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One Little Lie
by Colleen Coble
I didn’t know quite what to expect from Colleen Coble’s new series Pelican Harbor, so I dove into the first book wondering how the author would combine some mystery, a little thriller, and a bit of clean romance while incorporating a Christian viewpoint. Not that it couldn’t be done or hasn’t been done, but it is not my typical cozy mystery read. As it turns out, One Little Lie is a page turner. Its plot and characters have depth, and the threads occur on many levels. The reader has to wonder if they are parallel or will possibly collide making this a very intricate mystery indeed.
Jane Hardy is chosen to be the new Pelican Harbor Chief of Police after her father resigns. What was behind his leaving the force? Why is Reid Dixon, who makes documentaries, having conversations with Jane’s father? Reid has been granted approval by the mayor to follow Jane around. Besides the pressure of extra scrutiny on her first days as Police Chief, why does Reid’s presence make her uncomfortable? Several murders and kidnappings later, events ramp up to a high danger level for Jane and her K-9 officer and companion Parker. Who can Jane trust?
The prologue of this book is set fifteen years earlier during an attack on a cult. That event and the years prior cast a shadow and create devastating secrets for the characters in this book. As for the Christian viewpoint, some of the characters in the book trust in God and have a relationship with Him. Those characters have challenges in which they rely on God; other characters come to see that believing in God could impact their lives and choices in a positive way as they struggle to get past the lies others have told them. This book provides closure for many threads, but I feel there is more story to be told in Pelican Harbor, Alabama. I’m looking forward to the publication of Strands of Truth, the next book in the series, in September 2020.
I received a complimentary copy of this book. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.
Category: Mystery, Romance, Christian
Notes: 1. #1 in the Pelican Harbor Series
2. Discussion questions are included at the end of the book.
Publication: March 3, 2020—Thomas Nelson
Jane had no idea how much he was going to mess with her life. It had been a long time coming Retribution was an exciting word, one he’d rolled around and around in his head for years. It would be a freight train coming for the Hardys at full speed. None of them would understand his purpose until it was too late.
But if Olivia could face the horror of her future, surely Jane could face the past that couldn’t reach out and hurt her any longer.
She teetered on high heels and wore tight-fitting jeans and a top that showed off her curves. False advertising. A cute figure was never a substitute for a beautiful spirit.
A Baby for the Mountain Firefighter
by Melinda Curtis
When Aiden, known as “Spider” in his Hot Shot crew, has a little R & R in Las Vegas, he follows his usual pattern of “love ’em and leave ’em” with a beautiful woman. When Becca, whose biological clock is ticking, searches out the casinos and bars in the same city for a baby daddy, she thinks she has found the perfect voluntary and unwitting sperm donor in Aiden, a handsome and charming younger man. He need never know the consequences of his one night stand.
When Aiden and a very pregnant Becca meet up again, he doesn’t recognize her, and she absolutely does not want him to discover she is carrying a child he helped to create. Obviously their relationship is at the center of Melinda Curtis’ A Baby for the Mountain Firefighter, but there are other major threads woven into the plot. Aiden’s family life as a child was less than stellar and Becca, a Fire Behavior Analyst, has personal reasons for her emotional involvement in each fire. This romance includes a lot of insight into the movement of mountain forest fires, the dangers involved, and the expertise of the various crews and their responsibilities. The struggles of women in that male dominated field are also highlighted.
This was a quick read with a predictable and hoped for ending. The fun of the book was watching the characters work through their issues both personally and professionally and discovering their motivations. There are some exciting adventures as fires are fought in Idaho, but the dangers are experienced from the safety of the reader’s armchair.
I would like to extend my thanks to Melinda Curtis for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.
Notes: #3 in The Mountain Firefighter Series but works well as a standalone.
Publication: April 20, 2020—Purple Papaya
The new fire toyed with the Hot Shots for only a moment before bending across their six-foot-wide break and igniting a fresh blaze on the opposite side with a heated kiss.
There was a difference on the fire line between being brave and being stupid. Jack hadn’t learned that difference, had probably never scrambled up a steep slope praying that he could outrun the fiery dragon at his heels. To him, being cautious was a sign of weakness.
“It was an accident. Patience is a virtue of good leaders and good parents.” She berated him as if she were his second-grade teacher, appalled that he’d eaten paste.
Enchanted by the Rodeo Queen
by Melinda Curtis
Emma Clark was a rodeo queen, but now she is thirty and no closer to fulfilling her dream of being married to a cowboy, working her own ranch, and wrangling some little cowpokes. Along come citified Jonah Monroe, a screen writing struggling with his own career moves, and Bo Monroe, a hunky Texan. Those two Monroe cousins have competed for a girl’s affections before and seem destined to try the same again with Emma.
