Tag Archives: Contemporary Fiction

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)

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

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.

Advertisements

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)

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

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.

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

            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.

Her One and Only

26974629Book Review: Her One and Only

Author: Becky Wade

Review by Grace Olson

The Story

Back Cover from Bethany House’s website for Her One and Only:

After ten years in the NFL, superstar Gray Fowler is accustomed to obsessive fans. But when Gray starts receiving death threats from a stalker, his team hires an executive protection agency to guard him until the culprit is caught. Dealing with bodyguards 24/7 is a headache, especially when one of them is a young, beautiful woman. How can a female half his size possibly protect him better than he can protect himself?

Dru Porter is a former Marine, an expert markswoman, and a black belt–none of which saved her from disaster on her last assignment. In order to rebuild her tarnished reputation, she’s determined to find Gray’s stalker and, since relationships between agents and clients are forbidden, avoid a romantic attachment between herself and the rugged football player with the mysterious past.

Yet every secret that leads Dru closer to the stalker also draws her closer to Gray. As the danger escalates, they’ll survive only if they can learn to trust their lives–and their hearts–to one another.

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

            Becky Wade delivers another stellar novel in Her One and Only as she finishes out the saga of the Porter family. The book is characterized by her signature headstrong characters, strong romance, and building suspense. As far as her writing goes, this one matched, if not exceeded, the excellence that readers have come to expect from her. I enjoyed this final book, because it focused on Dru, the last member of the Porter siblings, who is quite a spitfire. However, unlike what normally happens for me, this book simply didn’t suck me in. The romance aspect of the book didn’t seem quite ‘genuine’ to me, even though, yes, it is fiction. I also wasn’t on board with Dru pushing aside her doubts about faith and going ahead with a relationship with Gray. That was concerning for me, because as far as spiritual or emotional consequences, it didn’t really seem to be a factor.

So even though for many this book is another homerun hit, for me it just didn’t quite click.

About the Author

Biography from Bethany House’s website: 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 Carol Award, an Inspirational Reader’s Choice Award, and an INSPY Award. Learn more at www.beckywade.com.

I was given a review copy of Her One and Only from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. I received no monetary compensation for my review. The opinions expressed are my own.

Like Never Before

51m2kJ4QWWL._SX322_BO1,204,203,200_Book Review: Like Never Before

Author: Melissa Tagg

Review by Grace Olson

The Story

Back Cover from Bethany House’s website for Like Never Before:

Maple Valley became Amelia Bentley’s haven after her heart and her dreams of a family were shattered. But when the newspaper she runs is in danger of closing, she pins all her hopes on a story that just might convince the new owner to keep the paper running.

After his biggest campaign success yet, widowed speechwriter Logan Walker has the chance of a lifetime: a spot on a presidential campaign. But first he has to return to his hometown to sell the newspaper he’s suddenly inherited.

But instead of a quick sale, Logan finds himself helping Amelia chase her story. She’s scrappy, but wounded. He’s dependable, but lost. And working together to break the story on Maple Valley’s unsolved mystery is just the start of the sparks that fly in the office and in their hearts.

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

            I love family-based series. In case that hasn’t become apparent yet. The Walker Family series is no exception. I love seeing a family of flawed people (yes, I know they’re fictional) grow and change and ultimately find their purpose and meaning in God.

Like Never Before is another great installment in this series. Logan is so broken and hurt after his wife’s death, that his daughter is the light in his world, rivaled only by his consuming passion for his job. Amelia has her own scars and secrets, namely her dirtbag former husband. That man’s insensitiveness, even for the brief time he showed up in the book, made me so irritated. But I digress. Amelia’s determination and passion for her job and the people around her was so endearing. I loved how she pursued the story of her benefactor to the bittersweet end. Logan’s compassion for those around him, including a difficult past relationship with a bitter family, was really what made me like him, beyond the normal male-lead qualities. I appreciate how Melissa handles her characters’ spiritual growth. It can be difficult to keep from coming across as preachy, but Melissa avoids this with grace as she delivers the reality of the struggles people face, but also the faithfulness and goodness of Christ.

