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February 2019 New Releases

More in-depth descriptions of these books can be found on the ACFW Fiction Finder website.

Amish Romance:

Convenient Amish Proposal by Jan Drexler — When Bethany Zook’s childhood friend returns to Indiana Amish country a widower, with an adorable little girl in tow, she’s willing to aid him in any way. But there’s just one thing Andrew Yoder needs – a mother for little Mari. And he seems convinced Bethany is the answer, just as she’s sure any union between them would be one strictly of convenience… Andrew thought Bethany had married another. Now, determined to keep Mari despite his mother-in-law’s interference, he offers Bethany marriage in name only. But she’s quickly becoming more than a housekeeper and a mamm. Can he leave the past behind to claim a family of the heart? (Amish Romance from Love Inspired [Harlequin])

Contemporary Romance:

Ocean’s Edge by Cindy M. Amos — Tired of Kansas, Wynn Yardley places her wish to touch the ocean into Dreams Come True Director Teague Montgomery’s hands, and then launches into an adventure to the seashore with him to discover the tidal zone–and affections for her companion. (Contemporary Romance from Winged Publications)

Home Another Way by Brenda S. Anderson — Can a senator’s daughter and convict’s son overcome their differences and learn what it really means to love? (Contemporary Romance, Independently Published)

Love, Lies, and Homemade Pie by Sally Bayless — Cara Smith has a whole new life planned in Abundance, Missouri. If she can just avoid questions from that intriguing guy at the newspaper, no one will ever find out about her past. Will Hamlin, local editor, desperately needs a big story to keep his newspaper afloat, and Cara Smith is clearly hiding something. But after Will’s initial inquiries fail to turn up anything, he grows less interested in Cara’s past and more interested in winning her heart with slices of pie and stolen kisses. When a crime is uncovered at city hall just as Will unearths Cara’s dark secret, the repercussions shatter their romance. Has Cara really left her past behind? Can Will finally find a way to save the paper? And can they each place their trust in God and together find freedom in the truth and overcome the obstacles to their love? (Contemporary Romance, Independently Published)

Their Family Blessing by Lorraine Beatty — She owns the lodge but he owns the land. When single mom Carly Hughes the Longleaf Lodge, she gains a heap of trouble – her teenage crush Deputy MacKenzie Bridges. Her father left Mack the land around the lodge. While Carly wants to sell for her daughter’s sake. Mack wants to stay for his niece’s. and if they can’t work together, they’ll both lose everything… including the renewed spark between them. (Contemporary Romance from Love Inspired [Harlequin])

Courting Calla by Hallee Bridgeman — Calla Vaughn is trying to get her life in order so she can go back to culinary school. No matter how hard she works, though, she feels like she is just treading water and can’t see any way out of the hole dug for her by a con artist who stole her identity. When flowers she sends to her best friend with a dinner invitation accidentally get delivered to Ian Jones, she decides to cook him the best meal he’s ever had. By the time she admits that the flowers were never for him, he is as convinced as she is that God orchestrated the mistake in the first place. All that’s left is to tell him the dark secret about her father’s widow. She waits a little too long, though, and is carted off to jail for questioning on felony charges before she gets a chance. Will Ian understand her situation, or will the deception surrounding Calla destroy any trust he has in her? (Contemporary Romance, Independently Published)

A Different Season by Jennifer Heeren — How do you go on when your heart is broken? Twenty-two-year-old Lisette Carter is grief-stricken over her husband’s death—which occurred before she knew she was pregnant. Now in her last trimester, she meets David Baranski, who has a tragic past of his own. He seems to care for Lisette, but she’s not sure she can trust him. Besides, her sorrow and survivor guilt are all she can handle. (Contemporary Romance, Independently Published)

