Book Review and Giveaway: In Honor’s Defense by Karen Witemeyer | Lone Star Book Blog Tours

IN HONOR’S DEFENSE

Hanger’s Horsemen, #3
by
KAREN WITEMEYER
Fiction / Christian / Historical / Inspirational
Publisher: Bethany House Publishers
Date of Publication: June 7, 2022
Number of Pages: 384 pages 
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He’s Faced Countless Perils on the Battlefield, but Nothing so Dangerous as Falling in Love.
Luke Davenport has been fighting all his life–for respect, for country, and for those unable to fight for themselves. But now that his Horsemen brothers are domesticated, he’s left alone to battle the wildness within. When an opportunity arises to take a job on his own, tracking down a group of rustlers, he jumps at the chance.
Damaris Baxter has mastered the art of invisibility. Plain and quiet, she hides in books and needlework, content to be overlooked. Until her brother dies suddenly, leaving her custody of her nephew. She moves to Texas to care for Nathaniel, determined to create the family for herself that she never thought she’d have and to give him the family he desperately needs.
When Nate finds himself knee-deep in trouble, Luke’s attempt to protect him leaves Damaris feeling indebted to the Horseman. But suspicions grow regarding the mysterious death of Damaris’s brother. And the more questions they ask, the more danger appears, threatening the family Luke may be unable to live without.
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This is my first book by Karen Witemeyer that I’ve read, and I think we have the start of a beautiful friendship here! I simply adored the story, the characters, her writing style, everything. Action, mystery, romance, family tension, this one has it ALL.

Quiet, bookish Damaris Baxter often felt overlooked and invisible to everyone except her older brother. She seldom saw him, though, because he’d moved away to Texas. When he dies suddenly, Damaris learns that he named her as guardian of his son, her nephew, Nate.

Luke Davenport’s upbringing was rough. He grew up with violence and anger around him, but he didn’t let it define him. As part of Hanger’s Horsemen, he’s been able to help right some wrongs. The Horsemen are settling down, though, and they’ve all found a place to rest except for him. He figures on a nomadic life…until he encounters Damaris and Nate.

Damaris isn’t your typical romance heroine. She’s nerdy (yay for the book nerds!), reserved, of average pleasing looks. She started the book out nervous and scared about a lot of things. She had to steel herself to jump into situations that needed jumping into. She isn’t drop dead gorgeous or super confident. But she’s real. I could relate to her as she tried to figure out how best to help Nate deal with his father’s death and how to show him that trouble wasn’t the path he wanted to choose. She jumped headlong into a new life in Texas to help the nephew she loved, and it was a delight seeing her grow in confidence and in wisdom as the book progressed.

Luke wasn’t the perfect hero, either. He’d had some difficulty in his life. He doubted himself, doubted whether he was meant to ever have things easy. But he kept on trying to do the next right thing. When he saw that Nate was running headlong toward trouble, he stepped in to try to redirect him. He didn’t hesitate to jump into a fight when the cause was just, even at great risk to his own safety. And he wasn’t going to let Damaris go it alone trying to learn more about her brother’s death in mysterious circumstances.

The secondary characters were also nicely fleshed out. Dr. Jo was one of my favorites. Witemeyer writes her women capable and strong, even if they don’t realize it at first. It’s nice to see female characters in historical fiction who don’t necessarily abide by the expectations for women in their time period. And Nate was so very teenage boy! I liked seeing how Luke and Damaris never gave up on him, even when he was determined to fling himself headlong into trouble.

Faith was a vital part of the story for both of our main characters. Luke relied on Scripture in every situation. I should have so much knowledge of the Bible tucked away in my heart. Prayer was a regular part of their lives, and trust in God was essential. The romance was clean. Luke and Damaris were notably careful not to put themselves into situations where temptation might overcome them, and their relationship had time to build.

Rich in faith and love, with good guys to cheer for and bad guys to boo and hiss, In Honor’s Defense is everything I love in a good book. Five stars, and I can’t wait for my next Witemeyer read!


Scroll on down to enter for a chance to WIN all three books in the Hanger’s Horsemen series, including this one!

