Author Archives: Onto Her Bookshelf

Brunch at Bittersweet Cafe

Brunch at Bittersweet Cafe

By Carla Laureano

The Story

From the RITA Award–winning author of Five Days in Skye comes a sweet, romantic treat that will leave you hungry for more.

Baker and pastry chef Melody Johansson has always believed in finding the positive in every situation, but seven years after she moved to Denver, she can’t deny that she’s stuck in a rut. One relationship after another has ended in disaster, and her classical French training is being wasted on her night job in a mediocre chain bakery. Then the charming and handsome private pilot Justin Keller lands on the doorstep of her workplace in a snowstorm, and Melody feels like it’s a sign that her luck is finally turning around.

Justin is intrigued by the lively bohemian baker, but the last thing he’s looking for is a relationship. His own romantic failures have proven that the demands of his job are incompatible with meaningful connections, and he’s already pledged his life savings to a new business venture across the country—an island air charter in Florida with his sister and brother-in-law.

Against their better judgment, Melody and Justin find themselves drawn together by their unconventional career choices and shared love of adventure. But when an unexpected windfall provides Melody with the chance to open her dream bakery-café in Denver with her best friend, chef Rachel Bishop, she’s faced with an impossible choice: stay and put down roots with the people and place she’s come to call home . . . or give it all up for the man she loves.

(Back cover summary from Tyndale House)

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

I love how unique Carla Laureano’s novels are! Each one is an experience as rich and textured as any French pastry (I’m sure!). Be warned, though, reading any of these Saturday Night Supper Club novels will leave you with some serious cravings. I wish I had my own friend skilled in the art of French pastries, but alas, some things happen only rarely. 😉

Brunch at Bittersweet Café continues to explore these three friends, this time from Melody’s point of view. Melody is such a fun character and one I could relate to more than Rachel. She’s driven, but flighty. Talented, but still yearning for something more. Justin is an equally strong, convincing character. He’s not your ‘typical’ pilot. Pain from his past makes him shy from commitment, and yet he is one of the most loyal, thoughtful guys. What I really loved about their dynamic was that it felt real-world. They struggled and dealt with all the questions that go into a relationship—and more as their deadline drew close. And when it finally came down to it, the things they learned along the way were just as applicable to my life as theirs.

Carla brings home truth in this fun, engaging, and romantic novel, and I really never wanted to leave. If you enjoy a solid, stick-with-you contemporary romance and don’t mind the distinct possibility you may end up binge watching The Great British Baking Show, then I beg of you, pick up Brunch at Bittersweet Café.

About the Author

Carla Laureano is the RITA® Award-winning author of contemporary inspirational romance and Celtic fantasy (as C.E. Laureano). A graduate of Pepperdine University, she worked as a sales and marketing executive for nearly a decade before leaving corporate life behind to write fiction full-time. She currently lives in Denver with her husband and two sons, where she writes during the day and cooks things at night.

(Biography from Tyndale 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.

Advertisements

The Alamo Bride

The Alamo Bride

By Kathleen Y’Barbo

The Story

Will Ellis Lose All at the Alamo?

Ellis Dumont finds a man in New Orleans Grey unconscious on Dumont property in 1836. As his fevers rage, the man mutters strange things about treasures and war. Either Claiborne Gentry has lost his mind or he’s a spy for the American president—or worse, for the Mexican enemy that threatens their very lives. With the men of her family away, Ellis must stand courageous and decide who she can trust. Will she put her selfish wants ahead of the future of the republic or travel with Clay to Mission San Jose to help end the war?

(Back cover summary from Barbour Publishing)

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

The Daughters of the Mayflower series continues with a story (and a cover) that I knew I couldn’t pass up. The Alamo Bride takes place during the war for Texas’s independence. I’ve long been fascinated with the battle of the Alamo, so I was eager to read a book set during this time.

I had the misconception that much of this book would take place at the Alamo. In reality, less then a quarter of the book is set there. Despite that, I did enjoy this novel.

I love that each author in this series writes strong, relatable heroines, and yet they’re all very different. Ellis is headstrong and stubborn, and it’s that tenacity that equips her to pull through many struggles. Clay is an intriguing character with flaws of his own, but it was fun to read how he dealt with his loss of identity.

The Alamo Bride is rich in history, and I learned a lot about the Texans’ struggle for independence. There were times when I felt that the story dragged or lost my interest, but overall I enjoyed The Alamo Bride.

