Book Review: The Bachelor Girl’s Guide to Murder by Rachel McMillan

BGGTMThe Bachelor Girl’s Guide to Murder by Rachel McMillan (Harvest House Publishers, March 2016)

In 1910 Toronto, while other bachelor girls perfect their domestic skills and find husbands, two friends perfect their sleuthing skills and find a murderer.

Inspired by their fascination with all things Sherlock Holmes, best friends and flatmates Merinda and Jem launch a consulting detective business. The deaths of young Irish women lead Merinda and Jem deeper into the mire of the city’s underbelly, where the high hopes of those dreaming to make a new life in Canada are met with prejudice and squalor.

While searching for answers, donning disguises, and sneaking around where no proper ladies would ever go, they pair with Jasper Forth, a police constable, and Ray DeLuca, a reporter in whom Jem takes a more than professional interest. Merinda could well be Toronto’s premiere consulting detective, and Jem may just find a way to put her bachelor girlhood behind her forever–if they can stay alive long enough to do so.

REVIEW:

One of my favorite aspects of reading is its ability to transport me into new worlds, new places, and new times. Through reading, I am able to experience much more than is ever likely I could do of my own accord. In the case of The Bachelor Girl’s Guide to Murder, this is a good thing–because while I have no desire to ever chase murderers through a big city, I quite enjoyed myself as Jem and Merinda did the same in Rachel McMillan’s debut novel. With a keen insight into Toronto’s history and a penchant for wit and humorous dialog, McMillan’s The Bachelor Girl’s Guide to Murder is a refreshing debut novel for the CBA.

Merinda Herringford and Jemima Watts live in early twentieth-century Toronto, battling the social norms and societal expectations placed upon women of the upper class. These best friends fill The Bachelor Girl’s Guide to Murder with laughter and love as their opposite personalities make them the perfect dynamic duo to take on the Morality Squad and power-hungry politicians. Passionate and exuberant, Merinda easily takes charge of the Herringford and Watts detective business. While I could never truly put myself in her shoes, I laughed at her antics and admired her for her courage and tenacity to solve mysteries. Jemima, on the other hand, is just my kind of character: prim and proper, intelligent and brave, and loyal to her best friend, Jemima evolves throughout the novel and her journey is a satisfying one to behold.

This novel was the first I’d read in the cozy mystery genre, and I was unsure if I would be able to handle a story whose central concept was murder. I’m happy to state that The Bachelor Girl’s Guide to Murder is much more than just a murder mystery. Yes, Herringford and Watts are out to solve the wrongful deaths of two of females; however, McMillan uses her wordsmithing skills to weave a story that instead focuses on the circumstances surrounding the conditions that allowed such felonies to occur. I was captivated by her prowess to use this story to bring the challenges and hardships alive that women and immigrants faced in Toronto at this time.

For a vintage-styled twist that brings new life to the historical fiction in the CBA, look no further than Rachel McMillan. The Bachelor Girl’s Guide to Murder is a historical romp that brings humor, history, romance, and social awareness to the forefront of Christian fiction. This is one you’ll want to add to your to-read list right away.

RATING: 4 stars

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

10425088_10155282043665316_1590509899598521150_nRachel McMillan is a keen history enthusiast and a lifelong bibliophile. When not writing or reading, she can most often be found drinking tea and watching British miniseries. Rachel lives in bustling Toronto, where she works in educational publishing and pursues her passion for art, literature, music, and theater.

 

Book Review: Finding Love in Sun Valley, Idaho by Angela Ruth Strong

Sun ValleyFinding Love in Sun Valley by Angela Ruth Strong (February 2016, Mountain Brook Ink)

Actress Emily Van Arsdale has returned to her Idaho hometown – with an entire film crew in tow! With its stunning scenery and reputation for hosting celebrities, Sun Valley is the perfect setting for Emily’s newest romantic comedy. Tracen Lake is happy to work as a stunt consultant for the movie but not as thrilled to deal with a bunch of high-maintenance Hollywood types. But Tracen is surprised to discover in Emily a down-to-earth Idaho girl who does all her own stunts and loves the outdoors. As filming wraps up and Emily heads off to her next gig, will she be able to leave Sun Valley – and Tracen – behind?