One Thing I Know by Kara Isaac — Rachel Somers, ghost writer for America’s #1 relationship expert, is running out of ideas, but it’s keep up the charade or lose the income required to care for her father. The last thing she needs is her boss’s publicist concocting a scheme to pair her with some radio star in hopes it will spark the next book idea. Lucas Grant didn’t expect his fame on a late-night sports show to come with constant calls from women wanting relationship advice. Which means he has to waste hours on the phone with an expert like Dr. Donna Somerville talking about feelings when he’d rather be talking about his first love: football. Then a deal opens up with a big-time producer who suspects Dr. Somerville isn’t what she seems, and he wants Lucas to discover her secret. To do that, he needs to win over her tight-lipped assistant who holds the key to his success and—he begins to suspect—his heart. Can love find a way through the lies that force them apart? (Contemporary Romance from Howard [Simon & Schuster])

Season of Hope by Lisa Jordan — His dreams can all come true…but only if his ex-wife will agree! Jake Holland’s peaceful dairy farm is a sanctuary—one he wants to share with other worn and weary veterans. He just needs one more piece of land to start his program…and it belongs to Tori Lerner, his ex-wife. A collaboration could benefit them both, but with a past full of secrets between them, is there any hope for renewed love? (Contemporary Romance from Love Inspired [Harlequin])

Carolina Grace by Regina Rudd Merrick — She knows about God’s grace for her life, but pushes it away. He hasn’t experienced it, but finds grace in a way he never expected. First-year Special Education teacher Charly Livingston demonstrates God’s love on the outside, but is resentful that God allowed back-to-back tragedies in her family. Rance Butler is a top-notch medical intern. He’s on his way to the top, and when he meets Charly, he knows things will only get better. When he discovers family secrets and a dying father he never knew, his easy, carefree life seems to disintegrate. Even in the idyllic ocean breezes and South Carolina sunshine, contentment turns to bitterness and confusion except for God’s amazing grace. (Contemporary Romance from Mantle Rock Publishing)

The Street Singer by Kathleen Neely — While planning her own wedding, a law student works to help her favorite recording artist who has fallen on hard times. She finds an attorney who will work pro bono, but will her growing friendship with him come between her and her fiancé? (Contemporary Romance from Harbourlight Books [Pelican])

Historical Romance:

A Love Most Worthy by Sandra Ardoin — During the Nome, Alaska gold rush of 1900, a merchant sends for a serious-minded bride to help him raise his young nephews but welcomes a cheery and adventuresome woman who tests his determination to hold her at arm’s length. (Historical Romance, Independently Published)

When Valleys Bloom Again by Pat Jeanne Davis — After fleeing impending war in England, nineteen-year-old Abby Stapleton works to correct her stammer and to become a teacher in America, only to discover this conflict has no boundaries and that a rejected suitor is intent on destroying her name, fiancé, and fragile faith. (Historical Romance from Elk Lake Publishing, Inc.)

Ladies of Intrigue by Michelle GriepThe Gentleman Smuggler’s Lady, Cornish Coast, 1815: When a prim and proper governess returns to England from abroad, she expects to comfort her dying father—not fall in love with a smuggler. Will Helen Fletcher keep Isaac Seaton’s unusual secret? The Doctor’s Woman (A Carol Award Winner) Dakota Territory, 1862: Emmy Nelson, daughter of a missionary doctor, and Dr. James Clark, city doctor aspiring to teach, find themselves working side by side at Fort Snelling during the Dakota Uprising. That is when the real clash of ideals begins. A House of Secrets, St. Paul, Minnesota, 1890: Ladies Aide Chairman, Amanda Carston resolves to clean up St. Paul’s ramshackle housing, starting with the worst of the worst: a “haunted” house that’s secretly owned by her beau—a home that’s his only means of helping brothel girls escape from the hands of the city’s most infamous madam. (Historical Romance from Barbour Publishing)

