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Twenty-two-year-old Militine Scott is in training at the Madison Bridal School in Seattle, yet she has no intention of pursuing marriage. What respectable man would have her? But she has found the school provides the perfect opportunity to keep her unsavory past hidden.

Thane Patton, though fun-loving and fiercely loyal to his friends, hides a dark secret, as well. He finds himself drawn to Militine, sensing that she harbors a haunting pain similar to his own.

Will they allow God to make something new and beautiful from the debris of their past?

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Militine is hiding. Getting married is the last thing on her mind, but to stay safe, she takes refuge at the  Madison Bridal School. And she’s not the only one dead set against marriage. Abrianna, “niece” of the owners of the school, has no intent to marry if she can help it.

As similar as their mindsets are about not marrying, their reasons couldn’t be more different. Militine can never trust; not even God. Plus, she needs to stay hidden, so no one learns about her past. Abrianna, on the other hand, is too busy doing God’s work to worry about making a marital match.  refiningfire

While the book description centers on Militine and Thane, this story is really about two very different couples: one couple struggles to find faith and each other; the other is busy working God’s plan together, and surprisingly has their feelings for each other revealed in a hodge-podged way.

Add in a splash of deception, human smuggling, and a fire, and you have the makings of a page turner! Tracie Peterson is an author I really enjoy. While this is the second book in the series, I hadn’t read the first book and didn’t need to.

5 out of 5 stars for this title. My only complaint is that the print edition has a wee tiny font, which made reading more time consuming and tedious than I prefer, due to old, tired eyes. 🙂

I received this book for free from Bethany House publishers (www.bethanyhouse.com) for this review.

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In modern day England, Professor Felix Guichard is called in to identify occult symbols found on the corpse of a young girl. His investigation brings him in contact with a mysterious woman, Jackdaw Hammond, who guards a monumental secret–She’s Dead. Or she would be, were it not for magic which has artificially extended her life. But someone else knows her secret. Someone very old and very powerful, who won’t rest until they’ve taken the magic that keeps her alive….

In Krakow in 1585, Dr John Dee, the Elizabethan Alchemist and Occultist, and his assistant Edward Kelley have been summoned by the King of Poland to save the life of his niece, the infamous Countess Elisabeth Bathory. But they soon realize that the only thing worse than the Countess’ malady, is the magic that might be able to save her…
As Jackdaw and Felix race to uncover the truth about the person hunting her, it becomes clear that the answers they seek can only be found in the ancient diary of John Dee’s assistant, Edward Kelley. Together they must solve a mystery centuries in the making, or die trying.

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Two stories; one problem.  As Jackdraw and Felix race to solve their problem and save a second teen, so did Dr. Dee and Edward Kelley race as well, to save their lives whilst not falling prey to the evil magic surrounding the Countess.  thesecretsoflifeanddeath

It doesn’t take long to understand that a “borrowed timer” is essentially a vampire. And, if you’ve had your ear to the historical ground, you might have actually heard of the **Countess Elizabeth Bathory.

Jack and Felix race against not only time to protect Sadie from two sets of threats, but also struggle to help Sadie understand what she is and what she must do to stay alive-ish. Jack struggles to trust Felix; Felix seeks understanding.

Dr. Dee and Edward Kelley struggle to save the Countess, despite the releasing of the evil needed to do so, as well as protect their own lives. If the Countess dies; so too, will they lose their lives. If the Countess lives……..

I think this is the first I’ve read by this author. Initially off to a slow start, the connection between the two stories wasn’t readily apparent for a bit. For the first bit, I found myself thinking, “Get to it already!” Once it got going though, whew!

5 out of 5 stars for this one. I especially love the historical element to this book. The author shares a bit of the actual history at the conclusion, which I appreciate.

I received this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for this review.

**The Countess is known as the most prolific female serial killer. The official record stands at 80 victims, as the witness’ recorded total of 650 victims could not be authenticated. Yes, this is the lady who killed and then allegedly bathed in the girls’ virginal blood. She was eventually tried, and walled up in her castle with small slots for ventilation and food. It took her 4 years to die in this solitary confinement. Her 4 other cohorts were summarily punished: 2 burned at the stake after having their fingers ripped off by hot pincers; 1 beheaded and body burned; the last one was imprisoned for life. She was later known as the ‘Lady Dracula’.

