The King’s Mercy

The King’s Mercy

By Lori Benton

The Story

For readers of Sara Donati and Diana Gabaldon, this epic historical romance tells of fateful love between an indentured Scotsman and a daughter of the 18th century colonial south.

When captured rebel Scotsman Alex MacKinnon is granted the king’s mercy–exile to the Colony of North Carolina–he’s indentured to Englishman Edmund Carey as a blacksmith. Against his will Alex is drawn into the struggles of Carey’s slaves–and those of his stepdaughter, Joanna Carey. A mistress with a servant’s heart, Joanna is expected to wed her father’s overseer, Phineas Reeves, but finds herself drawn instead to the new blacksmith. As their unlikely relationship deepens, successive tragedies strike the Careys. When blame falls unfairly upon Alex he flees to the distant mountains where he encounters Reverend Pauling, itinerate preacher and friend of the Careys, now a prisoner of the Cherokees. Haunted by his abandoning of Joanna, Alex tries to settle into life with the Cherokees, until circumstances thwart yet another attempt to forge his freedom and he’s faced with the choice that’s long hounded him: continue down his rebellious path or embrace the faith of a man like Pauling, whose freedom in Christ no man can steal. But the price of such mercy is total surrender, and perhaps Alex’s very life.

(Back cover summary from Waterbook & Multnomah)

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This book isn’t due to release until June, but I was able to read an early copy via NetGalley. I had just finished Many Sparrows, and found myself fallen in love with the way Benton tells a story, as well as the setting she paints so vividly. It was then I remembered that newest novel waiting on my Kindle.

The King’s Mercy is a little different from what Lori Benton normally writes, but it still contains her signature elements. Though it begins in the Old World, the story quickly moves to a plantation in North Carolina, and the troubles there. I loved the characters in this book. Alex is a hero who possesses strength and leadership, but he also is deeply flawed in several ways. The same with Joanna. While strong, she’s also distinctly human, and able to be hurt just as any other.

The plot of this story was engrossing. As it progressed, I was trying to figure out who was causing the troubles at Severn, and though I was right on a couple things, it unfolded into so much more. The villain’s intentions and background speak to real-world situations that grieve the characters, and my own heart.

The romance in this book is also spot-on. It felt like a natural progression of shared hopes and dreams and mutual respect for the other’s strengths.

Last, I loved the secondary characters in this book. They were colorful, meaningful, and added so much to the story. The King’s Mercy focuses on just that: mercy. The mercy God gives us primarily, but also mercy toward others, and giving up control and surrendering to Him.

In all, this is a satisfying tale that once again leaves me looking for more books from Lori Benton.

About the Author

LORI BENTON was raised east of the Appalachian Mountains, surrounded by early American history going back three hundred years. Her novels transport readers to the eighteenth century, where she brings to life the Colonial and early Federal periods of American history. When she isn’t writing, reading, or researching, Lori enjoys exploring and photographing the Oregon wilderness with her husband. She is the author of Burning Sky, recipient of three Christy Awards; The Pursuit of Tamsen Littlejohn; Christy nominee The Wood’s Edge; A Flight of Arrows; and Many Sparrows.

(Biography from Waterbrook & Multnomah)

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley. I was not required to write a positive review. All opinions expressed are mine alone.

A Cloud by Day, A Fire by Night

A Cloud by Day, a Fire by Night

Finding and Following God’s Will for You

By A.W. Tozer

Compiled and Edited by James L. Snyder

The Story

Discover Where God is Leading You!

How can I know God’s will for me, personally? It’s a question that haunts us all at times–maybe when we’re looking for the right job, thinking about moving to a new city, or deciding whether or not to get married. At every stage we have difficult decisions to make, and we long for God’s direction and His warm reassurance that we’re heading the right way.

A Cloud by Day, a Fire by Night captures A.W. Tozer’s teaching on the will of God. Taken from sermons he preached just before he left his successful church in Chicago, the title comes from the story of God leading His people out of Egypt and into the promised land.

Tozer was no stranger to facing difficult decisions. His wisdom and biblical insight will help guide you in decisions of your own and reassure you of God’s presence every step of the way.

(Back cover summary from Bethany House)

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I’ve enjoyed A.W. Tozer’s insight and easy-to-follow style in previous books, so I jumped at the opportunity to review one that had been compiled from sermons and writings of his.

The premise of this book is based on how God led the Israelites through the wilderness, and the lessons and trials they faced along the way. Each chapter looks at their experience in a different way, while constantly moving forward in that journey.

I like to use a highlighter while reading Christian living books like this and had it handy every time I opened this book. There were many good points that I highlighted, some convicting, others encouraging. This quote really sums up much of what the book deals with:

“If we let God lead us and give up on our own wisdom, He will lead us on a path that we never imagined we would be on.”

