Book Review: Like Never Before by Melissa Tagg

Like Never BeforeLike Never Before (Walker Family #2) 

Maple Valley became Amelia Bentley’s haven after her heart and her dreams of a family were shattered. But her new life as a newspaper editor is shaken when the small-town paper is in danger of closing. Her one hope: A lead on an intriguing story that just might impress the new publisher…if only she new who he was.

After his biggest campaign success yet, widowed speechwriter Logan Walker now has the chance of a lifetime–a spot on a presidential campaign. But his plans are interrupted when he finds out he’s inherited his hometown newspaper. He travels home intent on selling the paper and spending some much-needed time with his young daughter before making the leap into national politics.

But instead of a quick sale and peaceful break from his hectic career, Logan finds himself helping Amelia chase her story. She’s scrappy, but wounded. He’s dependable, but lost. They may butt heads more than expected, but a series of leads on Maple Valley’s quirky unsolved mystery is just the start of the sparks that fly in the office and in their hearts.

REVIEW:

There are certain things I know will bring me smiles: purring kittens, Broadway musicals, Disney movies, Jane Austen adaptations, trips to Barnes and Nobles. The underlying theme of this list–the belief that love conquers all. (Well, maybe that Barnes and Nobles trip doesn’t quite fit that statement, but hey, this *is* my list…and I can find many “love conquers all” stories in B&N.)

And if I want one of those “love conquers all” stories that will make me smile, I know without any doubt that all I need to do is pull a Melissa Tagg novel off the shelf. That’s right, reader friends. Some stories make your heart flutter with the sweet delight of first love; others make your heart pound with the spice; and some make you swoon with the romance. Melissa’s novels have a little bit of all of that, ensuring that no matter what kind of love a reader longs for, they will find it amongst her witty dialog, punchy plots, and quirky characters.

Witty dialog, punchy plots, and quirky characters are enough to make a novel successful, but I fully believe that readers keep coming back for more of Melissa’s books because of the heart of the stories. Melissa crafts characters and storylines that speak to the  heartaches, joys, loves, and dramas that we all experience. Like Never Before demonstrates her natural ability to reach people on a heart-level through seemingly ordinary circumstances (in the book) but truly beautiful life lessons (woven into the story through her unique author voice).

I’ve long loved Melissa’s novels for all those reasons mentioned above, but in Like Never Before I noticed what first caught my attention last winter with her stand-alone novella: this author’s craft is strong, unique, and improved upon in each book she writes. Like Never Before stands out from Melissa’s preceding novels because of her use of wit in her dialog and prose, deep plot lines, and comedic timing. While Melissa’s novels are always funny, the wit and comedic timing in Like Never Before actually had me laughing out loud. She also deepened her story with a historical subplot that strengthened her character’s motivations and added a layer of complexity to her writing. These two elements alone tell me that Melissa is more than capable–and likely will–make a name for herself in a niche market of authors who can write complex contemporary romance novels.

Like Never Before is now one of my favorite novels ever. I am so excited to read Melissa’s future novels, including the next novel in the Walker Family Series (starring Beckett)!

Rating: 5 stars


About the Author: 

Melissa TaggMelissa Tagg is a former reporter, current nonprofit grant writer and total Iowa girl. She’s also a multi-published novelist, writing romantic comedies in the banter-filled style of her favorite 1930s and 40s classic films. Her latest book, Like Never Before, was named by Publishers Weekly to their spring 2016 “Religion and Spirituality” Top 10 list. When she’s not writing she can be found hanging out with the coolest family ever, watching old movies, and daydreaming about her next book. Melissa loves connecting with readers at http://www.melissatagg.com and on Facebook and Instagram.
Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for my honest review.
Advertisements

Book Review: Flirtation Walk by Siri Mitchell

Flirtation Walk

ABOUT THE BOOK:

West Point History Comes Alive in this Warmhearted Romance

Lucinda Pennyworth, the daughter of a con man, is trying her best to leave her father’s sordid past behind her. When he dies unexpectedly, she takes the opportunity to move to West Point to live with her aunt, ready to take on a new life and determined to marry a respectable man, a West Point cadet, to impress her relatives.
Seth Westcott, a cadet at the academy, is proud to be at the top of his senior class. But when his mother dies and his sister loses their inheritance to a swindler, Seth wants nothing more than to head west to track down the con man. But the army will only send the cadets at the bottom of the class to the frontier…which leaves Seth with some tough choices.
When a woman trying her best to be good meets a man determined to be anything but, can there be hope for love, or will two lonely hearts be condemned to casual flirtation?

