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A Season of Change

Beth Wiseman. Zondervan, $15.99 trade paper (336p) ISBN 978-0-3103-5728-5

Wiseman’s excellent third installment of her Amish Inn series (after An Unlikely Match) is a heartfelt story of the effects of tragedy, letting go of the past, and opening one’s heart to new beginnings. Rose, a young and overly talkative maid, is hired at the Peony Inn by elderly sisters Esther and Lizzie. Benjamin, a young man overcome by shyness, has also been hired as a handyman for the inn. Rose does her best to obey gentle advice from the sisters to listen more and cease her chatter, but quiet Benjamin inspires Rose to get him to open up. The two are drawn to each other despite an awkward introduction at the inn, and readers will cheer as the pair discover that accepting grace and offering it in return can be the foundation of real love. Their story is paralleled by that of Esther, who receives a bouquet of flowers from a secret admirer. Lizzie embarks on a quest to solve the mystery, while Esther grapples with the possibility of a second chance at romance in her golden years. Wiseman’s wholesome matchmaking ploys and the genuine love between the characters make this sweet finale a standout. Fans of the series will laugh and cry at this surprisingly bittersweet story that would be perfect for book clubs. (Oct.)

Reviewed on 07/23/2021 | Details & Permalink

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The Lines Between Us

Amy Lynn Green. Bethany House, $15.99 trade paper (400p) ISBN 978-0-7642-3717-1

In Green’s gratifying sophomore novel (following Things We Didn’t Say), WWII serves as the backdrop to a tense investigation into forest fires. In 1945, Quaker Gordon Cooper persuades his best friend, Jack Armitage, to apply for conscientious objector status. Being granted objector status, both end up in Oregon as smoke jumpers, helping to put out wildfires. Before the war, Gordon was sweet on Jack’s sister, Dorie, but she breaks his heart with her unabashed disdain for conscientious objectors. Meanwhile, Dorie decides to join the Women’s Army Corps and is assigned as a mechanic in Seattle. In the midst of an unusual surge of winter fires, Jack is badly injured while stationed at the lookout tower. Unable to come to terms with why Jack would run into the fire instead of sounding the alarm, Gordon battles the district ranger for information. When Dorie appears at Flintlock Mountain purporting to be conducting an Army investigation, Dorie and Gordon soon realize they must work together if they have any hope of finding out what really happened to Jack. Green creates an enthralling narrative that will keep readers guessing until the end. As new insights force Gordon and Dorie to grapple with their principles, one ideal emerges paramount: the truth actually can set one free. Green’s fans will love this. (Aug.)

Reviewed on 07/16/2021 | Details & Permalink

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Husband Auditions

Angela Strong. Kregel, $15.99 trade paper (272p) ISBN 978-0-8254-4710-5

In Strong’s fun inspirational romantic comedy (after Finding Love in Seaside, Oregon), opposite personalities attract during an outrageous attempt to implement courtship advice from the 1950s. Meri Newberg, now that her former roommate is married, has been staying in her brother’s townhouse while he is away for the summer. Kai Kamaka, one of Meri’s brother’s two roommates who she is forced to stay with, is a video editor currently working the night shift at a news station. When Meri, who is the last of her Christian friends group to find a boyfriend, discovers and complains about a list from the ’50s on the internet about ways to attract a husband, Kai comes up with the idea of a YouTube show where Meri tries out the suggestions. Meri is hesitant at first, but leans into the idea—not to find a husband, but to encourage other single women. While filming is fun and allows Meri and Kai to get closer, their ploys (dropping a handkerchief, literally lassoing a male passerby) go nowhere. But going through the list gives Meri the confidence to be single, and also inspires Kai to stop being complacent and risk rejection. Readers will be pleasantly surprised by Strong’s twist on the happily-ever-after ending. Those who enjoy novels of Karen Kingsbury should take a look. (Aug.)