Voted #1 Reader’s Favorite Christian Romance Author of 2019 by Family Fiction Magazine, bestselling author Karen Witemeyer offers warmhearted historical romance with a flair for humor, feisty heroines, and swoon-worthy Texas heroes. She makes her home in Abilene, Texas, with her husband and three children.
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FOR DIRECT LINKS TO EACH POST ON THIS TOUR, UPDATED DAILY, 
or visit the blogs directly:
6/28/22 Notable Quotables Chapter Break Book Blog
6/28/22 BONUS Promo Hall Ways Blog
6/28/22 Review It’s Not All Gravy
6/29/22 Guest Post KayBee’s Book Shelf
6/29/22 Review The Plain-Spoken Pen
6/29/22 BONUS Promo LSBBT Blog
6/30/22 Author Interview The Adventures of a Travelers Wife
7/1/22 Scrapbook Page The Page Unbound
7/1/22 Review Shelf Life Blog
7/2/22 Excerpt All the Ups and Downs
7/3/22 Excerpt Reading by Moonlight
7/4/22 Review StoreyBook Reviews
7/5/22 Series Spotlight Writing and Music
7/6/22 Review The Clueless Gent
7/6/22 Excerpt Forgotten Winds
7/7/22 Review Book Fidelity
7/7/22 Review Rox Burkey Blog
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Book Review and Blog Tour: The Sweetest Thing by Sasha Summers

THE SWEETEST THING
Author: Sasha Summers
Publication Date: June 28, 2022
Publisher: HQN Books

Buy Links:

BookShop.org

Harlequin

Barnes & Noble

Amazon

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Powell’s

Book Summary:

The birds and the bees and longtime rivalries…

For Tansy Hill, nothing is sweeter than honey from her farm—except maybe revenge on the man whose father stole her family’s secret honey recipe years ago. Dane “The Viking” Knudson has been Tansy’s rival since childhood, and though he’s grown into a frustratingly handsome charmer, he’s also standing between her and the best honey award at the Honey Bee Festival, which Honey Hill Farms desperately needs to stay afloat.

Fanning the sparks that have forever flown between them, the competition is on. Sure, Tansy and Dane have plenty in common—more than they’ll admit—but Dane’s plans to expand Viking Honey are also on the line. When buried family secrets come to light, they’ll have to decide whether taking a chance on each other is worth risking the happiness they’ve been longing for.

My Review:

Tansy Hill and Dane Knudson are longstanding rivals. Tansy is convinced that Dane’s charming good looks hide a heart that dances with glee every time he can do something to benefit his family’s honey operation and get in the way of hers. And right now, they’re both aiming to win the best honey award at the upcoming Honey Bee Festival. Can Honey Hill win and keep the business going?

The Sweetest Thing is a treat! Sasha Summers creates a lovely small town in Honey, Texas, and she populates it with characters you can love (and love to hate). Tansy assumes the worst of Dane based on their shared past, and Dane seems to delight in allowing her to make those assumptions, even as he finds himself attracted to her. They alternate between bickering and drawing closer, back and forth, and they’re simply adorable even when they’re infuriating. (Because I did occasionally want to reach into the book and shake them and tell them to get over themselves already!) It was fun seeing them thrust together to work with the Junior Beekeepers.

In addition to the competition for the best honey award, there is also multigenerational family drama. Dane is trying to keep Viking Honey going while his father hides out after his latest failed marriage. This includes trying to keep his younger brother, Liam, on the straight and narrow. Tansy’s aunts, Camellia and Magnolia, each have a secret of their own. What happened between Camellia and Harald Knudson? Who is the red-haired woman seen with Magnolia, and why isn’t Magnolia talking? The side stories in addition to the main plot really kept things buzzing.

Dane’s brother Liam was an especially appealing character. I’m a boy mom. I know what teenage boys are like, particularly when their older brother is trying to keep them in line and they’re interested in exactly none of it. Liam was just about perfectly drawn as a young man heading for a heap of trouble, and I loved that Dane didn’t just give up on him.

I thoroughly enjoyed all of the details on beekeeping! I know very little about the care and keeping of bees, so all the information Summers included was fascinating to me. It was clear she’d done a lot of research, and if we had room, I might like to try keeping a hive or two of my own after reading the book.

A second-chance, enemies-to-lovers romance, the tension of waiting to see whether Honey Hill will survive, some surprise plot points that I didn’t see coming, and a fascinating look into the world of apiary care and management made this a solid four-star book for me. It’s a quick, engaging read, and would be perfect for road trip reading or for reading while you’re outside swinging in a hammock. The recipe for lavender-honey lemon poppyseed muffins is a tasty bonus. I can’t wait to try those out!

