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Bridge of Gold

Kimberley Woodhouse. Barbour, $12.99 trade paper (256p) ISBN 978-1-64352-957-8

Woodhouse’s enjoyable latest mystery (after The Express Bride) centers on the discovery of a shipwreck under the Golden Gate Bridge. In the present, Steven Michaels is doing restoration work on the bridge when he finds gold nuggets in the water and discovers a sunken ship. Underwater researcher Kayla Richardson is called in to excavate the ship, which she believes to be the Lucky Martha, a gold rush–era ship that sunk along with all its riches. But as the excavation continues, she and Steven discover a skeleton wrapped in heavy chains. Jump back to 1933, when Luke Moreau is looking to build a life in San Francisco and takes a job working on the construction of the Golden Gate Bridge. Luke also finds a gold nugget and gets glimpse of a sunken ship—information that might cost him his life at the hands of a group of gold hunters. As Kayla and Steven dig up records and uncover the group who believe the gold is rightfully theirs (and might still be looking for it), death threats come in and could potentially derail the research. They both rely on their faith and growing affection to overcome the turmoil and discover the truth. Fans of inspirational time swaps will love this. (June)

Reviewed on 04/02/2021 | Details & Permalink

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The Preacher’s Daughter

Patricia Johns. Zebra, $8.99 mass market (352p) ISBN 978-1-4201-5237-1

The pleasing second of Johns’s Infamous Amish series (after The Preacher’s Son) continues the story of disgraced preacher Abe Yoder and his grown children, this time focusing on eldest daughter Elizabeth. Elizabeth Yoder is devastated after learning her father is being sent to prison for fraud. Her heart is further broken when her younger sister leaves the Amish life. Struggling to make sense of her family’s betrayals, Elizabeth goes to live with and help care for elderly widow Bridget Lantz. Bridget’s grandson, Solomon, is returning home following his own release from prison for being an accomplice to a robbery, and Bridget hopes Elizabeth will be able to help Solomon by offering him forgiveness and a fresh start—which Bridget believes Elizabeth also wants, since the community has unfairly judged her for her father’s crimes. Aftet Solomon moves into Bridget’s home, he and Elizabeth discover their mutual attraction. Elizabeth, however, wrestles with coming to terms with the complexities of life, realizing that people are not all good or bad, and that love isn’t perfect. Solomon, meanwhile, demonstrates that people can make poor choices but learn from them and grow in maturity and faith. This lovely tale will resonate with readers. (May)

Reviewed on 03/26/2021 | Details & Permalink

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The Chosen: I Have Called You by Name

Jerry B. Jenkins. BroadStreet, $27.99 (330p) ISBN 978-1-6460-7020-6

Jenkins (the Left Behind series) delivers a pleasant take on the lives of those who encountered Jesus of Nazareth at the start of his earthly ministry. Jenkins delves into the lives of Mary Magdalene, Simon Peter, Nicodemus, and Matthew the tax collector, among others who were chosen by Jesus to comprise an inner circle. Beginning with the birth of Jesus. The story charts the life of those struggling under Roman control on the shores of Galilee, the early miracles of Jesus, and his revelation as the Messiah to his followers. Jenkins’s depictions add depth and humanity to each figure as they wrestle with doubt, angst, amazement, and devotion. At the same time, the backdrop remains the familiar tales of Jesus’s healings and teachings, including the demon possession of Mary Magdalene, turning water into wine, and speaking to throngs at the Sea of Galilee. Jenkins also supposes a Jesus who has a sense of humor (“Just watch out for the frogs this time!”) and responds with wit (and the occasional wink) as well as wisdom. Those drawn to stories of Jesus’s everyday life will relish Jenkins’s savvy recreation of key moments from the New Testament. (Mar.)