About the Author

Bestselling author Kathleen Y’Barbo is a multiple Carol Award and RITA nominee of more than eighty titles with over two million copies of her books in print in the US and abroad. Her novel Sadie’s Secret was named the Romantic Times Magazine Inspirational Romance Book of the Year.

A certified paralegal and tenth generation Texan, Kathleen has also been nominated for a Career Achievement Award as well a Reader’s Choice Award and several Top Picks by Romantic Times magazine.

To find out more about Kathleen or connect with her through social media, check out her website at www.kathleenybarbo.com.

(Biography from Amazon)

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.

The Curse of Misty Wayfair

The Curse of Misty Wayfair

By Jaime Jo Wright

The Story

Left at an orphanage as a child, Thea Reed vowed to find her mother someday. Now grown, her search takes her to turn-of-the-century Pleasant Valley, Wisconsin. When the clues she finds lead her to a mental asylum, Thea uses her experience as a postmortem photographer to gain access and assist groundskeeper Simeon Coyle in photographing the patients and uncovering the secrets within. However, she never expected her personal quest would reawaken the legend of Misty Wayfair, a murdered woman who allegedly haunts the area and whose appearance portends death.

A century later, Heidi Lane receives a troubling letter from her mother–who is battling dementia–compelling her to travel to Pleasant Valley for answers to her own questions of identity. When she catches sight of a ghostly woman haunting the asylum ruins in the woods, the long-standing story of Misty Wayfair returns–and with it, Heidi’s fear for her own life.

As two women across time seek answers about their identities and heritage, they must overcome the threat of the mysterious curse that has them inextricably intertwined.

(Back cover summary from Bethany House)

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Known for her deliciously creepy mysteries that have the reputation of keeping readers up at night, Jaime Jo Wright delivers again with her latest, The Curse of Misty Wayfair.

What I really love about Wright’s novels is that she creates characters that are so different. Heidi deals with sometimes crippling anxiety, and a childhood that has left her feeling anything but wanted. Rhett, a friend she makes while in Pleasant Valley, is abrupt, sometimes coming off as rude, but ends up being such an intriguing character. I so wanted to find the answers Thea sought for herself, but I think Simeon is the one who stole the show for me. Both Heidi and Thea are set on journeys of self-discovery, but it doesn’t end like you expect. The answers they find are relevant and timeless, creating a seamless tale, though separated by decades. All this wrapped up in a mystery so tangled that I had trouble figuring out exactly how it all could end with any resolution.

Wright approaches a tricky topic in this novel, and one that I don’t think has been addressed as much in Christian fiction. Mental illness, the stigmas around it, and the ways people have tried to address it, wrong and right, are key factors in this book.

This novel breaks some molds and will keep you reading long past your bedtime.

About the Author

Jaime Jo Wright is the Christy Award-Winning author of The House on Foster Hill. She’s also the Publishers Weekly and ECPA bestselling author of two novellas. Jaime works as a human resources director in Wisconsin, where she lives with her husband and two children. To learn more, visit www.jaimewrightbooks.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.

Ladies of Intrigue

Ladies of Intrigue:

3 Tales of 19th-Century Romance with a Dash of Mystery

By Michelle Griep

The Story

3 Page-Turners Under One Cover from Reader Favorite Michelle Griep!

Can truth and love prevail when no one is as they appear?

The Gentleman Smuggler’s Lady

Cornish Coast, 1815

When a prim and proper governess returns to England from abroad, she expects to comfort her dying father—not fall in love with a smuggler. Will Helen Fletcher keep Isaac Seaton’s unusual secret?

The Doctor’s Woman (A Carol Award Winner!)

Dakota Territory, 1862

Emmy Nelson, daughter of a missionary doctor, and Dr. James Clark, city doctor aspiring to teach, find themselves working side by side at Fort Snelling during the Dakota Uprising. That is when the real clash of ideals begins.

A House of Secrets

St. Paul, Minnesota, 1890

Ladies Aide Chairman, Amanda Carston resolves to clean up St. Paul’s ramshackle housing, starting with the worst of the worst: a “haunted” house that’s secretly owned by her beau—a home that’s his only means of helping brothel girls escape from the hands of the city’s most infamous madam.

(Back cover summary from Barbour Publishing)

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

I only recently became aware of the compelling stories Michelle Griep writes, so I love that this novella collection gives a snapshot of her abilities to write engrossing stories—no matter the backdrop.