While there is much to be gleaned from this book, there were some things that made it difficult for me to engage as a reader. Some chapters felt like repetitions of previous ones. I’m sure there was an enormous amount of material to condense and include in this book, but there were parts that seemed like mere restatements of previous chapters. It also felt vague at times, like uncollected thoughts, not the well-thought out works that I’d read from him before.

There is plenty to glean and learn from in A Cloud by Day and A Fire by Night, there were just a few things that I personally struggled to get past.

About the Author

A.W. Tozer (1897-1963) was a self-taught theologian, pastor, and writer whose powerful words continue to grip the intellect and stir the soul of today’s believer. He authored more than forty books. The Pursuit of God and The Knowledge of the Holy are considered modern devotional classics. Get Tozer information and quotes at www.twitter.com/TozerAW.

Reverend James L. Snyder (www.jamessnyderministries.com) is an award-winning author whose writings have appeared in more than 80 periodicals and 15 books. He is recognized as an authority on the life and ministry of A.W. Tozer. His first book, In Pursuit of God: The Life of A.W. Tozer, won the Reader’s Choice Award in 1992 by Christianity Today. Because of his thorough knowledge of Tozer, James was given the rights from the A.W. Tozer estate to produce new books derived from over 400 never-before-published audio tapes. James and his wife live in Ocala, Florida.

(Biography from Bethany House’s site)

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. All opinions expressed are mine alone.

Knox

Knox

By Susan May Warren

The Story

Montana rancher Knox Marshall’s danger years are behind him. A former bull-rider, he now runs the Marshall family ranch, raising champion bucking bulls for the National Professional Bullrider’s Expo (NBR-X). Wealth and success are his, but life is stable, expected, and…ordinary. He can’t help but wonder if his best years are behind him.

Kelsey Jones just wants a safe life, a family, a home. Onstage, the beautiful rising star of the Yankee Belles becomes the person she longs to be – vivacious and confident – burying the brokenness she carries from a violent assault. Becoming NBR-X’s next country act is key to outrunning her past and achieving the success and security she craves.

Knox and Kelsey’s paths collide when an explosion at an NBR-X event traps them in the rubble and leaves them reeling. Kelsey’s crippling nightmares return, but for Knox, an obsession to find the bomber is ignited.

When Kelsey’s past threatens Knox’s family, he’ll have to choose between saving the Marshall legacy or becoming the protector he’s always longed to be.

(Back cover summary from Amazon)

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Susan May Warren delivers another action-packed adventure in Knox, the first novel in the Montana Marshalls series. I love when I pick up a Susan May Warren book that I can expect certain things: a strong family element, strong characters, and a strong romance. Those key things that I love are present in Knox.

The Marshall family is fascinating in their own right, and I’m looking forward to learning more about them. Knox is an interesting character, but Kelsey was the character that pulled me in. The pain of her past is her true enemy in this novel, and I thought Susie did a good job of exploring that.

There were a few things that pulled me out of the book. It felt like the main characters all began to sound alike by the end of the book. And like I said, I enjoyed Kelsey’s character, but Knox didn’t capture my interest as much.

Knox isn’t my favorite novel by Susie May, but is a good book and one that I enjoyed as a long-time fan of this author.

About the Author

Susan May Warren is the USA Today bestselling, Christy and RITA award-winning novelist of over sixty-five novels. An eight-time Christy award finalist, a three-time RITA Finalist, she’s also a multi-winner of the Inspirational Readers Choice award, and the ACFW Carol Award.

A seasoned women’s events speaker, she’s a popular writing teacher at conferences around the nation and the author of the beginning writer’s workbook: The Story Equation.

She is also the founder of http://www.MyBookTherapy.com, and Novel.Academy, a school for aspiring novelists. You can find her online at www.susanmaywarren.com.

(Biography from Susan May Warren’s site)

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the author. I was not required to write a positive review. All opinions expressed are mine alone.

Daughters of Northern Shores

Daughters of Northern Shores

By Joanne Bischof

The Story

Heartache and regret, boldness and sacrifice. What will restoration cost the beloved Norgaard family?

Aven Norgaard understands courage. Orphaned within an Irish workhouse, then widowed at just nineteen, she voyaged to America where she was wooed and wed by Thor Norgaard, a Deaf man in rural Appalachia. That the Lord saw her along the winding journey and that Aven now carries Thor’s child are blessings beyond measure. Yet while Thor holds her heart, it is Haakon—his younger brother and rival—who haunts her memories.

Having fled the Norgaard orchard after trying to take Aven as his own, Haakon sails on the North Atlantic ice trade, where his soul is plagued with regrets that distance cannot heal. Not even the beautiful Norwegian woman he’s pursued can ease the torment. When the winds bear him home after four years away, Haakon finds the family on the brink of tragedy. A decades-old feud with the neighboring farm has wrenched them into the fiercest confrontation on Blackbird Mountain since the Civil War. Haakon’s cunning and strength hold the power to seal many fates, including Thor’s—which is already imperiled due to a grave illness brought to him at the first prick of warfare.

