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The Protective One

Shelley Shepard Gray. Gallery, $16 trade paper (304p) ISBN 978-1-98-210091-9

Shepard Gray continues her Amish Walnut Creek series (after A Precious Gift) with this slow-burning, enjoyable romance. Elizabeth “E.A.” Anne and Will are both members of “The Eight,” a group of lifelong friends now in their mid-20s, but they are the last two of the group without partners or clear direction for their lives. E.A. gives sewing lessons and Will works in a trailer factory; both are looking for something more meaningful. E.A. boots potential suitor David—who, by all measures, seems perfect for her—after she recognizes that David, despite his dedication and Mennonite upbringing, is not what she is looking for in a life partner. Then, after the death of a close mutual friend, E.A. and Will reconnect and she begins to see him in a new light. As their friendship deepens, E.A. is struck with a new challenge after she discovers one of her students, Marta, is in an abusive marriage. While Marta struggles to leave her relationship, E.A. and Will find safety and security in theirs. Embedded in this quaint story is a poignant message about the importance of community, compassion, and doing what’s right rather than what’s easy. The author’s fans and newcomers alike will enjoy this appealing tale. (Jan.)

Reviewed on 11/29/2019 | Details & Permalink

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The Innkeeper’s Bride

Kathleen Fuller. Zondervan, $15.99 trade paper (320p) ISBN 978-0-310-35516-8

Fuller (The Farmer’s Bride) begins the Amish Brides of Birch Creek series with this stirring tale of wit, hope, and delight. Selah Ropp returns to Birch Creek after a stint living in rural New York and moves in with her brother and his new wife, but she is filled with a quiet resolve to live a pious, fulfilled, healthy life in her own home. The first step is finding a job; and there just happens to be an opening with Levi Stoll and his family at their almost-open B and B. Suffering from depression, Selah is wary of making friends—and especially of trusting herself around men after being disappointed in the past. Reticent Levi, meanwhile, has a loving family and a strong faith—but his faith is tested when he unexpectedly has to take over the family business from his father. When two elderly Amish matchmakers set their sights on the pair, the meandering narrative clicks into gear. Readers who enjoy Wanda Brunstetter will love this. Agent: Natasha Kern, Natasha Kern Agency (Jan.)

Reviewed on 11/22/2019 | Details & Permalink

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The Tea Chest

Heidi Chiavaroli. Tyndale, $15.99 trade paper (432p) ISBN 978-1-4964-3478-4

Chiavaroli (The Hidden Side) delivers an endearing tale of two women separated by centuries who are searching for guidance and strength. In the present day, Hayley Ashworth is determined to make history by becoming the first woman to complete Navy SEAL training, and also to move past her troubled childhood with a drug-addicted mother. Weeks before her training, Haley leaves California and returns to her hometown of Boston to reconcile with her mother. While home, she runs into her old boyfriend, Ethan, whom she hasn’t seen since breaking his heart years ago, and together they find an old tea chest at a shop that appears to be from the Boston Tea Party. A document inside from 1773 reveals the chest’s owner to be Emma Winslow, a woman caught up in the political scandal surrounding the Boston Tea Party. In a parallel narrative, Emma, from a Loyalist family, longs to have a say in her future and join the side of liberty. Fearing the unknown, she battles the thought of betraying her father to fight for a new country. As Hayley learns more about Emma and her brave struggle, Hayley realizes that anything is possible, even letting go of her ambitions. Organic faith elements and Chiavaroli’s skillful switching between time lines separate this from similar historical inspirational romances. Fans of Francine Rivers will enjoy this. (Feb.)