Reviewed on 03/19/2021 | Details & Permalink

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The One You’re With

Lauren K. Denton. Thomas Nelson, $26.99 (368p) ISBN 978-0-7852-3257-5

A family’s idyllic home life is disrupted by a stranger in this excellent inspirational drama from Denton (The Summer House). Mac and Edie Swan have it all: a solid marriage, successful careers, two wonderful children, and a beautiful home in Spring Hill, Ala. But everything wasn’t always so perfect: 20 years ago, when they broke up for a summer, Mac headed to the Gulf shore for a marina job and Edie went to New York for an interior design internship. Now, after a teenage girl with a striking physical resemblance to Mac shows up in Spring Hill, the facade of Mac and Edie’s marriage begins to crumble. Riley Mills is Mac’s daughter from a fling he had that summer, and his attempts to help her lead to Edie questioning his commitment. At the same time, Graham, a childhood friend of both Mac and Edie and now a well-respected architect, reappears after a 20-year absence that was provoked by his relationship with Edie that same summer. When Graham and Edie are partnered on a new project, Edie begins to play the “what if” game and turns to her faith for guidance. Fans of contemporary Christian inspirationals will love this powerful, contemplative family saga. (July)

Reviewed on 03/19/2021 | Details & Permalink

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The Letter Keeper

Charles Martin. Thomas Nelson, $26.99 (352p) ISBN 978-0-78523-095-3

Martin follows up The Water Keeper with this heartrending, action-packed chapter in the saga of Murphy Shepherd. Shepherd, an Anglican priest and secret operative who rescues victims of sex trafficking, is back on the case. This time, it’s personal: Someone is after Shepherd and those he loves. While taking a much-needed break in Florida, Shepherd’s boat is blown up, and he comes to in Freetown, the recovery center for sex trafficking victims in Colorado that Shepherd runs along with his mentor, Bones. Despite strong security measures, Freetown is targeted by the traffickers, who kidnap Shepherd’s wife, daughters, and one of their friends. The race is on as Shepherd hunts them across the country, and after several attempts on his life, he fears he may not survive. Martin’s characters authentically wrestle with faith under trying circumstances, and the narrative casts light on the underworld of sex trafficking and those risking everything to save the victims. This isn’t the place to start for newcomers, but those familiar with the series will appreciate the emotional punch this rip-roaring adventure packs. (June)

Reviewed on 03/19/2021 | Details & Permalink

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An Unlikely Match

Beth Wiseman. Zondervan, $15.99 trade paper (336p) ISBN 978-0-3103-5725-4

The glowing second in Wiseman’s Amish Inn series (after A Picture of Love) features elderly sisters Esther and Lizzie, who run the Peony Inn and enjoy a bit of surreptitious matchmaking. When a movie production company books rooms at the inn, Esther and Lizzie are soon worn out by the crew’s obnoxious behavior, including the producer’s constant berating of his young adult son, Jayce. Jayce wants nothing more than to get away from his father and the film crew’s party lifestyle after finding faith in God. He befriends the sisters and forms an unlikely friendship with Gus, a friend of Esther and Lizzie’s who has a reputation for being mean and grumpy. As Gus helps Jayce develop his relationship with God, Esther and Lizzie realize he has a good heart despite his surliness. Jayce also develops romantic feelings for Evelyn, a young Amish girl he meets at the Peony Inn. He and Evelyn, though being nothing alike on the surface, share many long conversations about faith and come to realize their shared values. With multiple vibrant story lines, Wiseman’s excellent tale will have readers anticipating the next. Any fan of Amish romance will love this. (June)

Reviewed on 03/19/2021 | Details & Permalink

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The Jam and Jelly Nook

Amy Clipston. Zondervan, $15.99 trade paper (336p) ISBN 978-0-3103-5654-7

The pleasing final installment of Clipston’s Amish Marketplace series (after The Coffee Corner) sees widow Leanna Wengerd find love. Leanna and widower Emory Speicher Emory meet at the police station after their children are caught trespassing, and a friendship quickly develops between the two single parents. Emory’s daughter, Maggie, believes her aging father should be her responsibility as an only child and foregoes hanging out with friends her own age. Leanna’s son Chester, meanwhile, goes to work in Emory’s shed-building business and begins to trust and confide in him. The teens are adamant, however, about not wanting their parents to date. As a result, Emory and Leanna hesitate to acknowledge their growing feelings for each other, at times appearing like teenagers hiding a crush. The situation is compounded by Emory’s meddling sister-in-law and another woman vying for Emory’s attention, but the two find a way to honestly share feelings and rely on their faith to take a second chance at love. Series fans will love this wholesome finale. (May)

