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Mountains of Grace

Kelly Irvin. Zondervan, $15.99 trade paper (336p) ISBN 978-0-3103-5669-1

Irvin (Beneath the Summer Sun) puts a new spin on the age-old problem of bad things happening to good people in this excellent Amish inspirational. When a forest fire threatens the small mountain town of Kootenai, Mont., both Amish and Englishers evacuate. While facing the loss of their material possessions, the two groups struggle to make their peace with God and one another. Mercy Yoder is an Amish school teacher who is having a hard time trusting in God’s plans. Two months earlier she turned down Caleb Hostetler’s marriage proposal; she told him it was because she wanted to continue teaching (which she would’ve had to give up), but really she fears he doesn’t actually love her. On the English side, Spencer McDonald is a smoke jumper who injured himself on a jump and now must sit on the sidelines while others battle the blaze. His alcoholic mother is working through the 12 steps and asks for forgiveness for the ways she failed him, but he has a long way to go before he can forgive. Meanwhile, during the evacuations, Mercy Yoder catches Spencer’s eye. Spencer and Mercy begin to like each other, but nobody in Spencer’s life thinks he should be with an Amish woman. Fans of both Amish and inspirational Christian fiction will enjoy this heart-pounding tale of the pain of loss and the joys of love. (Aug.)

Reviewed on 06/07/2019 | Details & Permalink

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Where Dandelions Bloom

Tara Johnson. Tyndale, $14.99 trade paper (416p) ISBN 978-1-4964-2835-6

Johnson (Engraved on the Heart) returns to the Civil War for another exciting inspirational romance featuring a dedicated, devout heroine. In 1861 Howell, Mich., Cassie Kendrick’s abusive, alcoholic father is determined she will marry the man of his choosing—just as her sisters have. But Cassie has ideas of her own. Emboldened by a conversation with her grandmother, she leaves for New York and enlists in the Union Army, as Thomas Turner. In a separate plot, Gabriel Avery lands his dream job working with war photographer Matthew Brady—which entails following Union troops through the nightmare of the early years of the war. Gabe crosses paths with Cassie-as-Thomas, but doesn’t quite know what to make of the pensive, sharpshooting young soldier. When Gabe discovers Cassie’s secret, their bond is broken, and it takes a life-threatening situation to re-establish the trust lost. Johnson embeds the story with her customary attention to historical detail, but the deeply wounded characters remain the focus of this ruminative investigation into the personal toll of war. Johnson’s Christian elements are subtle, allowing Cassie and Gabe’s perseverance to provide inspiration and hope. Fans of Lynn Austin will enjoy this. Agent: Books and Such Literary Management. (July)

Reviewed on 05/31/2019 | Details & Permalink

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Ashes Like Bread

Jean Hoefling. Jean Hoefling, $12.99 trade paper (310p) ISBN 978-1-73261-460-4

Hoefling (Gold in Havilah) paints a vivid, bold picture of a clairvoyant woman’s life in this enjoyable take on the Old Testament Genesis story. Zyla lives in a small community on the top of a holy mountain outside the Garden of Eden. The patriarchal community is led by Adam, Eve, and their son, Seth, and once Zyla develops a talent for seeing into the future—something unheard of for a female—she is ostracized. After her mother dies giving birth to a daughter and Zyla is shunned for a vision of a coming flood, she leaves the community with her newborn sister. Zyla and her sister, Adah, eventually settle among the Cainites, and, years later, Adah becomes betrothed to a powerful Cainite. As the flood looms and preparations are made, the sisters must decide who to trust when Adah’s husband lays claim to Zyla as his second wife. Rich in biblical detail and filled with Hoefling’s exposition on scriptural topics, this intense story captures the personal nature of persecution that suffuses the tales of the Old Testament. While the plot is overly complicated, Hoefling’s faithful, determined characters will hold particular appeal for fans of Mesu Andrews. (BookLife)