All the characters in this book have a sense of genuineness and depth to them, so that whenever I delve into one of Melissa’s books, I find myself quite involved. As other authors have said of her, I believe Melissa just keeps getting better at her craft. I can’t wait to see which Walker family member she writes about next.

About the Author

Biography from Bethany House’s website: Melissa Tagg, author of Made to Last and Here to Stay, is a former newspaper reporter, current nonprofit grant writer, and total Iowa girl. When she’s not writing, she can be found hanging out with the coolest family ever. She’s passionate about humor, grace, and happy endings. Melissa blogs regularly at www.melissatagg.com.

I was given a review copy of Like Never Before from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. I received no monetary compensation for my review. The opinions expressed are my own.

Change of Heart

51N3Y9r9qPL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_Book Review: Change of Heart

Author: Courtney Walsh

Review by Grace Olson

The Story

Taken from Goodread’s description of Change of Heart:

A Colorado senator’s wife, Evelyn Brandt seems to have it all. But her carefully constructed life comes toppling down when the FBI crashes her society brunch with news that her husband has been arrested for embezzlement, and he’s far from repentant. It turns out this was only the start of his indiscretions―for which he has little regret.

As the weeks following the scandal turn into months, Evelyn withdraws, even shirking her duties with the philanthropic Valentine Volunteers. The inquisitive women of the group are determined not to let Evelyn’s divorce destroy her. They have big plans for her to use her long-forgotten artistic talent to reimagine the city’s iconic lamppost hearts. But doing so will force Evelyn to work closely with Trevor Whitney, her ex-husband’s former best friend. Though she and Trevor used to be close―and he’s been letting her hide in his guesthouse―his gruffness conveys his unease with the situation.

Amid the beauty of Trevor’s farm and the comfort of a paintbrush, Evelyn starts to reclaim the dreams she sacrificed to become the perfect politician’s wife. And as creativity inspires them both, Whit begins to see the girl he fell in love with before his friend―and his own mistakes―stole his chance. Possibilities for a new beginning emerge, but long-kept secrets threaten to ruin everything. After so much time, is a change of heart too much to hope for?

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

            I absolutely loved Courtney’s book, Paper Hearts, so I’ve been watching for her next book to come out. When I read the description of Change of Heart, I wondered how she would pull it off. After all, divorce is a tricky subject, and I wasn’t sure how she was going to write about it. Courtney was able to write this story with grace and tact. She showed all the messiness of sin, but also the redemption that comes through faith in Christ. None of the characters in this book are perfect, in fact, they almost feel as real as you or me. Which I think is why I enjoyed this book. A good portion of it centers around Evelyn’s divorce, both before and after, which made me wonder how Courtney was going to time the romance aspect of the story. She did a good job of that, though.

I liked both Evelyn and Trevor’s characters. They dealt with a lot, a lot that they tried to brush over and ignore. This is really a story of surrender. Surrendering their lives to God and His timing and leading. I love that theme, because it’s something I’m personally trying to do right now. It’s a subject that never gets old, and never gets easier.

While I didn’t like this book quite as much as Paper Hearts, it really made me think. I was entertained, but I also had some food for thought, which I appreciated.

About the Author

Biography from Tyndale’s website: Courtney Walsh is the author of Paper Hearts and the Sweethaven series. Her debut novel, A Sweethaven Summer, was a New York Times and USA Today e-book bestseller and a Carol Award finalist in the debut author category. In addition, she has written two craft books and several full-length musicals. Courtney lives with her husband and three children in Illinois, where she is also an artist, theater director, and playwright. Visit her online at www.courtneywalshwrites.com.

I was given a review copy of Change of Heart from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. I received no monetary compensation for my review. The opinions expressed are my own.

You’re the One That I Want

51h96g4pw9L._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_Book Review: You’re the One That I Want

Author: Susan May Warren

Review by Grace Olson

The Story

Taken from Tyndale’s website description of You’re the One That I Want:

Owen Christiansen has been in a downward spiral since an injury ended his NHL career. But a job on an Alaskan crabbing boat offers a fresh start . . . maybe even a shot at romance with Elise “Scotty” McFlynn, the captain’s daughter.