Reviewed on 11/22/2019 | Details & Permalink

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A Girl’s Guide to the Outback

Jessica Kate. Thomas Nelson, $15.99 (352p) ISBN 978-0-7852-2961-2

Kate (Love and Other Mistakes) delivers an endearing inspirational romance that spans continents. Headstrong business expert Kimberly and risk-averse youth pastor Sam cannot seem to get along as they attempt to launch a youth ministry in Charlottesville, Va. After three years of little progress, Sam learns his family farm in Australia is at risk of bankruptcy and decides to return home to help save his family’s legacy. However, once there, he and his sister realize they need a professional to help ensure the farm’s long-term survival. Meanwhile, Kimberly is unable to secure a new pastor for the ministry. When she receives an offer from Sam to help hire his replacement in exchange for her business expertise, she accepts and travels to Australia to assess the farm’s needs. As Kimberly learns a new way of life and starts to trust Sam, she thinks she might have found the family she never had. She also helps Sam begin to believe in himself and God’s plan. Their story is paralleled by Sam’s sister’s relationship with her on-again, off-again boyfriend, and everyone experiences spiritual growth and contemplates the bonds that bind families. With its dramatic descriptions of the Australian landscape, this sweet romantic inspirational will please readers of Katherine Reay. (Jan.)

Reviewed on 11/22/2019 | Details & Permalink

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An Uncommon Woman

Laura Franz. Revell, $15.99 trade paper (384p) ISBN 978-0-8007-3495-4

Christy Award–winner Franz (A Bound Heart) takes readers on a romantic adventure in 1770 Virginia in this enjoyable work. Tessa Swan lives with her mother and five brothers on the outskirts of Fort Tygart where tensions run high between the whites and Native Americans. Several years earlier, one of Tessa’s best friends, Keturah, was captured by the Lenape Natives, and recently, Tessa’s father was killed by them, as well. When Col. Clay Tygart, also a former captive of the Lenape, returns to the fort with the long-lost Keturah, the young woman struggles to return to her previous life. Tessa and Clay experience an immediate connection, but Clay fights his feelings for her due to his own belief (and experience) that everyone he cares for ends up getting hurt. But thanks to Tessa’s influence, Clay begins to rediscover the faith of his youth, which he will need as he struggles to keep the fort safe from attack. When Clay realizes he and Keturah are connected through their shared history living among the Lenape tribes, he fears the whole community, especially Tessa and her family, is at risk. Franz captures the challenges of life on the frontier in this skillful though straightforward inspirational romance. (Jan.)

Reviewed on 11/22/2019 | Details & Permalink

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The Way of the Brave

Susan May Warrren. Revell, $15.99 trade paper (352p) ISBN 978-0-8007-3584-5

Warren (You Don’t Know Me) kicks off her new Global Search and Rescue series with a heart-stopping tale. Orion Starr is still haunted by his deployment as a rescue paratrooper in Afghanistan, particularly an ambush that cost four soldiers their lives. Removing himself from his secluded Alaska home, he agrees to team up with Hamilton “Ham” Jones to climb Mount Huntington, and, along the way, Ham tries to recruit Orion to his search and rescue team. In a separate thread, Jenny Calhoun and her two friends are climbing Denali. Jenny, a former CIA psychiatrist, is also running from her biggest mistake—mistrusting an informant that led to the same ambush in Afghanistan. An avalanche and whiteout separate Jenny and friends from their guide and traps them on Denali. Orion and Ham hear of the avalanche and head over to help. But another whiteout blows in soon after they find the climbers, leaving two injured and everyone snowed in on the mountain. As Orion and Jenny battle the mountain, they also wrestle with their past, anger, and shame, and come to believe God didn’t bring them to the mountain to betray them, but perhaps to heal them. Warren lays the foundation of a promising faith-influenced series with this exciting outing. (Jan.)

Reviewed on 11/22/2019 | Details & Permalink

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Collateral Damage

Lynette Eason. Revell, $15.99 trade paper (320p) ISBN 978-0-8007-2934-9

Eason (the Women of Justice series) kicks off her Danger Never Sleeps series with this suspenseful tale of an Army therapist being hunted by terrorists. A soldier saved Army psychiatrist Brooke Adams from a bomb explosion in Afghanistan, and the soldier’s dying words were a plea to clear his name: he had been accused of selling information to terrorists. Back home in South Carolina, Brooke is contacted by retired Sgt. Asher James, who seeks help with his PTSD. When he arrives at her office, they discover her new assistant has been murdered and the killers are after Brooke. It appears that someone wants to know what she heard from her rescuer—and then to shut her up for good. Rather than go to the police, she and Asher begin sleuthing, but more attacks make them wary of investigating what’s behind them too deeply. In Afghanistan, Brooke’s friend Sarah, a reporter, is about to break open an organ-harvesting and child trafficking ring. As Brooke and Asher discover more of Sarah’s reporting and how it meshes with their own memories of that fatal day, it becomes clear they are all up against the same dark, desperate, and dangerous forces. Leaning on their shared faith and sense of purpose, Brooke and Asher forge a strong relationship. Eason remains a force in action-packed inspirational fiction with this excellently paced, heartening tale. (Jan.)