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Caroline Taylor was meant to be a lightkeeper. She’s spent her whole life living at and loving lighthouses. As her father’s health declined, Caroline took over more and more of the keeper’s duties; essentially managing the light herself.heartsmadewhole

But it’s not a walk in the park. Since her mother’s death several years ago, 20 year old Caroline has done what she could to fill those long empty shoes. While Caroline takes care of the light, the tasks of keeping track of the three younger siblings- twin brothers and a bedridden and declining sister- falls to Tessa, Caroline’s younger sister.

When disaster strikes and her father drowns, Caroline hopes to go on as before; managing the light. Unfortunately, it’s 1865, and that means women still don’t have as many rights as men. Caroline is threatened by the district lighthouse inspector, who believes the only role a woman has is beneath her husband, having babies.

Given a week to vacate the lighthouse to make way for the new keeper, Caroline is stressed. Where can they go? How will she provide and make sure her family is taken care of, especially with a sister teetering on the brink of death? She has a week to figure it out…..

Civil War veteran, Ryan, hopes his new job will allow him to save enough money to help clear his conscience. He figures the lighthouse is the perfect place to hide his broken, disfigured body. Making it to his final destination, he’s thrilled to find the keeper’s house fully furnished. Exhausted, he welcomes the inviting bed.

The only problem is, he soon learned, is that it was already occupied. Caroline isn’t thrilled to find a strange man waking her in bed……………

What will become of Caroline and her family? Is someone trying to force them away, thinking they can scare her enough to make her leave? Can Ryan fight his addictions and demons enough to keep the light functioning? Can he let Caroline leave without him?

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I have to say- this book gets an A+ from me. While there are several layers to the plot, they aren’t so obvious as to be immediately predictable. Then there’s the danger, which is intriguing. I absolutely love the struggles the characters have within themselves.

I’m glad this is a series, because I’ll be reading more. To make this even better, the author’s note at the end explains how the Caroline character was inspired by a real woman, also named Caroline; also a lightkeeper from Michigan. The two stories overlap really nicely; having many similarities and characters. I’ll be interested to see if subsequent books in the series follow suit.

I’m giving 5 out of 5 stars- really good read!  😀

I received this book for free from Bethany House publishers (www.bethanyhouse.com) for this review.

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[youtube:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4HYTC66332M%5D

Go watch the video. I’ll wait. 🙂

Ok. Everybody here?

If you’ve been reading my book reviews, you’ll probably remember that I generally like Sigmund Brouwer’s books, and don’t shy away from reviewing them.

This one, though…… I’m starting off with my rating. I’d give this book 10 stars if I could.

Go. Read. It.

This is a story, which, while fiction, was inspired by the author’s own parents’ experiences. {That hooks me every time.} It starts with a picture of a young boy’s freedom, family life, and conflict with another boy of similar age. By the end of the book, we’ve gone full circle; right to old age and deeply buried secrets.  thiefofglory

The tale of those secrets- of love lost; assault; tragic decisions made by parents; protection- all revealed- is told through the eyes of an aged man, seeing through his childhood eyes.

Compelling. Riveting, Gut wrenching. Heartbreaking.

“Thus, in solitude one night all these decades later, while still cognizant of the words I spoke, I found the strength and courage to fold my hands together and bow my head and finally ask His mercy.

I etch these last words not from a need after my death to share and dissipate the shame of what I did on the night my mother died at the internment camp, but from a desire to comfort Laura and Rachel, who led me, for the first time since that horrible night, to find the courage in that solitude and pour out my soul in prayer and weep with all the anguish I had denied myself for far too long.”

It’s been a while since a book has affected me like this. I imagine it will be a good long while until I read another one like it.

Go. Read. It.

I received this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for this review.