Reviewed on 05/24/2019 | Details & Permalink

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The Yellow Lantern

Angie Dicken. Barbour, $12.99 trade paper (256p) ISBN 978-1-6435-2083-4

Dicken (The Outlaw’s Second Chance) explores the black market for dead bodies in 1820s Massachusetts in this macabre, enticing installment of her True Colors series. Josephine Clayton, a medical assistant to Dr. Chadwick, wakes from a coma to find Dr. Chadwick standing over her with a knife. He tells her she was buried after being presumed dead from a fever, and he is ready to kill her and use her body for medical research. Alvin, another assistant, begs for her life, but in exchange for being spared, Josephine must agree to help Dr. Chadwick’s grave-robbing operation. She is sent to work at a cotton mill where she spies on the workers and reports back any unfortunate accidents that might result in a usable body. Josie puts her apothecary skills to use tending a garden and helping sick mill girls, all the while morbidly surveying those she is caring for. Josie, a devout Christian, begins to struggle to make her peace with God about the deceitful web in which she feels trapped, and starts to work with Alvin to secretly thwart the grave-robbing ring. But as they do, they find its roots run deeper than they imagined. While the grave robbery scheme provides a solid foundation for Dicken to build on, unsympathetic characters weaken the overall impact of this historical. Fans of gothic tales will enjoy Dicken’s odd mix of horror and inspirational elements. (Aug.)

Reviewed on 05/17/2019 | Details & Permalink

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The Enlightenment of Bees

Rachel Linden. Thomas Nelson, $16.99 trade paper (336p) ISBN 978-0-7852-2140-1

A heartbroken young woman searches for significance on a six-week humanitarian adventure in this fine tale of personal transformation from Linden (An Ascension of Larks). After Mia West’s longtime boyfriend breaks up with her, Mia wangles her way under false pretenses into an international humanitarian project funded by a reclusive billionaire. Thinking she would spend the trip getting her heart settled and enjoying world travel, Mia joins her roommate and four others, including a magnetic Hawaiian urban farmer named Kai, to serve in the Mumbai slums. As the eclectic team members feed impoverished children and become better acquainted, Mia fights the attraction between Kai and herself. Unexpectedly, the team is diverted to Hungary, where they help refugees flowing in from war-torn Middle Eastern countries. Thrown into a situation beyond her expectations, experience, and emotional bandwidth, Mia learns firsthand the depths of suffering that happen daily outside her little world. Facing the dire situation requires Mia to rely on her faith in ways she never has before, and she turns to God as a source of hope. Linden, an international aid worker herself, writes authoritatively on the dynamics of supplying aid. Inspirational readers will delight in Linden’s global scope and spirited group of humane characters. (July)

Reviewed on 05/17/2019 | Details & Permalink

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Love and Other Mistakes

Jessica Kate. Thomas Nelson, $15.99 trade paper (352p) ISBN 978-0-7852-2958-2

This captivating tale from Kate explores a woman’s pain and hardship as she questions her faith. Natalie Groves has just lost her job at a plant wholesaler in Charlottesville, Va. The job was the only means of support for her evangelist father, who has been battling cancer for years. On top of supporting her father, 26-year-old Natalie also hasn’t gotten over her broken engagement to Jeremy Walters, who left her weeks before their marriage seven years earlier, causing her to lose confidence in God’s plan. When Jeremy moves back to his hometown as a single parent after his relationship falls apart, Natalie doesn’t know how to deal with her emotions—particularly about his nine-month old baby. After Jeremy’s sister-in-law offers Natalie a minimum-wage internship as an aide to a youth minister, Natalie takes it, but also has to work part-time as Jeremy’s nanny to pay her father’s bills. Kate mines a lively cast of secondary characters from Jeremy’s understanding and helpful family, including his minister brother, police captain father, and teenage niece. Kate also addresses infidelity and fractured families, exploring how wounds can be healed within a relationship and a community. With believably flawed characters, this affecting tale of deceit and redemption, which questions what it means to forgive, will elicit strong reactions from Christian inspirational readers interested in stories with strong moral themes. Agent: Chip MacGregor, MacGregor Literary. (July)

Reviewed on 05/17/2019 | Details & Permalink

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Wherever You Go

Tracie Peterson. Bethany House, $15.99 trade paper (320p) ISBN 978-0-7642-1903-0

In this entertaining second entry in the Brookstone Brides inspirational historical romance series, Peterson (When You Are Near) details the adventurous ramblings of a troupe of female sharpshooters in 1901. In Topeka, Kans., Mary Reichert, one of the three stars of Brookstone’s Wild West Extravaganza, is angry, hurt, and in search of justice after the murder of her brother. However, with no chance of apprehending the murderer, as he is protected by the sheriff, she feels as if God has abandoned her. Then handsome, enigmatic reporter Christopher Williams tumbles into her life to do a series on the Extravaganza. As the troupe travels from the U.S. to England and then home again, readers are introduced to a vibrant set of secondary characters: Lizzy, the caring daughter of the Extravaganza’s founder; Wes and Phillip DeShazer, no-nonsense coordinators of the show; and runaway Ella Fleming. As the toil and grind of travel takes its toll, small intrigues build, threatening to pull the tight-knit group apart. Christopher travels with the troupe on their tour, and he and Mary develop a romantic and spiritual bond, allowing for many of Peterson’s trademark sweet, deeply introspective moments of spiritual exploration. While series fans will enjoy how the story builds nicely on the first installment and sets up the next, this moving, action-packed story also works as a standalone. (June)