Love’s Rescue by Linda Shenton Matchett — Sold by her parents to settle a debt, Rolande Bisset is forced into prostitution. Years later, shunned by her family and most of society, it’s the only way she knows how to subsist. When the Germans overrun Paris, she decides she’s had enough of evil men controlling her life and uses her wiles to obtain information for the Allied forces. Branded a collaborator, her life hangs in the balance. Then an American spy stumbles onto her doorstep. Is redemption within her grasp? Simon Harlow is one of an elite corps of American soldiers. Regularly chosen for dangerous covert missions, he is tasked with infiltrating Paris to ascertain the Axis’s defenses. Nearly caught by German forces moments after arriving, he owes his life to the beautiful prostitute who claims she’s been waiting for the Allies to arrive. Her lifestyle goes against everything he believes in, but will she steal his heart during his quest to liberate her city? Inspired by the biblical story of Rahab, Love’s Rescue is a tale of faith and hope during one of history’s darkest periods. (Historical Romance from Shortwave Press)

The Sky Above Us by Sarah Sundin — Numbed by grief and harboring shameful secrets, Lt. Adler Paxton ships to England with the US 357th Fighter Group in late 1943. Determined to become an ace pilot, Adler battles the German Luftwaffe in treacherous dogfights over France as the Allies struggle for control of the air before the D-day invasion. Violet Lindstrom wants to be a missionary, but for now she serves in the American Red Cross, where she arranges entertainment and refreshments for the men of the 357th in the base Aeroclub and sets up programs for local children. Drawn to the mysterious Adler, she enlists his help with her work and urges him to reconnect with his family after a long estrangement. Despite himself, Adler finds his defenses crumbling when it comes to Violet. But D-day draws near. And secrets can’t stay buried forever. (Historical Romance from Revell [Baker])

Mystery:

The Watch On the Fencepost by Kay DiBianca — In a deserted park on a cold winter day, twenty-seven-year-old Kathryn Frasier discovers a gold watch on a fencepost, and she has an ominous sense that it was deliberately left for her to find. But when she identifies the owner of the watch, she uncovers a dark family secret and a suspicion that her parents’ recent deaths may not have been an accident. (Cozy Mystery from CrossLink Christian Publishing)

Coffee Club Mysteries by Darlene Franklin, Cynthia Hickey, Elizabeth Ludwig, Dana Mentink, Candice Prentice, and Janice Thompson — The coffee shop on the corner of First and Main in Oak Grove, Kansas, seems to attract a series of mysterious events. Or perhaps it is the six women who frequent the shop for book club who are the magnets for trouble. . . . Morgan Butler, owner of the Coffee Perk, finds a project worker hanged at her shop. Evelyn Kliff discovers a church meal organizer dead. Harper Daggett is being stalked for an antique jade owl she bought. Baker Jeanine Gransbury’s charity event money goes missing. Jo Anderson shares hazelnut coffee creamer, sending a man into anaphylaxis shock. Penny Parson finds a gun in one of her beehives. Join them as they unravel six unexplained events that have the potential to ruin business and spoil friendships if not handled with care. (Cozy Mystery from Barbour Publishing)

The Sleuth’s Dilemma by Kimberly Rose Johnson — A high school English teacher’s life is turned upside down when she becomes the object of someone’s anger. (Romantic Mystery from Mountain Brook Ink)

Romantic Suspense:

Restoration of the Heart by June Foster — Leaving his beautiful fiancé’s world of alcohol, parties, and nights at her apartment, Luke Chamberlain returns to his Christian values, rededicates his life to the Lord, and vows never to fall into the lifestyle again. When the state of Idaho’s Tourism Department offers his construction company the contract to renovate Silver Cliff, an 1890’s silver mining ghost town, he accepts. Janie Littleton, project historian at the restoration of Silver Cliff, Idaho–an 1890’s silver mining ghost town–believes no man would find her attractive, with her extra pounds, eye glasses, and mousy brown hair. So when contractor Luke Chamberlain shows an interest in her, she doubts his sincerity. But strange turns to worse when someone claiming to be the miner who founded Silver Cliff in 1890 intimidates her with frightening midnight visits. Can Luke convince Janie he’s in love with the godly woman she is? Can Janie hold onto her faith as she’s harassed by frightening appearances of old Ezra Barclay who died a hundred years ago? (Romantic Suspense from Forget Me Not Romance)

Innocence Denied by Mike Garrett — Derrick Walton, to atone for past sins, helps an Arizona socialite hide out in Alabama while a nation-wide manhunt ensues. Can he help Larissa see the need for her soul’s salvation in time? (Romantic Suspense from CrossLink Publishing)

