Category Archives: Contemporary Fiction

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 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.

Who I Am With You

Who I Am With You

By Robin Lee Hatcher

The Story

For these two broken hearts, the first step toward love will be a huge leap of faith.

Jessica Mason isn’t looking for love when she meets Ridley Chesterfield. Instead she is still reeling from the tragic, unexpected loss of her husband and daughter—and awaiting the arrival of her unborn child. Harboring the secret of her husband’s betrayal, her pain is deeper than anyone knows.

Ridley Chesterfield is hiding out in Hope Springs, Idaho, avoiding a political scandal and the barrage of false media headlines that have tarnished his good name. The last thing Ridley wants is a relationship—but when fate leads Ridley to form a friendship with his reclusive and pregnant neighbor, he wonders if this small-town hideout might be more of a long-term destination.

When Jessica begins to read her great-grandfather’s Bible, she finds a connection with a man she never knew. Somehow the verses he marked and the words he wrote in the margins open her heart to healing. And as Ridley and Jessica help each other forgive the people who have wronged them, they must decide if the past will define them or if they will choose to love again.

Who I Am With You weaves together a modern-day romance with Jessica’s great-grandfather’s story from the 1930s, reminding us that some truths can cross generations and that faith has the power to transform families forever.

(Back cover summary from Thomas Nelson)

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

Who I am With You is a sigh-worthy story that takes you through the highs and lows of life and love and comes out on the other side more sure of God and His goodness.

I loved this story because it didn’t shy away from the hard stuff. Robin Lee Hatcher took in the sorrows and struggles of real-life relationships, and it made this fiction love story feel more authentic.

I also loved the history woven into it. With time-lapse stories or contemporary novels with a historical thread, often the story is told from the viewpoint of two women. This story comes from both Jessica and Ridley’s viewpoints, but in the past it’s from Andrew Henning’s—Jessica’s great-grandfather—view. Which I loved more than I thought I would.

“God would always bring her through. He was there in the joy, and He was there in the sorrow. He was there in the sameness and the surprises. He was with her always, just as He’d promised.”

That’s probably my favorite quote from the book. There’s a lot of background that leads up to it, but I loved how simply it was put, but how all-encompassing it was.

About the Author

Robin Lee Hatcher is the author of over 75 novels and novellas with over five million copies of her books in print. She is known for her heartwarming and emotionally charged stories of faith, courage, and love. Robin is an ACFW Carol Award winner and an eight-time finalist and has won two RITA Awards and been a finalist eleven times. Her numerous other awards include the Christy Award, the HOLT Medallion, the National Reader’s Choice Award, and the Faith, Hope & Love Reader’s Choice Award. She is also the recipient of prestigious Lifetime Achievement Awards from both American Christian Fiction Writers and Romance Writers of America. When not writing, she enjoys being with her family, spending time in the beautiful Idaho outdoors, Bible art journaling, reading books that make her cry, watching romantic movies, and decorative planning. A mother and grandmother, Robin and her husband make their home on the outskirts of Boise, sharing it with a demanding Papillon dog and a persnickety tuxedo cat.

For more information, visit robinleehatcher.com; Facebook: robinleehatcher; or Twitter: @robinleehatcher.

(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.

Wait For Me

Wait for Me

By Susan May Warren

The Story

With Jess and Pete, every day is lived at full throttle.

Now if they can only stay alive to enjoy it.

Pete Brooks can’t believe he’s waited an entire year for EMT Jess Tagg to return to Montana, only to have her break his heart. Worse, a series of mistakes on the job has cost lives, and Pete isn’t sure he wants to continue to work in search and rescue. Maybe if he can just get over Jess, he can figure out how to move forward.

When a terrible fight between Jess and Pete sparks an impulsive decision, Jess finds herself crashed on the side of a highway along with two others. Just when Jess thinks things couldn’t get any worse, they are taken captive and dragged into the untamed Montana wilderness–with murderous intent.

Now Pete will have to call on everything he’s learned to find them–and pray that his past mistakes don’t cost him the life of the woman he can’t stop loving.

