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Truly Madly Deeply

Karen Kingsbury. Atria, $26 (384p) ISBN 978-1-9821-0438-2

Kingsbury’s solid latest Baxter Family outing (following Someone Like You) focuses on the power of faith when hope is hard to find. Tommy Baxter and Annalee Miller are in their senior year of high school when their lives are forever altered. After returning from a mission trip to Thailand, where they meet an American ex-pat who runs an orphanage for victims of human trafficking, Annalee and Tommy feel God calling them to do something about it. When Tommy announces that he is gong to be a police officer, his mother doesn’t take it well, but his dad, a lawyer, arranges for Tommy to go on ride alongs with local police so he can see what the life and job of a cop looks like. Then Annalee is diagnosed with an aggressive cancer, and she chooses to lean into her faith to find a peace that comes only from God. At first, Tommy keeps faith that God will heal Annalee, but when it appears God is not answering his prayers and a police friend is shot, Tommy begins to question God. Longtime fans of the Baxter family dramas will enjoy seeing the spiritual and physical growth in the younger characters. Kingsbury again delivers a touching, emotional tale about the strength of faith. (Oct.)

Reviewed on 09/11/2020 | Details & Permalink

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What You Said to Me

Olivia Newport. Shiloh Run, $12.99 trade paper (256p) ISBN 978-1-68322-997-1

In this endearing fourth installment to the Tree of Life series (following When I Meet You), Newport returns to Canyon Mines, Colo., and the troubled life of Tisha Crowder. After 15-year-old Tisha is caught shoplifting, Tisha’s attorney strikes a deal with the court for Tisha to repay her debt to society by working for his daughter, genealogist Jillian Parisi-Duffy. Tisha comes from a long line of angry, single mothers, and Jillian sees her bad attitude as a cry for help, but has no idea how to support her. As they work together, Tisha begins to question the missing pieces in her own family history. Through their research in the town files, a parallel story emerges, featuring the Brandt family in 1893 Colorado. Clifford Brandt is a silver mine manager who loses his job and remains determined to live the Gospel and share what he has. His wife, Georgina, however, is anxious and angry about their change in circumstances, and after Clifford moves the family to Canyon Mines, Georgina’s heart hardens, and she teaches her daughters they can never depend on a man. For Tisha, discovering her relation to Georgina may be just what she needs to break her family’s painful cycle. The revelations of Tisha’s family history tie in nicely with Newport’s themes of redemption, making for a satisfying conclusion. Those who enjoy inspirationals that time-swap between eras will enjoy this moving tale. (Nov.)

Reviewed on 09/11/2020 | Details & Permalink

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Burden of Proof

Davis Bunn. Revell, $15.99 trade paper (320p) ISBN 978-0-8007-2788-8

Christy Award winner Bunn (Outbreak) delivers another riveting inspirational centered on a murder. Ethan Barrett, recently diagnosed with terminal cancer and given a month to live, is filled with regrets over broken relationships and, particularly, the argument he had with his brother, Adrian, just before Adrian was murdered 35 years before. Ethan is shocked when Adrian’s widow, Sonya, a neurobiologist, shows up and announces she has developed the technology to time travel. She asks Ethan to help save Adrian’s life by going back in time, even though doing so will result in his own death. Having nothing to lose, Ethan welcomes the opportunity to exchange his life for his brother’s and is sent back to 1985. As he races to uncover the identity of the killer, he also seizes the chance to make better decisions and treat others with compassion and generosity. Bunn’s imaginative thriller combines propulsive plotting with sharp observations on what it means to live a good, faithful life. The author’s fans will love this entertaining story of tragedy and redemption. (Nov.)

Reviewed on 09/11/2020 | Details & Permalink

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Nothing Short of Wondrous

Regina Scott. Revell, $15.99 trade paper (336p) ISBN 978-0-8007-3640-8

Scott continues her American Wonders Collection (after A Distance Too Grand) with this entertaining inspirational romance set in the vastness of 1886 Yellowstone National Park. Kate Tremaine, a widow whose husband was killed by a bear the year before, has a short-term lease on the Geyser Gateway Inn. She, her cook Alberta, and her seven-year old son, Danny, live year-round in the park and are surprised when Lt. Will Prescott leads a unit of the U.S. Cavalry into the land, having been sent to protect the park from poachers and vandals. With Kate needing an ally in her bid for a 10-year lease on the Inn and Prescott looking for a guide through the uncharted local terrain, their mutually beneficial pact, based on a shared faith, soon becomes mutual attraction. But Prescott has a secret he is sure will change Kate’s mind about him as a suitable wooer, and as others try to get a foothold in the lucrative park concession business, the pair end up battling more than just poachers. Though astute readers will recognize the main vandalism culprit early on, Scott still manages to plack in plenty of suspense, faith, and adventure. (Oct.)

Reviewed on 08/28/2020 | Details & Permalink

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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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