Now Haakon faces the hardest choice of his life. One that shapes a battlefield where pride must be broken enough to be restored, and where a prodigal son may finally know the healing peace of surrender and the boundless gift of forgiveness. And when it comes to the woman he left behind in Norway, he just might discover that while his heart belongs to a daughter of the north, she’s been awaiting him on shores more distant than the land he’s fighting for.

(Back cover summary from Thomas Nelson)

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Oooh, Haakon. I fell in love with the first novel, Sons of Blackbird Mountain, and the ending left me longing for more of Haakon’s tale. This story brings that and so much more.

My heart ached for Haakon as he drifted, a prodigal longing for a home he no longer thinks he can have. I thought Joanne did a great job handling Haakon’s past actions, his grief over them, and the healing that needed to take place for reconciliation to happen. It wasn’t an easy thing, and it would have cheapened the story if it was.

Joanne’s prose is heavy with meaning, and not a single word is put on the page without deep intent. This isn’t a novel to breeze through, but one to savor and enjoy. This story will sink deep within and settle down into the places of the reader’s soul that long for redemption, reconciliation, and peace with both God and man.

I am not a crier, but the end of this book had me sniffing back tears. And that’s all I can say without giving away spoilers!

The only drawback for me was, I wished I was given more of a look into the woman who captured Haakon’s attention, to get to see her point of view.

Daughters of Northern Shores is a satisfying, though heart-rending conclusion to the questions that were left over from book one. If you do decide to read these books, be aware, they’ll leave you longing to return again and again to Blackbird Mountain and the sons and daughters who found their home there.

About the Author

Joanne Bischof is an ACFW Carol Award and ECPA Christy Award-winning author. She writes deeply layered fiction that tugs at the heartstrings. She was honored to receive the San Diego Christian Writers Guild Novel of the Year Award in 2014 and in 2015 was named Author of the Year by the Mount Hermon conference. Joanne’s 2016 novel, The Lady and the Lionheart, received an extraordinary 5 Star TOP PICK! from RT Book Reviews, among other critical acclaim. She lives in the mountains of Southern California with her three children. Visit her online at JoanneBischof.com; Facebook: Author, JoanneBischof; Instagram: @JoanneBischof.

(Biography from Thomas Nelson)

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. All opinions expressed are mine alone.

Far Side of the Sea

Far Side of the Sea

By Kate Breslin

The Story

In 1918 England, Lieutenant Colin Mabry spends his days decoding messages for MI8 after suffering injuries at the front. When he receives an urgent summons by carrier pigeon from Jewel Reyer–a woman who saved his life and whom he believed to be dead–he can only hope he’ll regain the courage he lost on the front lines as he’s driven back into war-torn France.

But Jewel isn’t the one waiting for him in Paris. Instead, it is a stranger who claims to be her half sister, Johanna, who works at a dovecote for French Army Intelligence. She found Jewel’s diary and believes her sister is alive and in the custody of a German agent. With spies everywhere, Colin is at first skeptical of Johanna, but as they travel across France and Spain, a tentative trust grows.

That trust is quickly put to the test, however, when their pursuit leads them straight into the midst of a treacherous plot and their search for answers quickly turns into a battle for their lives.

(Back cover summary from Bethany House)

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Kate Breslin is a master at taking little-known events and details from WWI and weaving them into high-stakes adventures with compelling characters and just the right amount of romance. I think Far Side of the Sea is now my second favorite of her books, surpassed only by Not By Sight, which is connected to this novel.

Far Side of the Sea is complicated by characters who are guarded for many reasons, not the least being that a war is going on and spies abound. I love that this story is written in such a way that I had to keep guessing who the true allies were and who were enemies in disguise.

Though Colin is a wounded veteran of WWI, the struggles he deals with surpass the boundaries of time. I thought Kate handled his struggles with PTSD with grace, as Colin figured out the man he had become. Johanna’s own journey was compelling and timeless as she fought to find those who loved her, and in the end, was blessed with more than she could have imagined.

Both of their journeys of faith were real and honest, which always resonates with me. The romance that develops as the book went on was sweet and avoided the tropes that so often can weasel their way into romance fiction.

I would certainly recommend this book to the reader who enjoys learning as they are entertained by a good story.

About the Author

A Florida girl who migrated to the Pacific Northwest, Kate Breslin was a bookseller for many years. She is a Carol Award winner and a RITA and Christy Award finalist and lives with her husband in Seattle, Washington. Find her online at www.katebreslin.com.