Speculative:

The Soul Searcher by Erin R. Howard — Elnora’s parents gave her one rule: Stay hidden away at all costs. Elnora Scott is used to her survival depending on the decisions of others. Locked away in her safe house, it is easy to follow her parents’ dying wishes until an angel, demon, and seer show up on her doorstep. Now, waking up in a dirty cell, she wishes she would have gone with them when she had the chance, because the very ones who unknowingly ushered the kidnapper to her location may be the only ones who can save her now. When Thea learns that Elnora may be in danger, she doesn’t hesitate to go find her. Thea thought stepping through the portal would be her greatest obstacle, but it only reveals a more sinister threat. (Urban Fantasy from Mantle Rock Publishing)

Women’s Fiction:

A Vow to Cherish by Deborah Raney — When his precious wife receives a devastating diagnosis, John Brighton feels his world has fallen apart. As Ellen slips away from him day by day, their love is tested as never before. Desperately needing someone to confide in, John meets Julia Sinclair, a young widow who seems to understand his pain as no one else can. Torn between doing what he knows to be right and what his heart tells him surely can’t be wrong, John soon discovers that the heart cannot be trusted where true love is concerned. (Women’s Fiction from Raney Day Press)

Young Adult:

You’re Amazing by Julie Arduini and Hannah Arduini – Middle schooler Jazmin’s a natural at dance until a series of changes make her wonder if she should even keep up with her favorite hobby. Lena’s a mom with young children overwhelmed with her schedule when a woman remarks that what Lena does isn’t even important. Both Jazmin and Lena belong to Linked, a mentoring ministry where all ages encourage each other and build friendships. Can these two surrender the lies they are believing and realize they are amazing? (Young Adult from Surrendered Scribe Media)

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Death in the English Countryside (Murder on Location #1)Death in the English Countryside by Sara Rosett
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Finally, another cozy mystery series I can enjoy! I fell in love with the characters early on, there was lots of mystery to the plot, the English countryside wooed me into the story, and the writing flowed. I could see this story in my mind as I read.

Kate Sharp travels from L.A. to Nether Woodsmoor to look for her boss, who is MIA on a mission to scout for homes and estates as locations for a new Pride & Prejudice filming. There she meets Alex, a local scout who helps her look for her boss. That goal isn’t easily reached, as they discover secrets around every corner, hiding the truth they are seeking.

An excellent read, in fact, I’ve ordered the next book in the Murder on Location series, Death in an English Cottage. Besides the six other novels in the series, plus a novella, author Sara Rosett has written six novels in her On the Run series, and about a dozen other cozy mysteries. Read on! Lots to choose from.

View all my reviews

Facing My Mortality

My last remaining aunt passed away yesterday (at the time of this writing). She was my mom’s youngest sister at 88, but her health wasn’t good. It shouldn’t have been a surprise, but it always is. This passing. This finality.

The past few years have reduced the family generation above me to nothing. My dad’s been gone for twenty-five years, and even though he came from a large family, all his siblings and their spouses are also deceased.

Marg – Mom (2), Erna (5), Mary (1) Beth (4), Kay (3)

My mom was the second-born of five. The eldest passed a number of years before Mom, the third in line was next, but Mom carried on quite happily until her 95thyear. She passed beginning of November 2017, then her next youngest sister went in December, and her youngest sib left us this January.

And that’s it. The older generation is no more.

My brother and I spoke of this recently. “Everybody’s dying,” he said. I agreed, and added that our generation is next in line. It’s a sobering thought.

Aging is a process best understood, unfortunately, when our time is nearly up! Most of us find a comfortable age and continue to “live there” as long as our bodies allow us to deceive ourselves. Suddenly we are old, and have no idea how it happened.

