My Stubborn Heart by Becky Wade ~ Review

My Stubborn Heart by Becky Wade

My Stubborn Heart pic

My Stubborn Heart is one of the sweetest romances I have read in a long time. Two hurting individuals meet while renovating an old home in the reclusive town of Redbud, Pennsylvania. Kate Donovan and her grandmother had arrived to renovate Gran’s childhood home, Chapel Bluff, and return it to its old glory. It was a massive job, requiring them to hire a local contractor for the work. That’s where Matt Jarreau came in. He specialized in working on old homes and restoring them.

Kate’s first impression of Matt was that of tragedy. He had a heart-breaking story filled with sadness and bitterness. She could sense it. Matt was reclusive. He preferred working alone. He didn’t socialize much. People in the small town knew who he was but left him alone. Matt was the local celebrity. He had been a world champion hockey player. He had married a sweet girl, an actual Miss America, but after being on top of the world as a married couple, his wife died of cancer. He was so ripped up about it, he left hockey behind. Kate didn’t know this at first, but she could see that he needed a friend. She was determined to be that friend.

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Kate lived in Dallas. She was a social worker. The job was demanding, but she loved it. That is, she did until one of her children she had worked closely with had committed suicide. It sucked the joy out of her life. She needed a break so that she could get her head on straight about her purpose in life. So she joined her grandmother in a journey up north to remodel Gran’s old childhood home. The break was just what she needed. She loved antiques and old homes and this was just the therapy she needed. She joined Matt daily in taking down wallpaper, designing rooms, painting walls, and so on. Matt was reluctant to work with her, but she was persistent. Keeping everything on a friendly note, she knew God had a purpose for her to be there.

I love the simplicity of the story. It’s not overly complicated. There are a few other subplots, but the story stays true to the major theme–renovation. Not just the home, but Matt’s heart as well. It took a lot of time and patience, but eventually he started to warm up to her friendship. Kate didn’t try for anything deeper than that. She had already set her heart on not reading anything personal in their relationship. She felt that God had sent her for only one thing…to bring Matt’s heart alive again.

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The part of the story I like best is the relationship Kate has with God. She prays and listens to Him. She tries hard not to insert her own personal interests in what she thinks God wants her to do. I really like her humble spirit and teachability. So many of us struggle with these character qualities. I felt encouraged in my own prayer life just by watching how Kate kept her expectations in line with what she felt God wanted her to do. Many of us try to do that, but often fail if we don’t use the Bible as a guideline. We often want to read into situations things that aren’t there because we fail to know and understand the God of the Bible as it teaches us. Kate demonstrated a good balance between knowledge and personal application. The author accomplished this in such a natural manner. There was no awkwardness, no preachiness, no finger wagging, no guilt trips. The issue of faith in God was not overtalked or forced. This was truly an enjoyable book to read.

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After 3 by Joy Ohagwu ~ Review

After 3 pic

After 3 by Joy Ohagwu

The After series includes loosely related books that center around a theme of transformation. In every book I’ve read so far, the focus has been how the person rises out of the ashes of an identity crisis, a severe illness that has changed the characters’ lives, or regaining your bearing after a crippling loss. The themes are about things we experience in our own lives–occurrences we face ourselves at one time or another. Like these characters, we need answers to our pressing questions. We need to figure how to do life AFTER–all relevant needs for today’s readers. The author then helps us step into another’s shoes and imagine how their lives could possibly help us in our own AFTER.

Albert Dove was a writer. But recently he fell into a slump when his wife died. His friend is concerned about Al’s lack of motivation to even live and take care of himself. His publisher dumped him when his popularity slumped and now he doesn’t know what to do with his life. His friend makes a last ditch effort to revive Al’s writing career. To do that, he tries to find a way to inspire his friend to pick up his pen again. They find just that in the form of a cover model for the next book in Al’s series. And his friend is going to show him how to self publish the book.