REVIEW:

Some books are read for pleasure; some for learning; others to whisk you away in a world completely unlike your own. Finding Love in Sun Valley, Idaho brought a mix of all of the above. Set in the charming town named in the title of the book, Strong’s first novel with Mountain Brook Ink is a charming, light read that made me laugh and brought a smile to my face. This story epitomizes all that is good about inspirational fiction: sweet romance, a faith thread that never preaches but still hits hard with spiritual truths, a focus on family, and relatable characters who face challenges that ultimately lead to personal growth.

With a unique storyline, Finding Love in Sun Valley, Idaho is equally character and plot driven. Emily Van Arsdale and Tracen Lake are a delightful pairing of heroine and heroine in a story that features a unique premise of Hollywood movie-making and stunts/gymnastics. Their romance is palpable, and humor abounds as they transition from friends to a couple. Secondary characters complete the lively community in this novel, with a particularly enjoyable pastor-turned-raftsman and chubby eleven-year-old who rides a unicycle. Deeper themes such as forgiveness, trust, and letting go of the past support the overall tone of humor that is prevalent in the story. I appreciated that Strong utilized these themes in Love Finds You in Sun ValleyIdaho; however, these deeper elements at times felt rushed, and I do think the humor thread is the strongest of all of them in this novel.

For a light-hearted read laced with quirky characters looking to build new lives in a beautiful location, search no further than Finding Love in Sun Valley, Idaho. Also, keep your eyes open for this novel to potentially be made into a movie on Hallmark or upTV. Two further books in the series will be released within the next year: Finding Love in Big Sky, Montana (November 2016) and Finding Love in Park City, Utah (spring 2017). I am looking forward to continuing this series.

RATING: 3.5 stars

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

AngelaAngela sold her first story to a national magazine while still in high school and went on to study journalism at the University of Oregon. Her debut novel LOVE FINDS YOU IN SUN VALLEY, IDAHO released in 2010 to a four-star review from Romantic Times. Angela loves connecting with fans and mentoring aspiring authors, which led her to start IDAhope Writers. She currently lives in Boise with her husband and three kids.

 

Book Review: Friends and Enemies by Terri Vanguard

Friends and EnemiesFriends and Enemies by Terri Wangard (Hopesprings Books, January 2016)

In 1943, widowed seamstress Heidi Wetzel finds new meaning in life by caring for evacuated childrePhin on a rural farm in war-torn western Germany. Never a supporter of National Socialism, she takes pleasure in passive resistance, but must exercise caution around neighbors who delight in reporting to the Gestapo.

Flying cadet Paul Braedel’s wife dies while he trains for the U.S. Army Air Corps. Following bereavement leave, he returns to training but he’s lost his zest for life and heads to England, not caring if he lives or dies. When he and his crew are shot down over Germany, he evades capture and, for the first time since Rachel’s death, hears the voice of God whisper guidance: “Find Heidi.”

When Heidi stumbles into a man she recognizes, she is shocked to realize he is a friend from her high school days in the United States, and the husband of her best friend Rachel. Aiding an enemy downed airman is punishable by execution, but she agrees to help.

Then they’re betrayed.

REVIEW: 

Teacher, philosopher, and magician Albus Dumbledore, from the world of the Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling once said, “It takes a great deal of courage to stand up to our enemies. But it takes a great deal more to stand up to up to our friends.” I thought of this quote often while reading Terri Wangard’s novel Friends and Enemies–and not simply because of the similarity of words between the quote and the title. While novels set during World War Two are fairly common amongst both the general and Christian markets, the aspect of Friends and Enemies that marks this as a must-read novel for fans of the genre is its ability to make a person question who was really a friend or enemy in a country condemned for actions taken by only a select few.

A novel of Christian romance as well as history, Friends and Enemies brims with details, facts, and research that makes the story come alive. Wangard deftly weaves her plot and characters around true-to-life insight and knowledge of what it was like to live, love, and fight during World War Two. While I found that this novel could be improved through writing and editing, overall the story captivated as I watched the author unfold the intricacies as both a friend and enemy of World War Two Germany.

