Category Archives: Contemporary Fiction

Wooing Cadie McCaffrey

Wooing Cadie McCaffrey

By Bethany Turner

The Story

After four years with her boyfriend, Cadie McCaffrey is thinking of ending things. Convinced Will doesn’t love her in the “forever” way she loves him, Cadie believes it’s time for her to let him go before life passes her by. When a misunderstanding leads to a mistake, leaving her hurt, disappointed, and full of regret, she finally sends him packing.

But for Will, the end of their relationship is only the beginning of his quest to figure out how to be the man Cadie wanted him to be. With the dubious guidance of his former pro-athlete work friends and tactics drawn from Cadie’s favorite romantic comedies, Will attempts to win her back. It’s a foolproof plan. What could possibly go wrong?

(Back cover summary from Revell)

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All of those recommendations from well-established authors like Colleen Coble and Carla Laureano—they’re so right. Bethany Turner is an author to watch. I loved The Secret Life of Sarah Hollenbeck, and Wooing Cadie McCaffrey may have surpassed that one for me. These characters struggle and sin but grace meets them exactly where they are.

I love the rom-com feel of Bethany’s writing. It’s fun and entertaining. This book made me laugh out loud on more than one occasion. Full of pop culture references itself, this book made me think of a 90’s rom-com, just cleaner and with a spiritual lesson. But don’t let the pretty packaging fool you, this story has heart and an important message that touches the soul beneath it all.

The characters in this story don’t have it right. They mess up, sometimes in big ways. Ways that real-life women have and have potentially lived with the guilt ever since that moment. That’s what Bethany Turner tackles in this book. She’s discrete in her writing, but on the nose about the consequences of sin, but even more than that, the grace of God that meets His children wherever they are. I was reminded of that again while reading this book, and it still floors me. He calls us to higher living, higher loving of Him, but He’s gracious when we fail and seek His forgiveness.

Bethany Turner is a fresh voice in Christian fiction, I only wish that I could pause a bit longer to truly enjoy it, as I flew through this novel, just as I did her previous one. She’s quickly topped my go-to list for contemporary romance and has already won over this now long-time fan.

About the Author

Bethany Turner is the author of The Secret Life of Sarah Hollenbeck and the director of administration for Rock Springs Church in Southwest Colorado. A former bank executive and a three-time cancer survivor (all before she turned 35), Bethany knows that when God has plans for your life, it doesn’t matter what anyone else has to say. Because of that, she’s chosen to follow his call to write. She lives with her husband and their two sons in Colorado, where she writes for a new generation of readers who crave fiction that tackles the thorny issues of life with humor and insight.

(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.

Whose Waves These Are

Whose Waves These Are

By Amanda Dykes

The Story

In the wake of WWII, a grieving fisherman submits a poem to a local newspaper: a rallying cry for hope, purpose . . . and rocks. Its message? Send me a rock for the person you lost, and I will build something life-giving. When the poem spreads farther than he ever intended, Robert Bliss’s humble words change the tide of a nation. Boxes of rocks inundate the harbor village on the coast of Maine, and he sets his callused hands to work.

Decades later, Annie Bliss is summoned back to Ansel-by-the-Sea when GrandBob, the man who gave her refuge during the hardest summer of her youth, is the one in need of help. But what greets her is a mystery: a wall of heavy boxes hiding in his home. Memories of stone ruins on a nearby island ignite a fire in her anthropologist soul to uncover answers.

Together with the handsome and enigmatic town postman, Annie uncovers the story layer by layer, yearning to resurrect the hope GrandBob once held so dear and to know the truth behind the chasm in her family’s past. But mending what has been broken for so long may require more of her and those she loves than they are prepared to give.

(Back cover summary from Bethany House)

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Whose Waves These Are is a story to savor. This I knew from the moment I read the back-cover copy. Then as I delved into the story, it became even more apparent. Amanda Dykes writes in a literary style that pulls you in and invites you to soak in the thought-out and deep-rooted words. That alone made this a novel worth reading, but as I progressed deeper into the story, I fell in love with it even more.

