Category Archives: Contemporary Fiction

The Dating Charade

The Dating Charade

By Melissa Ferguson

The Story

Just when you think you’ve met your match . . . the charade begins.

Cassie Everson is an expert at escaping bad first dates. And, after years of meeting, greeting, and running from the men who try to woo her, Cassie is almost ready to retire her hopes for a husband—and children—altogether.

But fate has other plans, and Cassie’s online dating profile catches the eye of firefighter Jett Bentley. In Jett’s memory, Cassie Everson is the unreachable girl-of-legend from their high school days. Nervously, he messages her, setting off a chain of events that forces a reluctant Cassie back into the dating game.

No one is more surprised than Cassie when her first date with Jett is a knockout. But when they both go home and find three children dropped in their laps—each—they independently decide to do the right and mature thing: hide the kids from each other while sorting it all out. What could go wrong?

Melissa Ferguson’s hilarious and warmhearted debut reminds us that love can come in very small packages—and that sometimes our best-laid plans aren’t nearly as rewarding and fun as the surprises that come our way.

(Back cover summary from Thomas Nelson)

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The Dating Charade is such a fun book. It has all the elements of a rom-com, with engaging characters, hilarious circumstances, and enough misunderstandings to keep these characters apart for a good long while.

It was cool that this story was set in Gatlinburg, as that’s a place I’m familiar with. The characters Melissa created in this story were ones that I felt like I’d met out and about before. From the kids to the meddling older ladies, I loved each and every one.

I loved the heart of this story too. While it’s a fun novel, The Dating Charade also tackles the real-life issues of foster care, adoption, and infertility and the trauma that shadows all of those. It really opened my eyes to see just a bit of what each of those issues might feel like or look like.

Cassie and Jett are both hilarious and relatable characters. Their romance is super fun as it plays out, and even with the hiding of the children, there is still an element of realism that keeps the story from seeming too over-the-top.

The only thing I didn’t like as much about this book was there didn’t seem to be any solid faith element in it. The characters attend church, but to me, there was no discernible spiritual arc for them.

If you enjoy novels like Jessica Kate’s Love and Other Mistakes or Bethany Turner’s Wooing Cadie McCaffrey, then I think The Dating Charade will be right up your alley.

About the Author

Melissa Ferguson is an adjunct professor for Bible and religion at King University. She lives in the charming town of Bristol, Tennessee, with her husband, twin toddlers, and baby girl. She used to have hobbies like running and backpacking the Appalachian Trail outside her door. Now her hobbies include admiring the Appalachian Trail out her minivan window while singing “The Itsy Bitsy Spider” en route to the library.

(Biography from Thomas Nelson)

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

You Belong With Me

You Belong With Me

By Tari Faris

The Story

Realtor Hannah Thornton has many talents. Unfortunately, selling houses isn’t one of them.

When a business tycoon determines to raze historic homes in the small town of Heritage, Michigan, and replace them with a strip mall, Hannah resolves to stop him. She sets about helping Heritage win a restoration grant that will put the town back on the map–and hopefully restore her disgraced family name. But she’ll need help to do it.

As a foster kid, Luke Johnson never truly felt he belonged. Now he has a chance to earn his place in his hometown. But he doesn’t anticipate how his relationship with Hannah will set into motion events that reveal the truth about who he is–and who he was.

(Back cover summary from Revell)

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I loved this book! Tari Faris is an author to keep an eye out for if you enjoy contemporary romance with a small-town feel. Courtney Walsh, Becky Wade, and Susan May Warren are authors that I have come to really enjoy, and Tari Faris has a similar feel to her writing while creating distinct characters and settings.

I really liked that this book incorporated multiple viewpoints. Not just Hannah and Luke’s, but also Thomas and Janie’s. Each character felt unique and had their own personal, and very real struggles. Tari Faris doesn’t hold back from tackling some of the deep and difficult issues of life, and it was refreshing to read a book that did that.

Of course, the romance in this book is spot-on. Which always makes for a fun read. 🙂

The faith journey of the characters in this book was so very relevant, and there was a lot of wisdom to glean as they worked through their different problems. One of my favorite quotes in the book came from Aunt Lucy.

“You can never really fix something shattered. But you can take the pieces and make something even better. Don’t leave the painful parts of your life in a box on the shelf. Figure out how to make something beautiful of them.”