(Back cover summary from Revell)

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

Oh man, Wait for Me is a stunning conclusion to an incredible, fast-paced series. I’ve long wanted Pete and Jess to get their stuff together and just finally get together for goodness’ sake—but it’s not as easy as all that. And it isn’t a quick, easy solution they find in this story.

At first, I really wasn’t too happy with either character. Jess keeps making bad choices and putting people in poor positions, because she doesn’t want to hurt anyone. Pete acts like a jerk, because then at least he’ll deserve the bad things that inevitably come his way.  These two characters come head-to-head with their faults, past and present consequences, and grace of God. And just like the rest of the books in this series, it’s an explosion that sets the heart racing and the pages turning. I always try to savor Susan May Warren’s books, but she’s just too good. I can’t stop to savor, let alone breathe. This story had just enough twists and turns—even causing me to gasp out loud once. The romance is full-throttle like the other stories in this series. But what I love the most is how the characters changed. More than their love for each other, realizing and stepping into God’s love for them changes them. And they go from the mess that we’re all experienced with, to the glow of grace He offers us all.

A fantastic conclusion to a great series, it brought tears to my eyes as I turned to the last page.

About the Author

Susan May Warren is the USA Today bestselling author of over fifty novels with more than 1 million books sold, including Wild Montana Skies, Rescue Me, A Matter of Trust, Troubled Waters, and Storm Front. Winner of a RITA Award and multiple Christy and Carol Awards, as well as the HOLT Medallion and numerous Readers’ Choice Awards, Susan has written contemporary and historical romances, romantic suspense, thrillers, romantic comedy, and novellas. She makes her home in Minnesota. Find her online at http://www.susanmaywarren.com, on Facebook at Susan May Warren Fiction, and on Twitter @susanmaywarren.

(Biography from Revell)

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.

A Sparkle of Silver

A Sparkle of Silver

By Liz Johnson

The Story

Uncovering the past can lead to an unexpected future . . .

Millie Sullivan plays a 1920s-era guest during tours of a palatial estate on the shore of St. Simons Island, Georgia, where her great-grandmother was a real guest ninety years ago. When Millie learns of a lost diary that may contain the location of a hidden treasure on the estate and reveal the identity of her great-grandfather, she sets out to find the truth of her heritage–and the fortune she desperately needs. But it won’t be easy.

When security guard Ben Thornton discovers her snooping in the estate’s private library, he threatens to have her fired. Still, her story seems too ludicrous to be fiction, and her offer to split the treasure is too tempting to pass up.

Get ready for a romantic escapade through dark halls and dusty corners that will have you holding your breath and sighing with delight.

(Back cover summary from Revell)

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

I absolutely fell in love with this book. Liz Johnson writes real-to-life characters, who understand what it is to struggle, to be swamped by guilt, and burdened by responsibilities too big for them.

Millie (first of all, great name!) loves romance novels and her forgetful grandma. Ben is sweet and duty-driven to make up for the mistakes of others. These two characters were so much fun to read about, as they followed the clues that led them closer to the rumored treasure, answers about Millie’s past, and each other. They’re delightfully flawed. I really appreciated this, as some characters in books have ‘flaws’ that are hardly human. I felt like I could meet either Millie or Ben while picking up items at the grocery store or any of my other normal activities. They are refreshingly broken and find no easy answers. But the answers we’re led to are worth the struggle.

I liked that through the pages of the diary, we also get to have a glimpse at Ruth and her life.

Towards the end, there were a few things that confused me in the character’s reactions and reasonings. But overall, I really enjoyed this book, and will definitely be reading more from Liz Johnson.

About the Author

Liz Johnson is the author of more than a dozen novels, including A Sparkle of Silver, The Red Door Inn, Where Two Hearts Meet, and On Love’s Gentle Shore, as well as a New York Times bestselling novella and a handful of short stories. A marketing manager for a Christian film company, she makes her home in Phoenix, Arizona.

(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.