Main characters Heidi and Paul are interesting enough to the story, but Friends and Enemies shines because of its plot. Paul–daring, brave, and questioning God–is an appealing hero. As a flight navigator, Paul’s experiences flying over worn-torn countries are thrilling and drew me into the story. Heidi–a war widow native to Germany but who has also lived in the United States–is the heart of Friends and Enemies. While her storyline did not interest me as much as Paul’s did, I found her sweet nature and the challenging circumstances she faced living in Germany but not believing in Nazism to be the most interesting part intellectually of Wangard’s book. At times Paul and Heidi’s romance didn’t feel believable, but its natural progression fit the story enough that I still enjoyed Friends and Enemies.

With Wangard’s love of history and keen ability to implement historical details into prose, I predict this author will be one to watch in the World War Two genre. I am looking forward to reading the next two novels in this series, coming out in later 2016 from Hopesprings Books.

RATING: 3.5 stars

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: 

TerriTerri Wangard grew up in Green Bay, Wisconsin, during the Lombardi Glory Years. Her first Girl Scout badge was the Writer. These days she writes historical fiction, and won the American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW) Woodland’s Chapter 2013 Writers on the Storm (WOTS) contest and the ACFW 2013 First Impressions, as well as being an ACFW 2012 Genesis finalist. Holder of a bachelor’s degree in history and a master’s degree in library science, her research included going for a ride in a WWII B-17 Flying Fortress bomber. Classic Boating Magazine, a family business since 1984, keeps her busy as an associate editor.

Book Review: The Thorn Keeper by Pepper D. Basham

The Thorn Keeper by Pepper D. Basham (Penned In Time #2, Vinspire Publishing, February 2016)

12141649_10207821471475424_6414826805133351175_nWith her past in shambles, how can she fashion a future of hope?

Catherine Dougall’s past of manipulation has left her future in threads. With a new faith, she longs to take the remnants of her life and make something beautiful, but shame, societies’ judgments, and the natural consequences of an unplanned pregnancy test her newfound hope. Dr. David Ross doesn’t help either. His kindness, sacrifice, and tenderness tempt her to impossible dreams. A fallen woman doesn’t merit a fairytale.

David Ross has made every effort to keep his life above reproach. His passion for the sick pumps fresh purpose through his choices, but without financial support to maintain his war hospital, all is lost. When his notorious aunt offers an easy solution, David is tempted to give in to her demands, but his growing affection for the reformed flirt, Catherine Dougall, unwinds the careful wall around his heart and offers an unexpected choice.

When the worst of war tears them apart, can love renew the memory of what was lost or will tragedy steal away their hope forever.

From the beautiful Derbyshire countryside to the trenches of World War One, Catherine and David must learn to trust in a God who designs a masterpiece out of brokenness and fashions hope in the most unlikely places.

REVIEW: 

A classic is said to be a work judged over a period of time to be of the highest value and outstanding of its time; whose lessons will forevermore be applicable to those who engage with the art. If the definition to what we define as classic novels today–Austen, Bronte, Shakespeare, Emerson, Thoreau, and the like–can apply to future generations, then I firmly believe that readers should begin compiling their lists now because some standout authors are emerging in the Christian fiction publishing industry. One such author, Pepper D. Basham, has written a work of art in The Thorn Keeper, a story that brims with redemption, forgiveness, faithfulness, grace, and love; themes we encounter every day, but ones that envelop a classic in that they apply to each and every one of us, regardless of when or how we live.

The Thorn Keeperstarring lady Catherine Dougall and Dr. David Ross, begins shortly after we meet its heroine and heroine in the first book of the series, The Thorn Bearer. Catherine and David are two characters who, on the outset, seem as unlikely to be matched as a couple could be; however, after meeting them in a redemption scene brimming with grace and romance, I knew that if anyone could bring two characters together so beautifully, it would be Pepper Basham. The author does that and much, much more in The Thorn Keeper.   Through the gentlest of touches, the most longing of stares, the purest of loves, Basham shows how God’s gift of romantic love is so much more than physical. Readers who love love stories, this book is for you.