There are several ways to handle this issue of mortality:

— ignore it…but it won’t go away

— embrace it…but you will age more quickly (I aged a lot when Mom lived with us her last year)

— gain a balanced perspective…we were not made for this world only

To further explain the third option, this life is short, and for many people on this earth, very difficult. I’ve been blessed with love and “more-than-enough” my whole life, and yet I can find things to complain about. But the point is, this life is only a training ground, a weeding out, if you will, for eternity.

Three generations: daughter Wendy, me, Mom

We were made for Eden, but we goofed it up big-time. Then the One who created us had mercy and took our punishment for our sin by sending His only Son—that’s Jesus—so we could be free from the penalty for our failure. And now, IF we accept His unmerited gift of grace, we can look forward to eternity in heaven as a reward for accepting mercy. How cool is that?

Yes, the journey may be unfamiliar, even frightening, but the destination will be worth it all.

“He will wipe every tear from their eyes.

There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain,

for the old order of things has passed away.”

Revelation 21:4

I met Ann-Margret Hovsepian at the InScribe Christian Writer’s Conference in 2018, where she was the keynote speaker. We immediately felt a friendship and camaraderie, so I asked her for an interview for my blog.

Ann-Margret Hovsepian

Jan: How long have you been writing and how did you come to it?

Ann-Margret: I’ve been writing for publication for over 25 years, but that was never my childhood aspiration, even though the clues were there. Ever since I learned the alphabet, I’ve had an irrepressible affinity for the written word and, although I’m Armenian, the English language. My parents often found me poring over a dictionary or encyclopedia, or amusing myself with word puzzle magazines or my older sister’s English exercise books. In elementary school, I made good use of my parents’ old manual typewriter and every scrap of blank paper I could find to produce one-of-a-kind family newsletters complete with articles, jokes, illustrations and puzzles. However, I also loved science, so I studied chemistry in college for a few years before it dawned on me I was in the wrong field.

When I was 20, I started working for Home Builder Magazine and, within four years, went from typesetting and proofreading to managing the editorial department, copy editing and copy writing. At that point, I decided to quit my job and launch out on my own, and have been freelancing since then. I am drawn to writing because I want to share good news with people and that’s one of the tools I’m skilled at using. For me, writing is the means to an end, not the end itself.

Jan: Who are some of the people who most influenced your decision to write?

Ann-Margret: My father saw the gift in me before I took writing seriously and he’s always encouraged me to write—not necessarily to showcase my talent but to share what God puts on my heart. He’s a pastor so he has always seen a deeper purpose for my writing. I’ve also had many editors and writers affirm my talents and that has helped me stay the course even when I’ve struggled with self-doubt.

Jan: What’s your preferred genre and why do you write?

Ann-Margret: Definitely non-fiction. I love reading fiction but do not feel drawn to write it. Again, writing is a tool for me. My real passion is communicating God’s love and truth to people, encouraging them and bringing them joy, and writing is an effective way for me to do that.

Jan: How and where do you write? Are you a plotter or a pantser?

Ann-Margret: I have to confess that I’m all over the place with my writing, even after 25 years of doing it professionally. My approach depends on the project, and mine have been varied. Some require more preparation than others, and for some I’ll handwrite notes first while for others I’ll just sit at my computer and start writing.

Jan: Where do you get your ideas? What inspires you?

Ann-Margret: Everything inspires me! Nature, books I read, conversations I overhear, smells, sounds, memories, songs, mistakes I make, people I meet, etc. I carry a little notebook around with me to jot down ideas. I don’t always use them but it’s a practice that helps me pay more attention to details around me.

Jan: How do you research and how do you know you can trust your sources?

Ann-Margret: Again, it depends on the project. I love interviewing people and hearing their stories or insights. I generally interview people I already know or people I’ve been asked by editors to interview. I will occasionally ask friends for suggestions. Of course, I do research online as well but I try to be diligent about fact-checking and tend to stick to reputable sources.

Jan: What do you like most / least about writing?

Ann-Margret: What I like most is the opportunity to touch people’s lives—to inspire and encourage them, or to share important information with them, to nudge them closer to God. It gives me a thrill when they respond and let me know my article or book had the desired effect.