The Christmas Heirloom: Four Holiday Novellas of Love Through the Generations

The Christmas Heirloom:

Four Holiday Novellas of Love through the Generations

By Krisi Ann Hunter; Karen Witemeyer; Sarah Loudin Thomas; & Becky Wade

The Story

Four Festive and Heartwarming Romance Novellas That Celebrate the Magic of Christmas

Perfect for the Christmas season, four beloved authors bring their bestselling, award-winning talents to a multigenerational collection of romantic holiday novellas. In stories ranging from 1820s Regency England to present-day Washington state, readers will be treated to Christmas tales of an heirloom brooch passed from mother to daughter for almost two hundred years. Will the family legend claiming the brooch brings love to its recipient hold true for these women separated by the years but bonded together by the ties of family?

In Kristi Ann Hunter’s “Legacy of Love,” Sarah Gooding never suspected returning a brooch to an elderly woman would lead to a job . . . and introduce her to the woman’s grandson. While he may be far above her station, she can’t help but notice that his desire to make this Christmas special for his grandmother matches her own.

In Karen Witemeyer’s “Gift of the Heart,” widow Ruth Fulbright uses the family brooch as collateral for a loan from a wealthy resort owner. But the more she comes to know the man behind the stern businessman, the more she hopes for a second chance at love as the holidays draw near.

In Sarah Loudin Thomas’s “A Shot at Love,” Fleeta Brady’s rough-and-tumble childhood means she prefers hunting to more feminine activities. She never expected her mother’s brooch might be how a fellow hunter turns her attention from competition to romance one December.

In Becky Wade’s “Because of You,” Maddie Winslow has spent years in love with a man whose heart was already spoken for. When a church Christmas project brings them together and she stumbles upon an old family brooch, might it finally be her turn for love?

(Back cover summary from Bethany House)

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

I love that these authors got together and created this collection! What a fun idea! I love the idea of a novella collection that spans the centuries, especially from some of my favorite authors!

Legacy of Love was a sweet story, and fun to read as Sarah Gooding began to show more of who she truly was to her employer’s handsome young grandson. She is such a unique, fun character, and I loved watching the two get to know each other better.

Gift of the Heart was an engaging story, set in a fun location. This hero is multi-faceted and not the man that anyone in town thinks he is. Getting to know Ruth brings him out of his self-imposed seclusion, and makes for a humorous, fun story.

A Shot at Love was delightfully different, as Fleeta is not a girly-girl by any stretch of the imagination. She’s strong, opinionated, and definitely does not want to fall in love, not when that love has the capacity to so overwhelm someone, they leave other loves behind. It was so fun watching how her mind changed on this aspect, and she learned there might be a man worth falling for.

I was so very excited for Because of You, as I love anything Becky Wade writes. This sweet story explores what it might be like to love again, and all the confusion that can be caught up in that. It’s a satisfying conclusion to a sweet collection.

About the Author

Kristi Ann Hunter is the author of the Hawthorne House series and a 2016 RITA Award winner, an ACFW Genesis contest winner, and a Georgia Romance Writers Maggie Award for Excellence winner. She lives with her husband and three children in Georgia. Find her online at www.kristiannhunter.com.

Winner of the HOLT Medallion and the Carol Award and a finalist for the RITA and Christy Award, bestselling author Karen Witemeyer writes historical romance to give the world more happily-ever-afters. Karen makes her home in Texas, with her husband and three children. Learn more about Karen and her books at www.karenwitemeyer.com.

Sarah Loudin Thomas is a fundraiser for a children’s ministry and has written for Mountain Homes Southern Style and Now & Then magazines, as well as The Asheville Citizen-Times. She is the author of Miracle in a Dry Season, Until the Harvest, and A Tapestry of Secrets. She holds a BA in English from Coastal Carolina University. She and her husband reside in Asheville, North Carolina. She can be found online at www.sarahloudinthomas.com.

Becky Wade is a native of California who attended Baylor University, met and married a Texan, and now lives in Dallas. A favorite among readers of Christian contemporary romance, Becky has won a Christy Award, a Carol Award, an Inspirational Reader’s Choice Award, and an INSPY Award. Learn more at www.beckywade.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.