After 3 quote1

Rachel Song is a waitress. Worse yet, she is a former model who she believes is past her prime. She’s just gliding along in life without much purpose when her friend Candace shows her an ad for an audition. She decides to give her old career one more try before moving on. But then she is chosen as the model for Al Dove’s next novel, something about a feisty female sheriff who has disappeared in the last book and is now making a surprise come back. She and Al hit it off right away, and he is certain he can write not only one more novel but a whole new series. His muse is back and he decides to make this a faith based series.

Like the other books in the series, this one is filled with hope and life. Faith plays an important role in how these characters recover from losses and setbacks. The author’s intent is clear. She wants us to be encouraged rather than discouraged by the tests and trials we face so often. Her desire is to show us how God can lift us out of the pain and into peace right in the middle of even baffling circumstances. I think she does this well without becoming wordy or preachy. Her message is that there is always hope. That hope is in a close relationship with God through Jesus Christ. And He has a plan for our lives.

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Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a complimentary review copy of this book from the author. I was not required to write a review, positive or otherwise. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

 

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Mistletoe Memories: 4 in 1 Romance Collection ~ Review

Mistletoe Memories pic

Mistletoe Memories: 4 in 1 Romance Collection

This book is a collection of four short romance stories centered around Christmas time: ‘Tis the Season by Carla Olson Gade, Mercy Mild by Gina Welborn, Midnight Clear by Lisa Karon Richardson, and Comfort and joy by Jennifer AiLee. All were published in 2013. Each story covers a different period of time but all in the same location: Schooley’s Mountain, New Jersey. All are romances but also involve children, usually orphans finding homes. These are the type of stories you don’t mind if the children read over your shoulder. They are squeaky clean and sweet.

Mistletoe Memories quote1

The basic theme is good people overcoming adversity. From historical romance to contemporary romance, each of these stories fit into this book as part of a whole. Reading this, I felt a sense of continuity that was comfortable. There’s a sense of community even if it spans a couple centuries. Each is the perfect length for a short, feel good Christmas read.

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There’s a lot of fun packed in these four short stories. I had a good laugh over the antics of the children. The romances were sweet. The drama was mild in keeping with the Christmas spirit. And God was honored in each of the stories in many special ways. Overall this is a very pleasant book.

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Blue Christmas by Diane Moody ~ Review

Blue Christmas by Diane Moody

Blue Christmas pic

Have you ever heard of Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events? Things start out fine, but then get worse and worse. Well, this story is a bit like that with events that begin very well, but then there are surprise twists and turns that seem to get worse and worse. But the best part about this book is that it is the Christian version and so much more upbeat, with a terrific ending. You will not be disappointed.

Hannah was alone this Christmas. Her family was off enjoying a Colorado ski trip where she should be, but since she was assistant manager at the local grocery store, and the manager had just had a family emergency, she was next in line to supervise. On this Christmas Eve, she was feeling a bit sorry for herself when a kind, motherly customer she saw in the store regularly invited to attend Christmas Eve services with her. She wouldn’t take no for an answer either. That was the beginning of an incredible journey for Hannah.

Jason McKenzie is a star. His rock band, Out of the Blue, was a teen favorite. But living on the road was exhausting and from time to time he’d come home for a respite. He showed up on Christmas Eve and was immediately enchanted with Hannah.

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One of the things I like most about this story, besides the fact that it’s a Christmas story, is the humor infused in the tale. There’s a laugh around every corner. It’s good clean humor and makes this story just perfect.

Second, this story means more when you read the history behind the writing of this tale. I love reading where authors get their ideas. This one has a wee bit of truth and a bunch of fun fabrication. And this is one of those books that doesn’t lose its appeal when you read it the second time or third time. That’s my kind of book!

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Cinderella Texas by Molly Noble Bull ~ Review

Cinderella Texas pic

Cinderella Texas by Molly Noble Bull

Cinderella Texas by Molly Noble Bull is one of the newest published books by this author (2017). Both main characters love the Lord and are Christians, but have chosen vastly different lifestyles for themselves. The disparity makes this a unique type of story. The issues are not a matter of right and wrong; rather their choices are what places a wall between the two. The conflict/resolution issue in this story is still emotional, a matter of finding a place, a middle road, in which to meet. How they do this is what drives this story forward.