I think that quote really sums up what each character had to work through individually, and the picture that was painted of how God works in our lives.

Heritage is a town that I know I won’t forget, and I’ll eagerly be looking for the next book in the Restoring Heritage series when it releases.

About the Author

Tari Faris has been writing fiction for more than 10 years. A member of American Christian Fiction Writers and My Book Therapy, she works for My Book Therapy, manages learnhowtowriteanovel.com, and is a 2017 Genesis Award winner. She has an MDiv from Asbury Theological Seminary and lives in the Phoenix, Arizona, area with her husband and their three children. Although she lives in the Southwest now, she lived in a small town in Michigan for 25 years.

(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.

A Glitter of Gold

A Glitter of Gold

By Liz Johnson

The Story

Discover a treasure worth more than all the pirate gold in the world

Anne Norris moved to Savannah, Georgia, for a fresh start. Now her pirate-tour business is flagging and paying the rent requires more than wishful thinking. When she discovers evidence of a shipwreck off the coast of Tybee Island, she knows it could be just the boon she needs to stay afloat. She takes her findings to local museum director Carter Hale for confirmation, but things do not go as planned.

Carter is fascinated with the wreck, the discovery of which could open the door to his dream job at a prestigious museum. But convincing Anne to help him fill in the missing pieces of the puzzle is no easy task. And working with Carter means that Anne will have to do the one thing she swore she’d never do again: trust a man.

(Back cover summary from Revell)

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This is such a sweet story! Liz Johnson has a flair for writing novels that deal with the pain and trouble of life, and yet lift you above it all.

I loved the historical aspects of this book. After reading about Savannah—both present-day and the city of old—I know I’ll need to plan a trip there. I really enjoyed the excerpts from the journal as well. That story was just as compelling as Carter and Anne’s.

Liz Johnson explores in this book what we do when the past haunts. Either because of family or past bad choices. These characters felt real as they struggled through the shame and regret, and eventually the hope and grace. It reminded me again how God transforms from shame to freedom with His grace.

The search for treasure in this novel is not one that you want to miss. Once again, Liz Johnson brings an engaging novel that I can wholeheartedly recommend.

About the Author

Liz Johnson is the author of more than a dozen novels, including A Sparkle of Silver, A Glitter of Gold, 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. 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 Killing Tide

The Killing Tide

By Dani Pettrey

The Story

A Corpse That Only Leads to Secrets.

An Old Flame with Danger Written all over Her.

Things Are about to Get Very Complicated.

When one Coast Guard officer is found dead and another goes missing, Coast Guard Investigative Service special agent Finn Walker faces his most dangerous crime yet. His only clues are what little evidence remains aboard the dead officer’s boat, and the direction the clues point to will test Finn and the Guard to their limits.

The already volatile situation is complicated even further by the arrival of Gabby Rowley–Finn’s boss’s sister and an investigative reporter with unrelenting questions about the crime. Now that she’s returned, the tug on Finn’s heart is strong, but with the risks she’s taking for her next big story, he fears she might not live through it.

Thrown together by the heinous crime, Finn and Gabby can’t ignore the sparks or judgments flying between them. But will they be able to see past their preconceptions long enough to track down an elusive killer, or will they become his next mark?

(Back cover summary from Bethany House)

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The Killing Tide starts off Pettrey’s next series with a cast of characters who are likeable and engaging, with strong ties that make them feel more like a family unit than coworkers. I enjoyed each new character as they came across the page and am looking forward to several of them being featured in future books.

While this novel had a strong premise and characters I enjoyed, I just didn’t like it as much as her previous books. Some of the circumstances felt disjointed, and a little forced, at least from my perspective.

However, there was still a lot I enjoyed about this book. I really liked the different angle that she explored in this book with the Coast Guard. I learned a lot about what the Coast Guard does and how they operate, and it was all very fascinating.

I’ll certainly be reading the next book in this series, and would recommend this novel—especially to Pettrey fans—just for me, it wasn’t to my taste completely.

About the Author

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 half a million 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).

From her early years eagerly reading Nancy Drew mysteries, to paging through Agatha Christie novels or watching on-the-edge-of-her-seat adventure movies, Dani has always enjoyed mystery and suspense. She considers herself blessed to be able to write the kind of stories she loves–full of plot twists and peril, love, and longing for hope and redemption. 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.

(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.

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.