What I like least is all the hard work! The lack of inspiration at times, the fear, the rewrites, the brain drain when the sentences start to sound like an alien language but I need to keep pushing through. It can be discouraging at times.

Jan: What are some of the best methods of promoting your work?

Ann-Margret: My best forum for communicating with a wide audience and letting them know about my writing has been Facebook (my business page). Since all my books have been published by traditional houses, however, I’ve been blessed with the opportunity to have them promote my work. Word of mouth has been great, as well as simply being involved in various areas of ministry and getting to know lots of people.

Jan: What are your favorite / most effective social media?

Ann-Margret: Facebook and Instagram, but mostly Facebook because there is so much more space for writing longs posts and easily commenting back and forth with people following my page.

Jan: How do you balance professional time with personal time?

Ann-Margret: I’m not sure I do! It can change from week to week or month to month depending on how many deadlines I’m juggling. Sometimes I do very little writing for long stretches and other times I’m writing well into the wee hours of the night just to get it all done. As a freelancer who works in my own home and lives alone, this is manageable. I think I probably thrive on the variety. I’m fairly disciplined when it comes to working hard and meeting deadlines, so I like being a bit less structured when it comes to managing my schedule.

Jan: What are you currently reading? Do you prefer digital or print?

Ann-Margret: It’s not unusual for me to be in the middle of two or three books at the same time. I recently starting reading Becoming Mrs. Lewis and Praying with Jane. I have a couple dozen books in my Kindle library but I really, really don’t like reading from a screen unless I have to. It can be practical when traveling but it’s basically print for me.

Jan: What are some of your favorite things? What makes you unique?

Ann-Margret: I think I collect favourite things. I have so many! The colour red, snowflakes, meringue, Calvin & Hobbes, quilts, vintage suitcases, gerbera daisies, polka dots, gingham, fireworks, peppermint tea, anything Narnia, anything Jane Austen, calligraphy, key lime pie…! Maybe that’s what makes me unique. I am delighted by many things. I’m curious and creative and find it impossible to be bored.

Jan: What keeps you going in your writing career?

Ann-Margret: First of all, the Lord’s strength and help. And then it’s the people around me: the ones who pray for me, the ones who read my work and ask for more, the ones who publish it. For me, my writing has very little to do with me. It’s not a hobby or something that I necessarily enjoy doing. My writing is all about my readers.

Jan: How is your faith reflected in your writing?

Ann-Margret: Especially in the last several years, just about everything I write is a reflection of my faith as I write almost exclusively for Christian publications. And that is the goal of my writing anyway—to share my faith and to help others know God more through my work.

Jan: What are some things you learned from your own writing?

Ann-Margret: I’ve learned things about the world around me as I’ve interviewed people and shared their stories, but I’ve also learned a lot about myself and God as I’ve worked on devotionals or feature stories on difficult topics. I’ve learned to be more open-minded and attentive. And, as I’ve worked on thousands of rewrites and revisions, I think I’ve learned just a little bit about humility!

Jan: What is your ultimate writing goal?

Ann-Margret: To be faithful and obedient in whatever opportunities God gives me to connect with readers, and to be truthful in everything I write. I no longer have any measurable goals regarding how many books I write or sell or how much money I make.

Jan: Do you have any advice for beginning writers?

Ann-Margret: As far as the craft of writing goes, my advice is to balance confidence with humility. You need confidence and courage to put your thoughts on paper but you also need humility to be open to direction and correction. Talent is important but it’s not enough. A major part of my success in being published comes down to my willingness to listen to and work with editors.

In terms of the business of writing, I always tell novice writers to be willing to invest in their careers, not only time and energy but also resources. Choose a writers’ conference that is right for you, making sure it’s one with good networking opportunities, and save up for it if you have to. Nothing beats meeting the editors and publishers who want to publish what you are writing.

Jan: Thanks, Ann-Margret, for your willingness to share with us on my blog. I hope to meet you in person again soon.

Readers, please check Ann-Margret’s Facebook page, blogsite, LinkedIn.

 

January 2019 New Releases

More in-depth descriptions of these books can be found on the ACFW Fiction Finder website.