Reviewed on 03/05/2021 | Details & Permalink

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An Amish Surprise

Shelley Shepard Gray. Gallery, $16 trade paper (320p) ISBN 978-1-982148-45-4

Gray’s lovely second in her Berlin Bookmobile series (A Perfect Amish Romance) sees Sarah Anne Miller helping another family as she volunteers as a traveling librarian delivering books to the Amish community. When Sarah Anne is courted by handsome widower Pete Cannon, she worries that pursuing the romance will dishonor the memory of her late husband, who died of cancer a few years before. Meanwhile, she does her best dealing with the Miller family, who frequent the bookmobile with six rowdy children. The oldest boy, Miles, is a 10-year-old foster child. A young married farmer, Calvin, takes a special interest in the child since he and his wife, Miriam, have been unable to have their own children. Calvin longs to adopt Miles but Miriam is initially against the idea. When Miriam becomes pregnant, she chooses to keep it a secret, because she’s afraid of losing the baby and disappointing Calvin. As Calvin grows closer to Miles, Miriam learns to release her pride, trust in God, and open her heart to the boy. Sarah Anne also realizes that she needs to trust God’s plan instead of her own, with ramification for her relationship with Pete. Gray’s fully realized characters, believable situations, and delicately woven biblical themes make this a standout. Gray’s fans will be thrilled. (May)

Reviewed on 03/05/2021 | Details & Permalink

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Let It Be Me

Becky Wade. Bethany House, $16.99 trade paper (400p) ISBN 978-0-7642-3561-0

Wade continues her Misty River Romance series (after Stay with Me) with this enjoyable story about identity and opening one’s heart after trauma. When high school math teacher Leah Montgomery takes a genetic test, she discovers she is not biologically related to her family. After talking to her mom, she concludes she must have been accidentally switched at birth. Meanwhile, heart surgeon Sebastian Grant had stopped looking for the woman who kept him conscious after his car accident the year before, but immediately recognizes Leah at the farmer’s market where he is helping his best friend, Ben. Sebastian is smitten—until he discovers she is the same Leah that Ben has been pining for the last two years. Even though Sebastian has vowed to avoid her, the two become friends when Leah reaches out to enlist his help investigating hospital records about her switched at birth theory. The more time they spend together, the stronger their attraction grows, and Leah prays on whether to open up her heart to Sebastian. Sebastian, meanwhile, with Ben’s support and blessing, releases his own anger at God for the death of his mother at a young age. Leah’s logical, solutions-oriented mind and Sebastian’s guarded, moody personality make for a quirky and exciting match. This is Wade’s most powerful work yet. (May)

Reviewed on 03/05/2021 | Details & Permalink

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Lindsey Todd. Veritas Words, $14.99 trade paper (260p) ISBN 978-1-51366-344-9

Todd debuts with a powerful epistolary novel of a young woman torn between her love for a man and love for God. Morgan Wells writes a long letter to her first love, Wade, examining the highs and lows of their six-year relationship. Morgan and Wade meet during their first year of high school and start dating their junior year. While Wade wins Morgan over with promises to never hurt her and always take care of her, he soon insists on going further sexually than Morgan is comfortable with. (While they are both Catholic, Morgan is much more devout than Wade, who wonders if God is real and if keeping faith is necessary.) As the relationship matures and they become sexually active, Morgan struggles with the dichotomy between what her faith teaches and the life she is living. She prays for Wade and hopes he will finally embrace God, but comes to the realization their differences might be irreconcilable. Morgan and Wade’s relationship builds gradually, which makes the intensity of Morgan’s moral wrangling and difficulty making a final decision resonate. Todd’s moving, emotionally complex story nicely captures the magic and heartache of first love. (Self-published)

Reviewed on 02/19/2021 | Details & Permalink

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