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The One Saving Grace–love or lust?

The One Saving Grace

by Julie Houston

The One Saving GraceAs I went through each one of three books I chose to read as an introduction to author Julie Houston, I watched her develop as a writer. Her plots have become more complex, her characters have more depth, and she has found a balance that uses less vulgar language.

The One Saving Grace is the second book about Harriet and her long-time friend Grace. They did everything together as children, adored and hated “Little Miss Goodness” Amanda in unison as teenagers, and now they find themselves torqued around as adults by Amanda again. But Amanda is the least of their worries as the past becomes enmeshed in the future with unpredictable romances popping up and Harriet’s husband’s ex-girlfriend lurking the the background with revenge on her mind.

In the first book about Harriet and Grace, Harriet is confronted with an unplanned pregnancy she can not cope with on many levels. In this book, her moral dilemma is an affair. As I read the book, the author led me to somewhat understand Harriet’s temptation. As I stand back, book finished,  and look at her predicament, however, I have a hard time reconciling the Harriet who was devastated by the suspicion of her husband having an affair with the the Harriet who is willing to lose her family to temporarily satisfy her carnal desires. Sex is a major theme in the book, but is never described in detail.

The best part of The One Saving Grace is the surprises that reveal motivation and the resolution of conflicts. The theme of postnatal depression is also important in this book and one not to be overlooked as it affects not only Grace, who desperately wanted a baby, but also her family and friends.

I would like to extend my thanks to netgalley.com and to Aria for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 5/5

Category: General Fiction (Adult), Romance

Notes: This is the second book about Harriet and Grace, but works great as a standalone as Houston inserts background information as needed.

Publication:   February 19, 2019—Aria

Memorable Lines:

I actually felt a bit miffed that someone else was after Mrs. Doubtfire…like when you were a teenager, you might not fancy that spotty, tongue tied guy with the bum fluff on his top lip who’s been drooling over you for months, but you certainly don’t want him going off with anyone else.

I’d make my way up to the gym machines to face Tina Trainer, who had obviously taken her instructions at the same place Dante got his inspiration for the Inferno.

Envy I’d always reckoned to be the most corrosive of all emotions, eating into one’s soul like a particularly pernicious acid….Envy is a mere novice, a total non-starter compared to her grown-up sister, Guilt.

Two Weeks–abort, adopt, or keep?

Two Weeks

by Karen Kingsbury

Two WeeksElise is a budding artist, and Cole has a promising future as a doctor when they meet and their lives become intertwined during their last semester of high school. In Karen Kingsbury’s Two Weeks, these young people have to deal with their own pasts with single moms, their love for each other, and their relationship with God. An unplanned pregnancy, the loss of a child, and trust in God take center stage as Elise and Cole wrestle with major decisions that have wide ranging consequences.

Two Weeks is a romance but it also deals with the emotional and personal impacts of abortion outside of any political concerns. It also addresses the agony of miscarriages and infertility while holding up adoption as a difficult and complicated but positive possibility. This work of Christian fiction shines a light on a subject that is painful for many. It also examines parenthood from several viewpoints. Both topics may be sensitive for some readers, but I do recommend this work written by a prolific Christian author whose books have been made into movies.

I would like to extend my thanks to netgalley.com and to Howard Books for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 4/5

Category: Romance, Christian

Notes:   1. This book is the latest in an extensive series of books about the Baxter family. I read it as a standalone and had no problem following the plot.

  2. There is a discussion guide at the end.

Publication:  April 2, 2019—Howard Books

Memorable Lines:

Ashley would do the most powerful thing she could. The best gift a mother could give her child. Grown or not. Now and forevermore like her life depended on it. She would pray.

Their lives were a trail of broken moments and closed doors when it came to having a baby.

“I never think of them as dead.” Her eyes grew softer. “They’re alive. They just have a new address in heaven.”

The Secrets of Paper and Ink–God’s working it out

The Secrets of Paper and Ink

by Lindsay Harrell

The Secrets of Paper and InkThe lives of three women cross in Lindsay Harrell’s novel The Secrets of Paper and Ink. Sophia is a women’s therapist in Arizona who finds herself in the need of therapy. Ginny is a formerly rich American who abandoned that life to follow her husband to Cornwall, England, to open a bookstore. Their lives cross when Sophia, who needs more healing time, answers Ginny’s ad for a vacation rental. They find a notebook with the story of Emily Fairfax, a woman who lived in the mid 1800’s. Sophia becomes obsessed with learning more about Emily.