Alyson Spencer was a city girl, through and through. She was born, reared and educated in Dallas, TX and preferred living there. She never expected to get work anywhere else. When nothing else she wanted turned up, she took a job teaching a rancher’s children at his home. But she was not prepared for the desolation of the location in southern Texas and the distinct lifestyle of the family there. There were no modern conveniences at all. She’d signed a contract for a year of teaching without knowing this ahead of time, so how would she be able to endure the deprivation?

Cinderella Texas quote 2

Quatro Greene, Alyson’s employer and widowed father of her two new students, looked too young to have children. What was unsettling was his wealth. Yet he didnt live like a wealthy man. Neither did his family. They chose this nearly Amish-like lifestyle as a means of practicing their faith. Alyson respected that. It even intrigued her. Yet she just wasn’t certain it was a lifestyle she could adapt to within a year. The only thing she and Quatro had in common were a love for his children and a love for God. Quatro on the other hand, was a confusing person. His feet were planted in two different worlds: his personal life and his business life. How did he live with that?

Cinderella Texas quote 3

I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book. The author’s writing style mixes well the serious issues with humor at the quandry Alyson finds herself in. If you like Amish fiction reads, then some aspects of this genre may be familiar to you. However, the mixing of two worlds is the main issue, making this book more unique. That’s the feature I like the best.

Cinderella Texas quote1

Alyson’s character is well developed in this story. I wish, however, we could see a little more inside Quatro’s head. It would flesh out the development of characters more thoroughly than was there. I wanted to know more about his struggles and how he balanced his worlds. The resolution put forth in this book could make an interesting part two. I can also see how you could develop a sequel to this book by amplifying any resolution with more details. I hope the author will consider this idea.

 

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Spring Dawn (Seasons of Faith Book 3) by Rebekah Lyn ~ Review

Spring Dawn (Seasons of Faith Book 3) by Rebekah Lyn

Spring Dawn

Spring Dawn is the third book in Rebekah Lyn’s Season of Faith series. In Book 1, we meet Elizabeth, Ian, Jeffrey, Stephen and Michelle. Book 2 continues the story of these five friends. In Book 3, the main plot is focused equally between Ian and Elizabeth’s growing romance and Jeffrey’s life and spiritual growth as a new Christian. You can read my reviews on Book 1 here and Book 2 here. By the time I finished reading the third book, I felt these five characters were also my friends. And because they are, I can’t wait to see more resolution in their lives.

In looking back over the scope of the books I’ve read so far in this series, I could see a pattern. The first book was a book of disasters where many people were thrown together in an effort to survive the season’s group of hurricanes. Our five main characters meet under different conditions and in different capacities. The second book was a book of mystery and adventure where Ms. Lyn’s readers become better acquainted with the friends. This third book is a book of testing: testing character, testing resolves, and testing relationships. An example of this is in the development of Ian and Lizzie’s relationship. In the second book, the reader may conclude that their relationship was on solid ground. Yet this third book creates uncertainty, tests their stability as a couple and stretching each one individually. That makes for very good reading.

Spring Dawn quote1

Lizzie begins to put distance between herself and Ian, while simultaneously drawing closer to Jeffrey, especially after his car accident. Ian becomes jealous of Jeffrey when he finds out about this. Michelle, too, feels some envy at Jeffrey and Lizzie’s easy camaraderie. Ian is already frustrated with the slow growth of his design business. He begins to wonder if Lizzie is the One for him to settle down with. Lizzie is not aware of these undercurrents. She is battling her own fears about falling back into her past lifestyle which she has kept hidden from Ian.

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After going through a hair-raising experience in the second book, Michelle feels much less secure in the current book. She’s dissatisfied with life, leans a little more on her friend Jeffrey for friendship while at the same time nothing seems to go her way. This subplot left me yearning for some type of resolution for her.