I loved that this was a time-split novel. Part of it is told from Robert’s point of view, and part from Annie’s. Both are such strong, interesting characters. Their individual struggles and longings for courage were profound. Their journeys of faith as they came to understand who God is, and His loving, oh-so-dear presence through every storm, is one that resonates deeply. I rarely cry when it comes to a story, whether movies or books, but this one had tears falling at one point.

There is a bit of romance in this book, but it’s not the central theme. Whose Waves These Are reminded me of a Russian Nesting Doll. Stories within stories, waves upon waves, this book was multi-layered and richly done. This is a don’t-miss novel, in my opinion.

About the Author

Amanda Dykes (www.amandadykes.com) is a drinker of tea, dweller of redemption, and spinner of hope-filled tales who spends most days chasing wonder and words with her family. Give her a rainy day, a candle to read by, an obscure corner of history to dig in, and she’ll be happy for hours. She’s a former English teacher, and her novella, Bespoke: A Tiny Christmas Tale, was met with critical acclaim from Publishers Weekly, Readers’ Favorite, and more. She is also the author of a novella in The Message in a Bottle Romance Collection. Whose Waves These Are is her debut novel.

(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.

Sweet on You

Sweet on You

By Becky Wade

The Story

Britt Bradford and Zander Ford have been the best of friends since they met thirteen years ago. Unbeknown to Britt, Zander has been in love with her for just as long.

Independent and adventurous Britt channels her talent into creating chocolates at her hometown shop. Zander is a bestselling author who has spent the past eighteen months traveling the world. He’s achieved a great deal but still lacks the only thing that ever truly mattered to him–Britt’s heart.

When Zander’s uncle dies under mysterious circumstances, he returns to Merryweather, Washington, to investigate, and Britt is immediately there to help. Although this throws them into close proximity, both understand that an attempt at romance could jeopardize their once-in-a-lifetime friendship. Britt is determined to resist any change in their relationship, but Zander finds it increasingly difficult to keep his feelings hidden.

As they work together to uncover his uncle’s tangled past, will the truth of what lies between them also finally come to light?

(Back cover summary from Bethany House)

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Reading the final book in a series is always a mixed bag of emotions for me. On the one side, I was so excited to FINALLY read Britt and Zander’s story, but the other part of me never wanted to leave Merryweather and the dear people I’ve come to love. Then there are the expectations that come with a final book. Will it live up to the expectation that has grown in my heart? Or will I ultimately be disappointed? Thank goodness that was not the case with Sweet on You!

I loved this book, for so many reasons. Becky Wade writes such real books. Yes, they’re fiction, and yes, unfortunately, there isn’t a chocolate shop in my hometown with the most delicious chocolate on the planet. But the characters that populate them are real and sometimes messy, and so very relatable.

Both Britt and Zander must learn the hard-won lesson of reliance. Both in relation to others and to God. Getting to that point often takes a breaking, and it’s one that’s not easy or simple for either one of them.

I loved that there was some mystery to this story as well. The plot pulled me along just as much as the characters.

The romance, per usual, was spot-on. It was so fun reading about friends falling for each other, which was a step outside the norm for Becky Wade.

With the sweet elements of romance, family, and funny characters combined with a deep-reaching spiritual element, this novel is just what Becky Wade fans have come to love and expect from her. Though this novel closes the page on any more stories from Merryweather and the Bradford family, this series is one that I will certainly return to in the future.

About the Author

Becky Wade is the 2018 Christy Award Book of the Year winner for True to You. She is a native of California who attended Baylor University, met and married a Texan, and moved to Dallas.  She published historical romances for the general market, then put her career on hold for several years to care for her children. When God called her back to writing, Becky knew He meant for her to turn her attention to Christian fiction. Her humorous, heart-pounding contemporary romance novels have won three Christy Awards, the Carol Award, the INSPY Award, and the Inspirational Reader’s Choice Award for Romance. Becky lives in Dallas, Texas with her husband and three children. To find out more about Becky and her books, visit www.beckywade.com.

(Biography from Bethany House)

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.

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.

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.

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)

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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.

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)

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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.