Reviewed on 05/10/2019 | Details & Permalink

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Brazen Desires

J. Saltwick. Christian Faith Publishing, $16.95 trade paper (282p) ISBN 978-1-64079-815-1

A woman tries to keep her family land away from a developer, only to discover she has a connection (and chemistry) with him, in this enjoyable romance from Saltwick (Winner Takes All). Thirty-four-year-old Kate Clark doesn’t have much time for a personal life, spending all her energy on the Clark family ranch that she owns and operates. A fifth-generation rancher, Kate wants to fulfill her dream of restoring the ranch to its former glory by purchasing three properties, previously part of the ranch, that were sold by her grandfather. Her plans are cut short when a developer with a secret identity buys the properties and tries to push her to sell parts of her land. After Kate attends a business meeting with her largest customer, a grocery chain, and meets its owner, billionaire playboy Jarrett Sinclaire, their instant attraction develops into a love affair, despite his mysteriously manipulative behavior, such as having photos secretly taken of her and organizing a sham business event as a ploy to see her. When Kate discovers that Jarrett is the developer trying to buy her land, she is furious, but might already be in love. While the plot is outlandish, the chemistry between Kate and Jarrett is fierce, leading to some truly stunning twists. Although faith elements are barely present, Saltwick’s tale will please romance readers. (BookLife)

Reviewed on 05/10/2019 | Details & Permalink

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A Reluctant Bride

Jody Hedlund. Bethany House, $15.99 trade paper (352p) ISBN 978-0-7642-3295-4

Hedlund (With You Always) opens the Bride Ships series with a lively story about the Victorian class system; the workings of bride ships, which traveled to the English settlement of Vancouver Island; and the place of women in that society. In 1862, Mercy Wilkins lives in the London slums, and after finding a dying infant and bringing her to the hospital, she meets Lord Joseph Colville, an aristocrat filling in for the regular doctor. Then, desperate to escape her destitution, Mercy reluctantly signs up for a bride ship sailing for Vancouver, and she meets Joseph again onboard the Tynemouth, where Joseph is the ship’s surgeon. Although she gets onboard by agreeing to become a bride, she actually has no intention of marrying once she arrives. Mercy becomes Joseph’s assistant when seasickness strikes the passengers, and he comes to admire her caring spirit. There are many who want to keep them apart, with the rigid class system of the day and the ship’s gossip forming a barrier between Mercy and Joseph. Once in Vancouver, they encounter new prejudices, but also new freedoms that allow them to get to know one another. Weaving in faith elements organically, Hedlund explores the prejudices, restrictions, and moral codes of the Victorian era, as well as what it means to know oneself and to love someone. This excellent series launch will leave fans eager for the next entry. (June)

Reviewed on 05/10/2019 | Details & Permalink

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Stars of Alabama

Sean Dietrich. Thomas Nelson, $26.99 (352p) ISBN 978-0-7852-2637-6

Set during the Dust Bowl, this pleasing, ambitious epic from Dietrich (Sean of the South) brings together unlikely allies all escaping dire situations. In rural Alabama, 15-year-old Marigold is arrested for stealing food she was hoping to feed Maggie, her infant daughter that she left in the woods while robbing the general store. While laying shingles, migrant workers Paul and Vern discover the abandoned girl, who they take under their care. Meanwhile, in a parallel plot, a revivalist preacher travels the Midwest with his son Coot and a disgruntled group of followers. One night, Coot and follower Blake run away with Coot’s father’s money and head for Blake’s hometown of Mobile, Ala. While Paul, Vern, and the baby travel to find work, they meet a mother and two kids who are trekking across country as well, looking for a place to settle. Marigold, constantly thinking of the baby she lost, discovers that she has a magical gift of healing. Coot, as he is approaching Alabama, realizes his remarkable gifts of memory and the power of his preaching. As the dust swells and WWII looms, the characters intersect in unusual, surprising ways. Though filled with preachers declaring judgment and prophecies of the end-time, Dietrich’s hopeful tale illuminates the small rays of faith that shine even in dark times. (July)

Reviewed on 05/03/2019 | Details & Permalink

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