The Cost of Betrayal

The Cost of Betrayal

By Dee Henderson; Dani Pettrey; & Lynette Eason

The Story

FAITH WILL BE TESTED. TRUST SHATTERED.

THREE BESTSELLING ROMANTIC SUSPENSE WRITERS REUNITE

FOR NOVELLAS OF DEADLY BETRAYAL.

Dee Henderson – “Betrayed”

After serving six years of a twenty-year sentence for a murder she didn’t commit, Janelle Roberts is finally freed. But the truth is still waiting to be discovered, and a murderer is still at large. Janelle needs to be somewhere safe with someone she can trust. She may not survive another act of treachery.

Dani Pettrey – “Deadly Isle”

Tennyson Kent is trapped on the isolated island of her childhood by a storm surge, and she is shocked when the typically idyllic community turns into the hunting grounds of a murderer. Cut off from any help from the mainland, will she and first love Callen Frost be able to identify and stop a killer before they become the next victims?

Lynette Eason – “Code of Ethics”

When Detective Isaac Martinez lands in the ER with a gunshot wound, he pulls through thanks to trauma surgeon Ruthie St. John. But as the witness to a crime and possible corruption, Martinez is at risk from someone intent on silencing him–and those around him–forever. When he barely survives another attack while recovering, both he and Ruthie must flee, trying to outrun deadly killers while locating the evidence they need to end the danger.

(Back cover summary from Bethany House)

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

I’m afraid I just couldn’t get into the first novella. I think not having read the books connected to it was a disadvantage. I didn’t know the characters, and never really became invested in them. I think it was definitely a unique idea, and a good premise, but for me, there was just too much information about the whole process of investigating, pardons, and recovering after being falsely accused.

Dani Pettrey’s novella was thrilling. So much so that I couldn’t read it at night. Too creepy. I loved the idea of being cut off from help, and couldn’t help shuddering as the tale progressed. Callen is sweet and protective, and the perfect match for Tenni. And the twist at the end—so good! Despite stealing some of my sleep, I really liked Deadly Isle.

I’m not very familiar with Lynette Eason’s novels, but I’m about to change that! I really enjoyed that Ruthie’s job was a bit different than many of the suspense novel heroines out there. Her family was a super fun addition to the story, which definitely made me want to find out more about those characters.

Though I knew the theme of betrayal was going to weave throughout all of these novellas, it didn’t make it easy to guess who-dun-it! If you’re looking to lose some sleep, discover maybe a new-to-you suspense author, or be transported on a heart-stopping adventure, The Cost of Betrayal would be a great start.

About the Author

Dee Henderson is the author of numerous novels, including Taken, Undetected, Unspoken, Full Disclosure, and the acclaimed O’Malley and Uncommon Heroes series. Her books have won or been nominated for several prestigious industry awards, such as the RITA Award, the Christy Award, and the ECPA Gold Medallion. Dee is a lifelong resident of Illinois. Learn more at www.deehenderson.com.

Praised by New York Times best-selling author Dee Henderson as “a name to look for in romantic suspense,” Dani Pettrey has sold more than 400,000 copies of her novels to readers eagerly awaiting the next release. Dani combines the page-turning adrenaline of a thriller with the chemistry and happy-ever-after of a romance. Her novels stand out for their “wicked pace, snappy dialogue, and likable characters” (Publishers Weekly), “gripping storyline[s],” (RT Book Reviews), and “sizzling undercurrent of romance” (USA Today).

Her greatest joy as an author is sharing the stories God lays on her heart.  She researches murder and mayhem from her home in Maryland, where she lives with her husband. Their two daughters, a son-in-law, and two adorable grandsons also reside in Maryland. For more information about her novels, visit danipettrey.com.

 

Lynette Eason is the bestselling author of Oath of Honor and Called to Protect, as well as the Women of Justice, Deadly Reunions, Hidden Identity, and the Elite Guardians series. She is the winner of three ACFW Carol Awards, the Selah Award, and the Inspirational Reader’s Choice Award, among others. She is a graduate of the University of South Carolina and has a master’s degree in education from Converse College. Eason lives in South Carolina with her husband and two children. Learn more at www.lynetteeason.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.