Basham’s technique of weaving spiritual truths with gorgeous prose elevates her stories from the traditional to the classic. I’ve read her contemporaries as well as her historicals, so I can assure you that whether she’s writing about the hospitals in World War One England or the mountains of contemporary North Carolina, this author has a talent for wordsmithing. In The Thorn Keeperthe history of World War One England will draw you into a time where only redemption, grace, and love can fight the social stigmas and class divisions of the Edwardian Era. Catherine Dougall is a heroine worthy of praise and admiration–and by far a favorite of mine. I found that Her heart for helping others, bravery in the face of losing all she’s ever known, and steadfast love for her family drive this story. David’s part of the story, likewise, was a catalyst for the romance: ever the stoic hero who learns to let his guard down for love, I cheered for him as he pursued the woman he loved, chased after his dreams, and stood by his king and country.

The Thorn Keeper is a book to add to your pre-order list, or if nothing else, to the top of your to-be-read pile. Or both! I highly recommend this novel for fans of historical fiction, romance, and inspirational stories.

Rating: 4.5 stars

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: 

Pepper BashamPepper Basham is an award-winning author who writes romance peppered with grace and humor. She currently resides in the lovely mountains of Asheville, NC where she is the mom of 5 great kids, speech-pathologist to about fifty more, lover of chocolate, jazz, and Jesus, and proud AlleyCat over at a group writing blog, The Writer’s Alley. Her debut historical romance novel, The Thorn Bearer, released in May 2015, and has already garnered its first award with Readers’ Favorites International Awards. Pepper’s second and third books in the series arrive in February 2016. Her first contemporary romance debuts in April. You can connect with Pepper on her website at www.pepperdbasham.com, Facebook- https://www.facebook.com/pages/Pepper-D-Basham or Twitter at https://twitter.com/pepperbasham.

Cover Reveal: A Lady Unrivaled by Roseanna M. White

Dearest reader friends,

Today I bring you a cover reveal that is close to my heart. Roseanna M. White, authoress extraordinaire, is releasing her third Ladies of the Manor series this fall with Bethany House. You might remember that the first book in the series, The Lost Heiress, was my favorite book of 2015 and remains my favorite of all time (aside from Pride and Prejudice, of course). Naturally, it follows that the rest of the books in the Ladies of the Manor series would make their ways onto my blog. A Lady Unrivaled will release in September 2016.

Here’s what Bethany House has thus far for the back-cover blurb:

Lady Ella Myerston can always find a reason to smile–even if it’s just in hope that tomorrow will be better than today. All her life everyone has tried to protect her from the realities of the world, but Ella knows very well the danger that has haunted her brother and their friend, and she won’t wait for it to strike again. She intends to take action . . . and if that happens to involve an adventurous trip to the Cotswolds, then so much the better.

Lord Cayton has already broken two hearts, including that of his first wife, who died before he could convince himself to love her. Now he’s determined to live a better life. But that proves complicated when old friends arrive on the scene and try to threaten him into a life of crime. He does his best to remove the intriguing Lady Ella from danger, but the stubborn girl won’t budge. How else can he redeem himself, though, but by saving her–and his daughter–from those dangerous people who seem ready to destroy them all?

Sounds fantastic, doesn’t it?

And now, I give you the gorgeous cover to go along with what will surely be a favorite book of many for 2016:

LadyUnrivaled_mck.indd

Links for A Lady Unrivaled

Find it on Amazon | Find it on Christian Book | Find it on Goodreads | See the Pinterest Page

While you’re adding A Lady Unrivaled to your many to-read lists, be sure to check out Roseanna’s websites.

Roseanna M. White pens her novels beneath her Betsy Ross flag, with her Jane Austen action figure watching over her. When not writing fiction, she’s homeschooling her two children, editing and designing, and pretending her house will clean itself. Roseanna’s novels range from biblical fiction to American-set romances to her new British series. She lives with her family in West Virginia. Learn more at www.RoseannaMWhite.com