After reading Laura Frantz’s A Bound Heart, I loved getting to dive back into a similar world with the first novella. It was a fun read, with enough twists in it to keep it interesting.

The middle novella was my favorite. I can see why this was a Carol award winner. Emmy and James clash immediately, and it was fun to see that in such a vivid way right from the start. These two characters have such great chemistry, and the issues they each face, both without and within themselves, are so believable. Those are the kind of stories that I love because they challenge me to change as well.

The last novella has a different flair to it. Amanda finds herself pitted against an unknown person (at least for a time) as she tries to do good in her community and gain her father’s approval. Secrets are the main problem for these two, but there are legitimate reasons behind them, rather than the sometimes cliché ‘misunderstanding’.

I enjoyed all three of these novellas because they gave me a glimpse into the talents of Griep. Each story felt fresh and compelling, and ensured once again, that Michelle Griep will be one of my go-to authors.

About the Author

I hear voices. Loud. Incessant. And very real. Which basically gives me two options: choke back massive amounts of Prozac or write fiction. I’ve been writing since I discovered blank wall space and Crayolas. I seek to glorify God in all that I write–except for that graffiti phase I went through as teenager. To connect with Michelle Griep, you can find her online at https://michellegriep.com/ .

(Biography from Amazon)

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.

In the Shadow of Croft Towers

In the Shadow of Croft Towers

By Abigail Wilson

 

The Story

Croft Towers holds more than its share of secrets . . . and Sybil is determined to uncover them all.

When Sybil Delafield’s coach to Croft Towers was robbed by highwaymen, she should have realized that her new position as companion to old Mrs. Chalcroft would be no ordinary job. Upon Sybil’s arrival, Mrs. Chalcroft sneaks into her room in the dark of night, imploring her to relay messages to town that are to stay hidden from the rest of the family. Who exactly is she working for and what do the messages contain?

When fellow passengers of the robbed coach are later murdered, Sybil’s hunt for the truth takes on a new urgency. The only person she can rely on is Mr. Sinclair, Mrs. Chalcroft’s godson, but under all his charms he too leads a double life. Sybil must decide if he is the one honest voice she can trust, or if he is simply using her for his own advances.

With murderers, smugglers, and spies on the loose, nothing—and no one—in Regency England is what they claim. Can Sybil even trust what she knows about herself?

(Back cover summary from Thomas Nelson Publishers)

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

I took on In the Shadow of Croft Towers as a last-minute book to review after hearing the rave recommendations from others, especially those at Hope By the Book magazine. And I’m so glad I did!

This regency romance/mystery is unlike any other I’ve read. Filled with secrets and shadows so tangled, In the Shadow of Croft Towers presents a delicious mystery. Sybil’s story is told in first person point of view, which is a little-used viewpoint in historical fiction, but one I love. Sybil’s growth as a character, from fearful into the bold, adventurous person she truly is, felt believable. Her search for her true identity, while not spelled out as in some books, was really found as she exercised her courage in various situations. So that in the end, it really didn’t matter who her parents were, because she owned who she had been all the time.

The romance in this book is so good, with enough second-guessing from various characters to keep me from being completely certain of the hero, at least at the beginning. Mr. Sinclair, a shadowy and uncertain figure, was so much fun trying to figure out. Mrs. Chalcroft, for all her blustery ways, worked her way into my heart.

This book, this author, is excellent. I read the Kindle version of this book, but I’ll be finding myself a hard copy to take up permanent residence on my shelf, to be read again in the not-so-distant future.

Whether or not you’re a fan of the Regency era, this is not a book to pass up.

About the Author

Abigail Wilson combines her passion for Regency England with intrigue and adventure to pen historical mysteries with a heart. A Registered Nurse, chai tea addict, and mother of two crazy kids, Abigail fills her spare time hiking the National Parks, attending her daughter’s gymnastic meets, and curling up with a great book. In 2017, Abigail won WisRWA’s Fab Five Contest and ACFW’s First Impressions contest as well as placing as a finalist in the Daphne du Maurier Award for Excellence in Mystery/Suspense. She is a cum laude graduate of the University of Texas at Austin and currently lives in Dripping Springs, Texas, with her husband and children. Connect with Abigail at acwilsonbooks.com; Instagram: acwilsonbooks; Facebook: ACWilsonbooks; Twitter: @acwilsonbooks.

(Biography from Thomas Nelson Publishers)

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.