Amish Romance:

Seasons of an Amish Garden by Amy Clipston — Enjoy a year of beautiful seasons in this new story collection, as young Amish couples manage a community garden and harvest friendships and love along the way. (Amish Romance from HarperCollins Christian Publishing)

Courting Her Prodigal Heart by Mary Davis — Pregnant and alone, Dori Bontrager is sure her Amish kin won’t welcome her—or the child she’s carrying—into the community. And she’s determined that her return won’t be permanent. As soon as she finds work, she’ll leave again. But with her childhood friend Eli Hochstetler insisting she and her baby belong here, will Dori’s path lead back to the Englisher world…or into Eli’s arms? (Amish Romance from Love Inspired [Harlequin])

Contemporary Romance:

Her Hope Discovered by Cynthia Herron — Charla Winthrop, a savvy business woman seeking a permanent lifestyle change in small-town Ruby, Missouri, learns that things aren’t always what they appear when she takes up residence in a house steeped in charm and a hint of mystery. Rumor has it that Sam Packard the town carpenter is her go-to guy for home remodeling, but can Charla convince him to help her—with no strings attached, of course? Alone far too long, Sam’s prayed that God would send him a wife and a mother for his daughters. However, the new Ruby resident is hardly what he imagined. A new place to call “home,” the possibility of what might be, and the answer to someone’s prayers unite this unlikely pair with the help of the town’s residents. (Contemporary Romance from Mountain Brook Ink)

Cozy Mystery:

Murderous Heart by Lynne Waite Chapman — Freelance writer, Lauren Halloren pens popular magazine articles extoling the comfort and security of small town America. And Evelynton, Indiana treasures its wholesome small town values. Ask anyone. Streets are safe to walk. People look out for one another. Marriage vows are treasured. Murders are solved. In this third volume of the Evelynton Murder series, Lauren, along with friends, Clair and Anita stumble over another body. The partially mummified remains turn out to be an Evelynton resident. But how, in this close knit community, could a woman be deceased for over six months without being missed? (Cozy Mystery from Winged Publications)

Historical Romance:

My Heart Belongs in the Blue Ridge: Laurel’s Dream by Pepper Basham — Journey into the Blue Ridge Mountains of 1918 where Laurel McAdams endures the challenges of a hard life while dreaming things can eventually improve. But trouble arrives in the form of an outsider. Having failed his British father again, Jonathan Taylor joins is uncle’s missionary endeavors as a teacher in a two-room schoolhouse. Laurel feels compelled to protect the tenderhearted teacher from the harsh realities of Appalachian life, even while his stories of life outside the mountains pull at Laurel’s imagination. Faced with angry parents over teaching methods, Laurel’s father’s drunken rages, and bad news from England, will Jonathan leave and never return, or will he stay and let love bloom? (Historical Romance from Barbour Publishing)

The Homeward Journey by Misty M. Beller — Finally free from her dead husband’s addicted lifestyle, Rachel Gray and her young son set out for a new life in the wilderness of the Canadian territories. She is reluctant to accept help from another man, but after a bear threatens her son’s life, she agrees to accompany two God-fearing brothers who are traveling to the same area. Slowly, she begins to trust the one named Seth. Despite Rachel’s best efforts, she can’t seem to fight her attraction to Seth—until a secret from his past proves he had more in common with her husband than she thought. When a new peril threatens her son’s life, she must choose between trusting in what she can control, or the man who her heart says is trustworthy, no matter his previous sins. The path she chooses just may determine whether she can step into the new life God has in store for them all. (Historical Romance, Independently Published)

Stepping into the Light by Candee Fick — With war looming and a madwoman in their midst, the only hope for a peaceful future may lie in a marriage alliance between a disfigured recluse of the Gunn clan and the overlooked second son of Clan Sinclair. (Historical Romance, Independently Published)