Reviewed on 07/16/2021 | Details & Permalink

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Yours Is the Night

Amanda Dykes. Bethany House, $15.99 trade paper (384p) ISBN 978-0-7642-3268-8

In this propulsive tale, Dykes (Set the Stars Alight) brings together soldiers and an ethereal presence in the woods of France during WWI. Upon arrival in France, platoon sergeant Matthew Petticrew is linked with George Piccadilly, a chaplain who entered seminary in order to avoid the war, and Hank Jones, a journalist covering the war. In the woods near their encampment, the trio meet a young woman named Mireilles, and soon they realize she is the person the locals refer to as the Angel of Argonne, who sings while laying wreaths on the graves of fallen soldiers. With the Germans advancing, the group’s commanding officer allows them to escort her to safety in Paris. Warily, Mireilles goes along—but hides the fact that she understands English at first, allowing her to eavesdrop on their conversations and gain trust in Matthew. When George and Hank develop a scheme to ditch Mireilles and abandon the mission, Matthew must lie to all three in order to see Mireilles to safety. Dykes embeds timeless themes of trust, courage, and sacrifice, and Mireilles’s ethereal role provides a subtle element of faith. Readers who enjoy the work of Tracie Peterson will love this. Agent: Wendy Lawton, Books and Such. (Aug.)

Reviewed on 06/25/2021 | Details & Permalink

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Matched and Married

Kathleen Fuller. Zondervan, $15.99 trade paper (320p) ISBN 978-0-3103-5896-1

Fuller continues her Amish Mail-Order Brides of Birch Creek series (following A Double Dose of Love) with the pleasing story of Margaret, the youngest of four sisters who visits Birch Creek, Ohio, to stay with her aunt and uncle to avoid the temptations of Englischer life. Margaret, despite not wanting to marry, is drawn to Owen Bontrager, a hard-working farmer who is set to inherit his family’s farm. As Margaret gets to know Owen, his work ethic and love of learning inspire her to study herbal remedies. Owen’s father, meanwhile, believes Owen works too hard and instructs him take a vacation and start dating in order to secure the family’s future. But Owen has difficulty taking a break and giving up control. As a friendship between Margaret and Owen develops, they help each other grow in their faith and learn to trust God—as well as each other. A parallel romance between Rhoda, a middle-aged woman whose abusive husband purportedly disappeared, and Loren, a widowed innkeeper, also captivates. This charming outing, filled as it is with forgiveness, redemption, and new beginnings, will delight Fuller’s fans. (Sept.)

Reviewed on 07/09/2021 | Details & Permalink

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The Heart of Splendid Lake

Amy Clipston. Thomas Nelson, $16.99 trade paper (352p) ISBN 978-0-78525-290-0

Clipston (The Jam and Jelly Nook), best known for her Amish fiction, changes gears for this enjoyable contemporary inspirational romance. After Brianna Porter’s father dies, Brianna struggles to manage the family resort in Splendid Lake, N.C., which she learns is deeply in debt. Scott Gibson is a real estate investor desperate to buy the picturesque property, and when he makes Brianna an offer, she screams at him to never come back. Even though he understands her feelings for wanting to keep the family business, Scott is undeterred. Then Brianna’s mother has a stroke, and Scott, eager to help, offers to use his management know-how to help her fix up the resort on the condition she’ll reimburse him if she sells to another investor—and she’s in no position to turn down the offer. As Scott and Brianna spend more time together, it angers Brianna’s fiancé, Taylor, even though he is too wrapped up in his career to help her. As Scott and Brianna’s lives become more entwined and their feelings for each other deepen, Brianna must choose what she wants for her future. The realistic, charming courtship between Scott and Brianna evolves nicely in Clipston’s sure hands, and faith elements are subtle. This clean romance will appeal to fans of happily-ever-afters. (Sept.)

Reviewed on 07/09/2021 | Details & Permalink

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Yours Cheerfully

A.J. Pearce. Scribner, $26 (288p) ISBN 978-1-5011-7009-6

In the enjoyable second installment to The Emmy Lake Chronicles (following Dear Mrs. Bird), journalist Emmy and her “hundred-mile-a-minute mind” tackle trouble on the English home front during WWII. While Emmy juggles her new position an advice column, volunteer shifts with the Fire Watch, and her fiancé’s paltry leave from his new station outside of London, she lands a recurring magazine feature on women working for the war effort. But as she starts peeling back the chipper veneer of the government’s gung-ho recruitment messaging, Emmy realizes her fellow gals are facing difficult working conditions at the new factories supporting the war effort in ways the public doesn’t realize. Of course, the stern disapproval of factory directors and under-secretaries isn’t enough to keep Emmy from giving it her best, even if taking a stand puts her professional reputation, her friends, and even her wedding day at risk. Pearce packs in lighthearted banter and depictions of the good-spirited citizens of London working together to survive the war, returning readers to the delightful milieu of the previous book. With big stakes and formidable opponents, this exciting saga is a fruitful exploration of the solidarity among women in times of grief, love, and hardship. (Aug.)