Emma is a likable character as are the other characters in the story, including Emma’s three nephews, especially Adam, a five year old full of spunk and charm. Granny Gertie provides quiet wisdom, and sister-in-law Franny is supportive and understanding. Bo and Jonah are caught up in personal and family struggles, but are interesting characters. They are trying to help save the little dying town of Second Chance that the large set of Monroe cousins inherited from their beloved, but hard-nosed, grandfather. I enjoyed Jonah’s efforts to recreate the story of outlaw Merciless Mike Moody, Emma’s tutoring of contestant Tina in rodeo drills, and Emma’s struggle with her checklist of husband qualifications.
Whether this summer finds you relaxing on the beach, enjoying the view from a mountaintop, curling up in a comfy chair under an air conditioner, or riding horses on a rugged trail, take along a copy of Enchanted by the Rodeo Queen by Melinda Curtis. Better yet, indulge in the whole series; they are fun, clean and heartwarming from beginning to end.
I would like to extend my thanks to Melinda Curtis for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.
Notes: #5 in The Mountain Monroes, but can be read as a standalone. All deal with various Monroe cousins and their efforts to decide the future of the little town of Second Chance, but each book focuses on a different cousin.
Publication: April 1, 2020—Harlequin Heartwarming
“The Greek yogurt selection has much more variety and is healthier.” Half turning but still walking, Emily gave him the stink-eye. “When a woman wants ice cream, it has nothing to do with being healthy.”
Emily thought Arabians were a beautiful, smart breed. Didn’t mean she had to have one. She could appreciate Jonah’s wit and pretty eyes without trying to make him into her dream man.
The owl took flight, sweeping across the yard on a breeze laden with shared confidences.
There was nothing like the bustle of a rodeo to distract a woman from her broken heart. Emily relied on her decades-old rodeo queen training. She kept a smile on her face and had a kind word for all her old friends.
A Springtime to Remember
by Lucy Coleman
There are times, like today, when I wonder why I would pick a romance off the virtual bookshelves. Then I read a book like A Springtime to Remember by Lucy Coleman and understanding strikes again. I am hit by a combination of the beauty of Versailles, the ostentatious audacity of the aristocracy of days gone by, a passion for history, the mystery of family relationships, and ultimately the gentle magnetism of two hearts drawn into one.
Lexie, a TV presenter, wants more professionally; it is not enough to be the pretty face in front of the camera. She also has to prove her value to her successful brother, Jake, who very publicly fired her. Lexie is combining forces with cameraman Elliot Nielson to produce and financially back their own mini-series of documentaries. Their first project takes them to France to focus on the Palace of Versailles. Their futures are ironically fixed in the past: Lexie has an added interest in Versailles as her grandmother, an avid gardener, spent a year working in the Versailles gardens immediately prior to her marriage. Mysteriously, she never discussed that year with her family.
Indulge in this clean romance with its appreciation for natural beauty and historical context. You will be treating yourself to lots of smiles and a few tears in the midst of a well-told tale.
I would like to extend my thanks to NetGalley and to Boldwood Books for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.
Category: Romance, Women’s Fiction
Publication: December 26, 2019—Boldwood Books
“Versailles holds so many secrets. The more you uncover, the more you realise the surface has only just been scratched, even after all the years of intense scrutiny.”
I nod my head in agreement, thinking that every family has their problems, they’re just all very different. It’s how you resolve them that counts…
“I’ve learnt that the nature of life is that everyone’s journey is different and, therefore, no one should ever stand in judgement of another. Not least because they have not travelled that same road. Instead, it’s wise to feel grateful if one’s own road is less arduous, or one is simply better equipped to deal with the harsher realities of life.”
Twins for the Mountain Firefighter
by Melinda Curtis
Thea Gayle, working on her PhD in textiles, takes on a job as a nanny for ten year old twin girls. When their truck driving, widowed dad is absent for two months without paying Thea’s salary or the apartment rent, Thea finds herself and the girls literally on the sidewalk in Seattle with their belongings. When Thea latches on to the mention of Uncle Logan, a mountain Hot Shot firefighter, she packs the girls and their possessions in her yellow VW Beetle and heads to Silver Bend, Idaho.
In the little town she discovers Logan, aka Tin Man because he “has no heart,” still in deep distress over the death of his twin sister Deb, the girls’ mother. He is having trouble coping with his grief, maintaining his challenging job, and caring for his aunt Glen who has declined rapidly both physically and mentally. Thea brings light into all of their lives, but she and Logan both had serious problems in their family backgrounds and wonder if they can overcome them to find happiness.
Melinda Curtis’ Twins for the Mountain Firefighter is clean and heartwarming, but it does address serious issues including abuse, abandonment, and trust. Although the series focuses on a crew of Hot Shots, there is more emphasis in this novel on relationships than on the actual firefighting. It has characters reaching deep into themselves to find strength, courage, and caring they never knew they had.