Each of the three main characters has to deal with a problem particular to women—abuse, abandonment, and discrimination. The author handles all of these issues with respect. The plot pops back and forth with each chapter focusing on one character, but with Ginny and Sophia’s stories overlapping in real time. Both ladies are impacted by Emily’s story, and there is a delightful surprise ending. Readers who delight in all things bookish will particularly relish this book as it includes a wonderful bookstore, journaling, and a female author in a time period when that was unacceptable. Readers who enjoy a good Christian romance will take pleasure in the gentle ways in which the characters’ interest in God is reawakened. Lastly, historical fiction buffs will appreciate the inclusion of Emily’s story.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from Thomas Nelson through NetGalley. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

Rating: 5/5

Category: Romance, Women’s Fiction, Christian Fiction

Publication:   February 26, 2019—Thomas Nelson

Memorable Lines:

But no matter what she felt, she knew deep down that her story did matter. She had to fight against the lie that it didn’t. And if she didn’t protect her own story or have the courage to write it down, no one else would. No one else could.

My senses rang with the cacophony of the muffin man’s bell, the clamor of the clarinet player on the corner, and the clickety-clack of the pattens on ladies’ feet.

Someone had finally noticed me drowning and offered to point me in the direction of the shore. Now it was up to me to keep stroking through the water until I reached the sandy beach beyond.

October Kiss–Love Amongst the Pumpkins

October Kiss

by Kristen Ethridge

October KissSeriously, you can’t start a book made from a Hallmark movie without knowing how it is going to end. October Kiss has all the requisites: a smart, attractive twenty-nine year old woman who has commitment issues in work, relationships, and most other areas of her life. She becomes a temporary nanny for a handsome, workaholic widower with two kids. It’s no spoiler to predict a happy ending, but like a good motorcycle ride, reading this book is not about the destination, but the journey. Even though you know what the conclusion will bring, it is just so much fun watching the story of Poppy, Ryan, and the children, Zoe and Zack, play out.

Kristen Ethridge, the author, reveals the worst faults of the four main characters in the beginning of the book, but pretty soon their true and more positive characteristics shine. They are all likable, and you will be rooting for that inevitable successful ending. A quick read with a beautiful fall setting will convince even the most adamant naysayer of Halloween that fun and whimsy can still be found through the eyes of children.

I would like to extend my thanks to netgalley.com and to Hallmark Publishing for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 4/5

Category: Romance, Women’s Fiction

Notes: The movie October Kiss premiered in 2015.

Publication:  August 2, 2019—Hallmark Publishing

Memorable Lines:

These kids weren’t complicated. They just needed a little undivided attention and unconditional love.

The mere acknowledgement of the other woman tasted like black licorice on Poppy’s tongue as she spoke. Poppy hated black licorice.

The truth hurt like rug burn on her soul.

The Year of Starting Over: A Feel-Good Novel about Second Chances and Finding Yourself. 

The Year of Starting Over

by Karen King

The Year of Starting OverI don’t know any honest person who won’t admit, at least to themselves, that there is something that they wish they had done differently. Since there are no “do-overs” in life, I am grateful for second chances and that is what The Year of Starting Over is all about. Its subtitle is A Feel-Good Novel about Second Chances and Finding Yourself. 

In Karen King’s novel, Holly is confronted with both the need and opportunity to hit the reset button on her life when it becomes apparent her relationship with boyfriend Scott will never lead to the type of loving marriage her Nanna and Pops enjoyed. Her job as a care assistant for the elderly is not the path to fulfillment for Holly as an artist. Holly is left money by her Pops giving her a chance to change those circumstances and begin living for herself. 

Holly has to sort through relationships as she reinvents herself in this gentle romance. She travels from England to Spain to help her friends, Fiona and Pedro, establish an artists’ retreat. With an adventure in another country, the interesting characters, and a female lead who steps out of her comfort zone, you may well be pleasantly reminded of Under the Tuscan Sun. The plots play out differently, but the feel-good aura is present in both.

I would like to extend my thanks to netgalley.com and to Bookouture for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 4/5

Category: Romance, Women’s Fiction

Publication:   February 7, 2019—Bookouture

Memorable Lines:

Although her family had always praised her designs, Scott had dismissed it as her “hobby” and had never taken much interest.

Holly felt frustrated as she listened to them, wishing she knew the language better. She’d improved since she’d started taking lessons with Felipe, but not enough to understand conversations, especially when they spoke so quickly.

Her family had been pretty poor, he knew that from what she’d told him, but they’d been happy. His family were rich by comparison, but there was no closeness between them.

Kissed by the Country Doc–snowed in romance

Kissed by the Country Doc

by Melinda Curtis

Kissed by the Country DocThe Monroe family is the center of this new Heartwarming Harlequin series The Mountain Monroes. The first novel, Kissed by the Country Doc, by Melinda Curtis, opens with the reading of Grandpa Harlan Monroe’s will. Full of surprises for the Monroe heirs, the will sends some of the younger generation of Monroes off to Second Chance, a small mountain town in Idaho. One of them is Ella, a Monroe by marriage, but widowed for two years, with an adorable two-year old. What will happen when Ella, after a childhood of foster homes and seeking a love that will last, encounters Dr. Noah Bishop, whose successful career as an orthopedic surgeon was crushed in an accident?