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“As dawn approaches in New York, literary agent Isabel Reed is turning the final pages of a mysterious, anonymous manuscript, racing through explosive revelations about powerful people. In Copenhagen, veteran CIA operative Hayden Gray, determined that this sweeping story be buried, is suddenly staring down the barrel of an unexpected gun. And in Zurich, the author himself is hiding in a shadowy expat life, trying to atone for a lifetime’s worth of lies and betrayals while always looking over his shoulder.  theaccident

Over the course of one long, desperate day, these lives will collide as the book begins its dangerous march toward publication, toward saving or ruining careers and companies, placing everything at risk—and everyone in mortal peril . . .”

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This book had a slow and confusing start. I was beginning to wonder if it was a dud. But, I felt obligated to read it, so I did.

There’s a lot of back and forth in this book; meaning, a lot of jumping around from character to character and year to year/time to time. It took a while and a lot of thinking to figure out what was going on. This was a Kindle edition, so I don’t know if the hard copy had those flashbacks italicized or not. That would have helped considerably. I love a good mystery, but this one was challenging to even understand. Once I got to that point, it was exactly as I thought it would be.

One thing that kind of bothered me was the body count. I mean, it was unreasonably high. It just seemed to me that given how the dead folks were related to each other (not family, but professionally), the cops would have been all over this in real life, which means much of the plot would have been much more complicated in order to work around a police investigation. There were parts that were too convoluted to do anything but get a chuckle out of the absurdity.

I’m giving this one 3 out of 5 stars. I would consider reading more by this author, but I don’t think I would go out of my way to do it.

I received this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for this review.

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They had butted heads in school; Kate losing the valedictorian spot to Trevor, thanks to trigonometry. Puh. Lost was the full scholarship to college, which Kate desperately needed, and rich, mansion-living Trevor did not. witheverybreath

12 years later, Kate still hadn’t forgotten the sting of that loss, nor the path deviation her life had taken. A year earlier, Kate had loved her job as a census bureau statistician. Now there were machines doing those jobs. The statistical forecasting jobs all went to men- not just men, but men with college degrees. Punch card tabulating bored Kate to tears, but without the college degree snatched from her all those years ago, she was at a loss to do much of anything else.

Until the letter came. She still didn’t understand why a renowned doctor had singled her out and asked her to apply for a “prestigious position at Washington Memorial Hospital.” The position was to analyze data and predict trends in health and disease- just what Kate would love doing. She was ready to do something meaningful with her brain again.

Putting her current job tenuously on the line, Kate decides it’s worth the risk to interview. She was feeling pretty good, until she saw him. Him, being the doctor who had requested her to apply.

She’d thought she didn’t know him up from down. She was wrong. The doctor she was to interview with was none other than Trevor McDonough Kendall. Yes, *that* Trevor……..

Could she tolerate working for him if she accepted the job, realizing his prickly demeanor hadn’t changed? What was driving his passion to find treatment and a cure for tuberculosis? Could she handle working with the critically ill patients? And, when mysterious situations take place and point to Dr. Kendall, with evidence showing up at her  parent’s boarding house, Kate’s home, could they untangle the clues in time?

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It’s been a year since I have had the chance to review another title by this author, and am I glad I did! The scene was set well; the disappointment of losing the college scholarship bitter. Although I don’t generally like books that have a lot of characters, this one was written well enough that none of them got confused.

I loved the historical content, too. It’s easy to forget how far medicine has come in recent decades. This book has it all- a fight for women working in the prejudiced work-force; love, mystery, secrets, etc. Elizabeth Camden stays on my ‘favorite authors’ list, and I will definitely make a point to review any more that come my way. This is another 5 out of 5 stars title.

I received this book for free from Bethany House publishers (www.bethanyhouse.com) for this review.

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Coast Guard Lieutenant Sam Merrill was having a run-of-the-mill kind of day, and this call seemed to be much of the same. Much of the same, that is, until he saw the condition of the vessel.  hotpursuit

“A boat this size in this condition made no sense. There had been no heavy weather in the water for a month. No running lights, no signs of movement cutting through the faintly phosphorescent mist. And it was dead in the water. In what looked like the only fresh paint on the vessel, black letters spelling G H O S T were spread across the fantail. No home port, another oddity for a boat of this type. It looked like a set-up.”