The Sweetest Thing is a honey of a story! Buzz on down to your local bookstore and pick up a copy. You’ll be glad you did!

Author Bio: 

USA Today Bestselling Author Sasha Summers writes stories that celebrate the ups and downs, loves and losses, ordinary and extraordinary occurrences of life. Sasha pens fiction in multiple genres and hopes each and every book will draw readers in and set them on an emotional and rewarding journey. With a puppy on her lap and her favorite Thor mug full of coffee, Sasha is currently working on her next release. She adores hearing from fans and invites you to visit her online.

Posted in Blog Tours, Book Reviews, Contemporary Fiction, Harlequin Blog Tours, NetGalley, Romance | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Book Beginnings on Friday and Book Blogger Hop – June 24, 2022

Book Beginnings on Fridays is hosted each week by Rose City Reader. It’s a chance to share the first sentence or so of the book you are reading this week. You can check out others’ book beginnings here.

My book beginning:

In the middle of Hickory Lane grew a neighborhood garden, a circular patch of vibrant land that fit snugly into the footprint of the wide dead-end street, a cul-de-sac.

Did that grab your attention? And if the first line didn’t, what about that stunning cover?! This is one of my most anticipated books of the year, and so far, I am loving it! Keep an eye out for a review in the not-too-distant future!

Book Blogger Hop

Book Blogger Hop is hosted by Coffee Addicted Writer. It starts each Friday and runs through the following Thursday. Each week, there’s a new prompt featuring a book-related question. It’s designed to give bloggers a chance to follow other blogs, learn about new books, make new blogging friends, and gain followers. See what others have to say on this topic and link up your own post here.

My reading preference is overwhelmingly fiction. I read a lot of serious stuff in law school, and now I proofread and edit a lot of nonfiction. So when I’m reading purely for fun, I gravitate toward fiction. Cozy mystery, fantasy, thriller, romance, whatever grabs my attention. I will pick up the occasional nonfiction book if the subject catches my eye or there’s something I want to learn about, but nonfiction is much more my husband’s jam than mine!

What’s your reading preference?

Happy Friday, y’all!

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Book Blitz and Giveaway: Deadly Keepsakes by Anita Dickason | Lone Star Book Blog Tours

Y’all know how much I loved Anita Dickason’s Deadly Business. So it is my pleasure to help spread the good word about her upcoming book, Deadly Keepsakes! Scroll on down to pre-order your copy, and enter the giveaway, too!

DEADLY KEEPSAKES
A Tori Winters Mystery
by
ANITA DICKASON
NOW AVAILABLE FOR PRE-ORDER!
MYSTERY
Publisher: Mystic Circle Books
Coming July 10, 2022
Number of Pages: 360 pages
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The past becomes the future. Secrets that can kill!

After someone tries to kill her, Tori Winters is on the run. Looking for a place to hide, a mysterious phone call about a vague inheritance seems to be the answer. After all, who would think of looking for her in Granbury, a small quaint Texas town. Instead, her life is about to spin into an existence where nothing is as it seems. The historic house she inherits has secrets. Ones she’s been warned can kill. A stranger in a strange town, who can she trust? There is the kindly lawyer and his son, or the disinherited step-grandson. What secrets do they hide? Tori’s newfound fortune may not be a blessing. It could become her death warrant.
Award-winning Author Anita Dickason is a twenty-two-year veteran of the Dallas Police Department. She served as a patrol officer, undercover narcotics detective, advanced accident investigator, tactical officer, and first female sniper on the Dallas SWAT team.
Anita writes about what she knows, cops and crime. Her police background provides an unending source of inspiration for her plots and characters. Many incidents and characters portrayed in her books are based on personal experience. For her, the characters are the fun part of writing as she never knows where they will take her. There is always something out of the ordinary in her stories.
In Anita’s debut novel, Sentinels of the Night, she created an elite FBI Unit, the Trackers. Since then, she has added three more Tracker crime thrillers, Going Gone!, A u 7 9, and Operation Navajo, which are not a series and can be read in any order, and Deadly Business, a crime thriller.
As a Texas author, many of Anita’s books are based in Texas, or there is a link to Texas. When she stepped outside of the Tracker novels and wrote, Not Dead, she selected Meridian, a small community in central Texas for the location.
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Book Review and Giveaway: Among the Innocent by Mary Alford | Lone Star Book Blog Tours

