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Be Kind. Do Good. Love is a Verb.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

A Miracle of Hope...Review

About the book:
How far can God's mercy reach?

Lindie Wyse is pregnant out of wedlock and thinks an arranged marriage is the only way to preserve her future. Josiah Plank is certain he'll never love again, but he needs someone to care for his eight-year-old daughter, Hannah. The two take on their arrangement tentatively at first but soon realize they are each in for more than they imagined.

Lindie experiences a breakthrough with Hannah when she recognizes Hannah's special gifts, but a risky pregnancy and serious health issues threaten to demolish the foundation Josiah and Lindie are building. Will their growing love survive despite their struggles, or will their hearts become as cold as the northern winter?

When her brother arranges a marriage for her, pregnant and unmarried Lindie Wyse agrees because it's the only way to have an untarnished future.  Widowed Josiah needs a wife and someone to look after his deaf daughter and agrees to the marriage, informing Lindie that it will be in name only.

Josiah mourns his wife and struggles to work his farm and manage his daughter.   Lindie is quiet and shy and wary of joining a new community and fearful of what might happen when people discover her pregnancy is farther along than expected.  However, the community is welcoming and Lindie finds herself making friends and being accepted as Josiah's wife.

As the two begin to make a life for themselves, there are challenges neither one could have imagined.  When past health issues return, he is reluctant to even tell Lindie about them. But, working together to overcome adversity, Lindie and Josiah also discover something they didn't expect, love and affection.

Ruth Reid is a new to me author and am I pleased I took a chance with this one.  The story is engrossing and compelling and it was one that I didn't want to put down.

Thanks to Litfuse Publicity for the opportunity to review this book. You can learn more about Ruth Reid here.  You can see other reviews and tour stops here.  You can purchase your own copy here.

Read 1/14

4/5 Stars

Friday, January 24, 2014

The Accidental Marriage...Review

Accidental-Marriage,-TheAbout the book:
Standing on a Scottish tower high above the North Sea, Nina Rushforth gazed into the eyes of a lanky American and made a big mistake, she fell in love. Six months later, with a ring on her finger, she’s standing in front of a classroom of farm kids, discussing the dangers of dangling participles. How did this happen? Instead of the sophisticated life she had planned, she’s keeping house in a miniscule apartment and living with a young husband who doesn’t know any more about being married than she does. Well intentioned parents, as well as friends and siblings, join the fray, and the newlyweds teeter on the brink of disaster. Beset with classroom shenanigans, lesson plans, essays to correct, and faculty politics, Nina’s overwhelmed, and when the shenanigans at work take a dark and dangerous turn, who can she trust?

Award winning author, Annette Haws brilliantly captures the comic strife of young love caught in the turbulent social cross-currents of the 1970’s. The heartbreak of starter marriages–relationships that flounder after a year or two—is examined through the eyes of her delightful heroine who struggles to find dignity in the workplace and love at home.

While on a study abroad in Scotland, Nina meets a young missionary and falls in love.  When Elliot returns to America, he breaks up with the girl who waited for him and pursues Nina relentlessly.  Regardless of their differences in background; he is working class and her family is wealthy, they quickly decide to get married.  Elliot's domineering mother Rachel isn't happy with the new wife, who doesn't meet her standards and isn't the nice girl she had picked out for her beloved son. But Elliot and Nina are determined to marry and when the realities of life hit them, they discover they don't know each other as well as they thought.

This was not quite the light-hearted comedy romance I expected.  I appreciated the exploration of the ups and downs of marriage.  Simply being in love seems like it's enough, but good communication is key in a successful marriage and Elliot and Nina were not well equipped in communication skills.  Add to that a domineering mother-in-law who refuses to let her son go and demands that life as she knows it stays the same and you have a perfect cauldron of trouble.

Loved the 1970's setting.  Such a time of turbulence with Title IX and the ERA and the feminist movement.  I loved Nina and her independence.  In many ways I could relate to her thought processes.  I am fortunate to have grown up before and during that turbulent time in a family that encouraged education and independence along with marriage and motherhood.  I married a man who believes in me and my intelligence and abilities more than I believe in myself sometimes.  Because of that, it was difficult for me to see Elliot often dismiss his wife's wants and needs and his family's outright cruelty and unacceptance.

I grew frustrated with the lack of character development and how everyone remains fairly one-dimensional.  Nina and Elliot never grew as people or as a couple.  Their ideals were different and neither one would bend or listen to the other. I understood the growing pains of learning to live together, but I did not always understand their reactions to each other's situations. They kept secrets from each other but confided in friends and family about their troubles instead.  And with an interfering family like Elliot's that does not bode well for a newly married couple.  But with all that, there was no real growth, although through her school difficulties and resulting lawsuit, Nina began to find herself which was refreshing even as Elliot refused to see that his wife had a mind and needs and thoughts of her own.

