Category Archives: Contemporary Fiction

The Saturday Night Supper Club

The Saturday Night Supper Club

By Carla Laureano

The Story

Denver chef Rachel Bishop has accomplished everything she’s dreamed and some things she never dared hope, like winning a James Beard Award and heading up her own fine-dining restaurant. But when a targeted smear campaign causes her to be pushed out of the business by her partners, she vows to do whatever it takes to get her life back . . . even if that means joining forces with the man who inadvertently set the disaster in motion.

Essayist Alex Kanin never imagined his pointed editorial would go viral. Ironically, his attempt to highlight the pitfalls of online criticism has the opposite effect: it revives his own flagging career by destroying that of a perfect stranger. Plagued by guilt-fueled writer’s block, Alex vows to do whatever he can to repair the damage. He just doesn’t expect his interest in the beautiful chef to turn personal.

Alex agrees to help rebuild Rachel’s tarnished image by offering his connections and his home to host an exclusive pop-up dinner party targeted to Denver’s most influential citizens: the Saturday Night Supper Club. As they work together to make the project a success, Rachel begins to realize Alex is not the unfeeling opportunist she once thought he was, and that perhaps there’s life—and love—outside the pressure-cooker of her chosen career. But can she give up her lifelong goals without losing her identity as well?

(Back cover summary from Tyndale)

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I fell in love with this novel! I really wasn’t sure what to expect from this story. It far exceeded any expectations.

Carla Laureano knows her food. Or at least I assume she does. She beautifully described different dishes, the cooking process, and used food and cooking-related words as descriptions. Being only acquainted with the very basics of cooking, I really enjoyed that aspect of this story.

Rachel is a multi-faceted character, and I loved getting to know her slowly throughout the book. As she learns, grows, and achieves her dreams, I was pulling for her 100%. Alex is also an unforgettable character. He’s sweet, funny, intelligent, an all-around great hero. He doesn’t try to rescue Rachel but instead assists her in recovering her dream.

This story is about discovering our true identity and trusting God with our dreams. The premise was fun, the romance was so sweet, and the characters are ones that I must demand an encore from! I’m so excited for the next Supper Club novel, Brunch at Bittersweet Café, with Melody!

Whether you’re a foody or not, this new contemporary romance is one you’ll want to read. It’s unique, fresh, and entertaining.

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. Visit her website at http://www.carlalaureano.com/ .

(Biography from Tyndale)

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.

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Under a Cloudless Sky

Under a Cloudless Sky

By Chris Fabry

The Story

1933: In the mining town of Beulah Mountain, West Virginia, two young girls form an unbreakable bond against the lush Appalachian landscape, coal dust and old hymns filling their lungs and hearts. Despite the polarizing forces of their fathers—one a mine owner, one a disgruntled miner —Ruby and Bean thrive under the tender care of Bean’s mama, blissfully unaware of the rising conflict in town and the coming tragedy that will tear them apart forever.

2004: Hollis Beasley is taking his last stand. Neighbors up and down the hollow have sold their land to Coleman Coal and Energy, but Hollis is determined to hold on to his family legacy on Beulah Mountain. Standing in his way is Buddy Coleman, an upstart mining executive who hopes to revitalize the dying town by increasing coal production and opening the Company Store Museum. He’ll pay homage to the past—even the massacre of 1933—while positioning the company for growth at all costs.

What surprises them all is how their stories will intersect with a feisty octogenarian living hundreds of miles away. When Ruby Handley Freeman’s grown children threaten her independence, she takes a stand of her own and disappears, propelling her on a journey to face a decades-old secret that will change everything for her and those she meets.

(Back cover summary from Tyndale)

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I’m going to be honest and admit something.

I have never read a Chris Fabry adult novel (disclaimer: I have read some of his children’s books). Never.

I know, crazy, huh? He’s won some big awards in the Christian Fiction business, but I’ve never got around to reading his books. I’m more of a romance girl. After attending a Christian writer’s conference in Nashville and hearing him speak, I knew I needed to give it a try. So I volunteered to read and review Under a Cloudless Sky and was blown away.

This story is all about forgiveness, redemption, and grace. It’s about fighting for the truth, for what really matters. It’s about the struggle of everyday life, when circumstances hurt, when family falls apart, when life doesn’t make sense. It’s about turning to God in the hard times and giving life to Him.

This novel has been compared to the popular memoir Hillbilly Elegy. Having had the privilege to spend some time in the Appalachian Mountain area, I was attracted to this type of story. It’s noble, beautiful, and compelling, and it shows what a wonderful area it is.