Notes: #2 in the Mountain Firefighter series, but works well as a standalone.
Publication: March 16, 2020—Purple Papaya
She swung her foot, causing a ripple from the bells attached to her shoes, reminding herself to believe in sunshine and happily-ever-afters, of dreams being achieved.
The distance between them and their goals suddenly seemed insurmountable. She and Logan operated on two different planes. He guarded himself from others with invisible plates of armor and wanted to be alone. She called people to her with color and sound.
His acerbic niece turned to face him. And suddenly, it wasn’t Deb’s face he saw in her scowl but his own. Here was more fallout of his actions, proving he was like a rock dropped into a pond, creating ripples where he shouldn’t.
A Highlander in a Pickup
by Laura Trentham
If you’re looking for a clean, heartwarming romance, A Highlander in a Pickup is not for you. The main character, Anna Maitland, owner of a dance studio in Highland, Georgia, is a lithe spitfire desiring to prove her competence. She has been left in charge of the Highland Festival by her friend Izzy who has moved to Scotland. She unsuccessfully fights falling in lust with Iain Connors, sent from Stonehaven Castle in Scotland to help Anna. Much of the story revolves around their competitiveness and sexual attraction and is not even PG ratable.
There are many positives in this book. Laura Trentham has good plot ideas and weaves in complications skillfully. She also has a way with words that results in setting descriptions that paint great visuals for the reader. She adds humor to the romance that helps the book not get bogged down in the repeated sexual encounters. She has created interesting characters including minor ones that flesh out the tale. Trentham includes just enough of the character from the first book in the Highland, Georgia Novels to provide a sturdy frame for the new romance without making the new dependent on the old. As in the first book, the author has shown that she excels in providing in the epilogue a hook to entice readers to accompany a minor character from the current story into a new tale.
I would like to extend my thanks to netgalley.com and to St. Martin’s Press for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.
Notes: 1. Everyone approaches individual books with different expectations. For some a romance without steamy sexual encounters is a disappointment. Others appreciate a romance for meaningful conflict, likable characters, and a satisfactory resolution. I tried to present in this review enough information for readers to make an appropriate choice, but I also tried to rate this book based on the author’s skills as a wordsmith and success with plot, characters, and setting rather than my personal taste.
2. #2 in the Highland, Georgia Novels. OK as a standalone.
3. The first Highland, Georgia Novel had one chapter that was offensive to me and could easily have been omitted without hurting the story. I was hoping that the sequel novel would not follow that pattern. It didn’t. Unfortunately, it sprinkled bedroom scenes throughout the book making it difficult for readers to just skip over the part they did not want to read.
Publication: February 25, 2020—St. Martin’s Press
While Anna was generally good at navigating the teenage minefield, Gabby’s problem was more like an atomic bomb with an unseen trip wire.
The next day, all of Anna’s nerve endings vibrated like she’d plugged into an electrical source. Even her skin was supersensitive, her T-shirt more like a Brillo Pad than cotton. Her stomach felt like it was hosting a battle of the bands. Her mind struggled through a bog, thoughts falling away to be lost in black water, and her usual high energy dipped to an all-time low. Had she even gotten four hours of sleep the night before?
His laugh was like hot chocolate on a cold day or being covered in wriggling puppies or a BLT made with sun-warmed freshly picked tomatoes. In other words, it made her feel good and might qualify as one of her favorite things.
A Son for the Mountain Firefighter
by Melinda Curtis
Honesty first! I know very little about firefighting. I had read one novel about a wildfire prior to reading A Son for the Mountain Firefighter. In traveling, I have seen groups of enthusiastic firefighters stopping for lunch on their way to fire camps. Of course, there is the occasional TV show with burning buildings, but they are pretty far removed from mountain firefighting. Melinda Curtis’ Mountain Firefighter Series contains an interesting blend of romance and firefighter procedural.
Handsome Jackson Garrett, nicknamed “Golden” because of his luck, has demons to face: his status as a husband and father and his fear of fire after losing a rookie firefighter on his crew. Curtis takes us behind the scenes to see how hard the firefighting life is on the family back home and the difficulties of fighting fires fueled by dry foliage and fickle winds. We experience the firefighters’ camaraderie as well as the isolating necessity to show no weakness.
Although I was at times uncomfortable reading about fires, I learned a lot about the subject, which I consider a real plus. I enjoyed the characters who were realistically portrayed as simultaneously weak and strong. It was a fairly quick read and so interesting that I didn’t want to put it down. Now I’m looking forward to reading Twins for the Mountain Firefighter that focuses on Jackson’s best friend Logan, AKA Tin Man, a name given him by a “particularly disappointed woman” who “publicly proclaimed Logan to be lacking a heart.”