(Biography from Bethany House)

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. All opinions expressed are mine alone.

Courting Mr. Emerson

Courting Mr. Emerson

By Melody Carlson

The Story

It’s never too late to fall in love

When fun-loving artist Willow West meets buttoned-up George Emerson, it’s not exactly love at first sight. More like intriguing project at first sight. Willow makes it her mission to get the obsessive-compulsive, newly retired English teacher to loosen up and embrace life, but even she has to admit it seems like a lost cause.

A confirmed bachelor, George vacillates between irritation and attraction whenever Willow is around–which to him seems like all too often. He’s not interested in expanding his horizons or making new friends; it just hurts too much when you lose them.

But as the summer progresses, George feels his defenses crumbling. The question is, will his change of heart be too late for Willow?

(Back cover summary from Revell)

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Courting Mr. Emerson is a sweet, signature Melody Carlson read. It has that down-home feel that readers have come to expect, with sweet romance and a meaningful faith element.

First off, I just love the simplicity of that cover, don’t you? It’s straightforward, but it evokes just the right feel for me.

When I read the description of the book, I don’t think I read it close enough, because I was surprised by a few things as I read the book. However, once I adjusted what I thought it was about to what it really was about, I enjoyed it.

The romance fiction I read generally have the couples in the age range of 20s-late 30s. So Courting Mr. Emerson was out of the norm for me there. I enjoyed the maturity of these characters, as well as the life experiences they’d already had that made them who they were. Both George and Willow are vibrant characters. They’re unique, and yet realistic. I loved reading about Willow challenging George and George being the balance for Willow, especially in her relationship to her family.

Something I always enjoy is when there’s some sort of subtle or not-so-subtle tie-in to why the book is titled what it is. I LOVED how Melody Carlson did that here.

While I don’t know that Willow and I would agree on all theology, I did appreciate how this book emphasized each of us has our own journey to understanding who God is and what He’s done for us. It’s always on His timeline, not what we might expect or hope for others.

To wrap up, this was a sweet story that Melody Carlson fans will enjoy, as well as those who like small-town romance with a twist on family.

About the Author

Melody Carlson is the award-winning author of over 200 books with sales of more than 7 million, including many bestselling Christmas novellas, young adult titles, and contemporary romances. She received a Romantic Times Career Achievement Award in the inspirational market for her many books, including Finding Alice. She and her husband live in central Oregon. Learn more at www.melodycarlson.com.

(Biography from Revell)

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. All opinions expressed are mine alone.

Within These Lines

Within These Lines

By Stephanie Morrill

The Story

Evalina Cassano’s life in an Italian-American family living in San Francisco in 1941 is quiet and ordinary until she falls in love with Taichi Hamasaki, the son of Japanese immigrants. Despite the scandal it would cause and that inter-racial marriage is illegal in California, Evalina and Taichi vow they will find a way to be together. But anti-Japanese feelings erupt across the country after the attack on Pearl Harbor, and Taichi and his family are forced to give up their farm and move to an internment camp.

Degrading treatment makes life at Manzanar Relocation Center difficult. Taichi’s only connection to the outside world is treasured letters from Evalina. Feeling that the only action she can take to help Taichi is to speak out against injustice, Evalina becomes increasingly vocal at school and at home. Meanwhile, inside Manzanar, fighting between different Japanese-American factions arises. Taichi begins to doubt he will ever leave the camp alive.

With tensions running high and their freedom on the line, Evalina and Taichi must hold true to their ideals and believe in their love to make a way back to each other against unbelievable odds.

(Back cover summary from Blink YA Books)

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Within These Lines peers past the popularized views of post-Pearl Harbor U.S.A. to the injustices that were happening even on American soil. It explores how it might have felt to be part of the evacuation of the Japanese-Americans and what those who loved them experienced.

This young adult novel is well-written and clearly well-researched. It truly felt like I was stepping back in time, though there were times when I wanted to pull back from the harsh realities of what these people experienced.

I loved how passionate a character Evalina was. She was stubborn enough to stand for the truth and speak up for those who had lost their voice. Taichi’s point of view was my favorite, and Stephanie did a great job with his growth as a character.

The faith element of this book is pretty minor, with characters mentioning praying, but not much else.

If you enjoy well-written historical fiction that doesn’t pull any punches, then Within These Lines just might be the book for you.

About the Author

Stephanie Morrill lives in Overland Park, Kansas, with her husband and three kids. She is the author of The Reinvention of Skylar Hoyt series, Go Teen Writers: How to Turn Your First Draft Into a Published Book, and the Ellie Sweet series. She enjoys encouraging and teaching teen writers on her blog, GoTeenWriters.com. To connect with Stephanie and read samples of her books, check out StephanieMorrill.com.

(Biography from Blink YA Books)

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. All opinions expressed are mine alone.