AMONG THE INNOCENT

by
MARY ALFORD
Genre: Fiction / Christian / Suspense
Publisher: Revell
Date of Publication: June 7, 2022
Number of Pages: 304 pages
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When Leah Miller’s entire Amish family was murdered ten years ago, the person believed responsible took his own life. Since then, Leah left the Amish and joined the police force. Now, after another Amish woman is found murdered with the same MO, it becomes clear that the wrong man may have been blamed for her family’s deaths.
As Leah and the new police chief, Dalton Cooper, work long hours struggling to fit the pieces together in order to catch the killer, they can’t help but grow closer. When secrets from both of their pasts begin to surface, an unexpected connection between them is revealed. But this is only the beginning. Could it be that the former police chief framed an innocent man to keep the biggest secret of all buried? And what will it mean for Leah–and Dalton–when the full truth comes to light?
USA Today bestselling author Mary Alford keeps you guessing as two determined souls plumb the dark depths of the past in order to forge a brighter future–together.
PRAISE FOR AMONG THE INNOCENT:
“Readers will be compelled to keep turning the pages until they uncover the truth behind a dark legacy hidden behind lies and madness. Highly recommended.” Nancy Mehl, author of the Quantico Files

“Among the Innocent is no buggy ride but a race to stop a killer.” –DiAnn Mills, bestselling and award-winning author of Trace of Doubt

Among the Innocent had me glued to the page from the start. Dishes sat in the sink and chores piled up until I finished it. I highly recommend this story!” Patricia Bradley, author of Crosshairs

“Mary Alford proves she’s a master storyteller with Among the Innocent. Expect an adrenaline rush on every page.” — Debby Giusti, author of Smugglers in Amish Country
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After her family was brutally murdered before her eyes ten years ago, Leah Miller left the Amish community. The man believed to have committed the crime is thought to be dead. So why, as the tenth anniversary of the murders approaches, are Amish girls being killed? And why is their killer apparently setting his sights on Leah? Leah, now in law enforcement, will have to work with new chief Dalton Cooper to unravel the clues and solve the crime before the killer gets up close and personal with Leah herself.

MAN, this is a heck of a read! It’s got suspense by the bucketful, as the killer continually taunts Leah and always seems to be one step ahead. The tension builds as the anniversary of her family’s murders draws nearer and as the victims are increasingly closer to Leah. Alford includes the killer’s point of view in the story, too, which helps keep the pressure on.

There’s an element of romance, too, as Leah and  Dalton develop feelings for each other. It’s a little bit of an insta-romance, but not entirely, as Dalton has a connection to the case that he’s reluctant to reveal. His personal interest gives him at least a little pause before he lets himself act on his interest in Leah. I found his personal connection fascinating, and thought it added a nice touch to the story.

Marge, Leah’s adoptive mother, is battling dementia. I thought Alford did a masterful job of portraying the difficulties Leah faced trying to help an aging parent cope, as well as the pain Marge felt in her lucid moments, realizing her grip on her memories was slipping. I wanted to reach in and hug them both, because that’s a rough thing to deal with.

As you might expect with a book where many of the characters are part of a religious community, faith in God definitely plays a role. Leah drifted away from her faith after her family was killed, and she struggles to find her way back. Dalton relies fairly heavily on his faith and has a fellow believer who he can talk to and be encouraged by. I do love a story where the faith portrayed isn’t tacked on as an afterthought, but is an integral and important part of the characters’ lives.

And lest you think I thought this book was perfect, there was one teeny-weeny thing that stuck in my craw just a little. When Leah learned of Dalton’s personal interest in the case, she took it poorly. Understandably, she felt hurt that he hadn’t trusted her with that sooner. Yet, in just a couple of pages, they’re back on good terms, with very little said about the matter. This one thing felt super rushed to me and I would think that situation would play out differently in real life. In the grand scheme, though, that was but a minor blip on my enjoyment of the story.

Overall, this was a great read. Lots of twists and turns, insight into the killer’s thoughts without overly gory descriptions of crime scenes, characters who rely on their faith and each other, and just enough romance to keep it interesting. And I learned something! I had no idea there were Amish communities in Montana. I had to go look up St. Ignatius. Beautiful country up there. I’d love to visit.