As snow strands the four Monroes in Second Chance, we learn more about them, the inhabitants of the town, and its mysterious history. In fact, we discover just enough to pique curiosity about the origins of the town and why Grandpa Harlan left the town to his grandchildren. The Monroes are divided about what should be done about the town—sell it off, try to inject new life into it, reinvent it as a high-end tourist destination, or some other solution. Their inheritance could be a blessing or a disaster, and perhaps the hardest part will be to get all of the grandchildren to agree on a decision.

Since sixteen relatives of Harlan Monroe are shown on the handy family tree included in the book, I feared I would have trouble distinguishing and remembering all of the characters. That actually is not a problem as only four of them, plus Ella, are characters in this book.

Ella is a very likable character as is her daughter Penny. More of a puzzle is Dr. Noah Bishop who struggles with his identity as a former surgeon whose hand injury keeps him from what he and his family view as his full potential. The author cleverly helps the reader understand the dual nature of Noah as he struggles to disassociate the man who falls hard for Ella and her daughter from the jaded, self-loathing failure, Dr. Bishop, by sharing the reactions of both. For example, “Dr. Bishop fell off his stool in a dead faint. Noah’s reaction was equally shocking. His mouth dropped open and his waffle-loaded fork hung in midair.” Both Ella and Noah have issues to overcome to be able to give and receive love. Read Kissed by the Country Doc for a sweet romance in a snow-covered mountain setting. Add in a lovable two year old and an injured dog and hang on to your heart so you don’t lose it in Second Chance. I am looking forward to more stories about members of the Monroe clan and the fate of this little town and its residents.

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.

Rating: 5/5

Category: Romance, Women’s Fiction

Notes: 1. #1 in The Mountain Monroes series

  2. Clean and heartwarming romance

Publication:   February 1, 2019—Heartwarming Harlequin

Memorable Lines:

“My four sons are too old to unlearn the privilege of the silver spoon, too busy to enjoy the priceless beauty of a mountain sunrise, too calloused to appreciate the comfort that comes from loyalty, or the joy that love for love’s sake can bring.”

“Don’t get attached to people. They always leave. And when they go, they take a piece of you with them until you feel like you’re dying inside.”

The dog did what Ella and Noah couldn’t. Penny’s sobs subsided. She snuffled and buried her hands in Woof’s fur, her lower lip trembling.

The Rancher’s Homecoming–inspiration on a Montana ranch

The Rancher’s Homecoming

by Anna J. Stewart

The Rancher's HomecomingWhat a great final book in the Return of the Blackwell Brothers series! Anna J. Stewart has the job of continuing the story and finalizing this series in her book The Rancher’s Homecoming. Stewart does a fantastic job with both tasks.

Chance Blackwell considers himself the black sheep of the Blackwell family because he never enjoyed riding horses (blasphemy on a ranch!), he loves music, and he eloped with the foreman’s daughter, hoping never to return. Life is full of surprises, however, and Chance’s wife, Maura, passes away from cancer leaving him with a hole in his heart and an adorable preschooler, and without  an inspiration for his songs. His grandfather, Big E, continues to manipulate behind the scenes, and Chance is forced to return to Falcon Creek to cast the deciding vote on the sale of the ranch.

The story moves quickly ahead while the reader gets glimpses into the past to see reasons for various characters’ actions. The relationship between Chance and Katie, his wife’s sister, who is also the acting foreman of the ranch, becomes complicated. The always likable sister-in-laws band together to try to make things better on several fronts. Will Big E ever explain himself? Has he changed? What influence does he have over Katie? Can the Blackwell brothers trust her? Should Chance vote to sell, hurting Ethan and Ty, or vote to retain the property, hurting Ben and Jon? Life is complicated, and so is the plot of The Rancher’s Homecoming.

This book is another in the series that lives up to its “heartwarming” moniker. Interesting characters, beautiful Montana setting, and a nice balance between introspection and action combine to make this a great read. If you haven’t read this series yet, I strongly recommend you put it on your TBR list for 2019!

I would like to extend my thanks to the author, Anna J. Stewart, for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 5/5

Category: Romance

Notes: #5 in Return of the Blackwell Brothers but will work as a standalone because of brief explanations of characters and past events as the book progresses

Publication:   December 1, 2018—Harlequin Publishing

Memorable Lines:

There was nothing for him here. Nothing except bitter memories of a place where he never belonged and a family he’d never fit into. Forget being a square peg in a round hole. For Chance, he’d always felt like a banjo in an orchestra.

The melody found itself, as it always did, skipping and hopping its way through his mind like stones across a still lake.

The late-summer air brushed over them, warm and welcoming, as the river rushed beyond them and meandered through Blackwell land as easily as a bee to its hive.

“Don’t ever let anyone tell you libraries aren’t important. It’s where our dreams wait to be discovered.”

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