Following the blaring headlines of, “COAST GUARD NETS BILLION DOLLAR DRUG HAUL!” Sam and his wife, Amy, are swept off to an all-expenses paid vacation, courtesy of the government. Major news outlets were calling him a hero, and Sam was feeling very much the fraud, trying to figure that one out. Even the President of the United States of America gave them a verbal send off of, “a much-deserved vacation” to the Bahamas.

What the heck?!

A set-up, indeed.

As Sam escapes the “autograph hounds” and heads upstairs to their room, Amy continues her lap swimming. Exiting the elevator, it takes him a minute to comprehend that he’s hearing muffled screams. He races to his room, only to find the door already partially open.

“He could see through to the balcony, where one of the white-clad German-looking men was leaning over the railing, looking down. The screams were louder, clearer. How me any others were there? How many had he seen enter the elevator? Merrill had to do something quickly- now! If these guys were in their room, their partners were after Amy downstairs.”

During his struggles with the three men in his room, Sam’s fears were confirmed. “…….finally saw Amy in the middle of the pool struggling with the other three.” Finishing off the last of the three men in his room after trying to get him to tell where they were taking her, Sam races downstairs.

He was too late……………….

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So, I was reading through my email and came across an invitation to review a title from Open Road Integrated Media. Apparently, they also use Net Galley, “……….. a service to promote titles to professional readers of influence.”  😆 {yep, I’m still giggling 🙂 } And you know I never turn down a freebie book to review, so I was more than happy to accept the title.

The foreword of this book is engaging. I learned that the author, Roderick Thorp,  had three of his books made into movies, including the iconic Die Hard. This manuscript for this title was written in 1995; the last before his death in 1999. It had not been published prior to his death, and as a result, there were no revisions. This book, as is, is exactly what Roderick Thorp wrote.

And it is spellbinding.

I haven’t read a book that I could not put down in a really long time. Sure, there were others I didn’t want to put down, but eventually got too sleepy and sleep won.

But this book? No way. I was up until the wee hours of the morning to finish this one. My heart was pounding, and I really wished I could read faster. I was exhausted the next day, but it was so, so well worth it. I haven’t been smitten with a book like this in a really long time; maybe ever.

Anyhow. If mystery, intrigue, kidnapping, deviant behavior with a hint of government conspiracy is your cup of tea, get to drinking this one asap! You will NOT be sorry!

Even though I don’t have to rate this one or leave a review anywhere, I am giving it 5 out of 5 stars and most definitely WILL. Don’t miss it!

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1814 was a rough year. The British have taken control of Michilimackinac Island. If the Americans on the island want to stay there, they must swear loyalty to the Brits. Swearing loyalty, though, doesn’t make the British soldiers any less the enemy…….  capturedbylove

Everyone is hungry. Angelique does what she can to help her blind future mother-in-law by sneaking her the food the she manages to hide away. If her guardian, Ebenezer Whiley, catches her, the punishment will be severe. He’s got a cruel streak a mile wide, and since marrying her sister off, Angelique gets the brunt of his anger.

And, to top it off, his pregnant wife is hugely jealous of Angelique and is convinced she’s letting him in her bed. Angelique would rather be dead.

That morning, she nearly got her wish. Accosted in the forest by quartermaster Lieutenant Steele. Although drunk and barely managing to stay upright, she is no match for his strength. He threatens to tell her guardian; she knows she can report him for breaking curfew and being outside the fort. While he may get lashed, she knows he’d be back to punish her, too.

Relentless in his pursuit of more than food, she feels her life force draining away, as his hands clamped around her throat prevent her from breathing. The last thing she remembers hearing before the darkness claimed her permanently is a loud “thwack.” “Instantly, the deathly chain around her neck fell away.”

She recognized her savior as a voyageur; a canoe-paddling fur trader. As he retreats into the forest, Angelique must see his face. He motions her to be silent as he faces her, yet she cannot contain her gasp. It’s Pierre Durant.

Pierre.

Her fiancee Jean’s brother.

Pierre.

Her first love.

Pierre.

Her only love…………………..

 

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This is the third title in the Michigan Brides Collection. I have not read the first book, but I absolutely adored the second book, A Noble Groom.  I was thrilled to realize this was another title in the series, as author Jody Hedlund has been added to my ‘favorite authors’ list.