Five stars to Mary Alford for a ripping good thrill ride of a book!

Mary Alford is a USA Today bestselling author who loves giving her readers the unexpected, combining unforgettable characters with unpredictable plots that result in stories the reader can’t put down. Her titles have been finalists for several awards, including the Daphne Du Maurier, the Beverly, the Maggie, and the Selah. She and her husband live in the heart of Texas in the middle of 70 acres with two cats and one dog.
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Posted in Blog Tours, Book Reviews, Christian Fiction, Lone Star Book Blog Tours, Lone Star Literary Life, Revell, Revell Reads, Suspense | Tagged , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Blog Tour and Book Review: Breaking Time by Sasha Alsberg

BREAKING TIME
By Sasha Alsberg
On Sale: June 14, 2022
INKYARD PRESS
YOUNG ADULT FICTION/Fantasy/ Epic/Romance

About the Book

Romance, Celtic mythology, and adventure swirl together in this time travel fantasy by #1 New York Times bestselling author, booktuber, and popular Outlander social media influencer Sasha Alsberg.

Fate brought them together. Time will tear them apart.

When a mysterious Scotsman suddenly appears in the middle of the road, Klara thinks the biggest problem is whether she hit him with her car. But, as impossible as it sounds, Callum has stepped out of another time, and his arrival marks the beginning of a deadly adventure.

Klara soon learns she is the last Pillar of Time—an anchor point in the timeline of the world. After being unable to protect the previous Pillar, Callum believes he’s fated to protect her. But now a dark force is hunting the Pillars—and Klara and Callum are the only two standing in the way. They’ll have to learn to trust each other and work together…but they’ll need to protect their hearts from one another if they’re going to survive

My review:

I had no idea who Sasha Alsberg was when I had the chance to join the blog tour for Breaking Time. I didn’t know she was a Booktuber/Instagrammer/content creator. The book just sounded like a dandy read. I do enjoy a good time travel story, after all, and my goodness, that gorgeous cover would draw anyone in. So my thoughts on the book aren’t affected by Ms. Alsberg’s internet presence or reputation.

It reminds me of Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series. The name similarity – Claire and Klara – caught my attention right off the bat. But thankfully, Breaking Time is not an Outlander clone. Clearly very heavily inspired by Outlander, but not a carbon copy.

Klara has returned to Scotland following her mother’s death, where she is helping her father run an inn. When a man appears unexpectedly in the road ahead of her, her immediate concern is whether she hit him. But it soon turns out she’s got bigger worries. The man, Callum, has traveled forward in time from the 1580s, and Klara is in danger.

Callum feels like he failed his friend Thomas in his own time when he couldn’t save Thomas from a killer. Now he thinks it’s his job to protect Klara, who is being pursued by the same dark entity. Klara is the last remaining Pillar of Time, and if her pursuer is able to take her out, it means a whole lot of bad things for life as we know it.

Things I enjoyed about the book: Time travel is always fun to play with. It’s interesting to see how Alsberg set hers up as compared to how other authors design it. Here, “thin places” in the world allow for time travel. Not stones, as in the Outlander series, but historical points of interest. Klara is a likeable young woman, and I appreciated the way that Alsberg presented and dealt with her neurodiversity in the form of dyslexia. And I really liked her grandmother! I wish we’d seen more of her character in the book.

Things I didn’t like: Having Callum’s Scottish accent written out was distracting. Knowing where he was from, I could have imagined it for myself just fine. The fact that he sometimes fell out of his accent didn’t help. He also seemed to generally accept his sudden time shift fairly easily, without a tremendous amount of confusion or suspicion about modern conveniences.

I don’t entirely understand WHY it was that he came to be transported into Klara’s time. Was it just happenstance, in the wrong place at the right time, and he just happens to have knowledge of events with Thomas that give him some insight into Klara’s situation? If that’s the case, that’s a lot of coincidence, that he’d end up in proximity to not one but two Pillars of Time (which I reckon aren’t all that common). And for the love of goodness, would a major library not have some security for its special collection books?! Pretty sure it would, but this one, apparently, did not.