AMAZON | GOODREADS | BARNES & NOBLE

MY REVIEW: 
Reading a book by an author you’re familiar with, or from a genre that you know you love, or set during your favorite time period lends itself to some certainty. That feeling of certain pleasure makes for some good reading when the price of a good book is a hefty fifteen-dollars and at least a few uninterrupted hours.
But when those factors are put aside–when you’re fairly certain you can expect something good out of a book–and something more happens…now that, reader friends, is when book magic comes alive.
 I’ve read a majority of Siri Mitchell’s books over the past seven years; in fact, she was one of the first authors of Christian historical fiction that I ever read. Unfortunately, Siri’s 2015 release did not make it on my favorites list, so for the rest of last year I was unsure of what to expect from this prolific author in 2016.
 I didn’t need much convincing to pick up Flirtation Walk as soon as it released. West Point history? A novel set during the 1800s? A military romance? Yes, please.
Within just a few pages of Flirtation Walk I knew that this book would make it onto my Favorites of 2016 list. I loved this book. From its droll humor, to its historical setting, to its characters that so genuinely want to fulfill their roles and find their dreams, Flirtation Walk just struck a chord with me.
Characters in Mitchell’s latest novel drive the story from the first page to the last. Lucinda is a charming character desperate to be and do good. Although at times I admit her inability to see the good in herself pushed my limits, this was less of a fault of Mitchell’s ability to write than my own frustration in knowing Lucinda was redeemed. I wanted so badly for her to know she was loved by God, her family, and her man, and that to me was a mark of Mitchell’s ability to bring her characters to life. Seth Wescott, hero of Flirtation Walk, is charming as Lucinda’s opposite. Highly regarded at West Point as the top student and leader, Seth’s life undergoes a complete transformation as he has to become someone he’s not in order save his family. Watching drama unfold as Seth valiantly attempts to complete this task was the perfect reason to continue reading Flirtation Walk. I just had to know what was going to happen to these two!
A cast of clever, charming cadets provided humor and hilarity against the background of the prestigious military academy. West Point was a character unto itself–I have always wanted to visit the academy, and while that may not happen for some time, I thank Mitchell for giving me the opportunity to see it in my mind.
By the time I finished this book I was sad the story was over. I genuinely enjoyed every page of Flirtation Walk and smiled at the close of Lucinda and Seth’s romance. This is a novel I will most definitely re-read.
Rating: 4 stars
Find out more about Siri Mitchell here.
Disclaimer: I received this book from Bethany House Publishers in exchange for an honest review. I was not required to write a positive review, and all thoughts and opinions are my own. This review is protected by copyright law.

Release Day: The Sound of Emeralds by Rachelle Rea

Dearest reader friends,

Today is a beautiful day! It’s Friday–but better yet, it’s release day for The Sound of Emeralds, the third book in Rachelle Rea’s  Steadfast Love series. Congratulations, Rachelle!

In celebration of this gorgeous book (put this on your TBR list, friends), I’m hosting Rachelle here on A Way With Words for a short Q & A session.

Q & A with author and editor Rachelle Rea

AWWW: What’s the greatest lesson regarding writing and publishing that you’ve learned over your time spent working on The Steadfast Love series?

RR: I thought I had learned the lesson of grace that I have the privilege of portraying in my series, but I learned it anew in the whirlwind of editing and release dates. I made countless mistakes forgetting emails, missing typos, transposing links…yet I experienced so much grace in the form of readers saying my stories touched their hearts, excellent reviews, an amazing team behind me at WhiteFire and among my influencers. I realized anew this story of Dirk and Gwyn has never been about me, but about the God who gives such grace.

AWWW: What do you believe is the most significant lesson you’ll take away for future writing projects that you learned while writing The Steadfast Love series? (i.e. : always continue learning about the craft, the importance of time management, always listening to your editor, etc…)

RR: Always, always listen to the editor! WhiteFire’s editorial team is just magnificent. So insightful at every step of the way. So superb at catching when my timeline goes askew or I miss historical facts. Oh, the timeline! A practical thing I’ll remember is the importance of having a timeline written down somewhere so I can go back and reference it throughout the revision process. So helpful! Writers, make one. 😉

Doesn’t she have some great advice, friends?


Now, for those of you more interested in the story-side of The Steadfast Love series, I’ve got something fun for you. Fun fact: the love triangle in this series wasn’t always there. So to celebrate the culmination of this triangle in The Sound of Emeralds  Rachelle is having a contest–who do you want to see win Gwyn’s hand? The reformed rogue, Dirk, who has claimed her heart or the loyal friend who could be more, Anders?

As for me, while I love both men in Rachelle’s series, Anders happens to have won my heart. Check out the pictures Rachelle made for #TeamAnders

 

So readers, who is your man in The Steadfast Love series? Are you #TeamAnders or #TeamDirk?

 

 

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.