The story slowly unwinds, and at first, I had no idea how it all worked together. It didn’t make sense in my brain. It’s split between Ruby’s life modernly, and her past. But as the two develop, it all begins to make sense. I smiled at points and blinked back tears at others, especially at the end. This story is a poignant tale and it resonates with my heart. It has twists that are shocking, but as I thought over the story, it all made sense!

Under a Cloudless Sky is a novel that I’ll keep for a long time and one that will leave me thinking for just as long. It’s a must-read, even if you’re like me and rarely deviate from anything that doesn’t involve romance. It’s beauty and grit, loss and restoration, all wrapped up in one.

About the Author

Chris Fabry is an award-winning author and radio personality who hosts the daily program Chris Fabry Live on Moody Radio. He is also heard on Love Worth Finding, Building Relationships with Dr. Gary Chapman, and other radio programs. A 1982 graduate of the W. Page Pitt School of Journalism at Marshall University and a native of West Virginia, Chris and his wife, Andrea, now live in Arizona and are the parents of nine children.

Chris’s novels, which include Dogwood, June Bug, Almost Heaven, and The Promise of Jesse Woods, have won three Christy Awards, an ECPA Christian Book Award, and a 2017 Award of Merit from Christianity Today. His eightieth published book, Under a Cloudless Sky, is a novel set in the coalfields of his home state of West Virginia. His books include movie novelizations, like the recent bestseller War Room; nonfiction; and novels for children and young adults. He coauthored the Left Behind: The Kids series with Jerry B. Jenkins and Tim LaHaye, as well as the Red Rock Mysteries and the Wormling series with Jerry B. Jenkins. Visit his website at www.chrisfabry.com .

(Biography from Tyndale)

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 House on Foster Hill

The House on Foster Hill

By Jaime Jo Wright

The Story

Kaine Prescott is no stranger to death. When her husband died two years ago, her pleas for further investigation into his suspicious demise fell on deaf ears. In desperate need of a fresh start, Kaine purchases an old house sight unseen in her grandfather’s Wisconsin hometown. But one look at the eerie, abandoned house immediately leaves her questioning her rash decision. And when the house’s dark history comes back with a vengeance, Kaine is forced to face the terrifying realization she has nowhere left to hide.

A century earlier, the house on Foster Hill holds nothing but painful memories for Ivy Thorpe. When an unidentified woman is found dead on the property, Ivy is compelled to discover her identity. Ivy’s search leads her into dangerous waters, resurrecting painful memories and forcing a reunion with the man who broke her heart. Can Ivy unravel the mystery and find a renewed hope before any other lives–including her own–are lost?

(Back cover summary from Bethany House.)

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Chilling. Gripping. Those are words that would describe The House on Foster Hill quite aptly. I’ve not delved much into split-time novels. Generally, I like my historical fiction separate from the contemporary genre, but I knew from all the buzz surrounding this book that I needed to give it a try.

The key to a good split-time novel is for both storylines to be equally compelling. Jaime did a superb job of that with this book. She would switch the POV at just the right moment, leaving me wanting to learn more about whichever character I was leaving. The suspense in both of the women’s lives was well done. I even jumped at one point, which doesn’t usually happen for me. What I loved about these characters was that they were willing to fight for the helpless and themselves. When trouble came, they didn’t wait around for someone to rescue them, they went out and did it themselves.

The romance thread in this book, while not as prominent, was also very well done. I really liked how Jaime slowly wove together the different mysteries of this book, inexplicably linking the characters.

Hope was the overall tying thread. Hope in a world that is dark and difficult, because our hope isn’t tied to this earth. It’s tied to Jesus, and that’s a thread that cannot be broken.

This is a unique book, from a unique voice, and I’ll definitely be keeping an eye out for further work from Jaime.

About the Author

Jaime Jo Wright is the Publishers Weekly and ECPA bestselling author of two novellas, and a human resources director by trade. She lives in Wisconsin with her husband and two children, and The House on Foster Hill is her debut novel. Find her online at www.jaimewrightbooks.com.

(Biography from Bethany House.)

I was provided a copy of this book from the publisher. The opinions expressed are my own.

Troubled Waters

Troubled Waters

By Susan May Warren

The Story

Billionaire Ian Shaw can have everything he wants–except a happy ending. Or at least that’s what it feels like with his fortune recently liquidated, his niece, Esme, still missing, and the woman he loves refusing to speak to him. In fact, he doubts she would date him even if they were stranded on a deserted island.

Despite her love for Ian, Sierra Rose knows he has no room in his life for her as long as the mystery of his missing niece goes unsolved. The only problem is, Sierra has solved it, but a promise to Esme to keep her whereabouts secret has made it impossible to be around Ian.