And unless I’m missing something, Arianrhod is from Welsh mythology. The story takes place in Scotland. Scotland is not Wales. I’m not an avid student of Celtic mythology, and I get that country boundaries are not always firmly fixed. But it seems odd to use a goddess from the Welsh pantheon to give Klara, in Scotland, her special powers. Likewise, it seems odd that another Welsh figure, Llaw, would be made the Big Bad in Scotland. Maybe the Pillars of Time are worldwide, and so the forces involved don’t all have to be associated with the same location. I just wasn’t really expecting Welsh names in a book with a Scottish setting.

Klara’s maturity level is about what you’d expect from someone of an age to be considering college. It’s billed as YA, so that makes sense. The writing style was easy to read, and I didn’t have to focus deeply to follow the story.

Best book I’ve ever read? No, but it also isn’t the worst. It’s fair to middling, three stars. There’s clearly a setup for a sequel, but I haven’t decided yet if I’m interested enough in the outcome to keep reading. It’s a fun bit of brain candy, if you’re looking for a light, easy read for the summer.

Disclaimer: I received an advance review copy from Inkyard Press and NetGalley. All opinions here are mine and I don’t say nice things about books I don’t actually like.

About the Author

Sasha Alsberg is the #1 New York Times bestselling coauthor of Zenith, the first book in The Androma Saga. When Sasha is not writing or obsessing over Scotland, she is galavanting across social media with her two dogs, Fraser & Fiona. Sasha lives in London, England.

Social Links:

Author website: https://www.sashaalsberg.com/ 

Twitter: @sashaalsberg

Instagram: @sashaalsberg

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/sasha.alsberg 
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/15100575.Sasha_Alsberg

Posted in ARC Reads, Blog Tours, Contemporary Fiction, Harlequin Blog Tours, NetGalley, Time Travel | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Short Story Sunday

I’m trying something new. I have no idea if it will be a regular thing or a once in a while thing or a one-off. I’m borrowing an idea from Sarah Addison Allen, writing a short story about a photo. Her stories are much better than mine, but I thought this might be fun. (Note: If I consider myself any kind of writer, I’m definitely a novice. Be kind.)

THWAP! “There,” Helen said smugly. “That takes care of that pesky fly.” She was in a rush to get to work on time, and thought to herself that she’d wipe that smear off the wall later. It wasn’t like it was going anywhere.

The smear caught her eye again as she finished up her evening routine. “Eh, it’ll wait until tomorrow,” she said as she turned out the light and stumbled into bed.

When morning came, Helen awoke to a low humming sound. She was greeted by a mass of small, buzzing flies covering her bathroom wall, forming a circle around the smear. They’d come to mourn their fallen comrade.

“It’s going to be a devil of a time clearing these out,” she sighed. “If only I’d taken time to clean sooner.”

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Book Review: Sunflowers Beneath the Snow by Teri M. Brown

  • Title: Sunflowers Beneath the Snow
  • Author: Teri M. Brown
  • Where to buy: Amazon (affiliate link)
  • Genre: Historical Fiction, Political Fiction
  • Would I recommend: Definitely! This is a wonderful work of historical fiction (and based on a true story!).

Synopsis:

A Ukrainian rebel. Three generations of women bearing the consequences. A journey that changes everything.

When Ivanna opens the door to uniformed officers, her tranquil life is torn to pieces – leaving behind a broken woman who must learn to endure cold, starvation, and the memories of a man who died in the quintessential act of betrayal. Using her thrift, ingenuity, and a bit of luck, she finds a way to survive in Soviet Ukraine, along with her daughter, Yevtsye. But the question remains, will she be strong enough to withstand her daughter’s deceit and the eventual downfall of the nation she has devoted her life to? Or will the memories of her late husband act as a shadow haunting everyone and everything she loves, including Ionna, the granddaughter that never knew him?

In Sunflowers Beneath the Snow, Teri M. Brown explores the tenacity of women, showing that even in grueling circumstances, they can, and do, experience all the good things life has to offer – compassion, joy, love, faith, and wonder.

My review:

Sunflowers Beneath the Snow follows the story of Lyaksandro and Ivanna from 1973 to 2021. Lyaksandro is in an untenable situation. His cover as a spy for Ukraine has been blown. He is considering ending his own life to protect his wife, Ivanna and daughter, Yevtsye (Yevt) from the Russians. A way out is offered, but he must cut ties with his family completely and leave them thinking he has betrayed them in the most painful way possible.