Reviewed on 11/22/2019 | Details & Permalink

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Lioness: Mahlah’s Journey

Barbara M. Britton. Pelican, $15.99 trade paper (223p) ISBN 978-1-52-230225-4

Britton launches the Daughters of Zelophehad biblical fiction trilogy with this enchanting first installment (after the Tribes of Israel series). The Israelites still wander the wilderness before entering the promised land. After the tragic death of Zelophehad, his five daughters must fend for themselves to prevent being put under the guardianship of male relatives. Mahlah, the eldest, is determined to provide for and protect her sisters, including obtaining the right to inherit land that would have been granted to a son. While the daughters show some rebellious streaks, Britton reveals Mahlah’s strong faith and deep understanding of the cultural norms of her day as she boldly, but respectfully, approaches Moses with her petition. The request is so unexpected that Moses asks God for guidance before making a decision. Britton fleshes out the brief biblical account of this family with plenty of drama, including plagues, idol worshippers, and a harrowing military conflict. Mahlah’s uncommon strength separates this poignant story from similar books that retread familiar biblical narratives. Fans of Tessa Afshar will love this. (Dec.)

Reviewed on 11/15/2019 | Details & Permalink

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Wings Like a Dove

Camille Eide. Ashberry Lane, $15.99 trade paper (300p) ISBN 978-1-9465-3174-2

Eide (The Memoir of Johnny Devine) delivers a powerful tale of a Jewish immigrant dealing with prejudice. In the midst of the Depression, 20-year-old Anna Leibowicz—single, pregnant after having been raped, and recently kicked out of her home—leaves New York for Chicago in search of her long-missing father. On her way through rural Indiana, she meets chef Thomas Chandler and group of young apprentices. Anna is a fine cook herself, and she offers to teach them in exchange for room and board. Anna, a Jewish immigrant, soon becomes a target for the members of the community eager to maintain “American” values. As nationalism roils the community, Thomas is also harassed in an attempt to drive him out of town because one of his apprentices is black and due to his connections to the Catholic Sisters of Mercy. After devout Thomas discovers Anna is pregnant, he feels disgust toward her and she sets off on her own again, but God leads them back together as they struggle to survive racial hatred. Anna’s nuanced inner life and the stakes of her trip make this stand out from similar inspirational fare. This harrowing, enthralling tale will appeal to fans of Linda Byler. (Jan.)

Reviewed on 11/08/2019 | Details & Permalink

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The Thief of Lanwyn Manor

Sarah E. Ladd. Thomas Nelson, $15.99 trade paper (352p) ISBN 978-0-7852-2318-4

Set in Cornwall, England, in the early 1800s, Ladd’s sweeping inspirational romance, second in the Cornwall Novels series (after The Governness of Penwythe Hall), brims with triumph and tragedy. Many young men have gone off to serve in India while others have found work in the mines. Orphaned 19-year-old Julia Twethewey has come to stay with her uncle in the mining town of Goldweth, both to act as companion to her pregnant cousin, Jane, and to recover from a broken heart. Life at Lanwyn Manor, however, is not all it seems. Isaac Blake oversees the family mine owned by his twin brother, Matthew. As the second-born twin, Isaac’s hardly a catch for any marriage-minded lady, as he has no claim to the family business, but he and Julia seem to connect on an elemental level. Matthew, however, sees Julia as his way into profiting from her uncle’s mine. Ladd laces the drama with deep faith elements and fine details of the Regency era, which provide depth beyond the tension of the romance. Fans of Julie Klassen will love this. Agent: Rachelle Gardner, Books & Such (Jan.)

Reviewed on 11/08/2019 | Details & Permalink

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