When the PEAK chopper is damaged and Sierra lacks the funds to repair it, Ian offers a fundraising junket for large donors on his yacht in the Caribbean. But the three-day excursion turns into a nightmare when a rogue wave cripples the yacht and sends the passengers overboard. Shaken up and soaked to the bone, Ian finally has a chance to test his theory when he and Sierra do indeed find themselves washed up on a strange, empty shore.

It will take guts and gumption for the PEAK team to rescue the duo. But it will take a miracle to rescue Ian and Sierra’s relationship.

(Back cover summary from Revell.)

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Oooh, I’ve been waiting for Sierra and Ian’s story for so long, and at last, it arrived! Ian and Sierra’s relationship has been—ahem, stormy—for this whole series. A series of roller-coaster-like ups and downs, and I was so ready for everything to be resolved. Susan May Warren doesn’t resolve things easily, though. This story is fraught with danger from the elements and danger in trusting in self to fix problems. The romance was better than even the snippets Susan had given in the previous books. I liked the different survival aspect that was brought in by the ocean, and finally getting some answers about Esme! I always appreciate the spiritual aspect of the books too. Ian is self-reliant, and it takes stripping everything—and I mean everything—away to see his need for God. Sierra’s a fixer and she feels as if she must earn her place in the lives of those around her. Both of these characters felt so real and unique, I frankly didn’t want their story to end—though I did want that happy ending, and boy, it’s a good one!

This story kept me up late. Like, glance-at-the-clock-oooh-that’s-not-going-to-be-good-for-tomorrow late. This book will not disappoint fans of Susie’s novels, and any newcomers will be in for an enjoyable ride.

About the Author

Susan May Warren is the ECPA and CBA bestselling author of over fifty novels, including Wild Montana Skies, with more than one million books sold. Winner of a RITA Award and multiple Christy and Carol Awards, as well as the HOLT and numerous Readers’ Choice Awards, Susan has written contemporary and historical romances, romantic suspense, thrillers, romantic comedy, and novellas. She can be found online at http://www.susanmaywarren.com, on Facebook at SusanMayWarrenFiction, and on Twitter @susanmaywarren.

(Biography from Revell.)

I was provided a copy of this book from the author. The opinions expressed are my own.

Blind Spot

Blind Spot

By Dani Pettrey

The Story

The Wrath is Coming. But They Don’t Know Where–Or When.

“The wrath is coming” were the final words that FBI agent Declan Grey heard the suicide bomber say. Now Declan is in the chase of his life–but isn’t sure exactly what he’s chasing after or when the threat will be unleashed on American soil. When his investigation’s best clue leads him to a closed immigrant community, he turns to Tanner Shaw for assistance. She’s sought justice for refugees and the displaced around the world, and if there’s anyone who can help him, it’s Tanner.

Tanner Shaw has joined the FBI as a crisis counselor . . . meaning she now has more opportunity to butt heads with Declan. As they work together to uncover the mounting threat, the tension between them also includes a spark she can’t deny–and she’s pretty sure Declan feels the same. But before anything more can develop, they find themselves in a race against time to stop the coming “wrath” that could cost thousands their lives.

(Back cover summary from Bethany House Publishers)

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Any-current-crime-thriller-on-TV, you’ve got nothing on the Chesapeake Valor series! I have been closely following Dani Pettrey’s releases for a while now, because they are not something you would want to miss!

Dani combines suspense, espionage, terrorists, and near-death experiences in a way that reminds of the latest crime thriller on T.V., minus the immorality, language, and gore. I love how she keeps me reading, keeps me guessing as she weaves the plot. The side plot that continues throughout the book, bringing in different points of view from previous characters is also a part that I really enjoy. Dani is able to do this without detracting from the main plot.

I also love the romance element. Because this is a series, the groundwork for Declan and Tanner has already been laid, but comes to a head in Blind Spot, and it’s not something you want to miss!

What I admire most, is the outspoken faith element. These characters rely on each other, as friends, but rely on God more. It’s refreshing and energizing when compared to the many crime shows and novels available these days with nothing more to offer than entertainment.

I am eagerly anticipating the next release in this series, and I have a feeling it’s only getting better from here!

About the Author

Dani’s adventure-focused Alaskan Courage series climbed the CBA bestseller lists, with Submerged staying in the top twenty for five consecutive months. The five-book series also won multiple awards, including the Daphne du Maurier Award, two HOLT Medallions, and Christian Retailing’s Best Award, among others. She turns her attention to crime and law enforcement in her home state of Maryland in her new Chesapeake Valor series, starting with Cold Shot, which Library Journal called, “a harrowing and thrilling ride.” For more information about her novels, visit danipettrey.com.