Ivanna finds the strength to move forward, to provide for Yevt and herself under the harsh conditions of Soviet rule. In spite of their difficulties, though, Ivanna is a believer in the Communist system. As Yevt grows, she doesn’t always agree with her mother, and she marries a man who shares her subversive beliefs. They have a daughter, Ionna, who shares a wonderful bond with her babusya Ivanna even as she grows into beliefs of her own and goes out into the wider world.

But this is not only the story of three women and the efforts they make to maintain family and some kind of stability in difficult times. It is the story of the Ukrainian people, fighting to throw off oppressive Soviet rule and bloom as an independent country. Ivanna clings to her belief in the Soviet system. Yevtsye insists that there is a better way, that Ukrainian independence is the path forward. Ionna actually leaves her country and sees for herself that there is more than the harsh reality of life under the shadow of the USSR.

And though they didn’t share the same beliefs and sometimes fought over their differences, Ivanna, Yevt, and Ionna are all strong women who care deeply for their family. They adapt to difficult circumstances, find ways to keep their relationship in good order even when they disagree, and do what is necessary to keep moving forward.

Brown has clearly done her research, and the story she shares here resonates with today’s headlines of war between Russia and Ukraine. I knew that Russia had previously invaded Ukraine, but I didn’t know any of the details. I learned about it reading this story. I suspect there are people like Ionna, who were out of their country and now find themselves stranded, far from loved ones, unable to return. I can’t imagine what a struggle that is, and Brown writes her characters in such a way that you feel the hurt they feel. The true story on which this book is based must be remarkably compelling.

Brown’s writing style is easy to read, too. The pages flowed, and I stayed up reading until I dropped my Kindle on my face on more than one occasion. She covers sensitive political and personal topics – the reality of Soviet control, family members who disagree with each other, racism – with grace and flashes of humor, too.

The story portrays struggles, but also has a beautiful ending. I won’t spoil it for you here. Go support the author – buy her book and find out for yourself! But it had me reaching for the Kleenex, I’ll say that. I wouldn’t say this is strongly Christian fiction, but faith in God definitely plays a role.

Five stars for a story that both packs an emotional punch and educates the reader about historical events. Well done, Teri Brown! I look forward to reading more of your books.

Disclaimer: I received a review copy from the author. All opinions are mine, and I don’t say nice things about books I don’t actually like.

Posted in Book Reviews, Historical Fiction, Women's Fiction | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Can’t-Wait Wednesday: Donut Disturb (A Bakeshop Mystery #15) by Ellie Alexander

Can’t-Wait Wednesday is a weekly meme that highlights books soon to be released, the ones we’re excited about but haven’t read yet. It’s hosted by Wishful Endings, and was formerly hosted by Breaking the Spine. Y’all can check out all of this week’s Can’t-Wait Wednesday posts here.

Title: Donut Disturb

Author: Ellie Alexander

Genre: Cozy Mystery

Publication Date: June 28, 2022

Publisher: St. Martin’s Press

Synopsis:

The filling is looking grim for pastry chef and amateur sleuth Juliet Capshaw in Donut Disturb, the next in Ellie Alexander’s beloved Bakeshop Series.

Love is in bloom in Ashland, Oregon. The Shakespearean hamlet is bursting with fresh spring energy. Fragrant lilacs and the sweet aroma of vanilla cake fill the air as everyone in town gathers at Lithia Park for the celebration of the year—Thomas and Kerry’s wedding.

It’s a picture perfect day. Guests gather on picnic blankets in front of the bandshell to watch Kerry walk down the aisle and wed Ashland’s favorite detective in training, Thomas. Jules and her team at Torte have been tasked with catering the outdoor reception and everything is going according to plan, until a wedding crasher shows up.

The uninvited guest isn’t just someone looking to score a free glass of champagne. It’s Kerry’s estranged father who is supposed to be behind bars. Kerry is distraught. Jules vows to do everything she can to make sure that there are no other surprises on her friend’s big day. But when the bassist for Heart Strings, the wedding band, is found stabbed with the blunt end of his instrument Jules’s promise takes on new meaning. Now she’ll have to slice through the five tiered cake and a bevy of potential suspects in order to track down a killer before they turn the knife on her. 