Category: Romance, Action
Notes: #1 in the Mountain Firefighter Series—clean and heartwarming
Publication: February 24, 2020—Purple Papaya Press
“Love is about feeling closer to your partner than to anyone else on the planet. Feeling so close that you know what it is they need. And needing to be with them more than you need to breathe air.”
Oh, his anger. It tested her strength like a gust of cold, winter wind.
Not the honest sweat from clearing brush, but the cowardly sweat that clung to the body as tightly as the fingers of death.
by Denise Hunter
Do you believe in coincidence? The novel Lake Season written by Denise Hunter might convince you that God can work even the smallest details together to achieve His good plan. At the time certain events happen, there may be no clear vision of how it could even begin to be used for good. Then comes to mind the phrase “but God,” as God turns what appears to be a series of coincidences into something amazing.
Molly and her siblings, Levi and Grace, are devastated by the death of their parents in a car wreck, but they make sacrifices to fulfill their parents’ dream of converting their house into an inn. Just as the inn is almost set to open, Adam, who writes romances under a pen name, arrives in small Bluebell, North Carolina, looking for inspiration for his new book. The discovery of a long lost letter unites Adam and Molly in a search to find the young couple separated by the Vietnam War and family disapproval.
Molly and Adam are not weak but are vulnerable main characters with deep-seated emotional pains left-over from their pasts. Both are very likable, but it would take a miracle for their hearts to heal enough to allow them to leave the hurts of the past behind them. As the tale progresses, they touch the lives of others through their kindness and research in ways that have to be more than a coincidence.
Can a publicity shy novelist and a young innkeeper with trust issues find happiness and a way forward together? As author Denise Hunter’s newest fan, I found tears filling my eyes as I approached the end of the book and hoped for the best.
I would like to extend my thanks to netgalley.com and to Thomas Nelson for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.
Category: Christian, Romance
Notes: I was delighted to discover that this is the first book of the Bluebell Romance Series. Denise Hunter has written over 30 books, two of which have been made, not surprisingly, into Hallmark movies.
Publication: November 12, 2019—Thomas Nelson
“You’ve been very welcoming, and you have a beautiful face—I mean, place. You have a beautiful place.” Why did he have to be such an imbecile with women?
All those times he’d disappointed his dad rose to the surface like buoys, bringing a load of hurt and a feeling of unworthiness that went core deep.
“…I’ve never had God’s work in my life be so…blatant. I mean, I’ve seen Him work in my life so many times. But this particular situation is so convoluted and layered, it would be impossible not to see it as His handiwork.”
Notting Hill in the Snow
by Jules Wake
Looking for a romance on the clean side? Enjoy Britishisms? Does a story in which the main characters put the well-being of a sweet, people-pleasing seven year old ahead of their own happiness appeal to you? How about a Christmas in Notting Hill with snow and hot chocolate? If you find these enticing, then Jules Wakes’ Notting Hill in the Snow is a perfect read for you.
Viola, who plays the viola for the London Metropolitan Opera Company, is such a likable character, always trying to help others. Unfortunately, she had a mixed childhood with parents who just weren’t very supportive. When she is asked to help with a local school’s nativity play, she meets little Gracie who has a loving, successful, and quite handsome dad. Viola empathizes with Gracie whose mother is removed both physically and emotionally.
Viola has lots of balancing acts to maintain as she tries to keep her family happy, contain her growing desire for Gracie’s dad, put on a stellar Christmas show, and complete her obligations to herself and the opera company as a professional musician.
This is the kind of book that you don’t want to end because you are enjoying it so much. At the same time, you long for that final, feel-good closure—if, in fact, it comes for Gracie, her dad, and Viola.
I find most Christmas romances I read to be good, but not excellent—usually too sweet. Notting Hill in the Snow is a step above, however. I admit I am partial to stories that include children; but, for that reason, as well as the theatre and music backdrop, and interesting characters, this book is a Christmas romance I enjoyed and highly recommend.
I would like to extend my thanks to netgalley.com and to HarperCollins (One More Chapter) for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.
Publication: October 11, 2019—One More Chapter (HarperCollins Publishers)
“Good. Morning. Miss Smith,” intoned the class in a deadened robotic rhythm that threatened to suck all of the life out of me. Honestly, it was like facing a crowd of Dementors.
Lifting her chin, she regarded me with, from a seven-year-old, terrifying lofty superiority. “You can never see Frozen too many times.”
Kensington Park Road was almost bereft of traffic, the few cars driving at a snail’s pace in the heavy slush and the gorgeous stylish shops were for once sluggish and quiet, some still closed, as if the snow had spread its calming influence and decreed that today was worth taking things slow and easy.
Elaine held all the cards and I was clueless as to what the game was.