A Bound Heart

A Bound Heart

By Laura Frantz

The Story

Though Magnus MacLeish and Lark MacDougall grew up on the same castle grounds, Magnus is now laird of the great house and the Isle of Kerrera. Lark is just the keeper of his bees–and the woman who could provide an elixir to help his ailing wife conceive and bear him an heir. But when his wife dies suddenly, Magnus and Lark find themselves caught up in a whirlwind of accusations, expelled from their beloved island, and sold as indentured servants across the Atlantic. Can they make a new beginning in this New World? Or will their hopes be dashed against the rocky coastline of the Virginia colony?

Laura Frantz’s prose sparkles with authenticity as she digs into her own family history to share this breathless tale of love, exile, and courage in colonial America.

(Back cover summary from Revell)

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Laura Frantz transports the reader to Scotland’s rugged isles in this historically rich and emotionally deep novel. I love how Frantz can draw the reader into the story, whether the setting is the wilds of Kentucke Territory or across the ocean in the old country.

Lark is a sweet, compelling character, with a depth of character that compels her to do what’s right, even against the pressures of the culture and people around her. And to her own danger at times. Magnus is a strong hero, eager to step in when needed, but still flawed. As these two find themselves in a mess too tangled to undo, they must learn to trust each other and to trust God to lead and guard them.

While I enjoyed this story and the history it is steeped in, the pacing threw me off. I expected the story to move towards their time in the New World much faster. Looking back, I appreciate the way Frantz drew the story along, but as I was reading it, I felt like I kept waiting to get to that part of the story.

In all, though, I enjoyed this latest read from Frantz. She delivers in the areas she’s so good at: history, romance, and depth of story. While this is not my favorite of her novels, it has earned a spot on my shelf.

About the Author

Laura Frantz is a Christy Award finalist and the ECPA bestselling author of several books, including The Frontiersman’s Daughter, Courting Morrow Little, The Colonel’s Lady, and The Lacemaker. She lives and writes in a log cabin in the heart of Kentucky. Learn more at www.laurafrantz.net.

(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.

My Heart Belongs in the Blue Ridge: Laurel’s Dream

My Heart Belongs in the Blue Ridge: Laurel’s Dream

By Pepper Basham

The Story

Journey into the Blue Ridge Mountains of 1918 where Laurel McAdams endures the challenges of a hard life while dreaming things can eventually improve. But trouble arrives in the form of an outsider. Having failed his British father again, Jonathan Taylor joins his uncle’s missionary endeavors as a teacher in a two-room schoolhouse. Laurel feels compelled to protect the tenderhearted teacher from the harsh realities of Appalachian life, even while his stories of life outside the mountains pull at Laurel’s imagination. Faced with angry parents over teaching methods, Laurel’s father’s drunken rages, and bad news from England, will Jonathan leave and never return, or will he stay and let love bloom?

(Back cover summary from Barbour Books)

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

I fell in love with this book! Pepper Basham captures the vista and culture of the Blue Ridge Mountains in 1918 in such a beautiful way. She writes about a culture that is set in its ways, and yet inevitably must change, acknowledging both the dignity found there and the areas of needed growth.

Laurel is such a fun character. She is spirited, caring, and driven. Her love for her family and her ability to forgive shapes her. Her dreams are bigger than even herself, and they push her. Jonathan is a compelling hero, with a past that has pushed him to prove his worth. The longer he stays in Appalachia, the less this plays into his life. It was hilarious at times as he struggled to adjust to the very different culture, terrain, and flora and fauna.

This story had me laughing almost from the very beginning, and it didn’t let my attention go at any point. It kept pulling me forward, towards a surprising conclusion. Jonathan and Laurel both have certain dreams and expectations at the beginning of this book, but as they learn and grow and life changes around them, those dreams begin to change as well.

I had the chance to read this book at the end of 2018, and I couldn’t have asked for a better read to close out the year for me. Pepper Basham has grabbed a place on my go-to author list.

About the Author

As a native of the Blue Ridge Mountains, Pepper Basham enjoys sprinkling her Appalachian into her fiction writing. She is an award-winning author of contemporary and historical romance, mom of five, speech-language pathologist, and a lover of Jesus and chocolate. She resides in Asheville, North Carolina with her family. You can learn more about her on her website, http://www.PepperDBasham.com or connect on Facebook or Twitter.

(Biography from Pepper Basham’s Website)

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.