My thoughts:

I love the Bakeshop Mysteries! It’s always a treat to visit Ashland to see what Jules and her crew have going on. The characters are interesting, I enjoy all the discussions about food and Shakespeare, and the mystery is almost always intriguing. I’m looking forward to this one!

What do you think? Have you read any of the Bakeshop Mysteries? If not, do they sound like something you’d enjoy?

Posted in Book Memes, Can't-Wait Wednesday | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Book Review: Sunburst (Sky King Ranch #2) by Susan May Warren

  • Title: Sunburst
  • Series: Sky King Ranch #2
  • Author: Susan May Warren
  • Where to buy: Amazon (affiliate link)
  • Genre: Christian Fiction, Suspense, Adventure, Romance
  • Would I recommend: Absolutely! Susan May Warren packs her stories full of adventure, suspense, romance, and faith, and this one is well worth the read.

Synopsis:

When former Navy SEAL and lifelong bachelor Ranger Kingston is called upon to take part in a rescue mission to save his brother Colt, who has been kidnapped by terrorists in Nigeria, he is shocked to find among the hostages a woman he knows and could never forget.

Noemi Sutton was attempting to return a young girl to her family in Boko Haram territory when she and the girl found themselves taken hostage, along with several others.

And while Ranger Kingston may be able to get the hostages away from their captors, he’ll need Noemi’s help if he ever hopes to get out of Nigeria alive.

Her solution? Pose as husband and wife. But when her uncle discovers the union, he insists on a traditional Nigerian wedding–binding Noemi to a man destined to break her heart. Worse, she’s discovered the real reason she was kidnapped, and anyone around her is bound to be caught in the cross fire. Including her so-called new husband.

She’ll need to figure out a way to leave the man she loves if she wants to save his life.

USA Today bestselling author Susan May Warren throws you into the thick of the action in this high-stakes, globe-trotting romance. 

My review:

I loved Sunrise, the first in the Sky King Ranch series. When a book is that good, you wonder if the next in the series can live up to the high standard the first one set. In the case of Sunburst, the answer is a resounding yes.

Ranger Kingston is on a mission to rescue his brother Colt, who’s been taken hostage by terrorists. He doesn’t expect to find someone else that he knows among the people they’re trying to free. Noemi Sutton was captured when she was on a humanitarian mission. She never thought she’d see Ranger Kingston again, and certainly not in the middle of nowhere, Nigeria.

Ranger and Noemi have a history of mutual attraction, but it ended on a sour note. Now, when they find themselves separated from the rest of the rescue mission, the only way they can possibly survive and get out of Nigeria is to pretend they’re married. But when they find Noemi’s family on her mother’s side—and her uncle is an actual Nigerian prince who wants to do their wedding up right—can they maintain that facade?

Warren does it again. She creates a world where the characters are genuine, the action is enthralling, and the romance is ultimately sweet. Ranger and Noemi are almost maddening at times with their struggles to move past old hurts and take a chance on building a new relationship. But Warren shows us why they struggle, and that makes it easy to have compassion for them. Like any of us walking this earth, they have baggage and issues and fears, and they each have to work through those things in their own ways.

It was quite a surprise to have Noemi’s family turn out to be actual royalty! Her uncle and the rest of her family members were just a joy to read about. Warren uses that part of the story arc to share a bit about Nigerian culture with the reader, and I loved it. I know very little about Nigeria, and I always appreciate the chance to learn something when I’m reading. I also loved that they just welcomed Noemi back, no hassle, no headache. She was family, and she was home, and that made my heart so happy!

As always, Warren does a masterful job of making faith an integral part of the story without beating you over the head with a King James Bible. It isn’t a blind faith. It’s a faith that sometimes wavers. The characters have to wrestle with God and work some things out. Noemi struggles to trust that God is with her, while Ranger wrangles with issues that go to the heart of who he thinks he truly is. But they ultimately find their faith strengthened by the trials they face, and we can find encouragement in that.

You can read Sunburst as a stand-alone; however, I highly recommend starting with Sunrise and seeing the entire story arc unfold. Susan May Warren has written another bang-up good Christian romantic suspense novel, and I eagerly await the third in the series!

Disclaimer: I received an advance review copy of this book from NetGalley and Revell. All opinions here are mine, and I don’t say nice things about books I don’t actually like.

Posted in Adventure, Book Reviews, Christian Fiction, Revell Reads, Romance, Suspense | Tagged , , , , , , | 2 Comments