Jeffrey shares the limelight with Ian and Lizzie. After the events of the second book, Jeffrey resolves to stay closer to God, stay dry and away from former relationships that could lure him back to his old ways. He spends a little more time with Stephen. At the same time, he also resolves to reach out to Michelle in an effort to “be Jesus” to her. Of course, most of these resolutions are tested repeatedly, creating a sense of mystery about his relationship with Michelle. His accident temporarily takes him out of Michelle’s sphere and into the care of his parents. Happily this gives him an opportunity to gain some peace with them.

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I have thoroughly enjoyed this series so far. Rebekah Lyn’s writing style pulls us into the details of friendships and leads us to care for each of the five friends. The pace of this third book is slower than the previous books, which seems to be intentional in order to develop the tangled web of events, tests, and character development. If you enjoy delving into the details of life, watching how people going through life without God learn about Him and reach out to Him when others are not accessible, then you will enjoy this book.

Additional note: The fourth book in this series is soon to be released. Look for a December wedding!

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Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a complimentary review copy of this book from the author. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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Somehow, Christmas Will Come by Peggy Blann Phifer ~Review~

Somehow, Christmas Will Come by Peggy Blann Phifer

Somehow Christmas Will Come

Somehow, Christmas Will Come is a beautifully written family story which has seen so much tragedy in their young lives. The one most impacted by the world gone wrong is a little 6 year old girl by the name of Bethany. At the age of 5, she lost her mother. At the age of 6, she loses her father. How will she survive?

Molly Dugan, Bethany’s aunt is only twenty-one. She has just been laid off and in spite of her foster parents’ plea for her to stay with them as long as she liked, she decided to visit her older brother and his family first. Only the year before, he had lost his wife to a serious boating accident. Molly had not been able to attend the funeral because of her work schedule. Patrick lived in Los Vegas, across the country from where she lived. Once she had arrived in the city of bright lights, she came to know Bethany’s grandmother, Jessie Baker, who lived just a few blocks away. She and Jessie became close friends, sharing in their love for Patrick and the precocious little Bethie.

butterfly struggle to fly

It soon became apparent to Molly that her brother Pat was not over grieving the loss of his wife Jaime. It seemed he had taken to drinking to deal with his grief. This hit Molly hard, because Patrick had never used alcohol before. In his teen years he was a rock, and never seemed to be tempted by liquor. But now he was downing straight vodka and had been doing so for at least a year. She wondered if he was putting his job at risk. Later on, she learned that Pat’s best friend, Trace, would cover for him. How long would that last before Pat hit rock bottom?

Months later, when Molly had made the decision to stay with her brother and Jessie and Bethie, the unthinkable happened. Patrick, while drinking, took his motorcycle out and was killed in a collision. His best friend Trace Whitcomb had the unenviable task of conveying the news to the little family.

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Trace became a tower of strength and comfort to the grieving women and little girl. He spent as much time as possible helping them deal with this final blow. Trace was also the key to helping Bethany through her denial that her daddy was finally gone, since he had been a part of their little family long before Molly came to live in Nevada. Trace was single and had no family of his own. How this family survives so much turmoil is what makes this book such a great story.

There are several aspects about this author’s writing I really enjoyed. The first is how well she penned the dynamics of Patrick Dugan’s family. She uses wit and humor to flesh out Patrick’s character, how he lovingly fathered his daughter, handled his job professionally, and grieved his wife quietly. In spite of the emotional toll of so many problems the family faced, there were lighter moments that caused me to laugh out loud and tugged at my heart.

The second aspect I liked is the development of a new face in the story after Patrick was gone, that of Trace Whitcomb. His place in the family dynamics is crucial to their survival. He quickly became a key player. It was exciting to read how a grandmother, an aunt, a first grader and a best friend became a new family unit for Bethany’s sake. Of course, it was not perfect. There were the usual issues to deal with and even a bit of a surprise at the end. But all that put together is what makes this book a joy to read.

Trust in Jesus He handles it

Finally, there is a romantic element that develops between Molly and Trace. The author makes this part of the story seem natural rather than unrealistic or obtrusive, as it may very well have become. Kudos to the author for making it all fit together so well.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a complimentary review copy of this book from The Book Club Network on behalf of the author. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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