The ending was disappointing.  We are left with hope, but not the satisfactory resolution I hoped to see.

This is light Christian with characters who happen to be LDS.  It's not an overtly religious book though, and faith is almost an afterthought.  The story is, however, compelling and thought-provoking and one that I read in an evening.  It has stayed with me for several days as I have formulated my thoughts for this review.  Because of that, I can recommend it.

Thanks to Cedar Fort for the opportunity to review this book.  You can learn more about Annette Haws here.  You can purchase your own copy here.

Read 1/14

* * *
3/5 Stars

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

The Dancing Master...Review

About the book:
Finding himself the man of the family, London dancing master Alec Valcourt moves his mother and sister to remote Devonshire, hoping to start over. But he is stunned to learn the village matriarch has prohibited all dancing, for reasons buried deep in her past.

Alec finds an unlikely ally in the matriarch's daughter. Though he's initially wary of Julia Midwinter's reckless flirtation, he comes to realize her bold exterior disguises a vulnerable soul---and hidden sorrows of her own.

Julia is quickly attracted to the handsome dancing master---a man her mother would never approve of---but she cannot imagine why Mr. Valcourt would leave London, or why he evades questions about his past. With Alec's help, can Julia uncover old secrets and restore life to her somber village . . . and to her mother's tattered heart?

Filled with mystery and romance, The Dancing Master brings to life the intriguing profession of those who taught essential social graces for ladies and gentlemen hoping to make a "good match" in Regency England.

Stretch the imagination and reality and think modern-day (the original movie is my favorite) Footloose set in Regency England. Alec Valcourt, needing to move his family out of London and away from scandal, finds himself in a small Devonshire village. Hoping to open a dance studio, he discovers that dancing in the village is prohibited. When he meets Julia, the daughter of the manor house, he quickly forms an attachment, but the lady of the manor doesn't like dancing masters.

The story moves along well with a balance of romance and intrigue.  As Alec and Julia try and discover her mother's secret, Julia learns answers to questions about her own life.  Alec is determined to open his own dancing academy, regardless of what Lady Midwinter thinks.

Alec is likeable enough and Julia starts out selfish and spoiled and a bit whiny although she does improve.  The supporting characters are what make this novel.  The Allen siblings are terrific and need their own book. I loved John Desmond.  The Wilcox brothers are ridiculous, but every story needs its villains.

I was slightly disappointed in the ending/epilogue as I would have liked to see more closure for Aurora and John and James, Walter and Patience, but the story is resolved nicely.

When I started reading again after a hiatus, I reached for the latest Julie Klassen story sitting in my TBR stack. I have enjoyed her novels in the past and while this one won't become a favorite, it was enjoyable.

Thanks to Litfuse Publicity for the opportunity to review this book.  You can learn more about Julie Klassen here.  You can see other reviews and tour stops here.  You can purchase your own copy here.

Read 1/14

* * *
3/5 Stars

Friday, January 17, 2014

The Secret Keeper...Review

About the book:
With her love for all things old-fashioned, Jennifer Burns has often been told she's an "old soul," but no one is prepared for the young woman's decision to set aside her modern life in favor of the Old Order Amish world. Yet Jenny does exactly that, adopting Plain dress and settling in with Samuel and Rebecca Lapp while she works as a mother's helper for the bishop's wife--a far cry from her former job as an antiquities appraiser.

The people of Hickory Hollow are curious about the beautiful young seeker among them, one handsome Amishman in particular. But he is not the only man vying for Jenny's affections, and Jenny faces many challenges in the Proving time the brethren have set for her...challenges of the heart, as well as the spirit.

Will Jenny's secrets keep her from the peace she longs for? Or will they lead the way home?

Jenny has always loved the quiet, simple things in life and has always been drawn to the Old Order Amish world.  When she finally musters the courage to leave her wealthy family home and move to Hickory Hollow her Amish friend Marnie arranges for her to board with the Lapp family while goes through her time of proving.  As Jenny finds herself becoming more and more Amish, Marnie finds herself drawn to outside teachings.

I loved the premise of this book, that an Englischer wants to become Amish and I loved the way that Beverly portrays the opposite experiences of Marnie and Jenny.  As always, I do not understand the concept or purpose of shunning, but I was pleased with how it was handled here and that the Bishop was actually a man who listened to others and softened his heart.

Fourth in the Home to Hickory Hollow series, the story stands alone just fine and it was one I thoroughly enjoyed. I just love picking up a new Beverly Lewis book.  With few exceptions, I always adore Beverly's books and characters and this one was terrific.

Thanks to Bethany House for the opportunity to review this book.  You can learn more about Beverly Lewis here.  You can purchase your own copy here.

Read 1/14

* * * *
4/5 Stars