One of the things I liked best about this book was that, despite the imminent danger, the final issue boiled down to choosing between two honorable men. I can’t say a whole lot more without spoiling the plot, so I’ll have to leave it there.

As with the last book in the series, this one also gets a 5 out of 5 stars from me. I’d give it more if I could. I’m enjoying this series so much that I might actually go back and buy the first book if I don’t ever get a chance to review it.

I received this book for free from Bethany House publishers (www.bethanyhouse.com) for this review.

 

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Joan’s life took an unexpected, tragic turn when at the tender age of 4. Since her father’s beheading, everything has been a struggle for her family.  atripleknot

Joan’s close friendship with her cousin, the future King Edward III, leaves her in a difficult position, seeing as Edward has sworn to marry her. Joan, however, is disinclined, and Edward’s family agrees. They have plans to make a strategic marriage for her, as is customary.

Joan, however, is a Plantagenet. Or, in other words; headstrong. Temperamental. Blessed with striking good looks. Trouble. Being such, she has no plans to marry either the child molester or the homosexual the royals have in mind for her.

No, Joan wants to marry for love- even if her love is below her station. To thwart the plans of the dowager queen, Joan marries in secret……..

When Joan is forced to marry the royal family’s pick, it’s a race to the king to have him determine which husband she is really married to.

 

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I have read other books that detail the life of Joan of Kent, and I find her story heart-wrenchingly sad. I can say that, without a doubt, I have absolutely *zero* desire to have been born a royal in that, or really, any other time, less modern day {and even that is questionable}. As you probably know, women were chattel; to be used as the men in their lives saw fit. Horrible.

This tale in particular, is filled with the kind of drama that modern-day soap operas can’t come close to touching.

From the beginning, this book was hard to put down. The family guide in the beginning was helpful, but the huge amount of characters was a tad confusing, even when I knew the basics of the story. Because this was based on fact, there’s not much the author could have done about that, though.

The only thing that really bothered me was the shift in perspectives. I don’t think it added much to the story, because the shift took place quite a ways in. It felt unnatural and unnecessary. I think that unless there was the perspective change from the beginning, those chapters should have been left out entirely or modified to reflect Joan’s perspective to keep a more streamlined writing.

My edition was an un-proofed e-copy, but I didn’t see any real issues.

Because of the change of perspectives being annoying, I’m going to give this one 4.5 out of 5 stars.

I received this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for this review.

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Tina Cahill is on a mission. She is going to shut down the saloon at any expense! Well, they have to notice her first. Her daily picketing doesn’t seem to be having much effect, but she’s still trying! stucktogether

Even though she’s convinced everyone hates her, they sure don’t mind her cooking. But with the former cook at Glynna’s locked up for trying to murder Dr. Riker, Glynna’s husband, she figures they tolerate her just so they don’t have to try and gnaw on Glynna’s food. And, to make matters worse, she keeps running into “Invincible Vince,” of Regulator fame and town sheriff.

This afternoon’s picketing brings an all-out sidewalk brawl and trough dunkings. If anyone asked, Vince would be the first person to tell you what a thorn in his side she is! Despite Tina being easy on the eyes and Vince being one of the last remaining single men in town, marriage is not in the cards for him. Between his tyrannical father and his mother’s mental issue, there is no way he’d curse a wife and kids with those genetics.

And yet………

When Vince’s father arrives with his mother and a sister he didn’t know about in tow, and then sneaks off as quickly, Vince finds himself having to lean on his Regulator family- including Tina. Things come to a head when, “Tina’s picketing at the saloon has revealed a dark secret that could put everyone Vince loves in danger.”

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This is a no-brainer. I love Mary Connealy’s writing. This is the third title in the Trouble in Texas series. I have reviewed the first two books, Swept Away, and Fired Up. As usual, this title gets 5 out of 5 stars. I was really excited to find this one available for review. Definitely add this title to your reading list!

Mary Connealy’s  website has all of her titles- be sure to check it out!

I received this book from Bethany House Publishers for this unbiased review.

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