clara has been left in her custody per Corey’s will. Erin is initially upset about the responsibility of taking care of Corey’s three-year-old daughter, who was the catalyst for Corey and Erin’s divorce; Erin is not sure that she can love Clara, but she decides to take care of the young girl while working to find her a better guardian. Erin’s mental health deteriorates as she feels numbed to her circumstances and increasingly unstable, and she reluctantly accepts help from Jon, a friend from childhood who had abandoned Erin during her divorce out of allegiance to Corey. Slowly, as Erin helps Michaela and Clara work through their grief, she deals with her own and begins to see God’s transformative power. Readers who enjoy the work of Karen Kingsbury should check this out. (Self-published)

Reviewed on 11/13/2020 | Details & Permalink

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Bride of the Buddha

Barbara McHugh. Monkfish, $17.95 trade paper (360p) ISBN 978-1-948626-23-1

In this fine debut, poet McHugh imagines the life of the Buddha’s abandoned wife, Yasodhara, as she’s torn between the spiritual path and the impositions of patriarchal society. After the death of her sister Deepa, Yasodhara is driven to find her sister’s lost spirit so that her soul does not wander endlessly, as she believes it would. Political machinations push her into a marriage with Prince Siddhartha, the future Buddha, and after he abandons her, she deepens her spiritual practice as the palace demands she give up prayer to pursue a purely domestic life. In traditional accounts, the Buddha abandoned Yasodhara to undertake the quest for enlightenment, and Yasodhara is ordained only after the Buddha’s devoted attendant, Ananda, pushes the teacher to establish an order of nuns. In McHugh’s smart retelling, Yasodhara, after a period of intensive ascetic practice, hides her identity and joins the Buddha’s order as the male monk Ananda to practice the Dharma and to persuade the Buddha to let women ordain. Though sometimes the exposition on the Dharma can feel forced, McHugh combines scholarship with intriguing fictionalizations. This engrossing exploration of gender dynamics, identity, and the spiritual quest for meaning will appeal to Buddhists and general readers alike. (Jan.)

Reviewed on 11/06/2020 | Details & Permalink

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Endless Mercy

Tracie Peterson and Kimberley Woodhouse. Bethany House, $15.99 trade paper (368p) ISBN 978-0-7642-3250-3

Peterson and Woodhouse continue their Treasures of Nome series (following Forever Hidden), set in 1904 rural Alaska, with the moving story of musician Maddy Powell. Maddy is grieving the recent loss of her mother when her presumed-dead father shows up in Nome, complete with a second family. As she and her sisters struggle to process conflicting feelings, Maddy enjoys the attention and gifts of circus owner Buddy Merrick and becomes tempted to abandon her sheep farm to become a performer in his traveling circus. But is he sincere or just looking to use her? Then Maddy meets Daniel, the grandson of her mentor, Granny Beaufort, who has returned to Nome after fruitless years spent searching for gold in the Yukon. Daniel befriends Maddy but has turned his back on God. Through their friendship, both learn to trust God and discover peace and love. Peterson and Woodhouse do an excellent job of creating heroes and heroines to root for, as well as evil con men Maddy meets through the circus. This is an exciting and thoughtful portrait of family and faith on the frontier. (Jan.)

Reviewed on 11/06/2020 | Details & Permalink

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Night Bird Calling

Cathy Gohlke. Tyndale, $25.99 (432p) ISBN 978-1-4964-2971-1

Gohlke (Secrets She Kept) delivers a gripping story about the trauma of domestic and church abuse set in 1941 Appalachia. Lilliana Grace Swope flees Philadelphia and her abusive husband and father, both leaders in their local congregation who use their positions to justify physical and emotional abuse, after her mother’s death. She heads to her great-aunt Hyacinth Belvidere’s home in tiny No Creek, N.C., and soon learns of Hyacinth’s health troubles and her plan to will Lilliana her estate. As Lilliana becomes part of the community, she sees the effects of racism, violence, gossip, and hidden sexual abuse; she also begins to stand up for herself, see herself as God sees her, and defend those hurt by racism and sexism by opening Hyacinth’s home and large library to all. But as Hyacinth becomes increasingly blind and frail, Lilliana’s husband shows up looking to position himself to profit from Lilliana’s inheritance, and Lilliana must find the courage to thwart his scheme to divorce her to keep control of the estate. Gohlke creates a cast readers will love, and the strong themes of the bonds of family forged outside one’s kin resonate. The author’s fans will love this. Agent: Natasha Kern, Natasha Kern Literary Agency (Jan.)

Reviewed on 11/06/2020 | Details & Permalink

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All That We Carried

Erin Bartels. Revell, $16.99 trade paper (368p) ISBN 978-0-8007-3836-5

Bartels (The Words Between Us) introduces estranged sisters Olivia and Melanie in this touching story set in rural Michigan. A decade ago, the sisters were hiking when their parents were killed in a car accident, and Olivia was further devastated to learn Justin, her best friend since grade school, was driving the car that hit her parents. While Olivia refused to forgive Justin, Melanie and Justin found peace and comfort in each other, and their bond deepened as Olivia’s anger and bitterness grew. In hopes of mending things with her sister, Melanie convinces Olivia to go on a hike together, just like they did on that fateful day. However, as they pick through their vastly different world views while hiking, the rift between them only grows: Olivia believes in nothing spiritual and rejects God or any higher power, while Melanie takes what suits her from many different belief systems. Just as emotions are running high and they fear they’ve gotten lost, they meet Josh, a fisherman who tries to get the sisters back on track in more ways than one. Bartels leaves subtle clues alluding to the possibility Josh may not be just an average fisherman. This subdued tale of learning to forgive is Bartels’s best yet. (Jan.)

Reviewed on 11/06/2020 | Details & Permalink

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