Used to being one of the guys, to never relying on anyone, Scotty doesn’t believe in happily ever after—especially with someone like Owen. Her instinct is confirmed when Casper Christiansen arrives to drag his prodigal brother home, bringing with him a truckload of family drama—and even worse, the news that Casper is wanted for questioning in connection to a crime back in Minnesota.

But Owen is more than the sum of his mistakes, a truth both he and Scotty discover when she escorts both brothers to Deep Haven as part of her new job on the Anchorage police force. Thrust into an unfamiliar world of family, faith, and fresh starts, Scotty begins to see potential for a happy ending . . . if she’s brave enough to embrace it.

 ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

            Yes, I have reached that point…the Christiansen Family Series has come to an end. However, Susie knows how to close out a series, packed with all the action, drama, and poignancy of the previous books.

I admit, I was nervous to read this last book, since it focuses on bad-boy Owen, and so far in the series, I wasn’t really a fan. However, that’s what made You’re the One That I Want such a compelling read. I could hardly put it down. Right from the start we take off running with a dark feeling of foreboding hanging over the fishing vessel we find Owen on. Per usual, the book has multiple points of view, with Casper and the questions about his involvement with the odious Monte keeping me guessing as to how it would end. Owen and Scotty are both so broken and flawed, so real, that it hurt to read about them. I saw parts of them in me, and in people I’ve known, so I couldn’t help but cheer for them to succeed and for God’s love to break through their resistance and touch their hearts (yeah, yeah, I know, they’re not actually real). Faith is tested, family is brought back together, and Susie spins a tale that puts the spotlight on God’s grace.

Because this is a story about grace, God’s grace mainly, and then the grace we show to others. Which is what makes it such a thing of beauty and impact. We all need grace, none of us deserve it, yet God offers it to all who will trust in His Son.

Here are 2 quotes from the book that I absolutely loved:

“Some of God’s best players were His imperfect, broken prodigals. In fact, iffy players are God’s best picks. He specializes in short-tempered, reckless, flawed people to accomplish His plans…God is constantly using broken, messy people to restore the world and bring glory to Himself.”

“…to do something daring and wild and reach out for grace, even though it doesn’t make sense. But I warn you, once you embrace Christ, you too become a rule breaker. Because a life committed to God requires us to live uncomfortable. Inconveniently. Accountably. Bravely. Transparently. Vulnerably. It requires us to love without rules. Welcome to grace.”

Susie hit it out of the park with this last installment in the series, and while I’m sad to see it end, I can’t help but be thankful for these books. Because Susie has discovered how to combine romance, adventure, drama, and faith in an authentic way that makes me think, and teaches me along the way. I would highly recommend any of Susie’s books, but especially this series.

About the Author

Biography from Tyndale House Publishers’ website: Susan May Warren is the bestselling, Christy and RITA Award–winning author of more than forty novels whose compelling plots and unforgettable characters have won acclaim with readers and reviewers alike. She served with her husband and four children as a missionary in Russia for eight years before she and her family returned home to the States. She now writes full-time as her husband runs a lodge on Lake Superior in northern Minnesota, where many of her books are set. She and her family enjoy hiking, canoeing, and being involved in their local church.

Susan holds a BA in mass communications from the University of Minnesota. Several of her critically acclaimed novels have been ECPA and CBA bestsellers, were chosen as Top Picks by Romantic Times, and have won the RWA’s Inspirational Reader’s Choice contest and the American Christian Fiction Writers Book of the Year award. Five of her books have been Christy Award finalists. In addition to her writing, Susan loves to teach and speak at women’s events about God’s amazing grace in our lives.~ To learn more about Susan and her other books, visit her web page: http://www.susanmaywarren.com/

I was given a review copy of You’re the One That I Want from the author in exchange for an honest review. I received no monetary compensation for my review. The opinions expressed are my own.