Under the Midnight Sun by Tracie Peterson and Kimberley Woodhouse — Tayler Hale is ahead of her time as one of the first women naturalists. She has always loved adventure and the great outdoors, and her remote job location also helps keep her away from the clutches of the man to whom she once made a foolish promise. It seems she must keep running, however, and in secret, her boss from Yellowstone arranges for a new job . . . in Alaska. The popular Curry Hotel continues to thrive in 1929 as more visitors come to Alaska and venture into the massive national park surrounding Denali. Recent graduate Thomas Smith has returned to the hotel and the people he considers family. But when a woman naturalist comes to fill the open position and he must work with her, everything becomes complicated. The summer brings unexpected guests and trouble to Curry. With his reputation at stake, will Thomas be able to protect Tayler from the danger that follows? (Historical Romance from Bethany House [Baker])

Devotion by Olivia Rae — Injured and unable to make his living by the sword, Sir Theo de Born needs to secure his keep by becoming an educated man. As he finds himself falling for his reluctant teacher, he learns of her plan to leave England before the winter sets in. How can he convince her to stay and fulfill her promise while protecting his heart? Denied her true love and sent away to a convent, Lady Rose de Payne has no choice but to accept to become Sir Theo’s teacher. However, she has a plan to escape the confines of her new prison and start fresh in a different country. As the chilly winds blow, her resolve begins to waver. Will she abandon Sir Theo to a miserable fate or will she give up her dreams to make his come true? (Historical Romance from HopeKnight Press)

(Spoiler alert)

Every once in a while, I pull away from my genre fiction and read something literary. It’s a challenge, because I avoid dystopic stories if I can help it. The world is in enough trouble without pretending it’s worse. That’s my take.

I picked up All the Light We Cannot See at the local thrift store for $2 and started in on it. I will admit it took me weeks to finish; I kept putting it down and reading something easier. But the story pulled me back in every time I picked it up.

In a nutshell, it’s about a blind girl, Marie-Laure, and her father from Paris who go to live with his brother in a place called Saint-Malo during the war. Marie-Laure’s father, who works in a museum, carries with him a precious jewel that some people say is a curse. As long as the carrier keeps it, he or she will not die, but their loved ones will find trouble/death.

The other main character is Werner, who with his sister, Jutta, are orphans in Germany. Because of his innate skill with radios, Werner is enrolled in a Nazi technical school and eventually uses his training in locating hidden radios.

The story follows these two characters and those in their lives throughout the war, a dismal and dangerous existence. Chapters alternate between the two stories, and inevitably, they link for the space of a day or two.

This story is gripping, well-written, tight and moving, but not happily-ever-after. The problem I have with reading over 500 pages, only to have one of the characters blown up in one sentence, near the end, is one of great frustration and sadness. Do I wish I’d never read it? Possibly. It’s haunting, and that can be painful. But perhaps the reminder of what people experience in war and how it changes them—for better or for worse—is necessary from time to time.

This is a highly acclaimed book, winner of the Pulitzer Prize, so if that is incentive enough, give it a read.

I started reading the book of Matthew on January 1, using the theme: with new eyes. I want to see God’s Word in a fresh way in 2019.

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Matthew 11:3 features John the Baptist’s question to Jesus: “Are you the one who was to come, or should we expect someone else?” John had obeyed God, and was now sitting in a cold, dank jail cell, his earthly future bleak. Perhaps—and I’m speculating here—he’d expected something entirely different from the Messiah he had prophesied about. The Jewish traditions handed down through the centuries may have created another expectation in his mind.

Jesus’ reply to John’s messengers (verses 4-6) was curt. “Go back and report to John what you hear and see…Blessed is the man who does not fall away because of me.”

As I read the first few verses of chapter eleven, I was reminded of a podcast my husband and I listened to recently by Ron Hutchcraft. The idea was that if we live life with expectation, we sometimes miss the freshness of a brand-new message. But, if we live with expectancy, we can be open to God’s surprises.

How often do my limited expectations get in the way of experiencing the newness of living in God’s Kingdom? If I live in expectancy, I am watching for whatever God has in his creative mind.

So, one of my goals this year is to live in expectancy of all God has for me, in all areas of my life. That’s definitely more exciting than my own expectations.

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