Reviewed on 07/02/2021 | Details & Permalink

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Undercurrent of Secrets

Rachel Scott McDaniel. Barbour, $12.99 trade paper (256p) ISBN 978-1-6435-2994-3

In McDaniel’s enjoyable fourth installment to the Doors to the Past series (after Bridge of Gold), a boat changes the lives of two women nearly a century apart. In 1925 Louisville, Ky., Hattie must figure out what to do when her adopted father, the captain of steamship the Belle of Louisville, announces his plans to retire and appoints first mate Jack Marshall as his replacement. Jack wants Hattie to stay on to help search for the smugglers he’s been warned are using the ship. In the present day, jilted would-be bride Devyn Asbury takes a job as wedding coordinator on the Belle and sets her sights on winning the Timeless Wedding Venue contest. While putting together the plan, Devyn is approached by a young man who wants to learn more about a woman his great-grandfather used to speak of. The only clue he has is a torn picture of the woman aboard the Belle with the name Hattie written on the back. While investigating the ship’s records, she learns of Hattie’s past betrothal, her difficult life on the river, and the dangers she faced while trying to root out the smugglers—and gains the confidence she lost with her failed engagement. Both tenacious women overcome doubt and trying circumstances by relying on faith. Fans of Julie Klassen should take a look. (Aug.)

Reviewed on 07/02/2021 | Details & Permalink

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The Gold in These Hills

Joanne Bischof. Thomas Nelson, $16.99 trade paper (336p) ISBN 978-0-7852-4135-5

In this impressive historical romance, Bischof (Sons of Blackbird Mountain) connects people a century apart in a former gold rush town. In 1902, Juniper Cohen is a young mother trying to survive in the ghost town of Kenworthy, Calif., following the collapse of the gold mining industry. Her husband, John, has been missing for months after having left to search for gold. Though some presume John is dead, Juniper continues to write him letters, recounting the desolation of her life and the struggles of those who remain. Months later, she’s shocked to learn John is awaiting trial for “salting” gold mines—exploding a gold nugget in a mine shaft to create a shower of gold flecks and the illusion of profitability. Meanwhile, in present-day Kenworthy, Johnny, a young father going through a divorce, buys a dilapidated house and discovers in it a box containing John’s diaries. With the help of a genealogical researcher, Johnny learns more about the history of the town alongside John’s story, notably his shame for his misdeeds and desire to create a better life for Juniper. Faith elements are subtle, with the narrative being driven by the circumstances leading to the town’s downfall. Inspirational readers who enjoy time-slip historicals will love this. (Aug.)

Reviewed on 06/25/2021 | Details & Permalink

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Provenance

Carla Laureano. Tyndale House, $25.99 (432p) ISBN 978-1-4964-4591-9

Laureano (The Saturday Night Supper Club) explores the trauma of parental abandonment in her gratifying latest. Interior designer Kendall Green, who grew up in foster care after her mother abandoned her when she was five, has always kept a distance from others. When Kendall inherits land from a grandmother she never knew in tiny Jasper Lake, Colo., she moves there and meets handsome town mayor Gabriel Brandt. Gabriel, who also grew up feeling abandoned by a father who spent more time with his second wife and other children, is trying to prevent a real estate developer from gobbling up Jasper Lake properties and changing the face of the town. The pair work together to thwart the developer, as well as to resolve their issues with childhood trauma and faith, eventually building trust in one another through a deepening relationship with God. As a romance develops, Laureano goes deep on the architecture, renovation, design, and preservation of the historic town. Filled with colorful characters and glowing descriptions of the landscape, Laureano’s slow-burning romance has atmosphere to burn. Fans of Rachel Hauck should take a look. Agent: Steve Laube, Steve Laube Agency. (Aug.)

Reviewed on 06/25/2021 | Details & Permalink

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