(Biography from Bethany House Publishers)

I was provided a copy of this book from the author. The opinions expressed are my own.

The Two of Us

The Two of Us

By Victoria Bylin

The Story

After two broken engagements, Mia Robinson is done with dating. From now on, she’s focusing on God and her goal to join an international aid organization as a nurse practitioner. But when her 18-year-old sister, Lucy, calls with an invitation to her Vegas wedding, it throws a wrench into Mia’s plans.

Jake Tanner has recovered from the injuries he sustained as a police officer–on the outside. Inside, he’s yet to heal from losing his partner in the tragedy, but finds some solace in keeping an eye on her young adult son, Sam, who’s asked him to be best man at his wedding.

Mia expects a mess when she arrives to sort out the situation with Lucy, but she wasn’t expecting Jake, who views the marriage a little differently. As Jake’s and Mia’s lives slowly become more intertwined, could his courage and her caring heart be enough to bring them a lifetime of healing?

(Back cover summary from Bethany House Publishers)

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Like Ms. Bylin’s other books, The Two of Us is a sweet, satisfying read. Mia is torn between what she believes serving God looks like and what her heart starts to feel. However, as she gets to know Jake and the other people in the community, she begins to learn what trusting God is all about.

That’s really what this whole book is about. It’s written from Mia, Jake, and Lucy’s point of view, and all three of them have to learn in different ways how to trust God above all else. Which is so relatable to everyone, isn’t it? Giving up our control and surrendering to God’s plan, whatever it might be, isn’t easy. But it’s right and He works it out in the end.

This book is so much more than what the back cover might lead you to believe. It takes you on a journey of faith, trust, and changing plans. I could relate on many different levels with Mia as she struggles with her decisions. It’s definitely a contemporary romance, but the faith element is what really drew me in.

I was provided a copy of this book from the publisher. The opinions expressed are my own.

About the Author

Victoria Bylin writes contemporary and historical romances known for their realistic, relatable characters. Her work has finaled in contests such as the Carol Awards, the RITAs, and the RT Reviewers’ Choice Award. A native of California, she and her husband now make their home in Lexington, Kentucky. Visit her website at www.victoriabylin.com to find out more.

(Biography from Bethany House Publishers)

Still Life

Book Review: Still Life

Author: Dani Pettrey

Review by Grace Olson

The Story

Back Cover from Amazon of Still Life:

Blacklisted in the photography business over a controversial shot, Avery Tate answered an ad for a crime scene photographer. She expected to be laughed at, but crime scene analyst Parker Mitchell hired her outright–and changed her life. But six months ago, when her feelings for Parker became too strong, she left his employ to sort out her heart.

Now, for the first time, Avery is facing the world that rejected her to attend the gallery opening of a photography exhibit and support her best friend, who modeled for the show. But the only image of her friend is a chilling photo of her posing as if dead–and the photographer insists he didn’t take the shot. Worse, her friend can’t be found. She immediately calls Parker for help. As Avery, Parker, and his friends in law enforcement dig into the mystery, they find themselves face-to-face with a relentless and deadly threat.

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            Dani Pettrey is brilliant at what she does. I loved her previous series set in Alaska, and I’m finding that I like these just as much. Still Life is the second book in the series, and I would definitely recommend reading them in order, it helps to set up some of the relationships and dynamics that happen in this book.

Still Life is…chilling. Reading it at night is not recommended. I rushed through this book in the same break-neck pace that Dani sets, with each ending to the chapter begging me to continue reading. I love how each character has their specialty that they bring to the team, but they don’t have those because they’re just unnaturally good at them, they all have motivation and reasons. The setting is different than her other series, but where the wilds of Alaska and its animals were an issue, abandoned buildings and unstable people are just as dangerous in the Chesapeake Valor series. The mystery, suspense, and adventure are great in this series, but the romance keeps perfect pace with it.

Over all, I really enjoyed Still Life, and would definitely recommend it!

About the Author

Biography from Amazon’s website: Dani Pettrey is a wife, homeschooling mom and author. She feels blessed to write inspirational romantic suspense because it incorporates so many things she loves–the thrill of adventure, nail-biting suspense, the deepening of one’s faith and plenty of romance. She’s a huge fan of dark chocolate, is always in search of the best iced mocha and her dream is to one day own a little cottage on a remote stretch of beach. She and her husband reside in Maryland with their two teenage daughters. Visit her web site at www.DaniPettrey.com!

I was provided a copy of this book from the publisher. The opinions expressed are my own.